Thursday, August 7, 2014

USAT Nationals and I'm missing out

It's going to be a tough weekend for me.  This weekend is the USAT Nationals in Milwaukee, and I was supposed to be competing in both the Olympic and Sprint races.  I actually qualified in October of last year and registered soon thereafter.  My main goal all offseason and this coming season was to compete in Nationals and earn a coveted spot on Team USA.  I just missed out 2 years ago on a spot, but that was when I didn't know any better.  For those who don't know about how that works, essentially the top 25 athletes in each Age Group earn a sport on Team USA and get to compete in the World Championships, this year being held in Chicago.  Last year, World's were in London..  Pretty cool right?

So I thought all season that I was going to be gunning for one of those spots.  However, life takes over and things get in the way.  I learned a lot this year so far about training and what I need to do to be successful, but that came at a cost.  The cost being not performing at my best at any race this season.  I learned my lesson about training for hills at the Rev3 Nationals, I learned my lesson about training and being able to push the pace during TriRock Philly, and I learned what I need to do to be successful in future races.  The problem with all of this is that I learned it too late.  For me to go out and compete in Nationals, I felt I needed to be competitive and be able to hold my own.  And truth be told, I haven't been all year.  This has been a very wasted year for me and one that I look forward to putting behind me.  Knowing that I wasn't going to be as competitive as I needed to be to get a spot on Team USA, I pulled out of Nationals.  For me to spend over $1000 for flights, hotels, bike travel, etc, it wasn't worth me getting my butt handed to me by the best in the country.  I had a chance to make the team in the Sprint division but I made the fiscal decision to not chance it.

When last season finished, I knew this was what my goal was.  I even thought about printing out a picture of the Team USA logo and putting it on my bike so every workout I had I knew I had to push myself.  I wanted every workout structure to get me better, stronger, and faster.  But I fell into a bad rut this year and didn't do that.

My decision was the right decision, but that still doesn't mean it makes it any less painful.  When I see friends of mine traveling to Milwaukee this weekend to race, I am definitely jealous and wish I could be there. I wish I would be in better shape to compete with the best in the country.  But right now, I am not.  That will change next year, as I vow to get back to Nationals and vow to make the team and represent USA the following year.

This is my fault and my fault alone.  I was the one who didn't put the work in, who didn't push themselves harder, who didn't work on my swim to get better.  I am the only one who I can blame.  But I know that since I did this, I can learn from it and that is exactly what I intend to do.

For everyone who is competing this weekend, good luck.  It will be a very hard weekend for me knowing that you are out there with the best of the best.  But be afraid, be very afraid, I'll be there next year with you.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Skora's Huge Sale

I just wanted to pass along that Skora is having a HUGE sale over the next few days.  As you all know from reading here, my impression of Skora's are amazing.  I don't think I have put another brand of shoes on my feet in close to 2 years.  I love all of their styles

Now is your chance to get a pair for a huge discount so you can try them out

I just wanted to pass along such a great deal to everyone

Thursday, July 17, 2014

One Proud Moment- Riley's first race

A few weeks ago, I raced the TriRock Series Sprint and Olympic Double and it was a good weekend of racing.  Not my best performances, but there was another event that weekend that I will remember forever: Riley's first race ever.

Saturday afternoon after the Sprint race, TriRock held a children's "Fun Run".  There were different race lengths for different ages, but all I was concerned with was entering Riley into this race.

Once the wife and I decided that this weekend would be race weekend for me, we found the kids race and decide to make a full weekend out of it.  While Leo and I went up Friday afternoon to be there for our race Saturday, the wife, my parents, Riley and my sister all heading to Philly Saturday morning to meet us around 11 am.  Once we met up, we picked up Riley's race bib, t-shirt, and swag bag.  yes, even an 18 month old gets a swag bag.

Cheerios are the perfect pre-race snack
While we waited for Riley's race to start, we decided to "carb him up" with cheerios so he would definitely have some energy.  After eating his fill of cheerios and getting hydrated, they announce the 1-3 year old race was about to start.  With his race outfit on, which was definitely designed by me and matched my race outfit and bike, we headed to the starting line.

Guiding Riley to the finish
Yes Riley, you are winning

Knowing how races get, I decided to hold Riley from the crowd and let him start in the back.  (pacing is key in a 50 yard dash).  This way, all the kids would run to the finish and be done with their race in like 10 seconds, and Riley would be the only one on the red carpet finish shute getting all the attention.

Plus it was a good way to get clear pictures of him.

Even though Riley didnt let go of me until the very end of the race, it was the highlight of the weekend for me.  Not only was it Riley's first official race, but I got to escort him in it and we finished together.  I do think he won his Age group though :)

As you can see, he is definitely proud of himself and such a ham when it comes to getting attention.  I wonder where he gets it from.

Let it be known that Riley has now raced in more races in his lifetime than the wife. That will change in a few weeks.
Notice he is the ONLY baby in the finish line area

I will remember that race forever, and can't wait until the day we can run a real race together.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

TriRock Philly Sprint/Olympic Race Review

This past weekend I did something for the first time: I raced back to back days.  I decided a while back to race the TriRock Philly double Sprint/Olympic combo and thought it would be a good idea.  I have to say, it was.  The races might not have been the best for me, but racing back to back days was definitely something I'm glad I did.

So Leo and I drove down to Philly Friday afternoon to race on Saturday morning, and the family would meet us the next day since it would be a really long weekend if everyone was there from Friday night through Sunday.

Sprint race recap:

I think I was more excited going into the Sprint than the Olympic.  I really wanted to test my speed and figured I would be less tired since this race was first.  Looking at the times over the past few years, I thought I had a good shot at some type of podium finish.  So pushing the pace was definitely in the agenda.

For the sake of length, I'll combine all disciplines into a single recap.  So starting off with the swim, I felt good.  I knew I wasn't going to be the fastest, but I figured I could do well enough to keep me in position to make up ground on the bike and definitely the run.  My swim actually felt like I was doing well for me. With the mishaps of Knoxville, I wanted to see how fast I could push without burning out. The swim had a tiny bit of current, but the problem with the swim was they did a time trial start with rolling waves based on Age Groups.  So while I was pushing myself, I kept catching and having to pass the waves before me weaving in and out of poor swimmers.  This definitely took time off.

When I finally hit my bike, within the first 2 miles, I knew it was not going to be my day.  I couldn't get any speed going and the course was flat.  My legs were just dead for some reason.  All week, I felt like this, but I figured I would be able to push through.  The course was 2 loops around Fairmount Park in Philadelphia which wasn't flat, but wasn't too hilly.  I expected a little bit more flat roads, but was prepared.  My problem was I just didn't have it in my legs.  I thought I would try and conserve energy for Sunday's race, but mentally I can't do that.  I pushed as much as I can.  The same problem that occurred on the swim happened on the bike.  All of the faster bikers kept having to pass the slower cyclists on the 2nd loop of the same course.  I wouldn't say faster, but maybe younger?  The waves started with the higher ages so when it was my age group and even younger, we were sharing the roads with a lot more people and having to weave in and out.  Not ideal at all.  I felt like I was screaming "on your left" all day.  And yet, no one would move over to help us out.

Finally racking my bike, I grabbed my Skora's and headed out for the run.  Being only a 5k, I really wanted to kill it.  But my legs, and at that point, my mind, wasn't into it.  I kept just wanting the race to be over.  The run course was flat and fast and even so I managed a 19 minute 5k, which I guess I expected.  I would have liked faster, but knew I had to save something for the next day.

I wanted a better result in this race, but sometimes knowing your body is more important.  I didn't want to ruin 2 races so taking my foot off the gas, even a little during this race, definitely help me for the next day.

Overall time 1:18 for a .5 mile swim, 15.8 mile bike, 5k run.  Top 3% of entire participants
The somewhat bright spot was I was pretty close to Ironman World champion Chris McCormack in my race.  He raced the sprint race and had a bunch of issues during his race, but still I wasn't too far behind him.

After the race, it was time to wait for Leo, meet the family who came for the end of the race, Riley's first race, and to see Philadelphia.

The family after my race, and right before Riley's first race
Grandpa, Daddy, and Riley walking back from dinner

Olympic Race Recap:

After getting somewhat of a decent night's sleep, it was time to strap on the boots again and go racing.

I was more excited for the Olympic race for some reason after not doing well in the Sprint.  I felt I had a better shot at having a good race and that my speed would be able to keep me in the mix more.

The Olympic race was also a race for the Pro's, so some big names like Andy Potts, Cameron Dye, Matty Reed and others were there.  When they got out of their swim, the announcers said they finished in like 15 minutes so the current was giving us about a 4 minute advantage.  Being an average swimmer, I was excited. Anything that helps my swim, I'll take.

Once my swim started, I was cruising.  The only problem was that I think I forgot to start my watch.  I have a timer on my watch to go off every 3 minutes during my swim.  It helps me know where my pacing is.  So when I got to the 100 meter buoy, there was no vibration, then the 200 meter one had nothing.  I knew the current was fast, but I didn't think it was this fast.  It was around the 300 meter mark that I just accepted I didn't start the watch.  I was bummed, because I thought I was making good time.  Ultimately I was, but my watch wasn't letting me know.

The swim was finally over and I grabbed my bike, started my watch, scrolled through my settings and went to town.  The first 4 miles or so was a breeze. I was averaging about 22 mph, and I thought it was going to be a good day.  But then some technical turns occurred, hills happened and I lost my bike mojo.  The course was essentially the opposite of the day before, but with added mileage. I knew the course and took advantage where I could, but for some reason, my speed wasn't there.  I just don't get it.  How could I have such great training sessions, and when race day comes, I can't push it and drop the hammer when I need to?  After finishing the 25 mile bike, I didn't know where I was in placing.  I figured I was either near the top, or towards the bottom since I only passed about 3 people in my Age on the bike, but only got passed by 2 people.  The run was where I needed to do my damage.

Coming through the finish to end my weekend
And that's exactly what I did.  My run was great.  Like, really good.  I racked my bike, and went to town.  The 2 people who passed me on the bike were caught within the first .5 mile of the run.  After a brief chat with one of them, we joked and I was off. I then put my sights on every runner ahead of me.  Other than the dead leg feel for the first mile, my time was great.  My first 2 miles were an average of 6:12.  I felt great.  I continued to pass at least 7 people in my age group, all of who were very dejected when I went by.  The course was measured a little long (or I started my watch early from transition), so I ended up with a run of 6.4 miles instead of 6.2.  My Garmin said I averaged 6.23 for my run, but running long took some time away so officially I ran a 6:40 mile pace.
I crossed the finish line and at that point my weekend was done.  it was time to stop being an athlete, and start being a daddy again.  I cooled off and took Riley away from the wife and took care of him.  We walked around, waiting for Leo, cheered him on, got some snacks, and then hung out.

Olympic Time: 2:22 for .9 mile swim, 24.8 bike, 6.2 mile run.

Overall, I am not happy with my placing for the race, but I realized that I can't control who enters the race.  I can only control my race.  If I place 1st, 400th, or anywhere in between, it's out of my control.  Whoever enters the race is not something I can worry about.  If I'm only going to race where I might win, then I will never hit my full potential.  So I have to look at other things that are in my control.  The Olympic race is the first race where I am happy with all 3 disciplines at the same time within a single race.  My times might not reflect it, but I executed my game plan the way I wanted so I can be happy about that.  
2 races down and wiped out.  

I wanted to quickly thank both SunRype and HoneyMaxx for my race kits.  It was the first time I was able to race in kits provided by sponsors.  They both felt and looked great.  It's nice to have something across my chest to know I'm racing for other people as well and that I have partners that I'm proud to help support.

So after a long weekend, I finally got home, had a quick dinner, and tried to play with Riley.  As you can see below, that didn't last long.  I think our weekend came to a close pretty early Sunday night.

After a long weekend of racing, Riley and I couldn't keep our eyes open

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Happy Birthday Thunder

Thunder's Birthday Cake

With all the hoopla surrounding that this Friday is going to be Friday the 13th, a Full Moon, and Venus is in retrograde all happening at the same time and the last time this happens for the next 30 years, I am taking the time out to say Happy Birthday to my best friend, Thunder.

Yes, most people who have a pet often say that it's their best friend.  And no disrespect to the wife, Riley, or anyone else, but I can honestly say that Thunder has been my best friend since 2005.  He has been with me through a lot of things in my life, both good and bad.

Thunder came into my life on his 8 week birthday in August, 2005 at a time when things were a little difficult for me.  Somehow, he always made my day better.  I can remember laying on my couch in my old apartment and Thunder would sleep on my chest.  He was so small at that time fitting int he palm of my hand.

My all time favorite photo
From there, Thunder has been through everything with me.  He has lived in 5 different apartments with me, multiple girls I was dating ( I won't give a number since the wife reads this), was there when the wife and I got together, was at my wedding, has seen Riley grow up for the past 17 months, and has been through it all.
 Somebody had to make the announcement

Why not have fun in the crib
Thunder wasn't so keen on Riley being in our lives at first, but he has definitely come around.  We used to say Thunder was Riley's best friend, but when Riley was a baby Thunder wanted no part of him.  Now that Riley is older and eating food, he has figured out how to sneak Thunder his Cheerio's so Thunder has definitely become more responsive to Riley.

Thunder is so important to our family and we will be celebrating with him just as much as anyone else in our family.

Yes, you get a lollipop too!
So Happy 9th Birthday to my best friend, and the one person who can always put a smile on my face and make the world around me better.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Coffee, Yum!

Coffee Makes Me Happy

Ah caffeine.  The most addicting drug in the world.  It is soooo good and also what powers me throughout every day. My normal caffeine intake is a cup of ice coffee every morning, and then between 1-2 pm, a cup of green tea or a Crystal light energy packet I mix with water.  If you haven’t tried them, pick up a box.  They are easy, transportable, and great tasting. 

Over the years, I’ve heard that during the weeks leading up to a race that one should limit their caffeine intake so when they start taking gels, coffee, etc the day of the race it has more of an impact.  Well, I tried that this year for Knoxville.  What I can tell you is that it was absolutely miserable.  I hated every minute of it.  More importantly, it didn’t work.  Not one bit.

About 2 weeks before the race, I started to decrease my normal caffeine intake gradually every day and it got to the point where I had no caffeine in my system 5 days prior to the race.  I was so proud of myself, and as the wife told me multiple times “see, you don’t need coffee”.  Well, like Ebinezar Scrooge, I say Bah Humbug.  While the wife said I don’t need caffeine, she also said I was a lot more miserable to deal with since I was so cranky and unruly. 

Race morning came and I started my day with a cup of hotel coffee.  Not great, but it did the trick.  I also love gels that have some caffeine in them so they were packed on my bike and carried with me on the run, and I also mixed my favorite Crystal Light energy mix and drank it just prior to starting the swim.  What I found is that I didn’t notice any of the caffeine kick I normally do.  There was no buzz, no rush, no nothing.  It was like my body was immune to any caffeine I put into it.  I understand that during a race I shouldn’t want to feel that buzz, but I like it.  It makes me feel like I can keep going, and it’s also something I’ve been doing for years.

As a result of my failed experiment, I have jumped back on the coffee bandwagon and continue to energize myself throughout every day, multiple times a day.  I’m so much more pleasant and my workouts continue to get better with the caffeine in my system throughout the entire day.

But that’s the point of experimenting, right?  To see what works for you.  My failed experiment proved to me that coffee is king and that I will continue to pump my body full of it no matter whether I’m racing, training, or just sitting on the couch. 

So what’s your take, coffee, no coffee during race week?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Things I learned during Knoxville

It's been a little over a week since Knoxville and the championship race, and I can honestly say that I learned a lot during that race.  Even though the race was extremely difficult for me and I didn't have a good showing, I'm glad I did it.  I think the experience of racing in Knoxville will truly benefit me in both the coming months, as well as the next year or so. Below are just some of the things that I learned both during the race, as well the weeks leading up to it and immediately afterwards

1 -Decide how important certain races are and stick with it:
  We all know that as athletes we should pick "A", "B", "C" races and so on.  But sticking to how you categorized each race often gets lost throughout the year.  I know I typically think my A race is the next race up, but it can't be like that for every time.  In my mind, C races are for training through the race and practicing things, B races are for finalizing everything and making sure your prep is done for your A race, and your A race is the most important race of the year.  In the case of Knoxville, I knew it was a B race for me, but also hindered on being an A race.  The problem with this was I really couldn't decide.  I knew it was important, but in my mind I didn't know much. I wanted it to be more important than it actually was, but I just couldn't get up for an A race that early in the year.  So in my case, I really should have used Knoxville as an important race, but not base everything around it.

2 - Training with Power isn't just hitting Watts, it's how you hit those Watts:
  This is probably the biggest thing I learned while suffering on the bike.  This course was hilly.  As in, really hilly.  Typically the hills are my strength since I can fly up them.  Not this year though.  The reason being was my training.  When doing my trainer workouts, I was so focused on hitting my Power Zones that I didn't realize there are different ways to do it.  I was focusing on increasing my cadence more which increased my power.  However, this course required me to decrease my cadence and really focus on "pushing up the hill".  I didn't really do low cadence work simulating the climbing that this course had.  I just assumed I would be in such a high spin going up the hills so that is how I trained.  I was too focused on hitting my wattages that I didn't really think of how I should hit my wattages.  Knowing this, I'm going to focus a lot in the coming weeks on sheer force and building strength in my legs instead of achieving a high cadence rate.  This will definitely help me in the coming races, even on relatively flat courses since I will be able to have more force through every pedal stroke

3 - I suck at swimming.  Like really really suck:
  I knew I was never a good swimmer, but going against some of the competition there, I got my butt handed to me.  I really need to improve my swimming for future races.  I know I don't enjoy the training that it takes to do that, but I can at least tweak my training. Early in the season I was doing a lot of swim interval training and I knew I was getting faster, but at some point I stopped doing it.  I would go to the pool and just do laps.  What I was learning to do was swim at a slow pace for a longer period of time.  So I picked up the interval training in the past week and hopefully that will help me in the future.  I know I can push the pace in the race, I just don't for some reason.  Either way, that needs to changed quickly

4 - I have a really bad temper at times:
  I referenced my travel problems getting to Knoxville in my previous post.  But here's how it went down.  I initially decided to take a late flight Friday night so I could help the wife with taking care of Riley Friday since I would be away all weekend.  Well, at about 3:45 pm Friday, my flight got cancelled due to weather.  This left me scrambling to find flights to get to Knoxville.  I called my airlines and the earliest they could get me in was Saturday at like 5:30pm.  Yeah, not happening.  Not when I had to check in, pick up my bike, rack my bike all by 6:30pm.  Luckily I got on another connecting flight that got me in to Knoxville about 1 am Saturday.  Not ideal, but it was the earliest I could do.
 So I ran to my car, and the airport is only about 15 minutes from my apartment.  But on a Friday afternoon, it could be a while.  To make matters worse, all the streets and entrances to the highway were blocked because someone got shot on the FDR drive.  It took me 45 minutes to go 1 mile in NYC traffic.  At this point, I blamed the wife.  It was her fault for making me take the late flight that night, right?  If I hadn't tried to be nice and stay all day, I would have been on like a 1pm flight and had no issues.  So when she called me to check on me, I lost it.  I have never screamed like this in my life.  EVER.  It wasn't directed at her, but it was to her.  She didn't even know what to do.
And when I finally got to the airport, I had 15 minutes to check my bag and get to my gate for boarding.  Thank goodness for TSA Pre. However, my bags didn't make the cut-off time and the airline had no idea when my bags would get to Knoxville.  They could be on my flight, the next one, or Saturday.  They told me I had to wait to find out when I landed in Knoxville to find out.  Of course, at this point the wife told me to take everything carry on that I needed.  Ummm, that was EVERYTHING.  they only thing in my suitcase not needed for the race was a spare set of underwear.  The rest was a helmet, bottles, shoes, clothes, wetsuit, nutrition, basically everything.  I would have had to buy 3 carry on bags to make this work.  But of course, she didn't know that so when she suggested it to me, I went off again.
  Needless to say, I can't control everything, but when things go bad, I lose it very quickly

5 - I don't know how much I enjoy long races
  At some point on the bike, I realized I don't want to be on a bike for 2 plus hours, and then run another 1.5 hours, not even including the swim.  I started to reevaluate my racing and figured I would stick to Olympic Tri's this year.  This way, I can do more of them, and recover more quickly and train harder as the months continue.  Doing a Half Iron or even Full is a lot of work.  I just don't know if I want to do that again this year.  Knoxville was a hybrid race with a 40 mile bike and 10 mile run.  That was still a bit too long for me.  Sticking with Olympic distance for this year might re-energize me for next year and then I'll be able to full train for one.  Plus the Half Iron that I was planning on doing is in September, and I'm doing the NYC Marathon this year 2 months after so it would be a hard turn around for training to pull that off.  I think I'll stick to the shorter, faster races where I can really see what I can do there

I know I learned a lot more than this, but these are probably the most important that hit me and I wanted to share them.  I think it's good to have take aways from every race, even the bad ones.  I definitely learned more in this race than I have in any other that I have ever done.