Kansas City Triathlon

As race day neared, I was getting more and more anxious to race at the Kansas City Triathlon as this is my hometown race and always attracts top competition. Race morning greeted athletes with a brisk, low-40s for temperature with little wind. Fortunately, once the sun rose, it felt warmer than the air temperature suggested. I arrived to the race early, set up my transition spot, and went back to my car to get out of the chilly air. After a short run warm up, I slipped on my Roka wetsuit and headed down to the swim start.

Swim: 21:45, 2nd overall swim split.

I got off to a good start for the two loop swim course. I started on the far left next to a few athletes I knew would be fast swimmers. As I approached the first right turn, I was sitting on the feet of the leader and feeling good. My main goal for the swim was to stay mentally engaged the entire time. I have a tendency to let my mind wander and lose focus, form, and power in my stroke which has historically led to a slower than desired swim split. I stayed on the leader’s feet throughout the first lap. As we approached the end of lap one, we had to do a short run on the beach and then right back in the water to start lap 2. The short run on the beach most likely shot my heart rate too high because after I ran in the shallow water and started swimming again, I was having trouble catching my breath. My pace slowed, but so did my breathing and I eventually settled back into a good rhythm. However, now we had to weave our way around the other age group athletes that were starting their first lap. I, unfortunately, lost contact with the leader throughout all the weaving and couldn’t ever pick it up enough to get back on his feet. I exited the water 8 seconds behind him but was very pleased with my swim as I stayed mentally focused and felt I put out a really strong swim effort.

Oh, and for the crazy video award for the year, check out this video of a deer swimming in the lake during the race yesterday.

T1:

I slipped out of my Roka wetsuit, put on my Rudy helmet and glasses, and took off toward the bike out sign. Running barefoot with cold feet on concrete was rather painful, but I did manage to get through transition ahead of the first guy out of the water.

T1

Bike: 57:50, 1st overall bike split

Starting off on the bike, I was struggling to really get the legs going. Maybe it was my lack of a really good warm up or maybe it was the cold temps and wet legs, but my legs just felt heavy and slow. The first lap was extremely uneventful. I really just tried to stay focused and keep pushing hard because I knew there’d be some athletes charging hard to catch me. I knew one of those athletes was Kevin Nickel who two years ago, beat me by over 2 minutes on the bike split on this same course. It wasn’t until the big climb on the south side of the lake just past mile 9 that I finally started to feel good. I was able to put in a strong, steady effort up this just over 2-minute climb. After a fast descent down the hill, I found my groove and started rolling. Lap two was a little more eventful because I was now going past athletes on their first loop, so it gave me a constant stream of targets to go catch. I was extremely happy with my bike split. Two years ago on the same course, I biked 1:00:22, so to improve my time by 2:30 is extremely encouraging for me. I’ve been working very hard with Matt Dixon of Purplepatch fitness in order to improve my cycling as well as making some position adjustments on my bike with Paul Buick, and I can definitely see the improvements.

Bike 3

T2:

As with T1, cold feet on hard concrete was rather painful, so I ran gingerly to my bike rack. As I was running to rack my bike, an athlete competing in the sprint race (which started over an hour after I started my race) saw me running with my bike in the opposite direction as everyone else and semi-softly but still loud enough for me to hear said, “bike out is that way” and pointed the opposite way I was going. It didn’t register with me until I had racked my bike and was putting on my shoes what he said, but it was funny as I could see why there might be some confusion. I racked my bike, took off my helmet and sunglasses, slipped into my new Saucony Kinvara 7’s, grabbed my GU gel and race belt and took off.

Run: 33:41, 1ST overall run split.

I wasn’t 100% sure where my run fitness would be for a 10k. I’ve spent a lot of time this off season trying to become a better and stronger cyclist, so my running has taken a bit of a back seat. I felt really good early on into the two loop run course. It definitely helped that near transition there were a lot of fans cheering for you. After climbing a short but steep hill, I went through the first mile in 5:32, still feeling pretty good. I got onto the crushed rock trail and really found my stride and was able to pick up the pace a bit thanks to a slight downhill. It was also nice running on a softer surface. Mile two was 5:15 and I felt strong still. Cameron Bogue captured this sweet video near the end of lap one. I felt good through the first lap (3rd mile of 5:24) and almost up to mile 4, where we have to do the same short, but steep hill. This was the first real struggle of the run course. The hill slowed that mile to 5:41 despite averaging low 5:30’s prior to it. For the last two miles, I just tried to keep them steady but still keeping the pressure on. I ran 5:31 and 5:28 for those two miles and went through 6 miles in 32:54. After seeing that on my watch, I really wanted to be under 34 minutes for the run, so I picked it up again. Little did I know at the time, but it also helped me break 1:56:00 for my total time. Two weeks ago at Trizou, I ran 5:22 pace for just under 3 miles and at KC Tri I ran 5:29 pace for 6.16 miles (according to my Garmin). So I am definitely pleased that I didn’t slow off too much despite running and racing twice as far (for all 3 disciplines).

Run 5

Overall: 1:55:57, 1st overall.

I’m beyond thrilled with my race. Two years ago when I did this race, I was in some of the best shape I’ve ever been in (as a triathlete, at least) and went 1:56:51. So to improve that time on virtually the same course is definitely a huge confidence boost for me. I did it in a completely different way (1:00:22 bike split 2 years ago vs 57:50 this year, and 32:29 run split vs 33:41), but I came out faster overall. After a year of racing Ironman distance and feeling like I lost some of my speed, I’m beyond excited with my result.

I have to give a huge shout out to my mom and sister for coming to support me and for all the pictures. I also want to thank Cameron Bogue, Caleb and Connie Teague, and Dwayne Fritchie for cheering for me while I was suffering. Thank you to Every Man Jack for top of the line products. I left a little while after my race and went to my parents’ house to get cleaned up prior to awards. Yet another perk of racing just a few miles away from your (or your parents’) house. And thank you GU Energy for providing top quality nutrition. I used the lemon lime hydration mix on the bike and gel (salted caramel was GU of choice at this race) for the bike and run.

Next up for me is Pigman sprint in early June followed by Muncie 70.3 in early July. Rest of schedule is here.

Trizou Triathlon

I kicked off my 2016 racing season at the Trizou triathlon in Columbia, MO on Sunday. I planned for this race to be a nice rust buster and reintroduction to fast racing since it is a sprint triathlon: 400 meter pool swim, 14 mile (really 13.1) bike, and 5k (really 2.9 mile) run. I’m looking to get back some of my speed after a year of focusing on Ironman races. I figured it would be quite painful since my last race was September 27th at Ironman Chattanooga. Going from 9:33 of racing to less than 1 hour was definitely going to be a shock to my system, not to mention the 7 months between races, but I was definitely looking forward to getting back out there and racing.

I woke up bright and early Sunday morning at 3:38 am and started my one hour 45 minute drive to Columbia. After picking up my packet and then racking my bike, I headed inside to the 50 meter pool for a warm up. It’s rare to not only get to do a legit swim warm up before a race, but also to race a triathlon with a pool swim. My plan was to get in a nice long warm up (maybe 1500 m?) and treat it as if I were preparing for one of Purplepatch’s swim benchmark tests since the first part of the test is a 400 swim. However, I wasted way too much time and only got in a 600 meter warm up with a few builds. Nevertheless, I felt somewhat warm and ready to go. We started in the water and pushed off the wall. I split a lane with another athlete and it worked out well as we were basically the same speed. After swimming side by side the first 100 meters, he started to slowly pull away and eventually was a full body length ahead of me. I just tried to swim strong and smooth, and eventually I pulled back half a length and we exited the water within a second of each other. My time on my watch was 5:20, but we had to run out of the aquatic center and cross the timing mat, so my official swim time was 5:39. Overall, I’m pretty pleased with my swim. I’ve been spending a lot more time in the pool the past couple of months and I think it’s starting to show. I didn’t have the greatest warm up (my own fault) and didn’t go 100% in the swim like I have on my swim tests either. I’ve been swimming in a 25 yard indoor pool for the last 7 months, so I figured switching to a 50 meter pool would be a little different and slower.

T1 was a long run from the aquatic center to the bike racks. I used this opportunity to run hard, pass the guy I swam with, and hopefully make up time on the leader. I know in such a short race like this, transition times are important.

My hard effort in T1 was negated by a poor start to the bike. I don’t remember ever taking the bag of rubber bands out of my EMJ bag, but apparently at some point this off season I did. So I didn’t have rubber bands holding up my shoes. I debated if I should just put my shoes on in T1 since the bike mount/dismount line was a very short 20 yards from my bike rack, but ultimately figured I’d just wing it and it would not be an issue. I was wrong. After hopping on my bike, my shoes wouldn’t stop spinning. I couldn’t even get my feet on top of the shoes to start pedaling. I finally got one shoe to stop spinning and was able to get my foot on top, then the other side and I started pedaling, but not before I was passed by the same guy I swam with and passed on the T1 run. The first 1/2 of a mile had about 8 turns, so I couldn’t really get up to speed yet.  However, once I got out on a main road, I put my head down and started hammering away in pursuit of the leader. I knew after the swim I’d already be at a deficit. The prior weekend, Evan (the leader) raced at Collegiate Nationals and had the 2nd fastest swim in the sprint draft legal race. The only athlete that beat him was one of my Every Man Jack teammates, Greg Harper, who is like a fish in the water, and I am not. So, I knew that going into the bike, I’d have to put in a really strong effort to make up the time I lost to Evan in the water.

The Trizou course is basically all uphill or downhill with very little flat sections. There are two main downhills and two main uphills. The first lap was uneventful; I was by myself and just tried to push as hard as possible because I knew it would be just over a 30 minute effort on the bike. By the end of the first lap, I was able to see Evan off in the distance. I knew I was still down a good 30-40 seconds and would have to keep pushing hard in order to catch him. On the 2nd lap, there’s a big hill early on. I definitely pushed this hill harder than I did on the first lap and figured it would help pull back some time, which it did. At the end of lap 2, you go up the other steep hill on the course before turning back into the Mizzou Football stadium parking lot and do those same 8-ish turns to get back to transition. My second lap was a lot less even and had more spike in power as I was trying to put in hard efforts in order to gain back some time. I had Evan in my sights and closed within 5 seconds of him. This was about to be a run showdown and I was excited! Strava bike file

T2 was quick. Racked my bike, slipped into my Saucony Kinvara’s and grabbed my race belt as I started to run. We were racked on an odd shaped track (1/3rd of a mile per lap and more of a square shape than oval) and had to run half way around it before starting the run. Evan was just in front of me and I’m sure we were running low 5 minute pace on the track.

The run started after climbing a few steps to get off the track. For the first time in quite some time, my legs felt terrible running off the bike. I didn’t realize until after the race, but the first half mile was all a slight uphill. So, I think the uphill running and hard efforts on the 2nd lap of the bike took some of my run legs out of me early on the run. It wasn’t until I ran downhill for the first time just past ½ mile that my legs finally felt great and I was able to open up my stride and start reeling Evan in. I caught him just before the 1 mile mark and planned to just sit on him for a while. I knew he put up a good run split at Collegiate Nationals last weekend, and I wasn’t 100% sure where my run fitness was at going into this race. After looking at my watch and seeing 5:20, something clicked and I just went. I threw all caution to the wind and dropped the pace to just under 5:10 and opened up a gap. I was holding 5:10 to 5:20 pace for much of that mile before a slight incline before mile 2. I came through mile 2 in a 5:19 and just continued to press on. I had heard before the race that it’s not a true 5k and not even 3 miles, so I knew at this point I’d have less than a mile to go. I finished the 2.90 mile run in 15:34 (5:22/mile average) and an overall time of 57:08 to win by 19 seconds.

I’m definitely very happy to take the win. Winning $250 and free entry into next year’s race is certainly a nice bonus as well. It was a great way to kick off the season, and it’s always fun to be in a competitive race and have to push the body hard. Going into the race, I wasn’t 100% sure where my fitness is/was at. It’s been 7 months since my last triathlon, and while I’ve been putting in a lot of hard work and good workouts, you just never know how it will translate over to a race environment. I also had a few stressful and busy weeks at work in early/mid-April which impacted several training sessions. I’m excited to see how I’ll do in two weeks at the Kansas City Triathlon (Olympic distance race) now that some of the rust has been knocked off.

No pictures at this race as I traveled solo. Huge shout out to Lululemon though. After the race I went for a long cool down run on the Katy Trail in my Lululemon run shorts which are super comfortable and light. Plus, my Lululemon podium apparel was on point on the awards stand post-race. Also a big thank you to Purplepatch fitness for getting me prepared to tackle a sprint triathlon after racing Ironman all last year. There’s a huge difference in race prep between the two and I didn’t feel underprepared at all.