Thursday, September 5, 2013

Ironman Canada Race Report: 10th Place Male Pro

So this took a little longer to publish than I had hoped, but better late than never, right?  For some reason whenever a race involves plane tickets and passports, everything seems to take just a little longer to get back in order when I get home.  So here we go….

A little over a week ago, I raced at the 31st Edition of Ironman Canada, which for the first time was held at Whistler, B.C.  I can’t get too far into my race report without saying what an amazing event this was.  From the race organization, course location, volunteers and local support, this event was absolutely spectacular in every aspect.  It needs to be on the “must-do” list of Ironman races within North America.  Now with that out of the way, back to my race.

The Swim Course at Alta Lake
Since my last race at Rev3 Williamsburg, I took a mid-season recovery week and came back with a strong motivation and desire to train at my best over the final 8 weeks to Ironman Canada.  I had been to the area a few times in the winter (where the skiing is EPIC!), but never in the summer.  Training was going well until the end of July, when I developed a sore right quad, which caused me to miss a few days of running and easy cycling.   I adjusted to this minor set-back and made the decision to pull out of Ironman Steelhead 70.3 and spend the weekend training instead of hard racing and recovering.  Besides that one hiccup, the lead up to IM Canada was rather uneventful.  Prior to race week, my bike was picked up by Tri Bike Transport and was safely on it’s way.  All that was left was to get myself to Whistler and focus on my own preparation.

Fast-forward to race day, and race morning was the standard routine on timing: up at 3:15 AM (I don’t think I’ll ever get used to getting up so early!), out the door at 4:15 and arrive at T2 / shuttle bus pick-up at 4:30.  After dropping off my T2 bag with my running gear, I was on the shuttle by 4:45 and right on schedule to arrive at the Swim Start / T1 a little after 5:00.  Once I arrived at T1, I continued my pre-race routine in loading up my T1 bag and prepping my bike.  About 6:00 AM everything was ready, and it was time to drink my bottle of First Endurance Ultragen.  After that, it was time to lube up, put on my SLS3 Tri Top, wetsuit and head to the swim timing mat.

At 6:30 we were called to the Swim start and as I slowly made my way out 250m to the swim buoy line, I couldn’t help but look around and take in the amazing scenery.  The mountains at sunrise were absolutely stunning.  There were hardly any clouds in the sky and the everything looked peaceful and calm….in complete contrast once the race begins.  The water temperature was perfect for wetsuit legal (about 66F).  The swim course is a 2-loop rectangle with an in-water start and we stay in the water for the start of the second loop.  The first straight is about 750m, then 250m between turns 1 and 2, then about 800m back to turn 3, and finally about 100m back to turn 4 (the start line).  After the second loop, there was about a 250m swim back to shore.

There were 17 starters in the Men’s Pro Field, so there was plenty of room for us to spread out and I lined up about 15’ off the buoy line.  Once the horn sounded, my plan was simple: find a pair of feet and hang on.  I settled into a nice rhythm and found a pair of feet I could draft off of.  I was able to stay in the draft around Turn 1 and just before Turn 2, about 900m into the race, a gap developed and they started to slightly pull away.  After Turn 2, I was passed by 3 others, and swam the back stretch back to Turn 3 alone.  As I started Lap 2, I was still leading the pack behind me, and as we neared Turn 1 for the second time, I was passed.  I was able to stay in the draft for a couple hundred meters as we rounded Turn 1, then lost them as I was blinded by the sun rising over the mountains.  For this loop we were swimming directly into the sun and I could not see anything at all.  After a few minutes blindly swimming and hoping I was not veering too far off course, I was at Turn 2 and back on track on the final long straight, where I was able to find a draft for a few moments and I rounded Turn 3 and headed to shore.  Since I was not wearing a watch I had no idea on my time at this point and I was pleasantly surprised to see 1:01:19 as I ran up the beach.  This was a personal best by over 5-minutes and I was right on target with my expectation, and I was in 14th Place.

As I ran up the beach I was already thinking about my routine in the change tent, so I forgot about the wetsuit strippers.  I almost ran by them before I hit the ground, and I probably lost a couple of seconds by not being ready.  Besides that, I was quickly out of the change tent, on off to my bike.  Given the air temperature of low 50s, I decided to wear arm warmers to start the bike, but this time I did not spend the time putting them on in Transition.  I got them over my wrist, the finished pulling them up while riding.  This was a huge time saver over last time I wore them in a race!  Out of T1 in 2:47, and still in 14th Place

The easiest way to describe the bike course in Whistler is Spectacular!  Big mountains, big climbs, fast descents, grades over 10%, flat aero sections, head winds….the bike course has it all, and with the glacier covered peaks in the background, the setting is just magnificent!  This is definitely one of the most scenic and beautiful areas I have even seen (not that I was paying attention during the race, but it was nice in the days before and after!).  The course is a one-loop format with 6,600’ of climbing (according to my Garmin 500) and logically breaks down into several key sections.  In general the course is constantly rolling with the exception of 3 distinct sections: Callaghan Mountain (7.8 miles sustained climbing with 4 sections at 10%), the flats on Pemberton Meadows Road (approx. Miles 60 – 90) and the climb from Pemberton back to Whistler (20 miles of rolling roads with 2,100’ of climbing).  With the constant transition from climbing to descending, I was glad to have Ultegra Ui2 on my BMC TM01.  The ability to shift from the base bar was a huge advantage and no doubt saved me more than a few seconds with 112 miles of nearly constant shifting.

My plan for the race was to properly pace the climbs so that I had the legs left for a strong run.  To address this, I came up with a power range for the flats, short climbs and long sustained climbs / headwinds.  I used a similar strategy at IM Coeur d’Alene which seems to compliment my style of racing.  Once I had my power numbers I was confident that as long as I stuck to my plan, my run would be there.  However, this is always the hardest part.  In the early miles you often feel good and rested from a nice taper, plus with other people deciding to be the “hero” hammering up every hill, the temptation is always there to chase.  However, lose your composure on this course and the day could easily turn into a long ride followed by a REALLY LONG run.  So in summary: I planned my race, now I needed to race my plan.   It’s just a matter of execution.

Back to my race…shortly after I left T1, Matt Sheeks passed me on an early climb and continued to pull away as we went through the first few miles of rollers.  Once we got to the Callaghan Mountain climb, I settled into my target power and maintained a steady pace to the top.  This was the hardest section to hold back, since I was passed by Jim Lubinski about half-way up and the leading age groupers started to catch and pass me near the top.  After convincing my self to stick to my plan, I stayed where I was and got ready for the downhill.  The downhill returns directly back down the mountain we just climbed.  This section was a blast with steep sections, fast curves and awesome views of the Black Tusk across the valley.  Part of the reason the descent was so much fun was due to my BMC TM01.  The bike is not only aero, but handles very stable for a tri bike.  The frame dampens the road vibrations, and the stability while carving around the turns was more like a road bike than a typical “twitchy” tri-bike.  In this section I topped out at 42.9 mph.

Callaghan Mountain with the Black Tusk in the Background
After the Callaghan it was more of the same as we rode back through Whistler and then began the descent to Pemberton.  The descent to Pemberton was the fastest section of the course with a top speed of 47.9 mph.  After Pemberton we arrived on the flat, out and back section on Pemberton Meadows Road.  This was the time to get aero and settle into a steady pace.  After a couple of miles my legs were feeling normal again and I kept the power steady at 230-240w….and I started to pick off those that passed me earlier, including Jim Lubinski and Brendan Naef.  The other highlight along this section is I am pretty sure I saw a wolf (or quite possibly the biggest dog I have ever seen) along the side of the road.  Whatever it was, it helped me stay focused and keep my power numbers up!  After returning though Pemberton it was time for the final climb back to Whistler.  While it was a difficult section, not much exciting happened here: I stuck to my power target on the climbs and recovered on the downhills.  In the end, I averaged 223w with a  VI of 1.04 and IF of 0.73.  Finally I arrived back in Whistler Village and I was off the bike in 5:16:43 (21.2 mph) and still in 14th Place.

Leaving Whistler by Green Lake...I guess I had an Itch!
Bike Nutrition:
As with all race plans, they seem good in practice, but often need to be adjusted on race day.  I start with 2 bottles of First Endurance EFS Drink on standard cages so I could refill on-course with Perform, and the Specialized Virtue Aero Bottle with 2 First Endurance Liquid Shot Flasks (10 oz of gel) mixed with 10 oz of water so it is easier to drink and dose.  I also carried 2 Salt Stick Dispensers: 1 with 6 Salt Stick tabs and 1 with 6 First Endurance Pre-Race Capsules.  My plan was the same as my past 5 Ironman races, 1 bottle of sports drink and 2 oz of my 50/50 Liquid Shot mixture per hour.  I then supplement with plain water based on thirst and add salt tabs as needed.

Everything was going to plan until mile 35 when I began to feel like I was drinking too much and I knew I had to modify my nutrition plan or I would likely have GI issues on the run.  I figures this was due to the cooler temperatures than I was used to (it was low 60s at this point).  So I cut back a bit on the sports drinks and more of my Liquid Shot Mixture to keep the correct number of calories with less fluid volume.  In the end, I don’t know how many bottles of sport drink I had since I often had to swap a bottle that was only half gone, but I drank 1.5 bottles (40 oz ) of First Endurance EFS and about 4 bottles (80 oz) of Perform, and I ended up drinking nearly my entire bottle of Liquid Shot.  This gave me a total of about 1,800 calories during the bike and averaged out to 340 cal/hr.  My energy level felt stable throughout the ride so I chose to avoid taking any caffeine during the bike segment and save it for the run.

In general T2 went well, with the exception of putting on my SLS3 Compression socks.  I practice doing this off the bike and typically I don’t lose more than a 30 seconds compared to standard running socks, but today was different.  I was having trouble getting them over my heels, and I probably lost over 2-minutes in doing this.  I thought about skipping them, but given the amount of hills on the run course, I knew the benefit would outweigh the time penalty with the added comfort in the late miles of the marathon would end up being faster.  After finally getting my socks on I slipped on my Zoot Ovwa’s and headed off on the run.

The run course is a 2 -Loop course, with the first 3 miles rolling hills with a net elevation gain, mostly on a gravel path through the woods, then it flattens out around Green Lake on an asphalt path next to the road for about 3 miles to the turnaround point.  After the turnaround, the course back tracks along the lake for about 3 miles, where it splits and heads back towards Whistler Village with a net elevation gain.

As I headed out on the run, I felt surprisingly good.  My bike-pacing plan worked perfectly and my legs were feeling good on the first 3 mile uphill section of dirt trails.  As good as I was feeling, I was passed (again) by Jim Lubinski and he quickly pulled away.  Once the course leveled, I knew I had to start pushing right away if I wanted to catch anyone ahead of me.  As I neared Green Lake, I settled into a steady pace of 6:45 min/mile for miles 3-8.  During this section I was able to see the time gaps to those in front of me.  First I saw Matt Russell (in 2nd) about 40 minutes ahead, then Matt Lieto in 3rd.  I lost track of who was next, but the next 5-6 guys were all spaced a few minutes apart.  This left about 4 competitors with about 5-15 minutes ahead of me.  Not real close, but considering how good I felt and with nearly 20 miles to go, a top-10 finish was still a real possibility.  First I passed Jonathon Caron at about mile 7, and kept focus on maintaining my pace, which I did all the way back to Whistler, and I hit the 13 mile mark and just over the 1:30 mark.  Going into the race, I felt if I could run close to a 3:00 marathon, I would be able to make up positions on the run, and I seemed on track at that point.

As I started the second loop, I decided to dial my pace back slightly to about 20s/mile compaed to the first lap as I entered the gravel / hilly section.  I wsa still feeling good, but general fatigue was starting to set in and I didn’t want blow up by charging up 3 miles of undulating hills.  Just before we left the woods around mile 17, I passed Bryan Rhodes for another position.  At this point, my legs were starting to tighten up and I could tell my stride was getting shorter.  I was holding a steady 7:50 pace, not exactly fast but I knew I had to be careful with any effort faster than this.  As I started along the lake I was keeping close eye on who was heading back to finish.  I noticed 8 and 9th place running close together and looking strong, and with a lead of about 15 minutes with less than 6 miles to go, I knew they would be hard to catch.  Then finally about 40 seconds before the turnaround, I saw 10th place, Dan Litwora.  As with the rest of my day, I kept a steady pace and made the pass at about mile 21.  I noticed on the return along Green Lake, somewhere I passed Jim Lubinski, so I moved up another position, and was pretty confident my count was correct and I was up to 10th.  By now I had little to gain in terms of position, so I simply maintained my pace to the finish.  As I split off to head towards the finish I turned around and saw Dan Litwora not more than a couple of hundred yards behind me.  Not real close, but close enough for me to pick up the pace for about ½ mile.  After the final few turns I ended up the finish straight, and without anyone in sight, I slowed to enjoy the support of the crowds and take in the moment.  Finally I crossed the line with a run split of 3:11:25 and a total time of 9:36:27 as 10th Male Professional.

It’s hard to put into words how I feel about my day, but overall I am really happy with my performance and progress over the past year.  Not only was this my second Top-10 Pro Ironman Finish in as many races, I also set personal bests for my Ironman swim by over 5 minutes, more than 10w higher than my previous IM “best” and I had my fastest first half of the marathon split and second fastest IM run (only 2 minutes off my 3:09 at IM Lou 2012).  Quite simply I executed the best race of my ability and I know I left it all out on the course.  This is all anyone can ask for and it is very satisfying.  Even though my plan required adjustments along the way, I walk away knowing I executed the perfect race for me.  You never know who will show up on race day and how they will race, but since I gave my full effort on the course, then I can’t have any regrets.  Again, I also learned a lot about my own personal fitness and once again I have a clear direction on where to focus during the upcoming off-season.

After the Finish with Nolan!
As always, this could not be possible without the support of a strong team behind me.  First off I need to thank my wife Erica, son Nolan and daughter Sofiella.  Erica’s patience and support during the entire process was essential to even make it to the starting line.  Her own hard work and dedication is inspiring and gives me the drive to be my best.

I also need to thank my partners for their continued support through 2013.

Thanks to Paul Rogers, Ron Schmid, David, Chris, Taylor and Melissa from Fraser Bicycle ( for their continued help and support in getting my bike race ready and once again, helping me resolve a last minute adjustment to my race bike.

Ron Tew from BMC Bicycles ( for your continued support and the opportunity to train and race on a BMC TM01 for another season.  The bike is a work of art and an absolute joy to ride!

Robert Kunz from First Endurance ( for making the best in nutrition products, and I regularly use them all to train and race at my best!

Sebastian and Sylvie Linke from SLS3 (  I’m still loving the tri top, shorts and compression socks!

NormaTec (  Thanks for setting me up with the ultimate recovery tool.  With being time limited in my training and needing to make every session count, adding this to my recovery arsenal has been essential to consistently train at my best.  Thanks Cat!

Also thanks to Spy Optics ( and X-1 Audio (

Lastly, thanks to Jake and Tom from Zoot Sports (  I’m absolutely loving my Zoot Ovwa and Kiawe’s this year.  Great shoes!

For the rest of 2013, I am still undecided if I have any more races on the schedule.  For now I need to focus on my recovery, but I’ll be looking to see what will fit.  Thanks for reading my report and happy training!
Another Race Day Highlight: I developed a fan club!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Rev3 Williamsburg Race Report

As I approach the mid-point of my 2013 racing season, I headed to Williamsburg for the inaugural Rev3 Williamsburg Half.  This race capped off a period of 4 races (1 half-marathon, 1 Olympic and 2 Half-Iron Distance) in a period of 10-weeks.  For me, this was a busy period of racing.  Typically I do 4-5 races over the season, let alone two and a half months.   It was really fun to race so much, but at the same time, I am ready physically and mentally for a mid-season break.  It’s time to re-focus my training and get ready for longer races later this summer.  Enough of that, back to Williamsburg….

First off, I’ve never been to this part of Virginia, so I really didn’t know what to expect.  The area is really nice and scenic, much like northern Michigan that I am more familiar with.  The race is set-up with a split transition with the swim in the James River and T1 in nearby Jamestown Beach Park.  T2 and the race finish is about 7 miles away right in Williamsburg on the campus of the College of William & Mary

View of the Bike Course
With a race start time of 6:30, the extra time needed to drop off my bags at T2 and take the shuttle to the start, my day started earlier than normal.  Alarm went off at 3:05 AM (which is really freakin’ early for me!) and I was on my way to T2 by 4:30.  Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperating as it was raining pretty steadily.  Not really the way you want to spend an hour plus waiting for the race to start, but at least it was warm.  T2 was set-up and I was easily on a shuttle to T1 by 5:00.  (A bit of advice for those doing a split transition race: ARRIVE EARLY!  Get there early and the lines are minimal and the crowds at down.  Wait even 10 or 15 minutes and a 10-minute stop can take 45 minutes.)  Anyway, as it got closer to start time, the rain was starting to break up and it seemed that even though the roads would be wet, it at least would not be raining during the race itself.

With the swim being in a tidal river, and the steady rain through the previous 2 nights, the conditions made for a tough swim.   The swim course is triangular shaped with 500-600 yards out, 800-1000 yards upstream, then 500-600 yards back to shore.   So not only did the added rain increase the currents in the river, the race start was also seemed to be low tide time as well.  This meant that the currents were slightly stronger and the water was shallower.  The water temperature was 77.5 F, so the swim was not wetsuit legal (for Pros), which was fine because I could not imagine wearing a wetsuit in that water without instantly overheating.  It was warm enough in only a swim skin.

Swim Exit, day before the race
We lined up on the beach for the start and the horn went off.  As we ran into the water, the water just did not any deeper.  After what seemed like a minute or 2 of running in the water it was still mid-thigh deep:  too shallow to swim, so more dolphin dives.  Finally after about 200 yards, we were swimming.  Given the long run, everyone was already a bit spread out and there was not a tight swim pack by me.  I found a pair of feet to draft off of and stayed there until about 50 yards before the first turn.  At this point, I was about 15’ behind the person in front of me, and as I turned to head to the buoy, I suddenly realized I didn’t seem to make any progress.  I was swimming at my normal pace, but I just wasn’t going anywhere.  Right then, I knew it was going to be a long swim.  By this point I lost the group in front of me and I focused on the next red turn buoy.   I finally rounded the second turn and instantly felt faster heading back to shore.  I glanced at the clock as I exited the water and when I saw nearly 39 minutes, I was a bit shocked I at the time.  I know I am a bit off the lead swimmers, but after swimming 30:30 at Florida 70.3 (also a non-wetsuit legal swim), I expect low- to mid-30s at the most.  Regardless, during the race is no time to dwell on the times, they are what they are, and it was time to stay focused on the task at hand and get going on the bike.  Swim split:  39:07 and 22nd place

After a ¼ mile cross country run over a mowed path through the field, I arrived at T1 with nearly all the Pro bikes gone, so I grabbed my BMC TM01 and was in and out in 2:50.

The run from swim to T1
The bike course is basically a Popsicle shape with a couple of out and back sections.  There were no significant climbs on the course, just generally flat to rolling.  Rev3 reported a total elevation gain 801’, but I had 2,550’ on my Garmin 500.  Not sure which one is accurate; probably somewhere in the middle.  The roads were generally good, with the exception of some rough chip seal at miles 10-15 and 37-42 and the single lane section that was pretty poor from about mile 45-48.  Besides that Rev3 did a good job keeping dedicated lanes on the course away from vehicular traffic, with the exception of miles 48-51, where the traffic was pretty heavy.

As usual for the Half-Distance, my goal was to stick to my power plan of about 83-85% FTP and see who I could catch-up during the ride.  First it was past the Pro women that passed me on the swim, then a rather lonely, solo effort to catch the next placed male ahead of me.  On the out and back section around mile 22, I could see the large main pack had about a 8 minute lead on me, and the were several others trailing after that.  Finally just after the turnaround at the second out and back section, I made a pass and moved up a position.  Shortly after this, the half-distance course merged with Olympic distance course and we entered the bad road section at mile 45.  I made my way passed the Olympic age-groupers and tried to maintain my power until the finish.  By this point, my power was drifting downward to around 78 - 80% FTP.  In the end I averaged 80% FTP, with a bike split of 2:19:55 (24.0 mph) and moved up to 21st place.

My on-bike nutrition was my standard plan for this distance.  It works, so no need to change it.  I had 2 bottles of First Endurance EFS, and ½ flask of First Endurance Liquid Shot with ½ scoop of First Endurance Pre-Race.  This plus some extra on-course sports drink, I consumed about 300 cal and 24 oz. of fluids per hour.

Not much to say here; efficiently in and out in 0:59 seconds.

My spot in T2
The run was a 2 loop run course through the Campus of William and Mary College.  The course was a mixture of sidewalk and roads, and a few short hills on each loop and 1 longer climb about ½ mile before the far turnaround on each loop.  Given my legs fading on towards the end of the bike, I didn’t know how they would react on the run.  To my surprise, they felt really good and I was able to quickly settle into my target pace of 6:30 min/mile.  The run was fairly uneventful as I was feeling decent and the miles were ticking by at a steady 6:25 – 6:35 pace.  After the final turnaround, with about 3 miles to go, I could tell I was closing the gap to those in front of me, but I also knew would run out of course before I could make many passes.  Since you never know what might happen in a race this length, I continued to hold my pace and not give up.  At about mile 12.5, I was able to move up 1 more position to 20th and cruised in to the finish chute.  My run split was 1:26:00, which gave me an overall time of 4:28:53 and 20th Male Pro.

My run nutrition is always less structured than the bike.  It is more based on how I am feeling at that moment and what my body needs in terms of fluids and calories.  In the end I had about 1 serving of First Endurance Liquid Shot with ¼ scoop of Pre-Race, as well as a variety of sports drink, water, salt tabs and coke at the aid stations throughout the race.  I really have no idea how much I actually consumed; all I know is that I felt good throughout.

Thanks Rev3 for the Finisher's Photo!
Overall I am happy with my day.  My swim time left much to be desired, but my bike and run were consistent.  Actually looking back to Ironman Florida 70.3 about 5-weeks ago, my bike and run splits were nearly identical to Williamsburg.  The positive sign is that my fitness is consistent and my pacing is good.  However, it’s also time to step back, re-group and make a few adjustments in my training as I move forward towards Ironman Canada in August.  Between the races and recovery, I have not had much time to really build fitness during this time, and a break from racing will provide the chance to make a step forward.

Overall Rev3 Williamsburg was a great event.  There were a few minor issues they need to work out for next year, but seeing how Knoxville has improved every year (and I’ve been to every one) I have no doubt this event will be better next year.   If you are looking for an early summer half on the East Coast, I wouldn’t hesitate to return.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Ironman Florida 70.3 Race Report - 19th MPro

After one of the coldest and wettest races I have ever raced in at Rev3 Knoxville, it was a short 2 weeks later I was on the starting line at Ironman Florida 70.3 in Haines City, Florida in the exact opposite conditions where the water was warm, and it was sunny, hot and humid.  With the long winter and cold spring (actually downright cold at times with flurries on Mother’s Day the weekend between the races), the key factor in race day success would be the ability to perform well in the heat.  Typically, I perform well in the heat, but that is after a summer to acclimate to the warmer temperatures, and I wasn’t sure if I could adapt in such a short time.  With the forecast pretty much set with the race day high approaching 90F, I spent race week using all my tricks to adapt and come to the race ready to perform.

The fun part about Haines City, Florida is that it is about 25 minutes away from Disney, and with a young family, this is a great race to bring the kids along.  On Thursday my son and I flew down, with my wife and daughter joining us on Friday.  Saturday was spent picking up my BMC TM01 from Tri Bike Transport and making the final adjustments for race day.  On to race day….

The Pro start was an early one at 6:30 AM.  This meant my alarm was going off at 3:30; which was nice to beat the heat, but dang, that is EARLY!  After going through my standard pre-race prep, I went for a short run to loosen up the legs before I headed into the water.  I was feeling pretty good on the run, but I was already drenched… was already mid-70s and the humidity had to be close to 100%.  At 6:15, I got in the lake to warm-up for the swim.  I’ll admit, I was never real keen on swimming in a Florida lake.  Between the murky water, mucky bottom and ‘gators, I was “highly” motivated to stay with the swim pack.  Of course when I entered the lake I was putting on my goggles, and as I took my second step into the 82-degree water, I sunk to mid-shin in muck.  Not a big deal in the big picture, but still not a fan…

New SLS3 FX Race Top for 2013!
At 6:30 it was time to go.  I lined up inline with the buoys, with the shortest path to Turn 1.  We were lined up along the length of the start line, but for some reason there seemed to be a small group towards the middle.  When the horn sounded, I kept a straight path, and I found a pair of feet to follow.  For once, I wasn’t immediately dropped by the pack, and hung on for about 400m until nearly until the first turn.  After that it was swimming as usual for me, rather lonely and focus on form and getting to the finish as efficient as possible.  After completing the “M” shaped course, I was finally out of the water in 25th place with a time of 31:32.  Not my greatest swim ever, but not bad for a non-wetsuit legal swim for me.

The standard pre-race bike pic in race set-up

After a short run up the beach and through T1, I was off on my bike.  In driving the course before the race, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the bike course.  With the exception of the first and last 3 miles, the roads were smooth and in great condition.  The profile is flat to gently rolling for the first 25 miles, then a section of about 20 miles of hills, nothing major but a few steady climbs and rollers and finally the last 10 miles is back to gently rolling hills.  Add in the heat, lack of shade and steady winds, this course deserves some respect.  After the swim, I figured I was about 3 minutes back from the pack in front of me, so I decided to push a couple of extra watts in the first few miles to try to catch-up.  Within the first 3 miles, I passed the Pro Women that beat me out of the water.  About Mile 10, I could see the next Male Pro about 30 seconds ahead of me.  Unfortunately, for the next 37 miles I could not close the gap.  I could see him on the longer/flat stretches of roads, but the time gap stayed at 20-30 seconds during this time.  During this time, I started to notice some slight cramping in my hamstrings.  I’ve never had this before, and it could be a result of changing saddles 2 weeks before the race.  I thought I had it set-up the same as my previous saddle, but this is definitely something I need to look at as soon as I get my bike back.  Finally around mile 48, I was able to make the pass.  The rest of the ride was uneventful as I made my way back to transition.  I was off the bike in 22nd Place with a bike split of 2:18:57 (24.2 mph avg).

During the bike I stuck with my trusted HIM nutrition plan.  Loaded on my bike, I drank 2 bottles of First Endurance EFS and a half flask of First Endurance Liquid Shot with a ½ scoop of Pre-Race powder.  I also took 2 Salt Stick tabs for the added electrolytes.  From the course, I drank 1 bottle of Powerbar Perform.

 T2 was like T1, in and out pretty quick and off to the run.

As I started the run, I was feeling pretty good.  It was sunny and warm, by now probably 83-84 F and after a short flat section, it was time to climb some hills.  Similar to the bike, this is an honest run course.  The course is 3 loops, with 2 big climbs in the first 1.8 miles, then flat to slight downhill for the rest of the 4.4-mile loop.  By the 1-mile mark, I lost the position back to Victor Laroque.  I stayed about 50 feet behind him until Mile 4, where I re-passed him and created a gap.  At the end of the first lap, I was feeling pretty good.  My pace was about 10 sec/mile slower than my plan, but my RPE was right on, and I was able to maintain my pace up the hills for the second time on Lap 2 so my pacing seemed correct for the conditions.  Even though my pace was off, I was able to move up 2 more positions on this lap.  As I started Lap 3, I dropped my salt tabs at the first aid station.  With about 4 miles to go, I decided it was worth the risk to finish the race without them and not stop to pick them up.  As I charged up the hills for the third time, it was getting warm now.  No matter how much water and ice I dumped on me, it was gone by the next aid station.  The priority now was to stay cool and not slow down.  About Mile 11, I made another pass and was still feeling consistent.  Finally I made my way back to the start area where I turned up the finish chute.  About 100’ before the finish I saw my wife on kids on the fence, and I slowed to give my son a high five before I crossed the finish line.  After that, I made my way to the finish line and stopped the clock with a 1:26:47 run split (6:37 min/mile) and a total time 4:21:42, which was good enough for 19th Male Pro out of 26 starters.

At the finish

Overall I am really happy with my race.  Comparing to where I finished last year, I moved up a few places.  For an early-season Half-Ironman, I have a few key things to improve on for my next race, but I am off to a good start.  It was also interesting as I picked up my bike after the race to return to Tri Bike Transport, I noticed my front tire was flat.  I don’t think it was flat at the end of my ride, but I don’t know for sure.  Either way I’m glad I was able to ride to the finish.

A race like this would not be possible without the help of so many.  Thanks to my wife and kids for joining me in Florida, getting up before sunrise to sit in the hot sun while I got to race.

Special thanks to Paul Rogers, Ron Schmid, Chris, David and rest of the crew at Fraser Bicycle for getting my bike race ready.  Ron Tew from BMC Bicycles for setting me up with the BMC TM01 for the second year.  Sebastian and Sylvie Linke from SLS3 for the great race clothing and post-race recovery socks and sleeves.  First Endurance for the best in nutrition products.  Bonnie Karas from BK Training Systems.  As well as NormaTec MVP, Spy Optics and X-1 Audio.

Now a few weeks to get ready for my next race at Rev3 Williamsburg on June 23.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Rev3 Knoxville Race Report - 28th Place

For the past 3 years I’ve kicked off my tri season at Rev3 Knoxville, and this year was no different.  If you’ve never attended a Rev3 race or Knoxville in particular, I highly recommend it.  Rev3 puts on a great event and the Knoxville area is pretty awesome.  The swim is in the river in the center of the city, the bike course immediately heads out of Knoxville into the surrounding hills that is technical yet fair and the run course is mostly a Greenway path along the river with a “nice” climb in the final ½ mile to the finish.  Add together a great course with the family atmosphere the Rev3 provides and this makes an overall great event.

Similar to last year, I did not come alone and my 4-year old son and dad decided to join me on this trip.  We headed out of Detroit on Friday and after more than a 9-hour drive, we arrived.  Looking at the forecast on Saturday, I looked like the only dry part of the weekend would be Saturday morning.  After that, it was going to get wet.  The good news is that my Saturday ride/run was dry and went well.  The bad news is that it started to rain right after I finished my run and continued until after we left on Sunday.  And when I say rain, I don’t mean a light rain to wet the pavement.  This was an all-day, steady, soaker type of rain with a 100% chance of rain during the race itself.  As a result, it was time to re-evaluate my goals for the race and my race strategy.  Simply put my original goals coming in were the following:

1. Hammer the Swim
2. Hammer the Bike
3. Hammer the Run

My experience with Olympic distance racing is that it is pretty much an all out effort from start to finish and there is no time where you take it easy.  Also, since I raced the same course last year, I was really looking to see how my fitness compared.  Also, with Ironman Florida 70.3 2-weeks later, I wanted to use this to gain insight into my pacing strategy.  So with the rain, I knew there would be minimal information I could compare to last year, so my race goals were now:

1. Hammer the swim
2. Survive the bike – keep the rubber side down

Simply put, I kept an eye on the bigger picture of my season and decided to avoid any additional unnecessary risks on race day, and approach the bike with caution.  Last year I hit a pothole 6 days before Ironman Louisville causing me to flip over the bars resulting in scraps on my back, hip, a cracked helmet, and a stiff neck that took several weeks to go away.  With a long season ahead of me I did not want to jeopardize my season at my first race of the year.

BMC TM01 Ready to Roll!
Race day morning was exactly as forecasted: wet and cold.  The temperature was in the mid-50s and the rain was steadily falling.  My hotel was about ½ mile from Transition, and I was nearly soaked by the time I got there.  For those that don’t know, the Transition area is the first floor of a parking garage, and on a day like today, being covered and out of the wind and rain was perfect.  After going through my typical pre-race prep and warm-up, it was time to head to the swim start.  As we entered the 60F water, it was cool, but not cold.  After a couple of minutes we lined up at the start line waiting for the horn to sound off.  We were all fairly spread out along the start line, and I ended up being in the middle.  Finally it was time to start moving and get warm.  After it horn sounded, I tried to quickly find a pair of feet to draft off during the upstream portion of the swim.  That lasted about a couple of hundred meters until I fell off the back, and had to swim the rest of the race solo.  Once I made the turn at about 500m and headed back downstream, the current helped make up some to the time we lost fighting it upstream.  I exited the water in 20:30, a personal best for me (although it was no doubt aided by the downstream current, but less drafting than last year, so maybe it cancelled out….) and headed off the on the ¼ mile run to Transition.  T1 was uneventful, as I was able to quickly get in and out on my bike.

Rev3 Made it easy to find my Transition Spot
Those first few miles on the bike were interesting to say the least.  At first, my shoe straps were stuck together on each shoe, so I had a hard time getting both feet in.  Once that was done, it was now time to focus on staying upright.  First rule: avoid slippery surfaces such as lane lines and manhole covers.  When wet, those surfaces are like ice.  As my glasses intermittently fogged, and I tried to avoid any other unknown hazards hiding under the puddles and the water streaming over the roads.  Throughout the bike, I felt good.  I was able to hold more power up all the climbs compared to last year, but this time I took it easy on the downhills.  With that said, I still hit almost 40 mph on a couple of parts of the course (as compared to 43 mph last year).  Even with holding back, I was able to make a couple of passes to get up to 27th position at the start of the run.  Unfortunately, my power meter didn’t record for the first couple of miles, so while the rest of my ride looked good, I don’t have a good summary for power over the entire course.  Total bike time was 1:04:22

T2 was similar to T1.  Pretty uneventful and efficient in getting onto the run course.   As I ran down the ramp onto the run course, I could instantly tell my legs were not moving like I planned.  I wasn’t cold, and they didn’t hurt, they were just stiff, heavy and it felt like my stride was a little shorter than normal.  As I maintained my pace, I just could not find any more speed in my legs.  They just seemed stuck at about 6:05-6:10 min/mile pace.  So as I ran through puddle after puddle, some of them ankle deep, I just focused on maintaining my form and hold steady through the finish.  Finally, I made the turn for the final ½ mile run uphill to the finish.  As I crossed the finish line I was happy to be done, as this was an EPIC day.   My run split was 38:04, for a total race time of 2:07:30 and I finished 28th Male Pro.

Even though my time was not my best and not everything went as planned, the conditions were the worst I have ever raced in, and I am satisfied with my performance.  There were a few things I would have done differently, but there were some promising signs and I definitely learned a lot about racing in the cold and rain.

My race report would not be complete without thanking those that helped me get to the starting line.  Most importantly thanks to my wife and kids for the their continued support and patience.

In addition, special thanks to Fraser Bicycle (, BMC Bicycles (, SLS3 (, Spy Optics (, NormaTec (, First Endurance (, BK Training Systems ( and X-1 Audio ( for your support as I kick off my 2013 race season!

Also, check out the Rev 3 Race Recap Video:

I know I am a little late in getting this report out, so check back shortly for my Ironman Florida 70.3 Race Report!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Race Report: Martian Festival of Races Half-Marathon - 8th Overall

Finally, my first race of the season is in the books!  After a long stretch of training, it felt good to get back on course and get a real indicator of where my run fitness is.  This race was interesting primarily because I haven’t ran in a stand-alone running race since 2009.  I know my running had changed significantly since that last race, and I was exciting to see how I compared to “real” runners!

Race Week:
My approach to this race was as a “motivated” training run.  There was no taper, so no real specific preparation from a training standpoint.  Looking at the big picture, I have Rev3 Knoxville on May 5 and Ironman Florida 70.3 5-weeks later, which are a bigger priority in the context of my triathlon season.  So race week it was training as usual, I just kept the hard bike and run efforts Monday through Wednesday, and took Friday easy to get ready for race day on Saturday.  While my race week training was uneventful, the weather we had was not.  It started raining on Tuesday and continued more or less through later Thursday for a total 2+ inches of rain.  Since the course is an out-and-back configuration on Hines Drive (a popular local training park) that lies on a flood plain, it wasn’t long before the course was under water.  I have to give credit to the race organizers since they had a certifiable backup course, so besides a course change, the race went on without a hitch.

Race Day:
The race day weather was less than ideal.  The temperature was in high-30s, 15-20 mph winds and a mix of light rain/snow.  Great temperature for running, but the wind and precipitation was not enjoyable.  The great part about weather is everyone has to deal with the same conditions.  Personally, I adapt well to harsh weather and I think it levels the playing field among abilities.

At 8:55 it was time to go, I lined up towards the right side second row from the front.  I chose the second row because the course starts with the first block uphill, then we turn right, directly into the headwinds, and wanted to let someone else lead the charge into the wind.  The horn sounded and we were off!  As we rounded the corner and headed into the wind, I stayed tucked behind the leaders in front of me.  Already the lead pack of about 6-8 started to pull away, with a single line of us following behind.  After about the first mile, the lead pack had broken away, then there was a smaller pack about of 2 about 50’ ahead slowly pulling away and I was staying sheltered from the wind in the 3rd group.  I had the feeling my group was slowing and not wanting to bridge too large of gap into the wind, I decided it was time move up to the group in front.  As I started to close, the 2 pulled ahead slightly as we went down a slight downhill.  After my initial surge I was stuck between the 2 groups, and decided to get back to my target pace, knowing that we would be turning out of the wind shortly and I would catch them eventually.

The rest of the race went well.  I was consistent on my pace, with hills or winds affecting my pace accordingly, slightly faster on downhills/tailwind or slightly slower on uphills/headwinds.   As I made my way through the course, I picked off a runner every 1-2 miles until about mile 11, where I held my position until the finish.

In the end I crossed the line in 1:20:16 (6:07 min/mile), which was 8th overall.  Based on my recent training runs, my goal was sub-1:22, and a stretch goal of sub-1:20.  I just missed breaking 1:20, but overall I am really happy with my results.  For those that are interested, here are my mile splits (min/mile) and HR (avg. bpm):

Mile 1:   5:57  (166)
Mile 2:   6:04  (168)
Mile 3:   5:53  (170)
Mile 4:   6:12  (169)
Mile 5:   6:00  (169)
Mile 6:   6:01  (171)
Mile 7:   6:17  (171)
Mile 8:   6:10  (168)
Mile 9:   6:07  (167)
Mile 10: 6:06  (168)
Mile 11: 6:09  (169)
Mile 12: 6:12  (167)
Mile 13: 6:03  (173)

With the first race out of the way, now it’s time to get ready for my first triathlon at Rev3 Knoxville on May 5.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Training Advice: Just Push Harder!

On March 23, I participated in the Final Race of the Fraser Bicycle Indoor TT Series.  The TT was held on the same course as last year:  a 10 km rolling course with a few short climbs.  Compared to the 54-minute effort from Race #4 the previous week, this one seemed to fly by.  However, with the shorter duration comes increased intensity….i.e. it hurts more, just not as long.  With my first place finish in Race #4, I already clinched the series victory, however as with any race, there were bragging rights at stake.  Given my strength at the longer events, the short 15-minute race was not necessarily my strength compared to the other riders.  Both short TTs in the series I finished second and third, so I knew I had to really push if I wanted the stage win.  After a thorough 25-minute warm-up, it was go time.  Once the race started it was typical of my riding style: consistent power output and a low VI.  After negative splitting my power, I finished with a good kick at the end with 30 seconds over 500w, and achieved my goal of sub-15 minutes for the course.  Last year, my time was 15:17 on 345w, and this year I finished in 14:54 with 348w (as measured by my Quarq).  This was good enough for first in my heat, but there were a couple of other fast guys to follow, including Chris Lutz (ITU Pan-Am Pro) and Dan Stubilski (1st Overall Amateur at 2012 70.3 World Championships in Las Vegas).  Unfortunately, those guys blew apart my time, both under 14:30, and pushing me down to third for the day.  Great effort by those guys, they absolutely crushed it!

Riders in the Lab laying down the Power!
Later in the day I learned a great lesson from my 4-year old son, Nolan.  He asked how I did in the race that morning.  The conversation went something like this:

Nolan:  Dad, how did you do in your race this morning?  Did you win?

Me:  No, I finished third.

Nolan:  Oh.  Well that’s okay.  Next time, just push the pedals harder and then you can win.

Me:  Yes….you are right.  Thanks for the feedback…I just have to push the pedals harder….

As simple as it sounds, he is right and that is great advice.  At the end of the day, we are swimming, biking and running.  With all the fancy gadgets and training feedback tools, it can be easy to lose perspective on training and over-complicate things.  Sometimes it’s good to get back to basics and forget about all the technology, equipment and tools, and just do it.  Push harder and you will be faster.  When you are faster, you can place better.  Simple and effective advice.  Easy enough, right?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Training Update: Swim Lessons and Power Tests:

Dang I’ve been slipping.  It’s already been about a month since my last blog entry, so sorry about the delay.  It’s been a busy few weeks, not only with training, but trying to finalize the logistics of my first races as well as all the other “normal” stuff that needs to happen.  Typical of the winter so far, my 2 kids have been swapping illnesses over the past 4-6 weeks.  Once one is better, a few days later the other comes down with something.  Basically sick, get healthy, repeat.  Last week everything seemed to peak, when BOTH came down with double ear infections and the flu.  Luckily the flu ran it’s course and they are getting just about back to normal.  Now I’m keeping my fingers crossed that neither my wife nor myself come down with the flu.  Oh well, so it goes with 2 kids in daycare and winter that won’t quit.

Back to my training…