It looks like all those promises to do better with writing more and blogging went nowhere. So, here I am to give you as good a recap as I can from 2017, now that my 2017 race season is in the books.
What happened before race season?
Good question, I’m glad you asked! It was a busy, busy time. Finishing up 2L year, taking summer classes, finding work (including a trip to Colorado for an interview), trying a new diet, training (duh), hiking, and CrossFit. Natalie was instrumental in making it a great build-up to a great season, as she was doing her own dieting, CrossFit, working, and a full time masters program. We’re a little busy.
I tried a Ketogenic diet building up to the season to reduce my weight, so that I could achieve a higher power-to-weight ratio. For the non-inducted, a Ketogenic (or keto) diet is really high in fat, very low in carbs, and allows a moderate amount of protein. It’s goal is to become “fat-adapted” so that your body burns fat (and thereby its fat stores) for fuel, rather than carbs.
For the super-neophyte, the power-to-weight ratio in triathlon is very nearly everything. The less you weigh, the farther and faster your power will take you. To lose weight and build power will make you faster, quickly.
I did end up losing the weight I wanted to, but my performance suffered for it past a certain point. Plus, I found that most of the foods on keto I was not a huge fan of. I don’t like coconut anything, and it seems that 90%+ of the available recipes online used coconut oil, flakes, or something else as a key ingredient. Blech. It worked for a bit, but long term, it’s not for me.
Oh yeah, at some point this spring/summer, as a strength workout, I ran a 17:16 5k, so I was pretty stoked about that. Not sure the distance was 100% accurate, but pretty darn close. I plan on testing this time in a race soon.
What races did you run this year?
My race season changed dramatically from what was planned, due to varying circumstances. Maintaining flexibility is what makes life fun, and the ability to roll with the punches is critical to being joyful in all circumstances. That said, here are the races I participated in:
Carmel Sprint Tri
Eagle Creek Sprint Tri
Rock the Quarry (Sprint)
Tri Lakes Triathlon (Olympic)
So not exactly a long or glamorous season, but I did end up with some pretty great results. I’ll give you a brief rundown of how these went, as best I can remember.
Carmel Sprint Tri
This one was a bit of a mixed bag. My time was just a touch faster this year, my placement was the same in my Age Group, but higher overall. I wasn’t super thrilled with my performance, my swim especially. I had been focusing heavily on the bike and the run, and neglected my swim workouts leading up to this race. Add that to the lack of a warmup swim, and I struggled mightily to swim a decent time. The bike was pretty good, but I suffered a mechanical failure that caused my rear brake to drag on my rear tire for the duration of the ride. The run was so-so, I struggled to find a pace and get my heart rate down. Despite all these challenges, I still wound up with a decent time and place.
The real joy with this race was in who was there. Some friends came up from Cincinnati, more friends came down from Kokomo, more friends were out on the bike course, and a teammate (and new friend!) came down from Chicago! With all of these awesome people hanging around, it was impossible to have a bad day. Plus, we got Giordano’s pizza after the race and hung out, and generally had a fantastic time.
Finished in the top 20 overall, and took 3rd in my age group.
Eagle Creek Sprint Tri
Learning the lessons from Carmel, I was more well-rounded in my approach to Eagle Creek. I knew it would be a different crowd than Carmel drew, and more competitive. This time I was able to get all my warmups in, even though I fell over on my bike while trying to warm up. I felt pretty dumb.
The swim was wetsuit legal, so I opted to swim with the wetsuit. Being only the second time I’ve used this particular wetsuit in a race, I was still getting a feel for the fit and placement. I did get a warmup swim in, and felt ready. The swim went pretty well, not my fastest, but a good day in the water. I maintained a good pace, decent form, and finished strong.
The bike was a bit more of a struggle. I thought I had fixed my mechanical situation from Carmel, but discovered about 3 miles from the end of the bike that I hadn’t. I had done well to ride at the pointy end of the race pretty much the whole time, but at the turnaround I was feeling sluggish and defeated. Then finding my mechanical was still causing issues, I was on the brink of a bad mental race.
Fortunately, I knew I could have a really strong run. I had run the course before, and I knew I could have good legs if I rested for the final mile or so on the bike. I had a goal of running a single sub-6:00 mile in a race this season, and I planned to set myself up to make that my last mile. I was running a solid 6:30-6:40 pace for miles 1 & 2, and ramped it up for mile 3 to shoot for that sub-6. As I came down the hill to the finish chute, my watch beeped signaling that mile: 6:01. I was so close! Later, looking at Strava, my Grade Adjusted Pace gave me a 5:50 mile for that mile, so the terrain played a role in the time, but I’m carrying that goal into next season (probably – depends on my race schedule).
I finished in the top 20 overall, and won my age group! This one was a pretty good accomplishment, as this race is almost always very competitive, so to win my age group is a good sign of things to come.
Rock the Quarry
I traveled up to Goshen, Indiana for this one, staying with Natalie’s parents the night before. This course was a little longer than a “traditional” sprint tri, but offered a unique opportunity on the swim: a quarry swim. I had done some course recon, so I knew generally what to expect on the bike and the run.
The swim went pretty well, except that I played cargo truck to the eventual winner of the race. He drafted off my feet for the first 3/4 of the swim, then kicked it up to overtake me coming into the shore. I was frustrated, but didn’t want to give my own kick so I could save some energy for the bike and run.
This was an extremely long run into transition, up a hill, across a gravel path, across a field, and then into the transition area. Nearly as long as the run at Muncie 70.3, so a pretty long run. I tried sitting down in transition for the first time, and going without socks on the bike for the first time in a race. I had been riding my training rides with no socks for over a month, and knew once I was on the bike it wouldn’t be a problem, but trying it in a race I was still a little nervous.
Well, the bike ended up being the best bike of my career so far. I averaged 24.5 mph for a 13-ish mile ride, mostly flat, with a few small hills sprinkled in there. I was in 2nd place overall coming out of transition, and knew a strong bike leg would be laid down by the leader, and to hold off 3rd I would have to ride strong. I pushed my legs to accept the pain, and knew that I had the strength and power to ride hard and still put down a good run. I managed to hold off 3rd, and came into transition still in 2nd overall.
T2 was pretty good, though now I had to put on socks. I was a little scattered, but managed a decent T2 time, though I would like to be faster here in the future.
The run is where I lost it a bit. After a mile, I started having some cramping in my abdomen. I went from running a 6:40/mile pace down to running about a 9:00/mile pace, and even that was a struggle. I ended up having to walk a bit to get myself stretched out, my posture back in order, and the cramping stopped. After that, I was able to once again run about a 7:00/mile pace, but mentally I was out of the game. 3rd place caught me after this brief walking stint, and I found myself even further out mentally. I just needed to finish strong, and see what happened.
Since this was a wave start race, I knew later age groups would have an opportunity to overtake me without physically overtaking me, so there were a few minutes after I finished where I was awaiting the results of other finishers. In the end, I got bumped out of 3rd place overall by six seconds, but won my age group. Having gotten to see Natalie’s family and enjoy a race, this was a great weekend!
The race organizers could do a little to make the race better, but they acknowledged that this was a young race, some things had happened that left them without port-a-johns, but overall it was pretty well organized. Closer parking would be the only remaining request.
Tri Lakes Triathlon
This tri took place just outside of my hometown, in a really small community around a lake. This was the third year for the event, and knowing the area, and that it was a young event, I had some concerns about the organization going in. Unfortunately my fears were realized on the morning of the race, but I tried my best to plan around it and not let it affect my race.
I made the drive after class late on Friday night, and got in with enough time to shave and go to bed. Packet pick up was supposed to start at 7 am, so I made plans to be at the race site to survey everything around 6:45. I pulled in at 6:45, and another of my fears came to pass: no port-a-johns. The race was being held in conjunction with a tavern, and participants and spectators were expected to utilize the two restroom in the tavern. Not a great idea when you have 100 triathletes all trying to do one thing before the race starts.
Notice above that packet pick up was *supposed* to start at 7 am, but I know most competent race directors are ready to distribute at least the night before, and can start again as soon as they arrive in the morning. Not so here. Packet pick up didn’t start until 7:30, with the gun scheduled to go off at 8. I figured, “Ok, since packet pick up was delayed, surely they’ll delay the race, and my 20 minutes spent waiting in line to use the restroom will not be an issue.” Wrong. They plowed ahead, and the sprint tri participants started right at 8 am. I had just enough time to get a very brief warm up run in, scramble into my wetsuit, and get to the line.
The good news is, I had a great race. This was the first time I had raced an Olympic distance in 4 years, where I finished around 2:51:xx. I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of pacing, fueling, or fatigue, so I made some educated guesses and winged it.
The swim was pleasant, and the water was clear. It was a 2-lap swim, which is always disarming, as you have to swim through a wake three times before you’re finished. I came out of the water somewhere around 6th place, and made my way to T1. I had a great T1, marking one of the fastest times of the day. I got minimal nutrition into my pockets, slipped on my shoes, helmet, and sunglasses, and off I went.
The bike course was a 4-lap, 10k loop, with constant hills. There were two stretches of about 1/8-1/4 of a mile each that were flat, but other than that the course was constantly rolling. This made it difficult to find a rhythm, but I set out a plan in my head on lap 1. Lap 1 would be a relatively gentle lap to get the legs warm and survey the course, Laps 2 & 3 would be hammered, then hammer the first half of Lap 4, cruise the second half into T2 to prep for the run. This plan worked out pretty well, but in the future I would hammer Lap 1 as well if I had the opportunity to preview the course before the race.
I was picking people off, and came into T2 in 4th place overall. The Olympic distance had about 35 ish competitors, and after looking at the times from the previous year I was pretty sure I had a good shot at an overall podium, unless an uber-biker or uber-runner showed up and could really put some time in. Coming into T2 I had no idea what position I was in, so I just made my transition as fast as possible (fastest on the day!) and got out of there. Socks and shoes on, grabbed my hat and number belt and took off.
The run was another 4-lap course, 2.5k per lap. I planned nearly the same for the run as the bike, except that instead of cruising the last half of lap 4 I would dig in and empty the tank. While that worked pretty well on the bike, it did not work out so well on the run. I ended up dropping my hat and having to go back for it, and later my earring fell out of my ear, and it took me a bit to find that as well. Not a stellar run, but not half bad either.
I wanted to keep my pace close to 7:00/mile, and then see if I could hit that elusive sub-6 mile in the last mile. The first two miles were right on target, 6:55 and 6:58. I’ll chalk up mile 3’s time of 7:24 to having lost my earring and spending valua
ble time searching for it, which again took me out of the race mentally. I had picked off two guys in front of me fairly quickly, so I knew I was near the top, but with no motorcycle in front of me I also knew I was not the race leader. The guys I passed looked like they were suffering, so I knew they were dropped for good. I saw the leader, and he was looking strong, but at the turnarounds he was getting closer and closer.
By lap 3 I was hurting pretty good. I walked the turnaround, grabbed a drink, and off I went again. The hills were starting to take their toll, and I realized that I was not going to have enough gas in the tank to shoot for that sub-6 final mile. In fact, I would be lucky if that final mile was close to 7. I kept my pace as high as I could, and put my head down to keep plugging away. Being the last race of the season, I wanted to give my best effort, and go into the “off” season on a good note.
It’s a good thing I kept moving too, because the guy behind me was an uber-runner. He put down a 38:xx 10k, but I held him off to the finish. I wound up taking 2nd overall, and had in fact been gaining on the race leader. If I had been able to keep the pace I had started at, I would have caught him and won the race. Time was 2:23:xx, nearly a 30-minute PR at this distance! I was pretty happy with my performance, despite the rushed morning and challenges I created for myself along the way.
So that’s it! That’s my season! I didn’t hit the races I had planned, but I made the most of the races I did. I hit a podium in each race, and I’ll be looking for more podiums next year.
Next season I jump age groups, and move up to the 30-34 age group. I am at a significant disadvantage, because I race a year ahead of my actual age. I’m only 28 right now, but my “race age” is 29, because my birthday is in November. The 30-34 age group is significantly more competitive, though my results this year say that I will remain competitive even when I age up.
This winter I’ll be focusing on mental toughness, as it cost me in a few places this season. I’ll continue going to CrossFit and building strength, and focusing on my diet to maintain a lower weight and higher power. I’m hoping to get a few new toys this winter as well, and I’ll keep you updated if those come to fruition. I’m excited by my results this year, and I’m excited to see what next year brings!