SOMA 70.3 Race Report

OK, so I'm finally getting to this post even though I've been dreading it along with even thinking about this race anymore. I'm trying to move on but I've realized I can't do it until I release my thoughts in writing which happens to be on this blog. It's kind of weird, I don't really ever talk about myself unless I'm asked to - I guess this blog is kind of my outlet of expressing my thoughts/feelings about my racing and training. This means you'll hear the good and the bad. This race was BAD. Now, I understand that some people may think I'm too hard on myself or that a 4th place showing in my AG isn't all that bad - but honestly, for me - it was waaay below my expectations. It wasn't just MY expectations either....Keep this in mind: My training numbers showed me that I was in sub 4:30 shape. Everything I've read and learned about triathlon told me I was in great shape. My coach, friends, training partners, swimming coach told me I was in great shape. My taper was perfect, the day before my legs felt like a million bucks. My mind had visualized, prepared and entered this race completely prepared. I even took a month and half off of racing to just to make sure I was ready for this one. It was a complete disaster and this is how it went down...

To us, our home stay felt like a mini resort!
The race is held in Tempe, AZ. My college buddies live out there and we ended up going on a weekend where some of their family were coming in too - so we had a big crew. The more the merrier! Along with my friends out there I had some friends racing too. Josh, who only trained for like 6 months after taking 5 years off triathlon killed it with a sub 5 and Andrew (a Champion Factory teammate) crushed it with a 4th place and top 10 overall! I also had some Wattie teammates Doug and Josh who trained through this race for IMAZ out there - so it was really cool to see everyone and enjoy the racing atmosphere again. James and I did a 2 taper and kept intensity up a bit. My legs felt horrible during the entire 2 week taper until 2 days before the race and I was ready to rip it. Perfect timing. We arrived on Friday and had a few days to get settled in. My buddy Eric's parents have a 2nd home out there down the block from them so they were gracious enough to open their home to us. Thanks Gene and Jane!

Keeping it loose
Saturday was check in and I met up with Andrew and Josh to go over the bike course a bit. Amy and the kids hooked up with friends for a trip to Sedona for the day to give me a chance to relax and get things squared away for the next day. It was pretty hot but definitely manageable. We had a pretty hot summer in Temecula so I was ready for any type of heat. My legs felt good, got all checked in and then our Cali crew met up with the AZ crew for lunch. Now even though the pic shows a beer in hand the day before the race, I swear that beer was put in my hand! ha. I have everyone there to vouch for me! We were just joking around and keeping it loose. I love my beer, but I completely stay away from it a week or two before a race. Nutrition leading up to this race was really important to me. I loaded my hydration the two weeks leading up. Using a lot of Skratch Labs, FLUID and a ton of water. It was weird, being well hydrated like that almost gave me a sort of a buzz, almost like coffee would. I peed a lot, but it wasn't clear, it had great color (sorry so descriptive) and I knew my body was ready to tackle the distance. I went back to the house solo, soaked my legs in the cold pool and just relaxed/stayed off my feet for the rest of the day. We had a nice dinner with friends and then it was lights out around 9.

Race morning I woke up around 3:45, powered down some sweet potatoes, eggs and a little bit of coffee - jumped in the shower to warm up the muscles a bit and then just started hydrating all the way up to the race. Body mark, 15 minute run/stretch/strides warm up and before I knew it-it was time to get my Xterra Vortex wetsuit on and get in the water. The weather was perfect, the water perfect temp and was glassy just like last year. I noticed they changed the course to a counter clockwise swim instead of clockwise like the year before which ended up making the swim longer and the times slower than usual. I noticed this when looking at the slow pro swim times (tell tale). Include the 1 minute run up to transition and the swim times are hard to look at (especially mine).

Swim-1.2 miles: 35:57 (1:51 pace)  

Josh and I just before the swim start
I slammed a gel and then got in the water and was very relaxed. This was probably the most relaxed I've been going into a race. Why? I was prepared. I did the work and now I get to go fast - which is pretty much the reason why I do triathlon. I love going fast. Andrew and I hooked up for a little warm up swim and then I lined up in the front far right next to the buoy. This ended up being a great decision as this was the first triathlon that I didn't make any contact the first 400 meters. I found some feet and was swimming great. Thanks to some tips from Chris Masilon I learned to relax my legs in the water. I tend to kick pretty hard so I kind of just let them drag and did a two beat kick and let the swimmers in front of me do the work. about 800 meters in I almost ran right into Andrew which was a great sign because he's a sub 30 minute guy and a great swimmer. I got on his hip for another 100 meters or so but let him go as he was picking up the pace. We made the turn around and started heading home. This is when I started to loose some steam. The pack I was with started to leave me and my arms started feeling very heavy. These last 1000 meters or so is probably what caused my troubles that would loom me for the rest of the day. I started kicking and swimming "harder" to try and bridge the gap. No matter what I did I continued to get passed by my competitors and felt completely helpless. This is almost and exact replica of what happened to me at Santa Barbara. Went out hard, died and just tried to survive out there. I think what fools me each time is that my cardio is waaay ahead of what my swimming muscles are at. So I swim to that comfortable cardio zone but what's really happening is my arms are loading full of Lactic Acid and then eventually giving out. The same thing happens to me in the pool. Everyone in Masters says that I'm not breathing hard in these sets and I'm not, but my arms are burning inside. I definitely lack strength in the water, something that HAS to be worked on this off season. I got out of the water knowing I had some making up to do for the day but didn't panic. Plenty of time (or so I thought).

T1: Just like almost every triathlon I've done, my calves were cramping already in T1...Great. I couldn't find Transition times posted, but I was quick out of the wetsuit and quick on the Cannondale which was perfectly dialed in and looked brand new when I picked it up at The Bike Shop. Thanks Rick!

Bike - 56 miles: 2:33:28 (21.9 mph)

My strategy for the bike was to take the first 10 miles or so to get in some nutrition and just go steady before I started hammering. Last year I had a faster bike split (2:30) than this year but it ended up costing me my race because of the cramping that I encountered. Even though I knew I had some work to do I stayed patient and stuck to the plan. Here's how my nutrition went:

1 Clif Bar caffeinated
4 gels (3 caffeinated)
1 22 oz of FLUID Performance
3 bottles of water
4 Salt tablets

I pretty much nailed my nutrition this year. No bloating, no bonking, felt hydrated the whole way and had to pee, although I couldn't on the bike again! I didn't stop though, unlike Oceanside. I just kept hammering, sometimes out of the saddle around u-turns and sometimes not. I negative split all three laps and on the 3rd lap I had my first bad cramp/spasm of the day. My water flew out of my carriage which put me about 10 miles without any water and shortly after that I started cramping so not sure if that had anything to do with it. Ught oh. I took some more salt, pounded a bunch of water and they seemed to dissapear. Throughout the bike course I was passed and passed a bunch of people. I had no idea where I stood, no idea what my swim time was, but I rolled into transition and was disappointed to see 2:33 on my watch. I was shocked. I was expecting a 2:20ish time for sure and couldn't figure out how I ride 2:33 when on training weekends I'd ride 2:30 for 50 miles after a hard swim and the ride would feel effortless and that includes stops at lights, sitting up out of the saddle and hills! This was a flat course with competition, race set up and fresh legs! huh? Still can't put my finger on it.

T2: Getting off the bike I definitely felt better than last year. Last year I couldn't get my shoes on without major cramping. This year I felt them, but not in full force....yet.

Run-13.1 miles: 1:35 (7:17 pace)

Start of the run, feeling decent...
It was so cool to see my family and friends cheering me on throughout the course. When I started the run I saw everyone and it was game time in my mind. Finally my domain. The run. Where I dominate. My goal was to just go out in 6:10-6:15 pace for the first few miles, feel out my legs and then start dropping 5:40-5:50's just like I have. Every. Single. Weekend. For the past 2 months after a tough Swim and Bike. Why wouldn't this be any different? My first mile was 6:15, second - 6:10. Perfect. Time to start dropping the hammer.... Cramp. Walk. Stretch. Jog. Run. Repeat about 50 times. My body shut down on mile 3. It was EXACTLY like last year where I had to drop out. Only this time I made a vow to myself that I'd never do that again. It felt like I was running on deeply bruised legs.
Survival mode..
They'd seize up and wouldn't let go. It's not like those cramps that you get in the middle of the night or in the pool. These are the ones that grab so tight and deep that stretching won't release them. You have to just wait them out. Then when they are done you feel like you pulled that muscle and then repeat that over and over again. Hands down finishing this run was one of the hardest most painful things I've ever been though and I've been through some pretty gnarley runs. I stopped at every single aid station, took in as much water, gatorade, cola - anything I could get my hands on. A few guys on the course gave me some salt tabs. I was just in pure survival mode. It was so frustrating, it inferiorates me just re-living this experience. My cardio and mind were in talking zones 1-2 just begging to go fast and let it rip but my legs completely shut down.  The second lap I just tried to keep it together and then the last 2 miles I completely exploded and ended up running 12 minute miles. I just couldn't run - so frustrating. I was pissed, still am pissed. I can't put my finger on what is happening. Eric got a good video that I sent out to a few people of what I looked like limping into the finish almost collapsing every other step from leg cramps. I tried to upload it here with no luck. Text me if you want to see the carnage...ha.

Finish: 4:47:56, 4th in AG - 34th overall

Although this is like a 2 minute PR I was crushed with the result. Oceanside I wasn't in as good of shape, had a mechanical and it included 3000 more feet in climbing which included three pee stops! Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda - I'm just sick of excuses. I hate them and unfortunately I'm a victim of them...again. After the race I was just in shock. I never have a temper but when I looked at results I wanted to throw my bike into Tempe Town Lake. I was fuming. I did my best to hide it around all of the awesome friends/family that came to watch me or raced - but it was hard. When you put as much time and sacrifice into something, it isn't just "triathlon." It's a part of you. I sacrificed a lot of time away from family, a lot of money, a lot of pain/suffering and when you don't get a result anywhere near you thought you were capable it crushes you deep inside. So I just decided to let it go. I decided to avoid social media (as best as I could) for a few weeks, just do some fun/unstructured training for awhile until I got over it.

Walking out of the med tent...
Cramps. So I went and got blood work done because I thought maybe something wasn't right. I never had cramping issues in my running days but I realize I'm older now so maybe somethings funky with the body now. Well they came back all fine, so now I'm just super confused. No easy fix here. I've read scientific journals, reached out to peers and listened to every podcast you can imagine on the subject. Totally stumped. I feel like I've heard it all, done it all with no resolution. Frustrating. So for now I'm not going to worry about it. The race and season is behind me - time to move on, do a lot of thinking and figure out what the game plan is for next year.

Fun day of golf and plenty of beers!
We stayed out in Arizona a few days longer for some R&R. I golfed with my two of my good friends, drank some great beer and left with a new appreciation of the desert. I've never really liked the desert a whole lot but I really enjoyed it this time. The sunsets are amazing and the silhouettes on the mountains are amazing at that time of the day. Besides the race we had a great mini-vaca with great people and I look forward to more trips out there in the future. I'll leave you with some more pictures and if you have had any experience with cramps or know of any resolutions, please feel free to leave some comments - I'd love to hear from you!

Ton of pics:

Addicted to Arizona sunsets
Thanks to The Bike Shop, Slice was dialed in and rode smooth
Pre race fuel

Family/Friends hiking up in Sedona
My best cheerleaders!
Either cruising out or in from the bike

Rolling into T2
Blowing out of T2
Looking OK so far, yes -I'm rocking the J-hawk
13 miles later, I look a tad slower...
Defeated, but will fight another day!

Add caption

Post race massage. I was still cramping - this hurt like hell - at least she was enjoying it!

Post race lunch, beers, football

Enjoying the golf course
Enjoying good beer

Enjoying good friends

And family

Holidays are here just in time to not think about TRI'ing

Trunk or Treat event

Going to mom's pumpkin patch with gma and great gma

We found ours, thanks mom!
Taylor and Scarletts Pumpkin

Here's to fighting another day! Thank you to all that have
supported me, it means a lot


5 Day Countdown

Well my 2nd year of triathlon will come to a close in five days. It's become sort of an obsession with me, more so than when I was chasing the four minute mile ten years ago. Running was so one dimensional and I bored easily. Maybe if iPhones where around back in 2002 I would have kept running. I remember I bought a "skip-proof" disc man that was designed for running. It even had a button to switch on or off the "skip-proof." Who would ever want it to skip!? Before I headed out the door more often times than not I'd open up Lagwagon's "Trashed" Compact Disc, open it up and throw it into the bright purple Disc man. Upon hitting play, I'd hear the sound of the little engine turning that miniature record around and around. I slip on my gigantic headphones with ear muffs skip to the song "Rust" and head out the door amped out of my mind to get this easy 1hour, 10 mile run in with my favorite band. I head out running, step down a curb.....skip, skip, "Give it birth to the" skip, skip "machine Too proud to love...." Cross the street, look both ways for cars - giant headphones slip off. Run down a hill, skip. skip. skip.....have to stop, open up the player and wipe off that scuff on the CD. By the time the hour is over I want to throw the player across the street. Nightmare.

Taylor and I watching IM World Champs!
Although I keep waiting for the day that the easy 1 hr, 10 mile run fitness comes back, I don't think it ever will. Especially since I barely dipped under that at the Santa Barbara triathlon in a RACE! It doesn't matter anymore though. I am a triathlete, no longer a runner. Life is good. I run hard, this time occasionally putting on Lagwagons "My older brother used to listen to Lagwagon" album (very fitting) then wake up the next day and get to tackle a new challenge of swimming or cycling or all three! It keeps my mind fresh and alert and I wouldn't have it any other way. I plan on racing until I can no longer make it to the start line. Watching Kona over the weekend is so inspiring. Everything about it - the Pro's, the top AGer's and the older folks finishing. These 70+ year olds blow my mind. I wanna be like them when I grow up.

So SOMA this Sunday is my version of the world championships..ha. I'm really bummed I didn't accomplish my main goal of qualifying but I'm also being realistic about it and giving respect to those that train for years to finally qualify. I've only been at it for two years and with the exception of one month all of that training was done with 15+ hours of commuting and just trying to cram training in when I could. Things have changed with me working out of the house now. I get those 15 hours back to devote to family, training and recovering. It's been a game changer. Fitness has skyrocketed over the past month and I cannot wait to let all of the aggression and potential that I have been letting marinate over the past few months.

Amy will be tweeting out updates on race day which should also show up on facebook and my blog's sidebar. Thanks for reading!

Swim last night was breath-taking. Thanks Simon for the cool shot!
Been spending a lot of time in the water...
And riding around wine country
Taper time = Home Improvement time!
Chillin with the co-founder of Stone Brewing, Greg Koch
And hitting up Oktoberfest. Cheers to a great race at SOMA!
And for those of you that have "Rust" in their head now after reading this, I leave you with it:

Blog Recovery Week

Where most of swim camp has taken place...
So I've been pretty consistent on getting a post out every single week since I started blogging but last week I needed a "recovery week." I capped off my last major week of training leading up to SOMA and I'm in the best triathlon shape of my life. The biggest gains I've seen are in the water. James termed it "swim camp." Hitting masters 3x a week and one or two solo sessions a week for over a month now and getting instant feedback and coaching by Coach Carol (thanks coach!) have been so big for me. I always thought I could swim hard on my own and push myself. Boy was I wrong. If anybody that reads this can take one piece of advice from me after the two years I've done triathlon is....Get in Masters! I won't share times that I've been hitting or anything - cause it doesn't mean anything, only what you do in a race does... But one thing I can share is, my times are ridiculously faster then they were. I'm hitting 100's, 300's, 500's...etc etc significantly faster then I ever have and I contribute it all to swimming with that group. Huge. I can't wait to see how it translates into open water come October 21 at SOMA. Not only will I PR but most importantly, I'm hoping to finally get on the bike without already cramping and feeling exhausted; which of course translates to a better run too. Even though the swim is the shortest discipline of the three, if you're not in shape on the swim it definitely has a trickle down effect on bike/run. I have personal experience with this! ha.
Having more time w/kids has been huge. Love.
I'm kind of bummed that this will be the last triathlon race of the year. I feel like I'm finally ready to attack long course and James has timed my peak perfectly - I am on fire right now. But after SOMA it will have to wait until next year. I've been going at it pretty hard all year with very few day offs but I think I have too much fun with it to get burnt out. I'll just jump in on some of the Dirt Dog races, a turkey trot, maybe a cyclocross race or two, stay on masters 3x a week and plan some huge multi-day rides with friends. Now that makes the off-season sound more fun! It's my favorite time of year (fall), the weather is to more my liking and Amy and I get to experience all of the fun holidays with our kids. Let me tell you, they are pumped! Scarlett just wants to decorate everything in sight! So Oktoberfest's, Halloween parties, Thanksgiving, family time, Christmas and New Years - looking forward to it.

Two week countdown. Time to sharpen up with some good quality, spend a little more time with the family and enjoy the lead-up to SOMA. We are going to have a huge crew out there - so many friends (and apparently a foe) racing. Four Peaks Brewery is in the near horizon for post race beverages and not quite sure if I'm more pumped to get on the starting line or take in that first IPA post race. BRING IT!

Tested a Cannondale EVO from The Bike Shop. In Love!
Fire Station field trip!
Taylor taking after his dad, ready to ride!
Halloween craft time!
Decoration time!
They are pumped
Good clean food...
And good beers...This one is a must try!