USA Triathlon National Championships

From left to right: Doug Morris, Wade Grow, Steve Wade, Craig
Men’s 60-64 Podium – Craig is in 10th place.

On August 6th I raced the USA Triathlon Age Group Olympic Distance National Championships in Milwaukee.  This was the 5th time Milwaukee has hosted the event and the 4th time I’ve raced here.  Milwaukee is my favorite venue for Nationals.  It’s close enough to Chicago so I can visit family and friends so I love that part of it.  And as a standalone racing venue for all 3 triathlon disciplines I really like Milwaukee.

The highlight of these trips is getting to see the people I love.  For this trip that included my 2 sisters Cindy and Debbie and their husbands Jim and Bill.  Also my buddies Bruce McNair and Chuck Carey as well as my Team Wade racing friends Wade Grow, Steve Wade and his wife Becky, Doug Morris and George Van Meter.

The men’s 60-64 age group was Wave 19, so our race did not start until 9:22am.  The temperatures were in the 80’s, and very humid.  I like racing in the heat, but I was sweating more than usual before my race started.  Possibly the hardest thing I did all day was put on my wetsuit.  That was a real struggle with my sweaty skin.  The 1.5K (0.93 mile) swim was in the 62 degree Lake Michigan.  They let us jump in the water about 8 minutes before our race started.  That cool water felt so good!  This was an in-water start while holding onto the dock.  The clockwise swim course was the exact same as all the other years.  My swim was slow, but I think everyone was slow this year.  I swam 27:58 (1:52/100 meters) and that put me in 30th place.  I was happy with this.

The 40K (24.8 miles) bike course was a bit different this year.  It still had 3 out and back sections, but 1 of them was a bit longer than the past and 1 was a bit shorter.  There was 1 crash on the bike that nearly impacted my race.  It happened around mile 11 and I’m guessing the single rider went down about 45 seconds ahead of me.  There were 4 other athletes that stopped to help the down rider.  I figured there was nothing I could do to help other than say a prayer for the athlete so I steered around the group.  Even though I’m a guy, I can multi-task – ride and pray.  When I went through this section again about 15 minutes later there was no sign of any crash, so I took that as a good sign.  I was sweating for the entire ride and especially so over the final 10K as that section had a tail wind.  My hands were so sweaty that I had to be careful I did not slip off the handlebars.  I made certain to drink my entire Gatorade bottle on the bike to hopefully set up a successful run.  My bike split of 1:10:21 (21.19 mph) was pretty good for me.  It was the 33rd best bike split and it kept me in 30th place to start the run.

The 10K (6.2 mile) run was going to be a major challenge due to the humidity.  I made certain to take in as much fluid as possible at each of the 5 aid stations.  Laurie was spectating and cheering for me.  I heard her voice 2x’s on the bike.  And I heard/saw her 3x’s on the run.  Her support always helps me so much!  I passed my Team Wade friend Wade Grow sometime after mile 1.  I saw my friend Doug Morris at about the same time, but figured he had too big a lead on me to catch him.  I saw my friend Kyle Welch just after the 3 mile mark for me and around the 5 mile mark for him.  Much to my surprise at mile 4 I caught Doug.  I had the 2nd best run split 42:33 (6:51/mile) to finish in 2:26:19.  I was 10th out of 98 men in the age group, 445th out of 1,912 overall finishers. 

I was thrilled with my run split and overall race.  The podium at Nationals goes 10 deep, so I would get to stand on the podium at the Awards later in the day.  11th place was only 20 seconds behind me.  I probably passed him in the final 600 meters.  The top 18 finishers in each age group would qualify for the 2023 World Championships in Pontevedra, Spain.  I gladly accepted my slot.   

My friends in the men’s 60-64 all had good races.  Kyle was 3rd, Doug was 14th, Wade was 33rd, and Steve was 43rd.

Living the life…   

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Legacy Triathlon

Craig with long time triathlon friend Andy Bailey.

Craig on the podium (2nd place) with TCSD friend Rick Wade (3rd place).

On July 16th I raced the Legacy Triathlon in Long Beach, CA.  I’ve done all 3 editions of this race and had fun every time. 

The #1 highlight of this year’s race happened the day before the race.  On my drive up to Long Beach I stopped in Laguna Beach to interview my long time triathlon friend Andy Bailey and his wife Jeri for Medals4Mettle (M4M).  Earlier this year Andy donated a bunch of his finisher medals to the San Diego Chapter of M4M to award to kids fighting debilitating illnesses. 

Andy is a special guy.  He is in his 80’s and has overcome 2 major challenges.  The 1st started in 2006 when he was washing his car.  A delivery van hit his car injuring his leg.  14 months later in 2008 Andy had the leg amputated below the knee.  In 2010 Andy returned to racing triathlons at The Desert Triathlon with a prosthetic leg.  I was there racing that day and I’ll never forget it.  Such a triumph!

The 2nd happened 6+ years ago when he had a bike accident.  Andy broke his neck, damaged his spinal cord and became a quadriplegic.  Somehow he found a way to bounce back from that injury in 2018 as he began competing in virtual 5K’s.  He uses the parallel bars on his deck to complete 900 feet per day and after 18 days the 5K would be complete.  It’s hard to hold a good man down.  Andy’s medals are very inspirational for the kids who get them.  If you look up the word “mettle” in the dictionary, you would see Andy’s picture.

On race day I walked into the transition area with my TCSD buddy Andy Seitz.  Over the years Andy and I have probably split our races.  He wins half the time and I win the other half.  Today might be interesting.  Race day offered excellent racing conditions.  Temperatures were in the high 60’s and foggy out over the ocean.  It was so foggy over the water that you could not see the far end of the swim course.  The 750 meter swim was in a protected bay with an ankle deep in water start.  My age group was the 6th wave.  I watched 2 previous waves and noticed there was a left to right current.  About 10 of us figured this out.  When the gun sounded the 10 of us actually ran laterally on the shore about 50 meters and then dove into the water.  That was the right decision as the current took me right to that 1st buoy for the right hand turn.  My swim time was 11:56 (1:35/100 meters) putting me in 4th place. 

I made a minor mistake in T1 as I followed the directions of a volunteer directing the earlier athletes out onto the run course.  My TCSD buddy Troy Cundari was right behind me and he also went the wrong way.  We figured it out and jumped over the fencing and ran back to our bikes.  The mistake only cost us about 20 seconds, but that is usually precious time in a sprint triathlon.  I saw my Team Wade friend Wade Grow get out of T1 way ahead of us.    

This year’s race was a 2 lap 19K (11.8 mile) bike course.  It was very flat with only 23 feet of climbing.  Troy got out of T1 ahead of me and I never saw him again until the run.  My TCSD friend Rick Wade passed me like a hot knife through butter late in the 1st lap.  I wondered if I’d be able to catch these guys on the run.  I finished the bike with the 9th best split – 33:57 (21.97 mph).  This dropped me to 7th place. 

The 5K (3.1 mile) run course was 2 laps.  All my friends were ahead of me and I had some catching up to do.  During the 1st lap I moved all the way up to 2nd place.  I maintained hope that I’d catch Andy.  I had the fastest run on the day – 19:42 (6:21/mile).  My finish time was 1:10:56, good for 2nd place out of 32 men in the 60-64 age group and 49th out of 543 overall finishers.  Andy had an outstanding day as he crushed me by nearly 4 minutes!  Oh well.  I still had a lot of fun. 

Living the life…         

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Ironman 70.3 – Oregon

Craig and Laurie celebrate successful finishes at Ironman 70.3 – Oregon.

On July 10th I raced the Ironman 70.3 Oregon in Salem, OR.  This was my 50th career Ironman 70.3 or Half Ironman distance race and my 320th career triathlon.  The highlight of this race was racing along with my wife Laurie Kearney.  It is rare when we do the same race, so I have learned to cherish these special occasions.

We had a beautiful day for racing.  Clear and sunny.  It was 56 degrees with no wind when I started just before 7am and 79 degrees and 7mph wind when I finished.

The 1.2 mile swim was held in the Willamette River.  This is a point-to-point downstream swim, so times would be very fast.  My most recent time at this distance was 36:03 in Victoria, BC in a lake.  On this day my time was 20:37 (0:58/100 meters).  The current was the great equalizer as 20+ guys finished the swim within 1 minute of me.  Even the poor swimmers could just bob in the water and without much effort they’d end up at the finish line.  The current was really moving!  They have buoys along the course to help us navigate our way.  It was amazing how fast I’d go past those buoys!  It was like the I Love Lucy episode with Lucy and Ethel in the Chocolate Factory. 

The 56 mile bike course was a relatively flat (only 1149 vertical feet) out and back through the countryside.  I wish I had put on arm warmers for the bike because I was a bit chilly for the first hour.  The most notable part of the bike was when I stopped to take a leak at the porta potty at mile 40.  I hate doing that during the race because the clock is running and I’m not moving.  When I stepped out of the porta potty I heard someone say “there’s Craig Zelent, the triathlon coach!”  Ugh!  Now the whole world knows.  Anyway, I looked up to see who said it and Laurie was snickering just a few feet away.  She was at mile 20 and we happened to stop at the same bank of porta potties.  She was just giving me the business.  I had to remind myself these are special occasions.  My bike split was 2:57:23 (18.94 mph).  This was the 39th best bike split and it dropped me to 33rd place. 

The 13.1 mile run course had us run out for 1 mile and then do 2 loops of 5.5 miles before running the final mile back to the finish.  The run was also flat, only 341 vertical feet.  I had the fastest run split, 1:39:27 (7:29/mile).  That moved me up to finish 10th out of 90 men in the 60-64 age group and 426th out of 2,232 overall finishers.  My finish time was 5:08:37.  They go 5 deep on the podium at the Ironman events.  My friend Rick Wade from the Triathlon Club of San Diego (TCSD) was 5th with a time of 4:59:23.  I was nowhere close to a podium spot.  Oh well.  I still had a pretty good race. 

I had a few other friends who raced in the 60-64 age group.  Troy Cundari from TCSD was 11th, Parker Wiggin from my high school graduating class at Glenbard West was 15th and Steve Wade from Team Wade was 22nd.  Because of the rolling start nature of the swim start, Steve started the race about 17-18 minutes ahead of me.  I beat him by 16:48, but never quite caught up to him.  He crossed the finish line about 1 minute ahead of me.  It was the race within the race – I gave it everything I had, but I just could not catch him.  He was grinning from ear to ear when I crossed the line behind him.

Laurie had a really good experience at this race.  Her highlights were a 28:34 swim time (1:21/100 meters).  Definitely a lifetime best!  And she broke 2 hours for the run.  Her run split was 1:57:26 (8:50/mile).  She announced at the finish line that she is retiring from triathlon.  Her favorite thing to do is to run marathons, so I don’t blame her.  We are both thrilled that she ended her triathlon career on a high note. 

Here is the strangest story from this race.  20 minutes before I got in the water I noticed a guy in a wetsuit who was wearing a red helmet.  It was the kind of helmet a rock climber might wear.  It was odd, but I had my own race to think about so I paid him no attention.  After the race was all over I learned of the drama this guy caused during the swim.  Steve’s wife Becky had a VIP pass to spectate.  That put her on a boat during the swim, so she had a great vantage point for what went down.  This guy was punching and generally assaulting other swimmers in the race.  The Sheriff’s boat was called over and they hauled this guy out of the water and onto the shore.  They handcuffed him and took him away.  I’ve done some research on Facebook and it sounds like he was a race bandit – never paid for his entry, had hidden a bike outside of the transition area, etc.  Wearing a red helmet for the swim and assaulting other athletes is not the way to blend in.  I’m sure Ironman will completely ban him going forward. 

To see my race photos, click on this link:

Living the life…                 

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San Diego International Triathlon

I enter T1 alongside long time friend Joy Nagal.
Fellow Triathlon Club of San Diego member, Rick Wade, and I on the podium.

On June 26th I raced the San Diego International Triathlon.  This was my 17th SDIT as it is one of my favorite local races. 

The 1K (0.62 miles) swim is an in water start at Spanish Landing, right across the street from the San Diego Airport.  It is an out and back course.  The main challenge was the glare from the sun on the final 500 meters.  I had a pretty good swim split of 15:58 (1:36/100 meters), putting me in 4th place.  I happened to enter T1 with my friend Joy Nagal who had started a few minutes before me – see photo.

The 30K (18.6 miles) bike is up to Cabrillo National Monument and back.  We actually do 2 loops of the section up near the monument.  I had 3 challenges during the bike worth noting.  The first was the squirrel I nearly ran over.  This critter was no Rocket J. Squirrel as he took his sweet time crossing the road.  The second was the really big bug I nearly swallowed.  I was cycling very hard and sucking in a lot of air when this guy flew into my mouth.  He went way back in my throat and nearly went down the hatch, but I managed to spit him out.  The third challenge was the first of three speed bumps which took me by surprise.  I hit the bump at 20+ mph, but somehow managed to regain control.  My bike split was 52:28 (21.3 mph) which was 5th best, dropping me down to 5th place. 

The run is advertised as 10K (6.2 miles) as the race has always ended in Seaport Village, but this year it ended in Ruocco Park, so it was 6 miles.  My run split was 40:26 (6:44/mile) and the fastest on the day.  I took over the lead at the half way point, but thought it was possible there might still be someone on the course ahead of me.  I kept the hammer down right through the finish line.  I had a great run and it was so fun to go fast again!  My finish time was 1:52:51.  I finished 1st out of 18 men age 60-64 and 32nd out of 356 overall finishers.

To see my race photos, click on this link:

Living the life… 

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Ironman 70.3 – Victoria

Piggy was my travel companion to Victoria.

On May 29th I raced the Ironman 70.3 Victoria in British Columbia, Canada.  I made this trip with a purpose in mind – to qualify for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in St. George, Utah at the end of October.  Sometimes life hands us lemons and sometimes it’s lemonade.  I got lemonade, but not like I imagined.

The day before and the day after the race had drizzle and raw temperatures in the 40’s and 50’s.  Thankfully race day was clear and sunny, but the forecast was for 50-55 degrees the entire time I’d be racing with 12-18 mph winds.  That’s pretty chilly for me, especially when trying to bike with wet clothes. 

The 1.2 mile swim was in Elk Lake.  The water temperature was 61 degrees, but it sure felt colder than that.  I wore my full sleeve wetsuit and a thermal cap.  I was OK, but kind of on the cold side.  We had a rolling start, so 3 athletes entered the water every 5 seconds.  I seeded myself with the 35-37 minute group.  I swam 36:03 (1:54/100 meters) and this was better than I expected as it put me in 11th place.

The 56 mile bike course was rolling with 2532 feet of climbing – easier than the 70 mile route I’ve been using for my Saturday training rides.  In my mind, the key to my success on the bike was to be warm.  I thought I did a good job in T1 of drying off with a towel and layering up.  I put on a long sleeve jacket and full finger gloves.  I wore a skull cap under my aero helmet.  I decided against the leg warmers and that was a mistake.  And if I had to do it over again, I would have put on another shirt under the jacket.  I shivered for the 1st 25 miles.  I underestimated the wind chill. 

A funny thing happened around mile 30.  Some guy looking about 50 years old passed me and said to me “I sure hope I’m still racing when I’m your age.”  He had no way of knowing how old I am.  With the pandemic, they are still not body marking us so my age was not written on the back of my leg, like in normal times.  I’m, like, come on!  Do I really look that old?  Maybe from behind I look like a scrawny, little old man.  Ugh! 

At mile 45 I noticed my front tire had just gotten really soft, but not completely flat.  I had a choice – try to ride it that way or stop and spend 1-2 minutes to re-inflate it with my Pitstop.  I chose to ride it in and that was another mistake.  I had to be careful on all the turns as I really did not want the tire to roll off the rim.  I like to race on my race wheels at 120 psi and I’m sure by the time I reached the finish line it was down to 60 psi.  I’m guessing the shivering and the flat tire cost me at least 20 minutes.  My bike split was 3:21:24 (16.8 mph).  This was the 41st best and it dropped me down to 36th place. 

The 13.1 mile run course was 2 laps around the lake, 98% of the time on a trail with only a total of 171 feet of climbing.  For the most part, the trail had a canopy of trees overhead.  It really was a beautiful venue.  I’m a strong trail runner, so this would play to my strengths.  The trail had a fair amount of rocks and roots sticking up.  My foot caught a rock at the 10K point and I took a tumble.  I drew blood out of both palms, right knee, right elbow and right shoulder.  It was not really a big deal as it probably only cost me about 20 seconds.  I don’t ever remember falling in a race.  Ugh!  This just added insult to what was turning into a very disappointing race.  I did run pretty well as my 1:44:59 (8:05/mile) run split was 5th best.  It moved me up to finish 23rd out of 59 men age 60-64 and 614th out of 1,682 overall finishers.

I knew it would be a long shot, but I went to the Awards and then the World Championship slot roll down meeting.  If I recall correctly, there were 3 slots for Worlds in my age group and the last one was taken by the 14th place guy (5:39:34).  I was thinking if I don’t have those problems on the bike, then that’s my slot.  Oh well.  That’s racing. 

Over the next couple of days I was really leaning towards taking 1 last shot at qualifying by doing the IM 70.3 in Lubbock on 6/26/22.  But thankfully I listened to a couple of friends (Steve Wade and Doug Morris) and did some research of my own as to the likely temperatures I’d face in St. George on 10/29/22 and it would have been even colder than it was in Victoria.  So thankfully the slot did not roll down to me (saving me a $600+ entry fee and a lot of shivering).  And thankfully I decided against racing in Lubbock (saving me $1,000+ for travel, etc).  For a while there it looked like lemons, but it was lemonade all along.  Thanks to God!   

Living the life…   

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LA Tri Series Championship

Our travel companion Smokey shows off our finisher medals.

On May 1st I raced the LA Tri Series Championship distance at Bonelli Park in San Dimas, CA.  It had been 4 years since I raced at this venue and it was my 1st race of 2022.  This is one of the very enjoyable local races that I like to support.  It was great to be back!

At the same time I was racing, Laurie was also racing the Orange County Marathon (her 286th career marathon).  Her race started at the ungodly hour of 5:30am while mine started at the more civilized 8am.  We stayed together at a hotel in Costa Mesa, so it was really nice to share some extra time together this weekend.  Laurie had her typical great race as she placed 3rd out of 22 women in her age group.  Not bad 13 days after completing her 26th Boston Marathon.

My race opened with a 1K (0.62 miles) lake swim.  I’ve been having shoulder trouble since March 1st and I was pleasantly surprised the shoulder never hurt during the race.  I think there is something to be said for race day adrenaline.  I really just cruised the swim, not wanting to fire up the shoulder.  I swam 16:07 (1:33/100 yards) putting me in 2nd place.

The 34K (21.5 miles) bike is over a hilly 3 loop course (1,328 feet).  The pavement was bumpy 4 years ago and it is a bit bumpier now.  My frame pump actually jiggled off during the 3rd lap.  I was glad I heard it fall as I was able to go back and retrieve it without losing too much time.  My bike split was 1:08:23 (19.0 mph).  This was the 2nd best bike split on the day, keeping me in 2nd place 4:31 behind the leader. 

The 10K (6.2 mile) run also offers some hills (572 feet).  I had looked at the course map before the race and figured I’d have no problem as these races usually use the same course every year.  There were not a lot of signs on the course, but I am 100% certain I ran the correct course.  It was a bit stressful, though, as I questioned myself multiple times while on the run.  I did chat with 2 athletes after the race and they were pretty certain they took some wrong turns.  That can happen at these small races.  My run split was 43:24 (6:57/mile) and the best run of the day.  I placed 1st out of 6 men in the 60-64 age group and 16th out of 99 overall finishers.  My margin of victory was 6:57, so I can say I won by a mile…exactly.

To see pictures from my race (including putting sunscreen on pre-race with a serious case of bed head), click on this link:

Living the life…

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125th Boston Marathon

Laurie and Craig strolling to the start line in Hopkinton – we loved the rolling start!
Dinner with Laurie’s med school friends Dan and Kathie Cook at Lobstah On A Roll.
My gracious hosts in Willowbrook, IL – my sister Debbie and husband Bill O’Malley.

On October 11th I ran the 125th Boston Marathon.  Because of the pandemic, it had been 2.5 years since the last Boston Marathon – April 2019.  The city was buzzing with excitement as everyone was anticipating the race and a return to normalcy.    

I went into this year’s race with 2 significant challenges – I had an injury and because of that was undertrained.  Since mid-August my right knee had a minor ache, but only when I would run.  Every running step hurts my right knee, but not so painful that it would be a show stopper.  Normally for my marathon preparation I ramp up my long runs to 20 miles and I do that twice before race day.  This time my ramp up was limited to 2 long runs of 18 miles and an overall reduction in run mileage by 20% over the past 2 months.  The 2019 Boston Marathon was my most recent marathon so this was unchartered territory.

I am 59 years old now and I will still be 59 when the April 2022 Boston Marathon is held.  This meant that I would have to run 3:35:00 or better to run a BQ (Boston Qualifying) time.  Once I turn 60 it will get a lot easier to run a BQ – 3:50:00 will be the cutoff.

Running a BQ is only part of the challenge.  Due to field size limitations, a varying “cut-off time” (a time below the minimum qualifying standard for age and gender) has been established.  The “cut-off time” for the 2021 race was 7:47 faster than the BQ.  The “cut-off time” for the 2019 race was 4:52.  This meant that I’d probably need to run 3:30 (8 minutes/mile) or better to actually get in the 2022 race.

This year’s race had a rolling start.  That meant that as soon as you were ready to cross the start line in Hopkinton your race would start.  I really liked this as it was much more relaxed.  I’m sure they set it up this way to encourage better social distancing.  The only thing missing was the iconic mass start.  Once the pandemic is over they will return to the mass start.

The first 10K is mostly downhill.  I banked some time which I knew I’d give back later on the uphills which are between miles 16-21.  I climbed great!  My slowest mile in the uphill section was 8:55 – not bad.  The final 5+ miles are downhill again.  I figured if I could get to the 20 mile mark before 2:42, I’d have a chance to run 8 minute miles over the final 10K to finish in 3:30.  I hit 20 miles in 2:41:33.  So, you are telling me there’s a chance!  And amazingly my knee was not bothering me, yet.  That must have been the adrenaline.  But I had zero speed left over the final 5 miles and the knee started to ache – I could only average 8:55’s during that stretch.  With 2 miles left I knew I would be hard pressed to break 3:35, but I still thought I could do it.  I refused to look at my watch during the final 2 miles.  I still had a lot of hope that I could break 3:35.  I hit the finish line in 3:35:42.  Ugh!  Not what I hoped for, but still respectable.  This makes me appreciate the 3:26 and 3:24 I ran in 2018 and 2019, respectively. 

The good Lord blessed me with a great day (dry, overcast and temperatures mostly in the 60’s), but I just was not fit enough to run any faster on this challenging course.  I had great mental focus all day and my knee was only a minor nuisance.  I thoroughly enjoyed every second of the challenge.  It’s races like this where I feel the most alive.  I paid $230 for my entry, but the return on investment was priceless.  And I am so thankful to share the Boston Marathon experience with Laurie.  She had a very solid race.

I finished 389 out of 993 men age 55-59.  I finished 4,209 out of 7,942 men.  I finished 6,279 out of 15,382 overall.  One of my goals is always to “beat my bib”.  My bib was 10236 so that was my ranking going into the race.  By finishing 6,279th I easily “beat my bib”.

Click on this link to see my race photos       

After the race Laurie and I celebrated our finish by having dinner with her med school friends Dan and Kathie Cook at Lobstah On A Roll – delicious!  The next day Laurie went to New York to visit her Dad and brother while I went to Chicago to visit my family and friends. I stayed with my sister Debbie and husband Bill – they were great hosts and took good care of me.  I had 2 Giordano’s dinners – 1 each with Chuck Carey and Bruce McNair.  Chuck is a better dining partner as there are not nearly as many leftovers when I dine with Bruce – he ate 5 pieces of stuffed pizza!  I also had lunch with Paul Winans at the Empire Burger Bar.  And I had a good visit with my nephew Jay O’Malley and his family – 1 of the big highlights of my entire trip was seeing Jim O’Malley (Jay’s Dad).

Living the life…          

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Ironman 70.3 World Championships – St. George 2021

Laurie and Craig after the race.
The Mossy Cave Trail.
Enjoying the hoodoos along the Navajo Loop Trail.

On September 18th I raced the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in St. George, UT.  I seldom do this, but this race was dedicated to my niece Megan and her family.  Megan has been dealing with some very challenging health challenges this entire year so she is constantly in my prayers.  The hand we are dealt as it relates to our health does not always seem fair.  God has given me the gift of a very healthy body and I am very thankful.

This was my 2nd time racing on this course.  The first time was back in May when the temperatures were in the low 90’s.  I expected this version to be even hotter.  Man, was I surprised!  The forecast was for mid-80’s with a possibility of rain.

On race morning I awoke to a text from the Race Director saying the water temperature was 78.3 degrees, so wetsuits would not be permitted.  The 1.2 mile swim was at Sand Hollow Reservoir in the town of Hurricane at 3,056 feet above sea level.  The 55-59 men’s age group started at 8:13am in a self-seeded rolling start fashion.  They started 3 athletes every few seconds.  When I raced here in May I had a heckuva time catching my breath during the swim.  This time around I had no problem breathing as I was able to breathe every 3rd stroke, like usual.  My May swim split with a wetsuit was 34:50.  This time with no wetsuit it was 40:40 (2:06/100 meters).  That put me in 91st place.  I had hoped to be 1-2 minutes faster, but I did not fret.  The good news was that I felt like I spent very little energy in the swim.  More good news – I really did take in the sights.  It was so beautiful with the sun rising and the morning clouds. 

The first 15 miles on the bike were pretty ordinary, but then the dark clouds started rolling in.  And then the lightening and wind started.  And then the rains came.  I figured it might drizzle for 10 minutes or so.  Not quite!  The next 20 miles (60-75 minutes) I pretty much tapped out and stopped racing.  I was just trying to survive the rain and the biggest challenge – the 20+ mph crosswinds which were blowing me all over the road. 

The most scenic part of the bike course is the Snow Canyon climb from mile 40-47.  I made sure to enjoy the picturesque red mountains early in the climb followed by the slate gray mountains towards the top.  By the top the weather had calmed down so I enjoyed this dry section.  The final 9 miles of the bike are a descent.  We did get a light rain for that section and head winds.  I was happy with these head winds as I felt a lot safer with the slower speeds.  My bike split for the 56 miles was 3:09:56 (17.67 mph) over 3,442 feet of climbing.  This was the 133rd best bike split.  Not very good, but I was glad to finish with the rubber side down.  To compare, my May bike split was 2:59:59, but that day had great weather and only 3,162 feet of climbing.

I did not expect my usual fast run as I went into the race with a sore right knee.  Thankfully I recognized the problem 2 weeks earlier so I only ran 3 miles in the final 12 days before the race.  In retrospect, I do think saving myself for race day was the correct strategy.  The 13.1 mile run course was comprised of 2 loops and a total of 1,293 feet of climbing.  Around mile 9 we got another 15+ minutes of heavy rain (3.2 inches total on the day).  Uggh!  My split was 1:48:19 (8:23/mile) and the 55th best run on the day.  That compares to my May run split of 1:46:23 on a route that had 1,267 feet of climbing.  My finish time was 5:47:28 and I placed 77th out of 201 men in the 55-59 age group.  All in all, I am very satisfied with that result.

I’d be remiss if I did not speak to this part about the race.  The women’s race was supposed to be on Friday and the men’s race on Saturday.  The women really got a raw deal.  About 6 weeks prior the race it was announced that both races would be held on the same day.  The men’s age groups would start between 7:25am and 8:45am.  The women’s age groups would start between 8:58am and 9:51am.  If it would have been a typical September day, the women were going to suffer in the heat.  The heat never came, but the women had to deal with more lightening, wind and rain than the men.  A lot more.  No matter how the weather was going to play out, I was very disappointed that Ironman made this 11th hour change.   

To see my race photos, click on this link

The night before the race we had a great dinner with our friends Kyle Welch (2nd place in men’s 60-64) and brothers Derek (73rd in men’s 50-54) and Chris Liou (sadly a DNF after a bike crash right out of T1 – thankfully nothing broken, but some soft tissue injuries).   After the race we had dinner with our Team Wade friends – Doug Morris (wife Chris) and Steve Wade (wife Becky) – 14th and 25th, respectively in men’s 60-64).

The day after the race we drove to Bryce Canyon National Park for 2 days of perfect weather and great hiking.  I had been to Bryce about 30 years ago, but it was Laurie’s first visit.  We hiked the Rim Trail, Mossy Cave, Queen’s Garden and Navajo Loop.  If you have never been to Bryce, you must go.  Bryce is the home of the world’s largest collection of hoodoos, a very distinctive rock formation.   

Living the life…         

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USA Triathlon National Championships

Finish line at USA Triathlon National Championships.

On August 7th I raced the USA Triathlon National Championships in Milwaukee, WI.  This was the 4th time Milwaukee has hosted the event and this was my 3rd time racing there.  My previous years were 2014 and 2015.  Over the years, Milwaukee has proven to be my favorite venue for Nationals.  The race itself is spectacular, but the best part is getting to see my family and friends in the nearby Chicago suburbs.

The 1.5K (0.93 mile) swim was held in a sheltered part of Lake Michigan next to the Discovery World Science and Technology Museum.  The swim was an in-water start where we held onto a dock which served as our start line.  Prior to the race we thought the men’s 55-59 wave would be split into 2 waves starting 3 minutes apart.  But about 10 minutes before our start they announced that we would all start at once.  This made it better for racing, but it was pretty crowded holding onto the dock (no social distancing).  I actually told the guys (1 was my friend Wade Grow) on either side of me that I’d let them start first and I’d follow right behind.  This was a good, conservative strategy.  We were able to wear wet suits, but I did feel pretty warm by the end of the swim.  My swim split was 24:57 (1:40/100 meters) which put me in 29th place.  My 2015 swim was 23:21.  My 2014 swim was 22:37. 

The 40K (24.8 mile) bike course was an out and back in 1 direction and then another longer out and back in the opposite direction.  It was mostly flat, but we did have a few gentle 100 foot climbs on Lake Drive and then up and over the Hoan Bridge on I-794.  The road surface was mostly smooth and I always like that.  I biked up to my potential and finished with the 47th fastest bike split which put me in 41st place.  My bike split was 1:08:28 (21.78 mph).  My 2015 bike was 1:06:46.  My 2014 bike was 1:05:58.

The 10K (6.2 mile) run course was 1 loop on a very flat route next to Lake Michigan.  My race started at 8:45am so by the time I got on the run it was 80+ degrees with moderate humidity.  9 days before the race I broke in some new Hoka running shoes and got a big blister on my heel during my 1st run.  During the race, of no surprise to me, the bandage I wore came off during the swim.  I did wear socks during the run, but the blister still hurt for the first 5 minutes of the run, but it was nothing that was going to slow me down.  I knew adrenaline would rule the day and I’d have a solid run.  My run split was 41:21 (6:39/mile) which was the 3rd fastest run split.  I moved up to finish in 22nd place out of 120 men age 55-59.  I’m 59, so I felt really good about that result.  My finish time was 2:19:34.  My 2015 run was 38:11 and finish was 2:12:01 (19th place as a 53 year old).  My 2014 run was 37:50 and finish was 2:10:31 (22nd place as a 52 year old).

To see my race photos, click on this link:

My wife, Laurie, ran the National Watermelon Day Half Marathon in nearby Waukesha at the same time as my race.  She had her usual great race as she placed 2nd in her age group, but she described this as the hardest half marathon she’s ever run.  Laurie signed up for this race 1+ month in advance.  At that time, it was advertised as a road race which is exactly what Laurie likes.  She is not fond of trails.  About 1 week prior to the race, she got an email saying “The DNR has issued permits for Pike Lake State Park!  The National Watermelon Day will be back at it’s home!”  Laurie just figured they might throw in some easy trails.  As it turns out, they thew in some brutal trails.  We still don’t know what they meant by “DNR”, but in our world that stands for “Do Not Resuscitate”. 

After the race we had a good dinner visit Saturday night with our Team Wade friends in Milwaukee.  That crowd included Wade Grow and his friend Rebecca, Steve & Becky Wade and George Van Meter. 

During our time in the Chicago area we visited with my sisters Cindy and Debbie and their husbands.  We also saw Jay O’Malley, Ben O’Malley and Katy Emerson and their families.  We also saw cousins Donna Goffron and Randy Jacob and his wife Connie.  We also saw my close friends Bruce McNair and Chuck Carey.  It was a great visit all the way around!  

Living the life…   

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Legacy Triathlon

Craig on the run!

Laurie and Craig at the Legacy Triathlon finish line.

On July 17th I raced the Legacy Triathlon in Long Beach, CA.  I have done this race both times it has been offered – the 1st time was in 2019.  The venue will be the site of the Olympic Triathlon when Los Angeles hosts the 2028 Olympic Games.  USA Triathlon puts on this race so it is very well run and very competitive at the pointy end of each age group.

The 750 meter swim was held at Alamitos Beach in a protected bay so the water was very calm.  The water temperature was in the high 60’s so wetsuits were allowed.  The men age 55-64 were the 5th wave and we started in knee deep water.  I had a very solid swim and did not stray off course at all.  My split was 11:19 (1:30/100 meters) which put me in 8th place.

The 20K (12.4 mile) bike course was a 2-loop set up.  The road was a bit bumpy in the 0.5-3 mile section.  Beyond that the surface was very smooth and wide, making for fast times.  The elevation gain was only 101 feet.  I was happy with my 33:37 bike split (21.92 mph).  This was the 10th best bike split and it put me in 7th place. 

The 5K (3.1 mile) run was a simple out and back along the flat and fast beach boardwalk.  I had 1 friend in the race, Jeremy Oury, from Montana.  In 2019 I beat Jeremy by 17 seconds as I ran him down.  I was hoping for the same thing this year, but Jeremy put 1:07 on me during the swim and bike.  I had the best run of the day (19:45, 6:19/mile), but came up 27 seconds behind Jeremy who came in 3rd.  I finished 4th out of 49 men in the 55-59 age group and 57th out of 635 overall finishers with a time of 1:09:21.

To see my race photos, click on this link:

Laurie joined me for this race filled weekend.  After my race we had breakfast with my Team Wade friend Wade Grow and his friend Rebecca.  Then we continued our drive north to Ventura.  On Sunday Laurie ran the Shoreline Marathon in Ventura while I did a 40 mile bike ride.  Laurie won her age group by 52 minutes!  Probably the most memorable part of this weekend was our hotel in Ventura – it made The Bates Motel look good.  The TV did not work, the toilet got clogged, there were signs posted in the kitchen sink saying “Out of order”, and the Police made 2 appearances.  It was the worst ever hotel, but we laughed at all the goofy things.

Living the life…            

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