Thursday, September 17, 2015

2015 Toughman NY Championship

Thanks for all your help
this year coach!
Last weekend I raced the Toughman NY Championship just north of New York City in Croton-on-Hudson, NY. It was my first time racing in the Toughman series, and I think they did a pretty good job. It was certainly a challenging course. I had hopes of landing on the podium and earning some prize money since this is a smaller race that doesn't draw big name pros, but I knew there were going to be a few solid guys there racing. I would need to have a good day. As a nice bonus I got to meet my coach this weekend, as his wife was racing the aquabike. This race served as the USAT Aquabike National Championship. I had never met Peter before, so it was good to get to spend some time with him and talk about my season and training. I feel that he has done a great job with me this year and brought me some substantial improvements and am looking forward to a good winter of solid work to keep the momentum moving forward.

My dad, Becky, and I drove down Friday evening after work, arriving to our hotel around 10pm. There was no practice swim on Saturday and registration wasn't until 1:30pm, so I slept in a bit and tried to get some rest. Not knowing what the road situation would be that close to the City, I took my trainer and got a quick 30 minute ride in Saturday morning to spin my legs out and then did a quick 15 minute run. On my run I noticed that there were no flat roads anywhere. You were always going up or down,  which would be the case in the race on Sunday. After registration we drove the bike course and then went back to the hotel to rest for a bit. Then we had dinner with Mike and Rachel before turning in for the night.

Sunday morning, after a terrible night of not sleeping very well, I woke up at 4am and got myself ready. We needed to be to the park early if we wanted to be able to park close and not have to get shuttled in. We arrived at the park around 5am, which gave me plenty of time to set up my gear in transition and get a bit of a warm up in. After that I headed over to the start line with Mike to line up for the swim.

The swim start was a bit confusing. The information that was being announced didn't match what the athlete guide we had been given said. The folks in charge weren't quite sure who was supposed to be starting in the 6:45am wave. This would definitely be an organizational area I would suggest they try to improve in the future. Getting the waves lined up properly makes the start a lot smoother. Eventually it got sorted out and the elite wave, along with several of the male age group waves, all gathered on the start line on the beach. The timing wire was under a mat on the beach, so we had to run over it to get "chipped in" at the start. It made the start a little congested, but fortunately I was right up on the front of the line so it wasn't too bad.

Always glad to be out of the water.
The water temperature was measured at 77 degrees, making the race wetsuit legal in this circumstance. The Ironman professional cut off is much lower (70.5 degrees), but since this race wasn't a WTC race it follows USAT rules. I wish they could all agree on consistent rules throughout the sport. It would make things less confusing for everyone. In hindsight, it was way too warm for a full sleeve suit. I had just gotten my new Roka Maverick Pro full sleeve wetsuit from TriSports, so I decided to give it a try for the first time in this race. I had been using one they lent me, so I knew the suit was comfortable. I have the sleeveless version as well, and I really should have used that instead, but I was trying to get the little extra speed from the full suit. I became uncomfortably hot less than half way into the swim though. My plan was to stay comfortable, focus on a good roll and finishing my stroke, and not waste energy trying to save a few seconds. On the entry to the water I had my goggle knocked, causing it to fill up with water. Fortunately the water was very shallow for a long ways, so I was able to stand up and walk as I fixed it. A few dolphin dives and I was back swimming again. Once the chaos got sorted out I found myself on the back of a group of about five people. I decided to try to stay right there and get some experience swimming on some feet. I haven't been good at keeping on feet in my previous races, so this was a good opportunity for me. I hung on pretty much through the entire swim. Our group broke up a little bit toward the end because people swam in different directions. They had told us at the briefing that morning to sight off the ambulance because it would be parked at the swim exit. However, they ended up moving it over to the swim start during our swim. Some people didn't realize that and swam a bit to the left. Fortunately, I noticed pretty quickly and stayed on the buoy line. I didn't wear my watch since I was using the full sleeve suit, so I don't know if the course was accurate or not. I swam 31:08, which I think is a bit slow, but I came out of the water 16th overall. That is good for where my swim has been.

Fastest bike split of the day.
I had a quick transition and headed to the bike course. On my way out my dad let me know I was about 6:30 back on the leader, John Kenny. I knew he would be the first out of the water, but I also know I'm a much strong cyclist than him. There were a few other guys out in front that I knew would be a challenge, but I would give it my best. The bike course was completely closed to traffic, which was awesome. It was a double loop ride on a nice highway road. Overall the course was very smooth and in great condition. After the first mile and a half there was a long, difficult climb out to the first turn around. Then you came screaming back down the hill past where you entered the highway and went out to the other turn around. You then made your way back past the start before doing the loop again. In the first climb and descent I made up about 3.5 minutes on the front guy. My dad passed the information along as I rode past. I was pumped to hear that news. That was a huge chunk of time. I kept pushing hard to the second turn around, where I was able to gauge that I was about 2 minutes back. I had taken more time off the front. However, I noticed the front group had come together. I was in 5th place now and the front four were riding close. Very close. In my opinion, too close. And since I didn't see a single official during the entire ride... Draw your own conclusions.

At the start of the second loop the gap to the front was 1:15 seconds. After the climb and descent the gap held steady. At the final turn around I checked my clock to see how far back I was.... still 1:15. And the group was still all together. As I came back after the turn around one of the guys was on the side of the road with a flat. I generally don't like knowing I moved up because of someone's misfortune, but maybe karma for riding too close caught up to him. Now I was in 4th. A few miles down the road I came up behind John Kenny. He had fallen off the group and looked like he was struggling. I went by and then had a look back to see that he had tried to lift his pace to stay with me. I put a huge surge in and the next time I looked back I couldn't even see him. He was dropped. The final two miles of the course was super sketchy. They took us on this extremely narrow bike path with sharp 90 degree turns and walls and fences on either side of the path. Add in the broken up asphalt from tree roots breaking through and you had a recipe for disaster. Fortunately I was all alone on this section so I didn't have to worry about other riders. I did go into one right hand turn way too hot and almost smashed into a wall, but luckily I was able to hang on. I came into transition right as the two leaders were heading out, so I knew they were just over a minute ahead of me. But would I be able to chase them down? I had the fastest bike split of the day. I went 2:18:31 (Normalized Power of 306 watts), which honestly I think I should have been a couple minutes faster, but it was a very tough course with lots of climbing, some steady headwind, and four complete 180 degree turns. Another piece of constructive criticism for the race would come on the bike course. I saw zero officials during the entire ride, and I was right near the front of the race the entire time.

Third place finish. 
On to the run course my dad and coach both let me know I was less than a minute back. Peter told me not to try to bridge the gap too fast, but to remember it was a long run. It ended up not being an issue, because I couldn't run with those two that day anyway. My legs just didn't have it. I wasn't uncomfortable or feeling fried from the bike, but I just didn't have the leg turnover I needed. The first half of the run was essentially uphill to the turnaround, and then we turned back and had a nice downward slope to come home. There was one tough, short climb at mile 9, but it was nothing compared to the long climb from mile 5-6. That was a complete grind. We also ran on every type of surface imaginable. There was some road, some dirt, some grassy paths, some crushed gravel, some rocky paths... That made the footing interesting in a few spots. At the turnaround I could tell I was about 4.5 minutes back. The two guys out front had crushed the first half of that run. I knew there was no way I was bridging the gap. I could also tell that 4th place was over four minutes behind me. I was in no man's land. There was no reason to push to try to catch the front and there was no reason to run scared from a challenge behind me. It was probably for the best because it let me just cruise in the for second half of the run and save my legs for Chattanooga in two weeks. I ended up running a 1:27:20, which was the third fastest run split of the day. Only the two guys who beat me had better runs.

Men's podium.
I ended up 3rd overall, which meant my first prize money from racing. I was hoping for 2nd or better, but unfortunately that didn't quite work out. I would have been really disappointed if I didn't come away from the race with anything. I'll take a third with a decent swim (for me) and a solid bike for the day.

Always fun to race
with Mike!
After the race I met up with Mike and we had some lunch. The race did provide good food for the athletes. We talked our races over and hung out a bit before gathering our gear from transition. After the awards ceremony we headed back to the hotel, showered up quick and headed for home.

Overall, I thought Toughman did a good job at putting on a very good event. The few issues I do think could be fixed to improve the race are relatively simple - organize the swim start a bit more, put a few more officials out on the bike course, and, if it were up to me, I'd say take the bike path section out and just bring the bike course in on the road to the park that we left on. It might make the course half a mile short, but I think that's a better option than the craziness of that path. I'd like to thank Rich Izzo for extending the invitation to me and allowing me to race with Toughman. I'd definitely be interested in coming back and trying to improve my spot on the podium in the future. Less than two weeks until Ironman Chattanooga!

Swim - 31:08
Bike - 2:18:31
Run - 1:27:20
Total Time - 4:19:32 (3rd overall)

2 comments:

  1. I was in the front group...we rode very clean in my opinion...certainly legal. It is tough as a competitor to judge whether or not drafting is taking place. In the few seconds you have to observe as you pass by, you could certainly be watching at a point when one athlete is working his way up to the other athlete as he is preparing to make a pass. There was a fair amount of passing going on between the front 3 guys in that 4 man group. I was also the guy who flatted while leading (for a good portion of the ride) the group. Wasn't Karma, not that I believe in it anyway. NP was around 285 when I flatted...140 lbs. Wish I could have had my usual running legs. Just wanted to let you know the two guys that beat you did it legitimately. Getting out of the water with a group helps and it is certainly within the rules to stay that way during the bike.

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    1. Fair enough. I had a couple spotters out there who said it was pretty tight too. I suppose the timing of when you see the group does play a role. Couple that with zero race officials and it makes you wonder. I couldn't have run with those guys on that day anyway. Tough luck on the puncture.

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