Ironman Wisconsin Champ!

Ironman Wisconsin Champ!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ironman Wisconsin-Culmination of an 8 Year Journey

2014 Ironman Wisconsin Race Report

The season Leading into Wisconsin
The quick summary is I got injured in February (too much/too hard training without enough buildup) and the injury took about 6 weeks to recover from.  Although I was healthy before the heart of the racing season the fitness setback from the 6 weeks of injury resulted in less than desired race results for the entire first half of the race season.  The pinnacle of this was finishing 9th at the Racine 70.3 in July, a full 10 minutes off the winner.  Following that race I made the decision to cancel all of my planned races the rest of the summer in favor of doing a major training block and putting all of my cards into Ironman Wisconsin.

Wisconsin training block
*I’m including this because the 5 week stretch spanning July 20-August 23 is the reason I won Ironman Wisconsin.  What I did on September 7 only happened as a result of what I did these 5 weeks.
In 35 days I logged the following training totals
Swim: 26 sessions, 118,000 yards (23.6k avg/wk)
Bike: 32 sessions, 1934 miles (387 mile avg/wk)
Run: 32 sessions 323 miles (64.5 mile avg/wk)
Hours: 187:34 (37:30 avg/wk)
*19 days with 6+ hours training

Swim:  52:16  3rd fastest split
I knew going into the race from the start list that I would not be able swim front pack at this race.  I started well and made it comfortably into the second pack.  After about 10 minutes or so the pace slowed substantially and after the first turn I made my way up front and into the lead of the group.  Ordinarily I’d never do this and would choose instead to swim easy and give up some time in favor of conserving in the draft, but I knew that Brandon Marsh, one of my main competitors would several minutes ahead of me out of the swim and I wanted to keep the pace from lagging and giving up more time than we already were.  I ended up pulling close to 10 guys and one female for close to the remaining 3000 meters of the swim.  I was hoping to limit Brandon to 3 minutes out of the swim, but I heard 4.5 minutes as I mounted the bike.

Bike:  4:42:57 23.8mph 3rd fastest split
My plan on the bike this year was to ride proactively, not reactively, and to not ride scared.  Last year I rode much more conservative as I had never raced an Ironman course this hilly.  I finished 6 minutes out of the win after surrendering 14 minutes on the bike and couldn’t help but wonder what if I had ridden harder.  This year I was just going to go for it and trust in all the 400 mile training weeks.  Our large pack out of the swim started together and I kept up front.  A few guys came by to take leads but I felt the pace was slowing each time so like the swim I took it upon myself to ride first in line in order to keep the pace high and limit the German uber-cyclist, Bachor’s lead.  After just 30 minutes I had dropped everyone except for two other riders and after 60 miles it was down to just myself and Pedro Gomes in 3rd-4th place.  I tried to break away but he was just too strong and by the time we reached 100 miles I was feeling the effects of the effort and my power dropped substantially the final 20k.  Thankfully the major hills were finished by that point.  We rolled into T2 right behind Brandon Marsh, catching him in the very last mile, 2nd-4th place within 20 seconds but 11 minutes down on the lead.  I rode 6 minutes faster than last year although conditions this year were a few minutes faster than last year.

Run:  2:50:14  Fastest split, course record
I had the fastest T2 and was first of our group onto the run course.  The first 2-3 minutes were very slow and difficult and I jogged slowly to allow my legs to come around which they quickly did.  I was very surprised to see a first mile split of 6:04 and despite holding 6:05 minute pace the next 3 miles Pedro had dropped me and I had dropped Brandon.  I was through 10 miles holding 3rd place in 1:02:xx which I knew was too fast but it felt easy and despite sunny skies there was no hint of heat.  Through 13.1 in 1:23:11, my fastest opening 13.1 by 2 minutes.  At the turnaround I noticed Pedro was no longer putting time into me and just a minute ahead.  I thought second place was possible but we were still 8 minutes off the lead having only brought back 3 minutes in the opening half. 
Around mile 16 Pedro was fading quickly, I was still feeling great and I decided to push the pace so he would have no thoughts of staying with me as I went by.  As I was catching him a spectator on the side of the road told me 2:30 down and my thought was ‘what are you talking about, he’s 50 yards in front of me’.  I made the pass on Pedro and soon after heard another report, “2 minutes down he’s walking”.  Suddenly it clicked and an incredible rush of emotion as although winning had been my goal since the moment I crossed the line second a year ago, this was the first time I thought it possible on the day.  I started thinking about winning the race and had to coax myself to snap out of it as I started getting goose bumps and emotional.  This was the opportunity I had thought about thousands of times in training the past 8 years.  The pass into the lead at mile 19 was anti-climatic as Bachor was walking through the aid station.  I passed my family and the massive crowd on State Street around that time and the excitement in the cheers was extremely energizing.  I saw I was 3:30 up on Marsh the guy I was most worried around and decided I was going to really push the next 2 miles to the final turnaround so that I could put the race away and relax the final miles.  Through 20 miles in 2:07:xx. 
I hit the final turnaround suddenly my euphoria was gone as I saw Marsh had brought my lead down to 3 minutes despite me having made a very hard push the previous 2 miles.   Immediately the gravity of being on the verge of winning coupled with the exhaustion of the hard move I had made the previous 5 miles took hold and it was all almost debilitating.  I started thinking about Marsh coming from behind and the fact that I still have 5 miles to go.  I started to feel slightly dizzy and had a few minutes of pure helpless desperation.  I’ve never experienced such a feeling in my life and for a few minutes I didn’t know if I’d even finish.  I felt like I might lose it at any minute and collapse and I slowed to probably 9 minute pace because I was worried that if I collapsed between aid stations people might not find me (for some reason the fact that I had a 3 person escort and there were other racers on the course had completely escaped my mind).  I wanted to make it to the next aid station where I could lay down and be tended to.  As it turns out the few minutes of slow trot really saved me and I came back around, took in a lot of extra calories, and was able to regroup physically and mentally.  I’m still in the lead, I can do this.  I started taking a gel every mile though my pace was never the same following the bad patch. 
2 miles to go, started checking behind me.  1 mile to go up State Street and I wish I could have enjoyed the massive roar of the crowd but was still in a bad enough place physically I knew it was still possible to be passed.  As I made the final few turns around the state capitol one of my escort cyclists slows and says to me, “I’m not allowed to talk to you but you have one minute to set the course record” (turns out I probably had closer to 3 minutes but I didn’t know the CR nor do I keep a race time on my watch).  That caused me to haul it down the finish chute and even 50 yards from the line I was still checking back for Marsh.  Finally the last 20 yards the excitement and flood of emotion came pouring out, I won this race, what a journey.  Brandon Marsh finished just a minute later and then Mike Reilly pulled me back out for the interview.  We stood for a few seconds waiting for the camera and the music to come down.  It was the first time everything stopped and in that moment I suddenly felt extremely ill and utterly exhausted.  I gave the entire interview with my eyes squinted shut just trying to stay upright and alert, I don’t recall the questions or my answers.  I set the course record by 90 seconds and a marathon course record by 7 seconds.  My 13.1 splits of 1:23:11/1:27:03 is the most even paced I’ve ever run and the first time I’ve run the last 13.1 under 1:30.  Going into the race I thought sub-2:55 would be good and sub-2:53 great (last year I ran 2:57).  I never knew I had 2:50 in me.

Total:  8:31:20, course record.  Career overall win #46, Professional win #3, Ironman win #1

I’ve been asked a lot about what this win means to me and so far have given mostly superficial answers (hard work pays off, always believe, etc.)  While those answers are true, I’m not quite sure if I can properly put my feelings and emotions into words just yet.  I think a lot about 8.5 years ago when I was a DePauw University senior getting ready to graduate and while everyone was applying for jobs, grad school, etc. I knew in the back of my mind I really wanted to pursue triathlon.  At the time I didn’t know anything about what it meant to be a professional triathlete, the limited financial opportunities, or what it took physically, I just knew that I really enjoyed fitness, racing, and pushing myself to see what I could be.  While I’ll never know what my life would be today had I pursued a traditional post-school path, I can say with certainty that if I could travel back in time knowing what I know now, I’d make the exact same decision again.  And it didn’t take winning an Ironman, or any race, to justify that decision, it was justified long ago by the people I’ve met, places I’ve been, experiences and relationships I’ve had through the career path I’ve chosen.

I’m well aware that the life I’m living right now is not real or sustainable.  I won’t be doing what I’m doing now in 12 years.  Any time a career is dependent upon the physical performance of the body you’re always one major injury or accident away from the end.  I’m well aware that this journey could be over tomorrow for me.  But I know that no matter how much, or how little I accomplish, how long or how short my body allows me to continue racing, this has been worth it for me.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Endurance Hour Podcast with Daniel Bretscher

I joined Dave Erickson and Roger Thompson this week for the Endurance Hour Podcast.  For a full 40 minutes we chatted about my road to becoming a professional triathlete, coaching, new sponsors in 2014, making a living as a pro triathlete, and my 2013 Kansas 70.3 dual with Craig Alexander.  Going to be a great year, enjoy!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

2013 Season Finished!

My 2013 race season has concluded, I made the decision this past week to withdrawal from Ironman Arizona.  After having a really great season, the past 6 weeks have been a real struggle.  I've been sick on three separate occasions in the past month which is highly unusual for me.  In addition training has really been challenging since Ironman Wisconsin, my body has not been responding or recovering like it was all season.  I gave it until the very last week to come around but after thinking about it for some time I really think it is in my best interest to call it a year and not force my body to put out another Ironman.  If it was any other race distance I'd go and try to "fudge" my way through, but I have too much respect for the Ironman distance and the damage it can do to the body than to go in with a body that is giving me signs that it is time to shut it down for the year.  This has been my most demanding race season to date with six Half Ironmans (five of which I finished under 4 hours) plus a full Ironman on a difficult course.  It's been an incredible ride and it's not with sadness that my season is finished, it's with happiness because I'm confident I got everything out of myself this year.

My 2013 race season will go down in history as 'Year of the Second Place Finish'

New Orleans 70.3  12th
Memphis in May  2nd
Pigman Sprint  2nd
Kansas 70.3  2nd
Decatur Lakeside  1st
Muncie 70.3  4th (2nd American)
Racine 70.3  8th (2nd American)
Steelhead 70.3  2nd
Pigman Olympic  1st
Ironman Wisconsin  2nd
Galveston 5150  2nd
Austin 70.3  8th

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Austin 70.3-Racing Sick

Austin 70.3

Swim: 25:41  14th fastest
Bike: 2:13:09  25.0mph  264 avg watts  13th fastest
Run: 1:15:44  7th fastest
Overall: 3:58:12  8th place

Woke up feeling almost 100% though I suspect I was pretty drained from being sick all day Saturday.  The swim felt awful and I thought was one of my worst, but overall it ended up being pretty average, far better than I suspected.  Got on the bike and immediately had nothing, was working hard and couldn't hit 70.3 watts whereas normally I have to hold myself back at the start of the bike.  Got passed, and dropped, but one person after another.  Been a long time since that's happened, been a long time since I felt this weak on the bike.  Things got a little better after an hour and I lucked out that a group formed and I was able to ride in the back the entire second half and save watts while going fast.  Started the run in 14th and expected to feel awful but after about 5 minutes I started catching people.  Only thing that had me motivated on this run was that I knew there were HyVee points and every person I passed meant more points.  Pretty soon I was giving everything I had to get every last point.  Madeup 6 positions on the run to finish 8th in what is no doubt my most rewarding bad race of the year.  Funny how a little perspective makes all the difference in the world.  Was pumped for my run split but then found out course was 12.83 miles, about 90s short.  Finished off the day with another 40min run to make it a long run.  Really proud of myself for this, had serious thoughts about dropping out at the start of the bike but stuck it out and ended up with a decent result all things considered.  5th time under 4 hours this year which is a new record for a single year.  3 more weeks, not going strong but motivated to finish this season.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Follow Me

Just a quick note to let everyone know that I am on FB and twitter now

Facebook: "Daniel Bretscher Multisports"

Twitter: @DanielBretscher

Monday, September 23, 2013

Galveston 5150-Spur of the Moment Addition

Galveston 5150 TX

Swim: Cancelled (high winds)
Bike: 54:37  Fastest split  26.8mph  316w
Run: 34:52  7th fastest split
Overall: 1:30:14  Second place

Added this race to the schedule only a week ago, had a great recovery from Wisconsin and could feel a real boost in fitness on the bike.  Plus I've just had the desire and hunger to race more this year when normally in September I'm counting down the days to the last race.  Didn't really know what to expect coming off of Wisconsin, but I knew I was in the best shape of my life, just didn't know if it would show.  Ultimately I figured that if I raced awful I wasn't any worse off than if I didn't race at all.
Weather was awful from the time I arrived, and it kept me inside all day Saturday with storms and strong winds all day.  There was a chance for storms Sunday and I was worried the entire race would be cancelled.  At the pro meeting I learned the swim was already cancelled since the wind was only going to pick up for Sunday.  For the race we did a TT start, always a little nerve racking since you never know what place you're in and have to go max effort all the way to the line.  I was really strong on the bike, once I got through the initial first few miles and onto the highway I picked up the tailwind and rode the final 8.3 miles to the turnaround in 15 minutes, 33mph.  The strong headwind wasn't an issue at all on the return trip, it was very steady and not gusting at all so controling the bike wasn't hard at all like I feared.  Posted the fastest split on the day and could sense from my placing amongst others that I must be near the lead.  Ran the 10k with the urgency of racing for the win.  The run legs weren't really all there, but for racing an Ironman 14 days ago, and 24 miles of running in the past two weeks I really can't complain, the run legs were still decent.  Only checked my watch at 2 miles and saw 10:57.  People said the run course was close to a quarter mile long so I'm pretty please with the split.  Pushed all out to the end, complete with sprint finish, never want to be the person to lose by 1-2 seconds in a TT start format.  Thought I was second, but had to wait to hear it officially.  Very happy I did this race, picked up another good result and a good start on points towards 2014 HyVee qualification if I want to pursue that next year.  Wish there were more races this time of year, feeling the best I've ever felt this late in the season.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Ironman Wisconsin-Finest Race Execution to Date

Ironman Wisconsin
Swim: 53:00  6th fastest split
Bike: 4:49:15  23.2mph  249 watts  4th fastest
Run: 2:57:26  2nd fastest
Overall: 8:46:00  2nd place

Race morning I was amped like I've never seen before.  Just preping my bike my heart rate was hovering around 120.  I ended up having probably my best triathlon swim ever and made the lead group even in choppy conditions.  I'm still not exactly sure how I pulled that off since 10 minutes into the race I saw myself swimming next to guys who I eventually beat out of the water by 3-5 minutes.  I knew as soon as we made the first turn we would be heading straight into the chop for 20+ minutes and I had to be on someone's feet for that section.  I kept moving up, must have made it just onto the tail end of the lead group when we made the turn, and then the groups must have split as we headed into the chop and I was fortunate enough to get pulled along at the end of the lead group.  I actually got dropped about three times but was able to swim my way back up to the group each time.  A little over halfway the surges stopped and the pace was really easy the entire rest of the swim.
Onto the bike I had a power plan that I was pretty confident in.  I knew the final 20k would be into a strong headwind and be critical.  As such I really went out easy and let most of the front pack go, riding in sixth position.  I gradually increased the power through the first lap, but never rode hard, and made sure to never spike my power up the numerous climbs.  Through 56 miles I had moved into third but given up 10 full minutes to the front two.  I tried my best to increase my power the second loop but the course was so crowded with lapped racers that it was very difficult, I had to come to a near complete stop at one aid station.  Finally I made it through the second loop unscathed and the final 20k back into Madison is where my conservative pace at the start really paid off.  I recorded my highest 1 minute, 5 minute and 10 minute power output all in the final 20k of the ride.  Maik put 10 minutes on me in the first 56, and added just 4 more in the last 56.  Second place put 10 minutes on me in the first 56, and I cut his lead down to just 3 minutes by T2.

Onto the marathon I immediately felt the benefits of a well executed bike.  My running legs were there almost immediately and I was putting the brakes on the first 10k and still seeing 6:20 splits.  I went through a rough patch from 7-13 miles but was still running 6:45 pace and slowly pulling second place back.  I hit the first 13.1 in 1:26:26 and shortly after made the pass for second place.  I felt great again for miles 14-20 and at one point was cutting a minute per mile from the leader.  With 10k to go I was 7 minutes down and thought I had a chance.  Then the usual discomfort of the final 10k set in and my pace slipped to 7 minute miles.  I ended up a little over 5 minutes off the win.  My marathon splits of 1:26:26/1:31:00 was the most balanced marathon I've ever run and I ended up missing my marathon pr by 6 seconds!

                                                 Overall a great race for me, no doubt my best executed 140.6 ever.  Between making the front swim pack, and pacing the bike and run really well I can see only minor flaws with my race.  If I could do it over again I would push a little harder on the bike, but I never anticipated someone breaking the bike course record by 3 minutes and having a 10+ minute lead on second into T2.  I plan to finish my season at Ironman Arizona in November.