Saturday, October 1, 2016

Ironman North Carolina...3 weeks

It's been quite a while since I've posted.  I began training for 2016 with ambitious goals and signed up for about 6 races.  Early on things were going very well.  I was feeling fit and excited to race a lot of events from June to October.  I signed up for Ironman North Carolina back in March when things were going well...and then reality hit.  In June I raced the Pigman Sprint and did not fare well.  I was not recovering well and training was getting very difficult and was not very fun.  Jen had gotten a promotion at the Arsenal and had a very demanding work schedule.  I found myself spending a lot more time at home with the kids and a lot less time training.  I was content with all of this.  I opted to stop training and skip the races I had signed up for.  I was okay serving as Super Dad rather than Triathlete Dad.  I was planning not to race Ironman North Carolina.  Life had taken over and things were just simply too busy.  And then life for me took a drastic turn.

On July 21 my life changed and I have endured the biggest personal struggle I have ever faced.  It has tested my spirit, my heart, my ambitions, my optimistic outlook on life, and my self-confidence.  I turned to working out to cope with my situation.  For the first time in a long time working out gave me a sense of satisfaction like I have not had in quite some time.  I entered in the DeWitt Crossroads triathlon after just a couple weeks and raced fairly well.  I was still overweight tipping the scales at about 170 lbs.  I won the race and felt strong knowing I had gained quite a bit of fitness in my first couple weeks back at it.  The next weekend I won the Du State Duathlon and was proud to be able to donate my winnings to the iHope Foundation (since inception in 2013 we have raised over $70,000.00 and impacted the lives of 13 individuals with a gift of an iPad and a $1,000.00 scholarship).  It was then I decided I NEEDED to race Ironman North Carolina.  I needed a goal to focus on...something I had control over.  I set my sights to getting into the best shape I possibly could by the October 22nd race date.  I haven't looked back.  I have gone from 172 lbs. on July 21 to 151 lbs.  I have done 4 runs over 20 miles with my last one of 23 miles @ 6:33 pace.  It felt effortless running the last 10 miles @ 6:10 pace.  I have done 3 rides over 100 miles and hope to get in 1-2 more prior to race day.  I have averaged just over 60 miles a week running over the past 8 weeks.  I am leaner and stronger (thanks to Cross Fit Bettendorf) than I have ever been going into an Ironman race.  Last year at this race I was on 8:40 pace with 10 miles to go.  I was humbled and forced to walk most of the last 3 miles crossing the finish line in 9 hrs. 13 minutes.  I've wanted so badly to break the 9 hour mark since I started racing this Ironman distance.  I have completed 9 of them and have been in the low-9's on 5 different occasions.  This time I'm ready!  I will go to North Carolina and go under 9 hours on October 22nd.  I am SUPER excited for this race.  My parents are driving out to watch me compete at the Ironman distance for the first time.  My brother and his family are going along with 2 of the coaches from our PV girl's basketball staff.

Since July 21 I have realized in life there are times when things don't go as expected.  Ironman has a way of throwing unexpected curve balls at you in a 1 day metaphor of life where so many emotions...highs and lows can be endured.  I have realized through my 1 day metaphors racing this distance that the lows will disappear and the highs will come back...much like they will in life.  I'm DREAMING as BIG as ever before.  I CANNOT WAIT for October 22nd...and I promise to update more regularly.  I appreciate all the support, thoughts, and prayers as this day approaches.  It will be one I will never forget.  Thanks for following...DREAM BIG!!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Week 7 Training Update

7 weeks into the training for 2016 and things are starting to come together.  I've finally begun swimming after not getting into water since racing Ironman in October.  That has been a challenge but I know it will come around.  I feel like I'm re-learning how to swim every year about this time when I begin swimming.  I also know racing shorter distances my commitment to improving quickly is more important.  I can't afford to be gapped by 90 seconds in a sprint triathlon to guys who can ride and run fast.  My biking is WAY ahead of where I was last year based on power numbers from similar workouts.  My wife Jen uses and sells Advocare products (mostly Spark) and I decided to give some of them a trial this season to see if they help with my power.  I'm 20-30 watts higher right now on the same workouts I was doing a year ago.  My best average for watts in a sprint distance has been 289 and I'll be surprised if I'm not able to get over 300 this year based on what I've been doing in workouts.  I'm biking much less than I did last year when I was training for a June Ironman.  I'm running much more.  The last 3 weeks my run mileage has been 50, 55, and 60.  This week is a down week running mileage wise but a higher bike week.  I've only been biking between 100-140 miles a week (about 5-7 hours).  This week will be 200 or more.  Each week I've been getting in 2 quality run and bike sessions.  The challenge is spacing them out along with my strength training sessions that tend to leave me tired where I can be recovered enough to get quality each time.  Those 2 runs and 2 rides are my most important workouts of the week each week along with my long run that is currently at 13 miles.  I won't go over 15 until August when I switch my focus back to the Ironman distance. 

The iHope Foundation Corporate campaign has gone exceptionally well.  My goal was 25 business sponsorships this year.  We are currently at 14.  The level of support they have given the foundation has been so incredible.  Combined they have provided over $11,500.00.  To date in the 3 years since the iHope Foundation was created we have awarded 12 students an iPad and a $1,000.00 scholarship.  One of my long term goals is to set this foundation up to be around long after I'm done racing.  My goal is to have an endowment of $100,000 which would annually provide about $5,000.00 in aid to students in the form of technology and scholarship money.  The endowment is nearly half way there and we have money saved to provide students in the near future with iPads.  I'm hoping I can race fast enough to help bring that level up.  To learn more about the iHope Foundation or help fund a future iPad for a low-income student in our community that displays outstanding character and work traits you can click the links on my home page. 

This year I'm coaching 8 athletes.  I'm excited about the progress they are making.  It's a challenge to balance my family, job, coaching high school basketball, my own training, and the training of others but it's also very rewarding and motivating to watch their progress!  I can tell the ones who stay consistent with meeting goals each week are making progress quickly.  There's a good reminder and my advice for this post...stay the course...set short term goals along the way to bigger ones...and always DREAM BIG!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


It's been a long time since the last update.  I raced Beach 2 Battleship Ironman distance on October 22nd and after being on pace for a HUGE lifetime best through the 1/2 marathon mark of the run I completely and utterly fell apart the last 6 miles.  Mentally I knew all I had to do to break 9 hours was shuffle jog home.  I was unable.  It got very ugly.  I was visiting the facilities nearly every mile.  My stomach was shredded and I was bleeding where you don't want to bleed.  I started weaving back and forth through the road with 4 miles to go and with 3 to go I was stopped by medical personnel.  I could no longer run.  I walked the last 3 miles to cross the finish line in a disappointing 9 hrs. 13 minutes.  7th place.  I was in 2nd-3rd most of the run.  I lead most of the bike.  I had my best swim and best ride ever but this distance can humble you quickly.  It did just that. 

The off-season was a great mental and physical break.  I did nothing until mid-December when I began climbing back on the bike on the trainer with a goal of riding 5 hours a week.  In January I began running modestly while still coaching high school basketball.  I build from 15 miles a week running to 25.  I continued riding 5-7 hours a week and added in interval training.  My strength has improved a lot.  When basketball ended almost 5 weeks ago I began structured training.  My run mileage the first 4 weeks went 40, 44, 47, and 40.  This week will be 50.  My biking is going really well.  2 hard interval a week and a focus on adding strength has gone well.  I'm riding interval workouts at power numbers I didn't hit until June last year. 

In 2016 I will focus on racing short stuff early on.  With 2 Ironman events last year (early summer and fall) I spent most of my time training and raced less often.  This year I want to race more often in an attempt to make more money for the iHope Foundation.  I have 3 sprint races in June, an Olympic distance event in July, a 1/2 Ironman in August along with a sprint, and then I'll turn my attention to an October Ironman...Ironman North Carolina (formerly Beach 2 Battleship but purchased by WTC- World Triathlon Corporation and branded Ironman).  I had planned to take the year off Ironman distance racing but the collapse last October still stings.  I KNOW I'm capable of gong well under 9 hours on this course. 

March kicked off the iHope Foundation corporate campaign.  Last year the campaign was VERY successful with 21 businesses supporting the foundation totaling over $17,000.00.  To date we have awarded 12 low-income students an iPad with each recipient also receiving a $1,000.00 scholarship at graduation.  I've been blown away but the support.  I will again be donating all my race winnings to iHope.  So far we have received support from 9 businesses.  Platinum level support ($1,000.00 and up) has generously been provided by Solis Russell Services, Tri-City Blacktop, C&W Transport, Hawkeye Paving, and General Constructors, Inc.  Silver level support ($250.00 and up) has been generously provided by Happy Joe's, Crawford Company, Well Fargo, and Lederman Bail Bonds.  I cannot thank these iHope supporters enough for the difference they are making in our community.  If you would like to help out with iHope you can visit that page or click the donation links from my home page.  I'm exciting about making 2016 my best year yet!  Thanks for reading!  DREAM BIG!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Race Goals for Beach 2 Battleship...3 days

In my classroom I place an emphasis on goal setting.  Each quarter students create goals that are both school related and out of school related.  We have a lesson early in the year on how to set specific and measurable goals that have deadlines.  I use their goal sheets throughout the quarter to inquire about progress.  I like to be able to model goal setting for them.  My first quarter goal was to weigh under 160 lbs. by October 12th.  My starting weight was 176 lbs.  I put a plan together and posted it in my classroom.  Each week I updated where I was at.  On October 12th I hit the scale at 155 lbs.  Although the 6 week lead-in to this race was not flawless it was solid and I feel good about my current fitness.  I was able to get in 5 runs of 17 or more miles, and 5 bike rides of 100+ miles.  Those were both positives.  The negative was that I had to reduce the overall volume I typically do while preparing for an Ironman distance race due to soreness in my right knee.  As I gave my class my final update on Monday and outlined my specific goals for the race I told them I have only 2 things that I worry about...both which are out of my control so I don't actually lose any sleep over them. 
1.  Mechanical issues- I've had this one time in an Ironman distance first one ever and it sucked.  It is beyond my control if I get a flat tire or have other problems so I will just pray it doesn't happen. 
2.  Tightness in my back- lately I've been dealing with some tightness in my lower back and I don't know what that will mean with a 5 hour bike on a course that is good for staying in the aero position nearly the entire time.  I've had some long rides where I was forced to get off the bike to stretch my back.  I'd like for this to not be an issue on race day. 

My goals for the race are...
Swim: Under 45 minutes (we should have a strong tide at our back on the swim
Bike: Under 4 hrs. 52 minutes (Something I did on this course 2 years ago)
Run: Marathon PR of under 3 hrs. 8 minutes (I've been under 3:10 on 3 occasions but never under 3:08)
Transitions: Under 8:00 total (I initially said under 7:00 but the reality is I'll probably run better if I spend a minute stretch in transition before heading out on the run)

Overall I'll be thrilled if I see anything with an overall time that starts with the number 8.  Hopefully that would put me in the top 5 so I can earn some money for the iHope Foundation.  There are 9 pro males racing and I'm not one of them.  Most are guys I can be competitive with.  The weather is supposed to be outstanding with highs around 70 degrees and lows around 50.  The wind out of the north means we will have wind hurting speeds in the first half but helping in the 2nd half.  I feel good about my nutrition as this will be the 10th time I've started one of these events and I've learned a little bit from each of the past 9 experiences.  This will be my last Ironman for at least 2 years.  Hoping to make it my fastest one yet!  You can follow along at  I'm not sure how many timing mats they will have but I do know they will at least update swim and bike overall times.  I don't know if they have many other timing mats out on course or not.  Can't wait to get to Wilmington, NC!  I have so many awesome memories from my first win at this distance coming at this race 2 years ago.  DREAM BIG!!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Trust the Process...16 days from Beach 2 Battleship

On August 24th I began a 6 week block of Ironman training preparation.  This will be my 10th Ironman race with my first resulting in a DNF after crashing at IM St. George in 2011.  Typically for these long distance races I like to put in a 6 week block of training from 8 weeks before the race lasting until 2 weeks before when I begin to rest up through a taper.  After winning Challenge Atlantic City in June my training lacked structure or much substance.  I had managed to gain over 20 lbs. and tipped the scales at 176 as I entered this 6 week block.  I realized the lack of training for an extended period of time and then jumping right into a high volume block would come with a higher risk of injury.  My last few Ironman blocks have gone almost to perfection.  I've been able to pile up tons of volume and drop to race weight rather easily.  This year has not gone that way.

My first weekend of the block I did a 100 mile long ride and ran 15.5.  Things seemed to be off to a good start as I logged 230 bike miles and 50 run miles the first week.  Week 2 of the block was incredibly hot and I cut the long ride back to 80 miles but got up really early and ran 18 the following day on Sunday.  For the week I ended with 52 run miles and 210 bike miles.  The next morning, on Monday, September 7th I could feel a bit of pain in my knee.  I ignored it and forged on to my 3rd week of the block logging 255 bike miles  and 52 run miles.  That 3rd week I biked 126 miles on Saturday and ran 22 on Sunday.  My knee was beginning to accumulate more swelling.  I realized I was on a collision course with a full-blown injury if I tried to continue at that rate.  I was still weighing 166 lbs. which is not a weight I want to attempt an Ironman race at.  Knowing I would have to cut back training meant I would have to become even more disciplined with my nutrition.  I cut back in my 4th week to 200 bike miles and only ran 28.  I thought the running was causing the knee pain.  I biked 100 that weekend and ran 18 for a long run.  My knee hurt bad at the end of the 100 mile ride...the worst it had hurt yet.  It made me realize the biking is what was causing the swelling more than the running.  I also knew I was becoming for fit and getting closer to being ready to race.  If I wanted to make it to the start line healthy I would have to scrap the lofty 6 week training block volume goals and make adjustments.  During an Ironman block I typically bike 6-7 days a week.  These past 2 weeks I have dropped that to 3 days.  Every ride involves quality.  I have completely eliminated my base mileage rides where my sole goal was to burn fat.  I have kept a strict eye on my calorie count and made sure those calories were quality ones as I've been only eating 2,500-3,000 calories/day on average through the week while training for an Ironman.  In a 100 mile ride I burn about 3,600 calories so I'm continuing to operate on a deficit but it's much tougher without all the extra training.  Week 5 of the block I biked only 160 miles and ran 44.  My long ride was 100 of those miles with nearly 1/2 of it at my Ironman wattage.  My long run was 18.  The reduced volume has allowed my knee pain to subside although it has not disappeared.  I have been able to manage it to a point I'm comfortable it will have no impact on my race.  I have been in the water swimming 5 days a week which is more than I was before the knee pain.  This AM I weighed in at 158 lbs.  After beginning this block at 176 I set a goal to be under 160 by October 12th which is 5 days prior to the race.  I'm very proud to have been disciplined enough with my nutrition that I could get there despite not putting in the training I like to for an Ironman.  My power numbers on the bike have been good with the extra time off the bike. 

I'm SUPER excited to get to Wilmington for what will be my last Ironman race for at least 2 years.  I've already decided next year I want to race shorter distances which require less hours on the weekends.  The next Ironman distance event I do I want my kids to be old enough to attend without adding a ton of extra stress for Jen to manage while watching the race.  They are not close to that point yet.  I intend to go under the 9 hour mark knowing that I won't be racing this distance again for some time.  It's been a goal of mine since I started racing this distance in 2011.  I've been close on a number of occasions but have never seen the lower side of 9 hours.  It should not take a magical performance with a swim aided tide.  I should swim around 45 minutes, bike around 4 hrs. 50 minutes, and that would leave me a with a good chance to break 9 hours unless I implode on the run.  A 2ndary goal is to run a PR marathon.  I've been 3 hrs. 11, 3 hrs. 10, and 3 hrs. 8 minutes twice.  I'd like to knock a few minutes off that time and go 3 hrs. 5 minutes or better. 

This past weekend my highlight was getting a text during my long run that one athlete I've coached this year, Chris Chamberlin reached his season goal of running a 5k under 6:00 pace.  Chris is extremely disciplined.  I have been sending him workouts for the last 30 weeks and 29 of those weeks he hit the exact goals for the week without missing a single workout.  He 100% trusted the process...much like I have through this Ironman block despite having to cut back training...and he ran 17:45 which comes out to 5:45/mile pace.  I was thrilled for him!  I'm looking forward to traveling to Wilmington in 2 weeks to make this sub-9 hour goal finally a reality.  I'm hoping to bring home some money for the iHope Foundation in the process to put a cap on a tremendous year for the foundation.  To date the iHope Founation has received just over $51,000.00 in contributions which has lead to 10 students being awarded an iPad while in junior high and a promise of a $1,000.00 scholarship when they graduate high school.  It has completely blown away the vision I had when starting the iHope Foundation.  This would not be possible without the support of so many local businesses and individuals who have generously contributed.  I cannot thank you enough!  Sub-9...DREAM BIG!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Beach 2 Battleship 2015

It's been quite a while since I last posted.  Challenge Atlantic City was a race I focused all my training around from February to June 28th and knowing that I wanted to race 1 more Ironman distance event in the fall I took 2 weeks completely off after that race.  I find it difficult to carry good form from spring all the way until fall and still feel fresh on race day.  I wanted to peak 2 different times this year, one in late June and one on October 17th for Beach 2 Battleship.  While I planned only 2 weeks off the summer months with no school and 2 kids kind of spiraled out of control from a structured training standpoint.  I managed to quickly put on 24 lbs. and my fitness went by the wayside.  I started to doubt whether or not I could get back into the routine to race a solid Ironman by mid-October.  I went through a period where my back was extremely sore and I had to cancel Pigman Long 1/2 Ironman distance in August.  I had a blast with the family this summer taking a trip to Colorado, getting to Milwaukee with both kids and no Super Mom for 2 Cubs games, Adventureland, water parks...etc.  It was great but training definitely took a back seat.  I had to take a long look at this race and make a decision.  I was 8 weeks out from the race and looking at the terrible shape I was in.  I raced the Du State Duathlon and won the race on August 23rd.  My biking power was great which I expected with fresh legs but my running was abysmal.  I was able to earn $100.00 for the iHope Foundation for the race win.  I have already planned that next year I will not be racing any Ironman distance events.  My plan for 2016 is to race shorter and more often in an effort to maximize the money I can win for the iHope Foundation.  I have missed training and racing with speed.  Breaking 9 hours in an Ironman distance event has been a goal of mine for a long time.  The Beach 2 Battleship course is extremely fast and it a venue where it is absolutely possible.  My PR of 9 hrs. 4 minutes was set on that course in 2013.  The more I considered where I was the more I realized I needed to give it one more go. 

I began a 6 week block of training on Monday, August 24th after weighing in at 176.  Being back to school has really helped give me structure.  I am in my 3rd week of the 6 week block and things are going extremely well.  My first weekend I did a long ride of 100 miles and followed it up with a 15.5 mile run the next day.  My week 1 totals were 3 swims, 230 bike miles, and 50 run miles.  Last week was brutally hot with heat index's near 100 degrees almost daily.  I swam 3x, biked 210 miles, and ran 52 with a long ride of 80 miles and a long run of 18.  I have dropped weight much quicker than I anticipated with a renewed focus on nutrition.  As of this morning I was 163 lbs.  My current goals are 50 miles running each week on 5 days of running, at least 220 miles of biking each week on 5 days of riding, and 3 swims per week which will bump to 4 in the next 2 weeks.  Running has already gotten a ton easier.  Each day the thoughts of a sub-9 are on my mind.  I realize if I put in the work through the next 3.5 weeks of this block I will be prepared to execute on race day. 

I continue to be inspired by receiving support for the iHope Foundation.  Recently we have added Hawkeye Paving to our growing list of foundation supporters.  Hawkeye Paving generously sponsored my season by making a contribution at the Platinum level.  This is the 7th Platinum level supporter to donate $1,000.00 or more to the foundation this year alone.  In total the foundation has received just over $51,000.00 since creation.  That is helping us reach a lofty goal of providing 3 students each year with an iPad while in junior high and a $1,000.00 scholarship upon graduation.  Hawkeye Paving was the 20th iHope corporate sponsor this year which was a BIG goal I set out to achieve.  I'm extremely thankful of all the corporate supporters!!  I'm hoping to do my part by bringing home a check from Beach 2 Battleship to end my season.  The swim at that race is with a strong ocean current most years so it tends to be very fast.  The bike course is flat and fast and the run is 2 loops with a lot of shade and some rolling terrain.  I'm using each day to prepare my best for a sub-9 race.  If you'd like to support the iHope Foundation you can do so donating through one of the 2 links above on my home page.  One link is to donate to the iPad portion of the foundation and the other is to the scholarship portion.  Thanks for reading.  DREAM BIG!!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Challenge Atlantic City Race Report and Results

Before I begin the report from Challenge Atlantic City I must give a HUGE thanks to recent supporters of the iHope Foundation.  The mission of the iHope Foundation is to provide low-income students in our community who display outstanding character and work traits with iPads and scholarship money to aid in academic achievement and success.  To date we have awarded 10 students with an iPad and they are in line to receive the scholarship upon graduation from high school.  The foundation to date has been blessed by receiving nearly $48,000.00 in tax deductible contributions from businesses and individuals.  This Foundation is what drives me to train and compete and I feel tremendously blessed to be able to use my gifts as an athlete to donate back any and all prize money I receive.  General Constructors, Inc. has joined the corporate campaign at a Platinum sponsorship level ($1,000.00 or more) and they are the 6th platinum supporter of the 2015 race season.  The foundation also recently received support from Jason Rangel and from Joe Bondi, who made an generous contribution as a tribute to my efforts in Atlantic City.  I cannot thank you all enough for the support of this cause.  If you'd like to learn more about the iHope Foundation you can click the links above or to contribute click either the link to donate to the iPad portion or the link to the scholarship portion at the top right hand of the screen. 

CHALLENGE AC- For this entry I will add in what I was thinking throughout the race.  Those thoughts will be in italics

Jen and I flew out of Chicago on Friday morning headed for Trenton, New Jersey.  It is always stressful to fly with my bike.  Since having a wheel damaged in 2009 I have always been worried about packing the bike tightly into a case.  I pre-paid the bike as a checked bag for $15.00 hoping they would ignore the $75.00 bike charge.  This worked to my advantage on the way home but not on the way back.  On the way home when asked what was in the case I responded by saying "carbon fiber materials" and they passed it through without the bike fee.  I learned my lesson by saying "a bicycle" in Chicago where I was assessed the additional $75.00. 

We arrived at our homestay, Tom and Cindy Flournoy's home on Friday evening after checking in for the race and picking up our packet.  I met Tom and Cindy during my trip to Atlantic City last year when I was given a home stay while racing as a professional athlete.  I never knew how much that home stay would impact me as Tom and I have become good friends and he invited me back again this year.  Needless to say, without his invitation and tremendous hospitality I would not have returned to Atlantic City to race.  His family and the entire stay was incredible to Jen and I.  We were extremely spoiled.  Tom would be racing the full ironman distance event as well. 

Saturday was spent making sure the bike was running well, attending the pre-race meeting, and making all the logistical preparations such as packing transition bags, special-needs bags, and checking in the bike.  At the pre-race meeting we were told that the race would be a time-trial start which meant athletes would enter the water 1 at a time after walking across a timing mat on the dock leading down to the backwaters of the Atlantic Ocean.  I prefer to have mass starts so you know what place you are in relative to everyone else rather than trying to guess when someone else went into the water.  I decided it would be more fun to start further back in line to have a few people to pass out on the bike and run portions of the long 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run that would greet us the next morning.  About 8 weeks ago the race announced they would be cancelling the professional prize purse.  I am racing as an amateur this year (a wife, 2 children, full-time job, high school coach, tee ball coach...I felt I had much more in common with amateurs than pros) so that had no bearing on my race but I was still a bit disappointed.  I like seeing where I would stack up against a pro field.  I like racing on the same course as the professionals and it adds a tremendous amount of competitiveness to the field.  I was excited to hear that 3 professional athletes had made the decision to race despite the lack of a prize purse.  I knew that would make a top 3 overall finish a big challenge.  The evening before the race a TERRIBLE storm blew through Atlantic City.  The storm brought wind gusts of 40+ mph and a ton of rain.  It was actually quite remarkable the race even was held.  The storm blew bikes off the racks, knocked over nearly ever porta-potty, and threw change tents and medical tents in all sorts of directions.  The Challenge staff and volunteers worked tirelessly through the night to ensure that the race would happen.  HUGE thanks to all those volunteers!!

Race Morning- Tom and I drove to Bader Field (home of the first US airport which is no longer an airport) at 5:00 AM.  The 1/2 IM distance race was scheduled to begin around 6:00 with the full distance race starting at 7:00.  I realized the rain had caused some mechanical problems with my bike brakes which I tried to fix.  I made sure all my nutrition was attached to the bike and it was ready to go.  My drive train had just been cleaned at Healthy Habits prior to leaving for the trip.  It's amazing how much easier a bike is to pedal when the drive train is cleaned.  I'd recommend having that done before big races.  I then warmed up with a mile run and did some stretching before putting on my Xterra wetsuit and heading down to the dock for the swim start.  Tom and I decided to enter the water together about 1/2 way into the group of athletes jumping into the bay.  We started about 4 minutes behind the first people to enter.  I knew this would give me a chance to pass more people throughout the race but also knew it meant the swim would be a bit more crowded. 

SWIM: Upon jumping into the bay I wanted to start off smooth and relaxed.  Long, smooth strokes.  Make sure you site often with so many swimmers already in the water of mixed abilities.  Relax, relax, relax.  I made my way through lots of swimmers early and mostly avoided contact with them.  The water was 75 degrees which made the swim wetsuit legal.  I was hoping to swim 1 hr. 4 minutes or under.  The swim was a 2 loop course.  OUCH!!!  What did I just run into??  I was stopped in my tracks about 10 minutes into the swim.  I just ran into a freakin dock!!  Idiot.  Watch where you are going.  You are lucky you didn't get hurt worse.  My shoulder and head hit the dock hard and I was reminded of the importance of sighting.  The dock stuck out into the water a bit and I swam right into it.  Get back into a rhythm.  Try to stay relaxed.  Breath every 3 strokes.  By 20 minutes into the swim it had really thinned out.  I was waiting for someone to come around me so I could try to get on their feet and swim as a group but that opportunity never came.  At the far end of the first loop we made a left hand turn and it was immediately noticeable that we were swimming into a current.  It was challenging to make progress to the next buoy.  I increased the effort to get around that one and the current subsided.  As I swam past where we began to start the 2nd loop I glanced at my watch.  30:40.  That's on pace for a 1:01:20 if I can hold this.  That would be a great start to the day.  Keep the rhythm.  Even if you drop off pace a minute or 2 you will still be under goal time.  Throughout the 2nd loop I continued to swim solo and occasionally passed a swimmer here or there.  It was a very lonely swim but went by rather quickly.  The 2nd half is why you swam 20 of the last 25 days.  This is why you do all your swimming open water without stopping.  This is why you swam 80 minutes straight out at Lake G.  You can swim a strong 2nd half.  Hold form.  As I began to close out the 2nd loop I could see the exit dock ahead.  I tried to increase my kick a little to get more blood to my legs and I arrived at the dock where 2 volunteers greeted me and helped pull me out of the water.  I ran up the dock and across the timing mat to hit the split on my Garmin.  My swim time was 1:04:19 which was the 6th fastest of the race.  For me the ranking was more important than the time.  Ranking 6th means the swim was very good for me.  I typically do not rank that high in a swim with over 150 athletes and a few of them professional athletes.  Shoot!  I didn't hold pace as well on the 2nd lap as I would have liked.  All in all, not a bad swim being right near my goal time of under 1 hr. 4 minutes.  Get through transition quick! 

BIKE: I grabbed my bike gear bag which had only my helmet, socks, and sunglasses in it along with a few GU's and an energy bar that I would stash in the pockets of my Kiwami Rio Long Distance suit.  I like this suit because of the pockets and compression.  It makes carrying nutrition in a long race very simple.  I saw Eric Schrading in the change tent.  Eric is a friend of Tom's and an exceptional triathlete himself.  We exchanged hellos and I was out of the change tent quickly.  It was too quickly as it turned out.  I forgot to put on my socks for the bike.  I quickly found my bike and headed out onto the bike course.  My goal for the bike was to ride inside my goal wattage of 225-230.  I would hit the lap button on my Garmin every 7 miles to restart the average wattage which is what I was paying attention to.  I split every 7 mile average watts for a couple reasons.  The first is that 7 goes into 112 an even number of 16 times.  The 2nd is that 7 miles splits are small enough that a surge in effort will be reflected in my average power.  If I didn't split as often I may have higher efforts without being able to gauge that due to the larger sample size in distance.  Stay relaxed.  Start easy and let the legs get warmed up.  Stay on the low end of the power goal for the first seven mile split.  The bike course is very flat.  The entire course has only 1,500 feet of climbing.  To put this in perspective when I ride 30 miles around my house I get that many feet of climbing.  It is a course that is ideal for staying in the aero position for a LONG time without many turns or steep hills.  We began the ride mostly into headwinds for the first half.  I stayed right on my power target through the early stages.  I passed a few riders and asked if they had any idea how many were in front of us.  I was hearing about 10.  I knew Jen and Tom's son Will would be at mile 17 and I hoped to get an update from them.  I went through 7 miles at 228 watts.  The next 7 was 226.  I hit mile 17 and saw Jen and Will.  They were yelling something to me but with the wind in my face all I heard were muffled screams.  Dang it!  What place am I in?  How far to the next rider?  It was a lonely ride.  What is that noise?  My back wheel is rubbing on my brake pad.  I thought I had that fixed in transition!  I can't ride 112 miles with my brakes rubbing on my wheel.  I have to stop.  I stopped and got off my bike and tried to open up my brake pads more.  They seemed to be all the way open and I was going to have to deal with the rear wheel rubbing.  Frustrating!!  Why didn't I bring the tool with me to open them up more.  Why didn't I make that adjustment this morning?  I pressed on and hit splits 3, 4, 5, and 6 at 229, 227, 230, and 229 watts respectively.  I had one high calorie drink bottle between my aero bars that was nearing the end.  I had GU Chomps and GU Roctane Electrolyte Capsules in my fuel cell. 

Once we hit mile 45 we took a turn and had the wind at our backs finally.  My speeds greatly increased from a 22 mph average and it began to climb up near 23 mph average.  My wattage held firm as I went through 7 mile split numbers 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11 at 227, 229, 229, 232, and 227 respectively.  My lower back was beginning to tighten up a lot.  I was having to get out of the aero position more and more often.  I knew Jen and Will would be at mile 80 to give me an update and since it had been nearly 2.5 hours with only passing 3 riders on the course I was hoping I would get good news.  I figured I had to be near the front riding this consistently.  Where is everyone?  This is getting very lonely.  Keep focusing on a smooth effort.  You've trained a lot of miles in this wattage.  Last year you only averaged 218 watts on this course and rode a 4:52.  This year you can average 10 watts higher and ride faster.  Set yourself up to run well.  The toughest part into the wind is behind you.  You'll get a tail wind on the ride back into town. 

At mile 80 Jen and Will were yelling to me.  This time I could hear Jen say 3 lead riders together up the road (pictured left) and 1 more rider about 1 minute in front of me.  I thought she said the 3 lead riders were 10 minutes ahead of me but she actually told me later she said 3 minutes!  I was thrilled to hear 10 minutes.  I figured the 3 riders were the 3 pros and it can be a bad situation if you get caught riding solo trying to chase down 3 guys riding together even when they are doing so at a legal distance.  I was having to ride without seeing anyone and they could use each other to share the pace making.  Within a mile I could see the rider in front of me.  He looked like he was getting tired I made the pass at about mile 83.  Push the wattage for a bit.  Don't let him get a free ride now.  You can relax when he's 50 meters behind.  I opened up enough of a gap to know he wasn't going to try to sit legally at 7 meters and I relaxed a bit.  Why is my back feeling so tight?  I did a lot of long rides in the aero position.  I went through my 12th of 16 seven mile splits at 225 watts, my lowest yet.  I passed by 2 people at a table with fluids.  I hope that wasn't an aid station.  They didn't look like an official aid station.  If it was I'm in trouble because I'm out of fluids and this effort is beginning to feel really difficult.  I can't see anyone up the road and probably won't see anyone else with them being 10 minutes ahead of me.  Sure enough it was an aid station and I went into suffering with no drink left in either tank on my bike.  I kept slurping on the straw hoping for fluid to magically come through but nothing but air.  Keep pushing.  Only 4 more seven mile segments.  You can hold this wattage.  Tail winds coming.  13th segment back up to 229. 

Onto the 14th segment and I really began to fall apart.  My back was not good, my left hip was tight, and my feet were beginning to hurt.  Get me off this bike!  Hang on!  21 miles with a tail wind is less than an hour to ride.  Get it together!  I finally reached an aid station and took 2 bottles of water from them.  I filled as much as I could into my drink reservoirs on the bike and sprayed the rest on my head.  I feel like I'm roasting out here.  I wish this sun would dip behind the clouds.  My body is now hurting.  Take more salt pills.  Another GU...get some calories and you'll rebound.  There was no rebound.  My 14th split dipped all the way down to 202 watts.  Ouch!  I still had 14 miles to suffer.  The last 14 miles my average power dropped all the way down to 171 which is lower than a base training ride.  I was hurting and badly wanted to get off the bike.  I knew my hopes of a sub-9 hour race were out the window.  Get to the end of the bike and take in fluids!  You can stretch a bit and head out on the marathon.  Maybe the body will come back to life.  I finally arrived in transition and was thrilled to dismount my bike.  The outside of my left foot hurt bad and my lower back was extremely tight.  I hobbled my way into the change tent to assess the damage.  My bike time was 4 hrs. 54 minutes, 35 seconds which was the fastest individual bike split of the race.  I had no idea of that at the time.  I figured the 3 guys ahead who I thought had been 10 minutes ahead at mile 80 were now at least 15.  Thankfully, I was wrong.  Thankfully I had misheard Jen and was only down 3 minutes at mile 80 and the lead was more like 8 when I started the run. 

RUN: I entered the change tent and was thankful to remove my bike shoes in exchange for running flats.  The outside of my left foot was not feeling very good.  I sat on the ground in the change tent and attempted to stretch out my lower back and my left hop, both problematic areas on my body in this moment.  The amazing volunteers kept asking what I needed and I had them bring me about 8 glasses of water.  I used the facilities in transition and headed out not knowing what to expect.  The first mile was an out and back down the runway at the Bader Field airport before making way towards the famous Atlantic City Boardwalk.  Beginning the run I tried desperately to get into a rhythm.  Smooth strides.  Things will loosen up.  Don't check your pace yet.  You don't want to know what it is.  Just get into a smooth rhythm and let the body come back to life.  After exiting Bader and heading towards the boardwalk I glanced down to see my average pace was 7:02.  Not bad.  I'd be thrilled to hold that and this is starting to feel like running.  My body is starting to feel normal again.  Foot pain is gone and hip and back feel good.  This can be a good run.  Keep breathing very relaxed.  Long way to go. 

I entered the boardwalk and knew exactly what to expect having done this race a year ago.  The temperature feels very warm with almost no shade at all on the boardwalk.  I started to feel really good and saw my average pace per mile was dropping lower and lower.  When it got to 6:40/mile I told myself to level it out.  No need to go faster.  You want this to feel relaxed for as long as possible.  If you run 6:40 pace you will gain on the leaders.  You'll get a time check at the first turnaround about 3 miles into the run.  Before I arrived at the first turn I spotted the leaders coming back.  I knew to look at my watch to see how far behind them I was.  There's the leader.  Petr V.  He is good.  I can't believe I'm this close to him.  He was top 7 last year in the pro race.  I thought this would be an easy win for him.  He doesn't look that good.  If I keep running like this I can catch him.  When I made the first turnaround on the boardwalk I did the math and found I was only down by 7 minutes to the leader and 3 minutes to 2nd place.  3rd had dropped out so I was in 3rd.  I started 3-4 minutes back so I'm really only behind by probably 3-4 minutes.  That is nothing in the marathon!  I can do this!  I feel awesome.  Keep this rhythm going.  The run is multiple loops on the boardwalk in Atlantic City.  I LOVE this run course.  It is extremely crowded with beach goers, shoppers, and tourists.  They don't close the boardwalk down for the race so you find yourself navigating through the masses.  It brings an energy and atmosphere to the run course unlike any Ironman distance race I have ever done.  I started to pass by spectators and tourists out walking on the boardwalk and I would say, "What a nice day to be at the beach!"  I was trying anything to keep my mind relaxed and from thinking about the race itself.  I wanted this to feel like any other long run.  The reality was that the sun was beating down extremely hard on us.  Without any shade it felt SUPER hot when the sun was not hidden by clouds.  When it did duck behind any cloud cover the effort felt much easier and I prayed it would stay behind the clouds.  It did not for very long.  My pace stayed at 6:40 through mile 8 and then it slowly began to come up.  For a couple miles it was 6:42...then 6:44.  By mile 10 I had trimmed the lead down to under 2 minutes which meant I was actually winning the race if I was correct in thinking I started 3-4 minutes behind the race leader Peter V from Czech Republic.  I had passed the runner in 2nd, pro triathlete Matt Shanks who beat me at this race a year ago. 

The first time I saw Jen and Will was at mile 11.  I said, "I thought you guys got lost, I'm almost half way done."  Jen asked me how I was feeling and I replied "Awesome!"  At every aid station I was asking for 2 cups of water and 1 cup of ice.  I was dumping the ice into my jersey in an effort to keep my core temp down and was drinking one cup and pouring the other on my head.  When my temperature lowered the pace was easier.  As time would drag on before the next aid station I could feel my body heating up again.  Where is the next aid station?  I'm roasting out here.  I need to cool down.  Keep this rhythm.  You are going to win this thing!  Dream Big!  All day!  You can run this pace all day!  I was trying to will myself to hold pace and feel relaxed but the reality was I was getting really hot and the effort was becoming difficult by 13.1 miles...still with 13.1 to go.  As I approached the 1/2 way point I was really looking forward to getting my special needs bag.  I had 4 GU's in there that I wanted along with 20 ounces of Coke.  When I passed this point I asked for special needs and they gave me blank looks and said they didn't know where it was.  Damn it!  I need that bag!  Where the hell is it?  My body is starting to become a wreck quickly.  I had the lead down to about 20 seconds and felt like I could almost reach out and touch the leader Petr V. but I was beginning to suffer.  At mile 15 I could no longer see him.  For the first time the lead was going back out.  We passed by the finish line and I thought for sure the special needs bag would be there.  More blank stares.  No one knew.  I was beginning to run 9:00 pace and felt like the race was falling apart.  Why is this happening to me now?  I knew the lack of long runs over the past six weeks would haunt me.  My body is failing and this is going to be a long and disappointing last 10 miles.  I need to get to an aid station and try to load up on calories to see if my body responds to anything.  Any moment now I'm going to get passed back by 2nd place.  At mile 17 I stopped and was not happy.  I asked them where special needs was and they had no clue.  I ate pretzels, drank 3 cups of coke, ate oranges, took in Gatorade, and water.  I was feeling sorry for myself and the pity party had begun. 

At the mile 18 turnaround the lead had grown back to over 4 minutes.  I thought my day was done.  I figured I had 8 miles to suffer through and hoped to hang on for top 3.  I was calling out to them for special needs with no hope in sight.  It's here!!!  Special needs!  Thank God!  Get it quick please.  I'm suffering.  I need this.  I grabbed my 4 GU's and guzzled about 15 ounces of coke before heading out hoping my body would come back to life.  Within a half mile I started to feel a bit better.  When I get done with this race and call home I'll talk to the kids and the first thing Owen is going to ask me is if I won.  I'm going to have to tell him I got 3rd.  No!  Get going.  This is far from over.  You still have 7 miles.  That's a Bix @ 6 training run.  You can do this.  You don't feel that bad.  Come on!

As quickly as things had gone down hill they started to get better.  I was starting to feel back into a rhythm.  My average pace had gone all the way up to 7:15 through the dark miles but now I was holding that pace.  6 miles.  You are up Brady hill and onto Kirkwood.  The real race starts at mile 20.  Don't give up!  You are running now.  Nothing hurts.  You are back in this thing.  Get to the next turn and find out what the damage is.  5 miles...that's Monday's training run.  35 minutes and you'll be done.  Hang in there.  You can do this.  4 miles...Moonlight Chase...that's less than 30 minutes.  I feel awesome.  I'm going to tell Owen I won this race.  You have to be gaining again.  You have a 3-4 minute cushion by starting later.  We made our 2nd to last turn at about mile 23.  I didn't get a time check but could tell I was gaining. 

Immediately after rounding the cone for the turn both hamstrings cramped.  I tried to run through them and they cramped more.  No!!  Not now!  This can't happen now!  I'm gaining and I'm going to win this.  I can't cramp now!  Please body, don't fail me now.  I took out my last 2 GU Roctane salt tablets and opened the capsules and put the contents in my mouth instead of swallowing the tablet.  I wanted the salt immediately into my body rather than wait for the capsule to dissolve in my system.  It tasted extremely nasty but it was a life saver.  The cramps never came back.  Jen was there not far after to tell me I was gaining and the lead was down to 3 minutes.  3 minutes!  You might be winning.  Keep going strong.  This is your race.  You are going to tell Owen you won.  I could hear his voice in my head, "Dad, did you win the race?"  Yes Owen!  I won!  I am going to tell him I won this race.  I've worked this hard all day all alone without anyone helping me.  Solo swim, solo ride, solo run.  I'm going to win this thing! 

I pushed on hard toward the final turn.  We crossed by the finish line with just over 2.5 miles to go.  We would be making our final turn with just over 1 mile to go.  It would be the last time I would get a time check.  I was navigating through the crowds like a man possessed.  I was not in any pain.  I was running as fast as I could and my average pace was coming down.  7:14...7:13.  There's the turn.  He's right there!  I'm going to win this!  He's only 30 seconds ahead with 1.25 miles to go.  This means I'm probably winning by 3 minutes if he started near the front of the swim.  Come on!  Finish this thing!  I could see Petr V. looking back constantly.  He knew I was close.  He was picking up his pace and instead of running on the left side of the course where I could see him he moved far to the right and was mixed in with the large crowd of people walking on the board walk.  He's running scared now!  Push on!  You can match this pace.  You've got this.  1 mile to go.  Hit the split!   See what you can run this mile in.  4 laps on the track.  Drive the knees!  Go!  No pain!  As we approached the finish line I had closed the gap to about 15 seconds.  I could not quite catch him to cross the line first but it didn't matter.  I knew that I had won because I started the race 3-4 minutes behind him.  I was thrilled as I crossed the line.  Jen hugged me in celebration and I said I had to be the winner.  She ran to the timing station and printed his ticket and mine and YES..I had won by 3.5 minutes!!!  I was thrilled.  The local newspaper came over to interview me thinking I was 2nd but then when I explained that he started ahead and showed them the times they realized I was the winner.  I was near tears thinking about how I had almost lost the race between miles 15 and 18 but then got it back together.  It's pretty rare in endurance racing to see someone start drifting back late in a race only to regain good form and come back to win.  NEVER GIVE UP!!  My run time was the fastest of all the individual racers with 3 hrs. 8 minutes, 19 seconds.  It wasn't the sub-3 I was hoping for but in the difficult conditions of sun and heat I'll take it!  My overall time was 9:14:28.  2nd place Petr Vabrousek was 9:17:50.  3rd place Matthew Shanks was 9:22:55. 

I was thrilled to watch finishers come in for a few hours.  It never gets old watching others finish an Ironman distance race!  It is so cool to see the emotion and in a Challenge race to see them with family members crossing the finish line.  CONGRATS to all the finishers of Challenge AC!!  What an achievement!!  Complete results with splits can be found by clicking here.  My friend Tom Flournoy experienced a ton of cramping on the run but rather than call it quits he walked as fast as he could the final miles and still won his age group!  Eric Shrading was 6th individual in 10 hrs. 13 minutes winning the 45-49 age group!  Amazing!  I can only hope to be in that kind of shape in 15 years.  One last congrats goes to an athlete I'm coaching this year, Jason Rangel.  Jason is from Illinois and raced is first Ironman on Sunday in Idaho.  He had to deal with high temps well over 100 degrees and finished his first race in outstanding fashion posting a time of 11 hrs. 19 minutes!!  I'm so proud of him for the hard work he put in over the past 30 weeks.  Jen was yelling updates on his race to me as I was racing and it was inspiring!

When Tom, Eric, and I went to pick up our bikes later in the evening I saw Peter Vabrousek.  I congratulated him on a great race and he was not happy.  He told me he had no idea the race was on chip timing and he thought he won.  He said had he known that it was a chip timed race he would have gone 10 minutes faster.  I was quite surprised by his reaction.  99% of the pro triathletes I have met are extremely humble and great sports.  I wondered how he could not realize the times were based on the chip when we were told at the pre-race meeting and we had to walk over a timing mat to start our time before we got into the water.  He said he had taken the entire bike ride easy and ran easy until the final turn when he realized I was so close to him.  After that final turn I still cut his lead in 1/2 over the final mile...Then on Monday at the awards he spent at least 10 minutes talking with the race director and when they announced the results they took him out completely so he wouldn't stand on the podium as 2nd place.  I can't be certain but my guess is that he asked not to be called up for 2nd. 

Local Atlantic City media links with stories from the event can be read by clicking the Press of Atlantic City or in the Shore News Today.  At home the event was publicized by QC Online

Although there are certainly some things that Challenge can improve on for future races, I loved my experience.  I feel like had it not been for the staff at Challenge the storm would have caused this race to get cancelled.  I love the atmosphere of the run and I think the only thing keeping this race from being one of the top Ironman distance events in the US is increasing the # of registrations in the full event.  They had over 800 in the 1/2 but less than 250 in the full.  It would be great to see Challenge bring back the pro race to this event.  That adds a lot of excitement.  I have to give HUGE thanks to my wife Jen for coming to the race with me.  I'll remember this weekend forever.  I also owe a GREAT deal of thanks to Tom and Cindy Flournoy for hosting us .  Our stay was TREMENDOUS!  I have to thank some of my race sponsors who make all this possible...Healthy Habits, Kaminski Pain and Performance Care, Xterra Wetsuits, Zipp, and definitely GU Energy Labs.  The GU's and the Roctane Electrolyte tablets were a lifesaver!  Lastly to the 19  businesses and countless individuals that have supported my racing by contributing to the iHope Foundation!!  This foundation and this mission to provide iPads and scholarships is why I am motivated to train and race.  I cannot thank you enough.  It's surreal for me to think a kid without much for athletic genetics who one time weighed over 200 lbs could win an Ironman distance event.  Now I've done it twice.  It's a great reminder to never give set BIG dreams for always believe those are possible.  Nothing is impossible when you DREAM BIG!!