Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013 Season... A Season of Contrasts...

2013 for me was a season filled with contrasts.  The first half of the year was the worst I've had in 10 years, while the second half of the season contained some of my best ever performances!

To begin, I struggled with motivation in January and February to get back on track after three months of off time after my big effort at Rev3 Full the prior September.  Had a lot of catching up to do and didn't feel well at all.   The first 6 months of the season were pretty inconsistent from a training and racing standpoint (OK - downright disappointing).  I made a coaching change later in the season, and finally got myself back into decent shape to finish the season very strong.  I won my first race overall, posted my best results ever in two different national championships, earned a big PR at 70.3 distance, and numerous top 5 overall finishes in triathlon and trail races, which resulted in my highest ever national ranking - so close to All-American status (I was top 5.9%... 5.0% or better is All-American).   

The worst:
My attempt to break three hours at the Cleveland Marathon was an absolute disaster!  The day was well over 80°, which never bodes well for a fast run. But to make it worse, I gave myself a case of self-inflicted G.I. distress by taking A pain reliever I never take as a precaution before the race. At 7 miles then, I was very much on three hour pace, but I was struck with horrible G.I. problems that included a lot of blood.  For the first time in my life, I had to shorten the race distance from the full to the half.  I was devastated!

Spring bike racing season was a little bit better.  It was my first time racing is a CAT 4. I did about eight early-season bike races, some as a domestique for my teammates, and others racing for myself.  I had some decent results, but not nearly as good as I'd hoped for.  I just wasn't in good form that early in the season.

I buckled down for some more serious training to get ready for the triathlon season.

A glimmer of hope:
My first tri the season was in June - an Olympic Distance race at West Branch, where I took 3rd place overall.  My swim was okay, my bike felt terrible, but I had one of my best Olympic distance runs ever, getting faster and faster with every mile.  I was a great feeling, and would be a theme for my successes the season, as I have traditionally shredded myself on the bike (my ultimate strength) and held on for the run.  This season would be different.

So close:  Tour of the Valley 3 day cycling stage race
The Tour of the Valley cycling stage race was also a real disappointment for me, with a series of close calls that separated a great weekend of results, from disappointment.

The time trial this year was shortened (7mi), from an already short time trial the year before (8.5mi), which is definitely not in my favor.  I raced that a bit flat too, I was 9th. It was a big disappointment, as I was hoping to be on the podium in the time trial.

The road race for me was actually going extremely well, I was climbing and racing well with the lead pack for 45 of the 54 miles. (I probably should mention that it was over 90° during the 2+ hr road race.)  At the bottle hand up area, and I missed all my nutrition, and my back-up electrolytes got lost from my jersey.  Miles later, I went with the breakaway racing up a big hill toward the end.  Both hamstrings locked up, I was forced into a track stand going uphill, which is never a good thing. :-). After licking my arms, neck and anywhere I could find, for salt on my skin from my sweat, I was able to control my cramping and ride hard by myself to at least finish ahead of others that were kicked out of the pack.  In the future, I will go back for my nutrition after dropped bottles during a hot race!!

The crit on Sunday was the closest thing to crowning achievement in a victory placed on a silver platter for me - except I didn't know it!

Long story short, toward the end of the crit, I thought we had three laps to go when they rang the bell for a $50 premium Sprint. I positioned myself  near the front of the pack, saw somebody launch off the front and attack, waited until a good spot on the course to respond, broke away, chased him down, and beat him in a tough sprint at the line for the $50. What I didn't realize at the time, because I was focused on winning that Sprint, and the announcers were talking about our sprints and the prize, and not about the fact that this is the beginning of the last lap, nor did they ring the bell when we came through.  I thought that I had two laps to go, not one.   The guy I sprinted with wouldn't work with me and at this point, I thought we still had another left to go, so I decided to sit up and block and push them back into the main field, to give my friend Nate a clean break away.  Nate ended up winning the race, and I didn't realize that was our last lap until the field sat up after crossing the finish line.  Holy shit! That was the last lap...  I was in a position to either win or be second, and I blew it because I didn't realize we were on the last lap! And this is all my fault!

Transition to a "new" season:
I had a month in between two train and focus on preparations for nationals in Milwaukee Wisconsin.  I also decided to make a coaching change to get my program better aligned with my philosophy and needs. Mentally and physically, the first program wasn't working for me and my performances and daily mindset reflected that.  After making the change, I was greatly relieved (the anxiety went away) and my ability to train consistently returned and then strengthened.  My new coach is A.J Baucco, a Cleveland born professional triathlete and coach.  I had known AJ for a few years and was impressed not only with his accomplishments as a professional athlete, but also with his knowledge of the sport, training and nutrition.  He is being coached by one of the best in the world, and truly is a student of the sport...   3+ months in and I am very happy with my choice.

First Overall Win:
I took first place overall in the Greater Cleveland Triathlon in early August.  Due to very rough lake conditions, the swim was cancelled and replaced with a second run was added to the race. I blasted the bike and was able to lay down some sub 6:00 miles in the second run to secure the win in my wave.  I started in a later wave and had no idea my time was also an overall winning time.   That was pretty great!

Back-to-Back USA Triathlon National Championship Races
The 2013 USAT Olympic and Sprint Nationals were held in Milwaukee, WI.  I was one of the few (and perhaps stupid) people, to race both the Olympic distance race on Saturday, and the sprint distance race on Sunday.  Virtually everyone else picked one or the other to focus on.  I know that racing both days impacted my race performances on both days (holding back the first day, and not being fully rested and fresh the second day).  But I am glad I had the experience and still posted good results!   I did just miss a Team USA spot for worlds...  if I had only raced one day instead of two...  

Nationals was a lot of fun because there were a large number of people from my team (SnakeBite Racing) who raced, and we had a really great experience in Milwaukee!!

A September to remember:
In September, I had two races left in me...  an Olympic at Portage Lakes where I took 3rd overall amateur.  I knew I was having a good race coming off the bike, and the run was interesting since 1/2 of it was on single-track trails.  It was a blast and I pushed my self harder than I had all season! My fitness was finally back, and I was racing strong mentally as well.

At the end of September, I decided to add a 70.3 race at AJ's recommendation.  I wasn't really well prepared in terms of base training for this distance since my whole season was focused on Sprint and Olympic distance...  I hadn't done a 70.3 race in 10 years...  AJ figured it would be a great distance for me, and I think he is right!  I finished 5th overall amateur and loved the race!

AJ wrote a 5 page race plan for me, for the 70.3, and while I questioned a lot of things in it before the race, I followed it to a "T" and had the most amazing race experience!  I swam fine, held back on the bike (which is very unusual for me at was at times frustrating), but still had a fast bike time and was able to throw down a fast 1/2 marathon, where each mile got faster and faster.  It was an incredible feeling to be that strong so late in a race!

Transition...  Trail Running:
After my last triathlon, AJ had me take 2 weeks off anything triathlon related.  I decided to give trail running and try and fell instantly in love!  By accident, I found the CVNP Trail Race Series in the fall and raced them all and had a great time trying something rather new.  Trail running is NOT the same as 5ks, marathons, etc...  different skills, paces, strategies and some wonderful venues in which to run!  It was a blast!

Big Change in Training... focus on 2014:
Now under AJ, I was training to a new plan and new philosophy.  We laid out my 2014 goals, and he built a 12 month training plan around two "A" races...  IM Texas 70.3 in April and IM Wisconsin in September.  My training volume has increased 20-25% over what my averages were when I was self-coaching myself to a 10h22m Ironman distance...  I can't wait to see the results of this training plan, along with AJ's amazing race plans.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Try something fun and new this off-season!

Most of us have now wrapped up our racing  season for the year.  The next weeks or even months of transition after the end of the season are an important time to recharge both body and mind.

This break in the action is not only necessary to rest your body and mind to get ready for the following year, but also A lower-risk chance to do something new!    Cyclocross, hiking, kayaking, trail running, cross-country or downhill skiing, etc...

For me, in the heart of the preparation racing season, I'm careful to not take too many chances
on new sports or activities and risk some kind of injury setback.

However, the post season transition time is about the best opportunity to try these new things.

This fall, after very strong finish to my season, my Coach, AJ Baucco, had me take a full shutdown week and then a week of doing anything non- triathlon specific training.

Last winter (2012), after a late season for Ironman triathlon, I had a lot of difficulty restarting my training after taking too much time off...  And riding the success of the last month, I was very nervous about taking off any time just then.

I followed my coach's advice exactly. I took one full week off of training, and actually found it was a much wanted and needed break after all!  Normally, I'm always thinking about my next workout or activity or race. During this off week, I focused completely on family, projects around the house, and work.

The following week, my plan was to try new things, in this case specifically off Road trail running and racing.

What an incredibly fun and invigorating change of pace!!!

Instead of my usual running routes at lunchtime, I decided to start running on the mountain bike trails near work. And I loved it!  Just after my first Trailride at work, I mentioned that to a colleague, who introduced me to the local weeknight trail race series that started the following night.

I decided I would jump in headfirst and go try the race and see what that was like.

It took place in one of the beautiful parts of the National Park area, and provided me with a whole new set of challenges and excitement!
The rest of the transition week, I only did Trailrun and with a new trail each day, and couldn't wait to get out there each time!

I was hooked!

It was scratching an itch that I didn't even know that I had until I discovered it!  New challenges, new venues, new unknowns in terms of performance...

My original plan had been to try cyclocross bike racing.  Unfortunately, by the time I triathlon season ended, most of the local races were already finished for the year.  While I am still going to try my hand at cyclocross before the end of the year, and make an effort to get out on the VeloDrĂ´me, the local new cycling track.v

Bottom line, is that this recent period of some complete rest, and then a transition back to training next with new sports and activities has completely recharge my mental and physical batteries!

Now that I'm returning to more traditional swim bike run training, I find myself so excited about the trail running race series this month, and I'm also having more fun than my regular training as well.

Best regards,
Ken Hagan
VP Operations
Nook Industries

Monday, October 14, 2013

Greater Cleveland Triathlon - 1st place overall

This race was my final "tune-up" for the USA National Championships...  it went pretty well!  I was not expecting to win anything... and stuck to my race plan until the last mile or two, when I thought I had a chance to win...

I came into the race with a specific plan to race to my Olympic race paces for Nationals, but do it on a sprint distance course as a dress rehearsal.  After a disappointing early season, I needed a confidence boost going into Nationals.  It was a fun and rewarding day to allow my fitness to come through and earn my first win in a while. 

There was a great turn-out of local athletes and SnakeBite Team members at the race, which made it more fun.

The race takes place at Mentor Headlands Beach... a wonderful venue, except that it faces into the prevailing winds off Lake Erie, and is often rough.   Sadly, last year at the GTC, there was a fatality during the rough swim.   This year, there was definitely rough conditions.  Ultimately, the swim was cancelled and an additional run would be the first leg.  This plays to my strengths.

When the race started, I stuck to my plan.  I started off comfortably with the lead group.  Within the first mile of the run, two guys attacked the group and pulled ahead.  I wanted to go with them, and knew that I could, but I was racing to a plan, and decided to stick to the plan.  The Swim (aka early run) went well for me, and I ran a comfortable 6:30/mi average for the first leg

Coming into transition for T1, I could see that I was going to catch and pass one of the two who went in front of me early.  One down... two to go.

I started out on the bike feeling good.  Again, my objective today was to race my Olympic race paces I was planning for Nationals... so I held back on the bike compared to how I would normally attack a sprint bike course.

About 5 miles into the bike, I caught up to my other competitor... now I'm leading on the road and pushing along at my race pace targets... nothing more.

I felt fine on the bike, fueled well, and was looking forward to the run.

Coming into T2, I knew I was in front of my wave and was ready to see how I felt on the run.

I felt great off the bike.  The speed came easy and felt right.  6:20/mi pace for the first mile.  Heading to the second mile, which was an out-and-back, I would get a chance to see where everyone else was.   My closest competition was about 0:20 back at the turn.  I held to my goal pace, despite knowing that I was being hunted down by Bill Marut.

By the time I got to mile 2 of the last leg, Bill pulled up next to me.  We talked briefly and I told him that I was holding my goal paces and  to go for it.   Bill pulled ahead... and I hated to let him go, but I was thinking about Nationals the next weekend and didn't want to push it too hard.

I noticed that Bill stopped pulling ahead of me... and started to yo-yo in front of me...

I held back the entire race, but within a mile of the finish, I could sense blood in the water, and was starting to picture how I would feel losing my wave by 5 seconds...   I couldn't take it anymore...  I had to RACE!

I surged and closed the gap to Bill quickly.  I pulled along side him and tried to talk to him again.  It was apparent that he was starting to labor...  I made my move.

Laid down a 5:30 mile for the last mile to put a permanent gap on Bill...

When I crossed the finish line, the timekeeper told me my time was the fastest on the day!  I was happy and surprised to hear that!  I knew I won my wave/age group, but didn't think about the overall!

Again, it was a fun and rewarding day to allow my fitness to come through and earn my first win in a few years.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Portage Lakes Olympic Triathlon - 4th overall

Pushed it hard from start to finish and never felt "bad".  I did get just a couple of hints of hammy cramps during the last 2 miles.  Been a couple of years since I've done the race, and the bike course and run course (2-3 miles of pure trail running) were both new to me.  I was 4th overall (3rd amateur if you exclude Pro Ryan Bates who crushed us all).  All in all, it was a good effort and a good day!

I pushed it from the gun and was 2nd to the first turn buoy.  Gassed, I backed off a bit and got into a nice rhythm.  First race  in while where I wasn't getting the shit kicked out of me constantly.  It helped me focus on form, turnover and power.  Occasionally, I chased some feet, but they were either slow or terrible at sighting.  One guy was doing the backstroke - seriously - he was fast (passed me) but then veered way off course and I let him go.  No one else passed me that I saw to grab.

Out of the water around 26:00 by my watch...  saw my time, shrugged, and ran up the hill to transition.  (Last year and all prior years, seeing a time that slow would have upset me, likewise seeing a 21 would get me excited, but I've learned that swim courses are rarely accurate and to stop getting a feeling one way or the other.  After the race, everyone said they thought it was a long swim.

Pretty good transition, except I still get my wetsuit stuck on my left ankle/foot...  lost a little time there...  took a gel in transition and headed out.

That's about the time that the HR monitor (that was working all day yesterday and during warm-up today) decided to stop working and display "lost signal" again...  brand new battery.  I couldn't get my Garmin before tomorrow... so I shrugged again... nothing I can do now, but I hate to lose the data!  Tried a few more times during the first lap to get it to work.  No dice.  Gave up on it.

Pushed the bike, but not as hard as I usually start because of your advice and race plan.  I bounded up the hills (sure I spiked my HR each time) but passed so many people each time.  Felt good, so I kept it going.  Plowed through all of the sprint people left on the course in the first loop, had to make a couple of borderline dangerous passes to not kill my momentum thanks to some slower people riding 2 abreast and such.

Second lap I pushed harder effort, but honestly wasn't much faster in all likelihood... the good thing was it was only Olympic people now and I was eating up spots.  My split showed about 1:09 - and since I've never ridden the course before, I have no benchmark until I see the other splits posted.  My speedometer showed 25.5 miles...It was an undulating course, almost never flat.  A couple sections were very recently chip-sealed and were covered in loose stone... I stayed in the saddle for all of those climbs to avoid any mishap.  I was generally happy with my gear selection throughout.  A few times, I was in the small ring for some climbs.  Again - nothing was flat.  I used every single gear combination at least twice during the bike.

Saw a couple guys from wave before who were riding well and mixed it up with them a bit toward the end of the second lap, which helped us each work harder I'm sure... but some of the second lap was solo / no-man's land... no one to work off of and keep my pace honest.

T2 was uneventful, except a little trouble getting my cold, numb feet into my runners.  I followed Mike Schaffer (SSSMT) into T2 and was worried about that.  He's 41 also (but I didn't know until after the race he started with elite wave 2 waves in front).

I chased Mike up the 1 mile long hill and passed him about 1/2 way up, and put in a kick to make sure he didn't get any ideas about trying to stick with me. Mile 1 was 6:40 by my watch... and was all uphill.  At about mile 1.5, the run course took a most interesting route through the woods on a mountain bike path for the next 1.25-1.5 miles.  It was a bit slippery/muddy and was riddled with big roots.  it was a non-stop tripping hazard to navigate.  Mile 2 sign I'm sure was misplaced, because I was about 8:10 for that mile, and about 6:05 for mile 3... so I'm calling both miles about a 7:07, which given the terrain, I was happy with.  Only one guy passed me on the run... a BAFF guy I've never seen before.  No age or anything on his leg, so no clue which wave or AG.

Started the second lap and was starting to feel the fatigue of the effort, and also was without anyone to chase or keep in front of me.  My mile splits were comperable to +0:10/mile.  They only had 1-3 miles marked, so mile "4" included the extra .25 (those with Garmins calculated 6.5 for the course)...  mile 4 was 8:13 (including the extra distance), Mile 5 (long mile) was 8:15 (vs 8:10 last lap) and Mile 6 was 6:16 (vs 6:05 last lap) and then into the finish chute.

Will get official splits later to see their times and if they mark the distances differently.

Weather:  approximately 52F at start.  Light wind.  Lake was calm.  "warmed up" to about 65F by end of race.  Wind stayed light and not noticeable.

NUTRITION:  breakfast about 3 hours before.
Bottle of sports drink in the car on the way down, as well as a cup of coffee and a bottle of beet juice (about 100 minutes before start of race was scheduled).   Sipped on some sports drink before the race, and took 1 caffinated gel 15min before scheduled start per plan.

Nothing during the swim, except the occasional, accidental lake water sip.  :)

T1 - took a caffeinated powerbar gel.

Bike - consumed 24oz EFS during the ride.  Took second gel start of 2nd  lap (about 35 min into bike) per plan.

T2 - Roctane gel (hated the consistency.. won't do that again during a race)

I consumed 1 gel during the run, about halfway through, and nearly all of 2 x 8oz bottles of EFS on my fuel belt, with a couple of sips of water at 1,4 mile aid station.

Recovery drink, banana, pretzels and water post-race... and a coke on the way home (guilty pleasure).

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Great way to end the season... Deer Creek Fall Challenge 70.3

WOW!  Amazing race!  Never felt better in a race before!  My first true 70.3 attempt and it was 4:37:06 good for 6th overall (5th amateur), 1st AG.  Followed the race plan from Coach AJ Baucco (  pretty closely and had an amazing experience as a result, especially since this is a new distance for me.  Never suffered in a bad way, felt I had the strength and power to build and build right through the very end.

After a frustrating start to the 2013 season...  August and September were solid.  After 10 years in triathlon (including lots Ironman and Olympic races), I finally made a serious attempt at a 70.3 - with only about 6 weeks of "long course" specific training.  First 8 months of the season was about road racing crits, and olympic tri.

Below is the detailed recap of the race...  it's written mostly for me and my Coach AJ Baucco to review... but provides some insight into the race plan and execution.

Swim 30:38- I started right behind Jim and dolphined right out to the front for a moment... swam hard to the first buoy (200m?), then turned and settled into a good rhythm.  Too good.  Felt like pool swimming, and when I turned to breathe like in the pool, I inhaled a wave and took a lot into my lungs.  about the scariest moment as I couldn't breathe for about 10 seconds, then coughed some out, got some air in, and was able to shake it off and get back into a decent rhythm... but I lost the fast feet.  Off and on solo swimming and drafting.  Kept focus on turnover and good early pull (and not breathing any more water).  Don't have official split yet, but was out just under 30 minutes by my watch.  about 1 minute run from beach to T1.

Bike time: 2:30:48
Out on the bike :  My HR was about 180 when I started out.  Had to work hard (going easy) to bring it down to target rate.  That took about 2 miles/6 minutes.   The targets were 155bpm for first 28 miles and 157 for last 28mi (156 avg).  Actual splits were 156 (21.0avg) for first 28 and 162 (21.7avg) for second 28... a little more aggressive, but also had 2 of the 3 sets of hills in the second 28.

At first I had a really hard time with the low HR target.  It felt stupid slow, and I was getting passed (which rarely if ever happens to me on the bike), which pissed me off, but I stuck pretty close to the plan.   Glad I did!  I passed most of those guys late on the bike or on the run.

Second loop, I worked a bit harder, and my HR followed.  At least no one was passing me now...  Still felt easy and the nutrition was  going in pretty well.  (I kind of figured out during the bike that it must be part of why the low HR is so important...  so the stomach can process what is in it, and take on more fuel... instead of bloating because I can't proces it, and then shutting down my intake, leading to a bonk later.)   Second loop was 156-160 (21.3mph)

Third loop, worked harder still, and this felt more like what I'm used to racing, intensity-wise, and I got to pass back some people, which made my ego happy.  163avg for 3rd loop (22mph)

Rode into transition still feeling pretty good, except the small of my back was getting a bit sore.  A combination of the actual cycling and pushing a lower position on downhills and into the wind, but I have also noticed that is worse when I'm pulling my head up in the swim for lots of sighting, which I think I was doing today in the swim.  Nutrition plan was pretty close.  4 full bottles over 2.5 hours (so I should have drank a little more... I have to work on that some more) and I took a gel at start of bike and every 40min thereafter on the dot with my timer.

Run 1:33:31:
Starting the run, I felt pretty good.  Came off the bike around 12th place from my estimate.  Amazingly, I ran so well and used that to move up to 6th overall.   I'm so used to running fast off the bike because of the short course racing this year, that I struggled to hold the first 1/2 mile (net uphill) at 6:40/mi pace.  I saw this and slowed down to 6:58 (172bpm) for the first mile... I knew I had to keep my HR down, so next mile felt stupid slow, and was 7:15 (175bpm).

The plan was to keep increasing my effort/HR little by little from there, which I successfully did.   The miles splits and HR avg were:
3-7:18, 176
4-7:13, 178
5-7:20, 178
6-7:21, 179
7-7:11, 180
8-7:09, 182
9-7:13, 183
10-7:06, 184
11-7:06, 188
12-7:06, 189
13-7:07, 192

Run nutrition:  I started with a 2 bottle fuel belt of EFS (16oz total).  Sucked on that between aid stations during the first 6.5 mi loop.  I kept right on the gels at 40 min which carried over from the bike.  Clockwork.  Asked for ice, water and Infinit at each aid station (roughly 1 mile between).  2nd loop I went for coke more than Infinit just to keep things mixed up... I had a LOT of sports drink this day!  I took a lot of salt caps on the run too.  Started as 3 every couple of miles as a preventative...  second loop, I could start to feel a few "pings" in my quads.  More salt caps.  last 4 miles, that was my only concern about letting myself fully fly and sprint the last mile...  more 'pings' in both quads, despite another 4-6 caps with about 3 miles to go.   Nothing slowed me down or caused a problem, but I just was wary about trying to go bananas and end up with a cramp I'd have to stop and stretch out or something.

Emotionally:  Swim was good except for the literal near-drowning.  That shook me up for a few minutes...  but I soldiered through.  (What a different day/outcome if I had put my hand up, or couldn't have even done that!!)

Bike was tough for me at first.  Like I said, people I know I could crush on the bike were passing me, and frankly it was embarrassing to my ego.  But I trusted in the plan, and didn't want to mis-execute and not learn from the experience of the day.  Turning up the heat on the last 15 miles was satisfying...  was quite happy to pass a lot of people then and gain some ground and still be fresh for the run.

Run was just plain fun!  Who says that about a 1:33 half mary after a swim and a bike??  I do!  The way I was able to build and build and keep taking spots from people was just a great feeling!  The second loop in particular was great fun as I really got pushing it and the body was able to consistently respond.  My speed may not have drastically increased during the run (7:14/mi first loop and 7:09 second loop)... but seeing the others suffer and slow down and get passed while I felt great was something I've not fully experienced before.

Could I have gone faster on the bike?  Of course.  But could I have held on to the run like this afterwards?  Probably not in my current conditioning state.  That's next.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Battle at West Branch - Olympic Tri - 3rd overall

My first triathlon of the year (and also my first open water swim of the year... yikes).  Although, I only did this only as a training race after a hard week of training (including 50 miles on the bike the day before), I ended up taking 3rd overall!!   All of the distances were long (per their website and my Garmin both) so my splits were "longer" than usual...  swim was >1500m, Bike 26.2mi, run 6.5mi.

The swim started well and I settled into a good rhythm.  I found some feet that I thought would be good to follow, and pace-wise, they were... however, the guy couldn't navigate to save his life, and I had to go it alone half-way into the first loop until the end.  That cost me being with the lead group.  I had no idea if I was swimming well or not, and when I got out of the water and saw 28:XX - I thought it was a bad swim,  but quickly reminded myself that I've had shorter times and placed worse - that each swim is unique, and it is only time relative to the rest of the field that matters in the race when you are fighting for the podium.  Turned out I was about 20% in the swim (which for me is higher- I'm usually 30-35%).  I did let this affect me in transition, though...  feeling a little frustrated thinking it was a bad swim and losing a little drive for a fast transition.

On to the bike.   Legs were definitely feeling tired from the get-go.  I just focused on getting into a good rhythm and pushing it.  The course did have one out and back section where I could see who was a few minutes in front and behind me.  I could see a couple in front for sure, and a bunch behind.  Better than the other way around, I suppose.  Kept pushing it, but just wasn't feeling super-fast.   Some of that was the rolling bike course - didn't "feel" as fast as just hammering along a flat road.  I averaged about 23mph (which turned out on this rolling course to be 3rd fastest bike split).  As tired as my legs felt, I started worrying about having nothing left on the run, but like always on the bike - I wanted to get all I could on the bike and let what happens next just happen...

Coming into transition, I started to get more excited about my placement, seeing only a few bikes on the rack (5 I think) before me...  I was in reach of a podium spot if I had a good run!

Heading out on the run, it was kind of a crazy serpentine through the parking lots, then uphill.  I got my legs going under me and the turn-over felt pretty good.  Surprisingly good.  I caught a couple people and one guy I followed out of transition was pulling away from me (he ended up 2nd overall). First mile split (uphill) was 6:50... good start.   But could I hold that for the next 5.5 miles?

All winter and spring, my run has dogged me.  3 months of inactivity after Rev3 Full last fall, followed by starting to quickly and getting plantar fasciitis, then 2 months of hot/cold training with a new coach, my run fitness and confidence was suffering coming into the season.   One big problem, was my mental fight and will was nowhere to be found...  in training I would stop, rest or walk way too often...  and my only race experience this year was the Cleveland Marathon debacle...  I was very pessimistic about my ability to fight on - but wanted to find out.

Mile 2 was heading toward a marina, with some out-and-back... I saw a couple guys in front of me.  Good sign perhaps.  6:45 mile... so I was holding pace... but not breaking any records.   Mile 3 was the return of the out-and-back, but I didn't realize it.  I saw like 10 more guys who I thought were in front of me (actually they were heading out while I was heading back)... that got in my head and I thought I was more like 13th place than 3rd place...   Mile 3 was about 6:30.  Coming back into the main lot, I asked Eric Gibb and Patty Banks (who were watching the race) what place they thought I was in and they said they couldn't tell either...  kind of confusing course and all...

I just focused on keeping my run pace going, as I was finally running well... back uphill to do the 2nd lap and I was about 6:45.  It was then that I had figured out the pack of guys I saw were behind me and I was truly in a top 3-5 position.  That helped provide the drive to keep pushing the legs and not back off or give in to the pain of pushing it - which has been my mental problem all winter/spring.

The last 2 miles it was now clear that I was probably in a podium spot, and I lifted the pace even more... knowing the pain would be over in 12 minutes or so.  Mile 5 was about a 6:30... mile 6 was a 6:10 (downhill)... I was flying into the finish!   last 0.5 miles of flat, serpentine was also about 6:10 pace.

I finished strong, and after the final results were posted confirming my 3rd place overall - I was happy.

What I was most happy about was the fact that I started the run on tired legs, questioning what position I was in the race, and kept pushing the pace faster and faster on the run, and the mind finally cooperated!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

2012 Season in Review...

To sum my 2012 racing season up in a few words:

"Slow start - strong finish!"   (I peaked in September vs June like usual)  

"Media Whore" (my pic in 2 newspapers, on TV and in a national e-mail campaign)

"I'm a T'Roadie" (triathlete now racing as CAT4 road cyclist)

The highlights of the season were:

  • Overall Winner - Tour of the Valley a three day bike stage race - (CATV - road racing)
  • Rev3 Full Ironman Triathlon - 12th overall, 2nd in AG and a new personal best of 10:22...
  • 3rd place overall finish at the HFP Vermilion Olympic Triathlon (my highest Olympic overall finish).
  • Raced in China, USA and New Zealand
Racing in Shanghai, China
When the 2012 season started, I had recently taken a new position (VP Operations) with a new company (Nook Industries), and was very unsure how much time I would have to devote to training.  The other, lesser factor, was that I usually peak in June and am burned out in August/September... and I wanted to start my heavy training later to try to adjust.

Me and 30,000+ Chinese at the start
of the Shanghai International Marathon
I was lucky enough to race in China (Shanghai Half Marathon) to begin the season, and New Zealand (Christchurch Half Marathon) to finish the season! I'm rather lucky to find races to do when I am traveling overseas...

My winter training months were mostly work-focused and honestly, my training was not very good.

That was until I started run training with a local professional triathlete.  I was preparing for a spring marathon and he was preparing for an early season Ironman and we made for a great pair for run training.  We did a 23 mile run together that seemed to only last 20 minutes... and were able to push ourselves rather hard on the track in speed workouts (where Jim would bury me...).  The great thing was that it broke me out of my training rut and got me motivated for the season.

And... I'm SPENT!!!
Springtime came and I was ready for a sub 3:00 marathon...  but race day came, and it was 85F+ and any hopes of a fast marathon evaporated in the heat.  That was a disappointing day, to say the least.

In June, I raced Deer Creek and Maumee Bay Olympic triathlons, which were only so-so for me.  Definitely not as fast as the year before, but my plan was to peak a few months later.  Patience.  But it sucked feeling slow on courses where I know I have gone faster in the past...

While I am a very strong cyclist, and a "student of the sport"...  My past Coach  kept me from doing road races or crits because of the risk of crashes / injury (which I understand).   This year, I was determined to race and see what I could do...

SnakeBite Racing - before TOV Road Race
I started with the local "Westlake Crit Series" and found immediate success...  it was a lot of fun, and gave a chance to practice tactics with my other teammates before going into the big races.  I won money my first night and every week I raced Westlake! I gave all that money to my two sons, who were noticeably more supportive of my bike racing! :)    Won a few races, got on the podium some more and helped other teammates to win.  More importantly, I was in LOVE with the sport of bike racing!

The 3 day Tour Of the Valley cycling race in July was the pinacle of the bike racing season for me...
After a disappointing 3rd place in the Time Trial Friday evening, I took 3rd in the Road Race Saturday morning and then closed out the weekend with a 2nd in the Crit on Sunday.  Those points combined together in the "General Classification" and I was the overall winner in CAT5!  It was really exciting, and my SnakeBite Racing teammates were a huge help before and of course during the races!  Plus, the 3 day race weekend was simply a lot of FUN with friends and teammates.  (race report)

I was able to petition USA Cycling for an early upgrade to CAT 4 based on my results.   I'm pleased to be racing at the next level in 2013 and can't wait to work with my SnakeBite Racing cycling teammates to find more success for the team!

3rd place overall - Olympic Distance - Vermilion Triathlon

During July and August, I was focused on preparing for the Ironman distance Rev3 Cedar Point in September.  Another professional triathlete was in town for the summer and we did some great long training rides together.  In addition to being pushed to grind it out for 120 miles, I learned a LOT about better ways to pace and train on the long rides to finish strong.  It must've helped a lot, because I turned in a 5:02 bike split at Rev3, which was the 2nd fastest on the day!!

A pleasant surprise was the HFP Vermilion Triathlon in August.  It is one of the "local" races and I wanted to do it, even though my body was wrecked from the ironman training.  Long story short, I had a solid bike and pushed the run to finish 3rd overall - which has been my highest overall finish in an Olympic distance Triathlon.  This also served to qualify me for the 2013 National Championships!  (race report)

Rev3 Cedar Point - Full Iron...
Felt good to finally be done!

After some more hard weeks of training, it was time for the Rev3 Full Iron triathlon at Cedar Point. 

I ended up 2nd in my age group and 12th overall... and more importantly, took about 20 minutes of my prior best time to set my new best of 10 hours 22 minutes!

As you can read in my race report, I had a great day and my best ironman finish, despite having to slow my run down due to some significant "GI" issues during the marathon.

Christchurch, New Zealand - Half Marathon
One week after my big race, I was in China for a week on business, and then headed down to visit a supplier in New Zealand for a few days.  I was lucky enough to squeeze in the Christchurch Half Marathon over the weekend, where I ran a comfortable 1h30min... which was pretty good considering the extensive traveling and time zone changes I had gone through in the previous days!

All-in-all, the "start slower, peak later" strategy paid off.  It was just difficult to hit the early races not feeling my very best...  but I had my best August and September - so it was so worth it!