Monday, July 29, 2013

Ironman Racine 70.3 Race Report

What an amazing weekend.  So much support out in Racine from both my family and friends as well as the family and friends of 2600 other people who participated in the race.  I could not have been more pleased with the volunteers and the rest of the people involved.

I arrived Saturday to check into the race and got there early enough to where the line was not too long.  Everyone was very friendly and made the process quick and easy.  Went through the expo and got suckered into buying a shirt which looked really cool and chilled out the rest of the day in preparation.  My goal for this race was to cut some good time off my first 70.3 in San Juan in March.  Here are the two races.

San Juan Results:

Swim: 46:52
T1: 4:49
Bike: 3:02:31
T2: 2:43
Run: 1:29:16
Overall: 5:27:17- 27th AG, 276th OA

Racine Results:

Swim: 56:36
T1: 4:49
Bike: 2:43:35
T2: 2:43
Run: 1:25:54
Overall: 5:13:17- 38th AG, 304th OA

Race Morning:

I really slept pretty well considering I was sleeping on a buddy's couch and was anxious for the race.  I woke up and had a typical pre-race breakfast for me which consists of Quest Bars and Yogurt.  My buddy Paul drove Ryan and I down to transition at 6:00ish because our wave didn't start until 8:20.  We went back to his house after setting up and relaxed for a bit longer, ate some more, and then headed down to the water to get a quick warm up in.


Well I still suck in the water. HA!  Going into the swim, I knew that I was going to struggle.  It was incredibly choppy and I had never trained in anything close to this before.  That being said, on paper, it looks like I have become a significantly worse swimmer over the past few months when in fact my swimming ability in a pool is significantly better.  I think it is a combination of my lack of swimming background as well as my ability to psyche myself out as soon as I get into the open water which ultimately kills me on the swim part of these races.  I need to start getting into the open water much more often in order for this to stop happening. I feel that if I can make swimming more comfortable for the upcoming races, I can start putting myself in a better position to compete overall.

I don't want to talk about the swim anymore than saying that I could not have been more happy to see the end.


After a slower transition than usual, due to my attempt to get the wet suit off(apparently the strippers were gone?) and my attempt to lower my heart rate, I climbed the first hill and began the bike portion of the race.  This was the part of the race that I was most interested to see where I was at fitness-wise.  I had put a lot of work in on the bike in the past months and was hoping to cut my time.  The whole bike ride was relatively flat minus the choppy roads.  Also, there was very little wind which made for a great day.  The only issue that I ran into was the fact that because I am a poor swimmer but had made good improvements on the bike, I spent a majority of the 56 miles weaving around people.  It was amusing/awesome because this part of the race in San Juan was the biggest struggle for me, and now I was loving every minute of the ride.  At about mile 20, I caught a group of 3 guys who were attempting to draft off one another(I wonder if they eventually got caught).

The only other issue on the bike that I had turned out to be a bigger one.  At the second aid station, I was able to quickly grab a Perform and get back into the middle of the lane and into the arrow position.  At the time I was averaging about 21.5 MPH and was very happy that I could hopefully do the entire ride at over 21.  However, some lady in front of me attempted to grab a water, fumble the water and swerve right in front of me causing me to crash off my bike and loose all my water bottles and nutrition.  After regaining what I had lost in the crash and yelling at the nice volunteers that despite all the blood, I was going to live, I was on my way again.

I lost about 2 minutes overall and probably a few more due to the pain in my hip, but I was happy to keep going again.  The rest of the bike was pretty uneventful despite the fact that I was riding somewhat angry over the previous incident and had to keep convincing myself that I needed legs for the run.  I rode into transition about 20 minutes faster than my split in San Juan!  Could not have been happier.  Did I save anything for the run?

How was I this happy at mile 9 of the run?

The run was pretty uneventful.  I took in salt tabs, cramped miles 1-4, felt good 5-10, and struggled with hip pain from 11-13.  I was happy to keep a comfortable pace throughout the run and ended up averaging a bit slower than I thought at 6:30s.  I was able to see my mom and dad a few times which definitely helped.  Overall a pretty solid run that I could be happy with.

Overall, this was a great day and I want to thank everyone who was there or who has supported me in one way or another.  You guys rock.  I love you all.

Until next time, Nick out.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Pre-Race Jitters and Doubt

Before nearly every competition that I have had in my life, whether it be a soccer match, race, beer pong game, etc., I always seem to go through an internal battle of pre-game/race jitters.  I know that I am not the only person that experiences this period of self-reflection and even self-doubt at times.

Have I trained enough?
How happy I want to look Sunday!

Is this person/team simply better than me?

Am I ready for this?

As a coach, I always tell my players that they need to take time to meditate, pray, whatever before each match.  You need to focus on the things that you can control and not worry about the things that you cannot. However, often, this is much easier said then done.  It takes a very strong person to be able to do this

What can you control?

1. You can control your attitude about the event.  Focus on the things that you have done in training and believe that you are ready for this.

2. You can control your effort.  Only you know how far that you can push yourself in a given event, and only you can choose to stop.  I constantly remind myself in training when I start to get tired and want to stop short of a 60 mile bike or a 15 mile run that I GET TO DO THIS!!!  No one is there forcing me and no one will care/know if I stop.  That motivation is normally enough to push me through the tough days.

3. Everything leading up to the event.  Nutrition, tapering, etc.

Despite all of this, I always still seem to experience self-doubt.  This mostly happens with the swim for me.  I did an open water swim on Monday and found myself still someone panicking at times at the thought of swimming 1.2 straight.  I could not for the life of me figure out why.  In Master's, we have gotten up to 4400 yards on the endurance days, and yet the prospect of swimming half of that scares me and causes panic.

This causes me panic...
I think this is due to the fact that I want to do well in this race.  I have only been swimming for about 9 months, but I am impatient and expect things to come too quickly at times.  I want to beat my time from San Juan to prove to myself that this is something that I could be great at.  I need to follow my own advice and focus on the things that I can control and not worry about what others are doing in the race.  I need to swim, bike and run at the paces that I know I can do and the rest will come.

People always tend to ask the question: What is your goal time for this race?

Whether it is a 5K, Half-Marathon, Marathon, or Ironman, I always have 2 goal times in mind.  The first of these goal times is what I think I can do if everything during the race goes exactly to plan. The Ambitious Goal.

The second goal is what I like to refer to as the contingency plan.  What my time will be if things do not go to plan and something unexpected happens.  I love the way that Jesse Thomas(Pro Triathlete) references this: The "Get Screwed Fund" Goal.

There are things that are not always under your control in a race: flat tires, course mishaps, GI issues, etc. This is when you focus on what you can control and grow from the experience.

I read an article from Runner's World that I am going to try to utilize to calm myself this Sunday in Racine.

Three ways to Calm Race Day Nerves:

  • Have faith in your preparation. One major cause of race-day stress is the unknown. How fast will you run? Will you finish? Will you be the last person across the line? Will you qualify or break that personal record? What will your finish-line photo look like? The key to calmer waters is to race with what the day gives you and surrender to running your best on the day. 
  • Be prepared. Create a pre-race ritual—a go-to schedule of events you turn to before every race to provide structure, focus, and familiarity. 
  • Meditate. The more in tune you are with your body on race day, the better you can run from within and in the right zone based on the day's challenges.

I hope that this will be enough.  I am going to try and do another swim today and hope that it goes better.  

All the best to anyone who is in race prep this week!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Some Days You Have It and Some Days You Don't

How I feel some days...
It is a strange phenomenon to me how some days you simply have it and some days you don't during your workouts.  For me personally, I have yet to figure out why this occurs.  I feel that it can be attributed to a variety of factors:

1. Hydration
2. Nutrition
3. Fatigue from previous workouts
4. Energy Level based on Sleep
5. Many other reasons

There are some days when I wake up and feel that I did not do anything different the day or night before in terms of exercise, eating, etc. and my legs feel like lead on my run, and there are other days where I feel like my legs have never felt better and I should be able to keep up with Ryan Hall on a 800 repeat workout(this is a definite lie, but you get the point).

How I feel other days and don't
know why
This happened to me last week before a race on the 4th of July.  I ran 10 miles hard, the day before and had an afternoon swim to try to get some lactic acid out of my legs.  I expected the race to be a struggle and had no intentions of breaking any personal records.  However, when the gun went off, I started clicking off miles faster than I ever had in my life on a very hilly course which many people were struggling with.

Same thing happened with my bike ride yesterday.  On Saturday, I ran 8 miles about 10 seconds below my tempo pace and swam in the afternoon.  On Sunday, I was stuck in an airport for 12 hours with no chance to really loosen my legs.  I got home from the airport and immdiately hopped on my bike and rode a course that I typically ride faster than I ever had in my life and could have easily went further.

How?  Why?

If you have an answer to this, please feel free to respond.

I have looked up articles to attempt to answer this conundrum.  There have been a few that have been good reads.

In a New Balance article, they attributed success and failure in workouts to a few factors:
  1. Dehydration
  2. Inadequate Sodium
  3. Too Much, Too Soon
  4. Inadequate Fueling
  5. Life Stresses
  6. Weather
This was helpful, but still did not completely help me to understand why when I feel that I have done everything the same or even better that I have bad workouts, or why when I havent fueled properly and feel dehydrated that I have great workouts.

I guess this is all just a learning process that I will need to grow to understand as I progress as an athlete.

Well here is the weekly log from last week:

Monday-  The usual double swim.  Technique session bright and early in the morning and open water late at night; about 5500 Yards total.

Tuesday-  Morning Bike Ride(roughly 33 miles at 21.4 MPH) and a night time endurance swim with the master group about 4000 yards.

Wednesday- Morning Bike Ride(32 miles at 20.5 MPH) and an afternoon recovery swim of about 2000 yards to get some lactic acid from the legs.

1 week until I hopefully shatter my
time at San Juan
Thursday-  Really early interval run at 4:15 because I had to leave on a recruiting trip to Daytona Beach.  2 mile warm up run to track, 4x1000 with 400 recovery in between, 2 mile run home

Friday- 4 mile tempo run to beach, 4 mile easy run home and an afternoon endurance swim of 2500 yards

Saturday- 4 mile tempo run to beach and 4 mile tempo run home with an afternoon swim of 2800 yards shorter intervals of around 100-300 yards

Sunday- 35 mile bike ride at 21.8 MPH

1 week until Racine 70.3!

Until next post.  Nick out.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Florida is Awesome, but I miss my bike

Easy to motivate yourself to run 4 miles when this is the end...
Being a college soccer coach requires you to travel a significant amount in order to work camps, attend showcases, etc.  However, you do get to go to awesome places, like Daytona Beach Florida.

That being said, if you want to continue improving as an athlete, you need to be very proactive in organizing your time, finding the desire to train,  finding places to train as well.

The first two of these are the easier of the two for me.  I have always been very good with time management for the most part.  In school, I would always complete assignments as soon as they were assigned because I am weird and paranoid, and they would basically eat away at me until I forced myself to do them.  Finding motivation has never been an issue either.  I want to be the best at everything I do(I never am, sadly), and I hate losing at everything from races to video games to beer pong.  Thus, training to get better is motivation enough.

However, the third, finding places to train, can be difficult.  Especially, because for some odd reason, they don't rent out carbon fiber TT and Road Bikes anywhere.  WEIRD...

My Bike
So, the travel definitely takes away from the ability to bike while on the road.  Fortunately, I have met some awesome people on this journey to becoming a triathlete who have even lent me their road bikes when I have been on the road.  Awesome people down in Ft. Myers: Sue Kelly, Joe Kelly, Jacob Jansen(watch out for this kid, he'll be a force in triathlon).

Bike Improvement has been a long and arduous process for me.  This fitness definitely did not come easy and it took many painful, early morning Computrainer sessions.  I am still far from a CAT 1 cyclist, but I love my bike and miss the days when I cannot get out on it.

Things that I love about cycling:

1. Great Fitness that transfers to all other disciplines
2. See improvement quickly if you work hard at it
3. Lots of time to think and reflect on 3+ hour rides
4. Good people to hang out with
5. Funny clothes to wear

Things about cycling that aren't as cool:
How it feels some days...

1. Riding in the wind by yourself is one of the most depressing things in the world
2. Flat Tires
3. Saddle Soreness
4. Chaffing
5. D-Bag Drivers that honk and try to run you over

Overall, this is the discipline of triathlon that I love the most.

The best advice that I ever received about cycling is that this discipline is the most important and to be patient.  Find your cycling legs.

I get excited every time I see cycling on the schedule.  It saddens me that I will have to tone it down this next week in order to taper for Racine 70.3, but I am hoping to cut about 20 minutes from my time back in March in San Juan 70.3!

We will have to see.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Balancing Triathlon and Life and Weekly Training Update

A lot of posts from a variety of triathletes have been dedicated to maintaining a proper balance between triathlon training/racing and the rest of your life.  Especially for those new to the sport(such as myself) this can be a difficult thing.

You easily become paranoid when a workout does not go as planned.  You fear that every missed or bad workout will cause you to lose every ounce of fitness that you have worked so hard to earn over the last days, weeks, months, etc.  I personally was a victim to this especially early in my triathlon transition.  I feel that I have already been able to grow so much, and I am still in my first season of triathlon.

I still have so far to go.

However, I feel that this past week was again another step towards maturity for me with the balance of this awesome sport and the rest of my life.

This past weekend, my college roommate of 5 years decided to go and throw his life away though the sacrament of marriage(I am totally kidding).  Just look how happy he is, and his wife is amazing as well.  That being said, with his wedding and the 4th of July, this week of training was already going to be hectic.  As it turned out, this week turned out to be full of surprises both good and bad which made for a very interesting week.

Here is the breakdown:

Monday- This is actually a day that seemed to go exactly as planned.  I have been able to get into a good routine of doing a Master's Swim technique session in the morning on Mondays and an open water swim in the night.  Both seemed to go as planned and the technique sessions have seemed to have helped me to significantly speed up my times in recent weeks.

Tuesday-  Another day that went as planned.  I wanted to get a good bike ride in the morning because my buddy Ryan was coming into town that night and we were planning on doing another ride Wednesday morning and I wanted to see how hard I could push on tired legs.  The second session of the day was an endurance swim consisting of longer sets totaling 4000 yards.

I know your pain...
Wednesday-  I was so excited to take Ryan out for a nice flat ride that I have done a dozen times over the last month and really utilize him to push myself and gauge my fitness.  The ride started off as planned and we were pushing a nice pace.  Two miles into the ride.  FLAT!  "Well this sucks," I thought, "but Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome."  We fixed the flat and after a few minutes we were up and riding again.  Two miles down the road.  FLAT NUMBER 2!!!  Didn't have another tube.  Called for a ride and told Ryan that he could go on.  Being the great friend that he is, he said that he would stick around and ride later.  As it turned out, about 5 minutes later, it started to storm terribly.

Now that the bike for the day was ruined, I went home, ate, and slept.  About an hour later, I decided that I would go for a run.  I don't know if it was because I was upset over the flat or the easy bike loosened up my legs for the day, but I had my best run of my life.

10 miles in 57:52 (for a pace of 5:48 per mile).

Ryan and I did a recovery swim in the afternoon which I think I barely did a mile.  Legs did feel a bit better afterwards.

Thursday- Seeing that I had run 10 miles the day before hard, I had no expectations about today's race.  I was very happy with my time and place, and you can read about the race and the afternoon swim in the previous blog post.

Friday- Had to travel to Dubuque, Iowa for the wedding rehearsal.  Woke up and did 9 miles because my bike was in the shop getting repaired.

9 miles- 54:38(6:05 per mile)

The rest of Friday consisted of delicious catered food, lots of good beer, and many reunions with close friends.  It was a great start to the weekend.

Saturday- First full rest day that I had taken in a long time.  Contemplated getting up and trying to run or swim, but instead opted to to go buy eggs, ham, and cheese and make omelets for the rest of the wedding party.

The wedding and reception were unbelievable.  I have never seen either of them so happy, and we had such a great time on the party bus.  I won't go too into detail to spare boredom, but it was overall one of the best weekends of my life.

Sunday- Woke up bright and early to get to Rockford, Illinois to recruit.  This was a rough drive, and I definitely needed some sleep after.  I went and picked up my bike from the store and knew that despite how tired I was that I needed to get in my last hard BRICK two weekends out from Ironman Racine 70.3.

I think Eric and EndureIt may have put NAS on the back of my bike(he replaced the tire), because I have never ridden better in my life.  Granted there were some favorable winds for a large part of the ride, but I was able to complete:

55.04 miles in 2:34:37(Average of 21.4 MPH)

What I felt like after the ride
After the bike, I ran into my house and quickly changed into my running clothes.  My nutrition on the bike has been going really well recently, but I was hungry before this transition run and a bit dehydrated.  So being the genius that I am, I decided to go against all the training that I had done so far and eat a quick yogurt and chug some carbonated water.  BIG MISTAKE.  Going out I had planned on running 4 miles and trying to push my legs a bit.  I'll let you judge how it went.

Mile 1- 6:01
Mile 2- 6:05
Mile 3- 6:15
Mile 4- 6:25

What I felt like after the run...
About mile 2.5, I got the worst side stitch of my life.  If I had to run another 9 miles that day, I might have died.  I could not have been happier to reach my driveway.  It was a brutal way to end an overall great workout.

However, it was awesome to go at this pace for the day.  Really felt good to see what the hard work has enabled me to do over the past few months in all three disciplines.  I am excited to use the next two weeks to rest up and prepare for my second 70.3.

I am hoping to drop significant time, but we will have to see...

Thanks for following and keep on keeping on.