2013 KC Corporate Challenge Triathlon Race Report

I have expressed a number of times this year, and in the few days since this race that finding triathlons has really changed my attitudes on training and has been amazing for me. I hope that excitement and love of multi-sport events comes through in this post. First, I want to explain something that you will need to know as this report goes on, I will mention it a number of times. I have not run this race before, but I will refer to my course record a number of times anyway. This event is run on the same course as the Shawnee Mission Triathlon, which I ran last year as my first triathlon ever. There was one change made to the course for this year, though. Last year the run was 2.4 miles and this year it was extended 0.8 miles to a 3.2 mile run. Other than that, it would be the exact same course. Leading up to the race, I thought that was very exciting. I could really test what I could do know that I have really been training for triathlons and I have a better bike. Doing this same course would allow to me compare my performances pretty fairly.

In the week leading up to the race, I took things very easy. I wanted to be rested and ready to go all out at Sunday's race. Here is my week before the race:
Click for larger image
VERY light week. I focused mostly on staying rested and strong for race day. I also set my goals for the race. I knew I could do better than I did at Shawnee Mission last year, but how much better? Remember, there is an extra mile on the run leg and that is definitely the tough part of a tri. By then you are tired and you've worked pretty hard, so you never know how you'll feel with an extra mile on a hilly course. As always with a race that I really want to do well in, I set two goals. A primary goal and a stretch goal. The primary goal was to finish the race in the same time as last year. I figure that would require a decent improvement with the extra mile on the run course. My stretch goal was as follows:
Keep in mind, that additional 6:31 on the run would be an improvement from a 10:40 pace in 2012 to a 10:00 pace for 2013 with that extra mile. I thought the primary goal was definitely achievable and would be disappointed if I did not hit that, I thought the stretch goal might be asking too much of myself, but I had high hopes and wanted to push it pretty hard. Tough, but reasonable goals.

The three members of Team CenturyLink that
made it for the group photo
Finally race day came along. My wonderful wife Kristy was coming to the race to cheer me on and take lots of pictures (she is an excellent photographer). I had also planned a pre-race group picture with my company's team. Unfortunately, only me and two of the members of our relay team were able to make the picture. While I was chatting with my fellow CenturyLink team members, my friend Danny Loental meandered along and I got to chat with him. He's had a great year so far with some great trail races and ultras, so it was to see him finally getting in a triathlon as well.

Danny Loental & me pre-race
As race time drew nearer, Danny & I headed down toward the water and Kristy went to find a good location to take pictures of the swim. The way the course is set up, you swim from the boat loading area over to the "beach" as a warm up before the race, then you start from the "beach" and swim out passed the dock in the middle of the loading area, turn around and come back up the other side of the loading ramp. While we were down on the loading ramp waiting a little before swimming to the beach, we saw Emily Royal & Dave DeCecco (also Trail Nerds). We all chatted a bit as other waves started and eventually made our way over to the "beach".

Swim:
I honestly think this is the coolest picture ever taken of me
This was a start unlike either of the tri's I've done in the past. They were doing a time-trial style start; two swimmers would start every 5 seconds. Finally I made it up to the front and it was go time. I was fired up & ready! I hit the water and started on my way. As soon as I hit the water I knew the swim wasn't going to go great. This was my first open water swim of the year and I did not feel comfortable at all. I decided to just take it easy and do what I could without wearing myself out and try to make up any lost time on the bike leg. I mostly did really well, I just wasn't moving as fast as I would have liked. Keep in mind, last year when I did this I had only been swimming a couple months and had to do sidestroke the entire way. This time at least I was actually swimming freestyle! I got a little boost as I was going past the dock and when I took a breath I could see Kristy right there taking pictures and cheering for me. As expected, I was passing some people in my wave and some from the previous wave, as well as getting passed by some people in my wave and the next. I knew my swim was going to be nothing special as soon as I started. No reason to worry and panic at this point, plenty of time to make it up later. Swim: 500 meters in 11:41 (2:08/100 yards)

Transition 1:

Last year transitions killed me. I took so much time trying to worry about catching my breath and refreshing for the next leg. This year I tried to do the opposite. I was going to actually treat transitions as part of the race rather than like a half-time to settle down. It was a decent distance from the water to my bike, so I ran the whole way, taking off my goggles and swim cap on the way. As soon as I got to the bike I threw on my socks & cycling shoes, put a quick dab of Vaseline above each eye to keep the sweat out, stuffed a couple packs of GU Chomps in my back pocket (which I never ate anyway), put on my helmet, grabbed my bike and got moving to the bike exit. I was somewhat surprised that in spite of my rushed pace getting everything done in transition, I still felt like I had settled down and caught my breath a little. I felt confident and ready to take on the next leg of the race! Fast, fairly efficient transition, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. Transition 1: 3:16
 
 
Coming to the finish of the bike portion of the race
Bike:
 
Ironically, last year this was the leg of the tri that I was most worried about and this year it was the leg I was most confident for. Last year I had barely ridden and I had a 40 lb. hybrid Schwinn from Target. This year I have a 20 lb. Specialized Allez Sport (which I named Minuet) and have concentrated most of my effort this year on improving my cycling. Still, this is a tough, very hilly bike course, so I was not sure what I could crank out without thrashing my legs for the run portion of the race. I was excited to see what Minuet & I could do in a triathlon with the focus actually being on racing rather than just finishing. I felt great as I got on the bike and clipped in, so I just dug in and got to work. I pushed hard up the hills, but used my "granny gears" as to not destroy my legs completely. I hit the fast downhills hard and cranked hard on the pedals on the flats. I also tried not to pay attention to my watch/speed. I just kept pushing. I was slightly worried that I was pushing too hard, but my legs continued to feel great, so I just kept pushing. I passed a ton of people on the bike and almost everyone that passed me was on a serious tri-bike and looked like hard-core triathletes, no one passed me that looked like a mid-packer like I am. I felt pretty good about that. It's amazing how much I have come to love the feeling of cycling this year! I saw Kristy at the mid-point of the two loop course and again at the end. It was great to have her there, it's always a boost to see a friendly face in a race. As I came to the finish I felt loose and good. I didn't feel like I had burned myself out, so I wondered if maybe I hadn't been going as fast as I'd thought, but once I saw the time on my watch I was shocked. I never dreamed I could go that fast on that course and still feel this good! Bike: 9.02 miles in 31:04 (17.4 mph avg)
1/2 way through the bike leg
Transition 2:

I felt great coming into the second transition. No need to catch a breather like I had to off the bike last year! I felt strong, my leg felt loose and ready to go on a run! I was shocked, I was SMILING! How can my legs feel this good right off the bike?? Is this an illusion? Are my legs going to fall off as soon as I start running? I felt so good and excited that I was starting to worry about my energy crashing suddenly. Or maybe, just maybe, all of this tri training is paying off and my legs are just actually prepared for this now. I guess I wouldn't know until I started running! I ran my bike from the entrance of the transition area over to my spot on the racks and put Minuet up. I even said (out loud), "thanks for a great ride, Minuet!" I took off my helmet and cycling shoes and put on my Mizuno EVO Cursoris shoes and Under Armour visor for the run. I still was a bit in shock that I was feeling so good, so I figured I better get moving before things lock up on me! I had to cross over the center lane of the transition area to get from my bike to the run start and there were lots of bikes coming through, so I lost a few seconds waiting for an opening through the bikes. Once I got through them I started running, no walking out of transition in this race! Transition 2: 1:42
 
Run:
Coming upon the final hill of
the run course

As I started out on the run, I could not have felt better. It didn't even feel like a brick. My legs felt loose & strong, I had good feel and control of my pace and (most importantly) I was smiling! The nice thing about this day was that although it was humid, it stayed fairly cool with tons of cloud cover. I was a little worried that I would fall apart at some point since I was running fast and strong and there are some tough hills on this course, but I felt so good I thought it'd be worth the risk to not slow myself down to conserve for the final stretch. As I came to the dam hill it really hit me how different I felt in this race than last year. This is a short, but VERY steep hill. Last year I had to walk it, there was no way I could have ran it after the bike last year. This year I charged up it. I slowed quite a bit, but I hit it running and never stopped. As you get to the crest of that hill you take a left into a long parking lot and do a quick loop of it. Right at the start of the lot there was an aid station. I grabbed a water cup, drank half and threw half on my head to keep cool. I came out of the parking lot and headed across the street and down onto the trail where the rest of the course was. It was a decent downhill section, so I just let myself roll with the downhill and take all the free speed it would give me. This is a beautiful trail, so I was enjoying the view, running strong and fast, but still worrying that I'd burn out. I just couldn't believe I was doing this well AND feeling this good. As I came to one of the aid stations I saw my friend Eric Viera volunteering and shouted out to him. Again, great to see a friendly face! Finally I got to the dreaded hill up the back side of the dam. This hill is not as steep, but it feels like it goes on forever and it tends to take a lot out of me. I told myself no stopping now and I charged up it as strong and fast as I could. Once at the top, I still felt great! A short, flat section, then a long, steady, shallow hill and I'd be done. As I was coming up on the beginning of the hill I saw a familiar face yet again! My friend, Sherrie (recently completed her first 70.3 at Ironman Kansas and all-around bad-ass ultra runner) had taken a break from her run on the mountain bike trails to come support me. As I came close to her, she ran with me for a second to offer some kind words of support and encourage me. I also saw Kristy there taking pictures. I knew it was almost the end and even though I was starting to tire, I still had a decent amount in the tank, so I took off for a strong charge up the final hill to the finish line!! Run: 3.22 miles in 28:28 (8:49 avg pace)
 
 
Sherrie & me right after I finished
WOW! I was out of breath, out of gas, and exhausted finally. I had charged hard for a very strong finish, which is always an amazing feeling! As I checked my times on my watch, I was shocked to see that I had blown away my primary goal AND my stretch goal!! And I felt great the entire way, yet spent at the finish! Really, I could not ask for this race to have gone much better! Even with the addition of 0.8 miles on the run portion, I had still taken 9:45 off my course record from the previous year! Even more if you balance it out for the same distance run. I really had crushed this race! I was unbelievably proud and shocked at how I had done! Sherrie gave me a hug and a few words of congratulations and encouragement, then made her way back to the mountain bike trails to finish her run. I'm truly lucky to have such amazingly supportive friends! Kristy & I walked down toward to transition area so I could cool down and grab my bike and gear before we left and I saw yet another familiar face. Tom Cotter was there providing ART services for the athletes, so I got in line. I wasn't really hurting, but since he;s a friend I decided I might as well take the chance to get some work done and say hello. He worked on my calfs a little, which were quite tight, and that really made me feel better.
 
I decided that since I had made so much time up on
the bike, Minuet deserved to have her picture with
our race medal before we left
As we got into the transition area to get my bike, there was yet one more familiar face! I was starting to think I'd see everyone I knew before I left! The great Larry Long was there getting his gear together with his family before leaving as well. He is and awesome triathlete and ultra runner as well having completed a number of 70.3s, 140.6s and 100 mile runs. We chatted a bit about how our races had gone and he introduced me to his family. It was great to have seen so many of my friends! Finally, I got all my stuff together and Kristy and I walk off to our cars to get on with the rest of our day. I was sore, tired (exhausted, really) and yet fired up. I was so proud of such a strong race. This is probably one of the best, strongest races I have ever run of any type or distance and thus, one of the biggest post-race highs I've ever experienced! Additionally, this was an awesome, well organized event with great volunteers. Awesome! I simply have no words for how great I felt after this race.
 

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