Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Race Report: Kiawah Island Triathlon (Intermediate Distance) - Kiawah Island, South Carolina (September 20,2015)

I love Charleston, SC.  I love everything about the Low Country.  I love the food, I love the atmosphere, I love pretty much everything about this area, including Kiawah Island.  Kiawah is a beautiful little golf resort just outside of Charleston.  It has pretty much everything one needs to relax.  Amazing golf courses, beautiful beaches and great food.  Late last season, I discovered something else to love about Kiawah... they host a triathlon!  I tried to work out making the Kiawah Tri last year but time and scheduling just wouldn't allow it.  I planned, then, for the Kiawah Tri to be a focal point of my race season this year. I planned for this race to be my second "A" race of the season.  I really didn't know what that would mean in April but, as the season progressed, I began to sense that I could bring home a podium here.  I studied the finishing times for the race last year and saw that my times were good enough to be in the fight and I had a strong chance of pulling in an AG win.  Upon arrival to the race site Sunday morning, however, I realized quite quickly that this was going to be no cupcake race.  I could tell it was going to be a fast day.  I had no idea...  

I had a great build up to the race and a great taper.  I was feeling strong and confident.  This would be my crowning achievement of a long hard season.  All of these thoughts flashed through my mind as I lined up on the beach with surprisingly large group of extremely fast looking dudes.  The sun gleamed off the ocean.  The water was perfect.  You couldn't have asked for a more perfect morning for a race.  Final race announcements were made.  The National Anthem was sung.  Then, the countdown began.  30 seconds to go.  I snugged my goggles and checked my watch.  10 seconds.  Breathe.  Relax.  Smooth is fast.   5 seconds.  Deep breath.  2... 1... GO!  

The group surged at once and we were off.  Running out into the small breakers, hopping over them as we got deeper.  I saw a larger wave heading my way and was almost quad deep now.  I timed my dolphin dive perfectly over the wave but as soon I hit the water, my goggles flipped up.  No big deal.  I quickly adjusted them, resettled myself and started my swim.  It was around 200 yards to the first turn buoy where we would make a 90 degree right and head down the beach.  The swim was .7mi.  I had plenty of time settle into a nice rhythm.  The ocean was calm but there were constant small rollers.  I wasn't able to get comfortable with my left side roll and breath so I stayed with a right side only breathing pattern.  The swim was a little more difficult than I expected but overall it was rather uneventful.  I kept a great pace, passed several guys and focused on staying smooth and fast.  I made the turn and headed for shore.  I could tell the swim had taken a little more out of me than I had expected but I felt good.  I came out of the water and headed for T1.  Garmin Time 21:38 1:32/100yds

After a relatively long run up off the beach, across the boardwalk and down the street, I arrived in T1.  My rack space was near bike out which I was happy with.  I reached my bike, geared up and headed out.  Everything went pretty smooth.  I even remembered to take my speed suit off before trying to run out of T1.  Success!  Reaching the mount line.  I hopped on the bike and set out.  My legs were a little stiff and were complaining a bit for the first few miles but I was holding a good pace.  I concentrated on keeping my cadence high to loosen my legs up.  After a mile or so my legs loosened up and I settled into a strong pace.  I was pushing around 95rpm and cruising along between 22 and 24mph.  The bike course was listed at 25.1 miles and traversed most of the island.  The roads were tight and quite winding.  I didn't know what, if any, the technical bike course would have on my speeds but I new that it would play to my strong bike handling and I hoped it would give me an edge.  I was right.  I passed a great deal of the guys who exited the water before me.  At around 7 or so miles into the course a guys passed me on a great looking Blue with a disc wheel.  He looked fast.  He also looked like he was older than me so I wasn't too worried about it if he pulled away.  I kept him in front of me just out of draft zone for a bit before passing him back a few minutes later.  He stayed behind me for a bit before passing me again.  At that point he looked over and nodded.  We non verbally agreed to a truce and to pace each other for the remainder of the race.  I let him go out of the draft zone and let him pace me for a few miles before he slowed a bit.  I took this as my cue and passed him.  He dropped just out of my draft zone and stayed there for the next several miles.  We went on like this for several more turns.  Eventually another guy joined the party.  He was riding a Cervelo S2 with clip on aero bars.  He was fast.  He also didn't understand the draft zone.  He tucked in behind me.  This pissed me off.  About that time it was my turn to lead again.  I put the hammer down and gapped him quick.  I passed Blue guy again.  He dropped safely out of draft zone.  Cervelo guy tucked in behind him.  I cussed him under my breath and kept my head down a picked the pace up again.  The status quo stayed the same until we headed out toward the turnaround.  We came out of the tree cover and the wind hit us head on.  The road here was a false flat with just a slight incline.  Blue guy passed me and looked really strong.  I tried to hold him here but he was really hammering and I knew I had to save some for the run.  S2 guy passed me also.  I let him go.  I was tired of towing him.  At the turn I saw Blue guy and nodded.  He nodded.  Job done.  5 miles to go.  Average speed was holding steady in the high 23's. I was really happy with this.  Back toward the island the wind was with us and the road was now a decline false flat.  I picked up some major speed here and blew past S2 guy.  He couldn't keep up.  I grinned.  Coming back with around a mile to go I dropped my pace a bit and began to spin up my legs in prep for the run.  S2 guy came up beside me and congratulated me on a great ride.  Nice of him to notice.  I returned the compliment.  I kind of meant it.  We turned to head back toward T2.  I came out of my shoes ready to dismount.  There were tons of spectators at transition.  It was a great atmosphere there.  I had a great dismount and ran into T2.  Quick rack.  Grabbed run gear and I was off.  Garmin time for the bike: 1:02:33 23.8mph

Now was the time.  I had put more into the bike that I probably should have but I knew I had a great race going and wanted to put as much time into the course and my opponents as I could on the bike.  I just had to hold it together on the run and try not to blow up too quick.  I could tell I was going to blow up at some point.  The legs were screaming at me.  I was holding a pretty good pace though.  Mile 1 down 7:36.  Good.  Keep it up.  Caught up to Blue guy.  We shared a congrats on a great bike ride.  I meant this one.  We trotted along pacing each other again.  I liked this guy.  Mile 2 down.  7:40.  Great!  Keep going.  Blue Guy and I continued to keep our comfortable pace.  Heart rate was steadily climbing.  I was in the mid 170's.  Legs were beginning to complain more.  Shut up legs.  Keep going.  Mile 3, 8:04.  Still good.  Keep going.  We made our way through the resort and turned toward the beach.  I thought this was going to be my favorite part of the run.  The beach here is hard pack and perfect to run on.  Turns out, it's not great to race on.  The surface is good but the roughly 1.5 miles of beach seemed to stretch forever and with no respite from the sun it made for a completely demoralizing stretch.  It seemed to go on for ever.  Mile 4, 8:21.  Ugh, come on legs.  After an eternity we came to the beach exit.  Up the boardwalk and back into the resort neighborhood.  Blue Guy was picking up the pace and I just couldn't hang on.  I thanked him for pacing and let him go.  He returned the sentiment and trotted off.  Mile 5, 8:39.  Shut up legs.  One more mile to go.  I could tell I made a mistake relying on the on course aid stations for the run.  Not a tragic one but I could feel now that I was becoming slightly dehydrated.  I wasn't cramping, nor did I feel like I was on the verge of cramping.  That's good.  However, I could feel I was running out of power.  I just couldn't hold a pace.  The last mile was a real struggle to maintain pace.  It also seemed like it lasted forever.  Finally I heard the music from the finish line. I was almost there.  I rounded the corner and saw the finish.  Push.  Into the finish chute and across the line.  Mile 6, 9:13.  Garmin time for the run 49:33 8:16/mi avg.  Not too bad.  Would have liked to have been closer to 8 flat but still happy with it.  

I was confident that I had put in a good enough time for a podium.  Total race time was 2:18:28 per my Garmin.  Great time overall.  Fastest bike split I've ever put in.  One of the best runs I've put in and one of the best swims I've had.  I made my way over to the results kiosk.  I was hopeful.  It scrolled SO SLOWLY.  Finally I see my AG pop up.  There I was 5th place.  5th PLACE?! 5 out of 7.  WTF?!  I knew it was going to be a fast field but that is just crazy.  19th place overall out of 371 people and still 5 of 7 in my AG.  I would be lying to say I wasn't disappointed.  I packed my stuff and we headed back to the villa.  Later I checked the times from last season's race.  The winning time for the 30-34 AG in 2014 was a 2:22...   I finished nearly 4 minutes four minutes faster than last years winning time and still came in 5th.  I feel a little better now about everything.  I put in a great race.  I've improved so much this year it's hard not to be proud of what I've accomplished.  It's just completely out of my control that the field this year was of a completely different caliber than it was last year and the year before.  Incidentally, I later checked the official timing results and it showed me listed at 4th place.  I guess I made up a spot somehow.  Good for me I guess.  Still not a podium finish.  

Final Thoughts:
This was a fantastic race experience overall.  The course was beautiful.  The organizers did a great job of creating a superb atmosphere for a local race.  I would easily put this in the top 3 or 4 races I've done.  Not quite the party of Ironman or Challenge but still a wonderful race in a great venue.  Reflecting on the day I am very proud of the race I put together.  My training paid off very well.  I raced to, what I feel, was the best I could that day.  I didn't leave anything on the course.  I put everything out there.  It just so happens that there were some guys out there who were faster than me.  It happens.  It's part of racing.  I know where I need to put in some improvements as I go into the final race of the season and into my off season.  There's always room to improve.  On to the next adventure!  Now, bring me that horizon.

Nutrition notes for the day:  1 bottle of diluted Infit run mix before the race.  1 bottle of Infinit bike mix for the day.  Should have brought my Infinit run mix on the course.  Might have helped keep my pace a little faster on the run.  2 scoops of Infinit Recover after the race.  

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Race Report: Tri Fall Creek Falls Olympic - Pikeville, TN (August 16, 2015)

Fall Creek Falls was my first Olympic distance race last year.  Coming into the race this year I was very excited to see how far I'd come in a year's time.  The course was exactly the same as last year so I would be able to get great comparison data.  I was also excited to try out my new ORR Cycling carbon race wheels.
For this race, I opted for the 88mm front wheel and full carbon disc rear wheel.  I have done several training rides on them but this would be my first race on them.  They didn't disappoint as I turned in my fasted olympic bike split to date!  More on that later though...

Pre Race:
A little different from last year were the accommodations.  Last year I stayed in the Inn at Fall Creek Falls.  It was nothing special (kind of a cinder block dorm room) but it was a room with a real bed (and possibly bed bugs... but they didn't eat much).  This year, a group of my RTMC Club mates and I decided we would get a bunch of camp sites together and just have a big camping party.  Wife had some things to do Saturday morning so I hitched a ride with a club mate and Wife came later in the day.  I wanted to get there early enough to do a short bike ride and shake down run before dinner.  We arrived just after lunch time and got our bikes off loaded.  The rest of the group was already there waiting on us.  After quickly setting up camp, we set off on the bikes.  Quick 30 minute ride out of the way, I put my shoes on a trotted off for a quick run.  Run done, it was back to camp to relax and chill out until time for packet pickup and dinner.  Packet pickup was a breeze and soon after we got back to the site, Wife arrived.  It was now food time.  Everyone had brought their own meats for grilling and sides to share.  I manned the grill while Wife and Mel tended the sweet taters and corn over the camp fire.  After the whole crew was on hand we had a huge table filled with delicious noms and a whole gaggle of food happy triathletes.  We ate, talked and laughed until the sun went down.  Then off to bed.  Slept pretty well.  Humidity was high so fell asleep on top of sheet.  Woke up around 1am cold.  Fumbled around in tent for sleeping bags, unzipped and spread that over.  No more cold.  Alarm buzzed at 5am.  I stumbled out of the tent and over to the cooler to retrieve standard pre-race breakfast of Greek yogurt and OJ.  By now everyone else was awake.  I drug my breakfast over to Blaik's and Barto's ( our neighbors ).  I forgot to bring coffee, Blaik brought coffee.  He is my hero. Food and coffee consumed I headed back to my tent to kit up and get ready to head to transition.  My stuff was already laid out so the change went quickly.  I slung my transition bag on my back, grabbed my helmet and my bike (which slept in the tent with Wife and me) and rode the 1/2 mile to transition.  Wife rode to transition with Mel since they had their SUP boards to lug down there.  (They both did water support for the swim course.)  After getting my spot set up, headed to timing for body marking and chip/swim cap collection before heading down the eternally long hill (that I would have to run back up later.. barefoot.. after swimming) to the lake and swim start.  I jumped in did a quick warmup swim, kissed Wife and made my way to the start line. 3... 2...1... GO!

I had a terrible swim.  At least it felt like I did.  From go, I never found a rhythm.  I tried to jump out quickly and get ahead of a lot of the slower swimmers.  Either everyone was fast, or I just didn't have the speed today.  Either way, I was stuck in and around several guys for the first 400 or so yds. Then, they were all gone.  I looked up and there were a few yellow caps ahead of me but I have no idea were everyone went.  I felt slow, no rhythm, breathing was labored it was a chore.  I have really enjoyed pretty much every swim I've done this year... except this one.  I had laughed with another guy in transition how I just wasn't feeling it today.  I was only halfway kidding with him.  I was starting to realize maybe I wasn't kidding at all.  After what seemed like an eternity I rounded the final buoy and headed for shore.  The exit was awash with the morning sun.  couldn't really see anything so I just swam toward a building and hoped for the best.  My hands finally grazed the boat ramp and stood up and ran out of the water.  Hit the button on my watch and started the loooooooooong run back up the hill to T1.  I glanced at my watch 30 minutes.  Ugh.  Not a good way to start the day.  Swim split: 30:16 (2:01/100m)

3 hours later (it was actually around 3 minutes but 3 hours sounds more impactful) I reached T1.  Speedsuit off (yes I remember this time), shoes on (I opted for shoes on the ground since the run out was rocky), glasses on, helmet on, bike off the rack and GO.  Hopped on and off I went.  Bike course was rolling with some really fast sections and some devilishly deceptive climbs.  Again, I never found a groove.  I never felt like I got ahead of my pedal stroke.  My cadence was good, heart rate was good and speed was good but just never found my happy place.  I passed a couple guys on the way out to the main road and then followed (from afar, out of the draft zone) a guy from another age group who was riding about my pace.  I passed him once early then he passed me back and I just stayed back at that point.  Getting into shenanigans with that guy would not help me today.  After the turnaround I found a bit more speed on a slight incline and passed him again.  He would not pass me back.  Back into the park I was watching for the golf course which was my visual cue to come out of my shoes.  There it is.  I came out of both shoes easier than I ever have, which was nice.  I made the turn back toward the dismount line, smooth flying dismount and I was into T2.  Bike split: 1:04:42 (23.1mph)

Nutrition note:  Bike nutrition for the day was one bottle of Infinit bike mix spiked with BASE salts.

I wasn't really sure what to expect on the run after the way I felt on the swim and bike but after a quick T2 it was time to find out.  I will say this about the run course at FCF.  It is WAY more difficult than I remember. Very pretty course with lots of it on the greenway but  there are a couple NASTY little climbs and one REALLY nasty big one back to the finish line.  I held a pretty good clip for the first 3 miles around and 8 min mile or just over.  Not bad.  Then I just kind of shut down.  It wasn't a physical thing, I just mentally wasn't in it anymore.  There was no one around me, my age group or otherwise, and I, for some reason, couldn't find a way to put myself in the pain cave.  I guess I just didn't feel like hurting today.  My pace slowed into the 9's.  Not good.  It was then that a group of guys caught me up.  One of them happened to be my buddy Horacio.  Horacio and I are good running mates.  He was with me for my open half marathon PR and he was there for me today.  I picked it up and paced with him.  My body responded well and we were chugging along back in the low 8's.  We made the final turn and started the long slog back up the hill to the finish.  We were working great together.  Heading into the finish I looked over and told him if he had it, to go for it.  He drug me along the last 1.5 miles and I sure wasn't going to try and sprint it out with him.  He took off and I followed behind.   I hit the finish chute and pushed across the line.  Run split: 51:03 (8:14/mile)

Overal time: 2:30:33.  A course PR by nearly 17 minutes and good enough for a 2nd place AG finish.

Final thoughts:
I had a really bad day on the course.  My times were good, but I didn't have a good go of it today.  Every mile, every stroke of the swim, every turn of the cranks was a chore.  Not sure if it was the camping, my pre-race fueling but, in the end, I'm going to chalk this one up to a bad day and move on.  I'm happy with my results and I had a great time hanging out with some of the most awesome people I have the privilege of calling friends.  Three of my club mates completed their first olympic distance race today, RTMC had a great showing with club members on the podium in most every age group, and we all finished safe and upright. Don't know what more anyone could really ask for.  As always I must take the time to thank my amazing Tri Wife for being there to support me though all of this.  I really couldn't do it without her.  On to the next adventure!  Now, bring me that horizon!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Race Report : Xterra Panther Creek - Morristown, TN (July 26, 2015)

This race was kind of an afterthought for me.  It certainly wasn't on my race calendar earlier this year.  A few weeks ago, however, I was looking at July and realized I had nothing going on.  I then realized this race fell in late July and would be a good "fun" race to play with.  So, I signed up and that was that.  I didn't taper since Xterra was not really in my plan and so, with my full week of training still in my legs, I went out this morning and played in the dirt.  Here's how it went:

Two words to sum up my swim : nearly perfect.  Seriously!  My plan was the same as it has been for the last several races.  Line up wide, go all out for a couple hundred and try to get a gap then settle in to my race pace.  I did exactly that.  It worked perfectly.  One guy passed me and swam off into the sunset (pretty sure he was the overall winner) but for the most part, I was up with the leaders and swimming comfortably.  I rounded the final buoy and headed for the exit.  Up the boat ramp I went to head into T1.  Minor flub in T1 as I somehow forgot to take my speed suit off.  Had to re-rack the bike and strip it, then head out.  Not too bad.  Lost maybe 20 seconds.  Swim Split: 15:09 (1:58/100m)

The bike course went really for me.  I had forgotten how hilly this course was.  It smacks you right out the gate and really doesn't let up the whole time.  Nothing too steep just constant little climbs.  I was following my buddy Jim through the first leg.  We leap frogged each other most of the first lap.  He's WAY faster than me but his chain would have pity on me occasionally and fall off so that I could catch up.  First lap went pretty quick.  I was managing my efforts on the climbs knowing that I would have to do it all again.  Had to force myself to remember to drink.  (When the straw isn't slapping me in the face I hardly think about it.)  We came out of the first lap and headed back in for lap two.  There was a lot more trail traffic this time around with the slower racers now making their way through the woods.  Everyone was polite and moved over to let us pass.  Jim was now pulling away and I wouldn't see him again.  A few miles later I caught up to a younger racer who was also on his second lap.  Kid had some skills.  He and I were going around the same pace so I never asked to pass.  Just stayed comfortable and tried to relax so I could really attack the run.  The climbs started to get to me though.  I could feel the fatigue setting in but I pushed on.  We popped out of the woods and headed toward T2.  Perfect flying dismount and I was in.  Bike hung, gear off, shoes on, belt on, grab hat and run out.  Solid.  Bike Split 1:17:31 (11.9mph avg)

I knew from the start that it was going to be a tough day on the run.  Again, I forgot how much elevation there is on this course.  Lots of just long gradual ascents to get the quads burning.  I was feeling pretty good.  Came to first aid station.  No one there.  Grabbed cup, filled it myself, quick drink and I was off again.  Here, the course goes into a loop.  I see the sign to go left, I go left.  There's no one in sight ahead of, or behind me... until I happen upon another one of my buddies who is running toward me.  Race brain kicks in and I turn around for a second to follow him, thinking I missed a turn..
Then I see another guy going my original direction come around the corner.  I turn back around and head my original direction, now confident I am on the right trail.  The guy behind me looks my age.  I put my head down and try to push my times down to stay ahead.  I've got maybe 200m on him and he's looking strong.  We come to the big open climb on the course.  By now, the sun's beating down and you can see the climb continue for what seems like an eternity.  I'm running with all I've got up this thing.  When I get close to the top, I look back.  He's walking.  Good.  I pick it up heading down hill.  Round the corner, 1 mile to go.  Look back.  Dude's there but not really gaining.  I just focus on keeping my turnover high and my pace steady.  Out of the woods and a long downhill pavement run to the finish.  Just keep pushing.  Start to feel my left hamstring tighten.  Almost there.  Don't look back.  Shut up hamstring!  Just run.  Don't look back... I cross the line first place in my AG (5th place overall), with him just behind me taking second in our AG (and 6th overall).  Yep, he was my direct competitor.  My buddy who looped backwards came across in third.  Run Split: 36:20 (8:04/mi avg)

Final Thoughts:
Great day of racing.  Lots of club members raced and lots of us took home podiums for our hard work.  I really enjoy racing the Xterra series races.  It's fun to get out and play in the dirt every now and then.

Notes on nutrition for the day:
As always, after breakfast, I sip on a diluted bottle of my Infinit Run Mix to preload for the day.  I had one bottle of Infinit Bike Mix for the bike and used on course water for the run.  Next time I will take a small bottle on the run with me just so I don't have to stop at the aid station.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Race Report: TnT Superhero 5k - Knoxville, TN (July 18, 2015)

This morning, my triathlon club hosted a fundraising 5k race for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through Team in Training.  Naturally, I raced.  Here's how it went:

I didn't sleep well last night.  Didn't actually fall asleep until sometime after midnight which meant a very groggy start to my morning.  I rolled out of bed and lumbered down stairs. I ate breakfast, had a cup of coffee, did the normal pre-race stuff.  Wife and I ended up leaving the house late (because I was still half asleep) and I later realized that I forgot my race belt (there's that whole sleep thing again).  We got checked in then meandered around and chatted up some friends before making our way to the start.  

I hate sprint tri's, that's no secret.  They hurt too much.  I'm just not built for them.  I hate open 5k's even more.  They just hurt and I'm not a fast twitch guy.  That being said, I still lined up in the first wave with the "under 25 minute" crowd.  The gun went off and so did we.  The race was along the greenway (which I run all time) and had some pretty good little rolling hills.  I took off fast, too fast.  I knew this.  My hope was that I could put some time into the guys behind me and then slack off later.  This pretty much worked.  I had no chance of keeping up with the leaders but gapped the guys behind then settled into a nice steady uncomfortable pace.  I was holding 3rd overall, then around 2 miles in I heard footsteps.  Then I got passed.  He was hauling.  I was hurting.  I tried to hold him.  Didn't work.  Oh well.  Still hoping for an AG win (I knew no one ahead of me was in my group).  There was no one anywhere behind me.  I slowed a bit more (I would regret this later).  HR was steady zone 5 but I was still moving well.  Crossed the finish line in 21:39.  Not a PR but still good enough for an AG win... I thought.  After checking the results, I was in 1st place.  Excellent!!  First AG win!!!

Then came the awards ceremony.  I waited patiently for the other groups to go up then came Male 30-34.  I was excited.  3rd place went to get his award.  Then they called 2nd place, Derek Tingle!  What?!  What is this shenanigans?  I was first.  Well, see actually I wasn't.  Turns out, there was a late arrival to the race that started WAY back in the pack.  He finished long after I did.  But 17 seconds quicker.... poop.  That's what I get for not pushing to the finish.  Oh well, a podium is still a podium!!.  Had a great day, and we raised a lot of money for a great cause!  On to the next adventure!  Now, bring me that horizon.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Race Report: Tellico Summer Solstice Sprint Triathlon (June 21, 2015)

Pre-Race and Race Morning:
With this race being only a week removed from Williamsburg I had no pre conceived notions for how I would do today. I did pretty much nothing all week. I swam a little on Wednesday. That's it. No running. No riding. Just recovering and resting. I didn't do much prerace prep. I ate a little carb heavy yesterday but otherwise I just kinda lived a "normal" life. Race morning I woke up, had my usual Greek yogurt and granola. Washed it down with some OJ then made my pre-race coffee. I enjoyed my coffee whilst playing on Facebook then suited up, loaded up and headed out. Got to the race site, checked in, then went for a short warm up run after setting up my transition area. I wandered around, talked to some people then kissed my wife and went to the swim start.

My race plan for the day was to go all out in the swim and see what happened. If I came out good, then I would push the bike and run. If I came out of the water out of contention then I would just "go through the motions" and enjoy the day. I went for a little warm up swim to see how things were working today and I felt good. I felt fast. I lined up behind the boom to the outside as I had in the last several races. It has worked well for me and did today as well. The gun sounded and we were off. I went hard. The guy on my left was FAST (he would end up winning our AG). I stayed with him as long as I could. In doing so, I gapped the rest of the field. I was pretty much swimming alone. Fine by me. I just kept pushing and working on being as efficient as I could. Stay long, get as much out of each stroke as possible and stay fast. I came out of the water 2nd in my AG. Swim time: 12:30 (1:33/100)

Bike was bad. Really feeling the fatigue in my legs from the last few weeks. I pushed but just wasn't feeling it. The whole bike course was rollers. My legs were not happy. I got passed on the bike by a few of the 35-39 guys. They were fast. I didn't feeling like trying to keep up and they weren't in my AG so I let them go. I kept them in my sights but had no desire to play that game today. I never caught sight of the other guy in my AG so I just stayed in my zone. Bike split: 44:10 (21.8mph)

The run felt good. I came out of transition smoothly. I was feeling steady in the high 7's. First place was no where in sight. I just tried to stay consistent. My heart rate was holding between 178-181. I continued to chug along. It was starting to get hot. I passed the aid station, took a sip of water and splashed the rest on my face. Around the turn around, back passed the aid station and headed for the finish shoot. Crossed the line 2nd place AG with a run split of 24:24 (7:49/mi).

Total time 1:22:27. New Sprint PR and a spot on the podium for my efforts. Not a bad way to spend a morning!

Quick note on my nutrition for the day. With the short course I did not use my normal Infinit Nutrition bike mix. I filled my bottle with my Infinit run mix which has no protein or BCAA's and is easier for me to digest at higher intensity. Since it was going to be another hot day, I added a scoop of BASE Performance salts to the bottle. It worked perfectly. I felt properly fueled all day and no cramps in sight.

Race Report: Challenge Williamsburg - Olympic Distance (June 14, 2015)

I had been really looking forward to this race all year. This was my A race for the first half of the season, the culmination of my training to date. I had every intention of going hard and hoping to bring home some extra hardware for my efforts. In then end, the extra hardware didn't happen but I had a great race and still managed a great finish. Want more juicy details.... read on:

Pre Race:
The lead up to this race was pretty easy going. We rolled into town late Friday night. Got checked in to the hotel and went to bed. Saturday, we woke up and went to the "hot breakfast" provided by the hotel and paid for by Challenge (which was an awesome gesture and something that the "other brand" doesn't do ‪#‎allabouttheathlete‬, but)... it was awful. The "eggs" tasted like they came out of a box, the potatoes were greasy, the pancakes were hard, the orange juice was warm. I was sure to explain my general dissatisfaction to the hotel management. Anyway, after breakfast, we loaded up and went to the expo. I got checked in, it was already blazing hot. We wandered around the expo for a bit, took a turn in the Normatec boots and then headed to T1 to drop off the bike and take a dip during the practice swim session. Bike checked in, I wandered to the lake. We met up with Sarah Lamont, Karen and Elenore. I noticed really soon after getting in the water the current was going to be strong so I began to plan my race day strategy (more on that later). After the swim we drove back to the hotel via the bike course, snagged a quick sammich for lunch and then back to the expo for the athlete meeting. We relaxed a little more that afternoon before we went out to meet up with Sarah and the others (including Jim DeTar and his lovely wife) for some tasty prerace dinner. Afterward it was back to the hotel and in bed.

Race Morning and Swim:
Woke up, applied tattoos, ate breakfast, headed out the door to T2. Dropped off run gear, then on the road to T1 and swim start. Got to T1, checked the bike over, set tire pressures got my Infinit Nutrition installed in my aero bottle. I switched to Fruit Punch flavor after Raleigh. It is delicious. Same custom mix, just different flavor. One full bottle would get me through the bike course. Using my same strategy from Raleigh, I would then take my run nutrition from the course aid stations. I would also use the Base Salts every 5 miles on the bike and every mile on the run (I would, in fact, forget to take my salts on the run... but it worked out ok).
After prepping my bike, I got my speed suit on and wandered to the swim start for a warm up swim. The current was still strong so I would line up far left, letting the current push me toward the first buoy. After the turn the current would be at my back and I could use that to propel me to turn two then I would try to punch it toward the shore and then use a combination of swimming and porpoising to get out of the water. Before long, we were lined up, the horn sounded and off we went. I went out strong. I felt great. I knew I was in great position and I concentrated on keeping my breathing steady and maintaining. I followed my plan and it worked perfectly... until I started to get held up by slower swimmers from the previous waves. I hit a big traffic jam at the second buoy which hurt me a bit but not too much. I fought around and through that and came out of the water 5th place in my AG with a time of 27:34.

I made the long run up to T1 alongside another guy in my AG, we had similar T1 times and ended up leaving T1 pretty much together. Just a bit further down the road, we added another AG competitor to our duo and the three of us would continue to duke it out for the remainder of the bike course. I knew there was a spot about 10 miles in that would be a good place to put in an attack (the bike course had a section that we looped twice and this section was on that loop). I was laying back behind the other two AG guys and a couple of other athletes when my spot came up. I grabbed a huge gear on this slight downhill and passed all of them. I kept my head down and pushed hard for the next few minutes. I looked back and saw that my attack had worked but I hadn't fully lost them. I settled back in to a more comfortable pace and the eventually made their way back to me. We swapped positions through the rest of the first lap and then on the second lap, I went again. This time I didn't stop. I got a good 3 or 4 minutes on them and kept it. I came into T2 4th place AG with a bike split of 1:07:52.

By now it was hot. Like really hot. I think the heat index was somewhere near 1500 with around 5000% humidity. I racked my bike and headed out onto the run. The run was a two lap course following part of the cross country trail used by the William and Mary CC team. The good news is that it was shady, the bad news is there was very little breeze. I knew I had some time but I could tell the other two guys would not be far behind on the run. Sure enough, it wasn't long before they caught me. I let the first guy go. He was fast. I couldn't keep up and I knew it. The next guy caught me a bit later. He was keeping a good pace but it was't too bad and I stayed with him for a bit. We started up the climb back toward the second lap and the was getting to me a bit. My heart rate was in the 190's and I knew I couldn't sustain that effort for another 3 miles. I let him go on the hill. I hoped he would blow up. He didn't. I kept my pace steady and kept him in sight. He did slow slightly but not enough. I came across the line holding my 5th place AG spot with a run split of 52:02. Slower than I hoped but all I could manage with the heat.

Final Thoughts:
Another great event by Challenge Family Americas. They really do know how to put on a great event. It was a really tough day. I put in a great effort and I'm proud of what I did. I finished the day with a final overall time of 2:31:10, 5th place AG and 20th overall out of 193 athletes. I am happy with my progress so far this season but I know I have a lot of work to do before the second half of the season gets under way in August. As always, I have to send a HUGE shout out and thank you to my Wonder Wife for being there and supporting me. She's the best ‪#‎triwife‬ in the world.

Race Report: Ironman 70.3 Raleigh (May 31, 2015)

So here's the lowdown on my first 70.3:

I honestly went into this with quite literally zero expectations for myself other than to cross the finish line. That is something that I haven't really let myself feel in a while. I've always been competing against the voice in my head telling me to go faster. I've always been "competing" with my peers or my own last race time. This isn't a bad thing, so to speak, but it always meant that entered races with a weight on my shoulders. Not this time. In my mind, I placed this race at this point in the season for a specific reason: I didn't want to have time to train. I mean, I gave myself time to prepare physically for the distance, but I didn't TRAIN for the distance. That way I could, in my own mind, "justify" a slower time. I could "live" with a 21mph avg on the bike, I could "accept" a 2:15 or 2:30 run split. I know this sounds silly but it's just my nature. I am EXTREMELY competitive and so I always want to feel like I gave my all to the course. Here's the thing though... I COULDN'T give my all to this course. I have my "A" race in two weeks. I couldn't afford to drive myself into the ground. So, I let myself go out and ... wait for it... have FUN! (I'm still not sure that word means what I think it means...) I mean, supposedly why I do this right? Anyway on to the race...

Pre Race:
Manda and I got into Raleigh Saturday just after lunch. We got checked into the hotel then headed to packed pickup. We made the rounds and then listened through the athlete briefing before heading out to T1 to drop off the bike. Bike racked, bike gear bag in place we headed back to town via the bike course. When we rolled back into town it was getting dinner time so we headed to Jimmy V's Osteria (the on site restaurant...which just happened to be Italian food) to grab some grub. I ordered the spaghetti. It was delicious. Then it was up to the room and off to bed.

Race Morning:
My alarm clock went off at 3:15am. I groggily rolled out of bed and got dressed. I made my way down to the lobby to acquire breakfast (which I checked on the night before so I knew what they would have and that it would work for me) I grabbed Greek yogurt, OJ, a plain bagel and a small coffee. Breakfast consumed, I kissed my sleeping wife and headed to the athlete shuttle for the 40ish minute ride to the lake. She would follow later on one of the spectator shuttles.

The bus rolled in and we all rolled off and lumbered through body marking and over to our bikes. I got my stuff all situated and then sat around for the next 3 hours waiting for my wave. This kind of threw off my routine a bit but nothing that really impacted my day. Finally, after the pros went off around 7 they opened up the water for warmup and splash around. I got my speed suit on and headed to the water. Water temp was 79 so no wetsuit. I warmed up then headed over to get in my wave. I met up with Nathan Mize who was also in my wave. We chatted it up as we made our way into the water. Gun went off and off we went. For the most part, the swim was uneventful. I lined up more aggressively and tried to go a little harder which worked well for me. I hit my stride then started passing people. Caught some stragglers from the earlier waves then started passing the red caps from the first 30-34AG wave (they split us by last name because the group was so big). After rounding the second buoy turn I ran into heavy traffic and my pace slowed a bit. Again, no big deal. Just gave me a bit of a breather. I reached the short and headed up to the bike. Swim Split: 42:00:00

I took some extra time in T1. I knew it was going to be a long, hot day so I opted for the arm sleeves
and calf compression. I'm glad I did. I got geared up and headed out. The bike course was largely uneventful. I was focused on two things. Fuelling and saving my legs for the run. I took all my calories for the day in the form of my custom Infinit Nutrition blend. I had two bottles and my plan was to consume both of them. This would give me around 550 calories along with my necessary carbs, protein and sodium. I also had a race tube of Base Salts with me. Honestly, I'd never tried them but I took them with me anyway (this would turn out to be a great decision). I started out feeling great on the bike. I was holding around a 20mph avg and my legs were feeling great. I just rode along, taking a hit off my bottle every few minutes. My plan was also to grab water at the aid stations and take a few drinks of clean water to keep from getting sugar mouth from my Infinit. All of this worked perfectly. Halfway through the course almost exactly I finished the first bottle. Perfect. It was here that I decided to take a chance. It was getting hot and I was sweating heavily. I decided I would hit the Base Salts every 5 miles. Let me say this... this stuff was like crystallized rocket fuel. I could literally feel my body react to them. The last half of the bike was a bit tougher. There was less shade and more little obnoxious rolling hills. I slowed a wee bit, but not too much. I finished my second bottle of Infinit with around 5 miles to go. Awesome. Into town and off the bike. Running into T2 I spotted my wife along the rail. I ran over and got a good luck kiss, then racked my bike and headed out on the run. Bike Split: 2:43:30

I took my time in T2 also. Put my socks on, shoes on, race belt, visor, applied sunscreen to my head and shoulders and off I went. By now, temperature was over 80 and climbing. The course was two-laps in downtown Raleigh meaning very little shade. I was a bit concerned about the heat and I would need to take extra precautions to avoid cramping and other heat related perils. I knew they would have water, Gatorade, GU and whatnot at the aid stations, My plan was to walk every aid station and sip both water and Gatorade at each stop. I would also hit the Base Salts at this time. They had buckets of ice, frozen sponges and waterguns at the aid stations as well . Each time I passed an ice station I would shove ice or a sponge under my tri shorts to cool my quads and down my top to cool my core. I used the water to splash my face too. Take a sip, splash the rest. I did this religiously at each station. Combined with smart pacing, it seemed to work. On the subject of pacing, my plan was to treat this run as "just another long run" meaning I would keep my pace, slow and steady. I was shooting for a 9:30 -10min/mi avg pace or higher. My first lap I was moving really good and strong at around a 9:40-9:50. Perfect. The first half of the lap was a steady climb and coming into lap two I started feeling it. I decided here to drop my pace a bit just to keep my legs happy. Again I just had to keep telling myself "this is a training day." I allowed myself to stop for a nature break on lap two also (which was a nice little extra break from the sun). I kept my fueling strategy the same for lap two until 3 miles to go. At that point I needed some caffeine so I added a sip of Coke or Red Bull to my aid station ritual at the last three stops. The caffeine boost was nice. Before long I saw the finish chute and my pace increased slightly. The spectators on the run had been great all day but the final half mile was a zoo. It was really amazing to see that much support out there. Cowbells, vuvuzelas filled the air along with clapping and cheering and screaming of athletes names as they ran by. It was a fantastic end to what had been a very good day for me. I crossed the line with a run split of 2:18:26 and right at 11min/mi avg pace.

Looking back on the weekend as I write this I realize that I really did put together almost the perfect
race. I made a plan before I ever got in the water and stuck to that plan all day long. My goals for this race were 1.) Don't drown in the swim (always goal number 1 for me...)... check. 2.) Manage my pace on the bike and take in all my calories... check 3.) Manage my pace on the run and try not cramp up... check. 4.) Cross the finish line with a smile... check. I finished the longest race of my life and through smart decisions, came out with no injuries or ill effects and very little muscle soreness. I'm ready to ease back into some light efforts this week, hit it hard next week and go all out in Willamsburg Huge thanks go to my coach Scott Koch for helping me put this plan together and getting me ready for the race.

Finish Time: 5:52:36

Now, on to the next adventure...

Race Report: Challenge Knoxville Triathlon - Olympic Distance (May 17, 2015)

To preface, I laid out my season a little odd this year. I'm focusing primarily on the Olympic distance races. My season is basically divided in two with an A race for each half. My first A race of the season is Challenge Williamsburg. My plan was and is to use Challenge Knoxville and IM70.3 Raleigh as B races and training platforms. For Knoxville, my plan was pretty simple. Go out hard and see where my fitness was for the Oly distance but don't kill myself two weeks out from Raleigh. Easy enough.....

The morning started off status quo. Woke up on time, had my normal pre-race breakfast of Greek yogurt and granola with a glass of OJ and cup of coffee. I got my kit on and my lovely wife expertly applied my race numbers. I threw my stuff (which I packed the night before) into my car and headed for the race site. On the way I noticed some rain sprinkles on my windshield...
After parking, I lugged my gear to transition and set up my rack. It was still sprinkling rain. Bike shoes clipped and rubber banded to the bike, running shoes out and baby powdered (more on that later), race belt down (and buckled), aero bottle filled with water, rear bottle filled with super mix of my custom Infinit Nutrition bike blend, helmet and glasses in position. It is now raining harder. I place my bag next to the wall and cover it with a garbage bag. I step into my wetsuit and give my gear a final check. By now it's getting close to our wave start so I make my way to the dock with Blaik Ogle and Marc. As we're walking out of transition, the first group of pros are coming in. We all stop and stare as they enter and exit T1 in a flash. There's a reason they're pros.

At swim start it's now raining very hard. It's now our turn to jump in and get ready to go. There's talking over the speakers, blah blah, words, numbers, AIR HORN!!!! Right, off we go. The swim start was a bit chaotic. I started too far back in the pack and got caught behind some slower swimmers (guess those paddle workouts are paying off). I fight my way through and find cleaner water. I settle into my comfortable pace, keeping a weather eye on the first buoy turn. I wanted to stay calm and comfortable through the turn, keep my heart rate in check and then pick up speed when I get the current coming back. Everything is clicking at this point. I swing wide at the first buoy and let the current nudge me in as I headed for the middle of the channel and the second buoy. Made the turn and headed back for the swim exit. I kept my rhythm but increased my speed continuing to sight every 4th or 5th stroke. I swim for a bit longer, then before I know it, I'm at the dock. Now is the time for coordination and grace: Climb out (don't fall), goggles and cap off with left hand, start running (don't fall), hit lap button on Garmin with right hand, unzip suit, pull halfway down, don't trip over the step, earplugs out, smile at Mom as I run by, enter T1. Success! Race day goal number 1: don't drown. Check.

T1 was smooth and I was out on the bike. Working my way out of town I was still feeling the swim slightly and the short steep climbs, railroad tracks and such didn't make it easy to get any sort of rhythm. I made the turn onto Martin Mill and settled in for the first climb of the day. I crested the top and settled in for the descent. I fancy myself a pretty competent bike handler but wet roads and high speed downhill turns give me the heebie-jeebies. I maintained speed without taking any unnecessary risks and made it down safely. This would be my mantra for the day. I continued on my way. I passed a bunch of people. Some time around the aid station I hear behind me "Dang it Derek! I've been trying to catch you for 10 minutes!" I look over to see Justin Cazana slide up beside me. We exchange some banter as I let him complete his pass. I drop back out of his draft fall back into my pace. He and I would go back and forth several more times before the day is done. I make the turn and head back toward Neubert Springs and the "final" climb of the day. I crest Neubert feeling good and successfully come down the other side. I let Justin go at this point as he's screaming down the descent but at the bottom I still have him in my sights. He will be my carrot. Coming down the home stretch of the bike course I came out of my shoes a bit early. Not a big deal, just misjudged where I was on the course. Still, rather pedal on my shoes for an extra 15 seconds than come out late (or not at all). I hit the button on my Garmin before I reach the dismount line. I come rolling up to T2, successfully dismount at the line without crashing (although I did hook my leg on my bottle, I avoided catastrophe. I also promptly adjusted my cage position upon returning home). Into T2, rack the bike, hat on, number belt on, shoes on, off I go... "DEREK TURN AROUND!!!", I turn around and see Paula Garrison Herston frantically motioning to the Run Out sign. oooooh, right then! Crisis averted. Thanks Paula! Now, off I go...

The run was fairly uneventful. I started out going well. My heart rate was holding steady around 170 and my pace was solid at 7:40. Legs felt pretty good and I settle into a zone quickly. Through the first aid station, still felt good. Maintained my pace through mile 3 and the turn. On the way back in I could feel some pre cramp twinges in my quads so I shortened my stride and increased my turnover. I was able to manage my pace and come through without ever actually cramping. Coming back up to the finish shoot I was happy to be done with the day. Cross the line, get my medal, hug my wife... good day.

Take-aways from the day:
1. I'm happy with my progress thus far. I feel like I'm at a pretty good spot for this early in the season. I have room to improve and time to do it.
2. This was by far the best swim I've ever had. I was calm, cool and fast. I consider swimming my weakest link and I'm happy with my improvements both mentally and physically.
3. I love racing with my friends. Sharing the course with my friends and Rocky Top Multisport Club mates is a fantastic experience. I feel truly honored to be a part of this club and to call these people my friends.
4. Challenge Family Americas puts on one helluva race. Even with the slight timing issue, the race was extremely well run. I felt safe and well supported at every portion of the race.
Thank you to everyone who came out and volunteered and to those who just came out to watch and support. You guys are awesome and we, the athletes, can't thank you enough! Now, on to the next adventure.... Ironman 70.3 Raleigh, here I come!!