Triathlon – The Final Chapter

After a compressed winter ultrarunning season, with 3 races (Lookout Mountain, Bandera, and TWOT), 2 FKTs (AT 4 State and SCAR), and 1 weekend as the Barkley Marathons utility man, it’s time to fully switch into triathlon mode. Well, now that I’ve also had a little fun with a transition race at the London Marathon.

London was my first normal marathon in 3.5 years. It was a lot of fun, and with no real goal in mind for it and a bit of a warm day, I was pretty happy to come away with a 2:42:40.

With one final season of triathlon, my main 2018 goal is to get back to Kona and see what I’m fully capable of. Sure, getting on the age group podium that I fell just two minutes short of last year would be awesome, but as long as I know that I’ve put it all out there I can walk away without ever having to wonder “what if.”

Uncle Rico | IF I'D HAVE LEARNED HOW TO SWIM I COULD'VE PODIUMED AT KONA NO DOUBT | image tagged in uncle rico | made w/ Imgflip meme maker

Of course there will always be marginal gains to chase, and in theory I could quit everything, train like a pro year round, and chase every last one of those gains. But, this is real life, and like everyone else no matter how many things I want to do I have finite time.

Maybe I should just quit everything and become a professional bugler? Photo: John Price

My first priority is my family. As far as sports go, I feel I have much greater gains left to chase in the one that I’m also more passionate about: ultrarunning. But, there are many chapters left for that. This chapter is about triathlon.

Prologue

I spent much of this winter actually continuing my triathlon training. Yes, I stayed pretty busy with ultrarunning events, but my training itself continued pretty consistently with swimming and biking. I finally relented and joined a masters swimming group, the Montgomery County Ancient Mariners. To the extent possible, I’ve been joining them for all my workouts.

The gains are already noticeable, with the times on my sets of 100 dropping significantly and my strength in the water beyond where it was even at the end of last season. Maybe before this is all over I’ll even manage to swim a sub 1 minute 100 (yards). Katie Ledecky swims faster than that pace for 1,500 meters at a time, but I’m still pretty proud of where I’ve come from the 3 minute 100s I started off with 3 years ago.

Every time I go to the pool I have the satisfaction afterwards of being able to say, “never again on this calendar day will I have to swim.” Today is actually a pretty big day, because now I can say it about the entire month of April.

On the bike I’ve managed to at least stay close to where I was at the end of last season, which is a huge step up from the hole I’ve had to dig myself out of the previous two years. This has primarily been through continuing my bike commutes throughout the winter. I not only hate the trainer more than the treadmill, I just don’t have time to get on one. I think the last time I even set mine up was 2016 (which makes me think…. anyone want to buy a trainer?).

Once upon a time I actually used one of these things. That’s why I never will again.

Team EMJ Training Camp

I had a lot of people ask me why I joined a team again this year – I already had pretty much all of the gear I needed. The answer is easy: the guys on Team Every Man Jack are incredible athletes and even better people. Seeing what they accomplish on the course is a big source of motivation. Off the course, I’m proud to be part of a group of such great ambassadors for the sport.

Photo: Talbot Cox

There’s also nothing like pushing yourself to keep up with stronger athletes to provide that extra motivation and training benefit. So for a few days in early March I once again headed out to the Las Vegas desert to train with Team EMJ and put my progress over the winter into proper perspective.

Photo: Talbot Cox

One great thing about triathlon: no one is the best at all 3 disciplines, so at some point you’re going to find yourself chasing. This year, though, I wasn’t chasing quite as much. In the pool I averaged 8 sec / 100 faster, and moved all the way up to the 3rd slowest lane. On our long ride on the bike, I put out 20% more power than last year, roughly equal to the power I put out at Kona even including the easy effort sections at the beginning and end of the ride.

We’re going for a run? Yeah cool, no problem. Photo: Talbot Cox
We’re biking too? Yeah that’ll still be alright, I’ll just draft a bit if I need to. Photo: Talbot Cox
Oh. Well #$@%. Photo: Talbot Cox

My winter of doing more than occasionally dipping my toes in the pool and spinning the pedals a bit had seemingly put me in position to build upon last year, instead of starting again from scratch. But now comes the true test – actually building upon last year and being better all the way to the end of the season instead of just better at the beginning.

Just in case anyone had any misconceptions of the glamorous life of a sub-elite athlete at training camp, here is my room. It’s actually the closet of the master suite bathroom, with a bed constructed out of a bedroom bench and my suitcase. I dare say it was one of the nicer accommodation arrangements.

Main Act

I’m excited about the local races I’m doing this year, and am kicking off my season with the General Smallwood Triathlon in late May. These types of events are what really grows the sport and forms good communities within it, and they’re unfortunately becoming less common due in large part to the WTC forcefully driving competing events out of business.

Coming in to the finish of the Columbia Triathlon, which I’ve done the past two years. I was already registered for what would have been its 35th year, but unfortunately it had to shut down this year.

That’s a bit hypocritical of me to say, as my next event a few weeks later is the WTC-run Ironman Boulder. Unfortunately official Ironman-branded events are the only way to Kona, though, which is where the highest level of competition at that distance is each year. Imagine if the BAA decided to host marathons across the country and then made those the only qualifying races for the Boston Marathon.

In any case, a trip to Boulder is always awesome.

But, my feelings about the WTC are a rant for another day. IM Boulder is where I’m aiming to re-qualify for Kona. It’s much earlier in the year than I’ve ever done a serious triathlon, but fortunately I’m in a better spot than I’ve ever been this early in the year. If I don’t qualify there, my backup plan is IM Mont-Tremblant in August.

I might need to go to Mont-Tremblant anyway. I’m out of maple syrup from Lake Placid.

My other big race is the ITU Long Course World Championship in Denmark, where I get to put on a Team USA kit and compete for my country. Rather than the standard iron distance, it’s 3K swim, 30K run, 120K bike, which unfortunately for me is just slightly heavier on the swimming.

Then, if all goes as planned, I’ll return to the big island for my final big race at Kona. Nothing there is a given, and not even getting there is a given. If I do, I already know I’ll be facing some great competition. All they’ll serve to do, though, is push me harder in achieving my goal of reaching as far as I possibly can. The only person that goal gets measured against is me.

Competition is a great motivator, but in most cases the true test is against yourself. Photo: Alexis Berg

Epilogue

Before I leave competitive triathlon altogether, I would like to grab my pro card and do one race as a professional. I don’t know which race, but it would be a fun victory lap and a great experience to be able to look back on. But if I had to choose to only look forward or backward, I would definitely choose forward. And for too long now, the mountains have been calling. I must go.

I doubt I’ll do my final triathlon in costume, but, you know… never say never.

2 thoughts on “Triathlon – The Final Chapter

  • May 2, 2018 at 3:46 pm
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    What gear did you use for your winter cycling commutes? Specifically pants and shoes/shoe covers? I also commute to work via bike and I am on the hunt for some better gear to keep me warm next year.

    Reply
    • May 2, 2018 at 8:13 pm
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      Layers were key for me, so the following is pretty much the maximum I would wear. Feet were normally XOSKIN socks, Sock Guy wool socks, normal LG road shoes, toe warmers, and booties. Legs were Bergamo leg warmers, XOSKIN shorts, and LG bib shorts and alcove hybrid pants. Top was XOSKIN long-sleeved, LG jersey, and some combination of LG vest and alcove hybrid jacket, Bergamo long sleeved jersey and wind jacket. Then BOCO gear hat, normal LG helmet, liner gloves, LG Proof gloves, and either LG Bigwill or La Sportiva Race Overgloves. On the worst of days ski goggles and a balaclava, and other days whatever random buff I happened to grab. Disclosure: most of those brands sponsor me either directly or through Team EMJ.

      Reply

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