Crunch Time – Real racing season!
The end of my season was going to be 3 races in five weeks with the last 2 being IronMan’s. I knew I needed to get in some strong training to accomplish the goals that I had set for myself. At the beginning of August, we had a family vacation out in the Midwest. I took the opportunity to enjoy the heartland and packed in 336 miles of hard riding (Strava is very addicting), 76 miles of running and 1 swim session over an 8 day period. I came back a little tired, but re-energized about my prospects. I had two simulation days over the next 2 weeks including a big training weekend up at Deep Creek Lake, followed up by another 100 mile ride w/ brick and a 20 mile run the following weekend. I was tired, but felt that I had put in all the preparation I could for my 5 week racing schedule.
The two weeks leading up to Reston, I didn’t know if my body would be ready in time to have the performance I was looking for – still fatigued from the load I had put on it over the past few months. I had a few very poor workouts, but Shelly kept me positive and on track. I really wanted to win the Reston Triathlon and was looking forward to it. All of my performances for the year had been ok, but nothing great.
One of things that I began looking at a few weeks before Reston was cycling cadence of the top pros. I had seen a few articles where the pros had cadences in the 80’s for their races and just assumed that was just one or two of them. The more I looked at it, almost all of the pros were riding cadences in the high 80’s for their races – both 70.3’s and 140.6 distances. I had made a very conscious effort over the past year to get my cadence right at 100 for my races. Shelly had noted when she first started working with me, that she thought this was high. I had thought that I was able to put out more power with a higher cadence, but hadn’t realized the cardiovascular impacts of riding that way and my HR being very elevated for long periods of time. Although late in the season, I was now making a conscious effort to ride a slower cadence and higher gear.
When I came out of the water, I was told that I was five minutes down on the leader. I was initially in a little bit of funk, feeling that I swam fairly well, but upset that I had lost five minutes in a 1.5K swim. As I came around the 1st lap of the bike, (3 lap bike course), Shelly told me that I was 3.5 minutes down and I thought to myself, let’s do this! I picked up the pace and started flying. A few miles down the road, I saw Eric Sorenson (Team FeXY & five time Reston Triathlon champion) and told myself that this was my race to win and I was going to do it right now. I was making a statement to those around me and myself. I caught the leader on the 3rd loop and ended with the fastest bike split by almost five minutes. Since it was an out and back run, I knew I had a sizable lead in the race, however I saw Kevin Wright coming strong on the run and realized he started in the wave behind me (90 seconds back). Having experience from Maritime earlier this year, I pushed the last 2 miles after seeing Kevin and ending up securing the victory with my kids, niece and nephew yelling for me over the loud speaker as I came around the final lap on the track. Kevin ended up 2nd and FeXY took 1st and 2nd overall. I was very pleased with my results and effort and buoyed by the fact that I did not have any back issues on the run. I started getting excited for Maryland which was less than 2 weeks away.
Reston Olympic: 1st Overall, Fastest bike split by almost 5 minutes.
With Maryland being my first IronMan event since Arizona the previous year where I had significant Nutrition / GI / Back issues, I was looking to greatly improve and thought if I could put everything together I would have a potential shot at an Age Group victory and even a high placing overall. My preparation for the race went well, everything felt good going into the race and I was excited about my prospects. I felt much more knowledgeable about this race as opposed to my first one 10 months prior.
It was a rolling start in water where everyone self-seeded themselves. I wanted to be up closer to the front, right behind the 1 hour and under swimmers. The Choptank River, was, as always, a little choppy, but I felt that I had a pretty good swim. I looked down at my watch exiting the water and it read 1:09. Five minutes slower than Arizona. I wasn’t happy with that, especially given all of the swimming I have been doing this year, but I let it go very quickly and began focusing on my transition and getting on the bike. Once on the bike, there were a series of turns before we got out to the main road that I had ridden a few times in preparation. I navigated some of the turns that could potentially cause issues and was cautious of those in front of me, not wanting a repeat of the beginning of Raleigh. Coming out of the swim 110th overall, I was passing a number of people on the bike in the beginning. By the end of the 1st loop, I was in 4th place overall, and was feeling great on the bike. My Normalized power for the 1st loop was 274 watts with an average cadence of 88 and Heart Rate of 156 bpm. When I told Shelly the numbers as I passed I thought her head was going to explode and she was going to tackle me right there. I then got a few not so subtle reminders to keep things in check and I dialed it back a little on 2nd loop. I was closing on the leader who had a 19 minute lead coming out of the water and entered T2 in 2nd place and four minutes down. My overall Normalized Power was 266 watts and average power of 264 watts (really backed off last 5 miles).
I finished with a 4:29 bike split, 7:17 ahead of the 2nd fastest bike split in the race. I might have been riding just a tad hot in the beginning, but I never felt like I was killing it. Overall, my average cadence was 86 and HR was 155 bpm. My peak 30 sec wattage was 346 and peak 1:00 min was 323 watts. Given that I held 280 watts for an hour and 277 watts for 90 min, means I was very consistent. I do wish I would have trained more at a lower cadence – something to work on for next year. Comparing this to my IMAZ race last year – 246 NP, 241 avg watts, 1.02 VI, 99 cadence, 157 avg. HR. In addition to Cadence being 13 RPM less (that is a big deal), HR was 2 beats lower with 20 additional watts NP and 23 avg. watts higher. I produced 8%+ more power at a lower cardiovascular cost!
I came out of T2 with my own personal bike escort – top 3 male and female runners have bike escort during the run and began trying to reel in the leader. I kept a consistent pace and was not trying to really push it. My feet were really hurting – both the sides of my feet and my toes. I was in a fairly significant amount of pain. My lower back was also really tight, but that worked itself out about 5 to 6 miles in the run (although the feet continued to hurt throughout and were in bad shape after the race). I passed the guy in 1st place around mile 10 and held onto 1st place through mile 16 when the eventual winner overtook me. I never really thought about trying to stick with him when he passed me as I still had 10 miles to go and he was going a good bit faster than I was. That would have been a different story had it been with 3 or 4 miles to go. I would have definitely tried to stick with him at that point and really buried myself. I couldn’t have done it for 10 miles, but it would have been interesting had it been on the last lap – specifically after the turn around on the last lap. I would have had to have gone really deep, but I would have liked to have seen who was willing to go deeper at that point. I almost feel bad to say it, but when he passed me with 10 miles to go, I didn’t want to let him go, but knew it was the right move for that race and for Kona. It would have been a futile effort and could have ended IMMD differently (for the worse) and most assuredly would end Kona differently.
My run was almost 15 minutes faster at IMMD than IMAZ and a world of difference. My lower back was hurting just like at IMAZ, but it didn’t get worse and I kept running with my butt up underneath me and it got better after 4 – 6 miles. The outside arches of my feet were really hurting and never got better. I felt like I had a very consistent pace – never pushing it hard – just going continuous. Avg. Cadence of 90, Avg. HR of 158 and 7:24 avg on the Garmin with a short bathroom stop. I stopped at every aid station and got water, perform and coke. I took 3 strawberry gels and then 3 tangerine gels on the run as well.
I was about 2:30 slower for the 2nd ½ of the run vs. the 1st ½. Ideally, I would like to negative split or be even in each ½, but 2.5 minutes difference isn’t bad. I ran a 7:18 / mile avg. for the 1st ½ and 7:31 / mile avg. for the 2nd ½. Interesting that my HR avg. was the same for both ½’s of the race.
I saw Shelly at mile 22 and she said that I had had a chance to go sub 9 hours. I hadn’t really thought about that during the run, although I knew I was close. It was in my mind on the bike after the 1st lap, but I never looked at where I was at until after she told me. I looked at my watch and saw that I needed to run around 8:00 / mile for the last 4 miles to be under 9 hours for the race. I decided to start pushing it a little. I hadn’t really pushed the run up until that point. I was trying to run a controlled, hard pace, but not digging deep. I started to dig a little bit harder at that point and my laps went 7:30, 7:22, 7:21, 7:02 and then a 6:30 for the final lap. I still wasn’t trying to kill myself as I knew I wasn’t catching the guy in front and 3rd place was way behind me. I just wanted to finish solid and be comfortably under 9 hours.
I finished 2nd overall with a time of 8:56:21 and the fastest bike split by 7 minutes and 17 seconds. Breaking 9 hours was a significant accomplishment and one of the goals I had set for myself in my triathlon career. Third place was 11 minutes and 30 seconds behind me. I was ecstatic with my results and felt that I had put together a really good effort overall. Additionally, I qualified for Kona in 2015.
I spent the next two weeks recovering and getting ready for the World Championships. I was determined to figure out what was wrong with my feet. I had assumed the pain was something that everyone had to go through in Endurance Events and was just part of racing. After seeing a Podiatrist, I realized that both my biking shoes and running shoes were too small. I know what you are thinking – how can someone who has ridden over 16,000 miles and run over 2,500 miles in the past 2 years not know that their shoes did not fit properly? Some of it was just thinking I needed to toughen up. Some of it was thinking that my form was just bad and part of it was that many of these problems didn’t really manifest until significant volume had been reached. Additionally, swelling during race settings plays a significant impact. I headed directly to PRR and tried out larger running shoes and ultimately selected a different brand as it turns out I have a very wide foot. I also ordered larger / wider bike shoes which showed up a few days before I left for Kona. Additionally, I started going to physical therapy where I realized that my hip flexors were “the tightest that they had ever seen”. Turns out much of my back pain could be attributed to tight hip flexors and my hip alignment problem that I had earlier in the year. Armed with bigger shoes, identification of the causes of many of my alignments, and a series of new stretches, I was ready to tackle the next challenge, Kona.
The next weekend, two of my good buddies and Team FeXY Teammates qualified for the 2015 World Championships in Kona as well. Kevin Wright by winning his Age Group by over 20 minutes, powered by the fastest Age Group Marathon time by over 3 minutes at Chattanooga; and Drew Gaibler by digging deep on the run and finishing 4th in a tough age group – overcoming multiple leg injuries and a poorly timed wedding / house move. As I got ready to leave, my workouts were feeling good and I felt that I was going to be recovered well for the race.
Next up Kona!