Monthly Archives: July 2013

TU: Keeping It Real

With how this last week felt, one would think that the Spring Meadow Triathlon consisted of being mauled by grizzly bear…wearing brass knuckles. The day after the race, I got in a swim and that felt great enough. However, like a new tattoo, the real pain started two days after. I went for a “run” and I almost died at a 9:45 pace. I tried to keep things going and I put in another 3 miles on Wed at 9:00; it was slightly better, but pretty miserable. Thursday, I started the day off early with a “recovery” ride on TR. It might as well have been Hell Hath No Fury.

Right after that, I got in a great open water swim at Foy’s Lake. It was my first time using the Garmin 910 in open water, and it worked liked a charm. I took it very easy as I was the slowest in our group of three, and my pace was decent enough, for me.

Beautiful Foys Lake

Beautiful Foys Lake

On Friday, it was another three miles at 9:00 pace. Unfortunately, at about two miles in, I almost passed out. Just went completely numb. I shook things off with some coffee and food and got in a decent 2000 yards of 100 yard repeats in the pool at around 1:34 pace.

By Friday, six days after the race, things were starting to feel like normal. I tested myself with 3X6 min at 105%. It wasn’t too painful, but still a challenge. It certainly felt a heck of a lot better than when I tripped on a rock on the subsequent three miler and sprained my left ankle.

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Fortunately, with some ice and Ibuprofen, it calmed down enough that if I land even and don’t twist my foot at all, I can still get things done. Still, with the bum foot, I decided to take the kid out in the Chariot stroller behind the road bike. Yeah, I actually got the road bike out. It went pretty decent, except for the pain involved in twisting my cleat out of the pedal.

A great day out with the baby.

A great day out with the baby.


Today, I felt pretty decent (despite the bruising), so I decided to give it hell. I loaded up a 2X20 minute test on Trainer Road, gritted my teeth, and shouted intermittent obscenities that are likely legal in several states for 40 minutes. Pacing was nowhere near my best, but I kept the effort real and manageable. Here’s the damage.

New FTP of 230w.

New FTP of 230w.

With my haphazard training and with every TR ride feeling like an apocalypse, I knew I was looking at a decrease in my FTP from 235w. However, I am still pleased as I completely expected my watts to disappear faster than cell phone privacy. 230 watts is lower, but I look forward to putting in some good work with my new baseline.

Next on the agenda is getting in a good old vdot 5k test. Its been a while since I did that….and it certainly shows. It’s probably going to be both depressing and painful, but I need to know my vdot as I am starting training for a marathon finally.

Yeah, you heard me. Tell your friends hell has frozen over because I’m doing a marathon. I haven’t done a stand-alone marathon since before I started triathlon. My fastest time is like 4:25 or something. So in short, I also have never truly trained for a marathon outside of Ironman. In short, this is going to be a new, and hopefully rewarding, journey. Right now, I am just building up my running durability with running every day at a slow pace around 9:00. Once a week I’ll be throwing in some marathon pace long runs until about mid August. I’ve got one more sprint triathlon coming up in two weeks. After that, the meat of the training program starts and it’s all about running. Unless my ankle explodes again or something.

The Battle: The 2013 Spring Meadow Triathlon Race Report


Today, an epic story of battle was told in Helena. It involved pain, sweat, and scantily clad muscles. Yes folks, it’s time for the 2013 Spring Meadow Triathlon Race Report.


As you may have read, I am becoming more a family man these days. Four kids have a way of doing that to someone. So my departure from Kalispell was delayed by baby bed time. That wasn’t too bad as it made for a beautiful sun set drive to Helena. Despite getting into town late, I still had time to drive the bike course for a refresher. After that, I checked into my luxury 30$ room at the Jorgenson’s Inn. Yeah, you heard me. 30 bucks. With an attached casino.

Only the finest luxury for us triathletes.
Only the finest luxury for us triathletes.

Last time I did this race, I felt more dehydrated than a over microwaved burrito….on the surface of Mercury. With the recent heat wave, I decided to hydrate over the top going into the race. So instead of my usual pre-race meal of a gel and 2 shots of espresso, I went with my free breakfast (courtesy of the Jorgenson’s…30 bucks!!) of oatmeal and half a bottle of Heed. And coffee. Must have coffee.

I arrived at the race one hour before start. That was pretty perfect timing it seems, as I had time to check in, dress my bike, do a ten-minute warm up, and then get my brand spanking new Orca Sonar wetsuit from Trisports on.

Swim: 21:17, ~1500y, 4:53 second “PR”, 10/44 OA

Photo by Catherine McKillips.

Photo by Catherine McKillips.

Okay, don’t get too excited yet. It was a shore start this time, and I seated myself right behind the front line. Count down and off we go. Starting up, I had the most room I’ve ever had at the start of a race. No ceremonial flogging at all. Throw in a beer and it would have felt like I was in a hot tub.

As my pool swims have been pretty lame, I rekindled my foot fetish and found some kicks to draft off. Thanks to the week of heat, for the first time ever I was actually too warm in a Montana swim. Interestingly, I had the lovely opportunity to swim through some large underwater plants, no doubt loving the days of sunshine as well. I think I will count that towards my weekly salad consumption.

As I headed back to transition, I got a little lost, but overall sighting and navigation went well. Coming out of the water, my buddy Ted informed me that I was finishing at roughy 21:00 minutes. I was pretty sure his Timex had taken too many lickings as my prior best swim had been 26:10. After looking at the results, it looks like the swim was about 100 meters short; everyone’s usual times were about 2 minutes faster than the prior years. Still, mine was 4:53 faster! I suck at swimming, and roughly 2 minutes better is a win in my book.

T1: 1:04 sec

Not only is the new wetsuit faster apparently, it comes off easier than a tube top during Mardi Gras. Also, for the first time, I did the whole mounting-the-bike-with my-shoes-attached-already thing. I haven’t mastered the flying mount part yet, so it didn’t work too well. But it was fun.

Bike: 23:56 1:08:26, 4/44 OA

Quickly into my cleats and off I go. This year, it seems we had a little more headwind than prior so it was slower going at the start. For a quick review, this course is pretty much up hill and into the wind for the first half, so I was expecting some serious pain. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, I wasn’t feeling strong on the bike. Last year, I had some excruciating moments on that ride that would make getting a colonoscopy simultaneously with a root canal feel like a spa treatment. Today, it was tough, but I let it stay short of waterboarding. I also got into one of those back and forth matches with another racer, and that left me backing off at times in order to avoid smack downs by race officials.

As I headed up, I saw one of my age grouper competitors by the side of the road. From what I gathered, it looked like a chain problem. Fortunately, it seemed he was up and running quickly as the sag wagon that was stopped with him passed me about 20 seconds later. Soon after, I had my own issues as my timing chip ankle cuff began to slip off. Rather than risk it flying off, I decided to slow and take a moment to fix it. Unfortunately, that cost me some good momentum into a hill.

I had hoped to make it to the turn around right at 40:00 and as I flipped, I was slightly behind at 40:24. More frightening was the fact that the fellow age grouper I saw on the side of the road was right on my tail. Ruh roh.

I told myself it was time to hammer it home, but again, I sold myself short. I just couldn’t muster the pain today. Usually the descent back into Helena is something akin to skydiving on a carbon fiber horse. Last year, I topped out at around 44 mph. A look at the Garmin today shows that I only made it to 39. Still, it looked fun and fast: (note, if your bandwidth can hack it, play this on full HD. Otherwise, they look like I smeared Body Glide on my camera lens)

Another cool part of the course is not only its fun descent, but also the fun turns. Nothing like two 90 degree turns on a downhill separated by a train track to keep you on your toes.

As I headed back to transition, I knew I had held back too much. At least I was able to finish up my foot tricks by finally doing a rolling dismount. That only took four years to try. Honestly, it was the most fun part of the day, and it was much faster!

Here are the numbers.

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T2: 46 sec

No problems. Fast and smooth.

Run:  6.02, 47:29, 11/44 OA

PAIN. I can just summarize the whole run that way. As soon as I hit the ground, things seemed off. Legs jelly. Cramps in my stomach and left quad. Im thinking I may have taken in way too much water this morning. My first couple of miles were on pace, and I hoped that as my body adjusted, thing would get better. It didn’t

About mile two of the run, I finally came up on a person in my age group. I was elated to quickly gain speed on him as he reached for some nutrition. However, my expectation of quickly fading footsteps behind me was replaced with the sounds of a quickening pace. About half a mile from the pass, I found myself running side by side with said competitor. After a quick exchange, my worsening cramps proved too much and my pace slowed. Onward went another place.

By the time I reached the start of the second lap, I was hurting worse than Edward Snowden’s passport and it showed. Check out the horrendous down trend in my pace.

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Even though I was hurting, I found myself ever so slowly closing in on another guy looking that special age of 35-39. The site of another competitor brought new speed to my feet and I closed in. About half a mile from the finish, I decided to make my move. It was a bad move.

I thought my passing this last in the game would make the spot mine: it’s a tough time. Unfortunately, the speed inducing effects apparently affected my competitor, and again, I found footsteps falling close behind me. After the race, I realized it was good old Van Custem, the fellow that I had the pleasure of running side by side with for three miles at the Polson triathlon last year as we duked it out for the age group win. It seems we are destined to do this for years to come.  To make matters worse, I saw the guy previously on the side of the road closing as well. It was a battle royale.

As we headed back to the last aid station, I knew I likely had a sprint ahead of me. It was time for a cup of water. Unfortunately, as I reached for the cup, in classic Spring Meadow fashion for me, I missed it completely. To the ground, instead of my head, it went.

Now we are heading home. I no longer hear any feet behind me. Maybe it was because I had made ground? Maybe it was because I was delirious. Either way, as soon as I I made the last turn to the final straight away, I took off sprinting.

As. Hard. As. I. Could.

And just when I am literally about to breath a sigh of “oh thank God that worked” a flash goes by me across the line, grabbing my third place spot by 2 seconds in a stronger sprint. Well played.



Overall: 2:19:03, 8/44 OA, 2:45 PR, really like a 45 second PR

In the end, today was a tough but informative day. My bike didn’t have the energy I needed. I’ll need to figure out why. My run was absolutely freaking horrible. Even though I was about 15 seconds slower this year, it felt twenty times worse.

But this was good feedback. Over the last month, my training has been as reliable as my credit score, and it showed. I honestly feel I did not have the endurance to do what I really needed to do today.

This feedback comes at a great time as I am currently planning my goals for next year. Since my last post, I have decided to hold off from Ironman one more year. I havent had a year in my life recently when all I had to concentrate on was family and work, and I think I owe that to my ever supportive wife and kids. Instead, I am planning on focusing my running with a marathon this winter, and then aiming for a half Ironman next summer. I haven’t “run” a marathon alone since before I started triathlon, so this should be interesting. I have one more race this season, a local sprint, and then I think it will be time for some R&R from training. I don’t think I have been able to do that for years either.  After that, hopefully I will be ready to dedicate myself to some serious running and a great half next year.

I just want to give a quick shout out to the race directors this year. Spring Meadow is under new leadership this year, and while I have not had any problems with the past races, I like the new style. For the first time, we had a great and active Facebook page to participate in. In addition, there was lots of pre-race communication. After the race, there was the traditional kids triathlon, complete with transition and announcer.


I think I might have better luck in the kids race next year. Maybe…

To boot, after the race, there was a free BBQ sponsored by the local ultra running club. It’s these perks that make Spring Meadow my favorite triathlon in Montana year after year. I look forward to MANY more years of participation.

Finally, thanks to Trisports for the continued support, especially the new wetsuit! Remember, if your looking for a deal, particularly on a wetsuit, you can use my referral code” IRONVAN” to get 15% off regular items at

For now though, it’s time for some more beer (Thanks for the company Ted!), Advil, and apparently True Blood per the wife. The show. Not the drink.

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