Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Life Moves Fast

Six weeks ago I had just finished my first World Cup.  I was helping Melissa with last minute wedding details, and getting ready to race again the following weekend. Since that race, I have raced 2 additional times, gotten married, had a fabulous week long honeymoon in Maui, and attended another wedding.  It has been a crazy month and a half.  Fun, but crazy.

The World Cup took place in Edmonton, Alberta.  It was only my third time making the trek north in to Canada.  It seems odd that Canada is close to were I live and have only made it there 3 times in 29 years.  And each time has been for a race. Edmonton is a very nice area with loads of pine trees surrounding a busy city center.  The sprint distance race featured the swim and transitions taking place in a park on the outskirts of the city.  The weather was nice and after a month of working on my swim, I was ready for a race.  Out of the water I was 15 seconds from the front pack.  This is the closest I have been to the front pack after a legitimate swim.  I made the front pack at Clermont two times, but those swims included a lot of running in the water during the swim. With a pack of 4 guys we were able to catch the front group halfway through the bike.  The bike course and run were very hilly and hard.  There were a few great runners at the race and I knew I had my work cut out for me.  Especially since I had used a lot of energy catching the front pack.  I had plans of getting off the bike at the front of the group, but my body had a different idea when I tried to get around everyone.  I came in towards the back of the pack and went after it in the run.  Halfway through the run I was just outside the top 10. After a grueling second lap of the run I was able to cross the finish line in 5th place.  I'll take that on any day!

The second race I did, which happened to be one week before the wedding, was a half hour west of St. Louis. It was a 5150 race and I was counting on a good performance there as well as one more race to compile enough points to get into HyVee.  I had no idea how hilly the area was before I got to the race site.  The run course turned out to be one of the hardest run courses I have ever competed on.  The only other course that might be harder was an Xterra race in Ogden, Utah that took place at a ski resort where the first mile was up the bunny hill. I had a good swim and came out of the water about 1 min behind the race leader.  My bike was not outstanding but considering I had raced the week before and had not been working on the bike very much over the last month, I was happy with what I was able to do.  The run course was very hilly and on gravel roads for the majority.  At one point I considered walking because the hill was very steep and I was wondering if I could walk faster than I was running.  I ended up with the fastest run split and a very respectable 2nd place.  I did as much as I could to get points.

It has been a month since Melissa and I got married and it still feels like a dream.  I get to hang out with my best friend every day and sleep next to her every night.  It really is amazing.  We took a week long honeymoon to Maui.  It was very beautiful and we were able to relax a lot...although a few swim workouts and runs cut in to our relaxing time.  It was nice swimming outside and Hawaii's public pools are free to go to.  That was the only cheap thing in Hawaii! After a week of what felt like heaven we made our way back home and it was back to the grind for me.  At the end of July I had my final chance to garner as many 5150 points as I could.

The last weekend of July turned out to be an interesting one.  Melissa and I headed to Columbus for one of her friend's wedding as well as 5150 Giant Eagle.  Normally when I travel to a race the weekend consists of relaxation and focusing on the task at hand.  That weekend I had to be a husband of a bride's maid and a professional triathlete.  We went out with with the bridal party on Thursday, had rehearsal and dinner on Friday, and the wedding and reception on Saturday.  I was able to get in my usual day before workouts on Saturday but had to attend the pro meeting in my suit.  The meeting was at 4:30, I had to set up T2 and then get to the wedding at 5:30.  Somehow I pulled it all off.  I had to set up T2 the night before because Giant Eagle has two separate transitions.  I enjoy the race a lot and this was the 3rd year I did it.  I had another good swim for me, although it was a little short. Things might finally be getting better in the water, the last 3 races have produced favorable swims.  This time I was 40 seconds behind the leader out of the water.  I knew I needed points for HyVee so I was on mission on the bike and during the run.  I had possibly my best bike ever and it couldn't have come at a better time.  I felt a little sluggish on the bike, but I was able to generate good power, for me, and respectable speeds.  As I approached the mount line I could see second place leaving transition.  I knew what I had to do on the run and just went after it.  Once I made it in to 2nd i just kept pushing, hoping Ben Collins was having a bad day on the run course, but the only time I saw him was on the out and back part of the course.  I handed out some high fives to my mom and Melissa coming in to the finish line and took 2nd place for the second straight race and for the third time at Giant Eagle.  I was very happy with my race and once again did all I could to gain as many 5150 points possible.

Just a few days ago the final points race for HyVee finished and I ended up in the last earned spot in to the race!  25 athletes make it in to the race on points and 5 more are invited by the race director.  What a relief. I am excited to race HyVee again this year!  But before I head there I have some solid training ahead of me as well as a race in the Wisconsin Dells.

What you do today can improve all your tomorrows. ~Ralph Marston


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Columbia Tri

Nothing about this race went as planned.  I was fighting a lot of fatigue going into the race and then I crashed on the day before for the second race in a row.  This time I hurt both wrists and landed hard on my chest.  I ended up 9th.  Not at all the result I was looking for.  I did have a good weekend with my mom.  I did not get to see her on Mother's Day, so it was nice spending the weekend with her.  I feel bad that I was in such a bad mood after the crash and poor performance.

The only thing worse than losing, is training harder and going slower.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Cold and Rainy

This year was my third time racing Rev3 Knoxville in its four years.  I did the race as an amateur the first year they had it and returned back to the race last year.  I love doing Rev3 races because they always put on the best events, and Knoxville is a fun course that is within driving distance from my house.  I was excited for the race this year!

I am going to start with the day before the race this time.  Most of the time this is a boring day with not much to talk about, but this race was different.  It was raining with temps in the mid 50s.  The forecast was calling for this weather the whole weekend.  I was not excited about this because usually I struggle in cold conditions.  My muscles just don't fire properly when it is cold.  I kept my head up and went about my business as usual.  I had a good run in the morning and got ready for an afternoon session of riding and swimming based around an open swim from 12-2.  The pro meeting was at 2:30 so I had to ride before the swim.  With 1 min left in my ride I went to cross a treacherous set of railroad tracks, angled at about 30 degrees across the road and soaking wet from the rain, for the 4th and last time.  I was not successful on this attempt!  As I went to angle across the tracks a car came up beside me limiting my space to only a small shoulder.  I went down hard on my left hip. I got up as fast as I could and tried to assess the damage.  I looked my bike over, no damage! I did a body scan, my hip and left pinkie were sore.  I got back to the car and pulled down my bibs to check out my hip, busted open.  My day was done...I was not going in a dirty river with a new open wound.  As the day progressed, my hip tightened up and my pinkie swelled up.  I am no doctor, but the limited mobility and swelling in my pinkie led me to believe it was broken. Good thing I don't need that finger!

Race morning was a struggle. I did not want to warm up too much on the bike or swim because of the conditions and my hip did not want to get going.  I am so glad transition was out of the rain in a parking garage.  It was the saving grace for the day that consisted of temps in the low 50s and constant rain.  The water temp of the river was also well below 60.  I did a 10 min ride to get the legs going, and that was enough of the rain on the bike.  I set up transition and went out for a run.  I did an extended run warmup because the rain was not bothering me on the run and it took a lot longer to get my hip loose enough to feel semi normal. I did swim cords to warm up and jumped in the water 1 min before the race started.

Finally!  A good swim!!  I lost about a minute and half to Cam and less than a minute to the majority of the group.  Ultimately I need to swim better, but I will take it for now.  I wore arm warmers under my wetsuit and threw on my thermal vest to get through the ride.  Overall the conditions were not as bad as I was expecting but it was definitely an epic race.  By about 15 miles I was shivering and I having a hard time pushing the pedals, but I was in good position so I had to keep going with all I had.  I lost a few precious seconds over the last 3 miles due to the technical nature of the course and a frozen brain.  In T2 I had a hard time getting on my running shoes and almost asked someone in the crowd to unbuckle my helmet for me.  I have never had a problem unbuckling my helmet, but at this race my fingers on my right hand were too numb to apply enough pressure.  Finally I got up enough strength in my left hand to get out of my helmet. Once out on the run, the front half of my feet were numb and made it feel like I was running on stumps.  It took about 2 miles for my legs to warm up and get going.  There were deep puddles forming everywhere so as the run went along I had to decide how deep a puddle was and determine whether to run though it or around it.  A couple time I chose poorly and wound up in water up to my ankle.  I ended up finishing 3rd.  I have never been happier with 3rd place.  The conditions made it more about survival than racing.  I hope I never have to race in similar conditions, but if I do I will be ready!

A big thank you goes out to my grandpa.  He traveled with me to and from the race, and along the way did about 90% of the driving.  He was also a great spectator even though if I were him I would have been in the car with the heat on during the race!  Thank you to my coach, Greg Mueller, and all my sponsors, N.B. Properties, Bralin Laser, Profile Design, Rudy Project, Champion System, BH Bikes, Stages Power, CompuTrainer, Normatec, Cobb Cycling, Hofferth Chiropractic, Proform, and Express Press. Without them I would not be able to train and race with the best.  I also would not have made it through this race without their gear to keep me warm.  

Never complain and never explain. ~Benjamin Disraeli


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Frustration In The Water

My first two races were draft legal races in Florida.  I like to start my season with the ITU race in Clermont.  It is a sprint race and it is a fast/fun way to kick the season off.  This year they had another ITU race the following week in Sarasota.  I stayed in Florida for the week between for some warm weather training.  The Sarasota race took place at a new park they are developing just outside Sarasota.  The plan is for the park to be a world class facility for rowing and triathlons.  Their ultimate goal is to host world class races in both sports. Both races unfolded in similar fashions.  I had mediocre swims that forced me to ride hard to keep the race as close as possible.  In both cases I made it into the second pack off the bike.  I then ran through a few people from the front pack, but both races yielded sub par results. It was nice having my mom there as well as Greg, the Huffmans, and the Deckards.  It always makes racing easier having a large cheering section.

The first weekend in April was my first non-draft race of the year, Nautica South Beach.  This race was the first leg of the Lifetime triathlon series.  This is the third year I have done this race.  I enjoy the race, but Miami Beach does not get any cleaner as the years pass.  Once again I had a rough swim. This time was a little different than the first two races though.  The swim took place in the ocean, as it usually does, but this year the sea was angry.  It was the first time in a long time that I did not know what I was doing in a race.  The harder I tried to swim the slower I went.  Once the group pulled away from me I settled in to a hard tempo pace that kept me moving forward at what I thought was the fastest rate possible.  I did not have a terrible swim as far as time comparison goes, I lost 2:36 to the first person out of the water.  Considering the circumstances, that was not too bad.  But I was 20 out of 22 out of the water and 1:07 behind 19.  That made the race harder that I wanted it to be. After chasing hard on the bike and run, I made it into 7th place as I crossed the finish line. It was a great start to the season as far as the bike and run go.  I had the 3rd fastest bike/run combo, behind Ben Collins, who laid down a 51:54 bike split (2:36 faster than the second fastest bike split) and Richard Murray, who is an outstanding athlete from South Africa.  I had the fastest run split of the day, which gives a little bright side to the race.  It was great having Melissa with me.  She did a great job at giving me updates as well as words of encouragement.  We had a good weekend together and it was nice being in the sun and warm weather.

I have been working out well in the water, but it is not translating into strong swims in races.  I understand there is a difference between open water and pool swimming, but it is frustrating to lose huge chunks of time in the water.  I have accepted the fact that my current location is not the best place to swim open water, so hopefully it will warm up soon and I can get outside.
 It is a long season, and I look forward to racing again!

Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.  ~Norman Vincent Peale


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Information is Key

Over the past few months I have been attempting to change my swim stroke while building a solid base in all three sports for the upcoming season.  During these months I have struggled with adapting my new stroke in the water and unusual fatigue.  Neither one has derailed my training but they have made the last few months a little interesting.  Greg and I have had a few days where we struggle to communicate how I am feeling and what type of workouts I should be doing. We keep moving forward but sometimes at a very slow rate.  Hopefully with our new information better days or on the way.

Greg and I had an amazing opportunity to spend a few days at the Olympic Training Center.  I had some testing done and we gathered information in other areas of my training and life to maximize my athletic potential.  I met with the strength and conditioning coach at the OTC, had my blood test results analyzed, had my swim stroke analyzed by Dr. G, had a movement screening, met with a nutritionalist, and met with an offsite allergist.

We knew going in that my swim stroke needed work, but we were curious to find out to what extent.  The power profile and video that Dr. G is able to capture is amazing. The biggest corrections I need to make are:
1. Keep my head "down."  In-line with my body.
2. Develop a better catch.  I slow myself down a little instead of accelerating during that phase.
3. Kick more.  This will help me go faster by providing more forward propulsion as well as keep my feet from falling down and causing additional drag.

Aside from the visit with the offsite allergist, the rest of the information was mostly positive.  Overall my strength, blood profile, and functional movement is good.  As with everything in life, there are always items that could use improving.  I discovered my glutes were a little weak, but that can be fixed with additional strengthening.  Living in South Bend does have its negatives; with the lack of sunshine my Vitamin D levels were still within range but a little low for an athlete.  This can be adjusted by taking a simple Vitamin D supplement, which I suggest to anyone living in an area with few sunny days.  The nutritionalist gave me a few pointers to help keep my energy up during and after a long or hard workout.  I have to think about eating for today, as well as fueling for tomorrow.

The best news of the trip came when we went to the offsite allergist.  I have been to the doctor recently and even met with two doctors, counting the allergist, while in Colorado Springs.  No one saw any major problems until I received a CT scan of my sinuses.  It showed a polyp as well as a major sinus infection. Why is this good news you ask?  Because knowing this is a huge relief.  Greg and I now know what was causing my unusual fatigue. My body was fighting a massive sinus infection while trying to train at a high level.  After a 3 week course of antibiotics, I am feeling better and my training is improving.  I know have a better understanding as to why Greg is always hounding me about information and trying to gather as much as possible.

As I head off to Clermont this weekend for my first race of the season, I look forward to racing again and hopefully it can be a great start to the season.

"Always desire to learn something useful." ~ Sophocles