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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

  • F1 Triathlon

    Posted on October 15th, 2012

    Third race up on the 4-week “PD World Tour” was a super sprint race down in San Diego. The format was swim-bike-run-swim-bike-run, with short legs of 300m for the swims, 4.5 miles for bike legs, and 1.5 miles for the run legs. Since this event isn’t part of a series or a championship and is not an ITU event, I planned to train through the event in prep for the following week’s World Cup in Cancun.

    The race was at noon on Saturday. It was a gorgeous day with temps in the low 80’s and sunny skies. I showed up a couple hours early and spent a good chunk of time checking out the course. First look at the bike course was shocking. The course was 10 laps of about 700m each. From transition it went down a parking lot, right turn into a tunnel about one car wide that went under a highway, right turn onto a bike path, right turn under another tunnel and a right turn back into the parking lot. My dad took a bunch of pictures, but unfortunately none of them really capture the unique bike course.??The run was basically a straight out and back course with 5 laps of about 500m each.

    Finally got a swim cap with my name on it! Too bad it is spelled incorrectly…

    This was the??inaugural edition of this race, and given its very unique setup, there were definitely some kinks to work out. There was a meeting with the small pro field of 20 guys about 20 minutes before the race where we went over everything. There was certainly some confusion and a little anxiety before the race, but I think everyone was excited to get out there and go FAST!

    I did a quick one-lap swim warm up. The water was real choppy and there was some surf that reached 3-4 feet. Because the course was so short, you basically made a turn around the first buoy just outside the surf and then came right back to the beach into the surf.

    I had a decent start and was one of the first to hit the water. I have done a lot of beach entries in practice this summer with Tower 26 and that experience paid off here. The water was pretty choppy which made it really hard to get an idea of where in the pack I was. I focused on a quick turnover and trying to catch a wave on the way back in. Coming out of the water I was in the thick of it, coming out just behind Olympian Manny Huerta and just ahead of Matt Reed.

    Out on the bike I was dangling at the back of the main pack. Coming out of each turn I got up out of the saddle to try to bridge up. At race-speed, the turns were quite sharp for me and I was uncomfortable heading into each one. Coming out of one of the tunnels on the fourth or fifth lap, I overshot the turn and went into some grass/sand. I was able to stay upright and get back on the pavement, but the damage was done mentally. Each turn made me more and more nervous. At this point I was no longer racing and kind of just getting through it. The pack got away and put a pretty large gap into me before heading into T2.

    The run course was set up so I could see how far ahead everyone was. One by one I picked off guys and worked my way back up into the mix. Knowing there was another swim coming up, I wanted to get up into a pack that I could hopefully draft off of. I did a pretty good job of that, catching Derek Oskutis and Tommy Zaferes just before transition, but the plan fell apart from there. Running through the sand and back into the water was incredibly difficult. I often have dreams??nightmares about running where I have no power and I feel like I’m in quick sand, which is basically what this felt like.??Great, I’m reliving a nightmare during a race.??I tried to comfort myself by telling myself everyone is feeling the same and that this was just a 300m swim.

    Coming back out of the water I only lost a couple of places, and was potentially back in the hunt. As I ran to my bike I remembered the dammed bike course I would be riding. Again, I had no confidence in my handling abilities and was nervous heading into most of the turns. After losing a bunch of places and time, I finally got to the second run. I hadn’t ridden all that hard, so I got off the bike and immediately started charging down the course. I soon caught the leader Greg Billington, who was a lap ahead of me at this point, and used him to??gauge??my pace off of. About halfway through I went by him to try to catch the next guys ahead, and he jumped on my shoulder. At this point I couldn’t help but think if I had ridden the bike more??aggressively??that I could be running with Greg one lap ahead, challenging him for the win. Another reminder that triathlon is SWIM-BIKE-RUN.

    After a little shuffling around of the results due to a couple guys not completing the whole course, I ended up 11th place. This race paid 10 deep, making 11th perhaps the least desirable position to finish. Knowing that I left so much time on the table during the bike, which is generally a strength for me, especially in draft-legal fields, made it more difficult. The takeaway from this event is pretty clear — learn to corner on the bike better. Once I get that down, I would love to return to one of these F1 events. They really are a lot of fun and seem like a great training tool to teach aggressive tactics and perfect transitions.

    With one more race on the schedule, I went out on a longer cool down with a few of the other younger American guys after the race. The next day I met up with Eric Lagerstrom to hook up with a local group ride. We ended up getting a little lost and riding way longer than we planned, which often make for the best and most memorable rides. Eric is competing at U23 World Championships in Auckland, New Zealand this weekend, so I wish him luck.

    After the ride with Eric on Sunday, I had brunch at a great restaurant on the ocean with some of my family for my mom’s birthday. It’s crazy to think how active she is at 55, completing yet another half marathon just yesterday in San Francisco! Her commitment to living a healthy, active lifestyle is a great example for me to follow. I can only hope I’m able to accomplish the same things when I’m her age.

    The best support crew in triathlon. (* photo is missing my dad, who is behind the camera)