Monday, November 11, 2013

Site Moved to

Hello and thank you for stopping by! Just wanted everyone to know that I have started a new website ( and will be hosting all blog posts from there. Thank you for following me over the year! I'd love to hear your thoughts on the new website, feel free to use the contact tab and let me know.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Murphy's Law- Kona Race Report

Saturday was my last official race as an amateur (for a few years at least!). I didn't go out with the bang I was hoping to...unless you count the sound of tires popping! It took me a few hours to be able to say this, but all-in-all, I had a decent day. I had a PR in the swim, a PR (and the fastest amateur) run split, and I finished 9th in my AG. Settling for a top 10 was no where near where I wanted to be, but I battled some tough adversity on the bike and was able to put up a good run split. It was definitely a learning experience and a test of overall mental toughness.
It was ALL I could do to not to give the McKayla Marone "Not Impressed" look for this Finisher Pic

Swim- 1:00:28
Bike- 5:07:33
Run- 2:53:33
Total- 9:07:56

Race Morning

My wife and most of my family were volunteering race morning, so I woke up when they left the condo to get ready to go. My dad dropped Ashley off at the race start then came back to pick me up. I actually slept alright all things considering. I had my typical breakfast (a Naked Fruit Smoothie) and pulled my nutrition together and headed out the door. I got to transition right at 4:45 as it was opening up. I got my bike and nutrition set up with little difficulty, visited the bathroom twice, and got ready to get in the water.

I got in the water pretty early and warmed up for 5 to 10 minutes then made my way to where I wanted to start. I forgot how aggressive people get during the 20 minutes of treading water before the swim start. There is a lot of pushing, elbowing, and jostling for position. The guys on the surf boards are constantly trying to push people in the front back and the people in the back are constantly crowding forward. It is not a fun experience to say the least!


The swim start caught me a bit off guard. One of the guys on a surf board yelled out "4 minutes before start" and then "Boom!" Everyone took off and it was a mad house for the next 5 minutes. I intentionally tried to stay in the traffic as much as I could, especially on the first half. Tim, my swim coach, convinced me that I'll be much faster even if I don't feel if I am swimming as smooth in the wake of the madness than feeling like I am swimming smooth by myself. Anytime I would get tempted to get out of the madness, I just reminded myself that everyone stayed there for a reason, and I should buy in. I swam about as hard as I could for about 300 yards or so, a little longer than I wanted to. The swim catching me off guard made me a little off of where I wanted to be so I pushed a little early on to get there then settled into my pace.

Once I settled in to race pace, I was able to get into a good rhythm and keep it constant for the entire swim. I felt really smooth and was able to keep form for the entire swim. I have put a ton of time working on my swim over the last two months and it really paid off. Tim had me ready to race! I felt great at the turn around point and was picking off quite a few people on the swim back into the pier. I got out of the water and smiled as I looked at my watch. I was 9 minutes faster than I was last time on the big island. I thought I was set up for a great day. That thought would change pretty quickly on the bike.


I ran up the stairs peeled off of my swim skin and threw it in my bike bag. Everything was already on my bike so I made my way to my bike quickly and was off to the Bike Out. I couldn't run as fast as I wanted to due to the congestion of all of the other racers but I made it to the mount line in 2:15.


The bike leg started out great. I got up the first small hill and got settled in. I passed a few big packs of bikers early on and was pretty much in the passing lane for the first 20 miles. I was averaging a little higher watts than I planned on for the first 20 miles, but I felt great and I was starting to get the sense that the weather was not going to be much of a factor on the day. The conditions were turning out to be perfect! I averaged 27 mph for the first 40 miles (with a slight tail wind). At around 41 miles, I made a rookie mistake. I came up on a group of 5 riders and stayed to the right for a second too long and got boxed in. I wanted to pass the whole group, but I couldn't move to my left because there was someone sitting there. I was already in the draft zone of the rider in front of me, but I sat up to slow down just long enough to try to get to the left of the entire group to pass. Right as I sat up, the moped showed up and called my number for drafting. I didn't argue, but I was frustrated. I certainly wasn't trying to draft, but I did enter the draft zone and drop back so there was nothing I could do. I decided since I was going to have a 4 minute rest in a few miles, it wouldn't hurt anything to put in a surge to the penalty tent. I pushed the watts up about 15 above my target until I got to the tent. I had never been called for drafting before and was a bit frustrated to have it happen at Kona. I just focused on getting as much fluid and calories in me as I could while I was sitting watching people fly by. I looked at my watch as I was about to leave the tent and was still averaging 26 mph, well above my goal pace so I was still optimistic on the day.

I made it to the climb into Hawi pretty quickly after the penalty. I pushed 270 watts for most of the climb and felt really strong. I was feeling really confident with my training and the plan that Michelle, the coach I work with for the bike and run, helped me set up. Despite the 4 min set back, things were going better than planned and I felt great. I made it up the hill and to the turn around point, which is were things took a turn for the worse. Within a quarter mile of Hawi, my rear tire went flat. I was racing on tubulars for the first time ever. I had a can of Pit Stop with me, so I wasn't too upset about the flat yet either. I jumped off of the bike and got the tire blown up. I could see a small puncture in the middle of the tread with some ooze coming out. The tire was full, I gave it a quick spin and everything looked good. I hopped back on my bike in just over a minute. Again, this didn't bother me too much. I was still sitting great and ahead of my goal pace and wattage. I got back up to speed and quickly started passing people on the descent again.

I had to jump off of the bike for a third time about 5 miles later. My front wheel had gone completely flat this time and I almost biffed it on the first turn after the Hawi descent. I jumped off and took a gamble. Instead of changing my tire, I tried to just put some air in the tire and hope that it would make it the last 30 miles. I again hopped on my bike in just over a minute and was on my way. I started to worry a little at this point, but was thinking if the tire would just give me 30 more miles, I was still sitting in a great place and was still ahead of my planned pace. No luck. In about 5 miles, the tire went completely flat again. I jumped off and took off the front wheel. I went to grab my tire lever and it wasn't there! I had it taped in with the spare tubie I brought but it must have fell out after I removed the first layer of tape holding the can of Pit Stop in. I improvised a bit and unscrewed the valve extender and tried to use that to pry loose some of the glue. It took me about two minutes to get the valve extender underneath the tire and start working away at the glue. I  finally got the tubular off right as the tech wagon showed up. Thankfully I had my spare tubie with me. I actually called coach Michelle the day before the race and asked her if I should just ditch it. I mean, who gets more than 1 flat in a race anyway??? She told me to just keep it on like I planned, which turned out quite helpful (unfortunately!). The tech had a tool and a pump, and got my spare on my bike as I started to work on hydration again. The second tech inspected my wheel and showed me a very similar puncture hold in the middle of the tread. I must have hit the same rock, nail, or tack with both wheels. I finally got moving again but this change was over 10 minutes! If you're adding, that was more than 17 minutes of sitting motionless on the bike. Not a good recipe for a PR. I really started to get frustrated at this point and even had the thought of just stopping the race because my shots of getting accomplished what I set out to do had just been taken away. The thought was short lived and I jumped back on my bike and began the last 25 mile stretch.

The last 25 miles were actually pretty tough. I was struggling to fight mentally with all that had happened already. The wind had picked up significantly over the last hour and I was a bit on my own on the bike. It was really difficult to keep focused for me, something I really haven't experienced in a race before. I finally saw the airport and knew I was getting close. I went by the turn to the Energy Lab, and that is where I decided that I was going to do everything possible to salvage my day. I was going to run hard or blow up trying. I made sure my nutrition levels were good as I made my way into T2.

I have no idea what I totaled for nutrition and water intake. I stopped paying attention. I just made sure I got my Infinit Napalm in on schedule and downed all of my bottles of Custom Blend that I had with me. Other than that, I just worked to make sure my stomach was full of fluids at all times. I was targeting 245 watts for the ride. I haven't got the chance to look at my full data yet, but my moving average was 260 watts. I am sure my average was lower than 245 though.


I had another unplanned stop here. I have NEVER had to pee during a race before. I always have balanced my fluid intake so I was uncomfortable, but never so uncomfortable that I actually had to pee. Evidently when you are sitting still for a total of 17 minutes on the bike, your kidneys decide to start back up. I could hardly stand up straight as I was coming off of the bike so I stopped in the Port-a-Pot in transition. I peed for 2 minutes straight! When that finally ended, I made my way through the changing tents and into the run.


I started the run like every other race that I had before. I don't typically look at my watch for a pace for the first few miles. I typically just run on feel for the first 5. Michelle really wanted me to focus on controlling the pace for the first 10 miles, then push it hard the last 5. I was running angry for the first mile and let the pace get a little ahead of where the plan had me. My first mile was a 5:48. I did look at my watch at the 1 mile marker and had a mental battle with myself. I had to force myself to accept the fact that I couldn't run angry for 26 miles in the heat and humidity. It honestly took me about a mile and a half to make that decision. I dropped to a 6:00 pace while I was having the mini mental war, then forced myself to pull back to a 6:15-6:20 pace. I actually saw Tim on the run course and he yelled out at me to stay focused and salvage what I could out of the day. That snapped everything back and I settled back to the original plan. I held a steady 6:20 pace up through mile 9, then hit the first big hill up Palani. Man did the hill hurt. I realized I was going to have to be smart on the up hills and use the descents and flats to push the pace. I usually struggle more on the down hills at this point in the run, but my hamstrings just weren't there and my quads felt great. The climb up Palani was at about a 7:15-7:30 pace, I just couldn't keep any speed. As soon as I turned left onto the highway, the course leveled out and I was able to get back to a 6:30 pace. I did start to feel some cramps sneaking up on me in both calves and quads. I took my 6th salt tabs of the day and decided it was time to switch to Cola for the rest of the run. I was staying with my Napalm with Caffeine every 3 miles plan. My stomach felt pretty calm, so I knew that I would be able to get whatever I needed calorie wise and be alright.

For the first highway stretch, I averaged 6:30s. I was feeling pretty good. At the last stop before the Energy lab, I dumped as much ice down my shorts, grabbed as many sponges as I could, and threw every cup of water on me I could grab. I got into the lab and could see quite a few AGers making their way out. I resisted the urge to be frustrated again and just focused on finishing the final 10 miles strong. I wanted to break 2:55 on the run and was sitting in a great position to do so. I made it to the turn around and grabbed my special needs bag. This was another first, I had never used special needs before. All I had in the bag was two bottles of water. I froze them the night before and threw them in the bag. I took a quick sip of water, and dumped the entire first bottle on my head. It was still ice cold! I carried the other bottle with me for a half mile, took a quick sip of the water after a shot of Napalm and two more Energy Lab ElectroSalts (fitting name given where I was!) then dumped the rest of the water on myself again. I remembered how much I baked in 2011 in the Energy lab and did everything I could to prevent that from happening this year. The slowest mile of the day came as I was trying to climb out of the Lab. Again, I just couldn't hold the pace. That mile was about a 7:45 but as soon as I crested the hill, I quickly settled back into my 6:30 to 6:40 pace. I was sitting good on time as long as I didn't blow up on the last few miles.

I hit mile 21 and decided it was time to push it in. I wanted to make sure I gave myself a cushion to break 2:55. The cramps that I had been fighting off for 12 miles started to rear their ugly heads again, but I was determined not to let them show up. I held 6:30s for mile 21 and 22 then slowed to a 6:55 pace for mile 23. I made it a final mini goal not to let the last three be above 7 min pace and I stuck to it. Mile 24 was a 6:50. With 1.5 miles to go, I finally caught a guy I had been trying to chase down for 2 miles. I passed him and he decided he wanted to battle a little and ran with me. I actually really enjoyed it! I had never had to push that hard to the finish. We turned down Palani, but this time gravity was in my favor. I was flying down the hill. I checked my watch once and it showed a 4:05 moving mile 25 of the marathon! My right hamstring locked up hard on the down hill, but I was moving too fast to even think about trying to slow down. There was no way I could have beat the momentum. The last 1/2 mile was pure pain. I never looked, but I thought the guy was right behind me so I kept the pace up as hard as I possibly could. I saw Tim, my brother and my dad with just under a half mile to go and then the rest of my family right at the gate to the final stretch to the finish. They gave me the last bit of encouragement I needed to push through the chute with a PR of 2:53.

There were a ton of mixed emotions as I crossed the finish line. It definitely wasn't the surge of joy I felt in 2011. I knew I did everything I could to salvage the day. I ran as hard as I could have. On the flip side, I knew that I didn't come close to the overall goal that I had coming into the race.

I think I am most frustrated by the fact that it was pretty evident that my fitness was where it needed to be to finish where I set my goals for. I keep returning to the idea that you are dealt a hand of cards for each race and it is up to you to play them as well as possible. Overall, I think I played the cards I was dealt pretty well all things considered. I am still bummed I didn't get the result that I wanted, but I learned a lot from the race, had a swim and a run PR, and battled through some pretty tough times mentally.

I was so blessed to have the support of my family who made the trip. It was awesome to have some encouragement on the course, I definitely needed it at times.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Kona Bike Setup

I spent a lot of time this year working on and writing about the engine that drives the bike. But I also spent some time trying to work on the overall efficiency. I worked on getting better equipment that would help make my overall ride more aero and also getting comfortable in a more aggressive and aero position for the ride. I definitely could not have been able to make a lot of these changes without help, and am very thankful for the support of, Quintana Roo, and the Timex Factory Team.

Quintana Roo Illicito Di2 Triathlon BikeFirst things first, I'll be riding a 2013 Quintana Roo Illicito. I got the bike mid summer and spent a month or two constantly tweaking the position to be a bit more aggressive overall. I am on a smaller frame than the Cervelo P3 I rode at IMTX and the overall set up is lighter. Both good things. On the P3, I had some stability issues, any time I went to take a drink I moved all over the road. I limited my fluid replacement to when I was climbing because I slowed down enough to be able to take one hand off of the bars and drink while holding the bike steady....although this was the fastest set up I could be on for that bike, it isn't the best approach to an IM distance race. I didn't hit my fluid intake goals at Texas and I struggled pretty bad on the final few miles of the run. More on that later...

The Illicito came stocked with Di2 Ultegra gear. I don't really care if this added to the "aeroness" of the overall bike, I like having the comfort of knowing I can shift from the big ring to the small ring without throwing the chain. I also like knowing the rear derailer is going to respond correctly. Not a comfort shared on my previous bike. If you know anything about QR or the Illicito, you know all of the benefits of their frame and the design. I'll let their facts and figures do the talking:  I've certainly been impressed so far. Even without aero gear on, the average speed to watt ratio has been much better with this set-up than I was hitting with my aero kit and wheels with my P3.

I am really excited to be riding on the Shimano Dura Ace C75 Tubulars with Challenge Tubies mounted to them. The Timex Factory Team worked out a killer deal for all of their team members to be able to ride these wheels for any IM 140.6 race this year. Kona is no exception. I got to ride these wheels at Ironman Texas and fell in love with them. They are an amazing race set and the tires handle like nothing I have ever rode before. Yes, these would be the wheels that Crowie rode when he set the course record in 2011. I am more than excited to be able to ride this set of wheels for another race. I am not as used to changing tubular tires if I happened to flat so I'll be carrying a can of Pit Stop in my rear kit just in case. A few grams of security is well worth it!

Sidi Men's T3 Carbon Triathlon Cycling Shoe
Look Keo 2 Max PedalsI put a new set of Look Keo 2 Max Carbon pedals ( on the Illicito as well and will be riding in Sidi T3 Carbon Tri shoes ( Basically a stiffer shoe plus lower spinning resistance plus good shoe and cleat placement equals more power transfer to the pedals. I want to make sure that every bit of work that I put out possible goes into the pedals. Again, very happy with this set up both based on results and feel.

Profile Design Aero HC SystemBack to the hydration issue I had with my P3. It is generally pretty well accepted that the bottle between the aerobars is the most aero position to place it. But the bottle set-up matters as well. I am going with the Profile Design Aero HC system ( for between the bars. Some have reviewed this pretty harshly, mainly due to the straw sticking up in the air and in your face when you are in the aero position. Personally, I like this being it is a constant reminder that you need to be drinking. I find that I drink a lot more when I use this bottle than when I use a normal bottle.

ISM Adamo Racing Saddle
X-Lab Gorilla Carbon Cage One bottle is certainly not enough for an IM distance race so I needed a option to hold a few more. I went with the Speedfill R3 system ( and will have two Xlab Gorilla cages ( to hold the bottles in place. The reason I went this route is for the variability of options. You can use the R3 system with the Adamo Race 2 saddle that I use ( Also, you can switch from 1, 2, or 3 cages which is nice for the longer training rides. It may not be the most aero or lightest option of all of the rear hydration systems but it allows a great deal of flexibility and allows me to have the bottles in whatever position I want them in and I don't have to buy multiple systems for training, 70.3 races, and 140.6 races.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Kona Prep Update

It's been about a month and a half since my last post. My training went into a bit of an overdrive as I made the final 6 week push to Kona. At the same time, the new school year started up. Needless to say, I fell a little behind and my new year's resolution to have a higher commitment to social media outlets. Unfortunately, it was one of the things that had to take a back burner. I finally hit "hump week" and the overall training volume is starting to slide back downhill. There is still a lot of work to be done, but I am finding myself with a few minutes of free time this week so decided it was time for an update.

I could not ask for training to be going any better. Michelle with OutRival Racing and Tim with Magnolia Aquatics Club Masters successfully brought me to my knees training wise without getting me hurt. I flirted with a touch of Achilles tendonitis for about 2 days, but that was the only issue I had besides the constant soreness and fatigue. I am only two days into my recovery week and I am starting to feel great. I am trusting that their plans will have me ready to peak when it matters...October 12.

Since the addition of the two coaches, my training has changed dramatically. Working with Michelle on the bike and run legs has given me much more direction with the workouts I am doing. The main changes with my new plan in these two areas include much higher bike volumes and a more brick workouts. I had a few long "race simulation" days as well which were a high volume/race intensity bike and run. I feel much more confident in my bike fitness than I did going into previous races. My plan had me doing multiple 130 to 140 mile rides and mixing in tempo and sprint work as well. I have actually been showing gains during the run as well. I have been pretty happy with the way I have ran all season, but I realized I was just being content. Michelle has pushed me beyond that and into a state of always wanting more. I've had a few sub 2 hour 20 mile runs during a brick workout during the build and have very high expectations for the run leg especially for Kona.

My swim training has changed dramatically. Tim has instilled a paradigm shift in me. Basically, you get faster by focusing more on efficiency and technique during shorter sets and not just by putting in yardage when fatigued. I have done more anaerobic sets in the last 6 weeks than I have combined in three years of training. He has helped me make a few mechanical changes in my stroke that seem to be helping me reach the goal of swimming faster for longer. I admit I was a little skeptical at first but the results won me over.

I still have a ton of work to do in all three areas, there is no doubt about that. Especially if I want to be a competitor at the next level rather than a participant. However, I am excited about the improvements I have made this year, especially over the last 6 weeks. I am going to spend the next thee weeks putting a few more deposits in the fitness bank (especially in the pool) and getting my mind and body ready the the big day. I left Kona two years ago happy for the experience but not satisfied with the day. I hope when I board the plane on the return trip I won't feel like I have unfinished business.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Rev 3 Wisconsin Dells- Race Report

I was really excited for my first Rev 3 race. I had heard how well the races were run and I have been thinking about doing the Rev 3 series as a Pro next year. I wanted to see if all of the hype was true. I was also really excited about this race because my family was going to be there AND my sister, Liz, was going to do her first triathlon ever! About a year ago, I promised her I would do a race with her and this is the one we chose. She did great despite the tough course and monsoon during the bike. I think she is officially a Tri Addict!

Swim- 28:59 - 1st in AG, 4th Overall
T1- :55 seconds
Bike- 2:33:02 - 2nd in AG, 4th Overall
T2- ???
Run- 1:16:08 - 1st AG, 1st Overall

Ovearll- 4:19:04- 1st AG, 1st Overall

Race Morning
I got in late on Saturday night from AG nationals so I hadn't been able to register for the race yet. I am very thankful that the people at Rev 3 were willing to work with me so I could go to awards at AG Nats and still race. As soon as I found out I made the podium on Saturday, it took one phone call to and about 3 minutes to get everything set up. Awesome customer service! Anyway, I didn't get into town until around 9:00 and all of my gear was dirty and in mass array. I was a bit stressed to say the least and I am luck my family didn't kill me! I definitely let the sress get the best of me. Silly when I look back at it.

I needed to be at the expo at 5:15 to register. I didn't get much sleep the night before, so I wasn't looking forward to this at all. However, I thought this was going to be a race I could do well in so I wasn't going to let a lack of sleep for a few nights get in the way. The lady who helped me register was awesome and got me ready to go quickly. I got my transition area set up, then helped my sister with a few last minute things in her area then we just hung out for a bit. My wife was volunteering for the race in Transition so we got to chat a little before the race.

I got in the water a little earlier than I did the day before. I got nearly 15 minutes of swimming in before the national anthem. I wanted a little more time to warm up for this race being I raced hard on Saturday. I was feeling pretty good, but I wanted to make sure I was ready to go. After the warm up, I got in line for the time trial start. I wasn't really sure where to put myself but I ended up 4th in my AG to enter the water. I wanted to be in the front being I was thinking I wanted to go for the overall win.

I thought the swim went great. I swam up to one of the two who started right before me and just sat on his hip for the entire swim. I used him to sight off of and just focused on keeping my strokes long. I timed the turns well was able to steer around all of the people in the 40 plus AG wave who started before me. I really don't understand why so many races put the slower swim waves first. I would really like to see this changed at some point, but I guess it won't matter much to me for the next few years. I got out of the water and looked at my watch thinking I just killed the swim. I was a bit slower than I expected being I was able to swim with literally no interruptions the entire time. It may have been a bit long, many of the other athletes thought they should have been a bit faster as well.

My guess is I am thinking about food...

The run into transition was long and uphill. The path was smooth so it was really no big deal. I didn't realize how hard it was raining until after I got my wetsuit off. It went much better than Saturday and I grabbed my helmet and bike and ran out onto the course.

I definitely should have paid a little more attention to the race profile. I don't think the 11-23 cassette was the right choice for this course! Wow, I wasn't prepared for those hills. To add on, as soon as I started riding, the rain started coming down harder. I was in third overall leaving T1 and had moved into first after about 8 miles. It was pretty cool to have a police motorcycle as an escort for a few miles. There were quite a few technical spots on the course. The was a sharp turn about half way down the descent after the first big climb. I squeezed my breaks and felt my rear break cable go slack. I didn't really think about it until I got to the next climb and I could hear a squeal. I tried to ride through it but it felt like I was pulling a plow up the hills. I got to the top of the hill and jumped off the bike to see if I could adjust it so it wouldn't rub. No luck. It rubbed the for the remainder of the ride. Not only did I have to over power the break on the wheels, but I also had to listen to the squealing tire for 2 hours. Annoying!

I got passed by two guys that I had already passed. I really tried to push to hold the first guy in sight, but it was a no go. I could hang with them on the descents and flats, but I could not get any momentum going up the hills. The rain was pouring down, which may have helped reduce the friction on the rear wheel a bit. I downed my first bottle of Custom Infinit a little quicker than I expected. I re-filled my Aero bottle which lasted me through the rest of the course. I brought two bottles of Infinit, one bottle of water with a Gu Electrolyte tab in it, and a flask of Infinit Napalm and that was good for the course. I am really starting to get my nutrition plan dialed in and like that I can do a 70.3 without having to rely on aid stations.

This was my second ride on my Challenge Triathlon tires. I was really impressed with how well they handled in the water. There was even a one mile section of the course that was gravel. I was a bit worried when I came up on it being it was so soggy out. I didn't feel like I lost traction once and I really didn't have to slow down more than I normally would have to take the corners.  

I rolled into T2 having no clue how far back I was. I wasn't thrilled about the ride but I was happy to finally pull into T2. I really pushed up the hills to fight my brake and I knew I had a race the day before. I was a bit concerned that my legs weren't going to hold up for the run.

I have no idea how long this took, but I think it went really quickly. The timing mat didn't pick up my chip as I left the transition. My fingers were completely numb and I struggled to get my helmet un-clipped. I threw on my soaked shoes and grabbed my flask of Infinit Napalm and salt tabs and threw on my race belt. It had stopped raining by now pretty much, but I decided to leave my Timex visor and sun glasses in transition. The visor on my helmet kept fogging up and I didn't want to deal with that on the run. As I was running out of transition, I heard my dad tell me I was about 4 minutes behind the leader.

I absolutely loved this run course. It was a hillier course than I had run all year. Being a somewhat strong runner, I thought this would work to my advantage. I got into my groove quickly and felt pretty good. We were running with the OLY runners, so there were quite a few people on the first three miles of the course. The early aid stations were still fully stocked and the volunteers were working hard. I popped two salt tabs at mile one and took a shot of Napalm at mile 3. I was still a bit concerned about how much of a toll Saturday's race would have. As soon as I got past the OLY turn around I could see a runner about a quarter mile ahead of me. I thought he was the second place athlete. It took me about a mile to run him down. I couldn't see anyone else in front of me so I actually put in a 2 mile surge to try to bridge the gap. I asked one of the kids in the mile 5 aid station how far in front of me the other guy was. He said "um...pretty close..." so I tried to pick it up a little more. As I came up to the mile 6 aid station, the only volunteer was sprinting to the station to try to beat me there so she could hand me a Gatoraide. She said she wasn't expecting anyone for a few minutes yet. I started to figure out that there was no one in front of me. I wasn't positive until I got to the turn around a half mile later. I took another quick swig of Napalm and decided that I could probably be a bit more conservative. I had about a 4 minute lead at that point and couldn't see the second place guy at the turn. I dropped my pace from 5:25's to about 5:40. I still wanted to run hard and use the rest of the run as training for October, but I wanted to make sure I didn't bonk. I felt really good at mile 7 so I didn't think I needed to back off any more than that.

The last mile of the run was pretty tough. You moved to the sidewalk down the strip at the Dells. There was a lot of stepping on and off of the curb. There were also quite a few cars turning into and out of parking lots. I had to dodge a few and run around a few cars. Really, that is the only complaint about the course. Unfortunately, there were not a ton of people out on the course due to the rain. The finish line was a bit anti-climatic because of this but you can't do anything about the weather. One of the benefits was how easy it was to spot my family who braved the elements!

I got what I was going after for this race, the WIN! When I was setting my race schedule, I chose this race as one I thought I could win. I didn't know how my body would respond the day after the Olympic race, but for some reason I wanted this race. I usually focus only on the process and let the results settle where they do. As I think about moving to Pro status next year, I am going to have to find a few races where I enter them to win.

I am really happy my sister and I were able to do a race together. She had fun and wants to do another! It was awesome to have my family there to support both of us during the race. God has certainly blessed me in so many ways, and my awesome family is one of those ways.

Age Group Nationals- Race Report

This past weekend was very tough on me...more mentally than physically. I entered this double race weekend with the approach that these were "B" priority races that would help me prep for Kona. I didn't really taper into the weekend at all. I did a long bike and a 22 mile run the weekend before and did a high intensity S/B/R on Tuesday and Wednesday. I took it a little easier on Thursday and Friday but it was in no way a full taper. I wanted to race hard both races, but leading into the week I was feeling October was more important. I had not done a Olympic distance race in over three years. Every time I have signed up for one it has been shortened due to weather or cold water. I didn't know how I could do, and I didn't have the confidence in my bike strength to be successful at this short distance. After the fact, I am a bit torn.

AG Nats was a great experience overall. I learned a lot. I learned a lot about myself and of course I gained another race full of experience. I am happy to have an Olympic under my belt and to have a baseline time now for the race.

Swim- 20:56 - 29 AG, 163rd Overall
T1-1:56 - 45th AG- 217 Overall
Bike- 58:16 - 17th AG, 53rd Overall
T2- 1:00 - 14th AG, 49th Overall
Run- 33:38 - 1st AG, 3rd Overall

Overall- 1:55:44 - 3rd in AG; 12th overall

Race Morning
I woke up around 4:30 and packed up my stuff, ate (drank) a quick breakfast, and left my the friend's house I was staying at. My wife and I didn't know how traffic would be or how hard it would be to park. We actually had no trouble getting to the race or getting parked. I took about a 30 minute nap in the car before heading to transition. I jogged over and got my gear set up then decided to head back to the car and took another 30 minute nap. The 25-29 wave wasn't scheduled to push off until 9:08, so I had nothing but time. I walked down to the race start with my wife around 8 and hung out until it was time to get in the water. The weather was about perfect. Very light breeze and about 75 degrees.

I got in the water as soon as I could so I could get a warm up in. I got about 10 minutes of swimming in so I was feeling pretty good when it came time to line up. The wave wasn't terribly large so I hung out in the middle with the straightest shot to the first turn I could find. I got off to a pretty good start without much contact. The front pack quickly separated and I was hanging on to the train well. We ran into the wave before us right where the course bottle necks to go under a bridge. It took a bit of maneuvering to get around the pack, but I was able to hang on to the front pack through the bridge. I lost focus for about 15 seconds shortly after when I ran into another AG wave and I got kicked out of the train. I put in a few quick spurts to try to catch back up but I just couldn't find them. I finished really in no man's land. Drafting in the water is definitely something I need to work on.

I slipped trying to run up the ramp to get out of the water but got into transition pretty quickly overall. For some reason, I couldn't get out of my wetsuit. It had been a while since i did a race that didn't have wetsuit strippers to help you out. Another thing I need to practice in the future. Having 245 people go through T1 just isn't going to cut it.

I had been working on mounting on the bike on the move. I was able to get on the bike and get moving without a problem. There were two quick turns, so I waited until after the second turn to put my feet in the shoes. I passed a lot of people who were trying to put their feet in before the turns. I think I made the right choice overall. I just didn't feel like I could get my legs going at the start of the ride. My PM was showing around 250 Watts and I wanted to be well over 300 average. I tried not to worry and just rode. About 20 minutes into the ride, the PM stopped working all together. I am not sure if I didn't feel like I was able to get rolling because the PM was showing false numbers or what was going on. As soon as the PM stopped working, I felt like I was able to just flush everything and just ride hard. The road surface was really bumpy. I launched my only water bottle early on and luckily caught it right as it was falling down the side of my bike! Another place I was completely airborne. I was a bit disappointed that a National Championship was being held on such cruddy roads. I know it is hard to find better roads in the Midwest but they were just not good. Overall, I was happy to be under an hour on the bike and felt strong heading into T2.

T2 went much better than the first but I still need to figure out how to be faster here. I struggled to get my shoes on a bit, but nothing major. I was out the gates without losing too much time and knew I had some work to do.

The run went really well. The course was pancake flat and really helped me keep my speed. I was really consistent in my mile splits. I didn't take any food or drink in at all during the run. I felt great and knew I got enough calories on the bike with the bottle of Gu Roctane that I downed. The bike course was also lined with spectators pretty well so there was a lot of energy on the course. I was happy with my overall run split even though two people put up a faster time.

My wife would have killed me if she missed this pic!

This was a great learning experience. I am left wondering a bit what I could have done if I would have had a full taper. I needed to remind myself that I was using this as a training weekend. When I keep that in perspective, that makes it even more rewarding to find the podium at my first crack at AG Nats.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Summer Update- Adding a Coach!

So far it has been a pretty great summer. I took a work trip to Spain/Morocco for the first 6 weeks which worked out pretty well being it was right after Ironman Texas. I didn't take any time off from training, but I scaled the volume way back. Being I didn't have my bike or regular access to a pool, I got quite a few long runs in some beautiful scenery in the mountains in both countries. I came back not knowing exactly where my fitness was, but Ironman 70.3 Racine showed me I was right on track.

Shortly after Ironman Racine, I started to think a lot about gearing up for Kona and moving forward into competing as a pro in the 2014 season. I started thinking about the possibility of adding a coach. This was a big step for me being I have always been "self coached." Although I've used a few plans other people have written for a framework or starting point, I have always set my own intensities for each workout. I also was traveling a lot so I would change the plans around to fit that schedule.

I've had some pretty good results so far this year, but I have come to realize that there is only so far that you can take yourself without some help. As volumes get high, it is always good to have another set (or two!) of eyes looking at your workouts. It is also important to have someone in your corner who has worked with professional triathletes before and helped them develop a high level of success to help structure and manage your workouts, race season, mental aspects, and even the nutrition plan. Also, one thing I really need help on is swim technique. That was something that was extremely important to me as I began the process of looking for a coach.

I spent quite a bit of time on the phone talking with perspective coaches. I was looking for a coach who understood the human body, understood the sport, and obviously was going to be a good fit for me. I also needed a coach who understands my work schedule and was willing to work with that while allowing me to maintain my personal life (i.e. stay married!). I wanted a coach who has worked with other professional triathletes and had a solid record of helping them reach their potential. I also needed a coach who could help me improve in the water so I wasn't trying to bridge a gap from the moment I hopped onto the bike when I make the next step. After numerous hours on the phone with different people, I think I have found exactly what I am looking for. I am thrilled to be working with Michelle LeBlanc of OutRival Racing and Tim Floyd from Magnolia Masters.

I first heard of OutRival Racing from watching the Ironman Texas course preview videos on youtube. I also had a chance to stop by their booth at the pre-race expo and chat with them and meet a few of their athletes.I chatted with one of their athletes after Racine about his experiences with the team as well. I had a great impression of their group from my first interaction and Michelle was my first call when it came to looking for a coach. After numerous phone calls and e-mails, I knew that working with Michelle and OutRival Racing was going to be a great fit. I appreciated Michelle's experience as a triathlete herself. I also liked her bluntness and to-the-point mentality when it came to coaching. She is research and data driven which should fit very well with how I like to train. I also got the impression that she cared about my progression as an athlete and truly wanted to help me reach my goals.

Michelle guided me to Tim Floyd of Magnolia Masters who works with swimmers who specifically focus on open water swimming. Obviously, that means he works with quite a few triathletes. He has a partnership with OutRival Racing and works with a few of their athlete's for the swim portion. Again, I really appreciated Tim's coaching philosophy and high level of communication. He is extremely knowledgeable about swimming, especially swimming in triathlons. He will work with me on technique (something I desperately need) and helping structure each swim workout to maximize my time in the water.

I am really excited to get to work with both OutRival Racing and Magnolia Masters. I am positive Michelle and Tim will help get me to where I want to be during the 2014 season and beyond!  

Monday, July 22, 2013

Ironman Racine 70.3- Race Report

I approached this race a little different than I have other races in the past. I just got back from a 6 week work trip 2 weeks ago, and I haven't been too happy with the workouts I'd been getting in since. I have been running well, but I haven't been really able to figure it out in the pool the last few weeks. I also switch bikes from a Cervelo P3 to a QR Illicito. I am thrilled to start working with QR. I had my first ride on the Illicito on Tuesday! I was able to get fit onto the bike really quickly, and I absolutely love the bike, but I was a little nervous about racing on a bike after only 3 rides. I wasn't able to get my Quark put on the Illicito being it had a different size bearing than what came on it and all of the bike shops in Iowa are booked solid with RAGBRAI. At the beginning of the week, I had decided that I was going to just train through the day and use the race as a training day for Kona. I had a few longer workouts Tuesday through Thursday, and finally had a good swim on Friday.

My wife and I didn't leave for the race until Saturday. I actually started getting really nervous during athlete check-in. My wife could tell something wasn't right and asked me what was going on. I told her I was trying to decide if I made the right choice. I had a really good race at Racine last year, and wanted to see how I could do with a better fitness level this year. On the other hand, I didn't taper into the race at all. After I got checked in, got some dinner, hit up the outlet mall (my wife's favorite place!), and returned to the hotel, I still hadn't figured out my plan for the next morning. I was still trying to decide how to approach the race.

Swim: 28:38
T1: 2:51
Bike: 2:15:45
T2: 1:10
Run: 1:13:27
Overall: 4:01:51- 1st AG, 1st Amateur, 9th OA

Race Morning

I woke up at 4:15, had my typical pre-race breakfast and left the hotel. We stayed about 25 miles away from Racine, so I didn't arrive to Transition until about 5:15, much earlier than I needed to but my wife was volunteering at the race. I had plenty of time to get my gear set up, make a trip back to the car to drop off my bag, and make a trip (or two) to the bathroom before making my way to race start. I was wave 21 so I didn't start until over an hour after the pro wave. The Racine course has about a mile walk from transition to the swim start. I took my time and got my head right for the day. As I walked along the beach, I could see how choppy the water was. The waves were looking pretty nasty. I had struggled previously in races whenever there was choppy water so I started to get a little nervous. I stopped and found a quiet spot on the beach 1/4 mile from the start right as the Pros were running out to start. I don't really know how long I sat there, but I was able to get focused. I decided that I wasn't going to think during the race at all, I was just going to push: Swim hard, bike hard, and run hard and just see what happened. I said a quick prayer, got in the water for a warm up, re-adjusted my goggles about 10 times, then got in line for the race start.  


Like I said before, the water was extremely choppy. I had watched a few waves start and remembered from last year how far the sand bar went out. I got off to a decent start, but as soon as I actually dove into the water to start swimming I started to struggle a bit. Swimming against the waves was tough. It was really difficult to sight, but I could see that I was in the middle of the pack of the green caps, which wasn't where I wanted to be. I just couldn't find a rhythm. I started to get a little frustrated, then remembered what my motto for the day was going to be. I tried to focus on just swimming hard. I finally got to the first turn so the waves were hitting me from the side. They seemed to calm down a bit in the deeper water, but I got quite a few mouthfuls of water as I tried to breath. It was hard to see the buoys but thankfully there was a big crane straight off in the horizon that made swimming straight a little easier. I was able to find some feet and actually draft off of another swimmer for a bit, something I have struggled to do in the past. I swam through quite a few of the waves of swimmers that started ahead of me. There were a lot of people holding onto the boats and treading water due to the choppy water.  I got to the second turn headed back to shore thinking that it would be a quick swim to the finish.The waves would throw you quickly forward, then it felt as if they were sucking you back. It was tough to know when to stop swimming because you would be in 6 feet of water at the top of the wave and 2 feet at the bottom. I butterflied a few times, then ran into transition.


This race had a long beach run into transition. I quickly found my legs and ran to the volunteers helping out with the wetsuits. I lucked out and I got into my wife's line so she got to play another role in my race day! I quickly found my bike area, threw on my helmet and started running toward the bike out. 


The start of the bike course is probably the hardest part of the whole bike leg. There is a short but decent incline just after the mount line. I ran through bike out with a pretty large group of people so it was a bit of a cluster at the mount line. I ran past the line a few feet and moved to the far left to mount. I got up the little hill and rode almost a half mile before I actually put my feet into my shoes. I finally got settled in and started to ride. I didn't use my power meter for this race, so I was going somewhat blind. I just stuck with the theme for the thinking, just racing. I pushed pretty hard for the first five miles, then settled in trying to keep as much pressure on the pedals as I could. I spent the entire race dodging in and out of the other AG competitors. It was frustrating at times, because they were often riding 4 wide. Definitely a drawback of starting at the end of the race. I was able to sling shot around a few of them, but the turns were congested and I had to break quite a few times to avoid crashing or running into oncoming traffic. The road surfaces were pretty bad...I think I have a case of shaken future baby syndrome after that ride. There was a sign that said "Bump" about 30 miles into the was about 30 miles late! That being said, the course was flat and the wind was low. You could maintain speed well and really push on the course without beating up your quads too much. 

I rode my new Illicito for the ride with Hed 90 wheels. I was felt really comfortable on the new ride. The DI2 was awesome! I actually shifted a lot more than I normally would have because I didn't have to worry about throwing the chain or waiting for the gear to switch. I carried all of my nutrition for the course with me so I didn't have to worry about the aid stations. I filled up a Profile Design aero bottle and another bottle with my Custom Infinit blend, a third bottle with Gu Roctane, and had a flask with Infinit Highly Caffeinated Napalm. I went through everything that I brought with me, finishing the final drinks of the Roctane right before I turned to go down hill to T2. I ended up riding about 3 minutes faster than my previous PR for a 70.3 course and was the fastest in my AG. The weather was perfect for a ride!


Not much interesting here, I had a pretty seamless T2. I dropped off my bike, threw on my Zoots and grabbed my glasses and visor and ran to the run out. 


The run was pretty flat overall with a few short hills that you can just punch up. I ran really consistent splits. My fastest mile was mile three with a 5:28, my slowest mile was mile 10 with a 5:50. I hadn't looked at my watch really at all, so I had no idea what overall time I was shooting for, I just wanted to put up a good run split. My legs felt really good, I really didn't have to fight to maintain my pace until about mile 8. It was a little frustrating to have to dodge people to get nutrition at the stations, especially on the second lap. The volunteers were great and were working hard which really helped. It was also nice that a lot of the people who lived on the course brought out their hoses and would spray you down as you ran by. The weather stayed pretty decent and I never really struggled to control my temperature. I took water at the first aid station, Perform at the second, then just stuck with water for the rest of the course. I carried a flask of Infinit Highly Caffeinated Napalm with me for the run and took a swig every 3 miles so didn't really want any more sugar. I felt great and didn't cramp at all. I ended up running the fastest run split on the day (barely!).

Great day on for!

Overall, I was really happy with the race. The day went with as little friction as possible. I am really getting my nutrition dialed in and am learning a lot about when and how hard to push. I have a few races before Kona, but everything from here on is meant to help me prepare for the big day. It is going to be a tough 12 weeks!

**Still waiting for a few pics, but wanted to get this up while I was thinking about it! I'll update soon.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Lifetime Tri Minneapolis- Race Report

Wow, what a day. Woke up at 5:15 to a thunderstorm. I checked the race announcements and they had no firm update yet so my wife and I got ready to go and left the hotel around 5:30. The Elite Wave was supposed to start at 7:14, so I was a little behind where I wanted to be but with the weather the way it was, I wasn't worried. Parking for the event was atrocious. There was no parking lot of any kind, only street side parking. We parked about a mile away from transition. I think my parents parked over two miles away. By the time I got my bike to the transition, it was 6:00 and they were just opening transition.

I got my station set up then played the waiting game. I left the house on Tuesday and spent some time with the in-laws before heading up to Minneapolis. I looked at the weather and tried to pack light...needless to say I didn't bring any rain gear. I was freezing as I was waiting for an announcement about what was going to happen. I used my wetsuit as a umbrella/jacket for a while. Finally they let us know they were going to shorten the race to the sprint distance due to flooding on the course and the race would start at 9:00. I decided that I needed a little harder warm up being it was a shorter course. I ran the mile back to the truck to let my wife know what was going on with the race, then ran pretty hard back. Around 8:50, I jumped into the water and swam for a few minutes before the National Anthem.

The water was warm, so it was a no wetsuit race. I was freezing when I got out of the water to wait for my start. Being it was only a 400 meter swim, I didn't even bother with the speed suit either. At the starting corral, they told us that the Elite wave would also be starting in a time trial format which was a change from the original plan. The start crept up on my really quickly and I wasn't mentally ready for the short 400 meter sprint swim. I ran in the water quickly, dove in and quickly swam up on the group of two that started 2 seconds before me. The water was murky and I didn't really see them at all. I ran into them and tried to scoot around them but ended up getting out of the draft line. I really never got back into it. I got beat up a little at the 200 meter turn and struggled through the last 200 meters. I wasn't happy about the swim at all.

I ran through T1 pretty well. Everything went smoothly and I jumped on my bike right at the mount line. Despite everything going well, I was still one of the slower transitions out of people in the top 20. For shorter races, I need to start leaving my shoes on the bike and just grabbing my helmet and going. I'll start practicing that soon.

Because of the rain, my Power Meter was not working. I didn't really need it for pacing at all, but I have not rode all out for a 45 minute ride in a long time. I would have liked to have the data to see what kind of power I pushed. Anyway, the bike course was terribly bumpy. I think they found every pot hole in the city. I felt bad for my bike the entire time. There was a ton of drafting going on throughout the course. With the course being so short, there was not a lot of time for everyone to spread out. With about two miles left, I felt like I was fighting my bike. I was working harder than I should have been to move. I figured out I had a flat right at the end of the course. As I jumped off the bike, there were two guys in front of me who didn't have a clean dismount. They got in my way and slowed my down a bit heading into T2. I had a really clean T2 and out I went to the Run.

I felt pretty strong on the run. I hadn't ran a 5k in a long time. All of the training I have been doing has been geared towards Half and Full Ironman races. I was going to do a few Olympic races this year to use as speed training days. I didn't know how this run was going to go, especially with me have a very interrupted training schedule for the last seven weeks. I started picking off a few guys early on and it helped keep everything positive. I ended up running a 16:11 which was second fastest elite and 3rd fastest overall on the day.

Overall, I finished 7th. I was happy with the performance being it was so much different than I was expecting. This was my first experience with a Lifetime Tri event. They did a few things really well, but there was a lot about the race I wasn't impressed with. It is tough to judge overall whether the frustrations were because of the weather or other factors. It is always frustrating to pay for an Olympic race and have many people drop out because they shortened it up to the sprint. I did really like that they had the kids heat at the end. Every attempt to grow the sport is important.
This guy may have beat me, but I made him work for it! He finished a few seconds ahead of me.

My wife and I stayed overnight and ran the Color Run 5K which was at the State Fair Grounds. I had never done the event, but it was fun. I like events that get so many people out and moving. There were tons of people running/walking the event! We got to see some family on the way home as well! All-in-all an awesome, but tiring weekend!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Wild Wolf Triathlon, Madrid Spain - Race Report

Well I am finally home from that marathon trip. It has taken a while to get back into the swing of things training wise as well as get caught up with everything else. I'm finally taking a minute to write a quick report of the Wild Wolf Olympic Triathlon that I jumped into on a whim while I was in Spain. It was a great experience and I am glad that I did it, but I definitely did not set myself up to try to perform well. I had no idea the race was being held until the night before. I did a long hill run the morning before the race being I didn't know I was going to race.

We left Cordoba and traveled to Madrid in the afternoon on Saturday where I had a bike waiting for me. I rented an aluminum Specialized roadie from Bike Spain. (It was the first time I ever rode a roadie!) When I was picking up the bike I saw a flyer for the race and asked about it. The guy at the Bike Shop told me to just go over and see if they would let me in being the race registration was closed. I rode over to the Village and tried to find someone who spoke English well enough to help me. The lady I found was actually the race director. She was absolutely awesome! She bent over backwards to make sure I got registered and got my packet. Great service! By the time I got registered and back to the hotel, it was 9:00 and I hadn't had any dinner yet!

The next problem was gear. I didn't have anything with me besides my TriSports bike jersey, a pair of bike shorts, a water bottle, and some junkie road shoes that I traveled with. I rented a helmet with the bike and tried to buy some nutrition for the race. I couldn't find the Gu Roctane that I wanted to use on the bike course, but with no luck. I couldn't even pronounce the stuff I went with. I know they say nothing new on race day, but pretty much everything was new! I had never rode the bike that I was racing on before, never raced in a bike jersey or had to put on a jersey after the swim, and of course the new nutrition. I also had to put socks on being I didn't have my racing shoes, just my trainers. To top it off the race was a dive in start, something I had never done or practiced! Needless to say, I was racing this for a fun experience!

Pre Race Advice from Steve, one of the Faculty members I was traveling with!
Race morning I showed up WAY too early. I was nervous about all of the logistics of making everything work out, especially with the language barrier. It was a good thing too because it turned out that someone else had my same race number assigned to them. Trying to get that switched race morning was a bit of a hassle, but thankfully the lady I spoke with the night before was there to help. I also got some help for a guy who was working at the American Embassy. Everything worked out well. I even found a bench in the shade and took a nap before the race start.

Dive In Swim Start
I was in the third swim wave which was a bit unfortunate. They arranged the waves by age, so I was in the swim wave with the oldest third of the men's field. Since I registered late, that was the best they could do. I was fine with it. When it was my turn to start, I stood on the dock feeling a bit out of place (the older AGers staring at me didn't help either). I wasn't able to understand the announcer so I didn't really know when to get ready to dive in. The starting buzzer went off and I was a bit surprised. My dive into the water was half dive, half belly flop. I got off to a pretty good start despite not having access to a pool very often for the last few weeks. I was able to catch all of the wave two swimmers and many of the wave one swimmers. It was a little frustrating to have to swim around so many people, but like I said before it was all about the experience.

Dismount Line...Or at least I think that is what they guy was saying!
I had a slow T1 being I had to put socks and a bike jersey on. I grabbed my rental bike and was on the course. It was a little hilly but no huge climbs. I didn't know what to expect on the course being I hadn't seen any of it. It was a two loop course so I was able to ride a little harder the second half. I was definitely not comfortable on the roadie. My seat was too low and I really struggled to put anything on the pedals while climbing. I spent most of the up hills out of the saddle. I finished the bike pretty slow, at least 10 minutes slower than I would have on my bike on that course. Again, didn't bother me. I jumped off of the bike with a big smile on my face.

The run was pretty much as expected. I ran a 34 flat 10k, which was the fastest run of the field. It was different not being able to chit chat a bit as I was running with people, but I heard "muy rapido" a lot. I'll take it as a compliment. The run was completely flat and pretty well shaded from the sun. The bike and run took place in a beautiful park that is closed for traffic (it is where I did all of my training for the week after the race). I finished the race in 2:07, was 7th overall. All-in-all, it was a great experience. I am glad I was able to talk my way into my first International race and hope there are more in the near future!

Finished! Big thanks to Bethany (another Faculty member) for taking all of these pics!