Monday, October 22, 2018

4th at IRONMAN 70.3 Shanghai

2018 is DONE. And the timing could not be better- BIGMETZ is toast! This year has been all over the show… Highs, lows and everywhere in-between. After a string of good results (1st at Challenge San Gil, 5th at IRONMAN Canada and 3rd at 70.3 Santa Cruz), I was motivated and excited to take on the late season races . After Santa Cruz I got right back into training and that led me to 70.3 Augusta, a race I have not and probably will not write about. I got decimated by the field, groveling to a 12th place finish that brought my momentum to a screeching hault. 

Getting back to Boulder my physical, emotional and mental state came to a head. I struggled in a major way, unmotivated to train and questioning my place as a professional athlete. After about 10-days of uninspired training, another 10-days of sickness with a head/ chest cold and a few days in Minneapolis with my family for an attempted mental reset, I had about 5 days to decide if I was going to even board the plane to Shanghai. I had 1 or 2 workouts that week that I was able to complete as intended which gave me enough hope to at least try… Fast forward a few days and a 14-hour time difference, I arrived in China ready for my 6th race there in the past 2 years. 

Race week itself was business as usual- loading myself up with fried rice, riding the trainer at 3:00am and getting frustrated with the one English TV channel that would run the same Disney kids show on loop for 12 hours. Despite the usual headaches, Jeanni and I did our best to keep spirits high, stay positive and get to the start line ready to go. 
Before I knew it, I was lined up on the pontoon ready to dive into the water. The cannon fired and after a few hundred meters of position jostling, I found myself driving the main group. Olympian Andres Salvisburg got a bit of a gap but he was still in sight distance the whole way. Unaware of his cycling ability, I wanted to limit the deficit so I kept the pressure on, towing the majority of the mens field with me. I was 3rd out of the water just under a minute from the lead. 
I got some time in transition and was onto the bike quickly, watching Salvisburg exit as I was running to my bike. I mounted with about 8 other guys and navigated to the closed course with the lead in sight. I immediately noticed the company that I had behind me and wasn’t overly eager at the start to bridge the gap to the front. I let the best runner in the field, Azevedo, pull through and he proceeded to ride about 200w on the front. Nobody pulled through for 10 minutes and I thought that was my opportunity to try an attack… 

I went right for it riding threshold power for about 5 minutes and then settled into a still hard but more comfortable effort. I got to the turnaround and saw that I had about a 600m gap on the field. I put my head down and got butterflies in my stomach. Could I break away from the field right now? Will anyone chase me down? All I knew is that I had some space and I had to try. I continued to hold the gap for about 20 minutes but with the likes of Taylor Reid and Matty Trautman in the group, they ultimately closed it down and I was swallowed back up into what had formed to be a 10+ man main lead pack. 
I didn’t feel great about the big effort that I had put in to start the bike and the accelerations within the group were putting me into a bit more pain that I would have preferred. I weathered the storm and got off the bike knowing that this half Ironman had quickly turned into a open 13.1 run for spots 1-10…

A race best T2 put me in the lead quickly but hot on my heels were 7 other top runners and previous 70.3 winners including Felipe Azevedo, Matty Trautman, Mitch Robbins, Taylor Reid, Andres Salvisburg and Sam Betten. Anyone still think racing in China is a cherry pick? Onto the 3 lap run, we had an epic battle unfolding.  Nobody was breaking. 8k into the run and we still had 6 guys running in a pack. Around 10k the guys started really picking up the pace. I was running my hardest but the rubber band snapped and they got separation on me and Salvisburg. I didn’t blow up and as we continued down the course, I kept them in my sights. Salvisburg on the other hand started to go backwards and I was able to pass him. Taylor Reid went with that original acceleration and paid for it sometime after and I was able to go around him at 12k. I was running in 4th but the 3 leaders, still running shoulder to shoulder, were just up the road. Eyeing each other up, their pace slowed and this diesel started to recover from that early effort. By 15k I had gotten within :10 seconds of the lead trio and my hopes of the podium and even the win came back into the picture. I got re-motivated and charged, trying my best to regain contact. On a small out and back, the guys saw the gap to me and stopped playing games amongst themselves. They reaccelerated and pushed the gap back out to :60 seconds that held to the finish. 
I crossed the line in 4th. Which on another day I may have been disappointed with. But on this day, I was happy. I took multiple risks in order to put myself in a position to win the race and I have to be proud of that. Especially considering the challenges that I had in the weeks leading into the race, anything beyond getting around the course was icing on the cake. My #1 goal was to finish content with the season being over and I was able to achieve that. Continuing the trend of the entire year, I took the good with the bad on this one and came out the other side motivated to be better next time. 
Stay tuned for some more pieces that I want to put together about some of the perviously spoken about highs and lows in addition to my plans moving forward. 

A big thanks to my team, especially Jeanni, Jesse and my family, who without my year would have been over in September. 

And a major shoutout to my incredible group of 2018 partners who have been with me every step of the way. Many of them not only this year but the past three years. Thank you. 

Monday, September 17, 2018


2018 has been all about taking the good with the bad... The first half of the year did not play out how I expected with a DNF in Oceanside, an injured 5th place in China, a rough 10th place in St. George and a slog to the finish in my first Ironman attempt in Boulder. After 4 disappointments in a row, I was left at a crossroads- an uncomfortable place that I have been before. I could have either written off the year and taken the "L" or fought back and turned it around. I took some time to contemplate the decision but ultimately did what I always do- pick myself up and make my next move but this time, without the self imposed pressure of trying to win a 70.3 or my Ironman debut. The pendulum then shifted with win at Challenge San Gil, a redemptive 5th at Ironman Canada and last weekend, a podium 3rd place at Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz.

One of the biggest issues with the first half of the year was trying to nail down my pre-race taper and training. Those that tuned into my blog regarding my unique physiology will have a better understanding of the challenges Jesse Kropelnicki and I were presented with. We tried something totally different for San Gil + Canada and it worked. Both of those races were more about testing the formula than focusing on racing. After a bit of a break post-Ironman, I was able to go into Santa Cruz with complete confidence in my training and taper knowing it had worked well the last two attempts. I was by far the most composed I have been on a race week leading into Santa Cruz and that allowed me to be more present, focused and happy.

This race brought together a very competitive field with a group of 70.3 specialists and serious Ironman contenders in their fittest form building towards Ironman Hawaii. With the likes of Ben Hoffman, Eric Lagerstrom, Kyle Buckingham, James Cunnama and Andrew Talansky, it was going to be a battle to even be competitive. I had zero expectations and went in with the singular objective of going absolutely full tilt from the start cannon to the finish line.

Despite the goal of going "full tilt" I didn't expect to need to tap into all of my adrenaline within the first :03 seconds of the race. All of the men lined up on the beach about 30 feet away from waters edge. The cannon fired and it was a mad dash through the sand. There was a jostle for position and a matter of too many bodies charging to the same point. There was bound to be at least one casualty....
That's me! Video/ edit: Nick Hetro. 

So, yeah. That wasn't how I wanted to start off the day! I bounced off the ground with my adrenaline pumping. I charged into the water and went as hard as possible for the first 800yd. I bulldozed my way through the entire field, picking up a nice train behind me. I did my best to try and make my way back to the front but ultimately could not bridge the gap. I came out of the water in 5th place, 1:15 down from the lead. Not perfect position but not bad considering my snafu.
Photo: Paul Higgins 
Our group navigated the more technical piece at the beginning of the bike and once onto the highway, the pace got stiff. Hoffman went to the front and went full beast mode, asserting his dominance and showing why he is one of the top Americans to watch in Kona. He dropped our group and went in hot pursuit of Lagerstrom who was TT'ing off the front. Our group kept on the gas trying to limit losses but around the halfway point, we were caught by the chase group to form one large pack for the return back to T2. James Cunnama and Elliot Bach did the majority of the pacemaking heading back home and I was pushing very hard to simply stay in contact. I was able to weather the storm and enter T2 with the group currently in places 4-10 with Lagerstrom, Hoffman and ex-Tour de France cyclist Andrew Talansky already off the bike.
Photo: Justin Luau
I slipped on my run shoes and knew by the first few steps that it was game on. I figured the Ironman guys like Buckingham and Cunnama would have the durability to throw down a consistent run but potentially lacked the speed. After a bit of a slower transition I ran through all of those guys in the first mile en route to a much too fast 16:30 for the first 5k. Despite going out too hard, my goal was to get a gap and try to hang on. I got the separation I was hoping for, felt good and was able to keep up that pace through the technical trail section and pass Talansky around 10k to move into 3rd.
Photo: Paul Higgins
After passing Talansky I knew that I had put in a solid gap to the guys behind and that I didn't have enough real estate to catch Lagerstrom or Hoffman. But it was one of those days where I pushed all out to the line simply because I could. So many races this year I felt like my body was not responsive. To have a day where I felt like I could be on top of the effort and completely go for it felt great and I took advantage. That attitude got me to the finish line with a 1:15:10 run split and the final spot on the podium.
Huge congrats to both Eric for the WIN and Hoff for his great performance while in the thick of his prep for Kona. Photo: Paul Higgins
I am proud of this race and excited to take on a few more this year. Next up will be 70.3 Augusta this weekend in a similar field of pre-Kona contenders. I'll try to take a similar approach in hopes of getting a similar result!

Huge thanks to my team- Jeanni Seymour, Jesse Kropelnicki, Amy Quirion, Erin Carson and my family. And my sponsors and partners- Timex, Juice Performer, Castelli, Trek, Shimano, Boulder Sports Chiropractic, Oakley, Normatec, Stages, Feedback Sports, ICE Friction, Zealios and Blueseventy.

Thanks for tuning in.

Photo: Paul Higgins

Thursday, August 2, 2018

IRONMAN CANADA 2018- 5th place

I am happy to report that my second Ironman attempt was a success! I came home with 5th place at Ironman Canada- reinvigorating both my intrigue and passion for full-distance racing. Both the build up to the event and the race itself presented unique challenges that I was able to take on and overcome. Below I’ll dive into my abnormal taper, the dynamic of the PRO mens race and the pure brutality of the 2018 IRONMAN Canada course in Whistler.  If you enjoy it please like, comment and share!

I’ve made it clear that Ironman Boulder was not the full distance debut that I had planned for. I spent hours trying to plot my next move and ultimately pinned Ironman Canada as the event to seek 140.6 redemption. I liked the fact that it was in North America, I heard great things about Whistler and it was a men’s only race (meaning the prize purse would be double that of a typical event). On the converse, there were aspects of this race that made me very nervous. First and foremost, it was going to be hot AF. Record high temperatures were predicted for race day with the peak heat for the day coming between 11-2pm at 95-100 degrees (right when I was going to be running the marathon). I had better heat preparation leading into this one but still feared an epic meltdown similar to what happened in Boulder. In addition to the heat, this course is arguably the most difficult on the circuit with 9000 feet of gain on the bike and 1500 feet of gain on the run. It was going to be up and down all day long and I had to figure out a way to get all 170 lbs of me over each hill as efficiently as possible. 

My win at Challenge San Gil a few weeks ago was perfectly timed and put my confidence back on the right track. I did a lot on race week before Mexico and because it worked, I did it again before this one. In the 10 days before the race I did 32 total hours of training with 430 miles on the bike, 27,000 yards in the pool and 36 miles of running. None of the training was aimed at making me better in Canada, the primary objective was to have me “peripherally open” and prepared to deliver the goods come race day. I spoke about my physiology in another post and for those interested you should go check that out HERE or dive into my STRAVA

With all that training race week (including a 4h ride on the Thursday before), my final build up to Whistler flew by and before I knew it, I was suited up and about to dive into the amazing waters of Alta Lake to start the race. The atypical warm weather pushed up the water temperature and the glacier fed lake read 72 degrees on race morning making it an unpredicted non-wetsuit swim. I was smiling ear to ear with the final decision knowing it would allow me to set up the day nicely with a bit of a gap out of the water. 
picture: IM Canada 
I had a poor start cutting my foot open on a rock on the long run into the water forcing me to fight really hard to move from the absolute back of the field to the front over the course of the first 600m. By the time I reached the first turn buoy, I had made contact with the front group including Brent McMahon, Mark Bowstead and Jeff Symonds. I locked in there and comfortably cruised the rest of the way. 

Once onto the bike, Mark and Brent absolutely hammered their way out of T2. My #1 objective was to pace the bike evenly and take loop #1 of 3.5 conservatively. I let them go almost right away and rode solo for about 40 minutes. On the first major climb I was caught by the Belgian powerhouse Marino Vanhoenacker. I rode with him for a little while but I was still on the first loop and again felt like his pace was too aggressive. I let him slowly fade into the distance up the road. 

Right at the start of loop #2, Sam Long had made up a massive 6 minute deficit out of the swim (in the first 35 miles!). Sam has seriously stepped up his game this year and I knew he would be a serious player in this race. Around the time he caught me, my legs started to feel a lot better and from there it was GAME ON. Sam and I, along with Tripp Hipple, worked together and were able to close down the gap to the leaders over the final 80 miles. I came off the bike with Sam in 6th/7th place and we set out on the run with the temperature already over 90 degrees. 
photo: Tom Pennington/ gettyimages
The first 2 miles of the run go straight uphill on a tough gravel trail which felt rough but my legs snapped into place after about 15 minutes and I started to feel great. I was down about 2 minutes to Sam but I was running very well and was confident that my consistent and smooth pace would pay dividends in the late stages of the marathon. Early on I overtook Bowstead, Vanhoenacker and ex-pro cyclist Andrew Talansky. I quickly found myself running in 4th place at the 13.1 mile mark and on pace for a 2:50 marathon. By mile 15 I had closed down the gap to Sam and was within about 50 meters of him. As we approached the big climb that kicked off the first loop, Sam got a glimpse of how close I was. He SPRINTED the downhill and pushed the gap back out to 200m. From miles 15-20 we played cat and mouse. I was running faster than him between the aid stations but the effort that took in the heat would raise my core body temperature so high that I would have to slow down massively though each aid station. He was able to move through the aid stations at a constant pace and by mile 20, my pace between the aid stations slowed down a lot. And around that time, I seriously started to suffer. Sam got the gap out to 2 minutes and held it there to the finish. One of the most consistent Ironman runners in the world, Matt Russel, came through late in the marathon passing both Sam and myself to capture the final podium spot.

Despite near total body shutdown the final mile, I was able to grovel to the finish line and secure 5th place on what was easily the hardest triathlon I have ever finished. I was completely depleted but my physical pain was outweighed by the satisfaction of conquering something I didn’t think was possible. And no matter the result, that’s what Ironman is all about. 
picture: Roger Thompson 
Sunday was far from my perfect day and I think my lack of Ironman experience showed at times. The heat and hills made a lot of people write me off for this one and I am PROUD of my ability to adapt and overcome. This was far from a BIGMETZ-style race but I am grateful that this race gave me an opportunity to face some of my weaknesses head on. I don’t know what Ironman I’ll do next but I would prefer it to be very flat and very cold ;). 

I feel like I have great momentum rolling right now and would love to take on another full-distance race but out of respect for the distance, I will not do another full Ironman in 2018. I’ll have some down time to recover from this one and then jump into a whole bunch of 70.3 races all over the globe. Stay tuned for a back half 2018 race schedule announcement soon. 

THANK YOU for following along. Each race I continue to get more support, comments and messages. I take notice to every one of them and it inspires me to challenge myself to be better. 

And a particular special shout out to my inner circle: Jeanni Seymour, Jesse Kropelnicki, Erin Carson, Amy Quirion and my family who believe in me more than I believe in myself at times. 

Until the next one, 
Made possible by: Timex, Trek, Juice Performer, Boulder Sports Chiropractic, First Endurance, Shimano, Castelli, Blueseventy, Feedback Sports, ICE Friction and Stages. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

2018 Challenge San Gil- 1ST PLACE

What a feeling- a WIN at Challenge San Gil. This was exactly what I needed. I have had a lot of doubt in my mind the last 4-weeks and I went to San Gil with the intention of getting answers. Taking the win took care of a lot of those questions but more importantly my performance showed that I am right on track and still able to get the most out of myself. It is very rare that everything falls into place (especially with a last minute race decision) but this time around, it worked out and I could not be more stoked.
Photo: Challenge San Gil
My swim has been the only place this year that I can rely on. I exited the water at the front in all of my races this season and was confident that I would do it again here. That being said, the effort that it required to be in that position in those other races was significant. So this race I had two plans. Either go absolutely full-gas and try to get on the feet of super swimmer and 2016 San Gil champion, Davide Giridini or keep the effort as low as possible while still being in contact of the race. I missed Davide at the start so went right into the second plan- comfortably cruising in the group, keeping the heart rate as low as possible and exiting the water ready to ride+run. 
Photo: Challenge San Gil
I got onto the bike in a big group of 6 athletes and got a split that we were about ~:90 seconds down from the lead. I was motivated to put together MY best ride but also did not want to tow the group around for 90k riding steady from the beginning. I put in a big acceleration at the start of the bike, hammered a downhill and then got some separation. From there I settled into my pace- feeling great and riding strong. At the turnaround I was able to get a sense of how the race was unfolding. I was putting time in to the chase group behind but was losing time to the leader who I could see from far away being escorted by the flashing police brigade. I was pushing some really serious power (especially with the course starting at 6500ft elevation and climbing up to 7500ft at the top point) but still could not make any inroads to the lead. I did what I felt was my best ride on the day and got off the bike in 2nd with the gap to the lead at a daunting ~5.5 minutes. 
Photo: Challenge San Gil
I knew that the stable, non-variable ride would suit my run legs well. I got off the bike and felt just as good as I did on the bike if not better. 5:30 down seemed impossible when I set off on foot but I continually reverted back to my original race plan- get the absolute most out of my body on the day. I quickly settled into my pace and was clicking off consistent 5:50 miles- about what I thought I could sustain at high altitude. They felt hard but comfortable. I was getting a few splits on course and the gap was coming down but not as fast as I needed it to be for the first few kilometers. But there was a stretch from about 6k-12k where I picked up the pace and put in a LOT of time. Before I knew it, I got a split that he was just over 1 minute ahead and then shortly after I could see him up the road. At 17k I made the pass, surging hard and smashing it all the way home to the finish line. 
Photo: Challenge San Gil
My win in Iceland last year did not have a finishers tape so although I was elated, it was a bit anticlimactic. This time, I got to feel it. And it felt really freaking good. 
Photo: Challenge San Gil
Aside from the win, I am most pleased with how I raced. Aside from the swim, I was 100% solo on the day and that gave me a good opportunity to push myself. I averaged 315w NP on the hilly/ challenging bike course and 5:54 min/mi pace on the run- again both at 6500+ feet. All of the numbers were great but the most important thing was that I felt STRONG. Had I come 50th and felt the exact same way, I still would be happy. 
Photo: Challenge San Gil
My confidence is obviously up a notch and that is going to be critical in the next few weeks as I dive into some final preparation for Ironman Canada. It is just around the corner and I know that my form is on point for a great full-distance race. 

Highs and lows of this sport… they are crazy but for as crap as the lows can be, you can’t beat the feeling of coming out the other side on top. 
Photo: Challenge San Gil


Thursday, July 5, 2018

IRONMAN Boulder. Figuring out what happened and the plan moving forward.

It took me nearly a month to recharge from what happened on June 10th and put words together to describe it. It was by far one of the toughest days I've had to endure through racing. I poured everything into the preparation and crossed the finish line feeling a whole host of emotions. At the top of the list I was defeated, confused and upset. I was well aware that my first IRONMAN would be forging into unchartered territory but my result was not even in the range of what I thought possible. 

I was 2nd out of the water and moved backwards from there over the course of my 9 hours on course ultimately crossing the finish line in 13th place, having walked/ shuffled almost 10 miles of the marathon. 

Despite the race not going the way I had visualized, I was proud to FINSH. That was always goal #1 and completing 140.6 miles is an accomplishment in itself (not to mention in the extreme 90-100 degree temperatures on race day). 

After the race I was broken down. Boulder was the stamp on what has felt like a season already gone and lost. Kropelnicki and I spoke for hours trying to break down the mistakes we made in the preparation. My fitness was at lifetime best but as I have matured and grown, my body's response to training and racing has changed. This was our first stab at the full distance and we both took ownership of not getting it right. I invested a lot in this race to end up having it be a learning experience but we took away critical information that we will use moving forward for the next Ironman (and half distance races). 

So, what went wrong?
Contrary to popular belief, we believe I was actually UNDER trained going into Boulder (at least in the final 2-weeks). Let me explain... 

I did a massive training block and then started tapering about 17 days out. I took multiple complete days off training, backed off on the intensity and backed off on the volume. All of which sounds like standard procedure heading into an Ironman, especially with the 3-week overload I did just before taking the rest. But one thing that Jesse and I have found in my training is that I get stronger and stronger as training blocks go on and I accumulate more "fatigue." I generally have my best/ fastest sessions when on paper I should be the most tired. 

When I am training a lot, my aerobic system (heart and lungs) are very connected to my peripheral system (arms and legs). I have good blood flow, optimal oxygen transfer and low heart rate. When I take complete rest, everything goes haywire. My aerobic system can't communicate with my peripheral system leaving me with heavy legs, high heart rate and generally feeling unlike myself. 

Having the idea of one performance and having the outcome be the polar opposite is challenging and as I mentioned, I was confused. I questioned many things in addition to the training like my overall health and happiness. I got blood work done and analyzed my mental state- both of which I did not feel were factors in my performance. Both Jesse and I are confident that the physiological responses here are the cause for me not FEELING good on race day. At this point, it is beyond results for me. I just want to feel good during a race. 

Now what?

Post-race I immediately went into panic planning mode trying to organize a quick next move in order to redeem myself. I did that before going through the training with Jesse, before doing the blood work and before looking after my mental state. I nearly booked a 4-week trip to Europe in the 72 hours post race and right on the edge of it being too late, realized it was a mistake and took a step back. 

I took a day to recharge. It came down to having a conversation with Jeanni for me to see things clearly. After what was almost two weeks of total confusion and indecisiveness, it all came clear within about 5 minutes. First up a low stress half distance race in Challenge San Gil (July 8) and then another crack at the full distance in Ironman Canada (July 29). 

So that's the plan. I'm in San Gil now and look forward to racing this event again (I raced back in 2015). We are using this weekend as a "test" to try out a new taper. I do not care about the result here one bit. I just want to be able to push my body to the absolute limit and feel like myself again. If I can do that, it will be a win. 

Thanks for tuning in.


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

2018 Ironman 70.3 St. George- 10th (North American PRO Championship)

Ironman 70.3 St. George goes HARD! The North American Championship title makes the competition serious. The hills and heat make the course an honest feat to simply cover all 70.3 miles. Overall, it’s a worthy race of the championship distinction and after underwhelming performances in Oceanside/ Liuzhou, I was pumped to give it my best effort in Utah. 
Jeanni and I previewing one of the critical portions of the bike course- Snow Canyon. 
The ~3 weeks between getting back from China and heading to St. George were some of the best training I have had all season. It was only a 10-day training block but I was putting up massive numbers that had my confidence back on the right track. We had to make some tough decisions in the amount of load/ intensity going into this race and ultimately went with the more intense, higher volume option with Ironman Boulder looming. Despite a bit more acute fatigue than I would generally have heading into a top-notch 70.3, I felt good on race week and prepared to perform to my maximal ability. 

The day started off with what is likely my lifetime best swim. I had a great start, settled into the front group and comfortably locked in at about 90% effort. I felt smooth and in control the entire way, exiting the water in 4th with some of the best swimmers in the sport. I had my customary near race-best T1 and I got onto the bike in 2nd. I could not really have asked for any better only 25 minutes into the race!

Once onto the bike, my excitement was quickly taken back. I tried really hard to ride with guys who came through quickly like Tim Reed and Joe Gambles but didn’t have the fire power that those guys were pushing up that first climb. I had 5 minute power at 400w and still got dropped going up. My plan was to be in the 430w-450w range on that climb but my legs would not produce the power I needed to stay in contact. The remainder of the ride was mostly a solo effort attempting to hold it together and not get caught by the chasers I knew would be racing hard from behind. I felt very comfortable from an aerobic perspective but my legs would not respond! I was stuck in one gear and on a course as brutal as St. George, you are going to lose time if you are not riding at max effort.  
Photo: Paul Phillips (Competitive Image)
I ended up coming off the bike in 12th but in the mix for spots 8-14. Starting the run, I felt surprisingly good. The first 5k of the run go straight uphill, climbing about 500 feet. I was moving well along that section and was putting time into all of the guys around me. But similar to the bike, I was sort of fixed at one pace and surprisingly had trouble running fast on the downhills- typically a strength for a tall dude like me. I jockeyed for position a few times and ultimately settled into 10th place, the final money slot and the final position on the ultra extended podium. 
Was this my best race ever? No. But it was far from my worst. I wanted to be solid and in the mix. I was able to do that. There were a lot of positive aspects that I took from this race but also a few things that my team and I have unpacked and refocused on cleaning up before the Ironman. Here is a peak into the list we came up with... 

-Awesome swim! My 3-year swim project has finally come full circle and I have gotten to the point with my open water skills and swim fitness that I am confident I will exit the water at the front of almost every race. 
-Great transitions. I made up critical time there across the board having the 3rd fastest T1 and the 3rd fastest T2. That is something I always have and always will focus on. Lionel Sanders had the fastest T1 and T2 of the day. There is a reason he dominated the race. He was obviously the strongest man in terms of swim-bike-run but his attention to detail even further aided his victory. 
-Solid-ish run. I improved 3 minutes on the run from my race here in 2016. I thought I was capable of running closer to 1:15 on this brutal course but I felt really comfortable the entire way and at the finish could have kept rolling through a few more miles. 
-My attitude. I was happy and confident. I rolled with the punches. I didn't put pressure on myself for a result and only focused on the performance. Focusing on the performance over the result will always leave me satisfied with some aspect of the race. Although I always want to win, focusing on getting the best out of myself generally leads to my best race results. 

-The ride. My ride was awful here. I pushed 313w average power, 319w normalized power. I was shooting for 335-340w average! I lost a TON of time to the guys ahead. And some time to the guys behind. I am confident that it was just an "off" day on the bike but this is probably the area that I will focus a lot of my attention on in the next few weeks. 
-My focus. I was able to generally stay positive over the course of the 4h race but the middle portions of the bike I found myself having some bad negative self-talk. I moved from 2nd on the bike to 14th. I haven't really been in that position before because my swim has not been on this level but it is still hard to watch the race go up the road. Instead of focusing on pushing my best power and staying as aero as possible, I sat there wondering why I was getting dropped. At one point I went down a spiral of thinking about being too heavy, not being aero enough, etc. I have worked hard on all of those things and have them dialed in (for now). Especially in the Ironman, I am going to do my best to keep the positive self talk rolling all day long because similar to my attitude, that will pay off at the end. 

I am back home in Boulder feeling excited and motivated to start this training block. This Ironman has me more fired up for a race than I have been in a long time. Over the entire course of my 11 years in the sport, I have wanted to do an Ironman. My coaches, peers and family know that this race is going to be special for me. I was reading an article that my high school news paper wrote about me back in 2008. I was doing local sprint triathlons at the time and running 35 minute 5k's but there is a quote in there from me that says, "I want to win an Ironman." It feels like a lifelong dream that I finally get my first opportunity to realize. 

And you KNOW the #metzlmour fan club was going to turn up for this one! A big crew this time around to inspire Jeanni and I the whole day. Also a huge thank you to our amazing homestay who feel like an extended portion of this family- Tom and Sandy Daniels. 
Dad, Mom, Pop, Gram, Jillian. 

IM BOULDER training starts this week. Wish me luck!


Sunday, April 15, 2018

5th at 2018 IRONMAN 70.3 Liuzhou +(what happened in Oceanside)

What a whirlwind trip! As my first "real" races of the season, the Oceanside->Liuzhou double got me excited. It motivated some of the best training I have ever done and allowed me to put up some massive sessions at the Qt2 PRO camp in February/ early March. According to the numbers, I went into these races with a level of fitness that I have never had before. I am reaching a point in my career where some level of risk in training is required to find out what it will take to reach the next level. I think Jesse and I both knew we were right on the line of all that training load resulting in a great race performance or being one step too far. I unusually struggled through some sessions in the final two weeks of training in Boulder which is quite uncommon for me. We more or less aired on the side of caution in the final approach and despite not having the confidence that I did immediately post-camp, I still felt like I could deliver some serious performances. At the end of the day, I was confident in our preparation and pumped to get two chances to test it out on course.
Picture: Talbot Cox
70.3 Oceanside started off well with one of my best ever swims, exiting the water in 5th place. Once onto dry land, it was a totally different story. I immediately got dropped from guys I would typically be able to ride with and then the entire mens field came through me on the bike. Obviously something was wrong and around mile 25, I decided to save my legs for 70.3 Liuzhou the following weekend. I hate DNF'ing races. That being said, I am starting to rely more and more on prize money to pay bills. So although it was hard, from a business perspective it was the right call.
Picture: Scott Smith
Honestly, after the race I was pretty down on myself. More than disappointed, I was just confused. It's hard to expect one thing and have reality end up being the polar opposite. My parents had flown in from New York and Jeanni was there too. They all attempted to lift me up but it wasn't until I boarded the flight to China where I was able to switch focus, forget about Oceanside and put my energy into redeeming myself at 70.3 Liuzhou, 6 days later.

Travel to China went as well as it ever has for me (this was my 5th trip to China in the past 15 months!) and having done this race last year, I felt very comfortable arriving in Liuzhou. I settled into my "China" routine of staying on American time zone (going to bed at 7pm and waking up at 2am), eating club sandwiches and spending the majority of the day inside my hotel room. Everything was going great until Wednesday morning when I went out for a 50 minute run right at sunrise and severely sprained my ankle twisting it on a crack in the sidewalk. I had immediate pain, swelling and bruising.
(not optimal)
I spent the next 48 hours in serious discomfort. I could barely walk from the bed to the bathroom in the first 24 hours it was so painful and stiff. I RICE'd it over the course of that time and although it wasn't perfect, it did start to feel better the day before the race. It rapidly improved over the course of the final day before the race and the night before I knew I would be OK to start.
I always love helping out at the IRONKIDS before the race. Their stoke is so high and the smiles on their faces after crossing the finish line are priceless. 
Race morning I felt happy and strong but I knew things would have to go my way in order to compete against the field that assembled in Liuzhou. The headliners included 2x Olympic gold medalist Alistair Brownlee and arguably the best long course athlete ever in Craig Alexander. These two overshadowed a handful of other incredibly fast dudes that included 70.3 winners Sam Betten, Mitch Robbins, Guy Crawford and Felipe Azevedo.

Once again, I proved the development of my strength in the water with a front pack swim. Solid transition and onto the bikes where Crowie immediately started hammering away at the front trying to limit our losses to Brownlee. I had to work very hard to stay onto the back of the group but after about 10 minutes the pace slowed and I went to the front. My legs came around and I felt very good. I put my head down, rode hard and looked back to see a 30 meter gap open up. I made a noticeable acceleration to try and get away that I think Crowie took note of. He pulled the group back up to me and from that point onward, I knew there was no breaking up the pack on this flat and fast course.

Around 25km, I felt the clamp that holds on my saddle come loose. I typically run the saddle slammed all the way forward but as the bolt came undone, it got pushed all the way back. My position was ultra stretched out and that made it challenging to push power. Every 10km or so it would come a little bit more undone. It went from just slamming back, to sliding up and down and then ultimately got to the point where the top part of the clamp completely fell off the bike. I was able to keep the saddle on the post with the pressure of my body against the bottom clamp. I rode like that for 50km! With 15km to go, the saddle fell off the bottom rails after hitting a bump and at that point I thought I was in trouble.... But I was so freaking determined to finish this race. I rode the final 15k of the race either standing out of the saddle or sitting on the seat post clamp. Through pure grit I made it back to T2 with the group...
I take 100% ownership for the mechanical issue. There was nothing wrong with the clamp. I should have checked that bolt after the bumpy ride in Oceanside last weekend. I am sure it was a bit loose going in and the few bumps on course gave it that little bit of force to wiggle it free. I am super detailed with my bike and rarely have issues like this. I literally disassemble and reassemble every bolt on that bike when I travel, except for that one... I will not make that mistake again. 

Starting the run, it felt like I had borrowed another persons bike that I had never been on before and rode as hard as possible. You can imagine how that felt.... My legs were toasted. Crowie, Sam and Mark Buckingham (Brownlee's training partner) took off up the road and I didn't have very much pop in there to go with them. It was far from my best half marathon but at the end of the day, those guys ran very well and I'm not sure if I would have been able to catch them even if had I not had those challenges on the bike.
Holding strong for 5th 
I always go into races with the objective of a.) winning or b.) being on the podium. If you would have asked me how I would have felt about 5th place at this race a month ago, I would have been angry.  But considering all of the circumstances I have had the last two weeks, I was content. Just getting across the finish line required me to dig deep and find true grit, determination and tenacity. All things that will bode well for my major tests this season, in particular the full distance race.

I'll slowly start shifting my focus to Ironman Boulder here over the course of the next few weeks. Next up will be 70.3 St. George and then I will start my overload training for the big one.

When things don't go exactly how you want them to, you find out who really has your back. I shared some of my trials and tribulations through social media and had a lot of people reaching out in support- thank you.

Also a huge shout out to Jeanni, Jesse and my parents who's unwavering support is amazing. I'm a lucky dude to have them all believing in me so much.

I'm hoping that I got some of this crap out of the way and that we can move a little more smoothly into the meat of the season. There is still a lot of racing to go this year!

Until next time....
Men's top 6: Alistair Brownlee, Criag Alexander, Sam Betten, Mark Buckingham, me, Felipe Azevedo.