Sunday, September 23, 2018

ITU Age Group World Championships, Gold Coast, Australia - Race Report

Some race seasons go almost perfectly. Last year was one of those for me. Other than a sprained ankle, the season went incredibly well and all my goals were achieved. I won a National Championship on my “home court” right here in Omaha in front of friends, family and particularly, my then, 86 yr. old mom and 90 yr. old dad…in their honor.
This year, every step has been a challenge…well, at least post-April. I ended last season with a that National Championship and started this season in April with my first duathlon National Championship. Since then two major challenges have followed me around for the last five months.
One - The ITU World Championship sprint race which I am doing, is now a “draft-legal” race, meaning that while cycling, you can get right behind other riders, catching their draft and saving up to 30% of your energy. Sometimes, just an inch or two separates front tires from back tires as riders pack up as tightly as possible. Triathlon or time trial bikes are not allowed. Only road bikes are permitted. (Google those if you want to learn about the differences.) After riding a triathlon bike for 23 years, switching to a road bike was a switcheroo that my body struggled adjusting to and, this would be my very first ever draft-legal race. I couldn’t seem to find my running legs off that road bike though it was an incredibly fast bike. “Can’t teach an old dog (body) new tricks?”
Two – In July, I developed a bad case of tendonitis/bursitis in my upper hamstring, lower glutes. It severely hampered my run training and race speed. In fact, I lost almost all of my run training for the month of August. I did water running and the elliptical machine but it’s not the same. I did two races at the beginning of August and both were terrible. The injury would not let me open up my stride and run normally. It wasn’t about just running through some pain. It shut me down.
So, Worlds in Australia was up the air the 5-6 weeks leading to it. I went back and forth 100 times on going or not going. Could I go and just “get through it,” with a below average run? Yes. But, I’d set my goal on getting on the podium. I knew that was a very high goal to set, but based on my past World’s finishes – 20th, 8th and 6th, and looking at the results from the last few years, I thought I could be in the hunt for a podium spot if I had a perfect race, ending it with a very fast run.
I decided that two weeks before the race, I’d go to a track and see if I could crank out one, only one mile at least a 6:30 pace. I’d need to do at least that, and then rip off two more even faster at Worlds. With a couple of buddies to pace me, I did a 6:28. But, was pooped at the end of it and my injury made it a huge struggle. Hmmmm… After lots of prayer and discussion with Jen, family and close friends the verdict was in. GO! I’d forever wonder what the outcome would have been if I didn’t.
One of the worst things one can do with my injury is to sit. How do you get to Australia? You sit on a plane for a total of 18 hours on three flights. Not good, but the decision was made. After I arrived early on the Saturday before the race, I decided I’d try to run an easy 3 miles Sunday evening and again Tuesday. The race was Thursday. Sundays’ three miler felt horrible. Painfully and slowly, I got in the three but was super discouraged at the end. So, I scratched the Tuesday run and decided just to rest. I did swim and bike leading up to the race and with those workouts, I’d have to be content.
The day before the race was very busy with long registration lines, bike check-in, the Team USA photo, the March of the Nations and the opening ceremonies. My race started at 10am the next morning. Due to jet lag, I’d been waking up between 3:30am – 4:30am. Race morning it was about 4am, so I got up and ate breakfast. I read scripture and listened to some of my favorite Christian music. I felt encouraged as I left my AirBNB for the race site.
It was a typical Spring day on the Gold Coast. Sunny with a high that would reach the low 70s and very little humidity. Perfect weather and a beautiful location! I walked my bike into the transition area and hung it on the rack. I was setting up my shoes, helmet, etc. and bang…my front tire blew. Just hanging there. Pssssssss…. Oh boy. Mini-panic attack. I’d left my spare innertubes a 15 minute walk away in my car. Long story short…someone gave me an extra tube and I fixed it. Whew. Glad it blew there and not while racing on it.
I did a quick warm-up swim off to the side of the swim start and before I knew it I was in the coral with about 70 other Worlds qualifiers in the 60-64 age group. I boldly went right to the front of the line. There was a five minute break between the swim heat before us and our group. With one minute to go before our wave started, they released us down to the edge of the water. I again, boldly when straight to the front line, far left.
The gun went off and so did everyone….they all just went off on each other. Total bedlam. A street fight in water. I’ve done mass Ironman starts with 2,000 people thrashing around, but this was as bad or worse than any of those. “Stay calm…nice, easy strokes…breathe…relax.” Bam, got kicked in the googles by someone and fortunately the goggles stayed on. The swimmer behind me kept pushing my legs down as he swam up my back.
I looked for open water but there really wasn’t any. Unlike most races, everyone in this one is really good and the group doesn’t really spread out much until the last third of the half mile distance. I tried to push that last part knowing guys were going to be out of the water well before me. I glanced at my watch as I exited the water and headed to my bike at an all-out sprint. 12:20something. OK, I’ll take that considering the mayhem. Got to my bike and the wetsuit stripped off almost perfectly, until the very end. I looked like a rookie jumping around trying to get it off my heels. I had lubed up a ton but still struggled. Maybe I was trying too hard…moving a bit too fast?
I grabbed the bike and headed out towards the street. Struggled getting on it, again, looking a bit like a rookie. What’s the matter with me? Come on! Once I mounted my steed, I was off and immediately started picking people off. Within two miles I caught a pack of about 8 guys all in my age group. I congratulated myself on quickly catching up with the leaders in my age group. So far, this race is going great.
Wow. Here I am at a World Championship race, in the lead pack, taking turns pulling on the front of the train…actually leading my age group at times! Except, I wasn’t. I found out after the race, the 3-4 guys out of the water first were about a minute up the road, working together to hold off my group, the chase group.
We were flying along in a tight pack, everyone drafting except the leader! It was scary, exciting, fast, dangerous, exhilarating and a bit insane all rolled into one. As mentioned, it was my first draft-legal race and I must admit it was a blast. I still prefer non-drafting races, but it was, well, crazy-fun in a suicidal kind of way. A couple of times I thought about pushing past this group, launching out on my own cause I thought I could ride faster than the group. Perhaps a couple of guys would have gone with me and we could have worked together. But, I thought we WERE the lead group and I’d be just fine saving some leg strength for the run.
We cruised into the transition area and I quickly racked my bike, tossed on my running shoes and took off with three Aussies just in front of me. Again, I thought we were the top four in our age group, so I figured I only had to pick off one of them to get on the podium. I was hoping for the best. I was hoping my injury would loosen up as I ran, not tighten up. Within 400 yards I knew it probably wasn’t going to happen. I was in pain and couldn’t stride out the way I wanted and needed to. I fought. I battled. I wanted it and dug deep but my body wouldn’t respond.
I was actually in 8th place starting the run. I ran a 6:55 for my first mile. OK. Maybe there is still some hope, but, no. A couple of guys in my age group ran by me. It was a two-loop run course and after pushing as hard as I could for the first loop I was spent. I dreaded the second loop but then changed my mindset. How blessed was I to be there? Such a beautiful spot. Racing in a World Championship race in a Team USA uniform. I smiled and decided to thank the Lord and just be grateful. I would run as hard as I could and finish wherever…I knew the podium was not going to happen. I did pray for a top ten finish. The last mile and a half felt like ten. I came into the finish line area and heard some friends call my name, cheering me in. It was a bitter/sweet moment.
I cross the line in 1:10:02. The top three / medal winners all went 1:07:something. I’ve done that before. I DIDN’T do that when I needed to, but it’s certainly not out of reach. That’s the frustrating part. No excuses though. To get on the podium I would have needed to run a sub-19 min. 5K. I did that in London at Worlds. But not this day. Not even close. Interesting enough, the Silver and Bronze medalists both started the run behind me in 9th and 13th. They had fabulous runs up to to 2nd and 3rd. Wow. Impressive. Worlds is no joke. These guys are the fastest in the, well, world!
Family and friends were watching the live feed back home. Pretty cool technology. I knew they could track things but didn’t know they could actually watch the finish. I took extra time to thank the volunteers telling them that without them, the race couldn’t have happened. I came through the recovery area and saw Mark Long, a friend of mine. It was good to debrief with him just a bit. I then discovered that I’d gotten 10th, an answer to prayer. A bit later I learned that an Aussie that finished ahead of me had been disqualified and I’d move up to 9th. I’ll take it. Now, I just need eight more guys to get disqualified. Haha.
I picked up my gear bag and then called home. Then I chatted with some friends, hung out and just savored the day a bit. I felt a strange mix of disappointment and satisfaction. I’d given my all and that’s all you can do. But I knew I could have raced better. Much better…if only….wait. Don’t go there. As i mulled over my race I thought of this - I need to let the sting of disappointment be the fuel of future motivation.
My plan, at least at this point, is not to do Worlds again until I age up, which is not for four years. I can enjoy the next couple of years/seasons doing local and regional races, staying fit and racing hard but without the pressure of a HUGE race. Then, God-willing, I’ll do Nationals when I’m 64 and qualify for Worlds and race it again when I’m the young guy in the 65-69 age group. That race, is in Abu Dhabi. Get ready for a hot one!
If you’ve read this far, you’re a glutton for punishment. You’re almost done. I realize how blessed and fortunate I am. At National Championship competitions I’ve finished 13th, 9th, 6th, 5th and three 1st counting the duathlon title. At Worlds I’ve finished 20th/95 (Olympic distance), 8th/60, 6th/99 and this year, 9th/70 at the Sprint distance. Three Top 10s at Worlds and three national titles are accomplishments I could have never dreamed of when I got into this sport 24 yrs. ago. Never. I'm the guy that didn't make a varsity team in amy sport in high school. Racing in Canada, Hawaii, Germany, England and Australia has been incredible. Racing for Team USA four times has been a huge honor. I’m abundantly blessed.
My support team is amazing. My wife Jen and two kids are incredible. The companies that help me are so encouraging. God has been very gracious and kind to me giving me a bit of talent that I’ve tried to develop and use for His glory and the benefit of others. So this year is a wrap. I’ve already put on a few lbs. I’ve not worked out for almost a week. I’m getting over the 15 hours of jet-lag that go with this kind of trip. I’m enjoying being home.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Peaking At The Right Time To Nail Your "A" Race

Peaking. It's an art-form. It takes a big picture perspective. It demands a training plan that covers months, not weeks. It mandates a race schedule/calendar that is strategic. It may include two or even three phases with "mini-peaks" along the way. Over the years, I've learned to dial this in and it's allowed me to win three USAT Regional Championships, three USAT National Championships and complete three times for Team USA at the ITU World Championships.
Ultimately, the goal of peaking is...what? You want to be the leanest, fastest, sleekest, most confident YOU you can be the morning of the biggest race of your season (and maybe your life.) That race might be a marathon, a triathlon, a duathlon, an ultramarathlon or whatever...but you want to NAIL it!! Might be a shorter distance race or a really long one. The distance doesn't matter, you just want to kill it.
I'm one month into a three month build towards the ITU World Championships in Southport, Australia. I'm racing the sprint triathlon and it's draft-legal, meaning we're all on road bikes not time-trial type bikes with aerobars. I've never done one of these races before. Racing a road bike in a pack and then running off a road bike are two very different types of activities compared to racing on a tri bike. I have 23 years of tri bike racing experience. Zero draft-legal. No problem right?
I'm finding it slow going running off my road bike...way slower. So, we'll make some adjustments to the fit and I'll race it all summer, knowing that I'm giving up time by not racing my tri bike. But remember...this is all about peaking at the right time. All the local and regional races in the world don't really matter to me this season. There is only one race that matters and only one race that I must be at top-form, peak shape and that is Worlds.

I've got my plan and my race schedule. I'm dealing with issues as they come up along the way. When I peak the second week of September, I'll be ready to toe the line with some of the fastest 60-64 yr. young guys on the planet from probably 50+ countries. My peaking strategy is set.
In past World Championships, I've taken 20th, 8th and 6th. None of those will do this time. How about you? What's your "A" race? If you want to be sure you've got the right plan and strategy in place, give me a shout. I'd love to go over your plan or help you set up one. There's still plenty of time if your most importance race is in August, September, October or even November.  Peaking! Get it right and reach your goals!!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

2018 USA Duathlon National Championships - The Story...


If you live in the southern one third of the U.S., you get to enjoy some pretty nice winter weather. If you live in the upper two thirds of the U.S., you know the misery of trying to train for multisport races from November through March. It can be horrible. Yes, with the all cool equipment and gadgets now available, you can train fairly well if you love sitting on your bike staring at a device or TV for hours on end. Having a National Championship race the first weekend of April is very early in the year for those in the upper two thirds of the country and yes, I’m one of those lucky people!
The difference in my fitness level and race sharpness each year from late March to say, August or September, is massive. Top fitness, ideal race weight and feeling like I’m in race shape (vs. “good”shape) well, those just don’t happen when winter is ending.

But, we hopped in our car to head for South Carolina to race in the non-drafting, sprint distance, National Championship Duathlon, a run-bike-run race. It would be fairly short and very fast. A 3.1 mile first run, followed by a 12 mile bike and then a final 1.8 mile run would be the challenge. Those distances aren’t challenging. The challenge would be to get to the finish line as fast as possible, beating as many there as possible. My goal? To get there first.
I knew I wasn’t in top form…not even close…not compared to the end of the summer, but I was ready to do my best and see what happened.
Race morning was cold. Very cold. Like 38 degrees kind of cold with a north wind. Yes, there was a race that morning, but it wasn’t mine. Mine was at 1:00 p.m. when it had warmed up to 50 degrees which was ideal. After setting up my bike and transition area and a good warmup of jogging, stretching, drills and pick-ups, I headed with Jen towards the starting line and she went up the hill to get some good pics.
I was in the third wave – age 50 and up men. A final pre-race pic or two and we were ready! We lined up and waited out the last few minutes.
Just after the start, we headed up the hill right past Jen. My goal was to get up the hill and recover from the craziness of a fast group start, then settle into a pace I could hold for the initial 5K.
I was running with a friend from Omaha, Paul, and we paced each other nicely for the first mile, though we both knew that a sub-6:20 per mile pace was too quick. The course was a two-loop oval with 180-degree turnarounds at the ends of the oval. After a mile, a guy started to run by me and I saw a 63 (his age) written on his leg. Uh-oh! Ok, game on. I thought, “I canNOT let this guy get away.
I didn’t know what place(s) we were in. I knew it had to be in the front or close to the front of our age group. Twice he started to pull away from me and I refused to let him go. Man, he was turning me inside-out and the race was only in it’s first phase. I dug as deeply as I dared and it was just enough to stay on his shoulder as we headed towards the transition from the run to the bike.
I’ve always tried to have the fastest transitions, getting in and out as fast as possible. I think I had the third fastest combined transitions in my age group this race. There had been one athlete in our group who had beaten the guy I ran with and me to T1 by 25 seconds. But, very early in the bike, I’d passed him not knowing what place I was in or noticing him. All I knew was that IF I had a chance of winning the national championship it was going to happen on the bike. The LAST thing I wanted to do was to have to duke it out with some speedy runner on the second run. 
So, I took off and rode as fast I could over that 12 mile, fairly hilly course. I had great confidence in my bike and I rode my heart out. Six miles of the course were actually on an interstate that had been closed just for the race. So cool. As I reached that point and started down the entrance ramp, I told myself, “Interstates are made for speed, so let’s GO!” I focused…really concentrated on great cycling technique. The interstate portion was basically one big downhill then up, then turn around and head down, then back up to the road that brought us back to the race site. That road was my last chance to give it everything I had and I laid it all out for those final three miles. I still had no idea what place I was in. I did know that no one had passed me on the bike. I came into T2 and ran, pushing my bike as quickly as possible to my spot on the rack. I racked my bike and struggled just a bit getting my shoes on. Rats! Took off heading back up to the main road where the first run had been. Honestly, I felt like garbage. 
Jen was waiting at the top and as I ran by her she said, “You’re ahead by a minute, but don’t you DARE back off!” She had the race app that shows where the athletes are in real-time as the race unfolds. I was hurting. Bad. Legs felt like dead stumps of wood. Seriously, I was done. “Burned” all the “matches” I had on the first run and bike. But, the second run is only the equivalent of seven laps around a track. Only seven! So, I measured it mentally and figured I had two laps worth of running north, then 180 degree turn and three more laps back and down a hill. Then the final 180 degree turn and the last two laps back to the park entrance leading down to the finish line.
At the first 180 degree turn I saw several guys who looked like they were in my age group coming… I figured if I could hold my pace and if my muscles didn’t cramp up or tighten I might hold the lead. Just after that first turn with about one and a half miles to go, a gal ran by me. What a great runner. She made it look easy. So, I decided to not let her get away from me. Pick up the pace. Stay behind her and let her pull me along. That would force my pace to stay high.
Running that last mile or so, I couldn’t help but think, “Man, if I can just push a bit more, I’ll have my third national championship!” I truly was spent, but it’s amazing how that thought I just mentioned motivates!! Drive! Push! Dig deep! Only one track “lap” left! You’ve got this!!

I made the final turn down a hill into the park, then a 90 degree turn and 50 ft. to the finish line. I crossed it as they announced my name. I waited for something like, “Congratulations, Lincoln! You’re first in the 60-64 age group!”  They’d done that at triathlon nationals last August…but nothing. What did that mean?
I bend over for quite a while as I was lightheaded. The finish line volunteers were great giving me time to recover a bit, taking my timing chip off, putting a finishers award around my neck and giving me a bottle of water. As I walked out of the finish chute, I saw another guy with “60” on his leg! What? Did he come in after I’d finished or did he beat me? No idea. Jen came down and I asked her if I won? She said yes…she thought…was pretty sure…the app had quit working! We got in the results line where they print out your time and place finish. It wasn’t working. The Wi-Fi for the whole race area was slowed to a crawl and not giving anyone any information. Grrrrrr… Worried. Jen was sure (almost) that I’d won. Hung with a couple of other Cornhuskers, Tom W. and Paul B. as we waited...
Well, after over an hour the results finally came up and yes, Jen was right. Of course. I should never doubt her. She called me Doubting Thomas. Ha. THAT was one tough race where I did what I’ve coined, “raced beyond my training.” That’s when you’re racing faster than your training has prepared you. Sometimes we have to do that. Sometimes in doing so, we blow up, crash and burn. Sometimes, we somehow hold it together to the end and finish faster than we should have.
This was the case for me. The results said I’d averaged 6:17 per mile in the first 5K. I’d averaged over 23 mph on the bike and averaged a 6:19 pace for the second run. No way I was in shape to do that. But, Nationals (or anyone’s “A” race”) can pull something out of us we didn’t think was there. Motivation. It’s all about motivation. Being in the hunt for a national championship? That’ll pull something out!
What fun to go to the awards ceremony and receive some cool stuff for being the Grand Master (Over 60) Champ and again for winning the 60-64 age group.
This race unfolded perfectly with that guy I had to stay with on the first run. Then, giving about 98% on the bike, knowing that IF I won, it would happen on the bike. Finally, having that gal run by me on the second run was perfect to pace me to a faster run than if I’d been alone. Sometimes races go great. Sometimes they fall apart like a Jenga game. This one came together perfectly.
I’m so thankful for the companies for whom I’m an Ambassador. They’ve helped me with wonderful products, encouragement and motivation. Lots of family and friends were praying that I’d have a good race and do my best with my body cooperating fully with the effort. I’m thankful to the Lord that those things happened. I’m thankful for Jen who made the long road trip with me and listened to all my pre-race doubting. She did the course recon with me and got a lay of the land so she knew exactly where to be to get great pics and give the right encouragement! 
Finally, there were a lot of dogs at this race. Jen took as many pics of dogs as she did the race. Ha! This upside-down bulldog is a pic of how I felt at the end. Yep. Dog tired!! But grateful beyond words! 
I think of my friend Jamie Whitmore, World Champion triathlete and Olympic Gold Medal cyclist and her motto for racing: "By God's strength. For God's glory." Yes! I was raised with a strong faith and an old hymn we used to sing in church was, "Take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord to thee." About a week before the race, a line from this hymn stuck in my mind and became my theme. "Take my feet and let them be, swift and beautiful for thee, swift and beautiful for thee." Amen!

Monday, March 26, 2018

THE 4 Things You MUST Think About When You Swim!!

Watch the free video to learn more about this! Don't try to remember the 492 things you're supposed to think about when you swim. Concentrate on these four and no more! This might be the most important swim video you ever watch!  https://swimming.lincolnmurdoch.com/swimming_tips
And don't forget to check out my website:  www.lincolnmurdoch.com Thanks for checking out my blog!