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Chicago Marathon 2018 Race Report

Sometimes races actually go to plan. 

That’s what happened at the Chicago marathon on October 6, 2018. I used to live in Chicago from 2005 – 2008 and had completed my first two half marathons at the time, it was my first introduction to endurance sports. I don’t remember my exact times, I think something like 2:05 and 2:01 – I was close to breaking 2 hours and never really felt that motivated to do so. I didn’t really like running to be honest. As virtually everyone knows, running is kind of hard plus I was having IT band troubles. Once I got my first road bicycle in 2009, I pretty much stopped running completely and started cycling as my fitness of choice. Jump forward to 2012 I did my first triathlon and I started to like running again. With a bit more fitness it turns out I’m actually a pretty fast runner and started placing well in races, even having a few second place overall finishes (“but if you ain’t first you’re last” …j/k). I had completed two marathons in 2013/2014 (3:30/3:21) and I knew someday I wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon, which has various running time qualifications depending on one’s age and gender. The main thing is as the older you get, the slower the time requirement. After the Salt Lake City marathon in 2014 I decided I would not do another marathon unless I had a strong shot at qualifying for Boston. When I turned 35 in 2018, I gained an extra five minutes of buffer time – instead of needing to run faster than a 3:05 I the requirement was now 3:10 (or faster). The Chicago marathon course is a flat plus the weather conditions are often favorable in early October. Thus, Chicago 2018 seemed like the perfect event for me plus a chance to race back at home. I was planning to try to run a 3:05 as a “safe” goal to have five minutes of buffer over my goal time. Things were good!

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At the expo the day before the race

But then life threw in some wrinkles and distractions, just like it can and does for anyone. Work got super crazy the month leading up to the race. On September 20 I totaled our car. Everyone was OK but it was a shaking experience. Finally, one week before the race I find out that they modified the Boston marathon qualifying times – it is now five minutes faster for all age groups. I now HAD to run at least a 3:05 to be even considered. No more five minute buffer. Did I also mention I’m still recovering from a stress fracture earlier in the year and never did a training run of more than 12.5 miles? Granted, I had lots of endurance fitness from training for my Ironman in July but we’re essentially just going off general fitness and endurance and very little run-specific fitness. Basically – there were a variety of minor things all adding up that I was certain would “ruin” my race and I was pretty certain I would fail.

The weather forecast was looking decent – high 50s to low 60s likely with rain. My race plan was to try to average 7:00 minute miles (easier math!) which would put me about 3 hours 3 minutes and 30 seconds to finish. IE – in order to run X time, you need to shoot for a little faster than X to give some buffer, plus maybe you can actually run faster than X? The strategy was to run 5-10 seconds slower than pace for the first 5-6 miles, then on pace for the next 15, and then really kick it up the last 5 miles. I decided to wear my Team ZOOT running singlet, arm warmers, REI running shorts (as I can carry 3 gels in them), 2XU calf covers, On Cloudflow shoes, and the finisher hat from Ironman Canada back in July. Wearing the hat was primarily from a mental perspective – while I am no longer beating myself up over it, I would consider my recent Ironman Canada a failure – it was far from my the best fitness I had on the day. There is an interesting book by Matt Fitzgerald, “How Bad Do You Want It”, which has a chapter called “The Gift of Failure”. The story is around pro cyclist Cadel Evans falling short numerous times from winning the Tour de France, and that only by “failing” so many times that was the motivator he needed to finally break through to win the race. While I am no Cadel Evans and this is not the Tour, I did think that wearing the hat would remind me of “failure” and I could use that as a motivator to keep pushing when things get rather difficult during the race. 

I wake up on Race morning just over 3 hours before race time and it’s thunder storming out. While running in the rain isn’t that big of a deal, standing around in the rain an hour+ before the race kind of sucks. Fortunately the rain let up pretty shortly afterwards and it didn’t rain at all for the 90 minutes before the race! I was staying up in the north Chicago suburbs at my sister’s house and my Dad drove me in the morning to a parking spot downtown (booked with Spot Hero) and it was about 1 mile to the race start. I walked with my Dad about halfway and then decided to start jogging to warm up. I dropped a few things off at the gear check – mainly just an extra T-Shirt and my pants I was wearing. I wore a long sleeve T-Shirt (and a trash bag as a makeshift poncho) to the starting line to stay warm. I did my warmups, did the necessary (multiple) toilet breaks, then got to Corral B a few minutes before they closed up. Even though there are 20x more people at this race than a standard Ironman triathlon, the starting area did not feel any more crowded – it was just fine actually. I toss my trash can plus extra layer at the starting line, we hear the elite racers announced, the national anthem plays, and then the horn goes off. I take my gel and we inch towards the line. I believe I crossed the mat at around 7:31:30.

The first mile actually was not super-fast like I was expecting, but rather right on pace, which is fine. It was, however, fairly crowded, but nothing like an Ironman triathlon mass swim start. After mile 2 I look down at my HR and notice it’s pretty high. I try to slow it down a bit but it turns out I still am going faster than planned – 6:45 pace for those! Whoops, that's a bit too fast. I notice the 3:00 pace group go by me and I start to stay with them but then realize it’s time to hold back. I fall back to where I should be in the 7:05-7:10 range I think (GPS accuracy isn’t always great due to the cloudy weather plus buildings). The first quarter of just about any race is always awesome – you are feeling great and there is lots of positive energy from the other racers and spectators. Speaking of spectators, they are EVERYWHERE. It’s pretty great. We head north towards Lincoln Park (where I used to live) and that was pretty cool. Every time we cross a mile marker I check my watch and I’m exactly on pace with where I should be. Mile after mile ticks off. At mile 7 I take my second gel of the day and things are going great. Around mile 8 I see two guys that used to run for Purdue (my alma mater) and are getting lots of cheers (“Yeah Purdue”, “Boiler Up!”) and so I decide I should run with these guys! We get near the halfway point and it seems these Purdue guys might be slowing a little bit and notice that mile 13 was about 15 seconds off-pace. At the halfway mark my time is 1:32:02, so I am about 30 seconds ahead which means I can run the second half about 1 minute slower and still make the goal. I decide to pick it up at this halfway mark and the next few miles are a bit faster.

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3:05 pace group catching up to me. Also, it was raining out

Starting around mile 15/16 I hear some cheers for the “3:05” pace group and realize that it will likely be less energy if I run with them. So I let them catch up to me and stick with them the next three or so miles. Any time I would start to fall back a little bit I would focus on my form and catch back up and in fact pull ahead a little bit. To be honest, focusing on my form almost felt like cheating! After a little bit the pacer says: “we’re about a minute up and coming in hot. I’m going to slow down a little bit but you guys keep going. Remember to relax your shoulders and focus on your breathing.” Good advice! The next couple of miles do go well but then I remember around mile 20 the rain starts to pick up again. Mile 21 is Chicago Chinatown and things are getting pretty hard. I remember coming here many times for Dim Sum with my family. Around this time I also start to dig deep into the memory banks for motivation, thinking about some personal things that won’t really make sense to anyone else. Around mile 22 the 3:05 pace group does catch up again and I decide that I’ll run with them for the rest of the race and will NOT fall back. I remember each of the last few miles getting progressively harder to stay with the group, so I hyper-focus on running form which is about the only way I can stay with the group. Miles 23 and 24 go along and there were times I was falling back a few steps from the pacer to which I would basically sprint to catch up. I did this probably half a dozen time in these miles. There were so many times I wanted to just drop back but then I thought about the Ironman Canada hat I was wearing and remembered the feeling of failure that I would not accept again. I didn’t really look at my pace but at each mile marker I could see how I was doing – and I was still about 30 seconds ahead of the goal, so I knew I was on-target. Finally I get to the mile 25 marker and at this moment I decide I’m going to leave the 3:05 pacer group (which was only a few people left at this point) and move ahead. However, we’re on Michigan Ave and there happens to be a direct strong headwind! I really focus on my forward lean and but my form is really getting ugly. What I really loved was that the race also has signs indicating how far to go. At 1 mile to go I look down at my watch and saw 2:57:15 or so, so I knew that as long as I could run a 7:30ish last mile I would make my goal no problem. Next is 800 meters to go and I had a little under 4 minutes – I can do this! Round a turn and then go up a small hill – 400 meters, almost 2 minutes to go… 200 meters … I’m going to make it! More lean and then cross the finish line …

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Finisher chute money shot!

3:04:35!
1724th place out of 45,000 finishers

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Crossing the finish. Apparently I shouldn't have ran right behind this guy if I wanted my own finisher shot!

Wow, I did it, I fucking did it! I can’t believe it. I sometimes get emotional after races. Today was no exception and I cried. It’s funny – I knew I was likely capable of running the time “on paper”, but there are just so many factors in endurance sports that it’s difficult to actually achieve. I feel like it’s always the same story – good buildup, primed for a good performance, and then slowly things start going wrong and I don’t perform to potential on race day. Not today! After composing myself a bit I hobbled through the finisher chute, grabbing a Goose Island 312 beer and slowly, very slowly, made my way to the gear check and eventually made it to the running reunite area to meet up with my Dad. Then we walked almost a mile back to the car … very slowly. 

Reflecting, even one month later, I’m still pretty stoked about this. I’m really happy at my effort and how I refused to drop back from the pace group. There were so many times I wanted to fall back and I’m so glad I persevered. It’s also nice to know that the training works. I’m still amazed that for not having a traditional “long” training run (or runs) of 20+ miles in this buildup, I ran the second half of the marathon only 32 seconds slower than the first half. My HR graph was also basically perfect! 

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Mmm, delicious 312 beer

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With my Dad post-race

I’ve heard a saying that often times after a bad race you have a great race – and I’d say I  achieved that. I really think I had the best possible effort and outcome I could have hoped for. Often times after a race one might think: “I think had X minutes/seconds faster in me”. I had maybe a few more seconds but that’s it, I was 100% maxed, which is the goal! When my boss brought up my time at a cross-team meeting, I received so many kudos from my colleagues, it was really quite nice. I received way more kudos than on my six Ironman triathlons, I think because running races are much more relatable and many people have run at a 5k or even a half marathon to compare.

 

As for the Boston Marathon, my time meets the threshold to qualify for the 2020 edition, but it’s unknown whether beating the goal time by 25 seconds will be enough. My guess is probably not, but at least I can be in the conversation. Crazy to think if I had run just 1 second per mile slower I wouldn’t have made it. Either way I’ll find out in September 2019.

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Look at those pretty even splits! 

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Pretty damn good HR graph if I do say so myself!

The race is also super encouraging as it makes me think I am still capable of more – I haven’t had a “good” running race since 2015 when I ran my 1:23:50 half marathon. It makes me think that running a sub-3:00 marathon is possible, or at least improving on my Half Ironman run PR (1:38). Either way – I think I know I’m capable of more, which is awesome. Next year I don’t plan on doing any standalone marathons, but again focusing on the Half Ironman distance and hopefully snag a spot into the 70.3 World Championship in France. That will take both hard work plus a little bit of luck, but it’s a lofty goal worth chasing!

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Ironman Canada 2018 Race Report

Ironman Canada 2018 – when the preparation is near perfect, but the execution is not. 

After an awesome experience in Austria back in May, I’ve had a great leadup of training into Ironman Canada in Whistler 2018. Additionally, I have the following going for me: 

  • Familiarity with the course (having raced in there twice, including my first Ironman in 2013)
  • Convenience of the area – Whistler is only a five hour drive from Seattle. We have been there many times before and have stayed in the Westin numerous times before. The Whistler is even dog-friendly and were able to bring both of our dogs for no additional charge! Plus, no time-zone change.
  • Climate familiarity – Whistler is a pretty close climate to Seattle. Mainly it’s not overly hotter/more humid than Seattle so there is no need to try to adjust
  • Course profile – being a lighter athlete, hills are my friend compared to bigger athletes 
  • Racing in Heat – while no one prefers to race in heat, I’ve had two hot Ironmans and knew what to expect and what to do, even with forecasted temps in the low-mid 90’s.

I felt I had many advantages leading into the race. When the forecast kept confirming a projected high of 93F, I wasn’t fazed. Sure Ironman Coeur d’Alene was hot last year at around 93F, and it was terrible, but I persevered and learned a lot. Ironman Cozumel last year was around 88F and in general it went great. This was my race to see just how well I can perform and place.

Getting to Whistler and to the race start was rather uneventful in a good way! The dogs were even well behaved in the hotel! 

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Good dogs (for a change) in the hotel room

Swim:

I would even say the swim was uneventful in a good way! My swim form and fitness has continued to improve. I recall when I did this race 5 years ago, I was so nervous – I had to sidestroke over half of the first lap. It wasn’t until swim lap 2 that year when started where I finally calmed down. This year, all good. I was swimming a solid line drafting off others most of the time, no real issues, everything felt good, all is well.

1:15 - nearly a 3 minute PR over Ironman CDA last year!

Bike:

Now that we have a three loop course, it is known that the loops will get progressively harder. Not only are you more tired but it gets hotter in the day to double the difficulty. The first loop is great, taking it “easy” but the power numbers are looking good. Loop 2 is a little tougher, but that’s expected. Loop 3 starts to get uncomfortable. One because my crotch is getting a bit unsettled in the bike seat, but a quick stop at special needs for some just-in-case chamois cream helps. Two because I decided one week before the race to change out the foot bed liners in my bike shoes. In the couple of rides up to the race I had no issues, but after 4 hours my right big toe was rubbing and incredibly distracting. It felt similar to a new blister forming while doing a long run. It was also hot out, which isn’t unexpected, but the heat plus my big toe (plus the hills) were basically draining my will to push harder on the bike. My friend Robbie caught up to me on lap 3 on one of the longer climbs which helped me snap out of my funk for a bit, but that only lasted about 10-15 minutes until we started the slog back towards town. I decided to basically just ride along and complete the ride and focus on having a strong marathon.

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Enjoying some descents on the ride

6:45 – yikes, my second slowest bike split (behind my very first Ironman Canada in 2013)!

Run:

First, I’m super glad to have my bike shoes off, no more rubbing of the big toe. Fortunately there’s no loss of skin, so I borrow some body glide of another competitor to put it on the toe, and put on my running shoes. It’s normal and expected to either not want to run or feel like I can run after the 112 mile bike. I try to ease into it the first 6 miles, and with the heat I pre-gave myself some permission to walk at first in order to get the body used to running and keep the heart rate under control. I do start running but my stomach doesn’t feel that great. I try to burp out as much air as I can but resort to walking a bit while I continue to burp. Plus, walking did help me keep my core temp cooler. I certainly did contemplate quitting – I already had five Ironman finishes, what is a sixth one worth? 

But I knew I could walk, I could even walk the entire marathon and easily complete in 17 hours if I had to. Since I wasn’t injured or having trouble staying upright, I did convince myself quitting was not an option, that I would absolutely complete this thing. So I walk up the hills and aid stations putting ice in my jersey and water on my body/head. I run the downhills and try to take my first gel at about 3km in. Surprisingly it goes down and stays down! Hooray, maybe I’ll have some energy and be able to run now! After about one minute of running at my marathon pace/effort I look down and see my heart rate is in the high 170s, which is high zone 5, or similar to if I am sprinting. Hm, that’s not good. I slow down and walk and HR goes back into the 120s (zone 1) after about 10-15 seconds. Let’s try again – after about 30 seconds it’s now above 180. This isn’t good. I walk and manually check my pulse to make sure it’s not an issue with my chest HR monitor and sure enough, I count 17+ beats in 6 seconds. This seems bad. So I alternate running for about 45 seconds, walking for 15-20 until HR is below 130, or until I get to the next aid station where I continue to put more ice and water on myself.

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Crazy spiking HR

I tried to take another gel around mile 8, I took about a quarter of the gel and noticed an immediate gag reflex, I put my head over a trash can for a few seconds, but don’t quite throw up. OK, this must mean I can’t take any gels. I start to switch over to Pepsi, thinking that might settle the stomach. I continue my run/walk approach monitoring my HR and it looks like the HR settled after about 10 miles. I recall at 24KM/15 miles I tried to eat a chip at an aid station and about 15 seconds later I was on the ground vomiting along the side of the path – mostly all of the Pepsi/Gatorade I had been drinking. After the medical and aid station captain talked to me for a bit to make sure I didn’t have heat stroke, I had a little bit of Gatorade and an orange and was on my way and I felt MUCH better. Hey I can run again! This was fine for the next few miles but then I thought I should probably take in some more calories but any time I tried to eat/drink my stomach would be upset forcing me to walk to consume/digest. It basically became a game of running the flats/downhills and walking the aid stations and up-hills. It was effective, just not fast. At one point I saw my friend Loren, who was racing and guiding a blind athlete through the entire 140.6 miles (no joke!), he saw me walking and said - "Hey Eric! Hey ... don't fucking walk!". That actually made me laugh and I did run for a little while, at least to the next aid station. I then felt more obligated to run in feat that he would see me again and yell - so it was actually quite effective encouragement!

After passing by at least half a dozen athletes collapsed along the side of the path or getting tended to by medical personnel, I think I probably made the right call to take it easy. Fortunately, it did cool off a few degrees when the sun went below one of the mountain peaks and I did run home the final few miles. In the last mile I passed about 15 people, including 5 just before the finishers chute. It was the fastest I ran all day, I just can’t help myself but to do a finish line kick. This of course made me wiped at the finish line, where I had my head over the trash can because I felt nauseous, but didn’t throw up (until about 30 minutes later when I ate a small piece of pizza). 

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Run: 5:19 - oof. My previous slowest was 4:35 at CDA last year. So a new PR slowest?

Total time: 13:29, 384/1149 finishers (+289 who dropped out after the swim) – so top 33% of finishers, top 27% of those who started the day

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The post-finish state!

This was, by far, my slowest Ironman race. While I had minimal time expectations due to the heat, I wasn’t expecting to have quite so many issues with the body and my will to compete. It’s a bit disappointing to come in with all of the benefits mentioned above and feel like I have little to show for it. I’m sure there are plenty of learning opportunities on specific things I did or didn’t do, and many I have written down. But ultimately, Ironman is really hard to race to your potential - this difficulty is one of the draws! It’s hard to manage your pace, your nutrition, the weather, how you’re feeling. It takes a lot of focus over a long time. This was my third Ironman in 11 months and I just didn’t have that focus/will on Sunday when things weren't ideal, such as the weather and my bike show annoyance. So I eventually decided to focus on just putting one foot in front of the other. Of course that spiking heart rate on the run wasn’t a good sign either – maybe if I HAD the will to push I could have blown up and put myself in medical to NOT finish the race? But the good news is I completed the safely race in one piece, and that fortunately my good preparation still had me finishing ahead of the majority of other competitors even on a sub-par day for me. So that’s not bad. In the end, I am usually my own biggest critic and I have to not be too hard on myself. I still did a lot of things right and, for the most part, enjoyed the experience despite the physical challenges. It was certainly pretty cool to see a lot of friends racing on the course and cheering from the side.

I will likely take a break from full Ironman racing. The satisfaction I am getting out of racing Ironman are no longer clearly outweighing the cost of racing them, so I think it’s time for a break. Shorter races, including half Ironmans are still rather “enjoyable” and I plan to continue those. On these shorter races, nearly every time I can execute to the best of my ability on the day, which is really the most satisfying to me. With the Ironman, it’s rare I can say that. Maybe someday I’ll do another Ironman, maybe that focus/will can return. But for now, six Ironman finishes isn't too bad... I suppose it's six more than most people!

My next big race is the Chicago Marathon in October, where I hope to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Hopefully it’s not 90+F in Chicago on October in the morning!

 

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It's probably hard to notice the color, but apparently my skin looked very "green" at this point.

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Ironman #6 complete

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Lama - Iron dog

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Ironman St Pölten 2018 Race Report

Only a month and a half late, I finally get around to posting this. It turns out I’m not motivated to write while on vacation, and then coming back from vacation there’s a lot on one’s plate to deal with! But here goes…

Pre-Race

Ever since I elected German as my foreign language requirement in high school, I had wanted to visit a German-speaking country. My father’s side of the family has German-Austrian roots, and the rumor is that my great-grandfather came over to America from Austria as a stow-away, and upon arrival at Ellis Island, they asked for his name, he said it, and then it was spelled as “Fahsl”, though apparently the original spelling in Austria is Fössl. I found Ironman 70.3 St Pölten on the Ironman website which would take place on May 27, 2018 and after reading some race reports it sounded like a great venue. Sankt Pölten sits about 60km outside of Vienna, the course involves swimming in two different lakes (swim, run, swim, bike, run!), a somewhat hilly bike course, and a pretty flat run that goes through the town. Sounds perfect! I created a travel plan to: arrive five nights before the race in Vienna, head over to the race, then stick around Austria for another week post-race to do some sightseeing - IE have a “normal vacation”.  

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Vienna - St Peter's Church

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Vienna - Niemals Vergessen: "Never Forget"

Leading up to the race, training had been surprisingly good, especially for some unplanned mental stressors I was going through. I received pseudo-promotion at work which was rewarding but also meant more work for me. Secondly, our dog Sammy experienced a slipped disc seven weeks out from the race leaving him unable to move his rear legs, requiring fairly physically (and mentally) intensive care for a 60 pound dog. Finally, my uncle in Vancouver had been dealing with health issues and passed away a few weeks prior to the race. I had tempered my performance expectations but to my surprise – training actually went rather well.

Upon arriving in Vienna, jetlag was a major factor and I of course forgot to bring my sleep aids (drugs). We started off by experiencing Vienna café culture, tasting Austrian beer and coffee, and visiting some of the sights. I also got to practice my German, which … wasn’t actually that bad … but my vocabulary is pretty minimal. I will say that it got better with more practice. I put together my bike in the hotel room and did a 75 minute ride outside Vienna which was pretty fun.

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Belvedere Palace

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Inside Belvedere Palace

After three nights in Vienna we moved onto St Pölten, of which we rented a car in Vienna: a nearly new Opel Astra, which was actually really nice! It was a little stressful driving around Vienna, trying to make sure I wasn’t breaking too many European driving laws, and experiencing the Austrian Autobahn. Additionally, we were staying in a small town outside of St Pölten (Wilhelmsburg) which is hugely different than the large city of Vienna – fewer restaurants and fewer English speakers! It was fine, just added a little more stress, which is best to avoid before a big race.

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There was some sort of event going on in Maria Theresa Platz

 

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Traveling by car after your bike is already put together...

Later in the day I went to the race site to check in and I was rather impressed at the event production, especially for “only” a half Ironman. Big overheads, big vendor expo, and even a welcome ceremony! It was also cool that I found another Team ZOOT member but from the European team – Sidney from Munich. He did the race last year and showed me the two different lakes and the pathway in between. 

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Wachau Valley Wine region. Part of the bike course

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F
inisher's Chute / Turnaround area

The day before race I did a swim and bike, but admittedly got a little bit lost and ended up riding a little longer than expected, oops. Apparently roads on Google Maps in Austria aren’t always paved! I drove back to the race site to drop off my bike. I’m in the “Ironman all-world-athlete” bike rack and wow, my bike seems cheap. Virtually every bike had deep carbon aero wheels and most had electronic shifting (OK ok I guess my bike has both of those too, but they have more expensive frames and wheels!). I noticed there seemed to be a lot of BMC and Argon18 bikes. After check in I head home to have my traditional white rice pre-race dinner.

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In the start corral

The morning of the race went pretty well, I got a decent parking spot, checked on my bike in transition, then walked over to the starting area. What was pretty hilarious was the amount of public urination happing all throughout the woods! Now of course in the US people pee in the woods but usually they try to go off the beaten path, but not here – right alongside bike paths, etc. It was pretty funny. Anyways, this race utilizes wave starts by projected swim finish time. I said 35-38 minutes for my time, which put me in the latter half of the waves. I get into line and get ready to go!

Swim

Pretty good to start – jumped in off the dock, get into my groove. After about 3 minutes, things do start to feel a bit harder, it seems I’m not getting as much air – in the past this is when I’d have a panic attack. It’s like my body was doing fast efforts as a warmup, and now it wants time to rest and stretch and get the HR back down. Well I can’t do that in a race! So I ease up on the intensity a little bit until it starts to feel better. The first two turn buoys arrive quickly and then eventually I’m finished with 1k of swimming and we head out of the first lake. Next we run 275m on the path to the second lake, I pass a few people on this, and my HR is jacked! It’s pretty fun actually. Get to lake number two and I jump in and start swimming. Whoa! My legs are dead and my HR is still through the roof! So I don’t kick for the first 10 or so strokes, but eventually things calm down and feel a bit more normal. This turn buoy seems to come up really soon. I think about my swim form and some of the areas I’ve been working on – pulling from the lats, keeping the head straight in the water, and core tight. When I do all three, it feels like I’m rocketing through the water. After the turn, I see a group of three swimmers about 10 meters ahead, I think to myself – hey I wonder if I can catch them. Well I do catch them! Always encouraging in a swim to pass people in the last 1/3 of the swim, you feel like you’re heading in the right direction. Before long I’m at the end of the swim and I’m done! 

 

Time: 39:30, not a PR, but I’ve never had to run 275m in the middle of a swim before!

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Running from Lake 1 to Lake 2

Transition 1: Wetsuit got caught on timing chip. Never had that happen before, lost maybe 15-20 seconds, need to remember to really get the wetsuit over the chip in the future. So I come up to the rack my bike is on … and it’s the only bike there! Seriously! I’m thinking WTF, OK I know that Europeans are good athletes but I’m not THAT bad of a swimmer! But then I recall that with the wave starts and that I was on the “All World Athlete” bike rack that probably many of the others on this rack likely started in a wave earlier than me. But it did cause me to laugh, which is always good to do in a race.

Bike

OMG, spoiler alert, this was amazing. My plan was to ride the flats relatively conservatively at around 165 watts (starting closer to 160 for the first hour and closer to 170 the last hour), and then punch it once we hit the three major climbs of the route. The bike course was fully closed to traffic, which was awesome. It had a bit of everything, including riding 10km on the Autobahn (speed limit 130km/h, or in 81 in American), then through wine country along the Danube River, and finally to the largest climb of the day, a 1200 foot climb over 4 miles. I was anticipating the climb would be a slugfest, as 500 feet is at an average grade of 10%, but surprisingly, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I start passing quite a few people (benefits of being lightweight riding up hills) and I recall a friend who raced Ironman Switzerland a few years ago said tongue-in-cheek in a race report: “It just felt so good passing all the Germans and Euros who think universal health care is a right when we all know true freedom is the ability to die from a curable disease”. I found thinking about this to be deeply amusing, which is always great to have a distraction when going through extreme physical exertion. On this road we also went through a number of small towns where many of the townspeople (villagers?) were out cheering “Op op op op op” and “Zooper!” (just say it in your head with a thick German accent). I can’t describe how enjoyable this experience was. I’m thinking to myself: “I’m racing on my bike in Europe on closed roads which are super smooth with townspeople cheering me in a foreign language with beautiful scenery. Is this a dream?!”. Seriously, I don’t know how else to describe how cool of an experience it was. Anyways, after the major climbs we start heading back towards town which happen to be into a headwind, but it wasn’t as terrible as I was expecting. Over the winter I had upgraded a few components on my bike to make it more aerodynamic, including a new carbon fiber base bar, the Tririg Omega X aero front brake, along with a new aero helmet. It’s hard to quantify, but at least it felt fast despite the headwind! I approach town and roll into town after completing the 90km bike.

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Bike Time: 2:53. It was also lower on the power than I had planned, maybe too much sightseeing and not enough hammering 

Run

In T2, after I took what felt like longest pee ever, get started with the run. After having run barefoot from my bike around a large field and get into my On Cloudflow shoes it felt like running on clouds (trademark?)! Some background on my run – I have had a small stress fracture (GASP!) on my right foot the few weeks prior to the race. I did see my PT, fortunately it was a minor one, but enough to keep me away from all but the minimal amount of running the two weeks leading up to the race and plus taking some mental energy worrying about it. It seems most races around this time of year I will have some sort of minor running injury, but somehow on race day they are magically fixed. I assume this is due to a combination of having fully warmed up (via swim + bike) before running, plus the race-day adrenaline, plus since in a race I’m pushing so hard it’s usually my legs/muscles that hurt the most and the existing injury doesn’t hurt that much comparatively! Leading into to the race my assumption was that the stress fracture was going to hurt, potentially a lot, but that I probably wouldn’t notice it too much compared to everything else. From a long-term risk standpoint, it was relatively low – it wouldn’t help the healing process but it shouldn’t make it that much worse – but I might have to lay off running for a few weeks after the race.

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Anyways, back to the race, I did feel the stress fracture at first but was more or less enjoying the sights and scenery around me. Typically I try to take the first 3 miles fairly easy, trying to get my HR down and settle in. After the 3 miles is when I consider the run to “actually” start and then try to pick it up. It was warm (78-80F) but not terrible. Ever since Ironman Coeur d’Alene last year, it seems my ability to run in the heat has dramatically improved, primarily due to taking in more BASE salt during the bike and early stages of the run. Also, that race was 93F, so almost anything feels cool compared to that. I did have some light cramping around mile 2-3 where my pace slowed a bit, but the BASE salt helped and then my first gel around mile 3 also was a boost. I distinctly remember around 7km (1/3 of the way through) that my foot didn’t hurt any more … at all. This has been the best my foot has felt running in weeks, I kind of couldn’t believe it. Chalk this up to another case of race day magic I guess? I also saw a few Team ZOOT Europe teammates on the run, which was pretty cool. On the far end of the course we go through the town of St Pölten and there are a number of outdoor cafés with people enjoying their frühstuck (breakfast) while watching triathletes run by only a few feet away!

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It is a two-loop run course and once I start loop two there are significantly more people on course, which also means I am passing a lot more people as well, which always gives me a mental boost. Around mile 10 is typically when I decide to pick it up, IE where the real suffering starts. I tend to focus on the small things – drive from the hips, force the elbows back, push off the big toe, stand up tall. This tends to work quite well and I ended up having my three fastest miles of the day to close it out. Finally, I am back at the turnaround point where you either go right for loop two or left to the finisher’s chute. To me, this is the absolute best part of the race, the hard work is done, now is your time to celebrate – though I always end up sprinting to finish, maybe I need to celebrate a bit more. I cross at 1:38:00 for the half marathon, my personal best by almost a minute despite being hot and having a stress fracture. Not too shabby, I’ll accept that!

Total Time: 5:19:30

92/245 in division, 452 / 1515 Non-Pros

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After the race I chatted with some other athletes, a guy from Venice, a guy from Munich, and a few other randoms. I don’t consider myself an outgoing person, but it’s really easy to do after a race. I certainly needed to take some time for my body to cool down a bit, I didn’t want another post-race puking incident like at CDA last year. But eventually I felt good enough to have a post-race beer and some fruit. Pick up a finishers shirt (yes, they had finisher shirts for a half!) and head home to clean up. 

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Earning my finisher's beer

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With Sidney from Team ZOOT Europe

Post-Race

In closing, the experience of racing in Austria was awesome. It absolutely exceeded my expectations. The competition was very strong, the course was super cool, the fans cheering in German was awesome, and I was able to close out with a personal best run. It’s likely that maybe if I had a few more days to adjust to the time zone or had a little less stress in my personal life (and once in Austria) that I could have performed a bit better, but honestly – I think I raced the best I possibly could have on the day, and you can’t do better than that!

After the race, we hung around Austria for another seven days. We spend three nights in Salzburg visiting a number of Sound of Music sites to experience childhood nostalgia from watching the movie growing up. Then we closed the trip with three nights in the Alps in Innsbruck, where I went on an amazing solo bike ride in the Alps and we saw some more sights around the mountains. The Alps are truly a magical place and require a return visit.

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Melk

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Salzburg - Mirabell Gardens

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Salzburg

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Hohensalzburg Fortress

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Zell Am See

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Innsbruck, on top of Nordekette

 
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Ironman Cozumel 2017 Race Report

Back in the fall of 2016, a number of friends from the Seattle Green Lake Triathlon Group had the hair-brained idea to choose Ironman Cozumel on November 26th, 2017 for their first Ironman. Personally, at the time I thought it was a foolish idea: it is difficult to train for a hot/humid race after September in Seattle, flying to a race is always more difficult logistically (ie – expensive and stressful), and there might be limited support from friends/family at such a faraway race. Spoiler alert – I was wrong! The idea caught on and many people registered and many people committed to visiting to cheer/vacation – there are definitely worse places to visit. Anticipating a huge case of FOMO (fear of missing out), I thought “sure, why not” and decided to throw my hat into the ring. I was fairly unmotivated for the race for most of the year, thinking it would be a “for fun” race and not concern myself with the performance.  However, after Ironman Coeur d’Alene in August where I had a bad taste in my mouth after my lackluster performance in the heat that I became very motivated and excited for the race. Leading up to Cozumel I had a good block of training performing many of my rides indoors trying to try to adapt to riding in heat (vs riding in 40/50 degree weather in Seattle). My electrolyte plan was significantly adjusted in order to deal with the heat, a big part of the plan was to heavily utilize BASE Salt, which proved to be excellent. I was also finally seemingly injury free - having dealt with hip / glute issues off and on over the past year.

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Packing the bike. A necessary evil.

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First ride on the Island Friday morning

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Cozumel is "not ugly"

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Mandatory Guacamole

I arrived to Isla Cozumel (“isla” is “island” in Spanish – I’m learning!) on Wednesday, November 22 after a Redeye flight through Miami. Redeyes are never ideal, but it went by surprisingly quickly. Right from going through customs, it was a little more of an adventure than I expected. Unfortunately, my spouse and translator (Alicia) had been sick the week leading up so we changed her on the flight to the next day so I was on my own. I had assumed since it was such a tourist town that everyone would speak English and it would be easy to get around. Addresses in Mexico are a bit different and it didn’t help that my Airbnb didn’t have a specific number but more of a general location, plus my driver didn’t really speak English. Through using Google Maps on my phone plus some other passengers in my van who could translate, it ended up being just fine. In an era where we have answers to just about anything within seconds away (ie we’ve become very intellectually lazy), it was kind of nice to let go a bit and try to figure some things out. It all worked out. 


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Wednesday night dinner at Jeannies

I put together my bike on Wednesday night (kudos to the Ruster Sports Hen House for avoiding airline bike fees!). Breakfast for the next three days was three scrambled eggs mixed with an Avocado (from Mexico obv). I did my first ride on Thursday morning with Alex – it was quite gorgeous but Cozumel traffic is a little crazy at times. You’re sharing the road with cars, buses, motorbikes, horse-drawn carriages and other bikes - It was kind of exhilarating! After collecting Alicia from the airport, we went back into town and had some Mexican food for lunch while watching the NFL football … oh yeah it’s Thanksgiving. Weird! In the evening, our group enjoyed an American-style Thanksgiving dinner at a Mexican restaurant and they did a decent job actually.

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Thanksgiving lunch

Friday, I tried to go to the swim finish for an official practice swim but they canceled it due to rough chop and wind, so went for a run instead – it wasn’t super-hot but I surely sweat up a storm. Humidity, blech. Regardless, I was feeling pretty good, felt quite ready. After the athlete briefing on Friday afternoon, Alicia and I joined Scott and Tracy to a beach outside of town and it was much quieter there – was great to get away. I swam for a few minutes and could really appreciate the extra flotation from the salt water, it was a luxury to have the water help my hips stay higher (ie better body position = faster swimming) – though like a jackass I swam with my wallet in my pocket. Wet Pesos, ugh. Friday night was this ridiculous underpants run – apparently a tradition here at Cozumel (along with Kona) – however it was really fun. We played follow-the-leader to one of the locals leading in stretching and dancing to some up-beat music and then a simple 1K footrace. I took it pretty easy, but the amount of energy was really contagious and a good time was had by all.

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A Beach!

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Cozumel Underpants Run

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Is this still considered a "Mexican Coke"

On Saturday, I slept in and skipped the practice swim, but did a 45-minute ride ending at transition 1 around 1pm to drop off my bike and transition 1 bag. One thing I noticed was that it felt rather warm. My bike computer was registering 87 degrees on the road – which is about the same road temperature where I was getting lightheaded and dizzy and Ironman CDA three months ago. I’m thinking this is a potential danger sign, I need to make sure I keep up on the electrolytes. After getting back into town I take a bit of downtime to review my race plan, of which I am trying something new after listening to some Kona-based podcasts.

My focus was on six key areas of the race:

  • First 10 minutes of swim: long strokes, get a rhythm, breathe, get used to salt water coming into the mouth while swimming
  • Last 10 minutes of swim: focus on good catch, strong push back “rip and grip”, pass people who are slowing down, good kick to get prepped for biking
  • First hour of bike: fluids! Don’t get caught up in a pack or be pressured into passing more people than I need to early on, get a pee in within the first 90 minutes, don’t overdo it
  • Last hour of bike: keep the head down and in the aero position, pedal from the hips, engage the core with a stable upper body – gain energy by passing people who are slowing down and/or not aero
  • First “out” section of run (first 4.3 miles) – focus is to cool self, remove heat at the same rate of taking it on – use ice/water on self, cap the heart rate at bottom of zone 2 (135). HR can come up a few beats after this section
  • Last “return” section of run (last 4.3 miles) – go-time, bring run cadence up to 186, run like Patrick Lange (the winner from Ironman World Champs), these are the best miles of the day

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Team mates and our taxi driver on the way to T1

I had my traditional white rice dinner as my primary dinner meal around 5pm, but then also met up with some team mates for a little bit of pasta dinner after that. Then to finalize my morning plans (ie – what nutrition/etc do I need to bring with me in the morning) which for some reason takes forever and then off to bed around 9pm.

Race morning my alarm was set for 4:15am so I could meet up with team mates at 5am to catch a taxi to transition 1. I arrived there with plenty of time to air up my tires, attach nutrition to the bike, and take care of bathroom needs. Catch another shuttle to go two and a half miles-ish up the road to the swim start and before you know it I’m lining up in the 1:10 – 1:20 starting corral. 

Swim

I find Shannon in the corral and we approach the start – once we get closer to the ocean we see a number of waves in the exact direction we are going to be swimming in … IE a huge tail wind – this is going to be a fast swim! We jump in and get swimming. It was a little bit of a shock how shallow the water was, once I got in my feet hit the sandy/hard ground – fortunately there was nothing sharp (like a coral reef) down there to hurt myself on. It actually wasn’t all that chaotic to start and immediately I start seeing some fish around me. It was amazing. I did have to watch my line as the wind was blowing us off course a bit. I pay attention to my focus points – establish my breathing and set up a good rhythm. There are so many fish swimming around! I even see a diver 50’ish feet below the surface, this is amazing! I must have a huge smile on my face during the swim. It’s pretty great. I do start to take in some salt water, but it’s actually somewhat tolerable.  I play leap frog with a couple of other swimmers and keep passing buoy after buoy. After 30’ish minutes I’m thinking to myself – “how much farther?” – if it wasn’t for all the fish and scenery I might be bored – swimming one direction for 2.4 miles is a long time – most races there will be turns or multiple loops to break up the swim. Also at this time I’m thinking that I’ve had enough salt water, I wouldn’t mind wrapping this up soon. Eventually I see the docks of the Chankanaab park indicating we’re getting close to the end. I think about my second focus area and start to really engage the core and push the water back. Round the one turn buoy and really pick it up – I pass a few more people and beat them to the swim finish. I look at my watch and can’t believe my eyes – 59 minutes and change!  What?! My previous best was 1:17 at Coeur d’Alene three months ago. This is amazing! 

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It's actually really hard to get to the zipper on this swim skin!

Swim time: 59:48
Place in Race: 574

T1 

I use the showers for about 15 seconds to try to rinse some of the salt water off me, pick up my transition bag and head into the change tent. Literally the only thing I have in my T1 bag is my bike helmet (with visor) – so I take off my swimskin, goggles, and swim cap to put into the bag. Apparently we get our sunscreen applied within the change tent by a local Cozumel high school student – I had to instruct him where to apply sunscreen, and he put a LOT on, you’ll see from the pictures. Unfortunately I needed to be super explicit on where to put sunscreen, so the area behind my shoulder blades got a bit burnt (more pictures later). I head out to my bike, pick I up to head towards the mount line and I’m on my way.

T1 Time: 4:49
Place in Race: 400 

Bike:

2025_037552Expertly-applied sunscreen. Though I'm sure the salt water didn't help.

The bike course is three times around the main road of the island. Traditionally there is a prevailing wind from the east which becomes a head/cross-wind on the east side of the island. However – today the winds were rather light and from the North to start, dying down as the day went on. My goal for the first hour of the bike was to keep power way low and focus on taking in liquids so that I would be hydrated enough to have to pee. The first two hours of an Ironman bike are usually pretty enjoyable – you’re going at a relatively easy pace and taking in the sights. You’re still (mostly) on loop 1 so everything is still new.

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Thanks Dex for the photo

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Thanks Tracie for the great photo!

After rounding the southern tip of the island, we hit the menacing Eastern side. There is a slight headwind, so I stay patient and maintain a good aero position. Plenty of people I am passing are already upright and not using their aero bars. This is really foolish – I was amazed at how many people I would see out of their aero bars – but to each their own. If they want to go slower that’s their prerogative. Towards the end of loop one we head into town and I’m rather surprised how many locals are out cheering. After a few more turns we are on the main “Quintana Roo Drive” and I see our team’s cheering section which is uplifting. Round the final turns in town and start heading back down the Western side of the island to complete loop one. Loop two is relatively uneventful but I do stop at special needs to get some more chamois cream and wow that is amazing – I think the salt water made the saddle a little more uncomfortable than normal. It is also starting to warm up a bit.  I see our cheering section again which is again fun. Starting loop three I try to take some of my clif shot blocks and then a big gag reflex starts up. Uh oh. I end up spitting out the blok and I’m trying to assess what to do. I figure I must be overheated. My bike computer is registering 88 degrees. Need to cool myself. Trying to pour some water on the back of my neck and head helps a little bit but it’s not enough. Whenever I try to drink, my stomach feels a bit upset. I make the decision to back off the power to try to digest, wait a few minutes and then pick it back up. The feelings of wanting to quit are slightly coming up (this is normal). This helps a little bit but I’m still not feeling too much better so I once the next aid station comes up, I stop and get off the bike and drink about a quarter of a Gatorade bottle. I then take a cold water bottle and stick it in my jersey on my upper back in between my shoulder blades. This may just do the trick. It feels pretty great. I still take it a bit conservative – so I alternate between slowing down a bit to eat/drink and then picking it back up once it digests. I exchange my cold water bottle once more before the end of the ride (I also open up the nozzle slightly so that cold water drips onto the back of my neck). I’m getting into the last 20 miles go back to my focus area – keep the head down, maintain aero position, pedal from the hips. It’s working – I’m passing people who are not in aero.  Feeling strong at the end of the bike ride and passing people who are fading is a HUGE emotional boost. I ride into T2 feeling good, despite having a few down sections of the bike.

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Bike time: 5:57:21
Place in race: 474

T2 

Once in transition 2, the change tent is a bit warm – it is enclosed (via tent flaps) for privacy but it also has the effect of making it super hot in there. I decide to put on my calf sleeves in T2 since my calves were cramping badly in CDA three months ago, and I’m all set to go so I decide to take the gel I packed in my T2 bag. Chase with some water and whoa … um I don’t feel very good. I sit back down to help digest but after about 10 seconds I have to keel over and vomit on the ground. Repeat the vomit action three more times, it’s really pretty gross. I am thinking to myself … um, how am I supposed to run a marathon now – don’t I like “need” some of the nutrition I just evacuated? One of the volunteers (another local Cozumel high school student) is staring at me in kind of a shocked face and I ask him for something to wipe my face off. He gives me some pieces of the roll of toilet paper on a table and this helps. I take a few minutes to continue to clean myself up and compose myself, take some more water and try to clear my head. Move on out of the change tent and time to start a marathon in the heat.

T2 time: 8:51
Place in race: 495 (yikes, moving backwards in transition – that never happens to me!)

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Current weather: not cold

Run

When I started the run I was at about 7:10 race time, so I knew I that I would need to run around a 3:50 marathon in order to break 11 hours, but given my stomach issues from the bike and my glorious T2, I can’t really think about that – I just need to get moving and find a way to get into a rhythm and a groove. The Cozumel run course is three out-and-backs of approximately 4.35 miles out and 4.35 miles back. I think about my goal on first “out” section: cap my heart rate around 135 and try to cool my body as much as possible – ice in the jersey (and shorts) and water on the head. With the many out-and-backs, it’s also a time to see my teammates and where people are. While running I’m actually not feeling all that bad.  I also decided that I would NOT look at pace on my watch, just primarily heart rate. I do, however, get a vibration after each mile so I have an idea of how fast I’m running, which is very high 8’s.  After about three quarters of a mile I see our cheer section, Alicia and the others. After about two miles I decide to try another gel, and fortunately it goes down OK. About 2/3 of the way through I hear my name “Hey Eric!” – it’s Amanda coming from the other way! Wait, she’s in front of me? Oh, that’s cool. Good for her. I make it to the turnaround and let my HR come up a few beats to 137/138. Things are feeling good, as I get closer to the turnaround I start to see some more teammates – Wismar, Amy, Ben, and eventually Joseph (on lap 2). So I assume I must be in third place from our group. I complete loop two in about 1:16 and am thinking – OK if I can maintain this pace I’d run a 3:48 marathon, I’m in very good shape.  Take a second gel and it goes down the hatch OK and I pass our cheering section again.  After a little bit I notice my HR seems to be dropping and I start to feel a little bit tired. Well, that’s not surprising. I trudge on – I know that I have some home made BASE “rocket fuel” (carbo pro and Nuun) that I had frozen overnight – I just need to make it to that and I’ll get a boost of energy. I catch up to pass Amanda and give a few words of encouragement. Near the turnaround there is a live band playing some Metallica which give me some energy (not entirely sure why – I’m not a huge Metallica fan…) and then I hit the turnaround.

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Another great picture by Tracie, I think the best picture of the day for me

Shortly after is the special needs where I eagerly pick up my Rocket fuel … but it wasn’t frozen anymore in fact it was quite hot and not very refreshing. I had to slow to a walk to digest it – I kept hitting my chest to try to burp and digest. Unfortunately I ended up walking off-and-on about one minute and then eventually started running steadily again. Loop 2 had significantly more people on it and it seems the only people running faster than me were people on loop 3 about to be done … ugh that would be nice. I finish up loop 2 and start to see more team mates. I look down and see my total run time is now 2:38, which puts me closer to a four-hour marathon. Hm, I can’t continue this trend – if I don’t break four I’m going to be disappointed in myself. The sun is getting lower and it is just slightly starting to cool and I think the Rocket Fuel is kicking in.  I know that I’m going to be catching up to Joseph soon.  For loop 3 I start taking in Pepsi as my drink of choice and that also seems to be helping. The sun has gone below the horizon and I recall passing the mile 19 sign and thinking “this is the best I’ve felt all day!” – I’m feeling energized, my running form is improving and my HR is climbing to where it should be (high 130s/low 140s). Shortly after this I see Joseph and make the pass after providing some more words of encouragement. At this point I’m finally having the run I wanted – I go from having creeped up in the mid-high 9 minute miles to back into the mid-8’s (though I wasn’t really looking at pace). I make the final turnaround and I’m thinking OK now is the final piece of my race plan – high cadence, “upright” running like Patrick Lange, and now is the time to press. My cadence goes from 182 to 184 and then eventually 186. I focus on leaning forward with the hips and driving the arms back. It’s very difficult but it’s feeling good. The Pepsi at each aid station seems to give me a mini boost each time and I’m quite literally passing people left and right.  I pass the mile 23 sign and pick it up again. The last several miles are a bit of a blur, I recall seeing Scott Gayler on the side of the road with a GoPro getting ready to run with me – I wave/nod at the camera and then I believe I start running faster making it harder for him to stay with me – kind of a dick move but what can I say, I was totally in the zone! My last three full miles are the fastest of the day – 8:23, 8:08, 7:33. Just before the turnaround I see Amy finishing up her second loop and say hi, then I get to the turnaround and gladly flash the number three to the volunteer and he points me towards the finish chute. In my head I’m saying “YES, I’m fucking done!!!!” This moment, honestly, is one of the absolute best feelings of the world – you’ve put in all the time, and now is the ceremony of finishing. It reminds me of waking up on Christmas morning as a kid. You finally made it to the day and are shortly going to be opening presents. I could almost argue this moment is better than the finish. After a few hundred feet I enter the finish chute, pump one arm then lift both arms above my head and cross the line with a four minute run PR (in arguably much hotter/harder conditions). My lap times were 1:15:44 / 1:22:49 / 1:15:41 – so my last loop was actually the fastest! My goal is to always get faster throughout the day, but never have I actually finished a run faster than I started. It was also really cool to see that the one Ironman race I did not have my running pace displayed on my watch was also the fastest I’ve ever run.

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Current weather: not as hot. Less than a mile to go - fastest mile of the day.

Run time: 3:54:13
Place in race: 258 

Total Time: 11:05:02

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After the race I’m certainly pretty tired and my stomach is a little uneasy. They had cooling poolings (ie ice baths) available which was pretty “cool” (terrible joke). I really take my time as I don’t feel like puking again like I did after CDA so I mainly just drink some Gatorade and get some ramen noodles (which I only drank the soup). The Gatorade doesn’t actually taste that great but what does is Pepsi. Joseph finished up shortly after me at 11:31 and I chatted with him for a bit. I picked up my finishers shirt and got my finishers picture then met up with Alicia to head back to the Airbnb (fortunately only a few blocks away) to clean up and go out and get some Mexican food. I check in on my team mates as many are finishing, but there was one finish I didn’t want to miss – Mikayla’s … as her boyfriend Dexter was planning to propose after she finished. I slowly walk back to the finish line area and chat with my teammates and then see Mikayla finish and the proposal worked great. The announcer (Michael Lovato) came down and let Dex speak into the microphone along with her answer – kudos to Ironman for letting this experience happen.  Shortly after Mikayla was Melody who finished her first Ironman after having two previous DNFs in 2015, it was pretty awesome to see both of those finishes.

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Ironman Numero Cinco 

IMG_1354Congrats to Dex and Mikayla!

As for how I evaluate my execution – I would probably rate it at about and 8 (maybe 8.5?) out of 10… ie I’m pretty happy with it! I had a plan of hyper-focus on six areas of the race and I nailed them all. Nutrition was solid and I only had a few minor cramping issues which went away quickly - total opposite of CDA. For maybe only 30-45 minutes of the race I was really hating life which has to be a new personal best. I feel like it's usually more like 90 minutes.

I would have loved to have broken 11 hours on the day, and with that amazing swim I was well-positioned to do so, I’m just still learning how to tune my body to race in the heat. It was significantly better than CDA three months ago, but I still didn’t quite have the bike I wanted to due to the stomach issues. Throwing up in T2 didn’t help either … hell that was probably five minutes on that alone that could have been the difference in going sub-11.  Oh well. But seriously, whenever you can finish strong on the three sports it’s usually a good (if not great) day.  It was also a pretty great experience seeing so many teammates and friends out on the course – both from gaining energy from seeing friends as well as it’s nice to have a bit of friendly competition to take your mind off slogging away for hours on end. 

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Post-race tacos 
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The areas where my Cozumel high school student missed the sunscreen. At least not as bad as Joseph!?

The next few days were relaxing and sightseeing around Cozumel. We rented a moped and drove around a good portion of the island. Tuesday was spent at all-inclusive beach on Tuesday called Mr Sancho’s with about 30 of us. The funny thing about this resort was that it was about 90% people from cruise ships. Without sounding too much like an ass, let's just say it was a culture shock after having been primarily around Ironman athletes for the past four days. After about 2pm the place started to clear out a bit and it was pretty great. I definitely pigged out and enjoyed my first significant drinking in months - like four whole drinks!

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Post race ceremony

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Well we didn't win the team award, but we took a picture on stage anyways

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Meeting the great Sebastien Kienle!/p>

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Southern tip of the island

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Mr Sanchos with friends and team mates

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Having a "cold coconut" at Playa Del Carmen before heading to the airport. Well worth the 40 pesos.

As for what’s next … winter sports time! I picked up cross country skate skiing last winter and loved it. I plan to enter a few XC ski races this winter (and likely get my ass kicked) to see if I can improve. Once the spring/summer hits I plan on racing Ironman 70.3 St Polten Austria in late May and then Ironman Canada (full) again in Whistler in late July, with some local sprint and Olympic distance triathlons sprinkled in.  I really enjoyed traveling to a new part of the world to compete in triathlon, and I really wanted to experience a triathlon in Europe. From what I hear, there are some super fast people there and I am likely to get my ass kicked, but I'm sure the experience will be awesome. I had originally considered doing a full Ironman in Europe but the thing is a full Ironman triathlon requires several days of downtime before the race, then you race all day, and then the next day is mostly shot – so roughly a four-day commitment.  A Half Ironman is really “only” a two-day commitment, which allows more time for vacationing and sightseeing. I’m also looking forward to seeing how much of my 200-level college German I can use! After that I’m looking at a fall marathon, ideally, I’ll make it into the Chicago Marathon lottery in October.

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Six days after Ironman, playing in the mountains outside of Seattle. 

With that, thanks for reading, catch you on the flip side. Bonus picture - my five Ironman finish pictures in one:
  Ironman5

 

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