Keep Calm and Carry on.. ITU World Championships Race Reports

Coming in to these races I was feeling as good as I had all year, I had finally bounced back from the crazy racing I did in June and I was primed and ready to race on the world stage in London.  I had been training hard since late last year and I was ready to show off my gains.  The taper week was super hard this time around as I was starving all the time but I made sure to keep away from the extra calories and I weighed in at 166 right before I left which was the lightest I have been since I was 13 years old!   

 

Once Landing in London I got my first dose of reality when I had to fit myself, my fiance, my bike, and all of our belongings in a 150 sq ft room, that was including the bathroom!  The rooms in London were all small so it was a matter of just dealing with it and making the best of things.  Building a bike in such a small space is certainly interesting!  

The outside of the hotel, notice the cloud cover, that never really went away!

The outside of the hotel, notice the cloud cover, that never really went away!

After spending the day getting acclimated to the new surroundings and trying out what a full English consisted of we were ready to go to the opening ceremony in Trafalger square, which was supposed to start at 8pm.  I got an email from Team USA that the team picture was to be taking place at 6:30pm, but since we hadn't really eaten anything we decided we would go and just be there for the start and I would miss the team picture.  After all there was 650 athletes, and you can barely see the ones that are in the picture!  I have yet to be in one of these pictures, but maybe one year I will finally make it!

Full English, No Toast for me though!

Full English, No Toast for me though!

While we had intentions of making it to the ceremony on time, we ended up getting lost AND caught in the rain and arrived just as the ceremony seemed to be finishing.  Most of the Team USA members were leaving as we got there as it seemed they did not want to be wet and cold anymore.  Since everyone was leaving we left and found a nice Thai restaurant up the road and we ate dinner before heading back to our tiny hotel room and calling it a night. 

After a quick bike and run session on Thursday morning it was time to hand in my bike.  While racking your bike they also check your uniform as well as your helmet to make sure everything is legal and ready to go for the morning.  We had an hour time slot to rack and I got to the transition area right smack in the middle.  They wrote me up for having a 2 piece suit, as the ITU wants us to race in one piece uniforms, but it had no impact on my race since the US is one of the few countries that allow 2 piece uniforms. 

Waiting in line to be checked in

Waiting in line to be checked in

After dropping off the bike, we headed out to do some sightseeing on the Barclay bikes which were fun and a nice break from walking everywhere.  They didnt take much energy to ride and they were a quick means of transport.  We got some sights in and headed back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.

Best way to get around London!

Best way to get around London!

While our first dinner experience was wonderful and had us wondering why everyone told us the food in London was pretty terrible, the second night we found out why.  We walked up to a little Italian restaurant in Notting hill about 1/2 mile from our hotel that advertised gluten free pasta.  While the night before we had ok service and great food, this was terrible service and terrible food.  It was definitely the worst meal we had on the trip.  We made the best of it though and headed back to the hotel to rest up for the morning.  It was hard to sleep as we were still on US time and hadn't quite acclimated yet.  I don't think I got more than 5 hours of sleep before having to wake up to get ready.

Race morning #1 came quickly and I was excited to get out on the course as I was feeling good.  The forecast called for temperatures in the 60's with a 30% chance of rain. Since we got caught in a storm with a 0% chance of rain we figured that meant that it was going to rain, and it did, just like every other day we were there!  It was a soggy walk to transition which was a little over a mile but it was humid and the air temp was comfortable, which made getting there a breeze.  

As I was setting up my transition area we were notified that the only thing that would be allowed in transition would be shoes, no towels, no bags, just shoes!  While this made for a clean and easy setup I am used to having my bright green mat in front of my bike to help me identify where it is.  As I was leaving I realized I left my bike bottle with Erica and I only had about 5 minutes to find her and pop the bottle in my bike before they closed transition.  I found her at the last minute, grabbed the bottle, ran in and ran out just in time!

Cutting it close!

Cutting it close!

After transition closed I still had about 45 minutes until my wave start so I did a quick warmup and hit the portolets one last time before suiting up.  Since it was hot I left my wetsuit top off until the last minute as we had to be in the corral about 20 minutes before our start. 

Waiting patiently for the start

Waiting patiently for the start

Swim:  .5 Mile 12:17 (12:12 Garmin) 1:21/100 yd

I was excited for my first pontoon start, they sent us down the line and had us all sit on the number and then get in 90 seconds before our wave.  The water was a little under 60 degrees which isn't terrible once you get moving, but sitting there can get a little cold.  Before I knew it they blew the horn and we were off, I started out trying to go with the main pack but I got dropped quite quickly, most of those guys are swimming in the 9 minute range, and I am usually about 3 minutes behind. However it's a world championship so there is no better time to test your limits!  After losing the pack I seemed to have pretty clean water and another big pack in front of me that allowed me to swim at a comfortable pace and I thought I was moving pretty well.  The course was super easy to sight and there was limited congestion at the turns so when I came out of the water in 12:17 I was a little disappointed.  I thought I had done well by sticking with the group I was in, but according to Erica there was 34 people out of the water before me, and that was only half of my age group since we got split in 2!

Out of the swim and in to T1!

Out of the swim and in to T1!

T1: 3:39 (3:42 Garmin):

Coming out of the water we had a long way to go, we had to run to the transition area, and then around it to our bike.  This added another .37 miles to the race for each transition.  I decided to run in my wetsuit and take it off when I got to my bike.  Stripped down and was on my way to make up the time I lost on the swim.

Headed out ready to rumble!

Headed out ready to rumble!

Bike: 34:29 (Garmin 34:29) 24.3 MPH:

I knew the bike was going to be a challenge on the walk over because the roads were going to be slick and with 3 laps around the park there were some very tight and technical turns.  My strategy was to take the turns easy to stay upright and power out of them as they were followed by long straightaways where you could maximize your speed.  Some people simply do not know how to ride when its wet, which was solidified when Erica saw 23 bike crashes in the one spot that she was standing in!  Fortunately I was able to keep myself upright for the 15 miles, and pick up some spots along the way! I was lucky to have another guy from the US team in close proximity and we were able to keep leap frogging and pushing each other until we got back to T2.  I came off the bike a little slower than I wanted to, but given the road conditions and the technical nature of the course I am happy with my ride.  I came in to T2 ready to run feeling great. 

T2: 2:44(Garmin 2.43) .37mi:

Again we had to run all the way around the transition area with our bikes before being allowed to go to the racks, this made for some long t2 times!

Run: 17:42 (17:44 Garmin) 5:42min/Mile

I came off the bike and started to push! I was running with the guy that I was biking with and I asked him what he planned to run, when he said 17 I knew I wasn't going to stay with him, but I sure was going to try.  He broke away from me after a minute or two and I sat on his draft as long as I could.  Soon he was up the road and I was on my own, but that did not stop me from continuing to run down other racers.  I kept moving and was surprised to see that my first mile was under 6 min given how "comfortable" I felt.  I continued to push as I knew I only had a little over 12 minutes left to go. At the aid station I went to grab a cup of water from the volunteer and he pretended to give it to me and pulled it from my hand at the last second, I could hardly believe that someone would be so rude.  I just kept moving forward and tried not to let it effect me, but clearly he had a family member racing or had something against the US.  Besides the volunteer debacle, there were some slippery areas to contend with in the rain but for the most part the footing was solid and allowed me to continue to run hard.  As I approached the final stretch I grabbed my USA flag from Tim Yount and headed towards the finish line with a new Triathlon 5k PR of 17:45 and in 34th place in the World in my age group.  I took it all in went to find Erica and went to grab some lunch. 

Finish: 1:10:49 34 Age Group/ 219 Overall

 

Saturday was a nice break since I'm used to having to go back to back days when I race twice in a weekend so not having to get up and getting some extra rest was welcomed.  I slept until my body told me it was time to get up and hit the road for a little opener on the bike to keep the legs fresh and primed for Sundays race. I felt great looping around the park and I was just about done when I noticed my front end felt funny.  Suddenly I noticed the tire was going flat.  I looked a little closer and I saw a huge shard of glass in the tire. Unfortunately for me this happened about 65 minutes before I had to rack my bike for Sundays race and it was a 20 minute walk to transition!  

At first I was calm as I was happy it had happened on my training ride and not the race, but once we got down to the expo and talking with the bike support they didn't have any tubular tires, patch kits or any way to fix it.  Now it's partially my fault for not traveling with any of that stuff, but I would expect the main bike shop to come prepared to a world championship event, with more than 8500 competitors over the 5 days.   Apparently I wasn't the only one who this happened to because he knew exactly where to send me to fix it.  The problem was I didn't have the time to get there!  

I went frantically searching the rest of the expo for anything that I would be able to fix it with.  I finally ended up at the specialized booth and after some begging and pleading got them to feel sorry enough to lend me a front wheel to race on as they did not have the ability to fix the tire for me either. We swapped wheels and I went from an 800mm front wheel to a Zipp 101, but I was willing to take anything at that point. Big thumbs up to specialized for helping me out, even though I showed up at their booth with a Kestrel!

Specialized Saving the day!

Specialized Saving the day!

So with the front tire debacle out of the way I racked my bike and headed back to the hotel. We found OTTO a place with gluten free pizza not to far from the hotel so we decided to check it out. It turns out that they have one of the best gluten free pizzas we have ever had, the real slices apparently are very good as well as we brought friends with us back the next night after the race.  In fact it was so good that we ate there every night for the rest of the trip! If you are ever in London you must check this place out! After that we headed back to the hotel and called it a night. 

2 Pizzas= Great race performance!

2 Pizzas= Great race performance!

Race Morning came quickly and I was feeling the best I had all week.  I looked at the temperature and I was surprised to see that it was 38 degrees!  I couldn't believe that it was so cold.  The last time I was at the world championships was in 2011 for the long course race and they canceled the swim because of the water/air temperature combination.  I was hoping that wouldn't be the case today as I wanted to race a true triathlon world championship.  I bundled up and headed down to the start, I was freezing the whole walk down!

Freezing before my warm up!

Freezing before my warm up!

I got my transition area ready checked my tire pressure and headed out for my warm up, I had roughly the same time to wait as on Friday but it seemed like so much longer because it was cold!  

Trying to keep warm! 

Trying to keep warm! 

While waiting in line for my final bathroom break I overheard someone say they shortened the swim because it was too cold.  I was happy to hear that the swim would be no longer than Friday's swim, which put me at an advantage since I would likely only be 2-3 minutes down out of the water instead of the normal 3-5 at the Olympic distance.  I know that is something I need to focus on for next year for sure!  But for this race I was super stoked, maybe the luck was turning in my favor!

Swim cut in 1/2 due to the air/water temperature combination.  Score for the non swimmer!

Swim cut in 1/2 due to the air/water temperature combination.  Score for the non swimmer!

Time to get in to the coral came quickly and I was one of the last in my wave to get to the start line.   While I opted to keep my wetsuit down on Friday to keep me cool, I opted to get in my full wetsuit as early as possible to keep me warm!  The ground was uncomfortably cold and  after waiting on the metal bridge to the pontoon many of us  could not feel our feet! 

A new 1/2 mile swim PR at worlds!

A new 1/2 mile swim PR at worlds!

Swim: .5 Mile 11:53 (11:49 Garmin) 1:18/ 100y

I was used to the pontoon from Friday but I was a little bit colder.  When they gave us the signal to put our feet in the water my teeth immediately started to chatter.  I was hoping to get in the water as soon as possible because the water was warmer than the air temperature at that point and I knew it would warm me up.  Once in the water I calmed myself down and got ready for the start.  I made the decision to wait a few seconds and let everyone go before starting myself.  This gave me clean water and allowed me to avoid an immediate heart rate spike in cold water.  As I eased in to my pace I started to pick people off left and right and increase my position.  I continued to pass people throughout the swim and unlike Friday when I got stuck behind the group I was constantly bridging to a new swimmer or group and getting stronger along the way.  I was super happy when I came out of the water in 11:53 almost 30 seconds faster than the same exact course on Friday!  My HUUB has done me well this year, hopefully next year I will be able to return the favor!

T1: 4:04 (4:08 Garmin) .37

I was so excited about my new swim PR that I had a brain fart on my way to transition, most people I talked to that raced Friday and had super fast transitions took their wetsuits off before making the run to transition.  I contemplated doing that the night before, but still made a game day decision. Unfortunately I was so unsure that I slowed down thinking about what I was actually going to do, and it cost me the hard earned :30 seconds I gained on the swim as my t1 was 30 seconds slower than Friday!

Riding my way up the field!

Riding my way up the field!

Bike: 1:03:24 (1:03:22 Garmin) 23.5 MPH

I knew I was going to have to work harder because of the shallower wheel, but this is the world championships, and I was prepared to race my hardest.  I came out of T1 on a mission and ready to ride.  I immediately started to pass and noticed my legs felt great and I knew it was going to be a good day.  I was riding strong and my wattage showed it, as it was continuously increasing up to the point I was at 4.26 watt/kg and holding!  That by far is my strongest showing on the bike all year, and there wasn't a better time for it.  While the bike course still had some tight turns it was turning out to a pretty fast course.  It was amazing being able to ride through the wellington arch to the mall and seeing Buckingham palace in the distance only to pass it on our way to Big Ben and parliament before heading through some tunnels on the way back to Hyde Park.  This was definitely one of the most beautiful bike courses I have ever ridden, and of course the history is unmatched.  While the race is not draft legal the course was extremely crowded and there were quite a few drafting packs out there.  As we headed back in to the park the first time I overheard a spectator yell at the Aussies "Hey Australia it's a not a drafting race", turns out he was right on my tail sucking my wheel.  

I had been going back and forth with this one rider for awhile and I couldn't seem to drop him, well of course I couldn't drop him I was doing all the work for him!  It seemed the officials were being really lenient and allowing a pretty hefty draft zone.  I didn't see many getting dinged for penalties, but I did hear of a few that did. The portion of the bike course inside the park slowed us up quite a bit with all the speed bumps and tight turns.  The park had also gotten really crowded the second time around with people from other waves starting to get on the course following their swim legs.  I just couldn't wait to get back out of the park again, since the fastest part of the course was calling me, and the elevated competition was making me ride harder and faster than I ever had in a triathlon! I was still sitting right around 4.26 w/kg and averaging over 25 mph. We passed through the arch and the palace again and I was moving I was on track for my second sub 60 minute 40k in a triathlon, and then somewhere along the stretch on the way from Buckingham Palace to Big Ben my rear tire went flat!  At first I didn't notice, but there is a sharp 180 degree turn once you hit Big Ben and I felt how flimsy my tire was as it almost rolled off my disc wheel.  

My feelings of joy and euphoria quickly went to darkness and despair,  how could this be happening to me?  I was in the best shape of my life, having the best race of my life, and my race was suddenly over. I had close to 10 miles left before I got off the bike, there was no race day support and I had no spare.  At this point I know most people would have dropped out, but i didn't fly half way across the world to quit.  Even though I knew I wouldn't be racing for a medal as the top US guys in my age group were capable of swimming and running much faster than me this year, I still wanted to be able to put out the best time I could.  I tried to keep the negativity out of my head and just pushed forward.  My speed dropped from over 25 to closer to 20, and my wattage dropped by over 40 as the rear wheel just wasn't rolling smoothly anymore.  I lost the group that was pushing me to ride hard and I suddenly was getting passed, a lot!  

Even though I was still riding as hard as I could I had to take the corners super EASY as to not fall off the bike,  I was fortunate since it wasn't raining and I was able to be cautious on the numerous tight and sharp turns that remained on the course.  Don't get me wrong I was still distraught, I spent lots of time just screaming profanities at the air, but I was trying to keep calm as I knew I could still finish.  I think on of the race officials might have thought I tourettes as I would randomly scream obscenities and just keep riding.  At one point I got passed by a woman from the US in the 65-69 division who was riding really strong, but I could not believe that I was getting pummeled in the one area of the race that I consider my strength.   

I have never wanted to be off a bike so bad! Riding it in for the last few miles with a limp tire was torture as I just wanted to be done.  Looking at the results of guys I usually have similar bike splits at other races and the pace I was on prior to flatting my guess is that the flat tire cost me about 4 minutes but there are no astericks next to race results so my time is my time.  I could not have been happier to see the entrance to hyde park and head on in to transition.  I ran around the loop put my bike up and headed out for a run.

 

T2: 2:50 (Garmin 2:49) .37 Mi:

Really uneventful, just got my shoes on and mentally prepared for 6.2 miles of suffering

Running Angry!

Running Angry!

Run: 37:54 (Garmin 37:55) 6:06min/mi:

I started off running and I surprisingly felt good considering I had to push extra hard to maintain my speed with the bike.  My best stand alone 10k had been 36:51 and I wanted to get as close to that number as possible.  When I hit the first mile at 6:00 and still felt good I knew I would be able to maintain or stay close to maintaining that pace for the duration of the race.  

I might not have been running that fast, but I was running by throngs of people.  I was also surprised at how many USA fans there were on the course.  I have never had as much encouragement in any race I have ever done.  It was great hearing go USA or go Logan every couple of minutes.  That coupled with people I actually knew cheering me on made for a great run.  

The run course was 3 loops of roughly 2 miles a piece, it was mostly flat with one "hill" on the back side of the park that we ran 3 times. I got passed a few times on the run, but not many, and I kept a nice steady pace throughout.  I struggled a little towards the end with mile 6, but otherwise I kept it nice and steady.  I rounded the final stretch and grabbed the flag and sprinted the final leg on the blue carpet with every last bit of energy I had before collapsing over the line with a new triathlon 10k PR of 37:55.  It took me awhile to get up but I eventually moved into the finish coral for a finish line shot and to meet up with Erica.  I was happy with my performance, but obviously bummed about my flat tire and what might have been.

Final: 2:00:04 67 Age Group/ 371 Overall

Sharing War Stories

Sharing War Stories

Post Race: While I am not happy with the fact that I flatted, I am extremely proud that during the most mentally challenging race of my life, I stayed calm and finished strong given the circumstances I was dealt.  It's not every day you have to deal with flatting both your front and rear tires before the most important race of the year.  I know what I have to work on for next year and I'll be taking my annual break before getting back in to some light training.  Thank you my SPONSORS for all the support all year, and I look forward to making next year and beyond even better.  Of course no race report would be complete without a sincere thank you to my biggest fan and supporter my Fiance Erica, without you this would not all be possible!