Training Update // Plans for End of 2014

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Gateway Cup in the rain

This blog is a short update on how things have been going as my training load ramps up and I do a few races.

Since my last post three weeks ago, I have done seven cycling crit races (short fast circuit races that typically end in a sprint finish) and the Mideastern Collegiate Conference Championships along with beginning my final semester here at Purdue University and kicking my training up another notch.

Before I go into more details I want to preface by saying that I am currently training for ITU, draft legal, events. In the past I have done Ironman as an amateur, and as a first year pro attempted to do both non-draft and draft legal racing but find that right now I need to focus on the draft legal format to prevent being spread thin like in 2013. I will certainly be doing non-draft races in the future – they just will have to fit in rather than be smashed in there arbitrarily. My next race will be an ITU- Pan American Cup in October (Puerto Rico), though I need to wait to make sure I am confirmed on the start list in the next few days.

The crit races I did served their purpose. I had motivation every weekend to stay healthy, recovered, and maintain a balanced diet so I could perform. They also were great workouts for simultaneously pushing my power threshold and my cycling abilities. For example, on one weekend I would do around 90-120 minutes of race efforts with four corners at least every two minutes. Although I never placed very well at these events, and had a fairly solid crash in one of my races in St. Louis at the Gateway Cup,  I found these races have given me more confidence in my abilities to ride in competitive groups even when elbows start to get thrown.

As a side story, my crash at Gateway was the result of following the wrong athlete. In lower category crit races there seems to be a crash on the final lap almost every race – and I knew this and for the most part have gotten good at avoiding this. However, through a turn on the final lap I did not notice that the rider in front of me was clearly outside of his skill range and slid out. I had little time to even hit my brakes before I was flying headfirst into the asphalt. Luckily, a CT scan cleared me to continue racing though I did notice that the hit to the head put me in a very tired state for the rest of the weekend and for the next two days made doing engineering homework not possible.

Moving forward to this past weekend, which was my last MECTC Championship,  I finally was reminded me that I am not invincible nor am I “back” yet. I had a bad swim, into one of the worst bike power output of my triathlon career, into a run that was adequate given the circumstances. After a brief talk with my coach and looking at my training load leading up to the race – it was clear that I am not in good enough form yet to pound my body so many days in a row and expect to recover in the two to three days I gave myself. Though it is never fun to feel like you under performed, I know I need to brush the race off quickly and keep moving forward.

Training itself has been great. My knee has been holding strong through every day I have throw at it. Long tempo rides into runs on a new (and improved!) form, smashing up hills, you name it – it has held. More TLC through massage and a new bike fit have certainly kept it healthy, and I do not plan on ignoring my lessons learned from the year of injury. I also was lucky enough to end up on a new aeroroad bike, the Litespeed C1, which was been an amazing machine to ride these past few weeks in training and racing.

For the rest of 2014 it appears my options for racing got more and more limited. I was hoping to go down South for more than one of the ITU races down there, but the World Cup level races are very difficult to get into due to limited USA slots. Since I have not raced an ITU event since Sarasota in March of 2013, I will not be able to get onto an ITU World Cup race until I get some more results. However, there is a Pan American Cup in Puerto Rico that I will be competing in on October 18th. After that I have not determined what I will do. It is possible for me to look at doing another late season race – but as of right now I plan to roll out of 2014 by getting a strong and highly motivated start to 2015.

Thank you to everyone out there who has supported me this last year. That includes my friends and family back home, Xterra Wetsuits, Zensah Compression, Champion Systems, PowerBar, and my coach Michael Groaning with Haka Multisport here in West Lafayette.

Detroit EDR // Returning to the Grind

Detroit EDR Post Race

“
Victory is always possible for the person who refuses to stop fighting.” – Napoleon Hill

While I was in Houston this summer, I started looking at races to get myself back into the sport but jumping into an ITU or any professional field was not realistic. I had begun to gain strength in my knee and body in general, thanks to some serious help from Houston Flex. However, I was not back to the same form I was before my injury and it will take some more time before I get to the level necessary to compete at the pointy end of the sport. It was recommended that I try the Detroit Elite Development Race. This race was a sprint (750m, 20k, ~5k though this one was 3.0mi) distance draft legal race with an amateur field. This meant it would not tear my body down the same way a full olympic distance race would, I could gain more draft legal experience (which I need), and I could ease back into competition. Although I hesitated to enter in this race already holding my elite (pro) license I earned in 2012, I did not take away any slots for amateurs looking to earn their elite license and I was assured this was not that unusual for an athlete returning from an injury.

Before going into the race I did this past weekend, I need to preface this post with my experience this summer down in Houston. I had a great work and cultural experience down in the great state of Texas. The food down there is unreal and the trucks are certainly bigger. However I did have some trouble training. Heat training does not even start to explain the heat and humidity. Many times did I experience above 90 °F with over 70% humidity in which you really push your body to the limits of acclimation and often end up needing to find cold liquids to consume continuously. The hardest part was the swimming. Outdoor pools there are hot, as in I experience heat exhaustion in the pool anytime I put in more than 45min of easy swimming in. Combine that with having to wait a few weeks for my ribs to heal after a run in with a car in May, and then some good old road rash my last two weeks there… I went into Detroit with about 3 days of swimming in the last month. I had a few weeks of base built up for cycling and running but not very much intensity work. This certainly showed.

Luckily travel and logistics for this race went fairly smooth. I drove straight up from Houston the Monday before the race, and had been bouncing from my parents house in the Chicago Suburbs and Purdue University where I am finishing my chemical engineering degree this semester. I had a traveling companion to Detroit, Jarret Oldham (current Vice President of Purdue Triathlon), which made it easier and definitely more fun. We were further helped by Michael Groaning who put us up in the GM building, which is the nicest thing in all of Detroit – and I swear came straight out of a Star Wars movie.

The race itself went as well as it could have. I was one of the few ready for the horn to start our beach run entry into the water, which occurred immediately after the last person put a toe on the line. The current took most of the field very far wide of the first buoy except me and few others who accidentally lined up perfectly. Although I could tell my endurance wasn’t where I wanted it to be, I got out of the water comfortably in 3rd and was able to assess the situation as I ran through T1. Being a draft legal race, it is important to determine who you want to ride with, who you do not want to ride with (leave behind), and execute a plan to make that happen.

The bike course hurt and showed a lack of bike fitness. I worked with two athletes (Michael Pelechaty – someone I raced with a bit in our collegiate conference a few years ago) to try and pull back Ian Boggs but only managed to get a solid gap between us and a chase pack. The course itself was faster, very easy turns.

My run went fantastic. Although I only have built up to around 20mi/week of pure base work – I felt very smooth and in control the whole 3 mile run. My split was somewhere around 15:45 for somewhere around 3 miles (official splits didn’t work so I went off another athletes watch) – so not good enough for an ITU race but certainly much better than I was expecting. I ended up taking second overall to Ian Boggs who got out of the water 20s ahead of me and I never saw again until the finish line.

This race showed me a few things. First, I have work to do. That I knew going into it. Second, I have much less work than I thought to get back into form. It seems that putting in the miles is allowing my body to bounce back quicker than I would have thought. Lastly, it showed me that my knee is strong and healthy – for the first time since May 2013. I am continuing to baby it but have put it through its paces and it has held up well. I even took mine and Jarret’s sore legs to do two crit races (short cycling loop races) the following day and was able to squeeze out some power from my legs.

The next few weeks my plans are to do some cycling races to “race into shape” and gain valuable experience. Nothing teaches you to corner (and stay upright in hazardous situations) faster than a race with 4 corners at full speed every 2 minutes. After that I will be competing in my last conference championship for Purdue Triathlon the second week of September and re-evaluate how I am progressing. There are a few interesting races left in the 2014 season that I would like to take a crack at if I am healthy and in good form for.

Next post will be after Labor Day weekend to update how things are going.

Thanks to everyone who has supported me. My dwindling list of companies who support me through a bad year – I thank you tremendously for having faith in me. My family who puts up with me, Michael Groaning for the time he has donated to helping me “figure things out”, and my friends who send me encouragement. .

Yellow Jersey Cycling Insurance – ITU London Infographic

I came across this interesting infographic recently and decided to share it. It gives some numbers from last years ITU Grand Final in London showing the growth of the sport. Most notably to me is the amount of press this race got since triathlon at times struggles to be visible to non-triathletes. One of my long term goals is to get on the start line of an ITU Grand Final.

Source: http://www.yellowjersey.co.uk/

Cycle Insurance

USAT Collegiate Nationals 2014 // Draft-Legal Sprint // Testing 1-2-3

First finish line since May 2013

First finish line since May 2013

“Something deep inside – keeps my faith alive.”

After an 10 month hiatus due to a stubborn knee injury (ITBS that I believe shifted into some nasty hamstring tendonitis)– I jumped into the draft legal sprint at Collegiate Nationals. The race was certainly a premature return to racing and I knew that. I raced because I felt the need to make the trip to support my team (Purdue Triathlon) in Tempe and see if I still have that competitive drive.

To be clear – this next part is not excuse, it is explanation of where I am in the recovery process and why I was pleased with my performance. Training has been minimal as I struggled with my injury. I went into the race on Friday with less than 200mi on the bike since August and less than 20mi of running since May (those don’t even hit the weekly mileages that are necessary to compete at the elite level). I even struggled to swim some weeks the last few months because pushing off the walls hurt. The 5k run at the end was my longest run since this injury latched itself to my knee.

Though I showed improvement in spurts, with different PTs and ideas – I did give up for a while on getting better. Looking for an internship for the summer and having a senior design and senior lab at the same time made for some long nights in February that did not help in that department (and will lead to more long nights in these upcoming weeks). There were times that I gave up on my daily recovery techniques, which weren’t really moving me forward anyhow. I started thinking of how to live with chronic knee pain at age 22.

However, I had luck at the end of March to work with local therapist Misty Bercerra down in Clermont while on spring break. She found that I was having major issues not with my IT Band (as I had last summer), but a large muscle deep in my hamstring that was pulling on my knee. Thirty minutes after working with her I was able to go for a 4 hour bike ride pain free. I even went for a short jog. It is clear to me that the reason why my knee has continued hurting is because my IT Band issues were essentially cleared up, but I was still having pain from tightness in my hamstring. This problem probably occurred while training through the ITBS last summer. My knee is certainly sore after the race, but I am getting  weekly treatments that are cleaning up the hamstring and slowly releasing my knee.

To talk about the race itself – I am out of shape and it showed. Plain and simple. Draft legal racing is not a forgiving style of triathlon. Part of the reason why I have been chasing that avenue the last two years is because of that. It is not the Ironman style individual pursuit to the finish line. Your competitors can be your allies and opponents at different points in the race. You have to gut it out at times to stay in the game, for example to stay within a bike pack when the pace gets rough or bust out of the swim to bike transition to avoid getting gapped.

I got to the first buoy on the 750m swim course completely clean for once (thanks to some good positioning and a new strategy), in front of approximately 70 other athletes and then was quickly swallowed due to fatigue. I still managed to be 5th out of the water in front of a large pack that was mostly left behind in transition. I then had to dig to hold on as the lead pack formed around me. It was clear early on this was not the day that I would stay with the lead pack. My legs and lungs were not in the shape you need to stay up front in these draft legal courses, and burned each time the pace was pushed. By then end of it I fell out of two different bike groups. When I got to the run I went for a smooth and controlled jog as to not push my knee too hard, and crossed the finish line happy. That was the first finish line I crossed since May and it meant a lot to me.

Since I did not come up through the junior elite ranks, draft legal racing is still newer to me. Each time I have raced it I have pieced together another part of the puzzle on how to race them – which is tough in a race that can unfold so many different ways. Draft legal races change rapidly and I’m still learning how to reel people in and work intelligently. Being out of shape, I pushed myself tactically to put myself in the best position possible at all times, and corner aggressively in the front. Although my power is down, most of my bike training has been drills and as a result my handling skill are developing well.

I am happy with how I performed because I found that I can still dig deep to hold on when it hurts. In fact I still love to dig deep, to test that limit of where the lungs and legs feel like they will explode, even if that happens earlier than it should. That is one of the things I was worried about even with the knee recovery going well.

There will definitely be time between now and my next race. I need to focus on school and digging out my hamstring before I build back into full training. This race gave me faith that I can come back stronger than I was if I trust my body and put in the hours (and unfortunately dollars) to recover. This summer I plan to spend some extra time riding as I build back into it. That includes looking to jump in with a cycling team by where I will be working (I’ll be on the west side of Houston for this summer). I am looking at tentative triathlon races in August if the recovery continues to go this well.

Thanks to everyone who supports me out there. I’m glad to come out of the dark and see that my friends are racing well and hope to join them soon. Stay tuned – I may not back yet, but I am coming.

Post Season 2013

“Keep on dreaming even if it breaks your heart.” -Eli Young Band

Getting back to it. (Compliments of Andy Jessop)

It has been awhile since I have posted here. If you followed me in the past, I hope you excuse my late follow up; I intentionally neglected the triathlon world for a while. I needed some time to discover the part of me that is not a competitive athlete and that has been more challenging than I ever thought. It took months of digging to find out I needed a serious overhaul in certain aspects of my life that I have always been able to escape by walking out the door and ramping up my heart rate.

I’ll start this off by explaining what put an early end to my first professional season. As I mentioned in my last post back in May, I had an issue with my knee (IT Band Syndrome and a splash of “Stop Messing with Me Syndrome”) after racing 5150 Kansas in May – but it did not stop there. I took some time off running, got into physical therapy, and was confident I would get back on the start line in time for the following ITU event in Edmonton. I was just beginning to see promising results in myself; I was not ready to stop.

Edmonton was three weeks after I did some more damage to my knee in Kansas, and I still could not walk without pain. With a week to go and a seriously botched attempt to run again, I was forced to remove myself from the start line of that race. Still, I felt that I would see enough finish lines this year. I was wrong. By the end of the season I would pull out of seven races.

While in PT during June and July, I kept my spirits high. I tried to push back the thoughts of failure, the thoughts of how I sacrificed a full time engineering job to race full time only to see neither. I increased my cycling and swimming volume rapidly and kept pushing my limits in both. I may have actually hit my best swimming fitness ever. I planned a comeback at a race almost every weekend in July. I kept believing that I was almost pain free and essentially set deadlines for my recovery. Reality came crashing down on me when I found that I could no longer bike without pain and walking hurt bad enough to limit my daily movement. By the end of July even swimming was painful. I saw another specialist in August after an MRI and found I had inflammation in my hamstring that was preventing a full recovery. That was when I finally realized my season was over –I needed to stop fighting my body. No more looking at race schedules, no more planning. Just rest.

Although a part of me knew I was making bad decisions, I continued to push my recovery. I desperately wanted to be back to normal –to train and race full throttle. This was a pretty emotional time, even though it was not the most severe injury. I had been dealing with the obnoxious pain in my knee for three months at this point, and would for two more. The physical pain certainly did not feel good, but the killer was the constant reminder that I was broken, and my dreams were fading away, with every step of every day. It really started to wear me down. I woke up in the morning, and my first step gave a sharp reminder that today was not the day I would be able to train. I started feeling a little like the fictional Dr. House, and it was all too often that a good mood would leave as I carefully maneuvered down a set of stairs.

In August I was prescribed nothing as my treatment. Nothing. I never realized how hard nothing would be. I was sedentary for the first time in my life, and I am in awe that some people continuously live like that –they are missing out on life itself. I hit twelve pounds over race weight at the peak, and have never felt so physically inept. It’s almost ironic that to deal with my problems I always have used intense exercise, so it was beyond frustrating to have my coping mechanism taken from me. I eventually began lifting upper body to stay sane.

Though it has been tough these last few months, there are a few silver linings in this season. First off and most importantly, I realize now that no matter what happens in the next year, or next couple years, I will be out there grinding until I am thrown in a nursing home. Being an athlete is not something that will ever leave me. It is encoded into my brain and revealed on my skin.

I have a year before I graduate as a Chemical Engineer from Purdue, and that means I may find myself with a real, full-time job soon. Previously, I thought that I would have to choose between a life as a poor athlete or as an engineer. However, I did qualify as a USAT Elite while I was working full time at an oil refinery with only two paid vacation days (one of which was taken so I could show up the day before my first Ironman in Texas – don’t ask how I managed that). I’ll gladly take the stress of 16 hour training+work days over being out of shape without thinking twice. I have made sacrifices that make even me blush as a student/athlete/employee, and a full time job certainly won’t change my stride.

Also, after gaining some weight due to low training loads I had to start looking into my diet more closely. I discovered some interesting, and healthy, methods via the book Race Weight by Matt Fitzgerald that gets me close to race weight without much training or drastic race week restrictions. In 2014 I’ll be able to use an optimized diet for more efficient training and faster racing.

The last thing I want to mention is I got a chance to do some part-time coaching this summer as a result of my injury. As the Vice President of Purdue Triathlon, I had already enjoyed working with new athletes and giving my insights. Having the chance to be in a formal coaching setting was even more rewarding than I had anticipated, and I hope to do more this upcoming summer.

What am I doing now? I am getting back into shape, slowly but surely. It is going to be a long road back with some major changes in my training strategy, but I can barely keep the excitement under control. I am three weeks into running, and I wake up on my running days like a kid on Christmas. I began swimming again after a month off, and I am starting to get the feel for the water back. I see through looking at other athletes blogs (Purdue Alumni Andrew Starykowicz, Jordan Rapp, and Jesse Thomas) that coming back from injuries magnitudes worse than my own is not only possible – but can lead you to coming back stronger than before.

Training after my injuries has reminded me why I do this; because I don’t know if I would be able to live without it. Every workout hits the reset button for me when life gets tough. For a limited time every day I am free to simply feel the air in my lungs and the blood pumping through my veins.

Thanks to all my friends and family that have helped keep my hopes high over the last few months.

 

Live to Fight Another Day

“Overcome every obstacle”

The knee issue I had in Kansas is proving to be need some more attention. Although it remains a minor injury, I need to take a full step back, get some professional help, and re-evaluate some goals. It is certainly tough to admit that my normal training load hurts, but I learned the hard way last year that messing with a minor injury can let it dig into a whole season.

That being said, I have pulled out of ITU Pan American Cup- Dallas and may not compete again until later this year.  I will come back and race once I have come back to full training.

In this time I will not merely be sitting around. I have increased my swimming significantly and will continue to push my limits, both mentally and physically, in the water. On top of that I have been doing my research – looking at athlete and race profiles, learning as much as I can about cycling and bike maintenance, I even got my USA Cycling Level 3 Coaching License.

Being an Elite License holder, and therefore deemed “professional”, I have taken this sport as my job. Being injured means my job is more complicated than before, since you don’t get paid for last place, nor do you get paid to sit at home with an ice pack. Although this could make me feel like a broken race horse, I have made sure that my self worth does not rest solely in what my body can do.

It’s a long season, I still have plenty of fight left in me. Stay active, stay safe out there.

5150- Kansas

This was a tough day for me, so I am keeping this post short to keep my head in the game for ITU Dallas June 1st.

I drove the eight hour trip knowing that I was rolling the dice on a minor knee injury I got after a hard training session a day after Knoxville. I had not actually run in a week and a half but was hoping Dr. Race Day would see me through the finish line, and if necessary I could walk it in with my head up so long as I put myself out there on the swim and bike.

Race started looking grim for me when they cancelled the swim due to bad weather, a major blow to my race given my strength there. I kept my head together and just tried to concentrate on hitting the bike hard and praying things worked out on the run.

Bike went pretty poorly for me, something I am for now attesting to some bad equipment modifications I made right before the race. After getting off my bike, I felt immediate pain when I ran at race pace. It appeared I rolled snake eyes for the day between the impromptu duathlon and knee issue. I made the decision to walk/slow jog to the finish given where I was in the race off the bike, and my desire not to repeat last year and turn a minor injury chronic. This was really hard mentally to let happen, since it was a two loop course and I was lapped by both the pro men and female wave. Could I have ran through the pain to hit 6:30s and gotten 1-3 place higher? Probably. Would it have been good for me long term? I know this is not true. Enough pros had dropped out of the race I actually gained a surprising number of series points for DFL.

All focus now on Dallas in two weeks, and making sure I heal this knee up completely before restarting any training or racing. There will be other 5150 events that I can attend to continue to try for the points necessary for the championship (Hy-Vee), there will always be obstacles and I will always climb over them.

Rev 3 – Knoxville // Through Pouring Rain

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Transition was thankfully inside

I’m pretty sure I saw rain from the time I left Purdue on Friday until I came back Sunday night. I was able to both take advantage of, and be slightly hindered, by the conditions of the race. This was a test of rapid adaptation: something I am pretty good at but still need more experience in.

Just for a little background, this Olympic Distance non-draft race was the season opener for the Rev 3 series, which has a mix of half-iron and olympic distance races. I will also be competing in their Wisconsin race in August, and Branson in September or Florida if school allows. Knoxville itself is a beautiful city, with plenty of industrial history that can be seen from the canal and aged bridges above it. The area is plenty hilly, something that I was excited for being a smaller athlete.

I had finals the week between St. Anthony’s and this race, and finished my last one Friday at 4pm then jumped in my car and drove the 7 hours down to crash at a hotel nearby late that night. Although coming off a race in Florida and finals had been pretty stressful, I was relieved to have school done for the next three weeks (taking a light 4 week summer class) and only have a race on my mind.

Saturday I had some issues with warm up, due to both motivation and the conditions. The rain and late night made getting in a good bike warm up pretty difficult, and the water being 59 degrees made it pretty hard to spend the time I needed to get my bearings. The “I’m sure I’ll have someone to follow” idea only works for so long, something I have to own up to. I did actually feel great in the water and was accompanied by two personal kayaks as I found myself alone in the water for most of the short warm up. All in all, it was a pretty uneventful day besides making a few new friends in the pro meeting and around the expo. I put my bike into the transition which was luckily in a parking garage, which meant it offered some protection from the elements.

Race morning was accompanied with steady, unforgiving rain and cold (55F). These were certainly the worst conditions I have ever raced in, but I was excited because this was a day that gave opportunity to a wildcard like me. I just needed to adapt, perform, and let the conditions take out a few of my competitors for me without being a casualty myself. Being a small guy I do really well in hot conditions but not as much in cold, but I prepared for this well because it appeared I was the only one that didn’t end up shivering too much out there.

Swim Course 1.5km (~.9mi)

The swim course was in a canal with a fairly strong current. You can tell by the insanely fast swim splits. We were sent against this current for the first fifth or so of the race and then sailed the rest of the way home through some of the bridges. Early in the race I sat on the feet of some of the lead pack, so I didn’t have to fight the current alone, and broke off on the last third to try and reach T1 with some time on those with stronger cycling legs than me. However, I had not spent enough time in the river to realize I was sighting pretty far from the actual swim exit. I found this out when I breathed to my right and saw someone getting out on the swim exit pier about 25m away from me. I pushed over there and got out with Kyle Leto in 4th position.

Bike Course 40km (~25 mi)

The bike course was very hilly, and dangerously slick. I was hoping that as a welter weight I could use this to my advantage, as this would make the descents slow and the climbs much more valuable. I was going out strong but pretty early I went down a sketchy hill and my water bottle took flight right in front of a race marshal; if had not gone to retrieve would have been a one minute penalty. I slid to a stop with my wheels locked, still upright which was a success in itself, and went back up the hill to find my bottle. In the future I will be strapping my bottles down with more than a small rubber band. I lost a lot of avoidable time here. Pushing this out of my mind I pursued my competition, smashing my way up the two significant climbs and every uphill, since the descents were so slick it would be stupid to try to do anything other than stay upright and prepare to slam the brakes (and hopefully not the pavement). Considering the conditions that made for some interesting physics problems (hydroplaning on a bicycle was new to me), I had a pretty solid bike for where I am at this season.

Run Course 10km (6.2mi)

On the run course I was able to tell that the cold had not damaged my spirit, but it had done a number on my body. My calves and Achille’s, places I tend to baby, were extremely cold and tight. Knowing that I went out the first mile pretty slow in the hopes of letting them warm up before really hitting it. I may have gone a little too slow, because the last half of the race (after another short detour off course…) I felt like I was running out of miles to catch the people just in front of me. At the end I was able to push it out and grab 12th place.

Full Results

I was a little disappointed with my final run time and placing, but 34:15 was not too bad for me and I know I had the right performance, just did not have the proper race specific prep (previewing the course thoroughly for one, and strapping down my bike gear for the bumps). I was encouraged to see that I have become the competitor that I had once feared: a performer. Regardless of the cold, wind, rain and mistakes I made -I stayed focused on the guys in front of me and making the right decisions to chase them down as best as I could on that day. This race makes me focused and ready for my next race, 5150-Kansas in two weeks time.

My season has only just begun, and I know it will only get better with every experience, I definitely am learning to deal with and even enjoy the struggle of travel, training, and racing in short time frames which is something that came with my step up to the professional field.

Thanks for reading, and I hope everyone is starting to enjoy the spring weather we are getting up north! Stay active, stay safe and please stop by and check out one of the companies that keep me going.

St. Anthony’s Tri // Playing with the “Big” Big Dogs

Manatee and dolphins chilling around the swim exit Friday.

This weekend I had my first non-draft race of the season. I competed in two draft legal ITU sanctioned races in March and although I started, I had an unfortunate end to my draft legal sprint race at Collegiate Nationals two weeks prior. Non-drafting races such as St. Anthony’s will likely dominate the rest of my season (besides ITU-Dallas June 1st) since the US has been pretty reluctant to move away from the Ironman/non-draft style of racing to take on the “new” European style biking -flying around N. America/Europe to find the closest ITU races does not make sense for me at this point in my career.

St. Anthony’s has always been a very fast race, but this year it got bumped to another level. They called this race the “who’s who” of triathlons. There were big international names from not only the Olympic distance non-draft circuit, but also the Ironman circuit and even a substantial showing from the ITU circuit. This strong field was drawn here for two reasons: a fairly large prize purse ($65,000), and because St. Anthony’s is part of the 5150 Series. This series has a championship called Hy-Vee US Championships which has one of the largest prize purses in the world, and pays out deep. The only catch is you have to qualify for Hy-Vee, by ranking in the top 30 in the 5150/70.3 circuit. Ranking is based on total points earned at races, which are given based on the size of the race and placing at the race.

Travel to this race really started early in the week, as I was punching through homework very early and organizing getting some last minute gear. This upcoming week is finals, so I had a final project and some studying I had to do so that I would stay on track to earning a degree before I headed out. On Thursday I made the two hour trek home to Chicago from Purdue. There I visited the Bike Shop Glen Ellyn and picked up a sick new road bike for my ITU races (I’m on carbon now folks!) and was able to demo some Zipp wheels for my next two races. I don’t know what I would do without the help I have gotten from Rich and Drew at the bike shop over the last year, certainly would not have working brakes…

The Mad Dog Triathlon crew and friends took amazing care of myself and the other pros all weekend. Southern hospitality was taken to another level while I was down there. I was able to really enjoy myself all weekend and ended up almost stress free considering the far away race.

It was hard at times not to get caught gawking at some of my competition while I was down there. Although I am usually pretty good at staying focused on myself, I couldn’t help but marvel at the fact that I was with some of the people I had, and still do, admire in the sport. Sitting in that pro meeting Saturday sure made me excited to race. So did getting out of Indiana weather and swimming with some nice marine life in warm water.

Race morning was earlier than any this year by about an hour (alarm at 4:30am), so I was somewhat surprised at how ready to go I was. I got prepped and headed over to transition, warmed up, set-up, and was able to have a few words on the way to the swim start with Ben Kanute, another young Chicago born pro triathlete, which helped calm the pre-race nerves.

Course Maps

Swim 1.5km / Bike 40km / Run 10k

The swim start was somewhat comical. The field of ~45 men crept forward about 30 yards forward of the start as we were floating in the water waiting for the start. Although they pushed us back, I think almost everyone started swimming when the announcer’s countdown got to four. This swim was by far the cleanest one I have had this year. Probably because being non-draft, it is not as crucial to gain seconds in the swim to make a bike pack. I was able to keep myself on people’s feet and use them to sight for the most part. My shoulder has recently completely healed up, with some chiropractic help, so I felt pretty solid in the water and never felt like I was out of my comfort zone. The swim was pretty choppy, enough that they shortened it to ~700m for the amateurs.  (19:31, 13th)

I got out of the water in the mix and felt pretty good about where I was, made some pretty strong passes in T1 so I could hit the mount line without too many frantic athletes around me. Lately I seem to find myself very strong in T1, maybe that is a sign I am not pushing the swim hard enough or simply that I find running after a swim a pretty comfortable switch up and saw the importance of pushing there after missing the lead bike pack in Clermont.

The bike was not a good showing for me. Even though it was almost a completely flat course with nice smooth roads and hardly any turns, I had a pretty slow split for me. I knew going into it that I would have to stay in control and really handle the mental game of having people blow past you, but this was worse than I had prepared for. At first it was actually inspiring, I saw some of the big names passing me around 4mi into the bike leg, when I had expected guys like them to be out of the water in front of me. However, by about halfway through I was pretty much biking alone. This made it tough to stay in the game when you are like me and feed off side by side competition. 1:01 (24.1mph)

Rolling into T2 I had a few guys near me that I used to pace myself. I was really hoping to see myself run well, since I have been putting a lot of time in my run this year and wasn’t able to see it at nationals. Even though I didn’t exactly split it well (5:09 first mile, then 5:20, 5:20, 5:40 and didn’t see after that), I still was able to pull off a faster run than I put down in Sarasota and hit a 33:15 (5:22 pace/mi).

Full Splits

After the race I was able to enjoy some time in the Florida sun and recover really well before I had to fly out. I went to awards to support those who had done well and reflected on the race. Although my overall place was a little disappointing (30th) I know that is mostly because of the struggle I had on the bike, which was much weaker than I was at the end of last season. I have confidence with some extra time and good weather up north I will get my biking legs back and then some. I am happy with my swim and where it put me given the ease at which I went through it, and honestly my run has continued to make me wonder if I was designed a runner all these years. Last year’s nagging injury happened because of a major change in my technique, but that change along with some different training this year has already taken me past the fastest I ever thought I could run; I am almost 30s/mi faster in my 10k than I was at any point last year, and that is after only four months of healthy training.

A special thank you to my host family, John and Tracy Graham, for giving me a place to stay and Carolyn Kiper and her helpers who made arrangements for myself and the entire pro field all week. I certainly see myself coming back next year because I had a blast all weekend.

Now it’s time for me to start studying for my final at 8am tomorrow (Crystallography and Quantum Mechanics… should be a piece of cake). Stay active, stay safe, and please show my sponsors some love.

USAT Collegiate Nationals 2013 // A Taste

from hayley3

Lap 3 of 4

Some races don’t fall together like you planned. This one was certainly one of those, but I am taking the positives from this race and pushing all doubts out the window.

I flew out to Tempe, AZ with Purdue Triathlon to compete in the draft legal sprint race on Friday, and support them during the non-draft Olympic distance race on Saturday (due to my lack of collegiate race participation in 2012, I did not earn a spot for Saturday – a risk I took to pursue my elite card and deal with a nagging injury last season). This race is always a blast because the majority of my friends in the sport are in the collegiate circuit. There’s nothing better than walking aimlessly at a race site knowing you’ll run into an old friend.

I should admit that going into this race, a bit of misfortune and poor focus on my part led to many overlooked details. First thing was coming into the race with a minor contusion to my lat/shoulder from a bike race I crashed at two weeks prior. During that crit I was pushed down near the front and ended up with enough tires into my back that I couldn’t lift my arm for a couple days;  I didn’t help it by putting off seeing a trainer. Going into this race I had not actually swam at race intensity and only got in one practice where I did a significant amount of freestyle rather than kick and breastroke.

Another thing I lacked in this race was focus on my equipment. After that crash I no longer trusted my road bike (“Trusty Rusty” has seen the pavement one too many times) and the short time frame kept me from getting a new one before the race. Luckily I was able to borrow a super slick carbon road bike from one of Purdue Triathlon’s members, Klay Simmons, who was competing in the race on Saturday and has pretty much the same measurements as myself. On top of that, I was counting on it being wetsuit illegal after looking at water temperatures the week prior -so the announcement one hour prior to my start that it would be legal led to a small scramble, and I owe Nick D’Amico a huge thanks for booking it to our hotel and throwing me his (after I was already borrowing his helmet… and ended up borrowing his bike for the team relay on Saturday). But hey, it wouldn’t be nationals if I didn’t have an injury and someone else’s bike days before the race. I like to keep things interesting.

I found myself on the start line, after some last minute therapy from my coach, Jason Bunch, having no idea if a bad hit to my lat would put me out, or if I would swim like a log regardless. When the horn blew I found it to be a nice change of pace from the swim starts in Clermont and Sarasota, and I mostly stayed out of trouble until one of my road rash scabs got slashed off. Maybe it was a bit of blood rage, or a wake up call, but that put me back in it. On the second loop of the 750m swim course I just thought about bridging gaps and smashing through people. About 100m from the swim out I found myself with only three people in front of me. “Alright, this is going better than expected, should be able to have some fun”.

I got out of the water and crossed the mat second, had a great T1, and found myself on the wheel of Ben Kanute. With his direction we were able to work together to gain a substantial lead that lasted two laps before Luke Farkas and Dorin Peters caught us. Our group of four ended up with ~45s on the next pack going into our last lap. With only a 5k run, it seemed that my first national podium, at the first collegiate draft legal race, was right there in front of me.

After a slight disappointment at both Clermont and Sarasota, I felt like this race was going great. I was finally in the group I belonged with. Once more, I was a kid doing race efforts on a fully carbon bike (coming from aluminum…) for the first time and got to enjoy feeling a bike respond positively to some decent power being put into it. Not to mention that was probably the sickest bike courses I have even raced on. On the last lap however, I did not take a bump going into the back loop de loop with grace, and the result was a pinch flat.

I stayed upright and managed to get off the road safely, which I should be thankful for considering my crash two weeks prior. I was so astonished at what happened I did not even consider a way to finish, watching the podium ride away didn’t exactly make me feel warm and fuzzy. Neither did listening to the announcer give race updates from just across the water, to hear my pack duke it out on the run as I sat on the curb closing my eyes to picture what it would be like to still be in the fight even if I lost.

After this race I spent some time remembering my favorite quote, one I say out loud during the tough days of training. This quote seems to have more meaning as my journey continues:

“This is the part where life demands you make a lifelong commitment. This is the part where life demands you make a vow, come hell or high water, that you’re willing to pay the price. The full fare where you earn your spot with effort, with sweat, with blood, with tears.”

Saturday I spent the day supporting my teammates and friends as they raced the non-draft race, which was fun despite the brutal heat out there. I give props to all the athletes that pushed through for a spectacular finish. Later that day I raced the team relay, which was super sprint format and actually loads of fun. Managed to throw down the fastest run split by four seconds, which despite being possibly the only one competing with fresh legs, I’ll still take it as a positive given the motivation I had at that point. Another positive was that being last I was able to run through the finish, which after having the first two DNFs in my life happen in a short two week span, this was a nice reminder of the power of that line.

A special thanks to everyone who gave me a text or call on Friday when I needed it, and those who approached me at the race. I am using this small taste of what I know I can do to motivate me as I get ready for the stacked field at 5150- St. Anthony’s on April 28th.

Stay active. Don’t ever show them fear. PrayForBoston.