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!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Grand Rapids 70.3 2016: You get out what you put in.

           There are many things that draw me to triathlon but I think what I like most about it is simple: “you get out what you put in.” To me, this is the great appeal of all endurance sports. There is no hiding behind others and no blame to be cast on anyone else. It is you, against you. You against a 2-hour interval session on the trainer, and in the end, the numbers don’t lie. I think the chorus in this song nails it:
“This is ten percent luck, twenty percent skill
Fifteen percent concentrated power of will
Five percent pleasure, fifty percent pain
And a hundred percent reason to remember the name!”
In fact, triathlon training is probably a lot more than fifty percent pain, but you get the picture. I am fortunate that both my greatest strength and biggest weakness is my ability to go “all-in.” In February I made a decision to go “all-in” on triathlon. Ok, that may be a little heavy, I am still writing a dissertation, trying to be a husband, and caring for a puppy, but you get the picture. What happened at Grand Rapids last weekend validated this decision.

            Last year Grand Rapids did not disappoint. The course was absolute fantastic, and the race seems to bring out some of the fastest racers not only in the Midwest, but in the country. While I was able to squeeze out a pretty solid swim/bike last year, I fell apart pretty bad in the run. As Bri and I made our way north on Saturday morning, flashbacks to those last few miles set-in. Dear god, not again. We arrived early afternoon on Saturday, perfect time to pick up our packet and make a trip to Vivant brewery before grabbing dinner with some teammates. A day before the race beer seems to be customary with me, but they always say not to do make any drastic changes the night of the race.... At dinner teammates Ryan Linden, Zachary Carr and I discussed all-things triathlon. The highlight of the conversation was probably our appreciation for our new ENVE 7.8 wheels, and about how our arms are too small to get the tires on them without throwing them in the dryer first.

Brews at Vivant. I drove Bri to dinner.
            Race morning wake-up was 4am. Of course Ellie being the anxious dog she is, refused to take a poop the entirety of the trip, which meant she spent a good portion of the night wandering around the room crying, not the best night of sleep. We were lucky to score a mini-kitchenette where I prepared my standard bialetti (stove top espresso) and put it in a mason jar to be consumed 1 hour before the race. Arriving to the course well before the start I was able to get set up in transition without stress which was very nice! As we waited for the swim start I followed my nose to the scent of monster energy, being consumed by coach Zach Ruble. We chatted a bit and all of a sudden I realized I still had my wedding ring on (it certainly would have gone flying off first couple of strokes). Fortunately I was able to pass it off to teammate Mark Beckwith’s father who was standing nearby. Crisis averted, it would not have been the best to lose it after less than a year!

My blood type = caffeine.

            The swim start was sort of sudden, which kind of lowered the stress. I put myself at the front of the group and immediately began swimming HARD towards the first buoy. Looking around I immediately realized this field was much stronger than the one at Terre Haute, as there were still at least 10 other swimmers around me. I decided to kick it up another gear until I reached the next buoy, in an attempt to create some separation. It worked! By the next buoy I could see two swimmers a good 20m in front of me (this is what I refer to in my head during the race as “the guys who swam in college”) and one swimmer to my right. Deciding to dial it back, I followed his feet until the turn-around at which point I figured I would do my share of leading. Interestingly, he wanted no part of this. As he saw me coming up he put in a few hard kicks, surging in front of me again. “Whatever” I thought to myself, Ill just ride him all the way-in and save my legs. The sun was totally blinding on our return trip but my Roka R1 goggles gave me just enough tint to see the shore! We both got out of the water just over 27 minutes (1.5 minutes faster than last year), with a solid gap on everyone else.
Swim time: 27:17
Roka = speed.
            Transition at Grand Rapids is LONG. The street is narrow and there are racks of 8 bikes on either side in a big race (~2000 people). Getting to my bike I threw on my new Rudy Project Wing 57 aero helmet and headed out with my Felt IA4, leaving two of the people who beat me in the swim behind. Thanks to my cylcocross skills my mount was a total success and I began hunting the rider in front of me who was in hot pursuit of the lead moto. The first few miles he seemed to maintain a good gap but his cadence was really high. When he glanced back I knew it was over, putting in a solid 5’ at 280-90 I made the pass and gave him little hope of coming with. The rest of the bike I really focused on staying as low as possible and riding smooth. At the turn around I was starting to hurt a bit, but my power had been high and I knew the way back I would have a tailwind. I was ecstatic to see I had an estimated 2-3’ gap on the next rider. This motivated me and forgetting about the pain I dug deeper. The last few miles I found my mind drifting to the run. Would my training this winter and spring pay off? Or had I overcooked it on the bike and was about to repeat 2015? Here is the strava file, Im ecstatic I was able to push 20 more watts than last year.
Bike time: 2:12:13 (fastest of the day)

               As I ran through transition, my legs didn’t feel too bad, but I had no idea how fast I was running. Grabbing my BOCO hat and race belt I set out on the two-loop run course. Glancing down at my watch I saw 6:25 for mile 1 and I felt totally in-control. Trying to keep myself calm I hit the next miles in nearly the exact same time. At mile 4 I saw second place (Ryan Guliano), who I knew is a heck of a runner and was just coming off a huge OA amateur win at Texas. At the turn-around I was joined for a minute by Bri and Ellie who ran next to me. Unfortunately Ellie didn’t attack Ryan who by now was in hot pursuit, and he caught me not long after, immediately putting a sizeable gap in me. Trying to not let this phase me I proceeded onward to a 607 mile, at which point he already had 30 seconds on me. At mile 10 I estimated I had 3ish minutes on the next guy, Guliano’s teammate. Just keep your shit together and you can beat him I told myself. By the last couple of miles I was hurting bad. My legs were not used to the relative hilliness of the GR run course. With a mile to go the emotions were flowing: pleasure, pain, excitement, fatigue. As I rounded the corner I saw the race clock: 4:04:XX. Giving it everything I had I crossed the finish line in 4:04:50.
Run time: 1:22:03

Happy Greg, Happy Ellie.
            While I knew I had finished second in the under 40 age group, I still had to wait for the 40+ guys to come in, which meant waiting on first American at Kona, Dan Stubleski. Sure enough, Dan was able to pull off a blazing fast run and beat me by a minute and a half for second overall. It didn’t matter, I was still absolutely stoked with my third OA. This had been something I had been dreaming about since February, although didn’t even think it was realistic. Teammates Zachary Carry, Ryan Linden, and Mark Beckwith were close on my heels brining home two first place age group finishes. After the race we got to make a number of new friends, many of which were familiar with the team! On the way home I reflected on my race, truly everything went as planned. I could not have asked for a better day. I am so lucky to have a team of such motivated and like-minded individuals. Huge thanks to Bri and Ellie for accompanying me and being my crew, I wouldn’t be able to do it without you two!!!!

Left to right: Carr, Beckwith, Linden, Grosicki

Three weeks from now I will travel to California for Vineman 70.3. Cant wait to meet some of the west coast team and smash some California climbs!