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M2M Half Ironman - Race recap

 Karel lost a considerable amount of training last summer when he tore his plantar fascia in late May, which was extremely disappointing as he was gearing up for IM Lake Placid (which he DNF'd after the bike, on purpose) and he was training for his first Kona (and our first time racing the Ironman World Championship together).

After a lot of rehab and therapy, he was able to put in a minimal amount of running to prepare for the IM World Championship and ran surprisingly well without further damage to his foot but there was still some lingering niggles up until this April (11 months after the injury happened).  While he still has to be mindful of his foot with daily exercises, therapy and strength work, we think he may be on the mend (and his running fitness is proving this to be true). 

In the past 4 weeks, Karel has raced twice and has placed overall winner twice (Toughman Half Ironman and Lake James 50).

Under the guidance of coach Matt Dixon with Purple Patch Fitness, Karel has made huge gains in his overall fitness in the past few years but most recently, patience and consistency in training has allowed him to improve his strength, endurance and resilience in all three sports. There's no special diet or special training designed just for Karel but instead, he focuses on quality workouts with proper recovery. We both wish we had more time to train but we are extremely busy with our business so we have to make every workout count (and sometimes we have to miss workouts too, just like everyone else).

M2M (Mountains to Main Street) could not have come at a better time as Karel was running (or swimming, biking and running) with great momentum going into this race. Although M2M wasn't a priority race and there was no special specific build-up for this race, he felt the pressure of this hometown race and wanted to do well.

When we set up our race season (typically late fall before the next year) and select our one or two A races (for Karel, IM Austria and IMMT for me Rev3 Knox and IM Austria), this doesn't mean that we don't race hard for all the other races. The difference between A and B races is not that B races aren't important and we don't give a hard effort but they don't have a specific build as we have specific developmental phases to go through and we want to peak appropriately for our A races. So when we race a "B" race, we simply continue with our training and appropriately adjust a few days before and after the race depending on the season and type of race.
M2M featured a point to point to point course, starting at Lake Keowee for the 1.2 mile lake swim, then transitioning to the bike for 58 very challenging, hilly miles (close to 4000 feet of climbing) to Traveler's Rest, where T2 was located. Then, for 13.1 miles, the run featured a few hilly sections to Furman, a few more hills around Furman lake and then a net decline to the finish in our amazing downtown Greenville/

Check out that finish in the heart of downtown Greenville, right by Falls Park.
Karel and our athlete Drew (who was staying at our house for the weekend for the race) spent a few hours on Saturday driving the 75 minutes to T1 to drop off the bike, only to experience a down pour on their bikes just before arriving to transition. Let's say that their clean bikes got another nice wash.

Karel and Drew then drove the 58 mile bike course to T2 to drop off their run gear (except for their sport nutrition filled flasks for their hydration belt which they would then do on race day morning before heading to the race start).
For dinner, Karel made pasta with marinara sauce and chicken at home.
There's something special about being able to eat at home and sleep in your own bed before a race!

Campy loved being able to sleep in his own bed before his spectating duties on Sunday. 

Karel knew every inch of this course as he had rode the course a few times (starting from our house to Lake Keowee and then back home - why drive when you can just bike there and back???).
There was no getting off course for him.....unlike you know who :)

Karel knew the bike course would be extremely challenging but since he knew every hill, turn, descend and road condition, he was looking forward to executing a smart bike effort while pulling out all his former bike racing tactics.

On Sunday morning, Karel woke up around 4:15am to get his body going before leaving to T2 at 5:45am (to drop off filled run flasks) and then to T1.
Karel had 2 pieces of toast with almond butter and a Bolthouse chocolate drink (about 8 ounces) and of course, a homemade cappuccino (or two).

Karel made a sandwich for the road but race day nerves made him hesitate to eat it so he didn't eat anything else before the 8:30am race start.

Karel and Drew were accompanied by my mom (what a great sherpa!), our athlete/friend Meredith (who was racing the aquabike) and Campy. 

Although the water temp was on the verge of not being wetsuit legal after a week of warm weather, a few days of cooler temps and lots of rain made for a comfortable 73-degree lake and wetsuit legal swim.
Karel warmed up on the dry land and then in the water for a good 10 minutes to get himself comfortable in the water. Although his swimming has improved tremendously in the pool, Karel is still a little uncomfortable in the open water but warming up really helps to ease his nerves. 

Karel started in the first wave (open wave) and did a great job staying on course. He felt stronger in the second half and was able to catch up to a few guys who dropped him in the start of the swim.

 Karel swam 31:12 which he was really happy about.
Karel never stresses about his swim time because the swim starts with the gun time and the swim finish is always where the timing mat is. In this case - at the top of a hill, right before transition. 

Karel had a quick transition before heading off on the bike in 6th chase down the competition. Thanks to free speed in the transition, he left in 5th place.

Campy, checking out the competition.
The wind was very strong on race day and with a good chunk of the race on the open and long rolling hills of Hwy 11, this made for a really hard ride for the if the bike course wasn't already very taxing!

Right from the park, there was ~1.5 mile hill to the main road. He used this to set himself up for a good ride by adjusting his posture, changing up his cadence/gears and settling into a good rhythm. When he got to the main road, that is where his "race" started.
 Karel's plan was to intentionally push hard for the first hour of the bike to catch the guys who swam faster than him. By the time that he got to the main road, he caught the third place guy.

If there is one thing to know about Karel on race day, it's that he can suffer really well.
He's exceptionally good with being really, really uncomfortable.

And to his surprise, around 25 minutes into the race, Karel caught up with Drew and Drew told him that there was one guy still ahead - which they both had in sight.

By the time they reached the first aid station in Salem, Karel took the lead for the first time. This was much sooner than he expected or hoped for.
Karel pushed at his threshold for an hour, despite never looking at his power but going all by feel. Karel is able to push watts on race day that he he is never able sustain alone in training. This is just the beauty of race day - it brings out another type of athlete that you never thought you could be.
For the next 36 minutes, our athlete Drew and Karel were riding strong near each other, which was a nice mental boost for them both.
It was very windy and he just put his head down and told himself that if he is suffering he knows everyone else is suffering. That is where he opened up the gap on Drew. And by the time he got to Pumpkintown hwy (off Hwy 11), he was extending his lead.

Karel was really pleased with his Alto Wheels (CT 56 in the front and CT 86 in the rear). The bike was very fast and stable in the windy and hilly conditions. His gear of choice was 54x42 front chainring with 11-26 rear cassette. He managed the terrain well by keeping constant tension on the chain while climbing, thus controlling the heart rate and being able recover and soft pedal (while moving fast) going downhill.
This is a common mistake that athletes make - spinning too light of a gear going up hill (HR goes up, RPE goes up) and not moving anywhere fast and by the time the athlete reaches the top of the hill, they are exhausted and need a while to recover. Keeping a steady cadence with a smooth chain tension will keep the HR in check and lower the RPE.
For the next 18 miles, Karel rode really hard. Karel said openly before the race that he was willing to take risks on race day as he was willing to lose in order to win.
While giving this hard effort on the bike, he stayed present and never let his mind think about how his legs would feel for the run.
Karel stayed fueled with 2 x ~250 calorie bottles (around 26 ounces each) and ~12 ounces of a 100 calorie bottle. He didn't consume any solid food or gels or "gummy bears" (Clif Bloks). 

After turning onto Geer hwy for a steady 3 mile climb back to TR (Traveler's Rest), it was just a few more miles until Karel rode into Trailblazer park...... in first place.
As Karel was approaching the transition, he saw my mom as she wasn't expecting Karel so soon (or in first) and Karel said to my mom with a smile "Hi Susie!" and she was super excited to see him. 

Although Karel had a quick transition, he cramped in his quad when bending over to put on his shoes but anticipating a potential cramp before the run, he quickly drank his It's the Nerve bottle which kinda released the cramp. Karel got extremely worried about the cramp and thought his day may be done but as he walked out of transition and then started jogging (carefully), he slowly felt a little better.

Thankfully, there was a little of a downhill before the first climb which allowed Karel to loosen his leg out and to find his running rhythm. This cramp was purely from the effort his was pushing. This cramp was pretty severe as he couldn't bend his knee or move his leg for a brief moment but thankfully it released itself.
Did I mention that Karel loves to push hard?

Karel's fan club - My mom, our neighbor/friend Tim and his wife Joey (taking the pic along with many of the pics you see in this blog - thanks Joey!) 

Karel ran the first 30 minutes in 6:25 min/mile average on the Swamp Rabbit Trail before making his way to Furman. Karel was not alone on the course as he was joined by his own police escort. 

Karel was in such a zone when arrive to the back entrance to Furman (from the trail) and when the motor cycle stopped for Karel to make his ~1.6 mile run around the Furman lake (including the steep hill in the back of the lake), he almost confused himself as to which way to run around the lake. Even when you know where you are suppose to go, sometimes the mind plays games on you on race day. Luckily, Karel picked the right way around the lake.

As he was nearing the trail again, he could see a few of his competitors starting their run around the lake but Karel wasn't holding anything back as he wanted to give everything he had and leave it all out on the course. 

Karel is a big proponent of form over pace and he is constantly making sure that his form feels good, especially in the early miles of running of the bike. He always tells himself "form, posture, fluency." over any pace.

Once he found his rhythm, he found himself wondering if he should pick up the pace a bit for a little stronger effort but then he came to his senses "this is just fine, you are suffering enough."

When he knows he has reached a good pace or rhythm, he almost feels numb. It's really hard for him to describe but obviously it works for him. 

Karel had his 4 flask Nathan belt and he took a sip from each flask as needed throughout the race and occasionally water for cooling and sipping at the aid stations (which were not every mile). 

One of Karel's biggest worries about this race was the train. With less than 3 miles to go, there are train tracks with the slowest moving train ever that has held up many cyclists and runners along one or the other side of the Swamp Rabbit Trail as the train occasionally passes through on a daily basis. There was no way for the race to stop the train or know the train schedule so this was just one of those worries that Karel had as he was racing. 

Sure enough - TOOT TOOT.

Karel could hear AND see the train. Although it was not moving, it was getting ready to go. Karel frantically asked his police escort "Can you please stop that train" - of course, knowing that he couldn't do anything about it he still wanted to ask as he was desperate.

However, the policeman rolled up to the tracks and stayed on the tracks as Karel ran by.
Sure enough, the train went by about just a few moments after Karel ran by and then came again and stopped our athlete Drew, but only for about 15 seconds. 

After Karel ran by the tracks, he felt a sigh of relief and finally felt like he was on the homestretch without any more distractions.

Although, it was a regular Sunday with lots of people on the trail enjoying their beautiful day outside and then here comes this neon orange wearing triathlete huffing and puffing as if he was in a race.
Oh wait - he was!

Still giving everything he had, there was absolutely no mile that wasn't a best effort on this race day. Near the later miles of the run, Karel was running and not knowing if his next step would be his last. Every part of his body was hurting and he just kept pushing and pushing and pushing.

Karel wanted this win so bad and he worked so hard for it on this day.
He said he even got a little emotional at the end because this was one of those days where he doesn't know if he will ever be able to repeat this type of effort again, from start to finish.
It just all came together.

With no one else in sight, Karel ran to the finish.

In so much pain.

And finished as the overall winner of the inaugural Mountains to Main Street Triathlon. 

The next athlete arrived 12 minutes later. 

So exhausted. 

And relieved it's all over. 

The moment every athlete longs for after a rest the legs! 

As the other athletes started to roll in, it was time for everyone to share their war stories of the race. 

What a great crew! Cheers!

Here are Karel's run splits:
Mile 1: 6:25
Mile 2: 6:30
Mile 3: 6:21
Mile 4: 6:25
Mile 5: 6:29
Mile 6: 6:42
Mile 7: 6:30
Mile 8: 6:33
Mile 9: 6:39
Mile 10: 6:32
Mile 11: 6:31
Mile 12: 6:27
Mile 13: 5:51
Total: 1:23:55 (per Garmin)
Average pace: 6:31 min/mile
627 elevation gain
These run splits are super impressive considering that many of Karel's long runs are around 7:40-8:00 min/mile pace! Although he does specific speed work on the track and treadmill as well as hill work, there are some sessions that are designed to be slow and easy. In the past, Karel was always running much faster in training and this only lead to injury so now he is more cautious and saves his best efforts for race day. 

This was an extremely special day for Karel, mostly because it was a home town race. We absolutely love our Greenville community and it was such a great treat for Karel and so many other athletes to be able to race for 72.3 miles from Lake Keowee to downtown Greenville. This was not an easy event to put together and we thank all the volunteers, Set up Events Staff, race directors, spectators and everyone else who put together, promoted and helped our with this event.
Congrats to everyone who finished!

Karel and I are excited to both race Mountains to Main Street next year.

Swim with bear.
Ride with the Eagle.
Run with the rabbit

(Thank you Kimberly, my mom and Joey for these great pictures!)

Thank you to our sponsors!