Friday, September 5, 2014

Ironman Boulder 2014

Following my first US National title a couple weeks earlier at Duathlon Nationals, I was poised to go out onto my home turf and rip it up if only the leg injuries during the near-entire-season would just bug off for one day. The long story short without reading this entire blog is this...swim was uneventful, some stomach or bacteria thing from the Rez going on started 30 miles into the bike causing me to throw up a dozen times during the bike/run, not allowing enough calories & hydration to keep going or stave off cramping during the run. Walked a lot during the marathon (about 19 aid stations in total as well as between them for a bit, then stopped to take off a shoe/sock due to a stick or rock--something that was bugging me). Survived in a disappointing run which was very uncharacteristic and unlike what I was ready to unleash.

Now the details. First, the bike course was not that difficult and the altitude and hills should not be concerned for those wanting to do this race. The water quality is an issue though it is tested each Monday. It rained like a Banshee Tuesday, Wednesday & part of Thursday. Enough time for some e- coli to fester in the water or something nasty. It could have been oil/gas in the water from all the boats the previous days leading into the race--high numbers in the water for sure vs. normal. There were hundreds dropping race day due to vomiting and diarrhea, dehydration. The Med Tent docs said something unusual was going on because the same symptoms were showing up--90+% who came into the Med Tent had the same things going on. I've never cramped in an Ironman before, this was a first and brought me to a halt multiple times on the run.

For those looking to come to the Ironman Boulder race, logistics are illogical. I live 3 miles from the Rez, yet had to drive south to Boulder High, get on a bus, only to get driven all the way back to north Boulder past my house, and into the Rez. There were other cars sneaking into the Rez yet they told us the roads would be closed. Weird. Two different transition areas was not cool either, but whatever, I didn't have to pay for a plane ticket, hotel, bike transportation, food or car rental. It is what it was. Race morning wasn't anything spectacular, it was nice to start in the "AWA or All World Athlete" wave. This keeps the pretenders out of the way who usually sprint to the front then screech to a halt after the half way buoys causing a barrier to navigate through, or those who bunch up during the bike and never let you pass without locking onto your wheel endangering you to potential penalties by pack rotating anytime you pass them, which happens way too often since Ironman typically oversells their races to a point of danger or degrading fairness on course.

After the swim which felt long while I was out there, having only swum 4K + about 2x all summer long, I took my time in T1. Stopped at the bathroom as usual in an Ironman and took a long time getting my bike stuff on. In shorter triathlons, there are few who transition faster than I do, including pros--my times are right there with the pros. The longer the race such as Ironman, the longer I take on purpose. It's a long ride and run & it is best to make my bathroom stops in transition than while on the move, plus, it clears my system so I can bike/run discomfort free from GI issues.

The bike was different for me this time as I raced with my HRM. Typically going off of RPE after spending YEARS using and analyzing with a power meter, my bike sessions. I had sold my Power Meter a few years prior after the company went belly-up and haven't bought a new one as new technology and dropping prices continue. I know myself well enough that I know what to do now & where I stand fitness wise & what the issues are I need to work on--it's what I do as a professional coach. But training with the HRM then racing with it just for the bike portion was a two-day prior decision to ensure I didn't get too excited & kill off my run. Racing 135-137 most of the ride, I hit some issues at mile 85 when dehydration from vomiting set it. HR shot up to low to mid-140's, not too bad but I knew there would be further issues down the line as no calories, liquid or salt/electrolytes would stick.  The final bike time was second best time ever while being one of the easiest effort levels of any Ironman I've done.

T2...was VERY long. Not only did I take ANOTHER 2 minute porta-potty stop, resting, almost napping...I put all my stuff on in transition carefully and slowly. Cisco Quintaro, a local triathlete, was a volunteer in the tent and rushed to my aid getting anything I needed. The tent was very empty and I knew I was near the front of the race. So far minus the tossing of cookies all day--it was a pretty easy effort day & I was ready to cook it on the run.

The run...I had a ball the first 6 miles, flying and starting to mow down people while in a "jog/cruise" mode. Then shortly after I saw Sonja Wieck (who took one of the awesome Twitter Pics--thanks Sonja!)...I started walking. That was the last pic anyone took of me relaxed, because the dehydration set in. Then I had to take my shoe/sock off because something in it was bugging me. Sitting in the grass on the side of the course, watching a few guys I just passed go was setting up to be a very, very long day. In the below picture, easy sailing--nobody behind me and near the front of the race.

The rest of the day was just crazy hard trying to make it to the line. Cramping--something new. Overheating (not unusual but not fun either!) Doubts as to if this was going to be a day I wouldn't finish (unlikely but always a possibility). It went from thoughts of possibly winning the AG (I hadn't lost a multisport race all year in my AG) can I finish? Upon seeing former World Champ & former ex-pro European pro cyclist/pro triathlete Curt Chesney was again racing (now in my AG), that it was always going to be a race for 2nd. That was turning to 3rd, far down the list could I slide? At the end of the day, it was a 4th place salvaged 45-49 finish. Enough for my 13th Ironman Hawaii qualification. Top 5 in the AG got a slot.

Some of the highlights of the day were certainly seeing my friend Andy Ames and his wife Rachel, who just had surgery, on the run course cheering me on. Rachel took a few photos below. Andy tried to take a few by running up ahead (while I was walking) if I was going to keep pace with a speed walk...? Also, seeing one of my athletes Grant out on the course and near the finish and Peyman (Sasha) Razifard. All in all it was an "okay" race.

I would possibly do it again someday but the concrete 6 foot narrow bike path needs to be moved to a wide road run, it was ridiculous on lap 2 having to dodge so many people, creek path tubers, dogs...and even a pro triathlete who was following his American wife on his bike during the run (knucklehead thing to do!) I witnessed TWO pro female triathletes during the run receiving outside assistance--thus, breaking the rules. The bike overall was very clean and was about the cleanest bike leg of any Ironman I had seen, so BRAVO to the participants up front for keeping it clean. One thing that impressed me most was the depth of people cheering on the BCP near the high school--four to five deep at times, as well as the finish line near Pearl Street. Amazing crowd. If not for the concrete path being so narrow, two transition areas, and silly long T2 run into the track at the high school, I really wouldn't have complaints (aside from the bad water!)

Next up for me is Ironman Hawaii in about a month. Thanks to all my friends and family who supported me this season, coming out to races to watch, take photos, etc. Certainly, winning a US National Champion title goes down as a big landmark for me, as well as winning everything I've entered multisport-wise in my 45-49 (I just turned 45 in May)...all season, until Ironman Boulder's bacteria/stomach issues that is. Ironman Hawaii is just the frosting on the cake and family trip so not a lot else to say besides it has been a good race season despite injuries keeping me from biking well.
I'm still trying to figure out why I'm racing so well despite biking so much worse...just quirky stuff y'know?

2015 will center around ÖTILLÖ in Sweden. It is starting to look like I'll be heading to the Mother Land (I'm Swedish/Polish/German). My friend & I have apparently secured a team start for the World Swim/Run championships so no Ironman next year. There will be other smaller races involved along the way but nothing concrete yet, just fun races. 2016 I'll be back at Ironman, hoping to hold my own against the incoming younger guns into the age group. Thanks for stopping by my blog & also thanks to my sponsors Rudy Project, Infinit Nutrition, Boulder Running Company/Team Adidas and Blue Seventy! They've all been a big help with not only but to my own racing.

Monday, September 1, 2014

2014 USA National Duathlon Championships: RACE REPORT

Duathlons are something I had rarely dabbled in during multisport competition in my younger days. It was a speed session or something I did when the weather was too cold to have a swim involved. Using it merely for pre & post race practice of race routine (figuring out how long prior to wake up, what warm up to do, how much/long, etc).  Certainly using it to hone transition skills is one of the greatest values I find as it is real world stuff you just can’t seem to get in a practice out of your garage, because there are people around you trying to kick your ass and every second counts.

Last year, a friend I had gotten to know through trail racing and some sporadic winter duathlons, Andy Ames (2013 ITU World Duathlon Champ 50-54, 2013 & 2014 US Duathlon National Champ 50-54), planted the idea/seed in my head that he thought I should race duathlons more. He thought I could be one of the top in the nation if not world. I like to say he badgered me until I said uncle, but it was a new direction so what the heck. I found a 2013 qualifier, Orange County Duathlon in early spring. Finishing 2nd overall with a hip strain to the guy who would later become the overall US National champ—I stamped my ticket on Team USA & went to worlds. Andy & I roomed together and had a hoot of a time going around Canada’s version of Washington D.C. In the end, I was 4th in the 40-44 (in the world!!)…as well as the top American master. 

The keynote here was it was just on a bucket list of many for 2013. Only FIVE days prior I had raced Boulder 70.3 half.  Still tired from that effort, it was a tricky balance. Go all out at Boulder & flop at worlds?  A goal was to go only hard enough at Boulder to nab a slot to 70.3 World Championships in Las Vegas, which I did perfectly. However, it still left me dry for worlds to a degree, but I was satisfied even though my bike effort was quite horrible. I took an extended and early break last fall after Las Vegas, knowing 2014 had Ironman Boulder involved.

2014, Andy once again talked me into going to race USAT Nationals for duathlon in St. Paul. Once again, we roomed together and had fun trying different restaurants each meal. Race day was 6/19. Once again, I raced Boulder Peak Triathlon on 6/13. The entire season was a battle with a chronic hamstring tear after a duathlon I won called Big Sky in Denver. From there, I over-compensated with the left non-injured side and ended up with a quad strain that lasted pretty much through August. Luckily, the duties of Boulder Peak efforts were not enough to deter me from my first ever US National Championship. I’ve always wanted to be a National Champ in *something* (anything)…finally that was off the bucket list. I’d love a World Championship one day too in something, maybe someday.

2014 US Duathlon National Championships went something like this…race effort from Boulder Tri was 6 days prior, a little tired—cycling all season has been horrible as far as power output from the injury. Biking was so far OFF from my normal, it was very common for me to have one of the slowest bike legs in the top 10. For some reason, my running has been very much ON all season except Bolder Boulder when I was in the beginning of the injury stage. Nationals was no different. Knowing I wouldn’t be up with Dave Slavinski/Tom Woods AFTER the bike, I kept out of their way on the first run and throttled it just enough to come in 7 seconds after them. It was quite an easy run and running with them really was quite realistic. All I wanted anyhow was to shoot for the 45-49 title & they were both 40-44. I’d get through the bike leg just waiting for a 45-49 to pass me. A few did, one had bad luck by crashing on a corner, fate stuff you know? 

Once I got passed by the reigning US Duathlon Long Course Champion (I didn’t know it was him as I never met him)…I kept tabs so him and another guy who passed me on the final lap of the bike. Honestly, the power wasn’t there on the cycle leg—it was difficult knowing how much time was being taken out of me from a simple chronic leg issue that crops up every couple years.  Upon hitting the run, I quickly passed the first of the two guys in front of me in my age group. It was about 200 meters into the run when I moved past him. Slowly I closed in on the leader…inch by inch, not really punching it, just steady to see what he was doing, if he tried to make a move—whatever. Observe. The plan was to slowly close, then gas it. The run course was shortened due to flooding, so with about a quarter mile to go I had caught up to the US Long Course Champ, Marc Warner. Again, I didn’t know it was him. In the last half mile I thought, “I believe the finish line is just around that last pylon then it is like a quarter to half mile then the finish, I better catch up to this guy NOW. It’s now or never!” 

Doubts crept into my mind whether I could actually close the gap of about 12 seconds if he punched the accelerator. It is easy to cave when doubting yourself. Then I told myself, “Dig, don’t throw away this trip, a tick off the bucket list and national title because you don’t want to hurt!”  Dig I did to catch him within about a 100 meters. I kept right on going. He kindly encouraged me to keep on going, with a “Good job.”  The rest was well…history. My first ever US National Championships.  USAT gives the US Champs a special jersey to wear with the year on the back of it, to wear if they like to show their accomplishment at future races. I don’t think I’ll be wearing it though—it’s a keepsake! 

KK on top as 45-49 US National Duathlon Standard Distance Champion!
Shane Thread (left) & Andy Ames (right) at our celebration dinner in St. Paul.
2014 US Duathlon 45-49 Sprint Champ Glen Thompson (left)
2014 US Duathlon 45-49 Standard Distance Champ Kevin Konczak (right)
*Sprint Nationals & Standard Nationals were held on the same day in St. Paul.