Ironman Wisconsin Champ!

Ironman Wisconsin Champ!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Rev 3 Cedar Point-Knocking on the Door

This past weekend was my third consecutive year racing the Rev 3 Cedar Point full iron distance triathlon and my fourth go at the Ironman distance.  Coming off the win at the Steelhead 70.3 I had high hopes of being in the hunt for another win.  I am very happy to come away with a runner-up finish, new PR, first sub-3 marathon, and overall my best Ironman execution and performance to date.

Swim: 59:51  12th fastest split
All of my swims in 2012 have either been really good in the front pack, or terrible.  Unfortunately this was a terrible swim for me, by far my worst Ironman swim of my four races at the distance.  Race morning we had a water temp of 73 degrees and air temps in the 50s.  For the pros we were about a degree over the wetsuit cutoff, no wetsuits.  I've had a history of struggles in colder swims and the frustrating thing about this one is that 73 degree water isn't that cold.  I started fine but 10 minutes in I started getting cold chills throughout my body and pretty soon I couldn't even hold the feet of guys who I ordinarily beat out of the water.   One of the things I'm most proud of with this race is how I was able to hold my composure during the swim.  It didn't take long before I knew the swim was going to be really bad, and I recognized I would exit the water several minutes down on guys I anticipated starting the bike with.  But it really never bothered me that I was having such a bad swim.  I never tried to force a harder pace than I planned, I never really entertained any thought of starting the bike harder than I planned to make up the lost time.  I basically just decided that I would execute the bike and run exactly as I had planned going into the race, and I accepted the fact that my finish time would be a couple minutes slower as a result of the swim.  In the end I was around 3 minutes slower than I would anticipate based on where others I have raced exited the water.  3 minutes in itself is not a huge deal, the thing that hurts more is that the stronger cyclists in the race were all out of reach and I ended up riding 111 out of 112 miles of the bike solo.

Bike: 4:35:22  24.4mph  3rd fastest split
I started the bike in 12th position, a full 7 minutes back of the lead, I knew I was in for a long lonely ride.  I basically just spent the entire ride executing my plan for the day.  I went in to the bike with the notion that 75 miles was halfway.  I knew that the entire final 35 miles would be a headwind and that it would be critical to be strong through those miles.  I steadily rode my way up through the field and was up to 6th place by 75 miles.  The headwind was tough as expected but this was the best I've ever paced 112 miles and I stayed strong and in control the entire way.  If there is one benefit to being alone the entire bike it is that I was never tempted to push someone else's pace, and never had to put in surges of any kind.  With less than a mile to go I caught Viktor Zyemstev which was a nice confidence boost since I knew there was no better person to start the marathon with.  This was also the most fresh and most ready to run a marathon I've ever felt at the end of the bike, I hit T2 looking forward and excited for the opportunity to finally push a sub-3 marathon.

Run: 2:57:20  3rd fastest split
I'd never raced Viktor head to head before but am very aware of his ability to run 2:45 Ironman marathons like clockwork.  We made some small talk the first mile, he told me the wind on the bike crushed him, and I told him I wouldn't be a threat to him at the end of the run, but I was going to try to use him to carry me up into the top-3 before he dropped me.  I let him set the pace and we hit each of the first 3 miles in almost exactly 6:10s and it felt comfortable.  The only issue I had running with him was we had to spread out going through aid stations so we could both grab what we needed.  It was the gap after the 3rd aid station that I never closed but still kept him reasonably close for a while.  5 miles in I moved into 4th and at 10 miles I moved into 3rd splitting the first 10 miles in 64 minutes.  Through 13.1 in 1:25 and it was the best I've ever felt through halfway.  At that point I told myself I would destroy 3 hours and really thought I had sub-2:55 in me.  16 miles in the fun stopped and I finally started having to work.  18 miles in a surge of adrenaline as I got word that Eric was cracking in the lead after racing gutsy leading the race for 7.5 hours.  Through 20 miles in 2:12 and shortly after I pass Eric to move in 2nd.  22 miles in I was 3 minutes down on Viktor in the lead, and had a 4 minute cushion on third.  This was where Ironman became Ironman and it got really, really hard.  Soreness flooded my quads, calves, and hamstrings.  I started feeling twinges of shooting pain and felt like I was one misstep away from a full body cramp.  I probably cut my stride length in half and there was no thought of trying to race for the win, it was just grit your teeth and finish.  Finally I was able to make it without any last mile drama.

Daniel Bretscher 2nd place - Cedar Point 2012 from REVOLUTION3 Triathlon on Vimeo.

Overall: 8:35:32  2nd Place, first American
This race was a huge breakthrough for me and validates the results from the training sessions I've been seeing this summer.  The bike split was a PR, the marathon was a PR, and overall a 13 minute PR.  Second place is my highest finish ever at the 140.6 distance, my previous three races were 9th, 5th, and 5th.  In addition I ended up less than 4 minutes out of the win whereas in my three previous races I'd never been within 20 minutes of the win.  And Viktor is no slouch either, this was his 11th Ironman win.  With all of that said I can definitely see some major flaws in my game, the biggest lesson being do not ever surrender a race to a competitor without making them earn it.  Mentally I gave the race away to Viktor in the very first mile of the run based on what he had accomplished in the past, not making him earn it on the day.  In reality he didn't have the run I think everyone expected him to, he was vulnerable on the day.  Looking back I don't believe I could have matched his pace, but in the future I will not mentally surrender to a competitor until they prove they have what it takes on the day.  I also still feel I'm under performing in my marathons.  I was happy to finally break 3 in the marathon, but I'm not very impressed with my splits 1:25/1:32.  I feel I should be capable of 4-5 minutes faster the last 13 miles.  Whether it's a nutrition issue, bike pacing issue, lack of experience issue or just needing to learn to suffer more issue, I'm not sure.  But when there's world class pros running 2:40s in harsh conditions, my 2:57 in near perfect conditions isn't in the same ballgame.  As always it's a work in progress and so long as I continue to chip away I'll eventually get where I want to be.
I'm taking this week mostly entirely off for recovery and a mental break.  I'll get back into training next week and will play the remainder of my race schedule this year by ear.  Most likely my next race will be on September 30, either the Pocono or Augusta 70.3.  I have no clue what the fields for those races look like, but I hope to compete for my third consecutive podium!  Finally thanks to the Rev 3 event organization and staff, there's a reason 3 out of my 4 Ironmans have been with Rev 3.  Hope to be at some more series races this season.

Race nutrition:
Bike: 13 powergels, 66oz Perform.  Total: 2000 cal, 434 cal/hr
Run: cup of coke, cup of water every mile, 7 powergels throughout.

2012 REV3 Cedar Point - PRO Race Recap from REVOLUTION3 Triathlon on Vimeo.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Steelhead 70.3-First Major Win

I've been bad with my blogging this year but finally have accomplished something that deserves an update.  I picked up the first major win of my professional career a couple weeks back at the Ironman Steelhead 70.3 in Michigan.

The race itself was actually one of my less adventurous and more boring so I'll keep the report short.  After sitting on the feet of the leader for the first 10 minutes of the swim and realizing the pace felt too easy I took the lead and never gave it up the rest of the race.  I pushed hard the second half of the swim and was able to open up a 20 second gap on the main pack behind, my first time ever to post the fastest swim split in a pro race.  I got on the bike and was pretty confident the group behind me would, as usual on a flat course, form their pace line, push the limits of the draft rules, and work together to catch me.  Fortunately for me I am significantly faster than I've ever been on the bike this year, I've been riding very strong the entire summer.  After the first 10-15 miles of the bike I managed to get out of sight of everyone behind and at that point there was no debating about a race strategy, I was committed to pushing the pace out front the entire way.  I ended up with the day's fastest bike split, and a 6 minute lead into T2.  At the time, however, I had no clue what my lead was and that lead to me running frantic and scared out of T2 not wanting to let this opportunity, that I've waited so long for, slip away.  After really pushing hard the first 10k I started getting multiple reports that my lead was in excess of 5 minutes.  I was able to relax a bit, but never let my guard down until I was positive I had the race secured with a mile to go.  Then the last mile it was party time, first major win in the bag!

This first win came 6 years and 3 months after I committed myself to seeing what I could do in the sport of triathlon.  That's 6 years 3 months of investment in myself that it took to make this happen.  Over that time frame I had imagined countless times what it would be like getting the first win, sometimes wondering if it would ever happen.  I always imagined an epic head-to-head battle the entire way coming down to the last mile, possibly a sprint finish.  The way it actually happened wasn't so exciting but looking back on it I think it's pretty cool to lead wire-to-wire, nose to the wind full throttle the entire way just like the sport should always be, complete domination.

I'd reflect more on Steelhead and the past 6 years, 3 months but that's what the end of the season is for.  Right now my mind is in the moment and focused on this weekend.  I've got another big race coming this Sunday, the Rev 3 Cedar Point full iron distance.  I'm really looking forward to this one and to testing my fitness against the competition and the 140.6 miles.  This is the third straight year I've done this race, I know the course well, I've had good races the past two years, and feel good about my chances this year.  If I can execute a 'good' race I think I should be racing for a top-3 finish, if I can execute a 'great' race then I think it's possible to be racing for the win and pushing an 8:30 finish time.  Excited to see what I can do!

The weekend on my Steelhead win was also a huge weekend for the Bretscher Multisport squad.  Ron Gierut (Cedar Rapids IA) claimed his first National Championship winning the 55-59 age group at Age Group Nationals in Burlington VT.  Ron's been knocking at the door for a while now and finally broke through!  In addition Andrew Person (St Louis) also raced to a 70.3 PR of several minutes at Steelhead finishing in 4:21, good enough for the 7th overall age grouper on the day out of 1500+!  Both Andrew and Ron have been with Bretscher Multisport for 3-4 years and their long term commitment has really shown.

Below is a link to Ironman's instagram pic from my Steelhead finish.

Finish Pic