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!

Rolling Starts are Fun! 70.3 Steelhead

In the 4 weeks between Racine and Steelhead I put in A LOT of work on the bike. The week before Steelhead was 15 hours of training so even with a week to recover I was still a bit worried my legs wouldn’t make the turn around and be ready. But no matter how my legs felt I was going to make sure I got everything out of them as I could!

Steelhead would be my first rolling swim start. Racine was going to be a rolling start but with the cancelled swim it became a TT start. I was really looking forward to the start because I wouldn’t have to wait around waiting for my wave to start and I was hoping that I could find some others to swim with since we are self seeded into groups based on time. Another plus is I thought I would be able to find a few other races to legally ride with which my coach and I thought would help a lot too.

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I seeded myself in the 27-30 minute group hoping to swim at the lower end of that time if all went well. I started with my teammate, and 70.3 World Champion and hopefully Kona champ!, Ryan Giuliano and we swam together for a bit but soon I lost him. The swim had some chop to it, although it was hard to figure out if there was a current or it was just chop. I was in a good rhythm and was passing a fair amount of people so I was thinking I might be swimming close to a 26 based on how many others I was passing. But come the final stretch to shore we would get some of the “waves” we were up against on the first section but I felt like we would also get pushed back a bit when the water returned from shore. According to my Garmin I was going steady at 1:19 min/100y the first two legs then 1:26 the last section. This might not be accurate since it isn’t great at getting satellites when in the water but the line seems pretty straight. Ended up swimming a 28:59 which was the top in my AG and 11th amateur. Swim data

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Ran through the long transition area to get to my bike and get ready to ride. My goal was to ride at the watts I knew I could hold but also to hop on the back of a group and push harder for a while if that meant getting in with a group. About 5 miles into the ride I got passed and tried to stay with that rider but after a bit he was gone. Then a little later Ryan passed me and yelled at me to get going. Well I tried but he was pushing way above what my legs wanted to give out at that time. Most of the ride was pretty lonely but for a good 10-15 mile stretch I was able to ride with a group of 4. I sat in the back for most of it so I could save some energy. The group broke up after a while and it was back to riding alone again. I kept looking at my watts, which were spot on, but looking at my speed and time and was getting a bit discouraged. I ended up riding a 2:17:42. I was pretty disappointed that day but after looking at all the results I realized that the times were that fast across the board so that made me feel better. I had the 3rd top split in my AG and came off the bike 10th amateur. Bike data

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Well now it was time for run. They say “bike for show, run for dough” and I think that sums up most of my races. Well except my bike splits usually aren’t that much “show”, they’re pretty much just go. The first few miles I passed a few guys on the road but had no clue where I was overall. I was hoping for a top 3 amateur finish in this race so I wanted to push it. I knew I was fighting for 3rd since the top two amateurs being World Champions so 3rd would have to be good enough on the day. I hit a rough patch about 5 miles in and a few miles were a struggle. This run course is very deceptive. Looking at the elevation it probably doesn’t look too bad but there is one hill out of transition then one hill we run twice during the loops. But there are also many tight turns, false flats, and not many straightaways to get in a groove. So I was getting discouraged by my splits and was thinking the worst about my placing.

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Looking at the tracker I made it to 3rd between mile 5-7.5 but I couldn’t tell that because I had no clue how many were in front after the bike and starting the second loop we get mixed up with those starting their first lap. So all I was doing every aid station was taking in cola and water and hoping it would keep me fueled until the finish. I got around to the split for the finish and the second lap and was VERY happy to head down hill to the finish. But for some reason the last 1.5 miles seemed like they took forever! I was crazy tired and ready to be done but the road just kept going and going and going. I got a lot of encouragement from the racers coming out on their first loop and that helped a lot. I finally got to the final turn and made a last-ditch effort to see if the legs had anything left in them. Ended with a 1:19:39 for 4th best split in my AG and 15th overall. Run data

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I crossed the finish line and saw Ryan and we started to chat and he said he thought I might be 3rd amateur but wasn’t sure. My wife found me and we checked and sure enough I was. I was happy but still pissed about my bike split and also annoyed because I wanted to break 4:10 and I was 4:10:29. My dad was racing his first 70.3 so I was wondering how he was doing. My mom and wife said he had a good swim and we were waiting for him to come in off the bike so I grabbed a beer and waited a bit to see him rack his bike. Pretty cool racing with my dad!

All in all the race went well. Ended up 2nd AG, 3rd amateur, and 20th overall. Now I have to hope my legs bounce back because I need them once more this season before they get a little rest. Chicago Triathlon in less than two weeks!

I know the end of these posts are repetitive but without these people and companies I would have a much harder time doing all of this! So thanks to my wife (and the baby in her belly), my parents, and my friends for giving my all the encouragement I could ever need. Thanks EGO, Sammys Bikes, SLF Motion, ICE Friction Chains, Greater Than Sports Drink, and my newly found recovery boots made by Air Relax.

Racine 70.3…I mean 69.1

I signed up for Racine at the start of the year because I knew this race would be a very competitive one. I wanted to really test myself with some of the best AG athletes around to see where I stood. Things did not all go to plan but the competitive field did not disappoint.

I was very excited when I heard that it would be a rolling swim start. This would mean that I could start off up front and swim with people instead of going off solo most of the swim. This would also, hopefully, allow me to find some other athletes to legally ride with for the bike. But come race weekend the water was cold. Like REALLY cold. It was 53 on Saturday and there was talk of shortening the swim if the water was too cold. Throw beach hazard warnings with high winds and riptides and I figured the swim would be short. But when we showed up on race morning the temperature was 51 and the swim was cancelled.

That meant no rolling start, no finding feet to swim with, no riding with a group to help pace the 56 mile ride, but it still meant I was starting in front! One of the benefits of the All World Athlete program is a low number. The start of the bike was a time trial start where 2 athletes started every 5 seconds. I was very happy to start early because I know how sketchy this course is when trying to pass a lot of people.

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So off I went up the hill outside of transition and on to one of the worst roads I have ridden on! But I was prepared for that so it wasn’t too bad. My goal now was to push my watts and hopefully find someone to ride with. But the TT start spread things out early and I was alone pretty much the whole ride. I was hitting my watts for the most part but the cross winds were causing me to get out of aero because I am a big baby when going fast and worrying about a cross wind blowing me over. I tried to settle and just relax but I just wasn’t comfortable staying in aero worrying about a cross wind going 30+ MPH. (I NEED to work on this!)

The roads weren’t great but for the most part the course was in good shape. I got into a rhythm for a while but then was unsettled by the winds then got into a rhythm, then the winds, rinse and repeat. I was pushing a solid 24-26 MPH so was thinking I would come in with a 2:14ish bike split which I would have been happy with. But getting back to transition I saw 2:18 and was pretty upset. I would not know how upset I should be until the end of the race when I saw that I gave up 5-10 minutes to the other top AG athletes. I am used to giving up some time on the bike but that much time is way too much since the other top athletes can also run fast. This is the time I wish we swam because I can usually get a few minutes on some people so I wouldn’t have so much time to make up on the run.

On the run I knew I had a lot of work to do. I got out of transition and Matt Hanson was starting his second loop. I started to run with him for a bit but I didn’t want to push too hard at mile 1 but I was feeling comfortable so I stayed with him for a mile before he left me. I was running 5:50 miles and feeling good so tried to keep the pressure on and see what my legs had in the tank.

Miles kept ticking off and ran lap one in around 39 minutes which meant around a 1:17-18 which would be a few minutes faster than my best time, 1:20, so I was happy. But I wasn’t happy knowing that the leader in my AG was ahead of me and the guy who I knew would win the AG was starting later. My dad told me I was gaining on him but every time I saw him he seemed a decent way ahead of me and was looking solid. But I wanted to catch him so I could at least get 2nd in the AG but wasn’t sure it was happening.

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I was starting to feel it and I started to see a few 6 minute miles but wanted to make sure I had enough left for a last push starting at mile 10. I saw the AG leader at one of the turns and had it in my mind I was not going to catch him. I still wanted to push as hard as I could since I was still trying to see where I would place overall in the amateur race so I did not want to let up. With about a mile and a half to go I caught a glimpse of the leader ahead of me and put it in my last gear to see if I could make the catch. I was able to make the pass in the last mile and I left it all out there. Crossed the finish line with a lot of pain on my face.

I ended up with a 1:17:41 run split which was a big PR for me. Finished 2nd AG, 5th amateur, and 21st Overall. Still disappointed with my bike split and how I rode it but happy with the run split so overall feel pretty good about the race. But now time to get back to training and hope that I can ride better at 70.3 Steelhead in a few weeks!

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As always a huge thanks to my wife for putting up with my crazy training! I know life will be much different next summer with a baby but I am so excited for it! Thanks to my dad for coming to the race and giving me splits and carrying around my bags.

Of course thanks to EGO for their continued support and for making the best lawn care products out there! Now that I have a house and a yard I understand the struggle of keeping a yard looking nice! SLF Motion and ICE Friction for making my drivetrain smooth and efficient and Greater Than Sports Drink for keeping me hydrated and looking cool in the nice gear they have given me!

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!

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)