New year, new you...or at least that’s the fear. After an incredibly successful 2017 triathlon season I spent many snowy winter days looking out the window, trying to conjure up the energy to climb onto the trainer in hopes of measuring up to last year. “Trending slower” Strava would remind me, and for an extra kick in the balls my heart rate was higher. And such has been my lead-in to the 2018 triathlon season.
To build up for my season I figured the Boston Marathon would be an ideal way to find my running fitness. Unfortunately, that plan was derailed by some big toe pain that resulted in a cumulative 6-miles of running in February. Then one fortuitous dreary day in March, after a couple of brunch beers (thanks Mike Hoffman), I ventured into Heart Break Hill running company and spent $120 on a pair of Hoka Cliftons. All of a sudden, I could run again, and while it may have been my slowest open marathon, I beat my marathon time at Ironman Louisville, and even qualified for Boston 2019. Should I be so stupid....
The day before Boston I wore my Roka wetsuit for strides on the track as a joke.
The day of Boston I wished I had done more than joke about wearing it.
Boston in the rear view not only could I convince the average person that I am a “real runner” (I'm not) but I could resume serious swim/bike training. With Quassy Olympic only 6 weeks away, I knew I didn’t have much time to get myself back into “2017 shape.” After three days off and two relatively gentle training days I figured I was probably recovered enough to join some buddies for episode 1 of 2018 “Smash Sunday” featuring a 50 mile ride followed by a couple” of miles “jogging” off the bike. As someone who has been doing this for 10+ years I should have known better. It was a solid month before I could piece together any semblance of a workout.
The week before Quassy I attended the American College of Sports Medicine national conference, which ironically usually involves anything but exercise. At the very least I was quite confident that all of the beer drinking would yield an appreciable glycogen surplus, a nice complement to the sinus cold I had developed. Fortunately, Quassy was on a Sunday so getting back to Boston Friday night meant a sleep in my own bed before rolling down to the race. Saturday morning Richard and I loaded up the car and met EMJ teammates Rob, Stefan, Corey, and Walter at a mansion of an AirBnB, a short 10 minute drive from the race venue. Because I hadn’t exercised in two days a short swim sounded appealing. After getting my doors blown off by Richard I became supremely confident I would not have to worry about sighting the next day, as there would be many feet to follow. To restore my ego I decided to take a sweet pre-race “Flat Stanley” photo in hopes of exceeding 100 likes on Instagram.
155 Likes #Winning
Quassy race morning was relatively uneventful, with my largest concern being some GI distress, a likely product of a huge bowl of pasta drowned in pesto from the night before. The swim was a self-seeded rolling start, so I positioned myself about 3-4 people back. My attempt to stay on Richard’s feet was frivolous and he was soon out of reach. Emerging from the water I was pleasantly surprised to see 21:09 on my watch (strava file here) and excited to get on my Felt and start doing work. About 10 miles into the ride I had caught everyone but Richard, who was dangling in front of me like a tasty snack. Unfortunately, every time I came within striking distance the bastard pedaled harder, evading my attempt to legally work together. My one attempt to speak to him came at mile 25 when I caught him on a hill and voiced my concern about the length of the course (usually 40k or 24.8 miles). Unfortunately, instead of “how long is this course?” he heard “you’re riding like a horse” which motivated him even more and he smashed off into oblivion, leaving me still wondering how long the dang bike was going to be (it was 26 miles). After these antics, it brought me great amusement to watch him nearly fall off his bike at dismount as he struggled to extract his foot from the grasp of his shoe.
The elusive Richard Fineman...riding some nice ENVE wheels.
Heading out of transition in what I presumed to be first place, I was dismayed to hear there was another athlete about 2 minutes up. The first few miles of the run were VERY downhill, and while I really wanted to open up the legs my heart rate was already quite high so I stayed conservative and passed through in just under 6-min/mile. We spent the next four miles paying the price for these downhills, and there were many times I saw 8:00/mile+ on my watch. With a quarter mile to go, I heard the crowd cheering the first place finisher in and knew any attempt to chase was futile. Hats off to young Bobby Hammond for handily kicking everyone’s ass. I look forward to watching him mature in the sport! (Stupid hilly run).
Rev3 Olympic Podium - 1)Hammond 2)Grosicki 3)Hollinger
After a couple of recovery days, I picked up the silver platter Bobby handed me my ass on and set to training for Patriot half. That week I had a long text conversation with teammate Kevin Denny (blog here) where we discussed the difficult but liberating value of freeing yourself from past success and focusing on the present. I’m not sure why, but after that conversation for the first time in months I was able to get excited about the future rather than worrying about measuring up to last year. After a couple of solid training sessions and a renewed perspective I was STOKED to take a crack at Patriot Half.
Some speedwork as part of a local 5k in Boston
Other than the very digestible price tag (compared to ironman events), one of the biggest advantages to Patriot was that I was able to sleep in my own bed the night before the race. The 45-minute drive down the Cathedral Camp in East Freetown, MA went smoothly and I was able to set-up my transition well before race start. Another awesome feature of Patriot was their use of an “elite” wave, which obviates concern of getting beat by an athlete starting after you, Ironman PLEASE take note. As we waded into the water I felt relaxed and ready to give it my all in what would be my final New England triathlon.
The calm before getting dropped.
Although I felt great during my swim warm-up, I didn’t have what it took to make the break with the first couple of athletes, who I later learned to be Michael Emmons and Spencer Coffin. Even though I feel I have made great progress with my swimming the past couple of years, I have yet to be able to hang with the ex-college guys. When the dust (waves) settled I found myself in a 3-man chase pack, the leader of which seemed to have the directional acuity of a blind man. Although he was faster, he continually swam off-line and thus I pretty much swam solo with another swimmer tight on my feet. Feeling good coming out of the water I was pleased to see a mid-27 minute swim time and ready to chop wood on my IA.
Heading out on the bike my legs felt strong and my goal of holding 250 watts felt doable. One of the things I feel has really benefited my riding is breaking my races up using 20’ laps on my Garmin 510. Knowing a new lap is coming tends to keep me more honest with my initial effort and stops me from wasting myself early (take note Reid Foster). About 10 miles into the first of two laps, I glanced behind to see another rider (Zev Myerowitz) fast approaching. Trying to match his effort, I found myself riding at near or above FTP and quickly made the decision to let him go. A few miles later I was able to catch and pass Spencer Coffin, at which point I voiced my disbelief at how fast we had both been passed by Zev. After keeping all of my 20’ splits right at goal power it was hard to be disappointed with my ride.
Felt Bicycles #NarrowIsAero #AeroIsEverything
Running into transition I finally caught swimming extraordinaire Michael Emmons and as we put on our running shoes I asked if he knew who the leader was. It was at this point I learned it was Zev, who Michael told me ran a low 1:30 half the previous year. “Let’s get him!” I told him as we ran out together. Trying to distance myself from Michael I ran the first half-mile at a very uncomfortable 5:45/mile pace. I breathed a sigh of relief to see him start fading back and settled into a more realistic 6:15-6:20/mile pace. By the second mile I calculated Zev to be about 30 seconds up and made the pass by mile four. All was well until about mile 9.5 when I felt the beginnings of a horrific side-stitch. I had a similar experience during my first 70.3 (Muncie in 2013) and ended up walking nearly a mile. I have since learned to fend off these cramps off by slowing a bit and by controlling my breathing (exhaling hard every other foot strike). With a mile to go and the stitch under control, I broke into an uncontrollable smile and celebrated my way across the finish line.
I am finally finishing what may be the most belated race report(s) ever, if you can even call it that its so late, in a coffee shop in our new home of Savannah, GA. Although I am sad to have left Boston and all of our wonderful friends, Bri, Ellie and I are loving our new home (and will love it even more when the AC is fixed – I hope someone from HomeTeam Inspection Services reads this, cause y’all are terrible). See that, already a southerner, I said "y'all". I have already found great running, biking, and swimming networks and am excited to head back to Indiana to take my third crack at Muncie 70.3 in two weeks. Maybe Ill even write a timely race report for that...in the unlikely case that I’m not too busy planning for my classes next year. Thanks for reading!
Savannah, GA #SwampLife