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