Race Report: Folsom International / California International Triathlons

Event NameEvent Name

One week after throwing myself back into racing, I was back at the start line. The goal of the early season was been to get myself back to race fitness, and what better way to do that than to hard and often. Escape was a big effort, but a relatively short one, and after a few good sessions during the week, Pat, Richard and I were off to Folsom to rep M2 and race fast.

Fast forward to June 29th and Richard and I were flying through Pleasanton in USAP’s second high speed Olympic distance tri of the month. In the end, the races played out almost identically, so…joint race report!

SWIM

Besides the confusion that was the Folsom swim start, in which all but 10 athletes were 200m behind the startline in the water when the gun went off, the story of the swim went a bit like this:

  • Go out hard to be with the lead pack
  • Succeed for 400m
  • Fall off the pace due to lack of swim strength
  • Ride the slower group in

At both races, I got to my bike completely wonky and digging for energy due to big efforts and minimal gains.

BIKE

The bike was very similar in both courses – generally flat with some rollers. Coming off EFA, I was expecting fast riding and bigger watts. It wasn’t to be at either race, as my bigger swim efforts seemed to be enough to zap the energy. Watts were down and I didn’t break an hour on either bike.

The silver lining was that at CIT, I managed to get stronger throughout the bike, instead of limping in like at Folsom.

RUN

The run definitely improved at CIT over FIT. As I was coming off Escape and just getting back to run fitness, FIT’s run saw a struggle to keep 5:40s. By CIT, I was running much faster and attacking the tricky trail hills. I felt good about both runs, given where I was at during the race, and knew that with more run training, I could be much, much faster.

RESULTS

The results followed suit with everything else, almost identical:

Folsom Int’l Tri – 2:07:17 Overall 5th, Age Group 1st

FIT Podium

Joint age group podium at FIT

 

California Int’l Tri – 2:06:30 Overall 6th, Age Group 1st

Seriously, the same race

Seriously, the same race

Happy with the rankings, but I know I’m much faster and would expect sub 2hr. But progressing into health and fitness is the theme!

THANKS

Thanks to M2 community and GU Energy. USAT for putting on quality local races. Pat, Richard and Frank for being great racing buddies. Family and friends for always being the backbone of support – special shout out to Alana D’Onofrio for hosting Richard and I and keeping us well fed!!

Onward and upward…the season takes off from here!

CIT Cooldown

Getting my Vlad Putin on, cooling down with Frank and Richard

Race Report: Escape From Alcatraz 2014

AlcatrazNothing like dipping your toe back into racing with one of the most difficult short course races in the world, among one of the most competitive fields. Given my early year update, the epic Escape from Alcatraz seemed like a heck of a way to return. It was going to be tough to follow up last year’s podium effort, but in the end, I was happy to be back at the start line.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:

  • Very happy to be racing and healthy.
  • Bike and run times are as competitive as anyone and are showing improvement
  • Apparently cold water and the threat of sharks still isn’t enough to make me swim fast, as I swam myself out of a solid result.
  • Plenty of positives on which to build the year.

EFA Indices

PRE-RACE:

2,000+ athletes chilling on a boat, waiting to jump in the bay

2,000+ athletes chilling on a boat, waiting to jump in the bay

EFA Boat Outside Nothing can match the badass EFA Boat Jumpfeeling of being out on that boat and watching the doors open to the fogged over city and rough waters off Alcatraz.

EFA continues to do an awesome job of organizing and expediting the process of getting 2,000 athletes to the start and off the boat in less than 6 minutes. It was great to race with my man Vince this year, as we chilled on the boat beforehand and discussed our master plan to swim, bike and run together (didn’t happen).

THE SWIM:

Hopping off the boat into the Bay is truly like something out of a war movie. Only ~20 people had jumped before me and still the water was white with foam as the ongoing flow of bodies churned the waves. As soon as I hit the water, I popped up and swam hard to catch some feet and to get out of the way of other jumpers. I was in a pack that I felt comfortable with.

As was the case last year, this didn’t last for long and before I knew it I was on my own. I entered some chop and for what seemed like 5 minutes, I remained in line with Fort Mason. I wasn’t going anywhere. I tried to find someone, anyone to swim with. Eventually I did, and “crossed the river” of the tide, working hard just to get on dry land. Like replay of last year, I got out of the water, looked around, and knew I had work to do.

M2 in-house mechanic, Mike Cole, had the P3 humming!

M2 in-house mechanic, Mike Cole, had the P3 humming!

THE BIKE:

Unlike last year, however, I felt good immediately on the bike. No cramps, all business and I started to hammer away. There was plenty of traffic to pass given how far behind I was, but I managed to keep steady, agressive watts.

After climbing and descending out of The Presidio, Sea Cliff and Land’s End, I hit descended to Golden Gate Park, where I was able to see just how far behind I was as guys I was racing against were already coming back.

The rest of the bike was just truly a hammerfest, aggressive flats and fly up the climbs.

After five months of biking like a mad man as I recovered from the running injury, I was happy to have easily the highest weighted average watts I’ve had in a race.

Great shot by Justin Green with 'traz in the background! I of course had the blinders on, so I saw neither.

Great shot by Justin Green with ‘traz in the background! I of course had the blinders on, so I saw neither.

Pace seems to be directly correlated with elevation...

Pace seems to be directly correlated with elevation…

THE RUN:

As I headed out on the run, I had two thoughts: 1.) run as fast as you can and make up as much ground as possible; 2.) it’s your second time running this hard in 9 months. As you’d guess, not only did this play out as a battle of short and long term prospects, but also between excitement and actual fitness level.

It does take some mental convincing to keep the foot on the gas when you realize how far out of the race you are. Never the less, I motored along Crissy Field until the climb to the Golden Gate Bridge. Just like the bike, it’s up, down, up, down. On the first down, I saw M2 standing in the same spot as last year. This was a really great pick-me-up and he let me know Vinny was doing well.

Only 400 steps made out of sand and boards up a cliff. Got this.

Only 400 steps made out of sand and boards up a cliff. Got this.

After that first down, it’s about a mile cruise on Barker Beach. Last year I felt so confident picking folks off through the sand, but this year it just felt so much…flatter. Not the sand, mind you. I didn’t even seem to find flat sand on the way back. As I ran as closely to the water line as possible, the seconds shrank between me and the beast, the monster, the beeyatch –  the sand ladder. And just like the beach, the sand ladder just felt slow. The pop from last year just wasn’t there.

Once you get to the top of the sand ladder, your climb is only half way over. So I took that as an opportunity to reset mentally and just drive the rest of the hill until I could let it fly home. I saw M2 again and as I let it fly through the Golden Gate Bridge common area, he rode his bike to the stair junction and let me know that I was running well and to catch as many people as possible.

So that’s what I did! Chin tucked, shoulders pinched I finished with a 5:27 mile and 5:12 pace for the last 0.6 mile. Not bad for a gimp! The finish at EFA is always great – lined with people and flags, grandstands, a nice long chute. And I knew my mom and Kathy D. (Vince’s mom) cheering us in. After taking a second to catch my breath and come to terms with how much like poo I felt, I gave Vince a big ole hug and high five for his great day. He really killed it on a huge stage.

EFA Run

I’ll take it

SUMMARY AND THANKS:

There were plenty of takeaways for the season in this first race. The swim does need to continue to improve, but with lake or river swims for the rest of the year, I’d have a chance to see where my “non-Alcatraz” fitness was soon. My bike improved immensely since last year, and I attribute that to the Tahoe build and then not being able to run for months. And lastly, the run. I ran a couple hard sessions in 2014 and managed to nab the 6th overall run split. This built volumes of confidence for the year that I likely lost very little run fitness while gaining immense bike fitness. Silver linings, folks!

As always, thanks to M2 and the M2 Revolution gang, including Mike Cole who seriously Pimped My Ride for this one. Eric Gilsenan and the EFA crew for always putting on a world class, safe, well-run event. Amy Schmerl! for trekking across Marina Blvd. at way-to-early of an hour on a Sunday to support, along with everyone else that was out there. And of course, Momma V. for coming out to visit and always being excited to support the races.

Rock and roll!

Checking In – Early 2014

This past weekend was Ironman Oceanside 70.3 and if you read my 2014 Preview – and retained any of it – you may recall that it was the first race in a season full of fun and challenging races.

I’m happy to report that I reduced my time by 4h 24min and 10 seconds over last year with a time of 00:00:00. I’m less happy to report that it was because I am still coming back from my running injury discovered in late 2013 and I’m still not fully up and running. Definitely bummed to have missed this incredible race, but my buddies Brett and Pat did well to carry the M2 flag and set a strong tone for the year.

Still, I’m having some awesome training, gaining a lot of fitness and eating the food:

I'll take all of the Nutella, please.

I’ll take all of the Nutella, please.

What is the injury and why has it taken so long?

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Standing tall and “straight” for the camera

My left leg has been a problem child since leading up to and through Tahoe. After time off in the fall, it continued to be a problem at Christmas. I went to see Dr. Shepherd in Powell, Ohio while home for the holidays and we found some serious imbalance and misalignment with my hips and spine. This is either because my left leg is longer than my right (by birth or growth patterns), which would be consistent with the 4mm difference in my legs during my bike fit last year, or because my muscular imbalances have thrown this platform out of whack, making my left leg “longer,” but not actually longer.

If that sounds like a bunch of jargon, just know that it means that everything is more injury prone in my left leg and it stinks. I worked with Talitha at Individual Fitness Solutions while in Dublin to develop a strength and flexibility program to try and stabilize the platform. I do this strength program at least twice a week and my attention to post workout stretching and rolling has increased ten-fold (so, so important). I also continue my body work with my main man, Andy Tubbs, who induces eye crossing pain (i.e. massage therapy). Lastly, I run in a bubble:

Shirt off, thumbs up, bro out

Shirt off, thumbs up, bro out

The Alter-G at M2 Revolution continues to be an absolutely essential tool for coming back from injury in a controlled, healthy manner. I’ve progress from 75% to 77% and currently 80% of my body weight, while I begin to run at speeds that look much more familiar.

The goal remains the same

It can be easy to have a negative mindset when you miss a race and the road back to health is taking much longer than originally planned. But that’s the thing – you can’t plan it and it’s silly to think you have more control over the circumstances than the hard work you put into it allows. That’s all you can do, work hard to be healthy and the return will hopefully follow.

I entered this year as one of the best triathletes in my age group in America. My goal for this year was to race well at a level that removes that qualifier – I want to be one of the best amateur triathletes, not just in my age group. The goal still remains, and the race calendar has shifted a bit later.

Stay tuned to see how it unfolds!

A big thanks to friends, family, the sports med folks I’ve worked with, M2 Revolution and GU.