Dec 31, 2009

Leaving Ohio

It hasn’t been that long since I’ve traveled beyond the Ohio border, but it has been a long time since I left for an extended period of time. When I was 19 years old, I left for a little over 8 weeks. I was playing drums for this punk band, and it was our first US tour. Before that tour, I had barely been outside of the state. In those 8 weeks, we hit 50 major cities across the country. It was a serious adventure for a handful of teenagers. By the time we made it back to Cleveland, I had never been so happy to be home. I was a little homesick, but that was expected. We were young and 8 weeks was a long time to spend on the road. Life away from home has always appealed to me. But, I can’t live without knowing where home is.

This time I’ll be away for at least 6 months. Everything about leaving my hometown feels surreal. The thought of actually moving away didn’t strike me until we crossed the river into Kentucky, and I am certainly going to miss certain people that I left behind. We have had a lot of good times since the end of summer, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. But now I get to go live the life I have been fantasizing about for years... the life of an athlete.

We spent the night in Memphis yesterday. This city is seriously a place a could see myself living someday. There is something about the culture down south. We spent the night watching blues bands, eating BBQ, and drinking a few beers.  Today, we’ll drive into Dallas and celebrate New Years. It’ll be nice to catch up with some old Texas friends. I haven't had much time to train on this trip yet but there will be plenty of time for that in AZ.

Hope everyone enjoys some road trip pictures. If I figure out how to put videos on here, those will be to follow.




Dec 27, 2009

Saying Goodbye

The holidays are finally over and it's just about time to hit the road. The fall and early winter have been absolutely great. I have spent a ton of time with family and friends. I've been to plenty of parties, and have slacked off as much as possible with my training. I know my training for the next 10 months will be demanding, so I am happy that I have been able to take some time to recharge the batteries. I will always think fondly of the people I have grow to love in Cleveland. This place will always be my home and I will always be back. I have realized how lucky I have been to have some many good friends here. Their support is wonderful. I'm especially thankful for the ones who pick me up when I'm down, literally or figuratively. However, the next phase of my life will depend on how well I can pick myself up.

I hope that all of my friends in Cleveland will stay in touch. I'll be back someday. I may just be visiting, but we'll have plenty of time to throw back a few beers.

I love everyone very much and can't wait to show everyone what I can do.

Dec 10, 2009

Workout #1 - Learning to Ride like Aussie

Over the course of the next several months, I plan to post some cool workouts I do or other people do. I’d like to post a new workout every week or two, but don’t hold me to that.

This week’s workout is straight from our favorite Aussie, Rob Thompson.

Building Strength on the Bike
For the unfortunate Clevelanders snowed in, this strength building workout is perfect for the trainer.

• Warm up with some easy spinning and some one leg drills (15-30 minutes)

• Main Set
o To start, put yourself in your 5th hardest gear.
o Down one gear for 4 minutes (4th hardest gear), up one gear for 1 minute.
o Down two gears for 3 minutes (3rd hardest gear), up one gear for 1 minute, up one more gear for 1 minute.
o Down three gears for 2 minutes (2nd hardest gear), up one gear for 1 minute, up one gear for 1 minute, up one gear for 1 minute.
o Down four gears for 1 minute (hardest gear), up one for 1 minute, up one gear for 1 minute, up one gear for 1 minute, up one gear for 1 minute.
o Put yourself in hardest gear and stand for 5 minutes.
o Lastly, put yourself in an easier gear in the big ring and ride tempo for 5 minutes. Imagine you just started riding downhill. This will teach you to use the back sides of hills to your advantage. The best riders attack when others are hurting!

• Cool down with easy spinning and more one leg drills. Make sure you cool down as at least 15 minutes. You’ll need to get the lactic acid out of those legs after a 25 minute climb.

This workout is designed to be 60-75 minutes and all of the climbing should be high aerobic. I used the last minute of each interval as a little bit of recovery; however, you should still be working hard the entire time. This workout is designed to simulate a long climb, so it should feel that way. Make sure to stay seated and relaxed while in the hardest gears. Sit back in your saddle to generate more power.

I encourage everyone to try this workout and let me know if you liked it. Aussie told me that he used to do workouts like this every week last winter, and we all saw how incredibly strong he got last season.


Dec 7, 2009

Looking for Motivation?

Tonight, I stumbled upon a pretty special documentary. It seems like you always find something interesting when you aren’t looking for it. This evening, I had the privilege of being inspired.

Watch it at 

The documentary, “Kicking It,” is based on the Homeless World Cup in South Africa. Several years ago, a few men organized a soccer tournament that would be open to teams of homeless competitors from all across the world. More than 500 men from 48 countries competed in this tournament. Not one of these competitors was privileged in any way. These men were from the worst of slums. Even though they all lived in poverty, they all fought incredible obstacles to represent their country in sport. Some men had lost everything due to drugs and alcohol and some were never even given a chance. Some men came from countries where playing soccer was an offense punishable by death. Regardless, their hope was simply a sport. It gave their life purpose… Maybe the only thing they had to fight for.

The power of sport is very interesting. It is so simple, yet it has the ability to save lives. For people that had nothing, it gave them hope. Who would have thought something as simple as a tournament could change so many people’s lives. For every athlete out there, we all have our motivations. But next time you aren’t sure if you can achieve your goals or dreams, think about these men who did.

If you have 90 minutes… open yourself up and watch this video, especially if you are having some trouble with winter motivation.

Nov 29, 2009

Long Road Ahead

It's hard not to think about the road ahead of me. Some days it is the only thing I think about. It is what keeps me up at night and what gets me going every morning. There is a huge amount of uncertainty that surrounds the next few years of my life. Tomorrow begins my last week as an undergraduate. Today, I was running a few miles at Cleveland State and couldn't help but think about everything I had been through since I transferred a few years ago. I am a different person with different goals, but I still can't predict where I am going to be in a year or two. It is hard to transition into a new era without knowing exactly what is going to happen. But, I guess this is what everyone goes through a few times in their life. I am about to take a chance on myself. I don't know how it will work out, but it is just something that I have to do for myself.

I don't know if I have a future in triathlon. I don't know if I can get any faster. But I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I didn't really try. A lot of people may think I'm nuts for pursuing triathlon like I intend to... I may be. I realize the road ahead of me is a very long one... in fact, it may be a never ending.. I don't know where it is going to take me and I don't care.

I grew up always thinking that there were two types of people in the world. The people that settled for what they were given, and the people who decided to fight for what they didn't have. I guess I know where I belong... The future is uncertain, but when everything is over, I am certain I will have a few stories to tell.

Here's to living, cheers.

Nov 21, 2009

Wrapping Up The 2009 Season

This post recognizes several Cleveland area triathletes that stepped it up this year and raced hard. As the 2009 season comes to an end, I’ve started to think about all of the area triathletes who put in so much time and saw great results. Obviously, I can’t recognize everyone, but these few individuals deserve some credit. Congratulations to everyone who trained hard, made sacrifices, put themselves to the test, and came out on top.

Jim LaMastra – This is one of the hardest working triathletes in Ohio and quite possible the whole country. Besides training and racing ridiculously hard, Jim still finds plenty time to spend with his family, coach local triathletes, and build his career. If there is one athlete, or person in all of Ohio, to model yourself after, it is Jim LaMastra. Jim’s 2009 racing season was impression to say the least. After winning the first two triathlons he entered, he went on to finish 4th at Rhode Island 70.3, securing his 2nd Kona slot. Jim went on to race super fast on the big island finishing towards the top of his age group. Congrats to Jim for everything he accomplished this season.

Rob “Aussie” Thompson – Anyone who knows Aussie, knows he will own you on two wheels. Besides riding way too fast, Aussie spends his time with his family over in Lakewood. Anyone lucky enough to hold onto Aussie for an entire ride, knows how it feels to work hard. Aussie also had a super impressive season, culminating in a great performance at IM Louisville. I watched this kid push himself through the last few miles of that race, and have never seen someone dig that deep. Aussie knows how to suffer, and we are all waiting to see more big things from him.

Christian Kurilko – Let’s talk about some work ethic. This guy works harder and races farther than anyone I know. I’d love to spend one minute inside this guy’s head. Christian started off the season with the Cleveland Marathon, and then backs it up with a 7.5 mile swim in the Potomac River. If that wasn’t enough, throw in a half Ironman and then IM Louisville. In Louisville, Christian had the best performance of any of the Cleveland triathletes. He blew away all expectations, and had the race of his life. I watched him come through the finishing shoot in a little over 10 hours, I truly respectable IM time. Congrats to Christian for stepping up to the Ironman distance and doing it the right way!

Brian Stern – I was lucky enough to race along with Stern several times this year. We had some good times… but we also raced ridiculously hard.  After a super fast time at the Kansas 70.3, Stern was already qualified for Clearwater. But, for him, that wasn’t enough. A couple months later, he blew the field away at the Steelhead 70.3. Stern is notorious for laying down super fast run splits at every race he does. A month later, Stern and I raced Long Course Nationals. Stern finished top – 20 overall and 3rd in his age group. Besides those races, Stern also managed to pick up a variety of overall wins through out the season. Stern is one of the best Masters runners in Ohio right now. Thanks for pushing me to my limits all season, and congrats for all your accomplishments.

Aaron Emig – I just met Aaron this season and he quickly proved to be one of the fastest athletes on the BAFF triathlon team and in the Cleveland area. Aaron had a huge break through race at Augusta 70.3 a few months ago. He finished at the top of his age group, and qualified for the Ironman World Championship 70.3. Besides Stern, Aaron was one of the only people from Cleveland to qualify for this race. Not only did Aaron go fast at worlds, he did it without drafting on the bike. Clearwater is notorious for drafting, and Aaron decided that he wanted to fair race for himself. This shows a great deal about his personality. He is willing and able to race with the best, but he will always do so in a way that honest and fair. I can’t wait to see what he’ll do next season, and am sure that he will again be one of the fastest athletes in the area.

Again, congrats to everyone who raced hard and accomplished what they didn't think was possible. Special thanks to all of my sponsors this season, and any company who supported local triathlons. My main sponsor this season, Fleet Feet Sports, always went above and beyond their responsiblities to local racing and is one of the most dedicated running stores in all of Ohio. Thanks to Jody and Heather for everything they have done. Without Fleet Feet Sports, the Cleveland racing scene would not be the same.

Nov 15, 2009

Moving to The Sunshine Factory

In an effort to spend the winter on two wheels, I'll be moving out west to Tucson, AZ. Moving away from Cleveland for a winter has been on my mind for the last few years, and with graduation 3 weeks away, it is about time for a change! I have set some big goals for myself for the 2010 triathlon season, and I am hoping that spending a winter putting in base miles will help me reach my goals. For those Clevelanders who tough out the winter riding the trainer and running the icy roads, I have a great deal of admiration. But, I know my time would be better spent training in a warmer climate. I'll be back to Cleveland in late June to race the remainder of the season. So far, my schedule includes the ITU Long Course World Championships in Germany, Rev 3 Cedar Point Half Ironman, and The Lonestar 70.3. I expect to add another 7-10 races to the 2010 scehdule. Because I am moving back to Cleveland for the majority of the season, I plan to continue race locally and nationally for Fleet Feet Sports and Flexus Fitness Group; however, I am currently working on picking up a few more sponsors.

While I am out training in Tucson, AZ all winter, I want to keep in touch with everyone back in Cleveland. I plan to update this blog pretty regularly to keep in contact with everyone. Plus, if anyone wants to spend spring break riding under the sun, all it takes is a plane ticket to Tucson. It is going to be pretty busy before I set out to the desert, but I am always willing to grab a beer with anyone. Even though I am headed out of town, I hope to come back and see that the winter treated everyone well and everyone is super fit and healthy. Here's to a break through 2010 season for everyone.


Nov 5, 2009

Spend the winter doing what you suck at!

For me, it’s officially been the off season for more than 6 weeks. Like most over achieving triathletes, I am starting to feel a little bored. I really want to get back into those miles, but I know that my mind needs several more weeks of unstructured training. So what to do?
 With another winter approaching in Cleveland, it is the perfect time to do something you suck at!
Although I didn’t grow up running or cycling, those sports were much more natural to me. When I started racing triathlons, I was no different than most people. The swim was purely survival. I’m still not the greatest swimmer, but I have come a long, long way. And, I owe it all to Cleveland’s nasty winters.
 Two years ago, I decided that I was going to spend the bulk of the winter trying to get better at swimming. I decided that I wasn’t going to keep swimming like a triathlete. I was going to swim like a swimmer. This meant going to masters swim practice, learning to read the clock, flipping at each wall, and swimming EVERY stroke. I’ve met a countless number of triathletes that don’t flip turn, only breathe to one side, and can only swim freestyle. Triathletes that don’t embrace the swimming lifestyle will never swim fast times. Becoming a 3 sport athlete instead of a triathlete is the philosophy I adopted a few years ago. Many triathletes think that it is okay to be triathletes. Trust me, it isn’t. When I first started running seriously, I started working at a specialty running store. I could have worked anywhere, but I wanted to learn to run from runners. By adopting the running mentality, I was able to progress much faster. Triathletes have used this strategy since the beginning of the sport. The Big Four, Tinely, Scott, Allen, and Molena, started this sport based on this strategy. They swam like collegiate swimmers, cycled liked roadies, and ran like marathoners. This was the only way they knew how to train, and it worked.
So, this winter don’t train like a triathlete. Train like a swimmer, a cyclist, or a runner. Do something you suck at, and do a lot of it. I decided to swim 6 days per week until I move to Tucson in January. My goal is swim masters 25-30k per week. I’ve done this kind of focus for 3 winters straight and it always helps my summer swimming. The winter is the perfect time to get good at your weakness. So, when it’s cold and shitty out, head out to the pool, or hop on the trainer. Next summer, you’ll thank yourself for it.

Oct 29, 2009

Excuse Me Sir. I Think I'll Have Another.

Yes, that's right. I've knocked out more beers than miles in the last six weeks. I've traded my runners for a nice tall IPA, and I feel pretty good about it. The off season starts off the same way every year. I usually spend the first week catching up on lost social time. I always over do it in the first week... but that's how I like to do it. After nationals, I spent a good deal of time sleeping and catching up with friends. A few weeks after that last race, I felt the need to do something more with my late season fitness. I wasn't totally satisfied with my race at nationals. It took some time to convince myself, but I decided to put in 2 weeks of running and 1 week of rest before the Columbus Half Marathon.

My plan was to run mostly easy miles with two specific workouts and two "long" runs. I started it off by "racing" the Natures Bin 5k on Saturday. I knew there wasn't going to be that many fast runners, but I hoped to put down a decent 5k by running on Brian Stern's shoulder. I ran on his shoulder all the way until the last quarter mile. I blew up and he went on to win in 16:21. I finished 7 seconds later. On Sunday, I ended up doing an incredibly hungover 10 miles with the NDC boys. The next week, I toughed out the cold, rainy weather and ran 10 x 800 @ 5:30-5:40 pace on the towpath. I really wanted to put down one more hard race before I submitted to the debauchery that is the off season. After two weeks of 30-35 miles, I figured I was ready to throw down a decent half marathon. I wanted to take this race seriously, but it was hard to let go of my off season rituals. A few nights before the race, I found myself at Mug Night at 1:30AM. So much for resting this week. I wasn't too concerned. This race was all in good fun.

I worked all day on Saturday before I headed down to meet Herzog in Columbus. I grabbed a 6-pack and met him at the hotel. We ordered a pizza and he watched me drink a couple beers. I told him it would calm his nerves, but he thought I was crazy. It was going to be 35 degrees on race morning. There was no need to worry about dehydrating myself by drinking too many beers. Race morning came and it was COLD! I tried to stay warm, but I was shaking until about mile 3. My approach to this race was incredibly relaxed. My main goal was to improve on my 1:17:21 at the Cleveland Half Marathon in May. My dream goal was to run under 1:16. I got into a very solid group of runners early on. There was roughly 5 of us for the first 6 miles. I knew we were running fast, but I was more concerned with sitting in the group and taking my pulls. We went through the 10k in under 35 minutes. Even though I knew we were running a little fast, it felt solid. Stern dropped at the 6 mile mark. Everyone else in the group dropped by 9. I spent the whole day fighting so hard to stay with the group. Now, it was up to me to finish it off.

I hadn't wore a watch for this race, so I wasn't sure about my exact pace. As I literally gave it everything I had, I saw the finish clock tick past 1:14:00. I flipped out in the chute. I couldn't have been more excited to see my finishing time. It was the first time all year that I truly surprised myself. I had raced harder than I thought was possible and I had been rewarded for it. I almost got dropped 10 times during the last 5 miles, but for the first time all year, I stuck. I ran a 1:14:20 half marathon, and I am pretty damn happy with it. This proves to all the overly uptight runners and triathletes, having a little fun doesn't hurt your racing, but not believing in yourself does. I should have realized this a long, long time ago.

Since the race, I've gotten back to enjoying the off season. I've been riding the cross bike, swimming a bunch, staying out "late", and drinking plenty of beers. Life is all about a little balance. It is okay to be disciplined and dedicated to your sport, but it is also okay to relax a little. But, don't let the off season last too long.


Sep 23, 2009

Nationals Part 2: Going For Broke

Triathlon is a very interesting sport. You spend all year with a few goals in mind. You think about them while your working, while your training, even while your sleeping. You think about how that "magical" race is going to unfold. You think about how you are going to push yourself past the limits of the human body. You tell yourself that you'll have the courage to dig deep. You convince yourself that you will push until you break. You convince yourself that they will have to pick your limp body off the course before you give up. It is a good thing that we have the ability to trick ourselves. It's a good thing we can forget our last race enough to stand on that starting line again. Racing defines our lives. It makes us who we are. Racing is a test. It is much more than who can get to the finish line the fastest. Pre put it beautifully, "I don't race to see who is the fastest, I race to see who has the most guts."

The alarm wasn't supposed to go off for several more hours, but I was already turning in my sleep. The hotel bed wasn't nearly as comfortable as it was the night before. I awoke before the alarm had a chance to ring. I had a good feeling about today, it was the day I had been waiting for all year. Eager to get to the race site, Stern showed up at my hotel a little early. We both felt the nerves. Those who have never had the opportunity to experience the morning before a big race may not understand, but it is a feeling you remember for a lifetime.

The spotlights glared over transition. We still couldn't see. Late season races mean starting well before the sun comes up. Something about jogging down a deserted street in the dark made me feel alive. It made me feel like I was about to embark on an epic journey. As I ran along the calm lake, the rain started to pour. My body was soaked, but that was the last thing on my mind. Nothing in the world could take me from the task at hand.

As I got back to transition, the rain had picked up considerably. I put on my wetsuit early to stay warm. A half hour before the race was scheduled to start, McArthur Road began to flood. It was the last thing I expected to happen. In a heart beat, an element of uncertainty was introduced. Rumors of a swim-run-swim circulated. I laughed at the thought of hundreds of tired athletes trying to put their wetsuits back on after running 13.1 miles. After a 40 minute delay, they decided to start the race under one condition. If we came to a flooded section of the course, we were supposed to dismount and run through. Tri season wasn't even over and I was supposed to start practicing my cyclocross skills?

The water was luke warm. I couldn't believe it was wetsuit legal. Luckily the outside air was cold and we welcomed the warmth of the small lake. My plan was to quickly find open water and then settle into a very relaxed pace. I wanted to remain as comfortable as possible. "10 seconds athletes!" I had one of the straightest routes to the turn around. These first few hundred meters could be exciting.

The water around us turned red. A couple hundred athletes started ripping through the shallow lake water. The dark red clay that lined lake floor turned the lake water blood red. I'm sure it was an interesting site from the beach. After finding a good rhythm, I found myself alone towards the front of the wave. I was swimming well and could tell right away. My stroke was long and smooth. I felt much more powerful than usual. I pushed the pace around the turn-around buoy, I wanted a fast swim split. The swim went by in a flash. As I dolphin dived up the long concrete ramp towards the timing mat, I knew I had the best swim of the season. I checked my watch... 27:10.

I kept my HR low through transition. I hoped that I would have the ability to find my legs quickly. As a pedaled around the lake, I felt something I hadn't felt all year. My legs didn't feel empty! As I pushed the pace onto McArthur, the rain picked up again. Six miles into the bike I approached the first flooded section of the course. I didn't know it at the time, but I was one of the first people to go through. The volunteers weren't there to tell us to dismount. As I approached, It was much too late to slow down and dismount... I was committed. The water was 8inches deep. I rolled through slowly hoping to stay on my bike. Another athlete to my right did the same. This was a race. To me, it was completely acceptable to take chances.

At mile 25, I had no clue what place I was sitting in. I assumed I was towards the front. Top 20? Maybe even top 10? A mile before hitting the turn around, I saw the lead rider, Tim Hola. A minute behind him was Willy Pickhart. I knew both athletes' reputations quite well. I looked up for more riders but didn't see any... just the turn around. I was sitting in 3rd position overall, only 4 minutes down. The thought of that gave me a surge of energy. I hammered through the rain back towards the lake. I hadn't been near another athlete for 50 miles. I knew there were guys behind me who wanted my position. I was just going to have to fight for it.

I got off the bike in 2 hours and 25 minutes. I knew that it would be one of the faster times. The bike course was wet, flooded, and poorly paved. I didn't expect any blazing bike splits. I ran out of transition as the announcer's voice rang over the loud speaker. "Here comes the third athlete to get onto the run course. AJ Baucco from Cleveland Heights, Ohio!" I reminded myself that this race was mine.

I ran very conservatively for the first 3 miles... 6:25, 6:40, 6:15. Just like Jim told me, I would come into my pace. I started to feel really strong. My pace dropped to just above 6 minutes per mile as I hit the first turn around. I had a nice lead on my chasers, at least 3 minutes. As I ran back to transition to start the second loop, I started passing other athletes running in the opposite direction. They knew I was out in the front of the race and that gave me confidence. This race was mine and I was really starting to believe it. As I ran by my Dad at mile 6, I had this feeling deep down. This was the race that I had been waiting for my entire life. I finished the first 6.55 mile loop in 42 minutes. I felt like I had been conservative in my pacing. I saw my chasers for the first time. They were running hard, but I still had 2 minutes on both of them. As I hit mile 7, I started to slow a bit. My body began feeling heavy. I was starting to struggle a little bit. Mile 7 ended up being 7 minutes... I told myself I could get it back. By mile 8, I was finally passed. It was the first time all day. He made me feel like I was running backwards. I told myself it was okay. But was it? At mile 8.5, I was passed again. This one broke my heart a little bit. I was falling apart. I tried to keep it together. I knew this was the moment where I had to begin to dig deeper than I thought was possible. But, my body was telling me to stop. To quit. To give up. No one would care if I just gave up. In a race, your mind becomes your worst enemy. That is where the epic battle begins. The mind is the toughest opponent. I started to wonder if I would be able to finish again.

My pace was staggering. There was no more kick in my step. I was suffering. All I needed to do was hold on for a few more miles. I just couldn't pick up my pace. I wondered if I had been drinking enough liquid in the rainy conditions. Too late now, I was bonking hard as ever. At mile 11, I grabbed a tall, flat soda. I begged it to save me. At mile 11.5, I could taste the finish. I could see it in the distance. As I approached mile 12, a pack of three runners passed me. The knife was in my chest. They just twisted it. As I watched them run away from me, I got pissed off for the first time all day. I felt the sugar from the coke run through my veins like a drug. This was it. Stop being a wimp and run! My pace dropped, my stride opened and I began to kick for the finish.

The more I race the more I feel like I am searching for that perfect race. As endurance athletes are we ever happy? I have accomplished a great deal in the last few years. I won two triathlons, podium'd at many others, and finished a world championship race. I have never crossed the line and been satisfied enough to say "That's it. That is the best race I will ever have in my life." I known that will never happen. I just hope that someday I will look back on how I lived my life and be truly happy. If that happens, all of the suffering, the pain, the loneliness, the self-doubt, the struggle... it will all be worth it. I am my biggest enemy, my toughest competitor. I always have been. I know that I can accomplish great things in my life and I won't be happy until I do. I'm not an athlete. I don't have any great skills. I don't even think I was born with the ability that most elite endurance athletes were given. I was just given this burning passion to better myself. I'm not sure if it is a blessing or a curse. But it is mine... It burns deep inside me and it is going to take me places.

I ended up crossing the line in 4:27:25. I was 8th overall at a national championship. I was also 1st in the M20-24 division. I guess that means I am an age group national champion. I can't help but laugh when i write that. If you knew me a few years ago, you'd laugh too. I guess that anything is possible... who knows what the next few years will bring.

Sep 16, 2009

Nationals Part 1: Survivng the Taper

Today is Wednesday, 3 days before the race. So at this point, I can accurately say that I survived my only real taper of the year. My season started nearly 6 months ago when I showed up in New Orleans to test my bike trainer fitness, or lack thereof. It has been a long year, but a fairly eventful one. This year has brought me many good memories, some new friends, and a new respect for the sport of triathlon. A ton have people have stepped up and helped me on my journey and for them, I am truly thankful. Jim LaMastra, a local triathlon god ;) has been there for me everyday this year. He has hammered me on the bike, given me guidance, and believed in me when I didn't even believe in myself. He is the kind of person that everyone should strive to be more like.

I had set many goals for myself this year, and some of those goals remain unaccomplished. There were certain races I wanted to win, and certain times I wanted to nail. But looking back, not winning a race wasn't what defined my season. The work an athlete puts in, when no one is watching, truly defines that athlete. The race is just how the athlete is remembered. Regardless of how I am remembered this year, I have done the work and am a better athlete and person because of it.

After my 3 week streak of Olympic distance racing, I needed a break. I was 2nd OA at Pittsburgh, 4th OA at Cleveland, and 3rd OA at Greater Cleveland. It was a solid racing block, but I needed to step away from racing to really redefine my goals. After a much needed recovery week, I started my build for nationals. I tried to be as disciplined as possible during these few weeks, but my mind wandered. It has been hard juggling a relationship and racing season. I was being pulled in two directions for weeks, even months. Even though she didn't mean to, that person was stealing away my passion for triathlon. She was making me compromise my goals and even my dreams. She made me feel like I wasn't normal for wanting so much out of a pretty basic sport. I may not be normal, but I sure don't need someone pointing that out. As I approached my 2 week taper, my life started to fall apart at the seams. Even though my relationship had fallen apart a while ago, I felt the need to address it at the worst possible time. I should have been concentrating on triathlon, but it was the last thing on my mind. Failing at a relationship can be viewed in many different ways. I wanted to blame triathlon at first. That would have been easier. It does consume a huge portion of my life. But, my passion for triathlon didn't ruin this relationship. We were just two people who had much less in common than we thought. If we both would have been more upfront about our lifestyles in the beginning, that relationship would have never begun. But I guess that is what relationships are for, to learn from. I am happy that situation was finally sorted out because my mind in finally at ease and I can move on with my life. As for the taper, I survived. I feel fit and fast. I am healthy and willing to put my heart on the line again. It is what I live for and when I cross that line on Saturday, this whole year will be worth it. I may have gotten sidetracked, but I sit here 3 days away with a second chance. When that moment comes, the one where you truly have to dig deeper than you thought was possible, I hope I have the courage. For one day, can be remembered for the rest of my life.

Aug 4, 2009

Suzuki Pittsburgh Triathlon

After attempting to race The Dam Tri with the flu, I found myself completely wrecked for 10 days. I didn't leave my couch for days at a time. My stomach turned every time I even thought about training. I spent my time sleeping, watching Degrassi, napping, playing video games, and sitting in the bathroom. It was definitely the worst 10 days of my year so far. After my illness subsided and I got my legs back underneath me, I started a very intense 2 week training block. When the two weeks were completed, I had logged about 38 hours of quality training. This short training block included over 375 miles on the bike, 75 miles of running, and about 18 miles of swimming. These two weeks left me a little beat up, but ready to race again. After a quick recovery week, I found myself at the starting line of the Pittsburgh Triathlon.

I had decided to do this race for a few reasons. After 10 days of being sick and two weeks of hard training, I was itching to race. Also, I have done this course before and I wanted to see my progression in the last two years. Mentally, I was in a very stable place and I was eager to test myself once again.

Rachel and I drove to Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon. My parents, especially my Dad, couldn't let himself miss my race. Even though he was scheduled to be out of town the morning of the race, he went out of his way to meet us in Pittsburgh that night. This was the first race I let anyone, who wasn't racing, stay with me. I didn't think Rachel would get in my way, this was just uncharted territory. Turns out, I spent the day before the race much more relaxed then I had ever been before. Apparently, she has this ability to take my mind right off of the race.

I awoke 3 minutes before my wakeup call was scheduled... not surprising. My eternal alarm clock is always set the night before a race. I went through all of my pre-race rituals and left Rachel sleeping as I slipped out of the door, it was early. I got down to transition with plenty of time to spare. I have raced so many time in the last few years that I could go through my pre-race sleep walking. I spent the majority of the early morning warming up. I wanted to make sure that I was completely ready to race today. I saw Rob Reddy before the start. He had an interesting night. Apparently, bringing your dog to the hotel is grounds for removal. Rob, his girlfriend, her son and the dog spent the night in the car. He could have called me... we had an extra couch.

As race time approached, I slipped in the Allegheny River to warm up. I remembered that Rachel told me to look out for the Allegheny White Fish. I laughed to myself. I hoped I wouldn't be seeing any floating condoms this morning. The water was warm and gross. I already wasn't happy with the swim conditions. Exactly like two years ago, I cut my foot walking into the river. I was bleeding, but it wasn't horrible. I thought "Damn river gets me every time."

We all lined up at the buoy ready to race. The announcer said it would be one minute till the gun. I had to swim a modified breast stroke to stay at the buoy. The current was really strong today. The first 400 meters were against the current to the turn around buoy, then it was about 1100 meters to the swim exit. Those first 400 meters lasted a lifetime. I was fighting so hard against the current, but I didn't feel like I was getting any closer. My attitude was negative during the swim. My arms were heavy and I couldn't get into a rhythm. When I got closer to the exit, I couldn't figure out where I was getting out of the water. I over swam the exit and had to go against the current for several yards. This was an annoying end to an annoying swim. As I exited the water, I spotted my parents and shot them a look... they knew I wasn't happy with my swim. After a 22 minute swim, 3 minutes faster than two years ago, I was sitting in at least 10th position. My transition was quick and I had one thing on my mind, a blazing bike split.

All year, I haven't been happy with my bike splits. In training, I am consistently riding well. However, something about the racing hasn't been translating. Luckily, I felt good about this bike course. The course is two loops. It climbs about 6 miles at a fairly easy grade before turning around and heading back towards the city. I stayed in the big ring for the entire climb and I definitely used it to my advantage. Riding very gradual and rolling hills have always been a strength of mine. In the first half of the first lap, I rode my way into 3rd. This bike course was treating me well. As I descended back towards PNC Park, the rain kicked up a little. It made the downhills dangerous, but I was looking for a challenge. I rode aggressively and finished the first lap in roughly 31 minutes. I again started climbing with a mission. When I hit the turn around again, I was in 2nd place. I saw the lead rider, Colin Gundling. He was right where I wanted him. I knew if I descended well, we'd come into transition together. The next downhill was tougher because the rain had kicked up. As the rain pelted me in the eyes, I wished I had my sunglasses on. My second descent was slower, but my second lap was faster... just over 29 minutes. I finished the bike in 1:00:15. It was like 8 minutes faster than two years ago and it was a personal best for the 40k. I was delighted to have rode like that on such a rolling course.

I exited T2 about 30 seconds down from Colin. As we ran down towards the river, he was right underneath me. At the time, I was certain that he was mine. I have always proven to be a faster runner than him. At the Dam Tri, I out ran him by over 30 seconds and I was sick as a dog! I had a great feeling in the pit of my stomach, I was going to win again... I decided not to chase him down too quickly. I thought he would come back to me naturally. I starred at his back in anticipation. I waited... and waited. Why wasn't he coming back to me? Why was he getting farther away? I started to panic a little bit. He was running really well. I was running hard, almost at my max. But, for some reason, I wasn't closing the gap. Where my legs not as fresh as I thought they were? Was this an effect of the 10 day flu or the 2 week training block. I thought I was stronger than this. I decided that at the 5k turnaround I would make my move. I would put my head down and run like hell. I would catch him or I would die trying. I hit the turn around 40 seconds down from him. I started to run hard. I could feel my heart beating out of my chest. I was red lining... but would I blow up? I looked up after a few minutes, he was getting closer. I kept pushing. I looked up again. There he was... How much did I have left? I passed Rob Reddy coming the other way. "3000 meters AJ," he yelled. "Your 30 seconds down!!! You can catch him! Go!" Could I really catch him? I put my head down one last time... all or nothing. A minute later, I picked up my head, my semi-blurred vision saw no leader. My pace slowed and started to die slowly. I had blown up. My HR was through the roof and every part of my body was filled with lactic acid. Today wasn't my day, it was Colin's. I finished the last mile, but stopped chasing. I pulled my jersey back up over my shoulders. I myswell look descent when I cross the finish line. No sense in looking like I just got defeated. I crossed the line in 2:02:15, a personal best at the Olympic Distance. I was about 70 seconds off Colin's winning time. I was very happy with my performance. I had gone pretty fast on a tough course. And, I was like 14 minutes faster than two years ago, even though that was only my second triathlon.

At first, I was upset that I wasn't able to run Colin down like I thought I could, but that kid had a great race. My hat was off to him. He had his day. He pushed hard and deserved his win. I was happy that I was there to test him. He later said in an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune that he saw me coming at him at the 5k turn around and he was worried. I may not have won, but I sure as hell gave it a shot, and he knew that. My legs may not have carried me to my fasted 10k, but at least I can sleep at night knowing that I showed up, raced hard, and crossed that line with my head up... again.

Even though that finish line is only a temporary finish, it still feels good to cross it. Some day, I'll cross that final finish line, but it won't be a line on the ground. Until then, I keep racing because it is the only thing that has ever made me feel truly alive.

The Dam Tri - foolishly "racing" through the stomach flu

The race has been over for about 30 hours and I am still unable to leave the couch. The 24-hour stomach virus that I thought I had seems to have become much worse. I heard the flu was going around, but I don't know anyone that had it. These last 48 hours sum up my entire season so far. The better I am feeling in the days before the race, the worse the experience. After last season, I was really looking forward to showing everyone what I was capable of this year. This season so far has taught me many lessons. For one, expect the unexpected because anything can happen at anytime. It seems like I have experienced it all this year...I have experienced the mental and physical agony of being hit by a car a few weeks before the first race of the season. I have experienced injury, several times, and now I have experienced "racing through" the stomach flu... In a weird way, I am somewhat amused by my luck this year and I don't think it is all that bad. If I am ever going to achieve my true potential in this sport, I need to experience everything. I need to experience victory and defeat. Most of all, I need to figure out exactly why I decided to pick up triathlon a few years ago. This sport has already given me so much. I have seen more from the saddle or the trails than people will ever see from their living rooms. I've climbed mountains, ran through deserts, and swam with sea creatures. I've done things that I never thought was humanly possible. I've felt alive and I've felt dead. But more importantly, I've picked myself back up and dusted myself off. I've committed myself... heart and soul. I've won and lost. I've lived.

It was Saturday evening... I started feeling squeamish while I was at the movies with Rachel. Something wasn't feeling right... I thought that I had eaten something bad. Regardless, it knocked the wind right out of me. I was really looking forward to racing Sunday morning. That night was a rough one. I already had the pre-race jitters, but I also had a horrible stomachache. I tried sleeping that night, but it wasn't that easy. I spent more time in the bathroom than I spent in my bedroom. My alarm went off at 4:30 am; I had slept pretty soundly for the last 2 hours. I was hoping that the worst was over. It wasn't. I thought about telling my roommate Brendan that I didn't want to go to Meadville anymore, but I was afraid to back out. I didn't want to back out. I didn't want to be a coward… I was tougher than this. We packed up the car and headed out by 5:15 am. I was in distress. I felt so tired from the previous 12 hours. My stomach was turning around like a washing machine. I wanted to drink some coffee to wake myself up, but I was afraid of the consequences. After we got off the freeway, we were driving through the middle of nowhere. If I needed to make another pit stop, it would be impossible. When we finally got to the race site, it had started to rain. While we were waiting in a line of traffic, I jumped from the car and ran to the restroom. At this point, I figured I was screwed. Because of my current state, I really didn't warm up much. I just kind of stood in transition for 15 minutes hoping that this illness would go away. As I put on my wetsuit, I thought about just calling it a day. My Dad, who had driven 2 hours that morning, encouraged me to do the swim. He was right. If I didn't feel well during the swim, I could just drop out before the bike. Before the race even started, this was my plan. I had little intention of racing. Thinking back now, if I never planned on truly racing, I should have never started. I felt the urge to use the bathroom again as the race director told us to "get ready."

"Shit, here we go. Too late now."

Fearful of shocking my system too badly, I took the swim out a little slower than usual. I wanted to work into a solid pace. As we rounded the third buoy and started to swim parallel to the shore, I started to feel pretty strong. Most of the other swimmers in the elite wave had gotten away from me, but I was started to reel them back in. Meanwhile, 100 meters ahead of me, Jim LaMastra was battling Dan Pierce for the swim preme. Both were excellent collegiate swimmers, however, Dan Pierce had a history of racing shorter distances. Knowing that he would be tough to beat in a 200-meter sprint, Jim took off with several hundred meters to go. After a very hard effort, Jim had opened up a five-foot gap. He ended up exiting the water first with a 5 second lead on Dan Pierce. Meanwhile I was making my way back to shore. With 150 meters to go, I passed Pamela McCormick, the eventual winner of the women’s elite race. I exited the water feeling decent, but was immediately hit with the horrible feeling of distress as I started the quarter mile run back to transition. I had already finished the swim, and I knew I had come too far to drop out without at least starting the bike.

The first several miles of the bike course were straight up hill. My body was not adapting well to this effort. I had given up before I even reached the top of the first climb. I felt incredibly weak and tired. The dehydration I was experiencing from the flu was starting to bring me down. As I approached the first turn on the bike course, I was misdirected. I didn’t realize that I had ridden off course until I heard “WRONG WAY BUDDY” in the distance. I knew my race was already over, so turning around and losing 30 seconds didn’t bug me too much. As I completed the first loop, I was already experiencing a new low. My stomach was knotted; body fatigued and mind completely off the task at hand. I was done. As I approached the entrance to the park, I saw all of the spectators cheering for their friends and family. I tried to make the turn back into the park, but my body wouldn’t allow me to. I didn’t want anyone to see me quitting. I decided that I would finish the second loop and then drop out once I got back to transition. My pace on the second loop was definitely faster than the first loop, but I had already set myself too far back. After riding 12 miles at a pedestrian pace, I was pretty certain I was out of the race. The dehydration from the illness was getting to me. I was extremely thirsty and couldn’t stop thinking about the bottle of water I had in transition. Still not completing certain if I was going to drop out, I entered the second transition. I saw my dad as I jumped off my bike and slipped on my flats. He laughed, “Wow AJ your way back this time. There are a lot of people in front of you.” I laughed back. My dad has seen me race way too many times; he knew my race was moving at an alarmingly sluggish pace. “So you going to finish?” he asked. I thought what do I have to lose? I could always walk the six miles if my stomach moves south. After a slow transition, I ran into the grass dropping my race belt. I laughed to myself again. I can’t catch a break today.

Until I ran onto the dam, a 1.5 mile out and back on the backside of the run course, I had no idea where I stood in the standings. At mile 2, I saw Jim LaMastra. He was leading John Brockenbrough and pro triathlete, John Hirsh, by more than 3 minutes. Colin Gundling and Dan Pierce had me by 1:30 and 1:00 respectively. I laughed to myself again. If I ran the way I am capable of, I could get myself into 4th. But, there was a huge risk involved, especially for someone with the flu. If the stomach acts up while the body is boarding on the Red Line, your time is limited. You walk or do your business right then and there. No one wants that second outcome, no matter how important the race is. With my current state, I decided that 4th was just as bad as 6th … out of the money. As I approached the mile 3 marker, I saw Kevin Park flying towards me. I tried to look as strong as possible; I picked up my pace and changed my facial expression. I didn’t want him to realize that he could easily run me down today. I wanted him to think that he was much too far behind. I hoped he didn’t call my bluff because I was in no condition for a race to the finish. Kevin had beaten me by 20 seconds at the Edinboro Triathlon. However, this was the first time we both raced from the same wave, our first head-to-head battle. I thought to myself, “I couldn’t let him beat me, but today was his day, not mine.” As I ran off the dam with 3 miles to go, my race was not getting passed by Kevin. I no longer cared that I was gaining on the other two guys in front of me. I was starting to hurt at mile 4.5, but I knew the finish was near. Surprisingly, my stomach had held up during the entire race. I realized at mile 5 that I was smack in the middle of a serious role reversal. I was the hunted, not the hunter. In my short time in this sport, I have never been fearful of being run down, but Kevin was running me down. I frequently looked over my shoulder. Where was he? During the whole race, I waited for Kevin to come flying by me. I told myself that I could drop out or just walk the rest of the race as soon as he passed me. But, I had already raced over 30 miles and he had not passed me yet. One mile to go… He was closing fast. The debate was playing out in my head. Should I just throw in the towel? I have plenty of excuses if I want to quit. If I lose now, no one would care. But, deep down I would know that I was physically able to run harder than him for one mile. I didn’t have an excuse to keep myself content with quitting. With a quarter mile to go, we ran around small culdesac. Dan Pierce and Colin Gundling were barely ahead of me. They should have been much farther ahead. I wondered how their races were going. There was no reason that I should have been running them down. Outside of using the bathroom, I felt like I had barely been working the entire day. At this turn-around, Kevin was on my heals. He was 15 seconds back and I thought I was done. I put my head down and hammered for the first time all day. I didn’t want to race Kevin, but I couldn’t let myself back off. My mind slipped into another place. I was thinking about the day I did intervals with Ryan Marr. It was the day after my 23rd birthday and I was very hungover. It was hot and I felt like I was going to expel the previous night’s beverages. We had run hard that day, and the whole experience was extremely uncomfortable. Today, all I had to do was run for 2 more minutes, less than 800 meters. We hit a downhill section and I let loose. I knew about the risks that came with this type of effort, but relief in the form of portable bathrooms was near the finishing chute. I looked back with a hundred yards to go, I had opened up a small gap. Luckily, I was able to hold Kevin off; however, if the run course were a half-mile longer, he would have beaten me. Today, running a sluggish 37:55 was enough to hold on for 6th place overall.

After the first few miles of the bike, I was never passed and I didn’t pass anyone myself. My overall time was more than 6 minutes off of the winner Jim LaMastra and 2:20 off of 3rd place. Looking back, I feel like I should have easily finished in the money, but today, I was just happy to have finished. I barely got out of my comfort zone and I only “raced” a few miles. My mind and body just weren’t in it. My effort, as hard or easy as it was, exhausted me. Ten minutes after the race, I started to feel dizzy and tired. I sat down and leaned onto my backpack. I shut my eyes and fell fast asleep. Jim woke me up 20 minutes later. Apparently, it isn’t acceptable to sleep in transition. I think he thought that I was dead. I wasn’t… just sleepy. It was nothing a few cokes couldn’t undue. I dozed in and out of sleep on the drive home from the race. When we got back to Cleveland Heights, I napped for a few hours. That night I grabbed some Deweys Pizza with Rachel, my favorite post race meal. I couldn’t enjoy it because my stomach was heading south again. That night I easily slept for 12 hours. I have spent the last day in distress. My body is tired, achy and angry with me. Lesson learned… next time I get the flu, I am not going to be racing.

Jun 9, 2009

Edinboro Triathlon 2009

After the Cleveland Half Marathon, I took a very needed recovery week. I took a few days, but I slowly got my legs back underneath me. I was actually shocked on how sore I was after this particular race. After two days of limping down stairs, I started to feel a bit better. That weekend I ran a bunch of trails to try to loosen everything back up. Following a long recovery week, I decided to take Sunday completely off. It was my first day off in nearly 6 weeks. Jim Dalberg, Brendan Barton and I decided to go on a kayaking trip in Hiram, Ohio. A chill 7 miles on the river turned into 4 hours of drinking and flipping each other’s kayaks. It was the perfect day off. I just wish we would have brought more beer. An 18-pack for three people is NOT an acceptable amount of beer for an afternoon on the river.

The following morning, I started one of the tougher training weeks I've had in a while. On memorial day, I took to the track and hammered out 11 miles of 1000s, 800s, and 400s. I followed it up with a 30 mile ride out to my parents house for some BBQ. On Wednesday, I was told to go test myself against one of the toughest, most die hard bike riders in Ohio, Aussie Rob. We have such a strong rivalry. We would both rather die than let the other one win in anything. He is the perfect training partner... if I want to limp home. We rode over 50 HARD miles that night. We spent the evening riding 27-30 mph off the front of the pace line. I know we pissed some people off, but we wrecked each other; it was perfect. Our ride ended with a 2 mile sprint towards Sweetwater. I had never ridden my bike so hard. After that night, my legs were shot, but the week's training was only beginning. Before Saturday morning's race, I managed to knock out several more hours of riding. The morning of the race, Jim LaMastra, Dave Deucker and I went out and rode the course. My legs felt dead. I had no power, but like Jim had told me, I would have to rely on my fitness, not my preparation, to get me through this race.

After the morning ride, we headed down to transition to get ready to race. The swim was a short out and back in Edinboro Lake. At first, the lake seems murky, muddy and gross. But, after you swam 100 yards from the shore, it was surprisingly clear and calm. We all lined up a few meters from shore and got ready to start the race. I stood in the front of the pack laughing and talking to Jim and Dave when we heard a "BANG." We were all shocked. There was no countdown, the race had already begun. We all feverishly raced for the first boat. Not surprisingly, Jim, Dave and Dan Pierce flew from the front of the pack. I tried to settle in but was fairly uncomfortable the entire swim. On the way back towards shore, I was able to pace with a few other athletes. I finally got my heart rate under control during the last 200 yards. That gave me the ability to put together a quick swim exit. When I got to the beach, I was able to get my legs under me right away. I sprinted towards T1 passing the clock, it read 15:30. I was a little over 2 minutes down from the lead pack.

As soon as I got on my bike, I felt my lack of power. I couldn't seem to get going. I was having trouble picking up momentum. I knew my legs were shot from Wednesday night's race with Aussie Rob. I tried to push the pace during the 23.6 mile bike leg, but I felt like I was loosing time. I caught one other athlete at mile 15, but was passed by another around the same time. I didn't like the fact that anyone was passing me during this race. All three of us exchanged the lead a few times, but we all ended up coming into T2 within seconds of one another. My bike split was a slow 1:00:21, slowest split of the season. I am still having trouble getting my Olympic distance bike splits down, I always push faster paces in 70.3’s. When entering T2, I immediately passed those two guys, I flew onto the run course with one thing in mind, making up lost time. I flew out of T2 running a pace closer a mile repeat, not a 10k. That is just how I like to start the third leg, hard. I feel like it sets the tone for the rest of the race. As I settled into more sustainable pace, I passed my Dad and Jim's family. I was told that I was still over 2 minutes down from Dave and 6 minutes down from Jim. I couldn't even believe it. I knew my bike split was slow, but I couldn't believe I lost 4 minutes to Jim. I am not surprised he rode 55 minutes; I am just surprised he did it today. Note to self: JIM LAMASTRA IS ALWAYS FIT, REGARDLESS OF WHAT HE SAYS OR DOES. Everyone should know that by now.

As I ran towards the turn around, I started to feel pretty strong. I was sitting in 4th position and I could see Dave and Dan ahead. I knew I would catch them. I just didn't know how long it would take. I finally closed the gap. I passed Dan at mile 3.5 and Dave at mile 5. As I passed Dave, I was hoping he would go with me. I wanted that race to the finish like we always talk about. Unfortunately, Dave got directed off course and had run a quarter mile extra. His extra effort kept him from going with me when I passed. I know it would have been a very close race if he would have stayed on course. When I ran into 2nd position, I knew I couldn't catch Jim, so I cruised in the last mile. I was working hard, but there was no one pushing me to go any faster. I was in cruise control. I had accepted my fate. I crossed the line second to Jim. I had just run about 36:30 for the 10k. It was the second fastest run split of the day. I know I could have run 1 minute faster if I needed to, but there was no one pushing me to run faster. I guess if someone is out of sight, they are out of mind. I knew Kevin Park was in the race, but he started in the wave after us. I had no idea how far back the wave had started, so it was hard to gauge how far I was ahead or behind. He ended up getting me by about 30 seconds. I am sure he was thrilled about this. I just wish we would have had the opportunity to actually race one another. After looking at the splits, I realized that, if we started in the same wave, we would have both started the run together. That would have been a real race. I think most people know how I feel about Kevin Park… However, I have tremendous respect for any man who can race into their 40's and still be one of the faster guys in Ohio.

After a tough week of training, I ended up finishing the 3rd overall in 1:54:26. I was very happy with my result and even happier that Rachel and my Dad came out to watch me. I had a ton of fun and realized that the Edinboro Triathlon is one of the best local triathlons around. Anyone from Cleveland, Erie, or Pittsburgh should definitely give this race a shot. The race director was very sweet, the volunteers were helped, and the course was perfect. Congrats to my coach and close friend, Jim LaMastra, who crushed everyone by over 4 minutes. No one was in the same league as him that day. Also, congrats to Dave Duecker, who took 4th overall (first out of the water, as usual). The Fleet Feet / Bike Authority team had a very solid race by taking 3rd and 4th place. We are definitely starting to make our presence known. Finally, congrats to Brian Stern who had a very impressive run split, one of the fastest for the day.

Next up, a short taper before racing the Kansas 70.3. Hopefully, I’ll have a solid race and get that result that I’ve been building towards all season.