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!

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!

2 Must Be My Lucky Number: Pleasant Prairie RR

I have been 2nd place overall in two different triathlons, one running race, and two weeks ago I added another 2nd to that list, unfortunately. Now I am not disappointed with 2nd because that means that only one person was faster than me on the day. But I am waiting, patiently, for my first overall win!

Pleasant Prairie Triathlon is a great race. It is about an hour from my and this was my 3rd time racing. The course is great. Nice, calm swim, solid bike course with great volunteers so there is no chance of going the wrong way, and an honest run course to end it all!

I drove myself there early Sunday morning, racked my bike, did all of my pre race stuff then got in the water for a few minute warm up swim. The water felt amazing. Perfect temp and my always trusty Xterra Vendetta wetsuit was feeling nice and comfortable.

Swim (24:23 5th Overall): I talked to a few people before the start to kind of gauge where I wanted to be and if there was anyone I wanted to swim with. Got off to a good quick start and I was alone, well there were two swimmers ahead but no chance of catching them. So the swim was mostly solo but I did get a chance to swim on some feet for a little while. Made the final turn and saw a swimmer I could swim with a bit until the finish. I got out of the water 5th, I think, then ran through transition.

On the bike

On the bike

Bike 1:04:5xish (25 MPH/258 NP) 3rd Overall: I got on the bike and felt my right calf a bit tight. I wanted to really push the bike so I was pretty annoyed my calf didn’t allow me to do that! But I kept on pushing. I wanted to be around 270ish watts to see how I would feel on the run but never got up to that for an extended period of time. I caught a few people pretty fast then saw two others at a turn and knew I would not be catching them since they were a few minutes ahead at the end of the bike. So I mentally started to get ready to get off the bike and try to run them down! That’s my favorite thing to do but I need to get stronger on the bike so I don’t put myself so far behind. But all in all it was a good, tough ride!

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Run 36:59 (5:58 min/mile) 2nd Overall: Got off the bike and ran out of transition like a bat out of hell. I thought I was about 4 minutes down on the two leaders so I knew I had PLENTY of work to do. I figured I could run hard, see them at the turn and calculate how much of a lead they had then readjust my pacing as needed. Miles started to tick off and finally saw them. It was about 2 minutes on first and 1 minute and a half on second the first time I saw them. First place looked good but second looked to be struggling a bit.

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Kept my foot on the gas and kept pushing it. Next time it was about 1:45 to first then :40 to second. I knew I was going to catch second but wasn’t sure about 1st. I made the pass into 2nd with about a half mile to go then tried to kick it in but I had a serious side stitch and figured I was not going to win the race but I knew I had 2nd in the bag so I slowed a bit to ease the pain. Made it to the finish and felt really good about the race.

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Finish: 2:08:49 2nd Overall

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I was happy with the race but still a bit disappointed I am still losing time on the bike. My coach and I have been working hard on the bike so I am optimistic that I won’t be so far behind the other riders at 70.3 Racine in two weeks. Now time to get the last two weeks of training in before Racine then it’ll be on to the USAT AG National Championships!