Thursday, October 8, 2015

Ironman 2 for 1 Special! - Katie Foster

If you've considered multiple Ironmans in a season, you may wanna talk with Katie Foster (Nebraska). She didn't have the day she was hoping for at IM Boulder, but applied lessons learned to have a stellar day just over a month later at IM Wisconsin. Here she reports on the highs and lows of the entire experience. 

IM Blessed. Truly. I completed Ironman Boulder and Ironman Wisconsin this summer, two different courses, with two very different results.

My IM for 2015 was Boulder. I planned for it, trained for it and set my sights on modifying my nutrition so I could run the marathon. I was also hoping to improve each of my discipline times from my first IM in CDA. I knew Boulder would be tough, it's an Ironman, but the course pummeled me. The swim was a self seed rolling start which means you start in line w
ith people finishing at the same time you expect to finish. It's supposed to be a slow rolling start to space people out. They didn't really do that though, we all started at once and it was an aggressive, rough swim for the entire 2.4 miles. About a quarter way into the swim I was totally overcome by wetsuit swimmers. They were on every side and swimming over me. I got hit in the head several times and people grabbed my legs the whole time. Fortunately I did not panic and I was able to keep my breathing somewhat under control. My garmin showed 4394 yards, which is about 400 more than 2.4 miles, and I thought I was following the buoys. We also couldn't wear our wetsuits due to high water temps, which I knew would add time. I normally enjoy the swim but I was glad to have that one over. I learned later that race officials failed to hold the athletes who elected to wear their wetsuits back to allow space between the non-wetsuits athletes. Swim finish was 1:27.

The bike started great, I had a plan for my nutrition and felt like I was following it. The course was along Foothill Parkway which sits at the bottom of the flat irons. It is beautiful. We had two 40 mile loops, then a separate 30 mile loop. The 40 mile loops felt very fast to me, the wind was favorable, and mechanically, my bike was very smooth. I thought things were going well until I hit mile 90, which was a terrible climb and the sun, heat and incline forced me to stop to get ice. I had plenty of nutrition on my bike but evidently I wasn't taking in what I thought, because I finished the bike with a really great time (for me) 5:49 and then I hit a wall in transition. I couldn't put on my shoes and medical took me to their tent for nutrition. I knew I had 10 hours to finish the marathon and I wanted to be safe, so I obliged and just laid on a chair, taking in water, coke and gels. While I was in there two men sitting next to me were taken to the hospital for heart conditions. They asked me if I wanted to DNF. I said: no way. My blood pressure and pulse were fine. 

After 50 minutes my coloring, focus and strength came back. I thanked the nice med folks and took off on my walk. The marathon was along the Boulder path. If it wasn't after 114.4 miles of other activities, the course would be nice. It was abundant with spectators. The weather was overcast, which is exactly what you hope for. I just couldn't get my body working to do much running, which is frustrating to me since I run all the time, but I know the end game so I just ran a little, walked a lot. Mentally this was a very challenging marathon. My body was dehydrated and I felt like I could go black if I let my mind wonder. I had to talk to myself and stay focused. Fortunately, my team captain was at the race cheering for his wife, so he was able to offer support to keep me motivated. I stopped at every aid station to force more fluids. At mile 24.5 my body started working for me, and I ran the last 1.5 miles to the finish. It felt great to run at that point. The finish line is electric. People screaming and cheering for blocks. Strangers wanting to high five, and you can hear the music and announcer calling out names. It made all the pain go away, almost. My walkathon time was 6:08. It wasn’t until I finished in 14h25 that I learned I had a 27 minute PR from my first IM. I had accomplished my goal of improving each of my discipline times, but my heart knew my body could have done better.

I was unsettled after Boulder. I analyzed my nutrition over and over, knowing that I had not taken in enough fluids, especially given the altitude. I beat myself up for my miscalculations. I thought I had prepared properly, I had taken my vitamins, plenty of pre-race liquids, and even planned for the altitude. It should have been a perfect race. But it wasn’t.

After several weeks of discussion with my husband, and analysis of my race, I signed up for Wisconsin. This was a bonus race for me. It was also an expensive gamble. I had to pay for a Foundation slot, and I would pay a premium for my hotel room and travel. My goal was simple: figure out my nutrition and do it right so when it’s time to run the marathon, I can run. I hired a coach out of Boulder to review several weeks of my training plan given I had just come off an IM, then I had him review my nutrition plan and make suggestions. I use Hammer Nutrition and find it is very agreeable with my stomach, but I wasn’t doing a good job of consuming the right product at the right time. I thought I was taking in too much Hammer Perpetuem, which provides higher calories, and not enough Hammer Heed, which is the electrolyte. My aero bottle also has an open end straw, and after 6 hours of drinking from the straw, I thought my stomach was holding too much air so at run time my stomach would ache above my belly button. I ended up making four changes to my race day plan that proved critical on race day.

1) I switched my Heed and Perpetuem consumption on my bike, and made my Heed more accessible for more frequent consumption.

2) I added a camel back bite-valve to my aero-bottle straw. No more air.

3) I set my Garmin 920xt alarms to ring and remind me to either eat or drink.

4) Adding Hammer Energy tabs to my run.

I had continued training after Boulder, and as it turns out Boulder was a great training day for the Wisconsin course! Madison is a beautiful city any day, but race day was a particularly perfect day. The weather started at 50 degrees and warmed to 70 with light winds. I was surprisingly calm race morning. This was a bonus race for me and I felt like I had eliminated the uncertainty of my nutrition plan that I had in Boulder. The race was a mass start with everyone starting in Lake Monona. I entered the water at 6:53am, made my way to open space and spent a few minutes looking at the packed crowd at Monona Terrace. It was breathtaking! The swim was perfect, 70 degrees, cool and not choppy. My goggles fogged, I got thumped in the head, pushed, cut off, etc by men twice my size, all the things you expect in an IM, I did the obligatory "moo" at the first turn, and did my best to enjoy the swim. Sighting was tough going into the sun, but I just tried to follow the crowd. I had no idea on time, my stroke and breathing were pretty relaxed so I 'just kept swimming.' Yes, I do sing that to myself... Upon exiting I saw I was at 1:18, much better than my previous swims, so I was happy, I found my sister and friend for a high five and took off up the helix to transition. 

I drove the bike course the day before, so I knew what to expect. It is hilly, and technical, but none of that bothered me. I actually enjoyed it. It was the road conditions that were terrible. People were losing nutrition, bottles, tire tubes, cages, popping tires, etc. all over the place. Plenty of people were pulled over on the side of the road with mechanical issues. I repeat prayers all day during an IM and I was praying hard that my bike would stay in one piece. The weather conditions were perfect, the crowd support is unparalleled. These people come out and make it a party!!! They are dressed up, drinking beer, playing music, dancing, cheering, chasing us up the hills, etc. this was a total delight! I can see why WI has a great reputation for being such a fun day. They have so many spectators throughout the course that the race puts portapotties on the course for the crowd.

I tried to bike conservative, knowing my goal was to save enough for the run. I stopped several times for the restroom and to fill up hydration. I followed my new nutrition plan closely to stay hydrated and felt great throughout the bike. Bike finish was 6:17.

I was ecstatic to get back to T2 and feel well enough to take off on the run. No med tent and no walking. Mission accomplished!!! Woohoo!!

The run course is throughout Madison and the campus of UW. It was totally enjoyable. State street is packed full of people cheering, high fiving, yelling and jumping up and down. There is no lack of enthusiasm. My cheerleaders were everywhere I needed them to be. They took my gear and gave me encouragement to keep running. They ran all day, showing up all over the course. I was just hoping for one mile at a time, always expecting my stomach to blow up on me and I have to walk the rest of the way. Each mile I ran was a victory I was celebrating mentally. Mile 5 and 18 are two tough hills back to back, but I knew that ahead of time and ran what I could, then walked the rest.

The sun was out so I knew I had a PR day but I didn't ask anyone for the time, I just wanted to go as much as I could, and enjoy the course. If I walked I tried to make it short, then keep running. I didn’t want to look at my watch, I just wanted to get to the finish line. At mile 25.5 my sister told me I had a nearly 2 hour PR. I was overwhelmed and overcome with emotion. As I got closer to the finish line, a group of people ahead of me all turned around to start their second lap of the marathon, this hasn't happened to me before, I'm usually the one turning around and finishing in the dark. Not this time though, and this time I had the chute to myself. The rush is like nothing else. The finish line is in front of the capitol building and it is packed with screaming spectators. I finished the run exactly the way I wanted, running. I didn’t see my time at the finish line but the catcher told me I finished in 12 hours 29 minutes. Mission accomplished!!

Many sincere thanks to my husband, Kasey Hesse and Melanie Nielsen for making that day happen, it will always be such a special day for me!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Ironman Chattanooga Race Report - Chad Zeman

It was great to recently cheer on two teammates at Ironman Chattanooga. We'll hear from David Fernandez (Florida) soon, but for now here's an IMCHOO race report from Chad Zeman (North Carolina).

This race was no where on the radar since starting last December - my attention had been on Ironman Lake Placid. The training, the races, the workouts - all for Placid.

I had 9 weeks to train between Placid and CHOO. I've never done two in a year let alone two in essentially 2 months. After a light week of recovery, I was full into training again. I knew I could get in about 6 quality weeks of work - but, it's not always that easy. I spent 10 months training for Placid. That means 10 months of little to no weekends of "fun" for my wife and son. The race from Placid still affecting me mentally and trying to figure out nutrition. So I decided to approach this race much different than usual.

The goal for 2015 was to qualify for Kona - it was my last year in the 25-29 age group. I obsessed over the 2014 results from Placid. The "what do I need to bike to make up for my swim?", "how can I buy some minutes in transition", "how much do I need to bury myself on the run". For Chattanooga, I never looked. I knew from Placid I'd need to go around 10 hours to have a sniff at a chance, but I was going to do what I knew I could do. The goal was: swim 100% bi-laterally, pay attention to 10 second average power and NP on the bike and then just look at the HR on the run.

The 6 quality weeks leading up to the race, I focused on maintaining with little gains. I knew I had done enough long rides for IMLP that I focused on really doing 2 prior to CHOO. What was weird was I would be super motivated for CHOO one week, then have absolutely zero motivation to train the next - those were tough weeks! I did swims at lunch - nothing too long since Chattanooga has a down river swim. Run workouts were tempo based and some long runs including a 16 miler.

My typical week between IMLP and IMCHOO was as follows:  continue reading here!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Kona Preview & Predictions 2015 - Women's Race

At Ironman and Ironman 70.3 races throughout the year, pros compete for prize money as well as pre-determined points based on placing. The top 30 women on the 2015 points list have earned a spot on next week's start line (in addition to a few automatic qualifiers).

Here’s the breakdown by country of the women pros who made the cut:

USA: 11
UK: 5
Australia: 5
Germany: 4
Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, Switzerland: 2
Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Sweden, Taiwan: 1

Mirinda Carfrae is tough as nails

A little recent Kona history:

In 2007 a then unknown British triathlete named Chrissie Wellington shocked the triathlon world by storming to a Kona victory. From that point on she was virtually invincible, winning everything in her path including four Kona titles. A few months after winning her 4th in 2011, she shocked the triathlon world once again by announcing her retirement. This opened the door of opportunity in a big way for the rest of the field. Leanda Cave continued the UK dominance in 2012, claiming both the Ironman and Ironman 70.3 crowns. Australia’s Mirinda Carfrae took advantage of Chrissie not racing in 2010 due to illness, then proved that performance was no fluke the past two years, breaking Chrissie's course record along the way. Last year she got off the bike facing a ~14 minute deficit, yet ran a 2:50 marathon (only 4 men pros ran a faster split) to win by 2 minutes over Switzerland’s Daniela Ryf. Britain’s Rachel Joyce rounded out the podium a mere 90 seconds later.

The women’s field is as strong as it's ever been this year, and should be a great race!

Rachel Joyce

Who I’d like to see win:

Angela Naeth at IM Texas
Rachel Joyce (UK): lawyer turned pro triathlete has been close the last two years with a 2nd and 3rd. Is potentially the only contender in the field able to ride within shouting distance of Ryf, with only 2 min separating their bike splits last year. I met her at a race this season and, since I’d done the race before, she was asking me for advice… ridiculous, of course, but at the same time shows you how cool and humble she is despite being one of the best in the world.

Heather Wurtele (Canada): 6x Ironman Champion took 2nd at the 70.3 Championships last month (to Ryf) after 3rd at the same race in 2014. Despite her Ironman wins, has historically struggled at Kona, including a 15th place finish last year. Once again I’m a little biased here, as I met her and her husband Trevor a few months ago. She’s awesome... would love to see her have a breakthrough performance.

Angela Naeth (Canada): I know she didn’t race at Kona last year, and I believe this is her debut on the big island. She had a huge win against a stacked field this year at Ironman Texas, yet still comes in flying a bit under the radar. It would be cool to see someone outside of the perennial favorites such as her make some noise in her first attempt.

Daniela Ryf, the consensus favorite
My prediction for the women’s podium:

Daniela Ryf (Switzerland): a dominating performance at the 70.3 World Championships last month proved to many that she is the one to beat. Her bike is a weapon sure to do major damage to the rest of the field, and her improved run should be enough to hold off Carfrae and other challengers this year.

Melissa Hauschildt
Mirinda Carfrae (Australia): in my opinion the 2x defending champion will come up just short this year. It turns out she is human afterall… I watched her place 8th at the North American 70.3 Championships in May, almost 10 min back of winner Heather Wurtele. That said, Carfrae is known for managing her seasons very well to ensure she’s in peak form for Kona. I expect her to push slightly harder than her limits on the bike in order to minimize the deficit to Ryf, but that that effort will impact her run just enough to give Ryf the win.

Melissa Hauschildt (Australia): mediocre swimmer but stellar bike/run combo have made her virtually unbeatable when healthy in the past. Injuries have often held her back in her career, including last year at Kona where she was not able to race. Assuming she is good to go, I believe she could sneak her way onto the podium.

Should be an incredibly entertaining race! Follow live coverage Saturday October 10th on

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Kona Preview & Predictions 2015 - Men's Race

The Ironman World Championships in Hawaii is around the corner (Saturday, Oct. 10th). Here's a little preview of the men’s race, with a women’s version coming soon!

First of all, here’s the breakdown by country of the men’s field (as of now at least):

Germany: 8
USA: 8
Australia: 5
Spain: 5
France: 4
New Zealand: 4
UK: 4
Belgium: 3
Canada: 3
Brazil, South Africa, Switzerland: 2
Austria, Bermuda, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, Ukraine: 1

A little recent history

From 2007-2012, the 
Thunder From Down Under was untouchable at Kona, with Aussies Chris McCormack (2007 & ’10) Craig Alexander (2008-09, ’11) and Pete Jacobs (2012) all doing serious work on the biggest stage. Before that, Germany had a 3-year run with the combination of Normann Stadler (2004, ’06) and Faris Al-Sultan (2005). Finally in 2013 a new country was represented, with Belgian Frederik Van Lierde flying a bit under the radar on his way to an impressive victory. Germany reclaimed the top spot last year, with “uberbiker” Sebastian Kienle breaking through as many expected he would. The USA’s Ben Hoffman surprised many with his 2nd place finish, with Germany’s Jan Frodeno rounding out the podium.

With Alexander and McCormack now either retired or very close to it and Jacobs having slipped a bit since his 2012 win, the Australian flag (at least on the men’s side) is not expected to be on the podium this year. On the other hand Germany is stacked, with defending champ Sebastian Kienle and former Olympic Gold Medalist Jan Frodeno expected by many to go 1-2 one way or the other. Frodeno took 3rd in his Kona debut last year despite a flat and a (some would argue) bogus penalty on the bike. He beat Kienle head-to-head at both Ironman Frankfurt in July and the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Austria a month ago and is considered by most to be the favorite.

In addition to these two frontrunners, the men’s field is considered to be among the best ever assembled. A slew of competitors have a chance to make some noise, and it’s expected to be a tight, tactical race.

Lionel Sanders
Here’s a quick summary of who I’d like to see win:

Andy Potts (USA): Former Olympian will lead the way out of the water as always – Potts has consistently placed in the Top 10 and was 4th last year. Would love to see him break through, becoming the first American winner since Tim DeBoom in 2002.

Lionel Sanders (Canada): His story of drug addict turned one of the best triathletes in the world is well-known, to the point where some other pros probably get sick of hearing it... but how can you not cheer for this guy?? By all accounts no one trains harder than him, can he pull off something magical in his Kona debut?

Jan Frodeno (Germany): Yeah in some ways this is like cheering for the Yankees, but Frodeno “deserves” it after such an incredible year. He has more pressure than anyone going into the race, and I’d be happy to see him come through in the clutch.

Romain Guillaume (France): Who?? Yeah that’s right, my boy Romain. Our team is having our 2nd annual Fantasy Football-esque game with each teammate getting 4 random names, a point system, etc. I got 3 women pros and this guy from the “autodraft.” Monsieur Guillaume actually pulled off a 10th place finish last year, so stranger things have happened I suppose. On y va Romain! Tu peux le faire! LET’S GO ROMAIN, YOU CAN DO IT!!

Prediction for the men’s podium:

Jan Frodeno (Germany)
: the overwhelming favorite, but all the pressure is on his shoulders (and legs) and he’ll have a huge target on his back. The likes of Kienle, Van Lierde, and many others won’t go down without a fight, but you don’t win Olympic gold without being extremely tough between the ears.

Brent McMahon (Canada): since I’m going with the consensus favorite as my pick, I have to roll the dice a bit with the other two podium predictions: Darkhorse #1 is McMahon, a former Olympian who is all business on race day and very consistent. This will be his Kona debut, so a bit of a wild card, but he’s a smaller guy who should adapt well to the conditions on the big island.

Tim Don (UK): Darkhorse #2 This guy is coming in under the radar, but is wicked fast. I watched him take the North American 70.3 Championships vs. a stacked field earlier this year. He seems to be an all or nothing guy… I predict either a monster race or a DNF.

Tim Don, Brent McMahon, & the legendary Andreas Raelert went 1,2,3 at St. George,
although the stakes will be much higher in Hawaii

Should be an incredibly entertaining race! Follow live coverage Saturday October 10th on

Friday, September 25, 2015

Pre-Race Check In: Ironman Chattanooga

The season may be winding down, but we've got a few teammates with huge races still on the schedule. This Sunday, both Chad Zeman (now North Carolina) and David Fernandez (Florida) will take on the 2nd annual Ironman Chattanooga in Tennessee. I had some trouble tracking down David, but managed to check in for a few minutes with Chad. Best of luck to you both!

So my sources tell me you forgot your helmet… is this true?

Yeah, for real. Luckily I gave pro triathlete Ben Collins, a Rudy Project sponsored athlete, a ride to Chattanooga. Long story short I’ll be able to borrow a Wingspan for the race!

How did that come about, giving Collins a ride?

There’s a Facebook group for the race, as there is for every Ironman, and I saw something about someone whose ride from Atlanta fell through. I didn’t know anything about the person, but was passing right through there so I volunteered. Turned out to be Collins, a pro whose specialty is short-course racing. Chattanooga will be his first full-distance Ironman.

Can you give me a high-level assessment of how Ironman Lake Placid went just over two months ago?

I had a great swim, then on the bike I had a plan to focus on my normalized power over the course of the ride. In hindsight I pushed too much, especially on the 2nd loop. I put in too many hard efforts in an attempt to move the needle on my average power. My nutrition strategy also wasn’t the best, and those two things combined to me walking much of the run.

When we talked before that race, it was clear that you were putting a ton of pressure on yourself. Is it the same going into IMCHOO, or do you have a different mindset?

Totally different mindset. For my last two Ironmans (Wisconsin and Lake Placid) I was trying to go for it, trying to set a huge PR. This time I’m focusing on doing what I know I can do, and whatever I get, I get. My strategy will be more to look at my power over shorter intervals, for example a 10-sec average, along with my heart rate as opposed to normalized power. I’m also hoping to execute a better nutrition strategy.

So no specific goals for this one?

Only to beat my two college buddies who are doing the race!

On that note, how do you feel about the showdown between you and Triple Threat teammate David Fernandez?

Well, rumor has it he twisted his knee pretty bad a few weeks ago, so I hope he’s back to full strength. As a general rule they say double your 70.3 time and add an hour to project an Ironman time… qualifying and racing Worlds this summer he went ~4:30 so that would put him at ~10 hours. Only with a banged up knee do I have a chance of getting to him, but it’s good to have people on the course to motivate you.

ideally we'll see a replica of this photo finish between our two teammates

How has your training gone since IMLP?

My recovery was great… it’s a lot easier after walking so much of the run! In training, every other week I seemed to alternate between being super motivated and “eh.” It was weird, but I’ve maintained my training pretty well I think.

What do you know about the course?

It’s a down-current river swim. I guess there are “gates” in the river that control the strength of the current, and last year they were all open. Rumor has it they’re closing some this year, but it’s still a down-river swim. That can save you 5-15 min over your regular IM swim depending on what they do with the gates. Making up for that is the 116 mile bike course… the original 112 mile course was deemed not to be safe enough, so the way the safer roads went made it 116. That said it’s only 3-4k of elevation gain, vs. for example Lake Placid with double that. The first half of the run is flat, but the 2nd half is really hilly. You have to be patient on the run because of those hills.

How’s the vibe in the Ironman Village?

Right now it’s raining, and the expo is a mud pit. For race day though it’s supposed to be 60’s-70’s, should be a nice day.

What was the deal with some locals trying to sabotage the race last year? Something about pouring oil on the bike course?

Yeah, motor oil and tacks! Thankfully they caught it and cleaned most of it up before the masses came through.

Will we see a repeat?

Doubtful, but I guess you never know!

Related Post:

Sunday, September 20, 2015

President's Physical Fitness Challenge

With school back in session, the Triple Threat national team is currently doing a little East vs. West challenge based on the infamous President's Physical Fitness Challenge.

Remember back in the day when you had to run a mile, do a shuttle run, something called the "V-sit," and other tests of strength and courage??

This challenge is similar in nature, but with only two tests:

2) 100-YARD SWIM

We wanted to share this with readers and encourage you to do the same challenges yourselves. For the mile, ideally you'll strap on your PE-issued short shorts and roll up to a high school track near you for 4 laps of glory. The 100 is an in-water, push off the wall sprint (4 lengths in your standard 25-yard pool).

Test yourself! Of course you can remain anonymous, but if you're willing we'd love to hear how it goes.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Challenge Cedar Point Race Report - Dave Fisher

After checking in with us pre-race, here Dave Fisher (Connecticut) gives us a recap of his first Ironma... I mean, Full Distance Triathlon... I mean Challenge Cedar Point. And by that I mean 140.6 miles. Whatever you call it, we're proud of the guy!

A race report - at least for me - has served as a utility for capturing impressions and choices I have made during races to help me in future races. They are a record I use for analysis, not for capturing touchy-feely stuff, although sometimes that creeps in. In this case, though, I have to deviate significantly from the template, as it's my first 'full distance' triathlon. I want to get something out of the way's stupid, but I'm going to refrain from saying 'Ironman' because that's a brand, not a distance, and while most people only understand what you're talking about if you say, "I did an Ironman," this wasn't an Ironman branded race, it was a Challenge family race. Well, I lied, I'll say it once. I am an Ironman. I made it 140.6 miles by swimming, biking, and running. Off we go into RememberLand!

Cedar Point is a jetty out into Lake Erie in Ohio, nestled up against the town of Sandusky. Cedar Point is also the name of an amusement park that claims to be the Roller Coaster Capital of the World. With acres of 400 foot vomit launchers like this...'s hard to disagree. I chose not to sample the local wares, preferring as always to keep my ass below my armpits. Sandusky itself is a picturesque - albeit empty - town that seems frozen in time, roughly around 1955. I wouldn't have been surprised to see Marty McFly walk by at any moment.

It so happened that the day before the race the streets of Sandusky had been shut down for an auto show, so with lines of classic cars lining the roads and 50s rock and roll blasting from loudspeakers, it went far over the top in delivering the sensation that it was from another era. I arrived late on Friday, giving myself Saturday to get checked in and settled, with the race on Sunday morning.

On Saturday morning we received an email warning that overnight, high winds had destroyed several tents at the race site, and that the swim was in jeopardy of being cancelled due to riptide conditions in Lake Erie. Additionally, the bike check in was moved to race morning, because they didn't want the bikes exposed to the wind overnight for fear they'd all topple on each other. Well, holy crap....