2017 Trizou and KC Triathlon

Two weeks ago at Trizou in Columbia, MO, I kicked off 3 straight weekends, and ultimately, 4 out of 5 weekends of racing. I woke up race morning at 3:30 a.m. and was on the road by 3:40 for the 1:45 drive to Columbia. After getting my packet, setting up my bike and gear, I headed inside to the 50-meter indoor pool to get in a nice warm up. With 15 minutes to go before the race, we all had to get out of the water. I, unfortunately, stood on the deck shivering for close to 15 minutes. Not an ideal situation for a sprint distance triathlon where you go full gas from the start.

As expected, I felt flat and sluggish on the swim, likely due to being cold. I basically swam the exact same time as I did in 2016 (technically 2 seconds slower), which was a little disappointing because I thought I’d be about 10-15 seconds faster than the previous year. I quickly got on my bike and set off to catch the leader (Evan) who is a very fast swimmer. The course is pretty much either uphill or downhill with just a few flat sections. I hammered the 13-mile bike course as hard as I could. Unfortunately, I couldn’t close much time on Evan and started the run about 20-25 seconds down. Just like in 2016, I ran hard and caught Evan just after the 1 mile marker. I kept the pressure on and tried to open the gap as much as I could. I was very pleased with my run and ended up running 30 seconds faster (over 2.9 miles) than I did in 2016. My overall time was 4 seconds slower than 2016, but I was definitely happy to start my season off with a win.

I recovered really well after Trizou and was extremely excited for Kansas City Triathlon the following weekend. With the addition of prize money in 2017, the race enticed 2 pros to make the trip to KC for the race. It’s also my “home town” course as the bike course is where I do all my key intervals and only about 5 miles from my house. Sleeping in my own bed, waking up at my normal time and no long commute race morning is really nice.

The excitement race morning was electric. This race always brings out all the local triathletes, so it was a lot of fun seeing everyone before and after the race. The swim was a two-lap swim course. I started off well and felt I had a good line. Some of the faster swimmers started pulling away just a few hundred yards into the swim. I tried to pick up the pace but couldn’t, so I just settled into my own rhythm. At the end of lap 1, you have to get out, do a short beach run, and get back in the water to start lap two. Just like last year, I had a hard time getting back into my rhythm after the beach run as my HR went through the roof. I eventually settled back in and started weaving my way around the other swimmers who were on lap 1. I got out of the water and knew I had lost a decent amount of time to the top group, but was determined to make the most of it.

Swim lap 2

T1 was quick and smooth. I got my Roka wetsuit off quickly, put on my helmet and took off to start the bike.

T1 Multitasking

I started off strong and knew I’d have some work to do to catch the two pros as well as Evan (fast swimmer I raced at Trizou). I was able to get two time checks on u-turns within the first 12 minutes of the first lap. I was already starting to close in on the two in front of me, but was losing a little time to the leader. The headwind definitely made for a tough 5-mile stretch with no protection, but I felt good into the wind and was gaining more time. I caught the first pro about 22 minutes into lap one right before a big hill we climb. I also noticed I had gained about 30 seconds on Evan who was in 2nd place at that point. The 5-mile tailwind section was quite nice to finish lap 1 and start lap 2. Similar to lap 1, I just kept the pressure on and noticed I made up a lot of ground on second place during the tailwind section. I caught second before one of the u-turns and as we were all (2nd – 4th overall) going around the u-turn, I heard a noise. I looked to see that the pro right behind me snapped his chain as I saw it on the ground; terrible luck for him. The rest of the second lap was uneventful. I kept on top of nutrition and hydration to help me for the run. I was hoping to put down a fast run time based on recent run workouts and my improved time from the previous year at Trizou.

Bike lap 1

T2 went really smoothly, just like T1. I slipped on my Sock Guy socks as I didn’t want to get blisters since I am racing a 70.3 in 1 week.

The run started off well. I felt smooth and good early on and set off to make up some time to the leader and put down a fast run split. I knew there was no way I’d catch 1st, but I just wanted to run well for myself and to finish off a good day of racing. I was holding around my goal pace (5:20) for most of the first mile before the short, but quite steep, uphill before mile 1 (and mile 4). The hill slowed my split down to 5:34, but I wasn’t worried. I knew there’d be a nice downhill and flat section for the next few miles. I rolled through mile 2 in 5:26 and still felt really good and smooth. For whatever reason, right after this mile, I started feeling awful. It was really weird to go from feeling smooth and good to riding the struggle bus in such a short period of time. I basically struggled to hold 6 minute pace the last 4 miles, which is really confusing to me. Every time I tried to pick up the pace and settle into a faster rhythm, I would last for just a few seconds and went back to 6 minute pace. Miles 3 through 6 were, in order: 5:49, 6:03, 5:57, 6:07. I’d like to think and say that I just cruised it in since there was no way I was catching first, I wasn’t going to get caught from behind, and I race a 70.3 in 1 week, but that just simply wasn’t the case. I just didn’t have it on the run like I thought I would.

Overall, I’m definitely happy to finish 2nd overall and take home some money. Ultramax Sports did a phenomenal job putting on this race and getting the elite wave and prize money set up for this year. I expect this race to only continue to grow and bring in even better competition in future years.

Next up for me is the last of my 3 straight weekends of racing when I head to Chattanooga for the half Ironman with about 15 of my Every Man Jack teammates.

I have to give a huge shout out to my mother. Not only did she take some fantastic pictures (see below) but she also spent her mother’s day morning out at Longview Lake to watch me race. Forever grateful and truly the best mother ever! Thank you also to my dad, sister, uncle, Cameron and all the athletes and spectators that cheered for me during the race. The support is greatly appreciated. Also have to thank trisports.com for getting my online order to me so quickly. Cleaning my Felt IA10 with the tools I bought was much needed heading into a big race. And as always, Every Man Jack (use KDENNY17 for 25% off online orders) and all our tremendous sponsors that make training and racing much easier and desirable.

Pictures courtesy of my mother:

Post-Kona and 2017 race schedule update

It’s been a while since my last update, part out of laziness and part because I’ve been busy with work (reorg’s are never fun for someone who does analysis and reporting). So I thought I’d provide a post-Kona update and what my upcoming racing season looks like.

Post-Kona vacation and biking up Haleakala

After racing the Ironman World Championships, my family and I enjoyed a nice vacation in Hawaii. While in Maui, I thought biking up Haleakala would be a good idea; and boy was I correct! An epic climb and one of my favorite memories I’ve ever had on a bike. 35 mile climb, nearly all uphill (there’s one small downhill section) climbing from sea level to 10,023 feet. It’s the second longest paved climb in the US and it was incredible. I could write an entire blog post on it alone. In fact, I did write one, I just never posted it. It took me 3:30:21 to complete the climb. I loved every minute of it. The views are incredible, biking through clouds is unique, and the looks from drivers going down the mountain are funny. I’ve never done anything remotely close to this before. I don’t have mountains to climb back home. If I get 3k feet of climbing over 60-80 miles back home then I’m doing well. So, 10k feet in 35 miles is insanely awesome. If you have questions about it or think you’ll do it, reach out and I can give more details.

Every Man Jack training camp 2017 edition

Again, I could (and did) write an entire blog post on camp, but I’ll condense it. Camp this year was without a doubt the best EMJ camp I’ve done (this is my 4th year). We had around 67 of the 70 team members attend camp. A ton of new faces meant a lot of learning about people and trying to remember their bike because we all look the same in our Louis Garneau kits and helmets or Roka swim gear and caps. As you can imagine, there was a lot of swimming, biking, and running. The Henderson pool is heated and awesome. Red Rock Canyon and Lake Mead are painful but fun to bike around/through. Running on 6 Tunnels trail to Hoover Dam is always a highlight, too. Talbot Cox taking pictures and video every day was incredible (videos: Day 1. Day 2. Day 3). Donna Trauger is fantastic and cooked an amazing dinner for all of us each night. Also a big shout out to Ritch Viola for organizing and putting on the camp each year. I say it every year, but camp is always the highlight of my entire year. I have no EMJ teammates living near me, thus I never get to train with any of them.  So going to camp and forming a personal bond with them makes all the race results, Facebook/Twitter/Instagram posts more meaningful to me than just a teammate posting something or racing. It’s more fun to track and follow them through the year.  And best of all, for the first time in 4 years, I actually handled the training well. For starters, I didn’t crash! I not only got to Sunday feeling good, but made it through Sunday’s swim and run without feeling fatigued or sluggish! This has never happened before. Typically, I’m wiped by Sunday and struggle to even finish the training.

Two road races

I raced in two local road races put on by KC Running Company; Great Plains 10k and Rock the Parkway half marathon. Both of these races were very good early season indicators of where my run fitness is at.

I took out hard in the 10k and went through the 5k in 15:57 (8-10 mph tailwind most of the way helped). I knew the second half would be tough but decided to go for broke. The last two miles (headwind and tired)  were a struggle. I also had my good friend and former college teammate, Cameron, charging hard to catch me. I managed to sneak under 33 minutes in 32:53 and take the win by 6 seconds. I never broke 33 minutes in college for a 10k (I never ran one on the track, only cross country) so I’m definitely happy to break 33 without any real run specific training outside of my off the bike runs and tempos.

The lead up to Rock the Parkway was interesting, to say the least. During the race at Great Plains 10k, I started having some ankle/Achilles pain. At times, it was quite severe and sharp and I could hardly walk after the race. I started doing strength exercises as well as improving my bike fit (what I suspect to be the main culprit). Fortunately, by race week I was running pain free. However, I had convinced myself not to race, but then a few days before I ultimately decided I would race but stop if I experienced any pain at all. It certainly wasn’t worth risking my triathlon season for a half marathon.

This was my first ever half marathon without a swim or bike before it. I knew it would be a tough race because it’s more or less an out and back and there was a strong wind out of the south which meant the first half of the race would be wind aided and the second half I’d have to battle 15 mph winds with gusts easily 25+. Not ideal for trying to run fast, but a fun challenge nonetheless. The first 5k felt comfortably hard. By mile 4.5, I was already struggling and we had the wind at our back the entire time. 10k split was in 34:09, which is right on my goal pace (5:30 average), but I knew holding that wouldn’t be possible with the last 5 miles into a headwind and no protection. Around 7.5 miles into the race, I finally caught 4th place, who was pretty much less than 10 seconds in front of me from mile 1 on. I drafted off him for a half mile and we talked about working together into the wind to try and keep a strong pace going. I took over the pacing just after mile 8, which was just over 6:00 due to hills and wind, and was only able to hold low 5:50’s. Unfortunately, this dropped the guy I was running with and I now had the remaining 4-5 miles all into a headwind. I was able to pretty much hold mid 5:50’s the rest of the way besides the last mile, which is all downhill , where I ran 5:28 finishing in 1:14:25 and 4th overall.

Overall, I’m definitely happy with my “debut” half marathon of 1:14:25. It was a tough day with the winds, but most importantly, I was able to walk away (no pun intended) with zero pain in my ankle or Achilles.  It definitely has me excited for the upcoming triathlon season.

2017 Racing Schedule:

My racing schedule (found here) is going to be a lot different this year. The first part of my season will be 4 races in 5 weeks starting May 7th. In order, it will be a: sprint, Olympic, 70.3, weekend off, sprint. I rarely race back-to-back weekends, so 3 straight weekends of racing and 4 in 5 weeks is going to be fun and interesting. The second half of my season, as of now, will be racing both races at Age Group Nationals and finishing at 70.3 World Championships in Chattanooga on September 10th.

2016 IM World Championships

Race week:

Race week was crazy, as advertised, but for me, in a slightly different way. I arrived to Kona on Saturday, October 1. I wanted to give myself plenty of time to adjust to time zone difference (5 hours) and the heat/humidity. I actually didn’t find the heat or humidity to be an issue at all. We (a few EMJ teammates and I) didn’t run the AC while in Kona and that may sound miserable, but it actually wasn’t bad at all. Yes, you sweat a lot, even just sitting there, but I never felt uncomfortable and sleeping at night was not hot or stuffy. I had a bit of a snafu with my bag (went to Honolulu with parents instead of Kona with me) but nothing major. More importantly, my bike traveled well and thanks to Lauren Barnett, I was able to get it set up quickly since I used her Scicon Triathlon bag.

Sunday we rode to Hawi. It was miserable. Jet lag and cross winds made it worse. I was questioning whether or not I’d be able to handle it on race day. I woke up Monday with a bit of a sore throat. Talked to my coach (Matt Dixon of Purplepatch Fitness) about it and he wasn’t worried, which helped ease my mind. He said it’s likely just a 2-day cold due to the VOG from the volcano. Also on Monday, Black & Veatch, the company I work for, released a really cool video on me. It was perfect timing on their part since it was Kona week and extremely relevant.

Tuesday I woke up sick, the whole shebang: sore throat, colored mucus, headache, and exhausted. I spent Tuesday watching TV. Who watches TV in Hawaii? Later in the afternoon, I actually felt better so I went down to the expo to get a few things done to hopefully make Wednesday less hectic. I had easy training on Wednesday (15 minute swim to coffee boat), packet pickup, Gatorade Sweat test, and several other things around the Expo. Team dinner was in the evening. It was fun to see everyone on EMJ that was racing. Thursday was easy again plus a visit to Greenwell Farms for a coffee tour with my family. Was nice to get out of the house and do something non-triathlon related and well worth the time. 100% Kona coffee is amazing. Friday was insanely easy. Saturday RACE!!!

2 goals for IM Kona:

  1. Finish.
  2. Have fun and smile.

The Ironman World Championships is like no other race I’ll ever participate in. This is the super bowl of our sport. Athletes, coaches, and especially sponsors care more about this race than any other. Qualifying for it is no easy task. Once you make it here, you know (for the most part) that this is the best of the best. So I knew it would be a very congested swim as many of the top AG triathletes can all swim within a 10-15 minute window of each other. Biking would be crazy. Getting the majority of AG athletes out on the bike course within said 10-15 minutes is going to cause a lot of packs on the bike.

Swim: 55:12

The race started and it was insane. I lined up middle right (even though I had every intention of being on far left, for some reason I didn’t do it race morning), and it was chaos. The swim was extremely physical all the way to the turnaround boat. I got kicked once and hit in the face/goggle once as well. The washing machine effect was interesting too. I’ve never been in such a physical swim; should have lined up far left. I just remained calm and tried to find my stroke as best I could.  Water filled my goggles (after being hit) so I had to flip over and adjust them. I couldn’t seem to get them right because it kept filling back up. After 3 attempts, I finally just pushed them against my face as hard as I could to get them to suction tight enough. After the turnaround boat, the swim seemed to settle down and space out a little more. I peaked at my Garmin 920 and saw 26:4X. I thought ‘no way’ and did a double take. Sure enough, 26:5X. I was amazed and excited and then got back to work. I kept my stroke smooth and easy as I’ve worked on many times because I know I can still swim fast by staying smooth and comfortable. The way back in was uneventful. I was just off the back of a bigger pack and just followed them. A downside to my goggles filling with salt water is they now were fogged. So I swam the last 2/3rd of the swim with fogged goggles besides a small area that was semi clear. I could still pick out bigger landmarks and see the buoys, but couldn’t see 100% clear. Exiting the water I saw 55:12 on my watch and was very excited. All the hard work in the pool is paying off.

T1: Quick rinse of clean water over the body to get rid of salt water and then I grabbed my T1 bag that had my heart rate monitor in it. Off goes the Roka Viper X and a volunteer put my goggles, swim cap, and swim skin in the bag while I took off towards my bike. Quick pit stop in porta potty, on goes my helmet, grabbed my bike and headed out to bike.

Bike: 5:22:47

After doing the short loop in town, which was quite crowded, I got out on the Queen K and tried to finally settle into a decent rhythm. Knowing that I was likely underprepared to tackle an aggressive 112 miles (especially in Kona), I opted to be more reserved than normal. The course itself isn’t overly challenging; it’s more of the heat/humidity and winds that make this bike course more difficult than it should be. I’m a less than confident rider in strong winds and knew it’d be a big mental battle for me when the winds started picking up at mile 26, which is earlier than most people say they will start hitting you. Prior to that, it was fast and congested. Getting a tailwind out of Kona was quite nice. I knew it would be a crazy ride, especially since I was going to be more conservative than everyone else. What I didn’t expect, even though everyone told me and I’ve experienced it at 70.3 Worlds before (although not this bad), was the massive packs that passed me with ease. There were the few 10-20 people packs, but a few 50+ people packs just rolling down the road like they’re in a group ride. It was insane. And to watch draft marshals roll up and not hand out penalties was discouraging. The funny part (to me at least) is I was holding more watts (power) than I was in either of my two IM’s last year and still getting passed like I was out for a recovery spin. Regardless of what was going on around me, I stuck to my plan. I constantly thought of my two goals. I knew that both would largely be impacted by nutrition, so I stuck to my “just winging it and go by feel” nutrition plan and it worked! Admittedly, not the most logical plan, but I have never executed a race nutrition plan as well as I did in Kona. Not in practice, not in prior races, never. Guess I got lucky.

For the most part the bike was semi boring. I got passed a lot. I battled the winds as best I could; I stayed on top of nutrition; I dropped my chain around mile 50 on the climb to Hawi. I had to pull over and fix it, maybe a 45-60 second stop, nothing major. I was surprised this didn’t fluster me because in prior races I’m sure it would have. By the time I reached Hawi (turnaround point on bike course), I was already ready to be done biking. Not a good sign considering I still had like 52 miles to go. I gave up time descending from Hawi. Truthfully, I still struggle with confidence issues on unfamiliar descents after my crashes the last few years. Toss in some cross winds and it’s not like my confidence is going to improve. I needed to make a quick pit stop at an aid station around mile 66 (which was a good sign my hydration plan was working). Around mile 80 there is a short, but steep climb at Kawaihae where you make a right turn back on the Queen K. Many coaches and athletes always talk about reassessing at this point in the race and making sure you’re not overheated and still feeling good. I was actually feeling really good.  Power was still good and my mood was good too (meaning nutrition was going well). I started picking off some riders and found a really nice groove for about 10 miles. Almost instantly at mile 90 I hit the headwinds and things got much more difficult. Power dropped, pace dropped, and I struggled all the way back to transition.

start-of-bike

While my time is not fast at all considering I had no penalty and just 2 minutes stopped for chain issue and bathroom break, I was quite surprised I did not bike faster (time wise). My watts were right in line (actually slightly higher) with what I did in both Texas and Chattanooga last year and both of those were 5-hour bike splits (Chattanooga was 5:12 but also 116 miles) but more importantly, my hydration was far superior than either of those two races.

T2: My legs felt really good coming off the bike running around the pier. I was amazed because the last 20 miles of the bike ride were brutal and I was really worried if I’d make it through the run. I made another quick pit stop and then headed to get my run gear back. The changing tent was very crowded. I found an open chair and started putting on my run gear: Sock guy socks, Saucony Kinvara 7’s, grabbed my race belt, a little nutrition and headed out to run. Oh, I stopped at the sunscreen station too and this lady must have thought I wanted to be coated in it because I left with white sunscreen literally all over me.

Run: 3:24:20

Initially out on the run, I was still feeling good and fueled by all the positive energy and cheers from spectators. My Every Man Jack teammate, Rob Mohr, came by me around mile 2. We encouraged each other and he asked how I was feeling. I semi joked (but not really) that I was ready to be done. I knew it was going to be a long run but didn’t want to think about how much I still had left, just take it little by little. I hit a pretty rough patch around mile 3. My pace was still fine (I was nearly hitting 7:20 on all my miles), but my motivation was still not exactly all too positive.

start-of-run-2

Coming into the race, I had an even worse nutrition strategy than I planned for on the bike. At least on the bike I had a good idea of how much sodium, calories/carbs, and fluids I was ideally aiming to consume. However, on the run, I literally was going to wing it. I knew if I did well on the bike I’d be just fine, but if I messed up on the bike I’d have to play catch up on the run, which rarely ever works (especially in Kona) without having to walk or slow way down. The one thing I planned to focus on was salt because it has been my main issue on the run in both Texas and Chattanooga last year and why I had to walk in both of them. So right before every aid station, I was taking in some salt then getting water (first option at every aid station) to wash it down. After that, all ice and focus on cooling myself off. I’d take anywhere from 2-4 cups of ice (all depending how many were available) and dump it on my neck, down my jersey, sucking on it in my mouth, holding it in my hands, and I also wore a Boco gear headband and I’d put a few ice cubes either right on my forehead and on the lower part of my head where the neck/spine and head connect. I have no idea if the headband with ice cubes in it helped but it sure felt nice and like to think it did.

Around 3 miles I figured my lack of positivity was calorie related. I took some Clif blocks and ate 3 of them as I exited transition. Around the turn around point (mile 5-ish) I started to get my positivity back. Clearly calories were the issue and I’m glad I recognized it (have to give Matt Dixon of Purplepatch credit for that. He’s said many times lack of motivation or mood is almost always calorie related). I made a mental note that every 3 miles I needed to take in some calories. I was feeling great leg wise and wasn’t even focused on pace at all. The only time I knew my pace was when my Garmin 920 buzzed every mile: 6:55, 7:22, 7:10, 7:22, 7:19, 7:22, 7:21, 7:38, 7:20, 7:04. I just kept telling myself to get to mile 10 (Palani hill) and you can walk up it. Salt, water, ice, smooth form, smile, wave, have fun. That’s what I did until I got to mile 10. I get to the bottom of Palani and was still feeling good, passed a fellow KC guy racing, and an IM announcer was on the microphone and announced my name as I gave him a high five. Screw it; I’m going to run this bad boy. I shortened my stride and just plugged away at it. The beautiful thing about this hill is once you crest the top, you are out on the Queen K and the second half of the mile is all downhill. I quickly found my groove and got back at it. I finished mile 11 in 8:11. Miles 12 and 13 were right back to my 7:20’s that I was hitting like clockwork (officially 7:17 and 7:07). Right after 13, I hit my first rough patch pace wise. Hips were starting to get a little tight and the Queen K was tough. Very little spectators are allowed out there (or venture out there) and it was toasty. It’s also probably zero coincidence that my longest single run prior to Kona was 14 miles so to start suffering (non-pace related) right around there makes sense. Miles 14, 15, and 16 were not my best (8:26, 8:57, and 8:26 respectively), but I stayed as positive as possible and just kept plugging away. One step at a time and I’ll eventually make it. An 8-minute pace is better than 15-minute pace (aka walking). I also took a pit stop at the aid station at mile 15 (part of why that mile wasn’t also 8:26 pace). I was hoping a short stop would help my legs and get me back in my groove, but it didn’t work. After a slight climb at the end of the Queen K, we take a left to go down into the Natural Energy Lab. I have no idea why, but something instantly changed for me. All of a sudden I was energized, felt amazing again, and the 7:20’s were back (7:21 and 7:26 for mile 17 and 18). I mean come on! This was THE Energy Lab, the infamous make or break point for many people in the race. It’s iconic and one of the main talking points when people think of the marathon in Kona. I was impelled and loving it. I ran 7:43 climbing out of the Energy Lab, which is a long gradual climb (1 mile long). I was still feeling great (relatively speaking for being 19 miles into the run) and energized. Once back out on the Queen K, I just tried to keep it steady and was excited to be getting closer and closer to the finish line. 7:49, 7:56, and 7:46 for 20-22 miles. Around 21.5 miles, the hips got tight again, the pace dropped and things got a lot harder. To be perfectly honest, I’m surprised I ever found my form again after it happened the first time around mile 13. All throughout the Energy Lab, I had no pain like this; that or I subconsciously blocked it out because I was thoroughly enjoying and soaking in everything the Energy Lab has to offer. I’m also surprised I made it as far as I did before the pain set in because my lack of Ironman specific run training was evident. My longest single run was just 14; however, I did do a 20-mile day, but at 21.5 miles, my hip flexors were quite shot. For the first time all day (unless you count the bathroom break at 15), I walked through the aid station at mile 23. Same flow of salt, water, ice, etc, but I also tried to loosen up the hips hoping that they would respond and I’d be able to get back closer to my normal stride I was holding almost all day. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. Next hope was that the runners high would kick in sometime soon. I just kept telling myself, you really only have to make it to 24 or 25 because the last mile is all downhill and the runners high will kick in. At 24.5 miles (and the base of Mark Allen Dave Scott Hill) I had to walk again. This time it was more than just a handful of steps like the aid station was. I power walked for 10 seconds, convinced myself to run, would run for 5-10 seconds, then back to power walking, all while telling myself that this is the last hard stretch, literally all downhill once I get to mile 25 at the top of the hill. I gave some high fives to some fans, stayed positive, and kept plugging away. Finally, I reached the top and a huge sense of relief came over me. My hip flexors were still obliterated, but I had made it to the top. The steep downhill of Palani was extremely painful on the quads. After a few turns I had finally reached Ali’i drive to turn right and head towards the finish line. I was a quarter of a mile away from finishing the Ironman World Championships!! Running down the carpet on Ali’i drive was incredible; spectators lining the barriers, music playing, and Mike Reiliy on the mic announcing my name as I crossed the finish line calling me an Ironman. The moment was incredible and what I had dreamed and hoped for. After 9:50:55 of racing, I raised my arms in triumph and couldn’t have been more relieved or proud of my performance.

crossing-the-finish-line

Overall, I’m beyond thrilled and proud of my performance. It’s not the fastest time I’ve ever done but time and place were not important to me.  I had zero expectations coming into this race. Kona was not my focus this year and I knew it’d likely be my last IM for a few years. I just wanted to finish, have fun and smile; all of which I accomplished.

First and foremost, I have to thank my family for all the support throughout the race and season. They had a wild day themselves (an entirely different story there) and I cannot thank them enough for supporting me. My Every Man Jack teammates were incredible all week. Being a first timer in Kona tends to lead to many questions and concerns. The knowledge many of them have is priceless and I’m very grateful they were willing to share. The family and friends of my teammates also helped keep me positive and supported throughout the race, EMJ was everywhere!! Thank you to Ritch for not only leading Every Man Jack but also encouraging me to stick with IM after a bad IM TX last year which led to qualifying for Kona and racing in Kona. To Matt Dixon and the rest of the Purplepatch Fitness team, thank you so much for guiding me this year on my journey and helping me progress as an athlete. Already looking forward to next season and what is in store for me. All the Every Man Jack sponsors, thank you so much! The top of the line products and support allows me, and my teammates, to focus on training because we know our gear is top notch. Thank you: Every Man Jack, Purplepatch Fitness, Felt Bicycles, Roka, Garmin, Rudy Project, Louis Garneau, Enve, GU Energy, Boco Gear, Sock Guy, NormaTec. I also have to thank Elite Cycling for getting my bike race ready prior to leaving for Kona. Knowing my bike would be mechanically sound was a huge relief heading into race day. To all the volunteers, thank you so much! Your support was tremendous on race day. And finally, anyone that sent a message and/or followed along race day. Thank you so much for the support and messages, it means the world to me.

2016 Cedar Creek Tri/Du

The Cedar Creek Triathlon turned into my first ever duathlon. With a heavy downpour the night before the race, and swimming in a small lake (really it’s a pond that flows to a small lake), water quality became the main topic race morning. The race directors decided shortly before the race that the swim was going to be held, but anyone signed up for the triathlon that did not want to swim in the water could switch to the duathlon. With Kona just 6 weeks away and on the verge of getting rid of an intestinal parasite I’ve been battling for 2 years, I decided to play it safe and avoid the water by doing the duathlon.

The first run (1 mile) was interesting. I didn’t really have much time to think about strategy or pacing. I started strong but reserved and ran 5:24 (big downhill helped make pace fast). Out on the bike, I pushed it hard and felt really good early on. It’s only a 10.5 mile bike ride, so pacing isn’t as important and I tried to get in a groove with the rolling terrain. I surprisingly felt good the entire time and felt stronger as the ride went on.  I had a lead starting the 5k run and kept the first part conservative. There’s a big hill we do shortly after leaving transition, so I wanted to run it conservative then pick up the pace after that. I felt good on the run and negative split the 2 loop course to take the overall win in my first ever duathlon.

Cedar Creek triathlon/duathlon was another great event this year. The organizers did a fantastic job putting on the event and making sure everything ran smoothly despite a hectic morning trying to figure out what to do with all the rain the night before. I love racing this every year and will definitely be back next year. Besides, look at all the goodies they give away! What other race gives away a signed Cannondale jersey from the 2015 Tour de France team, helmets, water bottles, gift cards and many other fantastic prizes in a random drawing?

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Also have to give a major shout out to Matt Dixon and the rest of the Purplepatch Fitness crew for allowing me to participate in this local event. Kona was exactly 6 weeks out on race day, and Purplepatch graciously allowed me to have this sprint race in my schedule and encouraged me to race it despite it not exactly being ideal Kona prep. At the beginning of the year, Purplepatch and I agreed to take a slightly different approach to Kona preparation and including this race was part of that approach. The Kona plan is certainly in place and I know it’ll pay off come race day in Hawaii.

2016 AGN Omaha

I was pretty excited when it was announced that Omaha would get the 2016 and 2017 Age Group Nationals (AGN). Milwaukee was great and one of my favorite venues, but Omaha is just a 3-hour drive versus 8.5 to Milwaukee. I planned to save vacation time for Kona and work until noon on Friday before driving up. Unfortunately, Friday ended up being one of my most stressful days at work, and I wasn’t able to leave by noon. I still made it to packet pickup before it closed at 6, but definitely not the ideal race prep from a stress management view.

The race was delayed 15 minutes because with only one road into transition, vehicles backed up very quickly. People were walking faster than we could drive. I decided to change things up and warm up earlier than normal with the hope of getting in a good swim warm up as well. After my run, I changed into my Roka swim skin and went to the starting dock with plenty of time. Usually, I’m rushing around and one of the last to get to the start. But, for some reason, I didn’t feel like doing a swim warm up, so I just talked to my Every Man Jack teammate Kyle Hooker instead.

Swim: 21:01. Best swim ever?

The start was a bit chaotic with so many athletes in such a small area, but luckily I didn’t get kicked or punched/pulled. I started next to EMJ teammates Kyle Hooker (crazy fast swimmer) and Chris Douglas (secretly hoped to draft off of) and found clear water. Well, clear water as in no athletes impeding me because the water itself was quite disgusting and one of the worst I think I’ve swam in. Kyle took off as expected, but I actually found myself swimming well and feeling great. I just kept my stroke smooth and strong. I could actually see Chris just behind me and off to my side early on when I would breathe. I was quite shocked because like I said, I was secretly hoping to draft off him. He beat me at AGN the previous year by 1:49, but I know I’m swimming better than last year. I just went with it and focused on my line and swimming as straight as possible to the first turn buoy. At the first turn buoy (rectangle swim course), I could tell I was swimming well and high up in my AG. I also saw that I was leading a decent pack. While I’d prefer to be in the draft to save energy, this was new territory for me and felt really cool. I got focused again on my stroke and line. This is the second straight swim of 1500 meters + (Muncie was the other) where I didn’t lose focus and felt really good the entire swim. I looked down and saw 20:58 on my watch after getting out of the water. I heard shortly after that I was 54 seconds back from 1st in my AG. I had a feeling this was Kyle Hooker since he was one of the faster swimmers last year and beat me by 3:09. To only be 54 seconds behind Kyle was incredible. The other amazing thing is I actually led Chris out of the water! This swim far exceeded my expectations and goals. The time seems slow, but this was a non-wetsuit swim in nasty 86 degree water. The most amazing thing to me is the place difference between this year and the previous 3 years in Milwaukee.

Swim comparison

I couldn’t be happier with my swim. I’m so excited to see what I can do in Kona. Although, I’ve never swam in salt water or the ocean before, so that will be a new experience.

Swim exit

T1:

Very long. After putting on my Rudy helmet and sunglasses and grabbing my bike, I headed out toward “bike out”. Little did I know, we still had a good quarter mile (or so it seemed) to run with our bikes before the mount line.  It was a bit annoying, but I guess everyone had to do it.

Bike: 1:01:17?

I felt decent early, but never really did find my bike legs. The roads were pretty rough with really just one major hill (but it was a big hill, 7-9% grade for most of it according to Strava). I got to the turnaround of the out and back course at 30:03 and knew I’d have a slight tailwind on the trip back to T2. Unfortunately, I just never felt great. I only averaged 4 watts more than I did at 70.3 Muncie a month ago which is not good considering the Muncie bike is just over twice as far as AGN (56 miles versus 24.8). I had 59:38 on my Garmin but somehow “officially” split a 1:01:17. My only guess is that most or part of the long run back to T2 was included in the bike split and not at the mount/dismount line like normal. I never heard the beep of the timing mat, so I’m not really sure where the mat was.

T2: I decided to take the time to put my Sock Guy running socks on. I typically don’t wear socks for 10k’s or under (used to not wear them in my 70.3 races either, but have last few years), but my feet typically get torn up, so opted to wear them and I’m glad I did. I had no blisters or cuts on my feet like normal. Slipped in my Saucony Kinvara 7’s, got the race belt and head to the “run out” sign.

Start of run in T2

Run: 36:44.

I felt good out of T2. Around a half mile in, I checked my watch for the first time and saw 5:30 pace and was pleased. It was starting to get really hot and there was no shade on the run course, so I just tried to keep it steady and smooth. I ran 5:32 and 5:38 for mile 1 and 2, including slowing down at aid stations. I typically do not get any liquids (or maybe 1) at aid stations during 10k’s or under, but I definitely needed them and took in liquids at all 6 aid stations. Unfortunately, the aid stations were crowded and under staffed since they provided liquids for both sides of the road on the out and back course. After mile 2, I started to really struggle and held 5:50’s to 6:00 for the rest of the run. The selling point for this run course was to be able to run in the College World Series baseball stadium around the warning track. While it was a unique feature, it also made the run course long (I had 6.33 miles). With the higher than forecasted temperatures, running longer wasn’t enjoyable.

Overall: 2:01:14. 9th overall, 4th in AG.

I am quite pleased with 4th in AG and 9th overall, which is my best placing overall at AGN. Times were slow across the board, which is odd to me because on paper the bike and run courses appear to be very fast with very little elevation gain. Without a doubt, the highlight of my race was my swim. I still can’t get over how much more confident and better a swimmer I am now than in years past. I look forward to putting in more hard work in the pool and continue to progress (hopefully). It was a lot of fun to race with two of my teammates even though I didn’t see Kyle after the start and Chris after T1. They both had great races and Chris was 2nd overall and 2nd AG and Kyle was 4th overall and 3rd in AG. And they went 1-2, respectively, overall in the sprint distance race on Sunday!

Now my focus shifts to Kona.

Comments about race venue: I started off by saying how excited I was for AGN to be held in Omaha since it was closer to home for me. Unfortunately, that’s about the only positive I could take away from the race being in Omaha. Race morning parking was chaotic. Only 1 road was open to get to the parking and transition area. They had a great concept of shuttling people in from host hotels, but it didn’t work because the busses were stuck in the same traffic as all the cars. My initial plan was to take the shuttle so my parents could come over later since I wasn’t scheduled to start until 8:48 am. Fortunately, my mom talked me out of that and convinced me to go over to transition earlier than we originally planned, also a great call. I can only assume the 15 minute delayed start was because of the traffic congestion. The lake water was disgusting. The run with your bike was extremely long (compared to all other races) and included in your bike split. The run was boring, flat and a straight line which was not exciting to me. There were not enough liquids at aid stations (no ice by the time I got to the run and my wave was in the middle), and the run was long. No one, not even me, likes a long run, especially in hot conditions with no shade. The volunteers were awesome and supportive as I experience at most races, but this course is one of the worst regarding spectators being able to watch the race.  We were spoiled with a wonderful venue in Milwaukee. Hopefully, most of the issues were first-year issues only and next year they’ll fix them because AGN is always a race I look forward to adding to my schedule.

Huge shout outs to all the Every Man Jack sponsors. Couldn’t have done this without the support from you all: Every Man Jack, Roka, Felt, Garmin, Purplepatch, Rudy Project, Louis Garneau, Enve, Saucony, NormaTec, GU Energy, Lululemon, Sock Guy, Boco Gear, and of course all my teammates, especially the ones racing at AGN.

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Kyle, Chris, and I after awards.

2016 Ironman 70.3 Muncie

70.3 Muncie has been my focus since the day I signed up for it back in January. I like the 70.3 distance most and was excited to try this one since I’ve never raced it and it’s the closest Ironman 70.3 race to me now.

Swim: 27:27. 1st AG, 2nd OVERALL swim split?!?!

I started on the front line and got off to a good, smooth start. I felt really good early on; was focused and in control. About 5 of us went out at the same pace, but shortly after the second buoy, they all dropped and I found myself in the lead. I secretly wanted to win the Roka first out of the water (FOTW) award, but knew it was likely a long shot because I have never been the fastest swimmer in any of my races. By the fourth buoy, I was already starting to catch earlier waves and had to weave around them the rest of the swim. After making the second turn (rectangle swim course) back to the beach, I was instantly blinded by the glare on the water. I can’t imagine how bad it would have been without my Roka tinted goggles.  Everyone I talked to after the race said they couldn’t see after making that turn. I just started swimming and eventually saw the first buoy after the turn and was happy to learn I was on a decent line. I also noticed a blue cap (my AG) right on my feet behind me. Dang it, I was hoping I’d have a gap. I wasn’t about to give up the age-group lead now as I was having one of my better swims ever and was still feeling strong and focused, which is rare for me at this point in an Olympic or 70.3 swim. I put in a few surges to try to lose him. Unsuccessful. With just 100 meters to go, I breathed to my non normal side to see if he was there, and he was. He pulled off to my side, but I still had a full body’s length on him. I picked up my turnover and kicked hard; I knew this would come down to who could get their footing quickest and run over the timing mat first. Fortunately, it wasn’t rocky and I found my footing quickly, ran up the beach and heard the timing mat sensor go off. Boom! Roka FOTW award for my AG! After the race I found out I had the 2nd overall swim time! WHAT?!?! That’s unreal. Swim times in open water are not comparable since so many factors go into it, but only 9 men (including myself) broke 30 minutes. While it’s not my fastest swim split in a 70.3, it is most definitely my best swim probably ever, in any distance. I’ve put in a ton of work in the pool and I’m finally getting to see it pay off in a race. I went from 3 swims a week at 9-10k to 5 swims a week and easily 14-16k with the occasional 18k or so tossed in. I’m beyond thrilled with my swim and have to thank Dave Schiffer and the JCC masters crew for constantly challenging me. I think the highlight of my swim was surprising my mom who was along the path to T1.  She even said, “Whoa, Kevin! I wasn’t expecting to see you yet!” It definitely put a smile on my face.

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Getting focused pre-race.

T1: The run uphill from the beach to T1 was brutal. I was not ready for a hard run after a fast swim finish, but I eventually made it up the hill and to my bike. I slipped out of my Roka swim skin, put on my Rudy helmet and sunglasses and took off.

Bike: 2:13:43. My fastest 70.3 bike split ever.

The bike course is flat, fast and has incredibly good roads except a two mile section at the beginning and end. These were by far the best roads I’ve ever biked on. The wind wasn’t terrible on the first lap (we had two out and backs), but it picked up on the 2nd lap. You either had a tailwind or a headwind, but even into the headwind section, you still could move at a good mph average. I felt good early on and just focused on nutrition as I knew it would be important to be hydrated and well fueled during the bike so I could run well off of it. As I approached the first u-turn, I saw my buddy, Dave, who was still in the lead overall. At this point, I was in the 10-15 range overall since I was the 5th wave to start. I eased off the pace a little bit into this first headwind section since there was still a ways to go. The roads were getting crowded going the opposite direction and I knew I’d have a busy lap two. I saw my other friend, Barry, starting his first lap as I was about 30 seconds from u-turn number two. I was still feeling pretty good and was hoping to catch both Dave and Barry at some point during the next lap. Even though the 2nd lap was crowded, it wasn’t as bad as I expected. It was nice to have constant targets to go catch. Around mile 35, I took in a GU Espresso Love gel, washed it down with water and then got 1/3rd of a banana at the aid station. The combination was like rocket fuel, and I started pushing more and felt better. At about mile 39 and u-turn number three, I saw Barry and Dave just a few seconds apart on the other side of the turn. Game on! At mile 41, I caught Dave and told him “good work”. Then at mile 42.5, I caught Barry and we also exchanged words of encouragement. It was an eventful portion of the race because around the same time, I saw EMJ teammate James DeFilippi headed the other way and teammate Greg Grosicki’s wife, Briana, who was in an EMJ kit cheering on the side of the road. It’s definitely nice to have some familiar faces out on the course when you’re racing. I was still pushing pretty hard at this point, but felt good and didn’t feel it was too much. I eventually made it to T2 and heard I (or Brian Denny as the announcer said (I’ve never been called Brian before, Kenny, yes, but never Brian)) was the second into T2 and the virtual race leader since the person ahead of me was 50+ and his wave started 23 minutes before mine.

T2: Simple and quick. Rack my bike, put on my Sock Guy socks, Saucony Kinvara 7’s, grab race belt, salt, GU, and head out to run.

Run: 1:24:32.

My goal for the run was to remain patient early. I knew it would be a hot and hilly run, so patience was key for me, and not my typical mode right out of T2. The run course is deceivingly hard. There are very little flat sections and really only one major hill you go up at the end of mile 10. There are a ton of short rolling hills that make it hard to really find a steady rhythm. I started out in a pace I thought could handle as I’ve done it numerous times in training leading up to this race. 5:55, 6:14, 6:07. Perfect. I let myself go on the downhills and tried to not crush the uphills. I was still feeling pretty good; nothing spectacular, but definitely manageable and in control. Sometime after 3 miles, I dropped my salt. At the mile 4 aid station, I messed up the hand off to get nutrition from a volunteer. Before I knew it, the same kid (12 year old or so) came running up to me from behind and handed me the nutrition! I thanked him, gave him a high five, and told him he was amazing! I took over the lead on the course around mile 4.5. I was starting to slow, but trying to keep it together. 6:21, 6:29, 6:33. I reached the halfway point of the 13.1 mile out and back course, and it was the first time I could see the guys behind me. Third place was moving well and I knew I was in trouble. I really struggled on mile 7 and 8 (6:45 and 6:50, respectively). I was aching all over and trying to get in as much sodium and liquids as possible. After dropping my salt, I had to rely on Gatorade for my sodium needs, which I’ve never used before. Finally, after mile 8, I was able to get back in a groove. It was slower than desired, but at least it was faster than the previous two miles. 6:33, 6:23, 6:38, 6:30 and 6:40 were miles 9-13. The last mile was absolutely brutal. I was in a world of hurt, bargaining with myself with tiny goals to reach; just trying to find anything to keep moving and pick up the pace. I finally crest the short steep hill at 13 and headed to the finish line. I thanked the bike escort and was relieved that I was nearly done.

Overall: 4:09:33. 2nd overall, 1st AG.

I’m beyond thrilled with my race. While I didn’t have the run I wanted and know I’m capable of, being 1st AG swim and 2nd overall swim is still unbelievable for me. I’m very pleased with my 2:13 bike split which beats my previous fastest 70.3 bike split by 4 minutes. The buttery smooth roads and flat course definitely helped, but I also know I’m in some of the best biking shape I’ve ever been in thanks to Purplepatch’s guidance. Having a lead escort biker for over half of the run was an awesome experience and something I’ve never had before. I will admit, though, being the hunted instead of the hunter was not fun, especially since I was struggling to keep it together. I much prefer chasing people down rather than being the target and not knowing if you’re gaining or losing time on those behind you.  It was also incredible to raise the banner at the finish line as the 1st person to cross the line. Even though I wasn’t the official overall amateur winner (his swim wave started 4 minutes after mine and he came in about a minute after I did), it was still a very cool and rare moment to be able to do that. Qualifying for 2017 70.3 Worlds in Chattanooga was objective #1 and I accomplished that.

Next up is a week or two of down time, and then I’ll get back into full training to prepare for the second half of my season. I have Age Group Nationals on August 13th, a local sprint triathlon (Cedar Creek) on August 27th and finish off my season with Ironman World Championships in Kona on October 8th.

I first want to thank the amazing volunteers and Muncie for an amazing event. The volunteers were incredible and so supportive pre-race and during the race and very much appreciated. This is easily one of the best ran Ironman events I’ve participated in, I will definitely be back. Also have to thank Briana Grosicki for coming out to support James and me (and others) despite her husband being out in California to race the next day, and the awesome picture of my mom taking a picture of me, thanks Briana! Thank you Dave, Barry, James, and anyone else who cheered for me on the course, your support was much needed and appreciated. To all my Every Man Jack teammates who push me to get better every day despite being hundreds of miles away, thank you! Phenomenal showing at Vineman this past weekend, it was fun tracking you all. To all our amazing sponsors: Every Man Jack, Felt, Roka, Garmin, Purplepatch, Saucony, Rudy Project, Louis Garneau, Enve, GU, Boco Gear, Sock Guy, and NormaTec, thank you all! You have all been instrumental in my training and racing.

2016 KCCC Triathlon

My Kansas City Corporate Challenge Triathlon experience has about 10 stories all wrapped up into one race/event. Below are a few stories that stand out as well as a guest post of my sister’s race experience as this was her second ever triathlon and first one in three years.

Story 1: What is KCCC?

Kansas City Corporate Challenge is a competition between corporations in the KC area. Corporations are broken into Divisions based upon the number of employees in each company. Then the employees compete in various events ranging from triathlon to 5k, half marathon, bike race, swimming events, track and field, darts, 3v3 soccer or basketball, disc golf, bowling, fishing, horseshoes, even tug-of-war. You’re assigned points based on how you do within your age group and within your division. You find the uber competitive triathletes (like me), to cyclist or runners that decided to give the duathlon a go, to someone who is doing their first triathlon in 3 years (my sister) or even someone doing their first triathlon/duathlon ever. There’s definitely a wide range of individuals competing in these events. I want to thank Purplepatch Fitness for working with me to include this race in my schedule since it is not a USA Triathlon sanctioned event nor that beneficial to my 70.3 Muncie preparation. It was, however, a lot of fun.

Story 2: The showdown.

It all started about 6 months ago with Brandon Barnett showing up to masters swimming and talking smack, telling me how he was going to beat me at the KCCC Triathlon mid-June. I’ve won the last two races (2013 and 2015, rained out in 2014), but Brandon was confident he would beat me. His main rationale was it’d be his only race and I’d be focusing on other races (which is/was true). The good humor and fun continued all spring and early summer. It actually made me look forward to going to masters just to see what he’d say that day. Good, competitive fun always makes practice better especially on the days when I wasn’t feeling it or didn’t want to be there. Brandon would push off the wall right on my feet, so naturally I’d pick up the pace and try to drop him.  I loved all the, “yeah I let you go; I didn’t want to hurt your ego by catching you and being on your feet.” Despite him spending more time all spring and early summer on the golf course rather than training, the smack talk continued all the way up to race morning. Results can be found here. Let’s just say one of us won overall and the other was 2nd overall. I’m already looking forward to next year’s rematch. Side note: I will admit, for someone that hasn’t raced in like 10 months, he actually did very well. And, naturally, he told me so at masters the day after saying his performance was more impressive than mine because he’s, quote, “slow and out of shape.”

Brandon and I

Story 3: The coach?

So, back in early May, my sister sent me a text asking me for a favor; “Can you write me a training plan of sorts for the KCCC Triathlon?” Nervous but beyond excited, I obviously accepted.  I’ve never coached anyone before, nor have I ever considered it. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed it. After setting some initial baselines of what she could or couldn’t handle for swim, bike and run, I started to write some workouts. It was a lot of fun to give her workout ideas and even push her a bit more than I know she would have done on her own. We also had to schedule around several other obstacles such as travel for work, and other KCCC events (volleyball, bike race, track, 3v3 soccer) in which she was participating. Watching her progress and get in better shape was fun and exciting. I now know (to some small degree) what a coach goes through.

Story 4: My race.

Swim started off well. I learned from my mistake last year of thinking I could just muscle through the 500 meter swim and go full gas from the start. I started strong, smooth, and in control early on. Picked up the turnover the second half and excited the water in 6:31, tied for first for fastest swim split, and my fastest time of all three years–2013, 2015 and 2016 (2014 rained out, as mentioned in story 2).

Not even a mile into the bike loop, you hit the first big hill after crossing the dam. I was nervous since at TriZou, KC Tri, and Pigman, I struggled to find my biking legs early, but that was not the case here. My legs actually felt really good early on! Between gasping for air and yelling “On your left!!”, I was determined to set the fastest bike split for the day, and that’s exactly what I did. Nine miles in 20:49 (Strava link and Garmin link), it was my fastest bike split out of all 3 years by over a minute. It was also the most power I’ve held in any race and was above my FTP (functional threshold power–Basically a 20 minute test that determines what watt/power you can theoretically hold for 1 hour). Needless to say, I was beyond shocked and pleasantly surprised with my bike effort.

Running out of T1

Having biked harder than I’ve ever done before, I wasn’t entirely sure how the legs would feel for a hilly run course. Early on, I just let the legs go on the downhills and figured I’d settle into a pace after the first half mile when it flattens out before going up a steep hill after the dam. The lungs were burning and HR was high (same with bike), but I actually felt good. I was about 5:25 pace prior to the uphill after the dam and went through mile 1 in 5:38. Huge downhill for half a mile followed by flat for half mile gave me a 5:15 mile 2. Unfortunately, that’s where I started suffering and I still had 1 mile of literally all uphill. 5:58 for mile 3 and relieved to reach the finish line in 17:17, the exact same time I ran in 2013 which ties for my fastest 5k split on this course.

Overall time of 46:16. Crossing the finish line I really had no idea what my time was (I was in last wave to start the swim). I was beyond thrilled to find out I just broke my old course record (from 2013) by 1:36 lowering it from 47:52 to 46:16.

Story 5: Kaitlin’s race, in her words.

The much anticipated (or dreaded) race day finally arrived and it was time to put my training to the test. I knew I would struggle on the run (from past experiences and the fact that I just hate running), so I knew I needed to perform well on the swim and bike portions to have a shot of beating my 1:30 goal that I set for myself.

Pre race

I arrived on the beach a few minutes before my swim heat was supposed to start and positioned myself toward the front of our heat so I could be one of the first few in the water. My plan for the swim was to just keep it steady and swim strong for as long as I could. After a minute or so of swimming, I looked up to realize that I was headed toward the middle of the lake and not straight at the dock like I was planning. Whoops! So, I redirected my path toward the dock and kept on swimming. I very clearly can’t swim in a straight line because I’m pretty sure I just zigzagged across the water until I reached the buoys and could somewhat follow those. By the time I reached the buoys, I was forced to start weaving my way around the slower folks from the heat before me. It was not an easy thing considering you can’t see anything in the water, so I had to look up every 10 seconds to make sure I wasn’t swimming up someone’s back. Finally, I made my way around the two turn buoys and was headed back toward the swim exit. By this point, I was sick and tired of weaving in and out of everyone because it was taking up more energy than I wanted, and I was finding it harder to catch my breath. A couple times on the way back to the swim exit, I flipped on my back and did backstroke for a few seconds to catch my breath and look at something other than the ugly, murky water. I felt pretty good on the swim and focused on keeping my stroke strong the whole way. I was pleasantly surprised to find out I swam 10:06 since I felt like I was moving so slow while weaving in and out of other swimmers.

Swim - Kaitlin

In T1, I took the time to put on socks and my Fitbit, two things I’m sure my brother would cringe at me taking extra time to do, but hey, you gotta count those steps, right? 

I got all my gear on, grabbed my bike and headed for the bike exit. I hopped on and set out on the bike course toward the first big hill that was coming up after the dam. I was really hoping my legs would loosen up pretty quickly, but as I was climbing the first major hill, the only things running through my mind were “holy crap I have to do this whole loop twice. THEN I have to run!”… “I wonder how mad my brother will be if I fake a flat tire and bail out on the bike” … “I’m not sure I’m going to be able to finish this race, I’m already so tired!”

I pushed through the challenging set of hills and my legs started to feel better on the long gradual downhill. The second lap went a lot better with a lot less “I’m so ready to be done” thoughts. Another female in my age group passed me going up the dam hill on the second lap, and I made it my goal to not let her get away from me. I stuck to that and actually ended up passing her not long before we entered T2.

Coming out of T2, my legs were super tired from the hilly bike course and I knew the run course was not going to be easy. I was already struggling not far into the run and had to stop and walk often so I wouldn’t feel so nauseous. About this time, my brother (who started his race 20 minutes after me) goes flying by me yelling encouraging words which were met with “this sucks!”  I still wasn’t feeling well so in true Kaitlin fashion, I ended up moving off the side of the course and throwing up (having flashbacks to my half marathon). This actually ended up making me feel a lot better so I could start running again. The remainder of the run was a mixture of running and walking with a lot of “I’m so ready for this to be over” thoughts. I was really hoping to perform better on the run and actually be able to run more of the course than I did, but with heavy and tired legs, that just wasn’t going to happen. I knew going into the race that the run would definitely be the hardest for me. The run was also the point that I died during my first triathlon about 3 years ago. Regardless, I’m so proud of myself for finishing the race since it’s a tough course with a hilly bike and run. I ended up beating my goal by finishing in 1:26, and I even managed to score some points for my company. I really don’t think I’ll be doing another triathlon anytime soon. I think I’d rather just focus on cycling since that’s what I enjoy the most. But maybe in another 3 years, I’ll have forgotten about the pain of a triathlon and I’ll be ready to try another one.

If you’re interested in traveling (my sister’s passion), be sure to visit her blog Travel Far, Eat Well. She’s already visited a lot of really cool places both in the US and over seas with some reviews and tips on where to go and what to do.