Race Report: Napa HITS Olympic

Bare chested with gloves on...a champion of athletic style since 1986.

Bare chested with gloves on…a champion of athletic style since 1986.

The Summary:

The first race of 2015! After an early season bike crash, this was the first test to see where my fitness was. My left elbow was busted pretty good and I’d been swimming with one arm for about two months. It was going to be a tough one, but there were almost ten of us from Team Every Man Jack that used this race as a launch pad for 2015 so it was high output from the gun and I finished 8th overall with the fastest run on the day.

The Swim: (00:25:49) Terrible. But in my defense, I’d only swam about 6 times with both arms since January and it was a two loop swim that involved a run along the beach and re-entry. But that’s still a brutal time to see. Good news is it can only get better!

T1 another cold race, another abysmal transition – almost 2x top 7’s average. My circulation really suffers out of the water in cold races and I – yet again – learned plenty.

The Bike: (01:05:28) I spent the first half a mile trying to cram frozen feet into my shoes while pedaling. Even thereafter, my core and my legs were simply not responding in the cold. It wasn’t until almost the turnaround point on this out and back course that I felt normal. I attacked the rolling hills heading back in and averaged a higher power number than the first half as my body warmed up.

The Run (00:33:49) With the fastest run on the day by about two minutes, I tried to recover as much ground as I could from Nemo-ing the swim and freezing during the early part of the race. The run felt good, especially after my feet thawed out two miles in…!

Thanks – All sponsors of Team Every Man Jack, HITS for putting on a great race, all volunteers and supporters! Next up, first Ironman 70.3 of the season at St. George – and a lot more swimming with two arms.

Race Report: Ironman 70.3 Silverman (Las Vegas, NV)

Dinner with the cousins to celebrate a good race but more importantly, Nova's birthday!!

Dinner with the cousins to celebrate a good race but more importantly, Nova’s birthday!!

The Summary:

This Vegas course was the World Championship for Ironman 70.3 in 2012 when I raced it. It was a brutal triple H: Hot, Hilly, Hard. And that’s exactly why I wanted to come back to do this race as a standard 70.3 once the Championship moved venues to Canada. I seem to do well comparatively in these conditions and it turns out I was right, finishing third overall with the fastest run in the race. Another solid result and milestone against my 2014 goal: race for overall amateur podiums.

The Swim: (00:29:18) Usually I come here and mope about how I could swim better. Hats off to Ironman for putting and AWA (All-World Athlete) wave out front of the amateur divisions, as the fastest amateurs in the race were able to actually race each other. Additionally, it was in the beautiful Lake Mead instead of the questionable, murky resort Lake Las Vegas. This meant clear water and pack swimming and I had a great time in light of my 70.3 history.

The Bike: (02:39:30) More the the bike took place in Lake Mead National Park with the swim venue change, which was awesome. It’s really beautiful to ride your bike in the red rocks and this lead to open roads and grooving rollers. Someone very fast cruised by me half way through, I’d later learn that he was an ex-professional cyclist named the Cuban Missile (link). Overall I rode well and set myself up for a strong run.

T2 It is worth noting that this was a very smooth transition for me. Races can be lost in the Ts, and I beat myself up when I do them poorly, so worth a nod!

The Run: (01:22:57) I ran like I knew I could on this course and put down the fastest run of the day including pros. I know this course really well from racing World’s here because it’s a 3-time loop. There are two things you need to know about it: it’s up, and then it’s down. Over, and over, and over again. It’s also totally exposed in the dessert sun, so hydration and effort management are key. Even though I finished as first amateur, turns out it wasn’t enough to get by the Cuban Missile and one other super biker who started out in the amateur waves.

Thanks – Our cousin Gina who has become my race headquarters in Vegas. My mom who has seen me race in Vegas twice now and has been a great supporter – it was returning to familiar ground for both of us! GU Energy for supporting my entry – happy to represent the GU Crew! M2 Revolution crew for being a great training community. Everyone who supports me in this crazy journey – thank you!

Race Report: ITU Standard World Championships (Edmonton, AB, CAN)

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The Summary:

After biking myself into position to make a run at top ten, I froze in transition two and clocked a transition time of 8:00+ minutes, effectively ending my day. I sucked up my pride and limped on numb feet to a respectable run for the USA on the front of the kit and my parents in the stands. I’m very grateful for the overall experience, results be damned.

Swim: 24:08. Still not good. I was able to find clean water but I just didn’t have the pop to hang with the front groups.

Bike: 59:56. A top 15 bike split set me up to do damage on the run. Cold temps, bouncing back from the swim and setting the tone for drafting competitors upped the pace.

Transition 2: 08:21. More than 6 minutes longer than the field average. I hit the racks and could not take off my helmet due to clawed hands, my abdomen cramped and swelled, and I could not put my feet into my shoes, ultimately breaking the lock-laces and running in loose shoes.

Run: 35:06. After nearly dropping out and knowing my day was over, I turned in the third fastest run time. National pride and the support of my parents got me across the line.

The Story:

Back in early March, I got an email from USAT:

Your high (USAT) score qualifies you to be considered for a Team USA slot at the 2014 ITU Short Course (Olympic) Triathlon World Championships on September 1, 2014 in Edmonton, Canada. If you would like to be considered, please reply to this email by Friday, March 14, 2014. By March 21 the list will be reviewed and the two athletes in each age group (per distance) with the highest overall rankings score will be awarded the slots.

Given my national division ranking was 14th, I figured I’d have a good shot at being selected, so I emailed. And as you’d guess, I was selected.

Thing is, the day I got the email, I was also happy to have run 1 mile at full body weight. So, I wasn’t quite sure what my health status would be for the season. But I figured it’d be a great event and the Olympic distance is short and fast.

As it would turn out, the season went quite well after I returned to health and I qualified for the Ironman 70.3 Worlds in Mont Tremblant in Quebec, which was to be six days after this ITU World Championship. So, stop one of World Championship Tour de Canada 2015:

Edmonton!

Pre-race: World Class Events

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Teams from all over the globe gathering for the parade of nations

I met my parents in the Edmonton airport and instantly noticed the worldly vibe, as folks in their country’s warm-ups packed baggage claim. This was the case throughout the city for our stay in Edmonton and it was really cool. The Japanese team stayed at our hotel, the British team stayed at the USA headquarters hotel and even going to dinner was like a mixer. The Parade of Nations was a really great experience which culminated at the town center complete with flyover and speeches.

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Jonny Brownlee leading the chase group

I was really excited to watch the men and women’s ITU Grand Finale the days prior. Seeing Olympic medalists put down absurdly fast times in the final race of the year was inspiring. I love that type of racing – swim to get in the group on the bike, tactical and fast group riding, blazing fast runs. It made me wish even more that this style of racing was more available to amateurs.

20140830_124238Edmonton was an alright town and they were great hosts. One of my favorite parts were the trails down along the river banks, which were great for running and casual riding. Still, by race day, I think we were all ready to stop living the downtown hotel life and hit the start line.

 

 

Race morning:

It was dark and downtown was still as my parents and I left the hotel. Athletes would take the light rail to the race start and on the platform, the UN of triathlon gathered. While I was comforted by being with my folks, I didn’t speak much as I sat quietly on the train, focused, listening to my music. I am not a fan of the craziness of race morning and listening to all of the Type A banter that fills the air. I was very at peace and ready to race, and Tycho fit the bill:

As we got to the transition there was a gate that had yet to open and folks piled in line. Think Disney World five minutes before it opened. This served the purpose of official check in and, as ITU does, official uniform inspection. It was when I got out of my sweats for the first time that I realized just how cold it was out. It couldn’t have been much more than 40 degrees.

After getting set up and changed into my wetsuite, I put sandals on so my feet wouldn’t touch the frigid ground. I stood in a “bullpen” of sorts with my wave, before being led out by bag pipe to start line.

Swim:

The platform lined the beach’s shore and all of the athletes lined the edge shoulder to shoulder – unlike other races where you could be the 15th guy back from the front. And like everything else in an ITU race, the start was very official with line judges who signify athlete readiness and, with no countdown, a gun sounded.

20x30-ETAY0251Everyone dove into water like the platform was a spring board. Though it was an aggressive start, it wasn’t nearly as intensely physical as Milwaukee, likely due to the controlled start. The water nice as they’d dredged the lake, lined the bottom and refilled/chlorinated the water.

I felt on pace with the group I should have been with for the first 500 meters. I then started to feel that I was falling back. The good news is I fell back and by 1K I was with the group I would finish to 1.5K with, did not fall back any further.

I got out of the water and was actually feeling pretty good, in control. I knew I was back but the energy of the race made it easy to get after it.

Transition 1:

It hadn’t gotten any warmer. I had just gotten out of the water, only to transition to my bike with nothing but shoes and a helmet. Because of ITU regulations, you cannot wear a piece of kit that is not approved by your federation. I had also learned that whatever you put on for the bike, had to stay on during the run.

Bike:

Off I went, knowing I was cold, but figuring I could pedal hard to overcome it. And pedal hard I did.

20x30-ETBB1023In the first five miles I was passing folks at a blazing speed and watts higher than I would consider sane. I could feel myself shivering at times however and I also wanted to clear some of the traffic.

Either It began to work or I began to go number, because by ten miles I was shivering less and racing more. By now there were a cast of guys from different countries that were pushing each other – namely Great Britain, Canada, Australia and Brazil. The bike course was deceivingly hilly and I really forced the issue on the hills, which seemed to work.

I finished the first loop feeling strong and headed out to lap 2, which was the “Brazilian Lap.” For much of lap 2, a Brazilian guy that I was playing a bit of cat and mouse with decided he was just going to sit on my wheel and draft illegally. I’d seen him doing this to someone during lap 1 and it frustrated me then. So when I’d pass him after he’d surge by and sit and chill in front of me and he’d suck onto my wheel. I was definitely pissed. A Canadian guy even rode up to me after one of his faux-passes and said, “Just burry that dude, he’s been riding your ass all day.”

So that’s what I did, I passed hard and as I did I slapped my right butt cheek and said, “Let’s go.” He was good for one catch and pass but I spent the last 3 miles with him comfortably behind me after my final pass.

Transition 2:

20x30-ETBB0295As my bare feet hit the cold wet grass in T2, I noticed how numb they were with each step I took. It became evident when I got to my rack and I couldn’t use my clawed hands to get my helmet off, that I may be in trouble.

Finally I used my teeth to get it off. That’s when I noticed my abdomen was swollen outward and I started cramping massively. I gave out a yell and pressed my stomach in to counteract the cramp. I don’t know if it stopped before I ignored it to put my shoes on, proved impossible.

Both my hands and my feet were completely frozen. I literally could not put my foot in my shoes. Volunteers suggested I run back and forth, which did not work. I tried to run out of transition with my shoes in my hands, but the officials stopped me. Finally, I broke the lock-laces that held my shoes together, opened the shoes as wide as they could go and put my feet in. This took six minutes. I knew my race was over.

Self convincing:

20x30-ETAT1790It was heartbreaking to realize my race was over before it even really started. As a runner, I make my race on the third leg. As I struggled in transition, I watched all of the guys I’d worked so hard to pass on the bike come in, get their shoes and leave. In a sub two hour race, 6 minutes is a damning eternity.

As I ran out of the long transition and past the grandstand, where my parents sat, my teeth were chattering and I could barely stay upright on feet that felt like stumps. In any other Olympic distance race, I’d have dropped, no questions asked.. The risk would not have been worth the reward, and the subpar result would not have been what I came to do.

But I knew I was racing for something greater. I was there to represent team USA and I knew that meant I had to fight and finish. I also knew my parents would be proud to see me cross that finish line no matter where I finished. And finally, I knew I wanted it – the whole experience was fantastic and I wanted it to feel complete.

So I gave it a half a mile. If after half a mile I was still limping along and my teeth were still chattering, I’d quit, because at that point, it probably wasn’t safe. And like magic, just before the half mile mark, my stride started to become fluid and the chattering subsided. Now it was time to run as fast as I could.

The Run:

20x30-ETAT1795Shortly after regaining feeling in my feet, we hit a trail. This was perfect for me to get a rhythm without such unforgiving impact. I passed quite a few people and was as strong as I could be for 10K. The course was a bit stoic, as athletes all ran seriously and swiftly, spectators were few and far between, and race music was non-existent. All business in Edmonton.

I ran with such purpose, disregarding splits and focused on “as hard as you can.” My second lap went better than my first and on the final stretch, which was up a grade, I was doing serious work passing everyone I could. I kicked as strongly as I could down the iconic blue ITU carpet, passing guys until the last step.

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Final note:

Although the race didn’t go as planned, I was so thankful for the opportunity to do this race. It will be in Chicago next year and I’m definitely doing it again. It’s a unique experience for athletes and I’m happy to have raced. I was also stoked on the support from my folks and that they are happy to see me race regardless of how well I do.

Next stop was Bamf in the Canadian Rockies for a few days of R&R before I flew cross country to Mont-Tremblant, Ontario for the Ironman 70.3 World Series. Onward, Canadian adventure!