Chattanooga and Life Changes

It is a bit devastating to write, but it is time to get this out and posted.

Emily and I have dropped from Ironman Chattanooga.  (I’ll let that sink in.)

Ok, got it?  Good.  This weekend we were supposed to be in Tennessee and by this point tomorrow we would have been checked in and surveying the course.  We would have been gathering up some nerves and walking through Ironman Village wondering what we would get after the race to commemorate a great achievement.

Josh, our coach, had us ready to finish this race and things were going swell.  I dealt with some injuries, but it wasn’t anything I wouldn’t overcome on race day.  As it stands, those long hours spent training were for another day, just not this Sunday.

Three weeks from the big race, Emily was offered a new job, which she couldn’t pass up.  We had to immediately drop almost everything in our life and get to moving.  We had already sold the house, as we were planning on moving a little further south of where we were, so we were halfway there.  We did, however, have to gear up for a 2,000 mile move versus the 50 mile move we were planning on at the time of sale.  This meant arranging for a moving company to come in, separating the “I need this” and the “I can deal for 45 days without this” stuff in the house.  The former was packed in a car and the latter was packed and taken by movers.

All this to say that we are currently living in temporary housing in Washington and we are not competing this weekend as planned (for almost a year).  It is really difficult to write, let alone say, especially when we told our coach that we weren’t going to Chattanooga.  Josh put in a lot of work this year for Emily and I and we are grateful for his help.  He will continue to be our coach as we gear up for the 2017 season, hopefully finding some local events and looking for the next big thing.

We wish the best of luck to all those who put in the work and are getting ready to race this weekend at Chattanooga.  For many it will be their first and it is admirable to get out there.  For others, this race is another in a long line of others, none-the-less an impressive feat.  We are humbled to be part of this sport and get to race with so many incredible athletes.  We also want to wish good luck to all the people we know or have some connection with that are racing in Augusta this weekend, especially Josh who led us both to our first 70.3 finishes and continues to be a huge support in our racing pursuits.

Door County Sprint

Emily made a decision last year that she wanted to race the Door County Triathlon Half Ironman course.  When I woke up New Year’s Day, (she registered in the middle of the night) and we were talking about the trip up to Door County, I decided to register for the Sprint distance race.  This would give us something to do on Saturday morning of the weekend.  I’ll leave the weekend round up to Emily, but I wanted to talk about my race specifically.

I honestly didn’t have a lot of expectations for this race when I registered for it.  I really thought I would get out, have some fun, and then help Emily get ready for her race the next day.  I was a touch nervous the morning of the race and even had to go back to the hotel after we left to pick up my Garmin (if I don’t have it, it doesn’t count).

Water

The water was calm Saturday morning.  There were a bunch of people warming up in the water, but I decided to hang out and listen to music.  This is the first time I have done this and it helped out a lot.  I turned the volume way down so that I could hear what was going on around me, but the music helped to keep me settled.  About race time, Emily and I ran into a guy wearing a Chattnooga shirt from last year and we talked to him and his family for a bit.  He gave us some insight into the Chattanooga race.  This was his daughter’s first triathlon, and they were there to support her Saturday, the following day he was going to be doing the half distance race.

Waves were sent into the water, but mine was about 30 minutes after the race start.  When it got close to time, I pulled on my wetsuit, my swim camp, pulled my goggles on to my head, and made my way to the beach.  Lots of nervous folks out there gave me a bit more confidence.  I have done this before, there isn’t anything to worry about.

The swim was not too bad.  There was a bit of a current that pushed me around a little, and that caused me to have to redirect myself a few times.  The water was very clear, so I was easily able to see the lines that the race volunteers had painted the night before, so getting back on track wasn’t tough.  We had recently listened to the DC Rainmaker podcast where he discussed how you can lose your watch if you have the quick disconnect on it.  So I had that worry going through my head about every 20 seconds.  Ultimately, I didn’t lose my watch.

Getting out of the water, I made my way to the wetsuit strippers.  They tore my wetsuit off quick (after deciding who was going to do it), but they took something else with them, which I didn’t notice for a few minutes.

Transition went pretty flawless.  Helmet on.  Glasses on.  Run to the bike out.  I made it to the mount line, but there wasn’t a beep when I crossed?!?!?!?  I looked down and noticed that I didn’t have my timing chip on.  So, it was back to my rack spot to see if it was there.  After a little digging I was able to find it tangled up in my wetsuit. I put it back on and was off again.  Once at the mount line, and jumped up and spun off.  About a minute later I slipped into my shoes and got ready for the next 18 miles.

Em and I rode the bike course a few weeks ago, and I knew what to expect for the most part.  We had also discussed what we thought I could hold for power over the course.  Em thought I could hold 160 watts or so for the 18 miles, and I guessed 180.  I averaged 185 watts and almost 21 miles per hour, finishing the bike in about 52 minutes.  That’s pretty quick for me, and honestly, a new expectation for myself.

It’s a great bike course.  For a little while you are in the woods, then you get a view of the bay before getting to the beginning of the city and turning around.  One thing I really remember from the ride was a great banked turn.  I remember it because I felt like I was flying, which I guess I was, since Garmin shows me at almost 25 MPH.

Bike Fast

The transition to run was a little less stressful, having not lost my timing chip this time.  But I did bring newer shoes that didn’t have speed laces on them, so I did actually have to tie my shoes (poor planning on my part).

The run is a simple out and back.  I ran past the parking lot, then a corn field, then the corn field again, then the parking lot again, then finish line.  And it felt that quick.  At just over a 9 minute pace, I killed any effort I have ever put forward.

I kept thinking I was going to hit the wall at some point, but I just kept going.  At one point I wanted to walk, but remembered that I have been talking to Emily about pace management instead of walking, so I just managed my pace back a little for a few minutes, then off I went again.

Run Door County Nick

Finish time 1:35:03 (exactly one second behind the guy who placed 15th).  17 of 36 in my age group and 222 of about 1000 total athletes for the sprint.  This is now my effort to beat for sure.  I can’t really match this up against the Elkhart sprint since the bike distances are different, but I can say my effort was better.  I am definitely interested in doing this race again.

Door County Tri really puts on a great race.  Everything about this was great (including volunteering the next day).  The food was good.  Beer was vast and they had music or a live band all day.  It makes me wish that Ironman would put the same effort forward for their races, but I realize they host a lot more athletes and are a bit more spread out.

What We Have in Store

Nick and I are excited to announce – We launched our Online Store!

CajunMile Online Store

As I mentioned a few weeks ago (okay, maybe months ago), we’ve decided to sell a few swim, bike, and run-related items.  We have decals – for your vehicle, helmet, bike, or wherever you’d like – and clothing.  Below are a few examples of what we have available.  We can customize, too!  So please let us know if there’s something special you’d like.

CajunMile Store Items

2017 Elkhart Lake Race Report

Elkhart Lake is where triathlon began for us last year.  Nick and I returned this year because it is a great race – the course is nice, and we did not have travel too far from home.

I had a couple of goals for the race:  Don’t freak out on the swim and beat last year’s time.  I accomplished both!

The Swim
With my last two races resulting in a DNF due to the swim, I was a little nervous getting in the open water again.  I hadn’t swam outside of the pool since Austin 70.3 in November.

Race day, I was unusually relaxed.  Nick and I were in the last swim wave, so we hung out all morning.  I was a little nervous because I didn’t want to be the last sprint athlete our of the water.   I knew I could finish the swim, even if I had to doggie paddle my way through it.

We lined up and waited for our wave to start.  The gun went off and we were chatting with people in our age group.  We saw the first of the athletes complete the swim, and not too much longer it was our turn.

Elkhart does a rolling swim start, so you line up by wave, give your bib number and are off.  The next athlete is about three seconds behind you. It was my turn to enter the water.  I ran into the water.  As I was about to dive, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Nick pass me.  (So much for beating him on the swim).

The water was cold.  I knew I had to keep my breathing under control, and remain calm.  Halfway to the first turn buoy I recognized where I had my little panic attack last year.  I kept swimming.  I was in a rhythm, breathing every other stroke (every third stroke was just too much).  Although, I was sighting very often, I didn’t stop swimming.

Before long I was at the first turn buoy.  Last year, I held on to a kayak hear to catch my breath.  I kept going, no need for a kayak this year.  My head was out of the water a little more than I wanted, but that’s what was keeping me comfortable, so that’s what I continued to do.  I was sighting nearly every stroke.

I got to the second turn buoy in no time.  I saw a girl struggling a little on the swim.  I asked if she was okay, and she said yes, so I kept going.  I was almost there.  I got to the point where I could touch and swam some more.  The water was getting cloudy/sandy, so I stood up.  As I ran the rest of the way, I saw Nick exiting the water.  I wasn’t too far behind him.

Swim Time – 9:05.1 (2:16/100m)

T1
The transition this year was a little longer in that you had to run along the back of the transition areas to enter transition from the swim.  I ran/walked to transition.   Once at my bike, I hung my wetsuit, put on socks, shoes, sunglasses, helmet, grabbed my bike and was out.

T1 Time – 3:59.9

The Bike
The bike course changed slightly the day before the race due to road construction.  Instead of three left turns to turn around, you made a left turn then right turn, and then a u-turn and back down.  No big deal.  It was essentially the same course.

When setting up my bike that morning, I poured my Tailwind in my aerobottle without mixing it.  I figured the jostling of the bike would stir it enough as I rode.  Boy was I wrong.  I drank all of the powder in the first few sips, and was left with slightly flavored water the remainder of the ride.

2016ElkhartLakeEmilyBikeI started the bike off strong.  My heart was beating fast.  The good thing about starting in the last swim wave is that there are a ton of people before you to pass on the bike.

About mile 2 I got stuck behind a Tahoe who was stuck behind two athletes who were much slower than my pace.  Without any way to pass, I had to stay behind the vehicle, until the course turned off and I was able to make my pass.

Next up were the two hairpin turns.  I remember these scaring me last year, but I was ready for them.  I slowed down, made the turn, then picked up speed again.  I was passing people on hills, something I couldn’t seem to do in my first race.

I rode by the place where I stopped last year to help out the guy with the flat tire. No one was on the side of the road this year, thank goodness.

I was trying to keep steady uphills and let the downhills work for me.   I was on the lookout for Nick, knowing he was ahead of me.  About mile 6, I crossed Nick on the bike.  He had already made it to the turnaround and was headed to transition.

I made it to the turnaround, careful not to fall, and continued on my way.  I was still passing people, and only had a few people pass me the whole ride.  Before long, I was nearing transition.

Bike Time – 47:15.2 (15.7 mph)

T2
I dismounted my bike and began running in to T2.  I very quickly regretted not leaving my shoes on the bike and running barefoot.  But the pathway leading to transition was single file, so I had to run in my bike shoes.

I racked my bike, changed shoes, changed hats, put on my bib, and was out.

T2 Time – 2:54.0

The Run
I still hadn’t calmed myself down.  My heart was still pounding.  I knew this was going to be a difficult run.  My pacing was off, I was running too fast.  Before the 1 mile mark, I had to take a walk break.  I needed to steady myself, run leisurely; but that wasn’t happening.  When I was running, it was fast.  This 5k was going to be bad.

Nick was ahead of me, but I wasn’t sure by how much.  When I passed where the course loops back on itself and didn’t see Nick, I knew he was less than 20 minutes ahead of me.  I continued my run/walk regimen, a little disappointed in myself for not being able to pace properly.

I made it to the water station and knew the big hill was up next.  I made it up the hill, but no without walking.  I wasn’t passing anyone, and really no one was passing me either.  There were people out on the course, but I felt like I was running it alone.  Finally, I was at the downhill, and let me legs just keep moving.  I told myself I had to run it in, and I did.

Run Time – 33:12.9 (10:42 min/mile)

2016ElkhartLakeFinish

Total Race Time – 1:36:27.3

This year versus last year:
I was definitely more prepared for the race this year, both mentally and physically.  A few days before the race I sent my coach my race predictions.    I thought it might be fun to compare my times.  Below are my 2015 Results, 2016 Predictions, and 2016 Results.

2015 Results 2016 Prediction 2016 Results
400m Swim 12:26.3 10:00.0 9:05.1
T1 4:30.5 3:00.0 3:59.9
20k Bike 52:47.6 46:00.0 47:15.2
T2 3:16.5 3:00.0 2:54.0
5k Run 34:35.8 32:00.0 33:12.0
Total 1:47:36.7 1:34:00.0 1:36:27.3

A total of 11 minutes 9.4 seconds improvement from last year!

2016 ElkhartLakeFlagEmily

Triathiversary (Elkhart Lake Sprint 2016)

Happy Anniversary, Triathlon!

It’s been such a great year, even though you tried to kill me once and on a few occasions made me doubt my abilities. I haven’t always been good to you either. I have skipped you at times. I have mistreated you. I have over trained and under trained for you. I promise that this year I will do better, but I won’t always be perfect. Just remember that I am trying very hard and I expect you to do the same. No more, “I’m going to change the course”. No more, “waves are fun”. And for the sake of the relationship, no more DNFs, those make me feel really bad.

Anniversary

Seriously though, this last weekend marked my first full year in Triathlon, and we celebrated by returning to the race where it all began, Elkhart Lake.

Elkhart Lake Sprint 2016 Race Report

My goals this year were to improve in every discipline, but more than anything, I needed a PR on this race. Coming away from a great race in Galveston just a few short months ago, I had everything going my way. Then I got sick to the point where I had a hard time breathing. I was measuring the miles by how much snot I had collected on my shirt. And generally, I haven’t felt well. Even still, I am battling some serious muscle pain (fatigue and stress related).

For some reason I got really nervous about the race, something felt off about racing and not traveling (because I didn’t have to prep a week ahead of time) and not staying in a hotel (having to re-prep once I check in) and not having to rack my bike the night before (one less thing to think about race morning).  All of those things seem to make everything a lot easier for me (counterintuitive, I know).  The morning of the race wasn’t great either, but I made it through with only one port-a-potty stop before the race started.

Elkhart Lake

My swim wasn’t great. I was breathing every other stroke (always on the left). I think this was the water temp taking my breath faster than normal, but who really knows. It could have been anxiety also. Really it was a great swim and I took 52 seconds off my time from last year. Not bad for a 400 meter course.  Having completed several 1.2 mile swims, I was sort of surprised at how stressful this 400 meter swim was.

T1 sucked. Because of where transition was this year, Sprint racers had to run about a 1/4 mile to their bikes. Still, I took 1m20s off my time.  I think the reduction has something to do with having gone through transition many times now and know what to do and what not to do (and honestly not worrying about anything since the bike is so short).

My bike effort was awesome this year. Some of the hills beat me up a little, but there was something different this year (I’ll explain in the run section). Rules weren’t followed well on the course, so I was passing people on the right and was getting stuck behind groups of riders. The night before the race, the course changed, but it wasn’t very significant, just a u-turn vs. a turn around on the roads. Overall, I was 4 minutes faster on the course.

T2 sucked. Again, an extra 1/4 mile to get to the run start from my bike . . . BOOOOOOO. Still, I made up 40 seconds in T2.

Finally, the run. Last year Elkhart’s hill of honesty killed me. The hill lasts for over a half mile and it sucks. More than that, the whole course killed me last year. I walked more than ran. This year, that wasn’t the case. I had a few drop outs to drink water and eat a gel, but ran the majority. The hill didn’t even kill me. I credit this to all the work I have done on the bike in the last 365 days. I was able to hold a high power number and still run a 5K at the end of it all. Overall, time savings on the run was 1m30s from 2015.

Nick Elkhart 2016

All said and done, my first year in the sport has been awesome, with incredible improvements in every discipline (I’m looking at you swimming, seriously you aren’t my best, but I have made you work). Nailing a workout makes the rest of my week seem great. Finishing my first 70.3 on a tough course validated my decision to change from running to triathlon. My PR at Galveston and at Elkhart in 2016 have really shown the progress I have made (thanks to the coach’s insistence that I make progress and not just be happy with my current paces).

It’s been a good year, triathlon, let’s see if we can have another good one.  Chattanooga is less than 100 days away and I plan on knowing that I can complete that distance.

Elkhart Lake is Coming (2016)

It is with great pleasure that I announce that this weekend is my first anniversary in Triathlon!

Last year I registered for and subsequently raced my first triathlon. Elkhart Lake promised a great atmosphere and a short distance event that I was sure I could complete with the training I had done. I was given a sense of accomplishment leading up to the event and even following the event. I was sure that this was a sport I was going to continue.

The race was a bit tough for me. I was a first timer getting in the open water for the first time (the day of the race) and was grossly under prepared for the swim. On a 400 meter swim, I stopped several times to catch my breath and re-compose. I probably stopped as many times in Austin and Galveston and they are 5 times as long! Either way, I completed the swim. This year I don’t plan on stopping at all.

The bike was a bit rough as well. I remember the hills killing me, again, I was under prepared for what the race was going to be. I only really remember, vividly, one particular hill that I went up and on the back side coming down gained an enormous amount of speed. At the bottom of that hill was a greater than 90 degree turn where I hit my brakes and slid a bit due to the roads being a little wet. I was lucky enough that my bike recovered and I didn’t hit the ground. This year I plan to be a few MPH faster than last and have a much more successful bike.

The run was the killer for me (though even my time doesn’t reflect accurately how I felt). I was warned of a hill on the back side of the course. I went up the first hill and thought for sure I had overcome the challenge only to find that there was yet another, steeper and longer, hill. I am now prepared for that. I don’t plan on letting the run eat me up again this year.

All in all, I am super excited for this race and to improve my year on year results. Last year I finished in 1 hour 40 minutes. I plan to be a bit quicker this year. My time was good for 3rd from last in my age group. I don’t plan on being there again this year. The top competitors in my age group last year finished in just over 1 hour 10 minutes, I also don’t think I will be there. I only aim to be better than 2015 “Elkhart Lake Nick” and finish with a higher ranking (though this all depends on who shows up on race day).

Congratulations to all of the All in Racing athletes that raced last weekend and to those who will race this weekend with me and in other races.

A Few New Things

I’ve been rushing home (to get away from work) every day this week to check the mailbox.  I ordered some things and have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of each one.

  1. A new, much needed saddle.  I’ve been having some discomfort in the seat, and hoping this new saddle will make for a smoother, less painful ride.  I spoke with Rachel at Cobb Cycling, and am now the new owner of their Randee saddle.  During my two-hour trainer ride today, I was alleviated of some of the pressure I was experiencing.  I hope with some minor adjustments, I will once again be comfortable in the saddle.
  2. Handlebar tape.  I’ve been wanting to personalize my bike a bit, so I started with a simple and inexpensive upgrade.  I wrapped the bars tonight, which was much easier than I expected.
  3. New Handle Bar TapeThe package I received today was my new tri kit!  It matches my new handlebar tape, but no pictures until I use it.  My first tri this season is Elkhart Lake Sprint on June 11th!

I’m excited about all of my new goodies, and I’m sure there’s more to come…