This season, I used a deferral entry to compete for the
second time at the NC 70.3 in Wilmington. It had been so hot the month of
September and early October, I was worried that is might be miserable based on
weather – but in fact, it turned out to be a perfect triathlon day.
I was able to connect with team members prior to (see photo
of Todd and Millie) and post race (see photo of team at finish), team IOS-ETT
did really well overall at the race.
My swim was ok for me, this is usually my best leg, but I
stayed in the chop a little too long at the beginning and thus my time wasn’t
as fast as it has been. I finally got
over and found the deep water with the current (I did feel pretty idiotic once
I moved over, and realized what I was missing!). Note to all triathletes contemplating
Wilmington – get over in the channel as soon as you can!!!!
T1 is LONG…. I had stashed some shoes and put those on once
my wetsuit was stripped, this really did help with the long run into
Once I got on the bike, I got to see several team members as
they passed me (I am much more of a runner and a swimmer, but I hung in there
and cheered for them!). It was windy out on the course, particularly on Hwy 421.
Overall, I enjoyed the bike except for 2 main things 1- I hated the
drawbridges, felt very unstable on these and really slowed down and 2- there
was a really large peloton that swallowed me up, passing on either side, and
clearly drafting off each other… I sure wish officials had seen this massive
group! Here is the really unusual thing on the bike – I saw a black bear on the
side of the road! (And no, I was not hallucinating – others saw this too!). I
suspect that he was dead as he wasn’t moving, but it certainly got my heart
racing – it was a huge bear, just off to the side of 421 on the way back into
town…. Wow! Later on, our waitress at dinner said that Pender county does have
black bears and this wasn’t that unusual (really?) Wow!
T2 was smooth – but there were actual lines for the
port-a-potties, so I decided to forego that and just get on with the run.
I got into a groove on the run, and the
weather wasn’t too hot, so I was able to maintain. I ended up running a1:43.01 for the 13.1 (which is actually the
best run I have had at the end of a 70.3 by 2 minutes, so I was pleased with
Overall, a good day – the weather held out, no one I knew got hurt, our team rocked it (way to go Lindsey!), what a day to remember! Well done all….
Xterra World Championships is in Maui, HI, one of the most scenic and picturesque destination races I’ve done. It’s completely contained within the Ritz Carlton Kapalua resort property from pre-race dinner, entire race course, to the post-race awards dinner. You could check-in to the Ritz and never have to leave the entire stay.
We arrived on the Island on Wednesday which was about 5 days before the race. I was able to get in some good training which included one lap of the bike course on Thursday, several laps of the swim course Thursday/Friday, and a small preview of the run course during the days leading up to the race. Xterra changed up the swim and bike course to be a two-loop format this year which is great for spectators, not so much for the athletes. The multi lap course created a lot of lap traffic on both the swim and the bike. The bike course being two loops was a double edge sword in that you knew what was coming for the second lap, both good and bad 😉
The weather leading up to the race this year was completely
dry as opposed to 2016 when I raced there and it rained the entire 4 days
leading up to the race making for a very slippery and muddy day. I was really
looking forward to the dry conditions on the bike course to maximize speed and minimize
time out in that brutal heat and humidity.
We woke up bright and early around 5:30am on Sunday morning
to a dark sky. Once it was light enough to see outside we noticed that there
were some dark looming clouds right over the property. Around 7am it started
raining and didn’t stop until 8:45 which was a cause for concern because I was
very much mentally prepared for a fast dry course and wasn’t sure what the
conditions would be like until I got out there. I tried pushing that out of my
mind and focusing on my time leading up to the race.
We headed to the transition area around 6:15am and grabbed
coffee and something to eat on with the Butlers on the way. As mentioned everything
is on property so I only had to walk about 5 minutes from my room to get to the
transition area. I setup my bike and gear in the pouring rain and then went
back to the room to stay dry and finish my pre-race routine. We headed back
down to the transition around 7:45am to watch the pro’s go off at 8am. Once
they started I went off and got in a good run warmup with some dynamic
stretching and drills. I then got into my swim-skin and headed down to the
water to get a swim warmup in. Legs felt good on the run and body felt good
overall on the swim warmup.
Around 8:50am I gave Amy a hug and kiss and went to line up
in my wave. Anxiously waiting, I went through my visualization of how the swim
would go and getting into transition. It seemed like we stood there for forever
until finally the announcer came across the microphone with “one minute to go!”
The cannon went off and before I knew it there were a couple hundred of us
running toward the ocean. I took a couple hop-steps and then dove in and
started sprinting to get out of the washing machine of athletes. I got a good
start and found some feet early. My strategy was to find someone slightly
faster and stick on their feet for the first lap to conserve some energy. I
must have been swimming too close to the guy in front of me because he turned
over on his back about half way through the first lap and gave three giant
kicks as to say piss off and stop touching my feet haha J I backed off and swam in the
rest of the way by myself. The surf was relatively low so there wasn’t much
fighting to get out of the water. Once on land I picked it up across the beach
to head out onto the second lap. I dove in and found myself with significantly
less people around me which was a good sign. I pushed a little harder on the second
lap and actually found some more feet to draft off allowing more energy
savings. We ran into a lot of lapped swimmers on the second lap since there
were multiple waves that started behind us. I kept sighting the large Xterra inflatable
to ensure I was on course still. I swam until my hands touched the sand and then
stood up and took off to the transition. I was happy with my swim and was able
to conserve quite a bit of energy. I ran past Amy with a smile and she mentioned
I was second out of the water in the AG with a time of just over 23 minutes.
I got into transition and quickly pulled my swim skin off,
took a couple gulps of water/rinsed my face off, threw my shoes/hydration
pack/helmet/sunglasses on, and off I went. The bike course is by far the
hilliest course I’ve ever ridden with the first climb right out of transition around
10% on loose gravel. We then headed onto the cart path as it flattened out
which gave me a chance to throw on my gloves and get a couple gulps of
nutrition. We then headed through the infamous tunnel where the climbing began
immediately. The first 3 miles of the bike course ascend just over 1250 feet
with gradients ranging from 6% up to 15% with average gradient being around 8%.
My race plan was to hold back on the first lap and give what I had left on the
second lap. With this plan there were a lot of great climbers that left me in
the dust on the first 3 miles. I got to the top and felt really good and was
able to make up some places on the technical descents however the course was
very slick in spots from the couple hours of rain we had so I approached those cautiously.
This course is also tricky because there are still some very steep punchy
climbs mixed in with the descents so you don’t get complete recovery.
After the first lap I really had no idea where I was in my
age group and knew I had to give a little more on the second lap to try make
some positions up. We went past transition, I gave Amy another smile, and
headed out for my second lap. Once again I had several people pass me on the
climbs to get to the top of the mountain. Once at the top I was still feeling
good so started pushing to make up some ground and all seemed to be going well
until that infamous medial quad muscle twinge started happening. This was very
frustrating because I felt like I had nailed my nutrition to this point and
tried to be conservative on both the swim and first lap and a half of the bike
course. From that point on the wheels just fell off. The combination of punchy
climbs, accelerating to pass lapped riders when the trail widened up, and the
heat/humidity that were setting it just made things worse. I came into transition
and wasn’t really sure what to expect on the run. I hopped off the bike, threw
on my running shoes/race belt, and grabbed my nutrition bottle and spicy pickle
juice bottle to sip on.
Off I went on the run and hit the same steep hill we started
on the bike, no cramping at that point! It then leveled out and I was able to
get into a good stride and started feeling a little better until I hit the next
hill. From that point on the quads and hamstrings were locked up for the
majority of the run and my legs just hit a wall where they didn’t want to turn
over anymore. I was walking up one of the steep hills when I heard a familiar
voice behind me, it was my buddy Charlie Ledford. He gave me a word or two of
encouragement and told me to “come on.” I stuck with him for a couple strides
and then locked up again. Around mile 2 – 2 ½ I stepped wrong and felt like I
had broken my left foot and every step after that was excruciating.
Physically and mentally I was ready to quit at about mile 3 but
knew that I would regret that decision in the long run. I gritted my teeth,
shortened my stride and arm swing and just did everything I could to keep
moving forward. Athlete after athlete started passing me on both the uphill’s
and the downhills which was also frustrating. Finally I saw the beach
approaching and knew that we only had about a third of a mile to go. I got one final
boost of energy to run through the thick sand, get up the last uphill, and run
through the finish line. I was absolutely spent and had nothing left in my
legs. I went and collapsed in the shade and dumped several bottles of water on
I was very upset and frustrated after the race and the rest
of the day because I felt like I had put in the necessary training and year-long
prep to set me up for a great race. I’ve since had time to reflect and pull out
the positives which include an amazing trip to Maui with my beautiful wife and
some great friends, racing with the best athletes from around the world, and cutting
an hour and 15 minutes off my last race. Time to enjoy the off season and back
to the drawing board to figure out this cramping. Until next time, Mahalo…
1) It is possible to condense 6 months of Ironman training into 6 weeks:
You register for an Ironman with great intentions of training properly, allowing for a gradual mileage build up, with plenty of long rides and runs while still getting enough recovery. You even plan to put in more time in the pool, so that you can actually enjoy (and not dread) the swim. Then life gets in the way. Daughter goes study abroad and you go visit her during the summer. Son has a weeklong soccer tournament in Louisiana. Work gets busy, house needs repairs and more travel come up and suddenly the race it’s only a few weeks away. Sound familiar? Yeah, it was July and I felt completely unprepared for an early September Wisconsin Ironman. However, with a careful and almost reckless plan, I was able to do 6 months of training into roughly 6 weeks. With long rides on Sundays and Tuesdays, long runs on Saturdays, high intensity rides on Wednesdays and high intensity runs on Thursdays, and hard swims on Monday, I was able to get Ironman fit and fairly prepared for my race. Sure it was hard and painful, and I was tired all the time. I felt like I was constantly toeing that overtraining red line so it took some extra attention see that things didn’t break down. But if you have the motivation and the focus, the physical durability not to get injured, an understanding wife to put up with the chronic fatigue and lack of productivity on other aspects around the house, it can be done. At least this way the training time doesn’t drag for an entire year.
2) Recovery is key:
My good friend Wayne has a saying that goes something like this:”If my training goes according to plan, I will probably be injured by the time I get to the race!” If you’re going to train hard, and I mean really hard, getting injured as you attempt to complete the training is a real possibility (and therefore one that needs to be managed carefully so it can be avoided). So in living through the above (6 weeks training) successfully, I realized quickly that paying more attention to recovery would be crucial, especially now that I’m 50 years old. For me, the two things that had the biggest impact on facilitating a quicker and more complete recovery were recovery boots and recovery drinks.
Recovery boots, which provide graduated compression through air pressure in compartment inside a full leg boot, are now widely present in endurance sports and college athletics. They have come down in price significantly without substantially reducing the benefits. I have one of the cheapest models available and it worked wonders on my legs. After using the boots for 20-30 minutes the night before, my legs were noticeably fresher the next day workout. I had to take turns almost every night with my high school son who was playing club and high school soccer in order to use them but they definitely helped me stay physically sharp and more recovered during the high mileage weeks
Drinking a glass of Infinit Repair or one of chocolate milk every night was also astonished helpful. Yeah I’d seen the commercials and drank them occasionally. But being more diligent about drinking them after hard days helped me immensely. I’m sure that other specialty recovery drinks would have the same effect. The important point here is the focus on getting some of the right nutrients during the right time to assist with muscle and overall body recovery, and a recovery drink or a glass of chocolate milk is a convenient way to do it.
3) Train with friends when possible but don’t be afraid to go out alone:
We all know that training with friends is much more fun. However, this year all of my training partners were either injured or smarter than me, so they were training only for the short stuff. As a result, company on the long rides and runs was very limited. I did most of these workouts entirely by myself, which pretty much always meant the last half I would be alone. The first few times I kind of dreaded them, but eventually I learned to embrace them. It allowed me to work on pacing and on the mental and physical toughness that comes from grinding out endless miles alone. I actually felt like the long rides got easier and that there was a certain degree of satisfaction from being in complete control of the workout a pushing through those low spots. During the race, the benefits of all those solo relentless rides were obvious. I rarely had to look at my Garmin to see that I was hitting my goal wattage and when I got to the hills and headwinds of mile 80ish, I felt as strong and as in control as ever.
4) Trust your gut and test your equipment:
When doing an Ironman, one has to make numerous equipment choices. Some of these get oddly nerve-wracking as you approach the race. These include wheels, tires, helmet, wetsuit, apparel, etc. And many people tend to wait until the last weekend to figure these things out, only adding to the pre race stress and poor decision making. I learned that some things need to be addressed weeks before the race so that there is enough time to be tested. My aero helmet is a case in point. I don’t particularly like wearing aero helmet, especially one with a shield like mine (I like the flexibility offered by glasses). However, I have always felt like they are faster. So I started doing some research a few weeks before the race to see if the time gain offered by the aero helmet was worth the additional “discomfort”, privately hoping that it would point out that it wasn’t. To my dismay, after looking at published data and getting input from a friend who spends a lot of time in the wind tunnel, I decided that it was. Full aero helmet was the way to go if you want to go fast. Nevertheless, I still had an issue with the tinted shield that was too dark on rainy days and impacted my visibility. So I then researched again the benefits of wearing the aero helmet without the shield and came to the conclusion that my particular helmet was developed to be worn with the shield in order to get the full benefits. Once again not the conclusion I was hoping for. But the solution was not a complicated one: purchase a clear shield available aftermarket. Race day was rainy, dark and very overcast. The shield was the best spent $30 and after having ridden several times with the aero helmet, it no longer felt clunky and unfamiliar. The result was a fast ride with no visibility issues.
5) Red Bull Can Fuel a Marathon:
I’m not sure I would recommend this for everyone but it definitely worked for me. I have always liked the taste of Red Bull and have had one once in a while at country store fueling stops during my long rides. However, when the fatigue was setting in early on the run portion of Ironman Wisconsin, I had a cup of Red Bull and immediately felt better. The caffeine along with some calories and the welcoming taste were the boost that I needed. Two miles later, still nothing appealed to me except for another cup of Red Bull. The effect was pretty much the same. OK, I wasn’t breaking any speed records by then it was enough to keep me running. One of my rules at an Ironman is that if it’s working, go with it for as long as possible. 20 miles later I was still guzzling Red Bull. I must have had 15 (smallish) cups of Red Bull by the time I reached the finish line (and a couple of gus and a handful of pretzels). I haven’t had one since but I sure hope Red Bull is still a sponsor when I decide to do my next Ironman.
6) If you’re going to talk the talk you have to walk the walk once in a while:
Several weeks before the race I was really wondering whether I really wanted to do this (Ironman). What sounded like a good idea a year ago no longer sounded so appealing. Nevertheless, I decided to follow through with my plan and go for it anyway. Sometimes it’s good to go through the mental and physical challenge of such a difficult event to really truly appreciate its complexity and relive the satisfaction of completing it. It’s also good to occasionally be humbled by the length of the event and by other athletes out on the course. I’ve always said that I never wanted to be an ex-athlete, talking about how fast or how tough I used to be. So if I’m going to talk the talk (which sometimes I have to do in my business), I feel like I should also have to walk the walk with other fellow Ironman athletes from time to time.
Coach. I’ve done all the basic things to
improve my overall time. I’ve worked on
my swim technique, ridden more miles and hills, and done extensive running
training including intervals & hill work.
What can I do to get faster?
Coach: Do you really want to know what else you
Yes. Let me know and I’ll do it!!
Coach: Get more sleep and lose some weight.
Triathlete: No, I want to know what ELSE I can do to get faster & stronger!!!
Ha, ha. It sounds funny but have you ever skipped over those ideas?
It seems we always want some magical technique or
workout. Or maybe just longer, harder
workouts. But when given such a simple
thing as “Get more sleep & lose weight”, many triathletes just skip that.
If you are in that boat, I recommend you really think about that suggestion
& reconsider. After the 2018 season,
I looked ahead to 2019 and saw some big goals.
I asked myself the same question and really thoughtfully considered getting
more rest and losing some weight. So I
started in October of 2018 making sure my eating habits didn’t get out of whack
at Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s Eve parties/holiday
over-eating. Not to say I didn’t eat
SOME sweets and 2nd helpings at Thanksgiving but I really tried not
to overdo it. Smaller portions of
desserts, more prudent choices of what to eat, etc. My usual routine of gaining weight in the
off-season only to have to work hard to lose it early in the following year was
broken. It really wasn’t that hard to
do. It just required a focus &
commitment. I saw the benefits in training
and early races in 2019. One training
example: My spring training includes a
triple brick session. I compared my triple
brick stats from 2019 back to 2018. In
2019, I weighed about 10 lbs less than the previous year and was 14
seconds/mile faster on round 2 (Zone 2) and 3 seconds faster per mile on
round 3 (Faster) with SAME heart rate!!
Your specific weight loss & run speed will vary, but all else being
equal, you’ll be able to run faster and with less effort when you drop some
weight! So do it!!
From a sleep standpoint, I was given a heart rate tool
(WHOOP!) to test. Only after using that
was I clearly aware that I was getting only about 6 hours of sleep per night on
average. The Whoop! device has a sleep
coach and it was recommending more sleep so I decided to try to get more
sleep. Now I’m averaging about 7 ½ hours
of sleep per night. This is a 25% improvement
in sleep time from what I was averaging before. Not only do I feel more rested, the workouts
don’t seem as hard since I’m not as tired.
And as my coach says “Sleep is the best type of recovery you can get!”. I think this has also made a difference in
me not getting injured this year. I
have been doing more core/strengthening work so that has definitely helped, but
I do think getting more sleep has an impact on how you feel, your attitude, how
your body responds to training and how much it is ready to take on more strain. So I would really encourage you to try to
get more sleep. You’ll see a difference
and your family likely will too! 😊
So getting more sleep and losing weight is something anyone can do. You just have to make a decision and DO IT!! I highly recommend it as I’ve seen the results it’s had on my racing this year. You won’t regret it and will enjoy the many benefits that come your way as a result. Good Luck!!
The 2019 70.3 World Championships in Nice, France was an
experience I will never forget. From the pebble beaches of the Mediterranean to
the historic villages nestled in the mountains, this venue did not disappoint.
It was by far one of the most challenging races I have ever done, but that only
made the trip more worthwhile.
For those wanting the short version, here it is: The swim was just barely wetsuit legal, so I wore my sleeveless wetsuit and felt great. The only bad part of the swim was a bit of chop heading back in and the blinding sun. I zig-zagged my way back to shore, swimming a few hundred extra yards according to my watch. Overall my time was not fast, but not my worst. The bike course lived up to the hype with about 5,000 feet of climbing in the first half of the course. I put in a steady, conservative effort and made it up with no issues. At the top, I was most surprised by how sore my arms and shoulders were – never had I used my upper body so much while cycling! The descent was technical and chilly. Knowing how dangerous this part of the ride would be and not having a ton of experience on descents like this one, I played it safe and was just happy to make it back down in one piece. The run was long and painful, but I tried to keep my spirits up, enjoy the views, and keep moving forward. My watch died about 8 miles in, so I was happily surprised that I finished the run just under two hours. Again, certainly not fast, but not terrible for how my legs felt after all that climbing!
All in all, I was proud of myself for completing my first World’s and overcoming several obstacles along the way. It was incredible and inspiring to race alongside so many other amazingly talented athletes and professionals from around the globe. I am already looking forward to my next 70.3 – Mont Tremblant on June 21, 2020, and will try my hardest to qualify for the 2020 World’s in New Zealand!
If you’re up for it, here is the long version with the good, the bad and the ugly:
Two weeks before race day, I woke up with a sore throat. My
initial reaction was, “at least this is happening this week and not race week!”
I had two weeks to recover and anything I did this week as far a training
didn’t matter that much anyway. The congestion immediately set into my chest,
and I decided to play it safe and took several days off. During the day I did
not feel terrible, but at night the post-nasal drip was so bad I couldn’t
sleep. The third day of being sick my throat was so sore I decided to go to the
doctor to make sure it wasn’t strep. Fortunately, it wasn’t, but that also
meant there wasn’t much I could do. I completely lost my voice for about five
days, and even a week later, I still sounded awful. We left on a Saturday, one
week until race day, and landed the next day in Nice. My spirits were high,
even after a sleepless night of flying and still dealing with a scratchy
To my dismay, these feelings were quickly squashed when my
bag was no where to be found. Because the customs line took so long, our bags
had already been dispensed before we got to baggage claim… everyone’s, except
mine. I went to the baggage services office, handed then my claim tag and they
informed me that the bag had indeed made it on the plane and been placed on the
carrousel. They filed a claim and said they would try their best to deliver the
bag the next day. But if the bag was indeed put on the carrousel, how could it
be lost? I could only imagine one thing: my bag was stolen. Of course, my
suitcase had EVERYTHING in. All of my race gear except my bike. I had no idea
what to do. My Mom tried to get me not to worry, but how could I not? Lesson
Learned: TAKE ALL YOUR RACE GEAR ON THE PLANE WITH YOU!
24 hours past, and we still couldn’t find out anything. The
WiFi in our apartment hardly worked, and only my Dad had service. We tried to
call the baggage claim number, but nobody answered. We tried to call Delta
directly, but they were of no help. I bought one change of clothes to get me
through and borrowed some things from my sister. We did some touristy things
and tried to enjoy the city, but I couldn’t shake the feelings of worry and
FINALLY, my Dad got through to someone at Delta who was very
helpful. As it turns out, my baggage claim number was switched with my husband’s,
so my claim was filed on the wrong bag – my bag was not lost! Unfortunately, it
was still in New York. Because the claim was filed on the wrong bag, Delta just
left my bag in the wrong city. This makes absolutely no sense to me, but I was
ecstatic to find out my bag was not stolen. The next day, we were able to pick
up my bag from the airport, and all was well! It was a darn good thing we had
arrive in Nice a week early. Phew!
With one less thing to stress about, I could relax and enjoy
the beautiful city of Nice and prepare for the race of a lifetime. It was so cool
to be in a city with so much history and surrounded by top triathletes from
around the world. I quickly realized that everything in Nice took a lot longer
and was a little more difficult than at home. For example, our apartment had
terrible WiFi, no AC, only two keys between 8 people, you weren’t supposed to
flush the toilet paper, there was only one towel per person, it took us three
loads to figure out how to properly run the washing machine, and there was no
dryer. Everything closes in the afternoon, most restaurants don’t open for
dinner until 7 pm, everyone smokes everywhere, you never know what you are
ordering, you should expect the meal to take 2 hours minimum, and free public
toilets are just not a thing.
All of this just added to how memorable this adventure was.
We walked so much my feet hurt everyday (I think 25,000 steps/day was the
minimum), but we got to eat delicious food, drink fabulous wine, and enjoy the
beautiful views of the Mediterranean. One day, we even went over to Monte
Carlo, Monaco. We walked the harbor, toured the famous casino, saw the changing
of the guards at the Palace, and had coffee with the Prince (my dad is
convinced he saw him). I enjoyed every minute of exploration and just hanging out
with my family.
The evening before the race, a massive storm blew through. It poured, soaking the bikes and all of the bags that had been checked in earlier. It cooled the air and the water enough that race morning, it was announced the swim would be wetsuit legal. I was fine either way, but happy to put my wetsuit on simply because it was a chilly morning! In the 60’s with a strong breeze, it felt cold after the week of heat and no AC! Race morning, I was tired, but unexpectedly so. It is hard to sleep with the windows open to the noisy streets of Nice, especially on a Friday night! I also was STILL congested after two weeks of being sick – it was the cold that would never end. My rib cage was sore, I assume from coughing, and I couldn’t even take any cold medicine because they are pretty much all band by WADA. But there was nothing I could do about that, so I tried to only focus on what I could control. I needed to keep a positive mindset and focus on enjoying the race, controlling my effort and getting to the finish line safely. I had no time goals; I simply wanted to enjoy the race and have a day I could be proud of.
The Swim: 36:59
Each age group went off in separate waves, but with a rolling start sending off 10 athletes at a time. This was a much better start than a mass start, but the swim was still pretty congested throughout with 2,100 or so females racing. The swim was a clockwise triangle, and the first side was quite pleasant. The water was clear, seemed calm, and it was easy to see. Upon turning the first buoy, I realized that was short lived as the chop was now splashing me in the face with each breath. Around the second buoy, things only got worse. Now the waves were head on, as was the sun. I was blinded and even if I tried to sight, I could only the see next wave hitting my face. This was the longest part, but I put my head down and tried to follow the crowd. As I exited the water, I was a little disappointed in my time. According to my watch, however, my total distance was 2,400 making my swim pace like what I would have expected. I got my bag, tried to dry off a little so I could spray on sunscreen, and continued on to the bike.
The Bike: 3:27:56
The start of the bike was flat but not without its challenges — the lane was narrow, there were lots of bumps, long “no aero” sections, weird turns, and no passing zones. Once I turned away from the beach, it was straight into a chilly head wind. My nose began run, and I knew this would be a problem. About 7K into the bike, we made a sharp turn and the climb began. It was immediately into 10% and 15%, just to burn the quads before the real climb began. The next 6 miles of climbing was not as bad after the initial steep sections. There was a good amount of variation. The first water stop was at mile 12, which seemed more like mile 20. After this, we got some relief with a fast, false flat section with gorgeous views. I had a lot fun through there but knew the real work was still to come. Next, we hit the town of Vence, meaning the famous climb was coming: the Col de Vence. About 6 miles with an average grade of 6.5%. Each kilometer had a sign denoting the total climb of the next kilometer and the average percent grade. It was always either 6 or 7%, but it all felt the same. It was relentless. We climbed above the treeline and were completely exposed to the wind and sun. My runny nose and cough made it hard to breathe. But I pushed on. I kept my legs moving and my effort consistent. When I reached the aid station at the top, I knew the hardest part was over. There were small climbs yet to come, but nothing like what I had just done. There was another false flat next, and I tried to go to aero and realized just how much my arms had been working. My shoulder thrived in pain. The descent started out slow, and it was hard to push the pace because my body was so sore from the climb. After one more short climb, we started the real descent.
This was the part I knew I was going to really bad at, but I
only wanted to make it down safely. Though I had my brake pads changed and
adjusted before the race, they were still screeching anytime I braked. I didn’t
trust them, and I chose to take the corners with caution. For others, that was
not the case. Though I had passed more people than passed me on the climb, racers
blew my doors off on the decent. I couldn’t believe how fast they were going!
Early on, however, coming into a sharp turn, an official was off his motorcycle
having everyone slow way down. In the turn, there was a woman on the ground,
unresponsive with a neck brace on and an ambulance waiting. This was gut
wrenching to see, and I still had 15 miles to descend. Though the descent was
easier than the climb, my body still ached the whole time, and it was FREEZING.
At the both of the last two water stops, I dropped the first bottles I tried to
grab because my hands were so cold. Getting to the bottom was such a relief!
The sun warmed my body quickly, and I tried to push the pace a little more
towards home. One last unexpected test was a tight U-turn to the right. I
literally almost ate it, and would have been so embarrassed! They also had a
tight confusing path into transition which was over cobblestones, and
apparently several other did crash there. Fortunately for me, I made it safe
and sound back to transition, ready to face the 13.1 miles ahead.
The Run: 1:57:39
In most races I think, “If I can just get to the run, the hard part is over and I will feel a lot better.” And then I get to the run and hate every minute of it, realizing how much more fun the swim and the bike were. This time, I was prepared for that. I knew just how hard the run would feel after such a challenging bike, and based on my training (or lack there-of) leading into the race. It’s not that I didn’t train, but about 6 weeks before the race, I started having shin pain. Out of fear of shin splints or a stress fracture, I chose to cut back on the run, and never did some of my key long runs. While I seem to have dodged a bullet with the shin splints, the severe cold and time on my feet race week certainly did not help. I knew the run would be painful, and it was! From the start, everything hurt. I kept thinking I would warm up into it, but it only got more painful. I got of the bike with a bit of a headache, so I tried to drink a lot at the first few stops, then I got an abdominal cramp. I think it was mostly because I am not used to the electrolyte drink they served, Enervit. It also got hot with hardly any shade, so I kept pouring water on myself. I overdid it and soaked my shoes so much they felt 10 pounds heavier. I ran water stop to water stop, and kept thinking, “I’ll run faster at the next one,” but I just kept feeling slower and slower. I tried my hardest to enjoy the atmosphere and the views, but sometimes that is hard when you can see where you have to get to, but it is still 3 miles away! Even when I finally got to mile 12, I couldn’t even make it the last mile without walking at the final water stop. I felt accomplished by what I had done, but it is so hard to not feel disappointed when you know you can do better and when so many other athletes are doing so much better around you.
In the end, I was 181st in my age group out of 246 finishers – not even in the top 50%. While that is nothing to brag about, it is inspiring to see just what is possible and I am driven to train more, push harder and see just what I am capable of. I am proud of what I accomplished on the toughest course I have ever done. I am proud I held it together and pushed through the pain. It wasn’t pretty it, but I am so happy I did it and learned so much from the race. Thank you, Nice for making me stronger! Also, thank you to my loving and supportive family who helped me get to the start line and cheered me on through the race. I love you all and would not have been able to do it without you <3
After deciding in early June to pull the plug on Ironman training for 2019, I began training for the Olympic distance and targeted Age Group Nationals as my new “A race” for the summer. This race is qualification only and luckily I had qualified last fall and there wasn’t a time limit to accept the entry. As it turns out, Olympic distance is my jam! I’ve never specifically trained for that distance. In the past, I would complete local events in the middle of my long distance training merely as a way to change things up and keep training spicy. I always find doing short and fast races difficult (and frustrating) in the middle of Ironman training because my legs have zero 5k/10k speed.
AG Nationals were in Cleveland for the second year and the reviews for last year were less than stellar. This was my first time visiting the city and I found it to be very enjoyable. Their parks and rec system is amazing. The venue was located at Edgewater Park, a few miles outside of Downtown Cleveland and it was easily accessible. Race logistics were easy and hassle free, which is always a plus on race morning.
I was excited about this race. I was really excited to see what I could do with two months of specific training for the Olympic distance. My main goal was to have fun and try to blast the run. Training had been going really well and I was confident. Unfortunately, Thursday morning before my flight, I woke up with a fever and muscle aches. I sucked it up with a lot of complaining to my husband and decided “it is what is” and got on the plane (making sure to sanitize everything I touched). I spent most of Thursday feeling bad and Friday sick in the hotel only doing what I had to do to get ready for the race. Also, cheering for my husband to crush a 5k race Friday night at the race site. Way to show the silly triathletes how to run!! LOL. I couldn’t eat much for dinner and decided obviously this race was no longer an “A” goal, but I was going to hopefully finish and have some fun along the way.
I woke up fever free on Saturday, race morning, (hooray!) but my stomach was still not happy. Oh well.
The swim: Apparently, Lake Erie is usually rough and has a current, which resulted in issues last year. This was surprising to me. This year the swim was cut short, 750 meters, after several days of high winds and rain and also a sewage issue the week before the race lead to water quality warnings and closed beaches..eww. Good news – I didn’t get e coli!! Even with the shortened distance, I had a hard time on the swim. Not really due to the conditions of the water, but mostly due to internal issues of my own. Rough water and jostling for position doesn’t usually affect me at all. However, once the race started, I was kicked in the throat and my legs were pulled down. It was crazy. I started to freak out and felt like my wetsuit was choking me. I stopped and regrouped. I almost quit, but I figured it was stupid to come all the way to Cleveland and quit. I just had to swim 750 meters, which was nothing compared to my normal workout. The result was the slowest swim ever for me.
The bike: the course was closed to traffic which is amazing!!! It’s sad most triathlon’s don’t close the road to traffic, which is resulting in many accidents and cyclists being hit by cars during the race. It’s actually quite ridiculous because we pay a gizillon $ to do the race. This course was mostly flat with a few rollers and highway on/off ramps. I couldn’t find my legs and spent this portion of the race just trying to not get passed and hopefully pass someone. As I approached the turn around point, I started seeing women I knew were in my age group going the other way as they were minutes in front of me. This was very frustrating. I passed one girl at the end, who I was chasing the entire time. Yay I guess. However, my power output was equal to my 70.3 effort, so boo.
The run: I had no idea what to expect given my health and how I spent the days before the race. I decided just to run how I felt and not even look at my watch for a pace. I transitioned from bike to run easily and started running. The first mile was downhill with a turn around and uphill back towards the start. I looked at my watch at the mile turn around and thought “oh no” when I saw it was a 6:45 pace. That pace was my goal pace for the run overall, if I was feeling fantastic, which I was not. I know better than to start out guns blazing, but for some reason I do it every time. Oh well, I was feeling good and just went with it. I started picking people off in front of me. I would tell myself “just get to the next person and pass them”. I managed to keep that pace until mile 4 where there was a longer, steeper hill heading into the park area. That hill kicked my butt and I slowed down slightly. I started seeing the faster women in my age group and I decided I was going to catch them. I passed 15 women in my age group and it felt amazing to chase them down! I ended up with a run time of 42:38 which is a new 10k PR.
I had few secret goals for this event. Yeah, I always say my main goal is to have fun, which is true…but of course I have time specific goals. My first secret goal was to qualify for the ITU World Championship. For that to happen, I needed to finish in the top 18 of my age group. My top secret goal was to finish in the top 10. I ended up in 15th place, which given my health issue, I was super happy about. I don’t know why I keep my goals a secret. I guess because it’s scary to say out loud and if it doesn’t happen, I will feel like a failure. Which is so lame, I know.
I also came away with many lessons learned, which I think is important to digest and improve for next time. First, don’t give up before the race even begins or on the swim. I had the world’s worst swim for me, and I was able to pull it together and run a PR. Second, don’t let the days leading into a race dictate the race you will have. Circumstances are never perfect and I think I’ve finally learned that there will rarely or never be the perfect race you think you should have. Finally, a good support system is critical. I could have very easily stayed in bed Saturday morning. My husband was a constant in reminding me to just try my best and it’s not the end of the world. He kept me moving forward, thinking about the race logistics, and helping me prepare, which I was very thankful for. It was also super motivating to watch him race Friday and get my mindset in race mode.
I’m Allison Paul, and new to the team this year. I’ve been running since I was 12 and started doing triathlons in my mid-twenties, since I suffered from overuse running injuries. My husband, who was a world-class speedskater & PT, got me on the bike doing long group rides. We often rode our tandem from Milwaukee to Madison and back over a weekend. Reluctantly, I learned to swim in the open water, started doing local triathlons and eventually Ironman Wisconsin. We had 10 bikes, no kids and lots of time to train!
A dozen years later, 3 kids & a move across the country, I got back into triathlons and started racing again. With a full-time (traveling) job in medical sales, homeschooling kids and a few dogs, I wasn’t sure there’d be enough time to train sufficiently, so I didn’t invest in triathlon gear but rather raced on my road bike with clip on aerobars.
After winning a handful of local triathlons over a few years, I joined the TMS IOS team and decided to invest in a bike. Cid and his bike experts at Inside Out Sports helped me find a sweet ride that makes my training and racing rewarding. (It’s a FELT IA with disc brakes and electronic shifting, BTW).
My preferred triathlon distance is 70.3 because of the longer run and I started this season with Ironman 70.3 Virginia. It was the first year Ironman put on this event, but in typical Ironman fashion, it was very well organized with a big turnout.
In the early hours of the morning on race day, a storm rolled through Williamsburg and soaked our gear. Thankfully, the rain held off for the swim start.
The swim was choppy and it felt like we were swimming against the current. According to my Garmin, I swam nearly 2500 yds, (which is how I justify my 5 min slower swim time!) There’s a long, uphill run to transition packed with wetsuit peelers and sunscreen appliers. Again, race support was great.
As soon as I mounted my bike, the rain started. The course was pretty flat, with lots of turns that required us to slow down considerably (due to the rain). Unfortunately, my teammate, Millie crashed on the bike course, but amazingly she still finished in a great time!
The run was a 2-loop, out and back course along the paved Virginia Capital Trail. It was mostly flat with lots of aid stations and support; however, there was a short distance we had to run (twice) on the mud-soaked grass. The sun came out just in time for the run and finish.
I ended up third in my age group (out of 91 and missed Worlds by 1 spot), with an overall time of 4:58:08.
They say “you never forget your first,” and I can verify that is certainly true when it comes to triathlons.
It felt like things had come full circle this year for me to return to Lake Logan Half, the race that was my first ever half iron four years ago. I very distinctly remember the experience of training for and racing this event the first time. The distances were daunting and my volume was higher than ever before. I was all kinds of excited and all kinds of terrified. Race day was full of successes but also mistakes; I over-biked and under-fueled, leading to one very painful and miserable run. After a 5:35 finish, I was equally exhausted and euphoric. Just over a month later, I was signed up for my next 70.3.
Fast forward 4 years, and I’m driving down the same roads to the same race site, feeling a lot of similar feelings. I’m excited and I’m nervous. But so much more has changed. I’m more comfortable and confident. I have more experience, more concrete plans, and much more ambitious goals.
I arrived at the race site early and got set up efficiently, with enough time to get down to swim in a not-last-minute-hectic-rush, which is a nice change for me. I jumped right into the lake, which was just as stunning as I remembered, and got in a warmup before lining up to start with my wave. We took off quickly, aided by a strong burst of early race adrenaline. I ended up swimming directly next to my teammate Tom for a bit before shifting over to catch a draft that I rode for almost the entire swim.
Many strokes later, we made it under the bridge, where the water temperature drops at least ten degrees to give you a nice chill before you finally haul yourself out of the water and onto the dock. I slipped out of my wetsuit and moved briskly through transition, and heard that I was the first woman as I hopped onto my bike.
That’s when I gave my first real, big smile of the day.
I was excited for this bike course. It’s hilly and dangerously beautiful – so much so that it’s easy to get overly excited and bike way too hard (I’m looking at you, 2015 self). I had a simple race plan to stick to target power numbers as best I could, accounting for modulation for climbs and descents. That was really the key for me: to race my own race. When I was passed by another woman 10 miles in, I just let her go and tried not to dwell on it. If I was going to beat her, it would have to be on the run. The rest of the ride was beautiful albeit uneventful; I saw a few other riders but otherwise was mostly alone on the course, steadily chugging along at my target power as the course climbed uphill through the second half.
After my second pass through transition, I started the run feeling pretty good. Soon I heard that I was 5:30 behind the leader, which felt like a lot of ground to make up. Again, I told myself that I needed to race my own race at my own pace, and either I was going to catch her or I wasn’t. Maybe I could take a risk later, but for now it was too soon – I needed to be patient.
I was surprised when I saw her in front of me only 4 miles in, and I made the pass not long after. That’s when I knew that, barring catastrophe, I could win the thing. At the halfway turnaround, I came up behind Tom and momentarily raced alongside him for the second time of the day. After some words of encouragement, I was off to finish the second half of the run on my own. By this point, I was hurting physically and mentally and definitely slowing down, but I forced myself to smile and grit it out – I had a solid lead but I didn’t want to get too complacent. After a few short eternities and not much else to note other than general suffering, I finally made it to the finish line, in just short of 5 hours.
In between gasps for breath, I was beaming.
Returning to the course where I raced my first ever half made this win especially meaningful. For me, it symbolizes so much of the progress I’ve made as an athlete. Physically and mentally, I’ve come a long way – and I’m still going.
Being my first year competing on the TMS-IOS team, I was absolutely thrilled to get ready for the upcoming racing season. However, this excitement was not without reservations—over the summer of 2018, I developed a pretty nasty medial tibial stress fracture while training for NC 70.3 2018. The timing was kind of odd—I received news of the stress fracture about two weeks after Hurricane Florence devastated the Wilmington area of NC. Not long after the immense damage of the storm was assessed, Ironman emailed all the eager participants to inform them that the race would be cancelled. Surprisingly, Ironman offered race deferrals due to the circumstances under which the race was called off, so I was fortunate enough to be able to defer until the following year (I’m coming for ya, NC 70.3 2019!).
The following weeks were tough, as my teammates and ride-or-die training partners (Kelsey Noll, Sloane Tilley, and Cath Ruckeis) were able to find another race on the same day as NC 70.3 was supposed to take place. While I was at home moping about my bum leg, the people I had spent tons of hours training with were off to conquer Toughman Tennessee 70.3. The typical mixed bag of emotions that comes along with being sidelined due to injury (self-pity, jealousy, frustration, anger, sadness—you know what I mean) was completely wiped away when the three of them absolutely dominated the course and landed in top placing spots (HELL YEAH!). Their performances made me so proud to be their teammate and also motivated me to do the best that I could to get healthy. For most of the summer, we had all been pushing each other through some tough 70.3 training, so it was very exciting to think that I could get myself there again if I made the necessary changes to my training to stay healthy.
I won’t lie—the next few months were tough. This was my first serious injury as a triathlete (so honestly I shouldn’t be complaining at all), and it totally caught me off guard (I know that seems ridiculous with a stress fracture, but I had very mild displaced pain until one day it suddenly hurt very bad all up and down my tibia—yowza!). I did not realize exactly how much I had been relying on training to deal with life, until I was forced to cease and desist all training and don Das Boot (what I affectionately called my air cast). My only outlet for stress and processing my thoughts/feelings was ripped out from under me, and I didn’t have any other tools at my disposal. After a few really bad mental health days, I realized that this was not going to fix itself, and that it probably wasn’t healthy to rely on exercise as the sole source of mental health care. So I got set up with a therapist (can not recommend this more strongly as a life-changing way to care for yourself), started going to a yoga class (Monday mornings with the 65+ crew of mostly little old blue haired ladies, who are so impressive!), began learning the practice of meditation (the Headspace app is what got me started), and embraced the newfound free time to enjoy other activities that had fallen to the wayside during intense months of training.
Honestly, getting injured was probably the best thing that happened for me this past year. It forced me to face some inner demons, make intimidating but important life changes, and re-center my focus and priorities outside of triathlon/training. Sure, there were days where I hated every second of it and there were many bouts of ugly crying and “Woe is me” rants (both internal and voiced aloud), but it was an important process to move through, the kind where you come out on the other end stronger than before.
When I was cleared to run again, I didn’t start up right away. Things still didn’t feel quite right in my leg and I decided to trust my body. Thanks to Dave William’s wise coaching and my newfound training mantras of “less is more” and “listen—no, really LISTEN to your body”, I was able to slowly (albeit sometimes painfully) and safely build back into a training plan. Things were different this time around—full days of rest (often more than once per week!) and a new attitude towards body maintenance allowed me to spend more time on things like proper stretching, strengthening, foam rolling, and sleeping. There were a few minor setbacks along the way, but I listened to what my body needed and took the right action (often, adding in another day off training for recovery and routinely visiting Dr. Jason Pyrigi). Dr. Jason Pyrigi and the team at Carolina Pain and Performance played an integral role in my path to recovery, and I still go in on an as-needed basis to check in on things. Dr. Pyrigi and his team truly worked wonders on the problem areas of my leg and in doing so, have taught me so much that I never knew or fully understood about how to sense when your body is recovered and ready for another grueling workout, or when you need to take the day off or cut your workout short and focus on other recovery habits (as mentioned above—foam rolling, strengthening, and proper stretching).
After many challenging weeks that tested my patience and willpower, I slowly built back into structured training, and things felt good enough to start setting my sights on spring races. With Dave’s blessing, I set my sights on the inaugural Crystal Coast Half Booty 70.3 in May, which would require a very conservative low-volume training approach but would be doable. Since I had been training for a 70.3 when I got hurt, I was very hungry to tackle that distance. I also wanted a tune-up race, so I signed up for the Beaverdam Olympic, a super fun course I had put down one of my best performances on in 2018. For funsies, I also ended up signing up for the Triangle Sprint since I have raced that one on and off since 2014—another wonderful local race!
It turned out that all the pain, anger, sadness, and frustration that resulted in taking a long, hard look in the mirror (which subsequently led to making some major changes to both self-care and training practices) ultimately paid off in a big way. I am not accustomed to landing overall podium spots at the local race level, so you can imagine how humbling and emotional it was to pull off:
3rd—Beaverdam Olympic (gotta love the squishy beavers)
2nd—Inaugural Crystal Coast Half Booty (a race so wild it is deserving of its own blog post)
1st—Triangle Sprint (made extra special since my parents happened to be passing through town and got to see me race for the first time since my first ever sprint triathlon in 2013)
Looking back on the journey from a solid 70.3 training regimen, to a serious bone injury, to a period of relearning how to care for mental and physical health, to the slow transition back to a new “normal” training schedule, to being able to race competitively again… it’s been quite a ride.
The takeaways from this whole experience have been impactful. I’ve developed new ways to take care of my mind and body, deconstructed some of the toxic ideologies I had towards training and replaced them with a much more balanced approach, and gained so much confidence in myself as an athlete along the way. I strongly encourage you (whether you’re a “serious” athlete or not) to take a few steps back to examine whether your training and athletic lifestyle are truly in balance with other important aspects of your life. You might be surprised at what you learn about yourself!