Every Second Counts – My Journey to Professional Triathlete

Every second counts. It sounds cliche. The kind of advice or quote that you hear and appreciate, but maybe can’t completely grasp unless you’ve been directly effected. This entire season has been a season of seconds. A season of coming so close, but not quite close enough. A year of determination, perseverance, highs, lows, getting knocked down, and standing back up and dusting myself off. Those of you who have followed me over the past year know that I set a high goal for myself to earn my professional license in 2014. When I made this commitment I knew that I had a long way to go. I knew there would be a lot of hard work and sacrifice to follow. Some understandably doubted. Why wouldn’t they? I started in this sport 4 years ago with a 5:55 half Ironman. When I made my goal to earn an elite license I had never finished higher than 7th in my age group at a major USAT sanctioned race. I finished last season 45th in my age group and 205th Overall at the 70.3 Age Group World Championships in Vegas. All respectable in their own right, but nothing incredible. But nobody knows me better than I know myself. I knew I had potential to make the necessary improvements to achieve this goal. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, it wouldn’t be handed to me, it wouldn’t happen overnight, and I would need to suffer for a long time day in and day out to make this a reality. Early mornings, late nights, meticulous planning, hour after hour on a saddle, miles upon miles in my legs, and most of all working on my weaknesses and building a stronger mental capacity. This past winter I made a plan and decided to surround myself with individuals and businesses who would make me a better athlete. People who had similar goals and lifestyles. People who understood the sacrifices I needed to make and stood by me the entire way with support.

It started with a connection I developed with Pat Gilles of Pat’s Gym in Madison, WI. Beyond gaining an invaluable cycling training partner who pushes me to new levels, I was given the opportunity to address my sport specific strength needs in a way that meshed with the high demands of triathlon training. Through the gym I was becoming a stronger more balanced athlete who was also learning how to tap into the mental realm of elite performance. You must train your brain just as much if not more than you train your body. But if you show up day after day and do the work without making excuses soon success becomes an expectation. Quitting isn’t an option. Quitting doesn’t exist. You grow from the inside – out. Having a strong grasp on your limits, and knowing how to step beyond them is invaluable when you race endurance events on a high level. I learned how to approach my physical edge, then take another step, just to make sure there is no where to stand. To make sure it was actually the edge. To be sure it wasn’t mental. I owe a large portion of my improvement and success this season to Pat Gilles and Pat’s Gym. 

At the end of the 2013 season I also made a connection with Trek Stores of Madison and was fortunate to become an ambassador. Having the best bikes, support, and equipment in the cycling world has given me an advantage that has aided in numerous top amateur bike splits in major Ironman 70.3 events and USAT sanctioned events over this season. Trek Madison has supplied knowledge and mechanical assistance in times of need and they are overall just an excellent business full of incredible people who took a chance on a local amateur with a dream. Their support has allowed me to grow into a stronger cyclist over this season. 

In May of this year I drove across the US to St. George, Utah in hopes of a top 3 amateur finish, my first attempt at a pro license. Although I had one of my better races of the season, I came up short by 45 seconds. At the time it is completely devastating. I had come so far and gotten so close only to lose it all in the last mile. Needless to say, the 24 hour drive home was difficult. I spent a lot of time in my own head digesting what this meant. Trying to see the silver lining. Telling myself that everything happens for a reason, regardless of whether or not I understood that reason at the time. During that trip I learned a lot about myself as an athlete and person. I learned I am the one who defines success and failure for myself. I learned that although I fell short of my ultimate goal I still needed to take pride in the success I had accomplished. I needed to enjoy the journey. During that trip I was able to turn the result of the race into fuel for my fire. Besides, I knew that regardless of whether or not I earned a pro license that day, I wasn’t ready to race at that level. 

Upon my return I had continued training hard and focusing on my next opportunity, which would be Racine 70.3 in July. In the meantime, I raced a lot of the local racing scene for fun and to support some of the athletes I coach. My training volume steadily grew, and I was getting really fit. I consistently logged 20-22hrs of training time per week, with 12-14hrs in the saddle. A change in my diet, thanks to assistance from the Gilles family, yielded a lean body which was not only lighter but began to recover faster. My consistent and purposeful healthy eating habits began to benefit my training on a great level. The lighter body frame was hugely beneficial to my w/kg and my threshold pace. I was beginning to peak at the right time and felt good about my chances, even though Racine is a course that doesn’t play into my strengths at all. I went into that race feeling pretty fresh and for the most part injury free. A seasons worst swim performance set me back about 6 minutes to the top amateurs out of the water. I fought back with the 2nd fastest bike split and a decent run performance to earn 1st in my age group, but ultimately still fell short at 5th overall amateur. 2:30 back from an elite license. 

I once again was devastated. I had a terrible swim at the worst time possible. A normal swim for me and it may have been a different story. I let myself be upset for a while. I asked why. I analyzed until my head exploded. I even got a bit angry. In the end I found myself in a pool getting some instruction. Taking tips from experienced swimmers, talking to current Pros about their racing approach, trying to figure out why I struggle so much in the open water. It all once again became fuel. 

Next up I raced Age Group Nationals in Milwaukee, strictly because it is in my backyard. I knew the likelihood of a top finish was small at the olympic distance due to my swim. I just wanted to go out and race as hard as I could the entire time. I wanted to ride the edge of blowing up and see where that put me. I came away with a 54:31 (2nd fastest) 40k bike split followed by a 34:20 10k run after a mediocre swim. 13th overall and some confidence going into my final pro license attempt of the season, Timberman 70.3 in New Hampshire. 

Timberman 70.3

My last elite license attempt for 2014. I entered this race late because of how things played out earlier in the year. I knew I had some good fitness but I also knew I was really ready for a break. My body was tired. I kept asking it to give me a little more each week and it was catching up to me. I went to Timberman with high hopes, but not completely sure how my residual fatigue would effect me. I knew that I would find out on the run. I packed up and settled in to a long 2 days of driving the 20 hours solo. This drive, although similar in duration, seemed way more difficult than the drive to St. George. I wouldn’t allow myself to think about the race too much in the days leading up. I didn’t want to over analyze the situation and create a self induced pressure to perform. Yeah, I knew it was likely the last chance in 2014 and I knew that I wasn’t in a great place before the start. These things scared me a bit, but I refused to dwell on them. I didn’t want to plant a seed of doubt in my head. I had to put to use all of my mental skills learned over the past year to trick myself into confidence. Before I knew it, it was race day. Time to seize the opportunity I had in front of me. 

I decided to approach the swim with more intensity than I have in the past. The main goal was to swim on the rivet and make sure I was swimming straight. I got out pretty well with my wave and felt good. Nothing too major to report here. I swam hard and although it wasn’t an amazing swim split I had taken 2.5 minutes off my Racine swim time. Onto the bike I knew I could really do some damage. I knew that the best approach for my strengths was to ride this course harder than I typically would approach a 70.3 bike. The course is rolling with some decent short climbs mixed in. Starting in the 3rd to last wave I had a lot of bike traffic to deal with early. I was able to avoid any major issues and just put my head down and focus on riding hard. Everything felt labored on the bike, but I was still able to produce my race target watts. The cooler temps allowed for a bit of wiggle room on my nutrition, which helped because I struggled to keep water down early. I ride a 54/39 and had mistakenly only brought an 11-23 cassette, so my climbing was a bit over geared. I did a lot more mashing than I like to during a triathlon, but that was my own error. I could tell I was riding really well based on previous year splits. Overall I felt that I had set myself up for the amateur win as I approached T2. My 2:13:55 bike split was good for the fastest amateur of the day and 3rd fastest including the professional field. After a typical T2 I head out to the run where I felt a solid 1:20-1:22 would be enough to get the job done. A quarter mile in I could really feel all of the fatigue from this year in my legs. It hurt. Bad. I had to promise myself in that moment that this was the last run for a while. I told myself just one more time and I would take a break. I needed to seize this opportunity right now. In moments like this you really need to dig deep. You have to make a conscious decision whether or not you are going to the well or if you are cashing it in. As I discussed before, quitting is not an option to me. And that doesn’t mean just finishing. Backing off, slowing down, settling, not riding that physical edge, that’s quitting. I didn’t drive all the way to the east coast to quit. I didn’t log 300 hours of saddle time to this point in 2014 to quit. I didn’t run track workouts, long runs, and struggle in the water to quit. Not now. So I did a Jens Voigt and told my legs to shut up. I told them they could rest later. I stayed in the moment and ran one step at a time. Each step I tried to make it hurt more. The run course was more difficult than I thought it would be. A couple hills mixed in required focus the whole way. Although it was labored, my pace wasn’t too bad. At the turn around I knew I was leading my age group by a decent margin, but had no idea where I was overall. I knew about what sort of finish time it would take based on past results. Mentally I had decided that I wouldn’t check my overall time until 5k to go. During the entire run I had a small rock in my left shoe under my pinky toe. At first I though maybe it was a blister. Then around mile 3 I could tell it was a rock because it moved. I thought to myself “just deal with the pain, you don’t have time to stop.” At mile 6 I thought “ok, stop, take it out, this hurts” but then quickly changed to “no, keep it, let it be there, maybe the pain from the rock is distracting your from the pain in your legs.” So I kept it. Finally around mile 9 enough was enough. I tried to lift the pace a bit more and the rock was really becoming painful. I stopped to take it out of my shoe. At 5k to go I looked at my watch and could see that I was in a pretty good spot. I knew that as long as I ran strong and didn’t blow up that I would likely be top 3. I dug really deep to keep going the last 5k. The hill at mile 11 was brutal. I almost cramped a few times so I was just focusing on keeping it together. When I hit the 12 mile marker I told myself that if I could run a sub 6 minute mile it would be enough. So I really forced the pace. I was able to run a 6:10 and I earned every second of it. As I rounded the corner to the finish line I could see the clock and realized if I ran hard I would be under 4:13 (because 4:12:59 is WAY better than 4:13:00) so I kicked it in to beat the unofficial clock. Official time 4:13:03.

Upon my finish the announcer had stated that the top amateur time to that point was 4:16 something. I was ecstatic because I knew I had beaten that. As I began to walk away from the finish area I had a flood of emotions come over me. I thought about my first race. I thought about all the work, all the hours, the sacrifices. I thought about St. George and Racine. The failures and the successes. I felt like I had finally accomplished my goal. It was a lot to handle and I almost lost it. I quickly stopped myself because I couldn’t let it happen until it was official. There were still waves behind me and I hadn’t seen any results yet. When I finally was able to see results online I could see I was listed 2nd behind Chris Thomas who had a great race. Then as the later waves came through I was bumped down to 3rd by 30 seconds. Then. It. Happened. My name dropped to 4th. It couldn’t be, I thought. Not again. How? As I clicked into the name above me I noticed that we had recorded the same finish time. I had tied for 3rd. Tied! I was listed 4th amateur so I didn’t quite know what this meant. Would I still qualify? I was unsure and I wasn’t going to get any answers on Sunday. So I packed up and hit the road for home with a 1st AG, tie for 3rd amateur, and 10th overall finish. Yet I was disappointed. 1 second. I couldn’t shake it. 1 second can come from anywhere in a race this long. I thought about getting stuck behind slow people in T1. I thought about the bike traffic. I thought about the ROCK IN MY SHOE! I was frustrated with myself because I knew I didn’t race like every second counts. I was afraid I blew it. Honestly at that point, in my car with 20 hours left to drive home, I was done with triathlon for a while. I needed a mental and physical break before the race even started. Now it was worse. 

There was optimism though. A tie for 3rd is still third, right? It wasn’t cut and dry, but I had a chance. During the drive home Monday I was able to call USAT to get clarification. I was told by 2 separate USAT membership officials that they would honor the 3rd place tie and it would qualify me for my elite license. Instantly my mood changed from frustration to relief and excitement. My outlook changed from thinking of all the ways I lost 1 second to all the ways I gained 1 second. It’s funny how our success is truly defined by our perspective and perception. If I hadn’t ran hard to try and beat the unofficial clock I am not tied for 3rd, I am 4th. One second. It can come from anywhere. Every second counts. 

Friday I received official confirmation from USAT and I now hold an elite license. It’s surreal to me. It’s a realization of a dream that started over 4 years ago. I am extremely proud. I’m really allowing myself to step back and soak it in. For a lot of us in triathlon this is a challenge to do. We are always striving for the next PR, the next race, to go faster, to go longer. For right now I am enjoying this accomplishment. But I also have an understanding that this is not the end of the road. This is simply a new chapter. I have a lot of improving to do to be competitive. I still have high goals, but they are new goals. I’m not settling. I’m not getting comfortable or content. In fact, I am more motivated now than I have ever been. I still feel I have something to prove. Just like I went from 5:55 for a 70.3 to multiple top 5 amateur finishes I will continue to progress in triathlon and build my career to succeed. I define my success. And I have set the bar high. But I know as well as anyone, one step at a time. It’s a process.

In closing of this post I want to say something that probably will come across as soft and sentimental, but I don’t care. Never give up on a dream. If you want it bad enough you can have it. Nothing worth having comes easy. Nothing. You have to fight for it. Day in and day out. There will always be doubters, haters, people who may even laugh. You have to shake them off and know that the people in your life who truly matter will support you. They will treat your goals and dreams as their own. I’ve been told to my face that I will never become a professional triathlete. It hurt pretty bad. In fact, at the time I asked myself if they were right. But I didn’t quit. I found a way to always turn the negativity, the doubts, and all my failures into fuel. When I’m on a trainer in the winter staring at a wall for hours on end destroying myself, I keep going because of them. To prove them wrong. To prove myself right. To make my believers and supporters proud. I’m proof that it can be done. If you want it, take it. Don’t wait for it to happen because it won’t. Every second counts.

Thank you all for following along this journey so far. Here’s to the next chapter! 

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Catching Up On Race Reports

I have been MIA from this blog since mid June. It has been a busy last few months between training, racing, coaching, building a business, and life. I’m happy to report that all of those things have been going pretty well. Finding a balance between all of these things can be pretty tricky. It takes practice and a conscious awareness of your time management. I am definitely not the best at it, but everyday I strive to do a little better. I focus on what I can control and forget about the things I can not. That seems to work pretty well.

Anyways, I wanted to do some short recaps of my racing and training since Elkhart Lake in June. A lot has happened. Some milestones were reached. A few goals accomplished, a couple goals missed, and a continued motivation and spark created.

Rev 3 Wisconsin Dells 70.3 – 2nd Overall – 4:32:10

I went into this race coming off of the biggest 3 week training block of my life. In the 10 days leading up to race day I had about 500 hard bike miles in my legs, on top of my normal swim and run load. I did this on purpose for the bigger picture of where I want to be this season. In fact, I registered for this race 2 days prior because I thought it was a good chance at making a little money thanks to Rev3’s amateur prize purse. I also knew that although physically it would be a struggle the day would really become a mental challenge. It was a mental test. How far can I push myself? Would I fold? Would I let the excuses dictate my effort? If I passed I could draw upon that for the rest of the season. If I fail I would have to answer to my inner demons and Mr. Pat Gilles. The course is brutal. BRUTAL. The last 5k of the run will test every fiber of your will.

rev3bike2014 rev3finish2014

The quick recap- I had an ok swim. A bit difficult to stay straight on the way back in the swim. I can out of the water about 5 minutes or so off the front guys. From that point I hit the bike and knew I would need to fight for it all day. My IF came out low on the day at .78, but I still rode the 2nd fastest split, so I was happy. I was able to catch the 12 or so guys in front of me and come off the bike with a 6 min gap to 3rd. Ryan Giuliano was well ahead after a solid bike. He was also running really well. You never know what will happen in a 70.3 so I kept the foot on the gas on the run. At the halfway I could see Ryan extended the lead and looked comfortable. It was his race to lose, and he did not. He had a very impressive day on that course for an easy win. Meanwhile I had the hardest last 5k of my life. It was my physical ability vs my mental strength. I was right on the edge of how far I could push and every time I stepped over things got blurry. I probably ran over 7:00/mile for the last 3. It was all I had. With half of a mile to go I looked over my shoulder an thought I saw someone catching me. This scared me into action and I ignored all warning signs and pushed as hard as I could to the finish. As soon as I crossed my brain and body turned off. I went down. Hard. That day I found a new level that I can take my body. I broke through more mental barriers and pushed my edge out a bit farther. 2nd place got me a little money, but a lot of confidence.

 

Pardeeville Sprint Triathlon – 1st Overall

Sprint tri. All out the whole time. I was able to win by 4 minutes and felt pretty good about my fitness heading into Racine. It was a very well run event by RDE. A fun and fast course.

pardeevillerun pardeevilleaward

 

Ironman Racine 70.3 – 4:14:42 – 5th Overall Amateur – 1st Age Group

Racine was my “A” race of the mid year. I had a goal to be in the top 3 amateurs overall. This was my 5th time racing Racine and I had never raced well here. This year I knew would be different because my fitness and mental edge was at an all time high. The competition looked pretty strong, especially in the 35-39 AG with Stubleski, Burke, Zucco, Hammond, Iott, etc. These are some pretty big names with a lot of big accomplishments under their belt during their racing career.

Recap- I had a terrible swim. It was 3-4mins slower than I have been swimming all season. I felt good in the water. I was with a large group and thought we were moving faster than 34:00. Upon review of my data it seems that I swam an extra 250 meters or so, which would account for the extra 4 minutes. I had some gradual drift between each buoy that began to add up. I exited the water having given the main contenders a 5-6 minute head start. Onto the bike I knew right away it would be a good day. I really forced myself to be conservative. I wanted to unleash on the bike to make up time from my swim, but I also knew that this race is typically won on the run. So I held back and worked on staying efficient and aero. Racine is fairly flat, but technical with a lot of 90 degree turns. I executed my plan perfectly on the day and came away with the 2nd fastest amateur bike split at 2:12, 25.35mph. I hit the run knowing that despite my swim I was setup with a chance at top 3 if I could run sub 1:20. My plan for the first 10k was to be very controlled. I felt really good and could tell the conservative bike was a great plan. I cruised through the first 7 miles at 6:00/mile avg. At the short steep hill from the beach things started to hurt. After the course flattened back out the pain stayed, the effort became labored, and the pace began to drop. My 6:00 miles gradually became 6:15, then 6:30. Some GI issues required a porta stop with 6k to go. From there to the finish I gave every ounce of effort I had. I took what my body would give me and constantly tried to push it a little farther. The last 2k was one of those moments you hardly remember when it’s all over. I was yelling at myself, slapping myself, screaming the occasion F bomb which I felt really bad about. My body wanted to quit. My mind wanted to go harder. I could not get myself to suffer the same way I could at Rev3, but I definitely left it all out there. With the slower last 10k I ran a 1:23 half. I needed that 1:20. Maybe it was nutritional, maybe not. I hate the nutrition excuse because most athletes use it as a denial for the real issue, which is typically fitness or execution. But in this case I had a sloshy GI the entire run. I won’t go into detail, but I was not absorbing fluids and nutrients the way I should. It showed. As soon as I crossed the line I knew my race wasn’t enough for top 3. No one had told me. I didn’t even know my time. I just knew. You can’t have bad swims, make mistakes, or fade on the run and expect to beat these fast 35-39 guys. I ended up a little over 2 mins back of top 3. All 4 amateurs ahead of me were 35-39. Although I was disappointed to fall short of my goal, I still won my age group and the guys in front of me are really really fast and experienced. It took a day or 2 but I was able to see the silver lining. Regardless of whether or not I run a bit faster and finish top 3 my swim is where the time is lost. 34 minutes is not going to cut it. Not as an amateur and definitely not in the pro field. I’m still waiting for that moment of clarity in the water. The moment it all clicks.

Racineswim1 racineswim2 racinerun2014

 

Wisconsin State Road Race Championships Cat 3 – 2nd Overall

This was my first road race. This year Pat and I joined with a local strong cycling team, the Great Dane Velo Club. They have a lot of strong and experienced riders who are also cool guys who are willing to share their knowledge and help us learn the world of cycling. The Cat 3 race was 45 miles of rolling terrain with a short but steep climb at the end of every 6.5 mile loop. After talking with the team director, John Kunert, I knew that my plan would be to go off the front at some point and put down a TT effort to try and win. That strategy would play to my strengths. In the cat 3 race we had a few strong guys who were willing to do their part in helping our teammate Dave Blodgett who was the current State Omnium leader secure that win. They also knew that I would likely try to hold a break, and they were not going to help the group organize and try and bring me back. It takes a lot of discipline and self sacrifice to race for another guy. Tyler Giese, Mike Swart, and Blodgett all played a huge role in my success in this race. After 2 laps Mike put a move on at the front during a crosswind section that started to break up the group. Then Dave and I really worked hard at the front to reduce the field down to 10-12 guys. 4 of them were GDVC. Then Dave told the rest of the field to start working. A few guys came to the front and some stayed back, probably trying to recover from the previous move. After a couple pulls through I was sitting 2nd wheel for a bit behind a Brazen Dropouts rider. When I pulled through I looked back and saw that the we had a gap. All 3 GDVC guys were sitting at the front, slowing down the chase, and letting the gap open. The break was set. The chips were down. It was WAY earlier than I wanted to go, but I couldn’t waste the sacrifice the team made for me. So I looked at the guy with me and asked “can you climb?” he said yes, so I said, “well, I guess we are doing this!” We really pushed the effort for the next 2 laps. I could tell that the gap to the main chase was getting pretty big but I didn’t want to settle because I didn’t know how long it would be before they organized and tried to chase. The guy I was working with was struggling quite a bit, but I felt that I needed to keep him around because of the strong crosswinds. This means I did most of the work. And I was ok with that. At the time I thought it would pay off. All I asked was for a handful of 30s pulls from him so I could settle the HR and go again. There were many times over the last 4 laps that I thought he was going to blow up, but I didn’t make a move. In hindsight, on the final lap I should’ve probably hugged the edge of the road on the crosswind section where he couldn’t find the draft and maybe lost him. For some reason I thought he would be toast for the final climb so I didn’t do that. I made am attempt at a move with 3 miles to go but couldn’t hold it. That was when I felt the fatigue from all the work set in. I knew I was in trouble for the final climb. And I was. My legs have NEVER felt like that on the bike before. There were bricks in my shoes. He rode away and I couldn’t even respond. My focus was on simply getting up the hill. I crossed in 2nd. Meanwhile, the GDVC guys in the chase did exactly what was needed and set up Blodgett for a final hill attack for 4th place, securing him the Omnium State title. Congrats to him, and thanks to Mike and Tyler. Pat raced the 4/5 and thanks to a smart race and some help from GDVC guys John Ramkey, Pete Lanzel, and Mark Elsdon he took the win. Elsdon finished 2nd. It was a great result for the team. And I learned a lot. That’s bike racing.

staterrbike Stateroad

 

USAT Age Group Nationals – Olympic – 13th Overall – 4th Age Group 

I went in to AGNats with no pressure or expectations. The olympic distance is easily not my strength. The swim % is too high for me to really do well. There isn’t enough time on the bike or run to make up the 4 minutes I lose in the 1500m swim. I didn’t taper or really specifically prepare for this race. I did it simply because it was in Milwaukee and it is was a pretty awesome event. USAT does a good job. It was also a chance to see how hard I could race at this distance. I went in with the mindset to approach it like a sprint. Swim all out. Bike all out. Run as fast as I could. Volume is not my limiter and my experience is getting high enough that I can race at a high intensity for a long time. I wanted to see if I could still run fast off of a really hard bike effort.

Recap- the swim was a battle. I haven’t been knocked around that much in a swim ever. A couple hits to the head and a gulp of water in the early part of the race cause a little bit of anxiety, but I quickly recovered and focused on swimming on the rivet, which is my weakness. I have trouble suffering in the water. I can’t get there for very long. I’m really working on swimming uncomfortably and I am gradually improving. Out of the water in 23:30 matches my best Olympic swim PR. I hit the bike and it was complete focus. Time to suffer. I never backed off. I regularly forced bigger gears to make sure the pressure was on. I biked like I didn’t have to run and I was moving pretty well. I moved up from 68th on my AG to 5th. As I was approaching the dismount my water bottle popped out and rolled under the barriers. I had to get off my bike, lean it against the barrier and run to get it to avoid an abandoning equipment penalty. This probably cost me 20 seconds or so before I ran across the timing mat. My 40k bike split recorded at 54:31, 27.3mph, 2nd fastest of the day overall (my garmin has 54:10 stopping it before the mishap). 3 seconds slower than the fastest. Hard to swallow that one with my bottle issue. Either way, it was a solid ride for me and I had put myself back into the AG mix. Onto the run I didn’t know what to expect. The legs actually felt really good. I ran controlled to the first turn and could see a few AG guys within reach. Around mile 3 I was passed by a guy in my AG who was running the fastest 10k of the day at 32:55. I kept him close but he was running strong. With 2 miles to go I committed to running the hardest 2 miles I have ever run. I really pushed the effort and ran down 2 more AG guys before the finish. This gave me a 34:24 10k run, 5:32/mile and the 9th overall fastest run of the day. I was able to crawl into 4th place in my AG and 13th place overall in what a lot of people say is the most competitive amateur olympic distance race in the country. I was extremely happy to go 1:55:48 at this distance and have my name near the top with some fantastic olympic distance triathletes. My bike/run combo was only bested by the National Champion Steven Mantell who had a great performance. And once again reminding me that it all boils down to me improving my swim.

agnatspodium

That’s the recap. Woah. A lot there.

Next up I am heading to New Hampshire for the Timberman 70.3 this Sunday. Once again going for a top 3 amateur spot. I’m looking forward to this race. The venue sounds incredible and the course really plays into my strengths.

Thanks to my sponsors- Pats Gym, Trek Stores of Madison and Honey Stinger.

Thanks for reading!

PB

Local Race Reports – Lake Mills and Elkhart Lake

I took a small break after St George to recoup after a heavy winter of training and two 70.3’s before mid-May. I knew my body would thank me later in the year for breaking things up a bit. This seemed like a perfect time to make the long internally debated switch from 172.5 crank arms to 165 on my Trek Speed Concept. I have a bit of a hip inflexibility and the open position that the 165’s offer helps my run. It also allows me to engage power a bit earlier in my stroke, engage my glutes, and I’m also more aerodynamic. Win win win. The only hesitation was doing it at this point of the season. I considered waiting until next year, but ultimately decided to take my early season break to switch and deal with the muscular endurance changes during the local racing scene and be comfortable by my next “A” race, Racine 70.3. I had to send my SRM to the service center to make the change. After a miscommunication that delayed service I finally received my crank about 4 days before Lake Mills. Then I made an error while adjusting my position and broke my stem on the SC. This meant hours and hours of work for the Trek mechanics to get my bike ready for Lake Mills. Thankfully they were able to get it ready by 7pm the night before the race. On the flip side, this meant I would be riding a new set up for the race. I was a bit nervous about this, but ultimately it was my decision to deal with the adaptation of the change… and although it’s a big race locally, it is just a local race. Long term this was a good decision.

LAKE MILLS

There is always a solid field at Lake Mills and this year was no exception. Local Pros Blake Becker and Thomas Gerlach came to race, as well as some top local amateurs. Take this as confidence and not cockiness, but I felt that after the hard work and improvements I’ve made this year that I could bike and run with the pros at this distance. I knew I’d be playing catch up from the swim. I made a decision to go with a swim skin instead of a wetsuit knowing I wouldn’t lose too much time and hoping to gain an advantage in t1. The swim went fine for me. A sleeveless wetsuit (more about this later) would have been better than the swim skin, but I didn’t have one. I got out about 1 min back from the front guys and it was bike time. I know at this distance I can basically bike near max effort and still run a fast 5k. So I put my head down and went as hard as I could. The new position and pedal stroke was noticeable, but I don’t think it played a major role during this 14 mile bike. After 4 miles I was in 3rd and still about 1 min back of Blake and Gerlach up the road. I could see them the whole time but just could not bridge the gap. Exiting t2 I got a 45 second split to the leaders. I was a bit over ambitious and tried to close the gap way too soon. I put in a 5:10 first mile and could see them getting closer, probably about 20-25 seconds back. At that point Blake put in a move and gapped Gerlach by 20 seconds or so. From then on I was in damage control from going out too hot. The second mile was 5:38 and the gap stayed at 20 to Gerlach and 45 to Blake. Another 5:40 and nothing changed all the way to the finish. Kudos to Gerlach on running some fast miles coming off of an injury and congrats to Blake on doing what it took to win. It’s safe to say that most of us out there weren’t rested or tapered for this race and use it as a practice run or training day for some bigger events, but it’s still competitive and there is definitely pride in winning what people refer to as the Wisconsin World Championships. The crowd support was great and Race Day Events LLC did a great job.

Lake Mills Bike


Lake mills 2014

ELKHART LAKE

I entered this last minute because I felt good and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to race another local competitive field. A handful of pros- Gerlach, Rhyner, Bohach, Nielsen, Burke, Wichert and more local fast guys showed up to compete for some prize money on a challenging and honest course. I liked the opportunity to get more competitive open water swimming under my belt. Also, the bike course and run course suited my strengths. Last year after finishing 4th in the elite event I was given a penalty for abandoning equipment and dropped to 7th. So I wanted a bit of revenge as well. Ultimately the goal of the day was to swim hard in the new sleeveless wetsuit and try for the bike prime ($100). I knew that as usual I’d need a solid bike to even have a chance on the run with these experience guys. So this is the mindset I took to the start line. The sleeveless suit was awesome. I was able to focus on other aspects of the swim rather than my catch and shoulder fatigue. I swam very hard to the turn buoy and stayed on some feet the entire way. At the turn back into shore I got a bit off with the sun in my line of sight, but kept it fairly straight. However I lost the feet I was following and eventually was going solo. Toward the end I could see Andrew Porn on my left and knew that I was swimming good compared to previous years. He usually beats me pretty easily out of the water. This ended up being a 3:30 PR for 1500 meters. I am now a sleeveless believer. After a short race with AP to transition, which I lost, I was onto the bike and mentally ready to hammer all 45k of rolling terrain. Unfortunately my legs had different ideas. Thats what I get for 10hrs of cycling in-between Lake Mills and Elkhart, but bigger picture I made that decision as I’m sure many guys out there were on training legs. The effort was labored. I could hold my 70.3 watts on the day and that was about it. After the first 5 miles it was solo on the bike again. I knew what was up the road. The front group of 5, then a 3min gap to me, then a 4min gap behind me. I stayed consistent with a nice 1.0 VI during the ride. At around mile 20 I finally felt good about my legs and thought I could have a solid run on the day. Somewhere on the ride I saw Jake Rhyner sitting up spinning easy back to t2. He must’ve had some issues. Also, I heard Wichert was hit by a car entering t2. Unfortunate circumstances and I hope he’s ok. My bike wasn’t anything amazing, but still the 3rd fastest of the day and an improvement over last year. So definitely happy with the gains there. This put me into 5th starting the run. Elkhart Lake has a pretty challenging run course. I wanted to stay even and controlled until I could assess my position on the out and back section. On the way out I could see Nielsen in first with Burke and Bohach close behind. A little farther back from them was Gerlach. I ran consistent 5:55 pace all the way until the long climb at mile 4.5. After the brutal climb I picked up the pace for the downhill. At the final aid station I could see Gerlach was getting closer. I put in a huge effort to try and close the gap. I was about 20 seconds or so back when he looked over his shoulder and realized I was coming. After that he picked up the pace and the gap stayed at 20sec. I closed with a 5:20 mile for the 2nd fastest run of the day. Nielson overheated at the front of the race and had to DNF. Bohach had a stellar run and took the win. Burke’s fastest bike of the day with a nice run helped him take 2nd. Gerlach held me off for 3rd, and I took 4th for the second year in a row. I went 6 minutes faster than last year with faster splits in all 3 disciplines. Best yet I took home a small paycheck. The hard work continues to pay off here at Pat’s Gym.

Elkhart run

It’s known in our sport that it can be difficult to be happy with your current performance. We always tend to want more and never appreciate how far we have come. Although I do take time to reflect on current achievements I will say that the drive to want more is what motivates me to keep working hard. This is what works for me. It may not work for you. I don’t dwell for too long on success. I focus on what I can do better and THAT makes me better. That doesn’t mean I’m not happy. Far from it. I am beyond happy and appreciative of what I have and what I get to do each day. It is NOT easy and simply having time to train does not ensure you can or will train as hard and smart as necessary to improve consistently. I take this opportunity very seriously and work hard for myself and my support crew. That is what gets me through big training blocks, tough sessions, long days, and 20 minute ice baths. Find something that motivates you and turn it into fuel for the fire. Don’t worry about how others believe you should handle your life, training, or anything for that matter.

The focus continues to be on Racine 70.3 and another attempt at my Pro license. I may do a local race before then but I am currently undecided. Training has ramped up the past 4 weeks and I’m feeling pretty good. My swim continues to improve and I feel confident it will be ready by race day.

Coming next week I’m going to write a blog about the changes I’ve made in training, recovery, nutrition, and my mental game that has helped me elevate my racing to an improved level. In the meantime, if you are looking for some focused training session I suggest you check out the Pat’s Gym Racing Team and our weekly training schedule. Follow us on twitter @PatsGymRacing for detailed session info or visit http://www.patsgym.com

PB

St. George Race Report

Where do I begin…?

This race was on my radar for a couple of months as a possibility. I was unsure how I would feel coming off of New Orleans just 3 weeks prior so I was hesitant to commit. During the final week of my NOLA prep I got pretty sick. I ignored the possibility that this may effect my race because the last thing I wanted to do was plant a seed of doubt. As soon as you plant that seed it’s game over. I did the best I could with the situation that I was in and still feel like overall NOLA went well for the 2014 opener. Once I recovered and looked back at the data and compare it to what I felt, it was obvious to me it wasn’t a representation of my current fitness. So with that in mind and feeling healthy again I started discussing the logistics of racing St. George. Being late in the game I knew I would need to drive to make it affordable. Also, I wanted to get out there with some time to begin to acclimate to the weather and the 3000ft of elevation. Beyond that, this being the US Pro Championships with a $75,000 prize purse meant it was a USAT Elite Qualifying race, meaning top 3 Amateurs can apply for their professional license.  I knew I was ready to race well. It was just a matter of whether or not I wanted to make the trip. Then Paula said “you’ve got to play to win” and that pretty much sealed the deal in my mind. So Monday morning I got in the car and started the 24hr drive across the US.

“Fail to prepare and you prepare to fail”

I spent Tuesday through Friday in St. George scouting every inch of the course. Wow, it is amazingly beautiful out there. No shortage of great views. By race day I knew exactly how to approach each climb and each descent. Over 4 days I rode every inch of the bike and run course. I drove the course at least once per day. Let me tell you, this course is no joke. Nearly 4000ft of elevation gain on the bike with another 1000ft on the run. All at around 3000ft above sea level with the peak at 4000ft. The winds in southwest Utah can also be brutal, as I learned on a couple of my rides. We are talking 30mph steady winds with even higher gusts. The race forecast looked calm though, with the only concern being a high of 95 in the late afternoon. With my 7:12 start I wasn’t too concerned about heat because it wouldn’t hit 80 until about 12 or so. And the dry heat is not as bad as our Wisconsin humidity. Overall I was happy that this would be a true physical and mental test.

Race Day

I brought a sleeveless wetsuit along to see if maybe my pool pace vs open water pace discrepancy had anything to do with shoulder fatigue. I ultimately made the decision to forgo the sleeveless due to the 60 degree water temp. In the pool I’m swimming 27min right now for a 2k but I am still getting out around 31-32min in an OW 1.2 mile. Big difference. Right now it continues to be a glaring weakness compared to my bike and run. It’s going to take more work on my part, and I’m prepared to continue to keep chipping away at it. There isn’t a whole lot to report here from the swim. I felt good. I felt fast. I sighted pretty well for the most part. As I approached the swim exit I would’ve bet I was sub 30. But once again I was not. 31:30 which is a race PR so I can’t complain too much.

Bike

Onto the bike and it was business as usual. Down in the aero and start taking advantage of my strengths. Today the power was coming much easier than New Orleans and I was able to hold my target watts without issue. I passed a ton of people on the first climb out of Sand Hollow and by mile 17 I was seeing the first Pro Females on the bike. This was nice because they started 12mins ahead and would know about how many age groupers were ahead. At mile 20 I was told there were about 6 ahead and none of them were in my age group. They were supposedly all 18-24, which had a 6min head start. Although this info is good to know it doesn’t totally change the bike plan. You never know how things are shaping up in the age groups behind you, so there aren’t much tactics involved. It’s basically you vs the clock. There is no legal draft (at least for me as a weak swimmer). There is no sit back and then surge. It is 85% FTP all day. Aero all day. I have never been in a situation where I had thought there would be any benefit to riding the legal distance back from a cyclist to save watts. In the AG race it just doesn’t work that way. The only way it would is if we were to mass start. At the Pro level it is all part of the game. They don’t care if they win in 3:45 or in 4:00. They just care to be the first across the line. More tactics. More cat and mouse. On a calm Utah day like Saturday those groups can definitely benefit your bike split. Now I’m not saying thats why the pros bike 2:07-2:12 and I biked 2:22. I’m just saying it’s a different race. It’s not apples to apples. And furthermore, in order to make that pack on the bike you need to be able to swim 22-24min. Oh and they ran 1:10 half marathons… So yeah, work to do.

You won’t see this in the competitive AG race (outside of a World Championship). *Yes, I know this is early in the race. 

Screen Shot 2014-05-04 at 12.21.16 AM

Ok rant over. So the bike went very well. I stayed within my abilities and actually put out a very even and consistent ride. My 20min best power (in this ride) came on the climb up snow canyon near the end of the course with 4.2w/kg to the peak. My total ride VI was 1.0 – perfect. On a hilly course like this that is actually pretty challenging. I was reading a slowtwitch article comparing 2013 power files of Trevor Wurtele and TJ Tollakson and they had 1.04 and 1.05 for VI and the article made mention of that being good for a course like this. So basically I didn’t burn any unnecessary matches. Biking within your abilities and without power spikes is crucial to running well on this course. I was set up exactly where I wanted to be with a 2:22 bike and only 3-4 age groupers on the road ahead of me, of which I was told all were in an earlier wave.

Run

The run starts with a long climb out of transition. It’s essentially 4 miles of climbing with a short downhill mixed in at 2.5 miles or so. I was feeling good and started to run down a few more female Pros. Other than that the run was solo with only Pro traffic returning from the out and back. For the first time in a half ironman I was running well. I focused on the task at hand and put all my mental skills I learned from Pat’s Gym to work. It’s amazing what you can do with your body when you take your negative conscious out of the equation. Near the turnaround I started to get an idea of who and how far other age groupers were ahead of me. Based on what I could tell they were all in an earlier wave and not far enough ahead to be truly ahead of me. As I approached mile 8 or so I started to reel in a runner. His calf looked like it said 24 or 29. As I got closer I could see it was a 29. He was in my age group. I had to make a decision at that point to either play the tactical game and time my attack correctly or to just keep going. The decision wasn’t very difficult because I couldn’t afford to slow down for fear of the age groupers behind me. Right at the base of the last steep climb before the long descent to the finish I made a commitment to passing him with enough pace to convince him to forget about me and race for 2nd. I turned myself inside out for about 10 minutes and when I reached the top I glanced back and could not see him. From there on I kept pushing the pace down the hill knowing that a top AG spot was within reach. I felt strong and was on pace for a time that would have won the amateur race in 2013. I clicked off mile 11 at 6:11 and was running with an overall average of 6:15. Life was good. At around 11.5 there was a tree that cast a small shadow onto the road. As I ran under it my eyes went dark as if to adjust. As I passed through and back into the sunlight my eyes never readjusted. Things went tingly. I felt my legs turn to jello. I was in trouble. My effort to hold pace became a question of whether or not I could continue to stay upright. I had blown up. I ran right on the edge for as long as I could. I was approaching the final turn toward the finish when a lady rang a bell and said “you’re almost there keep going.” I was holding myself together fairly well. Then I heard that same lady say “you’re almost there keep going.” I thought “what? Who’s almost there? Me? You just said that.” So I looked over my shoulder and wouldn’t you know it. There he was. The guy I had passed at mile 9. And with that look over my shoulder he now could smell blood. I did all I could to sprint the final 3 blocks. As he came past me my heart sank. He went about 10 meters in front and I put in one last surge to try and bring him back. It wasn’t happening. I wanted it so bad. The mind was there. The body was not. 1:23 run. 2nd age group by 17 seconds. He closed from mile 11.5 to the finish in 9:44. I closed in 10:47. You do the math. To take it another level further, he swam 24:53. I swam 31:35. I wonder what I need to improve..?.. He showed a hell of a big fight to come from behind to make the re-pass. I have huge respect for that and congratulate him on the win. A lot of people in his situation would start thinking about 2nd. He fought the entire way and never lost hope. He put himself in the position to take advantage of my blow up. Kudos to him.

Overall, after a couple later waves came through, I finished 5th amateur. 45 seconds back from 3rd place which would’ve given me the option to apply for a Pro license (again lost that in the last 1.5 miles…. or the swim, however you look at it). Am I ready today to race pro? Not today. My swim puts me in a situation where it would basically be a solo adventure.  Am I disappointed? I had 24 hours of driving to deal with those feelings. It is all fuel for the fire now. I’ve always said that if I am good enough to compete I won’t need chance. I’ll have my opportunities. Paula gave me unbelievable support and most of all believes in me and my goals.  Pat and Kitty reminded me to be patient. Some of my athletes and other friends have also been extremely supportive. Triathlon is funny. In the same race you can succeed and fail. It’s all a mindset. I swam a PR, biked a top AG split, and had a 70.3 run PR by 6 minutes. I have a lot of great things to take away from this race.

It was cool to chat with the 3rd place Overall Amateur finisher after the race. He is a nice guy who has been close many times to a pro license. I’m happy for him. It was also cool to sit and chat with Travis from Wattie and his buddy Sidney. Hearing about other peoples race can put things in perspective a bit. After a 26min swim, Sidney got a flat at mile 5. I can’t even imagine driving 24hrs to flat in a race!

So… it’s recovery week. Then back to the wood pile. Keep choppin. Keep stackin. I’ll light another match soon.

PB

NOLA 70.3 – 2014

I kicked off the 2014 season down in New Orleans for the 3rd consecutive year. It’s a fairly inexpensive race to travel for and it’s a decent race overall. This year I knew that I had made some big fitness gains in all 3 sports and would have a shot at the AG win and possibly the amateur win. I also realistically knew that coming from a Wisconsin winter, driving 16hrs, and shaking off 6 months of racing cobwebs with a 70.3 would add another dimension to the race. But I made this decision. I knew what I signed up for. I was prepared for whatever was thrown my way.

Swim- I have made some great pool improvements this winter and was pretty stoked to test that in a race. Although more than 10min (day before race) of open water swimming in 6 months would have been nice. Regardless of that I swam hard. For the first time in a 70.3 I was able to find a rhythm and swim on the rivet instead of settling for what was comfortable. NOLA has a tricky course which isn’t very well marked, so I didn’t swim the shortest distance, but I didn’t get significantly off course. Not much else to report here. The swim was mostly solo with the TT start and traffic wasn’t all too bad considering we were the 12th AG to start. I got out in 32min. I know I can swim better than that, but given the circumstances I wasn’t all that upset. I had some 37min swims last year. Regardless of what I can do in the pool I need to be able to do that in open water. The race results don’t care about your training times or your perceived idea of what your fitness level should yield. That’s why I’m getting right back into the pool and continuing with my swim training so I can prove it on race day.

Bike- after a long T1 I got to my bike and I was ready to ride. My cycling has come a long way since last season, with my 70.3 race watts (85% FTP) being higher than my peak FTP last season. Combine that with my Trek Speed Concept 9.9 from Trek Stores of Madison, I knew it would be a fast ride for me. The original forecast had essentially a head-cross wind out and a mostly tail wind ride back. It turned out to be a bit of the opposite. Because I’m very dialed in to my watt output and speed correlation it was pretty obvious the way back wouldn’t be as fast as the way out. So I adjusted my plan accordingly and decided to reduce my IF to .8 on the way out. I wanted to be able to put more power into the wind, and I wanted to be sure I didn’t over bike the first half. No amount of race specific intervals can simulate the physiological effects of racing. Again, you can’t submit your best training sessions to the race director for time bonuses. Prove it. I got to the turn with 26.5mph average and my watts were exactly where I wanted them. Even better, my NP and Av Power were identical. So my VI was perfect. No unnecessary matches being burnt. Although this isn’t very difficult on a course like NOLA if you are smart. As I flipped around I stayed low and aero and worked my way to the north section which I knew would be a nice strong tailwind break before the hardest section back into the wind. During that headwind section I upped my watts closer to .9 IF and was able to keep my speed decent considering. I started to get a better idea of what kind of split I was riding and how that compares to previous years bike splits at NOLA and what the Pro guys were riding in the past. I knew that if I got off the bike at 2:45 (total race time) I would be setup for a great race. Because I was on pace for that and I wanted to make sure the legs were ready to run I continued with my lower watt output after the headwind section. I got back to t2 with a 2:14 bike split. IF – .81, VI 1.0. Ideally I would ride .85 IF, but my conservative approach would hopefully pay off on the run. As I rolled through t2 I saw there weren’t any bikes on our AG rack. I also hadn’t seen any 25-29 near me on any of the turnarounds. This was motivating.

Run- “that bike split is only impressive if I can back it up with a solid run” -my thoughts as I dismounted. Because of the cold up north I haven’t run sockless in a while. So I decided to go socks for this run. Slower t2 but probably worth it. I had to force myself to hold back the first mile and came through in 6:14. It’s amazing how easy that first mile feels and I’ve made that mistake too many times. The second mile is up an overpass and I had to work to run a 6:40. Worst of all was the heat. Most people might not of thought it was that hot or the sun wasn’t intense, but to pasty white boy me, it was. I have the brutal sunburn to prove it (yes I wore sunscreen). This race is a bit like Racine where you run along a lakeshore path with no cover, only it’s much more time along the lake. Anyways, long story short, my pace dropped. I fought it the entire time. I tried running faster, I tried faster cadence, I tried focusing on my arm swing, body lean, breathing, etc. I tried everything in my arsenal but just could not run better than 7:00/mile. One thing is for sure, I wasn’t going to back off and call it a day. I could’ve easily settled with my PR swim and bike and chalked the run up to my list of variables against me. But that’s not what I signed up for and it’s not what I believe in. As Pat tells me- “you bit it, now you chew it.” Quitting is not an option for me. Backing off is not an option for me. Comfortable is not an option for me. So I made it hurt. I gave all I had and ignored that my pace was 1min/mile slower and HR 10bpm higher than it should be and committed to one stride at a time. I wanted to make the chasers work to catch me. I still held the AG lead through mile 11. And then it happened. For the first time all day I heard someone catching me. As the footsteps got closer I just kept hoping it was a relay runner. He got right on my heels and then just sat there. I knew what was happening. He was in my AG and he knew I was leading. It was going to come down to the end. As he sat on me to recharge I wrapped my head around the fact that the last mile of this race was going to be the most painful thing I’ve ever done. My own personal FYF. As we ran up to the last mile marker I reached for cola at the aid station and he came around me. I went with him… for about 10 seconds. His pace was too much to match. If he had waited to the finish stretch I maybe had a shot, but a ~5:20 mile was not in my legs that day. I still ran as hard as I could. With the TT start you never know if someone behind you is technically in front because of start time. In the end I ran slower than my slowest 13.1 last year and far off where I should. Fortunately for me I know what my run ability is and I have time to dial it in. It’s only April. I’m looking forward to the race I have my running legs. Had I run well I would’ve been mixing it up with some Pros.

Overall I went 2nd age group, 6th amateur and 25th overall. 13th fastest bike split including pros (2nd fastest amateur). A PR Swim, Bike, and 70.3. I’d call it a success. I passed on my Age Group World Championship slot. I have other plans right now.

Thanks to Pat’s Gym for helping me take my game to the next level. I’ve never been stronger physically, but more importantly I’ve never been so confident and dialed mentally.

Thanks to Trek Stores of Madison. The new Speed Concept is freaky fast and the crew at East store had me set up with the best rig in transition. Get one.

Quick 2014 Update

Whoa! Time flies. I haven’t written a blog since the 70.3 World Championships last September. It has been a busy 5 months or so with a LOT of major changes in my life. Each of them more exciting then the last. With my first race of 2014 in a little over 6 weeks I feel now is a good time to catch up on the blog during this recovery week. But so many things have changed, I hardly know where to begin.

At the end of the 2013 season I decided to make a coaching change. I had spent 3 years under the direction of Blake Becker and he basically taught me the sport. My decision to leave was nothing personal or business related (we will get to this later), rather just a strong feeling that I wanted to do things a little more independently for a while. I am forever grateful for all Blake has done for me and respect his coaching talent. It wasn’t easy to end the coaching relationship, but in the end both Blake and I thought it was the best decision for me at this time. I respect that even though he was losing an athlete he understood what I needed and supported my decision.

I also had to make the tough decision to not renew my connection with the Wattie Ink Elite Team. At the end of last year I decided that I wanted to pursue support from businesses and products I use and 100% believe in or I am connected to. This led me to the start of my relationship with Trek Stores of Madison and Pat’s Gym. Now, I am not saying that the Wattie Ink Team didn’t offer great connections with sponsors, because they very much do, they are the best in the business. But for me here in Madison I felt a stronger connection to these local businesses that I visit and see daily. The new partnerships require a kit change and that doesn’t mesh with Wattie Ink very well, so I made the decision to leave. There are some awesome people on the team and Sean Watkins, Heather Jackson, Dusty Nabor and everyone has always treated me well. Their support for 2013 was amazing. They will be fine without me.

Ok, moving on to the next change. I began training with Pat Gilles of Pat’s Gym in the summer of last year. He is a strong biker, among other things. We became great friends and soon I was in the gym regularly to work on my sport specific weaknesses. Pat has an amazing way of showing you your weaknesses and motivating you to improve upon them. He doesn’t prescribe a plan and walk away, he is right there, in the moment, with you. I began to see some large gains pretty fast and I just overall felt stronger. During the offseason I expressed to Pat my passion to begin personal coaching at a higher level and also lead cycling classes. The support that I received from Pat was irreplaceable. We have always worked well together, and now he was giving me the opportunity to head the Pat’s Gym Triathlon team. I began coaching and training athletes and classes in December and have loved every second of it. The team continues to grow and we have a group of solid triathletes and cyclists right now. It is great to watch them grow and I look forward to their successes this racing season.

Personally, my training is going very well. I am writing my own SBR structure, but I get a lot of help along the way. Pat monitors my nutrition, strength, and mental game (which if you know Pat you know he is a pro at mental toughness) and we also do all of our cycling together. I would call him a mentor, and a great friend. It’s been extremely beneficial to have someone there for every key session, every high and low. Adam Olson ( sub 10 IMWI, Kona Q, 1:12 Half Mara) and I get together for our key run session whenever possible. I have a large group of supporters who help me achieve my triathlon goals, including Travis Schmaltz, Jake Jones, Kitty Gilles, Paula, and more. I have said to Pat, “show me someone who has as much support as I do and can’t get motivated for a training session and I will show you a coward.”

Fitness levels are high, motivation is high, and most importantly my head game is on a whole new level this year. I can’t wait to put it all together on race day at NOLA 70.3 in April. As I stated at the end of last year, my goal is to earn an elite license and dance with the big boys this year. I’m definitely doing the work and I definitely have the support. Thanks for reading.

PB

Ironman 70.3 World Championships

The World Championship 70.3 race was my A race of 2013. I spent last September through this April training hard and staying focused to come out and clinch a slot early. Once I grabbed my spot at NOLA 70.3 all of my focus for 2013 then shifted to September 8th and the WC race. I trained hard, made huge sacrifices, raced on tired legs and made some huge gains all season in preparation for this race. I knew on race morning that I was as ready as I could be this year and all I had to do was not back down when the race got tough.

Before I hop into the race report I want to take a minute to thank some people who have had heavy influence on my triathlon adventure from the beginning. First of all is my wife, Paula. She is always there for me, whether she’s supporting at the races, forcing me to work on my swim, making me dinner after long workouts and even giving me advice on how I can better focus my time to become a better triathlete. She has made sacrifices just like I have in order for me to get to the World Championship race. She understands my passion for the sport, which is difficult for a lot of people to do, especially when racing at the amateur level. She knows my goals in my career, the sport and life and she works with me so that they can become a reality. Without getting too sappy I’ll stop here by saying sometimes I ask myself where I would be without Paula, and the answer put simply is- not here, not racing triathlon, not entering a BSN program in the spring, and may more nots. So to my #1 fan and supporter, thank you, I love you.

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2nd on my list who deserves a large thank you is my coach Blake Becker. This is year number 3 under Blake’s coaching and I have come a long way since day 1. This seems to be a trend with most of his athletes. For those of you who don’t know, in 2010 I did my first half ironman in 5:55. After working with Blake since 2011 I have made steady improvement bringing down my 70.3 PR to 4:26, qualified for Vegas World Champs and had some local race wins and top finishes. Every single goal that Blake and I have set out to obtain we have either achieved or have made great strides toward obtaining. As a coach Blake is ALWAYS there for his athletes and for that I am thankful. Like a lot of coach/athlete relationships here have been stretches where I haven’t provided him with enough feedback or data to maximize his coaching with me, yet he still manages to keep me improving and hungry for more. I feel that with Blake as my coach I have the best chance of getting to where I want to be going forward, so we will meet soon to layout the plan for 2014. Blake, thanks for all you do for me.

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A couple quick shout outs to those who have helped me improve as an athlete and person over the past year. Paul Eicher- for the swim help and just being a great resource and positive person to be around. Jackie Arendt- I really respect you as person, thanks for offering some great perspective on racing and mentality in triathlon (I really needed it early in the season). Pat Gilles- I’m so thankful we have become friends and training partners this year. You push me to a new level. Randy Youngs- before you were bit by the crossfit bug ;). Brandon Nguyen- always a listening ear when I just need to talk triathlon. Too many to write about, so here is a quick list- Lindsey Heim, Ben Cagle, Summer Ohlendorf, Dan Oryall, Austin Kazda, Zeus Arreguin, Travis Schmaltz, all of Trek Store Madison, Andrew Porn, all of my Wattie Ink teammates with a special shout out to Dusty Nabor, Karin Lager and Sean Watkins- thanks for all you do. All of the BBMCer’s, friends and supportive family. There are too many others to name that motivate me in the sport so I am going to stop there.

Ok, now the race.

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I woke up early and saw that it was raining. I was pretty excited about this because I have had some great races this year in more difficult weather conditions. My fastest 70.3 of the year happened in the rain and wind at High Cliff. We drove to the race start, I prepped the bike and then I began the 2 hour wait before my wave start. Paula found an awesome hiding spot in the warmth and away from the rain. I was able to warm up in the halls of the building. We waited there until it was time to line up. The morning went very smoothly. I literally walked down to the swim start and it was time to get in.

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Swim-

I started left of the group hoping to avoid getting beat up too bad. The gun went off and immediately I realized that avoiding contact wasn’t going to be possible with all these aggressive swimmers. This is a World Championship. Everyone is rested and everyone is fast. I wasn’t able to find any good feet to swim on after the initial 400 meters or so and from that point on it was a solo swim for me. I swam pretty well to the turn around buoys and could see that I wasn’t too far back from the main group. I am a slower swimmer so minimizing the damage the lead guys put into me is the goal. On the back stretch I had some sighting trouble and maybe a bit of under rotation in my stroke. This caused me to start drifting left multiple times. I had to make some drastic corrections 3-4 times during this stretch. This definitely added some distance, but I still felt like I was moving pretty well. Once back on track I was able to remain focused on my turnover and finish the swim strong. I came out in 36min, which for me is pretty good on a non wetsuit swim that people are saying was a bit long. I knew I’d hit the bike 6 mins down from the main contenders.

T1- Long and muddy. Grabbed my bike, jogged up the long hill behind slower athletes from other waves who seemed to be out for a leisurely stroll, and mounted at the line.

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Bike –

There is a long climb to start the bike. I had decided the day prior that I would really ride this conservatively in anticipation of a very challenging and hot bike course ahead. So I was in the little ring and spinning at my ride target watts of 260. Usually I would push the hills to 300 area, but I wanted to be smart early on. The biggest mistake of the day for me was on the bike. The rain and cloud cover provided some nice cooler temps. While many of the other athletes adjusted their approach on the bike for the new favorable temperature conditions, I did not. I rode too conservatively for the day. Had it been 95 degrees and sunny I think I had a great plan, but it wasn’t. Regardless of that mistake I still rode well and was easily hitting my target watts through the first 20 miles before my Garmin 800 usb port took too much water and malfunctioned. From that point on I was riding by feel, which isn’t new for me. My Garmin seems to malfunction pretty often. The WC bike course is very challenging with over 2500ft elevation gain and only 1500ft elevation loss (more climbing than descending). Although the climbing can break up the group riding there was still a lot of it going on. It was extremely frustrating to see groups of 20+ fly by riding tighter than a peleton in the TdF. Beyond the obvious cheating there were many smaller groups working together beyond the rules out there. Many 18-24 year olds who started in the wave behind mine were flying past pulling each other around the course. It was hard for me to believe that at the World Championships the only officials I saw were riding the opposite direction of us. I had to tell myself to forget about them and ride my own race. I felt good on the bike. The legs were there and my head was in the game. I passed a lot of people, which happens when you start second to last wave, but I was also passing guys in my AG. With about 10 miles to go the sun came out and temps were rising. Since my garmin was dead I was relying on my wrist watch for data. I could see that I was on target for a sub 2:30 bike split, which in past Vegas WC races is an excellent split for a late wave start (only ~10 M25-29 biked sub 2:30 in 2012). So hitting the dismount line of the bike I figured that I was in a pretty good spot in my age group, with the leader most likely still 7-8mins ahead. What I didn’t know was that the conditions made a 2:29 bike split mediocre and I was a good 20mins off the lead. This is a great example of the disadvantages of being a poor swimmer. I had no idea what was going on at the front of the AG race. Note- the bike course was admittedly long at 56.6 miles. The extra .6 miles was necessary for a safe turnaround point on the course. The good news about biking conservative was FRESH LEGS. I felt great dismounting the bike.

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T2-

Great volunteers who basically did everything but tie my shoes for me. This was super organized and easy.

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Run-

So here I am, thinking I’m at most 10 mins back of the top guys, my legs are fresh and the temps had just started to rise. I came out of transition to start the 3 loop run course and merged with 2nd and 3rd lap traffic. I immediately saw Mark Harms, a super stud triathlete from Madison (5th OA, 1st AG at AGNats, just one of his multiple honors). I decided that I would run with him as motivation to push hard and find a solid rhythm to start the race. We ran side by side for about 2.5 miles or so, with the first 2 miles sub 6min per mile. This was all down hill so I knew it would be fast, but when I checked my watch for the first time at the 2 mile marker and saw 11:50 I knew that I did not want to start that hot. I knew I needed to back off to try and salvage the run. Mark was on his last lap and pushing hard to make up time on 2nd in his AG. After 2.5 miles I let him go and settled into a more realistic pace for the uphill. Mark turned around and yelled for me to keep going, trying to motivate me to run with him. It was so tempting to keep going with Mark, but I knew it wouldn’t end well for me if I did. The run is basically 3 loops of 2 miles up and 2 miles down. The downs were awesome. I felt as if I was floating and running very strong. The uphills were a grind and the heat really started to get to me. I barely remember anything about lap number 2 other than seeing all of the Wattie spectators and racers out there encouraging everyone. Paula was once again all over the place cheering and snapping pictures. It was nice to see her 5-6 times on the run. Starting the last lap I could tell I was fading without really realizing it. I looked at my watch and calculated that I would be running close to sub 1:30, which again based on previous Vegas races would be a solid run split (only ~7 sub 1:30 runs in 2012). The last uphill stretch on the course was were I had to really force the effort and dig deep. I had to remind myself of all the hard work I put in to get here. I thought about Paula and all her support throughout the years. I thought about recent news of a sick friend who is battling for his life and how lucky I am to be able to do what I was doing. I thought about how lucky I was to be 2 miles away from finishing the Ironman 70.3 World Championships, and how some people dream of this opportunity. I thought of all of my friends racing IMWI. I thought of everyone who believes in me and were tracking me throughout the day. So I reached down, dug deep and pushed my body and mind to a new level. If you look at my splits on paper you can say I didn’t speed up, in fact maybe I even slowed a bit relative to the rest of the run, but let me assure you that was ALL I had at the moment. I left it all on the run. 1:31:46.

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Finish-

After the finish I needed to go to the med tent for dehydration and cramping. I got an IV and was all fixed up. I went and found Paula and immediately checked the online results. I was listed as a DNF. This was confusing so I went down and talked with timing. It turns out that bib #2095 lost his chip and they replaced it after the swim. While doing so they mistakenly wrote bib #2075 on the replacement form. Therefore there were 2 of us with the same chip on which caused timing mat confusion and triggered a DNF. This was eventually sorted out, but made for some concerned messages from friends and family tracking my race. Overall I finished in 4:42, 45th AG and well off the front of the race with the AG winner going 4:13 and about 15mins from a top 10. But my success in this race is not measured by comparing my time to others, it’s measured by how hard I raced, how much improvement I’ve made and how I dealt with all the challenges the day presented to me as best as I could. If I do make a comparison based on my finish I can say this- When stacked up against some of the best triathletes in the world I finished exactly where my fitness currently puts me, right in the middle. And I think that’s something to be proud of.

As far as the 2013 season goes it was a huge success. I am another year closer to my goals and had a great time doing it. My experience racing for the Wattie Ink Team Elite has been amazing. I have been able to work with and represent an awesome group of sponsors as well as meet and race with some very talented teammates. Special thanks to all of them. Also congrats to Heather Jackson on her 2nd place overall finish! From here on out I plan to do some CX bike racing for fun and maybe a few local run races before switching the focus to 2014.

I’m going to be a bit more open with my goals for 2014 and beyond and say that it is my goal to improve enough to be at the pointy end of my AG in major races. From there I’d like to continue my triathlon journey by obtaining a Pro license if and when I am in a position to be competitive at that level. I don’t just want to be “pro” to say I’m pro. I want to earn it. I want to be good enough to race at that level. I want to deserve it. I realize I have a long way to go, but I am dedicated and ready to put my head down and get there. This may happen 2-3-4+ years down the road, or maybe never, but it is what motivates me to improve. One step at a time though. Right now it’s time to recover.

Here are some more pics from the race and Dusty Nabor’s pre race Wattie Party – courtesy of Paula.

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PB