In March I kicked off my season with my first 70.3 at Ironman 70.3 Puerto Rico, finishing 7th. After 8 months, 7 Half Ironmans, 4 Oly Tris, and 2 draft legal Sprint Tris, my first season as a primarily long course pro is in the books. Here's a look back and some takeaways from this year's races.
Best Rides - St. Anthony's Oly Tri would be my best short course ride of the year, only Cam Dye rode faster on the day. 323 watts of average power and over 45 km/h got me from about 15th place up to 3rd starting the run. My best 70.3 ride would have to go to Ironman 70.3 Raleigh, 286 watts and just over 43 km/h of solo effort, though I had several 70.3 rides that were very close to that performance.
Best Run - At Ironman 70.3 Steelhead, I managed to run 1:17:18 in fast conditions (not too hot) to hang on for 4th place. This was my fastest run of the season by a couple minutes.
Best Overall Races - My best short course race definitely goes to St. Anthony's Triathlon. A mediocre swim was more than offset by a great ride and a solid run, culminating in a grueling finishing sprint where I edged out Taylor Reid for 4th place. I can't really decide on my best long course race. St. George, Raleigh, Steelhead, Chattanooga (World's), Mont. Tremblant, and Los Cabos were all solid. I think St. George felt the best because I wasn't expecting a top 10 (let alone 8th) and I passed 2 guys in the last 3 km of the run, though I can't say it was objectively the best.
Worst Race- Hands down, Escape Lake Geneva was my worst. An average swim was followed by my worst bike and worst run of the year. I was fortunate to finish 5th in the last prize money spot, barely holding off a hard charging Drew Scott. Reflecting on this, coach James and I agreed that I trained too hard from 6 to 3 days prior to the race. Mostly my own fault for pushing the workouts harder than I should have. A mistake I won't make again.
Favourite Course- Ironman 70.3 Mont Tremblant was certainly my favourite. The course and venue are beautiful. The town really embraces the race, and the roads are among the most bike friendly I've seen. The bike course is mostly hilly and the run is a mix of hills and flats. This will be a staple in my race calendar for sure.
Season Reflections and Lessons Learned
My open water swimming improved significantly from last year. In non wet suit swims, I often stayed with the lead group for the first quarter to half of the swim, then lost the group and finished 1-2 minutes behind. I was typically one of the last, if not the very last guys to get separated from the front group. The reason for this improvements is hard to pinpoint. I believe its due to a combination of improvements in speed in the pool, and cumulative open water experience over years of racing. Next year, I think its a very reasonable goal to become one of the last guys who is able to hang on in the front group. I'll be swimming more in a long course pool from now on. This addition should help me get more prepared for the swim leg in 2018.
On the bike, I saw significant improvements from last year. Though I didn't do as much short course racing this year, my best bike power output was still about 10 watts higher than last year. Overall, my power output in short course races did gradually decrease throughout the season. Each of the 3 Oly Tri rides after St. Anthony's was worse than the previous. This was likely due to an increase in long course specific training as the season progressed, and my 70.3 rides stayed very consistent all season long to reflect this. I will try to stay in touch with that high end power a little better in the future.
In 70.3 races, I will try to attack the group and get separation on the bike more often next season. I was typically one of the stronger, if not the strongest rider in the groups I ended up riding with in 70.3s (Mont. Tremblant, Steelhead, and Los Cabos were all examples of this). Although it may help my overall time to stay with the group, I ultimately want to be beating the athletes around me more than I want to have fast times. As I continue to get stronger on the bike, I need to take advantage of the time I can gain on my competition by starting the run with as much of a buffer as possible.
My running was a bit of a disappointment for me this season. I think the training went well, I just didn't manage to run the splits I was hoping for. In short course, I had 1 run (NYC Tri) that was as strong as my best from last season, but the others were a bit lackluster. For long course, I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I thought it would be relatively easy for me to run 1:15 or so off the bike in my first season of 70.3 racing. The closest I got was a 1:17:18 in great conditions and a pretty fast course. In the early season I faded badly in the latter stages of the half marathon. I did improve my pacing after a few races, and had better runs in the last half, but I averaged out at a rather unimpressive 1:20 half marathon off the bike. It is clear to me now that it will take some time for me to be able to hang on with those wily veterans, who seem to be tireless in the last leg of a nearly 4 hour long race. I'll be implementing some different styles of run workouts in the off season to try to break through the plateau.
On a positive note, I have been very pleased with my consistency throughout my triathlon career, and this year was no different. This seems to be a relatively uncommon trait among professional triathletes. I noticed that many of my competitors would beat me by a lot some days, and I would beat them by a lot other days, even though I had an objectively similar performance on both occasions. I believe this consistency has allowed me to have the best average results I could have hoped for in my races this year. I only had 1 performance that I was not pleased with (Escape Lake Geneva), and the rest were all either decent or good races. This resulted in a lot of similar outcomes in my non-drafting races. My placings were 3rd x 2, 4th x 4, 5th x 2, and 7th in non-championship races, 8th at North American Champs, and 19th at World Champs. Why have I been consistent? I don't exactly know the answer to that, but I assume its a large number of reasons, the main one being good recovery habits. I also think James has done a great job with slowly building up my training since I joined LPC 5 years ago, which is a big factor in why I haven't had any significant overuse injuries (knock on wood). I hope to keep this trend up for the rest of my career.
Goals and Plans for 2018
I hope to do what I did in 2017, just a little bit better. I'd like to turn a bunch of those 4th and 5th place finishes into podiums, and getting my first 70.3 and/or Oly Tri professional victory would be icing on the cake. These outcome based goals would be amazing to achieve. More importantly though, I have to focus on the process based goals, I can only control the controllable after all. Continuing to train and recover well is all I can really do, which will ideally lead to improvements across all 3 sports, and result in accomplishment of the outcome based goals. I'll will once again race short course and 70.3 races in 2018, but I currently don't have plans to do draft legal races. I haven't decided yet if I want to go to the 2018 Ironman 70.3 World Championship in South Africa. That decision will be based on whether I feel I have an appreciable chance of finishing in the top 10, and whether I can afford the trip in the event that I don't make any prize money. I'd also really like to be selected for the 2018 Island House Invitational, though I can't classify that as a "goal" since the selection process is subjective.
I have a huge amount of support from so many people that have made this season possible. My coach James Loaring has been incredible at knowing whats best for me, and he has had a big impact on my athletic improvement since I joined LPC in 2012. I have also been surrounded by great friends and athletes on the LPC Hurdle Project who have helped push me in key training sessions, not to mention making it more fun to train! Over the past few years, I have been fortunate to gradually form relationships with great businesses who have chosen to sponsor me. Each of these businesses have made a positive impact on my triathlon career in their own unique way. Lift King, Prolutions, Dundas Speed Shop, ZiZU Optics, DKOS, Pearl Izumi, Perfexia, and Felt, you have all been critical in providing me with what I need to live the dream as a pro triathlete, thank you!
Just as important as my coach sponsors, and training group is my personal support crew. My girlfriend Montana is my number one partner/friend/bag carrier/organizer/photographer and I couldn't be luckier to have someone who's happy to support to my unorthodox career path! Without my mom, dad, and step mom's support, I wouldn't have gotten even close to where I am now, thank you! My sister, step siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, step families, and friends, you guys have all encouraged me the whole way and deserve a thank you as well!
Now its time to enjoy the rest of my down time. Expect some blog posts on this off season on random topics related to triathlon that I haven't talked much about.
Thanks for reading!