Category Archives: Races

Information and reviews on triathlon and other endurance-related events.

Race Report: Ironman Boulder 2017

Last season was a banner race year for me. Heading into Ironman Boulder I wasn’t sure if this would be a continuing trend or become more of a “hangover” season. Training for this race started early in December 2016, but after a nasty bout of bronchitis in February I lost a few good weeks that set me back. Despite the loss, I was feeling pretty good heading into my taper for Ironman Boulder.

I decided to fly out to Colorado about a week prior to the race to acclimatize to the altitude. I spent about 4 days up near Breckenridge, CO and another 3 days just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park in Grand Lake. This gave me a full week at around 8500 to 10,000 feet elevation, which is a few thousand feet above the elevation of Boulder, which is around 5300. I usually don’t have too much issue with elevation, so I figured this could even make things go a little better than normal.

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SUP-ing on Grand Lake, CO – Rocky Mountain National Park

We got down to Boulder on Friday before the race and headed right to registration. Registration and the expo was all centered at Boulder High School, which is also where T2 was. Parking in Boulder was a bit messy. There isn’t much parking on the side streets near the high school, but if you head a few blocks over near Pearl Street there are some parking garages. I love how they make you walk so much at these Ironman events. Like 140.6 isn’t enough?! Downtown Boulder, or rather Pearl Street, is loaded with places to eat and shop. It is great for your support crew to spend time while you are taking care of business.

I shipped my bike via TriBike Transport again. I am still loving this service. I just wish that my local bike shop would become a pickup/drop off point so I didn’t have to drive down to Philly twice to drop off and get my bike. Still It is better than shipping it myself or trying to fly with it. I also shipped a bag of gear which slimmed down my checked bag a bit. I was able to pack some tools, bike bag, spare tires and tubes, etc. I picked that up at the expo on Friday, but left my bike for Saturday when I have to come back for run gear bag drop and then take the bike up to Boulder Reservoir.

Ironman Boulder swim takes place in the Boulder Reservoir which is a few miles Northeast of downtown. The reservoir has been both wetsuit and non-wetsuit legal for races in the past, but those were all in August. This season they moved the full Ironman to June and the 70.3 is now in August. Chances are that it would most likely be wetsuit legal for the full in June unless they had an abnormally hot May-June. I think this year it was around 73 F degrees.

Run Bags on the Track

On Saturday morning I dropped off my run bags at the high school and picked up my bike at TriBike Transport in the event expo area. I took it out for a ride along the Boulder Creek Trail which is where the run course would be. I was pretty stoked that there were no big hills on the course. The course was also well shaded and the creek provided some additional cooling as well.  The only downside was that I would be running 26.2 miles on concrete. Not sure what that would do.

Bike Racks at T2 – Boulder High School Football field.

We then headed up to Boulder Reservoir to drop off my bike and my bike gear bag. Again, Ironman doesn’t think 140.6 is enough so it was a long walk to the transition area to drop off my bike and bag. It was really hot Saturday, reaching upwards of 92 F degrees. Fortunately, it was supposed to be a bit cooler on race day.

There was apparently some practice swims at the reservoir earlier in the week and also one on Saturday too. Which I found out later. Ironman did a pretty crappy job communicating this since I only heard about it afterward. I would have really liked to get an open water swim in since I hadn’t done any this season yet,

Instead of cooking my traditional pre-race Sweet Potato Chick Pea Curry dish, I opted for a Massaman Curry(not very spicy) at Basaba Thai Restaurant in Louisville. It was pretty good and seemed to sit well with me. Later I put together my usual race nutrition of Skratch Labs Hydration, Hammer Perpetuem, Amrita Bars, and a couple Honey Stinger Waffles with Peanut Butter.

On Race morning I downed a quick smoothie and some coffee and we headed to the high school from Louisville around 4:30AM. We ended up parking in one of the Boulder Parking garages(free on Sundays) and hoofing it over to the high school. The Special Needs bag drop was, as usual, a additional hike past the high school and back again to get on one of the shuttle buses to go to the reservoir. The shuttles where pretty quick and free flowing. This was the only way to and from the swim start and back again. My wife had to pack accordingly since she would be there for the swim and most of the bike leg. The bike leg comes through the reservoir for each loop of the 3 loop course.

When we got to the reservoir, we stepped off the bus to an amazing sunrise over the water. It was pretty spectacular. Then it was off to get body-marked, drop off water bottles on my bike and then head to the swim start. I said my goodbyes to the wife and seeded myself at the back of the 1:00-1:15 swim group. Denise then came down along the fencing right next to me for a bit until the race staff chased everyone away. Not sure why though.

Boulder Reservoir Swim Start – This was the scene after stepping off the bus in the morning before the race.

SWIM

The Course

The IM Boulder swim course is a one-lap, modified triangle that is swum in a counter-clockwise direction. The entry point and the exit point are about 100 yards from each other. The best thing about this course is that you never have the sun in your face the whole time. The water should usually be a wetsuit swim with the race being in early June, but with the amount of climate change these days, that is not a given.

The start is a rolling start where you seed yourself based on expected finish time. They have a very narrow entry gate that only allows one person through at a time, so every is well spread out. It is kind of nice.

My Take…

The canon blasted and the Pros were off at around 6:10 am. A second blast went off at 6:15 AM  for the Pro women. Then at 6:20 AM, the age groupers started heading into the water.

It took me several hundred meters to get in the groove of swimming since this was the first time in a wetsuit and in open water this year. Eventually, I settled into my normal stroke. Sighting was going pretty well, but the buoys never go by quick enough. The good thing was the altitude did not seem to affect me too much from what I could tell. Others I had spoken with who had done this race from lower elevations said that the swim would be the toughest part in regards to the altitude. I think my acclimatization plan had worked well for me.

I checked my watch a couple times during the swim and saw that I was pretty much on par with my typical Ironman swim pace. The last half mile or so seemed to get a little wavy. Although the waves were coming from the side and back of me, they still were throwing me off a bit. I don’t know what was causing them. The Wind or a safety boat…no idea? Before I knew I was touching the bottom and up and out of the water.

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Huh??!

A volunteer had stuck his phone in my face as I came out of the water and I was wondering what the hell we was doing. I ran up the boat launch and almost ran right through the wetsuit strippers. They actually stopped me and I said “Oh yeah I guess I need to ditch the wetsuit?”

T1

The first transition is pretty short from swim exit to when you get your bike. The point from getting your bike off the rack to the mount area is a different story. It is probably longer than the swim exit to the bike rack and it is also uphill. Seems especially long since you have your bike shoes on too.

I ran through the lines of bike bags and grabbed my bag from the volunteer. A quick change into my bike gear and I was off. Denise was standing right at the gate before going into the bike pickup area. I ran over to give her a smooch and was off. Once I got the bike it was a nice longer uphill trip, in bike shoes, to the mount area. Finally off on the bike.

BIKE

The Course…

On paper, the course is listed as having 4,436 ft elevation gain. For comparison, Lake Placid is listed as 6898 feet and Mont-Tremblant is 1800 meter or around 5906 feet. Both are well over 1000 feet elevation gain more than Boulder. Also, my Garmin 520 showed an elevation gain of 4944 feet and when corrected on Strava showed 4797 feet.

Ironman Boulder 2017 – Bike Course Elevation

Ironman Lake Placid – Bike Course Elevation

Ironman Mont-Tremblant – Bike Course Elevation (1800m = 5906 ft)

The course starts at the Boulder Reservoir drive above the bike rack area. It consists of 3 roughly 35-mile loops of the following:

Head South out the Boulder Reservoir gates and make a quick left turn and are immediately met with a short, but steep little hill. A nice welcome for your swim legs to bike legs for the start of the first loop. You then make a right turn onto Jay Road and eventually another right on Route 36. This is a gradual uphill for the next 7 miles until you reach the right onto Neva Road. You definitely want to keep things in check on this section.

From the exit onto Neva Road, left on 63rd Street until you reach the left on Nelson Road is about 7-8 miles of mostly downhill to flat. This section is where you can regain some speed lost from the previous section, so hammer it here.

Next, you will make a left onto Nelson Road and life will suck for the next 5 miles until you reach the St. Vrain Road exit. Especially, when you hit this section for the 3rd time. It is about 500-600 feet of elevation gain each time.

The sections on Route 36 are open to two lanes of traffic. So you basically have the shoulder which seems rather narrow and close to traffic. I also had to go around some cars when exiting the ramps off to Neva and St. Vrain, which was a bit too close for comfort.

The next 10 miles back to the Boulder Reservoir is mostly downhill or flat. Again, here is another place you want to hammer and make up for whatever you lost on Nelson Road.

As you enter the Boulder Reservoir you start to feel a sense of relief knowing you finished another loop, but that is quickly eradicated when you hit the little energy stealing incline reservoir drive. Eventually, you pass the band and fans with some downhill and re-energize a bit. Then, oh no another loop. Ugh.

After three of the above loops, you make a quick left and right instead of the right onto Jay Road again. Then you make a right onto the narrow Boulder Creek recreation trail for a mile and a half which is net uphill. Next, you make a left onto 26th Street and head South. The next 3 miles is a rather technical labyrinth of turns making your way back to the Boulder High School culminating in a total of 113.5 miles of fun. Not just 112, so you get your money’s worth here!America, Colorado, Endurance Sports, FinisherPix, Full, Ironman, North America, Race, Sports, Triathlon, USA, United States, boulder, multisport, tri

My Take…

I headed out the gate of the Boulder Reservoir, made a left and immediately hit with a steep little incline. Nice start! What a way to wake your legs up from the hour plus swim where they were just along for the ride. As I showed above,  the Ironman Boulder looked pretty tame compared to Lake Placid, Coeur d’Alene, and Mont-Tremblant. It was listed at over 1000′ less elevation gain than the others. The first uphill section on Jay Road and then left on 36  seemed like there was a pretty good headwind to add a little more resistance.

The first uphill section started on Jay Road, and then turned right on Route 36 until it exited onto Neva Road. It was not terribly steep, but just a constant uphill and false flat in some sections. It also seemed like there was a pretty good headwind to add a little more resistance.

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The left onto Neva Road until you hit Nelson was a blast. I was hitting high-20’s and 30’s here pretty easily. Weee!!! I was definitely reclaiming some speed in this section that was lost on the previous. I remember seeing my average speed go from 17’s up to 18.5 or more.

Next up was Nelson Road. Ugh. Again, this didn’t seem too bad on paper, but this one really sucked the life out of my legs. Especially after the 3rd time! Nelson also leads to a right turn on Rt. 36, which has a short uphill.

The weather was pretty nice early on. A lot of cloud cover and a cool wind that seemed to always be hitting me head on. As the bike progressed the clouds burned off and the sun started to blast. I think the heat and the Nelson grind took its toll on my legs. I was feeling it towards the end.

My back was extremely stiff the entire bike. It was causing me to have to have to stretch everytime I hit a downhill. I had never had this stiffness before on any of my long training rides. I didn’t understand it. The only thing I can come up with is that I had not done any open water swims in my wetsuit at all this season and perhaps that had caused it.

Our friend Pat, who we were staying with while we were out there, rode her bike out on the course to cheer me on at different points. I wasn’t expecting to see anyone I knew and it surely was nice to see her out there. I went through 2.5 bottles of scratch in two loops and another two on the second loop. I also took on a couple bottles of water from the aid stations too. I had around 3-4 Amrita bars, a Honey Stinger Waffles Peanut Butter sandwich, and a bottle of Hammer Perpetuem. I don’t think I ever finished the perpetuem though. As the temperature rose, I had less and less of an appetite. This probably didn’t help things.

My Stages power meter actually worked this race since it was dry and it didn’t rain. I was able to watch my power numbers the whole bike ride. I was shooting to stay around or under 0.68 Intensity Factor, which would put me under 300 TSS for the whole ride. I was on track  and actually dropped off a bit on the 3rd loop. That 3rd loop sucked. Not sure if it was the mental aspect of 3 loops, my screaming back or that the heat kicked up, but I kind of tanked on the last loop. And to top it off, I got stung by a bee that flew down my jersey on the 3rd loop.

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If you couldn’t tell, I didn’t really like this course. The course being open to traffic was too close for comfort!  There were a couple times where I was stuck behind or had to navigate around vehicles. One time I was actually stuck behind a box truck and was basically drafting it since I could not get around it. Since the course is 3 loops, you have access to your special needs bag 3 times. I guess you can only access it once and then you are done though.

It was such a relief to finally finish the 3rd loop and make the left onto Jay Road instead of a right. The section back to the high school kind of sucked. Riding on the recreation path feels rather odd after being on the road. For some reason it made me not want to go fast. Then it was a series of streets and turns making your way back to the high school which seemed to go on too long. I saw 112 miles come and go and thought “are we there yet?” What the hell?

T2

I finally saw the high school and hit the dismount area. My wife and our friend Pat were standing there. I told them that that was harder than I thought it would be. My wife told me later that I didn’t look good there. Not sure if that was my bee sting or just that I was pretty exhausted.

The distance from the dismount to the high school track seemed really long. Again running in bike shoes on concrete. My feet were also partially numb which actually hurt when I stepped. I dished off my bike to a volunteer as I entered the stadium and then grabbed my run gear bag which was in rows in the track lanes. I stopped a took my bike shoes off since my feet killing me now. Much better.

I entered the tent and took a little longer to get changed into my run gear. It was kind of hot now and I was not sure what lay ahead for me in the run. I finally headed out the change tent, stopped to get re-lubed with sunscreen again and headed out onto the run.

RUN

The Course…

The Ironman Boulder run course takes place entirely on the Boulder Creek Trail recreation path. The good thing about this is that it has a lot of shade and some coolness coming from the creek running right next to it. It also doesn’t have any major hills on it either.

The surface is concrete, which can be rather unforgiving. The course was also open to non-competitors, which could be pretty annoying if you are trying to get a PR. I am not sure if they were supposed to be on there, but no one was telling them to get off.

The course has two out-and-backs, or three, depending on how you look at it. They call it the “Flux Capacitor!” From the start at the high school football field to the first out-and-back is about three miles of slight downhill.  Then, you have the first out-and-back which is about 3 miles total. It is a slight uphill, but very gradual.

The next out-and-back immediately follows. This one is about 4 miles total and no major hills here either. There is a little less shade on this stretch too. Then you head straight back to the start and then past for what I would call the third out-and-back. From the point that you turnaround on the second out-and-back to the turnaround on the third out-and-back is about five miles of gradual uphill the whole way.

And repeat.

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My Take…

I started out on the run and saw Denise and Pat standing there as I hopped on the path. My back seemed to be fine on the run and at first thought I might have some running legs. That didn’t last very long though before things started to cramp up. I took my handheld water bottle and filled it with ice and water at every aid station. The legs were obviously not working and I began a walk-run rather quickly.

Immediately, the negative thoughts started to flow. Another DNF? I battled with my head for a while and finally overcame it. I knew I could walk the whole thing, but then I thought about my wife having to stand around waiting for me all day. The first 13 miles was a battle of pushing myself to run, which didn’t last very long. I was so dejected. There were a lot of other people walking too, which made me feel a little better. But that’s not me.

I always feel so unworthy or almost patronized when people cheer for you and you are walking. It is so humiliating. I started playing games of trying to get ahead of some other people. Mostly we were just hopscotching each other all day. Another thing that took my mind off the pain.

Another thing that took my mind off the pain was that the run course was open to non-competitors. There were people whizzing through the athletes on cruiser bikes. Whole families pushing baby carriages.  There was barely enough room for two-way runner traffic, let alone regular people lollygagging. I literally had to stop, during a one of those short bouts of actually running, to get around a family walking down the path. If I was actually having a good race and running I would have been pissed. But I wasn’t.

Eventually, I made it back to the start and saw Denise standing there. She had a slight look of panic on her face, wondering what was going on with me. I broke down a little bit thinking I wasn’t going to finish. Once she realized I was basically fine and could at least walk, she quickly said well at least you can walk and finish. I think that put me at ease cause I was more worried about her having to wait around that long. My whole attitude changed at that point. I told her go get some dinner and I would see her in a few hours.

The second loop was more of the same although this time I had a more positive outlook. Yeah no PR this year, but I was going to finish. There was a lot of people partying and having a good time along the trail, so I just took it in and enjoyed the experience. Maybe that sweet smell in the Colorado air had something to do with my change in attitude too, who knows. LOL!

Something went awry with the GPS on my Garmin(920xt) watch at about the 6 mile point that caused it to add a few miles. This really screwed me up cause I always thought I was farther than I was. I was making sure that each mile stayed under 15min/mi, so I would run as much as I could to keep it under that. I actually started to pick it up a bit and was fearing that Denise would miss my finish.

Finally, I passed the finish line for my last out-and-back section. It was just starting to get dark and they were putting the utility lights on. Fortunately, I still have not had to wear a glowstick to this day. The closer I got to the finish, the more I was running. I could feel it now. I ran the last mile straight through to the finish.Where did that come from? Mike Reilly finally got the full phrase out “Brian Schwind from Alburtis, PA…You are an Ironman!” Funny how he got it right on my worst finish to-date…LOL!

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#4 in the books! Not pretty, but done!

I slapped the hands of some random people as I came down the finish chute and shot up 4 fingers as I crossed the line, so someday I can remember my fourth Ironman finish. Not pretty, but got it done!

Overal Time: 14:08:33

The Finish

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The finish line was pretty unimpressive after Mont-Tremblant. What no massage? No Poutine? One thing that was nice was that they didn’t fence off the athlete food eating area, so you could sit with your family or wife to eat. The bad thing was there was no where to sit down and eat either. We had to sit on the grass, which is pretty difficult to get to and up from when you just went 140.6 miles. They also had Domino’s pizza which is so lame. What about giving a local pizza shop some business instead of some corporate slop pizza?

I waddled over to the football field to get my bike and gear bags, then dropped my bike off at TriBike Transport. I love TriBike Transport! We walked down the street to a local pizza shop and bought a couple slices to take home. The walk to the parking garage seemed like forever. I threw my stuff in the 4Runner and headed back to Louisville. Another Ironman down.

After Thoughts…

I am still mulling over what went wrong with this race. The only thing I can come up with is the heat got to me. Yeah it wasn’t 107 like Coeur d’Alene was, but I also really hadn’t trained much in temps over 80 degrees. In some of my recent training runs after the race where it has been in the high 80-90’s I was really feeling it. My pace was slow and my heart rather was high. The heat also makes you not want to eat much and that is never good.

Although I was not short of breath from the altitude at all, I wonder if it still has some other effects on your physiology that are not as physically apparent. The dryness at altitude can also play a factor too.

Regardless, I don’t seem to do well at early season races, races on the Western half of the US, and races in warmer temps. This was all of the above. Given that, I will take a finish even if it is 14 hours. It was also NOT my A race for the year. Ironman 70.3 Lake Placid in nice cool September is my A race and the last one for the season. I also still have Rev3 Pocono Half as well. Still a lot to look forward too. Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

St. Lukes Half Marathon – 2017 – 10 Seconds?!

Yesterday, I ran the St. Luke’s Half Marathon in Allentown, PA for the 4th time. Last year I had gotten a new personal best time of 1:45:10 since the first time I ran the race back in 2010 with a time of 1:46:41. 6 years older and over a minute faster.

This year my plan was to start out a little slower so that I had a little more energy for the last half of the race. The second half of the race runs through the Lehigh Parkway which has some crushed stone paths and this short, steep little hills that seem to suck the life out of my legs.

I also planned to down a caffeinated gel around the halfway aid station so I had a little extra energy too.  Last year I didn’t eat anything and I thought that may have left me a little depleted at the end.

The race started out well. I was running in the 7:45-7:55/mi pace and was feeling quite comfortable. Heading into the Parkway I kept my cadence steady and slowed a bit on the uphills to try to save my legs a bit. The hills still took their toll on my quads but I managed to keep a little quicker pace than last year.

At around mile 9, I looked at my Garmin virtual race partner and it showed I was about a minute ahead of last year. Hold steady now! Next thing I hear someone say the 1:45 pace group was coming up behind me. WTH?

The pace group passed me on one of the final little inclines and it kind of took some wind out of my sails. I never looked back at my Garmin to see if I really was over 1:45 because I thought it would depress me more. Now I wish I would have.

So I crossed the finish line in 1:45:20. I didn’t realize until I got home, but I had finished 10 seconds slower than last year. It is a bit frustrating to think that a little extra effort and I could have beaten last years time. Well, one thing is for sure I am pretty consistent I guess. Next up, Ironman Boulder!

Source: St. Lukes Half Marathon – 2017 | SportTracks

My 2016 Year in Review – Topping My Charts

I have just returned from another fabulous Winter weekend in the Adirondacks to celebrate the New Year. While I was there I had gotten in some ample cross-training time skate-skiing, hiking and some photography. This outdoor time gave me a good amount of time to reflect upon the last year. I keep hearing others saying over-and-over how 2016 was such a horrible year, but for me, not so much.

Cascade Moutain – Lake Placid, Adirondacks, New York

You would think that as one gets closer to the big 5-0 that PR’s and things would become less frequent. But my 48th year was full of them. What is up with that? Perhaps the fact that I had well preserved myself well during my 20’s and 30’s may have something to do with that.

December(2015) was full of Winter cross-training in Banff National Park in Western Canada. They had gotten a good amount of early season snow there and Lake Placid had none. We hit the downhill slopes at Lake Louise and Sunshine Village, got some snowshoeing in on the Bow River and a ton of photographing the beautiful Winter scenery on the Icefields Parkway leading to Jasper.

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First Light on the Icefields Parkway

In January, we had plans to spend a week in the warmth of Sedona, AZ but that was cut short due to a blizzard that delayed flights for several days. We still ended up with an amazing, activity packed long weekend there. We got out for some amazing hikes and photography some beautiful scenery. I replenished my vitamin D store with the clear skies and bright sunshine. It was a great reset before turning my attention back to the long Ironman training season that lies ahead.

Chillin’ on the Bell Rock Vortex

In February I started up my official Ironman training season with Todd Wiley. I had gotten to know Todd over the last year or so through some of his workshops and Lake Placid training camp and really like his personality. He was a prior pro triathlete and has had a lot of success with some pretty high-level athletes over the years, so I thought I would see what he could do with this old, average dude. My goals for the season was to increase my IM run performance while maintaining my bike and swim and finalizing that with a sub-12 hour Ironman.

In March, I had my first official race of the season, The St. Pat’s Allentown 5k. While it is only a 5k, this would be the first test of my fitness to see what I had accomplished during the last two months. I would also use this as my Lactate Threshold(LT) test for my training. It did not disappoint. I finished with a 1 sec PR of 22:45(chip time) over my prior PR from 2013. 3 years older and getting faster.

St. Pat's West End 5k 2016

St. Pat’s West End 5k 2016

In April, I took things up a notch and competed in the local St. Luke’s Half Marathon which I hadn’t run in since 2013 when I ran with my wife. I was planning to run it in 2015, but got a stomach bug the morning of and had to bail. My current PR for this race, and half marathons in general, was from back in 2010 when I finished with a 1:46:41(chip time). I also had challenged my co-worker Steve, who is what I would consider more of a “runner”, to a duel for this race. It was a bit of a stretch, but I thought the extra competition would bring out a little extra in motivation for me. Although I didn’t come close to beating him, I did manage to eke out another PR for myself finishing in 1:45:10 after 6 years. 2 races and two PRs…not too shabby a start to 2016.

Next up was my first triathlon of the season, the French Creek Olympic Triathlon. I had never done this race before, so I didn’t have anything to compare it to. I knew it was a pretty brutal race with a very hilly bike and run, so you could not even compare it to any other Olympic Distance race. I obviously did not PR this race, but I did end up on the podium by taking 3rd in my age group. This was the first podium since my very first multisport race, the Belleplain Duathlon, back in 2008 where I finished 1st in my age group. So now 3 races and 3 top outcomes.

French Creek Tri Podium

French Creek Tri Podium

In June I traveled up to Syracuse, NY for the Ironman 70.3 Syracuse triathlon. Another race I had never done before, but was hoping for a good finish here given the prior results so far this season. The race started off well with one of my best half-iron swims and a decent bike leg where I felt I hadn’t “burned too many matches.” The run leg was a different story. The sun came out and the heat turned up towards the end of the bike and my body turned to mush. Reminiscent of the Ironman Couer d’Alene run I fell into a walk-run for the very hilly run course. Ok, you can’t have them all! So with no PR to be had this time, I took my setbacks here and turned it into motivation for the true goal “A” race of the season at Ironman Mont-Tremblant.

Finish Run Ironman 70.3 Syracuse 2016

Hurtin’ for Certain – Ironman 70.3 Syracuse 2016 – High Temps on the run left a little to be desired for this race.

July turned out to be a pretty hot month, so I gained some pretty good acclimatization to the heat while training. If Ironman Mont-Tremblant (IMMT) was going to cook me like Syracuse, I was now prepared. Well, as much as someone who does not like the heat can be.

August came around quickly and tapering was in full swing as we made our way up to Mont-Tremblant for the peak race of my year. When race day came I could not have asked for better weather conditions. It was very cloudy in the morning as I prepared to hit the water. A fighter jet buzzed us so close it brought tears to my eyes. Then the cannon blasted and we were off. The rain started during the swim and poured down all day! For me, that was perfect conditions. I was like a pig in the slop.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 Bike Rain

Terrential Downpours on the bike leg of Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016

Due to some choppy lake conditions, my swim was not as fast as I thought it would be, but still one of my faster IM swims. My bike was one of my fastest so far but yet I still held back as I planned to save something for the run. The run was my best ever Ironman run. The rain came down and kept me cool while cranking out some 8:30-9:00 pace miles. I felt amazing the whole time. I blew away my sub-12 hour goal by about 14 minutes and coming away with an Ironman PR of around 50 minutes! I chopped off almost 30 minutes on my IM run time alone. Mission accomplished!

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – Finish

So now 5 races completed for this year and 3 of them were PR’s and 1 podium. What more could I ask for? A fabulous end to an epic season for sure. Proof that aging does not mean you get slower. At least not yet. Maybe by the time I am 50 I can qualify for Kona? 🙂

Usually with the last race of the season comes a little depression that it is all over for another year. I like to schedule something big for after my last race that keeps me on the up-and-up. Just when you think things can’t get any better we headed to Iceland for a two-week journey around the island in a camper.

Kirkjufellfoss – Iceland 2016

I let my body recuperate a bit and broke out my camera for an incredible trip. It was the perfect diversion for someone who has only thought about training for the last year. The scenery was out-of-this-world and it was a great end to all the hard work that was put in over the last 8 months. I have been working on a full report blog post on this trip which I hope to be published very soon. Stay tuned for that.

While you would think that was all for this year, I had to do one more race. I signed up for the local South Mountain 10-miler run which was kind of a birthday run for me. I had never done this race before, but it looked to be quite challenging. It starts not too far from the Lehigh Univesity’s Goodwin Campus fields and a makes it was up to the very top of South Mountain, turns around and heads back down again. It is very steep and a big slog. I ended up 40th overall and 6th in my age group. Not a great result really, but I maintained a 8:12 pace which is just a bit off my half marathon pace. It was more for fun so I am not too worried about that.

I concentrated on my photography a bit for the remainder of the year, which tends to play 2nd fiddle to my training. I made a couple trips to Lake Placid and a short trip to Salt Springs State Park(PA) for some photography sessions. I came away with some keepers and also started getting more active with my Instagram feed. I dug back into my photo archives and found some great pictures I had taken in the past that never made it off my laptop.

So now as we head off into 2017 and I set my sights on Ironman Boulder and the inaugural Ironman 70.3 Lake Placid this year, I have great memories looking back on the amazing year that was 2016. Despite what many others have felt. I have so much to be thankful for. I can only hope that 2017 is even half as good as last year.

I can only hope that 2017 is even half as good as last year. Although, it is already shaping up to be a pretty full one. I have several races on the docket and plans are already being hashed out for an amazing trip to Croatia and Slovenia during post-race season. As for goals, Ironman Boulder should be a challenge in itself given the altitude so I am not putting any time goals on myself for that. Perhaps working on pacing myself would be enough. I think Ironman 70.3 Lake Placid may be my A race for the year and I would like to shoot for a half-iron distance PR there.

My other goal for 2017 is to get back to regular blogging here. I have fell off the wagon a bit over the past year so I hope to pick that up again. I have just “cut the cord” and cancelled my cable TV subscription, so besides saving money I plan on spending a little less time in front of the tube.

If you are reading this, I hope you had a great 2016 and a even better 2017 as well. Thanks for reading!

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – Feeling pretty relaxed after finishing and just coming back from my post-race massage.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 Race Report-Perfect Execution

The alarm on my Garmin buzzed at 4:15am. I popped out of bed after a so-so night of sleep. Probably one of the better nights’ sleep before an Ironman event. I felt pretty rested and amazingly relaxed given I was about to be racing for ~12 hours. Hopefully less though. I was about to embark on my second attempt of my goal of finishing an Ironman in under 12 hours. Since my fastest time so far was 12:37 at Lake Placid in 2013, I had my work cut out for me.

Last year, I had made my first attempt at breaking the 12-hour mark at Ironman Coeur d’Alene in Idaho. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had something else in mind and provided 107 degree(F) temperatures that forced me to bail out with 13 miles left on the run. The dreaded DNF(Did Not Finish). This year, I was more determined to hit the goal I had hoped for last season.

I made and downed my usual morning smoothie along with a couple cups of Kicking Horse 454 Horse Power coffee, packed my special needs bags and headed out to the race venue. Denise drove me the 3 miles down to the swim start area and then I walked around a mile or so to the transition area. I dropped off my bags, loaded my water bottles and Amrita Bars on my bike and walked back to the swim start. I found a nice quiet place under a pine tree to just sit and chill until Denise and her parents came down.

I had turned off my Garmin 920xt watch in order to save the battery bit, but when I turned it on it just sat there with the “Garmin” splash screen. Hmmm…ok this is not good. I started pressing combinations of buttons to try to reset it. Finally one worked. Not really sure which one though. I restarted it and it finally started correctly. Whew! Not having a watch for a 12 hour race would not be good.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant Race plan forecast IMMT 2016

This was the race plan I had given to Denise the day before doing Ironman Mont-Tremblant. I always give her this before races so she can figure when to be where while watching the race. You may want to refer to this after finishing this post.

It was getting close to race start and I hadn’t seen Denise yet. I started to roam around a bit but still didn’t see her. They started playing the Canadian National Anthem, so I stopped and listened to that. No sooner did the anthem end and this fighter jet came soaring up the lake directly over our heads!! BOOM!!! WOW! It practically brought tears to my eyes! Not sure why that does that?! If that doesn’t fire you up for a race, I don’t know what would. Now I am fired up!

Right after the jet buzzed me, I spotted Denise in her “Kale” T-shirt. She was looking a bit panicked and emotional but was so relieved to find me. We were both amazed at the jet and could not stop talking about it. A few minutes later the jet buzzed by us again and fireworks at the swim start went off. What a start to the day! Next, the canon went off as the pro men started to hit the water.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 - Me acting like a goofball prior to the race start. Feeling pretty loose that day.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – Me acting like a goofball prior to the race start. Feeling pretty loose that day.

After the pros started it was a constant stream of age-group wave starts. We headed down to the very crowded beach and spotted my in-laws. We chatted a bit and then I realized I should get going. Good thing because I realized my wave was up next and I had to walk a little distance around to get in the start chute. I had to navigate through about 3-4 waves to get to me wave, which started right after I got there. And away we went…

The Swim

The swim started pretty comfortably. It was a beach start and I slowly made my way in on the outside edge of the group. I settled into a nice easy stroke. Everything was going great until about halfway out the first 1.2 miles(swim is one, 2.4 mile loop). I took a mouthful of water while taking a breath and started to choke on it. I do this on almost every swim, so I don’t panic about it. I just have to let my throat clear a bit to start swimming again.

The  swim was pretty calm until about 2 pylons from the turnaround. The wind was at our backs and it was hitting the water at this point, so it was getting a bit choppy. As we made first turn it got REALLY choppy. I felt like I was in a washing machine! I had to breath to my left only cause I would get clobbered with waves breathing right. I just kept my stroke and pushed on. It felt so clumsy with the waves bouncing me up-and-down. Eventually I reached the second turn bouy and made the final turn back to the swim finish.  The waves continued for 4-5 pylons(13 per 1.2 miles). Eventually, things calmed down a bit and the waves flattened out a little bit.

I was feeling pretty confident in my swim since I was passing many different color swim caps from wave groups ahead of me. I also was not seeing many silver caps from my wave so I had hoped I left many of them behind me. The first time I looked at my time was not until after the 2nd turn and it read around 38 minutes. Pretty much on par for my swim. I was hoping for 1:13-1:14-ish.

I thought I was getting really close to the swim finish, but then realized the course turned in to the right a bit. So I had to start heading in and it seemed to add some time until the finish. It got very shallow too and I had to stand up a bit and then was able to swim a little more when it got deeper again. Finally I hit the finish and ran up to the wetsuit strippers. I had trouble finding a stripper that was free so I probably lost some time there. Done…Time: 1:15:50…meh.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 - Swim exit. Only swim picture I got.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – Swim exit. Only swim picture I got.

T1

I ran through the narrow, carpeted chute heading to T1 scanning all the screaming spectators trying to find my wife. I finally found her on the opposite side and cut across to give her smooch. I am sure I probably cut someone off for that, but it is worth it. 🙂 Transition was busy but I found an empty chair and put on my bike gear. I then headed to the bike racks and grabbed my bike and was off. Time: 7:40

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 - Racked an Ready

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – Racked an Ready

Bike

I headed out on the bike course and heard Denise yelling from behind the fence. I gave her a good “parade” wave on my way Montee Ryan. Montee Ryan had a few little climbs but nothing major. We then made a sharp right turn up onto Highway 117 which comprised the next 30 miles. As you entered the highway there was a long moderate climb, but most of the highway was fairly flat cruising road.  There was one pretty decent climb on the way back. The good thing was you got to go down it on the way out. I hit over 50 MPH going down it during the first loop, which was before the rain really started. Weee!

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 - Heading out on the bike before the rain had started.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – Heading out on the bike before the rain had started.

Sometime after the big downhill and the turnaround on Hwy 117 the rain started. And it really started dumping too. There was also a pretty stiff headwind once you made the turn on Hwy 117 to head South. The raindrops actually hurt when they hit my arms. They were pounding on my helmet too making a very loud noise, constantly. It was like people were flicking the fingers against your helmet the whole time. The lenses on my glasses were just covered with water drops. Could have used some wipers or Rainx.

The rain continued to pour harder and harder as the bike went on. My Stages Power meter, which I had just replaced with a new rubber gasket, wrapped in plastic and black electrical tape began to fail. This device always fails on me whenever I wash my bike, so I thought that the extra wrapping would get me through a rainy race. Not the case. While it was still sending watts to my Garmin, the wattage numbers were getting lower and lower, which basically made it unusable.

I was now flying by feel. The good thing is that because I monitor my wattage frequently in training, I know what certain wattages feel like in my legs and in relation to my perceived exertion(RPE).

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 - Bike - Weathering the storm!

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – Bike – Weathering the storm!

We then made a short loop through the downtown area of St. Jovite before heading back to the turnaround in Mont-Tremblant. My parents had decided at the last minute to come see the race and had found a B&B South of St. Jovite and I knew they would be spectating in the area. I scanned all the people on the street but didn’t see them as I made the turnaround on the main street. Then I heard my Mom yelling from behind me and turned around to see her standing back at the start of the turnaround. I gave her a wave and then got back into cruising mode again.

As we approached the transition area we then headed to the 20km out-and-back section on Chemin Duplessis. The 10k out to the turnaround is the toughest section on the bike I think. It is a bunch of little steep climbs that seem to step-ladder its way to the turnaround. It gains about 550 feet over 6 miles. The good thing is coming back is like a roller-coaster ride. I was not able to take as full advantage as I would have liked to due to the slippery conditions, but I did hit 40 MPH on it.

I finished the first 56 miles in under 3 hours which was a little over 19 MPH average. A little higher than what I was planning, but I knew I would drop a little bit on the 2nd loop. So far still on track. My legs were feeling a little crampy, but not too bad.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 - Bike thumbs up!!

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – Bike thumbs up!!

I stopped at the Special Needs area and refueled with more Amrita Bars, 2-bottles with Skratch Labs hydration and one small bottle with my special race fuel mix.

My special race fuel is 4 scoops of Hammer Perpetuem Orange, a packet of beet powder(equal to 6 beets) and two dissolved Salt Stick capsules. I had one of these bottles on the first 56 miles, which I tend to occasionally sip between feedings of Amrita Bars. I had done this consistently in training and it worked so well.

I typically pack a peanut butter & jelly sandwich in my special needs bag, but this time I packed a peanut butter sandwich with 2 Maple Honey Stinger waffles instead of bread. Yummy! I chomped this down on the first climb on Highway 117 via the on ramp. A lady rode past me as I was devouring my little sandwich and said “lunch time!” I laughed and continued munching it down. You know it!!

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 - Bike - Torrential Rains pounded almost the entire bike ride.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – Bike – Torrential Rains pounded almost the entire bike ride.

The rain got harder and the other rider seemed to be more spread out on the second 56 mile loop . I just settled into a nice consistent cadence and enjoyed being in my little helmet bubble. The puddles of water seemed to be more plentiful on the second loop too, so I made a little game of trying to avoid them.  The time felt like it went so much faster on the second time around. I was surely not looking forward to my second run on Chemin Duplessis though. I know it would hurt.

I took the long, fast downhill cruise on Hwy 177 a little slower the second time around due to the torrential conditions. Still managed to hit about 40 MPH. I was not looking forward to the turnaround since I knew the blustering headwinds were just waiting for me. They didn’t let me down.

I eventually hit the turnaround in St. Jovite. Gave Mom a couple waves and then back to the task at hand. I cruised back into Mont-Tremblant and prepared myself for another bout with the dreaded 10k of Chemin Duplessis.

There were tons of fans lining the road and cheering as you start out on Chemin Duplessis which is a huge help on that first climb. I was surprised to find that my legs actually felt better the second time around than the did on the first. I kept a nice easy spinning gear and made my way up and up and up. A great sigh of relief came as I reached the turnaround and knew it was pretty much all downhill know to the end of the bike leg.

Now I wondered how my legs would be on the run. When I did Syracuse 70.3 earlier in the Summer, I thought my legs were good to go for the run when I came into T2 but I quickly found out that was not the case. It is always a mystery and you don’t know until you get there. For now I could feel the anxiety of it.

I dismounted my bike and headed into T2 at 6:05:38. I averaged ~18.4 MPH over the 112 mile course which included about 5700+ feet of elevation gain. This was mostly right on par with the predicted time that Best Bike Split had calculated. This was somewhat surprising since I really had no power meter numbers to go by since my Stages power meter had failed miserably on me. Again!

T2

I gave my bike to a volunteer and awkardly shuffled my way in my bike shoes to the transition tent. I grabbed my run bag and quickly found an empty seat. I changed into a nice dry pair of running socks…ahhh! And put on my running shoes. It felt SOOO GOOD to have dry socks on my feet! I put on my run hat and run belt and headed for the run. There was no need for sunglasses or sunscreen since it was still raining. Now the moment of truth. Come on legs…don’t fail me know. Time: 4:30

The Run

Whenever you start out running after being on a bike for 6 hours, your legs are going to be a little wonky. The first mile of the run also had a nice little hill in it, but I easily cruised up and over it. As the road flattened out a bit I was started to get an idea that had some running legs under me. Nice!

My plan was to take all on course nutrition this race. In my previous Ironman races, I had carried my own bars and a FuelBelt with my own hydration. A bunch of extra weight. This year I decided to lighten my load a bit and just take it from the aid stations. I always carried bars, but ended up not wanting to eat them or having trouble getting them down while running. This year I trained with gels on my runs and it was an easy way to get the calories in that I needed and then wash them down with water. I figured if I ate the solid food, like Amrita Bars, on the bike I would have a good base in my stomach and the sugary gels wouldn’t be so rough on my stomach.

I downed a gel at the first aid station and followed it up with some water. Unfortunately they only had berry flavor and not my favorite Mocha with caffeine. Oh well. It went down fine and I was feeling pretty good.

There was some slight hills in the first couple miles, but my legs managed to feel good despite them. I lowered the pace a little just to keep them happy.

As I approached the crest of the last big hill for a while, I saw my wife and in-laws standing just down the road where the condo we stayed was. I raised my arms high in the air, Rocky-style as I came over the hill to let them know I was feeling good. They got a kick out that. They shouted some words of encouragement as I cruised by and I told them I was feeling awesome!

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 - Denise and her parents planning out their course of action for raceday. Spectating looks like a lot of work? I'll just stick to racing thanks!

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – Denise and her parents planning out their course of action for raceday. Spectating looks like a lot of work? I’ll just stick to racing thanks!

The next mile or so was mostly downhill through the old village before flattening out onto a recreational bike path for the next several miles. I was really feeling amazing. I felt like I was running on my favorite running path, The Ironton Rail Trail(IRT), on a training run. I was looking down at my Garmin and seeing paces in the 8:20-8:40/mi range. I was in the zone, feeling good with a nice steady cadence. The rain started again and I was loving it! I was thinking if this keeps up I could destroy my goal here.

I heard a voice on my left and it was one of the bikers that lead the pros on the run. I stepped to the right a bit and she was riding along side me for a longer than usual time. She even complimented me on my pace which was pretty cool. Eventually she moved past and Laurel Wassner came up next to me. Usually, the pros just whizz past me as I am slowly trying to maintain some semblance of a running trot. Not today. She actually took a little bit of time to actually get past me. You really get to appreciate the speed of the pros when you are arm-to-arm with them. I gave her some words of encouragement and then she was off down the path.

After the out-and-back on the path we did a shorter out-and-back on a packed sand path before heading back up the hill and through the pedestrian village. This was at around the 10 mile point and when my legs started to feel a little stiff. I am sure the uphill had something to do with it.

The 3 mile stretch from the top of the hill back to the ski village was probably the roughest part of the run for me. Strangely it was mostly downhill though. My stomach was feeling a little queasy, but I knew I needed to keep some gels going in for energy. I think this was more of a mental thing since I knew I was not quite halfway and I needed to do this again. That all changed after I made my way up the steep hill into the upper side of the ski village.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 - running through the village with a bunch of Clifblocks stored in my cheeks. #LikeAChipmunk

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – running through the village with a bunch of Clifblocks stored in my cheeks. #LikeAChipmunk

As you come into the side of the ski village, spectators line the narrow chute through the cobbled street cheering like crazy. Little kids hands leaning out from both sides looking for high fives as you wind your way down through the quaint little village. I sure hope they washed those hands after! My mental state was instantly renewed.

I headed back out for the last 13 miles. I fast-walked up the steep little hill by the swim start and then settled into a nice cadence after that. My legs went on auto-pilot from there on out. While despite the stiffness, they just kept running. It almost felt like I couldn’t stop them if I wanted to.

I passed Denise and my in-laws as they were walking in towards the finish line. They shouted some words of encouragement and I yelled back that “I need more rain!” I guess they were confident I was going to finish at that point.

I hadn’t really looked at my overall time on my Garmin since I was just really enjoying the day. I didn’t want to ruin it by seeing that I may not make my goal time and honestly I almost forgot about that. I was REALLY just enjoying being able to swim, bike and run for an entire day!!! And on a cooler, rainy day too! That may sound strange to some, but I LOVE IT!!!

Before I knew it I was heading down the hill through the old village and onto the bike path. I also got that rain that asked for too! Thanks to the Dude upstairs! I settled back into my nice cruise mode cadence on the flat bike path through the woods for the next 5 miles.

I downed a few gels along the way and water at pretty much every aid station. Somewhere around halfway through the run, they broke out the soda at the aid stations. Well, typically it is Coke, but for some reason they had Pepsi. Yuk!! I am not a soda person, but there are two times I like to have a Coke: On an airplane and at the end of a race. Don’t ask me on the first one, but the second one provides a good blast of caffeine and sugar into my bloodstream to get me to the finish line. Personally, I think this is the ONLY justifiable reason for having the stuff.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 - On the run. Must be getting tired here...starting to hunch a bit.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – On the run. Must be getting tired here…starting to hunch a bit.

So now I could really use a blast of Coke and my only option is Pepsi. I skipped the first few aid stations that had it, but eventually succumbed to the powerful nectar. And I almost puked immediately! Pepsi is the worst! I eventually got it down and then from there on, I mixed it with water to dilute the nastiness of it. Finally I had some caffeine and sugar coarsing through my veins to get my to the finish in a brisk fashion.

They also brought out the Mocha ClifGels with Caffeine too, which is my favorite. I did most of my run training with this flavor and assumed they would have this on course. Maybe they don’t break out the caffeinated stuff until later? Between this and the Pepsi I was back in action again.

I finally reached the uphill section starting at the old village and knew I was only 3 miles away from finishing. I looked at my Garmin… 11:12:?? Wow…I think I got this?!!! With a renewed enthusiasm I now cruised up the remaining hills knowing that I needed to keep a running pace to keep that goal. It seemed to get easier knowing the finish was in reach and I was going hit under 12 hours.

About 2 miles from the finish, the sky parted and the Sun came out to brighten up the last few miles of the most spectacular day. You could not have scripted this any better.

Next, my Garmin beeped and displayed the message “Battery Low”. A little panic raced across my mind. Please don’t die on me now Garmin! Then I realized that it really didn’t matter at this point, but it would be nice to have the whole race recorded. I guess the failure of my Stages Power Meter kind of invalidated it anyway. Argh!

I grunted out that steep little hill right after the swim start. I remember a little girl cheering me on “Come’on Brian…you got this!”, everyone yells your name since it is clearly displayed on your bib. There is no way I could walk now.

Finally, I reached the final uphill before we turn right into the narrow village street lined with screaming spectators. The reality of reaching my goal time had started to sink in. A ton of different emotions swirled through my head. The past 7 months of training flashed through my mind. The past 8 years of training flashed through my head. From struggling to run a mile and struggling to swim 25 yards to now putting together a solid Ironman in under 12 hours. WTH???!! I really did all that? I thought about all those people that helped me get there and supported me on this amazing journey.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 - Heading towards the finish line!

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – Heading towards the finish line!

I headed into the cobbled village street past the final aid station. I declined the cups of water and Pepsi this time and instead just thanked the awesome volnuteers, who endured the torrential rains all day. I slapped as many of the little hands from the kids that were sticking out along the way down the narrow-fenced chute of the cobbled street. I then reached the familiar fork in the road. To the right was to start the 2nd loop. To the left was the finish line. I very happily veered to the left and cruised down to the finish line. I heard Mike O’Reilly start to say my name…”Brian…” Silence…Pause….”Schwind!” Then right on to some other guys name. For the 3rd time now, he has still yet to say “You are an Ironman!” after saying my name. WTH Mike??!

I happily crossed the finish line, raised my hat in the air and hit the stop button on my Garmin! 11:46:37!!! YES!!! Well officially it was 11:46:47.

If you look up at the predicted finish time I gave my wife, you will note that it reads 11:46:09. Only 47 seconds off! LOL!

 

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 - Finished 11:46:47!!!

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – Finished 11:46:47!!!

The Finish

I was quickly grabbed by both arms two really nice ladies. They got me a water, a COKE and a freakin’ HUGE finishers medal that almost pulled me to the ground. They escorted me to a guy that took my chip off my leg and another that gave me a finishers hat and tech t-shirt. They opened my can of Coke up for me too after I struggled with it for about 10 seconds. They asked if I wanted a massage? “A Massage??” I said “Hell Yes!” I was then instantly whisked away, out of the finisher area and up a hill into a round building. There were massage tables lined up everywhere and athletes getting massages. What I picture heaven to like.

The ladies led me over to Karen and said goodbye. I thanked them and then was instructed to lay down. Karen asked me what hurt and told her “quads and calves!”. She then worked her magic. I was so relaxed but was a bit worried because I never got to see Denise and my family at the finish. I had looked around, but never saw them. I was hoping they were not worried.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 - Feeling pretty relaxed after finishing and just coming back from my post-race massage.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – Feeling pretty relaxed after finishing and just coming back from my post-race massage.

After my awesome massage I went down to the athlete dining area and headed towards an area where spectators where standing. Denise and her parents were there and she loooked very relieved to see me. We chatted a bit and then I headed back to the feeding area to get some post-race Poutine!! Yum!

Denise and I then took the pedestrian lift up to the top of the village and headed to La Grille for my post-Ironman tradition of a Pizza and Beer. Another Ironman finish was officially complete. This one was even a little bit sweeter than the others.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ironman 70.3 Syracuse 2016 Race Report

Ironman 70.3 Syracuse was my “B” race for the year. This season has started off quite well for me so far, and I was looking forward to keeping that momentum going with a good performance here. I knew the course would be challenging, but I was hoping to get something around 5:30-6 hours.

Heading into the weekend the weather was looking pretty good. Sunny, mid-80’s and minimal winds. Mid-80’s is a little high for me but hopefully, I would be finishing by the time it got that high. My plan was to have a good swim, take it easy on the bike(~0.75-0.78 intensity factor), and then finish with a solid run in the 1:50-2 hour range.

Travel & Lodging

We headed up on Friday and spent the day in SkaneatlesNY. We were hoping to get out on the lake for some SUP time, but the wind was a little too brisk. I didn’t want to be out there paddling my ass off two days before my race. So we walked around town and did some window-shopping instead.

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The crystal-clear water of Skaneatles Lake

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Dewitt for the weekend. It was fairly nice hotel. It had been there for some time but was clean and well kept. The location was good for the race and was also easy drive to locations downtown

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Core Life Eatery Bowl

for dinner. It also close to the Erie Canalway path which is great for a short bike ride or run.

The Hotel also had a pretty good looking breakfast, but we opted for something a little better at the Rise n’ Shine Diner  in North Syracuse.  Really good breakfast! For a healthy lunch I would also recommend the Core Life Eatery in North Syracuse too. We have one of these opening near us and I am so stoked. I will be hitting that on a regular basis for lunch!

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Erie Canalway Path

For a really good dinner, head downtown to the Armory Square area to the Aster Pantry & Parlor.  Really good food, amazing service and cool atmosphere. So good we ate dinner here twice.

On Saturday, we headed over to the race venue to check-in and drop off my bike in transition. Temps were already heading past the forecasted temps I had seen earlier in the week, so I was already starting to suspect this was not going to be an easy race.

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Jamesville Lake Beach

Water temps were in the low 70’s according to the guy doing the Athlete Briefing meeting, which I overheard as I checked in. Pretty sure it would a wetsuit swim, but I was going to switch to my “john” wetsuit instead of full-sleeve. With the heat I generate, staying cool is priority one for me.

Pre-Race

I suspected a long line of traffic getting into the parking field at Jamesville Beach on race morning since it is only one road that all funnels into one entrance to a big field. We left the hotel at 5am for the 15-20 minute drive to the race, and it turned out to be not that bad. We only got backed up about 1/10th of a mile out from the entrance. The worst part was the traffic directors randomly decided to send us to the farthest point away from the race venue after parking everyone in front of us to the closest point.

I made my way over to transition to set up my small plot of real estate. I bumped into Megan, who had also did Ironman Coeur d’Alene last year and we both share the same coach. I was situated pretty close to the bike out, so it was pretty easy location to spot. Just to be sure, I hung my lucky Notre Dame golf towel next to my bike on the rack.

I then decided to walk all the way back to the car and drop my transition bag off at the car. I don’t know why I did this. It is a pretty long walk and I probably would have been better off just relaxing.

My wife and I made our way to the swim start and I got into the water to do a little swim warm-up. Little is not an understatement here. They had the swim warm-up contained within the tiny, roped-off beach section of water. It was packed with a bunch of wetsuit-clad triathletes trying to swim circles in this ridiculously small area. It was almost comical.

My wave was one of the last waves to start, so I had plenty of time to stand around waiting. Eventually, the yellow caps started congregating and I moved into the mix as they slowly made their way to the swim start arch.

Swim

I positioned on the far outter right-side of the group to give myself some clear water to swim. Or so I thought. I immediately became draped in seaweed. I felt like the creature from the black lagoon! I started trying to make my way back into the pack to my right, but the seaweed continued. Eventually, it did get better and the pack started to space out a bit. I kept sighting the pylons but they seemed like they were moving away from me.

I settled into a nice stroke rhythm and before i knew I was making the first right turn. As I made my way back I was right on the inside track going right next to the pylons. I felt like I was cruising now and even passing a bunch of people. Some from my wave and some from earlier waves too. I had a feeling it was going to be a decent swim, but I didn’t dare take the few extra seconds to look at my watch.

Eventually, I was nearing the shoreline as started to see the sand on the bottom. I swam past a few guys who stood up early. I always make sure I don’t stand up until my hand touches bottom. And then touchdown! I got up pulled my goggles onto my forehead and looked at my watch…34:5?? something….Sweet! By the time I hit the timing mat and pushed my lap button it was around 36 minutes and some change. Pretty happy about that.

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Swim exit – That’s me just heading out of the frame

T1

The race had wetsuit strippers and I was debating whether to use them or not. I decided at the last minute to use them which, unbeknownst to me, threw off my wife from videotaping me. She was apparently standing near the first couple strippers, and I hit the last ones due to my indecisiveness. They struggled a bit getting my wetsuit over my feet, so I had to pull my legs towards me to help them.

I then made a steady jog through the long aisle to my bike, spotting my old lucky Notre Dame(Go Irish!) towel. Shoes, socks, helmet, sunglasses and unrack bike. I was off…

Bike

The bike exit was all grass for about 10-20 yards and what seemed like a long little uphill jog until you reach the pavement where the mounting area was. I mounted my bike and headed out onto the road. I quickly came up to my on the side of the road wife taking pictures with her iPhone and gave her a wave as I cruised past.

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Out on the Bike…

The first 12 miles of the course is, well, uphill. There is short steep downhill at around 4.25 miles, which is followed by a sharp 90-degree right turn and then right back to climbing again. My plan was to put it in an easy gear and spin easy for the first 12 miles. I felt I did that pretty well too. There were guys flying past me, out of the saddle, and I just laughed to myself how that was going to hurt later. I checked my Garmin after the hills subsided a bit and I was at around 0.82-0.85 Intensity Factor(IF). My goal for the bike was to be in the 0.75-0.79 range, but the hill climbing would surely skew that higher.

Ironman 70.3 Syracuse 2016-Bike Elevation Profile

Ironman 70.3 Syracuse 2016-Bike Elevation Profile

The course then turned to long sweeping downhills and flatter sections. I switched into a bigger gear and settled into a nice cruising cadence. Speeds then ranged from 18-22+ MPH for the next 30 miles. There was an occasional hill here and there, but nothing like in the first 12 miles. There was one steep downhill where I reach over 48 MPH which was scary fast. The excitement was quickly squelched when the uphill that followed was just as steep.

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Around mile 45 we hit some more longer, less steep climbs before the final steep descent into the transition. I really felt good heading into T2 and I felt like I succeeded in my plan to take it easier than usual on the bike. Looking at my IF on my Garmin showed around 0.75, which is right at the lower end of my plan.

The one factor I did not take into consideration at the end of the bike was that the temperature was starting to hit the high-80’s. It is not always very obvious when you have a 20 MPH wind in your face.

T2

I cruised into T2, dismounted and headed to my transition spot. I was feeling really good and remember thinking to myself how I thought I was ready for a good run. I put my running shoes, hat, sunglasses and bib on. Sprayed my shoulders with some sunscreen and headed out on the run.

Run

The first quarter mile or so was paved, a little uphill and headed past the finish line area. We then passed through a treeline  and out into the large field were the car park area was. We ran around the perimeter downhill and then it made two rights up a rather steep hill until we got to the road. This is where things started to take a turn for the worst for me. The heat eliminating from this field felt like it stole my oxygen or maybe just my “mojo.”(Not too groovy, Baby!)

The uphill part of the field, right before you got on the road, really sucked too. My legs started to feel like they were going to cramp which sent a wave of panic through my head. I decided to walk up the hill.

 

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Not enjoying life right here

I eventually reached the road which was fairly downhill for a stretch. There was no shade though and the heat was baking the asphalt. I told myself to just keep a steady pace until my legs came around. I settled back into an 8:30-9:00min/mi pace. Not really were I wanted to be for a half-ironman, but looking at it retrospect I would have done well if I could have maintained that.

I hit the second aid station and loaded up with some water and ice. Things were starting to feel a little better now. Until…

Mile 2.5…My run took a turn for the worst. It was almost a mile of steep uphill. Not fun. Lots of walking. Just the view of this steep hill that doesn’t seem to end really played with my head.

Part way up the hill I heard a female voice from behind me say “I love Amrita Bars!” It kind of startled me at first and took me off-guard. She then said that she had 3 of them on the bike too. I was in such a world of hurt at this point I could barely get the words “Cool!” out of my mouth.

Once I reached the turnaround at the top of the hill I got back into a jog again downhill. I then decided to walk the aid stations in order to get liquids in. I also started drinking Coke. I usually save this for the end, so this was not good. But it did help.

My mind was dreading the thought of having to do this all over again. The temperature was getting hotter too. Probably reaching around 90 by now.

I came back into the turnaround, which the make you run right past the finish line. Thanks Mr. Race Director! I came upon my wife standing in one of the few shady spots near the finish line. I had my head down and told her I was not doing good. I was also about 20 minutes past the time I told her I would be back. She told me to “breathe” as I headed past her on my way for another 6 and whatever miles.

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Relieved to have the finish line in my grasp. The red glow is not from me overheating but actually the flow of the finish line decorations…I think?

I continued to walk the hills and aid stations. It was mostly damage control at this point. I remember somewhere feeling a bit dizzy from the heat. I was on my threshold of heat tolerance, but managed to push through it. I was dumping ice everywhere in my race kit and hat. Chugging coke along the way. I could not get enough liquids.

I started to get into a slow but steady shuffle for the last couple miles. I think the magnetic force of the finish line was pulling me to it.

I finally reached the finish line, relieved, and gave a half-assed arm wave as I made my way through the archway. A bit disappointed, but happy to be done.

I found my wife and met her at the fence while I collected myself a bit.

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Summary

This race felt like a smaller version of last years’ Ironman Coeur d’Alene, except I actually finished this one. I executed my swim and bike exactly according to plan. Unfortunately, the heat had gotten the best of me again on the run. I just don’t do well in the heat, no two ways about it. I also wasn’t really acclimatized to it yet since this was an early race.

One other thing I realized after was that I don’t feed well on the run. I always bring my beloved Amrita Bars, but I just have no desire to eat them or anything solid for that matter while I run. This happened during my half-marathon earlier this year too. I have always been anti-gel, but I think I may need to consider this for the run. I need something that is a quick shot of energy that will go down easier. Especially when it is hot.

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I am going to revisit this aspect of my run nutrition for the next couple months before Ironman Mont-Tremblant. I need to get more energy during the run and this is critical when I have to do a full marathon. Stay tuned on that.

This race has was a bit of a blow to my confidence. But, I need to leverage this setback to help push me harder for my A race. I have to acclimate better to the heat and improve my nutrition on the run. I think the swim and bike improvements are also a good step in the right direction.

Thanks for reading!

 

Race Report:French Creek Olympic Triathlon 2016

The French Creek Triathlon was my first triathlon event of the year. I didn’t know a whole lot about the race, but the timing of it fit well into my schedule. After checking out the race course and past results on their website, I knew I was up for a challenging event. Most of the prior years’ Olympic distance finish times in my age group were hovering around the 3-hour mark. A bit long for typical Olympic distance events. Usually, I am around the 2:30 time frame for Olympic distance tris. Having mountain biked at French Creek in the past, I knew it was hilly and the bike and run course solidified this.

I drove an hour up to French Creek State Park on Saturday, via the beautiful back roads of the Oley Valley, to pick up my race packet and do a little bike/run brick workout to preview the course a bit. The bike route was definitely hilly and most of the roads were in nice shape except for a partial stretch of Rt 345 that is in dire need of repaving.

I had to delay my course recon ride a bit while the French Creek”Tough Kids” triathlon was finishing up. It was pretty cool seeing all these little kids out there giving it their all. While I was waiting a minivan pulled up and the guy driving rolled the window down and introduced himself. It was Todd Hydock, another Amrita Ambassador that lives in the Philadelphia area. I had known of Todd but had never met him in person. We chatted for a while until the kids race had finished. Todd was doing the sprint race on Sunday, so we would talk more on Sunday.

Race swag was pretty nice for a small event. They had a nice white race tech shirt and a Clean Bottle water bottle. I had always wanted to get a Clean Bottle but never got around to getting one. There was also a reusable cloth tote bag and some other items from Brandywine Valley tourism too.

It was pretty dark for the ride up and it was just barely cracking light when I arrived at the race venue. It had rained heavily overnight and was still overcast which kept things dark until I got to transition.

I found an empty space on the rack right at the swim-in/run-out end of transition. Everyone else seemed to be congregating towards the other end. I preferred having space. It was still quite damp out, so I was happy to suit up early with my wetsuit.

I gingerly made my down to the swim start in bare feet to get in a little warm-up swim before the race. I was the first one in the water. Water wasn’t too bad. A little cool but perfect for a wetsuit swim. The water was a light, muddy color but not so dark you couldn’t see at all.

I had a lot of time before my wave start since it was the 2nd to last wave. My toes were pretty much numb by the time the race started. I really need to remember to bring some old flips or socks or something. I chatted a bit with a lady named, Jennifer from NJ, who was also outfitted in full Amrita Kit. She was not an Ambassador but knew Arshad and was a loyal Amrita customer.

I also ran into Amy & Bill Kline who are good friends with my old tri-blogger-buddy Shanna. I have run into them a lot over the last couple years and they are really nice to talk too. I didn’t know it after the race, but it was their 17th wedding anniversary that day. Pretty cool to be doing a triathlon for your anniversary!

The Swim

Finally, my wave was up. I sauntered into the water and was trying to stay back a little and to the left. The problem was everyone was staying back from the starting line. I was not about to stay back that far, so I ended up moving past everyone to the start line which was about waist deep. Not exactly where I like to be, but if they are going to lag back I might as well take the head start.

French Creek Olympic Triathlon 2016-Swim Exit

French Creek Olympic Triathlon 2016-Swim Exit

 

The first 200 yards kind of sucked like it usually does. It is just full of anxiety and nervous energy that it makes it hard to breathe. There was a little bit of bumping since some of the faster guys were going past or over me. Eventually, things settled out and got into my pace.

I had mostly clear water from there on out. Although I could have used some drafting help, not having to deal with others is nice too. I maintained a pretty steady swim and held steady for the rest of the two loop course. I never looked at my Garmin until I actually got out of the water.

I never looked at my Garmin until I actually got out of the water. It ready somewhere around 27 minutes, which is ok for me. I was hoping for faster but whatever. The worst thing is that the timing mats are the entrance/exit to transition, not at the swim exit. And it was at least tenth of a mile run to transition over little rocks. So my swim time ended up being around 28 minutes. I hate that!

T1

The 1st transition went rather smoothly. Ditched the wetsuit and popped on my bike shoes, helmet and off I went. Ba-da-bing…ba-da-boom!

Bike

There were practically no flat sections on this entire bike course! You are either going up or going down. Nothing in between.

French Creek Olympic Triathlon Bike Course Elevation Profile

French Creek Olympic Triathlon Bike Course Elevation Profile

The road conditions are mostly good, except for one smaller section on Rt 345 that is in SEVERE need of paving. It also would appear to be a well-shaded course, but hard to tell when it was so overcast. The road was also pretty wet

French Creek Olympic Triathlon 2016-Bike

French Creek Olympic Triathlon 2016-Bike

from the rain the night before.

My goal on this leg was to not overcook my legs on the hills and save something for the run. I would also try to bomb the downhills as much as possible and use “gravity” to my advantage.

I feel I executed that plan fairly well. It was surely not the fastest of rides, but my legs were still pretty fresh at the end. I ate one and a half Amrita Bars and 2 bottles of Skratch Labs during the ride. It is pretty easy to eat when you are climbing hills all morning.

T2

T2 was a bit of a blunder. I left my running shoes tied in a double know…duh!! So I was there fumbling around with that for far too long. It was such a rookie mistake. I also put socks on, which cost me some more time. Despite that, I still got out in 2 minutes and looking at the results probably would not have made much difference in the end anyway.

Run

The run started out flat for about a 1/4 mile and then it was up…and up…and up…for the first 4 miles. As soon as my legs were getting accustomed to running, the hills started. There was one section along a small lake that flattened out for a little bit, but then it was up again. The Olympic course also took a left, when the Sprint athletes went right back to the finish, to enjoy another larger hill climb.  By the time I reached the top my legs were screaming. I even walked about 10 yards or so just to get my HR down a little bit.

French Creek Olympic Triathlon Run Course Elevation Profile

French Creek Olympic Triathlon Run Course Elevation Profile

 

French Creek Tri Run

French Creek Tri Run

After the 2nd turnaround at the top of the last hill, it was all downhill for 2 miles to the finish. Ihave to say that last two miles were actually pretty fun. You knew you could just coast it in at that point. I felt bad for all the other athletes who were coming up those hills and was trying to give them some encouragement as I cruised past them.

 

I crossed the finish line feeling pretty good. The last 2 miles actually refreshed me a bit. Finish time was 3:01 and a few seconds. Not the best time for a Olympic distance event, but this was not your ordinary Olympic distance race.


French Creek Tri Finish

French Creek Tri Finish

Post-Race

After the race, I met up Amy & Bill, My Amrita-buddy Todd, and also Terry & Sean Fenoff who I had met at my a strength training workshop that my strength coach had a couple years ago.

I stopped by the timing booth and looked at the posted race results.  I saw that I came in 4th in my age group, which left me a little disappointed that I missed the podium by one place! Ugh…so close!

I decided that it wasn’t worth sticking around at that point and started packing up my bike and things in transition. I was also texting my wife telling her I got 4th in AG. While I was doing that Bill had stopped by and congratulated me on getting 3rd Place in my AG???!!! What??!! He informed me that the 1st place guy in my age group won the overall 1st place for the race, so that got me into 3rd! SWEET!!

I immediately text my wife back and said “scratch that…I actually got 3rd!” She was a little bummed that she wasn’t there now. So back I went and hung out for the post-race awards. It was pretty cool since Bill & Amy both won their Age Groups and they announced that it was their 17th wedding anniversary too! Also, Terry, Sean and Todd all podiumed too.  So it was pretty cool to see everyone up there.

French Creek Tri Podium

French Creek Tri Podium

I was pretty happy to finally get a podium finish in triathlon. I have been doing this for over 8 years and have yet to get a podium in a triathlon. I got one for running races and duathlons, but never a triathlon. I think the build up of experience over the years with good coaches and my focus on strength training this year is making a difference.

Next up Ironman 70.3 Syracuse…

Thanks for reading!

Race Report: St. Luke’s Half Marathon 2016-Older, Fatter, and Faster?

Last season I had to bail out on the St. Luke’s Half Marathon on the morning of due to a nasty stomach bug. I was looking forward to putting that behind me and getting another result here under my belt.

To make things a little more interesting, I also challenged a friend from work, who we’ll call “Stéphane” to protect his anonymity,  to this race. Stéphane is a much younger, lighter and naturally faster runner than I am, but I hoped that the longer distance may help level the playing field a bit. Also, the added competition may help motivate me to a new personal best time.

This race had given me my current standing half marathon PR back in 2010 with a time of 1:46:47 at a 8:06min/mi pace. I was also about 20 lbs lighter(165lbs) and 6 years younger(41) back then. Could I really beat this 6-year-old PR carrying another 20lbs and being over a half a decade older? I felt like I could, but who knows.

St. Luke's Half Marathon 2010 crop me bloody nipples

St. Luke’s Half Marathon 2010

The weather turned out to be perfect running weather. Sunny, clear and in the mid-50’s. I made it to the starting line without issue and with plenty of time. Stéphane and I chatted a bit as the 5k-ers took off. We were lined up pretty close to the front, so not to get caught up in the herd. I had got caught up in this the first time I did this race and suffered 2 of my slowest miles until I got past this group.

The gun went off and we were on our way. Stéphane was off and quickly out of site into the leading pack. I stayed back and tried to settle into a somewhat comfortable pace without getting caught up in the start of the race over-eagerness. I looked down at my Garmin and saw my pace was in the low 7 min/mi. Whoa…nelly!

My first mile was a 7:15 which is more like my 5k pace. I toned it down a bit and settled into around 7:30min/mi pace. While this seemed a bit fast for me, it was feeling right. I pretty much maintained this pace for the first half of the race, which runs along Martin Luther King Blvd and is mostly flat.

Heading out Martin Luther King Blvd – photo courtesy of MyEPEvents

As I approached the first turnaround near South 4th St., I saw my coach, Todd Wiley, flying by very close to the leaders of the race. He would end up finishing 6th overall!

I soon saw Stéphane, heading back as I went by the Parkettes Gymnastics gym. He was about a quarter mile ahead of me, but still not out of reach if he had issues later on. But could I keep up this pace and catch him.

I hit the 10k split timer just past the 15th street bridge which read 46:57! This would be a 10k PR time for me??? WTH?!

I made the left turn over the steep little bridge into the Lehigh Parkway. As I hit the gravel path things started to slow down a bit. Was the loose gravel stealing my energy or was it the steep  incline of the bridge and the little hill that followed taking the wind out of my sails? My legs were starting to rebel a bit.

As I reached the next two steep hills before the red covered bridge turnaround my pace was slowing to a 8:30 min/mi pace. I could feel the fatigue really starting to hurt now. I was starting to question whether I could sustain the personal best time I had started with.

I tried to hit most every water stop and get at least a mouthful of water in at each without stopping. I know that I don’t need much hydration a race of this duration. Getting a swig every 15 mins or so is good for me. I stuffed down an Amrita Bar right before the start and had another one broken up into pieces in my Spibelt if I needed more. The problem is getting the bar out of the Spibelt seemed like it would take more time to get out than it would be worth, so I pressed on.

In the Lehigh Parkway – Photo courtesy of myEPEvents

After a couple slower miles in the parkway, I was able to pick things up a little during the 11th mile. Miles 12 and 13 were a little slow again as my legs were really hurting. I knew there was no catching up with Stéphane unless he was having a really bad day. The thought that that may be a possibility kept me pushing on.

I finally made the last turn down along Cedar Beach and up into J. Birney Crum Stadium. I was so glad to be almost done. My Garmin was reading 1:44 and some change so I was pretty sure I had a new PR, but not sure where my speed co-worker was.

As I crossed the line, I grabbed my medal and saw Stéphane standing there already finished. Ahhh! I got so caught up in trying to catch him that my PR seemed to be of no significance to me. I was also a bit disappointed that I slowed as the race went on. A sign that I probably went out too fast.

The Finish – photo courtesy of myEpEvents

Ok, I just PR’d my Half-Marathon time by over 2 freakin’ minutes??!!! What the hell is wrong with me? It wasn’t until a little later when I met up with my coach who asked how I did. My initial reaction was that of disappointment but then followed up with I PR’d by over two minutes. He was like what? He was then like “that’s awesome!” I thought huh, yeah what am I disappointed about? I guess sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees.

Last week I was talking about it with my strength coach, Fernando, and explaining how I was able to PR that race being 6 years older and 20 lbs heavier. Fernando said you are “older and faster” and I added “and fatter too”. Hence the title Older, Fatter, and Faster! Pretty funny.

I have actually dropped about 15 lbs so far since the beginning of this season and am on track to lose at least another 15 by Ironman Mont-Tremblant in August. Getting down another 15 lbs will only serve to make me that much faster. I have PR’d both races I have done this season, so I am off to a good start and the sky is the limit here.

Next up is the French Creek Olympic Distance Triathlon in late May. This will be a good indicator of where my triathlon fitness lies by putting together all the disciplines. I am anticipating some improvement in the swim with some of the changes in technique I have made that have improved my times in the pool. Running off the bike will be interesting to see if I can sustain my improved pace with some bike legs. 2016 is proving to be off to a good start to a hopeful season.