18 Aug 2022
Race Date: Sunday, August 7, 2022 – 8:30am
Another Brewhouse. I feel like I get pretty nervous or anxious before Brewhouse most years, almost like a dread. I was probably the least excited for the year’s Brewhouse than ever before. In the back of my mind I thought about bailing on the race altogether. I hadn’t trained, I hadn’t been on my bike or worn swimming goggles since last year’s Brewhouse, and just wanted to crank miles on my stand up paddleboard. Equipment aside, I was almost certainly not in the running to win. That’s always been the goal, and I didn’t deserve it even if that’s how the race would pan out for me. I wasn’t ready for the pain of the sprint tri format, and I absolutely wasn’t ready to get in the damn water to swim. BUT, I got all my things together the night before, and by Sunday morning after I got my pre-race coffee and breakfast sandwich, I was excited. The morning weather was better than expected at least with sun out, but the winds were high and that’d be tough for the swim and bike. Well, I figured, that just makes the run even more enjoyable once it’s just that last leg left.
I got to the race site and immediately picked up my race bag. Easy. Brewhouse is like a family reunion and it was fun to see all my triathlon friends, many of whom I hadn’t seen for a while. I chatted with Kris Nisula, the only person to beat me at Brewhouse Triathlon besides my very first triathlon, which was Brewhouse 2010. He said he was really a cyclist now, had been biking a ton and not running or swimming much. Hmm, that was interesting. It would certainly come down to the run and I knew I had a little latent fitness from Grandma’s weekend about 6 weeks prior. I took a restroom stop, got my body marked, and then did a little bike shakout to make sure it was working well. All good. I put on my running shoes to shake out but got distracted talking to the race timer Brad Pickle. With a half hour until race start, about 8am, I got my wetsuit on and walked over to the lake. It was super choppy. The swim would be terrible. I saw Em and the dogs, which was a sweet treat! I talked with her and was so excited she showed up to spectate.
I pulled off the band-aid, so to speak, and hopped in the water. I had to pee immediately, which is always unfortunate in the wetsuit. Oh well. I swam around in the waves a bit and it felt great. The waves weren’t too bad, actually, and my swim stroke seemed good. I was ready to rip. One buoy had floated a way a bit, so the course was shortened. Excellent. Plus, the race got delayed a bit for some reason… maybe to fix the buoy. There was nobody in the water. Me and a few volunteers. More volunteers came down – a few paddleboards and they were getting tossed around by the waves. The racers came down eventually and before long Matt Evans rallied everyone at the start to stay safe and gave the announcer Ted the three minute go-ahead. My googles seemed to be getting foggy already. I wiped them off one last time right before the 10-second countdown. I wasn’t ready for the thrashing, but “3-2-1” by the announcer, the racers and the spectators watching from the hill. It’s happened whether I’m ready or not! “GO!!” and the thrashing began. I got out into a nice starting spot, but was overtaken quickly. I minute in or so and I was seemingly out by myself and wasn’t getting kicked or punched, but realized quickly that the waves would indeed be a factor. It was hard to breathe. I felt that breathing into the waves, on my left side, was actually better than my unnatural-feeling right side. I almost freaked out a few times with a big mouthful full of water. Then I had to stop. I was getting so battered by the waves and I just couldn’t get a solid breath. I couldn’t see due to foggy goggles, I was panicking. I flipped my goggles up to get oriented and wipe off the fog. Not optimal. But, the buoy was right there and so kept plugging along to sharply round the corner to head home. Immediately I enjoyed much nicer swimming with the wind a little more to my back. The rest of the swim was relatively easy and I felt strong. The first half shook me up a little, though.
I got out of the water and ran, breathless, up the hill and to my bike. Ok, here we go! The worst of it was done really. I knew my biking was not going to be as good as past years simply due to fitness. My bike miles were especially low this year. I got through transition quickly, got my shoes on and it was a matter of keeping my speed on the bike to mitigate the damage. I saw Kris zoom away on his bike while I was in transition, and he’d be only making up time that I would hopefully be able to recoup on the run. But, a 3 mile run course is not a lot of real estate to reel him in. I got blasted by wind right away, as Highway 4 curved and the open water directly adjacent to the road allowed the direct wind to push me to my right. My aero wheels were a sail and I precariously grasped my horns. I did not feel comfortable in the aerobar position with the winds whipping off the lake.
Near the turnaround, I saw someone looking fast way out in front, then Kris and Bettina a minute back, and I turned on Emerson. Ryan passed me unexpectedly. Shoot, let’s go Mike! We turned at about the same time and Ryan showed his strong bike fitness by pedaling right away from me. I just had to keep my speed and get to the run. I passed someone on the right side of the road. Was that the guy way out front? Got a flat? Bummer. I knew Paul Rockwood was pretty close to me but didn’t make a pass or get passed the rest of the ride. I got nervous back alongside Island Lake where there was no wind block. I prepared by sitting up on the horns again. It wasn’t too bad. I saw Em right before the transition and was excited to get off the bike.
The second transition went very smoothly and I felt good a few strides in. I saw what looked like Ryan and Bettina running stride for stride. I couldn’t see Kris or confirm if the younger guy biking way up front was still way up front, or was the one who was sitting in a ditch back at mile 8 of the bike course. I could easily tell I was making up time on Ryan and Bettina. Ryan was clearly running faster, so I passed Bettina first, then Ryan at about mile 1. I didn’t really say anything and kept going. I clocked about 6 minute pace. That would probably be good enough for one of the faster run splits, but was it enough to catch Kris? I couldn’t see him ahead but knew I was able to run faster than him, especially if he said he hadn’t been running much. I finally saw him and we met at the very top of the lollipop stem. He was completing the small loop at the end of the run course and I was starting it. I looked at my watch to preview how far back I was. It gave me a bit of a jolt but I was running pretty much as hard as I could given my relatively poor fitness level.
At the end of the lolly, I figured I was two minutes back. That is impossible. I’d have to run a minute per mile faster than Kris to pass him at the finish line. I took a left back onto County Road 4. A guy running the opposite said I can catch him up above and I look way fresher. OK! Let’s go! I hit 2 miles and tried to crank it up. I still couldn’t see Kris. Mayyybe way up there. Yup, that’s him, let’s go! I finally got to the turn-off into the woods. This is my specialty, I thought to myself. Make it up on the trail section. I pushed hard on the swamp boardwalk. I still couldn’t see Kris. For each step that I didn’t see him, it was less and less likely that I’d pop right out on top of him. Oh well, he won, I told myself. Second is great. The race went good. I’m happy. I kept my cadence into the finishing stretch and then knew definitively I wouldn’t pass him. I also knew I wouldn’t be passed so cruised in and was happy to finish. It was probably my slowest Brewhouse on this course. I chatted with Kris at the finish. Ryan came in not too much later and he had a strong race for third. It was a fun event – I was reminded that Brewhouse is my favorite race of all time.
Shoes: Mizuno Rebellion size 11.5
Bike: Specialized Transition
Wheels: Profile Design 78
05 Aug 2021
Race Date: Sunday, August 1, 2021 – 8am
In the water of the first Brewhouse Triathlon in about 24 months, my last time at the race losing for the first time in 7 years or so and having not trained for triathlon hardly at all in the meantime, I was really nervous. I knew exactly what to do, but the fitness level was lacking and I didn’t want to be in the mix. I like to be up front at Brewhouse Triathlon short course, not in the mix. I like to win. But the bottom line was, I don’t deserve it.
Leading up to Brewhouse, my running volume was probably consistently lower the past six consecutive months, than almost any other single month in the previous 8 years! And slow running, too. I hadn’t swam more than a 500 yards since Brewhouse 2019, but my biking was extraordinary, especially in the month leading up to Brewhouse. I biked over 500 miles in July, but literally all gravel single speed miles. I had major concerns about my tri bike – namely the pedal, which had fallen off months earlier after seizing up, and literally the day before in a practice ride. It seemed to be spinning freely, and worked well in the morning, but was highly questionable.
I arrived in the morning, my van loaded with two bikes and all my tri gear. I set up at the start and saw Em loitering about. It was so great to see her and know she’d be watching the whole race and seeing me finish. It was like a weight lifted off my shoulder, actually. I anxiously paced about, setting my stuff up, trying to remember the morning routine. Dump, bike, run, get body marked? No, body marking, test the bike, dump, jog a bit. Well the decision was made for me and I saw Ryan on the way to the portable toilet area. Check that off the list. Feeling good, I rode a mile and the bike was working great. That was a relief. Yep, it felt fast, but I was unsure of the monster MPH readings that I know I’d put up in prior years. My quads seemed even a little stiff from a 60 mile gravel ride the day before. I knew the bike was the key today. I ran a bit then made sure everything was in order, put on my wetsuit and hung out by the lake.
I had lost Em but found her on the bluff by the shoreline. It was nice to get a pre-race shakedown with her as Matt Evans got married to Shelly with Rod Raymond enthusiastically yelling into the microphone and people cheering.
Once I got into the water, I felt pretty good swimming a few strokes, actually. I peed in my wetsuit, which is always kind of icky. But I’m led to believe that it helps with buoyancy. I tried to channel my countrymen USA Olympians after studying swimming the night before on primetime broadcast. Bent elbow, generate power from the hips, stay streamline with head down. Yep, it’s all in the muscle memory. I swam around and back to shore and people started congregating in the water. I wanted to get onto someone’s heels right away. They’d pull me along. That’d help right away. When you see Matt Evans in the water you know it’s about to be go time. I faintly heard the countdown from 10 start, and I think it was Paul Rockwood who asked “oh, are we going already?”. We could all hear “3! 2! 1! GO!!” and it was a free for all. I got a fairly good jump but was overtaken by churning bodies everywhere. I could feel my heart rate skyrocket and I was about out of breath after just a few front crawl strokes. Plus the splashing was sending water all up into my gasping mouth. It was terrible.
I avoided getting kicked, and eventually the crowd kind of thinned out. It seemed like a huge group sped off in front of me and I was left in the wake with a few stragglers. I tried to keep a good line and found myself off to the left a little bit. That’s what you get for never open water swimming…
The first buoy seemed like it took forever. The second one was an eternity. Once I got to the first one, I was pretty hopeless about the swim portion. I was dead already. I just kept a rhythm, and by the second buoy, felt really good actually. I felt like I was making good time, kind of out by myself where I liked to be. Maybe there wasn’t that big of a group, or they kind of spread apart. I seemed to be in the front end of the start wave, although I knew that probably wasn’t true. As I turned, trying to stay efficient but not get punched in the face, I thought about just staying calm and relaxed until I knew I was close on the home stretch.
My goggles worked well, the water seemed to be decently calm for swimming, and I was feeling really good getting to the second turn buoy. Bing bing bing, and I was on the home stretch. I focused again on form and keeping a strong stroke. I focused my legs and pushed home, sighting every now again to be surprisingly on course the whole time. Feeling good about my swim, I tried to put on the afterburners once I got past the last buoy and into the swimming area. I didn’t have any power whatsoever, but felt it was a good swim. Furthermore, swim was about done without a scratch. Now, onto the big daddy. Time to crank.
I was able to run pretty well into T1, and even remembered to eat my caffeinated gummis instead of sitting on them like in 2019. It was quick onto my bike and I had a major sense of urgency. The suspense was killing me – how fast can I bike into first place? It was smooth into my bike shoes and I somewhat precariously smashed up to full speed without the concerning pedal falling off. I stopped one pedal stroke to see if the pedal was still on. Yep. I knew it was a tailwind, but was pleasantly surprised to see 27 mph on my watch once I felt up to speed. Keep it up, Mikey. I drank a bit of water over the Island Lake bridge and past Boondocks restaurant. I passed a few people feeling like a speed monster. Reeling people in is so fun. I couldn’t see the motorcycle up ahead, but had a long way to go. No way my swimming is even in the same echelon as some of those. There are good swim-bikers that exist! But might as well try to bank time while I have a nice tailwind, I thought. I knew I had extreme endurance on the bike. So push it.
When I turned to Emerson, I still hadn’t seen the leaders. Shortly thereafter, I saw two cyclists, one with a disc wheel. They were decently ahead, actually. I’d catch them. I cranked and cranked into the wind. My mph dropped. I didn’t make ground. I got into T2 after losing my shoe. Someone yelled “you lost your shoe!”. I was so mad at those shoes, I didn’t even look. It was at my bike after the finish, though.
I tried to transition as quickly as possible, because Ryan and Benjamin put a gentleman’s bet on T2 time and I was confident. I had an issue with my shoe heel folding over as I smooshed my foot inside without elastic laces. Oh well. I sprinted towards the swim exit and knew it was up to the run to seal the deal. Who was up ahead? At the run exit, Emily was standing right there and yelled that she was a minute back. Must be Shyanne. MN Tri News had pegged myself and Shyanne McGregor, local beast triathlete, as winners. That article was the only confidence I had. Now, starting the run, I thought I could run her down. I saw her. I thought there was someone else biking up ahead of me? Maybe I passed them in transition. I don’t know. I just need to run, and run fast. I had major doubts that I’d be able to fend anyone else off. Especially with the likes of Paul Rockwood and Benjamin Welch closing hard. I wasn’t confident in their training, though, but I knew for sure that I couldn’t be confident in my training! So I just focused on hunting down the lone runner ahead. I was hoping to go under 6 minutes per mile. My first mile was over by a handful of seconds. Yeesh, not what I want! Up the hill on County Road 4 past the outdoorsman’s club, I reeled her in a little more and a little more, and I knew I’d catch her. But I was also running very sloppily. My form was crap, I had no endurance and no speed. I could tell I was making traction at the water stop to turn into the boat landing at the run half-way, because when I turned I saw Shyanne running back toward me, then a left where a volunteer was beckoning her. The volunteer pointed me right, and I went, knowing that that way was opposite from every other year that Brewhouse Triathlon has been at Island Lake. Typically we go straight, clockwise to the boat launch parking lot, around the bend, then a right hand turn, and a left to complete the lollipop loop. This year, a volunteer was pointing a different way, and Shyanne had taken a small wrong turn by what it looked like. I finally caught her around the loop portion, and she got confused when the dirt trail went under a low-pass tree out to the main lot. She didn’t fully know exactly which track to take, and I passed her and showed her the way. I felt kind of bad that she clearly wasn’t dead certain on the exactly route to take, but it was a change from previous years and I was a little nervous that I didn’t take the right route! No, there was pretty much the one way, and so I trucked on back towards the water stop.
Before I turned back onto the main road, I saw Paul Rockwood running smoothly onto the gravel. He would be pursuing me. Who else was on the loop? Hopefully no fast runners. Hopefully not Benjamin. I looked back, and Shyanne was in close pursuit. Would she close on me after my kersplosion? Well, don’t kersplode, MIKE!
I didn’t care about the grimace. I channeled the 2020 Olympic Triathlon champ from Norway who gritted his way to gold looking like he was in immense pain. I tried to push as hard as possible. I was so happy to get to the trail, but it was immediately more grueling than the road. I tried to sprint down the boardwalk, and felt like I might vomit if I kept up the painful pace. Don’t vomit, I said in my head. Off to the other side, and I just felt pooped. My form was so spread out and inefficient, I was probably running 7 minutes per mile pace over the rocks and pinecones. I could sniff the win, but just needed to hold on. Once I got out to the grassy picnic area, I was so happy to be done soon. I peeked over my shoulder and knew that nobody was there and I was safe. I thought about the Olympic triathlon champ looking over his shoulder 5 times, then walking in the last few steps. I let it up just a tiny bit to make sure I didn’t yak on the timing mats, but saw 1:05 on the clock and sprinted through the finish, leaning for style.
I crumped over on the ground, totally spent. God, that was terrible. All that effort for slow, arduous, inefficient pace. It was a relief, and an honor and joy to reclaim the Brewhouse Short Course Triathlon title, and to know that I still had the fitness to pull it off. Something is working! Shyanne had a crazy fast race and finished right behind me. Paul was not far back either. Between the finish and awards, I biked 30 miles on gravel on the singlespeed machine. It was grueling. I made a vow to practice triathlon and pull a fast Park Point 5 Miler before the 2022 version.
Shoes: Mizuno Wave Rider
Bike: Specialized Transition
Wheels: Profile Design 78
Food: Bike: 3 Clif Bloks, couple sips of water
05 Aug 2019
Race Date: Sunday, August 4, 2019 – 8:30am
I strolled up to the race venue at beautiful Island Lake outside of Duluth with a bit more than an hour before race time. It was nervewracking to feel late! I felt confident in my abilities to win this race for the 8th time and just wanted to check each item off the list before race start.
Bib pickup, body marking, timing chip pickup. Rack my bike, unload all my stuff, and start putting it together. I took my bike for a spin once my backpack was unloaded, and it was working great. Then I got my shoes on to go for a little spin. I was feeling good and ready to rip my 9th Brewhouse Triathlon sprint course.
Despite feeling super late, I got back to my transition zone area and starting putting on my wetsuit with plenty of time to spare. Nice. I had run through my transition sequences several times in my head and felt good. Caffeine gummies were on my bike seat, water all set… I couldn’t think of anything else so headed down to the water to get acclimated and get the arms warmed up.
I chatted with some familiar faces, found my support crew Emily on top, and took a spin around the swimming area to warm up. All systems go. Before long, the crowd assembled, the PA announcer started beckoning us. The race director Matt Evans told us where to go, big triangle buoys, turn right. Then, the 10 second countdown, GO! And we were off. It was a washing machine start, as always, and I doggy paddled in an attempt to find my slot to swim in. The field spread thin before too long and I was able to swim like normal.
This was my second swim of the year, but I felt comfortable. I was only breathing on one side and kind of pinning to the left. There were swimmers to my right and when I tried to breathe on both sides, a faster method but less oxygen availability, I got some choppy waves in my face. Back to the one side. When I’d sight that first buoy, it’s off to the right. Swimming straight was the battle until the first turn. But I made it to the first buoy seemingly in the second pack of swimmers. There were a few ahead of me and I could see a bigger group further up. I felt good making the turn, right where I expected and wanted to be. The second buoy was close, I made that turn and got my bearings for the home stretch. The field was spread out after the two turns and I wondered if I left some of the others behind, giving me a little surge of confidence. Let’s go!! I fluttered my back legs extra hard in an attempt to get some forward propulsion, and tried to lock in on my bilateral breathing method. I was focusing on putting my head down and practicing good form. When I put my head up to sight, again the swim exit buoy was way to my right and thus I was pinning left. Gah. Oh well, I cranked it in, and exited the water with two other swimmers.
Running into transition, I almost felt like I was going to faint. I don’t know why running into T1 is always such a grind… catching my breath after swimming is a major struggle. I was fumbling around with my wetsuit trying to put it in just the right place below my bike. I felt that my T1 was long. I saw a tall gentleman in a nice bike speeding out on the bike and figured that was who Ryan told me looked to be the main competition, just based on how he looked and his bike. So that’s my target.
Out of transition, I hastily hopped on my bike and pedaled a few strokes over top my shoes. I always have a slow time getting my bike shoes on. Careful, as not to unclip the shoe. Faster, the clock is ticking. I finally got all clicked in, and remembered the caffeine gummis on my seat. Crap! Were they still there? I stood up and touched my seat… no way. Oh well. Time to crank. I got up to speed and passed a few people right away. My legs felt slow and sore, like there was already lactic acid built up. I tried to crank anyways. Push push push I told myself. PUSH! I passed a few people but couldn’t see the lead bike. What can ya do besides put your head down and… yep… CRANK! PUSH!
Before the turn onto Emerson Road just before the turnaround, I saw a very tall gentleman on the bike coming the other way. First place. I figured it was a Canadian. He’d raced against me before and I somehow edged him every year but knew this would be a major challenge. What’s his name…
For the first time all day, I was very fearful of my winning streak of 7 wins in my last 7 starts crumbling. He was way ahead of me. I glanced at my watch and looked at the seconds, trying to figure out by how many minutes he was ahead. At the turnaround I passed last year’s female champion Bettina. I passed her quickly and tried to break away as fast as I could. With the left turn off of Emerson, I glanced back at my watch and knew that I was probably two minutes back at least. Whoosh, that’s a lot to make up. I didn’t feel like I was going fast and my legs still felt kind of sore and just drained. It’s mental, I told myself, and slid forward on my seat to get an aggressive angle on my bike, hoping to find more power somewhere. I saw another gal up front, by the looks, and was really impressed by her biking. Holy crap she is way up there! I was used to being behind the lead motorcycle and here I was in third place. I began to think about the run. I’d have to run really fast to stand a chance, and that’s after closing this bike split out in a very powerful way. I drank a sip of water and tried to capitalize on a downhill.
Across the Island Lake bridge and within sight of the transition area, I was gaining ground on the gal in front of me. I finally caught up to her within mere feet of the dismount line. I dismounted quicker than her and tried to sneak around to her right and onto a little bridge to the transition entrance. At that moment, she swung her leg around her bike and almost karate kicked me in the face. I apologized… poor form on my part to sneak up on her like that. Whoops. I wondered how fast she was on the run… And how far behind I was from the singular person ahead of me now. I sure didn’t see anyone up ahead.
As I sprinted through transition with my bike, I heard the announcer Jerry MacNeil telling the crowd how when I get my running legs on me, it’s my best leg. I hope you’re right, I said to myself. I fumbled again in T2, accidentally clipping my bib number on before putting on my shoes. Gah! I can do that while running! But my bib number belt was clipped, my shoes went on smoothly, and I put a caffeine gummi found on the ground in my mouth. Better late than never. Then I sprinted out the gate, onto the chase.
This was kind of fun, I thought, to be a supposedly fast runner on the chase in the running leg of this triathlon. The past years that I’ve won the Brewhouse Sprint, I’d led off of the bike, and so my mission then was to just hold everyone else off. And being a faster runner, that is somewhat easy to do. But I figured that I was down by several minutes. So if this guy is a halfway decent runner I’d need to run several minutes faster than him?? Knowing the run course has been kind of short, I did the math and figured I’d have to run a minute faster per mile. I looked at my watch, in a dead sprint, to see 6:06 in the pace field. That won’t cut it…
I thought of Jerry’s sentiment. I just gotta get my running legs under me. Push, Mike, push!! I focused on my rhythm, keeping a fast turnover. Nah, that’s not fast enough, just sprint. My labored breathing was OK. I liked to feel that, actually. Put it all out there. You don’t want to lose this race. What will it take? What do you have to give? It’s not worth it, you don’t have what it takes. It was a flurry of emotions and thoughts before the first mile, especially on the straightaway section where I saw nobody in sight. I asked a volunteer how far back I was. A good bit. That’s not encouraging. I pushed to the water station, knowing it’s a quick lollipop on gravel from there, then about a mile back home. I asked those volunteers where he was. They encouragingly said I’d see him in a minute. Like, an actual minute? But I smelled it… I could tell I was reeling him in. And if I didn’t see anyone before the lollipop I’d be in great shape. Well, right as I passed the lollipop, this very tall guy popped out. I barely got a glance at him, choosing instead to glance at my watch to try a calculation. I tried to run as hard as possible around the dirt circle, hoping to at least get him in my sights back on the road. Back to the lollipop intersection and I figured I was more than a minute behind. That’s a lot to make up in a bit more than a mile.
I still had the energy for a pursuit. I really laid it out there back on the road. I thought I saw someone ahead, but there were runners coming at me… it was too hard to tell. I figured this tall guy may falter on the relatively technical off-road half mile section of the run course, and I tried to hammer it. I couldn’t hammer, I just didn’t have the speed. My watch beeped my mile split and it was over 6:00. That just won’t cut it! So at that point, I dealt with the fact that I wasn’t going to win. But that sentiment quickly shifted as I looked over my shoulder. And that fearful sentiment quickly shifted as I saw nobody.
I couldn’t see anyone at the finish line. Tunnel vision. I was very disappointed crossing the line. The legacy is over. Well, how long could I not train for the race and expect to win? That is a joke! I am a joke for even trying all these years. The champion was at the finish and greeted me with a big handshake. He had a great race, and played it well with a monster bike split. I quickly departed the finish area and headed straight to the lake. I barely looked Emily in the eye and I think she understood my frustration and backed off. I took off my jersey and shoes and stomped down to the lake. I slumped into the water, putting my face in and floating on my belly. Gah.
I should have known that my fitness on the run, or lackthereof, would be an issue. I felt fit, but it really makes a difference when I can rip a fast open 5k or 5 mile run. Like under 17 minutes for a 5k. That run speed translates to the bike more than many may give it credit for, and obviously translates to the last leg, too. Good overall fitness, that I’ve derived from paddling and biking and hiking and some running, isn’t enough to actually compete. Legitimate running speed is enough. And that is what I was lacking. My time was good, 1:02 or so, but still slower than when I’m in good running shape where I know I can hit under 60 minutes on this course. Emily greeted me by the lake and tried to cheer me up. It worked, and I couldn’t really be too mad or angry or frustrated. The race actually went good. Maybe a few little flubs, but I think I left it all out there given my abilities at the time of the race start. The champion, Kris Nisula of Thunder Bay, came over to me as I sat at the bench with Em, and I could tell he was happy. I was happy for him! He put on a good race, knowing that he was going up against the defending champ and that I had a strong run. He told me he knew he had to hammer the swim and the bike, and the strategy worked out. Furthermore, he talked about other races he was training for and I knew from meeting him in the past that he was a pretty serious triathlete. He deserves to win, when I think I can just stroll up and compete against him. Kris was great to chat with–a very nice, tall gentleman.
In hindsight, the race was fun. How can you not have fun? Brewhouse Triathlon is a great event at a great venue. If anything, I’m more motivated to train and set the course record. That is my prerogative for 2020. I can’t wait until next year for my favorite race.
Pace: 1:45/100 yd
Shoes: Saucony Freedom
Bike: Specialized Transition
Wheels: Profile Design 78
Food: Water, one caffeine gummi
07 Aug 2016
Race Day: Saturday, August 7, 2016 – 8:30am
I went in to Brewhouse Tri with big expectations. I had the expectation to win. It’s easy to say you have no expectations, but this was not the case. It’s easy to say you have no expectations when there is no reason that you should have them, such as not swimming and signing up for a triathlon, which involves swimming. Or letting my tri bike literally get dusty from no use, when the race involves riding a tri bike. Nevertheless, I went out to Brewhouse with the goal to win. Time was irrelevant.
This was my sixth time racing the Brewhouse Sprint, and I was competing for my fifth win. The caveat was my severe lack of specific training. This seems to be a common theme lately, but seemed to play out OK with Voyageur just one week prior. I hadn’t swam a stroke or sat on my tri bike, for all intents and purposes, for nearly 11 months. I knew I had good run fitness, and I knew I had decent biking fitness from biking to work every day. Is 6 miles a day enough? I rarely push it… my commute is at a very leisurely pace. How far back on the swim will I be? I had some major questions on how the day would pan out.
The morning drive to beautiful Island Lake outside of Duluth confirmed my notions that the day would be ideal for a triathlon. I got to the transition area and saw plenty of familiar faces to who I had to explain being off the grid and spending my time hiking. It was good to be back schmoozing with the awesome triathlon community in Duluth.
The bike warmup was on point, and I didn’t spend too much time running. I had a pre-race Mountain Dew and was ready to rock. My transition area seemed so much more compact and easy than I remember. A testament to the backpacker ‘less is more’ mentality? Perhaps. I suited up in my wetsuit and did a few strokes. They felt fine, but even a minute was enough to feel the tension and soreness in my shoulders. Not good.
I found myself antsy for the race to begin. Before long, Matt Evans came out of nowhere to instruct us on what buoys to turn at and to come back to. In a flash, the goggles went on and the 10-second countdown began. “GO!” and the hectic start commenced. Nothing like a triathlon start… Hands, feet, faces, bodies everywhere.
I felt fine right away, but definitely noticed my lack of swim fitness. I was used to pulling away from people at the drop of a hat, er, swim cap, and now people were swimming away from me. I tried to get on someone’s feet, but it was only for a short while. The first buoy wasn’t too terribly far off, and I felt good rounding the first and second markers. My shoulders were burning and they felt like wet noodles dragging through the water, but I was halfway done and still swimming as strong as a non-training fool like me could go. I took it all the way in until my fingers scraped on the bottom of the lake floor.
I knew I had some ground to make up while I was in T2. Not to belittle my fellow athletes, but I was not used to being down off the swim. My transition was hasty, it took me a bit to get my shoes set, but then I took off hard on the bicycle.
The Brewhouse bike course is fast. I cranked right out of the gate and got up to speed quickly, passing a few people in the process. I was gaining on others quickly and passed them like they were stopped with a kickstand up. I peeked at my watch to get a reading of 30MPH, and I knew I was on the right track. I figured that I could hold a decent run pace regardless of how hard I push on the bike. At that moment, I knew to achieve my goal, I’d have to put it all on the line on the bike. And so I cranked away. Every person I passed, I looked ahead to hopefully catch the lead motorcycle. The legs were feeling fine, but I was breathing really heavily. No time to catch my breath, I thought. A few more people, and I saw the leaders near the one turn on the course. He was just a few minutes ahead of me, so I made the 180-degree turn and had my sights focused to that motorcycle like a track dog to the fake rabbit.
The next few people were slower to pass. It took a while to reel them in, and it was a slow pass. I was happy to get past my tri buddy Lee Brown, because I knew he’d be a contender. He’s had a few second-place finishes at the race and I knew he was hungry for a local win with his new tri bike. A minute later, I caught the leader, with time to pad until T2. I made an effort to put more time on my fellow competitors, and hopped off my bike in a hurry, sprinting for my running shoes.
The second transition was speedy, and I was off. I wondered how my legs would feel without doing a single brick workout on the year, and they felt like jelly. The feeling of running in a triathlon is pretty terrible. It’s like you have a parachute on, or ankle weights. You just can’t get that speedy pickup. I was breathing heavy out of the gate, and took a peek behind my shoulder to gauge how this guy was running. He was close. I figured I’d be able to pick up a little speed once my legs get used to the switch-up, but three miles isn’t much real estate. In that case, I tried to focus on my cadence.
By the turnaround, I couldn’t see anyone. By the time I had a clear view behind me, back on County Road 4, there was nobody in sight and I knew I had it. I picked up my pace for good measure, and just because I could, and my notions were confirmed as the athletes going the other way told me it was mine. They popped us into the woods, and I was cruising on by on a wooden bridge. Sweet. The last half mile was on a trail, and you could just smell the Northwoods pines. The sound of the crushed gravel underfoot made it a treat for the senses.
I held up my five fingers on the finishing chute, and brought it in a few seconds past an hour, far off of the course record. To my surprise, Lee Brown came waltzing in before I could bat an eye. I somehow held him off with a big bike, giving me five wins for this race. The Brewhouse Sprint Tri is a spectacular event.
Pace: 1:40/100 yd
Shoes: Mizuno Hitogami size 11
Bike: Specialized Transition
Wheels: Profile Design 78
14 Sep 2015
Race Day: Sunday, September 13, 2015 – 7am
This is the big one. From when I registered for Ironman Wisconsin in early September 2014, this event and the training and the preparations have been on the forefront of my mind. It’s dominated my life in many ways… mentally, physically, time- and energy-wise. And to cross the finish line made it all worth it!
Training went good. That is a very broad generalization, but to describe at least 7 months of specific day-in, day-out training, “good” is the best way to sum it up! I found it miraculous that I was able to train like that. I can now only imagine the devastation of signing up for an event like this and be mentally in it, only to get injured and have to take a week off. To take a month or multiple months off would be tortuous! Races in 2015 blew my previous results out of the water. That just goes to show that if you put in the time and effort, you’ll see improvement. You can’t fake it, and a high-volume training program is a guaranteed way to get better at triathlons. That was the most fun part of the whole training experience–the early season hours and miles translate into some fast racing. I saw big time improvements.
August wasn’t great, though. I didn’t get any long efforts on the bike, besides one 60 miler and maybe a few two hour rides, which made me a bit worried. Running was consistent, luckily, but five weeks out would be the perfect time to get a few last big workouts in, recover, and then put everything together for race day. Not for me. Work commitments got in the way of training, my energy stores were sapped, and I couldn’t get it in. There is not much to do about that, however, and I made my best effort to train smart in the final weeks before the big show. On race week, I felt healthy, energetic, and lean. Perfect.
Nick, Ryan and I got to Madison on Friday for the race on Sunday. The whole Ironman experience is pretty cool. The bike has to be dropped off this day between these times and you pick up your packet materials between this time and drop your run special needs bag off here at that time and the bike special needs bag here, and so on… There are a lot of details and a few times I felt like a sheep being herded in the right direction, not knowing why or what the line I was standing in was even for. I suppose this sort of organization is necessary for an event of this complexity and size. Regardless, it was nice to get there with two days to kill before the race.
Although we had these seemingly easy 1-2 hour obligations each day (Friday and Saturday), it felt like the chill time was at a minimum and we were constantly running around or prioritizing what to do next. We got it all done, though, and by Saturday night, we were incredibly excited and ready for what the next day had in store.
Race day began at 4:30am. I woke up and poured a coffee cup full of Raisin Bran and skim milk and ate it with a fork. No bowls or spoons. That is what I was working with. Nick grabbed me a coffee and we started getting ready. In 45 minutes, we were all set. It was nice to know that the majority of my equipment was stowed away ready to go and the only big items to carry with me to the start line were for the swim. It’s pretty easy to keep track of the wetsuit and goggles, really. And so we set off!
At Monona Terrace in the darkness, there were people everywhere. First things first, I got body marked. Then, to the bike rack. I put one bottle of water and one bottle of Gatorade on my bike and borrowed a pump from some guy. Then, I went to the bike gear bag transition room and stashed a few more calories with my helmet and socks and sunglasses. At this point, I had lost Ryan and Nick and was by myself. I wandered around looking for a calm bathroom facility with a short line. The porto-pottie did not fit the bill for that, and I found one inside the convention center. After the business was taken care of, I had 45 minutes to burn before the gun went off, so I moseyed to the swim start and mentally prepared for the day ahead. The morning was very calm and orderly, which was exactly what I needed.
At 6:45am, I suited up and got into the water. I did a few strokes and felt good. The water was perfect and I was very comfortable. I got back behind the start line and browsed for a sensible spot to start. The mass start of over 2,000 people is one long line perpendicular to the buoy line. If you start furthest away from the buoy line, you’d theoretically swim a few hundred more yards than someone who starts right next to it, but that is apparently a rough start with faster swimmers crowding the corner. I started in the middle of the start line near a water ski jump. With five minutes to go, I swam up to the front and easily slid into place in the front row. I don’t want to swim around people in this mess! The announcer said some words and before long BOOM! and the cannon shot.
I started off hard. I wanted to get out in front a little bit. 2.4 miles is plenty of time to get in a good rhythm, I could afford to swim out of my element for two minutes. With my first sighting, there was nobody in front of me and nobody really around me. Nice! I got bashed a little bit, but the first ten minutes was really nice, actually. I quickly got into a rhythm.
The rectangular swim course has one really long stretch on the back side, the two shorter sides, plus the start and finish side. Coming up to the first buoy, known as a major hog-pile where you “moo” like cattle being smooshed through a gate or something, my swim was so far without incident. This is going better than any other race this year, I thought! What a good start! To my surprise, the rest of the swim went equally well–I had plenty of room to swim and could get into a nice stroke pattern for lengthy periods of time. I’d get onto somebody’s feet and then lose them, and jump right onto the next guy’s feet. On the final turn, I didn’t exactly know the fastest route back, and looking for the bee line, felt like I was swerving around a bit. When I exited the water, I hit 1:05 on my watch. That was pretty much right where I wanted to be and I was super pleased with the race so far. The swim didn’t feel too arduous. Long, yes, and I wanted it to be over when my eyes felt like they were bulging out of my sockets from the tight goggles, but I was good to go and excited to start the bike.
I rolled the wetsuit below my waist just in time to get to the wetsuit strippers. Two guys told me to lay down, and I yelled “PEEL ‘EM, BOYS!” In one picosecond, they yelled at me to get up, threw me the wetsuit and I was on my way. Slick. The run to T1 was up a parking ramp helix. It was a little congested and completely lined three-deep with spectators. I tried to cut a corner on the curb and slipped and fell. How embarrassing! I sensed the crowd hush as if I was down for good or something, but I popped back up with a tiny scratch on my hand and kept on my way.
The T1 was a little hectic, but I got my bike gear quickly and was off.
I hopped on my speed machine and got one foot in the shoe and the other just mashing on top while circling down the helix on the other side of the parking ramp. The start of the bike was a little technical on bike paths and tight turns. I got set up and felt great. I knew it was going to be chilly in the morning with temps just above 50 degrees, but it felt really refreshing out of the swim. Once out onto the open road, I was cranking past people. It was hard to limit at first. The bike course consists of a 16 mile stem out into the country, then two 40 mile loops, then back onto the stem for 112 miles. I passed a lot of the fast swimmers who weren’t going to bike really fast and by mile 30 or so, I felt like I was in a good groove and staying on top of nutrition. My stomach was happy and I was energized.
The Ironman Wisconsin bike course is sweet. I had so much fun on the first loop. There are a ton of screamin’ downhills, and the uphills and plentiful turns keep you engaged. I got with a group of guys and was jarring back and forth. There were a few hills where spectators lined the street and were going crazy. The spectator support is pretty astounding, really! By 50 miles in, I had to pee and felt a little anxious to get to the halfway point. Once there, I grabbed my bike special needs bag, in which I stuffed some tasty goodies. I cracked open the gummi worms and ate a large handful as I was peeing in the porto-pottie. My legs felt decent, and the break was great to stretch my legs and get my muscles in a different position for a second. I stuffed my bike box with as much more snacks as I could fit and was off.
The second loop started off good. I was refueled, didn’t have to pee anymore, and knew what I had in store for the second go-around. I quickly found myself in no-man’s land. There weren’t many people around me, surprisingly, and I was just passing some of the slower people on their first lap. It was here, perhaps mile 60 or so, that I started feeling a little down. My quads were beginning to feel sore and I was definitely uncomfortable in aero position. The neck and back and the area that touches the saddle were all beginning to ache. It felt like the first part of the loop was so flat and without hills and turns, which would typically be great cycling terrain (and was definitely not the case!), but I wanted the hills and turns because then I could sit up and get out of aero. I told myself to soft pedal and take it easy. There is no sense in pushing through the fatigue with 40 miles and a marathon to go. I had to let the fatigue slow me down on the bike or else I’d pay for it big time on the run.
I kept it steady and focused on eating and drinking and staying aero and being efficient for the remainder of the loop. When I saw Dave (Nick’s pops) on the last big hill of the loop, I got a boost of energy. I suddenly felt fresh and smooth for the remaining 25 miles. This was the definition of a second wind–like my brain shut off certain pain sensors or something. I started back onto the 16 mile stem towards Madison and was feeling good physically and feeling good about the race in general. Yes, my legs were pretty sore and my neck was killing, but my time was pretty much right on track. I estimated 5:12 initially, and knew I wouldn’t hit that, but definitely on track for under 10 hours.
I remember distinctly questioning whether or not I’d be able to run. It was hard to visualize actually running. My legs were so burnt out, I really thought I’d walk it in for a 6 hour marathon. I remembered a mantra, “If it’s not positive, it’s negative. Everything has to be positive from here on out.” And so I took it home with that in mind. Of course I’d be able to run, I’ve trained all year for this. There were a few cyclists in the mix, and I simply assessed my stomach situation and tried to finish off my food and Gatorade stash and get to digestion while I was still on the bike.
It was relieving to see Monona Terrace in the distance. I rode up the helix to the top of the parking garage, which felt flat compared to some of the hills on the course. I slipped my feet out of my shoes and mashed them on top, then put one leg over the top tube. My dismount was quick, but felt so weird. First of all, the balls of my feet hurt. I think my bike shoes could use a new insert. Next, the legs were so jelly right away–by far more unstable and wobbly than ever. I had a weird gallop/hobble/run thing going on into the T2 room.
It was nice to have a simple run bag. The volunteer got my shoes aligned, I slipped them on, grabbed the race number belt and was off. It seemed like the volunteer was surprised by how hasty I was, but c’mon, you need a sense of urgency in transition zone!
Right off the bat, I took a whiz in the plentiful porto-potties right outside of transition. Hue was good. I was worried that my pee would be super dark or something. Anyways, it was another 100 feet to the run start and I split my watch time. Once I got my shoes on, my feet felt fine, and a few strides is all it took to shake the jelly legs. It was almost overwhelming how happy I was to get running and feel normal. Burnt quads were no issue, neck was in a different position, and all of the bike pains were gone. My first mile was around 7 minutes flat and I was on my way with big smiles.
I kept telling myself that my pace should feel easy until mile 16. After mile 16, it can be hard work, but before that it is steady, steady, steady; easy, easy easy. I caught up to a fellow Minnesota triathlete Ross Weinzierl and he said “slow is steady, steady is fast.” Ross kept it steady. I passed him at mile 3 or so, and he ended up at around 10:25. That is steady.
I kept it steady, too, for a long time. The run is two laps, which makes it easy to break up. There are a lot of different views as the run darts all around Madison. That was really cool, and it kept my mind off the grueling task. I was in good spirits for 10 miles and people commented on my smile! I was smiling because it was fun. I felt good and I was so excited to take it home.
At Mile 13, I saw a few familiar faces and hit the turnaround feeling good. With half to go, I calculated that I needed a 1:45 half marathon to get under 10 hours. My initial high-end predictions of 9:45 were out the window, but 1:45 was just keeping it steady plus a nice little time buffer. I saw Nick soon after that, and he was cruising. Definitely not the super scary 10k speed I’m used seeing chasing me down like at Buffalo Tri earlier this year, but I could tell he was moving along quickly. I had just looked at my watch at the turn and it read 8:15:XX. A quick calculation meant he was only a few minutes back and would be passing me soon. I still felt good, though, and just kept truckin’.
Seemingly all the sudden, I started shutting down. As I write this approximately 24 hours after the fact, I can’t remember exactly what was going on, but I remember being so hungry for real food like a sandwich and just not being able to run fast.
I had this super slow trot going on and made the executive decision to walk through an aid station at mile 16 or so. This was the first time I had stopped running, and it felt nice to stop for a second. Real nice. It wasn’t necessarily the actual act of walking that felt nice, but the knowledge that I don’t have to start running again quite yet. I grabbed a cup full of pretzels and a cup full of coke. That combination was so good. Just so completely satisfying. I finished it off to the last drop and started running again. Still slow. Still pretty agonizing. I walked through the next three or four aid stations in the same fashion: eat a lot of pretzels and drink a cup of coke, then run again. It was easier to run and huge motivation to just know that if I could run to the next aid station, I’d be able to walk through it and mow down on food and drink tasty coke.
By the time mile 22 came around, I had been passed frivolously by my fellow competitors. I ran through an aid station for once. My stomach felt good despite eating a lot of food that would probably make any runner’s gut churn! But I picked it up. I’m not sure if it was a boost of adrenaline or the conversion of food into energy, but my pace increased, my form improved, and I was back in the mix feeling good. It was as if my brain turned off certain pain sensors. This sensation was very, very similar to my bike experience–a second wind. So for the final 5 miles, I tried to hold it together and take it all in. I recall thinking that I was sure to faint or collapse at the finish line. I wondered what would indeed happen. I thought of all the videos on the internet about Ironman athletes collapsing with 400 meters left and crawling to the finish line, or the swarm of volunteers on deck ready to catch the completely exhausted racers as they leave their last calorie of energy on the course. Then I remembered my mantra and just tried to soak up the crowd and the whole experience and keep plugging along.
I don’t know why a kid cheering for their parent struck a chord with me, but I got pretty emotional at some point and thought about all of the training, the time spent and sacrifice for this dumb event. The emotions flashed through my mind state in the final few miles. Running down State Street towards the Capitol was great. To see the Capital was a sight for sore eyes. I was just outside of 10 hours, but time really didn’t matter at this point. I kicked it in and got some high-fives in the finishing chute.
At the finish, I did the signature bow-and-arrow finish celebration the volunteers caught me. No, I didn’t collapse or anything, but I definitely put some weight on their shoulders as they shuttled me through the barricades.
To finish was pretty ecstatic. What a feeling. I saw Nick almost immediately. He was sitting on a chair and wolfing down pizza. Our parents were right there, and it felt really wonderful to sit down and relish in the moment of finishing Ironman Wisconsin. 12 months of dedication, 10 hours of pure exercise, and a beautiful 10 minutes of sitting in a chair to soak it all in.
The race went off without a hitch. I mean, things went really perfect. You can get punched in the face right away and caught with a group of flailing swimmers, have big time mechanical issues on the bike, or encounter a whole host of issues during the run. And the transitions are so hectic that you never know what could happen! To have everything go so smooth was incredible. I think that the race was perfectly executed, which is equally as incredible. I slowed down, I had low points, and I was 20 minutes off of my expectations, but I don’t think I could have raced it any differently to go any faster. Training modifications are a different story, and I know I have a sub-9:30 rattling around there somewhere. But it will take another $700, 40 weeks spent training for 20 hours, and fun weekend with the boys to find out! I’m super excited for that next one.
Place: 37/2387 (2,387 finishers)
Shoes: Saucony Kinvara 5, size 11.5
Bike: Specialized Transition
Wheels: Profile Design 78
Food: Too much to remember… ~5 gels, 2 packets of Honey Stinger Energy Chews, 1.5 Bearded Brothers Bars, 2 Honey Stinger Carmel Waffles, 2 handfuls of Trolli Brite Crawlers, a lot of pretzels, and more…
09 Aug 2015
Race Day: Sunday, August 9, 2015 – 8am
The Green Lake Triathlon is a perennial classic. I love this race and I’ll keep coming back even though it is a trek from Duluth! The course is sweet. Green Lake is super nice and clean, the bike course is smooth, flat and fast, and the run is along the lake. Also, the transition and race site is awesome and there are always great amenities. Like pizza and beer.
Going into the race, I had a pretty weak week of training and was working a lot on Friday and Saturday. Add the 3.5 hour drive on Saturday night and it makes for a less than ideal lead up. Either way, I didn’t have too many expectations with my performance besides that I wanted to win. Bad. Real bad. Based on my fitness this season so far, I figured that I could likely pull it off depending on who showed up. The field of triathletes was spread thin for this particular weekend as Age Group National Championships were in Milwaukee and six other races were scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. Minnesota Tri News pretty much slated me to win, which was a boost of confidence for sure. On the flip side, it is always fun to race, and anybody will put up a better effort if placement is on the line. Reeling someone in or running scared is much more motivating than being way off the front by your self.
Anyways, race morning started off nicely. Mountain Dew, Sports Beans, a little coffee, deuce deuce and I’m ready to roll. I took my bike out for a spin and the mechanicals were working perfectly. Jogging around felt nice. I popped my wetsuit on and went for a few strokes in the lake. My arms definitely felt heavy, but the warmup helped. The lake was perfect temperature and calm. It was windless and in the low 70’s… ideal racing conditions. I peed in my wetsuit with hopes that the added saliency would add to the buoyancy of my wetsuit. I started in the first wave so I hopped back onto the beach and we were ready to rip.
I stood next to Tim Bode, who’s raced with me and Green Lake many times before. He is a beast swimmer and I thought that I could perhaps stick on his heels. I even revealed my plans to do so, and with characteristic Minnesota modesty, told me I’d be able to with no problem and that he’d probably be drafting me!
With a ten second countdown, the horn blared and we were off. The start was much nicer than Chisago and I got out towards the front immediately. I looked up and Tim was right there. I did two more strokes and looked up and he was approximately 50 meters in front of me. WHAT!? Just like that?? I was baffled, but kind of expected that and could only hope to be second out of the water and not too far behind Tim.
The remainder of the swim was nice. I was more or less by myself. I got pretty disoriented at the turnaround and had to completely stop swimming and look up to navigate correctly. I came to the last buoy with a large hoard of short course athletes and brought it home. I made the executive decision to take my wetsuit off in the water again, and I can’t decide whether or not that is faster or more efficient or not at all. I’m actually leaning toward faster, but it is embarrassing to be at the shore fiddling around with my wetsuit and thrashing about. Regardless, I got it off pretty quickly and my transition was very fast.
With my trusty steed in hand, I ran toward the bike exit and mounted. There was another dude in a slick looking Shiv next to me and we started together. Once my feet were secured to my shoes, I stood up and jetted past him. My game plan was to smash the bike as hard as possible. It’s such a fast course and my biking has been on point lately, so I figured that there is no reason to mess with the formula. However, it is frustrating be seemingly limited by fatigue on the run.
I could feel that I was going really fast on the bike. Unlike the 56 mile ride at Chisago, where I wanted to have an even race and leave a lot for the run, I was mustering out all of the power I could. It was funny to get to the point where I’d go hard for a minute or two on a nice stretch and then be tired. At Chisago, and during training, biking is so constant and it’s rare to get that sort of “can quit right now please” feeling. I passed Bode a few miles in and was in the lead. On the flat sections, I was just tracking with the white line, head down, grinding HARD. I merged with the short course folks, and passing people on beach cruisers made me feel event faster.
I got into T2 feeling pretty beat up, but good nonetheless. My legs definitely felt heavy on the run, but that feeling passed surprisingly quickly. I was going at a pretty nice clip and pretty excited about being able to turn over quickly right out of the gate. At the short course turnaround at 1.5 miles, I was at 9:50 or so, which was 50 seconds slower than I was shooting for. That was frustrating, because I felt like I was going fast and I was definitely breathing hard. I kept pushing and felt really good until the long course turnaround at 3 miles. That split was around 20 minutes. I was hoping to get there a whopping 2 minutes earlier, which was again pretty frustrating. I decided to kick it up a notch for the last half. My turnover felt really good. Passing the other long course athletes was with positive encouragement, and again, I felt that much faster zipping by short course athletes past their turnaround.
I started to really pick it up with a mile to go. Although I was really far off of the course record of 1:41, I figured I’d salvage with under 1:50.
That last minute surge paid off and I came in right under 1:50. It’s hard to stomach a relatively slow run because I was running faster last year and the year before, but my open run times are light years faster this year! It equalizes, I suppose, because I’ve never biked faster than this year.
As always, Green Lake was a blast. The weather was perfect, and not 45 minutes after I finished a massive thunderstorm rolled through. I hope to get one more race in before Ironman Wisconsin on September 13, but it’s not looking very hopeful with work. All I can really look for is a methodical training block.
Shoes: Mizuno Hitogami size 11
Bike: Specialized Transition
Wheels: Profile Design 78
Food: 20oz red Gatorade
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
15 Jun 2015
Race Day: Sunday, June 14, 2015 – 7am
Lead up to the Capitol City Sprint was pretty basic. I had a strong run week with a lot of intensity, which was good, but I am feeling it now. Especially with Grandma’s Marathon in five days, the plan is to take it really easy in order to feel as fresh as possible on race day. Either way, despite not a lot of volume, it was good to get some relatively hard running in this last week as a little mental boost for Grandma’s.
I put a little less weight on performing at Capitol City just because it was a sprint race and Buffalo was more of a “where am I at” triathlon tester. I already knew kind of where I was at going into Capitol City, and frankly, Grandmas is more on my mind at this point. So the setup and prep was a little less hectic… I wasn’t as stressed out with having all my gear and just generally less stressed.
On race day, I realized that this was a deep field. According to Minnesota Tri News, I knew it was going to be deep, but it hit me on Sunday morning when I saw a few fast runners setting up in transition. Nothing is scarier than a strong runner. I felt really strong and good to go on race morning. I set up transition and went for a little jog. Then, I warmed up on the bike with a time-restricted spin out on the course. It sure was bumpy! Finally, I got into my wetsuit because I wanted to make a point to get a solid swim warmup in, especially because the swim was so short. The water was the perfect temperature and I got a nice swim warmup in. I was ready to go! Little did I know how frantic the swim would ultimately be.
The distances were 500 meters on the swim, 13.3 miles on the bike, then 3.1 miles on the run. I think the run was a little short, however. So, literally a sprint. I was expecting to push a 5k effort for an hour straight. I had little to no race strategy, just crank it out as hard as possible. A small inkling in my mind said to save a little on the bike, but I decided that it was sprint and to go for it all. Also, I had done two run-off-the-bike workouts that week and felt like my muscle memory was coming around and I could hold a decent clip for the 5k. On that Tuesday, Nick and I ran a 5:40 mile (then two easy miles) off of a hard 15 mile ride. That gave me some confidence for sure.
After a quick pre-race meeting, we gathered towards the beach.
I grouped with a bunch of other Helix-wearing swimmers… the elite pack no doubt. The pre race nerves… and everyone feels it. I was about think about jockeying for position up front and then 6! 5! 4! and the countdown started. Totally caught off guard, I threw my goggles quickly with perfect time to click the start of my watch. And we were off…
A line of guys were in front of me. I thought about dolphin diving to get out in front but there were too many people. I simply waded in the water as people in front of me swam at the same speed forward. Well, I suppose I should dive in, I thought. I dove forward into a sea of flailing bodies. It was congested. People were slapping at my feet, I was hitting people’s hands, I was entangled with someone next to me, break free and hit the person on the other side. How uncontrolled… I tried to look ahead and just swim with the pack like a mindless ocean flounder or something. I was running into people all the way to the first buoy. After that first turn, it seemed to thin out a little bit, so I tried to get into a strong groove. The second buoy was much less hectic, and I wanted to bring it home strong. I focused on engaging my pecs and back muscles.
After a seemingly crummy swim, I exited right behind Brian Sames, a solid bike-runner. This is where I expect to be, I thought to myself.
In transition, the wetsuit dismount seemed sloppy and slow. I popped two Shot Bloks into my mouth and took off. The bike mount went well and I started cranking. Brian and a few other guys were taking off, and I’ve been really liking the feeling of roping people in on the bike. I passed Brian and aimed for a dude in orange. Pushing hard, I was coming up on him but definitely didn’t have a super strong surge to pass. Finally, I torched a match or two and passed him. No need, I just wanted to be in front… I later met the guy, Bennett Isabella, who is a solid triathlete, winning a few races already this year, and hot on the du scene. I knew he had raced and Olympic triathlon at Liberty the day before, however, so figured his legs were a bit yoked. A few seconds later, he passed me back. No, I thought, this is a sprint and I need to go all in on the bike or else.
And that’s how the rest of the bike played out. I passed Bennett and neared the turnaround. I saw a big pack of guys a minute or so up, and Matt Payne was already way up there.
I eventually passed Josh Blankenheim (deja vu), but could see him behind me the rest of the way. On the last home stretch, I know I made up time on this big bike pack up front, and came into T2 essentially on the tail end of the group. I thought that a speedy transition would put me in a good position for the run.
I threw my bike down and switched to the run really fast. I could see three guys in front of me, and I passed two of them within a minute. I recognized Kevin O’Connor ahead of me, and he was running strong. I wondered if I was going to be able to reel him in, but I knew that he raced Liberty Olympic the day before as well, and hoped his legs were yoked, too! With added motivation to run fast, I could tell I was making time on Kevin. Eventually, I made the pass, but he stayed close. With a mile to go, I looked over my shoulder and saw two guys. It better not be Josh, I nervously pondered, but I knew it was. Who else would it be? Is there anyone else running me down? Can I hold these guys off? I was tired, but tried to pick up the leg speed. I was running with a long loping stride and tried to pick up the cadence, but it was too tiring. So I opted for the loping giraffe stride.
Sure enough, Josh came up right on my left shoulder. I said it – “Deja vu” – and when he put a body length in front of me, I responded. He was breathing really heavily, and I tried to control my breathing in hopes that it would be a mental discouragement. We ran side by side for a minute or two, then he made another body length break. I let it go. One body length became 10 feet with the blink of an eye, and Josh ran me down for a second week in a row, but this time within sight of the finish line. It wasn’t a sprint finish by any means, he had it in the bag. I got a dose of reality when I heard footsteps and saw people behind me. Hold on for third, I thought, and I picked it up for the finish line.
Josh finish four seconds in front of me, yet his run was over 20 seconds faster than mine. Matt Payne came in two minutes faster than Josh, and behind me was a large pack of dudes. 8 people behind me finished within about two minutes of me. That’s a sprint race for you, I guess!
Of course, I congratulated Josh and we joked about the extreme similarities to how Buffalo played out. The race for second and third literally couldn’t have been more similar. Regardless of the crushing overtaking with a half mile or so to go, I was super pleased with third place and didn’t really expect to finish ahead of some of these other guys. And, the race itself was spectacular! The bike course was awesome, run was nice and challenging, and there were some delicious post race morsels.
I realized that racing on the weekends, with taking it easy the day before and race day as well as travel and stuff, I don’t have nearly the same weekly volume, because I can get some nice long workouts in instead of all of the auxiliary race-related time spent. My next triathlon on deck is Chisago Lakes long course. I hope to get some quality long workouts in before then. But of course, only after Grandma’s Marathon!
Shoes: Mizuno Hitogami size 11
Bike: Specialized Transition
Wheels: Profile Design 78 back, Mavic training wheel front
Food: Two Shot Bloks, water on the bike
09 Jun 2015
Race Day: Sunday, June 7, 2015 – 9am
You never know what is going to happen on the first triathlon of the year. Preparing for a tri is so stressful. Compared to a running race, there is so much more equipment to pack and so many more opportunities for mistakes during the race. That pre-race stress, however, makes the feeling of executing the perfect race just that much better. I executed a nearly perfect race in Buffalo.
After Gear West, I wanted to start swimming more, and got into the North Shore Swim Club MWF swims. Instead of doing 1,500 sloppy meters by myself, I started doing 3.5-5k of quality pool swimming and was feeling good. Week to week, I don’t think I’ve every swim Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, though, and it was easy to skip! On Tuesday of race week, we did a cold open water swim at Pike Lake near Duluth, and it was cold. Really cold. We did maybe 6oo meters of swimming… about 5 minutes out and back. The way back wasn’t terrible, but my face hurt bad right away. Needless to say, it wasn’t really a quality swim workout. So I was a little iffy with my swim fitness, despite the expectation that the big pool yardage (even though only one or two days a week) will pay off.
I had a killer chunk of biking since Gear West, where I was already super pleased where I was at with my duathlon bike split. Also, I bought race wheels and some fast tires. I’ve caught a lot of flak for racing with Gatorskin tires, which are apparently very slow! I was super excited to let it rip on the bike, and I knew it would be hard to limit my effort level.
I’d been feeling a little beat up on the run. Quality running was spotty and I wasn’t pleased with the volume and consistency of my running leading up to Buffalo. I left my dog Diamond at my parent’s house after Gear West. Is that a coincidence that my running wasn’t on point? I think not! On the other hand, there were a few workouts that I did in preparation for Grandma’s Marathon that were major confidence boosters and fast. Fast for a marathon… I think that my half ironman run pace should be pretty close to my marathon pace. 10k off the bike is a different story, and I wanted to run pretty fast off the bike.
There were a lot of Duluthians racing Buffalo and a lot of friendly faces in transition. That makes it fun! I wanted to contend for the win, which would net $300 and chip away a chunk on my credit card from those new race wheels, but Buffalo is historically really competitive and a few fast dudes signed up last minute. There were a lot of other mulitsport races in the Twin Cities that weekend, though, and that spreads out the speedy dudes a bit instead of being condensed into the one weekend race. Time wise, I predicted a 24 minute swim, one hour bike, and 36 minute 10k, plus a minute a piece for the transition. That would put me at 2:02 on the nose. I learned that the bike was bit short and the transitions were pretty long, so it would equalize and I’d do a bit less on the bike and bit more in T1 and T2.
Race morning was pretty ideal, but a bit warm. The roads were dry and the wind was a little blustery off the lake riding the first mile of the bike course to warm up. After setting up transition, I did a little ride, then popped my running shoes on and tried to loosen everything up. The body was feeling good and I was ready to rip. With a half hour to go, I slid into my wetsuit and started to warm up in the water. My stroke felt OK and I was excited that the water temperature was really nice. The reported temperature of 68 was balmy!
I registered in the elite category and we had the first wave.
We lined up on the beach to start the 1.5k swim and when the crowd countdown got to one and then “GO!”, we sprinted into the water.
I tried to do a few dolphin dives to start and then get into my stroke. I was breathing on my left side only and trying to jockey for a position up front. I tried to sight ahead and thought I saw a guy jetting HARD out front. I figured that it must be Dylan, a collegiate swimmer from Bozeman, MT, who was pegged by Jerry at Minnesota Tri News to win it all. I liked that the buoys were on the left and I continued to breath on one side only in order to drop my racing heart rate and get into a fast but comfortable pace.
The rest of the swim was uneventful. There were people around me the whole time, which was relieving to know I was falling far behind or going off course too bad. I knew there were some fast swimmers in the elite wave, and if I could stay with a few of them I’d be in mint condition. After turning the last buoy for the straight-line home, I got lost in the glare of the morning sun. I poked by head high out of the water a few times and would get run into from behind. Someone was right on my heels for sure. Me and a group of swimmers took it home and I exited the swim with three or four other guys. I hit someone in the back trying to a dolphin dive out of the water, and probably looked like an idiot! I felt like one putting on the clothesline… oops.
On the beach, I ripped by arms out of the wetsuit. I noticed that Nick was right there with me. I was surprised he had such a good swim, but glad! This was shaping up to be a good race. I peeped my watch and saw 24 and change. Right on the money.
I may have taken an illegal shortcut in the transition by taking the bee line through the sprint bike racks, which saved me approximately 1 second. I should have listened to the race meeting instead of running! I had a faster transition than Nick because I didn’t see him until the bike turnaround, but was clipping in at the same time as Brooks Grossinger. I got going a bit faster than him and he never passed me.
Onto the bike, it was time to crank. My legs felt like sausages. It’s surprising how you don’t feel very fresh starting the bike after just swimming, even though that’s probably not quite the same muscle groups. After two miles, I passed an elite woman. A few miles later, I reeled in another guy, who I found out later to be Josh Blankenheim, a fellow Duluthian. I was riding good, but felt like I was burning matches. There were windy spots and some rolling hills, and I definitely pushed to the point where my legs were burning on more than a few occasions. I stood up on a few hills. On an out-and-back stretch, I saw Dylan, who was approximately six minutes ahead of me. That wraps up his win! Not far after that, I surprisingly reeled in Jake Cooley. I felt fast zooming past the sprint course athletes on the last five miles, and took it home hard. Jake was pretty close behind me and we entered transition pretty much together.
I was anxious starting the make-or-break run. At this point, it was me and Dylan. He was at least six minutes up. Fat chance that he’s running slower than 7 minutes per mile! I tried to take it out hard and wanted to stick 5:45 pace. When I hit the first mile, I hit the split on my watch and it was under 6 minutes. Perfect. Running off the bike is a bizarre sensation. I can’t get the same spring in my step and my stride feels labored. I tried to focus on my form and fluid motions. I remember thinking about an excerpt I read from Craig Alexander the day before, who said that the best Ironman runners had a very robotic form. So I tried to be robotic. 30 seconds later, it was too tiring and I resorted to running like an prison escapee.
At around mile 1.5, the 1ok course continued and the sprinters turned around. I almost toasted a woman while trying to grab a water. I took Gatorade and poured water on my face. I don’t think anyone was close behind me at this point, but I knew they were coming. There’s no way that Nick isn’t charging hard, and I wasn’t feeling very fast. At mile two, I split the time and saw a slow mile. It was perhaps 6:20 or 6:30, and way off pace for a 36 minute 10k. Could I crank down and go sub-sixes? Do I conserve my energy until the turnaround? How much gas is left in the tank??
After the sprint turnaround, it was a lonely road out to the turnaround at around mile 3. I started hearing footsteps and before I knew it, I was passed. I recognized the race kit from the guy I passed earlier on the bike, who I ultimately found out to be Josh. Ouch, what a crushing blow. I figured that I could maybe stick with him, but decided to race my own race. If I have what it takes, I’ll catch back up. I’d rather get 3rd place than push too hard now, wither and die for 6th place. Nick and Brooks out-ran me on both 5ks at Gear West, and I know they are right behind Josh.
Dylan came cruising past me once I neared the turnaround, and I didn’t even bother to calculate his margin. He was way too far up. Josh was putting time on me for sure, and I was deathly terrified to turn around and see who was behind me. I did it anyways, and there was a decent gap. I saw Larry Hosch next, who had a faster split than me on the run last time we raced at Green Lake Tri in 2013. He was coming for me and the $100 3rd place price purse. Maybe a minute back, Nick was just cruising. He looked like a Olympic 5k’er making the last lap on the track. Super powerful looking… how scary. Brooks was back there, too. The goal was to hold them all off. I cranked it down.
Every other split I took had a six in it. Not good… Once I could see the sprint turnaround, I had lost Josh already. He was too far up. At this point, I was giving it all I had. I started to get into the mental zone that I figured would push me past my preconceived limits. This is where the anger comes into play. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the anger. I told myself that this is all I do and if I didn’t get 3rd place I’d be a nobody and my life would be for nothing. This probably isn’t the most positive mindset to have, but it seemed to work OK. I know I was making a really ugly face and my form was painfully sloppy. There was an uphill grind for the last mile until we turned onto the finishing chute, and I was weaving throughout the sprint athletes. I couldn’t run a second per mile faster, and I was at a dismal six minute per mile pace. I tried to get the anger. Looking behind me, all I saw was a swarm of runners. I couldn’t tell if anyone was charging up on my rear, so I kept it up. They could be right behind me, I thought!
Turning the last corner, I slipped around some sprint athletes and bombed down the bike path into the finish line.
I remembered to stop my watch and it read just a tad under 2:01. The grinding 10k was enough to hold on for 3rd place and $100! I saw my overtaker Josh at the finish line and we chatted for a second. A minute back, Nick ran in for 4th place.
Buffalo Tri was a super fun race. The Duluth contingent killed it, with Elaine Nelson winning the women’s race, three of the top four overall and the three fastest run splits from Duluth. Everyone was in good spirits.
I feel like my race at Buffalo was perfectly executed. My run isn’t as fast as I thought, but the big bike split strategy actually paid off. I think that more brick workouts could tie together the new bike speed and improved run, where as I felt a little bit of a disconnect there during Buffalo.
I recovered fast and I’m feeling good for a few more races in June: Capitol City Sprint triathlon and Grandma’s Marathon.
Swim pace: 1:31 per 100yd
Bike speed: 24.7mph
Run pace: 6:05
Shoes: Saucony Kinvara 5 size 11.5
Bike: Specialized Transition
Wheels: Profile Design 78 clincher back, Roval ~40 clincher back (thanks Paul!)
Food: Cherry Cola Honey Stingers and Salted Watermelon Gu (on the bike)
10 Aug 2014
Race Day: August 10, 2014
After two sweet races in a row, I was so ready to keep it going at the Green Lake Tri. This one is a perennial classic for me, and I love the flat and fast course, so I was amped. Ryan, Nick and I booked a hotel and went down to Willmar for the night.
As opposed to the previous two weekends, the weather at Green Lake was terrible. I really don’t like racing triathlons in the rain, and it was really rainy and cold. That should make for a fast run, anyways. I was really excited to let it rip on the fast course. I was also borrowing a pair of race wheels from my buddy Bill, so I figured I could have a super fast bike split and follow it with a steaming run in the rain.
I was confident that I would be able to take Nick down again, despite the longer run. I figured with a little more flux room in the swim and bike, I’d have enough to hold him off. Another guy on the start list, who was pegged to win by Minnesota Tri News, was a guy who calls himself Casey Miller. He was a fast bike-runner but I had him on the swim. My plan was to get out of the water with a big margin, hold everyone off on the bike and have a steady, fast run for the win.
In the warm water, I started off the same way as Brewhouse one week earlier–push it early and establish a good position in the front. Another guy really crushed the swim and I couldn’t catch him. I swam neck and neck with another guy who I didn’t see after T1, but he was swerving everywhere!
When I got onto the bike course, I tried to let it rip. I didn’t see anyone in front of me or behind me, so it was kind of lonely out there by myself. At the turnaround, I saw Tim Bode, the fast swimmer, hammering. I’ve raced him here before and knew I could catch him on the run if I shrink his lead on the bike a bit. Once I started the return route, I saw Casey pretty close behind me, and Nick pretty close to him. This was going to be a good race!
I got off the bike and zinged through the transition zone. The announcer, Jerry MacNeil, mentioned that that sort of fast transition meant that I was going for the win. Correct! I knew I would catch Tim, it was just a matter of how long it would take Casey to get me, how long we could run together, and who had the grit to finish it out in first place. As I was exiting transition, I knew Casey was in. I started off fast and tried to lock into a pace early. I felt good running. Casey caught up to me near the short course turnaround in between miles 1 and 2. I stuck on his shoulder and we ran side by side for a half mile or so. I got a little cocky and wanted to make a move, so I kicked it up. He matched me stride for stride. Then I eased back into my pace and he kept going. That crushed me mentally. What a weak move!
At the turnaround, I knew Casey had the win. He put too much time on me just in that mile, he looked strong, and I started to feel really bad physically as well as mentally. I saw Nick after I turned around and he was pretty close. He had passed Tim as well and looked speedy. A mile later, I looked around to see how much he had gained on me, and he was right on my shoulder! I didn’t even hear him coming and he passed me in a picosecond. I told him Casey was 5 minutes or so ahead and he zoomed off, leaving me in his dust. That was tough mentally, as well, because I knew that I had third place no matter what. I could probably walk a little bit and still get the third spot. My pace slowed and I dragged myself across the finish.
Nick reeled Casey in for an amazing first place finish. As mentally tough this race was for me, especially after two big races in a row, it was a huge mental boost for Nick and I was really happy. I know Casey was kind of pissed getting reeled in, but it sounds like he faded a bit, too.
It was still a fun race, I won my age group, and I love the production of the Green Lake Tri.
Wetsuit: Blueseventy Helix (From, like, 2007)
Bike: Specialized Transition AL with HED3 wheelset
Shoes: Brooks Pureflow 3
Run: 39:16 (For comparison, Nick had a 32:00 run split. Freak status)
02 Aug 2014
Race Day: August 2, 2014 – 8:30am
After an outstanding race in Chisago a week before, I was more excited than ever to defend my Brewhouse Short Course title. I had won the race three times in a row and going for number four. Although there is always the chance of a ringer coming in for the win, I had had this race locked down really well all three times. The biggest threat in my mind was Nick, Assistant Manager at Duluth Running Co., and running phenom. We had been training more and more and more together during the spring and summer and I finally convinced him to dip his toes in the tri game. He had pretty good results at Timberman short course, finishing second, but had recently dropped stacks on a tri bike and wetsuit. In the tri game, you can buy speed.
During the week, I went on a couple of short, fast rides, and kept my running up. My race strategy is pretty fail-proof, so I went with it again–start really fast in the swim to get out front, hold a blistering pace in the water and come out the leader. Keep the lead on the bike and put a lot of time on any fast runners, then leave it all on the run course by starting fast and ending fast.
Everything looked good in transition. The weather was literally perfect. I got a little swim warmup in and the gun went off. I really pushed it hard on the way out to the first buoy in the thin rectangled-shaped swim course. I think I was the first to turn, tried to sight smartly on the next short section. I think I was still in first turning the last buoy, and tried to look back and stack up the competition. Nobody on my heels. On the home stretch, I was breathing really heavy only on one side and tried to keep it tight and fast. When I got to the beach, I looked back and there wasn’t anyone even close. I had the perfect swim. Now to go to work.
After a speedy transition, I hopped on my bike. It took a second to get my feet into my bike shoes. I’ve been careful with this after popping the shoe off a few times. That takes much more time than carefully getting my feet in. Once I was locked in, I brought it to the pain locker. I focused on smooth, round pedal strokes and to generate as much power as possible. At the turnaround, there wasn’t anyone that close to me. Some of the closer guys to me weren’t able to run with me, so I was specifically looking for Nick, who would surely out run me. He was in 10th place or so when I saw him, and my confidence soared. As long as I could crush it on the way back, the run would be a piece of cake.
I rushed through T2 as fast as humanly possible and was out on the run. I tried to keep my legs turning over as fast as possible… it’s hard to get that pure speed, all out anaerobic feeling after biking, no matter what the distance. As long as Nick isn’t breathing down my neck… I hit the turnaround and didn’t see anyone even close to me. Once I got back onto the road (the turnaround is a lollipop shape), I saw Nick cruising really fast, but he was too far off. I knew I had it in the bag, but kept pushing just in case. The finish chute was ecstatic.
After catching my breath, I turned around and saw Nick coming in fast. Wow, he picked a TON of people off on the run. He put two and a half minutes on me on the run, and I had the second fasted run. This was a 5k run, by the way.
I was happy to have two awesome triathlon races in a row and also to uphold my title as Brewhouse Short Course champion.
Wetsuit: Blueseventy Helix (from, like, 2007)
Bike: Specialized Transition AL
Shoes: Brooks Pureflow 3
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