Thursday, February 20, 2014

2014 Goals and Race Schedule

Getting ready for 2014!

2014 Rookie Pro Season Goals

#1 Win an Ironman race
#1 Go sub-9 hours at an Ironman race

There's no typo there, these goals are equally important to me. Whenever I have discussed goal setting with athletes I always push for having at least two types of goals: a time goal and a performance goal. Having placed 4th with a 9:22 at Beach to Battleship last fall these goals are certainly ambitious, but not unattainable. Last year my overall focus was not long-course racing, this year it will be.  I will have either one or two Iron-distance races on my schedule (see below).  If I go sub-9 at an Ironman and finish 20th I will be perfectly content.  Likewise, if I go to a race with nasty conditions and can pull off an overall win with a mid- to low 9 hour, then I also would be ecstatic. Both of these goals have been on my lifetime bucket list.  The sub-9 goal only became more realistic last fall.  The easy thing to do here to notch a win would be to just cherry-pick one of the really small iron distance races that don't offer any prize money, but that seems rather unsportsmanlike as a professional.  So I am looking at races that offer at least a grand to the winner which will ensure decent competition.  How might I pull this off in 2014?  Read on.

Tentative 2014 Race Schedule

18-May Memphis in May 5150
31-May Tri Shark Triathlon
14-Jun Rockford Tri
13-Jul Decatur Tri
20-Jul Racine 70.3
8/1-8/3 WIBA Evotri Training Weekend
24-Aug Michigan Titanium 1/2 or Full
25-Oct Beach2Battleship Full

That's my schedule as it now stands.  The amount of time and effort it took to arrive at this sequence of races is appalling.  First, I needed to compare the list of races I could possibly afford to travel to against our family calendar. Then I needed to make sure that the sequence of races would build me up over the course of the season to peak for my goal races in late summer and fall. I've been a huge supporter of the Rev3 races and all of their midwest venues.  Unfortunately for me they pulled the pro field out of the Dells race and Cedar Point hasn't had a pro field in a few years.  Rev3 Branson was a stellar venue, but it is now gone completely.

I really, really, wanted to race the new Challenge Atlantic City full in midsummer, but had conflicts with that one. As a pro, I have the option of paying $800 for a yearly pass that would allow me to race as many WTC events as I wanted, but a good part of the motivation for going pro was to reduce the financial burden racing puts on our family.  I love the tough competition of WTC events, but it is highly unlikely that I would bring in any prize money doing their events.  This season, I am targeting a number of independent events that are very-well run, have decent prize money and small pro fields. Hitting the WTC circuit may be my 2015 strategy.....

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Everything you need to know to create your own customized annual training plan!

Last week I led a workshop that taught participants how to create their own custom, periodized, annual triathlon training plan (ATP) using the tried and true Sweet method! There are many solid, free, training plans on the web, but they all share a few shortcomings.  #1 Almost all of them assume equal ability in all 3 sports when in reality this is rarely the case.  #2 They don't take into account your personal conflicts (family, job, etc).  #3 They are static. When you understand the underlying structure of an ATP, then you can then easily make adjustments for missed workouts, injuries, missed races, etc.

The steps outlined below are the same ones that I have used to structure my own training and to create custom training plans for other athletes. The whole thing is certainly an over-simplified version of what an experienced, knowledgeable coach would create, but beyond this being the free D.I.Y. method, it can also yield a training plan that makes better use of your time and yields better results than just picking a random plan off the web.

You can create your plan with a blank calendar and pencil and then transfer to something like Google Calendar or Training Peaks or use this Excel Spreadsheet.

If you want these directions in an easier to print format, use this Word document.

1. Always start with clearly defined goals.  These should include:
  • 3-5 year long-term goals
  • Yearly goals (3 or 4 specific goals for this year)
  • Monthly goals (these goals help you to reach yearly goals)
  • Weekly goals (do these later on)
2. Put all known family commitments, work travel, etc. onto your ATP. Decide if these will be no-training times, or maybe just a run focus (because you don’t have your bike or pool access for example).

3. Identify your A/B and some C priority events for the year.
  • “A” races: Generally you should have 2-3 “A” races per season.  If your focus is sprint/Olympic maybe 4. Your season is built around “A” priority races.  You do a full taper for these and take time off afterwards.
  • “B” races: These are stepping stones to your “A” races.  No more than 1-2 per month. You do a short taper (2-4 days) for these races and a short recovery (2-3 days). 
  • “C” races.  These are just part of your weekly training load.  Tuesday night time trials are an example for me.  You do not schedule a taper or extra recovery for “C” races. Do not expect to perform at your best for these events. It is not critical to have all your “C” events planned out for the year.
4.Build in taper and recovery time around your “A” races
  • Taper: 3 weeks IM, 2 weeks 1/2 IM or Oly, 10 days for a sprint. 
  • Recovery: 2 weeks IM, 10 days ½ IM, week for Oly/Sprint
5. Create defined periods for the entire season.  If you train pretty much year round you should have 2 complete training cycles, plus a couple months of off-season training. If you follow the guidelines below a full cycle takes a minimum of 20 weeks and a maximum of 40 weeks. When structuring your training plan start with your “A” races and work backwards. Here are simplified guidelines for traditional endurance periodization:
  • Pre-Season / Off-Season (4-12 weeks long)
  • Either complete rest or significantly lower volume
  • Low intensity-workouts
  • Often includes strength training and cross-training activities
  • No racing
  • Base (8-12 weeks)
  • Build into higher volume during this period
  • Primarily low-intensity workouts
  • OK to have a few “B” or “C” races in this period
  • Build (6-8 weeks)
  • Fairly high volume (can be less than base)
  • This period must include some high intensity / interval-type of workouts 2-4 times per week
  • Some of your “B” and “C” events should be in this period
  • Peak (3-4 weeks)
  • Somewhat less overall volume than Base/Build
  • Workouts during this period must mimic goal race pace/intensity.
  • A “B” or “C” race during the first half of the Peak period  is ok.  Be careful racing any later than that as it could negatively affect your “A” race.
  • Taper/Race (1-3) weeks
  • If you followed the step #4 above this period should already be on your training plan.  Tapering involves first reducing volume then reducing intensity prior to an important race
6. Create discrete training blocks within each period: I recommend 3 weeks focused, hard training then one step-back week at 50% volume.

7. Add-in some blocks of complete rest / no training.
  • These rest blocks should be 5-10 days in length.
  • Aim for one roughly every 3 months. 
  • Good times for rest blocks are right after an “A” or “B” event, during family vacations or work travel, or instead of one of the step-back weeks discussed above.
8. Add-in some sport-specific blocks to address weaknesses.  These should be a minimum of 1 week long and can be as long as 2-3 months if done in the pre-season period.

PRESTO!  That’s it!  You now have a custom, periodized annual training plan.  Now you just need to know how to structure a week and add in specific, period-appropriate workouts.  You can use this basic template for planning your weekly workouts in a given period.
Designing a period-appropriate week
  • Begin by reviewing total available time for that week.
  • Next look at what training period the week falls in. For example, the majority of workouts in the base period should be longer and low-intensity.  During your peak period, workouts will mimic race intensity (and sometimes duration).
  • One day of complete rest is a usually a good rule of thumb to follow.
  • Weekends are key for most triathletes. This is usually the best time to get a long ride in.
  • Long runs are also essential, but I recommend doing them every other week.  I also recommend mid-week long runs. Even for IM most long runs should stay at, or under, 2 hours.
  • Doubles (two workouts a day) are great if you can fit them in.
  • Try to space out key workouts. If you have 3 key workouts for the week every other day is a great pattern (part of the reason why I recommend a mid-week long run) 
  • Be sure to clearly identify those key workouts.  There should be 2-4 per week.  During the base period these should be your long workouts.  During build/peak they may be your shorter interval days.

Resources for filling in the specific workouts:

Websites Workouts for all disciplines   Swim workouts by ability

Swim Workouts for Triathletes by Gale Bernhardt and Eric Hansen
Workouts in a binder for swimmers, triathletes and coaches by Gale Bernhardt and Eric Hansen
One-Hour Workouts: 50 Swim, Bike, and Run Workouts for Busy Athletes by Amy White and Scott Molina
Run Workouts for Runners and Triathletes by Bobby McGee
For Swimmers 365 Main Sets by Andrew Starykowicz
Time Crunched Cyclist by Chris Carmichael

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Pro Debut: Beach 2 Battleship Ironman

4th Overall

Validation.  More than anything this race was about validating my decision to go pro.  Validating according to my own personal standards and validating to the larger triathlon community.  Those that have trained with me and traveled to events with me know that I am very low-key, particularly before a big event.  I've done this sport a long time and I don't waste any energy getting nervous or stressed before a race. Pre-race stress and race-day adrenaline are the enemies of the long course triathlete. Over the the course of my competitive career I've set ambitious goals, but have managed to mostly avoid pressure to perform.  I like it this way. I put in the work and just let race day play out as it will.  By taking the pro card I did put some pressure on myself. When race organizers believe in me enough to extend complimentary entries I take that seriously.  When families are willing to host me for a weekend because they believe in my abilities and want to see me race I take that as positive pressure to perform my best.  I don't really want or need pressure to perform well, but in this case it worked out in my favor!

Let me give you the nickle tour through the last two seasons to bring everyone up to speed on how I ended up at the start line of B2B as a professional.  In 2012 I had two goals.  #1 Race well at the ITU Off-Road World Champs in the spring (I took 21st overall) and #2 win an ironman.  I fell a bit short when I took 2nd overall at the inaugural Michigan Titanium ironman. For 2013 I wanted to give my best effort at the Best of the U.S. Amateur race in the spring and then try to get my pro card at Rev3 Dells.  Goal #1 went fine, although it established that I'm never going to a great short course racer.  Goal #2 encountered a road bump when I broke my chain during Rev3 Dells.  I reassessed and switched over to 1/2 IM training for Rev3 Branson one month after Dells.  My short course training transferred well to the 1/2 distance. I finished 2nd overall amateur at Rev3 Branson. I immediately took my pro card and decided that since I was racing well I should do one more race in 2013.  Why not an ironman?!  This decision may have been a bit rash since I only had about one more month of training to get somewhat ready for an IM.  I buckled down and put in a few good long rides and long runs.  Still my count for the whole year was only 5 rides over 3 hours and 3 runs over 1.5 hours.  I intentionally almost never run longer than 2 hours in training, so I was pretty confident in my run, but I knew I was really light on bike volume.

I've really enjoyed racing non-WTC events in the last few years.  To the best of my knowledge B2B is the largest independent iron distance race in the U.S.  It's also the only independent race that I know of which fills to capacity.  B2B is held in and around Wilmington, NC.  It boasts one of the fastest iron distance race courses in North America.  It also features cool temperatures which was a huge draw for me, since more often than not, I have been roasted in my other ironman races.

I flew out on Thursday and met up with my Hub Endurance-coordinated homestay family in Wilmington.  The Hayse family were great hosts for the weekend.  They have two kids who are roughly the same ages as mine but with the genders reversed.  So fun to see the different dynamics with an older girl and younger boy.

Race day weather was colder than usual for Wilmington.  Race start temps were around 37 degrees and highs were mid-60s.  The swim is point to point, so I had to pick up some Dollar Store throw-away clothes to take to the swim start.  Even then athletes were huddled around 2 heaters until right before the start.  Rather than getting chilled by warming up I just skipped it.  I started right near the front and got out fast to avoid the big crowds (there was not a separate professional wave).  I always shortchange my swim training, so I just had to be content with a decent pace that I knew I could hold.  I did a better job than usual of always being on someone's feet.  The lead pack got away from me, but that was probably to be expected.  Depending on the tides sometimes the B2B swim is incredibly fast (low 40s for top swimmers). This year was supposed to be slack tide for most of the race.  Prior to the event, I had secured a new wetsuit sponsorship with Xterra Wetsuits.  Xterra hooked me up with their top-of-the-line Vendetta full sleeve and sleeveless suits.  I am huge fan of sleeveless, but because of the cold morning temps I had the full sleeve on.  Water temp was around 70 so I would have preferred the sleeveless in the water, but was happy to have the sleeves beforehand. The Vendetta is the most buoyant and flexible wetsuit I have been in.  The wetsuit plus saltwater plus some incoming tide led me to my best-ever IM swim of 55:52.  I would guess I got about a 3-4 minute push from the incoming tide during the second half of the swim.

Thanks for the extra swim speed, Xterra!

It was a long, cold quarter mile run to the T2 changing tent.  I had spent a lot of time considering how to dress for a bike ride that would start out around 40 degrees and finish around 60.  To try and keep my feet relatively warm I had used thin neoprene swim socks.  To help my T1 time I just kept those on since they would also help keep my toes warm.  I had toe booties on my shoes and I put those chemical heaters underneath those.  I put a single tight-fitting long sleeve on which was difficult when wet and cold.  I had put more heaters in the back pockets of that base layer which was quite nice on my lower back for the bike ride.  I also put on a headband and throwaway gloves.  Because of the long run and extra gear T2 took 4:35.  One of the few other pros in the race was my good friend and former Augustana XC and Track teammate, Jeff Paul.  Traditionally, the swim is the only leg where I had any hope of putting time into JP.  When I reached my bike, I saw that he was already out of T1.  He put in the swim training, so it was all earned through hard work.

40 degree bike start!

The B2B bike course is quite fast on paper.  They call it "totally flat" but that is a bit of a misnomer.  My Powertap Joule had around 2000 ft of climbing.  There certainly aren't any climbs, but lots of false flats.  My selection of gear seemed about right.  Early on I passed some racers who didn't have any warm gear on and they looked miserable. Even with the neoprene socks, toe booties and warmers, my toes were pretty cold for the first 1.5 hours.  My goal was to be around 5 hours for this ride, which would be a personal PR.  My last long training ride went quite well.  I was targeting 210-220 watts which was ambitious, but doable.  For the first 2 hours I was above my goal power range.  RPE should always trump gadget feedback, but I am wondering the cold temps were making me ride harder than I should have just to avoid freezing.  In any case, the winds were relatively low and I knew I should be able to turn in a decent ride.  I picked up a bunch of places in the first 15 miles and then I saw no one until around mile 85.  The meant lots of solo hours where I just kept an eye on the power meter and kept the calories coming in.  I've got my IM nutrition strategy pretty dialed in.  I put one bottle of Infinit in my between the arms bottle and then have concentrate for 4 more behind my seat along with a spare bottle of water that I swap out.  This is about 1300 calories.  I supplement this with 5 gels in a flask (about another 500 calories).  Since it was the week of Halloween I threw a couple snack size Snickers in my bento box and run special needs.  Stellar idea!  I was happy to let my power drop down into goal range after two hours. After 3.5 hours though I was averaging below goal range.  Fortunately for me there was a headwind and a net uphill in the first half of the bike.  My power was dropping off, but my speed was still quite good.  Average power is important, but how that power is distributed is also very important.  Had I started out too hard and then had a headwind the second half, this pacing strategy would have been disastrous.  I finally made a pass around mile 85 and soon after we merged with the 1/2 distance athletes.  At this point, I was content to not fight the power drop because I felt that I could turn in a great run. I hit T2 in 4:59:22 which was another PR for me. My brother was quick to remind me that I still fell 44 seconds short of his best-ever IM ride!  My time was the 5th best for the day, and no one passed me on the bike.  My average power dropped all the way down to 204, which is almost the same as my Kona power in '08.  I had done 212 in training, but probably need more volume to hold that power during a race.  The cool thing is that I could see myself splitting 4:45 on this course with just a little more fitness.

My fit and set-up on the QR CD.01 is now super clean and aero.

During T2 I had a moment of panic when the volunteers could not find my T2 bag.  I had hung it on the rack the day before, but somehow it had gotten moved.  I just started changing in place while the volunteers looked around for my bag and eventually found it.  The bag fiasco plus changing out of the warm gear yielded another slow transition, but hey, it's an IM, I have time to make it up.

This guy crawled across the run course at some point!  Sorry I missed it!

Despite my apparent lack of run volume, I was confident that I could run a quick marathon in cool temps. The long bikes take care of my cardio, so I like to focus on faster running.  The 90 minute "long" run with hard intervals built in is my long course bread and butter training run.  I didn't know exactly where I was place-wise, but I knew I was doing well overall. My marathon goal was 3:10-3:15.  I always just start an IM marathon based off of feel.  I ran about 4 miles at what I felt was a very conservative pace before I even started checking my splits.  The next couple of miles were all around a low 7 minute pace, which was a bit under goal pace.  It's damn hard to even split an IM marathon, so I was fine with building a bit of a cushion early on.  The run was two loops and it was harder than I expected.  The temps were great, but the run definitely has some elevation gain going out each loop along with one steep (but short) hill.  On the first out and back turnaround I got a sense of how I was doing.  Buddy Jeff Paul was in the lead and having a great race!  He was around 20 minutes up on me and there were a few guys between us.  It was hard to get an accurate count because the course was crowded with 1/2 IM runners.  The return trip into town was quite nice because of the net downhill.  In the first half I think I picked up one place and lost one place to a speedy runner.  I was still feeling good and pretty certain I wouldn't have too much of a drop-off.  JP had a solid cushion at the turnaround and he looked like a lock to win it.  Not long after the second turnaround I noted two guys running pretty well about 4-5 minutes back from me.  This gave me some good motivation for the last 6 miles.  I knew they would have to make up about 45 seconds per mile to pass me and I wasn't about to let that happen.  I'm very happy with the way I ran my last six miles.  I actually picked it up some compared to my middle miles. I finished the run in 3:18:37 (9th best run).  The course was a little harder than I anticipated, so I am pretty content with that split.

I might be suffering, but at least I look good?
First and Fourth!  One of us has obviously been done longer than the other in this pic!
On the other hand, I was thrilled with my overall finish.  9:22:10 and 4th overall.  This was a 30 minute PR and probably my best finish in a big race.  There was prize money for the top 5 finishers, so that made the finish place all the better.  JP clinched his first IM win with a 9:04:49.  Congrats again, buddy! So in the end I was less than 20 minutes from the professional winner of a large race.  This new step-up in performance shows me that a sub-9 hour IM on a course like B2B or IM Florida is now within my ability.  Most of the time drop will come from a better bike performance. Next year I will be completely focused on long course racing.  Which races remains to be seen.  B2B was a great experience and I'd love to come back sometime and race for the win.


2013 B2B Recap Video

Friday, September 27, 2013


Our local Tri-Tremont Triathlon this past July marked my 20th year of racing triathlons. I've come far enough in my triathlon career that I was able to return to Tremont this year and take the overall win to celebrate my anniversary.  When I signed up for my first triathlon I knew not a soul in the world who had ever done one before. I swam and ran competitively as a kid and my mom had a boat anchor of a steel 10 speed Ross (that's 10 gears total for all you newbies) which I borrowed for the race.  The sport has grown like crazy during these past 20 years. It's become trendy and ultra-competitive, but year after year my passion and excitement for the sport has not diminished. Some strange brew consisting of equal parts stubbornness, discipline and smart training has allowed me to have success as an amateur triathlete. I've now won races at every distance except Ironman (2nd last year was a close as I've been able to get).  I've achieved my personal goals of racing at Kona, the 70.3 World Champs and the ITU Off-Road World Champs.

It was following the ITU Off-Road World Champs two springs ago that I needed to do some soul-searching regarding what came next for me as a triathlete.  Just going through the motions and maybe winning some more small events and competing well at larger ones wasn't really doing it for me. I've always needed big, scary, audacious goals to force me to do the work necessary to improve.  If I were independently wealthy I would love to keep going back to Kona to see how much I could improve there.  Qualifying, registering for, and traveling to Kona are just too damn expensive- particularly when I would only go with my whole family in tow. Kona is not one of those venues where you just ask your wife to stay home and take care of the kids while you go play triathlon on a tropical island!

For the first time I sat down and took a real look at USAT's Elite Qualifying Criteria.  I was actually pretty surprised how lenient (in relative terms) some of the criteria were. Without specifically training and peaking for certain events I almost had 2 out of 3 races I needed to meet one set of criteria. At one of those races I ended up sharing a podium with pros Daniel Bretscher and Bryan Rhodes.  The gap between me and Rhodesy was substantial, but still it was a podium finish alongside two established pros.  My second big goal of 2012 was to try and win an Iron distance race.  I fell a little short at the inaugural Michigan Titanium.  I took my winnings from that race and entered the Rev3 Cedar Point full two weeks later.  This painful little gamble ended up with me falling about 15 minutes short of 3rd place which would have gotten me my pro card.  For any U.S. race that offers more than $20,000 in professional prize money any amateur who finishes in the top 3 is automatically eligible for a pro card.  This method seems far easier than some of the other criteria and my guess is that USAT will tighten this criteria up sooner rather than later.

2012 Decatur Tri Podium

I hunkered down with a new strategy for 2013.  It was a pretty simple strategy: quit dicking around doing every kind of racing under the sun and just focus on re-building speed at the olympic distance.  I would have a spring peak for the Best of the US Amateur race and then a second peak in August for Rev3 Dells.  I was hoping for bigger speed gains (long course is definitely my strength), but things were on-track for a top-3 finish at Dells.  The Dell's race was yet another in a string of miserable weather races that I thrive in.  I had a good swim and by about 10 miles into the bike I had ridden myself into top five.  It was raining hard and I downshifted and felt my chain wrap up.  Not only had it wrapped up, it had snapped and I don't carry my chain tool for short races.  Game over, thanks for playing.

My wife and I met on the swim team at Augustana College. She knows better than anyone when I am skimping by on light training or when I am primed for a good race. She has always said that I can find a higher race "gear" and perform beyond the level of my training. Put me as an anchor on a relay that's behind during a critical race and I'll chase those other guys down like a fucking madman. I wouldn't have said it out loud, but pretty much within 15 seconds of realizing my chain was broken I knew I was going pro one way or another.  The broken chain at my "A" race gave me a lazer-like focus and resolve to finish in the top-3 at my fall-back race plan: Rev 3 Branson.

In the few weeks between Dells and Branson I upped my bike volume, but kept everything else pretty much the same.  On the Tuesday before the race I had my season best time and best-ever average power on our local 20K TT that I've done for year. Things were clicking.  On paper, Branson was a very good course for me.  1/2 IM is probably my strongest distance right now.  I like hills and this sucker has 3000 ft of vertical gain over 56 miles.  Here's my condensed Branson race report:

Rev3 Branson "Green Screen" pic with teammate Simply Stu!

Branson is a point-to-point ride, so you have two transitions. The amateur field was actually quite small (around 400 for both the 1/2 and Oly combined).  This ticks me off because it is one of the best venues I've raced at and because 1300 people signed up when it was a WTC event the year before.  I hope Rev3 doesn't pull the plug, but racers have to come out and support!  Race morning was cold, so there was a lot of fog coming off the lake. The fog was the only real challenge of the swim.  I got out fast and was somewhere around 5th, but it was impossible to keep tabs on everyone because of the fog.  At multiple points I was forced to stop, tread water and try to spot the next buoy in the fog.  I swam a mediocre 31 minutes (hopefully that included the run to T1).

This gives you some sense of the hills on the closed highway section of the course!

I was confident in my cycling and my ability to ride well in the mountains.  I knew my swim had kept me in contention for top 3.  The climbing on this course starts almost immediately out of transition.  My Powertap was a huge help in keeping it under control early on.  It actually conked out on me after about 30 minutes, but I had a pretty good feel for the right effort by that time.  The Branson course has a section of rollers before you get hit a gorgeous section of highway that they close down completely for the race. Racers do 2.5 laps on this sucker.  The descents are wide-open and screaming fast (mid-40's mph).  The ascents are long, and slow, but the grades are not very steep. I was riding pretty conservatively because I knew I was still around the top five and I had great confidence in my run as long as I didn't go crazy on the ride.  Only one amateur went around me and I kept him in sight the whole ride.  I caught a few age groupers as well as a bunch of female pros and one or two male pros that had started 8 and 10 minutes ahead, respectively.  This was a good sign. I didn't know it at the time, but I came off the bike in 4th.  I rode just under 20.5mph which would be a terrible pace on most courses, but at Branson it was good for 4th fastest in the amateur field.

I neglected to count bikes in T2, which was a bit of a rookie mistake.  There were a bunch of Olympic distance bikes already there though, so it was a bit tricky.  My running had really been coming along and I hadn't trashed my legs on the ride. I came into T2 just behind pro Lesley Smith.  She took off at a good clip and I jumped on behind her.  We quickly caught the 1 guy who went around me on the bike.  Splits through mile 2 show us running at about 6:10 pace.  The run course was a little convoluted and congested.  For the 1/2 it was 3 loops, but there were also olympic athletes out there which made it really hard to know where you were at.  Somewhere after mile 2 I took over pace-making duties for awhile.  Near one of the turnarounds around mile 4 I saw a pair of guys who looked like they might have been in my race who were running well. This reminded me that I did not have things wrapped up yet and made me dig for awhile. Somewhere along the line I must have passed the guy in third.  He did not try to go with us.  I thought Lesley had fallen off, but as I started lagging just a bit around mile 11, she came around.  This definitely helped me pick it up again the last few miles, but I couldn't stay on her shoulder.  As I peeled off towards the finish shute I saw another runner just ahead of me do the same thing.  Ah hell, I hoped that was one of the male pros.  No such luck.  It was a 19 year old kid who had smoked the swim!  I had no idea he was on the same lap of the run as me.  I ended up in second overall by a mere 12 seconds.  My run was a 1:25:26.

Of course I didn't know my placing at the time.  I thought I had it, but there was a wave that started behind mine that could have had some fast, older racers.  I wasn't totally confident in the second place finish until about 1 hour later.

Branson Podium!


My buddy Andrew Starykowicz has been one of the top U.S. triathletes for awhile now.  I remembered that a few years back he wrote a really well-reasoned blog post about when to go pro.  I went back and found it. Starky has a background in engineering and like much of what he writes his list of considerations for going pro is analytical and doesn't contain any b.s.  Truth be told, I've accomplished the things that I really cared about as an amateur.  I am 34, so just hitting my long course prime, but certainly not getting any faster at the short stuff.  For me the decision to go pro came down to two simple considerations: #1 I can continue to race without straining the family budget as much as I have in the past and #2 if I am honest, without this new kick in the ass, I was probably done improving in this sport. I'm not ready to say my best races are behind me.

I am well aware of where I fall within the current spectrum of U.S. professional athletes and it ain't purdy. I will say that I have beaten at least a few pros in every large race that I have done in the last few years. I will also say that there is no real line between the best amateurs and the backside of the pro field. Amateur Colin Riley has been winning everything under the sun in the Midwest this year and is still an amateur (probably not much longer). Likewise, Adam Zucco and Mark Harms both could be pro, but have other racing goals that they are pursuing.

I've realized that there is a lot of confusion as to what "professional" means within the sport of triathlon. I had to reassure some of my colleagues at Illinois Wesleyan University that I was not leaving my day job any time soon. In triathlon there is precisely zero dollars associated with going pro.  In fact, I had to pay $45 for the little card you see at the top of this post (which you will note expires in December and will require me to renew again!).  Nor are there any automatic sponsorships for pros.  My plan is to continue to build on the solid sponsorship relations that I already had through my Evotri team. The only real immediate benefits are being able to sign up for races that are closed at any time and not having to pay entry fees for most non-WTC events.  Well, those benefits and the abovementioned kick-in-the-ass to get faster! This xtranormal video actually pretty much nails it:

As I take this next step in my triathlon career, I am mostly filled with gratitude for the years of support that allowed me to get here.

First and foremost I must always thank my family for all their support and sacrifices.  I certainly was not driving myself to all those road races and triathlons 20 years ago!  My parents supported my brother and I through years and years of swimming, track and xc practices and races.

I do my best to train at times that don't impact my family, but inevitably with long rides and such my wife has to pick up some of my slack at home.  She has been a huge supporter in helping me get my workouts in and letting travel all over the midwest for races.

My Evotri team is made up of some incredibly fun and passionate triathletes. I love getting together with my teammates whenever we can.  We all are juggling complex family and work responsibilities, but keep plugging away year after year.

Evotri has enjoyed some of the best sponsor support of any age group team (and as good as some pro teams).  Many of our sponsors have been with us for 6 years now.

Quintana Roo has supplied our team with top-notch Cd.01 tri bikes.  I love this bike.  I can go out to any race and know that nothing about my bike is holding me back.  If I don't have the fastest bike split, that's all on me!

Zipp Speed Weaponry has provided the team with the fastest wheels on the planet and various other go-fast components.  I've been racing a Zipp 808 Firecrest / Super-9 combo for a few years  now, and would be loathe to switch to anything else.  Once these wheels get up to speed, it is easier to stay there with the aerodynamic beasts.

Powertap / Cycleops has made sure that each of us has the ability to quantify our training and racing using their hubs and trainers.  They have recently announced big price drops on all of their Powertap hubs and wheelsets, making them one of the cheapest and most reliable power measuring options out there.

Sram-  Back when Sram Red was relatively new to the market, Sram shipped me a whole component group to race in Kona.  These components are still going strong (although they have been relegated to my road bike as I've upgraded my tri bike with new Sram components).  Sram continues to push the edge in terms of both form and function.  I recently switched over to their new Red Yaw front derailleur and Exogram crankset.  This is the best front shifting I have ever experienced on a road or tri bike.

Hub Endurance just so happens to be owned by my brother Andy.  Hub Endurance has provided Evotri members with professional coaching plans.  Andy has also been super-helpful with drop-shipping me all sorts of components at shop cost that I always seem to need at last-minute (like a new SRAM crank following the broken chain incident at Dells).  Thanks brother!

Infinit Nutrtion has been a long-time personal sponsor.  Infinit allows you to customize your own sports drink formula.  Once I got my personal formula figured out it has greatly simplified my long-course nutrition plan.

Bloomington Cycle and Fitness is my awesome LBS.  They are transforming the cycling scene in Bloomington-Normal through a variety of grassroots-style efforts. Riding with the BCF team has been one of the key components to the cycling improvements that I have made the past few seasons.

Super-stoked to cross one more item off my personal lifetime bucket list by going pro! Still, I'm not quite ready to call it a season and move on to cyclocross racing.  I'm racing well, so I wanted to get at least one race in as a professional in 2013.  With that in mind, I'm headed to North Carolina to race the Beach to Battleship Iron Distance Triathlon!  The race is on Oct. 26 which gives me enough time to recover from Branson, do a small, high volume block and then hopefully rip off a big P.R. in my first pro race!  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Spring Racing Re-Cap

The 2013 tri season has been good to me thus far.  When other tri geeks ask me how my training has been going I've been replying that I've had really good consistency getting workouts in since January, but my overall volume has stayed lower than I would like (generally 6-10 hours per week).  My spring focus has been all about trying to regain some short course speed that I never really had in the first place. In the gene pool lottery I definitely got the go-long DNA.  Both my spring and summer "A" races are/were olympic distance so I've tried to do a better job of hitting some shorter, hard intervals on the bike and the track. It sorta worked.  I've been racing a bunch both to build speed and reacquaint myself with short course suffering.  None of these races really needs a full-blown race report, so here's the Readers Digest version.

March 8
Cactus Classic 1/2 Trail Marathon
Forest City, IL

I know, I claimed to be working on speed and still start my season with a trail 1/2 marathon!  This race has quickly become one of my must-do favs.  The race is about 1.5 hours from me, but the terrain is unlike anything else in Illinois.  It is held in Sand Ridge State Park and it lives up to its name.  There are both lots of sand and lots of little cacti.  Not only is there sand, but it is deep and loose.  It also has hills. What's not to like?  This year there was snow on top of the sand in places (which was actually easier) and it also was very rainy and just over freezing.  I pulled off an overall win at this small-ish race with a 1:35.  I have lots of half Ironman run splits around 1:25 and regular half marathons around 1:20 so that might give you a sense of the course difficulty!

April 28
Sullivan Triathlon
Sullivan, IL

Sullivan is one of the earliest Illinois triathlons.  It is a sprint with a pool swim, then the remainder of the race is outside.  It's always a good early-season benchmark and in past years has had a few pros show up. Race conditions were cool and rainy (start keeping track of that!). No pros this year helped give me the overall win with almost a 5 minute margin.  That was my 3rd overall win at Sullivan.

400 meter pool swim 5:53
13 mile bike: 33:31, 24.3mph, 264 watts
5K run 18:26

May 5
Rev3 Knoxville Olympic
Knoxville, TN

I added Rev3 Knoxville to my schedule for two reasons. #1 I was able to combine the race travel with a library conference in Nashville, so most of my travel costs were covered. #2 My Evotri teammate, Simply Stu is a fixture at the Rev3 events and I knew we'd get to catch up a bit following our spring team training camp in Chattanooga.  All race week was rainy and cold and race day was the same.  Some of the pros raced in their swim skins to try and stay warm, some age groupers kept their wetsuits on for the bike!  The river water temperature was in the upper 50s so I spent the first 1/3 of the swim trying not to hyperventilate.  This race has a super-long run to T1 which really slowed times down. I didn't get a chance to preview the bike course and with a hard rain coming down I road really conservatively and it showed in the time (1:06).  I was pretty happy with my 37:51 run split all things considered.

1500 swim 21:17
40K bike: 1:06, 23.3mph, 243 watts
10K run: 37:51
2:10:57 blarghhh

June 2
Best of the U.S. Championship / Leon's Triathlon (Olympic)
Hammond, IN

The Best of the U.S. Championship is an interesting amateur race series.  Each state has one race per year designated as the qualifier for the championship race the following year.  The top 3 male and female racers qualify to represent their state.  I had qualified once or twice in the past, but the championship race was always either too expensive to travel to, or conflicted with something else.  I qualified last year at our local Evergreen Triathlon and the championship this year was held in conjunction with Leon's Triathlon in Hammond, IN which is only about 2 hours away. This was my "A" race for the spring and I hoped to finally get under the elusive 2 hour mark.  I went 2:00 and a few seconds at Memphis in May in 2008, but that bike course was short. After a very rainy week, race day looked good in the forecast.  Race morning I was overdressed and had to go looking for a t-shirt.  About 45 minutes before race start a cold front blew in and temps dropped into the 50s and guess what- the rain started again (but not as bad as Knoxville).  The water temp was reasonable and I knew I was going to have a good swim with lots of fast feet to draft. 21:21, check.  Onto the bike the wind was blowing, but not terribly.  I still thought I had a shot at the sub-2.  This race markets itself as "Worlds Fastest" but that seems really overblown.  The race consists of two loops and each loop had 3, 180 degree turnarounds.  That plus some fairly rough roads and a few small hills already put "Worlds Fastest" into doubt.  Turns out the bike course was also about .7 of a mile long.  I rode pretty well but finished with a 1:03 for 25.5 miles.  Of course, I didn't know the details at the time, I just got after the run since there were already a bunch of good athletes up the road.  I clicked off a superb 36:05 10K on a legitimately flat and fast run course.  If the run was accurate it was definitely my fastest ever.  I finished in 2:03:02 which probably would have been a touch over 2 flat with an accurate 40K bike. I finished 16th in the Best of the U.S. field and 26th overall. Normally I'd be disappointed with that kind of placing, but this was a seriously stacked field of racers.

1500 swim 21:21
40K bike 1:03:05, 246 watts
10K run 36:05

June 15
Rockford Triathlon (Olympic)
Rockford, IL

This was also a new race for me and not on my schedule originally.  It was Father's day weekend and the race was held at Rock Cut State Park in Rockford.  It seemed like an ideal way to combine a family camping trip with some racing.  That concept worked pretty well except that it rained on me again.  Pretty hard, but slightly warmer than Knoxville and Leons! This race was not that large 200+ but was part of a college series, so had a bunch of college teams racing.  I have to say this was one of the least-well organized events I've been to in awhile. They weren't ready for packet pickup, then they weren't ready for the race start which had to be pushed back.  Swim cap colors were messed up. The bike was quite dangerous since it was an out and back on a fairly busy road.  Lastly almost none of the run course was marked causing me (and many others including the eventual winner Thomas Gerlach) to go off course.  In the end I finished in 2:10:31 which included another long T1, another long bike course and a detour on the run.  I finished 5th overall, but missed prize money by 20 seconds which was a bit frustrating considering my run detour was at least 45 seconds.

1500 swim 24:26
40K bike 1:04:46, 23.3mph, 237 watts
10K run 39:06