I had planned to do a bit of a recap of 2020, but here it is in December of 2021. The year of Covid (2020) is certainly not one many will forget. For many, it was a year marked with tragedy and loss. My family was pretty much unaffected (health wise) by Covid, but my dad did pass away in October of 2020. He had a long battle with Lewey Body Dementia. My grandmother also passed away this spring. My mom, who was primary caregiver for both went from a day filled with helping others to having little to do. Loosing her husband and then mother was hard, and it was exacerbated by the fact that we haven't been able to come together as a family to celebrate their lives. We are hoping that in the fall we will be able to have a joint celebration of their lives.
Now, off the negative stuff, and onto training and racing fun. Looking back at 2020, I made the most of the situation and had my biggest ever year of training. My focus, though some may call it vain, was Strava KOM chasing. This was something that helped keep my training focused. I was able to bike a bit over 12,000 miles (mostly indoors on Zwift) and get in a bit over 900 hours of training. Just about all of this was biking and running. Over the course of the outdoor season (roughly May to October) I got a total of 151 KOM's, around ten of which were running. I did quite a bit of looking at segments ahead of time, nailing down routes when I got outside to ride.
Some of the KOM's are quite weak, with 50 or less people on the leaderboard, while others have 5,000+ riders who have ridden the segments. I targeted segments in places we visited: North Conway in NH, Acadia in ME, Nantucket, and of course in my own neck of the woods. Some of the KOM's have been taken back by other riders, but it was a fun focus to have for the year. I definitely feel that aero is king, even on some uphill segments. My tri bike weighs around 20 pounds with pedals, so it certainly isn't the lightest bike around. I also went full 'race' on KOM day, with aero bike shoes, sleeved suit, helmet, and other aero goodies.
Back in January, when it still looked pretty bleak Covid-wise, I decided to sign up for Eagleman, hoping to qualify for the 70.3 WC in St. George. For a while, I wasn't very hopeful, but still kept up with training. Things continued to get better and things went off without issue. When I raced Eagleman in 2017 I drove down on a Saturday, and I did the same again this year. Bike and run training has been going quite well, but I haven't been in a pool since March of 2020. During the winter I did pick up an old Vasa swim trainer, which I have been using 2-3x a week, hoping it will make a difference. I did get in a couple weeks of OWS in Walden Pond prior to Eagleman.
Goals were high for Eagleman and the aim was an AG win. The swim was what I expected - around 35 minutes, so there was work to do. However, things went south in a hurry coming out of transition. I generally set the bike up with my bike shoes attached and in position with rubber bands. However, heading out of T1 and up the slight incline next to the YMCA I was struggling to get into my shoes. Reaching down to get my right foot in, my best guess is that I hit a small pothole or something else in the road. With only one hand on the hoods, I had around two seconds of trying to hold things together before I met the road at around 22 mph (according to my Garmin). I immediately had a very sharp pain in left calf, which I thought was a bit odd. I had impacted the ground on my on my right side and had quite the 'yard sale' - helmet visor, bike shoe, water bottles. My chain also came off, and it was a total of around two minutes before I was back up to speed.
However, that left calf was not in a good spot. It felt like I tore the calf muscle - the pain was quite high, but the impact when riding wasn't impossible to push through. Instead of pushing targeted watts in the 270-280 range I was in the 230-240 range. I was able to get though the bike, but my time was quite a bit off the top amateur bike time I put up in 2017. I was pretty concerned going into the run of how the calf would feel.
The run was definitely more survival, which was pretty unfortunate, as weather conditions were as good as they can get for Eagleman - lower humidity and temp than usual. I hobbled through at around a 7:20 pace and my finish time was five minutes slower than 2017. Had the bike crash not happened I feel I would have been sub 4:20 and definitely contended for the AG win. Frustrating, but I was still able to snag a spot to the 70.3 WC in St. George.
My original plan had been to drive all the way home after the race. However, as I headed north my calf really began to hurt and tighten up. I called Katie and decided to head to an urgent care center in northern New Jersey. The diagnosis was a hematoma, and the best guess is that my calf hit my pedal when I fell. I ended up finding a nearby hotel and arriving home on Monday.
The next three weeks involved no running, as I nursed the calf back. I got some x-rays and follow-ups just to make sure there wasn't anything serious going on. After school ended (a week after Eagleman), the family headed up to Stowe, VT for a week. I was able to get in some awesome gravel riding each day while there and also get a few laps in an outdoor pool at the Trapp Family Lodge, where we stayed.
I slowly built back the running, with the next race being 70.3 Maine at the end of August. Over the summer we were able to have a few ten-day trips to Acadia in Maine and to visit my mom on Nantucket. Running slowly came back, and by August I was feeling pretty good. When I raced 70.3 Maine in 2019, I won my AG, so that was the goal again. However, it turned out there were a few crazy fast folks in my AG, including Ed Baker.
I was able to come away with a PR of 4:15, but that was only good enough for 4th in my AG. At that time, the 2022 WC was still scheduled to be in New Zealand. However, a few weeks after the race that race got switched back to St. George. Ironman retroactively added spots to the Maine race, so I was able to get a spot to go back to St. George. The plan for 2022 had been racing Mussleman to get a slot, but that won't need to happen.
Fast forward to St. George, and my mom joined me on the trip. We had a few logistical issues, as our flight time was changed. This resulted in the need to adjust hotels, and it ended up costing quite a bit more to change things closer to the race date - grrrrrr!!!
We got into Vegas on Wednesday morning. I found a little park to do a run in 100 degree heat - it didn't feel that bad - it's a 'dry' heat, right? We then drive to St. George and I went to packet pickup and registered. After that, we went to our hotel. On Thursday morning I headed to snow canyon to bike up and down twice and then did a short run. Friday morning was a quick swim, bike, and later in the day we headed back to drop off my bike and then into town to drop off run gear.
The actual race went decently, but I feel I underperformed quite a bit. It didn't help that several things went wrong. The swim wasn't great - I will need to swim more heading into this race next year, and being non-wetsuit it didn't help much. I was out of the water in 36 or so minutes and into transition. That's where mistakes began - I thought I'd walked the swim exit to my bike ahead of time, but I somehow messed it up, and was a headless chicken for 2-3 minutes or so, running around. I eventually found my bike and was out.
On paper, the bike course doesn't look that fast as there is 3k + feet of elevation. However, it is a speedy course. I quickly began passing folks and making up that lost transition time. There were two times where I managed to drop my chain - I need to look at the Di2 to see what's up and adjust things. Once was on a downhill where the chain came off the big ring. The other time was at the bottom of the out and back on the small chain ring. Both times involved me completely stopping to get the chain back on. That's at least another 2-3 minutes in terms of rolling time.
This race included a crazy thunderstorm that came in when I was nearing the top of Snow Canyon. At that point there is around 10 miles left in the bike, all downhill into town. Winds picked up and were gusting at 40+ mph from the right with driving rain. I decided it wasn't worth it to flirt with death, so I hung on, primarily on the hoods, heading down hill, being blown all around.
I ended up having the third fastest bike time in the M40-44 AG, but I know I'll be aiming for time closer to 2:10 when I'm back in 2022. Factoring in the dropped chains and weather, I think that is certainly reasonable to shoot for.
On to the run, and the hills. The course was basically 4 miles up, around 2 miles somewhat flat to downhill, then a crazy steep downhill back to town, then repeat. My goal for the race was running close to 1:30, but I just didn't feel awesome, and ended up with a 1:35 run. I feel with a better run I can be right around or maybe a bit under that 1:30. Putting together a better race in 2022, my goal is definitely somewhere around 4:25. Wetsuit swim will speed things up, combined with fewer errors and better bike and run times, and that is certainly attainable. Overall, I finished 22nd in the AG, which is my best placing at at world champ event. However, it was a much watered down field, with many being unable to travel due to Covid.
2022 will again be focused on the 70.3 WC. I'll kick off the year with a small Olympic race in early June in New Hampshire, then do a local half - the Patriot Half. In July I hope to do the Nantucket Tri if it's on. August will be another Olympic - Cranberry in MA - to work a bit on speed heading into a final 70.3 block for the 70.3 WC in October.