Monday, May 20, 2013

The Columbia Triathlon

May 19th marked the 30th anniversary of the Columbia Triathlon- the oldest in the mid- atlantic region. I had looked to race this event last year, but was injured.  I was excited to race this year as I heard the course was a hilly bike and run.

Going into the race, I did not want to taper too much as I have U23 Nationals in Dallas the first weekend in June.  Tapering too often will just lead to multiple poor performances.  It's a catch- 22 because you never want to perform below standards, but you also cannot always be at the top of your game.

The race was pretty stacked with the likes of Cam Dye, Andrew Yoder, Bevan Docherty, Brett McMahn, and many of the guys who were top 5 in Knoxville.  I was happy to get a really hard race in two weeks out from Dallas.
I am not gawking at Olympic medalist, I am just excited to race

The swim was non- wetsuit for the pros (wetsuit for AG'ers) and I got a chance to try wearing a swim skin. Seemed to work pretty well except for the overwhelming compression on the "family jewels." Anyway, the swim went out pretty hard from the gun as a new pro with a killer swim gapped the field.  I found myself behind the lead pack of 8 or so with only one person on my feet.  As the lead pack moved forward, I could not get up to them.  The rest of the swim was just me on my own with Chris Foster on my hip.  Got out in 19:28 about 80 seconds back of Cam Dye, etc. Not a bad swim- much better than Knoxville, but still have a ways to go.

The bike was the best part of this race for me.  While I still have not been able to swap my crank for a standard 53 tooth, I was limited heavily on downhills by my 50 in the front.  I averaged 23.5 mph for the race- a good bit faster than Knoxville on an arguably easier course. I made every effort to not immediately let Chris Foster get away or Kalb VanOrt when he came past I stuck with him in sight for as long as possible. The only other person I saw was Jason Pederson, who dropped his chain twice while he would pass me- then chain drop. That was unfortunate but we eventually finished the bike leg together. 1:04:20 for 25.2 miles

The run was okay.  I immediately got a side stitch that was not enjoying the downhills.  The stitch was a killer until about mile 4, when I finally dropped feeling sorry for myself and caught Hunter (who had a monster swim) and closed in on, but didn't catch James Seear. 35:20 was not a good split, but many of the other runners in the field had off run days too on such a hilly course.

Overall it was an okay day.  In such a stacked field, I was happy to be 13th at age 22, but I need to continue improving. I loved the course and will certainly be back next year.
Lastly, my "home stay" was really my family! I got to visit my Uncle and his wife and two kids, which was an awesome way to stay. My Mom and girlfriend came too, which made me feel pretty comfortable before the race, regardless of the outcome.

Finis Fulcrum Paddles

A few weeks ago, I was presented with the opportunity to wear test something from the Aqua Gear Swim Shop (  The company has a great website with a feature that asks if you need help right upon logging on. You can choose to live chat with a representative, or just click no. There are many educated people that can help you choose the correct paddles, bouys, or any other accessories.

The accessory I needed was paddles.  I choose the Finis Fulcrum paddles, which have 5- sizes based on body stature.  I have the large, white paddles.
My initial impression of the paddles was that they allowed you to control their motion better than paddles with no cut out at the bottom. The problem with many paddles is that they allow swimmers to navigate with poor form leading to shoulder injuries. When using paddles, it's very important to get an early catch in the first quadrant of your stroke.  These help promote this "early vertical catch" and do not allow you to drop your elbow.  The early vertical catch became widely publicized in the late 90's when the Aussies started swimming very fast, and the "EVC" has stood the test of time.  I, personally, have always had a wide catch that is a big stroke flaw.  No paddles will "fix" your stroke, but these really allow you to feel if your catch is too wide.  This attribute has been a huge help to me.

Another aspect I love about the paddles is that they are good for all strokes. When swim coaches are having a bad morning, and they assign a butterfly set with some paddle work (or IM), I do not mind using these paddles for any stroke. Using other style paddles has made my shoulders scream in agony! Being a triathlete, I never truly enjoy a butterfly set, but when paddles are added, I think the lifeguards become on edge.

One other note about Aqua Gear is the awesome customer service they provide.  As internet shopping becomes more popular, internet- customer service will become paramount.  I cannot express how easy and helpful they made the process.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The "Very Average" Race

Last weekend, I tried my hand at an Olympic distance, non draft race down in Knoxville, TN.  REV 3 Knoxville has been a very competitive race the last couple of years, and I was eager to get to race a REV 3 event. I had only heard positive things about the race company, and I can add that I had a great experience at the race (before and after) despite the cold temps (I hate cold, 58 degree water), and rain. They did a great job to make everybody have a world class experience.

I got into Knoxville a few days before the race and the race site was right below my hotel, which is such a great convenience.  I met up with some of the REV 3 staff, and thanked them for having me race their pro race.  The day before the race, I tested out the water and it was undeniably cold.  Yes, my body warmed up well in my XTERRA wetsuit, but my head was frozen. It would prove to be difficult conditions for the race.

One example of how REV 3 is pushing the sport forward is this PRO transition area.
On race morning, I woke up at 5 am to shake out. It was not raining yet, but by the end of my run, I felt drops coming.  For the 8 am pro start, the rain was coming down steadily and it was pretty cold on the ground.  We jumped in and "warmed up" a bit before the cannon.  Immediately, my goggles fogged up. I was wearing older sweedish ones I had that felt like the straps were more snug than my main sweeds that broke the day before. It may have been that combined with the frigid temps that made my vision limited.  I could not sight ahead of me with this, so I sighted to a green cap in my wave.  Knowing that the different colored caps were given to past winners and/or world champs, I figured I was safe.  I exited next to that green cap, who happened to be Conrad Stoltz (5 time XTERRA World Champ, and 2- time Olympian).  Problem with this situation was, he could bike about 5 minutes or more into me.  I swam slower than many people that I can usually swim with, and this was completely my fault for poor sighting and being comfortable sighting off somebody else and not leaders.
I am running up the boat ramp right behind Conrad and Dan McIntosh.
After a quick T1, exiting before both those that I came out of the water with (advantage of ITU racing is quick transitions), I was quickly and unceremoniously passed by Conrad. I tried to match him but was pretty anaerobic and couldn't maintain his pace and power.  My legs just did not have much power to them. I also did not get to ride the course the day before, so I was pretty cautious on the downhills, which cost a bit of time.  I did pass 2 cars on descents, so that was a mixture of cool and scary. I was about 2- minutes down to the main pack at the only turn around on the course, and about 1:30 up on another pack. I was riding solo, and gave up some more time the second half to both groups. James Burns and a few guys from US Pro Tri team caught me 2- miles from transition and we rode in together (legally).
My feet were frozen. More frozen than the Del Valley duathlon a few weeks ago. My second toe was curled up under my foot when I got off my bike and was slowly returning to its normal position.  Getting running shoes on was tough, but I took off with James Burns. We dropped a few guys early and were running well through 2.7 miles together. It was fun running with him as we raced a conference 10K track final a few years ago together in the CAA conference.  We both are victims of teams being cut.  Muscularly, I had nothing left when he made a move on me, so I just did as much as I could to limit the damage.  34:20 was my 10K split, which was okay. Again, just an average day. I am glad I finished, but know I can do a lot better than this.
After the race, I showered (and thawed out) and got going home. I have two weeks until another non draft race in Columbia, MD and then two more until the Dallas Continental Cup, which is my big goal race to run well in during the first half of the season as the U23 winner gets a bid to World champs.