Last weekend I raced the third and final installment of this year’s Lifetime Triathlon MN Series in Maple Grove, a northwest suburb of Minneapolis. Heading into the event I was 5th in the overall series standings, about two and a half minutes behind the 4th place athlete and three and a half minutes outside the podium.
Everything on race day came together and I put together a PR kind of day. I felt great. In fact, it wasn’t even a PR by a few seconds though. I smashed my previous PR by more than 4 minutes with a finish time of 2:05:12.
I competed in the elite division, so I missed out on a podium (though I would’ve been 2nd in my age group had I raced in it). But, finished 12th overall and 8th elite male.
I’m trying something new with this post. Instead of my usual race report format – a more or less stream of consciousness dump of what went through my head at each crucial moment of race (with some added commentary for context) – I conduct an interview with myself about last weekend’s race.
Let me know what you think of the new format. If there’s a question I didn’t ask, drop it in the comments below.
You’re heading into the final stretch of your triathlon season for the year, what were your goals heading into Maple Grove?
Maple Grove was the third race in the MN series, so I wanted to close things out on a high note. Heading into the race I knew I was a few minutes off the podium, so likely a long shot to make it on. But, I still wanted to at least keep my 5th place spot (maybe even move up a spot) and make sure I finished the race feeling confident heading into my next race. I’m coming to the peak of my triathlon season, which culminates next weekend. A strong performance would set me up nicely for next week.
In terms of times, you always have the thought of a PR in the back of your mind. Maple Grove has a pretty favorable course, and with temperatures in the 60’s for the start, I knew there was the chance for a solid time. Quick story – before the race I was figuring out my goal paces for swim, bike and run on my computer and scratching down numbers on a small piece of paper. If I could piece things together the way I knew I could, my goal was for 2:06. In fact, when I came home from the race I saw that piece of paper with 2:06 on it and smiled. I even surpassed that by 45 seconds. Just goes to show the importance (and power) and writing your goals down on paper.
Did you do anything differently in your preparations for this race?
This might seem a little counter-intuitive for some, but I probably did less overall training volume during the lead up to Maple Grove as what I did for previous races. Maple Grove is my second to last triathlon of the year, with next weekend being Superiorman, which is has been the primary focus all year. In essence, everything this year has been building towards these final two weeks.
The real key though, I think, had everything to do with sleep and recovery. About 10 days out from race-day my wife and I went on vacation to NC to visit my brother and his friends. Sure, I got some fantastic riding in climbing in the Smokey Mountains, but things were much more low-key. I took a day off when we drove out there. Another a week later to drive back. I slept in most days. I had zero work stress. I didn’t check email.
So, what was the key? Resting a few days and taking it easy – doing less and letting my body adapt and repair itself. I then went into the race feeling super fresh and with a great bounce in my step.
Okay, one other very small change. I also had a UCANSnack bar about 30 minutes prior to the race. But that was mostly because they are just so good!
The swim didn’t seem as though it was up to expectations. What were you thinking as you came out of the water?
I came out of the water about 40 seconds slower than I wanted. Coming into the race, I knew there was a chance my swim would be a little off. With traveling for vacation, I wasn’t able to swim as frequently as what I usually do. And for me, frequency in the water really translates to increased confidence. I have a better feel for the water. Confidence is a funny thing. When you have it, your head is in a totally different place regardless of what your physical condition is like.
At the same time, I seem to always put together solid race after a sub-par swim. When I see a slower than expected time it sorta lights a match under me. I push even harder, it seems, on the bike and run. I definitely think there was a lot of that going on. I came out of the water with a laser focus of attacking on the bike and run.
Was the wind a factor on the bike?
Not really. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely noticed it, especially since the bike course was pretty flat and exposed. But, with the direction of the wind, we spent more time in a crosswind than anything. Plus, with MN being such a flat state, I’ve gotten used to training in 10-20 mph winds. It’s just kind of how it is here. I felt pretty solid on the bike, and had a split consistent with what I’ve posted the past couple races (1:00:45 / 22.7 mph).
You ran a PR for your Olympic-distance run split – 37:51 or 6:07 pace. Was it a matter of everything coming together?
I came off the bike feeling really solid and with two collegiate athletes about 100 meters ahead of me. They ran at a really good clip. I should’ve made a move earlier in the race to try and bridge up to them, but I didn’t. This may have been a mistake. They stayed about 100-200 meters ahead of me for the entire run. But, it was really nice have that carrot out in front of me to try and keep pace with. Also, aside for two short, steep inclines of about 50 yards (one at the very beginning of each loop and the other at the end) the rest of the course was more or less on a net decline. So, after you got over those short climbs, you could really open up your stride and take advantage of the terrain.
You’re progression through the Lifetime MN series is pretty eye-catching. How did you find 4 minutes between Mpls and Maple Grove?
Both races served as springboards for my two half-Ironman races this year – Toughman MN in the case of Mpls, which was 2 weeks later, and Superiorman in the case of Maple Grove. So, at first glance, you might think my preparation would be fairly similar for both. But as I said before, there was a big emphasis on wanting to be sharp for these final two weeks. Less volume, more short, race intensity efforts.
The other key, I think, had everything to do with how I mentally felt. I went into the race with stress pretty well in check. (Coincidentally, I’m also in the middle of reading The Well-Built Triathlete, by Matt Dixon, whose coaching approach and emphasis on recovery speaks for itself with how many of his athletes have IRONMAN wins and championships to their name.) Dixon talks a lot about your “global stress environment.” During training, your body isn’t just dealing with the stresses of training. Add in work stress, family stress, travel, lack of sleep, etc, and you can see how this can hold athletes back from a breakout performance.
For me, many of these things were at their lowest levels in a few months. Sure I had a little travel in there, but for the most part, many of the other stress categories were held in check with being on vacation. The timing of it actually worked out really well. It was exactly what my body needed at the time.
This weekend is my last tri of the season and it’s one I’ve really been looking forward to – the half-Ironman distance Superiorman up in Duluth, MN. It’ll be my first time up there, and I’m really looking forward to it, especially jumping off the ferry for the swim start. Looking at the weather forecast, I’m just happy it’ll warm up a little from the past few days, where they had lows in the upper 40’s! The bike and run courses both look relatively flat and fast as well. Should be a great day!