Rogers Racing

American Triathlete in London

Author: xcrogers (page 1 of 5)

Challenge Roth – 2019

I signed up for this (my second full distance triathlon) before having ever completed my first. I randomly saw a tweet from the race organizer that several registrants had not completed the sign up process and they were re-releasing the entries. I wrote a hasty email not thinking I’d be one of the first to respond and was amazed that I was able to nab a spot. Knowing that I could try to sign up for the race lottery for the next years and never get an entry I took advantage and decided to go for it. I though it would be a nice ‘A race’ for the summer not knowing how Barcelona would go or what else Carly and I would be getting into for travel.  Fast forward a bit and I qualified for Kona at Barcelona so Roth became much more of a ‘fun’ race, but still an important tune up and experience before going to the big island. I was excited to race the distance again and experience the fabled Challenge Roth atmosphere.

Though the body seemingly had other plans, in late January/February I thought what was a strained groin turned out to be a mild hernia. Carly and I joke that I literally ‘busted a gut’ at Barcelona. The other line was that the my body was rejecting me and this was a not so sublt hint to cut this shit out. Regardless, I took quick action and scheduled the surgery ASAP knowing that I’d have a bit of downtime and then slow build back to form. I was able to maintain general fitness right up till the scheduled surgery date.

Thanks to private insurance the surgery itself was an amazing easy process and my doctor was amazing. We schedule the surgery they day I got back from a trip to the USA for work. Literally….. off a red-eye at Heathrow and into the Hospital. I was a sight. That was Tuesday, February 19th. Not knowing most people take two weeks off of work for this thing I went to work the next day. I was slow moving to say the least but it i’d go nuts sitting around the house. I took a walk a few days later and Carly forbade me to get on my bike…. for a week. On the 28th I started doing some easy rides and slowly worked into some easy runs. I got in the pool for the first time on March 17th, nearly a month later. The week of March 18th was my first week ‘back’ in building fitness. I had a mountain to climb in the ten weeks to prepare for Roth.

During the down time it was tough to see instagram filled with everyone out on the spring training camps and gearing up for earlier season racing as my fitness plummeted. But I filled the time trying to ‘think’ about some of the aspects of racing I don’t usually get to ponder and to consider a few of my gear choices.

I knew I was in capable hands and that my fitness would return and it was better to take the time now and make a proper recover and gains than risk greater damage. I slowly got back into my standard routine of cycling to work, running and eventually swimming. I had the odd sting or stretch but overall the recovery went very well. The rest was also good mentally, I knew that the summer was going to be long and that I had two very big races on my calendar that I needed to stay ‘checked into’ I was able to spend some time thinking about my racing, things that were important to me and places I wanted to develop. I didn’t pull everything I thought about into my training or racing but it was good to think about some of these things, research, listen to what others had to say and spend my time preparing and know why I was (or wasnt).

Below you can see my fitness and training (gains) from early Feb through to the race.

Feb 15th. The low point.
Race Day.

Training Volume to get to Challenge Roth

Average training hours during build. (does not count commuting)
Average (and max) TSS during build. (does not count commuting).
The spike at the end is the race.

This doesn’t take account an average of 39 miles (3 hours) a week of commuting. A complete week of commuting would be 75 (5 hours) but that sometimes doesn’t happen with other work or professional commitments. I don’t count the cycling as part of ‘training’ but it doest factor into general recovery or how I’m feeling in terms of energy level. The commute is also good for bike handling skills and distressing at the end of the day.

Trips taken… work and pleasure

I fly back to the USA about every eight to ten weeks so I was able to put my next trip off till mid-april which allowed me to get into a good rythm with training before the next disruption. I made a bit of a weekend out of it and and saw some family on the weekend after which was a nice way to end the (short) trip. My parents live in rural NH so there was ample time (and space) to get a few runs under my belt.

Live Free or Die.

May was quite but June saw us traveling to the states for two full weeks for two weddings and my sisters graduation. I took the bike over and used the time to get in some long rides up into the white mountains and around Maine as well as open water swims in Sebago. We planned to take a week of ‘work’ and then a week of holiday so it was the first week that I was most concerned with continuing the gains where once I was on ‘holiday’ it would be slightly easier to find the time.

Carly’s mom organized this mural in Maine and the ‘sister’ mural in Iraq. Both painted with the assistance of young kids to show there is more that unites than divides us.

However, it was not an easy ask as we had a full slate of friends and family to see during the week. There was a fair bit of running around the eastern seaboard seeing friends and family but all totally worth it.

At the end of the weeks I had been able to put in a couple of quality longer bike and run efforts and got to race week at very nearly the same ‘fitness’ that I had with Barcelona. That summer played out much differently with more racing including London Marathon and 70.3 WC’s so the fitness was much deeper then but I was happy with how fast I was able to get my body ready.

Roth itself….

As soon as I entered I held a spot at a hotel in Nuremberg and began looking for an Airbnb closer to the race start. I knew that many stayed in Nuremberg so it wasn’t ‘bad’ but staying in Roth or Hipolstien was far better. Luckily enough, after much checking I snagged a great place in Hipolstien next to the train station and was able to cancel the hotel. As a whole house it had more than enough space for Carly and I to enjoy the weekend and the race atmosphere and made it very easy to get to/from Roth on the train for briefings and to/from the race finish.

Carly and I flew into Munich Thursday evening and after a quick car rental pickup were shooting north very, very, quickly on the Autobahn to Roth. We stopped for a quick bite to eat that evening on our way up and crashed once we got in. Friday morning I woke and walked down to the swim start for a short swim in the canal during the allocated trial time. Afterwards, Carly and I met up for a food shop and I assembled my bike. Once assembled I was out for a ride to test everything out and short run to get the legs moving. During the ride I went to check-in and crossed that off the list. The check-in process on Friday mid day was very easy and I was in/out in ten minutes. Very well managed.

I spent the remainder of the day Friday and Saturday preparing my gear and setting up the my prototype hydration bladder for the bike (more on this later). Once prepped it was a decent amount of relaxing and just enjoying ourselves around the house and small town.

Beer!
and sausage!

Saturday I had a quick ride and run followed by dropping my bike off at T1. The race also requires you drop off the run bag so that it can be transported to T2. I had scored an amazing rack spot right at the end of a row and next to the pro’s so my run out of T1 was very easy and no searching for my bike!

Dimonds get the best settings.

Saturday was very hot so we spent the rest of the day relaxing around the house trying to avoid getting dehydrated. I spent a bit of time prepping my bottles for the next day and double checking everything I could.

Get in my belly!

Race day….

Up at 4:30, had a Honey stinger wafer and banana and some PH. Out the door by just before 5 am to walk to T1. Got to T1 as a rain started but before the majority of crowds so was able to get easy access to bathrooms and sort the bike quickly and drop off the bike bag. I spent a few minutes chilling under a tree with Carly trying to avoid the rain but soon enough it was time to dawn the wetsuit and get this party started. I felt fueled, hydrated and ready.

I made my way back into T1 and over to the starting pen. As I had indicated a Sub 9:00 hour goal I was placed into a distinct starting group just after the pro men and women start. I was a bit psyched (nervous) about this as it would leave the roads a bit more clear for the first loop of the bike and make it a bit easier to pace and see where I was for the race in terms of place.

Swim

Washing machine.

I started at about the middle of the starting line 2-3 people back from the front. I was terrified that I’d get kicked in/around my incision during the swim so my primary goal was to make it through the swim unharmed. Once the cannon fired it was an instant washing machine. Definitely the most hectic swim start I’ve ever participated in and given that all the people there were quick it continued on for a while. I have no illusions of fast swimming to tried to just stick to my race and my pace and get into a good rhythm. Being in a canal the swim is calm and course simple. Down with the current and then back against with a quick out and back the other way just before the finish. I was consciously ‘pushing’ but not killing myself. I know that sometimes i allow my mind to wander when swimming so I kept checking in to keep focus and maintain pace. I wanted to get a sub 60 swim and thought that with the ‘easier’ course versus the rough seas on Barcelona it would be doable.

Just. start. running.

On exit I glanced at my watch 60:41… fuck.. pretty much the exact same time as Barcelona. Not a bad time by any measure but I had been hoping (expecting) a slightly quicker swim. Oh well, no time to dwell on it and right into T1. The volunteers are amazing and had my gear dumped and sorted quickly. Socks and number on and out to the bike. I momentarily grabbed my bike and started running before I realized I didn’t have my helmet on which was on the bars. Big no no…. stopped and helmet on before any harm done (officials saw).

ignore the time. next job.

Swim – 60:41 – 251st OA

Out to the start line and on the bike…

Bike

I wanted to give a solid effort on the bike here and shave time off the 4:49 from Barcelona. The course is rolling but giving the amazing road surfaces you always have the ability to move fast.

The bike course is stunning and it passes through some lovely german countryside and towns. There are people lining the entire course cheering which makes the atmosphere even better. Every hill you’re treated with cheering fans on both sides.

With the prototype bladder my goal was to take in the just under 2 liters in the bike as well as two (and a half) bottles on the bike for a mix of fluids and fuel. I’d supplement this with half a honey stinger wafer every 30 minutes or so for some ‘real’ calories.

The bladder worked amazing well and it was great to be able to take small swigs while in aero position or whenever desired. I supplemented that with bottles when it started to run dry or I wanted to larger draw of fluid. Overall it worked really well and I was able to move over and ignore all the aid stations. I don’t think this really saved me any time but it certainly goes to a level of confidence that I can have everything I need for a full distance race right on my bike and not be beholden to the aid stations and be carrying it in a very aero manner (inside the bike). Certainly if it had been hotter (or I had lost a bottle) I would have taken water or other from the stations.  I’ll continue to refine my fueling mix and the bladder itself to maximize the volume and make sure I’m getting the type of energy I need during the bike.

The highlight of the bike was easily Solar Hill. Rolling through Hipolstien you round a small corner and there is just a mass of people in front of you. They’re screaming and making noise and right in your face. Its hard not to push up the hill and takes a fair amount to ride the hill ‘like a triathlete’.  I clocked through the second loop at around 2:20ish and felt happy with the pace though wanted to be a bit quicker.

The second loop I kept on the gas and took a bit of solice in that I saw two Freespeed athletes come up to me about halfway through the second lap. I rode with them for a good portion of the remainder of the race and felt it was a good indicator that I was moving along well and where I sat in the overall leaderboard.

I did over cook one decent through a small town and had to bunny hop the bike up on the curb at about 30 mph and then back off to keep from hitting the shoulder. I scared a good portion of the crowd who must have thought I was a gonner… also got my heart going…. really didn’t want to be ‘that American’ who couldn’t keep it right side up.

Bike 4:46 – 82nd OA

Marathon…

Rolling into T2 I saw a lot of bags still on the ground around my number so knew I was in ‘decent’ position but had some work ahead of me. A very quick transition saw my shoes and PH hat on and I was out the door. I think I had the 9th fastest T2 of the day…

I had a goal of wanting to run sub 3 for the marathon and knew the splits I needed to run to achieve that. I started out feeling strong and set off a bit under that pace hoping to build a buffer. The course brings you first through a bit of town before putting you on two out-n-backs along the canal.

Starting the first I saw Carly which put a bit of pep in my step and I was feeling good. I knew my swim was solid and I had bike taken some time off my bike so I was in good position. Running a sub 3 marathon would really put me across the line with a decent finishing time. I saw the pro women coming back towards me on the first out and back and started to see a number of the fast AG’s as well so knew I wasn’t too far off the lead guys.

I was quickly running with another racer and after a chat realized he to was looking to run about that time so we linked up for the next few miles. After a few aid stations though he dropped back and I continued on at pace. As I passed Carly the second time to start the (longer) out and back to the north of the canal the wind picked up and the sun came out. It started to heat up a bit and my body started to feel tired. Over the next few miles my mind went from ‘sub 3’ to I need to make sub 9 overall. My legs really started to weight and at each aid station I started to go for the coke and fruit. Going for that stuff before mile ten was much earlier in the race than I usually begin going for that sort of thing.

Image result for top gun writing checks

By the time I turned back around and was heading off the canal for Roth I was feeling wrecked. I saw Carly and indicated no joy and tried to get my head into the game. ‘Common man, you’re more than halfway done… suck it up’. The nice bit was that running through town there was way more fans and support which kept the spirits up. It was a bit easier to push and find that energy reserve to keep moving. That said, this was, personally, a very, very rough run. I really felt like throwing in the towel and calling it a day. I felt slow, my legs were like limp sausages. After a couple hours of pushing my body to keep going my mind was also starting to throw in the towel. Failure creeped in and took hold.

But I kept on pushing forward. ‘Just keep moving’ I told myself. If I kept going I would finish, and finishing at the time I would, even if outside my goal is an accomplishment many spend an entire career trying to achieve. Don’t to that dishonor by throwing in the towel now. Keep going.

Hurting. Hard.

By the time I made it to the turn around pond with three miles left I knew I’d finish the race and gave it one last go for the downhill miles back to Roth. Back into the crowds I found the last bit of reserve and pushed through the town and into the finish stadium. It was a pretty epic finish scenario with the announcers and crowd in the stands and an experience I’ll not forget.

Don’t trip now.

Run – 3:07 – 57th OA

I crossed the line exhausted but finished. I knew I hadn’t made my place or time goal I had wanted but it was a quality race effort in an amazing venue. I can’t be mad with the performance. Into the recovery tent I went over to the timing services to see how I placed. 8:57… I was amazed, I had (somehow) bested my Barcelona time by a minute and slid in under the 9 hour mark. Given my training leading up to the race this was a great time and an affirmation of my underlying fitness.

The only hit on this race was the post race food. For the last few miles all I could think about was getting some good german sausages once finishing. The smell of fans cooking (and eating) them was thick the last miles. Certainly, I thought, this to would await for me at the finish. However I was disappointed on finish and the food options were rather lack luster. They were well stocked with the offerings they did have and there were some nice options but just not what I (or my body) had in mind at that moment. So after downing a few chocolate milks and pastries I left the tent to find Carly. On finding me she promptly fixed the problem and supplied currywurst and beer which instantly made me feel better. We chilled for a little while and then, with not much more reason to hang around left to find the bus replacement back to Hipolstein. After a short wait and bus ride I was home and showered. We went into the little town and had a quality dinner (avoiding the chaos of Roth) and relaxed with some beers.

At around 8pm we jumped in the car and went back to T2 to pick up my bike and gear. After which we found a place to ditch the car and went to the finishing stadium to cheer on the late finishers and watch the fireworks. It was really something to watch the racers who had been out there for 13/14/15 hours come across the line and receive their medal. I cant imagine being out there and racing for that long… The mental toll (outside of the obvious physical effort) is mind blowing. The fireworks at the end of the evening were the perfect ending to the day and it was nice to get some fireworks in over the 4th of July weekend!

The race provided a number of valuable experiences and I was able to take away some great lessons from both the prep and overall experience.

Good:

  • 2nd Full distance race, 2nd sub 9 hour finish (and on 11.5 hours a week of training)
  • 500 euro back for finishing sub 9 hours
  • fitness coming back after the surgery with no post race issues
  • hydration bladder prototype worked well
  • overall weekend was much more ‘low stress’ than my first full race and gave me a good level of confidence for the distance in Kona

Bad

  • swim not as expected, if only by a minute or two
  • biked uneven (in retrospect) and paid the price on the run
  • run sucked, but with mid 20 mile weeks averaging leading up it is not surprising that a sub 3 marathon didn’t happen

Please let me know if there is anything about the race (or training) you’d like to know or for me to expand on. I’m happy to share my experience and help others have a great day out at Roth. Its an amazing event!

2018 Recap

Most of the way through January I figured it was about time to write a short but dedicated recap for 2018. From a training and racing perspective the last year was very successful and I have a lot to show from a year of consistent effort. The season began with some large races on the horizon and some big goals to achieve. It also began with Carly and I settling into our life in London with a new flat in Balham. After a couple years of renting we decided to purchase a place in London. It was a bit scary but ultimately very satisfying to know we had a real home here in the UK. We finally had a place where we could put our art on the wall, set up things the way we want and Bruno even got a nice little garden to sit in the sun.

Not our flat.

I was able to set up the second bedroom as a nice pain cave, the Balham Leisure center is literally across the street from our new place, only a few miles from either Clapham Common, Wimbledon or local track for running. So the move offered up some really nice training advantages and I was able to roll right into my first block without much fuss.

The first two events I had scheduled were running with the IAAF Half Marathon and London Marathon. Both of which I had entered to run with Carly but she was ultimately unable to compete in due to injury. But starting the spring with a good solid block focusing on running miles and developing my legs was good lead in for the summer. The two events were well timed where I was able to take a solid half marathon effort (PB) and roll right into London a few weeks later (PB).

Go Hokies!!

The London Marathon was a tough day at the office, having trained all winter in classic UK weather race day greeted us with high temps and sunny skies. I raced well, was likely a bit light on fueling but still managed a 4 minute PR. I feel strongly I had a sub 2:40 in my legs that day but the last 3-4 miles along the embankment sun just sucked the life out of me. It was a good race in that it gave me a solid mental boost in achieving a hard earned PR as well as knowing that I left a bit on the table and hungry to keep at training.

After the Marathon there was a bit of a downtime with the running as Brad brought back the cycling and swimming to get into full triathlon training. I’m usually a more eggs in one basket kinda guy so the primary targets for this year was 70.3 Championships in South Africa and IM Barcelona. Knowing that both of those races were well in the fall I found a bit of a mid-season carrot race at Hever Castle. This gave me a bit of a midsummer focus and a chance to shake some of the cobwebs out.

The Hever castle race ended up being a brutal. It was hot, the course was very hilly (I think it was actually a bit more elevation gain that Exmoor!) I also had a bit of a scare with the bike and not doing my normal due diligence on my set up which impacted my ability to bike hard during the race. The run was hot, dry and through open fields, it was a hard earned race and nowhere near my PR but was a good day to have struggled through and finished.

After Hever the focus was squarely on South Africa and Barcelona. Brad had the tough task of setting me up for two good races only four weeks apart. Knowing I wanted to race well at Barcelona the training focused slightly more on that distance with some stuff to hone the body for the 70.3 effort. Between some long weekends on the trainer and one in Oxford for a lifetime long ride of 100 miles I felt as ready as one could when September rolled around. Carly and I traveled down to South Africa and had a wonderful couple weeks away. I raced well and was able to walk away with a 9th in the world in my age group!

After South Africa the weeks went by pretty quick leading up to Barcelona, as the race neared and the training dropped the anxiety grew and grew. I wanted to do well in the race but I also wanted to just get there, I had been looking forward to this race for so long now, every little thing turned into a race consideration. Did I pack the right things? Was my nutrition correct? What our our travel arrangements (checked for the 1,000th time…)!?!? The last few days leading up to the race I was driving Carly nuts with all my worrying and neurosis.

But come race day all that finally faded away and I was able to focus and just down to business. I had a good day and executed the plan and walked away with a 1st in my age group finish and Kona Qualification with a sub 9 hour finish. For a first time race I don’t think I could have asked for a better result!

After the race I took a few weeks completely off of any training and thereafter slowly worked back into some unstructured training and finally a loose schedule six weeks later. I didn’t always do the workouts but it was good to know that I had a schedule I could work towards. I maintained that through the remainder of the year and the holidays.

Starting to work back into solid weeks Brad has been adding on volume and intensity and it has been great to start to get the body ticking over yet again. I have two big races pretty far out on the horizon with Roth and Kona but I’ve got some lofty goals for those races and I’m going to need to put in consistent and quality effort over the next months to achieve them!

As always the first and biggest thank you goes to Carly who is always there to cheer me on and give me mid-race splits. And to Brad who has guided me and answered my many, many amateur questions over the last year. Looking forward to 2019 and good luck to everyone racing!

Below are a few screenshots of my yearly averages and overall numbers. Please note none of the information below accounts for my commute to/from the office which (according to Strava) is another 1000-1200 miles and 4-5 hours a week in the saddle. The numbers below are dedicated to ‘training’.


2018 Run Numbers
2018 Swim Numbers
2018 Bike Numbers
2018 Average Weekly Training & Max week
2018 Average and Max TSS

70.3 World Championships

So in keeping with my way to late race reports here are some shots and thoughts on my race at the 70.3 World Championships in South Africa.

This had been a race I was targeting for a while. When I switched coaches last summer my last race as Weymouth 70.3 in southern England. My goal for rounding out the season was to nab a spot for next years championship. I had a great race and walked away with 3rd place in my AG and qualification which gave me nearly a year to prepare. Obviously my training adjusted once I decided to enter IM Barcelona but I wanted to perform well and it would a good test in my lead up to the full Ironman a few weeks later.

We had managed to book reward flights on the way down so the 11 hour flight from London to Johannesburg wasn’t that bad in business class and with the time change only being 1 hour the flight was ultimately turned into an ‘off’ nights sleep, We had a transfer in to Port Elizabeth and once in Joburg started seeing a lot of triathletes making the same journey. Our final flight was easy and we seemed to be continuing our string of good travel luck. Then, a bit of disaster…. as we were waiting… and waiting…. and waiting for our bags it became obvious that my roller bag had not made the flight. This was supremely frustrating as Carly’s and both my bike bags had made the transfer unscathed. But in the scheme of things I had my bike and was far better off than a lot of others there that seemed to be missing bikes and more. After a long line and few forms we were off to check into our hotel. I was stressed, trying to deal with the hiccup in stride but was not a great start to the trip.

Having signed up for the race almost a year in advance I had booked the hotel a long time before and had actually forgotten what the place was like. It turned out to be a fabulous room with a great view of the ocean and race course and with lots of other triathletes in the place a good vibe. We dropped our bags and walked down towards the main event area to check in and sort some temp clothes for me to change into after being in the same ones for nearly a day. Checking in took no time but we were really unsuccessful in finding anything for me to wear. Needing Carly had a few running shorts and tops that I decided to just borrow some of her clothes for a shake out run and then deal with it after a little run and a shower.

Thankfully once back from the run we had an update from the airline and it seemed like my bag would actually be in Port Elizabeth that evening!!! I felt so much better but would be great once I had it in hand. We sorted dinner at a place near the hotel and then off to the pre-race safety briefing. After the briefing we drove to the airport and I was able to snag my bag! The only real loss was that it seemed my Garmin watch had been stolen from my checked bag which while really frustrating wasn’t the end of the world. I think the major take-away both for me (and others) is that there is only so much you can control. I did a good job of managing the stress this caused and left myself the ability to adapt and roll with the situation.

 

Everything is here! (after a bit of stress….)

 

For Friday Carly had sorted a game drive North of the city so we jumped in the car and drove north by about an hour for a half days drive and lunch at a lodge. It wasn’t as good as our honeymoon but our guide was great and we saw animals and pretty countryside. On the way back into town I stopped at a pool and got in a quick pool session (really proud of myself for making that happen actually). That evening was low key around the hotel as the ladies were racing Saturday so pre-race jitters were already settling in for most. After dinner I took the evening to put my bike together and make sure I was all sorted with my setup.

 

Awesome, awesome news.

 

I only had a short ride and run on Saturday so I was up rather early to get that out of the way when the roads where quiet. With that done and my bike all set up I was finally feeling ready for Sunday’s race. Despite the stress around the bag I had settled well and gotten the few workouts in that I needed to do before the race and all my gear was together and a felt ready. Carly and I went down to the course and cheered on the women for their race for a few hours. It was really quite warm and they had great weather for their day!!! Carly needed to do a long run and I had to check my bike in so in the afternoon we parted ways so I could make my final prep for gear check.

 

 

Primo Spot.

With my bike and gear sorted at transitions we met back up at the hotel and had some Saturday drinks and chilled out. Nothing more that I could do now!! We had a easy dinner in the hotel and early to bed for Sunday!

 

Carbo loading.

Race day came early. I had been sleeping well and woke up feeling pretty good. I’ve been making more of an effort for starting races properly fueled so I started the day with some honey stinger waffles, banana, and PH drink. We were out the door to T1 as rain fell…. it was going to be a wet day. I was able to sort my bike quickly but had made a mistake and didn’t pack enough of the wafers that I had wanted to consume on the bike. I decided to raid one that I was going to have before the swim and found another in my bag so I was able to stock a few and figured between that and the pre-mixed gel/PH/water bottles I had my race would be fine.  All in I consumed about 250 calories/hour on the bike,  lower than what I had wanted but not terrible.

I met back up with Carly and got my wetsuit on and walked down to the starting pens. I tried to position myself in the middle of my AG for the start. After a few nervous minutes it was my time to go and I was off! Pray for no sharks!!

What do you do in a shark attack? Swim faster than the guy next you.

Given my missing Garmin I didn’t have a watch for the swim (not that I check during the swim) but it left me a bit blind as I was exiting in terms of how I had done. After the fact I swam right at 30 minutes which is not great. I really had been hoping (and need to be) swimming about 2-3 minutes quicker. My  race will certainly never be won in the water but I’m giving up way to much time on the swim in comparison to my closest competitors.

 

I was not eaten by a shark!!!!

 

Fuck. I’m tired and that swim was slow. Its going to be a long day.

But that was done and now its the bike, running into T1 I could see my Dimond at the end of the rack and immediately felt jazzed again. Helmet on and I’m off.

 

Ok. Time to get to work. Solid Rhythm.

My age group had been one of the first to start so between a quick T1 and my initial bike effort I was quickly passing some of the earlier waves and slower guys in front of me. About a quarter of the way into the bike I generally found myself biking ‘alone’ and could see the Pro’s coming back along the road the other way. Despite a few drops on my powermeter I averaged just under goal wattage at 227/246NP. I think I’m leaving a bit out on the bike. I’m always concerned that I’ll burn too many matches on the bike and not have anything left in the tank for the run so thinkI tend to not push it enough. Still a work in progress to get up to that line but not over and have enough left in the tank for the run.  Bike time: 2:23

 

Last km’s on the bike, trying to keep it consistent.

After handing off my bike to the catchers at T2 I had a dilemma: socks or no socks. Carly had been giving me shit the day before about how my feet are always a disaster post race because I don’t wear socks. I countered that I don’t have enough time to put them on and they’re not going to make me that much faster during the race (I just ignore the pain till the end). I grabbed my bag, threw on my shoes, grabbed my apple watch (so I had some idea on pacing) and left the socks in the bag. No time!!!

 

No time for socks. Get some.

For the first loop the course was pretty empty with only the pro’s and a limited number of the faster age group athletes from the earlier waves out in front. I quickly settled into a solid sub 6 pace. I knew it was likely a bit aggressive but really wanted to push the run not knowing how my swim had been and with the knowledge my bike hadn’t been ideal. I knew of one or two athletes that had previously placed well at this race and so I tried to gauge where I was based off of how far back/in front of them I was running. I immediately started taking water and a bit of coke on the run. I didn’t want to over do it but knew I was running at a loss from the lower fuel on the bike. The problem was that I didn’t want to turn my stomach with too much while running.

 

 

Come to daddy.

My pace was taking its toll by halfway through. I felt my legs starting to go and with the coke and red bull I could feel my stomach turning. I just put it out of my mind and kept on just counting down… 6…5…4….3.  With two miles to go I knew I could suck it up but it was going to be rough. I was still holding a near dead on 6:00 pace so I knew I had run well and likely made up places. I just wasn’t sure where I stood overall as by now the course was full with people pouring on to the course from the bike.

 

 

Lay off me I’m starving.

Down the final miles I started skipping the aid stations and just pushing towards the finish…. just needed to get to that red carpet. Down a quick hill, around the back of transition I was pushing hard, with the finish line just in front of me I was trying to pick off any final athletes in my group as well as stave off any that might be making a push at the end on me.

 

All out with a strong finish.

I crossed the line exhausted with a run time of 1:18 and hoped that counted for something. Walking away from the finish through the finish area I found Carly, she delivered the happy news that I had finished 9th!!! Amazing!!! I had hoped for a good performance but finishing in the top 10 in the world in my age group was certainly an ‘outside’ goal. I waited for a few minutes refreshing the results to see if there were any others from my age that happened to break into the top. Fortunately my time and place stood, I had indeed finished 9th!! Looking at the final results 14 seconds separated me from 10th and only another 5 seconds to 11th, all time saved by not putting on socks!!

Wet. Tired. 9th in the World in my AG.

 

Winner winner, chicken dinner.

We relaxed that evening at the hotel bar for a while before finding a place for dinner and a bit of celebration. As soon as we had made our way back to the hotel the storm that had been a light rain all afternoon turned into downpours and high winds. I was really glad to have been off the course!!! The next morning we packed our things and were off to Cape town for a week of relaxing and sightseeing!! With my IM race only a few weeks away I wasn’t able to really ‘enjoy’ the success as I needed to keep moving to not loose any fitness and keep a good head of steam going for Barcelona. Carly (as usual) was epic in putting up with my need to workout during our vacation and we found some great places to eat and things to do around Cape Town before flying home.

 

Nom Nom Nom.

 

Top of the World… well nearly there.

 

Apparently there is wine in South Africa.

 

Vacation.

Ironman Barcelona

Ironman Barcelona Race Report

When I finally allowed myself the reality that I wanted to undertake the challenge of my first full Ironman in fall of 2017 I started by looking at the race schedule. I had already signed up for London Marathon in April 2018 and wanted to run well there and knew that effort would both need a decent amount of recovery as well as take a bit away from cycling and swimming during the build up. I also knew that having just qualified for South Africa for 70.3 WC’s I wanted to perform well there and that build could work nicely with building to a full race a few weeks/months beyond. Additionally, and being a bit ahead of myself (or just wishful thinking) I knew that there was no way we would be able to swing a trip to Kona in the same summer so finding a race in late September/October really seemed to be the best option to give myself another year to focus on Kona if I should qualify. This quickly narrowed the race options down and on final review IM Barcelona seemed to be the winner. I approached the race with the idea that I wanted to limit the ‘complications’ as much a possible, travel, course difficulty, etc etc. Barcelona was a single, relatively inexpensive and limited air time travel race from London, winner for travel. The course is very fast, (usually) calm seas, flat, smooth, simple bike course and a flat, smooth and simple run. It wasn’t that I wanted an ‘easy’ race, but I’ve never competed in a race of this distance or time and adding in a huge amount of elevation gain at my first go seemed like a unnecessary complication. It also helped that it was Barcelona, so a few days on the beach afterward seemed like a fantastic way to end the season!

This brought back some bad memories….

The first two races I had on the calendar in 2018 were the IAAF Half Marathon Championships and London Marathon. This gave me a solid run focus through the spring and through April. I purchased a Tacx Neo smart last year which has been a great tool for training and has allowed for consistent bike training during the variable London weather. It also allowed me to make efficient use of my ‘other’ training time during the run block and retain some quality on the bike. Given that (at the time) I couldn’t mount the Dimond to the trainer had had an old roadie bike that I set up with the same gearing and fit to replicate my race setup. I was also using my daily bike commute (about 10k each way) to pad my weekly miles or use as a cool down for the mornings workouts.

By virtue of the 70.3 WC’s and Barcelona my season was very much focused on getting to September/October fit and healthy. Generally my weeks were in the 10-12 hour range with a few pushing up beyond that mark. As a note, I never counted my commuting time/mileage, it was always just ‘extra’. There were a few larger weeks built into the schedule with one 100 mile ride (done outdoors) and one 5 hour ride (on the turbo). Otherwise my longest ride was no more than 4 hours. My longest week was around 15-16 hours, before adding another 5 of commuting. I wanted to do well at the WC’s but my primary focus had always been Barcelona, so I was very happy to have take away a 9th in my Age Group performance at the race with about four weeks to go before the big race (I’ll write a separate post about that race).

Skipping a bit to Barcelona

 

Blending in.

Travel always means packing the Hen House. I’ve actually had the travel bag longer than I’ve had my Dimond and I used the bag to travel to Milwaukee and Chicago when I was living in the states for USAT National Champs and ITU worlds. I’ve always loved the ability to have the bike with me, and (knock on wood) never paid a bike/baggage fee. Since moving to London I’ve used the bag to travel to Australia, South Africa and Barcelona for races all without fees or hassle. With the Dimond I use the carrat case and have self reinforced the bag with custom cut lexan sides. I love that the bag is light enough to pick up and huff off from baggage claim without much fuss and allows us to rent whatever car we want as the bags aren’t bulky (another cost saver)!

 

Snug as a bug.

As mentioned, Barcelona caught my eye because it was flat and fast. After arriving at the race I was quick to set up my bike and see the course with my own eyes. The race is actually set a bit further north in the city of Calella. The transition area is right on the beach (they take over an astroturfed soccer pitch) so the transition zone is concise. However, that means that you need to get through the old part of the city to get out to the main road where the majority of the bike is held. This means no aero bars for the first 3k. However, once out on the main highway they road is smooth, clean and fast. There are a few slow rolling hills as you arrive or leave the small villages you ride through but primarily the course along the ocean is flat. Perhaps, in an effort to break up drafting, they updated the course with a small out and back about 1/3 of the way into the loop which went uphill and away from the sea. Looking at the course map it looked like the great pyramid of Giza but once you realized that it was only in comparison to the pancake flat remainder of the course it wasn’t bad at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Important race prep happening.

 

Pre-race jitters.

The majority of the few days leading up to the race were filled with the typical pre race shenanigans. Obsessing over your gear, obsessing over what you eat, significant other telling you to get a grip… you know the drill. However I do always enjoy bike racking. To me, it is really the first time to size up the race and who you might be racing against. Its always a great time to meet some new friends and chat about what brought you to whatever race you happen to be at. Living and racing in London and Europe I’ve only ever seen one other Dimond at a race. Combined with my American accent I do find myself the focus of some attention when racking the bike. Barcelona was no different in that I didn’t see any other Dimond’s but a few interested onlookers. Typically I find myself talking about how easy it is to travel with the bike. As I’ve not had a wealth of racing experience at the half or full distance before the bike I’m not one to say that its made me ‘’xx minutes faster’’. I’m more of one to talk about the bike as something that gets me excited to get out there and ride, to me it’s a part of a well rounded approach to racing, its not some magic bullet that will suddenly transform someone from an enthusiast to a champion.

 

Full race race setup.

Get some.

Finally race day was upon me. My general race plan was to survive the swim, pace myself into a good position on the bike and go for it on the run. I knew the marathon would be my strength so my goal was to put myself in a position to run into a Kona slot. The weather had been sunny and warm for the preceding days but come race day it was cool and raining. The sea, which had been calm, was in full swell. Generally the specific race conditions don’t put me in a better or worst mindset, being from New England I consider my a ‘tough’ guy and tend to power through most conditions. I always try and remember I’m racing with the same situation as everyone else so I try not to get concerned. However, not the strongest swimmer to begin with I was concerned that swimming in these rough conditions might hamper my race plan. But by that point, there was no turning back and after the normal pre race screwing around with the bike and double checking transition bags we were off.

 

 

fak.

 

I’m seriously reconsidering the race at this point.

 

But I don’t wanna!!!

I had lined up in the 1:00 area thinking that was going to be my goal time, however, soon some staff ushered me down to the AWA starting wave. I think it’s a bit odd to have a specific AWA wave, there is nothing saying that I’m going to be faster (or slower) just because I’m AWA. It seemed odd to cater a starting wave to the group. However, I knew that if it put me that much further in front of the ‘crowd’ I’d be setting myself up for a quieter bike. The swim was easily the roughest I’ve ever done. I felt like I drank a gallon of water by the time it was over and sighting was a complete nightmare. I had to time sighting with the top of the swells or you’d never see the next buoy. When you did look up to sight I’d see swimmers going straight up the next wave. This was a race!! Making the primary turn I glanced at my watch and saw 30:00 and was pleasantly surprised. I knew that the second half was going to be into the swell but to have paced right to where I want to be gave me confidence. Powering through the second part of the swim I exited the water at just over one hour and was very, very, pleased to have had that swim behind me!

 

Holy shit! I’m alive!!

Jumping on the bike I knew this was where the work (for me) really began, I had a target wattage (230-235) and worked out a good nutrition plan. The goal was to take down a half of a honey stinger waffle every 30 minutes and supplement with a mix of Precision Hydration and Honey Stinger gels. The idea was that as I worked through the pre mix hydration I would take course water and cycle that into my routine. Starting the bike you always get a few guys that seem to go out like they’re going to win the race in the first five miles. I resisted the temptation and stuck to my plan. My average power seemed to be tracking a bit lower than where I wanted but I was moving along at a good pace and this being my first race I didn’t want to overextend myself now. I stuck to my plan for fuel and hydration and covered the first lap without issue. By the end of the first lap I had found myself largely riding alone and had been able to put in a few blocks of consistent power. However, as I began the second lap I could sense riders behind me and was starting to encounter last of the riders that exited the water late. On the out and back hill I could see my that while there weren’t main people in front of me but I was definitely the start of the chase. By the end of the second lap between passing those still on their first lap and the people behind me putting on good pressure I had been caught. My power suffered drastically and its definitely one of those times that I should have put down a good effort to get some separation, but I played it safe and stuck to my plan of not burning matches on the bike. In retrospect I really feel this was a poor decision and really wished i had put down some watts. I don’t think my run would have suffered all that much in comparison to putting some solid time into my competition on the bike.  

 

 

 

Still coughing up water at this point. Current aero situation: -10

I had a retul fit done over the winter in preparation for this race which had moved me a bit lower and longer which yielded great results. I’m sure I could fuss about with the fit more and find either some additional aero advantage or power output but it would be starting to split hairs. Overall I felt very comfortable and relaxed on the bike, no areas of unreasonable pain or discomfort. I think this speaks of both a quality fit as well as a comfortable and stable bike under saddle. For the race itself I used Continental Force and Attack tires with Latex tubes and Stans sealant wrapped around HED Jet 9 and Disc wheels. The only other modification I’ve made to the bike outside of the factory ‘race’ set-up is the SLF oversized pulley wheels. I use a Stages power meter as I find that to be the easiest meter to swap between my training and racing bike. I currently have the Gen 1 Left only meter but just upgraded to the gen 3 L/R meter, so looking forward to that. I use a profile design refillable BTA bottle and amount a second cage to my stem (TriRig Sigma). Additionally, I have my tube and repair kit behind the saddle with another bottle. This set up works well for 70.3 races as it allows me to not stop at aid stations and easily take on course water but have my own mix for the full distance. I’ve made a reasonable effort to clean up my front end with the Sigma stem but there are definitely some gains that I could make by reviewing my setup.

 

Race nutrition.

Its on.

 

Werk.

However, with all that said about my ride clear differentiator for my bike is the color scheme. As a graduate of Virginia Tech the Orange and Maroon paint scheme was a given. My time there in was formative and provided me with the tools that have allowed me practice architecture all around the world. When I’m running up to my bike in transition I can hear the Metallica’s Enter Sandman playing at Lane stadium and sixty-eight thousand fans jumping up and down. The bike and the paint scheme signify the work that has been done, and the work that needs to be done, this is my time, my effort. I always jump on that bike ready to rock.

After two laps along the scenic Barcelona coast it was back into Calella, through the old town and back to transition. A quick shoe change (and socks on for this race) later it was out on the run. Coming off the bike I felt energized, I had made it through the bike without a crash, technical issue or any penalties. At this point I knew, no matter how I might do it, I was going to finish the race, even if I had to crawl across that line.

Well frick… its time to run.

The first mile or two of the run felt amazing, being back on my feet, stretching my back a bit and opening the legs up was fantastic. It was also now I could hear Carly cheering which was a really nice pick up. We had run through a bit of what i’d like her to do in terms of split information so I was looking forward to getting an idea of where I stood in the race. From a pace perspective my goal was to run a 2:55, I felt I had that in me and was a good target to set. I started off at a brisk 6:40 pace and was holding it well for the first 3-4 miles before I saw Carly for the first time. She yelled something about 8th, or 8 minutes down… or something…  I wasn’t really sure. Oh well, it is only a few miles in, I really need to run a bit and let the race settle to get a feel for the work I need to do.

The run course at Barcelona is three big loops with the finish at one end. Carly had positioned herself at basically the halfway point so I was able to see her both heading out and coming back of each loop. After the initial split where I didn’t really get where I was she had some solid information that I was sitting in 3rd and running the same pace as first but well above 2nd or anyone else around me. This was great news! Outside of finishing my goal was 3rd in my AG, I figured that would be a ‘safe’ position in my AG to secure a slot for Kona. Knowing I was running strong compared to others also gave me some confidence that if i slipped a bit I might have a bit of a buffer.

Your mind goes to some dark places.

I continued pushing and ended up running with a few groups during the first half or so. At one point I ran with who would turn out to be the second place female professional and grouped up a few times with some other runners. I went through the 21k mark at 1:27:33, pretty much perfectly on pace for a 2:55.

Carly continued to offer updates and I seemed to making ground on second but wasn’t past him just yet, no mention of where 4th was so I kept on grinding. However, shortly after the turn around on loop two I hit the wall. Mentally perhaps I had gotten too comfortable, and physically perhaps I had gone out a bit too fast. Either way, mile 15-19 were pretty rough. I had been taking water and coke regularly throughout the race and added in some gels and red bull. I’m not sure if it was the added fuel or the fact that I started what would be my last lap and knew that was it, 9 more miles, one more lap. I checked myself back in the game and really tried to push myself with what I had left. I knew second had to be super close to second and if I put in a solid effort here I might be able to pick him off. However, as by now people were pouring on to the run course from the bike I had little to no idea who was who and if someone was on the first lap or third.

Just trying to maintain.

I honestly can’t recall the last information Carly gave me, but I’m pretty sure I asked her how far off and she said something like 4 minutes down on first, 4 minutes back to third… I had made it into second!!! I knew I wouldn’t see Carly again till the finish so it was up to me to close this out. I was terrified that at any moment my body would just say ‘nope’ and start to shut down so my goal was to get across that finish line as quickly as humanly possible. I told myself to suck it up and you’ve only got 4….. 3……2…..1… miles to go. Running back towards town I knew that once I passed back by the transition tent I’d have only a mile to go and I had made that my last ‘carrot’ before the finish. As I was closing in on the transition I passed by one racer, he looked over at me and asked ”second or third?”. Not really thinking/having any idea what he was asking about I told him ‘I have no idea’ and kept on cranking.

 

Passing through the transition tent with only a mile to go it started to feel real to me, that I’d actually finish this race and be an Ironman. I started to skip the aid stations and just push towards the finish. The course tightens up a bit near the end and a couple of times I found myself wedging myself through some slower moving runners.

You know the difference between me and you? I make this look good.

However, as soon as I got to the last corner it was a sharp turn off and down on to the red carpet and I found myself running alone. It was down a quick hill and to the left with the finish chute all to myself. It all happened quite fast, I’m naturally one to race all the way through the line so in retrospect I do now get why people say to relax and enjoy the finish experience. I however, cruised through the line and promptly collapsed. It took me a few minutes to compose myself, I was totally drained…

 

A slow walk to the recovery area where I took my time to have a bit of food and drink. Looking around I saw a few male pro’s, one or two female pro’s and a few age groupers. It seemed like a pretty small group, but I really couldn’t tell. I hadn’t run one watch throughout the so I didn’t have an actual race time but I could piece it together knowing each of the disciplines and figured I was near 9:00, which had typically been where my age group’s third place finished. That, coupled with Carly’s encouragement, left me feeling good that I had secured a solid place.

 

After a bit of food and drink and chatting with a few of the other AG finishers and going around to congratulate everyone who had finished thus far  I made my way out from the finish area to find Carly, she had been anxiously waiting for me and gave me a great big hug exclaiming ‘You won!!!’ I told her ‘No, you said I was second , but still I had a good day!”  She replied, ”No, you caught first, you wont your age group!!’ Wow….. I made up four minutes in the final half of the last lap on first… I couldn’t believe it!!!

Still in a physical and emotional state of shock she handed over my gear and we slowly made our way back to the apartment. After some confirming glances at the Ironman tracker I finally did realize that yes, in fact I had won my age group, and in fact been the 6th Amateur across the line!! The next few hours were filled with a well deserved shower and a lot of food and drink. We went down to the finish line around 10:30 to cheer on those still working their way through the marathon. It was really exciting to see how jazzed everyone was to finish the race. Despite the fact that it was now pouring out there was a great crowd out cheering the last competitors across the line. It was really quite fun to watch everyone finish.

Monday’s award ceremony was certainly an experience. I had laid out some lofty goals for my first race, but to have placed first in my age group and 6th overall was really something I wasn’t expecting. I was really happy with my overall race plan and management and while I took a lot away from this race as learning experiences I feel like I put it all out there for my first race. I’m looking forward to racing Roth Germany next July which I hear is another fast course and then Kona in October!!!

It goes without saying but none of this would be possible without the unwavering support of Carly. Her ability to encourage me along this journey and be great partner is without measure. She is the reason I push myself to be better. Plus she’s pretty cute.

 

 

 

 

 

Settling – 2017 Recap

So, in keeping with the status quote this post has taken until well after my first (now couple) race of 2018 to get out the door. There are a number of reasons for this, some real. 2017 was about settling, not with my results or competition but into a routine and life in London. 2016 was a big year for Carly and I in our relocation ‘across the pond’. New jobs, new city, new places to explore, oddities to understand and lifestyles to adjust. Looking back its really quite impressive how we both managed to take all that change in stride. It was certainly a lot of work, but keeping our focus in 2016 and ‘adulting super hard’ we provided ourselves ability to make 2017 a great year for adventure and really began to be comfortable with our new life in London. We now (as of December) own a place and had a party where I successfully fried a Turkey. ‘merica!! But, in trying to keep this space more athletically focused I’ll dwell a bit on some of my races and overall work in last year.

The year started with a bang, having qualified whats seems ages ago at Marine Corp Marathon, I finally had my Boston Marathon experience.  In retrospect, the race went about as well as a second marathon (and Boston) could possibly go. I snagged a healthy PR which is itself which is always a great way to start the season but more importantly I got a lot of early season miles in which paid dividend down the road with some of my other training. I learned a lot about long distance training while preparing for the race (mainly its REALLY boring…) but also that there are no short cuts. You cant fake that shit. Not that I do ever really ‘phone it in’ but knowing you want to put in a solid time at Boston you have to be mentally checked in for every bit of training. Its not only exhausting physically but mentally. Showing up on the start line and being able to both finish the race and run a great time off of all that work is a great way to start a season and gave me a lot of positive energy to carry myself through the season.

This was also the first season I’ve not raced any ‘short’ triathlons, all my races were 70.3’s. I’ve learned that I don’t have the speed to be as competitive as I’d like for sprints or olympics (but they are fun) and I don’t really have the general time availability to commit myself to a full Ironman (we’ll get to that later). So 70.3’s nestle into a sweet spot from a training and racing perspective. They’re also not as expensive to get into and (generally) fit into weekend away so its an easier ‘sell’ for Carly.

I signed up for two ‘local’ races and then a pair of Ironman branded events. I knew that the 70.3 championships in 2019 was in South Africa so I was loosely targeting snagging a spot to get back to that race at my last race, Weymouth. The 2018 race was back in the US, and I didn’t want to fly home to race so while I wanted to do well in Staffordshire taking a spot there was not my goal. The other two races were the Cotswold Classing/113, it was really nice to have a repeat race. Since moving to London I’ve not done that, it makes the entire race experience easier when you know the course, know the check-in procedures, etc etc. Plus the races are really well run and get some quality competition.  One can read the various reports on the four races I had over the summer here, I’d say my best performance from a time perspective was the Cotswold Classic race which was a great following a disappointing race in Staffordshire. However, ending the season at Weymouth and snagging a spot to the championships was certainly the overall highlight.

By the time that race came around I was already thinking a bit about the 2018 season and I knew that getting the spot early would put two good placeholders on my calendar for the next year with the London Marathon and WC’s in South Africa. The primary question was how to fill the rest of the schedule…

In terms of training, my overall totals for 2017 show I continue to struggle with the swim. This discipline continues to be my achilles heal, and even if not from a race perspective it is mentally demoralizing to continually struggle. One of the prime reasons for this was my swimming situation in Islington. The better gym, while super cheap, and great to have provided me a easy swim solution upon moving was just turning into a total shit show. Between the number of people that might be in the pool at any giving time, and the inability for those people to hold a pace, swim with any decorum or the erratic schedule they put in place it was impossible to get into a groove.

 

Overall percentage breakdown

 

Swim breakdown

Run breakdown

Bike breakdown

While the percentage for swim should be higher its really the overall volume there that needs to go up. Its tough to get faster when you don’t even get into the pool. Looking at the information above I made a few self goals for 2018

  • swimming
    • limit missed workouts, just do the work, showing up is half the battle
  • focus on my bike form
    • make an effort to not just put the work in on the trainer but put the work in to keep my form
  • focus a bit on my gear
    • i’ve always had really good luck with my race day logistics, I need to do a bit of work getting some of my day to day race gear sorted to find some easy time

 

The good part about writing this particular post over such a long period is that now, in June I can see the goals I started with and offer up some updates….

  • Regarding swimming, i’ll get into this a bit more in my next post (shortly) but with our move to Balham and proximity to a pool that is quieter and just being generally better about getting out the door I’ve had great success in upping my swim volume.
  • I spent some time at Swift Cycles in London getting a Retul bike fit. While my position didn’t change dramatically there were a few minor adjustments made that should help me bike a bit more efficiently
  • I’ve started to look at my bike gear to streamline my cockpit/front end as well as to get some proper race wheels and really make sure my bike is set up well. I’m looking into ditching my old bike shoes as well as in lieu of something both more comfortable as well as aerodynamic.

At the end of the year Carly and I completed on our flat in Balham so and finally had all of our stuff that we had packed up years ago in Boston shipped over. It was like Christmas to be going through all the boxes and rediscovering the wedding gifts, books and clothes that we had packed up  so long before. But we were able to quickly set up our new place and it immediately felt like a real home with all of our art on the wall and Bruno lounging in the sun in the back yard.

Towards the end of the winter though I started to get an itch to attempt something longer. I knew that qualifying for WC’s would ‘free up’ my training for a bit of adventure and with London Marathon I’d already be starting the summer with a long run block. So I decided to take the plunge and sign up for a full 140.6 race. I did some research and Barcelona in October seemed like a decent, late season race to participate in. Not knowing how my body would respond I wanted to find a race on the flatter side as I didn’t particularly want to try my hand at Wales as my first ‘full’ distance. It also, had the plus of being one of the very first races to qualify for Kona so if I should be so lucky to qualify I’d have over a year to plan logistics as well as properly train (cross that bridge when I get to it).

The decision to do something like that definitely came from me being well.. settled… with where Carly and I were in London and our new life. Not only with our work but also with our personal travel and general work/life balance. I realized that while something like that is never going to be ‘easy’ I now have the ability to train for a race like that and it could be managed and in once sense ‘enjoyed’. It was satisfying to be able to put that long term goal on the board, and while there were certainly be days or weeks where the training is tough and I might be pushed for time it was great to end 2017 with the comfort that I could realistically see myself making it through the training to the race. I was (and am) looking forward to trying my luck at that distance. It could be a complete disaster… or maybe I’ll find another gear. But either way, I know it will be an adventure getting there!!!

 

Weymouth 70.3 Race Report

Last race of the season, I had a number of goals coming into his race of varying ‘importance’ but the main goal was to put myself in a position to get a spot for the 2018 70.3 WC’s in South Africa. Outside of that primary goal my focus was to build on my effort in managing my bike power/effort to push the pace on the run knowing that it was a super flat (run) course.

Per my usual weekend race strategy picked up the rental car Friday evening and packed up the car Saturday morning. I didn’t have much in terms of a pre-race workout so planned on doing the short bike/run Saturday between race check-in and getting into our Airbnb. The drive down to Weymouth was uneventful and we made good time I had found a good parking spot and set up my bike for a bit of recon. One aspect of doing race weekends in this manner is that usually my food intake on Saturday is really bad, between the drive and running around checking in/dropping off bike and such I never eat/drink enough (or at nearly the ‘usual’ time). So I had vowed to do a better job of that this time and factored a lot more time and planning into activities around eating.

Once we arrived in Weymouth I went and checked in, which was an incredibly quick process, in and out in a few minutes. Back to the car to do a quick bike and run to shake out the legs. I basically rode down the boardwalk down what I thought was the race course (turns out I was going out the way back in), but oh well…. I knew the course had some good elevation gain but the hill I encountered on my way out made me pause… if it was all like this Sunday is going to be a LOOONNNNGGGG day.

After a quick ride, put the trainers on and did a couple quick minutes around Weymouth for my run, course looked flat and fast. Back to the car and Carly who had been hanging out went and did her run for the day while I took Bruno for a walk. I went over to attend the race briefing and was able to gain entry but after sitting there for 5-10 minutes someone asked me to leave (since I had Bruno). This was pretty frustrating seeing as we were both sitting quietly in the back not disturbing anyone but if they wanted me out I left. Oh well… I tried. We went back to the car and I used the time to get my race bags and bike ready to drop off.

Once Carly was back we walked down to the transition area and I dropped my bike and bags off and checked out the swim start/transition lines. Water seemed cold, but flat and while the runs to/from transition looked long it didn’t seem anything terrible (and at the end of the day everyone does the same course).

Even Bruno likes a good pub lunch.

We walked back into town and had lunch at a dog friendly pub. Was a good meal and I felt pretty relaxed about how the day had good. I was really pleased that I had (somewhat last minute) checked on Airbnb and found a place much closer than the hotel I had booked. So we headed a few minutes out of town and checked into our place. It was a great little cabin in a camper van lot run but some fabulous people. Had everything we needed and accommodated us with the dog. We spend the rest of the afternoon just lounging about the place relaxing. I used the time to finalize my gear for the next day and a last minute chat with Brad on bike strategy.

We grabbed an early dinner at the pub across the street (again dog friendly, I freakin love this country). Had a good dinner and was home and ‘in bed’ around 8. Its hard to fall asleep so early but after a day of running around it was nice to know I was sorted and ready for the race.

 

The sea was angry that day my friends….

Sunday morning came quick and we were out the door at around 5 (which was a solid 30-45 min later than it would have been had we stayed at the other place). We got down to the parking lot, and found a spot. I left Carly and Bruno in the car to relax in the warmth for a bit while I did my last minute checks. Bike was all set, powermeter paired and hydration/fuel aboard.

 

It was cold.

Carly joined me around 30 minutes before the race was to start and I suited up. It was quite cold and windy on the beach break and the chop seemed to be picking up. The nice flat bay i saw yesterday had disappeared completely. I wasn’t particularly worried about the swim but I knew the chop wouldn’t help my already poor swim. Thankfully, after standing on the beach freezing for what seemed like hours the pro’s went off. I found a good position in the 30ish area of the starting line and waited my turn. This was the first race I’ve been in where they let groups of six go at a time. As we watched the pro’s head off we saw the women’s field head sharply off course due to the waves and wind, it was a bit scary and good to have seen. It made me nervous for my sighting but helped me know where to aim to keep on a straight track.

And we’re off!!!!

When my wave was finally called the six of us ran down the rocky beach and dove in, finally…. warmth!!!! I’d say that the first 20-30 seconds of the swim was the best I felt for the next few hours. As a little backstory here…. over the last year of racing I’ve noticed that about 300-400 meters into a race I’ll need to burp. Usually its nothing major but it usually makes me feel a bit better and I continue on racing. Its never a show stopper, and not something I’ve ever really given any thought to. So…. about 200 meters into the swim I’m starting to feel it come on. The chop is rough and you have to find a good rhythm with your stoke to not get bogged down. As time moves on my chest gets tighter and tighter, well passed the time I’d normally burp. That, coupled with a few poorly timed waves and competitors I’ve gotten to a state of near panic. I feel as though I cant breath, I want to tear my wetsuit off. I actually pull up for a second and scan my head around looking for a kayak. I’m considering pulling out of the race. This lasts about 1-2 seconds before I snap out of it… or basically tell myself to suck it up. (likely not the best solution). I push forward, not feeling any better. Basically it feels like I’m swimming with a huge guy sitting on my chest, I’m getting slower and more panicked.  Then… at about 600 meters in I burp… well vomit is a better term for what seems like minutes. Instantly….. Instantly felt better, chest was free and I could breath.

Around I rounded the first turn buoy and was no longer swimming into the chop but along side it. Pace quickened immensely and I started to reconsider my race. I knew I wasn’t going to have a great swim time but knew that others were in the same conditions as me. I was likely down some time due to the breathing but not out of the race. The goal was to be in position to get a roll down spot which I could still do. The remainder of the swim I tried to reengage the race and keep myself pushing to maintain my position.

Well that sucked….

Once back at the beach I knew I was back in the drivers seat with the swim done. I was proud of myself for staying in it and pushing myself to get through an incredibly mentally tough race experience. Running up a stone beach with froze feet is NOT fun. I tried to focus on getting my suit off and getting my legs and feet to turn over as much as possible to get some blood back in them. Every step felt like I was running on stumps, once in a while you’d get a sharp pain as you landed on a piece of gravel. It was not fun. Into the tent helmet and number out and on, wetsuit in. It always feels like I end up spending more time checking my bag to make sure I didn’t miss anything than actually taking out or putting things into it…. always second guessing myself. Long, cold run to the bike and I’m off.

 

I can still hear my teeth chattering….

The day before I had picked up toe covers and arm warmers for the bike. While I opted not to put the arm warmers on in T1 but already had the toe covers on my bike (thank god) I skipped the arm warmers. Instantly my feet started to warm up and felt better though it took me a while for my arms and upper body to really feel 100%. I took a couple of quick hits of water and tried to establish a good cadence out of town. Brad had given me some cues for the bike section so I tried to keep those in mind as I managed the race. A bit of where the hills were, how much to push over the goal power or when to hold back.

Werk it.

The first 8 miles was a bit of uphill and then rolling as we headed away from the beach. Some nice roads through sleepy towns in and out of hedges. However, at mile 10 at the bottom of a hill went to pedal and nothing. Chain had come off! Fuck! If this was going to happen all day it was going to be a long race…. I was furious. A quick stop and was sorted. However, in that 15-25 seconds I was stopped it seemed like hundreds of people passed me. Not what you want when you going for place not time in a race….. Luckily my luck held the rest of the race and no more drops. With every race I love my Dimond a bit more, I’m still getting used to the bike and being comfortable at speed but I’m smiling the entire time.

 

With about 30 minutes to go in the bike I’ve caught up/or caught (I cant recall which) Andy Greenleaf. I raced against him (which is to say he won) Exmoor last year. So I figured one of two things, either he was having a total shit day and I’m fucked or I’m having a good day and still very much in this. I don’t recall passing many people over the course of the bike but by the time I’m with him I realize theres not many other people around us (good). The sun is now out and its starting to warm up. I’m glad that I was prudent with my energy and hydration early on in the bike and have been taking a chew every 10-15 minutes and over the bike worked through just over two water bottles with my personal chemistry mixture of Nuun and Precision Hydration.

 

Pulling back into town I feel good. While my bike time isn’t going to set records I held good power and given the elevation gain turned in a good time. I felt ready to go for the run. Back into T2, bike on the rack and running to the bags feet were again pummeled by the gravel on the pavement…. brutal. Helmet off, shoes on and I’m off. The run course was a three or so lap course so I knew I had about one lap to gauge where I sat in the lineup.

Likely thought: ‘Why do I do this to myself?’

I quickly saw the pro’s and a few AG’s that I recognized but couldn’t put an exact  number on where I was. I knew to be a lock for the championships I needed to be 4th, 3rd would really seal the deal. After that I was betting on a roll down space which was a risk. I pushed hard the first lap, setting a good pace and trying to pick off some people while the course was still a bit open. By the time lap two started I had no idea who was in front or behind me and the course was getting busy. I kept the pace up, looking down at my watch trying to stay right around the 6:05-6:15/mile.

 

Kill me, just kill me now. (Also, the dude behind me looks fantastic.)

 

Turd dog.

By lap three the course was chock full, and having seen the turn off to the finish chute 3 times before I was desperate to get there. About halfway through my final lap I caught the lead female pro which I took as a hopeful sign of my own time. I kicked it up a final gear for the last half mile and put in a good surge to break free of anyone that might have been running just behind me. I’m not one to want to leave something to the last minute so always try and drop someone before we get to the finish as I know people always find some extra gas to sprint in. Its nice to end the argument before it begins.

Always look like a pro finishing. Pro photography credit to Carly.

Yeah, its that good.

A couple quick corners and I’m on the finish chute, line ahead, I over the line and check my time 4:31, a few minutes faster than my abysmal  Staffordshire time. I’m not feeling good about my chances at this point. However, a quick scan around and I catch that Harry Palmer in the finish area with me. We chat as we walk back to the post race area… he’s won his AG… so maybe I have a chance yet! We walk back to the food area and relax for a few minutes. We chat about the race and our season as we try and give our bodies a chance to catch up and our minds to come down from the race. Its nice to sit a talk to someone for a few minutes after the race, when racing its just your thoughts… planning, strategizing, reminding yourself to push. Its nice to just shut that part of the brain off (or let it rest) for a short bit and just shoot the shit without prerogative.

After a bit of time there I head out to find Carly, she and Bruno were excellent cheerleaders (as always) and bore great news, I had finished 3rd in my AG! This was awesome, though I knew the results weren’t final. Someone could still finish faster than I or even worse I could be DQ’ed for some reason. I got changed and we went to get some lunch as we waited for final results. We knew that to make the roll down we’d have to stick around so we relaxed and had a great lunch while we killed time. It appeared that my 3rd place held so I knew I accomplished my goal!!

I’m not ashamed at all.

nor of this…..

 

Awesome bike, awesome day.

A long…. long… award session later I finally claimed my WC token and we made our way back to London. It had been a long day but it was great to walk away from the race (and the season) with a solid final result. It was a tough race, made tougher by the panic during the swim and the dropped chain. While neither of these issues would have cost me the race (or them together) the mental impact of having to deal with those in a situation where one wants a positive outcome is tough. You have to remain checked in and focus on your goal. I knew that despite a few moments of less than ideal conditions would not offset the months of training and preparation I had put into the race. I moved beyond those quickly, focused on what I could control and continued to push. I’m glad I did and the reward I received.

A huge thanks goes out to Carly (and the turd dog) for being the best cheerleaders, sherpas, photographers and race day enthusiast a guy could ask for.  Bring on 2018!

 

Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

Strava Legs:

Swim: 32:41

Bike: 2:32:03

Run: 1:21:03

 

Cotswolds Classic Race Report

As per my usual schedule of posting these it takes right about till my next race to get around to putting this together. This race was basically a repeat of the earlier June Cotswolds 113 and I was looking forward to racing someplace for a second time. So much of racing is about controlling nerves and being able to be (or feel as though you are) in control. Knowing where the race site is, where you’re staying, the route from the hotel to the course on race morning. All those little things play into being able to focus on your race and not the ‘extra’ stuff. Also, after a less then stellar showing at Staffordshire I was looking for a bit of a mental boost and training confirmation. I had just recently started working with Brad Williams of KIS coaching so not much had really changed just yet from a training perspective but he did give me some direction for how to manage the bike which ultimately helped my race a lot. I’ll do a bit more of a picture based recap for this one as we’ve got some good material thanks to the on site crew and sherpa/cheerleader/photographer extraordinaire Carly.

 

Great day for racing.

 

 

And we’re off!!

 

Everyone needs a helping hand once in a while…

The swim here actually was a bit slower than my swim earlier in the year though I came out of the water in the top 10 (for the first wave) so I knew that while I hadn’t swam a PR I was well positioned in terms of the the overall race. My swim needs major work and its definitely my weakest area in terms of training. I’m also still struggling with my wetsuit and frustrated that generally all my ‘fast’ swim times are in a ‘slower’ sleeveless suit.

 

Fastest transitions in the west.

This wasn’t a race to try things out so quick transitions today helped me move up a couple places out of the water.

 

Bruno was less than impressed.

 

 

 

Heading out on the Bike.

Brad told me to take it easy for the first 20 minutes or so of the bike, get settled, get focused on the task at hand and work into the ride, don’t go balls to the wall out of the gate and that discipline really helped down the road.

 

 

I managed the bike really well and after 20 minutes of around 220 watts I started to bring it up to my race effort and then try and hold/better that for the second lap. The first lap was largely open and really able to push without too much concern for drivers or other racers. But by the time the second lap, and the last part of the lap for sure the course was jammed. I came in with a number of riders that were stuck behind some slow moving traffic for the last mile or two, was a nice little spin down on the legs but definitely bunched us up a bit coming into T2.

 

 

After coming into T2 with a few other guys I had another good transition  and was third out on to the run course. Second was just a short bit a head of me and first somewhere off in the distance. The second place guy immediately took off and I knew that either i’d never see him again or he’d blow up soon. I caught him in about 3 miles and caught first place shortly after that.

 

Once I had the lead I really tried to hold my pace as the course was getting pretty full by lap 2 and 3. I knew I had pretty easily passed those two guys but didn’t have a great idea of who might be breathing down my neck. My legs were feeling good and kept telling myself to push and hold the pace. For the first lap or so I did a bit of self pacing as well as playing some mental games of picking people off to try and keep my pace up. Its hard when your in a race but there is no one around to inspire you, so you’ll get a glimpse of someone around a bend or a few seconds ahead. Its nice to work for a bit, pick them off, push past and then play the game again with the next racer.

Funny enough while I was out on the race course I got a shout out from someone who follows my blog (I’m honored as I honestly thought it was mainly my mom who read this). It was a nice moral booster on the run!!!

 

 

When I got to around 400m left on the 3rd lap I knew I could at least be the first across the line and maybe an overall win so I dug deep and pushed across the line.

 

 

 

About 2 minutes after I crossed the line another competitor crossed, who as it turned out had started in the wave behind me (so 10 minutes). He finished well in front of me with a 4:00 dead. Well done… and I get to race him again at Weymouth. Yay….

 

The dog was very happy the race was over….

I finished with a 4:08, which is a huge PR for me. I believe the course is a bit short so its hard to count as a true PR but as comparison to my earlier race in 4:21 this is a vast improvement. Playing it smart on the bike allowed me to be both faster then as well as give my legs and body the ability to churn on the run and I ran a personal best (in a triathlon) of 1:20 for the half, which is quite close to my overall half PR. All in all this was a really great race and I’m pleased with my effort and results. I’m looking forward to Weymouth next week and closing out my season with (hopefully) a solid performance there!

And the finish line video: http://dbmaxresults.co.uk/MyResults.aspx?CId=16421&RId=2187&EId=1&AId=220976&YT=1

 

 

 

 

Staffordshire 70.3 Race Report

This report has been a looooonnnnggggg time in the works and I apologize for not getting it out sooner. I realized that with my upcoming race  that it would just start to stack up.  I know there is a limited audience for this page but its helpful for me to get my thoughts about a race out for me to see. Writing it all down lets me dissect a bit and helps me plan for future races.
Overall I felt much more ‘prepared’ for this race logistically than I did with Cotswolds so I was a bit more level headed on Friday evening / Sat morning. I had done a lot more planning in terms of hotel, picking up passes, general race location, etc etc. Its always nice to have a solid plan set up for a new race, even if the plan is changed or altered you have an overall concept of what you should be doing and when and it just makes the whole weekend seem much more casual.
Staffordshire was a split transition race, so T1 and T2 are in totally different locations, this was the first time I’ve ever done a race like this, which caused some concern.  But generally my transition setup is minimal and with Ironman races moving towards a ‘clean’ transition the setup becomes much more just shoving some shoes in a bag.  The larger concern was just going to be getting around to set everything up and fit in the race briefing, swim and dropping off bikes and bags.
Carly and I had an early start to get to the race site and pick up packet. while there I was able to check in and drop my T2 bag quickly and easily. . We tried to hustle down to the water start (T1) in time for the Saturday swim session but between a long walk with the bike and stopping to help a cyclist that ate shit right near the transition I just missed the cutoff time to get into the water so I did a very short run instead. It was slightly frustrating but in the scheme of things really wasn’t a big deal.  After making sure my T1 bag and bike were all set for the next morning we drove the bike course and had some lunch along the way.
The countryside the race went through was, typical to English countryside, gorgeous, with lots of rolling hills and long vistas. The roads seemed to be fine quality and we made it back over to the race site for for the final briefing. I never feel like I get anything out of them (and they seem to get more and more commercialised each race). I’m such a Boyscout that I’d never dare miss one on the chance its the one briefing where they say something new or specific about the race. 99% of the briefing are rules anyone should know (first time or not) and general common sense stuff. I always just feel like its a complete waste of time which makes me less inclined to want to go to the next one…. but I always do… such a sucker.
We stayed at a Holiday Inn a short distance away which wasn’t amazing but got the job done. After a totally forgettable dinner and making sure I was all set for the next day with water, fuel and gear I was in bed by 9:30 for a 5:00 wake-up.
Up at 4:30… just cause… we got down to the start and set up the bike, everything good and ready to rock and roll. We took advantage of a secret parking spot (thanks to B.W.) and we were able to avoid a lot of the hassle of the bussing from main parking fields to transition. I felt much more rested and generally better than for the race the previous week and was excited to put down a good time. However, I knew the day was going to be hot and I knew it would be tough out there towards the end of the run. I felt I had been hydrating and fueling pretty well up to the race with those sorts of days you just never know.

I guess this is fun…..

After a ‘shake off the nerves run’ I dawned my wet suit and my wave was off off about 15 min after the pro’s. I self seeded about halfway between the 30:00 and 25:00, which based on last weeks race and feeling better I was confident I could do. I was a little nervous about using my sleeved wetsuit versus sleeveless given I’ve not always swam well with it but knew it ‘should’ be faster so wanted to give myself every advantage possible.
As soon as I entered the water I knew I was in trouble. I simply couldn’t get anything going, arms were slow and felt heavy. I seemed to be short of breath and could never get into a rhythm of any kind. Generally I’ve found that after a short bit I’ll find some cadence and drop into a good clip and hang with a group. I’ll never profess to be the fastest swimmer in a race but I feel (or at least felt) like I could hold my own and put down a respectable effort. This race was different, I just felt completely overwhelmed and outgunned and no matter how hard I tried (mentally or physically) to shake that the pace remained stagnant.  I resigned myself to ‘just get through the swim’ very early.
Mercifully, the swim eventually did end and as soon as I was out of the water I tried to mentally reset and convince myself that this was now my race. I own the bike and the run and could easily reclaim the time and spots I had lost.

Fuck….

Maybe if I close my eyes and wish really really hard Ill be fast.

Into T1 I was 27th in my AG and 156 Overall.
As soon as I was on dry land I began moving fast, into the tent, wetsuit off, helmet on,  grab the bike and gone, probably passed 10-15 guys. A good start…

Time to get to work. Photo credit to Carly.

Having driven the course the day before I had a fair idea of what to expect and the first part of the course was technical but I kept it together (and out of the hedges), bike handling on the race bike is still a learning curve given how much I ride indoors. After the first 8-9 miles course opened up and was much more open slow rollers. I kept my eye on my computer and tried to push the pace and get the watts up. While incredibly efficient with time while training the drawback of only riding indoors is that on race day my relationship with power is completely new. I don’t have a great concept of where I should be for power outdoors when 100% of my training is indoors. Out in the real world on a real course the demands of riding and racing changes the game. But regardless I kept pushing and was delivering a pretty solid effort.

Watts up.

I seemed to be passing people and my time , despite the rising temperature was holding strong. While could tell about halfway through the ride that my goal time for the day likely wouldn’t happen I knew I could turn in a good effort if I kept my head in the game. Being able to reevaluate the race and adjust expectations (and be ok with that) is something I’m working on. I go into a race with a very specific goal, often a reach and I need to be able to adjust that, and be happy with my performance rather than shut down. Days like Staffordshire, when riding a new course on a hot day PR’s are very hard to come by. I hydrated decently though probably didn’t fuel as well as I should (way to much stuff left in my  bento box post race) which I started to pay for on the run.
About 5 miles to go on the bike during a downhill I dropped my chain, and probably lost 30 seconds and 3-5 places putting it back on. I hammered the those last few miles, getting a couple cheers from the guys I passed (who had just passed me). While the result of something bad it was nice to push it in those last few miles.

Coming in hot! Photo credit to Carly.

Into T2 I was 11th in my AG and 46th Overall
Off the bike in T2, not overly thrilled with my bike time but knew I passed more guys than passed me and my time was pretty solid. I figured I was out of the top 3 spots which was confirmed when I saw the number of bikes in transition, but I knew I still had a good chance of making up time and places with a solid run.
Once I was off the bike and running I immediately knew it was going to be rough, the air was still and i could tell the temperature was rising fast. There were some shaded spots on the course but generally it was exposed and with the temperature approaching 90 (while not hot as such, for the UK this is a solid 15-20 degrees above what I’m now ‘used’ to) I took a page from Boston and immediately started with dumping water on me at every station. I would also have a water/Gatorade and once in a while a gel to try and keep my energy up. I could feel the energy surge a bit after those stops but between the heat, and decreasing energy and legs just didn’t want to get going. I was only passed twice (but only after I started the 2nd lap so I honestly don’t know if they were really passes or someone coming off a bike fresher than I felt on lap 2/3). Otherwise I worked past people (despite feeling like ass) throughout the run. The last lap I tried to put a good face on but I knew I was 15-20 min outside where I wanted to finish so was very much just a get it done type mentality.

You always push through the line.

 

That moment when you are finally done.

Ultimately finished alone (thank god, no one to make a sprint to the finish with…) at 4:37. Not a bad time and certainly not one for the day or course, but unfortunately not close to where I had wanted to be when I signed up for this race.
Finished 10th in AG and 36th Overall. Time of 4:37

Obligatory finish shot. Not sure about that name though….

After the race I found some shade and hung out with a US pro, Brad Williams (who is now my coach) and we shot the breeze about the race and living in the UK. The day, in retrospect was amazing, a true hot summers day and the race was exceptionally well done. I was glad to have gotten the race in as I’ve heard they may have changed the venue/course moving forward. I’ve so far discovered that there are no ‘easy’ days or courses here in the UK, the times must truly be earned. I’m happy with the effort I put forth, the lessons I learned from the on the course and the time spent exploring the countryside with Carly.
Oh… speaking of which… Carly drove a stick, on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. It was a bit terrifying but she was a pro!!!

Cotswold Classic Bike Prep Video

Decided to take advantage of the lazy Sunday and make a little video of me putting my bike back together for next weekends race.

Enjoy!!!

 

Boston Marathon Race ‘Report’

In the late 70’s and early 80’s my Dad worked as a photographer for Runner magazine and covered the Boston Marathon, even grabbing a cover one year as Bill Rodgers broke the tape (same era as Roise Ruiz). When I started running in high school my dad would joke that I should run the marathon on the 25th anniversary of the occasion and he could get another cover (had the magazine still been in business). I was a fast enough runner in high school but never gave much thought to running a marathon, the distances I was running in high school all seemed far enough. I couldn’t imagine quadrupling (or more) that effort. However, that thought always lingered in the back of my mind.

 

A much faster Ro-d-gers

 

Fast-forward many, many, years. My wife and I live in Boston and in the aftermath of the 2013 bombing my wife wanted to give back to the community and assist those that had been directly impacted by the event. She joined the One Fund team and raising thousands of dollars and completing her first marathon. I spent a lot of that day riding the course and cheering her on as she made her way into Boston and down Boylston Street. While the bug to run had not bit me it had certainly grabbed her and shortly after the race began talking about which marathon would be her next.

 

As she got more involved in running I slowly became more involved in triathlons. The hobby grew from a couple races a season to six or seven over the summer of 2015. That summer was by far the busiest summer with me also undertaking my first 70.3 race at Timberman. My wife had decided to run Marine Corps and we had some friends who lived in DC so on a whim I decided to round out my season with the marathon. I hadn’t included the marathon while training that summer at all, so once my last triathlon was over I increased the mileage as much as reasonably possible and it was a ‘hope for the best’ type situation. I knew I wasn’t in ‘marathon’ shape but I also assumed that I most likely never would just train specifically for that type of race.

 

Ultimately, despite my wife and I starting the race drastically late and working our way through the entire crowd she PR’ed by nearly fifteen minutes and I ran a 2:54 to qualify for Boston. I had honestly never thought I’d run a marathon, much less qualify for the Boston…

 

Fast forward another year, we’ve now living in London. I had qualified for the 70.3 World Championships in Australia at Timberman and so we’re in Sydney on vacation after my race. The signup for Boston happens to be during the vacation so one night I have to stay up till midnight to make the East cost time slot to signup. It seemed a bit crazy person to be committing myself to the race but, I figured, it is logistically and easy trip with family there, will be good to get home and I might never have that chance again. After a couple days I received my confirmation, I was in!

 

So, ran the qualifying race in 2015, entered in 2016 and now running in 2017… that’s a long lead time for a race…

 

So lets get to the important bits…

 

Before the race I had a good chat with Tommy, my coach at Ignition Fitness. We talked at length about my race prep and my state of mind. I think I mainly terrified him that I was in total mental free fall regarding the race and probably had money on me dropping by mile 13. While I know I had done the work and can prepare technically for a race, my mental preparation for racing is really weak… Its weak in that I also don’t race for any typical sense of enjoyment. I race for the competition, that is what I find enjoyable and so a race like Boston, where I know I’m not going to be gunning for first is hard for me to wrap my head around. It’s a race that is just for me, the hardest kind. Regardless, I cannot thank Tommy enough for getting me ready to run, his plan, and willingness to modify around my crazy work and life schedule made this race a possibility.

 

The race:

 

Waking up at 5:15 was easy given the time change in my favor from London and race day anticipation. I had an English muffin with peanut butter and stashed another in my start area bag along with a few other snacks. The walk over to the Common was quiet with only few cars on the streets. The closer I got to downtown crossing the more other runners I saw on their way in as well. I made my way to the busses and quickly loaded. I ended up sitting next to a gentleman from Switzerland who currently lives in St. Louis. He had a lot more marathon experience than me and we chatted a bit about living abroad, and what brought us to Boston, which made the forty-five minute trip out to Hopkinton a bit easier. Once at the high school we went our separate ways and I carved out a little space under one of the tents. A fellow runner (who had obviously run Boston before) offered me a spot on his tarp, which I gladly accepted. It made the hour and a half that much better. I passed the time by staying hydrated, frequent bathroom visits and people watching under the tent. A mix of first time marathoners, seasoned veterans and everyone in between, each had their own routine, which, as someone who really doesn’t have a routine, is fun and educational to see how others psyche themselves up for a race like this.

 

Soon enough they started calling out for people to move to corrals. I made my way out, dropping off my second hand jacket and remainder of my uneaten food. I hung on to the water and made a last minute bathroom break just before getting to the corrals. Once there the reality of the whole thing started to settle in, I was on the course, could see people lining up, stretching, and warming up. It wasn’t just a bunch of people hanging out in a field any more. I jogged around for a few minutes, mainly to try and shed some nerves and then stretched in the common. For me, I stretch more because its what people do than I feel my body getting any real benefit… but it helps to fill the time.

 

Entered the corral and made my way to about the middle of the zone. I knew my number seeded me towards the front of the corral but not having a great idea of how it all started I didn’t want to get caught up in any fast start or sprint down the hill. I heard the cheer of the crowd as the elites were brought out to the starting line. The anthem was sung and flyover perfectly timed, this was happening.

 

Some words were said and then the gun went of…. Everyone took the step forward.. then two… then a bit of walking… then jogging…. And within thirty seconds I was over the line and heading to Boston. I knew Carly’s dad worked the starting area and had video of Carly starting from just past start. As the crowd dove down from Hopkington I picked him out of the crowd and yelled as the pack flooded by.

 

I had broken the race into three sections, mainly based off of geography but ultimately also aligned quite nicely with the race

 

Once started my main goal was to keep my cool and not wreck the race in the first few miles. While a couple of friends that had run before noted that the first few miles were an easy place to bank some time for tougher sections towards the end I knew that with the weather and my general lack of marathon experience I could easily go out to fast and pay a big price later. Keeping a reasonable pace wasn’t as easy as I otherwise imagined. On one hand I was stuck in a crowd of people, that, for the most part had qualified with times I hoped to better by about 5-10 minutes, on the other however all these people had just started Boston, so it was general chaos. So I found myself alternating from easily passing a group of runners to backing off and using the same groups to slow my pace down at times. It took nearly three to four miles before the pack really ‘thinned’ and I was able to concentrate more on running a race than trying to pick my way through a crowd.

 

Other than managing my pace my main goal was hydration. I really wanted to not have dehydration be a reason I didn’t feel I was successful and having managed my water intake pretty well over the previous two to three days didn’t want to just let it all go during the race. I started by taking Gatorade at every stop for the first four miles, I’d also, if manageable, grab a glass of water and dump over me to keep me cool. Even though it was only 10am I could feel myself getting warm quickly.

 

So when I had dinner with my dad and stepmother the day before we had outlined a rough idea of where they might go and see me on the course. The loose plan had been to watching me run through Framingham and then they’d jump on the train and head into the city to see me finish/after the race. Though this plan was made without any concept of what the actual race day conditions along the course but formed the first major marker for me in the race. From Hopkington in the entire course is lined with people and once you get into a town the crowds are four people deep. The experience is undeniably cool, kids sticking their hands out for high-fives the entire time, its impossible not quicken your pace as you high five a crowd of strangers. That said, as I cruised through Framingham and hadn’t seen/heard my family and I was a little bummed. While I rationalized there was no way could have ever picked them out of the crowd, I hoped they saw me and got a few pictures… I’d see them once I got to Boston. By the time had I fully put seeing them out of my mind I was seven to eight miles from the start and I was able to run my own race.

 

All of the sudden I pick ‘Taylor!!! Taylor!!!” out of the crowd noise to my right. I’d been running along the left side of the road and glance over to my right and see my step mom halfway out in the road and my dad furiously shooting away. I smile and do my best ‘‘I’m feeling good, but fuck this is hard and I have a long way to go’’ smile and cheer back.

 

 

I don’t really know whats yet to come… Photo credit to Dad.

It had been good to see them, it was a nice boost to the mental state of things when it had started to quiet down. Its easy to loose your spark in the middle of a race, where it’s a personal competition and you wont get that big check at the end of the day. You’re racing for something inside and it can be hard to keep your head in that ‘Lets do this’ mindset. So as silly as it was the cheer really did help. Shortly after I saw my parents I overheard two runners chatting about their goal time for the day, a both around 2:45. So I started chatting with them and we all ran together for a number of miles. One was an architect in Cambridge and knew of the Colby college project I was working on so we had something to pass the time for a couple miles. Being able to clock off a couple of solid miles at pace loosing myself a bit in conversation was good and again, saved me mentally. Keeping me from running alone with my thoughts.

 

However, over the course of a couple of water stops (so a couple of miles) I started to creep away from them. I cruised through the half marathon in about 1:22. Pretty much dead on for my 2:45 and still very much in the realm of a 2:40. I was pleased with how I was managing the race both with pacing and hydration. I may have actually even been over doing it a bit. As we rolled into the Newton hills my stomach started to give me a bit of a ‘hey hey’. I could tell that the Gatorade at every mile was starting to be a bit overkill digestively. I switched to water only for the remainder of the race and my stomach slowly got better.

 

Everyone always talks about heartbreak hill when they talk about Boston, but again, a couple of friends that had run before warned me that the earlier hills are actually the ones to watch out for. You’ve game planned for heartbreak, it’s the others you run through without consideration that will eventually come back to haunt you they warned. So when the hills started around 16/17 I was careful to pull back, ever so slightly, and keep the heart rate down. I still found myself passing people who had overcooked the first part of the race and had started to pay which was mentally encouraging. However, I had to be careful to not let myself go on the downhills. I didn’t want to destroy my knees slamming down hill after hill for a few cheap seconds. But I also knew that holding myself back would have the same effect on my muscles. So a delicate balance of easing up the hill, cresting strong, and then easing into a bit of a downhill push played out from mile 17 through to Boston College.

Cresting Heartbreak Hill.

BC was my last milestone. I felt confident that once I had made it to the college I’d finish the race. Yes, even though, knock on wood, I’ve never DNF’ed a race I still approach every race with that possibility from both a training and from a logistics standpoint (so far so good). So once I passed BC I knew I could finish, I might still blow up, but I knew I could get myself there. That said though this is where the race really became tough for me.

 

While the crowd only grew in size as you get closer and closer to Boylston you’re still 4-5 miles out and you’ve got a long way to run. There aren’t many ‘oh cool’, landmarks and I knew I wouldn’t see any family along this part. So if anything, this, three miles from the finish, is the doldrums of the Boston Marathon (for me).

 

I also became aware that my stretch goal of 2:40 wasn’t going to happen and my goal of 2:45 was also slipping from my grasp. Slowly the heat, inexperience and exhaustion were taking their toll. I could feel my form slipping, my head tilting to the side, my foot striking in the wrong place, stride becoming more and more condensed. I kept mentally plugging myself back in and trying to regroup, but it just becomes difficult time and time again. However, the upshot was that I was getting closer and closer. I eventually saw the Kenmore sign and I was instantly elated. I now felt I was in Boston proper and running on roads I’d run hundreds of times before. I slowly felt the energy reserves release into my legs and I started to pick up the pace. At this point I was still easily passing people who were wilting under the warmer temperatures, I while I was feeling it too I dug deep and pushed on. Through Kenmore with the crowd getting me going and turned down Comm Ave and through the underpass. The last hill I thought to myself and quickened my pace up the short hill and up onto the street.

Cruising through Kenmore. Photo credit to Molly.

By now I could taste it, I knew, somewhere, just in front of me the finish loomed. I spotted people taking the right onto Hereford street. I started to surge, I knew I was no further than two or three minutes from the finish line. I started to drive harder and took the hard right on to Herford and saw Boylston just ahead, pushing hard I tried to keep my turnover up and ignore my tired legs. Little did I know that right then I cruised by Carly and the rest of my family who had found a primo spot on Hereford. Huge cut-out heads and all they screamed (I found this all out later) as I pushed towards the finish… At this point all I was aware of was the general noise of the crowd and my desire to get across that finish line as quickly as possible.

Trying to maintain form, slight head tilt.

 

Taking the hard left onto Boylston I saw it, just a few hundred meters away, the finish loomed large. Boylston seemed strangely wide with only a few runners down its length. The crowds on either side shouted encouragement and felt strong I pushed hard with a solid effort in the final meters to cross the line.

It’s getting hot out there.

And then, just like that, it’s over, you suddenly become acutely aware of the throbbing knee, the right foot that must be one big blister and the general exhaustion. I walked on, towards the aid tents and volunteers who handed out the medals, water and copious ‘Congratulations’. I slowly made my way away from the start to the location Carly and I had picked out to meet near the Hancock Tower. I had my picture taken a few times and not till a few minutes later did I even realize I still had the tape over my nipples, it had worked like a charm! I found a small spot on the curb and laid down to wait for my family. I had no idea how long they’d be (or where they were) so I just zoned out and blankly stared at other runners meeting their families after the race. I had done it, the race that decades ago was nothing more than a joke finally materialized. In the end I ran a 2:48, a solid time that, for both my first Boston and second marathon I’m incredibly happy with. Could I run faster? Perhaps, but today, that was the time my body could muster and that was enough for me.

 

 

Pushing down Hereford. Photo credit to Carly.

 

I was happy and ready for some BBQ. A huge thanks to my entire family who showed up and supported me on Race day and of course a very special thanks to Carly who gets me through every race.

 

The Fam. Photo credit to Laura.

 

And the best cheerleader!

Short Video of me going down Hereford:

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