Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Swim training through the goggles of a heretic

This afternoon I received the first email from USA triathlon that I didn't immediately delete: "How Often Should I Be Swimming?" The answer? More than I have the past two months. Between dealing with a shoulder injury and focusing on running a respectable Boston marathon my amphibious persona has been cast to the way side. Scrolling through the page my suspicion was confirmed, my one weekly swim was two less than is advised for most beginners, and eight less than "pure competitive swimmers." Towards the bottom of the article the author provides general guidelines for structuring ones workouts: "100s to 500s for endurance, 50s to 200s for mod-hard/tempo efforts, and 25s and 50s for sprints."

Before saying any more, please allow me to provide you some context. As a child I participated in two years of swim lessons, stopping at age 8 because I didn't want to do flip-turns. I started swimming again sophomore year of college at William and Mary, mostly because I got to hang around cute girls in swimsuits but partly because I almost drowned in my first triathlon. It took me 15 minutes to swim 1/2 mile. While by no means do I consider myself a good swimmer, I now get out of the water in an olympic distance triathlon (full mile) in less than 20 minutes and beat the majority of my competitors. So how have I made this progress?

Based on the above recommendations, about 10% of my swim sets include sprints/tempo efforts and 30% fall into the "endurance" category. So what do I do the rest of my swims? The average college student will run a 5k in about 25-30 minutes, about the time it takes to swim 1 mile in an olympic distance triathlon. Maybe I am mistaken, but I haven't seen a whole lot of 5k running plans that involve a bunch of 10-45 second sprints. So if we are training for an ironman (2.4 mile swim, 60+ minutes), or much less an olympic distance triathlon (1 mile swim, ~30 minutes) why is it that we repeatedly swim 1-2 minute intervals, stopping at the wall after each to catch our breath? One answer might be that unlike running, swimming performance is far more dependent on technique. Fair, but would we not expect the act of swimming itself to help resolve at least some biomechanical inefficiencies? The fact of the matter is, traditional swim sets involving a lot of 25s, 50s and 100s to me make a lot more sense for someone trying to race really fast 1-5 minutes.

So how do I swim? In short, differently. My "favorite" set is a 5x1k moderate-hard, using minimal "pool toys." And I regularly swim fairly easy monotonous sets. For example, 6 sets of 500, swim, pull buoy, paddles. No agenda or ambition to go fast, just get in the water and swim. Much like as a runner the vast majority of my runs are just to get out and run 45 minutes at an easy to moderate pace. Most swimmers laugh when I tell them my sets, but fewer laugh when I beat them out of the water. While I can't attest to the effectiveness of this approach for everyone, I have to say, it seems to work pretty decently for me.

Monday, January 1, 2018

2017 by the numbers

2017 was without a doubt my best year of athletic achievement to date. Three overall triathlon wins and a course record, an 8th place AG finish at the 70.3 World championship, and my first full ironman finish (9:01), a race that earned me a trip to Kona 2018. Needless to say I'm left with some pretty big shoes to fill in 2018. In an attempt to learn from this past year I have spent some time compiling my training data (shout-out to Strava). For those interested, here is a look at the anatomy of my 2017 season:

Cumulative Summary

4,740 miles
191 rides 
Longest ride: 112 (Aug 6th)
*Many of these rides were on the trainer (0 miles) so average pace could not be calculated

1,507 miles
228 runs
Avg run distance: 6.5 miles
Avg run pace: 7:02 min/mile
Longest run: 26 miles (Louisville)

475,883yd (270 miles)
141 swims 
Avg swim distance: 3300y
Longest swim: 10,000m (Dec 30th)

6516 miles
586h (24.4 days or 6.6% of the year)

Monthly training snapshot

January: ~52 hours – 1 day off
February: ~41 hours – 3 days off
March: ~50 hours – 2 days off
April: ~52 hours – 1 day off
May: ~50 hours – 3 days off
June: ~53 hours – 4 days off
July: ~56 hours – 4 days off
August: ~67 hours – 1 day off
September: ~52 hours – 6 days off
October: ~38 hours – 11 days off
November: ~34 hours – 1 day off
December: ~41 hours – 3 days off

Mean monthly: ~49h
Median monthly: 51h
Days off: 40

Weekly training snapshot
Mean weekly hours: 11h15m
Peak week: 17h55m (Aug 14-20th)
Low week: 0h (thats right, a whole week of no training!)

Sprints: 2x (2 wins)
Olympics: 0
70.3: 3x (1 win)
140.6: 1x
5k: 1x (16:40)*hungover and in pajamas
4-miler: 1x (21:24)

USA triathlon national ranking: 3rd (25-29y male)

A lot of really cool numbers (if you're into things like that)! So why was this past year different and what can I learn?

1. CONSISTENCY IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF BEING A TRIATHLETE. The two BIGGEST CHANGES I made in the past year was that I took MORE DAYS OFF AND I RAN SLOWER. This started with a New Years resolution I made January 1st to do the vast majority of my runs with a heart rate of less than 150 bpm. At first it sucked and was frustrating and many of my runs I felt like I was walking. Slowly but surely though I became more efficient and there were a few runs I was able to sneak under 7 min per mile keeping my heart rate low.

2. THE TRAINER SUCKS BUT IT MAKES YOU FAST. Boston is cool, there is lots of great food and beer. Riding the trainer when its 75 degrees out and sunny because you dont have time to spend an hour getting out of the city sucks. That said, riding the trainer makes you fast. Period. My normalized power at IM Louisville was 225 watts (strava file here). This is only 3 watts less than I held at my first 70.3 (Muncie in 2013). The biggest difference was that before Louisville Bri and I were doing a lot of traveling, forcing me to do some pretty ridiculous early morning trainer sessions. Probably the "best" of which was a 4h session commencing at 4:30am before a day of work (file here).

3. IF YOU WANT TO BE SUCCESSFUL, FIND GOOD TRAINING PARTNERS....AND A WIFE THAT WON'T KILL YOU FOR SPENDING 12H A WEEK TRAINING. Motivation waxes and wanes, theres no denying it. But when the alarm goes off at 5am its harder to snooze when you have training partners to hold you responsible. Thank you Richard Fineman (blog here), Corey Robinson, and Mike Hoffman. Find yourself some good reliable training partners. Oh, and make sure your wife won't kill you for having an alarm that goes off at 5am. Bonus points if she can cook.

Finally, I'd be amiss if I failed to mention how great its been to race for Team Every Man Jack the past three years. My teammates are a constant source of inspiration and are always willing to help out in any way they can. The sponsors we have are incredible and I wouldn't be where I am without their support. I am super pumped to be racing for Team Every Man Jack again in 2018. Big shoes to fill indeed, time to start training.

Sunday, October 22, 2017


After arguably one of my best races to date at the 70.3 World Championships I knew signing up for IM Louisville that the fitness was there, and with only five weeks separating these races the opportunity for “GAINS” was minimal. At the end of last season I read a blog by Lionel Sanders where he mentioned taking something like 50 days of total rest in 2016. Summing the zeros on my personal training log I was surprised that even after 14 days of forced down time due to a broken toe I had taken fewer days off than one of the best triathletes in the world. With his swim improving, I made a vow in 2016 that I would beat Lionel the only place I could, taking days off. To accomplish this formidable task, after each of my half-distance races this year I have taken 3 days to drink beer, eat ice cream, and write blog posts. I feel this was particularly beneficial after the brutal run course at 70.3 Worlds, and allowed me to crank out a really solid weekend of training only 5 days after (18 mile long run on Saturday followed by a brick Sunday consisting of a solo 108 mile ride followed by 3 miles OTB). Feeling good and having convinced Bri to let me spend a bunch of money so she could sit around all day, that evening I signed up for Louisville.

Turns out that although it is extremely advantageous to have a sugar momma who can pay for your expensive races that sugar momma might also get you sick. Three days after signing up for Louisville I had a full blow upper respiratory infection. To make things more interesting the next two weekends we would be traveling to Chicago and D.C. for weddings. Backing off training a bit I did everything in my power to get my health back on track. I was very happy to have the support of Sound Probiotics during this time as maintaining good bacterial health in the gut is an essential component of immune health! After about a week I began to start feeling better and before traveling to D.C. set a PR by making it 4h on the trainer (a session that was done by 830am).

17 mile run in Chi-town pre wedding festivities


Its a beautiful morning for a 4h trainer session

Coming into race week the nerves were high. In all honesty, I’m not sure I felt hungry the entire week. Thursday afternoon Corey, his dad, Bri, and I made an uneventful trip to Cincinnati before driving to our AirBnB just 2.5 miles from the start in Louisville. Knowing we were ironmen, our host graciously gifted us a $10 gift card to the local bakery, which I used to procure all sorts of delicious donuts and cookies ($10 goes a lot further in Louisville than Boston). Although I would have liked to take my bike for a spin that afternoon, not having a pump to put air in my tires put the kaibosh on that idea so I spent my afternoon eating sugar cookies. The next day, we hooked up with teammate James Defilippi and family who had driven down from Virginia, and James and I took our bikes out for a check-ride. Of course my pedal was squeaking something fierce but James being the bike guru that he is quickly diagnosed it as a cleat problem. Sure enough, after tightening it up the noise was gone and I was satisfied. After the ride we met up with Corey for a short swim to test out the current but Ironman was requiring athletes to have their chips to enter the water. Clearly the taper gods were telling me I needed more rest, so we went out to breakfast where I ordered the “basic bitch special” – pumpkin pancakes that may or may not have been accompanied by a PSL... #AllPumpkinEverything


James ripping it on our morning ride


To my utter amazement the night before the race I feel to sleep with ease...although that may have been a product of not being able to sleep the night before. Pre-race breakfast was my usual, a blueberry bagel (they didn’t have pumpkin) with cream cheese, a banana, and some coffee. I’ll come back to this later but next IM I will certainly be upping the calories in this meal. Waiting for the swim start I sipped on some EFS pro cucumber while I watched athletes pee in their wetsuits. I got in line for the rolling swim start next to teammates Colin Martin and James Defilippi and we chatted with nearby competitors right up to the point where we jumped into the water. I have to say, even with my Jade mirror Roka R1 goggles the first 15 minutes of the swim were still pretty dark as the sun was yet to rise. Making my way upstream I focused on keeping my effort smooth and even and my kicking to a minimum. Thinking back to Matt Dixon’s pre-race briefing before 70.3 Worlds, on the way out I tried to stay a bit closer to the shore in hopes the current would be less robust and on my way downstream I tried to stay closer to the middle of the river so as to optimize current utilization. Never having done an IM swim, I was a little unsure how I should be feeling but I was motivated by the number of athletes I was passing versus being passed by. Seeing the shore I increased my kick a bit to prepare for the bike when all of a sudden I felt a cramp coming on in my right calf. Not ideal. Swimming the remainder of the distance with my legs limp behind me I made it to the exit where I was able to take a glance at my watch.

Three dudes before a long day of exercise

Totally ecstatic with my swim time I grabbed my transition bag from the volunteers and ran into the changing tent. Sitting down in the chair I glanced down at my bag to realize I had been given the wrong bag. Fortunately as I ran out of the tent yelling my number the volunteers realized their error and quickly gave me my bag, THANK YOU! Heading out on the bike course I was feeling good and holding my watts when all of a sudden two guys went flying by me. I glanced down at my power meter and decided to let them go. Twenty minutes later I saw them ahead working together in what appeared to be a fairly legal manner. With a lot of ground still to cover I decided to gamble by working my way up to them. While I knew it might require burning a few too many matches, I decided 112 miles of solo riding might get awful lonely and so I was going to do my best to keep these riders in my sites.

Before long our crew was joined by teammate Colin Martin and another rider in a black kit (who I have since learned was ex-pro Ray Botelho). Keeping a solid gap between one another our 5-man crew made our way through the course with close monitoring by the race officials. It was nice having these guys around as it really helped take my mind off what lay ahead. Exchanging pleasantries with the two rides in the blue kits who had originally passed me I came to find out they had made the trip from Germany in search of Kona slots. As we made our way through LaGrange on the second lap our efforts were revitalized by a throng of spectators. Keeping up with my nutrition I focused on staying aero and holding steady. After completing the second loop we began a 20-mile trek back to Louisville straight into a headwind. Looking back briefly I could see our crew had been whittled down with only of the Germans about 100m back. With my power numbers still right where I wanted I began mentally preparing for the run. Bike feastings: 2 bottles of EFS @ 280 calories a bottle, 8 GU’s, 1.5 bottles of Gatorade, and some water (total about 1700 calories).

Getting passed by teammate Colin Martin

Heading out on the run it felt HOT. When I had checked the weather in the morning I was pleased to see the temperature was predicted to drop in the afternoon. About a half mile in Bri and good friends Gwen and Kevin who had driven from Muncie and Lexington to cheer me on excitedly greeted me. Seeing Kevin I think I made some explicit comment about how little fun I was having. My goal before the race was to run no faster than 7 min/mile. Clocking the first mile at 6:57 I was satisfied but wasn’t feeling great. The second mile I think we ran by some sort of restaurant and the smell of hamburgers sent my mind daydreaming about solid food. By the third mile I felt my legs slowing a bit. Taking down a GU and drinking some coke at mile three I backed off a bit and waited for the sugar to take its effect. Slowly I felt the negative thoughts lifting and my pace quickening. The next 23 miles I continued to make longer and longer visits to this dark place followed by transient glucose-mediated returns to the light.

Eric brings me good and bad news

Before heading out on loop two of this death march I was again greeted by Bri, Gwen, and Kevin who I have since learned were in great spirits after doing a tequila shot. I think I said something to Bri about how badly I wanted to walk. She responded by telling me to “suck it up and eat more food.” It was at this point that Corey’s brother Eric told me that I was 4 minutes up on second but that he was running 6:30 min/miles. Shit. The news that third was 15 minutes back revitalized me in a major way. Heading the bosses advice the next aid station I picked up some GU blocks and began shoving them down my throat. Amazingly, the GU blocks seemed to be offering something the GU’s couldn’t and I began feeling more alive. Somewhere around mile 17 my 4-min gap had been totally erased and eventual age group winner Jacob Gilden passed me like I was standing still. My hats off to him for an amazing 2:57 run split. At mile 19 the blocks ran out and the self-bargaining began, “OK, so if I run 10 min/miles for the next 7 miles I’ll be done in almost an hour?” In the middle of these thoughts I was passed by a very tall pro wearing a white kit with a dinosaur on the back of it (Doug MacLean). Wishing a dinosaur would eat me and put an end to this I made some comment about how poorly I was feeling to which he responded something along the lines of “dude its ironman, it always sucks and you are killing it!” With my suffering in perspective I kept plugging away, stopping at every aid station for either Coke or Gatorade. I knew I was losing it when I started throwing Red Bull in my face - an experience that definitely didn’t give me wings but did cause an acute loss of vision. At mile 22 I tried to pick up the pace but the legs weren’t responding. Running down the red carpet on Fourth Street live I saw myself on the overhead video and fed of the energy of hundreds of spectators banging on the railings and cheering me on – what a way to finish! Run feastings: 5 GU’s, 1 pack of clif blocks, and a lot of coke (800-900 calories – WAY more than I would have liked to have eaten but they were necessary).

No words

Soon after my finish I was joined by teammates James Defilippi, Corey Robinson, and Colin Martin. A heck of a day for Team Every Man Jack to have four athletes finish by 9:35. Even more exciting was that James Defilippi finished third in his age group and after FIVE ironman attempts (second this year) had qualified for Kona. James is a total class-act and a large part of the reason I was racing Louisville. It has been inspirational watching him train his butt off and I cant think of a guy more deserving of a Kona slot.

The night before the race James daughter looked up at him and said "Daddy, I think I'd like to go to Hawaii." Guess what Annie, you are going!

In all honesty, the reality of what I was able to accomplish last weekend is still setting in. I feel incredibly blessed to have had such a great experience at my first ironman distance race. Bri and I are very excited to go to Kona next fall and many of our family members have already expressed interest in joining. Importantly, I feel my experience at Louisville taught me a few lessons:
1)    Nutrition:
-       GU energy makes more than gels for a reason. At mile two of the run my nose caught a whiff of something that smelled like burgers sending my body searching for a four-course meal. The scientific data support the idea that the body can process around 90g of carbohydrate per hour (~360 calories per hour) during moderate intensity exercise. So while I’m pretty sure the number of calories I consumed on the bike was sufficient, perhaps I will supplement my gel arsenal with some tasty waffles/chomps to get in some solid food.
-       Race morning breakfast needs to be more substantial. I don’t think it makes much sense to take in any more calories on the bike because my body won’t be able to process them. I estimate I ate only about 500 calories for breakfast. In all honesty my nutrition before long training days was quite variable, ranging from a large bowl of mini-wheats and yogurt to a breakfast sandwich. Regardless, I think by taking in more calories for breakfast I can hopefully decrease the amount I need to eat on the run because to put it quite frankly putting down 300 calories per hour while trying to run sucks.
2)    Training:
-       Even with wedding/travel on two of the three weeks leading into Louisville I feel my training was pretty close to optimal. That being said, I REALLY wish I had done a longer run off of the bike. Most of my long rides (90-110 miles) were followed by shorter 20-30 minute runs at a hard effort (545-615 min/mile). I think the addition of a 60 mile ride with a 16 mile or so run off the bike at or faster than IM goal pace would have been very helpful. Coming into Louisville I had never run more than 13.1 off of the bike.
3)    Bike pacing:
-       I may or may not have over-biked a bit. My normalized power for the ride was 231 (3.6 w/kg and ~75% of estimated FTP – I haven’t done a test since January). I was shooting to be more in the range of 220-225. I feel my marathon could have been faster, although it’s hard to say if that was a nutrition or bike pacing thing.

This past week I have taken completely off and next week will probably look similar. It’s been nice sleeping in, drinking beers, and doing normal person things like going hiking with the family. As I reflect back on this past season I am amazed at what I have been able to accomplish. A huge debt of gratitude to Team Every Man Jack for bringing me on board three years ago and to my teammates who motivate and encourage me. None of this would have been possible without the incredible support of our sponsors, Felt bicycles for providing me with a ride that makes over-biking worthwhile, Roka sports for a wetsuit that continually puts me in the front-pack, Garneau apparel for the best looking kits on the tri scene, Garmin for enough data to satisfy my OCD, BOCO gear for hats that keep us cool and looking sharp, Lululemon for comfortable clothes that allow me to turn my inner-basic bitch up an octave, and Ever Man Jack for helping me #cleanupnice after working out 2x a day for the past 10 months. Thank you to my family and friends for encouraging me all season long, your support means the world to me. Finally, thank you to my wife Briana for always being by my side, and for not getting angry when I ride the trainer at 5am in our 600-square foot studio.

Family hike at Mount Major yesterday

Monday, September 18, 2017

The 70.3 World Championship

Let me start by saying that no race report could possibly capture my experience last weekend. I have had an incredibly fortunate year of triathlon-ing and this past weekend only made it better. Thursday afternoon myself, Bri, and good friend and Every Man Jack teammate Corey Robinson convened at the Boston airport for our flight to Atlanta. My weekends luck began when Corey informed me he was a Jet Blue Mosaic member, which meant free mile-high drinks. Two and a half hours later, a fairly tipsy Greg arrived in Atlanta. After voyaging across the airport and getting our bags we made our way out to our rental car, a Jeep Renegade, a member of the “mini-SUV class.” Let me impart some wisdom upon you and just say that fitting 3 people, their bags, and 2 bikes in Scicon bike cases in a mini-SUV is a real challenge. Fortunately, I’m better at Tetris when buzzed and after 20 minutes we were loaded up and on our way to Chattanooga (rear derailleurs still fully intact).

Lesson learned.

One of the best parts of the whole trip was staying in EMJ housing. We were super fortunate to be in a house less than 2 miles from the racecourse with teammates Jason Sandquist, Peter Mendes, Kevin Denny, and Brendan Loehr. Not having had the chance to attend EMJ camp the past three years due to school, it as AWESOME getting to meet the guys on the team. I was particularly pleased to meet Kevin Denny (also in my age group), with whom I’ve exchanged countless Strava kudos and Facebook messages but have yet to meet in person. Kevin is also a stellar triathlete and wicked fast runner and his blog can be found here. Although I didn’t tell him, for weeks leading up to the race I had hoped to avoid letting Kevin get away from me for as long as possible.

Saturday morning Corey, Ryan Linden, James Defillippi, and I went for an easy spin to loosen the legs before the race and ended at a GREAT breakfast place called the Daily Ration (blueberry pancakes were #LITAF). The Ration also happened to be just off the course, which made for great post-breakfast spectating of the women’s race! That afternoon I tried to take a nap but the image of the women trying to run up the very large and steep hill kept me awake. That evening we had a pasta dinner with the GU crew before going to bed early.

Filling the engines while our bikes rest.

Canine of the Daily Ration.

The EMJ Boston 3 + #realhousewivesofEMJ 
In all honesty, I am over-the-moon to have met Corey and Mike. Great training buddies, great dudes.

Race morning came unfortunately early considering the 25-29y age group would be one of the last to go. The pros were seeded to start at 730am, so they would be out of the water and half-way through the bike before our wave even began at 905. Making my way out to the dock I found Kevin and we decided to stick together for the swim. The swim was a long square, the first portion of which we would swim across current before turning right and swimming the majority of the swim up-stream. As we made our way to the dock Kevin and I noted how many athletes were being carried downstream. Quickly we decided rather than swim with the masses, we would focus on the sighting buoy to avoid the extra distance. Diving in I gave a huge sigh of relief when my goggles didn’t fill with water and quickly I began swimming hard for position. Looking around I realized Kevin and I had escaped from the 8 other athletes we had entered the water with. Swimming alongside Kevin we made our way to the first buoy and turned upstream. Thinking back to all of the 5x1ks I have done in the pool this year (an infamous Zach Ruble special – my coach last year) I focused and swam HARD. It felt like it was taking forever to reach the turn-around, and to make matters worse the sun was high in the sky and quite blinding. Getting out of the water I was happy to be under 30 and ready to ride. Bonus yards on watch because I didnt hit lap until I was well into transition.

GET IT OFF ME!!!!!!!!

Transition was long and awkward. Like an idiot I spent nearly a minute trying to get my darn wetsuit off. Grabbing my bike I ran out of transition and for maybe the first time in my life nailed my flying mount and quickly got into my shoes. The first 4 miles of the course were HIGHLY congested and very frustrating. Fortunately it was not long until we reached the beginning of a steep (10%) climb (3-4 miles in length). Although it had been forever since I had done a climb like this, when the road goes up, Greg tends to go faster than most. Settling into a cadence I began picking people off and focused on keeping my power steady at around 300 watts. Its really too bad the whole course couldn’t have been a climb, because after passing hundreds it was time to descend, which I tend to do very poorly. My lack of desire to go downhill fast was compounded by the large number of older age-group men with a fist-full of break that had positioned themselves in the dead center of the road. Not to mention the very confused motorists on the road. Needless to say the descent was not my finest moment. After the race Corey and I compared numbers and I lost almost a minute to him in what was a 6-7 minute segment (depending on who are you). The rest of the course was rolling and I focused on riding hard but within myself. My power staying where I wanted it to I thought about my conversation with teammate Brendan Loehr (rated by slowtwitch as having the best amateur bike position) and tried my best to keep my head low and aero (“turtle tuck”). The day before I had foolishly told someone how I was going to ride the course faster than womens champion Daniela Ryf (2:20). Turns out that not only is she better looking, shes faster on the bike....

Doing my best to make Brendan proud #AeroIsEverything

Awesome pic by Mrs. Navarro! Felt looking FAST.

Heading into transition I spotted teammate Daniel Isaacson headed out on the course. Having swum at NYU I expected for Daniel to beat me in the swim but I had hoped to catch him on the bike. Turns out not only can he swim, he’s a very strong cyclist. The first mile I focused on staying within myself and getting into a rhythm. Although it felt pretty easy, it turned out 615-630 min/mile would be the goal. The first couple of miles there were a few athletes that went by me and although I wanted to go with, I kept my cool and focused on running a pace I could sustain. The two loop course took you across the Tennessee river and up a large ½ mile before going down the hill and coming back over. Essentially, 4 hills of joy. The first loop I felt pretty decent, but I knew the race wouldn’t start till the second. Before getting to the hills the second time I caught Daniel and we exchanged words of encouragement with one another. As I began to make my way up the first hill a Canadian athlete in my age group, came flying by me. Quickening my pace I decided to stay with him as long as I can. Fighting off cramps in my calves I did my best to keep him in my sights. With a mile to go I saw my good friend Gilberto Navarro and his family who had made the drive from Atlanta to watch me. With half a mile to go and Canadia still in sights, I let it rip. Running what felt like 800m race pace I passed Mr. Maple Leaf and crossed the finish line. Much to my chagrin, Canada started behind me and actually still beat me....this is why I cant have nice things. It is also why ironman needs to get rid of this dumb crap like rolling starts. If you are strong enough to make it to the world championships, you should be able to fend for yourself in a mass start).
Lap 1, smiling.....kinda

Lap 2, not smiling as much.

Finishing- not smiling at all #HurtLocker
Photo by Talbot Cox.

Crossing the finish line I immediately started to wonder where Kevin was. Looking up my question was answered as I saw him cross seconds behind me. Thanks for pushing me Kevin, Im not sure I have ever dug that deep, and I think the picture is a testament to that. It was not long before I saw Bri who informed me we had both finished top-10 in our age group. Happy, tired, and wanting to sit down I found a place in the shade where I was able to subject Gilberto and his family to race tales. That evening the whole team met up at a great local bar/pub for food, drink, and merriment. It was great to get to hang out with more of the guys, especially when we could slay beers without a race hanging over our heads.

Best Fan. Im sorry for telling you to hush up when you told me I could catch the guy ahead of me out on the course ;)

Navarro family. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR COMING!!!!

 Photo by Talbot Cox.

Its been a heck of a triathlon season. Going into the race I had this crazy idea that maybe, just maybe, if the body was feeling good, I would sign-up for one more race. For years I have dreamed of racing a full ironman. I have spent countless hours on the trainer watching youtube videos of athletes coming down the finishing chute on 4th street in Louisville, KY. 27 days from now, I hope to join them.

Thanks for reading. 


Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Dam Sprint Tri + Musselman Half: A Tale of Two Wins

Fourteen thousand four-hundred - the number of seconds in four hours. Four hours - my goal half-ironman time. So why is breaking that four hour barrier so difficult? Well, in addition to having to swim, bike, and run really, really fast, there are fourteen-thousand four-hundred possibilities for something to go wrong. While my four hour quest still eludes me, I feel very fortunate that the past two weekends of racing (nearly 20,000 seconds) almost every second went my way. Thank you triathlon gods, as a homage, I will do my best to share the highlights.

The Dam Sprint Triathlon
Being that this was my first year in the North East, I have been hesitant to formulate a concrete race schedule. As it turns out, the New England triathlon scene has a lot to offer! After a great start to the season at Syracuse, I was hungry for more. Throwing wood on the fire, Bri told me she wanted to get back into the triathlon scene after a 9 year hiatus. It wasn't long (less than 3600 seconds) before we had picked out The Dam Sprint Triathlon in Amesbury, MA. One of the things I liked about this race is that it was true to distance, rather than many sprints with abbreviated 400-500m swims. Bri was less enthused, but it did mean we got to spend a few evenings together swimming outdoors at the local Charlestown pool (distance unknown, on good days 37y and days when Im swimming slow 43y).

                                                 Charlestown Outdoor Pool (less than 1/2 mile from our door)

Race week preparation went well. Knowing I had signed up for Musselman the week after I didn't want to taper too much the week before so I kept the volume and intensity fairly high throughout the week. Two days before the race I threw in some 30"-30"'s to give the legs a taste of high-intensity that they hadn't experienced for far too long. The way my legs felt as I rode into work that day suggested I may have made a mistake, but only time would tell.

Race morning Bri and I loaded up the car and drove 45 minutes north to the small town of Amesbury, MA. Not having competed in a local race for a while we were thrilled at the ease of picking up our packets and setting our stuff up in transition. We had so much time in fact that there was time for a nap (Bri) and music listening (Greg) in the car before the race. Honestly, I HATE sitting around in transition and watching people set there stuff up as I wait for the race to start. It makes me super nervous, so I often recluse to the car where I can listen to some tunes and try to de-stress.

The water that morning was calm and peaceful, for which I was very grateful, especially with Bri racing. The "elite" field was small, which I enjoyed as it meant I would hopefully be able to find some clean water. Having gotten in a solid warm-up I planned to really step on it until I hit the first buoy and evaluate from there. Feeling really good, as I reached the buoy, and not seeing anyone on either side of me I focused on keeping my turn-over high and not falling in to my 70.3 pace. As I got out of the water I glanced back to see I had opened up a pretty substantial gap. Unzipping my Roka wetsuit as I ran into transition feeding off the energy of being first out of the water for the second time in my life!
Swim time: 10:44 (no strava, Bri had my Garmin 920 XT #HubbyOfTheYear)

                                                                                        Race morning!

Unlike Syracuse, my "quasi flying mount" went much more smoothly this go-round. In less than a minute I had my feet strapped in to my Garneau Tri-400 shoes and I was ready to roll. One of the best things about being first out of the water is getting to follow the lead moto. There is something that just feels bad ass about riding behind a motorcycle, its definitely motivating! It took a while for my legs to come around, but I remained calm as I knew it was a product of the heavy training the preceding weeks. By the end I was pushing some pretty good watts and felt ready for the run!
Bike: 30:34 (logged on the Garmin 500, Im not giving up all my data!)

Setting out on the run without a watch it was pretty hard to evaluate the state of my legs. After what felt like 10 minutes of running I came across the first mile marker, YIKES I thought to myself, hopefully I am carrying a pretty good lead off the bike. Reaching the turn around I immediately realized I had been running uphill almost the entire stretch out. Opening up my stride I took advantage of the free speed on the way back home, crossing the finish line and securing the win. Man did it feel good to run a 5k like that at the end of a race!
Run: 17:19
Race time: 1:00:39

After my race I waited around for Bri to come back from the bike and then ran along with her. It was nice to get to watch her finish the race and dig deep. At the awards ceremony I got to chat with second place finisher, Wattie Ink athlete Gabe Dakowicz who was coming off a solid race at Rev3 Quassy and shared some insight about other worthwhile local races, thanks Gabe!

                                                               She didnt tell me to shut-up a single time!

Musselman 70.3
Before I discuss anything related to this race I need to start by thanking Alyson Fletcher and the wonderful WheelWorks traithlon squad in Boston for telling me about this race and letting me crash with them at their AirBnB the night before. Without them, there would have been no Musselman for me. THANK YOU.

This year the race happened to fall on a weekend when I had told Bri I would drive up to Rochester with her for a gathering of young historic preservationists. Fortunately Lake Seneca (Geneva, NY) was less than an hour away, making this a perfect escape...I mean opportunity. Heading into the weekend I was a bit anxious about some lingering aches from the weekend before but they managed to clear up by race day....as they usually, do.

The race was on Sunday so Saturday afternoon I packed up the car in Rochester and made the short drive down to Lake Geneva. One of the cool things about Musselman is how supportive the town is of the race. There is a huge wall next to packet pick-up that athletes over the years have signed. See below my new, and very tall, friend friend Kristof of the Wheelworks multisport signing the wall. I expect I was the first, but hopefully not the last, to write "Team Every Man Jack" on this mural.

After picking up our packets and cleaning our bikes at our awesome AirBnB we headed to the small town of Penn Yann for dinner. On the way to dinner we learned that Penn Yann is short for Pennsylvania Yankee, and we enjoyed checking out their downtown, home of the world record pancake (and the dog that ate it).

                                         Alyson and Leah stand next to the mold used to make the largest pancake ever!

                                                                    Good luck kisses from a very large K-9.

Race morning I subjected Leah and Kristof to my usual pre-race soundtrack (an eclectic mix featuring Breaking Benjamin, Martin Garraix, Twenty One Pilots, and THE Notorious BIG). After setting up in transition and exchanging pleasantries with the athletes around me (in hopes they'll watch out for my stuff as I go sit in my car) Kristof and I headed back to the car in hopes of finding him a charger for his phone (his Garmin died and he is well aware of the adage that if its not on strava it doesnt count). Unfortunately, our request for a charger was not very well received by the 50y old gentleman next to us, who we could tell was disgusted with our millennial desire to constantly be connected, so Kristof would have to race blind and without "kudos."

Unlike Syracuse, I decided the water was warm enough to get in a bit of a warm-up before the race. After splashing around for a few minutes I assembled next to the rest of the 25-39y wave and waited for the race to start. As an aside, ALL races should have bigger waves like this, especially if individuals are in contention for the overall. It sucks to lose to someone who started 5' behind or in front of you! Following a similar strategy as the week before I decided to swim HARD for to the first buoy. My efforts into a pretty fierce chop seemed pretty futile and it was made worse by the gap that the dolphin diving athlete next to me was creating. At the first buoy I judged myself to be in about 4th or 5th and kept swimming hard. After the second turn we headed back to shore and into a canal with the waves at our back. The sun was bright and I couldnt see where I was going, so I relied on the splash of the athletes in front of me. I hoped that if they were ahead of me they were fast enough to have some idea as to where we were going. Fortunately they did, and because of it I had a pretty darn good swim.
Swim: 26:22  (shoutout to Roka for getting me under 27 twice in a year now!)

In Amesbury it took a while for my legs to warm-up. This time it didnt. After getting my shoes on I was ready to ride my new Felt IA10 to its fastest 70.3 bike split yet. I loved racing on the IA4 last year but the electronic shifting is a total game changer. The first 17 miles of the course were into a bit of an uphill headwind, after which you are rewarded with a downhill tailwind on a wide open road. Averaging almost 30mph for 10 miles, I thought to myself how crazy it is that some guys can ride this fast almost the entire race! Somewhere around mile 45 of the bike the lead moto headed down a road that said "no outlet." If I had to make one complaint about this race it would have been this ~2mi section of pretty much gravel road. Rather than worrying about flatting I chose to focus on all of the gravel grinding I have done in Shenandoah County, VA as a college student and enjoyed the challenge.
Bike: 2:16:40 (57 miles)

                                            Thanks to Louis Garneau and Every Man Jack for making me look fast.

As I headed out of transition I heard the announcer ask me what I had done to the rest of the athletes as there was no one in sight. The first mile I ran along next to the race director who was using his phone to broadcast it on social media which was pretty neat. While some of the course was flat, it certainly had some very steep hills and many were unpaved gravel or on grass. Having been pretty busy with work the week leading into the race I really hadn't had much of a chance to check the run profile, but the first 7 miles were definitely mostly uphill. At one point my bike escort, who insisted on riding about 3/4 of a mile ahead and scavenging the water at the aid stations, said something about me having a 12 minute lead, which was almost 6 minutes off. With about 2 miles to go I really felt the day taking its toll so I slowed down at one of the aid stations to pound some gatorade and take a GU. It did the trick and for the second weekend in a row I was fortunate enough to be the first to cross the line.
Run: 1:22:35
Overall: 4:08:24 (2nd fastest time at the 70.3 distance)

After the race I got to chat with Pat McDonald of The Finger Lake Times who wrote a nice piece after talking to myself and women's champion, and new course record holder, Jennie Hansen. At the beginning of the season I had plans of racing The Boston Triathlon (next weekend), but I have decided that after two weekends of racing it would be best to forgo this event so that I can let the body recover and keep my eyes on 70.3 Worlds in September.

If you've made it this far, do me a favor and log onto ironman tracker and give my buddy John Savage a follow next weekend as he takes on his first full IM at Santa Rosa. He has been training his ass off and is going to totally crush it!

As always, thanks for reading!