Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Announcing the Evotri Iron Challenge!

The 2008 off season is officially here, but who says the races are over? Team Evotri has a brand new program on tap to keep you tri-primed all winter long, complete with exclusive team opportunities and prizes for your efforts. In fact, we have quite a bit of news to report as we round out the year and get the ball rolling for 2009!

With all of our sponsors returning for another stellar season, and with brand new sponsor, Headsweats joining the team, we're looking forward to giving back to the community in an even bigger way. In addition to our current grassroots endeavors - Simply Stu's World Wide Triathlon, Trisaratops's Youth Initiative, along with RobbyB and Iron Wil's Wisconsin Brick Adventure - just to name a few - we're now planning to reach across borders and oceans in order to do our part to change the world, and we want you to be part of the movement.

Do you have what it takes to fulfill the Evotri Iron Challenge?

This winter, we challenge you to complete an Iron distance race every month. 140.6 miles of swimming, cycling and running at 2.4 miles, 112 miles, and 26.2 miles respectively. You have 30 days, and countless ways to break it down to fit your schedules. Feeling especially elite? Why not try two, even three Iron distances per month? Not only will the top performers receive sweet swag and high honors, they'll also be raising money and awareness for charity JUST by logging miles! Also, complete at least one Iron distance each month and be entered in our grand prize drawing. Here's how to get involved:

Start by joining the Plus3 Network at http://www.plus3network.com, it's free for you, and priceless for so many more. Log your miles over the next several months and watch them turn to dollars for charities all over the world. Team Evotri sponosr SRAM, among other industry leading companies like Pedros have partnered with Plus3 and pledged to donate cash to the charity of your choice for every swim, ride, and run you do - charities like World Bicycle Relief, The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Safe Routes (ensuring kids' safe passage to school), and The Environmental Defense Fund, among many more. Once you've created your account at www.plus3network.com, follow the next three steps to not only keep yourself motivated over the coming months, win cool prizes and meet awesome people, but also to have your mileage make a difference all over the world. After you've created your free account:

1: Select a sponsor and a charity of your choice
2: Under PEOPLE, search for "Evotri" and do a "friend request"
3: You will then receive a request to join the Challenge

And that's it. Let the base training begin!

In addition to our Evotri Iron Challenge, we're preparing for top performance in 2009 in other ways. Join the team as one of our honored Ambassadors and be eligible for exclusive opportunities throughout the year, as well as receive periodic training advice from top pros and industry insiders like the unstoppable up and comer, Cycleops's Will Smith, and the legendary Robbie Ventura! Visit Evotri.com and click the "Become an Ambassador" tab at the top of the page to get started.

Also, stay tuned to Evotri.com for the official 2009 press release, featuring more details on how you can even become a fully-sponsored member of the team. That's right, we're adding TWO to the crew near the start of the year, so get involved early and stay ahead of the pack!

Monday, November 3, 2008

More Voting! Chicago Athlete Magazine Athlete of the Year

One day of voting just not enough for you? Did you get a taste of the awesome power of democracy and find yourself wanting more? If you thought the presidential election was a nail-biter you ain't seen nothin yet!

Presenting the ballot for the 2008 Chicago Athlete Magazine, Athlete of the Year. Apparently my tri season raised enough eyebrows that I was named Athlete of the Month for the Nov./Dec. issue. I thought this was pretty damn cool in and of itself since there are gobs and gobs of great endurance athletes in Illinois. As it turns out, the Athlete of the Year is determined solely through popular vote. So you can just take your electoral college and....

We here at Goal is the Journey encourage educated voting! Information about all this year's athletes of the month can be found here. There are seriously some great athletes on this list. Take a look and vote for the best one..........even if it is not yours truly! Check out the kid athlete of the year contest as well. I am trying to arrange a town hall race-off among my esteemed competitors that would involve a triathlon, a cyclocross race, rock climbing and trivial pursuit! As of now, I don't have any takers....

To vote, you need to fill out a pdf ballot and send it in to the editor. Voting information can be found here. Note that a couple criteria have to be met for the vote to count. Your e-mail subject line has to have "Vote 2008- Adult Athlete of the Year" Also, you have to mark BOTH a male and female or else the ballot is tossed like a hanging chad. Attach the completed ballot to an e-mail with the above subject line and send to: editor@mychicagoathlete.com

If elected, I will mandate that all employers consider travel to races a regular part of the work week as well as provide all employees who did a morning workout with a nap. Bicyles, wetsuits, running shoes and energy gels will all be tax-deductible. The week before Kona shall be considered a national holiday. I will mandate that deep-tissue massage be covered by all insurance companies (but not those nancy-pancy spa massages). My alternative energy plan is simple: everyone needs to eat more carbs. My healthcare plan entitled HTFU will save countless billions. Break your arm? Duct tape and R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation). Bronchitis? 5X1 mile. Hard.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Kona Context

Running cross country competitively was very tricky when it came to evaluation of race performances. The distance is supposed to be fixed at 5 miles, but the list of variables is long: wind, heat, hills, terrain, etc. We often raced on a course near the Missippi River. In the year or so following a big flood this course could actually be 30-45 sec. slower just because of the addition of sand and silt to the ground! Racing cross for so many years taught be to evaluate based more on feel and level of effort instead of strictly looking at times. One of my best collegiate cross races was also one of my slowest. The course was very hilly and it was fairly hot. Based on my level of effort and overall place I know it was one of my best races even though it wasn't reflected in my time.

Racing with a Powertap takes away some of this guesswork. Power is consistent across all terrain and course conditions (ie wind). At Kona I produced almost 15 watts more power than I did the year before at Wisconsin. 15 watts over 112 miles should have yielded a big time drop, but instead it was only in the ballpark of 10 minutes faster. That tells you something about how difficult the day was. Even better was this race report from first-year pro Alex McDonald. He calls '08 Kona the "Hardest race I've ever done" and offers this important piece of contextual information: "Just as an indication of how much harder the bike was this year, my bike leg was 5 minutes slower than last year, yet I held an average power that was 15 watts higher." This is great information because it is a true "apples to apples" power comparison of Kona '07 and Kona '08.

"Maggs" is apparently a follower of the Evotri team and left me a comment about Kona. I saw she was from Hawaii and raced the IM, so I thought I would tap some local knowledge about the course conditions. She says, "Those winds were worse than normal, especially the cross winds, they were pretty brutal (but not the worst I've ridden in over there)."

So this will be the end of beating this dead horse! What all this tells me is that yes it was a tough day even for a course where everyone expects tough days.

Friday, October 17, 2008

There and Back Again (Kona Race Report)


Often I struggle mightily when I try to capture the magic and suffering that is Ironman in a simple race report. Relaying times, places and splits can never do a race of this nature justice. Once, I think I did a decent job of briefly holding onto the ephemeral Ironman experience in this report/essay. For a variety of reasons, I'm not having any writer’s block concerning Kona.

I came to learn that the part of Kona where the race is contested is mostly stark, desolate and brutal. I think the course conditions will influence this race report, in fact, I had some of this report written in my head even before crossing the finish line. At the Ironman World Championships there is much less nuance for me to tease out of the race. Everything is in sharp contrast. You either have it or you don't. Cut and dried. This course, this year, did not cut anyone any slack, and that is how it should be.

Race Morning

Getting up at 4am was not quite as jarring as usual since I was still hanging onto Illinois time a bit. The night before the race we had sent Jonah off with my mom so that I could get a full night's sleep. There were also a number of Belgians staying at the same bed and breakfast with us and we would have felt bad if they couldn't sleep before the big day. While I'm on this sleep thing, I have never had a problem sleeping the night before a big race. I'm very conscious of how hard these races are and how important it is to not waste energy by being nervous. At breakfast with my Belgian friends, I broke my rigorous month-long caffeine fast with a Red Bull along with Hawaiin Sweet Bread, a bagel and PB and a banana.

Body marking was very efficient as there was always a surplus of volunteers during all aspects of this race. There were 1800 competitors and 5000 awesome volunteers! I got the coolio stamped numbers instead of the plain 'ol magic marker. Turns out this ink is REALLY good sunblock! Caught up with Cara, Tricia and NK as I headed into transition.

Three Navy officers parachuted in to do the race and that was one of the many, "Huh, you don't see that at every Ironman" sort of moments.

To me the early morning blazing sun all week was more intimidating than the swarms of the fittest athletes in the world. As the fierce sun came up on a crystal clear race morning a little bit of Ironman wisdom from Bob Marley(who knew?!) popped into my head:

Rise up this mornin,
Smiled with the risin sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin, (this is my message to you-ou-ou:)

Singin: dont worry bout a thing,
cause every little thing gonna be all right.

Bob's on to something here. Ironman veterans will tell you that there is no such thing as the perfect race- even for the winners. Everyone has dark bits that they have to get through, but best not to spend any time worrying about the things you can’t control!


At Kona the pros start 15 minutes before the age groupers. As soon as they were off, I started jockeying for a decent start position which meant at least 15 minutes of treading water in a sea of thrashing bodies prior to our start. Way before the cannon went off the start was (pardon my pig latin) nucking futs. Kayakers held the start line very tightly, but there was a huge crush of bodies from behind as hyped-up age groupers tried to get to the front. I started near the front, but absolutely as far away from the inside of the course as I could get. This added some distance to my swim but kept me out of the true madhouse during the first quarter mile.

My swim workouts prior to the race had been going quite well; better than I had swum in years in fact. Furthermore, I am always happy to not have to swim in a wetsuit. I went out fairly hard and cut into the course slowly. It was more physical than other races because of the level of the competition- many more people in the sub-hour category where I should have been. There were definitely some smallish waves and some current, but nothing to write home about. I caught a number of good drafts and thought I had found the right group based on my effort level. Kona is a one-loop, out-and-back course. The 1.2 mile turnaround was not nearly as bad as I anticipated. I was comfortable and (I thought) on pace for a PR swim. The water was fairly clear and probably less than 20ft deep most of the way. Before the race I thought it would be fun to do an IM swim where you can actually see the bottom, but I wound up doing less sightseeing and more defending of personal space! I did get to see the NBC scuba guys with the underwater cameras very clearly near the finish; yet another reminder that this was a whole other ballgame. Swim time was 1:01:44. My worst swim besides Lake Placid where Iwas recovering from a broken collarbone. Talking to other racers I think the swim was a few minutes slow for most. The combination of waves, tons of fast swimmers and no wetsuits slowed things up just a bit. No worries, what difference is a minute or two in a 10 hour race, right?


Reflecting back on the bike leg, I think the main theme was smart management of both course conditions and setbacks. My first mistake is usually a rookie one in the first transition. I don't change clothes, so I skipped the changing tent like I always do. I put my shoes and helmet on at my bike and headed for the exit looking for the rows of sunscreeners. Guess what? The rows of sunscreeners were back in the change tent. The other 5 Ironman races I have done, I've always gotten sunscreened right before jumping on the bike. There was no direct route back to the change tents, so I took off knowing that I was going to get roasted. Someone told me that the bike pace the first ten miles is insane and to hold back. That advice was spot-on. You'd think people were racing a criterium the way they attacked the hills and corners. It was the first of many times during the day that I was happy to have my Powertap to keep me in line. Whenever I tried to hang, I'd spike up to 300-400 watts. My goal average watts -including zeroes from coasting- was 210 +/- 5 watts. Heading out of town I was surprised to see that it really wasn't thinning out at all. For the last few years I generally work my way into the top 5% of any race- but without sounding like a broken record here- this wasn't any race! I saw a couple of people ride too aggressively through the first few aid stations and wipe out- a silly way to ruin your race. Aid stations came almost every 5 miles, compared to every 10 in most races. It was a good thing too, because I was going through about 5 bottles an hour trying to stave off dehydration. I'd grab an extra bottle at an aid station, dump it over my head and back and then be dry in 5 minutes. Scary.

Everybody knows about the legendary wind and heat at Kona. I knew about it and prepared as best I could during a cooler-than-usual late summer and early fall. Turns out the winds and heat (this year at least) were much worse than I could have imagined. I always thought the stories about people getting blown off the course were lottery winners who couldn't handle their bikes. WRONG! There were many times that I thought the wind was going to just knock me over or push me off the side. I hope NBC got some good footage out there because riders were just leaning into the wind at seemingly impossible angles. Fortunately the majority of the winds were crosswinds with shorter headwind/tailwind sections. The other thing that people tell you about the Kona bike course is that it is mostly flat with a big climb up to the turnaround in Hawi. The climb part is right- that was a long, grinding climb for about 4-5 miles and a 40 mph screamer on the way down. As for the rest of the course being flat? I bet you would be hard pressed to find 10 "flat" miles out of the whole 112. Granted the hills aren't terribly long, or terribly steep, but they do keep coming.

Most of the bike course looks like this!

I mentioned earlier that race day consisted of lots of small problems and obstacles that experience helped to neutralize. Early on in the bike, my flask of 5 Espresso Hammer Gels worked its way out of my Evotri jersey pocket. Whoops, there went 500 calories I was counting on. Don’t worry ‘bout a thing…. I just made a mental note to start picking up gels at every other aid station. The special needs bags in Kona are a little past halfway at the Hawi turnaround. I had an extra bottle of concentrated Infinit (750 calories) waiting for me. I came to a full stop and politely asked the awesome Jr. High kids for my bag. They couldn’t find it anywhere! Oh well, looks like I’ll be drinking nasty, syrupy Gatorade for the next 50 miles. When people ask me about nutrition plans I always tell them to figure out what works for you under ideal conditions, but be ready to scrap the whole plan and go with something else if necessary on race day. Adaptability is key.

Typical "flat" section of the Kona course!
I'd prefer not to have to recount this next bit, but then I'd be giving everyone an inaccurate version of what really happened on race day. Somewhere around mile 70 one of the many race marshals gave me a red card for drafting. Due to the huge concentration of athletes that came out of the water between :57-1:05 and could also ride sub 5:30 the course was very congested compared to what I am used to. There were always people around me, which has never happened before. There was actually less blatant drafting overall at Kona then I've seen at other races. When I got my penalty I was probably 3 bike lengths back rather than 4 and just not paying close enough attention to my positioning. I eventually composed myself and said 4 minutes isn't the end of the world. Around mile 85 I stopped for 4 minutes at a penalty tent. I left the tent and things really went downhill. Within 10 minutes of leaving the tent a marshal comes up and asks me if I stopped at the last tent and I said, yes. He then said that I needed to stop again at T2 (meaning another penalty!). Unbelievable. As you can imagine after the first penalty I was scared sh..less and riding very, very safely. I'm sure I wasn't in anyone's draft zone for more than 30 seconds, but you really can't argue these things. I was almost completely demoralized and just let people pass me to avoid the potential of another call which would have meant disqualification. No excuses, but for context, I do know that many penalties were handed out. Rutger Beke, Andy Potts and Timo Bracht were all in the top 10 and all had penalties. I served my penalty along with two of the women pros. A few last words on this subject. I have probably done 75+ triathlons in my career. Up until this point I had only one other drafting penalty total. Hopefully this lends me a sliver of credibility here. This is an individual contest and that is how I always try to race it.

Looking at my power file after the race there was definitely a drop-off the last 20 miles when I started backing down. I was only watching power and letting speed and overall time come out in the wash. Back in town I clicked through my Powertap computer and saw that even with the penalties I would turn in a decent bike time -way off what I needed to be in contention for placing in my age group- but decent nonetheless. Final bike time: 5:21 good for 20.8 mph ave. Average watts were 203 (a bit low) but normalized power was much better at about 216.


You can bet that I didn’t miss the sunscreeners in T2! I took off for the marathon in kind of a funk. My swim was slow, my bike was decent- but I was still agonizing over the penalties. I’ve never raced well in the heat and was glad to be holding up thus far. I started off on what I think of as my distance-eating pace. This is a relatively comfortable pace that I knew I could hold for most of the race. The run starts off with a long out and back section on Ali’I drive. This is mostly right along the ocean and the most scenic part of the bike or run. The first 10 miles of the run also had the highest concentration of spectators (because of its inaccessibility the bike only had a few pockets of spectators). I had two friends from the Tri-Sharks in the race and they came with their significant others. Beyond them we had a group of 8 awesome supporters –including my mom and step-dad- who all made the trip.

Jonah supporting on race day!

The heat sort of capped how hard I could push it. I could do my steady pace and that was pretty much it. Fortunately even though I was running slower than I had hoped, I was still picking up places. I had made up the 15 minute gap on many of the women pros and was running with, or passing, many of them. Once you make it up the nasty hill on Palani, you are back on the Queen K and things go back to mostly bleak and barren. As a whole, the run is somewhat flat, but there are still a number of really long hills with small grades going out and back from the energy lab. One of the things I did very well was hydrate. Barring a crash, dehydration is pretty much the only thing that could take me out of the race. I was grabbing as much liquid as I could at every aid station. I’d love to know how much liquid I went through in the course of the day. 3 gallons? 4? I can tell you between the bike and the run I “evacuated used liquids” more than a dozen times!

The turnaround in the infamous Energy Lab is actually well past the half-way mark. I didn’t get my special needs run bag until about mile 16. In my bag was a glorious can of Red Bull! Just this season, I’ve experimented with having Red Bull before races. I’ve never tried it during a race, but at that point I was craving the calories and caffeine boost. I diluted it in a cup of ice water and sucked down the whole thing.

To people checking the weather on the internet the race doesn’t look too bad. Highs are generally in the mid 80’s. Out on the course, on black pavement, surrounded by black lava, the temps are much higher. There was a thermometer in the energy lab reading about 100 degrees that I thought was a joke. Later I heard this was actually accurate. The wind was still blowing, but off the bike it was more of a relief than anything. It wasn’t until about 20 miles that I was confident I could finish the rest of the race running. I spent most of the next few miles running with a female pro (looking at the results, I think it was Kate Major). Pounding down Palani hurt almost as much as going up it. Coming off the downhill was the only time during the race that I worried about cramps as much calves started to seize a bit.

The finish line on Ali’I drive has to be one of the classics in all of sport. This vaguely registered in my brain as I turned the corner and saw the massive crowds. I didn’t race with a watch (if you race all-out I don’t see why you need one) so I didn’t know where I was at time-wise. I figured a decent run would put me really close to 10 hours. I saw Dave Ripley from Zipp and he yelled that I was going to break 10 which was a nice boost. Ironman has recently changed the rules and doesn’t allow anyone to cross the finish line with family members which is understandable, but still kind of a bummer that I couldn’t carry Jonah. I had it in my head to stop and walk and enjoy the finish line, but really all my body wanted was to stop for good. I always forget that I am being videotaped and photographed at the finish so my finishing pics show more of a grimace than a smile.

Marathon: 3:24 Overall time: 9:58
I was hoping for a sub-3:10 marathon, but I still managed to pick up 40 or so places during the marathon.

This link should take you to the athlete tracker where you can get the nitty gritty details on my splits and watch a video of me coming across the finish.


As you can see, I got a bit of sun on race day! A week later as I write this, I am quickly losing my Kona “tan” in big gross chunks. When I looked at the overall results I was surprised to see that I was 5 minutes behind pro TJ Tollakson and 2 minutes behind Patrick Evoe. I was ahead of pro Tim Snow by a bit. Of course, this doesn’t mean I am anywhere near their league, just that I can hang with these guys when they are having a lousy day. I barely made the top 50% of my age group and top 15% overall. I finished in 298th place overall and about 200th among the amateurs. One of the best things to come out of the race is that it is the most balanced IM I have ever had. I’ve spent 6 years killing myself on the bike to bring that leg up to the level of my swim and bike. In my age group, I was finally very balanced: I came out of the swim 43rd in my age group, finished the bike in in 46th and ended up 44th after the run.

Finally, a big congratulations to long-time friends N.K. and Tricia who got engaged the night before the race! N.K. must have been pretty excited because he went on to swim the fastest time in the world in his age group (:55 minutes!).


It is a running joke among Ironman competitors that a first-timer will finish and say "I'm never doing that again!" Sometimes as soon as the next morning their tune changes and they sign up for next year, or start scheming for another race. Out of the hundreds of triathletes I only know one who finished an IM and said “That’s it. I did it. No more.” (and we still think there is hope for Maneesh!). After finishing Kona, I definitely wasn’t ready to come back again the next year, or anytime soon (on my own dime, anyway!). The other IM courses like Placid, Wisconsin and Coeur ‘d Alene are just so much nicer. Outside of being the world championships (which is an awesome experience) the Kona course is just rather boring and hard. I have some desire to go back and try to prove that I can go sub 9:30 and crack the top 100, but I don't think it will be soon.

Give Credit Where Credit is Due!

During the race, I was reminded over and over what a great group of friends and family that I have- both those that traveled with us and those who watched from home. Ironman is a hugely self-centered and time-consuming endeavor. I never would have made it to Kona without the support of my family. First and foremost,Cara and Jonah gave up a lot of time with me so that I could do the necessary training and racing this season. My extended family helped with babysitting on weeknights. My mom said for years that she would cover my entry fee if I ever qualified for Kona and I definitely took her up on it! My brother put in tons of bike training miles with me that I will sorely miss after he moves next month.

My Evotri team and sponsors are the best and supported this race in a multitude of ways. A huge thank-you to Saris/Cycleops, BMC, Zipp, SRAM, 2XU, Vision Quest Coaching, and Infinit Nutrition. In particular, I owe my improved bike split to Vision Quest coach Stan Watkins and the killer workouts he conjured up for myself and fellow "Ratz" teammates!

The actual Ironman may be an individual contest, but for everything else surrounding the sport, I am extremely reliant on others. Thanks again to everyone that had a hand in making this a great season!

If you want to see even more pics from the trip check out Cara's collection on Snapfish!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Trial of Miles.

"When you're a competitive runner in training, you are constantly in a process of ascending. It's not something most human beings would give a moment of consideration to, that it is actually possible to be living for years in a state of constant betterment. To consider that you are better today than you were yesterday or a year ago, and that you will be better still tomorrow or next week. . . . That if you're doing it right, you are an organism constantly evolving toward some agreed-upon approximation of excellence."

-John Parker "Again to Carthage"

Swim: 159842.84 yds

Bike: 4082.61 mi

Run: 660.6 mi

That's it. Those are the numbers. The facts. If you listen to some people you'd think these digits are all that matter. There's something to that, I guess. With Ironman there is no getting around putting the hours in. Problem is, these numbers are severely lacking in context. Context is everything (as is made blatantly apparent by the presidential campaign smear ads that completely ignore context). I guarantee you that much of the competition I will be up against in Kona has much more imressive numbers than these, but that is just one piece of the puzzle. What was the nature of each of the rides that make up the total? How much heart went into each individual workout? Did you take rest days when you needed them? Were you out there simply to add to your numbers or were you having fun doing it? I worked my butt off this year, but I had fun doing it!

All the hard stuff is done, and I've been tapering for about 10 days now. The last couple of seasons, I have taken a slightly different approach to tapering. Before, I think I was too happy just to have made it to taper and backed off too much. Now I keep the intensity at or above IM pace for all of taper expcepting the last week. Instead of reducing intensity, I just cut the volume down each week. I am also a big advocate of staggered tapering. By this I mean I start tapering running first, cycling second and swimming last.

I'm really happy with the way things have been clicking the last two weeks. My last two "long" runs went quite well. I've been doing some mile repeat workouts each week on the track and have been able to run a little under 6 minute miles at what I would call a pretty comfortable pace (these are easier taper workouts mind you). I really gamble with my swimming in that I do very little during pre-season through mid-season. The gamble is that it won't take me too long to bring my swim fitness up to race level. I think the gamble is working, as I've been hitting swim splits I haven't seen in a long time. I swam my best 500 of the season by 20 seconds recently. I'm able to do short sets of 100s on 1:20 and I did a bunch of 50s at or near 30 flat. Good signs! Once again, I've put the vast majority of my time and effor this season into cycling. Probably because of this it took longer for my riding to feel good. Last weekend I did 2.5 hours at IM race intensity and while I wouldn't call it easy, it definitely wasn't that hard either.

So that's that. All systems go. We head out on Saturday morning so that we have almost a full week before the race. I've got two other friends from town that are racing and a really, really awesome support crew from town! Still trying to figure out a good balance between seeing the sites in Kona and resting up for the race.

I should have some internet access while in Kona and will try to post a few updates either here or on the main Evotri website. One or the other or both sites, will also have some race-day updates.

I outlined my goals last year in this post. They are overly ambitious, but I stand by them. When I qualified I decided that I wanted to go and really race as opposed to playing it safe and coming in at about the same time I have in my last 4 Ironman races.

Go big or blow up trying!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I Made the Leap (SRAM Red Review)

In a quest to get the BMC Time Machine into tip-top shape prior to heading out to the big island, I've been gluing on new tires, replacing cables and checking torque on all the important bits and pieces. The real news though, is that 2008 Team Evotri sponsor SRAM came through big time with a brand-new SRAM Red tri groupset!

For those who don't read the cycling news websites every day, you might have missed the important bit of industry news where Zipp was acquired by SRAM this spring. Zipp has been a big supporter of the team and it was awesome that SRAM was also willing to come on board and keep everything "in the family" so to speak!

I like SRAM so much because I have some faith in the concept a free market economy (how's that for making a leap?). To make some sense out of my ramblings you need to know a bit about the history of bicycle component manufacturers. A long time ago, in a land far, far, away cyclists had much greater choice as to what bits and pieces went onto their machines. My first racing bike came with Suntour components, but companies like Sachs and Mavic were also significant players in the component game. For a variety of reasons having to do with who owned what patents and who actually had a sustainable business model, Shimano and Campagnolo came out on top and pretty much dominated groupsets throughout the 80s and 90s. Shimano does well in North America (and also makes some killer fishing reels) and Campy has a bigger piece of the European market. This is all well and good, but that free market thing I mentioned tends to thrive on competition. I think innovation suffered for a number of years while Shimano and Campy were content to dominate their respective markets without any real challengers.

Enter SRAM. To make a long story short, SRAM acquired Sachs and had great success with a simple product called the Grip Shift for mountain bikes. In recent years we saw SRAM make small forays into the road market with chains and cassettes. It wasn't until they stormed onto the scene in 2006 with full road groups (Force and Rival) that people really sat up and started to take notice. Their DoubleTap shift levers in particular were much simpler internally than the competition and offered better functionality. Both of these groups got rave reviews, were ridden in the Tour and quickly became spec'd on some stock bikes (3 things that really got Shimano and Campy's attention).

SRAM's real ace-in-the-hole was the Red group. While Force was a solid contender with both Dura-Ace and Record in terms of weight and performance, it was the new top-end Red grouppo that sent everyone else back to the drawing boards.

Thanks for allowing me to indulge in two of my favorite pasttimes: cycling and history! I do think it helps to have a little background knowledge to understand why people are so excited about this SRAM stuff.

To get back to my BMC upgrade, I stripped all the old components off right after Steelhead. I've now got more than a month and more than 1,000 miles on the new parts, so I feel I can offer up a small, well-informed, review.

TT Shifters

No question the aesthetics of these shifters is top-notch. One nice feature not apparent from the pictures is that there are fewer parts to these than a Dura-Ace bar end shifter set. Good news for you home mechanics! Combined with the Red rear derailleur I would say the shifting is more positive than Dura-Ace: each shift is very solid. The carbon levers look great and save some weight, but I'm not sure how they'd hold up in a crash, or even accidental drop. One feature that I miss is the ability to switch to friction mode. This has come in handy more than once when shifting problems have come up mid-race or mid-ride. On the flip side, not having this extra non-essential piece is in-line with the SRAM philosophy of simplification (less parts, better durability, lower weight).


Rather than belabour you with the minutia of each drivetrain piece I will just write a few words about how everything works together. Ceramic bearings have been all the rage among weight weenies and bike techies. I've never been convinced that these upgrades are worth the price tag. SRAM Red was the first grouppo to offer ceramic bearings as standard equipment. Both the external bottom bracket and rear derailleur pulleys utilize ceramic bearings. Just playing with these pieces before they were installed, I thought they were smooth, but not noticably more so than standard bearings. As soon as I started my first ride with the new stuff, I have to admit everything was smoother. Granted the Dura-Ace stuff I took off had lots of miles on it and had been raced in too many rainstorms this year, but there was a definite, noticable difference. Beyond that, the derailleurs were easy to install and adjust. As noted above, the shifting is very strong and solid. I believe the rear derailleur spring is stronger than Dura-Ace, which helps with nice crisp shifting. I think it is a toss-up for most innovative pieces between the double-tap shifters and the rear cassette. Cassettes haven't changed much since the change-over from freewheels. SRAM's approach to the Red cassette is entirely new. They start with a solid chunk of steel and do about an hours worth of material removal to come up with a hollow cassette made entirely of steel, which when nickel plated is much more durable than the titanium that Dura-Ace uses. The hollow design means the whole thing is also lighter than a Dura-Ace cassette. This is definitely my favorite piece of the tri group. Below is a picture that shows some of the cassette machining process.


An object in motion tends to stay in motion, therefore brake design of a top-end group has to be at or above the standards of the rest of the group. The Sram Red brakeset again betters Dura-Ace and Record by a few grams. The good news is that it doesn't do it by sacrificing stopping power like some other ultra-light aftermarket brakes. The Red brakes have a centering screw which is very important to me since I switch between race wheels and training wheels all the time (I don't believe Force and Rival have this screw?). My brakes came equipped with high-end yellow SwissStop carbon brake pads. The pads actually performed great on aluminum rims, but I got some squeal on my Zipps. More than likely this is due to me not taking the time to set proper toe-in, but I am still switching back to Zipp brake pads for Kona.

Bike Snob Aesthetics

Lastly, I consider functionality and performance as the most important criteria when selecting bikes and components. So I take it as a nice finge benefit that the SRAM Red components just look so awesome on the BMC! The color scheme is the same and BMC also uses a bold graphic design similar to what is on the Red cranks. Never hurts to look good when you're tearing it up!

Bottom Line

Sram hit a homerun with the Red group and struck some serious fear into Shimano and Sram. Still you get what you pay for. Weight-wise the Force grouppo is only about 150 grams heavier than Red. The new models of Force and Rival get trickle-down technology from Red, so other than the minor weight penalty there shouldn't be much in step-down in functionality/peformance. If you have to have the best, that is Red, but I'd have to say it is unlikely that anyone would lose a race because they were using Force and not Red!

Blowing Sunshine up..........

Whenever a sponsored athlete sings the praises of some company product, I am pretty skeptical. Fair enough, don't take my word for it. Check out a few other glowing reviews:



Cycling News

Monday, September 8, 2008

Fueled by the Baconator!

Wow a full weekend of triathlony goodness and I'm wiped out! I'll try to give you the condensed play-by-play version, but extreme sleepiness could result in random tangents and musings....

This weekend marked my last race before the big 'un. I chose the Great Illini 1/2 IM (there is also a full!) in Neoga, Illinois which is about 2.5 hours south of Bloomington. I picked this race primarily because the timing was just about perfect for a last really hard tune-up race.

I was excited about the race because it was also kind of a return to roots sort of event. When I started doing this sport more seriously 5 years ago, we almost always carpooled and camped out before a race. If the overnight temps are decent, I probably still prefer this to a hotel. I love camping and have no problem sleeping in a tent.

I was travelling down to Neoga with my brother and sister-in-law who were both racing the half as well. We had the blue magoo (Saturn Vue) packed to the gills with race and camping gear. We stopped in the last "big" town before Neoga to eat. Apparently there is very little to do in the Mattoon area, because every restaurant in town was absolutely packed. Not wanting to waste potential sleep waiting for a table we eventually opted for Wendy's. Now in general, I eat really well (copiously yes, but primarily healthy whole foods). My philosophy is if you are gonna splurge, you might as well do it right! I knew I was going to burn through a butt-load (that's a clinical term) of calories at the race, so I fueled up with a Baconator (pictured above and a chocolate frosty). You can have your carbo-dinners, I found my new pre-race meal!!! If greasy food helped Stuart Hayes dominate the field at the Chicago Tri it must be good for the rest of us, right?

The campground was within a quarter mile of the start, so I thought that gave me leeway to sleep in a bit. Darndest thing- getting up an hour and 15 minutes before the start of a 1/2 IM where you haven't gotten your packet yet, makes for an action-packed morning!

Morning temps were great- low 60s. Winds were low as well. My goal for this race was just to go hard and get one last good race in before Kona. After a VERY short swim warm-up I took off with my wave. The 1/2 only had about 200 people total and a couple waves. I was at the front of the swim with a few others right off the bat. Buoy spacing and orientation was a bit confusing and added some time to the swim, but I felt super-solid and shouldn't have any problem holding the same pace for 2.4 (I swam about 30 minutes flat).

I exited the swim with one other athlete from my wave and there was one more a little bit ahead. One mile into the bike, I had overtaken both and was in the lead! The bike course is mostly flat, but not that fast due to four 180 degree turnarounds. Nothing kills the average speed like coming almost to a stop and turning around. The positive side was that I got to see where the rest of my competition was after each turnaround. I've been hitting a bunch of long, progressive rides and was hoping that training would pay off at this shorter distance. I knew one of the biggest threats on the bike would be my buddy Kyle May owner of Spin City Cycles in Decatur, Illinois. Kyle is an excellent biker and has made up the swim deficit in more than one race. Fairly early on in the race it was me in the lead, Kyle chasing in second and my brother Andy cranking it out in 3rd place. That's the first time that Andy and I were both near the front of a race- pretty damn cool! The wind picked up a bit and the north sections were quite slow. I was hoping to match my power from my excellent ride at Steelhead and just kept my effort pegged at around 240 watts. Kyle moved up and fell back a bit at points, but I was able to maintain the overall lead (but didn't have fastest bike split). The numbers: 237 ave. watts good for 23.3 mph.

I came into T2 with about a 3 minute cushion. I was feeling really strong and modified my race plan a bit. If I ran all out and went for a big PR, I would certainly end up with some nasty blisters and a couple extra days of recovery. I decided to run the first 6 at a quick, but reasonable pace and then run the last 6 all out. Good news is that I felt very strong right off the bat. There was none of the "muddle through the first few miles" until I hit my stride. Since the run course consisted of two out-and-back "loops" I could keep tabs on the competition and was glad to see I was putting even more time on the field without running all out. At the half-way point I upped the suffering level to standard race intensity. This method seemed to work really well. I felt good, but not great, for the remaining six miles. The course is nearly pancake flat, but my split was definitely a nice surprise: 1:25 (about 4 minutes off my open pace).

So I ended up notching my second overall win at this race which is a nice pre-Kona boost! 3 years ago I had my first long-course win at the debut Great Illini Half. Time was 4:22 which is a pr of 2-3 minutes for me. Due to a solid day in all three disciplines I actually ended up finishing almost 20 minutes ahead of 2nd.

I dedicate this victory to Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy's!

Generally racing a half IM will wipe me out for the whole weekend, but we knew a ton of people racing at IM WI and had to get up there to do some hardcore spectating. We crashed at home Sat night, then got up stupid early to drive to Madison and catch the racers out on Old Sauk hill. We brought along an entire box of cowbells that were left-over awards from one of our local races. Heather distributed these to spectators on the hill and holy Wisconsin Ironman Cow did that make an awesome racket! We knew so many racers that we had someone to specifically cheer for every 5-10 minutes. The racers had pretty much the nicest weather of any of the Wisconsin races (I've raced or spectated almost every one). The great conditions showed in the times- a new course record on the men's side and blistering age group times. EvoTri members JP and Michelle both had excellent races and met their goals. JP had a stellar debut race, placing 5th in 18-24 (10:13). Michelle broke the 12 hour mark with a big PR over last year (11:52). Way to go Evo! We also had about a dozen Tri-Shark members at the race. Mostly great races with Tri-Shark expatriate Drewbie leading the way with a 10:20 and going all the way to good buddy Meredith's first time finish in just over 16. Great job everyone, it was so much fun to watch all of you!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Kona Athlete Guide!!

It's been nearly a year since I qualified for Kona at IM WI '07. In many ways, this is the ideal situation since #1 I didn't have to race another IM in the same season as Kona and #2 I had an entire year to improve. The small downside, I guess, is that I did have more than a year before the race. Contrast this with my friend and fellow Tri-Shark club member, N.K., who just last weekend raced IM Louisville and snagged himself a Kona slot for THIS YEAR! That's a little over a month between races! Congrats and Youch!

Anyway, yesterday I received an e-mail with the 2008 Kona athlete guide. This really drove home to me that I am really and truly in the final stretch of preparation. I have my last tune-up half this weekend (Great Illini) and then about 3 weeks of hard work before entering a carefully orchestrated 3 week taper.

I thought I would share a few gems from the athlete guide!

5:00 p.m. Ironman Parade of Nations (athletes gather at 4 p.m.)
(There is a f***in Parade of Nations?! Holy crap!)

2) Seasickness is the major cause of dropping out of the swim
(that's not in other athlete guides!)

3) When training, stay clear of the Kona charter boats that use Kailua Pier.

The rocks and sides of the Kailua Pier often have sea urchins on them. Always look before putting your feet down, as stepping on one could result in serious injury keeping you from
competing in the race!

From the airport area to Hawi, you will be biking into the legendary Ho'omumuku headwinds. These winds blow 5-35 mph and, in extreme conditions, can gust up to 60 mph. While air temperatures may register in the high 80’s to low 90’s, temperatures along this section of the course may exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit due to the refl ected heat from the lava and asphalt.

1) No form of locomotion other than running, walking or crawling is allowed.

On a moonless night in Kona, it is very dark. We urge all of you to make yourselves as visible as possible.

If you spend three months prior to the World Championship in a climate cooler than Hawaii, we suggest you take a three-week acclimation period in Kona before the race.
(HAH! Right.)

2007 top Male 25-29
Alex Mroszczyk-McDonald, USA 59:29 4:56:26 3:00:27 9:00:09
(yowza! This also happens to be the fastest amateur time overall as is generally the case with the 25-29 AG)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Steelhead and the Great Periodization Experiment

Last year Steelhead was my last big test before heading into Ironman Wisconsin. It helped to determine if all the hard work, the team coaching and the fancy gear would add up to a substantial time drop. It did. That race went quite well and I turned in my fastest time on an accurate half-ironman course (inaccurate 1/2 IM courses are another story!).

This year Steelhead was also a test of my somewhat untraditional training structure for this season. After last season, I really bought into the concept of non-traditional periodization. The structure of my season is somewhat based off this great article. In traditional periodization you do your base/LSD first to lay the aerobic foundations. Next you build strength and speed, then peak and taper. This method is firmly rooted in solid exercise physiology, but it also has some shortcomings. Briefly, my training this year has been structured like this: lots of high intensity bike intervals from Feb-May while doing traditional LSD on the run. Come late spring and I started doing some run intensity. I didn't really start doing any long endurance rides until after Hyvee in July. Swim is fairly static since I don't know anyone that likes to do swimming base! This program was designed to accomplish a number of personal goals (better power on the bike and low mileage / high quality running). It also takes seasonal conditions into consideration: i.e. early spring in Illinois is a lousy time to do long rides!

My race schedule was designed to mimic this training structure with only shorter events all spring and early summer. The goal was to help build speed/power by focusing on short races which are more difficult for me. So Steelhead in August was my first long-course race in a season that will culminate with one of the most difficult long-course races. Risky? Maybe a bit, but it all makes a lot of sense when you think about it.

So how did things pan out? As most people have heard, Steelhead this year was a duathlon due to a few waves in Lake Michigan. Funny thing is that I did this race the first year before it became a 70.3. As I recall the waves were just as bad, but the participant numbers much more reasonable. No one even considered cancelling the swim that day. I've got a good rant in mind here, but will save it for another post! My year of the du actually paid off somewhat since I recalled how much it sucked to try and ride hard after running 2 miles hard at Tri-Shark. I ran a comfortable and controlled first run figuring I couldn't lose much time in 2 miles!

Heading out on the bike I just felt amazing. Usually it takes me a good 30-45 minutes to start feeling good on the bike. From the start I was riding above my specified power zones for this race. Had it been a more important race, I might have backed down, which as it turns out would have been a mistake. Rather than staying within my prescribed numbers I thought, what the hell let's see what happens! I can't figure out how the Steelhead course is so fast. It's definitely not flat and it definitely wasn't still. What helps is that there are long, straight stretches. Bike courses like IM WI are difficult in part, because of all the corners. I should mention that my age group went dead last. That meant I had the majority of 2000 other athletes to get around during the bike. The course was way too crowded and way too many people completely neglected to follow any of the USAT rules (yet another rant in the making). My ride continued to go well. I was seeing power numbers similar to an Olympic distance race. I got down 600 calories (2 bottles of Infinit and one gel) which seemed about right nutrition-wise. I fell off pace a bit in the last third, but nothing catastrophic. I had no idea how well I had ridden until I got home and looked at the Powertap files. 24.9 mph and 241 watts. Last year's Steelhead was 23 something and 220 watts! Game on, peeps! Funky training plan is working.

I knew I had ridden well and was pretty happy with that. In the back of my mind I was wondering if I was just going to have a terrible run in retribution for such a fast ride. My plan was to take the first half of the run at a quick, but comfortable pace and then re-assess at the halfway point. I felt ok -but not great- for most of the run. I was able to pick it up in the second half, but not as much as I had hoped. With so many waves ahead of me, I had no idea where I was in relation to my age group or rest of the field (one of the reasons I love mass-start IM races so much!). Run time was just under 1:26. Minute and change slower than last year, but still way faster when you figure in the bike split. At the end of the day I was 16th overall and 2nd in my age group. Very solid showing for me at a big event.

Steelhead was one of our Evotri team events meaning the whole crew was in town and ready to race. The one advantage to starting in the last wave is that I got to see almost everyone a couple of times out on the course. Michelle is looking absolutely rock-solid for IM WI. Because of all the different waves when I passed her I wasn't sure what lap she was on (she was running like it was her first). As she clarified it was her second. Her strong run and stellar bike were enough to secure a slot for the World Championships in Clearwater! New teammate JP also had a super-solid effort leading into his IM debut at Wisconsin.

Right now, I'm heading into what should be my biggest training week ever, then one more 1/2 IM at the beginning of Sept.

Yesterday marked 2 months from Kona! Bring it on!

Friday, July 11, 2008

WIBA and Fast Mommies

WIBA 2008

Ya'll remember Sisyphus and his big ole' rock, right? Sometimes I can relate when it comes to my blog. It's not that I don't enjoy writing or that the task is repetitive, but rather that I have so much good stuff to write about I can never get it in. I always end up trying to play catch-up by writing about past events. Sure I could skip ahead to the last couple of days, but that always seems to mean leaving something signficant out.

So there you have it. We need to rewind about two weeks to the awesome Wisconsin Ironman Brick Adventure (WIBA) presented by my very own EvoTri team. This weekend is one of only a couple times each year that the entire team gets together so good times and good training are assured. Presented by Team EvoTri may actually be a bit misleading since the original WIBA was -and still is- the brainchild of IronWil. This year the event was taken to an even higher level through the mad planning and orgaziational skillz of one Robby B.

I was accompanied on the weekend by my wife Cara and our small offspring. We've had races or events that required a good deal of travel for the last 3 weekends. We're hoping to condition Jonah to the rigors of travelling before the long plane trip to Kona in October!

Friday afternoon the team got to go on a very cool tour of the Saris/Cyclops headquarters and factory. Very interesting mult-purpose facility. The Powertap assembly line and quality control area was enough to make any self-respecting power geek go weak in the knees. One thing that really impressed me was how many different quality checks these things go through to make sure it arrives both accurate and durable for the long haul.

Saturday was the big training day. Since I am not racing IM Wisconsin, I didn't really feel any pressure to really hit the course hard, although I was planning on getting in a long solid day. The morning started with a swim in Lake Mendota as opposed to Monona where the IM is held. I actually liked this better. I rarely get in open water swims, so I always love it when I can just get out in the open and go. There were some decent swells in the lake which added to the fun!

On to the bike where I had a nice leisurely start with some friends from Bloomington and my teammate Charlie. I always enjoy riding the Madison course- I think it is both gorgeous and challenging. Somewhere around an hour or so in, it was just me and Charlie. I was trying to explain that the section we were on out to Verona is what everyone calls the "flat section" but I'm not sure he was believing me! Soon enough grasshopper. Charlie was worried about holding me back, but I assured him that there was more than enough suffering to be had on the second loop if I wanted it! I left Charlie in Mt. Horeb with Robby to re-group. I took off and rode hard for about an hour until encountering Michelle with a flat (and a flat spare!) part-way up the big Old Sauk hill. We got Michelle rolling again and I finished the first lap of the course with her- more quality time with the teammies!

Second lap was time to hurt a bit. A couple big storms blew in, but I managed to mostly ride in between two really nasty storms. I rode most of the second lap alone with a goal of 200+ watts ave (which is harder than it sounds because there is a lot of coasting). I hooked up with a 2-time Kona qualifier -Dan- and rode with him from Verona back to Madison. Dan is apparently super-strong on the bike, because for awhile it was all I could do to keep him in sight.

Back in Madison I was able to meet up with Stu and Michelle for a short brick run. I was thoroughly trashed and it is only through the magical powers of Taco Bell that I got through the rest of the day!!

Sunday morning was my turn for the jogstroller. This was going to be Jonah's longest stretch in the jog stroller and he did great. We went 1:40 and he slept for a good chunk of time. I had a nice run with Laird from Canada. Good times, good weekend. I almost feel spoiled that I get to see the whole team again within a month at Steelhead!

Lakeside Triathlon- Decatur

This past weekend (see I'm getting damn close to the present!) was the Lakeside Triathlon in Decatur, Illinois. Decatur is about an hour south of us and a big contigent of Tri-Sharks, including my wife were headed down for this in between sprint and olympic distance race. Cara played support crew at Hy-Vee and now it was my turn to turn Jonah into a triathlon spectator extraordinaire. Cara has been doing way less swimming than me and I'm doing good when I make it twice a week. She has been doing about the same amount of biking, but was hoping to offset this with #1 a decent amount of run training and #2 a super-efficient swim stroke. Despite whining about all the people she KNEW were going to beat her before the race, she pulled out a solid 3 event showing to win her age group! Way to go fast mommy! Jonah stayed awake for the whole race and played the throw my pacifier on the ground game.

Good times were had by all!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Hy-Vee Triathlon Race Report

If you scroll down to my last "Plague of Du's" post you will find all the relevant prologue material to this race report. Since I've already set the stage so to speak, I will jump right into the race report.

When I saw that Hy-Vee was going to be the race that determined the last Olympic slot, I knew I had to get over there since the age-group competition would also be top-notch. The amateur race covered some of the same course as the ITU event and shared the same transitions and finish line. Hy-Vee went all out for this event both in terms of prize money and race organization. Race schwag was unreal and included two hats, a custom bike jersey, a custom messenger bag and a T-Shirt. I would have preferred a reduction in the stupidly expensive entry fee personally, but still a ridiculous amount of schwag!

On race morning, no one was allowed to take their bikes out of transition- due to logistics I'm guessing. I made due with a short run warm-up and then a little bit of a swim before they pulled us out of the water for the start. The lake was definitely flooded, but was actually a fine place to hold a race. The first corner came way too soon, but I started wide and got out fast, so had no problems there. Like usual, I've been doing very little swimming and didn't know what to expect. I didn't have my top-end speed, but I was very comfortable and relaxed in the water. The water was a reasonable temp (mid-70s), so I wasn't overheating in my sleevless wetsuit (wetsuit legal swims near the 78 degree cutoff are one of my triathlon pet peeves). I came out of the water in 23:10 and figure the course was probably fairly accurate.
Sharp new EvoTri Team Jersey!

When the entire race got moved to a new location due to the flooding I was concerned about riding a screwy, cobbled together bike course. In reality, the organizers stepped up again and put together a pretty nice bike course. The course had one good climb (maybe 3/4 of a mile long?) a few rollers, quite a few turns and less flats than you would have guessed for Iowa! The one long out and back section was a false flat into a headwind that definitely caused some suffering! About 5 minutes into the bike, things started to click. Usually I am just plain miserable on the bike for short course racing. I like to ease into the bike for a half hour or so and then get after it. Obviously this doesn't work for short course! Power-wise my goal was to be riding around 280 watts on the flat sections. My threshold is currently somewhere in the 280-290 range, so when you average in some hills and coasting my goal wattage was an ambitious 270 watts. During most of this race I was able to ride more like a pure time trial than bike leg of a triathlon. Legs were feeling good and there was quite a bit of time were I actually felt almost comfortable at race pace. Almost. A good sign for longer races to come is that I didn't fall off pace too much. I actually felt pretty strong coming in. Another good sign is that no one from my wave passed me during the bike. The eventual winner -Mark Harms- did pass me on the bike FROM THE WAVE BEHIND! This means two things: #1 I'm riding short course somewhat better and #2 the guys in my age group that did out-ride me, also out-swam me! I finished the ride in 1:03 and change, but this is misleading since my computer had the course at about 25.3 instead of 24.8. My best average speed ever at 23.9 mph and average watts came in at 260. To put that in perspective, I went under an hour at Memphis in May last year, but averaged less watts. Good stuff! Stay tuned to find out what these numbers translate to for Steelhead 70.3 in August.

I headed out on the run knowing that I just had my best Olympic distance bike ride. I was happy with that and not sure what would be left in the legs for another 10K. This was my only other "A" race this season other than Kona, so I didn't worry about how hard I just rode and got after the run right out of the gate. I saw Cara and Jonah for the first time soon after T2. Jonah's first time spectating at a triathlon! I had to turn in a good run now! My legs were feeling decent, but lacking top-end turnover (no big surprise there). The run had a number of out and back sections that let me see the competition. I was having a good day, but this race was stacked. There were quite a few athletes from my 29 and under wave ahead of me. I got to work trying to pick off a couple as best I could. Like the bike, I think I was only passed once during the run. We were fairly strung out though and I don't think I made up more than 4 0r 5 places. The run actually had a couple decent hills in it to keep everyone honest (some of the same hills that the ITU bike course went over). Temps stayed reasonable throughout the run (thanks to the ungodly early 6am start!). Run time was a really solid 37:10. I can improve on that, but not by a whole lot!

Coming into the finish was on par with great events like Wildflower and the North America Ironman events. Everything was all decked out in blue carpet for the ITU race. There must have been something like a quarter mile of carpet! There were huge grandstands and a jumbotron screen. Very, very cool finish line.

At the end of the day I finished 22nd overall with a 2:06:26. I took 5th in the 25-29 age group. The time was a bit disappointing until I saw the bike course was a bit long. That plus the long transitions slowed all the times down.

Racing strong at Hy-Vee was one of the important benchmarks I wanted to reach on my way to Kona. The first benchmark of the year was starting the spring tri season as strong on the bike as I finished last year.
Check and check!

Monday, June 23, 2008

A plague of du's

I was pretty excited to compete in my first duathlon a few weeks back (see last post). A nice, short du seemed like the perfect lead-up to tri season proper. That race served its purpose and was even somewhat enjoyable. BUT, triathlon is really my thing. I'm not really buying into this whole run twice concept!

After the Hopedale du, I was pretty psyched for our local Tri-Shark Classic race that my club helps to put on. It is one of the earliest races in Illinois and always brings out top-notch competition. Well, this year it also brought out the storms. My Evotri teammate Michelle, made the drive down all the way from northern Wisconsin to do the race. Race morning did not look promising with some serious storm clouds rolling in. After postponing the race twice because of lightning, our race management team made the decision to turn the race into a duathlon! I made the best of the situation and raced hard for a 4th place overall finish.

I have two "A" events this season. Kona (obviously) and the Hy-Vee Triathlon in Des Moines. So as it happens, Des Moines has been in the news, but not because of the triathlon! Flooding. Lots of flooding. Bring out the National Guard sort of stuff. So guess what? A little more than a week out from the race the competitors get an e-mail saying the entire race had to be moved and would now be a DUATHLON! Great, my "A" event is now a duathlon, but not only that, my 3rd duathlon in a row! A plague of du's. I enjoy racing and all, but I think it is in my best interest to actually do some triathlons to get ready for an Ironman. This in mind I started looking around for alternate events and found the Tour of Carroll County bike race. This was a 62 mile hilly bike race that sounded like some excellent training! Unfortunately, I couldn't find anyone else that was willing to go to the race on oh, I don't know, about 12 hours notice (it's called spontaniety peeps!). I instead opted to go over to my brothers for a little barbecue and a few beverages. Around 8pm my brother gets a text from one Mr. Kelley- a local cyclist. A phone call between us ends in, "OK I'm going to stop drinking now and meet you at 4:30am to drive to the race."

So last weekend I went up to Northwest Illinois for the Tour of Carroll County. I raced in the Cat 4/5 race which looked like it had about 40 people or so. I tend to do better in the hills than flats so the first part of this race went really well for me. Within the hilly first hour we had cut the lead group to around 20. Most of this remaining group stayed together for the whole race (it was windy and the attacks were all ridden down). I was feeling excellent and ready to unleash my triathlon sprinting skillz (which is to say increasing my time trial speed by 1 mph). In all the other bike races I've done there are nice, big signs letting you know you are a mile out, 800 meters, 400 meters, etc. As we were picking up speed I was looking for those signs to start when I saw two little cones that "marked" the finish. Our whole group was over the finish before I even got a half decent sprint in. I took 7th and learned a good lesson about positioning in a large field sprint.

So come Tuesday or Wednesday of this last week, I get another e-mail that says "Guess what the lake is still flooded, but the bacteria count is now safe, so Hy-Vee is back to being a triathlon." Now, it took some fancy negotiating with the wife for me to be allowed to do the unscheduled bike race in the first place- the main negotiating chip being "I'll skip the Hy-Vee duathlon". Needless to say, wife was not thrilled about the prospect of entertaining 8 month old baby all alone for another weekend. After much debate a compromise of wife running a Saturday morning 3 mile road race (big PR by the way) and then wife and baby coming with husband to triathlon in flooded state was reached.

So I guess that is actually the introduction to my Hy-Vee race report. To avoid an unreadable, epic-length post I will save the actual race report for another day!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Train your weakness, race your strength!

Hopedale Duathlon Race Report

One of the most common mistakes that I see newbie triathletes making is putting way too much training time into their strongest discipline. Triathlon is all about achieving balance by eliminating weakness. Many people come to tri from a long running background. Instead of putting all their focus on swimming and biking, they will try to keep doing the same types of running workouts and volume that they did before coming into tri. This is a recipe for very ineffective tri training. It's almost absurd how little you can do in your strong sport and still maintain a high level of fitness. For example, I come from a swimming and running background, but have always lost ground on the bike leg. Over the last 5 years, I've dedicated over 60% of my TOTAL training time to biking. I achieve a high level of fitness from the bike workouts and do mostly maintenance work in the other sports. I've been focused on Ironman racing and yet I rarely run more than 25 miles a week. I generally swim 3 to 6 thousand yards. Granted most of my "strong sport" work is high quality, but it goes to show that in triathlon you have to determine your training priorities and stick to it!

All this serves as a circuitous introduction to my race report from this past weekend's duathlon endeavors. As part of my plan to save the planet (actually it's my checking account) I am doing a lot more of the smaller, local races this season. The Hopedale duathlon was a first-year event about 20 minutes from home. It was perfect timing to get in a tune-up race before Tri-Shark, my first larger, more competitive, tri in two weeks.

Outside of an off-road duathlon that I did a couple years back this was my first foray into duathlon. Although, I would never give up triathlon racing for duathlons, I do have to admit that it was nice not having to start the morning by jumping into a freezing lake! This du was a 2 mile run followed by 13 mile bike and another 2 mile run. These short distance are definitely intimidating for someone who focuses on races that last longer than the work day! I haven't ran two miles really hard since college track. This is definitely where "racing my strength" came into play. I didn't know what sort of uber-bikers might be in the field, so I knew I had to do my best to get a cushion of time on the first run. I took off in the lead from the start and was feeling strong and smooth. There was no mile mark, so I just went off my perceived exertion. I came into the transition around 10:30, which if the course was accurate, is pretty darn quick.

I didn't waste any time looking to see how close the chase group was. I jumped on my bike, determined to have a good ride. It was fairly windy so I found myself looking at my powertap more than usual. Generally a sprint, is just all out, but I tried to keep it under control in the headwind. At a couple of the corners I glimpsed a few chasers, but I just put my head down and kept going. The course was mostly flat with a few small rollers in the second half. Pretty soon I started thinking I wasn't going to get caught on the bike, which never happens. Sure enough I rolled into town still in the lead. Another solid ride for me at around an average of 270 watts and just under 24 mph. My pie-in-the-sky goal will be to hold that same effort level for twice the distance at the Hyvee triathon.

I knew I had the race wrapped up going into the second run, but I was still trying to convince myself to see if I could match the first run. This sounded great in theory but, after a hard run and ride the mind just wasn't having it. I'd like to think that under pressure I could have ran as fast or better, as it played out I ended up just a little over 11 minutes.

My long-time local training partner and competitor, Brian Rossi locked up second place overall. Brian has just ditched his Litespeed for a BMC TT02! This was something like his second ride ever on the bike. Needless to say he is pretty happy with the decision!