Major League Triathlon: Charlotte

Charlotte, North Carolina played host to the first Major League Triathlon series race of the season.  The setting was in beautiful 'uptown' with a 300m zig-zag swim in the Mecklenburg Aquatic Center, the bike was 4 laps with a mild uphill and down, and the run 2 laps uphill out/downhill back.

I can't recommend watching the reply of the broadcast enough. Superb work by MLT on making a great video. It can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/majorleaguetriathlon/videos/1066409626793533/?pnref=story

My team, the Puerto Rico Islanders, consisted of Robby Webster, Laurin Thorne, and Chelsea Burns. Since this week's mandated order was female-male-female-male, we chose to put Chelsea first, myself second, Laurin third, and Robby anchor. After a strong handoff in 3rd from Chelsea, I dove in behind Michael Arishita of the Sarasota Sun and Walter Schafer of the Atlantic City Waves with my former teammate (from the Keepers last year), John O'Neil just behind me. 

The bike on lap 2 when John (in front), Michael, and I (red helmet to the side) were on the uphill section. You can see powerhouse and 2016 Olympian, Ben Kanute looming in the background.

The bike on lap 2 when John (in front), Michael, and I (red helmet to the side) were on the uphill section. You can see powerhouse and 2016 Olympian, Ben Kanute looming in the background.

After pushing the swim and early portions of the bike, John and I were able to form a top group of three with Michael and get into T2 with a good gap on fourth. Due to lapped teams, five teams were together including Ben Kanute of the Indy Cats (try holding Ben's wheel, I dare you), and Graham Pimental of the Gliders.

Nearing the end of the run

Nearing the end of the run

Nearing the end of the bike, I was excited to hop off with John and Michael especially since John and I have had some epic long run battles around Boulder and we both ran in college so this brought some nostalgia. 

I would surge on the uphills, and John would crush the downhills with us working together to put some time into Michael.

Screenshot from the beginning of the second run lap with John just next to me and Michael a few strides down.

Screenshot from the beginning of the second run lap with John just next to me and Michael a few strides down.

I ended up handing off in 2nd just behind John to our third leg, Laurin Thorne. Laurin was swimming great and riding in first when a mishap unfortunately brought us from 1st to 7th. Robby raced hard but unfortunately a mistake took us out of contention. I am proud of how well we were racing and how well we continued to race despite being in a bad situation. I am looking forward to racing in Atlantic City, June 3rd. If you are in the area, come out and watch plus enjoy some brews post race!

Collegiate nationals 2017

Breaking the finishing tape 2 days in a row is an experience I do not think I will forget

Breaking the finishing tape 2 days in a row is an experience I do not think I will forget

My last collegiate triathlon and my first national title. Collegiate nationals 2017 was a bit of a wild ride, but it is an experience I will treasure for a long time. 

Here are a few highlights:

Congrats on CU Triathlon for keeping the combined streak alive #8straight

CU Triathlon team- 8 straight combined team titles.

CU Triathlon team- 8 straight combined team titles.

Great races by the other guys on the podiums: Nick Noone, Sean Harrington, Chris Douglas, Ernie Mantell, and draft legal: Josh Fowler and Colin Chartier. It was awesome racing you all plus the many others crushing it all weekend and keeping it fast!

CU Triathlon girls team: congrats on the national title! It was especially memorable to share this with my girlfriend, Melissa, racing in her first nationals race.

Coming into this race, I knew I had a bit of a target on my back as I was second in the draft legal race last year and 5th in the non- draft. Furthermore, since I am a graduate student, there is a fair bit of apprehension about me racing. I will simply say that at CU Boulder, you do not casually race for the triathlon team especially at nationals-- rather it demands being an integral member of the team. It is, in fact, because the team requires us to be contributing members all year long that I race for CU. When I joined the team in the fall of 2015 as I started my PhD at CU Boulder, I did not imagine how passionate I would feel about the CU triathlon team and how it would become indestinguishable from the team environment I had missed out when the University of Delaware cut its team while I was there. There is simply nothing quite like racing for a team that you spend countless hours training with.

On to the races.

Image from USA Triathlon- CIMAGES. Start of men's non-draft race.

Image from USA Triathlon- CIMAGES. Start of men's non-draft race.

The anticipation before the draft legal race is palpable and the excitement you feel waiting to be introduced rivals any other race in which I have taken part. I got to pick my spot on the pontoon, and went far left. This ended up being a fairly bad decision as the first turn bouy was further right than I expected. I came out of the swim in 9:00 about 45 seconds down to the leaders lead by the stellar swimmer, Eli Pugh. I was concerned but motivated to ride hard.

Images from Troy Winslow- thank you!

Images from Troy Winslow- thank you!

I knew we would have to hammer the bike and with other strong riders in the chase like Chris Douglas, we were able to bridge to the leaders on the 3rd lap. The last 2 laps I tried to stay near the front without burning too many matches.

400m into the run with Josh Fowler, Eli Pugh, Timmy Winslow, Graham Pimentel, and Chris Douglas in the frame.

400m into the run with Josh Fowler, Eli Pugh, Timmy Winslow, Graham Pimentel, and Chris Douglas in the frame.

Once on the run, I made sure to build into the first 1k as I usually race best with a more conservative start. I made my way into 1st by the end of 1k and tried to maintain fast but smooth running to the finish as I knew the race the following day would be painful. I ran controlled and crossing the finish line first on that day was thrilling.

Around 2.5 km into the run. I had build a 10 second lead by this point. 

Around 2.5 km into the run. I had build a 10 second lead by this point. 

The Olympic distance non-draft race was actually the race I was more excited for. I put in a winter with a lot of hard trainer sessions. From January to April, my goal was to improve my power numbers, and I really saw a difference. I did two trainer workouts/week and usually some intervals on my long ride. This brought my best 2 x 20 minute trainer sessions to 315 average watts, which was markedly improved from years past, where I struggled to do 285 prior to St. George for the same workout about 1 year ago.

Courtesy of super Buff, Jesse Frank. 1/2 way through the bike. Bike file here: https://www.strava.com/activities/953698949

Courtesy of super Buff, Jesse Frank. 1/2 way through the bike. Bike file here: https://www.strava.com/activities/953698949

The non draft race went exactly according to a plan Nick Noone and I came up with after Havasu (with the exception of our third teammate, Timmy Winslow who had a mechanical early on the bike). Nick and I swam together exiting around 15th and 1:30 down from super swimmer Eli Pugh. After 6 miles of hammering averaging 330 until the far turn around, Nick and I took the lead. We traded leading and trailing by 15 meters or so. We wanted to really hammer the bike like we knew we could and maintain an extra legal distance between riders to prevent any suspicions. I ended up averaging 300 watts for the ride- and I am 67.5 kg, so about 4.4 W/kg. I knew I could run well off this and had reserve if need be. Big shout out to Chris Douglas and Ernie for bridging up. That was a monster effort!

We got off the bike with Chris Douglas (Georgia Tech), Ernie Mantell (ASU), and Gordon Williams (UCSD). I employed a similar strategy on the run and built for 1k before trying to race. I felt strong in this race but my legs were starting to show signs of fatigue from the previous day's effort. At the turnaround near 3.5 miles, I had about 20 seconds on my teammate, Nick Noone, who had another 20 seconds on third. I was ecstatic as Nick and I going 1-2 was something we considered possible albeit difficult for the past year. The rest of the run was focusing on holding off any charges and getting across the line first, in 1:54:50.

 

The drama

If you have made it this far, I am amazed! The following should be the most interesting and only drama filled part of the read, hopefully you enjoy. I welcome any constructive comments. 

I do not want to be a bad sport, or seem jaded but the events that followed the men's olympic distance race were, at best, unfortunate and, at worst, biased. My bike was racked the wrong direction i.e. with the seat facing away from me. This "infraction" penalized me 2 minutes, brought me to 5th place, and left me pretty pissed and feeling unfairly targeted (more on that below). A similar sentiment was echoed from some on the men's podium and a few others on social media. I truly appreciated the other guys who backed me up (meant a lot to everyone that reached out), and at the end of the day, I take responsibility for not knowing this rule. 

I do believe the crux of this issue is that rules like this and their current methods of enforcement are bad for the sport. When I asked the lead official, J Ritterbeck, why I was penalized but over 50 other bikes in transition were not penalized despite being racked the same way (some as close as 1 rack away), he said the officials "could not police this rule for everyone". This is unacceptable to only enforce a rule for a few people. If you want to enforce a rule, it must be fairly and unbiasedly enforced. It is not a numbers issue as an official could walk through transition following the completion of the race and check all bikes. Instead I lost 2 minutes on what seems to be  as a small infraction. While I messed up and did not know this rule (it is not a rule in pro or draft legal racing), it makes the sport look silly. An alternative approach would be a less sever penalty during the run (such as a 15 second stand down penalty). Right now, this penalty cost as much as a drafting penalty. I think it is safe to assume I did not gain much time from racking my bike the wrong direction, and as such a time penalty gradient seems fair. 

At the end of the day, the experiences, hard work, and feelings from the two days of racing cannot be changed by a penalty. Most importantly, life goes on and I learned something. I am most ecstatic for the University of Colorado Tri team's performance and can't thank this team for all it has given to me over the past 2 years. I genuinely will cherish the memories and friends made. 

At the end of the day, my teammate, great friend, training partner, and athlete that I coach, Nick Noone ended up winning. If this had to be how this race went down, I wouldn't have asked for it in any other way. 

Could not have done this without the love and support of family (there and far)- thanks for coming, Mom, the CU Tri team, and personal sponsors Honey Stinger and Major League Triathlon

Last thing and maybe most important, I am beyond stoked to have kept the CU Triathlon combined win streak in tact. #8straight!

MLT 2017 and updates

I have been quite delinquent in updating my triathlon plans for 2017, so here it is along with a little background on me.

Steeplechase at the Larry Ellis Invitational (Princeton) during my sophomore year at the University of Delaware

Steeplechase at the Larry Ellis Invitational (Princeton) during my sophomore year at the University of Delaware

I will be racing a mixture of events this year: kicking off the season with Collegiate Nationals- my last year doing this race- but something I am passionate and excited about. I will also be racing the Major League Triathlon series again and hopefully some of the Escape series. Along with some local races mixed in and maybe a 70.3, I am excited to get to racing. I have already kicked off the season with two races: the Houston half marathon in January where I hoped to run a big PR in the 67-68 minute range. It ended up being a hot and humid day, which slowed everyone and I finished with a subpar 70 minute run, but still tons of fun. I also raced the Lake Havasu triathlon with the CU triathlon team. It was a really solid race for Nick Noone, Timmy Winslow, and myself where we went 1-2-3 over Ernie Mantell from ASU. It is tons of fun to race with teammates, and an experience that many do not appreciate until it is too late!

 

 

Some background: balancing triathlon, graduate school, and a life seeking adventure
The 5 am ring of the alarm clock is something I am accustomed to from growing up as a competitive swimmer. Years of staring at the black line got me into a routine that demanded daily training, setting goals, and getting absolutely stoked on achieving them. I was not a super star swimmer—sure I won a state title in Delaware—but that is a small state and on a relay; my best individual finish in the state was 3rd in the 200 IM, barely breaking 2:00. I worked hard but was burnt out.  My junior year in high school, I discovered that running allowed me to train, set goals, and it provided me with an exciting new challenge, and I saw immediate improvements. Fast forward one year and I accepted a scholarship offer to run cross country and track at the University of Delaware. I thought my swimming days were done.

 

After my sophomore year, I had made some large jumps in running from finishing top 15 in our conference cross country meet and top 50 in the region to being on numerous top 10 lists for steeplechase, 10K, etc. Then one morning, coincidentally following a training run, my teammates and I received an email saying our teams were cut and there was nothing we could do. As a 20 year old who was improving and loving running, this brought my world down. Thankfully, I had a conversation with Barb Lindquist at USAT and she accepted me into the collegiate recruitment program in its second year. Looks like it was back to swimming for me.

CRP crew circa 2012. Jason Pedersen, Eric Lagerstrom, Jeff Helmer, Sean Borne, David Demeres, and Kalen Darling

 

Triathlon can be a cruel beast of a sport. It demands almost constant attention, and luck can turn on you at the drop of a hat. For instance, the first time I ever made a lead pack in an ITU race, I flatted with 2 laps remaining. On the other hand, when things go well, you feel like you are on top of the world. This led me to being in my mid 20s, racing professionally, but needing to find a way to make ends meet.

I decided to pursue another passion of mine: research and teaching. I enrolled in a masters program at the University of Delaware where I received a stipend for being a TA. I quickly found that graduate school was simultaneously a nice compliment to triathlon and allowed me to grow into a well- rounded individual. Subsequently, I moved to Boulder, Colorado with my long time girlfriend, Melissa, and matriculated into a PhD program in the neurophysiology of movement. While balancing a PhD program and training at a high level can be difficult, it allows me to pursue two passions of mine while living in a pretty awesome place.


When Major League Triathlon came out, I was among the first to get super excited about it. I love short, fast, and technical racing. It suits me and my availability to train. While I absolutely love long rides on the weekends, I cannot commit the necessary time to race ironman at a professional level. MLT, however, is a different story. Where else can you have the pain face (see above) to the best after party (below)? #GetRusseled I love the style of racing, the comradery, and the MLT company goals.

The grimace from 15 minutes flat out. 

The grimace from 15 minutes flat out. 

Who doesn't love some triathlete crowd surfing

Who doesn't love some triathlete crowd surfing

I am looking forward to racing as a Puerto Rico Islander this coming year and can’t wait for the races to begin! #PushItPuerto

 

Major League Tri: Sarasota

The second stop of the Major League Triathlon series would be my third race in as many weeks. After a mediocre result in an olympic distance race at REV 3 Quassy and a mechanical during the bike of 70.3 Boulder, I was hungry to express the hard work that I had put in. On top of that, racing with three friends on the Portland Keepers makes the racing a lot of fun and you feel responsible for racing well for the sake of the team. For tons of race videos, check the Major League Triathlon facebook page!

The racing format in the MLT series makes for an exciting experience for spectators and athletes alike. The only downside with so many solid teams is how nerve wracking it is watching the race unfold. 

With teammates, Nicole Truxes, Julie Stupp, and John O'Neill

With teammates, Nicole Truxes, Julie Stupp, and John O'Neill

We decided Julie Stupp would lead off on the 300 m swim/4 mile bike/~1mile run event in hopes that she would get away with one or two others. Julie drilled the swim despite losing her goggles and after the first leg, 5 teams had separated from the rest. I dove in 4th with a 15 second gap to 1st/2nd, 10 seconds to 3rd, and David Thompson right on my heels. The strategy at this point is pivotal: do you work with the guy coming behind you or do you go full gas in hopes of dropping them and making it a three team race?

I dove in and felt strong in the water- and immediately felt like I could bridge the gap to 3rd. With a solid swim, I was able to catch the Temple Toro's Robbie Deckard by the last bouy and work with him on the bike. Robbie and I smashed the first 1/2 trying to catch Sarasota Sun's AJ Baucco and the Lincoln Mustang's Alex Libin, but they proved elusive. As a result of chasing so hard, we never got our feet in the shoes during the 4 mile lap. On the run, I took it out hard but controlled. Despite being an ~18 minute race, temperatures in the 90s with high humidity take their toll- just think about how much fun (read: painful) racing a 5k in this weather would be. I caught Alex and AJ at the far turn around and handed the 'baton' off in first place totally exhausted.

This was the first race returning from mono for our third leg and Nicole executed incredible. She maintained a big lead through the bike and was only caught by the Sun's third leg, a fast running Jillian Peterson. Going into the final leg, John O'Neill had some solid athletes chasing him in John Rasmussen (Mustang's) and 2016 Olympian, Ben Kanute (Toros) with Sean Jefferson (Sun) up ahead. Following the final bike leg, the two John's were battling for 3rd/4th.  John O'Neil unleashed his collegiate running past and ripped the final 100 in what looked to be Usain Bolt speed to clinch 3rd and our team's second podium.  

Not only do we have an awesome team in the race, we have a lot of fun outside as well! #KrushItKeepers

Not only do we have an awesome team in the race, we have a lot of fun outside as well! #KrushItKeepers

I was stoked to see I also recorded the 4th best individual split, earning me a prime as well. 

Individual splits across the board

Individual splits across the board

Men's individual podium (L-R: Ben Kanute, Sean Jefferson, John Rasmussen, Dan Feeney (me), and John O'Neill)

Men's individual podium (L-R: Ben Kanute, Sean Jefferson, John Rasmussen, Dan Feeney (me), and John O'Neill)

I am not exactly sure what I will race next. I loved this super sprint format and having a solid swim makes me want to race ITU again but it is not the most cost effective plan. I will likely race 70.3 Racine in July and then gear up for the final two stops in the MLT series: Lincoln, Nebraska and Portland, Maine.

REV3 Quassy and 70.3 St. George

Since Collegiate nationals, I have gotten into the meat of the professional racing season. Because the requirements of my PhD program are slightly relaxed in the summer, I am able to train and race a bit more frequently. I ambitiously raced 70.3 St. George in early May. Going into that race, I knew I was a bit light on my bike volume and the results showed exactly that. I was out of the water in 25:xx with the second main group including all the big players such as Ben Hoffman and Leon Griffin, but got popped hard on the bike. I still ran1:17 for the 4th best run and came in 17th overall for my first long course north american pro championship. Leaving that race, I knew I needed to focus on improving my bike and I could have been in contention for a top 10.

In the month following 70.3 St. George, I did my best to get 12-14 hour bike weeks in and the long course pool in Boulder has opened, which is great! Mix that with the summer weather, and I was really starting to feel solid in my training. Granted, it takes longer than a month of consistent training to race at the pro level- but REV3 Quassy was a good step. I ended up 7th in a solid field and got some prize money. Here is how the race went down.

I have been swimming quite well the last two weeks but failed to express that today. I held the feet of the strong swimmers like Cam Dye and Davide Giardini until about 700 meters but was slowly losing ground. I exited about 1:10 back from Cam Dye and the front end, in no man's land. I still was ahead of a number of guys and knew with a solid bike/run, I could have a decent result.

On the bike, I raced with my new Stages pwoermeter, which was great on Quassy's course since it is all rolling. It helped to not drop hammers on the ups and relax too much on the downs. I rode 1:05, which was again just okay. I averaged 302 watts (NP) for the ride but definitely felt like I had more in me. For reference, Cam rode 1:01 and the front end was about a minute faster than me. I did reel in a number of guys and came off the bike in 8th. 

The run is pretty gnarly at Quassy with 2 miles fairly downhill and then some huge uphills in the later stages. I did my best to run relaxed for the first two miles coming around 10:10 and just tried to focus on Alex Libin who stayed an agonizing 30 seconds up the road on me the entire run. I did manage to catch one other athlete and finished 7th. This was not a spectacular run but it was solid enough.

This was a pretty average race for me, but I am glad that average is still better than before. This would have been a good result for me in previous years, so I am happy to see where things are going. I am racing 70.3 Boulder next week and the second major league triathlon the weekend after that, so I am happy to be resting and racing!

Collegiate Nationals 2016. Sko Buffs!

When I moved to Boulder to begin my Ph.D., I was unsure if I would join the triathlon club. I was hesitant initially because I assumed people would say things like, "you're old and have raced ITU, why are you sandbagging?" I realize the talent at the collegiate level is high enough that sandbagging is not the case, but I was still concerned how it would look.

In any case, I could not be happier that I decided to join. One of the first days of orientation, another graduate student, Jesse Frank (former president of the club), assured me that it wouldn't be a big deal and the team was fun. In addition, Nick No-one echoed Jesse's sentiments. One of the best parts of the team is the actual team atmosphere. It is close to how running for a D1 XC/track team felt. This is not just a group of people who do races together, but rather is an awesome training group. Low and behold, Nick and Jesse became awesome training partners (Nick being one of the strongest cyclists who needs only about 3 weeks to get in shape) and friends. As a result, I was most excited to be a part of the Buff's 7th consecutive national championship!

For this weekend, I would be racing the draft legal sprint on Friday, the Olympic Saturday, and the mixed team relay Saturday afternoon. This schedule was brutal, but it's nice to have a team to compete for, and it's an honor to be able to do all of the races.

Draft legal: 2nd 53:32 to winner winner, chicken dinner, Mike Meehan

Start of the race and I am 4th from the right. Next to JR Creekmore, who I grew up swimming and running with

Start of the race and I am 4th from the right. Next to JR Creekmore, who I grew up swimming and running with

Maybe it's because I am getting older, but I seem to be building into my swims now. I moved up the second half of the race to get out in 7th position at 9:20. We were 50 seconds down to super swimmer Greg Harper, but it appeared that we would have one large pack soon enough.

I am sitting second wheel behind teammate, Timmy Winslow

I am sitting second wheel behind teammate, Timmy Winslow

The group came together quickly and there was not much organization. As a result, I tried to sit in the front 5 wheels and hit the turns hard but otherwise conserve energy. It was also nice having a teammate in there. This worked pretty well until I was 7th wheel going into T2. 

Midway through lap one of the run

Midway through lap one of the run

I fumbled in T2 to get my shoes on and was out about 12 seconds behind Mike Meehan, Michael Arishita, and Jonathan Felix. I tried to build into the run and found myself in 2nd after about 1.5km. By the end of the first lap, I was 8 seconds down to Mike Meehan, but could not close the gap. He ran like an animal and had a great race. I ended up second. It was not the perfect performance, but agonizingly close. Initial splits had my run at 15:20 and Mike's at 15:10. They seem to be changing on the results site daily, but regardless it was a hard 5k!

Post race with Timmy and Coach Brad

Post race with Timmy and Coach Brad

Post race with Brit, the national champ and fellow Buff!

Post race with Brit, the national champ and fellow Buff!

The Olympic distance race was a 10:30 start on Saturday. The race would prove to be hot and humid. I ended up 5th overall in a so- so race. I came out of the water in decent position and soon had bridged to the leaders. At the end of the first lap, I was in 7th or so riding about 20 seconds behind the lead bunch of Meehan, Arishita, JT Rogers, Nick Noone, Colin Chartier, and Sam Douglas. At this point, I got popped from their pace and rode solo until the 22 mile mark. At this point, a massive pack caught me. I could see them gaining time the entire race and was not super pumped to be caught, especially due to the swollen pack. There were over 20 riders in the group with no real way of going off the front. After an attempt to go off the front, I ended up sitting legally behind the group for the last 2 miles to T2. 

I got into T2 and out feeling comfortable. I ran 5:05 for the first mile. I was running with Sean Harrington from UCSB and we were reeling guys in quickly. We were 3rd and 4th at the end of one lap, but I started to fade. This is a pace I should not have trouble holding as I have done it before but the previous day's race was creeping up. After a strong first 3.3 mile lap I began to fade. Thankfully, I saw Ernie Mantell and teammate Jack Toland and was able to run with them the second lap. Colin Chartier caught me on the second lap and dropped the hammer the last mile. 

Our CU team relay: Timmy Winslow, Britt Warley, Ali Schwein, and myself

Our CU team relay: Timmy Winslow, Britt Warley, Ali Schwein, and myself

The team relay was tough. Everybody was pretty beat after two days of racing, but it had a fun atmosphere and was a painful 15 minute endeavor. Our relay ended up 4th after some solid performances. 

As I write this, I am preparing for 70.3 St. George in about 10 days time. It is the north american half distance championship with a stacked field. I am excited to race the pro season, which is largely an individual effort (aside from Major League Tri events), but these last 7 months of racing with CU has reminded me how awesome it is to go to races with teammates, cheer, race, and laugh together. 

Major League Triathlon- Temple

The first professional race of the year and it promised to be something exciting. This awesome new series is putting 32 professionals on the line in 8 teams of 4 doing a mixed team relay format. For the first race, the venue was last minute relocated due to safety concerns outside of the organizers' control. This was a massive blow to their weekend plans, but they still managed to get everything together for a super fun and fast weekend of racing. 

End result: The Portland Keepers got 2nd overall and I had the fourth fastest split. Big props to teammates John O'Neil (2nd) and Julie Stupp (3rd) and sub Cate Barrett. We put together one hell of a race!

Post race team pic!

Post race team pic!

 

Prior to the race, one of my teammates, Nicole Truxes had to pull out due to sickness. That, plus John O'Neil's bike was somewhere between New Zealand and Texas. We made the most of it and thankfully, Julie Stupp was able to find a training partner in Cait Barrett to join us. The night before the race John O'Neil, Julie Stupp and I headed out for some ice cream in our new kits and you can see the results here

https://twitter.com/jroneill_/status/721354181433380865

 

The race itself ended up becoming a duathlon: 1 mile run/3.5 mile bike/1/2 mile run for each individual. I went second and forgot exactly how painful a sprint duathlon can be! I ended up recording the fourth fastest split. I was 4:22 on the first run leg and 2:12 on the last. The bike was pretty fun with 5 loops around 1k each and 3 U turns each lap. Made for lots of big pushes out of corners and rewarded strong technical riding. 

An awesome recap of the race was done by TRS Triathlon 

I am super excited to come away with a solid early result and our team plus everyone had a lot of fun. The Russell Dickerson concert was really awesome too. I hope to see a huge turn out for the Sarasota race as it promises to be exciting!

Major League Triathlon!

I am super excited to be selected as part of the inaugural Major League Triathlon series. The roster of pros is here:

http://www.endurancesportswire.com/major-league-triathlon-professional-roster-announced/

This is an exciting opportunity for triathlon to get a bigger fan base within the United States as I believe the group behind MLT is going to make each event a blast with triathlons, beer gardens, concerts, and more. The first two races have been announced and are:

April 15-17th in Temple, TX 

June 17-19th in Sarasota, FL

Challenge Florida Half

To begin, when I moved to Boulder, I was a little down on triathlon. Races had not been going my way to start the year and I felt like I was stuck in a rut. That all changed upon moving here. Despite having a fairly rigorous schedule doing a PhD program in neurophysiology, training has been going quite well. With modifications, I can get training in before and after each ‘work’ day as well as a mid day short session. The new area to explore, and the incredible number of serious athletes & training groups (like Boulder Track Club and Boulder Aquatic Masters) training here exciting and it rejuvenated my passion. Furthermore, training with the CU Boulder tri team has been a nice way to have some fun in training and a great group of tri friends.

I was coming into Challenge Florida with high expectations as I had just run 32:40 off the bike at an Olympic distance race in Henderson, NV (Pumpkinman), and had a solid swim/bike well. I had a race plan to put me under 4 hours, but the conditions were quite hot, so the times were slower. In the end, I executed my plan fairly well, but still have quite a bit of room to improve.

Swim: 25:40- got out with Justin Metzler and Thomas Gerlatch. We were gapped by the fast moving John Kenny, Eric Limkeman, Sean Donnolly, Ian Boggs, and Kevin Ryan early, and were just under 45 seconds back of Sam Holmes and Matt Whistoff. I got into T1 quickly and was out in pursuit first.

 

Bike: 2:15:11- rode for 45 miles with Justin, Thomas, Sam, and eventually John Kenny in legal formation. I still am very apprehensive riding USAT stagger rules because I am terrified of getting a penalty. I was probably a bit over cautious, which caused me to eventually be dropped by the group at mile 45, and I also could not close the gap. I saw a penalty occur early on, and I desperately did not want one. The last 11 miles were a little bit of a struggle to stay positive as I have typically faltered at this point in 70.3 distance races. I just kept telling myself that I would have a good run and needed to focus on that. 

Run: 1:25- oh man this was ugly. 90 degrees and dew point of 75 made this sticky and hot. There was also not much shade to speak of. I felt ok at first, running my first 3.5 miles at goal pace (5:40-5:45). After that, it turned into a bit of survival. Lots of athletes were hurting, and I made my way into 4th at mile 6. I was 10 seconds behind Justin at this point, but the next three miles were pretty tough for me. In the end, I never made the catch to Justin, and was able to hold off Sean Donnolly in a sprint to the finish.

Finish: 4:09:38 4th place.

Oktoberfest Rocky Mountain Draft Legal Champs

When I first talked to people involved with the CU triathlon team this August, they mentioned the Oktoberfest draft legal race, and I was keenly interested. It is not often you can travel 30 minutes to a draft legal race with decent competition and then be back home for lunch!

In my second race for CU, I lined up with 25 or so other guys ranging from others that have raced on the ITU circuit from junior to elite level (Robbie Deckard, Sean Daugherty, Alex Wilimovsky, Dillon Nobbs, Jack Toland, Timmy Winslow and others) to guys racing their first draft legal race. 

The course was pretty straight forward, rectangular 750 m swim, 1 loop 12.9 mile bike, and out and back 5k with a solid hill in the middle that you go over and down the back side before turning back home. The swim got out more aggressively than I expected, which was good practice. I got to the first bouy in 4th or so, and moved into 2nd during the straight away from 300-400 meters. I comfortably sat on Wlimovsky's feet for the remainder of the swim after seeing we had a small 5- man breakaway. We exited between 9:01 and 9:07.

Onto the bike, I managed to catch my shoe on the ground and broke the sole of my bike shoe in half within the first 500 meters. The rest of the bike was mostly the group taking short 4-5 second pulls and moving over. Retrospectively, we should have taken some longer ones to recover, but we still got off the bike with a 30 second or so lead on the chasers. I will note, I really enjoyed not being in that chase pack (as has been the case in many ITU races!) That is good motivation to keep up swimming. 

I got out 4th of our group on the run, but passed everyone by 1k. I tried to stay relaxed up the 400m hill, but I heard Dillon Nobbs closing during the climb. I accelerated once I hit the top, and put time into him. I know going hard on a hill while racing at altitude throws you well into the red zone, and I did not want to be 2.5km in with the dead legs and copper taste in my mouth that I have become accustomed to during hard efforts at altitude. I ended up splitting 16:15, which was slower than many were guessing I ran, but given the 400 m hill, the run being all dirt and sand roads, and the race being at 5100 feet, it isn't a bad run split. I felt like I could keep going at that pace fairly comfortably. 


Boulder Sunset Triathlon

Since moving out to Boulder 1 month ago, I have been feeling rejuvenated with new places to train, new groups to train with, and generally a positive outlook towards triathlon. As a result, I decided I would join the CU triathlon team for the 2015-2016 season. They seemed like a great group of people, and they have competed quite well in the past. Their first race was almost 28 days exactly after we arrived in Boulder, so I decided I would give it a whirl.

At Boulder Sunset tri, the race starts late (10 am), and the collegiate wave was third to go off. I got out pretty well and swam the fastest swim of the day by over a minute, and over 2 minutes to the closest collegiate competitor. There was a lot of traffic in the water, but otherwise I felt good swimming. I have had the awesome opportunity to do most of my swims with some stud triathletes at BAM: Paul Ambrose, Greg & Laura Bennett, Emma Mofffat, and more, so my swim has been feeling strong.

On the bike, I knew it would be a pretty fast 26.4 mile ride from the Boulder res up to 36, down to Nelson and back 75th street. It climbs the first half and is much faster the second. We also had a northwesternly wind slowing the first half down, but once we hit Nelson rd., my next 5 mile split was 9:30 (so over 30 mph). Jack Toland, a young but talented triathlete caught me at 13 miles and put about a minute into me by the end. I ended up riding 1:01 for the 26.4 mile course (57:30 at 40K) which is solid for me, but more work needs to be done.

On the run, I felt pretty smooth, despite not being able to find my shoes in T2. My fault, but I have overlooked a crowded transition zone for awhile since pro racks are generally pretty easy to find. Since this was not a pro race, I was back to being amidst a large transition area, and I dropped the ball here. Took me 90 seconds to find my shoes and most other athletes' T2 splits were :45 or so. Went out running controlled around the res, and had a lot of people to pass since there was a sprint, duathlon, and other waves in front of us. I got confused around 2 miles, and thought I was off course since I could no longer see athletes ahead. I walked back to where I thought I could have been wrong, but then saw an athlete coming my way. After another minute of wasted time, I was back on my way. I caught Jack around 4 miles along the res, and we exchanged congrats. Ended up finishing at 2:01 total, with my 1:30-2 minutes of poor planning in T2/not knowing the course. Either way, I was pretty happy with my first triathlon at altitude and am excited to do a few more races as part of a team at CU Boulder. 

Challenge St. Andrews

For the last race in the first half of my season, my mom, girlfriend, and I drove up the east coast on July 4th weekend for another 70.3 distance. I still feel like I am trying to figure out how to race this distance as every race has gone similarly so far: great swim, decent ride but my body is not happy during the run. Part of that might be a need for better bike fitness to TT 90 km and back it up with a good run, and part might be nutrition. Either way, Challenge St. A's felt like another step in the right direction. 

Photo credit: Eric Opydike

Photo credit: Eric Opydike

Photo cred: Mark Hannagan (Philly triathlon)

Photo cred: Mark Hannagan (Philly triathlon)

The swim was wetsuit legal and I immediately hopped on John Kenny's feet and sat there with Alessandroni from Italy. After about 500 meters, I was swimming just a bit too hard to keep their feet so they dropped me. I led Taylor Reid for the rest of the swim (eventual winner- great race, Taylor). I got out in 24:12, and began the 400 meter uphill run to T1. 

I enjoyed the bike course here. 16 km to the major highway, 2 laps of about 28 km, and 16 km back all with rolling hills. Perhaps it was the cold water, or just being a wimp, I had a really tough time getting my legs going for the first 16 km. I got misdirected around a turn and went about a minute off course. Once I got on the highway, I started feeling much better and the sun came out.  I rode about 2 minutes behind John Kenny and about a minute up on the next pack of two riders: Iain Alexandrines and Alistair Eeckman. I rode 2:22 with the 1 minute or so that I was off course.

Iain and Alaistair caught me with about 6 km to go and I entered T2 in 7th. I started the run strongly and caught Iain by the first turn around (about 5.2 km), but then started to drift back. The rest of the run was just focusing on not slowing down too much as Iain pulled away to a great 3rd of his own. I finished 6th with a 1:22 run. It is a frustrating to have closed down the gap after what felt like an easy first 5k, but not be able to keep running that pace. 

Photo cred: Mark Hannagan- Philly Tri

Photo cred: Mark Hannagan- Philly Tri

Overall, this felt like another step in the right direction, but still not satisfied. I will have a bit of a break between races now as I am moving to Boulder in the beginning of August. After getting settled, I will choose another race or two to finish out.

On the way home, we stopped at Acadia national park and got to take in some awesome adventures

Sunrise on Cadillac mountain- first place to see the sunrise in the US. 

Sunrise on Cadillac mountain- first place to see the sunrise in the US. 

As always, I have to be thankful the people in my life are willing to travel to these races and support me, so a big thank you to my mom and Melissa. Of course, thanks to Square One Investments, Team Philly Pro Tri, and Power Bar as well!



Challenge Williamsburg

I am giving a go at two half iron distance races this summer and prior to this race, I had not figured out my nutrition properly to have a full race. Challenge Williamsburg was the first race where I did not blow up on the run due to poor planning (but rather 95 degree temps and 80 dew point). I ended up 7th overall in 4:18 on what was a relatively difficult day for all athletes with a fairly high attrition rate. 

Swim: 26:12 was about 90 seconds behind the main group of Chrabot, Collington, Montgomery, and Andressoni. I could see John Kenny leaving T1 as soon as I was getting in, so I figured my swim could not have been that bad. We started in waist deep water and dolphin dove/high stepped for about 50 meters before swimming. I was sitting on John Kenny's feet (he has a very distinctive kick and swims a good line, so I knew it was him) for about 600 meters. I felt like I was overheating and just a little outside my comfort zone in the 82 degree water. One more surge from the group popped me, but I also had a decent lead on the group behind me. I swam the rest of the swim alone.

Bike: 2:17:52 (24.2 mph) and 170 average HR. I consumed about 80 g of carbohydrates/hour and two bottles of perform/ one bottle of gatorade on the course. I aimed to get another bottle but the crazy humidity made for a slippery bottle and I missed it. I rode the first 35 minutes fairly aggressively (HR in the 178-180 range) as I could see John up the road. Chris Leiferman passed me and was absolutely flying. I tried to go with him for a minute but my HR spiked to 183 and that was not sustainable. Later, John, Justin Park, and I had a little group going but I am admittedly not very good at the USAT stagger rule, so I was overly conservative and that did not help. As a result, we split and I lost about a minute and a half to John. I was riding comfortably with them, but we had an official right next to us for five miles and I was constantly zig zagging to make sure I kept a stagger. That is definitely something to work on.

Run: 1:30. Oh man this run really was a game of survival. I went out feeling completely comfortable and run 12:00 for the first two miles and was not breathing hard (HR in the 160s), but the heat absolutely ate me up. The run was four loops of 3.275 miles with half in a rolling trail and half on what felt like the surface of the sun! I passed Mike Hermanson and John early on, but Mike passed me back at four miles and I was just focused on finishing. After that, I could feel myself stop sweating so I stopped at the next aid station and got two waters, a gatorade, and ice down my kit and held ice in my hands for the rest of the run. If I had done this from the start, I don't think I would have felt so badly but four decently hard miles early cost me. 

Finish: 4:18 and 7th. About a month ago, this would have gained me 800 euros, but after the prize purses were cut, I did not get that. I am excited to feel like I have figured out the half distance a bit more and will race Challenge St. Andrews half with more confidence. In two weeks is Philly Tri!

French Creek Triathlon

French Creek Triathlon: Win and a CR

In the professional side of triathlon, 'times are a changin'. While a few years ago, olympic distance and half distance racing had prize purses in many series (REV 3, 5150, etc.) but as of this year, the number of races with prize purses has dwindled further to some Challenge half distances, ITU events (where one must be doing well in a world cup to break even), the full distance ironman events, and then some local races. My friend, and fellow professional triathlete/race director John Kenny, put his money where his passion is and put up a decent prize purse for a local triathlon. Because of this, I decided to race here at French Creek (1 hour away) versus Challenge Knoxville (9 hours). In the end, I ended up winning, setting a course record, and volunteering at the kids race the day before. It was a great event and I would love to see more local races putting up small purses and using local pros to their advantage (volunteering, clinics, etc.)

Here is a little recap of the race.

Swim: 18:17, 2nd behind Pierre, a solid triathlete with a swimming background from University of Pittsburgh. I tried to hold his feet to the best of my ability, and we ended up putting a solid gap into the rest of the field in the two loop swim. He exited the water 6 seconds in front of me.

 

T1: 35 seconds and got out on the bike course first.

Bike:1:11:50, fastest split. The bike is a hard and hilly ride. About 2400 ft climbing during the 24.6 mile leg. My race file is here: https://www.strava.com/activities/306585561

The course is two times out and back with two significant climbs/descents each direction. I saw a speed >50 mph on my garmin on one of the downs and was happy with that. My plan was to go very hard up the hills and recover a bit down but keep spinning my legs and stay very aero. I saw by the first turn around, I had about 2 minutes on second and then 4 minutes at the half way mark. I felt like I eased up the second lap a little but was only 10 seconds slower. I came into T2 with ~9 minute lead

 

Run: 36:20, fastest split by 3 mins. To try an elucidate how hard of a course this run is might be a job better suited for a dramatic poet. You climb and climb and climb for 4 miles. When you think you will turn around, you continue on a fire road path to the top of a small "peak" at French Creek around 1100 feet (Transition is 300 feet). I saw that Philly Pro Tri teammates Zach Smith and Luke Davis were in 2nd and 5th, respectively and was pretty pumped to share the podium with friends.

The other positive of these local races is representing local sponsors that help support triathlon. Kevin  McCauley from Square One Investments (not only spectated, but took all of these pictures!) and all of Team Philly Pro Tri were at the race, which is fantastic as I am supremely thankful for their support.