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)

Age Group Nationals: An unexpected AG silver medal!

3 weeks ago I raced 70.3 Racine and won my age group and placed 11th amateur. I was very happy with the end result but was not completely satisfied because I was not able to show my bike fitness. Fast forward 3 weeks and I am sitting here still in a bit of disbelief with my result at Saturday’s USAT Age Group National Championship. Last month I was going back and forth between signing up for this race of 70.3 Steelhead. I decided on this race because it was going to be moving away from Milwaukee and I was able to drive up the morning of the race. And I sure am happy I made that decision!

Last week I was looking at the USAT AG national rankings and to my surprise I was ranked 15th in the country in my AG. I know I am a good triathlete and I know I can get really good results and I see myself at the front of the race but I am still a bit unsure of myself since this is really the first year that I have been able to put a bunch of good results together. After I saw that I started to think about how I could do in this race. Two years ago I raced there and was like 48th in my AG with a 2:05:xx time which is my PR, well ITU Chicago is the PR but the course was short. I was thinking with my new fitness and experience I thought a top 20 result was realistic. I don’t fancy myself as a short course racer, I think 70.3 is my distance because I have more time to make up time on the run.

My fiancé drove up with me and was my supporter for the day since my parents were, unfortunately, out-of-town. I gave her instructions to tell me my placing after the swim and bike. Thankfully I was in the first wave or else that would have been all but impossible. I gave her rough time estimates of 23 for the swim, an hour for the bike, and 36 for the run. So I thought a 2:02-03 was a realistic result. But my goal was to push from start to finish and let it all fall into place from there.

Swim: 21:53 (1:16 min/100 yards) 14th AG/136th Overall swim time

The swim start was a bit interesting. We were all lined up on the dock in the water and we had to have one hand touching the dock. Now it might not have been so bad but we were PACKED in there. I was on the inside and was getting a bit nervous about the start. I am still not a fan of rough swims so I had to hope that I could get off the line fast and get into a good groove. Thankfully I did! I shot off the line and did not get touched. I tried to find feet and I found some, then I lost them, then found some more, then lost them. I tried to sight to see where I was but it was tough to tell. I figured top 20ish but not sure. Swim went well and felt pretty good. I was pushing it but still wish I could have stayed on someone’s feet to save energy. I got out of the water and saw 22:xx but knew I started my watch about 45 seconds early. So a good start to the race!

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Bike: 58:34 (25.5 MPH/268 NP) 3rd AG off the bike..2nd AG/60th Overall bike time

The good thing/bad thing about being #12 I was racked at the first bike rack. So almost as far away from bike/run exit as possible but also as close to swim in/bike in as possible. Got on my bike and heard my fiancé say 13th. I was very happy with that start and with the way my legs felt. I started pushing right away and knew I had good legs so I was pushing it from the start. There were a bunch of riders within a minute or so of me so I was able to get into top 10 pretty fast. Then slowly started pulling others back. I saw the first two riders and they looked a fair distance ahead so I was hoping I could make up some time on the bike and hopefully be able to run some more time into them. Made it into the top 5 at the turn back to transition then I hit a bump and my right aerobar came loose. It was more of an annoyance than a real issue. If it was a longer race it would have been worse but I only had about 15 minutes left so I knew I could just focus on putting weight on the back of the pad so I didn’t fall forward. Made it into 3rd place with a few minutes left and I saw 2nd place up the road. I wasn’t able to catch him but I was VERY happy to get off the bike in 3rd. I was a bit worried that someone behind me would run me down at a race like this so I wanted to push it from the start and see how the legs felt.

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Run: 35:13 (5:41 min/mile) 2nd AG…fastest run in AG and 15th fastest overall

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If you have been following me for the last few years you know that the run is where I shine. I was hoping that I could keep that going and at least get up into 2nd and hope that no one passed me. Legs felt good out of transition and started to tick off the miles. First mile was 5:43. I saw the leader and started timing him to see how far ahead he was…I looked at my watch and saw 4 minutes! Well no chance of catching him! But 2nd place was close and I made the pass about a mile and a half in. I kept the pedal to the metal and pushed as hard as I could. My legs were feeling VERY good but I also wanted to make sure that the 3rd place guy didn’t catch back up so I was pushing it but making sure I had energy left for my final 2 mile pick up. At the turn with about 2 miles left I knew I wasn’t catching 1st but wasn’t sure exactly how far 3rd was back and then I saw a group of runners looking pretty good so I had to keep focus on breathing and my stride to not let anyone back in the game. I saw my friend Nick and he yelled some encouragement to me and that gave me a little added push. The last few miles hurt very bad because I now wanted to gain every second possible so my overall placing would be as high as possible since at a race this short seconds matter. With a half mile to go someone told me no one was going to catch me but to kick it in because I was racing against the clock. So I ignored the pain and discomfort and hit it. I ran down the finishing chute to a nice big crowd and announcers calling my name.

Finish: 1:57:30 2nd AG/24th Overall

Pure relief!

Pure relief!

I cross the finish line and someone congratulates me. I take a second look and it was Mark Allen. For those who don’t know he is one of the best triathletes EVER. He won 5 straight Ironman World Championships and 6 in all and is famous for his show down with Dave Scott in the 1989 “Iron War”. Two years ago I got my medal from Chrissie Wellington, arguably best woman triathlete ever, and this year Mark Allen, pretty cool! Right after that another person shakes my hand, I thought he was just saying good race but he said “you’ve been selected for doping control.” Well then, I guess I get to pee in a cup! I found Jessica to get my ID then walked over to the testing area. After chugging a bunch of Gatorade and water and answering a bunch of questions I was ready to give my sample. They need a lot of urine so I wanted to make sure I was ready for it. Thankfully Jessica followed others over so she was there with me and I was able to answer text messages from family and friends. I was able to get it done in one try. But it sure was a VERY awkward trip to the bathroom. As annoying as it was to not be able to relax and soak in the finish I am extremely happy USAT is taking age group doping seriously. It is sad to say that I am sure there were plenty of athletes who were taking something illegal. Testosterone supplementation has been such a big issue that it is nice to see them testing. But when they were asking questions I wanted to be like “I am a 3rd year elementary education teacher, I don’t have money for doping!”

I am extremely happy with this result and very happy that I was able to put a great race together from start to finish. Now time to start the real big training of the Chicago Marathon but I still have the Chicago Triathlon at the end of the month. But the focus will be to get A LOT of run miles in and not lose too much swim/bike fitness. Thanks everyone for the support!