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.


Cleveland Half Marathon 2009

It seems like ever since I started racing, time doesn't make much sense anymore. Every single workout is timed. Everything is quantified; every workout has a number, a goal. It has changed my perception of time. As workouts come and go, days seem shorter. Time almost seems conquerable. Even in an instance of complete pain and agony, I can tell myself to “hold on, time will pass.” Being able to manipulate time in your head is a great tool for any endurance athlete. Whatever justification one needs, time will pass. Time has passed so fast in the last couple of years. It was two years ago, this June, that I did my first triathlon in Columbus. Even more surprising, I only started running six months before that. I still feel new to this sport, but my successes, as small as they may be, say otherwise. I have been progressing since I started in this sport. Some people told me that my ability, my progression, would taper off and stop. But, that hasn’t been the case yet. After a few weeks of running I did my first half marathon in 1:33:00. That race was my starting point. There was no training, no taper, no experience, just natural running. A year later, I returned to the same race, the River Run, and ran a 1:24:25. I had been training through the summer and had started to develop as a runner. As my body developed, I started to progress. Six months later, I ran the Cleveland Half Marathon in preparation for triathlon season. I went 1:21:23, 4 minutes faster than my PR, in the middle of a tough training week. I was progressing. One year later, I toed the line in Cleveland again. Under the same circumstances, I ran a 1:17:21 on tired legs, a PR by 4 minutes. So as I reflect on this race, I can only wonder how much faster I will get. Will I run 1:13:30 next year? Under 1:10:00 the following? Maybe not, but I never thought I would progress this far… Only time, as fast or as slow as it passes, will tell.

My training and racing has been much different since Jim LaMastra began coaching me. He is trying to get me to focus more on the big races and let the small races slide by. Because I am a very competitive person, this has been hard for me to do. But, I trust him completely and know that he will get me ready for the BIG races this season. With that being said, I toed the line in Cleveland on very, very tired legs. This race was the culmination of two of my hardest weeks of training in 2009. I knew that I wouldn’t have my best race in me, but I was excited to run fast and see where my legs would take me.

There was no anxiety before this race. I felt loose and ready to run hard. After pushing through 5,000 people to get to the starting line, I said a few hellos and positioned myself toward the front. The gun went off and some kid immediately started pushing it. I really didn’t want to go out in 5:20, so I sat back and let a few people go. The first 3 miles were a little fast, but I felt strong and I wanted to stick with the main pack. Three runners had gotten away from our group, but we still ran about 6 deep. As we cruised over the bridge into Ohio City, the group strung out. I thought it would be wise to concentrate on pacing off one of the runners. This would have been smart, if he wouldn’t have been dropped from the group. As we entered Ohio City, the other runner and myself had dropped from the group, but they were still in sight. Instead of putting my efforts into bridging the gap, I decided to stay back and run my own race. I knew my legs weren’t ready for those kinds of race tactics. We ran towards Lakewood at a smooth pace, around 5:45 per mile. We went through the 10k mark in 36 flat. I still felt strong, but I really wanted to get away from this guy and start chasing down the leaders. Every time I surged, he’d answer. I had been breaking the wind for 30 minutes now and I needed someone else to help. At mile 7.5, a marathoner came by running really well (I believe he ended up top 5). I used his pace to apply some needed pressure. The marathoner ran away from me eventually, but I started to pull away from the guy I had been pacing with. In the last few miles, we had slipped into a pace that was closer to 5:55. However, with a small surge, I was able to get away and started running closer to 5:45 pace. At mile 9, I turned onto the freeway and immediately started to feel the result of two hard weeks of training. Aerobically, I felt fine, but I felt like my arms and legs weighed 100 pounds each. My pace didn’t slow too much, but I lost that kick in my stride. I received a small boost when I saw my family, but I knew I had to get tough if I was going to finish strong. When crossing back into downtown Cleveland, I had about 2 miles to go. I was sitting in 4th position and could see a podium spot up ahead. At that time, another runner approached me from behind. Perfect timing. I dropped back and used him to break the wind, which was really strong at this point. The last 2 miles of hills had really beaten me up. We were now running much slower into the wind. Even though the pace had dropped, the intensity was still very high. We were approaching the last mile of the race. As we ran off the freeway, our pace started dropping dramatically. As we ran down a slight downhill, our pace went from 6:10 per mile to 5:30 per mile. He started to pull away from me. As we ripped through downtown, I realized that a podium was too far out of reach. Even though we were close, the wind had really zapped me; I was suffering a little at this point. I was still only about 10 seconds down will a quarter mile to go, but I couldn’t get myself to push for 4th place. I became content with my race. I backed off a touch and cruised in, enjoying the last quarter mile. I could have really gone for it, killing myself in the process. But, this race wasn’t that important to me. I was happy with what I had just accomplished. I ran a 1:17:21 half marathon, a PR by 4 minutes. I know that I have faster times in me, but for training through a half marathon, I was pretty content. I ended up taking 5th Overall. Hopefully, I will continue to increase my fitness and have some really good races later in the season. Congrats to all of the Fleet Feet guys who ran well, especially Christian who ran a very strong marathon. Also, congrats to Aussie, Durno, Bryan Prack, Ryan Marr and every other Cleveland Area Triathlete.

New Orleans 70.3

This winter has been a tough one, mentally and physically. I was sleep deprived, depressed, tired, stressed, and pissed off for the majority of the winter. Besides causing ample amounts of stress, my obligations at CSU and Warrensville high school kept me from training as much as I wanted. I can honestly say that I did not get as much out of this winter as I put in. I really pushed myself to the limit, but because of my other obligations, I was just doing damage. Before New Orleans, I never really recovered from a day of hard training. The whole winter blends into one long, painful, annoyingly boring workout that I could never finish. After getting hit a couple months ago, my training got back to normal. I was trying to train as much as I could, but the race was too close and I didn't have enough time to get my fitness up. Three weeks before New Orleans, I sucked it up and knocked out a huge week. I went from running less than 20 miles a week (for 8 weeks) to running over 40 miles. I also put in over 200 miles on the bike that week. It took my fitness to the level I needed to finish the race in New Orleans, but it really fucked me up. For the last 5 weeks, I have been dealing with horrible pains in my right side as a result of that effort. Regardless, it got me to the starting line in New Orleans, and I was ready to put it all on the line one more time.

New Orleans was a very interesting place for a race. In the days leading up to the race, I was thinking more about drinking on Bourbon Street than racing through the Bayou. Something about the atmosphere down there really got me going. In the weeks leading up to the race, I decided that my main goal would be to finish and finish strong. Because of all of my injuries this winter, I was in no shape to be racing for a win. Even though I made myself set more modest goals, I wanted that Clearwater slot more than anything. I need to get back to that starting line in Clearwater. I need to set right everything that went wrong last year. I need redemption.

That morning I felt better than I had in weeks, maybe even months. I felt alive again. It was that same feeling I had before the world championships, without all the nerves. After packing all my stuff up, Rob Reddy and I walked a few blocks to the buses. Because transition was 11 miles away, we needed to get a ride. All I remember from the early morning was how humid it already was. I knew today was going to be a tough day. I slid back in my chair, cranked up the Bone Thugs, and smiled. I was racing in New Orleans in April. Who wouldn't be happy? When we got to the transition area, it was still dark out. It was dark and hot! I was already sweating. Thanks to my Cleveland "heat" training, I would be fine... yeah right. The transition area was the biggest one I had ever seen. There more than 3000 athletes setting up their gear. Adrenaline was already pumping threw me. As I went out for my warm up jog, I saw Chris McCormick, the IM world champion, running in the other direction. Him and I are still worlds apart. We won't be one day... he's getting older and I'm getting faster.

After walking over a mile to the swim start, it was time for last minute preparations. After I got my wetsuit on, I gathered around all of the other 18-29 year olds. Our wave was next. As I entered Lake Pontratrain, I had this feeling of seniority. As I lined up with 100 of my peers, I felt as if I deserved to be standing in front of all of them, and I did just that. I positioned myself right in front. I gave myself the best line to the first buoy. Before this winter, I would have never thought that I deserved to position myself in the front. But, I became a swimmer this winter. This is where I felt comfortable now. The gun went off and I immediately started dolphin diving, a skill I picked up sometime last season. After 30 seconds of diving, I started swimming. I looked behind for a second and realized that I had already opened up a large gap on almost every other athlete. I laughed to myself as I thought of how ironic it was that I, a guy who just learned to swim a few years ago, was leading 100 other guys in the water. After 1.4 miles of dodging slow swimmers from other waves, I hit the shore. Three other guys in my wave had passed me, but two of them were 10 feet in front of me. I passed them both in transition before heading out on the bike. I was officially 4th out of the water in my wave. It was a personal best. At least I improved something this winter.

The first 30 miles of the bike were pretty uneventful. It was humid and hot, but the sun was still hiding. I felt pretty strong, but I was noticeably uncomfortable on my new bike. This was my first hard or long ride. This was uncharted territory. Around mile 35, we hit a turn around and started heading back towards transition. As soon as I turned around, I was hit with the sun and the wind at the same time. The head wind wasn't the strongest in the world, but it was relentless. We were out in the middle of the Bayou. We were all totally exposed. I started feeling the effects of my effort at mile 40. I had already hit the wall. How the hell was I going to finish this race? The wind wasn't calm anymore. It was wearing me down. I was not trained for this type of race. I was slowly melting under the Louisiana sun, and the wind just added insult to injury. I forget much of the last 5 miles of the bike. I blocked it out of my mind because it was really terrible. Regardless, I made it back to transition in 2:26:00. I hoped off my bike, and realized my legs were not condition for this type of punishment this early in the season. I had no idea what place I was in. I figured it was about 4th still because only a couple guys passed me on the bike. It didn't matter much to me anymore. I was in pain and just wanted the day to be over.

The first 3 miles were extremely painful. We were running alongside the lake, and the sun was HOT. There was no shade, no water, and no excuses. I just needed to get past the first few miles. I would hit my stride slowly, right? I never did. At mile 4, my stomach went south again... too much Gatorade. After a quick stop, I was back on route and my legs were starting to feel a little better. I eventually came into a decent pace. Cruising at 6:40 per mile, my body would not let me go any faster. I had full body fatigue at this point in the race. Because my endurance was not very good, I was starting to shit out very early in the race. All I could think about was the sweet relief I could obtain by walking a few seconds or lying underneath a tree for a minute. I was in my own hell, created by myself in pursuit if some ridiculous athletic dream. What was I trying to prove out here? If I started walking, who would know? I walked in Clearwater, the biggest race of my life. I gave up then, why couldn’t I give up now?

The sun was beating down at this point. I was still 7 miles from the finish, and I couldn’t even fathom holding this pace until the next aid station. But, I knew that I could find temporary relief in a glass of water, a sponge, or ice cubes. That thought of temporary relief kept me moving. My pace slowed in the last 5 miles, but I was still running. I had no strength, but my stride never broke. I was in more pain during those last 5 miles, than I had ever experienced in my entire life. I started to wonder how long I could keep going before my body just shut down. I wondered if I would just eventually pass out and fall over. Well, over the last two years, I have learned that the body is much stronger than the mind thinks it is. When I hit mile 10, I thought about walking a little. When I hit mile 12, I should have been thinking about how easy one more mile would be. I thought about walking. I thought about walking until I hit the finishing chute. It was at that point that I realized I just raced the entire race on minimum fitness. I wanted to give up several hours ago, but I kept pushing until the finish line. I didn’t have the fasted race, but I realized that last season and this winter made me much tougher than I ever imagined. After racing in New Orleans, I can handle any pain that this season brings. Every race this year is mine, and I can’t wait to take them. The pain of giving up is far greater than the pain a person experiences during a race. Pain is truly temporary and needs to be viewed that way. I thought about my race in Clearwater every single day for the entire winter. That race plagued my dreams. I will never give up again, because I refuse to live with the guilt that comes along with it.

I didn’t qualify for the world championships. I missed the spot by a little less than 2 minutes. I was beating by a few guys who also raced in Clearwater last year. All are great athletes with the same goal as me, winning Clearwater. Who knows what the summer will bring. All I know is that in November, I will find myself on the beach in Clearwater starring out into the ocean. I will think about everything I went through to get to this point. I will think about all of the miles, all of the pain, all of the isolation. I will think about the relationships I may have overlooked, and the time I spent away from my friends and family. I will ask myself if it was all worth it. I’ll have the answer in my heart. I know that the important people in my life with stick with me through this. Some of them will even be with me during that day. For that, I am thankful. Because that day will be much different this year, I can guarantee it.

Ironman World Championship 70.3

On a Sunday afternoon last April, while working at Second Sole, I watched the 70.3 world championship on TV. At that time, I had never raced a half Ironman. I had finished several short triathlons the summer prior, but no real notable times or placings. For a while, I really thought I could be good at triathlon. I just did not know if it was in the cards for me. That afternoon at Second Sole, I told everyone I was gonna race the world championships next year. Some of the guys working with me may have thought I was just saying that in the moment.... I was dead serious… And so began the next 8 months of my life.
Ever since the season started in May I had been working my ass off. Yeah, we had a ton of good times racing and training throughout the season. But, we worked hard and I stayed focused for a long time. I raced 9 times (7 triathlons) over the course of the summer, and each race went well for me. I was starting to really believe that I had the ability to perform well all of the time. I had went to Columbus in June, raced Deer Creek in 95 degree weather, suffered horribly on the run and somehow pulled away with a 6th place finish. I raced Wendy's International Triathlon the week after on tired legs, ran my way to a 2nd place overall... only to be DQ'd for wearing an unsanctioned helmet. I had felt like I was cheated… stolen from. That race gave me fire. Two weeks later, I suffered through my first half Ironman in West Virginia. The weather was out of this world, I was dealing with overuse injuries, and I was not prepared for the mental toughness it takes to "race" a half Ironman. That race broke me down, but it taught me many valuable lessons about pacing, nutrition, and how to stay mentally tough. That day in West Virginia, I learned that long course triathlon is a different beast, and it was the distance designed for me. After the Morgantown Half, I had different objectives. I wanted to go fast, but more importantly I wanted to be able to go long. In the weeks after the race, I destroyed the Miltonman Triathlon. I had new prospective and I was starting to realize my potential as an athlete. After about 14 months of racing triathlons, I had finally won one. That victory fueled my fire all the way up to the Steelhead 70.3. The only thing I wanted was to truly "race" that distance. Steelhead was a success. I had cycled faster than I thought was possible, averaging 24.8 mph for the 56 mile bike leg. Then, I ran a strong half marathon... finishing it in just over 1:25:00. That afternoon, I realized I had just qualified for the Ironman World Championships 70.3 in Florida. It was a dream come true... I had done what I said I would do 6 months prior. Every Friday night I spent sleeping, every Sunday morning long run, every sacrifice I had made in the last 6 months had paid off. I was on my way.
In the 12 weeks leading up to the World Championship, I was on a roller coaster ride. My body was fatigued and tired of abuse, but my mind get telling my to push. I needed to prove what I could do. In the weeks leading up to the World Championship, I was a ghost. My friends could not get a hold of me and I tried my best not to stray from my plans. About halfway through my lead up to Worlds, I started to get really depressed. I had been working so hard and I had not seen much reward in awhile. I had been waking up several times a week before 5:00 am to swim masters, I had suffered on countless long runs every Sunday morning, I rode long, I rode fast, I had ridden so much some weeks that it hurt to sit in the saddle. I kept pushing myself, but the more I did, the less happy I was. In the summer, the weather is great. Everyone is training and racing. It is easy to get out the door. But, when fall approaches, everything changes. All of a sudden, I felt like I was the only one training. I was the only one who had to freeze his ass off on long rides and runs. I felt like I was the only one suffering. For a week or so in late September / early October, I didn't think I was going to make it to the starting line.
I can thank Jim Lamastra, Rob Reddy, Ryan Marr, my roommate Brendan Barton and a few other individuals for keeping me alive during those weeks. I can especially thank Brendan because he was the one putting up with my shit for 12 weeks. I don't think a better roommate or friend exists. Jim and Rob took me under their wing and showed me what it is like to ride hard on Saturday mornings. They both kicked my ass on numerous occasions, but they both believed in my ability and that gave me new hope. Ryan was there for me every Sunday morning, no matter the weather, for months. One 17 mile run in September was so hot and humid, we were both on the verge of melt down before the half way point. Ryan had told me how shitty he was feeling at mile 3. But, he pushed on through the whole 17 miles without once stopping or complaining. He had earned my respect as a runner a long time before that, but this just solidified that. One of the last long runs we completed together was a low for me... I was so beat up from the weeks training I could not complete the run. I wanted to walk it in, I tried to. I told him to finish and I'd meet him there. He walked when I walked. He ran when I ran. It is what I true friend would have done. You know who your real friends are when you are in need of help and they willingly give it to you while compromising their own desires. In the good and bad weeks leading up to Clearwater, I was able to really see who my true friends were. Brendan, Ryan, Jim, Rob, Dave and several other people fell into that category. If it was not for their help, I would have never made it the starting line in Clearwater.
In the two weeks leading up to Clearwater (during my taper), I thought I was really going to lose it. One day I felt on top of the world and the next day I felt like a scared child. Six days before the race, I didn't get out of bed all day because I was so nauseated. My nerves had made me sick for days. There were times I did not think I would be able to race. On Wednesday, as I sat in the terminal waiting for the plane, I thought I was going to pass out. My nerves were so strong, I was dizzy and disoriented (and I'm not afraid to fly. I was afraid of letting myself down in Clearwater). When the plan touched down in Florida, I felt alive. Right when I arrived at my hotel, a tossed my running shoes on and headed out the door. As I ran down Gulfview Blvd staring out at the ocean, I felt really alive. More alive then I had ever felt in my life. Sometimes people ask me why I started racing triathlons, what makes me put myself through all of the bullshit, why kill myself all the time for sport. As I ran down the street under the Florida sun in November, feeling so fucking alive it was like I was on some kind of drug, I knew exactly why I raced triathlons. You don't get this feeling from anything else.
The days leading up to the race came and went. Jim Lamastra, his father Sal, and Rob Reddy got down on Thursday, and then my family got down on Friday. I had swum the course, rode the causeway, and made all the last minute preparations. It was finally time to race.
I awoke suddenly at 4:42 am. It wasn’t my brother’s snoring this time. I was ready to go. This was the day I had been preparing for all year. I got out of bed, got dressed, grabbed my coffee and gear and headed to transition. A few minutes after 5:00, I stood in line to get my body marked. It was dark and cool outside, but the stadium lights hovering over transition made it seem much later. Everyone around could feel the energy. TV cameras where everywhere. Reporters scurried around chasing certain athletes worthy of the exposure. I saw Dick and Rick Hoyt setting up their raft. Dick is one of those men worthy of exposure. That day he would pull, carry, and push his handicapped son 70.3 miles. Dick and Rick make my journey seem trivial. They are truly inspiring. After pumping up my tires and setting my days nutrition (1200 calories in one bottle of Carbo Pro), I returned to my dark hotel room. I still had two hours before I would be tossing around in the ocean.
Before starting my race, I ran into my family and got the comfort I needed. My nerves were strong. I was just as excited as I was scared. I still felt alive. Ten minutes before my wave went off, we all were corralled behind the starting line, a makeshift line in the sand. This was the first time I got to really look at all of my competitors. They were all fit as can be. This was not a normal triathlon. I was lined up with 169 of the fittest, fastest 18-29 year olds in the world. I was delighted to be considered one of them. I lined up in the second row of people 15 feet from the waters edge. “Runners, on your marks!” BOOM. The cannon sounded and all 169 of us charged into the salt water. The first 300 meters were like a riot in the water. There was no open water to swim in. I swam on top of other guys and they swam on top of me. I swallowed water, got kicked in the face, and got pushed under water. There was nothing friendly about the swim… it was pure survival. The first 13 minutes of the swim felt like 13 seconds. We rounded the red buoy in a large of pack 0.6 miles away from the shore. The water was rough out there. I bet some people felt seasick. As we made our turn and headed back towards the shore, the sun was rising over transition. I could not see anything except my hands in the water and the competitors to my right and left. I was swimming in the middle of a pack of about 30 swimmers. There was nowhere to go except straight back to shore… no need to sight. After 28 minutes of swimming, my hands struck the ocean floor. I stood up and did a few dolphins dives before running onto the beach. Hundreds of spectators lined the beach. It was exhilarating. During the entire swim, I felt phenomenal. My breathing was controlled and I swam well. I could have pushed harder, but there was no need. I knew I had swum a good leg because I had the energy to spring towards transition. Transition was chaos. I had been the last wave, so the changing tent was filled with people. I couldn’t even find an open seat. I sat on the ground and tried to untie my bike bag. A volunteer had double knotted it. I just ripped it open. After struggling to put my shoes and helmet on, I grabbed my bike. I still had my salt pills (all the electrolytes I would need for the day) in my hand. Instead of stopping to put them in my back pocket, I shoved them into my shorts and ran towards the bike mount. Upon exiting transition, I jumped onto my bike and began pedaling. In the first 500 yards, I bent over to fix my shoe strap. The container the carried all of the salt pills fell from my shorts onto the course. I panicked and made the decision to keep riding. It would be the worst decision I made this entire year.
As I headed for the causeway, I slowly picked up the pace. I knew this bike leg was going to be brutally fast. After clearly the causeway (the only hill on the course), the hammer was dropped. I sped along pacing off of about 15 other riders in my age group. We were hammering down the street at 27 mph for the first few miles. I felt great at mile 25. I passed that sign in 56:00, averaging nearly 27 mph for the first 25 miles. My speed scared me, and didn’t know I was capable of riding that fast. The next 25 miles were nearly just was fast, but I was starting to feel the fatigue. We passed the 50-mile mark in 1:56:00; I had been averaging nearly 26 miles per hour for the first 50 miles. With only 6 miles to go, I started to feel the sun. We made the turn and headed back towards the causeway, but I lost touch with the group. I had been trying to escape the drafting for the last 50 miles, but every time I surged ahead of the group, they would catch me. I finally dropped back a little bit, but I slowly fell away from the group. I slowed considerably those last 6 miles. Maybe I had pushed a little to hard in the heat. As I approached transition again, I wondered how I would feel on the run course. I was already feeling shitty from the bike leg and I knew my sodium levels were dangerously low. On the bike course, I tried to supplement my sodium intake with a couple bottles of Gatorade. That got me through the bike course, but it was not enough to get me through a half marathon. I finished the bike leg in 2:14:00, averaging a little over 25 mph. It was a personal best. But, I did not feel ready to run hard. I started the run a little over 2:45:00 into the race. I was right on pace to finish around 4:07:00 if I could just run the half marathon I knew I could. I ran the first mile in 5:45. It was a little fast, but I felt okay. After running up and over the causeway, my pace slowed, but I was finding a rhythm. I was running about 6:15 pace for the first 3.5 miles. Then, my stomach started to cramp. It was tightly knotted and extremely painful. I was desperately searching for salt pills on the run course, but no one would help me. These triathletes were serious. They did not want to help some one in need. As I started to approach the halfway point, my stomach, chest, and back were so cramped I thought I was going to pass out from the pain. However, I refused to slow down. At every aid station, I drank as much Gatorade as possible. It was the only thing, besides my salt pills that would get rid of my cramping. Then, at mile 7, my stomach went south. This was the only problem I could not run through. My pace had slowed until mile 8 when I found a bathroom. I lost 3 minutes, but I was on my way. At mile 9, the cramping spread to my legs. I was in dire need of sodium. My pace slowed… It slowed a lot. I was no longer racing. I was surviving. At the point with about 4 miles to go, I just wanted to finish. I was suffering more than I ever had in a race. A few miles back, I had given up on trying to finish under 4:10, my goal. Now, I just wanted to cross that line and be done. I figured if I could just run 7 min miles I could make it back around 4:15, which was not a bad time. At mile 11 the cramping got so bad, I started walking. It was the only relief I could find. I walked and ran the last two miles. At mile 12, I passed Sister Madonna, the legendary 70 something year old Ironman athlete. She was walking. I thought I felt her pain. I didn’t. What she had been through during the day was far harder than what I had done. I felt like a fucking coward. I finished the race. I only walked the aid stations a little bit during the last 3 miles. I had wanted to quit at mile 3. I knew I was not having my day. I really thought about quitting at mile 8 when I started going in and out of bathrooms. I just wanted to walk to rest of the way. But I didn’t. I ran. I ran slowly at times. But I ran. My race was not the dream race I was hoping for. It was a hard slap of reality. Long course triathlon is hard. If it weren’t many people would not compete. People wouldn’t have to make sacrifices to obtain their goals and live their dreams. I ran through the crowds, passed transition and into the finishers chute. I had not obtained my goal. I hadn’t had the race of my dreams. I felt pain and heartbreak. I wanted to cry…I wanted to crawl into a hole and escape that reality. In the months leading up to this race, I imagined myself running through the finishing chute. In those dreams, I had just had the race of my life. I was floating through the air without pain and fatigue. Everyone was screaming for me, and I crossed the line with my arms stretched into the sky. I didn’t finish that way… but I should have. No matter how shitty I felt during the run, I just finished the world championships. I should have felt like a world champion. I finished right around 4:23:00. It was about 15 minutes slower than my goal. I want to be disappointed. I want to explain to every person that tracked me why I didn’t race faster. But whom am I trying to convince? Those people tracked my race only because they care about me? Those people, the people that may even be reading this, don’t care if I went 4 hours or 5 hours. They care that I finished and that I am happy. I sit hear typing with the realization that I am merely trying to convince myself. My justification means too much to me. I just spent 5 days at the world championship after only 18 months of racing triathlons. If I am lucky, I will have many, many more years of racing. I don’t need to justify my race anymore. This year was the best year of my life, and I will never forget that. During this winter, it will be cold and dark. But it will end like it always does and next season will come. I will be ready then. What is life without progression? I can tell you this… You will never feel alive until you go after your dreams. And in failure, comes another chance to succeed. If I would have had the race of my dreams, would I have been satisfied? My experiences from this year have given me the fuel for next year. And so I will progress…
At the end of the day, triathlon makes me happy…no matter the outcome. We race because it is the only thing that makes us feel alive.

Hears to next year.

Brierman 50 Triathlon 2008

On Saturday, I headed to the Baltimore area to sign up for the Brierman 50 Triathlon. I wish I knew what I was getting myself into. The race venue was absolutely beautiful. The lake was small, calm, and clear. The roads were smoothly paved and the weather was perfect. It could have been the best location for a race....if the course didn't involve climbing a mountain...twice.
My training after Steelhead 70.3 had been going very well. My running is finally coming into form and my swimming and cycling has been getting stronger. Every Saturday I have been doing hard 75 mile bricks and every Sunday Ryan Marr and I have been doing strong 15-18 milers. My fitness is starting to explode and this race proved it.
On race morning, Charlie Mosbrook and I awoke at our Motel 6 after a solid 8 hours of sleep and headed to the race site in the dark. I had never tried to set up transition in the dark before...it was weird. The weather was already starting to warm up and I felt ready to race hard. As I made my way down towards the lake, I was really excited to swim...which isn't usual. We listened to a quick course talk and then entered the cold lake water...it was cold enough to take your breathe away. We all lined up at the buoy and waiting for the horn....we were off.
I took it out very hard...the cold water made me want to swim fast... Surprisingly, I was the first person around the buoy 300 meters away. Soon, I was passed by another athlete....and then two more. I got very comfortable in 4th position and really enjoyed the swim. My swimming is really starting to progress. I exited the mile swim in about 21 minutes. In T1, I struggled to put my jacket and gloves on, my skin was wet from the swim. Once I got on the bike, the real pain started. Out of transition, we started a .25 mile 13% climb. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to make it up...this was already brutal. I bike course proved to be very very challenging. It was comprised of 8-12% climbs that lasted .5 mile to 2 miles. And, the downhills were lightening fast. After one loop, I was almost done. The second loop was a challenge. During the entire 40mile bike, I sat in 2nd position. But, I didn't know where the 1st place guy was...out of site, out of mind...I didn't ride very fast. I got too comfortable until a guy tried to pass me at mile 38. This woke me up...what was I doing riding so comfortably. When I got into T2, it was time to race. My transition was 32 seconds....it is always the fastest out of anyone...I like it that way. I got onto the run course with one thing on my mind...winning the race. I just didn't know 1st place was 5 minutes ahead of me. Out of T2, we ran straight up another brutal hill...then straight down. My quads were already mad at me. Once I passed the sprint tri turn around, I was all alone. 3rd and 4th place were nowhere in site and I had no idea where 1st place was. I was all alone running in the middle of the street up and down massive rolling hills...ahhh my bladder! I had to piss really really bad...but I didn't know how far back I was. I took that pit stop. 15seconds and I was back under control. After 4.6 miles, I finally saw 1st place coming towards me...he had just turned around and didn't look like the hills had been treating him well. I checked my watch...I was down 90 seconds. He was mine...Less than 1 mile later, I spotted him ahead. Slowly I reeled him in on the hills....100 ft...50ft...10ft...I made the pass on one of the bigger hills heading back. I dropped the hammer and he faded away. I felt that feeling again...just like at The Miltonman triathlon. I had 3 miles left and I was leading the race! At the point, I had the pace bike right in front of me. Every sprint athlete I passed knew I was leading the 50 mile race...it was a good feeling. I floated through those last miles ignoring the pain in my quads, knees and feet. I looked down with 1 mile left and the side of my shoe was stained in blood. I didn't care...I had proved everyone wrong again...I can win races. As I approached the finish line, all of the days events meant nothing to me.. I had raced hard and beaten everyone. I hit the finish chute with a big smile on my face. My finishing time was 3:30:19...which is impossible to compare to another race because the Brierman 50 is one of a kind....it is truly a brutal course. My run had been 5 minutes faster than any other athlete.
After the race, I did a couple of interviews with local publications, grabbed a shower and headed back home. I need to get back to training because Clearwater is waiting for me. I finally get to prove I had can fair against the best in the world.

Steelhead 70.3

Qualifying for the World Championships!! The Steelhead 70.3 Triathlon was the race I had been building towards all year. Every long ride on my trainer during the dead of winter. Every lap in the pool and every mile put on my trainers. I knew this would be the race that would decide if I was going to be any good at this sport. All year I dreamed about comparing myself against the best in the Midwest. I couldn't wait to find out where I stood. Since the MiltonMan Triathlon, my bike training had been going great. I cycled 230 miles in Lake Placid during Ironman week. I knew all the pain I went through in those mountains would translate to a fast bike split at Steelhead. My run training had still been very low mileage leading up the race, but I still felt very strong and I wasn't concerned. I got into Benton Harbor, Michigan on Thursday. The race was on Saturday. I was lucky enough to stay with Jody at his hotel. It was about 1000 times nicer than the Motel 6 I stayed in the other days. After getting into town, we swam a little and checked out the race sight. We pretty much just relaxed. We all though Saturday was going to get into the 90's so I concentrated on drinking a ton of water all day Thursday and Friday. On Friday, we went to registration and road our bikes a little bit on the course. We just needed to make sure the race setups were in order. After racking our bikes that evening, Dave and I went to grab a pre-race diner at Applebee's with my parents. Then, it was all about trying to calm the nerves.... race time was approaching quick.I awoke on Saturday morning after getting almost 7 hours of sleep. I never get that much before a race. We gathered our stuff and ate breakfast. Jody came and picked us up before 6:00am. On the way to the race, I was quiet. I needed to concentrate on what I had to do that day. I knew I would be tested physically and mentally. After setting up transition, I found a hidden Port-A-John behind the RV's. It was a nice score...I didn't have to wait in line. While doing my business, I heard the announcer say that the swim was cancelled due to 4-foot swells. I thought he was joking. All of a sudden this race became very different. I knew my age group was packed with solid runners. This was going to make it tougher. I didn't care though...I came here to qualify for the World Championship no matter what I had to do. The race started with a 2.1 mile run instead of the 1.2 mile swim. I positioned myself at the front of the field. The gun blew and we took off. Immediately Nick Waniger took off. One guy went with him and rest sat back. I lead the pack into T1 about 1:30 back from the lead two. They absolutely smoked the 2.1 mile run in 10:20. My trans was quick and I was soon on the bike. Immediately my cycling legs where there. I felt strong for the first time all season, very strong. I was passed by several guys in my age group during the first 25 miles, but I wasn't worried. I was hoping my pacing was stronger. I went through mile 25 in 58:00. I almost couldn't believe I was riding that fast. My nutrition was solid during the whole leg and I still felt good. I went through mile 50 in under 2 hours. I was still flying. As I approached transition, I knew I would have to have a great run. I needed to pass like 7 guys. Right away, I passed two guys in my age group. I ran the first mile in 6:15. It was conservative...I needed to save energy. As the run progressed, I started to feel better and better. Everything was clicking into place. Mile after mile, I ran at 6:30 pace. Then, at mile 8, I approached the guy who was sitting in 5th position. I needed to pass him. It was time to make my move. I ran on his feet for 30 seconds conserving energy. Then, I dropped the hammer. He went with me for a few minutes, but I was able to eventually drop him. At mile 10 my quads started to cramp. I didn't care though. I only had a 5k left. That finishing chute was awesome. It was lined with people and I couldn't have been happier to be running through it. I saw my parents and my brother. I gave a few high fives and then crossed in 3:55:30. I finished 23rd out of more than 2500 athletes. I finished 3rd in my age group. I was also the first Ohioan to cross the finish line. My bike split was 2:15:06. I averaged 24.8 mph. My run was 1:25:40 (roughly 6:32 per mile). After I finished, I found out that I was one person away from making it to the 70.3 World Championship in Clearwater. Luckily, one the guys ahead of me already had a slot. Now, I get to race with the best 50 athletes in my age group from around the world. It will be a true test...We will see where I stand against the best in the world!

MiltonMan Triathlon 2008

Two summers ago I'd be stumbling home at this time. My clock read 3:53...I didn't have to wake up until 3:55. It's amazing how our internal clock can be so accurate. I didn't sleep very much, maybe 4 hours.. This was about to be my seventh race of the season. It almost seems more natural to be up at this hour on a Sunday morning. Since the Morgantown Half Ironman, I have been trying to get back into a groove. My mileage was high this week, but I didn't feel that great. I went a little too hard on Wednesday and the rest of my week suffered. It didn't matter though...I've been training too hard for too long. It is time to race...this is the point of the season where everything is supposed to pay off. I met my dad at National City Bank at 4:50. He was nice enough to give me a ride to the race. It was early and we didn't talk much, but it was nice to spend race morning around family.... it always calms my nerves. We had about an hour drive to the race start...it was dark and gloomy the entire ride. I was hoping the rain would hold off until after the race. We got to Lake Milton around 6:00...plenty of time to get ready to race. As I was setting up my transition, I got to meet Christian and Nate, my teammates. It was nice to have someone to talk to before the race. My warm-ups went normal and I slid into my wetsuit at around 7:00. As I was walking to the beach for swim warm-up, I ran into Adam Kuncel. He is a really nice guy and great triathlete. So far, he has beaten me every time we have raced against each other. Read my report on the Cleveland Triathlon last summer. I raced in his shadow for 2 hours. I watched him run 20 feet in front of me. He beat me by 30 seconds... It took me months to let that race go...I felt like I had no heart.The lake water felt gross. It was really warm and murky. It reminded me off Lake Erie by the city. After the horn sounded, I swam out front with Christian and one other guy. They dropped me after 100 meters. Then, 200 meters in, I was passed on the left. I tried to catch the draft. I was dropped after a couple hundred meters. Overall, my swim was labored and slow. I felt very overheated the entire time. Tactically, it was my worst swim this season. I exited the water in 21:40...4th place. I was tired and very hot. Transition was quick and I was soon on my bike. Adam passed me two miles into the bike. I felt like he blew by me. My legs weren't there. I didn't feel as strong as I usually do. Over the next 15 miles, I was able to pass two guys. But around mile 20, the kid I racked my bike next to passed me. He had swum a couple minutes slower than me. He was tearing up the bike course. This pissed me off even more. I should be able to ride with these guys. I couldn't figure out where my power was. As I cam back to transition, I had already mentally decided I wasn't having my best day. My bike split was 1:04:55. Even though I averaged 23mph, I was two minutes slower than Deer Creek...the first race of the season.I had a really quick transition and was able to exit with the kid that passed me at mile 20. Right off the bat, he tried to drop me. I don't think he thought I would be able to drop the first mile in 5:35...we did. As we approached the turn around at mile 2, we saw Adam cruising. He had started the run 2:30 in front of us. He was not about 1:30...we were closing the gap. At the turn around, I started to pick up the pace again. I was able to run away from that kid. When I got back to the start of lap 2, my pace had slowed to about 6:15. I was trying to conserve a little energy. I was now only 30 seconds off Adam. I kept pushing and was able to catch Adam at mile 4. I put the hammer down and started cruising at 5:30ish pace. I knew I couldn't hold it...but all I needed to do was get away from him. When I hit the turn around at mile 5, I had increased my lead to about 30 seconds and for the first time in the race I felt pretty damn great. It was windy and pouring on us. I was loving every second of it. I was so excited to cross the finish line that I dropped my last mile in about 5:25. I had so much more left in me... I ended up having the fasted run split of the day. I ran a 36:27 10k. That is roughly 5:52 per mile.I’ve been dreaming of winning a race since I started racing in September of 2006. It's always on my mind. I have come close before, but I never seem to get it. The feeling of finishing first will stay with me for a long time. Even though I didn't feel great during the swim or bike, I toughed it out and had a great run. I finally feel like I raced well. My overall time was unofficially 2:04:50. It was a PR by about 5 minutes. I still think I am capable of much faster times, but I will just have to leave that for next time. On a separate note... Champ Racing put on a really good race for the price. I will definitely do another one.

Spirit of Morgantown 2008

A few weeks ago, I was trying to figure out whether it would be better to race the Olympic distance or the Half in Morgantown. I had never attempted a Half. At first, I had a lot of trouble deciding to attempt this distance so early in the season. But, I really want to race the Steelhead 70.3 hard. After getting some advice from Jody, I figured I would try the distance at Morgantown. I wasn't supposed to race hard. I was supposed to get a little taste of the distance and get back into training asap.I drove down to the race with Eriksen, Charlie (from Cleveland tri club) and my roommate Brendan. We got a sleazy motel room 5 min from the race start. After racking our bikes, we checked out the transition and the swim course, then headed over to an Italian restaurant for a big dinner. We met many people from the Cleveland tri club for dinner. They were all super nice, especially Rob Reddy (he kept giving us free tri club stuff). I order a huge 16in pizza and smashed as much as possible. After the dinner, we headed back to the motel. This summer has been tough because I've been traveling a bunch to races and it gets a little expensive. So, we stay in shit motels and scrape by...Well, this motel was worse than usual. It smelled horrible and it was invested with cockroaches and ants. Welcome to West Virginia.Even though I wasn't planning on racing too hard, I still had a few butterflies race morning. I always do. My warm up didn't get as well as it usually does...My stomach was a little upset... probably just nerves. We headed into the river for warm-up about ten minutes before the race started. I felt really strong in the water. My wave was the third wave and right before we jumped into the river, the pro field was swimming back towards us. They were swimming painfully slow. I couldn't figure it out. When I jumped into the river, I was immediately pulled downstream. The current was very strong. When the gun went off, we started flying. As we ripped through the first 300 meters, I had a wrestling match with another guy. He wouldn't let me have any position. After receiving a few kicks and friendly punches, I decided it wasn't worth it. I dropped behind him and caught a great draft. As we made the turn to head back upstream, I knew the next 1000 meters was going to be hard. Luckily I had caught a good draft, but we were still swimming slow. I tried to stay relaxed and conserve energy. When we started swimming with the current again, I lost the draft. It didn't matter though. I cruised the last 500 meters back. I got out of the water in a bout 29:00...not bad for strong current. We had a long run back to transition, about a quarter mile. I ran it pretty hard and passed a few people that had better swims than me. As I got on my bike, I had to keep telling myself to take it easy. I am so used to hammering the whole bike. The first loop of the bike didn't go so well. My IT band was really tight and my right leg was bothering me. All week before the race I had been dealing with a very angry IT band. As I started the second lap, I started feeling better. I had made contact with another rider and we seemed to hang onto each other the whole 56 miles. I felt much better the second lap, but the rain had begun and the roads were dangerous. Everyone had to slow down a little bit. Overall, the course was not too difficult and I help myself back well. My nutrition was decent, but I was tired of eating GU. It was all I had all day. Plus, the little bit of Heed I drank made me feel slightly ill. My bike split was 2:35:00. It was decently conservative.My T2 was quick and I happy to start running. I had grabbed another flask of gel and I wasn't looking forward to eating it. When we started running the rain stopped and it got hot and humid. I started to sweat.... a lot. That was a small probably because I didn't take any salt pills or drink any Heed. One bottle of Gatorade wouldn't do it. I averaged about 6:20 per mile for the first 5 miles. I felt decent and I was still holding back a little. Then we got to the 1.5 miles of hills. As I ran up Devil's Hill, I suddenly didn't want to be racing any more. I had never race/walked/hiked up such a large, steep hill. I was painful. I didn't even want to think about the second loop. After running a series of downhills, I got onto the second lap and my stomach went south.....not good. I lost my pace completely. I was struggling through 7:00 per mile and I needed to use the bathroom. After a quick pit stop, I was back cruising but my pace fell. I didn't feel good. My pace was slipping towards 8:00 per mile. I didn't have any energy and the heat was getting me. I wish I had drank more Heed or taken some salt pills. When I got back to Devil's Hill, my legs cramped. This last mile was going to be hard. I got pissed and ran hard up the second part of Devil's Hill..... bad idea. My legs cramped more and I began to walk. I walked a lot of the last 1.5 miles. It was hard and I didn't want to push myself. I wasn't supposed to be going through this much pain. I was just trying to finish a Half Ironman.... not race.When I hit the finishing chute, I was happy! Happier than I had even been at the end of a race. I clocked my race in a little over 4:49:00, not bad for the first time. But, I can't wait to get my nutrition down and race even faster in Michigan. Hopefully, I can race under 4:25...

Wendy's Triathlon 2008

This race was by far my best performance to date. I really didn't have any nerves going into this race because it didn't mean that much to me. And after looking at last years winning times, I figured I had a shot to finish towards the top. Jody, Eriksen and I got into Columbus Saturday evening and decided to go right to the race sight for a little training. We were all trying to train right through this race, so a little training before dinner was necessary. Jody headed off on a ride, and Eriksen and I headed into the lake. After about 1500-2000 meters of swimming, we met Jody for a quick shake out run. We didn't go more than 3 miles. My legs felt really good on Saturday and I knew I would have a decent race. After our workout, we headed to the hotel to get settled. We ended up staying in a hotel that was way too expensive for me. But, it was big and very comfortable. It was more like a mini apartment. After getting settled, we all headed over to Quaker Steak and Lube for some dinner and a few beers. We actually ordered the beer tower, which may have been a little too big (100 ounces). After dinner, we went back to the hotel and tried to get some rest.Race morning went pretty normal. I felt fresh during my 10 minute run, and I was excited to have a quick swim. Before the start, I started to get a little nervous because I was seeing a few pretty good athletes. There were a ton of collegiate athletes. Plus, Mario Desiderio and Jun Yumiguchi had shown up. After walking a half-mile down the beach, we headed into the water for the start. I can honestly say I was a little more light hearted than usual. I spent the last 10 minutes before the race start joking around and having fun. But, once the gun went off, it was business. As soon as we started, I sprinted with the lead pack. After 100 meters, I was swimming on the feet of two very strong swimmers. Unfortunately, I lost contact after about 300 meters. My swim could have been a little bit stronger, but I had a good line and a good exit. I headed up swimming a little over 10:30 (4th fastest swim overall). My second transition was very slow as usual. I still can't get my wetsuit off.After the slow T1, I tried to make up some time. My bike leg was decent, but I tried to slow it down a little bit towards the end. I wanted to have a decent run this time around. I came off the bike flying and my T2 was pretty fast. I probably hit the run course cruising 5:20 pace across the parking lot.Before one mile, the race went into the grass and onto a trail. It was a little hard to keep my footing, but I tried to get through it. Once I hit the pavement again, I tried to put the hammer down. Right after the turn around, I saw Eriksen and he told me the leader was 20 feet ahead...I knew I had to push it. Coming back up a little hill before we headed into the trail, I caught the leader and flew by him. As I cruised back towards the beach, I thought I had the race won. I crossed the finish line and waited 3:40 until Jun Yumiguchi crossed. His wave went off 4:00 after mine. Who knows what would have happened if we were in the same wave? My run was a little over 19:00 and I had the fasted run split overall.A few days after the race, I received an email informing me that I was DQ'd. I had raced in a helmet that was not sanctioned by the USAT. I had no idea. A little over a year ago, I bought the Giro Advantage helmet online. A few months later the Giro Advantage 2 helmet came out. Apparently, my helmet failed a safety test and is not sanctioned in the US.... But, it is perfectly safe overseas. Doesn't make much sense to me. Wish I knew which asshole told the race officials about my helmet... I'll get one eventually...

Deer Creek 2008

This race was pretty important to me because it was the first triathlon of the season. The Deer Creek triathlon in 2007 was also the first triathlon I had ever done. So, I really wanted to do well.I cruised down to Columbus the night before the race with Frank (from the Fleet Feet team) and my swimming buddy Dave. We ended up getting a room at a Motel 6 about 30 min north of Deer Creek. After getting settled in we headed to Red Robin for a pre race meal and a couple of beers. That night I slept like a baby (much different than I did one year ago).The next morning we packed up the car and headed south. We arrived at the race with plenty of time to wait in line to pick up our race packets. Right away I realized that this race had way more people than last year. That was a good sign. Warm-ups went really well, but I realized I was sweating way more than usual and it was only 7 in the morning. It was quickly getting very hot. As I got in the water for my swim warm-up, I felt very loose and very relaxed. The swim leg doesn't freak me out anymore. In fact, I have grown to really enjoy it.My wave went off right after the sprint waves. As soon as we hit the first buoy, Dave was gone. The first 400 meters of the swim were labored and I had to fight for position. But, soon I settled in and caught a really solid draft. I followed two guys for about 1000 meters, and then broke away to exit the water a few seconds before them. Because I had caught a solid draft, I hadn't expended that much energy in the swim. I exited the water in about 21:30, a personal best by 3 min (Dave taught me well over the winter).My swim was great but my transition was slow as hell. I could not get my wetsuit of to save my life. When I finally got on the bike, I just hammered. I pushed hard the entire ride. I really felt like I had a decent bike split. But, I did not realize how hot it was getting outside. I took down two bottles of fluid and a few gels, but it was not enough for the 93-degree heat. I got of the bike in about 1:03:00 (almost avg. 24 mph). My T2 was fast. It was faster than everyone else by 2 seconds. I hit the run course on a mission to finish in the top. At mile 1.5, I passed Dave and he told me I had just moved into 3rd position. Then, the heat started to wear me down. At mile 2.5, I was passed by the kid who ended up finishing third overall. I was also passed at mile 3 by Ashley Kent (guys a great runner), and I was passed at mile 5 by Mario Desardio. I'm not used to getting passed on the run, but I was also not used to racing in such extreme conditions. With two miles to go, Frank ran by me (he was on mile 2). He slapped my hand in encouragement, but he nearly knocked me over. I was starting to get very dizzy at this point. By the time I had one mile to go, I ran by my buddy Charlie and he later told me I had stars in my eyes. I wasn't running in straight line at that point. I believe I was very near passing out from the heat and the race. I finally hit the finishing chute in 2:09:00. This was the toughest condition I had ever raced in and I was happy to have survived. I finished 6th overall. Last year I finished in 2:22:00. My improvement made me very happy. Plus, my race would have been much faster if it wasn't so hot. Overall, I was very happy with my race and I can't wait to race again.

Columbus Marathon 2007

It’s about two weeks after the Columbus Marathon and my legs are finally starting to feel better. I finally have true respect for any person that has covered 26.2 miles...no matter what their time. I can honestly say that finishing that marathon was the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life. And, I can't wait to do it again.

My training leading up to this was decent. I had a few higher mileage weeks (three weeks between 55-65 miles) and I was pretty confident that I had the speed to finish within my goal, 3 hours. I just didn't know how my body would hold up 20ish miles into the race, it was unknown territory.

Race morning was beautiful! Britney was nice enough to let me and Brendan stay at her apartment, which was perfect because it was right on mile 12. Waking up that morning, I felt very good...I was just extremely nervous. It was still very dark outside when I walked out of her apartment towards High street. I had a great feeling that morning. Standing outside in the dark, staring up High street, I could only think about the next time I would be looking in this direction. It would be at mile 12 and I would be smack in the middle of the race. When I was stretching, I got that feeling like I was about to do something big... kind of like I was about to embark on this life changing journey. It felt like I was a hero about to take on the world..... and all I was about to do was run. It’s amazing how something as simple as running can change so many peoples lives. I knew at that exact moment, ten thousand other people were awake thinking about the same thing that I was. I got to the starting line a little later than I thought, but it turned out to be okay. I was also lucky enough to find my brother, dad and sister before the race started. It was nice to see them and I was really happy they decided to come all the way to Columbus to see me kill myself via running. I got myself a nice spot in the second line of runners and I waited for the gun to go off.

As the race started, I found myself running with a group of guys that were aiming for a much quicker time than me. But, I felt good and wanted to stay around them as long as possible. We clicked off mile after mile at 6:30 pace. The first half of the course is really nice and there were a lot of spectators, especially anywhere near downtown. My family saw me around mile 9, but I didn’t see them. I didn't actually notice them until the half way mark. But, it was nice to see them and at that point in the race, I felt amazing.

The next five miles were straight down High street, and it was by far the loneliness miles on the course. The field was really spread apart and I was running alone. Then, around mile 16, a guy I recognized from the River Run (he finished 3 min before me) ran by. We ran together for a little bit, but I was slowly falling off the 6:30 pace and I soon lost him. Around mile 19-20, the race changed for me. Up to mile 20, I had averaged a 6:33 pace per mile. After the hill at mile 19.5, I cramped up a little and realized I was really falling a apart. My legs started to feel heavy and my efforts were really labored. At mile 21, we started our decent back into the downtown area. It was a long downhill and I was able to pick up speed, but it destroyed my legs.

At mile 22 I was starting to drift off into another world. I saw my family again and they knew I was in pain. I heard my Mom over the speaker of my Dad's phone. That gave me hope...I really wanted to finish. Those next three miles, mile 22-25, were the hardest 3 miles of my life. I had literally slipped into another state of mind and could barely read my watch. I knew I was running much slower, but I didn't care. Every step I took was labored and the pain shot up my legs. My feet were torn up and I could feel them sliding around in blood. I had started to blister at mile 7 and ignored it all day. I could tell that the skin on my foot was all ripped off...I was in pain.

When I hit mile 25, I finally came out of my daze. I checked my watch and realized I had fallen way off pace. I wanted to still finish sub-3 hours, but I knew I would have to pick it up. Coming back into downtown really picked me up. There were thousands of people cheering and I knew I'd make it. Once I hit mile 26, I took off. I may not have been sprinting on my toes, but my legs were seriously moving. The finish chute was downhill and I really opened up my stride for it. It was the best fucking feeling I have ever experienced.. accomplishment.. until I hit the finish line. My final efforts caught up with me and puked all over the finish line and a little bit on a volunteers shoe.... then, I puked again and again. I was in really shitty shape, but I couldn't stop smiling. My legs seized up and I could barely walk. My feet were bloody and torn apart, and I felt light headed and exhausted. But, I finished in 2:59:07...under my goal. And, I qualified for the Boston Marathon by 11 minutes on my first try!!!

Overall I finished 76th out of about 3700 runners. But, more importantly I finished strong and never once thought about stopping. Now, the only thing left to do is start training my ass off because I'm going to Boston to run with the best. And, I know that I can cut at least 15 minutes off my time. It is going to be a long, long winter!

River Run Half Marathon 2007

After Sunday's race, I definitely say that I am on the right track. This was one of my best races to date. I felt very comfortable during pre-race warm-ups, there was no pressure on me to perform, the weather was great (raining and cool), and I was exited to run! The first three miles were run way too quickly, but I was exited and wanted to run with the best. My 5k split was just under 18:00. I knew I had to slow down a little, or I would never make it in under 1:25:00 (my goal). Right around mile three I started running with this older guy...I found out later that he was Lakewood's cross country coach. Even though he was running 6:15 miles...which was a little quicker than my goal pace, I kept with him. I stayed on his tail for the next 5 miles. During those miles we were able to grab two really strong runners (one being Mentor's cross country coach). And all five of us were together around mile 8. Then, out of nowhere, six guys running 6:10 miles caught us and passed quickly. I knew I couldn't run with them, so I dropped back. But my group of guys attacked... However, only one was able to stick with them. I ended up catching most of my original group. Then came mile 9.3...The only hill on the course. It was brutal! I haven’t been doing any hill work and this climb ended my strong race. After that hill, I was reduced to running about 6:45 miles. The last three miles were tough, but I finished strong. My time was 1:24:21 and I was 27th out of 700!!! 2nd in my age group. I was very happy with the run and received a great deal of confidence out of it. Even though my pace was 6:10 for the first 10 miles...I was reduced to 6:25 after bonking on the hill. That's okay though...I am going to keep training hard with the Columbus marathon in mind. Hopefully, I do well.... I always wanted to go to Boston!!!

Cleveland Triathlon 2007

Race morning was very similar to any other pre-race morning. However, I was lucky enough to be able to stay in my own apartment for this one. No traveling for this one. Unfortunately, I had to wake up extra early because I had to get into transition an hour and a half before my race started. The morning rituals went well. Parking was hard to find, but I felt good and was excited to race hard. Watching the sunrise over the lake was calming, but nothing could really settle me down. This was the race I was working for all year long. Every hour spent training was towards this race. Every Friday night I sat on the couch resting was because of this race. This was my race...I had everything to lose. Warm up went well and I felt extremely lose. Before I hoped into the lake, I was lucky enough to catch my family. Seeing them before I race is always nice. Diving into Lake Erie right by the Rock Hall is the most disgusting thing in the world. The water was "bath tub" warm and my waist down was tangled in seaweed. Lets just say I wasn't the only uncomfortable one. The Elite athletes went off right before my wave, and we were told we had one minute until the horn. But, the guy working the megaphone was a fucking idiot. Instead of giving us a countdown, he randomly sounded the horn. 50 confused and startled athletes were off...this was it. The swim was painfully long, and I never found my true rhythm. Twice I swam into a volunteer in a kayak, and the asshole swimming on my feet wouldn't stop grabbing my legs. I must have kicked him in the face 15 times. After 20 minutes of swimming in Lake Erie I felt ill...I exited the water in 24min, a personal best. However, the warm water made me feel really sick. My transition was slow, but I was eager to make up time on the bike. That did not happen. After two miles, I threw up a little while riding. If anyone has done this, they know it is not pleasant. I couldn't get my legs moving fast enough, and I needed calories. Unfortunately, I substituted my Gatorade for an extra water bottle...that was my worst mistake. I had my worst bike split ever...I came off in 1:09:00 and I was still a minute behind the leader in the 20-24 age group. My run was painful...that is it. The worst pain ever. You know you can't slow down or stop, but every part of you wants to. This is why the mentally strong athletes prevail. This is where a triathlete needs heart...I didn't have any. I almost caught the leader around mile 4. He was 20 seconds ahead of me. I watched him every second of that run...He was mine for the taking. Coming up to E. 9th hill around mile 5.1, he was right there. But, again I had no heart. I could have caught him at anytime during the race, but he was a good athlete and I knew If I did, it would be a battle to the finish. That guy ended up beating me by 20 seconds and I was devastated. I had run the 9th best run out of everyone that raced.... I finished the 10k in 40 minutes 11 seconds. But, It was not enough. My overall time was 2:15:00, a respectable time...but still 5 minutes off my goal for the year. I finished 12th overall and 2nd in my age group...but I felt like I came in dead last. It has been 3 weeks since the race and I still feel terrible. I have learned my lesson, I have experienced how it feels to be beaten, and It will never happen again. Maybe that was the type of race I needed to be that much better next year. We'll find out...

Pittsburgh Triathlon 2007

Even though the week leading up to the Pittsburgh Triathlon wasn't great, the race was a personal best. I arrived in Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon very excited for Sundays race. I spent the majority of the day resting, however, I did have to wait in a extremely long line when I was trying to get my bike inspected (huge waste of time) for the race. After leaving the race sight on Saturday, I got some food and took in the scenery. Downtown Pittsburgh is very nice, especially by the river front. I woke up Sunday feeling very good. I did have a little trouble trying to make coffee in the dark, but I was at a hotel and didn't care about spilling coffee on the carpet. I got down to transition an hour and a half early this time (I didn't want a repeat of the Deer Creek race). I got a nice warm up jog in and found a perfect spot to stretch by the river...very far from other athletes. After my pre-race routine, I joined everybody back at transition for the national anthem and announcements. Then, we headed into the river...Because the start was in deep water, I got to tread water for 5 minutes with 100 other nervous athletes. The gun went off and we all sprinted against the current. The first 500 meters felt like they lasted forever, but after I maybe the turn, the last 1000 meters flew by. I exited the water in 24:30 (5 min faster than Deer Creek) and I felt very strong. My transition was pretty quick and I was on my way to a very hilly bike course. The bike course was the worst kind of hilly. It consisted of two 6 mile climbs and two 6 mile descents. Luckily I was able to catch some decent speed on the downhill and gain some time on the leaders. My bike split was 1:07:00, which was pretty quick for the course. Coming out of the second transition I was pretty tired, but I was looking forward to a fast, flat run. Exiting T2, I was only 4 minutes off the leaders. Unfortunately, I am not that great of a runner. The run was very well shaded and felt good. I pushed hard on the last few miles and was able to finish in 2:11:52, 20th overall (out of 269). That time was 11 minutes faster than Deer Creek. Unfortunately, I was only able to finish 2nd in my age group. The kid who beat me finished 4th overall. After a long morning of racing, I drove back to Cleveland with a new sense of accomplishment and I can't wait to go even faster in Cleveland on August 5th.

Deer Creek 2007

Deer Creek Triathlon 2007

So, I decided to write up a race report because (1) I'm doing laundry at Juniors and I'm bored (2) I want to keep a written record of my races and (3) If anyone cares, they can learn more about racing and triathlons.

I did my first triathlon on June 3, 2007. It was a few days after my 21st birthday and I was more nervous than I think I had ever been...ever. The Deer Creek Triathlon is a fairly small triathlon south of Columbus and was a very good beginners race.

I woke up race morning feeling very good. My training had been going well, but I still was very new to open water swimming and cycling. I warmed up in the hotel room for a little and then headed over to the race site. Unfortunately, I did not get there early enough...It took me much longer than I thought to set up transition and get my body marked, etc...On top of that, they started my wave 20 min early because of a possible storm headed our way. Lets just say I didn't warm up.... at all. As I literally ran to the beach while putting on my wet suit, I wondered what the hell I was doing there. It was too late to question myself. The gun went off and I started swimming. The water was warm and really murky. I wasn’t used to it. Around the first buoy, I was kicked in the face and swallowed a lot of lake water... needless to say, I panicked. After treading water for a couple seconds, I gathered myself and kept going. Finally, I got into a rhythm and finished the swim in 29:20. It was very slow, but I finished.

As I got on the bike, I was excited to push the pace and catch some people. The first half of the bike was very fast and I was making up time quickly...then I crashed. I decided to take the inside lane around a curve, right before the base of the only hill on the course...lets just say I ended up in the ditch. My bike and myself were fine, but I was forced to run up the hill because I couldn't get enough speed to climb it. This cost me 3 - 4 min, but I still ended up finishing the bike in 1:08:06.

The run killed me. I was definitely not as "in shape" as I thought I was. I tried to push as hard as I could, but I couldn't get any speed. I basically just cruised the 10k at a 6:55 per mile pace. After finishing the run in 42:53, I was surprised to find out I had finished first in my age group! My overall time was 2:22:52 and I finished 22/159 overall. This was several minutes off my goal, but I didn't expect to fall off my bike. Next race in Pittsburgh is going to hopefully be much faster...as long as I stay on my bike.

***This was my first triathlon 2 years ago. My growth in the last two years is astonishing***