Wednesday, August 17, 2016

An Interview with Kona Qualifier - Emily Rollins

Emily thanks for doing this interview!  You have been on fire the past few years so I thought you would be a great first interview for this site.  First off, tell me where you are from.

I am an original Nashvillian.  Graduated from Brentwood High School then ran away to college at UT Martin for a few years. 

How did you get into the sport?

I ran my first 5K back in 2001 and built my race distance through the years.  I ran my first marathon in 2004.  After checking off a few Boston marathons, I set a goal to run all 50 states.  My core group of running friends got in to triathlons and started running so much faster…so I changed my plans and traded in an old diamond (yep, the wedding ring) for a road bike and signed up for my first triathlon.  Fall Creek Falls triathlon was just enough torture that I had to keep at it!  Olympic, to 70.3, to IM Wisconsin in 2011 and I was hooked.  I’ll never forget showing up to my first group ride with Vicki Updike and crew.  I was in tears, scared to death to ride with the big dogs.  Now my favorite Saturday mornings are filled with the girls (vicki and me) trying to keep up with the boys (Bruce, Marshall, and Brad). 

So this is where you met your husband, Brad?

I actually met Brad in Panama City at the Gulf Coast triathlon after party.  We were introduced to each other by mutual friends.  In January of 2013, I started the “Coach Brad” vs. “Boyfriend Brad” relationship.  We learned pretty quick that it was good to define those two-especially during IM training meltdowns (which were few and far between, but actually quite funny stories).  Many coaching moments out on the road with me “I can’t keep up” and Coach Brad “Quit whining and suck a wheel!”  And so “Bramily” decided Chattanooga would be the first IM we would race together.  If you can make it through that as a couple and a coach…then you are golden for marriage! =) Since we met, we’ve raced a combined 11 Ironman races… with 2 more right around the corner.  Many hours of sweating on the trainer together, swimming in the same lap lane, and chasing each other down the road…Brad is much faster with the swimming and biking but he will always loop back during a rest interval to check on me and I’ve learned to hang on to his wheel when I can.  I try to hold my own running with him.  He is the push that made the Kona dream come true.  I did the work, but he is the mastermind behind it all physically, mentally, and emotionally! 

What a great relationship!  So what does a typical training week look like?

A typical workout week for me is a swim or run in the morning and bike workouts or some runs in the evening.  I’m a morning person-Brad’s an evening person so we try to make the most of it.  I sleep in occasionally…and I drag him out of the bed as much as I can!  We do our long run mid week, and ride longer both weekend days.  Rest day = an easy swim.  Brad started a new job back in May and is traveling a lot, so workouts are lonely these days.  We also got a new puppy…and I just hate leaving her at home all day.  It’s made training a little more difficult too.  (Brad would say very difficult!)

Emily and 2 of her Timex teammates, Bruce Gennari and Bo Parrish, after the Music City Triathlon

Sounds like you have a pretty full schedule!  Tell me a little about your races the past year or two...

Last year was a huge year for me with placing first in my age group at IM CDA, Kona, and getting on Team Timex.  My favorite triathlon memories are from CDA and Kona- Brad had been sick leading up to CDA.  I knew on the run when I didn’t see him on the out and back that something was wrong.  Our good friend Daniel kept telling me Brad was fine.  When I got to the turn-around…I called him out on it.  Brad had gotten sick on the bike and dropped out at the half way point.  As I ran back in to town, Brad was with our family at the 12/13 mile turn around.  On the way in to the turn, they told me I was gaining on the 1st place girl….on the way out of the turn, Brad was the one who got to tell me I had just passed her for first.  I was sad to see he was not able to complete the race, but it was so special for “Coach/Husband” to be able to share that moment-in the moment.  I just had to hang on and the dream would come true.  The sweat heart that I made on his shirt from hugging him after the race says it all.  Oh…did I mention it was 106 degrees race day and the TN heat and humidity helped me run down all those northwestern girls??

I knew this Tennessee heat was good for something.  How was Kona?

Kona was every bit of what you would think and more.  Training was hard because the goal had been for the Rollins to race together.  It felt like it should be his race.  The week leading up to the race was filled with race activities and training.  Morning swims to the coffee boat, rides on the Queen K, and runs up and down Alli’i Drive.  The whole town is full of race energy.  The pros are out everywhere.  Every company that has anything to do with triathlon is out and about handing out freebies and selling new products.  Favorite pre-race moment-watching Brad meet Bob Babbitt and spending the morning with him at Breakfast with Bob.  Bike check in was high security with a paparazzi type feel.  No one could get on the pier without a personal escort through all of transition.  To get to the escort, you had to roll your bike in a single file line.  Have you seen the Kona count on slow twitch?  This is where it happens.  About 50 men and women line the gates with clipboards in hand, staring down every racer.  What wheels, what power, what bike, all of it…VERY overwhelming!!  Race day was just as crazy.  Favorite moments-mile 38 of the bike when the pro men started coming towards me on their way back in, and coming out on the run to follow Tim O’Donnell for a few steps as he was racing in for a 3rd place finish.  The race brought it all…waves, wind, rain, burning sun, an upset stomach…the challenge was real!  The course is much harder than it looks on TV and the road to the energy lab goes on and on and on and on.

Tell me a little bit about Team Timex.

Team Timex was a surprise!  I honestly filled out the application for fun while doing persuasive writing with my 3rd graders.  I really didn’t think I was good enough to stand a chance!  I met everyone on the team back in March at Timex Team Camp in Arizona.  Timex is more than just a race team, it really is a family.  Family style meals from Allen Lim’s Skratch food truck- that will do it for the team bonding! Food and triathletes-what more do you need? From motivation at races, to long rides in the Colorado mountains, to chatting about life, job changes, and bringing out the best in each other, in just a few months, I’ve made friends I know I will have for a lifetime.

So what has 2016 looked like so far?

In regards to training and racing this year, we should have known the spring break “raincation” not “traincation” was a sign of things of things to come.   We were definitely prepared for the Texas rain.  New Orleans 70.3 was a rough swim and windy bike/run.  Not by best, but good enough for 2nd in my age group.  I did Ironman Texas about a month later.  Next up was Chattanooga Oly with a 2nd place finish.  I was thrilled!  I’m lucky to have a cousin who lives in Denver so I spent the first 2 ½ weeks of July living the dream in CO.  Training morning and evenings around babysitting the little cousins, I did every open water swim and crazy week day or weekend event I could find.  I came home and had a great Music City race-3rd overall.  I’m currently in the car heading to Steelhead as I type.  Hoping to ride some more of the altitude training benefits!  And of course, Kona is right around the corner!

update: Emily finished 8th overall and 4th in her AG at Steelhead 70.3 on August 14th and qualified for the 70.3 World Championship 2017 in Chattanooga.  
Emily with her 2017 70.3 World Champs invitation letter.

So tell me a little bit more about your Ironman in Texas.  I know that was a crazy race.

Texas.  A bit of a nightmare leading up to the race with the shortened bike and then a complete swim change.  (and Brad’s new job and a new puppy the month before the race!!).  Swim went great.  The bike course was MUCH better than expected from our pre race drive.  Lots of turns, but overall not bad and 18 miles short!  Then there was the run.  It started out pretty normal-me trying to keep my pace, but find a friend to also keep my pace so that I could talk the whole time and forget the hurt.  I dropped my BASE salt tube just after passing the BASE tent (by the way-they did tell me the day before the race to ALWAYS carry 2 tubes.  Oops).  3 loop course.  Family on one side keeping up with splits, friends on the other side of the course for encouragement.  Mile 21ish…we see the clouds coming.  Mile 22ish.  I see the lightning streaking for 2 different storms coming from 2 directions.  Mile 23ish…pouring rain, wind that could knock you down, thunder, lightning, puddles covering your shoes…and now hail.  It was honestly pretty funny.  What else could you do but laugh.  Mile 24.5ish…policemen in the middle of the path stopping everyone and putting us in a parking garage.  For 12 minutes I watched everyone behind me catch up with me.  I knew I had run down several girls in my age group and now they were standing with me in a parking garage.  I also knew what was going to happen.  IF they let us start again they didn’t know what order we were stopped in.  It was going to be mass chaos down the small path…and I was going to have to run 5k pace for the last 1.5 miles of an Ironman.  I found Daniel Kirby, we formed a plan, and the race started back.  Look out for Daniels elbows people.  He was clearing the path for me.  Once I got through the crowd, I ran for my life.  The finish line had been torn down from the storm so it was very uneventful-and then we waited for results.  They originally kept the extra time in everyone’s finish time.  I don’t know how they figured it out, but once the adjusted my time, I was pretty spot on without the stopped time.  Others weren’t so lucky.  Ironman did tell us at the awards ceremony that they would look at individual times if you were in question of a Kona slot (you were running someone down and you could prove your pace was faster if we hadn’t been stopped).  I finished 5th in my age group and took the one roll down spot to Kona.  (Only to find out the next day that 4th was disqualified after awards so I was a legit qualifier!)  

Wow!  that is crazy.  I couldn't imagine trying to figure out a mess like that but it sounds like it worked out just fine.  Congrats on qualifying for your 2nd Kona and the 70.3 World Champs in Chattanooga for 2017.  Good luck with the rest of the season.  Thank you for the interview!!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Faking your bike fitness part 2 - Zwift and my indoor training regime

One KEY part that I left out of my previous "Faking the bike leg" was how hard I was working in the short amount of time that I had after deciding to race the Music City Tri.

One method of training that I swore against as a beginner triathlete was anything that was indoors.  I hated the treadmill and hated the trainer.  I even found an outdoor lap pool after 2 years in the sport and that made me not like my regular swimming pool for a while.  But I soon realized that most outdoor pool's water temperature is much warmer and increase my suffering during a hard swim.

Sometimes, I still feel like I am being "weak" when I resort to the treadmill during the summer on a hot day but have been able to accept it more than I could 10 years ago.  I realized earlier this summer that my easy days were no longer easy.  I would jog for 30-45 minutes @ 9 min/mile pace and my HR was North of 150.  For an easier run, I like my HR to stay in the low 130's or lower if possible.   On a treadmill, I was able to run a little closer to my "regular" pace and maintain a lower HR.  On my workout days, I could run hard in a cool 72-75 degree gym as opposed to the 90+ degree heat with 98% humidity that was waiting for me outside.  My water bottle and phone could sit on the treadmill in front of me and I could actually hydrate a little better compared to my running outside.

On the bike, the trainer is my main tool.  I ride outside every once in a while just to make sure I remember how to, but 9 out of 10 rides is on the trainer.  I own a computrainer and use Zwift with my computrainer.  This allows me to virtually compete against anyone else that is online at the time on a virtual course.  My "smart" trainer will make it harder on uphills and easier on downhills.  It is still a trainer in the sense that I cannot coast, but it does get easy on some of those downhills.

Here are a few of the key workouts that I did leading into the MCT.  Keep in mind these are not my only bike rides, these are just a few of the key workouts.  I was doing at least 2x ez rides and a few other workouts that weren't as crucial.

Here was my initial ride to get a feel for my HR vs Power and see what I was capable of. This was just a 1 hour ride on Zwift pushing some of the hills but otherwise just riding in high zone 2.  Test ride

-Here I did a Mountain climb on Zwift averaging roughly 250 watts for 35 ish minutes Climb

-This was a 1 lap @ HR around 147-150 then another mountain climb.  Hot lap + Mountain

-Here is my 2x25@RP that I do every once in a while.  1 lap on this Zwift course was right around a 25 min effort for me so I just did that twice.  I did both hard @ about my current "race pace" with only 5 minutes easy between.  This ride made it difficult to walk the rest of the day.  I was barely able to turn the pedals over at 140 watts for a cooldown.

-This was my final Race Week Prep workout where I rode above race pace effort/wattage just to make race pace feel easier.  I didn't go too long or try to push too hard.  I could have gone harder, but that would have only taken away from Race day only 6 days later.

Some days I'll make sure to stay off of Zwift if I'm riding easy.  I find myself racing other athletes when I'm supposed to be going easy.  So I just use the "erg" mode on the computrainer and put in on a low zone 2 power and spin at 85-95 cadence as that helps flush out my legs.  This kind of ride was great on an afternoon where I had performed a hard run that morning.  Really helped me with recovery.  I would typically feel much better the next morning.

Hope this helps give you an idea of the kind of stuff that needs to be done when you are strapped for time.  I wasn't riding 10+ hours a week like I know a lot of people do.  I was riding at least 3 times a week and making sure that 2x a week had some HARD efforts included.


Monday, August 8, 2016

Local Race Spotlight - Splashville Open Water Challenge

Splashville Open Water Challenge - Sunday August 28th - 8 am

This is a first year event that will be hosted at the Hamilton Creek Park @ Percy Priest Reservoir.  There are 3 different race day distances.  The 5k swim is a 2 loop swim that will start at 8am.  There is a 2.5K swim that starts at 8:30am and will complete 1 loop of the course.  At 10am there will be a shorter loop for the 800 meter swim.

This is a great way for any local athlete that is preparing for Ironman Chattanooga, Maryland, Louisville, Kona, Florida, or Arizona.  Or if you are competing in the "Swim the Suck" in Chattanooga. This will be a great opportunity to practice sighting.  Everyone knows that is what is forgot about when you swim most of your yards in the pool.  This will be a great way to practice swimming straight without a black line under you.  Also, in a pool, you might have 3-4 people sharing a lane with you.  In this race, you will be able to simulate what race day will feel like.  Swimming with a bunch of other athletes at the same time, you can practice drafting, swimming between people, and making turns at buoys while avoiding getting dunked by a competitor.

This will be a well supported event that has plenty of lifeguards on duty if you were to need it.

Just click here to register for this race.  The 800 is $30 before August 14th and $40 after. The 2.5K is $50 before August 14th and only $60 after.  And the 5k swim is only $60 before August 14th and $70 after.

If you have any questions about this event. Please reach out to the race director, Allison Ware


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Faking your Bike Fitness - Using Aerodynamics as your Friend

Tip #1: Bike Geek data and aerodynamics in Triathlon

*Cycling is one thing that I picked up with relative ease.  I hate to say it but some people pick up certain things very easily and cycling happened to be that thing for me.  Some people can go to the gym and squat 200+ pounds with zero training.  Not me.  I would have to work my butt off for months/years to be able to squat 200 pounds.  But, with cycling, I can take off 2-3 months, and lose very little fitness as long as I have stayed active with running/swimming.  So take that into account as you read this post.  I am in no way advocating someone to do minimal cycling and then expecting to be able to go out and crush an Ironman bike ride.

For the data geeks, here is my bike file from the MCT bike  last weekend.  I did not race on "race" wheels but did buy new tires/tubes that have a better rolling resistance.  About 2 weeks before the race I did my research.  I know that Pro's like Cody Beals and Lionel Sanders are very particular about what tires they use on race day.  This is something that I have never looked closely into.  I train almost exclusively on the Gatorskin tires as they appear to be bulletproof.  But I have also found out that they are one of the worst tires to race on because of their weight and "rolling resistance."  So after a little research, I found that the Continental Grand Prix 4000s tires are a great choice.  Yes, there are faster/lighter tires out there, but they were also more expensive and more susceptible to flat tires.  I did not want to get a flat during my race.  Several web sites rates these Grand prix's as one of the best overall choices for a tire.  Red Kite Bikes here in Nashville has plenty of tires to choose from including the Grand Prix.  I picked up two of these tires along with two "racing" tubes for the Triathlon.  I did NOT use the latex tubes as these are twice the price of regular tubes and also much more susceptible to flats.   Do you ever wonder why the top pro triathletes are always getting flat tires?  It's because they race with the fastest tires/tubes possible, but just way riskier.  These tires/tubes have the potential to save up to 5-10 minutes for these guys over a 56 mile bike course that they typically cover in just over 2 hours.  Never knew that tires were such a big deal, did you?

My next step was to make sure that I was as aerodynamic as possible.  You want your set up on your bike to be aerodynamic, but also comfortable enough to stay there as long as you can during a race.  So it should feel comfortable on the uphills and downhills.  I would rather stay in the aero position and only push 85% of my "race" power than to sit up and produce 105+% of my "race" power.  Yes it's easier to produce more power when sitting up, but is that the fastest?  Will that burn a match that I'll need 30-45 minutes later on the run?  I like to keep my power as steady as possible so that those matches don't get burned too early in the race.  I made a few small adjustments 3-4 weeks before the race to make sure that I could produce the kind of power that I needed to, but also was not overly aggressive.

Here is a great pic of my Trisuit from Kiwami

I wore a very form fitting 1 piece Trisuit.  As you learn from the Tour de France, or watching any Ironman race, a skin tight suit with sleeves is fast.  Hence the change over the last few years from a "normal" tri suit to the ones with sleeves.  Apparently your skin is the slowest surface that is in the wind.  The TdF guys were wearing long sleeves and high "aero" socks during the TT stage because of this.  But you have to find a happy medium between aerodynamics and allowing your skin to breath, especially on a hot day.  You might have saved 30 seconds on your bike ride at a triathlon by wearing a form fitting long sleeve cycling top, but you also might have over heated and had to walk the entire run portion.  So you do what is going to work best for you.  I wore a 1 piece trisuit (no sleeves) that is very form fitting from Kiwami for 2 reasons.  They have been proven to be very aerodynamic in the wind tunnel.  Also because they work great in the water and I have no need to wear a swim skin over it.  It almost works as a swim skin itself.  (And I always get over heated in swim skins so only have 1 trisuit on in warm water helps keep my core temperature down on a hot day).

I shave my legs which has been proven to help with aerodynamics.  Just watch the video above.
I kept my excess nutrition on my top tube of my bike and then stuffed the garbage into my trikit.
I wore an Aero helmet from Rudy Project.  I know there are faster helmets out there, but this happens to be my sponsor ;)

Don't try anything crazy, just stay aero and hydrate.  I know tons of people that pushed too much on a course like that and then could barely run.  You have to know your limits and stay below them.  If you look closely at my power file, I rode the first 5 miles very conservatively.  Then was able to go a little harder as I got a feel for how I was feeling.

Hope this helps!!


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Local Race Spotlight - BGST

Bowling Green Sprint Triathlon - Sunday August 21, 2016 @ 8am

Great venue for a first time triathlete.

The swim is only 400 meters in a pool.  Plenty of room to pass slower swimmers as you have a full lane per 50 meters before moving to the next lane to snake your way to the end of the swim.

The bike leg is 23 kilometers or roughly 14.2 miles.  It winds through some of the back roads of Bowling Green with some challenging climbs and some screaming fast downhills.  I had the lead vehicle driver tell me "I was running 50+ mph to stay in front of you" last year on one of the descents.  That particular descent is straight on a freshly paved road so I was never uncomfortable going those speeds.

The run circles the park that hosts the transition area and then winds it's way up a hill into a neighborhood before making your way onto the Greenway that runs parallel with the final 1/2 mile of the bike course.

It is only $60-65 for USAT members depending on when you sign up this month and even has a kids triathlon on Saturday for your kids to enjoy if you want to make a weekend trip to Bowling Green.

Just click here to register for the race.

If you do, make sure to stop by Jackson's Orchard and get some fresh peaches and apples.  Some of the best in this region of the country.  And definitely worth the trip to go back in October for their fall festival for some apple pies, pumpkins, corn mazes, and then of course the apples.  For more info, just click the logo on the right side of this page!


Monday, August 1, 2016

A New Chapter

So I am currently playing the waiting game with my wife.  Yesterday was our due date but still no baby.  I know plenty of people go through this everyday but this is my first experience with it.  I was secretly hoping that she would go into labor a few weeks early and just surprise us.  But here we are, 1 day past due, just waiting.

My wife is a trooper.  She has worked everyday like she is not pregnant at all.  She went in this morning just like it's another day.  Fortunately, this week she does have some additional help at work. So if she does go into labor, then she can just leave when she needs to and not leave the rest of her day's patients onto her other full time PT at the clinic.

But I have stepped back from racing as a "professional" (if you can say that I ever did that).  I never raced for the money and that is what it takes to consider yourself a "pro."  I always just raced to the best of my ability and got to a point in my career that to be my best, I needed to race against some of the best.  Sure I got my doors blown off numerous times, but I also had some fantastic performances.  At the time I didn't view them as such since I "only" finished 4th or 7th or whatever place overall, but looking back, I went FAST.  Oh to be young and naive.  I just would race and welcome the pain that came with going fast.  Now a days, I am a little older, don't have the 5-7 years of uninterrupted training, and am a little more injury prone.  I have to be super careful with what I do and need a rest day every once in a while.  And since I'm not lining up against Frodeno or Keinle, I don't need to be in my peak physical form at every race.  I don't mind jumping in a local 5k to test my fitness and end up 7th place.  Or jumping in a Masters swim meet and swim the 100 or 200 freestyle and getting destroyed by some ex-collegiate swimmers.  Sometimes these are fun and a great way to learn something new.

In fact, 1 week ago, I raced in my 5th Music City Triathlon.  This is a race that I have won 3 times in the past and got 2nd in 2013.  I will argue that 2013 was one of my better races in this race because I was coming back from a major injury and hadn't been training seriously for very long.  But I will now say that the 2016 race is my best.  Chris Douglas from Atlanta came up to race and was only a 1/2 mile from winning the race.  Unfortunately for him, the heat caught up with him late in the race and he pushed himself past his limit and never made it to the finish line.  I commend Chris on racing so fast and hard for that long and pushing me close to my limit that day.  We ran side by side for 5 miles before he wavered.  I was able to win this race for the 4th time and do so in front of hundreds of friends and family that I now have here in Nashville.  My wife and I are truly grateful for the relationships that we have developed here in Nashville and look forward to starting our family here.  I will continue to race and have fun with the sport.  I may continue racing as a "pro" or I may step back race as an amateur in 2017.  I may focus on qualifying for the Boston marathon and only jump in a triathlon every few months.  The only thing that I know for sure is that this blog will now be a resource for coaching.   Having been a runner for 14+ years and competing in triathlons since 2005, I have a lot of experience and knowledge about the sport.  Hopefully, you can use this website as a source of knowledge about nutrition, racing tactics, training methods, etc.  I will do my best to keep it updated and make sure that each post doesn't take 2 hours to read.

I'll post my first blog in the next few days about how I "faked" my cycling fitness at the Music City triathlon and what I did to help my bike split.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Taking Risks

Since I have raced twice in the past 2 weeks, it is probably time for an update and not just a few pictures.

The Gulf Coast Triathlon has been around for 33 years and I have never competed there.  I have always heard great things and figured it was about time to try out some new races.  This race did not have a Pro field but I figured it would give me a great opportunity to sweep away the cobwebs from the winter of training and work out anything that needs to be adjusted going into Challenge Knoxville.  Gulf Coast treated me like an age grouper and it reminded me of the "pressure free" racing that I experienced all the way back in 2008.  I was in the fifth wave along with every other male aged 30-39.  The gun went off, and I swam through a lot of the field during the 1.2 mile swim.  I had to sight a lot, but that still didn't prevent me from swimming like a snake.  My first few open water swims of the year are always anything but a straight line.  I came out of the water, ripped my wetsuit trying to take it off, and jumped on my bike.

Here is where the big difference comes in pro racing.  With this race not having a pro field, I was able to take a few extra seconds to hop on my bike, put my feet in my bike shoes, and settle into 70.3 bike pace.  I started a little on the low side then built from there.  I passed all but two people during the bike leg.  Here is my Training Peaks file from  GCT Bike   It was very even paced and very few spikes.  With it being a flat course there were very few power surges as well.

I came off the bike in third overall (other two guys were in earlier waves), passed Bruce Gennari in T2, and went running after the next guy.  I didn't catch him until about the 4 mile mark but he did have a 10 minutes head start.  The amazing thing was he was 57 years old!!!! Crazy fast.
The rest of the run I spent trying not to let my quads cramp up and not get over heated.  I walked quite a few times during the second half of the run and kept looking back thinking that I had someone running me down.  I did, but he ran out of real estate.  (pun intended).  I crossed the line in 4:08 something.  My fastest 70.3 since 2011.  The bike was 1 mile short but I was happy with the result, and happy to win a race with such history.  Slowtwitch even had a little write up on the race which was unexpected.

Casey and I were able to spend the rest of the day on the beach and have a relaxing weekend.   PCB wouldn't be my top beach to visit, but it was nice being at the beach for an extended weekend.

The very next weekend, I traveled to Challenge Knoxville to compete against 60+ other Pro's.  Big difference from the previous weekend when I only recognized names on the start list that were from Middle Tennessee.  With Knoxville only being a few hours away, we drove over Saturday morning, attended the pro meeting, caught up with some buddies that I haven't raced/seen in a long time, and relaxed the rest of the afternoon.  Casey and I were lucky enough to have an awesome homestay (Thanks Muna!!) that was close to town and took the pressure off of us trying to find a hotel on such a busy weekend.

One thing that I'm very strict about is my pre race breakfast.  For the past 2 years, I find something that settles easily and has about 400-600 calories depending on the race.  And something that has some caffeine.  Eboost gives me my caffeine fix with one of their 4 oz shots, and the new Generation UCAN bar settles super fast and keep me full.  I also had a Picky bar for the first time and it was amazing.  And of course I took my 2 pills of Vector450.  Also sponsors Matt Hanson, winner if IM Texas.  Must be something to this stuff ;)

Race morning was cool, but nothing like last year.  I got everything ready and walked to the start.  At 6:50, we were off.  I started right next to my boy Kevin Ryan, and drafted off of him for all of 20 yards. But I did have clear water for the first 200-400 yards which is how I like it, then I came over a little, found some feet, and stayed there for the rest of the swim.  It's nice to swim in a pack and recognize the guys next to you in the water.  I was right where I needed to be for the swim.  About 6 of us came out of the water in just over 27 minutes and transitioned quickly to the bike.  We ended up on the wrong side of the cones for the first mile of the bike, which led us to being on the wrong side of a barrier so we had to turn around and get back on course.  We ended up behind about 5-8 guys that we had out swam by at least 1 minute, and also the top 2-3 girls.  Ugh!!!!  I worked hard for the next 4-5 miles to get past them and just stayed focused on not crashing in the rain soaked, pot hole filled roads of close-to-downtown Knoxville.
Finisher's Medal!!

Here is where my power on the bike was jumping from 500+ to 0 because of the surges of the guys around me, the steep uphills, and the steep down hills.  The first 15 miles my NP was 310.  I was not prepared to do this, but I did not come to this race just to sit on my bike and watch my power meter to make sure I was "pacing" myself.  I came to race, and if I had to walk the 13.1 miles, then I was going to do it as long as I kept these guys close on the bike.  The pace stayed hot from 15-30 miles as my NP was still in the upper 290's.  We settled down a little from 30-40 miles, but then the last 14-16 miles were hairy because we got back onto the Olympic distance bike course where there were hundreds of triathletes still competing.  Imagine trying to pass 10-15 age groupers every minute, while keeping your competitors close, and avoiding the bad sections of the road.  Our pace dropped significantly here as we were just trying to get back to T2 safely.  Here is the power file. We witnessed several crashes and several others almost crash.  A group of about 8 of us all came into T2 together.  I had a great transition and ran out to have my brother tell me I was in 5th position.  I was third out of our group meaning there were only 2 up the road.  I knew something must have happened to one of the guys up the road because at the last 180 degree turn on the bike, there were 3 guys leading the way.
Ryan and I sporting the Tri4Him uni's.
Old Roomies taking 2 of the top 10 spots

I settled into pace and passed Thomas Gerlach early.  AJ Baucco ran past me about about the 1 mile mark and I picked up the pace to run with him.  We ran together for a few miles before he slowed a little.  I passed Kevin Ryan around mile 5 or so and he told me I was in 3rd.  I couldn't believe it but didn't want to think about it right then.  I held my pace but then Thomas and Justin Metzler ran past me about mile 6 like I was standing still.  I kept them close until about mile 9, but managed to hold my 5th position all the way to the finish.  I finished in 4:07 something which was amazing considering the run course was much harder than last weekend, and I rode 2 miles longer than last weekend.

These results wouldn't have been possible without Casey there by my side at the race and throughout the winter during my "rough" patches. My family and also my Tri4Him team and their continued support.  I love representing our team every where I go.  It's a great conversation starter before/after the race (kind of hard during the race) and I've had several people contact me after the race to give them a little more info about our team.  The Lord has blessed me with the ability to go fast and to suffer and I try to put those to use in His name.  Without Him, none of this is possible!