Monday, August 12, 2013

blueseventy Helix Full Wetsuit... I'm a believer!

As part of the 2013 Wattie Ink Elite Team, I am lucky to have access to top of the line triathlon equipment from several awesome sponsors. One of those awesome sponsors is blueseventy. blueseventy is THE industry leader in everything that happens in the water. According to their website, the name, "blueseventy", comes from the simple fact that 70% of the world is covered in water. Makes perfect sense to me.

The flagship of the blueseventy wetsuit line is the Helix Full Wetsuit and 2013 Wattie Ink athletes are lucky enough to race in custom Helix suits this year!
Picture courtesy of Wattie Ink.
Swimming is my weakest of the three disciplines of triathlon, but thanks to a large volume of swim training AND my new blueseventy Helix wetsuit, I was able to level the playing field in 2013. The Helix is super buoyant. The company touts the industry maximum in neoprene thickness, 5mm in the chest, 5mm in the torso and 4mm in the lower legs. According to blueseventy's wetsuit, this design raises the position of the hips in relation to the rest of the swimmer. What I like the most is the 1.5mm and 1mm think neoprene panels that make up the arms of the wetsuit, resulting in complete freedom of motion. At 6'4" and 220 lbs, I am an athlete with larger shoulders and chest and the Helix does not restrict my movement at all.
Me at the REV3 Quassy practice swim. Pic courtesy of Chris Masilon
A unique feature of this wetsuit, which is different from other wetsuits on the market, is the reverse zipper. When putting the wetsuit on, it zips from the neck down. To remove the wetsuit, pull the cord up. This feature is awesome because it does not allow the cord to be pulled down during a race, which would introduce a large volume of water into the suit. The reverse zipper feature does make it difficult to zip up by yourself, which is the only downside of this wetsuit.
Swim exit at REV3 Knoxville

Swim exit at REV3 Quassy (1.2 mile Swim PR)
blueseventy has paid attention to every detail in this wetsuit and I am proud to wear it adorned with the Wattie Ink. "W"! This is THE wetsuit to wear and it is no wonder why so many top professional AND amateur athletes turn to blueseventy for all their wetsuit needs. After three 70.3 races (and 3 podiums) this year, I am a blueseventy believer!
First time I was 1st out of the water in my division. Tough swim at REV3 Williamsburg.

Monday, July 15, 2013

2013 Inaugural REV3 Williamsburg

This post is well overdue! 

Another awesome weekend with the family and another awesome race with REV3 at the Inaugural REV3 Williamsburg.

In the week leading up to the race, the weather called for sunny, hot and humid conditions, pretty typical for June in Virginia. Sunday morning, I woke up to POURING RAIN and cool temperatures. The rain stopped as we arrived at T2, where I waited for the bus to transport all the athletes to T1.

I added my nutrition to my bike and headed to the swim start. Thanks to the cool conditions, the swim in the James River was wetsuit legal and I was able to wear my custom, blueseventy Helix wetsuit.

1.2 Miles

This is my slowest 1.2 mile swim to date. The conditions were very tough. The wind picked up shortly after the start and so did the current... NOT in the athlete's favor! I read in a thread on a forum that approximately 15% of the athletes DNF'd during the swim. Tough day in the water!
Swim start for my wave

10+ minutes longer in the water than I wanted!
According to my Garmin, the run from the swim finish to T1 was a little longer than a 1/4 mile. 

56 Miles
2:29:59 (21.57 MPH Average)

The bike course was great. It was relatively flat course with a mix of shade and sun and some really pretty scenery. 
Love my Reynolds Wheels, Kask Aero Helmet and ISM Saddle (not pictured)
My arrival at T2
I knew I was first off the bike in my division. That was a good feeling as I started the run, which I consider my strongest discipline.

13.1 Miles
1:52:42 (8:34 min/mile pace)

This run course consisted of a two loop course through William & Mary. The turnaround was up a 1/2 mile climb that really put a hurting on the athletes. After 3 70.3 races in 7 weeks, I could tell my legs were tired. 

K-SWISS are simply faster!

High Five from the legend, Sean English!
FREE Finisher Picture at ALL REV3 Races!

PODIUM! 3 for 3 in REV3 Events in 2013!
ALL races should finish with beers with Wattie Ink teammates!

Friday, June 7, 2013

2013 REV3 Quassy HalfREV

What an awesome weekend! Another great REV3 race and another REV3 win!

I was excited to race REV3 Quassy and I was even more excited to travel to Middlebury, Connecticut with the whole family. This was also going to be a great weekend, as the race also served as the Wattie Ink Elite Team East Coast event! I'd finally get to meet all the Wattie's that I routinely conversed with via Facebook.
We left home early Friday morning and made the 350+ mile trip to central Connecticut, arriving a little after lunchtime. Friday was HOT and HUMID and it looked like the weather for that evening's REV3 Glow Run 5K and 1M Fun Run that evening was going to be the same. The Glow Run 5K was Katie's FIRST 5K and she ran with Lauren. I was lucky to run the 1M Fun Run with Will.

Katie and Will, ready to rock the Glow Run!

Lauren and Katie finishing the 5K!
Saturday was still warm, but not nearly as humid. I had plans to attend the practice swim, rack my bike and meet up with the rest of the Wattie Ink Elite Team for team pictures.

Wattie Ink. Elite Team taking over the Pro Panel. Questions?
Sunday, race morning, started with a 4:15 AM wake up. I had my normal breakfast and headed to the lobby of the hotel for some coffee and to meet my teammate, Bill, for a ride to the race venue. The weather looked to be hotter and more humid than I had raced or trained in this year. I love racing in the heat!
Ready to Rock the W!
SWIM - 1.2 Miles

The swim took place in Lake Quassapaug, in beautiful, 70 degree water. The swim course was 3, righthand turns, with 1/3 of the swimming DIRECTLY into the sun! This was also my first race to be a beach start, which I liked. Thanks to my badass, BlueSeventy Helix wetsuit, I was able to set a swim PR for the 1.2 mile swim.

Love my blueseventy Helix!


T1 was uneventful. 

BIKE - 56 Miles
19.10 Average MPH

Wow, this was the hardest bike course I've raced on yet. My Garmin recorded 4,200+ feet of elevation over the 56 miles. I had the plan to consume 2 bottles of PowerBar Perform which I had on my bike, plus I planned to utilize on-course nutrition. I also had 5 PowerBar Energy Gels in a small FuelBelt flask. As an athlete who sweats more than most, I rely on these PowerBar products to replaces lost fluids, sodium and potassium. 
I was pumped to race on a beautiful, sunny, New England morning. This could only mean one thing... I finally got to race with the visor down on my Kask K.31 Crono helmet! This helmet is well ventilated, cool and super comfortable, not to mention it looks badass. Pics to follow as REV releases them.
The New England roads are super smooth, with very few cracks or potholes. This allowed me to reach my fastest speed on a downhill to date, 46.9 mph! It didn't take much to get my Reynolds wheelset moving.
That climb at mile 24...OUCH!


I came into T2 with only one bike on the rack. I knew I had to run one guy down. I strapped on my K-Swiss Blade-Light Run 2 shoes and headed out onto the run course. 

RUN - 13.1 Miles
8:24 min/mile 

Coming out of T2, I saw Lauren, Katie and Will for the first time. This is ALWAYS makes me happy and put a smile on my face. Next, I was greeted by the Wattie Ink. Elite Team cheering squad, including the famous, Eurostar!

Heading out on the run course
The run course was mostly shaded and involved two, out and back sections, allowing me to scout out the competition, which I passed at mile 4! The run course did involve a long, 1.2 mile climb, allowing me to put some distance between me and those chasing. 

The highlight of my race was getting to cross the finish line with Katie and Will. Winning my division wasn't bad either. Securing my spot in REV3's Age Group Championship, held in Knoxville, 2014, was awesome too. 
My favorite finish yet!
TOTAL - 70.3 Miles
119th OVERALL OUT OF 997

Rocking the W on the Podium with the Eurostar
Wattie Ink pro, Heather Jackson and me, rocking the W with the Eurostar

Then, it was time for the Wattie Ink after-party!

Cheers! Prairie Fires all-around!

Thanks to Sean "Wattie" Watkins for putting together an awesome weekend. Congrats to Heather Jackson on a solid finish in the pro race. See you guys soon!

A very special thanks to Lauren, Katie and Will. Thanks for making my race weekend the best yet! Love you guys and let's do it again soon. Next up, the Clarke family takes of Williamsburg for REV3 Williamsburg!

Monday, May 6, 2013

REV3 Knoxville - HalfREV

The weekend that I've been waiting for all Fall, Winter and Spring had finally arrived, RACE WEEK! I left the house at 4:30 AM on Friday to make the 460 mile drive to Knoxville to race REV3 Knoxville.    I met good friends, Brain and Rachel Jastrebsky for breakfast in Salem, Virginia and then headed down I-81 for a very long time to Knoxville.
The host hotel overlooked the race expo and finish line.

Friday afternoon consisted of packet pickup, finish line recon and then a quick 30 minute run with Brian.
Finish line recon
I had planned on participating in ALL that REV3 had to offer during the race weekend, which started with the Glow Run 5K on Friday evening. The Glow Run 5K, a family friendly event, was held as a fundraiser for a former University of Tennessee swimmer, who was traumatically injured by the bombings at the Boston Marathon. It was a fun, low-key, very family friendly race. If you participate in a REV3 event, make sure you participate in all the events!
I ran socially with Wattie Ink teammate, Chris Hanson, but not before taking a picture with former Ironman World Champion, Mirinda Carfrae.
Finish line of the Glow Run 5K
The Glow Run 5K was followed by an outdoor showing of Wreck It Ralph on the jumbotron, complete with popcorn.

Saturday began with a recon of the bike course with Brian. We got back to the hotel just as it started to rain and it never stopped for the next 36 hours. At noon, at the SWIM OUT, there was a practice swim and another REV3 event, the Ugly Wetsuit Contest. SPOILER ALERT.... I won a blueseventy wetsuit for my troubles. Thanks to my support crew. You know who you are. Saturday afternoon consisted of bike racking and feet up. One of the benefits of REV3 Knoxville is the location of the transition area. Transition is in the first floor of a parking garage = DRY! The rest of the evening consisted of making sure my gear was in order and getting mentally prepared. 

I woke up Sunday at 4:00 AM, 30 minutes before my alarm. I was ready to go. I had a few goals that i had not shared with anyone. I wanted to win my division and fulfill 1/2 of the qualifications for REV3's Age Group Championship. I had been following results from my West Coast Wattie Ink. Elite Team teammates and I wanted to live up to the hype. This would be my first race on the Wattie Ink. Elite Team and I felt like I had something to prove. It was time to rock the W. 

The weather was exactly as forecasted... 52 degrees with rain, heavy at times. Awesome. I was pretty much soaked by the time I made it to transition. I got my race area ready and put on my new, custom Wattie Ink. blueseventy Helix wetsuit. By far, the best on the market.
Custom, Wattie Ink. blueseventy Helix. 
I met up with the rest of the Wattie Ink. athletes racing for a team picture. 

SWIM 1.2 Miles
The water temperature was 58 degrees and it definitely got the better of me. The swim was roughly 1/3 upriver, around two buoys and then 2/3 downriver to the UT Boathouse. My goggles stayed fogged up and the cold water kept me from getting into a good rhythm. The swim is never my strongest discipline, but I was hoping for a swim around 33-34 minutes. I was very happy with my blueseventy Helix wetsuit. Amazing. 

Transition was roughly .35 miles across a road and into the parking garage. This is a LONG run between disciplines. 

BIKE 56 Miles
2:46:54 (20.62 mph average)
The bike course consisted of a few miles in the city of Knoxville, followed by country roads with 4 big climbs. I have now realized that there is not a flat portion of Knoxville. It is either up or down. With the amount of quick descents and the pouring rain, my plan was to not overdue it and possibly end up sliding across the asphalt. I took two bottles of PowerBar Ironman Perform and four PowerBar PowerGels. My Kask K.31 Crono aero helmet held up very well in the poor conditions. This was my first race with my new Reynolds wheelset. Despite having carbon breaking surface, they kept me safe, but most importantly, fast AND upright!

I could tell coming back into T2 that I was the first to rack my bike, so I was in good shape for my division.

RUN 13.1 Miles
1:41:02 (7:42 min/mile pace)
I headed out on the run, in the pouring rain, in my K-Swiss Blade-Light Run 2 shoes. Within 1 mile, my shoes and socks were completely saturated. Luckily, the Blade-Light Run 2 shoe is made to maximize drainage and that is exactly what they did. The course, an out and back, exactly like the rest of Eastern Tennessee, was either sloped up or down. On the out portion of the course, the path was being flooded by some streams that had overrun their banks, causing many ankle deep puddles. When I returned to  these "puddles" on the back portion of the run, the were now mid-calf deep. Once again, thank goodness for the Blade-Light Run 2 shoe. They never got heavy, despite ALL that Mother Nature threw at me. For nutrition, I took fluids at every water stop and a PowerBar PowerGel at miles 3, 7 and 11. I was happy with the way I attacked the run course. I think I can improve on my time at REV3 Quassy in 1 month.
Mile 12 on the run!

70.3 MILES
1st Division
26th Overall
24th Male

Podium in the pouring rain

BOOM! 1/2 way to the Age Group Championship!

Thank you all who supported me. The afternoon after the race was super long. I packed up my car and drove home so that I could be there when Will woke up for his 5th Birthday.

I can't wait to enjoy both REV3 Quassy and Williamsburg in June with Lauren, Katie and Will. It will make it that much better.


Columbia Triathlon is NEXT.

Rock the W. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Do You Have a Contingency Plan?

I was recently asked by Becca Jackson, Social Media Director for Wattie Ink. Sports, to contribute a blog post for TriCalifornia. With no parameters, here is what I came up with. It is a topic I have been brainstorming for some time, so I was glad to be given an opportunity to finally create it. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think. 

As with most events in life, you can’t dwell on what goes wrong. You have to focus on what you can control, moving forward.

I find the above statement accurate in both my professional career AND in my triathlon “career”. By profession, I an 11 year veteran of the Fairfax County (VA) Fire and Rescue Department and a Lieutenant assigned to a busy Ladder Company. When not responding to emergencies, I train and race as a member of the 2013 Wattie Ink. Elite Team.

Firefighters are called daily, to help resolve or diffuse a citizen’s emergency in their time of need. The emergencies can be anything, ranging from structure fires to lockouts and medical emergencies ranging from cardiac arrest to a toothache. Although first responders train regularly to mitigate an emergency, there are often times when an event occurs on an emergency scene, causing the responders to “call an audible” and change their tactics. When responding to a fire, it is not unheard of to find an automobile parked in front of a fire hydrant, rendering it useless. At a structure fire, a piece of burning debris could fall and burn through a fire hose. The possibility of events that can and do go wrong at emergency scenes are infinite. The emergency scene is a dynamic event and rarely occurs exactly as responders plan or exactly like a textbook describes. What makes a good firefighter better is their ability to be fluid and change as the incident changes, not dwelling on what has gone wrong, but more on how can we fix the problem and move on to better meet the end goal.

I can easily relate the above scenarios to racing a triathlon, specifically the 70.3 or the 140.6 distance. Athletes can be on the course for a long time, from just under four hours for the top professionals in a 70.3 mile race to just under seventeen hours for the final AG finishers in a 140.6 mile race. Most athletes, in the weeks before a race, develop their race plan. A typical race plan outlines everything from wake up time to nutrition to transportation to race site preparation. As an athlete, I play every detail out in my brain, prior to a race. As an Officer in the Fire Department, I am tasked with making initial tactical decisions, playing out how my company will respond to different types of emergency incidents. Firefighters train for different scenarios and the sport of triathlon is no different.

What if the race start time is delayed? How will you modify your nutrition plan?
Have you planned in advance for adverse conditions (extreme cold/heat, rain or wind)?
How will you respond if your goggles are kicked off at the swim start?
If your nutrition is ejected off your bike, do you know approximately where the aid stations are on the course and will your stomach tolerate the on-course nutrition? What if you have a flat tire or wreck on the bike?
What if you are issued a penalty?
What if you start to bonk on the run?

It is almost impossible to improvise during a race. Switching to a “plan B” without a solid race plan AND backup plan in mind is extremely difficult. It is the mentally strong racer who is able to “recover” from a possibly harmful event and move forward, making the best out of the remainder of the race. If you dwell on the event that has occurred for too long, it will keep you from achieving your final goal.

Will you work through the above scenarios in your head as part of your race plan? What is your contingency plan? How will you respond to a change in race day tactics? Will you put the fire out and find your place on the podium? 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Rock 'n' Roll USA Half-Marathon

Prior to my first distance race of 2013, things were not starting to look good. About 10 days prior to the Rock 'n' Roll USA Half, I was diagnosed with bronchitis and placed on antibiotics forcing me to sit out a day of work AND almost a week's worth of training. Also, the D.C. weatherman was calling for race day temperatures in the mid-30's (I'm good with that), with a 100% chance of steady rain (I'm not good with that). Lucky for me, I was almost cured by modern medicine AND the weatherman was wrong! The temperature at the race start was in the high 40's, with no rain!

Thank goodness for modern medicine!
Race morning started like most race mornings. Alarm went off at 3:45 AM and I popped right up, showered, got dressed and headed to the kitchen for some breakfast. Yogurt with granola and a banana, topped off with PowerBar Perform. I stopped at Dunkin' Donuts on the way to the race for some coffee to get things going...and it worked. This race was unique in that it was a point-to-point race, starting near the National Mall and finishing at RFK Stadium. I picked up two buddies and headed to the finish area to park and ride the Metro to the start. I spent the rest of the morning sipping my PowerBar Perform and mentally prepping myself for the race.

My previous PR was 5 months ago at the Hartford (CT) Half-Marathon, where I ran 1:31:04. I was determined to beat this time, with a goal of breaking the 1:30:00 mark. It was my belief that if I ran sub 7:00 min/miles, I would break 1:30:00. Looks like my math is a little a lot off. I would need to run a 6:52 min/mile pace to break 1:30:00...
Rocking the W in Corral Number 1
Just prior to the start of the race, I took one packet of PowerBar Energy Blasts. I am HUGE fan of these, just find it very difficult to carry them on a road race. It is much easier to carry and consume them during the bike portion of a triathlon. I planned on then taking one PowerBar PowerGel at the 30 minute mark and a second at the 60 minute mark, knowing that would be sufficient to take me to the finish. I have always observed the rule to not use anything "new" on race day, but I took my K-Swiss Kwicky Blade-Light S shoes out of the box for the first time on race morning. I HAD to rock the patriotic, red, white and blue shoes at the R'n'R USA race! I had absolutely ZERO problems! Thank you, K-Swiss!
Brand NEW K-Swiss Kwicky Blade-Light shoes and PowerBar PowerGels

The course seemed very fair, with one known hill, just prior to the halfway point. Below is the elevation chart as advertised on the R'n'R website:

Here is the elevation chart as found as I found it on my Garmin after (yes, there was a large spike in my HR as a result of this hill):
Ouch, that hill hurt!
It was not until I reached almost mile 12 that I realized I needed to make up some time if I was to break 1:30:00! I picked up the pace, but fell a few seconds short. Nevertheless, I am very happy with my results! I feel like I nailed my nutrition and nailed my effort as evidenced by HR data (average HR of 169 and max HR of 183).

5K Split: 21:28 (6:55 min/mile)
10K Split: 43:13 (6:58 min/mile)
10M Split: 1:09:26 (6:57 min/mile)
13.1 Finish: 1:30:24 (6:54 min/mile and overall, NEGATIVE SPLITS and a NEW PR)

According to the data off my Garmin, my 13th mile was clocked at a 6:20 pace, which I am VERY pumped about! I am super excited where my fitness is, as I am now less than two months out from REV3 Knoxville and the start of my triathlon season! I'm ALL IN for 2013! It gives me great satisfaction when two people approached me post race telling me they've never seen a big guy run like I do! 
It's AMAZING how much better the beer tastes AFTER a PR!
Race pictures to be posted as they begin to surface. 

Thank you to PowerBar, K-SwissWattie Ink, the Wattie Ink Elite Team and especially my family!  

Rock the W!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Cycle for ALS Benefit Spin

With daytime temperatures still in the 30's, I am forced to take my cycling workouts inside on the bike trainer. One day, while surfing to the end of the internet, I came across a flyer advertising a charity spin, benefiting ALS and the Blazeman Foundation. The spin, supported by Tri360, was 179 minutes, after Jon "Blazeman" Blais' race number from Ironman Kona in 2005.

The spin started at 8AM and was planned by the coaching staff from local triathlon team, Team FeXY. I was excited for a "longish" spin that didn't have to take place alone in my basement. There was a screen set up describing the workout and music blared from the speakers. There were about 50 athletes in the room. This was exactly what I was looking for.

Rock the W

The athletes were informed, midway through the session, that the athlete who rode the furthest distance, in the 179 minutes, would receive a free entry to any race at the 2013 ChesapeakeMan Endurance Festival. After cranking on the bike for 179 minutes, I was happy to finish with a total of 55.7 miles, more than 8+ miles more than anyone else! It wasn't a "race", but I was pumped to have gained that much of a "lead" on the field. All in for '13!

Thank you to PowerBar for keeping me fueled. Three bottles of PowerBar Ironman Perform and two packs of PowerBar Energy Chews kept the cramps away. 

As always, I was very thankful to have an ISM Seat on my triathlon bike. #ComfortISM