Sunday, August 27, 2017

JA Race Report: Chisago Half

Toughman long course: aptly named.  This race usually has some rolling hills on the run with little to no shade.  Although the course was changed a bit this year, the hills and heat remained the same. This course is tough no doubt, but honest.

Leading up to the Race
Theme of the race: REDEMPTION. Coming off the Heart of the Lakes debacle and the complete bonk-fest last year, I was looking for a performance I knew I was trained for. Chisago came just two weeks after HOLT, so that didn't give me much time to gain any additional fitness.  The workouts leading up to this were pretty low key with a few harder effort bikes and a couple tempo runs off the bike.  Other than that, pretty standard.

The strategy for this race was the same as it has been all year.  Stay with Sean as much as possible without blowing up completely on the bike:)

Race Morning
Business as usual, Emma and I were up before the crack of dawn at 4:00 AM.  We got to work on getting some calories in.  Cuisine of choice for the morning was half a banana, some almond butter, white rice, and a sports bar.  After we plowed that down, we loaded up the truck and were out the door as the drive to Chisago is about 50 minutes from our house.

We arrived just before 6:00 AM to get body marked and get our transition set up.  For this race, I was rocking numero uno!  I was hoping that wasn't a bad omen :)

After transition was set up, Emma and I did our tune up ride and run to make sure that all systems were a go.  Almost go time!

We headed down to the water 15 minutes before the gun was set to go off to do a warm up and enjoy the National Anthem.  Based on the temperatures around this time, the water temperature reached hot tub status, 83 degrees! No wet suit for the field! 

After the warm up swim and National Anthem, I kissed Emma and wished her good luck and made my way to the front of the corral. Master MC Jerry MacNeil, announced go time was T-minus 1 minute.  I spit in my goggles and got my head right.

The gun went and we were off!  I opted for an up front, inside position.  This put me right in line with the buoys. In order to avoid the commotion that occurs immediately upon entering the water, I pinned it for the first 200 yards or so.  The strategy worked...sort of.  I found myself in between the lead pack and the rest of the field.  I couldn't keep up with the top 3 guys including Daniel Bretscher, a local pro, and David Holden who is basically a marlin in the water. With no feet to hang onto, I just swam my race.

I got out of the water about two minutes back from Daniel and tore off my swim skin. I ran up the hill to transition and started the mental prep for the bike!

Time: 29:13:30
Pace: 1:24 per 100 yds

Equipped with brand new tires, I was hopeful for this bike.  I got into transition 4th and put my gear on as quickly as possible and hurried to the mount line.

The first part of the bike takes you out of paradise park through a tunnel and over some grass.  Once I navigated those features, I dropped into aero and settled into my race wattage.  Over the first 10 miles, I worked my way to second behind Daniel.  I was pushing the high end of my race wattage went I felt a poke in my left glute, that must be Sean.  

Sure enough, at mile 12 or so, Sean caught up to me.  The strategy was to keep up with him as best as I could so I surged.  I looked down and saw 340 W.  NO WAY could I keep that up for 40 more miles, so I had to let him ride away.  The strategy didn't change though, keep him within reach and continue to hydrate and fuel smart.

The rest of the bike was really uneventful.  I didn't see anyone except for the very helpful volunteers and the aid stations.  I focused on nutrition and keeping aero as the course is pretty flat.

I finished off the bike and screamed into T2 and dismounted.  I was 4 minutes behind Sean.  I needed a blistering run split.

Time: 2:14:43
Speed: 25.0 MPH

I grabbed my bib, hat, glasses, and watch and tore out of T2 after Sean and Daniel.  

The day was starting to get hot, but I kept telling myself that a 4 minute deficit was doable.  I ticked off the first few miles at 6:30 pace and was feeling pretty good.  I was taking in gatorade and water at every aid station.  In the back of my mind, I was a bit nervous going that fast and not yet experiencing any GI distress (the crux of my past in hot conditions).  To my surprise, the GI issues never came and I didn't think about it again the rest of the day.

I couldn't see Sean or Daniel come mile 6.  I told myself at mile 8, regardless of where those two were at, I would increase my pace so I could finish strong.  Mile 8 went well at 6:20 pace when I started to get quad cramps.  No surprise there, standard for me in the heat.  No problem, I just fired down a few salt stick capsules and continued onward! 

At mile 11, another competitor coming the other way informed me that I was about a quarter mile away from second place!  I tried my hardest to push harder, but my legs wouldn't take me faster than 6:20.  Some days, there are not enough miles! (Never thought I would say that, haha)

The entire day I was playing catch up, which is an extremely motivating position to be in.  At any rate, I had a blast out on course!  I got to see and cheer on some good friends competing in their first triathlon, fellow Gear West athletes, and my speedy wife Emma who was competing in her first half iron since surgery (she KILLED it by the way)!

I continued to take in hydration and nutrition through the final miles.  I rounded the corner to get back in the park and dropped the hammer! Almost home!  I charged up the hill and pinned it over the finish line!

I finished up and saw Sean sitting in a chair in the chute and congratulated him and Daniel for a great race. Sean put up a blistering 4:06, great effort dude!

Time: 1:27:02
Pace: 6:39 per mile

Post Race
What a day!  Any day on course is a blessing and today was no exception.  After I had finished, my parents who came to the race today came over to congratulate me on placing 3rd overall and the 2nd amateur!  What a surreal experience!

After chatting with friends and family for a bit, I made my way over to my gear to change so I could cheer Emma on.  When I went to change, I heard my mother-in-law yelling her name! Oh crap, she blitzed the run!  I had one sock off and no shirt as I sprinted over the the edge of transition to cheer her on!  She had a killer day, but I will let her tell you all about that :)

After Emma got in, we chatted about the day and hung out with friends and family.  It is so awesome to have the support that we have!

Time: 4:13:26
OA Place: 3/398
2nd Amatuer

A special thanks to everyone that helped make this possible.

Emma - My number 1! Thank you for always supporting me and pushing me to be a better athlete and person. I love you so much and would not be anywhere near the man or athlete I am today without you.  Thank you!

Coach - Thanks again for kicking my butt in training so I can race to my potential! I appreciate everything you have done and continue to do for me, thank you! 

Family - Thank you all for supporting me in this sport even if you think I am nuts.  It has been a blast to push myself to new limits and your support means everything to me, thank you! 

Michael - Thanks for keeping my body in check with key ART sessions!  Would not have been able to tow the starting line without your critically timed tune ups, thank you!  Check out Premier Sports and Spine for any sports related injury and get it taken care of before it becomes an issue!

Dana - Thanks for keeping this battered body optimally recovered!  Your deep tissue sessions have definitely helped keep me in top condition to continue to nail my key workouts! Special thanks to you for coming out and cheering for us on course! That was awesome! She offers great package deals for massage sessions.  Check her out here

Gear West - Special thanks to these guys for keeping my bike rolling optimally before each and every race!  They are a great grass roots shop that can accommodate any and all of your triathlon needs from bikes to wetsuits with no pressure.  You can check them out here and make sure to let them know that Joe sent you in!

Until next time, happy training!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

JA Race Report: (Broken) Heart of the Lakes

Heart of the Lakes Triathlon is one of those must-do races.  The venue, volunteers, course marshals, and announcers are all top notch.  This is a pretty special race for me as it was my first triathlon ever as well as the race I asked Emma to marry me at back in 2012 :)

With that being said, fast forward 5 years to this year's race...

Leading up to the Race
This was my first official race that I would be doing as an amateur elite. Coming off a pretty successful race at Madison 70.3, my spirits and aspirations for this race were pretty high.

The build up for this race was typical of other races this season, a lot tempo runs and interval rides.  My fitness leading up to HOLT was the best it has been all year, so I was feeling pretty good.

As this race is a modified Olympic, the strategy was simple: swim my arms off, bike my glutes off, and hang on for the run.

Race Morning
In typical race morning fashion, Emma and I were up at 5:00 am to get some food and throw our gear in the truck.

The race is held in Annandale, so it is relatively close to our house.  This made race morning logistics really simple.  Emma and I got to the race at about 7:00 am dropped off our gear, checked in, and got body marked.

Coach met us there at about 7:30 to talk over race strategy.  The race plan was pretty simple, stick with the top guys throughout the day.  After chatting about wattage and pace, it was off to get the bike and run warm up done.

We headed down to the lake to get our swim warm up in, chat with some of our friends, and enjoy the national anthem.  After that, it was off to the corral to get lined up!

After making my way into the corral, I only had about 30 seconds before the gun went off! I lined up on the buoy line to prep for a fast swim.

The gun went off and it was time to get to work!  I settled in behind one of the local EMJ guys, Nate Ansbaugh.  The swim was only a half mile, so it went quick.  The swim was extremely choppy, which was really unexpected considering the forecast called for no wind until noon or so.  At any rate, I got on the buoys and pinned it.

Nate and I exited the water 2nd and 3rd in our wave, respectively. I ran up onto the beach and pulled down my swim skin.  On to the bike!

Time: 12:21
Pace: 1:23 per 100 yds

I got into transition 3rd and quickly threw on my gear.  I pulled my bike off the rack and sprinted to the mount line.  During this time, Sean Cooley had passed Nate in transition and was off on the course.  I started out on the course chasing Sean.  By about the 3 mile mark, I had passed the second place guy and was settled in with Sean just up ahead.  

I kept Sean within site for the first half of the bike.  I was executing my race wattage and hydrating.  Things were going really well and it was shaping up to look like Sean and I were going to duke it out on the run course.  That is until disaster struck.  

PSSSSTTTTT! The sound no one likes to hear.  My front tire was deflating, crap.  I stopped to check my front wheel and to my surprise, the TLR sealant had plugged the hole!  I could finish the last 10 miles on about 65 psi, no problem!  Or so I thought.  I hopped back on my bike to continue to chase when about a mile later going downhill, full on flat.  Let me tell you, riding on a carbon rim going 30+ MPH is pretty terrifying.  I kept trying to gradually slow down, but couldn't brake as the front wheel would just start to slide out and threaten to take me down entirely.

I finally came to a stop.  Luckily, I had a spare on my bike.  At this point, I knew I wouldn't be able to salvage a podium spot, but that was OK.  I needed to focus on the task at hand, changing my tube in short order.  As I got to work on it, rider after rider whizzed by.  I quickly changed the flat and inflated my tube and mounted my bike.  I only lost 4.5 minutes changing the flat, but in a modified Olympic distance race, that is a long time!

After getting back on my bike, I rode the last miles of the course like I was possessed.  I wanted to catch everyone that passed me during the tube change out.  I finished up the bike falling from 2nd to 10th.  I had some wood to chop!

Time: 51:58
Speed: 24.2 MPH

The strategy here didn't change despite the flat.  Run hard.  I grabbed my run gear and tore out of transition.  After getting onto the run course, I couldn't see any other competitors in the elite field until about mile 2.  I made it a goal to catch the three guys I could see and pass them.

I managed to reel those three guys in and make the pass.  After that, I was alone for the entire run.  It was nice to see my coach on the course along with my mother-in-law toward the finish.  Other than that, the run was really uneventful.

Time: 31:14
Pace: 5:53 per Mile

Post Race
Although the day didn't play out like I had hoped, any day on course is a good day.  Despite the flat on the bike, I had my fastest swim and run splits at this race.  In addition to that, it was pretty cool to be racing in the elite wave and managing to be competitive.

Time: 1:37:56
OA Place: 7/184
Division Place: 3/8

I will be reflecting on this race to fuel future efforts for sure.  As always a special thanks to Emma, coach, family, and friends for supporting my multi sport endeavors!  Until next time, happy training!

Gah! Hole that caused the flat(s)!