Running as fast as I can since '93
RSS icon Email icon Home icon
  • Kelowna ITU Premium Pan American Cup

    Posted on September 7th, 2012

    A few weeks ago now, I was in Canada for my second ever international race. Like my trip to Taiwan, I traveled alone without my usual support crew of mom and dad. This time, however, there was no team USA support to make sure things went smoothly. Over the next few years I am sure this will begin to become commonplace and I looked forward to the new experience.

    Because the pre-race briefing was held two days out from the race, I decided to fly up to Kelowna, BC on Thursday August 16th. I went for an hour run through town after arriving, had dinner at some Italian food chain restaurant I had never heard of, and set up my bike. Most of the stress associated with triathlons, especially when flying, comes from the bike and all the possible things that could go wrong or be forgotten. Even though I still had a couple days before my race, I wanted to make sure everything was good to go so I could have a restful night’s sleep.

    Finish line being assembled

    On Friday I went for my usual pre-race fartlek from my hotel in the morning. After a couple very easy days, I wanted to get in some good efforts to be sure the engine was still burning hot. I headed over to the race site, snapped a couple pictures, and jumped in Lake Okanagan to check out the swim venue. The water was really nice, around 72?? F, which unfortunately meant the race would be non-wetsuit. I picked up Dustin McLarty from the airport, who would be staying in the hotel with me, and we biked to the race briefing together after he got his bike set up.

    When the start list was posted on ITU’s website, I noticed there was an error in my start number. I was assigned #23, but should have been #10. Numbers are assigned based on a ranking that each athlete earns by accumulating points at previous races. Your start number dictates which order you get to pick your starting position. So #1 gets first pick, #2 second pick, and so forth. Since I am a relatively weak swimmer, I would like to start next to fast swimmers and try to stay on their feet for as long as possible. With a start number of 23 I wouldn’t have much choice on starting position and would basically be stuck with whatever’s left. I brought this up with the referees and technical delegate at the race briefing and they said, “Sorry, it’s too late to do anything about it. Don’t worry about it and just race.” Basically, tough luck.

    I wasn’t about to let this affect my race, but I wanted to know how such an error occurs and make sure that it never happens again. Athletes literally travel the globe for these rankings, any and all perks that come with them need to be honored. If it made no difference where you get to line up on the start line, then why don’t they just assign starting positions randomly?

    Lake Okanagan made for a beautiful swim venue

    Friday night I ate dinner with Dustin at a nice restaurant close to our hotel called Milestones. I had the best meatloaf I have ever had, which I wasn’t expecting. I always thought of meatloaf as an All-American food (which for some reason gets a bad rap), but maybe that is just me being an ignorant American. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meatloaf turns out it has European origins…) One thing I noticed, as did the rest of the Americans I spent time with on the trip, were the??waitresses. To say Kelowna has ‘talent’ is an understatement. Every single waitress I saw was arguably cute, and definitely above their typical American counterparts. (Don’t worry, Mo, I took home zero phone numbers. I’m about 80% sure that the waitress at Milestones thought Dustin and I were together — “not that there’s anything wrong with it!” )

    Saturday I got together with a few fellow Americans that I have met from previous races to go through typical pre race routines. I swam with Chris Braden, Jessica Broderick, Sam Holmes and Dustin. We then went out on the bike and rode a couple laps of the course. Later in the evening we ate an awesome Italian restaurant in downtown Kelowna called Mimi’s. We were debating between Mimi’s and another restaurant, and I made the final call for Mimi’s. Of course, I was swayed by my Farmor’s memory (my late paternal grandmother was named Mimi). Any reminder of her is comforting.

    ITU race days take me back to college track meets where you wait all day in a hotel till it is finally time to race. I got pumped up to race with some Dirty Dancing on the t.v., sipped water and Powerade, and nibbled on food. Finally it was time, and Dustin and I rode the ~4 miles to transition.

    Swim

    27th in 20:42 (2:42 behind the fastest)

    Because of my poor starting position, I started in the middle of the field. The water’s edge had a slight bend to it so those on the right side had a slightly shorter distance to the first left-hand turn buoy. When the gun sounded, everyone took a couple steps and then dove in. Chaos ensued, as it always does, but I feel like I let it get to me more than I did in my last two races. Most of the way to the first turn buoy I couldn’t see a thing up ahead, just lots of splashing. In that position you just have to assume that everyone ahead is going the right direction and try to stick on their feet.

    Coming around the buoy there were some feet just ahead. I told myself to not let them go, but for whatever reason, I wasn’t able to hang on and I saw the race swim away from me, literally. I had clean water the rest of the swim, since I was so far behind! Some guy would occasionally touch my toes, which was my only indication that I wasn’t in last.

    I have made a commitment to swimming and it is frustrating to have races like this. Do I need to commit even more? Perhaps. It is hard to say. Maybe time, not more intensity and more yardage, is what I need? Just as one doesn’t see the rewards of running 100-mile weeks after just a few weeks, I’m hoping I have yet to see the rewards of all the swimming I have done in the last few months.

    Bike

    15th in 1:05:53 (2:34 behind fastest)

    The bike course was 6 laps with a 650m hill with sections reaching 8% grade. For a normal ride, that wouldn’t be worth mentioning, but when you’re racing up it six different times, it??definitely??shakes things up. I’ve always thought I was a pretty good climber on the bike, so I was excited to see how I stacked up on the hill. Now that I came out of the swim with such a deficit, I hoped that some of the riders up ahead would get dropped by the pack and allow me to catch them.

    That’s exactly how things played out for the first two or three laps, but after that, I saw no one. Unlike most of the ITU races I have done previous, here there were no 180 degree turns to??gauge??how far behind I was. Still, I put my head down, told myself “professionals don’t give up” and continued to attack the hill on each lap. Finally, on the sixth time up the hill, I could just barely see the tail end of the chase pack. The distance was too far to make up with just a few kilometers left, but at least I knew I was holding a manageable gap. I knew I could close that gap on the 10k run on most of the guys up there.

    Run

    4th in 33:42 (0:55 behind fastest)

    Coming out of T2 there was a quick, sharp left hand turn and then through the first water station. I was stunned to see some guys barely moving through that area–I had already made up the one minute+ gap on these athletes. It was clear some of these guys rode above their heads on the bike to stay with the pack, and I was looking to capitalize on that.

    I looked ahead and saw a string of athletes. I still had no idea what place I was in (looking at the results after the race, I was 23rd off the bike) so I just looked ahead and picked them off one at a time. I felt great for the first 2.5km lap, but shortly after I felt a little twinge in my hamstring. I have had this issue before, and I think it is from riding so hard, especially with that hill. Each time it would start to pulse, I let up a bit and tried to smooth out my stride. There were a couple of times where I thought to myself, ‘you aren’t even running hard!’ I would try to pick up the pace, then my hamstring would say, “not so fast!”

    Rocking the ENVE logo for the first time! (Photo: Jessica Broderick)

    As I ran by the finish line with one lap to go, I heard the announcer say, “We should see our winners in the next few minutes.” Alarms went off in my head! At every race I do I am always looking to score points, which requires a top-20 place at Continental Cups like this one. At his point I was pretty sure I had run my way up into the top 20, so I was good there, but there is another rule that says you must be within 5% of the winner’s time to earn those points. I fell victim to this rule in Myrtle Beach last October in my first professional race, where I finished 20th, but too far outside the time cut off (missed that one by 5 seconds!).

     

    Knowing all that, and hearing the winners only had a few minutes till they finished, I did some quick calculations. If their finishing time is 2 hours, I need to be within 6 minutes. They were going to be somewhere around 1:55, so I knew I would need to be well inside of that threshold. I don’t do ITU races with a watch, so I wasn’t sure how long each lap took, but I assumed it was somewhere around 8 minutes. I knew it was going to be close!

    In the words of Paul Sherwen , “I threw caution to the wind” and decided to just go for it and risk a full on hamstring cramp. If I didn’t finish within the time cutoff, at this point I could care less whether I finished 10th or 30th. Fortunately, the last lap was my best yet and I was able to finish strong in 12th place in 2:02:02.

    After looking at the results, the time cut off ended up being 2:02:10. I had just made it by 8 seconds!

    Results

    Overall, I have mixed feelings about this race. I don’t think my swim was indicative of where my swim is at right now, and I aim to prove that at my next race. I rode and ran strong, although the cramping is a little worrisome. I’m happy that I had the presence of mind throughout the race to make the correct decisions tactically so that I would have my best performance (e.g. not hanging with the slower riders that I caught) and to sneak under the 5% cut off. With those points, I moved up the ITU points list to my highest World and national ranking yet, 232nd overall and 17th best American.

    In addition to the race, I had a great time in my first adventure to Canada. Kelowna is gorgeous, and I plan to come back to this race every chance I get!

    Thanks to ENVE wheels and Blue bikes for putting me on a great machine. The ENVE wheels look so slick with the blue side-wall race tires and I got a number of compliments from other pros on them. Thanks to USA Triathlon for all the help this year, especially Barb Lindquist and the Collegiate Recruitment Program. Also a big thank you to mom and dad. I couldn’t be doing this without their support and I am grateful for it everyday.

  • FISU World University Triathlon Championships

    Posted on July 2nd, 2012

    Race morning started cool and calm, but heated up by the start.

    As with the previous days in Taiwan, I woke up race morning quite early. At around 3 or 4:00 am I had a little snack and then laid around until 6:00. Before I left for Taiwan, Barb Lindquist told me a story that her swim coach told her years ago. After a poor night’s sleep, Barb’s coach told her, “You’re too good of a swimmer to let some lost sleep affect your race.” Now I’m certainly not too good of a swimmer, but I knew I was well prepared for this race and didn’t worry about a couple of hours of sleep I may have missed.??Dustin McLarty and I headed to the breakfast buffet, which opened at 5:00 for the race instead of the usual 7:00. I had a fried egg over-medium, a bunch of toast, and some frosted flakes. The rest of the morning was spent packing our things and cheering for the women outside our hotel as they began the bike.

    The race was set to begin at 10:30, so at 9:15 I headed down to transition with the rest of Team USA. After being sent all over the race venue, we eventually found the athlete’s lounge and were able to check in. I was able to set up my transition and finished up at 9:50. Swim warm up was 9:45-10:15, and since I did not have a chance to swim the course the day before, it was important to swim an entire lap. The course included a pontoon start and a straight out and back around one buoy. I quickly dropped off my things at the athlete’s lounge and jumped in the river. By this time the wind had really picked up and there was quite a bit of chop when heading back in after the turnaround buoy. There was also a noticeable current pulling from right-to-left heading out.

    Swim

    33rd in 20:56 (2:15 behind the fastest)

    A look at the swim venue the day before the race.

    I was ranked 7th going into the race, so I was able to line up pretty much anywhere I liked. Since there was a bit of a current, I went over to the right side and picked a spot about 15 spaces from the end. The plan was to have Dustin McClarty (#15) and Kalen Darling (#18) to line up next to me. They were far and away the quickest swimmers in the field and were planning a two-man breakaway. They were both lined up to my left, so I knew after 25m or so there would be an opening to my left that I could swim in with clean water.

    I had a good reaction to the gun and the plan with Dustin and Kalen worked great. It was probably the smoothest start I have had at an ITU race. At the turnaround buoy it got much more crowded and I just tried to stay on the feet in front of me as we came into the chop. Just before exiting lap 1, I saw fellow American Chris Braden to my right. Chris is not know for his swim necessarily, but I know he has made the main bike pack before, so I thought I was in a good spot. We raced around the pontoon and jumped back in. The second lap had much less contact as things had strung out a lot more. Coming around the final buoy there was one guy ahead (Martin Novak CZE) and I did a good job of latching on his feet. Unfortunately, he was gapped ahead and we came out of the water alone.

    In hindsight, I probably should have followed Chris after the first lap and tried to stay on his feet. I knew he was capable of being a main pack swimmer and may have been able to stay on his feet. Still, I am actually pretty happy with this swim(although I wasn’t during and shortly after the race). I was in a good position after the first lap, which is more I can say about my previous ITU races. I also did a good job of sticking on feet in front of me — I just chose the wrong feet.

    T1

    10th in 1:35 (:05 behind the fastest)

    The run to transition was quite long, over 300m, so there was some hope that I could bridge up to the main pack and get in the bike pack. As I came into transition I saw that terrible sight, empty bike racks and the trail end of the pack mounting their bikes. There was one more guy in transition, Luke Watson of Great Britain, giving me some hope that we could bridge up together.

    Bike

    28th in 1:05:09 (2:13 behind the fastest)

    I sprinted with my feet on top of my shoes to bridge up to the British athlete. After maybe 600m, I got in his draft and was able to get my shoes on. After making a sharp turn, I took a pull into the headwind. It was clear that he was not going to be strong enough to bridge up, so I took off on my own. The pack would be able to ride much faster than me solo, so I had a very small window to catch them. I was never able to get the time under 45 seconds, and would slowly lose time to the bunch throughout the 40 km.

    Riding solo in that wind and heat was really tough. I drank two bottles and had a GU out there, but was still on the limit nearly the whole ride. Thanks to my new ENVE SES 3.4 Clincher and Team USA mechanic, my bike rode very smooth and I was actually able to close the time gap to the guys that began the bike at the front of the bike pack.

    After looking at the results, the last guy to make the bike pack swam 20 seconds faster than me, and after T1, was only 18 seconds ahead. If I had swam 15-20 seconds faster, I am certain I would have made the front pack and would have come off the bike more than 80 seconds quicker, with likely a lot more left in my legs. Draft legal racing can be harsh.

    T2

    32nd in :30 (:06 behind the fastest)

    World Triathlon Series-style transition

    I was feeling pretty cooked after that bike ride, so that is why my transition wasn’t the best. Heading out on the run my legs weren’t feeling all that great, but I knew in these conditions there would definitely be guys fading.

    Run

    5th in 35:06 (1:57 behind the fastest)

    The run course was flat straight out and back on a bike path. There were trees lining the path, but they offered no shade under the noon sun. Less than a kilometer in there were guys already coming back to me. Around that point I got in a decent rhythm and kept focusing on the guy ahead. Unfortunately we began lapping athletes coming off the bike on the 2nd (of 4) laps and after that point it was very difficult to tell where I was in the field. I was able to continue to move through the field, passing Kalen to become the 2nd American, and finish strong to pass a few more guys in the last kilometer.

    Overall

    11th in 2:03:18 (3:21 behind the fastest)

    Initial thoughts were to cool off! The heat index apparently had reached 105?? F, and after a swim in 87??, we were all well-done. Once my body recovered a bit, I became pretty disappointed with how the race turned out. I came in ranked 7th, and was hoping for a top-8 here, and only finished 11th. It was pretty clear that my swim put me in a??deficit??that was too big to overcome, once again.

    A few hours later, after going over the results and speaking with some of my teammates and coaches, I had a more positive look at the race. Sure I missed the main pack on the swim, but from the swim exit on, I had a great race. I didn’t lose too much time on the bike in harsh conditions and still managed to put together a solid run to help Team USA. My swim was actually the closest I have ever been to making the main pack, which is a huge improvement for me.

    Finally, I considered the trip as a whole and not just the results at the end of the race. It was my first international experience and I learned a lot. If I get to the level that I want to achieve in this sport, this trip will be the first of many. This was also just my 4th ITU race. At this point it is important to keep racing and gaining experience, regardless of what kind of shape I may be in.

    In the end we tied with South Africa for 3rd place, but lost the podium position on a tie break. A little disappointing, but I think all five of the men that traveled were thrilled with the experience we were given and will no doubt have a special bond from our five days spent together in Taiwan.

    Team USA on top!

    Congratulations to the women’s team for finishing 1st! Very excited for Kaitlin Shiver, Jessica Broderick and Julie Rechel. I also want to thank the Team USA support staff Steve Kelley, Brent Hamula, Jennifer Hutchison and Brian Hughes. They did a great job and made the trip easy for us athletes.

    Team USA Support Staff

    Results | Facebook photo album

  • FISU Taiwan Day 1

    Posted on June 27th, 2012

    Hello from the other side of the world!

    After taking off Tuesday morning at 1:35, I landed Wednesday morning at 6:20 in Taipei, Taiwan. I had a window seat, which I thought would be good for sleeping, but I only could manage maybe 4 hours of sleep for the 14 hour flight. The man in the aisle next to me never stood up once! And the girl in the aisle seat must have slept a solid 8 hours with her head resting on her tray table. I guess being little has its advantages…

    Interesting bus that took us from Taipei to Shangrila

    My roommate for this trip Dustin McLarty and I got through customs and baggage claim quickly and met up with Team USA coordinator for this trip, Steve Kelley. We then hopped on a bus for about 90 minutes through the mountains (literally through the mountains… there were many tunnels several miles long)??and made our way to the race host hotel Shangrila in Yilan. Yilan is quite rural, especially compared to Taipei, with rice paddies mixed with the occasional home or apartment building.

    Lots of tall apartment buildings in Taipei.

    After putting our bikes back together, we headed out for a ride with the British boys and a couple girls from South Africa. It is very warm with temps hovering in the low 90’s and humidity above 60%. Dustin and I got a chance to look at the bike course, which is quite flat and on well-paved roads.

    Since the ride we had lunch at the hotel’s buffet and are trying to keep ourselves awake to fight the jet lag. We will probably go for a little run in a bit, which should help get us through another couple hours.

     

    Breakfast

    Tomorrow we are headed to a local pool in the morning with the rest of Team USA (they arrive tonight). More updates with pictures to come!

    EDIT: I’m having trouble posting pictures. Wifi isn’t the best here. I guess you get what you pay for. I will keep trying, hopefully they will be up soon.