The definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Well, the mantra this year was to switch things up and see if the outcome would change.
I had three main things that I changed up in 2014. First, I went back to a focused strength and plyometrics routine at the beginning of the year. Then I worked the entire season on dialing in my race nutrition. I did not want any nutritional excuses this year. Finally, I increased the frequency and length of my long rides.
The result of my changes left me very confident about my foundation strength and my race nutrition. I was not worried about completing the 140.6 miles. I was ready to race.
I was curious to see how the new swim start would change things this year. I swam out to the starting line and quickly realized that the split start was not going to change how dense the front line gets before the cannon goes off. The usual feeling of being a sardine packed in was still very real. Once the cannon went off, I just tried to keep my head down and stay relaxed. There were arms and feet everywhere, but my best option was to move forward as quickly as I could. After the initial 200 meter smash fest, I was able to get some decent open water. I quickly got into my own rhythm and looked for some feet to follow. I felt really relaxed the remainder of the swim even though the conditions seemed a bit more rolling this year. I came out of the water with the 256th swim time. It wasn't my best, but I was happy with it on the day.
The long day that is an ironman will always throw unforeseen challenges your way. Each race will have different challenges. So I always try to prepare myself the best I can and hope to adapt to the particular challenge I am presented with on that day. This year I felt really good heading out onto the bike and I was really excited to see how my nutrition plan would play out. What I did not expect was to be flagged for a blocking (just a stand down) and a drafting (four minute timed stand down) penalty within the first ten miles. I was so surprised and very disappointed. My thought process had this progression: anger at the referees for making two very bad calls at the beginning of the race, then the feeling that my race was over, finalized by realizing that it is a very long day and anything can happen.
The bike segment was the usual roller coaster of emotions. However, this year the conditions were quite unique. I would say that 2014's bike conditions were the second (behind 2004) hardest that I've experienced in eight times racing here. There was an extreme headwind from miles 25-45. Then we caught some major side winds from 45-55 that literally blew some athletes off the road. We got the usual brutal headwinds heading into the Hawi turnaround from miles 55-60, which did turn into a nice tailwind to start the descent back down to mile 70. Once we turned onto the Queen K at about mile 80, we had a massive tailwind. It was bizarre. I was pedaling as fast as I could while riding along at 40mph and thinking how nice this would be to have the remainder of the ride. However, that all changed at mile 90, when we got another blast of significant headwind to fight the remainder of the ride into T2. It was one of the strangest days I've ever experienced. I came off the bike in 206th place overall and 24th in my age group. While it was not one of my best rides, I was very happy with how my nutrition held up.
One of my main goals this year was to feel good (relatively speaking) coming off the bike. I have only felt decent one time exiting T2 in Kona and I really wanted to change that this year. I was really happy that once I hit the ground running, my legs felt good.
It can be very daunting to think of the distance still left to cover and I am guilty of having those thoughts from time to time. So I made a deal with myself that I was only going to think about running to the next aid station.
This was the first year that I was able to run the entire marathon without walking any aid stations. I felt
pretty good for the first 13 miles then I went through a tough patch until mile 19. My energy levels really dipped during this stretch and I only focused on my cadence in an attempt to keep moving forward at a decent pace. Once I exited the Energy lab, I tried to get my hands moving at a decent clip. I knew my feet would follow if I could stay in the moment and not drift off with my thoughts. The strategy worked and I was able to bring my pace back down to 7 min/mile pace into the finish. I crossed the line with my best marathon time to date and a total time of 9:21:59, which put me in 85th Overall and 6th M40-44. I left it all on the run course.
Later in my career I developed a more pragmatic approach. While outcomes or results are always attractive, they are at the same time difficult to handle emotionally, because they are basically out of your own control. You never know if someone on the line is stronger and you can’t do anything about it if they are. There are always a thousand ways for a race to pan out and it is impossible to predict the actions of others, the weather etc. Instead I shifted focus to the things I could control. If I executed my race strategy perfect and gave absolutely everything I had in me, feeling completely empty at the finish I would have succeed no matter the outcome. - Torbjorn Sindballe
This quote is my favorite. It pretty much sums up my race this year.
Here are my quick thoughts on the race. The venue was absolutely fantastic!
I drove the bike course the day before the race and I was really excited for the challenging terrain. I thought the hills would really split things up and keep things honest. Unfortunately, that was not the case. There were some sections that were really tight. This caused things to bunch up and it seemed like there were not enough officials.
I went out on my bike to preview the run course later in the day on Saturday. I was equally encouraged by the hilly terrain. However, as I was riding the course I made a very lame move to jump a curb and ended up eating asphalt.
This resulted in some bruises, road rash, and a broken hanger that was holding my rear derailleur. I was extremely lucky that I was going pretty slow at the time, so the damage was pretty minimal. I was even more fortunate that Mark Andrews from Trek was attending the event. He was able to fix my bike right away and I was able to get it into transition before the cutoff time.
Race Day: Hanging in the RV with friends prior to the swim start
I was able to get in the water and get a really good warm up in prior to my swim wave starting. It was a beach start this year. This enabled the vertically challenged, such as myself, to get about 2-3 strides in before doing few dolphin dives.
I got about 2 strokes into the swim and felt myself being pushed under the water from behind. This is part of racing, but it's just not fun going under water at the beginning of a race. I attempted to relax and slowly moved my way out to the left. This strategy worked for me and I was able to get clear water. I was avoided anymore incidents the remainder of the swim. I came out of the water in 27:53, which put me in 31st place in my age group. It wasn't exactly where I was hoping to be, but I didn't waste anytime running the long transition to my bike.
Once I got on my Trek Speed Concept 9.9, I was really excited to push the remainder of the race. I went right to work. I felt really good the entire ride. I worked really hard and had my highest power output in a race since last year's 70.3 World Championship in Vegas. The only negatives of the bike segment was seeing several large packs form on the highway section and then seeing things bunch up when the coned off sections became to tight heading back towards transition. The course itself was beautiful and very challenging. I knew I was racing against some really good runners, so I just tried to ride my own race. I pushed all the way until T2 and managed to come off the bike 1st in my age group with a 2:15:03 split.
My 2nd transition was a little sloppy and I lost 2 places before I hit the run. I could see my competition in front of me, but I just could not bridge up. My quads were feeling the fatigue of the bike. I knew I had to find my own rhythm or I would risk blowing up. I ran the hilly course as well as I could. However, I was losing ground on the runners ahead of me and getting run down from one behind. I had fueled really well during the bike and the first half of the run. I did need to grab some cola for the first time this year at mile 10 as I felt my energy levels starting to drop a bit. The simple sugars did the trick and I was able to pick up my pace a little bit as I headed for the village. I crossed the finish line with a 1:22:36 split. I was completely spent. I left everything I had on the course.
Results: 4:10:44 4th M40-44 / 64th Overall
Right now I'm one week out from the 70.3 World Championships and six weeks out from the Ironman World Championship. I am really focused on my recovery. It all starts with my sleep. I use a product from Standard Process called Mintran (https://www.standardprocess.com/Products/Standard-Process/Min-Tran#.VANqnPldWSo). One of the benefits is the ease of temporary stress. I find that Mintran helps me relax at night so I'm not to wound up.
I am also making sure I stay on top of my electrolytes. My main goal is to make sure my levels are topped off each night. With the heavy training right now, it is easy to get depleted.
I headed up to 70.3 Timberman with my family and my friends the Swifts.
Timberman was my first 70.3 race back in 2001. I really enjoy everything about the race. The area is beautiful and my family really enjoys the weekend. This year was my 11th time racing this event.
My coach and I had slightly different goals for this race. I was still carrying a little fatigue from USAT Nationals the week before and I just wanted to enjoy the race. My coach wanted to use the race to prep for 70.3 Worlds and Kona. I felt that I only have so many bullets to use during the year and I did not want to use them up at this time.
So my game plan was to swim consistent, bike without pushing to hard, then run to my rhythm. I got a good jump at the beginning of my swim wave and managed to get open water right away. I did the entire swim by myself. I just had to navigate through some of the earlier waves around the turn buoys, but overall the swim was very enjoyable. My Blue Seventy Helix is so enjoyable to swim in. I came out of the water at: 27:37 46th Overall.
The wetsuit strippers are fantastic at this race and really helped me as I had forgotten to use my Tri Swim glide. I made my way through transition quickly.
Fortunately it was an overcast day, as I had also forgotten my sun glasses (rookie mistakes). I hopped on my Trek Speed Concept and just tried to get up to a decent effort. I ended up riding well within my comfort zone and I only spent 5 minutes in zone 3 heart rate. Here's a testament to my Trek Speed Concept. I road the bike course at 15 normalized watts lower than my best on the course, but still had my fastest bike split there by over 1 minute. I came off the bike with a split of: 2:16:50 which had moved me up to 7th Overall.
I got out onto the run and just tried to find an effort level that was decent without any pain. The weather was really nice and I was able to dial in my nutrition. I came into the finish line with a run time of: 1:21:50.
My overall time was 4:08:57 5th Overall/ 1st Amateur
This was my 2nd best time on the course and I had a wonderful time with my family over the weekend. I'm really looking forward to going back next year and racing the Sprint race the day before the 70.3 with my oldest son, Ryan. This will be his first adult triathlon. Enjoying the journey!
I had decided at the end of 2013 racing season that I wanted to try to go back to USAT Olympic distance National Championships. I had not raced Nationals since 2008 and I wanted to see if I could pull any speed out of my legs. I always consider Nationals to be the most competitive Olympic distance race in the country and it definitely lived up to the hype.
My training journey into the race was very interesting. It was the first time that I experienced significant issues with recovery. My coach, Paul Regensberg, laid out a game plan that incorporated training for my three biggest races of the year, USAT Nationals (Aug 9th), 70.3 World Championships (Sep 7th), and IM World Championships (Oct 11th). The combination of trying to add speed work into my longer strength training left me really depleted at times. The end result was that I just could not hit my Olympic distance training properly a day or two after 5 hour bike rides or 2 hour runs. However, I did feel I was in the best possible shape I could be in considering trying to train for all 3 distances. I was really looking forward to racing so I could find out what I could do.
I traveled out to Milwaukee, WI with my friend Chris Swift, 940 miles each way in the RV:
I had a good wait race morning as I was in the 9th wave to start and we had 20 minute cushion from the wave prior to ours. .
Once my wave started, I tried to get out as fast as possible.
The first 200 meters went great and I found myself in 2nd place. Then I watched as 12 guys swam past me and dropped me. I had made one mistake when I thought I could swim faster than another athlete I had been following. I ended up swimming solo for the remainder of the swim and came out of the water in 21:01 and 14th place in my age group.
I had a pretty good first transition and managed to pass 4 athletes before we hit the bike course. However, I did not realize this at the time. My goal for each discipline of the race was: 95% effort on the swim, 100% of FTP on the bike, and 105% of threshold on the run.
I tried to get right up to my FTP, but I noticed that I was having a hard time hitting my numbers. As I continued to see my power numbers sit well below my goal, I became pretty frustrated and decided to stop looking at my data. At this point I just went by feel. My new goal was to keep a decent steady effort. I was trying to count the guys I passed in my age group. I came off the bike in 56:25. I thought I was in 5th place at the time. I figured out about half way into the run that I actually had the lead in the age group. In hindsight, I had the fastest bike split and that had put me onto the run course in 1st place.
I was able to have a decent run and finished the 10k in 35:25. My overall time was 1:56:05 1st Masters(age 40+)/ 16th Overall.
I had a great time racing with my Timex teammates and seeing Susanne Davis win the women's Masters division for the 2nd year in a row!
I love this time of year. The days are long, the weather is finally warm, and there are tons of races to choose from. While it's a great time of year to get outside and participate in as much as possible, some caution is necessary. As a multisport athlete and coach, I see many people over due things.
I stress proper physiological training with a balanced nutrition plan. This is a good time of year to have your blood work checked to make sure everything is in balance.
I am a huge believer in working with professionals at every level. I continue to work with a coach myself and I have a professional nutritionist.
A key supplement that I do incorporate into my daily routine this time of year is from Standard Process. It's called Vitanox. It has four main benefits that fit in really well with my needs:
• provide strong antioxidant activity
• support healthy circulation and vascular integrity
• maintain healthy connective tissue
• support and maintain cellular health
Enjoy the journey!
I like to use the month of June to race as much as possible. So 70.3 Syracuse was my 3rd race in three weeks (70.3 Eagleman and Pat Griskus Olympic were the first 2). I was feeling some pretty good fatigue during the week, but I was hoping a couple of light days just prior to the race would do the trick to get my form back on track. I traveled up to the race with my friend, Chris Swift. We had a great weekend handing out Timex swag and talking to other athletes about all the multisport options that Timex watches offer.
Race morning came with ideal racing conditions. It was in the mid 60's with just a slight wind. The temperature did not get above 80 degrees until later in the afternoon. My only concern was the fact that my swim wave was the 17th to start (3rd from last). I knew I would need to be extra careful navigating through 2,000+ athletes throughout the day. However, I was very excited to finally use my BlueSeventy Helix!
Once my swim wave was released, I just focused on navigating the crowded course in the safest way possible.
I had a relatively uneventful swim except for one of the guys in my wave that decided that he was going to spend the first 600 meters swimming back and forth in front of me. One minute he was to my left, then he came right across me heading to my right. I literally stopped in place as I was so frustrated. Finally I just decided to push as close to the buoys as possible. It was thicker with athletes there, but I was able to lose my off-course competitor. I came out of the water in 27:34 (53rd OA/3rd AG).
My goal for the bike segment was to build my effort. The first 11 miles are pretty hilly and I wanted to make sure that I settled into my proper race effort. It's always very easy to spike the effort to high at the beginning of the bike as the adrenaline is flowing and the legs are fresh. My second goal for the bike was to take more electrolytes than I had at 70.3 Eagleman. So I really paid attention to my intake throughout the entire bike. The combination of the weather, a slight tailwind on the 2nd half of the bike, and patience netted me a 5 minute improvement on the previous year's bike split. I came into T2 in 2:18:06 and had moved into 15th place overall and 1st in my age group.
The run course is a 2 loop out and back format. I had a similar run strategy, so I just focused on trying to get my cadence up and settle into my rhythm. I had to ditch my strategy as I was returning from the first turnaround (about mile 3.5). I was shocked to see Dave Slavinsky (2x ITU Duathlon World Champion) gliding up the hill towards me only 2:42 back. Dave is an exceptional runner. I knew that I would need to run really well to hold him off. I had made one big mistake at the beginning of my run. I had not taken any electrolyte tabs and my left quad started to seize up. I immediately bit into a salt tab and had the same wonderful experience that I enjoyed during 70.3 Eagleman, ugh. It did work again, fortunately. I knew that I would need to be very attentive to any future cramps but I needed to run as fast as I could. My first turnaround split had been at 6:49 pace uphill. I was able to drop my pace down to 5:43 pace on the return to the run start. When I saw Dave again, my spread was 2:29. The 2nd half of the run is always were it can all fall apart, so I just tried to stay within myself and keep my form together. I ran the out section at 6:17 pace this time. However, when I saw Dave my spread was down to 2:15. I had 5k left to run. I made a deal with myself that if he was going to catch me, he would have to run a sub 5 minute mile in order to do it. I ran the last section at 5:47 pace and crossed the finish line with a 1:20:41 run split. I had managed to hold Dave off and cut 5 minutes off of my previous year's run time.
Final Results: 4:09:27/1st Amateur/10th Overall
I am definitely a numbers person. I'm a big believer that heart rate and power data can make a big difference in how athletes execute their race plans. I love to get as much data as I can during a race and analyze that data afterwards. However, sometimes it's just nice to race.
I headed down to Maryland to participate in the 70.3 Eagleman with my two friends: Chris and Jay Swift in a pretty nice ride:
After hanging in these great digs, it was time to start some racing. There was an announcement race morning that the swim would be non-wetsuit. I was pretty surprised by the announcement. The spring weather had been so chilly that I had never thought that it could be a non-wetsuit swim. I had not even packed my Blue Seventy skin suit(rookie mistake). While I was disappointed that I would not be able to race in my Blue Seventy Helix wetsuit: , I knew my Castelli Trisuit would perform.
Once our swim wave got started, I settled in quickly and found some feet to follow until the first turn buoy. It got really crowded around the buoy and I lost my escort at this point. So I navigated the remainder of the swim solo. I came out of the water at 29:55, which put me in 4th place in my age group.
I was in and out of transition quickly as I had a method to my chaotic setup:
My new Trek Speed Concept 9.9 is so much fun to ride and extremely comfortable. I quickly dialed in to my heart rate and power numbers. As the ride progressed, I had to keep reminding myself to stay in the moment. My thoughts usually wander during the bike segment and I tend to flake out a bit. Coach Paul Regensberg had called for a steady effort on the bike, without any major efforts, so my legs would not be smashed for the second half of the run. I kept this mantra throughout the bike and came off in: 2:13:01. I had moved up into 2nd place in my age group. However, I did not know this at the time. I came out onto the run and saw my friend Chris Swift: I asked him how I looked. He replied: "great". I mumbled, that's not what I'm asking, but it was to late. I was off onto the run course.
My goal was to settle into the run and build my effort. I didn't want to push hard to soon. My legs were also feeling a bit crampy. I tried to focus on my cadence and rhythm, but my left quad seized up on me at mile 2. I quickly bit into one of my salt sticks and covered my tongue in the fantastic tasting powder, ugh. My quad released, but I shortened my stride to be safe. As I continued on down the road, the cramping came on two more times. I repeated the same pleasant experience with similar results.
I always love seeing the older age groups out on the run course. They love the competition and always give me updates on my age group. As I ran past a 60yr old male at mile 3, he yelled that there was one in front of me and he was 41. I had no idea how far up the road he was, but at least I knew where I stood. I ran by my teammate Pierre-Marc Doyon at about mile 5 and he told me that the guy I was looking for was up ahead in orange. He seemed to have a decent gap, so I just tried to run steady. My cramps had subsided at this point, so I was looking forward to just racing. I hit the split on my Timex Run Trainer 2.0 as I saw him passing and then again at the turnaround. He had about 36 seconds on me. On the return trip back to the finish line, I could see the man in orange slowing at each aid station to get fluids. I felt good and just kept the same pace. I figured I was pulling about 10 seconds/aid station back on him. I saw my teammate Dave Harju running in the opposite direction at the 9.5 mile mark. He yelled that I was 25 meters back. It took me another .5 mile to close that gap. As I made the pass, we had a brief discussion about the number of Kona slots in our age group (there were 2 as we had 401 athletes in our division). I felt pretty good into the finish. I had managed to run 6 minute pace on the 2nd half of the run and I finished with a run time of: 1:20:03.
Final Results: 4:05:43 (Course PB) 1st Overall Amateur/ 13 Overall - Heading back to Kona!
Love racing with my teammates!
I was really looking forward to opening up my 2014 racing season down in Puerto Rico. My off-season strength and training blocks had gone very well and I was eager to get outside and race. My one concern was the lack of outdoor training I had accumulated since racing Kona back in October. Due to our brutal winter in the northeast, I came into the race with one outdoor bike ride and four outdoor runs. So I was looking forward to some warm conditions and testing my indoor fitness gains. I was fortunate to have my support crew with me.
Race morning started out very smooth with some beautiful conditions: 78 degrees and partly sunny
I made sure to get in a good warm up with my Blue Seventy skin suit: http://www.blueseventy.com/products/pz3tx. I was definitely ready to go by the time my wave went off. I was able to catch some feet to the first turn buoy, which helped set my tempo for the rest of the swim. I was happy to come out of the water with the 37th overall and 4th age group time. After a 1/3 mile run to T1 I was eager to test out my new Trek Speed Concept:
My coach, Paul Regensberg, had prescribed a gradual build in effort for the bike and run sections since this was the first race of the year. So my goal was to stay in the moment and just flow below my normal race pace. The combination of the slightly lower effort and my nutrition game plan allowed me to come off the bike feeling very fresh. I was able to move up to 9th overall and 1st in my age group.
I felt fantastic heading out onto the run section. However, my coach's advise kept me focused on a smooth turnover. I managed to stay relatively cool and keep my internal temps low with the help of my Skins compression arm sleeves. . The only problem I encountered on the run was a bit of cramping that started 2.5 miles into the run. In hindsight, I had gone into the run a bit low on my sodium intake. So I shortened my stride and used my 4 salt tabs strategically. I was able to keep the cramping at bay and I crossed the finish line feeling the freshest I've ever felt after 70.3 miles of racing.
Finish: 4:13:17/ 6th Overall/ 2nd Amateur
Career Highlights: 2009 USA Triathlon Amateur Athlete of the Year, 2012,2013, 2014 USA Triathlon Masters Athlete of the Year, 2014 USA Triathlon Olympic National Championship Masters Champion, 4 X Ironman 70.3 World Championship Age Group Winner (2008, 2009, 2012, 2013), 18 X 70.3 Overall Amateur Champion, 9 X Ironman World Champion Finisher (4 X Top 10 in Age Group), 2015 American Zofingen LC Champion, 2nd OA IM Maryland
I started competing in triathlon in the summer of 2000. I had always been intrigued by the sport since the early ‘80s when I would watch the Hawaii Ironman on TV. I got into running at a young age (6yrs old) as my father was a big marathon runner back in the late 70’s, early 80’s running boom. I did my first 10-mile road race when I was 10 years old. I also played ice hockey throughout my childhood and I stopped running my sophomore year in high school in order to completely focus on ice hockey. I did not run again until the fall of 1999. During that race, a friend of mine mentioned that he competed in sprint triathlons, short duration races lasting around one hour. I was immediately interested and I signed up for my first triathlon in July of 2000 up in Falmouth, Ma. I was immediately hooked. I loved the competition. I especially liked the aspect of the three sports and how one could continue to practice and improve in each sport. I believe all three sports compliment each other. I also really enjoyed the idea of challenging myself to see where I could get. So, while triathlon is a competition, I see it more as a race against yourself then others. It is a very addictive sport, but I think it’s probably one of the healthiest addictions that I know of. The training is also a great stress relief. I worked in New York City for the past 5 years and down on Wall Street for 2 years. The commute and the lifestyle can get pretty stressful at times. The training really helped me de-stress and stay focused. I have three little boys and I really enjoy sharing the sport with all three of them. I don’t care if they ever compete in a race, but I do believe it’s important to expose them to healthy opportunities in life. I would say that the hardest endurance scenario I’ve faced was actually the first half ironman I competed in up in Laconia, NH, which was the Timberman race. I’ve completed four full Ironman events, but that half ironman was my first attempt at the distance. I feel, in hindsight, that I just was not properly trained for the event. It was an incredible eye opening experience. I don’t think I’ve been more tired then the moment I crossed that finish line. However, the human mind is fascinating, as I was looking forward to the next race less then 24 hours after.