Panama 70.3 Prep Day

Well in just a few short hours, the 2013 season will start with a swim in the Panama Canal.  I must admit, the butterflies are starting to set up camp in my stomach.

I was able to sleep until about 8 o’clock this morning.  Waking up to breakfast already prepared or being prepared has been a nice treat.  I ate breakfast and decided to make my way down to the Trump Hotel early… not know how long it would take to get there with the traffic (even though it was a saturday morning) and not being able to count on the GPS for getting me there.  And let me tell ya… it was a good thing I left early.  My GPS, even with the coordinates plugged in from Google maps, couldn’t even get it right.  Thankfully, I knew the building I was shooting for by looking at pictures on-line the day before.  The GPS shot me way past it… about 3 miles or so.  I finally just turned it off and started just weaving my way around the city until I couldn’t get any closer to the hotel.  I parked the car and walked about 3/4 of a mile to the Hotel.

I did the athlete check-in as usual, nothing special here.  I made a lap around the race expo and didn’t see anything free to grab, so I went to the Ironman Store across the foyer.  I have a tradition that I started, sort of on accident, with my first IM race in 2007 in Wisconsin of buying a pint glass specific to the race.  Not every race has one.  But if they do, I make sure to grab one.  If you know me at all, you’ll know that I’m not a huge drinker or beer expert… so I’m not really sure why I feel the need to get one, other than adding clutter to my collection of race souvenirs, hats, and finisher medals.  I walked up to the cash register to pay for it, and noticed my credit card was MISSING!  I had a moment of panic and remembered that I had left them in my shorts pocket for when I went to the ATM the other day.  I did have some cash on me, and decided to just pay with that.

I walked back to my car to get the bike.  I made it all the way there and started digging around in my backpack for my keys.  NO KEYS!! This was a bit more than a moment of panic.  I tried retracing the steps in my mind about when I knew I had my keys and if/when I picked them up.  I remember having them in my had when I entered the Ironman Store.  I remember setting them down with looking for my credit card, but don’t remember them being in my had after leaving the store.  I walked back as quick as I could to the store with worst case scenerios running through my head of having Thrifty car rentals charging me an arm and leg to replace the key, not being able to race since my bike was locked in my car, and having no transportation for the rest of the trip.  I walked straight to the store once I got off the elevator and frantically asked if anyone had seen my keys.  Thankfully, the lady had them behind the counter waiting for me to come back.  I made another trek to the car, put my bike together and rode it back to the hotel and caught a shuttle bus to the pier where transition will be held.

The bus wasn’t exactly bike and passenger friendly.  We had to put the bikes on the bus on one side of the isle and sit on the other:

We set up transition and walked back to the bus… but not before getting a few pictures of course:

Who’s ready to play??

Paul Ambrose Bike at Panama 70.3

After the bus ride back, I had a couple hours to kill before the Pro meeting.  I listened to the age group meeting, and ran into a person from high school, Jessica Anderson, who is her doing the race for the second time.  I sat in and listened to the Pro Panel Q & A.  Lost of talent up there… Olympic Qualifiers, multiple 70.3 and IM distance winners.  I admittedly thought to myself, “what am I doing here??”  I pushed that negative thought out of my head and recomposed my thoughts.  “I am here living my dream, racing against the best.  I’m here to have fun, be it finishing first, middle, or last.  I’m here giving the sport back to God who first gave it to me to help me overcome depression and an eating disorder.  I’m here to escape winter and get a tan!”

The pro meeting went over some of the basics of the race, with in depth information about the course and what to expect on race day.  I was a little surprised to hear some of the questions the other pros were asking.  It made it sound like this was our first triathlon ever!  I was sitting next to Paul Ambrose and noticed he was a little frustrated with the questions as well.  One question did strike me as odd:  “Will you be drug testing the top 5 or so finishers?”  I was informed that last year when Lance Armstrong raced and finished 2nd, he was the only one out of the top 6 guys that didn’t get tested!  Crazy… it seems that even WTC was in on the Lance Armstrong scandal.  Is anyone out there playing fair these  days?!?

Anyways… the only thing left to do now is get some dinner, make breakfast for tomorrow and stay hydrated.  With these warm temperatures, that is easier said than done!


Panama 70.3 Prerace

Like anyone else, I like to size up my competition in preparation for race day.  Over the last few weeks, I occasionally checked the participant start list forPanama70.3.  I frequently visited the results page, looked at the elevation profile on the bike and run, and mentally ran through the race in my head, visualizing only the best.  The mind is a powerful thing and it can influence the body physically almost as much or more than any other major factor.

Did I visualize myself at the front of the pack, landing a podium position?  Briefly, but then reality set in and I settled with visualizing getting some form of a pay check from this race.  Based on last year’s results, I would need to go right around 4 hours – more than likely just under 4 hours – to get some money at this race.  I figured the top few guys would be back to either defend their title or try to improve their finishing place.  Of those, I knew that Lance Armstrong wouldn’t be toeing the line this year.

From finishing off the season last year with 4 pro races, I learned that it is crucial to get out of the water with the top few guys.  The swim times for this race are extraordinarily fast.  No, it’s not due to people being able to wear fins and paddles during the swim, but largely due to swimming down stream in thePanama Canal.  How cool is that?  Swimming in one of the man made wonders of the world!  No time to look around on race day though.  I need to find someone’s feet to get behind and draft in the water.  I think on my own I should be able to swim about a 20 minute 1.2-mile swim with the current.  Once I figure out who actually shows up that signed up for the race, I’ll research their swim times and try to find them race morning and try to hang on to their feet.  Ideally, I’d like to get behind someone that swims a low to mid-19 minute swim from last year, saving me about 45 seconds from swimming it solo.  Getting out of the water should lead to about a 2 minute T1 and off to the bike.

Panamais a long, narrow country.  One would expect very little elevation gain during the 56-mile bike ride.  You and I both assumed wrong.  With just over 1900 ft of climbing in the bike portion, it is just 100 feet less of climbing that Ironman Louisville in half the distance.  Sound painful?  Just to make it more fun, add in temps reaching to the mid-80’s by the end of the ride.  The good news that about 1000 feet of the climbing (right around half of the total elevation gain) comes on two different hills.  The first from miles 11-13 and the second from miles 42-46-ish.  The rest of it appears to be rolling to mostly flat with about 5 or 6 short, but steep, climbs.  What’s the strategy here?  Stay within myself and what I know that I can push on the bike for about 2 hours and 15 minutes.  According to some research that I did a while ago, I should be able to hold about 88% of my FTP for the ride.  Am I willing to push it a little more to test the limits?  You bet!  The cool thing from last year, that number that I think I should be able to push is up from about 275-280 watts (what I averaged at Rev3 Quassy on a 56 mile bike course with 2500 feet of climbing)  to about 300-305 watts.  The big question is run and how I’ll handle the heat coming from the coldKentuckywinter.

The run tends to be the strongest part of the race for me.  Do I still have work to do and room for improvement?  Yes, and lots!  Last year I averaged just over a 6 min/mile on a hilly Rev3 Quassy course.  This course is flat, but the great equalizer is the expected race temperature to be about 20-25 degrees warmer and have no shade as we run along thePanama Canal.  I believe that I could hold a sub-6 min/mile, and possibly run a 1:17-1:18 run split for the 13.1 miles.

Am I little concerned about the heat… a little.  But I think it’s more of a healthy respect for it.  I’ll be hurting, but I like the heat and welcome it to all races.  Thanks to Infinit Nutrition for getting me a custom mix to handle the hotter climates.  This will also be the first race that I use their NAPALM (Infinit’s spin on an energy gel).  I’ve had good success with it while training and look forward to testing it on race day in extreme conditions.

Originally, I had goals of finishing in the top eight. Panamadoes happen to be the Latin American Pro Championship and offers a lot of money for that reason.  However, after looking at the start list forPanama, I would be very happy with a top 10 finish.  I will need to have a phenomenal day to break into the top 8 and walk away with some money.  Whatever happens, I know that I’m going to give it my all and have fun while doing it.

I haven’t told really anyone this yet except for one person.  But the day before I left forTucson, my grandpa on my dad’s side passed away.  Due to bad weather inChicago, I was unable to make it up to visit.  My grandpa lived for 95 years and was married for 70 years to my grandma before passing.  He left a great example behind on how to live life to the fullest while honoring God with his lifestyle.  I’ve never done this before, but the season opener for 2013 is going to be dedicated to my grandpa.  When I cross that finish line, in the top 8 or top 10 or not, I’m going to look up and thank God and my grandpa for being their at my first race of 2013.


Rev3 Cedar Point Prerace

Recover, Train, Taper, Race

Rev3 Cedar Point Full-Iron Pre-race Post


It’s hard to believe that Ironman Louisville was only about 10 days ago.  It seems like a lot has happened since then, so in some ways Ironman Louisville feels like it was months ago.  However, the nightmare of a race I had is vivid enough that it seems like it was just yesterday.  I had three days after the race before heading back to work to try to recover as much as possible, then worked 4 out of 5 days, attempting to get some training in to keep my fitness for Rev3 race this coming weekend.  Those three days gave me lots of time to reflect on my race, seeing my mistakes, figuring out a game plan for the next race, and focusing my sights on redemption.  However, I also (re)learned something that is very loosely tied to triathlon.

As many of you know, I do my best to learn something about myself with every race.  Along with that, I also try to learn something spiritually from my experiences before and during the race.  I’ll do my best not to preach and be brief while still getting my point across:

Ironman Louisville was going to be stepping stone to get some more local coverage and publicity, hopefully leading to getting local businesses to get behind me and help me out next year.  Obviously, the race didn’t go as planned.  I started thinking about what lessons were in that day for me to learn.  My mind went to the story of theTowerofBabelfound in Genesis 11.  The people ofBabelwanted to build a giant tower so they would be famous, and people would be amazed at their accomplishments.  However, God saw a huge problem with this, so he confused their languages, and stopped their progress.  I also began thinking about how I had laid down a “perfect” plan/strategy of attack for the rest of the season and preparing for next.  Last week, I was reading James and came across the verses that say:


“Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”  As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.”

Another thought came to mind, that resonates throughout portions of the Bible.  The specific verse that came to mind is found in Proverbs:  “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.”

These three passages from the Bible made it clear to me that my motives for the race were wrong.  If I would have strung together a good race, it would have been very easy for me to look back and say, “look at what I did this season… I accomplished so much.  And as a result, I was able to find a bunch of sponsors, work less, etc.”  However, God often will humble us at the moments we want to shine.  It took a poor race performance to realize that all my blessings are from God, and not a result of anything that I’ve done.  I am just a steward of a gift.  To use not it as God as intended is wrong.

Whew… that wasn’t so bad was it for someone that can be a little long winded.  Now, let’s move on to September 9th’s race.

I’ve got a different plan of attack for this race that I hope works out well.  First of all, my plan is to 100% healthy and for this race instead of getting sick with a cold with a slight fever three days before the race.  Secondly, my nutrition set up will optimally (at least as best as I can think of) set up for allowing me to get more fresh, cold water along the course, while still using my sports drink of choice, Infinite.  I also plan on grabbing more fresh water at every aid station, whether I think I need it or not and at least get a small drink from it, spray it down my back to stay cool and rinse whatever urine might be on me off before I go again J.

If I can get off the bike well hydrated, while consuming the adequate amount of calories on the bike, I am confident the run (typically my best portion of the race), will fall into place.  After reading the athlete packet, I am a little disappointed that it appears that the aid stations on the run won’t have flattened coke.  If that is true, I plan on carrying a small bottle with some of my own flattened coke in it and put one in my special needs bag on the run.

My goal is to break 9 hours on this course.  This would be a huge benchmark for me, and give me confidence as I finish off the season with three more race after this one.  I will be borrowing Doug Hall’s Zipp Sub-9 disc wheel for this race.  It also happens to be custom painted like my bike, so I’m hoping to help out Kevin Brooks by handing out some of his business cards for his custom painted bikes and aero helmets at this race.

Good luck to the entire Landsharks group going up to this race.  A few of them are going to attempt their first half- or full-iron distance race.  It will be fun sharing the course with them and exchanging words, high-fives, and experiencing this together!


Cya at the starting line…