Ironman Canada 2018

With my 3rd Ironman under my belt, It’s taken me a bit longer than normal to process my thoughts Ironman Canada 2018 in Whistler, British Columbia. It was a challenging day – but one that left me feeling satisfied, grateful, and certainly hungry as an athlete.

This was my second go at Ironman Canada – but, across the board it felt like a completely new experience.

  • The race course was redesigned with the most significant changes being made to the bike course; what was once a 1-loop course is now a 3-loop course with nearly 8,500ft of elevation gain over the 112 mile ride.
  • The high for the day was 97 degrees, over 10 degrees warmer than 2016.
  • This was my first Ironman as a father. This made for a much different Ironman build in terms of training. We modified our travel arrangements to make sure that Nathan would be as comfortable as possible. And of course, race week itself had a whole new level of energy requirements considering the amount of FUN our little guy needs and deserves.

The travel to Whistler, BC from Bend, OR (our home) is an interesting one. It’s close enough where driving is within reason. On the contrary, the drive isn’t necessarily easy and makes the appeal of flying that much stronger. As a Type-A triathlete, there is something about being able to pack everything you need to and control the experience, so for the 2nd time, I made the drive from Bend to Whistler. This time it was a different experience – April and Nathan flew from Bend to Vancouver while I made the drive with my Mom, Brother, Sister, and her Best Friend (shout out to the family for doing this!!!). We coordinated the logistics so I could leave early in the morning and make it to the Vancouver airport to pick up April and Nate-O that same evening. The planner in me thrived and I arrived to the airport with 20 minutes to spare, needless to say – it was a relatively good, smooth travel day.

We checked in to our AirBnb in the upper village of Whistler late on Thursday – so race week for us really got going on Friday. It was a classic combination of spending time with family, fitting in the last minute feel-good-workouts, getting checked-in for the race, and triple checking all of the gear. Going into the race on Sunday morning – I was confident in my preparation and excited to enjoy the gift of racing, considering all of the sacrifice it takes from family, most specifically my amazing April, to participate in the sport that I love.

 Amazing panoramic view of the race start. The energy was amazing! Photo Credit: Bill Anderson.
Amazing panoramic view of the race start. The energy was amazing! Photo Credit: Bill Anderson.

Ironman Canada has logistics dialed. The race begins at Alta Lake – it’s about a 3km (~2 mile) walk/hike/run from the village, or a 10 minute car ride to get to Rainbow park, where the swim and bike begin. On race day, they close the road to the public and use buses to shuttle athletes. My awesome Mom picked me up along with one of my athletes at 4:20am – got us to T2 to drop off gear – and we were on a bus to the race start by 4:45, no problem.

Side note: The race morning routine is important – it’s an opportunity for athletes to feel like they’ve been here before and it certainly helps to alleviate anxiety or stress. For me, I wake up early – have a bowl of oatmeal with a big cup of coffee, and sip on a bottle of electrolyte while I get ready. Once I make it to transition/race start, I inflate my bike tires to 100 PSI, use the restroom, put on my wetsuit, find April to give her a kiss (this year, our kiss was in the condo since she stayed at the condo with Nathan), and begin my swim warm up. It’s important to be flexible with the swim warm up, as some races don’t allow you to get in the water beforehand. For this Ironman, I did a dryland warm up and didn’t touch the water until the gun went off.

The announcer was awesome – tons of energy, which made for an electric feeling at transition while athletes prepared to begin the 3,800m (2.4 mile) swim. Ironman Canada follows the (now) standard rolling start, so I positioned myself in the 1 hour group and once the gun went off – I was probably around 75th in the water.

< My swim training for this race was very different than my 2 past Ironman races. I swam 70% less volume in the 6 months leading up to the race (only 78,000 yards compared to 200,000+ yards past years) – I relied on my experience as a swimmer as well as sessions that focused on high-quality sets to prepare for this race. >

Due to my swim training, I believed I would be able to swim 1:00-1:03 for the race while staying within myself. That is an important goal in the Ironman, you don’t want to burn any matches in the swim or else you’ll pay the price throughout the rest of the day. The swim was mellow, and I completed the 2 loop swim just 3 seconds over 1:03, considering my training – I was very pleased.

 Running into the swim with 1,500 Ironman Athletes. Photo Credit: Bill Anderson.
Running into the swim with 1,500 Ironman Athletes. Photo Credit: Bill Anderson.

After a smooth transition and applying loads of sunscreen in T1, I grabbed my trusty Cervelo P2 (I’ve never been someone who names my bikes) and began what would become the hardest bike ride of my life. Going into the bike, I had a plan. I wanted to average 225 watts (watts are measured by power meters, an important tool in pacing effectively during races and to measure progress in training), and I had a very good plan for nutrition including both calories, water, and electrolytes. This was my first race where I decided to use on-course fuel. Athletes had been told that Gatorade Endurance would be the on course electrolyte – so I trained religiously with this product which meant my body and mind were ready to fuel with it for the 112 mile bike.

As I approached the first aid-station, around mile 18, I slowed to grab a bottle of Gatorade and a bottle of water. After getting through the 200m aid station, I took my planned 8oz of Gatorade and thought to myself ‘this doesn’t taste like Gatorade endurance.’ I looked at the bottle and it was Gatorade Perform – more sugar, and less electrolytes (salt, magnesium, potassium) than Gatorade Endurance. I did some math, and calculated that I’d have to have about 30% more of this in order to hit my numbers for electrolytes and calories. I was disappointed, but, couldn’t let it get to me.

 Making the final descent down Callaghan. Photo Credit:  Tom Pennington/Getty Images for IRONMAN .
Making the final descent down Callaghan. Photo Credit:  Tom Pennington/Getty Images for IRONMAN .

The next few hours of the bike went by pretty quickly – the course was enjoyable, the traffic on the course was manageable, and I was fueling to the best of my ability. When the 3rd loop began, I realized just how hard this course was. My legs felt strong, but certainly fatigued. The relentless climbing on the course was a continual series of climbs and descents, which made it difficult to ever truly find a rhythm – it was death by 1,000 paper cuts. The difficulty, combined with the nutrition snafu – made for a long final 30 miles. I have never had a headache before on the bike, and I have to assume this came from all of the additional sugar I consumed, I drank a lot of extra water to try and combat the headache but I could never get it to go away. I rolled into T2 with a bike time of 6:08, exhausted, but thankful to have made it through the bike with no mechanical issues and while riding my ride. I ended up normalizing 219w, so I stuck to my plan quite well.

I flew through T2. After a quick sock change, throw on the run shoes, and then grab everything else (race belt, visor, and arm sleeves to protect from the sun) – I was off. If I had my perfect day, I believed that my training had me prepared to run a 3:30-3:40 marathon. My Ironman PR for the marathon is 3:40, and going into this race I was hoping to beat that number. However, with the difficulty of the bike and the warm temperatures, I reset my expectations (sound familiar, Ironman Coeur d’Alene 2015???), and committed to getting the job done.

I kept my heart rate in check and held a controlled pace of 7:55-8:05 for the first 5 miles, my stomach was in knots, and I was having a hard time stomaching anything other than water – and by mile 6, I had to slow the pace pretty drastically. The next 3.5 hours, were the hardest mental and physical hours I have ever had as an athlete. I kept wanting to be disappointed. I had trained so hard, April sacrificed so much, and I wasn’t having the day I had trained for. I had to fight myself a lot to find gratitude and to remember that everyone else was facing the same conditions that I was – it was up to me to control my attitude, and to react to the day in the best way possible.

 Enjoying the final quarter mile of the grueling marathon. Photo Credit:  Will Harlan.
Enjoying the final quarter mile of the grueling marathon. Photo Credit: Will Harlan.

I came through 13.1 miles (half way) at 1:55, and I knew that the pace was going to continue to decline. I began to jog/walk and at this point my focus became finishing the race. I passed my family around mile 16 on the run and motioned to April to have her run down to me while I was jogging. I had a speech planned – I was going to tell her that I love her, that although I was hurting, I was going to get it done, and I wanted to thank her for everything she’d done the past 6 months as well as during race week to support me so selflessly. When she made it to me, all I could muster was “I” before I broke down in tears. When your person cries, you cry, so April and I had a memorable moment before she encouraged me to keep fighting. Running and crying is a weird feeling. But, keep fighting is exactly what I did.

When you get to a point in training where running 7:30 miles is easy, and you’ve completed big training days such as 100 mile bike days, 18 mile long runs, and weeks where you train for more than 17 hours – the definition of ‘hard’ continues to evolve. During the final stretch of the marathon, I was working so hard to just move forward, it was a humbling experience but one that I’ll remember forever.

 It's an amazing feeling, every single time, to run onto that red carpet. Photo Credit:  Will Harlan.
It’s an amazing feeling, every single time, to run onto that red carpet. Photo Credit: Will Harlan.

As you come through mile 24, you enter the ‘home stretch.’ I saw my family, and got a huge boost of energy. I picked up my pace, and really tried to enjoy the last portion of the marathon. The final stretch through Whistler was amazing – so much crowd support, a ton of meaningful cheers and messages of support, and as I entered the finish chute, all of the potential disappointment went away, I was thrilled to be looking at my 3rd Ironman finish line. April and Nathan were in a perfect spot, when we caught eyes I wanted to stop, but April encouraged me to fight through the finish line. I raised my arms into the air as I hard the amazing words “Michael Wolber…you…are…an..IRONMAN!!!”

My perspective on Ironman racing has changed a lot over the past few years. Especially now that I’ve completed 3 of them with a PR of 10:33 and a Personal Worst from this year in 12:05. Enjoying the process is so important, the outcome of the race is dependent on so many things that you can’t control. I love the sport of triathlon more than I ever have and am enjoying a little ‘off’ time before I commit to my next endurance goal. As for Ironman racing, I won’t be signing up for Ironman #4 until I’m mentally ready (with my families support) to pursue my goal of racing in Kona.

Wahoo Kickr & Zwift = Epic Combination

If you follow me on Instagram – you know just how much I like my Wahoo Kickr. If you’ve seen any of my Instagram stories, you also know that most mornings I am riding pretty early and using a cool training application called Zwift. A lot has changed since the last time I wrote – here are a few of the highlights.

  • I got a new job. I’m still with G5 – but the new role has meant a lot more travel and a lot fewer lunch runs.
  • April and I sold our first home in Bend and bought a new one.
  • Our new house is big and we built a home gym (!!!!!).
  • I signed up for Ironman Canada 2018
  • I bought a Wahoo Kickr in September and joined Zwift 🙂

Let’s focus on two things: our new home gym and the new training combination of the Wahoo Kickr and Zwift. Since taking on a new role at G5, I realized that if I was going to get fit enough to race competitively at Ironman Canada next summer – something was going to change. I’m a big believer in creating habits, but I know that they take time. I committed to waking up every morning (yes, every morning) no later than 5:30 so that I can get in training – something that is so important to me. 2 months in – it’s been awesome!

 Picture of our home gym - still a work in progress. Treadmill, TT bike on Trainer, Concept 2 Rower, and a weight rack with space to lift. Picture of our home gym – still a work in progress. Treadmill, TT bike on Trainer, Concept 2 Rower, and a weight rack with space to lift.

Ok, let’s get to the point. I have been riding 4-6x a week for the last month since purchasing the Kickr. Most of my workouts have been free rides on Zwift, but I have done 1-2 structured workouts each week. A healthy combination of intervals varying from 1:00 threshold all the way up to 20:00 high-tempo intervals. I wanted to test my fitness, so last week I took an FTP test and I had quite the realization.

 A screenshot of Zwift. In this shot I had recently had the fastest time for a popular segment and was wearing the Orange jersey because of that accomplishment! A screenshot of Zwift. In this shot I had recently had the fastest time for a popular segment and was wearing the Orange jersey because of that accomplishment!

There are a few things that make the Kickr a pretty cool trainer. It’s considered a Smart trainer which means that if hooked up to virtual training, like Zwift, it can change resistance based on my environment. If I’m going uphill – it gets harder. If I’m going downhill – it gets very easy. It’s awesome! Another thing about the trainer is that it has a very heavy flywheel – this is the part of the trainer that creates the resistance. Because it’s so heavy, it creates a VERY realistic riding experience that feels identical to being outside.

 Picture of my Wahoo Kickr. It's an amazing piece of equipment! Picture of my Wahoo Kickr. It’s an amazing piece of equipment!

I’ve realized that the combination of Zwift, as well as my Wahoo Kickr, has created an environment where I’m able to push myself much harder than I ever have been able to indoors. Probably a combination of mind (stimulated by the competitive nature of Zwift) as well as equipment (an amazing trainer that allows me to push HARD). A few things that the indoor training block has done for my fitness in a short time:

  • Indoor training means no stoplights, stop signs or wasted time coasting. I can get on the trainer and be warmed up within 5-10 minutes. It’s super efficient so I can get a lot done in 1 hour.
  • Zwift is a virtual training platform where you ride with (and race against) real people in real time. If you are competitive, this is so stimulating and motivating – it makes it so much easier to push it hard on those hard, workout days.
  • The Wahoo Kickr is very sturdy – both its construction as well as the wide and heavy base. This makes it very realistic to get out of the saddle and do sprints and ride hard just like you would outside.
  • It creates accountability. Just like Strava, where people can see what you did (or didn’t) do in a given day or in a race. Zwift is posting your times compared to others – I love this and I really find it motivating to get stronger so I can climb the ranks.

I have an FTP that is higher than it’s ever been before, and it is October. That is a good sign for what this winter is going to bring in terms of fitness and what I should be able to bring to next years racing season. I’ll make it a point to write more about some of the specifics – but I had to share!

Does your team need Sales Enablement?

I have spent the last 6 months standing up a Sales Enablement organization for my company. It’s been an exciting (and very challenging) opportunity, but it’s one that I know I will cherish for the rest of my career. Recently, I had the privilege to talk about this process on a very cool podcast and thought I would share that here.

Here is the link to the podcast that was conducted by MindTickle, an Enablement thought leader and platform.

Let me know if you have any questions – thanks for listening!

Why do marketers seemingly only talk about Google?

I started working in the Digital Marketing industry in early 2015. However, I’ve been obsessed with keeping up with technology trends since I bought my first desktop in 2004. Every single day (literally), there is a new trend that seems to enter the market place. These trends can come in the form of thought leaders, conferences, blogs, social media, and of course – speculation.

What impact will the Google Pixel have on search? Google removed the sidebar for paid search in the SERP, will CPC skyrocket? Google is going to begin prioritizing the mobile website for it’s search index, if my site is mobile-friendly…is that enough? The list clearly goes on and on.

 This screenshot shows Google's steady year over year growth. Granted, this is visibility into the stock. Regardless, the growth continues to rise which ties into the trends we are seeing in Google's dominance of Global Global Search Growth. This screenshot shows Google’s steady year over year growth. Granted, this is visibility into the stock. Regardless, the growth continues to rise which ties into the trends we are seeing in Google’s dominance of Global Global Search Growth.

The real trend, and the one word that you noticed in every one of those questions above? Google.

 Google is dominating the Global Search market. This number will be over 80% by the end of 2017! Google is dominating the Global Search market. This number will be over 80% by the end of 2017!

If there is one thing that we know, it’s that Google isn’t going anywhere. Every single industry statistic shows an incredibly fast paced growth in searchers that are using Google, with Yahoo! and Bing not being able to keep up regardless of their efforts.

Is it possible to stay ahead of Google’s Core Algorithm? How much of your marketing budget should be allocated to digital? Do people actually click on paid search ads? I’m going to start using this platform to push out more content, not necessarily answers to these questions, but certainly my point of view backed by statistics and recent trends. Stay tuned!

Mike

Dad first, Athlete second

6 weeks and 1 day ago we welcomed our first child, Nathan, into the world. As a Triathlete who has been focused on the long course (70.3 & Ironman) racing the past 3 years, I planned on taking a few weeks to focus on being present with family and jumping back into swim-bike-run style training. As soon as I met him though, my priorities changed overnight!

 7 days old. Our son has radically changed our world for the better. 7 days old. Our son has radically changed our world for the better.

It has been almost 9 years since I made one of the most important decisions in my life, the decision to pursue fitness and a healthy lifestyle. If you haven’t read my story – here is the link. Needless to say, I am now almost a decade into fitness and almost 7 years into pursuing endurance – so in no way am I saying that I’m done with sport. April and I talked about it a lot before Nathan arrived – we are determined to maintain a sense of self, a sense of US (dating), and pursuing our passions like we always have.

What I am saying is that for the next few months, I’m going to keep things simple. If you follow me on strava you will notice that I’m mostly just running. We purchased a treadmill before Christmas and with his sleep schedule and my work schedule – it feels like the right thing to do is to focus on running for a bit while we figure things out.

It is pretty crazy to say that training for a marathon is easy. But compared to training 15-20 hours/week for Ironman triathlons the past few years, committing to 6-8 hours and 40-65 miles/week feels a heck of a lot easier 🙂 With that said, I am still an endurance nut who wants to chase goals, fast times, set PR’s, and lead a lifestyle that others are (hopefully) inspired by. I am going to chase the elusive sub-3 marathon and a Boston Qualifying (BQ) time at the Eugene Marathon on May 7th this year.

 Eugene Marathon 2017 here I come! Eugene Marathon 2017 here I come!

As far as the rest of this season, I’m not quite sure. There are a handful of local running races I’m signed up for leading into Eugene. Two 10k’s, one half-marathon, and I’m hoping to use these as fitness tests and this is the first time in 5 years I’m solely focusing on running for a block of training. I will certainly be racing Triathlon this year and am tentatively committed to Santa Cruz 70.3 and finally notching a top 5 Age Group (AG) placing at an Ironman race. I’ll also be racing the Pacific Crest Long Course and Deschutes Dash Olympic – two favorite local triathlons here in Bend, OR.

More to come. Until then, happy training everyone!

The Data Driven Athlete

As a technology guy by profession, data plays a big role in my life – not just my career. My wife and I use the iCloud to stay connected with calendars, shared notes, and seamlessly sharing constant photos of our newborn son. As an avid mac user, my whole ecosystem of technology stays connected so that I am always able to pick up where I left off on my iPhone on my iPad, or one of my MacBook’s. And of course, as a triathlete and endurance coach – data and technology plays a huge role in how I train, race, and recover.

I’ve been fortunate to gain support by many companies, which means that I am constantly trying out new gear and deciding if I need to invest in something new. I am going to break this out into four primary tools that I use faithfully, along with the data that they produce and why it matters.

Social Media – Strava

 One of my favorite hobbies and interests is social media. I love it. You name the tool and I can almost guarantee you I’m using it or have at least given it a shot. The list is long, too: YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Tumblr, Medium, and WhatsApp – you get the point! When it comes to triathlon though there is one tool that I’ve used consistently – Strava.

Strava has a long list of features. It integrates with just about every big player in wearable technology – simplified, that means that you can automatically have your swims/runs/bikes that are captured on your Garmin (or Polar, Suunto, Timex, etc.) show up on Strava automatically. There is a social aspect to it, which is similar to Twitter or Instagram where you follow people that you are friends with or professional athletes that you are a fan of. One of my favorite parts is ‘segments’ where you can directly compare your performance on specific parts of runs and rides to others.

 An example of a Strava Segment. This is a KOM (King of the Mountain) where I was the fastest person on a specific portion of a ride in Beaverton, OR. Here I am compared to all 1,201 athletes who have ridden it. An example of a Strava Segment. This is a KOM (King of the Mountain) where I was the fastest person on a specific portion of a ride in Beaverton, OR. Here I am compared to all 1,201 athletes who have ridden it.

Social Media plays a few important roles in my training. I am able to stay accountable because everyone on Strava is able to see whether or not I showed up and got the workout(s) in. Additionally, it certainly fuels my competitive drive to know that if I want to get in a hard effort, I can compare my efforts to others to see how I am progressing and improving as an athlete.

Training Planning & Monitoring – Training Peaks

When it comes to planning out workouts for myself and athletes I coach, there are many platforms out there that are used to accomplish this. Since day one of being a triathlete, I have used Training Peaks. I’ve tried many other tools – free versions, making my own, other paid tools, but nothing has compared to the offering that Training Peaks has. They have a free version along with a paid version, incredible integrations with all of the wearable’s on the market to sync your training data into the tool instantly, and an incredible amount of data to help coaches track performance for athletes.

The reason that I have remained so loyal to Training Peaks is twofold – they have a lot of powerful data that I’ve never found elsewhere, and they continue to be revolutionary with continual updates to their platform.

 A lot of data to see on Training Peaks. Great for both planning and executing workouts each week! A lot of data to see on Training Peaks. Great for both planning and executing workouts each week!

I have studied extensively on the various aspects of Training Peaks to learn how to leverage it to create athlete specific training plans. This plays a critical role for myself and my athletes because I am able to keep an accurate pulse on fatigue & fitness – this enables us to know when to push, when to rest, and when we are ready to race for a PR.

Wearable Technology – My Garmin(s)

 I could go on and on about this section. And I will keep it intentionally short. My Garmin watches and bike computers play a key role in keeping me accountable in executing each specific workout. These also play a big role in gathering data so that I can analyze it afterwards in Training Peaks and of course gives me the ability to brag when I have a good day on Strava!

There are a lot of wearable’s to choose from – and to be honest; they all offer a similar level of capability. I love Garmin, and have become loyal to their brand.

Not Technology – My Gut

 I know this is an article about technology, but I believe that every athlete needs to keep a steady pulse on his or her gut – how they feel during a race or a workout. If you are going into a workout and the plan is to run 8 x 800m on the track at a 5:40/mi pace and it simply doesn’t feel right, be smart about it and don’t push. If you are feeling sick – talk to your coach, maybe this is a good day to rest or make it an easy recovery day.

Summing Things Up

Technology will enable you to get better. It helps you leverage data to make informed decisions about what you are capable of in upcoming workouts and being able to realistically plan and train for a goal race time. Don’t lose sight of the most important part of training and racing though: it is supposed to be fun, as most of us are doing this as a hobby, not a profession.

Happy training and let me know if you have any questions!

The Comeback: The Plan

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It’s been 2 weeks and one day since I pulled out of Santa Cruz 70.3 at mile 5 of the run. After the last race of the season, most athletes enter ‘off-season’ – a time to take a step back from the regimented training schedule, to enjoy an extra beer (or two), to be active but not always swimming/biking/running, and to focus on weaknesses. I thought it would be fun and beneficial to chronicle the process of rehabbing from this injury and finding my running strength and speed again, so here are a few things that I’m choosing to focus on for the next few months.

Redeveloping Healthy Habits

As triathletes, we spend a huge chunk of our weeks and years training to be strong swimmers, bikers, and runners. In order to sustain this level of training focusing on mobility, range of motion, sport-specific strength work, and quality nutrition are all things that are easy to lose sight of in order to get in the extra mileage. Unfortunately for me, the decision to get in the extra mileage or workouts while neglecting these ‘little things’ kept me from finishing my last race of the season. I’ll be spending the next few months back in the weight room, on the foam roller, and eating well in order to fuel a healthy 2017.

Setting myself up for a FUN winter of training

I recently acquired a Computrainer, a cycling trainer that is going to allow me to get much more specific with how I control my power outputs and to get a lot more out of my indoor riding this winter. April and I are also going to get fit for cross country skis so we can take advantage of the close proximity we have to all of the trails near Mt. Bachelor. Fun!!

Mobility and range of motion

Even though I mentioned it in my first section, I’m saying it again because I know this is a key to healthy training. I have an abundance of tools I’ve picked up for keeping my muscles happy, pain free, and to develop a better range of motion. This will mean a lot of time on the foam roller, trigger point therapy tools, and stretching.

More to come as I chronicle my return to being a healthy, fast, and strong athlete!

Santa Cruz 70.3 – My First DNF

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Race Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Run – Just couldn’t make it happen

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

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

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

Onwards and Upwards

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

Race Report: 2016 Ironman Canada

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

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

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

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

 Attending the athlete meeting at the Ironman Village.
Attending the athlete meeting at the Ironman Village.

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

Race Morning

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

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

 Quick pre race picture before heading to the swim start!
Quick pre race picture before heading to the swim start!

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

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

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

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

Bike – 112 miles, 5:45:25 (19.45mph)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post race thoughts and takeaways

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

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

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

Thanks for reading, everyone, and happy racing!

 

Ironman Canada: Pre-Race Thoughts

I’m sitting in an incredible 1,400 square foot lodge at the base of Whistler Mountain wearing an Ironman bracelet which means that I’m all checked in for my second go at the Ironman distance, Ironman Canada. Last years Ironman debut was a tough first crack at Ironman with the insanely hot temperatures in Coeur d’Alene, and although I didn’t pick an easy (is there such thing as an easy Ironman?) course for my 2nd race, I’m feeling more prepared both physically and mentally than I was last year.

I’m going into this race a different athlete than I was last year, for quite a few reasons: I have 13 more months of training, racing, and experience under me. I have no raced an Ironman and to an extent, know what to expect which makes me much less intimated by the distance. Additionally, I have a new half-ironman PR, my first overall race win, and some incredible training accomplishments as well. I’ve done the work, I’m the fittest I’ve ever been, and I am ready to tackle the day.

I used training peaks to log every single activity between last years Ironman and now. The reason I bring this up, is that I have the data to show that I am fitter going into Ironman Canada this year than I was going into Ironman Coeur d’Alene last year. With a higher CTL (training peaks lingo for fitness, basically) being reached 2 weeks out and a well executed taper, I am excited to race my race on Sunday.

I have done a good job of focusing on the process for this race versus focusing on goals that revolve around times, however, I would by lying if I didn’t state that I plan on beating last years time by at least an hour, putting me under 10:34 this year. When I swim, bike, and run within my means and don’t let myself get caught up in the race day antics that always occur at Ironman, I know I’ll see that goal met.