Off Course

There was drama at Challenge Dubai yesterday as a bunch of the lead males got mixed up on the bike and missed about fourish minutes of riding time. It’s an bad situation as this affects the whole podium. These athletes cut the course, though not intentionally, and it definitely affected the dynamics of the race. This is a lousy scenario for both the athletes and the race organizers. Do they DQ their champion? It seems they’ve opted to penalize the guys four minutes which changes the finish order but allows the winner to still have won. I have actually been on both sides of that situation as an athlete.

My third race ever was the St Paul Sprint in 2006. It was a small race and I led out of the water and was leading through the bike. That course is an out and back, but instead of going straight back into the park when you arrive you go a little further for another small out and back. I didn’t know about the added out and back and was too hyped about leading to notice anything. I turned straight into the park and missed it. Like the boys in Dubai I missed a few minutes of riding. I, however, opted to unwittingly penalize myself. The run is a simple lap around lake Phalen. I got confused because there are a number of paths criss-crossing and before long I found myself out on the Gateway trail. Once there I realized something was amiss. That is to say, I was missing from the race course. I ran back through a neighborhood and onto the lake again. There was some confusion and hand-wringing after the event as I and Josh Blankenheim chatted with Randy Fulton the race director. I think Josh may also have gotten lost though I believe he added on to the bike course. Anyways, some old dudes from a different wave won so it wasn’t make or break. Also, nothing was on the line. Given my detour on the run I reckon I easily balanced out missing part of the bike but it would have been more than fair to DQ me.

Two years later I benefited from other athletes being directed off-course. At the Liberty half in 2008 I went in my age group wave as I signed up very late. It was a two loop bike course. The lead guys, the Dans (Arlandson and Cohen), and John Shelp were all still together. Someone directed them from the road to go back down into the park to transition before they started lap two. This was a mistake by the volunteer. It must have cost those guys several minutes. By the time we were all on the run, I found myself in third place. I passed Shelp and he said just Cohen was ahead. At the turnaround I checked my split to Cohen and it looked like were would be very close. Over the second half of the run I blew up pretty bad but he must have as well since I narrowly won (though came across the line second). Their detour more than accounts for my margin of victory. Dan Arlandson would also have been in contention but apparently got lost a second time on the bike and was nowhere to be seen on the run. I would have been super ticked had I lost under those conditions but I also accept the win as is. That’s just the way it goes sometimes. You gotta take a win when you can get one! Again, nothing was on the line for us at a local half. If we were racing for a major prize purse and a shot at a triple crown type victory the tension would have been much higher.

On my first QR at Liberty Half in 2008.

On my first QR at Liberty Half in 2008.

Another two years later I benefited from a competitor getting lost. At the inaugural Maple Grove race in 2010 I led all day. Or so I thought. My competition that day was Pat Parish who actually came off the bike first and through the finish first. Unfortunately for Pat he got turned around somewhere on the bike and never passed me to move into the lead. I was actually relieved when I saw his bike in T2 as I figured he’d had an issue and come back early so the pressure was off. After the race I was talking with the USAT officials and they were trying to figure out what to do. Given the amount of time missed it seemed clear in my mind Pat should just be a DQ. This time there was money on the line for the win so I was fairly adamant in my view. I was shocked to hear the officials considering just adding a time penalty. I would have thought there was a more clear cut course of action. It sounds like the officials in Dubai had the same conversation but instead of a DQ they decided on the penalty option.

When this kind of thing happens at the front of a race it’s awkward for everyone. It’s embarrassing for the event. I can relate to both the athletes who missed part of the course and the athletes who didn’t. In this case it is more uncomfortable because the race is part of a triple crown style series so there are implications for the rest of the year, not to mention the hefty prize purse on the day. All the athletes have invested major time and money just to be there. All the top athletes raced very hard and performed well, irregardless of the missed chunk of time. What is most fair? If the rules are crystal clear on this scenario I would feel better with any decision. Knowing that officials might be discussing and deliberating on the scene doesn’t give me the same confidence in the outcome. No one likes races being decided by officials after the fact. I have a hard time really holding a strong opinion without being in the race. If I had cut the course but gotten top ten? Give me a penalty and a check. If I were Tim Reed, the first non-course cutting finisher? Give me the title, thank you. I’d vote self-interest every time. No apologies.

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Motivation Monday: Running with the Legends

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If you’re looking for a little motivation today then Running with the Legends is the book for you. The book tells the stories of 21 great runners. You get the story of their career in the sport and how they became legendary athletes. If you can read about their training and not want make yourself better you should quit endurance sports. These athletes raced different events, lived different lives and had different approaches to training but you will definitely see themes. They all had desire, a vision for their path, and the will to train very hard for decades. The author gets the athletes to share their training ideas and you will be impressed with the amount of information. I’ve been reading and rereading this book for a couple years now. My favorite athlete is Robert de Castella for his mustache, attitude and calm approach to preparation.

A few quotes from the book:

From Robert de Castella: “It’s the foolish idea that if you do a little more, faster, then you’ll get better than the rest and it ignores the fact that you must train at your optimal level, not your maximum level.” (Fun fact: he averaged 105 miles a week from 1979 to 1992)

From Juma Ikangaa: “If you want to run 2:08 marathons, you must train fast.” Wise words.

From Grete Waitz: “Hurry slowly” Be dedicated and disciplined and work hard, but take your time. Move ahead, but be patient.

From Frank Shorter: “I’ve always had a simple view of training for distance running: two hard interval sessions a week and one long run… every other run is aerobic, and you do as much of that for volume as you can handle. Do this for two or three years, and you’ll get good.”

From the chapter on Toshihiko Seko you’ll read the expression “unlimited effort”. I keep that phrase in my back pocket and bring it out for certain workouts.

Now go train!

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Over and Under Training

Overtraining is a very popular topic in triathlon for some reason. In the course of my career, I’ve seen two people train enough to hit full blown ‘overtraining syndrome’.  Two.

In 2007 my Norwegian buddy Jorgen and I were in Arkansas for the University of Minnesota Cycling Team’s spring break training trip. Jorgen and I didn’t know each other yet. All I knew is that the guys who were riding with him kept saying he was always at the front and was always pushing a little. Apparently he’d trained pretty hard the week leading into the trip and also the week after. The week of the trip he probably rode 350 to 400 miles and 350 to 400 of those miles were pretty hard. Not full blast but in that nice ‘pretty hard’ grey zone. A couple weeks later he had to start dropping out of road races. He just couldn’t get any intensity going, he was totally flat. It took him several weeks to recover.

A hilarious side effect of him becoming overtrained was that many of our teammates immediately diagnosed themselves as overtrained. As soon as the word ‘overtrained’ started to circulate people began feeling overtrained. The reality is that we did some good indoor training over the winter, one huge week of riding over spring break, and then raced almost every weekend the rest of the spring. As soon as we got into racing almost everyone stopped training. After a few weeks of weekend races and minimal riding during the week everyone was getting out of shape. So these new cases of ‘overtraining syndrome’ were in fact ‘undertraining syndrome’. You can use the intensity of races to hold form for a while but without any supportive work you’re going to suffer from undertraining.

I have had great success from frequent short course racing but I have always kept some regular training going. Many of our local stallions like Matt Payne or Pat Parish go on long racing streaks through the summer and keep it light during the week. I can get away with that for a while but not forever. Towards the tail end of the summer of 2008 it suddenly dawned on me I hadn’t done any proper aerobic training in quite some time. I needed to get back to basics and build some regular old fitness. I felt better again after a couple weeks of aerobic work. Right now I’m trying to figure out the best balance for myself between a few short races to sharpen up and also integrating longer training for Ironman. Last spring I went a little overboard and jammed a couple duathlons and a couple really long rides into a couple weeks. I didn’t hit full on overtraining status but I wasn’t fresh.

In my work with athletes the biggest challenge has been integrating training into a busy lifestyle. Frankly most people don’t have time to train enough to get overtrained. If you aren’t swimming, biking and running each several times per week, are you really “overtrained” or are you just undertrained and out of shape? Coping with life stress and training can leave people feeling beat up. I don’t know how that feels compared to what Jorgen felt when he buried himself with hundreds of hard miles on the bike. All I know for sure is that overuse of the word overtraining is a pet peeve. In my experience with triathletes undertraining is much more prevalent than overtraining.

Steve Magness, my favorite running genius, just did a great podcast about taking care of yourself outside of training. Steve is a fantastic coach and high level nerd. I love the guy although I do tweet aggressive nonsense at him in all caps. I guess that’s just the way I show that I care. Someday I hope to actually meet him in person so he can tell me to shut up. Anyways, you can listen to Steve talk about the importance of sleep and such: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/magness-marcus-on-coaching/id961516002

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Things Change

The triathlon landscape has changed a ton since I started in 2006. Back then the Midwest Multisport Series was the hot ticket here in Minnesota. All the best athletes raced those ten events and most of them sold out. Now the series is disbanded. Some of the events are gone altogether, some have lost a bit of luster, some are on life-support, and a few are going strong. Now, there is no series that makes it easy for all the fastest to go head to head. Fun fact: Brian Bich from Duluth was the man when I started. He won all the competitive races in the state.

For the first few years the sport itself was expanding. In 2006 I had limited race choices. Within a few seasons there were multiple races every weekend through the summer. It the boom years many local races were willing to put up a cash purse to draw a strong field. When I started racing pro in 2010 I got paid at five local races. It seems the sport has stabilized since then and now races are fighting for entrants. Many races don’t make it. Many races can’t afford the luxury of paying a prize purse any more. I think that is a major bummer but it’s just the reality of the situation. Also in this timeframe many more midwestern guys have gone pro and will drive to any race that pays. So while money has either been cut or halved there are more guys fighting for it. I’ve raced pro fields of half a dozen or more guys at random local sprints.

The money element has always confused my decision making process. Often I’d go do some race I had no interest in doing just for a chance at a check. That’s part of the job but I always felt really lousy if I then had a poor performance and came away with nothing. If I had been more consistent overall this wouldn’t really be an issue. I often felt I was tripping over myself by adding these races and then racing poorly.

Long story short, it is much harder to make any cash as a local pro. Getting paid at an actual pro race has gotten harder too. The sport moves forward in general so people are getting faster and fields are getting deeper. Pro races have seen major changes since 2010. The 5150 series of non-draft Olympics has come and gone. The amazing Hy Vee race with a million dollar prize purse has come and gone. The Lifetime Series has changed frequently and the prize purses have been whittled down progressively. The awesome Leadman races lost their pro purse. The Rev3 series started strong then wavered, disappeared, and is now coming back under the Challenge banner. Freestanding pro races seem to have all but disappeared. Ironman is obviously still the main game in town but they have just made major changes to their pro series. It seems no one quite knows what to do with pros. Several big changes have just happened for the 2015 season. Lots of folks who were making a bit of money here and there won’t be making any money going forward. I have no idea what guys who race non-draft olympic are going to do.

As I’ve said before I need to get my own game back together. Given the general state of the pro scene it will be much easier to focus on my own performance in the amateur ranks. The added element of chasing checks has only distracted me as an athlete and led me to many a questionable choice. I’m relieved to pick out a race season based around events I can enjoy.

Unrelated, as you may be aware I’ve declared myself Senior Executive Vice President of Arbitrary Coffee Distribution, Short Term Coffee Sponsorship Coordinator and Director of Digital Marketing Endorsements for Peace Coffee. This is an important role and I take it very seriously. I am proud to announce I’ve brought my online only friend Karin “KDawg” to the Peace Coffee team. I’ve bequeathed her the title West Coast Director of Arbitrary Distribution Operations for Peace Coffee. Is this job as important as the title is long? Absolutely. Definitely. One hundred percent yes. Karin will be in charge of helping the great state of California stay awake by administering coffee sponsorships at her discretion. Please follow her on twitter and congratulate her for this new position @WattsUpKarin.

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No Money, No Fun

As I write about leaving the illustrious ranks of professional triathlon I want to be clear: there were lots of great things about it and I fully appreciate what a privilege the opportunity was. I just want to relate a realistic picture of my experiences the last couple years.

The biggest reason I’m going amateur is the last few seasons as a pro I’ve made no money and had no fun. My first three pro seasons I earned a check in a pro race and made some money at local events. This was important in my mind, obviously professionals should make money. After two mediocre seasons where I hadn’t met my personal standard of earning a check in a pro race I was really questioning remaining pro. Upon further reflection, I realized not only was I not making any money, I wasn’t having any fun. If I’m not making money I should be having fun and enjoying the process. This was not happening. No money, no fun. I couldn’t see any point continuing on that path. There was no joy in it and no incentive.

The first time it crossed my mind was actually in the middle of the 2013 season. I drove alone for 12 hours to Muncie Indiana, had a terrible race and then drove straight home. This is a pretty lousy weekend and a long, long time alone in a car to stew about a poor performance. I had hoped to turn things around mentally for the 2014 season but I still didn’t find any joy or excitement out there. Ironman Arizona was the ultimate proof that I needed to make a change. I had a slow start in the swim and literally thought “eh, I don’t care”. On the bike I was riding along trying to get excited. Nope. It got even worse when I got a flat at around mile 15. That pretty much sealed the deal. I rode a second loop but couldn’t even muster the motivation to complete the bike. I just stepped off the course. I don’t see any point in repeating an experience like that where I’m essentially depressed during a race.

Racing should be fun and exciting. I want to put myself in a race situation where it is fun and exciting again. Pro or not doesn’t really matter for the majority of my races. Here in Minnesota we all just race each other. My best Ironman performance is still ahead of me. Honestly it seems more likely that I will be able to perform well in the amateur field so that is where I’m going. No sense in setting myself up to fail. I can’t go into an Ironman all messed up mentally and expect a good outcome. I will gladly give up the chance to make tens of dollars as a pro if I can have fun racing again!

To wrap up on a positive note, here are some great things I can officially confirm for 2015:

-The Best Friends Relay of Steve “Steven” Stenzel, Jeremy Reichenberger and myself will reunite this summer! We are coming back and we’re going to be better friends than ever before.

-The Peace Coffee will be flowing! If you put on a tri related event of any sort and want tasty Peace Coffee hand delivered by yours truly, IT CAN BE ARRANGED! Just send me an email palmertricoaching@yahoo.com.

-I am coaching and can take on a couple more athletes for 2015. Again, just email.

I have one more post to write about retiring from being a pro regarding the shifting landscape of triathlon. After that it’s back to random stories to provide you 3-5 minutes of reading pleasure.

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GOING AMATEUR

I am very excited to announce that for the 2015 triathlon season I will be taking a big step forward and racing as an amateur! This is a huge move and a major decision and something that I am confident will impact the sporting world from top to bottom. I am leaving behind the rough and tumble rodeo of professional racing for the glitz and glamor of amateurism. Am I ready to race in the big leagues? After spending five years developing in the salt mines of pro racing I know I am crusty enough to finally bark with any of the big dog age groupers out there. Why make the leap now? It’s my time.

How does this affect you, an avid blog reader? Well let’s break down some frequently asked questions.

Will you still do triathlons? Yes. Still training, still racing. My best is yet to come in Ironman and I have several goals left to accomplish. In 2015 I will race one or two Ironmans and many of Minnesota’s fantastic events.

Will you still coach triathletes? Yes, I will still tell my athletes what to do and I can even take on a few more for 2015.

Will you still write brief but entertaining blog posts here on this site? Yes. I will continue to write posts with the intent to amuse you for roughly the duration of one bathroom visit.

Will you still send out high quality tweets? Yes. My tweets have always been strong and they get better every day. @dpalmertri

Will racing amateur affect your ability to post pictures of Teddy on Instagram? No, I will still post pictures of Teddy on Instagram. @dpalmertri

Will you still be a spokesmodel at the professional level? Yes, spokesmodeling will always be a part of my life and I am excited to continue being the handsome, well-spoken face of brands such as Gear West Bike, Peace Coffee, The Gold Guys and QR. If your company could use my special style of representation don’t hesitate to contact me.

Will you venture into any new areas of triathlon? Great question, yes! I am going to do a little race announcing in 2015. I announced the inaugural Hopkins Royal Tri last year and this very weekend I’m announcing the YWCA indoor triathlon. If your Minnesota triathlon needs extra commentary that is classy, colorful and never crass, contact me forthwith.

Will you write a couple posts explaining the decision to step up to amateur racing? Yes there are several factors that played into this decision and I will write about them.

So that’s the big news. Wish me luck as I try to play the game at the next level!

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Gold Guys 2014 Year in Review Lists: Lists are Important!

2014 is coming to a close. That means it is time to create random lists ranking different things. Why? Because this is the internet. Are these scientifically determined, peer-reviewed lists? Come on. This is the internet.

Top Three Funniest Male Pro Triathletes on Twitter:

1. Me. @dpalmertri

2. The Kiwi version of me with handsome hands, Callum. @callummillward

3. The red-headed version of me, Doug. @dmactri

Biggest Biking Beasts:

1. Sebastian Kienle, won the two most competitive Ironmans of the year with breathtaking bike breakaways in Frankfurt and Hawaii.

2. Maik Twelsiek, only guy who came close to keeping up with Sebastian at Kona.

3. Marino Vanhoenacker, blasted a 4:31 at Ironman Canada. Canada is not a fast course.

Least Lucky German:

1. Jan Frodeno, got flats at both Ironman Frankfurt and Kona. Because he’s a pretty good athlete he still got on the podium both times.

Most Lucky German:

1. Sebastian Kienle, Seb won the races where Jan got flats! Haha Jan! Kienle deserved a little luck since a flat ruined his chance to win Kona in 2012. Pete Jacobs was EXTREMELY lucky that year that Seb got a flat.

Holy Moly American Bro Breakout Race of the Year:

1. Ben Hoffman’s second place at Kona. Wow.

Outstanding Up and Coming Fresh Faces in Women’s Long Course Triathlon:

1. Ruth Brennan Morrey. This young gun won Kansas 70.3. Second in her Ironman debut at Chattanooga. What a year. Unrelated, happens to be from Minnesota which is a neat fact.

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Ruth’s racing is red hot and she is a major fan of hottest name in the spokesmodeling game, dpalmertri.

World’s Best Female Amateurs:

1. Heather Lendway. Won nationals. Won worlds. Won everything. Unrelated, a Minnesotan and Peace Coffee drinker.

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2. Dani Fischer. Wins and podiums, left and right. Completely unrelated, from Minnesota and Peace Coffee drinker.

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Minnesota’s Man of the Year:

Matt Payne. Matt was the only guy who was really el fuego this season.

Minnesota’s Woman of the Year:

Bad news. The world’s best amateur female and the best new female long course pro didn’t face off this year. So we’re stuck with deliberating. Ruth and Heather need to have an annual showdown. Winner takes all. I will promote the fight. I mean race.

Best Friends of 2014:

1. Steven Stenzel: enough said. What a guy. Truly my Best Friend Forever For Now.

2. Jeremy Reichenberger: second only to Steven, but it is a close second.

3. Devon Palmer: perhaps luckiest man alive to have #1 and #2 as his best friends.

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Jeremy on the left, I’m center, Steven on the right. Dream team to end all dream teams.

(If you’ll remember the three of us did a best friends relay at the Waconia Triathlon this summer where we won, because that’s what friends do)

Fastest & Most Practical Triathlon Bikes of 2014:

1. Quintana Roo PRsix. Fast. Good looking. Practical, easy to get fit, easy to adjust, simple front end!

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No other contestants in this category. Most companies make ridiculous superbikes that are completely impractical and normal triathletes cannot work on them or adjust them or build them. The PRsix is the best.

Podcasts I Actually Listen to (unranked category)

The Champs with Neal Brennan and Moshe Kasher

You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes

Alias Smith and LeRoi

Seth Godin’s Startup School

Money For the Rest of Us

Just Killing Time with Maronzio Vance

The Dead Authors Podcast

Comedy Bang Bang

Sklarbro Country

Industry Standard with Barry Katz

Best Coffee Sponsors in Triathlon:

1. Peace Coffee: Tasty, fair trade, organic, Peace Coffee was everywhere this season. What a treat for all of us!

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Even puppies love Peace Coffee.

States I Hate The Most With the Most Ironman Champions:

1. IOWA: you may be familiar with the filthy, barren wasteland South of Minnesota. This desolate stretch of nothing is called Iowa. Despite lacking any positive attributes, this state is home to THREE Ironman Champions! WHAT?! First TJ Tollakson dominated IM Mont Tremblant in August. Then Daniel Bretscher won an intense battle at IM Wisconsin. Then Matt Hanson goes and wins IM Chattanooga. I can’t even! Come on. Maybe they are so successful because they’re willing to do anything for a shot at making it out. Whatever.

Best Post Ironman Pose of 2014:

Josh Ruhnke after Ironman Wisconsin. An obvious choice.

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Most Successful Twitter Campaign in Triathlon:

The floodgates really opened for the #PRSIX4DP campaign this year. The people DEMANDED I get a PRsix and QR had no choice but to abide. Hats off to everyone involved!

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Double Downer of the Year:

One of my athletes was set to race IM Lake Tahoe. Then there was a wildfire and it got cancelled. So she went to Ironman Florida last minute. Then there were some waves and the swim got cancelled. Double Downer! Thankfully she is a champ and recovered with a drink or two at Pineapple Willy’s and is doing a couple more Ironmans next year.

Me and Madonna

New Friend I Like the Most and Treat the Worst:

Doug MacLean. We follow each other on twitter and are facebook friends and everything and we even met in person one time. Doug is actually funny so we get along real good. Publicly I am abusive at all times because he has red hair and needs to be discriminated against on that basis. Gingerscrimination is justified. Doug is alright in my book.

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Best Netflix Streaming Trainer Movies:

1. The Man From Nowhere. The best of the best. So violent.

2. Safe. Jason Statham putting the hurt on bad guys. So good.

3. Shooter. Mark Walberg using guns to solve problems.

I have watched all of these more than once. Safe may no longer be streaming. 30 for 30s are an honorable mention, most of those are good for trainer rides.

Greatest Ironman Expo Photo of 2014:

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Possibly greatest Expo photo of all time.

It was a mixed year for me. Some fun new experiences and some lousy discouraging stuff. I’m making some changes for 2015 and will write about that before long. Happy New Year!

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