An unPAved Adventure: Matt Curbeau’s 2018 unPAved 120 Recap

The unPAved as the name implies is a bike race/adventure/journey that takes place in the heart of the Susquehanna River Valley in Central Pennsylvania. As you might guess, it takes place off the beaten path. Covering some of the most scenic areas that the Northeast has to offer. As director, Dave Pryor so eloquently said, “If the climbs don’t take your breath away, the fall foliage will.” (Well I think he said it, because it was on his website…)

DSC08194
Whoopie Pie Medal ^^

As most of you reading this already know, Gravel racing is on the rise. Those bunch of weirdo’s ten years ago who you thought were being lame are now the coolest and hippest around. No longer are they looked at as shirking the road racing scene because it was too “intense”, but instead looked at as innovators. Look no further for this legitimization than World Tour cycling teams planning seasons around having their riders attend such races as Dirty Kanza, Leadville, and The Belgian Waffle Ride to name a few. Gravel is the here and know, and it’s a great time to jump aboard this pirate ship.

Let’s get down to business.

Did the inaugural edition of unPAved Pennsylvania deliver?

You bet it did. With route options ranging from the 30, 54, 90 and the Full 120 there was something for everybody. I have to take a moment here and mention why something like this is so appealing to future-Matt. Future-Matt is expecting his first child, a baby girl at the end of January 2019. Once this little bundle enters the world there is going to be a lot more planning and scheduling involved when I race bikes. With an event like this that is so family friendly (and within 2 hours of my hometown, where my parents still live – shout out to the Finger Lakes of NY) I have a good chance at convincing my wife that a 54 mile off-road gravel ride would be an awesome way for her to break into the bike racing/gravel riding scene. It’s long enough to be a worthy adventure, technical enough to feel proud that she could handle it, but yet not so much that I’d be scared that I am sending her off to impending doom…and the best part is that she can nail down the 54 mile loop and be back in a few hours to our little girl. All the while I will be out hammering away at my pedals, doing my best to defend my title…and hopefully getting back only a couple hours after my wife does. At the end of the day we both get to race our bikes, our child is loved by family all day and we do it all in the awesome community of like minded cyclists. Soooo, how about it honey? 🙂 Sounds perfect, eh?

Getting back on track, my choice at the 2018 unPAved was the 120 “FULL” route. I’m a glutton for miles and hours on the bike and was super excited to mash away through terrain that is very similar to the kind that I grew up around in the Finger Lakes of NY. I had this race circled on my calendar for almost all of 2018, however since I procrastinated the dang thing sold out for the Full edition. Thankfully my good buddy Chris (more on him later) alerted me to this and I was able to find my way into the race via the generous offer of someone who could no longer make the trip. Thank you to Tatsuo and Dave for giving me the chance to take part in the first edition.

Making the trip down on Saturday from Boston was a pretty non-eventful 6.5 hours capped off with a lovely lunch at Friendly’s, the only restaurant I could find within 10 minutes of my hotel. It turns out that at 32 years old, the Friendly’s menu just isn’t as appealing as it was to my 14 year old, American Legion playing self. In any case, my buddy Chris showed up shortly after at our luxurious Hampton Inn and we went out for a spin before heading to registration. One of the most telling signs of being in a truly fantastic places to ride bikes is that without any pre-mapping or anything we stumbled out of the parking lot, took a right hand turn, rode about 1-2 miles on some “busy” road and then immediately found ourselves on a secluded paved climb of a mile or so that ended up dumping us on yet another road that turned into unPAved glory for a solid 45 minutes. That’s what it is like out there in Central PA. Throw a dart out and you’ll hit some epic gravel road that will keep you smiling for miles and miles.

Fast forward to race morning and its 40’ish degrees with the sun just barely starting to creep out. It’s going to be a fantastic day, but admittedly its freezing for a cyclist clad in spandex. The weather will be in the mid 50’s all day, so at a solid effort that will be fine, especially with the 10k or so of vertical gain we would be accumulating over the 120 miles, but for now I’m cold. The mellow vibe that the start of a 120 mile race offers is something that was very welcome when compared to the craziness of the road/crit scene.

Smartly, nicely and thoughtfully, Dave and his crew had us start the race from the beautiful The Miller Center for Recreation and Wellness that was situated right smack dab on a rail trail. The local Bucknell cycling team led out the caravan of riders over the initial 5 miles. Riding 2 wide on the gravel/cinder path, fellow riders chatted, got warmed up and debated the biggest question of them all. Were the big things at the road intersections bollards or barriers. I said barriers, because WTF are bollards? I mean seriously, who screams that out on a bike ride without laughing to themselves. (OK, after reading Wikipedia, it appears these aren’t that strange and its pretty normal and accepted to call them bollards..I guess it had just passed me by in my youth) So yeah, the race had the kind of chill roll-out that a 120 mile race should, and I applaud that.

Although the first five miles were mellow, you’d be dead wrong if it was setting the tone for the day. Just a few miles later the world would get tipped UP, quickly! At 14 miles in we hit the first climb. My light research on the course told me that it was both one of the steepest and longest of the day. Yup, the first hill we saw was the longest. That sounds about right. Playing off the countless Overlands, Rasputitsa’s and Vermont 50’s I’ve done over the past three years I knew that a similar recipe of success that the leaders always use might have a chance to break things wide open here as well…even if it was only 14 miles into a 120 day. So as the grade increased I looked to make the pace a high tempo effort and a gap opened pretty quickly. Why wouldn’t it though, it was only 14 miles in. What kind of crazy person would try to go clear that early? This guy would! However, I was thankfully and luckily joined by my roomate for the weekend Chris Ganter, who quickly got on my wheel. We rolled together for the next couple of minutes hoping to entice a couple others to join us. Two is nice, but three, four or even five people at this juncture would give us a nice rotation to separate ourselves. In the end only Michael (in the Panaracer kit – see podium pic below) made the bridge, and with that we three amigos were off!

After what for all intents and purposes was a 20 minute power test (see Strava Segment – Brandon to Jonestown) we had a bit of a gap, and hit the downhill pretty hard. As you can see in my beautifully mocked up course profile, the downhill after the initial climb launched us from the rest of the chasers. Rolling that downhill and flat strongly we hit the next set of hills and maintained our gap. Taking turns pulling, the three of us worked really well. Every time Chris started to chat I made sure to up the pace a bit….i mean this is serious business! Ha…i’m kidding. Well kind of 🙂

CA20BFEC-77BA-4756-A961-4227A97F9BD5

As we made our way over the course we moved along on the flats and took the hills at a steady tempo. With only three of us, everyone wanted the company of other riders to help move things along and no one made any crazy attacks up the hills. It was as enjoyable as a hard race effort can be….but that’s also because the dream scenario for me in any race is a small break consisting of just a few people who like to do work. (Shrug/sigh)

I don’t precisely remember when we hit it, but somewhere around the 48-50 mile mark we hit some of the gnarliest terrain out there. Full on jeep road/Vermont Pave style stuff. Complete with giant rocks, huge ruts and washed out sections from the rain. Not only was it like this as we nuked it UP but the downhill was just as crazy. Meandering through the minefield of boulders and standing water at light-speed, I was left crossing my fingers and praying that my wheels would not explode. Thankfully the bombproof NEXT wheels Jerry made for me held up like champs. However, even though my wheels made it through, my chain was sucked up into my crank when we exited this treacherous sector. Through amazing foresight by the director, a mechanic was placed at the bottom of the descent. (AKA – the middle of nowhere) God bless them as they were quickly able to fix my mechanical which allowed me to chase back to Chris and Michael within 5 minutes or so. Crisis adverted.

Once I was back on and attached to the other two we hit the meat of the race, miles 60-100 where things would naturally shake themselves out. The climbs now began to be more of a “can you keep up pace” as opposed to “lets keep this together pace”. This went on for a couple climbs and eventually Michael and I shed Chris at around mile 70-75. I’ve got to say that Chris’s effort was massive. Having started a new job this summer and on minimal training he not only made it 70+ miles into a 120 miles race at the pointy end but was able to rally from getting dropped to hold onto third place. He was solo for like 40-45 miles I think. That’s one hell of an effort dude!

Michael and I ran into the next climb together and stuck close. We flew down the descent together at ludicrous speed and finally approached the last climb of the day. Although not as long as the first climb, it was pretty steep and included pitches that were pretty devastating to tired legs. As things go in a 120 mile race, my “break-away” uphill was more or less the equivalent to a turtle speeding away from another turtle who got sidetracked by eating some grass….But really, two tired dudes going up a hill and one of them was able to inch away. Then the inch grew and with that separation comes that little boost of adrenaline that lets you fires on all cylinders to the top of the climb, 95 miles in.

DSC07752
Michael and I riding together from miles 75-95.

Riding solo over the highest point of the race, I completely blew by the masses of riders from the shorter fields who were grouped together enjoying food and drink while gazing at the beautiful vista. (I should really stop at this next year…maybe…) Still riding on the high of getting free I kept the pedal down as much as possible while covering the final 20 miles. I was flying high and feeling great until about 7-8 miles to go. I had this vision in my brain that once I hit the rail trail it would basically be like I was done. It was good bait for me to chase, however the fact was that once I hit the rail trail I was NOT done. I had those 7-8 miles of flat land riding where I had to produce all the power. I didn’t know what kind of gap I had so as I always say (to myself mostly) “when in doubt, pedal harder”….and so I did.

I crossed the line in just under 7 hours and officially became the first ever champion of unPAved Pennsylvania. I’d like to say I was ceremoniously doused in champagne and put on the shoulders of the adoring fans. Alas, that was not the case this year….but maybe in 2019? What do you say Dave?

Be sure to check out this awesome video recap of the event from The Gravel Cyclist.

DSC08187
The Podium – Myself surrounded by Michael (left) and Chris Ganter (right)

Training Peaks Stuff – (The numbers and whatnot)

Full Results

Performance Chart - 2018
The Effort of this race was no joke. At almost 5 hours shorter, it produced almost as much TSS (Training Stress) as Dirty Kanza. Crazy!!

unpaved TSS

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!

 

scottharaldson.com
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.

 

34338819_10100430183461339_1007121697213513728_o

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

FB_IMG_1522715527114

29595456_10100409012652809_5018830468668627742_n

34338819_10100430183461339_1007121697213513728_o.jpg

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!)

15259216_1185247678217688_5485878635637634225_o

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.

600px-RamboIIM60E3-3

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.

IMG_6606
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.

IMG_6793
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.

IMG_1922
Kait and I, matching quite well in our BlueSeventy Helix Suits before the swim start.
IMG_6760
Dad, Mom, Nephews and Brother-in-law post finish
IMG_6773
Nephew Billy and I.
IMG_6897
Women’s Podium with Kait on top.
IMG_6756
My #1 fan and I after the race.


IMG_6824

 

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.)

IMG_1250
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.

IMG_1285

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.

IMTX0302
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!)

IMG_1233
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:

IMG_1273
The Day-After Breakfast, one of the best meals on the planet earth. @ The Egg
IMG_1274
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!
IMG_1237
Look closely, I have no idea who these people are but they sure have their priorities in line.

 

Viva La Mexico

“Life Isn’t About Waiting for the Storm to Pass, It’s About Learning to Dance in The Rain” ~Anonymous

Bottom line, I didn’t have my best day down in Los Cabos last Sunday. That is not to say that it was a disappointment by any means. In fact, last Sunday was probably my proudest moment in the sport. In terms of the race, I did a lot of things REALLY well. In fact from a purely non-physical perspective, I nailed the race. Unfortunately it takes many aspects to all come together on one single day for it to be deemed successful.

“CLOCK DON’T LIE”

The week leading into the race started out exceedingly well as I had a whole row of seats to myself on the plane ride from Newark, NJ to Los Cabos, Mexico. I stretched out, took a nap, read a book and in no time I was South of the Border. I waited for a little while in this area –> IMG_0807

Yep, those are fake ATV’s and a fake set of golf clubs on a fake Golf Cart. What appeared to be an arcade for children was really just the sitting area for American Tourists awaiting their pre-packaged, all-inclusive vacation to begin. Eventually after sitting in the golf cart for about 30 minutes, I was informed that there was another terminal at the airport and that was most likely where my friends were who were coming in at the same time. Turns out the nice Mexican gentlemen (who asked for a Tip for that nugget of wisdom) was right and I finally met up with Beth (Schutt) and her mom. Beth is a QT2 athlete and fellow PRO as well.  We got into our rental van and began our Mexican Odyssey.

Beth did a pretty great job of summarizing our lead up to the race. Check out her blog post here –> http://thetrialofmilesmilesoftrials.blogspot.com/2014/04/ironman-cabo-back-story.html

So if you checked out her blog you’d see that Beth, Doug and myself had ourselves quite an interesting week. I even began to make a list on my phone of all the things that went on (this was during the point where we were locked out of our condo). From flat tubulars, to GI Distresses, to Mexican Emergency Rooms, to Rental Car Insurance Claims due to getting sideswiped by a local in the parking garage…it was one hell of a trip!

20140326_075421

If you didn’t follow my advice and didn’t check out Beth’s blog, I’ll give you the cliff notes of why there is a picture of me on a hospital bed. I was heading out for a run on Wednesday morning last week and fell through a Mexican booby trap. As I crossed a dirt path to a sidewalk that led to the beach, where I was going to run because I thought it would be safer than the busy roads (not such a bright idea), a metal door fell out from beneath me and my left leg slammed against the side of whatever it was covering. I didn’t do to much investigating because after I looked at my leg I knew that it wasn’t just a little bruise or cut. Instead what appeared on my leg grossed me out and told me that I needed to get to a hospital. Going to the hospital any day isn’t the greatest, going to the hospital on race week is even less great and going to a hospital on race week in Mexico is downright bad. In any case Doug and Beth were troopers and took me to the nearest one. As I was drifting in and out of consciousness (no, JUST KIDDING, I was completely fine). It took us a little while to make it to the hospital, but in the end we found it and it turned out to be a really great place. I was in the door and had 7 stitches in my leg within 45 minutes. I can now say after having them removed today, that Dr. Musi of Amerimed in Los Cabos, Mexico knows his stuff.  In any case, that’s what went down in Mexico. I can’t thank Beth and Doug for getting me to the hospital and making sure everything was all right. Beth even hung out while I got the stitches…she looked at them being put in and everything too. I was impressed, there was no way I was looking at that!

So with that episode behind me, I pretty much learned that anything can happen at anytime. There’s no true plan, the only plan is to just accept what’s going on in the NOW and make the best of it. So, I did everything humanly possible to take care of myself and ensure that I could get myself to the start line. I was all the way in Mexico for the race, and darn it I wanted my medal and t-shirt! Luckily, the injury to my leg in no way hindered me from racing and did NOT hold me up. I wish I could blame it on the leg, but that’s just not the case.

Race week went on, our rental van got hit in a parking garage and added 3 extra hours of hassles and stresses as we sorted out that matter (it ended up fine and no expenses paid by us), tires went flatter and stomach’s were upset. But in the end Beth, Doug and I were present and accounted for in the Elite Corral as TJ Tollakson pounded a Red Bull 10 minutes before race start and the Mexican Drumline performed a 15 minute version of their National Anthem.

We all had unique days on the course. (See Beth’s Blog http://thetrialofmilesmilesoftrials.blogspot.com/2014/04/ironman-cabo-back-story.html and Doug’s http://dmactri.com for their take)

A quick word of Congratulations to Beth who was the 4th fastest Professional Female. She really hung tough all day and her hard work and perseverance really paid off. Well done!

As for me, I felt pretty flat from the opening siren (yes, they started the race with a crazy police siren thing). Nothing seemed to be firing on all cylinders. It would have been pretty easy to feel real sorry for myself, but I’m proud to say that I learned a lot about myself and a lot about racing, I mean truly racing out there in Cabo. After a sub-par swim, the bike began no better. But damn it, I stuck with it and each loop of the three loop bike course I went faster. I had 112 miles to cover and I wanted to do it as quickly as my body was going to let me on that day. With the bike ending on a high note I started the run very optimistic about the run. I wasn’t going to light the course up, but I felt I was going to manage well enough. Through 15-16 miles it was alright. However, shortly after my legs called it quits making a 10:15 mile very, very HARD. I made peace with this; my day wasn’t going as fast as hoped for anyways, so whats the point in going into a very bad mental place. The only option is to make the best of the situation…and for me that was to enjoy the fact that I was able to race an Ironman, and like I said before I wanted my medal and t-shirt! So I encouraged people who were having better days than me, encouraged those who were having worse. I got to see Linsey head into the finishing chute and gave Beth and earful of good vibes when she passed me. I learned that when your not 100% that dialing it back to 85% is the best chance at salvaging the day. Some days you’ll bounce back and finish strong and other days you’ll just not have it. But in any case there is no Quit in me. I had my first and hopefully only DNF last year at a race, and my vow from that day on forward is to never willfully not finish a race.

So there you have it, IM Los Cabos 2014 was interesting. The race itself took me longer than I wanted but I had a great time and am truly proud of my effort. But race aside, Doug, Beth, her Mom and I had a blast. We all shared some pretty cool experiences and made some great stories. Wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world.

Screenshot 2014-04-02 18.35.55

I’ll be getting back in the saddle real soon in preparation for Ironman Texas which is in 6 weeks. It will be PRO race #2 and another shot to pit myself against the best in the sport. I can’t wait!

Sidenote: On the bright side, while Doug’s GI System went haywire from the Mexican water, mine seemed to straighten up and began working like never before. Maybe those Mexicans know something we don’t. (Plus the whole bottled water thing HAS to be a scam. Right?)

1960971_10202583325038629_783790273_o

I Eat Baby Food (my love for Fuel For Fire)

570426007_xl.png

A staple of the my Pre-Race breakfast is applesauce. Having applesauce before a race or key workout always seems to throw a wrench at people who hear about it for the first time. However, it really makes a lot of sense. Applesauce is chock full of water (a big plus), easily digestible, very low in fiber (so as to avoid GI distress), has no fat and low in sugar content. Pair the applesauce with a banana and scoop of whey protein and you have the power trio that make up the my Pre-Race Breakfast.

I use this combination of Applesauce, Whey Protein and Banana for all pre-race breakfasts as well as before most long workout days. Its easy on my stomach, gives me plenty of the fuel I require before I set out for a long day and is quick to put together. My trick has always been to cut up the banana, throw it into the applesauce and mix in some chocolate whey protein to complete the bowl of goodness. What this creates is basically a sports nutrition morning soup. Sounds yummy right?

Where am I going with this? Well, that’s where Rob Gilfeather and Fuel For Fire come into the picture. Rob, who like myself has been eating the applesauce breakfast for many years, used his culinary background as a Professional Chef to put together an on-the-go solution to the pre-race/workout breakfast, as well as the “what do I eat between main meals”. The end product that has been created allows for a banana, scoop of whey and applesauce to all be carried in a persons back pocket as they head to the pool for a morning swim, rush between work assignments in the office or as they navigate traffic on the way to an after-work training session. Fuel For Fire is an easy to eat, on the go solution to pre and post workout fueling.

The beauty of FFF is in its simplicity. The ingredients are all natural, and their are only a few. to boot. As a bonus, it is GLUTEN FREE and PALEO friendly. Whether you are a triathlete, Crossfit connoisseur, Marathoner, or a 60 hour a week Accountant looking for a healthy snack at the desk; do yourself a favor and check these guys out. www.fuelforfire.com.

How I use:

-In-car snack while making the long drives all over the country

-A quick snack during work. No prep time required, just unscrew the cap and go.

-A go to grab as I get out of the pool and head to my car after the morning’s workout.

-An easy to digest snack between workouts, so as to not upset my stomach so I am primed to nail my next session without any GI distress.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑