Racing Professionally in 2018

As a kid I played most sports but soccer was always my favorite. I played soccer all through high school then played in college. I was a 2x Regional All-American and a 3x All-Conference player in college. When I graduated I did everything I could to try to play professionally. I traveled to Florida, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Milwaukee, pretty much any place I could to try to make it happen. I took 3 years post college to give it everything I had to try to make it. Why? Because I NEVER wanted to look back and wonder “what if”.

After those 3 years I moved on from that goal and kept playing with other teams but it wasn’t the same. I gave it everything and it didn’t work out. But that’s life.

So on to my next chapter! And that next chapter turned out to be the 2010 Chicago Marathon. My dad ran a marathon when he was younger so, of course, I wanted to do the same. In the WAY back of my mind was triathlon. I had seen Kona on TV and thought that would be cool to do someday but never did I think an Ironman was realistically in the cards.

Fast forward 7 years and I am still racing triathlon. When I started racing triathlons in 2011 I never thought I would take it to this level but year after year, race after race, I got better and faster. At 70.3 Steelhead this year I qualified for my Elite License with my 3rd place amateur finish. I know I didn’t win the race, I know I wasn’t the best amateur racing, I know I finished 20th overall but I don’t think I am done getting better at each of these sports.

So for the 2018 season I am going to take a leap and race professionally. Do I have illusions of winning Kona, or any other World or Regional Championship race? No. But what I am going to do is go out everyday and train smart and hard, so that I can race to the best of my ability. What I am also going to do, and more importantly, is do all of that while being, a husband, a new dad, a son, a friend, and a full time teacher.

Why race professionally if I don’t think I am going to win races? Well because if everyone had that mindset we would only have about 10-15 professional athletes racing around the world! I will also race professionally because, like I said above, I don’t want to look back in 2, 5, or 15 years and wonder “what if”. What if I raced a few years professionally? What if I showed my kid(s), my students, and my soccer players that even though I was not winning, I was going out and giving it everything I had and to show them that hard work pays off? That is what I think would make me a successful triathlete, dad, teacher, and person.

I completely understand that I am going to get my butt kicked in every race but I am prepared for that. I am willing to train hard and smart to be the best I can be. That is why I am going to be racing professionally in 2018. Hate it or love it that is my plan!

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My First Triathlon

As I finish up my 7th season as a triathlete my mind sometimes wanders back to 2004 when I completed my first triathlon. And man oh man was that race a disaster! But I guess it sparked my triathlon career 6 years before I even knew it.

I decided to do the Devils Lake Triathlon kind of out of no where. I was home from college for a semester and thought, “what the heck? This looks fun.” My training consisted of riding my mountain bike around, swimming enough laps to get 400 yards, and running every now and then while playing soccer.

Come race weekend I drove up to Wisconsin and camped out at the state park. Ate no dinner or had no plan for breakfast outside of a granola bar I had. That was just one of the mistakes I made. I also thought it was a good idea to change wheels with my dad’s bike. I mean why wouldn’t that work out? It may or may not have the same cassette, may or may not have the same gearing, but it did have thinner tires so why not?!

With those mistakes out-of-the-way things could only go up right? Wrong. I was only equipped with tri shorts for the cold swim so when I tried to put my head in I freaked out. So I hung on the buoy for a little while then somehow made it to the swim exit. I got to my bike, laced up my running shoes, put on a running shirt then started the ride. No tri kit or cycling shoes for me!

It was a hilly bike ride and the wheel change I made would quickly be an issue. I dropped my chain 3-4 times on the ride and it was a struggle most of the way. But the good thing is I had my running shoes and shirt on already so it made for a quick T2! Running was the easy part. I made it through the run and got to the finish.

What is the point I am trying to make in this post? Is that everyone has to start somewhere! Whether it is triathlon, running, a new job, a new school, whatever it is, everyone has to start at step one. Some make it to step 2 a bit faster than others but we all start somewhere. If you work hard and put in the effort then things will go your way!

Ironman Texas Race Report!

So I will try to make this race report as short as possible and I will attempt to have it not jump around too much but, unfortunately, I have the tendency to ramble and skip around.  So I am sorry in advance but I hope it is still enjoyable!

Prerace

My parents and I flew in to Houston on Thursday afternoon then headed to the hotel then the expo to check in.  Nothing special there and I did not look in the merchandise tent because I was not going to buy something until I actually finished the race!  I got a massage on Tuesday because my legs were in desperate need of one but for some reason my legs were still sore on Thursday but I was just hoping that it would pass so I stretched and sat in the hot tub to try to loosen things up.

Woke up Friday morning to head to the swim practice.  I met up with one of the Snapple Pros, Robbie Wade, and we did our day before swim-bike-runs together which was cool.  He gave me some good advice and it helped me relax to be able to talk to about the race.  My sister drove over from New Orleans on Friday which was pretty cool.  We went out to dinner, which ended up being my second dinner because I ate my pasta, chicken, and a piece of pizza earlier, then it was time to head home and relax then head to bed.  I was worried I would not be able to get any sleep but surprisingly I slept pretty well.

Race Morning

Woke up at 3:45, went down to the lobby to have my breakfast.  I could only force down one of my bagels and peanut butter so I replaced the other one with another bottle of Ensure, I had one right when I woke up, and a Bonk Breaker bar.  My dad and I headed over to pump up my tires and put my bottles on my bike.  Then we headed back to the hotel to relax for a bit before heading to the swim start.

Swim

I got to the swim at around 6:20 which was plenty of time.  My parents and sister dropped me off then headed to park and sit around transition.  For some crazy reason I was not really nervous.  Maybe it was because I knew I had trained for this and I was ready, maybe it was I was totally oblivious to what I was actually getting into, or maybe it was a bit of both.  I got in the water about 15 minutes early so I sat on a dock so I did not have to tread water for very long then with about 5 minutes to start I got close to where I thought I should seed myself and hung on to a kayak for a few more minutes.  I ended up about 4-5 people back and to the right start buoy.

Then BANG, the cannon went off and it was crazy.  I will say it was not as crazy as I thought it was going to be because I seemed to be able to find some space to swim in and I wasn’t getting swam over which was good.  But then after a few minutes people who started to the right of me started to merge and it got a little crazy.  I got a few good punches to the head but luckily none of them dislodged my goggles because that would have sucked big time.  Then after a few more minutes my groin started to tighten up.  Great, that’s exactly what I want at the start of a 10 plus hour day, to start the swim already in pain!  Not cool and luckily I do not kick much so it did not really bother me.  But then the swim got more eventful.  This one guy was all over my feet, and one of his strokes yanked at my timing strap.  I did not know it then but he actually tore the part of the strap that is stitched on and because of that I lost my chip.

The rest of the swim wasn’t bad and swimming down the canal was pretty cool because people were on both sides cheering and it was nice to see people.  The swim ended up being slower than I wanted but considering it was my second open water swim of the year and my first at that distance I was ok with it.

Swim time: 1:10:24 (33rd AG and 269 overall)

Bike

Ok now it’s time to make up some time on the bike!  (or that’s what I had hoped for).  But that plan went out the window just a few miles into the bike.  My plan for the bike was to steadily increase my power from around 160 at the start and end up at around 180-190 which is 70-80% my FTP, and the power I have done my long rides in.  But all of a sudden I felt something in my left glute.  Shit!  That pain almost ended my day because usually when my glute starts to spasm/cramp it does not go away, for like a week, and I cannot bike through it.  So 2 miles into my ride I thought my day was over and I was either going to be on the bike course for 7 hours or I would have to DNF.  Screw that!  I flipped a switch and stopped feeling sorry for myself.  “Let’s stop and stretch this thing out then get back on and if it comes back just keep stopping and stretch.  Your day is not over, let’s go to plan b and just work on finishing today.”  So I stopped and stretched for about a minute then jumped back on my bike.  Sweet, after a few miles it seemed to go away!  I was ecstatic!  Ok now let’s get back to plan A and try to make up some time.

Around that time I also realized that I had lost my timing chip so I was worried that my parents, and others following me, would think I was in trouble since they would not know I finished the swim.  My dad told me after the race that he went to transition to see my bike gone so he knew it was probably a chip problem.  So I was now thinking about stopping to call my parents to tell them I was ok because I wouldn’t start the run for another 5.5 hours.  But I decided that stopping would waste some too much time so just kept going.  But unfortunately my legs weren’t there.  As I said in the pre-race, my legs were sore and just not 100% for some reason.  Oh well, let’s battle through this, make sure your nutrition is on point and things will fall into place.

Since I knew it was going to be HOT I kept drinking water and my First Endurance drink to make sure that dehydration and lack of calories would not be another issue on the day.  I knew I was staying hydrated because during the first half of the bike I was able to pee a few times.  And doing that in that sunny, hot and humid weather coming from the Chicago area was a huge boost.  This boost enabled me to pick up the power from about mile 40-80 which made up some time and I was able to pass a good amount of people.  I looked at my watch and saw that my 10 hour goal was still in reach but I decided to change it up and tell myself to race strong and a good time will follow.  Then it started to fell hotter.  Around mile 70-80 the sun seemed to close in on me and hover right above my head.  This is when it started to get TOUGH.  I have had some tough stretches during my long rides but nothing like this.  My mind was telling me that this was the worst thing ever and it had me wondering if I ever wanted to do an Ironman again.  “I mean, this is just ridiculous, 112 mile bike ride then a marathon?!  Come on Jeremy!”  That’s what my mind was telling me.  But after a few miles I was able to take over my mind and just go.  It was still tough and I was not able to keep my power numbers as high as I wanted but my mind was not playing tricks on me.  For the last 30 miles I started pacing with another guy which was nice.  Now I mean pacing when I say pacing, no drafting involved.  I would take a turn at pacing for a few miles then he would jump forward and do it.  Now some might wonder why taking turns pacing is better.  Well it is just one less thing I had to worry about.  It took a few miles for me to realize that he was going the same pace as me so I did not have to worry and that one less worry meant that I could just focus on my body and nutrition.

Another tough part about the last bit of the bike was now we were going into a headwind.  Now, to me, the wind felt like it was 30 MPH but it was probably no more than 15-20 gusts and a constant 10 but after 90 miles of riding in the heat takes a lot out of you!  I see the century mile marker, sweet.  But this is when I made the mistake of counting minutes.  “12 miles left, so if I go at 20 MPH to the finish ill have 36 minutes left.”  The problem with counting minutes is I kept looking at my Garmin and I swear it did not move!

Only a few miles left!  These miles were tough though.  My power dropped because my legs just could not go anymore.  My stomach started to feel not right, I could not get any more calories in and I had to stand up and ride to keep my power up.  But the good thing I knew I was close to the end of the ride.  So now it was time to think about getting my running legs under me!

Bike time: 5:26:25, 20.59 MPH, 167 av. power, 179 norm power (24th AG and 256th overall)

Run:

Yes!  It’s finally time to get off the bike and run.  Wait…did I just say I was excited to run a marathon after I have already been on the move for 6.5 hours?!  I guess I am crazy.  But the first order of business was I needed a new chip.  I asked volunteers right when I got to transition, they said go to the changing tent, I asked in the tent, and no one knew, I asked someone right outside the tent and they told me in the tent, then finally someone pointed to the place and I went and got my chip!  Finally a split would show up and prove I was alive!

My plan going into the marathon was to run around 7:30 min/mile but I figured that was out of the question after the heat and bike took my energy.  So I just started running.  I was staying at around a 7:30ish pace, according to my Garmin, but for some reason it was off a little bit and I was actually running faster than my watch told me.  Either way I was happy with it because I knew I was not going to be able to negative split the marathon so I decided to put some time in the bank since I felt my legs slowly starting to go.  It ended up being a good idea, or I think it was a good idea.  Could I have run faster if I started off slower?  Maybe.  Would I have run much faster?  Probably not.  So I have no regrets with going out a little faster because I just do not think my legs wanted much to do with the last 14 miles.

What I was very happy with is I was able to run the first 13 miles with no walking.  I was still hitting the aid stations and getting my calories in but it was nice to know that I was able to keep it up for that long.  The course was laid out with 3 loops which was nice for my family because they could sit and see my 6 different times because they could see my running across the canal.  The first lap went well and I ended up averaging 7 minutes a mile but according to my Garmin I did not run a mile faster than 7:11 on that lap so something was off.  The run course was really nice during the areas by the canal because there was so much support but some of the other areas were very lonely.  Lonely and hot.  That about sums it up.

Lap 2 was when I started to walk a few aid stations because my legs needed a break.  I also used this time to work on getting my calories in and trying to lower my heart rate a little bit.  This was a good strategy and I was good at not letting the walking be something I did all the time.  If I did decide to walk sometime other than an aid station I counted down from 15 then got running again.  I finished lap 2 with a pace of 8:35 min/mile so a good amount slower than lap 1 but oh well.

Finally I made it to lap 3!  Only like 9 miles left and I will be an Ironman!  This was the toughest lap because physically my legs did not want to move anymore but I knew I was only 8 miles from the finish, then 7, then 6, then 5, then 4.  Once I hit the canal area again I knew it would be “easy” until the finish because the crowd allowed me to pick up the pace a little bit and just thinking about crossing the finish got my mind right.  For the whole run whenever I thought about finishing I got somewhat emotional because all of the training I had done and all of the things I have sacrificed were going to pay off!  It was a feeling that I cannot really put into words because saying it was “amazing” or “incredible” would not do the feeling justice.  Ok, back to the race.  My legs were still beat but being so close allowed me to keep going.  With about 2 miles left I started to worry about the fact that I was not with my original chip.  “Would they know it was me?”  “Should I stop and make sure?”  I know it’s kind of silly but I wanted to hear my name as I got close to the finish because one of the things that people who do these races think about during training is hearing Mike Riley say their name at the finish.

With a mile left I picked it up a bit, and by “picked it up” I made my legs move slightly faster but in reality it might not have been much faster.  At the fork in the course that marked the “lap 2/3” and “finish” areas I was FINALLY able to head right to the finish.  At this time I was running with another woman and when I saw her make the same turn I turned around and saw no one behind me so I slowed down to let her go so we could both have our time at the finish.  This is when the fun started.  The finishing area was a straight with people on both sides so I was giving out high 5’s to people on the right, then there was a right turn for about 40 yards with fans on the right.  So more high 5’s.  I was LOVING this.  All of these fans standing and cheering me on was amazing.  Then finally a 180 degree left turn and there it was.  A little uphill and the finish line!  I went from the right side of the road to the left side to give more high 5’s but I realized after it looked like I was about to fall over!  Then I hear it.  “Number 866, Jeremy Rielley, from Evanston, Illinois 27 years old…” as I finished I could have sworn I heard him say “you are an Ironman” but he didn’t.  That was kind of disappointing because I had been dreaming about that phrase and using it during training but oh well.  I AM AN IRONMAN!!!!

When I crossed the finish line was grabbed by a volunteer who walked me through the chute.  I told him I was fine but there was no way he was going to let me go.  It was probably a good thing because I could not walk straight!  I felt good but my legs did not want to move anymore.

Run time: 3:37:08, 8:17 min/mile (14th AG and 141st overall)

Final time: 10:23:30

I want to thank my parents and my sister for coming to watch me race.  It meant a lot to have your support and I hope it wasn’t too boring!  Thanks to my girlfriend and all of my friends for putting up with my lack of socializing and fun for the past months.  And thanks to everyone out there who was following me on race day and I am sorry for losing my chip and probably freaking you out!  Now it’s time to relax for a week then get back at it.  Ironman Wisconsin is next.

“The hay’s in the barn”…one week to Ironman Texas!

I typed that phrase, “the hay’s in the barn” into Google to see what came up and the whole first page were posts about running, triathlons, etc.  That is a common phrase one might hear when it is getting close to an event.  It basically means that there isn’t anymore fitness that can be gained before the race unless you want to show up tired and burnt out!  So that also means that it’s….TAPER TIME!  My coach and I decided that for Ironman Texas we would use a solid two week taper which is going well so far.  Last week I ended up at around 18 hours of training and this week will be around 11-12.  Now it’s time to keep my body in shape but not go crazy and try to get more fitness.  I haven’t had any freak outs about the race yet which is good but we will see how next week pans out when my training volume really drops.

These next few weeks will be about keeping fresh and adding in some intensity along with easier workouts.  It is also about fueling my body.  I have been very strict, calorie wise, about my diet for the past few months to get down to race weight and the “Lose it” iPhone app has been my best friend.  But now I am more worried about making sure my glycogen stores are topped off and that I am getting enough electrolytes to make sure my body is ready for next Saturday because I am preparing for 95 degrees and humid.  I am super excited for my first Ironman and I cannot wait to put my training to the test down in Texas.  I know I am ready and I have been formulating my race strategy for the past few weeks and running through it in my head so I know how I want to race, now I just have to hope that nothing gets in the way of that!

April training hours

I know everyone has been on the edge of their seat waiting for my monthly installment of “my training hours” and since I have time today you are in luck!  All kidding aside I had a great month of training that even included the Chi-Town 1/2 Marathon and the shortened 70.3 NOLA triathlon.  April was a tough month of training because it was the month leading up to Ironman Texas.  So they involved some LONG weeks with a lot of training and a lot of mental work during the long hours.  But I managed, mostly, to get through all the workouts on the winning side, although I did lose a few mental battles but that happens.  So here we go…

Total training hours: around 68 hours

Swim Training: 13 hours and 17 minutes for 42350 yards

Cycling training: 32 hours and 30 minutes for +/- 588 miles

Run training: 21 hours and 15 minutes for 163 hours.

All of these were monthly highs for me and I had some good confidence boosters during the month which showed me that I could physically, and mentally, make it through an Ironman race.  I also think I have figured out my pacing for the race as well.  Tomorrow is, I think, my last longer day of training before May 19th so I am ready to tackle that then start to taper!

It’s race season!

It’s spring time!  The sun is out and the temperatures are up.  Well luckily we have had sun and warmer temperatures here in the Chicago area for a while.  But just knowing it is spring is mentally nice.  April is just around the corner and for me that means it’s time to get ready to race!  It also means that REAL Ironman Texas training is starting.  I am very excited for both of those.  And…it also means I only have a month left of my semester!

Sunday will be my first “race” of the year.  I put it in quotes because it is a C race which basically means it’s a training session.  The race is the Chi-Town half marathon.  I have no idea what that race will have in store for me because I have a 5 hour 15 minute ride Saturday so I am not sure about how my legs will feel.  But that’s the point.  I am getting my body ready for 10+ hours of hard work so this will be a great time to run fast, or I hope fast, on tired legs.  I have been hoping to get my 1/2 marathon time down to low/mid 1:20’s this year, last year 1:26:xx was my fastest at 70.3 Steelhead.  But I am not sure if I will be able to get there Sunday.  I will try like hell though.  Race day plans are to wake up, most important part, assess where my body is, eat and then start thinking about the race.  I will probably go out a bit slower, 6:40-6:45 for the first few miles to see how I feel then either run like hell or keep it steady.  Luckily the weather looks like it’s going to be amazing for Sunday.  Which is good because after the race the fun isn’t over!  I still have a 45 minute bike and hour run after!  This Ironman stuff is no joke.

But the real fun starts 3 weeks from Sunday when I am racing Ironman 70.3 New Orleans.  This was a late addition to my schedule and I am super excited for it.  The race will give me a change to put all the training together and give my body a little idea what a real race is like before Ironman Texas.  I am not sure how I am going to race NOLA, whether I will work on certain aspects of the race or just go out like I usually do.  One thing I would like to do is race the swim and draft off of others.  Drafting is going to be a must in Texas because it will help save energy and help me swim faster.

But all of this is just prep for May 19th!  My first Ironman.  I cannot believe it is 49 days away.  It hasn’t hit me yet but I am sure that during my long ride tomorrow I will be thinking lots about that day.