October 9, 2012

Cancun ITU Sprint World Cup

After I rearranged my schedule, my final race of the season ended up being in Cancun, Mexico. Let me tell you, not a bad place to finish off the season! Even though it was 85 degrees out, with 75% humidity and random thunder and lightning rain storms, I got to stay and hangout with an awesome group of people which made the whole race experience that much better!

The Race:
It was a one lap 750 meter swim with a beach entry that, thanks to growing up near the ocean my whole life, I was able to get an awesome start. I was out in front from the very beginning and held that position throughout. Around the second buoy when I was starting to head back to shore, I took a look back and saw I had a gap to the rest of the field. I didn’t want to get out onto the dead flat bike course solo, so I eased up quite a bit and by the time I exited the water I had the #1 ranked athlete, Steffen Justus (GER), on my heels.

Steffen and I worked together on the bike keeping a solid 15 second gap back to the chase group, but when we were just finishing the first of three 7k laps, I look back and I have about a 20m gap on Justus. I eased up and waited for him to get back on my wheel and when he did he yelled to me “FLAT, FLAT!” Since we had 15 seconds on the chase group (which was basically the entire field) he decided not to stop at the wheel station and continued to ride hard with his rear wheel completely flat! He told me “Let’s go Tommy!” and pulled through with his flat. I was shocked, amazed, and totally confused about what to do. Since he had a flat, he wasn’t able to ride as fast as would be necessary to stay away from the chase group, plus it was forcing me to put in more effort than I wanted to. About 2k into the second lap I looked back and we only had six seconds on the chase group so I told Justus “I’m done” and we both sat up and waited for the chase pack. Once I was in the group I just played it smart and saved as much energy as possible all the way into T2.

Coming into T2 I worked really hard for perfect positioning, and I was able to get off the bike first which allowed me to have a flawless transition. I started the run in the lead with no one around and locked into my pace. But at this point I wasn’t feeling great at all. 

The lack of running I have done over the last 2 months was very evident. I was right at my threshold, and I didn’t even go with groups of guys that were running by me - I knew that I needed to run my own race for maximum performance. I did just that and had a much better second lap where I passed a few guys that went out way too hard and finished strong for a 19th place finish. My 5k time at the end of the race was about 30-40 seconds slower than what I would have liked to have run, and what I was running at the beginning of the year and in the French Grand Prix races; but overall I’m very happy with that performance in respect to the fact that the time I had to prepare was less than ideal to be able to show up to this race with full fitness.

F1 Super Sprint San Diego

After WTS Stockholm, getting sick, and having to take two full weeks off of training, my end of the season race schedule completely changed. Last minute I added the San Diego F1 Super Sprint race to my calendar to help me prepare for my final race of the season – ITU World Cup Cancun. The F1 race is a Draft Legal, 300 meter swim (1 lap in the ocean with chest high set waves), 4 mile bike (10 x 700 meter laps), and 1.5 mile run (5 x 500 meter laps), which you go through TWICE! This race was perfect preparation for me to get my anaerobic system ready to rock and roll because it’s literally 45 min full gas. There was a great field lined up and plenty of spectators to make this a must see and must race event.

The Race:
Only 20 men were invited to race and even though I was wearing #1 it was first come first serve for transition space and swim start line up. We all chose our spaces and places and before we knew it we were off and racing.

The swim was really short because everyone could run about half way out to the first buoy, then just inside the second buoy the waves were breaking so everyone was able to body surf in. I had a great start and was the first one around both buoys, and then a set wave came in right as I was starting to head back to shore. I had to sprint for about 10 seconds but I was able to get into the wave and ride it all the way to shore which gave me a solid 12 second gap over the second place athlete Dylan McNeice. I was literally in the water for about 2.5 minutes before getting on the bike, and after I saw I had a gap I decided to just go for it solo on the bike.

I rode by myself for four laps until Dylan caught me and then the two of us worked together alternating entire lap pulls. There was a problem with the lap counter so each time I came through I would yell to the spectators “what lap am I on?” and listen for a response from someone. I had my Garmin on so I was pretty sure how many laps I had left, but the confirmation from the crowd made it more fun and more reliable. The course was very technical with four very narrow 90 degree turns on each lap. Since I was racing Cancun the next weekend I was being overly cautious so that I was 100% sure I was going to keep the rubber side down. There was no benefit for me to be taking risks through the corners so I just babied through them and accelerated hard coming out. Not a very energy efficient approach, but I was fine with that for a training race. Because of my conservative approach, the chase pack was able to come within about eight seconds of me and Dylan heading into T2.

T2 got a little messed up and everyone had to be very alert because we were running out the same way that the bikes were coming in, but despite the chaos I was able to be out on the run course first with a small gap. This is where my race “ended”. I was literally dead tired from head to toe because I only had 2.5 weeks of training (which barely had any anaerobic efforts) and so I was running as hard as I could but ended up getting passed by almost the entire field. 

I started the 2nd swim well down and never came back from that. The next time on the bike I joined the lead group (Lapped athletes aren’t DQed, but they aren’t allowed to pull through) and just sat in the group without taking a pull. Sitting in was awesome, the 2nd bike ride was 100% easier than the first. After the lead group came into transition I finished my final lap on the bike and started the last run in who knows what position. I did my best to run hard and keep my form up, but once again I was just getting passed like crazy, and ended up almost getting last.

I had no sign of breathing issues; I was just straight DEAD tired from racing with my heart rate that high for that long without a solid base of training and no speed work. This style of racing is awesome for the spectators and can really showcase the sport of triathlon. There’s no faking it in these races either, just full on for 45 min! Ideally this will become a series in the future that I hope to be a part of to help the growth of Olympic style, spectator friendly, triathlon.

September 21, 2012

Pacific Grove 2012

After I got home from WTS Stockholm, I went to the doctor and found out that I had irritation and inflammation in my chest and lungs that I never let get better. I was prescribed “Don’t do anything” for 10-14 days. I ended up doing nothing aerobic for 11 days and finally felt a complete change in my body. When I started training again I had no breathing issues, I didn’t cough at night, and my heart rate was back to normal. I could take giant deep breaths and felt like a new person. I started training again on Tuesday September 4th and knew that Pacific Grove was on the 8th. I made the choice to compete the morning of the race. I knew that I could use this race as a training event and not compromise my future training. It was an awesome event, but racing when out of shape is definitely rough!

The Race:
There were only about 10 Pros in this race so it was pretty low key compared to previous years. The swim was long this year, and Dustin Mclarty and I were able to put about 45sec on our nearest competitors. I knew coming into the event that I hadn’t run for literally 2 weeks, so I was gonna have to swim and ride fairly hard. 

Dustin and I did just that. I lead the swim out and was first on the bike. Since it was a draft legal race I knew it was in my best interest to have someone to ride with, so I waited for Dustin and when he was on my wheel we were off. The first three laps of the bike felt amazing, I was taking really long pulls and almost dropping Dustin. But by the fourth lap the heavy winds and my extremely out of shape body shut down on me. My heart rate kept getting lower and lower and my legs felt more and more like lead. On the second half of the last lap I was barely able to hold Dustin’s wheel! I told Dustin “This is your race dude, I’m gonna have to walk”.

When we got to T2 we had about 2:30 on a chase pack of two, 5 min on another group of 2, and much more time on a few others. I was stoked that I wasn’t having any breathing issues, but I was not stoked that my legs felt like jello sticks. 

Dustin went flying by me right out of transition, and that was the theme for the rest of the race. I ended up jogging a 40:09 10k (which is literally 8min slower than last year) and finishing 5th overall. My time was 13 minutes slower than last year, but I had a big ol smile on my face because I was able to race again without any breathing issues!

ITU WTS Stockholm & Sickness

The ITU Sprint World Championships in Stockholm, Sweden did not go quite how I envisioned. It’s important to learn lessons, but learning them by having things go wrong on a very important day is less than ideal. The outcome of this race was somewhat similar to WTS Madrid, but for a completely different reason. Out of all the races I did this year for development purposes, the biggest ones were the ones I messed up the most.

A quick recap as to why this race went downhill:
After I got back from my three month European adventure I took a solid two week break to recover from racing 10 times in 12 weeks. When I started training again I got one solid week in then caught an annoying cough. I’ve never really been sick longer than 48hrs so I figured I’d still train, but just take it easy until the cough went away. When the cough stuck around for over a week I decided to take two full days off, and after those days I felt back to normal again. I started to get back into my training rhythm and was disappointed at the numbers I was seeing. I wasn’t really coughing anymore, but my heart rate was really high, and I was short of breath on all my hard sessions. I figured it was because I was still out of shape and had to take so much time off. I ended up racing the Santa Cruz Sprint and International Tri’s the next weekend and thought I was back on track, but after the second race that weekend I was coughing again. I didn’t think much of it, just figured it was because I exerted too much energy that weekend and I needed to recover. I was leaving the next day for Spain to train there before flying to Stockholm so I knew I’d give myself a couple easy days to get back into the groove.
When I got to Spain my luggage got lost for a couple days which was annoying, but it forced me to take things a little easier. When I finally got my bags and started really training again, every night I would have these coughing fits where I would be up all night, and keep my room mate Matt Chrabot up all night. I honestly didn’t think this cough had anything to do with training, I legitimately thought it was my throat, chest and lungs being dry from the air conditioning. I ended up moving my bed into the other room and tried to get away from the AC. It worked! I didn’t cough at all that night, but what I didn’t correlate was the fact that we were leaving for Stockholm the next day and I was on my taper; no hard efforts = no cough.

When I got to Stockholm I was rooming with Jarrod Shoemaker and we didn’t have AC in our room. I slept like a baby every night, not one cough! At this point I was still sure the AC was the problem and figured I was going to be ready to race. I did all of my proper race preparation and felt good and ready to race.

The Race:
I had a lower number so I ended up getting a spot in the middle of the pontoon, but when the horn blew I had an awesome start and was out in front with clear water right away. I got lucky and Richard Varga (who lead out of the water at the Olympics) swam from the left side of the field right in front of me. It was perfect! I was swimming in second place with no issues. Around the second buoy Alisandro Fabian started swimming on my legs and lower body for some reason. It was extremely annoying and there was no reason for it, but instead of retaliation I just decided to let him go in front of me. I exited the water in 3rd with no issues and was confident I could make the front pack quite easy.

I was first out of transition and was able to get my feet in my shoes on the downhill cobble section and was happy with my placement. Fabian came by me just before the first turn and I got on his wheel no problem. By the time we were a quarter of the way through lap one, we had a solid group of about 12 guys, but when we were about halfway through the first lap I started getting extremely short of breath. I found myself rubber banding off the back of this group, a terrible place to be on a technically challenging course. Before we even started the second lap I knew something was wrong. I ended up getting dropped about a quarter of the way through the second lap and knew my day was done. I didn’t even try to go with other groups. My chest felt like there was a knife in it, I was only able to get about 20% of breaths in, and coughing hurt my entire body. I ended up riding next to Olympian and Canadian National Champion Kyle Jones who was also having a shocker of a race.  We didn’t really even talk; we just rode side by side waiting for the bike to be over. When we got to T2 Kyle asked me if I was going to run, I said “Yeah, I hate not finishing. I didn’t fly all the way over here to not finish”.

I ended up jogging about a 19:30 5k, finished 58th, extremely embarrassed, and wondering what was wrong. After the race I didn’t stop coughing the entire weekend and knew I needed to go to my least favorite place on earth: The Doctor.

The Team Relay event was the next day, and because Matt had a torn calf and couldn’t run I was put on the team. Our High Performance leader put me as fourth so that if we were really far behind I could just cruise. Long story short, after the solid efforts of the first three legs, Team USA was far enough back that the ITU official told me “Your team isn’t lapped yet, but after you swim I’ll have to stop you. So you can do the swim, and then stop, or you can just stop”. As much as I wanted to support my team mates, it was a miracle I didn’t have to race!

One of these days I’ll have a WTS race where I don’t get dropped and Barrie Sheply will be confused.