The triathlon race season has been here in the US for a little over a month but for me, my season started this past Sunday at Chattanooga 70.3! This is the same place where I finished off the 2014 season with my first Ironman last fall. It was a beautiful venue for the full so I was excited to come back for the half. Whenever you are familiar with a race venue it makes it that much easier - and anything you can do to alleviate some stress is very welcome on race weekend.
It is also nice coming to a place with familiar faces. My Dad made the long trip down from Rochester, we had dinner with cousins (thanks for the delicious lasagna!) and stayed with Chattanooga Tri Club extraordinaire Rebecca Stein. I had stayed with Rebecca last summer when I was prepping for IM Choo and it was wonderful to see her and her dog Nexie again!
This season got a slower start than normal due to a stress fracture in my left calcaneus(heel) that had come on toward the end of last season. Looking back on it, I started feeling it about a month before IM Choo toward the end of August 2014 but I thought it was some Plantar fasciitis. After taking some time off at the end of last year I started to work out again and found it even more painful than before. Finally, I went and had it looked at and found it to be a stress fracture halting my running for 10 weeks being put in a boot! A blessing in disguise I believe now as it forced me to work on my swim which has always been my Achilles heel - I wouldn't say I am fast yet but I would say I am a respectable triathlete swimmer now.
With my run lagging behind my bike and swim fitness, I had uncertainties with how the race would go. I had some solid workouts over the past month but you never know how it will go until you are out there.
While attending the Pro meeting on Saturday I knew it was going to be a dog fight out there as some of the world's best had shown up - many of them Ironman and 70.3 champions. I however, was going to stick to the plan that Coach Doug Bush and I had come up with and see how it played out.
When race morning approached we found out that it was to be non-wetsuit swim for the pros as the water temperature was 71.9 degrees just above the 71.5 temperature cutoff that has been adopted for 2015 race season (the 76.1 degree wetsuit cutoff for amateurs remains unchanged). I somehow figured before the race that it would be too warm for wetsuits so I was not surprised or thrown off by this (I actually did a swim the day before just in swim bottoms) - it's amazing how something small like this can throw a wrench in your mental psyche if not prepared.
Walking down to the swim start
The swim course this time around was different compared to that of the Ironman as we had to swim upstream for about 400m first, then make a u-turn and head down stream. And unlike the Ironman, the current in the river was almost non-existent as the flow of the water had been decreased upstream at the dam this time around. As the gun went off, the field spread out quickly as some of the fastest swimmers in the sport were there - most notably Andy Potts (pictured above). I quickly tried to get on some feet but as we reached the u-turn, I realized I was pulling a group myself. I kept plugging away trying to swim "long" as friend and swim ace, Cory Chitwood, always says to me! Before I knew it I was climbing on to shore and getting into T2. Overall very pleased with the swim- the off-season training is paying off! 26:00, 15th male Pro
After a long T1 run ( 2:27) I hopped on my bike and got to work. I was going to hold steady power and see if I could move up on the field. The plan was to hold steady the first half then see if I could pick it up on the way home depending on how I was feeling. The bike course, which takes us into Georgia, was rain filled with some slick roads but fortunately no tar on the road like there was for the ironman!!
I was riding strong and actually pulling a group -sometimes upwards of 4-5 riders...the whole time trying to ride my race. I ended up taking a Powerbar Gel (vanilla) after 20 mins of riding after letting the HR settle from the swim/transition which tends to shoot up the HR. From there, I took a Powerbar Gel every 35 mins (20 mins in, 55 mins, 1:30, 2:05) along with 1.5 bottles of the Gatorade endurance formula that the volunteers were passing out and 2 bottles of water. In total that was 440 calories from gels, 360 calories from the drinks for 800 calories total - basically that is 300 calories an hour as I took the last gel right before getting off the bike. I ended up catching a rider right before T2 and finished the bike feeling relatively good in 11th place, 2:14:06 bike which is just over 25mph average.
After a quick T2 and realizing that there were people hot on my tail, I new a good run was necessary to finish out the day. I fully believe in the saying "bike for show, run for dough." I told myself to run the first mile in 6:15 and no faster allowing myself to get my feet under me and get the run legs turned on. I hit mile one in 6:16 letting 2 other athletes pass me in the process. I knew that it was a long run and I would need to pace myself accordingly. I gradually started to ramp down the pace and was catching back up to the ones that passed me but also realized that others from behind were closing on us too. After the end of the first loop of two I started really grinding and seeing how the legs would respond.
About 2 miles later however,I got a horrible diaphragm cramp that actually forced me to walk and stretch it out for a few meters while getting passed by a few others. I knew if I could get it out I could finish the run strong. Fortunately, even with the walking I ran a 6:55 mile then did a 6:15. As I hit 2 miles to go, I saw 2 guys in front of me with 1 coming hot on my heals- 2014 Ironman Wisconsin Champ Daniel Bretscher. I really started to dig deep and kept churning all the way to finish - in doing so I caught the two ahead and held off Daniel by 12 seconds finishing in 4:05:39 for 11th place overall with a 1:21:39 run- 6:13 avg pace where my last 2 miles were 5:59 and 5:52.
Looking back on the race, I am very pleased with my performance with the tough competition. I beat some great athletes and had 3 solid legs. A great way to start the 2015 season! As always there are things to continue to work on but that is what makes you hungry for more.
I want to say thank you for the support of my amazing wife Chelsea who was all over the place cheering and taking all of the photos you see here. I also want to give a big shout out to my friends, family and amazing sponsors. Major Props to Blue Ridge Cyclery for getting my bike race ready, Epix Gear for the cool new custom kit for 2015, Trisports.com for my equipment needs, PowerBar for providing me with the nutrition I need to fuel me, Bolle Eyewear for helping protect my eyes and making flashy, stylish eyewear, CooperVision contact lenses for providing me with crisp vision, all day comfort and UV protection that I can count on no matter what the environment throws at me. Thanks again to coach Doug Bush of Endurance Factor coaching for getting me prepared both mentally and physically for racing and to Dr. Shannon Franklin of Crozet Eye Care for being an understanding and very supportive friend and boss enabling me to chase my athletic dreams.
Next up is Eagleman 70.3 on June 14th! It will be part of my 30th birthday celebration!