November 22, 2013

San Diego Super Sprint

After the Cozumel/Tongyeong double, I found out I had gotten bit by a spider back in Korea. When I got home my foot was twice the size and I could barely walk. I ended up having to take 4 full days off doing anything until the swelling went down. This wasn’t the ideal preparation for my final race of the season, but it fell right in line with how the rest of my season had been going. Luckily I’ve been dealing with stuff like this throughout the year and so I just carried on with business as usual without too big of a fuss.

I got a chance to drive down to the Olympic training center in Chula Vista, CA the week before the race and do some tests and have a few high performance meetings with the USAT crew. It was a fun week leading up to the race and I was stoked to finally be finishing off the season even though the preparation hadn’t been ideal.

The double super sprint race format was killer, 300m swim, 8k bike, and 2.5k run - all twice through with no break. Lars Finanger is doing an amazing job of bringing the supersprint format into the USA triathlon limelight. The whole race was filmed by Universal Sports which made for an awesome race environment. Most of the athletes did interviews beforehand that would later be used in the broadcast, and one of the questions I was asked before the race was “what is your ideal race?” Surprisingly my “best case scenario” answer ended up playing out exactly how I had hoped!

I lead the first swim out and drilled the first lap on the bike. Starting the second of 8 laps Ben Kanute and Eric Lagerstrom had joined me and from there we worked flawlessly together and put a solid buffer of time on the rest of the field. The three of us stayed together from the second lap of the bike all the way until the final run when Ben put the hammer down and was able to sprint away for the win, beating me by just .6 of a second! It was a fantastic race for the end of the season!

Right after the Men’s race, Lars set up a two person “team relay” where each team member did 300m swim, 4k bike, and 1.5k run. There were men/men teams, and men/women teams with $500 in prize money for the fastest team overall, and the fastest co-ed team. I got picked by Sara Mclarty and the two of us ended up winning not only the co-ed prize, but we beat all the guy/guy teams too and won the overall! That was probably the highlight of the day.

After this race I started my 3 week offseason and was able to go on an awesome road trip with Katie Hursey. 

For all the sheisty things that went down this season, I’m definitely on the upswing mentally and physically and am looking forward to next season and Olympic points qualification starting!

October 14, 2013

ITU World Cup Cozumel and Tongyeong

Because of my below average ITU season I ended up adding two world cups to my schedule to try and get my ranking up so I can get starts for next year’s WTS season. I ended up racing Sunday, Oct 6th in Cozumel, Mexico at a Sprint World Cup and then on Saturday, Oct 12th racing in Tongyeong, South Korea at an Olympic distance World Cup. Unfortunately, the end results of both races were on par with how the rest of my season has been going.

Cozumel was a current swim and a lot of the faster swimmers ended up choosing the wrong side of the pontoon. I started to the far right which I knew would get me in line with the buoy and after the gun went off I had clear water all the way to the exit. The frustrating thing about the swim was that the “fast group” to the left filled in the gap my group had made to the rest of the field, so when we got out onto the bike it was one long string of athletes. 

Right away everyone was sitting in and no one wanted to pull through except for Ben Kanute. After just two minutes on the bike we were one giant slow pack. After the second of four laps the entire field of 65 men was together. Throughout the race there were multiple attacks and nothing was sticking until finally a group or Kanute, Shomburg, Brukankov, and Buckingham got about a 10-15sec gap and the rest of the field was letting them go. That group I knew would stay away, because it was full of very strong and committed riders. I ended up putting in a solid two minute effort with another Brazilian and we bridged up to that group of four.

Right when I got to the group, we hit the turnaround point and Brukankov ended up crashing and taking out a couple other guys. The breakaway was shattered. After that we ended up getting caught by the main field again and there were more and more attacks. By the time I got to T2, I had put in quite a few anaerobic efforts that really caught up with me, especially for how hot it was. I worked hard to position myself at the front leading into transition and when I got off my bike I almost fell over my legs were so tired. I could barely run my bike to my transition spot. I knew that if I ran I would be absolutely destroyed and not finish within the top 30 (which means no points) and with 38hrs of travel coming up before Tongyeong I made the decision to call it a day in T2. I really hate not finishing, but I had to weigh the pros and cons for the “greater good”.

My plan leading into this race was to cruise the swim, do just enough work on the bike, and leave it all on the run. I was really confident leading into this race that I was going to have a solid result, but since I’ve only had about four weeks of training after recovering from my crash, everything was going to have to go perfectly. 

Once again I went to the opposite side of the pontoon of the top ranked athletes and had nice clear water all the way to the first buoy.  From then on it was me, Joe Maloy, and Ben Shaw who had a nice gap on the rest of the field. Apparently my pace wasn’t fast enough for Mr. Maloy so I relinquished the lead to him and just sat on his feet until the exit. After the swim exit there’s a 150m run to transition with a couple of 90 degree turns. On the very first turn I ended up sliding out and messing up my leg and toes pretty bad. I got up right away but ended up having to limp to my bike. Once on my bike my leg was really bothering me but loosened up a bit.

When I got on the bike I was stoked that we had a gap because that meant that we got a couple “free laps” where we could just cruise until the chase pack caught us. But this never happened. After the first turnaround I looked at my watch and saw we had 30 seconds, then by the time we were starting our second of five laps we had 35 seconds. The interesting thing about this race is that we weren’t riding a “breakaway”, Ben and I were just riding tempo while Joe came through when he could. We weren’t smashing ourselves to try and stay away, it just worked out that way. But regardless of us just riding in our racing “comfort zone” we were still putting in a much bigger effort compared to a big group of 20.

Joe ended up crashing at the end of the fourth lap and so Ben and I finished the last lap with just the two of us. We ended up getting the gap to the chasers back up to 45 seconds into T2 which was a pretty solid advantage.

The first two laps of the four lap run I felt pretty good (besides my knee and toes feeling like they were broken). Ben and I ran together and didn’t get caught for a while, but when we did get caught, we couldn’t really stay with any group. There was a steep 200m hill on every lap, and by the time I went up it for the third time I was cooked. I don’t think this had anything to do with the bike effort, but rather my lack of endurance from only four weeks of training. I tried to hang on the best I could but I kept getting passed and passed and ended up finishing in a very disappointing 20th.

I have been quite frustrated this season with my race results not reflecting how well my training has gone this year, but I have to keep focusing on the big picture and use all the negatives as learning tools for next year and when Olympic qualification starts.

September 21, 2013

Las Vegas Super Sprint

After the Triathlon at Pacific Grove my legs weren’t recovering as quickly as I would have liked. I was okay to race, but I knew after a crash, a couple weeks off, an Olympic distance race, and no speed work under my belt, this super sprint format was going to be extremely painful.

The race venue was in a giant parking lot behind the Rivera hotel on the Las Vegas strip and was held on a Thursday during Interbike (the biggest cycling convention in the country). They built a portable 25m pool that we swam in, and then did a crit style course on the bike, and finished off with a run on a slightly shorter version of the bike course.

The format was a trials and finals event, where there were three heats of 10 men and the top three in each heat (with the fastest 4th place person) qualifying for finals. The super sprint distance is a 300m (12laps) swim, a five mile (7 laps) bike, and finishing with a 1.5 mile (3 laps) run. In the morning during the qualifying heats you do this course once; but in finals it’s a whole new ball game as you have to do it twice through - with no break!

When I dove in the pool, I was stoked to have flashbacks of when I was a pool swimmer. There was no chaotic fighting for position like in normal ITU races, each athlete had their own lane and could pace the 300m swim how they liked. I slowly built into the 300 and noticed that Ben Kanute and I had a substantial lead on the rest of the field so I just kept it in cruise control.

Once onto the bike Ben and I rode hard but I felt terrible. We ended up getting caught by Josh Amburger and Eric Lagerstrom on the 3rd lap and rode with them the rest of the ride. I had a good transition and was out on the run first, but once again, felt really labored. I got caught and passed by Eric and Ben on the first lap, and then on the 2nd lap a hard charging Peter Kerr passed me which put me in 4th place – which was not an automatic “A” final qualifying position. I knew our heat was going to be fast though so I kept pushing the pace to try and get the fastest 4th place time. It worked. It turned out that our heat was the fastest by quite a bit, and my time (even though it was 4th place) was faster than all the winners of the other heats. After I finished I could barely move. I flopped into the pool and just floated there for about 10 minutes thinking about how in 10 hours I was going to have to do this all over again… twice!

I had a long day in between trials and finals, but my “recovery” wasn’t the standard rest I would normally take. Since the race is near interbike I had a few meetings to take care of with current sponsors and I wanted to introduce myself to some companies that I would like to work with for 2014. I rode my bike the 20 min from my hotel to Mandalay Bay and got a chance to take care of the business end of the sport. It was a great experience but by the time I was heading back to the hotel I was toasted. I got back to the hotel and tried to sleep to get ready for the 9pm final, but I couldn’t sleep at all and ended up just hanging out with my foam roller.

(The Race)
Once again the swim played out exactly the same with me and Ben Kanute swimming side by side nice and smooth. I was out on the bike first once again but this time I wasn’t planning on staying away. I was absolutely shot, and I told Ben beforehand I wasn’t going to try and hammer the bike so when we got out there I just got on his wheel and got dragged around the course for about 3.5 laps. Halfway through lap three Luke Farkas rode up to us so we had a group of 3. Once we had 3 I decided to pull through. I ended up riding hard with those guys until the lap when Ben put in a huge attack. Luke did a great job to limit the loss by bridging us back up pretty close to Ben by T2. When we got to T2 the chase pack of about 5 guys were JUST behind us. I had another good transition and was just trying to stay relaxed and not think about the entire second round we had to do.

I came into “T3” to start the second round swim with Peter Kerr, Ben Collins, and Ben Kanute. When I dove in it was seriously like a warm down. I could barely use my legs and my arms were Jello. The 2nd swim was probably a 30-40 seconds slower than the first, but once again, Ben and I limited our losses and we were out on the bike in the lead with Peter Kerr. 

Ben attacked pretty early and I wasn’t going to bridge Kerr up to him so I yelled to him “Go Ben Go - You got this!” and I just sat on Kerr’s wheel. After the 2nd lap Kerr and I got caught by the group of Cam Dye, Ben Collins, Luke Farkas, and Eric Lagerstrom. After that it got semi-tactical as no one wanted to go to the front. We ended up catching Ben on about lap three and so now we had a group of seven. Luckily I was positioned first or second wheel for the rest of the ride which was excellent position when Cam Dye attacked and I was right there on his wheel. The final lap of the bike I attacked with about 800m to go and had another solid transition and was on the run first.

At this point it was survival mode. My body was just trying to hang on for dear life. I tried to run with the guys but kept falling off the pace each lap. Towards the end I realized I was the last athlete of our lead group of seven and there was no way I could catch Cam or Ben. I was satisfied to just jog the last 300m to the finish and hope that would help speed up recovery so I could get back to some solid training to focus on the Cozumel/Tongyeong World cups coming up in a couple weeks.

I’m pretty happy with this result given the very short time I’ve been back training and with zero speed work, and also it was great to see consistency in my transition skills. The race will be aired on Universal Sports at 8pm on October 7th.

September 18, 2013

September Season Update

After my crash in Karlovy Vary I ended up being a little more injured than I thought. I took a couple days off but was back swimming and riding within a couple days. The reason I came back to training so quick was because I was supposed to race my final French Grand Prix in Sartrouville the next weekend. My body didn’t feel too bad, but my hip and groin just weren’t healing at all. I was able to swim, but I couldn’t kick. I was able to ride, but not get out of the saddle. I would test my run every day and end up walking home after just a couple minutes. Based on how the rest of my body felt I thought I would be able to run by the time race day came around, but sure enough, the morning of the race there was no way I was going to be able to start. I told my French team this, but turns out I HAD to start or the team gets disqualified. So I ended up doing the swim and then stopping in T1. It was embarrassing, and a really hard thing to do, but I’m really glad I did because my body was pretty shot after just doing the swim.

After Sartrouville I flew straight from Paris to San Fran and was finally “home” after being gone from Santa Cruz for nine months. When I got back I took four days completely off training and just got caught up on a bunch of things. This was really good because I was finally able to fully rest my hip. I found out I had A LOT of tightness in my IT band, quad, and groin that I was able to roll out, but mechanically my hip and pelvis were still pretty fragile. 

One week later I was finally able to swim, bike, and run with no pain. It was an awesome feeling knowing I was going to be able to get back to my life. The hard decision was figuring out if I was going to be able to race my favorite race, the Triathlon at Pacific Grove, the upcoming Saturday. On Wednesday my coach and I saw solid enough numbers that proved I was coming back from this injury much quicker than my previous season downers and I officially decided I was going to race.

The Race:
There were only 15 men on the start line of this race, but still plenty of talent represented. When we first dove into the chilly water for the first of two 750m swim laps, I made a major rookie error of not tightening my new goggles. I dove in and they went straight around my neck – amateur hour. I ended up swimming with no goggles to the first buoy and then turned over on my back and kicked on my back for a while to put them back on my head. Once they were back on it was able to navigate through all the hectic sea weed patches much easier. Another benefit of being on my back was that I could see where everyone was, and I noticed that there was a group of four of us (Dustin Mclarty, John Dahlz, and Chris Braden) that had a solid gap on the rest of the field already. This was a good thing for me since I hadn’t had a solid block of training having guys to ride with was going to be extremely helpful. I swam very smooth to make sure we kept the group together and sure enough after lap two the four of us exited the water one after the next.

I took my time in transition to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes and to make sure we all came out together. After about a minute on the bike we had a group established, but we were missing Dahlz. Once I saw that the guys were on my wheel we put the gas down and didn’t stop. I felt pretty good on the bike and wanted to take advantage of that since I knew I hadn’t been running. I kept urging the other guys to keep it rolling and not slow the pace even though we already had a four minute gap on the chase group of six. By the end of the four lap 40k bike we had a solid five minute gap on the rest of the field. 

Coming into T2 Chris and Dustin had rotated through and both started taking their feet out of their shoes about 800m from the dismount line. When I saw this I decided this would be a good opportunity to get a small gap to start the run. I attacked and rode hard for the last 600m and had about a 20m gap into T2.

When I started the run I just wanted to lock into a nice rhythm and focus on my technique. I felt really good despite not having any solid run sessions in my legs, and I was able to hold a nice steady strong pace for the entire three lap 10k run. At every turn around I was able to get time gaps to second place and saw I was extending the gap each lap.

I ended up crossing the line first for the second time in my career, but what I was more excited about was that my run leg was one second faster than when I won in 2011, and this year was much windier!

Seeing a glimpse of the progress I’ve made with my coach and training squad is really cool! My season hasn’t been an accurate projection of the skills and fitness I’ve acquired this year, but I still have Las Vegas Super Sprint, Cozumel World cup, Tongyeong World Cup, and San Diego Super Sprint left to hopefully cap the season off with a little more pizzazz! Stay tuned.

August 28, 2013

ITU Karlovy Vary

Because I’ve had a below average season so far, I decided to skip out on WTS Stockholm and race ITU Karlovy Vary, CZE (a lower level European cup) to get my feet back under me and gain some confidence leading into the long end of my season. I was able to travel with one of my squad mates, Vendula Frintova, who is from the Czech Republic which made for a much better trip. Despite the positives leading up to the race, I ended up coming home with another notch in my negative experience belt.

On Friday when we got to Karlovy Vary I ended up getting a sore throat and my sinuses were all clogged up. I didn’t think too much of it and went on with my normal pre-race preparations. On Saturday I ended up sleeping almost the entire day and was questioning if I was going to even race the next day. As the day went on I was feeling slightly better so I figured I would make the call the next day. On Sunday I woke up and was still pretty sick, but the same progression that happened on Saturday repeated itself and luckily my race wasn’t until 3pm so I felt better and better leading up to the race start.

When we lined up on the pontoon the rain started to fall, and at this point the water was well below non-wetsuit temperature but the call had been made and we were doing a non-wetsuit swim. To add to the cold water temperature, the air decided to cool off to a nice 12c/53f degrees with the wind picking up quite nicely – Not the most ideal race conditions.

The race course is really unique and challenging when the weather is perfect, so with the worst conditions possible (besides snow) this race was going to be extremely tough. The course has a three lap swim, then a 5k cycle from the lake to the town center; Once you get into town, you do seven very technical and hilly (21% hill at one point) bike laps. When you come into T2 you have to run down stairs with your bike and then on the run there are also more stairs, hills, and cobbles you have to navigate. 

From the dive I felt pretty beat, and I couldn’t really get going because of how cold it was, but I still had a solid swim and a gap of about 15 seconds out of the water. Once onto the bike I rode strong but comfortable. My goal was to ride solo all the way to the town center and hopefully the chasing athletes would shed some slower riders and by the time they bridged up to me we would have a strong group to work with. I was taking every turn extremely cautious because even though the rain was falling, it wasn’t pouring, it was just enough to get all the oil on the streets to come up to tire level. I made it to the town center and then about 75% through the first lap of the course before a chase group of about six caught me. Once they did I was like “Alright let’s go”. An Australian pulled through, then a German, then no one, so I filled the gap and went back to the front. At this point we were going down a nice steep decent with a 180 turn at the bottom. As the speed picked up I knew I was going to have to start braking much earlier than normal and so I yelled to the group “watch!” and gave them the slowdown signal with my hand. Right after that I started to brake and nothing was happening. 

There was a combination of things that were making this situation worse and worse. The first was that it was so cold I couldn’t feel my hands (I wasn’t even able to even shift into my big ring on the descent), and the second was that with all the rain my brake pads weren’t gripping on my race wheels at all. So coming into the turn I was squeezing my brakes as hard as I could but not slowing down. I tried to make the turn but it was going to be impossible. I hit the ground hard and slid into the barrier. I tried to stand up and get back on my bike but I couldn’t stand up because of my hip was pretty destroyed. Day over. Luckily I didn’t break anything or crash anyone else out, but quite a few other people crashed as well and came away with some broken bones. The day was chaos. Only 39 men out of the 75 on the start list finished the race. Guys were crashing on every corner (even a couple guys crashed on the corner that is only 500m out of transition, and guys were falling on the run course as well!).

Being sick and crashing is a pretty negative experience, but the positive I will try to take from this race is that it will make most other races much easier mentally and physically.