Thursday, October 11, 2012

Apple Days Mill Hill Biathlon

The Apple Days Mill Hill Biathlon (5k run/15 mile bike) is one of my favorite races of the season.  It is a small, local race in Greenville, IL that is well run, and brings in some great competition.  This is my 2nd year doing the race, and it definitely will not be my last year!  If you’re looking for a race with a fast 5k and honest bike course, this is your race!  As much fun as the down hills on the bike are, the climbs (okay, so they aren’t Branson-like climbs, but if it is not pancake flat, it is a climb to me) in this race take away any advantage you can get from the downhill sections.

It’s a 200 mile drive from my house to Greenville, so I left Friday after work.  I got to meet up with some of the guys on the Greenville XC team (Sic ‘em Panthers!) for dinner that night (Mario’s pizza is a must stop place in Greenville), before crashing at Alex’s place.  They got to see how much of an old man I am now, because by 10:00pm I was ready for bed!  I don’t know if it was the work day, driving, or the fact that I’m usually sleeping by 10:00pm, but Friday night was no different.

I woke up around 6:00am on race morning.  I like to be up 2.5-3 hours before a race starts, just to let my body wake up.  It was a chilly 35 degrees when I woke up.  Brr! I watched some CMT before getting ready to go.  I have to admit, I was a little scared to try on my one piece tri suit, because I wasn’t sure if it would fit.  It fit perfectly two weeks earlier in Branson, but I had had quite a bit of fast food and candy since then.  I put it on, tight squeeze, but it fit. Phew! I put on my warm ups and headed over to the race.  Luckily for me, the check in/start line was about three blocks from where I was staying!

I got to the check in, and I saw Morgan Chaffin.  If Morgan is there, you know it is going to be a good race!  I also saw Jacob Goldkamp.  I had never been in a race with Jacob, but I had heard about his season.  I knew I had my hands full!  I started my warm up around 7:40 for the race to start at 8:30.  I did a 2 mile bike ride, and a 2 mile jog.  I was slightly worried about the race after my 2 mile jog, because I was jogging a sluggish (for me) 7:35/mile, and it felt difficult!  I couldn’t tell if my body was tired, cold, or what.  I figured hey, I might as well just go out there and have some fun with it, and we’ll see what happens.  My plan was to go out and take the first mile a conservative 5:30 and see what happens from there.  I had decided to go with the one piece tri suit, a headband, compression socks, gloves, and arm warmers for the race. 

In the biathlon, the run is first, followed by the bike.  This 5k (well, 3.18 miles) run is kind of tricky.  The first mile is uphill.  The second mile is mostly downhill.  The third mile is mostly uphill with a nice downhill in to T1.  I had covered these roads many times over my four years at Greenville College, so I knew exactly how to race it.  I took the lead from the gun.  I knew if I wanted to have any chance of winning the race I needed to get out quick.  I knew approximately where the quarter and half mile were, but I decided not to check my watch until I got to the mile mark and just run off feel.  I came through the first mile in 5:04 and I was alone.  I felt pretty strong and was ready to go.  I knew the second mile was down hill mostly, so I knew I could relax a bit and still have a good mile.  Right before the two mile mark I looked back and saw I had a pretty big lead, so I knew I was in good shape.  I came through two miles in 10:14, and it felt very smooth.  The third mile has some hills in it, so I decide to shut it down and save my legs for the bike.  I came through 3 miles in 15:41, and I was feeling great at this point.  All I had to do was finish the .18 to T1 and get on my bike.  Sounds simple enough, right?

I came in around 16:40ish for my 3.18 miles.  I usually have pretty quick transitions in the triathlon.  Well, it usually isn’t 39 degrees for a triathlon, and I’m usually not wearing gloves!  Oops!  I picked up my helmet to put it on, and I couldn’t get it buckled!  I tried probably 4 times before I tried taking my gloves off to buckle my helmet.  Then as I was stupid when taking my bike off the rack, and pushed it to the side…causing another pedal to get stuck in my wheel.  As I was starting to take my bike off the rack it started bringing 2 bikes with me!  Thank goodness Lee (the race director) was close by and was able to take care of the other bikes for me!  My T1 was super slow this year! 41 seconds! I might as well have stopped for breakfast in there!

Now for the fun part, the bike!  Last year I had a decent lead on the 5k and ended up getting 4th, so I was determined to do better this year!  I always end up riding scared in biathlons.  I just got on my bike and took off.  I love the first part of the course; the first 2 miles follow the 5k route.  The first mile gets the legs warmed up; the second is a nice, fast decline.  Then you get a few rollers and such.  I came through five miles and still had not been passed.  Last year by mile five I was in third.  I kept thinking to myself, “Okay, just make it to the turnaround now.”   I got to the turnaround and was still in the lead.—a position I am not used to on the bike!  I started my journey back, and saw Jacob maybe a quarter mile from the turnaround and Morgan not too far behind!  At that point I realized that if I could hold them off for another 6 miles, I would win! I got to mile 10 and decided I was going to just lay all my cards on the table and go for it.  In my mind I was thinking, “Oh brother, 5 more miles, this is going to hurt!”  I got to about 2 miles to go and still had not been caught, so things were looking good, but I knew there was one challenge still ahead of me—Mill Hill!  The King of the Mountain Sprint!  It is a 600m climb, followed by a 600m flat (I say slight incline) to the finish.  As I started my uphill climb, I looked back and saw Jacob coming down the big hill.  Oh shoot!  I was about half way up Mill Hill when Jacob started…not good!  I knew he would be coming in hot, so I had to go.  I was hurting so bad to get to the top of the hill.  I felt like I had battery acid flowing through my veins (I now know what he was talking about in Fight Club), and it hurt.  I made it to the top of the hill, and was breathing so hard, that I could hardly get aero again.  Somehow I managed to get to the finish line without falling off my bike, and earned my first multi-sport win!  It was a great feeling to pick up a win in the town I called home for the past four years, with many teammates there to watch.

Run 5k (3.18)- 16:42 (5:15/mile)
T1- :40
Bike 39:57 (22.5mph)
Total- 57:19

I was so cold after the race that I had to go put 3 layers on to try and warm up.  It was still 39 degrees!  I guess there really is a first time for everything…first time I’ve raced a multi-sport event in 39 degree weather.  I finished 5 minutes faster than last year, so I was really thrilled about that.  All of the hard work has been paying off, but I still have a long was to go!

Congrats to all the other racers.  It was cold out there, and you all rocked it!  Thanks Racemaker Productions for putting on another great race!  I will definitely be back next year!  Honestly, the long sleeve shirt is enough of a reason for me to come back!  Actually, I will be at quite a few of your events!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

What Really Happened at 70.3 Branson...

So, 70.3 Branson was quite the adventure.  I signed up for Branson a day after doing my first Half Ironman (Pigman) in August.  I spent a good 5 hours after Pigman telling my dad I was never going to race a half again, and it was the most painful thing I have ever done.  About 2 hours into our drive home I said, “Dad, I think I’m going to sign up for Branson.”  Sure enough, the next evening I got online and signed up.  I had no idea how long it would talk me to recover from the first one, but I knew I would be racing 5 weeks later.

So now we move forward to race week.  They tell you not to do anything different on race day, but I must not have gotten that memo.  On Tuesday I got a Cervelo P2C from my good friend Susie. (Thanks again, I absolutely love it!)  I only rode maybe 40 miles on it before race day!  I left for Branson on Friday.  It was a nice 8.5 hour drive.  I always say that I will only stop for gas one road trips, but this time I also wanted to pick up an aero helmet.  I stopped by The Bike Surgeon in O’Fallon, IL to use a gift card and buy a helmet.  I figure if I have a fast bike, I might as well buy a helmet to match!  Anyway, got to Branson around 9pm and checked into the hotel.  There was an outlet mall, Krispy Kreme, and Andy’s Custard within a mile of me…that could have been dangerous! I had heard how good Andy’s was, so I put on my jogging shoes and went for a shakeout jog to Andy’s (even though I gave up sweets until after Branson…close enough, right?) and the ate it on my walk back. Definitely worth it!

Athlete check in on Saturday was relatively uneventful.  The lines weren’t too bad, and the expo was small, but still had everything you could need.  I think the most exciting part of the day was seeing Tiffany and Grant.  It is always nice to seem familiar faces when going to these big races!  The fun part was bike check in…there is very limited parking at the beach.  With that said, I was able to find a parking spot, and easily dropped my bike off at T1, and went for a swim.  The water temp felt perfect.  I was beginning to get very excited for the race! After the swim I went to the 2:00pm athlete meeting, and then decided to drive part of the course on my way back to the hotel… Oh boy! The first 6 miles of the course seemed to be one giant uphill climb and I started to think, “What the heck did I get myself into?”

That night I met up with Kraig and Danny for dinner at Old Chicago.  I can always go for some deep dish pizza!  It was a nice, relaxing night on the landing before an early wakeup call!  They drove the course during the afternoon, and were trying to explain to me what I got myself into.  I was just hoping the next day wouldn’t be as bad as everybody was saying it would be! Headed back from dinner at 8:30ish, and was in bed with the lights out by 10:00pm.
Race Morning!

3:55 my alarm is going off, and I’m just begging for 5 more minutes of sleep!  I have my cup of coffee, bowl of oatmeal, and some CarboPro.  Take a shower, put on my uniform, and get ready to go.  I checked out of the hotel at 4:35am and was on my way over to T2.

Got to T2 and it is still pitch black at 5am. I knew I was forgetting something…a head lamp! How am I supposed to set up transition without a light? Oh well, I put my shoes, Thermolytes, and water down get ready to get on the bus that takes us to T1. Oh boy, they only had maybe 3 buses running, but there were many more people than buses! Good thing I got there relatively early.  I had to wait a good 40 minutes to finally get on the bus, and then it is still a 15 minute ride over to T1. Got to T1 with plenty of time to set everything up…in the dark! (From now on, the first thing I pack is a head lamp!) I go to load my bento box with everything, and I realized I put my package of 16 Thermolytes in T2 and the package of 4 in here…oops! If it would have been a hot day, this would have been a major problem! T1 closed at 6:45am and I wasn’t supposed to get in the water til 7:33, so I went looking for Tiffany and Grant.  I had to give Tiffany my book bag so I would have it at the end of the day.

The air temp was only upper 40s or low 50s, so the wait on the beach seemed like forever, but I think I was only out there waiting for maybe 10 minutes before they let us get in the water.  It actually felt good to get in the water.  They lined us up and then the race began.  I was maybe 300m into the race when I could already tell that I was really bad at sighting and was off course…along with about 15 other people.  Somewhere in the middle of trying to find my line and draft off people in front of me, somebody swam over the top of me kicking me in the nose, and knocking my goggles half off.  I stopped for a minute to try and reposition my goggles, but I could already feel my nose getting hot, and my eyes watering.  I had a bloody nose.  Awesome.  It’s not the first time this has happened to me this year (Rockford).  I just told myself to keep calm and get through the swim; unfortunately we still had much more to go.  The rest of the swim was did not get any easier.  We were the last wave to start, so we were swimming in and out of other people falling behind from other waves.  It was a pretty physical swim, and by the time I got out of the water I was thinking, “Why am I doing this. I could just quit now and be fine with it.”  But anybody that knows me knows I definitely would not be fine with that—and I know that too.  I was a good 4 minutes slower than I wanted to be, but I was just happy to exit the water alive.

T1 was uneventful.  I was so cold that I was having trouble getting my wetsuit off (as usual), putting my compression socks on, and putting my arm warmers on.  It was a super slow transition, but I didn’t mind.  No rush, it was still early in the game.

The bike. Oh, what to say about the bike.  I was freezing after exiting the water, and I was not looking forward to being soaking wet and cold while riding my bike. Well we had a nice half mile downhill, followed by a wonderful six mile uphill climb before entering the high road.  The first 6 miles happened to be the part of the course I drove the previous day.  I remember people telling me to “build the bike” and “don’t go too hard too early” so I kept that in mind for this first section.  Once we got onto the high road it was a lot more fun. I loved that it was a 3 loop course.  The first loop set the tone for the day.  The second loop was about building into it.  The third loop was fun because you knew after 6 miles you got to exit the high road and head back into town.  The last 6 miles or so into town were mostly downhill, and fun.  The one bad part was on the “no passing zone” about a mile from the finish.  If you get stuck behind somebody slower than you, it really stinks.  All in all, the bike course wasn’t as bad as I was expecting it to be, but it definitely was not easy.  I grabbed water every time I got to the turnaround point at the high school.  I used a mixture of 1000 calories of CarboPro on the bike with a scoop of Blue Raspberry Accelerade for flavor.  I had 3 Cranberry PowerBar Chews on the bike as well.  I nailed my nutrition much better at Branson than I did at Pigman.  I had some cramping issues around mile 40-45, but that was because I didn’t take my normal amount of Thermolytes.

T2 was as frantic as ever.  I can never remember where my spot is, and sure enough, I couldn’t remember this time.  The racks were numbered, but I think I was just so excited about being done with the bike that I couldn’t find it.  I probably spent a good 20 seconds looking for my number before I remembered it was right in front of the “run out” sign. Duh! Oh well, racked my bike, slipped on my Brooks t7’s and I was on my way!

The run--my favorite part!  I got off the bike and was feeling surprisingly good for just completing that bike course, so I just went with how I felt.  I came through the first mile in 5:48 and just thought to myself, “WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU DOING?!?!”  I had planned on staying conservative though the early part of the run to make sure I didn’t blow up the last 5k like I did at Pigman.  I came through 2 miles in 11:35.  At this point I was still feeling really good, but with 11 miles to go I was getting nervous.  There comes a point in every race where you have to make the decision to go for it, or stay the same.  The HIM is a waiting game, but that day I decided to just go for it 2 miles into the run.  It was a 3 loop course, and  I don’t remember much about the course, except I was passing people like crazy, and I really didn’t start to hurt until mile 11.  At mile 11 I knew I was in 2nd place in my age group, so I just had to hold on, and I would be going to worlds.  I was hurting, but nothing like Pigman, so I knew I would be able to hang on.  I just remember getting to the 13 mile marker and thinking “I am .1 mile away from a worlds spot, all I have to do is get across the line.”  I started to get teary eyed as I finished, because I went from being pretty far back coming out of the water, to putting together a great run to secure 2nd in my age group.  It really is crazy how the triathlon works out sometimes!

Swim:  39:16
T1:  4:28
Bike:  3:06:03
T2:  0:54
Run:  1:19:39
Total:  5:10:20

Once again, I would just like to say thank you to anyone that has played a part in my journey.  Although I love to race, Branson was my last triathlon of 2012.  I still have a biathlon, a couple 10k’s and a 3 miler planned for 2012.  This was my last major race, and I couldn’t have asked for a better day.  I am excited to be going to 70.3 Worlds next year, and I am excited to see what happens until then.  Congrats to all of the finishers, it was a tough course, and you definitely earned the finisher medal.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Thank You

70.3 Branson was quite the adventure, but first I should start by saying thank you to a few people. Training and racing are fun, and important to me, but none of it would be possible without the great support system I am blessed with.  My family and friends have been very supportive over time, as I have increased my training load and race schedule.  I would first like to thank my parents, without them, none of this would be possible.  They’re my biggest fans, and are super supportive.  My dad is crazy, and would literally drive half way across the country for a race if I told him I wanted to go.  There are even times I will ask him not to go, but he still insists on going. He has also caught on to the fact that if I ask to go on “vacation” over spring break, it really means there is a race I would like to do. So he’ll pack up the truck, and we’ll go! Also, I am very proud of my dad.  He is turning into quite the running machine, and it is exciting to watch him make progress in his fitness! I got to run his first 5k with him this summer, and that is still my favorite race I have ever done!

I would next like to thank Susie Walsh, Steve & Ginny Phillips! Everybody needs a group like these three in their life! Susie will make sure you keep a level head, and keep everything in perspective.  She is very positive, and can find a way to make the most out of any situation.  She is also a very good triathlete and a great example of how to balance triathlons with “normal” life.  Oh, and I bought my bike from her—I love my new rocketship :)  Steve & Ginny are also awesome!  They would literally do anything to help you.  I have forgotten bags at home on race day, and she’s brought them to me.  I’ve been out of certain things, and Ginny will say “come on over.”  Steve will tell you all about “reducing the co efficient of the drag a…” or whatever it is (I still have no idea what he is talking about), but in the end it all seems to make sense when he says, “Don’t go over xxx for your average power.” From these three I have learned a lot about training, racing, and life.

I would also like to thank my friends, whether it’s my teammates from Greenville, or friends from home, it is always nice to have people to hang out with and talk to (before 9:30pm)! Even though I would only see some people once a week, I enjoyed every minute we hung out. To my friends that run, thanks for listening to me talk about training and giving your input if something sounded seriously flawed in my training.  To my friends that don’t run…thank you! It is good to have a mix of everything in your life, and it is nice to talk about things that may not have anything to do with sports!  Sometimes it is as simple as just watching a movie, or sitting around a campfire drinking a Gatorade (ha!) but it really is a good time.

I have also enjoyed training with various people over the summer and fall—NIU’s tri team, the Starved Rock Runners, Evan Darm, Lara Kinkin, Wyatt Mach.  You all have had a part in getting me one step closer to my goals.  It really has been fun training with ya, and I look forward to many more run and swims together!

Also, I would just like to say thank you for all of the encouraging and congratulatory comments.  I’m sure you all have gotten sick of hearing about how excited I am for upcoming races, but yet you still all wish me good luck before race day.  After the race you all have something positive to say be it a good race or bad. And for that I thank you!

Now that I have had more time to digest and soak in Branson, I will soon put up the actual race report.