70.3 Steelhead: The Race I Wanted/Needed

I am writing this while watching Shark Week after a much too long drive home from Benton Harbor.  The only positive that came from the drive home is that my hamstring didn’t cramp up!

Today I raced Ironman 70.3 Steelhead and won my Age Group, came in 25th overall, and 10th amateur.  I had my best race yet and that is exactly what I wanted and what I needed.  The start of my season was going great, I ran my PR open half marathon time at 1:16:53, and was hitting all of my training then boom!  I got hit by a car.  That derailed training for really a month while I was recovering.  This caused me to miss my first race and race Rev3 Wisconsin Dells in not good form.  And because of that I had my worst race in my short triathlon career.  I over biked then suffered through the “run”.

I have had some good results since then in shorter races but with Ironman Wisconsin being my BIG race with Kona being the ultimate goal I needed some reassurance that my fitness was back.  I knew in the back of my head it was because training has been going well and my coach, Jonnyo, has been making me WORK but being able to perform in a race is different.  I thought this race was my best start to finish race yet.  But as good as this race was/is I know I still have work to do in order to race my best at Ironman Wisconsin!  Now the boring details about the race!

Getting a GREAT pep talk from my GF Jessica!

Getting a GREAT pep talk from my GF Jessica!

Swim: 30:35 (1:35 min/100 M) 4th AG/46th Overall

Well any swim in Lake Michigan can be an adventure.  And today was a decent adventure.  The “waves” were coming at us at an angle so it caused me to not be able to breathe to my left that much which kind of sucked.  Right before our start the announcer told us the lead pro was out at 25.  I thought to myself that a 32 swim would probably be in order.

Got a good start off the beach on the outside left, first turn was right.  I wanted to stay in front if possible but not get engulfed by other swimmers.  I got my rhythm and started to cruise and it was pretty much smooth swimming throughout except for a few sections that got pretty congested with other waves.  But my Xterra Vendetta wetsuit kept me going fast which I am very grateful for!  When I got out of the water my dad told me he only saw a few swimmers ahead.  That was a pleasant surprise.  Maybe I have finally learned how to race a swim!

The dreaded "run" up the beach to transition.

The dreaded “run” up the beach to transition.

Bike: 2:23:04 (23.49 MPH/222 NP) 2nd AG/47th Overall

I got on the bike ready to ride hard but also keep myself in check.  After the much too hard ride at Wisconsin Dells and my blow up on the run I wanted to keep some gas in the tank for my run.  And that is a very, very fine line at long course races.  Short course races I can go pretty hard and still run decently but there is no faking a half marathon if you biked too hard.  I rode Dells at 235 NP and have been doing most of my zone 3 rides at about 225-230ish so I was thinking I would see how my legs felt and be conservative and stay at 220-230 depending.

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Legs felt pretty good at the start so I kept the power below 230 for the most part and made sure to get my nutrition right, thank you Osmo Nutrition!  Got in a nice groove and started to ride behind one rider but he soon started to go a bit faster and instead of keeping up I let him go.  Then another rider passed me and the rider who I was with just got right on the guys wheel.  It was really frustrating because I thought he was in my AG and he was getting a free ride.  But all is ok because he was not in my AG and he didn’t look good when I saw him at mile 1 of the run.

About halfway through the ride I was still feeling good and still holding myself back.  My power dropped a bit because I had to coast a few times to empty my bladder.  Happy with that because that meant I was keeping myself hydrated.  I think I nailed my nutrition but I missed a bottle at an aid station that I wanted to I was a bit worried I would be low calories at the start of the run.  But now that the ride is over it is time to put my PF Flyers on and see how fast I could run!

Run: 1:20:59 (6:10 min/mile) 1st AG/25th Overall

The Steelhead run course is a good honest course with a few steep, but shorter hills and some heat.  The first hill is right out of transition and it really tests you early on.  My legs felt good so I was happy.  My plan was to take gels/blocks at mile 2/5/8/11 and when I got to mile 2 I grabbed a gel.  Strawberry banana..YUCK!  If you know me you know that I HATE banana but the other option of blowing up and walking home was not worth it so I gulped it down and kept going.  Around that time I caught up with a few runners from an older AG who were running well.  I started to sit in behind them and pace off of them but after a few hundred yards I pulled ahead/side and we ran together for a while.  One of the guys I was running with is a crazy fast AGer, Scott Lott, who hosts the Training Bible Podcast I listen to when training.  We talked for a second then ran with each other for a mile or so.  It was really nice to run with someone because it makes it easier to run since I am not concerned with looking at my watch as much.  I was feeling really good and was happy to run with someone.  But that was short-lived, nature called and he took off not to be seen until after the race.

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Miles started ticking away and I was still feeling good.  It got pretty hot at certain times when running on the tar with no shade but, thankfully, it didn’t seem to hurt me.  I tackled the steep hill on the first loop and started the second loop.  I was counting minutes and thinking that a 1:22 might be possible and maybe a 4:20 overall.  But I wanted to make sure I kept my pace because I assumed I was high up in the AG but not sure where.  I ended up passing the 1st place guy at about mile 6.5 and kept going.  More miles ticked off and more nasty strawberry banana gels were taken.  I started with the magic potion of coke at mile 7 which is great.

Up the steep hill for the second, and last time, and I had about 3 miles left.  I tried to pick it up a bit.  Made the turn to the finish with about a mile and a half left.  Now the hill that we had to run up at the start is also the hill we go down at the end and that tested my quads.  I could not get my leg turn over to fully take advantage of the hill but oh well.  I saw that no one was close to me but kept pushing the pace because I wanted to get every second I could out of the race.

Sprinting down the finish chute

Sprinting down the finish chute

Cross the finish like happy with my race.  My dad tells me I won my AG and that made me pretty damn happy.  I have won my AG in other races but never in a bigger race like this.  I also PRd every leg of the race, I had a faster bike time at Steelhead in 2011 but that had a cancelled swim, and ended up with my fastest overall time by about 7 minutes

Finish: 4:18:27 1st AG/25th Overall/10th amateur

Awards ceremony!

Awards ceremony!

VERY happy with this race.  Looking briefly at the results I think I had one of the top 10 run times overall which is fantastic but still need some work on my bike.  I have a few tough weeks of training then taper time for Ironman Wisconsin!

As usual HUGE thank you to my girlfriend, Jessica, and my parents for coming out and watching me!  It always makes racing more fun when I get to race in front of friends and family.  Also, thanks to all of the volunteers for making the race run so smoothly.

I am very happy to be a part of the amazing Snapple Triathlon Team who are supported by some AMAZING sponsors: Xterra Wetsuits, Osmo Nutrition, Louis Garneau, HED Cycling, SweatVac, Rudy Project, and Clif Bar!

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