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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Anemia sucks

Fatigue- a seven letter word which poses the ultimate paradox of the endurance athlete. Though we embrace its sting as confirmation that we are effectively pushing our limits, excessive amounts impede both progress and peace of mind. Indeed, such levels of exhaustion are all to common thread among today's endurophites, and the culprit is often more than simple overtraining. Though rest is undeniably beneficial, it does not offer a complete solution for much of this demographic. The true problem lies deep within our capillaries, where the magical process of oxygen transportation is being inhibited by insufficient iron.
Unfortunately I can attest to the effects of anemia. I started the season feeling strong and testing my limits, but by mid spring my performance had begun to fall off. After a couple of months of stubborn persistence, I finally accepted that I was overtrained and cut back my workload. However, this was not enough. The summer yielded more subpar results. When fall rolled around and ushered in a new cross country season, I thought that my problems were over. This was not the case. I finally visited my pediatrician and discovered that I had depleted my body's iron stores.
The ease with which we can fall into the clutches of anemia is frightening. The diet of an average health conscious American falls short of meeting their body's daily iron requirements. Even if they consumed the suggested amount of iron, it is likely that only 10% of it would be available for effective use. Finally, consider that the endurance athlete depletes ferratin stores at an extraordinary rate when subjecting his body to the rigors of daily training, and we have the perfect storm.
Now that you have been effectively frightened by its imminent danger, how are you to determine if you have anemia? The only conclusive proof comes from a blood test, but there are several classic symptoms. Lethargy, irritability, decline in performance, dizziness, and a pale complexion all point to iron depletion. Many of these indicators are also red flags for overtraining, but overtraining itself can often lead to anemia. However, it is prudent for any athlete training at a high level to get checked whether they are experiencing these symptoms or not. The amount of iron required for optimal function deviates by individual, but generally endurance athletes should strive for the higher end of the recommended range. So don't be surprised if your test only shows a slightly low iron level- just a few points can make an enormous difference. Because of the discrepancy between individuals, it is best to establish a baseline during the offseason when you are feeling fresh and the training load is reduced. Ask your doctor to check your hemoglobin and ferratin levels, and then get them retested approximately every four months during the training cycle.
Whether as treatment or a preventative measure, all endurance athletes should optimize their diets to combat iron depletion. Iron sources can be classified as either heme or non-heme, with heme being the most readily absorbable. As a general rule, any animal products are heme, while fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains are non-heme. This puts vegetarians at a distinct disadvantage, although it is still possible for them to meet iron requirements. When taken with iron, vitamin C promotes absorption. So an omnivorous athlete could eat a steak with a side salad including tomatoes, while a vegetarian would opt for fortified cereal with orange juice. Supplementation is also a wise precaution. Take iron tablets once a day with vitamin C. Finally, exercise patience; it takes six to eight weeks for significant change in iron levels to occur.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Jr. Elite Nationals- Bad race? Maybe. Learning experience? Definitely.

I was very fortunate this weekend to get to travel all the way to San Diego, CA for the Jr. Elite Triathlon National Championships. This would be my first draft legal race. I am so thankful to God, my family, my coach Dave Williams, my TMS-IOS teammates, Traingle Multisport, Inside Out Sports, Paul Sullivan of Winskins and so many others for this opportunity.
The eighty best triathletes between the ages of 16 and 19 lined up Saturday morning along a pontoon for the start. The pontoon was sinking from our weight! The swim was like a UFC match. I was shocked at how much I got beaten up and I barely had a chance to sprint. Before I knew it I was off the back in like 60th place still being beaten to a pulp. After the initial 200 meters I started moving through the field and passing people to get out in 18th. I was almost a minute back of the leaders. I really attacked the bike and bridged to a group of two. We killed it for a couple of laps going like 30 mph. At the end of the 3rd lap we caught a group of about 8 or 10 guys. The bike was scary- really technical course on bumpy roads strewn with sand, dirt, and puddles from the light rain. I had to murder myself because I couldn't corner as fast as the other guys, so I kept falling off the back after every turn and had to sprint to catch back up. Eventually I started attacking before the turns, getting dropped because I cornered so slow, and catching back on. I kept getting yelled at by other guys- one guy said 'Don't be a hero'. Apparently I was spending too much time pulling. I worked hard to keep the pace high and chased down a couple of late attacks which split the group. Coming into T2 I collided with another athlete and went down. Then I missed my transition space and had to double back. The first half mile of the run I was really slow because of a serious stomach cramp. I was having trouble breathing but it went away eventually. I never gave up and reeled in a few guys to finish in 12th place. I made a lot of mistakes which just means I have a lot to to learn and thus a lot to improve on. I'm not going to get discouraged or give up on my ITU triathlon goals because of a poor performance in my first draft legal race.

Here's the top things that I learned (or knew but experienced for the first time myself):

1. The swim is really violent.
2. Being able to sprint fast the first couple hundred yards is critical.
3. The bike can be very hard because of all of the sprinting and people yelling at you.
4. Technical skills are critical- you have to corner really fast,
5. If you don't you end up sprinting too much to catch back up.
6. Work as little as possible on the bike. 'Don't be a hero.'
7. Come into T2 in front of the group or you will run into other people and fall.
8. Run like its an open 5k race- forget about the swim and bike.
9. Be super aggressive all the way through.
10. Attacking and surging is important on the run to break people.
11. Never give up.
12. Accelerate after turnarounds.
13. Transitions make or break the race.

Now its time for a fun vacation with the family before gearing up for XC season- I have a lot of running to do because I've only been doing about 20 mpw...
Until next time,
Train smart and race hard!
Mason Boyles

Saturday, July 24, 2010

YMCA Camp Thunderbird Triathlon at Lake Wylie

Yesterday my family packed up and embarked on a brutal drive, which included at least one major detour due to faulty directions, to Charlotte's outskirts for the Lake Wylie Triathlon. It seemed like it would be a relief to get to our hotel, but much to the dismay of everyone involved our room was akin to a furnace when we walked in. Clearly the hotel was struggling financially and they had either turned off or failed to repair their A.C. system. That made for a restless night...
I awoke after a "refreshing" four hour sleep on Saturday morning excited to race. This would be my first race in the awesome ITU racing suit that Mr. Cardoso at Inside Out Sports helped my parents purchase for me. Paul Sullivan at Winskins did his work well and when the suit arrived, the graphics looked even better than I had imagined they would.
I was taking a different mindset going into this race- typically I put an immense amount of pressure on myself to win, no matter how fast my opponents are. However, today I purposely tried to let go of external goals and just focus on racing my best. Even though Lake Wylie was a C-priority race for me, it was still tough to get over my desire to win. I knew that there were a lot of other fast guys racing today- my teammate Brad Perry, Kevin Lisska, Donny Forsyth, Joe Niccolini, Duncan Chapman, and many others, so it was critical that I change my outlook so that I wouldn't be disappointed if I got my butt kicked.
But I digress; back to the race. After an abbreviated warmup which was predicated by 90 degree temperatures (at 7 a.m.!) I got into the lake, which felt like a hot tub. Unfortunately, the open wave had to soak in the tub for twenty minutes longer than we were expecting due to the late arrival of local law enforcement who were officiating the event. When the gun went off I had barely gone 100 yards before my lip was sliced open by someone's stray foot. I tasted the blood ('a la' Bruce Lee) and got some extra motivation to move up. I found some feet and was swimming very relaxed until we rounded the first turn buoy and I saw the two leaders ahead. Deciding I could bridge the gap, I surged and caught on to Brad Perry's feet. I simply followed the train until I didn't turn sharply enough at the final buoy and lost the draft. However, I utilized some strategic dolphin diving to exit the swim in third, only six seconds behind Mr. Lisska and three back of Mr. Perry. I got through T1 quickly and got on to the bike course with the lead. Two miles in, I was still holding first place when I took a turn too fast- and fell. I was riding my road bike instead of my tri bike, so I felt comfortable cornering a little faster than usual. What I didn't take into account was the effect that using a borrowed disk wheel from my dad would have, and the wheel slid out from under me. I landed on my right side HARD... so hard, in fact, that I bounced off the ground and flipped over to my left side. As I would later discover, this earned me two holes in my beautiful new uniform, one on each hip. For a short time I was lying by my bike in shock. When I'd realized what happened I was up and screaming "OWWW!" repeatedly, channeling frustration more than pain as I jumped back on the bike, only to discover that my chain had come off. By this time Brad Perry had passed me for the lead. I hopped back off and put the chain on, Andy Shleck style. Unfortunately Brad Perry had shrunk to a small dot way down the road by now, but I wasn't ready to give up. I decided that I wasn't going to let myself have any excuses and that I was still very much in the race. However, I struggled to regain a rhythm until Duncan Chapman passed me a little over half way through. This caught my attention, and though I sat up and went really slow on all of the downhills and corners, I worked hard to try and reel him in on the flat sections and climbs. When I reached T2 I was about twenty seconds behind him and my mom called out that I had lost fifty to Brad Perry. After another efficient transition I had gained ten seconds on Duncan Chapman and I moved past him early in the run. The run course was not only about a quarter of a mile long, but relentlessly hilly and hot. It was nothing short of brutal out there and I really felt like I was jogging as I struggled against fatigue, a side stitch, and flawed form. Unfortunately, my run form is still very much a work in progress. I did some serious heel striking on those downhills and my torso was writhing back and forth like a Floridian retiree doing the boogie. I'm glad that there aren't any form judges in triathlon, because I was looking pretty ugly! I really wasn't very confident about catching Brad Perry, but after the two mile mark I could see that I was closing on him. When I passed him I was determined to make it final, so I decided to really redline for a bit and hopefully discourage him from trying to stay with me. I was able to get a gap and cruise home for the win. Brad Perry got second, Donny Forsyth was third, and Kevin Lisska was fourth.
In the women's race, my IOSTS teammate Stacey Richardson took first, Melissa Bell was third and Alysia Lovgren was fourth. Another impressive performance came from my brother Jackson. On a whim he decided to sign up for the race last week, despite having been on a twelve week hiatus from any cycling or running. He had a strong comeback race for first in his division and is looking forward to getting back to training again.
All in all, I gained a lot from the race today, my last this year in the excellent IOSTS series. I successfully overcame the (forty seconds or more) setback of a crash and I learned that perhaps I'm better off putting less pressure on myself; it certainly allows me to race more relaxed. This knowledge is a valuable tool to have going into Junior Nationals only three weeks from now! Its time to put my head down and hammer those last key sessions before the big day.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention my incredible raceday hairstyle...

Until next time,
Train smart and race hard!
Mason Boyles

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Trispan 5k (It's been a while...)

Well, it's been a while since my last post. I had a very unspectacular race at Kure Beach Triathlon and frankly just didn't feel like writing anything about it. But now I'm committing to a more regular schedule of blog entries. I know that in ten years I'll be glad that I did so because I can look back on my experiences from when I was younger and see what was going through my mind at the time. So here I go again...
I raced the Trispan 5k this morning, the first 5k race in about 6 months for me. This was a C-priority race, as I didn't reduce my training leading up to it. I woke up race morning with no expectations except to get a good workout (with cheering spectators included!) and see where my running fitness is. My coach, Dave Williams, and I have been focusing on improving my swim, so I've only been putting in about 25 miles per week of running.
It was drizzling rain before the 7:30 a.m. start, and the temperature was 78 degrees with some serious humidity. Prerace I saw some of my Hoggard cross country teammates, most of whom were racing the 10k. Both the 5 and 10k proved to be quite competitive- a good group of collegiate runners showed up to contest both distances, in addition to some quick locals.
Trispan is about the hilliest course that you can get in this part of the state. The 10k crosses over three major bridges and the 5k traverses the numerous steep grades of downtown Wilmington's waterfront, zigzagging along the historic streets. After a thorough warmup I positioned myself among the other racers for the start, and at the word of an official we were off. I wanted to make sure I got into oxygen debt early so I started off strong. A few minutes in I could hear someone breathing off my shoulder so I eased up a bit until he caught me. Then I latched onto him and let him dictate the pace for a little while. But I guess this guy didn't want company because he surged pretty hard on an uphill and got a gap on me. Unfortunately, I wrongly assumed that the course would have mile markers and, since I wasn't wearing a watch, I had no clue how much racing was left. I held my gap to the leader constant and kept waiting to see the two mile mark, figuring that I'd just go for broke once I passed it and hopefully reel this guy in. But the two mile mark never came. I just assumed that I was having a tough day and it was making the race seem super long until we reached an out and back section that turned onto the finishing straight. Much to my disappointment, I never got to kick it in during the last mile because, unbeknownst to me, I'd already covered it! At this point I regained the lead because the 1st place guy missed the turnaround and was a few yards past it before the volunteers called him back, but he was breathing down my neck. When we hit the final straight he outkicked me and I crossed the line in 15:29, a close second to his 15:28.
I was a little frustrated because I felt like I had a lot left in the tank which I had been planning to burn once we hit two miles; the next time I race Trispan I will have to remember that I can't count on any mile markers. Apparently the course was a little under 3.1 miles, but my time still converts to 15 and change for 5k. Considering the circumstances I am reasonably happy with my fitness level. I know that there's still a long way to go on the road to Jr. Elite Nationals, but I'm looking forward to the journey.
Until next time,
Train smart and race hard!
Mason Boyles

Sunday, May 30, 2010


According to "the plan", I would have raced yesterday. According to "the plan" I would have biked and ran twice as long as I did today. According to "the plan", now I should be looking forward to beginning a hard three week block of training tomorrow. Well, I'm not. According to my mind, I don't even feel like trudging through the shortest of workouts, I'm emotionally on-edge, and I no longer eagerly anticipate my next training session. The truth of the matter is, I did a poor job of formulating "the plan" for my buildup to triathlon nationals and paid a high cost.
Throughout the month of May I have pushed through feelings of staleness and lethargy, putting up crappy numbers in workouts, ignoring what my body was telling me in lieu of fulfilling the sessions which I had scheduled; surely it would be disastrous if I deviated from "the plan". What ended up being disastrous was following it.
The past two weeks I have attempted to continue through overtraining. This is a state which, unfortunately, is very familiar to me. Almost every schedule which I've created has led me deep into the valleys of fatigue with no immediate escape route. However, my compulsion to go hard continually drives me even further its clutches. So what made me recognize my error? Its really pretty simple: waking up every morning this week I haven't been looking forward to training. It sickens me to realize that I'm no longer feeling a desire to swim, bike or run, whereas all of these activities normally bring me so much joy every day.
This was the last straw. I am discarding "the plan" and seeking the advice of an expert coach in Dave Williams. I am confident that he will help me to achieve my fullest potential going forward. Most of all, I have finally decided to confront the mental and physical burnout with something which intimidates me even more: recovery. The past month's training has certainly hampered my chances at nationals, as will the requisite recovery to get ready for hard training again. But there is no other way around this roadblock- believe me, I've searched for one.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

White Lake Sprint

One week after nationals we packed up again and drove to beautiful White Lake, North Carolina for a weekend of Boyles family racing. My dad did the half on Saturday, but unfortunately stomach problems caused him to have a sub par day. Impressively, he pushed through the GI issues and still managed a 4:58 finish.
The next day, my brother and I raced the sprint. I woke up calm and excited race morning and came to the starting line ready to go for it. The swim went surprisingly well considering that I had only been getting in the pool a couple of times a week when I was getting ready for duathlon nationals. I found some fast feet to draft off of and came out of the water in third. After a little trouble getting my wetsuit off, I settled in to an even pace on the bike. I was erring on the side of caution since I had definitely biked too hard at nationals, so I held back a lot more than I typically would. Coming in to T2 I was in second place about thirty seconds back. After an okay transition I hit my stride and focused on the first place guy, who I could see farther down the road. By the first mile mark I had made up twenty-four seconds on the leader. Shortly thereafter I took the lead and pulled away, winning White Lake for the second time in my racing career. My brother had a great race, winning his age group despite his saddle coming loose midway through the bike. As for the TMS-IOS team, Amie Krasnozon won the female title and Alysia Lovgren took fourth. Amazingly, JoAnna Younts was second in the master's open after winning the same division convincingly in the half the day before.
Even though I had phantom soreness left over from nationals which lasted all week, I felt like I put in a good effort on the day. White Lake is a fantastic venue and the weekend always takes a festive atmosphere, which we got to experience for the first time this year. We rented a room in the lodge which is adjacent to the race venue- it was pretty cool to step right out the door and race.
Now its time to start logging some more yards in the pool so I can get ready for my first draft legal triathlon. I'm already excited for Junior Nationals in August!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Duathlon Nationals

Today I raced my first peak of the season: duathlon nationals. The junior race was a 5k run, 13k bike and 2.5k run. I knew that it was going to be an excellent race whenever my daily 'successful people' calendar, which usually involves an inspiring quote, had just one word for this weekend: "Excellence."
We arrived in Richmond at bike check in around 4 p.m. on Saturday to find 70 degree temps with ominous skies threatening rain. My race was at ten the following morning, which gave me plenty of time to get up, eat a leisurely breakfast, and basically try to control my excitement as the event for which I had devoted the past 5 months, sacrificing my track season to prepare for, quickly approached. Race day temps were around 65 or 70 without rain, but the previous night's rain made for a wet and treacherous bike course. I began the first run very relaxed, settling into a good rhythm while a let two eager competitors speed out front. Ryan Peterson, the defending champion, and I basically ran the first mile together and slowly regained the time on the two guys ahead. By two miles, I was about twenty seconds back of Matus Kriska, sitting in second place a few strides ahead of Ryan Peterson and Hunter Honeycutt. By T1, our order hadn't changed. Once onto the bike Ryan and I dug deep and pushed the pace to gap Hunter on the challenging and technical bike course. Ryan slowly pulled away from me over the next few miles, but I reeled in Matus in the late stages of the bike leg. However, he stayed close and came out of T2 ahead of me. Fortunately I didn't experience the dizziness which I had encountered at Azalea and Cool Breeze, but I did have to deal with a painful stitch in my right side and both of my shoulders. I focused on running efficiently, but my legs just didn't have the pop that I had been feeling during the past few weeks' hard workouts, but I may have gone too hard on the bike. Nevertheless, I maintained third place until I crossed the line. Unfortunately, that course took a lot out of me and my typical finishing kick was almost nonexistent. I ended up about 15 seconds back of Matus and a minute behind Ryan. Hunter finished fourth. I think that our second runs were about equal, because the time differences at the end were similar the gaps at T2. It was an awesome experience with some top flight competition, and though I would have liked to have won, I know that any of the top four guys might have won on a different day.
I have so much to thanks to give for the help, love, and support I have received on the journey to this race: to God, for giving me a passion and talent for multisport and giving me good courage and strength to race to the best of my abilities; to my parents and brother for unwavering love, patience, and first class cheering on race day (not to mention the practicals of driving me to/from training, making sacrifices to accommodate my schedule, paying for enormous amounts of quality food to help me refuel, and offering as much guidance as they can); to the TMS-IOS elite multisport team, for comping my race fees and supplying me with a super cool race suit, helmet, and training apparel. Speaking of the team, Kristin Villopoto used the age group race as a tune up for the White Lake Half, coming into it pretty beat up from some hard training, but still finished an impressive 7th overall and 1st in her age group.
Next up for Team Boyles are the Half (for dad) and sprint (for my brother Jackson and myself) at White Lake next weekend. After that, its time for me to get back into the chlorine and rediscover my inner swimmer, because I will be racing my first draft legal triathlon at Junior Nationals in San Diego this August.

Until next time,
Train smart and race hard!
Mason Boyles

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Cool Breeze Triathlon

Yesterday, my family piled into the van for the drive to Huntersville and the Cool Breeze Triathlon. We arrived at our hotel around 4 pm and were putting our numbers on our bikes when my mom asked me if I had my cycling shoes…I didn't. It was a blessing that she mentioned it that night, or I wouldn't have realized what I was missing until the morning of the race. The closest bike shop was the Spirited Cyclist, which closed at five. We hurried there and walked in at 5 sharp, but there was no hurry; I ran into the perfect person to help me. Mike Harvey was as helpful as could be, and even offered to let me borrow a pair of his shoes for the race tomorrow. When they didn't fit, he stayed well after closing time finding me a comfortable pair of shoes and attaching cleats. When the cleats didn't fit, Mike tried everything he could think of- loosening the pedal clips on the bike, lubricating the cleat and pedals, brute force, but all in vain. Finally, he filed down the edge of the cleats and we were up and running. When it was alll figured out, Mike had stayed an hour after closing time to help us out. He even gave us an enormous discount. We ended up paying only $90 for a brand new pair of shoes fitted with cleats. Without Mike and the Spirited Cyclist, I wouldn't have been racing the next day. I've also got to thank my family for not freaking out about this extra excursion. They were starving when we realized that I'd left my shoes back in Wilmington. Needless to say, they were ravenous an hour later, but none of them muttered a word of complaint. I'm really lucky to have such a supportive (and forgiving) family!
I awoke Sunday morning feeling physically and mentally prepared to race. We drove to the race site and I bid my mom goodbye, wishing my brother and dad who were also racing good luck before I left to warm up. It was a chilly mid forties and fairly windy, so I was glad to have my TMS-IOS race top to keep me warm. I started 5th, pushing off at 8:00:30. As always, I thanked God for the opportunity and asked him to give me courage to race the best that I could that day before I began. After a smooth swim I pulled on my gloves while running to the bike. I pedaled away and slipped my feet into the new cycling shoes with ease, silently thanking Mike Harvey as I did so. I passed TMS-IOS teammate Chris Tommerdahl and another guy within the first mile, putting me in second position. My odometer wasn't working so I simply put my head down and hammered, seeing no one else until about a mile left on the bike. Donny Forsyth passed me as I was taking a turn very slowly, since my handling skills are pretty crappy. I passed him back on a straight stretch, and then slowed way down for another turn and he came around again. This repeated itself one more time before we arrived in transition, where my mom was screaming her head off. I get serious tunnel vision during races, so its pretty impressive that my mom cheers hard enough for me to notice her. She spends just as much energy being support crew for my dad, my brother, and me as we do when we race.
At this point my world was spinning. I have never felt so dizzy in my life, and struggled to pull my run shoes on. I dug deep and fixed my eyes on Donny Forsyth's back, gradually reeling him in. All the while my head was spinning faster and faster, as if it was riding the Tilt-a-Whirl at Carowinds. I felt like I was going to fall over any moment but just focused on running my fastest. By the time I crossed the finish line I had no energy left to supress the dizziness and pretty much plopped down on the ground. I closed my eyes and just stayed there for a long time before I tried to sit up, but my head was still spinning at a zillion miles an hour, so I lay back down again. Someone came over and told me to breathe deeply. By that time my mom had come over, too. She thought that I felt that way because I hadn't been breathing enough, and my dad later agreed, adding that the cold weather could have caused me to take shallow breaths.
I ended up second overall (again) to Zack Capets, who won by about twenty seconds. Donny Forsyth was third, another thirty seconds behind me. My teammates faired well today, too- Chris Tommerdahl dominated for the third time this season, taking the open female title by several minutes. Kristin Villopoto podiumed in the female master's open. As for Team Boyles, my dad finished a strong second in the cutthroat 45-49 division, while placing twelfth overall. Jackson, who is only twelve, finished third place in fifteen and under, behind two fifteen year olds. All in all, it was a fun weekend of racing and family time.
Until next time,
Train smart and race hard!
Mason Boyles

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Azalea Festival Triathlon (Saturday race)

This weekend I raced Azalea, my first triathlon of the 2010 season. I came in to this week really fatigued from a really hard training block, so I knew that recovery leading up to the race would be critical- however, at first I didn't accept it. I cut my volume but did some very intense workouts in all three sports on Monday and Tuesday. By Tuesday afternoon, I was absolutely cooked. I had gone just a couple days too far with the hard training and seemed to have fallen over the edge. This, along with my dad's persistence that I needed to have a real recovery week, finally convinced me to back off. And so Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were low volume, low intensity days with some brief pickups which left me feeling fresh again and excited to race on Saturday morning.
It had been raining sporadically all week, as Wilmington rain tends to come in brief, frequent bouts. Fortunately the skies stayed clear all morning and it turned out to be the perfect weather for a triathlon: about sixty degrees with partial clouds. Once I got to the race site, I met up with fellow IOS elite multisport team members Mr. and Mrs. Younts, who had brought me my race gear. I am very lucky to be a part of such a fantastic team and to have the support of companies as great as Inside Out Sports and Triangle Multisport, so I was looking forward to racing in the team uniform.
My warmup went smoothly, though I finished about twenty minutes before I was set to start. Several times I hopped into the pool and swam a few laps to keep loose before jumping back on to the deck and pulling on a jacket. My number was ten, meaning that I started at 8:02:15. When the time came, I pushed off of the wall and immediately found a smooth rhythm. Considering the current state of my swimming (atrocious at best) I was happy with how the first leg went; I was almost able to catch #9, who had started 15 seconds before me. Going down the stairs from the pool, I slipped and fell. It took me a couple of tries before I could get up, but I managed to make the other two flights without incident. The run to T1 was a couple hundred yards, which helped to get the blood flow going back to my legs before the bike. After a quick transition, I was out onto the bike course. One guy passed me right away and I stuck with him for a couple miles before he gradually gapped me. I passed IOS teammate Chris Tommerdahl about three miles in as we were going down Eastwood Road. I wasn't feeling very strong during the bike leg and didn't pass or get passed by anyone until I was on the run. In fact, about halfway through I began to wonder whether I had a flat tire (which I didn't). However, I kept thinking positively and just did the best that I could, thanking God for this opportunity to give my best effort. I finished the bike and was in and out of T2 in a flash.
At this point, I was feeling very dizzy and lightheaded. I have no clue why, but I was very unsteady on my feet and had tunnel vision from the late stages of the bike on. This wasn't goint to stop me, though. I just settled into a fast cadence and focused on running with grace and power. By the turnaround I had reeled in four guys and was in third position. I dug deep and tried to get all of the speed that I could from my stride. I finished in 45:40, 44 seconds behind the winner, Matthew Wistoff, and 1:02 ahead of third place overall finisher and IOS team member Brad Perry. I was gunning for Mr. Wistoff, but he is a fantastic athlete who has won many races in his career. Even though I didn't get him, I dropped 2:53 from last year and felt like I performed well for this time in the season.
The two major triathlon series in North Carolina, FS Series and Inside Out Sports North Carolina Triathlon Series, offer an unparalleled race experience. I am truly lucky to live in a state with such a thriving triathlon community and strive to never take their service for granted. In short, FS Series and Setup Events are awesome!
Another great thing I took away from this race was meeting my fellow Inside Out Sports teammates. We nearly swept the race, with team members earning 2nd and 3rd overall male, (myself and Brad Perry, respectively), and taking 1st (Chris Tommerdahl), 2nd (Tara Flint), third (Joanna Younts) overall on the women's side. Kenneth Younts placed 10th overall and 3rd in for masters open males.
My other 'team' also had great showings. My dad and brother both won their age groups, my dad placing 12th overall in a time of 50:24, and my twelve year old brother finishing in 1:02:48. As for my mom, she definately won the biggest fan award. I love it when we all go to race. It makes for a really exciting day. Now I get to look forward to Cool Breeze Triathlon on March 28, where all of the Boyles Boyz will toe the line together once again! After that, its all about Duathlon Nationals at the end of April.

My splits today were: swim-3:54; T1-1:19; bike-23:38; T2- :42; run-16:10, for a 45:40 finish.
Train hard and race smart!
Mason Boyles

Sunday, February 28, 2010

2 mile TT

Yesterday was the 2 mile time trial for the Hoggard track squad. I'm not running track this year, instead focusing on peaking for duathlon nationals, but I came out anyway to test my fitness and check in with the team again.
My first mile was a little [read: a lot] fast and it certainly showed in the second half, but I still ran a pretty decent 9:55 without any competition. I seem to be on track for February and look forward to putting in some speed work over the next nine weeks to come to nationals fully prepared. However, I couldn't help but feel a little disappointed that I didn't go sub-9:50, and thoughts like 'you would have gone faster if you didn't go out so hard' keep nagging at me. This is pretty typical of any endurance athlete; we are never satisfied with any performance. Even if I had run a P.R. I'm sure that I would have found something about my race to be disappointed with. Fortunately, this is one case where pessimism can be good- an insatiable drive for excellence has spurred a plethora of the moderately talented to achieve great things and rise to the pinnacle of their field. Until next time...
Train hard and race smart
Mason Boyles

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Cape Fear Soccer Association Scholarship 5k (Phew!): Recovery From Off Days

Well, that was disappointing. First, the Winston Salem duathlon was cancelled for inclement weather (ice covering the roads!), so I decided to race a local 5k instead. Bad choice! I had a pretty serious off day. You never know when one of those is coming; a bad race can creep up on you with the skill of an unwelcome FBI agent. I felt fine going into the race, but it just lasted about a minute longer than it should have! Regrouping your confidence can be tough, and its easy to let a bad day mar your perspective, but getting it back together is critical for future success. So, despite running over a minute slower than I'm really capable of, I'm trying to leave the baggage behind and move on to the next step toward duathlon nationals. I just have to remind myself that my training sessions are on target and trust in my fitness; if I do that, then race day performance will come around eventually. At least the race was for a good cause.
The CFSAS 5k was held to benefit the Cape Fear Soccer Association's scholarship program for families with low income. In today's economy, many household providers are either laid off or facing salary cuts. The scholarship program gives kids from low-budget households the opportunity to play in the Cape Fear Soccer league. In fact, there are two refugees from Haiti playing on scholarship while their dad recovers from injuries sustained during the earthquake. In just a few months, they have been forced to leave the place where they had spent all their lives and move to thousands of miles a foreign country, not to mention losing most of their material possessions along the way. If nothing else, that should put a single bad race in perspective.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

My one word: Focus

This marks the final day of my base period of training. Next week will emphasize recovery, ending with Winston-Salem duathlon on Saturday. I'm really psyched to get out there and race again! I'm also excited for beginning the build cycle leading up to Duathlon Nationals on April 25.
On another note, each year our church has a series about new year's resolutions. PC3 (Port City Community Church) is a unique environment and I count myself and family truly lucky to be a part of it. The concept of this series is essentially to choose a key word which will help you grow in your walk with God and become a better person in general. My one word for this year is FOCUS.
To me, this word is a reminder to try and be in the moment, taking in every aspect of what's around me and not missing or rushing through anything. Instead, my goal is to appreciate experiences fully in the present; this will combat my tendency to live in anticipation of the future. Even when I get to whatever I was looking forward to, I often miss out on it because I am already looking ahead to what will be next.
I am not the only person with this problem; many people, triathletes in particular, need to be FOCUSED in the MOMENT. To relate this to sport, it is always, 100% of the time, better to focus on your technique and/or simply appreciate your ability to stroke, pedal or stride when you're hurting than it is to look forward to stopping or get down on yourself with thoughts such as "why am I doing this" or "this really hurts". Many athletes choose to "zone out". This makes your mind neutral, which is better than brining yourself down with negativity; however, if you truly want to achieve your best, you should FOCUS on enjoying the moment and executing optimal technique. This trait is desirable for anyone, whether a sedentary "average Joe" or Olympian. Just something to think about...
Train hard and race smart!
Mason Boyles

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Greenville Duathlon

This morning I started off my 2010 racing season with the Greenville Duathlon put on by the fantastic staff of the FS Series. These guys really know how to put on a great race; thanks! They sure have some enthusiastic volunteers, too.
The race didn't start until 11, so I 'slept in' until 6. I knew it was going to be a good day when I found Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure on HBO- I love that movie! Seeing that the temperature was a balmy 42 (compared to last year's 8 degree weather!) further bouyed my spirits. I ate breakfast and took a caffeine pill, something which I have just begun to experiment with. Caffeine is proven to lower perceived effort, and increase endurance, focus and power.
One upside of not having my license is that one (or both) of my parents comes to all of my races with me and helps me out. This time it was my dad, who helped me put on my aero wheels, figured out how to get to the race site, and, most importantly, was my biggest fan!
I got in a good 15 minute warmup on the bike with some pickups, and then ran a couple of miles, finishing with strides and a few drills on the start line. The gun went off and I settled in to a very comfortable rythm; my strategy was to complete the first run at a conservative pace and really start going for it on the bike. My effort level was low, so I was surprised to see that my first mile was 5:15. I consciously ease off and completed the first 5k run in 16:15, feeling very smooth. I had a small lead on second place, and hopped onto the bike after a quick T1.
I really started hammering as soon as I got my feet strapped into my cycling shoes, using a low gear so that I could flush out my legs with a high cadence. A little while after the 4 mile mark, Will Hauss came flying by. I dropped back about five bike lengths and tried keeping pace for a couple of minutes, but he gradually pulled away. At the turnaround I checked my watch- he was 45 seconds ahead of me, and third place was 1:30 behind me. I put my head down, shifted into a lower gear, and did my best to bridge the gap. With two miles to go, I began to visualize a smooth T2 and switched back to a higher cadence again to ready my legs for the final run.
Dismounting my bike and running into the transition area, I could definitely tell that I hadn't been doing speedwork- my legs were pretty cooked and my body was starved of oxygen as if I was a deep sea diver. The hot spots I had noticed on the balls of both feet weren't helping, either. This is the point in every race that makes or breaks you. This is when I always ask God to give me courage and strength to do my best.
I pulled on my racing flats and focused on running poised and relaxed. I heard my dad shout that I was 80 seconds down. It wasn't until I had about 1200 meters to go that I found my running legs again; unfortunately, there wasn't much to find. I dug deep and just went for it, building to a sprint as I came out of the woods and onto the soccer field with a quarter mile remaining. I finished 2nd overall in 1:01:15 (unofficial), only managing 8:30 on the final 1.5 mile run. Will Hauss won, coming in around 59:30.
Today was a fun start to my racing season. I am relatively pleased with my current fitness level coming off of only basework; however, I know I still have a long way to travel on the road to duathlon nationals. Fortunately, I love every minute of the trip. Congrats to everyone who raced today; next up for me are a few more weeks of base training, and then Winston Salem duathlon. Until next time,
Train hard and race smart!
Mason Boyles

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Early season

Six days left until my first race of 2010, the Greenville Duathlon! Over the past three weeks I've been laying some solid foundations for this season; no real intensity yet, but some emphasis on lifting and logging endurance miles. Next week will be low-key to allow me to absorb the good work and be ready to roll for Saturday's race. I look forward to seeing where I am at this point. I'm just glad there's no swimming involved, because I've got a long ways to go before I'm back to top form there. Thanks to Dave Sokolofsky and the senior group down at CFAC for letting me join their hammerfest a couple of times a week and get my butt kicked! That's just what I need to get in touch with my inner fish.
Until next time...
Train smart and race hard!