Friday, October 26, 2018

Kona Race Report 2018: Julia Slyer

Julia Slyer out of New York is simply amazing... check out her race report from the Ironman World Championships!

Kona 2018 was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in a triathlon. After a disappointing race and age group placement last year, I had a fire burning in my belly all season to punch my ticket to the big dance for the third time and get back out in the lava fields to show Madam Pele what I’ve got. I had a few setbacks early in the season, but clearly my training whipped me into shape once the summer got started. I had some spotty training in April and May as I was approaching graduation and, ahem, enjoying college life a bit as I had been so focused on training for all four years of school. I also had my first ever DNS at Rev3 Quassy 70.3, making the game time decision to pull myself due to bronchitis literally two minutes before the start.

Luckily, I ended up having a great race at Ironman Lake Placid in July, winning my age group and qualifying for Kona, as well as clocking the second fastest age group female bike split in some seriously challenging conditions (hello confidence boost!). After about two weeks of forced rest and recovery while volunteering in Cambodia (so hot, so humid, so much air pollution) I was ready to jump back into training and give the last block everything I had. I ended up getting in some amazing workouts in August and September, and I really feel I was in the best Ironman shape of my life when I got to the Big Island.

Swim – 1:10:32

I decided to line up a bit back from the front and further to the left this year to try to avoid the washing machine effect of 650+ uber-competitive women starting at once, and it seems to have helped me successfully avoid the thick of it. I only got swam over once, and even found some feet to hang onto on the way out. I started the swim feeling fantastic – a bit of a surprise considering that my swim training has been almost non-existent since IMLP (pools are the worst). However, about ¼ of the way through the swim I developed possibly the worst headache of my life. I figured it was probably from my swim cap or goggles, but having had some massive leaking issues with my goggles in all my practice swims, I didn’t want to take the chance of adjusting my goggles. I ended up pretty much leisurely swimming my way back, and was honestly expecting a much slower time. I was so happy just to get out of the water and take my goggles and cap off, and even happier to see it was still 2 minutes faster than my 2015 split!

T1 – 3:53

I rinsed under the cold showers for way longer than I normally would because the cool water felt so good on my head, and thankfully my headache went away. I grabbed my nutrition (2 gels and 3 packs of blocks) out of my bike bag, tried to get through the ridiculously crowded changing tent as fast as possible, and went down the wrong aisle to grab my bike. Cue about 5 seconds of panic when I thought someone else was out on course on my rocket bike until I spotted it.

Bike – 5:11:22 (28 minute PR!), 166 W, 21.7 mph

I was so happy to finally be out on my bike! One of my 2018 goals was to break 5:30 and I felt I had the fitness to do it on this course. I felt great immediately, although my boyfriend later informed me that I looked so slow while getting my shoes on at the very start that he thought I might actually fall over! Once I got going, I immediately started passing people. I had no idea how far back I was in my age group, but I knew I usually passed a ton of girls on the bike at Kona, so I was excited when I flew by about 10 girls in the first 15 miles or so. Turns out I’d exited the water in 28th (out of 36) in my age group, which is definitely the furthest back I’ve ever been.

I had planned to use my own liquid nutrition on the bike, alternating between Infinit and red Gatorade that I’d concentrated in my bottles, and mixed with aid station water in my aerobottle. About 30 miles in, I decided this was not going to work for the rest of the ride, as my bottles were so hot that they wouldn’t mix with the cold water. I chucked my Gatorade concentrate and went only with diluted orange Gatorade endurance for the rest of the ride, which my stomach handled much better than I expected.

I was keeping an eye on my power and heart rate, and even though my power was at the low end of the 162-172W range my coach had given me, my heart rate was pinned at 160bpm, and I felt like I was flying past the majorly drafting groups so I decided to keep taking it “easy.” I knew I hadn’t been passed by any girls in my age group, and only about 10 women passed me over the course of the entire bike. Every 10 miles I would look at my splits, realizing I was well over 20mph. Heading up to Hawi I felt great, but was mentally preparing myself for the headwind on the way back – which never came! Feeling fast but a little disappointed since my bike handling skills usually give me an advantage, I killed it on the descent.

*Drafting rant ahead.* I was then informed that a woman had been drafting on me nearly the entire first 70 miles, slow pedaling and never making a move to pass. After she was called out by the woman who informed me, she seems to have dropped back, but not after getting a 22mph pull for about 3.5 hours. Especially at this level of competition, it’s just ridiculous to blatantly cheat and take advantage of others. Do better, drafters. *End rant.*

I passed three more girls in my age group on the way back, and realized around mile 70 that I may break 5:20 for the bike split. After I passed an 18-24 girl around mile 85 and she tried to stay with me, I decided to drop the hammer the last 25 miles to put some time into her. I managed to increase my average power by 5W in a little over an hour, and felt great doing it. I was super excited by my time and I knew when I got off the bike that I was somewhere within the top 5 in my age group.

T2 – 3:09

It was nice to have an uncrowded changing tent, and the volunteers practically dressed me and got me out on Ali’i Dr. super fast. I took a gel to make up for my lack of eating on the bike and ran out smiling my head off ready for the marathon.

Run – 3:54:53, 8:53 min/mile

I started out strong on the run with 3 sub-8 minute miles, which was the pace I’d been training my long runs at, but I knew from my heart rate that I needed to slow up to avoid blowing up and losing my position. At this point my race became less about the time and more about running a smart marathon to ensure I ended up on the podium. I decided the best way to keep my heart rate down and stay cool was to walk the aid stations, so that became the game plan for the rest of the run.

After drinking Gatorade Endurance for most of the bike, I couldn’t even think about drinking it on the run as well. I stuck to water and Coke, taking some Base salt a few times, and dumping ice down my kit and water on my head to stay “cool.” I knew it wasn’t going to be my fastest marathon but I was still feeling pretty good until I got out onto the Queen K around mile 8 and started dry heaving every time I had liquids. Not the most fun way to spend a marathon.

Heading in to the Energy Lab my legs were feeling good still. I saw at the turn around that I was running in 4th, with one of the girls ahead of me walking, and 5th place fairly close behind me still running strong. At this point it became a game of not getting caught while realizing I still needed to run my own race and not blow up or mentally freak out. I managed to pass a girl who was walking for 3rd at mile 23, and just pushed as hard as I could to the finish without looking back. Turns out I beat her by 48 seconds!

Finish – 10:23:46, 3rd place F18-24, 24 min PR!

The finish line was amazing, and I remembered to celebrate as I crossed! I stopped my watch and then immediately felt my legs absorb the 140.6 miles and needed a volunteer to haul me over to the medal tent, where I found out I had placed 3rd! This is definitely my greatest athletic achievement so far, and the most fun I’ve ever had during a race. The conditions were great, my fitness showed, and I had the time of my life achieving my giant goal for the year. A huge thank you to my crazy supportive family and boyfriend, amazing coach and awesome sponsors for helping to make this year and this performance possible. Now to have some free time and do “dangerous” sports with my offseason!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Kona Race Report 2018: Cassie Whittington

We're always super proud when a teammate qualifies for and races on triathlon's biggest stage, the Ironman World Championships. Here's Cassie Whittington's (Ohio) Kona 2018 race report, which is an awesome read. Some races throw curveball after curveball at you, but Cassie never gave up (and still threw down a very solid time!).

Congrats to our friends Julia Slyer (New York) and David Wild (Hawaii) for their Big Island performances as well!

Kona 2018 was an adventure for me. I’ve been feeling down that I wasn’t able to have the day I wanted, but always thankful to be able to race on this stage against the best in the world.

Preparation for the race wasn’t the easiest. Six weeks out from the race I injured my left achilles and had to take some time off of all three sports as I couldn’t push off the wall swimming, put pressure on a bike pedal, or run without pain. After some time off, I finally felt great again, only to roll my ankle on a run two weeks out from the race. Both injuries made me step away from training for a bit, at a time where my training volume and intensity needed to be the highest. When I would train, I felt completely exhausted, my legs felt heavy, and I just couldn’t motivate myself to push hard. Despite these set-backs, I was looking forward to racing and seeing what extra rest would feel like on race day.

I felt calm coming into race day, as last year's experience allowed me to understand the course more, particularly how rough and aggressive the swim is, how windy the bike is, and how hot the run course is! Last year I ended up with hyponatremia after the race, so I wanted to perform some sweat testing while in Kona to help determine my sweat rate and sodium loss in Kona conditions so that I could better fuel on race day this year and avoid the medical tent. I first did a bike sweat test with Gatorade and discovered I needed 1,000mg sodium and 38 ounces of water each hour…totally replaceable on the bike where I can carry multiple bottles.

The next day I worked with Levelen and performed a more detailed bike and run sweat test. The bike test came back similar, with a loss of 1.4 L an hour and so to replace 75% of that I needed 36 ounces of water an hour and 1,006 mg sodium an hour. The crazy numbers came with the run, which weren’t that shocking because I’m well aware of my super high sweat rate running. Running I lost 2.2 L water an hour, so to replace 75% of that I needed 55 ounces an hour, not easy running. I, however, lost 2,660 mg of sodium an hour, more than most people need in an entire day. This was going to be much harder to replace while running and my current nutrition plan included taking in 1,700mg an hour. Making some electrolyte changes the day before the race was not the best idea, as I would find out later.

The swim went great this year. I think it is one of the hardest aspects of the race because of how aggressive it is and swimming is not my background or strength. Swimming in the ocean also makes me motion sick. I didn’t start right at the front like last year, but chose to start further back to avoid some contact. Well this didn’t help at all, as the cannon mass start just makes it so chaotic and you feel like you are in the middle of a washing machine of people all fighting to get ahead. I remained calm, was ready for the hour of punching and kicking and large gulps of salt water I would ingest, and even looked around a bit at the beauty of the course. I came out around 1:08 and was happy, as I knew I could make up time later on the bike and run and didn’t need to kill myself in the swim, just use it as a warmup.

Transition was super fast and I jumped on my bike and was glad to feel strong, as my last few weeks my quads felt very tired and sore. Around mile 10 I hit a big bump and something broke loose in the front of my bike and I lost both my water bottles. I stopped to check my front wheel and straighten it out, left the water bottles behind without worry as the first aid station I would replace them, and went on. Except the problem was still there, something on the front of my bike was off alignment or broken and rattling. I didn’t have many options but to ride on. When I stood on my pedals on uphills, the front wheel shifted so much it rubbed on the frame. Lesson learned quickly, I couldn’t stand on my pedals.

My sprained ankle also hurt when I stood on the pedals, making me a bit nervous that it would limit my running later. All this worrying about what was wrong with my bike slowed me down as I was trying to ride cautiously over any bumps, but I was still averaging 20 mph and got up the largest climb without standing up and was happy to have the fast return to town. Well what happened when I hit the bump was that I forced my tube to bulge out of my wheel and when I started flying down Hawi, the tire rubbed too much and too fast against the frame and popped the tire. I pulled over, pretty sad that my shot of a really great day was over, but I could still change the tire fast and have a good day. I changed the tube, threw on the CO2 cartridge to inflate it, and NOTHING! It wouldn’t work. So I sat there for 10 minutes until the race support van found me, feeling very defeated watching hundreds of people fly by on what should have been the fastest part of the course for me.

The mechanics tried the CO2 as well and said it must have been empty (what’s the chances?!?), grabbed their own pump and pumped the tire. Except the tube kept popping out of the wheel when we tried to inflate it fully. They took it back apart and tried to put the tube in correctly multiple times, and then the fifth time said it was good and they put it on my bike, and I went off. About a minute later, the bike started rattling like crazy and making noises. Now I was just praying the bike would stay together until I got to transition, still 60 miles away! At mile 80 the front skewer rattled completely open and the front wheel almost flew off, luckily I saw it happening and stopped again, tightening everything on the bike yet again and hoping for the best. I am use to being surrounded by other cyclists in racing, but I had fallen so far behind that I was on the road all alone.

It was a very lonely time, with lots going through my head. It is very hard to push your limits and race without others around you encouraging you to push a harder pace and keep with the group. I was still thinking I could end this race on a high note with a great marathon, which kept me from going to a dark place. I kept riding very conservatively, trying to avoid any bumps in the road, as any jolt made the bike make even more noise. The rattling of the front bottle cage alone almost drove me crazy! My back began to hurt, something I haven’t experienced before but was most likely due to absorbing the shock of the rough ride. I was SUPER thankful to make it to T2 without any more flats and my bike in one piece! When returning the bike later that night, I found out the tube popped out again. The mechanics thought I may have bent my wheel when I hit the first bump and knocked my headset loose as well, so every revolution of the wheel made the whole bike rattle.

I was never so happy to start a marathon in my life, with the intent of passing as many people as I could. The first 6 miles I knew I had my running legs that day and this was going to be fun. I was being super careful to keep up with my exact nutrition plan, but with the sweat testing I decided to add 2-3 extra Gu electrolyte tabs with extra water to bump up my intake closer to the 2,600mg sodium mark and 50 ounces an hour. Maybe it was this, or maybe my body just wasn’t having it that day, but at mile 6 my stomach started cramping and I needed to go to the bathroom. This was the first time in my 5 Ironman history (and 5 half-Ironmans) that I had ever stopped to go the bathroom.

I went and was confident I wouldn’t have to go again. Well that just wasn’t the case for me that day. From mile 10 on I stopped at every single bathroom on the course…my goal just being to run to the next mile marker and praying there was a porta-potty there and hoping I’d get there in time. I tried curing my stomach problems with coke, bananas, oranges, Gatorade, pretzels, ANYTHING they had along with my typical nutrition I carried. But whatever I put in my body came right out. At mile 22 I started puking the second I put a gel in my mouth. I was on the pitch black Queen K with absolutely no one around me wondering what the heck was going on! The good thing is that quitting was never a thought, my only thought was HOW LONG IS THIS RACE GOING TO TAKE ME?!?

Well, I got to the finish line with a time of 11:42. I tried to take it in and smile, and walked right by the medical tent thinking I was just fine. I went to get my finishers picture and almost passed out. I laid down on the ground, my whole body cramped up, my hands curled into balls and everything was tingling from head to toe. Medical put me into a wheel chair and took me to the med tent, where they drew labs and found out my sodium was low and my potassium was 2.1 The doctors exact words were “HOLY SHIT! This can’t be right! How many times did you get sick??” I guessed I puked or shit my brains out (sorry people) 8-10 times. They gave me anti-nausea meds, an oral potassium, then hooked me up to an IV but didn’t want to start it until they could confirm the labs a second time. Well the second draw showed my potassium even lower, under 2. So with 6 blankets on top of me, an IV pumping, one doctor asking me questions to make sure I was coherent, another doctor feeding me bananas and chicken broth, and a third med just trying to get me to relax my body, I finally felt good enough four hours later to sit up! So I got up and went to the midnight finish so I could see the truly amazing and motivating athletes of the day!

I had bigger goals for myself on race day than what I was able to achieve, but that wasn’t the day I was dealt. I still tried the best I could and am in no way mad at my effort, just extremely disappointed in the result and the fact that I didn’t get to truly compete. Some races just don’t go your way. Some races are simply about perseverance and overcoming difficulties. But as I said before, I am still thankful to be able to race in Kona with the best athletes in the world. AND I am MOST thankful for all the people who support me no matter what my race outcomes are.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Ironman Texas Race Report 2017

Congrats Gina Shand (Virginia) on a stellar Ironman Texas!! Here is her report.

Days leading up - crazy nervous on Friday. Felt nauseous and anxious all day. Wasn't really thinking about the race, not much going through my head, just anxious about what I couldn't control. I knew I had put the work in and really wanted a solid race, ideally a PR, but was okay with solid and no GI issues. Wanted to push, keep my head in the game and not self-negotiate.

Race Morning

Got up at 4am, ate a Clif bar and a banana. Got everything together and headed up to the race. Stomach and head were in better shape than I expected. I did not get as emotional as usual and was not dreading the swim like I had at Placid or Wisconsin. Stopped at transition, dropped off bottles, pumped tires, easy peasy. Decided to use the porta john at transition, figuring the lines would be shorter. Turned out to be a good call. Also, became the hero of the line when we noticed there were a few bathrooms that no one seemed to come out of. I jumped out of line when no one else wanted to check the doors and pulled on one of the doors to find a never been used portojohn. Winning! Line felt I earned the right to use it! Helped everyone out to get the line moving faster. Good race karma.
Munched on some Glukos chews and water on the way to the swim. Nerves were under control. Got to swim, dropped our bags and weaved our way up to the front of the swim pack. The time signs were gone, so we just kept moving forward until we found some space. Turned out to be a good spot because we were in the water within a minute with not a lot of drama.

Swim 1:17:47 - Got my swim title back!

Once in the water, really only took one hit to the face. I'll take it. Felt steady and strong. Not all that fast, but solid. I felt the chafing on my neck almost immediately. My left calf started to cramp as I was headed into the canal. Was able to manage it by flexing my foot off and on. The canal seemed to take a long time and I was getting passed a lot. I knew I wasn't flying but kept moving forward. As soon as I got out of the water I heard Coach's voice asking how do you feel and his hand on my back. Looked at my watch and said, slow I guess. I assumed that my Dave was ahead of me but didn't want to ask. Decided to shake it off and head to the change tent. Nothing I could do to change the swim time but now needed to find 10 minutes on the bike and run.

T1 6:04

Found my bag and the change tent was not busy. Volunteer was great as usual, got changed pretty quickly. Used the bathroom, stopped for sunscreen and confirmed, my neck was in fact chaffed. Ouch. On the run through transition to grab my bike, I saw Frances. Great to see her there! She said that she had not seen Dave. I thought for sure she had just missed him. Grabbed Armando and headed out. I should have used the shower caps to cover my cleats. Ended up with more mud than I needed in them.

Bike 6:05:54

Hopped on and got ready to settle in. Was looking for Dave on the out and back, assuming he was in front of me. Was shocked (but a little giddy) to see him after I hit the turn around. After about 30 minutes, my power meter started reading low so I decided to focus on cadence and not worry about it. Started taking in my Infinit on schedule every 15 minutes. After the rough section before the highway I thought I heard something rubbing my front wheel, made a quick stop to make sure it was all good and got some of the mud out of my cleats because my left foot didn't want to stay clipped in. I really had to use the bathroom coming up on mile 30 but didn't want to stop until I saw Dave. Fortunately he caught up to me right before the aid station so I was able to say hi and then stop. Easy stop and headed back out. At two hours my power meter went out altogether. Didn't faze me too much since it wasn't reading right anyway. I decided to keep my HR down and ride one gear easier than I wanted to. Just wanted to ride strong, keeping an eye on the time to keep me about where my BBS had projected. I was expecting more of a headwind at the turn around and was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't that bad. Stopped again at mile 50 to pee ahead of special needs since there wasn't a line at the bathroom.

Got to see Dave again after he turned. Coming up on the turn around, sky was reallllly dark and there was a definite drop in temperature. Stopped at special needs, got my new bottle, some sunscreen and chamois butter. I was rolling on this 20 mile section and knew I would pay for it at the turn around. Kept in aero, rode strong, didn't have any issues with drafting or crowding. Even though the course itself was a bit boring, I entertained myself by watching for Dave coming back the other way. I saw him about 2 miles before the turn around and asked him how bad the wind was but he was gone before he could answer. After the turn, the wind was worse than I thought it was going to be 12/13 mph. I made sure to just spin through it and remind myself that I still had to run a marathon. Got caught by a big group that sucked me in about mile 90. Quickly did what I could to get out of that. Didn't want any part of it. Stopped to pee a third time at the final tollroad turn around. My four stops only cost me 5 minutes, but that is still 5 minutes. Gotta learn to pee on the bike. Went back and forth with a few people on the way back in, but was very happy to see the course was a bit short. I was ready to get off the bike, but not desperate to do so. Stomach was a little upset, but nowhere near as bad as it had been before. I took in all the calories I brought, but did not take in all the sodium.

T2 5:45

Dropped Armando off, ran down the sidewalk, made a quick stop to take off my bike shoes since I knew it was a bit of a jog back to the change tent. Was great to see Coach and smiled because I was feeling good. I actually wanted to run through transition cause I could. Volunteer had my bag, grabbed and changed. Great change tent volunteer. She was a bit thrown when she asked if I needed vaseline and I said yes and raised my arms. I knew they were chaffed but I couldn't see it. She said, oh, you want me to put in on? No one has asked me to do that. Ooops. At least it was my arms. Changed shorts, shoes, knee compression, more sunscreen. Out on the run. I was feeling good. No pepto needed!

Run 4:40:37

Came out, ran into Coach. Totally should have walked and chatted. Looking back I feel bad for making him jog with me. I was supposed to slow down anyway. Felt good to have someone to tell that I was feeling good! Words of encouragement are always uplifting and a good reminder to slow down. On that first mile I had to keep telling myself to slow down. Opted not to take anything in on the first water stop since my stomach was feeling good and I wanted to keep it that way. Made one portojohn stop at the park, but that was my only stop on the run. Was watching my HR and kept it under 150, pace was comfortable, walked briefly at every other water stop for the first loop. Took water and ice at each stop, put ice in the bra to snack on, took chews at every third stop. Mile 7, legs were beginning to hint at cramping, so I took some base salt. It was amazing to run and not feel like I was going to vomit. Got a boost when I saw Frances from the finish line as I was starting loop 2.The little things. I was looking forward to seeing Coach at loop 2 to tell him I hadn’t walked yet outside a water stop. Didn't see him, but probably for the best cause now I needed to make another loop to tell him the next time I saw him. Was getting tired, told myself no walking until 13. Made it to 13, told myself, make the second loop. Thought I might see Dave as he was finishing his third loop and I was finishing my second, but I didn't see him. Got to see Frances again. On my third loop it was crazy that I was the only one running. It kept me moving. Nice and steady. At mile 19 I was really tired and all of a sudden I was walking. I knew I could PR as long as the wheels didn't come off. I was doing the math in my head and I think that it was allowed me to walk a bit. I pulled it back together and kept going. Met a couple people who were on their third loop and we would go back and forth a bit. I couldn't believe my stomach was still cooperating. I took in about 70 calories every 30 minutes or so. My stomach was cooperating and my energy level did not feel like it was going down. Added some coke over the last few aide stations. No consistent salt, but felt like I got enough in because I didn't wipe out at the finish line when I raised my arms.

Total race time: 12:16:07

I am over the moon with this race and this time. I am most proud of how I kept it together all day. I never had the "this sport is BS" moment. Don't get me wrong, there were moments that were not great, but I kept my focus and plan together. It was really one step at a time. I knew I put the work in and trusted that I could go after what I wanted to accomplish. My leg was bothering me all day but because I had pushed it in training I knew the difference between just enough and too much that it is going to go out. It was pretty cool to rely on myself.

Overall, I really enjoyed Ironman Texas. The headwind on the bike was worth the lower temperatures on the run for sure. Now I have to get my leg healthy and figure out what is next for the rest of the season!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Boston Marathon Race Report: Daniel Mikula

Daniel Mikula (Pennsylvania) is fast, a father of 5, and the newest addition to the Triple Threat Triathlon national team. Here is his report from the most famous marathon in the world.

At the risk of losing readers I will do my best to summarize the year leading up to my first (yes I plan to make it to Hopkinton again) Boston Marathon. While I will never admit there is any truth to this, I have been told that I am not as young as I once was. Clearly, my body started to listen to all of this drivel and I took advantage of the two for one special they were running at Hershey Orthopedic…sort of like Wal Mart but the special was on surgeries. They cleaned up a torn labrum in my left hip and did some work on the meniscus on the same leg. Needless to say, there was a long road ahead of me before I could toe the line in Hopkinton.

Fast forward through months of PT and a slow return to training and I found myself just a few short months from Patriots Day finally putting together some solid longer runs, never feeling quite 100% but certainly optimistic that I was on the right track. Then It snowed! One of my favorite things to do is run in the snow, a survival skill I developed growing up in Michigan and that I tap into from time to time living in Central PA. Once again, what I like isn’t necessarily what my body likes and I wound up with a deep calf strain, sidelined by my Physical Therapist for three weeks. Not what I needed to hear as I kept turning pages on my calendar. Back to training and I was doing great…until two weeks before the race when I tweaked the same knee that I had fixed a year earlier. I promptly sought my surgeon’s advice and was promptly told not to run Boston…yeah….right! I spent the last two weeks prepping for Boston running in a pool and on the elliptical, doing anything I could to maintain fitness without aggravating the knee. I know what you are thinking…where is the race report? Well, now that you know that I was feeling undertrained, let me tell you about the good stuff…Race weekend!

I was feeling better and we made the 7 hour drive to Boston the Friday before the race. My family and I (all 7 of us) checked in to the Hyatt Cambridge (great place to stay…they really take care of their guests) and we made plans to head to the expo Saturday morning so that I could get my bib number and we could spend the rest of the day doing the Boston thing with the kids. The Hotel shuttle was able to get us about a half mile from the convention center and we made our way there. You can probably imagine my surprise when we found a line that would take us well over an hour just to get into the building, so we could stand in the line that snaked around the building…for another hour. Not sure what happened there, but the word on the streets was that this had never been the case. I was finally able to get my bib and gear check bags, but the natives were restless…and for good reason…so we headed back to the hotel. The day was pretty well shot, but we salvaged what we could by hitting the hotel pool on the top floor overlooking Boston. We ordered in and had some delicious pasta while hanging out in the hotel, not having enough energy to venture out into the city after line standing all day.

Sunday was Easter and we were able to celebrate Mass at St. Paul’s in Harvard Square before catching a beautiful Easter brunch back at the hotel. Huge spread, but I was good and ate sparingly, not wanting to risk GI issues the next day. Have you ever had a huge spread of fresh seafood calling your name but knowing you are not going to go there? NOT FUN! The remainder of the day was spent lounging about, trying to stay off my feet as much as I could. Unfortunately, that left my Beautiful wife to handle logistics for 5 kids. Have I told you how much I love you Margaret?! The crew went for a walk along the St Charles River and hit the pool again. Can you tell I feel guilty that I wasn’t confident enough to take them sight seeing? It will be different next time! I spent the evening obsessing about what I needed in my gear check bags and had everything laid out the night before.

5:13…time to roll. Needless to say, it was a restless night. I am pretty sure I ran the race 5 times over throughout the night, but I woke up feeling pretty good all told. The weather was beautiful and there was no need to wear the parka I picked up at the local goodwill store. Our Hotel provided a tour bus to the Boston Commons where we would board school busses to take us out to Hopkinton. Shared a seat with a great guy from Quebec and I am grateful for that as the ride out just seemed to go on forever. I remember at various times thinking to myself that we were driving pretty far and that I was amazed that people would choose to run that far…and then I realized I was one of them. I had to chuckle as we got off the expressway because the State Police was stopping all traffic except for us. At first I felt like we were honored guests heading to the dais but then recalled a scene from one of my favorite films…”Dead Man Walking.” Now I know how the bank robbers from the old west felt as they were being led down the dusty streets to the gallows!

We finally arrived at the High School where the staging areas were set up. The B.A.A did an amazing job organizing things and everything was great. As expected, the port-o-john lines were ridiculous, but I heeded some advice I had read and waited until we were being staged towards the actual start line. There is a whole other bank of toilets on the way and the lines were much more manageable. Took care of what needed to be taken care of and it was time to get into my corral. After walking a couple of blocks, I found myself nestled in with my partners in crime and we anxiously awaited our turn. I am pretty sure I heard some mooing and the nervous stomping of hooves before the gates were opened until it started as a shuffle and then we moved in unison as one organism into a slow jog, and then it happened…I was running the Boston Marathon.

I am not one to be glued to my watch, but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t overcooking it for the first few miles as runners apparently have a tendency to do that with the perfect storm of excitement and the slight downhill run. I was slightly up on my pace so I dialed it back a tad and found myself running the race I wanted to run. I felt great and found myself amongst a pack that was holding a similar pace so I settled in and just enjoyed the moment. Mile 10 came and that is when the combination of recent injuries and slight undertraining coupled with the hot sun started to make themselves known. Nothing too bad yet, just an inclination that this was not going to be a PR day. I wasn’t prepared to give up the ship yet so I did my thing and stayed on pace. At this point, I felt like I still needed to give myself a chance at my goal time. I maintained my race plan for another 5 miles or so and then realized that I needed to be smart about what I was doing. Runners were literally dropping from the field and I saw some pretty ugly stuff out there as the heat was getting the best of folks. I made the decision (well my body had a big part in this too) to adjust the race plan and I shifted into survival mode. I walked a fair number of the fluid stations, making sure I was hydrated so that I could make it across that line in Boston. I am a known to be a pretty heavy sweater and I knew I was working to take in as much as I was putting out. The weather had moved into the upper 70’s. I am not sure if it made 80’s, but it felt like we were running on the surface of the sun out there.

The rest of the miles were a battle of attrition but I kept the train moving forward and found myself on the streets of Boston with only one quad pounding downhill leading into the final stretch left to run. I summoned all of the courage I had and allowed the amazing energy of the Boston faithful to help me bring it home. I had decided that I would run the middle of the famous blue lines which indicate the last mile of the race and I had some room around me, so I followed that line. I have had some amazing experiences in my life…My wedding (love you babe)…the birth of each of our 5 children (love all of you guys)…my first Ironman finish…but Boston is now in the mix. I have to admit that I was feeling pretty emotional when I crossed that line. I didn’t shed a tear, likely because I had no fluids that my body was willing to sacrifice, but I did take a moment to just soak it all in…and it was good!!!!

The rest was making my way back to the hotel to meet up with the crew, being greeted there by the staff of the Hyatt, and my family cheering as I entered the lobby of the hotel. Pretty good stuff if you ask me. After making our way up to our room, I laid on the bed as my kids unshoed me and placed a big bag of ice on my feet. Man did that feel good! A half hour later, I was up in the pool playing with the kids trying to keep the legs moving so that they didn’t lock up on me. My wife and I went down to the bar for a nice celebratory cocktail and we spent the rest of the night at the post party at Fenway. Not much there for the kids, so that didn’t last too long. We hit the rack early and we were waving goodbye to Boston after having breakfast in Harvard Square. That’s it….until next time!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Ironman 70.3 World Championship Race Report

We're super proud of Cassie Whittington (Ohio) for qualifying for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships and making the journey Down Under for this prestigious race.

In her own words, this was an amazing trip and race experience that she will never forget!

Before qualifying for the World’s at Eagleman 70.3, I signed up for the first ever Ironman branded race in Ohio. I was super excited to get to race in front of my friends and family. The only problem was Ohio was just two weeks before the World Championships. While this was enough time to recover properly, the two races, with the extra travel time required for Australia, wasn’t ideal for me.

I was just getting use to my new Argon 18 bike when I found out I had to ship it to Australia three weeks before the race, which meant before the Ohio race took place. The Thursday before Ohio I jumped on my older bike I hadn’t been riding, and something about the position change caused my ankle to tweak a little. Luckily I had two days before the race was taking place, so I rested the ankle and hoped for the best. On race day, my ankle felt fine during the swim and only hurt slightly during the bike, and luckily was okay for the run. I ended up having an amazing race, finally breaking 5 hours with a time of 4:56. This was enough to qualify me for World’s next year, a good feeling to have going into the race this year!

A few days after the Ohio race, my ankle started to feel worse. I decided to avoid running and had three massages on the ankle, hoping it would help. I had to fly out on Tuesday for Australia, and on that morning I couldn’t even place weight on my ankle (start the FREAK out!!). I PAINFULLY made it to Australia, with the 24 hours of travel to get there only making things worse as I hobbled through the airports. The 14 hour trip from Los Angeles to Brisbane was painfully long, both in duration and the fact that my ankle was throbbing most of the way. My ankle was swollen, it was definitely impinged, and I could barely walk to the expo to Athlete check-in. I’m sure my competitors were wondering what I was doing limping through the line. I checked in, grabbed my bike from TriTransport (had a quick panic attack, the brakes rattled loose on the flight and weren’t working but the bike mechanics fixed them), and went to my perfectly located apartment RIGHT across the street from the race start to take a quick nap and try to adjust to the 15 hour time change forward. I began doing banded distraction of the ankle…which I continued for the next three days along with plenty of self-massage with a lacrosse ball. This gave me temporary relief, enough to feel a little more confident that I didn’t fly all the way to Australia only to be unable to race.

Since running and biking were out of the question, I attempted an ocean swim. Mooloolaba was simply beautiful with the sun shining and athletes everywhere. The weather felt perfect except for the wind was horrible! It was so bad that the surf club advised that nobody go out into the water! Well, athletes were still swimming so I thought I would try since I would be in a wetsuit. There were big swells and crashing waves (this isn’t Ohio!), so after getting killed by waves, swallowing a ton of salt water and swimming nowhere, I quit after 10 minutes and a messily 200 yards….the only part of the race I was calm about now was scaring me! Being tossed and tumbled made me motion sick, which would show up again race day. I tried to remain positive and smile through all of these obstacles, because it’s insane to complain and be negative when you are at the WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS IN AUSTRALIA! There were athletes from 83 different countries, and I was simply in awe of the magnitude of this race. I enjoyed the parade of nations and the welcome dinner, making friends from all over the world. It was now time to chill and hope for the best race morning…I had so many people sending well wishes that I couldn’t help but be excited and grateful for all the love and support I had, no matter what happened race day.

Race morning was gorgeous!! The wind was much calmer, making EVERYONE breath a huge sigh of relief. My ankle was still impinged, but wasn’t extremely painful like the days prior. I was hopeful and figured no matter what, I was finishing this race! The only positive about the injury was that it allowed me to stay relaxed since my expectation for the race was now only to finish without permanent damage to myself.

I set up my transition and headed down to the start to watch the pros go off, as my wave was the last one so I had a few hours to spare. I’ve yet to figure out why they have our age group go last, as it means we have to pass many slower age groups, but I’m not sure my complaining will get anything done. I stood by many of the pros as they got ready to race, feeling lucky to be able to race alongside such amazing athletes.

The ocean swim had me a little nervous since I’d never raced in the ocean, but it did not start on the beach but instead was a deep water start and I was very thankful for that. Our age group was huge and it was a very chaotic swim with bodies everywhere, I never found clear space and was being hit the whole time. The chaos did help me forget about the ankle for the time being! The rocky-ness of the swim plus swallowing salt water made me a little motion sick, so I swam the whole race breathing every stroke so that I could focus on the sky, which seemed to help. If I took multiple strokes before breathing, something about looking down made me nauseas. I was thankful when the swim was over, yet nervous to run on the ankle to transition for the first time. Swim time was 30:51, not a bad start to the day but not as fast as I had hoped for.

Transition was narrow and LONG, a half mile long to be exact – it took up five blocks of street. Most of that had to be run in my cycling shoes, so I was extremely cautious jogging to my bike with my ankle and was actually shoved to the side by numerous competitors. Definitely my first experience with full on contact in transition! It was a reminder of how serious this race was.

Jumping on the bike is where the fun began. The ankle felt weird from the get-go, so I had to be cautious putting too much pressure on the right pedal. I typically mash the pedals and ride at a very low cadence, but with the ankle I had to pedal lightly and fast. I had a large group of girls in my age group around me, so that was fun as we all kept trying to get ahead. We were going fast for the first 30 miles on a straight highway averaging over 23 mph and I was feeling great since my legs were very well rested. But I knew what was ahead, so I tried to keep myself in check.

At mile 33-ish came a very steep close to 20% grade hill, a grade I certainly have never ridden or seen in my life. I couldn’t believe how many people were walking their bikes up the hills. There was no way I was going to do that, so I weaved through the carnage and got to the top, afraid to death to stand on my pedals because of the ankle, so I tried to do the climbs seated most of the way. I thought climbing was an absolute blast, but the descend was scary! I never had a chance to ride or drive the course before hand, so I didn’t know how the descends were or where the sharp 90 degree curves were, so I had to slow down quite a bit to feel safe. I also didn’t have the handling skills on my new Argon since it’s relatively new and I haven’t ridden it much yet. I lost a lot of ground riding my brakes down the hills, as many flew by me, but I was okay with that. Coming into the last 10 miles, I had a few girls blatantly drafting off of me, which was annoying. I went about my own race without worrying about it. My bike split was 2:42.

Starting out on the run, I felt great. I always try to avoid looking at my watch during my run and just go on feel. I actually do the whole race that way, only looking at time to fuel and never wearing a heart rate strap or using a power meter to gage intensity or looking at my speed splits. For some reason I glanced down at the 3 mile marker and was excited to see 20 minutes…I started to feel good about things! THEN the hill at mile 6 is when my ankle got impinged again and I would get sharp pain on landing. I walked it out for a minute and then managed to run on the outside of my foot to avoid the pain, which was awkward and slowed me down.

I was having an interesting conversation with myself at this point, but certainly wasn’t going to stop. By mile 9 it felt loosened up again and the pain lessened. I began staring at the ground, never looking at the crowd (I wish I did because they were amazing!), and just counting every single step to distract my mind away from the ankle pain. I found a nice pace that felt okay with the ankle, but then by mile 11 I started to cramp in my right hamstring. 

 This has happened before with my left hamstring, but never the right leg…which I attribute to the awkward running gate I had to do because of the ankle. I did walk it out a little, and at this time I looked around at the amazing crowd support along the whole finishing chute. It was so cool, and felt like the crazy fans you see at the Tour.

I began seeing people in my age group passing me, but I knew I just couldn’t do anything about it because my body wasn’t cooperating and I was doing the best I could. I grinded it out and found that finish line! Finishing time was 5:06, enough to place 31st in my age group. Races like this teach you a lot about yourself and I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to race!

I am so thankful for all the love and support I received from my friends and family and work family at Goodbodies. Having everyone behind me got me through the toughest race I’ve had. Thank you to Triple Threat Triathlon for the support and Argon 18 for the FAST bike.

Monday, October 17, 2016


B.J. Christenson is a local legend in my state, a 9x Kona Qualifier who has won more races than you can shake a stick at.

After this year's Ironman World Championships???

Let's just say the legend has grown...

Paul Bunyan territory.

Kick back and enjoy this read... hopefully it inspires you to do something epic yourself, in any aspect of life!

The Ironman World Championships in Kona, HI was supposed to be my “A” race in 2016. In fact I hardly raced this year trying to put together a race at the world championships that would finally let me step on to the podium and collect a coveted Umeke. On my final training ride the day before I left for the Big Island I decided to go do some testing to verify the machine was ready to perform. I have a route that I have taken over the past 10 years and have numbers telling me where I am at relative to myself and wanted that last bit of confirmation I was ready. I set out on the ride feeling quite good and after my first 2 intervals I was feeling very optimistic about my fitness. I had 4 intervals left and debated on whether to eat some nutrition before I started my 3rd or after. I decided it would be better to eat after the 2nd and then again after the 4th. Well I took my gel after the 2nd and proceeded to put the wrapper in my back jersey pocket. As I did this I began to veer off the road and when I got back to my handlebars I realized I was getting dangerously close to riding off the road. My anxiety was at full alert as I tried to save it but at the last second my front wheel slipped off the edge of the road and down I went. As a result of the crash I landed on my side and shoulder blade. I felt a deep sharp pain in my back as it happened and thought I may have torn a muscle. I sat on the ground for a minute or two digesting what had just happened and as it sank in I knew I was pretty hurt. A kind man picked me up off the ground and took me to the instacare and with each passing minute I knew I would not be OK to race or at least race the way I had intended.

As a result of the crash I fractured my Scapula for the 3rd time. Albeit the left one this time but nonetheless I was broken and the race was happening in 9 days. After confirming the break I had to decide if I would even go to Hawaii. I decided I would go because after all the freight had been paid and let’s be honest Hawaii with a broken wing is still a great place to be. I called my friend Mike Mamales and Arwa Jundi over to help me pack. Because I had fractured this bone before and that surgery would not be needed I knew that in 9 days it could be possible, albeit slow and painful, to finish before the 17 hour cut off. The Doctor was kind enough to call in a larger prescription so that I would have enough pain medication if I needed it. I knew I couldn’t take my super-fast Dimond race bike out of fear of stabilizing in the hard winds in Kona. I took my old bike with shallow rims and hoped it would be enough. I still didn’t know about racing but thought I would come prepared if I felt it was possible.

The trip over wasn’t too bad at least not when you are taking some good meds and I arrived in Kona with my gear and an attitude of I still have 2 good legs and one good arm. Some people have a hell of a lot less than that and besides I am still in HI. My friend Bob Macrae from the Dimond club picked me up and had to take me under his wing a little while I mended. He was looking fit and focused and also ready to smash the day. I spent a few days doing very little and decided to see if I could swim with one arm fast enough to make the cut off. We went to the swim venue and low and behold when the weight of the arm was supported by the salt water of the ocean it didn’t hurt as much. I couldn’t use it but at least it didn’t hurt. I swam .5 of a mile with one arm and after looking at my watch I knew that as long as I didn’t get hit in the shoulder or grabbed by another swimmer I would be able to complete the swim in time.

After another rest day the next test was to see if I could ride and stabilize the bike in the wind. So Bob escorted me through town as I was scared to death of falling again and I did a 30 mile ride on the Queen K and felt confident I could complete the bike portion. I knew that in order for me to make it I would have to stop at each aid station to drink and eat because doing it on the bike was not going to work. I started to feel more optimistic that it would be possible. I hadn’t ran yet because moving and bouncing my arm caused the most pain.

The Thursday before the race in Kona there is an annual tradition known as the Underpants Run. This is a great way for athletes and family and friends to blow off steam and run around town in their undies of course. This was the only run I did for the race and it hurt like hell. I started to think walking the marathon might be my only option, peppered in with some bouts of jogging. If something was going to keep me from finishing this was probably going to be it.

Race day came and it was time to see just how far this one arm bandit could go. I decided I would start in the back of the swimmers and wrap my arm to my waist with saran wrap out of fear of having it grabbed by another swimmer. My friends Mike and Dan wrapped me up and I headed into the ocean. My strategy was to stay consistent and not panic and take my time and be safe. This was a new adventure and I was going to see the race from a new perspective. One of the coolest things about being hurt was that I no longer felt pressure to perform and was able to relax and really soak up the experience of bobbing around in the pacific waiting for the cannon to fire. Usually I am on the front row wrestling with other men for the perfect start and running through my head how I would attack the day. This time I relaxed and waited and watched the sea turn white without much anxiety other than stay clear and try not to let the women who would start 15 minutes later kill me when they caught me. I let the fish swim away and started my 2.4 mile pacific tour with one arm and one mindset. The mindset was that this was going to be one very long day but I would do my very best to see it through.

I finished the swim in 1 hour and 40 some odd minutes so I was happy to have some time in the bank. I walked into transition calm and collected and rinsed the salt water off of me. I changed into cycling shorts and a jersey because I knew that if I was going to take my time I was going to be comfortable. I walked to my bike and laughed because it was the only one left on my rack. I walked to the mount line and saddled up. The one part of the entire bike I was most afraid of was in the 2nd mile. You do a small loop in town and part of that loop is a steep descent down Palani with a sharp left hand turn. I was able to rest my broken arm on the left bull horn and do the steering and most of the braking with my right. I descended cautiously and made it safely around the corner. Once that was over I felt some relief other than I still had 110 miles to go and the sun was out for blood. My plan of riding and stopping worked great even though I think some people were wondering why I kept stopping only to repass them again later. I saw some of the same bikes dozens of times throughout the day. One thing I began to appreciate even more than ever was the volunteer force at these races. Being in the back you get to see the carnage from all the racers who went through the aid stations as if a tornado had gone through. I mean every aid station had water bottles and garbage spread for at least a half a mile and there were thousands of bottles. The other thing I noticed is that the people in the back often get the raw end of the deal.

Towards the end of the bike aid stations had run out of water and reinforcements were not there yet. They did have Gatorade but I started to feel bad for the times I would take a bottle just to rinse off or cool down when I was at the front end of the race. You think the race organizers should have enough but when they run out before more can get there people suffer for it. In the future I will try to remember that. God bless the volunteers they put up with a lot and because of that we as athletes get to do what we love. I think I will try to volunteer more often and would love to see it as a prerequisite to racing. I took a pain pill about 8 miles before finishing the bike knowing I might need to take the edge off a little for the run.

I finished the bike in 6 hours and who knows how many minutes, I honestly haven’t looked, I just knew I was well ahead of the cut off and that if I needed to walk the marathon I had a fair amount of time in the bank to do it. I got off my bike and walked to transition not feeling the best but hoped a change of clothes and some cold drinks would pep me up. I took my time and changed into my running clothes and put my arm in a sling. Sure enough I felt a little better and set out on a jog starting to feel the pain soften from the narcotic.

My plan was simple and that I would run as long as I could and walk through each aid station, also known as my life rafts. This plan worked like a champ for about 16 miles but the shortened gait and pain in my hips were taking their toll. By mile 20 I walked through the aid station and found I couldn’t jog anymore. By this time I had befriended another athlete not having a great day either and we had settled on walking to the finish knowing we had plenty of time in the bank to do it. The run was a lot of firsts for me. The first time I watched the sunset in the race. The first time I got handed a glow stick. The first time I ate chicken broth. The first time seeing once again what the volunteers do to make this race happen. When I finally made it to the finish line I was overcome with joy. I mean real joy and gratitude for so many people. I thought often of Jason Crompton and grew my side burns out in his honor. There are many finish lines in life and the parables one gains from this race are countless. I have come away with a new perspective and a new fire burning.

The motto of the ironman is that anything is possible. Life has lots of obstacles and challenges and they come in different shapes and sizes. Sometimes they prevent us from doing what we had originally intended but it will open up a new path that just might give us a new perspective and new outlook that would have never been possible without it.