2014 Ironman Los Cabos Race Report
I opened my racing season this year on March 30th at Ironman Los Cabos in Mexico. I was pleased to finish in 5th place to kick off my year. I finished in a time of 8:40 with a swim of 51:46, bike of 4:46, and a run of 2:58. I came out of the water in about 15th place, came off the bike in 8th, and ran into 5th. Overall, I felt I had a strong and smart race. Rather than a traditional race report with a detailed narrative of my day of racing, I thought instead I'd share some personal musings about what this first race of the season meant to me. I'm not intending to give @TriExcuse some good twitter fodder, rather let you into my thoughts about this race. While this wasn't my speediest race, I walked away very satisfied and pleased. Of course I always want to be on the podium, but there were several reasons I look at this race as a big positive. Here's what I took away from this race.
Consistency – Last season, I had two race results with which I was happy, finishing 2nd at both Ironman Australia and Louisville. Beyond those two races, I was very disappointed with how I raced the remainder of the year. 2013 was the least consistent I'd ever raced since the day I started triathlon. One of my goals this season was to get my consistency back. For me consistency means being solid. Not every race has to be your Kona-winning performance, rather you race strong and within a reasonable variance of your ability level and fitness at that time (maybe a little faster, maybe a little slower). I felt like I accomplished that goal in Los Cabos.
Photo by Nick Morales from Trijuice.com
Great first step with my coach – In December, I started working with my new coach Michael Krüger. In one of our first conversations, he said to me that I need to give the training 3-6 months to see the results kicking in from a change in training approach. When you've been training a certain way for a long time, it takes time for your body to adapt to a new training style. This is exactly why I sought out Michael. Some athletes change coaches and expect instant results. I've come into this relationship with a long-term approach. So to have a solid race after about 3 months of working together, I thought it was a very positive first step in our new coach-athlete relationship. It makes me excited for the gains I'll make in the future as I continue to adapt and absorb the training.
Good start for the season coming after less-than perfect preparation – After Ironman Florida last November, I took a longer off season than I've ever done. I needed a true mental break. I was emotionally exhausted at the end of the year. I took two weeks of absolutely no activity, nothing! Then about two weeks of about 30 minutes a day of easy activity. Most triathletes don't really take down time. They say they are, because they think they're supposed to say it, but in most cases they're out sneaky-training. December 1st, I started working with my new coach Michael Krueger. Since I'd had a pretty long break, he eased me back into training. Over Christmas, my wife and I took our belated Honeymoon, so I took another 8 days off of training. By New Years, in the previous 8 weeks, I really only had about 3 real weeks of easy training. I knew getting ready for a March Ironman would be a challenge coming from a lot of down time.
This was my first winter in Boulder. According to many of athletes who've lived here for many years, this was a pretty tough winter by Boulder's standards. I remember talking to Chris Legh last summer asking about training here in the winter. He said, “it's not too bad, just don't expect to be really fit in March.” Biking was a challenge here this winter, therefore, my preparation was less than ideal. We had to modify my plan most weeks around the winter weather and compromise between what I could do on the trainer and outside with what I should have done for a perfect Ironman build. I also got sick about five weeks out from the race and had to take a week off of training and do nothing in one of my peak build weeks.
Coming into this race, I'd say I felt the least fit I've ever been going into an Ironman and consequently I had the least confidence in my fitness. Some athlete's just have confidence naturally. I have to earn my confidence with myself through training. The more training I do, the better the hard workouts I hit, the more confident I get. Before Los Cabos, I never once thought “I'm going to rip this up.” Also, while many of my competitors were training in warmer climates like South America, the Canary Islands, California, and Arizona; I was training in the Boulder winter. Most of my training was in 30 degree to 50 degree weather and days of snow. Coming to a race where the temperature was 90 degrees, I knew I didn't have the physiological heat adaptations that the other guys had. I did go to Arizona for a week of cycling. I put in some much needed bike miles, but it wasn't long enough to get heat acclimation for the race.
To me, to be able to have a solid race with a less-than perfect preparation, coming from the cold, was a good first step for the year.
Pre-race press conference with athletes, Mayor of San Jose del Cabo and tourism minister
Excellent execution, smart race – Because I didn't have a lot of confidence in my Ironman fitness going in to smash the race, I knew in order to have a good race, I needed to race smart and execute well. Last year, coming out of each swim, I felt the pressure of being behind. I'd push the bike too hard in order to make up time, sometimes resulting in over-cooking myself. With a hot and hilly race like Los Cabos, I knew that the conditions would not allow a pro race where guys sit in draft packs on the bike. With the hills, everyone has to work and with the heat, everyone has to stay on top of fueling, hydration, and electrolytes. Race outside of yourself, make mistakes, and athletes will pay for it on the run. In this race, I raced smart. I eased off on the bike to ensure I saved energy for the run, stayed on top of my fueling, and made sure to not overheat as the temps soared. I felt like I made good decisions throughout the day. I come away from this race remembering what it means to execute well and race smart in an Ironman.
(Above) Photo by Nick Morales from TriJuice.com. (Below) Photo by nick Morales from Triathlete.com
Ran strong – Although I've run faster in races than Los Cabos, I was happy with how strong I ran. I wouldn't say I was “fast”, rather I was strong. I settled into my pace and could just hang there all day. The “Ironman fade” that we all know and love was much less slowing than in many other races I've experienced. Sure, my pace slipped a bit in the later miles, but that slip was of a much smaller magnitude than I've done in the past. The funny part was that I didn't really do any “speedwork” before this race. To what do I attribute this improvement? I believe there were a few key contributing factors.
First, my coach has incorporated more core strengthening sessions into my plan than I've ever done. Second, rather than a lot of speed work or fast running, most of my running this winter has been what I'd call strength-based running. Finally, I've continued to work on my running form. In the past, as I fatigued in later miles, my form would fall apart. My feet would start slapping the ground, I'd over-stride, and severe heel-striking would start pounding my quads. Because I'm now stronger and have been working more on my stabilizing muscles, I found I could better hold my form together later in the run. I was very happy about this and feel this will become an even greater asset to my racing as I build my fitness throughout this season.
Megan snapped a photo of me heading into the Sea of Cortez the day before the race for my practice swim
It's been a few weeks since the race and I've had a very good recovery. I'm getting ready to go to St.Croix 70.3 on May 5th. Then I'll have an intensity training block in May leading into Kansas 70.3 and Syracuse 70.3 on June 8 and June 22.
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. ROKA Sport is providing me with the best wetsuits and speedsuits in the sport. PowerBar's nutrition products have been a key part in my training and racing. 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. Jack and Adam's Bicycles in Austin are always there to help support me and my racing. I want to thank Blue Bicycles for putting me on such an amazing bike, the Blue Triad SL. HED Cycling has provided me with the best wheels and aerobars on the market. Champion System Clothing has provided me with the race and training clothing that you see in my pictures. Cobb Cycling provides me with the best saddles to keep me comfortable on the bike for the hours of training and racing. Brooks Airbrush Studio painted up my amazing aerohelmet this year. Atomic High Performance has coated my bicycle drive train with high performance low-friction coatings. 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.
I sat in the hotel room to stay out of the sun in the days before the race, Megan got some beach time!