Saturday, February 1, 2020


What is the biggest determining factor that leads to success in triathlon and other endurance sports? I'd argue that it is consistency above just about anything else. Putting training time in every day, week, month, and year, and then repeating that process over many years is what a lot of successful athletes have in common. Yes, there can be an 'off season,' or as some call an 'out season,' but that isn't an invitation to take things easy and let fitness degrade substantially.

As I look back at 2019, which was my 10th year doing triathlon, I feel it was the most consistent, well balanced season I have had. I also didn't have to take any time off due to an injury, and a big part of that was carefully listening to my body and taking some days easier than I may have done in the past if I felt something was a bit off. A few easier days, and then I could be back at it rather than pushing through and possibly ending up with some sort of injury.

I've come to realize that my body responds a lot better on 'rest days' to do some sort of active recovery instead of complete rest. For the most part this season I took Monday and Friday as somewhat active recovery days with a three-day harder block in the middle of the week, and then a big weekend of training. This approach led to run PR's at the 70.3 and 140.6 distance and my first visit to Kona. I'll continue this approach going forward even though there won't be any IM distance races for at least the next three seasons. My approach will be hitting the 70.3 distance and a few shorter events, trying to still set some PR's, and then maybe shooting for Kona again when I age up to 45-49. I feel there is a little unfinished business there, and I'd like to go back at some point.

Below is my training from 2019. I had a total of seven days without any training, and most of those days were after the two IM's. This was my first season racing two IM's and also the first time I totaled more than 700 training hours. I was able to get in over 8,000 miles of biking and just over 2,000 miles of running. Swimming was a bit over 350k yards - quite a bit off my biggest swimming year, but decent and led to an IM swim PR of 1:04 in Norway. The swim in Kona was a different story...

Looking back at 2019 I'm both happy and frustrated. I'm pleased that I had a solid, injury free season, and accomplished my goal of qualifying for and racing at Kona. The frustration comes from my race there, where I feel I wasn't mentally ready to deal with setbacks during the race. Going forward, I will work more on the mental side of things, focusing on the small things and being as present as possible during training and races. I feel I have the ability to consistently be near the top of my AG in most races, and focusing on the mental side of things will hopefully give me more of an edge. 

Training over the start of 2020 has gone well, and I recently competed in the Goodale's & NEMS indoor time trial in Nashua, NH. I won this race last year for the first time, after a few second place finishes in the past. This year I ended up in third overall, about thirty seconds slower than last year. Watts were identical (per my power meter) to last year, but I was about eight pounds heavier than this time last year - being a little lenient in terms of eating post Kona and over the holidays didn't help! I'm happy with the power from the race - 370 watts - and I feel confident that I will have some good bike legs in races this year. 

I have acquired a new bike, a Premier Tactical, and, although I haven't ridden it outside, I really like it. The cleanness of the bike in terms of being aero is a big jump from my previous Blue Triad SL. This bike has more adjustability and should put me in a more aero position than in the past. Putting out similar watts to previous years should have my bike times be a bit quicker. I can't wait until the spring when I can get outside with the bike and see how it rides! I added a Power2Max power meter with a 54/42 chainring, which I hope will help me out a bit on sections I may have spun out in the past (think the Hawi descent). Big thanks to Gunther at VeloFix for helping set things up for me!

In terms of racing, I'm planning on running a half marathon at the end of March, which is about nine weeks away. I'm hoping to be close to the 1:21 I ran at that time last year. I have signed up for two triathlons - Patriot Half, an awesome, local half distance race that is near the end of June and Maine 70.3, which is at the end of August. I'm contemplating signing up for CT 70.3, which is three weeks prior to Patriot, and will probably race the Nantucket Triathlon again on the third weekend in July. The main goal of the year is qualifying for the 2021 70.3 WC in St. George via Maine 70.3. 

We are planning another trip to Europe in July, visiting relatives of my wife's family in Sweden and also spending a week in Ireland. I know the trip will mess with training a bit, but it could be a good time to put in a nice block of run training and possibly try to find some pools near where we'll be. I have found that even taking a couple weeks off from biking isn't horrible, and I'm able to regain power on the bike again after a few harder sessions. 

We still have a few more months of winter here in New England, but my family enjoys winter time activities. Jackson is a busy kid and is currently involved in karate, basketball, skiing, and indoor soccer. We've been able to get up to the North Conway area a few times this winter, skiing and recently doing a little snow-tubing at Cranmore. We had a fun blue-sky day there over the long MLK weekend! Although there hasn't been that much snow, we're holding out hope that we do get a bit more accumulation before the winter ends. Here's to a consistent and healthy 2020! 

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Kona Reflections

Charles Dickens put it quite well in A Tale of Two Cities when he began the book with: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..., and I feel that pretty much encapsulated my race at Kona. The experience of racing the best in the world was absolutely amazing and very humbling. The course was as hard as I expected and I kind of think that got into my head a bit too much, leading me to give in to the conditions, rather than push through. 

Here is the Cliff Note version if you'd rather not read for a while! 
Swim: 1:12 - I know my swim isn't strong, but had hoped that I'd be under 1:10 after a 1:04 westuit swim in my qualifying race. There was definitely a swell out there, and after the race heard that it was more of a 'bumpy' swim than usual.
Bike: 5:05 - My strength, and the plan was to target around 220 watts. However, I was never able to get into the 11 on the cassette, and as a result spent more time freewheeling than desirable, especially on the descent from Hawi. As a result, I lost quite a bit of time on the downhills and finished the bike 15-20 minutes slower than I'd hoped.
Run: 4:03 (YIKES!!) - Usually pretty solid here, but the heat eventually got to me and led to walking all of the aid stations from the Energy Lab on, and aiming to hold under 9:00 miles in between the aid stations. I actually felt great for the first 7-8 miles, but then slowed progressively. Honestly, I'm not sure if it was the heat/humidity or just not being able to suffer and push on through. The goal had been getting to Kona, and I kind of feel I somewhat gave up on the run once I realized I wouldn't be able to hit my goal time(s). 
Final time: 10:32 - much slower than I'd hoped. I honestly felt that if things went well I'd be closer to 9:30 than 10:00. Not my best effort and feel I may need to return for a bit of redemption. 

Ok, now back to the lengthy version! Overall, I had a fantastic time during our five days in Kona, including the few days leading into the race, the race itself, and the brief time after the race before we headed home. The vibe in Kona leading into the race is hard to explain unless you have experienced it. In most races I'm a big fish in a little pond, but here it was definitely the experience of a little fish in a very big pond. Just about everywhere I looked there were athletes who were far fitter than me, and many of these folks had Kona as their A race for the year. For me, qualifying for Kona was the goal, and the training for Kona wasn't as good as for my race back in Norway in June. This included a stomach bug 3 1/2 weeks out from race day, which led to four days of no quality training, and then a few days easing back into things. I'm really not sure how much of a real impact that had, but it certainly didn't help. The lengthy trip just a few days prior to the race certainly isn't helpful in terms of having your best race either, but that was what worked for us. 
As teachers, taking time off during the school year is far from ideal. As a result, we didn't arrive in Kona until Wednesday afternoon. I'd guess that we were some of the last to arrive on the island for the race. We flew from Boston to LA, and then another flight right into Kona, arriving around 1:30 PM in Kona. After getting all our stuff and rental van, we headed into town. We probably passed at least 50 folks out on the Queen K riding and many folks running as well. We got to our hotel, Uncle Billy's Kona Bay Hotel, which definitely isn't the Ritz. However, the location couldn't be beat, and we were able to easily walk to everything during the week.  After settling in, I went for a quick run on Ali'i Drive, joining lots of other folks out there. I don't think I've ever sweat so much in a 3.5 mile run, and wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not. Katie and the kids went to the pool for a quick dip, and after the run I headed out to do a bit of grocery shopping.  
The kids were asleep before 5 PM in Hawaii (11 PM back home), and Katie and I followed suit by 6 PM. It was a good thing, because Hannah announced at 3 AM on Thursday morning that it was time to get up. We tried to get her back to sleep, but she then said something like 'There's food in the's breakfast time.' We were all soon up, and I guess I really hadn't needed to worry about laying out my biking and running gear in the bathroom the evening before. After hanging out with the family for a bit I finally headed out for a ride a bit before 6 AM, followed by a short run and swim. Everything felt pretty solid, the HR was in check, and I actually felt pretty decent in the water. After the workouts I headed over to the King Kam to complete registration. There was a Team Zoot breakfast we went to, and I got a chance to meet Ben Hoffman. It was also nice to finally meet Fred Doucette, who I've known from back in our Beginner Triathlete days. Later in the day we headed a tiny bit north of town to Keiki Beach, which was a little tricky to find. We spent a little time playing in the water, and the picture shows me looking out on the swim course as Jackson lounges in the water. We eventually headed back into town and had another early bed time - good thing, as Hannah's wake up call was the same time on Friday morning!

On Friday I did my best to stay off my feet after getting in a short morning ride and swim. Katie took the kids out for a good chunk of the day to the beach right in front of the King Kam - Kamakahonu Beach. It is nice and sheltered and was also the starting point for swimming on Friday as the usual Dig Me Beach wasn't open - I guess this is a change from previous years. I can't express how much work Katie did during our time there, giving me time to set up the bike, do my race prep, and try to stay off my feet on Friday. We did spend a little time going out as a family, and tried to get a picture in the village right across the street with the Kona sign. Hannah didn't want to have any part in this, as can be seen in the above picture!

The fam with the coffee boat in the background.

The 'my name on the poster' picture.
Gear check-in for me started at 2:30 on Friday afternoon, so I headed over a little after that. It was pretty crowded, and the process takes quite a while, as every athlete gets a 1-1 volunteer to go through all the steps. Below is the bike and run gear outside the hotel room. All in all, it took a bit over an hour standing out in the heat to get through dropping off the bike and gear. It was a very cool atmosphere and I ended up chatting with a friend, Subramani Vankatesh, who was checking stuff in at the same time. He ended up having a solid race. 

Checking in the bike

Racked and ready!

After dropping things off at the pier it was back to the hotel to have an early dinner and get to bed a bit after 6 PM. Again, the kids were fast asleep well before then. In most races when the family is along I always set my morning stuff up in the bathroom the night before, and did this again, but it certainly wasn't necessary. The troops were up right around when my alarm went off at 3:45 AM, and we had a nice snuggle before starting to get ready. Katie took the below pic with Jackson and Hannanh around 4:45, right before I headed over for body marking and putting nutrition and hydration on the bike. In terms of nutrition I had an aero bottle on the seat tube with 600 calories of Infinit. In my bento box I had 4 tubes of Cliff Bloks (800 calories) and two PowerBars (440 calories). The plan wasn't to take all of those calories in, but to have what I felt I could stomach as the race progressed. Back in Norway I carried 1400 calories, and ran out with around 30 minutes to go on the bike - I didn't want that to happen again. I had a Precision Hydration 1500 in my rear bottle and had another one at special needs on the bike to aid with salt intake. During the 90 minutes prior to race start I also had another bottle of Precision Hydration. Every 30 minutes on the bike I also took in a salt pill. I'm definitely a salty sweater, so have found I need to be on the higher end of salt consumption on race day and on long training rides. 

Race morning on the pier
After setting up the bike I headed into the King Kam, where a friend, Hans Larsson, had a room. I hung out with Hans, Colin Cook, Elliot Kawaoka, and Lucas Pozzetta. It was Hans' and Lucas' first Kona as well. Colin and Elliot have done this rodeo several times! An hour or so went by pretty quickly, and we headed down toward the start. I was starting at 7:00 AM, and ended up sitting and chatting with a few folks in my AG prior to heading into the water. We only had around 5-6 minutes between the time we got in the water and when our wave started - not much time for any real quality warm up. I tried to get a few little bursts of strokes in, then lined up a few folks back from the front, treading water until the cannon went off.

My goal for the swim was to be under 1:10, which would have been six minutes slower than the 1:04 I swam in Norway in a wetsuit. I actually felt pretty decent in the water, and at the turn-around to head back toward the pier I glanced at my watch and saw just under 34 minutes. I hoped that would translate into under 1:10 when I exited the water, but two things happened in the second half of the swim. First, I believe you are swimming back against the current, which slows things a bit. Second, my swim skin began to chafe me a bit under the arms, and I think this led to me slowing a bit. Regardless, when I came out of the water I wasn't all that psyched to see 1:12. Into transition, bike shoes on in the tent and ran to my bike. I didn't rush, as I knew I wasn't going to be setting any records! I was onto the bike and out to the mount line in around 5 minutes in T1 - not great, but certainly not the transition debacles from Norway that almost cost me the KQ I got there. 

The bike course does a short loop around town and an out and back before eventually heading out and up onto the Queek K highway for the next 100+ miles. The plan was to target around 220 watts AP, which is around 5-6% lower than I'd normally aim for in an IM race, hoping that may help out in terms of heat. One thing that I noticed at the start was that I couldn't get the rear cassette into the 11. I had the bike tuned up a week before departing and my guess is that the cable may have stretched a bit. I didn't feel like stopping to try and adjust something like that, so I pressed onwards. I felt good and made a point of starting to fuel and keep up with hydration. Fueling was every 15 minutes, alternating between Infinit and Cliff Bloks or PowerBar, and taking in two salt pills per hour. This totaled around 1200 mg of sodium per hour.

Heading out on the Queen K - felt pretty good. Think I need to work on the
bike position for next year, aiming to get those arms up a bit and get a bit more aero. 
I didn't really notice much wind until we got near Waikoloa. At that point there were some pretty decent cross winds coming off the mountains, and the wind definitely picked up once we reached the left turn at Kawaihae. From that point it wasn't all that far until the climb up towards Hawi began. All through these sections I was hitting every aid station and taking two bottles of water - one to drink and one that I poured over my head, body and arms, then tossed the bottle at the end of the aid station. On the return back to Kona I ended up dumping two bottles of water during each aid station - glad the aid stations were so plentiful and so well stocked!!

Probably spent a bit too much time out of aero :(

Trying to stay cool!!
At the start of the ride, my goal bike split was around 4:45, which I felt could happen if conditions were not that windy. I was averaging 24 mph at the left turn at Kawaihae, but the speed began dropping after that point, as the winds picked up and we eventually began the climb to Hawi. I averaged 230 watts up the climb and quickly hit special needs for another bottle of Percision Hydration 1500. The return downhill section leaving Hawi was where I really missed the 11 gear in the cassette. There were long stretches where I could have kept up the power, but I ended up just tucking and free-wheeling at a bit over 30 mph. Looking back at the power file, there was over 20 minutes in the ride of under 25 watts - I would have been quite a bit quicker if I had that extra gear to go with. I also can see why some folks go with a 55 front chainring for those long downhill sections - maybe a 54 or 55 front chainring may be in the future should I get back to Kona. At the turn in Hawi I was down to averaging around 23 mph. I was trying to do the math in my head and new that the return to town was a net downhill, but that we would probably hit headwinds. I hoped I'd be able to average that speed or more on the way back, but as it turned out I lost quite a bit of time, finishing with a bike time of 5:05, 15-20 minutes slower than what I had hoped to ride. Overall power for the race was 207 AP, 220 NP, quite a bit lower than planned. I attribute quite a bit of that to simply not having that extra gear to push at 33-35 mph when needed.

Feeling good along Ali Drive - not to last...
Heading into transition I was at least 20 minutes off of where I'd hoped to be. My goal had to be off the bike and onto the run in under 6 hours, but it was over 6:25 of total time when I headed out onto Ali Drive to start the run. In transition my bib # broke on one side and when I saw Katie I asked her to get some electrical tape - she had it on my return along Ali'i (outside assistance?). A mistake I made in transition was neglecting to grab my Cliff Bloks in my T2 bag, and I didn't realize this until the first aid station. That was the bulk of my run nutrition (400 calories), so I realized I'd have to eat off the course - not a great start to the run, mentally. I actually felt quite good in terms of legs on the out and back section, and it went by pretty quickly. I was averaging around a 7:45 pace and knew at that pace I could still get under a 10:00 finishing time. I was keeping a close eye on my HR and trying to keep it right around 150. At each aid station I took some Gatorade, water, and used the cold-water sponges and ice profusely. My plan was to walk a majority of Palani Hill once I got there on the run. There are two steeper stretches - the initial part to the aid station, then the top part. The mile that included walking a good chunk of this section was 8:40 - not great, but overall pace was still under 8:00 at that point. However, once I got up to the Queen K my HR remained elevated to the point that I was forced to run over 8:00 pace to stay around 150 BPM for the HR. I was able to maintain that pace all the way out to the turn into the Energy Lab. Soon after entering the Energy Lab I saw Colin heading out, and he looked pretty strong. I also saw Elliott a bit later on his way out. At the turn around in the Energy Lab they only had Red Bull - no water or other hydration - and it was around that point - mile 16 or so that I began to slow considerably.

Think this was heading down into the Energy Lab. I
still felt ok at this point, but was slowing...
I'm not sure if it was a mental thing once I began to slow. I was keeping the HR right around 150, but the pace at that HR was hovering around 8:20. I had 10 hours as my B goal in terms of time, and by the turn in the Energy Lab I realized that wasn't likely unless I was able to pick the pace up a bit. I think at that point I kind of decided that there wasn't all that much difference between 10:02, 10:10, 10:20 or 10:30. I decided to walk each aid station (and they're pretty long!). The goal became to run under 9:00 pace and then walk through aid stations, taking in ice and enjoying some of the 'ice water showers' the awesome volunteers were handing out. Even though that last ten miles was slower than just about any ten mile run I've ever done I enjoyed it, soaking in the experience. I thanked lots of volunteers along the way, high-fiving a few of them. At the top of the 'Mark & Dave Hill' I saw Starky sitting next to the road, and said hi. He said I looked good, which I know was a blatant lie. Down Palini I went, hung a left onto Kuakini, then a right onto Hualalai. The next turn is the one all triathletes know of onto Ali'i Drive and then 1/3 of a mile or so to the finish. This final stretch is akin to 'right on Hereford, left on Boylston' to the running world, and it was awesome! Katie, Jackson and Hannah were waiting around 1/4 mile from the finish. Jackson and Hannah began running along next to the barrier and were going faster than me! It's a bit embarrassing when your 3-year old does that!!

Waving to my favorite supporters!

Almost there on Ali'i...

Finally, that finish line! I did rase my hands in celebration when I crossed the line, but there isn't a photo of that :(
My fan club!
After crossing the finish line every athlete gets two volunteers to walk with them. I told myself 'I'm never doing this race agin!' I got some water and slowly walked over to the area where food was for the athletes. There were a variety of food options, but I felt a bit nauseous. I ended up sitting down on the grass against a palm tree for at least half an hour - just sitting and feeling quite 'blah..' Eventually I got a little chicken broth and sipped on that for another half hour. I had a volunteer call Katie to tell her I wasn't feeling that great. At this point it was a bit after 6 PM, and I contemplated heading back to the hotel room. I also knew that bike checkout was at 7 PM, and if I went back to the room I'd have to soon turn around and walk back to get my stuff. I decided to hang out a bit more, feeling a bit better from the chicken broth. I eventually had a small ice cream as well and waited in line for bike and gear checkout. After another wait we were finally let into transition to get our things. I then slowly made my way around the finishing area and back along Ali'i to the hotel, arriving back there around 7:30. The kids were already asleep by the time I arrived, and Katie told me that Hannah was pretty distraught when they didn't find Daddy at the finish area. I didn't realize they had come to look for me. Looking back at some of the pictures from the race as well as thinking about the general experience I have a few thoughts. First, as my first time in Kona, I didn't know what to truly expect - of course I'd heard from lots of folks and read lots of reports, but until you actually experience it, it is hard to know how you will respond to those conditions. In hindsight I think that during the race I wasn't really present and focused on the task at hand. I wasn't trying to hold the best bike position at all times. My run form looks sloppy with lots of arm crossover in many of the race pictures. If I ever have a chance to return to the Big Island, I'll do more mental prep for the race, which I really think separates the very best from the rest.

The only turtle we glimpsed - I never saw one while swimming :(

Acai Bowl the day after the race on our balcony.

On Sunday the plan had been to drive to the other side of the island and visit Volcano Nat'l Park, but we realized that would take too long, and we needed time to pack up. I broke down and boxed up the bike and took the kids out for a bit so Katie could pack up their clothes. Later that day we headed to Greenwell Farms, a coffee farm that was about 10 miles south of Kona. Our hope was to go on a tour, but that didn't work out, as Hannah was asleep by the time we got there. We ended up buying some super expensive coffee for ourselves and a few family members, and then stopped at an amazing playground that we had driven by en route to the coffee farm. The playground was super expansive and one of the best ones that we've ever found. So, if you ever travel to Kona to race or otherwise, and have kids, plan to head around 6 miles south of town to the Kamakana Playground - it's awesome!

The kids had a great time exploring this wooden playground and playing with some local kids who were there. 

Apparently we got a few hats on the trip!!!
We departed Hawaii on Monday morning, flying to Honolulu and then had a very long direct flight back to Boston - over ten hours on the plane! The kids slept for at least half of that flight, but Katie and I really didn't get any sleep. I tried a bit, but it's not all that easy when you don't want to wake a sleeping child on your lap (plus your legs are a we bit sore). We got into Boston at 6:00 AM on Tuesday morning, and after getting all of our things, we got the shuttle to Park, Shuttle & Fly. We then had to fight traffic to get home. We made a quick stop to get milk and bananas before arriving home just before 9:00 AM. We all slept for three hours, and then forced ourselves to wake up. Bedtime was before 7:00 PM, but I had a very hard falling sleep, as after five days we were nearly adjusted to the six-hour time difference in Hawaii. I was greeted back at school on Wednesday with an awesome poster my students had made for me. It was nice to be back, but I certainly wouldn't have minded a few more days in Hawaii.

Looking forward, it's time for to certainly let the body rest up a bit. Training volume will definitely be way down while I think about the next season and begin to rebuild the engine. It's time to refocus on the family after putting so much time into getting to Kona. Triathlon is a very selfish sport, and I need to devote a lot more time to being present with Katie and the kids. One thing I'm going to implement going forward is some strength work. I am not getting any younger and know that two strength sessions a week will help out. I also plan to start up more Zwift racing - I always have fun pushing myself in those races. One more thing that I'm going to try to commit to is improving the swimming for next year. I usually slack off a bit over the winter months, but I plan on trying to get to the pool at least twice a week. I don't see an more Ironman races in my future for a while - maybe when I age up in four more years. I'll stick to 70.3 and shorter races for the next few years, trying to set some PR's in the process. My goal for 2020 will be qualifying for the 2021 WC 70, which is in St George, via Maine 70.3 Now, regarding that 'I'm never doing this race again' thought, I may feel a little different about that now. It's funny how quickly we forget pain and discomfort and want to get back at it again. 

Sunday, September 1, 2019

70.3 Maine Report and on to Kona!

After ten years racing triathlons I feel that I'm finally beginning to reap the rewards of all of those miles in my legs. In previous years I did one track session virtually every Wednesday (or intervals on the treadmill in the winter) and often some faster miles built into most of my longer weekend runs. This year I've gone more to longer tempo intervals (4-7 miles around open half marathon to 70.3 run pace), and generally doing less 'fast' miles in my run training. The funny thing (at least to me) is that I've had run PR's at both 70.3 and 140.6 this year, as well as almost matching a half marathon PR from six years ago. I guess the 'mostly slow, sometimes fast' philosophy is sound!

In the period between Ironman Norway at the end of June and 70.3 Maine, which was a period of eight weeks, I think I may have run a grand total of 15 miles under 7:00 pace. Yet, I was able to set a two minute 70.3 run PR of 1:27, which I felt was attainable heading into the race.

Katie and I made the decision that this would be a race I'd do on my own. On the day prior to the race I made the two hour drive from our house to Old Orchard Beach, Maine to do packet pickup and drop off my bike. Things went pretty smoothly, and I soon headed to my uncle and aunt's house in Cumberland, Maine, which is around 30 minutes north of Old Orchard Beach. I had a great dinner with them and enjoyed catching up. I was in bed by around 9 PM with the alarm sent for 3 AM on Sunday morning.

Breakfast on race morning entailed a Cliff Bar, Plain Bagel, and a Gatorade - around 700 calories. I left their house around 3:45 AM after getting lots of kisses from Bella, my uncle and aunt's lab, who was pretty psyched that I was up so early! The drive back to Old Orchard Beach took just under 30 minutes, and I found a parking spot on a side street about a quarter mile from the finish line. It took me around 10 minutes to walk to transition, which had opened at 4:30 AM.

It was a pretty calm morning, and I got stuff set up on my bike as well as my run gear. Nothing was new on the bike - the usual HED disc and 9 front w/latex tubes and Conti 5000's. Nutrition was around 700 calories of Infinit in a seat-tube bottle and a BTA bottle with water. For the run, I was trying out the new Nike Next%, which had a grand total of 2 miles heading into the race. Nothing new on race day, right? Technically not new if there are two miles!

The swim at this race is a rolling start from the beach. Based on swim times from the previous year, it looked like a pretty fast swim course. I knew a few folks around my ability who had swum around 30 minutes the previous year, so I positioned myself at the back end of the 27-30 min group. There were some slight waves to deal with getting into the water, and I expected it to calm down a bit. However, the farther out from the beach we got, the more of a swell and a bit of chop there was. Other than AG Nationals in Burlington many years ago, I'd say it was the most 'hilly' swim I've done. I actually felt pretty decent in the water, but finished in 36 minutes. Only two non-wetsuit swims - 70.3 Worlds in Vegas and Chattanooga (although this one was b/c I didn't bring my wetsuit) - were slower for me. Swim times this year were 5-6 min slower across the board compared to last year. The fastest swim was a little under 29 minutes this year, and last year around 23 minutes. No worries - can't control the past - on to the bike.

I got through the relatively long run to T2 and was off and out on the bike course, which I expected to finish in around 2:12. Again, looking at guys I've raced before and what I've done against them, coupled with BBS, I thought 2:12 was attainable on around 270 watts. The first portion of the bike course is rolling and then has a decent climb from around 45 minutes in to just before the hour mark. After that, it was mostly flat and downhill. I assumed the first half of the ride would go by in around 1:07-1:08 and the second half in around 1:04-1:05. However, the second portion of the bike loop had some pretty good open stretches where there was a steady headwind. I did my best to hide from the wind, but it didn't seem to help out! As a result of the winds, I finished around 2:15, which turned out being the top bike time of the day by a few minutes. Power was a few watts lower than planned, but not enough to make up a ~3 min loss in time. On to the run...

During the tail end of the bike course both of my hamstrings felt a little tight, but I knew from pervious races that this wasn't a real concern. It's always a good feeling coming into transition, getting to your rack area, and seeing no other bikes. This was the case, and I was quickly into the shoes. I'd tried out some elastic laces with the Next%, but couldn't find the right tension - maybe I'll play with this a bit more before Kona. I had made the decision to just go with laces, but I opened the shoes real wide and put the tongue way forward. I was able to have each sock & shoe on and laced in around 15 seconds. Definitely a few wasted seconds with the regular laces, but I wanted a secure fit for the run.

My legs felt real good, so I headed out with a target pace of 6:40 or faster. The first mile turned out to be the second slowest of the day at 6:48 - it had one of the largest elevation gains at 80 ft. The course setup is essentially a couple miles out of town to a gravel trail that's pretty flat. You head on the trail for about two miles, reverse about a mile, then turn left for a loop that meets up about a mile into the opening part of the run. Repeat that loop, then head home at the end. I was quite consistent in my pacing - the quickest mile was 6:33 and the slowest was 6:52. I felt good throughout and in hindsight think I could have probably gone a bit faster. I was pretty spot on with my goal effort and finished the run a bit over 1:27, which is around a two minute run PR for the 70.3 distance.

During the end of the first loop I was passed by a guy who was absolutely flying. It turns out he was part of a relay and ran a 1:16 split. In the final half mile I was passed by someone in my AG, but I couldn't reel him back in. He ended up crossing the line a few seconds ahead of me, but with the rolling start he had started behind me. I ended up with my first AG win at an Ironman event, beating the 2nd place finisher by 53 seconds. My finishing time was 4:26 and I was also 7th overall.

Looking back at the race after several days, I feel it was one of my better 70.3 races. I didn't end up with the finishing time that I'd hoped for, but I paced myself properly, took in nutrition, and finished with a strong run. It was also my best overall placing in terms of AG and overall in an Ironman branded event.

There are now six weeks remaining until the big day on the Big Island. We fly out from Boston on the Wednesday prior to the race, and arrive in Kona around 1:30 PM on that day. We depart Hawaii on Monday following the race. The whole family is coming, and we're going to try to make it a mini vacation. We will do a glass bottom boat tour and visit Volcano Nat'l Park. I guess my overall goal for for the race is finishing in under 10 hours, but I honestly have no clue how things will go. I have done some races in heat and humidity before, but nothing quite like what Kona has to offer. I should have a good four week build, and then two taper weeks headed into the race.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Ironman Norway Report (long one)

Failure. People often react to failure in one of two ways. The first is to simply fail, then move on and not try again, assuming that you can't do it. Maybe you think you aren't cut out for whatever you may have tried to do. The second option is to learn from failure and then try again, taking what you learned and moving forward once again. This second approach has been the way that I lean into triathlon training and racing. Over my eleven years of racing triathlon I feel I've had a total of maybe two or three races where I looked back at the race and felt everything went as well as it could have and I achieved my best. That means that the vast majority of my races have been failures, at least in my eyes. However, with each failure came more learning, progress, and strengthening of the mind and body.

In 2013 I set the goal of qualifying for Kona. I had the mindset that I could achieve it pretty easily, even reserving a hotel months in advance of my attempted qualifying race. That year I had a coach (Steve Johnson of Dark Horse Multisport) for the first time, and hit just about all of my workouts. I swam more then ever (60-70k yards a month for a majority of the season), I put in lots of 100+ mile rides, and was running quite well. However, executing and race planning were my downside. I was fit, but didn't know how to execute. I also had little experience with long course nutrition, and did a horrible job of getting calories in on race day. I ended up missing a KQ roll down slot by one spot - 7 seconds was the difference. However, looking back it was a lot more than seven seconds that cost me that race.

In 2015 I once again set out on the KQ quest, working with my good friend Colin Cook as my coach. Unfortunately I developed an Achilles injury a few months out from the race and had to take nearly a month off from running. On race day I somehow forgot my HR monitor on a very hot and humid day - I came off the bike 2nd in my AG but my lack of run fitness and the weather led to me missing a KQ by a few spots.

After that race I vowed to not try another IM until I got faster at the 70.3 distance. Over the past few years I lowered my 70.3 PR to 4:21 and also did 4:16 at a race (Pumpkinman) that has a slightly short bike course. Last summer I gave Ironman another shot at Lake Placid. Again, the injury bug popped up two weeks out from race day and I had to pull out halfway through the run, again in a great spot to qualify (in 2nd in my AG at that point).

At some point last year I saw a report on the inaugural Ironman Norway, and thought it would be cool to race in Norway. Chatting with Katie, we decided it would be a great family trip and could combine it with visiting her brother in Hamburg. Then the planning began. Getting to Haugesund, the race site, wasn't as simple as hopping onto a plane. Four of us, luggage for two weeks, and all of my race gear would be in tow. We ended up flying British Air to London on a Monday night, then on to Copenhagen. We stayed in a hotel at the Copenhagen airport on Tuesday night and experienced our first Nordic breakfast spread - for the next week we had amazing breakfasts each morning - yum! On Wednesday we flew to Stavanger and via two buses, made our way to Haugesund. Our flight leaving Copenhagen was delayed, and as a result nearly missed the bus to Haugesund - 'running' from the airport bus to the bus to Haugesund with all of our gear was definitely something funny for others to watch!

One thing that I new would be important was eating food I was accustomed to, so I ended up bring along well over ten pounds of food to eat in the days leading up to the race. As it turned out, the breakfast spread provided a great variety of food, and I was able to stock up for the day by making a few turkey sandwiches each morning and grabbing some apples, pears, and nuts too.

In prep for this race I purchased my first my first bike case - a SciCon Aerotech 3.0, which worked out great. It did take me around 1 1/2 hours to pack everything up, as I had to adjust things a few times, and I really wanted to make sure the bike and gear inside was secure. Katie ended up dropping me off at Logan Airort with a bunch of gear before heading back to her parents house. She then left our car and her dad drove her and the kids back to the airport. 

Our flight to London was on an A380 - the plane that has two levels and can hold over 600 people. It was pretty cool to fly on such a big plane, but once on board you really have no clue as to how big the airplane is. We were on the bottom level, and the ceiling is contoured to replicate being on a 'regular' airplane. Eventually, the kids fell asleep, but Katie and I didn't get much sleep - my watch said I got around two hours, but I'm not even sure I got that much.

As I mentioned before, the breakfast spreads at that the hotels we stayed at were pretty unreal. Tons of fresh fruit, a huge variety of meats & cheeses, and lots of different yogurts. Eggs cooked virtually every way, a plethora of breads & baked goods, breakfast cereals, mueslis, granolas, and the list goes on. Here is a picture of Hannah enjoying our first breakfast at the Copenhagen airport hotel. The video is from our six nights at the Scandic Maritim in Haugesund. 
  After having our first amazing breakfast it was onward to Norway. It was great to have kept our luggage on the luggage carts in our hotel room, and we simply pushed them back to the airport. Our flight to Stavanger in Norway was only just over an hour, but the flight ended up being delayed, as the pilot was delayed flying in from another European city. We eventually left around 45 minutes late, and Jackson really enjoyed being able to walk out to our small airplane. SAS is what we flew on the flight from Copenhagen to Stavanger (and the return leg as well). 

Due to being late in arriving in Stavanger, we were pretty crunched for time. Luckily the airport there is relatively small, and all of our belongings arrive quite quickly. We were able to get onto a bus towards downtown to try connecting to our bus to Haugesund. Our bus for Haugesund was departing at 3:10 and we arrived in the downtown area a block from the bus station with less than ten minutes to go. Trying to roll/carry all of our stuff over mostly cobbled roads must have looked pretty comedic to the outside observer, but we made it and loaded things onto the bus, just sitting in our seats as the bus pulled out for the 2+ hour ride.

The ride was very fun and went by quickly. We went through over 15 km of tunnels under several fjords, as well as a 25 minute ferry ride across another fjord. We passed many small Norwegian villages and saw lots of sheep and cows in fields. Here is a view looking out the front of the ferry as we pulled out across a fjord.
Finally, close to 40 hours after departing Boston we arrived in Haugesund (late Wednesday afternoon)! Even though the bus station was only 2/3 of a mile from the hotel we filled up two taxis with our gear. The hotel we chose to stay in was the host hotel for the race, with registration and other events just downstairs. It also had an awesome playroom for the kids, and they probably spent well over 10 hours in the playroom during our stay! The first evening we just ate in one of the restaurants in the hotel. Getting to sleep was always a challenge with being so far north. Sunset wasn't until after 11:30 pm, and it really didn't get that dark until after midnight. With sunrise at 4:30 am, there wasn't that much truly dark time. We found that when Hannah didn't have a nap she could be asleep by 8-8:30, but there were a few nights that the kids were up close to 10 pm! Our sleep was messed up as well, and on our second night at the hotel (Thursday) I lay in bed for nearly three hours before finally falling asleep. The combination of a six hour time change and it still being light certainly didn't help. The coverings over the windows could have been a lot better, and we tried our best to stack luggage and other things against the curtains to block as much light as possible. 

On Thursday after partaking in the breakfast spread Katie took the kids out for a bit to explore and look for playgrounds. I built up my bike and then went for a 20 mile ride. Things on the bike went together pretty smoothly, but the rear derailleur was acting up and jumping around a bit. After my ride I went downstairs to registration - virtually empty on Thursday morning. There were six bike tech guys sitting there with not much to work on. After getting my registration done I asked if I could bring my bike for them to look at. It turns out there were two issues. First, I'd somehow missed putting on a spacer with my cassette, and it wasn't completely tight. Second, my derailleur hanger was bent a little and I didn't have another along. They did what they could, and it ended up working fine with shifting during the race. So a big thanks to the XXL bike tech folks for helping me out. Below are a few horses I happened upon during my first ride in Norway.

We went out to a pizza place for supper on Thursday - I had one of my turkey sandwiches from breakfast. There seemed to be around 10 pizza places within a ten minute walk of the hotel! The kids were exhausted from a long day, and were in bed by around 8:30 - good for a Norwegian summer bed time. I was hoping to get a good night of sleep, but the body wanted none of it. As I mentioned before, I lay awake for over three hours, finally falling asleep some time after midnight.

The following morning (Friday) I got up and jogged to the swim start, carrying my swim stuff. The swim venue was a small lake (pond?) with a two loop course. The original swim course was essentially one loop that had a ton of turns. I think the race director and crew decided two loops would be a lot easier in terms of buoys and lane lines - there was a blue 'lane line' that you always kept to your right, making for very easy navigation! After returning from my run/swim/run it was off to breakfast with the kids while Katie got in her workout in the gym. A little time in the playroom after breakfast, then it was time to get our rental car for the day to do a bit of sightseeing.

We rented a Mini Cooper, which was a bit of a tight fit with two car seats, and headed south to find some beaches and coastline to explore. It was one of the better weather days, and we only encountered a few showers. The picture below is of Jackson exploring some of the rocky promontories along the coast. Katie and Hannah are down near the water on the beach. Hannah had a ton of fun wading into the cold water, and at one point sat right down. She needed a complete clothes change after our time at the beach!

On Saturday morning I was up early and rode my bike to the swim start along with my swim stuff, dropping them off. I went for a 20 minute ride, and the rear derailleur was much better than on Thursday. After the ride I got in a 15 minute swim, then biked back to the hotel. Katie headed to the gym and I took Jackson and Hannah down to the breakfast. It was great to be able to have my usual pre-race breakfast of scrambled eggs and pancakes - so much variety at the buffet! The race briefing followed breakfast at 10 am. The remainder of the day was pretty low key - lots of time in the playroom for the kids. Bike and bag check in was from 3-7 pm, so I went and did that on the early side. Transition for the race was on a soccer pitch, so a great surface to have it on, and very spaced out - way different than any races I've done in the US in terms of proximity of racks. 

I knew going into this race that the weather in Norway was not always bright and sunny. Last year's inaugural IM race was sunny with temps in the 70's, which is flaming hot for Norway. The first few days that we had in Norway were pretty decent - a bit of spotty rain, a constant breeze, and high temps right around 60 degrees F. However, as race day approached, the weather forecast called for a good amount of rain and a steady wind. Honestly, I almost looked forward to it -i t wouldn't be Norway without some good Scandinavian weather! In the screen shot below I have no clue what was up with the 86 degree temp in Thursday - that definitely wasn't accurate!

Race morning arrived, and I was up at 3:45 for my breakfast. I've gone away from the primarily applesauce breakfast in favor of a plain bagel, Cliff Bar & Gatorade. Breakfast opened up at 4:30, and I went down to get two coffees. Then it was on to the shuttle, which left from right in front of the hotel at 5 am. It was cool and breezy and I made the decision to put my wetsuit halfway on at the hotel. I'm one who likes to get to transition early, so I was on the first shuttle with one other athlete - a German fellow named Oliver, who happened to be from Hamburg - our destination after Norway. We chatted for a bit, and he said he was going to Kona this year via the legacy program, and I said I hoped to see him there. Transition was pretty much a ghost town when we arrived - although already very bright. No rain yet, which was a positive!

I was able to get my stuff set up pretty quickly and then go over to make sure my bike and run bags were all set. With the iffy weather forecast, I decided to put arm warmers and gloves into my bike bag and also put socks on. I was wearing calf sleeves under the wetsuit, so I didn't have to worry about putting those on.

The swim start was at 7 am, and around 6:45 we began lining up. They had announced at the race briefing there would be a group of up to 50 athletes allowed to start at the front, and then 5 athletes every five seconds after that. Even though I'm not a stellar swimmer, I made the decision to be in the front group. The Norwegian national anthem was played, and soon it was time for the show to begin.  The swim went relatively well for me, and I ended up with an Ironman PR, coming out of the water after the first loop at just under 31 minutes. I purposely decided to take it a little easier on loop number two, knowing I wanted to be fresh for the bike. When I exited the water I saw 1:03:xx on my watch - I was pretty psyched with that swim time, and I headed towards transition. My official swim time was a tiny bit over 1:04, which is a two minute IM swim PR. It had begun to rain during the last lap of the swim, and apparently there was thunder and lightning off in the distance. At the awards ceremony the following morning the RD said he was very close to pulling everyone out of the water - although not sure how that would have happened.

The two transitions are where things went pretty bad on race day. My combined transition times were over ten minutes, and the top athletes were in the seven to eight minute range. Taking two minutes off my overall time would have put me 2nd in the AG instead of 4th and I wouldn't have spent so much time agonizing about how many slots there'd be in the AG. Most of the wasted time was in T2, so we'll get there later. Due to the weather I was a bit unsure of what to put on. I decided to put arm warmers on as well as gloves. I got the arm warmers on, but then decided against the gloves, and stuffed them in the rear pocket of my trisuit.

Soon, I was on my bike and starting to head north. The two-loop bike course could be split into three basic sections. There is around 12 miles heading out of Haugesund that is on good quality road. After that you turn onto a very technical section that is just about all one lane roads that are constantly up and down. Think of those very narrow sections you see in the Tour de France, add rain, wind and hills and you've got it. This section is around 15 miles long, and, once done, you're about halfway finished with one of the laps. The remaining section of each loop was still very up and down, but you didn't have to focus quite as much on the twists and turns. Due to all of the turns and short, punchy hills, coupled with wet roads, I spent 25 minutes not pedaling at all. In better conditions I could have carried quite a bit more speed through many of the turns and would have felt confident attacking the course a bit more. As a result, my AP ended up being around 15-20 watts lower than planned, and my bike time was quite a bit slower than Best Bike Split had predicted (by around eight minutes).  My AP ended up being 217 and NP 226. The plan had to be around 235 watts for AP with NP being in the mid to upper 240's.

At some point near the end of the first loop there was a lull in the rain, and I decided to take my arm warmers off. Ten minutes or so later the rain returned with a vengeance, along with some thunder and very bright lightning. What would a race in Norway be without some savage weather? At times the rain was so hard that it was very painful on any exposed skin. It was definitely an experience to look back on and feel glad that I came out in a good spot. In every other IM race I've done there are times I get into a 'dark spot' on the bike and need to do some self talk. This never happened in Norway, and I think it's because I always had to be focused on the course. There were no stretches longer than a half mile or so where you could simple tuck your head and ride as aero as possible. You had to be present at all times, and by doing so time went by pretty quickly. However, by the very end of the second loop of the bike I was definitely looking forward to the run. This was a good thing, as I'm usually not that confident about heading out on the run in an IM.

Getting back into T2 there were very few bikes racked - always a good thing! However, here is where a nearly cost myself a trip to Hawaii. Running with my bike to the rack I hit stop on my bike computer, and then tried to save the ride. It wasn't saving, and stupidly I stood there for about 30 seconds trying to get it to work. After that wasted time (still not saved), I ran over to get my run bag. Unlike other IM's I've done, the change tents were very small (you can see them in the background of the transition area above). They looked like little tents from an encampment of soldiers attacking a castle in the middle ages. And they were tiny! The one I went in had a guy about the size of Henry VIII, completely naked and just standing there. He told me, as I tried to change, in a pretty thick accent that he was all done (not sure what he was done with, though). There were no chairs in the tent, but two cots that looked like they'd be good for a 12 year-old Boyscout to sleep on. I decided against trying to sit on one of the camping cots, and I did a complete change - trisuit off and tri shorts on along with a running singlet. Wet socks off and new ones on - then running shoes on. I put all of my bike stuff into my bag and then went out and hung it back up. Not being able to sit down for getting dressed cost me some time - those who didn't do a complete change certainly were much quicker. However, in every IM I've needed to go #2 on the run, and I've found getting a sleeved suit off and on is not very time efficient. Maybe I'll revisit this in Kona - we'll see...

Finally...........onto the run! I felt confident about my running and the goal was to hold the HR in the low 140's. However, by the time the run started my HR monitor strap had dried off - funny with all that rain earlier! As a result, my HR data was quite a bit off - picking up run cadence - for almost the first of the four loops. The run course was essentially four out-and-back loops through the town of Haugesund, parallel to the waterfront. It was a rolling course, with a few punchy hills near the finish section, which also happened to be almost next to our hotel.

At the turnaround point on lap one I quickly jumped into a porta-pottie, and that mile split ended up being the slowest (8:11) of my first 15 miles. Each of the four times at the turnaround you got a different colored 'scrunchie' bracelet - I guess this is a European thing. One thing that a lot The pace settled into the upper 7:30's for the most part, and I was feeling pretty good. However, around mile 10 or so my body said enough with my Cliff Bloks. I turned to the on course nutrition, and began hitting the Coke - as it turned out this was a bit to early! I ran by our hotel eight times and I was able to see the family on four of those eight trips by. Katie gave me some updates, telling me I was initially 2nd off the bike, but had dropped back to third (due to the crap transition). For nearly the whole run I held onto third spot, but in the last few K's was 'passed' in the standings by someone who'd started behind me.

GO DADDY!!!!! 
In the last 11 or so miles my pace dropped off a bit - probably lower blood plasma levels due to less electrolytes and simply relying on Coke for too long. I was running more in the 8:10-8:20 range, but the legs felt pretty good - I tried to focus on the turnover and running tall, but the pace didn't drop by much. In this time frame I came upon Scott Black, who had contacted me right before the race. He had traveled to Norway from NH for the same reason as me - chasing a KQ. He had come up one spot short before, and unfortunately that was the case for him again - third in the M55-59 AG with two slots. I tried encouraging him, and he did likewise for me. At the very end of the race there there was a 'golden mile' loop to run along the waterfront - this included the hardest hill of the day - save the best for last, right?

Finally, I was at the turnaround with less than half a mile to go. The guy who ended up finishing third in the AG was around 30 seconds behind me, but at that time I still thought I had 3rd. I finished the run strong, and my emotion showed on my face - it was the first IM where I felt I'd raced pretty well (maybe excluding transitions!). My total time was 9:41, not the sub 9:30 I felt I could have done with better weather and a slightly faster run, but still a 13 minute IM PR. My family was waiting along the side of the finish, and I sat down. I immediately felt pretty nauseous, and ended up throwing up what seemed like 1/2 a gallon of Coke - I guess I went to the magic potion a bit too soon! The medical staff helped me out and took my vital signs. My blood pressure was very low and I was chilled. I ended up getting an IV (five attempts to find a vein for someone who's biggest phobia is needles isn't the best thing!), and I was in the medical tent for around 45 minutes. I'm glad I was able to see the family prior to getting sick, and they knew I wasn't not feeling well.

I eventually felt a bit better, and the folks in the med tent encouraged me to get up and walk a bit. I got a little bit of food and then went to the massage tent. I sat next to the guy who won my AG and, at the time, still thought I'd held onto 3rd. Only after getting my massage and then trudging about 500 feet to the hotel did Katie tell me I had dropped to 4th. I knew my AG was the largest in the race, and by just doing the math there were five slots on paper (finishers in my AG, divided by # of total finishers, times 30 slots). However, when giving out at least one slot to every AG five slots wouldn't work. I knew there would probably be three slots, with a chance at four.

On Monday morning I over-indulged in a huge breakfast, and then at 10:00 headed to the awards ceremony. I would have liked to have been on the stage, but a KQ was the ultimate goal, so a sat through the awards for the 140.6 and then for the 70.3 (the events were held on the same day, with the 70.3 starting once all IM swimmer were out of the water a bit after 9:00 AM). Finally, it was time for the WC slots. I was very antsy, and they began with the oldest AG's. When it was announced that Scott's AG would only get two slots I was bummed for him. When the second guy in his AG took the slot, Scott yelled out 'Are you sure?' getting a big laugh from everyone. I know Scott will persevere and get his slot soon!

I knew that the M45-49 was the next largest AG to mine - if that group only had three slots it was almost certain that the M40-44 would receive four slots. Katie and the kids arrived, and I walked down to see them. They were outside of the larger room where the awards were, and when it was announced that M45-49 had three slots I gave her a big hug - almost certain there would be four in M40-44........and I was right! Squeaking in wasn't exactly the goal - that had been winning the AG, but a KQ is a KQ, and I'll take it. I carried Hannah up on to the stage with me to accept my slot. As it turned out, another slot was reallocated to M40-44, but I'm glad it didn't have to work out that way for me.

Over the course of our six days in Norway I managed to meet several folks, including a guy named Ã˜ystein Eriksen, who had qualified for Kona at Louisville back in the fall. He had met Colin at that race - small world in triathlon! He ended up taking 3rd in his AG (M35-39) at IM Norway, and he was supportive of me at the end of the race, when I wasn't feeling that stellar. I'll be seeing him in Kona!

Tuesday was departure day from Norway - we packet out all of our gear and took a large taxi van to the bus station. The trip back to Stavanger was pretty easy, heading back on the ferry and through the tunnels. Our flight back to Copenhagen was delayed a bit, so we hung out in the airport for a little while. My brother and his wife ended up meeting us at the Copenhagen airport (they live in San Francisco). They were planning on doing some sailing in Sweden, and hadn't planned to still be in Copenhagen, but their bags had gotten lost. As a result, they were able to hang out and have dinner in the airport with us. Hannah looks super excited about having her photo taken! After hanging out with Uncle Jon and Aunt Marissa, it was off to get the rental car and drive to a hotel around 20 minutes away. We stayed at another Scandic hotel - I'd definitely recommend them for anyone traveling in Scandinavia - they have very good breakfasts and nice accommodations. 

One hitch that happened back at the Copenhagen airport involved my bike. I'd paid in advance to store it at luggage facility at the airport, but there was a hand written sticky-note saying 'we are closed.' I initially had no clue as to what I should do. It certainly wouldn't fit in our rental van (European vans are quite a bit smaller than those in the US). I then thought of the baggage room at the airport hotel we'd stayed at a week earlier. I ended up walking back to the family, and telling them of my plan to go to the hotel and plead for them to store it. I walked to the hotel - nice that it was connected to the airport and less than a 10 minute walk. I may have fudged the truth a bit - embellishing the fact that maybe the 'we are closed' was permanent, and they agreed to put the bike in their coat room. So I was then off, leaving the $$$ bike in a coat closet for a week, with hopes it would be there upon our return (it turned out to be fine, and was still there a week later). 

The following morning we drove to Hamburg, Germany, where Katie's brother Ted lives and works. The stretches of German highway without speed limits are pretty unique - going a steady 150 kph felt like walking when some cars went by at much higher speeds! We spent four nights with Ted, going to the Zoo and sightseeing in the city, including Miniature World, which has over 15 kms of small-gauge train tracks. It happened to be the weekend that the ITU held races in Hamburg, and I was able to watch the end of the women's race and the whole men's race. In hindsight, it wasn't nice to be away from the family for a couple hours after Katie spent so much time with Jackson and Hannah in the time leading up to and during race day in Norway. I have lots of pictures of happenings in Hamburg and then two days in Legoland prior to heading home, but that could be a whole other post.

Plans going forward are a sprint triathlon on Nantucket in just nine days, and then 70.3 Maine in late August. I'm going to do a couple weeks of harder efforts and Vo2 type intervals to reintroduce a little speed prior to getting back into more of the endurance work starting in August. 

Here are some final takeaways from our trip:
- Tons of Europeans smoke - a much higher percentage than in the US - yuck!
- Scandanavians love their meats - especially bacon - and breakfasts are the real deal - yum!
- Don't drive in the left lane on German highways unless you are going 100+ mph
- European triathletes are darn fast!
- Coffee in Scandinavia is very tasty and they have fancy dispensing machines w/many options
- Pizza is very popular in Norway - kids were at least happy with that food option

Until the next time...