Friday, May 12, 2017

St. George and Life Changes

This past weekend, Rachael and I traveled to Utah to race St. George 70.3. 

Recovery from Oceanside 70.3 went by fairly quickly as life forced a few easy days upon me after returning home. The day before Oceanside, I received a job offer from Burns and McDonnell, a large engineering firm in KC. I took a few days after the race to discuss my options with the people close to me and decided that this would be a really great opportunity for me. 

Rachael and I spent a few days looking for apartments in Kansas City close to where Burns and McDonnell is located. Within a week, we found an apartment and moved in. The trip to St. George was already planned, so I was able to move my start date to May 15th. While preparation leading up to St. George 70.3 was not ideal due to moving and figuring out our new routine, but we both did our best to stay positive and make the most of our training. I was majorly impressed with Rachael’s dedication the last two weeks before the race as she was working, completing final projects for school, and preparing for St. George. I did my best to help out by taking care of bike packing and preparing food because everyone knows, Rachael function happiest when she is fed.

On a plane, headed to Denver
Having completed St. George in 2016, I knew the course was very tough. Being that the race was also the North American Pro Championship, I knew the competition would be stacked. 

Wednesday morning Rachael and I flew to Denver to carpool with another MP Multisport athlete. James, who was also racing, picked us up and we all drove to St. George. The two days before the race were spent doing a few last workouts, getting gear ready, and hydrating.

Riding up Snow Canyon before the race

Keeping the pre-race ride casual? Or just too lazy to put on real cycling clothes
I was very relaxed going into the race. Though training hadn’t been ideal, and 7 days prior to the race I’d been in bed for 20 hours with food poisoning, I knew I had nothing to lose. Because of my job commitment and the stable income it would provide, I no longer felt pressure to achieve a result that would earn me money and provide me with exposure.

Race day
Race morning I woke up at 3:50 am, 3 hours before my race start. I mixed together oatmeal with almonds, a banana, and some honey. By 4:20 am we were out the door and making our way to the race start. Once in transition, I was reunited with Bae (my bike). I quickly pumped up my tires and assembled my gear/nutrition. After a short warmup run, I zipped up my new Wattie Ink, sleeved tri suit and grabbed my wetsuit. 

Rachael and I wished each other luck and I headed down to the water for a swim warm-up. I was able to get in a 15 minute warm-up which was much needed in the cold water. In the water, I looked at the horizon and keyed in on a spot that would help me sight for the first buoy.


Race organizers had laid out two start line buoys to limit how wide we lined up. Similar to Oceanside, I placed myself as far to the right as possible. With two minutes to go, the front line started inching forward. Referees in kayaks yelled at us saying that the pro women never inch forward and threatened to write down numbers. With 30 seconds to go, they gave up and eventually the gun went. 

Immediately I put my head down and took a few hard strokes. The first 30 seconds were pretty frantic. Though I started towards the outside, there were a lot of people on the start line which resulted in a fair amount of contact. I did my best to relax, focus on my stroke, and sight for the spot on the horizon. After a minute, I feared I had gone out too hard and felt myself fading. (Note to self: 100% effort at swim start is actually 110%) My legs felt tired and a big group swam away from me. 

When your legs are already tired but they still have 3.5 hrs of exercising left
I immediately forced myself to focus on my own rhythm and breathing. It is very easy for me to have a negative mindset after a bad start. We made it to the first turn buoy and the lead paddler was still in sight. By this point, I had found clear water and was making my way past a few swimmers in front of me. I started to find my rhythm and upped my effort level. St. George had attracted an impressive field of strong swimmers including Alistar Brownlee, Ben Kanute, and Matt Charbot who I knew could put time on me swimming in their sleep. 

Google search: Ben Kanute swimming 
The second length of the swim course was the longest and my legs felt even heavier. I was starting to think that maybe this just wouldn’t be my day. I turned my attitude around by focusing on being grateful for the opportunity to race and the desire I had to get on my bike. A couple toe taps behind me reminded me that others were counting on me too. Towards the finish, I increased my kick to get my legs ready to ride. I emerged from the silence of the water to the cheers of other athletes waiting to begin their race. Smiling, I quickly sprinted to Bae (bike, not Rachael) and stripped off my wetsuit. Just behind me I noticed Ben Hoffman and Kyle Buckingham, both of whom are strong riders. 

Knowing I was in good company, I calmly made my way to the start line, survived another flying mount, and got into my shoes. With a tough run coming, I needed to be smart on the bike. In training between Oceanside and St. George, I worked to adjust my hydration and nutrition. I found that in order to feel good on the run, I need to drink about 2 bottles/hour and take in a little over 200 calories/hour. Once we got rolling on the bike, hydration and nutrition were my number one priority.

Within the first mile, Trevor Wurtele (another very strong rider), came to the front of our group of four which also consisted of Ben Hoffman, myself, and Kyle Buckingham. Kennett Peterson (ex pro cyclist) slotted in early on as well. Having made this group, I decided to forgo looking at power and trust their pacing as these guys usually have very fast bike splits and work their way up the field. The pace felt hard, but manageable compared to last year’s suicidal pace for the first 25 miles required to catch The Hoff and company. 
Sickest race picture thanks to Talbot Cox
Within a few minutes, the 7:20 am express train arrived. Sebastian Kienle came motoring by our group. We turned things up a bit as he led. A few minutes later, Lionel Sanders pulled up. Last year I was near the half way point before Sanders caught us so his swim really is improving! Kienle and Sanders took off working together. While it might have been fun (and painful) to try and see how long I could hang with them, I again played it conservative and decided to stay with our group focusing on hydration and nutrition. 

Josiah Middaugh
Cameron Wurf (ex pro cyclist) came by us and set out on his own as well. We were eventually joined by Josiah Middaugh (Xterra world champion). Josiah took charge of our group and really pushed the pace on the climbs. While the course at St. George has several long climbs, there is also a good amount of flats and downhills where you can make up time. As I’ve learned over the last year, these guys don’t wait to recover on the downhills. A number of times I ran out of gears going downhill and had to push hard to catch back up. 

The view up Snow Canyon (taken before the race...)
As we neared the long climb up Snow Canyon, a short out and back allowed me to gauge how everyone was placed. After the lead police escort, Alistar Brownlee came blazing by. He looked quite aero. Behind him, there was a sizable gap to Sanders and Kienle who were still working together. I estimated our group had people in the top 15. At the base of the Snow Canyon climb, I grabbed one last bottle of water, aiming to finish it before the run. 

Our group split up a bit on the final climb. I mirrored Ben Hoffman and kept a steady effort. A number of motivational signs such as “It’s just a hill, get over it!” made me smile. As we crested and set sail back to town, I tried to spin out my legs and get my body ready for what would be a tough run. I quickly put on socks, my run shoes, and grabbed my nutrition.

1,200 feet of elevation gain is no joke!
In an effort to pay close attention to my hydration, the past 5 weeks I’ve been running with a water bottle. I’ve found it almost impossible to get enough water at aid stations during a race without fully stopping so I really liked having the water bottle with me. I’d filled it with Clif hydration and Base salt, and was carrying a few gels to use on the run.

The St. George run is brutal. The first 2 miles I felt like I was crawling uphill. I refused to look at my watch because I didn’t want to confirm my crawling speed. I focused on relaxing my shoulders and opening my hips. Up ahead, I could see The Hoff maybe 40 seconds in front of me. I still felt a little full after pounding the last bottle of water on the bike so I just sipped on my water bottle through the first aid station. Around 2 miles in, I passed Matt Charbot. Matt’s been in heavy IM training and may have come into the race a bit fatigued but it was still nice to know I was making progress as he is tough as nails.

As the climb steepened, my legs were beginning to come around. I resisted the urge to push and try to make up ground on Ben. I knew that if I upped my effort, I would probably overheat too early and blow up before reaching the finish. I relaxed, shortened my cadence and focused on the next 10 feet instead of the mountain we were climbing. Finally, I got to some downhill at mile 4 and let gravity take over. My stomach was feeling better and for some reason I decided to start taking in Coke at each aid station. As I hammered downhill, I felt fairly controlled and started to believe that I would make it past mile 8 before exploding. As much as I could, I tried to soak in everything. My body was hurting but the views were incredible. Lots of athletes going by on their bike yelled encouragement to me. Jeff even threatened to not give me a ride home if I didn’t give it everything! I was crossing my fingers that I’d get to see Rachael on the bike at some point but we hadn’t crossed paths yet. 

St. George run course views
Uphill, downhill, and back uphill for the last time, I kept my form together. I was getting just what I’d wanted. My legs were hurting but they weren’t shutting down on me and I could keep pushing. Up the final climb, I trudged by Trevor. After going by, I leaned forward and used the downhill. I forced myself not to look back and to run hard, grabbing more Coke as I went. The final two miles went by quickly. I was in pain. My form was falling apart but I didn’t care anymore, I just wanted to get to the finish. About a ½ mile from the finish, I saw Max and Tom who told me I was clear from behind. As I pounded downhill to the finish, I zipped up my top and smiled.

After finishing, I took a few minutes to enjoy the endorphin rush before heading back uphill to find Max and Tom. They told me they’d seen Rachael heading out onto the run not too long ago and that she looked good. We headed back to the finish area where I ate a little bit and talked with a few friends, but mostly waited anxiously for Rachael to finish.

Post-race sweaty
Eventually she came storming across the line and we were able to celebrate and be grateful together. Both of us have had a number of setbacks in the past year of racing and have been there for each other. Getting to share the feeling of a well-executed race is something we’d both like to do more in the future. 

After awards and bike packing, I executed my recovery nutrition plan by consuming froyo, vegetables, and an In and Out milkshake…in that order.

The next morning I hitched a ride back to Fort Collins to pack up some text books that I needed for work and also to spend some time with Ernie who has been living in FoCo crushing pop tarts and rocking Foakleys. Since returning to Kansas City, I've been busy trying to get everything put away from the race and prepare for starting work next week.

"Do what you have to so you can do what you want to"
I don’t want a pity party because everyone has struggles in life, I just want to write about my decision process for working full time. The past 6 months have been difficult for me trying to make a career out of triathlon. Since finishing schoolwork in August 2016, I have consistently trained as if triathlon was my career but have had essentially zero financial support from triathlon to be doing so. I was unhappy with my living and financial situations. Social media doesn’t help as it often only highlights the best parts of our daily life. One side of me was upset at myself for not taking action and using my degrees immediately. The other side pushed back saying that pursuing triathlon was a passion and dream of mine that I shouldn't give up on. I’d come to terms that I simply had not shown the right people that I could be one of the few earning a living through the sport. While I believe that I too could work some part time job and “get by” while focusing on triathlon, I ultimately decided that the job I was offered will be an incredible opportunity that will help facilitate my pursuit of triathlon in ways as well as establish a framework for my future. Though the years of competing as a professional are limited, I do not want to overlook the importance of having health insurance, a stable living situation, and retirement savings. Accidents happen, unforeseen costs always come up, and I don’t want to be reliant on others to help me when they do.

I’m very excited to begin working for Burns and McDonnell. The work they do makes a difference in many people's lives. My change in lifestyle will definitely have an adjustment period, but I’m looking forward to the new challenges and applying my education. Rachael and I have relocated to an apartment within biking distance to work for me and we’ve made new connections with exercising groups. While I will still be training for triathlon plan to continue racing as a “pro”, my priority will be applying myself to this new career. I have the utmost respect for people who balance work and triathlon (and families) in their daily life. Training for 25-30 hrs a week is easy if you have the time and support to do so. I do not doubt that I will be working just as hard as those who train full time. I’ve had several occasions in my life when I was student or working full time over the summer, where I’ve balanced training and I know that a lot can still be accomplished. I’m excited for the new challenges of being efficient with my time and would love any recommendations or tips from people that do this in their daily life! 

I’ll do my best to keep everyone updated on social media and on this blog.

Thank you to my Mom and Dad for encouraging me and believing in me over the past few years. I’m grateful for your insistence on a good education and one day I hope to have as many bikes as you!

Thanks to Ernie and Alison (brother and sister) for always being there for me and setting me straight.

Thank you Rachael for being supportive, pushing me out of my comfort zones, and always being down for coffee.

Thank you to Coach Mace for guiding me on this journey through training. 

Thank you Stryd, Rocky Mountain Multisport, Roka, BASE Performance, Clif Bar, Stages Cycing, and Rudy Project for helping me enjoy the process of swim/bike/running.

Exploring the expo
Thanks to everyone who actually reads these things. I always enjoy interacting (in person or via social media) and would love to hear your feedback advice or answer any questions.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Oceanside 2017!

This past weekend I traveled to San Diego to race my first triathlon of 2017, Oceanside 70.3. 

KC Training
Since moving from to Kansas City in December 2016, my training environment has changed a lot. For the past couple years, swimming has been a “project” for me. In Fort Collins, I was lucky to have 6-7 coached swims each week. Upon moving to Kansas City, I have been doing almost all of my swimming alone. I have been able to keep up swim volume, but motivation to get quality swims in was initially very tough. After a month or so, I was able to figure out a few key sets and ways to make things challenging but enjoyable. Nearly all of the riding I’ve done the past few months has been indoors. Thanks to Rocky Mountain Multisport, Rachael and I got a Wahoo and have been using Trainer Road for bike workouts. Running took a while to feel pain free again after my injury but eventually came around. All things considered, I knew Oceanside would be a good test to see how my training here was progressing. 

One of the few outdoor rides I've done in KC
After the events of last year, Mace and I had a few goals for the race with the first being no DQ!

I arrived in California a few days before the race. A friend of a friend, Brannen, was kind enough to let me stay with her in Encinitas. One of the best parts of the location was that I had easy access to a pool. 

YMCA pool FTW!
Race Day
I woke up about 3 hours before the race and had my breakfast.

Brannen and I drove to Oceanside and I arrived to transition at 5 am. After setting up my gear, I took a short run out to the “strand” to use the bathroom and to get away from everyone. 

A picture of my bike setup the day before the race.
Things you may notice 1) Got an aero jacket aka "poor man's disc"
2) No I did not ride in my little ring
Returning to transition, all of the big names were setting up their gear. Frodeno, Sanders, Potts, Gambles, Luke McKenzie…I felt lucky and excited to be able to race with them. I talked with a few friends, put on my wetsuit, and headed down to the start. I quickly got into the water to get in as much of a 20 min warmup as I could. 

The pros lined up in-water behind large the 50m start line. Nearly everyone was clumped to the left side where the shortest path would be. I know that I swim best when I give myself a little space, so I went over to the right side and saw Andi Dreitz. I knew Dreitz was a good swimmer and a very strong biker. We treaded water for a bit then the gun went. 

Pretty much what I've come to expect from a typical swim start
I immediately took a few hard strokes then settled into an effort I thought I could hold for a few minutes. To my surprise, Drietz was still right in front of me and I was able to keep in his draft…without smacking his feet every stroke. (Yes, it IS possible, people!) For a minute I focused on swimming hard while relaxing and breathing. 

Eventually, I glanced to my left where the massive pack had started. I could see a few swimmers out front, but otherwise Dreitz and I were even with the front of that group! So far, the contact for me had been pretty minimal and I was really enjoying my swim. The first minor turn was maybe 400-500 meters in. A little before the buoy, we made contact with the front of the other pack. Knowing there would probably still be a ton of people trailing behind them, I stayed off to the side to avoid getting sucked into the mass of flailing arms. 

After the slight turn, the pace was still on. I felt comfortable, so I stayed on the gas. A few minutes later, our pack had thinned out. I sighted a few times. Hold up. Was that the lead paddler??!! Check that again. Yes. The lead paddler was still within sight.

When you think you just made the front pack on the swim
 I could see a few solo splashes in front of us (post race edit: Frodeno and Potts) but HOT DAMN, I was somehow in the lead pack! After that settled in, I focused on my stroke and maintaining a good position. The person in front of me was kicking a ton (must have been a swimmer because triathletes don’t kick) so I moved off to the side. Everyone gave each other space on turns and didn’t purposefully smack each other like I’ve experienced in the past. We surged a few times after turns but otherwise the swim was steady. Heading back to the finish we swam towards the sun. I felt strong the last section, so my swim project seems to be working. That, and the Maverick X is amazing.

Out of the water, I did my best to gain any extra seconds. I saw some fast people exiting the water while running through transition so I knew I’d had a good swim. 

I was a bit cautious having not done a flying mount in 8 months, but I didn’t fall or rack myself so I’d say it was a success. I quickly got into my pedals and tightened up my shoes. 

Picture thanks to Talbot Cox
Last year, the first 20-30 minutes of the ride had been extremely hard...aka hanging on to Kienle and Jesse Thomas for dear life. Mace and I had planned on blitzing this first section in order to try and make it to the front group. I’d never had a scenario worked out where I STARTED in the front group! Just ahead of me, Joe Gambles and Andi Drietz were riding together picking off a few guys. I bumped up my cadence and worked to catch them. The first 10 or 15 minutes the effort was high but felt much more controllable than 2016. 

(strava) I had decided to not look at power the first part of the bike in anticipation that I would be chasing, fearing that I would see numbers not recommended for a 4 hour race.
I assumed Frodeno was probably out ahead of everyone. Maybe only 5 or 10 miles in, Lionel Sanders went by. Everyone in our group decided they wanted to walk the next day so we “let” him ride away. 

When Lionel goes by you less than 15 minutes into the bike
 Eventually, we started reeling in Andy Potts. By the time we caught Potts, we had a group of 5 making up places 3-7. Joe Gambles, Igor Amorelli, Andi Drietz, Andy Potts, and me. At this point I was already happy with my race. I’d made the front group and was comfortably riding with some legends. I started taking in my nutrition and drinking regularly while at the same time maintaining an awareness of the terrain and people coming up behind us. We were joined by a motorcycle parade of referees and photographers. 

30-45 minutes in, I was riding behind Dreitz and felt that the pace was too comfortable. And if it was too comfortable for me, it was a Sunday chill ride for Dreitz. Sure enough, just before a no-passing zone (small bike lane), Dreitz simply went to the front of our group and took over the pace setting. He slowly rode away from us up a hill and put the hammer down over the next rolling section. Just behind him, Joe Gambles looked over his shoulder to see our reaction. Over the next couple minutes, I could see Dreitz’s gap to us growing. Up a short hill, I came around Joe Gambles to see if I could catch Dreitz. My effort lasted a couple of minutes. I made no progress on Dreitz and the rest of the group had stayed right with me. I immediately realized there is way more strategy involved riding in this front group. Successfully breaking away from the group must require a VERY hard 5-10 minute effort to discourage anyone from chasing. 

Just following the people in front of me.
The rest of the ride was fairly steady. Around the halfway point, we were joined by three more riders including Chris Leiferman and Trevor Wurtele. Through the hilly section Chris slowly rode away from us. I debated trying to hang with him but ended up trying to conserve energy for the run and maintain my position. I got up a few times to stretch my back and took a few extra gels from aid stations. At the speed trap, I made sure to stay under the speed limit. I had been sipping on my water bottles and had to pee a little bit but decided to wait until transition. The cheers coming back into transition were amazing. I was so pumped to be a part of a group towards the front of the race. 

In transition, I quickly put on my run gear then rushed to the bathroom to pee. Out of transition, I grabbed 3 cups of water right away then tried to relax and find some running rhythm. Within half a mile, Kennett Peterson and Taylor Reid blew by me like I was standing still. 

Taylor Reid blowing by me starting the run. Picture thanks to Talbot Cox
My body hurt and my legs felt awful. I kept plodding along, hoping that after a mile or two, my legs would come around and I could run steady.  Quickly, I realized that wasn’t going to happen and that if I was going to finish I was going to suffer. By mile 2, I wanted the race to be over. My running felt uncomfortable, I was over the race and wanted to lay down. I’d experienced the feeling before but not this early into the run. I knew it wasn’t from the ride because I’d done similarly hard training rides and been able to run after. 

The first lap I stayed positive, hoping that I could turn things around as I wanted this race to reflect how my reintroduction has actually been going. I could control my breathing and posture but could not move my legs any faster. I convinced myself that I should drop out at the half way point. I could not imagine running another 7 miles. I was going backwards in placing. I finished my gel flask and grabbed all of the liquids I could at each aid station. I wanted to walk at the aid station, but I didn’t want anyone to see me do it, so I put my head down and kept moving forward. Once I got to mile 8, I knew I had to finish. My competitive spirit was gone, as I physically could not respond to anyone going by me. The crowds on the sides of the road were incredibly supportive. Finally, the last stretch along the beach came into view and I was able to finish.

Data from Stryd running power meter

Picture thanks to Paul Duncan
After the race it took me a solid 10 minutes to get myself together and figure out what was going on. Mentally, I was pretty shaken. How did I go from having an awesome race, being towards the front and feeling comfortable, to just wanting to lie down and not run another step? I know races are supposed to be hard and are supposed to hurt. After speaking to my team of consultants (Coach Mace and my brother) we came to the conclusion that my explosion on the run was likely caused by dehydration. While I felt fine riding, I drank less than 2 bottles of liquids. I should have taken in twice that amount. 

Peeing on the bike has always been an issue with me because it takes me a while to relax enough going 30+ mph downhill. Usually, I just tell myself to suck it up and wait till transition to pee which results in me not taking in as much liquids so I avoid feeling uncomfortable. This is something I will work on!

While it’s frustrating, that’s part of racing! Nothing matters if you fall apart on the run. Unfortunately, the only part many will see from this weekend is my overall time and finishing position. While both of those are slightly disappointing to me, I’m pleased with other parts of the race and implications of where my training is. And just because I swam with the front pack in one race, I am not taking that for granted. Once is not a pattern.

Thank You!!
Brannen, thank you for letting me stay at your place in Encinitas and being patient with me after the race while I hobbled around getting gear. 

Thank you to Stryd for sending me out a new running power meter just before the race. 

Thank you to my parents and family for believing in me and encouraging me to stick with it while I relearned to run these past few months. I’m happy to be healthy and racing again.

And a massive thank you to Rachael, her family, and friends (basically everyone). Without you, the past few months would not have been possible. All of those dog-walking cross training sessions are keeping me on my toes ;)

There are some VERY big changes coming in my life in the next month. I’m excited to start work as an engineer. I may write another post on this but long story short: I’ll still be racing “pro” in triathlon but, my life will look very different. I am happy I’ll be able to fully support myself and have a more stable living situation. Up next for me is St. George 70.3! Rachael and I will be there, so if you’re planning on racing be sure to say hi! 
Very thankful for this girl
Thanks for reading and have a great day!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Good. Now.

A few months have gone by since my last update which included a recap of my race in Calgary. There have been a lot of ups and downs since then, but I’m happy with where I am headed.

Injuries suck. They’re awful. But, they are essentially guaranteed to happen to endurance athletes. I don’t exactly remember when my injury first started bothering me this summer. I remember racing Green Events Firecracker 5k on July 4th and my heel/arch bothering me for a bit during the warmup. In July I raced Vineman 70.3 (aka bike drama) and then Calgary 70.3 afterwards. While the result in Calgary was great for me, the next day I was in a lot of pain in my heel/calf/shin area. I tried to manage the injury the next few weeks. I let Coach Mace know that I was experiencing some pain, although at the time, I thought it was a pain we could manage.

Lake Louis in Banff National Park post Calgary 70.3
One Wednesday morning after a track workout the night before, I woke up and nearly cried after walking across the room. It felt like a knife had been stuck in my heel. At this point, I finally acknowledged that I would have to amputate my leg. Or take some time off of training. It was difficult to watch races happen knowing that I could have competed, but I had myself to blame for not backing off early enough.

I did my best to stay positive and focus on the things that I could control. In mid-August, I drove to Kansas City with Rachael to see her dog Molly. Rachael thinks it was to help her move home, but I really just wanted to meet Molly. And to check out all of the good coffee places.

After returning to Colorado, I started an intensive program of swimming and job searching. My daily activities included driving to the pool 2 x per day (biking still hurt my injury a bit), applying to jobs, putting away dishes, walking the dog, and eating. #StayAtHomeDadStatus Part of me enjoyed the lack of daily structure. It allowed me to lay around between workouts, but I also found myself feeling unproductive. I applied to a variety (15+) of jobs and kept track of them in a spreadsheet.

I had a few interviews that gave me hope, but nothing seemed to pan out. Despite having a college degree (basically two), above average math and computer skills, and being able to lift 40 lbs, I still was turned down for several minimum wage jobs. With my savings dwindling down, the appeal of a full-time engineering gig started to look more appealing, but I knew I had to keep trying as I believed I could find work that would accommodate training and my lifestyle. 

Goes to college for 6 years...can't get minimum wage job.
After a few weeks, I started speaking with Bryan VanMeveren about potential employment. Bryan leads a local law firm here in Fort Collins and is also an incredible triathlete. He’s one of those age group athletes that somehow manages to do it all, be successful, have fun, have a family and help others all at the same time. He’s a great role model in our community. We worked together to figure out how I could help the law firm while still allowing me to have the time and means to train the way I believe I need to in order to be competitive. While I’ve only been working with VanMeveren Law for a few weeks now, I am very happy and doing what I believe is giving me a balanced lifestyle.

As many people know, triathlon has it’s highs and lows. And when you’ve decided to race professionally, these swings can be very tough. Over the past few months, I’ve sometimes found myself picturing how I’d like to live as a triathlete, however, when I take a step back, I see that I am doing exactly what we set out to do at this point in the process. The goal for this year was to learn. I threw myself into races with tough competition and tough courses. Why? To see how I would respond. I’m happy with where my head is at this point in my first professional season and I am happy with the progress I have made. On your own, it is not always easy to see the bigger picture. It has helped me immensely to be surround by people, friends and community who support me in this dream. 

Over the past month, I’ve been able to diagnose my injury, thanks to a local PT Craig Depperschmidt, as an overstressed posterior tib. Craig is a triathlete and understands the paranoia of needing to train while injured. We’ve been able to identify some postural issues stemming from my hockey days and seem to be on the right track towards fixing them.

Hockey player Steve riding a bike on family vacation. (2009?) Side note: that bike is now my commuter bike!
One of the PT exercises given to me to help stretch out my back involves blowing up a balloon. Simple but effective.
 Five years ago, I would have never imagined living my current lifestyle which focuses heavily on training and recovery. I was raised to concentrate on doing well in school so that I could have a stable job, save money, and start a family should I want to. Sure, I was encouraged to do things that were enjoyable, but I was taught that anything that might detract from a steady job and income should be done so very cautiously. 

Only recently do I think that I've transitioned to fully believing and committing to what I am doing. It’s easy to be frustrated with workouts, results, money…and forget how much progress is being made for future years to come. Mace has often said, “focus on the good, focus on the now”. I’m very grateful for the friends and family who have been supportive of me through the thick and thin this past year. 

CSU Tri at Oktoberfest a few weekends ago.

Coach Mace and the summer training crew
Next week I’m going back to Kansas City for a few days to watch Rachael run the Kansas City Marathon, drink coffee, reconnect with Molly, and get a change of pace with training. Towards the end of the month, I’ll be heading to Vegas to help coach the CSU Triathlon Team at Pumpkinman Triathlon. I’ve never done the race but I’m a Vegas party animal, so they wanted me to come. There is a possibility I will be racing Cabo 70.3 October 30th. If my running continues to improve like it has, we may try to squeeze a few more races in, however, I feel no pressure to race again this season and would rather ensure I am healthy and that all systems are “go” for consistent off-season of training.

I’ve been trying to get out of my comfort zone a bit in terms of content and frequency of posting on social media. Personally, I’d love to get more inside views into life as a “pro”, so that’s what I’m trying to shed light a bit on what my day to day looks like. If there is something you’d like to see, or something you don’t like, let me know! And if you’re going to be in Colorado/Vegas/KC when I am, I’m usually down to exercise ;)

Back to Molly and Rachael next week :)
Long ride on the Peak to Peak highway.
You can follow me on social media:Facebook, Twitter : @steve_mantell, Instagram : @stevemantell37, Strava, Snapchat: stevemantell37
Thanks for reading and have a great day!


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Calgary 70.3

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to race Calgary 70.3. Recovery from Vineman went well and after a few days I was eager to race again, this time with Bae!

A group of 7 of us from Fort Collins drove up Thursday for the race on Sunday. We had been planning to break the drive into two days, however, once we realized it was still light out at 9 pm, we opted to finish off the drive. A few inconveniences with campgrounds left us looking for a hotel at 1 am, but eventually we struck gold and found accommodations with a decent price, and a waterslide.

Hotel water slide = playtime
Friday we arrived at our rental house with time for a short ride. The house was about a mile from the bike course. The rolling hills weren’t too challenging and the views were incredible. Aside from the green open space around the roads, at the top of each hill you could see the mountains spread out in the distance.

Bike course views
The next couple days were much less hectic than those leading up to Vineman. We all prepared for the race by doing some short workouts, checking out the swim venue, and dropping off gear for race day. On the original start list, there were a few names that had firepower, however, a few of these guys never showed up to the pro meeting. A few races I’ve been to this year have had similar turnouts and it can be a little frustrating in preparing mentally. A few missing people can significantly change the dynamic (and positioning) at any race!

The crew ready to rock!

Bae's set-up
Sunday morning I did my usual pre-race routine: wake-up 3 hrs before the start, MBK run, then breakfast. The point to point logistics of the race had us all crammed into one car driving to the start. We arrived and immediately went to work setting up our bikes. Race organizers had set up the pro transition area separate from age group athletes out on the street near the mount line. This meant a lot of people were watching us get assemble our gear.

The line for the bathrooms had become a quarter mile long by this point so I did my warmup run over to a local coffee shop we’d visited the day before. Next, I put on my Maverick X, handed over my morning clothes bags, and headed down for a swim warmup.


The swim course at Calgary is a bit short because it’s in a residential lake. As we lined up for the beach start, I realized there were maybe 10 of us racing. After a 10 second countdown, we were off.

Athletes essentially swim around the perimeter of the lake.

I sprinted into the water for about 20 feet before gracefully belly flopping and beginning to flail my way to the first buoy. At first I thought that maybe I’d for once gotten a good start (I wasn’t drowning) then I remembered there were only 10 of us. The first buoy had a sharp turn and was around 100 yards away. As we neared it, I thought I picked out Josh Amberger (Australian ex-itu athlete, aka part fish) only 2 body lengths ahead of me and everyone else.
There was some contact at the first buoy before we straightened out. 

After turning, I was swimming in the middle of two other guys. The guy on my left kept smacking me with every stroke so I crossed over and took a line that allowed my elegant stroke the space it needed. After a few hard minutes I had settled in and thought I was towards the front of the main group. As we swam around the deformed circle, I was feeling decent, so I tried to push myself more than normal as the swim was shorter. Halfway through, we began swimming straight into the sun.

A few times I had to completely stop to find the next turn buoy. It would be awesome if there were lead second-pack paddlers that would lead us around. After finding the buoys, I headed back to complete the loop around the lake. I was getting sick of swimming, so I tried to focus on finding a good rhythm with sighting and breathing. I didn’t feel anyone touching my feet and could only see a guy about 50 yards in front of me, so I knew I was swimming alone. After some confusion about the last turn buoy, I finally sighted on the finish arch and made my way up onto stable ground.

Running up to Bae, the announcer said that I had exited in 5th place. As I arrived into transition, Matt Lieto was just finishing taking off his wetsuit and grabbing his bike. I hurried up, grabbed my stuff and was off in a controlled pursuit.


After mounting my bike, I realized the Oakleys I was wearing had fogged up from the chilly morning. I knew they had vents so I was hoping they would clear up, which they did after 20 seconds. I got a split that I was 40 seconds down on Lieto. I knew the course once we got onto the main highway, but wasn’t as familiar with the turns in town. A few volunteers hadn’t told me anything so I ended up going straight through an intersection instead of turning left.

I quickly u-turned and corrected to find that a group of four had caught up. They all immediately cut in front of me and set a pace. It felt pretty slow, especially compared to the suicidal effort I’ve experienced at the start at a lot of races this year, however, for a few minutes, I couldn’t do anything but stay behind at the legal distance as we were turning and the area closed for us wasn’t very wide.

Eventually, the road opened up and I upped my effort to pass the group. This was my first race riding with a power meter where Mace had given me the “OK” to race. (Basically, that meant that I could ride however I wanted but would have some numbers to look at if I wanted to during the race and we could analyze after.

I could see Matt Lieto up the road a bit. It took me a few miles, but eventually I worked my way past Jarrod Shoemaker and up to Matt and another athlete. For this race, I chose to ride my Enve 3.4’s with Specialized cotton turbos. Even though the HEDs that Bae came with are deeper, I really like how the Enve’s ride. And the brakes sound cool. I also had a 53 tooth for my big chain ring. Because of the set-up, I knew my speed difference with others would be a bit less on the flats and downhills.

Bike file: strava
Eventually, a gap opened up between Matt and the other athlete. I let the distance increase so there was plenty of room and eventually followed Matt. Again, it took me a while to catch back up. A few times Matt looked around. I couldn’t tell if he was looking at me or if he was checking behind to see if I’d brought other athletes up. When I finally looked back too, it looked like we had a decent gap to the next athlete. 

About 45 minutes in, I moved past Matt to take a turn setting the pace. I didn’t have a specific power number I was going for, but I used the numbers to make sure I didn’t crush myself going uphill. Several times I spun out going downhill and just remained as aero as possible. I’d committed to riding my own pace for 15 minutes after going past Matt hoping we could distance ourselves from those behind us as we were riding in 2nd and 3rd place. Josh was long gone at this point and I knew unless he had a mechanical, we wouldn’t see him.

At the top of a hill 15 minutes later, I glanced back to see where Matt was and he’d fallen off a bit. I decided to commit and try to ride the rest of the bike solo. The rest of the ride was a straight shot into town. The slope was slightly downhill even though it looked flat. I knew that without a disc or deeper wheels, I’d need to make the most out of my effort and get my body as aero as possible. I moved over from the shoulder to riding on the white line and put my head down. I focused on keeping power throughout my pedal stroke and relaxing my upper body.

Pretty soon, I recognized the area leading up to transition and realized that I’d ridden decently fast (compared to previous year’s splits). Spinning to the mount line, I stretched a bit and tried to mentally shift to running. In transition, it was confirmed that I was second off the bike which got me excited. As I got my run gear sorted out, Matt entered transition about a minute behind me and a volunteer told me I was 7 minutes down on Josh. Wow.

When Josh rides a 1:58...

After a quick pee stop, I ran out of transition just behind Matt. I wanted to run with him so I sped up to match his pace. He told me that Josh had ridden a 1:58. I just shook my head. Incredible. As we were running together, a photographer on roller blades skated by us taking a video of us running. We ran together for a few minutes, not saying much before Matt asked the photographer to let us carry on. He wished us luck and off we went.

My legs did not feel great, but I’d committed to running with Matt. Looking back, I should have took my time to settle in, take account of my energy levels and take in nutrition. I didn’t question my pace too much as Matt soon was running on my shoulder and then dropped off. The somewhat challenging run in Calgary is made slightly more difficult (for me) as the aid stations are spread out about every 1.5 miles. The first 5k felt like it took a long time. I blasted down the big hill and tried to find a rhythm.

Running data with power by Stryd: file
The kilometers ticked away. I stayed conservative on the hills and tried to keep things rolling on the flats and down hills. The run course was very pretty. We ran around one side of lake on a bike path surrounded by trees. By 10k, I was starting to hurt and new that I’d have some suffering ahead of me. I tried to slow down and get more fluids from the aid stations as they were further apart. Josh went by heading back to the finish and I gave him some encouragement even though he looked fine. Finally the turn around came. I glanced at my watch so I could estimate time gaps to those behind me. I was pumped to be running in second, but wasn’t sure how close everyone else was or how they looked. I was hoping that my riding had given me a bit of room.

Heading back, I was expecting to see Matt first. After a few other runners had gone by, I realized Matt must have pulled out at some point. Instead, I saw Sam Long, 20 seconds back up the path. He was making up a lot of ground on the run. The first few miles heading back had a slight uphill. I refocused and tried to force higher turnover. About 3 miles later, Sam still hadn’t caught me yet. I knew the hills would hurt a lot and I needed a kick so I switched to Coke at the aid stations.

**need more run pictures**

The sugar helped a little. On a short downhill around mile 10, Sam caught up to me and pounded the downhill. I knew he was having a great run so I told him to keep it up. I kept the distance to Sam even on the uphill but he began to pull away as we reached the top. I grabbed a few cups of Coke and pushed on. There was only 4k left. I knew I wouldn’t have anything left at the finish line. My legs felt awful, but I really wanted to keep my third place. Finally, the last aid station came and I grabbed more Coke and muscled on. My rollerblading friend joined me, documenting my painful journey to the finish. Finally, the barricades came into view and I crossed the finish. Josh was there and immediately congratulated me on my first podium. I feel bad that I made him wait around 10+ minutes for me to finish.

After getting some food, I waited for the a few others from our group to finish. We then rallied, picked up the other car, and got cleaned up for awards. Several people in our group earned spots to Chatanooga 2017. We went downtown to try and find a place to eat. After walking out of a Thai place that was taking too long for us, we found an incredible shawarma restaurant. We inhaled our wraps then went and explored Prince Island Park in downtown Calgary.

Downtown Calgary

Matt, enjoying his dinner ;)
The next day, we drove a bit so see Banff national park. Banff is ridiculously pretty. We had a lot of fun taking pictures and seeing some of the more famous areas.

The lakes were so blue they looked almost fake.
HAD to take Bae for a ride in Banff!

One thing that is really awesome about triathlon is that there is always something you want to work on. I’m very happy with the outcome of this race and my season so far. I feel that I’ve raced very consistently and enjoyed each opportunity. Still, there are several areas that I know Mace and I will want to work on. There aren’t any quick fixes and this will take time and consistent hard work to improve.

Massive thank you to the CSU Tri crew (and alum) Tori, Sierra, Matt (thanks for organizing the house), Ryan, Steph, and Erik for a great weekend. Congrats to all of you on your races!

Thank you to Mace for outlining the training and guidance.

Thank you to Brent Phinney at WindsorEye Care and Vision Center for helping my brother out this past weekend when he scraped his cornea. If you ever have any vision needs, please check out Brent. Not only is he great at what he does, but, being a triathlete, he understands athletes and is incredibly friendly.

Thank you to Enve for making sweet wheels.

Thank you Roka for unleashing the Maverick X, check out their new run gear! If it’s anything like the cycling bibs, you’ll probably never take the shorts off…

Thank you to Patrick at Rocky MountainMultisport for always helping me out with Bae and the drama we sometimes run into.

Thank you to Green Events for putting on the Horsetooth Tri Training series. I look forward to the events every Wednesday and love that I can count on a no-pressure, fun training session every week that lets me practice important triathlon skills.

Thank you to NoCo Endurance Center for providing an excellent environment for quality indoor training!

Up next, I’ll be taking some time to recover and focus on training. I’m also really looking forward to cheering on Rachael and several other friends as they take on IM Boulder August 7th! Look for the Mantell brothers on that first hill, encouraging 500+ watt surges ;)

IM Boulder hill #1 KOM sprint...
Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions about Calgary 70.3, Banff, triathlon, or how many blended iced mochas I got from Tim Hortons while in Canada. If your racing Boulder, send me your name and (bib) number and we’ll be sure to yell at you!

You can follow me on social media:FacebookTwitter : @steve_mantell, Instagram : @stevemantell37, Strava, Snapchat: stevemantell37 

Thanks for reading and have a great day!