Finally! I got my Chattanooga spot. We had one chance to get this right with the qualifying cut-off coming up fast in addition to factoring in recovery time it takes from doing these crazy races. I am happy to report I was 1st place in the U24 field, and 16th overall, securing my spot at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Chattanooga, TN. In Madison on race day, the temp was a muggy 80s, the roads kept one on their toes, and the run was deceivingly hard. Let’s hope this race report is nothing less than a steamer.
After Long Course Worlds in Miami, I took some time off to not do triathlon stuff? I traveled to NYC for a week, but mostly this time ended up with me swimming, planning this year, and learning how to make a website from YouTube Videos. What great success on my goal for an off season break from things all tri, eh? Throughout this time, I ran and biked very little.
My lack of movement ended up being my equivalent of the Secret Stairs to Mordor. Assuming I’m Frodo and Shelob the spider is an injury. ANYWAY, what I am getting at is soon after training began I over ran, and my Achilles flared up for about 3 miserable months.
Great start to the season! The road to recovery started with lots of stretching and, oddly enough, ended with Electro Acupuncture. I had about 2 months of solid running going to HIM Madison and was ready to rock thanks to Nate Dicks Sports.
Kate and I motored into Madison the Saturday before, checked into the AirBnB, and were amongst our dorky triathlon kinship in no time. There is nothing like the energy at a race during check in day. I use this time to drool at cool bikes in transition, snag as many free samples as possible, and regrettably walk myself into a tired haze prior to race day. Ops!
After hearing about the swim start, I was confused, a little disappointed, and greatly less nervous all in the same second of emotions.
Madison was a rolling start meaning you self corral next to the flag that has your estimated swim time and then the people gradually flow into the water with the fastest swimmers first. Time wise this is awesome; HIM had about 2,500 participants and had everyone in the water in 1 hours time. USAT Nationals in Omaha has about 2,000 racers, and everyone is in the water around with 2 hours and 45 minutes on the clock. I feel it takes away from the “race” aspect, but I it’s the future of the sport by taking away the hectic swim phobia most first timers have (Myself included).
Long story short, I started in at the end of the 27-30 minute group and in front of the 30-33. The thought process here was my goal time hits just under 30 minutes, I’ve never swam under 30, and I’d rather get passed by a few fish, then Tarzan my way through a school of swimmers. The plan worked out to a T. I had a solid squad of swimmers around me and didn’t run into any major packs nor attacked by any. The swim had about as much in-water contact as a duathlon.
You know those puzzles where you have to connect the dots without lifting your pencil off the paper and you cannot retrace any lines, I feel this bike course had a lot in common with one of those puzzles. During the prior day course recon, we got lost, overwhelmed with the amount of turns, and eventually went home and prayed for cone and helpful volunteers the next day.
After getting out of the water and onto the bike course, I couldn’t have been a happier triathlete. The sun was shining, birds were chirping, and my 3 year accrued tax return Blue Triad was flying (thanks 2019!). Our goal for the bike was to go out hard for the first 10 miles with hopes of catching some uber bikers, then attempt to stay within range of those guys assuming they have their power meter cruise control set and won’t be yo-yo’ing pace.
Within the first 60 feet of getting my feet into the shoes, the course rode over some rail road tracks and immediately ejected my between the arms bottle. At the time I thanked the lord as this is an Ironman event and aid stations are about as common as “Worst Parade Ever” Signs at a marathon.
Once the race got rolling, I could see the pack of bikers in front of me. Passing large groups at a time only encouraged using my fresh legs more and more. In triathlon, you must remain 20 meters or something behind the racer in front of you for drafting reasons. This includes passes in which one has 15 seconds to make a pass while remaining 20ish meters behind the next racer. Thus if it’s a large pack, you have the pass the whole train in order to not get dinged with a drafting penalty.
Around mile 25, I positioned myself in a great pack of racers that were pushing an honest pace. I stayed with them for the next 15-20 miles, snagging nutrition as I could, and giving thanks to volunteers. Nothing notable happened until about mile 50 when the road became as smooth as the Oregon Trail. It took an honest line to stay clear of the bigger bumps and potholes. I used this section to jet away from the pack into no man’s land as I was with hoping to gain a mental edge going into the run.
Approaching the safe haven of T2 with a mile or two to go, I was coming down a fast section of the course with a turn at the end. Suddenly the rear wheel locked up sending the bike fishtailing unexpectedly. My prevailing motocross skills took over and I let the bike take her course. Thankfully, I avoided high-siding myself into the pavement and, most importantly, didn’t ruin my new Kiwami Kit and aero helmet.
After finally coming to a stop, I realized my skewer came undone and popped out of the dropouts, jamming the wheel crooked in the seat stays. Luckily I was able to put it back in and limp back to transition with a bent Jet6 Wheel hitting both sides of the seat stay.
My goal going in was to hold around 6:30 until about mile 6-7, then attempt to drop my pace down as the race went on depending how things were going. Nutrition wise I wanted to have some water/ drinkable calories at every aid station, 1 highly caffeinated gel, and maybe banana here and there. Now let’s asses the deltas.
My pit stop on the bike costed about 50 seconds, sending me back into the pack from the bike. The run started with feeling great for the first mile or two, like hulk good. Thoughts were streaming in imagining holding this 6:15 pace with no issues while holding onto the current 2-3 guys that I left transition with. 6:15 per mile, works out to a 1:21 half marathon, “Wo! This could go really well”. But as my good friend Kenny Rogers once said, “…you don’t count your money, until the dealings done”. Sorry Kenny, but I do not know when to fold-em.
Mile 2 hit like a ton of bricks with less optimism. Thoughts of “I am less than 1/6th of the way through this thing, HR cooking around where I sit for tempos, maybe lift off the gas a bit”. For the next four miles I went through cycles of “This pace is sustainable”, then “Hmmm, maybe a bit slower”. During the last 6 miles, I finally landed my pace plane around Let just get to the finish per Mile. This was by far the hardest race ever. Gone were the WOOO’s of the bike, and the encouragement of other racers; just pure survival mode in the hot Wisconsin sun.
After crossing the finish line, I couldn’t be more excited. The announcer said I was the first U24 athlete to come across, thus securing my spot to Worlds. As with any race, my memory was washed of misery that took place ten minutes prior, looking fondly at all the fun over the last 4 hours and 36 minutes. Goodbye 90 minutes of shuffling and hello post- race activities filled with IPA’s and war stories amongst the crew.
Swimming: In the water, I spotted like a bat in mid- day flight. There were many Whoops moments out in the water realizing I was here and buoy was way over there. Moving forward I’ll try to spot more during my trips down the pool lane, increase my open water time, and try to find the feet of fast looking swimmers with expensive wetsuits (Flawless plan).
Bike/Run: The reason why I love the bike so much is the technical aspect. Being last on the brakes and first off is just free speed, but hammering out of the corners and up the hills to catch others is not free speed. It is high risk, high reward, speed that can lead to a blow up. One might look at a race just as Markowitz looks at a well balanced portfolio. For each race one must decide how much risk to wager relative to their performance. Points along the optimal frontier are what we shoot for. By me flying around on the bike course hammering up the hills is like a triple leveraged position in penny stocks; I was bound to blow up. Moving forward, I will stop chasing uber bikers on cool bikes, and race my own race.
Overall: The race was a hell of an experience. I love the energy at Madison and the fans/ volunteers were amazing. Top 10 overall would have been neat, but I’ll take my 16th, Worlds position, celebratory cupcake and cookie dough, and move into the summer. On the day, our crew killed it with Dani Vsectcka continuing her dominating 2017 season with a huge win by taking the Overall Women’s spot, and Mitch Brekke securing a Worlds position while racing every triathlon possible within a 100 mile radius. He’s a machine. My plans until Worlds are to build strength, get more comfortable on my TT bike, and creep on everyone in my age group for worlds via Strava (JK on last one..).
Finally, I cannot stress enough for you slogging through my race report. It helps me reflect on what I’ve done, what I can improve, and scratch a writing itch. Hopefully a straggler or two, besides my folks, reads Venture Tri which makes it all the more fun.
I cannot thank everyone enough who supports my dreams. Nate Dicks for supplying me a plan while raising 2 children, obtaining a PhD in exercise science, and owning a coaching business. TerraLoco for allowing me to represent the greatest running store in Rochester MN, Kiwami for supplying me with the best kit on planet earth, Kate for dealing with me in my post race Delta-Wave-Brain state, and my folks for EVERYTHING. I hit the lottery on having amazing people behind me. THANK YOU.