Cedar Creek Triathlon

On Saturday, I lined up for a local sprint triathlon, Cedar Creek. It’s always fun to support local races, especially when they put the athletes first, don’t make a profit, and donate money to local charities as well as give out fantastic prizes/awards. And it never hurts when you get to sleep in your own bed the night before the race.

Swim: 6:39

The rectangular swim course with first turn buoy being maybe 20 meters into the race meant a fast start was necessary. I started on the left side of the pack and thought I got out well, but the field collapsed on each other right at the first buoy. I went from nearly the front to about 5th or 6th back, swimming water polo style with my head above the water so I didn’t get kicked since it was so congested. Surprisingly, I felt good on the swim and just tried to maintain my position. It was a non wetsuit swim, so I tried to draft as long as I could since we were swimming near all-out in a 400 m swim. I ended up 5th out of the water.

T1: :20

Fastest T1 split. The moment I hit solid ground, I ran hard to my bike, threw on my Rudy helmet and headed out for the bike. Small, local races often lead to small transitions and it’s definitely nice to have a race with only 20 seconds of transition instead of 2, 3, or even more minutes.

Bike: 27:36

The 11 mile bike course was very hilly with very few flat areas on the course. Right out of transition was a steep climb. Being first triathlete on the bike course, I often was out of the saddle pushing the first hill hard, trying to open up a gap on anyone trying to catch me. Mark Carey came up behind around the 2nd mile. My initial thought was to let him lead and just stick on his wheel (legally, of course). Unfortunately, Mark had different plans and made me work hard to stay with him. He opened up a gap of about 15 seconds approximately half way through the bike leg. I was able to keep him around that distance entering T2. Definitely had to work hard on the bike, legs were screaming with lactic acid and pain the entire ride.

T2: :23

2nd fastest split. Simple T2: rack bike, helmet off, Saucony Kinvara shoes on, grab race belt and go.

Run: 17:52

I started the run about 20 seconds down from the leader. Run starts flat but then goes up a big hill that you have to do twice since it’s a two loop course. I felt pretty good early on and slowly closed in on Mark just before the mile marker. Once in the lead, I just tried to keep my pace steady and open up as big of a gap as I could.

Overall: 52:47. 1st Overall

Definitely happy to take the win. Didn’t hurt that the winner got a Garmin 920XT either. Definitely have to give a huge shout out to the entire Cedar Creek Triathlon staff: Brad, Ron, Dave, Brandon, thank you! As well as to everyone else on the Cedar Creek board of directors and all the volunteers, thank you! I would also like to thank all the local sponsors, but especially Coast to Coast Triathlon and Elite Cycling.  These local sponsors go the extra mile to promote triathlon training and competition in the KC area. Great race, honest and hard course, fun atmosphere; I definitely plan to return in future years.

Just under 4 weeks until my 2nd full Ironman in Chattanooga on September 27. Looking forward to getting back out there and trying to redeem myself after Ironman Texas earlier this season.

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Pigman 70.3

The unknown can be scary, but it is also very exciting. My coach told me the day before the race that, “Sometimes, I think a little fear of the unknown is okay. Keeps us in check!” and I couldn’t agree more. I went in to Pigman with many unknowns. My last half distance triathlon was at Worlds nearly one year ago. I can’t even tell you when the last time I biked or ran 56 miles and 13.1 miles, respectively, in training. I’ve been struggling with 30 and 40 minute runs at 7 minute pace and 60 to 90 minute easy bike rides. The projected temperatures race day were expected to reach mid 80s with heat index in low 90s, which is first time competing (or doing any hard workout in training) in that type of heat since IM Texas. Training has been a struggle last 2 weeks; so much so that my coach prescribed 2 (!!) complete rest days on Friday and Saturday. I’ve never taken 2 days off before a race. My last two weeks of training (not including races (AGN and Pigman)) have been 2.5 hours and 3 hours, respectively. So, needless to say, race day was going to be a complete mystery to me, but I was ready for the challenge and to push myself as hard as possible.

Swim: 28:30

Times are, most of the time, irrelevant in the swim. This was one of my slowest times ever for a ½ Ironman distance swim, but arguably my best swim in any race yet. I mentioned after AGN that I thought I took good lines and sighted well. I can confirm that I did indeed take great lines at Pigman. After the front group of 4 swimmers established themselves (which I assumed would be the 4 pros racing), some athletes started veering right toward the sight buoys instead of directly to the turn buoy. So, I took my own line since I was surprisingly feeling pretty good. After the first left turn, I took a direct line again to the second turn buoy while most drifted right again. After the second left turn, a front group established and I was in it!! I couldn’t believe it, a group of 5 (3 men and 2 women) was the “lead” pack in the water behind the group of 4 that I pretty much just dismissed as I figured all 4 pros would be in it. As we approached half way, we did a 180 degree U-turn and headed back the same way, only slightly to the outside of what we just did. I figured at this point I would surely fade with my lack of quality swimming in the last month or so, but I was going to try my best to stay #5 in this pack and not get dropped, and it worked! Surprisingly, the pace wasn’t overly quick and I knew if I could just stay on the back and follow bubbles, that I could make it all the way with this group. With about 300 meters to go, the group put in a surge and all of a sudden my bubbles were gone. I quickly recognized the change of pace and put in a surge of my own to latch back on to the back of the pack. With about 100 meters to go, the pack did the same thing, but I was ready this time and responded instantly. This swim shocked me. My typical race in the swim usually goes something like, start fast(ish), try to find feet, get on feet, quickly fall off of feet and slowly fade all the way to finish. Not this time. This is by far my favorite swim in a race; and for once, I enjoyed the swim leg and raced it hard instead of just fading the whole time.

Last bit of reflection before starting the race.

Last bit of reflection before starting the race.

T1/T2:

Nothing special in either transition. T1: was run uphill from beach to grass to concrete where transition was set up, took Roka swim skin off, put Rudy helmet and sunglasses on, grab bike and run up a slight hill through transition to mount bike. T2: Normal stuff. Decided to wear socks on the run for once and wrapped a towel around neck that’s designed to cool you off in hot conditions. Not sure if it helped at all, but I know it didn’t hurt.

Bike: 2:19:39

We went two miles out of park/campground area to main road, then four – 13 mile out and back loops with two U-turns per lap and one big hill that you do both sides of on every lap as well. Other than that hill, it was pancake flat; you just had to deal with the wind, which was headwind going south and tailwind going north. The last couple laps of headwind weren’t fun.  I pushed (probably too hard) early on to try and preserve some of my gap I earned on the swim as I knew some good cyclists were coming from behind. Nothing too exciting happened during bike. I just stayed on top of nutrition, hydration, and definitely electrolytes throughout the bike.

Run: 1:27:13

Course was roughly four – 3.25 mile loops in the shape of a T. Out of T2, it’s flat then downhill to dam, U-turn, uphill and flat back to main intersection, then go to small eyeglasses like loops (see Garmin file if you’re interested) in campground, back to main intersection, down toward transition to do a U-turn, then do it all again. First loop was just ok, really didn’t feel very good at all. It was definitely starting to get very hot and I just told myself after first 3 miles to hit 6:40-6:50 pace and keep it steady. After running the 2nd and 3rd mile in 6:48, I knew podium and cash prize (top 5) was out of reach as I was in 8th overall and a long way from 5th. I just wanted to keep my pace steady, finish strong, and not blow up. Second loop was definitely better than first loop and I even ran a 6:27 and 6:28 for mile 5 and 6, respectively, which one of those miles included the lone steep (ish) uphill section. I noticed after the second loop and approaching half way that I wasn’t sweating on side of face anymore and my forehead was dry too but it had salt crystals on it. Uh oh. Not good. Instantly, flashbacks of IM Texas crept into my mind and I debated if I should slow my pace (since I was running faster than self-prescribed 6:40-6:50 pace I wanted to hit) or to just continue on and see what happened. Fortunately, I noticed I still was sweating on my arms and hands, which gave me reassurance that I could manage this issue and not have to slow my pace. At this point I was already taking in a ridiculous amount of electrolytes compared to previous races, but after noticing no sweat on face, I increased it a little more. I was also already walking through both of the aid stations each lap and taking 4 cups of ice water to drink and pour on neck/towel to cool me off. Now, I started taking in 5 or 6 cups. Pace was surprisingly still good and although I was hurting, I was still able to push and keep my pace right around 6:40 for miles 7 through 11. I still felt good half way through the last lap, but by the time I reached mile 11, the wheels were starting to fall off. I barely squeaked under 7 minutes for mile 12 and just tried to finish strong, which I did with a 6:38 last mile. This is one of my slowest half marathon’s ever, but I’m beyond thrilled with my effort. It was really hot out there and I was able to keep my pace steady and not fade much at all.

2015-08-16 10.11.35

Overall: 4:18:18. 7th overall, 3rd non professional.

Absolutely pumped! Had one of my slowest swim and run splits I’ve ever done in a race, but I checked off all three major unknowns going into the race and this gives me a ton of confidence going into IM Chattanooga in just 6 weeks. I still have a ton of work to do, and not enough time to do it in, but I’m confident I can still perform very well in Chattanooga. It won’t be easy by any means, but then again, I’m not sure an IM is ever easy.

My parents are amazing and I’m so grateful for them. They made the trip with me, woke up entirely too early to get me to transition, walked a good 8-10 miles to cheer me on (2 miles out of park to main road to watch bike, plus back to watch run), and endured the heat throughout the day, took some great pictures, and gave me (and other athletes) tons of encouragement while we were suffering on the run. It was also great to meet Team Every Man Jack teammate Justin Herrick (couldn’t race due to getting hit while biking just last weekend) and his wife Danna (who was 3rd female overall, fastest female run split, and 5th fastest run split overall behind the 4 pro men in 1:23!). I can’t wait to track them both in Kona this year.

My dad took a ton of great pictures, so below are a few more pictures of my race.

Pack of 5 half way through swim. I'm the last one with arm straight in the air, might want to work on that.

Pack of 5 half way through swim. I’m the last one with arm straight in the air, might want to work on that.

Exiting the water

Exiting the water

2015-08-16 07.46.37

2015-08-16 10.22.19

Very little shade or protection from the sun on the run course

Very little shade or protection from the sun on the run course

Trying to stay cool and walking through all aid stations to make sure I got enough water. Only 2 aid stations a lap map it tough.

Trying to stay cool and walking through all aid stations to make sure I got enough water. Only 2 aid stations a lap made it tough.

2015-08-16 09.28.13

2015 Age Group Nationals

On Thursday, my dad and I headed to Milwaukee for the 3rd and final time (AGN will be held in Omaha in 2016 and 2017). Arriving in Milwaukee Friday morning, I did a quick spin on the course, picked up my packet, got in some NormaTec boots at the expo, and headed out to get some sushi before going to the hotel to rest up. Surprisingly, while at the hotel, I fell asleep midafternoon for a 90 minute nap, which is really rare for me, but obviously much needed.

NormaTec always has a line pre and post race at expo's

NormaTec always has a line pre and post race at expo’s

Race Day:

After a good 8.5 hour sleep, I woke up excited and ready to race. After eating some quinoa and bananas, I headed to transition to set up the rest of my gear. Had a quick chat with EMJ teammate Tim Perkin and went for a short warm up run. Slipped into my Roka wetsuit and jumped into the chilly 65 degree water for a swim warm up.

Swim: 21:13

The past two years, I’ve started on the right side and it’s been very congested, so I decided to start middle-left this time. I felt pretty good early on but couldn’t ever latch on to feet and kept getting dropped. I just kept telling myself what my teammate Ricardo Monroy mentioned he did at IM Boulder…stay in the moment and make every stroke count. It’s hard to compare swim times since there’s no guarantee the course is the same year to year (1st year was actually a slightly different course), but this was my slowest swim split out of the 3 years. On a positive note, I feel as though I took a really direct line and sighted well and less often than normal. Who knows if that’s true.

T1: 2:08

Ran harder than in years past only to struggle to get wetsuit over timing strap and to buckle helmet. They used new, disposable and lighter timing straps this year which had to be exposed, so you couldn’t put it under a wetsuit.

Bike: 58:14

2 seconds faster than last year and fastest split of all 3 years. Nothing too exciting here, stayed aero, pushed hard, legs full of lactic acid and hurt, but able to keep pushing through it. A painful reminder of what Olympic Distance racing is all about. There was a headwind for 3.5 miles, tailwind for 12 miles, and headwind for 9 ish miles back to T2.

T2: 1:05

I ran harder than normal only to have insole in left shoe scrunch up despite having tape on bottom of insole to prevent this. James Thorp gave me the idea after a disastrous T2 on Day 1 of Clermont Draft Legal race last year. It’s worked ever since, but I’m guessing from the all the water that got in the shoe during IM TX, some of the tape lost its stickiness. So, I took off my trusty Saucony Kinvara’s, readjusted and 2nd time had no issues. Slowest T2 of all 3 years by 5 and 4 seconds, respectively.

Run: 35:37

By far my slowest run split of all 3 years (and I think ever for a 10k in an Olympic Distance triathlon). I took off conservatively hard (oxymoron?). Based on recent workouts, I knew anything much under 5:40 would be a terrible idea. 5:44 first mile, cool, not too bad, still feeling pretty good. I picked it up a little next two miles for 5:34 and 5:39, respectively. Struggled on the slight all uphill section, also into wind, for mile 4 and went through in 5:58. Shortly after the u-turn on the far north part of the run, I came to an aid station. There was a female competitor in front of me and she missed a cup of water (volunteer got cup of water up late). I was able to grab mine, so I drank a bit, sped up, and handed her the rest (she found me after the race and thanked me). In an odd way, this rejuvenated me and gave me a bit of a boost. I was able to pick up my pace again and ran 5:38 and 5:38 for last two miles. I was passed in the last mile and fought hard to stay with him. Unfortunately, his pace was a little too fast and I faded slightly, but was able to finish strong going through 6.2 (on my watch) in 35:19 and finished 6.26 (on my watch) in 35:37.

Overall and Takeaway:

1:58:14, 12th AG and 27th overall.

As I said in a tweet after the race, I’m disappointed in my time and place, not disappointed in effort. I fought just as hard this year as I did last year when I finished in 1:54:57 and was 10th overall and definitely pushed my body to the limit. Unfortunately, this is the current shape I’m in. Ever since IM TX, I’ve struggled with fatigue and heat issues. I’ve had some decent bike workouts, but I’m way behind on running and even a little bit of swimming in order to be near the front in an Olympic distance race. This summer, and especially recently, I’ve struggled to run anything sub 6 minute pace off the bike and sub 7 minutes on solo, fresh runs. My body has just shut down on me too many times to where heart rate is 100 or less on easy runs or bike rides and I struggle to make it back home. My coach and I cut training back drastically in the past week or so, and I finally felt “normal” Thursday, Friday, Saturday (race) and Sunday. So, I’m hopeful that I’m getting past these issues and will be up to speed in no time. AGN was really weird in that it was a good race, but it was also a bad race. If you compare it to the prior 2 years (see below), it definitely wasn’t my best. However, since this race wasn’t one of my main focuses this season like in the past, and considering just last week I was struggling with fatigue and heat issues, to be able to respond and fight hard to finish line is definitely an improvement and something positive I can take away from this race.  Next up for me is a half distance in Iowa this coming Sunday called Pigman. I’m confident that with another week or two of recovery and rest-type training, I can not only race competitively at Pigman since it’s at slower paces, but also be back in full swing and ready to take on IM Chattanooga at the end of September. My base fitness is definitely still there, I’m just lacking the required speed to race well at Olympic distance.

Here’s a 3-year comparison. Note: the swim in 2013 had a different course and a shorter run from swim exit to T1.

3 year

I have to first thank my dad for going with me. Knowing that I was having issues in training and not anywhere near the shape I was in last year, he still went with me up to Milwaukee and for that I’m very grateful. It was great to catch up with teammates Tim Perkin and Pablo Gomez again, as well as meet Zach Carr and his family post-race, and Tommy Barton who had an outstanding weekend taking 10th overall in Olympic Distance and the overall winner the following day in the sprint distance. Also, thanks to all my Every Man Jack teammates and sponsors–couldn’t do it without you guys!