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.