October 25, 2011

US Nationals

After my win at Pac Grove, I was stoked to be traveling to Buffalo, NY with my training buddy Dylan McNiece for the USAT Elite National Championships. I was feeling really good leading up to this race and after looking at the start list I was confident I had a chance to place very well overall. This trip was awesome, the people I got to hang out with were awesome, and I had a blast! Everything about the trip was incredible except for one thing - my race.
I had a very low number starting this race and so I got a bad starting position on the dock. When the gun went off I ended up flopping into the water and getting dived on. The start of the swim to the first buoy was 350m away, but I still got pummeled and caught inside the buoy. At the first buoy I was in about 40th position and around the second buoy I got a heel straight to my forehead that put a solid shock through my whole body. I ended up shaking it off by talking to myself “It’s going to be ok, you can make it through this. Just stay calm!” and working my way up to about 12th at the end of the first lap. When I re-entered the water for the second 750m lap, I swam myself into 4th position by the turnaround buoy, and that’s where I stayed until the exit.
When I exited the water I was about 15 seconds down from the two leaders, Dustin Mclarty, and Jon Bird from Canada. I exited the water with 3x Olympian Hunter Kemper and a trail of about 40 other guys. On the fast run to transition I helped an Australian competitor unzip his race suit which he couldn’t get undone before transition – that made me feel like a hero before getting on the bike.
I had the fastest transition of the day and was on the bike 3rd about 6 seconds down from the leaders. I put my head down and charged. The plan was to hammer the first section of the bike and get a breakaway of 6-8 guys that would put a lot of time on the chase pack so we could have as much of a gap as possible before starting the run. It worked. The first part of the bike was so fast only 7 people out of the 65 on the start list were able to make the breakaway group (The groups avg speed on the first lap was 30.3mph, and this course had four 90 degree turns and two 180 turnarounds!). About halfway through lap one I was going to put my foot in my shoe, and I completely missed my shoe. I thought I just had glassy vision because I had water in my eyes and didn’t think twice. I caught back up to the pack and finally got my feet in both shoes. At this point I was in the back of the pack of 7 guys but it looked like there was 55 guys in front of me. I was starting to get dizzy, my vision was very cloudy, and I was getting a massive headache. At the turnaround to begin lap two I just pulled into transition completely confused. My adrenaline had died and the effects from getting a heel to the noggin were starting to take their toll. The next thing I knew there were two people holding my bike and another person holding me as I slowly “fell” off my bike. Thanks to the people holding me they just lowered me to the ground and unclipped me from my bike. I ended up laying there with the paramedics for about 15 min until I could get up and walk to the medical tent.
Turns out I had a minor concussion but nothing permanent. It was another case of bum luck, but I’m glad I had the smarts to call it a day when I did. There will be more races, and more chances to prove myself - today just wasn’t my day.

October 23, 2011

Galveston 5150

After a solid race at Myrtle Beach I decided to extend my season three more races. I added two non-drafting races, and one more draft legal ITU event. I was excited because the two non-drafting races were points qualifiers towards next years Hyvee (Hyvee is triathlons only $1 million prize purse race. They take your top three races and only allow the top 25 point earning, and 5 discretionary, competitors on the start line - so getting two solid points finishes this year would be a huge advantage for me leading into next year).
After I registered and got my flights all sorted for both 5150 races, they ended up cancelling the series finale in Clearwater, Florida which was annoying for a couple reasons. One, I already bought my tickets to Florida, and two, this made Galveston an even more important race to do well at. Just a small bump in the road though.
The Race
The swim was a very mellow deep water start. We were all spread out fairly well at the beginning so when the gun went off there wasn’t any fighting or getting kicked and trampled. My training buddy Dylan McNeice was off like a shot. I quickly got on his feet and swam behind him until the first buoy. After the first buoy I thought he’d want me to pull for a bit so I swam up next to him to take the lead. When I was even with him we ended up swimming stroke for stroke for about 50m. I wasn’t able to pass him so I ended up just slowing down and slotting in behind him again and just stayed there until the exit. Since I didn’t have a swim bonus for this race, there was no need to be first out of the water so I spent the entire swim trying to conserve as much energy as possible. When I exited the water I felt amazing! I felt like I had just loosened up a bit, not just raced an open water mile. I had one of the fastest T1 of the day and was on the bike first.
I have spent the last 2 weeks riding A LOT more than normal. For non-drafting races the bike is much more important than in an ITU race. Because I have been hammering myself on my TT bike, and because of my conservative swim, I ended up leading the bike all the way to the 12.4mi turnaround point. Olympian Matt Reed was 30 seconds down on me out of the water, and finally caught me on the bike at the turnaround. After the turn around I felt really good and was able to ride side by side with Matt all the way to mile 20. By this point we had a solid 1.5 minute gap on the rest of the field, and were riding strong enough to put even more time on them by the end of the ride. I was thinking to myself, “this is perfect, this is exactly where I need to be right now” then all of the sudden an official on a motorcycle rides up next to us and points at me and says “STAND DOWN! 1 MIN PENALTY!” I yelled back “Are you serious? I’m more then 2m away!” “PULL OVER!” was the response. So I pulled over to the side of the road, unclipped both my feet and stood there until he came over. “For 22 seconds you were a little less than 2m apart from Mr. Reed!” (The “drafting zone” for USAT Pro events is 2m, which means that you must be at least 2m to the right or left of the competitor in front of you) I responded “There’s no way! Matt was next to the cones in the center of the road, and I was next to the bike line, that’s a full LANE apart, not less than 6.5 feet! Plus, there was a massive cross wind which I was taking! Also, if I was within 2m of Matt, that means he was within 2m of me, how come he didn’t get a penalty?” “Mr. Reed’s wheel was in front of yours when we came up on you, so it was your infraction.” VERY FRUSTRATING! When you get a penalty, the clock doesn’t start until both your feet are on the ground, so not only do you have to slow down and pull over safely before the clock even starts, after the minute is up, you have to clip back in and start from scratch (which sucks big time if you forget to change out of your second biggest gear, which I did!) Surprisingly, for the whole time I was standing down and getting started again, no one passed me on the bike! I was stoked, but then realized what a big lead I just lost.
So now Matt was out of sight, my legs were stiff from standing there, my adrenaline and momentum were gone, I had to put a lot of extra effort into getting back up to speed again, and I was mentally out of it from being so frustrated – not a good combination in the middle of a race.
Jordan Jones (who had the fastest bike split of the day) passed me with about 3 miles to go and I didn’t even try to ride with him. I rode my own “cruise plus” pace back to T2 and started the run in 3rd. Because of the pace I set coming back to transition I was caught by the chase pack of about 4 other guys, so they all started the run within a few seconds of me. I was passed by Chris Foster almost immediately and just watched him go by. I didn’t even react. I was seriously so Livid about the penalty that I literally couldn’t get myself to suffer on the run. I didn’t want to battle those guys and kill myself for a 2nd or 3rd place finish. At that point, I hate to say it, but I basically wussed out and decided I was going to get 4th. I ran, not raced, the first of two laps until Derek Oskutis caught me and then I ran with him the rest of the race. I just wanted to zone out until the run was over. Having him there was a huge help! I just ran right behind him until about the last 800m or so then decided I was going to go. I negative split my 5k’s by going a 17:05/16:48. When I finished I wasn’t even breathing hard, I could have done another lap on the run if I wanted. I am pretty disappointed in myself for finishing the race that way; it’s not a good example of what a professional should do, or what I would coach any of my kids to do.
What I learned from this race is that the mental aspect is just as important as being in good shape. This race was a great indicator of how far my fitness has come, and how much I need to improve mentally and emotionally.

October 9, 2011

Elite Series Finale

After my “vacation with a kick in the head” at nationals, I was ready to prove myself at an Olympic points race once and for all. To catch you up on my luck I’ve had, here’s the order of events that have occurred at all the important races I’ve been to: Food poisoning, bike getting totaled by the airlines, rear wheel blowout, extra lap on the bike, and kicked in the head. So now it was time for some redemption at the Elite Draft Legal Series Finale in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
From the beginning of this race I knew I had a slight advantage because it was a non-wetsuit, current swim which played majorly to the benefit yours truly! Before the race I chatted with 3x Olympian Hunter Kemper about having a breakaway of just us two on the bike, so going into the race my plan A was to ride very hard, get a good size gap on the chase pack, and try to survive on the run. My plan B was to just relax on the bike and try to outrun everyone who might be in the lead pack. I ended up having to ad lib mid race and go with plan C.
The swim started perfectly for me. I had a fantastic dive and was in the lead from 5 seconds into the race. After the first lap Hunter and I had a 30 second gap on everyone, and after the second lap we had a full minute! I honestly was swimming extremely smooth; my HR probably never went over 160 the whole time. Because of this efficient swim I was able to have an awesome transition and get out onto the bike course with a good size gap over Hunter. I got my feet in my shoes quicker and smoother than I ever have and kept taking peeks back to see if hunter was on my wheel. Once he was on my wheel and he got his feet in his shoes we were off. We worked together extremely well the first lap and were stoked to see that we had a minute lead over the chase pack of 13 guys.
Coming down the hill that leads to transition, we had a strong tail wind that was allowing us to be riding a little over 35mph. We were about to finish our first lap (there was 8 laps, and it takes about 7min each lap) and start our second lap when the unpredictability monster reared its ugly head. I was leading with Hunter right on my wheel when a triathlete, who had JUST finished the swim portion, ran into transition RIGHT in front of us. All I had time to do was yell “HEYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!” as loud as I could and swerve. Hunter wasn’t able to react fast enough and he ran straight into the guy causing Hunter to go flying through the air with his bike. I looked back and saw the aftermath and yelled at the top of my lungs “NO WAY DID THAT JUST HAPPEN, NO WAY!” immediately I had to regroup and move onto plan B.
I decided it wouldn’t be smart to ride solo for the next 7 laps with a group of 13 people behind me so I soft peddled until the chase group caught me (which wasn’t for another lap and a half). By the time they caught me my HR was about 110 and I was feeling amazing. When I joined the group I pushed the pace and our group got about a minute lead of the 2nd chase group. I attacked the group about 800m before transition and was able to enter T2 with no one around me. I kinda bogged my T2 and even though I had a slight lead I ended up being 3rd out of transition.
The first lap of the run there was a group of about 8 of us, then the 2nd lap it was whittled down to 4 then the 3rd lap it was just 3 of us. On the final lap it was just two of us, me and Olympian Jarrod Shoemaker (who runs a 14:08 5k). He finally gapped me with 800m to go and ended up cruising in for the victory about 5 seconds ahead of me. 2nd place was a fantastic finish for me, and probably my best performance of the season. My name is now on the map in the draft legal world, and I finally have some ITU points! After having the fastest swim, being one of the strongest on the bike, and having the 3rd fastest run of the day, I’m beginning to establish myself as a “Triathlete” not a swimmer who does triathlons!