Race Report: Beloit Duathlon

Every year I look forward to the Beloit Duathlon.  It was my very first multisport race back in 2007 and it's the beginning of the racing season for me every year.  Although Galveston was my first race of the year, it felt more like a pre-season race.  Beloit signals the official beginning of race season.

I came into the race with a slightly different strategy than the past couple of years.  The past 4 years I've come off the bike with the lead.  In 2008, I got run down on the second run.  In 2009, I won the overall.  In 2010 and 2011 I got run down again.  My strategy was to play it safe on the first run and not push too hard, then hammer the bike and try to take the lead and run as hard as I can on the second run.  This worked in 2009, but the other 3 years it didn't.  So I gave it some thought and discovered the flaw in my strategy.  I was working too hard to make up time on the bike.  If I'm typically the fastest cyclist at the race, I should be able to hang with the lead group for a while after the first run and recover a little if I need to and then hit it hard.  

So that was my new strategy.  Keep the leaders from getting away on the first run, recover a bit on the bike if needed and then start pushing, and run hard on the second run.  

Small elite field this year.  I'm in the middle in red/black talking to Ian (solid black) who ran me down and won by 16 seconds in 2010.

Run #1 - 1.7 miles
I recognized a few faces from prior years, but I didn't know many of the racers so I wasn't sure exactly who was a threat for the win.  I knew Ian who ran me down in 2010, so I knew I had to keep him in sights.  When the gun went off the group went out fast as usual.  I hung back in about 10th place...as usual.  I like to ease into the race a bit, but Ian was pushing hard and I knew I couldn't let him get away so I moved up and hung close.  I probably shouldn't have checked my watch, but I did.  One minute into the run and we were averaging a 5:40 pace.  Too fast for me so I had to back down a bit.  I dialed it back to a 6 minute pace and hoped Ian would settle in.  

The run is a rectangle and I was able to get a split at the first turn.  Ian had 25 seconds on me.  I was sitting in a group of about 4 or 5.  The pace was fast, but I knew I had to keep pushing and try to close the gap a bit.  At this pace he would have almost a minute lead by T1.

The group I was in kept pushing hard so I wasn't alone in the chase.  Ian settled in, and perhaps a little too much.  He never looked back so probably didn't notice we were closing the gap.  Eventually my group started to slow a bit so I pushed ahead and went out on my own to try to bring Ian back a little more.  I went into T1 only 9 seconds down.  Much better than previous years.  My average pace was 6:09 and my heart rate was just beginning to hit the low 170s so I was pushing hard but still feeling moderately comfortable.

Heading out of T1 in second place.

Bike - 10.4 miles

Ian was just up the road.  It looked like he fumbled with his shoes just a little and I managed to get into mine a little quicker so I was able to close the gap on him.  I felt pretty good but decided to sit in second for a couple of minutes and let my heart rate settle down.  I sat back there for 2 minutes and then decided to start pushing the pace on the bike.  I opted to ride about 25 watts below threshold to see if that would be enough to pull a gap.  I've gotten run down the past two years so I was hesitant to push too hard on the bike and have a bad run.

I looked back several times and my lead appeared to be growing so I kept my watts right about 92-93% of threshold.  I finished the bike in 25:15, 24.7 mph.  Nearly 1 mph slower than last year, but that was mainly due to the winds.  I came into T2 with a 60-90 second lead and felt ready to run.  

Coming into T2.

Run #2 - 1.7 miles

My fastest run pace ever at this race was a 6:16 pace, and that was run #2 in 2010 when I was being chased by Ian.  He's run me down in the past and I knew he would be coming hard.  I beat my best run pace in run #1 and really wanted to beat that in run #2 as well.  I dug deep and pushed hard.  I started out at about a 6:05-6:10 pace and faded a bit in the middle.  My average pace dropped close to 6:16 and that's when I dug deep.  I looked back and saw I had a big lead and wasn't going to get run down, but I couldn't stop pushing.  This wasn't about winning anymore.  It was about finding out how fast I can run.  It was also about enjoying running hard without knee and hip flexor pain (my knee is doing really well, btw).  

I managed a 6:13 pace for the second run and extended my lead a little. I actually set the fastest second run split.  I'm more proud of that then setting the fastest bike split.  That comes more naturally to me.

What do I look like running a 6:13 pace at the end of a duathlon?

Courtney told me to suffer more.  Just following orders.


Almost to the finish....still suffering.

I have a way of making multisports look fun, don't I.  

Seriously, it's fun.  Trust me.

I scored the overall win and started the season off on a great note.  I had a lot of fun and my knee felt strong all day.  Pushing hard and going home with no knee or hip flexor pain made me happier than taking the win.  And the weather was awesome.  Great day.

My parents doing their job making sure everyone dismounts before the line.




A New Strategy For The Year

I left Galveston feeling like I didn’t have much to say about the race.  I had fun, but felt unsatisfied.  I was happy with my time, but again unsatisfied.  Something didn’t sit right with me. I kept going over the race in my head.  Nothing stood out.  Nothing went wrong.  I swam slightly off course, had my goggles knocked off briefly and had a tight hamstring on the second half of the bike, but honestly those things didn’t cost me much time at all.  Maybe two minutes total….maybe. 

So if nothing went wrong, why was I feeling so unsatisfied with the race?  I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until Courtney put down the book she’d been reading (Iron War) and said, “You looked too comfortable out there.  You need to suffer more.”

That was it.  Nothing stood out.  Sure, nothing went wrong, but there were no memorable moments in the race.  There wasn’t a moment in the race where I wondered if I was pushing too hard.  There was no moment where I had to fight the urge to quit.  There was no digging deep, no pain, no suffering, no wondering why I torture myself like this….   

…nothing stood out. 

That may sound like a good race to some, but to me it leaves me feeling empty.  I need to know what I’m capable of and the only way to do that is to have to dig deep….real deep.

Then I read a couple of blog posts that really hit home for me….


I've been racing halfs like a full - conserving, managing, etc.

I did my first half ironman in just under 5 hours and quickly progressed to the 4:40s and have been stuck there since.  It’s not a bad place to be “stuck,” but I really want to break through to the next level.  I’ve given this a lot of thought since Galveston and my problem is that I’ve been too conservative on race day lately. 

Conservative isn’t a bad approach, and conservative on a solid training base will get you some very respectable times.  In fact, I think all beginner long-course triathlete need to learn how to be conservative because they need to learn pacing and they don't have the proper endurance yet, but I’m coming to the realization that conservative will get you only so far.  If you want to have a breakthrough and really see what you’re capable of, you need to take risks and put it all on the line. 

Think about it.  How many times have you seen pros or top age groupers blow up and DNF or finish way off pace?  Some are very consistent, but you also see some inconsistency at the front of the race.  It’s because those guys are on the edge.  They’re taking changes.  They’re willing to throw the entire race away for a great performance. 

I haven’t been willing to do that.  I want a great performance.  I want a breakthrough.  But deep down I’ve been so afraid of having a bad race that I haven’t put myself in a position to have a great race.  That fear has kept me from taking risks. 

But you have to. It’s risk/reward.  It’s gambling.  You can’t win the jackpot if you only bet the minimum.  You have to be willing to put something on the line.  That’s where the big rewards are. 

My strategy for the rest of the year, including Liberty and IMWI, is to put it all on the line.  I’m willing to throw away the entire race for a shot at a breakthrough performance.  I’m going to throw my cards on the table and see what I’ve got.


Race Report: Galveston 70.3

It's true.  I haven't been a very good blogger lately. I think this is the longest it's ever taken me to get a race report up.  I'll do better next time.

Anyway, if you're wondering how the Galveston 70.3 went.....

We arrived in Galveston a couple of days before the race.  We weren't really there to vacation.  It was just a short trip to race.  Living in Wisconsin means I hadn't been in open water since October so I really wanted to find a place to swim.  You can't swim at the venue because you'll cut your feet up from the clam beds.  A little searching online turned up a small lake in Houston called Lake 288 where people can swim.  It was small and I had to do a couple of laps around the perimeter, but it was nice to get in open water and the water was clean.  

Swimming at Lake 288

Race Day

The forecast was for temps in the 80s, humidity in the 80s and winds of 15-20mph.  Pretty much what I expected, although I didn't expect the humidity to remain in the 80s all day.  East Texas is humid.  Wow.

The Swim

My plan for the swim was to PR.  Simple as that.  I've put in a lot of time in the pool this winter and needed proof that it was time well spent.  I situated myself toward the front of the pack and planned on going out hard and getting on some fast feet and doing a better job of drafting than I have in the past.  That didn't work out so well.  

My plan was good until we started catching slower swimmers from earlier waves.  That's when I lost contact with swimmers from my wave and spent the rest of the swim battling my way through slower swimmers.  I didn't do a great job sighting and ended up drifting off course a little bit and swimming on my own for a while.  That wasn't such a bad thing because it got me away from the slower swimmers, but I had lost the draft.  I never do a good job drafting on the swim and this race was going to be different. That's definitely something I need to work on.

I worked my way back on course and caught a slow swimmer much, much faster than I expected.  I swam right into him and his arm ripped my goggles off.  I got them back on quickly, but they had filled with water so I finished the swim with salt water in my eyes.  It didn't cost me much time overall, but it had me pretty frustrated.  Seriously people, learn how to swim before you sign up for a half ironman.  What that man was doing was barely recognizable as a swim stroke. 

Other than that, the swim went pretty smooth and I got my PR.  I came out of the water in 30:49, a PR by about 2 minutes.  It wasn't sub 30 like I ultimately was hoping for, but it was proof my swim focus is paying off.  A little more open water time to improve my sighting and I think I stand a chance of breaking 30 minutes for the swim yet this year.

Heading into T1.  Very happy with my swim split.  A nice change of pace.

The bike

The bike frustrated me a little.  It's my strength and lately I feel like I've been struggling on the bike.  I haven't had a ride I've been happy with since IMWI 2010 and this was no exception.  It started out okay, but I just didn't have any power.  I'm not sure what the deal was because my legs felt good going into the race so I wasn't tired.  I don't know.

The course is by far the flattest 56 miles I've ever ridden.  And it's an out and back on one road so there is no variety, no coasting, no standing, nothing.  It's just get down in the aerobars and get on the gas and hold it for 56...I mean 57 miles.  The course was a mile long, which is odd because it's an out and back on one road.  I guess someone put the turnaround cone in the wrong place.

We had a head/cross wind heading out on the bike so it was slow moving on the way out.  I'm not used to riding courses that flat and was having a tough time staying in the areobars that long without any breaks.  I should have practiced that on the trainer.  I needed to do a 2.5 hour ride staying in the aerobars the whole time and I didn't.  My left hamstring started tightening up about the halfway point so I had to stand up and stretch it out a few times on the way back.  I don't think that cost me a lot of time, but it definitely didn't help.

The way back was faster than the way out, but the wind was enough of a cross wind that we never really got a killer tailwind like we all wanted.  Overall, it's not a very fast bike course despite being as flat as a pancake.  It's fast, but not crazy fast like you'd expect for a course with 200 feet of climbing over 57 miles.

In the end, my bike was very middle of the road.  It wasn't bad and I only struggled a little with my hamstring tightening up, but I didn't ride to my potential.  I have work to do on the bike.

Bike time: 2:26:43

The Run

I started the run feeling decent.  

Here I am starting the run....wait...that's not me.  Who is this guy and why did Courtney take so many pictures of him?

My Garmin froze up about 30 seconds into the run so I had to run with no pacing info.  I figured I would just run by feel, but I really wanted to get at least one split to know roughly what pace I was running.  I tried to reset the watch with no luck, so I gave up and just ran.  

There's not a lot to say about the run.  It was hot and humid, but the heat didn't really bother me.  I felt okay the whole time.  Courtney summed up my run the best when she said, "You looked way too comfortable out there. You need to suffer more."

Sidenote:  How perfect of a situation is this for her?  If she's ever mad at me, all she needs to do is motivate me before a workout and I'll inflict pain on myself and she gets to sit back and laugh at me.   

The run course is three laps and I really enjoyed it, although the section on the airport wasn't much fun.  It reminded me of the Natural Energy Lab in Kona - desolate, hot, windy.  A lot of people don't like loops, but I love them.  It sets up a "hot corner" where Courtney was able to hang out all day and see lots of action.  Loop 3 got really busy and I had a very hard time getting anything from aid stations, but that's because people were treating the aid stations like rest stops and coming to a complete stop and grabbing one of everything like they were at a buffet.  Luckily I didn't need too much, but a little water here and there would have been nice.  I don't think I managed to get more than one cup of water on the third loop. 

I ran the same pace I always run at half ironmans and I'm getting tired of it.  I need a breakthrough.  But in the end, my watch freezing up may have been a blessing in disguise.  Had I known what my pace was, I would have pushed harder and that may have injured my knee.  In the end, my knee survived and I ran a decent race.  Just not the breakthrough race I want/need to have.

Run time:  1:41:10

Total time:  4:42:44

Overall, I had fun and really enjoyed getting in an early season race.  I hate to complain about times, but I am stuck in the 4:40s for half ironmans and it's driving me crazy.  I ran faster than 1:41 in my second half ironman years ago.  I went there to break 4:30 and I didn't get the job done.  No excuses.  My preparation for this race could have been better, and my race day execution could have been better.  I blame no one other than myself for not breaking 4:30. 

But like I said, I had a lot of fun and really enjoyed racing that early in the year.  And best of all, I left Galveston fired up.  My motivation is very high and that was my main reason for signing up for an early season half.  My next half ironman is the Liberty Half in MN on June 9.  I have a new strategy that I'll write about soon.

Oh yeah, beach time in March is always nice too....