Monday, November 30, 2015

What a Year

           This past year has been a big one for me, in both sport and in life. So much has happened, and it feels like it has all been so fast, yet even just this March feels like it was years ago. You never know where life might send you, and I honestly never thought that I would be where I am today. Just sitting down to write this blog and reflecting on everything this year has really shown me what a ride life can be sometimes, but it has also made me feel incredibly thankful for all of the people in my life and all of the experiences I have been fortunate enough to have. So, here we go—my attempt to put everything I have learned this season into a few minutes of reading.

Possibly for the first time since I’ve been a professional, this March, I finally felt like I actually belonged to be there. I had a great, breakthrough performance at the Sarasota Continental Cup with a 3rd place putting me on my first podium. ITU racing had not gone too well for me in the past, so to finally have a taste of success was incredible for me. It gave me the confidence in myself and everything that I was doing, that if I really gave it everything I had, I could do it.

Next up came Collegiate National Championships. Now, I know there are much more prestigious races out there, but this race was special for me. I always took a lot of pride in being able to get through school as well as I did as well as train as hard as I did. But mostly, ever since I did my first triathlon back in 2009 (a horrible, painful memory), and I learned there was collegiate triathlon, that was the race I wanted to win. It was a goal that would take years, and I knew it would be an incredible undertaking, but I think for the first time in my life, I had something that I wanted to dedicate all of my energy, discipline, and motivation to. My sophomore and junior years when I thought I was ready to battle for a title, I had two very poor races. They were heartbreaking to me. I always felt so angry about it, because I felt like I just had days where my body said no, and I was completely flat. But at the end of the day, everything happens for a reason, even if it seems hard to find that reason in the moment. Going into the race my senior year, I knew I would look back at myself and never be happy if I didn’t do everything I could to win. People say you can’t stress yourself out and tell yourself that you have to win, but I think those thoughts are only human. You can’t just switch them off. The key is finding your own way to deal with them. Mine was to prepare as well as I possibly could. If I truly did everything I could and raced as hard as I could and still didn’t win, then it just wasn’t in the cards.
                The opening race was the draft-legal race on Friday. I don’t think many people gave me much of a chance starting the run as we were about a minute back, but I took off at a total suicide pace. If I lost, I was going to die trying to win. I don’t think it’s really the race I will remember, but the moments after the race that I will cherish forever. Mom and Dad were there to watch me race at nationals for my final year, and after I got off the ground I just gave my mom a big hug and couldn’t believe it. Every time I think about this moment I start to well up in tears. Everything about it was just so special. All the years it took me to get there made it all so much worth it. I’d take my single win the way I had to get it than any number had they been easy. It’s something that will be special for as long as I live. I was once a kid with big dreams, and all of a sudden, I was now a kid living his dream.

                Just a few weeks after, it was time to graduate. Earning a college degree is something that should never be overlooked. It’s a great accomplishment, and I’m pretty proud of how I did it, with a 3.96 GPA. It was a wild four years, and I could never put all of my memories and experiences onto 1000 pages.

                About 3 days after commencement, I started the wonderful 24-hour drive from State College to Boulder. It was about to be a big change for me, and while it was a good change, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. I was going to be broke, training during the morning and afternoon and working in the evenings—not your most fun schedule. This wasn’t going to be the easiest career to go after, but if you love what you do then you really can do anything. I had a couple of good races towards the beginning of the summer, but eventually everything started to catch up to me. I was worn out physically and emotionally. The change was all taking its toll on me. I didn’t know if I could keep up what I was doing and I didn’t think it was all going to be good enough. Some nights I would lie in my bed at night and just cry because I thought I couldn’t do it anymore. There were certainly some rough days. The only thing driving me was the hope that all of the hard work would pay off. Nothing worth doing is ever easy, so I just kept on working.

                I traveled home for a couple races in New York City and Magog, both of which were not so good for me. I was exhausted and just not myself anymore. Even though the races were bad, the trip home did everything for me. It gave me a chance to hit the reset button. When I came back to Boulder after that trip, I was back to being myself again. I was building up for two final races of the season, and regardless of breaking my wrist going down in a crit, I was getting back to training well—as I like to put it, smashing everything.

                Des Moines went decently well, and then I was able to get my first win in Puerto Rico. A win was really special to me. For the rest of my life I’ll have won a race as a professional. I think that’s pretty darn cool. The season was supposed to be over, but with that win I was one podium away from getting onto the national team. What happened next was a little risky as I sat down on Tuesday night and booked a flight to Colombia on Thursday morning. Had I told myself a couple years ago that I would be doing that I would have punched myself in the face, but it was worth the risk. I had $53 left in my account after booking everything, so I guess I needed to race well huh? I raced well, won the race, and got the job done. This meant I would now be a member of the USA National Team. This was another incredibly special moment for me. As a kid, I always looked at being on Team USA as something truly remarkable, and now I had accomplished that after so much hard work and struggle. I couldn’t think of a better way to end the season. It will be another massive step forward in my career, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me. I don’t think it’s the races themselves that I’ll remember, but the journey that they provided that I’ll never forget. 2015 though, has been a year to remember.

                Thank you to everyone who has been there to help me this year who I couldn’t do it without. Grant, thanks for dealing with every time I start to get pissed off about bad sessions and every other thought that comes to mind that bothers me, and also for making me capable of doing what I have done. Bria, thanks for being there through some of the toughest days I’ve ever had and being the best friend that I would ever want to do all of this with. Mom and Dad, you’re the reason that I am what I am today, and I could never be thankful enough to you both. My support crew is who makes it all happen for me. Now, let’s go make 2016 even better!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Ending With a Bang!

               This past weekend I made a pretty quick decision to extend my season one more week to go race the Cartagena Continental Cup in Colombia. One more result was going to put me onto the National Team, and with how well I was racing and my current fitness level, I felt like I would be able to get the result I needed. It was a little bit risky as it wasn’t the cheapest trip, but Neal, Grant, and I were confident that I would be able to get the job done.

                I flew out on Thursday and it was a pretty long day of travel—a bus ride to the airport, 3 flights, and then a cab to the hotel. I’m starting to get used to the travel a lot more. It isn’t fun, but I’ll put up with it if it means I can do what I love for a living. Cartagena was really cool. Great beaches, beautiful historic buildings, and delicious local food all make it a pretty sweet place for a little vacation. The down side was that I knew I was going to have to deal with the same heat that put me in a pretty dangerous spot last weekend. Unfortunately, the heat actually turned out to be worse.

                Leading up to the race I felt relaxed and focused. I went through pretty typical warm-up, just trying not to do too much and overheat myself before the race even started. The swim began and I felt like I got out pretty well and was in good position. At the start of the second lap I went to the front of the group as there was a little split in the field. I didn’t even realize there was a group of about 4 or 5 that got away at some point. I tried to bridge the gap, but it was already a little too big. I kept the pace high and we got out of the water and onto the bike.

                We were a little further behind than I thought—a little over a minute. There was no choice but to get on with the chase. I was confident I could chase them back. I went to the front and started pulling the group along pretty hard. I felt like I was doing a majority of the work, but a few guys were giving a little help which was much appreciated. As the laps went on, we started pulling the time back faster and faster. When we got to about 20 seconds down, the small group up front decided to sit up except for one guy. I felt like it was the smart decision to just let him go. It was incredibly hot, and I felt like sitting into the group and allowing my body temperature to lower a little bit before the run would give me the best opportunity for success. As expected, when the race comes together, nobody does any work anymore. I was still confident that even if we let the leader go, I could still run him back, and I also figured he would overheat on the run by already being so hot at the end of the bike. The focus switched to nutrition and smart positioning for the rest of the ride.

                At the start of the run, I knew that for a second week in a row, the challenge wasn’t really to go fast. It was about managing your effort level and pacing yourself to survive the heat. I got to the front and a couple guys were trying to go with me. I caught the leader who was off the front at about 1500m into the run. I started to get some distance, and I knew that once that elastic snapped, I would be free to fly. Pretty early into the run, the heat started to overwhelm everyone, me included. I knew I wasn’t running fast, and I had to keep telling myself to slow down. It got to a point where I felt like I was on a base run, but my lead kept growing on the field. With about a lap in a half to go, I knew I just needed to get myself to the finish line. Every aid station I had to dump and entire bottle of water all over me and try to sip on a little bit of ice cold water. It gave relief for maybe 10 seconds, but without it, I would have been done for. It was a long straight road to the finish line, and you could see it from at least 800m away. Those final 800m felt like an eternity. The race is never over until you cross the line, and you can’t lose focus for any second. I got to the finish line and tried to enjoy this one, but I really wasn’t in too good of shape just like last week. I went straight to the med tent, and I’m happy to say the recovery process was a lot quicker than last weekend, and no vomit this time.

                I felt that this race showed more about my ability to stay smart than about my ability to go fast. In a normal race, you may have 10 matches to burn. In a race like this, you may only have 3 or 4 until you overheat and are unable to recover. This means picking and choosing your moments perfectly and capitalizing on them. I made the right decision to calm down and let my body come down on the bike, and I managed my effort on the run so that I wouldn’t take my body overboard. I am just so thrilled and thankful that I was able to get this win. I couldn’t think of any possible way to end my season on a better note. I’m going to take some time to reflect on this year, and make some goals for next year. In the meantime, I look forward to sitting on the couch and watching movies for a while. Time to recharge, and then start making a push to be even better next year!

Friday, October 16, 2015

My 1st Win!!!

                This past weekend has been a pretty big step for me. After so much hard work, I was finally able to achieve my first victory on the professional circuit. I knew it was possible, and I just needed a race where everything would finally come together for me.

                I arrived in Puerto Rico on Wednesday, at which point I experienced the scariest cab ride of my life. Pitch black, going down some real sketchy streets, and a driver who didn’t have any clue of where to go. The times she stopped the car, opened the door, got out and started running were a little worrisome. All in all, it was quite the experience, but we ended up getting where we needed to go all in one piece. I’ll just have a funny story to tell at the dinner table the rest of my life.

                The rest of the week leading up to the race was a bit of a struggle. It was incredibly hot and humid so staying hydrated was an issue. No matter how much I drank I couldn’t seem to catch up until about the day before the race. There was talk of changing the race because of the heat with even the water temperature around 90 degrees F. Luckily, we got to race an honest, normal distance Olympic race.

                The men’s race started at 2pm which meant just sitting in the air conditioning and running through all possible scenarios in my head. I was able to get out to watch the beginning and end of the women’s race, where I got to see Bria finish 3rd. It was a huge step forward for her that we all saw coming, so I was ecstatic leading up to my race. It was much deserved success for her.

                To begin my race, I had a not so great start. It was a beach start with a run in, and this is an area where I can definitely improve. I selected a slot on the right side since it seemed closer to the first buoy even though it was a left turn. However, with the bad start, I got pinched off to the outside around the entire first lap of the swim. This is just a tactical error that made the swim a lot harder for me than it needed to be. After one loop I saw I was right on the back of the lead pack and just needed to hold position and I would be in a perfect spot. I exited the water to the back of the pack that had begun to string out a little bit.

                Onto the bike, and I started hitting it as hard as I could. I saw a big group forming just ahead and needed to chase onto it. It took me a little bit since they were also in a straight line hitting it as hard as they could to catch a couple guys off the front. I caught them just before they caught the couple up front. This was encouraging as I was able to chase down the group as they were chasing hard in just a few minutes. It meant that I wasn’t lucky to be at the front of the race. I executed well enough to put myself there and in a position that I could win. The pace stayed high for a little bit, but the group was big enough that nobody wanted to do any work so by the 3rd lap of 5, we were moving at a crawl. I was ok with this since even though I know I am strong on the bike, I was confident that I would be able to out run anybody. I spent the rest of the time focusing on my nutrition and keeping myself out of trouble.

                Heading out for the run, I knew the biggest battle wasn’t going to be us competing against each other. It was going to be who could fall apart the least in the heat. So contrary to my normal style and reputation, I went out conservative. I felt as though I was running true tempo pace, and most of the pack was running a pretty similar speed. After about a K though, everybody’s initial punch out of transition started to go away, and paces began to slow. My tempo now started to move me way up the field. I got to the leaders a little before 2k into the run. A couple of them tried to match my pace, but I knew they were really struggling and would fall off. They did pretty quickly and I was in the clear. I pulled about 5 seconds on Jarrod by the end of the first lap. At this point, I knew it was my race to lose. I just had to conserve my energy correctly and try to stay relaxed. A little into the second lap I was screaming to myself in my head, “You’re leading an ITU race!” You always picture it in your mind, and then when it’s actually happening it’s like you’re not sure what to do. I told myself to just keep a nice tempo for the next 2 laps and then have a little extra for the final lap. By the last lap I had a descent lead that I knew I’d only lose if I really started to falter, but the heat started hitting me harder and harder. With about 1k to go I was incredibly dizzy and couldn’t really see straight. I was trying to pick it up at the end, but I’m sure it was looking pretty awful. I would collapse before I would let myself slow down and lose this. Luckily I was still running decently and it was enough to grab the win.

                I wish I could have savored the experience of running down the finish chute for my first win, but to be honest, I don’t really remember it that much. I was so hot and dizzy that is all a little hazy from that last turn until after I was sitting in the tent with medical for a little bit. I was throwing up a little bit and was really not in good shape. I wasn't all with it. It trended a little like, oh I should call my parents, throw up, oh my gosh I can't believe I won, throw up, I need ice, vision gone, wow it's hot, throw up. You get the picture. After they got me cooled down a bit, I was ok.

                The podium was really great. It is an amazing feeling to know that you are standing up there and the National Anthem is being played for you. My goal was to try to soak Bria with as much champagne (or sparkling cider in this case) as I possibly could. It never tastes as sweet as it does when it’s running down your sweaty, gross head on the podium. So much hard work goes into this, and in comparison, the reward is so short and sweet, but it is sure worth every single moment. To finally have a race win is really something special. I know it isn’t the biggest race, but it is a stepping stone to greater things where everybody needs to start. I've got a great team around me who has brought me a long way, and we know there is still much more to come.

                Up next, I’m in Cartagena, Colombia for a race on October 18 where I would love to have a similar result, but I know I need to once again focus on everything I can in order to have a great race. Stay tuned, and wish me luck!!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Bouncing Back

I headed to the Big Apple this past weekend for the NYC Tri. I competed in the race last season and performed very poorly, so I was very motivated to have a great performance. I was also coming off of a second place finish just three weeks ago at the Philly Tri. Everything was feeling great, and I felt I had another podium performance in me.

The swim at NYC is in the Hudson with a very strong current. This usually results in a swim with relatively no gaps forming, but that scenario did not play out this year. My start position wasn't great as it was right in the middle of the pack. The only good spot to be was all the way on the right. The dock we were on seemed to block a lot of the current, but if you could get near the edge, you could get into the current right away. At the start, I was unable to get ahead of the mess, so had a bit of a pack to my right. The guys who started on the side got into that current and were gone. I really wanted to get over there, but the pack beside me didn't seem to have the same idea. Whenever swimming in a river, the current is always strongest towards the middle, so that is the place to be. Somehow, we ended up losing about a minute even with the fast swim.

Once I got on the bike things really started to go wrong. First, it was just a plain lack of power. My legs felt like they really couldn't push anything. I tried to stay positive since usually you can work yourself out of a low spot if you stay on it, but things just got worse. I started to get really nasty side stitches in my shoulders and at some points felt I could barely breathe. I was holding power that I normally do on just some tempo riding, but I was struggling hard. Guys that I can normally either stay with or put time into were outriding me minutes. When the bike came to an end, finally, I hopped off and had an extremely tight hamstring. I had never had that feeling in my leg getting off the bike before. Everything seemed to be going wrong for me.

I headed out on the run and just did what I could. I was having more stomach cramps during the run, and I knew it wasn't going to be even close to how I am capable of running, but some days you need to just keep moving forward. You always give it everything you have, even if that means it isn't much that day. This can be really hard to do when you know you should be near the front of the race battling it out with those guys, but not every day is going to be a great one. For me, this day was a complete explosion.

After the race, I was really just happy the day was over. It's a long day when you are feeling like that for the entire race just about. I think the best thing that could have happened to me at that moment is to know that I have to prepare for another race just 6 days away. I knew I would get to go home and start preparing to get after it again. Had I not had another race right away, I would have been dwelling on this performance for a while. My next race forced me to put it in the rear view mirror and move on. I have ITU Magog coming up in a few days, and I have been very happy spending some time at home preparing. My preparations in the last couple of days have felt very good, and I know that I can showcase my fitness this weekend. I've also had the benefit of being back at home the last few days, and there sure isn't anything quite like Mom's cooking.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Going Home

Going back to Philly this year was a little more special this year than it has ever been for me. After moving all the way across the country to Boulder, this was the first time I would be coming home. I got to spend a couple days at home eating some home-cooked meals before the race. About a week before the race, I was feeling better than ever, but in the few days before the race I seemed to be coming down with a nasty cold and I was having some injury issues in my foot, but I think being at home was enough of a boost to get past all of that.

We got a lot of rain coming in the few days before the race, so the swim was cancelled for the entire weekend. In the past, my swim has been a bit of a weakness for me, but I have been feeling pretty confident in it lately, so I felt that it didn’t help or hurt me too much either way. I was also very confident in my bike and run, so I knew I would race well either way. With the removal of the swim, the race organizers decided to do a time trial start on the bike. We were going to be sent off in 20-25 second increments. This made the race interesting since you could never really tell for sure what position you were really in unless you knew exact time gaps off the line which would be impossible. It was a little different, but it made a true, honest non-draft race.

My plan going in was to go full gas on the bike and see what I could limit the time gap to back from Cam. From the time I crossed the mat to start I really went for it. The Philly bike course is a very challenging one, with some steep climbs and then technical descents.  The rain made a few of those spots a little hairy and it was very important to stay under control. Staying on the bike is always faster than taking a tumble. I felt like I rode the hardest I ever had for a 40k. The time wouldn’t reflect it because of the weather, but I know it was a big improvement over my ride from last year. I came in and heard I had lost a little over 2 minutes on the bike. This was about the time gap I had figured, so I knew if I had a great run I could make up the ground.

Heading out on the run, my legs felt a little heavy. I was still moving very fast, but I knew I would probably need to hold about 3:06-3:08/k to make up the ground. I tried as hard as I could, but I soon started to feel some cramping coming on. I knew if I tried to pick up the pace that I would be walking it in. I still ran about 31:40, but not quite what I needed. The very hard bike took a little too much out of me, but had I biked easier then I would have just been further behind, so it is a little bit of give and take. I think I executed my race plan well and couldn’t have asked for too much more. Coming home 2nd was great, but losing by 26 seconds is never easy. It makes you really look at every point in the race and find where you may have been able to make up that time. There were certainly some things I could have done better, but at the end of the day, I need to be happy with my performance. A 2nd place finish at my home race is a pretty great thing. It is more continued success that makes me hungry for more and proud of the work that I have been putting in. It has been a great season thus far, and I hope to continue to improve and get even faster as the year goes on.

Coming home was a really great break from everything for me. I have to thank my Mom and Dad for always supporting me out there. I couldn’t do it without them, so to get to race in front of them is more and more special every chance I get. Those are the moments that you remember for a long time. 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Dallas Race Report

I headed out to Dallas this weekend for the ITU Dallas American Cup. As I was sitting at the gate waiting to board my plane I found out that the swim would be cancelled, the race made into a 5k/20k/2.5k duathlon, and it would no longer be the U23 National Championships. This definitely put a damper on things for me, but over the next couple days I needed to just get ready to go out and race whatever race it would be and race as hard as I could regardless.

My race lead-up was the opposite of a normal concentrated warm-up. About an hour and a half before the start, I was warming up on my bike. My front tire blew out about two miles away, so I had to run my way back to transition. I guess you could say this would work as my run warm-up? I went to bike support to get them to check out my tire and rim. They fixed it up and gave me the okay that everything was fixed. I breathed a sigh of relief having gotten through that, and proceeded to my normal run drills. About 10 minutes before the start I was feeling ready to go. I went through transition to check everything one last time as I always do 10 too many times on race day. I got another surprise of another flat front tire. At this point, I figured I was out of luck having no spare wheels. I ran around like a nut trying to find a miracle. An ITU official told me I needed to get to the start line for athlete introduction. Then I heard a voice to the side. Canadian athlete Leanna Lee just volunteered to lend me her wheel. This was so generous of her and I couldn’t thank her enough. I ran the wheel over, threw it on, and went straight to the start line. I did my best to keep myself calm. I took a couple deep breaths and told myself to focus and execute my race plan.

The gun went off and I got straight to the front. My plan was simple—make the rest of the race hurt so people wouldn’t have as much left for a strong kick for the 2.5k. I kept the pace fast on the first 5k. We were consistently running 2:58/k, and on the second lap the field started to split. We hit the bike and we had a gap. I kept on the gas as much as I could to try to make sure we got a good gap on the group behind us who I know had some firepower. I tried to accelerate out of turnarounds from the front of the group as much as I could to make everyone have to accelerate very hard to catch back up. 20k is not a lot of time, but it is enough to start to fatigue some guys. I could tell on the last lap that some guys were starting to struggle to hang on. I put myself into good position and got through transition as quick as possible.

I moved right to the front out of transition within 200 meters. I was out in 2:47 for the first K, so the legs were definitely moving. As I approached the turnaround the wall started to come up on me pretty quick. Soon after the turnaround I was passed by both the top 2 and found myself in 3rd. I kept on the gas as much as possible to try to stay on the podium. I came across 3rd and was very happy with my performance. I executed my race plan just how I wanted to, and it paid off. A finishing 2.5k is not my strength, but I played my cards the best I could and have to be happy with the result. I think the biggest takeaway from the race is knowing that I have the ability to take the run out at about 2:45 for the first K, but if I want to be on the top step of the podium, I need to finish in 2:45. With some focused training, I know I can make this happen, and if the other pieces are there, then I know I will be successful. All in all, it was a very successful and fun race weekend.

I was able to race for the first time in my brand new SCODY kit. The suit was awesome. It fit like a glove, and it somehow kept me cool even in the mid-90 degree high humidity Texas weather. I was anticipating a great kit, and SCODY definitely delivered. I can’t wait to suit up in it again for the next one. Anything that gives you that little more confidence is a big deal at this level.
Next up, I’ll be going back home in a couple weeks to race the TriRock Philadelphia triathlon. I have raced this event for several years running, and I can’t wait to go home to race. Until then, it’s back to the training grind, working on my weaknesses, and doing everything I can to get better each and every day.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

One Journey Ends, Another Begins

                 I headed down to Clemson, SC this past weekend to race in my final Collegiate National Championships on April 24th and 25th. The draft-legal race was set to be on Friday morning with the non-draft on Saturday morning. This was going to be the last weekend of my collegiate career, so I really wanted to make it a good one.
                The draft-legal race went about how I thought it would. Jones and Nielson had great swims and really got ahead coming out of the water and I settled into the main pack. As we went our pack ended up getting a little too big. When too many riders get together everyone seems to think somebody else will do all the work and then nobody does any work. We couldn't seem to get organized, so the two leaders started to stretch their lead out on us. I knew I could outrun them, but coming into transition I heard I was about 1:05 down. That was a huge gap, but I had to believe I could do it. I took off out of transition sprinting. By the time I got to the first turn around, a little over 1k out, I saw I had already made back about 25 seconds. At this point I felt that the race was mine as long as I didn't blow up. I caught the leader about 1200m out or so and just took off. By the time I was nearing the finish line I had opened up a big gap and knew I could just enjoy the run in. Crossing the line as a national champion was something really special to me. I didn't come into triathlon from any other sport. I have always just been a triathlete, so this is the one race I always looked at that I wanted to win. I've gone through so much to get here, so it was incredibly special for me. When I crossed the line I grabbed my mom and gave her a big long hug. That was the most special part to me about the entire weekend. I got to share it with the people that mean the most to me. I would never have achieved this without my parents supporting me every step of the way. It is because of them that this was able to happen.

 The following day I wasn't sure how I would feel after running a sub-15 5k in the draft-legal race, but I woke up in good spirits and the body felt good. This race seemed to play out about how I expected as well. I was about a minute down on the big contenders out of the water and I was able to pull back about 15 seconds on the bike. I left transition 45-50 seconds down on the leaders. I went out pretty hard, but comfortable. I kept clawing back ever so slightly and was able to catch von Berg 5k into the run. As soon as I did, I tried to lose him, but he stuck with me and lifted his pace. As I got down the stretch, my legs really started to go on me. The race the day before was setting in, but I would give it everything I had. With maybe 400m to go, after running an epic 5k shoulder to shoulder bumping elbows at the front of the race, Rudy took off and I had nothing in the legs. It was difficult to watch the win run away from me, but I did everything I could, and I have to give Rudy credit. He is a tremendous athlete and competitor.

 The great performances were something I always saw happening and they couldn't have come at a more perfect time. I have spent four years here on the Penn State Triathlon team. Through that I have had some amazing people come into my life, and I have learned so much about myself.  I have had so many great people help me over the years just because they saw a kid they really believed in. It has been an amazing journey that I will never forget. As I transition out of this world, I will be traveling to another in just two weeks as I move to Boulder to work and train with some of the best athletes and coaches in the world. It is hard to think about where I started and where I am going now. I need to give a shout out to some important people in my life, Bria Edwards for her 2nd place performance on Saturday and Mike Meehan for his 4th place performances on both Friday and Saturday. The three of us make each other the athletes we are, and I couldn't imagine not having each other. Coming to school here at cold and snowy Happy Valley was the best decision I could have made. I would take us three killing it together all year in cold, snow, sleet, ice, thundersnow (believe it), 14 hours of total sunshine in a month (again, believe it) or whatever mother nature seems to throw at us than have gone to school in beautiful sunshine and not had each other. So, let’s give it one last WE ARE!!!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

ITU Sarasota

I was really excited coming into the race this weekend because I felt like I would have a much better day than last weekend in Clermont. I hadn’t been able to ride my bike outside for about 3 months due to the rough State College winter, and my first day outside was just two days before the race in Clermont. This week, I had a whole week out in the sun training to hopefully transfer my great fitness into a great race performance.

To begin the race, I ended up with a pretty decent start position just three positions from the end. I was hoping that would help me avoid the in-water melee that is an ITU swim start. This turned out to be true, as I wasn’t touched until the first turn buoy about 200 meters out. I also was starting on the left side, which meant that I would have inside position at each turn. Positioning is so critical in these races, so I knew I was in a decent position. I was swimming with a large pack and just held strong for the rest of the swim.

T1 went very smooth for me and I was able to get out and start hitting it hard to bridge up as far as I could. A large group of us formed, and we could see two groups ahead being led by the lead motorcycle. It’s always a good sign when you can see the leaders. It means that you aren’t far behind, and it helps keep the group motivated because they can see what they are chasing after. On the second lap, I just barely avoided a pretty nasty crash. I couldn’t see what happened, but I just saw some bikes flying into the air and guys swinging across the road taking out some more. I swung way out and into the grass and barely got around just in time to surge back up to the group. With about a half of a lap left, we caught the lead group and the front of the race became about 25 strong. Finally, I’d be able to start the run in the hunt.

It was a mad house coming into T2 with so many people. I always try to hurry but be smooth. I got out and started to get ahead of the pack and into my stride. The first lap of the run I really wasn’t feeling the best. I was running around 10th for a while, but near the end of the first lap, my legs started to come around. I caught a group and moved by into about 5th position. I could see the podium not that far ahead and tried to stay patient. By the turnaround on the second loop I had moved into 4th and was just a couple strides behind 3rd. I’m not the kind of guy to let things come down to a 200m sprint, so with about 1k left I started to surge as hard as I could. I got around into 3rd and kept giving everything I had all the way to the line. Crossing that line in a podium position was an incredible feeling. It was a step forward for me that I felt I could always see but never seemed to happen for me. It really shows what all the hard work can do.

After the race, my body definitely let me know that the State College winter had not acclimated me to the hot and humid Florida weather. I was in full heat exhaustion mode with plenty of dizziness, lightheadedness, confusion, and eventually, some nasty vomiting. It took me about a half hour of being covered in ice to get my body temperature back down and start feeling better.

After feeling better, I experienced my first real medal ceremony which felt pretty amazing. I always watched them and felt like I should be up there. Now, I was actually up there for the first time. It is a really hard feeling to describe, but it is such a sense of accomplishment. I know how hard all of my competitors work, so to have everything come together and have a performance like that means a lot. It is a huge step forward for me, and hopefully just one of many.

Looking ahead, I can’t wait for what is next. I have collegiate nats coming up on April 24th and 25th, and then I graduate this May and will be moving out to Boulder, CO to work with the Apex group led by Neal Henderson and Grant Holicky. It has been great working with them so far this season, and I look forward to being out there. I think this season will be a big one for me. It is only March and I feel like I’m nowhere close to where I will be come August and late this season. Hopefully it will be filled with some more champagne showers, because I’m not sure if there’s anything that tastes better than that.