08/28/15

Revamping the plan, again!

This year has been rather frustrating when it comes to finding races that stick to what they promise.  I have revamped my schedule over and over again trying to get things to work.  The struggle started after Challenge Family cut the pro prize money for the majority of their North American races.  I was in the middle of a big build for Challenge AC when I got the email about the cancellation of the prize money.  I was really bummed because my improvement from 2014 has been pretty good for the Iron distance racing.  I didn’t want that fitness to go to waste, but at that point, I really didn’t feel like flying out west to do either IMCDA or Ironman Whistler… too much travel expenses.  So I settled on just doing mostly smaller races for the remaining part of the season that fit into my work and on-call schedule that was planned around all the Challenge Family races I was originally going to do.

I found about a full distance triathlon in Grand Rapids, MI that had a small amount of prize money (Titanium man).  Since my parents live fairly close to Grand Rapids, and I knew a few people in that area, I knew the travel expenses would be at a minimum and could most likely win the race.

The race was unfortunately cancelled to a small amount of lightening just shortly before I arrived at T2.  And even with a 14 minute lead at T2, the race company decided not to pay me for the win.  I was mostly likely going to run just under a 3 hour marathon, meaning that the 2nd place guy would need to run a 2:40-2:45 marathon to beat me.  (The prize money was donated to chartiy instead of paying how we finished the race at the cancellation) So I basically threw away a good amount of money for nothing… not to mention the 5500 calories of energy I expended during the bike and swim!

However, with a possible finish time of Michigan Titanium Full distance Triathlon at a 8:20, I now believe I have shot at getting to Kona as professional.  Honestly, when I first started racing as a professional, I never thought I would say that.  So, with the limited number of races available each calendar year to get to Kona as professional, I needed to try to start accumulating points as soon as possible.  So where do I race for the rest of 2015?

Chattanooga.

Chattanooga is the first North American race with KPR for 2016 this year since IM Wisconsin no longer has a pro field.  So, I am again revamping my training schedule to get a full distance triathlon in for the year.  After planning to do Challenge AC and Cedar Point, then changing to Michigan Titanium, and finally set my sights on Chattanooga.

Not only am I gearing up to race Chattanooga… I’ve already set it as a goal to win.  Last year, Matt Hanson (8:12) and Daniel Bretshcer (8:19) were first and second.  They will be in Kona gearing up for 2014 World Championship.  I’m assuming that Trevor Wuretel will be there racing.  Last year he finished in a 8:22.  So, based on those times, I believe that I could be in the mix for a possible win.  My mind is already set on it… and that is a powerful thing!

08/23/15
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Michigan Titanium Triathlon – 2015

This weekend I made yet another trip to Michigan.  This time to participate in a race that is more my speciality… a full distance triathlon.  If you want to the short and sweet version, scroll to the bottom and watch the video recap. Otherwise continue reading for a less short synopsis of this race:

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This year marks the 4th year of the Michigan Titanium Triathlon.  There is a full and 70.3 distance to choose from as well as aqua-bike races.  I decided to do the Full distance (2.4 mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2 mile run). The race is located in and around the Grand Rapids area.  I was a little nervous about the road conditions (those of you that live or have spent any amount of time in Michigan know what I’m talking about) but it turns out there were slightly better than I expect.  But first things first… the swim.

The swim was a two-looped swim in Verslius Lake.  Water temperature was about 76-77 degrees.  In the past when I’ve swam with a wetsuit at these temperatures, I over heated and ended up struggling the rest of the race.  I anticipated it being just below wetsuit legal temperatures, so leading up to the race I tried swimming open water in my BlueSeventy Core Shorts (MAVMIKE saves 20% on all BlueSeventy orders).  I really liked how it felt and decided I would give it a try on race day… but with having my PZ4TX swim skin on underneath of it.  First time doing this was on race day… and I broke the rule of never doing anything new on race day.  But it seemed to work well for me.  I got on the feet of a former collegiate water polo player (he was part of a full distance relay) and another professional from Hungry.  I pretty much let them do all the work and just drafted off of them.  I tried getting around them a few times but getting out of there draft caused me to work harder and go the same speed, so I took my spot at the back of the group of three for the two loops.  I exited the water just a few seconds behind 1st and 2nd and ran in to T1 with them.

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Once I got to T1, I went into the changing tent only to realize that going in there was optional.  I lost a little bit of time due to this and got out on the bike about 30 seconds behind second place.  I caught him pretty quickly… probably about 2-3 miles into the bike.  He got behind me far enough not to be illegally drafting, but close enough where he was definitely still benefiting from his position.  About 2 or 3 miles later, I caught 1st place (he was part of the full relay team).  The smooth pavement turned into chip and seal road about 10 miles into the bike and stayed that way until the last 8 miles of the loop.  2nd place was about 4 to 5 bike lengths behind me almost the entire loop.  I tried putting in a few surges to drop him (a few efforts at 370-380 watts) but he wasn’t going anywhere.  Finally, I made it back to the smooth road and had about 8 miles to the turn around to start the next loop.  I looked over my shoulder before making the turn and didn’t even see him.  I met him heading back out and was told after the race he was 2:45 behind me… all of which was put on in the last stretch.  I knew he had popped and wouldn’t be coming back up to me.  So I just tried to hold a steady power for the second loop.  However, biking at just under half-iron wattage to try to drop the guy for most of the first lap started to catch up to me with about 25 miles left to go.  Add in the rougher roads than I’m used to in Kentucky and I was starting to feel a little beat up.  I kept my nutrition coming in a little more frequent than the first loop to maintain my power and energy levels.  This race I mixed my custom mix from Infinit and 3 one-ounce servings of the highly caffeinated NAPALM (MAVERICK saves 10% on Infinit orders).  I found this to more simple than having to juggle a bottle of my custom mix and 2-3 flasks of NAPALM in my back pockets/special needs bag.  I had 5 bottles total mixed up this way.  I then supplemented with salt tabs and water from the race course.  Once I got back to the smooth road, I could see the clouds up ahead. The sky looked dark and stormy.  The lead motorcycle slowed down and I rolled up to him.  He said to stop at the next aid station that I got to (which would be 4 miles before T2) and wait there.  He said some really bad storms were rolling through.

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I arrived at the final aid station and waited.  I asked the guys on the motorcycles what was going to happen.  I knew I was about 15 minutes ahead of 2nd place at this time and was worried that my lead I worked so hard to get as big as possible would be erased from the “pause” in the race.  They couldn’t give me a straight answer, but agreed that I was about 15 minutes ahead of him.  I took that time to talk to other athletes and take in some real food.  It started raining a little and before long, a bunch of the athletes were starting to get really cold.  The race was about to restart when another round of thunderstorms started rolling through. At that point they called the race and I just rode back to T2.  When I had stopped at the final aid station, my Garmin read 4 hours and 26 minutes.  I saw the watch of the 2nd place guy while he was waiting and it said 4:39.  I had about 13 minutes on him and with a little more road to go until I would have put on about another 45 seconds on him… so about 14 minute lead.  I also had my best power output for a full distance triathlon by about 10 watts here.  295 watts Normalized Power!

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Based on my training and the cooler temperatures, I’m assuming I could have ran anywhere between a 2:50 and 3:10 marathon depending on how well I held together in the final stretch of the race.  That would have put me around a 8:20-8:40 finishing time… a huge PR for that distance on a similar course to Louisville as far as elevation profile on the bike (2700 ft climbing at Titanium and 2900 ft at IM Louisville). Plus, Louisville’s swim is faster with 2/3 of the swim being down stream and the road quality being better makes the roads faster.

I had plans on using this race as a test run to see what I wanted my goals for next year to be.  Mainly, to try to get to Kona as professional in 2016.  I think with a iron-distance time of 8:20-ish I stand a chance to get there.  I won’t be in the fastest there… far from it… but I would like to make a run for it at least.

Over all, this event was a top notch, world-class event.  Way better experience than any WTC race.  There were more aid stations than needed, the volunteers actually knew what they were doing at the bottle exchanges, and the lead vehical guides made sure to stay far enough ahead to not let me draft off him.  If you are looking for a great place to race a full or half distance triathlon, you should consider this race!

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08/4/15
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PTU – My thoughts

About a week ago, a group of some of the best triathletes in the world announced the PTU (Professional Triathlete Union).  Read more about it on their website if you haven’t heard about it.  I’m not going to go into all the details here since most of you probably already know about it if you landed on this blog.

When I first heard about this development, I was very optimistic.  I didn’t realize all the legal stuff that went around being a “union.”  The basics about that is that professional triathletes aren’t employees to anyone (i.e. WTC, Challenge), so we don’t have the rights under the law to form a union and collectively bargin with anyone.  As more and more articles pop up across the internet about the PTU, I am growing less and less optimistic about this doing much of anything for the sport in general.  Here are a few thoughts I’ve had regarding this development with hopes to improve the sport of triathlon

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1. The growth of the sport is self-limiting – The main goal of the PTU is to grow the sport of triathlon.  By doing this, they claim that everything else they are trying to do will naturally fall into place.  But, triathlon is a very expensive sport. Most people find out the hard way… buying a bike that is way more than they expected and then needing to buy the “needed” accessories (i.e. helmet, racing uniform, shoes, water bottles, nutrition, etc.).  Then the race entry fees and traveling to a race present a major expense to hurdle.  Not to mention, if you don’t live in a warm climate with access to a clean/public body of water, you need a gym membership with a pool.  Triathlon is generally, unfortunately, a sport for people in the upper middle class or higher.  Only so many people can afford to do this sport, which means only so many people are going to give money to WTC, Challenge, or another local race company to get the sport bigger. We will eventually a point when the growth of the sport stagnates.

2. TV Spots for long course racing – One of the goals of the PTU is to get non-draft legal racing on television.  This basically means 70.3 and 140.6 distance races that still manage to have a pro prize purse, since WTC merged with Lifetime Fitness and took over their races.  Shortly after that, all short course races they obtained had the pro prize money cut.  This only left a few races shorter than a 70.3, such as Escape from Alcatraz, St. Anthony’s, and New York City Olympic to name some on a short list.  People don’t want to sit down for 4 hours and watch people compete in a 70.3… much less 8+ hours for a full-distance triathlon.  The best that could be done for a TV spot would be condensing them down to about 90-120 minutes.  WTC and Challenge has done this with some of their races, but it doesn’t hit the air waves until months later.  At that point, no one really cares enough to watch it.  It’s old news.  I feel that the race would need to be edited and on the air within 24-48 hours after the race is completed for a week night recap.  If people want live coverage, it would need to be through internet TV… much like what WTC does for Ironman World Championships.  They broadcast every last grueling minute of the race and sell commercial spots to a handful of companies that air every so often throughout the race when not much is going on.  When I watched some of the coverage last year of Kona, I would guess only about 5-6 companies paid money for advertisement during the live broadcast.

3. Insurance for professional triathletes – Another worthy goal of the PTU is to accident insurance for paid members of this organization ($200 for first year pros, $400 for second/third year pros, and $600 for 4+ year pros).  Accident insurance is apparently very expensive… I’ve never looked into it, but the PTU website states premiums up to $4000 a year for this insurance.  Pro triathletes that would want this insurance most likely are full-time athletes and need to buy insurance on their own.  The truth about most professional triathletes is that many of us have other jobs that offer insurance.  Very few triathletes have found enough success in the sport to do this full-time without the support of a family member, such as their husband/wife. For most of the pros to join for this benefit doesn’t give them something they don’t already have either through their own job or significant other’s job.

4. – Challenge plans to make all pros racing with them to join the PTU – I love Challenge and I prefer to race with them vs. WTC races.  I feel they do a better job promoting pros and really care about every athlete experience and growing the sport.  However, if Challenge is going to make being a member of the PTU a requirement to race with them (which I suppose they have every right to do so), I think they will see less pros in USA/Canada race with them.  If the same climate for pro prize money exists next year as it does now for Challenge Family races in the USA and Cananda, pros only have 5 races to choose from.  All of these are on extreme east of west sides of the country.  This means more travel expenses for at least half of these races for all pros.  With 4 of these 5 races paying 5 deep, the chances of regaining the money paid join the PTU, traveling costs, etc, it would be a loosing proposition for everyone that placed outside of the top 2 or 3 (depending on prize purse breakdown) for those races only paying top 5. All this being said, I would much rather give my dues for racing to the PTU that is advocating for professionals than WTC who basically recycles the pro membership money back to professionals in prize purses.

5. – The bottom line – After looking at several articles and thinking about this more and more, I feel that what this “union” is most concerned about is the athlete’s bottom line.  Not just the ones on the board, but the bottom line of each professional athlete.  Saying what I’m about to say is hard for me, since I’m a professional triathlete, but the free market is both a blessing and a curse.  Not everyone should make the same amount of money for different professions.  Society had decided what is important based on how much they are paid (although I would argue that some of the low paying jobs in America are of most value, such as teachers, fire fighters, police officers, etc.)  Professional triathletes are not seen as being super important by race directors.  However, professional triathletes are much more valuable to companies selling a product (i.e. bikes, helmets, clothing, nutrition).  People don’t care what the average triathlete eats, the bike they ride, or what shoes they where.  They look to people like Andy Potts, Lionel Sanders, Matt Hanson, etc on how to train, what socks to wear, what recovery techniques they use and then buy that product.  Professional triathletes don’t hold a lot of value to race directors, but they could potentially sell a ton of product depending on how well they market and use social media.

 

In the end, I do think a singular voice for professional triathletes in non-draft legal racing is a good thing.  I personally would like to see one of two things happen moving forward:

1. Challenge not making it a requirement to be a member of the PTU to race with them.

2. Not as steep of a fee for pros to be members. Next year, I would have to pay $600 if I choose to be a member.  According to the PTU website, that would also require me to put their logo on my uniform.  Additionally, for people that have been pros of 4 years or more wanting to race both WTC and Challenge races, we have to pay $1450 plus a pro license fee to the governing body within the country, which varies from country to country.

08/2/15
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Frankenmuth Experience Triathlon – 2015

This weekend I “experienced” Frankenmuth.  The city is famous for a number of things, but here are two that I partook in:

1. Bronner’s – The world’s biggest and most famous Christmas Wonderland store.  If you can dream it up and relate it to Christmas, they have it.  The property is decorated in Nativity Scenes, Santas, lights, etc.  The property is the same size as 5 football fields!

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2. Zehnder’s – The world’s biggest Family restaurant.  And also the home of the “world famous chicken dinner.” They pride themselves in their service (which was really good) and their chicken dinners (which were good… but I was hoping for something better since it is world famous… but then again, KFC is also world famous).

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The triathlon also had world class service and professionally ran by the company (3 Disciplines) that put on my first triathlon ever 11 years ago (The Seahorse Triathlon).  The course was beautiful… but much too short for this long distance specialists.  It took me about 15K on the bike before I started feeling good.  I struggled to push half iron distance watts on the bike for the first 15K.  I finally warmed up and Infinit’s NAPALM started hitting my system.  After that, I averaged 330 watts.  At that point, I started catching a group of 3 ahead of me.  I eventually passed them and hit the run feeling good after biking the 3rd fastest bike split of the day (58:10). The bike course was slower than than what I expected due to about 50% of the course being on rough roads and about 12 or 13 turns on the course with lots of gravel on the road.  The run course was a very flat, 2-looped course.  We ran through Bronner’s and got to experience the Christmas spirit in August! I managed to run a 5:47 and passed 2 more guys on the run to finish 6th on the day.

This race doesn’t get much press, but does have a pretty good prize purse.  Some really fast guys showed up, including Ben Collins, Chris Lutz, Thomas Gerlach, and a few other ITU guys.  Considering I out biked most of these guys is encouraging to me.  After racing this, it confirmed to me that the longer the race, the better I do.  Olympic distances are fun and a good speed day, but I felt like I was getting stronger as the race went on.  I’m looking forward to a 70.3 and 140.6 triathlon later this month!

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07/24/15

Fruit Ride – Louisville Group Ride

I love Louisville in the summer time much more than any other season.  Outdoor swimming, longer days, and lots of group rides. This one is dubbed the Fruit Ride.  Not really sure why it is called that since we don’t go by any thing that grows fruit.  But, this is one of my favorite group rides that happens during the summer.  Lots of good climbing, fast descents, and lots of attacking on the ride due to low traffic on the country roads around the Crestwood and Anchorage areas.  Check out this video for some of the sights during the ride.

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07/13/15

Swimming faster – Arm Turnover

While competing at the pro level, one of the biggest differences between racing at the age group level and the pro level is the importance of the swim.  I’m far from the best swimmer out there, but with the help of Lakeside Seahawks and their coach, Nate, I’ve made some big improvements in my swim in the last year and half.  One of the things they really worked with me on is developing a good catch.  Something I would argue that most triathletes don’t actually have (I am still trying to make mine better too).  What is a good catch?  Basically, it’s anchoring your forearm and hand in the water and moving your body past it it.  Getting a good catch takes time, drills, practice, more time, more practice, and more time! Breaking those bad habits can be rough. (I speak from experience!)

What I find interesting among triathletes and most triathlon coaches is how much they stress a good catch (and body position).  This is a great place to start, but I rarely see people get past this.  The stroke seems to be stuck at a very rigid, almost robotic, movement.  In a sense, they have all the steps correct, but the smoothness and quickness of their arms is lacking.  The rate at which your arms move through the water is called arm turnover.  This is very important to efficient swimming, especially in open water.

To help make the connection to how important arm turnover is, let’s compare it cycling and the RPM of your legs.  Pretty much everyone knows that the ideal cadence for people is somewhere around 90-100.  Why is that?  At higher RPM’s, you rely less on muscular endurance and glycogen stores and tax your cardiovascular system and fat stores more.  A lower cadence, such as one in the low to mid 80’s, starts using more muscular strength and glycogen stores.  (Those glycogen stores are crucial to a good run after biking.)  The same holds true with with swimming.  A faster arm turnover means you are using less muscular strength and relying more on cardiovascular fitness.

The second reason I believe a higher turnover in the swim is important is more crucial to open water swim success than pool swimming.  Open water naturally has more chop in it from the waves and other athletes thrashing around you.  If you have a larger time between strokes, the water slows you down and you have to accelerate back to your speed with each stroke.  Just as it is with driving a car, the more you slow down and accelerate, the less miles per gallon you get due wasted energy.  The human body is no different.

The next big question within this question is, “how do I know what my arm turnover should be?”  Obviously someone swimming 1:10/100 meters is going to have a different arm turnover than someone swimming 2:00/100 meters.  There are also other variables involved, such as the height of the athlete, arm length, and how efficient their stroke is, etc., but here is a graph to give you a range to shoot for:

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Your goal should be to be somewhere in the white area based on your 100 meter time.  If you only have a 25 yard pool at your disposal, the easiest way to convert to meters is to add about 10% of your time (convert to seconds and multiply by 1.1 to get your 100 meter time).

Faster arm turnover doesn’t mean you are allowed to start thrashing in the water again with no regard to form or technique.  It just means that you need to cut out pauses in the stroke and have a faster recovery portion of your stroke (as in when your hand exits the water by your waist and re-enters past your head).

Here is a great example of fast arm turnover from some of the best swimming triathletes out there in the ITU circuit.

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06/24/15

Take a Stand

There’s been a lot of buzz in the air in the sport of triathlon recently for a couple of reasons:

1. Equality in the sport for women

2. How much do pros matter

Let’s start with the issue that probably isn’t as big of a deal to most people (so I won’t spend a lot of time on it), but hits close to home for me – how much do pros matter.  Last year, Ironman announced they would be cutting how many races would have money at them.  One of them was Ironman Louisville… which is my hometown.  After the race, I started the #keepourpros initiative to try to make a stand and make the voice of people heard that wanted to have pros at the Ironman races that lost their prize money.  I specifically remember people telling me that they wouldn’t do a WTC race (such as Ironman Louisville) without pros at it.  However, some of those people have signed up for those races.

Quickly moving on to the more pressing issue, EQUALITY.  A quick recap of what has been the issue here.  The world championship in Kona has very limited space on the peir.  The pro men get 50 of those spots, and women only get 35.   Last time I checked, 35 is a lot less than 50!  This makes it a lot harder for women to get to Kona.  I recently read the blog on Ameber Ferreira’s website (a former Maverick Multisport athlete).  It is a great case study on how this effects even some of the best women in the sport… especially the up and coming athletes.  Ironically, Ironman recently announced 3 additional spots on the pier for women.  However, those 3 spots didn’t go the professional women.  The three spots have been allocated for the WTC Women for Tri Board.  Spots that I would assume are being paid for by those three females.

I know that not everyone will agree that pros are important… but I know that people will agree that equality is important.  If you are concerned both or one of these issues, then you need to do two things.  First of all, sign up for different events.  Whether it is a local race, Challenge Family, HITS triathlon… whatever it is, support the companies that support equality and support pros.  If you say you don’t agree with what Ironman is doing, but still sign up for their races you are basically casting a vote of approval.  As long as Ironman has money coming in, they won’t change anything.  Consider if a politician said he/she was against guns, but decided to do a 5K run that all the proceeds went to the NRA. The press would be all over that and having a hay day with it.  It’s basically the same thing that pros and age groupers are doing still doing Ironman races but don’t agree with one or both of these important issues.

Secondly, if you want to sign a petition for 50 Women to Kona click here and let Andrew Messick see your name!

Will pros take a hit for a year or two if we do this?  Yes! But if you want to see change a sacrifice is needed.  For myself, I won’t be racing Ironman races for the rest of the year and have no plans of racing with them in the future.

06/24/15
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Tuesday Night Worlds – Shawnee Park

Another great group ride with some strong cyclist in Louisville.  This time we went to Shawnee Park and did a criterium style group ride.  We did 6 laps (about 10 miles total) twice.  The effort was super hard.  The second session we did, I average 355 watts! There were several surges well over that.  Check out the video below:

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06/20/15

BSX Insight Bike test – 3

I just completed my third BSX Insight bike test.  Each one has shown marked improvement.  Watch the video below to see a few shots of the test and the results.

With this new FTP, I currently am able to push 4.84 watts/kg! Thanks BSX for the valuable data, and thanks to Brian Grasky for using this data in your coaching! Looking forward to the second half of the season!

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BlueSeventy – save 20% on all orders using coupon code MavMike.
BSX Athleticssave $40 on the multisport unit with coupon code MavMike
Infinit Nutrition – used the coupon code “MAVERICK” at checkout to save 10%
Primal Sports mud – Discount code: MAVMIKE15 will give you 20% off from 1/1/15 to 12/31/15.; http://www.primalsportmud.com/buy.html#sthash.5UY88juh.dpbs
Challenge Family Races (USA)use code CHALLENGEMIKE to save $10 on your entry fee. This shows Challenge Family that pros do matter to help #keepourpros
06/15/15
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Challenge Williamsburg 2015 Race Report Video

Last weekend, I completed the Challenge Williamsburg (formally REV3 Williamsburg). It was a scorcher.  Temps were in the 90’s and the “real feel” was 100+ degrees.  I recovered from a flat tire on the bike and still managed to pull off the 2nd fastest run of the day.  I averaged 320 watts on the bike, which is my 70.3 best power.  The run was 1/2 on trails and 1/2 in the scorching sun.  I love running on trails.  The sound of the dirt and small rocks under my feet with each step is like music to me. I concentrated on that and disengage my mind from the heat and humidity.  I also made sure to walk the aid stations (no shame in my game). I grabbed as much water as possible (usually about 4 cups worth) and ice (usually 2 cups worth) and stuff it down my jersey and hold some in my hand to get a good cooling effect.  Aside from some coke on the run course, I was able to get all my calories from Infinit nutrition.  Although I didn’t place in the top 5 like I was hoping to, I think there were a lot of positives from this race.  Be sure to watch the video below for a race recap and sign up for a Challenge Family race (CHALLENGEMIKE to save $10)!

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