Friday, May 30, 2014

Ironman Texas Race Report - David Fernandez

To complete an Ironman, not only does one have to dedicate months to training, but also personal sacrifices are made, such as time with friends and family. It’s not always easy, and without any doubt, I couldn’t have crossed the finish line without the support of my friends and family. My Triple Threat Triathlon teammates also gave me valuable advice and motivated me during training. Special recognition goes to my sister Anabel, who has helped with my training and race day nutrition since I decided to do my first triathlon. She has played a major role not only in my progression in the sport, but also in changing my eating habits without compromising my love for food. Finally, to my wife Kathryn, who deals with me daily. Just for that, she already deserves a prize… throw Ironman training in the mix and she deserves the award for “wife of the year.”

Pre Race

My main goal during my 2+ week taper period was to get race ready, which to me meant:

1. Stay active without fatiguing my body: low volume training throwing some intensity in based on feel (do not abuse)

race week training (in min)

2. Get to race weight: with decreased training volume, I don’t need to carbo-load; my body is getting enough glycogen from my normal diet

I flew to Houston Thurs. morning, being the last day to check in. That night I went to the athletes’ dinner, where Mike Reilly cracked a few jokes while showing some inspiring videos. I was ready to race!! Without any doubt, the best part was meeting people from all over the world. I talked to many people, asked several questions of experienced Ironman athletes, and made a few friends.

Friday morning I met up with a couple guys to go swimming in the lake. Although it was nothing compared to what we got on race day, I’m glad I went and tried my wetsuit (I hadn’t swum in my wetsuit in over 2 months, as no one thought this race would be wetsuit legal).

After the swim I picked up my bike from the TriBike Transport tent, and I highly recommend this service for first timers. Once I got the bike, I went for a 30 min ride to make sure all was working well and then checked in my bike and transition bags.

the ducks were visibly pissed

Not much else to do after a busy morning. I grabbed lunch at Chipotle, went to the hotel for a nap, and ran less than 1 mile with short strides. I have to say that I felt very strong… I could tell I was ready to race. After the quick run, I drove to Houston to pick up my wife who was flying in. We had dinner (pasta for me), packed the very last few things I had to bring the next day, and went to bed by 9.30. Surprisingly, I wasn’t nervous.

hopefully one day I can afford that bike

Race Day

We woke up at 4:10 and I had my pre-race breakfast: cereal and 2 tbsp of Nesquick with 2% milk. We then grabbed my bags and drove to transition. I was lucky to borrow a pump from a fellow athlete, avoiding waiting in line. I was worried about my rear tire, as I inflated it the day before to 120 psi and it was at 40 psi (I use latex tubes, which lose air easily, but this was a little too much). I didn’t have time to change the tube, so I hoped for the best. I packed my nutrition on the bike and left for the swim start, which was 1 mile away. I took advantage of this walk to eat half of a banana and to chat with my wife. I wasn’t nervous yet.

Once I got to the swim start, I had to wait in line to use one of the port-a-potties to do my pre-race routine. The wait was HUGE... I probably lost 20-25 minutes there, that as you will read later on, would have a negative impact on my swim. I took advantage of the long wait to get body marked, apply sunscreen, and keep sipping on sports drink.

happy before the swim
I put my wetsuit on after generously applying Body Glide to my neck, wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees, and ankles. I kissed and hugged my wife and thanked her for being there. She wished me luck and told me she was proud of me. She calmed me down by telling me that I had put a lot of work into this and she was sure I’d do well. Surprisingly, I wasn’t nervous yet, but her words were exactly what I needed to hear. I said goodbye and headed to the water along with 2,600 other athletes. Now I finally started to feel a little nervous…


The cannon went off when I was still waiting to get in the water. It probably took me 3-4 min to get in the water after the race officially started. I really underestimated the walk to the start (1 mile) and the waiting time at the port-a-potties, but especially the amount of people trying to get in the water at the same time.

In the days before the race, many people told me to make sure I gave myself 10-15 min to get in the water. I thought I had time, but obviously I was late. To make things worse, as soon as I hit the water I put my goggles on and started swimming. I should’ve taken an extra 5 seconds to use my natural defogger (saliva), as this turned out to be a major issue later on in the swim.  Toughest swim I’ve ever been part of. Physical, brutal, water churning, people everywhere. My goal was to get into a groove and find my rhythm… impossible. Kicks to the face (I got a kick on my jaw that made me lose sight for a couple of seconds), elbows to the head and body, and grabbing were constant throughout the entire swim. Breathing was also difficult due to the number of people… I kept getting swamped. I think people were expecting a tough swim, and we got it.

not as much during

In addition to the particular challenges of this swim, I had a few additional handicaps. Since I started late and quite far back, I had a barrier of people in front of me that I had to fight really hard to pass (swimming over them most of the time). I tried not to be that guy, but I had really no other option. As a result, I was using additional energy and I got cramps on my right calf and later on my left calf as I was trying to balance and propel my body with only my left leg (I ended up swimming the last mile without using my legs). Also, my goggles fogged after 500 yards, so I couldn’t see anything other than the person in front of me (barely).

Quitting was not an option, but my cramped legs made me wonder how I would complete the rest of the race. Finally I saw the “Swim Out” for the first time and gave everything I had until I welcomed a volunteer helping me exit the water.

Here were my swim results and splits (every 400 yards):


I put my goggles up, wetsuit down, and grabbed my bike bag before heading to the changing tent. I took a gel, put my socks, gloves, and helmet on, and ran to get my bike.


During this brief run, I told myself that my race started now. I knew I had a crappy swim, but Ironman is a long event and the bike and run are the most important legs. I knew I would have a good race as long as I paced myself and executed my nutrition plan well. I put my bike shoes on, grabbed my bike, and ran with it to the mount line. Ready for a 112 mile ride…


Biking is by far where I feel most confident, and my split helped me soar through the rankings after a poor swim. My goal was to ride conservatively to save my legs for the run. I know I am capable of riding at 22+ mph and still have a decent run, but this was my first IM and I wasn’t sure how my legs would feel after swimming and biking for almost 7 hours.

who knew people swim with brass knuckles??
As soon as I got on the bike, I looked at my watch and realized that the screen got smashed during the swim; I couldn’t see a single number! I would have to do the rest of the race without feedback. I know my body pretty well on the bike and knew I could pace myself based on RPE (rate of perceived exertion, or "feel"), but I wasn’t so sure about the run.

I took the first 5 miles to get comfortable and to eat and drink. I had my first Bonk Breaker and drank sports drink abundantly for the first 7-10 miles to restore what I lost during the swim and to be well hydrated. After that, it was race time.

I focused on not getting my heart rate too high based on RPE. One of the “benefits” of having a crappy swim if you are a decent biker is you can take advantage of the slingshot effect. We also had some tailwind on the way out, and I took full advantage. As a result, my avg. speed for the first 45 miles was over 22 mph without putting much effort and despite the rolling hills.

I was focused on the race, but still had time to enjoy the support from the locals, the signs they made, and the views of this incredible ride. Mile 20, time for my second Bonk Breaker. Mile 40, first gel and… I needed to pee!! At mile 30 I started thinking about it, at mile 40 I really wanted to stop, and by mile 50 it was almost a life necessity… but I didn’t stop. I was feeling strong and I didn’t want to stop. I started to rationalize that it was acceptable for triathletes to pee on themselves (never done it before).

I already saw a couple of guys letting it go as I passed them, and I remembered teammate David Wild’s race report (he did it twice!). I convinced myself to give it a try. I remembered a podcast where they explained how to do it: I slowed down, reduced my cadence, stood up, and… there you go! It was exhilarating, and the timing was perfect. I finished 400 yards before the mile 60 aid station, so I grabbed a bottle of water and poured it all over my bottom half. Voila! Clean again!

Miles 60 to 85 was the toughest and hilliest part of the ride. The wind also picked up (15 mph) and we were straight against it until the end of the bike. I kept riding conservatively, and made sure my HR didn’t spike when climbing. I probably changed gears more times during this race than in the past 2 years living in Miami! As soon as I got on the flat sections of the hills I got aero again to take advantage of the downhill free speed. I was amazed to see people coasting going downhill. It may be my combination of ex-mountain biker (not scared of going fast downhill and have decent bike handling skills) and being used to peddling non-stop for hours on flat Florida terrain.

From miles 85-105, the terrain flattened out a bit, although the wind was still a factor for most people. I am used to riding against 20+ mph winds, so it didn’t feel that strong for me. Probably due to the combination of wind and being late on the bike course, I saw many people drafting. It really irritated me. If drafting is allowed, great, but if it is not, you are cheating. I made sure to yell “ROADIES, NO DRAFTING!!” every time I passed a group of cyclists. There were not enough referees to stop the draft fest, but I saw at least three guys getting a penalty. It was a small victory for the non-cheaters. 

I pushed until mile 105, when the last hilly section started, then decided to take it easy. I didn’t want to burn my legs the last few miles of the ride. I took my last gel at mile 110 and pretty much coasted and relaxed my legs for the last 2 miles… the marathon was coming up!

Overall, I was very happy with my bike strategy. It was a fast bike split given the rolling terrain and I didn’t need to put much effort in. It felt short, I felt strong, I had executed my nutrition plan, and I felt ready to tackle the run. This is exactly how I wanted to feel after the bike.

Although I couldn’t use my watch, it was apparently still recording. Here is the data for my bike split (every 5 miles):



I gave my bike to a volunteer and ran to get my run bag. I sat down in the changing tent, took my bike stuff off and put my running socks and shoes, sunglasses and cap on, and got my race belt and gels.

I gave my bag to a volunteer and poured 4 cups of water all over my body. I was about to start the hardest part of the race… the marathon.

I trained to run an Ironman marathon at between 3:40 and 3:45. However, I set a conservative goal to make sure I didn’t burn myself in the first miles, which could lead to a walking fest. Also, I had never run more than 18 miles without stopping in my life, so I wasn’t sure how my legs would feel towards the end. Lastly, everybody warned me about the brutal heat and humidity of the IMTX run.

1st loop

I let the army of volunteers apply as much sunscreen as they wanted, and poured water on myself again at the first aid station.

The race then began, and I realized I was in trouble… I couldn’t use my watch to pace myself. During my brick training sessions, I always had issues going too fast after the bike, so I concentrated on running slow, very slow. I didn’t want to get into z3 or even z4 (heart rate) right out of the start. I approached a guy and asked him what his pace was, “8:00 min/mile” he said. A little faster than my goal, but I’d rather stay with him than not know my pace, I thought. We started chatting, turns out he studied in Spain and was happy to practice some Spanish with me. We hit mile 4 and it was time to take my first gel, which I washed down with water at an aid station. I then realized my friend wasn’t running with me anymore (I saw him way behind me later on), so there I was, alone again trying to figure out how fast/slow I should run.

happy times during the 1st loop... thumbs up!
The next two miles were nice, through some amazing neighborhoods (mansions everywhere), then I arrived to the Water Way for the first time. Up to that point, there were volunteers and crowds all around the run course, but this was something special. Narrow run path, music, people cheering, old people, young people, children, families from all nationalities you can imagine, drunk and sober people, etc. This is what every athlete needed, 2-3 miles with people everywhere cheering you on loudly. Honestly, I enjoyed it maybe a little too much. I was giving high fives to everybody, returning the energy to the crowd by smiling, raising my arms, and giving thumbs up to everybody that cheered me on. Towards the end, I found my wife with her friend Liz, both cheering me on like I was about to win the race. They couldn’t have chosen a better place, and it helped a lot during the 2nd and 3rd loop to know that I had to make it to see them.

When I was heading towards the point where you turn left to start another loop or right to go to the finish line, everybody started looking at me, saying things like “he's going to win!” I turned my head and there was Bevan Docherty. We ran together for a few yards until our ways separated (he went right, I went left). It was really cool being able to run with him for a few yards as he was getting ready to take the win!

2nd loop 

I was surprisingly feeling pretty good still. I took another gel at mile 9, then again at mile 14, where I also stopped to pee (this time I used a port-a-potty :)

Everything was going well… but after mile 16, soon after I ran past my wife and Liz, I entered a dark place. I stayed strong mentally, but had to dig deep. I kept telling myself things like “only 10 miles left, I can do it, focus on form, swing the arms, relax the shoulders, straighten the core, keep cadence high, land with your mid sole”, etc. Additionally, my right calf started to tighten up, and I started to worry about having to walk the last 10 miles. I decided to run from aid station to aid station, then walk the aid station while taking fluids and nutrition. I was still smiling to the crowd and giving thumbs up, but a lot less high fives as I felt I would fall over if somebody hit me hard!

starting to suffer... Katie realized and cheered me on even more
3rd loop

Total mental battle. Not only was I digging deep to keep running, but I also had already run the course 2 times, so I knew exactly what was ahead of me. My run/walk strategy was working though, and my calf was feeling better. I got to the Water Way, and knew I would make it and break 11 hours in my first Ironman. I made it to where my wife and Liz were spectating, and yelled at them “go to the finish line” and kept running. I approached the turn where Docherty turned right a couple of hours earlier and this time I also turned right. My legs didn’t hurt anymore.

I was alone. For the first time in the entire day I was alone. I ran for about 1/10 of a mile by myself, no other athlete near me, no crowd, no volunteers, nothing, nobody, just me. Many things went through my head. All the hours of training, all those days waking up before 5 am to go swimming, those long solo rides, all the runs under the Miami sun, all the effort, all the time I put into this race, my wife, my family, my friends, Spain, Miami, too many things to write down. I was happy.

I made another turn and there it was, the crowd again roaring for me, a complete stranger. They were happy for me and they were making sure they gave me all they had to help me cross that finish line. I certainly enjoyed the last few yards. I ran next to the people giving high fives to everybody that extended their hand and feeling their energy. I was approaching the finish line when Mike Reilly started saying a few facts about me, and as I was crossing the finish line, he said his famous: “DAVID, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!”

During the 1st loop, I was 30-40 sec faster than my target pace. As a result, towards the end of the loop and thru Water Way, my HR was above z2.
As you can see, I paid for it later on.

A volunteer threw a cold towel over my neck and gave me a bottle of water. I hugged him. Another volunteer took my timing chip off my ankle, and another one put a finisher’s medal on my neck. I was an Ironman!!! I saw my wife, ran to her, and gave her a big kiss and hug. We chatted briefly, enjoying the moment, and then she told me my time: 10:43:06!

I was very happy, not sure how to define exactly how I felt, but it was certainly something very special.

with our trophies: finisher medal and support crew cowbell

Post Race 

I got a massage, grabbed some cookies, fruit, and two chocolate milkshakes, then sat down with my wife and Liz to talk about the race and what they did all day. I really appreciate their time. Although triathlon is an amazing sport, it is not very spectator friendly. They spent almost 11 hours (not counting waking early and coming to the race before it started) switching around places to see me for a total of a couple minutes.

After I recovered a bit, we walked the mile to get my bike and transition bags, then back to the Ironman Village to drop off my bike at the TriBike Transport tent. It felt like a joke that I had to walk almost 2 miles after completing an Ironman…

We then went to grab something to eat (BURGER!!!) and then to the hotel, where I iced my legs for a good 45 min. I watched the last 30 minutes of the finish line live and went to bed soon after midnight. 
The next day we woke up early (I was less sore than I thought I would be thanks to the massage + ice!) to buy some finisher gear. We got there and they told us they had run out… people were waiting since 5 am apparently. Oh well, I’ll buy online. Since we couldn’t buy merchandise, we went to Rudy’s (my favorite BBQ place from when I lived in Austin).

After a copious meal, we headed back to The Woodlands to participate in the Volunteers Appreciation Banquet and to see the Kona slot allocation process. It was inspiring seeing people get so excited after qualifying for Kona.

Hopefully some day it will be me claiming one of those spots!

you gotta love Texas!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Self Examined Swimmer: Part I

You know the saying "there's no I in team"? Well there is an I in Fisher, but more importantly, there's also a "fish." Those credentials combined with rock solid abs and skills make Triple Threat team member Dave Fisher (Connecticut) the perfect fit to talk swimming for triathletes.


The Self Examined Swimmer Part I: The First Step is Admitting You (Don't) Have A Problem

Have you ever heard the term "adult onset swimmer"? The way it's worded I think it's supposed to imply that swimming is some sort of affliction brought on by age, and if you listen to most swimming adults complain about how 'lousy' they are, you'd be hard pressed to disagree. I imagine a room full of adults in swimwear sitting in a church assembly room somewhere solemnly standing up and saying something like this:

"Hi, my name is Dave, and I've been swimming lousy for 5 years."

"Hi, Dave," says the room full of swimmers.

"I joined Adult Onset Swimmer Anonymous, after I started swimming in triathlons. When I started swimming, I did it just to get to the bike, and could barely make it across a pool..."
I'll stop, because most of you could probably fill in the story from there. By my estimation, adults who swim regularly are either part of a masters group, a triathlete, or both, which I'll bucket as a master for purposes of delineation. Among triathletes, most say they swim 'lousy', with the definition of 'lousy' being anyone who believes they swim 'slowly', which is to say they don't swim as fast as the folks at the front in a given race. This is of course a poor interpretation of statistics - show me the 'slowest' Olympic runner and I'll show you a pretty speedy individual - but when we're talking about triathletes (which we are) then we're talking about people that don't settle for adequacy if they see room for improvement. If you're coming out in the back of the pack, then the prescription is simple...just swim more. Really. You'll get to the middle that way. Come back and finish this article after you've been swimming for a while. Still here? Ok, if you're regularly competing in triathlons, you're not slow, you're pretty darn fit, and you're among a very small group of people who use a pool for fitness. Be proud of that, and try to realize you're a swimmer, not just a triathlete who happens to swim. Let's leave behind the term 'lousy' , replace it with 'adequate', and get to defining 'good' and 'excellent'. Deep breath. Feel better? Now that you're a swimmer, let's talk....

Continue reading here!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Go Big or Go Home: What Ironman Should Do (IMHO)

Besides the occasional “jk” or “LOL”, I’m not a big acronym guy. That said, for the first time ever I feel like busting out a few IMHOs (in my humble opinion) today. Feelin kinda crazy.

In my last post I argued that the WTC (will just refer to as “Ironman” in this post) could make Ironman and Ironman 70.3 races work in a televised format, and that the supply of coverage is not meeting demand as triathlon becomes more and more on the general public’s radar.

From my perspective Ironman has two basic strategies:  1) stay small  or  2) go Big

The Case For Staying "Small"

The business of Ironman seems to be booming. Most races sell out months, if not a full year ahead of time, as people chase the thrill of adventure and accomplishment that such an event provides. Entry fees have steadily increased over time, in addition to the number of races worldwide, yet most races continue to sell out. With an entry fee of $675 (pretty standard) and pushing 3,000 participants, Ironman brings in up to ~$2M in entry fee revenue alone for each race. That’s excluding revenue from sponsors, merchandise, etc. Ironman 70.3 entry fees are ~$250, but far more prevalent in number around the globe.

At the same time, what expenses do they have? There’s overhead in terms of full-time employees, the corporate office, etc, but when it comes to race day, it’s relatively minimal. The army of volunteers (local residents and friends/family of competitors) do so out of the goodness of their heart. I know a lot goes in to putting on a race, but my assumption is that the vast majority of races are highly profitable.

Another relatively small expense is prize money. There are many Ironman races that pay a total prize purse of $25K. That’s $5K to the winner, down to $750 for 6th. There are many Ironman 70.3 races that pay a total prize purse of $15K, which is $3K for the winner down to $500 for 5th. IMHO, that’s embarrassing for races that rake in revenues in the millions.

However, why should Ironman pay more? Where else are the pros gonna go? Ironman is far and away the biggest, most prestigious brand of race series. In my years of racing, I’m yet to see a Rev3 tattoo on anyone’s calf! Also, Kona is the Big Kahuna, and in addition to any prize money, pros fight for points at IM races with hopes of earning a spot on the Kona starting line. In addition, I’ve heard that many sponsors pay bonuses for Ironman-branded races, but not necessarily others, due to greater prestige and exposure.

awesome race series and sweet logo... but never seen it inked

Competitors offering more prize money such as Rev3, Challenge, LifeTime (in 2007 Greg Bennett won $500K by sweeping the series), and others have come and gone, often scaling back or changing course in order to be financially viable. For example, just last month Rev3 announced that they will no longer be offering any pro prize money, shifting to a strategy of offering age group prize money. There are other high-paying, “1-off” races such as Abu Dhabi (~$200K total prize purse + travel/hotel expenses for pros) and Metaman in Indonesia, and Challenge recently announced a race in Bahrain ($500K total), but these are hardly a serious threat to the Ironman series and brand.

The only significant threat I see is the ITU circuit (shorter distance, Olympic style racing), which is more televised worldwide, including a recently announced deal with the Universal Sports Network (partially owned by NBC) in the US.

According to this press release, they’ve ramped up their prize money, making it significantly more lucrative than Ironman. The comment “remains one of the richest triathlon circuits worldwide” seems like a major understatement to me… who else is there??

ITU races often come down to the wire

Hopefully the ITU circuit will push Ironman forward in terms of coverage and prize money.

However, Ironman seems to have the power to stay the course, selling out races while keeping prize money low. If they do, it will continue to be extremely challenging to make it financially as a pro. We’ll see more and more new pros such as Clay Emge, who hold full-time jobs while being part-time pro triathletes. Clay won his age group at Kona last year, and just took 7th at Ironman Texas. Despite that stellar result, I’m guessing he makes more every day as an engineer than he did at IMTX.

The Case For Going Big

Despite having the brand name and power to stay the course, IMHO Ironman could and should take on higher risk for higher reward with a strategy of going Big.

First of all, they should follow the example of the ITU circuit and get more televised/streaming coverage. I believe Ironman has flirted in the past with the Universal Sports Network as well, and more of that would be a good starting point. But why not think bigger? Maybe I’m flat wrong about my assumptions on demand, but they should try to be aggressive. NBC has covered Kona for decades, would they pick up more races? Could coverage be made available on Netflix, Hulu, etc? How about more coverage on and/or a dedicated Ironman channel, similar to the Golf Channel? If done correctly, going big would increase the pie for the corporation and athletes alike, allowing more pros to thrive financially in the sport.

Secondly, Ironman should do more to market their stars. To be fair, there are some signs that they are heading in this direction. Last year at the US Pro Championships at IMSG, Craig Alexander wasn’t racing, yet was brought in to speak and host the pro panel. This year Rachel Joyce (2nd at Kona last year) led the IronKids in some warm-up exercises before their big race. Clearly Alexander and Joyce were compensated, which is great. From what I understand, from time to time other top pros are given appearance fees to compete.

The pre race “pro panels” themselves are very entertaining, and many of the pros I’ve seen and met come across as highly marketable. They have a good sense of humor, take shots at each other but in a fun way, and are very personable with age groupers. Rock stars. Sponsors and publications such as Triathlete magazine market the pros, and I feel Ironman could do more of this to make them bigger stars, promote rivalries, and get more public exposure. Along those same lines, Ironman could step up compensation (eg. travel costs, appearance fees, etc.) in exchange for more of the pros’ time before or after races.

In summary, between staying the course or going big, I say go Big or go home!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Are You Not Entertained?!?

Several months ago I wrote a 2-post series entitled “Show Them The Money!” regarding prize money in triathlon. It unexpectedly got a ton of hits, driven by people searching for “Kona prize money,” “Ironman prize money” and similar terms. Inquiring minds expecting to learn of a massive payday a la the crowning events of other individual sports were in for a surprise. The Ironman World Championships prize purse (shout out to GoPro as the current title sponsor) is $650K. Underwhelming, but still sounds pretty good, right? Don’t forget though that that money is spread out over the top 10 men and women, which gets real thin real quick. The winners get $120K, down to $10K for 10th. Anything below that gets a finisher’s medal and a congratulatory handshake. Back out any travel expenses not picked up by sponsors and it’s even less, if not a significant financial loss to compete.

triathlon on TV is a good thing

Just for fun, I investigated a few other events for comparison:

  • Total prize purse: ~$40M at current exchange rates
  • Winner:  ~$2.7M (with 32 players clearing $100K)
  • Say What?!  First round losers take home  ~$40K for their trouble

The Masters
  • Total prize purse: ~$9M
  • Winner: $1.6M  (with 24 players clearing $100K)
  • Say What?!  Unlike most golf tournaments, players missing the cut (eg. even the jackass! in last place after two rounds) received a payday just for showing up ($10K)

Indy 500
  • Total prize purse: ~$13M
  • Winner: $2.4M
  • Say What?!  Last place receives ~$250K

Ironman World Championships
  • Total prize purse: $0.65M
  • Winner: $0.12M
  • Say What?!  Only the top 10 get anything, despite the rigorous, season-long points system to qualify for the event

As I wrote about at the time, I’m not challenging these types of discrepancies as far as basic economic principles go. That’s like your alma mater’s cross country team complaining about perks received by the football team. Not all sports are equal in terms of public demand and willingness to pay.

What I am challenging is the notion that the demand for triathlon coverage isn’t there. Sure, Kona is on NBC every year, but is the WTC (which owns the Ironman brand) fully taking advantage of opportunities with other races?

For example, the pro field at the US 70.3 Championships was absolutely stacked. When later reading about the pro race I thought, “man I would’ve loved to see that play out!” You had former Olympic trials swimmer Andy Potts leading out of the water, some of the best cyclists in the sport in pursuit, and lots of back and forth on the bike and run. All this culminated with the top 3 men finishing within 30 sec of each other, led by an Olympic gold medalist in Jan Frodeno. The women’s race was also very exciting, with Meredith Kessler overcoming challenges on the bike to win by 36 sec, with 3rd only 2 minutes down. 

Many IM & IM 70.3 races are held in beautiful venues around the world. Combine race action with breathtaking scenery and condense it down to an hour… would that format not be highly entertaining, even for non-triathletes?

Oh, and by the way, Frodeno and Kessler took home a measly $15K for their efforts... first of all that's downright stingy on Ironman's part, but hopefully they can find a way to increase exposure of these events, sell some advertising space, and increase the pie for everyone.

More to come...

Monday, May 19, 2014

Triple Threat Profile: Emily Blakemore - Washington DC

Fittingly, our nation's capital has some solid representation on our national triathlon team. Emily Blakemore is actually a Washington state native who has lived in the DC area for several years now. She recently went back to school to study kinesiology (in my mind the perfect degree for a triathlete) and brings an awesome attitude and personality to the Triple Threat team.

What’s your background and how did you get into triathlon?

I ran my first race in December of 2009; a half marathon benefiting the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America. I dedicated my race to my 2 siblings who have Crohn's and had just an outstanding experience. I was immediately hooked. I signed up for more races in 2010 and my sister-in-law, Natalie, convinced me that I could do a sprint triathlon that year. I did, and it was kind of a mess, but I also LOVED IT. 2011 brought another triathlon, then in 2012 I joined a local triathlon team and got serious. Training was my life. I ran many road races with several PRs and completed 3 sprints, 2 olys and ended my tri season with a 70.3 joined by Natalie. An incredible year which I was so proud of.

I hate these group shots where u can't tell who is who
I know you battled some injuries last year… what were you dealing with and how has your recovery process been?

At the end of January of 2013, I was in the middle of training for a half marathon when I got the flu. It was nasty and knocked me out for a good 6 weeks. Stupidly, when I finally had my energy back, I jumped right back in to training where I left off and ran 12 miles. It was during that run that my knee started to hurt, and by the end of it, it was VERY painful. Again, stupidly, I still "ran" that half marathon in March, but only lasted 5 miles before I had to stop and walk. I walked the rest of the way, sometimes stopping dead in my tracks because my knee hurt so badly that I couldn't walk. I hated to quit, so I kept going. This was the worst thing I could have done. I was not being smart about my injury, because I had never really been injured before. I took some time off and tried to run intermittently, but it just wasn't getting better. 8 months later, I finally saw an orthopedist and got in to physical therapy. I was diagnosed with "runners knee". Physical therapy was helping, but after I got my first bill, I stopped going. Recovery has been slow, but I'm finally starting to see some improvement. I'm hoping to strengthen the muscles around my knee so I can stabilize it along with taping it and wearing a knee strap to allow me to run further and be able to run hills pain free.

How frustrating was that, following your triumphant experience at Rev3 Cedar Point the year before?

Completely and utterly frustrating and depressing! I had to eventually stop running altogether while I went to physical therapy. I still biked, but with no race to look forward to or train for, I completely lost my motivation. I turned in to a real lazy person, and lost all my fitness that I gained in 2012. Looking back, I should have found some aquabike races to participate in to keep my fitness level and spirits up. But I was just so shocked by the extent of my injury that I felt a bit lost.

You recently went back to school for something health/sports related, right? What and where are you studying, and what prompted you to make this change?

Yes! I just finished my first semester at George Mason University. I'm getting my Bachelor's in Kinesiology. Last summer when my parents were visiting, my dad and I had a conversation about running; him relating his experience in the military and running with over-sized boots, and me offering what I had learned from my year with my tri team. We discussed fitness in general and I was able to offer knowledge on aerobic and anaerobic workouts, heart rate zones, what your body does in order to fuel itself, etc. I realized that I am actually fascinated by this science and wished I knew more about it. LIGHTBULB! It's never too late to go learn about something that you're interested in. I first thought I would just go get some sort of certification, but eventually decided to go for the full monty.

When will you finish school and what are your post-grad plans with the new degree? Have you learned anything cool thus far that can be applied to triathlon?

I am still working full time, as I have bills and a mortgage to pay for. This means I'm only able to go to school part time, which will cause me to take a long time to finish. I'm guessing maybe 4 years from now, I'll have my degree (instead of 2 years). I'm honestly not sure what my post-grad plans are. I got back in to school not necessarily for a career change, but because I really wanted to learn. Of course I will want to do something with this degree, but as to what extent, only time will tell. I haven't gotten in to body mechanics quite yet in my studies, but one thing that I did take special note of this semester in my health class was the importance of sleep. Your body needs sleep to recover and heal. We all loosely know this, but a lot of people disregard how important getting a quality night's sleep really is. Sleep is just as important in your training as those brick workouts are. Consistent, quality sleep sets you up for your best performance, mentally and physically.

With all that you have going on, will you be able to squeeze some racing in this year?

Oh man.. Yes, PLEASE!!! I've run several 5ks and my knee has been alright. I'm currently slowly building up my miles, paying attention to my knee, and trying to avoid hills. I definitely want to sign up for a few sprints this year at least, and I have an end of season goal that I would love to meet.... not quite ready to reveal that yet, as I don't want to over-commit my abilities, but I'm itching to have a big race to train for again!

Rank the 3 disciplines from your personal strength to weakness… also, which do you enjoy the most & least?


I enjoy swimming the least. And I think it's mostly due to having to squeeze in to a speedo, painfully shoving my hair underneath the swim cap and making sure my goggles don't leak. Swimming is also the sport that I feel least confident in, as it's so hard to be aware of form and how to improve. I also get intimidated jumping in a pool to swim laps with all the other crazy-strong swimmers. I do always feel awesome after a swim workout, however... joints and bones never hurt.

I LOVE road biking! Natalie also introduced me to this love (before the thought of triathlon). I bought a road bike a week after she let me ride hers. I was instantly hooked. I love the speed, and especially love seeing how fast I can get going downhill. Fear of crashing doesn't really factor in. It is just pure joy speeding down the road and feeling the wind whip at your body. I recently purchased a new road bike after getting a professional bike fit (5 years after owning my bike) and being told I was riding too big of a bike. I'm anxious to become "one" with my new bike as I was with my old.

What are your future triathlon-related goals?

There is a full Ironman race in my bucket. I obviously have a long way to go to be able to train and complete that huge of a race, but it is there on the horizon. The Big Intimidator. I will eventually do it. Yes, I will. In the near future, I'd like to complete another Half and in the very near future, I'm anxious to get my fitness level back up, get my knee back to 100%, and get some more races under my belt!

What’s the triathlon scene like in DC? In what ways did your local club team help you get started?

The tri scene in DC is quite large, actually. There are several tri clubs in the area, and lots of active, athletic people. The tri club that I selected really took care of everything, and was exactly what I needed. They provided training plans geared toward my ability and what season goals I had, organized workouts every day, coaching at each workout, informational clinics, a team race calendar, lots of support & motivation, and TONS of cheering at each race. It was really great taking a lot of the mental fatigue out of training, as everything was already organized and figured out; all I had to do was show up for the workout. Definitely helped bring down the possibility of feeling overwhelmed by it all.

Anything else we should know about Emily?

I'm not a fast racer. I'll never hit a podium, and I will always be mostly a BOPer. But what I've figured out, especially dealing with this knee injury, is that it's a blessing just to be able to race at all. It's super fun and exciting to be fast and to get PRs. No doubt!! But I've really been able to step back and appreciate the race for itself. If I don't get a PR, it doesn't mean that my race was a failure and I should feel bad. I can be happy just to be participating! I have shifted my mindset to be grateful for the abilities my body DOES have and not focus on what I'm lacking, or all those other people who are faster, fitter, stronger, etc. I've really been able to see the bigger picture, and this is more motivating than I thought possible! I'm no longer discouraged by comparing my current abilities to what I used to be able to do and thus feeling defeated before I even get started. I'm motivated to get to the level that I can participate. I can then build my goals from there. And I can be proud of that achievement! The power of positive thinking is amazing, and it is key to keep going. Lastly, I'm super excited, humbled, and grateful to be a part of Triple Threat Triathlon!!