I qualified for my elite license (or “pro card”) in my second triathlon of the year by winning the San Francisco Triathlon at Treasure Island. Since I already had USAT Age Group Nationals on my race schedule, I didn’t want to go pro right away as that would leave me ineligible to race AG Nationals (just like if Prefontaine had raced Viren and Vaatinen in Oulu instead of those less qualified guys in Helsinski). After another strong race in Burlington I decided now was the time to stick my nose in the professional ranks. I sent in all the appropriate paper work and paid the required fee a few weeks ago, and now… I’m officially a pro!
I have signed up for my first pro race, the ITU Pan American Cup in Myrtle Beach, SC on October 9th. This will be a draft legal race, so I have my work cut out for me in the swim. I have put a lot of time and energy into my swim and I am hoping it pays off.
For such a late season race, the field is looking very competitive. At first glance, there are two Olympians in the race and several other World Cup caliber athletes. View the start list here. What better way to learn to race than from the best, right?
There will be a few other Collegiate Recruits competing in that race (Jeff Helmer, Kalen Darling, Brianna Blanchard and Natalie Kirchoff) and it will be nice to catch up with them. While most of them have other ITU racing experience, we are all in very similar situations and it is going to be fun “racing the circuit” with them in the coming months and years.
Last week I went across the country to Burlington, Vermont for the USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals. This was my first national championship race in triathlon and would be my last age group race before turning professional later this year.
I arrived in Burlington with my parents and my girl friend Mo on Friday. First stop was the race expo to check in and a short video interview with Endurance Films. They primarily asked about my involvement with the Collegiate Recruitment camp and my July visit to the Olympic Training Center. We then checked out the bike course, transition, and assembled my bike. I wasn’t able to start my pre-race workouts until 3 pm, which I think may have had some consequences come race time.
That evening we met one of my cousins, Mia, and her family for a delicious carbo-loading session at a local Italian restaurant. They drove up to Burlington from New York to come see me race, and I really appreciate their support. If any of you have ever watched a triathlon in person before, you know they aren’t always the most spectator friendly events. They stuck around for the whole event and even bought me a cheeseburger and beer after! They are welcome to come watch anytime 😉
Race day began at 6 am and everything went fine. I got my usual breakfast down and made it to transition without too much traffic. I had a great spot in transition near the bike and run exits, probably thanks to my seeded “1:55” time. About an hour before I was to go off I did some jogging and a few longer efforts. I made my way to the dock where the swim start was. I did a few minutes of warm up with a bungee cord to try to warm up the arms (I think I should have been more aggressive here… 10 minutes would have been better).
I took a couple of pictures with all my supporters and then jumped in the water about 5 minutes before the start. My first thought was how warm the water was. By 8:30 the air temperature had already begun to creep up. Warm air + warm water + full-sleeved wetsuit = discomfort. I strategically placed myself toward the left of the start line to have the shortest distance to the buoy and so I wouldn’t get stuck on the inside of the first right-hand turn.
113th in 21:58, 3:10 behind the fastest
I got out great the first 100 meters or so. I was keeping near the front with only a couple of guys getting ahead. As we came up on the first buoy, however, it started to get crowded. I took a solid left hook to my right eye. Fortunately the goggles stayed on and they didn’t fill with water. Still, it rattled me a bit and gave me a nice little cut in the corner of my eye.
As we rounded to buoy I was in a good rhythm. I could see the next orange turn buoy off in the distance and there was a pack of swimmers from my wave just ahead. By the time I made the turn around the final orange buoy and headed for home, I was passing people from the wave ahead. You’re having a great swim! Then came the sun in my eyes. The next buoy was yellow, and with the bright orange-yellow fiery ball in the sky, spotting a little yellow blow up floating on the water was next to impossible. I tried to look for people ahead and hope they were on course. I quickly realized that these people were from the wave ahead, and had no idea where they were going either. I took a few strokes with my head above water and finally found the bulk of the swimmers: WAY OFF TO MY RIGHT! I sprinted to get back on course. You are going to come out 6 minutes down! Game over.
Finally I made it to shore. As I came running up to transition I heard Mo yell “3 minutes PD!” Solid! I can do this! Hearing that I was only three minutes down made me feel so much better.
1:00, :16 behind the fastest
I sprinted into T1 and made my way to my bike. My helmet was knocked off my bike and onto the ground, but my glasses were still inside the helmet. I slipped off my wetsuit, picked up my helmet and sprinted out of transition. I ran passed a few people that were mounting pretty slow and had a good flying mount, keeping my momentum going forward.
10th in 58:20, 1:46 behind the fastest
Heading into the race my coach Ian wanted me to really work the bike leg. He thought that I could really go to the well on the bike and still have one of the fastest run legs. It was a pretty hilly bike course, but I thought I could average 25.5 mph on it.
Each hill I hit, I charged and really tried to crest the hill; carrying my speed up and over. I didn’t sit up on the downhills. I was working every portion of the bike legs. I flew by probably hundreds of competitors from the previous waves. I tried to notice if any of them were in my age group, but it was too hard to tell.
In the end I had the 10th best bike split of the day, hands down my best ride ever. I made a big mistake in not the effort I put out, but the amount I drank. I had a 20 oz bottle on my bike, and probably only got about two thirds of it down. Heading into transition, I could feel one of my hamstrings starting to pull. I was in for a tough run.
:51, :14 behind the fastest
I felt good running to my rack off the bike, but once I bent over to put on my running shoes, my left quad seized. Shit. I was in for a long run.
5th in 32:42, 1:21 behind the?? fastest
Straight out of transition there was a very steep, 400m long hill. My original plan was to just rev up the engine and push the hill, but after the fear of cramping set in, I tried to relax up the hill. I picked it up once I got to the top. Every time I really started to roll, my left hamstring and/or one of my quads would start to grab. I would ease up a bit, try to relax and then push again. It was a cycle that would continue throughout the rest of the run.
After a couple of miles I found a guy in my age group that was running pretty well. I passed him around the 3 mile mark, but I didn’t drop him. I could hear him running just behind me for about a mile. By this point the heat was pretty oppressive, so I was grabbing water at every aid station. I grabbed a cup at about the 3.5 mile mark, and just as I did that, one of my quads locked up. My shadow made a move that I couldn’t respond to, and he got away. The rest of the way I was in survival mode, just trying to keep it as quick as I could without cramping up.
After the race I learned the guy I was battling with was Daniel Hedgecock. He also was a Division 1 runner with a 14:09 5 PR. I didn’t feel so bad about getting dropped after that. I have to realize that I can’t just rely on my run always being there and there are going to be races where I’m not the fastest runner out there.
When I first heard the results I was pretty bummed I didn’t make it onto the podium. I really wanted to win the race. After some talking with my parents and Mo, I realized that this was my first national level triathlon and I finished within the top-5, just 42 seconds off of 2nd place. I gave it my all, and where I fell short fell largely in the realm of experience. If I had done a hot, humid race before… If I had traveled across the country for a triathlon before… If I was able to see that yellow buoy…
So I went in a little ignorant and I fell a bit short. Not so bad. Now I am onto bigger and better things. More on that to come.
The life of a professional athlete: sitting alone in a hotel room, waiting for an early morning flight, watching HBO and blogging.
Okay, oaky. I’m not really a professional athlete just yet, but as the saying goes, “Fake it till you make it!” And that is what I will be doing for the next week. As a USA Triathlon Collegiate Recruit, I have been invited to an eight day training camp at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs to eat, breathe and sleep triathlon. The program coordinator is Barb Lindquist, a 2004 Olympian, and she has quite the schedule planned for myself and the twelve other athletes. I am looking forward to learning from some of the most knowledgeable in the sport and meeting other athletes that are also trying to bridge the gap between collegiate and professional sports.
But why am I sitting in a hotel room, alone? You may have been warned of the coming Carmageddon — the shutdown of the 405 freeway. Well this all starts tonight, and I have a 6 am flight out of LAX tomorrow. To avoid the mayhem, my mom got me a hotel and my friends Matt Ritz and Spencer Marcus dropped me off this afternoon. Now I’m a short, 5 minute shuttle ride to the airport.
For the 4th of July I headed up north to hang with my girlfriend Mo and her family at their lake house at Clear Lake. We had a great time and I was able to get in a long open water swim in the algae-filled lake (my speedo was full of the green stuff after!)
Once the fun weekend came to an end, I stayed in Oakland to prepare for the San Francisco Triathlon at Treasure Island. This was my first triathlon away from home, but thanks to my “host” family, the Huber’s kept me feeling comfortable. I was able to get on the course a couple of times before the race to check out the very technical bike course. It was a six lap course with about a dozen 90 degree turns and one 180 degree turn EACH LAP! This was very different than anything I had raced before.
Aside from the unique course, this race was different in that there was actually something up for grabs besides my ego. The San Francisco Triathlon at Treasure Island is part of the USAT Elite Series, which means that a top-3 finish in the amateur field would earn me a pro card. Earning a pro card is the first step toward fulfilling my dream of competing as a professional athlete and making an Olympic team.
Everything considered, I was a bit more anxious for this race than my third running of the Breath of Life triathlon a couple of weeks ago.
I started tossing and turning at around 3:30 or 4 am. Like I said I was anxious for the race. I finally got going at 5 and was out the door half an hour later. Mo and I arrived to the race just before 6 and it was cold. I was wearing a long sleeve shirt, jacket, tights and sweats and I was still chilly. After setting up my transition area I began my warm up a little sooner than normal so that I could heat up and get comfortable.
16th in 22:39, 2:10 behind the fastest
Leading up to this race everyone was telling me how cold the water in the Bay would be. I was pleasantly surprised when I dove in for a short warm up and my face didn’t freeze. It was actually very comfortable. The race announcer said it was around 60 degrees. I’ve swam in much colder.
The race started with a deep water start, which was a first for me. Compared to a beach entrance I found the deep water start to be a lot less hectic. I got out pretty well and eventually found myself swimming shoulder to shoulder with another guy. There was a group of three or four up front that I wasn’t able to hang with, and in the future I know that is where I need to be — hanging off the feet of the faster swimmers.
The swim course was two triangular loops. As I came around to start lap number two, the guy that had been swimming with me suddenly just dropped off. I have no idea where he went, so I figured he fell in behind me. The rest of the way I was swimming alone which made for a nice, calm swim.
11th 1:10, :07 behind the fastest
Like Breath of Life I tried to race into and out of transition, but be smooth taking off my wetsuit and putting on my helmet and sunglasses (as my coach Ian Murray says, “smooth is fast”). I was told I was down two minutes to the first swimmer, so there was some work to do on the bike.
4th in 1:03:59, 1:28 behind the fastest
I tried to be aggressive from the beginning. Since the course had six laps, as time went, more and more people would be heading out onto the bike course. This meant there was a lot of passing going on, and I had no idea where I was in the race relative to my competitors. Any open road I had I took advantage of. This made for a very atypical time trial bike ride, with lots of surging and then sitting up when I got stuck behind slower people that I was lapping. Adding to the whole experience were some pretty poor road conditions. Lots of potholes and very little smooth terrain.
In the end I had a great bike leg — certainly my biggest improvement over my last race. I have to thank Dusty Nabor for a lot of this improvement. Dusty is a local triathlete that swims with the Conejo Valley Mutlisport Masters (the same team I am swimming with). Dusty loaned me a sweet pair of carbon HED wheels and hooked me up with a very nice Specialized aerohelmet. I owe more than a few seconds to Dusty. THANK YOU!
11th in :41, :07 behind the fastest
Only thing to really say about T2 is that I WAS THE FIRST ONE THERE! Yep, to my surprise, I was leading! This was a first for me. With the run as my strongest of the three, I knew I had the win in the bag. Or did I? I thought back to last year’s Strawberry Fields triathlon where I lost to a guy in a wave behind me by six seconds! I couldn’t let that happen again.
2nd in 34:18, :26 behind the fastest
The only real downside of my race was that I didn’t have the fastest run split! I am used to taking huge chunks of time out of everyone’s run split, with the exception of my buddy Chris Baird of course. I started out feeling good, running about 5:15 pace. I decided I would hold it there, and then bring it home a little bit quicker.
Racing from out front is a lot different than trying to chase down guys. I knew I was running a decent pace and that would be good enough. Still, I was motivated to have the fastest run split once again. With about a mile to go, I felt good and decided to really press it. Shortly after, I felt a cramp coming on in my hamstring. The last thing I needed was to walk it in to the finish line. I decided to be smart and conservative and just hold my pace. The course was definitely a bit long, as the Garmin had me at 5:16 pace.
1st of 259 in 2:02:46
I finished the race with a huge smile, knowing I had earned my pro card. I had a little interview after the race and it is up on Youtube. I will share that with you guys in the coming days.
What the heck is a pro card?
For my readers that aren’t so triathlon savvy, you might be wondering what a pro card is. A pro card, or “elite license” as it is also referred to, allows athletes to compete in more competitive races. Basically, you get to compete against other professionals. It is the first step in reaching the top of the sport. To compete at the Olympics, you need to have great results at the biggest races in the world. To qualify for these races, you first need to accumulate points in smaller races. And to enter these smaller races, you need a pro card.
I have competed in two triathlons in 2011 and have two wins, plus a pro card. Things are going great! I still have so much work to do, but I am super motivated to do what I need to to reach that next level. Not just racing as a pro, but competing for podium positions. My next race will be Age Group Nationals, possibly my last race as an amateur. I want to keep my winning streak alive.
Sunday marked my third consecutive race at the Breath of Life Triathlon in Ventura. Two years ago I entered because I thought it would be fun, and was thrilled to finish 8th overall. Last year I won my first Olympic distance triathlon here, and thoughts of pursuing triathlons in my future were planted. This year’s race affirmed that becoming a professional triathlete isn’t just a dream, but a realistic goal.
My race report begins on Saturday afternoon. The brackets on my Quintana Roo CD 0.1 that connect the aero bars to the handlebars seemed to have some stripped threads, so my sister’s fiancee Dan (a fellow engineer) suggested I put some Locktite in the threads. As we retightened the screw, we really stripped it. 6 pm, the day before an early morning race, and I have an out-of-commission bike. We called a few bike stores and eventually found one that was open until 8. They were able to retap the hole and put a bigger screw in. The brackets held for the race, but I need to do something about it before my next one.
5:30 Sunday morning came around and I was up getting ready for the race. I owe a big thank you to my Aunt Britta for letting me stay at her house in Ventura. It is so much more relaxing staying just ~5 minutes from the race course, as opposed to 40. I went with the usual breakfast and made my way to transition at around 6:15.
Chris Baird and I did a short run of about 1.5 miles and then made our way down to the swim start with about 15 minutes to spare. I made sure to get in and do a good warm up (Coach’s orders!).
14th in 17:53, 1:37 behind the fastest
Like last year, I had a rough start. I initially started off well, but all the people swimming over each other took its toll on me. After taking a big swallow of sea water, I sort of let up a bit and regrouped. From there I got in a pretty good rhythm and felt much better on the second, less congested lap. I exited the swim in about 10th in my wave. I will need to be at the front of these local races if I want to be competitive at the next level.
4th in 1:43, :17 behind the fastest
My focus in transition was to keep racing. In my past few triathlons I think I have been too worried about what I need to do in transition. With a bit more experience, and some practice, I was able to run fast into and out of transition.
7th in 1:01:57, 2:21 behind the fastest
Heading out on the bike I had a good mount, passing one guy right out of transition, but then lost a bit of momentum by misplacing my left foot on the shoe. In a non-drafting race like this one, these couple of seconds that I lose in transitions are likely not a big deal, but it could make or break a race in a draft legal format. Since that is the direction I want to go in, I need to really perfect these skills.
The course was very flat and fast. There were a few spots with a slight tailwind, and I tried to crank it up and tank advantage of those sections, reaching 27 or 28 mph. I took a Gu at about 10 minutes into the bike and had planned to take another one with about 10 minutes to go, but could only get down about 1/4 of it. At this point I’m just trying to figure out how many calories I should take in a race and I will have to continue with trial and error to see what works best for me.
According to the Garmin the race was slightly long at about 25.5 miles. This works out to 24.7 mph, about 1 mph faster than last year. My coach Ian Murray has been slowing increasing my biking volume, so I have yet to do any really hard, long rides. I think once we throw a few more of those in there, I will be able to crack that 25 mph mark and feel fresher for the run.
14th in :55, :12 behind the fastest
I had a good dismount and was running pretty quickly into transition. Eventually I got behind a lady that was just heading out to start her bike ride (she must have been a Sprint competitor). She was awkwardly running with her bike in her cycling shoes, so I just had to be patient and wait until she passed my rack. I then quickly racked my bike, took off my helmet, put on my shoes and grabbed my race belt.
1st in 32:22, :25 ahead of 2nd fastest
Finally onto the run! The great thing about triathlons, from a runner’s background, is that you know you can always move up during the last stage of the race. I have yet to be passed on the run in a triathlon, and Sunday was not going to be my first.
Heading out of transition I heard that I was down 3 minutes to the leader. Shoot, that seems like a lot. If he can run a 35:00 10k, I will need to run under 32. I was in 4th at this point, so I focused on one runner at a time. I passed the first guy within the first mile, splitting a 5:03! Oops, I may have just blown the rest of my run. Then I saw the next racer up ahead. I passed him before the 2 mile mark with a 5:11. There was a nice long straight road for me to see how much more I had to make up. I could only see one guy and I passed him relatively quickly, before mile 3. Am I in the lead?
There was a turnaround at 5k, so this allowed me to see where exactly I was in the race. I was still in 2nd, but now just 50 seconds back of the leader. He looked good, but clearly running a much slower pace than me. I kept looking at road markers and counting the time it took for me to reach them. I was chipping away at his lead, but with 2 miles still to run, I was worried I was going to run out of gas. There were several racers out there yelling encouraging words to me, like “you can get him!”
I tried to think about how much more fun it is to finish with a victory, and I pressed on. I continued clicking off the miles in around 5:12 and eventually caught Jason Smith, the race leader, with about a mile to go. Since I was hurting at this point, I thought the best race tactic would be to go by him quickly so he doesn’t even think about trying to go with me. It worked, and I was able to cruise home the rest of the way. As I made the last couple turns toward the finish line, I saw my family and friends all cheering for me. What a great feeling. What a great memory.
My Garmin had 32:23 for 6.26 miles (5:10s), which surprisingly is a faster pace than either of the triathlons I raced last year. Since I haven’t done much run volume over the last two months, I figured I would run slower. To a certain extent, fitness is fitness, and all the swimming and biking seems to be keeping my run up to an acceptable level. As I move up in the triathlon ranks, I will have to work the run a bit more to compete with the very best in the sport.
1st of 352 in 1:54:47
After I finished I was called up on stage to speak with the announcer. He asked if I would be returning in 2012. “We’ll see,” I replied. If things go the way I want them to, a year from now I will be onto bigger and better things.
My first race is on Sunday at the Breath of Life Triathlon in Ventura. I was recently given a beautiful Blue Seventy full sleeve wetsuit to borrow from my sister’s fiancee, Dan. My buddy Spencer suggested that I get some practice putting the suit on and off, so I went to his house to do a little T1 practice. Hudson came along to document…
The eerie feeling of no longer being a collegiate athlete has worn off, and I am in full swing with my next pursuit. Thanks to USA Triathlon’s (USAT) Collegiate Recruit Program, I have hit the ground running.
The Collegiate Recruitment Program was created in 2009 to find the next Olympic athletes for team USA. All but one of the US Olympians from the last three Olympics have come from a Division I swimming or running background, and this is a trend that USAT believes will continue. Barb Lindquist, who swam for Stanford and competed for USA in Athens, is the program’s coordinator. She contacted Coach Eric Heins in the Fall of 2009 asking if any of his athletes would be interested in a career in triathlons after finishing their collegiate eligibility. Heins forwarded me her contact, and we kept in touch as I dabbled in triathlon last summer.
With the end of my running career on the horizon, Barb and I discussed becoming a “full blown” recruit. What this means is that Barb and USAT help me progress from a novice triathlete — getting me a coach, equipment, training camps — to a 2016 Olympic hopeful.
The first step in getting me prepared for a future in triathlon was finding me a coach. I won one race and took second in two races last year without a coach, but those were small fish. There are much better athletes out there, and I need someone with experience to bring me up to their level.
Barb began by contacting some of the best triathletes in the world,?? Jordan Rapp (previous Ironman Canada and Arizona winner) and his wife Jill Savege (2004 Olympian). Eventually she found Ian Murray, a Level 3 Certified coach, and asked if he knew of any coaches in the area that would be willing to work with me. Surprisingly, he was interested.
I am very lucky to have Ian as a coach and I am confident that he will help me accomplish my goals. He has great experience, serving as a team USA coach at several ITU continental cup races and coaching other ITU professionals. He has a series of triathlon training videos called TTS, and he hooked me up with some swag.
Next up was equipment, i.e. bike. I had been riding on a Trek 1500 from 2007 that has served me well, but was putting me at a pretty big disadvantage at the level of racing I am now at. For non-draft racing, I found a sweet deal over at the Slowtwitch classifieds on a Quintana Roo CD 0.1. The bike has SRAM Red components that work like a dream. For the majority of the races I do this season, I will be on this time trial bike.
But moving forward, I want to do draft legal racing. The point of the Collegiate Recruitment Program is to prepare athletes for the Olympics, which is draft legal. I needed to upgrade my road bike from a Trek 1500 so I am not missing out on “free speed.”
Thanks to USAT and Blue Bicycles, I am now riding a beautiful Blue RC6. Ian helped me build up the bike with a mix of Shimano Dura Ace and Ultegra components. We slapped some beefy training wheels on there (for now), and what I am left with is an amazing ride. It is so much more responsive than the Trek, and I am really excited to put in the mileage in the saddle on it.
Barb didn’t stop there. I have been invited to come to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs for 8 days in July for a triathlon camp with other collegiate recruits, including friend and recent pro Brianna Blanchard. I am so thrilled for this opportunity to learn from the very best in America and to meet some triathletes that share my goals.
I am beginning to train more intensely, focusing on my swim and bike while my Achilles continues to heal. I plan to continue with updates on the road toward living my dream as a professional athlete, so please continue to follow.
Before cross country really gets going in full swing, and the school year for that matter, I want to finish off this series of posts about my summer training. This is the last post of a four-part series.
While much of this summer was focused on triathlons, at this point in my athletic career I am still a runner first, triathlete second. With each training session I did, the underlying question was always, “How will this prepare me for cross country?” In the beginning, since I was forced by my recovering knee to slowly increase my running volume, I figured any amount aerobic activity would help. I slowly increased my running volume to 60 miles in 6 days/week and held that throughout the summer.
As I explained in Part 1, each week was laid out about the same. I wanted to get it one workout, one long run, strides 2-3x, and the rest easy-moderate running (often over hilly terrain). My workout generally consisted of a fartlek or a lactate threshold (LT).
My favorite fartlek comes from Coach Heins that we do several times each season: 5-4-3-2-1-1-2-3-4-5 with half rest. So it starts with 5 minutes “on,” followed by 2.5 minutes recovery. Next we do 4 minutes with 2 minutes recovery, and so on. The workout gets tough on the way back up. On the 2nd 3 minute pick up you will only have 1 minute rest before it, while the 1st 3 minute pick up had 2 minutes rest before. See how that could get difficult?
My LT’s were generally about 5-6 miles and I often went off of heart rate. Before the workout I might set an alarm on the Garmin to alert me if I go over, say, 175bpm. If I do, I must slow down. There’s no magic to these kind of workouts. Just a long sustained effort that will obviously make you strong physically as well as mentally.
I did most of my long runs with Chris Baird out at Sycamore Canyon. It is a great trail with a steady incline for the first 6.5 miles or so before reaching a pretty tough climb. I am a big believer in the power of the long run and the many benefits that come along with doing them weekly. As long as I’m training to be running, as a single sport athlete or triathlete, I will always find a place for long runs in my training.
Before each race I also did a little tune up session on the track. Some mixture of 800s, 400s and 200s. The purpose of these was just to get in some race pace or slightly faster than race pace running so I could feel what running fast feels like.
So with this post I conclude my summer. I start graduate school tomorrow, which I am a little anxious for. I am also beginning my final cross country season which I know will provide many great memories and blog posts!