14th place at Rev3 Knoxville:
Performance is my top priority as an athlete, but not at the cost of losing what is important to me. Family is my top priority as a person. With a strong support system, I feel like I can accomplish all of my goals.
Triathlon, at the professional level, can be demanding enough to breed selfishness. A selfish mentality is not always a winning mentality. I would like to win, but at the same time be humble enough to function outside of the triathlon bubble.
My actions need to be a reflection of what I believe. The phrase, “motion creates emotion”, comes to mind. The same can be said about emotion creating motion. I train and race my best when I am happy.
Happiness, which I feel is the best way to measure success, will lead to performance.
Last Sunday I raced the Kelowna ITU Premium Pan American Cup, finishing in 11th place. It was my third, and most likely my last race of the 2012 season. The race venue in Kelowna, B.C. is astonishing. Lake Okanagan is beautiful and the town is very inviting, so I look forward to the possibility of racing there each year. This time was no different.
From the start, my plan was to break the field up on the first lap of the swim. I did just that, bringing eight other guys with me. When I get nervous in races, I go out hard to relieve some of the anxiety I am feeling, and it works! For the second lap of the swim, Dustin McLarty pulled everyone along, which made it easy for me to come out of the water relaxed. I felt like I was in control of the race, getting through T1 before everyone and getting my feet into my shoes before any of the guys rolled up beside me.
Having eight guys to work with on the bike was great and everyone was pulling through smoothly. There were some really strong riders in the group and we built an advantage of about four minutes on the chase pack. Climbing is my strongest cycling ability, but I was suffering up the 600 meter hill on each lap, noticing that everyone else seemed to be dancing. During some sections of the bike I thought I was going to get dropped.
Coming into T2 at the back of the group, I fumbled with my running shoes, but was ready to run with the guys. This is where my race fell apart and I did not deliver. Racing should be a display of hard work, but I did not showcase anything. There are many things to work on until I race again.
Aside from racing, I always look forward to meeting up with friends that I compete against. After the race I had a great dinner with Ryan Bice, Dustin McLarty, Jason Pedersen, and some of the Canadian guys. As long as Kelowna holds an ITU race I will plan to come back for another shot, and I am not just talking about tequila.
Each open-water swimming event is different. Race distances usually range from 750 meters to 10 kilometers, while race venues have nearly an unlimited amount of possibilities. A swim warm up must be tailored to your specific race distance and whatever type of course you will encounter. Preparing your muscles to twitch is only part of the reason why warming up is a good idea.
One of the most important pieces of advice I can give you is to always warm up before your event (preferably in the water). Swim at least half the amount of time you expect it will take you to complete the course. Knowing what has worked for you in past races is a good way to gauge what you should be doing.
A long warm up sets the body up well for the pain you will experience during the race. If you are skeptical, think about this: Some 50 meter freestyle competitors warm up as much as 3k for a race that lasts barely more than 20 seconds. Sculling, backstroke, relaxed swimming, and short sprints are all part of a well-rounded warm up routine. Variety is beautiful.
Warming up also allows you to scout the course, which might be even more important than preparing your muscles to race. If you do not know where you are going, it really will not matter how fast you can swim. Pick out landmarks to sight if buoys are going to be hard to see during the race. Knowing where to go can be a HUGE advantage over your competition. Andy Potts is a prime example of professionalism in this case…A certain race in Texas rings a bell.
Familiarize yourself with any currents and take notice of any surf or chop you might have to swim through. If waves of significant size are present on the course, practice diving under them when heading from shore and surfing them heading towards shore.
Whether or not a current exists on the course will affect your strategy. If you are a weak swimmer, you will need to go hard against the current and rest as much as you can going with the current. If you can find a way to avoid swimming against the current, props to you.
The sun might be in your eyes for part of the course. If this is the case, choose appropriate goggles (reflective or tinted). If the event is being held early in the morning or in cloudy conditions, use clear or lightly-tinted goggles.
That is all for now. More tips to come. Stay tuned.
Recently I’ve come across a lot of triathletes saying that their swimming abilities in the pool are not correlating with their performances in open water. Open water swimming is a skill. As with learning flip-turns, dolphin kicking, and different strokes in the pool, one must learn a number of skills to compete well in open water.
To name a few skills:
- Breath Control
- Sighting Buoys
- Maintaining proper technique while swimming in a group or in rough conditions,i.e., currents/chop/waves.
- Scouting swimming courses and their conditions, in order to make sure the swim is as short and effortless as possible.
Holding certain paces in the pool may not carry over to fast open water swimming because open water is a completely different environment. Many things in open water cannot be controlled, but they can in the pool. No open water course will ever be the same, even if the course is raced again, 30 minutes later. Depending on the course, swimmers will be exposed to outside variables such as wind, currents, less than ideal temperatures, waves, and contact with other swimmers.
One might argue that swimming is just movement through water, water is the same everywhere, and that all pools are the same. Not necessarily. Some pools are designed and built specifically to swim faster times in. Different courses carry the same principle. There will be differences between your performances, swimming in hot water or cold, salt water or fresh, lakes, reservoirs, oceans, inlets, canals, rivers, you name it. The depth of the water makes a difference and the density does too, not to mention all of the other environmental conditions that are uncontrollable.
Yes, your fitness in the pool may complement your ability to swim well in open water, but there are great athletes in the pool that are not dominant in open water. Larsen Jensen for example, great pool swimmer (Current American Record Holder in the 400 Meter Freestyle), but not a standout open water swimmer. I have swam with some of the best open water swimmers in the world during my swimming career in Hawai’i. John Flanagan and Noa Sakamoto, both NCAA Division I studs, could destroy me in the pool, but I knew how to swim with them in open water. Being well prepared for the variables likely encountered in open water swimming, will help athletes that train primarily in a pool setting carry their pool fitness over to decent open water performances.
Strategy plays a significant role in how well you will perform in open water because you will depend on other athletes swimming next to you. Knowing who you are swimming against is a good way to use other athletes to your advantage. You cannot control what other athletes are going to do during the race/swim portion of a triathlon. They may direct you off course, alter your mobility in packs and around turn buoys, bring you undesirable physical contact, or literally drag you down with them.
You don’t have to be a standout in the pool to be successful in open water swimming. In my next post I will share how I deal with some of the challenges that open water swimming brings, based off of my racing experience. Please feel free to comment. I will enjoy reading your input on the matter.
The 11th FISU World University Triathlon Championships were held in Yilan, Taiwan. While many people were finishing their day on June 29, I was diving off of a pontoon into the Dongshan River on June 30. I finished the race in 13th place and the USA Men placed 4th in the team competition. As our team head coach Steve Kelley said, “Close…but no cigar.”
Coming into the race, I knew the conditions would be hot, extremely hot. The heat index was more than 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Despite the weather conditions, I had planned an aggressive race strategy with all of my teammates. We knew that we had an advantage in the water and that the wind on the bike course would demoralize anyone trying to chase. Little did we know how brutal the race would actually be.
Diving off of a pontoon is a fun way to start a race, but it’s also messy. I didn’t find clean water as fast as I normally do and struggled to get into a good position. Everyone was taking the first 100 meters out like a bullet, but most died after about the 200 meter mark, which allowed me to focus on finding Dustin McLarty’s feet. He is one of the best, if not the best swimmer in the triathlon world, and he was gunning for the first turn buoy.
We had planned to swim together and work on the bike together, but I knew it wouldn’t be a cake walk to stay on his feet. I managed to get behind him before the first turn buoy and from there we formed a gap on the main field. Coming out of the water, we had a lead of 45 or more seconds to the next swimmer. The run to transition was more than 300 meters and it wasn’t easy. I felt shattered just getting to my bike.
Getting into my shoes as fast as possible, I got onto Dustin’s wheel and tried to hang on until I felt like I could pull for him. My legs were shot and they didn’t improve at all after sitting on his wheel for one lap. He was pulling me along and I was just dead weight to him. Our strategy was to go into the run with a huge gap on the main field, but I couldn’t even hang onto his wheel. Dustin just said, “I’m going for it.”
I didn’t know what to do, other than to slow down and let the chase pack catch me. I knew if I tried to stay with Dustin that I’d blow up completely. The chase pack caught me at the end of lap 2 (out of 4 bike loops) and it was a breeze to sit in the group. I went to the front a few times to stay out of trouble during the technical sections, but other than that I just relaxed and tried to get my legs back. There was a massive headwind for the majority of each loop and nobody wanted to work to reel Dustin in. This was good for our team because we had no reason to ride hard if our guy was off the front.
Dustin came off of the bike with a 3 minute lead and everyone figured that he had the race in the bag. I wasn’t just concerned about my individual performance on the day, but also what I could contribute to our team’s final standing. Ryan Bice, Chris Braden, and I were all in the main pack. Jason Pedersen rode the entire 40k solo and was not too far behind us coming off of the bike. Our team was in a good position to run for a podium finish.
Dustin ended up dropping out after 2 laps of the run. This hurt our team because only the first 3 finishers from each country can contribute to team scoring. I really admire the way Dustin raced. He held nothing back and obliterated everyone on the bike. It takes a lot of guts to race like that. Now that Dustin was out, Ryan, Chris, Jason, and I were battling the French, Japanese, and South African teams to get on the podium. No matter how bad I was hurting I told myself I would not give up. Our team depended on each member to give his best performance.
All I could do at the beginning of the run was to get myself to look forward to each aid station, where I would squeeze sponges filled with cold water onto my head and arms. The heat was oppressive. I started to feel better on the second lap (of 4) and reeled in about 20 guys by the time I had finished. The run felt more like survival than anything. The French team ended up winning, with the Japanese in second, and the South Africans in third.
The USA Women’s team won the gold medal, which was cool to see. Despite not coming away with any individual medals or team medals, our men’s team was very happy to be done with the race and enjoy the rest of the festivities that the hotel had planned for everyone. I met a lot of cool people and made some new friends from other countries. Having this experience was invaluable and I am happy that USA Triathlon funded this team to race in Taiwan. Our support staff was second to none. Thank you to Steve Kelley, Brent Hamula, Brian Hughes, and Jennifer Hutchinson for making the trip run smooth!
I feel like I raced tough and improved a lot since my disastrous finish in Dallas. My next race will be the Magog ITU Pan American Cup, on July 21. Getting back into training will be nice, as I’m hungry for more improvement.
This past Saturday I participated in my first race of the season, the Dallas ITU Pan American Cup. I finished in second-to-last place. My result is a massive disappointment considering how well training has been going.
The plan from the beginning was to string the field out as much as possible. I made an acceleration for about 200 meters, to get away from everyone at the start of the swim. From then on, I kept a steady pace and made a conscious effort to take the shortest line between buoys. Exiting the water in 17:20, I had a 9 second gap on another great swimmer, Andrew McCartney, and about a 22 second gap on Aaron Thomas. Ideally, there would have been a group of 8-10 people following closely, but everyone else was well behind the three of us.
After having a solid transition, I waited for the Canadians, McCartney and Thomas, to bridge up. We started to rotate and were working well together. A very large chase pack was in pursuit and we only stayed away from them for about 2.5 laps. Once the chase pack caught us, the rest of the ride was slow, besides the accelerations out of the 180 degree turns. Nobody wanted to ride hard, except for two guys who went off the front with a few laps to go.
Coming off the bike was a complete mess. The transition area was set very narrow, causing congestion within the large group of guys heading in. A few athletes dropped their bikes in front of me and I got caught up in the cluster, eventually getting to my rack much later than I wanted to.
From the start of the run, I knew I was in trouble. A side stitch had developed and I figured it would go away, but that was wishful thinking. After watching several athletes drop out, I thought I’d be next. Instead, I decided to keep going and shuffled my way through what would prove to be the longest 10k of my life. I had not raced, but merely participated.
Failure is a great motivator, but also discouraging. My next race will be at the end of this month, in Taiwan. The race will be my first and last FISU World University Triathlon Championships. I am excited to represent the United States and will give Taiwan my best shot. The team aspect of the competition will be a lot of fun. Back to the grind for round 2 and keeping my head up.