Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Not so Easy in the Big Easy

I was super excited for New Orleans 70.3. This race had a stacked pro field with over 30 competing. This year I’m trying to get a feel for where my strengths are and at what distance in triathlon. New Orleans was my first 70.3 of the season and gave my Coach and me great feedback on where I’m at. Friend and fellow triathlete Carlos Miranda decided last minute to race and joined Erin and I for the 8.5 hour trek on I-10. We left Friday after work and drove straight through finding a hotel on Bourbon St. to put us up for the night until we could move to the race hotel the next day. It was pretty hilarious trying to navigate at Midnight through the small New Orleans side streets to find our hotel. If you haven’t been to Bourbon Street before it’s party central for New Orleans and Friday night it was hopping. We got some strange looks unloading Tri Bikes and had some even stranger conversations with party goers in the elevator ride up to our room.

Saturday morning we all got up and headed over to the race course for a 45 minute bike. The wind was pretty wild and the water was wilder with monster waves. After the bike we got some food and headed over to packet pickup. I hit the Pro meeting at 3 pm, it was pretty cool to see 50 pro men and women sitting in the room, it really showed just how deep the field was. Saturday we caught some good food at Dragos in the Hilton and settled down for the night. My wife Erin’s Birthday was Saturday but we decided to celebrate Sunday after the race.
Sunday morning we got up bright and early to head over to transition and get prepped for the race. I started to get my bike settled in and things set up when an announcement came over the loud speaker. Due to high winds the swim portion was going to be cancelled for the race! This immediately created a buzz among the Pros and different athletes were lobbying for how they felt the race should be adjusted. First we were all going to line up to do a time trial start with 3 seconds between, then we were going to run the outskirts of the transition area and grab our bikes for a mass start, and finally they put it to a vote. The vote ended with us doing a time trial start with 30 seconds between us to help break up any packs. I conversed with my coach, Zane Castro, about the change and how this might adjust my race plan. While swimming is not my strongest leg I was disappointed not to swim. I was looking forward to seeing my overall time and comparing with last year for improvements. I also need more swim starts to work on this leg and pack swimming.

After I warmed up I grabbed my bike and headed over to the start where they were calling off our names to line up. I started 9th of 31 men just behind fellow University of Iowa graduate TJ Tollakson. They sounded the start and we were off one rider every 30 seconds. When it was my turn to go I executed a flying mount brought my bike up to speed and was off in good shape. The plan was to take the first half of the bike conservative and then work the second half hard. With 25 mph winds I didn’t want to burn up right away. Things were going to plan; I held my position until about mile 5 when Massimo Cigana of Italy went by. That’s how it went for the first half of the bike, about every 4-5 miles someone went by. Mile 22 I passed Bryan Rhodes and kept pace until mile 28. At mile 28 I kicked it up a notch and passed John Flanagan. I was pass halfway and started to work the bike a little harder. No one came by the next 10 miles which I took as a good sign things were going in the right direction. About mile 40 my legs got heavy and HR dropped, I was zapped. The next 16 miles I spent fueling for energy and getting passed as I had fallen off pace. I worked to keep my head in the game knowing this is a long race and a lot can change.
Transition went well enough and I was off running. Within the first half mile my left quad was tightening and I was fighting off a cramp. I ran by Cesar Valera and just did my best to keep my pace up. With the exception of the nagging quad the run didn’t go too bad. I held it together and passed a couple more guys before the finish and was closing fast on two more before I ran out of real estate. I finished with a 1:19:06 run and 3:41:17 overall time, this put me 25th out of 31 pro men. A big congrats to Sebastian Kienle of Germany, the man was an animal on the day winning a race full of former Ironman and Ironman 70.3 champs. Erin had a pretty good day finishing 7th in her age-group and averaging 22 mph on the bike! Carlos also did very well, he did two 70.3s on back to back weekends dropping about 16 minutes off the bike/run he did the previous weekend at Galveston.

The post race party was good and later that night we had a blast celebrating Erin’s Birthday. We had some great New Orleans Cajun food, a little gambling at Harrah’s, a few drinks, and caught some live Jazz. What a night! Now I’m looking forward to a solid 5 week training block to get prepped for Cap Tex in Austin. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Kemah Race Report

First off I want to congratulate the Onurmark Productions for an outstanding race. I’m not sure I can say I’ve been to a better run race. The Staff kept everyone very informed in the weeks leading up to the race and the race plan was very well thought out and executed. The race definitely had a big time feel to it. Now onto the race report!

Erin and I arrived in Kemah Saturday and started preparations for the next day’s race. I thought preparation went well. I got a little surprise at the Pro meeting. As I found out that with the new wetsuit rules USAT established we wouldn’t be allowed to use our wetsuits like the age-groupers. This was a bummer as I don’t own a swim skin and my race uniform is definitely not ideal for swimming (i.e. big parachute pocket on the back).

This was my first race against the big boys and there were a lot of them. Names like 2-time Ironman World Champ Tim Deboom, 70.3 world champ Terenzo Bozzone, Ironman champ and worlds runner-up Chris Lieto, Andrew Yoder, Brian Fleischman, and many more talented triathletes toed the line. I wasn’t too happy with the end result for the day but learned many valuable things along the way to put in my toolbox. All in all for my first race I’ll take it. Here is the blow by blow.

I woke up at 3:45 am, with a night of surprisingly good sleep. Erin and I got ready and ate our traditional oatmeal and peanut butter breakfast. We then made the short walk from our hotel to the transition. I started running through my pre-race ritual of checking equipment and warming-up. Then Erin and I headed over to the Paddle boat for a nice mile ride out. We ended up sitting on the boat for a little over an hour, any warm up I had definitely was gone. They got the boat into place and then all the pro men lined up for a dive start. I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself as I watched all the men around me piss themselves prior to the start (apparently 90 minutes without a bathroom while your drinking water like crazy is a little much).

They signaled the start and we were in the water battling. First 100 meters went well I was in the mix of the pack and feeling good. There was quite a bit of chop in the water, decent sized waves, and a strong side current that made it difficult to swim straight and sight. I over corrected on my sighting and fell of the hip of the guy next to me. Next thing I know I’m heading to the right and the pack is to the left. I had a split second to make a decision on whether to chase the pack or continue right to the Buoys. I decided to continue right (mistake #1). I got out of the water in a little over 24 minutes on a swim that was about 150-200 meters longer than the planned 1500 meters.

I ran into the first transition to see only two bikes left, with one of them being mine. I knew I had my work cut out for me, so I grabbed my bike and was off with a smooth transition. During the last part of the swim 2 Pro women had past me, I caught then within the first 2 miles off the bike and then started the lonely ride of trying to work my way back up to the main pack. Shortly into the bike I looked down at my computer for a Heart Rate check to realize I forgot to wear my HR strap (mistake #2). This really messed with my bike plan as I wanted to redline most the way on the bike but not over. To top it off I my computer wasn’t reading speed either. So I focused on keeping my cadence fairly high and pushing what I thought was an appropriate pace. By mile 3 I hit a nasty seam in the road and lost my water bottle (mistake #3). I got to ride the other twenty-one miles without fluids. I was watching my watch as I saw other pros on the course and with the exception of the first few it seemed like I was maintaining pace but not gaining. The last few miles of the bike I had the wind to my back and really pushed this section averaging about 31 mph. I rolled into T2 with a 58:40 bike averaging 25.4 mph.

After a smooth transition I was off on the run. The first couple miles I just tried to keep my head down and pace up. I came through the first 5K with a 17:45 including a short wrong turn (mistake #4). Right at the 5K mark I caught Pro Dan MacKenzie. I made sure to put in a good surge when I passed to minimize any chance of him latching onto me for the last 5k. At about the 4 mile mark I caught Matt Russell out of the corner of my eye, he looked to be running pretty good. I set myself up mentally for a battle the last couple miles. About the time Matt was closing on me I made another wrong turn (I missed the turnaround, mistake #5) and he yelled at me to bring me back on course. I turned around and tried to close the 10 seconds he just put into me. The last 1.5 mile was over and back on a bridge connecting an island to Kemah. The long uphill fried my legs and a good chase for Matt never materialized. I coasted in the last half mile making sure Dan didn’t close back in on me.

My end result was 12th out of 13 Pros that finished, in a time of 2:01:24. I definitely know I have a better race in me than that and as you can see I have a few mistakes I need to fix for next race, but that’s all part of the process. Andrew Yoder had an outstanding race taking the overall win with Terenzo Bozzone, Chris Lieto rounding out the top three. Only twelve more days until New Orleans 70.3 race and I’ve got a lot of work to do yet. My goal for this race is to improve off of Kemah. The field will be just as tough and much deeper with 40 Pros slotted to race this event and a nice race purse of $50,000. I’m looking forward to seeing how I stack up in the longer distance event. Until then, I'm wishing everyone luck in their own adventures.