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It was a testament to my performance earlier in the year to even receive a chance to be in this race, and for that I am immensely proud and thankful.  At the end of the qualifying period, I was ranked 92nd on the 70.3 points list, but due to other commitments, injuries, travel, etc., many decided to pass on their slot, so the 49th slot ended up rolling down to yours truly.  I was already committed to racing the Patriots Half in Williamsburg that weekend, but as Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) once said, “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat.  Just get on.”  So I reset my goals for that weekend and got on with it.

I kept the lead up to the race as normal as any other race.  It was nice going into a race with absolutely no pressure by anyone other than myself.  As I was ranked basically last in the field, every person I beat would be a huge feather in my cap.

 

  

I knew that although I had been working well on my swim, I was in for quite the uphill battle when it came to the start of this race.  Usually there are a few guys who go off the front, perhaps even a small lead pack depending on the quality of the field, and I am able and consistently ready to join what I would consider the second pack out in the water.  Every once in a while the stars will align and I’ll make the main group.  Well in this race, the main group consisted of guys who would ALL be off the front in some of these smaller races.  So I had identified a few guys without a swimming pedigree who I could potentially group up with if I couldn’t hang on the coattails of the main group.  And sure enough, that was the case.  We started with a dive off a pontoon (which was a first for me) and while it made me a little nervous not knowing how diving off of a pontoon with 40 other guys would be, it turned out not too bad.  I came up to pretty clean water right away and immediately worked to get into a draft and hang there as long as possible.  Unfortunately I had to start on basically the far left side of the line, so I didn’t have as big of a wake to follow as some others who started closer to the middle (although I may not have had to deal with as much melee, either, so who knows).  Either way, by the end of the first 300m I found myself in dead last with one other swimmer.  I was happy I had company, and I was intent on keeping our pace strong throughout to limit the time to the field.  What was advertised as an upstream swim turned out to be mainly a regular swim since the current was all but non-existent.  There were a couple of swimmers that had hung on a little longer to the pack but had since been dispatched, so the two of us focused on gathering up the remains.  As we picked up swimmers, the task became a little easier, as we had now a group of six sharing the pace making.  It seemed that everyone was keen on limiting the bleeding, so we all worked, even dropping one guy in our group off the back with a few hundred to go.

 

 

Coming out of the water just over 28 minutes was an average swim for me.  I had lost just about four minutes to the front two and about three minutes to the large group that came out of the water.  That is standard for me, and against such a strong swim field, I was actually pretty encouraged.  I was even more encouraged when I realized that coming out of the water with me were Sebastian Kienle, Jesse Thomas and Trevor Wurtele.  I figured I would probably let Kienle go, but I was prepared to ride with the other two strong cyclists in an effort to bridge the gaps.

The first five miles of the course were fairly uneventful.  I didn’t pop my bottle off my bike, which has become pretty standard practice in downtown Chattanooga over the past three years.  I kept contact with the group and made it to Lookout Mountain feeling good and ready to work.  Strategically, I made a pretty big error here.  While most of the courses I race are relatively flat or rolling, I only use a large chain ring on my bike.  It simplifies things, drops my bike weight, and makes me marginally more aero.  Well, for whatever reason, I decided to keep using only a front chain ring, so I approached Lookout Mountain with a 54-28 as my smallest gear combination.  Now I will say I did make it up the climb, and I felt pretty darn good doing so, but realistically, holding a cadence of 65 for close to 15-20 minutes @ 320 watts was not doing my legs any favors.

Anyways, I stayed with the group on the plateau section of Lookout Mountain.  Right at the end, a car pulled up beside me, decided to slot in between me and the guy up ahead of me, and then proceeded to just sit behind that rider.  It just so happened this occurred at the left hand turn right before the long fast downhill.  So the group of 4 got on their merry way, and I basically had to stop at the intersection so as not to get run over by this guy.  Of course he decided to go down the mountain as well, and of course he decided to only drive at like 35 mph, so I’m sitting up, stuck behind this car freewheeling downhill.  Eventually I had enough space and passed the guy on the inside, got up to 45 mph or so and tried to re-catch the group I had just been with minutes before.  It took me probably 15 miles to finally get back with the group.  When I did rejoin, they had picked up another 4-5 guys who had fallen back off their pace with the faster swim group.  So with 10 riders strong, we maneuvered through Chickamauga and back to the main highway.  Once we hit the highway, Jesse Thomas put in a big push at the front and the group splintered all over the place.  I was at the back, so attentively I moved around the guys that couldn’t hang and made the final selection of five coming back into T2 with Jesse Thomas, Trevor Wurtele, Mario de Elias, and Antoine J. Desroches.  Some of you may have read Jesse Thomas’ race report, and unlike Jesse who was supremely disappointed in his bike ride, I was pretty pleased with mine.  I averaged 286 watts (.87 IF) and that was about 10 watts greater than any 70.3 I had completed this year.  So while my ride certainly wasn’t perfect in all ways, I was happy with my effort, and pleased that I got off the bike with a group to run with.

Legs didn’t feel super (probably thanks to Lookout Mountain) but nutrition had been good, so all in all I was ready to run.  The five of us spread out pretty quickly, and unfortunately I was the second one to get popped off the group only about a half mile into the run.

I kept the other three in sight about 20 seconds up on me, and kept working to hold the gaps small.  Around mile 3, de Elias started coming back to me, so over the next 2 miles I really focused to reeling him in.  He wasn’t running slowly, so once I caught him I figured I would have an ally to work with for a while.  I passed him and immediately a gap formed, but about a half mile later he re-passed me and put in a pretty heavy surge that I couldn’t sustain.  In the meantime, we both caught Wurtele.

With seven miles remaining, I had de Elias about 10 seconds out in front of me, trying to close down the gap he had created.  We started getting mixed up in the age group race, and by the end of the second loop, de Elias had put another 10 seconds of so into me.  As we turned to the finish, I noticed he had just passed a fading athlete, but by that time it was too late, and I came into the finish chute 26th.

I had a hard time dealing with this race.  On one hand, I earned the right to race, and it was an opportunity not many professionals in the sport get to have.  On the other, I might as well have been in a totally separate race, as I was never in contention from about the first 300m of the swim on.  It was a solid race, not an exceptional one, and although I performed pretty well, it’s been hard for me to stay really motivated on the run when I know that the race is 10+ minutes ahead of me.  The best runs I’ve had over the past two years have been Eagleman 2016 (finished 2nd Overall), Chattanooga 70.3 2017 (finished 2nd overall), and Eagleman 2017 (4th overall).  When I’m actually racing for something that’s meaningful to me, I can bring it up another level.  When it’s the difference between 26th and 23rd overall, it’s much more difficult to destroy myself.  Getting out on the run and realizing that I would need to run basically a 1:10 just to move into 10th is a tough pill to swallow.  So psychologically I am going to have to work on that, as my swim will more than likely always be subpar compared to the very top swimmers, and my bike will still put me into T2 with a deficit.  If I want to get the best out of myself, I need to be able to turn it on no matter how the race is going and no matter how far down I may be.

This year I attempted to race three 70.3 events in four weeks.  Eagleman was the final race of my spring campaign, and with a 2nd and 7th placings at my first two events, I was confident that another top 5 was in the cards.

As always, the swim start was quite chaotic, and I mixed it up with the best for a few minutes before eventually fighting to stay on the feet of the tail end of the group.  Matt Russell was directly in front of me, and for a few minutes the gap was large enough where I wasn’t quite in his draft and had to work extremely hard to catch back and join the train.  Eventually around the second turn, I caught a second wind and reeled the group.  Unfortunately by the time I rejoined the group, there had been a split further up in the group.  I counted four of us in this group, and soon I found myself very comfortable.  At that instant, I knew I had to get to the front and drive the pace to limit the time to the leaders.  I got to the front and did just that, leading the group onto land about three and a half minutes down from the leaders and a minute and a half down from the main chase group.

As I have grown accustomed to, Matt Russell and I exited the swim within seconds of one another.  Due to some unfortunate timing, my powermeter battery was dead, so I would be riding solely on RPE.  I decided as I was mounting my bike that I I would do whatever it took to stay within contact of Russell on the bike.  This plan was optimistic, as Russell has outsplit me on the bike by a few minutes each race, but I was up for the challenge.  After we both missed a turn and rode about .4 extra miles before getting back on course, Matt went to work, and I just put my head down and pushed the pedals hard enough to stay within 50 meters of him.  We ended up catching most of the main swim group right around mile 20, but didn’t stay too long.  Russell was on a mission, and I continued to try to stay in his wake.  It was around mile 40 that his lead became large enough where I could see him, but distantly.  At mile 45 he caught one of the lead swimmers, but he ended up sticking with Russell and riding with him out of sight for the last 10 miles of the ride.

As I rode into transition, I heard I was about a minute back from the two up ahead and another 90 seconds down to Cody Beals.  The leading two racers were well up the road.  My legs felt good, my stomach felt good, and I got to work.  I caught Kevin Ryan just as we approached the mile mark for 5th, and then slowly crept up on Russell, catching and passing him by the 5k mark.  I was expecting to be able to work together with him for a while, but when I passed him a gap immediately opened up.  I went with it, and tried to maintain my pace of running 5:50-6:10 pace in the hot, open run course.  By mile 6 it appeared that I had put about 20 seconds into Russell, so I was confident that I could finish the run strong in 4th.  What I didn’t know at the time was that Andrew Yoder, who had started the run in 2nd, had been quickly coming back to me.  By mile 10 I could see him and the 3rd place cyclist, and by mile 10.5 I had moved into 3rd.  Almost simultaneously Russell reappeared in my rearview mirror, and was threatening only 5 seconds back.  With only about 2 miles to go, I put my head down and started as hard of a kick as I could to maintain my gap, but Russell was moving much more swiftly, and soon passed me and continued to put about 40 seconds into me over the final mile and a half of the race.  I completed the race in 4th, which normally I would have been thrilled with, but after having tasted 3rd briefly in the late stages of the race, I was left with a disappointed taste in my mouth that I didn’t have the legs to close it out and maintain a podium position.

After looking back at my month, I am fairly satisfied with the progress I’ve made and how I was able to display that progress in racing situations.  I made the main pack in one swim and second pack in two swims, I finished in the money in all three races, and I podiumed for just the second time in a 70.3.  Now for a little rest and planning for the second half of the 2017 season!

I decided to add Raleigh to my race schedule this year.  I was determined to take the lessons learned from Chattanooga and apply them in my race execution here.  The swim featured quite a number of quick athletes, so when the gun sounded, a good, solid group of about 8 guys pulled off the front into 2 separate packs almost immediately, which left a large group of more mediocre swimmers in charge of focusing the large main pack.  A third of the way through the swim I noticed Matt Russell swimming right next to me on my right and Thomas Gerlach’s signature teal tri suit (sans speedsuit) just ahead, so initially I was pleased with where I was and was content to stay put.  Unfortunately it seemed no one in this pack was really keen on driving the pace at the front, so by the halfway point the pace really started lagging, and the group, which consisted of at least 10 guys, really bunched up and I started getting a bunch of elbows and kicks.  When I’m not stretched to stay with a group, I know I’m either in the wrong group, or whatever group I’m in is going to have a large gap to whoever happened to get off the front earlier.  And that was exactly the case today.  We all exited together, but we gave the lead packs 2-5 minutes out of the water, which would be tough to pull back.

I attempted to make my way through transition efficiently, hopped on the bike in 5th out of about 10 guys in the group, and then quickly passed two of the guys.  Russell, Gerlach, and Michael Poole had gapped everyone, and I went to work to bridge the gap.  In the process of catching Gerlach and Poole, I passed Luke McKenzie, who had a minute gap on us out of the water.   By mile seven I had caught Gerlach and Poole with Russell up the road.  I was encouraged that I had a couple allies to work with in the pursuit, but after three or four miles or pulling, I discovered only Poole had stuck with me.  Over the next 45 miles, we traded off the lead legally and came into transition about a minute down from a group of three.

The run didn’t pan out very well for me today.  My stomach was a complete brick from taking in too many calories and not enough water, so I trudged through the run at a fairly pedestrian pace.  I managed to move into 7th overall by mile 5, but after that I stalled a bit and was never able to pick up enough momentum to make a charge for 6th.

Overall I had an average swim, and average bike, and a below average run, which results in 7th overall just over 4 hours and 4 minutes.  On to Eagleman!

For those who don’t already know, my life changed fairly dramatically in January, as I decided to refocus my efforts on racing and coaching.  I currently maintain my position as the Health and PE Curriculum Coordinator with Williamsburg-James City County, but I am no longer teaching in addition to those responsibilities.  Instead I have doubled down on making athletics, and triathlon in particular, part of my job.  As a result, I have been able to allocate additional time to train and recover, I have less day to day stress overall, and I have had increased opportunities to be dad and to help Tori with family duties.  That’s not to say that the decision wasn’t risky, but if you don’t take risks, you’ll never see rewards.

 

All year I’ve really had a mindset shift in the way in which I approach my training and racing.  This is my job.  It’s work.  That’s not to say it isn’t fun, but ultimately I would argue that to do the work to be successful day in and day out, it’s not always fun in the moment.  Pushing your boundaries and growing is not always fun.  Ask anyone who has ever raced a marathon if they’re having fun at mile 22.  But the accomplishment of a tough task and the potential for achieving great things makes the day to day struggles bearable.  The opportunity to reach or exceed your goals makes you want to keep driving in the last third of the race.

 

Since 2014 I have made the pilgrimage to Chattanooga, either for the full or the half, knowing that with a current assisted swim and tough run course, this was well suited to my strengths.  For the past three races, it just never quite worked out for me, and I was never able to capitalize.  I was hoping the fourth try would be better.

The current in the Chattanooga River seemed to be screaming after a few weeks of heavy rainfall, so the game plan for the swim was basically to start out full throttle for the first 10 minutes upstream to catch as much benefit from the faster swimmers as I could, and once I reached the turn buoy, I could let the current do most of the work.  As always, the start of the swim was kind of a mess, I got tangled up in a bunch of arms and feet just trying to stay in the wake of the front pack.  Eventually the string broke, as it did for a couple of us, and we formed a nice second group.  I’m not sure who ended up driving the pace in our group, but it was quick enough where I was content to stay on hips and feet and head out on the bike with whoever I was swimming with.  When we climbed out of the river, I noticed there were at least 5 of us together (maybe with more right behind?) but learning from last year’s full, I made sure to make quick work out of T1 so I could maintain contact with the group on the bike.  I exited T1 with four riders from our group ahead of me, and then went to work.  Matt Russell was at the front of the group, and he was aiming to bridge the gap to the front bike pack, who was a little over a minute and a half up the road.  The group immediately split a little bit, but I kept them within eyesight until about mile 20 when I started to work back to the group.  I caught the group somewhere around mile 40, rode with them for about 5 miles, and then took off in the last 10 miles or so to try to close down time between me and the front of the field.  I had absolutely no idea how many guys were in that front swim pack or how far ahead they would be, but when I dismounted in T2 I was pleasantly surprised to see 6 guys just heading out of T2 with the 2nd and 3rd place overall bikes riding with them.  So although I was coming off the bike with a couple guys myself, I knew I was only about 2 minutes off second heading into the run.  I liked the sound of that.

My legs felt way better off a similar bike ride at last year’s CHOO 70.3, so I was ready to attack instead of just hoping to hang on.  I closed the gap to 7th within 2 miles, and although 2nd through 7th had spread out considerably over that time, they were all lined up in front of me, and I could see that the gap between me and 2nd had even come down a bit since the start of the run.  I had no idea where first was, but I heard around mile 4 that we was about 7 minutes up the road.  At that point I (incorrectly) assumed that nobody would see him again until the finish line, and I just tried to catch as many guys as I could in the little “pain train” that was lined up in front of me.  As it turned out, I caught one guy every couple of miles or so, put in a little surge each time, and then settled back in.  By mile 10 I had moved into 3rd, and with Matt Russell still about 90 seconds ahead, I figured I would give it what I had to get a decent time, but my place probably wasn’t going to change over the final 5k.  To my surprise, with 2 miles to go on the last turnaround, I saw the lead bike wait and change positions to follow Matt, and quickly realized that while I was having my own personal battles catching this long line of runners, Matt had been driving this line trying to close down the gap to the leader, who was coming back quickly.  I got a gap to him at 45 seconds with a mile and a half to go, and I absolutely knew I could bridge up to him and had the legs to make it a race in the final stretch if need be.  It ended up only taking me about half a mile to take those 45 seconds out of him, and I politely made the pass and then let it rip down off the pedestrian bridge and down to the riverfront for the finish.  The race unfolded almost perfectly today, as I was able to get into a good swim pack, work comfortably hard and stay within reach on the bike, and then use my run to close it out.  It would have been amazing to have been able to bridge up to Russell, the champion, and make a race of it in the final miles, but he was just too strong today, and I just didn’t execute quite well enough to put myself in position to have that chance.  Fortunately I know some things that can be changed, and I know I am capable to doing those things effectively moving forward.

I could not be happier about the support I have this year.  I line up on the swim start knowing I have the best swimskin on the market in the Xterra Valor.  My LG Tri Kit fit like a glove all day, the Diamondback Serios was quick and responsive, my Rudy Project Boost was perfect, King Apparel socks kept my feet super comfortable on the run, my SweatVac hat kept the sun out of my eyes when it popped out briefly (and when flipped backwards gave me an additional mental boost (Over the Top, anyone?), and I relied exclusively on First Endurance products from Pre-race to post race to keep me hydrated and fueled throughout the day.  The Snapple Triathlon Team is a fantastic community to provide support from all across the country, and I’m thankful to be a part of it!

So all in all it was a great day for me!  I’m excited about the next few weeks of racing, and I know that the entire starting list of each race is clamoring to get up on the podium, so I’ll have my work cut out for me, and I’ll have to continue the work I’ve started this year.

Couldn't shake the main group today, so I came out of the water with a bit more company around me

Couldn’t shake the main group today, so I came out of the water with a bit more company around me

Stayed patient for the first 30 minutes of the bike while I had the leaders in sight

Stayed patient for the first 30 minutes of the bike while I had the leaders in sight

Liking the new bike and position on it!

Liking the new bike and position on it!

Up the hill one last time, trying to create a decent gap heading into the run

Up the hill one last time, trying to create a decent gap heading into the run

Couldn't see 2nd place, but I had a course record time going, so I pushed it all the way in

Couldn’t see 2nd place, but I had a course record time going, so I pushed it all the way in

2 for 2!

2 for 2!

Luray Triathlon Weekend.  Great races!

Luray Triathlon Weekend. Great races!

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Great swim today, but with John Kenny and Ian King in the race, I had a good distance to make up.

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Right around this point I had moved into 2nd on the road with Kenny still nowhere to be found.

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Heading in for the run. John was just up ahead of me at this point, and I was more or less biding my time until I could lace up the sneakers.

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We don’t have hills this big in Williamsburg.

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Had a great run, started off the weekend right with a win in the books!

For almost an entire year, I painted a picture in my head about what I wanted to accomplish at Ironman Chattanooga based on my effort there in 2014.  I had a solid race there, going 8:39 as a culmination of what I would consider a lackluster Ironman build.  I knew I was capable of more on that course, and I was confident I could lop off close to 20 minutes from that time this year.

That was, of course, if the weather conditions played nice.  The week of the race, forecasts called for race day temperatures in the mid to upper 90’s with little cloud cover, so I mentally prepared myself and readjusted parts of my race strategy so that I could thrive more successfully in the heat and humidity.

Looking back at IM CHOO 2014, I had been right with the main pack for about 10 minutes when the string broke and I lost contact.  Once I was off the group, I wasn’t strong enough to latch back on, and I ended up swimming the 30 remaining minutes of the swim solo, losing a few minutes to the main group.  I was surprised at how long the group pushed the swim at the beginning of an Ironman.  Well this year, I came into the race fully prepared and ready to get after the swim and do what it took to stay with the group.  I was confident and aggressive at the start and put myself in great position.  I worked with Chad Holderbaum and Matt Russell towards the back of the group, but I stayed comfortable and relaxed, and I was so pleased that I had made the group!  As the swim came to an end, the group definitely shifted gears a bit, and the tightly knit group spread out just a bit.  I was still with the group, but exited the water last, close to 15 seconds after the first guy in the group.

im-choo-2016-swim-finish

Tail end of the swim packing whipping around the corner

Running through transition, I did my best to be efficient and get on my bike as quickly as possible.  So I hopped on my bike, and all of a sudden, where was everyone?  I saw Justin Daerr about 50 meters up the road and that was it.  I knew I didn’t beat everyone out of transition, so I knew they all had to be just up the road.  So I focused on catching Justin, and figured if I could bridge up to him, then I would be able to see other members who would be regrouping.  So I rode at close to 90% FTP through town.  Only problem was, not only was I riding well over my target pace, I was losing ground fast to Justin, and still couldn’t see anyone else up the road.  So I kept on the gas, and ended up riding close to 85% FTP for 40 minutes.  Eventually I couldn’t see Justin anymore, and at that point, I decided that riding at essentially HIM effort any longer would be severely detrimental to the long term outcome of my race.  So I scaled back and started riding within myself.  From that point until mile 50 I didn’t see another rider.  Once I started my second loop, I could at least key off of the riders starting their first loop.  Around mile 80 I was passed by Jozsef Major who was absolutely flying.  Then at mile 105, I was passed by Colin Laughery.  His pace was a bit more in my wheelhouse, so I stayed in contact with him the best I could, as I weaved through wave upon wave of age groupers and vehicles on the road to and from Chickamauga.  Once we took a right on 193 and headed back into town, I was able to really put my head down again and finish the bike strong.

The heat was an absolute beast today.  I have done 5 out of 7 Ironman triathlons in hot, humid conditions:  2007 IM Louisville, 2009 IM Kona, 2012 IM Texas, 2012 IM Kona, and now 2016 IM Chattanooga.  I never thought anything would top my experience at Ironman Texas, but this past weekend came awfully close, and was certainly equal to, if not more difficult.  I just really struggled almost from the start to balance how much fluid/electrolytes I needed to take in to compensate for what my body was losing.  I could feel my head cooking in my ventilated aero helmet, and the water I poured on myself through the aid stations didn’t provide a cooling effect that lasted very long.

 

imchoo-run-start

Smooth sailing out of T2

I started the run right beside Colin, but quickly I pulled ahead and made my way down the first, long stretch of the run course.  I’m no stranger to running alone in long course triathlon, so I focused on staying relaxed and staying cool.   I really had no clue where I was in relation to those up ahead of me until I reached the other side of the river, where I was passed by several pros who were in the neighborhood of 20 minutes ahead of me.  I stayed confident that if I executed a solid run, at least a couple of those guys would come back to me.  When I crossed the pedestrian bridge right at 13 miles, I got a split to 10th place at 1:30.  Yes!  Finally someone to chase down!

imchoo-run

Feeling Hot

Unfortunately two miles later, I was halted in my tracks with a debilitating side stitch.  The stitch would dissipate after stretching so I could run again, but 50-100 meters later it would return, and I would have to stop and bend/stretch it out all over again.  This process happened from mile 15-mile 21.  It was a really rough section for me, and for a few moments I thought that I would have to walk/jog all the way in.  As I came up to mile 21, I finally decided to walk for 200m straight, take a huge bottle of electrolyte drink, and slam the entire thing before I even thought about running again.  So I did, and when I got back to running again, I was able to hold it together much better.  The last 5 miles of the race weren’t the prettiest miles I’ve ever run, but I did run and managed to salvage what I still consider an extremely subpar run, even in the conditions I was operating in.  I finished in 11th overall in 9:06 and change.

im-choo-2016-finish

Where is the ice?

I am very conflicted with my result from this race.  On one hand, I am extremely disappointed with how I executed certain parts of my race which may have had a large impact on my finishing outcome.  My tactical error at the tail end of the swim/T1/beginning of bike cost me quite a bit I believe, and staying on top of my sodium better would have potentially prevented that bad 5 mile stretch of the marathon.  On the other, I had a great swim, and when things weren’t going my way, I continued to fight.

Overall this was my worst IM for the kind of shape I was in and it was my worst overall placing ever in a pro triathlon race, but I remain confident that I can produce my best IM yet in the near future.

The volunteers for this race were nothing short of spectacular.  The vibrancy and enthusiasm of the run course aid station volunteers blew my mind.  I know it was hot for everyone, not just the racers, and they just gave so much of themselves all afternoon.

I was so thankful to have Tori, Cassidy, Greg, and my dad there to support me.  I am proud to represent the Snapple Triathlon Team and its sponsors – Xterra Wetsuits, First Endurance, Garneau, Sweatvac, Rudy Project, Trainingpeaks, and Diamondback Bikes.

With a handful of solid results culminating with a 2nd overall at Eagleman 70.3, I feel that I’ve turned a corner this year, and I am absolutely looking forward to building on my momentum in 2017!

Eagleman 70.3

 

“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another”

  • Walter Elliot

 

Back in 2013 I started my journey racing as a professional triathlete with the ultimate goal of consistently placing on the podiums in prestigious races and possibly even winning one. Reaching the pro podium proved to be quite the challenge!  While I’ve never finished out of the top 10, I consistently finish between 6th and 10th place.  After two years of doing things the same way and getting the same results, I decided to mix things up.  I hired a coach, I got a new bike, and I got to work.

At the end of May, I raced a 70.3 in Chattanooga, and recorded a less-than-mediocre 10th place finish.  I knew I was capable of more, I just didn’t put it together on the day.  So three weeks later I found myself wading in the Choptank River with 20 other pros ready to start Eagleman 70.3.

On paper the pro field wasn’t nearly as accomplished as the one I had raced against in Chattanooga, but if there’s anything I’ve learned from racing over the past 20 years, it’s never to underestimate anyone. Each pro on that starting line has accumulated a deep list of strong race results, and only the foolish would discount any professional who has earned the right to be there.

DSCN0698

Eagleman pro start

 

Having said that, the swim played out perfectly for me. There weren’t any super swimmers in the field, so while two guys jumped off the front about 90 seconds in front of the group, the lead group of 10-12 racers stayed together the entire way.  I was able to stay in contact in the opening minutes (and believe me, there was a lot of contact), and then just kept my eyes on the group the entire way around the course.  I felt steady and comfortable, and if someone started to pull off the front, I was absolutely ready to throw in a surge to close it down.  That never happened, and I decided to stay tucked in to the group and come out as comfortably as possible.  (11th OA, 28:04)

Transition took a little more time than usual- I decided to roll my sleeved top down during the swim to increase some shoulder mobility, but getting the wet top on while running to my bike proved to be challenging. I believe I lost one spot in the race here, and hopped on the bike in 12th place, right at the tail end of the main group.

It was such a relief to be heading out on the bike with others, but I quickly realized that the riders that came out in the front of the group were creating a gap to some of us in the rear, so I put my head down and went to work. The Diamondback felt incredible.  I think the biggest thing for me is the ride quality.  The Serios is so responsive.  That was the one thing that I never felt my old bike could do.  I always felt like I was riding a Mack Truck when I rode it, and on technical courses I never felt like I could keep any sort of momentum.  That has never been the case with the Serios – when I want to go, it goes!  I steadily moved up through the field over the first hour.  Around that time, I reached my old college teammate Kyle Pawlaczyk.  He was riding well, and it took me about 10 minutes before I was ready to move past and set the pace on my own.  Fortunately, once I moved past him, I almost immediately saw another small group up the road, which turned out to be the lead chase group.  Once I bridged the gap to the group, I sat up and weighed my options.  I was sitting in 5th on the road, but I knew all three of the guys in that group, and I knew they were all strong runners.  So I decided to push the pace for the next 15 miles and see if I could break them a bit.  Turns out that the only guy willing/able to come with me was Thomas Gerlach, who I had ridden the final miles with in Chattanooga.  He was intent on keeping the pace hot, so over the final 10 miles we took turns at the front trying to create as large of a gap on the rest as we could.  I set a new 70.3 bike split PR by just about 3 minutes on similar power as I’ve ridden in previous races.  Cheers to Diamondback and Rudy Project for getting me through that bike course as efficiently as possible!  (2nd fastest bike split on the day, 2:06:52)DSCN0701

Eagleman run start

 

Rolling into transition, Gerlach had put about 5-10 seconds into me. I knew I was currently in third, and I was pumped to be starting the run that far up in the race.  I threw on a running singlet (for the first time ever in a tri, but hey, it was hot!) and got on with it.  As I was heading out onto the run course, Kyle came in with the two others from that initial chase group in tow.  So I had somewhere around 10 seconds to Gerlach and close to 45 seconds over fourth.  The big change was that this time around, unlike in Chattanooga, I felt good!  Finally I had my legs and I was ready to race aggressively, not reactively.  I took over second place within a half mile, and then focused on pressing on the best I could.  At the first mile I received a time gap to Cody Beals, who was running way up ahead in first place:  4:30.  Woof.  That’s a lot of time, and Cody is no slouch on the run.  So I stayed relaxed, controlled my core temperature with water and ice through the aid stations, and told myself if I got another split halfway through the run and I was gaining on him, that I would take some risks on the back half.  Honestly I was still concerned with having at least four guys charging behind me within a minute, and protecting second was still very important to me.  Unfortunately I never did receive any additional time splits to the lead, but I did continue to gain on third.  With a few miles to go third was well behind out of sight, so I was able to focus on finishing well and in control.  (2nd fastest run, 1:18:38)

Eagleman finish

 

Coming down the finishing chute to finish second was exhilarating. I set a new personal record for the distance: 3:56:38, lopping off two and a half minutes from my previous best time.  The recent changes in equipment, technique, and approach to the sport served me well, and I was finally able to meet that goal.  I was still disappointed that I couldn’t put myself in position to challenge for the win, but that will have to come another day.  The key takeaways for me are that I am still improving year over year, and I now have the knowledge that I do have what it takes in training and in racing to become a perennial podium placer in long course triathlon.

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Big thanks to my family for their constant support, my coach Dave Luscan for his guidance and expertise, the Snapple Triathlon Team, Xterra Wetsuits, Diamondback Bikes, Rudy Project, First Endurance, LG, and Sweatvac. Without just one of those crucial pieces, I am an incomplete puzzle who would still be searching for his first IM 70.3 Pro Podium.

 

Nutrition:

Breakfast:

2 cups Maple + Brown Sugar Oatmeal (360 kcal)

1 bottle EFS PRO Lemon Water (120 kcal)

1 banana (100 kcal)

 

Pre-race:

1 gel + water

 

On the bike:

2 bottles containing 4 scoops EFS Pro Lemon Water + 1.5 servings of EFS Vanilla Liquid Shot (620 kcal)

1 large bottle of water

+ a couple sips of some Gatorade Endurance at an aid station (20 kcal)

 

On the run:

1 flask w/ 1 serving of EFS Liquid shot + 1 serving of EFS Pro Lemon Water (140 kcal)

Coke @ every 4 aid stations (100 kcal)

Water and Ice at every aid station

2017
2017 Ironman 70.3 World Championships N/A 26th 4:11:31 Chattanooga, TN
2017 Luray Sprint Triathlon N/A 1st 1:11:33 Luray, VA (course record)
2017 Luray Olympic Triathlon N/A 1st 2:00:17 Luray, VA  (course record)
2017 Eagleman 70.3 N/A 4th 3:59:33 Cambridge, MD
2017 Raleigh 70.3 N/A 7th 4:04:28 Raleigh, NC
2017 Yorktown Freedom Run 8k N/A 1st 27:13 Yorktown, VA
2017 Chattanooga 70.3 N/A 2nd 3:58:43 Chattanooga, TN
2017 Run the DOG 5k N/A 2nd 15:43 Williamsbug, VA
2017 Dismal Swamp Half Marathon 1st 1st 1:10:24 Chesapeake, VA (PR)
2017 Maritime 8k 2nd 3rd 25:32 Newport News, VA
2017 Colonial Half Marathon 1st 4th 1:11:05 Williamsburg, VA
2017 Gloucester 8k 2nd 2nd 25:50 Gloucester, VA
2016

 

2016 Christmastown Dash 8k 1st 1st 26:09 Williamsburg, VA
2016 Blue Talon Turkey Trot 5k 1st 1st 15:52 Williamsburg, VA
2016 Ironman Chattanooga n/a 11th 9:06:32 Chattanooga, TN
2016 Luray Sprint Triathlon n/a 1st 1:12:22 Luray, VA (course record)
2016 Luray Olympic Triathlon n/a 1st 2:04:53 Luray, VA
2016 Eagleman 70.3 n/a 2nd 3:56 Cambridge, MD
2016 Chattanooga 70.3 n/a 10th 4:01:22 Chattanooga, TN
2016 Run the DOG 5k 1st 3rd 15:27 Williamsburg, VA
2016 Maritime 8k 2nd 2nd 25:41 Newport News, VA
2016 Colonial Half Marathon 2nd 2nd 1:12:55 Williamsburg, VA
2015

 

2015 Blue Talon Turkey Trot 5k 1st 2nd 15:32 Williamsburg, VA
2015 Patriots Half Triathlon 1st 1st 4:13:14 Williamsburg, VA
2015 Luray Sprint Triathlon 1st 1st 1:13:58 Luray, VA
2015 Luray Olympic Triathlon 1st 1st Luray, VA
2015 Deltaville 5k 1st 1st 16:18 Deltaville, VA
2015 Run for the Dream 8k 2nd 2nd 26:09 Williamsburg, VA
2015 Yorktown Freedom Run 8k 2nd 2nd 25:43 Yorktown, VA
2015 Maritime 8k 1st 1st 25:59 Newport News, VA
2015 Love Rox Half Marathon 2nd 2nd 1:13:44 Richmond, VA
2014

 

2014 RRRC Turkey Trot 10k 1st 2nd 33:24 Richmond, VA
2014 Ironman Chattanooga n/a 10th 8:39:32 Chattanooga, TN
2014 Patriots Half Triathlon 1st 1st 4:15:57 Williamsburg, VA
2014 Challenge New Albany Half Iron Triathlon n/a 6th 4:01:13 New Albany, OH
2014 Run for the Dream 8k 1st 1st 25:22 Williamsburg, VA
2014 Run the DOG 5k 3rd 4th 15:33 Williamsburg, VA
2014 Colonial Half Marathon 1st 4th 1:13:43 Williamsburg, VA
2013

 

2013 Sentara Sleighbell 5k 1st 1st 15:51 Williamsburg, VA
2013 Richmond Marathon 1st 6th 2:27:23 Richmond, VA
2013 Crawlin’ Crab Half Marathon 1st 1st 1:11:26 Hampton, VA
2013 Patriots Half 1st 1st 4:12:16 Williamsburg, VA (CR)
2013 Recovery Rocks 5k 1st 1st 16:24 Croaker, VA
2013 Steelhead 70.3 n/a 7th 4:04:46 Benton Harbor, MI
2013 Rev3 Williamsburg n/a 10th 4:05:33 Williamsburg, VA
2013 Run the D.O.G 5k 1st 3rd 15:36 Williamsburg, VA
2012

 

2012 Sentara Sleighbell 5k 1st 1st 15:49 Williamsburg, VA
2012 RRRC Turkey Trot 10k 1st 1st 33:34 Richmond, VA
2012 Ironman World Championships 3rd 38th 9:12:38 Kailua-Kona, HI
2012 Patriots Half Triathlon 1st 1st 4:14:04 Williamsburg, VA
2012 Rocketts Landing Triathlon 1st 1st 2:00:14 Richmond, VA
2012 Ironman Texas 1st 12th 8:51:45 Houston, TX / 1st amateur, personal record (PR)
2012 Colonial Half Marathon 1st 4th 1:10:33 Williamsburg, VA (PR)
2011

 

2011 Christmas Town Dash 8k 1st 1st 25:39 Williamsburg, VA (CR)
2011 USAT Long Course Triathlon National Championships 1st 1st 3:59:00 Myrtle Beach, SC

(PR)

2011 Patriots Half Triathlon 1st 1st 4:16:19 Williamsburg, VA
2011 Rocketts Landing Triathlon 1st 1st 1:55:34 Richmond, VA/ CR/ PR
2011 Powersprint Triathlon 1st 1st 50:35 Richmond, VA
2011 Run the D.O.G. 5k 2nd 2nd 15:18 Williamsburg, VA
2010

 

2010 Nation’s Triathlon 2nd 2nd 1:57:39 Washington, DC
2010 Mulberry Island Half Marathon 1st 1st 1:12:29 Fort Eustis, VA
2010 Rocketts Landing Triathlon 1st 1st 2:00:27 Richmond, VA
2009

 

2009 Ironman World Championship 11th 93rd 9:27:49 Kailua-Kona, HI
2009 Nations Triathlon 1st 2nd 1:58:30 Washington, DC
2009 USAT National Duathlon Championship 2nd 4th 1:52:30 Richmond, VA
2009 Virginia Duathlon 1st 1st 1:30:04 Surry, VA
2008

 

2008 Ironman Arizona 2nd 30th 9:12:45 Tempe, AZ
2008 Richmond Sprint Triathlon 1st 1st` 54:53 Richmond, VA
2008 Yorktown Sprint Triathlon 1st 1st 55:11 Yorktown, VA/CR
2008 Powersprint Triathlon 1st 1st 49:30 Richmond, VA/ CR
2008 USAT Short Course Duathlon National Championships 3rd 8th 2:04:51 Richmond, VA
2008 3Sports Duathlon 1st 2nd 1:18:27 Richmond, VA
2007

 

2007 ITU LD World Duathlon Championships 1st 33rd 3:31:23 Richmond, VA/ 9th Amateur

AG Gold Medal

2007 Great Acorn Triathlon 1st 1st 1:01:10 Lake Anna, VA/ CR
2007 Ironman Louisville 2nd 25th 9:48:03 Louisville, KY/8th Amateur
2007 Mountaineer Man Half Distance 1st 6th 4:17:28 Morgantown, WV/1st in Elite Open Cat, 1st Amateur
2007 Powersprint Triathlon 1st 1st 50:36 Richmond, VA
2007 Red, White and Blue 5k 1st 1st 15:14 Williamsburg, VA/CR
2007 Mental Health 5k 1st 1st 15:13 Williamsburg, VA/ CR
2007 3Sports Long Course Duathlon 1st 6th 2:43:17 Richmond, VA/  2nd Amateur.
2007 Smithfield Sprint Triathlon 1st 1st 47:13 Smithfield, VA/CR
2006
2006 3Sports Sprint Triathlon 1st 1st 53:24 Richmond, VA
2005 IC4A 3k Steeplechase n/a 15th 9:08 Princeton, NJ

Ironman Chattanooga 70.3 Race Report

 

Well, I got it done. That pretty much sums up my experience at the 2016 IM Chattanooga 70.3.  It was a disappointing race on many levels, but I was able to draw out a few positives, which will continue to motivate me moving forward.

Thank you to Tori and Cassidy for the sacrifices they make in allowing me to continue to pursue this sport at an elite level. Thank you to my Dad for the company on the trip, and to my friends and family for their constant support win or lose.  Thanks also to Dave, my coach, for guiding me over the past half a year and getting me into the best triathlon shape of my life.  Now to the race:

 

DSCN0687

Might be hard to tell, but I’m guessing I was right in between the very large first wake and the second slightly smaller wake of swimmers.

Swim (26:10) 17th Overall

I knew I had to start off this race flat out and hang with the group as long as I could. The race started, and I made it perhaps 2 or 3 minutes behind the last guy in the big group before I lost contact.  The compounding factors that made this so disappointing were how large the group was (ended up being 14 guys) and how quickly I lost contact after intentionally starting out at/over the red line.  Two guys passed me shortly after (I probably owe them an apology because they were probably on my feet and lost the group because of me).  They came through and I could follow them, but then the lead swimmer started swimming off line, so I took a tangent.  By the time they got back, they had gained several body lengths on me.  I pushed hard again, but could not regain the space that had opened up.  So there was my swim.  I did basically the remaining mile solo trying desperately to catch a couple guys working with each other 30 seconds up the river.

 

Bike (2:13:02) 11th Overall

So for those of you who are friends with me on Facebook, you may have seen a fiberglass solution for my between the aerobars water bottle holder. I was quite proud of myself, and after testing it out a couple days before the race, I was confident it would do the trick.  Within a mile of starting the bike, I hit a bump in the road, simultaneously launching my rear bottle from its cage and cracking the fiberglass in half, rendering its capability of securing holding a bottle useless.  So as I’m figuring out what to do with my front bottle, I notice my rear bottle was gone (which turned out to work perfectly, because I just put the front one in the rear cage, but also eliminated a perfectly good bottle of EFS Pro that I was counting on).  Once I got everything cleaned up and reorganized, I got to work.  I caught two guys within the first 10 miles, and then averaged catching a guy about every 10 miles after that.  The course was certainly hillier than Williamsburg, but I felt comfortable on my Diamondback and was able to stay aero.  The last guy I passed was Thomas Gerlach from the US Pro Tri team, right before the long descent out of the town of Chickamauga.  I pushed as hard as I could all the way back on the flat section heading back into Tennessee.  He was riding well, and was able to stay with me.  Between miles 45 and 50 I just hit a wall, and the power dropped pretty drastically.  Gerlach repassed me, and I just tried to stay within contact until we arrived to T2.  Left quad really tightened up on the way back into town, so I spent the last miles trying to work it out in preparation for the run and trying to stay in close contact with Gerlach so that I had someone to start of the run with.  Uploading the power file to the coach was not fun, because I have had MANY workouts with much better quality riding in them.  I can ride much better than I did today.

 

Run (1:17:47) 10th Overall

Immediately starting off on the run, I had to continue to work out that sharp tightness in my left quad. Not sure why, but it just set the stage for a run that I would consider average at best. Considering how I’ve felt on many of the brick runs I’ve done in training, I would consider this baby below average.

Working out the legs a bit

Working out the legs a bit

It took me just over 2 miles to reel back Gerlach to reclaim 10th.  From there I tried to reclaim the legs I’ve had in training sessions, but they never appeared.  I was apparently slowly gaining on several of the guys ahead of me, but for the remaining 10 miles I never got within a minute of anyone.

 

DSCN0692

Looked solid on the run, but legs just would not move any faster today

Finishing Chute

Finishing Chute

So I continued my streak of never finishing out of the top 10 in a professional triathlon race, but it wasn’t the result that I know I’m currently capable to producing.  Maybe a little rust, maybe the loss of some of the nutrition on the bike played a factor, maybe just not my day, not quite sure.

What I do know is that by earning a result like this last year I would have been quite pleased with myself against this kind of field. Not this year.  Not with the work I’ve put in.  Not with the knowledge and confidence that I can do better.  So I guess that “reframing of my mental outlook” is a shift that I can build on.

The massage hurt oh so good

The massage hurt oh so good

 

I have several goals that stem from this race:

  1. Do well enough in a major triathlon so that the editors at Slowtwitch.com spell my last name correctly. When making the summary results list, my name has been spelled incorrectly 2 out of 3 times. I guess it probably doesn’t make much difference for the guy who finishes 6th or 7th or 10th. So Slowtwitch, I see what you’re doing there. Kudos for providing some additional motivation.
  2. Keep working on the swim. Maybe it’s changing, and it’s just not there. The swim continues to be my Achilles heel of triathlon, even at the 70.3 distance. I swim a minute and a half faster and all of a sudden I put myself into the bike race with a decent amount of company. Most of that minute likely needs to be made in the first 500 meters, though, as I barely had a chance right out of the gate and swam my race practically solo for the last mile.
  3. I’m a bit conflicted about this one, because I believe being humble and quietly confident is who I am and is one of my strengths, but maybe, just maybe I need to be a bit more aggressive about talking the talk so that I can actually walk the walk. I certainly run the risk of looking and sounding like a total idiot, but I know I can compete with the upper tier of guys in long course triathlon.

The new one piece Snapple tri suit was amazing today, my Diamondback Serios was quick and responsive, even when my legs weren’t, my Xterra speedsuit got me through the water, and I wish I had been able to use more of that delicious and effective EFS Pro Lemon Water!