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.

Swim

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. 

Bike
#strava
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.

Run
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!

9 comments:

  1. Welcome to the Engineering/triathlete life! It's not as bad as I imagined, there's always the occasional work late, miss a workout day, but there's always 4:30 am!

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    1. Not quite at the 4:30 am wake up yet lol I feel pretty lucky that our workplace has a nice gym and there are people to run with at lunch. Hope the final touches for IM Boulder go well!

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  2. I second this:) it is totally doable!

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  3. Yep! I have a lot of respect for everyone who balances the everyday work/life/training.

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  4. I wanna try a triathlete this year, I think my preparations are enough since I did a lot of training for the past few years. Hope I can achieve it this year.

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