Dirty Kanza 2018: A Gravel Odyssey

The Superbowl of gravel cycling. The Ironman of cycling. Whatever you want to call it, The Dirty Kanza200 which covers 206 miles of Flint Rock Hills gravel, has now firmly staked its claim as the premier gravel event in the US. Dare I say the world? After having spent the weekend in Emporia and raced the DK 200, I find myself wondering “Was this what Ironman was like in the late 80s, early 90’s?” I just don’t know, I got into triathlon when it had already been well established, had a peak and valley and was rising to its highest high (2009-2012) which since has not been matched. I make this statement due to the pulsating vibe that resounded throughout the small Midwest town stuck in between Kansas City and Wichita, KS. This race is not new, it’s been around for more than a decade. Yet in just the past 3 years if you look at the results you can see the race taking on a completely different look. Riders with backgrounds in professional road cycling, cyclocross and even triathlon can be seen integrating into the lead pack and drastically changing the dynamic. With that said, I just wonder…is this the big wave that will truly move the needle of cycling in America? Will we, in the near future see a true race series that is all raced on dusty, rock laden roads where traffic does not exist and racers are directed via Garmins and Wahoos as opposed to lead vehicles and arrow signs?

 

I came into the Dirty Kanza not quite knowing what I was getting myself into. I signed up on a relative whim with my buddies from The Cycling Formula. Lucky for me I got in via the lottery and figured I’d give it a shot. Looking at the race, the distance or potential time on the bike didn’t faze me. Having raced countless Ironman distance races I’ve had the experience of doing a physical activity for 10 or 11 hours straight. I know the nutritional requirements…I know pacing. That seemed like the easy part. The stuff you could plan for. The scary part was the potential for mechanical issues. I’m talking about ripping the sidewall of your tire when you’re 30 miles away from the nearest checkpoint and having no way to repair it or having your rear derailleur be torn off while riding through a knee deep river crossing with branches floating around like land mines. The potential for disaster is everywhere out there in the Flint Rock Hills. But what the hell, this kind of thing is right up my alley. I was going to go out there and SEND IT!

 

I probably should have done some more research…and maybe not raced a 3 day stage race the weekend before…and maybe not raced 1 or 2 times each weekend for the 2 months leading into this race. A lot of things I “could have” done differently for sure, but the fact is. I went into this thing thinking of it as more of a fun challenge than anything else. Sure I wanted to be competitive but that wasn’t really my main goal when I had signed up. That slowly changed as I saw the people who were at the event and the vibe that was being generated. Don’t get me wrong this is still a mass start event where people are just there for the adventure, the experience and the glory of just doing something that is just a little bit on the crazy spectrum….and frankly, that’s the beauty of it. One event to rule them all.

 

Anyway, race morning rolls along and after a 30 minute delay due to a crazy thunderstorm rolling through we were off. All 1,000+ of us DK200 participants ripping down Main Street, Emporia all fighting to be at the front. It starts out as a neutral roll on pavement, but is more or less a moderately paced CX race where unless you’re a known quantity whom people are too scared to touch…you’re getting bumped and jostled for position. No joke, elbows being thrown and moderate chops being employed. One woman did this no less than 3 times to be in the neutral roll. Once you make the turn onto the first gravel road things thin out as there are really only two lanes two ride. Those are the worn in tire tracks and you basically slot in behind someone and hope it’s a good spot. Minimal passing is done over the first 10-15 miles. After an hour or so the group of 1000+ naturally slims down to a couple hundred or so with that being whittled down yet again at about the 60-90 minute mark. There is a place called the pens where the cattle roam free (literally right across the road you’re riding on) and wild horses run along side of you. It was at this point where the race had its first real efforts being made. Treating this as any other bike race where I was at without teammates I tried to stay as close to the front as possible to be sure I wasn’t gapped by any other group. Becoming detached that early in a 200 mile race would be VERY BAD. Luckily my tires stayed inflated and I rolled through this section unscathed. Using Ted King as a measuring stick, I made sure to keep within a safe distance of any effort he made and also held back when I could see he was. It was a long day ahead and he’s done this thing a couple times already. I had not. Once our pack was down to 20-30 riders there was an easing of the pace, people peed and I even had a nice chat with Jens Voigt….yup that Jens from pro cycling fame. Super nice guy, very friendly to everyone…and I am sure was compensated accordingly by Trek.

 

Heading into checkpoint 1 in Madison is where my naivety came to light. I rolled over the timing mat in 3rd right behind Ted. I knew that I needed to find my drop bag and get my fuel for the next 65 miles to Eureka. However, the crew-for-hire option where I leave them a bag and they bring it out to the checkpoint was nowhere to be found. I had no idea where they were. Riders were stopping at their own tents, with their own crews and getting everything they needed. All while I was wandering around trying to find my bag. Long story short, I had no luck. I was at the end of the checkpoint and no one knew anything. I begged a lady for some water and she filled one bottle for me. One bottle and half a 50oz camelbak plus 3-4 gels was all I had. This was not good. Then the leaders went by me, they had made their stop and were heading out and my options were either to make sure I stayed in the front pack or waste more time looking for my drop bag. I made the decision to risk my low fuel and just ensure I maintained contact with the front pack. The speed and placement was just too valuable. In the long run it was indeed a dumb move, as we started the leg that goes from miles 48-103 we immediately hit a mug bog and I took on so much mud between my rear wheel and bike frame that I had to completely remove my thru axle wheel, scoop all the clay-like mud out and then reassemble everything and make a 15 minute chase back onto the group. So in the end I didn’t get the fuel I needed and ended up wasting a bullet having to chase back onto the main group. BUMMER! In any case I was still in the lead pack and just knew that I needed to ration my hydration and gels. If I could just make it to checkpoint 2 in contact I’d be alright.

 

The King and I
The King and I

As we went from miles 48 to about 95 the group was down to about 15-18 of us. Whether due to intensity, mechanical or otherwise, that was where we were at. This race, other than the odd very bad mechanical has a funny way of just kind of putting people into the groups they belong within the first 100 miles. Unlike a road race where if you get dropped early on your day is over, here its not that big of a deal you just find another group to ride with that is more your pace….no biggy. In any case back to the race. A long stretch of crosswind strung things out a bit as we neared Eureka and checkpoint #2. Ted King put in a little dig and distanced himself from the group. At this point I had already begged him for a gel, and by god the dude was so nice he gave me one of his Untapped Gels. He didn’t have to, but he did. I owe him for that. However, having been out of hydration since about mile 80 I was running on fumes and decided to hang back just a bit. I knew that I’d probably get into checkpoint 2 about a minute behind but I wasn’t too worried. I knew that I’d be able to fuel up, grab the second camelbak I had stored along with a nice snickers bar and a full pocket of Untapped gels and waffles. I was going to be alright. Then the realization of my mistakes happened. I did not research the race enough, I did not know that having a support crew or even a single helper would be such a big deal. After finding my bag I had to fill each bottle I had with water into the mix I had put in there the day before (no water allowed in bags beforehand), sort through and get the food I needed, lube my chain and all that other stuff. It might have only been 5 or 6 minutes…but in that time my seat at the front of the class was gone. I left checkpoint 2 and the race was up the road. I was solo and had 103 miles to go. NOT GOOD!

 

Being alone with 100 miles to go quite frankly sucked. I was starting to hit the beginnings of the headwind that would be plaguing us for the remainder of the ride back north to Emporia so I just dug in and focused on keeping my heart rate and cadence up. Through the next 30 miles I caught one other rider who had blown sky high. He latched on for a bit, but when he asked me “How much farther the next stop was”, my reply of “about 30 miles” was not what he wanted to hear. Shortly after informing him of the bad news we hit a pretty sizable water crossing. I road straight through it and he stopped before getting wet. He was never seen again. Well I mean he didn’t disappear into the abyss, he just probably stopped for a break or something.

RIVER CROSSING
I rode through this, NBD.

 

A little while after the water crossing a lone rider past me, kind of out of nowhere. This was music to my ears because shortly after he went by I saw that a group of 5-6 riders were approaching. I decided to take a quick nature break and wait for the group to come by so I could ride with some friends for a while. We all banded together at what must have been between mile 130-135. The group was rolling along nicely along and with Matt Lieto, Paul Shirley and Cory Wallace we had some diesel power to barrel through the headwinds. Somewhere along the way the group was down to about 4 of us as we hit the third and last checkpoint in Madison at about mile 161. I made sure to restock my supplies as best as possible and got back on the road. In the shuffle Paul got out in front of the group and ended up latching on to another pack that ended up finishing about 10 minutes ahead of us. Kudos to him for being prepared and making quick work of the stop. That left Cory, Jesse  and myself together for the final push to the finish. Honestly, at that point I was super thankful to have some companions as the headwinds were in full force. Cory was definitely the strongest of us, which after I learned of his background made sense as he is the current 24 hour MTB World Champion…so basically at hour 8-9 he was just coming alive, and also had flatted earlier…so it all kinda made sense. None the less I had these guys to keep me company and we all traded turns at the front to be a wind block. We even took the opportunity to commemorate our little crew with a nice picture at Salsa’s “chasethechaise” photo op. A very cool idea by the company that only took a matter of seconds and an awesome photo came from it, along with a nice little patch. Thanks Salsa!

 

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Three Amigos on Chaise

The final miles were pretty uneventful. Cory, the strongest put up manly surge up the final 100m long hill into town with Jesse chasing shortly behind. My legs however were just fine with keeping it steady to the finish. A small bummer as both were in my age group and I went from a podium 5th place to 7th due to this, but the reality was that Cory deserved it anyways. He did the most work on the way home, so kudos to him!

 

Looking back at how the race went I definitely am happy and proud of my result. Of course I had ambitions of a better finish but it is what it is. I did a few things wrong and those few things ended up making a big difference.

Lesson learned and I will certainly not let that happen again. God willing I will be at DK200 2019 and with one of these things under my belt and a large amount of LUCK, I hope to be right up there sprinting for the win down Main Street, Emporia.

 

A HUGE thank you to Adam at Gravel City Adventure & Supply Co. I needed some help with my bike and Adam took care of me big time. Not only did he fix the issue (and fast) he also made the recommendation of putting some different tires on. More suitable for the terrain. I told him “you’re the local, I trust you. If you’ve got time to do it, go for it.” He simply told me “I’ll get it done”…and he did. And I am very thankful for the advice!!

 

Thanks for the hospitality Emporia! See you next year.

 

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The Gear I used:

  • Velocio Radiator Jersey, Signature Bibs, Bretton Socks, POC Ventralvelocio pic
  • 2 Chase Camelbaks, and a lot of flat repair supplies
  • Untapped Maple (Regular and Coffee Version)
  • Untapped Ginger Mapleaid and Lemon Tea Mapleaid (Mixed for taste and sodium content)
  • Maxxis Rambler 38’s  – per expert recommendation by Adam Blake of Gravel City Adventure and Supply
  • Bike: Felt F3X with Shimano Ultegra Components, 11-28 cassette on 46×36 with Quarq Dzero
  • Wheels: NEXT XPLOR – Setup as tubeless 1 Snickers

 

NormaTec Numbers:

In its travel case its a carry on approved size, which is awesome.

Thursday – 75 minutes in the evening.

Friday – (Day Before the race) Used two times for 60 minutes each. While watching SAFE on Netflix, good show.

Saturday – (Race day)

  • Used for 30 minutes prior to the race. 4:45-5:15 am. Serves as a warm-up before the actual warm-up on the bike. As the blood is moved in the legs without actually moving my body it’s a nice way to get the body awake without having to do too much effort and I was able to finish my pre-race breakfast while doing so.
  • Used again for 60 minutes after returning from the race before bed. I really like having the ability to do this after an effort like DK, just to head off any inflammation and swelling that is beginning.

Sunday – Used 90 minutes before heading to the airport. Again, nice to get ahead of the swelling that can be induced by sitting in a plane for 2+ hours.

 

Full Results  – 11:51, 16th Overall

Strava File

 

TP Stats
For the data geek’s out there!

It’s 2018, lets ride bikes!

Hello World,

I am officially back on the blog circuit. A lot has gone on since I last regularly posted stuff here but the short of it is that I am now a full on cyclist who can’t get enough of it. I race with my buddies on the Velocio Northeast Cycling squad most every weekend. I’m spending my days as an Accountant with NormaTec (makers of those magical boots that give you “fresh legs faster”) and filling in all the other hours on the bike or with my beautiful wife Kaitlin.

The plan is to get things rolling on here again and let you all now how the cycling scene here in the US is going. It is an interesting time with road racing seeming to have a lull in participation while the enthusiasm for off road gravel/adventure style racing is off the charts. No matter the industry feelings, I am 100% committed to racing on two wheels and plan to share it all with you. (Whether you like it or not)

See you out there!

-Matt

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I used to write a lot…

Then I pretty much stopped. Life got busy, got engaged, bought a house and finished that up with a Wedding last September (yes, there is a new Mrs. Curbeau). There was also the fact that I went back to being a full-time number cruncher.

Lately though, I’ve been riding my bike….a lot. Well, as much as I can fit in and still get a little sleep here and there. This past fall brought Cyclocross into my life, which was awesome and this spring brings Road Racing. So until I destroy my bike or body (or both) I’ll be putting the pedals down on the open road.

If nothing else, Cycling has a lot of race options at cheap prices and you usually get a ton of free photos taken of you….which is sweet.

I’ll try to be a little more current with the website and get this rolling right proper again.

See you out on the roads!

-MC

ps. Vermont Beer Is Pretty Awesome (And Trillium in Boston too!)

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The Parts They Don’t Talk About – My 2015 Ends With Another Mexican Adventure

Bright Beginnings, Rising Stars and Mountain Tops reached are all the feel good stories that get fed to the media. There just isn’t general interest in the Grinder; the one who is climbing the ladder but still only toiling in the middle rungs. Progress is progress and climbing that first rung is just as important as the last one.

ladders of success

The paradox created is that the middle rungs are the weakest as the most pressure and stress are placed upon them. The lack of support in the middle creates the deterrent to press on and instead seek the safety of remaining static or worse regressing.

These middle rungs are tough. There are a lot of them, they are largely unseen and quite often you will push so hard that they break and you are forced to repair them in order to continue your progress. It has been in these middle rungs where my 2015 season has been. The safety and stability of being new to the sport without expectations, the excitement of becoming the best in your circle and the fresh and exhilirating start of lining up with the best of the best disappears below you. No longer does the excuse “I’m cutting my teeth” work. All that matters is what you produce when it counts. I would wager to bet that I am among the majority, and that it is the exception when someone goes from the bottom to the top without getting hung up in the middle. It’s just that you don’t hear about it and the people who are in those middle stages frankly don’t talk about it because it is unexciting, doesn’t draw to much interest and still comes back to the hard line that it really only matters what you can produce.

2015 has been a Grind. A most necessary step, yet one that is largely unrewarding if you solely look at it from the outside. As illustrated by my lack of activity on this blog I have both been very busy in all facets of life as well as I just plain and simple did not have much that I felt was worthy of sharing with the public. There were no wins, no trophies, no personal bests. It was a year of unsensational mediocrity. Yet I probably made the most progress I have ever made in a 12 month period. Too much focus on the singular can lead to not seeing the whole picture.

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2015 Wrapped Up With a Bow On Top:

As I sit in the Muffin House (a fantastic coffee shop that obviously makes a delicious baked good) I can reflect on 2015 and how it all went. All in all it was another great chapter in my life. Dodging the cold I spent most of February and March in both Florida and California. May was largely spent in Texas training for and racing both the Texas 70.3 and Ironman. The summer included lots of training, the annual pilgrimage to Lake Placid to spectate and ended with a great experience at Ironman Chattanooga.

That left Ironman Cozumel to tackle as the season ender. It is this race that got my juices flowing to actually shake of the rust and share my stories with the public. This since I actually feel like I have something somewhat interesting to share. Unlike the rest of the season which largely went without many bumps in the road, my second trip to Mexico certainly added to the Mexico es no bueno por Matteo files. For those who either missed or want to catch up on the last time I went to Mexico you can read HERE how it went down. (For more graphic pictures, leave a comment and I’ll pass it along to you).

Cozumel 2015 setup to be a great season ending race for me. With a quicker than normal swim, a tough bike due to wind and heat and a run that was sure to be a sufferfest in the conditions I was really looking forward to the battle. It was a race that suited me and a race that I was physically and mentally prepared for. Race morning although filled with a couple shuttles went really smoothly and led to having plenty of time to warmup and get prepared to start Ironman #12. With no real in-water warmup, we were cut loose. With 30+ starting, there was a good deal of chaos at the beginning. This also means plenty of bodies to get drafts off of. After several hundred meters we formed into a group of about 10 or so strong which stuck for the rest of the swim. Getting onto the bike after being in the water for :49 minutes, things were in a good place. I was moving into the back of some strong cyclists and it was setting up to be a good day.

Unfortunately for me I had a flat at about 14 miles into the bike (if you have raced Cozumel, it happened right after you bear left and go into the exposed section of the course to the ocean that is the windiest). That change essentially knocked me out of contention to ride with the strongest cyclists. Continuing on I had the misfortune of flatting again about 15 minutes later and then again at about the 40 mile mark. Alas, after one loop of a three loop course I had been on the side of the road for about 40 minutes. With each flat my resources to fix them were diminished and I was forced to rely on Mexican Bike Mechanics on mopeds to come along and assist. I’ve got to say they were all great and helped me out immensely…it just takes more and more time for them to get there the further back from the main groups you are, that’s just the cold hard facts.

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Luckily for my attitude my third flat happened to fall exactly where a fellow english speaking, and Quintana Roo tweeting friend was watching from. Sonja (goSonja.com) who was down to watch the race came over and hung out with me as I waited for help. With the 1st flat being devastating to the race and the 2nd and 3rd just being insulting, I certainly enjoyed a friendly face and encouraging words.

So the race went on, devoting myself to finishing what I started I made the most of the day on the island. The bike course really is pretty beautiful, it’s almost like a kick in the pants that the most scenic views happen when the wind is the worst and all you want to do is get beyond it. But with the pressure lessened I can say I was able to soak it up a little more than I would have. It really was pretty.

Getting to the run course with Matt Russell (Ultimate 2nd place) already beginning his second of three ~8.5 mile loops was pretty discouraging. I resigned to give it a steady loop and see where things were at. With one loop down it was really apparent where things stood. After the second loop I stopped to give my trooper of a Mom a hug and tell her I’d be a little longer on the final loop but I’d be back soon. Finishing off a tough day with another medal around my neck was to be my glory.

Unfortunately, the above recap of my time in Mexico really was only a piece of what I was referencing when I said this trip to Mexico added to the list of WTF Mexico Moments I’ve had. Getting back to the Hotel about 45 minutes after finishing I went to take a #1 and out came what appeared to be Beet Performer, however I had not been able to bring the cans down with me on the plane…so with that ruled out and the fact that no red gatorade was on course I took a walk back to the Med Tent to see if I could get an IV.

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Now I know some athletes might stretch their condition at times to get a line in their arm…however I have never played that card feeling that when I really needed it I didn’t want to be the boy who cried wolf. Well, who would have though Mexico would have sticklers for medical personnel. (If anything I would have thought in Mexico they would have been the first to be like, an IV? Sure! Let’s plug it right in.) Well about 5 hours later I walked out of the Hospital (2 for 2 in that department when being in Mexico now), 3 hours worth of IV drip in me. It was another crazy experience and I was super glad that my Mom was there to be a reasoning voice as at one point the Mexican doctor was talking about putting in a catheter and keeping me for up to two days!

Things have “cleared” up and I think everything is A ok now, so that is that.

Mexico certainly did not disappoint….and you know the twisted part to all of this is that even though I have raced two times in Mexico with both trips yielding visits to the hospital, I am still thinking about how I am going to win that race next year.

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Thrown in all of this was the fact that I am now engaged and a home owner…so yeah, I guess 2015 was actually pretty damn successful!

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Howdy Ya’ll – Texas 70.3, Ironman Texas and Everything in Between

Greetings from Texas. The Lonestar state is where I’ve called home for the past couple of week. Kaitlin and I ventured down here for the Texas 70.3 down in Galveston (You know, the place where Robert Durst killed that dude) on April 28th and since then have been hunkered in putting the final touches on our preparation for the 2015 edition of Ironman Texas. Courtesy of some very gracious Texans, we’ve managed to have a good roof over our heads, fine pools to swim at and all sorts of other help as we navigate the maze that is “The Woodlands, TX”. When I say maze, I mean it. This place is just one big confusing maze, known only by those that call this place their home. Almost everything is hidden behind the trees that give this place it’s namesake. Literally just this morning, about my 11th day here I navigated myself to the pool without the aid of google maps.

So how did we get here? Last time you heard from Kait and I we were living large out in California. Since our return to the East coast we have been working hard towards our first Monument race of the year, The 2015 Ironman We both put in some big hours and covered many miles. Luckily for us the April weather in Boston turned out to be pretty great (save for Marathon Monday). Thankfully I was very warm in my Barnana Banana Suit!

Cheering at the Boston Marathon in the Barnana  Banana suit!
Cheering at the Boston Marathon!

After wrapping up a few big weeks of training up north, we headed south the Friday before the Texas 70.3. Galveston was a pretty solid race for all intents and purposes. After a couple really heavy training weeks, (including 6 and 7 hours bike rides and a long run that followed the Boston marathon course from about mile 7.5 to the finish line) I did my best to rest up during the week leading into the race. Coming out of the water leading a decent size chase group I was psyched to see my hard work in the pool translate once again to improvement on race day.

Leading in the 2nd pack at the 2015 Texas 70.3 in Galveston.
Leading in the 2nd pack at the 2015 Texas 70.3 in Galveston.

Once out of the water and onto the bike the pace kicked up very high. Behind me out of the water were guys like Lionel Sanders, Matt Russell and Chris Baird. All fella’s who can lay it down on the bike. After about 5 miles of keeping in touch with their group I slipped up and got caught in a bad spot with a few slower cyclists and an official on a motorcycle. Blocking my advancement I hesitated instead of plowing on by them and maintaining contact with the faster group. In retrospect I needed to be on the ball and make the move. After that I was in no-mans land by myself for a while. At the turn-around I was pleasantly surprised to see I wasn’t that far behind from the group that had dropped me. Giving it literally all my legs had in me that day I scrambled back to T2 figuring that the run was just gonna hurt no matter what…so pedal to the metal. Feeling somewhat flat from the weeks before and the tough 56 miles, my run was less than spectacular and was the missing link to a sub 4 hour day. Finishing in 4:03 (:28, 2:08, 1:24) I was the 14th professional and earned myself nice finishers medal, free water and another solid white running cap that looked strangely similar to the one I received at Oceanside.

Coming into T2 at the 2015 Texas 70.3
Coming into T2 at the 2015 Texas 70.3
Giving it all I've got on the run course at the 2015 Texas 70.3.
Giving it all I’ve got on the run course at the 2015 Texas 70.3.

A couple days after Galveston while out on a bike ride here in the Woodlands my legs decided to regain their form, making me think that the sub 4 hour day I was looking for was missed by only a couple days. But that’s how it goes. The bigger goal is Ironman Texas and everything has been setup for May 16th.

Since then the days have been rolling along. Along with Kait, there are a few other QT2 Pro athletes making The Woodlands their home in the lead up to the race. This optimal setup has allowed for us to nail the hard sessions with others and really ensure that we’re all getting the most out of ourselves. We’ve also had some great opportunities to train in the heat and humidity of Texas, with the goal to acclimate our bodies as much as possible. So bring on the Nasty Conditions Texas!

With just about a week to go until race day, we all our putting the final touches on our preparation with a solid ride and run. After that we’ll lounge around a lot, eat good food and catch up on all the tv and movies we’ve missed over the last 5 months due to the 7:30 or 8pm bed times.

One thing I know about the race here in Texas this year is that I am definitely ready to roll. Having the ability to ride and run on the course has been a tremendous opportunity. When that gun goes off at 6:25am on May 16th I promise you all I will be going out gun’s blazing.

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Kicking Off 2015 in Style

2015 has felt like is has been on fast forward. Between being down in Florida for training camp all of February and an amazing 2 week stay in San Diego, we’ve hardly been at home for more than a couple weeks at a time. No complaints though, the travel has brought us to sunshine and warmth and away from the cold and snow of Boston.

Over the last two weeks while we were in San Diego (thanks to an amazing Homestay from Steve and Cathy Holl – can’t thank them enough for their generosity) where we were able to put in some really solid training, enjoy the warmth and beauty of the area as well as prep for our first race of the season at Oceanside, CA.

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Enjoying the sunshine and views along the Oceanside 70.3 run course. Photo taken by Katie Morse.
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Kait on her way to a 12th Place finish in the Women’s Pro Field. Photo taken by Katie Morse

For now we are back in the Northeast to do some big training and watch the Boston Marathon

See more about our training and how our races went in both the videos below. Hope you enjoy and we’ll be back racing at the Texas 70.3 in Galveston on 4.26.15 and Ironman Texas in the Woodlands on 5.16.15.

Operation Oceanside: The Debrief 

Operation Oceanside: Part 2

2014 Ironman Chattanooga

The Prep:

After a solid training camp up in New Hampshire with our fellow QT2 PROs, Kait and I made the quick packing changed and set out on our road trip to Chattanooga. We wrapped up our last week of training before the race  in my hometown on Keuka Lake and were once again back on the road headed South. Chattanooga welcomed us with great weather and amazing home stay that sat atop Signal Mountain. This was my first experience with a home stay and I must say that it will be hard to top! Getting into town on Tuesday we were able to grab a burger with Mac from QR, ride the bike course and spend some time at the expo where we even had our own Autograph session. The lead in to the race was smooth and went by very quick. In no time it was race morning.

The Race:

Literally hanging on by a thread (a rope tied between a party boat and the dock), the race began. A downstream swim yielded very fast times for all. Those top swimmers were still rewarded with a time gap of about 2-3 minutes on the chase pack, but overall setup for a very competitive men’s pro field. Coming out in around 43 minutes I was in the chase pack of about 5 looking to try and make up any time we could on the 20 large leaders train. I made a decision about 20 miles in, to ride my own race and let the others ahead of me inflict their own damage on themselves. It’s a call I made based on my current fitness and what I feel like is smart on the day. This ultimately came down to looking at who was in that pack and how it might impact me personally. In the end it seemed to work out for me as I ended up picking them off both near the end of the bike and the run. It’s a gamble that sometimes pays off and sometimes leaves you left in the dust.

Riding a steady race, mostly solo on the 116 mile course (extended due to permit limitations in Georgia) I rode a 4:46 getting me off the bike in 18th place.

The Bike Split aboard my Quintana Roo PR6

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Never feeling like I was overreaching, I came off the bike feeling ready to run. Over the first 7 miles I felt really good picking up a few people here and there. The hills on the north shore of the river were nasty and made for a run course with more elevation changes than I’d ever seen for an Ironman. The first time through things rolled along smoothly. However, over the final 13 miles those hills began to take a bite out of my legs and the pace slowed a bit. The fade was there for sure but unlike my previous 8 Ironman marathon’s, I held it together and did a good job of damage control. I got passed and passed a couple more over the final 10 miles and finally made it to the finish line in a time of 8:42 with a marathon split of 3:07.

The Run Split with my Brooks Pure Connect’s

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Overall, this race was a great stepping stone and ends the season showing improvement. The swim and bike are coming along steadily and I finally began to scratch the surface of my running potential. I now head into a nice off-seaon break feeling content about how my first Professional season wound up. I learned a lot about racing in the Pro wave and improved a great deal in 2014. Now the only thing to do is get faster for next year so I can truly COMPETE against the best in the world.

And now onto Sugar Heaven for a couple weeks :)…literally. (Funny side note it that I went into this place on Thursday while I was walking downtown and I wanted to get some M & M’s. I filled a bag, about 3/4 of a pound with all cool colors thinking that buying in bulk would be a nice way to get some sweet treats. As it turned out this place charged me up the wazoo! It was $18 bucks for a bag the size of my first. I couldn’t leave it at the counter because I had already mixed all the colors together, so I handed over a $20 and fumed for about 15 minutes until I cooled down and ate those damn M & M’s. Lesson learned!)

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Musselman 2014: 5 Years in the Making

Want to win The Musselman Half-Iron? Well, all it takes is 5 years and a whole lot of swimming, biking and running. At least that was the case for me. (I suppose there were some other things along the way that made it possible too)

For those that don’t know my full history of competition in the sport, I can prove to you that 5 years ago I did in fact compete in my first Half-Iron distance race (Musselman 2009) as shown in the results page below. Take a look down there, on page 6 of the results in 209th place, little old me. Coming in at 5:27 with a bike split just under 3 and a sub 2 hour run split by the skin of my teeth. I remember crossing that finish line and being completely and utterly annihilated. I don’t think I could walk right for days, let alone get my butt off the ground to get back to my car and get home.

2009 Musselman Results – Page 6 (Full Results from this race and all the other Score-This races from past years can be found here in the Score-This Archives)

Finger Lakes Times Article from July 14, 2014 (Musselman Recap)

It’s fun to think back to that time. I was a newbie, so green it’s not even funny; but I had some great people around me. I had yet to meet Mary Eggers, who would help get me started on this triathlon training journey. Back then she was another person higher up on the results sheet than me, kicking my butt. However, it would be but one week after this race that I decided a half just wasn’t satisfying my craving and that I needed to sign up for IMLP 2010 PRONTO! and after that…. well everything changed really. But most of you know all about that. I want to look back to a time when my friends Joe Crispino and Josh Gonsenhauser took me out to the Bristol hills where I began to learn how to suffer on a bike, dragging me up hills with names like Bopple and Egypt. It was with these guys that I met characters like Lawrence and Eric and a gritty bunch of veterans who would kick my butt on a daily basis. It was awesome, I loved the drive from Rochester to Bristol Mtn on Sunday morning. It was like my version of Church. I’d wake up super early, pack up my car, grab a coffee and then go into some sort of meditation trance as I made my way from the City to the Countryside. Such a great time in my life. This was where I found my true passions in life…where I found out who I was and what I wanted to do with the years ahead of me.

There are countless other great stories from that first year. Joe and I going up to LP in August of 2009 and getting in 2 loops of the course in prep for 2010 (I think I almost died on the second loop), falling in front of masses of people as I rode my bike to transition at the Skinnyman – this was before the race even started, riding 6 hours with Mike Corona on a Saturday and then turning around and riding 7+ hours with Eric Grimm the following day. I don’t think I was right for MONTHS after that epic weekend. Then there was the Masters swimming group I joined up with in the Fall of 2009. I started in the slowest lane but just kept coming back for more. And I can’t forget Don Ehinger who not only trained with me on countless occasions but who also was the first to open his basement to me when I needed a place to crash because between the training and the 1 hour commute each way from home to work was just to much. He also finished ahead of me in 200th place that July day in 2009 – see the link above for proof! There are really many many other people and stories that are worth sharing but would just fill to many pages…maybe a book is necessary, ha!

It’s really been a great ride so far and it truly all got rolling at The Musselman in 2009. Since then I am happy to say I have been at the Musselman weekend every year since. The only time I did not race was last year when I was getting ready for IMLP 2013. However, I still made it out and watched my friends take on the day. One of them, Doug Maclean a fellow QT2 Coach and Athlete, won the whole thing. So it’s nice to “keep it in the family” as he mentioned the other day. Coming to this race each year is special. No matter where I am living, whether it’s as close as Rochester or as far as Portland, Oregon, its a great excuse to get home and be with my family on Keuka Lake. It’s where my real love of the sport began, was developed and now where its beginning to show off some of the hard work I have put in over the last 5 years. It’s a race that is successful because the community supports it. The community really gets behind the whole thing and when that happens things really shine. As an athlete right now, who is living out of the area, I think that in some way by coming back as many times as I can to race I am part of that community support. I want to make this hometown race the best it can be and right now where I am at, I try to do that by racing my absolute hardest.

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Coming into T2 on my Quintana Roo PR6. It rode well in the windy and rainy conditions on course.

In particular this year’s race was made exceptionally special by the fact that I was able to introduce my girlfriend to the Finger Lakes and have her race along side me. We both had pretty good days and were the overall winners of our respective races. It’s pretty cool when you think about it and how many things really do have to go right to pull that off. But it happened and its awesome and I am glad that her first experience here in the Finger Lakes, at The Musselman was one that will have her back for more in the years to come.

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Cheering in Kaitlin, FOR THE WIN!

In addition to having Kaitlin race beside me (literally she started in the same wave and we dolphin dived together for the first 400 yards of the swim) my Sister and her family came down from Syracuse with my brother-in-law and two nephews to watch me race. This was the first time that they had all seen me race, live and in-person. It meant a tremendous amount to me that they came and were able to see what it is I actually do on Race Day. They’ve been around me on holidays and trips when I am always getting on my bike or running outside in the cold and snowy weather. They’ve seen all the times that I am running around doing this stuff, but they might ask “What for?” Well I hope, and I think, they now know what I do it all for. I really can’t say how thrilling it is to come off the bike and see your little nephews there cheering for you and then running by them and seeing their faces smile back at you as you begin a 13.1 mile run…and then of course their cheers as you approach the final stretch across the finish-line. It was just great, so glad they could be there.

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Kait and I, matching quite well in our BlueSeventy Helix Suits before the swim start.
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Dad, Mom, Nephews and Brother-in-law post finish
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Nephew Billy and I.
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Women’s Podium with Kait on top.
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My #1 fan and I after the race.


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Ironman Texas 2014

I’m a pretty average dude. I work hard to be the best I can be in the sport of triathlon. It’s pretty easy to do this since I’ve made Triathlon my life. When I am not actually swimming, biking or running I am working at a Triathlon Specific Shop (Fast Splits), Coaching Triathletes (QT2 Systems Coaching), traveling to races in support of my girlfriend, Kaitlin Anelauskas, a professional triathlete as well, or talking about triathlon with my buddies over social media and iChat. Really, throw eating food and sleeping in the mix and you’ve got my entire life. Not really that bad when you get down to it. The 401k and savings accounts don’t love me at the moment, but the memories and experiences I am banking are absolutely priceless.

I love to race and I love the process of getting better.  It’s exciting to compete and challenge yourself to do better the next time. I’m doing it, albeit slowly, but I am doing. I absolutely know that my peak, my true potential is still ahead of me. Like an onion every race and every major training block leading into the race peels another layer away. I have a lot more in me…a lot more and both the fun part and the hard part is finding out how to get to that next layer. IMTX was another chapter in the journey. Many thanks to those who make it possible for me to follow this passion. Couldn’t do it without you guys. (Mom, Dad, Kait, Hughes & Fast Splits, Tim, Mac & QR, QT2 Systems, Jim at BeWell Massage, Normatec guys keeping the legs as fresh as possible, Tri Bike Transport for getting my bike to the races..and countless others who help me along the way.)

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Pre-race Swim Facilities. Yep, a high school Natatorium. Not bad for high schoolers, eh?

THE RACE:

Ironman Texas was a solid step forward for me in the developmental department as a Professional Triathlete. After the way the last couple of races have gone for me it was a relief to jump into the water and start the race injury free and fully prepared to go. It’s really true when people say that the hardest part of this sport is to get to the start line injury free. We expose ourselves to so many variables that can lead to our un-doing that staying healthy, injury free and mentally focused is quite hard.

Swim-wise I made my first pack. Not just my first pack in the Professional wave but my first real swim pack in any triathlon. This is a big deal, as I came into the sport without a swim background. I got into the pack by going hard for about 800 yards and then all of the sudden a string of swimmers formed and I just started slapping the feet in front of me. Turns out I was with a group of probably 10 swimmers, mostly female with a couple dudes. Swimming in the pack made the swim truly effortless…I highly recommend this drafting stuff! If anything, I would have liked the pack to push the pace a bit as I think with the combined power of 10 athletes we could have swam around a :57 instead of a :59…but I wasn’t going to be the one to pull around 6+ swimmers and try to make that move. So, I tucked in and rode the train all the way to T1.

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On the bike I rode solo for 112 miles. Passing the women’s field here and there but mostly it was my typical Saturday long ride on the Texas tarmac. The first 50 or so miles were pretty quick and effortless, however the road surface and wind changed around the halfway mark. The road was more or less worn down chip seal, which rattled the bike and my body for a solid 30-35 miles. Luckily once done with those roads I confirmed that my bike was indeed not broken. In fact my bike was awesome. If you’ve followed my path in triathlon you will know that I love all things cycling and have had a few cool bikes in my day. Last Fall I begun a relationship with Quintana Roo and truly couldn’t be happier with the decision to start riding their bikes. I was on the Illicito for Kona 2013 as well as in Cabo a couple months ago. It was a great ride and certainly did the job, and more. Alas, I’m a sucker for the latest and greatest so when I was afforded the chance to get my hands on the new PR6 from QR, I jumped at the chance.

I could proclaim a lot of things about this bike and you all would probably think I am blowing smoke at you or just trying to please the sponsor that has supported me. The bottom line is that the bike is solid. It weighs in at 18.06  lbs with training wheels, so somewhere around 18 or just below with the race wheel setup. That is LIGHT for a TT bike, trust me..it is! It’s no non-sense in its setup, which makes it ideal to travel with since Professionals and Amateurs alike travel constantly with their bikes, whether its by plane or car. Its just a simple fact of the sport. Overall, I was super happy with how I felt on the bike, how the bike actually performed and most importantly of course,  how the biked looked. Because you know, looks matter! (See for yourself below!) Gotta work on matching the wheels, but that’s for another time after I get a new piggy bank to replace the once I smashed open this spring 🙂

Rolling into T2 on my #PR6 Courtesy of Nick @trijuice

The run. The run is where the field is weeded out and all things training, racing and daily life rear their ugly heads. There is just no way to fake it during 26.2 miles after having swam 2.4 and biked 112. I had a plan for the run, not your typical plan, but a plan none the less. The plan worked very well for the first 8-10 miles, but after that things didn’t really continue the way I wanted them to. By no means am I disappointed with my day. In fact I am encouraged by it. It makes me more motivated and driven to perform to my true potential. A potential that I feel I haven’t tapped into yet, especially on the run.

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Rolling on the first lap of the Waterway. Still feeling good. Courtesy of Nick @trijuice

Now I rest and enjoy the other parts of life. This weekend Kaitlin’s sister is getting married, which means I get to dress up and party, then I turn 28 on the 28th of May and that is followed up by a road trip with Kaitlin down to Raleigh for her next 70.3 race. So lots of fun things to keep me busy and occupied while I stay off the bike, only walk and go nowhere near a pool…unless it is this pool (yeah thats a giant waterslide tower!)

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The Waterslide tower, poolside at The Woodlands Resort.

I’ll be getting back to this blog soon with updates for my mid-season break. Look for some fun stuff over the next couple weeks as I stay away from the swim, bike and run & focus on the eat, sleep and recover.

Some random fun pictures from the trip:

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The Day-After Breakfast, one of the best meals on the planet earth. @ The Egg
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And then I saw this happen. As I was strolling through the open air shopping plaza on Sunday morning I came across a Lululemon store where a whole lot of hoopla was going on. I went inside to see what the big deal was and it turns out there were giving away free tattoo’s to any Ironman finishers…yep…no joke!
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Look closely, I have no idea who these people are but they sure have their priorities in line.

 

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