I am a professional triathlete and USAT Certified Triathlon and Cycling Coach based in Madison, WI.
My Story | By Patrick Brady
Life is a compilation of a million tiny moments. How we react in those moments shapes who we are. How we remember those moments shapes who we become. My life to this point has been an interesting story but there is one moment in particular that inspired me to become a professional triathlete.
In 2006 I moved to Madison, WI and landed a job at a Wisconsin cheese store on State Street. My daily routine revolved around school and work. Free cheese-themed lunches and Babcock Hall ice cream did not lend themselves to a healthy lifestyle. I was slowly losing connection with my former athletic self.
Then in September of 2008 I witnessed the Ironman Wisconsin race from the window of that State Street cheese store. I watched as the professionals ran by and was frozen in awe. I made a promise to myself that someday I would be one of them.
It was not an easy road. I had never swam in my life and could barely make it across the pool. My first ride was a mere 25 miles and I had to walk my bike home. Yet after 8 years of hard work and a breakthrough 2014 amateur season, I earned my professional license in dramatic fashion at Timberman 70.3.
I am proof that if you want something bad enough you can have it. You have to be willing to work for it though. You have to be patient, live in the moment, draw strength from your past, always believe and never quit.
Now, I strive to achieve my next dream. An Ironman event title, and to race with the best in the world at the Ironman World Championships at both the half and full distance. I understand, just as with my first dream, that this will take time. But I know I have the tools, potential, and dedication to achieve them. I have no doubts.
The beginning of spring has me reflecting a bit on 2021 so far. While it hasn’t been perfect, it seems as though the world of endurance sports (despite some high profile cancellations) will return to some version of normal. Athletes around the world are getting fit and ready to make up for their lost seasons.
My 2021 has started a bit differently, which is to say, painfully. I’ve been dealing with the aftermath of a hamstring tear. Not a “just rest it for a week or so” micro-tear, but a full on proximal hamstring avulsion that had my sports med doc asking me questions like “what are your future athletic expectations?”, and referring me to a surgeon. On January 6th, the aforementioned surgeon reattached my hamstring to my pelvis with some sort of “bioabsorbable” anchor…whatever that means.
Now, I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I’ve been killing rehab. Hitting up in-office physical therapy three times a week, doing PT exercises at home the days I don’t go into the office, and slowly working swim, bike, and “run” (does an alter-g count?) back into my schedule. It was going great….until Thursday afternoon. After a relatively easy bike/swim day, my right glute (same side as my surgery) was super tight and sore. “Why is this happening to me? It hurts to walk! I’ve done everything right! I don’t deserve this! My triathlon “career” is over!!!” It was like a taper breakdown, but worse. My roommates, as I will heretofore refer to my wife and children, were unimpressed with my histrionics.
As endurance athletes, it’s all too easy for us to place entirely too much emphasis on a single data point. Whether it’s a race that doesn’t meet expectations, an FTP test that falls flat, a swim TT (seems like this is the YouTube vid theme of the year) that doesn’t reflect the work you’ve been putting in, or simply an easy run that didn’t feel “easy” enough, we’re all programmed to want more. It makes sense! Seems to me there’s a handful of reasons to compete in endurance sports: the community, looking good naked, and the feeling you get from working hard and improving at something.
BUT…improvement never follows a straight line. The path to truly getting better at ANYTHING is always bumpy. It doesn’t have to be “two steps forward, one step back”, but we also can’t expect completely unimpeded progress. The arc of time tends to smooth out the trajectory of improvement in our brains. The completion of a successful season erases, or at least discounts, the various obstacles we overcame along the way, turning a staircase (or even a jagged mountain range) into a smooth ramp.
Improvement in our sport is built not upon sustained perfection, but on showing up day after day, week after week, month after month, even if you have a bad race or workout. Put in the work, and you’ll get better, but no one can promise you a smooth ride!
As for me, I was talked off the ledge by my physical therapist on Friday morning, who reminded me that we had done a significant amount of work on Wednesday, and that I was only experiencing a completely reasonable amount of DOMS. In layman’s terms, she told me to stop being such a baby. If you ever need someone to talk you off a similar ledge, let me or Patrick know!
Since starting PBC in 2014 I always committed to a high level of coaching, communication, and attention to detail for all of my athletes. I never wanted to be a high volume coach with high yearly turnover, or sell cookie cutter training plans for local staple events. I wanted to know each athlete beyond the sport. I wanted to develop them beyond what they maybe considered possible through a long term relationship and approach to training. This approach has always limited the amount of athletes I can take on each year, and that is fine. With a high retention, this also meant my open spots each year were also limited, again totally fine. We have had so many successes amongst our team that I could not and would not adjust my business model to accommodate higher numbers, and potentially sacrifice what I can deliver to each individual. As the years went on I knew that the most likely path for expansion of PBC was to add another like-minded coach who is passionate about helping develop athletes and understood the philosophy behind my approach.
I’m excited to announce that PBC will be expanding on the coaching side of things with the addition of Chicago Area based Coach, Jamie Rauch! Jamie brings a depth of knowledge to the table, specifically in the swimming area where he is a Silver Medalist in the 2000 Olympic Games, 18 time NCAA All-American, and a Team USA representative at other World stage swim events. Swimming isn’t the only thing Jamie knows. He’s also an Ironman Kona and 70.3 World Championship qualifier, Boston Marathon Qualifier, and Ultra-Marathon competitor.
More important than Jamie’s impressive athletic resume is his willingness to learn, communicate, and passion to teach. Since I started working with Jamie as an athlete he has always shown interest in understanding the process. His interest in coaching comes from a place of genuine excitement about helping athletes achieve and exceed their goals. To me, he has all the qualities necessary to cultivate successful relationships with any athlete he works with. With that approach and his “student of the sport” mentality, I knew adding Jamie to the coaching roster would be a winning move.
Coach Jamie’s role with PBC will start small, focusing on a few Chicago Area athletes, while he learns the process and begins to develop his coaching flow through mentorship with me. As we grow and become more efficient with that process, Jamie will expand to take on more athletes, both local to Chicago Area and remote.
I’m very excited for this chapter of PBC and could not be happier with the direction we are heading.
Well, we all know that 2020 was a tough year. For some, it was very difficult with sick family members, lost businesses and jobs, social isolation, and more. Covid-19 was not something many of us ever planned for in our lifetime. Right as Covid-19 hit the US I was about to travel to Mexico for a 70.3. Without much knowledge about the virus or how the rest of the year would play out, I made a tough decision to stay home and not travel.
Personally, after that I went through so many different emotions as the new reality started to become difficult to deny or avoid. I found myself hoping it would just go away. In fact, I can honestly say that much of the end of March and all of April I was pretty paralyzed in my response to the changing world. I didn’t adapt as quickly as I wish I would have. I woke up every single day and surfed the various news outlets, hoping for a miracle cure, or a drastic drop in positive cases. I was resisting the idea that this new reality could actually happen.
When May rolled around and everything continued down the path of canceled events, no social gatherings, virtual school, and virtual work, I started to realize that if I didn’t make some changes to my training, my coaching, and my attitude, I would spend the rest of the pandemic unhappy and possibly losing everything I spent years to build. I also felt a huge sense of responsibility to my athletes. I needed to be supportive, realistic, and find ways to keep them focused on the controllable aspects of their life and fitness. I won’t go into all of the details of how I worked through that with my athletes, but I will say that it was highly individual. Some struggled, others stayed very motivated. In some ways, the ones I thought would handle it best had the hardest time. When you have 20hr/wk elite athletes struggling to get out of bed for a workout, it’s not always easy for them to admit their momentary weakness. As a coach it was a balance between leniency, understanding, and accountability. We all truly discovered what was at the core of our motivation in sport this year. If that was racing, you probably had some mental hurdles to overcome. In the end, most of PBC was able to cling to the lifestyle of being an endurance athlete and could see the bigger picture far down the road. 2020 was one of those roads where you feel like the destination is never getting closer…. but if you’re enjoying the drive, it doesn’t seem to matter as much. Turn up the music and set the cruise control.
At some point, with the help of Kitty, I decided to create something for my athletes that could not be taken away or canceled. That’s where the idea of the PBC Triple Crown was born. We created a 3 race Sprint Tri Series for Team PBC athletes, based on variations of my favorite Race Day Events Wisconsin Triathlon Series courses. These were small events, 10-15 athletes, and had well executed COVID-19 safety protocols.
FAKE MILLZ (originally the Wisconsin World Championships in Lake Mills, WI)
CORONA TRITERIUM (originally the Verona Triterium)
DEVILS CAKE (originally Devils Lake Tri)
The series was a success in that it was fun, we got to test ourselves, and nobody got sick. It was great to get a bit of that “race feeling” back and also create little rivalries amongst ourselves to get the competitive itch. The distances across these events were pretty similar, so it was also good to measure some improvement in a low pressure situation. Most of all, it was just nice to be amongst the team and see everyone smiling and enjoying triathlon in its purest form. All athletes got a T-shirt and hat at the final event to commemorate the series.
When it was all said and done, we still faced many more months of shut downs, social distancing, and canceled events. We saw a few races go off in Florida, but overall there was nothing reliable to train for and still no confidence that we were nearing a return to “normal” anytime soon. We remain resilient and focused on the big picture of what our journey holds in this sport. Everything that we do today will help us tomorrow. That doesn’t change, even if there is no date on the calendar to test ourselves in a race format.
I’m grateful to my athletes for staying so driven and adaptable during these tough times. As an athlete myself, I know it isn’t always easy to get up and work every day when you don’t really know exactly what you’re working towards. As a coach, I’m very fortunate to have a high retention and head into 2021 with close to a full roster.
The lesson here is that you always have to be open to change. The ability to adapt is ever important. Whether it’s in life, training, business, or racing. We have to be able to make changes as the things we can not control change. Speaking of change… stay tuned for some exciting new announcements from PBC in 2021.
After the Ironman Wisconsin debacle I went home and was in bed by 6:30PM. I sent a message to my coach about the possibility of adding Ironman Chattanooga in 3 weeks, then fell asleep. I woke up randomly around 11:00PM and saw his response was to add my name to the list and then see how things go in the next few days. So I did, with 1 hour to spare before the registration cut off. Over the next 5 days I didn’t do any S/B/R training, but spent multiple hours each day packing and moving heavy furniture, as well as getting a better grasp on what happened to me during IMWI that made me so weak and eventually ended with me in an ambulance to the med tent. The lab results showed that I had given myself rhabdomyolysis, but the reasons why were unclear. After talking with my coach and sorting through some of the issues I had during the taper, the answer became somewhat more clear. Put simply- I was too skinny. During the taper I had lost 6lb off an already peaked fitness lean frame. Not at all intentionally either. I just didn’t have an appetite, and other life stresses and allergies distracted me from the focus of properly fueling. Two days before IMWI I weighed in at an all time low, and I was actually a bit puzzled. But I had just run 1:13 off the bike in Traverse City, I was feeling great in training, so I just told myself this was a result of peak fitness and maybe I had reached some new level of form that would pay off on race day. And to be completely honest, when looking in the mirror I didn’t see a lean and mean Ironman machine. I saw my normal body image insecurities… yes, I have them too! So I carried on. Under-fueled the day before the race, under-fueled the morning of, and boom: the start gun fires and I am weak. Onto the bike and there is no power. Off the bike and there are no run legs. 16 miles later I’m on the side of the road, in a state of delusion. The lack of fueling depleted my glycogen stores, which led to the breakdown of muscle and the rhabdo. The peeing from rhabdo made me think I needed more sodium. The excess sodium made me hypernatremic. Then came the extreme fatigue, confusion, headache, etc. Game Over. All the work, seemingly wasted by a stupid mistake in the taper. BUT, we felt like we figured out the cause, so we could address it and see if the body bounced back for IM Chat in 3 weeks time. During that 3 weeks I ate and ate and ate until I couldn’t anymore. I really started to feel great in the 2nd week. My energy levels were high. So high that my normal training patterns were getting annoyed with my positivity and endless humor! After a solid week of training with some key sessions that went well, I made the decision to indeed head to Chattanooga and seek redemption. I drove down with Revere and Tina, who were coming to support me on race day and also do some heat prep for Kona as the Chattanooga temps were in the 90’s+. I was also happy to see that Wednesday before the race I was 8lb heavier than my pre IMWI weight!
We have all probably heard this story before. Endurance athlete gets too lean, notices improved run speed, takes it too far, then they get sick, injured, or just fail during the race. Although mine wasn’t intentional, I felt sort of foolish. I’ve heard these stories. As a coach, I’m always keeping a pulse on my athletes weight/body composition to be sure they aren’t taking it to the extreme. But sometimes it’s difficult to see it in yourself, especially in the moment. Lesson learned.
Travel to the race went smooth. We arrived on Thursday afternoon, settled in, and all that normal stuff. Friday the pro meeting, Saturday the bike check in, and Sunday up bright and early at 4am to race. I was fully carb loaded and hydrated for the day. The temps were going to be 97deg with humidity, so I knew nutrition and hydration was going to be crucial to a successful day. Tina and Revere dropped me off, I did all the transition things, then took the shuttle to the swim start.
Swim- 49:37 – 15th
The swim is 2.4 miles, all down stream, pretty straight shot. The water was 81deg so fairly warm but fine without a wetsuit. A local guy near the swim start tried telling me that the current would not help at all today, but I knew that was wrong. The current may not have been as strong as recent years, but it still gave a decent push. When the gun went off I did my best to stay with the main pack, knowing there were a few guys in there I have recently swum with in 70.3 races. I was hopeful that I could stay with them and have some help at the start of the ride, being in a group. I was on the back of the group for the first 1000m before eventually being sandwiched between 2 others and dropping back 10 meters. I put in a huge effort and got back onto the group. Another 200m later the same thing happened and I was again on my own. I upped the effort again to get back and could then tell I wasn’t making any of the distance back. Bummed about that, but moved on quickly and went into my own swim routine for the rest of the way. In the end I lost 2 minutes to that main pack.
Bike- 116 miles – 4:47 – 6th
Onto the 116 mile (yes 4 extra miles!) bike and I could tell that it was going to be a better day than IMWI. My legs felt good, HR came down early, and the watts came easy. I passed about 5 guys in the first 40 miles which made me feel like I was back in the race. I did everything I could to stay hydrated, with the temps now creeping even higher. I knew that there may be some performance decline late in the bike, and that being very conservative was going to pay off when we set out to run a marathon in the middle of the day. For the first 3 hours things were great. Then I really hit that wall of… boredom. I had been on my own for so long and now were were on lap 2 of the bike with amateur traffic everywhere. It was difficult to navigate around the other riders, the sections of bad roads, and the vehicles on course that would drive slowly behind the lapped bike traffic. I had to make multiple unsafe passes, I was held to a complete dismounted stop by an ambulance crossing an intersection, and I was exhausted from yelling “on your left.” Combine all of that with fatigue and I could feel my mood shifting to a negative place. The watts dropped quite a bit and at mile 90 I was in LOW SPOT #1 of the day. But then the best thing happened. Clay Emge, who I had passed 45ish miles earlier, caught back up to me. I was so happy to just have someone to ride with and keep motivated to finish the last 26 miles. In hindsight, the one thing I would definitely change about the bike is to work with Clay once I got to him the first time, rather than ride up the road. I had out about 3min into him only for it to be brought back later. Working together probably would’ve helped us both… but those are decisions made on the fly while racing. Sometimes you get them right, sometimes you don’t. Either way we were about 10 miles from the finish and another rider (Laughery) I had passed earlier bridged up to us. So the 3 of us rode into t2 together in 7th, 8th, 9th place.
Run- 3:12 – 3rd
Once off the bike and the convection effect stops, you could really tell how hot it was. Revere was there to tell me what place I was in, how far behind I was, and more importantly how BAD most people up the road looked due to the heat. During the first mile of the run I made a few game time decisions. 1- I was going to run entirely off of HR, not pace. 2- I was going to walk every aid station to work on lowering my HR and my core temperature. The run in Chattanooga is already challenging with over 1000ft of elevation, but today was going to be carnage for most. Emge and I ran basically together for the first few miles, with Laughery a bit behind. At around mile 4 at an aid station Clay looks to me and says “it is dangerously hot.” I responded with a “yep” and kept running. I didn’t see him again, as he had some nausea issues shortly after that. Now into 7th place, I kept plugging along. Each mile the HR would gradually rise, then each aid station I would bring it back down. Repeat x26. No problem! 😉 The race paid 6 deep, so I knew that 1 more spot would put me in the money and that based on who was up the road there was good potential for that as long as I kept my shit together. My body and mind were so much more connected than IMWI. I had awareness of what was happening and I could make smart decisions. Yay body fat. Around mile 8 I passed Andrew Talansky, who looked as if he was going to pass out, stumbling all over the road. Now in 6th I saw Revere and Tina who gave me some more info to what was happening ahead of me. I had taken a massive chunk of time out of everyone but the top 2 guys, Long and Russell. Revere told me I was running the fastest of anyone to that point, and even suggested I “chill” a bit because of the heat. I had been averaging 6:25/mi even with the walking at aid stations, and after seeing Talansky on the verge of falling over I thought maybe Revere is onto something. So I backed off a little. A few miles later I made the pass on Adam Feigh into 5th and being the supportive competitor he is, he offered some words of encouragement. I came through the first loop and started the 2nd feeling really good about how things had gone, but knew this was the 13 miles that really mattered. At mile 14 I passed a walking Pedro Gomes and was now in 4th place. Things started to get exciting for me at that moment. Was I about to run myself onto my first ever podium??? I felt so good, and with Nicholas Chase up the road in 3rd I felt confident in that possibility. Nick is a great swim/bike guy, but hasn’t really backed that up with any phenomenal run performances to that point. So the chase was on, no pun intended. I felt steady and my plan of walking aid stations continued to work. At mile 20 I saw Tina who told me that 3rd was 2min ahead and running slower. Wow. 10k to go, 2min down from 3rd, and to that point I had the fastest run of the day going. Pinch me. Oh and let me tell you, I definitely got pinched! It started with a twinge. Then quickly it was full on massive seizing hamstring cramps. The ones where you literally can not move until it stops. Both legs. Then the calves. I eventually worked up the courage to lean over to stretch them out and BAM, abdominal cramp. Now the arch of the feet. Hobble, hobble, walk, run. 2min later, repeat. Uh oh. Eventually even my biceps started cramping. From this point on it was no longer about catching 3rd, but about damage control and holding on to 4th. I ran/walk/cramped my way through the rest of the race in a sense of panic, trying everything I could think of to calm the cramps down. Salt, gatorade, technique changes… I even tried walking backwards! The last 10k of that run was the hardest physical and mental thing I have ever done, hands down. It took over an hour but I got through it. And although Feigh came close, I was able to hold on to 4th, still running the 3rd fastest time of the day. In the end, 24% of the entire field DNF’ed due to the heat and other issues, which is the 3rd highest DNF rate of any ironman ever. Tough day out there!
Finish- 4th Pro- 8:54
The finish line was amazing. The emotions of 4th place, my best overall finish, and redemption from IMWI hit me hard as I crossed the line. I was happy, proud, but with a small side of gutted from missing the podium. I stood there and watched the champaign podium celebration and then congratulated the guys and left the finishing area. Close, but not quite there. I left hungry for more, but properly satisfied for the day. I walked over and hugged Tina and Revere who were amazing the entire trip, but especially that day. They both were so happy for me, and I was so thankful for them. A true team effort.
I posted a quote on instagram in the days before the race, “Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.” Feeling this way allowed me to take the pressure off myself for Chattanooga. I went there to prove something to myself and nobody else. The redemption was my own, however I defined it. To learn from my struggles, make changes, and grow. Ironman and expectations don’t mix well. Focus on yourself, the process, and embrace the inevitable suffering, and you will never cross the line unsatisfied.
As always, thank you to Kitty for your support and being behind the idea of adding this race, even in the midst of our crazy last 4 weeks! (Bought a house, got married, 2 Ironmans.) Thanks to my sponsors- Summit Strength and Fitness and Trek Stores of Madison. Thanks to all my training partners over the years who continue to help me grow as an athlete. Team PBC for supporting and inspiring me through he highs and lows, (and helping me move, ha). Thanks to my coach, Bevan McKinnon for the knowledge and guidance. And finally thanks to all who tracked, sent messages, and pull for me, regardless of the race and regardless of how I finish.
One word: Disappointed. I saw yesterday as an opportunity to have a great performance, at my hometown Ironman, with the best fitness of my life. I had an excellent IM focused training block, specific to this race. I had a great race plan to execute. I was healthy and injury free. 2 weeks prior, I had the best 70.3 of my life. The stars were aligned.
After a choppy but ok swim, my gap to the front was smaller than ever at this distance. I’m the water we had a group of 4 for the first half, and then it broke up and I was solo. The waves were crazy and I felt like I managed them ok, but maybe spent a little more effort than usual doing so. Not much to report here.
I rode my race plan, even letting others up the road to be committed to my own execution. I ate, I drank, and I stayed calm and smooth. Just as I trained. I had some hand/finger cramping start right away, which was totally odd. About 2hr into the ride I had a quad cramp, again very odd as I never cramp. Then about 3 hours into the bike I started peeing. Over the next 90min I peed 4 more times. My fluid intake was not higher than any other day I’ve trained that duration. Then there was a power drop off, which may have been happening regardless. But overall my power ended up being 20w below what I’ve done in training. Despite this, I rode into 7th place and was 6th out of transition. I had a decent ride split for the day, and thought maybe with the lower power I would have a little more in the run legs.
Starting the run I was excited because I heard that 2nd place was 9min ahead. Knowing the past performances of these guys, I was expecting them to run 3hr or more. Me, I’m a runner. I am in the best run shape of my life, having just run 1:13 off the bike in Traverse City. All of my training has indicated that 2:50 was doable as long as I executed through the first 6hr of the race, which I had done. I went out and held myself to the pacing plan my coach and I practiced, only things felt much different than usual. The urination continued, now coming every mile. It was dark in color, but also extremely confusing because I was not drinking that much fluid. In the 6 Ironman races I have done, this has happened 1 other time (IMWI 2017). Never at any other races, never in training. Regardless, I pressed on, holding pace through the first loop, moving my way solidly into 6th and closing on 3 more up the road. I was in a good spot mentally, despite all of this. At the start of lap 2 I tried to increase my pace, as planned, but it just wasn’t happening. However, I continued to run decent, around 6:30 miles give or take. Then, mile 16 happened.
*a lot of this is reported from athletes/friends of mine who witnessed this* I don’t remember a lot of it.
I ran myself into the stadium wall at Camp Randall and let out a groan. Eventually I recovered and entered to stadium to run the loop. On the way out I stumbled, fell onto the curb, and stared off into nowhere. A course official asked me if I needed help, I said no. By this time my friends watching had called Kitty and she was on her way over. I got back up, then quickly went back down. I then started walking and seemed very dazed and out of it. My friends and a police officer started following me down the course. I tried to run, but had no motor control to do so. Eventually I ended up back on the pavement, passed out. I remember a lot of commotion. Voices from people I know but nothing specific. I remember Jenny rolling me on my side when I started as if I would throw up. But mostly I just remember feeling like I was sleeping. Then I felt Kitty touch my face and tell me she was there. That moment is clear. I opened my eyes and said “oh shit” because I realized I was done. The medics came. They asked me my name and age. I was wrong on age but right on name. I started saying some weird stuff about what I was doing. Then the medic told me it would be unethical for them to allow me to continue. They tried to put an IV in, but failed. It felt to me like 2 minutes had passed, but apparently it was a long time. Eventually I was loaded into the ambulance and worked on for an hour before going to the Med tent for more attention. The peeing didn’t stop. I became extremely cold and unable to warm up. My blood pressure was under 100. My blood sugar was 120. They got an IV in me and gave me 3 liters of fluid. I peed 3 times in the med tent. It was brown. They wrapped me in blankets and used a space heater to warm me up. After some time the doctor told me I had life back in my eyes, and eventually I was let out to Kitty. Nobody there really indicated any possibilities of what was happening to me, or whether or not I needed to get more extensive blood work done, or anything. We quickly found a Porto potty so I could pee again, then went home.
Right now I’m devastated. Mostly because I have no idea how it happened. I wasn’t making stupid decisions with pacing/effort or nutrition. I wasn’t underprepared. I don’t know what I would do differently. I’ve had multiple training days with higher TSS and better/faster/more comfortable runs off the bike. I don’t know what to point to.
My body failed me. It’s hard right now, less than 24hr later, to sit here and not think about the hours and hours of training, the sacrifices I’ve made in order to do so, the sacrifices Kitty has made to support me, the countless conversations with her about this race, just to suddenly fail. I think that’s the hardest part for me to process.
Now I start to turn the page from this and move on. I’m talking with my coach about how things unfolded and trying to determine what could have gone wrong. I’m going to contact a medical professional who may be able to help me determine the cause for excessive urination. I’m going to schedule a comprehensive sweat test to determine what my needs are, in case that has anything to do with this. Because there is no sense in racing this distance until I have a grasp on how to avoid this happening again.
I want to thank everyone who came out to support me on course, sent messages, and reached out to see how I was doing after the race. You are all amazing and I am truly thankful to have people in my life like you. It means so much to me to know I’m not alone in this. I love you all. Congrats to all the finishers out there yesterday. And happy birthday, Kitty. I hope you enjoyed the afternoon outside of a med tent. 🙁
Time for a break to move to our new home and get married to the love of my life. September can still be saved.
The trip to Traverse City started out a bit frantic, as Keily and I sat in a cafe parking lot in Oconomowoc and realized the ETA to the Manitowoc Ferry was 1:52p for a 2:00p departure. The cutoff time for loading vehicles was 1:30p… and Jackie was already in Manitowoc and relying on my vehicle once we crossed Lake Michigan. This was a huge, but not surprising oversight. These things happen when Andrew and I are together. It’s like a battle of “who can be more chill” and this time we both almost lost. As I sped towards Manitowoc I asked Andrew to call and give them our now optimistic ETA of 1:45p and see if we should even bother with the 90+mph risk or not. The phone call goes as follows: “Hi, um, I have a sick kid this morning and am running late, but yeah so we are on our way and will be there at 1:30p. Will we still be allowed on?” This was 50% funny and 50% what. Sick kid? 1:30? Regardless, we motored on. Jackie was able to smooth talk the operators and we got there at 1:44p and they let us on. Crisis averted. I’m just wondering what type of dad leaves his sick kid behind for a ferry ride…
The big boat ride across the big lake was pretty cool. Andrew and I tried to play bingo but the number caller was doing a comedy routine so we bailed. We spent the rest of the ride looking at the water in awe, when Andrew drops the line “one thing I do wish was real is mermaids though.” What. Arriving in Luddington, MI the ferry driver pulled a sweet 180 turn in the harbor and parked the ship. We got into our car and headed out for the last 2hr drive to TC. We dropped Jackie off at her homestay, went to the gas station for guilt free snacks, then met our Airbnb hosts Carol and Rick around 10pm. She showed us the bed we would share and said goodnight. About 20min later she came back down to offer a blow up mattress, testing the waters of our relationship… “nah we good,” we said. I actually slept really well next to that 6’4″ Mermaid Hunter.
The Saturday before the race was typical. Little workout, pro meeting, check in, etc. This race was logistically simple and that was nice. Sitting in the pro meeting I came to the realization that I hadn’t really thought at all about who was racing and how that might influence the race. My mind has been 100% on IMWI, which is what I’ve been training for and TC 70.3 was just a test day 2 weeks out. I hadn’t tapered, having done a 7 hour day on Wednesday and 22 miles of running on Thursday. But after an easy Friday and Saturday I started to get the racing itch. To be honest I was nervous about how my body would respond. The training load has been higher than previous 70.3 races, and without the taper I had no idea what to expect. But I was honestly ok with whatever outcome and just excited to race for the first time since June.
The morning alarm came quick, followed by the regular thoughts of “why do these have to be so early?” We walked to the race start, prepped the things, then got in the water to warm up. I didn’t have time to get a jog in, so I did about 8min of swimming and 3min of water jogging (I think that’s what it was) to get the blood flowing. We lined up and the cannon went off. The first 400m to the turn was a bit crowded, but I focused on my own effort and when we got to the turn things started to string out a bit and I found a group. The rest of the swim flew by as I just focused on the feet in front of me. Exiting the water I saw I was with 7 others, so that was nice. We ran through a long t1 and grabbed our bikes fast so nobody missed the train. 27:30 for the swim.
Onto the bike we had a solid climb to start the ride. I knew that everyone was going to over bike that section and that it would be fairly easy to bring any gap back once we got to the top, so I just sat up and let the HR come down while keeping the power in check. As predicted a little gap opened up and I came around the group and closed it over the next fast section. From that point until around mile 34 one of those amazing miracles of non draft triathlon happened, where everyone was magically riding the same speed. Even the faster swimmers who were caught somehow found it within themselves to stay on the back of our 8 man group. Wow. I wasn’t back there to verify, but from my angle the spacing was a bit questionable. And we didn’t have a moto official with us for the first hour. However I knew that if we wanted to get back into the race we would need to ride fairly steady. So Blake and I rode at the front, with the occasional help from 1 other. Once we got to the out and back section at mile ~34 we could see the gaps. From there I decided that we needed to ride a little harder to close some of that down if there was any chance at running into the top 6, which was the pay out for this race. We hit the finial 22 mile stretch home and we finally had a moto with the group AND a headwind. I went to the front and rode my 70.3 watts and magically the miracle of non draft triathlon reversed, and I rode 2+ minutes into the group behind, with Blake holding behind me (fairly, IMO). 2:13 bike split, moving into 12th place.
The run was a big question mark. Not my fitness, because I knew that was going really well, but more of just the lack of rest and how that would feel. Right away I could tell that my legs were ok and the pace came pretty easy. I was clicking off 5:35ish miles and was excited to see where I was at the first out and back. At mile 2 I could see that I was in 10th place and the next 2 guys didn’t look good. Andrew and Justin Metzler were battling it out for 6th and 7th early in the run. As they barreled toward me, breathing so hard, I could tell that one of them was going to crack as they seemed to be stuck in their own little 1-1 battle… or at least I hoped. The next time I saw those 2 on the 2nd out and back Keily had moved in front and Metzler just wasn’t having his day. I knew eventually I would catch Metzler for 7th, but had no idea what the actual gap to Keily was and he looked ok. At the start of the 2nd loop I was really feeling good. I ran a 5:29 7th mile and I really had to convince myself to chill because it was too early. The big run volume I have done was paying off, as that’s usually the point of the race I either slow down or it gets ugly. But that day I was feeling great. A little later I saw Jackie en route to a 1:16 half marathon and WIN… and she calmly tells me “let’s go only 30 more min!” My thoughts are ‘wow she’s right, but how does she even know that?’ It was good to hear because 30min seems slo much easier than 5 miles. I continued running, passed Metzler for 7th, and could see at the next out and back that Andrew was slowing and the pass would happen soon if I held it together. As I ran up behind him I went from focused competitor mode to coach mode, and I started yelling every instruction I had, which I’m pretty sure was something like “Listen, the guy in 5th is fading (made that up). Do not give up right now. Hold it together and get the leg speed up. We can do this.” Probably a few swear words but IDK. The mile after that was the hardest because I was trying to catch my breath from the instructional pamphlet I just read to him on how to run the last 5k of a 70.3. The rest of the run was pretty uneventful. I was gaining on 5th but knew I would run out of real estate. I crossed the line 6th overall with a 1:13:30 run split, 3:57 total time.
It was really cool as a friend and his coach to turn around and see Andrew come across next, in 7th. This was a breakthrough race for him and he earned it. It’s awesome to have a relationship with someone who will go to war on Sunday but then be generally happy for you when the race is over. I took the last payed spot, so this situation came with a little $ dynamic… but Andrew only mumbled once about his mortgage. Haaaaa. Blake came across the line to round out the top 10, and with Jackie winning the women’s race and Robin Pomeroy taking 7th, the Wisconsin Pro’s had a solid day in Michigan.
Overall that was probably my best front to back 70.3 race. Not my fastest overall, but my best when all put together. And the run split really reflects what I have felt I was capable of all season. That’s the closest I’ve been to the winner! This gave me a lot of confidence going into the final 2 weeks before IMWI. I didn’t have a lot of ‘top end’ during the race, but I was smooth and controlled the entire time. Afterwards, I had zero soreness. My coach Bevan says it’s because “I’m really fit.” I think it’s because of the sleeve of cookies I ate before the race. 😉
The boat trip home was fun. Jackie and Andrew are fun to travel with. A lot of laughs and Jackie bought us Wendys Frosty’s with her prize money. I got a small. Shoulda got a large. After dropping all the kids off, I got home at 3am. Long day but a good day.
We are about a week out from IMWI and things are still going really well. The fitness is there, the plan is solid, and it’s now down to execution. I’m looking forward to a big day in my backyard, and look forward to seeing everyone else out there doing their thing.
As I sit here, with sore legs, devouring all food within 10 steps of the couch, I am thinking about my next moves. What can I do better in the next training block? How can I take that elusive next step (the one that keeps moving further away as I prog ress)? How can I execute better at the next race? Wait, what is the next race? Wait. Woah. Slow down. Soak it in. I just went 3:55 in a 70.3. I just finished 8min behind a legend in the sport… the same legend I was 15min behind at the same race last year. When I started this sport this was unimaginable to me. Hell, in 2010 if you told this 5:55 70.3 finisher that he would go 3:55 and finish 7th I may have asked if the swim was canceled and the course was shortened. And if not, how could I not be top 3 with a 3:55?!?! The sport has definitely gotten faster. And so have I. And I am right now, in this moment, appreciating that and this entire journey. I truly love it. The training, the lifestyle, the whole entire process. Failures, injuries, triumphs, and all. What a ride! And I still feel like it’s only really heating up. I hope everyone has the awareness to occasionally pause and really be satisfied with their accomplishments before moving onto the next ones, or beating yourselves up about the things you can do better.
Swim-29:57. Lake Michigan was calm, unlike last year! And it was wetsuit legal, unlike last year! Despite this, I had my slowest swim of the year. I just had one of those days in the water where I could not go hard. Nothing felt right. In Chattanooga, when I came out with the 2nd group, I was able to put in hard efforts to close any gaps and then settle in whenever on feet. This time all I had was 1 gear. It was solo, other than the guy on my feet, the entire way. When I got out and saw 29 high I was disappointed, but not devastated… entering T1 I was very happy to find out the leaders were only (haha) 3.5min up, which meant the swim was slow for all due to the current. Usually a near 30min swim would mean a 7min deficit to the leader. Praise be.
Bike- 2:06:12. Even though I felt so weak during the swim, I got onto the bike and immediately had one of those moments where you want to loudly yell “ohhhhhhhh babyyyyy, I got dem Golden Legs.” But I just whispered it instead. I felt great. I rode steady at what ended up being 4.3w/kg for the first ~20 miles and it truly felt so good. Controlled and sustainable, although I would never find out if it was. By mile 25 I had moved from 19th to 7th and was now with a group of 5. Being with a group was a first for me. Once there, I went to the front immediately and continued at my watts only to be passed back by Blake Becker who rode hard at the front for the next section. It was him and I back and forth for a bit to the turn around, but honestly more Blake at the front to that point because I decided the smart thing to do would be to stay the legal distance and get a little break from the hard effort to bridge the nearly 2min gap in the first 20 miles. Once we saw the 2nd group at the turn and we knew where we stood things got a bit more organized. Jesse Vondracek, Blake, and I did our best to keep the pace going to minimize the gap to the next group. When at the front I would ride 4.5w/kg only to look back and see everyone still there. Riding away was not going to happen on this course, with no real wind. So working together seemed like our best bet. Meanwhile, 2-3 others just sat on the back, which is fine because it may have been all they could do that day. I also knew that within that group Jesse would be the biggest threat on the run, as he has been running about as fast as me in the previous few races we’d been in together. At the same time, this group was out of the money and 4min back from the 2nd-6th place group. That was going to be a tall order on the run, so we needed to hold the pace and try to claw back a bit. Sparing all the minor details, we rode well on the way back in, legally spaced, with a moto official in the group the entire time.
Run- 1:15:46 I lost half of my bike nutrition (because I dropped it at an aid station like an airhead). So in t2 I slammed a gel and a bunch of water. Out of t2 I was shoulder to shoulder with Jesse, which TBH I was not super pumped about right away. The last thing I wanted to do was get into a 13 mile battle with someone. I sort of wanted to just get away and suffer alone… weird I know. I also knew that 6th was about 3:30 up and that I would need a fast run to have a shot. So I went out pretty hard, and after 1 mile was by myself. Things were rolling fairly well for awhile. No leg numbness or hip issues, which I’ve been dealing with all year, and the gap was coming down. At mile 6 I was 2min back from 4th. By mile 9 it was around 90sec to 5th and 6th. With about 5k to go I was in the hurt box… bad. I sort of wanted Kitty to tell me that they were out of reach, because then I could just focus on getting to the finish. But instead she told me I was 1:07 down to 5th and 6th and I let out a pretty loud “F$@K!” because I knew it was doable and I knew it was going to REALLY REALLY (really) hurt. So off I went, deep into the land of self inflicted physical pain and mental self bargaining. Now with 2 miles to go I could see them for the first time. I dug deep. Thinking “up onto the toes. Leg speed. Go to the arms. Grind it out.” Mile 12 now and the gap is closing more and more. “Ok, stay on it. They have mentally settled and they don’t know you’re coming.” Obviously they are running slower so maybe they will get sloppy. And then the dreadful heavy dead leg feeling set in. The one you have when you are dreaming of running and no matter how hard you try you can’t go fast. The harder you try, the slower you go. Then I knew, it was over. Close, but no cigar. 7th place. 34 seconds out of 6th. 37 seconds out of 5th.
As always, I couldn’t do this sport without my support team. Kitty was helpful in so many ways this weekend, and everyday as I balance training, work, family and life. She said all the right things when I was out there racing (which is really hard to do) and provided me with the best race mantra I have ever used. Mark and Tina Buttner traveled down to watch and support me as well, which was above and beyond and it was great to see them out there and know they were pulling for me. Thank you guys! Of course, all of my friends, family, Team PBC (same) back home on the tracker. I think of you all often out there! Thanks for caring about my passion. Finally, a special thanks to my training partners who endure the day to day glamorous lifestyle of a pro triathlete with me, even if it is only for a session or 2 per week. You guys inspire me and make me believe.
Race #2 of the season would land me at one of my all-time favorite courses, Ironman 70.3 St. George, Utah. This course is seriously tough both physically and mentally. Between the pre-race logistics, the course terrain/elevation, the weather, the 3 miles up a bluff to start the run… it’s easier to just say “if you know, you know.” However, I wouldn’t have it any other way as courses like this suit my racing style and also tend to deliver a more fair/honest race up front. Being that it was the North American 70.3 Pro Championship with $75k on the line, the competition was very solid. As with every race my goal for this one was to execute the best I could. I was confident that if I did that it would land me into the top 10. Here’s how it played out:
The water was cold but manageable with a wetsuit. Warming up my stroke felt good and connected and I was confident and focused. I lined up on the left side of the pro field, thinking this would allow me to breathe right and see what was going on during the first few hundred meters without needing to do much sighting. My plan was to then move over into whatever group was forming as we hit the first turn. In hindsight this actually left me solo for quite some time until I merged over and found Sam Long to swim with. Once with him I didn’t sight forward, but rather relied on him to direct us. At the first turn I could see the main chase pack had gapped us a bit and slowly I moved from Sam’s shoulder to his hip, and then his feet… and then off his feet… and then solo. Something that has happened to me repeatedly in open water swimming is that I lose the rhythm, focus, stroke, whatever you want to call it and it’s hard for me to gauge in the moment what it is that will bring it back, or even if the effort I give is actually improving my speed. There is no reference like a clock or a wall every 25yds to see if the input is working, or another swimmer next to me to see if I am matching their speed or swimming away. So I am swimming in this state of unknown AND with this mental sense that if I took a couple easy strokes, rebalanced myself, and went again, that would of course be costing me time and I can’t lose any more time… so the stroke must go on.. poorly… and at a high rate of exertion. Sigh. I am working on this.
Anyways I came out in 28:11, about 1:30 behind the main chase pack and 1:00 behind Long. Overall it’s still a step forward from where my swim has been in previous years. But if you ask anyone I swim with in training, they will understand how much of an underachievement that is.
T1- I was gassed. Couldn’t catch my breath and felt dizzy. My HR was so high, and I just kept thinking “what is wrong with me?” In fact, at my bike Kitty was there to let me know what was going on and I just said “something is wrong with me.” She didn’t disagree. LOL.
Onto the bike I felt ok once I was able to let my HR settle. The power was decent up the first climb and I was catching the few in front of me pretty easily. Once over the first climb I started to settle into my race watts and focused on what I needed to do to get myself back into this race. I had trouble keeping any nutrition down during the first hour of ride for some reason. That was odd, but I wasn’t overly concerned because I felt ok energy wise. My watts were down about 10 from Oceanside, but I had plenty of times the 55-11 was not enough to hold race watts, so I was ok with it. Nothing much to report here… lots of ups and downs but nothing too major until Snow Canyon Climb at mile 41. I was pretty happy with how I rode up that 5 mile climb considering I have hemorrhaged time to my competitors there in the past due to just being exhausted at that point in the ride. I averaged 4.45w/kg for 16min up the climb and felt totally in control. I bombed the long descent into t2, catching another 4 riders. One of them was Andrew, who I coach and train with often. I was excited to come into t2 with him and hopefully be able to work together on the run, as we have so many times in training. Unfortunately, and almost expectedly at this point, he crashed dismounting his bike. I can’t make this stuff up. Something happens to that guy on the bike every single time he races. It’s funny but it’s not. When I heard the crash behind me I knew. I didn’t need to look back, but I did and when I did we had through helmet visor eye contact and this telepathic conversation where we both just mumbled “of course.” Bike split was 2:12 and I was into t2 in 16th place.
T2- as I’m putting on my shoes I see Andrew walk by me pushing his bike with his rear Der dragging on the pavement and blood coming from his arm. He said something like “let’s go, you’ve got a shot” knowing that top 10 was my goal. I responded with “I can’t even believe you right now” in reference to his crash and think back on how many Coach mode conversations I’ve had with him about practicing his dismount.
A quick t2 had me in 15th place starting the run with 3 guys right ahead of me. I was about 3min from the top 10 and knew that a few guys up the road weren’t typically as fast of runners AND that this course would likely eat a couple others alive. The first few miles I felt fine. I gradually caught and passed Trevor Wurtele on the long climb up the bluff and put in a small gap on the mile 4 downhill. However, although it happened a little later this time, my left leg started to go numb/tingly again from my piriformis syndrome. I was pretty frustrated because I had made a bunch of progress on this since Oceanside, and thought I had left it behind me. Also, the tightness in my glute and lower back, mixed with the odd leg sensation really destroys my stride. And that is a bad thing to have happen when you are trying to run fast downhill or grind out a 2 mile uphill. At mile 6 I had closed time to the top 10. By mile 8 I was going backwards, losing time and actually being caught by guys from behind. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t there mentally. When I am suffering on the run I can dial into that pain like it’s a volume knob. Turn it up, tolerate it, settle into it, dial it up again, etc. But when it is something I can’t control like my piriformis, I can’t even think about the volume. I’m just overwhelmed with trying to keep my legs under me. I saw a video of me running thanks to Josh Terwoord and WOOOOOF, it looked bad. Kitty and Andrew also both said it looked nothing like my normal stride.
It’s frustrating, but I do feel like I’m making progress here and hopefully won’t be an issue much longer. So, I was passed back by 2, passed a couple others, etc. and ended up running in 14th with 2 miles to go, and magically I could feel my leg again. Ernest Mantell caught me in the last 800m and put about 10 meters into me. My thoughts were: “why dude? I wanted to jog.” and then “whatever this is for 14th place.” and then “ok self, we are either doing this or we aren’t doing this.” followed by “you will be mad if you don’t do this.” So of course I sprinted the last 100m or so and luckily was able to pass him back. Yay. 14th. I ran 1:19:58 which is my slowest run in about 2 years, but I am running better in training than I ever have in the past. So, yeah… doing glute work as I write this :).
Overall I was 4:04, 2min faster than last year and 1 spot higher overall. Yet the feeling after this race was so much different than in years past. I felt that last year I raced to my potential and that was satisfying even though I was not in the race at all relative to the top 10. This year I felt like I lacked across the board, and that’s never satisfying, even if the result is decent.
However, the best news about not racing to your potential is that you can learn from it, make changes, and try again knowing that your next one could be the breakthrough you’ve been working for and seen glimpses of. So, keep working on my PS/leg issues and then Chattanooga 70.3 in 2 weeks…?!?! Probably. Definitely. Yes.
2019 is off and running after Oceanside 70.3 this last Saturday. I knew going in that my fitness was in a good spot, but I also had realistic expectations for how the race could unfold for me coming from a long Wisconsin winter and 4 months since the last race. It’s exciting when you make progress over a 4 month training period, but without a true test during a race it’s a bad idea to create some sort of high expectation in your head. So, I focused on the process of executing a race I would be proud of and let the rest fall into place. I’d say if I had 1 major goal, it was to have a swim that showed some signs of progress since 2018.
Swim- the beach start was new to me. As much as I would have liked to practice this while visiting Florida the week prior, it just wasn’t the same… at all. I successfully made it through/under the waves and toward the first turn buoy without too much issue other than a short bout of anxiety due to a spiked HR after the run and duck dives. The group exploded around me and there wasn’t an obvious pack to get into. I settled into my usual solo rhythm and things seemed to be going ok. The sun was into my eyes as I turned into the harbor and that made sighting difficult. I had to stop and just make sure I wasn’t missing a buoy. Later in the swim the top pro woman came by (started 2min after us) and that made things 10x easier to the finish because I could just sight the paddle boarder. Note to self: make front group for paddle board escort 😂
Bike- the start was a bit confusing and at one point I went off course on a round about. I managed to jump a curb to get back without any real time lost. Unfortunately I lost a bottle of nutrition in that bunny hop. Nothing I couldn’t survive without. Once settled in I felt good. My power was solid heading out and I quickly caught 9 guys who swam 1’+ faster, half of which magically were able to get on my wheel for the next 30 miles or so. I caught a few more later on and moved into 15th. Nothing eventful from there until mile 40ish when I was able to drop the group I had pulled along most of the ride and put ~2min into them before t2. I was satisfied with the bike effort, coming in with the 10th fastest ride of the day, doing all the work.
Run- off the bike I could tell I had really good energy, so the nutrition was dialed and I was feeling good about running into the top 10. I heard a split that I was 3min behind 7th and I felt optimistic about that based on how I’ve been running in training and off the bike last season. But within the first mile my entire left leg went completely numb all the way down to the foot and my lower back was killing me. This isn’t something I’ve dealt with in the past during a race, to this degree anyway. It was actually a bit scary! I stopped to loosen my shoes, I stopped to try and shake my leg back to life, I tried stretching at an aid station. Nothing helped. Although the leg was numb, my pace was ok so I decided to just “keep myself in the game” for the first loop and hope the leg fixes itself. Unfortunately at mile 7 it was really bad and I hadn’t made up much time at all and a top 10 wasn’t looking great. In that moment I really wanted to stop. Not because I wasn’t going to be top 10 but because I didn’t want to do more damage. But then I saw a man from CAF running on 2 prosthetics and it reminded me of the night before, running the IronKids 1 mile with a 7 year old boy named David who has 2 prosthetic legs and missing half of his right arm. That kid didn’t complain a single time during that run. In fact, he said things like “this is the most fun I’ve ever had!” And “prosthetics won’t stop me from finishing this race!” He did the whole thing with a smile, for 25min of walk/run. It truly inspired me on another level and being reminded of that during the lowest point of my race kicked my butt right into gear. So I decided I could deal with a bum leg and get to the finish. I managed to run 5:45 pace for the last 6 miles. That put me into 13th overall, and just 1min out of top 10 overall. 1:16:30 run.
Recap- Oceanside was a great race and experience and I’ll definitely be back. It’s always good to test yourself against the best in the sport, and this field provided that. I’m happy with the start to the season and look forward to another go at St George. This time without the back/hip/leg issues!! In hindsight there were some warning signs about my lower back and left leg that I chose to ignore. I’ve dealt with left hip tightness for 10 years due to an underlying condition, but this is the first time it has really come to effect me in a race. Some preventative measures and it should be a non issue. It was a good reminder to stay on top of the body work, especially since I’m getting really really very extremely old (33). 😉 As always, another major lesson is to never give up and stay focused on the process. That goes for both this race AND my entire triathlon journey/career. I’m continuing to improve and continuing to have fun. The rest will fall into place!
Everybody loves a good training partner. Some days we need the accountability, motivation, support, or just some socializing while we knock out our training. Whether it’s an easy session or a wind sucking track session, training partners can help you get through your week more easily. So, what makes a good training partner? Here are my thoughts: The “Be’s and the Don’ts”
This one is easy! If you say you are going to be there, be there. Everyone has busy lives and packed schedules and we might not realize how someone reorganized their day so that they could make that 8am run work with you. Maybe they moved a meeting, moved other sessions around, planned for someone to watch their kids, or promised their partner they’d be done and home by 9! Sure, life happens and things pop up. But after a few last minute cancelations you can be assured that no one is going to plan their day around you going forward. So be reliable! And sometimes that just means being realistic with your planning.
Be On Time (or at least easily tricked)
We all know that person! And if you don’t, well then it’s probably you… You know; the person who texts 5 minutes after the scheduled meeting time that they “will be there in 5mins” and when they do they aren’t ready to roll. Ugh! Yeah, it happens to all of us on occasion, but some people are chronically late. Don’t be that person! A technique I like to use is to take the time I want to start the session, subtract 15min, and send out the invite. Sometimes that means I’m the person that is “late.” 😉
Build each other up, don’t tear each other down. Whether it’s training stress or life stress, we can all get through it a little easier if we have someone who can relate. A good training partner will listen and offer support when needed… even if you’ve heard about the sore ankle like 100 million times and you can’t take it anymore! Be there to remind them how to focus their energy toward the positive, because someday the roles will reverse and you will need that support just as bad! When it comes to training milestones, the same rule applies. Be able to say “Oh wow, your FTP is at an all time high? Awesome!” even if yours is in the dumps. Better yet point out to your training partner when they are doing something well… “hey man, nice work on that last interval. Looking better every week!” We all love to hear that stuff. Positive affirmations!
“Yes, we know you have that KOM, you told me 10 times. Yes, I know you ran faster than me on that mile, it happened right in front of me. Yes, I saw how many hours you trained last week, you won’t shut up about it. No, I don’t want to compare watts with you!” This is a tough one.. because in the RIGHT environment with the RIGHT people these topics can be easily discussed and positive. However, if you are constantly talking about your accomplishments or comparing yourself to others, people are going to get annoyed. Trust me, we can all see when you’re doing well. Your training partners know you dropped them… they were there.
Don’t Race Me, Bro
This comes down to being able to execute your workouts based on your ability and your goals, rather than based on what your training partner is doing. So, if we have a 10 x 800m track set and we are supposed to descend, don’t race on #1 if you can’t be there on #10. EXECUTE. Nailing the session as a whole is better than having a good single interval. More importantly, if you act this way and your training partner isn’t disciplined enough to stay away from the competition, you could ruin their workout too. Yes, we all love a little competition here and there. It motivates us to dig deeper and get more out of ourselves. But if you can’t compete the workout properly, the competition is null. If you want to race, let’s race the last one!
Positivity! Don’t drag the group down. If you aren’t ready to work, don’t come. Also, you can be tired/grumpy/whatever and still work hard. It’s ok to say how you feel, but say it once and move on. My best training partners rarely complain. Not much else to really say about this one… because I don’t tolerate it!
Don’t Bring Me Down
If you’re having an off day, or you can’t keep up for whatever reason… let them go. Don’t be mad if you get dropped on a climb. Don’t pout if the pace is too hot on the run for you that day (or every day). Know what you’re getting yourself into and realize that you may not be able to keep up all the time. And that’s ok! Some days the opposite will happen and you need to be ok letting that person go as well. Of course this isn’t always going to happen on an easy ride or run. But if it’s a key session, expect the possibility and make it clear that you can handle being on your own.
Quitting is a habit. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. Then it starts to rub off on the group. Even if it’s not full blown quitting a session, but ALWAYS finding short cuts, it’s bad for the environment. “Oh, I see Tom just put his pull buoy in for this aerobic swim… that sounds nice. I guess I will too.” Yeah, ok, we all have bad sessions and need to know when to pull the plug. But I am talking about that guy/gal that always finds a way out. Just don’t do it! If you consistently do, you probably won’t be around very long.
Training partners have made this sport so much more enjoyable for me. Some of my best personal relationships have been formed in those moments between intervals, hands on my knees trying to recover my breath, listening to the suffering of the group, hearing “let’s go, 1 more.” Looking up to a fist bump. Knowing we are in it together. Call it “being in the trenches” or the #grind or whatever it may be to you. Something brings people together when they share a struggle… when they can suffer alongside you.