Monday, July 28, 2014

RMC Sprint Triathlon - Race Report

Why this Race

When I was structuring my 2014 race season, I wanted to get in one final tune-up race before the National Championships on August 10th.  Luckily I was off from work this past weekend which allowed me to sign up for the Ripon Medical Center Triathlon.  This race could have been placed in the category of "races I have always seen, but never thought of doing."  Ripon is about an hour southwest of our home in Kaukauna.  An hour drive is definitely a doable drive on race morning.  The only hitch in my usual preferred prerace night was we had Sarah's cousin's wedding in Appleton on Saturday.  Sarah agreed to allow me to drive a separate car to the reception and said it was OK for me to leave earlier to get to bed.

Training for this Race

My training has continued to be focused in on my "A" race which is two weeks after the RMC Triathlon.  The week of the RMC Triathlon was one of my last big hard weeks.  On the Sunday following the final night of Rock USA, I had one of my last long hard workout.  The workout was a long bike ride consisting of a 15 minute warm up, then 2 sets of 30:00 of race intensity intervals with 10:00 recovery.  Immediately after the workout I laced up my shoes for a 10k run which was broken down as follows: 5k easy, 3.5k race intensity, 1.5k easy.  The workout took about 2:20 start to finish.  I then had a swim day and then right back into the hard training.  I had an 8 mile run with three 1 mile interval repeats.  The next day I had a bike interval workout in the morning followed up with an afternoon 5 mile run with hill sprints in the middle.  I took Saturday off for recovery, which I definitely needed.  I was pretty sore and tired on Saturday, so I was glad to see a recovery/rest day on my training plan the day before my race.  


As I mentioned above, Saturday was not only a rest/recovery day, but it was also my wife's cousin's wedding day.  In the morning we were up early and went to the Farmer's Market with Sarah's sister.  After the market, we came home to get the kid's ready for the wedding service at church.  Later that night we went to the reception which was in Appleton.  The entire wedding was very nice.  The food was really good and the cake was exceptional.  Maybe a little too good.  I was able to not drink any alcohol which was no biggie, but I still haven't figured out how to build my self control to resist my urges for food.  As soon as we got to the reception they had appetizers out which I of course ate.  For dinner I ordered the fish and rice, which was really good.  Then they came out with the cake.  Delaney didn't want her cake, so I jumped right on it.  I left the wedding after the first few dances of the night.  I left stuffed and regretting my choices and worried how it will impact my race. 

I ended up getting to bed around 10pm and set my alarm for 4am to leave before 4:30am.  I was on the road shortly after 4:30am.  The drive wasn't bad and I got to the race site right as the sun was coming up over the waters of Green Lake.  It was beautiful, like something off a postcard.  There were a few sailboats on the water, which was as calm as glass.  After snapping a quick photo of the sunrise, I picked up my race packet and proceeded to get my transition area set up.  There was no specific assigned bike racking for athletes.  They did have bike racks assigned depending on what event you were racing in and your sex.  So I was assigned to the "Short Course Men" bike racks.  I was able to nab up one of the spots on the end with how early I was to the race.

Nutrition Plan

With the distances of this race being short and my hope was to finish shortly after an hour, I opted to not take any fuel or water with me during the race.  At 6:45am I took my usual doses of of Anti-Fatigue Caps (2), Race Caps Supreme (2), and Mito Caps(2).  I also set up my bike to carry a couple Energy Surge on a piece of electrical tape on my top bar.  My plan was to take the first Energy Surge shortly after getting out on the bike course and then take the second serving right before dismounting and heading out on the run.


Blue Seventy Reaction wetsuit from
Custom TYR Special Ops 2.0
Look 556
Giro Aero Helmet
Rydon Rudy Project Sunglasses
Louis Garneau Carbon Tri HRS Shoes
Zoot Kiawe 2.0 Shoes

500m Swim (7:45)

A big debate for me lately was whether or not to wear my wetsuit, not only for this race, but at Nationals in Milwaukee.  Rumor has it, the water temperatures for Lake Michigan near Milwaukee are darn cold this year.  On the other hand, you can save a lot of time not wearing a wetsuit.  I opted to wear a wetsuit for this race to allow some extra practice taking the suit off coming out of the water in the event that I end up wearing it in Milwaukee.  The race started promptly at 7:30am with the Olympic Distance races.  The first wave was for men and the second was for the women.  They then took a 10 minute break between the Olympic and Sprint distance starts to allow the Olympic races to spread out a bit and be off of the sprint swim course.  The Sprint race started right around 7:45am.  It worked out well for Sarah and I, because Sarah arrived to the start of the swim right during the break.  It was great to see me kids before the start of the race as I don't often get to do that.  So I took advantage of them being there before the start of the race.

As soon as the race started my plan was to really push hard for the first 100 meters or so to hopefully break away towards the front.  After the first 100 meters I was in third place and I just tucked in behind another guy who was right ahead of me for a draft.  I stuck right onto his feet right up to the turn around point at 250 meters.  After we hit the turn around I moved to the inside (left) and picked up my stroke cadence and slowly passed him.  I came out of the water second about 10 seconds behind the guy ahead of me.  The swim course was well marked and the water was near perfect temperatures.  The water was crystal clear and you could see the bottom.  My one complaint was all the weeds, but they really didn't effect the swim at all, they were just there and occasionally you would have a piece of seaweed on you.

15 Mile Bike (41:58)

After going into transition, I really wanted to be the first out of transition.  I had one of my smoothest transitions I can recall.  It paid off, because I was the first out of transition and the first out on the bike course.  The bike course started straight up hill as you exit the conference center that hosted the race.  Here I was hoping that would be the only major climbing that I would be doing during this race.  My hopes were quickly crushed....over....and over......and over again.  The bike course was one of the hardest bike courses I have ever done.  Take the distance out of the equation, I would even consider this was just as hard, if not harder that IM Wisconsin.  According to my Garmin, I had a total elevation gain of 751' over 15.42 miles (43.11 ratio of gain to miles).  At IM Wisconsin I had a total gain of 3114' over 111.58 miles (27.90 ratio of gain to miles).  That's nearly twice as much climbing, relatively speaking.  Like I said, the total distance on an IM bike course undoubtedly makes it significantly tougher.  But, good lord, it felt like the hills were never ending on this course.  Either way, the course was tough, not impossible, not frustrating, just tough.  Throughout the entire bike course I was anticipating to be passed, but no one ever came.  In fact I took a couple peeks behind me when I could and never saw another racer.  I kept worrying that I missed a turn or took a wrong turn.  There were a couple sections of the course that were on straightaways with no volunteers, no intersections, no signs, no markings, no nothing.  That was the one point where I thought I was lost.  It's a position I have never been in before, the lead on the bike course.  I was not only worried about getting lost, but I was constantly questioning my race effort (intensity).  I would sit there and have mental debates of if I was going too hard to avoid the possibility of being passed.  Then I would think am I not going hard enough, as though I was getting too comfortable being in the lead.

5k Run (20:08)

I went into transition without being passed on the bike at all and without even seeing another racer behind me  I once again had one of my smoothest bike-to-run transition I can recall.  After leaving transition, I continued to wonder if this would be the time I would be passed.  In my head I kept telling myself that it was coming, I was going to be passed.  And if I wasn't passed, I would miss a turn and end up off course.  The first half mile or so of the run was straight up hill.  I thought, are you f--king kidding me?  There weren't enough hills on the bike course?!?  I quickly threw that thought out of my head knowing that it would do me no good.  I just tried to stay strong, mentally and physically.  While I was running up the first hill, a guy on a gator offered to lead the way to the turn around point, as the run was a simple out and back route.  I thought, hell yea, now I don't need to sit and worry about getting lost.  I just followed the gator and smiled as this was one perk I never get to take advantage of.   With the run course being an out and back, I would get the opportunity to finally see where the hell everyone else was.  I hit the turn around point and started making my way back.  I didn't see anyone after turning around.  I immediately looked at my Garmin to make sure I was at 1.55 miles to double check that I didn't cut any corners or anything, it read 1.56, right on the mark.  Huh, maybe this was just going to be one of those days were everything goes right!  I finally saw the second place guy at the 1 and 2 mile mark, I was a full mile ahead of him!  Crazy!  That really motivated me to push harder during the last mile, which was all downhill.  As I was getting back to the finish line I started to see a lot more people who were just starting their run, they all gave great words of encouragement which also really motivated me to keep pushing.  I ended up finishing in 1:11:14 with the second place racer finishing in 1:17:11, about 6 minutes behind me!

Post Race

After the race I got a big kiss from Sarah and high fives from the girls.  Sarah was honestly, about as happy as I was.  I couldn't believe I just won my first triathlon ever.  I put together a great race from start to finish.  After finishing, we stayed around the area to watch other racers finish and let the kids play on the park which was right by the transition area.  Sarah and I chatted about the race and just enjoyed the morning.  The race itself was exceptionally well run.  There were a ton of volunteers, nearly all of them were full of energy and cheering on the racers and helping out when needed.  The courses were well marked, even if I was a little paranoid of getting lost.  

After letting some time pass, the awards ceremony started.  I didn't know what to expect for my first ever overall win.  When it was my turn for my award, I found out that I had won a hand blown glass vase from Savoie Glass of Ripon along with a $100 gift card to Festival Foods.  The vase is absolutely gorgeous and pretty sweet looking!  Plus a gift card to the best grocery store in the valley.  I was thrilled!  So was Sarah!

What's on Tap

I now have two weeks of training before the USA Triathlon Sprint Age Group National Championships.  This next week will be slightly less volume from previous weeks as my taper is just getting started this week.  In the second week, I will be in full fledged taper mode.  It works out perfect as we will be on vacation with the Nissen's in Rhinelander the entire week leading up to Nationals.  

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Packers 1k Kids Run

I only found it to be fitting that if I am going to jump on my blog to pump out race reports for each race that I complete, I should do the same now for my daughters as they begin racing.  Well, maybe not quite a full fledged race report, but at least a short post with some pictures.

This past Friday night the Green Bay Packers hosted a kids 1k run as a kid only event before their 5k race on Saturday morning.  This was the first ever race my kids have done that had absolutely nothing to do with any race I have run.  It was also the furthest race either Delaney or Maya have ever run, as most kids runs are a quarter mile.

The route for the kids run was pretty simple.  We started out in the parking lot and would run into Lambeau Field, do one lap around the on the field and then finish back out in the parking lot.  I was curious to see how far Maya would be able to run and just made the assumption that Delaney wouldn't be able to make the entire distance.  We also had my Godson, Bradyn who was staying with us this past week.  He was also pretty excited to run a race at Lambeau, especially with how much is dad is a fan of the Packers.

All three kids surprised me with being able to run the entire distance non-stop (not counting the forced walking breaks due to congestion).  We even spared a few seconds to do a couple Lambeau-Leaps!  When it was all said and done, the kids run was a blast!  The kids had a great time running and even got their own individual medals.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Summer Family Fun

As usual, a lot has been happening in the Kohl family since my last post. To be honest, I don't even recall my last post that wasn't tied to a race or event. It has now been a few weeks since my last race, which was the Pleasant Prairie International Distance Triathlon. It's kind of funny, or ironic, but I was thinking a past few days while I was planning this post, that I feel busier this summer than I did last summer while I was in the thick of training for Ironman Wisconsin. Truthfully, when comparing this year to last, a lot has changed. First, we added a 5th member to our family 4 months ago, and just saying that amazes me that Harper is already 4 months old. Second, even though my training volume has decreased significantly (8-9 hours/week this year compared to 14-15+ hours/week last year), I have filled my free time with other activities, mainly family stuff. Thirdly, I have worked more overtime at work compared to what I worked last year, not a significant amount, but I have been much more willing to pick up small 4 hour blocks throughout the weeks.

As I compare this summer to last summer, I feel just as busy, but I can tell you, that I have undoubtedly enjoyed the excess freedom this summer. Last summer, I really didn't have free time per se, as any time left over from work, commuting, sleep, and training, was spent with my family, there just wasn't that much left over. On the other hand this summer, I have much more time left over to spend with my daughters and Sarah. Last year, I made it a point to write a blog post at the end of every training cycle. This year, my training cycles are nothing interesting compared to last year. Last year was an adventure, I was doing things I have never done. Each week was a new distance, a new workout, something was new each training cycle. Regardless of how busy or not busy I am, I figured I would do a short post on what my family and I have been up to since my last post.

Delaney's 3rd Birthday

Immediately after coming home from my triathlon in Pleasant Prairie we took Delaney out to dinner for her birthday. Although it wasn't her true birthday, it was our one chance to spend together as a family before her birthday, as Delaney has the unfortunate luck of her birthday falling on or around Country USA. We went out for Mexican at our local restaurant, El Jaripeo. After dinner we had family and friends over to our house for cake and ice cream and Delaney would be able to open her presents. This day was also the day of Team USA's third game of the World Cup pool play, which we were able to watch during dinner.

The next day, I spent the day with just my daughters. We spent the morning picking strawberries. I used these strawberries to make an all natural jam made from just strawberries, rhubarb, honey, and chia seeds. I got the recipe from Facebook, and you can see the recipe HERE. Country USA started up Tuesday night and is a 5 day country music festival in Winnebago County's jurisdiction. It's a long week of work, as we are scheduled 11 hour shifts all week. It's a bummer being stuck working during my daughters birthday. These feelings are greatly increased when I hear how much Delaney misses me, since I am her favorite person and she is mildly obsessed with me.

Maya's First Year of Tee Ball

We signed Maya up for her first organized team sport activity this summer. She started playing tee ball this year. I'll be honest, watching a bunch of 4 and 5 year olds "play" tee ball is one of the more adorable things you'll watch. It is structured very well, with 15 minutes of instruction to start, followed with a 30 minute "game." The game consists of 3 innings in which every kid hits once during their team's half inning. In the field, every time the ball is hit, the kids swam to the ball like a rugby scrum and who ever comes up with the ball throws it to first base. When the last kid hits, all the kids on base run until the bases are clear. Maya, has fallen in love tee ball and baseball this summer. She is slowly starting to understand the basic concepts of baseball. She can really hit the ball well for her first year. She is still working on her throwing and catching coordination. For the fall, Sarah wasn't able to find a local soccer league for her age that works with our schedule. She was able to find a flag football league through our YMCA, which will be entertaining for sure, considering how fun it is to watch tee ball.  It's funny too, that I always thought that Maya's name was somewhat unique, but it turns out that the only other girl on her team is also named Maya.
The 2 Maya's

Brewer's Game

This past March, my brother promised a ticket to a Brewer game with him for my birthday present from him and his girlfriend. One week after Country USA I took a final week of paternity leave and we were able to get down to Milwaukee for a Brewer's game. We saw the Brewer's against the Phillies on July 8th. Sarah and I went down with just my brother and his girlfriend. It was a nice get away from the kids. We got some fantastic seats for the game. They were easily the best seats I have sat in for a Brewer's game at Miller Park. The Brewer's ended up loosing the game, but we at least got to see Lyle Overbay hit a Grand Slam, so it wasn't a total disappointment.


After the Brewer's game that Tuesday, Sarah and I spent majority of our Wednesday packing, because after my SWAT training on Thursday we would be heading to Harrington Beach State Park for a long weekend. Harrington Beach is about 20 miles south of Sheboygan, WI, right on the shores of Lake Michigan. We would be leaving on Thursday and Sarah's family would be arriving on Friday afternoon. We opted to try a new State Park for a weekend of camping from our usual rotation of parks. We had the hopes of letting the girls play on the beach and swim all weekend. Unfortunately that wasn't going to happen. First, it was pretty chilly for a summer day in July. Secondly, due to the crazy cold winter we had, Lake Michigan was extra cold. Water temperatures for that area of Lake Michigan were said to be in the 45 degree range....yea, that's damn cold. It was hard to just walk into the water to get your feet wet. Saturday was spent hiking with our family and just relaxing and letting the kids play. The park was definitely different from our normal camping trips to State Parks. Our campsite was not in the woods at all. We were at a grassy site with a couple small trees. It was more of a field than a woods. It didn't bother me, as it was a nice change of pace. The grassy site was sure better than the typical sandy/dirty campsites you usually find in the wooded sites. I doubt, we would return to Harrington Beach State Park as it didn't offer a lot of great options for our kids to do. The lack of swimming, lack of park, and few toilets near our campsite are just a few reasons we didn't think too highly of the park.

My Training

I have continued to find joy in the lower volume training plan. My workouts have been challenging and rewarding all while being shorter in duration. My weekend workouts have been relatively long compared to other workouts this summer. Lately, a typical weekend workout would be a 90-120 minute bike ride consisting of 3x20:00 at race pace with 10:00 recovery, followed with a short 15 minute cool down brick run. My hardest workout this season was my brick workout this past Sunday. For starters, I was coming off my last night of workout out at Rock USA (think Country USA, but Rock and Roll...duh), and was physically and mentally exhausted. Regardless, I forced myself out the door and rode 34 miles which consisted of 2x30:00 at race pace with 10:00 recovery followed by a 10k run, which consisted as 5k easy, 3.5k tempo, 1.5k easy. My swimming is continually improving. I think the change in focus in the pool has been very beneficial to me. My longest swim on this training plan has been 2,000 meters (1.25 miles). Majority of my pool workouts consist of either longer (300m-500m) tempo intervals, or short (25m-100m) sprint sets. I feel more efficient in the pool and as though, I am actually becoming a decent swimmer. As of writing this post, I have 2 triathlon races left before I shift my focus back to marathon training. On July 27th, I will be racing the Ripon Medical Center Sprint Triathlon in Ripon, WI. The RMC Triathlon will be my last tune up race before racing the USA Triathlon Age Group National Sprint Championships in Milwaukee, WI on August 10th.

Between those two final races, I have a quick rotation at work and then we will be going on vacation with our good friends, Pat and Melissa to Rhinelander, WI. Right after vacation, we will be heading straight to Milwaukee to get my bike checked in on Saturday and then racing in the National Championships on the 10th. That is my final triathlon of the season and will be laying it on the line with aspirations of qualifying for Team USA for the right to race at the World Championships in Chicago, IL.

Until next time - Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Pleasant Prairie International Distance Triathlon - Race Report

Yea, I know it's been nearly two weeks since the Pleasant Prairie Triathlon, but as I find myself saying too often, it's better late then never, right? At least I feel I have a damn good excuse - Sunday after the race I came home to out for my daughter's birthday dinner and then went back to work for a full rotation on Monday night. Not only was it a full rotation of work, but it was the infamous week of Country USA - a 5 day music festival that runs Tuesday through Saturday. Most officers for our Sheriff's Office have to work 11 hour shifts for all 5 days, so needless to say, it's one long week. So, now on to my race report. But first, I realize that I have a habit of rambling on and on, especially with my race reports, so in an effort to cut the fluff, I am changing my race report template, so we'll see how this here goes nothing....

Why this Race

Each year in the late winter when I start planning my upcoming race schedule, I pull out my work schedule to first see which weekends I can actually race on. Once I figure out the few weekends each year I am free to race, I start looking to see where I want to race. There are definitely races that I want to do each and every year, but most times, I enjoy traveling around the state and Midwest to try new races. So, when I saw that I was able to register for the Pleasant Prairie Triathlon, I was pretty excited. I have heard good things about this race and knew it was a competitive race. Also, knowing that I was racing all shorter duration races this year, I did want to do one Olympic distance race to see exactly how I would fare in that distance. Typically speaking, sprint distance races are generally not as deep of a field competitively. While Olympic distance races are much more competitive in nature. I have only done one "Olympic" distance race in my career, but only early on. I say "Olympic" in quotations, because it was advertised as an Olympic race, but was not a true Olympic distance race. So, in all reality, I never raced a true Olympic distance race and really wanted to lay it on the line to see how I stack up.

Training for this Race

Not often do I find myself racing on back-to-back weekends, but that is exactly what I found myself doing coming off of my race at High Cliff. My training coming off of High Cliff was not much different from the training I had been doing prior to High Cliff. The big difference was my emphasis on recovery. I knew if I wanted to not only have a successful race in Pleasant Prairie, but avoid potential injury, I would need to be fully recovered from racing at High Cliff. My training focused a lot on swimming with 4 swimming workouts, with 3 bike workouts, and 3 running workouts. I opted to take Saturday off completely from training to allow a full day of recovery before the race. I felt like I recovered nicely leading up to this race. I attribute that to my nutrition throughout the week along with diligent use of my foam roller and self massage stick.

Pre Race

My bedroom for the night
Traditionally I wouldn't classify myself as a superstitious guy, but I do like to do a lot of the same things the night before races. So my pre race plan for Pleasant Prairie was completely crazy and really goes to show how dedicated I am to the sport of Triathlon and how far I will go to race. So, Pleasant Prairie is about 2.5 hours south of our home in Kaukauna. The race was scheduled to start at 6:30am on Sunday morning, meaning if I was to leave Sunday morning, I would have to leave around 2:30-3:00am in order to get there early enough to prepare for race day. Instead of driving down that early, I opted to stay closer to Pleasant Prairie the night before. By doing this I was able to take advantage of packet pick up on Saturday and could rack my bike the night before, which makes race day morning just that much easier. Finding a place to crash the night before is where my craziness starts. It was enough to ask Sarah to go away for the night and leave her alone with 3 kids just so I can race, so when I asked to book a hotel for the night and spend an additional $120 it didn't go over so well. So my options were to either camp again at a local state park or book a really cheap motel for $45/night. I opted for booking a campsite over the shady motel. At least this way I knew what I would be getting AND I would save some money. I booked a campsite at Richard Bong Recreation Area, which is about 20-25 minutes west of Pleasant Prairie. The race expo and packet pick up was pretty simple, but the fact that I was able to rack my bike the night before was a nice perk. After the expo, I headed to my campsite. Once there, it started to rain. I packed a small one person tent, but was debating whether or not to use it in order to save time in the morning and to just make my morning easier all together. So, when it started to rain, it made my decision easy, I folded down all the seats in my Ford Flex and made a makeshift bed. I got to my campsite around 4pm. Knowing that, I spent 12 solid hours straight in my car. I ate my dinner of salmon fillets, sweet potato with and apple, and a salad around 6pm, while sitting in my car. I then hung out and tried to keep myself occupied with listening to podcasts and playing games on my iPad until I ultimately went to bed around 8:30pm with a 4am alarm. Surprisingly, I woke up after sleeping relatively well, all things considered. I made it to the race host, The Pleasant Prairie Rec Plex (a municipal recreation building and health club) around 5:00am after stopping for gas and coffee on the way to the race. I was able to get my transition area all set up. As the sun came up, the entire landscape was covered in a dense fog. The race director was confident that the fog would lift quickly after the sun came up and the temperatures began to raise. They announcer said that there were contingency plans for the race in the fact that the fog did not lift as quickly as they had hoped. As it turns out the fog was so thick and it failed to clear out in a timely manner. This forced the race officials to postpone the start of the race for safety reasons on the swim course. The first wave was scheduled to start at 6:30am, but at that time you could not even see the first orange swim buoy that marks the swim course, let alone any other swim buoy. The race did not start until close to 8am, nearly 1.5 hours later. This postponed start forced the international distance bike course to be cut short by about 2-3 miles. This was due to logistical reasons that they could not keep a major highway closed any longer then they had scheduled.
View of the transition area

Nutrition Plan

With an Olympic distance triathlon taking at least about 2 hours, I knew I needed to change my nutrition plan from what I did at the High Cliff Sprint Triathlon. On the way to the race, I ate a 180 calorie nut butter packet and then an hour before the race was scheduled to start (5:30am) I ate a Cashew Coconut Chocolate Chip Hammer Bar, along with my usual servings of Anti-Fatigue Caps (2), Race Caps Supreme (2), and Mito Caps (2). During the race, I drank about 270 calories throughout the bike leg with 2 Anti-Fatigue Caps at half way and then had a watered down Chocolate Hammer Gel in a flask with an Energy Surge mixed in. I had a second Peanut Butter Hammer Gel at the 5k mark of the run.


Blue Seventy Reaction wetsuit from
Custom TYR Special Ops 2.0
Look 556
Giro Aero Helmet
Rydon Rudy Project Sunglasses
Louis Garneau Carbon Tri HRS Shoes
Torhans VR 20oz Hydration System
Zoot Kiawe 2.0 Shoes
Hammer Visor

1.5k Swim (27:46)

View of swim venue the night before
The venue for the swim was Lake Andrea, which is a spring fed 100 acre lake. The temperatures race morning was 69 degrees. Unfortunately, for safety reasons with the fog, we were unable to swim in the lake before the start of the race. The race started on the shoreline of the lake and once the race started we headed straight out for 10-20 yards before making a right hand turn to head along the shore line. The water was comfortable, temperature wise, and clear. It was a great venue for a triathlon swim. I really wanted to put up a strong swim time to put myself out towards the front at the start of the bike leg. I felt as though I got out front early and just tried to hold on. I caught up to most of the wave that went out ahead of my around the half way point of the swim. As I exited the water I didn't see many black swim caps of the M30-34 age group, which was my entire wave. I felt confident as I entered T1.

40k Bike (54:05)

The race hosted a sprint distance race and a duathlon, in addition to the Olympic distance race. The bike course for the Olympic race consisted of two loops. The first loop went West from the race site and the second loop, East of the race site. The sprint distance only raced on the East loop. As I proceeded to head out on the first loop, I was not passed and passed about 3-5 others. During the second loop, it was tough to determine if you were being passed my sprint course racers or Olympic distance races. Not that it matters, but I like trying to track positions in my head to keep my pushing. The bike course was basic, nothing special, not much for scenery and a few stretches of rougher roads.

10k Run (40:23)

After exiting T2, I felt as though I was in the top 3 in the M30-34 age group, based on my belief of exiting the water in the top 3 of my wave and not being passed on the bike by anyone in my wave/age group. I wanted to find my groove early on in the run, knowing I had to run hard for 6.2 miles, which is twice as long as the run leg in a sprint triathlon. I was passed early on just before mile 1 by another guy in my age group and then yet another guy after mile 2. My mile splits for the first 5k were all in the 6:30/mile ball park. I felt good at that pace and just wanted to hold that pace the best I could. I don't recall passing many people on the run course. I am positive I didn't pass anyone from my wave/age group. For the first time, I felt as though my run was my weak link in my race. I have always felt like a strong runner and generally think I am, at least in an open run (5k road race). Maybe this is because I have changed my strategy in my race to ride as hard as possible during the race. In the past, I have ridden at a higher cadence to save energy for the run. After reaching the 6 mile mark, I really turned up my cadence and ran an average pace of 5:09/mile pace over the last 0.20 miles. The run course was really nice. Half of the course was on a rec trail that circle around Lake Andrea. The sprint and International distance courses split after about a mile and a half and the International course runs an out-and-back stick on a gravel trail, before meeting up with the last half of the sprint course.

Post Race

After the race I hung out to see how I fared. I finished the race in 2:04:39, which was good enough for 14th overall and 5th in my age group. I was not surprised to finish 14th overall, but was surprised to finish 5th in my age group WHILE finishing 14th overall. That means that about a third of the top 14 finishers were in my age group. This includes every other age group AND the Elite competitors. Regardless of my place, I was satisfied with my race. I was disappointed in the end that the bike course was cut short because I really wanted an accurate time in a full Olympic Distance course to compare it with. After I learned that I did not place in my age group, I had my traditional post race beer, which I did open up with my race medal, which was in fact a bottle opener. One nice perk of the race, at least for me and my circumstances, was the ability to utilize the Rec Plex's shower facilities. So, after the race, I was able to drive straight home in fresh, clean clothes.

What's on Tap

As I mentioned in my preface, I had Country USA start right away on Tuesday night following this race. My next race is about a month away. On July 27th, I will be racing the Ripon Medical Center Sprint Triathlon, in Ripon, WI. This will be my last race before the Age Group National Championships in August. This will also be my only actual sprint triathlon with distances of 750m swim, 20k bike, and 5k run, which are the same distances of the National Championships. This will give me one final tune-up race to prepare and test some race strategies. Until then, I will be training my ass off and really focusing on top end speed and power to peak for my race on August 10th. I will also continue to focus on eating a clean, higher fat diet to trim up to help race my best race ever at the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

High Cliff Sprint Triathlon - Race Report

The High Cliff Triathlon is an even that I have done 5 times and this year was my 6th straight year. It's the one race I have done every year since 2009. In the past 5 years, I have done the Half Iron distance 4 times and the sprint once. I have written several times that I am abandoning the longer races this year in favor of sprints and Olympic distance races. I made this decision coming off of Ironman Wisconsin last year as a way to put less stress on my family with the amount of training necessary. After registering for the High Cliff Sprint Triathlon in January, Sarah and I decided to reserve a camp site at High Cliff State Park, which is the host location for the race. It was a decision that made so much sense after the fact, but this was the first year we have done this. It made sense for a couple reasons. First, the obvious reason is that the race is right there, it just makes getting there that much easier. Secondly, we have not taken Harper camping yet, so, with our house only being a 20 minute drive away, if we absolutely needed to, we could always pack up and head home if needed.

When putting together a race plan for the triathlon, I made some very simple goals. This would be my first triathlon since IM Wisconsin and there is a huge difference is race strategy when racing a long distance race opposed to a sprint distance race. My ultimate goal for my 2014 race season is to qualify for Team USA at the Age Group National Sprint Championships in August and race for Team USA at the World Championships in 2015. With that lofty goal, I was using the HC Sprint Triathlon as a training race to work on specific things opposed to a specific time goal or placing goal. The HC Sprint race is actually a bit longer then the standard USA Triathlon standard for a sprint distance race.  HC is a 450m swim, 22 mile bike, and a 3.1 mile run, while the standard is 750m swim, 20k bike (12.4 miles), and a 5k (3.1 miles).  I last raced the sprint distance here in 2011 and finished in 1:28:11, so a simple time goal was to just beat that time. My second goal was to have smooth transitions. Number 3 was to have a strong bike leg and average at least 23mph. The forecast going into the weekend was near perfect, mid-to-upper 70's with mostly sunny skies. The water temperatures approaching the weekend was 67 degrees.

Training Plan

As I just said, this race was by no means my "A" race for the year. And as I mentioned in my last post, "The Start of Summer," I talked about the triathlon training plan I am following. The plan is a generic plan created by an author for the European version of Triathlete Magazine. I adjusted the plan slightly to fit my personal schedule and then input all my schedule races. I did very little adjusting for the HC Triathlon, especially since it was my first triathlon of the season. The week leading up to the race, I made a couple last minute changes. The first change I made was an ambitious change that I was happy to do at first, but later worried that I made a mistake. On Tuesday I was originally scheduled for an hour long interval bike session consisting of 4x5:00 max effort, followed with 5:00 recovery. I was in the mood to get on the track and do some sprint intervals and thought it would be beneficial, both, physically and mentally to get some top end running speed work. After my bike intervals, I biked over to the local high school track and ran a total of 3 miles consisting of 6x400m sprints with a 400m recovery jog. During the track session I could definitely feel the fatigue I was carrying over from the bike intervals. I was spent afterward. The entire day after, I debated whether or not it was truly beneficial or not. I was a little worried about reinjuring my calf as well. The very next day was a 10 mile recovery run. In an attempt to insure I didn't go to hard, I watched my heart rate like a hawk and never let it go over 145 bpm. On Thursday, I was scheduled to ride 30 miles with some longer race pace intervals, but in attempt to simply allow my legs to fully recovery decided to just ride 20 mile at an easy intensity. On Friday, I went to the pool for some light work followed with 3 miles on a treadmill where I gradually increased the pace each mile. In the end, my week of training leading up to the HC Triathlon left me feeling fresh and ready to race. It turns out the added track session on Tuesday didn't leave me fatigued or sore going into the race on Saturday morning.

Day/Night Before

Other then my time at the YMCA for my swim and run, Friday was spent packing up the camper and Jeep to have the family ready to leave for camping when Sarah came home from work.  After getting the kids fed breakfast, we went right to the YMCA for my workout.  By the time I was finished and showered it was shortly after noon and Sarah called saying that she was going to be getting out of work early.  We both had some stuff to get done around the house prior to leaving, so our hope was to be on the road before 5pm.  This would give us more than enough time to stop at the race expo and pick up my race bib, check in, and get set up for the weekend.  After getting home from the Y, Delaney started complaining of a headache and asked to lay down for a nap.  I checked her temperature and she was right around 101, which isn't good, but still better then what she was on Thursday, when she was in the 103 range.  I gave her some Tylenol and she had asked to lay down for a nap.  As 4:15 was rolling around, both Sarah and I had only a few more minutes of work to finish up before we could get on the road.  Just then, Laney woke up crying - she had peed the bed....grreeat!  This sparked a total meltdown between Delaney, Sarah, and I.  Sarah wanted to stay and wash the comforter, sheets, and mattress, while I just wanted to get going.  After some brief arguing, we worked it out that I would just leave with the camper, gear, and Maya and Delaney, while Sarah would stick around home with Harper and the dog, until the bed is back in order.  It worked out perfect, I was able to get my race packet and get our campsite all set up right as Sarah and Harper arrived at our site.  After getting set up, we walked over to my sister-in-law's campsite to relax for the evening by the fire and have dinner.  My dinner was a couple fillets of ocean perch, salad, and a sweet potato.  By 9pm I was all tucked in to my sleeping bag listening to some relaxing music with a 4:45am alarm set.

 Getting to the Start Line

If you recall last year, I nearly overslept by not waking up until Sarah's alarm went off, which left me little to no time to get to the race.  Ironically the same thing occurred this year.  I even remember shutting off BOTH of my preset alarms and never even thought twice.  Sarah's alarms went off at 5:45am, an hour after mine.  She woke up and said the same thing as last year, "Matt!  You're going miss your race!"  I shot out of bed quickly got dressed and was at the transition area within 20 minutes of waking up.  I guess that's one huge advantage to staying right at the race site!  I actually even had extra time to spare after getting my area all set up for the race.  That morning the race director come on the loud speaker and announced the water temperature for the race was a warm 70 degrees, while the air was a chilly 49 degrees.  Needless to say, I was freezing cold.  I made the decision to wear my wetsuit for the race, which was something I was hoping not to do.  I chose to do this more as a way to stay warm while I waited for my wave to go off, then to stay warm in the water.  I was able to do some light swimming before the start of the race as a way to acclimate to the water temps and a way to be a warm up for the race.  I was in the first wave of the sprint race, wave 7, which left about 20 minutes after the first half iron racers started.

450m Swim (5:04 (1:10/100y))

The swim was super short, and...well....honestly really easy.  The sprint course was shallow as usual.  I was able to run or dolphin dive at least half of the course, which most likely led to the faster then usual swim time.  But, everyone else had the same opportunity to take advantage of the shallow conditions, so it's not like I was given any advantage that no one else was.  After exiting the water, comes the long run up hill to the transition area.

22.5 Mile Bike (0:55:13 (24.4 mph))

The bike course starts out with the daunting task of climbing the hill that gives the park it's name, High Cliff.  The climb is roughly 3/4 mile long and is pretty challenging.  For us Wisconsinites, it's one of the more challenging climbs north of the Madison area.  After getting atop the hill, I settled into a nice cadence which I felt confident that I would be able to sustain for the 22.5 miles.  Throughout the bike leg, I consumed about 20oz of water with about 200 calories of premixed Heed.  After getting back to the transition area, I was anxious to try my new shoes without socks for the first time in a race setting.  I have practiced putting them on at home in training, but it's tough to simulate the rush you have during a race to get in and get out ASAP.  I covered the entry point of my shoes with Hammer's Cool Feet to help get the shoes on smoothly and keep my feet dry to avoid any hot spots or blisters.

3.1 Mile Run (19:53 (6:38/mile))

After leaving the transition, which went smoother then ever, I grabbed a premade flask with watered down Hammer Gel with a crushed Hammer Energy Surge we were tasked with the even more challenging task of running up the hill.  I wanted to run conservatively up the hill with hopes of laying the hammer down for the remaining 2.5 miles.  I also kept the fact that I would get to take advantage of running DOWN the hill at the end in the back of my mind.  By the time I got to the hill, I just tried to run as fast as possible while staying in control down the hill.  I came across the finish line with a final time of 1:22:14, just over 6 minutes faster then my previous attempt on the same course!

Post Race

After the race I met up with my support crew of Sarah's parents, my brother and sister-in-law, nephews, and of course Sarah and my daughters.  Sarah and her dad counted approximately 8 or 9 finishers ahead of me, making me the 10th overall finisher.  While we waited for the official results to be posted I took advantage of my favorite post race perk of the HC Triathlon, the free beer truck!  Each year they serve two varieties of Point Brewery beer.  After about 45 minutes or so, the results were posted and I placed 1st in my age group (30-34) and 10th overall.  I was thrilled with my finish!  We hung around for another half hour or so for the awards ceremony, which was located right on the hill leading down to the lake.  The age group awards was a simple pint glass, with the HC Triathlon logo.  It was a simple award, but probably the coolest and most practical award I have yet to receive.  It definitely came in handy for the weekend of camping!

Other Notes

After getting back to our campsite, it was nice to just chill and hang out with the family right at the State Park for the remainder of the weekend.  That afternoon, we took the kids on a 2 hour hike to the lookout tower and then cooked a huge dinner over the open fire of pork tenderloins and chicken legs.  We then spent the night around the fire, spending time together and drinking beer after the kids went to bed.  It was the perfect end to a great day.

Lessons for Future Events

I guess my biggest lesson is I can give so much more on the bike then I had previously thought with still having a decent run split after.  So much of racing the Ironman distance races, is the strategy of conserving your energy for the marathon after the bike.  In short course racing, I need to learn to just let go and really just hammer down on the bike leg.  There is so much time to be saved on the bike course opposed to the 5k.  The simple logic is, that if I am able to bike 4 minutes faster on the bike and it only costs me a minute longer on the run, I still come ahead 3 minutes faster overall.  This is something I intend on playing around with in my training and my next two races leading up to the Age Group Nationals in August.  Otherwise, I would like to save a little more time in transition and the only thing I can think of changing easily would be to have my bike shoes already clipped in prior to getting on my bike.  This is something that takes some practice to master and I am not 100% sure it will ultimately save me time as it does take time to get your feet into the shoes while your riding.  That might also be something I play around with in my training.

What's Next

My next race is already this upcoming weekend.  It is also the longest race on my schedule.  I will be racing the Pleasant Prairie International Distance Triathlon in Pleasant Prairie, WI on Sunday June 22nd.  The distances of this race is a 1.5k swim, 40k bike (24.8 miles), and a 10k (6.2 mile run).  I have only raced one other Olympic distance race before so it will be somewhat new to me.  The nice thing with the HC Triathlon is the bike course was longer then usual and only 2 miles short then an Olympic course.  My strategy is similar to the HC Triathlon and that is to swim even splits over the nearly mile long swim course, hammer down on the bike, and run even splits of under a 7:00/mile.  I have no clue how I will place in this race or what the competition will be, so I am going in with the mentality of racing my own race and letting chips fall how the may.  I am again treating this race as a long intense training day, so do not intend to peak or have my best race of the year this weekend.  Either way, I am excited to go to a new city and race at an event I have never done before.