On June 14, 2015 I traveled to British Columbia by land and by sea to race Victoria 70.3. I really wanted to race this event last year though it coincided with Father’s day and racing always takes a back seat to family. Accompanying us (Mimi and me) on this trip were my parents, who drove cross-country to learn about our new life in Seattle, as well as our good friends Joel and Laura Sattgast and their amazing, well-behaved daughter, Grace.
The week leading up to the race was a whirlwind considering a good chunk of my family was visiting and drove cross-country (Pittsburgh) to see our new digs in Seattle. This meant a lot of running around Seattle while still trying to juggle getting a new business off the ground (Zeren PT) not to mention nailing my taper. While most folks often think of a taper as a short period of time that involves decreasing volume and intensity while coasting into a race, nothing could be further from the truth. All one needs to do is look at the research of Mujika et al. to appreciate a proper taper. Indeed, the volume of training gets slashed by upwards of 60% though the intensity is relatively high, which demands a state of readiness going into each workout. It was also fortuitous to have consumed a bunch of beers during a picnic we hosted on Wed night thanks to having life discussions with my good friend, Will Butler, gracing us with his presence.
To further complicate matters, I was also forced to ride my old and withered Cervelo P2. While this is a solid bike and one that has gotten me to Kona, it felt like I was rolling out an old, dusty car from the barn. The look on the faces of the mechanics at Herriott Sports Performance was priceless when I wheeled my bike into the shop and asked them to wrench it and have it “race ready.” Additionally, the last time that I was fit on this particular bike was over 3 years ago. Fortunately, they made some simple tweaks and David, “The Rocket”, Richter had me dialed in from having worked with me in the past on top of being a genius with all that is performance cycling. In addition to having bike issues, I also managed to rip my wetsuit the Wednesday before the race during a routine open water swim. This mishap would have been problematic though fortunately, my mother and aunt came to the rescue by patching and sewing it just in time to use for the race.
On Friday morning, we packed up the car and headed for Victoria just like the Griswolds. While there are a few ways to get to Victoria, they all involve crossing water so we elected to pick up the ferry at Ana Cortes. The trip proved longer than expected though there was plenty of space on the ship that afforded me the chance to stretch out and catch a short nap.
Upon arriving in Victoria, we were forced to wait in yet another line before arriving at out our local accommodations. After getting settled, Joel and I managed to sneak away for a short bike ride (20 miles). Somehow, after taking a bunch or random turns down what appeared to be cyclist friendly streets, we suddenly found ourselves riding along the coast, which was nothing short of spectacular between the water views and conditions; sunny, high 70s, and no humidity.
The next day was relatively uneventful. We checked in, drove a bit of the bike course, and then did an open water swim while consuming a lot of pretzels. Despite having some mild concerns about potentially cooler water temps, it turned out to nearly be a non-wetsuit legal race because of the unseasonably warm water, which was most likely a function of warmer weather coupled with a shallow body of water. This was perhaps one of the most pleasant lakes for a swim.
Enter race day! In typical fashion, I was up at 3:30am consuming unsweetened applesauce, a banana, plain bagel, Kozy shack rice pudding, and a 22oz Gatorade. After briefly returning to bed and unsuccessfully trying catch a few more Zs, I was out the door and en route to catch a shuttle bus bound for transition. Fortunately, we got there in plenty of time to get things squared away in transition and I made my way down to the start of the swim.
Within a couple minutes and after several bathroom breaks, the race was underway. I felt relatively strong on the swim and had good visibility thanks to finally finding a pair of goggles that do not leak. My wetsuit also held up without issue. After emerging from the water, I was feeling strong and got to T1 while noticing that nearly all of the bikes were still on the racks meaning that I came out of the water ahead of most athletes.
As is typically the case, my legs felt heavy for the first few miles of the bike as my blood was shunted from my swimming to my cycling musculature. I therefore took this time to start dialing in on my fueling by taking in Gatorade and a Powerbar gel with 2x the caffeine. Within 15-20 minutes, I found my legs and started to make moves. After playing yo-yo with a couple of other fast age groupers I managed to pull away and slowly start picking people off. Despite my bike still feeling a bit like a tank, I was locked into aero and was pushing a big gear and fast pace. Fortunately, I did not run into any mechanical issues and finished the bike leg feeling strong and ready to take off on the run. By the time the bike was over I had consumed 5 bottles of Gatorade and 5 gels and finished with an average speed of just over 24mph. I knew I was sitting pretty at this point as I only gain momentum as the race goes on. This was a fast bike for me which I attribute to spending the past several months solely on a road bike, which does wonders for quad strength.
After racking my bike and donning my shoes (Brooks Launch), I took off on the run. I was not sure what to expect on the run leg because I knew that the course was relatively technical as a good portion of it was on trails with lots of roots and rocks not to mention being on narrow paths with traffic going both ways secondary to the sprint race simultaneously taking place. I also knew that a lot of athletes had also taken spills and sprained their ankles the day before while practicing on the course. After settling into a groove, I found my rhythm and started taking over one athlete after the next, most of whom were in the M30-34 age group, which went off ahead of my wave (35-39). After finishing the first loop, I was confident that I had passed everyone else in my AG that may have posed a threat. From here on out it was a matter of just staying persistent without taking a misstep. As I ticked off each mile, I knew that I was going to have a strong finish. Seeing the finish line off in the distance, I mustered one final kick before finally crossing the finish line. My work was finally done for the day and the first race of the season was under my belt. It couldn’t have been more sweet than to celebrate finishing by having my parents and wife witness the end of the race. And with that, my first 70.3 was in the books and I was able to relax while cheering on several other friends and athletes.
Special Thanks: My wife Mimi; my parents Jerry & Kristen; the crew @ Herriott Sports Performance; The Sattgast Family; and all of the volunteers who donated their time to ensuring a solid event.
Overall Time: 4:26
Overall Position: 10th
Age Group Posiiton: 1st
*2nd fastest run of the day
Toe Off to Step Up
The step up is a great drill for runners and triathletes and is a staple in nearly every program I write for athletes. Step ups, however, are often performed with less than ideal form even among world class athletes. To eliminate the use of momentum with this exercise, I strongly encourage the performer to initially break the exercise down into parts as seen in this video. By doing so, one must deemphasize the use of momentum. Make sure to synchronize the arms and legs while assuming a balanced upright posture while avoiding toe gripping. Once you master this baseline version of the exercise, feel free to incorporate 3-5lb ankle weights and dumbbells. I typically have athletes start with a 6" step and increase it from there. Invariably you will need to use some momentum with increasing step heights (esp above 12-14").
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