09/30/13

Augusta 70.3 Race Report

Final races of a season always bring with them a little different emotion than the rest of the races during a season.   In one way it’s a relief to be able to not think about training for a few weeks and allow the body to fully recover, get some neglected things done around the house, and start marketing for next year to get some more sponsors.  But, on the other hand, it’s exciting to test the fitness one last time and battle it out with some of the best in the business.

And, the best in the business were at Augusta 70.3 this week.  Out of the all the starters there this weekend, about 9 of them have at least been crowned champion at one 70.3 or 140.6 distance.  I knew my chances of placing in the money were basically nonexistent.  However, a big lesson I learned this year was to only focus on what I can control.

Race morning started out very interesting.  Two people sky dived and the national anthem was played during their fall to earth.  On the closing note of the song, the guy with the American flag hit the ground.  It was absolutely amazing to see the precision of when and where they both landed.  The other thing that made race morning different was the start.  We jumped off a dock, like what you see in an ITU race.

The cannon shot and all 32 pro males jumped into the water.  I struggled finding someone’s feet to get on during the swim.  I seem to have a harder time doing this when the field is big.  Not sure why that is, but it’s just something that I’ve noticed.  I eventually found myself in the middle of hte pack of swimmers and nearly missed the exit.  The sun was low and made seeing the last buoy a bit difficult.  I exited the water and ran as fast as I could to my bike. I opted not to wear my wet suit because I like speed suits better.  I also knew I could run faster in my speed suit during the long run from the water to the bike and could probably make up more time doing that than in the water.  My plan worked.  I passed about 2 guys on the way to my bike.

The days leading up to the race I decided I wanted to push the bike harder and try to ride with some guys during the 56 mile trek around GA and SC.  I didn’t care who it was in front of me, I was going to push hard to catch them.  And that’s exactly what I did on race day.  I saw two people up ahead of me after getting out of transition and onto the main road.  I put my head down and rode hard for about 6 minutes and finally reeled them in.   As I approached them, I could tell the two people were Ryan Rau and Patrick Evoe.  Both of these guys are good cyclists, so I was curious how things would end up.  Would I crack an hour or so into the ride and fall off the pace?  For about 30 minutes, the three of us worked together.  I looked over my shoulder and noticed that Patrick had fallen off.  I told Ryan what happened the next time I passed him.  He was also surprised.  But we agreed to do our best to keep him from catching back up to us.  We picked up the effort a little and put a safe distance between Patrick and us.

About half way through the bike ride we caught two more cyclists, and could see a group of 4 up ahead.  We slowly reeled them in and caught them with about 5 miles to go until T2.  My legs were screaming.  I looked down at my watts just because I was curious about what I had sustained.  My watch showed about 290 watts!  Upon reaching T2, about 5 us all rolled in within 20 seconds of each other.  I was now on to what I consider my strongest leg of the race.  However, with the previous 5 weeks being very busy with IM Louisville, a a 50-mile trail run, and now a 70.3, I was a little concerned how my legs would hang on.

The run started out very well.  The first 6 miles ranged between 5:45 and 6:00/mile.  Then the mile splits began creeping up:  6:10, 6:15, 6:30, etc.  I knew I was loosing it.  I did a quick check of my nutrition throughout the day.  It was spot on.  Hydration was good since I had peed once already, and my electrolyte intake was adequate.  I came to the realization that I simply had taxed my body too much in the last 5 weeks.  I crossed the finish line with a respectable time still, but not as good as it could have been.

After the race, my friend, Ryan Rau and I talked a bit.  He congratulated me and told me he was surprised to see that I hung on as long as I did with all the tough racing I’ve done in the last 5 weeks.

Would things have been different if I didn’t run that 50 miler a few weeks ago?  I believe they would have, but I have no regrets.  I’m happy that I chose to spend the weekend with a good friend of mine, Chris, to run the trails in Hell, Michigan.  It was something I’ve never done before.  Life is about experiencing things and trying new things.

With the triathlon season officially over for me, I’m looking forward to being somewhat lazy this week.  It brings a bitter sweet feeling.  This is the first year that I can remember not being both ready physically and mentally to call it quits.  I know my body needs a break, but my mind wants to keep going.  I think that is a good sign.  It means that I’m having fun and reaching goals.

Thanks for following my progress this year… it has been a great season.  God has blessed me tremendously!

09/28/13

Augusta 70.3 Race preview

The last month has been a complete blur.  Just over a month ago, I raced IM Louisville.  13 days after that I did my first 50 miler.  Needless to say, I spent a large majority of the last few weeks recovering from these races.  Add to that the patient census has been down at work, forcing to make up my hours that I lost by picking up night shifts (gotta pay the bills somehow… and triathlons are definitely not doing that!).  My routine has been rocked a little with organizing, packing, and moving everything from my house to my fiances to get everything ready to move in after our honeymoon.  I found some sore muscles I didn’t even know I had from all that.  However, I’m very thrilled (and a little surprised) that I feel good going into my last race of the 2013 season.

The starting line will be packed with several 70.3 and 140.6 winners as several people try to get a jump start on some points for next years 70.3 Worlds in a (more) attractive (to me) location, Mont-Tremblant Canada.  One thing I’ve learned this year is to not psych myself and shoot myself in the foot before the race even starts.  You never know what race day will hold.  I feel that this course plays to my strengths.  Long gradual hills to power up on the bike, and long straightaways on the run which will make finding a rhythm and pushing to the finish line more of a mental challenge.

The course is also very similar to that of Raleigh 70.3, where I scored my first podium finish.  I am going to keep that in the back of my mind and know that I’m capable of another surprising performance (mostly to myself).  I’ve also decided to try to push the bike harder than normal for a HIM race.  I don’t know what’s going to happen, but the only way to find out is to give it a try.  I’ve go nothing to loose.  This is the last race of the season and I’m going to give it all I have tomorrow and maybe find that my limits aren’t where I think they are in racing.

No matter what happens tomorrow, this season has been a huge success for me.  I know that when I look back on the season I can see progress being made from last year, and even from the beginning of the season.  As long as I keep making gains, that is a success.  Thanks to everyone that has supported me with words of encouragement, and my sponsors that have helped make this “career” a reality for me.   And also, for everyone that has been so willing to host me this season as I traveled around the nation racing, having a home stay for races is incredibly helpful.

Cya at the starting line…

09/8/13

Run Woodstock 50 mile Race Report

I like first time experiences… they are always the most memorable.  I will always remember my first triathlon, my first ride in an ambulance, my first Ironman, my first 50K run, and now I can add a 50 mile trail run to the list of things I’ll never forget.

My friend, Chris, and I took a camping trip to Hell, MI to take part in the Run Woodstock event this past weekend.  He talked me into doing the 50 mile run with him back in March.  I was a little scared of what I may look like doing it, but I figured after training for an Ironman that was just 13 previous to this race, I knew I would have the aerobic conditioning to at least complete the race.

I went into the race with the mindset of wanting to do good (as always) but other than that I really had no expectations.  I knew my nutrition strategy and how I was going to execute it or even how to change it as the race went on to meet the demands of the course.   The race started at 6, about 45 minutes before it is light enough to see anything.  So we actually had to run with head lamps for the first of three laps (each lap was about 16.6 miles).

The night before the race, Chris and I realized that I had a legitimate shot to win this race, so I decided to go for it.  I lined up at the front of the start corral with a bunch of 50K guys and took off into the woods.  It was part of my strategy to go out with the 50K runners for the first 11 miles (the groups split at that point to make their loops come out to about 15.5 and only have to do two of them) and make any of the other guys running to win the 50 miler that I was running the 50K and not realize that they needed to push it to catch me.  I sipped on Infinit’s bike formula (yes, bike formula, not the run formula since the intensity was low and I could handle the extra calories and protein in the mix) even though I didn’t feel thirsty to just be sure that I didn’t fall behind too quickly and dig a deep hole that I wouldn’t be able to recovery from.  About 50 minutes into the race I decided to take my first salt stick.  I took my eyes off the trail just long enough to toss my head back and swallow a couple pills… when I hit a root and took a nose dive.  My container holding salt tabs shattered when I hit the ground.  I picked up enough to get me through the first lap, because I had another container at the drop bag Chris and I were sharing just in case something were to happen.  I picked myself up and got back on the heels of the 50K runners.  I walked about 3 or 4 hills the first lap since they were steep and didn’t want to burn precious glycogen in my muscles that would be needed much more later.  I made it to the end of my first lap in 2:22, grabbed a few things from my drop bag (mainly more bike formula from Infinit) and dropped off the head lamp.  I made my way through the campground and back into the woods to start the second lap.

I felt great all the way through the second lap, but I did walk a few more hills this time… maybe 6 or so.  I was able to pass some of the 50K runners on their second loop just before coming back out to the campground (which was mile 33.3 for me).  Just as I entered the campground, one of the spectators yelled at me and jokingly said, “you know this isn’t a triathlon, right?”  I was wearing my TYR carbon kit for the race because I knew it would prevent chaffing and it was also very functional.  I was able to stuff some gels from the race course up the short legs, hold a snack size bag of infinit to mix up at some point along each loop, and had a water bottle with a pouch to carry my salt tabs.  I smiled, but couldn’t think of anything clever to say back… so I just went on my way.

The third lap was very tough mentally for me.  I had just completed the second loop about 7 minutes slower than the first one, and the sun was coming out making it warm up quickly.  The humidity was also rising, or at least it seemed that way.  I was going through my infinit and salt tabs much quicker now.  Also on the third loop, a mountain bike race had started and there were bikers all over the trails.  It made it hard to keep the pace steady as I had to jump off the trail and wait several times for them to pass.  At the first fully loaded aid station (there was one about every 4 miles) I tried to eat some real food… a couple bites of a PB & J.  It tasted so good, but as soon as it hit my stomach, I became nauseated.  However, I was still able to run, and after about 10 minutes the feeling went away.  The miles started passing slowly in my mind (and also because I was moving much slower now).  I did everything I could to distract myself.  I reminded myself over and over again about running efficiently with good economy of motion.  Just as I made it to the last fully loaded aid station about 4.5 miles before the finish, it started to rain.  It rained just enough to knock the temperature down a bit, but not enough to ruin the trails.  I was wearing my Newton Gravity’s to race this since the trail wasn’t too terribly technical (and they worked great!).  And even though it rained a bit and I was sweating, the Swiftwick socks were doing their job and keeping my feet a comfortable as possible.

I made to a water aid station just under a mile from the finish and ran in with a guy that was completing his 4th 100-mile run this year.  I crossed the finish line in first place for my first 50 miler!  No money, but I did get a really cool trophy (see picture below).  I can honestly say that running 50 miles is much harder to race than an Ironman.  However, I believe that Ironman racing is harder to train for.  Not sure if I’ll do another 50 mile trail run again, because right now all I can think about is sleep and food.

Thanks again to my sponsors and all those that support me.  And also to God for allowing my body to do what I demand from it every day.