2016 Challenge Taiwan Race Report

   The picture above says it all. This pic from Daryl Carey was on a spot on the course I've dubbed "the road to hell." That pic says it all for this race at Challenge Taiwan. I think the devil himself was standing at the end beckoning us into the fires for a little respite from the heat on the course.

   I was happy to finish in 3rd place and take a spot on the podium. It was a really great course, but the conditions on the day made it a good ol' suffer fest. I'd put it along side the hottest races I've done including Ironman Malaysia, Ironman China, and the hottest years at Ironman Louisville. When a heat wave brought in 93-94 degree temps with sticky-high humidity and the tropical sun started blazing down on us, this race turned quickly into a battle of attrition on the run. Hats off to Freddie Croneborg for taking this win. He lives and trains in Phuket, Thailand, so he is well suited for these conditions. Dylan McNiece finished in 2nd, and deserved that podium spot for hanging tough on the run. For me, I'd say I had an okay swim, very good bike, then really struggled on the run (more about that below). I've got a lot of photos from this race, thanks to Daryl Carey who Challenge Taiwan hired to be out on the course and from Alan Chen from Blue Bicycles who came over to watch the race and cheer on all of the Blue athletes racing. Challenge Family really put on a wonderful race and provided us with a great race experience at Challenge Taiwan.

     I really loved this course all around. The swim, bike, and run sections were each very fun to race from my perspective. The swim was in a man-made lake fed by a natural spring. The water was warm (non-wetsuit) and crystal clear. It's two laps of out and back. My swim started well and I found myself sitting comfortably on Freddie's feet still at 900M. Of course, Dylan was way off the front. None of us even entertained the idea of trying to go with the super-fish. After the turn at 900M, I hit a rough patch and lost Freddie's feet. He slowly pulled away over the next 2700M. I exited the water about 2 min behind Freddie, and I had no idea how far up the road Dylan was sitting. I swam a 54min.

My swim cap was coming off the whole 2nd half of the swim and was driving me nuts. I should have just ripped it off in the water, but I didn't want to litter.

    Getting on the bike, I felt good right away. My biking legs had felt strong all week leading up to the race, so I felt like I was set for a good bike. I caught Freddie around 35km and he started to come with me. He flatted and so then after a quick change from him, we were each all alone: Dylan in front, then me, then Freddie. I went through loop one of the bike in 2:11:30, so I was on pace for a 4:23 bike. I knew that was too fast and I would be in trouble if I tried to hold that pace the rest of the bike. I backed off just a little to conserve energy. The temps were really starting to heat up. The humidity resulted in a nice steady dripping the whole bike. Lap 2 we also had to deal with more traffic of age groupers and cars on the road. The wind was also picking up more than lap 1, so I knew lap 2 would be slower. I came in off the bike in 4:28, good solid bike time riding 100% solo. My Blue Triad SL was feeling really fast for me that day.

T1 heading out on the bike

T1 heading out on the bike

     I felt good coming into transition. Of course I had that normal full-Ironman feeling of "I'm ready to get off this bike", but my legs felt decent. Starting the run, I heard that Dylan was 2 min up. As I ran down the road, I heard Freddie was coming into T2, so he was about 2 min behind me. The first 5km were on a highway that was closed and separated from the rest of the race. It was sheltered from the wind so the air was just stagnant in there, no shade. It was nothing short of blazing on that section. By around 1.5 miles, I was about 1 min behind Dylan. I was feeling good and confident. I was hot, but okay. Then around mile 2.5, my stomach really started acting up. I stopped a port-o-john for around a minute because my gut was in a really bad place. When I came out of the bathroom, everything went downhill. I really started to over-heat and my gut continued to give me trouble. I couldn't cool down. Sorry if this is too much information, but I then proceeded to poop in my pants 9 times from mile 3 until mile 14 of the run. My guts were in the worst place they've ever been in a race. The best I can figure out is that the days before the race, I was eating foods I'm not used to eating. My race nutrition was dead-on what I've found to work, even in very hot races. I think a gut loaded up with lots of food I'm not used to eating, then add heat-stress and it was ugly. Until now, every time I've raced in Asia, I've stayed at nice hotels and would eat pretty clean food at the hotel. This time, the pros were staying in like a boarding house, so I was dependent on local restaurants near us. Lesson learned.

     Every time I'd poop in my pants, I'd jog to the next aid station, then take a shower for at least a min or so with about 20 cups of water. I'd wash myself and my suit. That would also help to cool my core temp down and I'd be able to run to the next aid station. Needless to say, Freddie and Dylan ran away as I slowed down. I knew we had a lead on the next several guys so I decided that walking wasn't an option and I'd just keep grinding forward no matter how gross or uncomfortable. It's a long flight home from Asia if you quit. So after 26 miles of that suffering, I finally finished, holding onto 3rd place. I think my run time was about 3:26. Not too bad with all the stopping, washing, and jogging as I managed my issues. It's been 2 weeks since the race and I have recovered really well. I think because I ran so slow, my legs really weren't too beaten up. I've got Ironman 70.3 Boulder coming up in several weeks, then Ironman UK in July. Although I came into Challenge Taiwan with bigger aspirations, considering how everything went down, I was happy with the day.

T2, off the bike, time to start running

Mile 2, "the road to hell". Was still feeling good.....just before everything went south

     I want to thank Little Caesars Pizza for their support of me and my racing. Their belief in me is so important for me be able to do what I'm doing in this sport.  I want to thank Blue Bicycles for putting me on such an amazing bike, the Blue Triad SL and continuing to support my racing. I also want to thank XRCEL for providing me with such a great nutritional product that I use every day. ROKA Sports is providing me with the best wetsuits and speedsuits in the sport. I'd also like to thank RecoveryPump for their support. RecoveryPump has been a critical aspect of my training and recovery and I truely believe the product has helped to take my training to the next level. Also thank you to Big Sexy Gear for making such great training and racing clothing! CeramicSpeed provides me with the fastest, low-friction bearings for my bike. Also I want to thank my family and friends for their unending support for me. Without these people and sponsors, I would not be able to pursue this dream.

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