Blog Archives

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.

Screen Shot 2013-07-07 at 11.44.45 PMScreen Shot 2013-07-07 at 11.45.22 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2013-07-07 at 11.46.18 PMScreen Shot 2013-07-07 at 11.46.45 PM

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.

TU: Back to Basics

It’s a good thing school is done with because it has been one heck of a week at work. Seriously, I can’t remember of rough set of days like this since residency. But that is how life in medicine rolls. If I had some esoteric paper to do on the side, I think I would be writing this from the state mental hospital.

Training wise, things are slowly picking up again after Seattle. The run is going better than usual. Still mixing up with three runs a week: intervals, tempo, and distance. My intervals, which I keep around 6:30-6:40 are much more comfortable than they were a few months ago. I would say it has moved from “root canal” to “teeth cleaning” on the pain level scale. Today, I did a five mile tempo while pushing a jogging stroller around. That hurt plenty, even though I was only clicking along at 7:30-7:40. I blame the stroller. Last week’s six mile tempo felt much faster. I say felt as my Garmin 910 has lately not been so great at picking up satellites lately. Grrrrrrr. Tomorrow it will be another 9-10 miles with the stroller.

Cycling is hanging in there. I’ve definitely lost some fitness off my FTP. Last Sunday, I went back to my go to Trainer Road ride of Goethe: 4X10’ right at FTP. Felt decent. I tried to follow this up with Huxley and that ended disastrously.



After a day of rest from both cycling and running, I was able to bounce back with another run of Goethe, this time recorded through my 910 only as I left my USB Garmin stick at work:

Screen Shot 2013-06-29 at 8.56.37 PM

Swim wise, I’m all over the place. Some days are great, with me clicking along at 1:32 and feeling great. Lately, I have been hovering more between 1:36-1:38 for my longer sets and 1:34 for the shorter sets. This is so frustrating, especially as I have been swimming more. I just don’t feel smooth. I’ve been off the Tri Swim Pro plan for a while, so I think it’s time for me to restart with the basics again. At this point, I will probably wait until after next week’s Olympic triathlon though.

To top off the waxes and wanes of my swim, I ran into a little issue with my wetsuit during my first open water swim of the season last weekend:

Well there's ya problem!

Well there’s ya problem!

No, it’s not what you think. Actually, oddly enough, I’ve lost a little more weight recently. I was apparently too eager to get in the water that morning and I rushed while pulling on my wetsuit for the first time this year. It was destined to happen, and I’m grateful my neoprene, full body condom lasted three years.  Since then, I have ordered and received an Orca Sonar wetsuit from Trisports. Unfortunately, getting a wetsuit that fits right is about as easy as making it through the DMV in less than 2 hours and I had to send it back. I’m now waiting for a 2XU A:1. I had a 2XU Elite previously and that fit well. I’m crossing my “fingers-with-way-too-short-nails-so-I-can-get-a-refund” that this one fits right.

Next week, it’s my favorite race of the season. I’m heading down to Helena for the Spring Meadow Triathlon. The bike course is right up my alley: uphill and into the wind half of the way out, and super fast on the way back. That plus a two loop swim and run makes it fun for all. Plus, its in the same town as Lewis and Clark and Blackfoot Brewery, so no matter how the day starts, it will certainly end well! Hopefully this time I wont break an ankle.

Weather wise, things are also finally looking in my favor. We are “baking” under the west coast heat wave today….which means its 84 degrees and my beer is getting a warmer faster than usual on the patio right now. In all honesty though, it is supposed to be up to 100 on Tuesday or Monday, and for Montana, that is a huge scorcher. The snow might actually all melt from the mountains this year. The plus of this is that it is forecasting for sunny skies and mid 80’s on race days. After the two wind and rain ravaged races this year, I am more excited than George Takei this week.

On a side note, I recently was planning on doing the climb up to Big Mountain Ski Resort. As I prepped my bike, I realized that I had not changed out my carbon brake pads after putting my aluminum training wheels back on. My first thought was, “meh, how important could it be.” Then I remembered that the last time I said that I ended up in grad school for two years. So, I decided to research a little. Apparently, using carbon brake pads on aluminum isn’t great for actually stopping. It is great for picking up aluminum flecks in the pad and then subsequently gouging your carbon race rims. Sounded silly and like salesman talk…until I changed my pads out today:

My carbon brake pad after two rides on aluminum rims. I've already picked some metal flecks out of those two gouges.

My carbon brake pad after two rides on aluminum rims. I’ve already picked some metal flecks out of those two gouges.

Finally, there is a slight change of plans for Ironman next year. There I was, credit card in hand, all ready to sign up for Coeur d’alene on Monday last week. That was until I realized that next year’s race is the day after my wedding anniversary. Not even this triathlete has enough spousal approval units to pull that one off. So, it’s a no go. I also considered Boulder, but I don’t think I can commit to that yet. So right now, it’s between Lake Tahoe or Arizona. Let’s see how this summer rolls out first.

One more thing, if anyone needs a wetsuit, there is a pretty good sale at Trisports going on right now. Also, don’t forget, you can enter IRONVAN as  a coupon code and get 15% off regular items. Happy hunting!

PS: This is happening right now on the Le Tour. Crazy.

The 100th tour still has some surprises.

The 100th tour still has some surprises.

%d bloggers like this: