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, December 6, 2014

Richmond Half Marathon Race Report/End of Season Thoughts

I haven't blogged since Ironman Chattanooga but have recently had time on my hands as training volume has been low and I've had time to process 2014.  This post is going to be a mishmash of thoughts that have been floating around my head as I assess the 2014 season and look forward to 2015.

RICHMOND HALF
First order of business is my Richmond Half Marathon race report.   This report will be short since it was a fairly uneventful race.
1:27:53, 6:42/mile, 20th AG
Mile Splits: 6:55, 6:47, 6:47, 6:40, 6:40, 6:42, 6:38, 6:36, 6:33, 6:33, 6:34, 6:43, 6:33

The Chattanooga run course destroyed me and I managed to run myself into some anterior tibial tendonitis which took a few weeks to resolve.  My initial post Chatt plan was to run the Richmond Marathon and take a crack at sub 3 but my post Chattanooga injury made me quickly realize that a marathon (let alone a sub 3 marathon) was definitely not in the cards.  Once I was able to get into a good running rhythm again I decided to change entries to the half marathon.  I had no illusions of a PR (1:24) but did think I could take a reasonable crack at my Shamrock time of 1:27.  Since my volume was lower going into the race (and I wasn't able to do much speed work), I decided to start conservatively and build to a strong finish.  My plan was to start at 6:50 and descend to 6:40's on the front half, and then come back strong on the back half with 6:25's-6:30's.

The day of the race was clear and very cold.  In cold conditions I'm never sure how much clothing to wear.  I opted to wear a tank top, shorts, arm warmers, gloves and a winter hat.  Despite temperatures in the upper 20's at the start, I never felt cold during the race.  However, the cold temperatures were hard on the joints and it took me well into the race before my knees and ankles stopped aching from pounding on the cold pavement.

My race execution was good but not perfect.  I wasn't able to get up to speed as fast as I would have liked.  I ran a well executed race but my splits were consistently 5-10 seconds slower per mile than my goal splits.  Given my injury leading into the race, I was pleased I was able to finish the season with a well executed race and my second fastest half marathon of the year.  Contrast this to last season where I closed the year at the Richmond Half with a debacle of a run where I limped to an ugly 1:33.

One thing that came out of this race was the realization that I need to become more efficient if I have any hope of closing the back half of my ironman marathons strong enough to run 3:25 and give me a real shot at Kona.  A friend of mine took video of me during the race and it brought me to the realization that my slow plodding run style might be my biggest limiter on the back half of the run.

It's always a shock when what you see is vastly different from how you picture yourself in your mind's eye.  The first thing I noticed is it looks like I am loping along at 10:00/mile pace (I am the gigantaur in the blue tank top towering over the people around me).  Seeing this video made me realize that I need to increase my cadence and get more efficient ASAP.  I followed this race with a gait analysis and have several keys to work on over the next few months to increase efficiency and clean up some of the technical issues in my running.

My focus over the next few months will be 1) building cycle specific strength with low cadence/high power sets; 2) working on run efficiency and increased cadence with agility sets and metronome running; 3) building core/hip/glute strength to prepare me for the next ironman build; and 4) have some fun trail running with the Hammer Tri Club culminating in the Hammer Tracks 22 mile Trail Run (www.hammertracks.com).

THOUGHTS ON 2014
2014 was a weird season for me.  It was simultaneously the healthiest and unhealthiest season I've ever had.  From an overuse wear and tear standpoint this was the best season to date.  I managed to avoid nagging day to day injuries that have plagued me in the past.  However, this good health was interrupted with two significant accidents including being hit by a car in April, and crashing at 35 mph on the Keene descent at Ironman Lake Placid.

Despite the crashes I never gave up on myself (or my plan) and persevered to have my best Ironman and crushed a long time goal of going sub 10 hours.  I am really pleased with what I accomplished in the face of significant challenges.  My bike power and confidence is skyrocketing, my swim is strong and my overall fitness is at an all time high.  While I've thought that I was close to a Kona breakthrough in the past, as I move toward 2015 I think this goal is more realistic than ever.

2014 also brought a relationship with a new coach, Eric Limkemann.  I cannot sing his praises enough, and I am 100% certain that he has the formula to get me where I want to be.  His plan is insanely challenging and he somehow manages to walk me to the edge of my breaking point while forging me into a stronger athlete.  I am excited for what we can accomplish going into our second year together.  I have lofty but attainable goals in 2015 and I plan to assault the Ironman Texas course in May.  I plan to do everything I can to finish that course under 9:20.  This is challenging but achievable and I have faith that Eric will have me ready (if I can stay up on two wheels).

CLOSING THOUGHTS
In many ways the crash at Lake Placid was the best thing to happen to me.  In retrospect I was pretty miserable going into Placid.  I had lost my sense of fun in the sport and turned triathlon from a fun hobby to a miserable daily grind.  I was spending far too much time alone in training and had isolated myself from others in pursuit of Kona.  The crash made me realize how fortunate I am to do this for fun and made me thankful for the people in my life that make all this possible.  Placid snapped me out of my mental funk and I re-calibrated my whole perspective.  In that vein I have changed the name of my blog from "Embrace the Suck" to "It's All About the Journey".  While I still embrace the suck of training as much as anyone, this is a simple reminder to myself to chill out, enjoy the journey and focus on the people that help me get to the finish line.

I made it a goal to stop comparing myself to my competition, focus on having fun, work out with other people, and make some new friends.  I've tried to break my anti-social tendencies and enjoy the aspects of this crazy sport that are so enjoyable.  Chiefly I made it a point to enjoy the company of awesome people whom I've met through triathlon and who all inspire me in some way, shape or form.  Specifically, I have enjoyed becoming better friends with Trey McFerren, Lindsay Wohlford and the super friendly folks at Crossfit Addict.  I look forward to many months of suffering on the trainer in the back of the CFA gym while those beasts throw around huge weights (the mere sight of which makes me want to cry).  Additionally, I have had the good fortune to meet and become friends with Dave Gallagher whose attitude and inner strength in the face of an unimaginable family tragedy is inspirational beyond measure.  I look forward to helping him and his foundation in 2015.  (SpeakUp 5K)

In closing I recently came across these two videos which I've watched multiple times.  If you have a few minutes and want to be inspired, I highly recommend watching each!

As always thanks for taking the time to read and I appreciate any/all feedback!

E:60 "Catching Kayla"


Saturday, October 4, 2014

Ironman Chattanooga Race Report
9:46:59
11th Men 30-34, 74th OA


Pre-Race
After the debacle of my Lake Placid crash I didn't have much time to sulk and lick my wounds.  I was back training for Chattanooga by the end of the following week with a chip on my shoulder.  Those first few rides were interesting as I was forced to ride with gooped up bandages all over me.  My training block between IMLP and IMCHOO went really well.  I was consistent and put forth better training performances than I did before Placid.  The first few weeks after Placid were brutal.  Eric Limkemann had me doing short intervals on the bike with extremely high power.  It was really taxing and challenged me to work towards being a better athlete.  It also reinforced why I don't focus on short course....because that shit HURTS.  

During this time, I also had to work through some right IT Band/hip issues.  Many thanks to PT Dani Joslin for working to get me healthy to get through a second Ironman training block and race healthy and symptom free.  I also spent the time between IMLP and IMCHOO working on my attitude and mindset.  I had become so wrapped up in goal times/qualifying for Hawaii that I really was not having much fun anymore.  I was crushing myself under the weight of my own goals and expectations.  I decided to actively work towards having fun again.  After all, I had two significant crashes this year and I am fortunate that I'm still healthy enough to keep moving forward toward my goals.  I also tried to focus on the segmenting the challenge of CHOO into its component parts.  Instead of focusing on going 9:35, I focused on putting together three strong workouts.  I knew if I executed according to Eric's plan, I would be exactly where I wanted to be.  This small picture view actually allowed me to be much more relaxed in my approach to the race.

The other significant thing that happened between Placid and Choo was that two of my dear friends had the performances of their lives at Mont Tremblant and both qualified for Hawaii.  Tracking Rob Green and Moose Herring during that race rejuvenated me.  I have never been so happy staring at a computer screen all day.  Those guys are among the best people I know and I can't think of two people more deserving of their accomplishments.

I arrived in Chattanooga on Thursday evening and settled in.  I was able to get to athlete check in immediately upon arrival which was nice.  I enjoyed several relaxing days with friends preparing for the race.  As it got closer to race day I felt relaxed and confident...more than I have in a long time.  I think this attitude was made possible by the obstacles overcome to get to the start line and the realization that I had given my best every single day in training.  When you have truly given your best you can live with whatever results may come.  One cool thing that happened was that Herbert from Slowtwitch flagged me down during bike check in and asked if he could take a picture of my new bike.  It was pretty cool to make the Chattanooga Image gallery on Slowtwitch and have 15 seconds of triathlon fame.

Swim
41:39, 3rd AG, 23rd OA
I knew the swim was going to be fast.  The swim was downstream point to point that was current assisted.  During the practice swim on Saturday the current was ridiculous.  It was so fast that I thought it might be possible to crack 40 minutes.  I was told during the practice swim by several volunteers that the current would probably be a bit less on race day.  I figured I would be looking at a swim split in the low 40's and this is exactly what happened.  The plan on the swim was to be smooth and relaxed and use it as an opportunity to get warmed up for the bike.  The swim start was a time trial start (much like Louisville) and the athletes line up on a first come first served basis.  Having done Louisville three times, I felt it would be more beneficial to get an extra hour of sleep rather than sitting on cold concrete at 4:30 in the morning.  I took my time in the morning and made it down to transition at about 5:30.  After getting all my transition gear in order I boarded a shuttle to the swim start and began to mentally prepare for the day ahead.  The swim went smooth and uneventful.  I think I was pretty good with my lines and was able to find clean water the whole way.  Because the river had a slight bend to it I tried sighting 2-3 buoys ahead in an effort to straighten out the course.  I decided not to wear a watch on the swim but it felt fast.  I didn't know my swim split until after the race and I was pleased with the time given the relatively modest effort level.

The transition to the bike included a run up a pretty steep hill.  I took my time going up to prevent a spike in my heart rate and instead focused on pulling my pearl izumi octane speed suit onto my arms. I swam with my blue seventy speed suit and had the octane rolled down to my chest.  The octane was a real pain in the ass to get on while I was wet.  I tried to keep moving forward while I worked it over my chest and shoulders and was able to get it on by the time I reached the change tent.  The first transition was probably about a minute slower than I would have liked but it wasn't a total disaster.

Bike
5:14:55, 6th AG, 56th OA
AVG Power 230, Norm Power 232
AVG Speed 22, AVG Cadence 89
VI- 1.01
IF- .71

The plan on the bike was to be conservative.  I had trained all season to have the ability to ride 250 watts for five hours.  After scouting the run course on Friday, Eric and I quickly realized that we would need to be much more conservative given the vicious hills on the marathon.  The plan was to ride 235-240 riding out of town, 225-230 on the two loops, and then 240-250 coming back into town.  I was concerned that there would be serious congestion on the course but it actually wasn't too bad.

I kept it pretty easy heading out of town and had a small mishap going over a set of train tracks.  I launched my first calorie bottle and had to get off my bike and run 100 yards back down the road to retrieve it.  Not the way I wanted to start my ride but it only cost me about a minute and forty five seconds.  Once I got out to the loop I settled into my goal wattage.  230 watts was coming very easily and I felt like I was holding myself back....this is exactly what I wanted.  The first loop I was passing a lot of people and taking in calories and fluids at 25 minute intervals.  I drank 1/6 of my calorie bottle and water every 25 minutes.  I also took one saltstick capsule so that I was taking two saltstick caps every 50 minutes.  The loop portion of the course was quite fun.  It was twisty and rolling with virtually no flat sections.  I found I was able to keep my speed up pretty easily on the climbs.  The route had enough elevation to make it interesting/somewhat challenging but not so much that the climbs were overwhelming.  There were only a handful of climbs that I considered getting out of the saddle.  The back half of the loop was particularly fun and it seemed like there were long stretches where I could hold 25mph.  The first loop went by pretty quick and I swapped my nutrition bottle just before the turn onto loop two.

The second loop was a little bit more interesting.  I ended up catching on to a group of 10-12 guys that were all riding together.  I felt most of the guys were making an honest effort to not blatantly draft but there was definitely an aero benefit to be had.  I know I was getting some type of aero benefit riding with the group because my average power dropped into the low 220's during this time despite making my best efforts to keep the requisite distance behind the bike in front of me. The group was going fast enough where I couldn't necessarily ride away without burning matches and conversely I didn't want to drop back, deliberately slow down and hurt my bike split.  As a result I ended up caught up with this group for the better part of 30 minutes (maybe more).  With about 5 miles to go on loop two I decided I was close enough to the bike finish that I could take some risks to try and ride away from the group.  I did a 15 minute effort at 245 watts and was able to get some separation.  When I made the turn onto the home stretch I rode at my wattage target of 240.  When I looked over my shoulder there was no one to be found.  It was pretty satisfying to be able to get away and put some time into several guys that I knew were in my age group.  As I rolled into town I felt fresh and relaxed.  I hadn't burned any matches unnecessarily and I was excited to run.  The ride went by crazy fast and it was hard to believe we were nearly six hours into the race.  Overall, I would rate my bike execution as an A+.  I was extremely pleased with every aspect of the ride.  I rode conservatively with a low variability index and nailed my target power.  The bike split was exactly where I needed to be to give myself an opportunity to run for a Kona slot.

Run
3:42:34, 11AG, 74th OA
8:30/mile

Coming off the bike into T2 I was a unexpectedly stiff given how good I felt on the home stretch of the bike.  I had a reasonably fast transition, stripped off the Pearl Izumi Octane and threw on my Hammer Tri Club top.  I grabbed my salt supplements and gel flask and I was off.  Having scouted the run course Friday I was respectful of what was facing me.  I knew that the run would be challenging, but I also knew that I could have a successful run if I stuck to the plan.  The run course took us on both sides of the river.  The first 8 miles weren't too bad.  There was a nice stretch along the river followed by a fairly flat stretch coming back into town on the Amnicola Highway.  After coming back into town you run across the river where the real work would get done.  The course on the opposite side of the river was brutal.  It was about 3.5 miles of substantial climbing.  There were three extended climbs that were steep.  The uphills were bad but the downhill running was worse and would ultimately cause me to fall slightly sort of my goal for the day.

My plan for the run was to walk every other aid station, 20 seconds at the top of big climbs, and 10 seconds at the top of smaller climbs.  The goal was to keep my heart rate in the low 150's and my average pace around 8:00/mile.  If my heart rate began to climb to the upper 150's I had strict instructions to add additional 10-20 second walk breaks.  Coming out of transition there is a pretty steep hill to get up onto the run course.  It felt weird taking my first walk break less than 5 minutes into the marathon and I felt like I had to explain to the volunteers that it was "planned".  Once I got to the top of the hill and resumed running I was feeling pretty tight.  I started getting hamstring cramps almost immediately so I began pumping electrolytes.  I had a two salt stick caps and two thumb prints of BASE salt.  Fortunately the cramps subsided shortly thereafter but I wasn't feeling particularly fast.  At about mile 3 one of the female pros ran past me and I joked to her that I wish I had her legs.  She joked back that she knew I could keep up with her.  Something clicked and suddenly I felt like I could keep up.  By the end of mile 3 I was running stride for stride with her and solidly back on track with my pacing.  I started to feel really good and my confidence was growing with each mile.  At mile 7 the pro (I wish I could remember her name) told me that she was having a bad day and was going to be pulling out of the race when we got back into town.  I jokingly pleaded with her to keep pacing me but was resigned that I was going to have to go it alone through the hills.  As I crossed the river to hit round one of the hills my wife, father and several friends were waiting for me on the bridge.  It was gave me an immediate boost of energy and I felt like I could ride the wave of good feelings through the hills.  I got a high five from my wife and was ready to roll.  I got through the first round of hills relatively painlessly.  I was strong and powerful on the uphills and I noticed that there were not many runners passing me (which is usually the case).  This made me feel good that I was holding my position within the field.  During this time I was taking in a lot of electrolytes to prevent any cramping.  I was taking 2-3 salt stick caps per hour as well as 1-2 thumb prints of BASE salt per mile.  I tried to keep the salts under my tongue to maximize their impact (thanks to a tip from Brian Shea at Personal Best Nutrition).

As I began the second loop I felt really good.  As I ran along the river walk I knew I was having a good day.  My heart rate and pacing were spot on and I was starting to get really excited about my performance.  I saw my dad near the beginning of the second loop and he told me I was on pace to go in the 9:30's.  I remember thinking "holy shit, just keep calm and stick to the plan and you will do it."  I was calm and comfortable through mile 15-16 when I began to notice that my quads were really starting to fatigue quickly.  Shortly thereafter I started to feel my hamstrings give out.  By Mile 19 things were starting to go south quickly and another round of cramps hit me.  My hamstrings locked up and I was forced to stop and stretch.  I doubled down on my electrolytes with the hopes that I could get the cramping under control and at least limp home the last 10K while limiting damage.  I figured if I could at least keep my pacing in the low 9:00 range I could salvage a great performance from the remnants of my "dream" day.

By the time I hit the hills on round two I was fried muscularly.  Cardiovascularly I was strong as hell and ready to roll, but unfortunately my legs took too much of a beating from the downhill running.  It was strange because my heart rate was dropping into the upper 130's and low 140's because my legs weren't powerful enough to run at a pace that would get my heart rate where it was supposed to be (low 150's).  The leg soreness/pain was pretty unbearable for the last 5 miles.  I was in the mental black hole that so many of us have experienced during an Ironman.  I was resolute to limit the damage as much as possible and keep my sub 10 hour performance intact.  I am proud to say that I ran up every single one of those shitty hills even though I felt like my legs were exploding.  Needless to say I was thrilled as I headed back over the river toward the home stretch.  My dad was waiting for me just before the run to the finish line and he yelled that he loved me and was proud of me.  I dug deep as I headed toward the line and started tearing up as I neared the finish line.  Then I heard the words that I have grown all too fond of....Daniel Royce you are an Ironman!  There is nothing quite like hearing those words after turning yourself inside out for nearly ten hours.

Post Race
Immediately after the race one of my best friends, John Hauserman, caught me in the finish shoot.  My first reaction was to hug him.  He walked me over to the finisher area where my wife and dad found me.  I was so exhausted that I just started crying uncontrollably.  I don't know if it was the thrill of breaking ten hours, the pain in my legs, the sheer exhaustion (or all three), but a flood of emotion came over me and I needed about 5 minutes to get a hold of myself.

I gave everything I had and achieved something that a few years ago seemed like a pipe dream.  While my race was almost perfect, it wasn't for lack of execution on race day.  I don't think there was anything I could have done differently on race day to change the outcome.  My fade at the end of the race was due to a lack of muscular endurance necessary for the second round of hills.  Eric and I plan to address this in the off season and maybe over the next month as I prepare to take a crack at a 3 hour marathon at the Richmond Marathon.

As always there are so many people to thank who made this day possible.  Special thanks to my beautiful wife Brittany Royce, my own personal sherpa Dan Royce, Stella Royce, Jackie Royce, Carolyn Royce, Bobby Wildermuth, and Ricky Devennish for the endless support.  John Hauserman for killing it on sherpa duties and keeping the Facebook statuses flowing on race day (and for catching my broken body at the finish line), Ruthie Burke for the on course motivation, Sally Schmitzer Young for running with me when I was buried in the pain cave, Lilo Navales for getting me priority access to the post race massage tent, and so many others who were out on the course cheering and supporting. The Richmond Tri Community was out in full force at Ironman Chattanooga and it was amazing to do an Ironman that felt like a local sprint race. There were a ton of great performances by Richmond Triathletes and we certainly left our mark on Ironman Chattanooga.

This has been a taxing year and I have had to overcome some obstacles to get here. Despite the setbacks I prepared well (thanks to the expert coaching of Eric Limkemann) and had a good day with a PR by nearly 15 minutes. The marathon course was a real soul crusher. In my opinion it made the Ironman CDA run course look like a cupcake. I stuck to my race plan all day and executed to perfection. Smooth swim, conservative bike, and stuck to the script on the run. Despite executing according to plan the hills on the run got the best of me.

Overall, I am pleased that I put together a race that was 95% perfect. I am still waiting to have that one breakthrough Kona qualifying "Rob Green/Marion Herring Mont Tremblant" kind of day. I have made big strides this year and I know I am primed to continue improving and a big breakthrough WILL be coming in the near future.  Thank you to everyone who supports me and helped me get here. I am proud to be a member of the Richmond Triathlon Club and the Richmond Tri Community. Thank you to my Steel Hammer Brothers for getting me here. Thanks to Peluso Open Water for keeping me at the pointy end of the swim field, and thank you to all the volunteers, friends, and family that make suffering for ten hours so much fun.  This has been a successful season as I have improved steadily met some new people and made new lifelong friends.  I am excited to carry this momentum in the off season and I am ready to carry it forward as I train for Ironman Texas in May (yes I already signed up).

As always thank you for taking the time to read this and I always welcome any comments or questions.  



Monday, July 28, 2014

Well That Didn't Go as Expected!!! Ironman Lake Placid Race Report (with obligatory gross injury photos)

*Warning*  Aggressive Injury Photos Below....

This post is going to be substantially shorter than my usual obnoxiously detailed race reports because my day ended at mile 12 of the bike with a hard crash on the descent into the Town of Keene.  For those unfamiliar with Ironman Lake Placid, there is a long fast descent on the front end of the course.  You can reach speeds upwards of 50 mph if you really get aero and tuck.  With that as the backdrop of my unmitigated disaster, I will get into the race report.

Pre-Race
In the days leading up to the race I felt much different than I have before all my other 4 Ironman races.  I had a sense of calm I have not had before.  I think much of this came from confidence in my training.  I know I did everything in my power to position myself to take a legitimate run at a Kona Slot.  If it wasn't going to work out I knew it wouldn't be due to gaps in training, lack of effort, or poor execution.  I was locked in and ready to perform.  I didn't start feeling nervous until Friday and on Saturday I didn't feel as much nervous as scared and respectful of the enormous challenge that laid before me.  Placid is a challenging course and typically draws a deep field.  I knew I would need my best to achieve my goals.

I have my pre-race routine fairly locked in now.  The night before the race I ate most of a large pizza and hung out with my family.  I was super fortunate that I had almost all my extended family in Placid to support me.  Everyone has been following my Ironman journey and they all made the effort to be there to help me take a shot at Kona.  It was great to be surrounded by so much love and support the night before the race.  I had 19 family members who came from all over the East Coast to watch me race....truly humbling.  I want to thank Brittany, Mom, Dad, Jacko, Bobby W, Lummy, RD, Aunt Bev, Uncle Eddie, Uncle E, Aunt Deb, Brian, Erin, Aidan, Reilly, TJ, Steve, G-man and Jilly Bean for being there for me.  I only wish I was able to put on a better performance for everyone.

On race morning I woke up at 4:00 a.m. so I could get breakfast down with plenty of time to digest.  The normal breakfast consisted of two packages of oatmeal with raisins (330 cals), one cup of almond milk (30 cals), and a cinnamon raisin bagel with peanut butter and honey (450 cals).  I washed it all down with a bottle of water and two meta salt tablets.  I headed down to transition with dad to double check my bike and run bags and get my bike squared away before heading to the swim start.  So far so good.  Everything according to plan....in fact even the weather looked promising as the day started out with breaks of sunshine when scattered thunderstorms were in the forecast.

By the time I got my transition straight and headed to the water it was time to get in my wetsuit and get my mind right for the swim.  The swim start time was 6:30 and the time snuck up on me quickly.  Before I knew it, it was 6:20 and the pros were going off.  I got myself in line toward the front of the 50 min to 1 hour group and got ready to rock.  A few minutes before the start all of my immediate family was lined up right along the fence at the start.  I was even able to sneak a kiss from Britt about 3 minutes before start time.  Those last few minutes before the swim start are amazing.  The anxiousness/nervousness/excitement is overwhelming.  I love being surrounded by my fellow crazy triathletes all with the common goal of suffering for 140.6 miles.  Mike Reilly was on the mic and the music was blaring.  I was in a good headspace and ready to go.

Swim- 52:53
At 6:30 the gun went off and the top swimmers charged into the water.  The first 500 yards were pretty aggressive with lots of contact and jostling amongst the leaders.  Things settled down about halfway down the front stretch and we broke into a smaller pack.  I was swimming steady and strong.  The whole goal was to stay relaxed and throw down a fast swim time with minimal effort.  The first half of the swim I typically get tight when wearing a wetsuit and that is what happened on Sunday.  I kept calm and knew my triceps would eventually relax somewhere on the back stretch.  True to form, my shoulders and arms relaxed on the back stretch and I got into a good rhythm.  I was well placed at the end of the first loop with a small group of the top age groupers including my buddy Dan Szajta.  The second loop felt effortless.  Our lead group stayed pretty tight until the turn when we really started catching the later waves.  Fortunately the all world athletes were given white caps which made it easier to sight and keep track of the faster guys.  I hit the beach placed within the top 20 of the race and got up the beach to the wetsuit strippers.  The wetsuit came off easily and I made the long run up to transition.  As I ran I was following my coach's advice....think slowly and act fast.  I got up into the change tent and into my bike gear in good time.

One unique thing about Placid is that the volunteers will actually grab your bike from the rack for you if they are available and you call out your number.  I shouted my number to every volunteer I could find with the hopes that my bike would be waiting for me at the end of my rack.  Unfortunately it wasn't meant to be and I lost a little bit of time having to retrieve my own bike.  No big deal, but it was a minor hiccup.  As I ran through the transition, I noticed that it started to rain.  I remember thinking...this could get interesting.  I had a bit of trouble clipping in but eventually got out on the course.  Britt, Dad, Lum and RD were waiting for me at the bike out and it was a nice boost to hear them as I set out to crush the bike course.

Bike- DNF, 11.75 miles, Crashed on descent into Keene at 32.9 MPH
As soon as I pulled away from transition, the rains became torrential.  It also started to thunder and there were flashes of lightning in the sky.  I subsequently found out that the race organizers actually cancelled the second loop of the swim and pulled competitors out of the water.  In fact, Ironman only counted the first loop of the swim course toward the total race times to level the playing field since everyone did not have the opportunity to finish the swim.

On the way out of transition, there is an immediate steep downhill into a hard left turn which was treacherous in the rain.  I knew that I would have to be cautious on course as the weather was really sketchy.  As I headed out on course I was feeling relaxed and strong.  The plan was to ride conservatively on the first loop with a target wattage of 245 and a cap of 280 on the sustained climbs. Prior to the long descent there is a long grinding climb up toward the ski jumps.  I was holding my goal wattage easily and staying amongst the age group leaders.  I was feeling relaxed and confident.  The rain was ebbing and flowing with periods of heavy and light rain.  As I got to the top of the descent the skies really opened up.

The early parts of the descent were fast but manageable.  I was tucking in my aero position aggressively but not taking any unnecessary risks on the bends in the road.  I was actually able to pass a few guys in the early part of the descent.  Shortly thereafter you hit a real steep section and my Garmin had me at 48.5 mph at top speed.  I was white knuckling it and locking onto my base bar with all my strength.  It was terrifying in the rain.  After making it through the really fast section there is a less insane section where my speeds were consistently in the 30's.  This is where my day would come to an end.

Large portions of the descent have recently been re-paved but for some reason there are a few sections that were not.  As I traveled down the hill I transitioned from a smooth to choppy section.  A few moments into the choppy section I hit a bump in the road that was just forceful enough to pop my wet hands off the base bar.  In an instant I was off my bike and skidding down the road.  It happened so fast that I didn't even have the opportunity to be scared.  After hitting the deck, I went through a quick mental check of all my body parts and nothing seemed to be broken.  I could see that my skin was in rough shape and I was bleeding from multiple parts of my body.  My right forearm looked pretty mangled.  As I laid on the pavement trying to gather my wits, a nice gentleman ran from his front yard to help me.  Just as he approached an ambulance pulled up.  They just happened to be passing by and got to me literally 30 seconds after the crash....you don't get luckier than that.  Before I knew it I was in the ambulance and getting checked out.  They were dressing my wounds and hooking up an IV.  I asked if I could continue the race after they cleaned me up and the lead EMT told me that she couldn't stop me but she wouldn't recommend it.  She said it in such a way that I knew going to the hospital was the right decision.  Before I knew it I was on the way to the hospital and thinking about what could have been.  Kona is not to be for another year.

Hospital and Post Race
The folks at the hospital couldn't have been nicer and they cleaned me up and got me to the x-ray room.  I had x-rays of my right elbow, right knee, pelvis, and both hips.  Miraculously all the films were negative.  I have no idea how I didn't break anything....lucky break number two of the day.

My family got to the hospital about 90 minutes after I arrived, and after sharing tears and hugs we loaded up into the cars to head back to Placid.  This was a particularly tough time for me.  I am not ashamed to say I broke down.  The combination of seeing how I had upset my family with another accident scare combined with my disappointment and pain was too much to bear.  I needed a good cry before I could leave.  As we traveled home it was hard watching the competitors attacking the course from the passenger side of my dad's car.  When I got back to our house my whole family was there and gave me a standing ovation.  It was thoughtful, well appreciated but also a little embarrassing.  I just didn't feel like I deserved any kudos after dragging everyone up north for 1/10th of an Ironman.

The silver lining was that I got to spend a few hours with my family before they left.  I have the greatest family in the world and having everyone there helped to bring perspective to a really shitty day.  At the end of the day, I have a family that is unbelievable.  I could not be more grateful to be a Royce.  As my dad always says...in the end, it is all about family.

Another positive of the day was that I was able to return to the race site and be an Ironman spectator for the first time.  I was able to cheer Dan Szajta and Dan Moreno on as they killed the course.  It was pretty cool to take on the role of cheerleader for once.

Now the fun part....PICS



Closing Thoughts
I will be taking the next few days to heal and recover.  Frankly I am far too sore to work out if I wanted to.  Hitting the deck at 30mph leaves a dent and is something that I would care not to experience again.  I also plan on an MRI of my right hip.  It is really bruised and sore.  I was experiencing hip pain prior to the race and I need to make sure that there isn't internal derangement before I start firing up the training for IMCHATT.  At the end of the day I am lucky I was not more seriously injured and have another opportunity to display my hard work.  I am down but not out.   Believe that I am going to get my mind right and crush another training block leading into Chattanooga.  My determination has been forged on the pavement of the Keene descent and I will only come back stronger and tougher from this experience.  Thank you to my family and friends for all of the love and support.  As always I was shocked and humbled by the kindness of everyone that reached out.

I'll see everyone on the roads and in the pool before you know it! Thanks for reading!




Saturday, July 12, 2014

Have you met my Friend "Gordo"? He can be a real d*ck!....Ironman Overload


Following Rev 3 Williamsburg I began the "meat and potatoes" of overload training which culminated on July 4th weekend with the "Gordo" series of workouts.  Gordo is a compilation of workouts over the course of a weekend and is meant to simulate a Half Ironman effort on Friday, Ironman effort on Saturday, and Ironman marathon simulation on Sunday.  My buddy Rob Green has been doing this for several seasons and has had great success integrating it into his training plan.  Gordo is named after Gordo Byrn (http://www.coachgordo.com) who is a well known triathlete and coach.

Before I get into Gordo I'll give a quick summary of the three weeks leading into Gordo.  Each week was escalated in terms of time and distance and ended up being a solid block of training coming off a hard effort in Williamsburg.

Week 1 (June 16-June 22)
Total Time- 18 hours
Swim- 14,338 yards, 4 hours
Bike- 190.2 miles, 9 hours 20 minutes
Run- 37.29 miles, 5 hours
Strength- 1 hour 40 minutes

Week 2 (June 23-June 29)
Total Time- 19 hours 10 minutes
Swim- 11,356 yards, 3 hours 10 minutes
Bike- 178.3 miles, 8 hours 38 minutes
Run- 42.27 miles, 6 hours
Strength- 1 hour, 10 minutes

Week 3 (June 30-July 6...includes Gordo Weekend)
Total Time- 21 hours
Swim- 13,500 yards- 3 hours 55 minutes
Bike- 200 miles, 10 hours 11 minutes
Run- 37.44 miles, 5 hours 36 minutes
Strength- 1 hour 20 minutes

During this period I felt reasonably good despite training at high volume almost exclusively outside in the heat/humidity.  I have had solid swim and bike workouts but my running has been suffering greatly.  In fact, coming into Gordo, I hadn't had a "good" run in 3 or 4 weeks and I was really struggling with confidence in my run.  Many of my runs ended in total failure with me walking back to the house or car with the "look of shame" (my old Poseidon buddies will know exactly what this means).  I was beginning to think that the run was never going to come around.

A key factor during this block (and my training at large) was a high level of intensity and specificity in many of the workouts.  Intensity and intervals have been a hallmark of training with Eric this year.  I have spent more time riding and running with intensity than ever before.  I am hoping this intensity will pay dividends on race day.  I have spent more time above 300 watts than I care to recount.  On that note, onto Gordo....

The Gordo schedule includes the following:
Day One: 90 minutes swim with intervals, 2 hour ride (with 2x30 intervals at Half Iron Watts, 30 minute steady state run
Day Two: 5+ hours on the bike (with 3x30 mile ascending power intervals, 240/255/270), 10K tempo run subject to Ironman heart rate ceiling
Day Three: 18 mile run (with 3x5 miles at 10 seconds under Ironman pace, targeting 7:35-7:40)

Day One
I got through day one pretty successfully.  I started the day with Randy Dash and Dan Szajta at Robious Landing with a 90 minute river swim.  We included 5x500 yard efforts in the swim.  I actually felt quite good during this workout.  I left from the parking lot at Robious Landing within 20 minutes of the end of my swim.  I didn't feel great on the bike, but was able to hit my wattage targets.  The only hiccup was that I accidentally rode into the middle of a 4th of July Parade in the Brandermill sub-division.  It screwed up one of my intervals a bit but I will give myself a pass given that it was America's birthday and all.  It warmed up quite a bit during the ride and I ended the session with a 30 minute trail run in the park.  As has been the case with all runs recently, my legs were heavy in the heat and I was running embarrassingly slow.  At least I was able to run the whole 30 minutes without stopping.....small victories.

Day Two
On the second day, I met Greg Mathe and Dan for a century ride.  We got an early start and did a big loop in Goochland and Hanover before making our way to the Southside to push us over 100 miles.  Again the ride was pretty successful.  I ended up with 105 miles in about 5 hours and 15 minutes.  I put together a solid ride and was again on point with my wattage targets and kept a reasonably low variability index (an indication of steady effort).  I tried to stay on top of my nutrition and hydration so that it bore similarity to my race day nutrition plan.  I was dreading the 10K off the bike.  It had gotten hot and my recent track record had me concerned that the run would be another sh*t show.  I got the run started within 15 minutes of the conclusion of ride and the first few miles went well.  The pacing was good and my HR was under my cap of 160 bpm.  Unfortunately at the halfway point my HR began climbing substantially.  I shifted my plan to run until my HR hit 165 and then I walked until it dropped to 155.  I repeated this yo-yo pattern for the remainder and ended up with a sub-par run effort.  This did not give me any confidence going into the last workout of the weekend (which I was fearing the most!).

Day Three
The marathon simulation had me scared.  My running has been sh*t and I was worried about completing the distance with heavy legs (let alone running under Ironman pace).  I woke up early and had fairly pessimistic attitude about the run but forced myself out the door early to beat the heat.  When I got out of bed my legs were jacked up.  I was sore!!!!!  How the hell was I going to do this? I had a little bit of trouble getting started.  I thought I'll walk to the end of the street and then start, and before I knew it, I was at the end of my neighborhood and still walking....Time to suck it up and start.....the first mile was slow and painful, but then something miraculous happened, I started running well.  I got through the first 5 mile interval with a great average pace.  I proceeded to nail the second two five mile intervals.  In fact, the last 5 mile segment was my best of the day with the last 30 minutes at 7:30 pace.  I finished the full 18 miles and nailed all of my intervals.  This run was such a relief and was a much needed dose of confidence to know I will be successful at Placid.

Since Gordo I have begun tapering.  This week was still fairly high from a volume and time standpoint (17 hours) but with much lower intensity.  I nailed another great workout today with another solid run at sub ironman pace off a 3 hour Ironman bike effort.  This was particularly encouraging in light of the fact that I was out late at a concert and only got 5 hours sleep.  I felt sub-par but the data was on point.  I really feel things are coming together.  The next two weeks will be about maximizing recovery and freeing my mind to allow my body to do the work it has been trained to do.  As always thanks for reading!!!!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Rev 3 Williamsburg: Sometimes You Just Need to Blow the Eff Up

Rev 3 Olympic
2:14:31
20th OA/ 4th Men 30-34

Rev 3 Williamsburg was my first Olympic in two years and it was also my first Rev 3 experience.  Rev 3 put on a fantastic event that was extremely well organized.  Kudos to Jay Peluso who served as race director and did a bang up job making sure everything ran seamlessly.  The event took place on Sunday morning and Rev 3 required that we rack our bikes on Saturday.  This required an extra trip to Williamsburg which was a bit annoying but ultimately made race day run smoothly.  Much like Raleigh this was a dual transition event.  Fortunately there was ample parking at the two transition areas which allowed for my dad to sherpa Justin and I so we could avoid shuttles.  I elected to stay in Richmond on Saturday night so I could sleep in my own bed.  This unfortunately made for a really early morning.
Dad in Full Sherpa Mode

On race morning I woke up at 3:45 am.  Ever the champion, my dad was there to pick me up at 4am and we traveled to Williamsburg together.  Breakfast consisted of two packages of oatmeal, a cup of almond milk, a banana, a scoop of almond butter and two lava salt tabs.  We arrived at T2 at about 5:15 am and I set up my run transition and met Justin.  After a quick visit to the facilities dad drove us over to T1 to get ready for the swim.  After a quick check of the bike area we headed down to the beach to prepare for the swim.

 SWIM
19:38.19
1st AG/4th OA
The game plan for the race was to swim hard, ride harder, and see what I had left for the run.  The swim was set up as an in water start and the water was warm.  No wetsuit was a relief and I wore my Blue Seventy speed suit.  This is an excellent product and during the swim I was reminded of how well it is designed.  It is made for swimmers and not triathletes.  Those of us who come from a swimming background will know exactly what I mean by that (sorry for the swim snobbery).  When the gun went off I got off to an aggressive start and slotted into second position.  The fastest swim split was from my old college teammate and pro triathlete John Kenny.  He quickly pulled away from the group leaving me with a small group of two other swimmers.  The swim course was square and swum counter clockwise.  I was passed by two swimmers as we rounded the buoy onto the back stretch.  This actually worked out well as I was able to get a decent draft for the remainder of the swim.  I stayed under control and tried to take advantage of the draft.  The finish of the swim ended up being challenging because we were swimming directly into the sun when we turned towards shore.  The sun was blinding and I couldn't see a damn thing.  Fortunately the two guys in front out of me managed to keep straight and I followed them into the finish.  The other difficult aspect was the shallow nature of the water.  This meant that there was a long stretch of swimming alternating with dolphin dives off the bottom of the river.  This jacked my heart rate into the stratosphere which was not particularly helpful especially since there was a quarter mile run to T1.  I ended up coming out of the water fourth and was red-lined as I ran toward T1.  In fact I was so anaerobic that I started cramping during my dolphin dives.....guess I need a little more threshold work if I want to be a gamer at the olympic distance.

BIKE
1:03:57
Avg Speed- 23.7 mph
Cadence-93 rpm
Avg Power- 305, Norm Power- 307, VI-  1.01
Placing at end of Bike- 3rd AG, 10th OA
The goal on the bike was to ride over 300 watts with a goal target of 310.  My secondary goal was to focus on my position and keep my head tucked in a "turtle" position for maximum aerodynamic benefit. I was in the red for every second of this ride.  I really struggled keeping the power above 300 and I was proud I was able to do so because this ride hurt like an SOB.  In Raleigh I rode 285 and felt like I could have ridden 300.  At Rev 3 it was a serious struggle keeping wattage over 300.  I knew pretty early on that the effort was going to leave a dent on the run.

The bike course was gently rolling and more difficult than I was expecting.  I foolishly assumed a pancake flat course.  While the course wasn't difficult, it definitely felt like there was a lot of false flats and undulating terrain.  I should have done a better job scouting the course.  I rode the first 15 minutes alone before a group of 3 guys caught me including my buddy Justin.  When they passed I was able to up my effort and work with them for a short period of time.  Ultimately, the pace was more than I could sustain and I fell off.  I rode most of the remainder alone.  Fortunately it was a two loop course so I had people to pass on the second lap which helped distract me from the personal hell I was feeling.  

This ride was a grind and I felt the pain for the full hour.  It was certainly a good lesson in embracing the suck.  I was pleased with my bike effort including holding my wattage over 300.  However, I feel there is still a disconnect between my wattage and speed.  I am hoping the new aero helmet and speed suit I ordered will help close this gap with some free watts.  Additionally, I realize that I need to improve my ability to work with the faster riders when they pass.  Somehow I need to weather a burst of effort when passed by the uber elites so I can work with them for the remainder of the ride.  My difficulty is that I am already near my max when they pass, and I am unable to sustain the additional surge of effort to hang with them. There is a huge benefit to be gained from riding legally with a group and if I can train myself to withstand the initial surge and settle in, I can ride several minutes faster.  It is tough riding out on an island by yourself.  It can really grind you up mentally.  As the ride drew to a conclusion, I knew I was in for a real sufferfest on the run.  However, I had a positive attitude and was ready to attack the run with whatever I had left.

RUH ROH
RUN
46:35, 7:36/mile
As soon as I ran out of transition, I knew I was in for a long 10K.  The effort on the bike left a mark and it was quickly apparent that my goal of running 6:30's was overly ambitious.  A big portion of the course was on a wooded trail.  Again I did a poor job scouting and didn't realize how hilly the trail would be.  Honestly there weren't many flat areas of the course at all.  The terrain continued to keep my heart rate spiked and I really had difficulty running well.  I felt as though I was running with my heart in my throat.  In fact I elected to ignore my watch and run as hard as I could and let the chips fall where they may.  I was so redlined that I actually got a bit dizzy on a few of the hills and even contemplated walking....the dizziness was a new experience.  Ultimately, the run turned into a bit of a death march as I watched numerous competitors run me down and pass me.  Needless to say I was relieved when this one was over.

Takeaways
1) Short course is hard and short course specialists are phenomenal athletes.  The amount of pain those guys are able to withstand is impressive.  Going flat out for 2 hours is nuts!  It was a fun test to race so long at threshold but it HUUURT.

2) I am not ready for primetime when it comes to running well off 300 watts.  The good news is that even though I was cashed out on the run, I was still able to run at sub ironman pace.  This is a good sign moving forward.  I was about as exploded as I've ever felt and was still running faster than I plan to run at Placid.

3) My buddy Justin Moyer is a stud!  Every time I race with this guy I am more impressed.  Fantastic athlete that never seems to tire.  More importantly he is a humble and awesome guy.  I am lucky to call him a friend.

4) I need to improve my ability to latch on to some of the faster riders to work legally and improve my bike splits.  This will require me to somehow learn how to surge when they pass and hold that effort long enough until I can stabilize my heart rate.  I am not exactly sure how to accomplish this, but I know I need to do it if I want to be more competitive at short course events.

5) It was great to see so many Richmonders competing and spectating on course.  It was a nice reminder of how lucky we are to have such a great tri scene in central Virginia.  Congrats to Brian Jastrebsky for taking the overall win in the half...very impressive stuff.  Congrats to everyone else that raced in both the olympic and half.

Moving forward I am debating doing the Tavern Tri next weekend.  It is a big training weekend leading into Placid and I may bail on the race to focus on putting in a good training block.  I haven't made a decision, but will by mid week.  If I race, look for a race report next weekend.  A little bit over a month until Placid and everything is going according to plan.  Time to put in one more big push, work on my self confidence and get ready to break 10 hours.  Thanks for reading!




Friday, June 6, 2014

Time to Dust Off the Old Blog....Raleigh 70.3 Race Report

Raleigh 70.3 Race Report
4:35:42
9th Men 30-34
56th Overall
It has been quite some time since I've posted.  In fact I skipped several race reports dating back to the end of last year.  Since Ironman Louisville last August, I've competed in the Peluso Open Water 5 Miler, Marine Corps Marathon, Richmond Half Marathon, Love Rox Half Marathon, Shamrock Half Marathon, Monument 10K and Kinetic Half Iron.  In the past I never missed an opportunity to post a race report, but over the last few months I haven't felt motivated to keep the ol' blog updated.  I think my desire to blog has been lacking due to the fact that I have perceived my results to be below my goals/expectations.  This pattern of negativity has been growing with each passing race and actually ended up biting me in the ass this past weekend at Raleigh 70.3.  Fortunately, Raleigh presented an opportunity to learn some valuable lessons and re-focus my energies and mindset in a more positive direction to re-realize that I am doing this for fun (and not for my livelihood).  I tend to take triathlon a bit too seriously and get bogged down in the results.  As I have been chasing my goal of qualifying for Kona I have been failing to practice what I preach and have been focused on the destination instead of the journey.  Recently I have been obsessing over perceived failings in various races and it culminated this weekend in Raleigh.

Before I get into the race report, I want to back up a bit and get you up to speed on my training.  In January I began working with a new coach, Eric Limkemann (http://ericlimkemann.blogspot.com/).  Besides being a top level pro, he also happens to be a great coach and an all around great guy.  I have been very pleased with my training thus far and have been hitting metrics in my workouts that I have never seen before.  I also made a commitment to let the coach do his job and stop doing "extra credit" not in my plan.  One of my weaknesses as an athlete is that I never feel like I am doing enough and I tend to cheat up the distances and intensities in my training sessions.  I'm sure this was a source of frustration for Coach Flanigan the last two years and ultimately hurt my race results.  This year I made a resolution to stick to the plan and stop with the extra BS.  I have been pretty good thus far and I would give myself a B+ for my efforts. Every so often I sneak in a bit extra, but by and large I have stayed committed to my resolution and it has resulted in a productive and injury free block of training since January....Now on to the race report.

Raleigh 70.3 slotted into my season quite nicely.  My goals were to go sub 4:30 and secure a spot to 70.3 World Championships.  I felt reasonably confident that I could put together a good race inasmuch as I raced Kinetic 3 weeks ago at Ironman pace and put up a respectable time.  I was able to do this two weeks after being struck by a car and was pretty sore at the time.  Kinetic gave me a bit of confidence that I could put a great race together at Raleigh.  Additionally, Coach gave me a bit of rest leading into the weekend and I felt I was primed for a good performance.  I arrived in Raleigh on Friday afternoon.  It was a nice treat to have my beautiful wife along for the ride.  We had a nice dinner on Friday and I spent the rest of the evening cleaning up my rig and getting race ready.

scoping out the course with Dan S.
Saturday was a bit of a cluster due to the nature of the course.  The swim took place at Jordan Lake which was about 40 minutes outside of town.  This meant there were two different transition areas and we had to check our bikes into T1 on Saturday.  Much of Saturday was spent checking in at the expo, shuttling back and forth between the transition areas and getting everything ready for Sunday.  The day was over before I knew it.  The best part of the day was sitting down to dinner with friends and family at Mellow Mushroom.  One of life's simple pleasures is dinner the night before an Ironman.  It is one of the few times that I stop obsessing over my diet and focus on fueling for the next day.  I strapped on the feedbag and ate my weight in glorious glorious pizza.  After dinner I topped off the fuel tank with a ridiculous serving of frozen yogurt and headed back to the hotel room to unwind and get ready for the early wake up call.

Race Morning
Feedbag...engage
On race morning I woke up at 4 am to meet my dad down in the lobby.  Big Dan is becoming somewhat of a celebrity around the tri scene.  I think most of my triathlete friends and acquaintances know him as well as they know me from his high quality sherpa skills and general Facebook panache.  As always he was there every step of the way and got up early so he could come on the shuttle with me so I could bring my bike pump and not have to deal with checking a morning clothes bag.  I honestly don't know what I would do at these races if I didn't have him and my mom.  The support they continue to give is remarkable, and I do not express to them enough how thankful and fortunate I am to have them.  This sport is a collaborative effort and nothing I accomplish is possible without Big Dan, Stella, and my unfailingly supportive Iron-wife, Brittany Royce (it never hurts to have a super model wife, standing on the race course when things get rough on the run!).  I told her after the race that no matter how bad I feel, when I see her on the run I get a surge of energy.  I mean who the hell wouldn't want to see this face cheering you on when things get ugly?!?!?!

One unfortunate aspect of the race was that the swim start took place in waves and I had to get to transition early to take a shuttle from T2 to T1.  This meant that I was up at 4 a.m. even though my race wouldn't be starting until 8:02.  Because of the long waiting period I spaced out my morning calories.  I had two packages of oatmeal immediately upon waking up (300 cals).  About an hour and a half later I had peanut butter and jelly on a plain bagel (approx. 450 cals), and I downed a second surge energy gel (90 cals) before the swim. We arrived at T1 at about 6:15 in the morning.  I double and triple checked the transition and tried to relax until my wave went off.  One nice aspect of the late swim start was that I got to see my coach win the swim and come out of the water first in the pro field.  It was pretty cool watching him come out of the water first and head out on the bike to do some serious work.  At about 7:30 I put on my trusty Blue Seventy Helix and started loosening up for the swim.  At 7:45 I got into the water for a quick warmup and then lined up with the guys in my wave and anxiously awaited our start time.  The few minutes just before the start are always electric and it didn't hurt that the speakers were blaring Red Hot Chili Peppers.....Go Time.

Swim
26:09- 3rd AG, 29th OA
The swim course was a triangle shaped course on Jordan Lake.  With two turns built into the course the plan was to stay long and strong until the first buoy and then increase my effort after each turn.  I was a bit concerned about the swim course due to my late wave.  Despite the waves being 4:00 apart, I suspected I would run into traffic pretty early on in the swim.  I started catching the wave in front of me just around the first turn buoy.  The course became more and more congested as the swim progressed.  I'm not sure how many waves I swam through but I suspect I was catching folks that may have been 4-5 waves in front of me.  I think I did an average job holding my lines and feel reasonably confident that I swam straight however I did not feel particularly good in the water.  I attribute this to the fact that I only swam one session during the week leading into the race.  I was scheduled to swim M/W/F and only managed to get the Wednesday session in.  I tend to lose feel for the water pretty quickly when I'm not in the water every other day and I felt this during the race.  I was not particularly pleased with the swim split but it wasn't a disaster.  As always the Blue Seventy Helix wetsuit performed beautifully.  Before I knew it the swim was over and the wetsuit strippers helped me out of my suit. ...On to the bike where I planned on putting out a big effort.

Bike
2:31:28- 7th AG, 43rd OA
56.11 miles, 22.2 mph
AP 284, NP 289, VI 1.02, Avg Cadence 94
The bike course was a point to point course taking us from Jordan Lake into downtown Raleigh.  The course can best be described as rolling.  Most of the course is either going up or coming down but I don't recall any significant climbs.  The back half of the course was definitely more difficult than the front half and it was made slower by a steady headwind for the last 20 or so miles.  The front half of the course is FAST!!!!  After the initial climb out of transition, the first 25 miles were screaming.  At about mile 25 I thought a low 2:20s bike split was in my future.  I made the mistake of underestimating the back half of the course and while I handled it fine from an energy standpoint, it was definitely slower than the front and ultimately brought down my average pace and brought about a slower bike split than I was initially anticipating.

The game plan on the bike was to ride the first half at about 270 Watts and build into the low 280s if I felt good.  I felt really good on the bike and found that I was riding 280 watts right off the bat.  I was initially concerned that it wouldn't be sustainable but as the bike unfolded I found that my average power was holding steady and actually slowly ticking up toward the mid 280s.  At the halfway point I felt confident that I could sustain a wattage near 280.  The ride felt strong and comfortable and I think I was only passed by about 8 cyclists during the course of the ride.  I was able to ride legally with a couple of different cyclists which is always helpful from a pacing standpoint.  The thing I like about Ironman events is the large number of people out on the bike course.  While it does propose some safety issues/challenges, it is nice to be around other people and have the opportunity to be passing people all day.  All too often at smaller races I find myself riding alone for long periods of time.  While it is certainly good mental strength training it is a lot more fun to be suffering with several hundred other crazies.  Toward the tail end of the ride I began to realize that a split in the 2:20s was not going to happen.  This brought on some frustration, but I instead tried to focus on maintaining steady wattage.  As I rolled back into town I felt good and thought that I had enough in the tank for a solid run split.

Bike nutrition consisted of a second surge energy gel (90 cals) at the start of the bike, and I sipped on a carbo pro cocktail for the remainder of my calories.  I had one 600 calorie bottle that contained 6 scoops of carbo pro, two nuun tablets, and two lava salt tablets.  I also took 6 salt stick capsules during the ride.  I drank 1/3 of my nutrition bottle every 45 minutes.  I took 2 salt stick caps with each portion of the cocktail.  My energy felt strong and consistent through the ride.  I think I undercooked the electrolytes a bit as I had some cramping late in the run, but for the most part I think my nutrition was pretty close to dead on.

Run
1:33:40 (7:09/mile)- 9th AG, 56th OA
Run segments
1- 3.5 Miles: 7:03/mile
2- 3.1 Miles: 7:15/mile
3- 3.2 Miles: 7:23/mile
4- 3.3 Miles: 6:55/mile
The run course was not easy.  It was an out and back course done twice.  It was essentially a 3.5 mile climb followed by a 3 mile descent x2.  I felt surprisingly fresh running out of transition with the exception of some quad cramping which is pretty typical for me in the first mile off the bike.  I have found that if I focus on steady pacing the cramps generally subside within the first ten minutes and this run was no exception.  The game plan on the run was to build my effort during each of the four segments.  Eric thought I had the capability to start at 7:00 pace and descend into the 6:50s but as soon as I started the first climb I realized I would have to be smart with my pacing.  The first and third segments were a long steady climb and I focused on good technique and steady pacing around 7:15.  I knew that If I pushed it any harder I would risk exploding on the back half of the run.  The run was not well shaded and it got a bit warm so I was concerned about cramping.  I had a canister of lava salt tablets and I alternated taking 2-3 tablets every 15-20 minutes.  As usual I relied on cola for calories and water for hydration.  I took ice sponges and ice whenever it was available.  I alternated dumping water over my head and ice down my shorts to keep my core temperature down.  One of my only complaints about the race was that the run aid stations were a bit unorganized.  It was sometimes difficult to get your hands on what you were looking for.

I did a good job staying consistent on the run and there wasn't really any section where I felt like I was blowing up.  My third segment split was the slowest by far but I didn't feel as though I was suffering especially badly during that portion of the race.  I felt steady and in control the whole time.  The encouraging news is that my last segment was the fastest of the day which showed I still had some juice in my legs after a big bike effort.  I saw my buddy Dan at the first turn and noticed that our gap was pretty close to the 4 minutes we started the race with (he was one wave behind me).  Dan has had some impressive Ironman run splits and I spent the next hour trying not to let him catch me.  Ultimately he out split me by about a minute but it certainly helped me run faster to know that one of my buddies was hunting me down.  I only noticed about 3 or 4 people pass me on the run. This was less than normal and I take it as a positive that my run continues to progress.  Hopefully over the next month and a half I will continue to improve to the point where a sub 3:30 will be possible at Lake Placid.

Takeaways
Immediately after the race I was disappointed.  I had convinced myself that I was going to put up a time in the low 4:20s.  When I came in at 4:35, I felt like I had let myself down.  Despite finishing 9th in my AG, I was annoyed and angry at another sub-par effort.  As I have had time to reflect, I think this reaction was immature and ridiculous.  As I objectively look at the data and conditions of the day, I had a good race.  I let the negativity get to me and it would end up costing me.

Typically any time I finish within the top 10 I stay for roll down on the off chance that I get a World Championship slot.  However, on Sunday, I decided that my performance left something to be desired and there was no way it would roll to me.  So I collected my things and high tailed it out of town soon after the race.  I didn't even bother to check if the automatic qualifiers had claimed their spots prior to leaving.....amateur move.  As I drove home I got a call from a friend who told me that they were calling my name at roll down for a World Championship slot.  The one time I didn't stay for roll down was the one time I could have qualified for worlds.  I was so angry with myself for letting a poor attitude cost me a WC spot.  It taught me a valuable lesson....never leave roll down if you are in the top 10, and a negative attitude can cost you both during and after your race.  Frankly, this was a wake up call that I needed and I feel it was a good spring board to work the mental component of my training and to start having fun again.  This sport really is about the journey and not the destination. I needed this experience to remind me of that.

I want to thank all my friends and family who took the time to say a kind word or congratulate me on my race.  I posted some word vomit on Facebook immediately after the race about being disappointed and I was overwhelmed by the number of people who reached out to lift me back up.  The tri community is wonderful and I have met some truly inspirational people who lift me up just when I need it.  Thank you to all of you that took the time to say a kind word.  It resonated with me and further cemented the fact that I need to work on being more positive, believe in my abilities, and have confidence I will need to qualify for Kona.  In short I need to stop being so damn hard on myself.

As always thanks for taking the time to read my musings.  Happy training and congrats to everyone that raced last weekend including Nate Deal, Trey McFerren, Dan Szajta, Lindsey Wohlford, Justin Moyer, Rob Green, and Moose Herring.  There were many great performances all around.

Next up Rev 3 Olympic.....stay tuned