Wednesday, July 13, 2011

1st Place Ironman Muncie 70.3

I'm playing catch up with the blog here, and fortunately Muncie ranks as a quick story. So quick, in fact, that I spent no more than 30 hours on my trip to Indiana and back to Colorado.

The whirlwind race weekend came about after I realized that I wanted to fit in one more event before my efforts in Lake Placid. I had considered the REV3 in Portland, but Muncie ended up being the cheaper and easier travel, and I felt confident in my chances of winning.

So, onto the plane, flight to Indianapolis. Met Luke McKenzie while renting my car, feeling fortunate that I did not undergo his travel woes. We rallied the drive up to Muncie just in time to check in around 6:30 p.m., drove back out of town to check into the hotel, went for a short jog, built the bike, ate dinner, and slept. Race start was at 8, so I had a little extra buffer, and we chose the best of two options for entering the reservoir in the morning... rock star parking.

Transition was set, and I entered the water for a nice warm up. Temps were in the high 70's, so it was a non-wetsuit swim. I had the new Zoot prototype swimskin, so I felt good about my chances, even though I usually swim a bit better in wetsuits. The cannon sounded and I got out clean, staying in control and leading a main group of contenders. At the halfway point, I pulled back and let Bryan Rhodes take the front, but we couldn't close the 20 second gap to the two leaders. Still, I came out in a fantastic position, right near and even ahead of some of the fastest swimmers.

The whole focus with this race was to keep the body remembering what racing hard feels like. I wanted to make sure that even if I had a bad day in terms of placing, I would get a quality brick session for my Ironman Lake Placid training. Considering that I was coming off a big week of training with only two days easy, I wasn't sure how it would all play out. Within the first three miles of the bike, I was riding my way through the field to the very front of the race, and pushing hard to stay away. I can't explain what it's been that has elevated my cycling so much recently, other than consistent, hard training, but I felt untouchable as I rode away from everyone. Even when I would hit a turn around and see a few people grouped up behind me, I didn't get concerned or lose concentration on my race. The legs were willing, and I pressed on.

Into transition, it wasn't clear what kind of lead I had over the pursuers, so I kept the pace even and made sure that I got the calories and fluids on board in case I had a challenge from someone. I was fortunate to get some accurate splits from spectators, and when I hit the halfway point and checked on the rough timing to second, I was confident that I could hold the lead to the finish. It was nice to have a little support from Ryan and Tom as they managed the race course, and I felt pretty light for most of the second 6.5 miles. I will say that the last set of rollers creep a little bit, so remember to keep a little in the tank if you go out there in the future. I rounded the final turns, gave my Aunt a high five in the chute, and raised my second consecutive banner at the finishline. Victory!

After breaking down the bike in the heat of the afternoon, I attended the awards, spent some time with my aunt and cousin, and then rallied to Indianapolis to catch my afternoon flight... back to Boulder and into the final two weeks of IMLP training. Boom!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Boise pics.

Some more photos from ace photographer Tom Robertson from the Boise race. Enjoy!

Friday, June 17, 2011

1st Place Ironman Boise 70.3

After a few start and stop efforts trying to get this blog up, I scrapped all the other words I had written in favor of brevity. A picture is worth a thousand words, they say, and I think this pretty well sums it up:

The biggest feeling after winning one of my favorite races on the circuit is gratitude... I know I could not do this without the wonderful people who surround me in this sport, so this one is for you. From the incredible support I enjoy from my sponsors, Zoot (wetsuit kept me warm, shoes carried me to victory), Specialized (Shiv rocketship), Clif (fuel for the day), Zipp (ridiculously fast wheels), SRAM (smooth shifting), FuelBelt (Revenge R20 on the run), Wattie Ink (carrying my bike up the hill and getting me interviews on the radio and television), and TriBike Transport (hassle free bike travel), to my family and friends, Tom Robertson for the great photo, Sue and Jay (perfect latte, man!), Dave and Jen for their warm hospitality (and plentiful beer), and the entire community of Boise who came out and gave their energy to the event... I say a big THANK YOU for making it one of the most special race weekends of my career.

The other part? I swam pretty well for me, biked like a man possessed, and kept 'er in second gear for the run as I soaked in the scenery and finally chased down the elusive victory on the Boise Greenbelt.... I feel happy.

Monday, May 16, 2011

4th Place Ironman St. George

It has been a little over two weeks since I put myself through the most grueling Ironman on the circuit for the second time in two years. I had hopes of getting this blog up immediately after the race, but I've been enjoying some slow and low days of recovery, clearing my mind of the triathlon world a little before beginning my next build.

St. George holds a special place in my heart. I first spent time there as a member of the University of Montana triathlon team in 2004, doing a spring training camp before our National Championship race in Lake Havasu that spring. We came back again in 2006, and then I returned last year to train on the course and race in early May. It's a fantastic venue with amazing community support, and I am guessing that it may be the most honest Ironman on the circuit, with incredibly challenging bike and run courses. There is nowhere to hide in this race... the strongest athlete wins.

My goal for the race was to win, and I believed it was possible after a hard-earned second place in 2010. My spring training was not perfect, but it was very good, and I toed the line with confidence that I could execute a race capable of taking the top spot.

The swim started out like any other, with the top swimmers pushing hard in the opening meters. I gave everything to find some good feet early, but instead found myself popped and leading a small chase pack with Maik Twelsiek and another athlete in tow. Around the midway point, I surrendered lead duties to Maik and prepared for a very hard bike...

I got out of transition ahead of Maiky, pushing hard to close the 2+min. gap to the leaders, and we switch hit the pacing duties until he pulled away around mile 30 or 35. We were steadily gaining time on Ambrose and Hecht, and Maik eventually made it up and through them, but I could not match his power on the hills of the first lap. With everyone fearing the eventual appearance of Weiss, we all continued to hammer the pace. At mile 37 or so, I passed TJ Tollakson, and rode alone the rest of the day. It was a great test of solo riding, and I am happy to report that I was able to maintain good power for the duration.

After passing Ambrose only a couple miles from T2, I transitioned fast and hit the marathon course with a vengeance. My Dad was on course yelling splits, and I dug deep feeling that I could close the 3 minute gap to the lead with a great run. I felt smooth climbing the hills, and I could see Hecht after a few miles, closing the gap from 3 min. to 2:40, 2:20, and eventually down to 1:20 near the halfway point. He was running the downhills exceptionally well, and I was pulling time back on the uphills, but as I headed out between miles 13 and 14, my 1:26 half split caught up to me quickly, and I had to slow for aid. The next 10 miles were my darkest racing moments in recent memory, going way inside my mind to battle the demons and keep moving forward. TJ was closing hard and made his pass for 3rd around mile 22, but I was too empty at that point, and he was running well. With only a couple miles to go, 5th was closing hard, and I made the decision that I would not give up the place I had worked so hard for all day... I put the head down, and clicked out two downhill miles at 5:50, letting the legs fly wildly on the verge of buckling. Crossing the line brought the usual surge of emotion, mostly happiness for having finished, and to have shaved nearly 11 minutes off my time from the year before on a day that saw much harder conditions. I'm still blown away by Hecht's gutsy performance for his first Ironman victory, and the class he showed afterwards.

Now, with the dust settled, I look back on another memorable experience in St. George with an eagerness to return in 2012 and take the win. I could not have put together the race I did without the fantastic support I enjoy, and I must thank my family, Lynne and Bill Cobb who graciously hosted us for the long weekend, Brian Mueller for providing the perfect spring training arrangement in Tucson, and my incredible sponsors: Zoot, Specialized, Clif, Zipp/SRAM, FuelBelt, TriBike Transport, and Wattie Ink.

Next up for me will be Boise 70.3, where I will look to improve on last year's 2nd place at one of my favorite races. Thanks for reading, and enjoy the summer!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Oceanside 70.3

Oceanside is one of the classic early season races, and usually boasts a stellar field. This year was no different. With a projected start list of 68 male pros, of which probably 8-10 were capable of winning, it was a deeply talented group. I came into the race looking for a solid training day with eyes on Ironman St. George in a few weeks, and I certainly got that.

The swim was a bit chaotic with so many male pros, and I never quite found my rhythm. I got out clean and tried to stay focused on finding good feet, but I just felt like I was going backwards from the beginning. Still, I came out around some other strong cyclists and went to work on my newly dialed Shiv rocketship. Thanks to Joe, Myron, and Jeff at the Specialized truck, the steed was ready to let out of its cage...

Sadly, I couldn't match the bike's enthusiasm, and the legs just weren't snappy enough to be competitive with the strong group of athletes on the back half of the ride. Instead of things getting strung out in the first half of the race, the pack only seemed to grow larger, and although most athletes maintained just the legal distance, the riding was very hard. Between miles 30-35 the group faced a stiff headwind and a series of rollers, and right as the catch was made on the leaders, I fell off the pace. I simply felt flat and did not have the power to match the other athletes in that moment. Coming off the bike several minutes down was a little demoralizing, but I kept perspective and settled into a good pace on the run. By the second lap I was feeling much better, and continued to pick off athletes... I never stopped racing, and the memory of last year's sprint finish kept me on the gas until the line, where I finished in 4:07:33 in 13th. Certainly not my best effort, but a good one for early season. For reference, I had a very similar time last year and finished 7th.

I'm not going to spend a lot of time hashing out what went wrong or why I didn't achieve a result that I was more satisfied with. The fact is that I didn't race particularly well, and there were a lot of other people who did. My congratulations to everyone who took on the course, for the age-groupers who earned Kona slots, the volunteers for making the race possible, and of course to Potts and Carfrae for classy wins.

Only a few more weeks of hard work here in Tucson, and it will be back to St. George for the first Ironman of the year...

Friday, April 1, 2011

1st Place Xterra Real Granite Bay

I've raced three Xterra triathlons now, and I've managed a first place finish in each, but this last event was like no other I had done before...

After spending a few days touring around California, I headed down to Morgan Hill to pick up my brand new S-Works Epic 29er and get a little test ride before the race. It was a rainy week, and the grounds in Cali were heavily laden with water. My test ride quickly became a road ride after I discovered how saturated the trails were... even so, the high performance aspects of the new bike were evident and my confidence was immediately bolstered for the race.

A great evening dealer visit at Kinetic Cycles in nearby Elk Grove got everyone excited for a crazy day in Granite Bay, and we all powered down coffee and rallied out to the race venue.

After getting our bikes and transitions all dialed, we hesitantly donned our wetsuits and made our way down to the swim start. I've done a few cold swims in my day, but this might have taken the cake. Water temps were 48 degrees, and a warm-up was impossible. When the cannon went off, it was just survival mode, and I did my best to stay calm as my body battled the freezing waters, capillary shock in the face, and shortness of breath. Fortunately, it was over quick, and even though my feet would remain numb for most of the race, I was just happy to be on the new bike, shredding trail as the lead male...

The first lap was just about trying to get a gap on my pursuers, and I managed to get out of sight within the first few miles. The course was a ton of fun, with some good sandy sections, muddy open fields, and swooping singletrack in the trees. I settled into a good rhythm and let the bike take care of the rest... Until the second lap. With a couple hundred riders beating up the soggy course, things quickly got interesting. Lots of "quicksand," mud bogs, and peanut butter corners meant that I crashed about 3 times. Fortunately, the soft ground saved my body from anything more than scratches, and I came into T2 with a few minutes lead.

I hit the first miles of the run hard, then eased back to enjoy beautiful panoramic views of the lakeside coves and forested hills. In the end, I was clear by a couple minutes over Andrew Young (new friend and Specialized dealer from New Zealand), and Jimmy Archer.

I really love racing Xterra, and I will be targeting a couple more races this year... Thanks to all the volunteers, race staff, and all my sponsors for making it a memorable day and the first victory of 2011! See you on the trails...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

12th Place Abu Dhabi International Triathlon

I’m back in the States after a whirlwind trip to the United Arab Emirates, specifically Abu Dhabi, for the first real race of my season. Having never been to the UAE, I had only the stories of others as a guide, but maintained a relatively open mind about the experience. I knew that the bike leg would be long. I knew that the field was deep. I knew that it was a wealthy region undergoing tremendous growth. I knew the landscape was mostly a barren desert. The rest was left to imagination as I crossed the Atlantic on a jetstream...

Somewhat jetlagged and disoriented, I checked in the very nice race hotel, compliments of the very generous race organizers, and attempted to sleep. The pattern which would prevail for the next 3 nights emerged: Fitful, restless attempts at sleep. One hour here, 30 minutes there, and not more than about 3 or 4 hours total, and then it was light out and time to take care of pre-race duties. I did a little ocean swim in the back of the hotel, ran a quick 4 miles, and briefly spun out the legs before checking in my bike and gear bags. This was some of the fastest turnaround I had done for a race of this caliber, but I decided it was best to avoid interrupting my training too much for a race that wasn't a season goal.

Race morning came swiftly, and I enjoyed the company of a former teammate, Jessica Jacobs as we walked through the opulent grounds of the Emirates Palace to the transition and swim start area. Professionals enjoyed top-notch treatment at the event, and the bike racks were all customized with our names and nationalities. Very cool.

The swim was a two loop affair, and after a couple short delays, we were sprinting from the beach to the questionably non-wetsuit waters of the ocean. I got out okay on the inside buoy line and found a good pack early. Halfway through the first lap we were gapped from the leaders, but I stayed comfortable in the chase pack. It wasn't a great swim, but it wasn't terrible either. When I saw Llanos, McCormack, Gambles, and a few other strong riders within the first kilometers, my spirit was lifted some and I settled in for a long day in the saddle...

And when I say long day, I mean 124 miles of wind, sand, and heat. Abu Dhabi is not known for it's stunning vistas (save some dunes I discovered later), so it was a lot of miles in a moonscape setting, passing little more than highway guardrails and one stand of mangrove trees. Still, I embraced the austerity of the place as a true mental toughness test, and knuckled down. After one loop of very fast riding, our group was completely shattered. Some had dropped, others fallen off, and even a couple had made a heroic bid to get across to the leaders. I remained in a small group as we passed through the Formula 1 racing circuit and then back and forth through the desolate stretches of Emirate desert. By the last time we reached town and headed out for the final half-lap, I dropped the other riders and made a break, riding solo for about the last 30 miles. I felt surprisingly in control, and had managed to stay on top of my nutrition, but I was losing time to the lead group ahead...

Into T2 I just kept in mind that it was a very hot day and people would be slowing down. It was a bit of a mental boost knowing that I would not have to tackle a full marathon too, and I took off with the best of intentions. The first lap was a very solid effort, and then I realized that my chances of picking off in anyone in front were very unlikely, as well as being overtaken. Not proud to admit that my mind drifted a bit to complacency, and I settled into a more comfortable "maintenance" pace and tried to recoup fluid in the last miles. Coming through the finishing stretch, I was very happy to have executed a solid race from start to finish, coming 12th against a Kona-esque field. I was two spots out of the money, and pretty far back, but it was an excellent training day, and gave me a very real confidence boost that I could be competitive against such a deep field in savage conditions.

After chatting it up with the boys from Specialized afterwards, I passed out at the hotel, and then got ready for some Abu fun. My one day after the race consisted of seeing the amazing mosque, gold market, and then participating in a crazy dune bashing/camel riding/sandboarding/dinner expedition in the middle of the sandy desert with good friends.

Abu Dhabi is like no place I have ever seen, and despite harsh conditions, it was a perfect race for mental toughness, and undoubtedly provided a major fitness boost early in the year... very good feeling to have the cobwebs blown out before I undertake the more important races. I have no regrets about traveling over, and I will be back to race again next year.

Achievement, I have heard, is largely a product of steadily raising one's level of aspiration and expectation. Without a doubt this race marks one more step in the right direction.