There was a ton of great Kona commentary on twitter that kept the 8+ hours of viewing the streaming feed interesting. Only a small sample, but feel free to pass on anything great that I missed to add to the list.
I haven't done a race blog entry in awhile. Race blog entries have been annoying me lately and I've questioned what value they provide, other than for the author to use it as a way to list out what went wrong with their race. Even the pro's seem to be getting in on that action lately. If you don't win a race apparently the appropriate response is to write an entry explaining how your training wasn't good enough, you mentally failed or whatever the various other reason might be for performing below the apparent expectation of winning every race. I wasn't even going to write anything about my first Ironman experience until I read Devashish Paul's IMTX race report on the Slowtwitch forum. Reading his report I was reminded that it is possible to recount your race experience without making it all about what went wrong. Even if things don't go perfectly as planned it's still a special privilege to be out on any race course. That positive far outweighs any negative experience because a time goal or AG placing wasn't accomplished. Not to say those goals aren't important and one of the reasons I am involved in endurance sports, but falling short in that aspect doesn't take away from being able to enjoy the Ironman, or any, race experience. As much as IM hurt, at least I think it did since I've already forgotten all the pain, I can't wait to have another crack at the distance. 5 days out from the race all I seem to remember are the fun moments and their were plenty of those.
IMTX was my first full distance triathlon. Looking back at my race history this week I counted up 23 70.3 distance events I've completed and almost 50 total triathlon events. I'm pretty sure I'm not the norm in this sport to have waited so long to do my first full but it's a path I'm happy I chose. The 2014 version of IMTX wasn't meant to be my first full though. I've actually been registered for IMTX in both 2012 and 2013 as well as IMMT in 2013, but was unable to race any of the 3 because of the foot injuries I've been dealing with the past 2 years. 8 months of uninterrupted healthy running had me hitting the start line of IMTX this year completely uninjured. Something I remind myself to be thankful for every time things start to go badly in a race or there's a run on the training schedule I don't feel like doing.
Starting with my flight into Dallas and the ride down to The Woodlands with Wattie Ink teammate Ron Schmidt, the entire weekend was one of the most relaxed I've had. The ride down from Dallas flew by with Ron and I discussing home brewing beer for the majority of it. Based on our talk I think I'm going to have to add another item to my already long list of things I'd like to learn. We got into town Thursday afternoon and spent the rest of the day hanging out at TheRealStarky booth or on various restaurant patios around the expo/finish line area. Friday was much the same after a bike drop of that literally took 5 min. Honestly the Ironman transition setup is the easiest and most relaxing of any race I've done. Drop a couple bags off, throw the bike on the rack and walk away. Race morning you air up the tires, put your nutrition bottles on the frame and off to the swim. Setting up at a 70.3 takes far more thought and effort I feel like. Friday night was a great dinner with the Moxie crew from Austin. Got to meet a bunch of people of knew from twitter and Facebook as well as make a few new friends. One of the best part of triathlon is it's almost impossible to walk away from a race weekend without having got to know a few new people who enjoy the sport as much as you do.
Race morning was a relaxed as I described above. Parked across from transition and walked over to drop off a few nutritional items for my run bag and put bottles on the bike. Found a local volunteer with a pump so I managed to avoid the long line for the official bike techs, calibrated the powermeter, stopped off at a long row of porta-johns that apparently zero people know about and walked to the swim start.
What had been a great morning so far went quickly downhill upon arriving at the swim start. Seriously Ironman? You're going to play 30 min of Jack Johnson before the start of the race? I've felt more energy in a crowd or race start for small town sprint triathlons than there was at IMTX. Nacho said it best:
The pro's went off with something like Adele playing and the amateurs were allowed into the water. I went to where I had started the swim last year when I had done the swim/bike portion even though I couldn't run. Starting far right beside the dock had led to a pretty chill swim and I was hoping for the same to allow me to build into the effort. The water actually felt fairly cold and I was glad for the wetsuit. I had been worried about overheating in it but never felt uncomfortable the whole swim.
When the gun went off the start of the swim was completely unlike the non-wetuit swim from last year. I've had a few rough starts in races but this was by far the worst. The addition of the entire athlete field into the swim start, unlike last year when it was split between the non-wetsuit and wetsuit waves, was likely the reason for this as more swimmers pushed to the front of the start. I was swimming strong but getting pushed under so much that for the first time probably ever in a triathlon I started to have a panic attack. I've had one once before in my life when on a night scuba dive I had my light die on me in low visibility water and stupidly had no redundancy. That time I completely panicked and bolted for what fortunately was the surface. Thankfully I wasn't very deep, so there were no bad side effects but it's strange what a panicked mind can make you do when you should be thinking clearly. I recognized what was happening to me this time and managed to shut my brain down while just mechanically going through the swimming motions I'd done thousands of times. Within a few minutes I was clear of the crush of most of the athletes and steadily moving up through the field. 10 min or so in I found myself in a group of a couple swimmers who seemed to be swimming around the same pace so I stuck with them all the way out. According to the swim course map provided by the race the swim course is a rectangle with a hard left hand turn at the base of the rectangle that takes you through the canal and to T1. The out portion of the swim is yellow buoys and the back portion before the turn to T1 is orange buoys. There are 2 red buoys at the furthest point of the swim where you make 90 degree right turns. Pretty simple course. Stay on yellows going out, turn at reds and stay on orange coming back.
The group I was with was hitting all the yellows going out and I felt confident we were swimming a straight line. Something I almost never do in races but had seemed to improve a lot in my previous races this year. Quick glances around me showed plenty of swimmers on either side so I knew I wasn't way out of the pack on some tangent. Because of this it came as a huge surprise when we hit the first red buoy and were told to stop and turn back right. Apparently we had swam way left and missed the first red turn buoy. Sure enough it was way to our right and there was nothing to do but backtrack. It only added maybe 200 yards to the swim total but the toughest part was dealing with the massive crowd of swimmers that were a few minutes back of where I had been. The rest of the swim back to the canal was some of the roughest open water swimming I've done. I still am not sure where we screwed up and it was a common problem as I've talked to multiple people who did the exact same thing. Looking at the picture below it almost seems as if all the yellow and orange buoys are intermingled and I only see the on red one. Obviously not everyone made the mistake so it was possible to follow the course correctly but one of these days I'd like to actually have a swim where I stay on course or my goggles don't come off multiple times so I can get a feel of where I really stack up with the field.
Coming out of the water I figured I had swam around a 1:15. I felt great the entire swim but given that I've done 99.9% of my swim training on the Vasa trainer with 2 actual times in the water all year I was expecting around a 1:10 even with a wetsuit and the detour had cost a bunch of time and effort. I don't wear a watch in the swim and didn't glance at the clock so I didn't find out till after that my swim time was actually 1:08. Without the course screw up maybe I could have been around 1:05. Far faster than I had expected. Maybe the course was short but I feel confident that I'm definitely in the best open water swim shape I've ever been in.
Off onto the bike for what was a planned very easy ride and I was feeling good. For the first time in awhile on a bike. Both rides at New Orleans and St George had been terrible and I wasn't feeling very confident it what is normally my strongest of the three disciplines. The plan was to ride 70% of FTP, give or take a bit depending on the race situation, but no extended stretches over 80%. Naturally the first few miles were extremely easy and I had to force myself to dial down the wattage. I let a few riders go by, but my swim time left me behind the majority of the really strong cyclists so I doubted I'd have anyone to ride with. Around mile 15 a bike came then settled in not far ahead of me. He was riding a very steady wattage output so I decided I would pace off him for as long as possible. I moved back past him a few times but the wattage required to stay ahead for long was a bit more than I wanted to push at that time so I stayed in the back. Even at 2-4 bike lengths behind there was still plenty of benefit of riding slightly lower watts. Going through the forest portion of the course we had a couple bikes come by as well as overtaking a few small groups. None of these guys seemed capable of riding a steady pace. The weren't drafting but they were all surging back and forth and everyone seemed intent of being the rider in front. It was especially annoying on a few of the rollers as they would come charging up them past me only to stop pedaling at the top when they were barely ahead of me which forced a re-pass. I refused to spike the wattage and a few miles later a pack of them apparently got pissed with getting re-passed every time they stopped pedaling because they dropped the hammer and moved way ahead. Not surprisingly I caught and passed every single one of them around miles 85-90 with most of them sitting up and spinning.
The ride just kinda cruised by. It never felt like a hard effort although the last 20ish miles were extremely painful due to a significant amount of saddle chafing. Never forgetting the chamois cream for a ride of that distance again. It got so bad that I was actually sitting up for almost the entire last 10 miles to try to avoid the raw spots. I was still hitting my watts but it obviously cost me a bit of time not being down in aero. I'd always heard how bad the last half of the IMTX bike course was but other than the rough roads for a 20ish mile stretch in the middle it was nothing like I had heard. I couple of tough windy stretches but maybe it was a lighter wind year than normal. I did make one huge mistake on the ride that likely came into play later in my race with the difficulties I experienced on the run. In training I perform best on around 250-300 calories an hour and I had based my race nutrition plan on this. My special needs bag had a number of gels to refill my DarkSpeedWorks top tube box but I made a split second decision to skip special needs to keep pace with a couple of other riders. An incredibly dumb rookie move and put me way behind on my nutrition by the end of the ride. Finished the ride just under 5:04. I was hoping to just crack 5:00 but based on my final wattage that exactly what I would have expected, especially sitting up the last 10 miles.
The ST aero guru himself, Jackmott, said my Ironman bike setup was "beautiful" so whatever else happened at IMTX I can take that away as a positive.
The run. The discipline that seems to define every Ironman race. I've been running well this year and felt that if I stayed conservative on the bike I'd have a shot at around a 3:30 or so marathon. If everything broke right at least. Out of transition of knew I legs would feel shitty for a few miles but would come around like they always do. It helps that right out of T2 there are massive crowds as well as the Moxie crew which immediately takes your mind off how your legs are feeling. Past the Moxie group there is a short dirt out and back that completely sucks and then the infamous "grass hill". Seriously people even remember that thing? I can't talk with what happened to me later on the run but really....? That's a hill? Right after the hill was one of the more fun spots on the course. The TheRealStarky ("TRS") station. A lot of people reading this will know that there has been a bit of history between me and TRS. When I walked up to the TRS booth on Thursday the guy manning the booth, Lars Finanger (not TRS btw), asked both of us our names. When I told him it was Travis his response was, "oh shit that Travis"? The TRS spot had some of the best energy on the course with this guy, Jeremy Brown, keeping the party going.
Naturally, he started yelling my full name as I ran past and TRS, who was there but is not pictured above, immediately took notice. I got a great shout out from him and it was a spot I looked forward to each time I came around. The Moxie spot on the course has been a fixture at IMTX for the past few years and the TRS group needs to become another one. The are so many great spots on the IMTX run course. The entire canal section is one massive party and it's impossible to not enjoy yourself no matter how the day is going through there. Even the sections out by the lake had a ton of spectators, especially on my 2nd and 3rd laps.
For my race the 3 laps can be broken up as follows: Good, poor, terrible. In that order. My legs kicked in at about 1.5 miles like they always seem to and I actually started running some people down. Around mile 5 another guy made a move to go by and I stuck with him. We ran together for at least 3 miles through the canal section which is always fun in a race. The 2nd loop things started to unravel. This is the part of every race report that I hate. Where reasons, or excuses or whatever someone wants to call explaining why a race didn't turn out like they expect start showing up. So I'm keeping this short. I walked most of lap 2 and almost all of lap three except for the last few miles when I couldn't bring myself to walk through the crowds no matter how bad I felt. My issues were likely nutrition related, something I didn't do myself any favors on with my decision on the bike to skip special needs. There were times I tried to run but each one would leave me dizzy. So I walked. And didn't even walk quickly. There are some seriously fast walkers in Ironman. I think some of them were even passing the guys who were doing the shuffle run. As much as the walking sucked I never got too down like I have at races in the past when things went wrong. It was an experience I was going to get through and learn from. There were definitely a few moments when I thought Ironman was incredibly stupid and I would never do another one but even those didn't last long. I saw old friends on the course, made a few new ones and got through it. 4:35 on the dot for the marathon. I'll take it and know it'll be improved on from there. Crossing the finish line was fun but really didn't feel any different than any of the other races I've done. Maybe if I had met or exceeded my personal goals it would have but I somehow doubt it. Ironman is just another race distance. No better than a sprint or a 70.3 or anything in between. It's an experience to be enjoyed and an event that is going to take me a bit more time to learn how to master. And by master I mean get through the run without walking. Racing this distance is a completely different matter.
A few photo's below of the run. In order, one for each lap. Thankfully I haven't managed to find any of me walking but I'm not exactly moving quickly in any of these either.
It's difficult writing a race report after a race where expectations were not met. I've reached the point in my athletic journey where I don't think I can consider any race I complete or walk away from uninjured as a "bad" race though. Even if everything doesn't go as planned or hoped there is still so much to enjoy and appreciate about the experience. New Orleans 70.3 had it's highs and lows but the good far outweighed the bad.
The swim turned out to be the best leg of the day for me as it related to my expectations. Something I can absolutely say without a doubt has never occurred before in my triathlon career. With a time of 33 minutes and change there is nothing on the face that is impressive about it, but personally I can look at it as a huge confidence boost. I took Sept through March off of swimming to work on a tattoo and between when I did my first swim back and the race, my Training Peaks records show exactly 3 times where I got in the water. Looking back to 2013 my last race in August I also swam a 33:xx. For an olympic distance race. With the Nola swim time including a :30-:45 sec run from the water to the first mat this was likely a swim pr for me at the distance. I strongly believe the only reason my swim fitness is anything remotely close to respectable is because of the Vasa machine I purchased back in Jan. Honestly, it took me a month or two before I started using it consistently since there is absolutely nothing that is enjoyable about it. Once I buckled down with a race looming on the horizon and a work schedule that only allowed me 1 trip to the pool a week though, the value it provided became quickly apparent. I've never felt as comfortable with a steady effort in the water as I did last weekend. It gives me hope that with continued Vasa and pool work I might one day (this year hopefully) be able to crack the 30 min 1.2 mile barrier in the swim.
The simple fact of the matter is I rode stupid. I pushed the wattage a bit higher than I should have early on when it felt easy and paid for it when the wheels started to come off around mile 40. The wind this year felt a lot tougher than last. In years past on this course it has been mostly headwind going out with a tailwind coming back in. This year there were only 2 short sections where it felt like we were getting a tailwind of any form but I tried to ride the course the same way I have in the past rather than adapting to the conditions. 2:24 was 6 minutes slower than last year although I think the conditions were slightly more difficult. The best example that demonstrates how poorly I paced the ride was the fact that average wattage dropped 10 watts over the final 15 miles. That is a huge drop and is something I will need to address in how I ride going forward.
The run started out as badly as the bike ended. I can look back on races where I've ridden an intelligent wattage range and I know that my legs usually start feeling good around 1.5 miles into the run. There was no feeling good 1.5 miles in at Nola though. The first 6+ miles included several porta john stops as well as walking/stopping at most aid stations. I made a mental commitment to not dnf and keep moving forward as that accomplishment was likely the only positive takeaway I was going to have. Looking back at my miles splits, it's amazing how much damage aid station stops can do to your time. It doesn't seem like much in your head in the moment, but do it more than a few times and it creates a dramatic hit to your average pace. Around mile 7 something clicked for me and I stopped thinking and just started running. My stomach was feeling better and the legs finally started turning over. Miles 7-12 I actually started moving up through the field and running down a few people who had passed me earlier. It was too little far too late to salvage any sort of good result but it felt good to actually be moving up instead of backwards. It was a big boost to see a couple Wattie Ink teammates cheering on the course although the people they claimed were JUST ahead of me turned out to be slightly further :-) It's hard to feel sorry for yourself even if things aren't going great when good friends are around.
Despite the sub par race it was still a great weekend. Thanks so much to Mary for letting me crash at her house as well as driving me all over the place dealing with the difficult split transition set up that Nola has. Also thanks to Jeff at NOLA Paddleboards for letting me take out a board the day before the race. I feel like there may have to be a paddleboard purchase in my future. Meeting new friends and seeing old ones is what makes these race weekends great. The racing is just the icing on top. On to St George here in a few weeks for a chance at putting together a slightly smarter race with what is hopefully a better result.
Normally I wouldn't even consider a 5k worthy of a race report, and I'm still not sure that it even is, but it's been forever since I've posted anything on here or even raced so it looks like there's going to be one.
This particular 5k was on a course I had raced 4 weeks previously, so going in I had expectations of beating that time and setting a new PR. This was to be the 3rd 5k in 4 weeks and my intense training schedule of slowly building up my run base with slow, steady daily runs of increasing duration had yielded my first open sub 20 min 5k the first time on this course and a 19:20 the previous week despite the fact that I spent the entire back half of the course looking for a spot on the course to quit because of stomach issues. Seriously pedestrian times but I was happy to see them given how it seems like it's been years since I've done any sort of speed work with the continual tendonitis issues in my ankles. For now, these 5k's get to count as the speed work in my training plan.
There were slightly more people at this race compared to the last time I had raced this course where there were about 100 people in the event and I finished 7th. I think I heard the announcer say 2,000+ people in the 5k. I had a couple friends competing in the event, including one who I expected to run a low 17 min race. Made sure to position myself behind him at the start line as well as make sure I didn't go out anywhere near as fast as he did. Going out way to fast seems to be a historical issue for me as evidenced by my first ever race I did in CO after moving here from TX. For that 5k I went out as hard as I could with the leaders. Around a half mile in we were running right at a 5 min mile pace. I finished in 20:06. Tells you how that strategy worked.
I wanted to run the first mile by feel. Not too hard but starting to feel the hurt a half mile in or so. Based on my previous races was hoping to hit about a 5:50 first mile fairly comfortably. The first mile felt right. The leaders were gone as expected but I was reeling in all the runners who were starting to blow up from their opening pace. The Garmin beeped for the first mile right at the course mile marker which was nice for a change in a race. A quick check told me I had hit the first mile in 6 flat. Well off of where I wanted to be and already feeling like I was working much harder than a 6 min pace. At this point I decided that no more checking the pace on the watch. I probably wasn't going to be what I wanted to see. The rest of the race would just be based on effort and trying to run down the next person ahead of me.
I steadily picked off a few people and was passed by a couple of others. I knew I was going to fade a bit from the 6 min first mile but was pushing hard and thought I was running about a 6:15 pace. With a little less than 1 mile left I was caught by a kid I had passed way earlier in the race. I say caught not passed because of the incredibly annoying way he would surge past me, blow up and fall back only to surge again. It may not sound annoying but it totally is. Also, what is up with always having to end up battling it out with some kid late in a race. It's always a lose/lose proposition. See my Leadman 10k report for the last experience. I finally made one of his little blow ups stick and pulled away with a quarter mile left. Running all out and still got chicked in the finishing chute.
Slumped across the line and noted that the clock read 19:4x something. Instantly hoped that the course was massively long because that was no where near the time I was expecting or hoping for. A quick look at the Garmin told me, nope, pretty much dead on. Showing 3.14 miles. Always nice to run an accurately measured course though. Quick scroll through the data showed that those miles I'd thought I was hitting 6:15's were more like 6:30's. Felt like a complete bum at this point but after a few minutes faced the reality that a month ago I would have been very happy with this time. Pretty much spot on from my last race on the course and it's been a long month of heavy training.
Was considering another 5k this weekend but I think with a very heavy week of training plus a few more weeks before things lighten up a bit I'll enjoy a weekend of longer runs on some trails. Next likely event is shaping up to be the opening race of the Chilly Cheeks duathlon series. Been a long time since I'm been on a bike in race conditions so should be interesting.
Not sure why I've waited so long to do more racing in Colorado but the courses I've raced the last two weekends were a couple of the most scenic, fun and in the case of the Xterra last weekend, the most challenging I've done in quite awhile.
Up first was the Steamboat Springs Olympic triathlon. I went up a few days early to camp, preview the course and get in some mountain biking and trail running. Steamboat Springs might be my new favorite town. Great roads for cycling, mountain bike trails that are fast and flowing and great food for when you get off the bike.
We had a beautiful campsite up above the town and direct access to a couple of great trails. The first one was 3+ miles of fun singletrack that descends straight down into town. In the opposite direction was what turned out to be one of my favorite trails I've ridden. Fast and flowing sections, a couple rock gardens, creek crossings and incredible views. A couple shots from the trail below.
Sunday was race day at another gorgeous venue in Steamboat.
The lake was beautiful but my swim wasn't so much. Ended up having possibly my worst ever swim in an Olympic race and came out with a lot of ground to make up. DU pool has been closed for most of the summer and I've been very lazy about swimming elsewhere. My swim time sadly reflected that lack of work.
The bike course is a rolling out and back that rides fairly fast. All the mountain biking from the days before might have added some fatigue to my legs since I couldn't get up to my normal power but turned in a decent ride and came in under an hour. Still a ways back from the leaders but had made up some ground.
The run was another rolling out and back course. Legs felt pretty dead coming out of transition but focused on the turnover and they came around a mile or so in like they usually do. Coming back from injury I haven't been running much as I slowly build back up the volume and definitely nothing fast but I still ended up with one of my best olympic distance runs off the bike. It took 5+ miles before anyone passed me which never happens and I was able to make a late charge in the last half mile to pass an athlete in my AG. Ended up 4th in 30-34 which is probably the absolute best I could have hoped for given my awful swim.
A week after Steamboat was Xterra Buffalo Creek. This was going to be my first Xterra race in over a year since Beaver Creek last season. I'd meant to do a lot more offroad racing this year and signed up for Lory and Curt Gowdy but Lory was canceled and I got sick before Curt Gowdy so this was it. The race was Sat but I made the 2ish hour drive up on Friday afternoon so I could get a pre ride in on the course. Lots of people were camping but I decided to sleep in the back of the Jeep instead of dealing with a tent. Plenty of room with the back seats laid down.
For the pre ride I got incredibly lucky and headed out at the same time the RD and another guy were heading out on their bikes to mark the course. I'd have been completely lost otherwise. Had a great few hours rolling with them and got a good feel for the course, including a nice little crash on a fast single track section where I let myself lose a bit of focus and washout in a loose corner.
Nice bit of road rash on the arm as well as hip and knee. Always fun when you're going fast enough to catch enough hang time on your crash to notice your landing and feel relieved that there aren't any large rocks.
The swim is in a picturesque little lake nestled in the mountains at about 8,000 feet elevation. The course is a 2-loop out and back. I wasn't expecting much better then the previous Steamboat but I was about 2 min faster and felt much better in the water.
The bike leg is one of the longest in the Xterra circuit at 22 miles. It's a good mix of jeep roads, double and single track. I really need to spend more time on my mountain bike. I can probably count on both hands the number of times I've been on it this year and my skills aren't good enough to match up against even the moderately good riders out there. Consequently I was getting passed most of the day until we got to the final 3+ miles climb back to transition and I was able to use some of my bike strength to reel in a few people as we crawled along at 3 mph.
The run was on single track for the first half then onto a dirt road on the other side of the lake as we came into the finish. Straight out of transition there is a solid half mile climb before it turns into fun rolling trail. There were lots of twists and turns, a creek crossing and some quick sections down through rocks or logs where you had to watch your step and keep your feet moving quickly. I passed a couple people on the climb and a few more on the single track. Once out on the road I could see others ahead of me and concentrated on running each of them down. I ran out of room trying to catch the last guy at the line but fortunately he wasn't in my age group.
After how many people had passed me on the bike my best hope was that I had cracked the top 10 in the age group but somehow I ended up in 2nd place. That result is likely more a reflection of who wasn't at the race rather than my performance but it was still nice to be back on a podium after quite some time.
Both of these events were two of the best I've done in quite awhile in terms of production and both were put on by Without Limits. I'll definitely be racing more of their events in the future around Colorado and I'm looking forward to the new Xterra in Aspen for next year that they just announced. Big thanks to Wattie Ink and Greater Than coconut water who have supported me all season even though I've been injured for most of it and getting a very late start to racing. Up next I'll be heading back to Steamboat Springs for the cycling stage race over Labor Day.