Race Report: Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga

Chatt swim exit

All smiles as I exit the swim one minute back from the leaders, a first and the setup for a brand new style of racing for me: the hunter becomes the hunted.

It’s easy to look back at a race that was lost by 1min 5sec and find that time across the four disciplines of triathlon (swim, bike, run and, of course, transitions):

If I had broken away from the group a little earlier on the bike…

if I’d acted with a little more purpose in transition…

if I didn’t make that rookie mistake of trying a new supplement run…

…perhaps I could have lifted the tape at Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga.

But, after vomiting and peeing my pants (you’re welcome), each whilst continuing to run, one thing I knew as I exhaled at the finish is there was no lack of will to go for the win. And after crumbling at Oceanside and a mechanical at Santa Rosa, I’m so happy about getting a chance to race as well as I could and even have the opportunities to make, and learn from, those small mistakes in a third place performance.

At mile 2 of the run, I found myself in the lead of the amateur race, with nothing to do to play to my strength and try to hold, and hopefully extend, my lead. The hunter had become the hunted and the feeling was totally foreign. My racing career has been spent turning myself inside out to chase down stronger swimmers. The swim in Chattanooga was shortened from 1.2mi to 0.8mi due to storms the night before and I came out within a minute of the front group, in the thick of things immediately.

After settling in for a 56mi bike ride, at mile 10 I grew frustrated with some of the gamesmanship happening in the group I was riding with. I decided to put my head down for five minutes and ride all out, which worked and I was in the clear to make my way throughout the rest of the field by riding hard and trying to stay as aero as possible, something I’d worked on lately.

And as I cruised into transition, I got a position update from teammate and race Sherpa for the day, Jordan Bailey: third, behind teammate Reid Foster and another athlete. Reid is such a strong biker so when I saw him at his rack upon racking my bike I was stoked that I had ridden well.

I gulped a Red Bull and charged out the gate for the half marathon, admittedly a little stiff from riding hard. Shortly after mile 2, I found myself alone in the lead.

Crickets.

No spectators on the back part of the course, no other athletes around. I made the call to hold the lead instead of going gang busters. Little did I know, there would be no busting of gangs, even later when I needed to.

In probably my worst decision of the day, and certainly out of fear of an Oceanside crampfest repeat, at mile five after the first twitch of my left quad, I decided to take a Hot Shot, something I’d never drank before, but known for stopping cramping before it begins. Within thirty seconds, I felt an overwhelming heat come over me and my body slowed beyond my control as I began to wretch. My body totally rejected the supplement, made with natural ingredients like lemon juice and cayenne. This isn’t a knock on Hot Shot, and I usually can eat or drink anything and continue, but I definitely shouldn’t have tried something new on race day. At least the two guys in the parking lot who saw a guy running and vomiting have an awesome story now…

Bouncing back from that over the next mile was really a struggle, especially up a steep hill. My thoughts passed through fear, doubt and uncertainty, but ultimately I was able to pull myself together, regain focus and begin running a somewhat respectable pace again.

There are several U-turns on the course that allow you to see how far behind competitors are. The first lap ended and while I was still in a decent lead, realizing my run goal time was out the window, my objective was to run well enough to win. That became a challenge at the U-turn before mile nine when I saw teammate Kevin Denny inexplicably had closed the gap by about a minute.

In an instant, the race changed. I began to run harder but it wasn’t long until he caught and passed me. I tried to hop on, focusing my gaze between his shoulder blades and hold the pace but it just wasn’t there on Sunday. He clocked a 1:16 and I did everything I could to hold onto a 1:19 for the win, ultimately finishing with a less 1:20, less than a minute behind Kevin overall. I gave KD a big hug at the finish line, congratulating him on a well executed race and the victory, before finding out someone who’d started later beat him by 8 seconds, shifting Kevin to 2nd and me to third (there seems to be no easy way to race head to head in amateur triathlon other than a mass start).

What can I say? The decision to fly out to Chattanooga after pulling out of Santa Rosa was a success. While I’d loved to have won, I believe a winning performance was in there somewhere had I executed better and that’s really encouraging. What’s more, fifteen guys on Team Every Man Jack from across the country got to spend time training, racing, and eating (a lot) together. And finally, I can’t say enough about Chattanooga as a venue. The bike course is one of the best I’ve raced, Ironman Village is settled nicely along the river, and the run is super honest. I think it’s going to be a really phenomenal World’s venue in September.

Thanks to the inner circle who emphasized flying to all the way to Tennessee last minute to race was a good idea, to sponsors for the gear to get me to and through the race, teammates for pushing each other to the edge and friends and family for the kind words.

I’ll leave you with six “things I learned” and, as always, one #badracepic.

  • Maybe it was because we swam 1400 yards downstream, but I had my most competitive swim to date. I identified  swimmers I knew were a few seconds faster than me in the pool, got behind them in line and hung onto their draft like my race depended on it.
  • I spent too much time trying to ride legally in a group that was not ultimately the group I’d ride in with. While it only took until mile 10 to make the call to break away, there was too much sitting up and soft pedalling amongst lead changes. Had I put my head down for five minutes on the lightening fast Felt IA earlier, I’d have had a bigger cushion on the run.
  • I had a lot of stuff in my run transition that I intended to carry out on my person: Boco visor, Oakley sunglasses, Fitbit Surge watch, Red Bull, Hot Shot. I left the visor on the cloudy day, but it just wasn’t set up in a way that made it easy to move quickly. I’ll assess how I can make it happen more seamlessly next time.
  • My tight hammies at the beginning of the run could be par for the course for riding that hard, could also be a position change that needs tweaked. I’ll consult with Paul Buick of purplepatch Fitness, who did an incredible job with my bike fit.
  • I’ll make this one short: don’t take any supplement I haven’t tried before on race day again.
  • Funny enough, I thought I’d run a 1:16 myself on Sunday. Lack of top end speed on the run could have been a product of a harder bike, of my episode in the bullet above, or more likely just not being topped off enough in hydration and fueling. I have to say, it’s tough to ride hard and aero and get the fuel and hydration that you need. Especially when you don’t prefer what’s offered on course. I switched from Picky Bar + GU gels to Picky Bar + GU chomps in this race and I do think it makes it easier to consume. Still, I didn’t eat quite as much as I could/should have, for no other reason than it’s either not convenient, not top of mind or not appealing while pushing hard and trying to control your bike 26mph in aero. I’m looking forward to dialing this in.

 

Still got it. #badracepics

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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…

Race Report: Ironman 70.3 St. George

St. George bike_2

The Summary:

I’m not usually one for moral victories, but I feel good about this one! A week before the race I started to feel a “tickle” in my throat. But I did my race sim that weekend and did just fine. Fast forward to Tuesday before the race, and I had a mega cold, which mostly passed through by the time I left on Thursday, but I was left with full blown bronchitis. I wasn’t even sure if I would start. But after speaking with my inner circle, I decided to race as hard as I could, for as long as I could, and let my body decide when the race was over. Turns out that was the finish line – in a pretty decent time!

The Swim – 1.2mi: (00:32:22) Considering I’d only been swimming for about a month with two arms (see: January bike wreck) and the whole bronchitis thing, I didn’t know what to expect. I was pretty concerned when I saw that there was no swim warm-up allowed. I ran and got the core temp up as much as I could. The gun went and I immediately began hacking up while trying to pace breaths between labored strokes. After the first 600 or so yards, my arms really became tired and heavy and it was a struggle until about 500 left. I refocused myself on form and smooth effort and came in more comfortably than when I started.

The Bike – 56mi: (02:27:40) With the first pedal strokes, I realized my power meter wasn’t working as my computer displayed zeroes. All of my training and racing has been based on power as my primary performance metric. Usually, this would be very concerning. However, on a day where every other breath was interrupted by piece of lung projectiles, I was immediately calmed by the idea of not sweating coming in low to my expected numbers. I just rode my bike as hard as I could and responded to the race. I was caught by my teammate, Julian Sunn, much earlier than expected and instead of getting down, I used it as motivation and we rode together (legally) for the rest of the bike. Side note: it’s a beautiful thing to ride with guys you are competing with! The pro race is an infinitely different race than amateur wave starts in this regard. I finished through the beautiful red rocks and cruised into transition wondering just how the run would go.

The Run – 13.1mi: (01:22:12) This run course was no joke. It started immediately uphill through the neighborhoods and gained 1,440 ft. of elevation gain through the red rocks. Within the first mile, the guy who’d been with me most of the bike hopped onto my pace and we ran side by side. I came up to Julian who’d put a minute on me at the end of the bike on the last hill as I couldn’t go that deep – he was doubled over cramping. I was so bummed to see this because he was fit and racing very well. After giving him a holler I continued on and powered up the hill. While I didn’t have the top end, I was running steady after climbing up above the town and on top of the red rocks I set a CR on Park Loop. I was humming along, trying to close on my teammate Jake McDonald and I felt the pace slipping away from me a bit. Thank God I hit the point of the last 5km of screaming downhill – especially the last two miles, where I was running as low as 5:10/mi. I can truthfully say that if this 13.1mi race was 13.6 miles, I would have not have finished. I left it all out there to be sure!

Result – 70.3 (04:27:06): Overall – 38th, Division – 3rd

Thanks – A BIG thank you to my cousin Gina who housed Julian Sunn, Bruno Fritsch and me in Vegas before we headed to Utah. She continues to be THE BEST race host!! Mark Graham for being a great teammate and driving the four of us to the race from Vegas and being the local knowledge base. Meredith Kessler who, as the defending St. George champ, helped me prep the entire week prior with training and course tips, AND for hooking me up with an X-Lab Torpedo hydration system and coordinating the drop during a busy race prep day. The Team EMJ guys for being great race weekend-mates and Bruno for not tossing and turning too much in our motel bed 😉 Family and friends for the support, it was really special this time! 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!

Podium!

Podium!

Some of the guys loungin post race at awards

Some of the guys loungin post race at awards

The best race host ever, Gina!

The best race host ever, Gina!