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!

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!

70.3 Racine Report

I wanted to try to get this report out while things were still fresh in my mind. But I didn’t want to write it so fast that I had some jaded thoughts about the race. I needed time to think about the race, my effort, and what I wish happened before I really wrote it. Before I get into the report I will give a bit of background on Racine. I decided on Racine over Steelhead because Racine is driving distance from my apartment so not hotel needed, and also because I wanted to do USAT AG Nationals which is the day before Steelhead. Some people do both back to back and if they were closer I would be very tempted. The roads on the Racine bike course are, to be nice, crappy. But the big issue with those roads are there are stretches that have expansion cracks every 10-15 meters. So you just have to deal with it and it is very easy to let it mentally break you down, which it did to me at the start.

I went into this race knowing I had very good fitness. My coach and I have been working on my bike A LOT, and it has been painful, but I really wanted to show my new bike fitness and not lose as much time to the other top age groupers. For some reason I am not overly confident going into some bigger races. I KNOW that I have the ability to execute a top 10 race and I KNOW I should be in the top 5 of my AG but I also don’t think I act like it. Maybe it’s because racing is still a “new” and I am improving every race, maybe it’s I am just not as confident in my racing, and maybe it’s because I KNOW that I am going to give up 5 minutes, at least, on the bike to the other top amateurs. Running people down is fun and I LOVE it but I need to improve my bike so I can ride within a few minutes of their time so that I can run fast but just gain more time and not worry about chasing everyone down.

Swim exit

Swim exit

Swim: 26:19 (1:16 min/100) 4th AG: My new AG is pretty big so our wave was split into two waves and I was in the second wave and we were the 3rd to last wave to go off so I had a LONG wait from setting up transition to when my wave went off. Thankfully my parents came to the race to keep me company, and get me water since I forgot I would need more than one bottle during the 3 hour wait time! The water was like 60 degrees so pretty chilly but it felt really good compared to the air temperature which was close to 80 and sunny at the start. I have been doing a good job at pushing the swim this season and results have paid off. I have seen results in the pool but riding in open water is a very different beast! Thankfully Lake Michigan was very calm, unlike Saturday when it was very choppy and had a good current going the opposite direction. I got a good start off of the line and I was off. There was one other person who left everyone after about 100 yards, he ended up swimming a 23, so I had no chance of swimming with him. I didn’t find anyone else to swim with which kind of sucked but I had an eventful time passing people from other waves. I got out of the water and heard my dad yell “26 minutes”. I looked at my watch because he had to be lying, but he wasn’t. This is my fastest swim by like 2 minutes so I was very happy with how the day started! I got to the wetsuit strippers to get my wetsuit off. I already had my sleeved Louis Garneau pulled up. I LOVE this suit because, not only is it more aerodynamic than a non sleeved suit, but it also protects my shoulders and upper arms from the sun!

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Bike: 2:22:50 (23.9 MPH/232 NP) 3rd AG: I was really happy when I got on my bike because of my swim time. I wanted to really push the bike and show the bike fitness that I worked so hard on. I wanted to start off at around 235 watts then after an hour adjust and, hopefully, push it to 240. I thought that should get me a 2:15-2:20 which would put me in a great position. But that didn’t go according to plan. My right glute started to seize up at the start so I had to stop and stretch twice which cost me about 2 minutes of just stopping and probably another minute or so of soft pedaling and coasting. I wonder if that good swim ended up hurting me because I kicked a lot more and that caused my glute to lock up. I was VERY annoyed and disappointed because I did not want to struggle through this ride like I did at Ironman Wisconsin in 2012. But after about 15 minutes it relaxed and let me ride. But it still hurt and I couldn’t really push the way I wanted to.

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The roads were not great but they were not horrible. The worst part of the ride was having to pass thousands of other riders. Normally that wouldn’t be so bad but some of the roads were so narrow and riders were passing others but going too wide and left no room for me to pass. It got very frustrating because some people were riding on the left all the time or riding and talking to others. I do not want to seem elitist or anything because I LOVE that so many people challenge themselves with events like this but I just wish everyone was aware of others on the course because things can get very dangerous with so many people on the course. Other than the roads and not being able to push too much I felt like I had a good ride, I got passed by two or three people but that’s about it so I figured I was going to be in good position after the bike.

Racine Finish 2

Run: 1:22:15 (6:18 min/mile) 1st AG: I knew I would have some work to do after the bike but still figured I was top 5 in my wave, I wasn’t sure about the wave before me so I was a little bit nervous of what I might have to overcome. I heard my dad scream “4th place, 1 minute behind” so I knew I had some work to do but hopefully I could put out a good run and at least catch one of two of the others. The run was a bit hot and not very shady. It starts off with two short “hills” which aren’t very fun since you start off the run braking rhythm rather than working yourself into a rhythm. I was trying to look for the others in my AG. I remembered one had a red sleeved jersey and another had a white and blue kit so I was looking out for them. I got into a good feeling between severe pain and discomfort and the right amount of pain. I tried to hit every aid station to get in something but it got difficult at times because there were so many people on the road and the aid stations didn’t seem to be prepared for the mass amounts of people hitting the aid stations at the same time, it was not the fault of the amazing volunteers though you were all great!

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I made my first AG pass at about mile 6 so I thought I was in 3rd at that point. What I didn’t realize is that I either passed someone without knowing or the other person was in the other wave. I finished the first lap and saw the other person in my AG about 45 seconds ahead of me. I also saw some friends which was great. It is a nice boost to see people you know on the course! I was slowly catching up and was confident I would make the pass but I wanted to make the pass with authority and leave no doubt that I was feeling good. But that was tough because I was in the hurt locker. I ended up making the pass at an aid station. He had to slow down to get coke and I moved to the end of the aid station. It was a bit of a gamble because I wanted coke but also wanted to make the pass. Thankfully it worked out! I kept the pace hot and kept pushing. Finally I hit the last mile and tried to give it one last kick to get as much time as I could. It was very painful and the way I felt at the finish was on the verge of me just falling over because of how tired I was. But I stayed on my feet and my parents told me I won my AG!

Racine Finish

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Finish: 4:15:53 1st AG, 28th Overall, and 11th Amateur: I am very happy with the end result of the day. Every race throws different curve balls at you and I am happy I kept my head during the bike when things got hard. But still disappointed because I know I have more to show! But now time to recover a bit then get back to training and get ready for the USAT AG Nationals in August! Thanks to my parents for coming to see the race, thanks to my fiancé for watching the race online and making AMAZING smores cookies for me to devour when I got home! And thanks everyone out there for following me and supporting my racing and training! And of course thanks to Snapple Triathlon and our amazing sponsors!

Motivation

It has been way too long since I have posted, and I know it has been since my best friend who isn’t a triathlete commented about it! I have been kind of busy but also just wasn’t sure what to write about. But last week I started to think about my motivation to train then today during my cool down I started to think about what I would write about motivation. So here goes!

Everyone has to motivate themselves on a daily basis. Do I wake up 10 minutes earlier to make breakfast or grab a pop tart (my pre race breakfast!) on the go? Do I eat the donut in the kitchen at work or just drink some water and eat an apple? Do I go out to eat with coworkers even though I made my healthy lunch? Do I order pizza or Chinese instead of cook at home?

These are all questions everyone has on a daily basis. Okay maybe not those exact questions but ones that are very similar. I go through those questions everyday as well too but because of the amount of training I do I have added questions that come up. Do I wake up at 5 to go for this swim? Do I take a nap after work and push back my run? Do I do 5×1 mile repeats or 4? Do I push as hard as I know I should even though I am tired? These questions happen sometime but sometimes training is just, well training. I get through it and I enjoy it. But on other days those early wake ups are really annoying and on days like today I just want to relax with my fiancé and watch Fixer Upper.

Then I get to thinking…why am I doing all of this training? What do I get out of it? Do I enjoy it because it is fun? Do I enjoy it because I am pretty good? Am I just scared to suck so I make myself train? I think at different times I train because I love it, because I am scared, because it is fun, because I am good at it, and because I want to get better.

The tough times are when I REALLY think about it. I do a lot of thinking on long swims, rides, or runs. So I get to go through many different things everyday. I really do enjoy training and racing a lot. Like A LOT. I LOVE pushing my body to see how far it can go and how well I can do. But then part of my knows that I also train so much because I am scared to fail. I train so much that when I fail I not only feel bad for myself but I feel bad for my family and friends that I take time away from to train. I know they are all happy with whatever place I come in and no matter how I feel but I want to do well FOR them almost more than me.

There are times where I do think that I need to cut back a bit on training to just let loose a bit. Not worry too much about what I am eating or drinking but that will come. I think I have come a long way with being so structured and regimented. I still am that but just a few years ago I was so paranoid that if I had one bad meal, or one bad part of a meal I would regret it. Like I would get mad at myself and be very frustrated. But now I know that if I have a piece of cake, or two, if I have fries, or a beer (which I am enjoying now!), I won’t automatically gain a pound or two.

I am very happy that I have a race coming up in two weeks so I will be able to have all of this hard work and dedication pay off! I might post before then since I need to get back into the swing of it. I am not sure what other races I am doing this year but right now the ones that I have signed up for are Challenge/Rev3 Knoxville, Pleasant Prairie Olympic, and the Chicago Marathon. I will add a mock schedule to the site and add the races I think I am going to do. Well, as always, thanks for reading and if you have any suggestions on what to write about let me know! I am always up for some reader feedback!