About IMRoycer81

Richmond, Virginia, United States
Thanks for visiting! I'm a civil litigator at KPMLaw. I attended Cornell where I swam IM and Breastroke. In 2007 I filled the void of swimming retirement with triathlon. In my first tri I thought, "holy sh*t this is painful" and "when can I do it again?" Things escalated quickly and my first half was Augusta 2009 and my first full was Louisville 2011. Since 2007 I've been chasing my dream of qualifying for Kona. Prior to September 2017 this blog focused on attempts (and failures) to achieve an elusive KQ. I got the monkey off my back in my 10th Ironman at Chattanooga. There is still much room to improve and I look forward to putting in the work to become a consistent podium finisher. In 2018 I have the privilege of racing for Team Every Man Jack and look forward to learning from a great group of guys while giving back to the triathlon community. I couldn't do any of this without my amazing family. They lift me up. I am lucky to train in a fantastic triathlon town with inspirational athletes. My job, training, and daughter keep me busy, but I update as often as I can. I'm always willing to share the knowledge I've picked up along the way. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Overdue Richmond Rox 70.3 Race Report

5th Overall
1st M30-34

My last triathlon of the season was the Richmond Rox 70.3. This was the first half iron distance triathlon staged in Richmond. Richmond is definitely a promising venue for long course triathlon and I hope this event continues to grow and attract more athletes from across the mid-atlantic region. When I was planning out my season I was pretty excited about this race. I am much better at long course than short course and I was looking forward to doing a long course race in front of a "home town" crowd. I was also excited because I felt I had an opportunity to place pretty well amongst some strong local athletes. I thought that after Louisville I could keep my level of fitness with a moderate amount of volume and intensity.

What I wasn't counting on was a nasty case of saddle sores which developed sometime between Louisville and Rox. In addition to the sores, I was dealing with some kind of pinched nerve in my neck. About 90 minutes into every ride I was getting shooting pains on the right side of my neck which would radiate into my right arm. I guess this was my body's way of telling me to dial it back a few notches.

Now that I am a month post-race and had some time to reflect, I can honestly say that I am disappointed with my performance because of my poor attitude and lack of toughness on the swim and bike. I was fit enough to be much faster but my poor attitude was my biggest limiter. On a positive note, I had a great back half of my run and rather enjoyed the run course.

Race morning was pretty typical. It was nice to sleep in my own bed and have breakfast in my kitchen. I had my standard pre-race long course breakfast of about 800 calories. I ate oatmeal, a banana with peanut butter and a bottle of gatorade. I already had the car loaded up the night before and headed over to the race site. It was pretty chilly and windy on the morning of the race. This is where my bad attitude started. The two things I hate most about triathlon/riding are riding in cold and windy conditions. This race was going to be both. It was also the first time that I was going to race in a wetsuit. I generally avoid wetsuit legal races because of my aforementioned aversion to the cold.

SWIM- 25:10
Div Rank-2/OA Rank- 4
The swim was pretty uneventful. When we hit the water I remember thinking that the water temp was not as cold as I was expecting. I think I could have raced in a speed suit and ditched the wetsuit. My plan for the swim was to stay up with the front group and not over exert myself. My buddy Justin planned to draft on my hip and we swam side by side for the whole swim course. Justin is a bad ass. The kid did not grow up with a swimming background yet he consistently exits the water with guys like myself who swam in college. I look forward to training with him for Ironman CDA over the next 8 months. I anticipate that training with him will make me a much better athlete and I hope I can provide the same benefit to him.

I think that next year I am going to follow the advice of my coach and my dad and stop dicking around in the water. I think I need to take my swims a bit more seriously and utilize whatever additional advantage I can gain from my swim background. In years past I have been content to merely lay back on the swim and go with the flow. Louisville taught me that a minute or two might make the difference between a trip to Kona or watching it on my laptop. Next year I am not leaving any time on the table.

T1- 3:17
Slow and awkward. Par for the course. Transitions are not my strong suit. Getting the wetsuit off was a bitch. It is hard to pull those things off in the heat of the moment. I elected to take my wetsuit off down by the water and then carry it up to transition. This was quite a long transition and there was a long run from the river front up several flights of stairs to the transition area. I was prepared to ride with arm warmers but I decided to ditch them as I didn't feel particularly cold in the transition area. Got my gear on and hit the bike course.

Div Rank- 3/OA Rank- 4
Avg Power- 252
Avg Speed- 22.9 Mph
This was the most disappointing aspect of my race.  I have been very proud of the gains I have made over the last two years on the bike and I have been able to transform my cycling from a weakness to a weapon.  I can only blame myself for my poor effort.  I rode like a sally and was extremely negative from a mental standpoint.  My plan was to exit transition with Justin and try and hold his pace.  However, that plan went out the window pretty quickly when Justin dropped me about 1-2 miles into the bike course.  Justin is a monster cyclist and I look forward to chasing him around for the next few months.  After losing Justin, I was left out in no man's land and I ended up riding about 55 miles solo.  I didn't see a single other soul for the remainder of the ride. This gave me the opportunity to be alone with myself for quite a while.  Generally this is a good thing, but on this day it was just an opportunity for me to have a pity party.  "I'm cold, it's windy, this sucks, my neck is killing me, my saddle sores hurt...blah, blah, blah". 

I very rarely have mental break downs, and I consider myself an extremely tough competitor from a mental standpoint.  In fact, I think that one of my greatest strengths is my ability to get into a headspace of suffering that most people can't.  I definitely let myself down at Rox.  The silver lining is that the bike split wasn't totally disastrous and was pretty good given how crappy I felt, and my poor attitude.  Realistically I think I probably could have ridden about 2:20 like I did back in Charleston in April.  From a nutrition standpoint, I went purely with liquid calories and had a 500 calorie bottle of carbo-pro.  I drank about 2/3 of the bottle on the ride.  I also drank a bottle of propel zero for hydration and electrolytes.

My second transition was much better than my first (as is usually the case).  I got into and out of transition pretty efficiently.  I was so relieved to get off the bike that my attitude immediately improved and I was actually pretty excited for the run and the run course.

Avg Pace- 7:05/mile
Div Rank-3/OA rank-5
The run was the only aspect of my race I was pleased with.  I felt strong and in control.  I especially liked the course and the fact that it overlapped with many of the trails and sections of road that I run frequently in the winter with the Steel Hammer Crew during Saturday "core" runs.  It had also warmed up by this time and the temperature was beautiful for running.  I know that I "under" biked because I had plenty of juice on the run.  On the way out of transition, I dipped into a porta-pot for a quick bathroom stop.  Then I worked on getting into a good rhythm.  I held steady and strong for the first half of the run.  In fact, I probably took it out a bit too easy.   My first 6.5 miles was about 4 minutes slower than my last 6.5 miles.  I really kicked it into gear when John Hessian ran by me like I was standing still.  He runs like a gazelle and he seemed to just float by me effortlessly (John is getting ready for Ironman Florida in a few weeks and I feel pretty good about his chances to qualify for Kona).  When John went by, I asked myself, "what the hell are you doing?  You have plenty in the tank...get busy".  I kicked it into high gear and the last few miles were at or under 7:00 pace.  At the turn around of the run, I saw that Marc Warner was gaining on me. Marc is a phenomenal cyclist and an amazing runner.  I knew that I needed to run hard if I wanted to hold him off.  Knowing that he was behind me provided some additional motivation to run hard.  I was extremely pleased with the last half of my run and showed me that my fitness was excellent.  On the whole however I was disappointed with my overall performance and mental breaks.  

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Ironman Louisville Race Report

9th Place Men 30-34
28th Place Overall
18th Place Amateur
Now that I have had a few days to let Ironman Louisville sink in I wanted to put my thoughts down before they start to slip away.  IMKY was nothing short of a success for me despite brutal weather conditions.  Raymond Britt at RunTri.com performed an analysis of the weather/race which is pretty awesome and worth a look... (http://www.runtri.com/2012/08/ironman-louisville-2012-results-analysis.html).  For everyone that knows me or has been following this blog knows that I have had my fair share of "issues" this summer. The last two months have included two bike crashes, a broken wrist/massive elbow wound, surgery to fix my wrist and elbow, and a 24 hour stay in the emergency room two weeks before race day with "unspecified gastritis".  Needless to say I was on a bit of a bad luck streak leading up to the race which made me overly paranoid about having some type of mechanical/flat tire/etc. out on the race course.

Despite the setbacks, I am proud to say that I never let it affect my training in any significant way. I kept my focus on qualifying for Kona and gave my best on a daily basis.  I can honestly say that I did not cut any corners, take any shortcuts or give less than my best with any of my training.  Because of the confidence in my training, I was at peace that no matter what my result was, I could live with it.  I trained to the best of my ability and gave myself the best chance to succeed. If I didn't achieve my goals it wasn't going to be because I didn't bust my ass every single day.  The hay was in the barn.

Dad snapped this picture in transition.  
I can't help but notice how much more 
relaxed I looked year.
The night before the race I ate my traditional pre-race dinner of pizza and salad.  I was able to have a fairly relaxed evening and was in bed by 9:30.  Historically I have not been able to sleep the night before a race but this time I was able to fall asleep by about 10:30.  The alarm went off at 4:00 a.m. and I got to work eating my pre-race meal which consisted of two packages of raisin/date/walnut instant oatmeal with honey (350 calories), cinnamon raisin bagel thin with Nutella (200 calories), banana with two tablespoons of crunchy peanut butter (290 calories) and a bottle of Gatorade G2 (40 calories).  My total caloric intake for breakfast was 880 calories and was digesting by 4:30 a.m.  At 5:00 a.m. Hause and I began the walk down to transition with our special needs bags.  When I got to transition I pumped my tires, loaded my fuel and water bottles on the bike, double checked my bike and run gear bags and handed my pump and bag off to my dad who came to meet us at transition.  In the days leading up to the race I was pretty tense, but on race morning I was calm.  I had put in the work and now I was ready to see what my body was capable of.  Hause and I made a quick pit stop at the port-a-johns and started walking to the swim start.  We were pretty casual about getting down there and ended up about 200 people from the back of the line (Louisville has a first come/first served time-trial start).  In hindsight we should have gotten there a bit earlier to get further up in the line but I tried not to let our position at the very back bother me.  While we waited in line I adjusted my tri kit, applied chamois cream, and put on my speedsuit.  I ate half of a PBJ bonk breaker (125 calories), another bottle of Gatorade G2 (40 calories) and two salt stick tabs about 15 minutes before I hit the water.

SWIM- 55:48
Division Rank after Swim- 3rd
Overall Rank after Swim- 16th

My strategy for the swim was to keep long and strong and draft off Hause as long as possible.  The swim was far more hectic this year and it was way harder to keep clean lines.  I had to run over a lot more people than 2011.  I also had to be careful to protect my right hand and wrist as it is still not fully healed and painful while swimming.  I lost contact with Hause pretty early on and was on my own for the rest of the swim.  I felt pretty good in the water and thought I was going to have a great swim split.  My only issues in the swim were that I got a bit disoriented directionally near the turn around buoy and I had some unexpected leg cramping during the last ten minutes of the swim.  Much to my chagrin I was four minutes slower than 2011 when I exited the water .  Despite the disappointing split, I didn't let it shake me.  I knew it was going to be a long day and 4 minutes wasn't going to make or break my attitude.  After the race I found out that nearly everyone was substantially slower on the swim leg.  I'm not sure the reason, but I suspect it was because we had less of a downstream current.  I felt a bit better knowing that I wasn't the only one who was slower in the water.  I saw my wife and parents as I ran up toward the transition area.  Seeing them gave me a huge boost of energy.

T1- 4:08

In 2011 I was slow and deliberate in transition.  My primary focus was comfort.  This year my goal was quickness.  I didn't want to waste any unnecessary time dicking around.  I felt good about my first transition.  I ran out of the water, grabbed my bike gear bag, put on my shoes, helmet and sunglasses put two bonk breakers in my back pocket and ran to my bike.  The speedsuit made my transition much quicker as I didn't have to make any uniform changes except to strip off the speed suit.  As usual the volunteers in the change tent were awesome.

BIKE- 5:13:51
Avg Speed- 21.41 mph
Avg Power- 223 Watts
Norm Power- 234 Watts
Division Rank after Bike- 3rd
Overall Rank after Bike- 16th

In the days leading up to the race, Coach Flanigan and I discussed strategy for the bike.  We decided that my target was to ride at an average power of 215-225 Watts.  On the uphill sections of rollers my goal wattage was 250-270 Watts, and on really steep hills the goal was to limit damage and soft pedal.  My nutrition plan consisted of two bottles that each contained 6 scoops of carbo pro (600 calories), one scoop of lemon lime gatorade (80 calories) and one Gu brew tab for extra electrolytes (680 total calories/bottle).  I also had two bonk breaker bars broken into 4 halves (125 calories each).  I drank one third of each bottle at the :45, 1:30, 2:15, 3:00, 3:45, and 4:30 marks.  My plan was to eat half a bonk breaker on the hour beginning one hour into the ride.  The idea was that to be done with solid foods with about an hour left in the ride so my stomach wouldn't be heavy when I started to run.  I was also drinking water to thirst at 15 minute intervals.  I also planned to take two s-caps every hour.  From a nutrition standpoint I stayed pretty true to plan.  I ended up drinking the whole first nutrition bottle and ate the first three bonk breakers bars.  I got about 3/4 of the second nutrition bottle down (which I picked up at the special needs at Mile 60).  I decided to forego the last piece of bonk breaker because I started to have a little bit of stomach distress at the tail end of the ride.  I ended up consuming about 1500 calories, 12 S-caps and 3 or 4 bottles of water during the ride.  I felt good from an energy and hydration standpoint.  I never felt my energy wane and I peed three times (mile 40, 80 and about 10 miles outside of town).  I managed to avoid over hydrating like I did in 2011.

Early on I felt amazing.  I was flying through the course and had to actively concentrate on keeping wattage low.  I was passing people left and right and felt relaxed and fast.  My training in the hills of Goochland (and fat camp in Boone) really paid off because every time I hit a climb I was chewing people up like they were standing still.  About 15 miles into the ride I got linked up with a group of fast dudes.  We were working together legally and I was pacing off the back of the group.  The draft marshalls were out in force and I was paranoid I would get nailed for a draft penalty.  As a result, I was sure to be careful about the draft zones.  I could tell the guys I was riding with were legit, and I knew if I could stay near them I would have a great bike split.  I also thought a couple of them might be over cooking their efforts so I elected to let them push the pace.  I caught up with Hause somewhere between mile 10-20.  He looked good when I passed him and I told him to link on with our group and he would have a killer split.  I think he stuck with us for a while but I lost track of him sometime around the first loop in LaGrange.  Our group stayed together through LaGrange and it splintered sometime around the start of the second loop.  On the back stretch of the first loop an official pulled up next to me on a motorcycle and told me I was being penalized with a yellow card.  I knew that I hadn't been drafting so I asked what I had done wrong but she just sped off.  The penalty tent was about 10 miles away in LaGrange.  I have never been penalized in a race so I didn't really know how it worked.  I pulled into the tent and a volunteer marked my bike number and made me sign a penalty form.  Apparently it was a "stop and go" penalty and I was allowed to leave after filling out the paper work.  The stop cost me about 60-90 seconds and was aggravating because I had no idea what I did wrong.  I tried to keep a positive attitude and assumed I was going to get 4 minutes added to my time at the end of the race.  Interestingly, my parents and wife could tell I looked pissed off as I passed through LaGrange the second time (I guess I wasn't doing a very good job about hiding my frustration about the penalty).  After the race I found out that a yellow card is a minor infraction and usually entails either blocking or littering the course.  It is simply a stop and go penalty with no time penalty associated (other than the time it takes to report to the penalty tent).  I assume I got nailed for a blocking penalty but I still have no idea what I did.

The back stretch of the first loop overlaps with the long stretch back into Louisville and it is also the first opportunity to feel whether you will have a headwind or tailwind heading into town.  Unfortunately, there was a strong headwind and I knew the last 35 miles back into Louisville would be far tougher than 2011.  In 2011 we were blessed with a tailwind, but this year it was going to be a battle heading home.  Coincidentally this is where some of the riders I was hanging with started to blow up.  Some of the guys pushed hard early and were starting to come apart into the wind.  The second loop through LaGrange was more hectic because we started to overlap the masses that were on their first loop.  There was a ton of maneuvering and I was able to keep my pace up despite having to duck and weave.  I continued to focus on my wattage and I was able to stay dialed in to my goal numbers.

So fast through LaGrange dad
could only photograph my ass!

It really started to get hot on the second loop and when I made the turn onto the final stretch of 42, the headwind felt like a hot hairdryer blowing in my face.  I started dumping way more water on my head and shoulders to try and regulate my core temperature.  Once I was clear of the second loop, the course really opened up and there was no one around.  The conditions were starting to get pretty brutal.  Even though the last 30-40 miles is net downhill, the wind was negating the benefit of the terrain.  Fortunately there was a group of three riders who came around me on this stretch and clearly had no problem hammering into the wind.  They were not drafting but they were working together to regulate their pacing.  I was more than happy to latch onto the back of their group to help pace my effort.  I was especially careful to watch my wattage on the home stretch as I didn't want to overextend myself such that I would pay dearly on the marathon.  I successfully controlled my wattage and kept it within the goal range.  My average speed dropped fairly dramatically during the last segment because of the wind but I successfully rode within my limits.  In fact, I probably rode too easily during my last few 5 mile segments but I wanted to err on the side of caution with the increasing temperatures.  It is always an amazing feeling to see the city skyline and know that it the ride is coming to an end.  Overall I was extremely pleased with my effort and self control.  I stuck to plan and kept my wattage reigned in despite how smooth I felt.  My bike split was strong, but I was happy to get off the bike and attack the run.  I've always heard that your ironman bike ride should be your easiest century of the year.  I can definitely say that it was.  I was well trained and coach Flanigan had me well prepared to nail the bike.  As I pulled into T2, I saw my family cheering along the barrier and it gave me a great jolt of energy as I jumped off the bike and ran toward the change tent.

T2- 4:15

T2 was also seamless.  I was out of my bike shoes as I rolled into transition.  I was off the bike quickly, handed my bike off to the bike catchers and I hustled into the change tent.  Again the volunteers were awesome.  I sat down and got a few twinges of cramps which I was able to keep at bay by keeping my legs extended.  I put on a pair of socks (lesson learned from 2011) and my neon green K-Swiss.  I put my visor on and grabbed my pouch of salt stick capsules.  I ran out of the change tent to the sunblock volunteers and then ducked into the port-a-john to pee.  Then it was out onto the run course to begin a very hot and painful marathon.  My wife and mom were right at the barrier as I crossed over the run start timing mat.  It was the perfect place to see them and I got to steal a quick kiss from the wifey.

RUN- 3:42:33
Division Rank after Run- 9th
Overall Rank after Run- 28th

As I ran out onto the run course my dad yelled that he had been talking to coach and my instructions were to be patient on the front half of the marathon.  This was no problem as I was experiencing some pretty uncomfortable quad and hamstring cramping as I transitioned off the bike.  This is pretty typical for me and I have found that if I just keep pressing they usually subside within a mile or so.  I stayed relaxed, and true to form the cramps stopped about a mile into the run.  Once the initial cramping stopped I felt pretty darn good.  I was rolling along and actively holding back my effort.  I felt like I could have run 7:00 flat on those first couple of miles, but I knew that the feeling would be short lived because of the heat.  It was immediately apparent that it was significantly hotter than 2011.  I remarked to a guy I was running alongside that we were in for a long/hot run and we would be sure to see some carnage on the second loop.  The first mile of the run is an out and back over one of the bridges toward Indiana.  My family was waiting for me off the bridge really gave me some positive vibes as I headed out onto the two loop course.

Coming off the bridge and
feeling the love from the

Throughout the run I utilized the same game plan at each of the aid stations.  I took three ice sponges (two on the shoulders and one on the chest).  Then I drank a cup of water followed by a cup of cola, dumped a cup of ice down my shorts and then a water on my head.  Every mile the same pattern.  This really helped me manage the heat.  It was hot as hell but I never felt like the heat was causing me significant distress.  I initially planned to take one salt stick every 30 minutes but I modified this plan as soon as I started to experience more cramping later in the run.  I felt pretty awesome for about the first 7-8 miles but that feeling was short lived.  At mile 9-10 I was starting to feel very uncomfortable.  I could feel that my quads and hamstrings were starting to cramp again.  I also started to experience some GI distress and was feeling some gas and bloating (TMI).  I made a judgment call at the mile 10 aid station to duck into a bathroom to see if I could at least relieve the GI discomfort.  I am glad I did because it only cost me a minute and helped to significantly relieve my stomach pain.

I felt some relief after the bathroom stop, and was able to temporarily lower my pace back under 8:00/mile.  By the time I hit the half marathon I was right on pace for my goal 3:30 marathon, but I was in serious pain.  At mile 14 I made the turn to start the second loop and ran past my family.  I was very uncomfortable and felt like I needed to walk, but there was no way I was going to walk in front of them.  I know its stupid but I didn't want my family to see me in a dark/weak moment.  The cramping was starting to become problematic and it was taking every bit of my my mental focus to keep running.  In 2011 I felt amazing on the run through mile 15.  This year was totally different.  I was deep inside the hurt locker by mile 11-12.  Around this time I started having a serious dialogue with myself.  For some reason I adopted the mantra "my well is deep, no one can suffer like you".  Every time I wanted to stop or I felt my legs seizing up I repeated this phrase.  I must have said it 500 times.  After I made the turn and headed away from my family I had to walk.  My efforts to hide my misery from my family were futile.  They could tell I was hurting bad.  In fact my dad ended up running behind me around the corner and saw me walk for a bit after I made the turn. This moment of weakness gave way to a new plan.
HURT LOCKER at mile 14

I started cutting deals with myself, 5 minutes of running 30 seconds of walking, run to the aid station and then walk through the aid station.  I continued this pattern for about 5 miles and my pace dropped significantly.  Miles 14-20 was the darkest period of the race for me.  I was in pain, and my mind was cracking. I was in desperation mode to keep the cramps at bay.  I started taking a salt stick capsule at every aid station and I even started eating pretzels and cookies.  I was throwing everything in my mouth in the hopes it would keep my legs moving forward.  After last years cramping issues, I was so happy that I took the extra salt sticks out on the run.  I took 20 capsules out on the course with me and I ended up taking every single one of them.

Wobbly legs
Somewhere around Mile 18-19 I looked at the running time on my Garmin for the first time in the entire race.  I saw that my running time was at 9:04 and I was nearly at the 20 mile turn around.  I decided right then and there that I wasn't going out like a chump.  I told myself you can run a 55 minute 10K, suck it up, the pain is temporary.  For the next five miles I went deep into my "suitcase of courage".  I was deeper into the well then any other athletic event I have ever participated in and I willed myself back down to 8:30/mile pace.  Those 5 miles were sheer determination. My legs were moving on will and will alone as every step teetered on the edge of full on debilitating cramps.  With 5K to go I had exactly 25 minutes to get under 10 hours.  I put my head down and kept driving forward.  My goal time of sub 10 was within my grasp.  At the mile 25 aid station I elected to keep running and not stop.  I didn't want to take any chances.  As I ran toward the finish line the crowds were building but my legs were failing fast.  I was watching my Garmin like a hawk and seeing the time tick closer to 10 hours.  At 25.5 miles my legs finally gave out.  I had nothing left, full on quad and hamstring cramps and I had to stop dead in my tracks.  I was yelling at my legs "don't do this to me now, you are so close!".  I started hobbling toward the finish line and got back up to a slow jog.  As I rounded the corner, the finish line was in sight and my watch read 9:59:xx.  I knew I wasn't going to make it.  It was excruciating watching 9:59 click over to 10:00 while the finish line was a mere 200 yards away.  I mustered up one last charge and ran across the finish line.  10:00:35 and and my legs were jello.


After the race my legs hurt worse than I have ever felt, but everything else felt pretty good.  In 2011 I got really sick after the race and ended up in the bathroom for the rest of the night.  I didn't have any of those problems this time around.  I found out afterwards that I finished 9th in my AG and likely wouldn't get a slot to Kona.  I also fell just short of my goal to crack 10 hours.  Despite falling short of both goals I was not disappointed (although a bit annoyed that the bike penalty cost me my sub 10!).  I left every bit of myself out on the course and I could not have done any more on that particular day.  During the race I stayed willfully ignorant of my place within the AG and I'm glad I raced that way.  I wanted to run my own race and didn't want to change my strategy or plan based on real time placing within the age group.  After finishing, it was a huge confidence booster just to know that I was within the top 5 of the AG for the majority of the day and that with some more improvement I have the ability to hopefully one day qualify for Kona.  Moving forward I plan to work with a nutritionist who specializes in race dace nutrition for endurance athletes.  I feel that my biggest limiter was that I was on the precipice of major cramping for half of the run.  Absent the cramping, I think I had the fitness and ability to run 3:35.  3:35 would have gotten me a 9:53 and punched my ticket to Kona.  I am super stoked about how far I've come in the last year.  I now have the confidence to know that if I work even harder I have a realistic chance to KQ. Thanks for reading and I am already looking forward to my next Ironman adventure.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

One Bad Stretch (with injury photos)

I thought I would devote some time to write about the recent run of bad luck I have been having.  To begin, I will rewind to July 3.  Everything was firing on all cylinders.  My training was right on track. My previous race (Jamestown Int'l) was a great success, my confidence was high, and I was excited for Rockett's Landing Int'l scheduled for the following weekend.  On the evening of the 3rd, I headed out after work for a ride with Hause on a route we have done a million times.  I was already looking forward to having the 4th off and taking advantage of the down time with a double run.  We were riding out in Goochland on Miller's lane and I was having a strong ride.  We had just come up a pretty steep hill and there was a small downhill section before a slight climb.  I was sitting up and riding in my big ring and I had just shifted to the easiest cog on my cassette when my drivetrain completely locked.  It happened so suddenly that I had no time to react.  One second I was pedaling up hill and the next second I was launched head first over my handle bars toward the asphalt.  I just remember thinking "oh f**k this is going to hurt" and it did.  I hit the pavement hard. I broke my fall with my right hand and the next thing to hit the pavement was the inside of my left elbow and side.  As I was on the pavement I went through a quick mental checklist of my body.  My first thought was "ok nothing life threatening", my second thought was that my wrist was broken and my Ironman was going up in smoke, and third was whether I had destroyed my bike. 

About this time I looked down at my left elbow and no sooner had I looked down when blood started pouring down the inside of my arm.  I am pretty squeamish when it comes to blood and I quickly became light headed.  Not to mention it was pretty hot and I was probably a bit dehydrated which didn't help matters.  There was a nasty wound on the inside of my left elbow.  I had taken a golf ball size divot of skin out of my arm and it was really deep.  At this point I was pretty out of it.  I sat in the street for a few minutes trying to gather myself.  I was able to get over to the side of the road and sit in the grass.  The next 20-30 minutes is kind of a blur.  I think I was in shock a bit.  I kept asking Hause if I had hit my head because I was so woozy.  He kept reassuring me that I did not and flagged down a car for help.  He was able to find a nice gentleman who went home to get his truck and came back to drive us and our bikes back to our cars.  We also happened to run across another cyclist who was on some type of long distance east coast cycling journey and he was fully stocked with first aid.  He was able to render some assistance and I was able to at least cover my elbow.  As I was sitting in the grass I was taking stock of my injuries and wondering whether this meant my season was over.  I had road rash on my left leg and up my side, the large wound on my elbow and my wrist was definitely hurting.  I was hoping that I had just sprained the wrist but deep down I think I knew that it was broken.  It took me about 15 minutes or so before I got my head on straight.  We had a 15 minute drive back to the car.  When we pulled into the parking lot we just happened to drive by my buddy Moose Herring who is an orthopaedic surgeon (and has really worked to help save my season.  I truly appreciate everything he has done for me.  I owe him more thanks than I could ever dole out).  I flagged down Moose and told him about the crash and he told me that he would go with me to his on call facility.  At this point I was feeling okay enough to drive and I drove myself to Ortho On Call.

Moose took x-rays of my elbow and wrist.  The elbow was negative but the wrist x-ray showed a probable scaphoid fracture.  Unfortunately with scaphoid fractures you often have to wait a week for a second x-ray to truly determine whether it is broken.  Moose set my hand in a cast and immobilized my thumb.  He irrigated and debrided my elbow and stitched it up as best he could.  He also cleaned and dressed the rest of my wounds.  I honestly don't know where I would be today if I hadn't gotten such first class care right after the accident.  Fortunately (or unfortunately) I banged my elbow so hard that my ulnar nerve went numb.  I had no feeling from my elbow to my wrist which was good while he was cleaning out the grit but has been quite annoying over the last few weeks.  It has been 26 days since the crash and my elbow is still pretty numb and swollen.  I suspect the bone bruise and nerve issue are going to take months to resolve.  

Moose told me that I had to take the next five days off and we would re-evaluate the situation after the weekend.  Over the weekend he cleared me to start running and riding the trainer.  Unfortunately the open wounds and uncertainty about my wrist were going to keep me out of the water for quite some time.  Over the next few days Moose really went out of his way and volunteered his personal time to clean and re-dress my wounds several times.  He also set me up for a follow up x-ray and got me an appointment with his hand/wrist specialist, Dr. Glowacki.  Unfortunately, the follow up x-ray showed that the scaphoid was clearly broken.  This left me with two options, eight weeks in a cast or surgery.  With Ironman 8 weeks away, a cast was not an option.  Surgery seemed like my best option to get back to training and save my Ironman dreams.  Additionally, Dr. Glowacki was going to irrigate and debride my elbow again and close it up to get me back in the water as quick as possible.  Surgery was set and I went under the knife the day after my birthday.

Surgery was pretty uneventful and went smoothly.  It was amazing how little pain I had after surgery. The weirdest part of the procedure was that they did a nerve block on my right arm.  This basically cut off all feeling and control to my arm and I essentially had a dead arm for 24 hours.  Definitely a weird sensation.  Dr. G is a real miracle worker.  In fact I only had to take one day off after surgery and I was back running and riding that weekend.  I was on my bike riding outdoors in West Creek and did 50 miles that Sunday.  I am also now the proud owner of a permanent metal pin in my wrist.  I was surprised how big that sucker is when you see it on x-ray.

I have been able to get back on track after a couple weeks of lesser volume.  Last week I was finally able to get back in the water.  I was concerned that I would have lost my feel for the water since I had been out for 3 weeks.  Fortunately I did not feel too bad and the swim seems to be picking back up quickly.  I had a huge volume week this week and have one more monster week in final preparation for Louisville.

During the time I was forced to ride loops in the controlled environment of West Creek, Hause went back to the scene of the crash and snapped this photo.  It shows the puddle of blood from my arm on the pavement.  The crazy thing is that he took the picture like two weeks after the crash after multiple thunderstorms and it was still prominent on the blacktop.

This week my bad luck streak has continued.  On Wednesday evening, me and a buddy of mine got our bikes locked up on a left turn and we ended up landing on top of each other.  Fortunately we were both going very slow and neither of us was seriously injured.  I just have a couple more bruises to add to the collection.  I am thankful we are both okay as he has Ironman Mont Tremblant in 3 weeks and I have Louisville in 4 weeks.  As if this little scare wasn't enough, I had another issue on my Saturday long ride.  Yesterday Hauserman and I had a five and a half hour ride.  We had gotten up early to beat the heat and were riding strong.  We were 65 miles in and cruising at a great clip.  We were on pace to ride 112 miles in 5:13 which is sixteen minutes faster than I did at the race last year!!! Unfortunately my Karma just continues to be off.  As I traveled up a hill, I had a repeat malfunction that caused my first crash.  My drivetrain shifted the chain into the wheel again...wtf!!!!  This time I was able to slam on the breaks and got off the bike before sustaining any further injury.  Needless to say after we got back to civilization, my first trip was to the bike shop.

At this point I look like a walking train wreck and all I can do is laugh.  I have got scabbed over road rash, huge bruises, and a brace on my wrist.  I look like the walking wounded.  But through these little incidents I have chosen to keep my head down and keep grinding.  I am not going to let any of this sh*t get in the way of my goals.  I am not going to allow any of it to be an excuse to not give my best in training or on race day.  If things work out like I am hoping it will just make for a better story.  For now, I will continue to put hay in the barn until the big day.  I know I have put in a ton of quality training this year and have not cut any corners.  Because of that I will be able to live with 9:45 or 13 hours because I know I couldn't have done more in training.  I am going to spend the next few weeks fine tuning things and I look forward to racing on August 26.  Thanks again to Moose and Dr. G for helping to fix me and keep my dream alive.  Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Jamestown International Race Report...My first (and hopefully last) Duathlon!

Total Time- 1:48:32, 2nd Overall, 1st M 30-34

Jamestown International is a new race in Setup Events Virginia Triathlon Series.  I signed up for this race on a whim.  There are not many Olympic distance races locally and I wanted to take the opportunity to squeeze in another Olympic prior to Rocketts Landing and Louisville.  Even though the race was in Williamsburg, I was fortunate in that my little sis lives in Williamsburg and kind enough to let me crash at her place so I wouldn't have to drive to Williamsburg at the ass crack of dawn on race morning.

My coach was not pleased with my decision to race as it was out of town and I was pretty fried the previous weekend at the Tavern Triathlon.  He objected strenuously to my participation and gave it his best shot to convince me to bail.  While I certainly understood and appreciated his position, I ultimately decided to race.  I really weighed the pros and cons of racing and it was a difficult decision.  For me it ultimately boiled down to keeping this fun.  Training for Ironman is extremely difficult and time consuming.  Everyone that knows me knows I truly love suffering on a daily basis, but as much as I love training, I love racing even more.  It has been especially fun this year climbing up the local rankings and seeing huge time improvements at various local races.  I don't want triathlon to become an activity where my whole focus boils down to one Ironman each year with a laser focus on qualifying for Kona.  From a mental standpoint it helps me to break up the arduous periods of training with racing so I can chart my progress and compare my performances to previous years.  I also firmly believe that there are large benefits to racing on blown out legs (both physically and mentally).  I think these tired races give me additional mental toughness and will help prepare me for the inevitable dark periods of pain and suffering that necessarily arise during the course of an Ironman.  Despite our disagreement, I know that Coach Flanigan absolutely has my best interest at heart and is in my corner every step of the way.  Like every healthy relationship, we aren't going to agree 100% of the time but the most important thing to me is that Coach has my back.

On the night before the race we had some nasty thunderstorms roll through the area.  In fact when I woke up on race morning it was still thundering and lightning.  It was still raining and thundering when I arrived at the race site.  Upon arrival, I quickly learned that they had pushed the start time back 30 minutes because of the inclement weather and the race director was debating whether or not to cancel the swim.  Apparently the severe weather had blown the swim buoys out of the water and the weather was preventing the boats from going back out and setting them up again.  This really annoyed me because I have no desire to ever participate in a duathlon.  The idea of taking away my strength in the water and adding another run before the bike is not appealing to me so I held out hope that the swim would go forward as planned.  I decided that I would keep a positive attitude and roll with whatever happened.  I got my transition area set up, did a quick spin on my bike and got a decent run warm up in.

Shortly thereafter the announcement came that they were canceling the swim and we were shifting to a duathlon.  The swim would be replaced by a one mile run....shit.  I gave myself about 30 seconds to be pissed and then checked my attitude and got ready to race.  I have never done a duathlon and had no idea how to attack the race.  I decided I would be conservative on the first run because I knew the fast runners could only do so much damage in one mile and I was hoping I could make up much of the difference on the bike.
Run 1- 6:52, 1.10 Miles, 6:14/Mile
I was pretty conservative on the first run.  I figured that the thrill of the race would carry me to a decent split without much effort and I was right.  I also expected that many of the racers would be overly aggressive on the first run.  I decided to run at my own speed and let everyone else do their thing.  It was certainly different coming into T1 in 41st place as opposed to the advantage that I usually have coming out of the water with my strong swim background.

T1- 1:00
My first transition was actually pretty good.  I was able to get my run shoes off and into my bike gear quickly and efficiently.  I will say that the transition is certainly easier in a duathlon in that I was not soaking wet and muddy.

Bike- 57:57, 23.9 Mph, Avg Power 308, 2nd OA bike split
I felt pretty great on the bike despite being on tired legs.  I rode 80 miles the day before in some pretty brutal heat.  The bike course is dead flat with only one rise in elevation as you go over the Chickahominy River.  I passed a huge group of cyclists pretty early in the bike course and ended up doing the vast majority of the ride alone.  I kept thinking there was more cyclists up the road but when I got to the turn around I realized that I was out front.  I came to find out later that there was a handful of really fast runners that were led off the bike course by the lead moto.  This actually bummed me out a bit and I think it would have pushed me a bit harder to try and run them down on the back half of the bike if they hadn't been led astray.  With a flat course my whole focus was on maintaining a great aero position and producing consistent power numbers.  I think I was successful on both fronts and was very pleased with my bike split.

T2- 1:00
I was pretty pleased with T2.  Generally I suck at transitions but I was in and out of this one fairly quickly as well.  A quick back into my run gear and I was the first athlete out on the run course for the International distance race.

Run 2- 10K, 41:43, 6:43/mile
The run course was also dead flat.  There wasn't much shade and it was very hot and muggy.  I was definitely suffering on the run.  I also found there were not enough water stations out on the run course.  There were a few points when I found myself really needing ice water to lower my core temperature but it was nowhere to be found.  The middle section of the run course took us through some type of trail system which was a nice change of pace from a traditional road run.  At this point I knew I was out front and my whole goal was maintaining a lead on the stronger runners.  There was a long stretch before we hit a turn around and I could gauge how much of a lead I had.  At the turn around, I realized I had a decent lead but knew it was evaporating quickly and would likely be gone by the time we got to the finish line.  This is typically my least favorite part of every triathlon (running for my life with the knowledge that the stronger runners are closing like a freight train).  I just did my best to focus on my splits and hoped it would be enough to keep me out front.  A fast Endorphin athlete named Parker Spencer caught me in the final home stretch.  He told me that he was one of the cyclists that had been led off course and he had been disqualified.  He told me congratulations and backed off so I could cross the line first.  It was a really magnanimous gesture and a great show of sportsmanship which I really appreciated.  Parker Spencer is a class act.

At the end of the day my performance was good enough to net me second overall.  I was obviously pleased with this result as it was my first (and hopefully only) duathlon.  It was more fun than I was expecting and I had a good experience.  I had a great time and was glad I did the race.  It was nice to spend some time with my sister and her fiancĂ© and my mom and dad.  We had a particularly delicious and fattening breakfast after the race.  I am happy that I decided to do this race because I had a nasty bike crash a few days later which is going to prevent me from racing Rocketts (bike crash blog post to follow).  Thanks for reading!

Friday, June 29, 2012

I Love the Tavern Race Report

1:16:23/8th Overall/1st M 30-34

Last Sunday I participated in the I Love the Tavern Triathlon.  This race holds a bit of a special place for me because it was the first triathlon I ever did back in 2007.  I always make sure to include it on my race calendar because of the nostalgia factor.  I knew that this year it would be especially challenging because I would be racing in the middle of a big block of training and my legs were going to be particularly tired.  In fact, the day before the race I rode 105 miles and had one of the best long rides I have ever done.

Another problem leading up to this race was that I hadn't been getting enough sleep.  I had only gotten 5 hours of sleep for three nights in a row.  I mention this not as an excuse but because I need to be critical of this aspect of my training.  I have the tendency to skimp on sleep at times and I know that I can't adequately recover without the proper amount of sleep.  This is something that I need to focus on in the next two months leading up to Ironman.

The morning of the race was fairly uneventful.  I woke up at 4:30 am and had a banana with peanut butter and a cliff bar.  I had already packed everything for the race and I left for the race site around 5:15.  I went through typical pre-race rituals of setting up the transition area, getting body marked and picking up my timing chip.  I did a quick easy spin on the bike to make sure that everything was running smoothly and I did a quick half mile jog to "wake" the legs up.  I could tell during my warm up run that my legs were pretty crispy.

The Tavern race course has gone through several variations since 2007.  The bike and run course are always the same but the swim course changes quite often.  The swim course has changed several times over the years and has depended on river conditions and where the race director was allowed to start the swim course on any given year.  This year, the swim course was the same as 2010 and included a point to point down river swim.  Based on the swim, the only time I could compare this race to was my 2010 race time.  My time this year was significantly better than 2010 and represented about a 4 minute PR.

SWIM- 7:26
The swim was fairly uneventful and there was plenty of room to spread out and find clean water.  My wave went third with male and female aqua bikers starting in the first and second waves.  The waves were spaced out enough that I only started catching the wave before me at the very end of my swim.  No issues there.  Strategically I did not pick a great line for the swim.  I started out a bit too wide and should have taken a more direct line towards the shore.  By staying super wide I think I added a bit of distance to my swim and probably added a few seconds to my time.  I felt fine, but my time was slow.  Overall I was disappointed with my swim time and think I could had done better.

Typically slow Danny transition.  Out of the water, grabbed the bike and ran to the mount line.  I had a bit of trouble clipping into the pedals and probably fumbled around for a good 10-15 seconds before I got clipped in and on my way.  At some point I need to devote some time to improving at this because I am terrible at it.

BIKE- 46:52/ 24.1mph/ Avg Power- 274 Watts
The bike felt okay.  It didn't feel as bad as I was expecting, but I didn't feel great.  I had trouble getting my power numbers as high as they should have been for a race of this distance.  For a sprint race I should have been riding much closer to my FTP, but I just couldn't get there.  My legs just didn't seem to want to push more than 285-290 Watts.  Every time I would get my power up in the 280's my legs started telling me no.  I wasn't particularly tired, I just couldn't get my legs to respond.  The bike course was a bit crowded as the aqua bikers were already out in force.  I was able to distract myself by picking my way through the crowds.  There were a few times I ran into a few clogged sections of the bike course but nothing that caused any major problems.  The bike course is a simple "L" shaped out and back.  It is mostly flat and and fast with one large hill at the turn around.  Once I realized that I wasn't going to be getting my power where it needed to be, I just focused on trying to keep a smooth cadence with power in the 270's.  I was able to be the first triathlete back into the transition area which is always exciting and it is fun to hear the crowds cheer when you pull in.

T2- :50
My second transition was actually pretty good.  I got a good dismount and was quick getting my running shoes on and out onto the run course.  One of my best transitions this season for sure.

Run- 20:05/ 6:29 per mile
The run is where I felt the worst, but it was my best leg from a time standpoint.  I was very happy to run 6:29 pace on legs that were "shelled".  The Tavern run course is fun because much of it is on trails. It beats the monotony of a straight out and back road course.  Since I was the first guy out on the run course, my main goal was stay out front as long as I could.  I knew the real speedsters would be hunting me down and hot on my trail.  Sure enough I got passed about a mile into the run.  I tried to focus, run my race, and stay within myself.  My goal was to minimize the damage and hold off as many runners as I could.  Unfortunately, 4 guys passed me on the run.  There were also another few guys in the 40+ wave that ended up with faster times.  A few of the guys that passed me were some of the younger Endorphin Fitness racers.  I have to tip my hat those guys.  They can really run!!!!  It is definitely demoralizing when the young dudes run past you and have ages of 14/15/16 on their leg.  Michael Harlow does a great job training those kids to run fast and close out races.

Overall, I am pleased with the result given how fatigued I was.  I PR'd the course by over 4 minutes and had a pretty decent race.  I wish that my swim and bike were faster but I have to cut myself some slack for having ridden 5 hours the day before.  I think there is definite benefits to racing tired, and it certainly makes you tougher.  I am very pleased with where I am in my training have continued a trend of setting a PR at every race this season.  Things are looking up and I am staying focused on my training.  I am looking forward to hitting the next two months hard and really finishing out my training strong prior to Louisville.

I would also like to give a special congratulations and shout out to CVE's own Dave Luscan for winning the aqua bike national championship.  A truly impressive feat and he dominated the field.  Read about his amazing performance here...Dave Luscan Wins Aquabike National Championship!!!!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Ironman Louisville KQ Analysis...Heat Kills!

In doing research on Kona Qualifying (KQ) standards I came across some unbelievably helpful charts on www.runtri.com.  I must give credit to Raymond Britt who is the publisher of runtri media and took the effort to analyze the finisher data and create these unbelievably useful graphical depictions about what it takes to get to the big dance. If you are a triathlete (and a data nerd) check out his website its pretty awesome.

Below I have "borrowed" two useful graphs about what it took to get to Kona in the 30-34 age group in 2010 as compared to 2011.  The information is particularly helpful because the weather conditions in 2010 were as tough as you can imagine (96 degrees/high humidity) as compared to 2011when the conditions were pretty nice.  When I did Louisville last year, I lucked out with the weather.  The day started overcast and cool for the swim and early stages of the bike.  As the day wore on, the sun came out and the temperature warmed, but only topped out in the upper 80's.  There was never any point in the race where I felt like I was overheating.  During the marathon I didn't even feel like I needed the ice sponges.  In fact after taking the first couple, I remember making a conscious decision to stop because they just weren't useful.

The charts demonstrate how powerful an impact the heat can have on the results.  In 2010 the last M30-34 qualified for Kona in 10:23.  In 2011 the last man in went 9:45!!!! That is 37 minutes faster.  In 2011 there were 6 Kona slots in my age group.  However, I suspect there may be as few as 5 slots this year.  With the increasing number of Ironman races and their popularity, the number of Kona slots is dwindling at each individual race.  It also doesn't help that M30-34 is notoriously one of the toughest age groups!

The bottom line is that I need to be prepared to go sub 10:20 in extreme heat and sub 9:45 in good conditions.  This will be a tall order, but I continue to work my ass off with the hopes that I may be able achieve my goal.  I started training for Ironman on January 1, and my mantra since day one has been :50, 5:15, 3:30.  Nothing has changed and I feel like my training is on track.  I have been working extremely hard and have been pleased with my results thus far.  This week has been my first taste of training in the extreme summer heat.  We have had some brutally hot days this week.  I have handled it fine on the bike, but the run is where the heat really catches up with you.  On Wednesday the temperature topped out near 100 degrees with extremely high humidity.  My workout plan called for a 90 minute run.  I started out the run far too hard for the conditions and really paid the price at the end of the run.  It was a cruel reminder of how much work I have left to do before August.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Fat Camp 2012 a/k/a a glimpse into the twisted mind of Moose Herring

This past weekend I had the opportunity to go to Boone, North Carolina with my fellow Hammerheads for fat camp 2012.  This is the brain child of Moose Herring and is a four day intensive sufferfest in the beautiful mountains of Moose's homeland.  I have been hearing stories about camp for several years and this was the first time that the boys invited me to attend.  For the past several years I have seen the guys at races in the weeks following camp and always marveled at how fast they were on exhausted legs.  I must say that I was both excited and nervous after seeing the training itinerary.  We left last Wednesday at lunch and arrived in Boone on Wednesday evening.  We stayed at Zap Fitness (www.zapfitness.com) which is a facility that houses post-collegiate elite runners with Olympic aspirations.  The location is both secluded and beautiful and allows you to focus on the training at hand with minimal distractions.  The facilities are great and provided us with everything we needed to have the perfect training experience.  One of the highlights was access to the Zap Chef.  Chef John was awesome and had dinner prepared for us every evening at 6:30.  The meals were extremely filling, nutritious, and delicious.  Coming home every night to a prepared meal after destroying our bodies was a real treat.  It almost made me feel like a professional athlete.  In addition to the ridiculous dinners, John baked cookies for dessert every night.  No bullshit these were the best cookies I have ever eaten in my life (sorry Lummy).  I would like to thank Pete and Zika Rea for the opportunity to use Zap as our home base for a few days.

Day 1- Wednesday May 23

Technically the first day of camp is on Thursday but we got out to Boone with enough time to get a quick warm up workout in.  We ended up doing a six mile run at a comfortable 7:45 pace.  It was a nice workout to work the long drive out of my legs.  After the run we headed out to an awesome local restaurant and I fueled up on a delicious wheat neapolitan pizza.  Pizza is my typical pre-race meal and mentally I was treating this as the longest race of my life.  We even had a bit of time to check out some of the views in Blowing Rock and snap a group picture.

Day 2- Thursday May 24--The First Official Day-- "Even Recovery is Painful at Camp"

Top Of Grandfather Mountain
The itinerary for Thursday called for a three pack of workouts.  We started bright and early at the Broyhill fitness facility for a pool swim.  We swam for about an hour and I got in 3500 yards.  After a quick change into our bike gear we headed out to the parking lot to set out on our first ride.  The ride on day one involved climbing Grandfather Mountain.  The ride covered 44 miles and took 2 hours and 27 minutes.  The ride was difficult and I was amazed at how challenging the climbs were.  Moose and one of his hometown buddies got some separation on the way up Grandfather and attacked at the Eastern Continental Divide.  I made a decision after that first attack that my goal for camp was to stick on Moose's wheel for the rest of camp.  This is his home turf and he is a monster climber.  I would do whatever it takes over the next few days to stick with him on every ride.  After descending down the mountain we had a couple fairly long grinding climbs and I was able to stick with Moose and his buddy for the remainder of the day.  We were able to get separation from the rest of the group and it gave me some confidence that I would be able to climb respectably for the remainder of camp.  My first taste of the real craziness was when Moose had us climb Edmisten Road.  I knew we were in trouble when Moose's buddy looked at him like he was crazy and said "I never climb Edmisten".  I thought "Shit, if this dude doesn't climb Edmisten, what the hell am I getting into?"  Edmisten was literally straight up but it was short. It was like running into a brick wall and I honestly thought that my heart would explode and/or I might fall over.  Little did I know that this would be just a taste of what was to come.

We finished out the day with the "firetower run".  This run is a 11 mile jaunt in Moses Cone Park that takes you straight uphill for 5.5 miles and then back down the way you came.  The run climaxes at a firetower with an amazing view overlooking all of the mountain tops we would be summiting over the next few days.  The run was tough to say the least.  The first couple miles are uphill but not too severe.  As you get higher the trail gets steeper and steeper.  Rob "the instigator" Green was the first one to push the pace.  He set a furious early pace that ended up with with the two of us gaining separation from the rest of the guys.  Somewhat surprisingly, I felt pretty strong after the days earlier activities and once we hit the steep stuff I was able to pass Rob and take the lead.  I attacked the hills and tried my damnedest to get to the top of the firetower first.  Unfortunately, Mike Cook had great closing speed and was able to run me down in the last mile.  Mike earned the days Steel Hammer Award which was well deserved for his perfectly paced run.  The run ended up being 10.7 miles in 1:24:43.  My average pace was 7:56/mile and we climbed from about 3500 to 4500 feet.
We finished up the day by heading back to Zap and soaking our legs in the icy stream that runs right by the campus.  This stream was miserably cold and was like taking an ice bath.  As I froze my butt off that first evening I exclaimed to the boys that even recovery was painful at camp.  The icy stream would become more and more welcome with each passing day as our fatigue accumulated.

Even Recovery is Painful!!!

Day 3 Friday May 25- Blood Sweat and Gears plus Mountain Dale (plus brick run)

When looking at the itinerary, Day 2 scared me the most.  The main workout was the Blood Sweat and Gears Race Course.  (http://www.bloodsweatandgears.org/).  BSG is a 102 mile loop that starts and ends in Valle Crucis.  The route is challenging to say the least and includes 13,000+ feet of climbing.  The most ridiculous part of the ride is the climb up Snake Mountain around mile 62 which tops out at a 20% grade near the top.  As if this course wasn't challenging enough, Moose talked all week about adding an additional climb up Mountain Dale.  There was some debate as to whether we would do the extra climb, and I decided that I would make a spur of the moment decision depending on how I felt.  This ride is a kick in the nuts right off the bat.  The ride begins with an hour climb up Shulls Mill Road.  According to Moose it has 83 switch backs.  It is a cruel way to begin a Century.  After Shulls Mill, there isn't anything too terrible until after Mile 50.  This ride is definitely back loaded with the bad stuff.  After Shulls Mill our group splintered quite a bit.  I ended up front with Moose, Moose's buddy Damon, and Tunstall.  We regrouped coming into the aid station at Todd Store.  At the store I was feeling pretty fatigued and was concerned about what was to come.  It was hot and I was starting to feel some cramps come on.  At the store I pounded a coke and some PBJ and a bunch of salt pills.  This seemed to get me back on track and allowed me to refocus my efforts on chasing Moose.  The real climbs start in earnest after Todd store.

Almost immediately we climbed "Big Hill" Road (I shit you not, this is actually the name of the road).  Big Hill had some pretty steep stuff and it was a struggle to keep Moose's wheel.  However, the deeper we got into the ride, the more confidence I gained in my climbing legs.  After Big Hill was the worst climb of the day, Snake Mountain.  The camp veterans had been talking about this climb for days and I was expecting the worst.  The climb involves a slow grinding 2-3 mile climb followed by 2 miles of hell.  As we approached the Mountain, I asked Moose how to attack the climb and he simply said "One pedal stroke at a time".  Climbing Snake was no joke, and making it to the top was exhilarating.  After coming over the top, I couldn't help letting out a victory yell.  For about the next five minutes I felt on top of the world....then I felt the lactic acid.  Moose, Tunstall, Damon and I regrouped at the top of Snake and descended together.  During the descent I felt pretty rough, but I pumped myself full of salt tabs and sports drink.  After all, we still had another 50 miles!!!  The next climb was George's Gap.  George's was very cool and reminded me the most of a tour climb.  It was crazy switchbacks with steep ascents.  With each switchback you could look over the edge and see the guys behind you.  It was so awesome.  Our group of four splintered going up George's, and me and Moose ended up alone at the front. Prior to this point I had assumed that the extra climb up Mountain Dale was going to be tacked on the very end of the ride.  However, I was sorely mistaken.  At mile 88 I asked Moose about Mountain Dale and when we had to make the decision as to whether we were going to climb it.  He looked over at me and said "Right Now".  Decision time was actually at Mile 90 and not at the end of the ride as I mistakenly believed.  My confidence was high after George's and I decided to go all in.  I knew I would regret not doing it when we were all sitting around the table BS'ing at dinner.  Mountain Dale was significant and was followed by a several additional climbs  (big props to Damon and Tunstall who also did Mountain Dale).  My least favorite was Bethel which was basically a long straight climb you could see all the way to the top.  I learned on Bethel that I much prefer the switchbacks.  At least with the switches you can't see the crap that is about to punch you in the gut.  I finished the ride strong and was able to stick with Moose all day.  It was a brutal day but so much fun.  I ended up being in the saddle for over 6.5 hours.  This is the longest I have ever ridden (and will probably ever ride) and I can't wait to realize the fitness gains.  

After the ride I finished the workout with a 30 minute brick run.  My body responded well and I was able to run 7:30 pace despite the heat.  Huge confidence booster for my Ironman marathon!!!

Day 4 Saturday May 26- Watauga Lake Tri Course plus Howard's Knob

Day 4 was filled with a series of shorter workouts on very tired legs.  The day started with a 45 minute drive to Tennessee and Watauga Lake.  We began with a 4300 open water lake swim in a pristine lake on a perfect morning.  Moose attacked the swim and really made me work hard to stay out in front of him.  We hopped out of the water and immediately jumped on our bikes for two laps of the Watauga Lake International Triathlon Bike Course.  This was probably the flattest ride of the whole weekend (which is not saying much).  It is a brutal 22 mile course with some pretty steep climbs in several spots throughout the ride.  This is definitely a triathlon I have no desire to ever do (it makes the Luray Triathlon look pretty tame and Luray is a bitch).  The first lap was ridiculous.  Moose, Rob and I broke off from the group immediately and attacked the first lap in a rotating pace line.  We sizzled on the first lap with each of us taking 1-2 minute pulls.  This pace lining put me deep into the hurt locker and I was feeling fried heading into the second lap.  The three of us agreed to take it easy on the second lap so we could do the forthcoming run at a hard pace.  That "gentleman's agreement" lasted until the first big climb when Moose blew the doors off.  I ended up really struggling on the second lap and could not hang with Moose and Rob.  This is the first time I really started to feel my body struggle.  After the ride it was time for a hot 10K run on the Watauga Tri run course.  
It was pretty hot and most of the course was unshaded.  The run course has some serious hills and is no joke.  Starting off the run, I was hurting badly, but my body responded well and I was able to lock into a good run rhythm in short order.  I think my legs were just happy to be doing anything but turning pedals.  I was able to descend my splits on each of the six miles and finished very strong on an extremely hilly course.  I was very pleased with my run effort and excited that my last two miles were my fastest (and mostly uphill).

Top of Howard's Knob...Soul Crushed
After finishing up the run, we headed out for a quick lunch before the center piece of the day's training, the climb up Howard's Knob.  In a cruel twist, Moose picked a spot for lunch where we could stare at Howard's Knob while we ate.  The Howard's Knob time trial is an uphill climb that is ridiculously steep. We parked at the stadium of Appalachian State and had a brief ride through town to get to the base of the climb.  The climb itself is only about two miles but is comically steep.  I have never seen anything like this in my life.  It is like a paved wall.  After riding briefly through a neighborhood we made a left turn and boom....you are staring at a wall of concrete.  You are instantly out of the saddle in the easiest gear grinding at the lowest cadence imaginable.  The road is so steep that you can't ride straight up it.  You are forced to swerve from one side of the road to the next.  Go forward a few feet/go sideways a few feet/ repeat.  At one point I looked at my Garmin and I was actually going 1.5 mph!!!!  There were multiple times when I could have sworn that I was just going to fall over for lack of speed.  I was able to stay fairly close to Moose and was the second member of the group to summit Howard's Knob.  This climb is soul crushing to say the least.

Making it to the top of Howard's Knob is one of the greatest athletic feelings that I have ever experienced.  I certainly count making it to the top of this climb in a reasonably fast time among the best of my athletic accomplishments.  I was particularly proud of House who suffered to the top after a couple of tough workouts leading into Howard's Knob.  He just wouldn't quit and got to experience the rush of making it to the top of this monster.  The views from the top are spectacular and as you look down at App State it is truly hard to believe that you biked from way down at the bottom.
Anyone noticing a theme to these pictures yet?
After a hairy descent back down Howard's Knob  we still had more work to do.  What's the best way to celebrate such a brutal effort?  Stadium Stairs of course!!!! (perfectly reasonable right).  After 15 minutes of running up the "stairway to heaven", I was completely cooked.  An unbelievable day of training after riding 111 miles the day before.  The day was ridiculous in every way, but I loved every second of it.  I just can't help it,  I love the suffering.

Day 5 Sunday May 27- Assault on Beech Mountain

The fifth day was focused on a 55 mile ride with significant climbing followed by a one mile victory lap around the lake in Moses Cone Park.  The ride started with a descent down Shulls Mill.  Going down was significantly more enjoyable than going up (like we had on Blood Sweat and Gears).  It also provided the opportunity to warm up a bit more than a lot of the other rides we did.  After the descent down Shulls Mill you hit the crappiest part of the ride.  It consists of two long climbs up 194 to the base of Beech Mountain and then up to the top of Beech.  The two climbs are seemingly never-ending with switchbacks galore.  The climb up Beech Mountain is famous for being the place where Lance Armstrong found his soul after his battle with cancer (http://www.guideposts.org/inspirational-stories/lance-armstrongs-inspiring-story-his-fight-against-cancer).  It was pretty awesome to recreate a ride where Lance found his mojo before his 7 Tour Titles.  Prior to the ride, Moose was jonesing to ride both sides of Beech.  However, he couldn't get anyone else on board for this ridiculous plan.  Because we weren't going to do the backside of Beech, Moose decided he was going to time trial up the mountain from the base of 194.  I knew I was going to have to put out a big effort to hold his wheel.  He was riding angry, and by the last day of camp I was at my limits.  I wasn't able to stick his wheel for the whole climb, but I kept it reasonably close and I kept him in my sights the whole way.  Moose did a great ride and put space between us when he sensed my weak moment.  I put out my max effort and had a great climb.  Despite the pain, I enjoyed the climb up Beech.  It was fun to ride the switchbacks and pretend I was Lance climbing up the mountain.  I had an imaginary dialogue in my head between Liggett and Sherwin as I dug deep in my "suitcase of courage".  After the climb up Beech we descended down and traversed Hickory Nut Gap.  Rob attacked in typical instigator fashion and it took my max effort to hang with he and Moose.  Ultimately, this was the straw that broke the camel's back and did me in.  For the first time all weekend, I broke physically and mentally.  This was unfortunate because we still had to climb up the backside of Grandfather Mountain. Let's just say it was a long lonely ride up Grandfather as the boys pulled away from me.  I still count the ride as a success because I was the second one up to the top of Beech Mountain and climbed from the bottom of 194 in less than an hour.

After getting back to the cars we changed into our run gear and did a one mile victory lap.  Rob couldn't resist and quickly raised the pace to an all out sprint.  Before I knew it, our casual victory lap became a one mile sprint.  I wouldn't have expected anything less and it was fitting to end the weekend by pushing myself past my limits.

Fat camp was an unbelievable experience and I count myself lucky to have been able to participate.  It was an amazing opportunity to take my fitness to the next level and I can't wait until my next race so I can measure my fitness gains.  Even more importantly, it was a great opportunity to hang out with an unbelievable group of guys.  I am fortunate to be a member of the steel hammer family and to have found a group of guys as insane as myself.  I am lucky to count these guys among my friends and look forward to future sufferfests and trips to the pain cave with the Steel Hammer Crew.