Chipping Away – IM Choo

Where to begin.  All I can say is that the summer of 2014 has been a whirlwind of ups and downs since I last posted on here back in May.  Since turning pro in 2013, I’ve been continuing to chip away and inch myself closer to the podium at a long course triathlon event with a 6th place finish at Challenge Atlantic City (CAC) and a 7th place finish at Ironman Chattanooga on Sunday all while juggling a 40+ hour a week day job and family life.  To further complicate things, we decided to build a house and sell our existing home on a very short timeline so I had to throw that into the mix of more responsibilities.

Our new home

Our new home

I had originally planned on racing Ironman Wisconsin in early September however, the time commitment with regards to the new house build and the constant disruption of having to vacate our old house for realtor visits compounded with a “burned-out” feeling from training left me wondering how I should tackle the second half of the season.

I needed to simply find that spark to keep pushing forward regardless of what was thrown in my direction.  My coach and I had originally planned a two week mid-season break immediately following Atlantic City and to be honest after the two weeks were up, I still had zero motivation to put in the work for a race that was still ~2.5 months away.  I made the decision to jump in to the Pittsburgh Triathlon which was a local race where I could actually spend the night in my own bed the night prior.  I easily won the race and that kept me focused on the training plan for at least a weeks worth of sessions but then the burned out feeling came right back.

Crossing the line at Challenge AC.

Crossing the line at Challenge AC.

Believe it or not I actually went through another two week period where I didn’t even want to look at my training plan let alone push myself out the door but as Ironman Chattanooga inched its way closer, the motivation to go “all in” came back.  We moved into our new home on August 16th and 17th, exactly six weeks out from race day and from that point on I had only one thought on my mind.  Swim, bike, run, sleep and repeat.  Over the course of this six week span, I executed some of my best training sessions to date.

Fast forward to Ironman Chattanooga.

Pro men at the swim start.

Pro men at the swim start.

The current assisted swim would work in my favor come race day.  Of course I’ve been working on my swim the past couple of years and when I exited the 2.4 mile swim in 40:58 with a huge pack of pro men, I knew I was sitting in a great position for the race.

The Downstream swim

The Downstream swim

You can’t win the race in the swim but you can surely lose it.  I also heard someone mention as I ran up the swim exit ramp that I was only 3 minutes down from first and second place which meant I was in the lead pack.  A quick transition was going to be key since I was at the back of the ~20 guy pack.

Out of transition I saw the group of ~15 or so riders forming up the road and knew I needed to work hard to get in the group.  I pushed the effort to 260-270 watts for 6 minutes according to my power file and settled in at the back of the huge pack at a legal distance.  The next 50 miles on the bike would be very strange.  There was never a steady state effort riding in the group as we were either going minutes at a time at 250-300 watts or minutes at a time at 100-150 watts.  In fact for those of you that are “techie”, my variability index for the ride was 1.09.  My plan was to hold steady for the ride at 235 watts but that plan went out the window based on the race dynamics taking place.  We had two officials with us the entire 116 mile bike course so it was comforting to know that everyone in the line was riding draft legal.

I'm way in the back of this line.

I’m way in the back of this line.


Staying focused

Unfortunately for me though I had to simply wait it out at the back of the pack for something to happen because in order to pass I would have had to pass the entire group, not just one rider at the time.  The race started to get interesting around mile 50 when some folks at the front (I’m told Trevor Wurtele and Derek Garcia) put in a huge surge.  I knew I needed to stay in the race so I went with the group holding 260+ watts for well over 30 minutes (17 miles to be exact).  This is exactly the type of work I’ve been doing in training though so I knew that this surge would not have any impact on my running legs.  The pack slimmed down to around 10-12 riders which included Ironman Champions Daniel Bretscher and Pedro Gomes, eventual race winner Matt Hanson and yours truly.  Trevor pulled away around mile 70 put in a two minute lead on the lead chase pack as we headed into transition.  I came through the 112 mile marker in just under 4:30 and came into T2 with a 116 mile bike split of 4:39:43 (24.9 mph average).


All business

I headed out on to the run with Daniel, Matt, Jim Lamastra and Guilherme Manocchio from Brazil. I ran the first 10K according to plan right at 6:35 pace but Daniel and Matt pulled away as if I was standing still.  I passed Derek Garcia around mile 7 and the only other guys besides Daniel and Matt that were in front of me at this point were Eric Limkemann and Trevor Wurtele which meant I was in 5th place.  Unfortunately it was short lived though as I got passed at mile 8 by American Barrett Brandon and at mile 10 by German Swen Sundberg.  I was still feeling good though and I made the decision to race my own race since I was still on pace for a sub 3 hour marathon and let them go.  In retrospect, maybe I should have rolled the dice?  Regardless, I was in unchartered territory, at the front of the race and made the more conservative decision.  I came through the 13.1 mile mark in 1:29 and we merged with the AG racers who were on their first loop.  I struggled a bit through mile 20 but I was still holding around 7:00-7:10 type pace and had no idea how close 8th place was to catching me.

When I made the final left onto Riverfront Parkway I knew I was there.  I pushed it the final quarter mile and came across the finish line in 8:30:47 (a 72 second PR) for 7th place professional in my 20th Ironman start.

The Ironman Finish Line.

The Ironman Finish Line.

My biggest takeaway from Sunday is that I’m no longer on the outside looking in.  I was in the mix the entire race for a podium spot out of a very competitive 40 athlete pro field and above anything else, my result has made me even more hungry to accomplish my goals.

As for the rest of the season, I am signed up for Ironman Arizona and Ironman Cozumel.  I’m not yet sure which one I’ll be doing but my work for 2014 isn’t finished and I feel like I have at least one more race in the tank.

Last but not least, a big thank you to my friends and family and my awesome bike shop sponsor Top Gear Bicycle Shop, my nutrition sponsor Powerbar and my new wetsuit sponsor, Xterra Wetsuits.  I also want to recognize my coach Derick Williamson for continuing to push me day to day and giving me the guidance necessary to help me believe that getting to the top is possible.  In the meantime, I’ll keep chipping away.

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