Monday, July 3, 2017

January to June 2017

Once again I find myself playing catch up from races. The pace of life is much faster now and I can't seem to find the time or motivation to write up my experiences, though I do enjoy reflecting and sharing what I've been up to for anyone interested.

March - 70.3 Puerto Rico

In March I headed back to San Juan for my fourth edition of 70.3 Puerto Rico. I am fairly sure that I have raced this course more than any other triathlon I've done. I love the island, the venue, and specifically visiting Old San Juan before the race. This year was nothing short of a disaster. My flight Friday out of Rochester was cancelled. We were eventually rebooked on a much later flight, but it meant that I didn't arrive in San Juan until about 5am Saturday morning, which isn't exactly great for the body before racing. The stress of thinking I might not get there was overwhelming. Fortunately we did make it, even with the less than ideal circumstances.

As for the race itself, I had a typical, frustratingly slow swim. Then, for the first time ever in a race, I punctured on the bike at mile 7. When putting in the new tube, my CO2 adapter wouldn't fit my disc valve hole, so the CO2 blew out. I was stranded on the side of the road. By a stroke of extreme good fortune, a local was riding down the road and stopped to check on me. He had an adapter that fit my disc and a CO2 that he gave me. Without this friendly guy my day was over. I ended up losing about ten minutes to the ordeal, but eventually got back on my bike and finished the race in 4:19:19. I had the best run I've ever had there, so that was the best take away from the day.

April - Boston Marathon

On Patriot's Day I ran my second stand alone marathon and my first Boston Marathon in its 121st edition. What an unbelievable experience this turned out to be. With my eyes ultimately set on Ironman Lake Placid in July, I didn't want to take the time to taper into this race and then spend more time recovering. I remember how much my legs hurt after I ran Philadelphia, so my plan was to train through the race and then run conservatively to try to avoid doing too much damage so I can resume normal training fairly quickly.

On the way to Boston we stopped at my cousin, Kristen's, house about an hour outside of Boston. It was the day before Easter, so it was nice to spend some time with her family and my Aunt Phyllis and Uncle Gordie, who was also there visiting.

Logistically, the Boston Marathon is incredibly impressive. The organization was unreal and everything went so smoothly. I caught an early bus from downtown out to Hopkinton, where athletes are staged at the high school. I met up with Mike and Steve there. The race starts at 10am, so we had a couple of hours to hang out and wait before running. Fortunately we had a nice day, so it wasn't that bad.

When the race started, I kept to my strategy and tried to maintain a consistent, comfortable pace. The first 5K is a little fast because it is downhill and there are so many people that you basically have to run the same pace as everyone else until things start to spread out. Running through the towns there were so many people cheering that it was tempting to push the pace early when you are still feeling good. Instead I chose to high five every little kid that hand their hand out and soak up the experience. I am glad I did. I had the time of my life. Sharing the course with so many people and seeing the crowds was inspiring. I'm extremely proud of how consistently I ran. I was a metronome with my splits...

5K - 19:58
10K - 39:59
15K - 1:00:09
20K - 1:20:25
Half - 1:24:48
25K - 1:40:31
30K - 2:00:52
35K - 2:21:01
40K - 2:40:29
Finish - 2:48:47

Running the first half comfortably allowed me to push it a little bit harder toward the end. I felt like I was flying up Heartbreak Hill and then was cruising past so many people in the last 4-5 miles. That gave me a lot of motivation and kept me feeling strong. Then when you get close to the city and can see and hear all the people... Words can't describe the feeling. As I turned onto Boylston Street I saw Becky and my dad and was able to give them a big wave and smile as I finished the last quarter of a mile. I will definitely be back for another Boston experience.

June - 70.3 Raleigh

Raleigh was sort of a last minute decision. I spent much of March, April and May working with a swim coach on the weekends. I hadn't planned to race much in the early part of the year so that I could focus on getting solid, consistent training in for Lake Placid in July. With my fitness feeling pretty good I decided that if I could get two races out of one recovery period I would give it a shot. I did the Raleigh/Eagleman double last year and it went pretty well, so I decided to give it a shot again.

With a new puppy in the house and Becky already planning to go to Maryland for Eagleman, I told her not to worry about coming to this one. It was going to be a lot of time in the car (I decided to drive rather than fly after the Puerto Rico fiasco) and it would make for a crazy week and a lot of time away from the puppy. The drive turned out not to be too bad. My dad and I drove about seven hours Friday night and then went the rest of the way Saturday morning. It was nice not having to pack the bike and worry about the airline damaging it or our flight not making it.

That did not mean everything was stress free though. I put new tires and tubes on after Puerto Rico and I think I got a bad tire. On Saturday during a 15 mile ride to spin my legs out I got two flats. Then Sunday morning when I pumped up my tires before the race I had a tube blow out (that one looked like a faulty tube from how it blew at the valve). Needless to race I spent the entire race until T2 nervous that I was going to get a flat. Fortunately the heavy duty (albeit slow) tube survived the race.

As for the race itself, things didn't go as well as I had hoped. I felt flat all day. For the swim, none of my swim work paid off and I actually swam slower than the previous year despite having calmer water. The water was in the mid 80s, which felt like a bath. When I got on the bike my hips and glutes felt tight and they never loosened up. The run was probably slightly below average, I think due to the heat. I had absolutely zero warm weather at home to acclimate to conditions, and with temperatures in the upper 80s and no shade on the run I think I paid the price a little bit. I didn't race poorly, but I just didn't have any pop in my legs to have the race I felt like I should have for my training.

Time: 4:14:25

June - 70.3 Eagleman

Eagleman was a relatively smooth race. We had an uneventful drive down, finding ourselves on mainly the same roads as the weekend before. There were no major pre-race issues to contend with. Saturday evening we got to enjoy dinner with my college soccer coach and his family and Derek and Alicia. Both Coach and Derek were racing as well. It is always great to share the course with friends!

The race was a solid, consistent effort for me. Overall I was pleased with how the day went. Again, a frustrating swim that did not see any improvement despite my the changes I have been trying to make set me up to be chasing all day. Similar to last year, I had a very strong ride and moved myself up to 9th spot going into T2. The course is flat and fast with a bit of wind this year. It is the heat that always destroys people at Eagleman, which I knew first hand from last year when I fell apart on the run. Fortunately, I paced myself better this year and managed the heat very well, moving myself up to 7th place on the run with only two miles to go. Unfortunately, two guys running behind me were flying, and caught me within those last two miles, moving me back into 9th spot at the finish.

Time: 4:08:30

Up next is Ironman Lake Placid, which I have been looking forward to since last fall. Joel, Mike and I will all be racing, so it is bound to be a fun weekend!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

2016 - The Second Half of the Year

I didn’t do a great job of writing race reports for the 2016 season. A major life change (a new job with substantially more work and a more demanding schedule) cut into my time. On top of that, a difficult first half of the year left me frustrated with my racing and not wanting to rehash the experiences. Fortunately, I was able to bounce back with a solid second half of season with some races I am proud of. Rather than write a report for each, here are the highlights after things started to turn around.

June - 70.3 Eagleman

I came out of the water only about 5 minutes down from the front of the race, which is better than normal for me. I had a great bike and came into T2 in 8th place, with a few guys in sight. I started the run feeling great and pushed myself into 5th place at the midway point of the run. Unfortunately, the heat got to me and I cracked just before mile 8 and slipped back to 8th, where I ultimately ended up. I felt like I was racing and not just time trialing, though, and that was good experience for me. My goal is to improve my swim to the point where I can have more of these “race” experiences.

The biggest highlights from this race were definitely not race related though. Between the James Oberry interaction and him hitting Joel up for money at a gas station in Harrisburg, PA and our bed and breakfasts in Cambridge, MD, there was no lack of excitement or interesting characters. To top it off we made it back to Dreamers for ice cream on Sunday after the race. I believe it was somewhere in Pennsylvania.

Swim - 31:07
Bike - 2:06:57
Run - 1:28:52
Overall - 4:09:56
8th overall (two spots out of the money)

July - Ironman Canada

Not a whole lot to say about my race on this one. I would call it an average performance. I felt like my legs didn’t quite have the pop they needed. I will say that this is the most challenging course I have ever done and probably one of the most beautiful areas I have ever visited in my life. I highly recommend this race to anyone. Whistler is gorgeous. The course is hard and honest with amazing scenery. Sadly, I had started my new job the week of the race, so I had to shorten my post race time in Whistler because I felt like taking a bunch of vacation time the week I started was inappropriate. I would love to go back some day, not even to race necessarily but just to visit and enjoy.

Swim - 1:01:37
Bike - 5:02:39
Run - 3:23:37
Overall - 9:32:17
11th male pro (one spot out of the money)

I tried to hit my best Fonzie pose. 
September - Finger Lakes Tri

I don’t do a lot of Olympic distance racing and I don’t do much racing near home, so this was a bit unique. I raced because I had a half iron distance race the following weekend and wanted a hard speed workout before. I did this once last year with the Olympic distance and half distance back to back and felt it went well. I ended up winning the Finger Lakes Tri, which was my first ever triathlon overall win. I’ve won a few duathlons, but the swimming has always been my Achilles heel that I couldn’t come back from. I came out of the water in 4th place and moved to the front by mile 3 of the bike. After a buoy cut loose on the swim and sent us a little out of the way, I hammered the bike course on a windy day and ended up breaking the bike course record by over 5 minutes. I had a really solid run as well which helped me the overall course record by 1 minute and 13 seconds and win the race by over 7 minutes. I really put things together on the day and had a great time racing with a lot of friends and being able to hang out with everyone afterward.

Swim - 27:38
Bike - 55:47
Run - 36:00
Overall - 2:01:15
1st overall

September - Barrelman Half Iron (Niagara Falls, Ontario)

I wanted to do this race because it had a small prize purse and small professional field, though the money was available to anyone who raced. I looked at it as a way to gain some more “racing” experience as I figured I would be toward the front of the race. I was right and did have a good race, but was left frustrated by the lack of officials.

I came out of the water a little ways back, but moved my way up during the ride and ultimately caught the front of the race just before reaching T2. I had the fastest bike split of the day, but rode completely solo, unlike the guys in front who had a good group of three going. The rule in Ontario is 5 meters between bikes, which is significantly smaller than the 12 meter rule for Ironman racing. I did not see a single official out on course either, so I’m not entirely convinced those guys kept even 5 meters based on how close they were when I saw them. I guess that’s the benefit you get when you come out of the water in front. If I can improve my swimming I’ll be able to reap some of that benefit as well. I started the run with the other guys but wasn’t able to hang with the front two and ended up settling in third, kind of in no man’s land. There was a good gap to the first two and a good gap back to fourth.

So proud of this guy. 
The best part of the race was that my college soccer coach raced with me. It was his first half iron distance, and he knocked it out of the park. It was amazing to share the course with him and get to be there when he finished. His excitement for the sport is awesome and I love that I have been able to help him grow as a triathlete similar to how he helped me grow as a soccer player.

Swim - 31:27
Bike - 2:03:13
Run - 1:28:53
Overall - 4:05:59
3rd overall

October - 70.3 Miami

Look at that stellar run form... If you
take enough pictures one is bound to
look good.
I finally had the run I knew I was capable of. After a disappointing year of poor run after poor run, I was finally able to put together a half marathon that I was proud of. The swim was slow across the board. I had a bad swim, but times were slow for everyone. I didn’t realize how bad it was during the race because I swam with a group of four guys and we all came out together. Based on that I thought things weren’t too bad. After exciting the water I managed another strong bike split before running a new PR for the distance. I started the run feeling strong and was even surprised at how comfortable the fast pace felt. I settled into a comfortable rhythm, fueled and hydrated well, and was able to hold it the entire way. It was a big confidence boost to run so well and sent me home in a good mental state with just over a month to go before my last race of the year.

Swim - 37:32
Bike - 2:04:57
Run - 1:21:31
Overall - 4:07:09
19th overall

November - Ironman Cozumel

I love this race. I love this island. I have ever since 2011 when I raced it for the first time. I loved it even more after getting engaged when I was there in 2014. If you had asked me if I could love it any more than I already did before I went, I might not have thought it was possible. However, after breaking 9 hours in an Ironman for the first time in my life, I found a way to love it even more.

The trip was great. We had a smooth trip down, apart from barely catching the ferry at 1pm and then having really rough water on the ride to Cozumel from Playa Del Carmen. I was so proud of my mom for being a good sport during those 30 minutes. On Thanksgiving Day we swam with dolphins and had a delicious dinner at La Kondesa, our favorite restaurant on the island. Joel and I swam off the pier from the condo on Friday and got stung by jellyfish, which was not a wonderful experience. The resulting story is pretty entertaining, though, and I don’t think Joel will ever forget seeing me make a 180 degree turn and not saying a word to him as I swam probably the fastest I ever have after realizing what was stinging me.

Full on sprint mode. The drool is there
if you look closely.
On race day I had a decent swim. It still left me quite a ways back, but going under an hour made me happy. I could not believe how well I biked. I was hoping to end up under 4:50 and ended up riding a 4:37. I know conditions are different from year to year, but in 2014 I rode a 5:02. To go 25 minutes faster this time shocked me. I had a great first loop of the run and felt very comfortable, but then things started to fall apart in the heat and with my nutrition. I still need to get my Ironman distance nutrition dialed in. The second loop was a real struggle. As I finished the second loop I saw my dad and asked him what I needed to run in order to break 9 hours. I didn’t know what I swam at that point, so I wasn’t sure what my overall time was. I knew I was going to be in the ballpark for breaking it, and I hoped that knowing what I needed for my final loop would spur me on. My dad told me what I needed and I was pretty confident I could do it. As I headed back after the final turn I saw my dad about two miles out from the finish line. He hadn’t factored in T2, so the time he told me was off. I actually had about 2 minutes less than what he originally told me. He walked out so he could tell me and hopefully I could push the last couple of miles. It was a giant kick in the face to find out how hard I needed to push the last two miles, but I am extremely grateful that he walked all that way to tell me. Somewhere I found the energy and the legs to push those last two miles. As I made the final left hand turn and headed toward the finish line, the spit was hanging down my face and my legs wanted to explode, but I made it by 8 seconds. It may have been by the skin of my teeth, but I broke 9 hours. Then I puked a bunch and had to go to medical. #worthit

Swim - 58:16
Bike - 4:37:11
Run - 3:18:44
Overall - 8:59:52
17th male pro