08/6/13

Steelhead 70.3 Race Report

I admit it… I made a rookie mistake.

Michigan summers are very unique.  Or should I say “cool” or “unpredictable”?  And Lake Michigan is even more unpredictable.  Race morning was in the upper 50’s and water temps were in the mid 60’s.  The day before, the water was about 10 degrees colder.  But the one thing that should always be predictable is how the morning prep goes before a race.

I woke up later than I should have, rode my bike the 2 miles to transition, and then ate breakfast.  BIG MISTAKE.  I should have left the house the time I woke up and ate breakfast as the house.  This would have  given me more time to digest my food and get down to the swim start to warm up before the race.  Instead, I ate breakfast about 45 minutes before race start and didn’t get a warm up swim in due to the nearly 2 mile walk from my spot in transition to the swim start.

 

The waves were a bit unforgiving.  I’m guessing some were about 3 feet.  Also, instead of swimming with the current, as the race director promised we would, we swam against the current.  Swim times were slow across the board, mine was about 5 minutes slower than normal.  I exited the water where I normally do… right behind Ryan Rau.  Running through the sand to transition I notice my stomach felt full and my breakfast was still sitting somewhere in there while being tossed around by the waves.

I hopped on my bike and onto the Blue Star Highway to begin the 56 mile journey.  My stomach still felt full.  I became nauseated and wasn’t able to stick to my normal nutrition plan.  My power was lacking and every time I took a gel (which I spaced out more than normal for this distance trying to relieve the nausea) my stomach wanted to burp it back up.  Finally around mile 35, my stomach emptied.  The nausea went away and I was able to race the last 20 miles of the bike leg.  However, at this point I knew it was too late to salvage the race.  I decided to focus on the future run leg, the only thing I could control at this point, and try to run 6 minute miles or faster.

I got off the bike and felt great right away.  I passed a couple guys in transition, and one before hitting the first mile marker.  With the exception of the first mile, which included a steep hill, my first nine miles were all between 5:50 and 6:00/mile.  I was slowly catching some of the pro field.  However, the lack of calories on the bike caught up to me by about mile 10.  I started slowing down and only managed about 6:20 for the last 3 to 4 miles.  This allowed some of the guys to pass me in the final miles.

          

I crossed the finish line disappointed with the day.  I shot myself in the foot from the time I woke up in the morning and couldn’t do anything to fix it from there.  However, that being said, I doubt even if I was on top of my game that I would have placed in the money.  There were lots of fast people in Benton Harbor on Sunday getting last minute points for worlds and getting in a final tune up before going to Vegas in September.

 

Next up, I’m looking at my hometown for the Louisville Ironman.  I feel much better this year going into the race.  As long as I don’t get sick like I did last year just before the race, I think I’ll have a good race and have some hometown support to help!

06/24/13

70.3 Syracuse Race Report

Sometimes a course is more difficult than it looks on paper.  Syracuse 70.3 was no exception.

Instead of a 3:45 wake up call that I had in Raleigh 3 weeks ago, my alarm was set at 4:45.  The sun was already coming up over the horizon as the sky was starting to lighten up.  My girlfriend and I were out the door and in the car by 5:15-ish.  We had hoped to arrive at the park at 5:30, but with hundreds of cars lined up on the two lane road to get into the park, we were delayed significantly.  I ended up having less time than I like to have on race morning to get everything set up in transition and get down to the beach to the swim start.  However, with a few years of practice in setting up my area in transition, I managed to get everything done without feeling too rushed.

About 20 male pros lined up in the waist deep, 70-degree water waiting for the race to start.  Anticipation was building.  We all knew who would win the race – Joe Gambles.  Second through 5th was up in the air, at least in my mind.  I lined up next to some swimmers I knew were slightly faster than me, such as Ryan Bates from the US Pro Tri team, hoping to get on their feet and get bit of a free ride around the 1.2 mile course.  I managed to hang on… for about 300-400 meters, but after than I just couldn’t stay on their feet.  I swam alone until about 2/3 of the way through the swim when the next pack of swimmers caught up to me.  I was tired from the hard effort to stay on the faster swimmers’ feet and just tucked in behind.  I exited the water ahead of the pack after a late surge to beat them out of the water.  However, I struggled getting my wetsuit unzipped so the wetsuit peelers could take it off for me.  With a little bit of lost time, I exited T1 in about 14th place.  However, the next 6-8 guys were all within a couple hundred meters down the road once I got on the bike.  I knew I had to push it to try to catch them and not let them start pulling away.

Miles 2 or 3 through 12 were all uphill… or maybe up-mountain would be a better term to use.  I was in my smallest gear most of that time spinning up the hills.  I was amazed at how many pros were mashing their gears and standing up while climbing.  I figured they would pay for it later.  I managed to pass about 2 or 3 people during that section, and gain ground on the group that was a couple hundred meters in front during the start of the bike leg.  If I could keep them in sight or slowly reel them in, I felt fairly confident I could catch them in the run leg.  With the feeling of being rushed in the morning, my powermeter didn’t get calibrated before the ride, so the numbers were probably a bit off, so I had to go by feel instead of the raw numbers.  I felt strong during the bike and caught a lone rider between miles 25 and 30, and then saw a group of two or three more up ahead about 1/2 to 3/4 of mile a little bit later.  I eventually caught them around mile 45.  One of them dropped back significantly, while a friend in the pro circuit, Ryan Rau, stayed close.  We actually came into T2 together, and then I beat him out of T2 and entered the run in 8th place with 7th place less than a minute ahead of me.

The run was brutal… plain and simple.  The first aid station came about 1/4-mile into the run and the second one was just after the second mile marker.  The 3rd one was another 1.25-miles down the road.  The water at the aid stations was either luke warm or hot, and only two aid stations had cold sponges (which, most of the time, weren’t cold at all).  I found it very difficult to keep my core temperature down.  But I did what I could.  I put ice down my jersey, down my shorts, inside my cooling sleeves from Columbia (hoping to do a little plug on these later… best cooling sleeves I’ve ever tried), and holding ice in my hand.  The hill a the turn around point (miles 3.5 and 9.5) was killer.  According to mapmyrun.com, the hill ranged between 6 and 9 percent incline.  It literally slowed several pros down to a walk.  I backed it down, still running, to save my legs.  By the first turn around point, I had ran my way into 6th place with 5th and 4th just a few meters in front of me.  I caught 4th place before going back into the Jamesville Reservoir Park to head back out for round 2 of the run.  I kept my eyes open for 3rd to see if I thought I could catch him.  But I didn’t see him on on the loop within the park.  I finally caught a glimpse of him after he was on his way back in from the second out-and-back.  In my mind, he was too far ahead to catch, unless something crazy happened and he slowed to a walking pace.  I decided to take the long, steep up hill easy.  At the turn around point, 5th place had somehow sneaked up behind me and was only about 5 seconds behind.  Time to kick in to high gear.  I knew I had to make it look like I was feeling good (or at least better than him) so I took the down hill and got some free speed from it.  With a mile left to go, I could tell I had enough ground between him and me that he wouldn’t catch me.  I took it home, looking over my shoulder occasionally to keep 5th place in check.

I ended up finishing about 30 seconds ahead of 5th, and was the first American to cross the line.  I missed my time goals, due to the course being much more difficult that I had predicted, and the lack of aid stations and ice on the course.  I also missed my goal of getting 3rd, but I’m still very happy with a 4th place finish.  I managed to fight my way back from a not so good swim, slowly picking off competitors on the bike and run.  Two top 5 finishes in a row!

I can’t express enough how thankful I am about the support I’ve received this year from sponsors, family, and friends.  It sure helps knowing that people have my back.  God has really blessed me!

 

 

 

 

I took 4th overall and Maverick Multisport teammate, Molly Roohi, took 3rd in the professional women’s field. Way to go Molly!

06/4/13

Raleigh 70.3 Race Report

I arrived in Raleigh on Thursday evening and stayed just about 20 minutes  from the race finish line and T2.  However, the start of the race was about  30 more minutes by car away from the finish line.  So that made race  morning a little tricky.

I woke up at 3:45.  I generally like to follow a rule that waking up before 4 in the morning to workout is just ridiculous and I won’t do it.  However, this was going to be more than workout… it was a race.  And I had to be able to adapt to the situation.  Everyone was in the same boat… we all had to wake up extra early to drop of our bike to run bags and then catch a  shuttle bus with 4000 of your closest friends out of the swim start.

I did my best to close my eyes on the shuttle and envision the race, feeling the water, listening to the sound of my race wheels cutting the wind, and finding the rhythm of a good run pace.  I did my best to keep my nerves at bay, but I knew that some nervous energy was a good thing, because it meant that I cared about what was about to happen.

I made it to Jordan Lake for the swim start and to get my bike ready to roll about 5:30… 1.5 hours until the start of my wave.  The sun was coming up over the lake at 5:30 and was bright enough to not even need a flashlight or headlamp.

I finished everything in transition, had breakfast, and did a little warm up job about 25 minutes before the start of my wave.  During that time, the race officials announced that the race would be wetsuit legal.  I couldn’t believe it. The day before they announced the water temperature at 79 degrees.  This morning it was 76.  Just 0.1 degree below the line of being wetsuit legal.  I left my wetsuit at my home stay since I was certain I wouldn’t need it.  So while all but one other pro was putting on their wetsuit, I was suiting up in my swim skin from TYR.  I knew they had a slight advantage over me now.  However, I knew that I normally beat some of the pro field out of the water by about 30 seconds, and figured if I let them lead with their wetsuits on we would be equal.  I found the group of guys I normally lead out of the water and when the gun went off, I stuck on their feet.

The first buoy came and we were all still in a pack.  But after the 90 degree turn, the pack thinned out a bit.  I noticed I was at the front of the group falling behind.  I knew I had to make a move right then and there to hang on.  I picked up the effort and closed the gap, made the final turn toward shore and settled back into their pace again.  With about 300 meters left to go, I picked up the effort to try to beat a few more guys out of the water.  I exited the water in 9th place, but about 3rd through 9th were all in a pack… I was just in the back of the pack letting the guys with the wetsuits do all the work.

The bike presented a few challenges.  Some expected, some unexpected.  The first came just a mile outside of transition.  The road was a bit bumpy and had a lot of road vibration.  The day before the race, I bought a gel flask holder to go on my bike so I wouldn’t have to try to get the flask back into my rear pocket on my TYR carbon race kit provided by Maverick Multisport.  The flask holder slipped to the side of the top tube and my knee hit on the way down of the pedal stroke.  I heard something hit the ground.  I looked back and saw my 300 calorie flask bouncing to the side of the road.  No time to stop and pick it up.  I did a quick game plan change for nutrition and realized I would just grab the gels from the aid stations.  If I could get one at each aid station that would be an additional 400 calories from what I had left on my bike (2 bottles of my custom mix of infinit, which totaled 560 calories).  In previous races this year, I had struggled with adequate water to sodium replacement, but this time I think i nailed it.  1 salt stick capsule every 10 miles.  My sodium intake was about 1000 mg/hr.

There was a group of about 5 guys in front of me by about a 1/4 mile.  I thought about chasing them, but decided not to. I wanted to race my own race.  I kept them in sight until about mile 15 and with all the turns and hills, I never saw them again.  I managed to drop a guy that was leap frogging with me by about mile 20.  I rolled through the second aid station and was able to grab water and to Gu energy gels.  I took one right away, stuck the other in my shorts, and drank some water.  I also used the water to squirt on my back in effort to keep my body cool.  It’s a good thing I managed to get two gels that aid station, because the third aid station wasn’t ready to hand out gels and I missed on there.  I took the one in my shorts instead to get the extra calories needed.  I rode alone for the majority of the ride.  Thankfully the night before the race, my host, Brooks, wrote me a letter about what to do keep negative thoughts out my head.  He suggested to use a phrase, a song, a Bible verse, whatever it is to say over and over again to keep me focused on my goals, and prevent negative thoughts.  I said this to myself out loud about every 5 miles.  And it seamed to work… especially towards the end.  The forth aid station I was out of my infinit mix and grabbed a water bottle, Ironman perform sports drink (which I hate, but I knew I needed something more than water), and two gels.  I took one gel right away and the second one about 8 miles later to get me ready for the run.

There was one last short steep hill before transition.  I didn’t realize that the dismount line was right at the top.  I struggled to maintain speed and get my feet out of my shoes.  In the end, the hill one.  my feet slipped off my shoes and I came to a stop at the crest of the hill.  I hopped off my bike with a good 10-15 meters before the dismount line and ran it in from there.  I entered T2 in 8th place… and no idea how far ahead anyone was.  I picked my bike up by the seat to rack it and the seat post came completely out.  The screw holding my seat post in place rattled itself loose.  I tried putting it back in, but quickly opted not to and drop the post/saddle on the ground and racked the bike by the handle bars instead.  I put on my new Columbia arm coolers, slipped on my newton MV2’s, grabbed a flask of Infinit’s NAPALM, and was out on the run hoping to catch some of the pro field.

The run was an out-and-back with a double loop at the end.  The up hill on the way was about 5 miles long.  it made it hard to find a smooth rhythm that I had envisioned in my head before the race.  I new I was still moving along really well judging by my form in the reflection of the windows as I ran by.  Again, I used the phrase I chose for the day to keep my motivated, ignoring the heat, and to push.  I came to the looped portion of the run and managed to see TJ Tollakson (he was on the second lap while I was on my first).  I passed him at the aid station we would pass twice.  He walked through it.  I ran through it grabbing what I needed.  I thought to myself, “you know… you can catch TJ.  He is really hurting… and you’re feeling great.  Catch TJ… catch TJ…”  I coined a phrase in my head while I was doing my best to catch him… I was going to “rookie” TJ.  it came from the idea of when a girl passes a guy in a race. which is called being “chic-ed” (sp?).  I completed the second loop of the run and managed to pass my first person of the pro field.  From that point on it was down hill.  Up until that point I averaged about 6:05-:10 miles.  I knew I was good down hill runner and could maybe catch a few more guys.  “Keep digging deep, and catch TJ.”

I got back off the walking trail and on to the road.  By that time I had passed another guy.  I could see two more in the distance.  The game of Cat-and-Mouse is one of my favorites.  I love reeling in runners that are ahead of me.  It takes my mind off the next mile marker (which is more than often out of sight) and keeps the constant reminder and motivator of closing in on the next position in the race.  As I was nearing the first one, someone (I’m assuming a friend, family member, or coach) was yelling at the athlete to pick up because the guy behind him (me), was rolling and looking good.  Before I knew, I had passed them him.  One more guy to go… and it looked like TJ.  By mile 11.5 I had passed them both.  I heard someone say to me, “Bring it home… you’re in 5th place.”  The feeling inside is hard to describe… but the best thing I can compare it to was the moment I realized I was running the last leg of Louisville IM in 2008 when I realized I was going to qualify for Kona and win my age group.  “I’m gonna be on the podium.”  A quick glance back and I knew they others were too far behind to catch me as long as something crazy didn’t happen.  I saw 4th place in front of me… but not enough real estate left to reel him in.

I settled in to the pace and just maintained what little energy I had left.  I crossed the finish line with a raised fist and giant grin on my face.  I resting on my knees and tried getting my breath.  I felt as it my lungs just couldn’t get enough air.  I looked up and my girlfriend was waiting at the finish line for me… which was a big motivator to get to the finish line!

Before I could get very far, USADA came up to me and said that I had been selected to take part in a drug screening to check for doping.  Honestly… this has been one of my goals for a long time.  I wanted to do so good in a race they would want to check me to see if I was clean!

Looking back on the race, I am obviously very happy with my result.  However, even in a “win” there are still lessons to be learned.  In fact, I think that if I would have attacked early in the bike ride and chased the group of guys in front of me and sit in with them far enough back to not get caught for drafting, but still get some help from the other athletes, it might have made the difference between a 5th and 2nd place finish.  If I only learn things when races go bad, I am setting myself for a slower learning curve and more frustrations.  Taking it to the next level will require me to know when to break out of my race plan for the day and when to push the envelope.  To learn where that limit is, I must push the envelope.

After getting home, the reality of not being able to do Muncie 70.3 dawned on me.  I was going to go from now until August 4th when I plan on racing Steelhead 70.3 without a big race.  I couldn’t get over that… and wanted to test my fitness again.  Which race should I do between now and then?

With a little research, I settled upon Syracuse 70.3.  It will be another long road trip, but I’m looking forward to it already.

Again, I would like to thank all my sponsors that have helped make this past weekend a huge success.  I couldn’t have done it with them.  But it’s not just some discounted/free product that made it successful.  The tremendous amount of encouragement from my family, girlfriend, family and friends can’t go unnoticed.  And ultimately, God… who gave me the ability to race and live my dream.  I pray that I can continue to honor him with the gift he has given.

05/19/13

Ironman Texas Race Report

A few years ago in training for triathlons, I learned that sticking to the original plan for the season is almost always the best thing to do.  I learned that by adding more and more races to my schedule and went through a cycle of racing, recovering (or at least trying), tapering, and racing again.  This worked out well for the first few races, but after a month or so of it, I just couldn’t keep going.  The rest of my season suffered and I was left disappointed and frustrated.  Instead of chalking things up, I kept on adding more races to the schedule looking for just “one more good race” of the season.  But it never really happened.  I finished the year worn out mentally and physically.

Ironman Texas was originally going to be a practice run for Ironman Louisville later this year.  I felt good going into the race about 2 weeks out and decided that I may take a stab at the entire race.  I wanted to get a PR on a course that, on paper, looks easier than other Ironman courses I’ve done before.  So I prepared myself mentally to take on the entire distance and filled my transition bags and special needs bags with everything I needed.

Race day started with a 4:15 wake up call.  My friend, Chris, and our host for the weekend, Will, made our way to transition to make the final preparations we needed to for the race.  The swim start was about a mile walk from transition.  I dropped off my special needs bags and made my way to the swim start to get warmed up with the pros in the water.  The pro field was very large… about 40 in the male wave.  We took off at the sound a gun and found myself in a poor location for getting in with the faster swimmers.  I fell behind and ended up pulling a group of about 5 or 6 swimmers behind me for the rest of the swim.  The group I was in ended up getting to the swim exit at about the same time… 59 minutes.  I felt that this swim was a bit slow for me, but I didn’t let it bother me too much.  I can’t change the past and can only control what I have I left in the race.  So it was on to the bike.

I started out focusing on taking in nutrition and fluids to make up for the caloric loss in the swim.  I got my wattage dialed in that I wanted to hold and felt great.  I was rolling along and a nice consistent pace and slowly catching some of the pro field that beat me out of the swim.  The first 60 miles or so was a net gain in elevation.  I was taking in my electrolytes and calories just as I had planned.  I grabbed my special needs bag at mile 60, which was full with 3 bottles of Infinit and a flask of NAPALM.  However, at this point, I was running low on my electrolyte tabs and eventually ran out about mile 70.  The sun was completely out at this time and the wind was in my face at about 20 mph.  At times, I felt the warm air radiating off the ground and it felt as if I was in a convection oven.  Needless to say, my sweat rate was pretty high and without the salt tabs and adequate water intake, my biking legs stopped functioning rather quickly.  I decided to just ride it in nice a easy and go back to the original plan of saving my legs for Raleigh 70.3 and using it as a practice run for IM Louisville.

I did learn a few things in this race that should help in IM Louisville since the heat and humidity were very comparable to the weather I would expect to be in Louisville.  The biggest thing I learned was the need for some better electrolyte replacement during the bike leg.

Since I saved my legs for Raleigh, I’m excited to race this half ironman race with legs that won’t be so tired and flat.

04/28/13

Derby Festival Marathon Race Report

One week before the Kentucky Derby, a lesser known race with less bets (if any) is run.  This race attracts about 17,000 athletes between the mini and full marathon.  The mini is more popular than the full, but the full marathon still had about 3,000 athletes.  This was my first stand alone marathon since 2011.  My time for that race was about 2:56 2 years ago.  I knew that I could run faster than that and had a goal of getting below 2:40 for this race.  That being said, I had a hard training week leading up to saturday with only a two day taper.  I had a 4 hour bike ride on wednesday and a 1 hour swim as my last hard day of training, so that weighed on my mind on  race morning.  The other thing that weighed on my leading up to the race was the fact that Derby Marathon is a big local race.  Racing in my hometown is bittersweet.  I love it for the energy that I draw can draw upon from people on the race course or lining the streets that cheer specifically for me as I go by (I must say the Louisville Landsharks is a great club to be involved with) during the race.  I also get more nervous for local races because  I know lots of people will be there that I know.  When I go somewhere far away for a race, I can blend in and be just another athlete.  I tried not to let the nervous energy about racing at home get to me, and just focus on completing the race and hitting my goal.

Race day started with a 5:30 wake up call.  I threw on my race kit provided my TYR and Maverick Multisport, some Swiftwick socks, my Newton MV2’s provided by Ken Combs Running Store in Louisville, and some racing glasses to illuminate the cloudy day provided by Smith Optics.  I also made sure to grab the all important race day nutrition:  Inifinit‘s NAPALM and some salt tabs.  I grabbed a throw away bottle to use before the race to sip on some water to get hydrated after sleeping all night.  I couldn’t find an old water bottle or a bottled water in the house, so I found an empty peanut container and used that for my water bottle.

I wasn’t able to get into the elite start corral since I hadn’t run a marathon recently enough to qualify for that start corral, but I did find my way to the front of the next corral.  At the start of the race, I was about the 5th row back of people (if there is such thing as a row of people when lining up for a race), and quickly found myself in the mix at the front after the gun went off.

This was the first time I ran the new course since they changed it to a loop course in 2011.  Instead of starting out in Iroquois Park with a ton of hills, marathoners would tackle the hills in Iroquois miles 11.5 through 14.5.  During that 3 mile loop around the park, we had about 525 feet of climbing.  I purposely back off down the effort going through the section so I wouldn’t burn out my legs with still having over 10 miles to go once getting out.

I exited the park and hit the 16th mile marker still feeling really good, averaging about 5:50-ish per mile and decided to try to hold on to the pace or even pick it up a little bit since we had a gradual down hill as we headed back towards downtown for about another 5 miles.  I averaged 6 minute miles for the next 5 miles, took a right hand turn to hit some more hills before the last three miles that were mostly down hill or flat to the finish line.  Those hills really took a toll on me.  My pace dropped significantly to 7 minute’s per mile (ouch)!  However, I was able to hang on to that pace as my thighs started rejecting any more forward motion.  I crossed the finish line in 8th place with a 2:39.

I’m very pleased that I was able to hit my goals during this race.  However, I would have liked to been able to hold something closer to a 6:30 for the final 4 miles.  I knew I would slow down at the end of the race, but if I could have knocked off :30/mile for the last 4 miles, I could have ran a 2:37.  Two minutes wouldn’t have changed my overall place in the race, but in my mind is significantly more impressive.  Maybe next year!

After the race, one my local sponsors, Q’doba Mexican Grill, invited me to a soft opening of their new Fern Creek location.  It was a perfect post race treat.  I was able to bring my parents and my girlfriend (who ran the mini-marathon) there and enjoy some good mexican food before heading to the Louisville Science Museum for some entertainment in the afternoon.

Thanks to all my sponsors for making this possible.  And to my family and friends for all the encouragement. And of course I couldn’t do it without the health and ability graciously given to me by God.  Next up, Ironman Texas.

Cya at the starting line…

04/9/13

Galveston 70.3 Race Report

Galveston 70.3 was my first race state side of 2013.  After a disappointing experience in Panama, I was determined to do much better.  I changed coaches to Brian Grasky after Panama.  Training picked up and I felt faster and stronger… significantly faster and stronger considering it was only 2 months of training under his  guidance.  I went through some good race simulation on the computrainer and did my best to time the workouts to get off the bike during the warmest part of the day, which typically was scorching 45 degrees!

I had a great place to stay in Galveston about 7 miles from the race venue thanks to a very loose connection (about 4 or 5 degrees of separation .. I guess Facebook is good for something!) with two girls about my age.  They hooked me up with a room to myself and full access to the kitchen.  I always like having a place to cook food to save money and eat what I’m comfortable with before the race.

Anyways, we will fast forward to race morning.  I woke up at 5 and grabbed the last few things and hopped into the car and headed to the race venue.  I got caught in race traffic and pulled over into a parking lot that was the furthest away because I knew I could find a place to park there and then ride my bike and carry my stuff in a transition backpack to the transition area.  Due to this, I arrived significantly later than I was planning on the night before.  I typically like to have about 75 minutes to get myself ready before a race once getting to transition.  However, this time I only had 50 minutes and had to walk a half mile to the swim start AND get my wetsuit on before jumping into the unusually cold bay.  It was a bit chaotic for me in the morning, but I managed to get myself to the swim start in time and have time to warm up before the gun went off.

Swim 1.2-miles

Just before the swim started the race director went through all the pros that were racing.  He got to my name and paused for a second, “oh… we have a birthday boy today…” and then continued on with the list of the remaining pro men field.  The final seconds before the race started, I reminded myself of my goals for the race, to race my race, and have fun… after all, it was my birthday.  I shot up a quick prayer thanking God for allowing me to do what I love and ask for safety as I raced.  Bang, the gun sounded and the once calm water turned into a washing machine.  I did my best to stay on Chris McDonald’s feet to get a draft on the swim since he is just a touch faster than me.  I managed to stay with him for the first 500 meters or so and then he pulled away.  My goal for the swim was a 26 minute swim.  Thanks to some hard training and my new Tyr Cat. 5 Hurricane wetsuit, I managed to hit that goal.  I exited the water mid pack, which is a big improvement.  I typically came out of the water very near the back of the pro field.  I ran to transition, after taking advantage of the wetsuit strippers and got myself prepared for a windy bike ride along the Texas coast line for 56 miles.

Bike 56 miles

The bike course was about as simple as they come.  A few turns getting out of the race venue, make a right hand turn on Seawall Road and turn around at the 28-mile marker.  Once I got to the seawall, I put down an effort that felt like the watts I wanted to push for the ride.  I took a glance down and realized I forgot to do something very important during the set up process for the race.  I didn’t calibrate the power meter.  The numbers were way off… so I was force to go by feel.   I decided not to let this bother me and just focused on what I could control: my effort, my hydration/nutrition, and my attitude.

On the way out, there was a 9 mph headwind/crosswind combination.  I kept a close on the time on my computrainer to make sure I was drinking enough fluid and calories to get me through the race.  When the one hour mark was nearing, I glanced down now and then to make sure I could estimate my average mph for the first hour.  My garmin clicked to an hour at about 25.5 miles into the ride.  I was extremely happy with that since just a year ago, I couldn’t go that fast for a 40-kilometer ride on a course with no wind.  But, it did concern me… I thought maybe I over extended myself a little too much having to force to go off of effort rather than hard numbers from the computrainer.

I hit the half way point (28 miles) in 1:06.  I figured with the little push from the wind on the way back in, I would easily make my goal of 1:12 on the bike.  However, there was no tail wind, just a cross wind.  No help this time!  On the last 5 miles, I could tell my legs were running out of steam.  However, I typically get a fresh wind on once I get to the run, so I wasn’t too concerned.  I did a quick count of my calories in my head and it came to 900-950 for the bike.  Right where it needs to be for my effort and body weight.  I rolled into T2 ready to tackle the run.

Run 13.1 miles

I got off the bike feeling good.  I found my legs rather quickly and was rolling 5:40 miles out for the first two miles.  Then something started feeling a bit off.  Quick… drink some Napalm to get a boost of energy and caffiene.  However, I think my electrolytes were off this time.  It wasn’t a lack of calories… I just didn’t take any electrolyte pills during the bike to balance all the water I was drinking supplementing the Infinit I was taking in.  The first lap went good, the second lap alright, and the third lap was survival mode.  I had two or three pro men pass me in the last mile.  I just didn’t have any fight left.  I crossed the line in 22nd out of 35 pros.

Post race

After the race, I hung around the finish area for a little while talking to some other racers.  One of them, Ryan Rau, who I must have raced against in the past, came up to me after finishing a just a little behind me and complimented me on my swim and bike.  He told me that he noticed a huge improvement in those two events from my previous performances.  That was so encouraging to hear.  I guess it’s not just a figment of my imagination that I’m getting faster and stronger… other people are noticing too.

Thanks to all my sponsor that helped make this birthday a success, as well as a learning experience.  Next up Derby Festival Marathon.

Cya at the starting line…

12/16/12

Otter Creek Trail Marathon Race Report

Every time I trail run, I have a blast.  It’s much more fun than running the roads.  A for a fleeting moment, I think to myself about possibly taking up this sport and replacing triathlons.  But, it’s a very fleeting moment.  For now, it’s a good way to put in training time on my feet, build a good base and strength while hopefully not injuring myself.

Otter Creek is a park located southwest of Louisville, in Meade County.  Even though it’s outside of Jefferson County, Louisville Metro Parks owns the property.  Located just off of Dixie Highway, it’s very easy to get to and offers several things to do at the park from repelling, hiking, fishing, and camping.  However, this time I came to trail run.  There were options for 8, 16, and 26.2 miles (actual distances were more like 9, 18, and 27).  Each distance beyond 8 miles, meant you had to run an extra lap.  I signed up for the full marathon giving myself the option to cut it short if I didn’t feel like running 3 laps since I had only trail run once in the last 3 or 4 weeks.

I came into the race with a mindset of just running a nice even pace.  Obviously, I wanted to win, but if I didn’t win, I wasn’t going to be upset since I was coming into this race unprepared.  I had a nutritional strategy figured out based on other trail running I’ve done.  Infinit Bike formula and some gels to help replace calories.  I used gels because I knew with the cooler temperatures I would be drinking too much sports drink to get adequate calories and would have to find a tree off the trail too often.  I carried two gels with me, and planned on using a couple from the course to get me through the marathon, if I ended up running that far.

The race started on time, with looming clouds overhead promising that this race wouldn’t stay dry for long.  Just a couple miles into the race, it started sprinkling.  At that point, was the steepest decent of the race.  Just the small amount of rain made it a bit slick, but not too bad for the shoes I was wearing.  I managed to make it down in one piece with 1st place about 30 seconds ahead of me.  My friend Ryan Althaus ran about half of the first lap with me.  It was nice to have someone to talk to for the first 5 miles.  Unfortunately, he has been struggling with some pain issues in his hip for a few months now, and had to back off after the first aid station.

The aid station marked the bottom of the trail, and to get back up to the where we started involved climbing.  There was two sections of sustained climbing, and with the rain picking up, it made it tough to climb.  My stride lengths were cut in half from sliding down the hill while climbing.  I came to the second aid station, starting my second lap, in second place with third just behind.  First lap was completed in about 1:05

I approached the steep decent again, only this time the trail had turned to mud.  I had to walk a good portion of this part because I was wearing road racing shoes and didn’t want to plummet to my death onto some sharp rocks.  I let 3rd place pace me, but caught back up to him at the 3rd aid station.  When I arrived there, he told me first place was 2 or 3 minutes ahead of me.  I kind of figured he would continue to build a gap and would go on to win.  I didn’t really care too much… I was just having fun.  I downed a gel and began running back up to start of the 3rd lap.  Second lap was completed in about 1:08

At this point, I was contemplating cutting it short and doing the 16 mile option.  However, about a mile before reaching the 3rd lap, I got a second wind and started feeling really good again.  I refilled my bottle with more Infinit Bike formula and took off on the third lap.

Just as I started the 3rd lap, it started pouring.  I began dreading the down hill.  Between feeling good and wanting to distance between me and 3rd place, I started picking up my speed.  I actually made it down the hill a little faster this time than the last despite the even muddier conditions.  Maybe it was confidence from the first two laps, or maybe it was stupidity, but what I did seemed to work.  I came to the bottom of the trail and ran along Otter Creek for the third time.  I saw someone ahead of me wearing bright green.  For a moment, I thought to myself, “I wonder if that is first place?”  I quickly threw that option out thinking that he was probably beyond the aid station by now.  As I got closer and came around the corner, I realized it was first place.  I though to myself, “Okay… maybe I can win this thing.”  I didn’t want to pick up my pace yet as I still had all the climbing left to do for this lap and knew that it was going to be a muddy mess climbing those hills again.

I entered the short out-and-back section that lead us to the aid station.  I didn’t waste any time.  I grabbed a gel and ate it on the run instead of savoring it while standing still at the aid station.  I saw second place about a minute behind me after passing him about a 1/2 mile ago.

I did my best to maintain a steady pace, but as I neared the end of the third lap, I began to feel hungry and lacking energy.  I drank what was left in my bottle of Infinit and felt a little pick me up.  Finally, I saw the final aid station.  Once I got there, I only had about 1/4 mile run to the finish.  I looked over my shoulder and didn’t see 2nd place behind.  I jogged it in and crossed the finish line just after the clock clicked to 3:28.

I am very happy with my results.  I am even more happy with the even pacing I did for the three laps.  I think it would have been even closer to even pacing if the trails weren’t so wet and slippery.

I’m just glad that Troy “the Kentucky Hammer” Shellhamer didn’t show up for the race, giving me a chance to win one last race before 2012 ends!

Thanks to Infinit Nutrition for the amazing product to fuel my body during this race.  I also think that the boot camps I’ve started doing at Pure Fit played a huge role in helping me race so well.  My legs felt strong the whole time and the day after the race I wasn’t really sore, which typically happens when I run trails.

11/4/12

Louisville Sports Commission Half-Marathon Race Report

This weekend (11/3/2012) I ran the Louisville Sports Commission mini-marathon.  I had signed up for it with the mindset to use it as a training day to get  some good numbers to work with to help guide my training through the winter as I prepare for 70.3 Panama the beginning of February.  I had no intentions of tapering for the race.

Race morning was a bit brisk with temperatures in the mid to upper 30’s.  If you know anything about me, you know I hate the cold and thrive in the heat.  I got down to the race early so I wouldn’t have to fight for parking and killed some time before the race chatting with some friends that were also doing the 13.1 mile run through downtown Louisville and Cherokee Park.  Everyone seemed to be excited for the day.  As the sun rose over the horizon, the temperature seemed to rise as well.  I made some last minute apparel changes to what I was planning to run in and worked my way to the front of the start line for a few last minute stride outs.

Mike Hermanson’s bib number for 2012 LSC mini-marathon

 

The count down for the race started and the gun went off.  I found myself leading the pack for about the first mile or so, but I knew there were faster runners here.  I quickly surrendered the lead to two guys that were wearing matching uniforms.  By the second mile, I found myself in 5th place, but the other 4 guys were less than 10 yards in front of me.  I wasn’t concerned about it, because I had a feeling that at least two of them were going out too fast.

We hit Lexington Road for the long gradual up hill climb for about 2 miles to Cherokee Park.  As I was running up that 2 mile stretch I passed 4th and 5th place.  The  guy in 4th place was pacing off of me, running either beside me or just behind.  I took notice of his breathing and could tell that he was running above threshold and wouldn’t be able to hold this pace for longer than a couple miles at best.  I looked at my HR monitor.  My HR was about 170-171… right at or just under threshold by a couple BPM.  I figured I would just let this guy wear himself out on the hardest part of the course as we entered Cherokee Park for miles 4 through 7.

About half way through the park, it started hailing/sleeting/freezing rain for just a few minutes.  I thought to myself that it would have been nice to have those extra clothes I ditched before the race… but it stopped after a couple minutes, leaving the road a bit slick.  Me and the other guy started running up the back side of hill leading up to Hogan’s Fountain.  If I remember right, he was a few meters in front of me at the base of the hill.  I pushed the hill to just above threshold to catch him and put distance on him during the hill.  I love running hills.  Once I got to the top, instead of relaxing a bit to recover, I wanted to put the nail in coffin on this guy and mentally beat him by keeping the pace on the flats and use the down hill section to put more distance on him.  By the time I got to the bottom of the hill about a half mile later, he was several meters behind.  I thought to myself… I shouldn’t see him again if I can hold it together.

However, the other guy I passed first on my way up Lexington Road wasn’t about to give up so easily.  He made his presence known as he picked up the pace to catch me on the long climb on Grinstead.  By the time we reached Cherokee Road, we were running stride for stride and continued to do so for about a mile.  I checked my HR.  Still about 170 BPM… just under threshold.

When we reached the down hill section leading to Liberty Street, I picked up my cadence and leaned forward even more to use gravity to carry me down the hill.  Once I hit Liberty, he dropped back several meters.  I knew that the rest of the race was basically flat and would have to maintain good form if I wanted to keep him from catching me.  I focused on the forward lean, landing on my forefoot, kissing the ground with my heel to let my calf muscle relax briefly, and running with my arms high but with relaxed shoulders.

Over the last 5 miles of the race, I would occasionally look over my shoulder to see if he was making any ground on me.  Best I could tell, he was slowly fading.  We ran all the way down to 25th street (I think) took a right hand turn and another on Main and had about 1.5 miles of straight road until the finish line.  I started picking up the pace a little bit.

With about 1/2 to 3/4 mile left to go, my friend Ryan Althaus escorted me on his bike.  He encouraged me to pick up the pace, get on my toes and kick it in.  My legs and chest were hurting as I kicked it in.  I gave on last glance over my shoulder to see where 4th place was and figured he was about 30 seconds behind.  I was on my way to a 3rd place finish, and crossed the finish line in 1:15:28.

My goal for the race was to finish between 1:15 and 1:16.  Place didn’t really matter to me so much.  I was racing the clock and trying to get some good data to train with over the winter months.  So, it was a successful day.

After reviewing my Garmin, my average HR was 169, and my first and second half of the race were almost equal in time.  This tells me that my endurance is good, but still have need to work on speed.  Realistically, I need to get my stand-alone half marathons down to about 1:10 so that my 13.1 mile run at the end of a 70.3 is about 1:15.

Thanks to my coach, Justin Trolle, for helping make such huge gains in the last 15 months of working together.  Thanks to my friends that cheered for me along the race and my sponsors that help make my dreams a reality.

My medal is now hangs from my rear view mirror… a nice alternative to fuzzy dice!