Escape from Alcatraz Race Report

BannerEscape from Alcatraz Triathlon was an unanticipated bonus which resulted from an Age Group win at Escape Huntington Beach earlier this Spring (a qualifying race in the Escape series).  I generally take these things very seriously but for a change decided that I would prioritize an appreciation for the experience with this bucket list opportunity, rather than chasing numbers or placement.    This included, in addition to the race, enjoying my first time in San Francisco and hanging out with my host friends in addition to those from LA racing.

It’s almost comical because we hear it all the time (at least I do) – “when you remove pressure and simply enjoy the experience it’ll open yourself up for success”.  I’ve found this is far from the case with me, at least in the literal sense.  Racing STRONG is difficult, painful and emotionally draining but the ends almost always justify the means having tested yourself both mentally and physically to achieve the best possible result.  ‘Racing for fun’ has always been a struggle as I’ve come to understand it loses its glory to not go deep and give a competition my best. Though over time I’ve gotten better at being able every once in a while to take it down a notch, look around to appreciate where I am and what I’m doing.

Pre Race

The coach in me would flip out if he saw how my 45 minute pre-race spin turned into hours tooling around San Franscico, through Golden Gate Park, across the Golden Gate Bridge, up into the mountains and eventually back to where I was staying.  However, I felt that experiencing San Francisco was equally important to racing and I can’t think of a better way to learn a new city than by getting lost in it on a bike or run.    I was shocked and confused from what I’d heard, expecting to see nothing but densely populated city apartments on hilly streets, to be surrounded by beautiful green trees and magnificent landscapes.

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My journey across the bridge and up Hawk Hill left me with a breathtaking view of the city, complete with Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island and even whales surfacing in the Bay.  I’m told the weather isn’t always great but the whole weekend couldn’t have been any nicer.

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Race Report

The logistics of this race are tough.  I started my morning with a 3:45am wake up call, 30 minute ride in the dark to transition, 15 minute bus ride to the ferry before shipping off at 6:30am for an eventual 7:30am race start.  With a million opportunities for something to go wrong I was thankful to get on board with plenty of time to spare.  It was quite the experience sitting on the boat with athletes in every direction, stressing about what was about to take place.  There were video’s and conversations concerning what various landmarks to sight off of but I didn’t pay it much attention, instead sighting only the big dome I knew to be near the finish, making sure it stayed on my right to correct for the strong current.

Swim

Swim File

I took the swim very easy (139bpm!!) to enjoy the clear best segment and fame to this race, and am pretty proud of my line, though I did swim close to land realizing I didn’t know where we entered.  It was a comical moment when I made eye contact with another swimmer to my right who popped her head up to yell “I have no idea where we’re going!!”.  I would like to say for anyone looking to do this race for the first time, PRACTICE, RELAX, then ENJOY.  You cause way more harm inside your head than good and the actual event is rarely as bad as you make it out to be.  Check out the videos to see how gnarly 300 people unloading off a ferry in less than 10 minutes looks –

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Bike

Bike File

Bike Elevation

Coming from Huntington Beach with Zero elevation to a 1500ft course in under 20 miles and a guy who generally drops his head to focus on a number this was a much welcomed change.  I’ve never heard so many people laughing and cheering in a competition as I did with this race.  The course was simply FUN, pushing to the top of each hill and through before relaxing a bit on the down hill.  I did get passed by a bunch of people on the initial climbs but no one on the second half of the race, and the most on each decent which was surprising considering my limited bike skills.

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I believe I had a decent bike considering, difficult to tell from power numbers but I was definitely pushing hard at times.

Bike 2

Run

Run File

Run Graph

For the run I backed it off significantly.  I got behind a runner for the first 2 miles to settle in and shield from the wind before we began the monster climb which lasted over a mile.  Up to the top, down to the sand and back, not allowing for any real opportunity to open things up.  I told myself I wouldn’t jeopardize my body by pushing any climbs, descents or on the sand which ended up being 70% of the run course.   There was a “sand ladder” which was a brutal up hill climb on deep sandy steps which I proudly walked.

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When I reached the final straight away of flat I decided to open it up and ran the next two miles at 5:50/mile pace.  It was a encouraging sign to show that I had a good amount left in the tank and that I can still run fast, for at least 10 minutes or so.  I almost wish the course was longer as it was very enjoyable running by people till the finish.

Run 1

I know the price tag on this race makes it hard to swallow, if you can even manage to make it through the wait list, but I do highly recommend it as a race to do once in a lifetime.  You will have fun!

My body suffered from the immediate 7 hour drive home and immense amount of caffeine that ensued.  Now it’s the next 6 weeks upping my game for my 4th shot at my first ever Ironman in Lake Placid July 23.  As my buddy Dan says “Giddy up!”.

Escape Surf City Race Report

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This weekends inaugural Escape Surf City triathlon illustrated a unique phenomenon in competition.  My only goal for this event was to race uninhibited by limitations in search of a breakthrough performance without fear of blowing up.  I wanted to plow through the swim as if it was the 1k, race the bike at 300 watts and see if I had anything left on the run.  The reality was after a relatively slow(er) swim, I felt I had a very decent bike (287 watts/24.9mph) and 6:10ish run, coming into the shoot content that I hadn’t left anything on the course.  Then when I saw my place (2nd in AG), and heard that 1st got a free qualifying entry to do Escape from Alcatraz I couldn’t help but feel a little defeated, thinking “could I have gone a little bit faster?”, “I wonder how much I missed it by..?”.  I put on a happy face and congratulated friends on a job well done.

After a couple much needed celebratory drinks in the beer garden I decided to look up my results and was stunned to see a new first in AG ‘David Welby’.  With a big grin on my face I ran over to the timing tent to verify it wasn’t a glitch (apparently the 1st place guy had DQ’d for some undetermined reason).  From that point on I was happy as could be and enjoyed the rest of the morning, celebrating teammate one after another podiuming at awards, before collecting my spot for what I am told is truly a bucket list race experience.

The interesting part is acknowledging how we define success and are influenced by factors outside of one’s control.  This behavior has been ingrained in our minds from years of habit, chasing medals and podium spots at races where you simply don’t know who will show up, or times on variable courses in distance and conditions.  I’ve had PR races where I don’t even make the podium and sloppy morning after performances where I’ve won.  Outside of all the Instagram views and Facebook likes there are only a small sliver of close friends/family and teammates who can decipher all the data to see what it really means.

Absent all the deep thought the important thing to note is that I AM HAPPY, and that I truly appreciate those that take the careful time to follow and care.  Racing is such a special gift and it has taught me that though there are vast discrepancies in performance based on age, talent and resources, that success favors the driven and that overcoming pain is a virtue that transcends the race course.  Looking forward to all the opportunities ahead this season, especially the fun events in my near future (Wildflower, Alcatraz, etc).  2018 is shaping up pretty well so far 😊

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Race Report

Swim

Uggh.., welcome to the beginning of open water!  I’m just thankful that we’ve had so much race ready experience in the Tower26 program to be conditioned to whatever the ocean can throw at us.  The water was cold, rough and unpredictable.  Watching the female pros attempting to swim up current after being blown off course prompted me to take the initial section well south of straight to the first buoy.  I think I may have overdone it, looking at my Garmin file afterward and because I quickly found myself all alone.  I did however manage the swim in well, being able to stay close(er) to the exit arches while the majority of swimmers were carried down the beach.  I was a little embarrassed to dunk under one breaking wave rather than ride it in, but I won’t be as timid next time.

Swim Course

The stretch into transition was long, and I noticed way more people ahead of me than I was preparing for, which only meant more targets to chase down on the bike and run.

Swim 1

Bike

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I’ve been growing more and more excited to bike recently.  Though the run is supposed to be my strength I’ve noticed my bike leg being disproportionately faster than my run in Desert Tri and now again in Surf City.  I’ve taken a little time to dial in my fit, have looked to save watts with equipment as best as I can afford and at 165lbs with 290 watts am seeing fairly decent speeds.  Like I mentioned I started the bike slightly behind but made up for it, not getting passed once on either bike or run legs.

Bike 2

I began the leg with data, looking at power and heart rate, but after a first lap on a pancake flat course with little to no wind realized that I was as close to breaking 25mph as I’ve ever been.  So, I turned off all data fields except speed which read 24.9mph at the start of the second lap and decided I’d do whatever it took to crack the barrier by the dismount line.  I rode as hard as I could, which if there you might have noticed by my face, but in the end could only hold on to 24.9mph (guess I’ll have to be back next year to give it another go).

Bike 1

One noteworthy aspect of the bike leg, and let me know if you encountered the same, was that it was on a closed 2 lane (each way) section of PCH, with a 2-loop course for the Olympic, and though there was plenty of room throughout the vast majority of riders, especially encountered on my second loop, chose to ride the center line rather than stay right.  I did my best to yell “ON YOUR LEFT” but often presented with the decision to pass on the right or risk DQing by crossing the white line decided to take the lessor of two evils, passing on the right.  In the future I’d hope the officials would encourage riders over for a safer experience.

Bike Graph

Run

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Even though the Olympic run distance is only 6.2 miles I made a conscious pivot in strategy, opting to ease into it, hoping to go steady until the turnaround, slowing down dramatically on the sand to protect my body, then giving it all I had on the way home.  From the graph you can see how much my pace was influenced by the sand.

Run 1

As I approached the turnaround I spotted a familiar face (Reilly Smith) in the not too distance.  Getting off the sand I decided I’d give whatever I had to try and catch him.  In the pursuit I found another teammate (Mauro Domingo) with 2 miles to go, who encouraged Reilly was next ahead.  [Necessary to call out Mauro who has made such significant gains in his racing as indicated at Oceanside and Escape Surf City].   With one mile left I estimated Reilly was about 30 seconds ahead and I buried the needle.  It’s a funny thing how you work your hardest to chase down someone and when you do they generally complement your effort and encourage you on (very friendly enemies on the race course!).  Mauro, Reilly and myself all finished within a minute of each other for 1, 2 and 3 AG spots.

Run 2

Run Graph

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2018 Oceanside Race Report

 

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Years of racing experience has taught me that performance is gauged on 3 key elements, 1) Preparation, 2) Execution and 3) Body Response (simply how your body responds to the day).  It’s amazing to me how if you could place yourself in a vacuum, repeating the same workouts, meals, sleep and prerace rituals, you still can’t guarantee how a particular pace or wattage is going to feel.  This is most notable to me as I’ve been repeating the same training blocks leading into Oceanside for the last couple years, while steady gains haven’t always meant consistent outcomes.

Oceanside Comparison

It’s no lie I wanted this race, more than any other this season.  I’ve been guilty before of using certain local races as a tune up for some A race in the middle of who knows where to compete against who knows who.  Oceanside is unique in it’s timing and location to bring out all the best competition as well as friends and teammates to compete against and cheer you on.  It’s a venue like no other getting to race “Ironman” on one of our beautiful SoCal beaches.  It’s also an obvious advantage for the locals who can get outside and adapt while the rest of the country is indoors on trainers or doing long runs through blustery winter conditions.  All of these elements – top competition, wonderful support, stunning venue and training advantage are why I look at this as a key race opportunity rather than a dusting off the cobwebs scenario.

In the month leading up to race day I gave up alcohol, mandated 8 hours of sleep a night, rode exclusively on the trainer and dialed in my diet to bring myself to optimal race weight.  I was lifting more than before while responding well with great runs and rides, most notable from my large power gains at Desert Tri, the 2018 kickoff, suggesting I might be capable of a little more on the bike leg.  This race has a history of getting me excited, no fear or apprehension, just immense eagerness to get out there and get it done.  Everything up until to the start went flawlessly, leaving no excuse to do anything but PR the course, perhaps my Half Ironman time as well.  But unfortunately, after a decent swim (sub 30) I wasn’t able to hold power on the bike leading to an unimpressive bike split and mediocre run.

People ask if I’m happy or upset about how it went.  Honestly I’m indifferent.  My effort was there, just not quite the output.  It’s harder to justify the pain when outside of your sweet spot, but it’s also necessary.  Any race is a roll of the dice and with triathlon just because you have a bad bike doesn’t mean you won’t respond abnormally well on the run.  Even if you fall flat across the board there’s always purpose in pushing through (allowing you stay healthy).  It’s what we do day in and out.  I have two more races in the next month, Surf City Olympic and Wildflower.  My only goal for these is to have fun, push deep and not be afraid to blow up.  More practice on the road will be key to building familiarity with pacing and fit.  When it clicks I’ll be ready and the pain that comes from 200bpm will be well justified.

Congrats to those who raced, especially Pat Redner who finished seconds behind first Amateur overall, Mauro for a nasty bike split and seemingly breakthrough performance, Seb for your Worlds qualification, Haley for overcoming early season injury to podium, as well as everyone else who participated.  Big thanks to Sabrina and Mat for housing me 3 years in a row.  Rachel, Craig and the Tower26 crew for spectating.  Looking forward to being back again in 2019!

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Race Report

Swim

Oceanside Swim

I’m honestly surprised with the pace per effort for this swim (29:51).  Kept it comfortable throughout.  When I split my Garmin I was more expecting to see a 35:XX than 29:XX.  Though it was fairly brutal early on things got better as it progressed, not getting clobbered but still managing to find tiny bubbles most of the time.  Helped a bunch spotting and keeping pace with my buddy Mauro for the second half.

Bike

Oceanside Bike

No surprise as I pedaled out of T1 both glutes were on fire.  I decided I’d keep it light for the first 3 miles and then aim for my 270 watt target after as the pain went away.  As always there was a group of riders that formed making me feel very uncomfortable.  I tried to get ahead to separate but my power was suddenly 300+ watts.  Once I heard an official the only thing I could do was stop peddling for a good 30 seconds allowing the peloton to pass and collect their drafting penalty.  Things stayed open enough from there on out.

Power was disastrous this race!!  I don’t know if I ever hit my target in any of my lap splits.  I’m led to believe, though my most recent fit had small adjustments, that I didn’t get enough time in the saddle to adapt properly.  I am confident I had the strength needed and am eager to show it in one of my upcoming races.

Oceanside Bike Pic

Side note – smiling is so un-aero!

Run

Oceanside Run

This is where I tried to pick up the pieces, and although my performance was lack luster (6:30’s vs 6:10’s) I should be thankful having seen so many accomplished athletes blow up on the course.  I think being an early season race adds to the uncertainty.  Above all else it was great to hear so many friends shouting my name coming out of T2.

Oceanside Run Pic

2018 Desert Triathlon

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Haven’t done a race report in a while.  I’ve almost forget how this goes, but I know it involves charts so here’s one –

Comparison Chart

Early season races are something of a wild card.  There’s little expectation and much less predictability.   Going into this race my T26 workouts had been way off the mark, my biking pathetic at times and I hadn’t done a single transition run so I had no clue how my legs would feel coming off a hard ride.  I use Desert Tri as a jumping off point to look ahead at Oceanside to gauge my fitness and determine what my targets should reasonably be for the next 4 week block.  The good news is, I continue to see when you put in the work day after day good things will happen, and sometimes you surprise yourself.  This was particularly the case as I found myself 20 watts above target on the bike, flirting with 300 for the majority of the ride, for the 3rd fastest bike split of the day.

I’m not sure how exactly this happened.  I would have thought my power meter was off if it wasn’t for the 1mph improvement from last year.  One variable that could be responsible is that fact I’ve been spending 3 days/week in the gym lifting heavy.  I made a decision to focus on my overall health this year, and did not expect the increase in muscle mass would help triathlon, actually thinking it would hurt it, but undoubtedly my legs felt fresher than ever before pushing numbers I hadn’t seen on the bike other than while FTP testing.

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Another contributor was following a new strategy I didn’t settle on until the morning of the race, discussing with a Tower26 friend Craig Taylor moments before the gun going off.  I asked him about his head position, noticing a large amount of pros not looking up in many of their pictures.  He said he sights similar to the swim and I figured I’d test the same, looking up every 5 Mississippi to ensure the road was clear and spotting off the line.  This surprisingly worked great as my body felt incredibly good, especially with the removed pressure from my neck.  I’d be interested to hear others take on this, especially my amateur elite friends.

Bike 1

The last piece to the puzzle is simple effort.  I used to hit HR’s in the 160’s to 170’s during these races.  Now I’m averaging in the 180’s.  Where that used to really hurt now I welcome the pain.  If I can time it right to redline while maintaining or even negative splitting I’ve had a great day.  I maxed out in the 194 descending into sub 6 the last mile of the race and relished every second of the pain.

Swim

This year I took the time to stop and sight, especially during the longest 10+ minute buoy free section, and as a result I swam straight, unlike the majority of age groupers, exiting 3rd in my wave.  Unfortunately I didn’t work as hard as I should, which was reflected in my pace and HR.

Swim Map

Bike

Here’s another graph comparing last year to this year.

Bike Power

I know the course is a little short but it felt great to finally go sub 1 hour in the Olympic distance bike.

Bike 2

Run

As I neared the dismount line I bent down to unvelcro my shoes and during pulled a muscle in my stomach (ever have an ab pop out, it’s gross and painful).  I thought perhaps my race was over but was able to push through and the problem went away within minutes.  I am very happy with my execution on the run.  I started comfortable and increased effort after the first loop, finishing the last mile with everything I had.  My pace only dropped a little, from 6:18 to 6:00, but my effort increased dramatically.  I would love to go sub 6/mile next year.

Desert Tri Run

Pictures

Shirt Version

3rd in AG, 5th Overall

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Tower26 teammates all had a good day!

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Victorious Victory Meal

Looking back on 2017 – Arizona, triathlon and life in general

It’s been about a month since my last race, Ironman Arizona, and it’s taken that much time to allow emotions to simmer enough to reflect on how that experience went, it’s impact on my 2017 season, and what it means moving forward, looking ahead to 2018.

2017 – A season of up’s and downs

It’s funny how when you look at my performances in 2017, the long season, starting in February and ending in November, looks something of a simultaneous failure and success.  It began with perhaps my best career performance at Oceanside and ended with yet another Ironman flop at Arizona, comprised exclusively of very high highs, generally low lows, with little in-between.  Qualifying for Worlds, stepping on the podium 7 times (at the top 3 times) and hitting my best 70.3 splits, contrasted heavily with long drives/flights home from letdown performances where the same effort was met by resistance from my body.

2017 Results 2

I had a particular plan from the start for my 2017 season and in hindsight a clear pattern occurred.  The dust-off, stepping-stone races I used as a means to lead me somewhere greater, entering in tired and without pressure I CRUSHED, the one’s I prioritized and placed most value on, entering rested and feeling at the height of my fitness I FLOPPED.  Oceanside was supposed to be an early season tune up for my chance to qualify at St George a month later.  I hit 30:03 mins on the swim, 265 watts on the bike and ran a 1:23 for a great outcome at a very competitive race then walked the end of a 1:48 at St George a month later.  I took Santa Barbara as a training exercise, doing the middle portion of the bike and run at Ironman effort (still placing 2nd in AG) only to set a new PL (Personal Low) on the bike and hobble a 1:44 through the run at Worlds in Chatanooga.  And when it came to my final race of the season I stood 2nd on the podium at Arizona 70.3 (4:30), entering in on tired legs through the heaviest portion of my training load only to fall apart, coming in completely rested, at the Full there a month later.

What you might think is “Well it’s obvious, you overshot your means at your goal races having executed better backing off at your set-up races”.  To this I could show you my HR/power files where I lowered targets tremendously at both major A races.  At Chatanooga with the dreaded first climb I lowered power from 260 to 250 watts planning to build power over the second half of the bike.  I watched age groupers fly by me like I wasn’t moving thinking ‘look at those fools, I’ll be passing them before this ride is over’ but by the time I got off the bike I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to run with my legs cramping so badly (average power 239 watts).  At Arizona, where I had friends all shooting to go under 5 hours on the bike with intense targets, I stuck to power and fueling as I had in every long training ride, keeping HR under 150 and executing flawlessly on my nutrition plan, leading to a 5:24 split at only 181 watts yet still felt like absolute shit getting off the bike.

The prevailing realization at Arizona was that I wasn’t enjoying myself half way through the bike, and in a 10+ hour race you’ve invested so much time and energy into that shouldn’t be the case.  I had the best set up week imaginable from private jet flight in, to super Sherpa helping me along every step of the way, low stress, time off my feet and the most diligent nutrition/fueling I have ever executed against.  My fitness was clearly there from my result at the half a month earlier and I set the bar so low with my targets I was certain I’d get off the bike feeling ok for the first time in 8 attempts.  Perhaps the harsh truth is Ironman is always going to suck, but then why do I keep signing up??  The top guy in my age group went 8:36 at Arizona this year, 8:36!!!!  At my best I would have been happy with adding an hour to that for my time, whereas in the half I can realistically shoot for the podium and enjoy the experience of racing through 4.5 hours regardless of the pain. But that I guess is what makes Ironman so attractive.  It’s not the experience like all other races, it’s the immense challenge and rare but immeasurable sense of accomplishment from finally getting it right.

2018 Looking Froward

I find myself at another cross roads.  The hardest thing about passion is the desire to give it nothing short of your all.  In the past I’ve ballanced racing among career, dating, hobbies and a social life which led to feeling like a jack of all trades but a master of none.  In contrast I’ve had years with 1-on-1 coaching, 30 hour training weeks, equipment nutrition and fueling that had me at the top of my game but financially strapped and struggling to hold onto the remaining components of a ballanced life.  I started this year with all the pieces to the puzzle, feeling happy, challanged and accomplished all around and now at the end feel like I’m running on empty.

I’m split between the desire to back off from triathlon, focus on accelerating my career, navigating the tumultuous waters of dating in LA to take a more active roll toward seeing if a family is in the cards for my future, designating more time to maintain relationships I’ve neglected in the past from a lack of time or priority, OR continuing on for another year of what I know.  Acknowledge that all the above mentioned dissatisfaction is a symptom of not having a coach in my corner and invest back into this sport as far as knowledge, time and resources.

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The greater realization that’s I’ve come to understand is that control is an illusion and moderation is the key, meaning (and as I experienced first hand in 2017) if you set out to be the best athlete you can be you mistakenly position yourself for failure and if you go looking for missing pieces to the puzzle they often escape you.  Rather if you enjoy the process, look for the best in each opportunity, live within your means from not just a financial but time perspective as well good things tend to happen.  If I can hold onto this notion I am confident great opportunities will come my way from life in general.

As far as triathlon is concerned I’m signed up for a handful of races already (Oceanside, Wildflower and Lake Placid).  In addition I look forward to doing as many small local races as I can to keep it light and fun.  I’m going to talk to a couple close friends and if I can afford it look at getting coached again, and if I can’t no worries either.  I hobbled a bike together in the hopes of joining some more social yet challenging group rides, keeping off the trainer as much as my neurotic brain will let me.  Train like a beast whenever I can but pass on sessions when more important things come up.  And as a north star, look forward to a East coast triathlon reunion in Placid back where it all began as an opportunity to relive my first Ironman among friends rather than limit the experience to another failed opportunity at Kona.

Role Models

And if they’ve made it this far into the read I’d like to end with my three greatest role models of 2017, the people who I look at their success and think, “wow, it all makes sense!”  1) My old roommate and good friend Kim Stoveld.  Like it wasn’t enough for you to dominate the sport of swimming through your young athletic career, seeing you  progress through triathlon so quickly, coming back from your bike accident to crush Chattanooga, your die-hard commitment with ability to still have fun has been such a great thing to watch and a personal inspiration to me!  2) Long time teammate Tim Maxon.  I probably spend more time on the phone discussing triathlon and life with you than most people do with their entire family combined.  The things you’ve accomplished this year, race after race amount to more than I could expect in a lifetime.  You’ve found the magic recipe of total commitment while still having fun.  Even better things for you ahead!  And finally, 3) previous QT2 Teammate Amy Javens.  Seeing your win at Los Cabos after all the hard work you’ve put in day after day, year after year shows how commitment and dedication pay off, congrats!!

Here’s to good things ahead in 2018!

Triathlon Summary

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Ironman Arizona 70.3 Race Report

Biggest take away from this past weekend “perhaps you’re stronger than you think”.  It’s easy among the monotony of balancing Ironman overload with a full-time job and attempting to maintain a reasonable social life on top of it to question “am I fit” as feelings of fatigue and mental burn out start creeping in.  I get in my own head better than perhaps anyone else I know, but this weekend was all about turning off my mind and letting my body do the talking.  I’m not in love with a flat course 1:29, but realize that coming off a 200 mile bike and 30 mile run weekend it’s probably appropriate.  Hunting down the few age groupers ahead reminded me why I love this sport.  The thrill of the chase and confidence of knowing you are well prepared to finish strong make all the hard work and sacrifice worth it.  Here’s just a few observations from the weekend (no large race report) on Arizona and triathlon in general.

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If you haven’t done this race before in the last 2 years of it’s existence I’d highly recommend it as a late season option.  Drivability is a huge plus, hotel’s are inexpensive, it’s mostly flat and the 3 loop, 60+ turn course make it more fun than annoying.  One overt observation as it almost cost me my race is navigating the roads to find parking the morning of was perhaps the hardest I’ve ever experienced.  Waze told me the 1.1 mile drive would take only 5 minutes but it ended up taking 45 minutes after two large loops of the bike course and no offer of assistance from traffic signs or police.  I’m glad however if it had to happen I’d learn my lesson now rather than on the 19th of November.

Arizona Parking

Swim

The swim was a non-technical straight forward out and back with only 3 turns.  I found myself on the far left after a brief warm-up (there is no practice swim the day before and you get about 8 minutes to warm-up in the water before your wave).  I did get into a minor altercation in the first minute going over a swimmer’s back to keep from getting pushed left where the guy was grabbing my ankles in retaliation.  Other than that I was able to find open water the rest, finishing 8th in AG out of the water –

Tempe Swim

Major observation – I heard a bunch of Age Groupers bragging about how nice their goggles were, showing off a cool looking metallic dark tint.  Meanwhile I noticed I was one of the very few in clear lenses despite it being very dark out, the sun not having risen yet at 6:36am.  Know your course for goggle selection.  I’ve found, unless you’re sighting into the sun that clear lenses are almost always the best option.  Especially in a discipline where vision is SO IMPORTANT.

Ironman Swim

Bike

This was one of the most technical courses I’ve ever ridden, having 3 loops including 60+ turns and 3×180 degree hairpins per lap.  The first lap was empty but by the third all the congestion was getting a little dangerous.  It became hard finding a seam into each turn when you’re doing 25+ mph in a wave of 18mph.  All the action made for a good distraction however as the miles went by incredibly fast.  I knew I couldn’t rely on power with all the turns, and I usually go by HR, looking to target 160bpm, but this time oddly enough I just focused on speed, noting I went through the first lap at 23.1mph and wanting to hold if not pick-up the pace.  I might have been able to pick it up if it weren’t for the congestion, finishing at 23.1mph avg.

Tempe Ride

Major observation – I spend a lot of time on the bike and although it isn’t my greatest discipline I will usually maintain placement in my AG.  On this day I had a handful of AG’rs blow by me on the bike like I was barely moving, especially on the turns.  I saw guys and girls get out of the saddle and hammer the first few cranks around each turn while I kept it smooth and consistent.  I know that this was the right call because after 60+ power spikes I was able to overtake all who had passed me on the bike in just about the first mile of the run.

Ironman Bike

Run

This run had it’s pros and cons.  I was very excited to take on a pancake flat course and get the experience for the Full running basically the same path.  There was areas of shade and even soft surfaces, which I love!  Support was great on both 6.5 mile laps.  I got good practice with my nutrition.  But, my pace was relatively slow considering.  I started in the 6:20’s and slow down a little for a 6:47 average.  Having run a 1:22 earlier this season I had hoped for at least a 1:25, but imagine my legs were just too fatigued.  I maintained a perfect HR and had nothing left to give.  Relatively though I felt like superman as I was able to quickly overtake the 4 or so guys ahead of me in transition who had blown-up, some well into a death march.

Tempe Run

Major observation – Know your ability across the duration.  There is no such thing as a ‘great bike’ if you die on the run.  I almost felt like saying “check out your power” to the guys who sprinted by me on the bike.  The Half is a pretty long race but the Full can become EPIC if you die early in the run (remembering doing a 6 hour walk with my buddy at Texas after we both died in the heat.

Ironman Run

Final take away

I was nervous about heading out to Arizona at first but am now very glad that I did.  Racing is fun and I had a blast out there, regardless of the outcome.  Having done the 70.3 I am still a little anxious about participating in the Full (the more Full Ironmans I do the more I respect the distance) but feel like I learned a good amount to help prepare me.  Perhaps the most confidence came from testing my new Infinite customized blend which left me with zero digestional issues, muscle cramps, etc in a race where many had issues in the heat.   I was able to ride a good portion of the Full course the day before and am excited about it’s speed.  It’s no surprise to me now how so many go so fast on this course.

1 month to go!  Not sure how I’ll net out but excited to get there!!

Podium

Looking Ahead – Ironman Arizona and Arizona 70.3

Though the DNF rate at Worlds was surprisingly low considering the grueling course, I did have two incredible triathlete friends drop out, one siting that it just wasn’t there physically or mentally.  It’s inevitable that some days are going to be harder than others.  I mentioned to a buddy the morning before the race, while looking into transition, that although it’s always the same distance from the start, the finish shoot often feels much closer or farther away depending on the day you’re having.  I recall Ironman Lake Placid 2013 throwing my back out while putting on my wetsuit then continuing to race the next 10 hours through debilitating pain to a new IM PR.  That day was a real test!  But it’s much more fun to race confident.  All my best races have come while feeling good with the numbers coming together gracefully.

Following Chattanooga I was compelled to look back at previous 70.3’s to see how often the numbers fell apart, noticing unsurprisingly so that I had much greater consistency back when I was being coached.

703 Report Card

This could be because I was more diligent with my workouts, being kept in check each time I deviated, or also because I was notably more committed with significantly greater volume.  Perhaps it was due to season planning, though I managed to stay consistent racing fresh or fatigued.  My feeling is the attachment I had to HR was more substantial than I realized at the time (which my coach was always trying to ingrain into my head), and that my daily commitment to that one number (bpm) payed dividend on race morning.

Whatever the cause, following my last 2 sub-par performances, I’d like to get back to the land of consistency on the bike and run, where I didn’t have to look at my watch to know I was dead on (150/160bpm on the bike and run respectively).  These were always the days of PR’s and podiums.  Operating at 176bpm for a solid 2.5 hours on the bike is unstainable in a 70.3 and potentially devastating in the 10 hour sport of Ironman.

Looking forward to my last 2 races, Arizona 70.3 in October and Ironman Arizona in November I am making a commitment to get back to a few of the core concepts that led my success in 2014.

  • Staying in zone – I will be turning off all my data except HR and Time for the key longer workouts and monitoring my output afterwards only.
  • Race day fueling in training – piggybacking off of training in zone I will be prioritizing fueling as I would on race day to train my gut as well as my muscles for the Full, having never had a true success over that distance.
  • Prioritization of key workouts – namely putting more emphasis on my longer efforts to determine where I’m at leading into the full. I’d love to get comfortable with my long bricks, not just surviving, so that I can feel confident approaching the full.

Here’s my 9 week program –

In addition to the 3 criteria’s above there’s one more that I’m throwing into the mix and that is enjoying the process and remembering to have fun.   Otherwise all the hard work will feel like it was for nothing if you can’t enjoy what you’re doing to get to the test and not just the outcome.  Ways of doing this include being social with workouts, not taking yourself so seriously and preventing long workouts from being a deterrent to a well-balanced social life.

This week has been all about refreshing the mind and body.  We will get back to work on Monday.  Looking forward to it!

2017 Ironman 70.3 World Championships

It took some distance and time for reflection before being able to put down in writing my feelings from this past weekend at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Chattanooga.  I set my sights on this race over a year ago when I missed qualifying at Vineman 70.3 by just 30 seconds, having only 3 slots in my Age Group and coming in 4th.

Vineman Podium

I tried again at Santa Cruz, not even scratching the surface, and was finally able to grab my coveted spot at Oceanside the following year, with one of my best 70.3 race performance to date.

Worlds Spot

But it wasn’t enough just to get there, I wanted to take full advantage of this rare home race opportunity to shine among friends and family on the World stage.  Unfortunately for me, and some close friends who also competed this past weekend this wasn’t the case.

I wanted to take this race report in two directions, converging at the end.  The first is a small critique on where we set the bar for success and how it impacts feelings of self-worth.  The second is my learnings on how to have a successful race in terms of variables (inside and outside of one’s control) and the significance of trial and error in the sport of Ironman.  If any of this peaks your interest I encourage you to read on..

Setting the Bar

It’s a hazardous game setting the bar for what you deem to be success in racing and trying not to being influenced by how you are perceived in the eyes of others.  As an example, I had been feeling pretty good wining my AG twice and runner up once in my last 3 local races.  It’s fun to post podium pictures and count the number of likes.  However the vast majority don’t understand what’s truly achieved in the scheme of things.  This weekend, due to some issues inside and outside of my control, I had my first 5+ hour (5:00:33) 70.3 in many years which landed me 211th in my AG out of 366.  However, had everything miraculously come together the way I had wanted it I might have been fortunate to break the top 100 in my Age Group alone, among a powerhouse field.  Returning to work this morning I was confronted with “did you win??  Ohh no, well what happened?!?”  Even received a note regarding my cancelled flight from Hurricane Irma –

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Perhaps I hadn’t prepared myself mentally enough for what I expected out of this experience.

As mentioned above I had a handful of friends miss their mark on race day from under-performing to a few DNF’s.  The irony is that when I look at those friends not one ounce of me imposes judgement or blame.  I am so amazed and humbled by their ability, drive and perseverance.  Yet when it comes to my own judgement I am somewhat incapable of feeling the same.  Perhaps that’s just the demons we struggle with as a driven competitor, always hungry, never satisfied.

Race Report

My downfall in this race was not in its execution.   Having the luxury of watching the woman race Saturday I was compelled to adjust my expectations, lowering my targets in preparation for a grueling run after a hard swim and bike.  I decided to take the swim comfortable, knowing that the current may slow us down I was prepared to see 35+ minutes on my watch and was very pleasantly surprised to see 32:18 exiting the water.

Chat Swim

swim

On the bike I took the first few miles well below my 260 watt target to prepare the legs and take down nutrition and fueling.  For the entire 3 mile climb I set a cap of 265 watts (lap average) which left most of my competition screaming by me like I wasn’t even moving.  I caught a large portion of them back on the downhill where I maintained 260ish watts until I got out of the saddle around mile 30 and realized my quads were on absolute fire.  I backed it down from there a bit, ending with 247 NP and a total time of 2:36:22.

Chat Bike

My hope was being conservative would prepare me for at least a sub 1:30 run on a hilly course but the truth is my legs were in such pain getting off the bike I didn’t think I would be able to even finish.  It took lots of Coke and Red Bull along with my first Fireball shot (Hot Shot – which almost had me puking) for the quads to calm down before the hamstrings started acting up.  I was convinced I’d at least break 5 hours until my left hamstring completely seized with one mile to go, stopping me for the 30 seconds I inevitably missed my mark by.  It was very difficult to trod along at a 7:51 pace among so many strong athletes but my attitude was adjusted and I couldn’t help but smile each time I bumped into my family and friends cheering me on.

Chat Run

Analysis

I am confident after this race I know what the culprit is of my downfall, yet I still don’t know the exact cause.  Though my output and effort were in check the whole race my heart rate was way too high (Swim – 168bpm, Bike – 176bpm, Run – 171bpm @ 7:51 pace!!) .  There is no way my body can effectively consume the fueling I had provided it at such a high heart rate.  If it were an Olympic such as at Chula Vista perhaps I could have survived but in a 5 hour race it is simply unsustainable.  Here’s a comparison of where I was at for Oceanside –

Data

I am confident in my fitness and targets but have come to find sometimes my HR lands in check and sometimes it simply stays too high.  If I were to lower my effort to the point that it stabilized my race would be blown, leaving the options to either survive a lackluster performance or blow up attempting to execute the plan.  What causes my HR to deviate??  I wish I knew that better, there are simply too many variables and I am not qualified to solve this puzzle.  All I can do is take note of the elements including training volume/intensity, nutrition and fueling, stress, course conditions (temp, hills, altitude), make minor adjustments where possible while keeping the rest in check, and hoping for the best.

I am a little nervous to have two big races on the calendar but again will be modifying my expectations, setting the bar at enjoying the experience and flying under the raider until finished to avoid any pressure of performance.  We’ll see how things play out..

In closing, as my coach Gerry always tells me, it’s always important to remember and appreciate the journey, not the outcome.  I am always fortunate to be able to do what I love and share it with those that matter most.

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A Note to All the Singles

It’s been a little while since I put anything down in writing, and perhaps that’s a good thing, a sign that life has been firing on all cylinders, but a recent turn of events has left me lower than my typical feel good self.  A forced few week training hiatus has provided some unanticipated yet much needed reflection.  I am a little unsure where this post lies, as far as triathlon, life lessons or highly anticipated dating entries, but here goes…

I’ve come to establish the foundation of my happiness to be built up of 3 pillars which are 1) Career, 2) Passion and 3) Relationships (including friends, family and significant other).  When one pillar fails I will rely on the others to compensate.  Rarely but every so often two or more pillars are in jeopardy, this past month has been one of those rare occasions.

Pillars of Happiness

Some consideration has led me to ponder what makes relationships so different from the rest.  If you lose your job you go out and find another one, as income is what puts food on the table.  This is why Career is #1, to the extent that it is necessary for survival.  I consider Passion #2 as it is what defines us first as a person.  In my current case, with the sport of triathlon, if I have a low moment, I use it as motivation to set my sights on the next opportunity.  If you have a bad race learn from it and move on to the next.  But when it comes to Relationships (dating in particular) a funny thing happens…  You want it, you need it, but the harder you look for it the more difficult it is to find.

Cartoon CORRECTED

Finally getting back into my usual routine I mentioned this viewpoint to two friends this past weekend, out on the bike and a long run who offered some unique perspective.  The first mentioned that the timing of opportunity with career and passion is not unlike relationships in that in a position of desperation you are never as poised for success when finding another job and that pursuing your passion from a point of desperation will leave you unhinged.  The other friend mentioned what’s more significant than maintaining these pillars is learning from your failures so that you can shape your future and grow as a human being.  (I have some wise friends!!)

My last 4 years living in LA has provided a great number of ‘colorful’ dating stories, great in their terribleness, the more painful to tell the more entertaining to hear!  It’s gotten to the point where this has come to define me in many peoples eyes.  At 33 I’m starting to question whether this is right for me, if I am deserving or whether or not my time will come.  A universal question that many people ask themselves at a certain place/time in their lives.

I am privileged to declare however that my current state has allowed me to resume my focus on career and passion, that these two pillars are firing red hot!  I learned a lot about balance this last year and am encouraged to grow in this avenue at my next opportunity.  As far as ‘relationshiping’ is concerned I think I’m ready for a necessary hiatus, to the dismay of those who’ve asked for the next installment of crazy Welby dating stories.

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And one last but necessary point to convey, though I have Relationships listed as #3, I consider it to be the most foundational pillar as it is the one that makes everything worth it.  I am so beyond grateful for friends in family in life who are always there when I need them and though I will try can never truly repay.

I am hopeful that this post was worth the read to a few and that it serves to anyone in my shared position that you are not alone, that finding happiness isn’t a destination but a process.

Welby

 

St George Race Report

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Ironman can be a bitch, there’s no denying it, and the moment you get cocky is generally the moment it reminds you who’s in charge.  Following Oceanside I had this surreal confidence that I was in control of the 70.3 distance and ready for a breakthrough performance, but my undoing came from a lack of following the simple basics which became painfully obvious (literally) in the opening moments of the bike with familiar debilitating piriformis pain in my left glute.  I’ve overcome this issue in the past through 1) pre-race warmup/stretch, 2) PT strengthening exercises 3) Yoga 2x/week.  Leading up to the race, using taper as an excuse I heavily reduced strength, only got in 1 yoga session a week, then following a long 6+ drive from LA to St George, based off of some troubling logistics with T1/T2 (however still completely in control), I skipped warm-up.  I wasn’t surprised when sharp, stabbing pain hit me in the usual spot, just upset.  In addition I was trying some new fueling I’d been practicing the last few weeks and for whatever reason it just wouldn’t absorb, leaving me racing around with a pregnant feeling, showing off my growing Buddha belly the whole run.

St George Stomach

To round out the trifecta my left calf was bothering me, either from dehydration or the consistent up/down hill of the run, almost making me glad I was too exhausted to truly test it on the downhill 3+ miles back into town.

I take blame for all of these aspects which led to an underwhelming outcome, however I refuse not to learn from them moving ahead.  Here’s what I hope to establish looking forward to Worlds and beyond.

  1. Create a concrete warmup plan to follow (swim and non-swim version) and treat it as if it were part of the race, equally important. This will likely include a 10-minute pre-stretch run to get the blood flowing prior to stretching exercises and entering the water.
  2. Determine a proven 70.3, Full and warm weather fueling protocol. Find what works and stick to it!  This will likely require some Sports Nutritionist input (it’s been a while since my last consult).
  3. BE CONSISTENT with my Strength, Yoga, PT exercises, especially in the weeks leading up to the race, only backing off in the last few days.
  4. Contemplate avoiding hilly, hot courses. This seems like a no-brainer considering I’ve had my worst performances under these conditions.  It’s not shameful avoiding tough conditions, it’s smart choosing courses that instead cater to your strengths.  Plus downhill running simply doesn’t help my calf one bit.

I look forward to getting back to it, but for now triathlon and I are on break.  It’s 4 months until my next scheduled race and with a late season full on the calendar a break isn’t just deserved, it’s necessary.

St George Bike Pic


Swim –

St George Swim

My swim wave was 16th into the water which created a long wait and a messy swim through a sea of AG’ers.  Searching for my swim caps for draft opportunity was like trying to find a cherry Skittle in a left out bowl with only the reject flavors remaining.  I did draft for much of it behind the only swimmer I could find but my time was underwhelming.

Bike –

St George Bike (2)

My piriformus pain was fast acting and very painful, so much so that I had to stop over on the side of the road and stretch it out for a minute (not a good start).  Power after that was dismal, only hitting 247 watts average, way below target and past performances.

Run –

St George Run

The run was hilly (exclusively uphill and down) hot and windy.  Passing my Motel 6 twice I have never been so tempted to stop.  The wind was so dry that after dousing myself each water stop I became instantly dry.   Kudos to the guys and girls that conquered this course, not my day.

St George Run Image