Saturday, October 22, 2011

Ironman World Championships 2011

Let me start by saying I’m really not sure how to write this up. My goal since my first IM was to qualify for Hawaii. I didn’t think it would take this long. However, when I did accomplish it, last year at IM Wisconsin, it was one of the most amazing days of my life. In life, the things I work hardest for have the biggest reward in the end. I worked hard for the Kona spot and at times just thought it would be one thing in life that I gave my best and never achieved.

The whole year leading up to the Ironman World Championship was kind of weird. I focused more on the short distance racing early on and then shifted to long course training. I never felt like I had the same base that I did leading into WI and my coach heard that from me frequently…I just didn’t feel as prepared. However, with that being said I knew my swim and run were at lifetime bests and my bike had been my strength all year. I also put in one of the biggest training weeks of my life at altitude, training with a great group lead by Justin Daerr , Gordo, and Endurance Corner.

I also, had a pretty interesting speed bump this year. I was having one of my best races ever at Door County Half. I was around mile 9 on the run, racing for a top 10 finish overall and my heart rate shot up over 200bpm and wouldn’t come down. I’ve had my heart rate increase like this in the past but it would typically come right back down. I pulled out of that race even though it killed me to do so…I had no choice. Luckily a buddy of mine Dr. Larry Creswell, helped me out by providing a lot of comfort in a time when things were pretty scary. I was able to get a procedure performed at Northwestern Hospital about 6 wks out from Kona, which fixed my heart issue.

I was pretty excited for the big race, however as I mentioned before I think having a goal of getting to Kona was a much bigger accomplishment and with that I really didn’t have a goal at Kona. I would go back and forth between the idea of Kona as a victory lap vs. really racing Kona. I think in the end the day dictated my strategy.

I arrived in Kona with Lisa and we met my parents. I had an amazing support crew and it was wonderful to see so many friends on Kona that have been part of my triathlon family for so long. Leading up to the race there were lots of logistics to cover, but after the first day and seeing and feeling the race atmosphere, I decided that I would not go down to the expo and race areas unless I had a specific mission. I also did not attend the pre-race dinner or meeting…I wanted to enjoy the circus but not be part of it. Easier said than done.

Race morning finally came and I was very excited to finally get started. I lined up on the far left side in the second row and as I had been told many times, I expected a very physical start…beginning with full contact water treading. Without warning the cannon went off and so did we. I went out pretty hard the first few hundred yards, just trying to find space. I was getting bumped but was completely ready for it. I got dunked, bumped, hit over the head a few times, but it really didn’t matter, I knew it was coming and I was just excited to be racing Hawaii. The worst of the contact ended pretty quickly and I just kept finding feet for the swim. It was the first time in a race where feet would drop me though, and I just figured people could actually swim here. At the turnaround I got a bit aggressive and decided I should give a little surge to try and find a good pack and then ride it back to transition. This worked well and I had a steady pair of feet all the way back to the beach. I had no idea what I swam but based on some of the folks I saw in T1 I thought it probably went well.

I took my time through T1 onto the bike making sure I had everything I needed and most of all made sure to get my sunscreen. In hindsight, I probably needed more sunscreen. Onto the bike it was absolutely amazing how quick everyone was going. I tried to stay below my power cap, which I normally set pretty low for the first 25 miles or so in an IM. However, it was hard seeing everyone go by. It was also interesting to watch folks with a power meter sit up and spin the hills while other folks were hammering them. Once onto the Queen K, I got settled and sat in my zones. The race seemed to really calm down a bit on the Queen K but there were huge packs and I decided that sitting legally in a pack was the way to go. This took a bit more power to get into a group and stay legal but I think it was the correct decision on the day. I felt quite flat for most of the bike ride but really stayed on top of my nutrition plan that I practiced all year and tried to get ahead on my hydration. I ended up going to the bathroom 3 times on the bike and my goal was to go twice…great rule for IM racing…maybe a bit too much info?

I felt really good climbing up to Hawi and hit the turnaround ready to roll. On the downhill I really felt the wind and most of the downhill was spent holding onto the drops and trying to stay upright. I also started catching some folks and dropping folks at the end of the bike. My best power on the bike was in the last hour or so. By the time I was done with the bike I had nailed my nutrition and hydration and was ready to run. I ended up riding 5:15 which was a new bike PR by 7mins…then again it was a much easier course compared to Placid and Wisconsin.

I got off the bike and right away felt a bit weird. I jogged through transition, dropped off my bike and picked up my running gear. The goal was to run the race around a 140-145 heart rate and pick it up in the end. If I ran anything like WI this would have most likely resulted in a 3:15 or so. However, right from the start I was having some cramping issues in my legs and in the early miles went into the bushes and threw up all my nutrition. I was in a very bad place. I knew losing my nutrition was not good, as not only did I not have anything in my stomach anymore but also I probably wasn’t absorbing calories for a while and this was probably why I was feeling so weak. I didn’t have the desire to fight through it and wasn’t sure why. I didn’t know if I went too hard on the bike, didn’t take in enough nutrition, just was tired from training, drank too much salt water on the swim, or just didn’t want it like I did in WI. All of this was going through my head…however, I made a promise with myself that I would not give up and would make it to the finish line…I was pretty sure this would take 5 or 6hrs after I had run 3:20 in Madison the year before. Oh well. I put my head down and would just think about what I needed to do each step. I would count 100 steps at some points or count 10 cones, just to keep trying to run forward before I would walk. I was using every trick I have ever heard of to get to the finish line. I was also trying to figure out what my body needed and tried to stick to my nutrition plan…although I felt like I needed to get in a bit more cause I felt pretty weak. I saw my parents and Lisa at mile 10 or so and told them I was fine but this would take a little bit of time. I started to pull it together around mile 15, right before the energy lab and based on the time I figured I might be able to get in before 4hrs on the marathon. This is what I needed, a new goal. Into the energy lab I started feeling better and started pushing. The energy lab energized me. I was able to run a bunch of the run after the energy lab all the way up to mile 25 where my hamstrings completely seized. That sucked. After a few minutes (probably seconds) of stretching I was able to run again and finished the race that I had wanted to complete ever since getting into Ironman. I crossed the line with very mixed emotions but was happy it was done.

It has taken me awhile to write up this report because of these mixed emotions. I think next year I will not race Ironman. I feel like 4 years of chasing Hawaii has left me somewhat burnt out. However, when I think about trying to take it to the next level I get excited. I just don’t think I have what it takes to train right now to hit that next level. I don’t know if I really had it this year. I’m so happy and grateful to have completed the Ironman World Champs. It was everything everyone told me it would be and more. I have a feeling I will be back one day but right now I’m not ready. I love this sport and I love pushing myself to new levels but I think this next year I will focus on half Ironman and Olympic distance racing…I’m pretty excited about that decision. I’m also pretty excited about my next journey that will be with Lisa and for the rest of my life...the wedding is Dec. 3rd.

The journey to Kona has been an incredible one. I could have not done it without my Mom, Dad, and Lisa. Before IM WI last year my dad said he really wanted to go to Hawaii. I’m glad I was able to deliver. Finally, I’d like to thank my Coach Tim Waggoner (Lucho), as he was instrumental in this journey and helping me get to Kona…I don’t think I could have done it without him. He had more confidence in me than I ever had in myself and taught me things way beyond triathlon.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ironman Wisconsin 2010


I really had no nerves going into this race. I had done the work that Coach Tim had laid out for me and this brought me a lot of confidence. I was also seeing some pretty incredible things going on with my body during training so I was feeling good. If I had to pick one thing I was nervous about leading into this race, it was whether my nutrition plan was the right one for me. It had me taking in a lot more calories than I did typically on race day and this lead to a couple rough runs off the bike in training.

For breakfast I had 3.5 cups of applesauce,24oz sports drink with whey protein, and a banana at 3:30am. Thought I would have some decaf as well but there was no room in the gut. I had a powerbar 1hr before the start and then a gel and salt tab at 15min prior to the start when I got in the water. No stomach issues at all in the water. Before the race I was very calm, almost too calm if that is possible.



Very rough start. I started in the middle thinking that there would be fast folks on the buoy, slow folks outside and more of a gap in the middle of the line. This logic didn’t play out as I couldn’t pop out into clear water when I started getting clobbered. Other than the rough swim and really never getting into a rhythm there were no major issues or major wins during the swim. Oh, I did pee once so I definitely started the day hydrated!!

I went through T1 very conscious of not sprinting the long transition and spiking the heart rate. I remained smooth and controlled with no issues. I think a major win here was taking my time and not spiking my heart rate unnecessarily.


I was pretty disappointed with my swim but I didn’t know if the swim was long or everyone had rough swims or whatever. It was done and I could only focus on that point forward. I couldn’t control what had just happened. I got on the bike and focused on my task at hand. The positive was my heart rate was low and I started on sports drink immediately. The first 25mi or so I tried to cap my watts below 210w. I’m not sure that I was successful with this, but it definitely forced me to slow some. I think I lacked the confidence early on to stick to my low power caps (as I was worried that I would have a super slow bike time that didn’t reflect my fitness). In typical fashion everyone and their brother, mother, aunt, uncle, were passing me. It was so hard to just let them go. Just knowing that I was in the best shape of my life and people were still just flying by me was a really hard thing to accept. Around mile 25, it was go time. I knew I had to pick up my power to my designated goal (220w) if I wanted to do something special in this race. I was a bit scared cause I knew at this point my body would let me know if my power target was possible but I also knew I was fit and it was time to make something special happen…it was all in at this point. As I was getting started on my move to goal power a guy who I knew had Kona aspirations went by me and this was my moment. This time I didn’t let this rider go, I stuck to him and used him as motivation to get it done.

As I started riding at goal watts I had a pretty good feeling that it was going to be my day. I knew I was moving well based on the ease I passed my competitors, many whom I knew from local races and had beat me on the bike in these races. The miles were clicking off much quicker than I expected. I think a lot of this was due to my mantra of staying in the moment and focusing on what I could do right then... trying to stay within my power goals, riding from aid station to aid station, sticking to my fueling plan and making sure I got my electrolytes. However, I noticed myself erring on the side of higher power than goal and as I rode my confidence kept building. It was weird though, instead of fearing a glorious blow up, something inside of me told me I would be good to go. Maybe it was the fact that I had trained so hard for this race, maybe it was my focus on mental preparation where I knew if I got in trouble I would figure out a way out of the mess, maybe it was the fact that Coach Tim challenged me in my workouts on a regular basis and I never felt out of sorts at all like at times in my training. I felt great on the bike, was drinking 1.5 to 2 bottles of sports drink an hour and taking two succeed tabs and one gel every hour. This resulted in having to pee 4-5 times during the bike leg. I kept waiting for a low spot but it never really happened. I didn’t drink any coffee in the morning or leading up to the race and started on caffeinated gels about 2hrs into the bike. As I started taking the caffeine I just told myself that I would get stronger with each gel. Near the end of the bike I had a bit of a twinge in my left hamstring so I started taking 3 succeeds per hour but stuck to my fueling plan. At around 105 on the bike I switched to water and brought it in strong. I was amazed by the amount of people I ended up passing on the bike.


I got off the bike, had a very smooth T2 and was off running. The goal was 8min/mi for the first 6mi and then to hang on to 7:45-8min/miles for the rest of the race. I took a hand held water bottle with me out of the transition to help myself slow it down. I watched my Garmin and looked at my running pace every 100yds or so, I told myself out loud slow down, slow down…I went by my dad and he yelled out I was in 14th place…14th place! 14th place!! I’m in the hunt!! First 6 mi 7:26 pace. Shit, this was not the plan. I continued to tell myself to slow down, I kept watching my Garmin and I really tried to slow down through aid stations to get my nutrition and slow the mile pace. Although my confidence was building, I still wondered when the wheels were going to come off. Around mile 8 I realized my nutrition plan was NOT going according to planned. I did not want Clif Bloks at all and the thought of a gel was disgusting. Just kept doing the ironman perform drink and water. I got to the halfway point and felt great…well, great for an Ironman is relative but I was still smiling and pretty aware of what was going on. The next 6 or so miles were about the same pace, doh! However, 13 miles were in the bag and I was still feeling very strong.

I headed out for the second loop. Around mile 15 or 16 I hit my first low point of the day. I was conscious enough to make a good decision and realized I was running low on calories. At the next aid station I started on cola and this was just what I needed. I was so proud of myself for realizing I was having a problem, what was causing the problem and making the correct decision…this isn’t always the easiest thing to do 8 or 9 hours into an Ironman. I then switched the plan to alternating ironman perform drink and water to cola and water. But, just when I thought I was out of the woods I started having twinges in my hamstrings. I then decided I would start back on salt tabs every other aid station until the twinges went away. Around mile 20 I was getting pretty tired. I was still running strong but the miles were taking a toll on me. I then switched my strategy again to run to every aid station and then walk the aid station to get all my nutrition. This went real well until about mile 23 when I got a cramp in my hamstring. I bent over for 2 seconds the hamstring cramp released and at this point for some reason I knew I would be good the rest of the run. At mile 24 I picked it up and knew I would be done in about 2 miles. I was running in with everything I had left and really didn’t know what my time was as I was just focused on mile to mile and didn’t ever look at my overall split. I turned the corner and realized when I saw the clock I would be in under 10hrs. Crossing the finish line in 9:57:15, I realized that I had finally accomplished what I set out to do when I first started racing Ironman 7 years ago.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Coming Up on Tucson

It's only a few more weeks til Epic Camp Tucson and there is no better motivator than fear. This is my third year in a row doing this early season training camp and I feel like I have a pretty good idea of what to expect.

The last two weeks have been pretty solid with roughly 16-17 hours of training per week. This has consisted mostly of strong bike workouts on the trainer including two 3hr trainer rides this weekend. I've been keeping up on the Olympics during this time as well as catching some "quality" movies. My running and swimming has definitely taken a backseat but they aren't too far behind. My swimming has been much different this year with a lot of emphasis on building strength with paddles and the band. Even though I started out hating my band and paddle only swim sets they have grown on me (like a fungus) and I am definitely seeing some benefit.

I'm looking forward to racing some running races after the camp and have started to plan the triathlon season.



Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Quick Update

Well, only about 3 more weeks or so to my yearly Tucson training camp with Endurance Corner. I have taken a bit of a different approach this year working with Tim Waggoner. This has worked for me in the past and I look forward to this upcoming season.

This year instead of forcing the indoor work I have been trying to incorporate the snow into my training with some skate skiing and snow shoeing. It's been somewhat of a half fast effort but when I don't feel like biking or running indoors at least I know this is a good option.

I have also been incorporating the TRX system both on my own and in a class setting with Kari Woodall. This has really improved my core strength and kept things interesting over the WI winter.

After my training camp I look forward to a block of some solid run racing and then onto the triathlon season culminating with my 4th crack at Ironman Wisconsin.



Monday, September 14, 2009

Getting It Done

Just a quick post...

Had a good last week. I am starting to almost feel like an athlete again. I'm getting comfortable in the pool and actually feel somewhat stronger. My run is coming along nicely with a decent 40mi week last week. Not fast by any stretch but with work and patience I know that will come. The bike just feels off right now but its not really the focus of this block.

Well, off to register for IMWI 2010.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Testing the Legs

Things are coming around nicely. Last week was 2 easy swims, 1 easy run and 1 bike. Just did what I felt like doing and used the workouts to loosen up the body. The run was 4mi and maybe a bit too much as I was feeling my quads afterwards.

I hit a short bike yesterday to test out the legs. I hit it as 2x20min at 125-135bpm and followed power to see what type of power corresponded with that range. I think around 210w would be the top of the range right now. Legs felt pretty darn good.

Today starts week 3 of the recovery period. After this week its back to working on diet, stretching, and all the good things that support my training. I was watching Hard Knocks yesterday, which is a documentary about the NFL training camps, and the players were asked to write down what it will take to go from good to great. I thought that this was a useful exercise and I thought about it as well. I think improving diet will be a step in the right direction as well as more steady base miles. After keeping a food log for a few weeks I noticed my fats and protein are easily met but carbohydrate needs are rarely met. This is so important in terms of having the energy to complete my sessions, recover, and then maintain a productive life outside of my hobby, triathlon. I also, noticed in my journals that when I should have been hitting big miles I wasn't. I was too tired and pretty spent at that point. I think diet will help with that as well as keeping a lid on the intensity until the intensity is appropriate.

Another top priority on my list in the next build is that I balance my training with LBs needs as well as continuing to be very productive with my career. So, basically, train, forget about triathlon, spend time with the girls and work. I think that will help with going from good to great as well...getting out of my own way.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009