Sunday, July 20, 2014

Canadian Double

The last 10- days have been quite a whirlwind of traveling (1700 miles) and racing (2 continental cups and 1 local fun race). My mom, girlfriend, and I departed from Delaware the Thursday before the Toronto continental cup, drove to Rochester and spent the night at Melissa's parents, drove to Toronto, raced Saturday, drove to Watertown, NY Saturday night then Lake Placid Sunday morning, where we stayed until the following Friday. Then we headed to Quebec for the Magog continental cup. I have to first thank my mom and girlfriend, Melissa, for embarking on this long trip with me. It was great to have company and support!

These two races were initially races that I had targeted to really try to peak for. Unfortunately as elite sport goes, you do not always get exactly what you want, but you have to endure. As Winston Churchill said, "if you find yourself going through hell, keep going."

Toronto: I felt a bit underprepared logistically for this race as we had no chance to preview any part of the course as Toronto is quite a major city. We were told the water was about 18 C and would be a wetsuit legal swim in Lake Ontario. Over the night, the bay must have flipped as the water was close to 14 C and quite cold. There were 51 men lined up for the elite start. I felt like I got out well, made some moves around people when I felt them slowing and for 1K, really was sitting in good position. At this point, two athletes in front of me veered off hard to the right towards a marker bouy that we did not need to go around, and a gap was formed from where they left. that minuscule gap grew and I ended up getting out in 19:30 with the last person making the lead pack in 19:18.

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I chased really hard for two laps with two Canadians and we caught a few stragglers, but we did not have much organization. Guys would take a hero pull and gap the group and then not be able to pull through the next time. This made for quite a frustrating ride. We had 7 laps with two 180s and a 200 meter hill at 15% each lap to navigate. My legs just felt fried and I did not have the run I know I should be capable of. I ended up 24th. Not where I wanted, but I have improved my swim immensely. I just need another 1-2 % improvement to be there.


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After arriving in Lake Placid, I decided that whenever I decide it's time to race an ironman, I want to race this one. It is such an awesome mountain town with a nice small town feel but lots of things to do. 
Monday night, the hotel where I stayed advertised a mini triathlon that I thought would be cool to watch. All through the day Sunday and Monday, however, people kept saying how it was a very fun little event that has gone on for 31 years for 8 mondays in the summer and was more relaxed. I decided I would use it as a workout even though I was not feeling great for two days post race. 

I lined up in the water for the 400 m swim/12 mile bike/3 mile trail run and just figured I would go hard and have fun. A professional training for Ironman Lake Placid also came, Jesse Vondrasic, and I figured we would have a nice race (although my road bike versus his TT bike would likely make me hurt). I got a good minute lead in the swim but was eventually caught on the ride. 

 I used my training wheels for the race to get power numbers, and I was happy that I averaged 320 watts for the 30 minute ride that had good climbing and descending- giving an NP of 332 watts. I chased hard on the run- going 15:50 for 3 miles on trails but Jesse still had me by 2 seconds. We broke the existing course record and had a nice time. I got to meet a lot of the local athletes and the bike shop people. Overall, I was happy to do this. For the rest of the week, I just focused on recovering and taking in the sights. 
(my pool for the week)
after a nice trail run to Marcy Dam

The second race was the following Saturday in Magog. This is where I scored my first ITU points to get a world ranking came two years ago in an olympic distance race. This year, it was a difference course for a sprint, but still a race I really love. There is a solid 300 ft climb each lap followed by a technical descent where you easily hit 40 MPH. Again, I felt good I lined up in the far right next to Andrew Bysice and Kaleb VanOrt. I got out well for the beach start swim and found myself leading our side. The left side was a faster swimming side with super swimmers Hunter Lussi, Alex Lepage, and Andrew McCartney, so at the bouy, we had a melee as usual. 

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I got stood up here and fought through. I again lost a little time on the leaders, which proved to be devastating to the race. I was out in 9:20, with the last athlete in the lead pack at 9:16. I chased hard again but just missed that group. We had a large chase pack but only 3 or 4 of us would take strong pulls at the front. I got off the bike determined to have a good run after running poorly last week. I caught a few guys from the main bunch with a 15:40 5k but was 90 seconds down to start the run, so again ended up 24th. 


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Overall, I am not happy with the results of these two races, but I have to look at the positives. I have been swimming well and am closer than I ever have been off that front pack. As the Olympic cycle is in full swing, these races are getting very competitive. I want to be racing in the front, so I know I just need to keep my head down and continue working. I did decide I would change things up and am racing Princeton 70.3 in September. I think it's a nice race that I can do well in and it is close by. After that, I may try to enter a late season world cup or continental cup. Until then, I will keep thinking, "every champion is just another person who refused to give up."

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Philly Tri 2014

I have raced Philly Tri for the last three years and have never really had a performance where I was really proud of the whole race. I finally changed that this year and really felt like I put together a full race. Here's how it went.

It's great to be able to sleep at home before a race, and because of that and the short 45- minute drive to race site caused no nerves and I was pretty relaxed pre race.

Got to check out the swim course from both ends by looking up and down river. The swim has been a point of controversy the last few years with last year, many athletes taking a different path than me, and I was dropped. Two years ago, 17- women were misguided and accidentally cut the course. Because of these previous snafu's, I wanted to really understand the course. I wanted to swim with the main group, and if I accomplished that, I would be fairly happy for the day. I have been swimming 30+ km/week for the last few weeks to really try to take my swim to an elite level. I did not back off for this race because my main focus are the two Canadian continental cups in July, so I was not sure how I'd feel. I managed to feel really strong through the entire race, just need to rest up for some more top end speed.

The swim started pretty fast for a non drafting race and I immediately found myself at hip level with some of my competitors including super fish Cam Dye and John Kenny. I just tried to stay with the main bunch as these guys were heading off the front. I made a few surges to stay with the group but mostly was just sitting in the middle of a larger bunch of athletes. I noticed a sleeved athlete next to me, who I recognized as Mark Bowstead from New Zealand and I knew he was a solid swimmer- so I was content to stay there. We exited with a large group including myself, Jason West, David Thompson, Mark, and James Thorpe. Exited in 17:34- one minute off Dye, Potts, and Kenny.

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Once on the bikes, I tried my hardest to stay within site of Thompson and Bowstead, but my legs were not having it. I was in a second group with an Aussie and a few others. We eventually caught Matty Reed and closed time on Paul Matthews. I hopped off the bike with Reed and felt pretty solid for the run. Bike split was 1:00:23- which is my best Philly split by 2:30. After the race, I told Matty that it was an honor to get off the bike with him as he is really a legend who I have looked up to for awhile.

I immediately got out hard on the run and gapped Matty quickly with my goals up the road. I did not pass anybody from 1/2 mile until 5.5 miles where I caught Paul Matthews, John Kenny, and Brooks Cowan. I was able to drop all but Brooks to finish 9th overall with the 4th best run split, 34:40- however I, and a few others, had it as closer to 6.45 miles. Overall time was 1:54:15, which would have been top 5 almost every other year, so I am pretty happy with how this race went and shows good signs for continental cups in 3 and 4 weeks.



I did have a pretty funny mishap with water, where I tried to drop some on my head but the centripetal force just carried the cup high into the air, and it was caught on video!

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Monday, June 2, 2014

Black Bear Half Ironman- Win and Course Record

After deciding not to do Dallas continental cup because training had been hit or miss, especially in the pool, due to school and work obligations, I wanted to get a good long training block in. Team Philly Pro Tri had a team race up in the Pocono Mountains called Black Bear triathlon and I figured I would do the Olympic race there but was somehow talked into doing the half as a great training day. My last half, Savageman, did not end up so well as I did not have enough food to keep myself from bonking on the ride, so I was hoping to solve that issue and have a good day across the board. Mission was mostly accomplished. I will say, however, that the Monday before the race when I decided I should do a 50- mile ride on the TT bike to get used to the race distance on that bike, I was quietly cursing Brett for coaxing me into this! Sorry Brett, rescnded now.

My mom and girlfriend came up to watch the race too, which is nice to have everyone around since most ITU races are a good distance away, so this was a nice change. Melissa even tried on the aero helmet- maybe she will race one of these soon! Big shout out to her for breaking UD's school record in the steeplechase last week (we both used to be top 5 in school history.. guess she decided that it was time to move up).

The day before the race, we drove the course and I expected it to be hilly, but this was very hilly. I generally climb well and race well on hills, so that was encouraging, however it reminded me a little of Savageman (just consistent hills though, no 1.5 mile stretched over 10% like SM). Was pretty relaxed about the race as I figured my heart would never be pounding over 200 BPM like the REV3 Super sprint last weekend!


Swim: 24:51 (1st) with about 2:20 on the next athlete. Swim was nice to be in the ROKA wetsuit, and I have been swimming open water the last few weeks, so I really enjoyed it. I also have been swimming with Univ of Delaware's swim team for a few weeks, so the 30-40 km/ week i have been swimming has forced me to at least enjoy swimming a little. Was able to stay really relaxed and exit the water feeling pretty calm. Quite the difference from ITU racing where I am used to being pummeled trying to hold onto the pack. Took my first (of many) power bar gels in T1.


Bike: 2:43 (1st I think) the website has me listed as 3rd but nobody's times below are listed as 1 and 2 so we will go with this. As Tim said, the first lap was nice with so many athletes around, it did not really take much mental fortitude to stay focused. The only hold ups were on some descents where I wanted to pass but had to wait. Overall, I liked the course with the exception of an hour and back that only the half does. It is about 3- miles and on some really beaten up roads with trees shading the path, making it quite difficult to see the potholes. CGI does a good job of spray painting the potholes, but some parts of the road were covered in spray paint because you could not really avoid the holes! The second loop was definitely more mentally tough as I only passed a few half athletes that were on their first loop. I do not have a power meter on my bike so I just went with RPE and focused on staying within myself. Took a gel every 35 minutes on the ride plus 24 oz of perform. Only having a spot for one bottle on my bike shows my lack of long course racing/preparation. The 5- gels I took seemed to keep me at bay and did not have any real issues energy wise on the bike, although was more than happy to get off the bike at the end! I took 2- double latte gels (with 30 mg caffeine) and 3- kona punch gels with no caffeine.

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Run (1:30 for 4th or 5th again with the timing anomalies). This was an interesting run as I really have never been racing for this long, so I did not know what to expect. I put on my shoes and figured I would just treat it as a long run at first and see how it went. My error here was not bringing 1 more gel, as that would probably have made the last 4- 5 miles easier. I went out and ran 6:00 and 5:24 (downhill) and ran the next 4 miles all around 6:00-6:20.. then around half way the bottom started to drop out and my quads were cramping up pretty badly. I timed the gap to second and I had 12- minutes, so I started walking the aid stations and relaxing the downhills. As Tim said, some were pretty gnarly so I did not want to get a full blown quad issue.An athlete that was on his first loop kept telling me how I could be running faster as I passed him and then again on an out/back part. I know he was trying to help but I was not really having any of it. I was just in survival mode. When I got to the finish, I found out that I broke Josh Beck's course record by 5- seconds, and I do not think I've been so happy to be done a race for awhile. Do not think i will become a long course guy for awhile, but this was a nice race and I am glad to almost got the whole race down successfully. Congrats to all the other Philly Pro Tri athletes that seemed like they had great races too!


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I was mostly mustering enough energy to not walk the finishing shoot, however it was nice to break the tape in 4:42 for an 11- minute win and 5- second course record.

Now I am on a training block since school has ended. My big races are the two continental cups in Canada in July, but I will also be racing Philly Tri in 3- weeks. I am heading to Boulder before that for training/visiting CU for a potential PhD program so hopefully will have some nice new scenery for training.

Monday, May 26, 2014

REV 3 Rush- 3rd Place

To begin, this is my first true podium in a professional triathlon race, so I am really happy with that. Coming into this weekend, training had not been going great because I was busy with school finishing my thesis proposal and finals, but I was excited to race the super sprint distance as I really love the high intensity heavy breathing feel of it. REV 3 was having the elite race be broken down into prelims on Saturday consisting of a 250 ish meter pool swim- 5 mile bike- 1.5 mile run and Sunday doing the course twice. Top 7 in each heat would advance to finals. The pool was a bit tricky to navigate with nothing on the bottom for depth perception, you needed to count strokes and/or sight to do turns but that was helped in the finals with putting cones near the walls. The bike course was simply around the NASCAR track, which was pretty sweet! flying around those banked turns in a group at 30 mph was great, and the run zig zagged two laps inside the track where you always had spectators cheering.

This picture gives a good idea of how the pool was different from a competitive swim race but I liked it. It was nice to still get waves and have some elements of open water in the swim.

Prelims on Saturday are always a bit nervous as the goal is just to advance as easily as possible to finals but you still have all the nerves because this race location and all was so unfamiliar. The first swim ended up going really well and I exited the water 5-7 seconds back of Eric Limkemann and Colin O'Brady- two former all american (I believe) swimmers in college. I chased hard for two laps but did not get any closer than 10 meters behind them. I looked back and saw a group of three were coming up, so I sat up and was absorbed and figured it would be better to relax before the run especially with knowing I could outrun many in the group. After a bit of confusion on the number of laps, we got into T2 and off on the run. I ran about 800 meters pretty hard and just cruised in the rest for 3rd in my heat and advanced to finals.
The pack from the first day. We worked pretty well and was nice to be feeling spry heading into finals.

That night, I slept 11- hours and woke up feeling pretty refreshed. I went for an easy 20 minute run in the morning since finals weren't until 1:30 pm and felt fantastic.

Finals were going to be much more competitive and had 15 pretty strong athletes on the line with a combination of fast runners, swimmers, and bikers. I lined up in lane 6, in between John Kenny and Colin O'Brady and we were off. I got out hard the first 50 and flipped even with Colin and John and had delusions of grandeur that I would stay swimming with them. In the end, they put 8- seconds on me in swim number one, but I just began drilling it on the bike and caught to lead pack of 7 two laps in with two really hard solo laps with my feet on top of my shoes. I went straight to the front as I wanted to keep the pace on knowing some fast runners were behind me. I got a few shout outs from the announcer for immediately going to the front and we had a few guys really willing to take hard pulls like John and Colin and Eric but we also had guys that would only attack on their pulls going off to the side and trying to take a flier. Not really a great strategy in ITU because 1. the pack does not appreciate it and 2. it hurts the pack. None of those stuck and we were caught by three others, making a pack of 11 heading into T2.
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I got out of T2 in 5th or 6th and made my way into 3rd feeling very comfortable but running hard. Knowing the second swim is important in these races, I did not want to cook myself too early. Three of us had a solid 15- second gap (Justin Roeder, Jason West, had 10 seconds to myself) as we got to T3. When I went to put my goggles back on, they snapped and I did the second swim with no goggles. The second swim already hurts quite a lot but with eyes burning, it hurt a little more. I lost some valuable time due to that and exited the swim with my lane buddies, John and Colin. We bridged back up to Eric Limkemann and Justin and entered the final T5 together in a pack of 7 or so. We had lapped a few guys who were in our group, so it was a bit hard to understand who was a lap down or not. I made sure to get some water in on this ride and get ready to run. I got into T5 and instead of racking our bikes, volunteers were taking them from us! I ended up getting hit by a bike from an over eager volunteer so I think it would behoove them to keep a standard racking procedure in the future. T5 was further worsened by my racing flat insoles being bunched up, so I took both of them out and into the basket and ran without them. Got out of T5 in 7th with Jason West having been in a break on the bike. I moved into 4th relatively quickly and slowly reeled in 3rd with about 800 meters to go. I tried to really sprint with 400 to go as 3rd was a podium and double as much money as 4th.
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My Mom still does not know how she made this video go into slow motion, but it ended up looking pretty cool as I was mid sprint for the line. I ended up having been in the fastest bike group for both rides and running the 3rd best combined run splits (7:08 first run and 7:01 second) for 1.5 miles (4:45 and 4:41 pace). Finishing 3rd was pretty sweet and was a great way to start off the summer season.


Monday, May 12, 2014

2014 Delaware Half Marathon

Question from a reporter after that race, "Why did you do this event if you're focused on triathlon?"
Me: "You have to be good at running and suffering in triathlon, so a hilly half marathon is good practice!"

So i decided to sign up for the Delaware half marathon for a few reasons, one of which was that it was great to race a local event that has grown by leaps and bounds. There were 1300 half marathoners, 700 marathoners, and loads of 4- person and 8- person relays. There was also a good prize purse for first and extra incentive to run fast.
I had not done a specific half marathon prep at all, actually, almost the opposite where I came off a taper for a sprint triathlon two weeks ago in Barbados. I wanted to put in a big training block from now until mid June, so I figured this would be a good way to kick it off. I was trying to keep it in my mind that this was essentially a long tempo run, and although it would be aerobically fairly easy, it would pound the legs pretty well without the specific long run preparations. I had run one 10- mile tempo the week before at 5:35 pace so I figured it would be reasonable to run 5:20-5:30 pace for this race, although it is fairly hilly in the second half.






















Here is a nice text description of the race and a bit of an interview where I was on the news:
http://www.delawareonline.com/videos/news/local/2014/05/11/8969527/

My goals for the race were: first to win, second to set the Delaware resident record on the course (1:14), and third, if I felt good, go for the course record of 1:10:32.

Here is my Strava page for the run: http://www.strava.com/activities/139996836

This shows the course elevation profile and splits, but for those without Strava, here is a brief synopsis. the first 5- miles are very flat, mile 6 rolls a bit, mile 7 climbs 200 feet (about 3-4% grade steady) with some on cobblestones then just have rollers until mile 10 where you get a downhill to 12 and finally a nice .5 mile hill at 4-5% to get you close to the finish.

For the first 5- miles, I ran evenly 5:15-5:22 pace and felt conversational. At this point, I had a 35-40 second gap on second and was passing by marathoners who started 15 minutes before us. I had to consistently remind myself to not ease up as I was running past others quickly, but it was not a realistic representation of what my competition would be doing.  I seemed to be getting cheers the whole race either from marathoners I was passing or spectators, which was a really fun experience. Also, the two police escorts and a cyclist were incredible so I did not have to do much bobbing around the course. I'd like that for all my training runs! They did a great job. I passed the 10 in 32:50 and 11.25 km mark (half way) in 35:15- but this being the flat half knew I would be hard pressed to come back at the same pace.

Mile 7 got ugly with a 5:50 up the big hill, but I just tried to stay out of the red line and keep the same effort. At the top, I think I relaxed too much and recovered too much because at the 8 mile mark, somebody told me that another competitor was 45 second - 1 minute back so I picked it up pretty comfortably. At mile 9, I was running a little scared as I had no idea how much of a gap I actually had and was getting pretty hot out there, but Melissa was standing there and gave me a good pick up and reality check to continue pushing. I tried to really use the downhill miles from 10-12 well and get to the "King Street hill" comfortably and fly down to the finish. The strategy worked and about 1/2 mille from the finish, I had somebody yell "hey that' s my TA!" So that was pretty funny and nice motivation.


I finished in 1:11:45, a Delaware resident record and a minute off the course record, and 70 seconds in front of second. I am happy with this, but I know I can run a lot faster over a half distance- one day I want to really give a good half a shot but not for a bit.

It was really nice having my Mom there for Mother's Day too, and some other family and my girlfriend came out plus lots of locals that I knew from training were on the course, so it was really a fun event.
Always great to be able to break the tape!

Next race is a change up with the super sprint, draft legal, REV 3 rush with a trials and finals format.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Barbados Continental Cup 2014

For the second year in a row I traveled to Bridgetown, Barbados for the ITU pan am cup. It is a great race and the race director, Peter Gibbs, does an excellent job coordinating rides for every athlete from landing at the airport until they take off. It is a first class race!

Going into the race, I felt really strong biking and running but my swim just felt "funky" as I have been working on a slightly more efficient technique over the last month and it just was not clicking.

I stayed with 7- other US athletes, which was a super fun time and we were staying right on the bike course at a sweet condo set up called Paradise Villas. Was great having other to ride with before the race as the roads are pretty sketchy here.

To the race:


Swim: As soon as it started, we hit a wave, which I dove over but hit the sand right after as it was still quite shallow. I am top left of this picture diving with the navy suit on. This gave me a rough start and I got pinched out from swimmers colliding with one another until the first bouy. Usually, I get out a bit better so this certainly did not help my prospects. Not really sure why I swam so slowly after, exited the water 15-20 seconds behind athletes that I have consistently beaten out of the water, so that was very frustrating. Splits on triathlon.org are incorrect for some reasons including it was hand timed, but I know I was about 5- second behind Brent Poulsen out of the water.



Bike: Felt super strong and went straight into TT'ing to try and catch the bunch. Caught Brent Poulsen and John Slaney by the hill on the first lap and we soon caught a Mexican athlete. Unfortunately, Brent and I were the only two athletes able to pull hard enough on the bike so we were the only two working. Made for a very long ride. We caught Colin O'brady on the third lap but we still did not have a motivated and strong group. Finished with only having 40 seconds put into us from the 15- man group ahead but I was pretty fried.


Run: Went out hard and was able to immediately drop my group. Ran up to three athletes from the front pack and ended up racing well on the run despite doing a lot of work on the bike. Even had an athlete from Canada apologize for not being able to help on the bike- so at least I know I am biking and running strongly. Just need to fix this swim!


Sunday, April 20, 2014

2014 Delaware Valley Duathlon and Looking Ahead

Saturday, April 19th marked one of the first duathlons on the mid atlantic calendar every season, the Delaware Valley duathlon. I raced and won last year, and it was a great tune up for the Barbados continental cup the following weekend. My schedule is taking the same form as I race in Barbados on April 27th, so this race served as a great way to stay sharp and tune up. Also, my big points from Barbados last year at this weekend will be cut in 1/3 so it is important to get back up on rankings!

This year was much more pleasant weather than last year and we had 45-50 degree weather at the start compared with 30 degrees last year. 

I knew from many races around this area that Dave Slavinski would give me good competition on the bike as he always seems to be a strong rider. The run went off and I took it out relatively comfortably running Just around 5 minute pace for 2- miles and the last mile easing off a little to prevent cramps that I am so akin to getting during duathlons. Came in at 15:56 for the first 5k and did not see the second runner while I was in T1. 
I got going not the out and back course for 25K of rolling hills. We had a strong wind going out but I just focused on staying aero up and down the hills. At the turn, I saw I had about 20-25 seconds on Dave and I tried to really push with the wind at my back until the second turn around at 11 miles (past the park). I had opened up a slightly larger lead on Dave and we both had been pretty clear of the field. I easier off the gas a little heading into T2. Split 39:10 to Dave's 39:00.

Got out on the run course and had a slight miscommunication from a volunteer but only ran a few seconds the wrong way. Got out and avoided calf cramps, thankfully, and hit the mile in 5:20 and pushed the second mile to 5:04, at which point I was getting some side cramps but nothing terrible. I cruised in the last mile in 5:20 with the goal being having a great race next weekend. Ended up running about 16:30 for the second 5k. Happy to get a really solid workout in heading into one of my favorite continental cups of the year.
It was also great to race with some of the local members of Team Philly Pro Tri, who has been a sponsor and team of mine since this race last year. Finally, had a great time the Thursday before representing Powerbar at Middletown Bike line for a group ride and nutrition talk! Now it is time to gear up for my first research pretension this week at University of Delaware on Wednesday and flying to Barbados on Friday.