Archive for the 'K-Swiss' Category

Aug 10 2011

Nautica New York City Triathlon

Published by under garmin,K-Swiss,Powerbar,Races

This is going to sound cliché, but I love New York City. I decided a few weeks ago that I wanted to go to New York to see the new Broadway musical, Book of Mormon, which won nine Tony Awards. It just so happened that one of the biggest races in the US, the New York City Triathlon, was happening so I coordinated and convinced my friend, Abby, to come with me so we could stay with her parents (who live on the Upper East Side) and have some fun in New York after the race. Foiling my plan was the fact that both performances of BOM during my trip were sold out, but I won the NYC Triathlon and saw Catch Me If You Can, so the weekend turned out pretty well anyway.

I arrived late on Friday and got to sleep as early as I could. Saturday I made my way up to Columbia University where I swam with Coach Jim Bolster. I wanted to get a nice picture of me with the CU Swimming record board before the team breaks the last three of my records, but somehow in the rush to get out the door I left my camera. So this pic is the best I could do.

The rest of Saturday was relaxing. I went for a bike ride in Central Park and attended the race expo. A few weeks ago I got some compression product to test out from 110% sports, and they were renting a booth at the expo. I went up and got a pair of calf sleeves to overcome some airplane fatigue I was feeling, then decided to keep them on until the race start the next morning.

The start came early, even with a delay for weather and an overturned car on the Westside Highway. As we dove into the Hudson all I could think was, “man this is going to hurt”. Yet somehow it didn’t. We swam pretty slowly, and I held back a lot due to the lack of warmup and the length of the run from swim exit to T1. I knew that the transition run would be as big a factor as the swim and I didn’t want to start the bike overly winded from it. I exited 3rd from the water but passed both of the men in front of me heading to my bike. I started with a small lead and when I hit the Westside Highway the traffic of bikes trying to get out of the park had already given me a gap. I hammered, but my legs never felt like they were pushing all that hard. I was breathing easily and the most tension I felt in my body was in my knuckles as I gripped the bars and hoped that there weren’t any big holes under the depths of water covering the roadway. At the turn around I saw I had less than a minute lead over Greg Bennett. I was worried. I didn’t know if he was gaining on me or losing ground, but I was pretty intent on extending that lead. I pushed, but my legs still didn’t feel the pain, I just couldn’t push hard enough to make myself hurt like normal. Perhaps it was the rain, perhaps I was just in the zone, but I really thought I was having a horrible ride. Before the race I had changed the display on my Garmin Edge 800 so that I couldn’t see power numbers. I feel like those numbers in a race can do more to psyche me out than help, but around 45 minutes in I flipped the display to see if I was riding as slowly as I thought. No. It was the highest average power I’ve ever seen in a race. Somehow that gave me more confidence than the nearly two minute lead I had built over Bennett and Yoder, and I started the run thinking, “this is my race to lose”. The run always hurts, but the last three miles running through central park were awful. I hit a wall and all that easy speed and easy breathing ran out. My lungs tightened up and I started begging the finish line to appear in front of me. The rain had stopped and the humidity and heat were rising and before I knew it I was way overheated. As I hit the finish shoot I was starting to see darkness and it was all I could do to high five Abby and her sister Sandy then cross the line, raise the banner, fall to my knees raise my arms and yell (the New York Times and Wall Street Journal claim it was a mutter, but this is my memory), “Go Lions!” in support of my alma mater, Columbia University which is just blocks from the course.

I love going back to New York. I feel a great deal of pride for my school and the time I spent competing for Columbia in swimming. I love wandering the city and all the exciting things to do (after the race of course). I love the way the city smells (awful, but it brings back good memories), and I love the people. Winning the Nautica New York City Triathlon is going to be a highlight of my career, and I can’t wait to try it again next year.

One more comment I’d like to add. I went into this race thinking about the loss of my friend Bob Havrilak. I would love to believe that he’s up there watching over me, Adam at his side, cheering me on from beyond. But if they are, I hope they see that they had a part of all of this success. It’s nice to think about our loved ones watching over us, but I wish I had told Bob more often how much his friendship meant to me. He knew I would be winning races like New York long before I did, and I wish I had thanked him just one more time for helping me believe in myself. I don’t believe I won the race for Bob, and I really can’t wrap my head around him sitting on a cloud watching me. I believe that Bob is part of who I am today, and in some way, it was Bob winning the race. So good job Bob, and everyone else who has been part of my life through this journey. Guys like Loren and Bob Placack, my parents and sister, Coaches Bolster, Victor, Mike Doane and others, all my homestays and my sponsors… Good job guys, we won!

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Jul 09 2011

Monroe Pan America Cup and my Seattle Homecoming

After Guatape I flew straight to Seattle. It’s always hard going home during the season, or anytime really. Whenever I travel someplace for an extended period of time I try to get into a training routine as quickly as possible. (The routine makes training take less time, you have a time for each workout set, you know where to run and where to swim and you have a typical bike course, so the day goes more smoothly and you miss fewer workouts than if you’re constantly looking for lap swim, looking for a new run route and trying to find a group to ride with.) But in Seattle there are so many variables that get in the way of being able to jump into a routine that I end up having to adjust my schedule for each individual day. First, I’m only home a couple times this year, so I need to see the dentist, see my friends, spend time with my 18 month old nephew, spend time with my mom, my dad, my friends, visit my favorite bike shops… And then there’s the issue of transportation. My parents have two cars, mine is in Colorado, so if they’re gone all day I’m stuck at home, which isn’t exactly close to anything. (My parents moved out of the city right before I went to college. I hate the suburbs.) The bike trail is closed for reconstruction by my house as well, which means there are no soft surfaces to run on from my parent’s house – I need a car to get to the state park. What I’m getting at is that visiting home is a cluster*&^% of compounding logistical problems that make it really hard to settle into any kind of routine. So I don’t, and it always ends up being a great time.

My first day in Seattle was the quietest. Just my parents and myself. My sister and brother-in-law (BIL) were working and the nephew was in daycare (they all live in the same house), so I was able to sleep in, do some light training and then head to swim practice with Cascade Swim Club. It was great. Then next day was also quiet, except the nephew was at home with my mom, and I had to finish training super early because my massage therapist refuses to make an appointment after 3pm (he’s good enough that I don’t really care, but he’s also busy enough that I won’t tell you his name unless you promise not to schedule while I’m in town). It was the Thursday before the Monroe Pan American Cup that all hell broke loose. My aunt and uncle came into town with my two cousins, and Tommy Zaferes arrived and was staying with my family for the Monroe race. Rory and Mojdeh also came over to see me, as they just moved to Seattle from Boulder and it had been over a month since I’d been able to visit them. So just to clarify, I was trying to rest and prepare for an ITU continental cup with seven adults, two teenagers, and an 18 month old child living under the same roof and two very close friends making frequent visits, and everyone seeming bummed when I skipped out on the party for a swim/bike/run. It was awesome.

The first day with everyone in the house my cousin, Boomer, came with Tommy and me to the state park for a run. I thought it would be a learning experience for a 17-year-old surfer from Hawaii to try to hang with us, even for an easy run, and it was. Boomer was shocked when we told him that in the entire triathlon we don’t ever stop, walk, or otherwise take a breather. My other cousin, Caitie, was smarter and stayed home.

The day before Monroe the beautiful clear weather Seattle had experienced my first few days back changed and became grey rainy crud. It finally felt like home. Tommy and I did a course preview and attended the prerace meeting where, I have to admit, I was a little surprised to see that Hunter Kemper was actually present. Hunter’s been having such a great season, I thought he’d stick to world cups and the Lifetime series. It was good to see him though, as I feel like I learn a little from every race I do with him. He just exudes experience. Everyone in the field watches Hunter when he races, and Hunter – even as a marked man – is always in the right place at the right time.

Everyone competing in Monroe seemed to agree that for a first year race it was done incredibly well. The course, while boring, was safe and quite spectator friendly. The swim was in a small lake that could have been confused for a flooded drainage ditch (only with clean water), the bike ride took us out and back on the main road along side the lake and featured three 180s and two 90 degree turns on every pancake flat lap, the run – also flat – was four laps on a paved path around the lake that totaled 10.4 kilometers. It was not a course for breakaways. The one unknown going into the race was the quality of the swim field. There were more people I would classify as “super swimmers” in Monroe than any other race I’ve done. Zaferes, McClarty, McCartney, Darling, and Bird are all people who routinely win swim primes over the slightly slower – though often better on land – swimmers like Potts, Dye, and Kemper. Even with a wetsuit we all knew it would be tough to keep up with those guys.

The swim started off fast. Tommy helped me improve my beach starts by having me practice over and over the day before the race, so I was able to get a pretty good leap off the line. I broke out and was almost instantly in third behind Zaferes and McClarty. I stayed right there with only Bird passing me in the first lap. McCartney got ahead at some point and Tommy and I lost those guys feet and led in a large pack about 20 seconds down from the three leaders. Tommy had a terrible transition and lost the lead group, Hunter was right next to me out of the water and with his help we instantly caught the super swimmers within a kilometer from T1. The lead pack became 12 guys with a small lead over the next pack of five that was mainly guys who struggled getting off their wetsuits. 12 to 5 is not really an even race and our lead grew significantly without any of us really pushing that hard. There were a few feeble attempts to get away, but on that course it would have taken a superhero, or someone that nobody cared about (perhaps a wooden leg?) to get away. I followed Hunter’s lead. He and I have talked a little about working together, so I asked if he wanted to try anything, but he confirmed that it was smartest just to wait. I still spent my share of energy at the front. I hate leaches. So I felt good about taking the lead into T2 next to Hunter. We racked and I popped on my KRuuz way faster than Kemper (take that old man!) so I had the edge on the field starting the run. Rory was there wearing his “I [heart] BC” t-shirt that my buddy Tai made for us, and as I started the run with Hunter he was yelling “GO BEN, STAY WITH HIM, STAY WITH HIM, STAY WITH HIM!!!!” I tried to stay with Hunter as he came by me, I tried as hard as I could to run as fast as he was. I’m sure I was going well beyond any speed I’ve maintained in a workout, and I could only hang for 400 meters. After that I just tried to keep the gap from growing too rapidly, and in doing so I put about 10 seconds onto a group of four runners by the second kilometer. I was now being hunted by a pack and I was out in the wind by myself. I kept running, for once I was actually in the race, I had put down the start speed I didn’t think I had and it put me in position to do what I love: RACE!!! At the end of the first lap that group of six lost three people to the penalty board (Personally I think the ITU should stop changing the sport through the advent of new penalty-worthy rules and let the sport change through allowance of tactics like what the Brits did at the Euro Championships this year.) but I was gaining ground on them ever so slowly. On the second lap I had 20 seconds, on the third it was 25, but the group was only two. On the fourth lap Andrew Russell dropped the rest of them and closed the gap on me to just under 20 seconds. All the while, we all lost over two minutes to Kemper. I finished second with Andrew behind me for third.

At the finish I was greeted by a massive group of friends and family and an asthma attack that almost caused me to pass out. I’m not sure how I made it through the final lap without being able to breath, but I was certainly glad the EMTs were at the finish line to hold me up and give me oxygen until I could breath normally. I’ve never had an asthma attack like that before, but now that I have I feel like I’m officially past the point of no return on the nerd spectrum. Seriously, I wear glasses, I’m good at math and science and now I need an inhaler? Where’s my calculator watch? Oh wait; I have one with GPS instead.

The award ceremony was also a highlight thanks to all the supporters present. When I stood up on the podium a large segment of the crowd started chanting, “COLLINS, COLLINS, COLLINS…” When Hunter stood up there was polite clapping, and after it quieted down he turned to my fan section and asked, “where’s my cheer for first?” To which they responded, “COLLINS, COLLINS, COLLINS!” He can run two minutes faster, but he can’t win the hometown crowd.

Tomorrow I race the Edmonton World Cup. I’m here with my parents, and I’m hoping I can convince all of Paula Findlay’s hometown friends to come cheer for me. I wonder if they have t-shirts to show their support? Maybe they could call themselves the “PF-gang”.

Click the thumbnails below for more pics from Monroe. A HUGE thanks to my BIL, Matthew Lamb, for being my star photographer at the event. All the photos are from him.

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May 15 2011

5150 New Orleans

Today I raced the 5150 New Orleans… duathlon. The swim was cancelled due to high winds. Apparently they couldn’t even get the buoys to stay anchored. I was bummed, but what can you do? I flew all the way here, I’m fit, so I just warmed up like I had been planning to do a Duathlon all along. The new format was 2mi / 40km / 10km; run / bike / run. I took off and ran with Kris Gemmell for the first 2 miles. I was pretty ecstatic to be running with such a great athlete, and even more stoked to see everyone else falling off the pace while I was wondering if we were going hard enough. After (what is becoming my normal) fumbling through T1 I got on the bike, caught Gemmell (he passed me out of transition while I was fumbling) took the lead and never looked back. It was the windiest race I’ve ever done, and really hard. I had a giant lead going into T2, but that was completely unknown to me. I just kept running. At 5k I had over a minute on Gemmell and the rest of the boys, which was great because the last couple miles hurt like no other race format. Duathlons are hard! I won with a pretty big margin.

I’m really happy with where my fitness is right now. I haven’t done anything special in training, I’m just working hard. I haven’t rested for a race yet, but I’m learning just how much work I can do and still perform well (I put in 24 hours this week in 5 days before the race, and did a hard track workout Thursday.) I feel like I’m finally making progress toward being an all-around triathlete, and being able to run away from a strong field at a duathlon certainly helps reinforce that. I wish we could have swum, I think there were some talented guys that didn’t get to show their strength today because of the course change. Still, being able to win under any circumstance is the type of athlete I want to become.

A huge thanks to K-Swiss, Garmin, Powerbar, Rudy Project, and Blue Seventy (even if I didn’t get to use my swim skin today) for helping me get there, along with all of your support, my family, my friends, and everyone that tells me to kick butt before my races. You all are awesome!

Here’s my reward for the day: a graph with myself as the zero axis!!

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Mar 07 2011

Clermont ITU Pan-American Sprint Triathlon

Published by under garmin,K-Swiss,Races

Saturday I started off my season with a draft-legal sprint race in Clermont Florida. It’s a race that Jarrod Shoemaker helped to organize, and it was a fairly well run event. This is my first time to Clermont, and I’m surprised that it is not the pancake flat expanse of nothingness that I normally associate with Florida. That said, the course was an out-and-back on a completely flat section of state park, so it was really fast.

The swim was a bit unusual in that 75 men were lined up on a very small section of beach, then funneled out into the shallow water for 7.5 minutes of “swimming” where one spectator with a stop watch only recorded about 4 minutes of actual swimming in what should have been a 750 meter course. That’s because the water was about knee deep for the first (and last) 100 meters or so, and never did drop off. At the buoy people were standing and pushing off to change direction (maybe chest deep), and the leaders of the swim were the taller athletes with long legs. I was 10th out of the water, which was a bit frustrating. I spent the whole 4 minutes of swimming catching the dolphin diving giraffes only to take the lead as we stood up to high-knee it back out. Still, 10th out and first American from the water is good enough to make it into a break with a good transition.

I haven’t practiced my transitions since my last race of the year, but Saturday they were spot on. I came out and started rotating with three other men while the crowd yelled “Jarrod’s not with you, push it!” That lasted about half of the first of four laps before the long string of single riders came together like an accordion into a pack of about 40-45 riders – including Shoemaker. Chris Foster came to the front and set a strong pace that mostly kept people from attacking. I still tried, though I was hoping Chris would come with me, but he was content with setting the pace in front. The only chance for a successful break at this race would have been for someone to block while a couple of people with firepower made their move. My attempts failed, and I resigned to sitting near the front, out of danger – and helping set the pace.

Into T2 I made sure I was in the front. It was kind of nice, actually, I seemed to get some respect from other athletes because when I started moving toward the front people just kind of parted ways. In a WCS race, that wouldn’t have happened. I could have sat in front and set the pace for 38k in a WCS race and still had guys from the back of the pack trying to box me out of T2. It took me 23 seconds to switch into my K-Swiss, which made me the fastest man through transition. I took off at my best clip. It was about a kilometer into the race when Jarrod and a few other runners came by me, and it took me deep into the red to try to match their pace. We were flying! I managed to yo-yo off the back for the rest of the first of a two lap run, before I started overtaking some of the guys that were blowing up harder than me. Eventually I was running in a pack of three Mexicans and Manuel Huerta, though when I passed Manny it must have reminded him he was racing because he put in a surge that I couldn’t match. I ran on his heels the rest of the second lap and finished in 13th place with a 5k run split of 14:51.

Now, the leaders came in with runs of 13:50-ish, so we know the course was short, but I didn’t start my Garmin until a little ways into the run, so I don’t have an exact measurement. I do know that for the 2.5 miles that I did record of the run, I averaged right at 5 minute pace – according to the GPS. Assuming my first 1k was faster than the last 4, I was probably running a legitimate 15:20. Extrapolate that to the leaders, and they were running a legitimate sub 14:30 5k (being conservative). Blazing fast. Especially for the first race of the season.

Thirteenth certainly wasn’t my goal for this race, but I’m really happy with where I am at for Mach fitness. Had the swim involved more swimming I think a breakaway would have been a very real scenario with Fleischmann Dye Mejia and a few others. As far as a foot race goes, this race was probably as fast as any – with plenty of college running talent in the mix, as well as a bunch of guys who normally don’t have the gills to be in the mix after T1. I’m just happy the first race is out of the way, time to focus on Miami International in two weeks!

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Feb 27 2011

The Ben Collins Highlight Reel

This is a “fun” little highlight video to start off the 2011 triathlon season. Get pumped.

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Feb 21 2011

Slowtwitch Interview: A Man With Style!

Slowtwitch says I’m a “Man with style”! Check out the interview I did this week by clicking here.

And yes, the last picture shown in the interview (and the one above) was definitely taken specifically for the interview, including the afro picking I did beforehand.

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Nov 10 2010

Amica 19.7 Race Report

Published by under garmin,K-Swiss,Races,video

The race was really fun in Phoenix last weekend. This video says it all:

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Nov 02 2010

Halloween’s Super Sprint Triathlon Grand Prix

Published by under blue70,garmin,K-Swiss,Races

Let me set the stage: Oceanside California. Just a few miles up the coast from San Diego, Oceanside is a small town that has managed to preserve the old-California feel that many believe to exist only in the writings of the beat generation. The town is lifted up from the beach by a tall bluff, on top of which runs a street buzzing with bike cruisers, weekend warrior cyclists and wetsuit-clad surfers heading down to the sand below. At the base of the bluff is a boardwalk, which was converted for a day into the first course in what will prove to be the most exciting triathlon series in the United States – the Super Sprint Triathlon Grand Prix.

Marc Lees, the owner of Race Day Wheels, and the director for the series decided to mimic the Australian Grand Prix series from ten years ago because of the drama rich, made-for-television format. This series is made to showcase the pros. The course, which was just one of several different Grand Prix formats which all take less than an hour to complete, was a 400m swim through surf and chop, an 8-lap 8km bike and a 4-lap 2.4km run – twice around. That meant that during the bike and run stages alone there were 24 laps, but the course was so small that the athletes were really only out of sight from the grand stands when we were duck diving waves during the swim. The race was set up for the fans, and it made it incredible for the athletes.

We started the race from the sandy beach to a vocal “GO!” by Marc Lees. Beach starts have never been my forte (short legs don’t get me very far before I have to start swimming) but as soon as we hit a couple waves I was moving forward. I thought the roughness was over after I made it past the breakers, but I found myself swimming next to a big guy with a death wish (I’m not 100% sure who it was, and if I said who I thought it was some people may think I have a problem with World Champions – I don’t). I’m not one to back down when someone’s being overly aggressive, and my line was perfect, so it wasn’t me that needed to turn. I hit back, rammed back, and eventually left the guy behind when I dove and dolphin kicked around the first buoy. From there I started catching the guys who had gotten away from me on the start, and by the time we were swimming in (looking over our shoulders in hopes of catching a wave) I was up near the front. McClarty and Zaferes (both excellent swimmers who live near the beach) managed to catch waves ahead of me and they had a sizable gap heading back across the beach toward transition. To my surprise, Jarrod Shoemaker came out of the water with me. It turns out he used to do beach lifeguard competitions and – while he does hate cold water – he’s quite good at surf swimming. I hopped on the bike and cleared transition ahead of everyone else. The first lap I thought I could catch Zaferes and McClarty, but the firepower of Cameron Dye, Shoemaker, Brendan Sexton and Chris McCormack behind me made my mission suicidal. I backed off and let the group catch me so we could work together. My plan was to go hard the first round, and hit it on the second, so going all kamikaze in the first ten minutes of the race would have been the dumb choice. We caught up to the leaders, but Dye and myself were the only ones working for the first few laps. I turned to Macca, who was sitting comfortably third wheel and said, “c’mon you lazy [can’t remember the noun I used, but it wasn’t nice]”. That seemed to light the fire because he came around with an acceleration that was all I could do to hang onto. I haven’t been able to look at the lap data from my Garmin Edge 705 yet (it automatically laps by position, so I have lap splits and wattage data for all 16 bike laps during the race – I’ll upload it to Garmin Connect when I get back to Colorado), but I’m pretty sure our laps with Macca at the front were the fastest laps of the day. Hitting T2 I had a transition so fast that I started the run in the lead. If you’ve followed my results you know that my T2 times are rarely exceptional, so this was a good sign for me (especially considering we had to set up our bike and helmet so that it would be ready for the second round). I lead for about two laps before Brendan Sexton came past me. The run course was really fun. It went 100m out of transition into a 180, then back 20m into a right turn up a steep ramp to the top of the pier, then a 180 and half way up another ramp toward the top of the bluff, then a 180 and back down to the boardwalk the way we came, a right turn 200 meters to a 180 and back to transition to start the next lap. This meant that we were visible to the fans and TV cameras 100% of the time during the run.

My lead lasted for the first two laps of the run, then Brendan Sexton passed me and stayed just ahead of me until we dove back into the water out of T3 (run-to-swim). We managed to gap the group behind us in the second swim, despite the pain we all had to endure to get out past the waves. Believe me, swimming after a full-tilt 1.5 mile run is not easy! Out of T4 (swim-to-bike) Sexton and I had about 15 seconds over the chase group of Dye, Shoemaker and Filip Ospaly (who managed to run and swim his way up the ranks after a terrible first swim). Dye is a beast on the bike and Sexton and I couldn’t hold him off. Ospaly and Shoemaker sat on Dye’s wheel doing as little work as possible (with sixteen 180 degree turns in five miles the accelerations hurt everyone, no matter how well you draft), and when their group caught us it was pretty clear that their legs were fresher than ours. As we lapped Zaferes and Brian Fleishmann (he was sick, this is not normal for him to get lapped) the two of them recovered on my wheel for a lap then took over in the lead and blocked the wind for the final two laps. It was definitely helpful, but I wish they’d joined in a little sooner to hold off Dye’s group. (a quick aside, lapped athletes were allowed to stay in and even join in groups ahead of them. It made for a unique strategic opportunity if you could lap a strong cyclist). Out of T5 I was in the lead again, but this time it only lasted until the first hill. Ospaly and Sexton came by me fast, and it was all I could do to hang on Sexton’s heels for two laps. In the meantime Jarrod seemed to be accelerating from behind us and it was when he passed me that Sexton’s pace became more than I could match. I feel back with Dye right on my feet, ensuring that I kept the accelerator floored all the way to the finish line. I placed 4th, just seconds ahead of Dye, and not far behind Sexton and Shoemaker. Ospaly put together a blazing fast run that left us all in the dust.

That race was by far the most fun I’ve had racing professional triahtlon. It was the proximity of the fans, and the energy of the day that made it so much fun. This series will a lot of fun to watch next year!!

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Oct 27 2010

Mexico Part Tres – Pan-Am Race Report

Chillin' - not reallyPuerto Vallarta is really hot in October. It’s strange that I was able to go the entire summer without suffering through any hot races, and as soon as Labor Day rolled around every race required a buzz cut and an ice pack in my helmet. I came prepared with my ice vest and frozen drink bottles as well, but no matter how well you prepare for a hot race, it always sucks – for everyone involved (spectators don’t like to stand on hot pavement any more than we like to run on it). That last fact is why hot races may actually suit me. It seems that conditions that require everyone to slow down a bit tend to bring some people back to me. It’s no question that I’ve failed to make a breakthrough in my run this season like I did at the end of 2009, but in hot weather my 5:15-5:20 min/mile pace is much closer to the fastest guys on the day. So as much as I hate hot races, there may be good reason not to avoid them.

p1010181_4After my crash in Huatulco I didn’t swim for the six days between races. I knew this was a bad idea, but I was hoping that I could depend entirely on talent to stay with Cameron Dye and Eder Mejia in the front pack. That was overly cocky. I was fine up until the first buoy, but managed to blow up like the Hindenburg on the second straightaway. People were moving past me like I was driftwood in a hydroplane race. There was a separation on the second lap of the swim, which I’m confident was my fault. As I moved backward, trying desperately to pull myself into someone’s draft I blocked the men behind me from keeping contact. I felt like a paper bag trying to swim – absolutely no connectivity through my core. (The lesson for next time, keep the abs in shape, even if you can’t get in the water, and eating quesadillas for three meals a day does not help with this). I ended up in the front of a large chase group about 20 seconds down on the top 6 men out of T1.

p1010203On the bike my legs were jell-o. The water had been in the upper 80s and the effort had my muscles fried. Conditions like this require top fitness, which I left on a section of blacktop in southern Mexico a week earlier. I hopped on Andrew Russell’s wheel and prayed that he could close the gap. (I’m certain I would have bridged up in any other race, though I wouldn’t have missed the front pack in any other race either.) I had nothing. I was overheated already and it was only 30 minutes into the race. I cracked my instant-cold ice pack in my helmet, and the rush of cold helped a little, but not enough for me to really help the group I was with. I went to the back of the pack (new territory for me) and tried to stay out of the way so the stronger cyclists could work together. We kept losing time each lap, and our group was one of the least organized I’ve seen in the men’s field. Guys were surging to the front and immediately pulling off, leaving the second wheel in the wind. Nobody wanted to work and each lap we were 15 seconds farther back than the lap before. The course was pretty sketchy in places (e.g they covered the gnarly cobbles with hard packed dirt that dried up and became loosely packed dirt before the end of the day). There were more 180s than needed, the section near transition was floored with red tiling which boasted a friction coefficient similar to Zipp’s ceramic bearings and required two hard right turns, a hard left and a 180 before returning to the blacktop highway where the center of the road had cracks large enough to harbor monsters (I’m pretty sure I heard something yell, “feed me your tire!”). Luckily, nobody went down, and I was able to finish my season with a 5/12 ratio of crashes to ITU starts (I just ordered a 2011 Scott CX Team from Momentum Multisport in Honolulu – hopefully a little cyclocross will help me keep the rubber-side down through my aggression (“This aggression will not stand, man.”)).

p1010209_2Staring the run I was way too hot. On the bike I had seen everyone else glistening with sweat and someone my skin looked dry. That’s not a good sign in the heat, but I figured if I was conscious enough to realize that then I probably should be running faster. I will say this for Mexico: they know how to provide water and ice. Unlike USATs terrible display of water support in Tuscaloosa (aide stations at the turnarounds so that you can only hit them once per lap? And they were equipped with warm water? Do they want us to die or was all the ice in Alabama being used for game-day cocktails?), the race directors in Puerto Vallarta had at least 6 times per lap where you could grab an ice cold beverage and a cup of ice. And the volunteers were trained well, they unscrewed the bottles so that a quick squeeze would pop the cap off – only once was the cap on my bottle so tight that I had to unscrew it myself. By the end of the first lap I was finally cool enough for my muscles to fire. I started passing some guys and was told I was in 14th place. I passed a couple more and was running with Mejia on my heals (at one aid station he wasn’t able to get a bottle, so I passed him mine after I took half to pour over my head – the next lap the situation was reversed, but he didn’t pass back. That’s bad Karma, dude.). At the end of the second lap I had reeled Sexton and Collington back into my sights and was sure I would catch them. Unfortunately, they must have seen the same thing and their paces increased enough to hold me at a steady distance. Mejia finally blew and I finished in 8th place in front of a group of charging Brazilians. It was a solid finish.

It’s easy to look at a race like this and think “if only A B and C I could have…” Well, that’s true, if I had had my normal swim I would have been in a break with Matt Chrabot and Cam Dye and with my normal bike we probably would have put another minute on the chase group and I likely would have been on the podium. But I didn’t and I wasn’t and 8th place is nothing to be ashamed of. I had a solid run – still not even close to what I believe I’m capable of – and I learned quite a bit about myself. How I respond to a week off at the end of the season is not great. How I swim in hot water after training in a cold indoor pool is not great either. How I prepare for hot races is pretty good, however. For next season I have plenty to work on. For now, however, I still have two races left, the Super Sprint Grand Prix in Oceanside on Halloween, and the Amica 19.7 Sprint in Phoenix on November 7th. Both should be a lot of fun.

Full race results here

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Sep 12 2010

ITU World Championships Budapest Race Recap

Published by under K-Swiss,Races

My first pro world champs was another big learning experience. For the first time this year I arrived at a race prepared both mentally and physically, and yet I still made a few minor mistakes that likely had very little effect on the final score.

The weather was delightfully crummy. It was pouring on the ride down to the race sight, and the two separate transition areas meant we had to place our running shoes out in the rain a full two hours before the start of the race. At the race site the rain eased up as we sat in the muddy, soggy, cold athlete’s lounge waiting for the race start, and by the time we started Budapest was sopping wet, but the rain had stopped. (Despite the crummy weather, this city is the most beautiful I’ve ever been to.)

The swim was cold, and probably shorter than 1500 meters. On the opening stretch I couldn’t seem to get my sprint going. I was in good position going into the first turn buoy, but certainly not great. I went the long way around for a change, and was surprised at how much less fight there was by not trying to cut the buoy. Still, the cold water kept getting in my lungs and I found myself panic breathing as we rounded the second set of buoys and headed back to shore. I have no idea where I was in the swim, but I knew I wasn’t swimming very fast, and I was having no trouble at all staying put where I was. It always amazes me how much water gets pulled in these races, but it’s clearly why “poor” swimmers (I use the term loosely, everyone in these races is a step above the average pro triathlete) are able to stay right in the mix with guys like Javier Gomez and the Russian squad of super swimmers. I excited the water and was struggling with my wetsuit going into T1. I’m not sure what I did differently, but my Blue Seventy Helix, which normally pops right off, seemed suctioned to my skin. Perhaps it was my choice of mineral oil, rather than the canola oil I normally use for lubrication, but regardless I found myself trapped in a virtual straight jacket of neoprene with my hands and feet too cold to feel what I was doing. I tripped next to my bike, knocked over three bikes, including my own, and finished removing my wetsuit in the prone position. It probably looked like a turtle on his back as I lay there frantically tugging at my suit and squirming in the mud (thankfully there was carpet over the deep muddy grass) trying to get back to my feet. By the time I found my helmet and sunglasses and pulled my bike back up I was a full 20 seconds slower through transition than my counterparts. A false start would have cost less time (and would have let my hands thaw out a bit) – I will remember that for next time.

I was in the first chase pack when I finally started pedaling. I wasn’t too worried because my group had some big guns in it who know how to fight. By the end of the first lap we caught the lead group, and I jumped to the front.

I should take a moment to talk about this bike course, which was certainly not the safest of triathlon courses. It was beautiful – with the landmarks of Budapest looming over every inch of the course – but the road was soaked, littered with invisible potholes and bumps and some quite visible but unavoidable railroad tracks and white paint. From T1 we headed up to the grandstands about 5km away. From there we did a reverse clover leaf under a bridge into a long flat straightaway, which was the only safe part of the course. Then a 180 degree turn, a short but bumpy straightaway, a chicane over some carpet covered railroad tracks (which were extremely slick), another chicane, then a really bumpy section of road before the transition area.

In the first lap I saw Tim Don laying on the ground beside a wrecked bike. The second lap there was an ambulance there and as we passed another person went down in the exact spot where Tim had been laying. I narrowly escaped to the right, and Javier went to the left, where his shoulder scraped the ambulance. Luckily, we both kept the rubber down.

There were lots of crashes. Matt Chrabot had gone up the road and was riding solo for most of the bike leg, though I didn’t know this until about two hours after the race had finished. Luckily, the spectators thought I was blocking. The announcers also caught me laughing near the end of the bike and thought that we were telling jokes in the front. That was false. I was laughing because of some unnecessary profanity being used. That same person has called me this four letter word before, and it just seems uncalled for in a professional field. Since I wasn’t the target this time, I just laughed it off – which was caught on camera.

I had great position going into T2. The best I’ve had at a WCS race, and it was awesome to be out on the run course with the leaders. That lasted about 50meters, as I just couldn’t seem to get my heart rate up. It felt like jet lag, and I’ll blame the late arrival time. I hope that was all it was. I will say that wet shoes were not the problem. My K-Swiss Kruuz went through the wet and puddles and drained the water out without any problems at all. Not a single blister or hot spot after the wettest run of my career!

I ran my way to 42nd place, which was off my goal of a top 30, but as the second American (3rd if you count the soon-to-be American Greg Bennet) I’m happy that I was able to stay strong in such a tough field. Strategically, I think I had a nearly perfect race. I just need to figure out my wetsuit removal and travel itinerary for next time.

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