Monday, November 28, 2011

Guru CR .901 Bike Review: Going Custom

            For 2012, I will be racing on my new custom Guru CR.901 time trial/triathlon rig. I previously never had ridden a custom bike, nor knew much about the custom process. Here I share my opinion on the bike, some thoughts on 'going custom', and compare the bike to a few of my past time trial bikes I have owned, which have been a 2010 Specialized Transition Pro, a 2010 Blue Triad SL, and a 2008 Kuota K-Factor SL.

              I picked up this beauty (recently named the Black Widow due to the black/white color with the dark red Guru sticker on it and a few red parts...cute isn't it ;)) from Kompetitive Edge, the premier multisport and swim shop in the Denver area (which just won Competitor magazine's best triathlon shop AND best swim shop for Colorado). KE is one of the only Colorado shops that specializes in setting up triathletes with their perfect custom fit bikes, and the Canadian brand Guru is the leader in custom triathlon rigs. There are times when an athlete fits Guru's stock frames and doesn't need to go custom, but a perfect fit on any stock frame is rare, and many athletes opt for a custom bike to get this ideal and perfect fit. Most people can find a stock frame from a variety of companies that puts them in the ballpark on fit, but it is VERY difficult to set them up perfectly, with angles that enable the most efficient and most comfortable ride. This is where custom has the advantage, and after your first few rides on a custom bike you can feel the difference.                             
           If you're near the Denver area, check out Kompetitive Edge and chat with them about seeing if a custom bike makes sense for you. That's what I did, and they're always extremely helpful and super knowledgeable. Explore the custom bike process if you're looking for an ultra- upgrade for next season.  If you do look into getting a custom bike made for you, make sure the shop has a reputable fitter taking your measurements. KE teams up with experienced fitter Scott Geffre of Fit and Tri for the custom Guru process. Scott has fit pros and amateurs alike on custom bikes for over 13 years, so I readily put my trust in the expert. I let Scott take some body measurements, which is the first step in the process. A few days later, he showed me the proofs (below) of what my bike would look like, based on my measurements. After asking if I was ready to pull the trigger on production, I said "let's do this!" without even really looking at the prints. After all, Scott is the expert so I went with it. The cool thing was that when I got the bike made and had the initial fit on it afterwards with Scott, when I placed the stem at the lowest possible position (with no spacers on the steerer tube b/t the stem and head tube), the bike was set up for the most aggressive position I'd ever want to go . Any lower and I would be out of the perfect fit range. I left a few spacers above the stem and didn't cut the steerer tube, since I may want to raise the aerobars slightly down the road for an Ironman distance racing position (more on that later).
        The process is pretty simple, and starts with a few body measurements taken. The measurements are taken in account, put into a blender and walla!, before you know it, out comes spec sheets like these:
           Let's face it, our world of choosing a triathlon bike usually looks like this: 1) See how much money is in the budget for a bike 2) Find a bike that looks really cool or our top triathlon idol athlete is riding 3) See if our bike fit numbers are somewhere in the ballpark to fit decently on the desired bike 4) Start searching for a bike. Most people start searching for their frame size, i.e. a 56cm or 58cm, and assume that is all that really needs to be known. However, it's important to understand that each bike manufacturer may have very different geometry in the same stated centimeter frame size. Some bikes have longer top tubes, or reach, and others a lot shorter. After any bike fit, you should be able to weed out a few brands that aren't the best option for you. You will be able to find a brand that fits you better than others, but finding one that fits your body perfectly is extremely rare. In most cases you simply cannot get as close to the perfect fit.
     Now, just because you go custom doesn't mean you can't ever make any adjustments to the bike. You can't change the frame geometry, but you won't need to nor want to. However, you still can adjust the stem, aerobars, and seat position to dial in the perfect comfort zone. You may be wondering, why would I ever want or need to make adjustments if my bike is a custom fit?  Well, bike fitting is still an adaptive process over time, and the proper position on the bike still allows for a small acceptable range. There is not always 1 simple 100%  perfect position, but rather a very small range of very good positions. Your body changes over time, and as you get fitter and more flexible, this may change the position you're able to ride in slightly. Muscle flexibility changes are a huge reason you need to keep in mind your bike position still may change slightly in the future, and you may not always want to ride in the same position as far as aggressiveness goes. I personally try to ride in the most aggressive position possible in the bounds of 1) efficiency due to my muscle flexibility (some people aren't flexible enough to ride super aggressive, so it would hurt them rather than do any good, since they wouldn't be able to produce as much power in that position) 2) comfort - knowing I can ride a whole 56 miles in a position and still be able to run well off the bike.
       In going custom you still have the ability to change stems, or use a headset spacer to raise/lower the aerobars very slightly, which you may want to do depending on the distance you are racing. Most triathletes are able to ride more agressively for shorter races than longer races. Again, to reiterate, there is still a very small window or range in terms of a near perfect fit, and a custom bike frame will put you in this small window without limiting you 100% and still enabling you to make a few minor adjustments. With a proper custom bike and fit, you will be within the perfect appropriate adjustable range, which is hard to do with most bikes. The reason why custom bikes make sense, is simply because this range is very small are often hard to hit. Are custom bikes necessary for all? No, they are a luxury option for those who value precision, ultimate efficiency and comfort.
          My previous bikes all were made by reputable companies, and I liked them for the most part, but I will say I feel the most comfortable and sturdy on the Guru. No, I am not paid by Guru to say these things, nor am I a Guru sponsored athlete. I'm sharing my experience in going custom. This season I raced on a Specialized Transition Pro. Being a 'weight weenie' concerned about every little thing, I was curious to compare the weight of the Guru to other
The Guru CR.901 frame is extremely aerodynamic
bikes.  Even though weight on a TT bike is a lot less important than on a road bike (aero trumps weight), unless you're riding a very hilly course, I still think weight is very important. This is especially  the case for multi-loop courses with sharp 180 degree turns, where you are decelerating and accelerating numerous times during the race.  I weighed the Transition Pro with the same training wheelset & components as the Guru, and the Guru was slightly lighter even though the frame size was slightly larger. The Guru CR.901 (Guru's top of the line custom bike) weighs less or near it's competitors - top of the line carbon fiber time trial bikes.
       More important than weight was my discovery in the feel of the ride. At the Capital of Texas Triathlon this year, I used a Zipp 900 rear disc wheel with a Zipp 808 front. It was very very windy, and I had a horrible time trying to stay in the aerobars due to the deep wheelset and wind. In fact, in training as well, the winds affected me all year more than I thought they should. I didn't feel as confident in the aerobars, and confidence is a must have in order to focus, relax, and hammer on the bike. On my custom Guru, the #1 difference I notice is the stability and comfort in the aerobars in the wind. Scott, who fit me on the Guru, explained this is a result of being properly positioned on the bike, specifically the front of the bike.  Weight distribution is correct.
Two water bottle cage mounts
      I liked my Blue Triad SL a lot. It's was a nice bike, though I enjoy having 2 water bottle cage mounts on the frame - I only had one on the Blue and Specialized, so I had to rig up a rear seat water bottle holder. The Blue also had an integrated seat post, which was a serious pain for traveling with the bike as the bike barely fit in my travel case (since it was a size Large) - not to mention that you had to cut the carbon fiber seat post just to lower it, and there is no going back once you do. Another benefit of the Guru is that the frame allows enough width to run a 23mm rear tire. My Blue Triad wouldn't fit anything over 21mm wide in the rear. I also enjoy that the rear brake is easier to access and adjust. It is not tucked under the (bottom bracket area of the) bike like many aero TT bikes now have it, so it may not be quite as aerodynamic. However, with the aero frame of the Guru, the better comfort and stable ride of the Guru, it is worth it to me and those time-saving advantages are far more beneficial. The advantages of being able to produce more power in my ideal position outweigh a slightly more aero rear brake caliper. Also, it is very easy to adjust, and I don't have to worry about the brake rubbing my rear tire as much, since it was hard to adjust the rear brake on past bikes.  Another advantage to the Guru CR.901 is the ability to run a standard bottom bracket or a BB30. This is rare! Most bikes come with one type, but the Guru allows the option for both with inserts. I recently swapped out my standard bottom bracket with a BB30 for increased stiffness and feel in acceleration.
The new BB30 bottom bracket

These red bottom bracket cups were replaced with a BB30 / internal bottom bracket/crankset

The Crono has a traditional rear brake caliper
My Guru features a tall, custom 19cm head tube. That's what I get for being almost 6'3"!
       Its crazy to look back at my own bike evolution. I started out on a 60cm 2005 Trek Madone road bike which was WAY too big for me. I had no idea what a fit was supposed to feel like, which is to be expected as a beginner in the sport. Over time, I have learned, and felt, the benefits of a perfect fitting bike. When you are trying to compete at the top level of the sport, the details matter.   If you're searching for the perfect fit, going custom is something to consider.

The steed of my 2009 season, my first triathlon season
Today's Ride. It fits.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What Happened in Chicago? Ups & Downs & Rev3 South Carolina: my first ½ Ironman

My blog on race reports and updates has been a bit quiet recently. After some discouraging events, there was not a lot for me to say as far as positive happenings, and what fun is it to report on the negative? The past few months I have been trying to figure out a lot of things, after a few events with some ups and downs. Life is full of ups and downs, and we cannot expect anything different. It always remains a goal of mine to try to keep things in perspective during the low times as well. Triathlon is important, especially when the majority of your day - every day - is focused on it, but like any job that one has, there are many more important things in life. When things aren’t as we always wish they were, the option we have is to do our best in turning things around, which often means changing attitude or perspective - a challenging task at times.

I had a five week period of almost no running coming off a bursitis knee injury, and motivation was like a roller coaster for me both before and after the injury. Some days training was fine, other days I dreaded it. I’d go for a week straight dreading my long solo training days, not enjoying it much at all, cutting some workouts short, and wondering where my spark had gone. If you're winning races every weekend, it's VERY EASY to be motivated, but when you slave yourself to training all day every day and do see the results, you start to hear the little voices around you inflicting doubt, telling you that you are wasting your time, and that you should be putting your energy into something else. I also was occupied with odd jobs, and got sick a few times. Motivation fluctuated, though I still had a few decent training weeks here and there and decided I was fit enough to race again.  By race week I was ready to go, motivated again, fitter than I had been in a while and ever since coming back from the injury, and was set up for a great race at the uber-competitive Chicago Triathlon, part of the Lifetime Fitness Series. My relatives drove from Iowa and Michigan to watch me race as well, so it was an important race in my mind. All things were looking good, and then you realize life doesn’t always go as planned.
The start gun went off. The swim in Lake Michigan was one of the roughest water swims I'd done yet due to the high winds. It was a battle out there with many of the top Olympic distance men in the sport from all over the world. About halfway into the swim, I felt my hamstring start to tighten up, a similar feeling as those I’d had in nearly every race of my first season in which I was haunted with muscle cramping nearly every race. Since then, I had worked on nutrition, had another year of training under my belt, and thought my cramping woes were a thing of the past.  The cramps came, so I tried a few breaststroke kicks to loosen it up.  I got through the swim and hobbled out of the swim exit and shuffled through the 600m run to transition 1. Eventually I got to the bike, mounted, and was able to ride for about 30 seconds just fine. When I got mmy speed up and was ready to slip into my bike shoes, my leg totally seized up, and I was unable to bend it in any way. One of my most severe and painful cramps to date, I was left coasting slowly on the bike with my legs dangling, totally locked straight.  Unsuccessfully trying to shake it out, eventually I was slowed to a stop and left on the side of the road for two or three minutes unable to move any part of my left leg from foot to hip.  After a few minutes and after most of the male pros who were behind me had passed me, the muscle finally leg go a bit and I was able to bend my leg and slip into my bike shoes. I was shocked, frustrated, and angry, so attempted to ride hard into the wind and make up a bit of ground.  After about 3 minutes pushing the pace, the muscle seized up again, and once again was unable to bend my leg and therefore couldn't pedal.  This was the trend for the next 30 minutes, off and on, and I found myself on the side of the road several times as I could only coast until the spasm left and I was able to bend the leg again. I couldn’t go on any more; I’ve never wanted to drop out of a race, but physically my body wasn’t work.
I got back to my homestay's apartment just a few blocks from the race while most of the men were finishing the bike course. I thanked my homestay for the place to stay, packed my bike, and left Chicago on a very low note. I had flown across the country to race, my relatives had come a long ways to watch, and I had spent money to get there. I was flat out discouraged, and had let more than just myself down. It took some time to put in the past, but I understand the need to get out of mental ruts, frustrations, and move forward. It does no good dwelling on things in the past we cannot change.
On the flight home I decided to do everything possible to get the cramping figured out. It was my only option, or trying to race would be pointless and I decided if I can't figure out the cramping issues, I'm done with triathlon. The next week I got extensive blood lab test done (all electrolyte levels, metabolic panel, vitamin D, serum ferritin (iron stores), allergens, etc) as well as met with sports nutritionist & fellow Kompetitive Edge athlete Bob Seebohar. The causes of muscle cramping are not totally known, apart from what most people think. Most common theories include lack of electrolyte balance, muscle fatigue, and dehydration, but extensive tests have been done and really results have varied.  My electrolyte levels were in the normal range, vitamin D was high, but I did discover a few food sensitivities & food allergies that I have, such as wheat, carrots, peanuts, and soybeans.  My Chicago race day breakfast included wheat bread with chunky peanut butter & a few handfuls of peanuts. So…I was hoping this was part of the cramping equation.  I also believe this is likely part of the reason I’ve struggled with respiratory issues and have been trying to figure that out for over a year,.  Bob and I came up with a plan for next race that involved electrolyte loading the night before, morning of, and during the race. He said it’s worked with a few of his athletes in the past. Bob is a USAT level 3 certified coach, was the 2008 Olympic triathlon team sport dietician, and has a hundred other certifications under his belt. He thought that even though my electrolyte levels were in the normal ranges for most people, I may not be able to be treated as the typical American,  especially as someone racing at a high intensity and prone to muscle cramping. I knew it was not a 100% certain fix, as cramping can be numerous things, but the plan (detailed below) was definitely worth a shot.

The way the season had gone, a month after Chicago I felt like I had nothing to lose in trying new things out. I wasn't going to race until I had a plan to try to solve the problem. I have realized having a plan and experimenting is often the only way to find out what works. I also was in need of something new and fresh to motivate me. So, two weeks prior,  I signed up for last Sunday’s Rev3 South Carolina half ironman. I’d never raced a 70.3 distance race before, and hadn’t really trained specifically for one, but have always wondered how I would do. There was also a chance to speak at a Tri Inspire event put on by Multisport Ministries there, which would give me another opportunity to create a bit of balance with triathlon. I adjusted my training a bit to get in some more volume, did three 14+ mile runs in those 2 weeks as well as some longer brick workouts and rides. I also did a few local races to earn a bit of prize money and get in some harder training efforts in. A bit of last minute emergency long-course training, but I had put in a lot of base work this season which I was sure would get me through it.

Entering the race I was extremely nervous after Chicago, but like I said I had committed to trying everything possible leading up to the race to avoid future cramping issues. Some people think this is excessive or crazy, but yet again most people don’t cramp 10 minutes into their swims on race day. Every body is different and needs to be treated differently. You cannot prescribe the same plan to all triathletes, even when they race the same distance, and the best way to figure out a plan that works for you is simply trying different things in training and racing. I’m currently on the plane heading home and have been reading 2-time Ironman World Champion Chris McCormack’s book I’m Here To Win. I found the following quote relevant.
“You’ve got to be willing to humble yourself and control every factor as much as you can in order to give yourself the best chance to perform well.”

I came up with the "try everything possible for anti-cramping" plan that included:

  • 2 massages the week prior to the race
  • High spinach/veggie intake
  • Gluten & peanut free eating for 3 weeks prior
  • Epsom salt bath the night before the race
  • Using my homemade Ryobi reciprocating saw-converted into muscle massager the night before and morning of race, self-massaging the legs
  • Saltstick tablet loading prior to & during the race
  • Daily multivitamin, magnesium, and fish oil supplement
  • Trying to calm nerves and sleep more than the usual 1-2 hours the night before the race (unfortunately that didn’t happen)
  • Drinking a bottle of pickle juice before the race (Kevin, introduced below, swears by it (high in sodium as well), though I didn’t end up trying it)

The Rev3 South Carolina ½ iron distance race had about 40 male pros, a large and very talented field with top athletes from the US, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Great Britain, Ukraine, & Russia. It was Rev3’s largest pro field to date.  I finished 22nd. The goals of the race were to 1) not cramp 2) not bonk 3) race mentally strong 4) finish in the top 1/2. I honestly didn’t know what to expect, being my first half, though came home pleased with the effort being my first one, and knowing with ½ Ironman focused training I may do well with this distance in the future.

The day before the race I tweaked a deep neck muscle somehow turning my head during the pro meeting. Maybe it was the nerves and looking around and the competition! ;) Not exactly what I needed right then. Unable to turn my head to the left at all, luckily Rev3 had a crew of volunteer ART (active release technique) practitioners at the expo. It’s somewhat similar to massage though uses different techniques – kinda like a mix of massage and chiropractic. I met Kevin, an ART specialist and Rev3 staff member. He worked on me for about 30 minutes on the spot, and another 15 minutes a few hours later that evening, which I was very grateful for. It helped some, but mostly only temporarily.  I knew the neck pain was something I’d just have to try to deal with come race morning. Luckily, I mostly breathe to the right side in race swimming.

I swam fairly conservatively knowing the importance of staying relaxed in the long race, though probably should have swam harder to connect with the large group ahead of me instead of swimming mostly solo without the opportunity to draft. Onto the bike I raced using my power meter for the first time outside of training. It helped me keep my wattage somewhat steady on the flats and hills to not totally cook my legs.My normalized power ave was 274 watts over the course (power file is HERE). The last 10 miles of the bike I began to struggle a bit in the strong winds, and felt the legs wanting to tighten up a bit. I was ready to be off the bike. The run started with 2 miles of light muscle cramping which forced me to run slowly around a 7:30 or so pace, but I managed to get in 5 salt tablets between miles 1 & 2 which seemed to ward them off.  I ran a 1:22 half marathon (6:18 average pace) after a very hard windy and hilly bike course, with two very slow miles at the start and a very slow mile 13, so I likely was running around 6 minute pace for most of the run. With proper training I know I can run sub 1:20 off the bike. I need to be able to run a steady, consistent effort the entire 13.1. I ran most of the ½ marathon with my friend and trip roommate Brooks Cowan. We swapped places a handful of times, and were able to encourage each other a bit throughout the run to keep fighting.  All in all, I felt strong on the day, followed my nutrition plan pretty well without any energy lows, which I believe was crucial, and enjoyed the challenge.

My plan was to take in around 3500mg of sodium the night before, 800-1000mg at breakfast, and around 1000mg/hour during the race. What did I eat/take in?

Night prior:
  • 14 Saltstick tablets post-dinner (1 tablet every 10 mins, 250mg sodium per tablet + other 4 electrolytes. Don’t try this at home ;) )
  • Epsom salt (magnesium) bath. Part of this was to soak/rub my neck as well in hopes of relieving the pain. 
  • Huge dinner of spinach salad, rice, chicken, fruit. Gluten free.
  • Magnesium, fish oil, multivitamin supplement
Race morning:
  • 6 Saltstick tablets (1500mg)
  • 3 packets oatmeal, banana, fruit, gluten free muffin, some rice
  • Magnesium, fish oil, multivitamin supplement
  • 1 package Generation UCAN starch drink
56 mile bike:
  • 10 Saltstick tablets (2500mg sodium + other electrolytes)
  • 1 Powerbar
  • 3 Powerbar gels
  • 20 oz. wild cherry Pepsi
  • 3 bottles on course Gatorade Endurance
  • 1 package Generation UCAN starch drink 
  • Half bottle of water (end of bike)
13.1 mile bike:
  • 2 gels
  • 12 Saltstick tablets (3000mg sodium)
  • Cup of on course Gatorade
  • Cup of water
  • Cup of Pepsi (mile 11)
Now that’s a ton of stuff to take in, but I believe I needed it. Do most 1/2 Iron athletes do this? No they don't. Everyone's needs are different. As soon as the cramping came, I took the salt, and it was gone within a minute. I was actually very surprised by this. I wouldn’t recommend this much salt for anyone and everyone, as you need to be careful with large amounts of sodium during races. It can cause water retention, bloating, and the inability to urinate if you consume too much.  I believe the reason why I was able to process it all without any GI issues was the fact that I stayed extremely hydrated the entire race, which is crucial (having to use the restroom a few times during the race..I'll not go into details on that one ;). 

Rev3 puts on incredible races, and their series is growing fast. You all need to do a Rev3. By far the most professional done events that exist. They go big on everything compared to everyone else (prize $, race coverage, videos, recaps, website, free stuff, jumbotrons, semi trucks, a big stage, race expo, free pro race entries, family friendly venues (Amusement parks, hot air balloon rides, etc)).

I will likely turn my focus to half iron (70.3) distance racing for 2012, as I believe it’s likely my best distance with the appropriate training.  I return from South Carolina in good spirits and highly motivated. I also take lessons from the weeks prior to Chicago and know the importance of living a balanced lifestyle in which you are able to enjoy what you are choosing to do, which in turn keeps motivation high and a healthy outlook on things.  Thanks to Trevor Stultz & the men of Multisport Ministries for housing me in their campground cabin the night after the race, and for the great fellowship this weekend as well and all the support from MsM. Also thank you to Jared & Ryan at Kompetitive Edge triathlon store in Denver. They have also become like family to me, and their support has absolutely blown me away this year! Check out the store or have Ryan give your bike a tune up. He's the best bike mechanic known to man. No, I'm not kidding either. Thanks for reading and for all your support!
 Here is the Rev3 Race Video: 

...and a photo from the Thursday prior to the race. I had the chance to speak to a PE class at Platte River Academy about bikes, triathlon, and life. They loved the bike, were shocked to feel how light race wheels truly are, and I enjoyed showing off the gear to the kids.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Athlete Interview: Brooks Cowan - Rookie Pro Triathlete, Bar Tender, Couch Surfer, & (Nearly) Sub 9 Hour Ironman

Athlete Interview #1 : Brooks Cowan
This is the first of (hopefully) a handful of Borger Endurance athlete interviews. People often wonder what the life of pro triathlete is like, and hopefully this interview sheds a bit of light on the topic.  As you will read, the life of many top pros who make a fine living in the sport is very different from the life of many rookie pros trying to make a name for themselves in the sport - sometimes struggling to get by financially while they pursue their dreams in sport. A highlight of being relatively new to the sport, such as in the case of 1st year pro Brooks Cowan, is the excitement that lies in the unknown.  Athletes relatively new to the sport may have no clue what their potential is, since they haven't tested themselves across all distances yet. Cowan  had never raced an Ironman, much less even a half iron distance triathlon. He had never trained for one either, but that didn't stop him for his random decision to see how far his body could take him, after a friendly discussion among friends turned into a bet. Brooks shared some thoughts on his 9:00:06 finish at the Rev3 Cedar Point iron distance triathlon, which landed him a 6th place finish and a (much needed) $2750 paycheck.

Borger Endurance: Can you give me a quick bio & tell me a bit about your athletic background
Brooks Cowan: I’m 24 years old and grew up swimming for Anderson Barracudas in Ohio and Mach 3 Flyers in Minnesota.  Becky Lavelle and I were on the same team at one point, small world right?  I Played soccer as well and quit swimming in 7th grade to focus on that.  I walked on to Miami (Ohio) University Track & Cross Country team, mainly as an 800 runner, but I had a bunch of injuries and started swimming again to cross train when I was 19.  I hopped into a club meet and went 55.5 in the 100 fly and 51.0 in the 100 free so I thought once my legs get healthy, I should get into triathlon.  Unfortunately, by the end of junior year I had had 4 stress fractures and Achilles tendonitis.  I decided to walk on to Miami’s swim team as a 100-200 butterflyer my senior year, enjoy being on a team and competing for my school, and give my legs a break.  I’ve had a few blips here and there but since summer 2009, I’ve been fairly consistent and healthy and have seen a steady progression in my triathlon performances.

BE: You previously were training in Boulder, Colorado then recently moved away from the mecca of triathlon. Why did you decide to leave, and where are your living now?
Cowan: What brought me out to Colorado was a forestry crew job doing beetle kill removal, trail maintenance, and other odd jobs for Colorado State Parks.  Once that ended in December I started working in bars during the night while spending my days training.  I spent so much time driving from Denver to Boulder that I decided to move there and really make an effort to become a great triathlete. I spent a year training with the best in the world by day and working in bars and t-shirt stores by night, in order to be able to afford it.  My [usual] work schedule changed while I was away at a race, and I got fired for missing a shift.  They often give employees a strike and second chances, but I was told I was showing up too tired from training to do a good job as a busser/barback .  My lease was up in a month and the idea of finding a new job, new apartment, security deposit, and trying to make it to races was too daunting. So, I packed up and left.
I learned that living in Boulder doesn’t make people fast, but rather out-hustling the competition does.  Most top triathletes were fast before they moved to Boulder, and I can train hard anywhere.  Traveling to races from Colorado was very expensive as well.  Leaving Colorado allowed me to race the Evergreen Triathlon on my way home to Troy, Michigan as well as placed me within a 4 hour drive of the Columbus Triathlon, the Chicago Tri, and Rev 3 Cedar Point.  I was able to carpool to Chicago with friends and thankfully didn’t have to pay for gas or housing, which was a help.
BE: Explain how your life has been as a first-year/rookie pro this year?
Cowan: Tiring but fun.  I really enjoy spending my weekends racing and trying to go as fast as possible.  I often catch myself complaining about the cost of the sport and have to remind myself what a privilege it is to race in the elite wave and the chance to try and chase down the best in the world.  It’s a great way to see new places, meet new people, and challenge myself to do the best I can.  I love racing and am trying to learn as much as possible.  I feel like I have a better understanding about what I’m up against and what I need to do this fall and winter going into my second year as an elite.  Only a handful of American triathletes are truly competitive at age 24, especially at non-drafting. So, although Matt Reed, Andy Potts, and Greg Bennett have been kicking my butt by 10 minutes, it’s a great life experience.  Trying to become a pro triathlete will give you a lot of life-reps which builds strong character.

BE: A few weeks ago after the Chicago Triathlon you told me you were headed home, going to look for a "real" business job, as opposed to working in restaurants and bars as you have the past few years. Is this still the plan? If so, how will this fit with your triathlon training? After hearing that, I got the feeling you were sick of living the poor man's life, working late hours at restaurants while trying to train a lot during the day, and thinking of moving on from the sport. Is this true, or was I wrong? After going 9 flat in the Ironman at your first run at it, seems like it would be hard to stop now, right?
Cowan: Working in bars meant that I made most of my money on weekends, so leaving town for a race was a big opportunity cost.  I was 12th at Escape from Alcatraz, 1:30 behind the final money spot, and I got home Monday night with 67 cents to my name.  My next shift wasn’t until 5pm Tuesday so all I had to eat was 10 eggs and a jar of salsa between the time. 
I would like to prevent situations like that, which is why I have been applying for business jobs.  I’ve worked 30-50 hours a week in restaurants getting home between 2-4 am so a 9am-5pm job seems pretty nice to me.  That way I could afford triathlon equipment, not have to borrow everything, and have weekends off to go to races.  I’m not moving on from triathlon, I would just like to make the bulk of my income on weekdays so I can travel on weekends. 
That 9 flat Ironman and the paycheck with it has been quite a teaser.  9:00 doesn’t pay the bills but based on my preparation and knowledge of the event, it makes me wonder how much faster I can be.  Racing fast takes patience and hard work and this sport isn’t cheap so I need to find a way to pay for it.  The idea of being a couch surfing triathlete is always lingering in the back of my head though.
BE: You recently decided to hop in the Rev3 Cedar Point Iron distance race two weeks ago, and surprised a few people with a 9:00 & 6th place finish. What made you sign up for that race after racing strictly Olympic distance races this season, and much less only training for the Olympic distance? Did you do any half iron distance races, or skip that distance and go right into the full?
Cowan: Since I returned to Michigan, my high school 4x800m teammates and I have gotten together every Tuesday night for beers.  We all competed in college and still do races so it’s been fun to catch up.  The Tuesday before the Chicago Triathlon we were speculating how fast I could do an Ironman.  I said that if I had a great day, I could go 50-5:00-3:00 [sub 9 hours] but they didn’t believe me.  The more I talked about it the more I believed I could.  I also had two broken bikes of my own, one borrowed bike that was broken, and was currently borrowing Mike Luginbill’s bike, one of the friends I was debating this with.  Looking at the Rev 3 prize purse I thought I might as well go for it, I’ve got nothing to lose and any cash prize would help me get my bikes fixed.  So I signed up without having done a 70.3 or even a marathon before.  $2750 is a nice reward and I am in the process of getting my own bikes fixed up.

BE: What was your training like leading into the race? Did you get in any longer workouts? You can't really just 'wing-it' going out fast in an Ironman and not blow up completely, or can you?
Cowan: I signed up a couple days after the Chicago Triathlon.  I went out to Stoney Creek MetroPark three times and did acceleration rides around the 10k loop with each lap getting faster.  48 miles on Aug 31st, 60 miles on Sept 4, and 48 miles again on Sept 7.  I did a good job of locking into my goal Ironman pace because I basically hit the same pace during the race.
BE: Describe how the race went, and what you were thinking throughout it?
Cowan: I read somewhere that Paula Newby Fraser described the Ironman as “crisis management” which could also be an accurate description of my day-to-day life.  What was interesting about the Ironman race was the internal debate going on in my mind.  For 7 of the 9 hours, I had the option of speeding up, slowing down, or maintaining, and kept having to decide…over and over.  My mentality going in was “get after it.”  140 miles is going to hurt no matter what so I figured going harder than what felt comfortable, chasing the guys ahead of me, and trying to hold off the guys behind me would get my adrenaline going and make the race go by faster. 
I crashed so hard the last 13 miles though, it was brutal.  It was a 2 lap run and my 1st lap was a 1:30 [1/2 marathon].  After that I had to stop a bunch because my legs were locking up from cramps.  I kept repeating to myself, “Cramp & Rally Baby!”  I brought it home in a 1:44 2nd lap, good enough for a 3:14 marathon.  This was also the first time I had ever run more than 16 miles so I think with better pacing, nutrition, and focused training I can do much better.
BE: Pretty impressive on Olympic distance training, I must say. What was your race day nutrition plan?

Cowan: I wanted to grab a Gatorade and a GU at every aid station, but I knew I might be in trouble when I wasn’t seeing any GU at the aid stations.  I only taped 4 GUs to my bike and was able to grab 2 more on the bike course but I will definitely have more than 6 next time.  I had 7 Gatorades and 2x Red Bulls on the bike as well, which I think was a mistake.  Next time I will have a lot more Gatorade and Gels on the bike and then save the red bull for my special needs bag on the run so the Sugar crash/caffeine crash doesn’t hit me in the middle of the run, that was really rough.

BE: Had you been working with a coach at all this year? If so, were they supportive of this jump into the Ironman distance race without perhaps, ideal Ironman training?
Cowan: I worked with Grant Holicky and Neal Henderson at Apex Coaching from April to mid July.  I’ve just been coaching myself since leaving Colorado.  They are awesome coaches who really helped me out and I enjoyed training with that group.  I used to work 5pm to 2am, get up at 7:30am and then do a swim-bike- run workout with them from 8am to almost 1pm so I figured if I could get through that, I could get through an Ironman, especially after those computrainer days ;)  Since then I’ve been on the wake-up and make something up plan.

BE: Is it true you raced on a borrowed bike, and stayed up til past midnight the night before watching TV with your homestay? 
Cowan: That was actually my 3rd borrowed bike of the year.  The only semi-functional bike of mine is a beaten up 9 speed 2005 trek 1500 (Discovery edition!).  I would borrow Doug Maclean’s backup 2006 Felt B2 for races, and then I borrowed his road bike for an ITU race.  The steer tube on his Felt B2 cracked and is past the 5 year warranty so I was able to get a Felt B16 loaner 4 weeks ago from Mike Luginbill.  Huge thanks to these guys, without them I’d just be doing aquathlons…which wouldn’t be too bad.  Getting a position locked in while having to borrow bikes gets frustrating though, I was making adjustments all the way up to Wednesday before the Ironman.  I can never fall asleep before midnight anyways and did you see that Michigan vs. Notre Dame game?  No way I was going to bed.

BE: What's next for you?
Cowan: Not sure, I really just need to make up my mind.  Putting in a solid 8 week block dedicated to going fast at Ironman Arizona would be interesting.  It would probably be a bad decision but trying to make good decisions never really works out for me.

BE: How can people's keep tabs on your in the future? Do you have a website, blog, or Twitter account?
Cowan: Yes, my blog is and Twitter name is @TBrooksCowan

BE: Thanks for your time Brooks. I'm tempted to place some bets and get you hyped up to prove some more folks wrong in your next one, perhaps Ironman Arizona?? Thanks for sharing your thoughts, funny stories, and your 'don't try this at home' approach to Ironman racing.  Good luck with everything.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Borger Endurance Multisport Coaching: Now taking on additional athletes

I've got 4 additional spots open for athletes seeking a coach. It's the perfect time to start up, with the 2010 season winding down & your dreams for a bigger, better, and most importantly faster 2011. If interested, shoot me and email to or give me a ring (303-929-8722). I'll explain more about my coaching services and how it all works. Also, keep your eyes open for a new updated & much more interactive website coming your way. I will be combining my website & blog into one site, with articles, race recaps, featured athlete bios, and other listings frequently being added and updated. Stay tuned...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Weekend Recap: Guiding blind athlete Aaron Scheidies & Lookout Mt Tri

What a weekend. I now have 6 runs under my belt with zero knee pain, including 2 training races, which is a huge encouragement. I finally figured out the cause of my injury, which was switching shoes in January after wearing the Brooks Adrenaline for 8 years with no problems. I switched to a very similar Brooks shoe, the Ravenna 2, which feels better as it's a bit lighter, though the minor change was enough to slowly build up bursitis in the knee over 12 weeks. It started with off and on pain and gradually worsened. I'm now back training normally as of last week, and eager to get my run fitness back. Part of this journey back to fitness meant hopping into 2 races this weekend for hard training sessions. Saturday I raced the Lookout Mountain Sprint Triathlon, which consisted of a unique and rare 525 yard pool swim, a 10 mile very hilly bike course, and a 5k hilly run which mostly was on dirt trails. I finished 3rd behind Aussie pro Tim Reed and my good friend and local pro Dan McIntosh. I had the fastest swim of the day, a first for me (thought it really wasn't advantageous in the short pool swim :) ). The 3 of us rode swapping the top 3 places frequently until about 2/3 into the bike leg, where the two got away from me on a fast downhill on their TT bikes, as I was maxed out with my gears spinning at 120RPMs after choosing to ride my road bike in place of the TT bike this race. I felt far from superior but that was to be expected, and overall got in a good workout.
Today was the highlight of the weekend. I had planned on racing the Denver Triathlon the following day as a training race as well as an opportunity to win a local race, assuming my knee pain continued to stay away. A few days ago I was asked if I would guide Aaron Scheidies, the world record holder for the visually impaired in both the Olympic distance and Ironman 70.3 distances. Knowing it would be a very cool and rare opportunity, I agreed to guide Aaron, and I had a great time. Despite a sore throat and not feeling 100%, Aaron pushed himself to finish 5th overall, racing his 3rd fastest Olympic distance time ever (1:59:04). We exited the water in around 8th place, rode up to about 4th place, and held on the 10k run with a 39 minute split. My role as a guide was to race with him, alongside him the entire way, directing him around the course. I swam and ran with him at his pace, and tried to hammer the bike leg on our tandem bike with Aaron, as it was where we knew we could make up the most ground. Thanks to Ryan Stedeford at Kompetitive Edge for giving our tandem a last second tune up before the start. He's hands down the best bike mechanic in Denver (no, that's not an exaggeration). We started on the right side of the swim beach start in the first wave, with the elite amateur wave. Overall navigation went pretty well. Aaron swam on my right, which meant me hugging the left hand turn buoys and staying a bit wide on the right hand turns. We had a smooth transition and rode hard. Everything went well on the bike for the most part. The only close call was nearly hitting some cones due to some sprint course athletes taking a wide turn alongside us. We practiced on the tandem for about 10 minutes the day before in a parking lot; it's a bit different - much heavier and a longer wheel base obviously, which makes turning and braking a bit interesting. We pushed a big gear and averaged mid 26-something mph on the 40k course. It was very cool to see over 10 visually impaired triathletes compete today, as the race benefited the C Different Foundation, which many of these athletes are a part of. Race director Chris Laskey and Matt Miller, who runs the C Different Foundation, put on a great inaugural race. It was a lot of fun racing with a different mindset than usual, simply there to help another achieve their best race as opposed to my own goals, whether that meant encouragement along the way to keep pushing hard, handing water cups on the run, or hammering it on the bike leg. Aaron was very much equally or more-so an encouragement to me along the way for sure. I'd love to team up with him again in the future and go for that world record for him!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The unfortunate update: Bursitis & IT band syndrome

I've been a bit absent from the blogging world the past month. There's not too much to report, unfortunately. I've been hit with bad IT band syndrome leading to what I believe is bursitis of the knee and have been working hard to get the injury in my left knee healed. Unfortunately, the day before my flight was supposed to take of for the Washington DC Triathlon a few weeks ago, I had to cancel the trip after hobbling off the track in a workout the day before. I've had the pain off and on since coming back from my heal injury in April, but it was never bad enough to cut a run short until the week of the DC race, where I hobbled back to the car after 3 consecutive runs. The past 5 weeks I've been able to maintain my swim and bike fitness, with a few longer rides than usual, but have been forced to cut back on my runs, taking about 2 full weeks off of running and then getting in a few 30-35 minute runs hear and there. I still plan on entering the Denver Triathlon a week from Sunday assuming the pain lessens, as a workout in the build toward August races like the Chicago Triathlon. It will be a chance for a strong swim and bike, and a great chance to get in a hard run for the first time in weeks, assuming I'm able.
In addition to the DC race, I had to cancel my trips to Utah for the Dinoland Triathlon as well as the Boulder Peak Triathlon, which was the biggest blow as it was one of the only chances for family to see me race at a local event, as well as one of my favorite races.
Every season has highs and lows. I'm in a low right now, but learning how to put one step in front of the other and get back on a high note.
Special thanks to Dr. Carlton Laursen at Denver Physical Therapy (Castle Rock location) who has generously offered to help me get this thing healed. He's offered several sessions to me including trigger point dry needing work, ART, stretching and other treatment.
As discouraging as this can be, it's important to keep looking forward. Putting one foot in front of the other.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Come Race the Denver Triathlon!

Many big cities across the US host a major Olympic distance triathlon each year - Chicago, LA, Dallas, Austin, Philadelphia, Washington DC... and Denver has always been missing from that list, until this year. Borger Endurance is proud to be a race ambassador for the 2011 Denver Triathlon, which takes place at Sloans Lake on July 24. Sign up now HERE. The race features an Olympic distance, sprint distance, and kids duathlon, and benefits the C Different Foundation, which creates the opportunity for visually impaired athletes to take place in events like triathlon.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The CapTex Tri Debacle & Race Report...Warning: It's a LONG one :)

Yesterday I raced the CapTex Triathlon in Austin, TX, the 2nd race in the Lifetime Fitness Series which offered $50k in prize money to pros, paying the top 10 men & women. If you follow triathlon, you may have already heard about the debacle that happened during the pro men's swim, which affected many pro's - like Hunter Kemper who may have lost $6,250 because of it. I'll explain what went down in a bit, but first share a bit about the events leading up to it.

Now, I must first say I am very thankful to race in the pro division. It's fun, fast, competitive, and I get to race head to head with the best in the world. I jumped off the dock yesterday next to 4 Olympians, a 70.3 World Champion, and a bunch of other big names. That, to me, is exciting - as I’ve dreamed of racing these guys for a long time though never thought it would happen. I hope to earn some decent money in the sport some day soon, but I currently don't make much like these guys. I got to thinking to myself, is it a right or a privilege to be a top pro triathlete making a lot of cash in the sport from prize money? Well, I think it’s a privilege, like most good jobs are. Having a job that pays (though our government aid programs may tell us what Americans think, or at least those in charge) is not a right, but a big blessing. However, should pro triathletes racing for income have the right to race fairly, under the same rules as one another, and deserve a professionally-run event? I think so, not necessary because it’s a right of theirs, but rather because they have a business partnership with race directors and race organizations. The pros are ambassadors for the sport, and for the races. The races do pay pros, however, the race’s success would likely not be the same without the pros. The pros often make the event what it is and hype it up, and hype up the sport in general. Would Ironman Kona be the same without the pros? No way. They attract participants and media, and put the race under a spotlight, which race directors love and profit from as it brings them more paying entrants as well as corporate sponsors.

How can pro triathletes show gratefulness for the opportunity to race for money when they don’t feel like the event they are racing in is well run and giving them all an equal shot at the money? How should they feel if the way a race is run hurts their chance to best succeed in their jobs? Is it ok to be frustrated? Or, is it not, since they were given an opportunity to race with the chance to put a lot of $$ in their pockets, and are not forced to come race by any means? These are all interesting questions.

The CapTexTri race itself is great. There are 3000 competitors, fans lining parts of the course, a great location, etc. However, many people were disappointed in the event. Amateurs pay around $150 to compete, and in turn I believe expect a well-run event. There will never be a flawless event, but you can get close with proper planning, prep, and organization. The pros showed up to the pro race meeting the day prior, greeted by the race director and the USAT referees. We were not given any printed race information or maps, instructions, or much else, which was ok, though it made everything seem a bit disorganized. We were also told we would be given things like VIP parking passes, which did not happen. Now, I do not think I deserve nor need a VIP parking pass, but when it is said to be given to us, I would assume it fair to trust that would happen. I mention this simply to point out details in organization that could have been improved. Our race packets had not been delivered to our meeting room, so we waited around until they were delivered. The pre-race announcements by the race director weren’t well organized at all, and it even seemed like a few race day decisions still were to be made. For example, the RD asked us whether we wanted an in-water start or a pontoon/dock dive start. He said we could vote on it. Obviously, the great swimmers and ITU athletes want a dive start, whereas the rest most likely did not. It’s not a huge deal either way, but this should be decided by the race, not a vote by athletes the day before. Andy Potts stood up and raised his voice on this at the meeting, and said something like, “this is ridiculous. There should not be a vote. That’s not how races go. You give us a course, and we race the course. That’s it. It shouldn’t be a vote.” I agree. We can’t vote on race rules, on wetsuit rules, how large the draft zone should be, and things like that. That is the job of the officials and race organizers. In the Tour de France there are no votes about what course to ride the day before. Obviously the climbers and sprinters would be at odds, which completely would favor one group over the other if an on the spot decision was made. The dive vs. in water start likely wouldn’t affect the results much, but it’s the concept and one more case of a lack of professionalism and organization that stood out with this race. I also was told by an age grouper on the plane this morning that did the race, that there were lines for over an hour into the late evening of athletes waiting to get their race packets.

Additionally in our pro meeting, the head USAT referee did not know the pro bike stagger rule, as she started telling us the age group drafting rules. After a few pros corrected her, she looked confused, and then must have realized that pros do actually have different rules on positioning on the bike. Two days after the race, there are still no accurate age group results up, and many people are saying their times are all off and they're even listed in the results as the wrong gender. Again, not a huge deal, but just one more issue that I heard people complaining about. I think from a business standpoint, making sure a race is run very professionally and the athletes are served well, could really come back to help the race organization succeed. Rev3, for example, has gotten an incredible reputation in just one year of putting on events, simply because they do business well, serve the athletes, and take the little race details very seriously. I think a lot of race directors could learn from Charlie Patten and Rev3. Now, having every little thing in place perfectly may not be a realistic expectation nor needed, but like in any business, if people pay a high price for your event, they expect good service and for it to be well run. And, when they receive great service, they proudly represent the race and speak very highly of it. I’ve seen many top pro’s promote the Rev3 race series on Facebook and Twitter simply because the race treats them well all around. Everyone appreciates each other helping one another out.

The Race:

I did not sleep the night before the race. With a similar bout of pre-race insomnia as I dealt with last year, I laid in bed with my mind spinning all night until I decided to eat breakfast at 3:45am. I took an Ambien around 10pm, though unfortunately felt nothing. I have taken 2 before, which has helped more, though I’ve been advised that 2 in considered an overdose and not safe. So, I opted for one pill, and unfortunately got zero minutes of sleep the night before the race. I felt pretty awful in the morning, but put that in the back of my head as I knew I could still race fine.

We lined up at the swim start on the dock, were called back off the dock and told to wait another 10 minutes. We were called back on the dock where we waited again for a bit. I’m not sure why exactly, likely again something to do with organization and planning. I lined up right behind Olympians Hunter Kemper, Matt Reed, and Andy Potts, knowing it best for me to take a 2nd row swim position and try to draft of the feet of the true fish in front. The course was the most clear, simple, and well-marked swim course I’ve probably raced in. I give the race credit for that, though it turned out not to matter. It consisted of 4 yellow turn buoys which formed a rectangle. There was no confusion amongst the pro men on the course whatsoever. It was led out by a few stand-up paddlers, a few jet skis, and I believe there was a lifeguard boat somewhere out there as well. We reached the first buoy about 300m out, turned right, swam another 100m to the 2nd turn buoy…and tried to turn right. I got to the buoy, slammed into a few people, and put my head up. It was chaos, as swimmers were yelling. I heard whistles, saw the paddlers and guys on jet skis pointing to the left and yelling at us to follow the lead boat. They had cut in front of the swimmers turning right, and instructed everyone to turn around and head the other direction, to ignore the buoy, and follow the lead paddle board. So, we followed the directions of the race marshals. Andy Potts and I believe one other athlete, Dan Tigert, ignored the commands of the race employees and swam right, following the correct course. They must have gone around the jet skis and paddle boards. The first few lead swimmers said a jet ski pulled right in front of them waving to turn, cutting them off. The 26 or so others of us who listened to the instructions from the race representatives in boats, not wanting to get disqualified, turned back the other direction and continued following the lead paddle board. We swam for about 60 seconds, and then slowly everyone realized we were headed down the river completely away from the race. Athletes started stopping and looking around. I heard a few people yell “what the F--- is going on?!” It was a bit chaotic. There is a lot of pressure in a race with $25k up for grabs for men, so every second can count.

So, the back of the pack swimmers, lagging 20-30 seconds back, stopped where they were and turned around at the same time, instantly putting them back in front (besides Potts & Tigert) and cutting out 50-70 meters or so of the course. I was about 5 seconds back from the leaders when we turned around, and we all had to catch up and re-pass the group and continue back onto the correct route. The swim continued and the lead women suddenly appeared with us. They started 4 minutes after us, so you can see how far off course we were made to go. By the time the women started, the race crew was well aware of their mistake, and the women all swam the correct course.

I honestly have no idea how on earth the course marshals could have made the mistake. It was the simplest, clearest swim course ever, and there was no need for lead paddlers. There were no other buoys in the river either, so I have no idea why anyone would think we were supposed to swim past our turn buoy.

Andy Potts led out of the water by several minutes, and eventually won the race by about 15 seconds over Hunter Kemper, who was (rightfully so) extremely upset about what had happened, and I believe trying to file a protest after the race. He would have won the race if Potts hadn’t gotten the several minute advantage, which cost Kemper over $6000. However, you can’t blame Potts, and he was swam the correct course, as I wish I would have. There’s really no right answer to the situation or anyone at fault other than the race directors and their staff. Some people proposed the two top finishers equally split the prize $ for the top 2 spots. However, what about the other athletes who’s money was affected? The rulebook says it’s the athlete’s responsibility to know the course, which everyone did, though it also says athletes must do as the race officials say. Maybe these people who led us astray were volunteers? Does that make us in the wrong for listening to them and not dodging their boats they drove in front of us?

One big lesson I’ve learned this year while losing valuable time in the swim in 2 out of my 3 races so far, is to simply ignore the race officials at times. You have to, or you might be put way back in the race. In general, follow what you know to be right, or follow the masses. At the start of the Miami 5150 race, about 20 athletes were treading water well in front of the start buoys and had started swimming well to the left of the start. The marshals on boats were yelling to get back to the line, saying they wouldn’t start the race until all the athletes were together behind the line. So, a few of us swam back to the line, just to hear the start horn blow. The race had began with the majority of the athletes about 10-15 seconds ahead of the start line, leaving me in the dust playing catch-up.

Hunter Kemper was the main person who got screwed financially yesterday. However, most people didn't think of the guys who finished in spots 6-10 for example. A second athlete who just snuck in the top 10 also swam the shorter course with Potts, thus taking a prize $ spot. If he swam the length we did, he'd have finished 1:30 behind me and out of the top 10. For Kemper, who financially is not struggling, it has been made a huge deal. However, I also think that for the guy who finished 8th or 9th and who is working 2 different jobs and sleeping on floors or even in his car before races, that matters just as much. He lost out on valuable prize money as well, even if it's one or two hundred dollars.

At the end of the day, I finished 13th out of about 28 pros. Overall I was pleased with my placing and efforts, as I finished ahead of a few athletes I’ve never beaten and who finished a few minutes ahead of me in Knoxville two weeks ago. However, I am still continuing to get my run fitness back from my injury, and know the best is still ahead. I pushed hard on the bike, as it was my goal for the day. I averaged 308 watts which is an improvement from the last race, but I still have much strength to gain on the bike to compete with the strong cyclists. I wanted to ride harder than usual, as that’s where I have historically lost ground, and to test my legs and see if they could handle running fatigued after a hard ride.

The 4 loop bike course was extremely windy, as winds gusted up to 30 mph all day the past 3 days in Austin. I was racing with a rear disc wheel and a front Zipp 808, which was really sketchy at times as I nearly got blown to the ground. I have to improve in my bike handling skills and learn to be comfortable in strong winds like this while in the aerobars.

On the run, the first few miles I thought I was in trouble. I had biked hard, and my legs felt it. It was in the mid 90s and I was feeling the heat. I took only 1 Powerbar gel during the race early into the bike to avoid stomach cramping on the run like last race, and taking the nutrition earlier helped. I didn’t get passed by anyone on the bike nor the run, and passed 2 or 3 men on the bike. The last mile of the run was extremely painful, as Pedro Gomes (Portuguese Ironman national record holder / 2nd place 2010 Ironman Florida) caught me and passed me with about 1200m to go. I stuck on his shoulder trying to draft a bit from the gusting wind. A few times I let him go about 5 feet ahead of me, playing mental games with myself wondering if I could hang onto him until the finish. I honestly didn’t think I could. I gave it a shot, and pulled back up on him. He slowed down and moved to the left to try to get me to take the lead. I was way too fatigued to lead, and enjoyed the slower pace for a few seconds. He moved back ahead and put in a strong surge with about 600m to go, and got about a 25 foot lead on me. I thought he was gone, but dug very very deep to reel him back in. With 200m to go I knew I had him, as I’ve vowed to never lose a sprint finish in a tri like this. It was a hard finish, extremely painful, but well worth the fight even though I was in the dirt on hands and knees in the finish chute after sprinting near all out the last 150m. I split 5:43 pace for the 10k. I had thought I finished 11th at the time, but later found out I was actually 13th. All in all a decent finish. If Potts & Tigert would have swum the same course, I would have been 12th, two spots from the money. I’ve still got plenty of work to do, but with it I can move up.

The big prize money races are very competitive for men. The top 10 spots for men had a spread of only about 6 minutes and 45 seconds, whereas the spread for the top 10 women was about 16 minutes. There are talented women for sure, but usually the fields are not as deeply stacked, and you usually have to finish in a closer % of the winner’s time in the men’s fields as in the women’s fields to come home with money.

I think the race mishaps simply show a bit of where our sport is today unfortunately, compared to other sports. It’s simply not as big of deal, nor does it have the big prize money nor following of sports like cycling, golf, NASCAR, etc. In the big races of those sports, there’s not much room for error, and it’s pretty rare to see a big mess up like that. I feel for the guys who lost money over it yesterday, but it was just an unfortunate event caused by the race crew, no fault by any of the athletes. Sometimes that’s just part of racing and you just have to roll with it.

Added: 5/31 Just got a call from the race director & They're still trying to find out exactly what happened during the swim, and who led us off course. No employees/volunteers have confessed to being the one involved. They want to have the facts straight before they make a public announcement. I can definitely tell they know their reputation as a race/director has been damaged and feel pretty bad about everything. It will be interesting to see what happens. Will they award Potts & Kemper both 1st place or equal prize $ and points? Do they keep the results as is? Or do something else? Time will tell.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Borger Endurance & 2 Roads School

I had to opportunity to head to 2 Roads School earlier this month to share a bit about triathlon, show off some fancy race equipment, and give a short bike maintenance clinic. The aero helmet was the hit of the day, as everyone wanted to try it out and see how much faster it truly made them go!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Rev3 Knoxville

Sometimes you've just gotta go race. I made a late decision to race the Rev3 Olympic Tri in Knoxville, TN this past weekend. Originally I was not planning on racing until Memorial Day weekend, due to my lost fitness from the heel injury and getting sick last week, but about a week before the race I really got the itch to race. Coach Melissa had me do a 40k bike time trial workout to see where I was at. The workout didn't go incredibly well nor too poorly either; I'm not sure what it was that fed my desire to want to race, but on the way home from the workout I got VERY eager to race. I found myself thinking "forget the injuries, sickness, wondering if I'm ready, just simply go RACE! I train to race, not to just train." You can always be more ready, fitter, and so on. Just go race!

I booked a flight on Frontier using airline miles. I had emailed Rev3 previously a few weeks prior telling them to take me off the start list. I checked if it was too late to re-register, and was told they actually had never taken me off the start list, so I was good to go. (Side note: Frontier recently became the first airline I know to change their policy and no longer charge bike fees! Thank you Frontier!! This is HUGE, since Frontier's hub is in Denver. Frontier, you just got thousands of cyclists and triathletes to fly with you now!). Krista Baker at Rev3 arranged a hotel room for Josh & I, and I can honestly say that Rev3 has done an amazing job in the 2 short years of their existence. They know how to put on a professional, top-notch, high quality, big prize money race and truly serve the athletes. Everything is professional: race organization, setup, meals, videos, media coverage, website, etc. Thank you Rev3!

The week of the race I came down with a sore throat and bit of sickness, but there was a far larger concern that I thought may change my plans again at the last minute. My grandfather in Michigan unexpectedly collapsed in his yard due to bleeding in his brain, and had to undergo two emergency brain surgeries the next several days. I am very thankful that my grandfather is pressing on and slowly healing from the events; they were serious surgeries and the family was quite concerned. My mother flew out to Michigan to be with him the night of the first emergency surgery and has been there all week. He is slowly recovering, gaining memory, and hopefully will be able to come home from the hospital in the near future. He was coherent enough the night before the race to tell my mom to pass on a message to me on the phone: "Get er done." That was very encouraging to hear.

Multisport Ministries also is now connected with the Rev3 race series, and the MsM chaplain John Adams was putting together an event the night before the race called Tri Inspire, and had asked myself and fellow MsM teammate Josh Merrick to speak at the event. So, there were more than enough reasons to make the trip. The Tri Inspire event MsM was a great opportunity to meet new people as well as share a bit of thoughts about racing with purpose and finding joy in our pursuits, something I have been trying very hard to do lately.

The Race Report:
I finished 16th out of 28 pros and 12 seconds behind Josh. The swim went considerably better than the Miami 5150 race in March. My TYR Hurricane Cat 5 wetsuit from the guys at Kompetitive Edge was incredible, and luckily the water temp was cold enough for the race to allow wetsuits. This favors the weaker swimmers like myself. I didn't feel super great on the swim, but found myself sitting in the back of about a 15-person main chase pack. The last 10 minutes or so I became anxious to try to make a move and pass the group, but simply couldn't get around anyone as the group was strung out wide and I was sitting at the back. After a few kicks to the arms and one hard one to my face, I decided it was best to just sit in the group. This was a good decision looking back, as I was able to draft off the pack, conserve energy, and the leaders (Cam Dye, Olympian Matt Reed, the young stud and uber-biker Andrew Yoder, and Brian Fleischman who shares my same coach) were already strung out ahead so my chances of getting away from this group wasn't the greatest anyways. I came out of the water a bit over a minute down from the leaders, who were crushing it at the front. I honestly felt like it was a slow swim, as I really could have picked up the pace. After pulling myself onto the dock out of the river, I could see I was in the same pack as Australians Joe Gambles of team Trek-KSwiss and Richie Cunningham, and Andrew Starkowicz and other swimmers who I honestly would have thought would have gotten away from me. It was a fine swim considering I had a lot more left in the tank as well.
Onto the bike, the group honestly got away from me pretty quickly, other than a couple of guys including Starkowicz. He's usually a machine on the bike (he won the bike prime two years ago at the Ironman 70.3 world championships.. yes, he's strong), but he just came off an injury as well so was a bit off form. I passed Starkowicz the first mile or so of the bike, and rode behind another athlete for about the first 30 minutes of the ride until I knew I needed to move up on one of the steep climbs. The bike course was tough, and consisted of mostly rolling hills. Starkowicz passed me at about the half way point, and the rest of the ride my goal was to keep him in sight, which I did for all of it minus the final mile or two.

The bike is where the race got away from me. I NEED to make cycling a serious priority the next 6 months! I can usually run with the good pros in the sport when I am fit. I was right there at the Miami race. Apparently, with my TYR wetsuit :) I can hang on the swim with some of the decent main pack swimmers as well (but NOT the top swimmers yet; they're truly in a league of their own). But honestly right now, I CANNOT ride with these guys. It's discouraging, but I need to start facing the facts, and getting my butt in gear. Yes, I pass a few people during races and outbiked a group of the pros, but the truth is the bike spread is huge between the best cyclists in the sport and the worst. A poor bike split can set you back over 5-7 minutes, whereas a poor swim will only put you back a minute or two. This is why cycling is CRUCIAL in Olympic distance non-draft racing. If you're not strong on the bike, you're out of the race. Yes, the top pros have experience on me by many years, but I am racing in the pro division this year and need to man up and try to COMPETE. If my cycling does not improve, I simply cannot compete. I have a lot of work to do.
At the end of the bike, I found myself going nearly 30mph into transition 2, riding head on with 4 or 5 age group women coming out of the transition area straight at me. They had swerved onto my side of the road instead of staying on the right side out of transition. I screamed at them as did a number of spectators, and somehow I swerved around them all, avoided a crash, and was able to dismount at the last second before the dismount line and run into transition (with my cycling shoes on, clunking away, as I was unable to unstrap the shoes and run barefoot as I usually do due to the mishap). I escaped without a crash so I can't complain too much. However, it would be good if more athletes started paying attention to rules and course boundaries.

The summary of the run is this: I struggled the entire 10k with a bad gut cramp from taking an energy gel too late on the bike. I passed Starkowicz and one other athlete on the run, but was passed by teammate Josh Merrick at about the halfway point. Josh said I looked pretty hunched over when he passed me. My legs felt good, but stomach was forcing my pace to slow. I ran a mid 35 minute 10k, about 2 1/2 minutes slower than I ran in Miami with my personal best 10k run split there. A 35 minute 10k is no longer acceptable for me.

The goal of the race was to give an honest hard effort. I didn't expect a breakthrough race, but the hope of one is always there even if the fitness may not be. I gave a hard effort, but cannot honestly say I raced all out the entire time. I was hindered by cramps, but need to be stronger mentally to fight through them. Again, I have a lot of work to do.
The weekend was still a success, however, as I was able to meet some great folks from the race and fellow members of Multisport Ministries. I strive to continue to race for a greater purpose than myself, which has been a struggle to keep at the front of my mind at times, especially feeling the pressure that results are the only thing that matter...though that's not exactly the case; it's a goal of mine to keep a balanced perspective on things. There are many opportunities to impact others through this sport. Onward to the next race, the Capital of Texas Triathlon in two weeks. I'm headed to Austin to race and for the wedding of my good friend Derek Yorek the day after the race.
Time to keep putting in the work! Onward. Thanks for the support.