Monday, July 3, 2017

Beginning 2017 with Syracuse 70.3

The funny thing about blogging is that the longer you go without posting, the more things you need to say in your next entry, which greatly detracts from the desire to write another entry, and somewhat explains why this is coming 2 weeks after the race. As such, I am going to start by condensing the past 11 months of my life into 3 bullet points:
  • Graduated from Ball State with a PhD in Human Bioenergetics
  • Accepted a post-doc in the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University
  • Moved to Boston (living in Charlestown aka "The Town")
Oh, and upon hearing I would be moving to Boston I of course needed to run a marathon to try and qualify for Boston 2018. While my run training was inadequate, the bike fitness carried me through and I ran a 2:52 on a beautiful day in Grand Rapids (one of the best cities in the world, that no one knows about).

Running along at Grand Rapids with racing partner Nathan!

Ok, so that wasn’t so bad. Now we can move onto more important things, like my 2017 triathlon season. Unfortunately my first planned race of the year was cancelled (Ball State Sprint Sprint). Although it was just an early season rust buster, I was excited to get to race against my buddies Adam Voss and Kyle Perry. Kyle is a big-time cyclist that I had persuaded into racing a triathlon. Unfortunately morning thunderstorms had other plans. We took out our frustration with a final FTP test in the training garage that hurt a lot more than the race probably would have.

Kyle had too much espresso? Or just the right amount before the test.

One of the biggest bummers about the sprint being cancelled was that it meant my first race of the season would be Syracuse 70.3. I always like to try to open up with something shorter to get some of the nervous energy out and dust off the winter cobwebs. Alas, this year I would be afforded no such luxury.

Going into the race I was pleased where my fitness was at, especially considering the recent move across cross-country. Almost immediately I found two great training buddies here in Boston in fellow EMJ teammate Corey Robinson and MIT grad student Richard Fineman, who went out of their way to show me the ropes. Syracuse was a Sunday race, which I really appreciated as it eliminated a lot of the stress due to traveling technicalities. That of course didn’t stop me from getting a speeding ticket as we drove through Utica, NY on our way. Fortunately, the officer thought Ellie, who was barking her head off in the back of the car the whole time, was cute and only cited me for “obstructed vision” aka my radar detector. He then encouraged me to return for the Utica 15k, and proceeded to wish me luck at the race. As far as getting pulled over goes: 10/10.

For the first time in my life I actually have a group of triathletes to train with. 
Thank you Corey and Richard!

The day before the race Bri and I chilled out and went to the Wegman’s dog park with Ellie. We figured she deserved it after helping me get out of the speeding ticket the night before. Ellie had a total blast and it appears we sufficiently tired her out as she didn’t destroy the hotel room when we went out for lunch with teammates John Kelly and Mike Hoffman. After a post-lunch nap, I chauffeured the girls (Bri and Ellie) around to a couple of local dog-friendly breweries (you rock Syracuse) before grabbing a quick bite to eat and heading to bed.

Pre-race lunch at Brooklyn Pickle.

Race morning alarm went off at 4am and we quickly loaded up the car and headed over to the venue. Although this meant we pulled into the parking lot 2.5h before the race began, I would far prefer that then dealing with the stress of waiting in line for a parking spot. Before the race Mike, John, and I casually chatted and discussed race strategies. The high for the day was supposed to exceed 90 degrees and the humidity was substantial. Going into the race I tried my best to keep this in the back of my mind, knowing that this being the first race of my season, the proclivity for me to go out too hard and blow up would be high.

The swim at Cuse was a square with right turns. Based on my strong performances in the swim last year I positioned myself at the front of the age group, next to a dude that looked kinda like a fast swimmer. The good news was I was right, but there was no way in hell I was going to stay with him. Almost immediately from the gun a group of 3-4 guys jetted away from me at a pace way faster than my body was ready to handle. My self-confidence hurting, I focused on swimming strong and maneuvering around the gaggle of swimmers from other age groups who had gone off before our wave. Why is it they put the 20-40y old men at the back? As the swim progressed, I could tell the long course training I’ve been doing was paying huge dividends. My arms never seemed to fatigue, which was huge as we smashed into sizeable waves on the return back to the beach. Exiting the water I wasn’t sure what to expect for a time but I was glad to be on land and ready to chase.
 Happy to not be swimming.

In triathlon every athlete hopes to have his or her bike right next to the bike exit in transition. I need to get better at hoping. After throwing on my new Louis Garneau P-09 helmet, which looks totally bad ass, I hauled my bike to the other side of transition. Flying mount? Totally botched but at least rubber was still down. The first 2 miles of the bike course flew by, the next 10 did not as we climbed over 1,000 ft, which happens to be more than 60 miles in Muncie. Being my first race of the year, I of course started to hard, pushing 280 for 20min. About 40 minutes in I began thinking back to a tremendous blow-up on the run I had at Muncie two years ago and all of a sudden I was happy to back off the pace. At mile 30 a rider came by me. Reeling him back in we traded legal pulls for a while until he blasted a hill, escaping me for the remainder of the race. Ive got to give it to him, he rode stronger than I did. Fortunately he’s very active in the Boston triathlon scene and so I look forward to racing him again. At mile 54 there was a “no exceeding 25mph zone” where I was again passed by 3 people. I hope they realized they were disqualified before the run....

I smile more when I run with my bike in my hand. Maybe I should just take it through the whole run course.

I always like to compare coming off the bike to opening a present you didn’t ask for. You never really know how you are going to feel about running until you take a few steps! While today I certainly hadn’t received the keys to a new Ferrari, I was content with my old reliable Volvo. The two-loop run course was hilly and unrelenting and offered little protection from the baking sun. The day before the race I decided to purchase a 10 oz water bottle hand carrier and it may have been the smartest move I made all weekend. The entire first loop of the run I just kept telling myself to stay within myself, its all about the second loop. I feel fortunate that over the years of racing I have trained myself to know where the fine line between “racing hard and blowing up” is, and today was not a day to flirt with it. As I rounded the turn of the first loop I passed Davis Frease, an incredibly talented athlete in my age group who was currently sitting in second place but had fallen victim to the heat. Focusing on keeping my legs turning over, at mile 7 I was alarmed to feel that the sole of my right shoe (Adidas Adios) was squirting out the back! Trying to come up with a solution I decided to ditch it at the next aid station. Not sure why this happened, I would guess they got too wet. Adidas was unfortunately not over supportive when I shared with them so I have moved onto the Brooks Hyperion which I am loving. The next few miles my slow-but-steady pacing paid off and I finished strong.
Overall: 4:37.44 (2nd place OA)

With two dudes who inspire me to get it done, every day.

Having had some time to reflect back on my performance I am very happy with what I was able to accomplish. Although the time was 33 minutes off my PR, the course + weather at Syracuse made for an extremely challenging race that is not for the faint of heart. I was REALLY hoping to have a break out run. I know I can run faster than I have been in the 70.3 distance and I’ve really been training hard to do so. That said, Cuse was not the course to prove it. My racing schedule this year has been a little bit flexible with the move but I am feeling good and have decided to enter a local sprint next weekend with Bri before racing Musselman 70.3 in Lake Geneva the next weekend. Big thanks to Team Every Man Jack and all of our wonderful sponsors, and most of all, thanks to Bri and Ellie for your love and support. Thanks for reading!

These two though.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Ending My 2016 Triathlon Season with a Bang (Literally!)

Vineman 70.3

I entered Vineman 8 months ago, in November, 2015. As much as I hate committing to races this far in advance, the allure of racing through California wine country alongside so many of my Every Man Jack teammates won me over. Leading up to Vineman, my training had been going very well. All of the pieces fell into place at Grand Rapids 70.3, and I finish just under 4:05. Two weeks out from Vineman I had the best bike workout of my life (strava file here; 3x20’ followed with a 1 hour easy run). My foot however was less than agreeable (plantar fasciitis arose). This is where having Zach Ruble as a coach paid off. We dialed back the running (I did not run for a week before the race), relying on the many months of solid base I had been building.

For the first time in my life, my airplane to California went 100% smoothly, and a big thanks is owed to my buddy John Savage for having my bike put together by the time I got there. The day before the race, John and I did an easy ride of the run course with the rest of the team before dinner at Bear Republic Brewing Company with fellow team member Adam Carlson (good luck to him at Vineman full this weekend!). After dinner, John and I retreated to our queen size bed, where we devoured two enormous chocolate chip cookies, and he kindly entertained my bulls**t, as I obsessed over splits and race strategy for the next day.

John and I's second race going head to head. The first of which was 5 years ago. You can say there was some (mostly) friendly competition.

Race morning went smoothly thanks to wives and friends of team members who drove us to transition (Vineman has two transitions, we left our cars at T2/Finish and were driven to T1). After ensuring my bike was ready to race and getting my swim stuff out of my bag, I began looking for John so we could load our bags on the truck to be driven back to the finish. Nowhere to be seen, I eventually found him behind the porta-potty, snaring a Diglett (Pokemon). Our wave (20-29 y) would be one of the last to go, and by the time we got into the Russian River, the sun was already beating down overhead. Although previously I had decided I would try to swim with John for as long as I could, I made a game-time decision that that was a bad idea. Instead I lined myself up next to teammate Brian O’Neil, who I knew was a strong swimmer and would be easy to spot with his blue jersey sleeves coming out of his sleeveless Roka wetsuit. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long before Brian was out of sight. Having to abandon my front pack swim plan, I put my head down and swam hard but controlled. At the turnaround it was apparent that I was in no-mans-land, but right next to another athlete in a HUUB wetsuit (Tim Rea). Although we came out of the water together, he escaped me in transition, and it would be many hours before I would see him again.
Swim time: 26:04

Russian River: calm before the storm.

Running out of transition I decided to run up what was a fairly steep hill (or what may be considered a Muncie mountain) before mounting my bike. As I pedaled off I heard the voices of my buddy Dan Farrell and his fiancé Nora, who had driven from Sacramento to cheer us on! Their encouragement motivated me to put some power into the pedals and I surged forward. Having driven the course the day before, I was a little concerned about its “somewhat technical nature” but thankfully my days as a road racer paid off. Navigating through hundreds of age groupers I tried my hardest to enjoy the beautiful scenery and keep my power constant. I could tell pretty early on that my bike legs were not having their best day, but I focused on staying positive and picking people off 1-by-1. A little over an hour in I spotted the distant but distinct backside of Savage. The day before I had joking asked him what he wanted me to say when I went by him on the bike. Politely, he told me to “go f**k myself.” Deciding not to say that, I instead began singing lyrics from a Twenty-one Pilots song (“Holding On ToYou”) we had listened to the day before “lean with it rock with it.” He seemed about as amused as anyone in the middle of a 4-hour suffer-fest could be. The end of the bike was 1 mile no passing zone, which slowed me down and messed up power average a bit. All in all, a good ride.
Bike: 2:16:48 (Strava file here)

Cruising by a vineyard on my Felt IA4 and Enve Composites!
As I racked my bike I exchanged pleasantries with former EMJ teammate Brett King. Only one guy ahead of us he told me. Leaving transition I was pretty nervous, as this was the first run I had done for 7 days. Fortunately, the foot tightness was all but gone. I looked down at my watch half a mile in and realized I was running under 6 minute pace. Dialing it back I went through the first mile in just under 6:10, and about half a mile later caught up with Brett. Brett and I ran side-by-side for the next mile or two, both agreeing that we would be happy with anything around 1:25. He also told me that the next guy up the road has a solid 2+ minutes on us. It was at this point I realized this was the same guy I had done battle with in the swim. When I asked whether the dude could run he looked at me and said “not as well as he can bike.” It was at this point that a guy we passed jokingly told us to “shut up because we were running way too fast to be talking.” Heeding his advice, we kept quiet and pressed on.

The day before I had identified this as the hilliest 13 miles I had run in the past 3 years. In fact, this 13 mile run probably had more elevation change than my “relatively hilly 40 mile rides” in Indiana. At mile 7 I caught and passed Tim, and was feeling great. A mile later that feeling was replaced with hamstrings tighter than rubber bands. This is where having such a big team came in clutch. I couldn’t run a mile without seeing another teammate. The energy and motivation pushed me on as I tried to keep my miles around 7-min, with intermittent stops to stretch the hamstrings. After what seemed like an eternity, I made my way through the finishing shoot where the announcer mentioned something about me traveling from Muncie to “get to the real competition.”

Vineman 70.3 Shrine.

Summary: Won my age group and finished 4th overall amateur, punching my ticket for the 70.3 World Championships in Chattanooga in 2017. I could write so much more about this trip and how awesome it was, but for the sake of brevity I have to neglect the finer details. As we drove back I remember John looking at me and saying something like “It’s a good thing you beat me by 10 minutes, I would have been pissed if you had come out here and squeaked one out on me.” John, you are the man. Last summer he was my best man, and this summer my host for a week. His blog can be found here.

Defiance Sprint

I decided to do this race for two reasons:
1.    My family (Mom and Step-dad) would be in town and were interested in doing the relay
2.    Big cash payout (relatively)

Race morning my buddy and fellow lab member Adam Voss arrived at my house at 4:30am, and my mom, step-dad, Bri, and I loaded our bags into his car and we set out for Defiance, OH. 

The swim took place in the bathtub that was the Defiance reservoir. A big thanks to Jason Tucker who let me borrow his swim skin the day before the race. Although the race was small, the swim was competitive. Immediately, pro-triathlete and ex-collegiate swimmer Kevin Ryan moved to the front of the race, setting a stout pace. I was able to hang on maybe 150 meters before he and Adam (a collegiate swimmer at Brown) escaped me. Swimming as hard as I could, I managed only to lose 45 seconds (and my timing chip) in the water.
Swim: 10:20 (0.5 miles + long run to timing mat)

Neat picture taken by Mark!

The bike at the Defiance sprint is flat and fast. Like super flat. Like, 11 feet of elevation change in 12 miles flat. The day before the race I texted Savage something foolish about trying to average 30mph. It quickly became apparent that was not going to happen. My legs were lead weights and amusingly, I think it may have been from sprinting as hard as I could down a very steep hill before getting onto the bike (the post race muscle soreness from which lasted 3-4 days!). The bike ended up a stalemate between the leader and I.
Bike: ~27 minutes (26.5ish mph) but who knows after I lost my chip…

At least I looked fast.

The run kindly started back up the very steep hill that I had run down to get to transition. Totally out of breath, I was reminded this was no 4-hour race. I could see Kevin, about 40 seconds up on me and I began trying to reel him in. By this point the sun was literally baking me and the humidity was unbelievable. Although I was able to put some time into him on the run, he ran strong and held on for a 29 second win.
Run: Probably around 18:15

Can you see the heat?

Importantly the family (Mom swum, Mark biked, and Bri ran) all made it through their respective legs with a smile on their face and a 3rd place in the relay. After collecting our hardware, Adam drove us back to Muncie before a night of beers and music! Not a bad weekend!

Blues Musician Tab Benoit in Muncie, IN!

Alabama Sidewalk 

Being that I am on summer break, I decided to accompany Bri on a 2 week southern road trip (Muncie à Nashville à Mobile à New Orleans à Charlotte à Virginia à Philadelphia). Being that I am Greg Grosicki, I of course brought all of the necessary training equipment along (bike, trainer, swim gear, running shoes, nutrition, etc.) to continue my preparation for my last race of the season, Steelhead 70.3 (August 14th). While not Boulder, Colorado, I figured I could at least get in some good workouts during the day, followed by some relaxation and recovery in our AirBnB as Bri attended her conference in Mobile, Alabama.

For those of you who have not had the pleasure to travel to Mobile in July, I invite you to imagine a 24h sauna. The silver lining being that the sidewalks are often sheltered by large, branchy trees. Unfortunately, however, these large trees often wreak Pompeii-like havoc on the sidewalks. Turning your 45 minute easy run into a ninja warrior like experience.

Standard Alabama sidewalk.

Even more unfortunately, yesterday this did not bode well for my fairly clumsy stride, my left toe catching a piece of the sidewalk, sending me sprawling to the cement. Feeling like an idiot, I picked myself up and inspected the damage: toe hurts like hell, palms and knee scraped up. At the time, I was more worried about how stupid I would look loping home with blood running down my leg than my toe, but by the time I made it the half mile back to the house, I realized I had bigger problems than blood stains on my fresh sockguy socks. As the day progressed, so did the swelling and discoloration of my toe, eventually forcing a trip to Urgent Care. On the bright side, Springhill Urgent Care in Mobile totally kicked ass. I was out in an hour, with my broken toe suspicion confirmed.

Aleve, its whats for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

While I am pretty bummed about missing Steelhead, and my chance at a sub 2:10 bike split, this season has been filled by some remarkable success:

1.    Four races (1xsprint, 1xolympic, 2xhalf-ironman)
2.    Personal records in three races: sprint, olympic, and half distance
3.    1st place OA, 2nd place OA, 3rd place OA, 4th place OA (amateur)
4.    Qualified for 70.3 worlds

If you had told me at the beginning of the season that I was going to have a season like that, I would have happily accepted. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to race for Team Every Man Jack and all of our FANTASTIC sponsors Felt Bicycles / Roka sports / Garneau / Garmin Fitness / SockGuy / Enve Composites / lululemonmen / rudyproject / Gu Energy / BOCOGear this year. Thanks also to my coach Zach Ruble, for taking me on as an athlete, believing in my ability, encouraging me, and accommodating my schedule. And last but certainly not least, a thanks to my two biggest fans, my wife Briana and our “child/puppy” Ellie Mae. I wouldn’t be able to pursue this crazy dream without you.

Redeeming quality of Alabama = fresh seafood.

Time for some rest and recovery before beginning my final year of school! Can’t wait to see what the future has in store!