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  • ITU Cozumel World Cup

    Posted on October 9th, 2013

    364 days prior to last Sunday, I raced the ITU Cancun World Cup, finishing 44th. It was my first World Cup and I was probably in a little over my head at the time. Fast forward back to this Sunday, and I was just a few miles southeast on the small island of Cozumel, once again racing a world cup. The training I have put in leading up to this weekend’s race was so much better than last year’s, so it would seem that I would surely have a much better race, right? Well a wise man once said…

    The field was very strong, with an unusually high number of Europeans racing for a late season world cup in the Caribbean, including 2013 World Champion and Olympic Silver medalist Javier Gomez from Spain.

    The man they call "Wild Wolf." (Photo by: Delly Carr/ITU Media)

    The man they call “Wild Wolf.” (Photo by: Delly Carr/ITU Media)

    I was ranked way down at number 40, but knew that if I could make the main pack, than I would have a great opportunity to surprise some people. That’s easier said than done, as I have only caught the leaders once in my entire ITU career and this was probably the deepest field I have competed in yet. I had a few things going in my favor, however, that made me think this was possible, and I promised myself I would try to take advantage of those things.

    2012 cozumel wc splits pedersen

    Swim

    The first thing I had going for me here was that the race was a sprint distance. With only a 750 m swim, there just isn’t enough time for the real fast swimmers to get much of a gap (usually). On top of that, the quality of the field meant that there weren’t going to be guys going out way over their heads the first 200 m and then completely blowing up, losing the feet in front of them, and letting a gap open up.

    Larry Rosa/ITU Media

    (Photo by: Larry Rosa/ITU Media)

    After the swim warm up, I asked Tommy Zaferes if he noticed much of a current. He said there was one going from right-to-left (out to the ocean). Once I finally got called, I found a good spot that was pretty far to the right. The first turn buoy was way out there at 470 m, so I figured if I just concentrated on swimming on feet, the current + the navigation of the guys ahead of me would get me to a reasonably good spot.

    Once we dove in, I did a great job of staying in the moment. Looking back at races where I have had poor swims, I realize that I wasn’t focused on the task right in front of me. I sometimes think about how hard the effort feels or how slow I must be swimming. On this day, I was hyper-focused on feet and didn’t let the physical contact or negative thoughts distract me.

    When you free yourself from dwelling on outside pressures or expectations, when you are focused on the step in front of you and know that you will continue to be a valuable human being regardless of numerical outcomes, worry is less likely to intrude on and disrupt your performance or your life.

    — In Pursuit of Excellenceby Terry Orlick

    One, big pack. (Photo by: Larry Rosa/ITU Media)

    One, big pack with no gaps. (Photo by: Larry Rosa/ITU Media)

    Looking at the splits, you can see I was still pretty far back in the group, in the last 1/6th of the field or so. But like I had hoped, there were no gaps ahead and the overall time behind was manageable. I ran into transition knowing that the race was right in front of me.

    Bike

    In addition to the short swim and quality of field, the third thing in my favor was the heat and humidity. When it is really warm, guys seem to worry more about the run and are not willing to put in the same effort on the bike. The front group will ride at a conservative pace, allowing more motivated packs behind the opportunity to catch up.

    Amongst some strong cyclists. (Photo by: USA Triathlon)

    Amongst some strong cyclists. (Photo by: USA Triathlon)

    After a very tricky bike mount on some very slippery concrete, I found myself in a group of strong cyclists, including Ritchie Nicholls from Great Britain, Gregor Buchholz from Germany and Kaleb Vanort from USA. At the end of one lap we were told the gap was just over 20 seconds to the back of the lead pack. In these situations I rarely drift too far back from the first three or four positions in the group, but on this day I was already feeling the heat and took about half a lap near the back. The guys ahead pressed on, and by the end of the second lap it was clear we were going to catch the lead bunch.

    Rolling on the deepest wheels in the field -- ENVE SES 8.9 Tubulars! (Photo by: USA Triathlon)

    Rolling on the deepest wheels in the field — ENVE SES 8.9 Tubulars! (Photo by: USA Triathlon)

    Once joining the group, I had some moments where I felt like I was just chilling in the peleton. It was nice to put in barely any effort, but even on this non-technical course, it was pretty nerve racking being in the middle of 50 or so guys. I made an effort to get at or near the front going into both of the two 180-degree turns on each lap. There were a number of crashes there, so that was a good tactical move.

    Calm before the storm known as "T2." (Photo by: Larry Rosa/ITU Media)

    Calm before the storm known as “T2.” (Photo by: Larry Rosa/ITU Media)

    What was not a good tactical move, however, was drifting from the front to the back of the pack on the stretch from the last 180 to T2. I don’t have much experience coming into T2 in such a large group, and that lack of experience showed. I was nervous taking my feet out of my shoes in the bunch, and lost my position as a result.

    Coming into T2 was crazy with people and bikes all over the place. Some guys run past their rack and then had to turnaround and swim upstream like a salmon, adding to the confusion. I have heard of the importance of being at the front coming into T2 before, but now I have been there and will know to do better next time.

    Run

    (Photo by: USA Triathlon)

    (Photo by: USA Triathlon)

    I felt decent starting the run and right away I began passing guys up ahead. ITU racing is infamous for guys flying out of T2 and then falling apart later on the run. By the first turnaround, I had moved up to about 30th place. I caught up to Steffen Justus from Germany and tried to sit on his heels. We came around halfway of the run just inside the top-20. I thought back to track sessions and workouts at Lake Miramar where I just try to hang onto Joe Maloy for as long as I can. I stayed right with Justus until about 1 km to go where he seemed to find another gear that I didn’t have. I was still moving through the field, and with 400 m or so to go, I moved passed Ivan Tutukin from Russia and Gabor Faldum from Hungary, putting me into 13th place. The finish line was beyond the turnaround point we used after the first lap, but how much further passed I wasn’t really sure. As we got onto the carpet, Tutukin rallied and came around me with Mark Buckingham from Great Britain (who had apparently been running just behind me the whole way), both nipping me at the line. A few hours after the race I was a little upset that I had lost those two spots right at the end, but then I remembered the way I felt crossing the finish line (and bending over to throw up), and I was satisfied with the fight I put in.

    15th in 54:06, 0:40 behind winner (Javier Gomez)

    Finishing 15th at a world cup at this point in my career is huge. I jumped up 53 places on the ITU points list and am now ranked 154th in the world (9th American). The race played to my strengths really well, and I’m happy I was there to take advantage of the opportunity. Like I mentioned in my PATCO race report, this swim doesn’t show I-have-arrived or anything like that. I’m happy that I executed well in the swim, but it’s pretty clear that I simply need to become a faster swimmer to have consistent results. This race showed good progress, but also highlighted some of the things I need to do better. My next opportunity to do that is this next weekend at the ITU San Juan Pan American Cup.

    Results | ITU Gallery | USA Triathlon Gallery

    Thanks to ENVE, Hypster.com, The Triathlon Squad and Coach Paulo for their support.

  • Vila Velha Pan American Championships

    Posted on July 18th, 2013

    Would love to visit Brazil someday..

    My twitter profile has said that since I began racing as a professional triathlete a couple years ago. What it is alluding to, of course, is the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016. It’s my way of putting it out there that I am training to be an Olympian.

    DSC01349

     

    Almost two weeks ago now, I checked off half of that dream – I travelled to Brazil, for a professional triathlon even! The obvious missing piece here is the Olympics part. Oh well, that will have to wait I suppose. Still, I had a great trip down to Vila Velha for this year’s ITU Pan American Triathlon Championships, kicking off my first ITU race of the year.

    USAT sent a group of four elite males down to Brazil in hopes of getting a medal. There were three of us with a running background – Sean Jefferson and John O’Neill – and a great swim-bike specialist in Luke Farkas. The plan was to work together on the bike to put us in a position to run with the leaders and compete for the win. The plan worked, for a bit, before it came crashing to an end, literally.

    Swim

    20th in 17:21, :30 behind the fastest

    (Photo by: MundoTRI)

    (Photo by: MundoTRI)

    After a very poor swim at my last race, I was anxious for some redemption and to show all the work I have done in the pool is paying off. I lined up towards the right side and watched the surf crashing down on the sand in front of me. The starting horn sounded, and we sprinted into the white water.

    Before the race, I spoke with my coach Paulo Sousa about staying positive, doing everything I can to stay on feet in front of me, and to remember that any time not lost in the water, is time gained. The first few hundred meters to the first buoy were typical, pretty physical and lots of splashing around. There was some decent chop/swells which made it difficult for me to sight well, but I was just concerned with the person right in front of me. As we rounded the first buoy, the pace slowed and it all got very bunched up. This is normally where things start to go wrong for me, but on this day, I accelerated away from the buoy with the pack.

    DSC01395It was a two lap swim. After the first lap I could see the leaders weren’t too far off, and there were still a number of guys behind me. It was important to not let any gaps open up while exiting the water and diving back into the surf, or I would be swimming the second lap alone and much slower. The bunch was much more thinned out now, but I was still able to find feet to draft off of. I have a huge sense of satisfaction from this swim as it is the first time I have swam the whole way drafting and holding my position within the pack. That’s the way it should be done, and will try to make this not the exception but the rule.

    Transition 1

    9th in :37, :05 behind the fastest

    I struggled a bit to get up and out of the surf, allowing USA teammate Sean Jefferson to open up a small gap on me. I knew Luke Farkas would be waiting up ahead to help at least one of us, so I wanted to be sure to be with Sean and not be left behind once the connection was made. There was a big sense of urgency getting through the rest of transition, which went well, until I mounted the bike and struggled to get my feet on top of my shoes.

    Bike

    8th in 1:00:22, :53 behind the fastest

    Once I got on the shoes, I jammed basically all out until I caught up with Sean a couple minutes later. Looking at my power file for the race, my 1 minute maximum came at 15 seconds in, going 442W while stomping on top of my shoes. I caught onto Sean’s wheel, hit a quick 180 degree turn, and we soon caught up with Luke.

    Me and Sean riding in the chase pack. (Photo by: MundoTRI)

    Me and Sean riding in the chase pack. (Photo by: MundoTRI)

    From there Luke went to work, towing Sean and I up to the chase pack. The three of us went straight to the front of that group, and continued to close the gap to the leaders. Luke would take a long, strong pull at the front (maybe 30-40 seconds), then Sean and I would pull through giving him a short break before going back to the front. A couple guys from the chase group tried to help out occasionally, but most of the work was being done by Luke… until he got a nail in his tire only a couple laps in!

    Prior to the race, Paulo spoke to me about being resilient in races even when things aren’t going well. We were only about 20 or 25 seconds from the front pack at this point, so Sean and I pressed on and welcomed the help now being offered by some of the others. The pace line was much less organized now, however, and within half a lap there was a nasty crash by a U23 athlete from Uruguay. He was pulling through to the front, and only a couple spots back when he hit a bump and began to swerve, taking out several riders including Sean. I made it through OK, but now was left with just a couple other guys. I lowered my head and began to try to bridge the gap solo.

    This left me with almost two laps trying to hold steady power around 350W. There were a couple of USAT coaches and staff throughout the course yelling time gaps. The gap was opening to the leaders now, from 30 to 35 to 45 seconds. Finally I noticed there was an organized chase group of about seven or eight guys, so I sat up, had a drink and a Gu, and began working with them.

    With roughly three laps riding solo, I was happy to be on my ENVE SES 8.9 tubular's. (Photo by: MundoTRI)

    With roughly three laps riding solo, I was happy to be on my ENVE SES 8.9 tubular’s. (Photo by: MundoTRI)

    There were three Brazilians in this group (Carvalho, Sclebin, and Moreira) that were sharing the work with me. The gap to the leaders was now hovering around one minute and holding there. On the last lap, however, it seemed the pace was beginning to slow again, and I opted to sprint out of a 180 degree turn and try to open a gap. It worked, and I was able to come into T2 with about a 15 second advantage over the chase pack, and about 1:10 behind the leaders.

    (Photo by: MundoTRI)

    (Photo by: MundoTRI)

    Some final stats (according to Garmin+Quarq – link):

    • 25.7 miles
    • 1:00:41
    • 25.4 mph
    • 328W Average
    • 339W Normalized

    Run

    3rd in 34:20, :56 behind the fastest

    With all the work I had done on the bike, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little concerned with how my legs would feel. Like always, coming out of T2 I felt pretty trashed. There was a big gap on either side of me, so I took my time to try to build into a good pace. At the first turnaround, I could see some of the guys up ahead were already hurting, and I knew I could pick some of them off. USAT Coach Steve Kelley told me I was in 11th place. I looked ahead and focused on one guy at a time. Things were going pretty well and at half way I had moved up into 8th, but that’s when Sclebin passed me (he was in the chase pack that left T2 15 seconds behind me). I tried to go with him, but my left hamstring said, “nope.” The pace didn’t feel too bad, but I was limited by the fear of cramping up, which could reduce me to a walk within moments. I decided to take the 3rd lap a bit more conservative and then go for it on the final lap.

    My "please don't cramp" face. (Photo by: MundoTRI)

    My “please don’t cramp” face. (Photo by: MundoTRI)

    As I rounded the penultimate 180 degree turn, I tried to lean forward a bit more and really push it. My hamstring seemed to be cooperating, but Sclebin was really moving up ahead and I wasn’t able to bring him in. With maybe 800m to go, our bike mechanic Brian Hughes yelled that the athlete ahead of me was in 5th place. Top-5 is in the money. I thought for a moment how much more rewarding this race would be if I was able to dig a little deeper at the end to pass him. I flew by him with about 300m left, and to my relief, he didn’t put up a fight. I crossed the finish line, looked back, and then saw the athlete I had been chasing turnaround the cone and set out for another lap — he wasn’t in 5th place! After getting some fluids down, Luke came to congratulate me and confirmed that I was indeed 5th place.

    Overall

    5th in 1:53:10, 2:12 behind 1st Results

    I am very happy with this race. Early in the year, when I wanted to travel to Florida for some ITU racing, Paulo said, “When you race, you will be ready to swim with the pack. We aren’t going to rush it.” I was patient and focused on improving everyday I got in the water with him on deck, and together we made that happen. Still, this race is more of a step in the right direction than an I-have-arrived performance. ITU swims are going to continue to be a struggle, for quite a while I think, but I now have the confidence knowing that I have done it before.

    Carried this trophy on two buses and four flights over the course of 33 hours! (Photo by: MundoTRI)

    Carried this trophy on two buses and four flights over the course of 33 hours! (Photo by: MundoTRI)

    I would like to thank USAT, Andy Schmitz and the rest of the High Performance crew for sending me down to Brazil for this experience. PATCO is a double points race, and I shot up the rankings now to 11th American and well inside the top-200 in the world. Luke Farkas also deserves a shout out for letting the lead pack go and dropping back to help Sean and I. Without his early flat, I have no doubts we would have caught the front group, and with the 3rd fastest run on the day, I think a chance at a medal would have been strong. Also thank you to ENVE and Hypster.com for supporting me.

    Now I am staying in Spain for a month. I will be racing in Geneva this weekend at a European Cup race and in a few more weeks at the Tiszjauvaros World Cup in Hungary.

  • Places I’d like to go in 2013…

    Posted on November 9th, 2012

    ITU announces 2013 Triathlon World Cup season

    Cyber Monday Deals: $20 Off $100 Select Running Shoes for Women & Men

  • Nancy ITU Duathlon World Championships

    Posted on October 9th, 2012

    After my race in Buffalo, I flew to Boston to stay with fellow professional triathletes Chris Baird and Brianna Blanchard for a few days. I had never been to Massachusetts before and I was anxious to see why my mom raves about it. She began racing the Boston marathon in 2004 and pretty much became a Boston fan overnight. She even cheers for the Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics now. 2013 will be her sixth edition of the Boston marathon, which will be extra special with my sister Jaclyn joining my mom for her first time! Basically, Boston has turned into a destination for the Pedersen’s.

    Chris and Brianna have a great apartment in an old building in the financial district. I went riding in some of the suburbs of town and went running along the Charleston river, through Cambridge and onto Harvard’s campus. While Chris was grinding away at work, I went with Brianna to MIT for a couple of swims. I got to see a bit of the city as I walked to the “shipping dack at the John Hancack building by Capley pack” to try to intercept two UPS packages with our Duathlon Worlds uniforms that wasn’t scheduled for delivery until after our departure for the airport. I found the shipping dock at the John Hancock building by Copley park without too much trouble and grabbed our packages.

    Boston struck me as a very clean city, especially compared to other big US cities I have been to like Los Angeles and New York. The city is very young and active thanks to all the universities and paths along the river. While I am in no rush to move there and see what the winter months have to offer, I can see why Chris and Brianna like it (as well as my mom) and appreciate their hospitality.

    I had some great meals in France. This oversized crouton with canned tuna was not one of them.

    On Tuesday night, Chris and I began our journey to Nancy, France. Flying to Europe from the East coast is so much easier, and I would be reminded of this when I returned on my non-stop flight from London to Los Angeles. A six hour flight had us in London’s Heathrow airport on Wednesday morning where we boarded a plane to Luxembourg. Once in Luxembourg, Team USA coach Jim Vance picked us up and we drove a couple hours south to Nancy. We arrived around 1 pm, and weren’t scheduled to do any training until 5, so Chris and I went for a walk to try to find something to eat. We found a market and picked up a few snacks, including the delicious spread called Speculoos. At first we were disappointed when we discovered it wasn’t peanut butter. After spreading it on a couple cookies, however, we forgot about the peanut butter and began a dialogue on why this stuff doesn’t exist in the US!

    First look at the race venue in Stanislaus Square, Nancy, France.

    Over the next few days we got to see quite a bit of the city. The necessity to always be searching for places to ride or run (or swim) can be a pain, but it affords you plenty of opportunities to explore. I get to see miles and miles of these foreign places that I would not have seen otherwise, which is certainly one of the perks of being a professional triathlete.

    Chris and I grew very close in France. In fact, we only slept about 6″ from one another!

    In addition to the sights, we often see more of the culture as well. On Thursday, I walked to a local pool with one of the elite American female athletes’ boyfriend. At the front desk of the pool, we each paid 3.80 euros and showed our swim cap and bathing suits – men must wear brief or square-cut style “Speedo” to swim. Thank goodness I don’t go anywhere without mine! We then went to the coed changing room, which was a bank of cubicle-like stations with a door on one side for entry and a door on the other side to exit to the pool. I entered the cubicle and latched the ENTER door close. I turned around and found the EXIT door was open, so I closed that one and latched it shut. Just as I did that, I saw the ENTER door swung back open. Must have not closed it properly. I moved to the ENTER door and latched it shut. Now the EXIT door swung open! I realized the latches on both doors were linked, to prevent people from leaving the cubicle out one door and leaving the other side locked, which is smart. However, because the doors naturally swing open, this also prevents people from successfully closing and locking both doors without a 7-foot wingspan. Being the clever engineer that I am, I improvised by closing one door with my right foot, closing the other door with my left hand and latching it with my right hand, all while balancing on my left foot. I felt like there must have been a hidden camera on me with a French audience watching, laughing and saying, “Stupid American!” After stretching both my mind and body in the changing room, I rinsed off in the shower and headed to the pool. In the hallway between the showers and the pool, there was a 5m section sunken 15cm or so with a puddle of water that you had to walk through. I shook my head, bewildered, and thought, “It’s all part of the experience, Russ.” Finally, we made it to the pool! It was a very nice, white-tiled pool with four lanes FILLED with people doing breast stroke! I ended up getting a crappy 1500m workout in, which was ok as I wasn’t expecting to get in any swimming in France.

    Stanislaus Square in the distance.

    The race took place in the beautiful, ornate Stanislaus square, surrounded by old buildings with exquisite façade, black iron fences with gold leaf trim, and polished cobblestone. The run course went through an adjacent park, which was flat with lots of sharp turns. The bike course had a small hill on it to bring you up to an elevated highway and had some very technical sections coming by transition. The men’s elite race wasn’t scheduled to go off until late afternoon when the park and square were completely packed with spectators and age group athletes waiting one more day for their chance to race.

    I made an effort to do more of a warm up than I typically do for a triathlon. I got in a good 20 minute run and a short 3 minute tempo before heading over to the starting area. The final 15-20 minutes were a bit confusing, not knowing exactly where I needed to be. As a result I think I spent too much time standing around. My heart rate had come down considerably and I think I was just a little too relaxed.

    Run #1

    30th in 32:43, 1:39 behind the fastest

    At team meetings before the race, Coach Jim Vance made it clear that he would give one guy the green light to try to run with the leaders and make the front pack. The rest of the team would try to stick together and work as a group on the bike to move their way up. I was the one chosen to go for it. I was excited at the opportunity and felt like I had nothing to lose here.

    Photo: Janos M. Schmidt /ITU Media

    Because duathlon is more of a fringe sport even than triathlon, most competitors came into this race with no ranking. Outside of the first dozen or so athletes, starting positions were given at random. I randomly received number 58 out of 59, but didn’t think this would matter much because it isn’t a mass-swim start — it’s just another mass-run start like I have done hundreds of times before. I was wrong, however. For some reason the start line was quite narrow, and only fit maybe a dozen athletes across. By the time my number was called to the start line, it was already 4-men deep!

    When the race started, I immediately began to work my way up. It felt much like a cross country race, which made me feel pretty comfortable. Only now, I was trying to get myself near the front. I did a lot of weaving and dodging guys to work my way up, and after one 2.5km lap, I was in a pretty good spot, maybe 15th or 20th place and 4 or 5 seconds off the lead. The quick start soon caught up with me, and within another 800m I saw a gap ahead starting to form. As I went by Coach Jim, he yelled, “You gotta decide now! Either go with them or ease up.” It was sound advice and in hindsight it was definitely one of those important moments that happen in every race that effect the outcome. Considering there was a 40k bike and 5k run left after the conclusion of this 10k, I decided to ease up. I just didn’t have it in me to go with that front group on that day.

    USA Teammate Dan Hedgecock passed me soon after. By 5k I was a little worried that my aggressive strategy was already catching up with me. At the 180 degree turn around halfway, I saw Ryan Giuliano and Josh Merrick weren’t too far behind. Once they caught me, I focused on staying with them and took a little comfort in knowing that I would have them, at the very least, to work with on the bike.

    Bike

    33rd in 54:59, 3:03 behind the fastest

    As planned, Josh, Ryan and I got going on the bike and starting working together right away. There were some real studs behind us, and soon a group of five guys or so caught us. This group was led by two Belgians and a big Russian guy. I got in the rotation with them and we were all working well together. The group ahead was coming back to us. I was working pretty hard, but nothing that didn’t feel unsustainable, especially when I was able to sit in for three to four pulls. That’s a lot more rest than I ‘m used to!

    About halfway through the bike, my calves were beginning to pulse a little bit coming in and out of some of the sharp corners. Pulses turned into small cramps. On the 5th or so lap, just as we were headed towards the elevated highway, my right calf completely seized. My foot was completely flexed with my heel being pushed all the way up. I tried to force my weight onto my foot and drop my heel down to stretch the cramped muscle, but it just wouldn’t let go. While all this was happening, I stopped pedaling and was coasting. The bunch went around me and left me behind. Eventually I was able to get a normal pedal stroke going again and I settled into a less intense time trial effort. Any chance at a good performance went out the window. The group that I was riding with bridged up to Dan Hedgecock’s pack less than a lap later, showing me once again how big of an effect small lapses can have at this level of racing.

    Eventually I bridged up to Josh, who had also been dropped by the bunch. We rode together for the last lap and went into T2 as just the two of us.

    Run #2

    30th in 17:23, 2:11 behind the fastest

    I was a little timid to get the run started after those bad cramps on the bike. In the past when I have suffered with cramps, it has always been on the run and never on the bike. The huge gap ahead didn’t help much, and I quickly settled into a pedestrian pace. I kept turning over mediocre kilometer splits, one after another, until a Spanish guy caught me. With about 800m to go, he opened a small gap on me and I began to feel even more sorry for myself. We made our last turn, and at about 400m left, I finally told myself to “SACK UP” and threw in a surge. The Spaniard was hurting too, and barely made an effort to go with me. I had a spectacular finishing kick to seal the deal on a 31st place finish.

    Overall

    31st in 1:46:38, 5:58 behind 1st

    31st is clearly not where I had hoped to finish. Even without the cramping on the bike, I was not ready to compete with the top guys in this race. Coming from a competitive running background, the whole experience was a little eye opening. The top ITU guys can run, and I’m not going to be able to compete with them if I’m not focused on being a better runner. I don’t regret coming on this trip — I think I learned a lot — but I know that I won’t be returning to Duathlon Worlds unless I know I am ready to roll a fast 10k, and I have the mileage in my legs to keep going after.

    With that said, I wouldn’t change my training prior to this event. I am focused on becoming a better triathlete, and right now, that means swimming faster. I need consistent, hard work in the pool, and I’m glad I didn’t let this race derail my focus on that.

    Dan Feeney being fed a post race dessert by a French waitress in a German restaurant.

    After the race, Coach Jim Vance told me that I was one of the athletes that he would like to compete in Sunday’s mixed team relay. The relay format includes two females and two males all completing a 2km run-8km bike-1km run course. The order is female-male-femal-male, and I was picked to be the first male to go for Team USA. D’Ann Arthur led the team off, but couldn’t finish due to some injuries incurred from a bike crash in her individual race, so I never got the hand-off to start. This event sounded like a lot of fun, and I hope I get an opportunity to do one of these mixed relays at a duathlon or triathlon in the future.

    The rest of the trip was basically a lot of travel. Driving from Nancy to Luxembourg; flying to Heathrow; flying to Los Angeles; driving back to Simi Valley. I got to meet Andreas Raelert in the international terminal while we waited for our bikes to be delivered. He was headed to Westlake to do some pre-Kona training. Very nice guy and it was cool to meet him.

    Finally, some thank you’s. Big thank you to ENVE for helping me get to France for this race. Thank you for supporting my professional career thus far. Also, thanks to USA Triathlon for selecting me for this race. Jim Vance did a great job in teaching me the in’s and out’s of duathlon. I had a couple of opportunities to talk to him about training and coaching in general, and I appreciate his solicited advice. And of course, no trip would be possible without my great parents. This time, my dad gets a special mention because he had to battle the 405 traffic solo and came to LAX to pick me up. (Mom was out of town on business, otherwise I am sure she would have come too!)

    Results

  • Buffalo ITU Pan American Cup – USAT Elite Nationals

    Posted on September 25th, 2012

    I am currently in Terminal 5 of London’s Heathrow airport as I sit down to finally write this race report. As there is no free wifi available here, by the time this is posted I will be safely back home in California. This trip began on Thursday the 13th, and has taken me through three states and five different countries on two continents, completing the first half of my season-ending racing extravaganza, known as the “PD World Tour.”

    Before I go into the details of my trip to Europe for Duathlon World Championships, I need to wrap up my thoughts on USA Elite Nationals at the Buffalo ITU Pan American Cup from a week ago. Duathlon Worlds had some of the very best multisport athletes competing, but Buffalo was a much bigger race for me for a few reasons.

    My parents and I took off for Buffallo, NY on Thursday and got into town late that night after a quick stop in Baltimore. Once we got to our hotel room I went straight to bed and decided to worry about setting up the bike in the morning.

    Apple cinnamon pancakes were an excellent choice.

    After a delicious breakfast at the hotel restaurant, I got my things together and headed to the course. It was fairly windy and not fairly cool. Nearly every race I have done this season, with the exception of the Desert Classic Duathlon in March and Escape from Alcatraz in June, has been quite warm. In the warmer conditions it seems like a lot of the guys without a running background really blow up on the run, which is helpful when you are chasing from behind. Still, I wasn’t too worried about any lost advantage and welcomed the different conditions.

    I rode a few laps of the bike course first and then got in a short swim. The bike course was very flat with about 90% on very smooth roads and the remaining 10% was still not too bad. The water was quite choppy and appeared to be too warm for wetsuits. One of these days I will get a wetsuit legal ITU swim, and I will be ready for it!

    Shortly after the course recon I went to the athlete briefing. Pour on the nerves. The athlete briefing is always when I first start to feel pre-race butterflies. Seeing all your competition for the first time and going through all the race maps and procedures suddenly makes it seem so real. Yes, you really are racing tomorrow.

    Brianna and I at Niagara Falls (photo: Erik Pedersen)

    For dinner we decided to head just 20 miles north to Canada to see Niagara Falls with Brianna Blanchard and her dad. What an amazing site! A storm had rolled into the area, bringing rain and some more wind with it, but it cleared up shortly after we got to the falls. I found the water, and the good company, to be both soothing and distracting, and felt ready to go for the big race.

    Like most ITU races, the start time was in the afternoon at 2:00. I had the best night of sleep I had had all week, snoozing 10+ hours. After an omelet and gathering all my things together, it was approaching noon and time to head over to the course. The sky was dark grey, and the wind persisted, but the rain had held off all morning and wouldn’t be an issue the rest of the day.

    Because of the cooler temperatures, I chose to warm up a little more than I usually do. Before most triathlons my warm up on land is limited to a light jog and a few drills. This time I hopped on my bike for 10 minutes or so before checking in and then jogged around with Dan Feeney and Justin Roeder before we were allowed to get in the water for swim warm ups. Justin was making his elite debut, and coming from a D1 running background like myself, I felt compelled to give him a few pointers. I am still no expert – I certainly don’t have all the answers – but I was in his shoes less than a year ago and I could relate to the feelings and emotions he was feeling.

    Trying to keep warm before being called to the start line. (photo: Laura Pedersen)

    The wind was holding steady around 20 mph, bringing goosebumps to my wet skin after the “warm up.” I dried off with a towel and put a jacket on, but was still shivering as I waited for my start number to be called. Some of the athletes warmed up in a wetsuit, despite the race being above the 20°C threshold, just to be sure they would stay warm. This seems like a great idea, and I considered doing this, but I didn’t want to feel faster in the warm up than I would during the race. Maybe I am overthinking this and putting too much emphasis on “feel” for the water? Certainly something to consider next time there are cooler temperatures for a non-wetsuit swim.

    Once “#18 Jason Pedersen” was announced on the PA, I jogged down to the pontoon and found my way to the rightmost available spot. I ended getting a great place with Kevin McDowell to my left (a strong swimmer) and Kaleb VanOrt two spots over to my right. Directly right of my starting position was a cleat that was marked off, giving me and Kaleb some extra space once we dove in.

    Everyone looking chilly on the start line. (photo: Erik Pedersen)

    Swim

    34th in 20:34, 1:21 behind the fastest

    I got a good start and found clean, open water for at least 15 strokes. Things were already shaping up much better than Kelowna, despite not being able to see too far ahead thanks to the big chop. In fact, the chop was much bigger than I had anticipated. It was really throwing me around, so I focused on a quick turnover and finding some feet to help me break some of these waves. A few meters to my right there was a strong pack that I knew contained all the race favorites, but they were going too quick and were already too far ahead for me to bridge up. I was beginning to worry that I had missed out once again and was in for another solo swim, but as I neared the first turn buoy, the pack slowed considerably and I was able to latch on around the next buoy and comfortably stay on some feet as we turned back for the end of lap 1.

    Coming out of the water I saw Dan Feeney was right ahead of me, and ahead of him was a string of guys. You’re not going solo today! My mom yelled that I was 50” off the leaders as I charged back in for the 2nd lap. Dan, unfortunately, had a poor dive back into the water, slowing a bit. I knew I had to stay aggressive and couldn’t wait so I went around him. A small gap opened up. This is your race! Close that gap! My coach Ian Murray had prepped me mentally for these situations where you have to give it all you got, well beyond a sustainable effort. If you don’t seize those opportunities, the race is lost, and it doesn’t really matter how much you saved in the tank. The rest of that lap I did whatever I had to to stay on those feet.

    Coming out of the water and into T2 it was more strung out than I was hoping. I knew I needed a quick transition and would have to go “hairy hard” (more on that term to come in my next blog…) once I mounted the bike to bridge up to a group. Still, I was really pleased with the swim. After losing 50” to the leaders on the first lap, I was able to limit my losses to 31” on the 2nd. I was able to draft throughout the swim and never found myself isolated. Overall, a huge improvement over Kelowna.

    Bike

    21st in 1:02:11, 2:03 behind the fastest

    Out on the bike I went to work, getting my feet in my shoes quickly, and went around the guy that I had followed in the swim (sorry, bud). The course had a number of 90 degree turns and two 180’s per lap, giving me opportunities to see up the road and judge how far back I was. There was a group of about 8 or 9 guys 25” ahead forming, giving me a target to aim for. On the first couple laps the gap opened up to 30-35”, but then I began to reel them in. Each lap I got more and more people cheering for me. As much as it sucks to ride solo in draft legal races, it is great to have people watching get behind you and show some appreciation for the effort you are making. It definitely helps keep you motivated while chasing.

    Finally, about 5 laps in I think, I bridged up to the group! After time trialing the last 100 km’s or so of my ITU races, just catching any pack at all was a victory. I took this opportunity to drink some fluids, take a Gu and rest a bit on the back of the pack. That lasted about two minutes. I felt the pace was slowing. My aspirations for this race were further up the road. I didn’t want to just race those in that pack; I wanted to give myself a chance to catch a few of the guys in the packs up ahead. It seems not everyone at the continental cup level shares my aspirations and they are content to just sit in and not do any work. To Hell with them, I said, and back into the wind I went. Seeing another motivated rider made a difference to a few guys, and four of us shared most of the work for the rest of the bike.

    Run

    7th in 33:20, 1:36 behind the fastest

    In terms of race execution, T2 is where I made my biggest mistake. I made an effort to work the final kilometer or so of the bike to get into transition at the front of my group. I got my feet out of my shoes without any trouble, got out of the saddle and sprinted to create a small gap, and was first off the bike. Racked my bike, helmet off, shoes on, and that’s when I noticed a problem. While setting up transition before the race, I often put Body Glide or Aquaphor on the inside of my shoes so they slip on a little better. I had put a tube of Aquaphor in my right shoe so that I wouldn’t forget to put in on before the race. Not only did I not use the Aquaphor, I actually left the tube in my right shoe! When I slipped my right foot in, my toes jammed into the tube. Oh shit. I actually thought about just running with it in the shoe for a moment, but that was a terrible idea. I took off the shoe, threw the tube in my transition box, and then put the shoe back on. All that took just enough time for everyone in the group to pass me.

    I gave up free time with that rookie mistake, but what I was most upset about was letting Canadian Alexander Hinton go. From past races I knew Alexander was a great runner, and wanted to try to stick on his back in the windy conditions. By the time I got out of T2, he had a bit of a gap that I was never able to close.

    Instead, I slowly worked my way through the group on the first lap until I caught another Canadian, Andrew Bysice. There was a short ~200m section with a stiff headwind, so I tucked in behind him. Apparently Andrew wasn’t too happy with me drafting, so he made a sharp turn off to the left side, putting me back into the wind. I slowly veered left to get back into his draft. Just as I got behind him, he cut hard right. I slowly went to the right. He went left. This continued for the entire stretch. It was one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen in my running career! Here we are in like 22nd place, just 3km into a 10km run, with the leaders gaining more and more time on us with each step. I couldn’t believe Andrew would bother trying to shake me at this point in the race. We have bigger fish to fry! As we made a right turn, the wind became more of a crosswind, so I moved up onto his side. That’s when a strange situation became, well, kind of awkward…

    As I ran up on his side, Andrew Bysice actually reached over, grabbed the string of the zipper on the back of my suit, and unzipped it! He unzipped my suit! What the hell?! I couldn’t believe what was going on! He said something like, “It will help cool you off.” So now after literally going out of his way to not allow me to draft off him, he wants to help me? And remember, I started this race shivering! Keeping cool was not really my biggest worry. I said, “let’s just work together,” and went by him. Shortly after, he fell back, and I returned my focus back to the race.

    This video shows our little drafting battle thanks to a great sequence of photos my dad took.

    Zipped (photo: Erik Pedersen)

    Unzipped (photo: Erik Pedersen)

    For the remainder of the race I tried to pick off guys from the two packs up ahead. Most of the guys up ahead were running fairly well, and the gap coming off the bike was just too much to make up. In the final 100m or so, I was able to sprint past one last guy and finish in 17th place.

    Overall

    17th in 1:57:31, 4:47 behind the fastest

    Photo: Erik Pedersen

    I came into this race ranked 18th, so I ended up placing one spot higher than that which is always good, but I had higher expectations. Taking out international competition, I was 10th best American at my first elite national championship, which sounds pretty good, especially considering I was only 5th at age group nationals a year ago. However, there were some very talented Americans that skipped this race that would have bumped me further back had they shown up. I did show some improvements here, especially in the swim, but I am still not quite cutting it at this level.

    As far as points go, I scored the same number of points I did back in March in Clermont with a 17th place finish there. Unfortunately, ITU only counts three Continental Cup races on the points list. Since this was my fourth Continental Cup, I needed to place 16th or higher to improve my ranking. Maxing out on races to score is a good problem to have. I have shown some good consistency in my first professional season, and I am proud of that.

    Photo: Erik Pedersen

    Results

    As always thanks to mom and dad and to my wheel sponsor ENVE!

  • Clermont Draft Legal Challenge VIDEO

    Posted on August 13th, 2012

    While in Clermont, Florida back in March, my dad took some video and pictures before, during, and after my race. After the excitement of my sister’s wedding concluded in July, he had nothing better to do with his time, so he put together this video.

    Note: this video isn’t getting posted until now because no one should be spending time watching five month old footage of me when there are 3,500 hours of Olympic coverage to watch!

    P.S. all joking aside, THANKS DAD!

  • USAT Blog: Escaping from ITU for the Weekend

    Posted on June 14th, 2012

    Here is a short piece I wrote for USA Triathlon’s Collegiate Recruitment Program’s blog, Escaping from ITU for the Weekend. I am working on my full race report for Escape from Alcatraz and should have that done soon.

  • Dallas ITU Pan American Cup

    Posted on June 6th, 2012

    Saturday was my third ITU continental cup and second this year at the Dallas Pan American Cup. This race is one of only three continental cups in the US in 2012, so there was basically no choice in whether I should attend or not, regardless of the warnings I got about racing in Dallas in June. The conditions will be hot for everyone, right?

    I left Simi Valley on Thursday with both my mom and dad. I’m so lucky to have such supportive parents that are so interested in what I am doing. They have no background of any kind in triathlon, but because I’m getting involved in it, they are too. They still ask, “so are you riding your road bike or the black one at this race?” (i.e. draft legal and non-draft) but they are picking it up pretty well for a couple of old folks. We got in pretty late on Thursday night and went straight to bed. We stayed at the race site hotel which was very convenient as our rooms overlooked the swim course and the transition area was in the hotel parking lot.

    USA Triathlon Collegiate Recruitment Program (photo: Erik Pedersen)

    Friday I did the pre-race thing, riding the course, meeting up with some of the newest Collegiate Recruitment Program recruits and swimming. I went for a short, two mile shakeout run later in the day before attending the pro meeting.

    Saturday had a slow start as we didn’t race until 2:45 pm. I had a couple bowls of cereal while I watched the F1 and Elite Development Races’ (EDR) swims. Chris Baird joined me around 10:30 after he dropped off his girlfriend at the race site for the women’s pro race at 12:00. We sat around in the room for a while before grabbing some turkey sandwiches and eventually making it down to the athlete’s lounge. After checking in and setting up our transitions, the former D1 runners went out for a quick warm up jog.

    Myself, Chris Baird, Henry Hagenbuch and Dan Feeney all ran NCAA Division 1. (photo: Erik Pedersen)

    It was already well over 90 degrees, so we didn’t go too long. Then it was off to the swim start to get a swim warm up in. I did one complete loop (750m) and checked what landmarks to sight off of as I turned around each buoy.

    ITU racing is much more formal than most triathlons. Before we got in the water for the deep-water start, they lined us up according to our ranking and introduced us one by one. It is quite nerve-racking waiting for your name to be called so you can jump in the water and find a spot on the starting line. I was just behind fellow Collegiate Recruit Kalen Darling, who is one of the fastest swimmers in USA Triathlon, so I lined up next to him thinking I could follow his feet for the beginning of the swim.

    Swim

    39th in 19:31 (2:11 behind the fastest)

    Washing machine (photo: Erik Pedersen)

    Well I was right about Kalen being the fastest swimmer. Unfortunately, as the race started, I was not able to get on his feet and just got mixed up in the washing machine. Luckily, I didn’t get beat up too bad — no kicks or punches to the head this time. After rounding the first buoy about 300m in, I could see there was a group ahead of me, but they continued to pull away from me throughout the swim. I exited the water right behind Ahmed Zaher of Egypt (who helped put on the race and is apparently 48 years old! Not a good sign…) and could see the last of the main pack rolling out of transition as I came in.

    Immediately after the race I thought my swim was pretty much a failure. I had been working so hard at it, and it still wasn’t good enough. After looking a little closer, it actually was a pretty good swim for me. Comparing my swim times with the seven guys that raced here and at Myrtle Beach, I was 1:01 faster this time. Kalen beat me by 3:31 in Myrtle Beach and only 2:10 this time. In Myrtle Beach I was way off the back of the stragglers of the main pack; this time I was one of the stragglers. Progress.

    T1

    :53 (:07 behind the fastest)

    Photo: Erik Pedersen

    As I entered T1 it confirmed that I was well behind most of the field — there weren’t many bikes left. I had a fairly smooth transition and was on my way onto the bike. My T1 time was just about in the middle of the field, which is OK, but I’m leaving time on the table and I can do better.

    Bike

    3rd in 1:01:59 (:26 behind the fastest)

    Taylor Reid and I doing work. (photo: Erik Pedersen)

    Before the race I opted to put on my shorty aero bars, and I’m glad I did. After I hopped on the bike, I hammered for a minute or so before sitting on someone’s wheel while I got my feet in my shoes. I quickly caught up to Taylor Reid of Canada and we did a great job working together. Through the first three laps or so we were flying by guys left and right. A few of them would try to jump on the train, but they weren’t able to hold our wheel. The course was very flat and straight with two 180 degree turns at either end of the course. This allowed us to continually mark our progress.

    Up front, a large group of about 20 guys had formed. About a minute back there was a smaller group of about six working together. When Taylor and I caught that group, we immediately went to the front and did most of the work. It was clear that this group was a bit stronger than the riders we had passed on the first couple laps and we decided to get in their pace line. I was told a couple of times I was pulling “too hard” and I was splitting up the group. I felt like we weren’t going hard enough and, frankly, felt like we didn’t need those guys if they weren’t going to pull their weight.

    The wind was really picking up at this point and, combined with the 97 degree heat, made for unmotivated riders in the lead group. Each lap we were given the time gap to the big pack and each lap the time came down. After hearing each update it was extremely motivating and guys in the group would yell encouragement to each other. “We’re eating them up!” one guy yelled. We eventually got the lead group in our sights and decided that everyone just needed to take one more hard pull. We caught them just as we started the 7th lap. I think I may have let out a loud yelp out of sheer excitement.

    Caught the main pack! (photo: Erik Pedersen)

    I thought I should just sit in for the rest of the ride and get ready for the run. I was amazed at how slow these guys were going, especially into the head wind, and just kind of worked my way up through the pack. I was fourth or fifth wheel as people started taking their shoes off in preparation for the start of the run. A few guys passed me just before the dismount, but was still happy with where I was at, about 11th or 12th in the pack.

    T2

    :44 (:07 behind the fastest)

    Running into transition with a big group of guys was a new experience for me. There was a lot more going on than I am used to. I racked my bike, got everything in my bucket, shoes on and out of transition without any collisions with the other guys.

    Run

    6th in 37:09 (2:25 behind the fastest)

    It tastes so good when it hits the lips. (photo: Erik Pedersen)

    I started the run in 14th place behind a group of familiar names. I was so excited to be in the mix for the first time in an ITU race heading into the run! I was running behind Barret Brandon, Kevin Collington, William Huffman, Derek Oskutis… several guys with a lot more experience than me. The heat was pretty oppressive, so I decided to tuck in behind these guys for a bit. My goal heading into the race was top-15, so I was in perfect position.

    The run course was setup identical to the bike course with no shade and two 180’s per lap where there were aid stations. At each turn around I grabbed a bottle of water, splashed a bit in my mouth, threw most of it on my chest and poured the rest on my head. The run was basically a race from aid station to aid station, trying to get through those few minutes in between as comfortably as possible. Each time I got water, I could tell my pace picked up while my body got a respite from the baking heat.

    After a mile or so I felt the group I was running with was going a bit too slow, so I slowly pulled away behind Alex Hinton of Canada. I knew this would be a race of attrition, so I didn’t want to push it too hard, and in fact, this was probably one of the easiest 10k’s I’ve ever raced because I spent so much of it holding myself back. By the fourth and final lap however, I was hurting and I was happy to see I had a big gap behind me. I tried to surge with 1 km to go, but my hamstring started to ball up just that little bit and I thought, ‘Take it easy. Don’t blow this.’  I finally stumbled across the line in 6th place, my best placing in an ITU race by 11 spots!

    Leading a small pack on the run in about 7th place. (photo: Erik Pedersen)

    Overall

    6th in 2:00:21, 2:25 behind 1st

    Results

    After the race I was completely wrecked. The heat had cooked me and I spent the rest of the day and night with the worst case of tempo tummy. Of course, it was all worth it. While I was doing a lot of moaning and groaning, I was grinning like and idiot inside. I really wanted to have a good race here as a sort of validation that I am headed down a successful path and I am not completely crazy.

    This race has me more motivated than ever to continue to work on my swim. I was lucky that I had a good group to work with on the bike and that the front group was unmotivated to ride fast in the wind and heat. When I got out on the run I was aware of that and told myself I had to take advantage of this opportunity, because I don’t know when the next time I will come off the bike in the main pack. With a better swim, I can make sure that this happens more often. Right now I am a very competitive triathlete, but I’m one-dimensional. I can only race well at one type of race, and to ensure that I’m successful at all levels in this sport, I need to be able to adapt to different race situations. The best way to do that is with a better swim.

    A little update on my world ranking on the ITU Points list… I gained 135.44 points for my finish which moved me up 135 places to 238th. I moved up 10 places among Americans to 22nd. These points will be important when I try to move up from Continental Cup racing to the World Cup, and eventually World Triathlon Series, level.

    I want to thank my mom and dad for continuing to support me; Barb Lindquist for all her help with the Collegiate Recruitment Program; USAT and their partnership with Rudy Project, TYR, Zipp and Blue Bicycles for all the great products they have given me; my coach Ian Murray and TTS; and finally the race officials and volunteers for putting on a great event — while I was racing and having fun they were being scorched by the sun.

    Trying to cool off. (photo: Erik Pedersen)

    Finally, a closing by Mike Spracklin of Rowing Canada (credit Andrew Russell for posting this video on his blog). It sums up where I am at right now very well.

    The best form of motivation is progress. If you see that doing the work that you are doing progresses you, than you’re motivated to keep doing it.