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 4, 2014

Ironman Chattanooga Race Report
11th Men 30-34, 74th OA

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.

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.

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.

3:42:34, 11AG, 74th OA

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.