Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Rev3 Cedar Point

I am having a relatively slow work week so I thought I'd reflect a little after my second iron distance triathlon of 2012.  This time, it was close to home, in Sandusky, Ohio.

Andrea and Luca sending me wishes at the start of the swim!

Rev3 does a great job with their events and thus, this was a can't miss event for me in 2012.  In 2011, I made my pro debut at this race and due to a lapse in judgement on the bike, it was a successful failure.  Going into last years race my ironman PR was 9:42 from 2009 Kona but I had pretty lofty goals for improvement.  In the end, I went 9:13 but lost some major time on a wrong turn which meant I set a new lifetime best but did not get under the coveted 9 hour mark.

Fast forward to 2012 and my personal pressure of getting under 9 was no longer there.  I went 8:55 and change in May at IM Texas and this year's REV3 was all about trying to race.  Unfortunately, I decided to race a little early in the day:

Swim (56:40)- This swim time was the slowest I've ever gone by more than 3 minutes in a 2.4 miler but my position coming out was a respectable 4th of 25 pro men.  I was on the feet of the eventual race winner at the half way point but lost them about 1/2 way through the second loop.  I got out feeling fresh but disappointed when I saw the time.  There were some good guys behind me so I didn't dwell on it for too long.  The Profile Design Mako speed suit felt great throughout.

T1 (1:20) - Transitions tend to be a weakness of mine so I've worked hard trying to correct this throughout the year.  Once I hit the sand, I went pretty hard here.  I got through T1 pretty fast although I fumbled with my salt tabs and Snicker's bar.  My bike was loaded with 1200 calories of Hammer Perpetuem and 600 calories of Powerbar gel so I gave up trying to hold my chocolate treat.  In retrospect, I am lucky I didn't get a littering penalty for leaving it behind.

Bike (4:44.02; NP 253 watts) - I have been riding our team bike (2012 Orbea Ordu) this year and have grown to LOVE everything about it.  Unlike past bikes, I can sit in my aerobars all day and stay comfy.
The opening miles of the REV3 bike are a little bumpy but I knew from experience that if I rode aggressively through here, it could set me up for a good position.  I caught up to Brooks Cowan and Victor Zmytsev (the soon to be winner of the race) fairly quickly and was riding between 2nd and 3rd by mile 7.  Chris McDonald then caught up to Victor and I and it was decision time.  I wasn't sure how long the pace would stay as high as it was but I figured I would stick around as long as I could.  Each time I looked down, I was riding between 320 and 340 watts.  This was significantly higher than my goal of 265 so of course, I knew I would be in trouble.  Surely these guys wouldn't keep it up.  However, by mile 19, my body was starting to revolt.  My legs felt like I already had 75 miles in them and the power number was still WAYYYY too high. I sat up.  For the next 3-4 miles, I rode between 16-18 miles per hour and ate a lot.  I was already paying for my stupidity.  But, I don't regret trying.  Anyway, I got caught by Ian Mikelson and my teammate, Zach Ruble somewhere around 22 miles and picked my pace back up.  I believe I was holding in around the 280 watt range again and it felt a little better.  I stayed with them for a while.  Now, we were riding 4th, 5th and 6th overall.  We had an official with us to keep us honest as well as a media vehicle.  Somewhere around 40 miles in, Zach got nailed for drafting off the media bike and had to stand down.  It was definitely unintentional but nevertheless, he was called.  That left Ian and I alone.  Things were going fine for a while but somewhere around 47 miles, I couldn't hold the 280 anymore and I backed down a lot.  I missed my special needs bag and relied on course nutrition the rest of the way. This did me just fine.  By mile 60, 235 watts was my new magic number.  It wasn't long before teammate and future 2nd place finisher Daniel Bretscher came flying by.  He looked great and I had a good feeling about how he was going to do.  That was it.  I got to T2 in 6th overall.  Despite some inconsistent riding, I felt pretty darn good.

T2 (1:16) - Another fast transition was my goal and I did pretty well.  I had lost something like 8 minutes to the leaders over the last 50 miles of riding but I was ok with this.

Run (3:10.44) - Going into the race, my goal was to get into the low 3 hours on the run.  My PR is 3:11 but I know I have a sub-3 in there somewhere.  The weather was perfect in Sandusky so I was encouraged that this might be the time.  However, the poor bike pacing was going to make it a little harder but I decided I had to at least give myself a chance.  I cramped a little about 1/2 mile in but not so much that I was in any sort of trouble.  My first 6 splits were mid 6:40's (other than mile 1 which was 7:15 with a quick stretching stop) so I was well on my way.  However, I started getting what felt like hot spots on the forefoot of both feet.  I had an issue with plantar surface blistering last year at this race and it felt eerily similar.  Retrospectively, it was in fact the same thing.  Full surface blistering.  The pain was pretty bad by mile 7 and it was very difficulty to tolerate each step.  Energy was very good as I was taking in Gatorade, Water, Coke and Salt Tabs without issue, but the stepping pain was getting pretty bad.  I was able to hold the run together but slowly, the pace fell off the cliff.  I was out in 1:32 and back in 1:38.  It was the best I've put together to date, but again, far from my goal.

Finish (8:54.02) - I got to line having been passed by 3 more guys but all in all, I was happy.  I finished 10th in the 25 man field and felt content.  For the first time ever, I got to cross with my son Luca and his 3 cousins, Colin, Evan and Owen.  It was pretty special.  Also special was the fact my parents and my sister Kristin and her husband and son were present cheering throughout the day.  Andrea raced the Half-Rev that day and finished 2nd overall.  I am elated for her but I have to admit, I missed her screaming during most of the day.  She makes me better in all ways.

Anyway, there is the day.  Many thanks go to the people who know who they are (but Spin Bike Shop and Second Sole Rocky River are high on the list).  USProTri had a great day taking 2nd, 8th and 10th and continue to be great support to it's athletes.  I have been more than thrilled with the amazing gear we have been fortunate to use this year, including Profile products, Zoot running shoes and compression gear and of course Powerbar products.  The Limar aero helmet is the lightest on the market and by far the most comfortable one I have ever worn.

The 2012 race season is almost done for me.  However, I have my most anticipated race still left to go; Ironman Cozumel is November 25th. I will post on my lead up soon.


Ironman Texas 5/19/2012

Reading Brandon Marsh's race report made me wonder why I am posting this. I am not sure why I am posting here other than the fact that I don't have a blog. So here is my RR from Texas. Overall can't state enough how much I enjoyed the course. Especially the swim... 

The race may forever go down as my favorite race. That is not to say that it went perfectly. However I did succeed beyond any prior Ironman. The primary difference in my training so far this year has been the rotating weekly blocks devoted to one of the three sports. For the record, I am a 36 year old husband, dad and full-time physical therapist. My goal during the week is to train before work and/or at lunch so as to not do anything once I get home. Weekends during build included a 4-4.75 hour computrainer ride that started by 5 AM to minimize impact on my soon to be 4 year old son or wife. Weekly training time has ranged from 10 hours per week to a peak of around 18 hours for three consecutive weeks. I did a very intense week three weeks out with about a 10 day taper/rest. This is less of a taper than in the past but I am racing tons more this season. I never had any illness or injury issues leading up and my running had been far superior to any point in my life. The only blip on the radar was what I would consider a sub-par result at 70.3 Galveston on April 1st. However I convinced myself it was just a blip. 

The goal for this race was one thing, break 9 hours. The last 5 ironman distances have been 11:48, 10:05, 9:44, 9:42 and 9:13. I have improved a lot but despite the improvements I really wasn't sure I could actually execute. I believed in order for it to happen, the course had to be flat, windless and very mild in temperature. So with that, I somehow thought Houston, Texas in late May was a good idea… 

The swim temp was a nearly 82 degrees and hence no wetsuits allowed. I started behind the top guys and knew the pace would be quick early. I didn't feel great warming up but decided to try their pace initially and see how it felt. I knew if it was too much I could easily scale back and stay comfortable. After the first 300 meters or so, I dropped my pace and settled in. I led a nice group of 8 or so through the rest of the 2.4 miles. It was a very motivating swim through a narrow channel where I could see Andrea the whole time. She can scream! Anyway, as we got about 150 meters from the exit, a Mexican dude started to sprint so I finished on his feet. Time 53:20. I exited the water with Pedro Gomes and the eventual winner Jordan Rapp. I think my heart rate was about 120 at swim exit so I was able to fly (for me) through the swim exit and T1. 

I got on my bike a few seconds ahead of Pedro and Jordan and got rolling. I nearly crashed at the first hard right turn but managed to stay up right. Jordan seemed to fly from the start and I was nervous to even attempt to hang. Pedro then went by me and I decided to try keeping him in my sights. I wasn't sure for how long it would last but the pace was within tolerance. That was the start of a solid 45 or so miles. I tried to take turns pacing but my efforts didn't last long. It's amazing how someone else can keep you mentally engaged for longer stretches than when there is nothing but pavement ahead. 

Anyway, around mile 45 Josef Major (bike course record holder) caught us. Pedro immediately upped his pace and the two of them began getting smaller and smaller into the distance. That was almost the beginning of the end of my day. I had the typical negative thoughts that follow a down turn in an ironman...should I DNF? The road surface turned from smooth pavement to chip seal. The wind was now in my face and the mild temperature's had turned to mid 80's. As I focused on all the negatives, another couple of cyclists passed by without so much as an attempt by me to stay paced. However, everytime I looked at my bike computer I was still maintaining a decent pace considering the effort. 
My mind wandered... 

"You have Hodgkins Disease". I looked at my dad cry for the first time ever and my mom looked like she'd been hit by a truck. That's when I told them something like "it's gonna be ok. Let's start treatment" 

That's when I heard a 'beep' from behind. "Crap." The women's leaders! Not what I wanted to see. I was around mile 90 and had a decision to make. I could either surge ahead for my pride or I could get out of the way and let the two women race their race. I got out of the way and let them do their thing. At least the two (Amy Marsh and MB Ellis) had won a combined 7 ironman titles between them with best times significantly faster than mine. I let them go. I realized I was still on pace for my fastest ride over that distance. 

"it's gonna be ok" 

I caught back up to them and cruised back into T2. I was a little disappointed on one hand but on the other I was happy because the time, 4:45, was my Pre race goal. On to phase 3. 

I got through T2 pretty well and realized I was feeling decent other than being hot. I was still with the two female leaders which at least gave me some motivation. I wasn't too sure how they were feeling but part of me thought I could help at least one of them to a win. One cool part of this was the fact there were pace bikes around for the whole marathon. At different points in the race I visualized that the bikes were for me. It is amazing how much day-dreaming you can do in 140.6 miles! 

After a fairly fast first two miles I settled in to a steady 7:10-7:15 pace. The Pre race goal was a little faster but based upon the rest of my day as well as the temperature I didn't want to be stupid. Although I had plenty of low moments up till this point, I still had a glimmer of hope that I could be sub 9 overall. I knew the women's leader had been a ridiculous 8:40 last year in Europe so if I could keep paced with her I had a shot. My nutrition on the bike was Perpetuum and Power Bar Gels, Hammer Endurolytes and Water. On the run, nutrition was (in order at each aid station) salt tablet, water, Coke/Power Bar Perform, water, ice in pants and repeat. That is how it went. I passed the 13.1 mile mark in 1:34.01 and did quick math. I would have a cushion of 8 minutes if I even split it. I knew that was not going to happen so again my thoughts went to another time and place. 

December 23, 1996. The IV was being started by the nurse for my first Chemotherapy appointment. The Hodgkins Diagnosis came the week or so before and I chose to start treatment before Christmas. My doctor recommended I wait but I needed to kill the bad stuff NOW. 
Suddenly, Andrea and Sherman Everett came into view. They were right at the 24 mile marker and were screaming "20 minutes!!!!" Apparently that was how much time until the clock struck 9 hours. During the prior miles I hadn't looked at my watch much for fear of negative reinforcement. 7 minute miles do not feel significantly different than 10 minute miles in an ironman. I was pretty sure I had been closer to the 10 minute side of things until they said "20 minutes". I peaked at my watch and sure enough I had 20.5 minutes to go 2.2 miles. Mile 25 was 7:19 and 26 was 6:57. Sherman came upon me at the final turn and screamed like crazy. I think he was as happy as I was! For the first time all day I KNEW I was going to break 9 hours." That is all I kept thinking. I saw Andrea and she smacked the skin off my hand. 

Of course tears came out of my eyes as I realized I was going to break a barrier I so badly wanted to cross. There was a little missing at the end because the rest of my family wasn't there. My parents were watching Luca back in Cleveland, Ohio but I know they were keeping tabs all day. I knew Andrea’s side was checking in as well. It has been a continuation of a journey they have all been a part of. 

As I ran down the chute, I reflected upon the past and all of the challenges we have gone through. I slapped hands with anyone who wanted to and walked my last steps of the course. Mike Reilly called out my name and then a first, he walked over and gave me a high five and a cool little man hug. Pretty special. Oh yeah, the women's winner did manage to stay a few steps ahead of me through most of the run. Congrats to Mary Beth Ellis! She has a great chance to be the first female American Ironman World Champion in a very long time. I will be pulling for her. 

This was a great experience all the way around. Thanks go first to my wife for putting up with me. I complain all the time that I don't have enough time to train but as always, you were right! Her belief in me is unending. Thanks to my new team USProTri (http://www.usprotri.com) for some great new products from Profile, Limar, Powerbar, Body Glide and Zoot). Thanks to the Spin Bike Shop crew for great friendships and years of amazing customer service and beyond. Thanks to Bill and the crew at Second Sole. You truly are the best dedicated running shop anywhere! Thanks to my recent training partners Kevin Krol, Ken Hagan and Jocelyn Rood. It has been years since I consistently trained with humans. Thanks to Mark Gorris for the cycling guidance and of course for all the well wishes passed along through messages, texts and facebook. They always mean a ton. And at long last, thank you to the little green Compu-trainer guy for a lot of motivation! I will see you soon! 

Congrats to Mark Murphy of the great Spin Second Sole Multisport Team (http://www.sssmst.com) who made the trek down to race in the same flat, windless and cool conditions of late May in Houston. It was inspiring watching you run and great hanging with you after. Next time though, don't stop and chat so long midway through the marathon! 

Last thing: Andrea and I celebrated our 6th anniversary the day after the race. Her mom sent a text in the morning wishing us Congrats. The text basically stated that the modern day 6th wedding anniversary gift is iron! I verified it on Wikipedia!!! 

If anyone is still reading, sorry!!!!!