I woke up at 3:34 am to start my journey to Columbia, MO for my (now) annual first race of the season at Trizou. Sprint triathlons to kick off the season are both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, they’re over in one hour; on the other, though, it is one-hour max effort when you are not used to high intensity. I knew going into the race that repeating my win from the last two years was not going to happen. I’d only beaten Evan Culbert by 20 seconds the last two years, and I knew he has improved a lot while I’ve had many recent life situations that have me further behind in my training and preparation than I’d prefer. While I didn’t expect to win, I was very excited to see where my fitness was at given my build to race day.
Swim: 5:14 (400-meter swim in 50-meter pool)
To the left of me was Yaniv (former D1 swimmer at Mizzou) and to my right in the other lane was Evan, the second fastest swimmer and not behind Yaniv by much. I took off hard, but it felt super smooth. It was really weird that by the 25-meter point, I was still on Yaniv’s hip, which shouldn’t be. However, as the 50 went on, he easily pulled away. By 200 meters in, I knew I was pacing the swim well and I’d be able to hold it. In years past, I’d go out way too hard (it is only 400 meters after all) and I’d crawl home and lose a lot of time the second half of the swim. I swam hard, but under control. I didn’t know it at the time, but I ended up having my fastest swim out of the three years I’ve raced Trizou (5:20, 5:22, 5:14). No major improvement, but any time improvement is a plus, and I felt much stronger than previous years at the end of the swim.
The Trizou bike course is not easy. It’s a two-loop course that is virtually all uphill or downhill with two big climbs each lap. Unfortunately, race morning it rained some, so I was not as comfortable on the turns as I should have been and took the turns conservatively. This also led to a lot of slowing down and quickly speeding up, which also isn’t ideal come run time. I honestly felt horrible on the bike nearly the entire time. There were a few spots where I felt decent, but for the most part just felt horrible. Surprisingly, I ended up posting my fastest bike split of all three years (33:21, 33:55, 33:15). I have absolutely no idea how I did that. I expected to be a lot slower than previous years because I gave up a lot of time to some of the other athletes.
My legs felt horrible right from the start, but this is normal for me on this course. The first half mile or so is just a grind and nearly all gradually uphill. I had Kevin in my sights the entire time and tried to reel him in. I ended up catching him a little before the 1-mile mark. I tried to open up a gap, but I really didn’t have the legs to do so and could only put about 10 seconds on him over the next half mile. We ran the last mile or so at that same 10 second difference. While it wasn’t my slowest time of the three years (15:34, 15:05, 15:29 (course is 2.8 mile by the way)) I certainly didn’t feel good at all the entire run.
Overall: 56:47. 2nd overall.
This was such a weird race for me. I ended up with my fastest swim, bike and overall time of the past three years, so that should be something I’m very happy about considering some personal challenges in March and early April; however, for whatever reason it was incredibly bittersweet and just a weird feeling. The positives that I can take away from this race are:
- Despite not feeling good, I was still able to go faster than I ever have before on the same course I’ve raced previous years.
- From October 24 (KC Marathon was October 21) until May 1, there wasn’t a single Tuesday or Thursday masters swim before work that I did not swim a minimum of 5000 yards. I even had a few swims (three I believe) of 6000-6200. 5k+ swims used to be reserved for only a few times a year for me (primarily EMJ camp every year). I have noticed a major difference in my swimming and strength during swimming by adding the big swims.
- I started lifting every Sunday, which I think has really helped my biking and I feel stronger despite less training so far this year.
Kansas City Triathlon
This is, without a doubt, one of my favorite races all year. It helps that it’s what I view as my hometown race, as well as race site being only 8 miles from my house. I do almost all my key intervals on the bike course throughout the year as well as many other laps around the lake. Being able to sleep in my own bed and rest in the comfort of my own home the day before the race is fantastic. On top of all that, Ultramax puts on a great race and experience.
I started next to Yaniv (same as Trizou) and Ernie Mantell. I felt ok early on, but nothing special. Early on I was already back in about 7th place and was a little worried, but stuck to my plan. I just found my rhythm and tried to keep everyone in sight. As I approached the end of lap one, I saw three athletes just in front of me. I did the short beach run and got back in the water as quickly as possible and actually passed two of the athletes. Just in front of me was Ernie, and I tried to stick on his feet and not let him get away again. I struggled mightily trying to find my rhythm again. Getting out of the water, running on the beach then dolphin diving always sends my (and I’m sure others) heart rate sky high and I lose all swimming rhythm. Ernie slowly pulled away as we started weaving through the age group waves on lap one. I exited the swim about 15 seconds back of Ernie and in 5th place. Another good improvement (roughly 40 seconds) in the water for me compared to last years race. This year I actually had 125 yards more than last year, but still swam faster. My pace difference from the two years is 1:19/100 yd (2017) vs 1:12/100 yd (2018).
Early into the bike, I knew the power wouldn’t be there. I was really struggling to even push the power I’d ride for a 70.3. I didn’t let it bother me as my speed was good and I was closing in on the top three (not including Ernie who I knew would put time into me. Ernie was on Team Every Man Jack last year and is racing professionally this year so I know he’s a very strong cyclist). During the ride, I rarely looked at my power and just focused on my attitude and controlling what I could. I climbed well up High Grove hill on the south side of the two-loop course. I was already in second and Ernie had not opened up that big of a gap yet. Early on in lap two, I got a time check back to Kevin Nickel and he only gained about 40 seconds on me during lap one and I was still roughly 1:20 up on him, which gave me more confidence. Last weekend at Trizou, Kevin put almost a minute into me on the bike on a 13 mile course. Lap two was more eventful than lap one in that I was passing those on lap one, but uneventful within the elite field in that I couldn’t see Ernie anymore, but was not caught by anyone.
Like the bike, my plan was to ease into the first mile, then try to roll and get into a groove after that. Over the first ¾ of a mile, I drank the entire 16 oz of water with GU Hydration mix and threw the plastic bottle away at the aid station. It was very much needed. I was a little worried about my gut handling a full bottle nearly all at once while running, but it was very humid and I knew would be worth it. I got a time check before the half mile mark that I was 2 minutes down to Ernie, but I wasn’t too concerned. After mile one, I rolled down the downhill and started feeling great. I was able to find a nice groove and get my HR to even go up, which was a good sign to me because I’ve struggled getting to race pace and changing gears, so to speak. I couldn’t see Ernie that often on the trail since it winds around and is rarely straight, but around mile 2.75 my dad told me I was only 45 seconds back. I was very motivated and definitely moving above my fitness level, but I just tried to stay mentally engaged and ignore the pain. Around mile 3.5 and on lap two, my dad told me I was 30-35 seconds down. I could see Ernie on the only straight stretch of the course and tied to relax and recover a bit before a short, but quite steep, hill right at mile 4 and then get into a groove again. Unfortunately, my lack of race specific run training caught up to me and the wheels completely fell off around mile 4.5. With under a half mile to go (maybe closer to 1/3rd mile) my dad told me to keep it together and I’d still break 2 hours. “Yeah yeah whatever, leave me alone, I’m in pain” I thought. Definitely an ‘in one ear and out the other’ moment for me. Sure enough, I crossed the finish line in 2:00:00.52. I guess next time I’ll listen to my dad.
Overall: 2:00:00. 2nd overall
I’m really happy with this result. It was a mixed bag of a day again, but there were glimpses of hope and great things in there, as well as the major struggle late on the run. My life events I’ve mentioned previously are calming down and things seem to be getting back to normal for me so hopefully I can get back into my regular training routine.
I want to give a major thank you to the volunteers for spending your mother’s day morning volunteering at KC Triathlon. Also to Ultramax Sports for a well-organized event. I will definitely be back next year. Also a major shout out to Every Man Jack (use code KDENNY18 for 25% off online orders) and all our amazing sponsors, as this wouldn’t be possible without your support.