March 28, 2012

Ixtapa Pan American Cup

I had a great trip down to Ixtapa, Mexico for my second race of the season; the race didn’t pan out exactly the way I had hoped, but it was a great learning experience and a solid little vacation. I got a chance to travel and room with two other Americans, Kathy Rakel and Derek Oskutis, which made the trip really fun…AND I didn’t get food poisoning which made the trip even more pleasurable!

The Race:
The swim was a one loop 1500m non-wetsuit ocean swim. It was definitely non-wetsuit because the water temperature was 79F and the air was 91F! It was a nice clean beach start with some tiny little waves which helped spread everyone out in the beginning so it wasn’t a massive pile of bodies. My plan leading into this race was to cruise the swim and keep my heart rate as low as possible, so I found a nice comfortable spot in 3rd position and just stayed there and made sure the lead swimmers didn’t get away. There was quite a bit of confusion in the swim because the kayakers and safety paddlers made us go around buoys that we didn’t need to go around and the guy that was leading the swim turned at the wrong buoy and all sorts of other fun little things. Thankfully I knew the course and just kept it smooth the whole way and ended up exiting the water 2nd just behind Andrew McCartney from Canada.

The swim to bike transition is about a 600m run so transition times were all over 2 minutes. I had a good transition and was on the bike first. I got my feet in my shoes comfortably and got to drink some of my very warm PowerBar perform before I even saw anyone behind me. I didn’t want to hammer the bike right away because the plan was to get a small group away and if I went off by myself it would just be wasting energy and not helping get a few guys to go with me. I was soft pedaling for about 3 minutes before I saw someone finally bridging up to me. I was hoping that there would be more than just one person to breakaway with on the 2 lap hilly course, but everyone else behind was waiting for more people to join their group so I knew that this was a good opportunity to get some serious time on the rest of the field. I also knew that my USA teammate Derek was in the chase pack so if I went off ahead, team tactics could benefit both of us greatly. Thanks to Derek’s well developed cycling knowledge and skill he played it perfectly in the chase pack! Since I was up the road with the number one ranked athlete, Crisanto Grajales, my job was easy – Ride hard! The benefit of riding hard with just two of us verses the 20 athletes in the chase pack was to get a large gap before starting the run. Derek’s job was a little more challenging strategically, but his benefit was that he got to conserve energy by slowing the chase pack down. Thanks to Derek making sure no other breakaway attempts were successful, no one got away from that chase group of 20, and Crisanto and I were able to ride our Specialized stallions to a 2 minute lead into T2!

I had a great T2 and was out on the run first, six seconds ahead of Crisanto! It didn’t matter though; right when I started running (even though I had a 2 min lead over the chase pack) I knew my chance to podium was over. It wasn’t that I rode too hard; it was that I rode too hard for how hot it was. Even though I downed 2 bottles on the bike, drank ice water and dumped ice water on my head at EVERY aid station (4 on each lap), not being used to that type of heat took its toll on me, and my body was feeling a different type of fatigue then I have ever felt. My legs weren’t sore, my whole body just felt like shutting down. I honestly ran the absolute best I could, but ended up getting passed by ten people and finished 11th.

Knowledge in the bank! Having this information is extremely important in my career as a triathlete, and these development races are for learning things just like this. I’m a little disappointed with the result, but very happy with what I learned!

March 5, 2012

ITU Clermont: First Race of 2012

At last, the first race of the season! The time has finally arrived for me to harvest my “training to train” seeds which have been steadily growing over the past few months. There are a few factors that accelerated my fitness growth, and also my mental preparation for this season. The biggest factor is all thanks to the training crew of Bevan Docherty and Paul Matthews who are able to make every workout fun and challenging, and for taking the time to give me advice every day. Thanks to these guys I have been able to see exponential improvements as a triathlete over the last few months.  Another addition is the awesome two week block I had with Matt Chrabot who encouraged me and helped give me a solid dose of confidence leading into this race season. The final factor is everyone that has supported me by following my career and sending me positive messages. This encouragement helps me become the best I can be!

The “Swim” at this race is basically who can run through knee deep water the best because the lake is so shallow, so when the gun went off I found myself well behind all of these elite Gazelle-frogfish who were just running halfway to the buoy. I tried high kneeing and dolphin dives, but I couldn’t keep up with anyone. Finally when the water got deeper and everyone had to swim, I slowly moved my way up from about 30th to 4that the first buoy. Around the second buoy I was in 3rd right behind Dustin Mclarty, which was the perfect position to be in. Dustin and I swam into the headwind chop that was making the swim fairly challenging – which was good. About halfway into shore, I looked back to see where everyone was and was happy to see Dustin and I had a solid 10m gap. At this point Dustin had been pulling for quite a ways, so I decided to go to the front. I breathe to my right and I was passing him on the right, so as I was passing him I decided to breathe to my left to see where he was. To my shock I see a group of guys running past Dustin and I as we are swimming, so then it was back to dolphin dive high knee mode. Luckily I grew up doing Jr. Guards and I was able to high knee my way out fairly efficiently and was 2nd out of the water behind Peter Kerr and we had a 10 second gap.

I had a solid T1 and was on the bike first. I got my feet in my shoes no problem and was ready to go. I looked back and waited for Kerr to get his feet in his shoes and then I really started hammering. Looking at the start list of this race I knew it was going to be a ridiculously fast run because of the international talent that was toeing the line, so my plan A was to drill the bike and get away from the faster runners. After about 2 min I flicked my elbow and no one came through. I looked back and there was a group of about 4 or 5 others who had bridged up – even better I thought! Wrong. After about 15 more seconds William Huffman came through, then Andrew Yorke, then Jason Wilson, then… nobody. I looked back and I was thinking “Are you serious, we have a gap let’s go!” but no one else was willing to pull. After that quick shocker, Yorke and Wilson had a gap so I closed it and pulled through again. For a lap and a half it was the same pattern “Yorke-Wilson-Zaferes” over and over again with 3 guys just sitting on the back. We had a 10 second gap at lap 1 (of 4) but by 1.5 laps we had been caught by the chase pack of about 15 guys. At this point I changed my strategy to plan B – Sit in. I didn’t do any work the rest of the ride; I just stayed out of the wind and out of trouble. I did make a mistake by letting myself get boxed in and so I wasn’t able to get closer to the front of the group into T2 and ended up being about 20th onto the run.

When I started the run I was pretty far back, I had to slowly bridge my way up to the lead pack of 6 guys and by the time I got up there Jarrod Shoemaker had gapped that group already. At the halfway point Shoemaker had 10 seconds on the group of Kyle Jones, Kaleb VanOrt, Yuchi Hosada, Adam Bowden, Peter Kerr, and I. From then it was very tactical and so I stayed out of the wind pacing off the others in the group. At the final turnaround (which was a little over 1k to go) Jones surged and I went with him. We dropped everyone else in the group and we had a big enough gap that I was fairly confident that I was going to podium. With 300m to go I was ready to see how my sprint was going to fair against Jones (who is currently ranked 13th in the world) but I had pushed myself to the max. He gapped me with 200m to go and at 100m from the line my body cracked. It was literally EVERYTHING I could do to stay upright. My legs and my arms were moving but I was almost fully out of it. My vision got blurry and I have no idea how I didn’t fall over. “Just get to the line, just get to the line!” I was telling myself over and over again. Kerr had brought the large gap down to 2 seconds right before the line but I managed to hold him off and cross the line in 3rd place and grabbed onto the first person I could. I then spent about 5 min hanging onto a barricade having water dumped on me. 

This was my first experience of having my body crack before my mind. It’s good to know what my body is capable of, how far I’m able to push, and to know I gave this race 100%. I’m beyond excited about finishing my first race of the season with a podium, but even more excited to finally get some much needed ITU ranking points! Full Results