Race Reports

Santa Cruz 70.3 - My First DNF

I have been racing Triathlon for 4 seasons, and at this point I would consider myself to be accomplished and I’m getting closer to feeling experienced in the sport. One of the things that I have never experienced in the sport is having to pull out of race, until Santa Cruz 70.3 on Sunday, September 11th.

The leader of my Sales Team at G5 and a great friend of mine, CJ invited me to do this race with a few of his good friends who live in Southern California. After figuring out the logistics with April, I was in and very excited to have an end of the season race weekend to look forward to. Coming off of Ironman Canada, my training for Santa Cruz wasn’t very specific or intense, but I was excited to head down to do one of the things that I love most…race!

CJ picked me up at 6am on Friday morning, and we loaded up along with Collin, a fellow teammate on the 10 Barrel Brewing racing team. Off we went for a 9-hour drive to Santa Cruz, just south of San Francisco. The drive flew by and was filled with conversation and energy about the weekend that we were beginning.

 All loaded up and ready to hit the road with CJ!

All loaded up and ready to hit the road with CJ!

We made great time and arrived in Santa Cruz by 4pm. After pulling into the hotel the weekend was off to an amazing start, we could see transition and the athlete check-in area for the half-ironman from our hotel – how convenient! It was so nice to have access to the event, our bikes, and all the happenings for the days leading into the race.

 My Cervelo P2 all dressed up for the big race! Zipp wheels, Power2Max power meter, new bike fit, almost as aero as I think I'll be able to get it!

My Cervelo P2 all dressed up for the big race! Zipp wheels, Power2Max power meter, new bike fit, almost as aero as I think I'll be able to get it!

We quickly unpacked, got checked into the race, and headed down to the pier to get in a short swim to test out the cold ocean water. The swim takes place in Monterrey Bay and you swim around the Santa Cruz Wharf for the 1.2 mile swim. The water wasn’t as cold as we expected, but it was very murky and hard to see. That was the only part that got to me, especially since I’m used to swimming in clear lakes and am incredibly scared of sharks.  After leaving the beach feeling good about our swim, I quickly transitioned into running gear to go out for a short transition run to test out my leg…

They say that you should never do anything new on race day, but I also believe that you shouldn’t make any radical changes to your training leading into a race. I went against this advice and got a professional bike fit 3.5 weeks before this race, which was an incredible birthday gift from my wife. The purpose of a bike fit for Triathlon is to get more comfortable on your bike, while hopefully getting as aerodynamic and powerful as possible so that you can race to the absolute best of your ability.

When I went in for my fit, the awesome team that was working with me informed me that my old position was almost 100% quad dominant. My saddle (seat) was far back, like a road bike, and I was only using my quads…this isn’t efficient and it’s not smart to ignore your hamstrings and glutes. When they finished up my bike fit, 3 hours later, I was much more aerodynamic, comfortable, and powerful than I was before. However, to accomplish this they warned me that I was going to be experiencing new soreness in my hamstrings and glutes as these muscles had been neglected in the last THREE YEARS of riding my Cervelo P2 triathlon bike. “Awesome” was my response, and I safely assumed that I’d adjust no problem.

5 days later, now within 3 weeks of the race, I felt pain in my left leg during a short run with our pup, Riggins, that I’d never experienced before.  I chalked it up to being tired, but when it came back my next run – I knew something was wrong.  I then set out on a 3 weeks, very intense round of chiropractic and massage work to try and get my leg back to working order. Thankfully, I felt strong while swimming and biking so I made those my priority, and did my best to manage the pain while running. Needless to say, I had some nervousness about how the run was going to go at Santa Cruz, which is why I was so excited and nervous to go test it out 2 days before the race.

 I felt strong during my short run and enjoy a low-key night with the guys in Santa Cruz eating good Mexican food and getting to bed early. Saturday was an absolute blast, we had a big breakfast, attended the athlete pre-race meeting to make sure we knew all of the race day logistics, drove the bike course, and got in a few low key workouts to make sure our bodies and equipment were ready to rock and roll.  CJ’s buddies drove in from Southern California that morning, so we spent the afternoon relaxing, eating some incredible food, and getting our minds right for the big day ahead.

 Checking out the race course the day before the race. Beautiful course! The weather was cloudy every morning with the sun always showing up by early afternoon.

Checking out the race course the day before the race. Beautiful course! The weather was cloudy every morning with the sun always showing up by early afternoon.

Race Day

We woke up at 5am on Sunday, had a quick breakfast, and headed over to transition to make sure our bike tires were inflated to the right pressure, threw on our bike nutrition, and made sure our gear was (neatly) setup in the transition area. It was so convenient to be across the street from transition, as we were able to walk back to the hotel after getting setup to relax, get our wetsuits on, and take our time getting to the swim start.

 My bike all setup in Transition. You can hardly see it, which means that the wind can't either - that is fast!!!

My bike all setup in Transition. You can hardly see it, which means that the wind can't either - that is fast!!!

Most 70.3 (half-ironman) races still do wave starts. What this means is that the Pro’s start first, then age groups go every 4 minutes or so. If you ask me, it’s a broken system, as my age group was the very last to go – which set me up for a tough day of passing, weaving, and yelling ‘on your left!’ and I’d love to see Ironman adjust this to a self-seeded rolling start like we see in 140.6 (full Ironman) races.

Because of the fact that I had over an hour to wait until I swam, I enjoyed watching all of my friends start, got to see the pros finish (which was awesome!!!!) and even got to cheer in Collin since he was fortunate to start in the 2nd wave of the day.

The Swim1.2 Miles, 30:44, 1:25/100y (1:35/100m)

I seeded myself at the very front of my wave. There were two waves for my age group, and I was in the second wave because it was ordered by last name and mine starts with a W (story of my life). As soon as the cannon went off, I bolted into the ocean and aggressively got myself out in front of the pack. I am confident in my swim and I’m fast, so I got in a group of 4-5 and within 3 minutes we were passing the swimmers in the waves that had started ahead of us. This really set the tone for the whole 30-minute swim. Quite a bit of weaving, and working hard to site with the current in the ocean to make sure I swam as straight as possible. But, the swim felt easy and I was happy to exit the water 14th in my age group of 180 people.

Santa Cruz 70.3 has an incredibly long transition, 1/3rd of a mile, to run from the beach to the transition area for the rest of the day. I went as quick as possible, but the pavement really hurt my feet, so I just made sure to be moving faster than everyone else that I came out of the water with.

The Bike – 56 miles, 2:40:35, 20.92mph

After a smooth, but slow and long transition it was time to fly! I knew that the bike was going to be tough with all of the people that were ahead of me, considering that I started in the last wave of a 2,500-person race. I probably passed +/- 500 people in the water, but there was a lot of work to do.  I was feeling confident going into the bike leg of the race, and my goal was to average 238-242 watts for the race while riding under 2:40, which would be tough considering all of the traffic.

The first few miles flew by as we rolled through town following the coast before entering onto highway 1, which is where the race really began. They (obviously) couldn’t close the 101, so I spent the next big chunk of the race tactfully trying to pass racers without getting hit by cars flying by at ~60mph. I did a good job of staying aero, however, my power was quite spikey in the early miles with all of the sprints to pass people – no biggie.

I stuck to my plan, ate every 20 minutes, dominated the big climb that diverts off of the highway, and had so much fun on the 26 mile, rolling hill return. My new bike fit definitely paid off during this section, as I was able to stay very aerodynamic while pushing out a lot of power. For the first time in all of my Ironman races, I gained position on the bike. Side note: typically, I come out of the water strong, lose a few places on the bike, and earn my ranking on the run which is where I typically shine.

I exited the bike in 2:40, which was a few minutes slower than I’d hoped – but considering the conditions and the number of people I was sharing the course with, I was incredibly happy with the effort. Even happier to come off the bike feeling very light on my feet and ready to give the half-marathon a go.

The Run – Just couldn’t make it happen

I started off the run after a speedy transition feeling good. However, I was cautious. I’d done a lot of rehab the past few weeks with all of my runs being short (less than 4 miles, with one double run day of 8 miles total), and only running every other day. My first 3 miles were 7:01, 6:51, and 6:50 – easy, for me, and I was feeling good.

Mile 4 began, and the all-to-familiar feeling of pain in my left leg started to flare up. I slowed to a walk, stretched both legs quickly, and presumed an easier pace. Still there. Stopped again, and the pain came back even sharper. I did my best to stay mentally and physically strong, but I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to finish the race without putting the next few months at risk. My 4th mile took me 12 minutes, and my 5th mile took me just over 15 minutes. My race was over. I crept my way into the next aid station where I called for the aid station caption to let him know I was pulling the plug, and wouldn’t be finishing the race.

It took a few minutes for someone to be able to drive me back into town, and I had a lot of time to process what had happened. As soon as I got back to the hotel, I grabbed my phone and immediately called April via FaceTime. As soon as I saw her, I let a few tears out, but she helped remind me that I’d made the hard, but right decision. I love you, April.

Onwards and Upwards

The day before the race, Jesse Thomas, my favorite professional and arguably, one of my biggest role models in sport, had a lot of awesome things to say at the pro athlete panel that I had the opportunity to attend. The thing that stuck out to me the most was his response to the question that someone from the audience asked: “Jesse, how do you manage training and staying healthy knowing that you have been injury prone on the run?” Jesse said that he keeps a close eye on his running, and if the pain ever gets to a 7/10, he pulls it. Following that up by saying that when you push it to an 8/10, that’s when you end up in a cast and are out for 8-10 weeks, which happened to him a few years ago at Wildflower. Long story short, I knew that I was at a 7, and didn’t want to risk the next few months of wanting to be healthy as April and I prepare our home for our new son who we are expecting in January.

 A very awesome group of guys. Enjoying nachos and good times after the race.

A very awesome group of guys. Enjoying nachos and good times after the race.

Sport is a huge part of my life. From the outside looking into my life, many would say that I’m addicted to endurance, triathlon, and competition. Triathlon is a sport that has radically changed my life, my personality has evolved because of it, I’m a better man because of it, and I hope that I’m a better husband and soon-to-be father because of it. It’s taught me that anything is impossible, and I see that everyday as I work with other people who are just getting started in the sport. (HUGE shoutout to CJ who went sub 6 with a ~20 minute PR, I'm so proud of all that you accomplished this year!) I know that I’ll be back stronger than ever, and I’m excited to have an off-season focused on family, work-life-training balance, while still focusing on my macro goals as an athlete and working towards being better tomorrow than I was today.

Thanks for reading!

Race Report: 2016 Ironman Canada

It's been 5 days since I crossed the finish line of my second Ironman at Ironman Canada in Whistler, British Columbia. It always takes time to process my thoughts after a race, especially a big, 'A' race like Ironman. I came into this race with bigger goals than my first Ironman last year, but I also laid out a much different training schedule this year compared to last year. With that said, in these few days that I've had to think about the result, what I could have done differently in my preparation, and how I performed compared to what I think I was capable of - I have been nothing but overjoyed and excited. 

April and I packed up our trusty Subaru and hit the road at a good time Thursday morning, 4 days before the race. Google Maps, Waze, and the iPhone map all made us feel like it was going to be between 9-10 hours of driving, so we knew it would be a full day. We made pretty good time getting through Portland, and I can't say enough good things about our meal at Burgerville - the fries and milkshake really hit the spot! Once we neared Seattle, traffic set in and our pace and time really slowed which ultimately set the tone for the final 6 or so hours of our day. We ultimately made it to Whistler by 9:30pm which was later than we thought, but if there is one thing we've learned, it's always worth a long day of travel to wake up in your destination the following morning! 

 Enjoying the sites in Whistler. This is at the Olympic Plaza in Whistler where the 2010 Winter Olympics award ceremony was held.

Enjoying the sites in Whistler. This is at the Olympic Plaza in Whistler where the 2010 Winter Olympics award ceremony was held.

The next couple of days were awesome. Whistler is really beautiful and we had a great time exploring the village, relaxing in our incredible lodge we rented and eating some of the awesome local cuisine. I knocked out my final pre race workouts including a swim in Alta Lake, and a few short runs and rides (you can check all of my workouts out on Strava). One of my favorite parts of the days before the race is getting checked into the race and spending some time at the official Ironman village. There is something so electric about being around all of the athletes and support crews, surrounded by incredible brands that support the race, and of course stocking up on new race day swag and other products. (pro tip: time flies at these events and remember that in the days leading up to your A-race you need to be off your feet, so enjoy the atmosphere, but don't spend all day doing that or you'll accrue an unnecessary amount of fatigue!)

 Attending the athlete meeting at the Ironman Village.

Attending the athlete meeting at the Ironman Village.

Ok, I'm getting close to the race. The night before the race was very laid back, just how I like it. April asked me "what is your perfect meal today?" and we ended up making homemade chipotle style bowls. I went light on the seasoning and no corn/beans but besides that had an awesome rice bowl with chicken and veggies, tortilla chips, and an amazing homemade mango salsa. Dinner was down by 6pm and after prepping my nutrition and gear bags, we were in bed by 10. 

Race Morning

Race morning was awesome. I woke up at 4:00am, jumped out of bed, and quietly sneaked out of the bedroom in the kitchen. I've got quite the routine when it comes to breakfast, and I ate the same thing I do everyday: greek yogurt, fresh fruit, granola, and a big cup of black coffee. April was up by 4:30 and we headed to the Whistler Village at 5:15, right on schedule. 

We parked the car, kissed, and said our good-byes. Transition 1 takes place at Alta Lake which is about 1.5 miles from the Village. Athletes are taken in shuttles and spectators have to either walk or ride their bikes. Logistically, it's a very smooth day, especially since bikes had to be dropped off the day before. I can't say enough positive things about how smooth the morning went! I hopped on my shuttle by 5:30 and was at the lake by 5:45. Dropped off my nutrition, special needs bags, and double checked my T-1 bag (even though I had triple checked it the day before!!!) and ended up finding April and her parents (my in-laws are amazing and made the trip up to Whistler to support) about 20 minutes before the race. I quickly got my wetsuit on, got one more kiss, and headed to the very front of the rolling swim start - it was almost GO TIME.

 Quick pre race picture before heading to the swim start!

Quick pre race picture before heading to the swim start!

Swim - 3800 meters (2.4 miles), 1:00:27 (1:33/100m, 1:25/100y)

I love the rolling starts that Ironman has introduced, and the start of this race felt very similar to last years Ironman start at Coeur d'Alene. I started in the <60 minutes group and was in the water within about 15 seconds of the gun going off. Right away I settled into my stroke and effort and found a rhythm. I did a good job of staying within my means and swimming easy. Can't forget that it's not a swim race, it's a 10+ hour long training day, so you always have to manage your effort. I swam through the first loop in 29 minutes with a strong group and was feeling very controlled.

 A great picture that my wife captured of the line of athletes before entering the swim. The line got much longer, with all 1,500 athletes rolling into the water over a 10 minute period.

A great picture that my wife captured of the line of athletes before entering the swim. The line got much longer, with all 1,500 athletes rolling into the water over a 10 minute period.

As the second loop began, it wasn't long before I started passing people who were still on their first laps. One lesson that I learned last year, is that if you want a good swim time you need to swim aggressively when passing. Rather than swimming around people I chose to swim through them this year, without clobbering them, I did a good job of swimming a straight line and not losing as much time. I made it through the second lap feeling very controlled and knew I would be close to breaking 1 hour. I ended up swimming about 15 seconds faster than last year, so it was a small PR, but an incredible start to the day.

Bike - 112 miles, 5:45:25 (19.45mph)

I took my time in Transition 1 to make sure that I had what I needed before the bike start. I put on my short sleeve aero cycling jersey, stashed my pockets with nutrition, and threw on my brand new Rudy Project Wing57 (LOVE!) and was through transition in a little under 5 minutes. After waving to April and the family, it was time to ride.

The bike started with a rolling climb out to the Olympic Park, then athletes enjoyed a technical descent back through Whistler before a long ride out past Pemberton before climbing, seemingly forever back to Whistler Village. I had a plan based on training that was based on power and my FTP of 285. I've learned to love the bike, and really wanted to set myself up to have a great run, so I gave myself power target and limits to ensure that I rode within my means.

Riding through and passed Whistler around mile 38 on the bike at Ironman Canada. An incredible course and race venue!

I made it through the first series of climbs feeling great and very in control. I first saw April and the family at mile 38 when we rolled through Whistler, and although I was flying, I made sure to let them know I was loving it and feeling great. That is when the bike felt like it really started.

After a series of technical descents, athletes embark on a 30 mile flat out and back section. This was time to focus on power, cadence, nutrition, all of the little things to set myself up for a strong climb back up to Whistler. I rode this well, stayed aero and in position, and was back through Pemberton quickly. As mile 90 got closer and closer, I knew that the looming 2,000+ foot climb was waiting for me, but I was prepared and knew that I had plenty left in my legs. 

I can't say that I enjoyed the climb, because I was mentally tired at this point. But, my body held it together and I was able to stay within my power while still feeling strong and as the climb progressed I felt like I really had a chance at nailing my A-goal of riding a 5:45. I passed quite a few athletes during the climb, and made the most of each aid station to refuel and graciously thank the volunteers. As I got closer to the village, I knew I was going to hit my goal time. Even more exciting, was how 'together' I was feeling, and I was excited to get on the run and rock the marathon.

A quick side-note on the bike: my normalized power was 206 watts, which was 5 under my goal power. I do feel like I left a few minutes out on the course, but considering the time, I'm very happy with the effort. The clarity and excitement that I had coming into Transition 2 is hard to explain, but I knew that I had the X-factor that I was missing last year (due to crazy heat and conditions) at CDA and that I'd be running the entire marathon on this day.

The Run - 26.2 miles, 3:41:31 (8:27/mile)

I flew through Transition 2, mostly because all I did was change my socks, put on my shoes, and grabbed everything else to put on while I was running. Once my Zoot cooling sleeves, race belt, and visor were on, it was time to do my thing. My goal for the entire run was to jog, and to jog within my means. Ironman is a long training day, and ultimately the goal is to get as fast as possible, so your 'easy' can be faster than others. My A-goal for the marathon was a 3:30 marathon which would average 8:00/miles. For me, that is a very easy run on a training day and it felt very within reason.

The first few miles of the run flew by, and I did a great job of slowing down the effort because everything about me wanted to fly with all of the excitement. There is just something so exhilarating about coming off of the bike without any mechanical or nutritional issues and being ABLE to run a marathon! 

The first turn around was at mile 8, and at this point I was averaging 7:55/mile and feeling in control. From the beginning I was walking through aid stations for about 10-15 seconds just to get down water and to grab calories before taking off for 1.5 miles until the next aid station. It's a sound strategy and one that I'll definitely stick with.

I saw April and her parents right before the 13.1 mile marker (half way) and was feeling great. I stopped really quick to give her a sweaty kiss, but more importantly to let her know that I was feeling good and that the day was going really well. I also knew that my race was about to start, because at this point I had close to 9 hours of racing in my legs. I made it through the half exactly at 1:45 so I was right on pace.

 Closing in on the half way point on the run and seeing my wife, April for the first time!

Closing in on the half way point on the run and seeing my wife, April for the first time!

The next 12 miles honestly flew by. I slowed down a bit, averaging closer to an 8:40 mile for this section of the run, but I enjoyed it. I continually combatted any self doubt or negative inner voice with the reminder that I love this sport, and that I do truly believe that it's a gift to be able to do it. I started drinking Pepsi along with water during this portion of the race, and the flat soda sat really well in my stomach giving me a great pick-me-up with the combination of sugar and caffeine.

As I got closer to the village, I knew that there weren't many athletes running around me that were finishing their second lap. I was excited to know that I was one of the few athletes that was close to finishing their day. I made a series of turns while taking the most exciting turn which said "finish line, this way" and knew I was on the home stretch. At this point, I simply soaked it in.

Running down the finishers chute at Ironman Canada in beautiful Whistler, BC! An amazing day.

I enjoyed the run through the village and made sure to thank spectators and wave to people who were waving at me, it was such an electric last mile of the race. I did have one athlete who was about 200 meters behind me, and as we made the final turn towards the finish, I decided to push it. I pushed the pace enough to get some room, and once I hit the red carpet it was nothing but fist pumps and smiles - I was an Ironman for the 2nd time, crossing the finish line in 10:33:45!

Post race thoughts and takeaways

I'm completely satisfied and quite frankly, overwhelmed with a sense of accomplishment after this race. I knew that I didn't have my best day last year at Coeur d'Alene and really wanted to have a day this year that I could be even more proud of. I learned a lot last year: the importance of salt and electrolytes, tweaks I knew to make in my bike training, and newfound confidence in my ability to swim fast. The feeling of accomplishment comes from the fact that I used what I learned, applied it, and had a great race. Finishing in the top 5% of the race at 74th overall and 13th in an incredibly competitive and impressive age group, M25-29.

I learned more this year, once again, and am excited to apply it towards my training going forward. I've made some big improvements on the bike, and am confident that the bike will continue to grow as a strength so that I can be at the top of my division in Ironman races. I know it takes time, and I'm excited to put in the work.

Most importantly, to April, thank you. Chasing my dreams means that I'm away a lot, and you have been incredibly understanding, encouraging, supportive, and energetic. You supported me 100% of the way through this race and were also a huge encourager for me on the days where I was lacking in motivation, and you helped me to stay on course. This is a WE accomplishment, and if I hadn't had that guy 200 meters behind me at the finish, I would have stopped to tell you that. I just couldn't let myself get passed in front of my wife :) 

Thanks for reading, everyone, and happy racing!

 

Race Report: Pacific Crest Long Course Triathlon

Last Saturday, June 25th, I raced the Pacific Crest Long Course Triathlon. The distances are close to the standard Half Ironman distance with the bike being a little longer – 1.2 mile swim, 58 mile bike, 13.1 mile run. This was a big fitness test for me as it fell 4 weeks and 1 day out from Ironman Canada which will take place on July 24th in Whistler, BC.

My debut Ironman last year in Coeur d’Alene was awesome. Although I didn’t hit the time I had hoped and trained for – it was an incredible experience on one of the hottest days in Ironman history with temperatures exceeding 106 degrees. One of the things I regretted from last season was not doing any sort of tune up race leading into Ironman. I was very excited to be able to participate in the big “hometown” race this year in beautiful Sunriver, only a short 15 minute drive from our home here in Bend, OR. Nothing beats waking up in your own bed on race morning!

Going into Pacific Crest I tried to set realistic expectations that were based more on the process versus the outcome, which is something I’ve really been focusing on this season. By focusing on things like effort, power, nutrition (process) I then find myself able to be much more pleased at the end of a race if I execute well, regardless of my time (outcome). With that said, I always give April time goals so that she can have an idea of when to expect me in transition and on the course and they were: sub 30 for the swim, 2:40 for the bike, and sub 1:30 for the run. I knew these were going to be tough, because I didn’t taper for this race – I trained right through it since the A race was only a month away.

Swim – 1900m, 31:18 (1:27/100y)

The swim for Pacific Crest is two beautiful loops in Wickiup Reservoir. This is about a 30 minute drive from Sunriver, so getting to the race early to get prepped was no problem which was amazing. After getting my bike tires pumped up to 105 PSI and getting the wetsuit on, April covered my neck in glide stick which is critical for me when swimming in a wetsuit. I gave her a big hug and kiss and headed to the boat ramp to line up with the athletes. The elite wave went off at 8:00 and the first age group wave, which I was racing in, started at 8:03. I had a few minutes to get a couple of warm up strokes in which is all that I needed – I felt ready to GO.

Pre Race Selfie with my bride!

My goal was to swim sub 30, but more importantly, I wanted to race hard but stay within my means. It’s easy to burn a few too many matches in the swim which can really hurt the rest of your race, and it is never worth it. I started out in the very front of my age group and found myself racing off the front in a pack of 3. My swim felt smooth and controlled and I made it through the first 900m loop in 14:20, ahead of pace but feeling good. This is when I started catching slower swimmers, and the second loop of the swim was much slower. I stayed with the front pack and we wiggled our way through the crowded loop exiting in just over 31 minutes. I finished 3rd in my wave and 16th overall including elites on the swim, so regardless of the time, I’m very happy with how the swim went.

Exiting the swim at the Pacific Crest Long Course Triathlon

Bike – 58 miles, 2:41:18 (21.57mph)

The bike course was something I was really looking forward to this race. It was going to be a great fitness test for Ironman, but it’s also a beautiful point-to-point course. The first ~38 miles is tough, with the course gradually climbing out of the cascade lakes, ultimately peaking at Mount Bachelor before athletes take a 20 mile, very fast and technical descent into Sunriver.  My goal for the bike was based on process – I wanted to keep my power between 235-250 watts, take in 110 calories every 20 minutes, and ride the hills aggressively while staying within my means.

Pacific Crest Triathlon Long Course Bike

The bike went GREAT. Coming out of the swim in the front is always nice because you don’t have to fight crowds in transition or on the bike. Right out of transition I started executing the plan. It was very cold for the first 45 minutes as were riding, so I just focused on taking in nutrition and keeping my power under control. Once the bike hits the cascade lakes highway, we were in the sun and although the temperature was still in the 40’s, I warmed up and was able to focus on the task at hand.

The first 38 miles of the bike were tough, but outside of a few long climb it was very manageable. I’m fortunate that I live and train in Bend, because the bike did reach a peak elevation of just over 6,500 feet – which is definitely a lot for racers coming from sea level. Once the bike course reached the Sunriver cutoff, it was a matter of focusing on maintaining as aero of a position as possible and hammering the flats to keep my speed up. My goal for this course was to ride 2:40 and I was very happy with my time and effort on this course.

Right before entering Transition 2 after the 58 mile bike

Run – 13.1 miles, 1:27:28 (6:40/mile)

The goal for the run was simple: run smart, but run hard. Since I came into this race carrying a lot of fatigue, there were a lot of question marks about how the run would look for me. I came out running strong, and as always it felt easy. My first 2 splits were 6:34 and 6:26 and I knew that pace was a bit hot to maintain. I settled into a 6:45 effort and found myself chasing a 10 Barrel teammate from Boise – it was awesome to have a rabbit to chase for the run.

Always feels good to make it to the run without any issues on the bike!

I knew that I was racing off the front, so I didn’t have many runners to chase and hopefully pass. However, I kept the effort relatively steady in the high 6:30 to low 6:50 range and did find myself picking off the 4 people that passed me on the bike. Around mile 8, the run really opened up and we had very little cover from tree’s which made for a toasty back half of the run. If there is one thing that I learned at Ironman Coeur d’Alene last year it’s that staying cool is key. Thanks to base salts and putting ice in my triathlon jersey every aid station, I did a great job of keeping myself cool and relatively comfortable which allowed me to finish this race feeling strong and ready for Ironman Canada in 4 weeks.

Ultimately I finished the race in 4:45:30 which was good for 1st in my age group and 13th overall in a very competitive and strong field. I finished the race feeling confident and very ready to tackle the last couple of big weeks’ worth of Ironman training before tackling my 2nd Ironman on July 24th.

Thanks a ton for reading – happy training!

Updates on Training, Racing, and Life so far in 2016

The past few months have been absolutely non-stop on all levels – personal, professional, and triathlon related. I’ve been given some big opportunities at work which has meant a lot of travel, I am on my way back to Bend from my 7th trip in the past 11 weeks. Additionally, April and I have had a lot of weekend events with both sides of our families which has mean that between crazy work schedules, our weekends have been seemingly non-stop as well. I don’t have a single thing to complain about though, life is good and I wake up thankful every single day for my wife, career, family, and the amazing place we get to call home – Bend, Oregon. On the triathlon front, I’ve had some new challenges enter into this year’s Ironman build with the amount of travel I’ve taken on. When I’m gone every other week, that means that my time at home is that much more precious so I’m trying to really prioritize time with April, friends, and being a home-owner (although, April carries a VERY large load of that) – with the additional element of two dogs who require a lot of love and attention. I have done a good job of making workouts a priority while traveling and have definitely put an additional emphasis on intensity because I haven’t had nearly as much ‘free time’ for training.

To elaborate a little bit on the training and fitness component, especially considering the nature of this blog, I’m stoked at how fit I’ve been able to get despite everything that I’ve mentioned above. I use Training Peaks to meticulously track every workout and utilize their Performance Manager Chart to monitor how my fitness is progressing. I am spot on with where I was this time last year, which is AWESOME. The reason it is so exciting is that my Ironman this year is 1 full month later this year – as Ironman Canada is in late July. This means that I’ll have an extra month to gain fitness and will definitely be showing up to Ironman in my best shape yet.

I won’t go crazy with race reports because the two races I’ve done recently have definitely been treated as ‘C’ races. For me, the difference between an A, B, and C race is the following. An ‘A Race’ gets a full taper, I rest up and really make the race a priority to show up in my best form – sharp, and rested. A ‘B Race’ won’t get a full taper, but I will definitely shorten workouts up leading into it to make sure that I show up in good form. However, I’m not affording myself days off as I’m still focused on the important races in the season. A ‘C Race’ would be a race that I’m going to train right through – still hitting big volumes and high intensities, and simply showing up to see what I’ve got in my legs on the day.

Salmon Run 10k

I raced a local 10k in Bend a few weeks back called the Salmon Run 10k. The goal going into the race was to run hard, to get in a solid workout and to not race smart. Basically, I wanted to race from the front no matter how fast or slow the race started to see if I could get my first overall win in a race. To cut it short, mission accomplished. I ran a 39 minute 10k on a very tough course and came away with an overall win which was an incredibly cool feeling. The time wasn’t anything special, but considering the course and my tired legs going into the race – I was very excited to have such a great race.

Salmon Run 10k

Bend Half Marathon

The goal for the half was to race hard and, again, to see what I could do on tired legs. I really wanted to run 1:25-1:26, a few minutes off from a PR, but considering how hard the course was I knew this effort would be close to a low 1:20 race on a flat course. The race course was challenging with two very big climbs, but I snuck away with a 1:26:40 and finished 3rd overall in a race with over 900 finishers. The race support was awesome – both with volunteers and spectators. Despite the very very cold and spring-like conditions (rain, wind, hail, cold), I was happy to have a strong race and to be able to cheer in my wife, some family, and coworkers as well.

Bend Half Marathon in Bend, OR on April 24, 2016

I’m working on a few posts that will be specific to my training philosophy that I use with coaching, along with some things that are working for me personally with my schedule. Thanks for reading!

Cyclocross is FUN

This past weekend I spent a fair amount of time hanging out with my Team 10 Barrel teammates at the cross races here in Bend, OR. It’s a big weekend of racing as part of the cross crusade series and wow is there a lot of energy at these races! It’s so different than the triathlon scene that I’ve become so accustomed too. Triathletes are very serious, focused, quite often OCD about their gear and nutrition, trying to stay off their feet during the days leading up to the race…the list goes on and on. Cyclocross is very different. There is a lot of drinking, tons of running around to watch the races and cheer on your team, and of course there is the insane racing – and there are some serious athletes at the races. I cheered my team on while hanging out at our team tent on Halloween which was a blast. There were back-to-back races going on, tons of teammates to connect with, and of course 10 Barrel brewing supplied us with more than our fair share of beer, snacks, and Halloween candy. Needless to say, the atmosphere was electric and it was energizing!

After watching a full days’ worth of races, our Portland team captain told me that I should come down the next morning to race in the beginner’s race since I’d never raced Cyclocross before. The Sunday races were costume themed, so he told me that the vibe would be fun and it would be a fun way to connect with the team as I’d be experiencing what they were all doing.

The Race

I woke up to a text message from a friend asking if I was going to be at the race. I pulled out some sort of excuse, probably something along the line of: “I’m pretty tired and ate too much candy last night, I’ll probably just head down later to watch.” After he told me that he was heading down to race, I jumped out of bed, texted him “ok, I’ll rally!” and I was down there in my camo onesie within 20 minutes.

Climbing a big set of stairs with my bike in hand. Super tough part of the race!

I quickly registered for the event, and OBRA has a very organized process which was great as a first time participant. I pre-rode the course, getting a chance to test out the sharp corners, obstacles, and getting a feel for what was in store. Our race was set to go off at 8:40am and since it was the first race, I was told that it would definitely be starting on time. I got in my designated coral, which was based on my bib number and energy started to creep up. I love racing!!!

The gun went off and it was an absolute sprint. I was racing on my full-suspension mountain bike, as I don’t have a cross bike. The benefits of a cross bike seem to be that they are fairly light, solid frames with no suspension so you don’t lose power when pedaling (just like a road bike), and they have disc brakes so you can brake in the mud. On a mountain bike, you have suspension which is awesome for rolling off-road, but for this type of event I definitely had a few disadvantages. Every time I pedaled the suspension would absorb a lot of my power output – additionally, my bike is roughly 29 pounds so it’s not light by any means when you are jumping off and carrying it over obstacles.

I gave it my all and did my best to use my aerobic engine to make up for the lack of equipment, and it worked! The first lap was tough as I was climbing through the field fighting for position since I’d started near the back of the race due to my corral placement. By half-way through the 2nd lap I’d found myself in the top 5 and just tried to manage all of the different things going on: sprinting past competitors on straights, not dying on the technical corners, and trying to get on my bike after dismounting for obstacles without destroying my downstairs.

My average heart rate for the race was 173 and it peaked at 186 BPM!

I entered the bell lap (they literally rang a bell for me which was awesome) and had only a few guys left in front of me, the only one in sight was a fellow teammate. I pushed out as much power as I could and on the final descent before the last sprint I made the pass for 4th and held on to finish my first 40 minute Cyclocross race.

All in all, the experience was awesome. It’s very different than my normal training and racing experience as a triathlete which was refreshing, especially this time of the year. The comradery within our team, and all of the energy with the thousands of attendees was definitely electric. I’d highly recommend checking out the Cross Crusade series, or a local Cyclocross event in your area to get a brutal threshold workout in, enjoy some drinks, and experience this awesome sport.

Super Dave’s Down & Dirty Half – Race Report

downdirtyhalflogocolor.jpg

I’ve struggled with motivation since Ironman Coeur d’Alene and decided to shut things down for the fall after the Deschutes Dash Olympic and Hood to Coast. I think this was due to the long training cycle I put myself through and the lack of racing throughout my Ironman build. Anyways, my running started to feel really good after Hood to Coast where I ran 3 legs and ~ 20 miles within a 24 hour period at faster than a 6:25/mi average pace. With the running starting to click, I decided to put in a bit of a running block. This was a chance to recharge my batteries while still building fitness. A few of my coworkers signed up for a very tough local Half Marathon here in Bend, OR and I decided to sign up last minute, about 10 days before the race. Super Dave’s Down & Dirty Half Marathon is a popular race that features a very tough climb over the first 6.8 miles of just over 1,200 feet. Once you reach the top, you get to fly down some very technical single track trail on the famous Tiddlywinks mountain bike trail. Probably the only chance I’ll get to run on this trail without getting yelled at by mountain bikers. J

Two weeks before the race I got a pretty nasty sinus cold that has been going around. I got a lot of rest and did some very easy paced 30 minute runs but that was about the extent of my training. This is something that would probably stress some athletes out. However I am a big believer in rest leading up to races and definitely knew that the ‘hay was in the barn’ after several weeks of 40+ miles per week and a fair amount of quality.

Race morning came around, and for the most part the sickness was out. Nothing beats racing in your hometown! Waking up in your own bed, drinking your normal coffee, eating your usual breakfast – it’s amazing. We headed up to the race around 8am, and were there by 8:15 – perfect, considering that it was a casual 9am start. I hooked up with my coworkers, got a bathroom break in, warmed up and was feeling great. Despite the cool temperatures, the sun was keeping us nice and warm so I stripped down to my Pearl Izumi racing singlet and Nike arm-warmers. I got my pre-race kiss from my wife and it was time to roll!

Right before the start of Super Dave's Down & Dirty Half Marathon.

As soon as the gun went off we started flying! The race starts at the Inn at the Seventh Mountain with a flat/downhill 1/4 mile through the parking lot until taking a sharp right onto the single track trail which is where the race began. We were running 6:00/mile pace for the first few minutes which felt comfortable to me, but I knew that many of the racers were running outside of their means.

The beginning of Super Dave's Down and Dirty Half Marathon.

As soon as we hit the climbs, people started falling back and I found myself running in a small pack for the first few miles. My dad taught me to run with short strides when climbing which has always stuck with me. I elected to run without my heart rate monitor so I was really just running off of effort. The first 6.8 miles were a grind with a mostly steady climb of about 1,200 feet with several spikey sections that were over 10% grade based on Strava. About 1 mile from the peak of the run, I passed the group I was in and found myself in 10th place as we began the fun descent down Tiddlywinks.

Elevation profile of Super Dave's Down and Dirty Half Marathon.

My average pace during the climb was right at 7:25/mile and my goal for this race was to hold a 7:15 pace. I felt that I was in 1:23-1:25 open half marathon shape, and running a 1:35 on such a challenging course felt like it would be a great goal. As I began the descent I couldn’t see anyone ahead of me, but I did my best to control my stride coming down hill and was able to click off 6:25-6:40 pace the entire descent. Not quite as fast as I wanted, but with the trail was very technical with a lot of turns, rocks, roots and obstacles so I knew I was putting time into my competition. Taking in Hammer Gel throughout the race (miles 5 and 10) definitely helped keep the engine going as I felt strong from start to finish.

Super Dave told us before the gun went off that we would know we were close to the finish when we hit a steep climb at the bottom of the downhill. Sure enough, around mile 12.25 I found myself grinding up a short but very steep climb and I could see the field where we finished in the distance. I knew I wasn’t going to catch 9th place so I strided out and ran it in strong for a 1:31:54 finish. This result was good for 10th overall including 3 professionals, an average pace of 7:01/mile and much faster than my initial goal of 1:35.

Overall, I am stoked on the result! The time is somewhat meaningless due to the difficulty and individuality of the race, however to place so well in relation to professionals and to feel as strong as I did is a great sign. I would definitely recommend Super Dave’s Down and Dirty Half Marathon and am looking forward to continuing to check out the trail race scene here in Bend.

Next up for me will be a subtle build in training volume, adding in some intensity to the cycling and continuing to swim at least 3x a week while I keep building my run volume and intensity. I’m enjoying the break from rigid training but excited to see my fitness to continue to build. The 2016 season is going to be a great one!

Hood to Coast 2015: The Year of the Storm

img_8767.jpg

This years running of Hood to Coast was my third, and without a doubt the best one yet! What a thrilling 30 hours and 31 minutes of team support, camaraderie, good food, family time, and hard work. The last two times I've run H2C was with a semi-competitive team from Nike, this year was with my wife's awesome family and I could have never imagined it would be as fun as it was. For those of you who aren't familiar with Hood to Coast - let me do a quick rewind so you can follow along. Hood to Coast, also known as 'The Mother of all Relay's is a 12 person relay that covers 198 miles, starting at Timberline Lodge at Mt. Hood, west of Portland and finishing on the beach (the 'coast') in Seaside, OR. The relay race consists of two vans: Van 1 and Van 2 who each have 6 runners. Each runner completes 3 legs of running distances of 4-8 miles, making it 36 total legs of running to get from 'Hood to Coast.'

Personally, I was in Van 2 and ran Leg 9 - a tough leg with 2 fairly flat 5-5.5 milers and a final 7.75 leg with rolling hills as you near the beach. I haven't inserted very much speed work into my training, and wasn't sure what I would be capable of. However, after putting together our teams time estimates into a rather complicated excel document (a.k.a. 'the spreadsheet') I was predicted to run 6:19 pace for my first 2 legs and 6:49 for the final long leg. This didn't quite feel within reach, so I crammed in a few last minute track workouts and showed up on race day feeling as fit and fresh as possible when taking into account how sporadic training has been for me since Ironman.

Final track workout for Hood to Coast at Cascade Middle School in Bend.

Our Van got to Sandy High School nice and early on Friday, about 2 ours before our first van was predicted to come in and make the exchange. (There are 3 major exchanges where the van's pass off wrist 'baton' to the other van, which is where having a spreadsheet with predicted times is critical and clutch!) We were able to get our van decorated, hit the Honey Buckets and our first runner, my wife April was able to get her mind & body right and ready to run her first leg.

Once the final runner of Van 1 showed up, it was go time! This is where the race really begins, and we spent the next 25 hours coordinating directions so we could make it to each exchange, stopping on the side of the road to cheer on our runners, and getting some rest when time allowed. One of the advantages to running with a team who was a little slower than the fast teams I'd run with before meant that we had some additional time to support our runners, as well as some additional time to rest between legs which was awesome.

My wife looking beautiful and super strong as she started her first leg, leg 7.

Since I was running Leg 9, this meant that the legs I ran were Legs 9, 21, and 33. My first leg began around 5:30 PM and was 5.5 miles and I was predicted to run 6:19 based on the 10k time I'd entered to estimate my paces. My goal was to start steadily hard and just maintain that effort. I clicked off 6:11'ish miles for the first few and ended up averaging 6:13's for the leg which I was super stoked on! It was a really hard effort, but short enough that I didn't feel too much fatigue after it was done.

Link to data on Strava for Leg 9!

My 2nd Leg, Leg 21, was a tough one - not necessarily because of the terrain or distance but because it began around 3 in the morning. The title of this post suggests that weather wasn't great, and during our vans second legs is when the storm really began. We had rain that was coming down at the intensity of my shower and lightening, but thankfully it was stayed warm and was in the low 60's. I was predicted to run 6:22 pace for this 5 mile leg and ended up clocking 6:15 pace - it was so wet I think I just wanted to be done!

Quick picture during our 2nd legs which took place between 3-7am - running on energy and teamwork!

Link to data on Strava for Leg 21!

Between the 2nd and 3rd legs is when things got interesting, and where we learned that the storm was affecting the outcome of the race for teams. Race Officials notified us that the wind was blowing at 75mph at the coast, and that they were having to close the finish line. Further, we were told that if we wanted to finish…it would be at our own risk! Crazy! What do you do with that information?! We were 2 legs into our relay, exhausted, and had no way to know what our Van 1 runners were thinking as we didn't have cell reception. We decided to pull into the final major exchange, rest, and wait to see what they thought when they came in to make the final pass-off. Thankfully, after a few hours the rain/wind lifted and in true Oregon fashion there was a weather shift which gave us some clear weather. By the time our runners came in, we committed to going for it and told Van 1 that we would get the job done and see them at the coast.

My final Leg, Leg 33, was the tough one. 7.75 miles of rolling hills to finish off my contribution to the relay race. I was predicted to run 6:49 pace and was hoping to be closer to 6:45's. I started off feeling strong and consistent right around a 6:45 pace, and for the first time (for me) the van pulled over mid-way through the run to cheer for me and play my power song! It was such an awesome boost of confidence and motivation, with my brother-in-law challenging me to catch a guy who I had been chasing the whole leg. Just the boost I needed and I fought hard to reel him in right at the finish, averaging around 6:41 pace to finish off the day.

Link to data on Strava for Leg 33!

Our team rallied and made it to the coast almost 2 hours ahead of our predicted time. We met up with our 12th runner and all crossed the new, make-shift finish line together, quickly followed by more than our fair share of pizza which was well deserved. Hood to Coast '15 was unforgettable for many reasons, the weather being the most obvious, but for me it was the awesome time spent with a family that I'm so lucky to be a part of.

Selfie with the Van 2 runners once we had made it to the coast!

Time to recover, and enjoy some un-structured training for the next few months. I don't have any races planned, but do anticipating jumping into some local races: a 10k, half marathon, and maybe even a road-mile to capitalize on the new energy I have for running after such a great weekend. Thanks for reading!

2015 Deschutes Dash Olympic Triathlon - Race Report

The three weeks after Ironman absolutely flew by! We stayed busy as we continued to get settled into our new home, and I enjoyed recovery which consisted of rest, some easy training, and a lot of really fun food. I didn’t know what my legs would have in them, but the Deschutes Dash is easily one of my favorite races so I signed up one week before race day. Mentally, I was excited to race and ready to push as hard as I could, physically. The Swim – 1300m, 14:04 (:50/100y)

One of the best things about this race is that it’s now in my home town. I woke up comfortably at 5:45 and made it down to the race by around 7. After an easy setup in T1 and T2 (this is the 2nd year that the course has had two separate transitions) I took my time making it to the swim start just up river at Farewell Bend Park. On my way, a guy named Patrick came up to me and introduced himself, letting me know that he’d read my blog after trying to do some recon on this race, this was a super cool moment for me. If you are reading this Patrick, thank you and it was awesome to meet you!

The swim is downriver in the Deschutes, which makes for a very fast and fun swim. The 39 and under males lined up around 8 and the gun went off at 8:05. The first few minutes in any triathlon are always fast as you try to fight for position, and I found myself sitting in the top 10 by about 3 minutes in. Many of my competitors stayed close to the inside of the river, but I stayed in the deepest channel I knew about and found myself right at the front of the pack in top 5 position by about half way through. The swim felt quick, especially since only 3 weeks prior I’d swam 3800m in 1 hour, after a thankfully uneventful hard effort I was happy to exit the water in 4th place overall.

The Bike – 25 miles, 1:11:52 (20.87 mph)

After a 2 minute transition (what the heck am I doing for 2 minutes?!?!?!) I was on the bike. After a short climb up Columbia, racers are on Century Dr. for a tough and very honest 25 mile out and back ride. I focused on heart rate over power, and aimed to stay in the 162-168bpm range. I got passed by 3 guys on the way up, but was able to catch one right before the 12.5 mile turn around.

IMG_8425

Once you make the turn-around, it’s all about holding a fast, aerodynamic position on the bike and descending as fast as you possibly can! I enjoyed the descent, but did say my mantra (“I’m married and I love my wife”) out-loud a few times; I took the corners carefully but made up about 30 seconds on the guys that were ahead of me. I saw my wife and brother as I closed in on transition and  was stoked with a PR on this bike course of almost 3.5 minutes, a huge testament that the hard-work on the bike is paying off.

The Run – 6.2 miles, 41:07 (6:36/mi)

After a very quick transition (:52) I was off on the run. At this point I was in 8th place and within about 1 minute of 5th. Normally, the run is my absolute strength but I knew that being 3 weeks post Ironman my legs might not have their normal leg speed. My first mile clicked off in 6:27, and I found myself holding 6:30-6:40/mi the entire race which consisted of some technical trail running and a few short climbs with one, gut-buster from mile 4.5-5.

Endurance wise, I felt the best I ever have – as I don’t normally hold an even pace in an Olympic. I made one strong pass around mile 3, and ended up holding this position, closing the gap but not quite catching 6th. I crossed the finish line in 2:09:58 which was right where I hoped I’d be as my goal was 2:10. This was a big PR of almost 3 minutes for me and I was so pumped to finish with the elite guys, as this was the fastest field I’ve heard of for this race. Thanks to 10 Barrel for all of the support, Hammer Nutrition for the nutrition which was so key, and to Wattie Ink for the most comfortable kit I've ever raced in. Huge shout-out to Jonah Belk who finished in just over 2 hours – he is fast, humble, and has a very bright future ahead of him in this sport.

IMG_8421

I’ll spend the next few weeks sharpening up, focusing on speed while maintaining some endurance by incorporating long runs and rides on the weekends. I plan to race a local sprint duathlon in August to test out the legs, I’ll race Hood-to-Coast and the final test for the season will be the Aluminum Man Olympic, where I will be racing for the win.

Thanks for reading and happy training/racing!

IMCDA Race Report. "Michael Wolber...you are an Ironman!"

What an incredible day. My first Ironman is complete and I’m already looking forward to the next. Writing this recap is important for me, I learned so much throughout the preparation for and execution of the race that I hope to apply going forward in my triathlon career. 10 days out from the race, I got a glimpse into the often over-analyzed weather report and the forecasted highs were…high. They were calling for high’s well into the 100’s in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and there was only one thing I could do: prepare both mentally and physically. I moved workouts to the middle of the day, added layers of clothing and sauna sessions to my already hot runs as Bend was experiencing a heat wave as well. I knew that the temperature would affect my race, but I was going to be prepared. Mentally, I had to commit to checking my pride before the race started – not being focused (obsessed) with time goals, but having a plan in place to finish my first Ironman.

My wife and I drove to CDA Wednesday which was awesome; it gave us plenty of time to get to the race destination, take care of all of the race day details in advance, and to relax. There was a lot of buzz online on the Ironman CDA Facebook group, the Slowtwitch Forums, as well as around town with people saying that the race would get cut short or even cancelled because of the heat. My thoughts, prayers, and conversations quickly became centered on my desire to race the full 140.6 miles. Hundreds of hours’ worth of training, thousands of dollars, and a lot of sacrifice from my wife most importantly, but also myself went into getting to the start line – I know that my intention of racing the full Ironman was shared by many, if not all.

Over the next few days, my nerves settled after hearing from the Race Director at the required athlete briefing that Ironman and the city of CDA intended for us to race the full distance. They moved the AG start to 5:45am to help with avoiding the high temperatures, and I was confident (hopeful) that I’d be racing the full Ironman distance. I did a few tune-up workouts, ate more than my fair share of Juanita’s chips, and enjoyed relaxing in our big VRBO rental with my wife and family as they slowly arrived from Alaska and Oregon.

Race morning arrived; I was up at 3:30 and ate my usual breakfast of yogurt, granola, blueberries and honey. One cup of coffee was all I needed to get the system moving, and I woke my family up using the hilarious intercom system in the house that also played AM/FM radio at 3:45am. My wife, brother, and I hit the road at 4:15 and I was in T1 by 4:30. Perfect. They announced that we’d be racing 140.6 miles and everyone was PUMPED. I felt confident, and calm, by far the least nerves I’ve experienced before a race. I knew that this had to do with my preparation, but also the overwhelming gratitude I was feeling to be able to race and do what I love.

Saying goodbye to my family before the big day began!
Saying goodbye to my family before the big day began!

The Swim (1:00:41)

My swim training really took a turn for the better over the past season. Chris Bagg really helped me learn how to work HARD in the water at Nike Masters, and starting in the fall my average weekly swim volume was 10k or more yards each week. My threshold pace in training progressively dropped and going into this race I was confident that I was capable of a 1:00 Ironman swim.

I lined up in the under 60 minute portion for our rolling start after doing a short warm up and was ready to roll. The first 100 meters consisted of swimming hard and finding space, I found the first loop to be comfortable both with my effort but the space that I had. I came out of the water in 29 minutes and was feeling good going into loop 2. By the turn around, I started catching some of the slower swimmers and knew that my time was going to be a little slower this lap, but I was ok with that. I found some feet and followed a few guys into the finish. Out of the water in 1:00:41 and completely THRILLED with my time and most importantly the effort, it felt easy!

Coming out of the water, kissing my ring and pointing to my wife and family in the crowd. Such a cool moment!
Coming out of the water, kissing my ring and pointing to my wife and family in the crowd. Such a cool moment!

The Bike (5:50:36)

My goal going into the bike was 5:35-5:45. However, I was committed to using Power and Heart Rate to pace the day, not time. After a smooth T1 (wow, the volunteers were amazing!), I was on the bike and feeling good.

The first loop flew by! The temperature felt good, I was able to see my family a few times which was incredible, and I stuck to the plan of 120 calories every 20 minutes (Carbo Pro + HEED) and drinking as much water as I felt I needed. I came through loop 1 in 2:52, on track for a 5:45 bike which I was happy with. Going into the 2nd loop I felt fresh, but the temperature was definitely kicking up.

Heading into lap 2 feeling great
Heading into lap 2 feeling great

I was still drinking plenty of water, and peed 5 times on the bike which was great. However, around mile 85 my stomach wasn’t too pumped on taking in any more of my warm calorie mix and from that point on, it was mostly just water that I was able to take in. I’m going to write a follow-up of the learnings from this race, and electrolytes were a big one.

I came off the bike in 5:50, with my 2nd loop being about 8 minutes slower than the 1st. However, my legs felt good despite not taking in many calories over the last 50 minutes and I was excited to run.

The Run (4:34:20)

My initial time goal of 3:25 went out the window when I knew that the marathon would be happening in 105+ degree conditions. My goal going into the marathon was to keep my HR in mid Z2 which is 150 bpm or less, to walk aid stations making sure I took in plenty of fluid, and to try and enjoy it.

The beginning of a very long run
The beginning of a very long run

After a smooth T2 with the volunteers doing an amazing job of helping me cool down – I was off on the run in my Hoka Cliftons. The first mile was controlled at 7:30 pace but I knew I needed to slow down. The next 12 miles were in the 8:30-8:50 range and I came through 13.1 in 1:52. As good as my mind was feeling, I still wasn’t able to stomach many calories and knew that I was on the verge of a total bonk.

Entering the 2nd loop of the run, I was watching fellow competitors drop out of the race and medical pulling people from the race because of the effect the heat was having on them. I was so committed to finishing, that I knew a run/walk was going to be the only way I could get to the finish. The last 10 miles were slow, I couldn’t get my heart rate over 130 and my fastest mile was a 9:08 and my slowest was 15:02. It was painful, mentally and physically, but I was battling along with hundreds of others and knew that I was going to get the job done.

When I made the turn onto Sherman Avenue, I was instantly overtaken with emotion. I looked behind me and there was no one there, so I knew I was going to be able to enjoy the finishing stretch of the race. I was waving my arms up and down getting the crowd to cheer louder, and looking for my family the entire time. As soon as I hit the Ironman red carpet I saw my family and BOOM, the emotion kicked into full effect. Seeing my wife and the rest of my family was such an incredible way to finish the day and as I ran by them Mike Reilly said the famous words: “Michael Wolber…you are an Ironman!”

The end of an incredible, challenging, and life changing day
The end of an incredible, challenging, and life changing day

My Thoughts

11:34 isn’t the time I’d dreamt of, but the feeling of accomplishment that I have is indescribable. Ironman is an epic day, and one of the big things that I learned is that it’s all about how you respond to what the day brings. I learned a lot, and will save that for my next post, but I’m already talking about what’s next. I love this stuff!

Finally, but most importantly, to the love of my life, April…thank you. The journey to get to the start line was something that we did hand in hand, and without your support and sacrifice there is no way that I would have been able to do it. I love you, and I’m so thankful that you are the leader of my support crew!

Enjoying the finish right before the final finishers came through! Always an incredible moment.
Enjoying the finish right before the final finishers came through! Always an incredible moment.

Race Report: Aluminum Man Triathlon

Well there is a first time for everything, and early on in the bike I made a wrong turn - I’ll rewind a little bit, but I wanted to explain that right away.

Race morning was perfect; woke up in my own bed bright and early at 5am, foam rolled, made coffee, had a breakfast of Fage nonfat greek yogurt and blueberries, two pieces of Udi’s gluten free toast, and 1.5 scoops of Hammer HEED in a 24 oz. bottle. We were in the car by 6:15 driving into the sunrise, gorgeous morning for a race. We got to The Dalles by 7:50 and I was checking in by 8. After a pre-race meeting with the other athletes, we lined up for the 9am start on the beach – I was feeling GOOD and it was time to RACE!

The Swim – (1000 yards, 14:02, 1:24/100y)

The swim to the first buoy was a little congested, but the traffic didn’t even compare to Lake Stevens 70.3. Once we made the turn, I found myself in a pack of 4 athletes and really got to enjoy drafting on the swim for an extended portion which was great. Once we made the final turn, I picked up my stroke rate and kicked a bit harder to get ready for the bike. I had a really great swim, I came out of the water in 5th or 6th place overall.

Swim exit Aluminum Man 2014

The Bike – (29.8 miles, 1:26:00, 20.8 mph)

I passed two people right away, one in transition and one early on in the bike. I see the race leader about 400 yards ahead of me and knew that I could win this race. I was holding a steady pace and working to lower my heart rate, it’s always so high coming out of T1. At mile 5 I approached a ‘Y’ in the road, and the only sign I could see said ‘Sprint’ with an arrow pointing straight – so I went straight. This is where the asterisk comes into play. I put the pedal to the metal and really started pushing, and about 1.5 miles later I caught up with one other rider, seconds later a police officer came up behind us in his patrol car… He let us know that we’d made a wrong turn, and he placed a call into the Race Director to figure out how to re-route us. We drastically slowed the pace for what felt like an eternity, looking at my data, it looks like we spent about 1.5 minutes as this call took place. Once he re-routed us, it was go time. I knew that I was out of contention to win, but I wanted to get back as fast as I could to run my race. I pulled into T2 with about 8 minutes of time lost on the course due to the wrong turn, disappointed, it was time to run angry!

Entering T2 Aluminum Man  2014

The Run – (6.2 miles, 39:07, 6:18/mi, fastest run of the race)

Often time with the run, I start out too hot. This time, I started out at the pace I felt like I could hold – and I ran an even split 10k with a fast kick at the end. It’s an out and back 10k, so I kept waiting to see who would be coming back so I could get a grasp of my placing overall and what the competition was looking like. I saw the eventual winner, Patrick Hiller, and knew that he was too far ahead to catch. Eventually, realized that I was sitting in 16th place at the turn around, and I made my goal to make top 10 overall. I ran a steady race and picked them off one at a time. At mile 5 I passed 11th place and he told me that I was about 1 minute behind 9th – go time. I pushed the pace and as we crested the final hill to descend into the finish I passed 10th place in front of my wife which was awesome, and flew in for 8th overall and 2nd in M25-29.

Post race with 2nd AG medal aluminum man 2014

Takeaways

I’m feeling the most torn that I’ve ever felt after a race. In one sense, I’m disappointed because I know that I could have won this race which would have been a first overall win for my triathlon career. However, it’s only my second season, so to know that I’ve advanced that much – I am thankful to have a body that works, to have a wife that supports me, and the desire to keep on getting better. This race was a huge step forward for me, my swim was in the very top, the bike would have been, and my run was the best it’s ever been overall (1st!!!). I’m excited to enjoy this off-season, to focus on my weakness and continue to sharpen my strengths, and to be ready to fight at Ironman Coeur d’Alene next year, my first Ironman. Thank you to Hammer Nutrition for the continued support, HEED, Hammer Gel, Endurolytes Fizz, and Sustained Energy were crucial in the 90 degree temperatures. Thank you to 10 Barrel Brewing for supporting Team 10 Barrel as well as our awesome team sponsors; Wattie Ink, Picky Bars, and Hydro Flask.