Ironman Wisconsin Champ!

Ironman Wisconsin Champ!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Westchester Triathlon

Coming off of Rev 3 Cedar Point I had by far my best Ironman recovery to date.  Consequently I made the decision to race on just two weeks recovery.  I know I am fit and wanted to take full advantage as one of the lessons I've learned the past few years is you cannot take great fitness for granted, it doesn't happen by accident.  The Westchester Triathlon was the race I chose to tackle, an olympic distance race with a smaller pro prize purse taking place about 20 miles north of New York City.  After driving the course on Saturday and making note of the seemingly endless number of multi-million dollar mansions and exotic cars along the route I did a little internet research and learned that Westchester County NY is the 7th wealthiest in the entire country.  That explains it.

Swim:  19:20  8th fastest split
The race venue was beautiful and the swim one of the more enjoyable I've done, in the ocean water of the Long Island sound.  With only 9 pro men competing I expected the race to be pretty spread out.  I didn't expect 8 of us (plus two women) to all be the same swimming ability and have a large pack the whole way.  I exited the water in 8th place but just 20 seconds down on second place.

Bike:  59:12  25.4mph  2nd fastest split
The bike course was very urban, lots of intersections and turns, lots of bad pavement and obstacles, several significant climbs, and a bit of traffic to contend with.  After driving the course and seeing it for the first time Saturday I had pretty much written off the possibility of breaking an hour.  So I was really happy with the way I rode, I wasn't quite as strong as I was two weeks ago in Cedar Point but I'm still riding very well right now.  Out of T1 I was sitting 8th and made my way into 3rd within the first 5 miles.  My plan for the bike was just to push as hard as possible and never fall into a comfort zone.  I knew coming off of Ironman racing that endurance wouldn't be an issue and I just needed to have the guts to really hurt the whole way.  I gave up a little time on a few descents and in a few corners being conservative since I didn't know the course very well but overall still a quality ride, second fastest on the day and by far the hardest 40k course that I've ever broken an hour on.  Into T2 in 3rd, two min back of the lead and one minute down on second.

Run:  36:42  6th fastest split
Starting the run I knew that the win was probably out of reach but I believed I could catch second and that's what I set out to do.  However I realized in checking my splits through the first few miles that I was not running my typical 10k pace despite my efforts.  There's only so much you can ask your body to do two weeks post-Ironman and for me a sub-34 10k might not be one of them.  Although I was running 10-15 seconds per mile slower than the effort felt I was visibly pulling back second place, slowly but surely.  I focused really hard on bringing him back and with two miles to go I timed the gap at 23 seconds, it was going to be really close.  But then, out of the blue and with no warning or prior discomfort, I was suddenly overcome with a sharp, intense, and debilitating pain in my lower left calf.  In the span of 10 seconds I went from charging after second to stopped on the side of the road barely able to walk and unsure if I could finish.  After being unable to move for a few seconds I started to get things under control and assessed the situation.  I had just over a mile to the finish and knew I had a good 3 minutes over 4th.  Not enough time that I could walk the whole thing like what probably would have been smart, but enough of a lead that I could afford to limp home.  I realized I couldn't really run at all because I couldn't put any pressure on the ball of my left foot but I managed to find a way to limp/gallop at around 8min pace while pushing off the ground with only my heel on my left foot.  It was pretty awkward but it got me to the finish in 3rd place with 40 seconds to spare over 4th.

Overall:  1:56:42  3rd place
A decent result which is good but now I'm hurt which isn't good.  Post race I could barely walk and it was straight to the med tent for treatment.  The pain was so general at the time that I was really worried it was my achilles as I've observed through others how nasty achilles problems can be.  But now that things have settled down a bit more I'm pretty certain it is my lower calf, I'm hoping nothing more than a severe calf strain.  Monday was a scheduled off day and today (Tuesday) I won't be running, likely not Wednesday either.  I really want to race the Pocono 70.3 this weekend and Rev 3 South Carolina on October 9 but won't race either if I'm not 100%.  So we'll just have to wait and see how the healing comes along, it seems to slowly be getting better.  I'm very fit right now and think I can get on the podium this weekend if I am able to race so am doing everything possible to speed the healing.  Below are top-5 results.

1     Jordan Jones             7 19:08    8    0:51 9     57:18  1    0:47 5     34:25  1   1:52:26
2     John Kenny               6 17:43    1    0:50 7     59:41  3    0:52 7     35:21  3   1:54:26
3     Daniel Bretscher         8 19:20    10   0:50 8     59:12  2    0:39 1     36:42  6   1:56:42
4     Patrice Hamelin          4 18:54    3    0:49 6   1:02:06  4    0:43 4     34:52  2   1:57:22
5     Matt Mangen              1 19:00    6    0:56 10  1:02:36  5    0:53 8     36:46  7   2:00:09

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Rev 3 Cedar Point-Triumph in the Face of Adversity

Sometimes the race results don't tell the full story. That was the case at my biggest race of the year this past weekend, the Rev 3 Cedar Point full-Iron distance. On paper it's another solid 5th place, but nothing ground breaking compared to what I've already done this summer. However, with the adversity and total mental breakdown I had to endure for several hours mid-race, and the fact that I went through what I did and still came out with a top-5 finish and new PR, this was by far my best performance of the year, one of my best races ever, and I'd have to say my most proud race result ever. As they say, this is one of those races where you really learn something about yourself.

I went into this race very confident, the most confident I've been heading into a race since my 2008 season.  I knew from training I was very fit, I felt I was peaking perfect, in fact everything seemed and felt perfect heading in which is quite rare in my experience.  I've never been one to talk a big game so I surprised myself Saturday evening when I made the comment to someone, "this will be my last race flying under the radar".  Slept great Saturday night, another rarity for Ironman, most of my typical Ironman nerves were transformed into confidence.

Swim:  51:56  7th fastest split
Not much to report in the swim, it was both good and bad.  Good in the fact that my swim training had gone well in the lead up to the race and I am my most swim-fit of year right now.  Bad in the fact that I swam alone the entire way, no feet to draft.  With only about 16 pro men in this race I knew the race would likely be very spread out as the day wore on so I was mentally prepared to do long solo efforts.  All in all it was fine and I was onto the bike in 7th and very much within striking distance of the race.

Bike:  4:51:52  24.3mph
I went in with the attitude that this race was about taking risks and dealing with the results of those risks.  I took that attitude onto the bike and set out to make this race mine right from mile 1.  I steadily passed, and dropped, riders through the first hour (thank you stagger rule for keeping any packs from forming in the men's pro race) and went through 40k in a hair over an hour.  Through the first checkpoint on the bike I had ridden within a minute of the fastest cyclist and was only around 4 minutes off the lead.  Things were going exactly as I would have scripted up.  Then, while riding solo in 5th place at mile 45, I came to the corner which, unfortunately, played a big role in the men's pro race.  Long story short, there had to be a last second course change in the final days leading up to the race, the course was rerouted after being marked, and all arrows were accounted for......except one.  The corner didn't feel right to me when I got to it, the entire course was staffed very well and this corner had nobody, just an arrow on the road.  I thought about stopping but didn't know if 6th place was 1 or 8 minutes behind, plus the next racer wouldn't know any better than I what to do.  I went with my instinct and followed the arrow.  The two race leaders went through with a moto escort thus ignored the arrow.  Of the next 14 pro men to hit the corner without an escort, about half went off course anywhere from 4-6 miles.  One of the unfortunate things that sometimes happens in triathlon is that when there's a problem on the course nobody is aware of, it's the first riders through who "discover" it and it is quickly fixed.  This errant arrow was discovered and removed by the time the pro women hit the corner, but of course by then the damage was done.  An extra 6 mile loop I rode without even realizing I was off course.  To throw salt in the wound, the one and only big climb I encountered all day was during the 6 miles extra I rode.  Eventually the loop put me back on the course, I started seeing volunteers again, and I was pretty sure I had ridden correctly.  Then I went past the 50 mile marker with my computer reading 56 miles.  Not long after I started passing athletes who I knew were well behind me all along.  I became extremely angry and enraged, I didn't know what I was angry at, but I could not believe this was really happening.  There were so many thoughts going through my head I didn't know what I should do, didn't know what place I was in.  I put serious thought into pulling the plug and dropping out.  I had entered the Syracuse 70.3 next weekend as a backup plan in case something went awry in Sandusky and I certainly thought this qualified.  I decided I should continue on until I found out what place I was in.  The last 2.5 hours of the bike were a complete mental collapse, I could not move on from what had happened, I just kept focusing on and asking how this could happen in my biggest race of the year, feeling so sorry for myself-why me, why this race?  If this happened in a sprint or a half I could just make up for it in the next race, but Ironman is different, you can't just jump in one the next week, you have to make the races you do count, you can only do so many.  I kept telling myself that losing 15 minutes in an Ironman does not mean a lost race, but try as hard as I could, I could not get my mind back into the moment of the race.  And then as the pain of Ironman set in around mile 80, my mental state made the difficulty of Ironman so much harder.  There was so much negativity going on in my head and I could not get any information about what place I was in or if others went off course too.  I just soldiered on.  Physically I was starting to feel the hard early pace I set and I wasn't in the mental state to battle, I completely surrendered to the suffering, and faded badly the last hour.  Every time I passed a mile marker I was reminded of what happened and that I had 6 additional miles to ride, it was absolutely mind crushing.  I checked my computer as it clicked 112 miles and I had ridden it in 4:37, almost exactly what I had targeted for myself the day before.  And I had ridden that split in the mental state I was in and while knowing I had to go 118, not 112.  I thought about how I should be in T2, how energized and motivated I would have been to come off the bike in that split.  Instead I had 6 more miles on the bike.  In the end I rode 118 miles in 4:51, 24.3mph.  Looking back through the results, and taking away the miscue, I was probably the 4th best cyclist on the day.

Run:  3:01:11  3rd fastest split
In the T2 changing tent I was told 6th place which I didn't believe at first.  Then starting the marathon I had several spectators tell me 6th place.  Suddenly I became elated and excited that through everything I had the opportunity to salvage a sizable paycheck.  The legs were not there initially and it took a while to become a runner.  Once I got going I was able to click off 6:30ish pace all the while keeping in mind that my big focus for this marathon was the second half which has been my downfall in my first two Ironmans.  Following Lake Placid I did a complete nutrition overhaul (posted in full below) solely geared towards the last 13 miles of the marathon.  I missed my official half split but it was 1:27/28.  The last 13 miles I relied a lot on coke and caffeinated gels, and I've become a fan of both.  I moved up one spot and at mile 21 was just a minute down, and gaining, on 4th place.  I ran miles 21-23 really hard but then the wheels came off and I had only pulled back a few additional seconds.  One of my big goals for this race was to run my first ever sub-3 marathon and with two miles to go I think I only had run 7:30ish pace to do so.  But having gone through everything I had gone through, persevered, and salvaged a good result and payday when I thought there would be none, I decided that I just wanted to take the last 2 miles to myself, smell the roses, and take everything in.  There will be more chances to run sub-3 marathons when I'm racing for position.  I was really happy, totally relieved, and especially proud of what I had done as I approached the finish.  Turning into the finish chute I saw 8:48 on the clock and just laughed that through everything here I am setting my PR and going 4 minutes faster than this same race last year.  I ended up running the second half in 1:33/34 which is by far my best split marathon ever, still room for improvement though.

Overall:  8:48:29  5th place
Of those who went off course, 'I think' just 3 finished and those 3 were rewarded with 2-4-5 place overall finishes.  All of us were really happy, and not one negative word was spoken from anyone, even Chris McDonald who rode the same 6 mile loop as I and ended up just 5 minutes away from winning the whole thing.  From looking at splits and comparing what I saw on my computer I'm pretty certain that I added about 14 minutes to my bike which is funny because I wrote down 8:34 as my finish time the day before the race.  I won't waste time and energy trying to figure out where I 'would' have finished or in what time, but who knows what effect being mentally removed from the race for 2.5 hours had or what effect riding 6 additional miles had on my marathon in addition to the 14 minutes.  I'm just very proud that I weathered the storm, persevered, and stuck it out.  Even with the miscue I finished just 20 minutes off the win.  My ultimate goal was a top-3 podium and I do believe that the way I performed was good enough for that.  I'm proud that I have my own story of not giving up and the next time someone says to me, "I dropped my nutrition on the bike and my race was ruined" I can tell my story of Cedar Point 2011. 
Looking forward, I am very fit right now.  I knew that heading in and this race only confirmed it.  48 hours after finishing the early indications are that I've recovered very well from this one, much better than Lake Placid.  My soreness is probably just half as bad as Placid and I even rode an hour Monday morning.  I give credit to an easier course and being much more fit as the reason I am feeling as good as I am.  I'll take this week very easy and then next week get to work on the "4th quarter" of my season.  I'm very fit and the focus of the 4th quarter will be entirely racing.  Excited to see what I can do.  I'm finalizing my race schedule this week but this is what it is looking like:
9/25  Westchester Tri  NY
10/2  Pocono 70.3  PA
10/9  Rev 3 South Carolina
then see how I feel and either call it a season or do some combination of the following Florida races
10/30  Miami 70.3
11/5  Ironman Florida
11/12  Clearwater 5150

I want to say a big thanks to all the volunteers and Rev 3 staff for a great race.  Congrats to all the participants, especially Bretscher Multisport athletes Dana and Julie.  Dana had a fantastic day and went 9:20 which ranked him as the 4th overall age grouper on the day and a PR by over 4 hours!  Julie, in her Iron distance debut, put together her greatest performance ever and crushed everyone's expectations with a 11:26, ranking her the 7th overall age grouper on the day!  Wow!
Finally I would just like to offer another endorsement for the Rev 3 series.  As I've been saying for over a year, unless you have a legit shot and are trying to qualify for Las Vegas or Kona, there are far more reasons to do a race in the Rev 3 series.  The Rev 3 experience is unique and fantastic, the venues are very logical (at Quassy and Cedar Point parking is within 200 meters of the start, transition, and finish), courses are fun and challenging, entry fees are lower, and you don't have to commit a full year in advance.  Imagine being able to train, assess if you are ready, and then entering without having to risk an injury forcing a DNS after you've paid $600.  But what I like most about Revolution 3 is they are in the sport for the right reasons, to promote and further the sport, and give the triathlete the best experience possible.  Making money is important with any business, but it is far from the 'only' thing with Rev 3.

Daniel Bretscher Rev 3 Cedar Point Nutrition Report
     4 Powerbars (960 cal)
     1 piece dark chocolate 88% cocoa (20 cal)
     16oz Powerbar Perform (140 cal)
     Perform drink all morning ~16oz (140 cal)
     Powergel Double Latte caffeinated gel 20min before start (110 cal)
Total Race AM:  1370 calories
Bike 118 miles:
     1 Powergel every 8 miles.  9 Vanilla/5 Double Latte Caffeine.  14 total @ 110 cal each  (1540 cal)
     100oz Powerbar Perform (875 cal)
     ~40oz Gatorade (80 cal)
Total Bike:  2500 calories
      One gel every 3 miles.  4 Vanilla/4 DL caffeine.  8 total @ 110 cal each  (880 cal)
      One cup water/one cup gatorade every mile-first 16 miles  (~600 cal very rough estimate)
      One cup water/one cup coke every mile-last 10 miles  (~400 cal estimate)
Total Run:  ~1900 calories
Total Race Calories: ~4400
Total Calories Wakeup-Race Finish:  ~5800

Monday, September 5, 2011

Rev 3 Cedar Point-Ready to Race

I am now less than one week away from my biggest race of the year, Rev 3 Cedar Point. I feel really good about where my fitness is at heading into this race, in fact this will be the first race of the entire 2011 season where I am genuinely pleased with my fitness heading in. There is no doubt that I am in my best fitness of the year, and I think I may be in the best shape of my life although I’ll wait until I see the results from this next block of races before I make that judgment. Within about ten days of racing Lake Placid I could feel that my cycling had reached another level and things have continued to progress from there.

Although this will be my third crack at the Ironman distance, this will be the first time I am giving myself permission to really get in and “race”. My Ironman debut, a year ago, was all about experiencing the distance and learning. In Lake Placid I went in knowing that I was not ideally fit and instead focused on executing a perfect race. Although I didn’t execute a perfect race I did execute a good race and the plan worked as I finished 5th on the day when I’m confident there were more than five people more fit than I was at the time. Those first two races, I raced very conservative and against myself. Come Sunday I plan to race the competition and will not be afraid to make some moves and make the race happen. Heading into Lake Placid I completed just two training rides of 100+ miles. Now I’ve completed five. I don’t have a specific race plan for this Sunday, but I know at some point the race will open up and there’ll be an opportunity to make something happen. I plan to take that opportunity.

My goals for this race are as follows:

1. Improve upon my 5th place finish in Lake Placid
1a. Put myself in a position where I have an opportunity to podium (top-3)

2. Run a sub-3 hour marathon

3. Set a new PR (8:52)

The one big thing I haven’t done well in either of my first two Ironmans has been marathon execution. In both my first two races I ran significantly slower than I know I was capable. This was due to both poor execution (running the first half too hard), as well as lack of mental toughness the second half. This will be one of my major focal points for Sunday, barring extreme weather there is no excuse for me not to run a sub-3 marathon. The one major change I’ve made from Lake Placid to now is a complete overhaul of my race nutrition. I’ve seen benefits from this in training and I’m excited to put it to the ultimate test on Sunday. Hopefully implementing caffeine into my nutritional plan will give me the extra boost I need to stay strong the last half of the marathon. That, plus being mentally stronger and making myself suffer like I’ve never suffered before, something I’m mentally preparing myself to do.

Follow me online Sunday Race begins at 6:50am, hopefully I’ll be finishing around 3:30pm. Wishing everyone racing this weekend a good, safe day.