Monday, December 15, 2014

Candy Cane 10k Race Report

While Coach Ken had put this on my calendar back in October, I didn't actually sign up until the Tuesday before.  This usually means I don't have any grand pre-race plans or goals.  I just wanted to go out and have a good time.  I contacted Erik and he was in to run the 5k with friend Megan.

The temps were going to be around 50 degrees, which aided in the decision to pull the trigger on the race. It was cloudy but really perfect for a race.

I stopped at Parkville Coffee House right as it opened at 7 so that I could get to Swope Park in time to grab my packet from Erik and do a warm up.

Erik, Megan and I all arrived within a few minutes of each other.  We walked over to Starlight Theatre where they had your standard race booths of food and soft tissue massages.  Once we found that the start line was also the finish line, I decided to take off for about a mile warmup.  This time I stopped about halfway and did some stretches that help open the hip flexors.  I'm trying to do things that help my running form and this is something I've heard helps.  Dynamic stretches during a warmup, who knew?!

I got back to the start line and talked with Erik and Megan for a bit before positioning myself for the start.  I was about 10 feet back from the line.

After the National Anthem, we were off!

The 10k course is 2 loops of the 5k course with a slight modification so that the 10k doesn't run through that start line twice.  The course first has a small decline before a .75 mile incline.  Nothing steep but long.  There is then a mile of flat during the out and back portion before going downhill on the other side of Swope Park.

I decided to not push the hill and kill my race before the first mile is over.  I felt pretty good the entire way and managed a 6:58 first mile.

The crowd was beginning to thin out but there were plenty of people.  We were on the first loop with 5k runners, so that added to the congestion.  The flat section came in at 6:41.  The third mile was pretty much all down hill.  I hit 6:30 while trying to run as long as I am tall.  I was trying to take some long strides and take advantage of gravity.

Now that we were finishing up mile 3, the truth about who was running the 5k was about to be known... nearly everyone.

Suddenly there were only three people in front of me.  We were soon faced with a decision:  I was about 100 feet from a "T" in the road with no markers.  The first of the 3 people turned left, which was toward the start line.  The two remaining looked at each and turned right but a couple seconds later they had turned around and went left.  I finally committed to follow them left when they had turned around to go back right, away from the start line.  I probably lost a second here but they had lost a good 10 seconds or so.  I never did see the first guy again.  He may have missed the 5k turnoff and was going back

I was now running with a female, a guy, and no one else.  It crossed my mind that we may be the top three but I also knew there was a police car as the lead car.  We now hit the long uphill again.  I stayed close with the girl but the guy pulled slightly ahead.  As we started to crest the hill I could see the lead car but couldn't tell how many people were there.  I just assumed that I was forth behind the girl.

Mile 4 was 7:13.  It felt much slower, so I guess that is good.   I passed the girl right as we hit the flat section but the guy was pulling even further ahead.  About mile 4.5 mile I could hear another set of footsteps behind me. It was another guy.

We started catching up with the walkers and stroller people of the 5k.  This added some obstacles to dodge.  I may have used one or two of them to squeeze out my new running buddy.

As we started the downhill again, it finally entered into my mind that I was actually in a race and I needed to strategize my finish.  Based on my assumption, I was now fighting for third place overall.  I wasn't trying to beat a time goal (I didn't think sub-40 was going to happen) but going for an overall podium, which is much better!

During my warm-up I actually ran the last half mile so I knew there was a nasty uphill.  He and I were starting swap positions and by the time we hit that hill, my legs were thrashed.  He began to break away but I knew not to relent.  I pushed it as hard as I could to the finish but couldn't catch him.  My last mile was 6:21.

I didn't mind missing what I assumed was third place.  What I did mind was losing third to a guy wearing the race shirt.... especially since that race shirt was a hoodie sweater.  Doh!

No knocking knees this time but still looking disjointed.

Time: 40:31 / 6:31 pace
Age Group: 1st out of 6
Overall: 4th out of 194

Yay for 1st place!!  Boo for missing 3rd overall... by less than a second!  He ended up having the same time as me but I don't know the milliseconds.  He must have lined up near the line while I was much further back.

I generally hate races of 5k/10k distances because they hurt so much.  Sure, marathons hurt but not the same way.  I never really felt that pain, even with the hills.  I think that may have been attributed to my plan to not push the hill but maybe I didn't push myself as hard as I could.

My watch registered a 5.97 miles, so it may have been short.  I'll call this my 10k PR anyway.

I do love the Age Group win!  It's my second one ever and first in a 10k.

Congrats to Erik who smashed his PR.  He's been trying to going under 30 minutes and blew it out by over a minute!  Megan got a PR as well as she ran with Erik.  PRs all around!

Erik and Megan both flying through the 5k course...literally.

New Facebook Profile Photo!

Megan finishing Strong!

Erik mastering the stop-the-watch finish photo.

My race buddy for the last 2 miles... race hoodie sweatshirt and all

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Race Report: Kansas Half Marathon

I had originally registered for Kansas City Half Marathon as my race season swan song but our KC High Five Station got an opportunity we couldn't pass up by the Kansas City Sports Commission, so I elected to DNS and run the Kansas Half Marathon instead.  The course had changed from previous years and was setup to be flat and fast.  Sounds good to me.

See you in 13.1 miles (or about 2 thousand words)
I really didn't have a goal.  My PR was set earlier this year at the Lucky 13.1 at 1:30:07.  I didn't feel a PR was going to happen with some items getting in the way of my training.  Apparently those items added a few pounds of stress to my frame as well.  Not trying to make excuses... but yeah, I guess I am.

Leading up to race weekend it was suppose to be 35 degrees and windy.  That really didn't concern me much as I've trained in cold conditions.  The wind was just going to be annoying.

Race Morning
As I got up at 5am, the temps were 50 degrees.  So I happily left the long sleeve base-layer and skull cap on the floor.  I ended up just wearing my shorts, team shirt, visor, calf sleeves, shoes, and socks.  Speaking of waking up, it was so nice having a race the morning after the end of daylight savings time.  We got an extra hour of sleep!

Stopped at the coffee shop to get some go-go juice and arrived in Lawrence about 30 minutes before the race.  A pit stop in the port-a-pots and then did about a mile warm-up jog with some pickups.

About 5 minutes before the start, TKB and I found Dane and also talked with another teammate, Jeff. A work colleague of TKB's was there as well, DeEtta. She just ran one of my favorite races, the Chicago Marathon.

I lined up with the 1:45 group just to help slow me down.   The 1:45 group was about 5 feet behind the 1:35 group, so I guess it didn't really matter.


Me and Dane, ready to run!

A little after 7:30, we were off.  I ran with Dane for a few blocks as we got moving, but I knew that wouldn't last long before he took off.

The first few miles of the race had some hills as we ran through Mass Street and the headed east.  Nothing bad but just enough to make you work.  Around mile 1 a guy in front of me lost his bib.  With the wind coming from the south at 15 mph, I thought I'd do what I could so the guy didn't have to run too far backwards.  I managed to snare the thing, even wearing those white dispensable gloves.    I should have asked the guy what age group he was in before handing it off to him!

Once we got out in the country, it was flat.  Super flat.  The problem with super flat on a windy day, it means super windy.  Fortunately, we were turning north eventually so the wind would be at our backs.  I ended up tucking in with three other guys.  I overheard them talking.  They were all shooting for 1:30.  So I just needed to stay with them but make sure they didn't start to slow.


I don't like how my knees knock.  Doesn't seem efficient.

The race worked its way back to downtown through the side streets of Lawrence.  We then crossed over the Kansas River and started running through northeast Lawrence.  It was here that we would make short efforts to run south against the wind.

Running down the bridge towards northeast Lawrence.

There was probably a half mile stretch where we ran against the wind.  I could hear Phil Leggitt (Tour de France announcer) in my head saying, "and the wind has devastated the peloton!  We have guy in orange breaking free and two guys in blue fighting to stay.  Scotty B has fallen off the back!  He's going to have to work hard to bridge the gap".  Sigh.

I actually DID get back with them and dropped one of the guys after we turned away.   We eventually hopped onto the levee trail for about 2 miles before turning around (back into the wind) and then back over the river on the same bridge.  By now we were running through the city blocks and the wind wasn't too much of a factor.  The guy in orange was long gone.  I was running about 10 - 20 yards behind the other one.  It stayed that way until the last half mile when he took off.  There was noone behind me and so I enjoyed the last quarter mile of my final race of the year.

Your standard, mid-air finish line photo.

Time: 1:31:50 / 7:01 Pace
Age Group: 3 of 33
Overal: 22 of 665

No PR but a 3rd place age group finish!  I actually was surprised with a 3rd place finish considering the time but not complaining.

Not only was Dane racing, so was his father, Ken.  We all three took home some mugs.  Dane got first in his age group, Ken with 2nd, and me with 3rd!

Race Items
The race use to be in the Spring and had a much more elevated course.  I never ran that race course, so can't compare.  I thought this was pretty good course.  There was some gravel in the first half and the levee trail isn't paved, but that's not an issue.  You cross the train tracks a few times, so I always get concerned about getting stopped by a train but I didn't have an issue.

The race had great communication through emails, Facebook, and Twitter.  I also love it when a races have interactive people manage their Twitter and Facebook accounts.  I also asked a few questions about the race not being approved by the city days before the race and they responded without hesitation.

For a race this size, they had good post-race items (massages, bananas, bagels, water, and even hot chocolate).  There was some confusion regarding the awards.  They had communicated through email and even at the site that there wouldn't be an awards ceremony but they actually did have one.

No issues with parking (we actually parked half a block from the start line).  All the volunteers, police, and staff were awesome and supportive.  Even people at some of the more remote parts of the course had spectators to cheer us on.  I even saw were someone had put a box of Kleenex in their open mailbox. Not sure where I would need that, but it's a good gesture!

Proof -- Also known as Scott's commentary of Dane's race photos.

Dane settling into pace at mile 1.  He's trying to hide under his skull cap.  Is it Dane or isn't it?

OMG!  His cap has been removed.  It is Dane!

 Look at that sweet kick.  Almost fully parallel with the road!

Landing on his heel though.  Room for improvement? #ICantTalk

What is this dude doing with his left arm?  Making a left turn or something?

In the next photo, this guy is doing it with his right arm!  OMG!  They are trying to squeeze Dane out.


Squeezed.  Unfair.

Your standard, mid-air finish line photo.

The one photo I found of DeEtta.  She's gutting out that nasty wind.  

Big shout out to Mile 90 Photography and KS Half Marathon for providing free race photos!  I'd gladly pay an extra $5+ per race just to get free, high quality race photos at the end.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Royals: Game 7 #TakeTheCrown

So when I first started this blog, I mentioned I would likely talk about non-triathlony stuff.  This may be my first one.

Last night was Game 6 of the MLB World Series between the KC Royals and SF Giants.  I am a fan of the KC Royals as I've been a resident of Kansas City since day 0 of my life. At the start of the 2nd inning I was sitting on my couch, beer in hand, dog laying next to me, TKB watching intently, and life was great.  No team had scored yet and, yet, I was already euphoric.  This was amazing.  I say this because I can honestly say that I never thought this moment was going to happen in my lifetime.. not without some changes.

In my previous blog (which is now defunct), I made a post about bucket list items in baseball that I wanted to witness in a Royals game.  Items like an inside-the-park Home Run (Thank you, Angel Berroa), Grand Slam (Thank you, Ryan Shealy), someone stealing home, a no hitter, a triple play, a 3 pitch inning, getting a foul ball (Thank you, Detroit player who hit it into the upper deck).  One item that I don't recall if I had one on there is the Royals winning a World Series.  Why?  Simply because from the late 1990s baseball was broken.  The competitive balance of baseball was screwed up.  The economics was skewed to those who could buy a championship team.  In my mind, the figurehead of this were the Yankees but many teams were guilty.

How in the world could a team in a small market be competitive?  Kansas City was the prime example of a small market team.  Players didn't want to come here and why would they?  If they were good, teams would simply overpay for their services.  The Royals couldn't (or, rather, wouldn't) match.  Our ownership literally came from the Walmart mindset (he was previously a CEO of the company).  We got plenty of flack about being a cheap team... and the ownership deserved those comments.  Here are some facts from a hopefully reliable source of information.  It compares the total amount of money spent on baseball salaries since the Yankees and Royals last won their World Series.

In the last 6 years, the Yankees have spent $10.8 million MORE than the Royals in the previous 30 years.  Yes, this is non-adjusted for inflation so it might be closer.  In 2011, the Royals salary was so an anemic 17% of that of the Yankees.  That was a horrible year for the Royals when they lost 91 games.

To be fair, I feel that every person should be paid as much as people are willing to pay them.  I'm not going to stop my company from giving me a $25 million per year contract, so I won't blame the Yankees with their deep pockets; however, from an ownership perspective, I feel it's reckless (ie, my company didn't give me that contract).  Yankees being a prime example.  They have spent $1.2 BILLION dollars and have nothing to show for it since 2009.

In addition, there are plenty of teams who have won the World Series that aren't in the top 5 of salary spenders.  So why do it?!

As you can see, the Royals have started spending money to get some big arms in clubhouse but they aren't overpaying by an absurd amount.  They have also spent plenty of capital (not just financially but in mentoring, training, and grooming) players from their own farm system.  THAT is why I was euphoric.  I feel the Royals have hit the right combination and didn't mortgage the future to get it.

So while I am impatiently waiting for Game 7 to start, I don't know what the outcome will be. I want our team to win and I feel very confident that they will.  Even if they lose, this has been an absolutely awesome experience being a fan of the team.  This entire post-season has been enjoyable to watch.  I hope that if you are a true fan of this sport, you are enjoying the it too. Being a true fan of this sport, I hope your team wins tonight (but only if your team also happens to be the Royals)!


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Next Year's Ironman

As I mentioned in my Race Registration-Palooza, I'm returning to ironman-distance racing with Ironman Louisville.  I completed my first ironman race with Beach2Battleship 140.6.  The goal was to have fun and just complete it (which I did in 10 hours, 24 minutes).  Now it's time to see what I can do.  The planning for this started soon after Beach2Battleship when I signed up with Midwest Triathlon Coaching.  I then started attending the local Master's Swim class for stroke efficiency training.  I have even gone so far as to purchase a Power Meter in September to help with cycling. I feel confident in my running, it's just making sure I can get to the marathon in great shape.

The next thing to do is to pick a race.  This planning started in May with, of course, a spreadsheet analysis. There are a lot of good options out there but there had to be one major requirement before it got a row in the spreadsheet: It had to be an Ironman-branded race.  Maybe I'm one of the few triathletes out there that don't care to throw cash at the World Triathlon Corporation hand-over-fist (WTC owns the Ironman brand).  It wasn't until this year that I registered for a race that was associated with the company, Kansas 5i50.  So why bother?  If you want to play at the big dance, you have to play their game.  The big dance being the Ironman World Champions in Kona, Hawaii.

The remaining requirements are a late summer, early fall race in the US that is an easy commute.  This limited to:
  • Boulder:  Brand new for 2014.  I wanted to avoid an altitude race though.
  • Wisconsin: A good race that normally sells out fast.  I would have to volunteer this year to guarantee a spot.  Bike course is technical with lots of turns so hard to get in a groove.
  • Chattanooga: Brand new for 2014, so not sure what to expect.  I think this would be a good race; however, having the bike course end up long by four miles made me question the race planning.  I'm apparently a good cyclist, so maybe this is a good?  It's close to friends and family in North Carolina, so that is a plus.
  • Louisville: Known to be a very hot and humid race BUT it was moved to October 11 for 2015.  Bike course is known to be hilly too. Doesn't sell out.
I didn't want to be concerned about registering for a race that sells out in minutes.  Since Boulder and Chattanooga were new, it was unknown as to how quickly it would sell out. As it turns out, Chattanooga and Wisconsin are sold out; however, I'm not sure how quickly they did.

My good friend Vicki did Louisville this year and she really enjoyed it.  She also did Beach2Battleship with me in 2013.  With the concern of the bike course, it turns out her IM Louisville bike time was 13 seconds faster than B2B.  With the race moving to October AND the fact that we loved Louisville when we were there for the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon, I was sold.  In addition, my coach has done this race multiple times and he qualified for Kona there last year.

The run course for IMLOU follows most of the same roads that I ran for the Louisville Marathon (between downtown and Churchill Downs), which was super flat.  So I'm loving this decision!  The swim is challenging in the first 1/3 of the course.  You swim against the current, but it is somewhat protected by a small island.  You turn around and then can enjoy the current.  The swim start is also a time trial start not a mass start.  You line up and jump off a dock to start the swim.  With 2000+ participants, it's a rather long line.  Some people start lining up hours before and so I'm debating about my strategy.  I have a full year to figure it out.

I went backwards from October 11 and found a good half ironman in Muncie to do in July (another WTC race).  It requires some travel, so I can practice the travel preparation.  I have a couple friends, Kevin (from Chicago Triathlon) and Kristen (who has appeared here multiple times) joining me.  Anyone else?

I mentioned Kona earlier in the post.  Am I doing IMLOU with the full purpose of attempting to qualify for Kona?  In 2014, I would have to complete a 9 hour, 35 minute ironman in Louisville.  That's 49 minutes faster than Beach2Battleship on a less forgiving course.  These are based off of times racing in the heat and humidity of summer.

That being said, every goal race needs to have a purpose.  From here on out, any Ironman race I do will be to qualify for Kona.  It may be years before it happens but I have the tools and trust in the plan.  These races are way too expensive to do for fun... or their overpriced merchandise... or simply a tattoo.

Will Louisville improve my chances?  Not sure.  Being an October race likely means I need faster than a 9:35 to make it; however, it is the day after Kona, which means all the fast freaks will already be in Hawaii that weekend!

Hopefully I'll be active on here posting about my training in the next year leading up to the race.  Work has me crazy busy right now and into the foreseeable future, which means the time to blog suffers.

Thanks for reading!!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

An End To The Suspense!

So about 3.5 weeks ago I recapped my Race Registration-Palooza with quite the cliff hanger.  I had to wait over a week to find out if I got accepted by the Boston Athletic Association's Marathon.  And the result:

Success!  I made it by 45 seconds.  So happy!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Race Registration-Palooza!!

Monday was a big day.... for my Southwest Airlines Visa card.

I registered for the following races:

  • Bringing Up The Rear 10k (Oct 5, 2014) -- Returning to this race for the 3rd year.  They added a 10k!  This will actually be my third 10k too and the first that I really race it.
  • Kansas Half Marathon (Nov 2, 2014)
  • Ironman Louisville (Oct 11, 2015)-- Returning to ironman-distance racing!  
  • Ironman 70.3 Muncie (July 11, 2015) -- After 3 years of triathlons, I'm finally putting money in WTC's pockets.  They have big pockets too (read: $$$$).
  • Boston Marathon (April 20, 2015) -- The real driver for September 15 being race registration-palooza.
I'll write more about about the Ironman races in a future post but for now, let's chat Boston.

Registration opened at the same time I had a meeting. Even though there was no true benefit for registering the minute it opens, I did anyway.  In my rush to get to my meeting, I managed to flip-flop entering my First Name and Last Name in their respective fields.  While this was my mistake for being in a hurry, WHO DESIGNS AN ONLINE FORM IN WHICH YOU ASK FOR LAST NAME THEN FIRST NAME!?!?!?

As soon as I noticed that, I called BAA (Boston Athletic Association).  I didn't want the reason I didn't get in was because they couldn't validate my race results because they couldn't find my name!  Unfortunately, the person I talked to on the phone didn't have access to the registration data yet (it "uploads" at the end of the day) but she assured me they would correct it.

Even still, nerves got to me so I called on Thursday to confirm that they would fix my name.  They, in fact, did fix my name and had confirmed my 3:08:13 marathon time.  Whew.

Another reason I wanted to validate it was because when registration closed on Wednesday (the last day of 2nd week registration), BAA confirmed that they received enough applications to fill the race!

So the next big date is Wednesday, September 24 when they said they will have completed verification and will notify applicants of their final status.  Regardless, I'm going to be checking the Entry List hourly until then in the event they finish early!

Other Purchase
I also made another large triathlon purchase. I put in an order for Garmin Vector power meters.  Anxious to get those puppies installed and start analyzing some of that wattage data!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Two Weeks to the Next Big Day!

2014 triathlon season is officially in the books.

"Winterzied" the Tri bike.  Basically reinstalled the stock wheels and put my normal seat bottle cage back on (took it off for the Chicago triathlon as I used my Speedfil system).  Cleaned the 'transmission' as well!
The doesn't mean I'm taking the rest of the year off.  I'm planning to race the Kansas Half Marathon in November.

I will be participating in the Bringing Up The Rear 5k or 10k.  They added a 10k this year, so that is tempting and will probably be worth while given my Half Marathon training.  I've raced this both years it has existed to honor Andrew Somora. In those two years I've done Bringing Up The Rear, I got 1st place age group in 2012 and 5th overall in 2013.  The 10k was likely added because the park added nearly 2 miles of trails this year, making it easier to add the additional race.

Two Weeks!

Technically, my registration day is Monday, September 15, which is a little more than 2 weeks.  The week of Sept 8 is for people who qualify by 5 or more minutes.  If there are any spots open after that week, then September 15 will start three days of of registration for everyone who qualified (no rush to register as it is not first come, first served).  If there are still slots available after week 2, then on Sept 22 it will open to everyone who qualified again until it is sold out.  The third week is first come, first served.

They announced the fields size of 30,000 participants for 2015.  From 2009 to 2013 the field size was 27,000.  Last year the expanded it to 36,000 to allow for 5,600+ marathoners who didn't finish in 2013 to participate in 2014.  I'm still expecting my 1 minute, 43 second cushion to standup and make it through the registration process because I would have made it every year so far and they even added 3,000 participants over the previous field size.

I'm not sure when I will confirm that I got accepted; however, if on Sept 22 the registration re-opens, it's almost assured I made it since it is first come, first serve.  Make sense?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Chicago Triathlon Race Report

It's been awhile since I visited the blog.  I've been busy working on some contract work, so the blog priority is one of the first to get dropped.  I'm finally back though to recap my "A" triathlon race, the Chicago Triathlon!

I signed up for this as soon as registration was open in November.  I had been planning to do the race this year but after buddy Erik mentioned it at last year's Head for the Cure 5k, it was cemented on the calendar. It was going to be Erik's first triathlon.  The Facebook "calls" went out and soon Kyle (Erik's brother who I've raced with before and was at Beach2Battleship 140.6 as part of my IronSherpa crew), Catie, Rex (both from NC and have been involved in Brew-to-Brew recent years), JoeVI, and Kevin (one of my work triathlon buddies and recently raced at Kansas 5150 and KC Tri) were signed up.

Erik had planned to do the Super Sprint on Saturday.  Given concerns I've heard about the swim, I did my diligence to recommend he participate in one triathlon prior to Chicago to get the taste of the multi-sport event and experience an Open Water Swim.  Within 30 minutes of that message he signed up for KC Triathlon.  Soon after that race, Chicago Triathlon announced some amazing changes to the International bike course and he upgraded to the International division!  I was so excited for him!

I hadn't published any pre-race goals (re: first paragraph) and when people started asking me what they were, I said 2:15 without the rigorous research and calculations as I normally do.  My PR is a tad under 2:19 from KC Triathlon this year.  I figured 3 months of additional swim, bike, and run training plus better transition management could eek out 4 more minutes.  Finally, after chatting with Erik I truly confessed my goals.  I'm not concerned about a time goal.  I'm looking for positions, specifically:  Top 5 Age Group.  After researching the previous year's races, I knew it was a possibility; however, you never know what a day in late August will bring.

Travel Day!

One last minute stop before heading towards Chicago!
We left KC on Thursday.  Unfortunately, JoeVI was absent in our travels.  Work obligations got too much of him, which is understandable.  Sometimes you need to be a responsible adult when you run your own law firm.

I did my usual pre-race road trip menu with containers of pasta, smoked chicken, carrots, gallons of water, and Gatorade.

My bike getting cozy in the hotel room.

After arriving in Chicago, we hit up Portillo's for dinner (famous for their hot dogs and italian beef).  Friday TKB and I had breakfast after a 3 mile run along the Lake Shore trail.

A bit humid, but beautiful morning!
We ate at a nearby cafe and then met up with Catie, Rex, Kyle, Erik, Deb, and Paul (Deb and Paul are Kyle and Erik's parents) to walk the transition area.  For lunch we went back to Portillo's so they could have some as well.  Understandable, it's delicious; however, I grabbed some pasta from the Italian concept in the same building.

We did a little more walking looking for a pie shop for TKB's Friday Pie but were unsuccessful.  Soon we had to head back to the hotel for packet pickup.  We attended the 3pm mandatory athlete's meeting and perused the expo, which was decent sized considering it was in the lower level of the hotel.  I picked up some PowerBar Energy Blasts to use on the bike.  They have the consistency of gummies that have been in your pocket all day.  They are easier to chew than the Gu Chomps; however, you need to consume more of them for the same caloric intake.

A couple things to note from the mandatory athlete's meeting:
  • Enough bad sections on the bike course to make me concerned.  Especially in crucial spots like exit ramps and sharp turns.
  • With the race going through the underground, your eyes will need time to adjust to the darkness, even though it is lit artificially.
  • Lake Shore Drive will have two lanes for cyclists and two for traffic.  Don't cross the orange cones to pass, which you needed to do on people's right since you were to ride on the left.

Soon after we went to a house in north Chicago owned by Erik's relatives.  Erik makes delicious BBQ and he had brought some up for a birthday party for Deb and siblings.  I did my best to not go overboard on the BBQ.  I managed just one plate, which was a success in my book.

We got back to the hotel around 10pm and I went to bed to follow one of my key rules: Always get a good night sleep two nights before the race since you won't the night before.  We got up around 6:45 and went down to the hotel's pool to get in a short 1,000 yard swim in the 20 yard pool.

TKB and I met up with a high school friend and her husband at Yolk for breakfast. As we left, Kevin was walking up the sidewalk as he had just arrived from KC via airplane.  I had couriered his bike from KC.  We hit up the expo again for Kevin and Erik.

Kevin and I dropped off our bikes at the transition area at 2pm. I was hoping to get a good spot as rack spots were assigned by wave number, not specific bib numbers as was previously advertised.

Kevin and I riding over to transition.  Wearing our helmets like good triathletes.

Going to let my bike hang out for a few hours. Well, not really.  The racks were low so when I racked it this way the back wheel was on the ground.  For the race, I set it on the back of the seat, so it would be easier to take away.  We also wrapped our seats and handlebars in plastic bags... just in case it rained...

As we were walking back, the skies turned to night!  A storm was moving in and we got caught.  We hung out at a Starbucks for about 45 minutes.  Once it calmed down we continued our hunt for bananas, bagels, and yogurt.

By now it was a little past 3pm and my parents had arrived. They had been on a two week long trip visiting friends that took them up into Canada.  It was fortunate that their trip took them past Chicago to watch me race!

All 11 of us (Erik, Kyle, Deb, Paul, Catie, Rex, Kevin, TKB, my parents, and me) headed out to Italian Village for the ceremonial pre-race pasta dinner.

We got back to our hotel around 7:30pm and before we knew it, the lights were off.  The alarm clock was set for 3:30am!

Race Morning
Considering all the walking, my legs felt pretty fresh.  I met up with Kevin around 4:15am in the lobby and we headed over to transition with our transition bags.  The transition area closed at 5:45. Even though my transition setup is so small with just bike, helmet, sunglasses, cycling shoes on the bike and running shoes, visor, race belt on the ground, it seems to take me forever to get it just right.   I never did see Erik in the transition area, even though he was in my racking area (which was about 150 feet long).  He had threatened to chain our bikes together, so I was trying to keep an eye on him!

I decided to put my sunglasses on my bike helmet to use on the bike course.  The concern was my helmet has a tinted shield.  With two levels of tint, I might have trouble seeing in the underground; however, I can flip the shield around so it is still attached to my helmet (in an aerodynamic position).  I decided that I would flip it just before entering the underground.

Super freaking tight.
About 5:40, Kevin stopped by and we left for the swim start.  Sunglasses on the helmet and I placed my regular glasses in the shoes I wore over to the race.  Wetsuit, clear goggles, and navy blue swim cap in hand.

Swim Start
This race is HUGE.  7,000 total participants among all events (although, it appears only 6,000 were on the results).  It takes four hours to launch every wave.  Pros, International, then Sprint.  Pros at 6am.  Kevin at 6:44am.  Catie at 7:18, Erik and me at 7:26, Kyle at 7:34.  Rex was doing the Sprint, so he was an hour+ later.  Just crazy how long it takes.  That time difference means the first waves could have a completely different race, weather-wise, than the later waves.

Kevin and I watched the pros swim by like fish and then I left Kevin for his start so I could use the port-a-john for the last time.  After that visit, I finally caught up with all of the rest of the crew (athlete and support).

Rex, Catie, Kyle, Erik, Dork.

Kevin is somewhere behind us... in the water

Eventually Erik and I lined up in our queue.  I love how in my last few major events I've had a friend to high five just before the start.  JoeVI at Chicago Marathon and Beach2Battleship 70.3, Vicki at Beach2Battleship 140.6, and now Erik!

Erik and I getting psyched!
Before Catie's wave was released, the announcer mentioned her (after some prompting from Deb) as it was her first triathlon.  That was pretty sweet!

Before too long, Erik and I were in Lake Michigan and ready to start!

Swim: 1,500 meters
I tried to position myself so I'd be near the front of the group but after everyone filed into the water, I got stuck about 4 rows back.  We were packed in like sardines, for lack of a better analogy.  If we immediately started kicking, I'd surely get a toeful!

Once the horn blew, everyone had the same idea of doing the old-lady-don't-get-my-hair-wet freestyle swim.  After about 20 feet, I finally got horizontal and fought my way to even more open water.  It felt like 200 yards before I got comfortable.

We swam south about 380 meters before turning around at Shedd Aquarium and swimming back 380 yards past the start.  Then the remaining 750 meters to the Chicago Yacht Club for the exit.  After the first 200 meters, the next 800 were pretty smooth.  I felt like I was cruising along.  I felt this because under the water was a farm of seaweed and it was flowing by quickly!  My arms, legs, and face were getting caught in it.  Nothing horrible but I was curious if I could pull myself through the water with it.

Eventually my focus went to the top of the water, meaning the 2 to 3 foot swells that were coming in with the northwesterly winds.    Ugh.  I kept pushing myself hard but tried not to get nauseous.  I was concerned about being dizzy for the run to the transition, which was a long 1/4 mile run.

As I was moving along, I was passing people from the previous three waves.  I stopped seeing people from my wave.  In fact, TKB told me that when she saw me in the water (or who she thought was me), I was the first navy blue swim cap.

I finally saw the big orange buoy that marked the swim exit and swam hard to someone to help me out of the water.  They had metal stairs in the water but I did have some trouble finding a step.  Once I got out, the race to transition was on!

I ran passed quite a few people on the narrow stretch of carpet that marked the route to the transition. I managed to get my wetsuit to waist level.

Time: 28:40 (Includes 1/4 mile run from swim exit to transition entrance)
Age Group Rank: 13 of 257
Overall Rank: 205 of 2,708

Transition 1: Swim to Bike
There were 9 bikes per rack with narrow aisles and so it was a tight squeeze in the transition areas.  In getting off my wetsuit, I nudged my bike enough that my helmet fell and my sunglasses tumbled somewhere.  Once I got my suit off and put my helmet on, I decided to grab my regular glasses instead of sunglasses, which was fine since I knew where the regular glasses were.

I still had my suit in my hand.  I threw it down and started to take off.  The suit was going to be in other people's way.  I grabbed it to move it somewhere else and froze for a few seconds.  I had nowhere to put it.  I could have put it on my running shoes but they would get soaked.  I managed to tuck it somewhere that wouldn't be in people's way.  The cool thing was I was having trouble finding a spot because all the bikes were still there.  I was one of the first out of the surrounding bikes!

I ran my bike through the murky mess.  Since it rained on Saturday, the transition was a mud pit.  I went straight for a close road and ran to the mount line.  For me it was the "fail line".  I had my cycling shoes attached to the pedals on my bike.  I did everything as I normally do but as soon as I put my foot on my shoe, it unclipped and fell off.  Ugh!!!  That was the first time it'd ever happened in the countless times I've practiced it.

I ran back, put it on like normal, then hopped on my bike and took off!

Time: 2:35

Bike: 40k
We first went up the entrance ramp to north Lake Shore Drive, then the fun started.

With the wind coming in from the southeast, I had a nice push for the first 8 miles.  I was hitting 27mph+ for the first few miles.  After such a choppy swim, it was nice to take advantage of that wind.

As I started, the course was quite crowded.  My swim wave was 20th out of 27 so there were roughly 2,100 already ahead of me. Some people had trouble following the "ride to the left, pass on the right" rule for Lake Shore Drive.  I hollered at some people "On your right. On your right! ON YOUR RIGHT!" but they just didn't move out fast enough.  Ride into them or jump around the orange cones for a split second?  What did they say about the orange cones in the athlete's meeting?!

I kept flying.  According to my Garmin, my first 5 miles averaged 25.7 mph (which included my screwed up mounting).  By the time we hit the first 180 degree turnaround at mile 7.5, I had yet to be passed.    I took a noticeable dive in my average speed on the way back to the city though.  I just kept trying to time trial like I was at the downtown airport on the windy side of the loop.  Still no one passed me.

There were still a lot of people who had trouble with the "ride on the left" concept.  I tried my best to be a steward of USAT rules and make sure to ride there whenever I could.

The PowerBar Energy Blasts were working well but I was almost through them by the time I hit halfway, which was the start of the underground section!  We lowered into intermediate Wacker Drive and there was absolutely no wind, as you'd expect.

When shifting, my rear derailleur, chain, and cogs makes a nice "thunk" noise.  My carbon rear wheel helps to amplify the sound too.  Add in a nice little echo from being underground and it gets pretty loud.  At one point I shifted as I passed a another athlete.  When it made the "thunk" noise, it startled her and she let out a little squeal.  Sorry.  I'll be more mindful (or use that as a warning for people who don't know which side of the road tunnel to ride).

So far no issues with the tinted shield on my helmet but I was concerned about the busway based on the athlete's meeting.  It goes in and out of daylight more often. So I flipped my shield as we circled around to the busway.  This section of the course was a two-way, two lane road with no shoulders.  It was pretty tight.  I again struggled with some people not moving over after they passed.

An open section of the busway.

Beautiful view of the busway and downtown Chicago.

After about a mile on the busway, I heard people yelling.  Yes, there were people on pedestrian bridges above the busway but this was different.  It was coming from the cyclists returning.  Pretty soon I saw a man with a bullhorn telling people to "Slow down. Biker down".  I was coming up on a downhill with a slight turn into a tunnel.  Two cyclist were on the ground with neck braces and back boards. Things were getting dangerous.  I slowed up a bit when the course got tight.

The race did a great job marking dangerous sections of the road with orange paint/tape; however, there was one manhole whose cover was about an inch sunken down and not marked.  My carbon wheels made two nice THUNKS... this time as I rode over the manhole.  2 miles to go and I thought that the pothole manhole may have just flatted my tires.  I slowed my roll a bit until I was sure they were good.  After a quarter mile I was confident they were fine.

Pretty soon we were back on Wacker and I was preparing for my dismount.  Feet out of shoes and riding in!  Fortunately, my flying dismount was much more graceful than my flying mount.

Time: 1:03:44 / 23.3 mph
AG Rank: 3 of 257 (I was actually tied for second but the results listed me third.  Fine)
Overall: 27 of 2,708

Transition 2: Bike to Run
As I noted earlier, the transition was packed with bikes making it challenging to place my wetsuit without it getting trampled by someone's cycling shoes.  This time the racks were all empty except for one type of item.  Many people on my rack used it to hang their wetsuits.  What?!  Seriously, what are you thinking?  I tossed a couple wetsuits over and racked my bike.  I probably should have put my bike on the wetsuits.

No real issues here.  I decided to put on my sunglasses, so I took a couple seconds finding where they landed.  My running shoes went on just fine (no socks).  I grabbed my visor and race belt and attached them on the way out of transition.

Time: 1:40

Run: 10k
Started on the cement trail but it went off-road for a bit through the grass.  Fortunately, this wasn't a muddy swamp.

The course was mostly flat but the heat and humidity were rising.  The first few miles felt slow and they were definitely slower than I wanted at 7:13 and 7:06 pace.  Again, I kept passing people and had yet to be passed since the start of the swim... until now.  A female absolutely flew by me!  I just postulated that she was freshly out on a late morning run as the run course was open to the public.  While I couldn't see a wave marking on her leg, I noticed the sides of a bib on her shorts.  Wow!  I tried to pace off of her for a bit but just couldn't keep up.

Just after mile two I finally saw a familiar face.  Kevin was on his way to the finish line! We gave each other high fives and I was quickly green with jealousy. He was almost done and I had 4 miles to go!

They had 7 aid stations on the course with water and gatorade.  A couple places on the course had cold mist fans cooling people down.  At one point they had a huge firetruck blowing water through a 4 foot fan onto the course.  It felt great.  I gladly didn't mind my temporary blindness with water on my glasses!

Humidity is a silent race killer.  You're sweaty from racing and the humidity makes it so that sweat doesn't evaporate. It's the evaporation which pulls heat from your body to cool you down.  Lots of humidity + no evaporation = no cool down.  I feel this hurt me as the 7:20s and 7:30s paces started.

Hopefully it was killing the race of others in my age group.  I did get passed by someone else around mile 6.  This time I confirmed it was a person from my wave...  another female!  (My wave was mixed with Females 24 and under).  As it turns out, this was the overall female winner (the previous female was from a much earlier wave... great runner, not so great swimmer/cyclist).

Pretty soon I was heading up towards Columbus Drive.  This drive was the home of another finish line I had experienced, the 2012 Chicago Marathon.  I could hear TKB and family cheering for me.  I was trailing a few people but none in my age group so I enjoyed the finish!

Waving as I went by!
Time: 45:53 / 7:23 Pace
AG Rank: 14 of 257
Overall: 103 of 2,708

I meandered through the finish line and grabbed a couple yellow-flavored something-ade bottles.  I got a nice ice cold towel and threw it over my head (making me think about the silly ice bucket challenges).  I didn't have my cell phone with me, so I wasn't sure how to get ahold of TKB and crew.  Kevin found me in the post-race festival area and we chatted about the race.

Deb caught up with me and loaned me her phone so I texted TKB where to find me.

Once TKB and my parents stopped by, I decided to go check the race results.  By now 12 minutes had passed that represented the 3 waves of my age group start (3 waves starting 4 minutes apart).  My position should be finalized by now.  After walking and waiting in the line, I typed in my bib number.  While thinking that the only people to pass me were the two females and the fact that I don't remember seeing someone in my age group, my eyes went directly to one column on the race results: "Division Place".  I read it three times and every time it said "3"!!!  My first triathlon podium!

Time: 2:22:33
Age Group Rank: 3 out of 257
Overall: 38 out of 2,708


I couldn't believe it.  I knew I had a shot but I figured with heat/humidity I thought I had lost that chance.  I didn't get a PR but I hit my goal!

Pleased with my podium but not thrilled that in three international triathlons this year, I've gotten slower each one, mostly due to the run.  Each race has their own spin, such as this having a 1/4 mile run from swim to transition (which put this behind of Kansas 5150 time).

The next day my lower back was sore.  I think I need to get back in the weight room to strength that up.  In addition, I'm frustrated that I can't keep a good pace on the run if I'm not in marathon running shape either.  I ran a 6:44 pace 10k at KC Tri a month after the Louisville Marathon.  Things to keep in mind as I start my ironman training next year.  Yes, heat and humidity is a factor but I don't think it was that much different than Kansas 5150.  There might also be a direct corollary that as my bike split improves, my run split suffers.

Congrats to Catie and Rex for finishing their first triathlon!  Kyle finished his third Chicago Triathlon and used his ninja bike maintenance skills to fix a broken front derailleur while on the bike course. (By "ninja" I mean rip off the broken piece and chuck it like a Ninja Star). Kevin pulled in a strong showing and had a fabulous finish.  Mad props go to Erik for knowing when it's just not your day.  Coming off of being sick and still having some chest congestion, Erik pulled out during the swim with problems breathing.  As in, not being able to breathe is a big problem.  I feel bad for him as I know he really wanted to do the bike course and race in his favorite city. I know he'll be back and have a stellar race. I'd love to be there to support or race with him too!

Kevin, Kyle, Rex, Catie, Erik, Dork

Thanks again to TKB, Mom, and Dad for being out there to support me and be part of the entire weekend.  I love having family around to share in the experience.  I realize it's extremely exhausting and nerve racking to spectate at these events, so I greatly appreciate it!

Also thanks to Coach Ken Welsh of Midwest Triathlon Coaching for helping me to this 3rd place podium. I need to extend thanks to Coach Doug Hayden as well.  He teaches the Masters Swim Class I attend as often as I can.  I've seen some great swim improvements this year thanks to him!

Other Thoughts
  • I thought I had a shot at a podium earlier in the year but the one thing that concerned me was this year's Chicago Triathlon was the USAT Club National Championships.  That upped the quality of athletes.  This added 25 males in my age group; however, none of them made it to the podium.  Maybe I should start taking offers from local USAT Clubs?
  • The bike course is very sweet and very fast.  I don't know what the previous course was like but having no wind to contend with on the underground proved exactly how fast it can be.  I was concerned the air would be stagnant but that wasn't the case.
  • Apparently the section where I came across a bike accident had multiple incidents.  Kyle saw other cyclist being loaded into an ambulance as well.
  • Somehow we got asked to be interviewed for a possible video for next years race.  Hopefully my less than elegant responses don't get our chances cut on the editing room floor.

  • Unfortunately this race falls on the same weekend as one of my favorite races in KC, Head for the Cure.  I've done HFTC three times.  While we weren't there in person, we still made contributions to the cure. #TeamHelm
Close-up of the award and medal.

Catie exiting the swim with Kyle peaking around the corner of the Swim Exit arch (in his green swim cap).

Kyle heading towards transition... somewhere off into the distance!

My Support Crew!

A nice little backside shot... if you look closely, on my left cheek Brodie sent me some good luck by chewing a few holes into my tri shorts.  Thanks, pooch.

Another award shot.

Put your left foot in....  or right...

I expect this to be on Kevin's Facebook cover photo shortly.

It's a post card!
Giving out some KC High Fives in Chicago!