Race Recap: Ironman 70.3 California (aka Oceanside aka Cramp City)

They don’t call it Oceanside for nothin. Thanks, Jen, for the photo!

I do well with consistency. I’m not sure if it’s nature or nurture, but let’s just say you can’t wake up at 4:30 for workouts without it. So in the spirit of that consistency that athletes hold so dear, I had a melt down in my first Ironman 70.3 of 2017, just like last year (though that was more of a freeze out).

Yes, Oceanside 70.3 didn’t go as planned. That might be putting it lightly. I was laying in someone’s front lawn putting ice down my pants at mile three of the run. It was a mess. But unlike last year’s bout with hypothermia, I was able to grit and bare my way to a finish. I even ran a few miles with Andy Potts! Keep reading to find out how I went from front lawn to finish line.

(Here’s my Instagram – press follow to see more pics of me doing exercise)

First thing’s first…

Let’s get something out of the way: I was not having the race of my life only to be foiled by cramps on the run. Even though it was the new rolling swim start*, I swam the same (slow) 31min I’ve swam for the last two years. The first half of the bike felt great! The second half I could not attack on the climbs as I would/can/planned.

Consequently I got off my bike further behind the competition and really needed a stellar run to salvage a result. Instead of panicking, that’s exactly what I planned to do.

 

Some of these splits are not like the others…zapped by massive leg cramps.

 

Cramps…what’s the big deal anyway?

A fun fact about me is that I’ve never cramped in a race before. I mean, I’ve “been crampy” before, pressing my stomach up into my ribs while running to get rid of side stitches. But I’m not sure I ever understood how cramps could be so debilitating.

Oh, I get it now…

After feeling my way through the first two miles I started to turn up the intensity, only to feel my lower back tighten. I stopped at the aid station just before mile 3 to loosen it up and both abductors (inner thighs) went off like car alarms, sending me to the ground.

The volunteers at aid station 3 were great, bringing me bananas, pretzels, oranges, water and Gatorade (which I politely declined**). They brought ice, which I put down my pants and on my core. I rubbed the cramps, I stretched, I prayed. I did it all.

If you’ll recall, I didn’t have a second to spare on this run, so as this continued, I realized my race goals were donezo and for a second I thought about quitting. But that second came and went, and my new goal was to finish. Not for a podium spot, but for the volunteers who were rushing around to help me, the spectators who cheered when I stood up, for the team name EVERY MAN JACK plastered all over me, and finally for me – to leave the race stronger, wiser, and sure that I’m not a pansy.

Getting up, falling, and getting up again

As I shuffled away from the aid station thinking about how much ten miles was “gonna suuuuck,” Andy Potts came running by on his way to the finish. Of course the natural thought for anyone who just writhing on the ground would be to run with an Olympian and Ironman Champion, so that’s what I did. I could tell Andy was perhaps having an off day, so in a way we were helping each other out; it’s amazing how much better you can feel being pushed by someone vs. suffering solo, something visible in mile splits 4 and 5 above.

As Andy peeled off to finish, I turned up the hill for lap two and had there not been a railing lining the course, this would have been me:

Image result for faking dead punt gif

The abductors blew out for good this time and I came to a halt, grabbing the railing, and inching forward. A spectator told me I needed to walk or it would get worse, so that’s what I did. Then I began to jog. Then run. The objective for the rest of the run was to run just beneath the point of “cramp explosion,” which I was able to do while slightly building mile by mile.

As I crossed the finish, turned to give the crowd an applause; they spent their free Saturday morning standing in the sun willing a crampy gimp to the finish. Respect.

So what was it that caused the cramps?

I really wish I knew. As athletes we love to point to that “one thing” and say, “Aha! I will fix that and move forward!” But the reality is that I have a handful of theories ranging from fitness, to equipment, to health, to nutrition that I will discuss with my coach, Matt Dixon and the purplepatch crew. Having a coach and/or trusted, knowledgeable sounding board is really important to learn from situations like this and I’m fortunate to be surrounded by smart folks to get it fixed before Santa Rosa.

Thank you

Thanks to all my friends and family, teammates and sponsors who showed their support! It goes an especially long way on days like this. See you at Santa Rosa!

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* Ironman installed a new “rolling start” to the swim, which was a self seeded time trial start. This was great for the faster athletes to get out in the front of the race and while I wasn’t able to capitalize on it in the water, made the rest of the race much more enjoyable. I hope they adopt this moving forward!

** I cannot drink Gatorade, or other sport drinks, especially during intense efforts. I’ve thrown up while cycling and running after drinking it (Muncie), my stomach just can’t handle all of the sugar and food dyes. Sometimes it makes sense not to make a bad situation worse.

Race Report: ITU Standard World Championship (Chicago, IL)

Playing Captain America for a day in the Windy City

Playing Captain America for a day in the Windy City (Felt IA, Enve 8.9s, Rudy Project Wing 57, Louis Garneau shoes, GU Brew onboard)

Background

“Wait didn’t you race in the World Championship a few weeks ago? And wasn’t it in Austria?”

The majority people don’t spend most of their weekends in spandex talking about aerodynamics, so I got this question a lot before leaving for Chicago. The answer: Yes. But I also raced in the ITU Standard Triathlon World Championship this past weekend in Chicago. So read along to see how it went and check out the pictures at the end.

For starters, here is how the two Championship races are different:

The pain face is the same regardless of the race

The pain face is the same regardless of the race

The ITU Grand Final weekend has an “Olympic” feel to it. In part because there are, in fact, athletes vying for Olympic spots. But the whole city is abuzz with folks from different places and team sweats qualify as legitimate evening wear. Additionally, the type of racing is very different from Ironman racing. If Ironman and 70.3 racing is about grinding it out, Olympic style racing is redlining for two hours thinking about nothing except the word, “GO!”

The Setup

Like Austria, the race started at a civil 10:45 a.m. I could get used to this! I traveled with my close bud Vince D’Onofrio and come race morning, we were amped and ready for one of our epic throwdowns in what has been a back-and-forth history racing against one another. My parents were in town for the race as well, which makes consecutive ITU Worlds cheering on the Stars and Stripes! Sadly, I picked up the cold that was going around SF a few days before the race, so I pumped myself full of caffeine, Ibuprofen and electrolytes and reminded myself that I only had to feel like sh!t for 2 hours.

Lots of loops, lots of speed on this fast, flat course

Lots of loops, lots of speed on this fast, flat course

The Swim – 0.9mi (00:24:37)

This swim went almost exactly the way that each fast and furious Olympic distance swim has gone for me:

  • In the cold waters looking at the Chicago skyline, pumping myself up before the gun
  • Gun goes off, and I commit to swimming hard to stay with the pack
  • Settle into rhythm, find myself falling off main group into second group
  • Half way through, second group looking thinner…
  • Begin hating my lack of swim skills and asking myself why I do Olympic races
  • Have a HTFU moment, fight the chop of Lake Michigan alone and bring it in for a strong bike and run

One day I’ll write a different race report, but with the setbacks I’ve had this year, I don’t believe that will be in 2015. I didn’t give it a second thought and focused on sprinting the quarter-mile to my bike.

The Bike – 24.9mi (00:55:17)

 The crowds were great and as I got on my bike I immediately went to business in the midst of USA chants. Per usual, the legs were a little heavy to start, but I pushed as damn hard as I could until they woke up. The course was crazy as two-thirds of it was in a tunnel. So while that was very fast (sadly not fast enough as discs were not allowed allowed at the last-minute, preventing me from putting my aero jacket back on), it was actually a bit sketchy because bumps and holes in the road were tough to see in the dark on the windy road.

Vince had swum almost two minutes into me, and I used him as my benchmark on the out and back. On the second loop, I had put no time into him – crap, he was riding hard! I kicked it into my highest gear and passed EMJ teammate Kyle Fox as he yelled at me to go get ’em. I knew Kyle was a strong rider, and that this meant he was coming with me. I went through the many turns like a crit racer and brought it home.

The run – 6.7mi (00:36:21 – 10K route was 1/2mi long)

Not having caught Vince on the bike, I knew I was in trouble and had to run hard. Though I thought I was transitioning well, Kyle ran by me and put about ten seconds into me as we headed out. Like the other two legs of this race, the only thought in your head is “go as hard as you can.”

Unfortunately for me, my hardest on Saturday was good, but not great, compared to runs I’ve done in the past. I knew this meant keeping a steady, controlled burn instead of going through matches with gutsy moves. In addition to going back and forth with Kyle, I saw teammate Sean Cooley and his girlfriend Hanna cheering at the perfect spot to keep me pumped up.

I looked down at my watch and saw 6.2mi (10K), but knew we had a good deal of running left. This course was officially marked long! But I used it to my advantage and turned up the heat passing a bunch of folks on the way in.

As I circled around Buckingham Fountain (which was pretty rad, by the way), I was going deep for sure, as my “pain face” finisher photos confirm. I was up on the toes, going down the blue carpet, knowing my parents were in the stands and that I’d done the best I could. All you can ever ask for!

Result – 2:01:56; Division 20th OA, 8th American

Closing Thoughts

At the end of the day, this is a really fun way to race on one of triathlon’s biggest stages while representing your country. I’m honored to have been there again and so fortunate to have had my folks and buddies there to share this (and the deep dish pizza) with. For the record, Vince took this round by 48sec – the saga continues!

Thanks

Thanks as always to my friends and family for supporting – to those of you who send kind notes, to the ones who help me pack my bike up before I leave, I’m so very grateful! To the Team USA staff who did an awesome job organizing the team, information and accommodations like mechanics, masseuses, chiropractors, etc. Thanks to the Team Every Man Jack guys at the race and sending support over the interwebs, and all of the sponsors that legitimately make me go faster – special shout out to ROKA Sports who hooked me up with an insane Maverick Pro wetsuit as mine was full of holes!

Next Up

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

Final race of the year in less than two weeks and I can’t wait to get back to Henderson and throw down!

Pictures

T-minus 15 minutes, time to suit up!

T-minus 15 minutes, time to suit up!

Imagine how slow it would have been without the Roka...

Imagine how slow it would have been without the Roka…

Oh hey, Sears Tower

Oh hey, Sears Tower

If skinny dudes in onesies were allowed on Baywatch...

If skinny dudes in onesies were allowed on Baywatch…

Scrambling for spots...!

Scrambling for spots…!

On the toes, pain face intact...the blue carpet is always a welcome sight

On the toes in my trusty Saucony Type A5s, pain face intact…the blue carpet is always a welcome sight

Not a bad place to finish a race

Not a bad place to finish a race

The crew watching the pros go at it. Incredible race to watch!

The crew watching the pros go at it. Incredible race to watch!

If you didn't finish your day with Chicago deep dish, you were doing it wrong

If you didn’t finish your day with Chicago deep dish, you were doing it wrong

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.