Friday, June 3, 2016

2016 Season Opener

Hey... I'm back. This is where I'd normally make some lame excuses for not posting in over a year. I've been super busy, blah blah whatever. Of course that would all be bullshit. The truth is I simply haven't felt like writing anything. I do what I want...

The Most Interesting Man In... Golden Valley?

The more observant among you may have noticed that the masthead on this fabulous little slice of the internet has changed. Over the winter we relocated our operation to the mean streets of Golden Valley, MN. Anyway, the new house is sweet. The best feature is that it's 1.8 miles from the front door to my desk at work (the actual desk mind you, not just the parking lot), so my days of sitting in rush hour traffic are officially over. Seriously, now that I've tasted the freeway-free life I'm never going back. If my choices ever come down to manning the fryer at the Golden Valley McDonald's vs. an engineering job across town, I'm choosing the fryer without a second thought.

Beside all that we've got a ton more room for the kids and all their shit, and a nice big yard for them to play in. Even 4 months after the fact I still don't feel like we're completely "moved in" (there are still some unpacked boxes), but my home office/trainer room is looking fucking magnificent.

I refuse to utter the words "pain cave" on account of that being the corniest thing to ever escape human lips. If you use this term, please reconsider and/or just go ahead and remove yourself from the gene pool. And yes, that is a giant portrait of Andrew W.K's bloody-ass face on the wall. We party hard at the Payne compound.

Speaking of the mean streets of Golden Valley... if you're trying to drive anywhere on said streets you're likely to find this taking the lane in front of you.

They see me rollin'... they hatin'...
With the help of the fine folks at Gear West Bike and Triathlon I've upped my child hauling game considerably via the acquisition of a Surly Big Dummy. This thing weighs about 9000 pounds and handles like a river barge, but the kids enjoy it way more than sitting on top of each other in a trailer, and it's obviously a hell of a lot better than wasting away in car traffic with the plebes, so we're keeping it.

Multisport Stuff

I managed to bag more than my fair share of post-season awards over the winter. Locally, I took home the Minnesota Multisport Awards for Triathlete of the Year, Duathlete of the Year, and Performance of the Year. Nationally, USAT named me the Duathlete of the Year and gave me an honorable mention for Triathlete of the Year. I'm still not sure how I qualified for the latter given that I had a total dumpster fire of a race at Oly Distance Nationals, but an honorable mention for Triathlete of the Year nets a fellow approximately $0.00, so no bricks have come flying through my windows or anything. But anyway, collecting a bunch of post-season awards is always cool.

USAT comes correct with the AOY trophies... this thing weighs a ton.


So I've already got a couple of races under my belt for 2016 -- Gear West Duathlon and Apple Duathlon. Between moving and an annoying knee injury that kept me sidelined for much of March and April I'm way behind where I would usually be training-wise at this time of the year, so I went into these races without any great expectations. Luckily they both ended up going about as well as they could have and I took home two wins.

Both races followed roughly the same script. The pace off of the line on the first run was absurd, thanks to a couple of new fast guys. At Gear West it was Nate Ansbaugh, who recently moved here from Colorado for a medical residency at HCMC, and at Apple it was Wade Cruser, who's been racing locally for a while but is obviously stepping it up quite a bit this year. Both of these guys took the 1st mile out at a pace I couldn't even begin to fuck with. It had to be well under 5 minutes in both cases. This is pretty good practice for Nationals coming up in a few weeks because I guarantee there are going to be a few guys there with the same game plan, and I'm going to have to have the discipline to let them go and trust that I can reel them back in on the bike... or that's the plan anyway.

At Gear West I was able to get back up to Nate toward the end of the first run and made it out onto the bike course in the lead. The bike felt sluggish as hell, and now that I've been equipped with a power meter for a couple seasons I can actually quantify this... 20W lower than last year... shit. Oh well, hopefully that's just because I'm very light on mileage so far this year and I'm setting myself up to peak for the championship races later on in the season, and not just because I'm getting old.

Nothing real interesting happened on the 2nd run. There are quite a few turns and switchbacks so you generally have a good idea of where everyone else is, which allowed me to run at a non-pukezone effort level and still come across the line with the win.

Apple had quite a bit more drama. In addition to the aforementioned Wade Cruser, I had Patrick Parish to contend with. I ended up coming in 5th off the first run, although I'm pretty sure I passed a dude in transition and started the bike in 4th. I felt a little bit more like my early 2015 self on the bike. Checking the power numbers I was only 10W down from last year... progress! At any rate that was good enough to get me into the lead at about mile 8, and from there I simply tried to squeeze every additional second out of that ride since I knew I would need to start the 2nd run with a substantial lead if I wanted to win.

Out on the run again, I'm kind of surprised I didn't trip over my own feet because I spent so much time looking back over my shoulder. The bike effort had left my legs feeling super flat so I wasn't running all that well. About 400m out from the finish line I thought the race was a done deal when I heard someone cheering another runner on behind me. So I turned for like the 837th lookback and sure enough, there was Patrick. How I managed to not see him until precisely then is a mystery. The lesson here is that I should probably just focus on running hard and give fewer fucks about who may or may not be running me down.

Anyway the running pace plot from my Garmin is kind of funny. You can spot the exact moment in time where I realized Patrick was closing in. The chart goes vertical when I instantly go from 5:50 pace to 5:20 pace, which I manage to hold for all of 20 seconds before my legs are like, "Fuck this shit, we quit," and the pace falls all the way back to 6:20-ish.

Absurd pace changes aside, I managed to hold him off and took possession of my 2nd overall winner's apple, which are pretty much the coolest race trophy ever.

So that's that for the local duathlon season. My next race will be the Buffalo Tri in a couple days, then 2 weeks off until Duathlon Nationals out in Bend, OR on June 25th.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

2015 Duathlon Season

Mikey ran his first race a couple weeks ago. It was a totally non-competitive kids fun run across a parking lot, but hey, we all started somewhere.

Check out his sweet starting line game face (he's the one in the yellow pants)...

Back in your hole gopher...

And here he is totally dusting Goldy...

Better running form than me...

I lined up for a few races myself and did pretty well:  Gear West Duathlon (2nd), Apple Duathlon (1st) and Duathlon Nationals (1st).

The Pre-Race Jams

You've gotta love a band like Madball. These guys have been putting out the exact same album since the 90's. If you could reach back into 1994 and magically put modern production on their old shit it would sound exactly like the new shit. It's kind of like my tri training... I've been doing basically the same routine for a decade and I somehow keep getting faster. If it ain't broke don't fix it.

Gear West Duathlon

I kicked off the season with 2nd OA at the Gear West Duathlon. Being the first race of the season I went into it without any real expectations, I just wanted to go hard and see where I was at. I ended up taking 2nd to Patrick Parish, but I made it interesting by taking a ~30 second lead into T2 and making him run me down. This was noteworthy to me at the time because I hadn't spent a single second ahead of Patrick in a duathlon since about 2008. Of course, 30 seconds isn't nearly enough to hold him off on the 2nd run and he proceeded to catch me at mile 1 and then went on to put another 40 seconds into me by the finish, but hell, a relatively close 2nd to Patrick ranks that as one of my better duathlon performances ever, so that was an encouraging way to start the season.

Gear West Duathlon Results

Apple Duathlon

I hadn't raced Apple since 2012 because it never fit into my spring schedule, but this year with it falling 2 weeks prior to Nationals it fit in perfectly. This race is typically the weekend after Gear West and tends to draw from the same crowd, at least at the front of the race. However, since GW Du has a really tough, somewhat technical (and usually wet and sloppy) off road run course, that race tends to favor a stronger runner over a stronger cyclist, while Apple, with a very fast, 100% paved, non-technical run course, plus 3 extra miles of cycling, can be won with less that stellar running provided that you can bring it on the bike.

So with that in mind I started crunching some pre-race numbers and came to the conclusion that if could just not jog through the first run like a giant pussy and keep gap on the first run to Patrick and the rest of the fast runners manageable I could probably build enough of a lead on the bike to really give everyone a hard time, and possibly even win the thing altogether.

With that thought in mind I busted ass off the line as hard as possible and managed to stay with the lead pack almost to the first mile and ultimately ended up covering the 1st run in 16:18, which is a PR for me on that course. But more importantly only lost 35 seconds to Patrick so I was definitely still in the game. Once we got out of town on the bike course and out onto the open road I could see the entire field up ahead with a lead vehicle out front. I made it to the front at around mile 5 and from there all I was thinking about was pushing on the pedals as hard as I could and building a defensible lead into T2.

Heading out onto the run I knew I had a decent gap because I still hadn't heard Jerry announce Patrick's arrival before I got up and over the hill and out of audio range, but even so I was still running scared and was sneaking looks behind at every corner. I ended up taking the win in 1:20:45, which is a 2+ minute PR on that course for me. Cranking out a performance like that 2 weeks prior to Duathlon Nationals, my first big "A" race of the year, was obviously a huge confidence booster.

Apple Duathlon Results

Duathlon Nationals

Going into a championship race as the consensus favorite is a weird experience. For starters, the Star Tribune did a feature on me in the sports section a few days before the race. So yeah... no pressure there. But if there was ever a duathlon course that was tailor made to accentuate my strengths and minimize my weaknesses, this is it, so confidence was indeed high going in.

This is the 3rd time I've raced Duathlon Nationals, and every time the start has been exactly the same... a bunch of maniacs sprint off the line and I'm in struggle-land falling off the back thinking, "What the fuck is happening here? Did I just completely forget how to run? Am I going to finish dead fucking last?" I ended up wearing my enormous GPS watch in anticipation of exactly this. We got a few minutes in and I was already 100+ yards back of the lead pack when my watch beeped a mile split at me and I looked down and saw 5:06. That's a really strong opening mile for me, and knowing that I was actually going pretty good gave me the confidence to settle into my own pace and rely on the bike to get me to the front rather than continuing to run like a maniac and probably die. At any rate, by the end of the first run a few of those guys were already paying the price for that opening mile and I managed to move up a few spots and enter transition in 6th.

I passed one dude right on the mount line coming out of T1 which moved me up into 5th, then fumbled around getting into my bike shoes barely getting strapped in by the bottom of Ohio St. for the first of 3 ascents. I moved into 4th about halfway up the hill then caught sight of my Gear West teammate Brian Sames in 3rd up near the top. I swung around Brian just before starting down the hill back into the river valley. Very near the end of the 1st lap I caught up to Nate Hoffman and Bennett Isabella and moved around into 1st. From then on it was all about keeping the power up and building as big a gap as possible.

T2 went smoothly and right as I was going out onto the run course I heard Jerry on the PA announcing Patrick winning the elite race in 1:26. Hearing that I glanced down at my watch and saw 1:07 and thought, "holy shit... if I run well I can actually do that!"

The first loop of the run was reasonably relaxed, at least by the standards of a 2nd run in a duathlon. My trusty GPS gizmo was telling me I was on pace to beat Patrick's time and with all of the turnarounds I was able to see that I had a good couple minutes on Bennett in 2nd. There was a brief scare on the 2nd lap when I heard Brent Bailey's footsteps rapidly approaching behind me. He ended up passing me about 1/2 mile out of the finish. The whole time I'm thinking, "There's no way I missed seeing this guy the entire first lap, so I must be a lap up," immediately followed by, "Who gives a fuck which lap he's on, you haven't won this race yet so if you're not running as hard as you can you're doing it wrong." I was able to stick with him until the turnoff for the finish, where luckily he peeled off for his 2nd lap while I headed toward the finish chute, eventually hitting the line in 1:24:10 which apparently exceeded the finish line staff's expectations because they were not ready with the finish tape when I came through.

Duathlon Nationals Results

So that's that for the 2015 duathlon campaign. I kick off my tri season at the Capitol City sprint tomorrow and then I'm planning on taking it relatively easy for a week or so before ramping the training back up and trying to peak for AG Tri Nationals in August.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

2015 Spring Update

And then there were 4...

First off, the big news... this tiny, hairy human now lives at my house...

His name is Riley Harrison Payne and he seems reasonably chill for being 0 years old.

Bling Bling

The 2014 multisport racing campaign garnered a genuine buttload of post-season hardware. USAT named me the 2014 Duathlete of the Year, and in what was a complete surprise to me, named me an honorable mention for Triathlete of the Year.

Closer to home, I took home 4(!) Minnesota Multisport Awards this time around: Triathlete of the Year, Duathlete of the Year, Long Distance Athlete of the Year and Performance of the Year. As is my style, I went a tiny bit too hard at the awards ceremony and most likely made a drunken ass of myself every time Jerry handed me the mic. Good times.

I'll be displaying these near the entrances to my house. That way any potential home invader will assume I'm some sort of mixed martial arts badass and nope the fuck out.

And last but most certainly least, I received the prestigious "Minnesota's Man of the Year" award from amateur triathlete/professional donut enthusiast Devon Palmer.

File photo.
So what do you get for being named "Minnesota's Man of the Year" by amateur triathlete/professional donut enthusiast Devon Palmer? Not a damn thing. Not even a sack of that hippie coffee he's always going on about. Step your game up Palmer.

Not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand I love turtles. But on the other hand I hate hippies. On second thought who gives a fuck. I don't even drink coffee due to it being super gross. Iced tea or GTFO.

I recently put some new shoes on the whip with the help of the fine folks at Gear West Bike and Tri in the form of a sweet limited edition Zipp Super 9 disc and 808 Firecrest front. Carbon clinchers of course because tubulars are for weird smelly old Euros.

I also said goodbye to my clapped out old Surly Crosscheck and picked up this Felt V85 for commuting, trailer towing, and general getting my ass from point A to point B duties. 

I'll probably write up a full review of this bike at some point.  At $1,399 MSRP this thing fuckin' delivers.
Once again I have to sing the praises of Gear West for being the most absurdly well stocked and knowledgeable tri shop anywhere. "A limited edition Super 9 disc and an 808 FC carbon clincher? Sure, come on in anytime, we've got piles of 'em in stock ready to go!" That's the kind of thing that precisely one shop in town can say.

St. Croix Valley Tri

Never done a triathlon and want to give it a try? Final Stretch is doing something really cool for first timers at the St. Croix Valley Tri that they're calling the Rookie Triathlon Experience. You get a pretty sweet list of amenities, including on-demand advice from my stupid ass. So get signed up and don't be shy about asking me for advice on whatever. 

Race Schedule

I'm planning on being on roadside turtle patrol at the following events:
  • 5/17 - Gear West Duathlon
  • 5/23 - Apple Duathlon
  • 6/6 - Duathlon AG Nationals
  • 6/14 - Capitol City Tri
  • 6/28 - Lake Waconia Tri
  • 7/11 - LTF MPLS Tri
  • 7/19 - Heart of the Lakes Tri
  • 8/8 - AG Nationals Oly
  • 8/9 - AG Nationals Sprint
  • 8/16 - Pigman Half
  • 8/30 - Superiorman Tri
  • 9/20 - ITU AG Worlds
  • Maybe some random 70.3 or something in the fall if I still feel like it

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Leadman 125

Back in September T-Payne and I made our annual trek out to Bend, OR to visit our good friends Dave and Morgan. Now seems like the appropriate time to once again remind everyone that Dave had his ass kicked by a squirrel.

As expected, I left Bend totally wanting to move there. Since mechanical engineering jobs are tough to come by out there I even hatched a sure fire business plan which would no doubt result in endless cash flows with which to make it rain on Bend's many bike shops and microbreweries.

As the proud owner of a 49cc Yamaha Vino motorscooter, I know good scooting grounds when I see them.

Bend's compact layout and mild climate make for just about ideal scootering. The only problem is that there are no scooter dealerships in town. 

Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, I present you with Rainbow Road Scooters.  Rainbow road you say? What is this? Some sort of gay scooter dealership? No, we here at Rainbow Road welcome all sexual orientations, because Rainbow Road is a Mario Kart themed scooter dealership.

Since I know nothing about the sale or service of scooters, I would spend most of my time scooting around in a turtle suit throwing hammers at people.
Buy that extended warranty or I will hammer your face!
Surprisingly, despite having a bulletproof 100% sure fire business plan, I'm not being inundated with venture capital. Thanks Obama.

Oh yeah... I also closed out my 2014 multisport season by winning the Leadman 125 race while I was out there. This consists of a 2.5k swim, 106k bike and a 12k run. That may sound excessive, but it starts to sound a lot more reasonable when you consider that it is run concurrently with the Leadman 250, which is double all of that.

Last year I actually did the Leadman 250, which was okay, but racing that long really fucked up the vacation aspect of the trip, so this year I opted for the shorter distance. I have no idea what Dave was smoking at the time, but apparently seeing me hating life during the 250 last year somehow inspired him to want to do this year's race. Lucky for him the management decided to add a third option, dubbed the Leadman 85, which is a 1k swim, 75k bike and 12k run.

Since Dave and I were in entirely different races and he had not done a tri in several years, the equalizer time was established with some difficulty. I put on my engineering dork hat and produced a spreadsheet predicting a 4:11:11 finish for me in the 125 and a 4:00:52 for Dave in the 85. All parties agreed that the 10 minute 19 second equalizer time would be official, with the loser supplying post-race growlers filled with the beer of the winner's choosing.


Leadman is a Saturday race, which would usually mean either a late night Thursday or early morning Friday arrival to minimize lodging/rental car expenses and vacation time usage. But with Dave and Morgan offering us free transportation and lodging, I elected to arrive on Wednesday night so I'd have an extra day to bum around Bend before the race.

Thursday morning I woke up nice and early to build up my bike, then went out for what was supposed to be a short 20-30 minute run. I ended up on some awesome off-road trails along the Deschutes river which were way too cool to not explore a bit. Long story short I ended up running just shy of an hour at a pretty spirited pace. Oops. Not exactly an ideal activity 2 days before a race, but fuck it, I'm on vacation so whatever.

A similar thing happened later that same afternoon. I intended to go out for a short shakedown ride just to make sure my bike wouldn't disintegrate beneath me due to my amateur mechanic skills. Two hours later I rolled back into town having gone all the way up Mt. Bachelor and back down. Oops again. The riding in and around Bend is absolutely spectacular. Once I started up that road there was simply no way I was stopping before getting to the top, race that weekend be damned.

On Friday Dave and I went for a short ride around town where I did actually curb my enthusiasm somewhat, then we got our race packets and drove our bikes the 40-some odd miles out to the lake for the mandatory bike check-in.

Dave and Morgan's friends Rob and Whitney came down from Seattle that afternoon to hang out for the weekend, so that night all 6 of us headed off to a local pizza joint for my traditional pre-race pizza and beer feast.

Clockwise from left: Dave, Morgan, Whitney, Rob, Me, T-Payne
The Pre-Race Jams

Since there was no drive to the race site there really weren't any pre-race jams, but the super weak dad-rock playing over the PA at the finish line tells me that the triathlon community is in need of a serious musical intervention.

Have you ever asked yourself, "Just how heavy can music get before it devolves into unintelligible brown noise?" Well I have, and I'm sure The Acacia Strain has as well, because they just put out a new record and it sounds like this...

That breakdown at 2:25 will shake your bowels loose. Good stuff.

Race Morning

Race morning started with a power breakfast of donuts and Coke on the shuttle bus out to the swim start/T1. Once I got to the rack I was greeted with a flat rear tire.

Dave and I had consciously chosen to take one of the later buses out to the start, so I only had about 25 minutes prior to the gun at this point. I managed to get the tube replaced in time, but it was close. And I also used my only spare tube. And went from latex to butyl. I mean c'mon... racing on butyl?  What am I?  Poor?

Downgrayedd. Spelled thusly, with 2 D's, for a double dose of damn it.
With all the tire drama out of the way there was no time left for a warmup, so instead I jumped in and went straight to race pace for the ~200 yards out to the start buoy then stood there for a minute before the gun went off.

The swim was nice. The water was pleasantly cool and extremely clear. Such a treat compared to the green farm runoff/goose poop sludge I've grown accustomed to around here. One guy went solo off the front right away and I got in with the chase pack and stayed there right to the end. Between my swim split and my GPS data I'm pretty confident the swim was the advertised distance this year, unlike last year, which was significantly short.

Transition was one of those weird plastic bag/changing tent setups, which always feels slow and awkward, but apparently I did okay as I missed out on having the top T1 time by all of 0.2 seconds. That got me out on the road in front of the rest of the pack I swam with and the volunteer at the mount line said there was only one guy in front of me.

I almost torpedoed the entire effort right then and there. After a ridiculous blowup out on the bike course at Pigman due to utterly ignorant pacing I finally decided to take the plunge and buy a powermeter. In a fitting start to my first ever race with power I did my best to live up to the stereotype of triathetes being enormous nerds and piss poor bike handlers by veering off into some traffic cones while dicking around with my computer. Luckily I kept it upright and got on my way.

Once out on the road it was a little worrying that I couldn't even see the guy in front of me, but I was intent on not riding this one like a spaz and settled into a sustainable pace. The bike course is roughly 66 miles and can be broken down into 3 equal chunks: the first 22 miles is generally flat, the second 22 miles is a long gradual climb up Mt. Bachelor with a couple little 8%-ish sections, and the last 22 miles is a very fast non-technical descent down the other side of Bachelor into town. My plan was to ride the first section as steady as possible, then charge hard up the hill and recover a bit on the way down.

I finally caught sight of the guy out front somewhere about mile 15-ish and it looked like he was still about a minute up the road so I modified the race plan a bit and pushed a little harder to catch up. I made sure to keep an eye on my power display with the idea of not spending any significant time north of 300. It's amazing how quickly the power can spike up even on relatively gentle rolling hills if you're not paying attention.

After a good hard half hour of riding I finally caught up to the mystery rider only to find that he was part of a relay. On one hand, awesome, because that means I'm still way out front of the individual race, but on the other hand, damn, I just rode harder than was probably prudent this early in the race to close a gap that didn't need to be closed. Oh well, it's not like I've never done that before.

After catching the relay guy I dialed it back a bit to hopefully recover some before the road went significantly upward and we ended up passing/repassing each other several times over the next hour or so.

At about mile 35, right before the last serious climb, I ended up pulling over and stopping at an aid station to try to get a bottle. We had passed several aid stations by now, but not a single one of them was offering bottle handups. Early in the ride I was thinking, "Sweet, so far off the front that the aid stations aren't even ready!" But now the two bottles I started with were completely empty, it was starting to get hot out, and lack of fluids was becoming an actual problem. So I skidded to a stop, tossed one of my empties, asked for a water, and the guy manning the aid station looked at me like I just stepped off of a flying saucer and said to me, "Oh... we don't have any bottles."  And sure enough, there was a table there with little paper cups of water on it.

I don't even know what to say about that one. It's 80 degrees, there isn't a cloud in the sky, you've got people that are going to be riding around out there literally all day and you're not doing bottle handups?!?! In retrospect, the smart move for me at that point would have been to dump a couple of those cups into my remaining empty bottle, but instead I just did my version of the Jackie Chan face up above and rode off.

On the bright side, my chances of having to piss myself at any point during the remainder of the race just went way down.

I passed Dave not too long after the aid station and apparently scared the hell out of him by yelling "Allez allez allez" as loud as possible when I rode by. We had watched a Vuelta a Espana recap show a couple days earlier so I also gave him a Contador fingerbang for maximum trolling.

Before long we crested the hill, started our way down and were greeted with a pretty stout headwind. There was one steeper section near the top where on Thursday I spun out and coasted my way up to 53 MPH. On race day I only managed 41 on that same pitch, and that was when I was actually trying.

My relay buddy gapped me on the downhill and I didn't put up much of a fight. I was about 40 ounces behind where I was expecting to be on fluid intake, so my top priority at that point was to make it to the first run aid station without passing out.

Luckily even at minimum effort with a huge headwind that descent is still speedy, so T2 arrived mercifully quick. In keeping with the now 2-year old tradition, the Hirsch and Payne family Halloween costume bins were employed to liven up the T2/finish area. T-Payne was a shark, Morgan was a killer whale, Whitney was a pig and Rob was some sort of pimped out Big Bad Wolf. Although I'm sure I'm not the only one who thought his "BBW" necklace was referring to something else entirely.

These costumes are almost as ridiculous as the ones we race in.
I remember lamenting my ass awful 2+ minute T2 time during in last year's race report, along with the prediction that I could do 45 seconds or better with cooperative weather. BAM! 43 seconds, fastest T2 of the day.

Lucky for me the first aid station was only about 200m from the run exit, so I stopped and stood there and drank about a half dozen cups of whatever sports drink they were handing out. It was incredibly delicious, although I likely would have accepted a cup of warm piss at that moment.

The run course was really lonely. There were 2 guys out front of me (the relay runner and one guy from the 85k race), but they were both way out of sight. If I hadn't done the race last year I would have been worried about going off course.

The run course here is highly underrated. It winds through a very scenic golf course and some super nice residential areas. The are also a couple of really steep little climbs which were absolutely killer last year during the 250, but this year they were really fun. Agreeable weather and not having already been out there for 8+ hours really does help.

Soon enough the finish line arrived, and the SharkWhalePigWolf went wild. I managed to beat my spreadsheet prediction with a 4:07:57 time, which took a pretty good bite out of the 4:20-ish course record, so that's always fun.

Dave ended up cramping up in the early part of the run and doing a bit of walking, but rallied at the end and held onto 6th overall in his race. His finish time of 4:21:03 officially sealed the deal on our equalizer bet, but we both agreed in the post-race analysis that my spreadsheet ninja skills are on point and it would have been close had he not had the cramping issues.

Since we both picked races of sane duration we had the entire afternoon to kill before the awards ceremony, so we were able to stuff our faces with burritos, have a couple cold ones and get cleaned up before returning to the finish line to collect our belt buckles right as the first 250 finishers started arriving. Those poor dumb bastards. Were they not aware there were shorter distances available?

Dave with his buckle. They weren't giving away dogs, he brought that from home.
Race day ended in style as we spent a beautiful central Oregon evening on the back porch where the 5 of us who are not pregnant emptied the contents of my victory growlers (T-Payne had to be content with root beer) and toasted my win and Dave's survival.


Friday, August 29, 2014

2014 Season Almost Wrap-Up

Well damn... it's Labor Day weekend and the tri season is all but over. My July and August races were a mixed bag, although some of that is due to higher expectations from doing so unexpectedly well in the early part of the season. One of these days I'll get this periodization crap figured out and avoid peaking in early June. But until then, expect more of the following... 

Lake Waconia Tri

I don't remember much about this race other than how I felt before and after it. The whole week leading up to the race I had a sore throat and just generally felt like shit. Race morning was no different and I woke up feeling like total garbage, but being a dumbass I decided to go ahead and race anyway.

I ended up racing surprisingly well given the circumstances and took the win. But the real win was that racing somehow miraculously cured my illness. I literally felt better after the race than any time in the 5 days before. And I don't mean after as in a few hours after finishing when I'm cleaned up and fed. I'm talking about standing there in the finish chute while the volunteers took my chip off.  Baffling. Illogical nonsense like this is a big part of why I choose to make my living as a mechanical engineer designing inanimate objects. At least there's some logic there. The human body makes no damn sense.

Lifetime Fitness Tri

I raced decent here. Not spectacular, not awful, I'd give it a good solid B for effort. That was good enough for 2nd in the elite amateur race. At the end of the day I doubt it matters much as the winner Steve Mantell is on another level entirely and beat me by 3+ minutes. My A+ best case scenario on that course is maybe a minute faster on the bike and 30 seconds faster on the run, which would have netted me 2nd place 1:30 back instead of 3 minutes back.  Ah well... on to the next one.

Duathlon Nationals

I had this race marked on the calendar as one I really wanted to do well at, because A) it's a championship race, and B) it's local, and I don't want to let some carpetbagging out-of-towner come in and snatch a championship on my turf.

I ended up racing pretty well. The start was insane because a couple of young kids took off at like 4:30/mi pace. There's not much I can do in that situation other than let them go and hope that they're not for real. Luckily they weren't and by the end of the first mile it was starting to look like a local race with Dan Hedgecock and Bennett Isabella out front and me sitting in 3rd, which held until T1.

The bike course was a blast, with 3 loops over ~33k with some decent climbing up and over the Wabasha Street bridge, a sketchy technical section down toward the river, and a screaming fast out and back flat section along the river before climbing back up to the bridge and descending down to T1.

I caught Bennett at roughly the halfway point on lap 1, then gradually reeled in Dan for the rest of lap 1 and all of lap 2, finally getting to the front at the start of lap 3. Dan stuck with me for the remainder of the bike course and we came into T2 together.

Dan left me behind for good about 2 steps out of transition and I was on my own for the remainder of the race. This was a bit of a mental struggle because the 2nd run of a duathlon always sucks super hard, and if this were a typical local race I would have had the luxury of running fairly relaxed because there was no pressure coming from behind. However, in this case the 40+ dudes started in a different wave, and in a virtual sense I could very well have had several guys right there in striking distance. I eventually hit the line for 2nd in my wave ~45 seconds back of Dan. My fear of the 40+ wave ended up being warranted as Dave Slavinski, the first 40+ guy across the line, ended up only 20 seconds behind me at the end of the day. That would have been a much more exciting race had we launched in the same wave.

Since Dan races as a pro, USAT's official position was, "Thanks for coming, now we're going to pretend you were never here," and I was awarded the overall win* and the title of National Champion.

The win* got me a super impressive backpack full of swag. If you add up the street value of all that stuff it's without a doubt the best payday I've ever had at a race. Make it rain!

Heart of the Lakes Triathlon

This was the day after Du Nationals. I was originally going to skip it for that reason, but it ended up replacing Lake Waconia as the MN Best of the US qualifier when Waconia's future was in doubt over the winter, and while I'm pretty sure Trudy wouldn't have any issue letting me into the race even if I skipped out on the qualifier, that just feels kind of dirty.

I had never doubled up 2 races in one weekend before so I had no idea what to expect. The swim went reasonably well. The first half ended up being a floating fistfight with Kevin and Dan as we were all bumping into each other, but after the turn we got sorted out into a neat little paceline and ended up getting out together.

The bike went well. I was surprisingly not yet feeling any ill effects from racing the previous day, and ended up being the first one in to T2 with Dan a handful of seconds back.

The run was where I started feeling it. You could tell Dan was as well since I managed to stay out front for about a mile and a half, but eventually the inevitable happened and he started pulling away. I figured at that point I was in a position to cruise it in pretty easy for 2nd, but I took a peak back roughly 2 miles in and Marcus Stromberg was really close and looked to be running well. Typically we run very close to the same splits, but that wasn't the case on this day since he didn't race the day before. I managed to stay in front and hold onto 2nd OA, but it took a lot of work and hurt like hell.

Anyway, I'd rate my first attempt at racing on back to back days a pretty smashing success as I did about as well as I could at both races and made it through without excessive soreness or injury. I can't pat myself on the back too hard for pulling off the double, because a special best/worst idea award goes out to Bennett and Kevin, since they not only did the "standard" distance duathlon on Saturday, they went back for more and did the sprint race that same afternoon, then did Heart of the Lakes the next morning. 3 races in 24 hours. Barf.

USAT AG Nationals Olympic

So this was supposed to be the big "A" race for the season. I ended up with a disappointing 4th AG/15th OA. I didn't even race super terribly in the physical sense anyway... I'd put my physical effort on par with LTF earlier this year. But when the other guys are bring their A game my B- game will not do.

What really leaves a bad taste in my mouth is that I pretty much gave up on the race at the 2nd bike turnaround at mile ~18. At that point I could see that Mark Harms and James Burke were way off the front, like 3-4 minutes, and Dan Stubleski had made up a ton of ground on me after the swim and was only a handful of seconds back. Since Harms and Burke were well out of reach and Dan is guaranteed to outrun me, I know I'm racing for 4th in my AG, and I figure if I'm fucking around with 4th in M35-39 I'm going to be really buried in the overall, so I basically started thinking about the sprint race the next day and mailed in the rest of the Oly. I was still going kind of fast and it still kind of hurt, but I was just in no mood to really push myself.

I think if I could have stayed focused and on the gas I could have finished somewhere near where Stubleski did. There very little chance I actually beat him that day, so I'm still 4th AG, but a top-10 overall was certainly within the realm of the possible. There's nothing wrong with showing up, doing your best and simply getting beat by better athletes, but punching out the way I did after that bike turnaround is some weak bullshit.

USAT AG Nationals Sprint

The best thing about short course racing is that if you punt one the way I did in the Olympic distance race, you generally don't have to wait around too long for a shot at redemption. In my case it was roughly 23 hours between crossing the line on Saturday and jumping back in the lake on Sunday for the sprint race.

Everything about this race went better than Saturday. I slept better the night before. I ate a better breakfast. The walk down to the race site felt better. I felt better during my warmup. Everything.

The swim start was much more relaxed, mainly because there were about half the number of people in my wave than there were on Saturday. I ended up getting out of the water in 6th, then passed a few guys in T1 and hit the bike course in 3rd. By the first turn at 3-ish miles I was in the lead. The second turnaround comes at ~9 miles and I was still in the lead, but Steve Johnson had made up major ground because he was only 30 seconds back and I didn't even notice him at the first turn.

I don't know much about Steve other than that he runs a successful coaching business out in Colorado and that he has gone sub-4 at the 70.3 distance. You can't go that fast in a half without being a good runner, so I tried to step on it a bit for the remainder of the bike hoping to take a decent lead out onto the run.

The run ended up being a very solid (by my standards) 17-low, which kept me out front to win the 35-39 AG.

When I crossed the line I had the fastest time of the day, which stood for a surprisingly long time. Eventually a couple 20-somethings came in faster, which can pretty much be expected in a sprint race, but when the dust finally settled I was in 3rd overall. I was also the only guy over the age of 25 who broke 1 hour, which is alternately really cool and really depressing.

So yeah, total palate cleanser after Saturday's shit sandwich.

Pigman Half

This was a big old swing and a miss. My mission going into the day was to go sub-4 pace until I either hit the finish line or blew up, whichever comes first. For me a 4-flat would look something like 27:30 swim, 2:10 bike, 1:20 run with 2:30 left for transitions.

It started out pretty promising with a 27-low swim and a brisk T1. Once we passed the Olympic distance bike turnaround at mile 12 I could see the two leaders, Adam Bohach and Thomas Gerlach, both pros, about a minute up the road. At that point my bike goal shifted from "ride a 2:10 and leave enough in the tank for a good run," to "catch the guys in front of me at any cost."

I rode more or less as hard as I possibly could and closed down that minute over the next ~14 miles, finally getting back on about 2 miles before the turnaround. If I were a smart man I would have realized that I was well ahead of my goal pace and sat in at the legal distance for the rest of the ride, but... I bombed around both of them and took the lead.

I continued hammering away out front until about mile 45 when I ran out of proverbial matches to burn and the wheels came off entirely. Tom and Adam both passed me shortly thereafter and put about 1:30 on me over the remaining 10 miles.

At this point the race was basically over for me and the survival contest began. There was a brief glimmer of hope in the first couple miles of the run when I was holding low  6-minute pace and was even closing in on Tom a bit (Adam is a very fast runner and was clearly long gone already), but the Pigman run is net downhill the first few miles and all I was really doing was digging the hole deeper.

The run from 3 miles on was genuinely one of the more difficult things I've ever done. I could write a bunch more words elaborating on the suckitutde, but I figure this plot of running pace vs. time pretty much says it all...

Somehow I managed to limp along to the finish line and hold onto 3rd overall, which is right where anyone with any brains would have predicted me to finish so it's really not all bad, but I did it in the ugliest, most painful way possible in a less than stellar 4:13 time. I'm sure I could have ridden a nice steady 2:13-2:14 then got off and run something in the low 1:20's for a 4:0X time, but hey, sometimes you've gotta get out there and take your shot.

On the bright side, this experience finally gave me the motivation to get off my ass and convert some of that Du Nationals swag into US dollars, which were then exchanged for a shiny new powermeter. So maybe next time I line it up for a half-iron I'll pace myself properly and won't blow up riding like a monkey on the first half of the bike. Or I'll spaz out and blow up anyway, but I'll have a really lulzy power file to pinpoint the exact moment I exploded.

Leadman 125

As of right now, there's only one more race on my schedule for 2014, the Leadman 125 in Bend, OR on September 20th. Travel plans are set, registrations are official and the equalizer time for the Matt vs. Dave grudge match has been established. The grudge match wager is still TBD, but I'll be in town a couple days early so I'm confident we'll come up with something over a growler or two of Bend's finest artisinal craft hipster-brew.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Best of the US!

Well once again I'm 3 races behind in the ol' race report queue...

The good news is that everything has been going pretty well, there just aren't nearly enough hours in the day to write these things in a timely manner.

A couple weeks ago I raced the Best of the US Championship for the 4th time.  Long story short, I won!

Trudy is super pumped.

The Pre-Race Jams
Australians are weird.  But in a totally good way that makes me want to party with them.  Exhibit A -- this live performance by Parkway Drive.  This has it all.  And by all I mean a guy on stage in a turtle suit.

The Race

One thing that makes the Best of the US race really cool is that race director Trudy Marshall tries to go the extra mile to make it special for the athletes.  To that end, instead of having packet pickup in some stupid hotel ballroom it was at the Flat Earth Brewery, which was serving up their tasty beverages for FREE.  Of course, since this was a meet and greet for tri-dorks the free beer went largely undrunk, but I made a point to have a few.  Y'all motherfuckers need to learn how to carb load.

Kevin O'Connor also had a surprise for me in the form of some hilarious T-shirts, one of which is being modeled by Mikey in the photo below...

The shirt reads, "Sometimes you have to endure the Payne," with the subtitle, "I'm rooting for Minnesota's Matthew Payne."  This is awesome, because who doesn't want t-shirts with their name on them, am I right?  It was also very motivational because I'd feel like the worlds biggest tool if I raced poorly while several dozen people were on hand wearing those shirts.

The race actually started out in the dumpster.  I had a horrible jump off the line and was immediately boxed in with other racers on all sides.  This led to something akin to a low-grade panic attack, where I was hyperventilating and actually had to stop swimming for a few seconds to collect myself.  At the end of all that I was last man in a large pack of 10 or so.  I've heard of this happening to others, but this was the first time in 80+ lifetime starts that I've experienced it first hand.  Not something I'm looking to repeat anytime soon.

Once I recovered I got a bit of my mojo back and was able to swim up through the pack a little.  At one point I was right on the feet of Dan Stubleski, who was considered to be the co-favorite to win the race along with me. Dan is the 2013 USAT triathlete of the year and has a sub-9 Kona finish as well as several sub-4 70.3 finishes to his credit.  He is also a much faster runner than me, so if I was to have any chance of getting to the finish line first I would need to build up a significant advantage on the swim and bike, therefore drafting off him in the swim is not where I needed to be.

After making the last turn of the first lap, whoever was leading our pack did me a huge favor by breaking toward the wrong buoy.  That may be the exact point in time I ended up winning the race because the entire pack, Dan included, kept going the wrong way while I, in a completely uncharacteristic state of aquatic awareness, quickly sighted on the correct buoy and went that way.  I ended up coming out of the water roughly 30 seconds in front of the pack I was swimming with, which coincidentally happens to be roughly the margin of victory I took to the finish line.

I ended up being the 4th guy out onto the bike course, with Kevin O'Connor, Marcus Stromberg and Jens Beck out in front of me.  For all the difficulty I had at the swim start, it was immediately clear I had my best stuff with me on the bike that day.  I went by Kevin and Marcus on the 1st of 3 laps, then finally made it to the front near the halfway point of the 2nd lap.  I kept riding super hard all the way to the end knowing that I'd need every second if I wanted any hope of holding Dan off during the run.

I was a little skeptical of the 3 loop bike course when it was announced, but I have to say I ended up a huge fan.  It's really cool to go back through transition 2 additional times.  It also makes it way better for spectators, since they get to actually watch the race develop on the bike.

There's like a dozen people in this shot.  That's infinity times more spectator support than you typically get on the bike.

Ross is excited anyway.

T2 went by quickly and I set off on the 1st of 2 loops around Lake Phalen.  Since I didn't really hold anything back on the bike my legs felt like hot garbage pretty much from step 1, but I still managed to start off at a fairly optimistic pace.

This is one of the least goofy looking pictures of me running I've ever seen.
By the time I came back through transition to start the 2nd lap I was starting to struggle a bit and the pace was noticeably slowing. The cheering from the spectators was a nice little shot in the arm and really helped me keep it together.  Although that sneaky bastard Devon Palmer attempted to sabotage my race with an unauthorized donut handup.

Rule 3.4(d) to be exact.
It wasn't too hard to pass up the illegal doughnut.  Anything other than water that went into my stomach at this point was destined to be insta-puked back up.

The rest of the 2nd lap was a bit of a death march, and there was much looking back on my part.  Luckily I had enough time in the bank that I was never in serious danger, but Dan ended up taking 2 minutes out of me on the run and was only 30 seconds back when it was all said and done.

Another finish line shot.  Because getting to break an actual finish line tape is awesome.
It's always easy to give a race a glowing review when you do well, but this was a really fun course to race on.  I really hope this race catches on and increases its numbers over the next several years, both for the qualification/invitation-only BOUS championship and the accompanying open-to-everyone Capitol City Sprint.  So if you've got the goods to race in the championship, consider making the trip in 2015. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Race Fast, Blog Slow

#$%!$$#%^@! I spent like 3 hours writing this post a couple nights ago, published it, watched it actually get a few page views, and then it just... disappeared. Poof.  Gone. Somehow it got rolled back to a not even close to complete draft version from several days prior.

FU Google... providing me this service for free and still somehow giving me less than my money's worth. The nerve of some people. So here goes take 2. Please don't eat this one internet gremlins.

In much happier news, Tiffany and I are proud to announce that we have another kid on the way! Due in December. We haven't decided on a name yet. Mikey suggested "Fishy" and "Dinosaur". We've taken those under consideration.

Speaking of Mikey, he is now the strider bike champion of Huset Park. I suspect he'll be legit pedaling on 2 wheels by the end of the summer.

I've raced 3 times since my last update.  All 3 races went very well. Writing about them has been a much greater struggle, but hey, I'd much rather be killing it at the races and sucking ass at blogging than the other way around.

The Pre-Race Jams

Destroy Everything by Hatebreed has a nice positive message. I am saying that without a trace of irony by the way. It really does. I don't care what you're doing when you're listening to this. It could be something totally mundane like folding your laundry. But dammit, you're gonna fold that laundry faster and better than you've ever folded it before or die trying.


This semi-literate gentleman from the always informative and entertaining Youtube comments section understands...

Gear West Duathlon

I've found myself out of town for this one the last several seasons, so I was excited to get back out there this year. For those of you not familiar with the course, its most distinctive feature is a really badass off road run course. It totally reminds me of places we used to run in high school cross country back in the stone age. The course was oddly dry this year too. Every other time I've done the race there have been a couple nice mud pits to navigate. Either way, it's a way different experience than your typical on-road duathlon/triathlon.

The race played out pretty much according to the script. Dan Hedgecock and Brian Sames dropped me about 4 steps off of the start line. I held 3rd for about half a mile when Brooks Grossinger came around for the pass. I held 4th for the remainder of the 1st run, coming into T1 a few steps behind Brooks and close to a full minute back from Dan and Brian.

I ended up passing Brooks at the mount line when he had to turn around to retrieve a lost shoe. I caught Brian a couple miles in and could see Dan just up the road. Unlike the previous week at Oakdale, however, Dan was not in the mood to get caught. I clawed back about 30 seconds over the course of the ride, but still came into T2 about 30 seconds in arrears.

Luckily in my unsuccessful effort to chase down Dan I had put a pretty good gap on everyone behind me. That made the 2nd run a bit of a formality for both Dan and I, allowing him to cruise it in for the win with me claiming 2nd about 40 seconds later.

The rest of the Gear West guys killed it as well, sweeping the podium.

The Gear West guys who didn't race knocked it out of the park as well, most notably co-race directors Sean Pease and Trent Schroeder. Of course, this should surprise nobody since both of these guys are full time employees of the best bike shop in the business and it's not like Kevin is going to hire a bunch of scrubs. Anyway, if you miss this one next year and don't have a very good excuse, you're stupid and we can't be friends.

Buffalo Triathlon

This is another one that I've had to skip the last couple of seasons because I couldn't cram it into the schedule. Waking up that morning to a severe thunderstorm I was wishing I had skipped it again. Luckily the storm blew through about a half hour prior to the start, and it stayed cool and overcast throughout, which makes for pretty good racing weather in my opinion.

I lined up next to Marcus Stromberg and Jon Balabuck hoping to hitch a ride on some fast feet. Since they are both faster swimmers, Marcus runs about the same splits as me, and Jon typically runs a minute or two faster than me, my strategy is fairly obvious -- try to limit the damage on the swim, then go nuts on the bike and hope I can build up a large enough gap to render the run inconsequential. Luckily that happens to be my preferred strategy anyway and more or less the only way I've ever had any success.

Both Jon and Marcus did me a huge favor by going off course during the swim, allowing me to get out onto the bike a handful of seconds in front. Once out on the road I quickly scooped up Thad Ingersoll and one other fast swimmer I didn't recognize, and by mile 4 had the always welcome sight of the lead vehicle in front of me.

Out on the run I could immediately feel the result of the overenthusiastic bike pace, but luckily everything was proceeding according to the plan and I had several minutes in the bank vs. Jon, Marcus and the rest of the field.

Somewhere around mile 2.5 I saw a good sized painted turtle attempting to cross the road. This a somewhat sketchy section of the course where you have runners going both directions on the shoulder, a steady stream of bikes screaming downhill at 30+ MPH in one lane, with auto traffic going up the hill in the other lane. In other words, that turtle (and possibly some unweary cyclist as well) was going to have a bad time if someone didn't carry it across. So I ended up taking a 20 second or so timeout to grab the turtle, stop traffic and hustle it across. Note to competitors: if you want to handicap me in a race you can always release some turtles on the side of the road. I'll be stopping 100% of the time. Of course, if any turtles are harmed due to your actions I will knife fight you, so keep that in mind.

Running always magically hurts a lot less when you're sitting on a comfortable lead, so the rest of the race was pretty chill. I ended up crossing the line at 1:55:51, which is a good 2-3 minutes faster than I expected. Sweet.

Liberty Triathlon

In a development that surprised absolutely nobody, our lovely Minnesota climate served up another heaping helping of ass-awful weather for this one.

Unlike Buffalo, however, the weather didn't let up, forcing about a 90 minute delay to the start. I say "about" a 90 minute delay because I managed to forget my only functioning watch at work the day before, so I really have no idea what the actual delay was. I was a little nervous doing a long course race sans-watch. I also haven't bothered rigging up a computer on my new bike yet, so I'd be doing this one in true Luddite style. I've had decent success with data-free short course racing, but pacing a half (especially on the run) has never been my forte so I was a little worried about blowing up on the back half of the run.

I lined up right next to Dan Arlandson, planning on trying to hold onto his draft as long as possible. When the initial starting scrum cleared I was sitting 3rd in a 3-man lead pack, right on Dan's feet. Holy shit, the plan is working for once!

A couple buoys past the turnaround I drifted off to the side a bit, lost the draft and couldn't get back on, but the damage was minimal since there wasn't too far left to swim. I ended up getting out in 3rd, about 15 seconds back.

The other guys must have decided to give their bikes a last second tuneup in transition because I somehow erased the entire 15 second deficit and made it to the mount line first. My time at the front was short lived, however, because as I was trying to get my right foot into its shoe, I yanked the strap completely out of the loop, rendering it useless. I rolled along for a bit attempting to fix it with one hand, but it soon became apparent that I had two choices: stop, get off the bike and fix it, or ride the entire 56 miles with my foot on top of the shoe.

Riding 2+ hours with a loose foot sounds absolutely dreadful, so I elected to stop. I fumbled around for a bit, finally got the strap functional again and hopped back on only to realize that somewhere in all of that the insole had come loose and was now almost completely hanging out of the shoe. As with the strap, I failed at the one-handed rolling repair and once again was forced to pull over. All told I lost about a minute fucking around with my shoes before I hopped onto the bike for the third and final time. That doesn't sound like a ton of time in a 4+ hour race, but Dan and 2 other guys passed me while this was going down. It's never a good feeling to be losing spots like that when you're not even out of sight of the transition area yet. 

On the plus side, I got to practice my flying mount 2 extra times. And some boners got to make fun of me on Facebook. I really like Curt's theory...

Upon exiting the park I could just barely see the 3 guys ahead of me up the road. I hammered it about as hard as I could trying to get back in front. Just like Buffalo, I didn't really want to get into a foot race with any of these guys. I'd much rather arrive at T2 with some time in the bank, even at the risk of "overbiking" a bit.

I ended up catching everyone as we rolled through the town of Delano, about 4 miles in. The first turn is at ~8 miles, where I was able to sneak a look back and was rewarded with the sight of nobody on my wheel, so at that point I dialed the effort back to something that felt sustainable for the duration. The way the wind was blowing that day gave us a very strong tailwind for the first 16-ish miles. The flip side of this is that we were going to be fighting that same wind for the last 16-ish miles. If you don't leave a little bit in reserve for the final push home in that situation you're gonna have a bad time, both in the time on the clock sense as well as the pain and suffering sense.

The rest of the ride was pretty standard. There were a couple of construction zones with mildly questionable pavement quality, and of course the weather was far from ideal with the rain and wind, but it didn't seem all that bad. I can't leave my house in any direction without dealing with shittier pavement and I regularly commute in worse weather. That said, it was nice when the rain let up halfway through the bike and I no longer had to use my finger as a makeshift windshield wiper on my helmet visor.

T2 was a leisurely affair. I originally planned to run sockless, but when I got to the rack and saw how soaked my shoes already were I made the gametime decision to pull the emergency socks out of my bag, which I had wrapped up in my jacket in an effort to keep the contents dry.

Once my shoes and socks were situated I made my way out onto the run course. The course loops around the transition area a bit, so you get to look maybe 3-4 minutes back before disappearing into the woods. Since nobody else had come in off the bike by then I knew I was sitting on a fairly substantial lead.

The run course is straight out and back, with the first ~2 miles being net downhill and very fast, then neverending rollers all the way out to the turnaround and back with the last 2 miles back up the hill. I tried not to go too nuts down the hill and held what felt like a strong, steady pace out to the turnaround. I reflexively checked for a split on my nonexistant watch at every mile marker, but of course saw nothing but my bare wrist.

About a half mile before the turnaround I spotted a guy running about a minute up the road. As we crossed paths after he made the turn I noted that he was wearing a long sleeved shirt with no visible race numbers, so I was pretty sure he was just out for a workout and not racing.  However, on the way back guys who were still on their way out were giving me splits up to the mystery runner. Now I'm wondering if they all know something that I don't and this guy really is in the race. At the time I assumed I was on 4:10-ish pace, so it didn't seem inconceivable that some non-local ringer that I didn't recognize really was out front.

At any rate having him out there kept me motivated to keep pushing. I eventually caught him at around mile 12 and we chatted for a bit. Turns out it was Nick Friesen, a guy from Canada who took a DNF due to 3(!) flat tires and was just using the run as a workout. I've had 2 flats in ~80 lifetime starts. I can't even imagine 3 in one race. Being a Canadian, his reaction to all the flats was something along the lines of "Eh... that's life," whereas I imagine I would have flown into a good old American nuclear rage and ended up in jail. USA!

With a little more than a mile left Cathy Yndestad rode up next to me on a mountain bike. I asked her if she had the race time and she said 3:55:(something, I can't remember). My first thought was, "Holy shit! Sub 4!" But then I redid the math and realized it would require something along the lines of a 4-flat mile, and LOL at that. I ended up running my usual 6:something mile and stopped the clock at 4:02:46, where my Gear West teammate and all around good guy Ross Weinzierl, being a classy gentleman, had a cold can of PBR waiting for me.

I'm extremely satisfied with a 4:02 in those conditions, especially taking into account the time I spent on the side of the road at the beginning of the bike. Even better, this year everything felt fully in control. Of course I was working very hard throughout, but I never had to push into puke-on-your-shoes, med tent territory. Whereas last year I went 5 minutes slower in better conditions and was deep into the puke zone with 2 completely cramped up calves for most of the run (to be fair the bike route was different this year, but I know these roads pretty well and I'd have a hard time believing that it accounts for more than a minute or two either direction). Hopefully I can keep the ball rolling for the rest of the season.

Liberty Triathlon Results