Steelhead 70.3 Report: All aboard…Choo Choo!

Starting this season I had a few goals. I wanted to continue to improve my racing and take it to the next level and compete more in the overall racing rather than just my age group. Another goal, the main goal, was to qualify for the 2017 Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Chattanooga. I raced the 2011 70.3 WC in Vegas by getting a roll down slot and it was a great experience but in reality I had no business being there in my first season of racing. Well the title kind of gives it away but goal accomplished!

Leading up to the race I knew I had some good fitness in my legs. I was coming off two good Olympic distance races and felt that with the proper taper I could race really well and secure my 70.3 WC spot. I drove up Saturday morning with my wife and sister and the ride was pretty easy. We stayed at our family friends house with some other athletes so it was a fun and laid back day before race.

As usually woke up crazy early to eat my pop tart, drink my ensure and espresso, then head over to the race to wait…and wait…and wait…until my wave started. It was nice seeing fellow teammates, Lauren and Chris, before the race start and we joked about what might be the first ever race in Lake Michigan that was a non-wetsuit swim! I heard someone call that out when I was walking in and thought it was a joke. But nope! It was the truth. I wasn’t really that worried because there was nothing to do about it but roll with it and adjust a few time goals. I wanted to try to go sub 4:10 but knew it would be close and with the non wetsuit swim I thought that was not in the cards but I was fine with that.

Got in the water and the water felt really good. As with every race the last few years I had a few thoughts in mind. “find feet” and “push the swim”. Well I started off well and tried to find feet. Found feet, lost feet, found more feet, lost more feet. The swim was pretty uneventful until the last 10 minutes when my hip flexors start to tighten a bit. That was not the feeling I wanted this early in the race. But it’s a long day so nothing to do but look forward! Got out of the water in around 31 minutes and 14th in my AG which was split into two waves.

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Ran through transition and saw Ryan and my family which is always a nice surprise. Got on the bike and my legs felt good! Starting in a late wave meant I would, hopefully, be passing people the whole 56 miles. The course was pretty busy but there were only a few spots that were a bit crazy. Got in a nice groove and stayed on top of nutrition and hydration. Miles were ticking off. I was trying to do mental math on how fast I was going. I was hoping to bike around a 2:18 as Best Bike Split had predicted but because I lap every 10 miles all I saw on my Garmin was 10 miles splits. And trying to add 24 minutes and divide for 10 miles then multiply to get 56 miles was WAY too much for me so I just rolled with it. Pushed the pace until the end and I think this might have been my first 70.3 race where no one passed me on the bike which was pretty cool. There is a little no pass zone right before transition so I clicked over to see my time and saw a 2:12! Wow, better than I thought. So that 4:10 was back in play! Here is my bike file for anyone who wants to check it out. I biked a 2:14:08 and got myself up into 7th in my AG and 16th Overall.

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I did a little math and figured if I could run around a 1:20, which was another season goal, I would be really close to that 4:10. The first mile and a half of the course was mainly up”hill” but nothing steep outside of a punchy one a mile in. Started out a bit too fast but things were feeling good so I went with it. Got in a nice groove and started passing people. I tried to pay attention to age numbers on the calves but most were wiped off from the wetsuit or sweat. I also knew that with the split waves an starting in the 2nd wave I just needed to pass everyone to be safe. I saw Ryan again right before the sucky hill on the loop and asked him if he knew where I was. He couldn’t tell because of the split waves so it was just time to leave it out there.

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Got onto lap 2 and saw Lauren crushing the run. We said “hi” but that is when things started to fall apart. The 2nd lap of the run felt like someone turned the sun way up. It might not have been that hot but the sun made me feel like death. Got to the magical 3 miles to go mark and I tried to pick it up a bit. The course ends the same as it starts so the last mile and a half was mostly downhill which would be great. Well that’s is when it started to get REAL! My hamstrings wanted to cramp and I felt like I wanted to pass out. Looking back at the run file I can see why…my heart rate was above 180 for the last 10 minutes! I don’t think I have seen it that high since a 5k race last year. Got down the finisher chute and about fell on the ground. Ended up with a 1:21:21 run splits good for 2nd best on the day.

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Saw my family shortly after and my dad told me he thought I had won the AG but the tracking wasn’t updating as fast. After a few minutes if was official. I can’t say I was the happiest person in the world because I felt terrible but I was happy I was going to the 70.3 World Championships! Ended up with a time of 4:11:14 good for 2nd Overall and an AG win. Now time to rest up and get ready for my tri season finale at the Chicago Triathlon.

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Big thanks for my wife, parents, and sister for coming to watch me race! It makes things a lot more fun when they are there to watch! Thanks to EGO p/b Sammys Bikes for helping to support me and believe in me! Thanks to Catlike HelmetsWattie InkICE Friction Chains, and SLF Motion for making my bike leg the fastest and most efficient it can be!

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Lake Zurich Triathlon: Back to Racing!

I got married on June 10th! I set up my season to have a few races before the wedding because not only did I have my wedding but I also had back to back weddings leading up to mine so those weeks were dedicated to my friends’ weddings! Then we went on our honeymoon the Monday after our wedding. And it was AMAZING! Then when I got home it was back to reality…well sort of reality, I am a teacher so “reality” in the summer is basically training and trying to pretend like I clean our apartment. (sorry Jessica!)

I got back to training but realized I needed a carrot before my next scheduled race, Steelhead 70.3 August 14th. So I signed up for two local Oly races and last Sunday was the first in Lake Zurich. My coach was ok with the races but made sure to let me know we would not be resting for them since our priority is Steelhead and the Chicago Triathlon. I didn’t think much of the no rest part until about mile 3 of the run. But more of that later!

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The Lake Zurich Tri is a great race. Good local feel with a fun course. We started the swim and I tried to get off to a fast start but with a beach start that made it more difficult. Dove in to dolphin dive and my goggles moved and filled with water so I had to turn over to fix them. Not too bad but still annoying. Ended up swimming alone for most of the swim and came out next to someone in 4th place.

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Got on the bike and tried to push it. My Catlike helmet makes thing nice and easy in transition because it is easy to get on and has a visor so no need for glasses! The course was nice and open for the first 10 miles until I caught the tail end of the sprint field. It was around that time someone came up and passed me. It was a nice change since he was going the same speed as me so we rode the rest of the ride together, legally of course! It was also nice that there were marshals out on course giving penalties…take note WTC! Got off the bike in 3rd place and was ready to run the first two down! The Wattie Ink kit still amazes me. Super comfy and seems to be pretty fast as well. Having the ICE Friction chain on the bike makes thing smooth and quiet! And it saves me some watts!

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Got out on the run and tried to quickly catch the first two people. I passed one person about a mile in and tried to keep pushing but just did not have that extra gear. I finished the first loop and my wife and sister told me I was in 1st. I got a bit confused because I only saw one person I passed but then on the second loop the RD told me I was in first. Sorry Jessica and Tess! I tried to stay in control but pick up the pace but still did not have the legs. Oh well. I rounded the final turn and kicked it in as best I could for the win!

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But the finish was not without controversy, or confusion is a better word. The RD came up to congratulate me and asked about the course. We spoke for a few minutes then I went over to get some water and watch my dad, who came in 4th in his AG in his first official Oly race! Then a volunteer came up to apologize because he thought he told me the wrong lap but that was no biggie. He then said I was 2nd and someone came in about a minute ahead of me. That confused all of us because my wife and sister KNEW no one came in ahead of me because they knew who was ahead of me at the start of the run. After a few hours of waiting for the official results we finally realized that I had indeed won! Now time to keep up the training because I have the Wauconda Triathlon next Sunday and hopefully it goes similar to Lake Zurich!

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Two weeks, two races, one win

Well I opened up my triathlon race season last Saturday in Indiana. I raced the 31st Thunder in the Valley Olympic race. It was a pretty good race all in all and a decent start to the season but I still was hoping for better!

Woke up at 5:30 and it was 40 and a bit misty. So not the best weather to do a triathlon in! I got to the start with plenty of time to spare. Racked my bike and got everything in order. The sun was coming out a bit, thankfully, but it was still 45 and starting to get windy. I made the decision to get in the warm 67 degree water to warm up a bit and get out of the cold air temperature. Well the 15 minutes of warm up/floating turned in to about 25 because of a delay in the start. So needless to say I started shivering after a while.

I wanted to really push the swim and get on some feet to see if I could get some good drafting. This race was a 2 loop swim so it felt like an ITU race which was pretty cool. Got off to a good start and just started to swim. Nice and steady. Got done with 1 lap feeling good then ran around the grass to start the 2nd lap. I was able to follow feet for a little while but never got in a groove since people were so spread out. I got out of the water with a time of 19:49, I think the swim was short! I was in 4th place out of the water and had the 8th fastest swim time of the day. It was my first swim with my Xterra Vengeance wetsuit and that thing felt good!

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Got into transition and got my helmet on and put some gloves on. My hands go numb really fast so I didn’t want that to happen. I tried to exit with someone else but lost a bit of time with the gloves. Once we got out on the course I could tell it was very windy. And not just windy but very gusty as well which makes for some nerve wrecking riding! The out section was pretty smooth and fast but coming back was brutal. Very windy and I was getting pretty cold at that point but also VERY happy I had gloves on. Ended up with a 5 minute POSITIVE split because of wind and cold and biked a 1:02:52 which is about 5 minutes slower than I should’ve been. Got off the bike in 2nd place and had the 3rd fastest split of the day. My new Catlike helmet felt great and I LOVED the visor!

My new ICE Friction chain is keeping my ride silky smooth and saving me watts!

Now it was time to run as fast as I could! But first I had to get my shoes on. And that is easier said than done. The first shoe went decently well but I had to kneel down and take a few deep breathes to get the 2nd one on since I couldn’t feel my fingers anymore. I also tried to clip my race belt on but that wasn’t working so I had to just put it on over my head. But I guess you have to roll with the punches! I tried not to look at my watch too much because I just wanted to run off feel and see what that did for me. It seemed that every time I looked at my watch it was saying 6 min/mile so that was a bit frustrating since I thought I had enough fitness for 5:45s. But maybe the cold and the bike ride zapped my energy. It wasn’t until I saw the results that I saw I ran the fastest run split of the day by 2 minutes with a 35:08.

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I crossed the finish line second and happy to be done! The winner on the day was fast and executed a good race. Now time to rest up and get ready for Toughman Indiana this coming Saturday!

I was solo at my race so had to wait to get home to get a picture with the 2nd place medal!

Then last Saturday I opened up my long course season at Toughman Indiana. Looking at the course profiles online I thought it could be a PR course. Little did I know weather, wrong turns, and rough roads would spoil that party!

This was a TT swim start and I started 9th so I was hoping the people in front of me would be a bit faster so I could, as you can read above, find feet and conserve some energy. Well that didn’t happen and within a hundred yards I was in the lead! I was feeling pretty good and sighting well so I figured this would be a good swim. Based on my times last season and my pool times this season I thought a 27ish would be in the cards. So when I got out of the water and saw 29 on my watch I wasn’t the happiest I could be! But I was in the lead so was ready to get out on the course and see how my bike legs felt.

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Got out of T1 efficiently and was ready to roll! Got to the first roundabout and I didn’t really see the sign and the cops told me one way so I went with them. BIG MISTAKE. Thankfully about a mile down there was a dead end. I saw no markings on which way to turn so I thought “oh crap, I went the wrong way!” So I booked it back to that intersection and, yup, I was supposed to to 3/4 of the way around the roundabout and not 1/2. Well not the best way to start off a 57 mile, course was advertised as long, bike ride! I had to mentally get myself back in the game but it was tough. With the combo of a headwind, cross winds (which were awful), and missed aid stations because of missed handoffs my mental game was shot to crap! Finished the ride 2nd and my dad told me I was about 1.5 minutes down.

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So doing what I feel like I do way too often, because of my lack of bike prowess, I had to play the catch up game! But the issue was I did not feel very good! But I was determined to just go.it sure is crazy what the mind can do to ones motivation. I was a bit dehydrated and really thirsty and knowing I needed calories and fluids but when I got to the first aid station no one was there! I was able to grab a cup but I did not want to slow down too much because my goal was catching 1st place! The issue was that was the theme of the run. This was a first year event so there were a lot of wrinkles to iron out and the biggest one was lack of volunteers. I was only able to get about 5 SMALL dixie cups of gatorade/water in during the run and I was sure I was going to bonk. About a quarter way through the run I caught 1st place and we both kind of talked about the lack of support on course. But on I go! Make it to the half way point and see my parents. I wanted to tell them that I wanted to quit and I might be in terrible shape at the finish but I didn’t. I have done that before and it was not a good idea! I try to push the pace a bit because I just want to be done. It was easier on the out portion of the run because it was slightly downhill but also a tailwind. So coming back the last 2.5 miles or so was uphill and in the wind which basically zapped my soul dry!

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I manage to make it to the finish and cross the line thinking I won. But with a TT start you never know. My dad took time of the TT start from start to finish so we are watching the clock and see who crosses. After about 12 minutes I had a good idea I won the race. But it wasn’t then best feeling because I did not feel good and I was not happy with how my race turned out. But a win is a win so I can’t complain anymore! It is great to start the season off with a win and a 2nd place finish but also a great way to go on a little “break” and enjoy two of my best friend’s weddings and my own wedding and my honeymoon! But I will be back to racing sometime in July!

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Thanks of EGO p/b Sammy’s bike tri team for allowing me to race with you this year. And thanks for our AMAZING sponsors: ICE Friction Chains, Vitargo, Wattie Ink, Eliel Cycling, and Catlike Helmets!

Winter Training Woes

Chicago winters are dark, dreary, cold, windy, LONG, icy, boring, and did I mention long?! The winters around here can do a few things to training. They can kick start the mental toughness that comes along with endurance sports, and/or it can start a process that saps you mentally so you might not want to train! For me it does both. But if I can keep coming back and waking up to train when I am mentally drained I know that I will be ready to go when the season comes along.

I don’t mind riding on the trainer as long as I have some good music of TV to watch. I don’t mind running outside in the cold. What really gets me is waking up early to go swim and it is pitch black outside! I then have to drive to the pool, get in the “cold” water and swim. But once I am in the water things change, well usually. There are times when I am swimming and I think “man I wish I was a duathlete!” But I feel like this is all a part of the process of becoming mentally strong. Winter training separates the weak from the strong and it is the building block to a solid season.

I do get a bit worn down around this time because I want to get outside and ride my bike! Even during the season when the weather is nice I don’t ride outside all of the time. That is mostly because I live in the city and riding, or driving, to an area that is good to ride take a bit of time. But it is also because I know I can get a lot of great quality training done on the trainer since there are no stop lights, no coasting, nothing but me and the numbers!

I am VERY excited for this upcoming year. There are a lot of things that will be going on and triathlon is only a small portion. 2016 is going to be a great year!

A New Year and New Opportunities

Well it is 2016! After a very successful 2015 I am very excited and eager to get 2016 under way! This year is going to be amazing. I am excited, first off, to get married in June, go on a honeymoon, race fast and train hard (in that order).

In 2015 I won my first race overall at the Chicago Triathlon, I came 2nd in my age group at the USAT AG National Championships, I won my age group at Ironman 70.3 Racine, PR’d at the Chicago Marathon, and I got engaged! I feel like 2015 was really my coming out party for triathlon. I grew so much as an athlete, I learned to endure different suffering and training stress and race differently so I could compete at the front of the amateur race as best I could.

The new opportunities are not only in my personal life, with my marriage, but I also joined a new triathlon team. I joined EGO p/b Sammy’s Bikes team. This is a small group of crazy fast triathletes based out of the Chicagoland area. It was something that I thought hard about because leaving the Snapple Triathlon team was a tough decision. They have been with me since the start of my triathlon career and I don’t think I would be where I am now without their support and confidence in me. But this opportunity was too good to pass up. I will be able to train and race with some of the best triathletes around, I will have a go to bike shop which is HUGE, and I will have the chance to grow more as an athlete. I will be able to continue to develop and be supported by this great group of athletes and the great sponsors we have.

I am very thankful for the new opportunity with my new team but I also feel that I have to prove my worth to them and the sponsors by continuing my 2016 the way 2015 ended. I am eager and very excited to get to work to become the best triathlete I can be so I can race even faster in 2016!

Hard Work is King

Before I get to my actual blog post I wanted to give a super short race report of the Chicago Marathon. Wanted around 2:40. Started off at about 2:45 pace. Felt good until mile 14. Then it hurt. And hurt some more. And then really hurt. Why am I doing this? I will never do another marathon again. Finish race. Disappointed with a PR of 2:44:46. Take a few days to realize I only had a month of true marathon prep. So now not as disappointed. The end.

Now to start the real blog post. In the 4ish years I have been training/racing I have learned a lot. I have learned a lot about nutrition, fueling, injuries, bikes, running, aerodynamics. But one of the things that I have come to realize is that there is no one workout that will get you ready for a race. What gets you ready for a race is A LOT of hard work and consistency. I have thought back to what I did the last two years to get to where I am today and realized that it has all been a progression of smart, hard training year after year to get me in this position.

I have had different coaches over the last 4 years and I have been with my current coach for the last 2 years. What have we done differently? Honestly, I am not exactly sure if we have done much differently we have just attacked training with a different mindset. We have changed my swim sets to work on my weaknesses but distances are still around the same. We have focused on the bike a lot to allow me to run better off the bike. We are still doing good volume, like in the past, but we are also working on A LOT of quality, and it is painful, but rewarding quality.

There is no magic to training. Waking up at 5 AM to swim then cycling/running after work when you are tired day after day then again on the weekends is no secret. But it works. It might take 2 years, 4 years, 5 years to get to your potential but it is worth it. I don’t think I have hit my top end yet and I know I can still improve. It is now time to keep up the hard work and consistency to ensure that I keep getting faster. I am looking forward to the 2016, not only for racing, but also because I am getting married in June! I will have a lot going on this year and my life is changing but I will go after it like I have been the last 5 years; with passion and dedication!

Chicago Triatlon: My First Overall Win!!!!

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Just typing that title gave me goosebumps. I am about 48 hours removed from winning the Chicago Triathlon and I am still digesting what that really means. Winning any race is fantastic but thinking that I won a race that is 33 years old and is one of the most attended races in the world, and in my hometown, makes it even better! Even thinking that I am a bit unsure of what it really means. Was the competition good? I am not sure how deep the field was but I know that the second place athlete, Brett Collins, won the race last year and has some FANTASTIC results on his resume. Maybe I am not giving myself enough credit, or maybe I am still figuring out what it means.

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No matter what the field size or depth, no matter what race it is or where it is I was honored and very emotional when I crossed the finish line on Sunday. I am going to do this race recap a little differently because the race was, well, different! I will start at the end. Turning the corner and seeing the finish a few hundred yards away was the first time I really thought I was going to win the race. Up until then I thought I was going to get caught. I kept asking my lead-out cyclist if there was anyone behind me but he couldn’t really turn around because he was directing traffic on the path. I didn’t want to turn around and show weakness if someone was behind me. But I knew that if someone came up and tried to pass me I was going to run with them no matter what.

The emotions I felt running down the finish are indescribable. It was an amazing feeling but I think it was also a bit of relief. My parents were there and my fiancé was there too. I think that result kind of cemented to them that all the hard work and training paid off. I know that my family is happy no matter what place I get and no matter what kind of race I have but to be able to show them that the 12-18 hours of training I do a week on top of a full-time job and coaching soccer is working makes me feel better too. Getting that result is something that is still really hard to describe but emotional is about all I can say.

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As I said above it wasn’t until the finishing stretch that I really thought I had a chance to win even though I was in the lead for basically the last 3 miles. I came out of the water with a swim I would be happy with last year but not this year. For some reason I lost my breath a few times which caused me to slow down to catch it. I came out of the water 6th place and was kind of down on myself. The long run to transition gave me some time to settle down and realize that I have been cycling very well lately so I should be able to make up some ground then hopefully cut the lead to catch people on the run.

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Out on the bike I got into a good groove and started to hammer. My legs felt really good and the weather was basically perfect. Someone from the triple race passed me and I tried to stay with him so he could help pace me and I could LEGALLY ride with him. I was behind him and saw my power drop a lot so I tried to pass him a few times but saw surges up to 300 watts so I figured I might as well save some energy and ride LEGALLY behind him. The bike came to an end with my being in 3rd place. Still a lot of work to do.

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Off the bike I knew I was in 3rd but wasn’t sure how far back I was. I had a good, fast transition then got out onto the run and heard my dad say “2.5 minutes back”. Damn. That is a long time to make up in 10k. That comes out to about 25 seconds a mile. I ran 5:40s at Nationals so I was hoping the leader was going about 6 minutes. I started to push it from the start knowing I had to make up time quickly. Having a cyclist in front of me was pretty cool. They cleared the path to make sure I had a good running lane. I missed seeing my mom and fiancé about a mile in because I was already in some pain but knew if I wanted to make up time I was going to have to go hard. Sorry mom and Jessica! At about the 3 mile mark I made the pass into second. I saw first place and looked at my watch to get an idea of how far ahead he was. About 30 seconds close to the turn around. I knew I was going to be able to catch him but then after the turn I became concerned with the eventual 2nd place finisher because he looked strong. I made an effort to push a bit harder and hope that once he saw he wasn’t gaining time he would pack it in and be good with 2nd place.

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Now I was about a quarter mile from the finish and felt like death. We had to run up a slight incline which felt like a mountain then I made the right turn and saw the finish! And that is when the emotions started! As always thanks to EVERYONE for the support and following my road to my first win! But an even bigger thanks to my parents who come to every race no matter what and HUGE thanks to my fiancé who puts up with my training and my grumpiness during peak weeks when all I want to do is eat and sleep! Now time to focus on the Chicago Marathon!

Swim: 22:26 (1:22 min/100 yards)

Bike: 58:52 (256 NP/26.5 MPH)

Run: 34:42 (5:36 min/mile)