ITU Chicago: A FAST day of racing

This past weekend the triathlon world, well short course world, traveled to Chicago for what was a spectacular weekend full of racing!  The ITU, International Triathlon Union, is the governing body that puts on the draft legal racing that is used for the Olympics.  The Elites, or pros, race in a series of races to gain points for themselves, and country, in order to qualify for the Olympics.   These races are really cool because they are very spectator friendly.  The race features many shorter loops that allow spectators to see the racers multiple times in each event.  The Women’s Elite race and the Para race was on Saturday and I went to the Women’s race and watched Gwen Jorgensen smoke the field with a ridiculously fast run, she ran over a minute into the leaders during the run which is crazy fast!

This was a fun race to watch!

This was a fun race to watch!

Then on Sunday it was my turn to race!  The cool thing with the ITU is they require completely closed streets.  Now that is amazing because cars on the road with racers can always get a bit hairy but also because this course had 3 U Turns per lap if they were only to shut down a few lanes on the course it would’ve made for a dangerous course.  They did a good job at spreading out the waves to attempt to keep the course open.  But the problem with that was transition closed at 5:45 and I didn’t go off until 8:20, and I was a middle wave in the Olympic race.  So I set up transition then anxiously and nervously sat in my car, at a Subway, then by the swim start until my wave went off.

And because of the time differences in the waves the race was against your age group and not so much overall.  The first wave was basically finished with the race by the time I started so there is a big difference in the course from the first wave to the last so my priority was race my age group and wherever that fell overall was what it was.

Swim: 25:06 (1:32 min/100) 15th AG/108th Overall

The swim was a pretty straight forward swim.  We swam north then turned and headed straight south to the exit then had a LONG run to transition.  I should mention now that on Saturday night and Sunday morning it rained, and my transition area was right near a big ol mud pit!  But back to the swim.  I got a good start off the line but unfortunately I was not able to find a group to swim with.  I am still working on being comfortable swimming with others without having mini freak outs so I am always nervous to jump in a draft and trust the leaders sighting as well as their pacing.  I know I need to work on this because for an Ironman drafting saves valuable energy that can be used later in the day.  But it was a comfortable swim and exited the water and ran through transition.

Time to ride!

Time to ride!

Bike: 55:34 (26.8 MPH, 242 Normalized Power) 8th AG/46th Overall

So I should preface this part by saying that the bike course was short.  My Garmin had it at about 22.8 miles, 2 miles short, but it’s hard to say how short it was since about half the course was on Lower Wacker where I had no GPS signal.  But adding another mile onto the time would see about right.  This was a FAST course!  Racing on Lower Wacker was really cool for the most part, there were some bad spots but nothing too terrible.  It was a 4 loop course with 3 U Turns and 4 turns each lap so it made for a lot of slowing down, turning, then getting back up to speed.  I wanted to push it but I also wanted to hold back a bit since I am still not back to full fitness after my bike accident.

During the ride I looked at my watts but mostly to keep myself from going too low.  I was going off of feel and because Lower Wacker was dark with sunglasses on it was hard to see my computer so I just went by feel which was a nice change-up to having my eyes glued to the computer to keep me in check.  Nothing special to say about the ride except it was fun and I ended up gaining 60 places overall and a few in my AG!

Trying to stay aero the whole way.

Trying to stay aero the whole way.

Run: 36:44 (5:55 min/mile) 4th AG/21st Overall

Well I wanted to get off my bike and run FAST.  That worked for a bit but then I got a side stitch that didn’t want to go away!  But I kept pushing as much as I could but never caught my stride that well.  One big issue I had with this course was there were no mile markers for either the Olympic or Sprint race.  Normally this isn’t a big deal but I had this course measured at 5.9 miles, .3 miles short, and many others had the same.  So without mile markers my pacing was off, which isn’t terrible but it would’ve been nice to know my exact mile splits and to see where I really was on the run.  The run course was 3.5 laps and the cool thing was we got to run past Buckingham Fountain 3 times before the final pass to the finish.

Trying to run fast to catch some people!

Trying to run fast to catch some people!

It was nice to have loops because it made for more fans but the course was also VERY narrow with runners going both ways at points which made it hard to pass.  There was also no shade so it was a hot one, and brutal later in the day.  Combine that with only having 2 aid stations and it made for a struggle of a run.  But I am not going to play the blame game but I would have loved some ice  or cold water more often during the run.

The run course was pretty narrow, and hot but thankfully it wasn't too busy when I ran.

The run course was pretty narrow, and hot but thankfully it wasn’t too busy when I ran.

Saw my fantastic support crew featuring my mom, dad (who was racing the Sprint later), and my girlfriend, a lot during the run!  It is always nice to see and hear familiar faces and voices to kind of snap me back into it and help me push a bit harder.  I made a final push starting at the last half loop and ended up passing a group of 4 in my age group which was nice.  I made sure to make the pass fast to let them know that I was feeling good, but I wasn’t, so they wouldn’t try to hang with me.  Rounded the fountain for the final time and sprinted towards the finish!  Another good race in the books.  Obviously could’ve been better but I will take it!

Final: 2:03:07 (4th AG/21st Overall)

After the race I hung out with the family and talked to a fellow Snapple team member who I saw on the race course.  It was cool to see so many other Snapple/DC Tri Club racers out there on course!  After that we got some food then headed to the swim start to watch my dad race!  It was getting super hot and all the walking we did gave me a new found respect for spectators!

As usual I want to thank my mom and dad and girlfriend for coming out to see me.  It was also cool because I met a few social media friends as well.  And thanks to Xterra wetsuits for helping my swim well, Felt Bikes for the fast bike, Rudy Project for the helmet and glasses, HED wheels for making my faster and more aerodynamic, and Louis Garneau for making the amazing Snapple Tri Team race kit that kept me nice and comfortable during the race!  It was also my first sock less race in my Saucony Type A6 race shoes and they performed very well.  Those shoes make you feel like you’re flying out on the run!

Now time to rest up, get back to training then head out to San Francisco this week for some down time and my cousin’s wedding!

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Rev3 Wisconsin Dells: A day of struggles

Last Sunday I opened up my triathlon race season at Rev3 Wisconsin Dells.  It wasn’t supposed to be my opening race of the season but after I got hit by a car, see blog post, I was not able to race 2 weeks before that.  Prior to getting hit by the car I had high hopes for this race.  I had heard it was hard and hilly but my training had been going well and I was feeling good.  But after I got hit by the car June 3rd I had to take a lot of time off and was not, and still not, feeling in top shape.  My shoulder and hips were still bruised and my road rash was getting better but was still sensitive.  But even with that I wanted to race all out and have a good race.

My girlfriend and I drove out Saturday morning to Wisconsin Dells so I could get a swim in the lake, first open water swim of the year, and do all the race check in and all that.  Got all that done and went to our hotel, which wasn’t really our hotel since the hotel we reserved closed but a hotel next door took over.  I did not get a good nights sleep before the race but that usually doesn’t happen so no biggie.

Swim: 32:13 (1:48 min/100) 4th AG

It was a time trial start which was pretty cool but because of that there wasn’t much of a chance to draft during the swim.  I got into a nice rhythm and kept swimming.  It was open the whole way but there was a little confusion on the way back where the buoys weren’t well-marked so some of us swam towards the out section and lost some time.  But swim felt pretty good and it was my first race in my new Xterra Vendetta wetsuit which felt great!  There was a nice long transition up a hill which was really tough because my heart rate sky rocketed.  Got through transition and got ready to ride.

Bike mount line...not as smooth as usual

Bike mount line…not as smooth as usual

Time to ride!

Time to ride!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bike: 2:44:48 (20.4 MPH, 235 Normalized Power) 4th AG

I was excited to get my first race done on my new Felt DA with my sweet HED wheels but I hadn’t been on the bike more than 30 minutes since the accident since it was in the shop until Friday.  But can’t use that as an excuse.  Got off and got into a little rhythm and was focusing on my race plan and getting nutrition in.  But that was harder than expected.  I was able to get a Clif Bar and a bottle of Osmo Hydration during the first hour of the ride but after that it was a struggle to get much more in.  Aid stations seemed to be very far apart and the aid stations are so short that by the time I filled my aero bottle it was over.  The marshals were very clear about littering, as well they should be, so I was stuck with an empty bottle with nowhere to put it.  I was wearing a one piece suit so I couldn’t just put it down my pants or up my shirt.  I tried to put it down my back but I dropped it.  I slowed to get it and thankfully I did because the marshal was RIGHT behind me.  They waited to see if I picked up the bottle before they drove off.  A minute lost is better than a 4 minute penalty.  So I rode with a bottle down my back for another 12ish miles.

To sum up this course it was HARD.  I think it was hard even if you’re used to hills but it was really hard for me coming from Chicago and flat lands.  I quickly realized that my body wasn’t really ready to ride the way I wanted and that became very apparent during the “run”.  I also realized during this ride that I can’t bomb down a hill like some people.  I hit 40 MPH during a section of a downhill but I was always on my brakes slowing down.  Maybe that was because of my accident and knowing how much it sucked to hit the pavement, maybe it was because I am not used to crazy fast downhills.  But whatever reason I just was not comfortable.

Another mistake I made was at the last aid station.  I took a bottle of Gatorade so I could drink some calories before the run.  But the problem was it wouldn’t squeeze into my aero bottle.  So instead of stopping to fill it I tossed it.  And it was a LONG last 10 plus miles home.

Run: 1:43:36 (7:54 min/mile) 5th AG

The only thing I can say about the “run” was it was a death march.  It was hot, humid, hilly, and the worst 13.1 miles I’ve ever gone.  From the start I could feel I had no legs.  The combo of biking above my fitness level and nutrition mistakes, as well as still niggling pains from the accident, I set myself up for a brutal last segment of the race.  But to make matters worse the curse was partially on a rocky trail which hurt my feet, and there was pretty much ZERO shade anywhere so the hot sun really took its toll.  I don’t think anything would’ve helped me on the run but drinking warm water, Gatorade, and having no ice made it worse.  I know I sound like I am making excuses but I have come to grips with the fact that my body wasn’t ready to race the way I wanted it to race so I raced above my fitness and paid heavily!

So happy to finish!

So happy to finish!

Finish: 5:03:19 5th AG/15th Overall

All in all I can’t be too mad about the race since it wasn’t my day and I still managed 5th in the age group.  Ate a lot of pizza after the race, took an ice bath, and shared one of these sweet Cokes with my girlfriend!

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Up next ITU Chicago this weekend!  I am excited to race at home on a flat and fast course!  I just wish there weren’t as many U Turns but oh well!

Hit by Car…But Thankfully Not Broken

There is kind of an unwritten saying in cycling, and road bike racing, that if you haven’t crashed yet your time will come.  But that saying is geared towards racing.  And the crashes in races involve other cyclist, curbs, flat tires, etc.  I had the VERY unfortunate luck to be hit by a car last Tuesday while riding on a road I have ridden hundreds of times and have never felt unsafe in.

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My shredded bike jersey. It’s worse in person

I do not want to go into too much detail about the situation and all that but I was riding near, or outside, the white line that divides the road to the shoulder when a truck going the same way as my clipped me with their side view mirror.  I then bounced around the car a bit before I hit the road.  Now thankfully nothing on my body was broken but I had some serious road rash and bruising.  I am still feeling the effects of the crash today.  Not only physically but mentally.

Road Rash but doesn't show the worst part which is on my back.

Road Rash but doesn’t show the worst part which is on my back.

Right when I realized nothing was broken and I was ok my immediate thought went to, “how will I ever ride on the road again?!”  This person took the innocence away from something that I love doing.  I have gone out a few times since for shorter rides and I am very nervous when cars pass.  I know I will get over it with time but there just seems to be WAY too much animosity between cyclists and drivers.  And the problem with this is that the cyclist will pretty much always lose.  We do not have anti lock brakes that allow us to stop on a dime, we do not have anything around our bike to protect us, we only have our helmet, bike, and whatever we are wearing.  And unfortunately that is not enough to spare us from serious injury.

Thank you Rudy Project for saving my life!

Thank you Rudy Project for saving my life!

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It’s hard to see the cracks but there are plenty of them!

The paramedics were amazed that nothing was broken.  They took a look at my broken helmet and basically said, “the helmet saved your life.”  I am battered and bruised but will keep training as the pain allows and try to get over it.  But what I will say to everyone who gets on a bike, scooter, roller blades/skates, “wear a helmet!”  It only takes one driver, a curb, a rock, to cause you to crash and a bunch of road rash and bruises are a hell of a lot better than a head injury!