Coming Out Of Hibernation

I forgot I had a blog!

Ok, not really but I couldn’t even remember the last thing that I wrote about, I had to go back and look it up.  It was about stuffing my face over the holidays, which I did merrily.  Luckily, my fitness level and weight didn’t fluctuate too much.  Sure I have a few extra pounds to lose, but in hindsight, having a little extra body weight over this frigid winter sounds like a good thing to me.  Speaking of, really looking forward to being outdoors again.  One can only endure so much trainer/treadmill action before you just want to give it up all together.  And yet I chose to live in Iowa, so suffer I shall until this snow disappears.

So what’s new?  Well not a whole lot actually.  I have been putting in long hours at work and doing quite a bit of traveling.  On top of that Indoor Track and Field season is drawing to an end.  NAIA Nationals is this weekend in Ohio and I am excited to have a hurdler ranked in the top ten nationally.  I actually fly out tonight so that I can meet up with the rest of the team that already left via bus earlier this week.  Indoor season has flown by.  So far the best memory has got to be our home meet where 3 of my vaulters simultaneously broke the school record at identical heights, and my hurdler re-broke the school record which was previously held by him.  As a coach of only 4 vaulters and 1 hurdler, I would have to say that I won coach of the week for that…if we had such a thing.  I am looking forward to outdoor and introducing a whole new group of athletes to the love of 400 hurdles!  Best race ever, certainly one of the hardest events in all of track and field.  But the weather needs to change soon; otherwise we are looking at another poor outdoor season just like last year.  I think they only had 2 meets that were above freezing and without snow.

As far as triathlon training is going, it really isn’t.  With all that’s been going on, it’s sort of been pushed to the side.  Especially since about two months ago I had some pretty severe knee pain which was described to me as tendonitis, which basically means I have to take it easy for a few months.  Hey that’s just fine with me; it’s been awhile since I have been able to dabble in other things besides the old swim bike run.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not giving up on it, but being able to take it a little bit easier for a year is going to do wonders for my body and its ability to heal up 100%.  I am still planning on doing a few events this year and one big one in Des Moines at the Hy-Vee 2120 Triathlon.  That’s not till later in the year, so rest now and get after it in a few months to be ready.

So that’s a quick update from me, it’s good to come out of hibernation for a bit.  Hopefully the next time you hear from me it will be substantially warmer and I will be enjoying the sunshine out on the track.  Until then….

– Tanner

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Battle Of The Bulge

With the holidays fast approaching and the goodies surrounding me, it is time for the great battle.  The fight with my waistline has always been a tough and brutal conflict but it certainly becomes more cutthroat during the winter.  Two things work against me at this time of year.  First of all there is the freezing cold of Iowa.  It’s hard just to head outside to get to the gym/pool because I enjoy staying warm just like any other sane person would.  Scraping off my car and driving the 10 minutes into town all while freezing on my ice cold leather seats is less than ideal (still waiting on that automatic start).  The ice/snow and gusting winds force me inside on the treadmill/trainer and it greatly affects my motivation and desire to complete my workouts. Is there anything more boring than 1-2 hours on either apparatus?  Monotony quickly kicks in.  Luckily I have my winter station all setup, complete with TV watching and PS4 playing capabilities.  At least this is a good time to get caught up on Sons of Anarchy and many other shows that were neglected during the summer months…FYI, Netflix is a must have investment for any indoor training triathlete.

And then there is the food.  Both sides of the family bombard us with goodies that we have deprived ourselves from all year.  Being cooped up inside surrounded by cookies/pies/fudge etc. can really take a toll on the body quickly.  Add in a little traveling; is there anything harder than trying to eat healthy on the road?  Sprinkle on some annual offseason lack of motivation that leads to shortened and skipped workouts and you’ve created the perfect recipe for a weight gain disaster.  It’s not even Thanksgiving yet and I have already ballooned up to 200lbs which is a far cry away from my goal weight of 170lbs and my previous competition weight of 180lbs that I was at only a few months ago.

And so, the battle of the bulge has begun…oh the joys of the Holidays!  Here’s to willpower and determination, hopefully it will get me through another offseason in one piece…preferably a lighter and fitter piece.

-Tanner

Third Times The Charm

For the third year in a row I competed in the Lemars Sprint Triathlon.  This is my last planned event of the season and it is always a fun way to end the year.  It’s a smaller event that has some good talent on a very tough and hilly bike and run course.  The weather for the day looked a little gloomy as Alicia and I drove to Lemars.  There were scattered thunderstorms and plenty of lightning that struck the ground.  Luckily, the weather started to clear up just before race time, and we started off under partly cloudy skies.

This event takes place in the Lemars outdoor pool and consists of a 300yd swim, 15mi bike ride, and a 3.1mi run.  The swim sees a new athlete starting every 20 seconds so as to keep congestion down in the pool.  When signing up for the event, athletes are asked to submit their 300yd swim estimates so that the fastest swimmers go first, and the slower swimmers go last.  In theory this would mean that everyone would be able to swim without any traffic but in reality, people lie about their times and inevitably there is going to be traffic.  Athletes who get touched on the feet/ankles are supposed to pull over and allow the faster swimmers behind to pass before they continue on, yeah like that is ever going to happen.

I was about the 5th person to start this particular event.  After 50yds I had already caught up to the gentlemen in front of me, he was a liar!  I was able to easily pass by him without too much contact and I continued on.  Then at about 100yds I caught the next athlete in front of me and a small underwater battle ensued as I swam over his shoulder to make the pass, another liar!  After clearing the second athlete I was able to finish the swim with no traffic and climbed up the ladder (4:29) and out to the parking lot to enter T1.

All this year I have been using Injini toe socks (those things are awesome, who cares if people stare) to help minimize blisters during my run.  I typically put them on before the bike and it really only slowed me down about 30 seconds.  Seeing as how this was going to be my last event of the year, I opted to just lube up my shoes real good and go barefoot.  Because of this, my T1 was significantly faster and helped me to make a pass while in transition (1:04).

With my bike beside me I hopped on and started the immediate climb of the bike route.  Needless to say, the entire bike course is a steep rolling route that put my weak climbing muscles to the test.  I focused on powering up the inclines and keeping my cadence up.  I really put the pedal down because I knew I could make a bigger dent in the bike than I was going to be able to do in the run.  All along the route I passed members of teams who had started before the individuals started.  I never caught the one athlete that was in the pool first but always had him in my sights.  Considering that he started over a minute and a half before me, the fact that I was slowly catching up to him meant that I was making good time.  At the turnaround point I was passed by an exceptionally fast biker and I focused on hanging tough with him the entire way back into town (40:53 a 22mph average).

Coming into T2 I dismounted cleanly and threw my bike on the rack.  With a few quick motions I had my shoes, belt and visor on, and was out of transition and up the hill for the run (00:35).  This particular run course is primarily uphill for the first half of the course, and then downhill most of the way back.  It certainly was a motivator for me knowing that if I pushed it the first 1.5mi then I could utilize gravity to help bring my big butt home.  I wasn’t focused on any particular pacing but rather, I just attacked the hills and maintained good running form on the flats and downhill’s.  I was feeling particular strong with a mile to go and I picked up the pact to try and ensure myself a top 10 finish (23:57).  Coming to the finish line I found myself thinking about the journey that triathlon has taken me on this year, and what an exciting trip it has been.  My family and friends have been there with me the whole year and it was great to get to experience it all with them.  It just isn’t the same racing by yourself and not having your support team with you (reflections back to Fairmont, MN).

I ended up finishing in a time of 1:10:57 which was an improvement of over 6 minutes on my time from last year.  It was good enough for 2nd place in my age group, and got me 8th overall.  It was a well-run event and all of the volunteers did an amazing job.  I especially like the part where they let us shower in the YMCA so that I don’t have to stink up the car the entire way back home.  There’s nothing quite like a shower after a triathlon.

So as I sit here and type this I am already thinking about the offseason workouts and what I am going to do different or the same for that matter.  But before any of that, a nice 2-3 day break is in order, and maybe a burger (not turkey, all beef) or a deliciously greasy pizza!  Plus its football season, so it’s the perfect time to do a little couch sitting and hope the Cowboys can make a run at it this year.  It certainly won’t be long before I am back at it with workouts and life and getting the ball rolling for next year.  It’s been one heck of a year and I can’t wait to do it all over again!

– Tanner

Hurdle Addiction

In 2010, I graduated from Buena Vista University and began the arduous task of looking for my first real job.  I had applied all over the place trying to land something in the realm of HR.  I was having no luck and was getting quite frustrated.  I still had to make money however and I started working at the local Fareway.  The money was certainly good but it would not be enough once my student loans began to kick in so I decided to look for other part-time opportunities to help Alicia and I out.  Luckily BVU was looking for assistant coaches to help out with their track and field program and even though he pay wouldn’t be substantial, it would certainly help.  Being a 4 year all conference athlete for the Beavers no more than 6 months ago, I jumped (or rather hurdled…pun!) at the opportunity to stay involved with a team and program that I was very passionate about.  I was mainly in charge of the hurdlers but also helped out with the sprints and middle distance runners when possible.  I personally ran everything from 800 meters on down, and due to a stint in the decathlon, had training in almost all of the field events as well.  I really enjoyed the work itself as well as being able to teach the student athletes a thing or two.  It was also nice to make a little extra cash on the side but mostly, it was something that I had been missing, I missed track.  There I said it, I have an intense relationship with track (12+ years) and I missed it dearly.

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Basically, I did that for just a season because as luck would have it, I landed my first full-time human resources position at a local company in Storm Lake where I headed up the HR department.  It only took about 3 months and over 50+ applications to finally get noticed in my field .  It was starting to look like I was going to be bagging groceries for the rest of my life, but the pieces fell into place and off to work I went.  As my new job took off, being able to help out with track became more and more difficult.  I was working at Faith, Hope & Charity which is a direct care facility that takes care of special needs kids in Storm Lake and the surrounding areas.  They serviced anywhere from 60-80 kids and there were over 130 employees there.  I was an HR department of one, and handled all aspects of the HR services for FHC which was a daunting task for a single person to say the least.  So, as my job took over, track got pushed to the side until there was no room for track and I found myself no longer being involved with the sport I enjoyed so much.

Well many years (3 or so….that’s a long time to me) had passed and Alicia and I got new jobs and moved away from Storm Lake for new career opportunities elsewhere.  We had become fully engulfed in our careers and I had become entangled in my new passion of triathlon.  I had transformed my body from a sprinter and into an endurance athlete.  But, after a trip to the 2013 USATF National Championships in Des Moines, IA this year (my anniversary present to myself), my passion for track came creeping back.  Watching the best athletes in the world will do that to you even if they are all roided out (Tyson Gay).  I wanted to get involved in it again and I started to look at different avenues to do so.  I checked into getting my coaching certificate so that I could help out at one of the many high schools in the area.  But while doing so, what I realized is that I didn’t really want anything to do with high school students and that what I really wanted was to work with athletes at the collegiate level and be able to give them the same experiences that my college coaches were able to give me.

Then about a month ago I heard that Dordt College was looking for a Hurdles coach.  I immediately jumped at the opportunity to apply and went through the process of interviewing for the opening.  And, I am excited to say that they decided that I would be a good fit for the program!  I was very impressed with the college and their faith-based education and was excited to be a part of shaping the lives of the student athletes that I would be able to work with.  I have long missed the track and will be looking forward to getting back to it this fall and into the indoor and outdoor season.  And, as luck would have it, most of the indoor meets that Dordt participates in are at my old stomping grounds of Buena Vista University.  It’s great when things come back full circle and I am looking forward to utilizing my coaching expertise and personal hurdling/sprints experience to be able to coach the Defenders to a successful and personal record (PR) filled season.

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We used to have a saying between my teammates at BVU that really told the true story of my passion for track and field and even though it’s a little ridiculous I have no problem sharing it with you, “Track is my crack!”  It’s great to be addicted to such a life changing sport where you have the opportunity to compete as part of a team as well as the ability to push yourself at the individual level.  The camaraderie and relationships that I formed because of track have shaped me into the person I am today, and the friends that I made during those 4 years at BVU will be friends for life.  Now, it’s time to pass that passion on to shape the lives of the student athletes at Dordt, and I am certainly looking forward to it.

– Tanner

Storm The Lake

I once again participated in the Storm the Lake Triathlon that takes place in Storm Lake, Iowa.  This event is in its 2nd year of running and it went even smoother than its inaugural year (which was pretty decent for the first year).  The swim takes place in Storm Lake (obviously) which, isn’t the cleanest lake in the world.  But, it begins at a nice location with a sandy beach and a partly protected swim area that has a jetty which shelters you from any waves for about half of the swim.  The bike route takes you around the lake on nice rolling hills, and most of the roads are in great shape!  The run then takes place on a completely flat route that allows for the speed demon (if you are one, not me) to make up some time. The entire event is located in a prime location and the only thing holding the event back from being a great one, is the fact that its run by the local Kiwanis and they haven’t a clue how to promote an event and how to handle all of the behind the scenes items necessary to grow the venue.  However, they have tons of volunteers and even though they don’t all know what they are doing, it’s great to see so many people trying to make the event run as smooth as possible.

The Stormy Lake

The Stormy Lake

This year, just like last year, the even was supposed to start at 8am, but it didn’t get underway until about 8:20am.  Before they start they always give their spiel about what charity they are promoting and any other Kiwanis news they want to share.  Luckily I am familiar with the nonchalant way that the event was run the year before and I planned my warm-up accordingly.  Seeing as how the event is so small, there were just two waves.  First wave was all the men; second wave was all the women.  At the start of the race I was feeling great and was settling in behind the 4th swimmer.  It didn’t take long though, about 800yds, before I already began feeling soreness in my shoulders.  I didn’t have any time since Nationals to get into the pool and I could feel that I had lost some of that fitness.  That and I also hadn’t been in the wetsuit since Nationals either.  My regular pace and stroke speed had severely diminished and I found myself losing speed and sight of the lead swimmers.  So, I changed strategy of hanging with the leaders to a strategy of focusing on saving myself for the bike and run.  I didn’t have any trouble sighting into the sun like many of the other athletes did because of my TYR Spec Ops goggles that are polarized.  They have been a real asset ever since I got them.    I came out of the water with my legs still feeling fresh and sitting in 8th or 9th place.

T1 and Done

T1 and Done

With T1 I took more time than usual but felt that I could easily get back in the race with the bike.  I knew the route well as it was previously my go to route for a quick workout.  I used my knowledge of the rolling hills to pedal my way into 4th place flying by competitors as if I knew what I was doing.  I was also still using my friends Reynolds Strike wheels that he let me borrow for Nationals and that helped me grab a few more precious seconds back.

Into T2

Into T2 Toes Out

T2 was lightning quick, and I was up the one and only hill and out to the super flat run course in no time.

Wish I was at the Water Park

Wish I was at the Water Park

Unfortunately, I never saw the 1st-3rd place runners until I was about ¼ of the way into the run, meaning that they were already ¾ done with their run and thus would be uncatchable for me.  So, I focused on trying to hit a run PR and motivating myself as there was nobody else to run with.  Flat is certainly my friend, and I thoroughly enjoyed the run to the finish line.  Overall I was happy with the performance and with the event in general as I knocked almost 5 minutes off of last year’s performance.  It was good to be back on some familiar ground and even better to be at a very small event where I could just really enjoy myself.  I ended up 4th overall and 1st in my age group.  The run was not fast by any means but considering that I ran it all alone (and I am terrible at pacing) I was happy with the results.  My times were as follows:

Done

Done

S – 16:08.2

T1 – 1:07.3

B – 33:27.5

T2 – 20.4

R – 23:26.7

TOTAL – 1:14:30.2

– Tanner

My Biggest Fan

My Biggest Fan

USAT Age Group National Championships 2013

Wednesday after work Alicia and I loaded up and headed out from NW Iowa on a journey to USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships in Milwaukee.  I had already gotten up before work to get a swim workout in, as I knew that there would be no time to work out while on the road.  About an hour into the trip we met up with my parents who were also driving over to Milwaukee to not only see me compete with the best athletes in the US, but also to meet up with old friends.  We took it pretty easy for the first day of travel and made it to Lacrosse, WI where we decided to grab a room for the night.   It was actually perfect because a friend of ours had recently moved to Lacrosse and Alicia and I were able to grab a drink with him downtown.  It’s always good when we can go to these events and dual purpose them so that we can meet up with family/friends and do something else besides triathlon all weekend.

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Tom, tearing it up in Lacrosse

The next morning we got up around 10am and finished our journey to Milwaukee.  The trip is actually quite nice, you basically hop on interstate 90 until Lacrosse, swing around Madison, and bam there you are…smack dab in the middle of Milwaukee with a thousand terrible drivers!  Needless to say, Alicia and I were not too impressed with the driving skills of many of the Brewer Nation.  But we made it to the hotel in one piece and were looking forward to having Thursday evening and all day Friday off to relax.

That evening, as our friends the Couch’s arrived from Chicago, we went out for some good food and caught up with everyone.  I hadn’t seen them for over 3 years and it was good to relive old stories and hear all the changes in everyone’s lives.  I made sure to get to bed a decent time and rest up for the weekend ahead.

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My extended family!

Friday morning was all planned around packet pickup and bike check-in.  The whole process took well over 4 hours because of the way they had everything spread out time wise.  You could pick up packets at 10:00am but couldn’t check your bike into transition till 1:00pm.  Luckily in-between there, they opened up the swim course and I was able to throw on the wetsuit and get a ½ mile swim in.  The water was nice and cool at 69 degrees and I was looking forward to the race the next day.  We spent the rest of the afternoon with our friends and family and then made sure to once again get to bed early for the race day.

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After Friday warmup swim…downtown Milwaukee skyline

My wave wasn’t scheduled to start until 9:08am but Alicia and I needed to be there early because transition closed at 7:30am.  So, we got up around 6:00am, I ate a small but energy packed breakfast, and we hit the road knowing that parking and traffic was going to be horrendous.  When we arrived I shuffled into transition with the thousands of other participants and made sure that all my ducks were in a row.  Feeling good about my setup and with plenty of time to kill I went to seek out some friends that I knew were also competing this weekend.  It’s good to see friendly faces so far from home and talking with them helped to ease the pre-race jitters

Soon to be professional Matt Hansen

Soon to be professional Matt Hansen

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Mens 25-29 age group wave

With about 15 minutes before my wave was to start, I suited up and got over to the starting dock.  This was going to be by far the largest wave of swimmers I have ever swum with.  I decided early on that I just wanted to have a solid PR and was shooting for 2:30:00.  That being said, I wanted to stay out of traffic on the swim and opted to hang out in the back as the chaos ensued in front of me.  So as the horn went off I dodged kicking and flailing feet and as they passed, I settled into my rhythm.  I was able to find some feet for nearly the entire race and had a nice draft.  The only real traffic I ever ran into was at each of the turn buoys.  Nothing too major, and as I approached the very steep and slick swim out ramp, my body felt great and I was looking forward to a speedy bike leg.  (27:51 swim)

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The great swim battle of 2013

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Drafting

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Ridiculous exit ramp of steep slippery doom

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Paparazzi always getting in my way…

T1 was a little slow as the transition corral was massive and took some time to get through.  But in just under 3 minutes, I had all my gear and was at the mount line which was heavily congested with participants.  I found a seam in the middle of them, hopped on my bike, and started to pick up speed.  (2:49 T1)

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Row H, Row H, wheres Row H?

The bike felt great and the route was fairly flat and fast.  I had borrowed a wheel set from my friend Justin and it certainly made a difference for my overall time.  It was way easier to maintain that 22+ mph speed and it gave me the fastest bike split I have ever had.  The roads were certainly not in the best condition and even though they jarred me around quite a bit, I still had some legs under me as I ran into T2.  (1:05:12 bike)

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Out of T2

My plan for the run was to get out hard and see how long I could hold my desired pace of 7:45 per mile.  In the past I was able to do this over a 10k distance, but ever since my injury about a month and a half ago, I had lost all of that fitness.  But, I had recently completed a 5k at 7:25 per mile so I thought I would give it a shot.  Out of T2 I quickly got up to the 7:45 per mile pace.  The course was super flat and the weather was nice and cool (70-75 and partly cloudy).  My legs felt great for the first mile and I was just starting to get a minor side cramp, my arch nemesis.  About 2 miles in the side cramp had progressed in severity and was starting to affect my breathing.  I decided I was going to try and push through it.  I tried to keep the pace but to no avail.  It was only getting worse, so I dropped the pace and slowed down so that I could recover from it and hopefully be able to finish the run strong.  By the time I had made it to the halfway point my pace had slowed to 8:45 per mile and I knew I had some work to do.  And while the side cramp disappeared and I was ready to pick up the pace again, I realized that my legs just didn’t have it.  But I checked my watch and noticed that I was on record to crush my Olympic distance PR of 2:36:00.  I was able to pick it up just a bit and finished much stronger with an average pace of 8:34 per mile.  A little disappointing but considering the stage I was competing on, and the sheer number of amazing athletes that surrounded me, I was just happy to be there and happy to finish.  As a personal accomplishment I PR’d by almost 6 minutes and finished in an overall time of 2:30:20.

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Bringing it home

In the 25-29 age group I finished 130/151.  For all male athletes at the event I was 1097/1546.  The amount of talent and skill that surrounded me was astonishing and I was honored just to compete with them.  It was certainly one of the best events I have ever been a part of and I can’t wait to hopefully compete at nationals many more times in the future!

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Cheering section

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7th place and 1097th place finishers!

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My biggest fan!

The rest of Saturday consisted of long naps in the hotel, eating terribly delicious food, and catching up with the Couch’s before we would have to head our separate ways on Sunday.  It was a great trip and in order to kill 3 birds with one stone, on our drive back to Iowa on Sunday, Alicia made sure that we stopped by 2 different outlets along the way.  Classic Alicia!  But she deserved it for putting up with me all week as I stressed over every last detail of the upcoming event.  It was a great trip and a great venue and certainly an experience of a lifetime!

– Tanner

 

Camping and Triathlon…Why Not?

So back on 7/27/13 my parents asked me if I wanted to go camping at Lake Pahoja which is located in Lyon County.  Alicia and I have wanted to go camping for quite some time and jumped at the opportunity.  Before leaving I found out that they were having a low key triathlon the weekend that we were going to be there so I decided to compete and see how things would go.  It was a sprint distance and coming off of the Omaha Olympic distance, I figured it would be a nice change of pace.

So we camped on Friday night and then on Saturday morning I got off of the air mattress, walked out of the tent, grabbed my bike, and headed to transition.  It was a brisk cool morning and I had neglected to bring my wetsuit.  So, as I hoped into the water for my warm-up, I didn’t want to come back out.  The water temp was about 15 degrees warmer and I found myself compelled to stay neck deep.  Unfortunately the start of this event was going to be a beach start so I eventually stood out and shivered until I got the opportunity to sprint into the water and start the swim.  This event was a ½ mile swim, 17 mile bike ride, and a 3.5 mile run.  There were only around 50 total athletes signed up and it was very low key indeed.  They did have a chip timing system but it only got you from the start to the finish and didn’t show any other splits.  My watch malfunctioned off the start, so I missed my swim and bike splits, but I got it working again for the run.

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The swim was a tough one for me.  I was certainly missing the wetsuit and there were quite a few fast swimmers that used that extra bouncy and body positioning in the water to pull away from me.  I didn’t even really get the opportunity to draft off someone because they pulled away so fast.  But, I got in a decent rhythm and was out of the water and up the hill to transition only 400-500 feet behind the leaders.  So I took off into T1 and made a quick one out of it so that I had bodies to chase on the bike.   The bike route was very fast besides a few speed bumps around the camping area that were really inconvenient.  I was able to pass up 5-6 on the bike and put me in a 9th place position by the time the bike was done.  Seeing as how my run is typically the worst leg of my events, I only was within striking distance of one other person by the time I entered T2.  So I quickly threw my bike up on the rack and was on the rolling path around the lake in a matter of seconds.  About ¼ of a mile in front of me was a lone runner that I knew I could pass if I hit splits under 7:30.  With my watch finally working again and already set to a pace of 7:30, I pushed through the first 2 miles at around 7:20.  I was able to run down the athlete in front of me and started to pull away with a mile to go.  The run felt really good and I remember thinking that I wish I could run like this every event.  When I approached the finish line I still felt good. I crossed the line in a total time of 1:28:32 and finished with an average pace of 7:22 per mile.  I was very happy with the impromptu tri and it felt good to go fast again.  Certainly was a good precursor to Nationals.

I ended up placing 3rd in my age group and 8th overall.  For such a small field of athletes, there was certainly some good competition at this small and low key event.  Next stop, Milwaukee!

– Tanner

2013 USAT Midwest Regional Championships

Wow, its been a long time.  Lots of changes for Alicia and I.  At this point and time we are a month into our new jobs.  Interestingly enough we are now both HR professionals and needless to say, we have many boring HR conversations at the dinner table (HR nerds).  We have also relocated back near our hometowns and are even further into northwest Iowa and more specifically, Dutch country.  While starting out new jobs and relocating, training has really suffered.  A few weeks ago I was probably only training about 4 hours a week which is certainly not enough to be competitive at Nationals in 2 weeks.  Needless to say the lack of training has shown through in my most recent performance in Omaha at the 2013 USAT Midwest Regional Championships that took place this past weekend.  Also, if you remember, about a month ago I had an injury that made it so I couldn’t run for a full month until it healed.  What all this left me with was a body whose performance was degrading because of lack of training hours, and legs that forgot how to run.  But hey, I had already paid the entry fee for Omaha and was finally healthy, so why not give it a try?

_MG_3114Alicia and my sister Erin even decided to join me which was asking a lot considering I asked them to leave with me at 4am, what troopers!  This was by far the biggest event I have ever competed in and the transition area was quite large.  I had decided before the race to just go out hard on the swim and bike and whatever I had left for the run would have to be good enough.  The event was staffed quite well but I was not a fan of the run course which went from grass to dirt to sand to gravel to cement which is frustrating to say the least considering it was a key USAT event, but probably the real reason I hated the run route was because I hadn’t run in over a month.  It was actually quite hilly which was a stark difference from my training days in nice flat Storm Lake, IA.  But back to the race.

_MG_3106I was the 3rd wave to start and before I could go they let the paratriathletes take to the water.  This was my first time competing with these gifted athletes and I was amazed at the athleticism and dedication each of them showed.  They received very little/no help, usually just getting into their chair or bike.

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_MG_3143Next went an older group and finally mine.  The water was super warm (over 85 degrees) which meant that you could not wear a wetsuit.  This would be my first time swimming the distance unaided by a wetsuit.  I started out in front and stayed there.  There was constant traffic around the triangle course due to the other waves that started before me.  I finally fell into a line and found some feet to draft off of for nearly the entire race.  I felt good coming around the last buoy and was looking forward to a quick transition and hopping on the bike.

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T1 was excellent and in just under a minute and a half, I was on the course and headed out for what would be a very challenging bike course.  I had not previewed the course and I found out immediately just how steep and hilly it was, a trend I would also find later on the run course.  All I have to say is thank god that water is flat!  I was constantly challenged as I am a weak climber and have poor power transfer up the hills.  A nice surprise on the course was that I ran into an old BVU Football teammates (Dan Zieg) that was a few years older than me.   We exchanged a few words until he kicked in his powerful linemen legs to disappear off into the distance.  He had a great race and ended up placing 2nd in our age group.  The guy looked great and had cut a lot of weight since his football days.  As he disappeared I got focused on my own effort and tried to power through the  hills.  This was also a closed course bike which was awesome.  Nothing like a few cars to really ruin your race day.

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Coming into T2 I could already tell that I went out extremely hard and that the run was going to be rough.  T2 was quick and I got up to my old speed immediately (7:20min/mi).  Needless to say, I didn’t hold that very long since you cant take a month off of running and not expect to lose some fitness.  In fact, the extremely steep and long hills slowed me down considerably, almost to a crawl (9:45min/mi).  But I knew it was gonna be hard so I tried to stay focused and run what my body would allow and try not to get to discouraged about it.  As I made it around the halfway point my muscles started to get crampy.  With about 2 miles to go, I got a debilitating cramp in my hamstring that had me stopped dead as I tried to work it out.  I made sure to catch some gatorade at the next station and focused on trying not to overuse the cramping leg.  I managed to get it under control, and to actually pick up a little speed with a mile left to go.  I had already lost multiple positions during the run and it took everything within myself to stay focused on me and not on my place in the race.  As I came across the finish line, without even knowing my time, I was happy with the results.  I had competed hard, on a warm day with very little training and preparation.  I proved that I could hang with some tremendous athletes and that even though I still have lots of work to do, I am improving.  I am certainly more confident which is half of the battle.

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I ended up with a slower time on a hard course 2:47:31 which was good enough to get my 8th in my age group, and was within the top 33% of the age group which if I hadn’t already qualified for nationals, would have qualified me.

Swim:  30:20.5

T1:  1:22.4

Bike:  1:14:58.8

T2:  49.8

Run:  2:47:31.5

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Again, there was a lot learned and it has made me more prepared for Nationals.  I just have to get in that run mileage without re-injuring myself and I will be good to go!  I am certainly looking forward to it, and will for sure have to take on Nationals again next year as well.  Heres to finding the positives in everything you do, and not sweating the little stuff!

– Tanner

Fairmont Olympic Triathlon

Today I got up at 5:30am in order to make it Fairmont, MN for their olympic triathlon. This was officially my first olympic distance event ever and was a humbling experience filled with many things I need to work on before nationals in August. It would also be the first event on my own without Alicia or my family by my side which make a considerable distance with regard to motivation in some instances. First and foremost, the event was fantastic, and the weather was even better. The course was challenging and yet put together very well. I could have done with a little warmer water, but considering the lack of sunshine and unseasonably cool temperatures. I believe the water was in the low 60’s but with a wetsuit is was quite comfortable. All of the volunteers were very friendly and helpful and many of the other athletes were as well. I had forgot my pump and the gal next to me let me use hers and was happy to do so. Events are always so much nicer when everyones is friendly and willing to give advice or loan o out equipment. Fairmont also had a sprint event as well as team relays and a kids event. There were only about 50 people in the olympic event which was nice for the first open water swim of the year, and the first time I have wore the wetsuit since 2012.

Due to prior experience I made sure to warm up for 10-15 minutes in the water in order to acclimate to the cooler temperatures. This would keep me from eventually hyperventilating which I had done in a prior event, and allow me to get a feel for the wetsuit. Unfortunately, I have never really had any success with the wetsuit and typically get significant pulling up on the shoulders and tightness in the chest resulting in a slower swim stroke and difficulty breathing. But even with all of that, the swim started off really well. There wasn’t any traffic and I made sure to let the dolphins head out in front of me to ensure that I would put myself into a wrestling match. I did find myself often wondering what was taking so long considering most swims I do in events are around a 1/2 of a mile, and the olympic distance pushes closer to a full mile. I also had some difficulty with spotting buoys due to the poor condition of my goggles, unfortunately that looks like another expense for the future…along with potentially a sleeveless wetsuit to remedy the problem of having my shoulders and arms tire out easily with the full wetsuit. The poor spotting resulted in me swimming considerably more distance than necessary as I am almost certain that I did a fair amount of zig-zagging throughout the entire swim. Coming out of the water I was actually feeling quite good and was looking forward to having a successful overall event. Nothing had really slowed me down too much and my body still felt really good.

Fairmont 2013 Swim

See the green turnaround buoy? Ya, me either, but its there and it is really far away

While T1 was a little bit rusty, I managed to get out fairly quick and mounted to bike for an immediate uphill climb towards the rest of the course. After a mile I had my breathing under control and made sure to get my proper nutrition in. Seeing as how I haven’t done the distance before I was unsure of how to properly handle my nutrition but took two bottles of electrolytes and two gels just in case. The rest of the ride was really good with an average pace of 21mph over the entire 24 some miles. I was also sitting pretty high in the field of athletes with no more than 10-15 in front of me which I was considering a success for my first event. Everything was feeling good and even my bum leg (which I believe to be shin splints) wasn’t hurting. My breathing was under control and my body felt great with no signs of stress/cramping/etc.

T2 was quite quick and within a few seconds I had my shoes and hat on and was out of transition and up the hill to the course. Almost immediately things changed. About 3-4 steps out of transition I started to have sharp stabbing cramps throughout my entire abdomen. It significantly affected my ability to take deep breaths and if it didn’t subside quickly, I new that I was going to be in for a hurt. but I kept trucking along as usually when I get side stitches they go away if I just run through them. I was running a 7 minute mile pace until about 2 miles in when the cramping the abs shot up both of my sides as well. It was certainly not getting better and by 2.5 miles it was almost unbearable and my breathing had pretty much been reduced to short shallow breaths that aren’t really conducive to maintaing my 7 minute mile pace. In fact, I had fallen to 9 minute miles almost immediately. So, I decided that if I couldn’t run through it, maybe a 30 second to a minute long break would allow the pain to lessen and allow me to get back after it. As I slowed down and focused on my breathing the pain started to drop out of my sides and abs and lessened to the point where I felt I could get after it again. About a half mile later the pain had come back again in full force and now had also started creeping into my shoulders and chest.

After a reflection of the event I believe there may have been some things I can change to remedy this problem in the future. First and foremost is the fact that with all of the changes in my personal life (moving, new job, shin splints, etc) my training really wasn’t getting done to its full potential and I may have lost some of my fitness. Another theory is the gels that I used for nutrition during the event. I went with a double caffeine coffee flavored GU gel. I don’t often use caffeine and I believe I may have over done it which could have caused the initial cramps in the stomach that eventually led to my running demise. I also may have pushed it to hard on the bike, but at the time it felt so good, and honestly during the bike ride and immediately after while in transition, my body still felt great.

So, back to the run. I had made it through lap two and was on the final lap when the worst of the pain came. I had to significantly lower my pace (which was already low 8:30 minutes per mile) so that the pain would subside enough to allow me to breath. I didn’t know until I crossed the finish line, but I only averaged a 9:20 minute mile pace for the entire course. Honestly after I heard that I was actually relieved because it felt more like I was crawling at over a 10 minute mile pace. Fairmont Triathlon still hasn’t posted the complete results yet, but I am not really looking forward to seeing the overall time. Whats even worse is that my body really isn’t really that sore because I wasn’t able to get after it in the run like I normally do. There is nothing quite as disappointing as finishing an event and knowing that you had so much more to give. Its quite a let down, until you realize that you have just done something that 99% of the world has never even attempted.

I definitely have a lot to work on before nationals and have one more olympic event sometime July that is in Omaha to help work out all of the kinks. The training will need to be more intense and hopefully my shin splints wont get in the way. I will also put more focus on my nutrition plan during training so that I hopefully wont run into the same cramping issues in the future. So even though the run was pure physical and mental torture, I reached my goal of finishing and I can only improve from here.

– Tanner

LIFE vs TRI

What a month it has been so far. Alicia and I have left our old jobs, moved all of our stuff, and relocated to Hospers, IA for the time being. I started my new job on 6/10 and Alicia will start hers on 6/16. The first week on the job has been an absolutely awesome experience and I can honestly say I know for certain that this move was the right one.

With a corporate support center and multiple production floors, Diamond Vogel has over 330 employees in just their Orange City location. On top of that, they have multiple other locations across the Midwest pushing total employees upwards of 800 employees. Needless to say, moving from a non-profit company with 130+ employees that helps special needs children grow and develop, to a for-profit manufacturing company, has been a eye opening change. There are certainly stark differences but also many similarities. I am taking everything in stride and looking forward to every new day. Just yesterday I had the amazing opportunity to take a flight to Tulsa to check out the paint production facility there. Not only that, but the people have been amazing and extremely helpful. It has been a true blessing to experience that my first time on the job. With all of these changes in my life some things certainly haven’t been getting as much attention.

That of course being my workouts. It may be for the best though, as I have been experiencing some pain in my left leg for the past week. I have had shin splints before, but this certainly seems more muscle related and hurts more with dorsiflexion and when I take weight off of the leg. Needless to say Alicia has been telling me to go see a doctor and in true Russ fashion, I have decided to forgo that suggestion and instead just take a few days rest and use ice cups. Taking days off is nice, but I can certainly feel the loss in fitness and with my next event less than 12 hours away, I cant help but feel unprepared.

I believe that a new goal will need to be established. As this will be my first Olympic event ever, I think shooting for a finish without injuring myself too much should be priority number one. Not to mention that the water temperature will be unseasonably cold and there is predicted thunderstorms all morning. Either way, I will look forward to competing again, even if I do feel unprepared. I am sure with all of the changes Alicia and I will be going through here in the very near future, we will see Triathlon being pushed to the side as we focus on our professional development. Ugh…priorities! I will do my best to shoot out a post race report within a timely manner but with the hectic way our lives have recently been, it may be a week or two.

Lets hope for good weather and warm water…I hate the cold.

– Tanner

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