IMCDA

At every IM I have done i’ve learned something new.  Sunday was no different.

1) The first 60 or so minutes of the bike leg gets paced as if bike ride is 60 minutes long.  I’ve only done 4 IM’s as a pro and usually come out of the water way off the back, so I just do my own thing.  In CDA, I came out of transition just ahead of Matt Russell and Matt Hanson after a very hard solo swim.  I knew these two were going to come around me so I tried to be ready for it and go with them. I got into my own head as I was seeing power numbers that are Olympic or 70.3 range and backed off the pace and they were immediately up the road.  I have the training miles to ride 112 miles really hard.  Now, I just need to do it.

2) Once you’re inside the top 10 Ironman staff is at every 10 mile marker giving you splits to the leader. That is, until, you’re 20 minutes back, then they just smile and wave.

Once off the bike I thought we were finally going to have a break from the wind.  No such luck.  I ran by Courtney and she gave me the conformation that I did indeed get my ass handed to me on the bike.  I was 13 minutes down to 8th place.  I was 99% sure that of the 8 guys up the road, 7 of them would just put even more time into me.  I felt terrible starting the run, probably the worst I have ever felt coming off the bike (besides IM Texas 2013) And then this song popped into my head – I knew I was about to be over my head and everyone looking at the athlete tracker was about to know too! Then I just decided in a split second – I am going to run as hard as I can until I blow up and hopefully – that puts me close to the finish line.  At the turn around back in town I was 4:30 out of 8th place. Then all of a sudden, there I was, in 8th place. I managed to hold on by a thread the last 55 minutes, mostly due to the fact that I had 425 mg’s of caffeine starting to work its magic.

All in all it was a great trip and the final few minutes of IMCDA are unreal. When you spend hundreds and hundreds of hours training solo, then you take a left hand turn onto Sherman Ave and the road is lined with people going HAM for you, even when you’re 45 minutes back from the win its a really cool experience.

 

My arms are out do to high to highfiving people!  The things you do mid bonk..

 

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Thanks to Greg from QR for the pictures.

Thanks to everyone for all the help! Everyone at QR, Normatec, Powerbar, Shimano, FuelbeltRudy ProjectFast:Splits to everyone at QT2, my wife and anyone who sent messages, you guys sure know how to make a bum pro, feel pretty pro!

 

26 days till the next one…….

 

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Two Numbers

There are a lot of numbers, percent of numbers and a just generally a lot of stuff out there on training and racing for an IM.  I can tell you from experience that all those numbers are fine and dandy until a certain point in the day when they all become 100% BS.  When they all get thrown out the window and you’re running as hard as you possibly can, no matter what the pace is .

Thats my favorite part of the day.   When it all comes down to effort. When we separate the men from the boys, if you will.

You see, my entire life gets boiled down to 3 days a year, then gets pushed even smaller into swim, bike, and run spits. Then it gets even smaller.  The two most important numbers of the day.  These two numbers are what we have set our lifestyle on.  They are why I train my butt off everyday, why I am in bed by 8:30 pretty much every night of the week. Why I try to eat perfect, recover perfect.

First half of the run avg HR / Second half of the run Avg HR.

Two numbers – but they tell you EVERYTHING you need to know about how the race went.  If the first number is bigger then the second number, I screwed something up. Period.  At some point in every race – I stop looking at my watch and just keep saying to myself – make the number bigger, no matter what it takes – get that number as high as you can.  When you know the Garmin file is going to end up PDF’ed and emailed back over to you – you look a little deeper inside during those last 60 minutes.

Next time you’re out training or on race day, think about those two numbers and what are you doing at that very moment that will affect the numbers.  Are you taking your recovery days to hard (and by to hard I mean riding over 100w’s – if doped up pro tour riders do their recovery days at 130 watts – you and I shouldn’t be even close to that)  Are you sleeping enough, eating good enough.  Not taking the hard days hard enough.  Everything you do all year will have an impact.

Some how I am 12 days out from IM CDA.  That came up quick.  Time to get myself cleaned up from a few big blocks of training and try to make that second number bigger than the first!

 

 

 

 

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Camp

Finally home!  It was a great month in Clermont Florida, with the QT2 Age Group Camp going from Feb 6th – 9th and then the QT2 Pro camp going from Feb 15th – March 2nd.  The age group camp was a great time with so many athletes, not only did we nail some serious bike volume we also had a lot of fun outside of the workouts hanging out, usually in one of the sets of Normatec’s that come to all of our age group camps.

There was a “dead” four days in between the two camps where Matt, Cait, Spinney and I did some training but nothing major in order to get ready for what was in store when Kropelnicki landed.

Summary of what we did for 17 days. In no particular order.

Tried to act like the woman’s sweatshirt on a few workouts. Especially – Swim band race swim starts.  (This video is obviously not with bands)
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Had a LOT of recovery smoothies. IMG_1555

And frozen veggie “stir fry’s”IMG_1556

Bought Tim some nuts and Vinny his swim hydrationIMG_1560

Just like my socks – I fell apart at the seams on a few workouts. But, to find the limit you need to go over it a few times, right?IMG_1565

Crushed a few cappuccinos on the way home in the Delta Sky Club!IMG_1582

Saw a LOT of this butt.IMG_1543

Juiced a bunch. IMG_1552

Didn’t spend to much time here.IMG_1545

Sat with all my friends on the flight home.IMG_1583

When you are only awake for 60 minutes post workout – You need a quick dinner.IMG_1547

Spent a ridiculous amount of time here everyday.  Second swim pack this year? Just maybe.IMG_1548

Ended camp with a few of these. Thanks, Donavan!IMG_1580

Did this and only this on our recovery days.
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Prepared myself to come home to THIS!IMG_1575

Spent almost a thousand miles with these guys.IMG_1549

Ate a lot of sweet potato’s
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Got to spend time with some seriously stud athletes.
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Spent a lot of running miles with the ladies. (Kendra’s Pictures)

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Ran a half marathon in the dark – on a bike path- in the middle of no where Florida. (Kendra’s Pictures)1622883_10152345275398973_1822716578_n

Missed these two dog a lot!1011829_760188534557_1473600723_n

And of course I missed the BOSS!993445_10100311166936255_177830868_n

Camp was once again a great time.  I found some fitness and it was good for me mentally to be with the group training after everything that’s gone on the past 3 months.  But most importantly – it gave me that extra little bit I’ll need for race day.  I spent 4 weeks away from my family.  You don’t give up on race day when it gets hard when you spend time away from your family. You dig a little deeper to show them that it was worth it.  I can deal with giving up on myself.  But not giving up on my family.

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Life.

Well I can say it was a busy off season and one that I will never forget.

Four days after I got home from AZ my Dad passed away.  To this day it totally sucks. There is no other way to say it.  It just sucks.

My dad always had a way of somehow being seen or heard at a race.  The picture below was in Kona 2009.  I was obliviously almost done and pretty toasted.  The only thing I remember is coming down and seeing my dad in the middle of the road.

7032_530838149567_1705737_n  The picture was taken by my sister a a little bit after.  He’s the big guy on the left in the White shirt.  Anyone who was there in ’09 knows much life myself, my dad wasn’t built for Kona weather!

Once my dad got sick in May and I started driving 160 miles round trip to my mothers house two days a week to help take care of him, my perspective on triathlon and training changed.  Before if I had a bad workout my day was ruined, if I had a great workout I was happy for the rest of the day.  Now?  Who cares? Its just a sport. Its just a day.  If I have a terrible workout – The sun will come up tomorrow.  If I have a life best workout – The sun will come up tomorrow.  As soon as I walk in the door from the workout – good or bad- its over.

I learned through all this that life is really short and you can plan for the future but that future may not come. Since I was a kid, I have always been planing for the future – Hell – I started a Roth IRA at the age of 14!( I loose sleep about having money when I get older) To this day – I am a planner.  I am always thinking “how will this effect my future” Which I think has helped me in Ironman racing because I’ve always had the patience to wait during ride, to ride the numbers that I know are safe.  This year things will change a little.  I am going to take a little more risk on race day.  I have the miles to handle it and the knowledge of what risk’s are worth taking and what risk’s are worth letting go.  This year – I am going to take the ones that I am on the fence about.  When someone goes by me on the bike – I am going to go with him.  If I blow up – I blow up.  But why sit around and wait for another day, when who knows if that day will come?

I started this year with a big risk.  I took six weeks off.  I can’t say totally off because I did complete 2 runs, 2 rides and 1 swim, but for the most part thats totally off.  It was a decision we made knowing that I was going to pay the price for during the first 8 weeks of training and believe me, I am paying the price.  I am in the worst shape I’ve been in since I started training in 2004.  Two or Three years ago I would be worried about my slow paces and low power numbers on the bike, I would be worried that everyone else seems to be out crushing it and is fit.  This year?  Not at all. When its time for me to be in shape, i’ll be in shape.  That time isn’t until the end of June.  So I will just tick off the days and do what needs to be done so that on June 29th I am fit and ready to roll.

All that said – This year we started what I think is going to be a three year quest to make the back of the 1st swim group. I don’t need to lead the group, I just need to be able to hang on for dear life at the back.  Now matter how strong we can make my bike or run over the next three years, if I can’t make the front swim group it won’t matter.

The Wheeler Family in LP – 2008.  With the most ridiculous T-shirts ever.  My dad and little brother stood outside the Econo lodge until 11:45pm that night cheering people in.

He will be missed.  Especially the pre race phone calls that we always had before every race even the little 5k’s I run in the winter, with his famous “If you can’t be first, just don’t be last” line.

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17,134

 That is the total number of miles I rode from January 1st through November 18th.  Its a lot of miles, a lot of solo hours, and a lot of hours with really good friends.  
 
2013 was my first year racing as a “Professional Triathlete” that is in quotes because although I believe my training and recovery rivals the best pro’s in the world, I’m really not in the pro race, yet.  Its not a bad thing, its not that I don’t believe in myself, its just a simple fact of numbers.  Numbers that I am trying to improve every single day.  This was to be a learning year for me.  Learn how to training for, race, and recover from three IM’s.  
 
I’m not gong to lie, the last eight weeks in to AZ, were the hardest eight training weeks I’ve ever completed.  Not physically, but mentally.  I had a lot of stuff going on outside of the tri-bubble that really had me questioning all the time I was spending training, knowing that I should be somewhere else.  I had a few runs where I stopped and sat down for a while because I just didn’t want to be out there running.  I had a long trainer ride that I texted Courtney during and said “I don’t care if we go to AZ, I just want to be done, I want to stop riding”  She texted back “That sucks, but you should finish.”   Tough love!  Long story short, I managed to get it done.  I even tweeted out that 2014 might be the year of 70.3′s and no IM’s.
 
Fast forward to race day and I am back in Tempe Town Lake. This time at 6:45 am and in the dark with what felt like 600 pro men. I put myself in the middle and on the front line. I went out as hard as I could and was on the back of the second pack for a while. I saw a small group forming to my right and they were coming up on me so I slowed up for a second and jumped on the back.  This is where I made my first tactical decision in IM racing and it was the wrong one! I noticed we were swimming in a snake pattern, but I thought the lead guy would get his act together and swim straight.  Well that never happened, and we came out in a slow :56 swim time.  Oh well. Next time.
The bike was pretty uneventful.  When you swim :56 as a pro male, you ride SOLO, because the race is 7 minutes up the road.  I was almost at the turn around when I saw 34 guys coming back at me in what seemed like one long train.  I knew I’d never catch up, so I just went on my with plan which was to ride around 250 watts.  60 miles later tactical decision #2. Mistake #2.  I got caught by a group of four guys and I let them lead, figuring they were riding harder then I was.  Long story short, I should’ve passed and left them WAY sooner than I did.  They simply were not riding that hard, but it was hard to tell.  My watts and HR dropped light a rock, but I figured that was just because I was at the back. I made the decision to see if the pace was honest, so I came around the group and rode at 300 watts for 10 mins and was immediately solo.  I made the final turn for home at 4:02 and just rode as hard as I could to try and go under 4:40. The wind had turned and we had a light headwind on the way back into town which made it a little slower then the previous two trips.  Lesson # 2 – Test to see if the pace is honest, if not, I need to go at it alone.
 
About three weeks before the race on a recovery run, I decided I was running under 3 hours.  Period.  Last year I was close with a 3:01. I mentally prepared myself for three weeks to deal with the type of effort in the last 60 minutes of running.  I set out on the marathon – and followed the plan Jesse and I had set a few days prior. Build into to run – hit the first 5 miles around 155 HR and 6:25-6:35 ish pace.  I settled into 155-157 HR and just ran.  I missed mile five somehow so when I saw the mile six sign, I slowly started to lean on the HR and pushed into the 160-162 range.  I knew at mile 15 that if things didn’t go banana’s I was going to be VERY close to 2:55-2:58.  But I was also starting to feel the day and my legs were getting heavy.  I had 11 miles 385 yards to go.  I thought back to how many 11 mile runs I had done in training, dreaming about running under three one day. Today was my chance.  I was going to get under three and there was only one way to get it done. Run at best effort all the way to the finish. I hit mile 24 at 2:44 and just went for absolute broke. Anyone who’s done an IM knows that when I say “absolute broke.” at mile 24 it means you’re doing everything you can mentally to just get the legs to tick over.    I passed Courtney and she told me clock time was 8:42. I kept pushing as my Garmin said 2:57:43.  I crossed with a 2:58:07 and was happy that I finally broke three hours and set a PR of 8:43.  Twelve minutes faster then last year on a similar day.  AND – I didn’t get beat by any age groupers or Pro Women!  SUCCESS.
 
A few weeks ago I couldn’t wait to stop training – Today I am fired up to get back into it.  I may not be anywhere close to being in the actual race just yet.  But I can see it.  I know I am doing everything right, so I just need to continue down the path that I am on.
 
Massive Thank you’s are in order.  To everyone that sent messages pre and post race. To all the great sponsors of QT2 Systems that make all the training and recovery possible.  To Mac and Peter at QR!  To Jesse – There are times when I just laugh when I see the next training block and think you entered the “tyson zone” (Thanks, Doug) But you haven’t steered me wrong yet! One day beers will be on me post race.  To my wife, Courtney (AKA – Thatrunnerchick) who goes above and beyond everyday to help me try and live out this dream.
 
Finally – To all my training buddies that came out in the final few weeks to drag my tired ass around.  Beers on me..Well, maybe only one – I was only 24th overall.  :)

 

Training totals for 2013.

Swim – 967,345 yards 

Bike – 17,134 miles

Run – 1690 miles.

 

Oh – and I’ll be on the start line of 3 IM’s next year.  You can count on that.

 

Picture courtesy of Trijuice.com

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Montauk Half IM

After a few last minute changes of plans I ended up heading down to Montauk, NY for the MightyMan Montauk Half Ironman.  I was originally planning on going down to Augusta 70.3 but after doing some number crunching I realized that I could save about $125 by staying local, so I did just that.  Plus I was able to meet the ENITRE Quinn family, all 10 of them!

It ended up being a pretty fun weekend.  I’ve never been down to Long Island or the Hamptons and seeing new places is a nice little bonus of the triathlon lifestyle.  I rolled into East Hampton around 2:30 on Friday and set up a home office at my buddy Steve’s place.  I was able to catch up on a few hours worth of work and then around 5:30 went to pick up Tara and Dave at a small airport a few miles away from Steve’s house.  I was only there for maybe 20 minutes, but I witnessed 2 families leave in two pretty new G6′s and 1 family walk out of a big helicopter with their two dogs.

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Here I am racing a small half in Montauk to save $125 and this guy rolls in on his Helicopter.  The price you pay for riding 5 hours on a Tuesday afternoons I guess!

Anyways…Saturday was the typical eating and sitting.  Nothing special.

Sunday morning I woke up, and immediately felt like I didn’t sleep at all.  I ate breakfast and fell back asleep on the couch, woke up, got in the car and Rudy drove to the race and I immediately fell back asleep.  Not the ideal way to feel pre-race.  I went through the motions to get myself ready to race.  Rudy and I walked down to the water looking to get in a small warm up only to find that the 10 minutes we thought we had was actually about 15 seconds.  The lifeguard on a stand up paddle board was giving us directions on how to navigate the swim course until he was interrupted with a “GO,GO,GO!!!” from shore.  So “GO” I did, with zero warm up and not really understanding how I was supposed to swim the course.  I had a terrible start and slowly worked myself up to first places feet and just decided to sit there since once we turned for shore I had no idea what to do.  Two minutes later I was solo.  The rest of the swim was bad.  I finally made it back to shore in a slow 28 minutes.

I ran through transition as fast as I could to try to get to the front of the race ASAP.  The course starts with a long out and back, I could see 4 or 5 guys coming back at me, but they were racing the Olympic distance not the half.  I knew I was in 2-3rd place and around mile 23 I confirmed that I was in 2nd place about 90 seconds down. We made the turn at 28 miles and I made a big push until the next turn around at mile 40 to see if I could close down the gap.  I brought it down to 56 seconds.  Over the next 16 miles there are a few more turn arounds where I could see that my 56 second gap was staying the same and that 3d place was making up some time.  Around mile 50 there is a turn around were you take a left and cross a lane and you can’t see if cars are coming due to trees.  3rd place caught me just before the turn and took this turn across the lane much harder and without slowing down at all, I chose to slow down and safely make the turn. I had to, I had a lawn to mow when I got home!

Long story short – I came into T2 1:05 down from first and about 30 seconds down from 2nd.

The bike course isn’t hard, but it sure isn’t fast.  56 miles of wind and with 6 turn arounds I rolled a 2:24 on 269 watts @ 150lbs.

Out on the run I had one goal and only one goal.  Get to the front and stay there.  I managed to make my way to the front around mile 3 just before a steep downhill.  I did my best Cait Snow impression and ran down the hill as hard as I could go and I put about 30 seconds into the two guys right away.  The rest of the run was very simple.  Best effort the whole way. It was fun to have a lead mountain biker and to spend 10 miles off the front of the race.  My first race win I only spent about 8 minutes leading.  Here I was in front for about 60 minutes.

Even though it was a small race – Its always nice to get a W and get QT2 across the line in first place.  Although it is hard to get really excited about it when you have friends and teammates wining Ironmans in what feels like every 14 days.

Someday….

Next up is the final six week training block into IMAZ and of the 2013 season.  I know IMAZ isn’t the best race for me in terms of placing due to the course set up – But I’m not concerned with that stuff yet.  First I need to be able to get myself actually into the race during the swim before I worry about “racing” an IM. I was 36 mins off Andy Potts at IM Lake Placid. 36 minutes!  Do you know what happens in real pro sports if you’re that far off the win?  You go home and get a job!

I’m going out to go as fast as I can on the day and enjoy being able to get up early on a Sunday morning and find the current limits of my physical and mental fitness.  Winning races or making money is not what drives me to get up everyday and train.  Getting myself into the best possible shape so on race day when I come to the end of my current physical fitness and still have about 30-45 minutes of running to do, I can take that next step and the next until I get my sorry ass across the finish line.  If that puts me in front of a few more races over the years then even better!

Until then…If you need me, I’ll be in the pool or out somewhere in the middle of Mass quietly putting in the miles.

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Ironman Lake Placid 2013 Race Report

Aka Ironman #11.

Last year, I signed up the day after the race as an age grouper, but was able to come back to the site of my first Ironman and race as a pro five years later.  THAT’S the reason there was 2 Pat Wheeler’s on the start list–I was registered as both!

After a very tough Ironman Texas and Syracuse 70.3, in combination with the weather we had the last four weeks, I was not in the best mindset leading up to Lake Placid.  Although we made big changes to the training in the last 3 weeks to do confidence building workouts versus my normal Ironman build-up, and those went very well, there was still a lot of doubt in the ol’ mind on how the day will actually unfold.

We arrived on Tuesday to better weather and legs that felt like they were ready to race. I did the last few workouts solo, and by Friday afternoon I was ready to eat and prepare to race!

Sunday morning finally came, I went through the normal race morning routine, and was in the water by 6:05 for the 6:20 start and was able to get in a 500-600 yard warm-up.  I think this really helped my overall swim time.  Being a very aerobic athlete, I need to have a good warm-up to be able to hit the swim hard in the beginning.

I lined up behind Tim Snow, just to see how long I could hang on him for.  Within 30 seconds, I had no idea where I was, I was just swimming as hard as I could go, and by the first turn I was swimming by myself.  My feet and legs kept getting hit, so I knew someone was back there. A few hundred yards before the end of the first loop, they weren’t coming around so I slowed up a little and a group of four guys came around me and I got on the back with the goal of them helping with navigating around the age-groupers on the second loop. We swam all the way to the turn buoy on the second lap, and all four of them cut in front of it, so they didnt have to go into the chaos that is the turn buoy.  I continued on the course to go around the turn buoy as fast as I could , and was able to latch back on just in time for them to cut diagonally across and skip the second turn buy and head back to shore.  At that point they had cut 25 or so yards, and I just couldnt make up the gap as I went around both turn buoys like I was suppose to.  (I won’t name any names, but I and the other guys around me know who they are.)  I hit the beach with a swim PR of 54:58.

Got on the bike and immediately hit the first part of the course hard, and happily I found my legs decided to join me in Ironman Lake Placid.  Pretty uneventful 112 miles, and after 5 hours and 12 minutes worth of pedaling, eating, and drinking it was onto the run.

Jumped off the bike, quick change (maybe not SO quick), and onto the run.  The run was started with the plan to get everything under control by the left hand turn onto River Rd, and then to take the Garmin off, put in my pocket, and run best effort all the way to the finish.  Although I never actually took the Garmin off, I didn’t necessarily use the pace or HR to pace myself, I just liked to know it was there.  I knew I was running, based off effort, too fast, but the plan was to just best effort it and see where it ended up so thats what I did!

Around Mile 19, I started to pay for the effort of the day, and the next 7.2 miles are going to take me 10 days to get recovered from.  It took a lot of mental effort and toughness to keep it together to the finish, but seeing all my friends out on the course and in town really helped and I crossed the line after a 3:05 marathon.

I was able to finish in 9 hours and 20 minutes which was good enough for a 28 minute PR on the course from 2009 and 10th overall pro.

The best part of the day was the simple fact that IM became fun again.  I was really happy to just be able to be out there going full gas.  No pressure, no expectations (minus a small wattage goal on the bike), just go out, have fun and finish as fast as possible.

Thanks to Jesse for all the help over the last 6-8 weeks and keeping my head on straight. To everyone who cheered for me, it meant a lot when I was really suffering out there. To Blueseventy for the wetsuit. QuintanaRoo for the most comfortable TT bike out there, the CD0.1. Powerbar for the fuel and Normatec for getting the legs back to normal everyday after training.

Picture credits to Charlie Abrahams and Kelly Gallagher.

9:17 is the women’s PRO time, I am told after Ian finished they moved the clock back. I was pretty bummed to later find out I was actually three minutes slower.  Oh well.  Always next year, right?

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