Friday, July 31, 2015

Racing in the worst conditions...Lake T Tri turned duathlon

I had a "fun" time racing the local Lake T sprint tri! This picture is of me running through T2 after a second loop on the bike of torrential downpour where the rain felt like shards of glass flying into my eyeballs at all moments. I was asking "could it really get any worse?" These are the moments we live for as triathletes... Well, maybe not the ones we live for, but definitely the ones we gloat about for the rest of our lives (No...I've raced in the worst conditions...there was this one time at Lake T...). Good times. Anyways, I felt honored to win the race and was happy when the experience was over smile emoticon. Thanks for capturing this moment and so many others, Jennifer Schulten!

Monday, July 20, 2015

2015 New York City Olympic Triathlon Race Report

The New York City Triathlon is one of my favorite races of the year. There were over 3,000 who participated this year and countless volunteers who helped to produce it. It’s truly amazing that so many people are enthusiastic about our sport!

Swim:

The swim started out with a dive off the barge into the Hudson River. This is a unique start, compared to most non-draft legal races where there is a deep water start, making the NYC tri all that more exciting. The dive off makes for an even faster down steam swim! I didn't get a video of the Pro guys going off, but here are the Pro women:


The race director called us down onto the barge one by one. The faster guys like Cam Dye, Ben Collins, and Jessie Thomas all got to line up together on the right hand side of the barge, closest to the center of the river (the fastest moving part of the river). The guys who were less well known, including me, ended up on the slightly less advantages left side of the barge.

When the gun went off, I dove in and started working straight down the river. To my surprise, no one was swimming in front of me for a minute or two. I couldn’t believe it. I thought I was having an awesome start to my swim. As I breathed to my left for those first 2 minutes, my natural breathing side, I could see that there were a few guys to my left who were just behind me. When I took my first breath to my right, right about the time I was starting to settle in, I realized I made a mistake. All the guys on my right had moved even further right, about 10 or 15 meters or so. Even worse, most of the pack was a second or two in front of me. I pushed hard to move over to the right, but by the time I got there, I missed the main pack of swimmers (who would swim around 13 minutes). For the rest of the swim, I swam alone and as hard as I could. I told myself that I needed to limit my losses and really press for the swim exit. I got out about 1 minute behind the main pack.

T1:

Going into the race, I knew I wanted to press the pace between the Swim and T1. It’s about a half mile or maybe a little more of a run into transition and it’s often a place where gaps open up. Coming out of the swim, I really made a push for it, getting out of my comfort zone and trying to catch up to that group just a minute ahead. Despite my effort, I still ran about 15 seconds slower than most pro’s and 30 seconds slower than some of the top pro’s like Ben Collins. I did catch up to two guys and ran out of transition with them.

Looking for blood at the beginning of the bike


Bike:

I road with those two and dropped them as I started to settle into my hard but manageable race pace effort. There were two guys, Alex Willis and Andrew Mueller, down the road who I’ve raced a number of times, who are  around my ability level, and who I wanted to catch before the end of the bike. The bike is an out and back on the west side highway and the road conditions were the best I’ve seen them in the 3 years that I’ve raced this race. This made it easier to keep my head down and work to reel them in.

One of the great parts of this race in particular is that the women went first, 11 minutes and 37 seconds before the guys, to “equalize” the field. The first person who crosses the line gets an additional bonus. Although I was nowhere near the guy who crossed the line first, I love this race format because it gives me more carrots to catch as I advance though the course. I seemed to catch another Pro (male or female) at least every few miles and was able to see another one just ahead. This helped keep my motivation up throughout the course!

While putting out the effort I needed to reel in my competitors, I was having a hard time keeping anything in my stomach. I took a gel around mile 3 and ended up throwing much of it back up. I kept getting in the fluids as much as I could, but a lot of it came back up.

At the turn around, I was a bit surprised to see that I had not yet caught Willis or Mueller, but I could see that they were only 20-30 seconds up the road. I reeled in Willis first, about a mile from the turn around and got to work on Mueller. He gave me a run for my money this time. At mile 22 or so, I was really starting to hurt on the bike, still unable keep the nutrition down, and my back was starting to tighten up. I stayed mentally strong and ended up catching Mueller about 1 mile from the finish, but it took a lot of strength and I wasn’t able to put any more time into him.  


The feeling of DEATH towards the end of the ride


T2:

I ended up coming into T2 with three guys, including Mueller, and was the second guy out by about 1 second. All in all, it was a solid and fast transition for me.

Run:

I took my time ascending the first big hill out of transition, took in another gel (which thankfully stayed down), and got to work. About a half mile in, Muller came around me. I tried to stay as comfortable as possible and told myself “this is your race, you’ve run faster than him in the past, just stick with him for a mile or until the legs and upper body come around….then make a move.” I stayed about 5-10 meters behind Mueller for about 2 miles, trying to match his quick turnover and relaxed arms. As we approached a hill, I got out of my comfort zone and pushed a little harder to try to get on his shoulder. My body, particularly my lungs, didn’t want to respond. I told myself to wait a little bit more. At mile 3, I again tried to push myself out of my comfort zone and again, my body didn’t want to respond. I made up a few steps on him and fell back again. Around mile four, I saw Muller pulling away...in retrospect, we were both slowing down but he slowed down less than I did… and just tried to hang on for dear life. Despite slowing down, I tried my best to just stay strong through the last half mile and get myself to the finish.


#sufferfest

Reflection:

Overall, the race didn’t come off quite as I had hoped. Last year, I was 11th, went 1:52:37, and was roughly 9 minutes off the leader. This year I was 15th, went 1:57:18, and was roughly 12 minutes off the leader.



There were three things that really stand out between this year and last year. This year, I didn’t catch onto the biggest swim group. A logistical mistake like this can, in a solid field, make or break your race. Physically, I would have saved a lot more energy and gone faster with that group. Mentally, I would have come out with a big group of guys and been able to ride in contact with a group who road about the same time as me. Knowing where to be during the swim is something I continually need to work on and improve.

The second thing was the humidity. The heat wasn’t that bad, but the humidity was high. I’m clearly still working on figuring out how to perform up to my ability level in the high humidity. It didn’t help that I was having trouble keeping my fluids down. I needed those fluids to keep my body cool and I was probably getting dehydrated towards the end.

The third thing was that I didn’t use caffeine this time in my gels. I’ve recently switched from gu to honey stingers without caffeine because they have been easier on my stomach. I haven’t had any problems with them in training, even in humid conditions and for intense rides, and my energy levels have remained stable. In this race, however, I ended up throwing up 4-5 times during the bike, so the switch didn’t work anyway. I will probably try something else and will definitely be taking caffeine in some form in future race nutrition plans. For me, caffeine lowers my perceived effort and that makes a huge difference when I’m trying to get out of my comfort zone.

Post race, Amber, my parents, and I took a boat tour to see the Statue of Liberty! We enjoyed the afternoon in the city before leaving for home. Racing takes us to some of the best venues in the world!





Off to the next races! First up, Timberman 70.3. Then, IM Chattanooga!

Big thanks to my sponsors Zane’s Cycle, Dr. AJ of Southern Connecticut Muscle and Joint Chiropractic,  Jen Reynolds of 66 North Main Massage, CT Cycle Center, Cliff English, Amber, and my parents. They all played a role in helping me get to the start line at the NYC tri! Also, thanks to race director Bill Burk who did a great job directing this race! Thanks NYC Tri for keeping the Pro race alive! 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Race Report 2015 Eagleman 70.3

Eagleman was a tough race for me and I really don’t have a ton to say about most of it. I can say that I trained hard, was well rested, and ready to put in the best 70.3 race of my life. In terms of the race itself, I swam hard, I biked well within my means, and set myself up for a good run. I came off the bike feeling great, motivated, and ready to go. After the first 2 miles or so, running more conservatively than I did at Challenge Knoxville, I began the slow fade, slipping from 7th to 11th, and finishing up the race just trying to survive. 

Solid Swim...not too far back!
The biggest challenge of this race for me, and basically everyone who raced, was the hot and humid conditions. The heat was over 90 degrees and the humidity was over 90%. It was basically hell. The Devil in Milton’s Paradise Lost said “The mind is it’s own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell…” but I can attest that the mind is part of a physical organ, trapped within the body, and it eventually breaks down with the reality of its surroundings in the full realization that hell is, in fact, hell. The person who actually wins the race is usually the person who (1) gets the most comfortable with being in hell (i.e. the best at embracing the suck) and (2) does all he/she can to slow the body’s unavoidable break down (i.e. heat acclimation, hydration, cooling off). Of course, it also helps to be super fit and talented. Great job to Cody Beals who was clearly the best at dealing with hell on this dreadful day…he went on to win the race!

The hot conditions made it a challenging day, but I think the humid conditions are really what stressed my body the most. I think I acclimate to hot conditions as well as anyone else. When I went down to Tuscan for training, I went from the Sub-30 degree Connecticut weather to 70-85 degree weather in Tuscan and really didn’t have an issue adapting after the first few days. Leading into Eagleman, I felt like I’d been well acclimated. The heat in Cambridge, MD during the race was in the 90’s, but I’d also been training in 90 degree heat leading up to the race. The real difference was in the humidity at 90%. When it’s that high, the sweat dripping out of your pours doesn’t effectively evaporate to cool your body. The body can cool itself somewhat more effectively on the bike because of the wind that comes with moving at a higher rate of speed. On the run, however, there is very little relief...at least at the speed that I was going.  

Finishing the bike and feeling strong!

I think I did a decent job with my hydration. I drank 4x 24oz bottles of fluid on the bike and drank every chance I got on the run. I didn’t cramp up which suggests that (1) I had enough electrolytes and (2) Cliff has tailored my training to make sure I’m strong enough to race a 13 mile run off of a hard bike. Where I think I can improve the most is in cooling my body in humid conditions. Ice down the pants was not enough. Since the race, I’ve begun to experiment with different head gear (hats and cloth bandana’s) to keep the sun off and keep cool. I’m also investing in a sleeve of cloth that I can fill with ice and put around my neck, Ben Hoffman style.   

Feeling good at mile 1!

Despite my disappointing run, I was still in striking distance of 6th pace and one spot out of my goal of the top 10th pro. This is a position that I’ve never been in before and the place filled me with confidence. I’m getting better and better with each race.

Suffering it in!
Thanks to Zane’s Cycles for getting my bike prepared for this race. Thanks to Dr. AJ Gagliardi of CT Muscle and Joint Performance Chiro for his work on my body. Thanks to Cliff English for preparing me to fight. Thanks to CT Cycle Center for helping me get stronger and faster. Thanks to C3 for your thoughts and support. Thanks to Dave Ellis, his aunt Carol, and his mom Joan, for hooking Amber and I up with the sweatiest of home stays! And thanks to Amber and my parents for being there when I need them! 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Promoting the Sport

I had an incredible time talking about life as a Professional Triathlete and Coach to the kids participating in the Valley Shore YMCA Race4Chase Youth Program, a youth triathlon program. Promoting the sport to the younger generation is one of my favorite jobs as a Pro! I even got to lead them in some drills and relays! Thanks for having me out, Valley Shore!






Thursday, May 21, 2015

Race Report: Challenge Knoxville Half 5/17/15

The Build-Up


This race report begins with a simple question that Amber—my girlfriend—asked me on Thursday night before the race. “Are you excited to race Knoxville?” she asked. It was one of those questions that she probably just asked out of kindness, in attempt to create conversation, but the question struck much deeper than my superficial “yeah” response.

Amber couldn't come to Knoxville, but she was with me.

As I thought more about her question that night, I knew I felt something about the race; however, it wasn’t my normal feeling of eagerness as much as it was a feeling of anxiety with a touch of dread. Usually, I am excited to race. I think it is important to be excited to race because it gives me that extra edge to go out hard and suffer. This one was different. I was dealing with some really negative stuff. I’m glad Amber asked me the question in the first place because the anxiety was somewhere deep in my unconscious and Amber’s question woke me up to it. Awareness is always the first step to improving situations. Now that it was on my mind, however, I wasn’t quite sure where this anxiety was coming from and what to do with it. What I did know was that if I didn’t work through it, I would have lost the race before I even started because I wasn’t mentally prepared to battle. I went to bed to sleep on it.

On Friday, I woke up and ruminated over the question all morning. It was really starting to get to me. Why wasn’t I excited? Why wasn’t I excited? Why wasn’t I excited? After about 5 hours of repeating this question in my head, I realized I wasn’t getting anywhere. I decided to put the question aside. Worst comes to worst, I would race by going through the motions.

Challenge Knoxville took place at Worlds Fair Park

When I woke up Saturday morning, it came to me out of the blue. It’s funny how ideas form in your head when you’re not actively thinking about them. There were two things weighing me down. First, I realized that I was holding on to some baggage from a previous event. This goes back to Eagleman 2013 when I had one of the worst races of my life and it has haunted me ever since. My plan going into that race was to hold back on the bike and to run hard. I ended up having one of the slowest rides of my life and still ended up having an awful run. This totally killed my confidence in my run and reinforced that I need to bike as hard as I can to get in front of the race because I’m never going to run fast enough to outrun my competitors. Further, I’m always going to blow up at the end of the run. As irrational as these beliefs are, I’ve had trouble disproving them. In fact, I haven’t wanted to disprove them. Eagleman in June 2013 was the last half I did. I’ve been avoiding the distance like a plague ever since, until I chose to do this race in Knoxville. I thought I had let go of my experience at Eagleman, but it was still there.   

Second, I woke up to realize that I misplaced my goal—or rather, I had a secret goal: I wouldn’t be happy unless I won this race. This seemed nearly impossible to me with athletes like Cam Dye in the field. I was putting pressure on myself to go on a suicide mission early with a 100% risk of blowing up and not being able to finish the race. No wonder I was anxious! Looking back, this was a very irrational goal with a very irrational plan to execute.  


Challenge moves in with Huge Tracker-Trailers to Set Up!


Once I realized that I was still holding on the Eagleman 2013 experience and had this misplaced-secrete goal on my mind, I came into the full realization of why I was dreading this race. It was time to reframe. I asked myself the question, “what would make this race exciting for me?” The answer to that question was pretty simple. I didn’t need win the race, I just wanted to finish strong. If I could do this, I bet that I could finish around 10th place. The plan fell into place a little after that. To finish strong, I would need to swim, bike, and run conservatively. More specifically for the run, I wanted to start conservatively for the first 2 miles, get into a rhythm for miles 3 through 10, and then build the final 3.1 miles. These process goals were much more realistic and gave me something that I could control.  

The Race…


Race day morning was the ritual as usual. Oatmeal and Coffee for breakfast, a stretch cord warm up to get my latts and shoulders engaged, a run with pick-ups, and a 10 minute warm up swim with a few pick-ups.

When the gun went off, we started with a roll up to speed rather than the smack in the face all-out effort that comes with Olympic distance racing. I’m sure one or two guys surged in the beginning, but everyone else built for the first 400meters or so. The group strung out. I was swimming within my ability level and found myself in position with a group of guys that ended up about a minute or so behind the front pack. It was nice to finally swim with a larger group! I swam a 28:14, a PR by over 3 minutes. I was happy to see that the front pack left transition as I was running into it. I was still in the hunt for my 10th place.


Heading towards T2 with a Group!



I got out on the bike with a pack of about 12 riders and we were all riding together legally. This was the first time I was riding with a large pack like this and it came naturally to me. The first thing that I noticed was how wet to roads were. I didn’t expect rain and it was pouring. The roads were dicey, especially around the first couple of turns. Everyone was taking them cautiously. At every turn, I could feel my back tire skidding which made me feel really uncomfortable, especially riding so close to the other guys (at times, side by side per USAT rules). About a mile into the race, we caught up with the front group. A little down the road we hit a railroad track and my front bottle popped out. I decided to go back and get it. It would only take about 20 seconds to pick up, it wasn’t worth the 2 minute penalty, and I was confident that I could catch up with this group. I got the bottle and started to work my way back to the group. It only took me about a mile before I caught back up and I ended up riding through them.

I road on my own for a few miles.  Going through the turns, my back wheel continued to skid. At one point, I actually stopped to check if my back tire was flat, but it was completely filled. I figured that there was just a lot of oil on the road and that it would be smart to play this one safe. If I road with the group, I was still in contention for my top 10 goal. The pack of riders road past me and I caught the back of the train.

It’s amazing just how easy it is to ride with the group. Half the time I was out of my aerobars and coasting, yet we were moving pretty quickly. We were legally staggered with 10 meters to the guy directly in front of us and roughly 5 meters to the guy staggered to the right of left of us. Every time the front guy switches to the opposite side of the road, we all have to switch. When this happens, and it happens a lot over 56 miles, each person gets a .5-1 second draft from the guy he is switching sides with. It was surprising to me how much this all adds up to an easier, but still legal ride. 


Zane's and Specialized hooked me up with an Evade Tri Hemet and It's Awesome!

At a turn around, I saw a pack of riders riding a few minutes ahead of us and I counted 10 riders. I banked that I would be able to run 1-2 of those guys down and out run everyone in the pack I was with if I stuck with the group I was in. My 10th place goal was still in sight. I told myself to conserve, conserve, conserve, and not make a move until mile 3 of the run. I stayed safe through the end of the ride. I ended up averaging 225 watts, a good 50 watts avg less than I put out at IM Chattanooga last year. In other words, the ride was stupid easy for me and I knew I set myself up to have a strong run, I just had to be patient. I ended up riding 2:24, about 15 minutes slower than my 56 mile PR.  


Heading towards the Finish


I ran into transition, slipped on my shoes, slapped on my fuel belt, and ran out. Some guys charged out of transition, but I told myself to be patient, to find my form, to let my back loosen up, and then see what I could do. I’ve charge out of transition before in a half and it’s been a huge mistake, making those last few miles a struggle. I still took the first mile out a little faster than I wanted. I ended up running 6:05’s for those first 2 miles until I settled in. It was conservative enough to stay strong. I reeled one or two guys in the first 4 miles, and ran close to another until about mile 9 when I dropped him. I got passed by a guy or two around mile 9.5 and told myself to be patient and stay within my ability level. I still had about 3 miles to close in on them. I passed another athlete around mile 10.5 and knew that this was my opportunity to start pushing for the line. I increased my effort and tried to close on the guy just ahead of me. I kept getting closer and closer, working a little harder over the final mile while keeping that 10th male pro goal on the back of my mind. I knew I could out-sprint someone in the final 400m if I had the opportunity. I ended up not catching anyone, but I finished strong like I wanted. I ended up running 6:25 pace for 1:24:03. A PR of about 2 minutes.  
My overall time was 4:18:40 and I took 15th place overall.


The Finish Line!


The Reflection


Reflecting back on the race and hearing other pro athletes account's, I realize that I made some mistakes and also did some things really well. Maybe the biggest mistake was not taping down my front water bottle. As my friend and fellow pro Nick Brodnicki pointed out to me later, I was in the front pack when I dropped that bottle. Unbeknownst to me during the race, that pack split in two and I caught on to the 2nd pack. I probably should have kept riding strong to catch up to the font pack early in the ride. They must have only been a minute or so ahead and I think I could have caught them less than half way through the course. At what cost? I don’t know. I also should have left some additional air out of my tires. Not planning for the rain, I pumped them up to my usual 110-115psi. I think I would have had better grip around 95-100psi.

What did I do well? I did a solid job on my nutrition plan, taking in 6 gels on the bike with water and some light Gatorade mix and taking in one gel, some Gatorade, and some water on the run. I didn’t have any cramps and my energy was good, so I will continue to use this plan in the future. I worked with the group well in both the swim and bike. I saved a ton of energy to prepare for that run and ended up running well for me.  

Fellow CEC Training Partner Rachael McBride Took 2nd!

The thing I’m most proud of, however, is that I worked through the emotions that I had coming into the race and proved to myself that I can finish the race strong. That gave me a whole lot of confidence. I'm in a much better place mentally for my next half. No doubt, I will be smarter and faster.

What’s next up? The plan is to race Cedar Lake Sprint next week followed by Eagleman 70.3 on June 14th! After that, I will race Philly Olympic. I can honestly say I’m very excited to race these races! Hope to see you there!

Challenge takes Care of their Athletes in Ways that Matter!


A special thanks to Zane’s Cycles, Connecticut Cycle Center, Dr. AJ Gagliardi of Muscle and Joint Performance Chiropractic, Amber, my Parents, Coach Cliff English, my fans, and Challenge Family for all the great support!




Monday, April 27, 2015

Race Report: St. Anthony’s 2015

I’d like to frame this report in the context of my training leading up the race because that’s how I try to predict what I’m capable of doing on race day. Within reason, I attempt to race at target power, pacing, and perceived effort zones that I’ve shown myself that I can handle in training. I completed two race simulation workouts in particular that gave me a descent gauge of my capabilities. The first was a swim that included 2x (200 deep water start speed + 400 mid race pace effort). For the 200's at start speed I was around 1:04-1:06 pace and for the 400's I was around 1:09-1:10 pace. The second was a brick workout of 2x(30 minute ride at race pace power + 3 mile run). I was averaging 300 -325 watts (the norm power was roughly 10 watts higher) and 5:20-5:30 pace on the run. Compared to my fitness at this time last year, these numbers are really great for me (with maybe the exception of the bike power which is a little lower, but the watts/kg avg is a little higher because I’m lighter). Needless to say, going into the race I was expecting somewhat similar results and designed my race plan, with Cliff, with these efforts/times in mind.  

The day before the race I felt well trained by Cliff and ready to rock!

Race day morning was business as usual. It began with an early wake-up at 4:15am. I ate my typical breakfast of oatmeal with some milk and blueberries in addition to a cup of coffee. I made sure my bike was set and that there was enough air in my tires. I placed my bike in the car and drove for 15 minutes to the race site.  


Race day morning wasn't so bad...

I set up my transition area in roughly 3 minutes, making sure my helmet, glasses, race bib, shoes, and extra gels were set for the race. Then I went for a little warm-up jog of about 15 minutes which included 4 striders where I descended the effort from easy down to about 5k pace. After that, I went to the bathroom, rechecked my gear in transition, and walked to the area where I could get in a swim warm-up. I took my time getting in the water and getting comfortable. I swim best when I’m able to take my time warming up. Next, I did 3 short pick-ups followed by a steady-state effort of about 2 minutes at mid-race pace effort. I got out of the water at the call back, walked over the timing mat and then ran into the water with the rest of the guys to prepare for the in water swim start.



Pro wave wading in prior to the deep water start

The swim start was pretty normal. I went out as strong as I could without blowing up and tried to stay with the front pack as long as possible. My swim training has been going really well, based on the 200+400 swim simulation I mentioned above, and I felt like I was putting out the same type of effort I did for that simulation. By half way, I found myself swimming with a small group of 3-4 people around me. I made it my goal to race just up to the point where my form was about to fall apart but not over that effort. For the times I felt like I was really struggling, I focused in on the swim cues that I practiced (“tight kick” and “finish strong”) which helped me get through the rough patches. As I passed every swim buoy I reminded myself that I could swim faster and put in some stronger strokes. I ended up swimming 23:54 for 1500m, coming out of the water 16th male pro and achieving one of my modest, yet honest, goals of not getting past by any of the Pro women who started three minutes behind me. Although the speed that I have shown myself in the pool didn’t exactly translate to the open water meter for meter, the good training came out in the form of confidence. I’ve never felt more confident and connected in the swelling waves. My sighting was consistent, I swam relatively straight, I was able to bilateral breath, and I was able to use the draft off of those around me more effectively than ever.




I wanted to have a faster transition than last year and I achieved that goal. I came out of the water with Alex Willis and we pushed each other towards our bikes and jumped on. Sticking with my race plan, I took my time in the first mile before getting to work and starting to catch other Pro’s ahead of me. I felt like my bike effort was nice and consistent throughout; hard like I’ve practiced in training but very much within myself because I wanted to run as fast as I did in training. Because of the heat, I didn’t pay as much attention to my power as I did to my perceived effort. If I was a little under my planned target, that was fine if I could still run well off the bike. I took in 2 gels and about 30-40oz of Gatorade along the way. In last mile, I backed off the effort a bit. Traditionally, I road hard up to the last 100 feet but Cliff and I thought that I might run faster if I backed off a little earlier. Coming into transition, I felt like I set myself up to have a good run and was mentally prepared to run just like I did in practice. If I could do that, I knew I could at least hold my 10th position spot if not catch a few more guys down the line.  I road  56:51 for the 40k which was the 7th best time of the day.

I transitioned quickly and then got to work easing my way into the run, just like I’d done in that brick workout. My gps was not working so I totally went by perceived effort. After the first half mile or so, I felt like I was working hard and I was attempting to stick with the guy just ahead of me. When I was out in AZ with Cliff, he noticed that I hold my shoulders and hands pretty high and that I run best when I drop both of them. In our pre-race talk, he suggested that I periodically shake out my arms and drop my shoulders and I worked on this as I went. At mile 2 I took in another gel. A little before the half way turn around, I was really starting to struggle, loosing focus on the race. At the turn around, I thought about upping the effort like I did in practice, but I couldn’t find a way to do it so I stuck with what I could do. I heard someone yell out to me to pick up my cadence and I realized just how slow it was but couldn’t seem to pick it up. My upper body felt like it was on fire and I was having a tough time breathing, worse than my usual race pace effort.  My legs felt pretty normal for a race pace effort. At one of the aid stations I grabbed some water/ice and put it down my suit to cool off. The cool ice brought me to the cruel realization that I was overheating and there was little I could do about it. I got passed by three guys on mile four which was tough mentally, but I kept pushing on. I was really struggling around mile 4.75 and I was slowing down dramatically when my friend Sarah Alexander yelled out encouraging words to me as she was going the other way. Her words really help me reboot my mindset. I realized I only had 1.2 miles left, composed myself, took in a little more gel, and decided to make the most of it like I had originally planned. I picked back up my pace and descended that last mile like I’ve done so many times in practice. With .2 miles left to go, I felt like I was sprinting and desperately trying to close the gap to the guy in front of me, once again focusing on the race rather than how I was feeling. At the finish line, I collapsed. The volunteers helped me back up and helped me get in the kiddy pool filled with ice. I rested there for about 15-20 minutes sipping on Gatorade and cooling down. I ended up running a 38:31 for the 10k, at least 4 minutes slower than I planned to run and 3minutes 30 seconds slower than I’ve done previously on this run course. My time was good enough to take 13 out of the male pro’s. You can see me finish below. 


Every race is a performance. This means that no matter how your training goes, what really matters is what you do up on stage: on one particular day and one particular time.  To sum up my thoughts, my run performance didn’t reflect what I’ve done in training which is extremely disappointing; however, that’s the business that I’m in—the one that I’ve deliberately chosen—and I’ve got to adapt in order to have the performance I actually want. I did a lot of things well including my skills in the swim, backing off on the bike to adapt to the heat, and finishing strong despite my struggle on mile 4 of the run. It only takes one or two things to negatively affect the end result in a big way and I came up short of my expectations.

Sarah is awesome. Period. She also took first female Amateur over all! Congrats!

There are two major things that I am going to consider in the future. First, I’d like to do a better job adapting to the heat and humidity for the first races of the year. I think my biggest struggle was dealing with the heat, something that I haven’t had to deal with in Connecticut over the last month of 30-50 degree days. I think I could have done a few more indoor workouts to prepare for that heat, arrived a little bit earlier for more time to adapt, and/or backed off the bike effort even more than I had (I averaged 295 watts, about 15-20 watts lower than I originally planned). Second, I’d like to focus on turnover at the start of the run. I think I was over-striding a bit at the beginning which had a huge impact at the end of the race.

I also plan to put my numbers on the right way. I'm a professional after all...

One of the best ways to get closure on a race is by putting up better results in your next race. I’m very excited to race Challenge Knoxville in a few weeks.

Many of the worlds best have raced St. Anthony's. I encourage you to put it on your schedule for next year!

I'd like to thank St. Anthony's for putting on a great race. I really encourage any triathlete reading this post to go down there to race. They provide an outstanding experience for their athletes. Also, I'd like to thank Zane’s Cycles, CT Cycle Center, Muscle and Joint Chiropractic, 66 North Main Massage, Cliff English, Amber, and my parents for all your help!  

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Race Week ART!

It's race week and it's time to take care of all the final details before a great race! Getting some ART done with Dr. Aj Gagliardi of Muscle and Joint Performance Chiropractic - Branford, CT to tune up the body for St. Anthony's! I can't tell you how much this type of work has helped me over the winter season!


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Training Update: The Run

My run training has taken a little swerve since I’ve written my last post.

The weekend after I wrote my last post, I did a 2 hour tempo run. Post workout, I started to feel some pain in my big toe. Because a long career in triathlon depends upon a healthy body, I don’t mess around with this stuff, EVER, even if it feels like a little issue. From my own experience, I know that if I wait to deal with an oncoming injury, sometimes for only one more workout, my entire season can be put in jeopardy. I immediately started my injury recovery protocol which involves: 1.) immediately texting my coach about what I’m feeling and what happened; 2.) using ibuprofen to decrease any swelling in the area; 3.) foam rolling 4.) keeping my legs up even more than normal; 5.) making an appointment with Dr. AJ, my chiro who specializes in sports injury; 6.) not running until I’m completely confident that I can run injury free and not re-injure the issue. The rest of the afternoon involved the couch.  

Back to Running... in the Heat of Venice, FL!
The next day, I walked into Dr. AJ’s office. Before I continue, I should say that I’ve been working with Dr. AJ for over a year on injury prevention and, when I need it, injury rehabilitation. Over this time, he’s learned to know my body like a great jockey knows his race horse. AJ has an instinctual way of knowing when my training is easy and I’m working hard, when my body is ready to race and when it needs some work. Physically, he keeps me tuned up and ready to work hard. Mentally, he reminds me that training is hard and that I’m constantly breaking down and building up my muscles. He reminds me that I’m not a God and that my body needs continual maintenance in order for me to perform at my best. The relationship we’ve developed has been invaluable and proved to be again with this issue.  

As always, AJ listened attentively to my story about training, the emerging foot pain, and my concern that it might be a stress fracture. He explained to me that a lot of foot problems, especially when the pain is on the top of the foot, are often routed in tight calf’s. It never ceases to amaze me how often pain in one area is caused by a different area in the body. He ran some tests to check if that was the case. We found that my calf’s were tighter than normal and AJ reassured me that we could really improve the issue. He went to work. After a couple of sessions of Active Release Technique on my calf and Graston technique on my foot, the issue dissolved away.

At the same time I was working out the injury with AJ, I kept Cliff up to date so that he could make the proper modifications to my training schedule. He reassured me that I was doing all the right things and he backed off my run training for the following week. This, I think, is what great coaches do.  They know when and how to divert from the original plan. They also know how to keep an extremely motivated athlete at bay until the time is right to unleash him once again. As that extremely motivated athlete, I can say that it helps to have someone confirm that it is the right time to back off. I’m always removing myself from the pain involved with training hard and it’s often a mental challenge to back off, especially when I’m in a great rhythm and feel like I’m making big gains in training every single day. There may be a few circumstance where you push through an injury for a little while, but these cases are far and few between. This was certainly not the time in my season to push the limits. We backed off and took it one step at a time.  

More Running near the Condo in FL

For my first run back after about a week of no run training, Cliff suggested that I do a 5 minute warm up walk followed by 4x (5 minute jog, 2 minute walk). I got through the second 5 minute jog portion and felt good, but my confidence in my calf began to wane. I cut the workout there, believing that I’d rather play it safe and cut the workout when I was feeling good. This was a hard decision for me to make. In the past I would have just pushed on to avoid the guilt that comes with not completing a given workout, despite the knowledge that I could possibly re-injure myself. After that workout I had no pain, but I’m confident I made the right decision to cut that initial run short.

Lower Run Vol = Increased Swim Work!

Cliff began to build the run training up slowly over the course of two weeks and I’m almost back to my normal run volume again. I’m really happy with the way I took control of the situation and skirted the issue before it became a much bigger deal. 

I spent the last week in Davenport, FL with Amber's family, training, going to the beach, and visiting the parks. I’m looking forward to some longer runs in the next two weeks in Tuscan, AZ as I train at Cliff’s CEC pro camp!      


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Training Update

Looking back over my winter season so far, my training has gone quite well. I’m swimming faster for longer than I ever have before. I’m riding less, but riding indoors more (mainly on the computrainers at the CT Cycle Center) and have already hit my cycling fitness that I ended with last year. In addition, I’m feeling stronger and more centered on my run. Here’s an update specifically about the work I have done in the pool thus far…

Team C3 always helps me out when I need some stroke video!

For me, swimming provides the opportunity to think like an engineer. Each year, I look at my body as a machine. I observe how everything is working together, break down the engine's moving parts and the frame, make some adjustments, and then reassemble it into a new, faster, more efficient model. More specifically, I take a ton of videos of myself to observe my balance, head position, body rotation, catch, pull, arm extension, recovery, and foot position. From there I try to figure out ways to make myself more streamlined (first) and more powerful (second).Then, I try to apply those ideas in the water. 

Last year I was less focused on traditional technique and more focused on learning how to keep a higher turnover. I spent a lot of my time in the pool with a Finis Tempo Trainer set between 80-90 rpm. This helped me get faster in so many ways, but the two things that stand out the most were how it helped me eliminate the dead spots in my catch and learn to relax my muscles in the water. I dropped about 6-8 seconds/100 just because of those two factors.   

The Delightful Finis Tempo Trainer Wetronome


As usual, my swimming sessions this season started out very technique oriented. Cliff and I both noticed that I was sacrificing my stroke length for that higher turnover. I decided to focus less on the higher turnover and more on the stroke length for a few weeks. I wanted my pulling hand well extended past my hip before I brought it into the recovery stage of my stroke. The work lead me to feel more connected to the water and to swim faster with less energy. At first I noticed that my shoulders got tired more quickly, but I felt this less and less as I gained more and more strength in my shoulders, latts, and triceps.

After I gained confidence with the longer stroke technique, I attempted to increase the turnover. When I did this, however, I felt like something was preventing me from rotating side to side. I again reached out to Cliff for some guidance and he pointed out a slight scissor kick in my legs when I rotate. I started to focus in on my legs, attempting to keep my toes closer together. I also attempted to point my toes towards the back of the pool rather than allowing my ankles to flap loosely and my toes to go where ever they liked.  When I do this, I can feel myself slipping side to side rather than using energy by forcing the rotation with my kick and my pull. This results in a much smoother, more efficient rotation that helps me increase my turnover. I still have some work to do with my stroke length and turnover. That said, when I put it together, it results in about a 3-4 second increase in my average 100 times compared to the same effort last year.


You can see my technique in the video below. I'm moving at about 1:04/100 yard pace which feels comfortable right off the wall. 



Since I made these changes, I feel unbelievably connected to the water. In addition, as I go faster, it’s become astoundingly clear where the resistance of the water is hitting my body. I use this instant feedback to figure out additional ways of moving that allow me to be more streamlined and more efficient.

I’m looking forward to putting this hard work to the test at St. Anthony’s at the end of April! 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Coaching Change


As some of you already know, I made a huge change at the end of last season. After Ironman Chattanooga in September, Coach Holden Comeau and I ended our coaching relationship. This was coming for a long time as Holden was investing more and more time into his career at Silverline Global Inc. and I was investing more and more time into my pro career. We decided that I needed more attention than he could give me and he helped me look for a new coach, one that could give me his full attention and support as I continued on as a professional triathlete.

Running at IM Chattanooga

Before I move on, I need to explain that Holden coached me for 7 years and really laid the foundation for who I am, both physically and mentally, as an athlete. He coached me through my first Ironman in 2007—when I was 18 years old. He helped me qualify for Kona as an amateur and see out my Kona dream in 2009. He helped me believe that I could be a pro athlete and helped me achieve that goal in April 2014. And he guided me through the struggles that come with the first year of being a professional triathlete. Needless to say, Holden is one of the two or three people that I think about when I consider who has impacted my life the most over the past decade. I could not thank him enough.  


Coach Holden and his son

After interviewing 10 really great coaches, Holden and I discussed who would be the best coach based on my personality, lifestyle, strengths, and weaknesses. We decided that the best fit would be Cliff English. Cliff is well known in the triathlon community for helping his athletes achieve the height of their own abilities in a controlled, but consistent manner (for more on Cliff, click here). I called up Cliff, he graciously accepted me onto his roster, and we have been working together since December 1st.

So far, the transition from Holden’s to Cliff’s program has been quite fluid. There haven’t been any huge changes in my training, but there have been a few minor changes. The first is that I’m training at a slightly lower volume with a slightly higher intensity load compared to what I did in previous winter training blocks. A second change is that my long runs are a little bit longer, but I run less frequently. And a final change is that I have two swim only days where I only use to have one…this time allows my run and bike legs to recover a bit more from workout to workout. I’m sure there will be many more comparisons to make as I get further into my season.

Coach Cliff

With all this said, I’m now really comfortable with the big change. I’m gaining more and more confidence in my ability to go fast and I’m looking forward to a great 2015 season!