Monday, September 19, 2011

"Las Vegas Race Report"

The 70.3 World Championship in Las Vegas was awesome!  Ironman did a great job!  Everything from the expo to the welcome dinner to the course and the awards banquet was first class.

The weekend started early Friday morning as I got to the airport around 6:30 to make sure I wasn't late for my flight.  Those of you that know me know that flying isn't my most favorite thing to do.  I tend to get a little nervous.  However, having a direct flight from the 'burgh to Vegas was a bonus and traveling with fellow World Championship competitor and good friend, Beth Shutt, made me more comfortable as we talked a lot about triathlon and the upcoming race.

Waiting at Pittsburgh International for our Flight to the Championships

Las Vegas baggage claim
Lodging in Las Vegas was first class since Laura's Aunt and Uncle, J.J. and Frank, allowed me, Beth, and Beth's mom to stay at there house, while they were back in Minnesota.  They have a beautiful home that was conveniently located a mile and a half from the finish while the run course literally passed by the entrance to their housing plan.  In fact, we walked home from the race afterward.  Each of us had our own bedroom and bathroom for maximum comfort and privacy.  Thanks Frank and J.J.!

Frank & J.J.'s place in Henderson, NV
Friday consisted of many errands as we had to go to registration, peruse the Expo, unpack and build our bikes, pick up Beth's mom from the airport, do some grocery shopping, and attend the welcome dinner and pre-race meeting.  The host hotel was the Lowe's Lake Las Vegas Resort and they rolled out the red carpet for the Championships.

At the Expo

One of 1515 that raced in the Championships
Saturday consisted of the usual pre-race preparation.  The morning started early with a practice swim from 6:30-8:30.  There was a practice course of 650 m set up so that athletes could get a feel for the water and the venue.  Following the swim, I took an easy 25 minute run and bike ride to loosen up the muscles and get them ready for tomorrow's big race.

Lake Las Vegas

"I hope it's that easy tomorrow."
Finally, race morning is upon us and the spectacle of triathlon is something I had never seen before.  I admit I was more nervous for this race than any other.  It was the biggest stage of triathlon I have raced on up until this point in my short 4 years.  I was excited and ready to go.

Race morning prep begins.
After double and triple checking everything, hearing the National Anthem, and watching the pros go off, it was my turn to enter the water.  Once in the water, we had a five minute wait till the start.  I thought the swim would be crowded due to the narrowness of Lake Las Vegas, but Ironman did a good job of splitting up my age group (one of the biggest and most competitive) so it was evident there wouldn't be much bumping.  As you know by now, the swim is the weakest of the three disciplines for me.  Unfortunately, it held true to form.  After completing the 1.2 mile swim, I looked down at my watch.  What?  My watch had been bumped by another swimmer and turned off.  I felt like I was racing blind not knowing my swim time.  I found out later my swim was a disappointing 40 minutes.  OUCH!  Well, at the time, I had no idea so I sprinted around Lake Las Vegas to T1, slipped on my bike gear and exploded onto the bike course knowing there was time to be made up (I'm never near the front of the pack out of the water so it's always a good bet I'll need to catch everyone).

The bike course was beautiful!  I never knew the desert could be so beautiful.  We had driven the course on Saturday and got to see all the sites.  Good thing too because I was in no mood for site seeing.  I pushed hard coming up the hill out of Lake Las Vegas Resort trying to make up ground on those that would ease into the bike.  The terrain through Lake Mead National Park was comprised of lots of hills.  Go up one and down one.  A few glances at my speedometer showed I was reaching 45-46 mph consistently on the down hills.  I could only hope this was helping make up time on the rest of the field in my age group.  A few miles from the turnaround in Lake Mead Park, I saw the packs of riders in my age group feeding off each.  I couldn't help but think they all looked strong on the bike.  After all, this is the World Championship.  I continued to race the 56 mile bike course hard.  After the race, I found out I had moved up 53 places while on the bike.  If only I could swim fast. :)

Now onto the run.  I must confess, there was little spring in my step on this day.  I had gone hard on the bike, but more than anything my body was fatigued from a long race season, the start of school, and all the responsibilities of taking care of Luke while working and training.  I wouldn't trade those responsibilities for the world, but they do take a toll.  Even though my watch had turned off during the swim, I sensed I wasn't having my best day.  However, there was no quit in me that's for sure.  The run was brutal! It was a three loop course that was literally half uphill and half downhill.  One stretch in particular was a mile long hill.  This probably wore on me more psychologically that physically.  I tried to stay relaxed and keep a good tempo that would keep me competitive and get me to the finish.  A couple bright spots included running with some of the pros like Chris Lieto and Andy Potts as well as giving Beth's mom some high fives as I passed her each time around the course.  I didn't have any family come to the race so her cheers were very uplifting.  With a mile to go, I made one last push (luckily it was all downhill) and finished the run with a respectable 1:39 and a 70th place finish.

"Are we there yet."
The evening concluded with an awesome awards ceremony at the Lowe's Hotel.  Beth got her award for finishing 2nd in her age group.  Very well deserved.  She puts in the training and the results show.  She is one of the best female amateurs in the world.  Another highlight was seeing the pros get their awards.  They are the best of the best in our sport and it's really cool to get the chance to race with them.  I must say that Craig Alexander is first class all the way.  He was unbelievable on the course and gave a great acceptance speech when presented with his World Championship.  Melissa Rollison, well let's just say it's only her second year in triathlon and she's a World Champ.  Yep, not even a little rain during dinner could dampen the evening, or the weekend for that matter.  The Marines Ironman World Championships 70.3 was awesome!

Congratulation Beth!

Melissa Rollison and Craig Alexander crowned World Champions 70.3

Saturday, September 10, 2011

"Here We Go!"

It's the evening before the "Marines Ironman World Championships 70.3." all the training is done. All the prerace preparation is complete. Tomorrow's race will consist of a 1.2 mile swim in Lake Las Vegas, a 56 mile ride through the desert of Lake Meade National Park, and a 13.1 mile run through the streets of Henderson, NV. The weather forecast is calling for mostly sunny skies and a high in the 90's. Hot? Yes. I now know that the dry heat of Las Vegas penetrates your skin an inch deep. Of course, we'll take this forecast over the 114 degree days they've had recently.

The spectacle of triathletes here is awesome. Everyone looks like a World Champion with ripped calves, lean torsos, and bank breaking bikes. There are no slouches, and if the course doesn't wear you out, the competition will. But this is what a World Championship should be like. The whole point of coming here is to test yourself against the best. The best, most challenging course and the best most competitive, well-conditioned athletes. Triathlon reveals mental toughness. Who still "looks the part" when arms tire and legs cramp? Who remains strong while others question themselves and their commitment?

Many people believe in a "blinders" philosophy. You dont look your competitor in the eye because it causes you to question yourself. It's intimidating. Well, call me crazy, that's exactly the stuff that gets me jacked-up. Sure I'll be nervous at the start as we tread water waiting for the start, but once that "gun" goes off all the nervous energy rushes from your body as adrenaline powers your arms and legs and the test begins. "Here we go. Here I am. Let's race!"

Good luck to all racing this weekend. Believe in yourself.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

"Back to School, Back to School"

This week was the first week back to work with students. It was also Luke's first week of daycare, which we affectionately refer to as school. So needless to say, the week has been much more hectic. However, like most triathletes do, I found ways to fit in my last heavy week of training. Last time I posted, I was preparing for a 120 mile training ride with Matty Mo. I'm happy to report that I had a fantastic ride. Despite some severe back spasms Thursday and Friday before the ride, I was able to loosen up the back and put in a good ride. For the most part, I was able to keep up with Matty Mo, one of the strongest cyclers in Pittsburgh. I was also pleased that I was able to follow up the ride with an hour and a half run the next day. My legs were a little heavy and my back continued to be tight, but overall I felt pretty good.

We are now one week until Vegas. Chad (Holderbaum) has been gracious enough to lend me his bike case for the flight and Beth (Shutt) is putting together the weekends itinerary. Of course I'm riding her coat tails again. :). All that's left is a few more days of light training some serious packing. Talk to you again from Vegas.