Race Report: Ironman 70.3 World Championships

Weeks Leading Up:

The month prior to this race wasn’t the best.  August 12th through the 14th were very busy for me, I had killer races in both the sprint and olympic events and Age Group nationals, and getting my masters degree that weekend as well my student health insurance would only last a few days after that.  So once I finished competing in those two very difficult races and driving 8 hours back to Colorado in the car, I decided that because I was going to take it easy for a few days now was the time to get up to date on my vaccines.  So after the long weekend I hauled myself to the doctor Monday morning to get a pneumonia and tetanus shot, then went on my merry way.  I had planned on taking 2 days nice and easy, then getting a solid 2 hard weeks before taper, but after those shots my body had other plans…

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As I was trying to sleep that night I went through extreme hot and cold flashes, one minute I would be sweating profusely with all the covers off, the next I would be looking for extra blankets because I was shivering.  Fortunately, this only lasted one night, but after those issues subsided the real fun began.  I don’t know if it was a cold or something else, but for the next 10 days I was constantly dizzy and went through 2 boxes of tissue because I was sneezing so much.  The “training” I did that week pretty much consisted of me biking/running as easy as I could without triggering a coughing fit.  I didn’t swim much because my arm was essentially immobile from having two of those shots in the same place.  Being sick for so long left me with a little less than 14 days of training before the big race, 10 of which were supposed to be for taper.  I managed to get a 60 and an 80 miler in during that time, but that was mostly a confidence booster to let me know that I could actually finish.

sick

The moral of this story, wait until you recover completely from a hard race or training session to get vaccinated.  Your immune system is weak, and the vaccines will likely hit you harder than they otherwise would have.

Days Before:

Thursday afternoon I flew into Nashville with my roommate Matt, who was also going to compete on Sunday with me.  His family was gracious enough to pick us up and rent out an Air BnB just off the race course for us to stay in.  It was an older place, but it was so big that we got our own rooms to sleep in!  Before going to bed I went along with his family to the finish line area to check out the course and do some touristy stuff.

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#tourist

Friday morning our coach wanted us to be at the expo at 8:30 to get in line to check in.  We weren’t thrilled because when we got there we found out that they didn’t even open until 9, but after a massive line formed behind us we were happy to have gotten there early.  After checking in and getting our swag we went off to the swim start to get a short workout in and test out the water.  Ironman set up some buoys to make a ~500 yard loop for everyone to swim, going upstream was difficult, apparently they didn’t stop the flow that day so it took me close to 6 minutes to go 250.  Turning around was incredible though, I came back in less than half the time it took to go up and I wasn’t even trying!  After finishing one loop, I saw they weren’t letting anyone else in the water so I went for another loop because I probably wouldn’t get any more water time until race day.  After meeting back up with Matt we went to the expo for a bit then went to drive the course with one of his friends.  We got a little bit lost driving up to Lookout Mountain trying to find the course.  After giving up and driving home we realized that Matt was looking at the wrong 70.3 course!  We didn’t want to drive back up so we just watched the video Ironman posted when we got home.

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I like to be surprised by the course on race day.

Saturday morning we woke up early and got a quick 30 minute bike in before grabbing a bite and watching our friends start their race.  Thankfully the women under 30 were the last waves so we made it just in time to catch them go off then watch them run into T1.  Since they wouldn’t be back for a few hours we went home to grab some second breakfast, then when they were on the run course walk the 100 meters down the road to cheer every time they passed by.  Later on Matt and I went to check our transition bags and bikes in.  I had to turn my bike in on my own right before six because my power meter battery was close to death, and it needed an hour to charge.  As I was riding back down my seat post dropped all the way to the bottom.  It turns out I didn’t tighten it enough.  I was able to borrow a wrench from a nice guy nearby, but like a rookie I never marked my seat height so I had to guess where it was before and hope for the best on race day.

Race Day:

Race morning wasn’t too eventful.  I woke up at 6, had a bowl of oatmeal and a muffin, and left for the race.  Transition was open until 7:30 AM to add nutrition to your bike, so that’s exactly what I did.  I taped down 2 packages of shot blocks, filled up my water, and put my polar bottle filled with nutrition in the bottle cage behind my seat.  I spent the next hour warming up by running intervals to and from the porta potty while rotating my arms, and stretching out between each.  My tradition is to “always try something new on race day”, and today my new thing was my wetsuit.  Since my Roka Maverick Pro wetsuit was stolen a few months ago, I replaced it with the 2XU Propel because I got a sick deal on it since I used to work at a bike shop that sold their gear.  I heard Jan Frodeno wore it when he won Kona in 2016, so I was hopeful that nothing would go wrong there.  When it was time I walked down to the start and seeded myself in the 4th wave among the other 25-29ers.

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Matt and I before the swim

The Swim:

When the gun went off I dove into the water and sprinted off.  I was hoping to get on someone’s feet, but since it was a rolling wave start (10 people go every 15 seconds) there weren’t many people nearby.  I quickly ended up in the no-man’s land of swim groups, I was too slow to hang with the faster guys, but I was too fast for everyone else.  This destroyed my usual plan of sighting off of people’s feet, and with my 5 year old Speedo vanquisher’s inability to stay fog free (I even have trouble seeing in pools) I knew I’d have to make due.

blind

So the swim continued and I just sort of swam towards the big pillar holding up the bridge.  After I had passed I did a bit of breast stroke to find the turnaround buoy and noticed it behind the sun, so for the rest of the way out I sighted off that.

By this point I started to catch up to the wave in front of me, so the turnaround was a little congested.  The way back was incredibly fast.  Going out I was holding maybe a 1:30 pace for 100 yards, but on the way back I was closer to 1:10.  So even though they held back the current, there was a very clear difference between swimming upstream and downstream.

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I didn’t stop my watch in time, but I think I went in a fairly straight line.

Swim Time- 29:37

Men’s Rank- 218/2,380

T1:

As soon as I got out of the water I made a beeline for the wetsuit strippers.  Once getting me out of my wetsuit they shouted out my number so that the bag grabbers could do their thing.  After getting my T1 gear bag I throw my helmet and sunglasses on and encountered my first hill of the day.  This thing was probably an 8-10% grade for 25 meters, which normally isn’t tough, but I had hardly used my legs in the last half hour so they were a little noodley.

strippers
The wetsuit strippers and that steep ramp have the same effect on my legs.

I sat down in their little changing area and threw my wetsuit in the bag, grabbed my shoes ate a marshmallow GU and ran towards my bike.

T1 Time- 3:33

Bike:

Remember when I said I guessed on the seat height? Yeah, I guessed wrong.  As soon as I hopped on my bike and clipped in I knew my seat was about 2 cm too high.  Every pedal stroke I was reaching as far as I could, even sitting on the very end of the saddle didn’t help much.. But I didn’t bring a multi-tool, so I just sucked it up and kept biking.  My plan for this ride was to go between 250-270 watts depending on how I felt, and besides the seat height I was feeling pretty good, so I decided on 270 until Lookout Mountain.

tall bike
My seat felt this high.

My planned nutrition for the day were my two shot block packages, my aero water bottle between my bars (refilling every aid station), and a bottle of concentrated EFS and Redbull mix in my bottle behind my seat.  I was going to take a few chugs of my mix every 30 minutes I was riding, and eat a packet of blocks every hour, and sip on water every 15 minutes filling up my thing at every aid station.  This plan all went to hell and a hand basket 2 miles in when I hit some railroad tracks and lost my drink mix.  Some of you are probably thinking “thank god he didn’t put that horrible concoction in his body”, but I have been training with that bottle, and it had most of my electrolytes and 400 calories I was banking on.  But like the goggles and my seat height, there wasn’t much I could do about it, so I’d have to make due with the Gatorade on the course.  So after that little incident I just kept on biking to Lookout.

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If you haven’t heard about Lookout it’s a pretty tough climb, my watch had it at 1,000 feet of climbing in 3.3 miles.  To give some perspective, Steelhead 70.3 (in my home state of Michigan) had ~1630 feet of climbing for the entire bike.  But after moving to Colorado I am no longer a stranger to climbs, so I just threw it in my lowest gear (39×28) and did a steady spin to the top.  I ended up averaging 330 watts, which is a bit higher than I hoped, but there wasn’t too much I could do with my weight and gearing.

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330 watts and an ~7% grade made this pose tough

The top of that climb really isn’t the top of the course, the next 15 we added some elevation through rollers.  And honestly, I thought this was harder than the climb. Being in aero was not the most comfortable position with my seat height, but with the speed we were going sitting up would make having a tri bike worthless.  I held 270 watts all the way through that part as well, knowing I’d have a few minutes to coast very soon.

The descent was an incredible feeling.  I was coasting down the hill at 40mph for about 7 minutes.  I wasn’t in aero because there were some random crosswinds, so I chose to ride my top tube instead.  After getting to the bottom all that was left was 29 miles of light rollers!  However, these would be some of the toughest biking miles of the day.

Going back in I was able to keep 260 watts, but I started running into draft packs.  I would pass them on the left, but they would latch onto my wheel, wait a bit, then the entire group would pass me!  After getting passed you’re supposed to drop out of the draft zone before you can pass back, so like a good little triathlete I did just that.  It went back and forth a few times until I gave up.  Luckily a course marshal passed going the other way, and I waved him to the giant group of riders in front of me and he turned around to give them penalties.  After they separated I was able to pass them for good, but wouldn’t you know it, another draft pack.  The same crap happened again where I’d pass them, but they’d get me back, I’d leave their draft zone then I’d wave down a marshal to give them penalties.

I was grateful to get into town and away from these cheaters, but I knew that since there were so many packs I was going to get slaughtered in the overall rankings by those who got away with it.  One thing that made me happy was the penalty tent right before the transition area that was filled to the brim with people.

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Bike Time- 2:30:30

Average Power- 265 Watts

Men’s Rank- 389/2380

Actual nutrition: 2 packets of shot blocks, 3 bottles of water, and 1 bottle of Gatorade.

T2:

As expected, T2 was a bit painful.  I sometimes have this issue with my right foot where I have a really sharp pain on the outside when I bike hard, and the seat height made me point my toes a whole lot more than normal which could have made it worse.  Using my bike as a crutch I hopped over to my bag and the transition area.  I took some time to put on socks and go to the bathroom, and by the time I got out my foot was good enough to run on again!  So I jogged out of the transition area to start my run.

Time- 2:41

Run:

Going out of transition I felt really good.  I was hoping for a 1:23 half marathon, which would be hard to pace with all of the hills.  But the first two miles I was on track for that time with a grade adjusted pace of 6:10 and 6:12.  The third mile is when I started to feel the effects of having my seat too high.  My right hip started hurting me, and my right hamstring was cramping up.  Aerobically I was doing great, I could have ran even faster, but with the cramping it kept me from letting my legs loose.  Because of this I decided that I would just jog the rest of the race at the best pace I could manage.

Every aid station I walked through to grab either a Gatorade or red bull and then take a sip of water.  My original plan was to jog through them, but my cramp was slowly getting worse and I didn’t want it to completely seize up on me.  For the next few miles I was holding around a 7 minute mile pace, but at mile 9 it finally hit me.  My hamstring seized up and I had to pull off to the side of the road to stretch it out.

After a minute I was able to get going again, but I dialed it back even more to keep it from happening again.. Another 2 miles went by before it got me again.  I was going down a long hill and it hit me hard.  I almost face planted into the cement with how quickly it came on.  It hurt so badly to put any weight on it, and I put my hand where it was cramping and could feel the knot pulsating.  At this point I was honestly worried I might not be able to finish.  After putting some weight on it and stretching it out the cramp had subsided enough to where I could walk on it again.  So I walked for a bit before starting to jog again.  With only 1.5 miles left there were so many people cheering, and I was jogging along praying that I wouldn’t cramp up and be forced to walk in front of everyone.  I made it over the bridge and down the hill to the finish shoot, and could feel the cramp coming back.  But I saw my mom, aunt, and Matt’s family at the finish shoot cheering for me and I just kept going.  Thankfully it didn’t seize up again, otherwise I would have ended up on the ground this time around.  I even got a few high fives and crossed the finish line!

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*Not pictured – Me actually getting a high five
worldsRUN
Unlike the run course it was all downhill after mile 2.

Run Time- 1:33:50

Men’s Rank- 568/2380

 

 

Final Time- 4:40:11

Final Rank- 334/2380

Post Race:

Once I crossed the finish line I chatted up some volunteers and then went to get some water and talk with my coach.  He was in the first men’s wave of the day so he actually finished right as I was starting the run.  After talking I went by the finish line and chugged water and Gatorade until I saw all my friends finish.  I went to talk with my mom and then we went back to the house I was staying at for dinner.

Our flight was on Tuesday morning, so we had all Monday to enjoy Tennessee!  We found out the Jack Daniels has tours through their distillery so obviously that was on the agenda.  The only downside of this tour was that there were over 150 steps and the tasting was at the end.  But Matt and I toughed through it and got some whisky to numb the extreme pain we were in from the day before.

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Thoughts:

Overall I thought it was a very well put together race and I couldn’t have asked for better conditions on race day.  All the volunteers were incredibly helpful and did a fantastic job, and even the course marshals were on their A-game.  The only thing I wasn’t too thrilled about was the drafting.  I know the course marshals did well, but there was so much going on they couldn’t keep up.  My average power was 20-40 watts higher than people I normally whoop, but in this race they somehow managed to beat my time off the bike by 5-15 minutes and then come back for a really fast half marathon?  Shenanigans.  Honest mistakes happen and you can get within 12 meters and not realize it, but when people are sitting right on another’s wheel constantly looking back for motorcycles you know it’s a problem.  I thought world championship races like these were an individual test of ability, not a test of who can get away with cheating the most.  I’m looking forward to accepting my elite license for next year, I’m going to get my ass kicked, but at least I’ll know it was fairly.

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The drafting was as blatant as this person.

Thanks:

I would of course like to give my thanks to everyone who has helped me to get here.  Matt and his family for letting me stay at your place and driving me around.  Coach Mace and Tess at MP Multisport for helping me to improve when I was racing at CSU.  The volunteers who handed out all the nutrition and made things run as smoothly as possible on race day.  The spectators on the side of the road cheering my name, I know you just did it because it was on my bib, but it was much appreciated.   My awesome girlfriend for not hating me because I train too much.  And of course my mom and aunt for risking a hurricane canceling your flight to see me suffer in Tennessee!

Since I’m no longer on a team I don’t have any sponsors, but I still want to give thanks to Polarbottle, Rocky Mountain Multisport, Roka, and Rudy Project for helping me out when I was a part of CSU triathlon.  If anyone is interested in having me rep your gear feel free to get in contact with me!  I’m a free agent next year!

 

 

 

Check out my Strava or Instagram if you’re bored and want to follow me somewhere.

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Race Report(s): USAT Age Group Nationals

Months Leading Up to Race Day(s):

The road leading up to these races has been crazy.  My last race was at USAT Collegiate Nationals way back in April.  I was planning on writing a race report for that, but graduate school finals got in the way.  Luckily for me, I’m no longer a student and no longer employed so I have all the time in the world to write race reports!

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In my case both happened on the same weekend.

After the collegiate season ended my team has a week where we do something called the green and gold games.  This is where we get together and play sports that are not triathlon related, so other people on the team have a chance to showcase their talents.  On the 3rd day we played soccer and I had a chance to do what I do best, get injured.  With these games just being thrown together we don’t really have the equipment you’d normally have to help your performance and keep you safe, and my lack of shin guards ended up being my downfall.  It was an injury that didn’t seem like anything special, I just got kicked really really hard in the ankle.  But after a few days you could have mistaken my ankle for a purple softball.  It seemed like a bad ankle sprain at first, but it ended up being a tibial stress fracture too..  This meant no running until the end of June (8 weeks), and even when I could start again I’d have to return slowly.

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This was after 2 weeks.

Long story short, I did a ton of swimming and easy cycling, and when 8 weeks passed and I started running a few minutes at a time on the treadmill again.  And for another month I built back up my strength enough to start doing speed work in mid-July.  My A-race of the season is actually the 70.3 world championship in Chattanooga early September, and I didn’t want that to be my only race in 6 months so I decided to sign up for Age Group Nationals as sort of a test to see where I was at for Chattanooga.  My reasoning was that these two races combined are shorter than a 70.3, so it shouldn’t be too bad to race them back to back.  This turned out to be false.

Race Week:

Since I was treating these races as a test I decided to partially train through it, making the week leading up to the race my recovery week.  So I still put in some time and harder efforts instead of taking a true taper.  Later on I would find this to have been a massive mistake.

training

Most of my race week consisted of a few short workouts a day, each having some race pace intensity with plenty of recovery.

Travel:

Bike check in was on Friday, August 11th,  so the group I went with decided to drive up Thursday.  The group in my car consisted of my girlfriend Meghan, my roommate Olivia, her boyfriend Marcus, my friend Laila, and myself.  Unfortunately some of us had work and graduate school classes so the earliest we could get out of Fort Collins was at 7 PM.  After 8 hours of driving and some food stops we made it to our hotel at 4 AM.  This actually might have been the hardest part of my weekend since I am incapable of sleeping in cars.  But anyway, we got to the hotel and immediately went to bed, where we all stayed for almost 4 hours.  My college triathlon coach, Mace from MP Multisport, had a bunch of athletes at the hotel and he offered us free breakfast buffet at 8 AM.  And if you know me, then you know there are two things I love the most in this world are free stuff and bottomless breakfast buffets.

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Didn’t have to travel far for it this time though.

Bike check-in and drop off was uneventful, and I had my traditional Thai food dinner before going to bed.

Race Morning:

At 5:30 AM I got up and had my usual race morning breakfast of toast with peanut butter, honey, and banana.  After that we all hopped in the car and drove down to the race site.  We got near the park around 6, but there was some serious traffic so Laila, Olivia, and myself decided to walk over to the transition area.  While setting up my bike I did my usual pre-race warmup of jogging to and from the bathroom, and then around transition looking for electrical tape and rubber bands.  At around 6:45 I’m all done and ready for a short nap before my 9:10 AM start when I hear that the race has been delayed by 30 minutes.  I’m a little bit frustrated because I’m almost the last wave and I managed to get all my stuff ready before they were supposed to close the transition area at 7:00 AM.  And with my race getting pushed back half an hour, I won’t be starting until almost 10 AM, pushing even more of my race into the hotter part of the day.  A good portion of the early waves will be completely done before I even line up to start the race, and that extra 20 degrees heat gives me a serious disadvantage!  But there wasn’t anything I could do about it except get warmed up and ready to go.  So I put on my brand new SLS3 full sleeve race kit and went for a short jog and some dynamic stretches. Afterwards I sun-screened up and put on my new swim-skin and went over to the start.  Obviously since I didn’t put on a wetsuit the temperature was above 78F, which I was okay with since I got to try out some new gear.  And after a short swim warm-up I went over to the very far side of the dock to start the swim.

The Swim:

The horn went off and I pushed off the dock and started sprinting.  My usual strategy is to go HAM the first 200 meters and find some feet nearby and coast the rest of the way, and today was no different.  Thankfully lining up near the very end of the dock gave me some clear water, allowing me to focus on going fast and not worry about getting punched.  I found some feet from a guy wearing a white kit and tried to get comfy.  Generally I’m a fast enough swimmer that if somebody is nearby I assume they are good enough to where I can focus on sighting them and they can sight off the buoy.  Thankfully it worked and there was only minor swerving.  After getting out of the water I ran by my white kit friend and apologized for tickling his feet for the last 20 minutes.  The distance on my Garmin 920xt had me at 1700 yards (1554 meters) in just under 23 minutes.  This gave me the 70th fastest swim out of over 2000, so not a bad start, but I’d need to pick up the slack on the bike.

olyswim

The Bike:

T1 almost went without a hitch, my tradition of “always try something new on race day” backfired this time.  Even though I made up time on 16 people in transition, my new aero water bottle splashes water like a mofo when it hits even the tiniest bump.  By the time I got out of the transition area I lost about 25% of my hydration, and with the heat starting to pick up that might cause issues.  But again, nothing I could do about it.  Onto the bike  I made it my goal to hold 300 watts, and I did that for a while, but I also wanted to stay a legal distance behind someone fast.  So when Todd from Every Man Jack (last years national champion) rode by I picked up the pace to try to hold on to him, doing so caused me to be at 330 watts for over 5 minutes.  I could feel my legs starting to give up, so I cut my losses and went back to my own pace.  That went well until I saw another EMJ guy pass me, and I just had to give it another go.  I knew that he would likely be top 5, so if I wanted a chance at getting it too I’d need to be with him.  After another 5 minutes at 320 watts I decided I had to give up again.  Those guys from EMJ really know how to bike..  From there I held a fairly steady 270 until the end of the bike.  My weighted average power for this bike leg was ~295 watts.  I don’t have the values for the entire bike because as I was riding I hit a massive pothole (there were so many) and it hit the lap function on my watch, meaning I had to restart the activity.  I ended up having the 38th fastest ride of the day with one hour and 25 seconds, advancing me 28 places and putting me into 28th place.

potholes

olybike
First six are not on Strava, so it didn’t happen.

The Run:

T2 went without a hitch, I caught another 7 people, putting me in 21st place.  And with running normally being my best event it was time for me to do work.  The first mile I put down a 5:40, which was surprising since I have barely ran that fast for that long in almost 4 months.  I felt like I could go faster, but thought my lack of mileage might come back and bite me, so I decided to just hold that pace and see what happens.  Another mile went by and I felt amazing!  I was making ground on so many people and decided to pick up the pace at the turnaround..  However, It was at the turnaround that I noticed how hot I was, and the fatigue and nausea hit me like a train.  At that point I made it my new goal to not throw up while trying for a 6 min/mile pace.

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Who put this wall here?

Just before mile 4 I got some Gatorade at the aid station and I threw up in my mouth a little before swallowing it back down, so my goal was still within reach.  After the turnaround I felt slightly better because I knew I was close, and I stretched my legs out and just coasted to the finish line.  My run time was a 35:42, which advanced me 9 places and put me in 12th overall with a final time of 2:01:39.

olyrun
Ughhh\

Post Race:

I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get top 10 overall, but I reminded myself that I was training through this race and I could give it another go next year.  I sat in the ice bath and chatted with some other people before going back out to watch my friend Laila finish.  When she was done I decided to get the results again because I had taken the one I printed off earlier in the ice bath.  It turns out penalties came in and I got bumped up to 10th place overall!  After the 2016 Collegiate Nationals drafting fiasco it seems USA Triathlon stepped up their game and actually started giving people penalties.  After becoming 10th place I proceeded to be disappointed I didn’t come in 5th.

satisfied
I can be hard on myself.

My friends and I got food and then went over to the awards ceremony late.  Thankfully my coach saved us some seats and we didn’t need to stand in the back.  Age group awards were given out and I ended up 4th in the 25-29 group.  I knew this age group was stacked, but there were be 4 of us in the top 10 despite racing in the heat!  This made me feel less bad about not getting overall awards since there were 3 guys right here who beat and all had to deal with the same conditions.

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I guess I’ll take it.

Once the award ceremony was over it was time to go back to the hotel, foam roll, and then get some sleep before the sprint distance race!

Race Morning-Part Deux:

The next morning was very similar to the previous one, with one exception, my legs felt like bricks.  When planning the back to back races I thought that because the combined distance was less than a 70.3, then doing both should be easier.  It had been so long since I’ve raced, I had forgotten that no matter the distance you’re always going to feel like crap the morning after.  Besides rolling there wasn’t really much I could do so I just went through the same race day routine with my friend.  We left a little earlier than the day before and managed to get some parking near the transition, which was a blessing.  I went through the same routine I did yesterday with bike setup, bathroom, and jog, sunscreen, and swim.  When I went to sit down at the swim start around 6:50 I chatted it up with the people nearby.  One guy next to me said it was his first triathlon, and he borrowed the ITU kit he was wearing from his coach.  I would later find out that this guy is in the elite development triathlon recruitment program, and has been working with an olympic coach.

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“I’ve got no experience swimming”

The Swim:

This time through was rough.  There was a lot of cloud cover and a light rain, and my 3 year old tinted vanquishers had seen better days.  Looking at the buoy a quarter mile away my left lens made the buoy completely invisible, and my right had a small pea sized portion that I could see from.  eggs

Luckily I don’t sight off buoys, I sight off of fast people nearby.  So I did my normal 200 meter sprint and then held on to some nearby feet.  I wasn’t able to get someone as fast this time because of my exhausted arms, but they held a fairly straight line so I was content.  I ended up with a swim just under 12 minutes and the 54th fastest swim out of 1000.

sprintswim

The Bike:

T1 went better than last time.  Because it was cool and rainy I didn’t need as much hydration, so the amount I lost in transition wasn’t a big loss.  I started off the bike a little further back than I would have liked so I missed out on working with some faster cyclists.  Even though it was only a sprint I made it my goal to hold 300 watts again, my legs were kind of toast after yesterday so even that might have been iffy.  Thankfully I found Dan Meehan, who is a pretty fast cyclist, and we took turns taking pulls and then hanging out 4-5 bike lengths back.  We worked our way up 26 spots in the 12 miles and into the top 20.  My average power for 11 miles was about 280, but I hit another frigging pothole so I had to restart the activity in bike mode.

sprintbike

The Run:

T2 went smoothly and I was out on the run course.  The only issue I had was with my watch, since I started bike mode hitting lap wouldn’t take me to run this time and I had to scroll through the options and start it up manually.  This left me with a slightly short run on Strava, which I later made up to get the full distance.  Once that was sorted out I just let my legs go at whatever pace I think I could hold for a 5k.  It turns out that at mile 1 that pace was a 5:18 min/mile.  When I saw that I was around 20th, and I had some people I wanted to catch so I decided to give that pace a shot.  The two of those people I wanted to catch are the future of the Colorado State Triathlon team, both of which will be starting off this year.  But being their senior I couldn’t let them beat me quite yet.  As the race went on I picked off more and more people and continued to feel great, I got one of them right before the turnaround, and the other just after.  The second one told me there was a CU triathlete (our rival school) just ahead, and that I couldn’t let him beat both of us.  dk

So not wanting to let my teammate down I ran down our rival, and after that there was nobody in sight so I coasted it on in to the finish.

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I love flat races near sea level.

Post Race/Awards:

After finishing the race I talked with those that finished nearby and went out on the run course to watch my girlfriend.  She signed up Saturday night on a whim without her triathlon gear, meaning everything she was racing with (except running shoes and some Roka goggles she just bought) were not her own.  I didn’t make it far onto the course before she came strolling along at a good pace.  The last half mile I ran a little ways back on the other side of the road cheering her on, which I DID save to Strava.

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I made sure to be further away so there wasn’t a repeat of this situation.

After hanging out at the finish line for a while we grabbed our bikes and then went back to the hotel to shower and nap before awards and the long car ride back home.  Since the award ceremony was pretty much the same as before for the first half hour we decided to hit up Micky D’s for some lunch on our way over.  Right before they did the special awards (fastest swim, bike, run, and transition) we claimed some seats near the back.  They continued the ceremony, only going through the top 5 in each age group.  I went up and got a nifty trophy and some photos, then we were on our way back to Colorado.  One more month until 70.3 worlds in Chattenooga!

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Thank You:

I just wanted to say thank you to all that helped me on my road to Age Group Nationals.  I know I’m not longer on the Colorado State University triathlon team, but the last two years training with you all has made me a far greater athlete.  MP Multisport, for the coaching while I was on the CSU team.  Rocky Mountain Multisport, for being the main sponsor of the team.  Skratch, for fueling my training. Polar Bottle, without you I would have perpetual cotton mouth.  SLS3, a former sponsor who gave me a sick deal on the full sleeve tri suit that I used in both races. And of course those that traveled up to Omaha with me!

Since I’m out of school and don’t really have sponsors anymore, hit me up if you are interested in a partnership.  Oh, and if you have any need of a statistician with a masters degree I could use a job too.

 

Instagram

Strava

 

 

Race Report: Boulder Sunset

Deciding to Race:

The last few weeks I’ve been debating on whether or not to do this race.  My knee and elbow have been recovering from the tendinitis well, but I wasn’t sure if it would hold up through a fast race.  But last Thursday I found out there was a $20 discount through the CSU Tri club, and because I’m a graduate student, whenever there is a deal take advantage of it.

 

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I cut off my grad student ponytail to be more aero.

Training:

There really wasn’t too much in the way of specific training.  After Calgary 70.3 my base phase was over, so I just started building my speed.  Thursday I would go bike up in the mountains and hammer the hills pretty hard, and Saturday I’d go for a longer endurance ride with a few surges on the hills.  Tuesdays I’d do some run speed work (generally 800s) at the local park with the NoCo Triathlon club.  Other than those three workouts the rest was pretty easy.  During base phase I do a lot of zone 2 and 3, but during build I polarize my training to do 20% of my workouts hard, and 80% incredibly easy.  Because the rec center closed I didn’t swim for 2 weeks, essentially doing duathlon training.. Which was the worst because my lower body was always tired, and my upper body was shrinking from lack of swimming.

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I wish my legs were this swole.

Race Morning:

The main  benefit (and disadvantage) of the Boulder Sunset race is that it starts at 10am.  So I was able to wake up at 6am, make some toast and do some last minute adjustments to my bike before my friend picked me up to drive down to the race.  When we got there I went off on my own and did the usual bike racking and transition setup while chatting up the competition. All this time I had been sipping my water bottle with a scoop of Skratch to keep the electrolyte levels up, but it was starting to get hot so I finished it sooner than planned and had to fill up the bottle with normal water.  I was planning on going for a short bike to loosen up the legs, but got lazy and went for a half mile jog instead.  When I got back it was 9:40am, so about time to put on the wetsuit and head over to the water for warmup.  Some tips for those who are new to wetsuits:

  • Put plastic bags on your feet when putting your feet into the wetsuit, it makes putting it on so much easier.
  • Once you’re in, use PAM (yes the cooking spray) on your wetsuit legs and arms.  It helps when it comes time to take the wetsuit off in T1.

After putting on the wetsuit was on my coach told me my goal was to beat my friend David to T2, then hold on for the run.  David is a fast cyclist, like  350+ FTP fast.  Luckily for me he just did Ironman Boulder 3 weeks ago and his swim is a little slower than mine, so I had a shot.

The Swim:

Nutrition: Boulder reservoir water.

The swim sucked. At this particular race they start collegiate men and women together in the 3rd wave at a beach start.  There is a 10ft gap close to 100 people had to run through to get to the water, so there was a lot of violence at the start.  As soon as I was able to, I swam off to the side to get some space away from everyone else and I started pushing the pace.  My usual strategy is to go hard the first 200m or so and then hop on the closest person’s feet for the rest of the time.  Unfortunately, the goggles I was using for the first time kept filling with water and I lost sight of my swim buddy almost immediately (always try something new on race day).  So once again I was off swimming on my own. Every now and then I’d get kicked in the stomach or face by someone from the earlier waves doing breaststroke, which sucked, but it comes with the sport.  The rest of the swim was relatively comfortable, by the end I mastered draining the water from one side of my goggles and pressing it back on mid stroke which was pretty cool.  At the end I started kicking more to get the legs ready for the bike, and I made it out of the water in 23:04, which put me a minute behind my fast swimmer teammate, and three in front of David.

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#nofilter

 

The Bike:

Nutrition: 1 GU and 22oz of water w/ 1 scoop EFS and half a can of Rockstar energy drink.

The bike started off pretty rough as well.  I have been riding my road bike for the last month since Calgary, so I only had three rides with it before the race.  Couple that with slamming my stem and flipping it to angle down I was in a far more aggressive position than I ever have been.  The goal was 270 watts, but I quickly could tell that wasn’t about to happen so I set a new goal of 250.  Me and some guy with a sleeved skin suit went back and forth for a little bit, him coasting the downhills and hammering the uphills, and me holding my constant wattage.  After the rollers stopped and there was just a steady flat I pulled ahead, and after passing him he made a comment about how he would be faster than me if he had a disc.

Warning: Rant incoming.  Saying stuff like that really frustrates me.  My bike split was 7 minutes slower last year, and I had the same rear wheel.  Would you be faster with a disc? Yes.  But it’s only worth ~30 seconds in a flat 40k with a full carbon disc.   I don’t have a carbon disc though, I have a 2009 powertap hub with a heavy 32 spoke DT-Swiss rim with a big plastic cover I spray painted the Star Wars imperial crest on.  I’ll admit I get some more time savings because I’m slower than the speeds they tested at, and the course was two miles long with 1000ft of climbing..  But that LG Skinsuit you wore saved you about a minute, which is 30 seconds more than if I had a carbon disc. So before you make excuses about why you’re getting dropped, work on your engine. End rant.

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Different day, same wheel.

Anyway the bike continued without anything too eventful.  About 10 miles in there was a nice 2 mile stretch with a steady downhill.  I tried to keep my power at 250, but would spin out before getting there.  Thankfully two miles of easier cycling was like hitting the reset button on my legs, so when I started going my goal power again it felt a lot easier. It was around this time that I realized not having pure water was a mistake.  A concentrated bottle with water was good for a 70.3, but during an olympic having that be my only source of hydration was a struggle.  Nineteen miles in I ran out of water and was feeling thirsty.  But just as I ran out there was an aid station ahead!  Unfortunately there was not one, but two failed handoffs of the water bottle, so I’d have to do without until the run. At mile 22 I finally passed my fast swimmer friend, we exchanged some words of encouragement and continued on the last few miles to transition.  I was the first to T2 from our team with a bike time of 1:02:46, so I was pretty psyched about that.  David came in a minute after me, giving him the fourth fastest split of the day.

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>mfw dropping both water bottles

 

The Run:

Nutrition: Water every mile.

By this time it was about 11:30 and starting to get a little warm, so needless to say this part sucked too. Almost immediately after getting off the bike my hamstring started to tighten up, so I did my best to run out of transition in a way that it wouldn’t seize up.  As soon as I got out my coach told me that there were a few CU guys ahead, and I needed to catch them.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with collegiate triathlon, they’ve been the national champions for the last 7 years, and also our rivals (we’re working on it).  The course was a 10k out and back, the first half being uphill, the second downhill.  Starting out on the run my first mile was probably a little too fast, so I dialed it back a bit so I wouldn’t blow up on the hills.  After the 5k turnaround for the sprint athletes there were very few people ahead, so I knew my position was probably pretty good.  A little under three miles in I saw my first competitor heading the other way, it was a CU guy.  I figured there was a small chance to catch him, so I decided to roll the dice and increased my effort.  Before the 10k turnaround I saw another 3 people pass by, so as long as there weren’t any super fast people from the first 2 waves I missed a top 5 finish was possible.

After the turnaround I picked up my pace even more, knowing that it was mostly downhill on the way back.  With two miles to go I had already caught up with the 3 guys I saw earlier, so the only person I knew was left was from our rival school.  This is where my run started to fall apart though, the heat and lack of water on the bike started to catch up with me.. Thankfully remaining course was mostly downhill, so I was able to coast it out and not lose any of the places I fought to earn.  I ended up with a run split of 38:27, which put me at a final time of 2:07:18.

Post Race:

After finishing I went straight to my water bottle from earlier, chugged it, filled it up with more water, and repeated the process 2 more times.  People were asking me what place I finished in, but at this point I had no idea, maybe top 5?  I was just happy to drink water, eat food, and get some free Boulder beer.  After getting some nutrition I realized I should be a good teammate and cheer for my friends still on the course.  Across the board Colorado State turned up today.  We put our top 4 in before CU’s top 4, which was nice.  They were missing a few pros today, but we were missing a few of our top guys as well.   We also had a few of the newer members complete this difficult race in a respectable time.  One did his first sprint, got a flat on the bike, ran the bike back into transition, did his 5k, and STILL was top 3 in his age group.  I kind of want to read his race report now.

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If it works for Chris Froome…

After a while I went back to the shade and water to look at the results.  It turns out there was a fast pro in the first wave who was so far ahead that neither the CU guy or I know he was there.  It wasn’t that big of a disappointment though, because I still managed to set a PR on my way to finishing top 3 overall!  Despite not knowing whether or not I could race a week ago due to my knee and elbow, I’m super stoked that I was able to hold it together to get a solid result at the start of my build phase.  Next race, Oktoberfest Draft-Legal sprint tri!

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The Crew.

Big Thanks To:

  • My teammates, for pushing me both on and off the course.
  • My coaches, for giving my training some structure.
  • My sponsors, for keeping me fed, hydrated, and clothed.
  • The volunteers, who worked out in the hot sun handing out water to athletes.
  • Hunter, for driving me to the race.

Post Post Race:

I have a bad cold.  It could have been the exertion, the heat, the reservoir water, or some combination of the three.   But I’ve been writing this between naps while hopped up on Nyquil.  Nothing like a little sickness to give you a forced recovery day.

a5b

Data & Stuff:

Bike

Run

Instagram

Strava

Race Report: Calgary 70.3

Choosing the Race:

With Ironman 70.3 world championships in ‘Murica in 2017 some of my teammates and I decided to a half to try to qualify for it.  We chose Calgary 70.3 because apparently there were no competitors in the 18-24 age group and the 25-29 one didn’t seem as  challenging as some other races.  Plus, it is only a 15 hour drive from Colorado State and who doesn’t love a good road trip?

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Nothing caught fire on our trip.

Training:

Training wasn’t as great as it could have been, somehow I managed to get patellar tendinitis while swimming two months before the race.  Fortunately I have a LOT of experience with tendinitis (Achilles & Elbow) so I knew what to do.   Despite having to literally crawl up stairs for a week and a half, Strava says I averaged around ~14 hours a week after the injury.  It was mostly slow and easy miles on the flattest routes I could find. Honestly, that was probably the training route I should have taken anyway, coming off of Collegiate Nationals my speed was there, but it had been months since I’ve done the bike or run close to the distance I would need to finish in the race.

Travel and Race Prep:

You may get along well with your friends, but being in an enclosed space together for 15 hours straight can really test that.  And having been in the car with my two friends, Ryan and Steph, for maybe half an hour in the past we didn’t know what to expect.  So this may have ended up being the hardest part of the week.  We decided to break up the trip into two days and camp in Montana before finishing the drive on Friday.  The 12 hours up to Montana went great, it turns out we all had an emo/scene phase, so we were head banging throughout the whole trip.

We go to the campsite around 10 and set up our stuff.  There was a sketchy guy who kept walking by us, and we didn’t feel safe leaving our bikes on the back of the car so we brought them in the tent with us.  I always joked about taking my bike into bed with me, but after trying it once I think I’ll stick with girls.

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I was the little spoon.

The next morning we got up and had a pretty uneventful drive to Canada.  We got some Tim Hortons, went to packet pickup, dropped everything off in our sweet rental house, and then went for a run.  The next morning we went to the swim to drop off our bikes and run transition bags.  I’m not sure how other Ironman brand half races go, but Calgary 70.3 is a point to point triathlon and we needed pretty much everything but our swim gear in transition the day before.

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#squad

Race Morning:

My six teammates and I woke up at 4:30am to make it to the start at 5:30am.  I had my usual toast with peanut butter, honey, and bananas for breakfast and my first cup of coffee in two weeks.  All of us piled into the Kia meant to seat 5 and we were off.  Thankfully bikes were dropped off the day before so we didn’t have to worry about fitting those in as well.  Most of the time was spent making sure my bike was in working order and chatting up the competition.  I talked with four people in my age group who looked fast (i.e. had bikes worth over $4000), all had PRs under 4:30, and two of which are going pro.  My ideal race was supposed to be a 30 minute swim, a 2:25 bike holding ~225 watts, and a 1:35 run.  The more I talked with people, the more I was losing hope of getting a world championship qualifying spot.  After having my ego stepped on a little bit, I went to the bathroom line, which was a good 200 meters long at this point (Actual Protip from a Pro:  If the bathroom lines in a big race are long, jog a little bit of the run course, there’s usually an empty bathroom a mile in and you get a warmup).

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This bike is 90% duct tape.

The Swim:

Generally my swim strategy is to hammer the first 200 meters, find some feet near me, and stick on them the entire time.  I have a competitive swim background and have done some draft legal racing, so I don’t really sight.  Usually I assume if your fast enough to be near me on the swim you probably know what you’re doing.  It’s hurt me in the past, but it’s also lead to some really good swim splits with people above my level.  This worked out pretty well the first 4 minutes, but when we got to a mass of swimmers from an earlier wave.  It was a struggle staying on the person I chose, and eventually I lost him when we hit another pack while rounding a buoy.  So the second half of the swim I just went on my own, sighting the best I could.  It was a pretty leisurely swim after I lost my swim buddy, as I decided to pace myself for the bike.  Every few minutes I tried to increase my kick rate  to get the blood flowing into my legs and prep me for the run up to transition.  Rounding the last buoy the sun was in my eyes, combining that with my goggles fogging made the last stretch a bit of a struggle.  But I came out of the water in 27:06 feeling good, and 3 minutes better than planned!

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Trying out a new method to go around the buoys.

The Bike:
My strategy for this bike was to settle in the first 10 minutes, then hold ~225 watts. My nutrition plan was to take in 400 calories an hour from:

  • 2 packages of shot blocks eating a block every 10 minutes for the first two hours.
  • 2 water bottles, sipping whenever I had a shot block
  • 1 bottle w/ 3 scoops EFS and half a can of Rockstar energy drink taking chugs every 15 minutes or so.
  • 1 GU taken 20 minutes from the finish.

The first 10 minutes went according to plan, I held 200 watts at a nice cadence the whole time.  My teammate Matt passed me at the end of my settle in period looking really strong and it was really tough not to try to chase him down. I told myself that I have a power meter for a reason, and if I go my own pace I (probably) wont blow up on the run. Luckily when I got into my race pace he stopped putting distance on me, so for the next 40 miles I stared at his back from 200 meters behind. It was a little nice having someone I knew to ride near, anytime I felt tired and wanted to drop the pace he’d be up there motivating me not to give up.

But as we started getting into the course I realized the hills were steeper than planned, and I didn’t adjust my rear derailleur to let me hit my easiest gear. That meant I had to climb in my lowest gear of 39×23. On the uphills I was pushing 280-350 watts, and they lasted usually between 1-5 minutes. Fortunately, mixing up the pace helped me wake my legs up and that kind of power actually felt really good.

About 25 miles in the rolling hills stop, and there is a false flat downhill tailwind finish. This is where I could really get a feel for the pacing and get back to my actual plan. So I got in my groove and went for it. At this point I started to pick people in front of me off. Fifteen miles from the finish I finally caught my friend and we stuck together for a while before I went off again. The last half hour I like to get in as many calories and water as I can so I don’t need to eat on the run, so I finished off my EFS drink, whatever shot blocks I had left, and a GU. This usually works for me because I always need to pee off the bike, so if I’m losing time I might as well make it count. But doing so seemed to add extra weight that was too much for my bike to handle, because 5 miles from the end my seat post dropped 4 inches. I tried to pull it back up to no avail, so I ended up standing the last few miles to bike it in. I lost a couple minutes and the people that I had caught the last few miles went ahead of me, but I ended up finishing the bike in 2:24:13. A solid 47 seconds faster than my goal time, despite the setbacks. Power 3 (missing some data)

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My bike fit the last few miles. So aero.

The Run:

At the start of the run I got rid of all the fluids that I drank on the bike and felt good to go.  Leaving the porta-potty I ran into my teammate Matt again, so we ran together for the first half mile.  I guess we were going faster than we thought, because my GPS said we were doing a 6:30 pace.  He decided to back off to his planned pace, but I decided to go with my high school cross country team’s old motto of “Go big or go home”.  Three miles in at the bottom of a massive hill I saw my teammate/roomate/pro-triathlete Steve Mantell  fighting another pro for second place.  He looked like he was hurting, so we just gave each other a thumbs up and continued on our race.  The next 3 miles I walked the steep uphills, and the aid stations, making sure to drink my gatorade and throw water on my head to stay cool.  Somehow I was managing to keep close to a 6:40 pace and was picking people off.  I thought I was in third place for my age group with the two pros out of reach, but quarter mile before the turnaround, I saw him.  A guy with a bib number close to mine and a 28 on his calf.

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I knew if there was any shot at qualifying for worlds I needed to catch him.  So despite my body telling me to hold this comfortable/safe pace, I went for it.  It turns out that the way out was uphill, so even after increasing my effort by a fair amount my pace wasn’t all that much quicker than before. But I could tell it was paying off because I started to pass people at a quicker rate.   I passed my teammate Tori coming the other way on her fourth mile, which was awesome because she was killing it despite it being her first half and batting Achilles issues the last few months.  After giving another thumbs up I noticed the guy still wasn’t in sight so I was losing hope, but at the bottom of the big hill 3 miles from the finish I spotted him.  I increased my effort a bit more up the hill, and just as I was getting close to the top I saw my buddy Ryan starting his run off in a chipper mood.  He said nice job and I and gave him a thumbs up.

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The only part of me that wasn’t in pain this race were my thumbs apparently.

At the top of the hill I was closing the gap on him, but knew I wasn’t going to be able to run with him if he decided to stick with me.  So I ran, hard.  My mile pace dropped to 5:30 and I zipped by him.  He tried staying with me, but I kept hammering it for another half mile until I knew he had given up.  From this point on my only goal was to not get caught in the last 1.5 miles.  My 5:30 pace from before was quickly slowing.  Only a mile after I had dropped him I was running a 7:30 pace pushing with everything I had, but the finish line was in sight, so I kept on trucking and finished the run in 1:27:48 giving me a final time of 4:22:52.  Both the run and final time being 7 minutes faster than I had planned!  As I was in the finish chute trying not to collapse, they announced that there were 3 spots in my age group and I qualified for worlds!

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MFW

Post Race:

Right after the race I sipped on water until my stomach decided it was okay to eat, then got the veggie burgers, chips, and warm coke they had in the food tent.  Steve showed up with an M&M cookie from the VIP tent, and when I asked if he could get me one he came back with a plate full of fruit and cookies.  It was glorious. Matt finished up his race and got in on the fruit plate and the three of us drove home to drop off the bikes, shower, and pick up our second car at the swim start to get everyone else back at the finish line. While we were gone the CSU Triathlon Team continued to represent, by the end of the race our group of 7 got 3rd in the women’s 18-24, 2nd men’s 18-24, 3rd men’s 25-29, and our resident pro made third overall.  Unfortunately there were only two in the women’s 18-24 and the first two finishers took theirs.  Matt and I claimed ours, but as it turns out, because the guys ahead of me were going pro next year they weren’t claiming their worlds spots.  The two roll down spots went to the 10th place person or something, so I could have taken a short nap on the run and still qualified.

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Oh well, the hunk of metal was worth it.

The Rest of the Trip:

After we rested up a bit we decided to go check out the city and get some food as a group.  We ended up getting Schawarma, and it was so good it brought tears to my eyes.  Walking around we saw some cool stuff and got some froyo.

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There was a PokeGym on the bridge, so I walked extra slowly across it.

The next day we hit up Banff National Park and went to Lake Louise and had a photo shoot.

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The Gang.

Steve, Tori, and I biked up to Moraine Lake where the water is insanely blue.  It was a much needed shake out ride.

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Fred for a day.

We left for home the next morning, obviously stopping at Tim Horton’s one last time before crossing the border.  Then drove straight on through back to Fort Collins.  Lots of naps were taken.

 

 

 

Well I Guess I’m Blogging Again

Eight years ago during my senior year of high school I had a blog that I updated every week to talk/vent about track practice.  It wasn’t meant for anyone except myself at first, but a few people from the team found it and started following..  Which doesn’t seem all that bad for most bloggers, but back then I had no filter.  So on those days where coach had us running a tough practice, my posts would have analogies that would make E.L. James (50 Shades author) blush.  Having my friends and teammates read it was no problem, but to the parents and coaches I was the quiet kid who worked hard.  So the track season and my blog continued along without any problems.

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Family friendly.

When the school year was done with, and track season had ended we had our end of the year track banquet.  At the end of the banquet the coaches gave out awards and honored the seniors before they left.  The coaches told a memory or two of each senior and had then stand up.  When it was my turn to stand the head coach started to talk about me, I can’t remember the majority of it, but he finished his speech by laughing and saying that I had a future as a journalist because he had read every one of my blog posts during the season!  I saw a few of the other coaches chuckle so I knew they had at least seen it too.  I was mortified.  I went home to delete my blog and swore that day I would never start one again.

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I feel ya Malcolm

I learned a valuable lesson that day.  Anything you do on the internet can be seen by anybody.  After the past few years I think I have matured enough to not embarrass myself too much, and I’m ready to start again.  Not because I like writing  words (I’m embarrassed of my punctuation skillz), or because I want to redeem myself, but because all the professional triathletes have blogs and that’s what I’m shooting for.  Though I’m not completely sure what I’ll be writing about yet, race reports and maybe gear reviews/practice recaps.  I just kind of rambled through this first post so we’ll see what happens.