Monday, August 7, 2017

Boulder 70.3, Volume 5?

This past weekend I traveled out to Colorado to race Boulder 70.3. I've raced Boulder 70.3 every year since 2012 and when Rachael said she was planning to race, it was hard to say "no". If you are interested in reading only about the race, skip ahead to the "race morning" section.

Current life balance
One week after racing St. George 70.3, I started working full time as an engineer in Kansas City. While it has only been a few months, I'm really enjoying the work at Burns and McDonnell. Working in the Geotech department, we help on a variety of different projects. Most of the projects I've been involved with have been for substations or transmission lines. Without going into too many details, we get to design foundations.

Where I spend Monday-Friday

My training patterns have changed a lot since starting full-time work. I could write several blog posts about how I approach exercise these days but here are a few points:
  • I try my best to prioritize frequency and efficiency. Even if I only have 30 minutes, I'll go for a short run or do some plyometrics. Almost everything is 60 min or less during the week.
  • Swimming: I try swim 5-6 times per week. Usually this consists of 2-3 structured practices about 75 min long with a couple other shorter (sometimes even just 30 min) swims to help clear my head before or after work. Our swim group at the JCC has 30 people in the water at 5:45 am every Tu/Th and Dave is the reason behind it. He is a great coach who is attentive to his athletes and very adamant on quality over quantity. Every couple weeks Dave will film our strokes without us knowing it and upload it to Dropbox with verbal instruction or correction which I've found very helpful. 
The 50 meter outdoor pool at the JCC. Swimming outside is THE best.
  • Biking: Most weeks I get in 4 rides and will some days ride to/from work/gym/home/track. During the week all of my rides are using the TrainerRoad app and our wahoo kickr. I'll do one easy recovery ride, a VO2 max ride, and a ride focused on cadence changes. On the weekends, I'm able to get outside for a longer 3-4 hr ride with some intervals. Almost all of the intervals 
    are focused at a higher threshold where I feel like I get the most return on time investment.
Weekend riding with Kevin
  • Running: I'm lucky enough to be able to run at lunch with a group of work friends. It seriously makes my day and helps me to focus. One day a week I'll substitute the lunch run with a strength workout so that I can do an evening track workout with another group. On the weekends, I'll do a short but hard run off the bike (taking a page out of Kevin Denny's book) and the other day I may do a longer run. If I ever feel like I'm getting run down or have run too many consecutive days, I'll skip a day of running and will usually feel better.
  • Throughout the week, I usually end up doing 4-5 short (15-30 minutes) strength sessions. I've always enjoyed being in the gym and often times will go in with a few exercises I want to do or glance at what Mace has put on training peaks for a strength workout and make up sets/reps for however much time I have. I focus on strengthening my hamstrings and glutes, upper body and stability. I also do a lot of plyometrics or what my sister would call "jumping around".
  • Generally speaking, if I go anerobic at least once then it's been a good day. As my work schedule will eventually require some travel to job sites across the country, I know I'll need to be flexible and creative with workouts. And while I like having a routine at home, I enjoy changes of scenery and finding new gyms, hills, and pools to train in.
Lew Hollander gave a speech at IM Florida 2014 at age 84 and said that he goes "anaerobic every day". #LifeGoals  
Pre race
The week leading into Boulder 70.3, I kept my weekly training almost exactly the same until flying out Thursday evening. After some flight delays, I was able to make it to Denver by about midnight Thursday.

Friday morning, we drove up to Boulder where we quickly checked in and went for a quick spin testing out our bike equipment. After the pro meeting, I went for a short run with Rachael and jumped in the reservoir for a few minutes before biking to our airbnb. The rest of the day was spent getting food, setting up gear, and checking in bikes. We stayed very busy but by 6 pm, we had gotten everything done that we needed to. From a performance perspective, it was probably not the best lead-in day before the race but my head was in a good spot, and my legs felt good during the shake outs. We were in bed a little after 9 and I had no problem falling asleep.

The day before the race... nearly 20,000 steps. Coach is probably banging his head against a wall.
Race morning
Rachael and I woke up at 4 am and I had the same breakfast I have almost every day: oatmeal with some almonds and a banana. I also had half of a muffin I'd saved from the day before. Rachael freaked out because "who only eats half a muffin!" but I was pretty pumped to eat it race morning. 

Oh, and adequate amounts of coffee were consumed
We were out the door and into the mini van by 5 am, and at the reservoir soon after. Ernie had volunteered to drive us as long as we set up his camping chair for spectating because he was on crutches. While Ernie hung out watching people yell at their spouses for a bike pump, Rachael and I went to set up our transition spots. I loaded up bottles and nutrition, put a new battery in my Stages power meter, and got my run gear set. I had plenty of time for a quick warm-up run and another trip to the bathroom.

With Rachael before heading to the swim start
Male pros were scheduled to start at 7:05 and I was in the water warming up about 15 min before that. After about 10 min, there was an announcement that due to parking delays, everyone would be starting 15 min later than scheduled. I got out of the water and planned to wait around before warming up again, but immediately started shivering. The air temp was slightly colder than the water and without a wetsuit, I couldn't keep myself warm. The announcer called us to the start line and I walked over shivering uncontrollably, my jaw completely locked up. I shook out my arms and tried to exhale strongly as they announced "30" seconds.

I started on the far left of the start line for the clockwise loop. As the cannon went, I took a few steps in the shallow water before starting to swim. The first couple minutes were a little chaotic and in my head I kept repeating "90%...90%" I knew that if I went out too hard, because I had started out shivering and because we were at altitude, I would burn out and move backwards quickly. I am generally pretty calm at a swim start but I think here I was too calm.

Swim start views
My awareness throughout the swim was pretty bad. I knew I was behind the leaders but didn't know how far back and couldn't recognize any of the swimmers around me. I've been in similar situations before, so I didn't panic. The swim went by unusually quick and I felt relatively comfortable, swimming off a few different pairs of feet and working on my body position to conserve energy. My stroke felt pretty good until the last couple hundred meters. I kept my effort level consistent as I stood up to exit the water. Ahead of me, I saw two guys I didn't recognize. In my head, I started getting a bit worried but mentally pushed it aside and ran to check hard for my bike.

I quickly transitioned, quickly glancing around to see how many of the front pack guys had stashed swimming paddles, then ran to mount my bike. Ernie was camped out at the bike exit and asked if everything was OK. As soon as he asked that, I knew I'd come out a bit further back than normal. Still, I responded that I was good and he told me to haul a$$. 

Thank you Philip Mathys for the picture!
Immediately out onto the bike course, Trip Hipple pulled in front of me and set a hard pace. We quickly reeled in a few guys before getting a split that we were about 75 seconds back to a big pack. I wasn't sure who was in that pack, but we set a strong pace to catch them. The early "out and back" gave us a chance to see them twice and I could see we were making up time. I felt pretty good and kept my effort strong without spiking too much. Around 13-14 we caught the group. 

Strava bike file for the data nerds out there. Power was from Stages 
We had passed 3 or 4 other riders on the way and the group we caught had 7 or so more. We jumped onto the back and I recognized AJ Baucco and Robbie Deckard. I was originally hoping to ride with Ben Hoffman and was disappointed not to see him. At the same race last year, Chris Leiferman and I had caught the second chase group early on in the bike, sat in for a few minutes, then made a move around them to try and catch the lead group. While I wanted to keep riding past the group, I knew I needed to recover a little so I sat in for a few minutes. Soon, a few minutes became 10 which became 15 which became 20. 

I knew the course enough to know what sections would be hard to get away in and I was worried that if I went too hard at altitude I'd blow up and implode even more on the run. As the minutes passed, I focused on taking in fluids and nutrition all the while feeling like the real race was slipping away from me. It was extremely discouraging because while I felt like I could ride slightly faster on my own, I knew most people in that group were strong enough to match my effort for 5 minutes which would tow along the few weaker riders and essentially we'd be in the same situation. 

When you get frustrated with the group dynamics...
As the miles ticked by, I took a few hard pulls, never seriously attacking but hoping to shake off a few guys or at least sting a few legs. Whenever a small gap opened up in front of me, the guys behind were very quick to slot in and make the spacing "legal" again. I kept wishing there was someone I could cue off of or work with to move past the group. I tried to remind myself to be grateful for this race experience instead of getting frustrated. In the last 10 miles, Sam Long and Kennett Peterson caught our group and quickly moved to the front. Immediately, everyone started working harder and a few gaps opened up. I worked around a few people to come into transition just a few seconds behind Sam and Kennett, but I quickly lost any advantage over the other guys in the pack as I headed to the porta potty to quickly pee.

A few of my last few 70.3 races I've really struggled with hydrating and felt like death the last 5 miles of the run. Starting out on the two lap run, I wanted to build into the first 3 miles making sure I got in fluids.

I had done well hydrating on the bike, but knew that sometimes it doesn't hit me until 7 or 8 miles in. I relaxed my shoulders and focused on a steady turnover. The temperature seemed pretty manageable. I saw Paul Ambrose ahead of me and gradually worked my way up to him. The first 3 miles had a few small hills in them. I felt good but dialed back my effort and took sips from my water bottle. Onto the flats, I got into my stride after tossing the water bottle. It felt good not to hold anything in my hands, but I still was aware of my effort trying not to push the first lap too hard and pay for it on the second half. 

I focused on maintaining a good rhythm. Heading out onto the run in 17th place, I'd given up any placing goals and just wanted to run strong and smart. I felt pretty good through the half way point, but knew that I was not on pace to do anything spectacular. It takes a lot of motivation to head out on the second loop of a two loop run but eventually I got into a good rhythm. I slowed down a little for the aid stations. I would get 3 cups of water and one of red bull or coke before speeding up and running harder between aid stations. Running around the reservoir, I tried enjoy the race experience and appreciate everyone cheering. I relaxed my arms and shoulders every few minutes and took note of my form. By mile 10, I was pretty sure I wasn't going to crawl across the finish line so I pushed it a little bit. While in the past my quads and calves have been in a lot of pain the last couple miles, my hamstrings and glutes were feeling it which I took as a good sign for my evolving run form. Heading to the finish, I took in the views of the flat irons, the cheers, and the feelings of a good workout.

Stryd running power file. From this I can tell that I ran very consistently and my cadence didn't drop like it has in the past on the back half of the run.
Immediately after crossing the finish line, I downed a bottle of water and talked with a few guys who had just finished in front of me. I checked in with my brother and Rachael's siblings, cooled down, ate some pizza, and cheered on Rachael for her finish. The rest of the afternoon was spent catching up with friends, packing the car, going to the awards, and hitting up the best fro yo place on earth....Ripple.

Not in Colorado. Not Ripple. But ice cream is good and Charley is cute so...
Looking back at this race...even after just writing this blog, there are a few positives and negatives that stick out to me.
  • Negative: too much the day before. While sometimes it seems pointless and boring, I need to be better about getting off my feet the day before the race and getting quality sleep the week of. While being busy is nice because it takes your mind off the race, ultimately it takes away your energy and you end up using it as an excuse after the race ;)
  • Negative: unprepared swim start. I don't know what more I could have done on the day to stay warm, but in the future, for non wetsuit swims I can bring a sweatshirt to stay warm with if there is going to be time between warming up and the actual start. I hate being cold and know that I don't do well in cold conditions so that is something I can be better prepared for.
  • Negative: I was too cautious. Racing at this level has been and always will be extremely competitive. If you want to do well, not only do you have to prepare for the race but you have to be willing to hurt during the race. After reading through this blog, it seems pretty simple to me that I was scared to push too hard and blow up. That's not to say the race was easy. I pushed myself hard, but always felt within my threshold zones. I've had some very scary experiences in the past which I now attribute to dehydration so it's taking me some time get a little confidence back to pushing myself to those limits. I'm going to work on having the confidence to commit to hard efforts while racing.
  • Positive: I'm in a good head space. I honestly think that at this point in my life, working a full time engineering job is healthy for me. While some people may see this choice as a submission or defeat of sorts due to the every-day challenges associated with being a "pro" in this sport, being able to support myself and the lifestyle that I want to live is more important than putting all of my energy towards my triathlon goals right now. Leading into this race was the most relaxed I've been in a very long time. Getting to work on engineering projects and using the other skills I have acquired in my life is very fulfilling. While some work days are hard, I love being busy and feeling like I am contributing to a tangible project with a specific deliverable.
  • Positive: My training routine is enough to get me through a half ironman feeling strong. Immediately after the race and a day after, is the best I've felt after a 70.3 in a long time. At first I was scared that I wouldn't have the endurance training to get through a 4 hr race, but I think my strength training, higher intensities, and general schedule of being on the "go" the whole day made up for the lack of "longer" workouts. I'm sure it's not "ideal" but it can work.
  • Positive: I'm getting better at hydration and nutrition. Both at St. George and this race I was good about fueling throughout the day. I know that with more practice I'll gain confidence to push harder in training and racing.

Thank yous
  • My parents. I don't thank my parents and family enough. They have been amazingly supportive of me in this sport and life in general, always encouraging but not pushing me in the direction they feel is best for me.
  • Mace, Patrick and the Fort Collins crew. It was awesome seeing you guys at the race. Special thanks to Craig Depperschmidt at ProActive PT. One year ago I couldn't take a step without pain and I just finished a half ironman without thinking twice about the previous pain in my heel and calf. Relearning to run is scary but I'm feeling the most relaxed at efforts as I've ever been.
  • Dave Schiffer thank you for making swim practices challenging but also realistic. I really appreciate all of the knowledge and advice and look forward to the early morning swims without anxiety.
  • Kevin Denny, Barry Ogden, city of fountains run club. You all are great training partners. I get a lot from training with others and appreciate sharing the suffering during workouts.
  • Gerry, White, Baker, Harrison and the lunch run crew. I've never laughed so hard during runs and appreciate the chill trash talking routines we have.
  • Rachael and family. Thank you so much for making Kansas City and Denver feel like home.
  • Roka, Stages, Rudy Project, Clif, Base performance, TrainerRoad, and Stryd. I put your products to the test day in and day out and can't say enough good things. Congratulations to Angus at Stryd for completing his first half-iron.
  • Thank you to everyone who came up to me before/after the race or cheered for me throughout the day. I get a lot of motivation from your daily lives and encouragement so keep up the hard work. If you ever have a question about triathlon, gear, or where to eat ice cream, I may be able to help. 
I have upgraded and can now receive pictures, emojis, and group texts. My mind was blown for a solid two weeks.
I'm not sure what exactly is up next for me in terms of racing. In the next few weeks I'll be figuring out a travel schedule for work and then will see when I can fit in some races. I'd love to get back to some Olympic distance racing with the Escape Series and possibly another 70.3 in October.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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!