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  • Bridgetown CAMTRI Sprint Triathlon American Cup

    Posted on April 26th, 2015

    Nearly one year ago, I raced the Sprint Triathlon Pan American Cup held in Bridgetown, Barbados. Barbados was an interesting place to visit, with some rich English heritage, and set up to be a great race for me — after working hard the first few laps of the five-loop bike course, my group caught the leaders and we made our way into transition in one big pack. The race would be decided on the run. That day, however, things did not continue to progress as I expected. Leading into the race I was nursing some very sore calves that were related to returning to intense training after a bike crash with a truck about a month prior, which had sidelined me with some bruised ribs for a while. After heading out on the run with the leaders, I soon began to fade and stumbled home in eighth place. In my post-race email to Coach Paulo, I wrote, “Feels like a missed opportunity to get on my first podium.” One year’s worth of racing later, and I still hadn’t put together a swim-bike combination worthy of a podium finish.

    Heading into this year’s race, I had new confidence in some areas of my training, but some doubts remained in others. I went back and forth in my mind as to how the race might play out, and often left myself contemplating scenarios where I would be confronted with those doubts. Finally, the night before the race, I decided that was not productive, especially in the few calm moments that remained. Any challenge I would face would be met with the affirmation, “Just win the f***ing thing!”

    Photo by: Andre Williams

    Photo by: Andre Williams

    Swim
    23rd in 9:16, :20 behind the fastest

    I went into the race ranked 5th, which I think is a pretty good spot to be as I can see where some of the best swimmers are lining up and pick my spot accordingly. The Triathlon Squad teammate Eric Lagerstrom was ranked 4th, so my game plan was to pick a spot right next to him and plan to follow his feet (which I trust and have more experience following than anyone else’s in the field). We ended up near the right side. Another American athlete and solid swimmer, Eli Hemming, slotted in on my other side.

    An example of diving too shallow. Photo by: Mark Harris

    An example of diving too shallow. Photo by: Mark Harris

    The horn sounded and we ran a few steps down the white sandy beach to the water. In my practice starts during warmup, I had dove too early and nearly put my nose into the sand. For the race start, I planned to take one more step than what felt comfortable. But that didn’t seem to workout quite right, either, and by the time my face hit the water, Eric was already a body length up. My plan had been to follow his feet, and I was now at his feet, so there was no reason to panic and gave chase.

    The rest of the swim I was in the bunch and didn’t shy away from contact. As I’ve become more comfortable with the mayhem that can be ITU swimming, I’ve learned to put more energy into moving forward and less worry on whether hand is getting the perfect pull or if it’s on someone’s back. Just keep the pressure on; keep moving forward. 

    Heading out of the water and back up the beach towards transition there was a steady stream of guys with no distinct gaps. My last race in Sarasota looked similar at the swim exit, but in that race I failed to get into the main group. I was determined not to let that happen again.

    Driving the pace on the bike. Photo by: Andre Williams

    Driving the pace on the bike. Photo by: Andre Williams

    Bike
    Fastest split in 30:35 

    I mounted the bike and immediately went to work. The graph below shows my power file from the first bike lap. There is a little climb just before the halfway out on each bike lap, and I knew it would be important to be in my cycling shoes by that point, regardless of where I was amongst the field. After getting up to speed, I hopped on someone’s wheel, put one shoe on, then sprinted around, found another wheel to draft behind while I put the other shoe on, and then didn’t look back. Up the short climb the first time I went 496W for 29 seconds. At the top there was a u-turn so I got a chance to see how far ahead the leaders were and if there was anyone behind me. I had put a small gap on the guys behind me, but the guys ahead had consolidated into one group and there was now a sizable gap between me and them with no one in between to help me bridge. There was no hesitation, I put my head down, and drilled it to the end of the first lap. 2:38 and 401W is all it took, and as the group slowed around the second u-turn, I slotted into the back of the group, probably with a grin and a small sigh of relief.

    Lap 1 power

    Lap 1 power

    I took my time the next lap to work my way to the front of the bunch. Jason Wilson, Matthew Wright and Eric were doing most of the work at this point, with the occasional pull by one (or both?) of the Perez brothers from Venezuela and Dillon Nobbs. Looking at the power file below of laps 2-4 you can see that the most erratic riding was done in that 2nd lap. With each lap I got a bit more aggressive and spent more time near the front.

    Laps 2-4 power

    Laps 2-4 power

    Checking to see if anyone is interested in a break. Photo by: Mark Harris

    Checking to see if anyone is interested in a break. Photo by: Mark Harris

    My cycling training has been going very well, so if I couldn’t get a break going, I wanted to make sure that everyone was going to have to put in some big efforts and hopefully make their legs feel pretty tired going into the run. There were sections with pretty strong crosswinds, so if I was on the front in those sections on the last couple of laps, I rode all the way to the side of the road so the riders couldn’t echelon behind me. (I put them in the “gutter.”)

    On the final lap I pushed hard up the hill one last time to see if they’d let me go. That didn’t work, and it was pretty clear that we were going to come into transition as a group. I rolled into T2 on the front of the group with the main players.

    Final lap power

    Final lap power

    Rolling into T2 with the leaders. Photo by: Andre Williams

    Rolling into T2 with the leaders. Photo by: Andre Williams

    You can see my ride (with power) on Strava.

    Run
    2nd in 15:44, :08 behind the fastest

    Photo by: Andre Williams

    Photo by: Andre Williams

    The run was going to be a bit of a mystery for me. Part of the reason I was so keen to make the bike hard was because I have not been doing the same volume and intensity on the run as my squad mates. At the beginning of the year I was diagnosed with a labral tear in my hip and had to take some time off to rest it and get some opinions from doctors on treatment. The doctors agreed that I will need surgery to repair the tear, but were unclear as to how soon I will need that surgery and how much pain or discomfort I will have as I try to train through it. Coach Paulo and I have taken a conservative approach over the past few months and I’ve worked with Gino at Function Smart to rehab and alter my stride to accommodate my condition. Considering the injury, my recovery and training has gone as well as I could have hoped, and I am nearly training at my previous volume, but now on treadmills and Alter-G treadmills to reduce the pounding that comes with running outside. So while there was some unanswered questions regarding my running, I certainly wasn’t going into the race expecting to not run well. If I did, I wouldn’t have stood on the starting line.

    Leading Matthew Wright and Olympian Manny Huerta on the run. Photo by: Mark Harris

    Leading Matthew Wright and Olympian Manny Huerta on the run. Photo by: Mark Harris

    Out of T2, I found myself in fifth or sixth position. The pace felt fast, but I expected that. Eric had a few steps on me and I gauged my running on him for the first kilometer. When we hit the first turnaround, Eric had built a lead of four or five seconds to me, Manny Huerta and Matthew. The way back we were fighting a stiff headwind, and I knew those guys were just sitting on me. I considered letting up, trying to let them pass, and letting them “break the wind” (as runners like to say), but I knew there were more guys not too far behind. Instead, I kept the pressure on, hoping to break some of the guys behind me and secure a podium finish.

    As we began the second lap, I realized Manny and I had created some space between Matthew and us, and I began to think about a 2nd place finish, rather than just getting on the podium. I really had no idea how much my legs would be able to handle, but at that moment, I felt in control. I knew I wanted to get rid of Manny before the far turnaround so that he couldn’t sit on me the final kilometer into the wind, so at about 3k, I pushed hard to the cone. I could hear Manny’s breathing getting more distant, and I began to think about how special a Squad 1-2 with Eric would be. I made the turn with a gap, and knew that I had it if I could just keep moving forward. The final 500 wasn’t pretty, and everything I had gained on Eric while making that move was erased, but I made it to the finish line in 2nd!

    Overall
    2nd in 56:31, :08 behind 1st

    Photo by: Andre Williams

    Photo by: Andre Williams

    Standing on that podium next to Eric was special, and something I won’t soon forget. Shortly after joining The Triathlon Squad and beginning to work with Paulo Sousa, Eric and I shared a bedroom with Joe Maloy in Poway, CA. For the first five months of 2013, Eric and I slept in beds that were closer together than we were standing on the podium on Sunday. Many of those nights, both of us had dreams of standing on the podium, no doubt.

    If you made it this far in the blog, thanks for being a RunPD fan! I’d liked to say a quick a thanks to the friendly people of Barbados (and the ITU representatives) that put on another great event. Special thanks to my training partners, coach, sponsors, family, and fiancee Mo for supporting and believing in me! Next up is Pan American Championships in Monterrey, Mexico on May 3rd!

    Results | Facebook Album #1 | Facebook Album #2

  • 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.