Ironman Texas 2014

Ironman Texas 2014

With my first year of racing pro again behind me, I was looking for a solid start to the season. Last year was tough. Many things didn’t go as planned, and frankly, I was tired of finishing last. I did some major soul searching during the off-season, partnered with Team Imagine Sports, and with a new perspective and direction, I was ready to get things started.

The week leading up to the race was pretty routine. I got into the Woodlands Wednesday, checked in, roamed about the expo, spent some quality time in the ART tent with Dr. Maloy, and got some rest.
Thursday, I hung out around the expo a little bit more, visited with athletes interested in learning more about Vector450, made a trip back to the ART tent, and hung out at the PowerBar booth. My friend, Lewis, and brother-in-law, Stephen, headed over for lunch at the local Jason’s Deli (where we ate five out of seven meals over the course of the weekend), and then went back to the hotel to put my feet up and chill. Friday was more of the same… with a very early bedtime… and a goal of waking up on my own before the 4:30am alarm on race morning.
Mission accomplished. I awoke a few minutes before my alarm, got dressed, ate a PowerBar Chocolate Caramel Triple Threat bar, and washed it down with a Coke (hey, don’t judge… after all these years, 4:30am and I still don’t get along). My brother-in-law Shane drove in with Stephen, picked up Lewis, his wife Kearci, and me, and dropped us off at transition. I checked on my bike, dropped my bags off, and then we all headed to the swim start. If the nerves weren’t already raging in full force, they certainly were on the walk over. All Ironman races get my anxiety level up, but after being the last pro out of the water last year, I was determined not to be this year. Working to my advantage that morning were water temps in the low 70’s… well within the wetsuit legal range. I’ve spent a lot of time working on my swim, particularly my swim start, but I was thrilled with the wetsuit news…it certaily wasn’t going to hurt.
I dropped off my special needs bag (never going to forget that again!), got in a good warmup, donned my wetsuit, and handed off my bag to Kearci, our cheerful sherpa. Mike Reilly started calling for pros to get in the water, so in I went. I found a good spot for my start, put my face in the water, and my goggles fogged. Ugh. I had used my anti-fog, and these are a pair of goggles I’ve raced in several times. I tried the spit trick, wiped them out, spit again, and no luck. At least they weren’t leaking, and trying to get them not to fog distracted me until the gun went off. We all took off, and after the usual underwater fist-fight that is the swim start, I found a pack to swim with. Since I couldn’t see buoys, I locked onto a girl with green goggles (they were so bright, I could see them, but little else). I knew I wasn’t last because I was swimming in a group, so that gave me some relief. We made the turn into the final channel, and I focused hard on my stroke. I was praying I would finish the swim in an hour, but I was reassuring myself that even a 1:05 would be OK. I stroked, pulled, and stayed honed in on the green goggles. At one point, we passed right alongside a buoy, and she turned left. I took one more stroke and realized, “red buoy – turn left – steps!” I didn’t realize I was so close to being done. I ran up the steps and into transition. I didn’t notice the clock at the swim exit, as I was running to the wetsuit strippers to help me out of my wetsuit. I sprinted to grab my transition bag, and as I turned into the changing tent, I looked at my watch. It was just turning over 1:01… that meant I swam right around an hour (1:00:05 official)… over 9 minutes better than last year. It wasn’t with the fastest guys, but it was way better than I had been swimming, and it sure wasn’t last. That gave me such a mood boost as I prepared to head out on the bike.
I ran through transition, waved to my wife’s boss, Troy (2x IM TX finisher who came in to watch the swim that morning), grabbed my bike, and heard the Maloys cheering me on as I ran through the Bike Out.
The bike was pretty uneventful. I biked alone for pretty much the entire course. I passed a few pros, but as I passed them, they dropped off and were gone. It makes for a lonely day and can be hard to really push. So, I focused on my time intervals, making sure I was eating and drinking right on schedule. I did great until the last 12 miles of the bike. Right at mile 100, my bladder was full, and for some reason, I just couldn’t relax. I wasn’t going to stop, so I just pushed through. As a result, I didn’t take much nutrition in for that last part of the bike.
I made it to transition with a bike time of 4:38:34…not bad for the windy day and riding basically alone. Alot of that has to do with the great bike too – I really love my Trek Speed Concept from Richardson Bike Mart.
I grabbed my bag and ran into the tent asking where the port-o-potty was. Of course, it was outside the tent, so I changed quickly, and ran out to the little blue building. Have you ever seen the movie Austin Powers? Well, I put his post-cryogenic freeze business to shame. Let’s just say I had plenty of time to contemplate how my race was going. All in all, I felt pretty good. Swim time was OK, bike time was OK, and I was feeling OK… obviously well hydrated. Dr. Maloy was waiting outside of transition as I ran out. She asked me how I was feeling, and I could only reply that I needed to pee. She laughed and gave me a thumbs up, and off I went on the run. I tried to settle into a manageable pace and start working on my nutrition.
For the first ten miles, I was on track. I felt good, pace was good, heartrate was good, nutrition was good. Then, missing my nutrition on the last twelve miles of the bike caught up to me. Mile eleven of the run was a bit off, and then the voices of doubt in my head started getting louder. I had a bit of a rough patch. It lasted the better part of the second loop, but I tried to settle myself, stay focused, and concentrate on my nutrition. I was hopeful that if I stuck to my plan, I could get back in the groove. I even grabbed an extra couple of gels from the course, trying to see if a few extra calories would help me snap out of it. Again, I was running more or less alone. Even though it was my second loop and more people were on the course, there were no real groups. For the entire run, I had no idea where I was place-wise. I had heard 14th, 20th, and from some really “nice” guy on the side of the road, “You’re a pro? Dude, you’re WAY back.” Just things that make it hard to keep the pedal down.
As I began loop three, a girl on her first loop ran past me. She wasn’t flying or doing anything crazy, but her passing me snapped my mind back into focus. I picked up my pace, settled back into a better rhythm, and passed her back. The miles started clicking off, and just before I hit the back side of the canal for the last time, I heard Kelly Williamson coming. I kind of wish it had happened sooner, because that really got me running again. She passed me, but I really re-engaged for the last few miles. I loosened up, and I felt good as I made the last few turns, each one getting me closer to the finish. I hadn’t been paying much attention to the time because I hit the wrong button when taking a split and accientally stopped my watch. So, I had no idea what my time was and still had no idea what place. As I made the final right turn, away from the finish line on the final out and back, I realized I would be under nine hours. I zipped up, high-fived spectators on the way, and for the first time in nineteen Ironman races, I didn’t get called to the finish line. Even in 2011, when Mike Reilly called the wrong name, it was at least me he was talking about… Kelly Williamson had finished a little over a minute ahead of me, so her interview was underway. Kudos to her though; she absolutely deserved her time in the spotlight! And in fairness, once her interview was over, my finish was announced.
8:56:00 and 14th male pro. All in all, a pretty good day. The Maloys met me in the finish chute, along with friends, Tracy Shultz and Chris McCaskey. They told me where I finished, and honestly, I was in disbelief. It was finally a solid performance. Can I do better? Yes. Did I make mistakes? Yes. But, am I happy with this finish? Yes… for the first time in a long time.
Lezlie took me for my celebratory Big Mac and fries and then back to the SVSS Mobile Recovery Center to put on the recovery boots.
Wow, what a difference! I was walking better so much faster than I normally am after an Ironman.
Coach Jason Soria and I have analyzed the race, and he’s set my training plan for the next few months. Next stop, Ironman Louisville!

Sweet Sixteen

Sweet Sixteen

Happy 16th Anniversary to my wife, Amy.
I’m not sure how I got so lucky to find someone who would be OK with me leaving for a race on our anniversary instead of taking her out to dinner.

Kansas Bound

Kansas Bound

By this time tomorrow, Trevor and I should be half-way to Lawrence, KS. Hopefully, the weather will play nice and not slow down the travel process much. (With any luck, I won’t have Amy’s travel luck.)

I’ve never done two A races so close together before, and I am surprised with how ready I feel. Given the tight turn-around from Ironman Texas (and how absolutely awful I felt that night and the next couple of days) along with the craziness of life, I really just didn’t think I’d be ready for a 70.3 this fast. With work and family stuff (soccer practice, volleyball camp, Amy working late, school getting out for the summer), the schedule over the last week and a half has been a bit out of whack. I’ve actually missed more sleep than I’d like, especially this close to a race. I have to say, the Vector450 is keeping me running on all cylinders. I don’t usually post times and watts like I was last week so quickly after an Ironman. I got in some good high-intensity workouts, and this week has been a nice easy taper, per Lauren’s instructions.
So, ready or not, Kansas, here I come!

Ironman Texas 2013

Ironman Texas 2013

Eeesh… I don’t even know where to begin.

Suffice it to say, I had high hopes for this race. The week before the race went great. I left town Tuesday night and headed down to the Woodlands with the Maloys. We got in a little late, but I didn’t have to drive, so the late hour didn’t phase me. Wednesday, I headed over at the Expo, spent a good amount of time in the ART tent with Dr. Maloy keeping me loose, ate, hydrated, and rested. Thursday was pretty much the same. Friday, I dropped off my bike, went to the Pro meeting, and repeated Wednesday and Thursday. Amy and the girls drove down after school and got in that evening. I got one last night of good sleep, and we were up at 4am for the usual Ironman race morning routine.
We got down to transition early, I checked my bike, put my computer on, filled my bottles, and got my helmet inspected (and took some pictures of Boo’s Flat Stanley posing on my bike). We set out on the trek over to the swim start, and even though it was still really early, the port-o-potty lines were already crazy long. Amy grabbed a spot in line, and I ran over and dropped off my special needs bag. (I was NOT going to forget that again this year!) Thankfully, the line moved quickly, and I had plenty of time to get my sunscreen on and my goggles anti-fogged. I hugged and kissed Amy and the girls, and I headed over to the swim start. All was going just as planned.
Then, the cannon went off. I hesitated a second too long to start, and just like that, I lost the feet of the guys in front of me. Amy said she and the kids were watching the swim start from the bridge, and there was one lone Pro hanging off the back. She and Monkey said, “I really hope that’s not him.” Well, I can tell you – it was. It’s no secret that the swim is not exactly my strong suit. Adding to that the fact that I just couldn’t get comfortable and into a rhythm and the fact that I was in the water with some really fast swimmers, and it got ugly… and fast. When I made the turn into the channel to head towards the swim exit, I was mentally defeated. I knew the predicament I was in, but I don’t have any extra gears for swimming like I can muster on the bike or run. So, after a brutal 1:11 swim, I was finally out of the water… the last Pro and behind more than a few age groupers. If it weren’t for Byron Benoit pulling me out of the water, yelling encouragement, I might have thrown in the towel right then and there. I ran through transition to my bike… the only one left on our rack, and I was literally sick to my stomach. I told myself, “Put it behind you, and just get going.” So, I grabbed my bike, nodded to the Maloys, forced a smile for Amy and the kids, and tried to make up whatever time I could as I raced out of town.
I heard it was going to be a warm (low-mid 80’s) and windy day, and I knew the second half of the race would have a headwind all the way back. I was angry, but I knew I couldn’t ride angry or I’d pay for it later. I told myself to ride hard but not over-ride. Pace, eat, and drink, and reel some of them in. In the town of Richards, as I crossed the railroad tracks (not sure what mile it was), I finally caught a male Pro. I had passed most of the amateurs and some of the Pro women, but I was on the hunt for the men. When I passed him, I was minorly relieved and thought, “Well, at least you’re not last.” From there, it was more of the same. Control what I can… pace, nutrition. I kept eating and drinking, noting that it was getting warmer, but I felt like I had a good plan for the day. At mile 80, I felt good, but the day was getting harder. I kept looking at the clock, doing the math, realizing that my bike split wasn’t shaping up to be under 4:40 like I’d hoped. At mile 90 though, as we were getting back into town, we got a little break from the wind. I was able to get my speed up a bit more, and the math started working out a little better. I felt confident – if I was able to accelerate like that late in the race, it was a good indicator that I had done well with my nutrition. I rolled into transition with a 4:39:39, and that gave me another little boost. I was still ticked about the swim, but I had biked more or less what I wanted, so there were positives to take from that. I figured I was still around 30th or so male Pro, so I just hoped some were dying on the run.
I handed off my bike, made my way through transition, burned the bottoms of my feet on the scorching hot pavement in the run bag pickup, and made my way through the transition tent. The volunteers were so awesome. They helped me open my bag, slapped some sunscreen on me, got me water and ice, and follwed me all the way to the exit cheering. Stuff like that really gives you a nice little boost. I ran out of transition, reviewing my nutrition plan in my head, and working to get into a good rhythm. The first loop went by pretty uneventfully. I didn’t get passed by anyone and passed a few myself. I went through my self-assessment – feel good, nutrition seems OK, good spririts – check. At this point in the race, I hadn’t really seen many people on the course. I had biked most of the course alone and now was running basically alone. On the second loop, there were more people out on the course, which was nice. I was still feeling OK, and then I got to mile 12. I wasn’t sure what happened, but I slammed into a wall. I tried to reassess and figure out why things seemed to all of a sudden fall apart. I was frantically searching for my “reset” button to get back to how I had felt just a mile earlier. So, I took a little longer through the aid station, stopped at the port-o-potty, adjusted my sock that slipped a little, adjusted my chip that was rubbing – searching for something that might help me get back on track.
I started figuring out that I was dehydrated. I took in as many fluids as I could and told myself to just keep going. It was taking everything I could muster to keep moving forward. I was literally thinking, “Left, right, left, right.” I saw the Maloys and Amanda Melo with the “big heads” along with Amy and the kids screaming at me from the far side of the canal.
I tried to straighten up my form and smile at them, but even that took effort I couldn’t spare at that moment. I looped around and passed them on the near side of the canal. Jason yelled at me that I had moved from 24th to 17th male Pro and that everyone was suffering in the heat. Hearing that helped me find that extra gear I had been searching for. It was just what I needed to hear. I still had my special needs bag waiting ahead with extra nutrition (more salt!) and figured I could gut it out to the finish in about an hour. I picked up my pace and said (I think out loud), “Get moving and finish this thing!” I flew through aid stations, grabbing whatever they handed me and splashing it on myself, making me a sticky mess but I didn’t care. I made my way around the back side of the loop and was heading to the canal for the last time. I saw Jason Soria, I picked up the pace and closed the gap. I caught him at the aid station, patted him and said, “Let’s go.” He took me literally, turned and said, “OK, let’s go!” and he took off. I tucked in and stayed with him.
You know the saying, “Misery loves company?” Well, that was us. He was running well, but he said he was suffering. I understood completely. We went back and forth, pushing the pace together, all the way to the turn-around which was my 26 mile mark. He said, “Run with me,” and I locked in on the Team Imagine Sports logo on his back and just followed. At my turn-off to the finish, we shook hands, exchanged words of encouragement, and I headed into the finish.
The finish chute runs about a block away from the finish, then turns back around and to the finish arch. I ran along the fence high-five’ing people on my way in, and all of a sudden an arm shot out with a Texas flag. I realized as I grabbed it that it was Monkey handing it to me. She yelled something about the top corner being in my right hand so I could get the flag right-side up. Well, let me just say, 100 yards from and Ironman finish is not the place for me to figure out whether or not I have it right side up, so I opted to grab the blue field with both hands and avoid the possibility of flying the flag upside down. I made it to the line in 9:33:11 with a 3:35:39 run, which left me 15th male Pro… right in the middle of the pack. I’ve had better days and I’ve had worse days for sure, so I did take comfort in coming back from so far behind for a respectable finish.
I went to the med tent to rehydrate and cool off for a few minutes. It was there that I was told that the temp was actually 96* with a heat index over 100*. So, my mid-80’s nutrition wasn’t quite sufficient for the day. Rest assured, I’ll stock up my special needs bag even more in the future. Congratulations to all of the finishers – it was a hard day. Amy and I are especially proud of her boss, Troy, who dug deep and finished in 13:47:29, in spite of his severe deyhdration. And to those who did not, hold your heads high. You worked hard, but it was a really hard day. Next time will be better. Tracy – you fought all the way to your finish line. You’re way tougher than most, and you’re gonna kill it in IMAZ!
Finishing so dehydrated made the next few days tough. I haven’t felt that bad after an Ironman in a really long time. On Tuesday, I was still walking like a car accident victim. I had been toying with the idea of racing Ironman Kansas 70.3, but with only three weeks in between and feeling as bad as I was, I didn’t think that it would happen. After a couple visits to SVSS and my regular dosing of Vector 450, by Friday, I was feeling much better. I gave myself some extra time to decide to be sure that I could get back up to sufficient training before going back into a taper. I discussed the race with Lauren (my coach) and made the final decision this last week. I’ve had some great rides and runs, which gives me confidence to press on. So, Thursday, the Vector 450 team and I will make our way to Lawrence, KS for the 70.3 on Sunday, the 9th.
Stay tuned, and wish me luck!

Greetings from the Woodlands

Greetings from the Woodlands

For me, one of the hardest things about race prep is tapering. The logical side of me knows that the rest is needed to be fresh and ready on race day and that nothing I do two or three days out is going to make me faster. The competitive (less logical) side of me doesn’t always listen to reason. I struggle with sitting around, though I know I need to keep my feet up. I struggle with not being at the gym or on my bike for most of the day, though I know being sore and tired on race day won’t do me a bit of good.

Plain and simple, I am antsy as can be right now. Maybe that’s why Amy so willingly let me head down to the Woodlands several days ahead of her and the girls. Well, there’s her work and the kids’ school that they shouldn’t miss, but she didn’t bat an eye when I said I was thinking about going down a day earlier than I originally planned. My head has been all over the place this week…all positive things…just lots going on to wrap my head around.
So, here I am in the Woodlands, taking in the event and the pre-race hubbub. I’ve gotten in a few short workouts the last couple of days – just to stay loose. I’m at peace with my training and feel like I’m in a good place. Good luck to all of my teammates, friends, and fellow athletes competing this weekend. Let’s all make it a great day – I’ll see you at the finish line!

Train to Fail?

Train to Fail?

Why do you train? You train to win – even if win doesn’t necessarily mean an award. You start out with a goal, and if you accomplish that goal, it’s a win, right? So, you train to win. But, have you ever trained to fail?

Have you considered the worst case? the what if’s? If not, well, in simplest terms – you should. You know how to change a tube and/or tire, right? If you’re answer is no, stop now & go learn. The blog will still be here later. If yes, good for you. Now, can you change a tube/tire while your heart rate is 180 and you’re dripping in sweat? And, can you use a CO2 cartridge to inflate it? I suggest you try before your next big race, because again (trust me when I tell you), the side of the road in the race you’ve trained all year for is not the place to try to figure it out.
You must learn how to deal with adversity in training. All runs should not be in the early morning in the summer before it gets to hot or in the middle of the afternoon in winter because morning is too cold. All bike rides should not be on beautiful, partly cloudy 70* days with no wind. All swims should not be in a perfectly still, 80* pool. Because, guess what? Anything can happen on race day, and if you wait until then to formulate your plan B, that’s way too late.
It goes beyond the physical setting of your training as well. Think about you and the things you do/want/need during your workouts. Whether it’s only using a specific electrolyte drink, only a certain flavor of gel, only liking ice-cold water, or whatever, be able to function if that can’t happen. Establishing a routine is great, but build in time to test what happens if you deviate from your routine. If you forget to turn in your Ironman special needs bag on race morning (hypothetically speaking, of course), when you get to the pickup point and figure it out, don’t finish the race with no nutrition because you don’t like chocolate gels. Learn (in training) how to react if that’s your only option.
How do you know how much farther you can go if you’re bonking? How do you know if it’s bonking or dehydration? Push those limits so you’ll know what’s happening and so you can figure out how to react. It will take trial and error. That’s OK… you’ll learn what not to do as well, and those can be equally valuable lessons. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone in training. Run harder than you should, ride in the rain, skip a gel on purpose, put warm water in your water bottle… because you may very well get psyched by the screaming crowd and take off at 6:00 miles instead of your safe 8:00’s, miss your nutrition window, and/or get handed a scalding hot cup of water at mile 18 of a blazing hot run.
The anxiety of race day, in and of itself, will push you out of your comfort zone. So, the other various possibilities of things that could happen can definitely rock your world. You can’t train for every conceivable contingency, but why not prepare for as many as you can?

Your logbook is your best friend. Keep track of what you did and how you dealt with it. That way, if it happens on accident in training, you can look back and compare notes. If it happens in a race, hopefully it won’t be the first time you’ve ever considered what you’d do if…

Finally, have a plan for complete implosion. You got kicked in the face and swam 20 minutes slower than planned, you got a flat, a cramp and missed a water handup and barely made the bike cut off, and now you’re melting down on the run. Now what? How resolved are you to finish? How far can you push yourself and not end up in the hospital? Why are you out here and what matters most to you? ┬áThere are no right or wrong answers, and those answers are different for each and every one of us. You – and only you – can answer for yourself. I highly suggest you have that internal discussion though. I’ve had great races, and I’ve had quite a few where I’d really like a do-over. I’ve questioned many a time as to why in the world I do this to myself, but I always come back to the same answer and same resolve that drives me to race. Find yours and file it away somewhere handy… you never know when you’ll need it.

Like a Kid in a Candy Store

Like a Kid in a Candy Store

My new bike came in this weekend, and I am so stoked! So, Sunday, I made my way out at Richardson Bike Mart to see Woody and Cliff. I have to admit I was downright giddy walking into the store. It’s not like I’ve never had a nice bike before, but I was still really excited. It’s about the same thing that I rode in Galveston – Trek Speed Concept 9.9 – but with a few upgrades.┬áSo, I shuffled into the store like a goofy teenager, with my twelve-year-old in tow, rolling her eyes. If only she knew the number of times the roles were reversed…

Cliff spent a lot of time checking measurements, angles, heights, distances, pitch, and more. After several hours and lots of tweaking, I’m feeling really comfortable.

With Ironman Texas just a few weeks away, this happened at a perfect time. I’ve got just enough time to be sure all is set up exactly as I need it. I set it up on my Computrainer last night, so here in a few, it’ll get it’s first real workout.
I can’t wait to hit the road in the Woodlands and see what kind of times I can ride.

If only there were 25 hours in a day…

If only there were 25 hours in a day…

This time of year, time just seems to fly by. The kids are down to six weeks left of school, and the spring/end of year activities are already starting to ramp up. On top of that, Ironman Texas is only four weeks away, so my days are packed from start to finish. Amy laughed at me – literally out loud – on Monday when I asked about plans for this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I needed to know whether she was picking up the kids from school or needed me to. I needed to know what time soccer games are scheduled, what time we are having dinner each night, what time we are going to mass, and what time she/we/they need to leave and will return from each activity.

From 4:30am until I collapse into bed at the end of the night, I’ve got every minute of every day planned a week at a time. Lauren has really racheted my training up heading towards Ironman Texas, and I’ve got to find a way to fit it all in. My work schedule (one day on, two days off) gives me a good amount of flexibility and free time, but the caveat is that I never know what, if anything, I can get in on shift days. The day after shift can be a wildcard too, depending on how many calls we run. Nevertheless, I press on.
Amy and the girls are flexible and understanding about my training (minor disagreements not withstanding), so in theory, it should be easy to get it all in. That said; I still want to spend time with them. I want to attend all of the sports events, go to mass, and just see and talk to them. I don’t want the girls to remember that their childhood consisted of me always being at the gym, on my bike, or out for a run.
Making the time for “life” is forcing the issue with my recovery too. After getting yelled at last summer for “looking like I was about to die” at more than one of Boo’s practices or games, I have finally admitted that I can’t ride hard for 5 hours, hop off the bike, run through the shower, having not eaten all day, and then race out the door to the next activity. I’m focusing on quality over quantity and listening to my body. When it starts firing warning shots and saying, “Time to rest,” I listen (albeit begrudgingly). I often wish for 25 hours in a day, but I’d probably just end up planning something other than sleep for that extra hour anyway.



It’s raining today, appropriate given the somber mood this week. It’s been a rough one for Americans. The country is still wrapping our collective heads around a cowardly act of terrorism, and then Wednesday, a fertilizer plant explosion in West, TX decimated a four-block area killing an unknown number of people and injuring well over a hundred. There are a number of people unaccounted for, including three firefighters. It’s another kick to the gut, especially for that small town of 2600 people. In a small, tight-knit community like West, everyone knows everyone, so it hurts them all to their core.

What is it about this week in history? Friday, in addition to being my birthday, will mark the 20th anniversary of the burning of the Branch Davidian compound and the 18th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. It’s events like those and the ones this week that really get into your head. How can these things happen? They also make you realize just how precious life is.
So, I encourage you to get away from the computers, TV’s and other life distractions. Spend some quality facetime with your family and friends. Take your kids out and let them dance in the rain, and join them when they jump in the puddles.