Renee Black - ORV Time Trial

There’s a first time for everything…

Hey y’all! 2018 race season is in full swing. This year I decided to open the season with a time trial, or what folks in the cycling world call “the race of truth”. I had never attempted this before, but for several years I have had a strong desire to give it a go. Truth be told, I was scared. Scared of making a complete fool of myself. Cycling is my favorite part of triathlon and I can hold my own. However, I knew I would be racing against some pretty bad ass women. So, I took a deep breath, swallowed my pride and clicked the register button for the Oak Ridge Velo Classic Time Trial. 

As always I was met at the race site with overwhelming support. The hubs was there volunteering. Katie, Ashley, Amanda, Alex, Sharon, Melinda and Lana had all raced hard that morning in the road race and all greeted me with smiles and encouragement. Expert level sherpas JD and Shameka were there to hold and carry all the things. After taking a solid 15 minutes to pin 2 race numbers on my jersey I hopped on the trainer, put my ear buds in and settled into a 30 minute warm up. 

Those 30 minutes flew by and before I knew it Katie and I were off to the start line. 

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I kind of knew how the start procedure worked. Someone holds your saddle while you get clipped in. When it is time to go, that person lets go of your saddle and you take off. Sounds easy enough, right? The race official counts down and says, “Go!” I smash down on the pedals and nothing. He says again, “Go!” And again, I’m still sitting there not moving. Finally someone says, “Let go of your brakes!” Oh!! That’s a good idea! I let go of the brakes, take a good ten strokes out of the saddle and then settled in for my 7.6 miles of pain.

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The plan was simple. Hold back a bit on the first 2 miles which were on a slight incline, then let it rip until the finish line. One thing I am learning is that going fast takes a tremendous amount of focus. No matter how genetically gifted you are or how hard you work going fast hurts. The key for me is not letting my mind wander in an effort to ignore the pain. When my mind wanders, the focus is lost and so is the speed. Looking back, I had two key moments during the race where I lost my focus and it cost me some time. 

First, there was a steady climb on highway 95 leading onto Bear Creek Road. As the incline increased I could feel my cadence lowering and my effort increasing. Instead of dropping into a smaller gear and increasing my cadence I chose to keep mashing away in way too big of a gear. This really took some power out of my legs and cost me some speed on the gentle rollers ahead. Lastly, I totally misjudged the location of the finish line. I rode the course the Sunday before but in my oxygen deprived state I missed the mark and ended up letting off the gas before the finish.  I crossed the finish line 2nd in the cat 5 group and 5th overall in the cat 4/5 group. 

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Overall, I am super pleased with this first TT effort. Afterwards I immediately told the hubs that I wanted to do it again! Once again I cannot say thank you enough to my husband, my friends and family that give me endless encouragement! Thank you to Kevin, my Podium Sports Medicine racing team, and all our sponsors for their support. Lastly, thank you to my coach Robbie Bruce for all his guidance and those winter trainer miles!

Next up… Hammer Olympic Distance Triathlon!

Mike Dotson Omnium

Oak Ridge Velo Road Race, TT and Trideltathon 

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What a weekend of Firsts!  First official cycling race out in Oak Ridge, and what an eye-opening experience.  First time riding with a pack all bunched together at much higher speeds, and feeling the yo-yo effect near the back end.  First time getting left in the dust on a moderate climb like I’d never ridden a bicycle before.  I am pleased with the road racing experience and will definitely come back for more.

First participation in a time trial the same afternoon as a road race.  First day spent at a cycling event with teammates and friends.  Thank you Bike N’ Tri and Podium Sports Medicine for the encouragement, support, and friendly faces.

Sunday was filled with more Firsts.  First Triathlon of the 2018 season.  First time in the pool since October (oops).  First triathlon immediately following a day of cycle racing.  First triathlon where the run was longer than the bike (thank you inclement weather).  

 First races with friends by my side for most of the course.  Such an encouragement and joy to be able to ride and race pedal by pedal and step by step with teammates.  That is what made the difference for me this weekend, and that is why I encourage others to join in the endurance sport community.  Oh yeah, and the final first…..First Place Male Age Group 30-34.

Mike D

Derek Tingle TT & Road Race

2nd to Double First and Back... Oak Ridge Velo Classic 2018

I decided early on this year that I wanted to try my hand at some road racing. It just so happened that with the Oak Ridge Velo Classic being moved up to April, it fit perfectly in a nice little window in my racing schedule. Criterium racing holds absolutely no interest for me so I opted for the road race and (of course) the time trial.

This being my first foray into road racing, I didn’t really have any expectations for greatness but I did have some goals. My goals were to stay off the deck and finish in the front group. Beyond that, anything else would be gravy. My race plan for the road race was just to stay as close to the front of the pack as possible in order to stay out of trouble and to try and get in a breakaway. I knew that if it came to a bunch sprint, I had very little chance. I’m not a sprinter... like not even a little bit.

Race day came and I went through the normal routine. I finished my Cherry Pop Tarts (one day I’m gonna have to get some sort of sponsorship if I keep schilling them in my reports...), loaded up the Roadie and the TT and headed out the door. I was actually quite nervous. I know what to do when I get to a triathlon or multisport event. I know what to do when I get to a mountain bike race... I felt like a total fish out of water at a road race. I got my bike unloaded and set up on the trainer behind my car to warm up. As I was spinning on the trainer and going through my warmup, across the parking lot, I spotted my Podium teamies and my good friends from the Bike and Tri team all hanging out. They invited me to crash their party and happily accepted. Warmup done, it was time to line up for the Cat 5 roll out. Last minute instructions were relayed from the official and we headed out.

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After the neutral rollout, once the ref gave us the signal, the race was on. I was mid pack, farther back than I wanted to be and it was a bit frantic. Guys were flinchy on the brakes and I could since the tension. When I saw my moment I moved slowly up toward the front and found myself sitting comfortable 4th or 5th wheel. I picked out a couple of guys who looked particularly strong and marked them as who I would try to stick around. Just as the race was starting to heat up a bit we caught the last of the juniors and the race came to a grinding halt behind the lead car. We sat behind the car at neutral speed for what seemed like forever until the lead official let us around. It wasn’t long after that we hit the climb. I metered my effort with the front two guys and crested in 3rd. One guy made his move at this point attacking the descent. One other guy and I went with him and I had hoped this would be the springboard we needed. Our break never organized, however, and the pack caught us not long after that. The rest of the race pretty much played out the same. There were a few times where guys would make a move but the peloton never let a break go. As the miles ticked away, I knew that my chances of catching an opportunity were fleeting. We made the turn toward the finish with a large group of around 16 guys. The finish is uphill so I hoped that when the pace lifted it would break a few guys off. It didn’t. At 1k to go everyone was still there. 500m to go and still together. The sprint opened up at 200m and I was a second or so late to open. I watched the “real” sprinters take off and I fought it out with a couple other guys for what was left.

After the dust settled, I was happy with my performance. I had accomplished both of my goals. I finished with the front group and I didn’t crash. After waiting around at the finish to see my friends across the line and watch the ladies come across, I headed back to the lot to spin down and recover before the TT in the afternoon. Once they posted the results I was shocked to see my name in 2nd!!! I was a little confused but my brain wasn’t working well enough to argue it at that point. Before long I heard there were protests to the results and updated results were posted. I went back to check, sure enough, my name was now further down in 11th (or Double First as Patrick put it) where I knew I should have been. Not a bad day at all. I’ll take it.

After my recovery spin, I was in uncharted territory. Never had I had to race in the morning then recover for a second race in the afternoon. I hung out under the tents, laughing and talking with my team and friends. Honestly, that was the thing I enjoyed most about the experience. I loved just sitting around shooting the stuff with my friends. It was actually quite relaxing. When a couple people left for food they offered to bring stuff back. I took them up on that since I had forgotten to bring anything other than Clif Bars and Untapped Waffles. After some time though I was getting very hungry and they hadn’t made it back yet. Katie offered me some pulled pork and sweet potato that she brought. Again, I accepted since my other food hadn’t made it back yet and I was getting close to my feed window closing before I had to warm up again for the TT. It is true, cycling is a team sport and I get by with a little help from my friends.

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My coach gave me a pretty stout 30 minute warm up for the TT with some tempo efforts to wake the legs back up. I started this about 60 minutes before my start time. I was much happier to be on my TT bike. After all, Time Trial is my thing.. I just usually swim (or run) before it and run afterward. The plan was simple. Go hard. Go as hard as I could and use everything I had left. I was almost the last Cat 5 to go off so I had several guys in front of me to try and catch. That gave me some extra motivation. In the start house, the holder steadied me. I clipped in, started my Garmin (which worked this time... It decided NOT to record the road race data.) and waited for the count down. 3...2...1... GO! I stomped on the pedals out of the gate got up to speed before settling into aero. It became obvious very quickly I didn’t have much power left in my legs after the morning. I relied on a high cadence and my slippery Trek Speed Concept cutting the wind to help me keep the speed up. It was a real struggle any time the road turned up at all. I continued to focus on keeping my cadence over 100 and watching for the next guy up the road. I passed at least 4 guys. After that it was all tunnel vision and just trying to will my legs to keep turning over. I gave it one last push to cross the finish line in a time of 18:20. Good enough for 2nd place and my first road podium!

Looking back on the day, my only real regret is not having the data from the road race. I accomplished every goal I set before the race and I had a great time with my team and my friends. While I certainly won’t be giving up triathlon or mountain bike racing for a road career any time soon, this almost certainly will not be my last road race. Huge thanks go out to the race organizers and all the volunteers for a great race experience! Also a MASSIVE thanks to Bike and Tri for letting me hang out all day under their team tent, you guys are AWESOME! Lastly, thanks to my village: Amanda, Coach Lana, Kevin, Patrick and the Podium Sports

Medicine Crew, all my teammates, Dr. Chris at Healthsource Chiropractic, Jason and ORR Carbon Wheels, all the guys at Cedar Bluff Cycles and everyone who supports me!

Next up: XTERRA Ft. Yargo in two weeks!! Stay tuned!!

Katie Dotson Omnium

Summoning My Inner Warrior (and mixing in a little crazy)

Sunday afternoon, I stood up from a laughter filled lunch with friends, my legs protesting each pound I was demanding them to carry.  My body felt broken, unwilling to rise up to the challenge of standing.  This all seemed like a good idea a few weeks ago...

Saturday morning I ventured into the world of cycle racing.  Starting with the Oak Ridge Velo Road Race - 27 ish miles of pushing my body (and my bike) to the limits... holding it there, and continuing to demand more.  Riding bicycles with other like minded ladies - what a blast.  

My team and I are new to racing.  Given the early season race and our race strategy to work hard, work together, have fun, and see how things went (it may have been a bit more laid out than that... just a bit), we had a great race!

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We worked together to stay with the main pack for the first portion of the race.  When the lead ladies turned up the heat, we stayed with the chase group.  Over the next many miles, our small group worked together to chase back down the lead pack, arriving there only to be dropped again.  We stuck it out, through headwind, lonely climbs and burning quads to respectably finish mouth breathing, smiles in tact and ready to do our next race (just maybe not for a few days, please)

The 4 hours until the next race were spent with laughter, magazines, good music, enjoying the breeze, eating and hydrating.  

Saturday afternoon.  With the bike on a trainer, I hoisted my complaining body onto my TT bike (a special bike meant for aerodynamic suffering) for a warm up.  The next race was a Time Trial (TT), 7 and change miles of "fast as you can, hard as you can" one-at-a-time racing.  Whoever has the best time wins.  Simple to explain... 

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It's a pain cave.  I was calm going into the start, knowing I would push the limits of my mind and body over the next few miles.  I took a deep breath, then 5, 4 ,3, 2, 1, Go.  I took 10 pedal strokes out of the saddle, settled in and focused on my breathing.  I pushed hard, adjusting the gears to keep my legs engaged without my mind quitting.  My best friend and teammate passed me on the first big climb (she's been DOMINATING her training and is going to have a fantastic season).  The last major hill behind me, I settled in, pushing all the rolling hills both up and down, fighting for every ounce of power I could muster.  I turned the last corner to see the 500M mark and laid out everything I had.  

I came across the line proud of my effort, proud of my performance in light of my earlier morning, and just trying to breathe.  Another 10ish minute cooldown on my trainer and I packed up for part 3 of the weekend.

Sunday morning's triathlon was a soggy mess.  In light of the looming thunderstorm, the bike course was cut short.  If I were able to muster the strength, I would have jumped for joy.  

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I kicked off the morning with a 400 meter indoor pool swim. Yes, avoiding swimming for the last 5 months made it rather interesting, and I don't recommend the avoidance.  I finished well enough and without drinking too much water, and  "ran" to transition for the bike 2.88 mile bike segment.  I tucked into aero position and assembled my inner warrior and pedaled.  My bike handling skills felt instinctive even in the rain and I pressed harder into the discomfort, finishing with a rusty dismount. 

The run proved to be the finisher I expected. It usually takes about a mile to 1.25 miles to work my legs into a comfortable stride... today took 2.  I kept telling myself one foot in front of the other, relax your shoulders, breathe, and keep moving.  No matter how slow, keep moving.

The last little bit of the race I distracted myself with how many "blocks" it was until the finish.  (ah the strange things we think about)  But the welcome reprieve of the downhill segments was just what I needed to come up the final two hills strong(ish) and finish with a smile on my face.  I had given it all I had. 

I don't think I care to repeat three races in one weekend, but I'm glad I did.  I shook off the rust from the winter training months.  I found (a few) areas of improvement.  And I was thankful for all the time I invested in strength training these last few months.  

Plus cycle racing and triathloning makes some of the best and deepest friendships.  

Now for the sofa, chips and guacamole and the occasional laundry transfer when I can will myself to move again.

 

Two Days of Run, Bike, Run FUN

USAT Duathlon National Championships 

In 2017 I accidentally won my first duathlon.  Some time after that I got an email from USA Triathlon inviting me to the 2018 Duathlon National Championships in Greenville, SC.  There are a couple things that, if you’ve followed me on the blog or social media, you’ll already know. First, I like to start the race season early and second, I’m a huge pansy when it comes to cold swims.  I decided, then, that kicking off 2018 with a duathlon sounded like a fun change of pace.  There were three options for races over the weekend, an ITU style draft legal sprint on Saturday, a non-draft (TT) sprint and finally the non-draft standard distance on Sunday.  I signed up for both the draft legal and non-draft sprint races.  

Until this weekend I had never raced a draft legal multisport event.  Actually I had never raced a draft legal ANYTHING.  I’ve ridden in plenty of pace lines and done some aggressive draft riding with my friends and on group rides but I’ve never done it in a race setting.  I was very excited to see how that played out on race day.  See, the thing about a draft race (especially a draft DU) is that it is a runners race and I’ve never considered myself a runner.  My strong area has always been the bike and being able to draft really makes it all about that last run.  I strategized before the race that my best chance was to go out on run 1 and try to find a pack running just above my “comfort zone” to pull me along to get me to the bike.  Then, I would find a strong group to work with on the bike (ideally containing guys NOT in my age group) and go all out on the last run.  Now, that would have worked well if I was ONLY racing Saturday, BUT with a race on Sunday I had to think about tactics there as well.  Still, with a slot on Team USA on the line and a chance to compete in on the world stage on the line, I had to give it my all.  

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Now, a quick aside about Team USA and worlds: USAT assigns slots on Team USA by placement AFTER the age up rule is applied.  I skimmed over that last bit upon reading the qualification process and it made for a little bit of a whirlwind of emotions after day 1…. More on that later.

I woke up Saturday to less-than-ideal weather conditions.  50 degree ambient temps and rain greeted me on race morning.  I was a little apprehensive about the draft race in rain.  I don’t doubt my bike handling but I do question everyone else’s.  Pure cyclists have long regarded multisport athletes (triathletes in particular) as… well… lacking in the bike handling department and in some cases with good reason.  I knew I would have to be extra vigilant so as to avoid hitting the deck if things hit the fan racing in tight quarters.

Here’s the part of the report where I’d normally talk about my morning routine, but since all of you have (hopefully) read one of my reports before, we’ll skip it.  Just suffice it to say I woke up, ate Cherry Pop Tarts, pooped, went to the race site, set up my transition, did a warm up and got to the starting line as planned.  There, now on to the race:

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Both sprint races consisted of a 5k run, 18k bike and a final 2.85k run to the finish.  Tension was high in the start corral.  I was in the first wave to go off.  There was a light drizzle and it was cold but there were a surprising amount of spectators there.  The energy was high and on the horn it was like getting shot out of a cannon.  It was a slight down hill for a few meters before a sharp right and little climb out of the park before turning onto the highway for two laps.  I looked at my watch after hitting the road to see we were running a 5:15 pace.  I KNEW that wouldn’t work for me so I backed off to mid 6, a pace I could hold.  I there was a slight break in the pack and I found myself just trying to hold the tail end of the lead group of 20-30 guys.  I was feeling strong and the miles ticked by pretty quickly.  My legs were still quite happy when I made the turn off the road back into the park to head to transition.  My rack spot was garbage and located near run in/out meaning I had to either run in socks or my bike shoes ALL THE WAY to the other side of transition twice.  I opted to run in my bike shoes because I don’t do flying mounts.  Transition was quick, and I clopped my way to bike out.  On the bike course I pretty quickly caught up to a guy who seemed to have a clue.  “Let’s work!”, he yelled.  “10 second pulls!”, I replied.  We had a great chemistry immediately and worked quickly to move up the field.  There were three laps of the bike course and before long we caught up to another small group.  They joined our little party but became a bit of a aggravation as the day went on.  My friend and I encouraged them to work but they either didn’t know how or weren’t interested.  We tried several times to get away from them but they were strong riders and we just couldn’t shake them.  This kept up all the way back to T2.  Thankfully, we all made it safely back and it was time for the last push.  On the way out of T2 my thumb caught my bib and ripped it off my belt.  I opted to go back the few steps to get it over chancing a penalty for not having it on the run.  It cost me a few seconds but in the end it wouldn’t be enough to change the outcome.  The legs were heavy out of T2 but they cooperated pretty well.  I was holding pace in the low 7’s and staying pretty “happy” there.  Run 2 was one lap of the same run course from earlier.  I pushed hard and very shortly I was rounding the final corner and hitting the red carpet for the final kick to the finish.  I crossed the line in 1:03:29.  Good enough for 10th in my AG and a slot on Team USA… so I thought....

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Remember when I said the slots go to top 10 AFTER age ups…. Well that was the bit I glossed over.  In the excitement of the day I was sure I had a slot if the times held but I wouldn’t find out for sure until 6pm at the awards ceremony.  That gave me all day to stew on it.  I tried not to get my hopes up but I just couldn’t help it a bit.  The afternoon was spent napping, watching movies and just generally trying to rest up.  Before heading to the awards ceremony the wife had a short run to do so I went to the hotel gym with her.  I spun my legs out on the gym bike and did a little stretching and yoga in attempts to get my legs ready for day 2.  Upon arriving at the host hotel for awards (we stayed further out at a less expensive hotel), I checked the Team USA list.  I found myself in 11th, one spot out.  I was in disbelief.  Disappointment washed over me.  I knew there was still a chance of roll down but that didn’t matter.  To me, that was a consolation prize.  My wife reminded me that there was another chance tomorrow.  She was right.

My race Sunday was in the afternoon with my wave going off at just after 1pm.  That morning, though, the Standard Distance race was underway early and with several friends competing, we wanted to get there and cheer.  We arrived in time to see all our friends as they came off the bike and headed out to run 2.  It wasn’t raining, but it was cold and everyone looked frozen coming off the bike.  I was really hoping it would warm up before my race.  

By around 11, it was time to get ready so I trekked back to the car to eat and get the bike.  Lunch was, you guessed it, 2 Cherry Pop Tarts.  Hey, if it ain’t broke…   

I got my (backup) kit on.  I had to go to the backup as my only Podium kit was WAY to wet and smelly to wear again.  Our new team kits hadn’t arrived and before I left and I only have 1 Podium kit that wasn’t covered in XTERRA dirt so I had to default the spare kit.  

Honestly, my plan was basically the same for the race as it was on day 1 other than on the bike.  Since today was a TT the bike plan revolved around going as hard as I could to set up the second run.  Run 1 was good,  a bit slower than yesterday but that was to be expected on tired legs.  On the bike I was moving well.  The legs were ok but I was down a bit on power.  I was trying to stay around 220-230 watts but I just didn’t have that much in there.  Still, I made up a ton of time on the bike and set myself up nicely for run 2.  I came out onto the run course feeling, well, great honestly.  The legs, while fatigued, were turning over with relative ease and my pace was in the low 7’s for mile 1.  Heading into the last bit of the run I found some more speed in the legs and made a great final push for the line.  I crossed in 1:04:45, a bit slower than Saturday but still good enough for 10th in the AG.

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Now, for the non draft race, there were only 8 spots allocated for Team USA.  However, age ups still had to be tallied AND qualifiers from yesterday’s race had to be removed so I still had a chance.  We packed up our things and headed to the host hotel to meet up with our friends (and my coach) Lana and her husband, Chris who both raced in the morning’s Standard Distance event.  We still had some time before awards and Team USA announcements so we made a quick field trip to a local Thai joint for some grub.  Chris had done a bit of maths and by his calculations I looked good for the quali.  Still, after yesterday, I didn’t want to get my hopes up.  It wasn’t until they revealed the lists that I was able to find myself… in 7th.  I had done it.  After a rollercoaster weekend of emotions and two races in two days I had accomplished a goal I didn’t even really know I had.  

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Looking back over my performances in both races I’m very pleased with where I am in my training and I’m hoping to build on this fitness as the season progresses.  I was very thankful to have my wife there supporting me and it was great having so many great friends to share these experiences with.  As always, this individual sport takes a village and I’m forever grateful to Kevin and my Podium Racing teammates for supporting me, Lana for her guidance and direction, Patrick for helping to make me a stronger and more stable athlete, Dr. Talley at Healthsource Chiropractic for keeping me performing in top condition, Jason at ORR Carbon Wheels for keeping me rolling fast, Gerry and the crew at Cedar Bluff Cycles for keeping all my bikes in top shape, Stoke Signal Socks for keeping my feets happy and my co-workers at Harper Audi for all they do while I’m out gallivanting and racing. Lastly, thanks again to my wife and my family for being the best support and fan club I could ever ask for.  

 

Next up, I’ll be trying my hand at some bike racing.  I’ll be flying the Podium flag at the Oak Ridge Velo Classic Road Race and TT next weekend!   Until then...

Redemption

Doug Slater Myrtle Beach Marathon

I feel confident about the possibility of a sub-3 finish on my next race.
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I finished Myrtle Beach in 2:59:26, firmly securing a spot at Boston 2019.

For this success, I must tip my hat to Evan Lindauer from Powell. On race morning, there was a persistent and gusty Northwest wind, downgrading my comfortable 6:50 pace up Ocean Boulevard into a groaning 6:50 effort. Evan suggested we take turns cutting the wind every mile. It worked. We were the last two finishers under 3:00:00.

I must give credit to others too:

Training up from novice to a BQ took three and a half years, from September 2014 to March 2018.

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In 2017, despite lots of hard volume, my PR plateaued, only dropping 2 minutes in a year. I was self-coached, following Jack Daniels 2Q, a very demanding plan which calls for two weekly 20+ mile runs each ending in 6+ threshold miles.

Recognizing the plateau, I sought out help. First, I wanted to know if I should even bother.

In November, I had a VO2max test at Podium which revealed huge potential. Dr. Sprouse also referred me to Knoxville Endurance (KE) to help maximize this potential.

With KE, biweekly track speedwork, hills, just one weekly long run, and a lot more easy miles with strides at the end finally broke me out of my plateau.

I also changed my nutrition.  Before October 2017, I thought carbs were bad. This thinking was based on coaching from Provision’s Casey Peer, which was perfectly valid at the time it was given. At that time, I was not a distance runner. As a distance runner, I was experiencing glycogen depletion by mile 18. In October, I read Matt Fitzgerald's book, "The New Rules of Marathon and Half-Marathon Nutrition" in which he teaches athletes to unlearn Atkins diet-inspired thinking. I changed my diet from 40-60% carbohydrates to 75-80%. Immediately the wall moved back to mile 22, 23, or beyond.

Stay tuned for my next post about my first ultramarathon.

Wallowing in the Hollow

Jeff Snyder -  Dark Hollow Wallow March 11, 2018

I don’t get to run many KTC races typically due to conflicts with other races, this one happened to fit perfectly for me. My plans had always been to start the race year off with the Fall Creek Falls 50k but those plans were put on hold when my oldest daughter got the lead part in a local play. Her last show was the 11th so I started looking for a replacement race. I selected the Dark Hollow Wallow at Big Ridge State Park. This allowed me to get a race in and not miss her last show. As an added bonus, I had never run any trails in this park. 

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Afternoon race starts are few and far between so this allowed me a somewhat normal morning and a chance to gauge the weather. It had been raining and the start of the race was overcast with a slight breeze. I was overdressed from the start. I quickly made the decision to hand my wind breaker off to the wonderful Stacy Ward before the start. I was so glad I did because only a couple miles in I was looking to shed my shirt and had already stashed my gloves. My shirt did eventually come off around mile 7 after I cleared the largest hill climb. 

I never start races up front but I wish I would have for this one. As the race turned uphill after only a half mile it became a game of weaving in and out of racers who weren’t adept at letting others pass. I got going after a couple miles in and the spacing opened up. The course was slick in spots, the hill everyone talked about wasn’t bad (I didn’t stop nor did I slip going up). I was clean as a whistle for 10.75 miles with only briar scratches on my legs from early season growth. Only 150 yards from the finish line, I bit it. A slick spot of mud found me and down I went, hard. My goal of a sub 2:00 hour finish was approaching so I bounced up like Tigger and took off. 

My two pictures prove a clean race until the end. The first one is coming down the backside of the hill and the second is less than 100 yards from the finish line.

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It was a nice productive early season trail race.

Overall Finish 19th out of 72.

Male Masters 2nd place.

Time was 1:50:30

Doug Slater - "Where do we GO?

Charleston Marathon 2018 – Doug Slater

As I raced by at 8.8 MPH, that was my urgently shouted query to water station volunteers standing idly across the street. 

I strongly suspected that I and my pack of runners had missed a turn. About 400 feet prior, I had seen a police car and orange traffic cones in the distance down a road not taken.

The volunteers had only a few precious moments to reply. My eyes met only blank stares. With possibly seconds to spare for a Boston Qualifying finish, I had to continue. No time to stop and press for an answer.

Turns out, I was right. I missed the turn. There had been no sign and nobody present to direct the runners.

 Doug's Route 

Doug's Route 

 Correct Route 

Correct Route 

My fears were confirmed a few minutes later when I crossed the mile 23 marker. My watch displayed 20.3 miles. Uh oh. I promised myself the sign was wrong. So wrong. Yet I knew I had cut the course by 2.7 miles. 

I had run so well. Disappointed by the impending disqualification, I barely found the motivation to continue. I crossed the finish line at 2:40:40 to the cheers of my very impressed waiting friends. 

No, I did not run a 2:40 marathon, guys. Good grief! 

I declined a medal, found a bagel, and made my way to the car.

I found out later what confluence of circumstances produced this dramatic error. First, it was very windy. A sign had existed but had been blown over. Second, one of the two volunteers at the turn had not shown up. Third, the remaining volunteer had taken a bathroom break. The duration of this individual's absence can be predicted by the hole in the 3:00-3:07 finisher results.

 Only One finisher between 3:00 and 3:07? Seems legit

Only One finisher between 3:00 and 3:07? Seems legit

This is my second denied BQ attempt, the previous one being at Steamtown back in October. On that day, the weather had turned impossibly warm and humid for a BQ. The Strava activity titles vocalized everyone's suffering.

Yet in Charleston, after I ate some food and stopped shivering, my disappointment dissolved. While I had the right to complain, I instead found gratitude and a good attitude. Everything else had gone perfectly. I had seen a lot of folks I know. Travel and lodging arrangements had worked out problem-free. The weather and temperature were excellent, except for a relentless West wind. Training and nutrition were spot-on, rewarding me with a 6:51 average pace, a huge personal accomplishment for 23.5 miles.

 Everyone smiles at mile 5 

Everyone smiles at mile 5 

I was far from alone in my disappointment, though. On Facebook, a firestorm of negative reviews emerged. The race organizer apologized profusely and promised to make the situation right. Later, I was offered by email a full refund as well as a free entry into the March 3, 2018 Myrtle Beach marathon, which I have accepted. 

I feel confident about the possibility of a sub-3 finish on my next race. Next time though, I will probably memorize the course!

Derek Tingle - XTERRA World Championship 2017 – Kapalua, Maui

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Hello again boys and girls and welcome to another race report by Yours Truly.  This one is going to get a bit long so bear with me here. I'm going to do a bit of a season recap and review of my preparation leading up to Maui but I'll also cover the trip itself and the days leading up to the race before going full on into the day and the suffering that transpired thereafter.  It's a good ol' story and one that I hope you'll enjoy reading so buckle up kiddos and away we go!

As I mentioned earlier we're going to start this story with a bit of a season recap.  If you have been following me, you know that I spent all of 2016 training for Ironman Lake Placid.  If you haven't been following me, well, I spent all of 2016 training for Ironman Lake Placid.  After finishing IMLP I decided that 140.6 was NOT my distance.  I finished IMLP in a respectable 13:30 and change, well within my goal of 12-14 hours.  What really struck me about my recovery after that and the rest of 2016 was how my central nervous system recovered... or rather, how long it took for it to recover.  My muscles were good to go in a couple days for light efforts and I started working back into moderate workouts after a couple weeks.  The interesting thing was my heart rate would jump straight up to Z4/Z5 (that, for those non athletes out there, is high. Z5 being the upper most zone at 165bpm + for me) almost immediately and just stay there even at low to moderate RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion). Anyway, back to the story at hand... I knew after finishing IMLP that I wanted to keep my races to a 3hr-ish range for 2017.  I also knew that I wanted to put a pretty hefty emphasis on XTERRA.  I really missed riding my mountain bike while playing Ironman and was ready to get back on the dirt.

I laid out my season and realized quickly that I would be able to make it to most of the XTERRA events in the Southeast with the longest drive at just over 7 hours to Florida for XTERRA Blackwater.  I knew that I wanted to make a bid for XTERRA Worlds but my plan was actually to try and qualify in 2018.  I would use 2017 as a time to reacquaint myself with off road triathlon and also to better acquaint myself with some of the courses.  There are a couple ways to qualify for XTERRA Worlds.  1.) Place in the top 3 in your age group at one of the regional championship races, 2.) Qualify for the XTERRA USA Championship, then place in the top 3 in age group there, 3.) Win the regional points championship, 4.) if one of the winners of any of the championship races declines their invite to worlds, the slot will “roll down” to the next in line.  

Fast forward a bit to the XTERRA Southeast Championship in Pelham, AL and I placed 5th after a really tough day.  I was pretty bummed but a week or so later I got an email saying that I got a roll down spot!  After talking it over with the wife, we decided to go for it this year and I registered for XTERRA Worlds in Maui.  Now, I kept on racing XTERRA and eventually I won the Southeast region points Championship after a hard fought battle with a couple other guys.  That's the thing about XTERRA, especially if you are racing a larger number of races.  You become very close with the guys you race against.  You become brothers.  You congratulate each others successes and you empathize when the day goes south.  Both of my brothers had a tough race at Charlotte that ended their run for the points.  I was, obviously, happy to clinch the title but I was sad that the competition didn't get to play itself out completely.  I'm sure both of them will be back next year, though, and we can start the battle all over again.

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Ok, I know this is a LOT of backstory but if you are still reading... CONGRATULATIONS we're almost ready to start talking about my race.  But first, we need to talk about the days leading up to the race.  XTERRA Worlds are held in Kapalua, Maui at the Ritz-Carlton. This year the race was on Sunday, October 29th.  Wife and I were scheduled to fly out of Nashville on Wednesday before the race on Sunday.  I had a work thing in Washington D.C. Monday the 23rd that came up so I would be flying to D.C. Sunday for the work thing on Monday then hopping a red-eye back to Knoxville Monday night.  Well, Monday night high winds rolled in delaying my flight which would cause me to miss my connection in Charlotte.  I decided, stupidly, that I would just drive back.  I hoped I would get all the way back but got sleepy and decided to just stop and sleep in a hotel on the way back.  This got me back to Knoxville Tuesday around 11am.  I already had my bike packed up thanks to Gerry at Cedar Bluff Cycles so the only thing I had to do was throw the rest of my crap in a suitcase.  Wife worked all day Tuesday and we drove to Nashville Tuesday night and got a room.  Our flight left at 6am Wednesday morning so we were up at 3:30 to get the airport and get checked in on time.  We landed at Dallas for our connecting flight on to Maui.  We made the connection with no problem.  

The nice thing was, we decided to splurge and go first class.  Neither of us like to fly an on the 8 hour flight to and from, we wanted to be comfortable.  It was a nice experience.  Full meals, lie flat seats, good in-flight entertainment options and pleasant flight crews made the flight pass pretty quickly and before we knew it, we were on the ground in Maui.  We were expecting blue skys and sun.  What we got were grey, overcast skies and forecasts for rain and high surf.  Not good.  We tried to look on the bright side and just go about our day.  My good friend Doug who I raced with all year (in a different age group) also won his points championship.  He and his family arrived later in the day Wednesday.  Our plan was to pre ride the bike course Thursday but the rain had the trails a sloppy mess and the upper section of the course was closed.  I decided I would use that time to get some swim practice in.  I had never swam in that kind of ocean before.  The waves were around 10-15ft that day with larger surf expected Friday into Saturday topping out over 25ft.  Not going to sugar coat it, the first attempt at a swim was terrible.  I kept panicking and I got washed over with the high surf and white caps.  I was VERY concerned at this point about even completing the swim.  After spending some time acclimating to the ocean I made it out to the buoys and back.  This boosted my confidence somewhat.

Later that day I decided to go ride a bit of the bike course.  A little word on the bike course.  The course traverses an old golf course and utilizes both public and private lands.  The course was a mess.  The upper section was closed but the lower section was so messy I bailed out early and followed the cart paths back down.  It still took me a good 20 minutes to clean up my bike afterward.  I was not thrilled about the prospect of racing on the course in this condition and hoped that the upcoming forecast of dry weather would help the course conditions.

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Friday morning brought better weather conditions.  I started the morning by heading down to meet Doug for another practice swim.  The morning surf was still high but much better than it was the day prior.  I had a great swim Friday.  Navigating the shore break came much easier and my confidence was much higher out to the buoys and back.  I came back in and spent the next few minutes working on getting efficiently past the shore break.  The rest of the day was spent relaxing and enjoying the beautiful Maui weather until dinner.

 

Saturday morning was the XTERRA Trail Runs.  Wife and I were both signed up for the 5k.  I wasn't racing the 5k, just running it with her.  The 5k utilizes part of the 10.5k triathlon run course so I was excited to see a little more of the course.  The morning temperatures were warm and it was getting hot very quickly.  The course was challenging and I spent a little more energy than I planned just finishing it.  After that, it was back inside to recover and refuel in preparation for Sunday's race.  

 

RACE DAY:

 

Race morning started like any other.   The race started at 9am.  I woke up with plenty of time to enjoy the morning. I sat on the porch and enjoyed my traditional cherry Pop Tarts while watching the sunrise.  I used these quite moments to reflect on what I was getting ready to do and what I had accomplished to get here.  I told myself going in that this would be a victory lap for my season.  It would be a way to celebrate what I had accomplished and that I wouldn't be concerned with what the results looked like. Deep down, though, I wanted a good result.  I don't show up to a race without the intention of racing.  I had aspirations of a top 20, maybe even top 10 in my age group.  I knew I was physically capable of posting a good time, it would just a be a matter of if my body would cooperate.

 

I learned a lot of lessons on long course XTERRA this season.  After the heartbreak of Oak Mountain I adjusted my nutrition plan and had a great day at XTERRA Knoxville.  From those two races I knew I would need to have at least 3 bottles of nutrition and supplement that with water.  My plan was to take my hydration pack on the bike with 50 oz of water mixed with 2 servings of my Infinit race mix.  That would be just under 400 cal.  I would then take a bottle of Water at Aid 1 and then Gatorade at Aid 2.  I would have 1 gel with me on the run along with my hand bottle with water.  I would supplement with extra Gatorade at each of the 5 Aid Stations. 

 

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After double checking all of my nutrition and race day gear I headed down to transition.  We had assigned racks so I wasn't concerned about finding a good rack spot.  Walking into transition my dear friend and XTERRA legend Charlotte Mahan was volunteering at check in.  I got a hug and she sent me to my spot.  After setting up, I wandered around and chatted up some of my friends and made a couple new ones.  Before long, it was time to head to the water.  I got a hug and kiss from my wife, then speed suit, goggles and cap in hand, I headed to the beach.  I was pleased to see that the waves had died a bit and we were presented with a beautiful ocean to swim in.  There was a good size shore break but after that it was just rolling waters.  Perfection.  

 

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I got suited up and stood in line to be blessed by the local cultural practitioner with a traditional Hawaiian blessing for a safe race.  I felt calm and at ease.  I was ready. At 9am the pros started.  I was in awe watching them.  The ease that they made their way through the break and the speed they were swimming was incredible.  I could only stargaze for a few minutes because at 9:05 the cannon went off for the age group men under 40.  I ran out into the water.  I didn't charge too hard but I felt good so I went for it.  I navigated the shore break with ease and found myself in a good pack.  I stayed with this set of guys for most of the swim.  The course is a big “M” with a brief run on the beach between legs.  On the beach I saw my wife and cheesed for her camera before heading back in for leg 2.  The water felt a little rougher on this leg but was still no issue for me.  I rounded the final buoy and headed for shore.  I had a great swim.  Looking back it was actually the most enjoyable part of the whole day!

 

Swim Split: 27:26

 

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T1 went as planned.  I mounted my bike and headed out.  The bike course starts with basically a 6 mile long climb to the top of the ridge.  Most of it is singletrack with a little detour on some cart path.  It's also steep.  I don't really know the average gradient but I can tell you more than once I saw 20% gradient on my Garmin screen.  The part that detours to the cart path kicks up to over 26% at the top.  I couldn't get my heartrate down.  I was pushing 179bpm and tipping into the 180's for most of that climb.  I knew I had to get that under control but it just wasn't possible with the steepness of the climbs.  I was just having to work and there was no other way around it.  I just had to hope there would be a chance to recover once I hit the top.  After what seemed like forever, the tree line broke open and I was treated to the highlight of the course.  Razor Ridge is the quintessential “Money Shot” for any coverage of the XTERRA Maui race.  It's simply stunning.  Trail follows the top of the ridgeline with 100+ foot drops on either side.  Now, the trail is 15 or so feet wide so there's really not any danger of falling off the edge but the view is just unbelievable.  You feel like you are on top of the world, and really, you kind of are.  The awe is short lived though because after that it's a crazy technical downhill section.  It's steep and rutted out with some rocks.  It was here that I took a bad line, got crossed up and put my front wheel into one of those rocks catapulting myself over the bars.  The bike and I tumbled for a few feet then came to rest.  I got up quick and got off the trail to dust myself off and survey any damage to the bike... or me.  To my surprise and delight, both the bike and I were pretty well no worse for wear.  I had a couple of banged up spots on my knees and my shoulder was a bit sore.  My Garmin mount was broken but other than that we were good.  I took the Garmin off and stuffed it in my pack.  I would have to use the watch for the rest of the day.  Not a big deal but I do like to have a little more data, oh well.  As I was doing all of this, no less than three other people did much the same thing I did and tumbled down the hill so I didn't feel too bad.  Once I got back riding again I was really pleased to see that my NOX Composites wheels were still perfectly true.  Not a bit of a wobble.  I was still a bit timid and didn't really get my nerve back the rest of the ride.  Speaking of the rest of the ride, it was basically more of the same.  Big climb, crazy fast downhill, repeat.  I was excited once I got back to the lower section of the course because I knew the big climbs were over.  There are quite a few little stinger climbs on that last 5 miles though and after the ride thus far, those things hurt.  At one point we turned a corner into a steep little 25yd stinger hill and I just lost it.  I cussed that hill out loud.  The guy behind me laughed and added his own vocal displeasure to mine.  Finally, and mercifully, I made it back to T2.  My quads were already grumpy and I could tell this run was going to hurt.

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 Bike Split: 2:16:26  

 

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I made quick work of T2 and headed out to the run.  Immediately my quads started to tighten up.  I shortened my stride and did everything I could to work them out.  The problem is that the run course starts climbing right out of the gate and follows basically the first 3 miles of the bike course climb.  It was a battle the whole time.  My inner quads were locking up constantly and as soon as they would let go my hamstrings would join the party.  I was extremely frustrated because at this point I knew any chance of a decent finish was gone.  I also knew that I cost myself a lot at Oak Mountain by not continuing to move so I forced myself onward.  Eventually, after reaching the top of the hill and starting back down my legs started to loosen up a bit and I could run but not fast.  I still had to be very ginger with my steps for fear of setting my cramps off again.  When I came to mile 5 and started down the technical section of the run it was all I could do to fight off the cramps.  So many “abnormal” movements had to happen and that made my legs VERY upset.  Finally I hit the beach for the last ½ mile.  It was hot and the sand is soft.  It sucks to run on.  I just wanted to be done.  I felt like death warmed over and I knew that there was still a little hill off the beach  and up to the finish.  I came off the beach and headed down the finish chute.  My face was contorted in pain.  I tried to put on some sort of happy, badass, hey look at me kind of face for the camera but it just wasn't there.  The only face I could muster was pure exhaustion.  I was physically and mentally beaten down.I heard cheers for a guy coming behind me.  I heard them say “Go Jordan.” I knew who was coming up behind me.  I tried to push but my legs just wouldn't go.  Jordan passed me in the chute and came across the line to beat me by 7 seconds.  He and I raced against each other all year and this is the first time he's beaten me. Talking to him after the race, he had a crash on the bike also but had a great run and made up his time there.  He's worked his tail off this year and he earned every bit of that result.  Not to worry though, there will be plenty of time for a rematch or two I'm sure! 

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Run Split: 1:15:17

 

FINAL THOUGHTS:

 

So, now that I've had time to process everything, here's how I'm feeling. Truthfully I'm very disappointed in how the race turned out for me.  I know that it's a huge honor to race there and I realize that there are plenty of other athletes who are absolutely satisfied with just crossing the finish line.  I, however, am not.  I didn't have a good race.  I didn't race up to my full potential.  I got “it” wrong.  I'm still trying to process what it is that I got wrong and caused my run to go south.  The best I can come up with right now is just improper preparation and over exertion on the bike.  At Oak Mountain I knew that I didn't get enough calories or hydrate properly and that led to my cramps.  I don't think that was my issue here.  I just think I wasn't strong enough to ride the kind of ride I needed to ride.  I know going into the off season that I will be hitting the gym and incorporating a lot more lifting into my training.  I know I need to get stronger if I want to be able to ride my ride then still have some left for the run.  I wonder about gearing on the bike.  I run a 34T front chain wheel with an 11-42T rear.  I wonder if I dropped the front to a 32T or possibly even go to an 11-46T rear if I could have spin my cadence higher and if that would have helped.  It's so very hard to prepare for a race like that having never seen the course.  Everyone told me the course was steep.  It's hard to process how steep something like that is until you see it in person.  I guess what really has me bummed is that I know I'm capable of more than I showed in the race.  Had I been able to run to my full potential I would be satisfied come what may with the results but knowing there was more in the tank and not being able to use it is what is most disappointing.  I am very happy that I was able to go and to experience Maui.  It's a place like none other and knowing where I've come from on this fitness journey I am proud of what I've done.  It's just the competitor in me that won't let me be satisfied with just finishing.  I will go back one day but until then, it's time to get to work.  It's time to get stronger.  It's time to get faster.  

It's been a great season and I've had a great time racing.  I've also had the support of some of the best people in the world that made all of this possible.  First and foremost, my wife and family.  My coach, Scott.  I wouldn't be where I am in this sport without you and your guidance.  Next, my team and sponsors: Kevin Sprouse and Podium Sports Medicine, My whole Podium Racing Team p/b Visit Knoxville, my boys at Cedar Bluff Cycles for keeping my ride tuned and ready to go, Dr. Chris Talley at Healthsource Chiropractic for keeping me tuned and ready to go, NOX Composites, The Feed, Infinit Nutrition and Betsy's Pantry for keeping me fed and fueled and Harper Auto Square for being such a great supporter of Endurance Sports in Knoxville.  Lastly, I have to give a huge shout to my second family at Rocky Top Multisport Club.  It's truly a pleasure to be a part of such a tight, supportive group of people.  I'm still formulating my plan for next season but I'm sure it will involve lots more swimming, biking, running, cheering and kilt dancing.  But now, it's the off season.  I'm going to take a few weeks to recharge and reset... and eat... and sleep.  If you are still reading, thank you.  It's been fun to document this season through these reports and hope you've had some fun reading them.  Until next time..... 

 

 

 

 

Derek Tingle - Lula Lake 5 Point 25 Race

Thank goodness that's over.  Actually, I can't really say that the 5 Points 25 was all bad.  It was, for the most part, a pretty fun day.  The race didn't go at all how I planned.  How, you ask?  Well, sit back children and I'll spin you the tale of my day.

My alarm went off at 4:30am.  I pressed the snooze until 5 then rolled out of bed and got dressed.  I lumbered downstairs and got all my gear loaded up.  I grabbed my cherry Pop Tarts to eat on the road on the way out the door.  The drive to Lookout Moutain, GA was uneventful.  I ate my breakfast and was sipping on my Infinit Pre Load mix.  I planned to get there a bit early but arrived a little earlier than I was originally thinking leaving me around 2 hours until race time.  I wondered up and got my packet, got my number plate affixed to the bike, set my tire pressures and checked my fork and shock pressure.  By now it was 1:45 until race time.... so I just sat in my truck and listened to podcasts until time to get ready. 

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The race started at the entrance to Lula Lake Land Trust, which is up a big gravel hill from the parking and finish area.  I made my way slowly up the hill chatting with my buddy Glenn who I met racing XTERRA this year.  He was doing the 50 miler.  We chatted a little while more then it was time for the 50's to start.  I wished him luck and then a few minutes later, they were off and it was time for the 25's to line up.  I took my spot at the front of the line, we got our instructions and then it was go time.  The race has about 5 miles of pavement to start before hitting the woods and the pack always splits.  I wanted to be in the top 5-6 going into the woods so there was less chance of getting held up trying to pass.  On the road, there are a couple of pretty good little climbs.  At the first one, the pack split when the first attack came.  I went with him as did 2 others.  We got to the top of the climb and had about 200m on the rest of the pack.  I tried to get the group organized into a rotating pace line but that was futile.  We hit the next climb and our little breakaway blew up.  There was one guy off the front and then me.  The other two guys dropped back.  I kept pushing but metered my effort and let the pack catch me.  I slotted in around 4th place in the line in front of one of my breakaway buddies who let me in.  We stayed in a line until we hit the woods after overtaking the one lone leader.

Making the turn into the woods, I passed for 3rd.  The two guys ahead of me were riding really strong and I decided to let them go so as not to blow myself up early.  There was a lot of riding... and climbing yet to go.  I gapped the rest of the pack on the next climb.  It was a rocky technical bastard of a climb that just kept going.  It had some switchbacks but they were all rideable.  I just kept my steady pace and focused on even power.  By the top I had a sizeable lead on the guy(s) behind me.  The decent was rocky and rough but not really technical.  It was now around 8 miles into the race.  I started to feel the rear end of the bike get a little loose.  I knew it was going down.  I stopped.  

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I was hoping it was just a thorn or something so I flipped the bike over and tried to find something.  There was nothing.  I couldn't hear any air leaking so I figured it had come out and the sealant had now done it's job.  My CO2 inflator was rolled inside my tube so it took me extra time to get it out. Once I had it out and inflated the tire I heard a hiss.  Not good.  I finally found the issue.  There was a small hairline crack in my wheel.  My heart sank.  I decided to put the tube in and see how far I could make it.  By the time I got the tubless valve stem out and the tube in and the bike back together I had lost around 15 minutes (ish) and I guessed around 15-20 positions.  I debated calling it a day and just toodling to the aid station and sagging it back in.  Once I was back riding, though, I found some motivation.  The rim seemed to be holding up fine and I was riding really well so I decided to push on. 

Knowing I was now VERY behind I rode like a man possessed.  I was picking off people rapidly.  I overtook whenever I could on the trail and everyone was kind enough to let me by.  I would thank each of them and wish them luck on the day.  After passing the first aid station the course made it's way back into Lula Lake Trails.  There are some technical climbs and a large creek crossing.  The RD warned that the creek was high and we'd had to walk it.  He wasn't kidding.  I dismounted before the creek and waded in.  The water covered my knees.  The rocks were slippery.  I was using a cyclocross carry keeping my ride out of the water but I nearly fell several times. I kept it upright and made it through before remounting and then climbing up a hill past aid 2 to the road.  This is where things started to go a bit south.  The road is a net downhill here leading to a monster of a climb up a power cut.  For those of you who have ridden Haw Ridge in Knoxville... think Hill of Truth only longer.  The climb is roughly a mile with a little respite in the middle before kicking one last time.  My legs were on the verge of cramping the whole time and I had to be careful how I moderated my power.  I became grumpy.

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The RD said before the race that our climb up the power line would be rewarded with some great new singletrack and he was right.  The next section was a fast little downhill number with a couple of bermed corners and great flow.  Then, however, things got a lot more technical.  The trail wound along up and over some pretty gnarly rock outcroppings.  I wouldn't have minded them so much if I could use my legs to their full potential but I had to ride very gingerly for fear of cramping.  My grumpy came back.  A guy on a singlespeed came up behind me.  I offered to let him pass.  At first he declined but then after pulling him along for a bit he offered to return the favor.  I obliged.  He said he knew the trail and called the lines to me.  It was welcome help for sure.  I cleaned most of the obstacles, only dabbing once or twice even with my crampy quads.  We hit the last climb and I had nothing.  I thanked singlespeed guy and watched him ride away.  There was no one else behind me close so I cranked as best I could up the hill back to the road.  

A quick stretch of pavement led back to the entrance to the land trust where the race started.  I made the left turn and it was back down the hill to the finish line.  I crossed the line with a final clock time of just over 2:30.  By my Garmin (which auto pauses) my time without the flat was 2:15:50.  I rode straight to the car and put my bike up.  I didn't really even want to look at results.  I knew I rode with everything I had but was just extremely disappointed.  Eventually I worked up the gumption to check the timing.  I finished the day in 7th overall but managed a 2nd place in the male open category.  As disappointed as I still am about what could have been I'm quite proud of that ride.  It was a tough day made even more so by the mechanical.  In the end though, it was a great boost mentally to know that I put in a solid day even with the issues and I'm thankful to be able to ride at such a level that even last year probably wasn't possible.  For that, I have to thank my coach, Scott.  I also have to send a HUGE thanks to Dr. Kevin Sprouse of Podium Sports Medicine for helping get me through illness last week so I could be well enough to ride today.  And, as always, thanks go to my team and sponsors and especially to my wife and family.  You guys mean the world to me!

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Ashley Powell: Toughman Tennessee Atomic Half, Lenoir City, TN

Ashley Powell: Toughman Tennessee Atomic Half, Lenoir City, TN

There is nothing like throwing in a last minute triathlon to really finish out the season, especially when one’s triathlon season was far from typical. Upon my return from the ITU Sprint World Championships, I felt my triathlon season needed at least one more race. The problem with this “brilliant” idea is that there are few triathlons left to choose from especially without traveling further south. I was aware that the Atomic triathlons would be coming up, and with a conflict on the shorter races offered that Saturday, I was left with one option, the Toughman TN Atomic Half Iron. I entered the race with full confidence, little training, and a lot of craziness (thanks Collin Zimmerman for the 2-week training block and Betsy Johnson for advising the race day nutrition.). I woke up race day to a lot of rain and wind, and I had some moments of doubt but knowing the conditions were the same for everyone and well aware that this race was more experimental than anything, off to the race I went.

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 The race itself and the conditions that came throughout the race brought out the toughness in everyone. I kept the swim enjoyable and super relaxed, and I was greeted by some awesome friends who kindly yanked my wetsuit off (thanks, you all). The bike ride was a rainy and windy mess, and I questioned what I was even doing many times throughout the ride. The two loops on Oak Ridge Turnpike made it fun to wave and see other competitors throughout the bike portion of the race. The run, typically my favorite, was truly survival to the finish line. The first part of the run was all fun even with heavy legs, but the lack of training for this distance became apparent the second half of the run. The grass ditches throughout the run course looked better and better for napping as the run went on, but some good self-talk habits and seeing my students (ROTC volunteers) throughout the run course made me want to push through to the finish.

All in all, I enjoyed this race and race distance and with a 5:05.26 and first female result, I plan for more 70.3 race distances in the coming triathlon season. On a side note, I would not advise jumping into a 70.3 last minute, but I do advise keeping things fun while enjoying the opportunity to race and train. The true winners of this race are the volunteers and all the Endurance Sport Management and Toughman crew members who put in the time, energy, and so much more to fight off the rain and wind just to make sure all of us racers had an awesome experience. To each of you: thank you so much! As my triathlon season comes to a close, I want to thank Dr. Kevin Sprouse and Podium Sports Medicine, all of the Podium Racing Sponsors, Bearden Bike and Trail, Collin Zimmerman, family, friends and so many more that allow me to race and train to my fullest potential. Thank you for believing in me and supporting me in the ups and downs of training and racing this triathlon season.

 -Ashley

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Podium Racing is headed to South Africa

Podium Racing is headed to South Africa

Augusta 70.3 Race Report

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Believing in yourself is sometimes a very hard thing to do. Especially when it relates to sports and competition. You can continue to train hard day in and day out but lack the confidence to succeed. 2017 has been a steady increase in my overall fitness. So, with a little confidence, off to Augusta I went.

This is the largest 70.3 on the IronMan calendar (>3,000 athletes) and in case you haven’t been to Augusta, Ga, it is HOT! This was my fear knowing I do not perform well in the heat.

The Pro men hit the water at 7:30 am with the Pro women at 7:45. Jesse Thomas struggled at Worlds and Andy Potts has been looking strong through 2017. Certainly a good race to come. It was Sarah True’s race to loose, but I was hoping for a good showing from fellow PurplePatch athlete Cecilia Davis-Hayes. We did a pre-race ride with another fellow PPF athlete Hallie Nicoll and both were REALLY strong on the bike.

My wave went off at 8:22 am, the largest of all waves and the largest age group (45-49). I’m a big fan of this point to point swim as not to contend with any buoys and mass chaos making the turn. Only thing I had to think about was to keep all buoys on the left. A slight current gave way to a nice PR (30:09). This is the discipline I have worked on the most, which was much needed and got the day off to a great start.

T1 was uneventful....off with the ROKA swim skin (not wetsuit legal 77°) and onto the bike. The bike course is a good way to evaluate a race and IM typically does a great job with this.
Augusta was no exception. Closed roads with a ton of volunteers and security for intersections gave this venue an A+ in my book. A windy, rolling, single loop course with 1650’ of elevation led to a 2:31 bike split at just over an average of 200 watts. A solid performance and another good mental foundation headed into the run.

T2 was a quick in and out.....and now the suffering begins. Augusta lived up to its reputation of being HOT. With the high humidity, upper 80° temps, and no shade, it became a mental game to stay focused and hydrated. The 2 loop course was flat and lined with spectators as we ran through the historic district of Augusta. Aid stations were about every 2 miles....not close enough for such a brutal day of heat. No stops or slowing down but grabbed everything I could to keep the core temperature down.

It wasn’t until mile 10 on the run that I scrolled through my Garmin to see where I was in my overall time. This is when I realized there was a chance to have a massive PR even though I was having a less than desired run. 5K to go....stay focused.

An emotional finish with an 8 minute PR. A 4hr 48 min journey on a tough day. I had no idea what this meant until 4pm that afternoon when I was awarded a slot into the 2018 IronMan 70.3 World Championship in South Africa. Only 15 male and 15 female slots were awarded to the top athletes in Augusta. A moment I never thought I would have but certainly a dream come true. It took a lot of early mornings, a ton of hard work, and a moment of believing in yourself for a day of success.

Jessie Thomas finished 1st, less than a minute ahead of Andy Potts. Jessie will be a big contender in Kona. Sarah True was unstoppable, Cecilia finished 4th Pro female, and Hallie was the Overall Female Amateur winner. A good day for PPF athletes and a great day for the Podium Racing Team! 

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How Do I DU? - Derek Tingle Anchor Duathlon

How Do I Du?... Anchor Duathlon Race Report

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I hadn't planned on racing Sunday.  I had waffled a couple times on if I should race or not.  In the end, my decision came down to a couple of things.  One, it was a team race and the last race of the Race Day Events Podium Grand Prix Series and two, I had gotten notification that registration was low.  I decided, last minute, that I would jump in.  I figured it would be a fun time.  I had never done a Duathlon before and with a small field, there wouldn't be many people around for me to embarrass myself in front of if I fell flat.  So, I signed up Saturday.  

Seeing as how I didn't plan on racing I continued with my hard workout Saturday.  I did 2 hours on the mountain bike with a heavy emphasis on climbing followed by a steady 30 minute brick run on the trails.  After that, went home to change and then the Wife and I were right back out the door to the UT/GA game.  Of course, we all know how that went (for those that don't, it was a miserable time. Look it up.) so we left at half time and settled in for a relaxing evening.  After dinner, off to bed.

I really dislike afternoon races.  I never know how to eat properly for them.  I woke up at my normal 6:30ish time and had a decent breakfast of oatmeal and a two egg omelet with some cheese.  I was hoping this would tide me over and then I would just eat a Clif Bar or something before the race.  In the interim I would be sipping on my Infinit Pre Load mix.  By 11 I was hungry again and the timing was right so I went back to what has worked all year... 2 Cherry Pop Tarts.  

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The wife was out riding her mountain bike so I loaded up my gear and headed to the race site without her and she would join later when she was done with her ride.  As I pulled in, it was obvious this was a small race.  There were two rows of racks there and, at the time, only about 6 bikes.  I racked my bike and then got a personal delivery of my chip and race number by Melinda Spiva.  Now that's what I call service!  As I was setting up my transition, it became ever more evident that I had no idea what I was doing.  I didn't know how to set anything up, I didn't know what to do with my race belt, I was just all out of sorts... a fish out of water, so to speak.  I decided to wear my race belt the whole race.  I also decided to wear socks (which I never do in a tri).  I also decided to wear my headband and just put my hat on over the top of it to keep the sun off my head.

Time passed slowly but eventually it was time to get ready to line up.  By this point, Amanda had arrived with our puppy in tow so I gave each of them a kiss and moved up to the front of the pack.  My plan was to go out hard on the 1 mile first run and try to stay with the leaders.  On the gun we took off.  A group of four of us immediately broke away from the field.  It was Ronnie Mannis from team Zen Evo, a guy in a Fleet Feet kit and a younger kid (obviously a cross country racer).  After about 200m Fleet Feet and the kid were starting to gap Ronnie and me.  At that point I decided to just stick with Ronnie.  We paced each other for the rest of the first run.  As I turned back up toward transition, a gust of wind blew my hat off.  Oh well.  

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Ronnie and I hit transition together but I was on the bike before him.  Fleet Feet was on his bike a little before me but I caught him quickly.  He was on a regular road bike so I knew I had an aero advantage. The bike course was net down the way out and net climb the way back.  There was also a pretty good breeze blowing that I could tell would be hitting me in the face all the way back.  I was out front all by myself so I just had to watch my power and keep the hammer down.  I tried to stay around 250w so I would have plenty left in the tank for the second run.  I was right about the wind.  It was straight in my face the whole way back.  I just kept telling myself that it was everyone else's face too and just kept pushing.  

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Before long I was turning back into pool lot and up toward transition.  I set up for a flying dismount but with the socks on it didn't feel right so I just stopped at dismount and got off the bike normally.  No reason to chance falling down and looking like an idiot.  I racked the bike, put my running shoes back on and headed out for run number 2.  On the way out I see Amanda waving my hat at me and run that way.  I grabbed my hat on the fly and was off.  Legs were feeling good and pace was looking good around 7 min/mile.  As the run carried on, my pace slowed a bit but was still holding in the mid 7's.  At the turn I could see I had a pretty substantial lead but I didn't back down.  I have been passed on the run at the last minute out of nowhere before.  I rounded the corner back into the pool lot for the last time and surged up the hill toward the finish.  I was first across the line again but this time we all started together so I knew I had won.

My first Duathlon was indeed a fun experience.  The Race Day Events crew did a great job with everything and there was a great vibe around the race even though it was a small event.  I must, as always, thank my family, my team, my coach and all my sponsors for supporting me.  Next up: 5 Points 25 Mountain Bike Race in Chattanooga, then it's on to XTERRA World Championship in Maui. 

Scott Hussey - Ironman Chattanooga

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I did not write a race report for the Springbrook Sprint – I was training. Nor did I write a report for the Westside Y sprint – I was training. Ironman training took over my life. I knew it was going to happen. My wife knew it, too. However, now we understand what being an Ironman means; the donation of a year to achieve a goal. When I started training for triathlons in the winter of 2016, I had one date in mind. While the specifics were not known, I wanted to complete an Ironman before my 40th birthday. I was 37 years-old. I achieved my goal at the race age of 39. I understand. I am an Ironman.

I completed the race in 10 hours, 33 minutes, and 22 seconds. This earned me 12th place in my division (M 35-39) and 71st place overall (of 1,980 finishers) and a chance to rival a Harley-Davidson owner for brand specific wardrobe purchasing. In order to get these results, I trained for 383 hours, 50 minutes, and 21 seconds in 2017. These hours were comprised of 3,557 miles of bike riding, 722 miles of running, and 374,862 yards of swimming. I also spent thousands of dollars (triathlon is not for the faint of wallet). Yet, these numbers, do not tell the whole story. Early mornings, long day weekends, evening sessions on the trainer do not tell the story either.

If you want to compete, and not just complete an Ironman, you’ve gotta do the work. There is no other way around it. There is no cheating time on the bike. There is no H.I.I.T workout for laps in the pool. A marathon is still 26.2 miles, in a blazing heat, whether I do fartleks or long, low-heart rate runs. I knew all this prior to deciding that I wanted to complete an Ironman before the 40th birthday. I had run one marathon before my 30th birthday. I was on the swim team in high school, not college. I cycled for fun with friends from the bar. I coached a high school cross country team. Yet, I was never the gifted athlete; I won team spirit awards. I didn’t want to do the work. I wanted to have fun. I understood what doing the work meant to me, my loved ones, my friends, and other people.

One of the those friends is Dr. Kevin Sprouse, the owner of Podium Sports Medicine. Podium Sports Medicine, along with Visit Knoxville, is the main sponsor of my triathlon team. I met Kevin as a patient. In the late spring of 2016, my wife realized that I was serious about triathlon and wanted me to see a doctor. I scheduled an appointment with Dr. Sprouse. He took my vitals and did a blood analysis. Kevin did what doctors do. This is not why I enjoyed my visits. It is how Kevin speaks to his clients – Kevin speaks like a rational friend. Now, I mean rational in the strict sense; Dr. Sprouse uses measured language based on scientific evidence to give probable conclusions. In the athletic world of slippery language, hyperbole, and squishy meaning, Kevin’s calm demeanor and nuanced answers pleased this English teacher. Without Kevin’s expert medical advice, I would have trained my body only using indefinite suggestions gleaned from websites, magazines, podcasts, and coaches. Kevin helped in more ways than he knows. His words are not gospel – his words were rational, evidence-based facts.

The team he created also became part of my triathlon friends, sort of. We went on training runs together, had a social, and chatted at races. Derek, Katie, Mike, Karen, Nick, Michael, and Renee, are all cool people that I would like to get to know better.

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The reality of my Ironman training was the numbers chasing by a father to a toddler, husband, and full-time professional who lives in the boonies. If I were younger, or childless, or in the city, I could accomplish something other than train/work/family/train/sleep/repeat. The close friends I made were in the pool as we saw each other 4-to-5 days a week, at 5:40am. Lynn and Phil made getting into the pool easy. Lynn is a selfless person with a gentle heart who graciously gave up her middle lane for a side lane whether I wanted her to or not. Phil Colclouth has become a true friend. My second favorite athletic event this year was being his pilot for the Podium Sports sponsored 10k Bridges to Bluffs swim. I didn’t compete – I made sure he didn’t drown. Yet, getting to know Phil through swim workouts and open water competitions is one of the better rewards to endurance sports in Knoxville. Who knows when he talks me into an English Channel swim?

If a friendship begins with commerce, is it a friendship? I think so. To that end, William Norris of Bike N’ Tri in Maryville and Luke Davis of PPT are my advisors and friends. Bike N’ Tri opened in March 2016 as I was preparing for Trideltathon. I talked to William, told him that I was getting into the sport and listed some training numbers. He was the first to tell me that I would be competitive. Knowing salesmen, I distrusted him. However, William has earned my trust tenfold. He cared more about helping me than selling wares to me. William has created a place to hang out and talk triathlon in Maryville. William Norris, like Kevin Sprouse, is creating a community and I support his efforts – particularly his drive to create a youth cycling team.

In May of 2017, I was overthinking my Ironman training. Brett Jenner of Philly Pro Tri and I had exchanged emails in the winter, but I decided a coach would be too much. Then I started overthinking: TrainerRoad, plus Bernhardt Swim Workouts, plus Hal Higdon, etc. Brett called again in spring. I thought I was hiring the TrainingPeaks.com matched based on my survey. Brett had expanded his coaching to included Luke Davis, a recent college graduate, who was more interested in the training numbers than banking numbers. Brett had coached Luke to Kona. Luke was who I needed. Luke analyzed my numbers and created a training program to improve my inefficiencies. I don’t need handholding and I don’t need daily conversations; I commit. Luke understood this and built a program to help me manage my life and training. It was not always easy. You gotta do the work – You gotta do the time. Luke worked with my schedule and adapted the plan as needed. I enjoyed working with Luke. He loves the sport and wants to improve as a coach and athlete. If you need a numbers guys to coach you, I recommend Luke Davis at PPT.

Much of committing to an Ironman is the community you build to get you to the line. Getting to the line is the challenge. Finishing an Ironman is possible for most healthy individuals. Building the community that gets you to the line is the hard part. To this end, I want to thank my wife. Jess understands that I cannot give just a little of myself to something. She knows my all or nothing mentality. She knew that the 7-hour-long ride days were going to happen. That I couldn’t have cookies in the house. That I would be gone every weekend morning that costed her valuable sleep-in time because toddlers don’t understand that it is the weekend. That I was going to train no matter where we were: vacation, wedding, business trip.  If you have done an Ironman you understand those conversations. If you have not, be prepared to answer the questions: “do you have to train, again? For how long this time?” Be compassionate because they are not stopping you, they just want to be with you. The journey from non-athlete to Ironman is a commitment from the participant and their significant other.     

The Ironman circus whistle-stopped in Chattanooga. Nothing can prepare you for the amount of stuff that happens before an Ironman race: packet pick-up, pre-race meeting, hotel check-in, bike and transition bag check-in, super-early body markings, busing to the swim start, waiting an hour for the swim start in the middle of a long line. Having competed in only the local races I found the Ironman event to be overwhelming. Especially since my wife worked from the Chattanooga office on Friday and I did most activities with my two-year-old daughter as company. Cora was fun to have around but she has not learned how to wait in lines, so we drove the bike course and I thought it was mostly flat. Most of my training occurs around mountainous Walland and Townsend. I would find out what rollers meant over 116 miles. For now, I was waiting for the swim start at dawn.

The anticipation to start is palpable. At 7:20 the pros started. At 7:30 the age groupers go. Once the line started to move, getting to the front was quick as the organizers separated wetsuits and non. I was a non-wetsuit. At 7:45, I kissed my double-bag toting and toddler holding wife. At 7:50, I was in the water. I love open water swimming. When Phil swam the Bridges to Bluffs, I was jealous. I flew in the swift Tennessee River. The temp was perfect and the lines were clean. Limited chop meant that I could see without sighting much. I swam like an otter. People were easy to pass. It was easily my best swim of the season. Finish time 48:30 (8th AG).

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Coming out of the water Derek Tingle yelled Go Podium - Scott Hussey! That was cool and transitioning to the bike was quick. I pedalled towards Georgia. My goal was to keep my watts around 180-185. No peaks. The problem being drafting rules and too many cyclists. My main concern was overcooking my legs before the run. I could have gone faster, but that would have required that I push my watts way up to pass. What to do?  Unfortunately, I kept the watts around 165-170. Seeing my wife and dad on the second loop in Chickamauga was uplifting. If you race IMCHOO, plan not only on having someone there but have them pick a side of the road beforehand so you know where to look. I couldn’t find them on the first loop.

This plus a port-a-potty break (I still haven’t learned how to pee on the bike and I doubt I ever will.), pushed my final time to 5:41. This was 10 minutes slower than I planned. No big deal at this point, I’ll make it up at mile 21 I thought.

Coming into transition the Knoxville Podium Sports crew was at the bike finish line. Hearing them cheer my name as I was unclipping and handing-off my bike pushed me towards the tent. I decided to change from the sleeved jersey to the sleeveless as the afternoon was warming up. I handed my transition bag with my helmet, bike shoes, and jersey to a volunteer and began the run. I have yet to get the bag back as it is still missing.     

The plan for the run was simple, start at 8:00/mile and cut 10 seconds every 3 miles. Sticking to the plan was harder than anticipated. I wanted to hit the numbers, more importantly, I didn’t want to blow-up at mile 22. My secondary plan was to never stop running. Prior to the bridge I kept with a couple of guys and followed the plan, albeit slower. Once Veterans’ Bridge hit, I slowed down. This was a mental mistake; it introduced the concept of not hitting my pace numbers. Also, I should have driven the run course prior because immediately following the bridge there is a serious hill. Up, down, up adds to the mental exhaustion, and my slowing before the bridge made the hill more challenging. Somewhere around this time my Garmin died.

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Before my recent triathlon training, I did all of my running by feel. I trained and ran a marathon and half-marathons by feel. My times were slower. This year, I had Podium Sports perform a Lactate Threshold test and trained using the most accurate zone I could. Knowing your zones and pacing creates difference between competitor and hobbyist. When my Garmin ran out of juice, I became a hobbyist. I would try to keep pace with soon I thought was running 8:00/mile, but would last for only a couple of miles. I would ask the crowd for the time-of-day to deduce how much time I had until 5:50 (10 hour race goal) and then figure out what my pace should be, but that was bad math under stress. I am a humanities teacher. Turning onto Walnut Street bridge a group told me the time of 4:30. I had to run an hour-twenty 14 miles to hit my goal. I decided to try, but keep mile 21 in the back of my mind.

Upon making my second loop I became energized by the crowd and runners on their first loop. In races I like to consume runners ahead of me – Pac-Man mode. The beginning of the second loop was full Pac-Man mode. Along Riverside Drive and the River Walk, I kept my supposed 8:00/mile pace (it was actually slower) through Pac-Man. It made running fun. Which was important because my tastebuds rejected the GUs and gummies I was forcing it to take. I started drinking Coca-Cola at mile 18. I still jogged through fueling stations by grabbing water, ice, and Gatorade or Coke and only stopping to drink the sticky-stuff instead of wear it. Otherwise, I kept to the secondary plan: just run! Yet, Veterans’ Bridge was about to get me, again. I knew the bridge was mile 21. I knew my plan was turn on the gas at mile 22.

I couldn’t do it and I don’t know why. I paced the bridge and then I walked through the aid station. I picked my pace back up only to stare at the hill. I walked. Why? My mental preparations for this moment back months ago. I practiced my long-runs in the late afternoon. I thought of beating people at mile 22 for a month. Yet, I walked. It was only a 100 yards, or so, but it happened – Ironman proved its challenge.

Upon picking the pace back up, I started counting the miles. Marathons really begin in the last four-point-two miles. With my pace back up, I began a less-enthusiastic Pac-Man. Aid stations became full walks and stops, but I kept running. I crossed Walnut Street Bridge looking for my family. I saw my teammates wildly cheering. Derek Tingle flashed me with his kilt. I rounded the corner for the home stretch. JESS! DAD! CORA! They were there ready for me. Jess yelled, “There goes my Ironman!” I said, “Not an Ironman, yet!” and brought it home. Karen from the team was cheering at the shute, too. I ran to the line.

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I have watched an Ironman finish line before. People scream, cry, jump for joy. Mike Reilly calls their name. They have accomplished their goal. At 10:33:22 with a 3:51 run, Mike Reilly said,”Scott Hussey, a teacher from Walland, Tennessee – you are an Ironman!” and I stopped and smiled. I stopped running. I received my finisher T-shirt. I wore my medal. I smiled for the camera. I understood and I was content. My two-year goal of competing in an Ironman had been accomplished.

Now I have my life back … What’s next?

Thank you to my family and friends for a remarkable 2017 season. Also thanks to my team sponsors. 


 

Andrew Eickholt - Loudon, TN Sprint Triathlon

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Family, Friends, Teammates:  Thank you for your support over the past year.  Your thoughts/comments fuel accountability and motivation during the tough times.  Fortunately, thanks to a supportive family, I was able to compete one last time before the birth of our son.  All in all, in 2017, we were able to build a base and identify more opportunities.  I look forward to driving continuous improvement and racing with Podium Sports Med.  

Andrew T. Eickholt

Katie Dotson - Toughman SC 70.3

Toughman South Carolina 70.3 lived up to it's name - tough!

The race started out well.  81 degree water temp, thankful for my last minute purchase, I hoped into my Roka swim skin and took off.  The course had us swimming out into some windy water, so I was well hydrated coming out of the water after my two loops.  It was really encouraging to see my mom and niece cheering as I headed towards transition!  

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Time for the bike.  I was exciting for this part, I had practiced well, and felt better trained than my last 70.3.  And, good thing too!  Because the bike leg of the race didn't turn out at all like I expected.  There was a headwind for nearly the entire ride, a few miles of really rough pavement, and too many false flats and long slow inclines to count.  My nutrition derailed quite a bit, and my mindset settled deeper and deeper into the abyss as the ride continued.  Somehow, I (barely) held it together into transition.  

My coach had me doing lots of run training and, prior to the race, I was excited for the run - dial it in, relax into my paces and carry it home.  However, coming off of a rough bike (mentally and physically), it took sheer willpower and determination to keep putting my feet one in front of the other.  

At about 3 miles to go, I took an orange slice at a water station and slowed to a walk to eat it.  Another racer looked at me and said something to the effect of - dude! you're almost done! don't quit now - and that was EXACTLY what I needed.  The mental fog lifted, and I was actually able to enjoy the finish.

I'm very pleased to have finished with a 10 minute PR, especially with all the challenges I faced on the bike and run.  And, my time was good enough for 6th female overall (2nd in my age group!)!  

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I'm very thankful to have shared this journey with so many amazing people.  I was able to train with my husband and friends. My coach, Lana Burl, worked me hard and shared my ups and downs.  Kevin and Patrick at Podium helped with my bike fit and putting me back together after a long run went off the rails.  Kenneth also helped put me back together a few times throughout the season when my body fought back against all the training.  And, I had family to cheer me from near and far!

I'm not finished with the 70.3 distance, so much still to learn and apply.  But it'll have to wait until next time!

Ashley Powell - ITU Sprint World Championship Race Report

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The training road to Rotterdam, Netherlands has honestly not been the easiest nor the most fun of journeys to date, but the race itself was so much fun and such a great experience. Coming off of a broken foot just weeks before the World Championships brought on doubt and worry that my foot and body would not be able to take on the training load. There were no breakthrough workouts and my run game was far from what I would have hoped for prior to this race. Although I had a lot of self-doubt, I was willing to make the most of it and I was truly happy to be given the opportunity to compete among some of the world’s best age group triathletes. 

Race week came and with that came a long plane ride to the Netherlands. We arrived safely and picked up my bike (I couldn’t be happier to see my bike after a couple weeks’ separation!). The weather throughout the week was not the greatest; there was a lot of wind and rain, but Fortunately, race day was clear and made for a great day of racing!

The race itself was interesting. It was a split transition which required more planning on the athletes’ part. Check into Transition 2 started in the late morning and allowed for the sprint racers to cheer on some familiar faces during the Olympic distance race. Transition 1 started an hour later and included a nice ferry ride across the waterway with my bike in tow. I would stay on that side of the water until my race started three hours later. The swim was cold but really awesome with a great view of the city, and Transition 1 was super long but successful. The bike portion of the race was a draft legal, technical course with a lot of tight turns and narrow roads but it made for fun ride! Finally, the run was part trail and part road through a park. Overall, it was a fun course with a lot of great competition. 

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Although I had some setbacks with injuries which did not allow me to train to what I thought my full potential, I feel so fortunate to be given opportunities to race with some of the best triathletes around the world. The feeling of toeing the start line and crossing the finish line proves that even with setbacks, anyone can do anything they set their minds to do. I am blessed with so much support from so many people locally and nationally, and I can’t put into words how grateful I feel. Thank you to Podium Sports Medicine, Dr. Sprouse, my family and so many more that put their time and effort into helping me be the best I can be as an athlete and person; triathlon would not be the same without you all. Onward to the next challenge! 

-Ashley

Chris Morelock - Hour Record

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This is a tough one to put down into words... it's not the end of the journey, just a step... but man, what a good step it was to take. 

Monday, August 28 at 1p.m. in Rock Hill, things came to a head and I took the first pedalstroke toward trying to set the track record at Giordana. It's been something I've wanted to do for a long time now, something that I wasn't sure I *could* do, something I still don't think I could have done... and yet, something WE did. But let's get to the actual report first, and then I'll throw in all my shoutout/thank you's at the end!

My wife and I set out late Saturday morning for Rock Hill. My mom had planned to go with us as well, but unfortunately had to stay home leaving it just us for the long weekend. Our trip down was pretty uneventful, Regional championships were taking place at the velodrome and we made it there literally just in time for the last person to step off the podium. Drat. We spent the rest of Saturday evening and most of Sunday exploring the local area (and checking out some great places to eat!) and just relaxing. 

Since I've had some very limited track time this year (and, well... ever) I was a bit nervous going into this, so I decided it would be best to do a little bit more on the track on Sunday than what was originally planned. I wasn't going to do any crazy efforts, but getting re-accustomed to riding the track was certainly going to be a boon.  While there I met with some local riders, one of which (I am very sorry I forgot your name!) was nice enough to help me with my line entering and exiting the turns and "flattening" the turns. This was a simple, short little bit of advice that REALLY helped me out on Monday. As time was winding down I did a couple of laps timed at "race pace" to see how it felt. I was on my training wheels and not in my skinsuit but was still slightly up on the pace without feeling like I was really working too hard for it. That gave me a much needed boost of confidence and maybe for the first time of the weekend I really internalized that this might just work out. At this point I even let just the slightest bit of bravado slip in and texted Derek "I think this is going to go well." It's at this point I should point out my phone auto-corrected "well" to "terrible" and I had a nervous laugh... stupid Galaxy S6...

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Monday rolled around and the overall feeling I had most of the day was one of nervous anticipation. Since my start time wasn't until 1p.m. and my wife and I are early risers, we had a LONG time to spend just hanging out. I had breakfast and half/half coffee (1/2 decaf) around 6:30, then a larger breakfast at Panera Bread (Quinoa honey almond oatmeal) with more coffee and a lot of water. At the point my pee turned light straw color I started drinking Skratch mix to make sure I didn't over-hydrate. We really lucked up with the time wasting as The Big Lebowski was on and let's be honest, there is no better way to get psyched up for a big event than watching the Dude abide. 

Finally, it was time to make our trek to the velodrome and get set up. It never fails to amaze me how time simply crawls by right up until you are at the venue, then it's like somebody puts you in fast forward. Bob and Ivan at Giordana already had most everything set up and were ready for me... I can't stress enough how excellent and professional these guys were. As I was drinking my (absolutely terrible tasting) mix of Beet Elite and baking soda and contemplating things that those who attack hour records contemplate (which at this point is all the things that aren't controllable, like weather) Derek (Dalzell, my coach) and his wife arrive and the team is all together and there is not much left to do other than a practice standing start (and test the timing) and to make a few nervous jokes.

As far as weather goes, we got good temperature  (maybe just slightly warmer than ideal) and a nice overcast, but with a good bit of wind. Some of the guys at the track said it was a bad day for an hour attempt, but it was what day we had, so we were going to have to make the best of it.

As I made my way up to the start line and clumsily tried to clip into my speedplay pedals (look, I'm a shimano guy... cut me some slack) I was struck very pointedly by the thought that Tony Rominger, one of the hour legends, didn't get up to speed fast enough from his start and fell unceremoniously, having to restart. (And fwiw, then setting the world record) As the countdown began, I thought... I hope I don't fall...

...2

......1

I make it through turn 1 and thankfully don't wipe out. Coming into the straight it's down to business and I click off the first of many laps at a pretty unimpressive 31.4" something that certainly won't gain me any street cred with the real trackies. 

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Our plan was to ride conservatively at the current record pace. Having never done an hour before (or really any sets over 20 minutes on the track) we decided that would be the most likely to be successful strategy. That would mean holding roughly low 22" lap splits.  Lap #2 I'm at 21.8" and for the next 20 minutes I'm pretty much like a metronome clicking them off.  Derek and his significant other did an excellent job relaying information to me, I got lap splits each time around and every 5 minutes I got a sheet of how I was doing compared to the record. At about 20' I was 1.5km up. I was smiling, giving thumbs up to Derek, things were going well.

An hour attempt is unique. The challenge isn't just a physical one, maybe even more so it is a mental one. There is just you and some lines. Every few seconds you try to line up entering and exiting the turn, and you see a flash card with your split on it, but otherwise you really see nothing and hear nothing. If you've ever done a set you may know the feeling... you look at your watch after what seems like forever has passed and you see that in reality only a minute or two has gone by. The hour is like that, except longer, and desolate. In a road time trial you have scenery, the danger of traffic, turns, other competitors, things to think about and ever so slightly distract you and take your mind off of small things that aren't really issues. On the track, you feel everything, and it feels worse because you have no distractions to take your mind off of it.  The first thing to hurt, for me, was my pinky fingers. Wrapping them around my bars was just uncomfortable enough for it to start annoying me. Then my thumbs started to feel numb (from the loops of my bodypaint3.3 choking off circulation I guess) and all in all my hand area just bothered me. Then my lats started to feel the stress of holding me in position.  

At around 30 minutes there were no more smiles, no more thumbs up. There was just one lap, followed by another. There were also starting to be more than a few 22.x" laps mixed in. As the day had worn on the wind had shifted, when I started it was hitting me coming out of turn 2, at almost the "perfect" spot to help me slide a little up toward the red line setting me up to cut the inside of turn 3. Unfortunately, as the day progressed the wind started hitting me exiting turn 4... and it was hitting me hard. For a while I tried to fight the bike and hold it in the sprinters lane, but as I have tried to convey little things turn into big things on the track. Fighting the bike was costing me a lot of energy I didn't have, so I eventually decide to just let the wind send me out of the turn wherever it wanted and to just ride it back down when it calmed. I'm sure it looked like I was totally losing control...hell, maybe I was... but it made sense to me at the time.

As the 5 minute intervals were coming up, 1.5km slid to 1km to .5km and finally to even pace with the record. 40-50 minute mark was steady 22" laps, a bit of a meltdown but not a disaster. At 15 minutes to go I remember thinking "I've done so many 15 minute sets... just do this one more and you never have to do another one." I could also hear everyone on the track trying to bolster me... part of me was very, very glad for the support, and part of me was concerned... were they trying to keep me going because it looked like I might stop at any second. 

Honest moment, there was only one thing I wanted to do more than stop... and that was finish. At 10 minutes to go Derek started giving me minute to minute updates "9 to go!" "8:30" "Hold the black Line!" "steady!" and other things I'm not 100% sure I heard correctly, but I got the message. 

"FIVE MINUTES, LIFT IT!"

Actually, from my lap splits at 7 minutes I started lifting, although I didn't feel like I was. I dropped back into mid-low 21" laps. At this point I was experiencing something I never have before... I saw things, I heard things, but they had no meaning. I could see Derek hold up my lap split, but it didn't hold any information that made sense. I heard my wife cheering, but she was foreign to me. I was a picture frame you buy at Target... There is a picture in it, but no meaning behind it. The only thing that I had to hold onto was a ferverous (or feverous?) voice telling me to push the damn pedals harder. 

In the distance, I hear a whistle blow. I ride by and someone is smiling, giving me a thumbs up. Distantly, a realization dawns on me that the whistle means I can stop.

Panic grips me.

For the first time in my cycling life, I truly believe there is no possibility of me slowing down without wrecking. I'm not sure if slowing down will lock my legs up, not sure if I can support myself in any position other than the one I've been locked in the last hour. Slowing down is a painful shock to my system. I lift onto the basebar and my arms have support in them. I slowly ride down the track and have enough sense to let Derek know that I need someone to catch me. He does. Things happen, people, wife... all I can do is put my head into the aerobars and try not to fall over. I get off the bike and make it to the grass infield, where I collapse onto my back and finally have enough oxygen back to my brain to realize that the words being formed are "you did it." 

We did it! The final damage was 41.03km/25.49mph, or 164 laps. I was only able to add 3 laps to Tim's record, but I feel it was everything I had to give, and I'm happy for it!

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Derek Tingle - Storm the Fort Sprint

"Have Fun Storming the Castl.......er Fort!" - Me.

Race Report: Storm the Fort Sprint

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Coming off of my XTERRA Season which ended last week in Auburn (...that I still need to write a report on) I was sort of looking forward to getting back on the road.  Being a team race, Storm the Fort was going to be a great opportunity to come out and race with my Podium teammates which I haven't gotten to do for a while.  It would also be a good time racing with my other local tri friends.  While I've enjoyed racing on the XTERRA circuit, it would be nice to race at home.  That being said, when my alarm went off at 4:30 this morning, it was all I could do to get up and get ready to race.  I was just not in the mood today.  I drug myself from my nice, warm bed and got dressed.  I lumbered downstairs, let the dog out and sat down for breakfast.  I kept with what has worked for me all season.  2 cherry Pop-Tarts and a bottle of my Infinit "preload" mix.  After some post-breakfast, pre-race "paperwork" I loaded up the car.  By this time, the wife had made her way downstairs and we headed toward Kingston.

As we arrived at the race, we opted to park at the finish around .5 mile away from transition.  In hind sight, this wasn't the best plan... more on that later.   After checking my tire pressures and kissing my wife goodbye, I rode down to transition.  Not going to lie it felt strange being on the Speed Concept.  She'd been sitting idle all summer whilst I played in the dirt but it was nice to have her back out.  I did a few workouts on her in the last few weeks and she was feeling fast.  I had a great ride on Tuesday and was hopeful we could put up a solid bike split together today.  

I racked next to my teammate Mike Dotson.  We spent a few minutes discussing whether or not we'd be wearing our wetsuits for the swim.  The water temp was 77.9.  Barely legal.  Normally, I say if it's legal I wear a suit if I have it.  I had it with me so I decided to go wetsuit.   As start time approached I started the process of installing my wetsuit.  I got it most of the way over my lower extremities before realizing it was backward.  It has been a while.  After that, I got mad and said to hell with it.  I threw the wetsuit back in my bag, put on my speedsuit, grabbed my goggles and headed to swim start.  The race was supposed to start at 7:25 but we all were straggling getting to start.  As we got to the dock, the starter ushered us into the water and after a (rediculously long) reading of the rules by the ref, they lit the cannon and we were off.

There were a bazillion buoys on the water but they told us to aim for the far yellow one and the blinking blue light of the police boat.  Swim straight.   Alright then.  That's all well and good but my goggles fogged almost instantly and I couldn't see anything.  I could make out the blinking blue light so that's where I aimed.  After a few hundred, I was out in front with the lead pack.  Only a couple guys ahead of me and around me.  Then I suddenly swam right into the guy next to me.  At that point I realized the blinking light was moving... not good.  I reset my trajectory and continued forward.  The rest of the swim went fine.  Eventually, I found the boat launch and swim exit.  I hauled myself out of the water and headed to T1.

By my Garmin the swim measured short at around 560 yds.  Time by Garmin was 9:49 (1:45/100). Not bad but not good either.  

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T1 didn't seem too smooth but eventually I had all my ducks in a row and was out on the bike.  I had been told by my good buddy Steve Dittner that the first part of the bike had a lot of climbing so I was prepared to climb.  I felt strong.  Power numbers were looking good and legs were cooperating.  I was a bit concerned that they would complain after a couple of tough workouts this week but they held their peace.  I wondered, though, for how long.  

I knew there were couple guys out ahead of me on the bike but I didn't know how many.  My teammate Mike was just up the road out of T1 and I came up on him quickly on the first climb.  We shouted some words of encouragment at each other and I made the pass.  A bit further up I saw another guy.  I gradually reeled him in also.  Seeing his calf, he was in my age group.  I didn't recognize his kit though.  I knew I would need to keep the screws turned and put some time into him because he looked like he was going to be good on the run.  Before I knew it, I was at the turn and I realized I hadn't passed anyone going the other way.  I asked the volunteer how many ahead just to confirm.  Sure enough, "you're in first" was the answer.  This just made me push more.  I knew there were some fast people coming I had no idea how the run was going to go for me.  Head down, keep the pedals turning.  I was holding over 300 watts for a lot of the ride which made me happy.  I rolled back into T2 with the overall lead.  Garmin time on bike was 46:54 (avg speed of 21.9mph).

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T2 was a breeze.  Bike on the rack. Shoes on my feet. Grabbed race belt and headed out.  After a few minutes of finding my rhythm I checked my watch.  Avg pace was holding steady around 7 min/mile.  I doubted I was going to hold that but my target was 7:30 or under.  The run was just over 4 miles so I had a pretty good ways to go.  I settled in nicely.  At the turn, I saw Justin Cazana coming on strong.  He had started behind me in the second wave so I knew he was making time quickly and he's much stronger on the run than me.  I thought the overall win was outside chance but knew I could hold on that an overall podium spot was almost certain.  As we came back past transition I had to refocus.  I'm so used to finishing at transition that I kind of forgot there was around a mile left... and it was most all up hill.  I buckled down and kept the legs going.  My pace was doing ok.  I was slowing a little on the rolling sections but holding steady on the flatter sectors.  Coming around by the fort the hills really came in to play.  Cazana was hot on my heels and at this point it was just about not letting him pass me on the course.  I all but knew he had passed me on time but I had to save some face!  On the final climb I looked back at him and asked him to slow down... he didn't.  I put in a last kick up the hill to the fort and crossed the line with a 20 or seconds (maybe) on him.  I had a great run.  Probably one of my best runs all season.  Garmin time on the run was 30:30 (7:23/mile avg pace).

After the proverbial dust cleared, Justin beat me by around 3 minutes.  I finished in a time of 1:29:28 by the Garmin.  Good enough for 2nd place overall.  I had a fun race even though this morning I was definitely not in the mood for it.  Maybe I should try to start all my races not in the mood if it makes me race that well!!  Again, I would be remiss if I didn't send out my love to my support crew.  My team and sponsors, my coach and, of course, my wife and family.  I love you all.  

Once again, I need to send a special shout out to my chiropractor Chris Talley at Healthsource Chiropractic.  As usual he got me tuned up and adjusted before the race and taped my calf.  I've also been having some shoulder soreness on the swim so I had him tape my left shoulder.  Not a wince of pain did I have.  It's great to have someone like him in my corner to keep me on top of my game.  Thanks Doc!!!

Renee Black - USAT Nationals

USAT Age Group Nationals

In September of 2013, shortly after hitting the submit button registering for the inaugural addition of Ironman Chattanooga 2014, I received an email from USAT informing me that I had qualified to race at Age Group Nationals. First thought … cool! Second thought … what the heck is age group nationals? After a little time on the Google I learned that participating in this race meant competing against some of the best age group folks in the nation. With each passing year I would receive the qualification email and find some excuse not to go. In full transparency I didn’t see the point in spending a large amount of money and time traveling to a distant location just to get my butt kicked. After the 2016 season was over I decided to stop letting fear hold me back. I registered for the Olympic distance race with a pie-in-the-sky goal of finishing in the top 25 of my age group in 2017 in Omaha, Nebraska. 

On August 9th, my most trusted tri-roadie (my dear husband, Todd) and I set out on our cross country adventure. As soon as I arrived to athlete check-in I knew this was going to be a top-notch race experience. I was surrounded by world-class age groupers who were super friendly and eager to share their stories. I quickly learned at the athlete briefing that the race officials don’t mess around and have no trouble handing out penalties and DQs. It was odd. Even though I felt like a baby guppy swimming in a shark tank I was so excited! Maybe it was because I had let go of any performance expectations. Maybe it was all those incredible cards of support I had received from friends and family right before I left. All I knew was that I was ready to race!

Race morning alarm rang at 3:45 AM. I hoisted myself out of bed and completed my typical pre-race morning routine. I told Todd I wanted to leave at 5:00 AM for my 7:07 AM start time. We were only a ten minute drive from the venue but I had read story after story of traffic jams from last year’s race. Our ten minute drive turned into a 50 minute crawl to the race venue. I was prepared. Todd was driving and in charge of playing my favorite, upbeat race songs while I kept my hoodie over my head and my eyes closed. If I can’t see it or hear it, it can’t stress me out. 

After transition set up and warm up were completed I went through my final mental pre-race checklist. Just as I was about to eat my pre-race snack it was announced that race start would be delayed 15 minutes due to traffic. Honestly, this was a relief to me. I was feeling a tad rushed and this gave me a bit of a buffer. A few minutes later that delay was bumped to 20 minutes and then finally 30 minutes. I casually made my way to swim start. I found a quiet place in the grass and did some simple breathing exercises. Again, I have no control over this. No need to stress. 

Fortunately, Omaha was experiencing unseasonably cool temperatures which made for excellent race day conditions … except for the swim start. Carter Lake was 81 degrees and the air temperature was 61. This meant that after completing the swim warm up I spent a solid five minutes standing on the dock shivering uncontrollably from head to toe. We were finally allowed back in the water for our “dock start”. For the next 2 minutes there was lots of nervous chatter. One minute! Thirty seconds! At ten seconds to go they started playing a very loud and slow heart beat over the intercom system. The air horn sounded and we were off! 

Swim was a rectangle shape course. Heading out, I had lots of clear water and was swimming smooth. Coming back, I started hitting some traffic and had more than one occasion of just flat out running into someone. I was able to keep my bearings and resist the urge to water wrestle with any of my competitors. Before I knew it I was out of the water and onto the bike.

I know what you are thinking. It’s Omaha! This has to be the flattest bike course ever! Well … kind of. A participant from last year told me earlier, “I think they purposefully went out and found every hill Omaha has and put it on the course”. It was an out-and-back course with one climb at mile 5. That climb was only a half mile and topped out at a 9% grade. And of course we had the pleasure of climbing the other side on the way back into town. Luckily, we had driven the course the day before and I knew that there was a bit more “up” to the course on the way back in than on the way out. With all this in mind, I headed out on course with a metered effort. The first half was great! I was smiling and having a great time! The climb was fine and I was managing to catch some of the faster swimmers in my age group. I hit the turnaround in the middle of a corn field (no exaggeration here) and headed back. I was quickly greeted by two things: a headwind and an upset stomach.

My first action was to stay calm. No need to panic. I decided to throw it into a bit of an easier gear and reduce my effort in hopes of saving my legs for the run and calming my stomach. I really needed to take a second gel but the thought of putting anything on my stomach at that time was just flat out nauseating. So I slowly sipped on my Skratch/BCAA bottle and focused on breathing. About five miles before T2 my stomach calmed down and so did the headwind. I picked the pace back up and finished the bike strong.

Coming out of T2 I had no idea what to expect. I knew my reduced nutrition on the bike would come back to haunt me on the run. I just didn’t know when or how. I decided to once again let go of the worry and just run. This is Nationals. Give it everything you’ve got. The run was a two-loop, flat-as-can-be course. The temps were still great and the humidity low. A set up for a terrific run. The first loop felt great! I was knocking off sub 8-minute miles and feeling like that was a sustainable pace. About a half mile into the 2nd loop, I felt a niggle in the right quad, followed quickly by a niggle in my right abdominal area. Yep, my body was starting to cramp up. Now, I’m irritated. I have perfect running conditions. I have spent months in “zone 4 efforts” training for these last 24 minutes of racing. I had no choice but to slow down. I took in a gel and some water and gave myself an out. Walk for thirty seconds. If the niggles quiet down start running again. And that’s what I did. My run was slow at first but I continued to drink and steadily pick up the pace. As the pace increased the cramping returned and I would be forced to slow the pace once again. And for the next 1.5 miles this is how I managed the race. At mile 5.5 I decided I’d had enough. I started running at my sub-8 pace again. Basically daring my body to quit. If I was going out on the run course at Nationals I was going to do it right. The quad and the stomach expressed their unhappiness with my decision and I responded by turning the screws a bit more. Before I knew it I was hitting that finisher’s red carpet with a smile on my face! 

I finished nowhere near my preseason top 25 AG goal and I honestly couldn’t care less. I had a blast! I smiled more than I have ever smiled at a race and genuinely enjoyed the experience; cramping, head wind and all! I’m looking forward to the chance to qualify and race again in 2018. I still have my pie in the sky goals. Someday I will find that top 25 finish and someday I will represent Team USA at the World Championships. Until that day comes I will keep smiling, keep pushing my body beyond its perceived limits and keep having fun playing triathlon!!