Race Report: Ironman 70.3 Santa Rosa (DNF)

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I charged my battery, but that’s none of my business

Can you write a race report if you only get 27% of the way through the bike before pulling out? Maybe this is more of a race blurb. Or perhaps I could write a sonnet. Well, whatever  this is, it’s pretty short and sweet, but plans moving forward are at the end so read along to get the latest!

This past Saturday morning, circa 7:03am, I knew I was in trouble. I’d just completed the swim in the cold, but way more bearable than expected, Lake Sonoma and run up the crazy steep, even longer than expected, transition to my bike.

I’d taken measures against the 45 degree air by putting a long sleeve jersey over my wet body.

I took my first few pedal strokes and my legs felt ready to roll, not to be taken for granted after a swim.

And then, after the small hill out of transition, I clicked my electronic shifter to shift over to “big ring.*” Nothing.

I clicked again and again and the bike wouldn’t shift. I, of course, charged the bike before the race, so I was shocked at the first sign of a low battery, a dead front derailleur. Especially after working with mechanics to diagnose and fix battery draining components weeks prior.

This was the internal thought process that led up to the decision to drop, for this blog post narrated by Morgan Freeman:

0.25mi: “Ok, the next two miles are down hill. Tuck, bomb, get to the bottom and get off the bike to change it with your hands.”

2.25mi: “I don’t think you can change electronic derailleur with your hands.”

2.26mi: (click, click) “Ok, time to spin your legs as fast as you can to keep tension and salvage a bike split and deliver yourself to the run.”

4mi: (going up hill) “Not so bad, maybe this is possible!”

5mi: (going down hill) “Crap. Most of this course is downhill or flat.”

15mi: “Yeah, spinning like a maniac and watching the race pass you is kind of dumb. At this rate I’ll be done about 30min slower than expected. Last option, does this aid station have mechanical support? No? Time to pull the plug.”

And with that pun, I rolled with my teammate Brad KS who’d dropped with a chest cold, to the next town where a gracious family of spectators gave us a ride back to Santa Rosa.

I’ve learned a couple of reasons why my battery could have drained in 36 hours. I’ve put them at the bottom of this post.

While it’s a major bummer that when I was fit and ready, I wasn’t able to race this big local race against such a talented field and my teammates, I realize things happen and like the cramping at Oceanside a month prior, it’s all part  of racing. It was great to cheer so many teammates onto podium performances.

But since we’ve had a tough start to the season with duds at the first two races, I’ve made the decision to race Chattanooga this Sunday, May 21. We’ll have a lot of guys there, it’s the site of 2017 Worlds and it’s a chance to put this fitness to work. Hopefully I’ll be smiled upon by the racing gods for good race luck.

Thanks to everyone for the kind messages, sponsors for the support, Dani for being in my corner and all my teammates for the inspirational finishes to light that fire.

 

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Podium studs enjoying some suds

*******

 

Reasons Di2 electronic could have lost charge:

  • How the bike was stored in the back seat of the car
  • Break cabling work week before race could have knocked something loose
  • Cold temperatures over night
  • In transition, something pressed or if the bike was knocked over ttriggering  the system response to freeze the gearing

Race Recap: Ironman 70.3 World Championship

 

Thanks for the pic, Dana!

    
Backdrop

It was eleven months ago that I sat in the only shade I could find in a Henderson, Nevada parking lot, behind the stage where I would eventually claim my award for winning my division at Ironman 70.3 Silverman. It was really hot and it was sunny – shocking – and the grill that was making the post race barbecue seemed to find the only wind in Henderson as it plumed it’s warm meaty exhaust in our faces. 

Why were my mom and I sitting here instead of heading back to Vegas to spend time with my cousins? Because for one reason or another this is what people at triathlons do. But also because I had one of my best races to date, finishing 9th overall including pros and I was awaiting the opportunity to claim my slot to race the world’s best in Zell Am See, Austria the following year. Weeks earlier I’d just raced 2014 Worlds in Mont Tremblant, Quebec and I said that was enough travel for me and that I’d skip Austria. Amazing how a convincing performance can change your perspective. 

Almost a full year later, I stood again in the exposed sun, this time at the water’s edge in Zell Am See about to start the race. A lot had happened in eleven months, and though I knew that injuries prevented me from reaching the start line in the type of shape I envisioned in Henderson last October, I had fully embraced the journey and was ready to rock. 

Besides, this was the World Championship, where everyone has a story and the race waits for no one. 

The Course

A quick word about the course: it was astoundingly beautiful. If you have two and a half minutes to spare, I highly recommend watching this awesome race preview video.   

   

  

  

 The Swim – 1.2mi (29:37)

This swim was set up perfectly for me. Lake, not ocean: check. Comfortable, but still wetsuite legal temperature: check. Simple course layout: check. 

The cannon went off and the washing machine started. Championship races are always intense because everyone is good and no one wants to give up ground. I stayed calm, took the kicks to the face and began to swim my race. Sighting was a breeze with buouys every 100m and I built the effort to the turn around, where I found myself ahead of the group that I was swimming with after a few nifty buouy moves I learned at a Boost swimming camp in Tahoe. 

At first I was alone because of said nifty moves. But then I realized there was a little current pushing me away from the buouys, so I fixed my sighting and latched back on. The current seemed to make the last 400m take much longer than I hoped. The end result was a fairly well executed line, with a bit of trailing off for a pedestrian swim by my standards.

The Bike – 56mi (2:30:50 – incl. time penalty)

Transition was very long, but extremely efficient and well layed out. I passed about ten guys on the run with our bikes. After riding the course a handful of times before the race, I knew the first mile through the neighborhoods was where I needed to get my shoes on and focus on drinking. 

After making it through the narrow country road intact, I went to work through Brück and was feeling good early. Then we hit highway 311, and the draft party started. Not unlike Vegas or Mont Tremblant in years prior, the displays of drafting were shameless. All I could do is make sure I was the right distance from the train. Then a referee rolled by. I took a mental note that no penalties were given. Interesting. Still, I put down 650 watts to pass the whole train and free myself of the worry. 

As I hit the bottom of THE climb that defines the bike course (see elevation chart above), I saw David Wild from the Oakland Tri Club. “Lotta cheaters out here today,” I said to him, with which he agreed. About five minutes after that exchange, the train rolled up and before I knew it, we were riding the climb together. This is not uncommon for climbs in a race. It’s really tough to keep distance at such low speeds and the reality is no one is going to benefit on a hill like we were climbing anyways. 

A different referee rolled up this time and I took that as my cue to again pass the whole lot of them. However this time when I swung out to pass she said, “You did not let enough time pass after being overtaken, Blue card.”

Did that just happen? Was I just given a drafting penalty for finding myself in a group and trying to get out of it to avoid a drafting penalty? 

I knew pleading my case was useless, so after biting my bottom lip (hard) and accepting reality, I put my head down and rode like a bat out of hell. I passed guys like they were going backwards. And when I hit the top, I attacked the insanely steep and techinical downhill – where one descends 1,000ft in 2 miles. And when I hit the flats after that, I kept the speed up. I cornered the turns that I’d stuided and crested rollers with purpose. I knew the only chance I had at a result even close to decent was to ride hard and hope I’d run enough miles to survive a decent run. 

As we re-entered Zell Am See at mile 35, the crowds were amazing. I had the less exciting reception of big, bright yellow tent where I would dismount my bike, report my blue card and sit for five minutes. The timeout box for triathletes. I tried to stretch, eat and drink to keep my mind off the stark reality that all the work that I’d done was dissipating, but as entire pelotons of 20+ riders rolled by drafting at 30mph, frankly, I was steamed.

The ladies counted down and I hopped on my bike and slammed away. It was truly a mental battle to stay focused and not think about how one person and their questionable call had turned my race on its head. Further more, once I hit highway 168 I was right back in the drafting madness after working so hard to get out of it, so finding a rhythm was impossible. It was at that moment where I reminded myself that no one could control how this race ended but me. Every time I thought of anything but my effort, I immediately reminded myself of this. My objective for the last ten miles was to ride as consistently as I could, without getting another drafting penalty, and finally get off this bike and onto the run. 

The run – 13.1mi (1:27:51)

I hit the long transition and sprinted out to the run course. I realized imediately I was screwed. I felt slow right off the bat. I turned in a 6:26, 32 seconds slower than my first mile at Muncie.  

I’ll be honest, for a second I wanted to quit. My mind was still reeling from the penalty, I was slow, everything hurt and I was light headed. But I remembered why I was doing this. Because it was fun and I wanted to be there. And I remembered that my grandma works so hard to rehab her leg just so she can get her daily walks in. And just…sh*t’s tough, man. It’s only 12 miles. Just freakin do it. 

After the pep talk, I committed to the run even though it was not going to be to my standards. The first thing I had to do was get fluids. I simply did not put enough in my body during the bike. I was too focused after the penalty on riding as fast as possible and avoiding drafting that I did not take in enough fluids or calories during the bike leg to set up a good run. So at the first aid station, I stopped fully and scarfed a buffet of Coke and Powerade as I poured multiple glasses of water over my head. 

I went through the raucous crowds in the cobblestones of Zell Am See like a zombie. It was truly a struggle through 10K as I struggled to stay within a whole minute of my goal pace. And then, all of the Coke, ice and water seemed to rejuvinate me a bit and I could again run with purpose. By the time I hit downtown Zell Am See again, I was a different person. On the second loop, I was passing many of the guys who I watched zoom by from the penalty tent. And that felt great. 

In the last two miles I was moving faster than I had all day and as I passed the final guy from my division I would get before the finish line, I blew through the aid station so as not to waste a single moment. I was in so much pain, but all I could do was smile for the last half a mile.

The crowd’s energy on the cobblestone roads was amazing. The day had been a sufferfest. We were in the freakin’ Alps racing triathlon! And I didn’t let a crap hand dealt to me ruin the day. I ran my fastest mile of the day and crossed the roaring finish line with something between a smile and a grimmace from ear to ear. 

Result – 70.3mi (4:36:57, 224th Overall, 42nd Age Group, 6th American Amateur)

Between the hysteria of the finish line and the line for alcohol free beer for recovery (only in Europe!), I peeled off into an old wood and stone doorway and put my head against the door. I didn’t know if I was going to pass out, or cry, or barf, or all three at the same time, but all I knew was that I hurt. Everywhere.

I definitely gave everything to this race. This was my “A” race for the year. I got there early, trained on the course, the works. And I loved every minute of it; I’d take none of it back. Two weeks prior I was literally bleeding on the side of the road. I felt fortunate to start, fortunate to finish and like I gave myself the best chance to succeed and even though the race took a turn for the unforeseen. I loved the journey, learned a lot, including that I can ride really hard in a race, probably even without a blue card (not that I’ve ever heard from teammate or coaches before…).  

What’s next?

– Sep 19: ITU World Championship (Olymic) – Chicago

Another World Championship race! I’ll be racing for Team USA in Chicago at the Worlds for the Olympic distance triathlon, which is shorter, fast and furious at (hopefully) less than two hours.

– Oct 4: Ironman 70.3 Silverman – Las Vegas/Henderson

We come full circle. Back to the course in Henderson, Nevada where this whole journey started. I’ll be happy to toe the line at this hot, hilly, desert course and see where this season wraps up!

Thanks

A HUGE thanks to everyone that supported me during my go at Austria. It really means a lot and was a huge motivator for me to finish strong. Thanks to Team Every Man Jack. The support from the team was great and it was a pleasure racing with the guys in Zell. All of the sponsors, which you can see on the Mike Likes tab. A particularly large shoutout to Sports Basement and Felt, who turned around my wrecked bike in 48 hours! And a final, special shoutout to Meredith Kessler, for being there every step of the way from side of the road bloodied to start line. 

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for updates! 

 

Red carpet treatment for athletes at Worlds

  

Heading out on the bike course on my Felt IA3 and Rudy Project Wing 57. These plus shaved legs would make anyone fast.

 
 

I know, man

 
 

America needs to get on the beer post race thing

 

Nutella or cinnamon? How about both? K.

  

Race Report: Ironman 70.3 Muncie

muncie finish chute

The Summary:

Ironman 70.3 Muncie was just the appetizer to an action packed weekend back in the Midwest. Almost immediately after crossing the finish line soaking wet, I was in my car b-lining for Cincinnati to celebrate my good friends Jillian and Dan getting married before turning around for a family reunion in Columbus twelve hours later. But unlike most appetizers, it was not small, expensive (thanks, GU!) and didn’t leave me wanting more. Nope, this was a very solid race for me that ended in a 3rd Overall finish driven by a my fastest ever bike split (by far) and a solid run.  Ok, so I kind of wouldn’t have minded more, 40 seconds behind 2nd, but 3rd OA was another exciting notch up the performance ladder! It went something like this…

The Swim – 1.2mi: (00:31:41) After a great warmup in what was essentially a lap pool off the lake’s shore, I began the swim loose and in control. Unlike most of my swims, this feeling never went away. I stayed on pace with a group of my wave and sighted like a champ after tons of practice each week with the purplepatch group. My visibility was incredible in the Roka F2 goggles with amber lenses as the green of the treeline and orange/yellow buoys really popped.  While this swim wasn’t my best time (and the course may have been long as times were up), I was on the perfect line, swam confidently and even surged past some guys as they wore out. I got to my bike feeling fresh, a huge mile stone for me!

The Bike – 56mi: (02:13:23) This is hands down my best bike split I’ve had in a half iron bike. In fact, I even bested my 40km time! After riding without power at St. George, I decided I was going to do this again and just ride hard and respond to the race. The night before I texted with Ritch Viola and he said something that stuck with me, “ride hard, but not breathless.” I thought I was doing this during the first 15 or so miles of the bike but once I saw Greg Grosicki of my team coming the other way and Eric Hawley of Indiana continuing to put time into me, I knew I had to take the effort up even another notch. I rode like it was an Olympic distance for the rest of the race and holy smokes did the Felt IA and Enve wheels respond – SOOO FAST. I train and race with GU Brew, a light hydration mix – never Gatorade, which was on the course. However knowing that the day was only going to keep getting hotter and the humidity would assuredly cause cramping if I wasn’t careful, I went through my GU bottles immediately and moved onto bottles and bottles of the sugary stuff. But with the hard effort and this foreign sugary liquid in my stomach, my gut wasn’t happy and kept…sending Gatorade back up and out. Gross! I know, but I tried to pay attention to it, while ignoring it, if that makes sense – be aware of the body to ensure it’s ready to go for the run, don’t freak out that you kinda keep puking.

The Run – 13.1mi: (01:19:42) Since I’ve never ridden that hard on the bike during a 70.3 and my legs felt a little crampy at times before forcing more Gatorade down the hatch, I wasn’t sure how this run was going to go. This course was actually very rolling and felt similar to Vineman with sustained, pesky grades. But I laced up my trusty Saucony Fastwitch 6s and found my stride quickly to run a focused first mile in 5:54. The next couple of miles slipped a bit as I felt my way through the open, rolling terrain. I took advantage of aid at every mile, keeping the core cool and beverages flowing. I started counting time to the guys ahead of me on the out and back, knowing that in my cases I could make up the time. But when I saw Hawley running the other way, I knew he was going to have to blow up in order for me to catch him – he was running well. I turned on the gas. When it was getting tough on the stubborn inclines, I’d put myself mentally in the Valley of Doom and just pretend that I was doing another repeat. It really worked and the training gave me familiarity and confidence to run strong. I started my final kick with about half a mile left and boy was I suffering. It’s a beautiful thing what the body can do when it only has to endure another couple of minutes – I was officially in zombie mode. I crossed the finish line with an embarrassingly loud grunt, before seeking out my parents and friend since age six, Nate who were there supporting the whole time.

Result – 70.3mi (04:09:42): Overall – 3rd, Division – 2nd

Thanks – First and foremost to my parents. Not only for always being so supportive, but for being there every step of the way on race weekend, including my Houdini escape to the wedding – couldn’t have done it without you! Nate for waking up at four-something o’clock and schlepping all the way from Columbus to the middle of Indiana to watch me run around for a combined 23 seconds. To my Uncle John who did the same from only a slightly less far drive via Noblesville. Greg Grosicki for having me the day before the race at his place for home base as he showed me the bike course and hooked me up with his bike mechanic, Mike, at Greenway 500 – thank you! Mark Graham for just being a great teammate, even when I only saw you for a few minutes; and to you and Jessica for the great pictures!  The rest of my Team Everyman Jack teammates for always inspiring me – whether it was texts or just knowing what results were going to be clocked the next day at Vineman, I was jacked up (bad puns). And of course, to all of our sponsors – see the Mike Like’s page to see the amazing brands/products that I used to get me to, through and recovered from the race!

Here are some closing photos. Thanks for the support and keep on keepin on, all!

My biggest fans

My biggest fans

Felt IA and Enve 8.9s.  Ridiculously fast!

Felt IA and Enve 8.9s. Ridiculously fast!

This dude drove for 2 hours at 5 am to watch me run around in Indiana!

This dude drove for 2 hours at 5 am to watch me run around in Indiana!

Uncle John woulda have done the bike if I asked him to

Uncle John woulda have done the bike if I asked him to

Fast forward a couple of hours... #cleanupnice

Fast forward a couple hours #cleanupnice

Family reunions are a great time to recreate old pictures. Until you're the one holding the baby.

Family reunions are a great time to recreate old pictures. Until you’re the one holding the baby.

Homemade baked ziti. All of it, please. Italian reunions ftw!

Homemade baked ziti. All of it, please. Italian reunions ftw!

Solid performances don't stop at the finish line - Nick and I took the Guacci Family Cornhole Title

Solid performances don’t stop at the finish line – Nick and I took the Guacci Family Cornhole Title

When you bruise your ribs dunking on an inflatable hoop. Kinda worth it!

When you bruise your ribs dunking on an inflatable hoop…