How My IRONMAN Training Has Changed

When I first started with triathlon my primary goal was making the distance, not to “race it”. I talk to my athletes about being able to see the finish instead of swarming yourself with the “how can i complete the swim” mentality. This is very normal with newer athletes because each discipline is daunting and no matter what i say, they simply have to experience the race and distance to feel more confident. Especially for people making the jump to the longer distances. When I did my first Ironman in 2010, even though I had already qualified for multiple 70.3 world championships the distance of the Ironman intimated me to where many of my swims, bikes, and runs were all at or above my desired race pace. I did this to prove to myself that I could accomplish the distance. I was literally searching for confidence every weekend! 


When I trained like this I would determine the outcome of my season through EVERY SINGLE session months in advance of my Ironman. If the session went well I was confident. If my session sucked, I was instantly regretting everything i’ve done and rethinking a new plan. So dramatic! If i was ever hurt I was already on WebMD diagnosing I had a stress fracture. I was an emotional roller coaster!

I’ve heard this phrase “endurance training is alot of general conditioning with a tad of specificity” and I really enjoy it because its how I coach and how i view my own training from a physical and emotional stand point. I never get too emotionally high or too low. If you are too far on the specificity side than you are dialed in too often and that creates injury, burn out, and emotional swings. This isn’t healthy. YES, you should compare and track your sessions but not every week. I find that people go full specificity mode when training starts to get feel good. They get motivated, they’re seeing improvement, then they blast it all of the time, every session! Then they quickly find themselves tired, exhausted, and needing a break. They forgot what type of training got them to this great shape. Think about it…

What training in a more general sense brings is greater enjoyment, more fluctuation of training intensity, longevity with athletes, and fewer burnout. Training in a general sense allows you to just go out and ride! No structured intervals, just ride! This is why in key long rides I commonly split sessions between specificity focus versus kilojoule focus. When its specificity focus it may be something like, 3x30’ @ IM/70.3 Power and when its KJ focus it may be, “get your KJ budget in however you want” and many times people enjoy this approach because you can either go short and hard or long and easy. General training does NOT mean training with no plan, structure and make it up as you go. That’s just an excuse to be lazy. Don’t switch your focus every month off of what you read or whats being spewed by the Youtube experts. Being general means have greater long term approach and higher fluctuation in the intensity you’re training at. Find a coach who doesn’t flip flop like a pancake. The ones that hold steady but are flexible to your situation are the best coaches.

Also, with a more general approach you don’t experience as much fatigue build up from all of the long hard demanding sessions. These are the “look at me sessions” you do to look good on social media. I was as guilty as anyone for doing these sessions. I remember doing a session that was 100 miles at IM watts followed by 13 miles running at desired IM run pace (6:45s). You know where that got me? On the couch for a week. The big sessions don’t create the fitness, the weekly consistency does. Those sessions may feed the lack of confidence, but they increase the physical, emotional, and hormonal damage. Also, these sessions create the greatest fatigue which is the reason athletes underperform on race day. Too many hard long training days, too frequent, too close to the race. You enter the race so deeply fatigue you have nothing on race day. Commonly you see people firing on all cylinders during this phase but miss time the stress dosage and show on race day mentally and physically fried wondering why they couldn’t reproduce the magic on race day. I get it though, you’re fit and ready and want to show it… but don’t show it every weekend in training, save a little. The big training days are OK, just not every week.

Now that I no longer have the fear of completing the distance, I’m more cautious during training intervals and my pacing. That doesn’t mean I don’t train hard, I certainly do at times. It just means I don’t go above my prescribed ranges to prove anything. I also go way easier on my easy and endurance training sessions. This approach seems to work as I never get down after a bad session, I don’t take it personally, I just role with the training to build consistency. When you finally get over the “make every session count” mentality, you open up a sense of relaxation and freedom.


My take aways:

  1. Not every long ride is a chance to prove yourself

  2. Going slightly easier will help you in the long run

  3. If you are always going hard, you really aren’t training hard enough

  4. Have a beer, wine, cheeseburger every once in awhile. 

Hope you enjoyed reading!

Coach Steve

Another Step Forward

Another Step Forward

Since returning from our Arizona Training Camp my training has been going very well. I’ve been putting in 600-800 TSS weeks, 4-5x weekly swims, 4-5x weekly bikes, and 2-3x weekly runs, and 2x strength sessions at Functional Integrated Training. 

First thing you may notice is that i’m not running much. At first I had a hard time with this but ultimately it came down to reality, need, and time of season, and absorption. Outside of the final build to a big race, you rarely you aim to have perfect balance in all 3 sports. Why not? Unless you are very balanced in all 3, you should be focusing on improving one area which means you need to lower another. Commonly swim and run fitness don’t work well together. If you are running alot your swimming will take a dive. It’s hard to go through this compromise but I need to get better and this is the time.

My areas of weakness have always been the swim and bike and I commonly run well off the bike to my fitness level. With all eyes on TTT and Ironman Wisconsin which are both 140.3 miles, the swimming and cycling need the priority, especially the swimming. I believe I can muscle my way through a 70.3 with very limited swim training but the Ironman has been a different story and my constant struggle of endless 3:30-3:40 marathons When I should be at 3:20. The goal with the heavy swim block is to build the durability and pure conditioning so I can arrive to the run having spent much less energy as well as have a stronger 2nd half of the bike. I would estimate between the 3 weekly runs I am averaging 25-30 miles per week. Quality Hill and Threshold workout, Quality Long Run, Easy run. 

Second observation is swim frequency. I can’t tell you the last time i’ve swam 4-5x a week for an extended period. This didn’t take any convincing as I knew I needed to. Doing this was critical for accomplishing my long term goals. No one cares about how fast you swim and bike if you can’t run off it. Early in the block I sent some video to Coach C and we noticed some areas of improvement with my breathing and stabilization. Every stroke I took afterwards was focused on fixing these issues, thats alot of drill work! This past Monday we did the CSS 400/200 swim test. I did this test later last year and set two personal bests of 5:08 and 2:29! The morning of the test I was anxious to the point of shortness of breathe and slight shaking, I WAS NERVOUS! Through my nerves I convinced myself that my body was fatigued, my arms hurt, that this test wasn’t going to go well. Self Sabotage at it’s best! In the warm up I rehearsed the mental cues I was going to execute in the test, keep it simple, focus. 1,2,3, Breathe and Reach were the things I was telling myself. In the counting of 1,2,3 were focused on exhaling and the 4 was my breath. I have a habit of holding my breathe when going fast.  

200 yards into the test the fatigue level was pretty high and there was a moment where I said, “hey, you are ok, focus” and I kept drilling it while focusing on my cues to silence my lactate gremlins. The final 100 I was still holding it together. I finished the 400 and saw 5:05, a new personal best at 1:16 average! The 200 went off and around 75 to go my legs were going numb, it was crazy! I stayed focused on my technique and cues and nailed another personal best of 2:26, boom!

My goal of swimming under 1 hour at IMWI is becoming more real. Now, I need to build up the endurance to have the conditioning to handle 4k of open water swimming. The speed is there.

Thank you for reaching and keep training and believing!

Onwards and Upwards.

Coach Steve

2019 New Years Resolutions

New Years Resolutions


There are two types of people on this subject, you are either making resolutions or you’re not. I don’t think I have ever made New Years Resolutions before. Since starting this blog, posting my workouts on Strava, communicating my goals to the World Wide Web, I have found that it has provided a higher level of accountability. Some people have no problem being accountable to themselves, however, I need accountability. The more accountability I share with people the more focused I remain on the tasks at hand. 

  1. Be more present. When its work time, I work. When its family time, the phone is away. Being an endurance coach its easy to get sucked into this “on call 24/7 availability”. I am getting better at not working as much on the weekends so I can have more family time. Plus…social media can suck the life out of you. It can provide levels of pressure to be someone you’re not. It can also provide constant uncertainty in what you are doing. You can lose yourself and your personal beliefs through it, all for someone to “like” your crap. No wonder depression rates have increased. You be you, not someone else. It can also diminish your focus from whats most important (family, friends, dog, work). I do believe social media can provide good and there are many people who provide positive messages. Lauren Fleshman comes to mind because she is a powerful individual who shares her highs and lows. She’s real. She gets it.

  2. Take Risks. I have so many goals I want to accomplish that I never accomplish any of them. I get side tracked, confused, unfulfilled because i’m half assing so many things. This year I am going to focus on 1-2 projects and do them to the best of my ability. I have acouple long term projects that I would love to accomplish that i’ve always been afraid to tackle. I am starting to talk to the right people, making the correct phone calls to make it happen. 

  3. Be ok with training less. 10 years ago I was fulfilled with how many hours I trained a week. I lived to grow this number. Now I don’t even look at it. I am more fulfilled with being a good husband and father compared to how much time I am spending away from them. I don’t train in the middle of the day. I only train in the morning or at night when my daughter is sleeping. If I train 6 hours or 12 hours a week I am still the same person I was the week before, it doesn't define my dedication or commitment to my goals. What will define me is if I am still married after Ironman Wisconsin. I have big goals, I want to do very well this September. However, what if i don’t reach my goals? What if i go slower than 2016? Oh well! But that’s not the point, what is? Keeping a healthy life balance. Keeping a happy family. Keeping a tired dog are more important than a number or an overall time. 

  4. Stop picking at my hair. It’s a nervous habit, i get it. It’s also making me go bald and I hate it. Not enough Rogaine or men’s voodoo hair products will regrow the hair i continue to pick out. 

If you ever want to take a look at what the training schedule or a Time Crunched Athlete who is trying to Kona Qualify looks like….here it is!

Coach Steve

Anatomy of a NEW Personal Best at Madison Half Marathon

I was so fed up with never seeing improvement. After years of all talk and no action, it was time to act. I was getting tired of myself. Time to change things up and commit. It paid off again at the Madison Half Marathon. 

Sub 1:23 is possible!

Sub 1:23 is possible!


I cannot tell you the last time I set a Personal Best in running. I think the last time was in 2010 at a 4th of July road 5k when I was training for Ironman Wisconsin. That would mean I went 8 years without any improvement. For 8 years I blamed everyone and everything but myself for my poor results. When you don’t see improvement you start to second guess what you’re doing. I would estimate that my drive to improve really tanked around 2012. In 2012, I moved from Arizona back to Wisconsin. I was starting up a new business. I wasn’t improving in athletics. I lost all life balance. However, I continued to do an Ironman each year only to get slower and that was my biggest mistake. The need to just DO an Ironman because its routine won’t make you a better athlete, it made me worse. It killed my motivation.  

Since my recent declaration to stop being all talk I have set two personal bests. One in swimming and one in running. I’ve made myself accountable to coaches, friends, and the internet… and it’s working. Instead of hiding my goals and fears, i’m letting everyone in on them.

In the final 3 miles, a low point for me.

In the final 3 miles, a low point for me.


Coming into the Madison Half Marathon I was training really well and times were showing a PR was possible. The days before the race I started to get nervous and my body got weird tightness and aches which is common pre race stress. When your body knows you are about to punish it, it wants to protect itself. 

In 2017, I ran 1:24:15 with an average of 6:26 pace

In 2018, my goal was to break 1:24


Race Morning 

5:00: Wake up, 2 cups of coffee, 4 pancakes, lots of syrup, 1 fruit smoothie

5:50: 20’ Easy Bike on indoor trainer at 60-70% of FTP

6:30: Arrive at race site having consumed a 400c bottle of carbohydrates

6:40: 10’ Easy run, visualize, breathing, relax, don’t freak out

6:50: Last Portopotty visit

6:55: Check in gear bar

7:00: Try and get near the front, only to start near the 2:00 Half Marathon Starters 

7:10: Race starts. I am no where close to the front “Dont panic, this could be a good thing”

———

Mile 1: “This isnt a good thing, i’m upset, i’m weaving through everyone, i’m wasting energy. My race is over.”

Mile 2: “Ok, i’m done pouting. Focus on your execution goals”

Mile 3: “Ok, this is the long false flat section. Why is my HR so high? Crap, i’m running 6:05s. Slow down its too fast”

Mile 5: “I’m still running 6:05s, this isnt going to end well”

Mile 6: 36:55 (6:10avg)… I’m going to PR today. Holy crap!

Mile 8: “I’m dying. This hill is huge”

Mile 8.5: “This bluff is so stupid. I should just walk. I feel terrible. Everyone is passing me”

Mle 9: “You need to do this for Cindi and Lucy. They have supported you through this”

Mile 10: “My legs feel like bricks”

Mile 10.5: “Dude, stop whining. You’re whining. You can PR today. Toughen up and get it done”

Mile 11: “Oh, there’s Cindi and Lucy. Hey Lucy! She sees me. She smiling and waving, yay!”

Mile 11.1: “I’ve got new energy, bring it on”

Mile 11.2: “Shit another hill, where’d my energy go. This wind sucks”

Mile 12: “Come on! Relax, stay smooth. relax. Keep your rhythm. 1 Mile to go”

Mile: 12.5: “Another hill! Are you flipping kidding me. I’m barely running up this thing”

Mile 12.8: “There’s no way I can PR, i’m dying. There’s nothing left”

Mile: 13: “Holy crap, I can break 1:23. I can still to PR. Effing Push it!”

Mile 13.1: New Personal Best Half Marathon 1:22:58…Boom!

———

I’ve been wondering what has been the secret sauce to my new streak of Personal Bests and i’ve come to a conclusion. 1) Get Married 2) Have a kid 3) start a blog and tell the world your shortcomings and goals. 4) Work with a coach who provides accountability

In Maple Bluff. The hilliest part of the race!

In Maple Bluff. The hilliest part of the race!


But seriously, before Cindi and Lucy I was a free bird with no direction or hurry. I got lazy because I had too much flexibility on my hands to train. In fact, it was so much flexibility I never trained. Now that I am the busiest i’ve ever been I’m the most productive. Now, I make everything count and there is no messing around with training. Every session and race that I do I am grateful for. The pressure to deliver is higher and I like that. This is why I respect Jackie Hering so much, she is a mother of 2, Professional Triathlete, Race Director, Ironman freaking Champion, and she is piecing it together like the rest of us. 

Seeing Cindi and Lucy!

Seeing Cindi and Lucy!


I am beyond happy with how everything is going. On my original goal sheet I needed to get my Half Marathon to 1:22 and ive done it. My swim speed is ALMOST to my original goals. GOAL SHEETS WORK! 

A New Race Challenge: American Triple T

All is going very well on the training front and having a blast. I am finding a good rhythm each day with getting my sessions in. Coffee is set to automatically start at 4:00am, the alarm clock is set for 4:05, I am up by 4:10, working out by 4:45-5am. I am very much a morning person, as you can tell. If I could be in bed by 8pm, I would!

It is only October and I am obsessing over what races I am doing next year. I have been waffling over my first triathlon, Elkhart Lake or Madison 70.3? Both because they are back to back weekends?

THEN, a new challenge was presented to me…

American Triple T

https://americantriple-t.com/american-triple-t/

It is 4 triathlons within 3 days… all totaling an Ironman Distance. There is also shorter version that totals a 70.3 Triathlon.

Friday: Super Sprint Triathlon

Saturday AM: Olympic Distance

Saturday Afternoon: Olympic Distance (Bike/Swim/Run)

Sunday: Half Ironman

Why the change? I’ve done Elkhart Lake and used it as a fitness gauge. Madison 70.3 is local and competitive, but it doesn’t draw much interest to me outside of the competition that would be there.

What’s also nice about TTT? I have inside knowledge into how to prepare and race it. How? Cindi has WON this event. Cindi has always encouraged me to race TTT and having that type of knowledge from a previous champion is second to none.

Importantly, Triple T provides me a lot of motivation. Its going to be very challenging. It’s also different than what i’ve previously done. My interest has been leaning towards adventure races, long trail runs, Canada Extreme, Swissman, Norseman type of events.

My theme for 2019 Ironman Wisconsin and all of the preparation leading into will be “Conditioning, Conditioning, Conditioning.” I have done many Ironmans so I don’t need more triathlon experience. My limiter for most of my Ironmans have been simple: Conditioning. Endurance. Fitness. GET FIT! Triple T keeps me in this mindset over the winter months leading into both races. To accomplish 140.6 miles, broken into 4 triathlons will require a lot of conditioning but not the same as a stand alone Ironman.

Add in that Triple T is under 300 dollars for the entry fee. 4 Triathlons, Race Kit, Finishers Jacket, and much more what what a single 70.3 event costs. The lodging offered is also very affordable. Plus, I love racing smaller races. The feel and environment of these grassroots events is always nice. Door County Half Ironman is also like this.

Until next week!

Coach Steve

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Coach Steve: Working On Run Technique

This week our family took a vacation to Door County. It’s been around 2 years since we’ve taken a formal vacation and with the triathlon season winding down, we packed our bags and headed to the quiet town of Bailey’s Harbor.

Talking with Coach Kevin before I left, I was fired up to get back into hard training after the prior light week. We settled on making this week also pretty easy and he was right. When I go on vacation, my mind does the same. Every morning I am up at 4:30 to work, train or coach. However. when vacation came I slept till the rooster crowed aka Lucy woke up. My training goal was to get in 30’ of running a day, mission accomplished. I was also on vacation and the last thing I wanted to do was be away from my family.

I grew up running from middle school and high school and the first year at college. While I was never a talented runner, I loved putting in the hard miles. I was a coaches worst nightmare. Every run was hard. 6 mile aerobic run turned into 6 miles as hard as possible. 10 mile long run the day after a race turned into a hammer session. Like I said… a true nightmare. I look back on myself and understand why i never saw the improvement other runners saw, I never let my body rest, recover, and grow. I wanted to do more, faster, and more frequent. That’s the path to becoming amazingly mediocre.

Since we’re on the honest bus, Ive never shown much promise in swim, bike, or running. I had to work very hard for the results I’ve achieved. For most talented people, it takes them 3 years from nothing to something (Short Course Nationals, 70.3 Worlds, Kona Qualifier)… for me it took double the time. My parents taught me hard work, but didn’t give me the great genetics. I still love them very much.

So here I am today plugging away at the small details.

When I evaluated my running form. (How do I do this? I put my phone next to me on my treadmill) I notice that my left leg doesn’t recover as high as my right. The effect of this is that my left leg over striders causing me to look like I am cross country skiing instead of running, which causes me to over stride, which causes a lot of injuries on my left leg, which is REALLY limiting my speed potential. If you want to go faster you need to put more force straight down into the ground. When you over stride, you don’t do that.

Some people can get away with bad technique, but I’m not talented or genetically powerful so I need to fix these issues. Running technique is important, if you don’t think so you’re oblivious to the obvious.

If you are talented, more power to you! You have been given great genes and if you combine that with hard work… you’re going places. Talented athletes make many coaches look really good!

Here is what I am doing to fix my left leg, it’s pretty simple. There are so many fancy drills but keeping it simple and knowing the focus is key to learning. Thats what Drills do, they teach you something. How it should feel and how to do it correctly. Drills won’t automatically make you faster, in fact I see many athletes doing drills aimlessly. However, when they are done right they’re the foundation to your improvement.

If I am feeling fatigued I will do these before the run as a muscle activation set. I will always do them after my runs, especially a hard run.

3 Rounds:

20 Butt Kicks (Focus on tightening up my recovery phase to get my foot higher to push down)

20 High Knees (Same Focus on Butt Kicks, just different position)

20 A-Skips (Pull the leg up, FIRE the leg down. Putting it all together)

20 High Elbow Band Pulls (For swimming)

R:1 Minute, repeat.

Achieving A Personal Best at Steelhead 70.3 w/ Lauren Taylor

The weeks leading up to Steelhead were not an ideal build, and I had no idea what to expect on race day. The last time I felt really “good” in the build up was early July, where I had a great race at Pardeeville Sprint Triathlon.  But as the season moved deeper into July, I just didn’t feel quite as strong heading into Door County Sprint. I was happy with my Door County result, but still didn’t feel like I had pushed as hard as usual. Fatigue was building, but I didn’t necessarily recognize it and powered on.

I had signed up for a relay race with Carly and my dad at Door County, and I ran a hot ½ marathon the day after the Door County Sprint.  I finished and gave it my all, but it was a huge effort. In hindsight, it was probably too much. From there on, it was all downhill. I found myself getting more and more tired in my training and wasn’t able to complete workouts. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to do the work, it was that I felt like I physically couldn’t.

Of course this physical fatigue fed my mental paranoia, and soon I was dreading an impending 70.3. I hit a low point at the end of July-- just 2 weeks before the race. At that point, Cindi reached out to see what was going on and how we could adjust my training.  We knew we needed to just get me to the start of Steelhead ready to race. Cindi assured me that I had done the work, so I ended up taking two weeks with a lot of rest days and just a few shorter, lower intensity workouts.

When I made my race plan for Steelhead, I tempered my expectations a lot and made it my main goal to have fun. I threw previous time goals out the window because they were causing me stress, and if I was stressed about workouts and races, why was I doing triathlon?

Race morning rolled around and we got the dreaded announcement that the water was 76 degrees and would not be wetsuit legal. Swimming is my weakest discipline and despite trying to mentally prepare myself all week for this possibility, I was anxious. I had already made up my mind that I would not go in the wetsuit wave at the end. I didn’t want to stand around waiting to start for any longer than I had to. As I left my wetsuit in my transition bag, I was already seriously doubting that choice. By the time I got to the beach and really looked at the waves, there were tears welling up in my eyes. I knew in my head that it was silly to be crying over a triathlon and that I would be fine, but I couldn’t help it. There was not going to be anything fun about this.

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Before I knew it, I was diving into the water and quickly taking on water. I stopped a few times in the first 200 yards to cough up lake water as I got used to breathing with the waves. The water was rough and I put the “big arm recovery” from open water swim to good use. I knew I wasn’t going fast, but I was making good progress and keeping my head in a good place. Each time I thought something negative like, “If I stop swimming right now I’m just going to get swallowed up by a wave and end up at the bottom of Lake Michigan,” I would try to shut that out and find a mantra or song to repeat in my head for a few minutes. Eventually, I made it out of the water. I have never been so grateful to be done with a swim.

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Getting on my bike, I knew that my ultimate goal was to ride 2:45. In the first 10 miles, I was disappointed because my power numbers were lower than I had targeted.  The course was flat enough that it was hard for me to put out big power, but I focused on riding really steady and staying in a good aero position.

My normalized power was hovering around 160 watts. When I had run the numbers in Best Bike Split (accounting for a bit more wind than we ended up having), I thought I needed to ride closer to 180 watts to meet my time goal. But I kept moving and passed a lot of people who swam faster than me, and my speed was faster than I expected.


My watch is set to autolap every five miles and I was seeing numbers that were at or under 15 minutes per split, meaning I was still on goal pace. This motivated me not to let up for the second half. Coming into transition I didn’t get a good look at my watch so I had no idea if I officially met my goal or not of 2:45, but I knew it was close enough to happy with.

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Starting the run, I couldn’t believe I still had a half marathon ahead of me. I had just done my hardest swim and riden my fastest bike ever.  As I got out on the course, I saw Bobby, who let me know I biked 2:41, and it was a big mental boost knowing I had smashed my goal time. For the first couple of miles, my legs felt good and my heart rate was under control running right around 9 minute pace. Not quite where I wanted to be, but I knew it was a hot day. It was now almost noon and there was no hiding from the sun or heat.  It wasn’t going to be my fastest run ever, but I was still in a good place physically and mentally.

I stayed in my positive mindset and tried to say something to each person I passed--”good work”, “looking strong”, “way to go”. This is my favorite way to distract myself from thinking, “you’re tired and slow, you should walk”. I steadily clicked off the miles and fed off of the positivity of the other runners and the fantastic volunteers.  But by the last mile of the run, my legs were in rough shape and I couldn’t wait to be done. As I approached the arch, the announcer asked, “Lauren Taylor, are you ready to cross that finish line?!?” I yelled as loudly as I could with a huge smile on my face.

I had done it!  I finished with a new PR on a tough day.  Not only did I meet my goals, but I had fun and pushed outside of my comfort zone. Safe to say, I was enjoying triathlon again.

Winning Door County Sprint w/ Bobby Taylor

About 400 yards up the road, the brake lights from the lead vehicle snapped me back into the moment. He went straight, I would go left, and I now knew I was close and going to make it.  The road was smooth and I picked my line, doing my best to keep turning the legs over as I put in one last dig. I was closing quickly and now heard for the first time the muffled din of music from transition, punctuated occasionally by the PA announcer calling out the last of the swim waves.

 

Approaching transition, I quickly inventoried all the fancy metrics I had been ignoring-- normalized power, heart rate, average speed and distance.   Today, they simply didn't matter.  I was riding as hard as I possibly could, all out, and I didn't internalize them, didn't process my data.  What mattered was that I was at my limit and just chasing for that little bit of extra effort and speed.  This is what makes sprint racing awesome-- the fact you get to chase competitors on the road, not a power number, and those times when you "blow up"  are just part of the deal.  And today, things were looking up.
 

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Roughly 9 miles earlier in the ride, I had made a big tactical decision at the turnaround.  I knew that same tailwind that pushed us out had set us up for a return leg of 9 miles into a headwind and would make for a tough closing stretch for everyone.  I had worked my way steadily through the field on the outbound leg, sensing that no one on the road had the bike legs to come with me.  I also knew that because it was hot and humid, the run would be a wildcard .  Someone from the field might be sitting on blistering 5k-- but I definitely wasn't setting on any 5k PRs today.

So my best play was to put as much time into the field as possible before T2, and I needed to make something happen. I have done a lot of Zwift racing in my training in my buildup this year, and I've launched some pretty big (and definitely some pretty dumb) attacks from the safety of my trainer.  I've also learned a lot of lessons along the way about tactics and my own psychology.

 

Some moves stick, some don't, but that is racing, and that is what makes it fun. Each time, there comes a moment where I inevitably say myself… "screw it, let's do it!" and I commit.  That moment came just after the turnaround, where I pulled into first, put in a big dig, and went all-in on the attack.  I decided that if anyone was going to catch me, they were going to have to do it on the run. It was going to be a painful 20 minutes of riding if I was going to hold on to T2.

 

Fast forward then back to the entrance to Frank Murphy park.   A small crowd of spectators had formed and in a moment I was on them, hanging a hard left, and rounding back towards bike in.  I looked back briefly down the road to see if anyone had stuck around.   No one was in sight.  The attack had worked. I had averaged just under 26 mph for the ride-- an all-time best ride for me-- and the fastest bike split of the day. 


It was a short stretch of pavement from the turn to the dismount line so I had to move quickly. I unvelcroed, removed my right foot, then my left, and I swung my right leg over and behind my seat to set up my dismount. As I have visualized and practiced hundreds of times (I literally do this after EVERY ride, even on the trainer in the dead of winter), I dismounted cleanly and in-stride.

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I racked my bike, slid my shoes on, grabbed my cap and belt and was away.  I heard the PA announcer as I passed through run out say that "we just heard that the first athlete is in transition and heading out onto the run course," and I grinned ear to ear heading out onto the empty 5k course.
 

It was a lonely out-and-back run on an exposed and hot country road.  I ran scared, not knowing how strong the runners in the field behind me would prove to be.  I pushed it as hard as I could, but could feel that I was paying for my bike effort and the heat was taking no prisoners.  I focused on a quick cadence and allowed myself to look backwards to see if anyone was behind  as I clicked off my first mile in 6:20.  Still no one in sight.

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I got to the turn-around, and then almost to mile 2 before seeing the next runner on the road.  A little mental math told me I was up a couple of minutes, but I knew someone could still come out of the age group waves.  My watch beeped 6:22 and I allowed myself passing through mile 2 to finally imagine myself winning the race.

 

The countdown and mental negotiation began in earnest with just a mile remaining. Just six more minutes! I thought about all of the track sessions, winter runs, and late night treadmill runs while travelling and at hotel gyms that had lead me here.  Just 4 more minutes.  You love running, I reminded myself.  Just half a mile. That's not even a loop of the bike path around the park at home.  Just to the arch.  So close.  Just down the hill.

 

Finally, I stole one more look back to make sure I wasn't going to get out-sprinted and saw the finishing tape in front of me.  I've never broken the tape before, so it was a special experience. Definitely unreal. I grabbed it, slammed it, and took a bit of time to soak in what I had just accomplished.  I had just won the freaking race!

 

I still tempered my expectations a bit, knowing that a winner might still come out of the AG waves, as I had started elite. I didn't let myself get too high until the final results were posted.  My time held up, though second place came from a later wave. In the end, I got my crystal lighthouse, capping off a nearly perfect race for me.

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Coming in, I knew I wanted to finish under 1:10, and finished in 1:09 high.  Based on past results, most years, 1:08-1:09 is good enough to win.  Had it turned into a footrace, could I have gone faster?  Maybe, but I didn't have to. Ultimately, in that heat, the race was won on the bike.  I minimized my losses in the water,  raced to my strengths, and held it together on the run.

 

What a day! What a race! What a weekend! 

 

So what are the takeaways?
 

  • Racing is awesome.  Mixing it up, pushing your limits, failing and succeeding are all part of the game.  I've learned to embrace each part of it, the ups and the downs, and learn from each time I toe the line.
     
  • Swimming matters:  You can't win a race in the swim, but you can lose it.  I've been swimming a lot more this year and a lot harder, trying to minimize my losses out of the water.  I'm not where I want to be yet, but I'm definitely improving and my swim has kept me in the hunt.

 

  • Zwift (trainer) riding and gravel riding translates well to TT'ing: I choose to ride indoors or off of the roads whenever possible.  It's a personal choice, due to both schedule and safety. This means that 3 hour weekend and late night Zwift rides are a staple of my training.  We're also blessed with great trails in Madison (Military Ridge/ Badger State) and I'm trying to ride more gravel as a way to get outside.
     
  • The run remains a work in progress and is the next area for improvement:  I've been running well, but not to potential.  I know this will come with more experience and training.

 

Next up for me, Tri'ing for Children Triathlon (sprint) and then Steelhead 70.3 in August.  Thanks for reading and until next time,


~Bobby

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Door County Half Ironman- Coach Steve

Every race has it’s positives and negatives and it’s highs and lows. My ultimate goal is Ironman Wisconsin 2019 and trying to achieve my best Ironman. Cindi and I have discussed the best path for me to achieve this performance. With all of this planning happening, I’ve found myself wanting to shut this season down, take a break and start the preparation into 2019. However, every time I start to think this way, I question the reasoning and I continue to come to the realization that i am in the process of self sabotage. I’m desperately trying to find the easy way out of this season. Maybe the stress of being a new father has taken more out of me than I expected. I know this because the drive to get in each session isn’t there and I’d rather get more rest than do the important sessions needed. Hard sessions turn into recovery. Simply put, this season hasn’t gone to plan and I haven’t seen the improvements I would have liked. Each races is a reminder of how much fitness i’ve lost. As I do find positives from each race, they seem to be stripping my motivation rather than increasing it. I still have 3 races on my schedule but plan on doing only 1, Steelhead 70.3. 

 

The Days Before:

I felt good going into this race because I was able to put in the bigger, high quality sessions. Everything seemed to be on track. Robin has been building for Ironman Wisconsin and its been nice to ride with her. I’ve also made chances to my bike position that continue to be a positive in regards to having a better second half to my races. The drive to Door County was pleasant. Justin was very helpful with meeting us at the race site to help us put up the tent. We settled back to our place, ate dinner, and relaxed at the pool. 

Lucy slept pretty well Friday night. She had a not normal wake up at 4am on Saturday and I was able to get her back to sleep. I decided to just stay up and do work. Being up at 4am is not an ideal thing to do the day before the race but work needed to be done. Saturday was the Sprint Distance and Cindi went down with the team and I stayed back till Lucy woke up. We made it to the race and was able to watch our athletes compete, one of whom won the entire thing! Way to go Bobby! Watching his race certainly motivated me. Lucy started to get tired so I brought her back to the condo for her first nap. My plan was to ride the trainer while she napped. Well, her nap only latest 30’ which meant no ride. I started to get in this panic where I know I needed to get my pre race workout in. It sounds incredibly selfish when I think of it. So I focused on the fact that I was able to stay inside, rest my legs, and relax while it was blazing hot outside. I was also able to have the ITU WTS Hamburg race play in the background. Cindi made it back to Condo and we switched roles. Bike done on the trainer, felt great. Drove to the race site to do easy run and stride, felt good but WOWZA it was hot. Then I went in an swam, felt awesome. Ready to go! Lucy slept awesome Saturday night which meant Cindi and I got great sleep. 

The Swim: D+

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I sucked and have no clue why. Well, I know why… I dont swim much and still believe I can fake my way to a 30’ swim. NOT THIS TIME. 500 into the swim my arms were completely shot. “Ah your arms aren’t warmed up, they will come good”… They didn’t come good. I also was constantly drifting left. I literally couldn’t swim straight. I was convinced I was going to see 40’. The beauty of endurance sport is you get what you earn. I wasn’t trained for this and I got exactly what I deserved. 

 

The Bike: B+

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When you aren’t swim fit you suffer the first part of the bike because you are trying to recover from the swim. I was uncomfortable. Heavy legs. Low power. Alone with no one in sight. Unmotivated. Making excuses. Convinced my brakes were rubbing.

Then… I saw people in-front of me so I made it my goal to catch them. From a distance it appeared these people were drafting which set me off into a hissy, it was exactly what I needed… some motivation. I rode past them pushing well into my threshold trying to create a gap so they wouldn't jump on my wheel. Looking back on this, it was quite stupid but it helped me mentally. Slowly I started to catch more people which changed my mentality. My goal coming into this ride was to execute a better 2nd half of the ride. Be more focused, consume more calories. I commonly see 8-10% of a drop off in the 2nd half which is unacceptable. Poor nutrition and bike fit caused me to slow down. This time it was only 5%. This was my best ride at DC by almost 2 minutes!

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The Run: B

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I got into transition ready to get after it. Earlier someone told me i was top 10, so after passing people I would thought I was 6th or 7th. When I ran past Cindi, she asked “Are you feeling ok? Jason Landretti is 7 minutes up” (Jason is a good friend and someone I like to race because of the banter back and forth)… However, these are not the words you want to hear. These words mean, you’re farther back then we discussed! Apparently I was in 13th place… note to self, don’t believe some random person’s place count. I went from being fired to running on auto pilot. When I looked at the results afterwards, it appears the front of the race was a draft fest as 4-5 guys were rewarded drafting penalties. One athlete was given 12 minutes!

The only turnaround is at 5 miles and up to this point I didn’t see a single runner. It was the perfect place for someone cruising, no pressure. THEN, I saw two guys coming up on me and one in-front of me. They were coming fast and I didn’t want to get passed. I started to push very hard and at times I had to slow down because I had crossed that lactate level line. “Dont look back, don’t look back, don’t let him see you looking back, it’s a sign of weakness, he’ll know you’re hurting” With 3 miles to go we are essentially on two long roads till the finish. I felt with every step I was losing time but I kept pushing. There is an acronym that sticks with me and its TUF, Toughness Under Fatigue. When you're at your limit, it is no longer up to your legs but your mind. How you mentally handle pressure, fatigue, and lactate determines your race results. I was literally at my limit. 1% harder and my legs would completely flood with lactate, 1% easier and Matt would have caught me. Weak mind? I would have been walking. It always funny because 5 miles earlier i was having a pitty part and now i’m at my maximal effort. The ups and downs. Here we are, 1 Mile to go and Matt was within 30 seconds. With the finish being downhill, I felt I was at a disadvantage because i’m short and Matt is tall. With the short rise before the downhill I had to push hard to get some extra time. I was able to hold him off, but holy moly I don’t think I’ve ever pushed that hard. Competition brings the best out of you. 

I joke with people that "every time I cross a finish line is a victory" and the feeling after maxing out is the reminder of why I love to race. Even if it's slower, I'm always chasing that feeling.