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!