Monday, September 3, 2012

Finally 140.6!

Ok, so this is a little long and if you don’t care about my thoughts leading up to Louisville and just care about the race, then skip all the way down till you reach bold print.

I’m not different than many, many other triathletes. We watch Kona every year and just dream about being able to start in that water and be able to swim, bike, and run with the best in the world. Less than a year ago that was my 2012 direction to racing and training. I wanted to be able to compete in Kona in one of the hardest age groups. I completely retuned my training to improve my weakest event (biking) by strength training and logging many hours in the saddle over the winter. It did come with a price. My running season was shortened and therefore little gains occurred, but in triathlons, it’s about 3 sports, not just one. I also challenged myself with competing in tougher events with the help of Revolution 3. I competed in the Knoxville 70.3 that had a lot of rollers with some short climbs and in the Portland 70.3 that had some steep climbs and fast, technical descents. Both races helped me tremendously. One of my big races…well, the big race of the year was planned around Eagleman 70.3, which has a small amount of Kona slots (2 for my age group). This was the reason for the focus on the bike and it paid off. I had the fastest 56 mile bike split of my life…2:17. I had the fastest 1.2 mile swim of my life…28:51. I had, well, a not so good run and fell off the back. Needless to say, no Kona slot for me. I came away from the race with complex emotions…race felt amazing till mile 4 of run. I was proud of my first 2 events, but confused on what happened to my body on the run. Simple answer could be nutrition, but I think it was more than that. I don’t lose body function by not having an empty stomach. Anyways, I digress.

I played around the idea of doing a full distance, 140.6 triathlon…the so called ironman. Yes, the evil empire, WTC (World Triathlon Corporation), copyrighted the term ironman, so no other 140.6 triathlon can use the term ironman. There are so many great full distance triathlons around the country such as Rev3 Cedar Point coming up on Sept. 9 and they can’t call it an ironman.

Last summer, the thought of 140.6 seemed a possibility and doing Louisville seemed to make the most convenient since it’s right at the end of summer and I would only miss a few days of school of the first week. I couldn’t pull the plug last year because well, I thought the task was daunting. I mean I’ve ran a marathon before (2:53 PR at Disney), but I can’t imagine running one after 112 mile bike, so I didn’t sign up last year and finished my season by competing in Vegas 70.3 World Championship.

XC trip to Cashiers, NC
When I heard the news about making the Rev3 Age Group team, I was ecstatic! The thought of meeting the great family of Rev3 and their athletes made me go out and train harder. I can honestly ask any question about anything (triathlon or nontriathlon related) and they would provide the answers and support in an instant. They are truly wonderful people! Then I realized I get free entry into any Rev3 race…sweet! First thought…Portland and beer! Second thought…I can do my first ever full distance triathlon…all 140.6 miles at Cedar Point. Then the cross country schedule came out (I coach the Sarasota High girls cross country team…which are prime for a great season) and we have our first meet on Sept. 8. Damn! When it comes down to my passions, the girl’s XC team is near the top with my other passion of teaching science research. I will do anything for my team and very protective of them (my inner Mama Bear akaCarole). So I felt disappointed that I couldn’t participate at Cedar Point. That left me with basically one option…Louisville.

So after my fail at Eagleman, I decided (mostly out of anger) to do my first 140.6. I needed to prove to myself that with all these challenges I made for myself of racing difficult venues that my season isn’t/wasn’t a bust. My first test before even signing up was a trip to Clermont in late June for lots of riding with my good friend Andy, who was training for Ironman New York. We had a little mini-camp of 180 miles of riding in 2 days. If I could survive this, I think I could survive full distance training. Even training for Eagleman, I would put in 15-17 hours of training, so I figured all I needed to do was to add a 5 hour ride and 20 mile run instead of a 3 hour ride and 12-13 mile run. I got home from the 2 days feeling accomplished and finally pulled the plug and signed up for Louisville. Another great aspect of Louisville is that nobody wants to do it…still open in late June.

8 weeks later…I toed the line in my first every 140.6!

I had a great 8 weeks of training except a few days I was sidelined with SI joint issue, but my work outs went great and very focused…even gain some running speed. Don’t know how that happened but I’ll take it.

My travel day to Louisville was very typical. My flight was out of Tampa at 11:45 am, so I was able to wake up and get a good swim in at the y before leaving for the airport. I arrived in Louisville and my bike made it without any problem and no damage. I was able to get my packet, put my bike together, and even get a 30 minute spin in Cherokee Park, which is an awesome park. The park has some hills and a huge separate lane for runners and cyclist.

Day off from everything, just NormaTech, massage, roll, stretch, and hot showers! I picked up Abby from the airport. Along the way I took in some of the run course. It was only 2 pm so a great time to actually drive the bike course. I pulled out my friend Shawn’s notes from last year and followed along the marked course. Abby and I both agreed that the course was very doable (compared to other courses this year) if you don’t pull a Knoxville. At Knoxville, I basically did a poor job of pacing the rollers. I would just hammer up them and didn’t care about the watts because they were short, but over 56 miles my quads were toast. The course confirmed my game plan to keep my watts around 260-280 on the hills and try around 200-210 on any flats. For the downhills, below 180 watts. After driving the course, we grabbed some dinner and called it a night.

Big day!...only because I had a lot to do. Abby and I headed down to the swim finish to get some practice in the Ohio River. Honestly, the river was not bad at all. The locals make it out like I’ll be swimming in sewage and waste. The temperature was a little cooler then the gulf about 84 degrees. I got in about 10-15 minutes of just loosening up and some sprints of 1-2 minutes. Just enough to wake up the body and get ready for tomorrow. Next up…bike ride! When we drove the course, I thought (and later confirmed by Shawn) the out-and-back section of the course was the most technical and steeper of the hills. Abby and I headed out to the out-and-back, which is about miles 15-25 of the course. This 30 minute ride is all about getting comfortable on the course and making sure you have no mechanical issues. [Side note: I had a HUGE mechanical issue with my Zipp R2C shifters for about 2 weeks and Tempo Cyclery took every possible move to get my bike ready to work and it finally came together the Wednesday for I had to leave…shifters were working! Thanks again Tempo!!] The out-and-back seemed tamed enough if I just focus on my zones and not get carried away on the up hills. I was more thankful going on the downhills to get me calm and ready for them on Sunday. Lastly…the run off. Easy 10 minutes with some pick-ups.  Now it’s time to just relax and visualize the race one last time and of course…NormaTech. We did pick up my parents at the airport. I am very grateful they arrived. I was so happy I could share my passion of triathlons with them.  The hotel we were staying at was awesome! Right across the street was a brew pub (Bluegrass Brewing Company). I also enjoyed that the hotel was about 1 mile from transition and not the host hotel so I didn’t have to be constantly surrounded by triathletes. Yes, I love the sport, but come on…it’s like 24/7 for some of these athletes. Yes, I get it, you’ve been to Kona 10 times and met Mark Allen. Yes, it’s great that your PR was 9:48, but I don’t think the massage therapist cares.  Ok back to the beer…my parents, Abby, and myself got in an early dinner and a few beers to just talk about the race and answer questions from my parents. It’s so amazing that whatever I do, my parents have always been there to support me. Whether it’s been golf, running, engineering, football games, teaching, cross country…whatever, they always have questions and dearly care.

Sunday (Race Day!!)
My race almost never happened. My alarm was set but I never plugged in the charger into the outlet, so my phone died. Luckily, Abby got up at 4 am because well she couldn’t sleep. So she came out and realized that it was 4:30 and I was still sleeping. I was almost screwed…only lost 15 minutes of planned eating. After realizing I still had plenty of time I just started to eat as fast as I could. Bagel with peanut butter, milk, mix1 chocolate, banana, coconut water, and half dark chocolate bar (thanks for the tip from Jordan Rapp…high calories and high fat in small package). I was so nervous…it was so hard to get the food down. Abby drove me down to transition, while my parents got a few more hours of rest.

Rocking the Blue Seventy and Rev3 
Transition went very smoothly. In and out in 20 minutes. Tires pumped. Wheel cover tight. Fluids together. Transition bags done. Special needs bag dropped off.

Abby and I made our way to swim start, which is about 1 mile from transition. The swim at Louisville is the only one of its kind in Ironman events. Most events have a mass swim start that athletes compare to being in a washer machine. Louisville is a time trial start, which an athlete jumps off the dock every second or so with two lines. The athlete does have a dilemma though, do you wake up early and wait near the front or arrive later and wait in line. I was planning on the latter and hopefully I can get lucky. how do I get out of this?
I already finished my bottle of Powerbar Perform mixed with salt tablets. Trying to get loose with leg swings and eagles. Finally, it was time to put on my Blue Seventy PZ3TX with some help of SBR trislide to reduce any chaffing. At 6:50 am the pro cannon went off and it’s game on! The line started to move and a group of guys invited me in so hells yeah! I know that’s not kosher but oh well. I gave Abby one last kiss and now I was even more nervous…almost freaking out. All I wanted was to be to see Abby one last time, but couldn’t find her. I finally realized that I’m doing this and I need to focus. My whole rationalization that morning was to just think of this as a training day. I’ve done the training; now just put it together for a long day. I don’t know if that is what you’re supposed to think about, but it got me through the morning. The line was moving pretty quickly. I had no clue if I was going in early or late so once I got to the dock…I was like damn I’m going to have lots of open water.  I got to the end of the dock and the clock read around 7:05…score! The swim is really basic. You go north for about 1/3 of the 2.4 miles and then turn around and head south for the rest. I’ve read that the current goes south so Louisville has somewhat of a fast swim. I really had little issue navigating around other swimmers, but I was passing a lot! 
I hear Abby...where is she?
The only bottle neck was at the turn buoy but once I made the turn I tried to pick up my pace. I figured I can pull hard and glide when heading south. I felt comfortable the whole swim. My heartrate and breathing was never out of control and I kept on picking people off. I was very pleased with my effort. I exited the water and the clock was at 8:08ish so doing a little math my swim was 1:03-1:04 and I heard Abby (couldn’t see her, but heard her)! Very respectable and within my goal time. I definitely could have gone harder but I probably only would have gained 1-2 minutes and probably not worth it.

19th in AG
104 Overall

Transition 1
For me, T1 was all about getting my legs awake and making sure I don’t forget anything in my bike bag. The run was a little rough into T1 but heck I just swam 2.4 miles. Also another benefit with very little number of swimmers around…volunteers were so eager to help. The guy was awesome! He rolled up my arm coolers and placed all my swim gear in my bag…the volunteers were so awesome throughout the day! Got to my bike and legs were awake

Coming out of T1
As mentioned before the bike plan was to basically keep watts at 200-210 and not go over 300 on the hills. I needed to constantly tell myself that I still have a marathon to run. My plan for the first 30 minutes was to keep the watts below 200 just to warm up. I was able to do this because basically the first 10 miles were flat and then you get to the rollers. My nutrition plan was to eat a lot in the first half of the bike and then keep topping off the tank with gels and perform.
2 bottles that had 400 calories of Powerbar Perform, 3 Powerbar gels (2 Kona punch and1 Berry blast), and 3 salt tablets.  
3 Powerbar Café Late gels
Flask of gels that contained  400 calories.
The first 30 minutes seemed like it couldn’t get here fast enough. I guess that was good because I was constantly checking myself to stay below 200 watts. The first hiccup of the day occurred when my flask slipped out of my pocket at mile 8. I knew things will go wrong and you just have to adjust. That is the reason for the 3 extra gels. I did get about 100 calories of it.

Other part of nutrition…staying cool. At every aid station, I wanted to get a water bottle to sip and cool my body by splashing my arm coolers and neck/back. This was very successful and I didn't miss one aid station.

I got to the out-and-back and was so glad I rode it the day before. I knew exactly where the bumps were and knew if I could get aggressive on the downhills. I stayed aero the whole time and picked up great speed. I took the uphills cautiously in my watt range and those 10 miles went by in a breeze.

Riding into Le Grange
The 2nd hiccup occurred: on the first loop I was pretty much alone with a few riders. One guy and I kept on going back and forth taking turns at the front. Not because we were working together but just because of the nature of riding with someone and not trying to draft. We were heading into an aid station at about mile 30 and he pulled ahead and moved to the right so now I am in his draft. He started to slow down so I begin to soft pedal. We were about 100-200 yards from the aid station, so I didn’t want to steam pass him and slam on my brakes, so I just waited behind him about 3-4 yards to get some water and perform. I got my goods and left the aid station. An official comes up next to me to show me a red card for drafting!
Me: “Where?”
Her: “Back there.” (she pointed back)
Me: “I was in the aid station.”
Her: “Right before it.”

At this point…I could keep arguing with her or just keep going. I decided to keep going and let this fuel me further. Yes I guess technically I was drafting but I think people need to realize the situation. I wasn't gaining anything going 15 mph for the 10-12 seconds I was behind him, but I guess rules are rules.

Any hoozle…the rest of the first loop went by without a hitch. Miles just kept ticking off. Then the 2nd loop! Oh my! What a mess! So many people. Talk about penalties. I’ve never seen so much blocking on a bike course than what I saw in Louisville. I was constantly passing people on the left and people passing people. I think the majority of the next 20 miles were 3-4 abreast along the road. I was heading into the special needs area to get another 400 calorie flask and 400 calorie bottle plus a small flat coke for a little extra caffeine boost. I yell out my number and I see the bag…the guy holding the bag was holding it very taunt so the plastic was very tight. I tried grabbing the middle but to no avail I couldn’t get a hold of it…hiccup number 3.
Coming into T2...112 miles down!

Now I was getting kind of worried about having enough calories, so I resulted in getting as much perform as I can and grab a bonk breaker at the next station on mile 80. I’ve trained with solid food at times so I knew taking a bar wouldn’t be an issue. I just needed to get fuel.

Things settled down and I got back in a groove with about 30 miles left. The last section of the course is pretty much downhill. I kept on drinking water and perform, and keeping cool with water. Once I reached 100 miles I did a body scan to actually find out how my legs and body felt. Overall, I was in good shape. Nothing too sore in the back and neck. The legs felt pretty good. For the last 8 miles or so I kept the watts below 200 and made sure my legs had good cadence. I saw the bridges in the distance, which means Louisville is coming up! I was ecstatic! Longest bike ride of my life and overall, I felt great! Now I just need to take care of my penalty.

14th in AG
49 Overall
Calorie intake: 2000 calories (380 per hour) [2.45 cal/hr/lb]
202 Normalized Power (spot on)

Transition 2
Once I reached the dismount, I found out that my legs were, well, funky…yeah let’s go with funky. Felt really weird trying to run, but once I got a few strides in the legs came back. I grabbed my run bag and ran into the penalty tent. I introduced myself to the nice ladies and started transitioning into my run gear. I am not sure if this was legal but it seemed to make perfect sense to me. Only mistake was that I forgot to put my salt tablets in my pocket; plus the Garmin crapped out on me. So I was running blind, which could turn out to be a good thing, just focus on breathing. I even got in some good leg swings while my 4 minutes were counting down.

Running strong at mile 2
I headed out of T2 with a good head of steam. Nice long strides to open up the hips and shake out any tiredness. The first few miles I felt really good. My breathing was controlled. I had no clue how fast or slow I was going. The first mile takes you over and back on a bridge, which on the way back I got to see my parents and Abby. Great encouraging words, which helped me pick up the pace a little. Once I got out the crowds I needed to remind myself that there will be ups and downs during the run. I might be feeling good now, but this will past too. I will have some dark moments, but those will past too. I got to talking with a guy who won a lottery slot for Kona and competing at Vegas. He does Louisville every year and I was just looking for some encouraging advice about the run. He basically said to just stay even and enjoy the finish.

Look! I have a police escort!
The first half of the first loop…basically first 8 miles felt really good. I was getting sponges and water to cool myself down, and taking in perform and coke for fuel. I took a few Powerbar gels during that time. Once I reached mile 11 or 12, my quads were just screaming so I had to change from my forefront running style to more midfoot with less stride length. I’m coming back into town and see Abby and my parents…great pick me up. Plus the pro winner, Patrick Evoe, was heading to the finish. So I was basically running the last mile with Patrick. Felt pretty awesome. Of course, assumed the cheers were for me. Before I headed to my 2nd loop, I gave him congratulatory fist pump and said congrats!

Run special needs went a lot better. The volunteer actually took out my water bottle filled with Powerbar Perform (210 calories) and 4 gels. At this point, I couldn’t stand taking another gel, so I left the gels and grabbed the bottle.'s for Patrick Evoe
After a few sips, I realized I couldn’t take anything sugary. The thought of sugar just made wanting to throw up. I’ve never had this problem before. It could have been from taking in a lot of perform on the bike, but not sure. So I reached Abby around the 14 mile marker and handed her my bottle. I tried to throw up, but nothing. She screamed to just keep going! Keep moving the legs! She believes in me so I need to believe in me. So the next few miles were rough. The only thing I could stomach was water. I would have some good miles here and there, but the 20 mile turnaround was a welcoming sight. I just kept telling myself 1 mile at a time…6 miles, 6 miles, 6 miles…then 5 miles, 5 miles, 5 miles. I finally could take in some sugar by taking in some coke, but I realized I didn’t need to go to every aid station. My breathing was great. My heartrate felt controlled. Maybe I had too much fuel. I don’t know but I started to pass aid stations and hitting them every other mile. I started to feel really good around mile 22 and just go as fast as my body could let me. I realized that I was in the home stretch and the only thing I could do was to smile. I don’t know why, but a smile was just stuck on my face. It gave me plenty of time for reflection on not just my day overall, but my whole training experience. I loved every minute of it. I think full distance is what I enjoy the most.

Don’t get me wrong…the 20 mile training runs are brutal, but the fulfillment I felt when I was running the last few miles and when I crossed the finish time was something I’ve never felt in any race. I know I can push my body to the limit and survive.  I know I can handle multiple 20+ hour weeks. Now if I continued my training for let’s say 4 months instead of 8 weeks, would I have the same feelings…don’t know, but at least I don’t need to cram 4 months of training into 8 weeks.

I finally reached the home stretch where hundreds of people cheering you on underneath glass/metal enclosure that makes the cheers even loader! I pumped my fist and now I just completed my first ever 140.6 triathlon! I completed every distance. It all started with a sprint triathlon that turned into a duathlon in the April of 2007 in St. Augustine and ended in 2012 in Louisville. I hugged my parents who were right after the finishing shoot and then hear Abby on the other side and we just balled! All the stress of leaving her alone while I ride my 5 hours, all the energy needed for training, and all the sacrifices she made…everything just left our bodies and sharing this moment with her makes all the hours spent worth it. I’m so proud of her strength and getting me through the tough moments
Finish line...
15th in AG
57 Overall
Overall time: 10:16:47

Had nothing left...
Final Thoughts
I learned a lot about myself during the race and through training. I think my bike and swim training was spot on to get me through the race. All my training rides were exactly the same wattage I put out in the race. This allowed me to specify my training. I would like to put in more specific long runs together but I just didn’t have enough time, which shows in my results. I probably could have gone harder on the swim and I should have pushed more on the run near the 18 mile marker, but that’s inexperience.

I couldn’t train and race as I do without the help of some sponsors. First thank you goes out to Revolution 3 for helping with lining up great sponsors, which include Blue Seventy, PowerBar, Pearl Izumi (which I raced in new tri bottoms because of my crash in Portland), SBR sports, NormaTech, and Swiftwick socks. I would also like to thank Tempo Cyclery for always hooking me up with great products and service (especially working on my shifters). Big thanks to Agense Butler for helping with my swim training, Shawn Johnson for his helpful hints of Louisville and full distance training, and of course Abby.

From Abby....

I (Abby) like this picture
As the saying goes "when you reach for the stars you may not quite get one, but you won't come up with a handful of mud either" - Leo Burnett

For John, his "star" for the 2012 season was Kona.  Although he may not have achieved it, he walked away from this season with little less than one accomplishment after another.  He defeated bike courses that cars may shy away from, he resiliently came back from an Eagleman race that he thought was the beginning of the end, and as silly as it may be he won the Englewood triathlon for the second year in a row.  When I first met John he was striving to place in an sprint triathlon locally, as of August 26th he not only finished his first ironman, but he did it in a time that even he could not be disappointed in, hiccups and all.  I can not recall a race that John has finished, that when he walked away he stated he wanted to do one again.  Kona may have to be placed on a backburner for one more year (or more), but John can say he did not walk away from this year with mud slipping through his fingers.  He has grown as a man, an athlete, a triathlete, and a coach.  His heart and his dreams are great, and time will only continue to tell his story.  My heart backs all his dreams and all his goals, I will always stand by his side, in bad races and in great.  All he has achieved he has worked so hard for, and I hope any dissapointments he takes from this year he uses as fuel towards greater things for next.  


  1. Great race and race report! Total inspiration!! congrats!

    1. Thanks Kelly!! Hope all is well for CP! Good luck

  2. Congrats on a great race John - awesome job and great recap! I bet your cross-country team probably thinks you're a total BadA now!

    1. Thanks! Yeah, the kids are pretty impressed. Every day their like..."look there's an ironman!" They were very excited to follow me that day.

  3. Great RR! Now that you have that first one done, and even learned a thing or two, I think your "star" is totally within reach. On your terms.....