It has been a little while since I have written and the triathlon season is in full swing. It is hard to believe that it is August already and the championship season is right around the corner. Since my last post I have taken part in two races- Eagleman 70.3 in Cambridge, MD and Vineman 70.3 in Sonoma, CA. With a much later start this year than I was planning on due to my heal stress fracture I have pushed the key races to the second half of the season for 2015 with Ironman Vichy in about 1 week and then Ironman Arizona in November. Having done only one Ironman previously and it being last September I am approaching uncharted territory for myself as now I will be doing two in a matter of 11 weeks.
Looking back to Eagleman in the beginning of June I was very excited for the race. Not only was it going to be on the weekend of my 30th birthday but I had always heard that it was a fast, flat yet very hot/humid race - and this year was no exception! It was also a fun weekend as friend and athlete I help coach- Liz Reinhart with her parents were meeting us for the race. Additionally, there were a bunch of the University of Virginia Tri Club members that I work with, my friend/running buddy Jaime Mata and a large contingent of the Rochester, NY TowPath Multisport team racing as well. It was to be a great weekend of catching up with friends and I was hoping for a big race especially coming off of a great first race of the season at Chatt 70.3.
After a good warm up swim the day before I knew based on the heat, humidity and current water temperature that this race would be far from wetsuit legal especially with the new water temperature rules set forth this 2015 season.
When race morning came the air was very thick in humidity. I knew I had to do my best of keeping water and electrolytes a priority for me before and during the race. I have become better at dealing with the heat and humidty over the last two years since moving down to Charlottesville, VA from the arctic tundra of Rochester, NY but I still struggle in the heat more than others. The goal is to stay within myself and stick to the game plan. During the warm up swim however, I noticed my stomach feeling slightly off. I thought to forget it and chalked it up as pre-race jitters.
After finally finishing the swim, I knew that I could throw down a very fast bike here as this course is as flat as you can get. I hopped on my bike and tried to start pushing the watts I needed to give me a great bike split. WIthin 5 miles though I knew this was not my day as I was putting out about 10% lower power and my heart rate was through the roof. As I tried to stay positive and let the hear rate come down I threw up again. This repeated about 3 more times over the next hour and I knew that my day was done by the time I hit halfway through the bike. I was unable to keep calories down and fluids in me - on a hot day like it was that is basically suicide. After normally putting out around 325 watts for a half I was struggling to put out 295 and I had a chill to me that I only get when I have a viral issue. I told myself to try to tempo it home and as much as I hated to say- call in quits that day. Today was not the day I had hoped for. After getting to T2 I spent the rest of the day cheering for friends and trying to make the most of it.
A big shout out to Liz, the UVA tri club and the group from Rochester who did a great job! A while after the race I was finally able to get some food in me and actually keep it down. I wanted to say a huge thanks to my Dad for driving down once again for the support from Rochester, NY.
After Eagleman 70.3 I took a few down days to let the body get back to normal from whatever virus/stomach bug I had. I would say it took me about a week to get back to normal. It is amazing how great you can feel one minute then how weak another. When 1-2% can mean the difference of having a great day and a bad day you need to appreciate the good and learn from the bad. Within a few week of Eagleman however I started putting in some long days to prepare for Ironman Vichy at the end of August.
Before Vichy however, was Vineman 70.3! I was very excited for this race as it is one of those bucket list races that everyone should do as a triathlete. We flew in a few days early to get acclimated and have some time to relax! This weekend was also exciting as Chelsea and I got to hang out with our friend Allison Stewart who was in the US from Vet School in Scotland for a wedding. We planned this months out and were finally happy to make it work! This was her first time to Cali and the weather didn't disappoint!
After getting off the plane we got a great swim in at a local college and then headed into the wine country of Sonoma County California. I was going to be staying with Tom O'hair who races for Borg Racing - one of the nicest guys I have ever met and a local triathlete racing Vineman 703 as well. He has done the race a number of times and new every part of the course- what a great resource!
If you have never been to this part of the country it truly is beautiful! Miles upon miles of vineyards, rolling hills and a dry moderate climate. This was a breath of fresh air coming from the heat and humidity of Virginia. As we prepared for the race we got a great warm up ride, swim and run on the course. This was very unusual for Chelsea and me to have this much downtime before a race as we are normally always rushing to get to races and then back home for our jobs(yes I have a day job as an Eye Doctor!)
We even got some time to check out some wineries before the race - don't worry I did the driving! Its amazing how beautiful and fortunate we are to live in a country so different from area to area.
Waking up race morning the weather was perfect. It was to warm up into the low 80s mid day but it was in the low 60s at race start. Getting to the race start to set up transition it was still pitch black out. When the sun did start to rise it was a beautiful sight!
When we got there race morning we found out that the swim was to be wetsuit legal- my first wetsuit legal race of the year! Since the wetsuit temperature guidelines have been changed for pros for 2015 even my race in early May at Chattanooga was not wetsuit legal. As a slower swimmer in the pro pack I find it very beneficial for me as it helps me limit the losses in the water time-wise and even save my legs a little as it helps with not having to kick as much. After a good warm up and a last good luck from Chelsea I was ready to get this day started that had a loaded field in it with many past Ironman and Ironman 70.3 champions.
The swim here is unique in that it is in a very shallow, narrow river west of the finish line. In years past dolphin diving has been a large part of the race but this year we were able to swim all of it. As we lined up to race I found myself next to Craig Alexander- multiple time World Champion - it was an exciting moment for me as I have idolized him for a while (I even have a signed poster in my bike room that is signed saying, "Steve, See you on the Course" My buddy Dave got that for me back in 2010)- funny how things have changed over the last 5 years! To make it even better he says to me right at the start, "Good luck, Mate!"
As the gun went off, I did my best to stay on feet of those faster than me. Fortunately, because the venue is so narrow we didn't have to sight very much -although the sun was hitting us right in the eyes as we were looking for buoys up ahead. Before I knew it the front pack which was pretty large had separated itself. I didn't see anyone else near me at the half way turn around but kept working hard. I started to have a feeling I was completely by myself and started having negative thoughts as though my swim- which I thought had been getting better- was going to hurt me today. To my pleasant surprise with about 75 m left in the swim someone hit my feet then as we were getting out of the water I realized I was actually pulling the second pack of 6 guys! My attitude changed instantly!
After swimming a 26:59, I found myself around 4 minutes down from some of the best swimmers in the sport. Now was time to get out of my wetsuit and onto the bike. This was a unique T1 as there was a decent uphill leaving transition that had us all running up before hoping on our bikes.
The morning air was cool and felt good as we started the ride along the Russian River. The initial miles on the bike were rolling and a little technical. I was glad to have had Tom drive us around and give us advice pre-race. The first portion of the ride my HR was high in the mid 160s from pushing the swim and my watts were a little lower than goal(around 310-315). As my body settled in my HR started to drop and my watts started to rise again. I feel as though all of the IM training with long rides and runs has allowed me to continue to get stronger later in the ride. I was starting to pass people and kept plugging away. This course definitely has some technical portions to it with some rough roads so focus was required at all times; although I hear it is much improved from years past! As I was nearing the last few miles of the ride I ended up catching Matty Reed- one of the best triathletes in the last decade. I knew he was a good runner so I tried to keep pushing the pedals hard to put some more time on him. When I finished the ride I had an AVG power of 321 and HR of 151 with a total time of 2:15:45 or 24.7mph for the 56 miles.
After a very long T2 run with our bikes (200 plus meters on a hard concrete sidewalk) I quickly put the shoes on and got out on the run. Within 600m Matty Reed was right on me and he continued to fly by. I knew if I wanted to have a good run I had to dial it back and run my own race. I let him go. I would rather go out a little conservative than too hard- I have paid the price trying to run someone else's pace before. As I hit the first mile in 6:12 I was happy with where I was and how I was feeling. I gradually kept plugging along and started catching some other racers. From mile 4-5 I made a move up Slusser road right before headed into the La Crema Windery dirt road loop. After I passed a few races, I didn't see anyone else up ahead besides Matty still plugging away. On my way out to the turn around I was able to see what place I was in and how the race was unfolding. Same Appleton was crushing it with Craig Alexander on his heals.
I knew at the out and back how close others were behind me- I saw Andrew Langfield looking good and moving fast. With 4 miles left I tried to stay relax, continue to get fluids in me and put one foot in front of the other. Shortly after I saw Allison; she gave me a big yell of encouragement- thanks Allison!
Once I was in the final mile or so before the finish I knew I had a big enough gap on Andrew that I could relax a little. As I entered the finish chute I was happy to be done and saw the clock tick to 4:09. I ended up finishing the run in 1:21:49 with an avg of 6:13 pace per mile. I am very happy with how even I ran as my fastest mile was 6:03 and my slowest was 6:20. Overall I finished 12th Pro out of a deep field in a time of 4:09:04.
After the race it was nice to hang out for a little and soak in the atmosphere- I was able to chat with a lot of the other racers and supporters- even found Epix Gear pro athlete Brittany Pierce after the race! It is one of the best feelings when done with a race and can relax for a few days!
After the race we even hit up a few wineries- the trip would not have been complete without going wine tasting after the event! Seems like a lot of other racers had the same idea as there were a number of athletes out there!
A very successful trip I would say! It was fun to get out to Cali, see friends, make new ones and even see family. We were able to meet up with Chelsea's cousins after the race who live in the Bay area. Doug even took me out golfing at The Bridges Golf Club on Monday! It was an adventure playing on this tough course and a nice way to unwind from the race.
I was also fortunate to visit one of my sponsors- CooperVision; a global leader in contact lenses. I was taken on a tour of their facility in Pleasanton, CA and had lunch with a few of their integral members of the company including James Gardner who is a avid triathlete himself and just raced IM Mont Tremblant where he crushed it in 11:19! Thanks again to CooperVision for their support and for providing me with the best 1-day contact lenses on the market!
A truly heartfelt thank you to all my freinds, family and supporters. Without your help I would not be where I am today. As always I can count on Blue Ridge Cycleryfor getting my bike race ready, Epix Gear for the cool new custom kit for 2015, Trisports.com for my equipment needs and everything triathlon, 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 ofEndurance 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- Ironman Vichy in France! Stay tuned for a race preview!