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.

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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.