26 Jul 2015
Race Day: Sunday, July 26, 2015 – 8am
The Chisago Lakes Triathlon had a name change this year and now it is called the Toughman Minnesota Triathlon. Now, this name is stupid and I won’t ever wear a shirt that says “Toughman” on the chest. Just dumb. Ironman at least has the history behind the name…
Anyways, I do Chisago every year and it is my annual long course triathlon. This year, however, I had big expectations with my time and performance. I wanted to do top 5, but that was a tall order after seeing the Minnesota Tri News preview. I thought that top 10 would be an awesome goal. I thought that under 4:20 would be a possibility and 4:15 would be the perfect day. Going into race week, I was feeling pretty good. My training has been on point and I was getting really good training in since the big string of races in June. The only glitch was the Park Point 5-miler. I was expecting to have a decent time, but my pace on the hot, hot race day was sluggish. This made me scared for the half marathon at Chisago.
The weather was looking nice and I got a perfect swim in the day before the race while we were picking up the packets. The lake was terribly warm and weedy, though, and that was pretty nasty without a wetsuit! I got to sleep super early and was feeling very fresh by the time I woke up on Sunday.
Chisago is always very competitive, and I was excited to be starting in the elite wave and to be racing with the big dogs up front. Last year, I placed 20th, for instance. My plan for the swim was to find a pair of feet and stick with them. When the gun went off, it was a frenzy. There were lots of arms flailing and legs kicking and I felt so uneasy. A front pack broke away and I was frustrated to be out of reach. There was no way to bridge that gap…
I settled in to a reasonable pace and got near the first turn buoy. I was with a few other dudes on the far stretch and noticed that fellow Duluth-area long course triathlete Jason Crisp was right next to me. Perfect, I thought. I knew he was a decent swimmer and was very consistent, therefore making an ideal candidate to draft off of. I tucked in behind him and stayed for the ride. However, by the second turn buoy onto the home stretch, I felt like I was expending a lot of energy trying to follow his bubbles. We broke off from each other and I just tried to kick it home. It was starting to get steamingly hot inside of my wetsuit and I thought to myself how getting out of my wetsuit in the water would be wise. I could get out of my wetsuit quicker because the water wouldn’t have drained out yet, I could splash some fresh water on myself, and then I wouldn’t have run up that terrible transition hill in my hot, black wetsuit.
When I finally got to shore, I ripped my arms out of the wetsuit and had a major struggle getting it off of my ankles. It was terribly embarrassing because people on the shore could see me flopping about and kicking and athletes on either side were blazing past on their way to the bike.
After the wetsuit debacle, I had a hasty transition to my bicycle. It was nice to just throw my wetsuit down and grab my speed machine! Onto the bike, I started off aggressive. It’s a little technical on a bike path on the start and I was making some strong bike moves. Once onto the road, I was mixed with short course athletes. This was somewhat troublesome because I felt the need to overtake every person in front of me. It was hard to limit. I did calculations at 30 minutes into the ride and knew I was around mile 13. That puts me at 26mph early into the race. That is dangerous. I told myself to soft pedal and to go easy and to limit my efforts because the final 10 miles were bound to be hard.
The first 30 miles or so are so flat and fast. Every road is perfectly paved and there are no hills. There are quite a few directional changes, however, so if it’s windy it can be challenging. This day brought no wind, which meant that I was cranking. By mile 25, I was right around one hour. Yikes. I was feeling so good and was seemingly abiding by my strategy of having an even race, leaving some juice on the bike course, and going into the run with enough spring in my step to run fast. I got a tip that I was in 3rd place, and that made it hard to slow down. If I’m feeling good, why should I cognitively slow down to a speed that I think is more sustainable?
The course then descends quite a bit to the river valley. We pass the bottom of Wild Mountain and then climb all the way back up. I felt really good on the hill, and it seemed much smaller than before! I kept spinning wonderfully, and was tracking along at 25mph each time that I could make a calculation. At mile 50, my watch said 1:59. Smokin’. I figured that I should slow down a bit, or at least make certain that my legs will feel good onto the run, for the last bit of the course. My legs weren’t feeling terrible. In fact, they were feeling pretty good! The long and hard ride was taking a toll, and I was getting pretty uncomfortable. Just general discomfort. I’d been rolling in the aero position for a long time and my back and neck and taint were starting to feel it. Legs good, though.
I hopped off the bike still in third place. The bike ride was lonely. I passed one person at mile 40 or 45 and that was the only person I saw after the short course split. Starting the run, I felt good.
My legs were turning well and I was ready to lay it down. I knew I was in the money for my goal time of 4:19 as long as I could keep my half marathon under 1:30. Easy. That’s slow. I wanted 1:25. 6:15 pace. The first mile was 6:40 or so. The second was 6:15 and the third mile was 6:15. Perfect. Keep rolling.
At mile four, I started feeling pretty crappy. Just a wave of fatigue and I couldn’t push off of my feet. It was mental, though, and I pushed right through it. The meat of the race is right here. My pace was slowing, though. Slowly and surely, and I was struggling to stay under 7 minutes per mile. It was a constant mental game to push through these waves of fatigue. This didn’t feel like the marathon, where you inevitably slow down and feel worse and worse and more tired and stiff and sore. This was just like “body stop running you’re too tired” and then as much mental fortitude that I could muster in order to ignore those signals.
I was all alone. I saw the leader near the top of lollipop section of the run course and he was cruising. Way up there. Still in third, I became curious to where I was at. A guy on a bike said I was running second place down and that fourth was way back and that I was looking really good. Well, I wasn’t feeling good!
On the gravel lollipop section, I missed a water stop and took the gel down straight up. Luckily, a guy had freezing cold water in cups from his driveway, and that was a nice boost. Getting back to the lollipop stem, I was very curious to take stock on who was back there. I saw a few dudes, but nobody that looked to be running me down fast. Little did I know the fourth place runner was on the lollipop section and running me down big time.
By mile 8, I was not feeling good at all. Luckily, my pace was at a constant 7 minutes per mile or just a bit under. I kept chugging along. I felt like there was no way that I was going to catch the second place guy. I wasn’t making up much time. At this point, I just wanted to finish in third. Podium would be sweet! Each corner slowed me down so bad and I’d have to talk myself into getting back into a decent pace. How strenuous.
Then, I had a sense. I looked back and saw fellow Duluth-area long course triathlete Paul Rockwood. Paul is racing Ironman Wisconsin in my age group and has been racing really well this year. He gets faster at Madison every year and deserves to click his ticket to Kona. I think Paul will go under 9:45 or even 9:40. He is a beast runner and was certainly running me down. At mile 11, he caught up and started chatting. He crashed on the bike and was bleeding from his arm and leg. I couldn’t even talk. He then sped ahead out of sight. That’s how fast and strong he was running… he just dropped me like nothing. How many people are behind me? I questioned.
Two more miles and I was at least in fourth. Fourth is solid. I needed to stay in fourth. I can’t get passed twice after being in third place for 60 miles. I had another sense and sure enough, there is someone behind me. I picked it up with a quarter mile left with the great fear of getting passed on the final stretch. Thunder Bay, Ontario resident Jon Balabuck finished seconds behind me.
I felt pretty good after finishing. Of course, the half ironman takes a toll on one’s body, and compression socks and sitting down felt pretty nice. I was totally jacked up about 4:19 and fourth place completely shattered my expectations. The frustration was with the run. It is frustrating to get off the bike, have a “slowest possible” time in my mind of 1:30, and then run 1:29 and a lot of seconds. Regardless, I thought I could run 4:19 and that’s what I ran.
Chisago was a perfect tune up for Madison, but I don’t think the hard bike strategy will fly with the full distance triathlon.
Shoes: Saucony Kinvara size 11.5
Bike: Specialized Transition
Wheels: Profile Design 78
Food: Bike: Cherry Coke Honey Stingers, 2 gels, ~40oz Gatorade, ~20oz water; Run: 2 gels
27 Jul 2014
Race Day: July 27, 2014 – 7:30am
The Chisago Lakes Triathlon has historically been my highest priority race of the year. The previous three years I have strived to get to 4:30 for the half ironman distance. I don’t know why I had that time in my mind for so long, but I never really got close. My first attempt at the 70.3 mile race resulted in a 4:47. Then I did 4:42 two times in a row at Chisago. I found it hard to shave time off of my overall time… if I tried to crush the bike, I’d pay for it on the run.
This year was a bit different. I knew I wanted to race Chisago, but my triathlon training was seriously trumped by running. I’d been going to tri nights, but hardly rode my bike or swam besides Tuesday nights, although I felt pretty fast on those nights. Meanwhile, I’d been running more than ever.
Leading up to the race, I got really nervous that I would explode my quads on the bike. It’s one thing to be able to keep up during tri nights on a flat 14 mile out-and-back, but to ride 56 miles and then run with less than 100 miles on my bike for the season was a really scary prospect. I figured I needed any edge I could get, so opted to shave my legs.
My plan for the race was to swim smart, bike conservatively as not to blow up, and let ‘er rip on the run and make up time on the one discipline that I’ve been actually doing during training.
Again, I stayed at my aunt and uncle’s house, which is a short 15 minute drive to the start line. This is such a great accommodation before a big race! I met my mom, who was racing as well in preparation for Ironman Madision, at the packet pickup on Saturday and did a little open water swim with her. I ate pasta and went to bed really early.
Race day was really nice. The weather turned out to be perfect, party cloudy with a slight chance of rain later and cool. I set up transition and sipped on a Mountain Dew. I was afraid I forgot how to race a triathlon for a second! No, I just didn’t train for swimming and biking. The transition only takes mental training… After biking a tiny amount and making sure my pedals were clipped in, I hopped into the water and waited for the race to begin.
I was in a later wave, which made me pretty bummed, because the year previous, I swam over a ton of people and felt like I didn’t swim as fast as I could have on a course with 50 people. Chisago Half is pretty big after all… So that reinforced my “swim smart” game plan. When my wave went off, I tried to get way ahead of everybody, which worked out well. I was out on my own for the first 1000 yards or so, then caught the stragglers from waves in front of me. I navigated through those people with relative ease and felt good. After that, the only real backups were at turn buoys. After the last turn home, I tried to kick it up a notch. I exited the water in about 33 minutes, which is definitely respectable given my lack of swim training.
Onto the bike, I tried to play it cool. I looked back to my race strategy at Grandma’s Marathon and wanted to emulate that by easing back if I ever felt like I was breathing too heavily. The course is really flat and fast for the first 25 miles or so, then goes down a big hill, then back up a big hill and is pretty flat the rest of the way. I definitely felt good into the halfway point and going up the hill sucked, but I made it though. At this point, I started planning out the rest of the race. I knew that if I could keep a steady rate through the last 20 miles, I would be in a great position starting the run. I finished out the bike leg just trying to maintain. It helped to think that despite how bad I’m feeling on the bike, the run is going to be much easier because of my heavy run mileage. When I got back into town, I started getting super amped up because the split was 2:28, which is really fast based on how well I felt!
Into T2, I had to pee really bad, so I stopped in a portable toilet in transition. Also, I doubled back to empty my pockets of bike garbage. I felt like it was a sloppy transition, and was almost twice the time as my T1 time. Starting the run, I went out hard. I figured I could hold a sub 6:30 pace after an easy bike. Granted, I was pretty shredded after getting an otherwise stupendous bike split. My first few miles were close to 6 minutes a piece. A few miles in, my pace slipped to around 6:30. I really wanted to hold this pace, because I thought I had that sort of fitness, and I would completely crush my PR with a half marathon around 1:25. The meat of the Chisago run course is always kind of difficult. Around mile 7, I knew I was slipping fast. My pace was over 7:00. I tried to take down a gel and got past the turnaround. From here, it is just a grind it out scenario. My form was crap, but I locked in at 7 minute pace and knew that I would still have a pretty good PR unless I was reduced to walking.
I ended up coming into the finish line with a 1:28:59 split for 13.1 miles, which is my half-ironman run record, and a total time of 4:33, which was 9 minutes faster than the year previous. Needless to say, I was completely jacked up and excited about it, but then the confusion set in.
Why was my best time off of almost no bike training? I had a faster bike and run than ever. Did shaved legs really contribute an abnormally fast 56 mile bike ride? Is run-heavy training the best way to go?
Either way, I was excited for triathlon racing. My mom had a decent race as well. I don’t think she was extraordinarily content with her time, but good Ironman training regardless.
Wetsuit: Blueseventy Helix (from, like, 2007)
Bike: Specialized Transition AL
Shoes: Brooks Pureflow 3