Saturday, September 18, 2010

The "Tri-Fecta" Attempt.

photo by Dave Erickson

This week, I decided to finish the local 2010 race season by attempting a "Tri-Fecta".

Yes, I completely made up this term, and it means "to win 3 triathlons in a row". I think that it is traditionally a phrase used in horse racing or something, but I'm no grammatical expert. I just wear spandex and do triathlons.

For the Tri-Fecta attempt, I chose the Palouse Sprint Triathlon, the Spokane Olympic Triathlon and the Grand Columbian Half-Ironman Triathlon - a true test of my speed in all distances, and a good alternative to doing boring long workouts to prepare for the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii.

There were three significant changes to my prep, gear and nutrition protocol before these races, specifically:

-I really stepped up the massage therapy with Tim Gilreath from I've been seeing him once a week as regularly as possible, and he's magically figured out how to keep me pieced together for this attempt.

-I am riding on a completely brand new Gray Storm Time Trial Bike with Gray Wheels and a Gray Helmet ( This is a new company to the triathlon scene from Lake Tahoe, and they make slick, fast and impressive gear. I built up their frame with SRAM Red Components and Return To Position shifters, a Zipp Vuma Aero crank, and Gray Aero Bars. Here's a picture:

Yeah, it's fast, and it's been all by lonesome in transition a lot lately.

-I also tripled the amount of fatty acids in my diet. No, I did not start eating butter sticks. I did it by using the Pharmax DHA/EPA blend and Udo's 3-6-9 Oil from Bioletics. This was based on recommendations from Podcast #111 at, which you can listen to by clicking here.

***In addition, I'm using all the normal nutrition and gear protocols I've relied on for a very successful 2010 race season thus far, and you can read about everything else I use at the end of this post. Heck, I'm shamelessly begging you to click on my sponsors' links. They make pretty dang good stuff.***

OK, here we go.

The first race, on Saturday, 09/11 was the Palouse Sprint Triathlon. I hold the course record here and I was out to beat it. In a sprint triathlon, you basically just go to a world of red-hot pain for under an hour. It's over fast, but it hurts.

The race started with a 500m pool swim, then a 10 mile bike, and finished with a 5K run.

Here's me leading in the swim (this was the last of 8 waves):

I came out of the water in first place and took of on the Gray Storm TT.

This was my first race on this beast, and it is F-A-S-T bike. It is basically the stiffest frame you can get anywhere, which basically means that just about every tiny chunk of wattage gets directed straight into the cranks on the bike.

I just held on for dear life, at about 26 miles per hour, and then ran the 5K. I don't know how far ahead I was coming off the bike, but I won the triathlon by almost 3 minutes and re-set the course record.

Here's me finishing the Palouse Sprint Triathlon:

And hacking up my lungs afterwards:

Sprint Nutrition: 45 minutes prior: 2 delta-E's and 6 Enerprime, Millennium SportsCordygen VO2 and Carnage. During race: no water, no gels. No need.


On my drive back up to Spokane, I must admit that I seriously re-considered my Tri-Fecta attempt, since I was still reeling from the sprint triathlon. But at 4:30am the next morning, I peeled myself out of bed and headed out to make the next attempt for a win at the Spokane Olympic Triathlon.

For those of you who get queasy at the mention of genital shrinkage, you may want to skip this next part.

The Spokane Triathlon is cold.

As in, steam-coming-off-the-water, folks-shivering-in-3-layers-of-clothing-in transition, where-are-my-fingers, why-do-my-testicles-look-like-those-of-my-2-year-old-boys cold.

I choked down a couple yams on the drive to the race, set up transition and then waited until the last possible minute to strip down and put on my wetsuit. As I made my first venture into the icy Spokane River, I felt "the boys" literally go screaming up into my crotch, screaming for dear life and their virility. This was like the cold bath Seinfield episode multiplied ten-fold.

Here I am, hunched over, shivering, and heading out on the bike:

I came out of the water in 2nd, and rode into first by mile two of the bike. This race was basically a repeat of the day before, but twice as long, and the Antarctic version.

While hammering the bike course, I slowly watched my fingers turn a concerning purple shade. Halfway through, I could not feel my fingers or toes, and the feeling in my crotch was suggesting that I may have successfully engaged in castration by freezing. It never did warm up, and by the time I got back to transition, I had to enlist the assistance of a volunteer in taking off my helmet, snapping on my race belt, and putting on my shoes.

For the first two miles of the run, I couldn't feel my legs or feet, and I once again gave serious through to dropping the pursuit of a Tri-Fecta in exchange for a cup of hot chocolate and warm bath.

But I powered through, it slowly became warmer, and I won again - once again by several minutes. Here I am running to the finish. The vital organs have apparently warmed up by now.

Two down, one to go.

Olympic nutrition: 45 minutes prior: 2 delta-E's and 6 Enerprime, Millennium Sports Cordygen VO2 and Carnage. During race: 300 calories of GU brew on the bike, nothing on the run. I've also started adding Peter Gillham's NutraRev pre-race, taking with the delta-E.


The Grand Columbian Half-Ironman, on 09/18 (Tri-Fecta day seven of seven) is known to be a difficult course. With 3800 feet of climbing and notoriously fierce winds, followed by a run on a punishing, undulating mix of trails, gravel and highway, this is not a race to take lightly. For example, last year I raced a 4:34 at Grand Columbian and took second - and that would be considered a relatively "slow" Half IM course time.

So you gotta have a good tune on your pre-race .mp3 player to get pumped up for this one. I went for "Dynamite" by Taio.

Saturday morning, I drove the 90 miles to the race at 6am with my wife and kids. We arrived, I set up transition, and time went by quickly.

The boys helping me get ready:

Found a craw-dad in the water before the swim:

The nice part about Grand Columbian is that there is a buoy line underneath the water that you can use to swim a straight path without sighting much. The first 200 meters of the race are a free-for-all as every competitor tries to get on top of that buoy line. It's like the new Nintendo Playstation is sitting on top of that first buoy, and you're surrounded by desperate pre-Christmas mothers in wetsuits.

I ended up leading in a pack of 4 swimmers, with two very fast swimmers way off the front ahead of us. For the first 1200 meters, I hung with the other 4 swimmers, then made an attempt to break away with 700 meters left - primarily because I didn't want any other cyclists getting a free ride on my tail in the first and most difficult section of the bike course.

My break away was successful, and I was able to come out of the water with just those two fast swimmer ahead of me. I got out of transition ahead of one of them, and got ready to hurt.

Out of the swim:

This race begins with a 1000+ foot climb, but my Gray ascended like a dream. This bike climbs very well, and as a relatively weak climber, I'm pretty grateful for that. The ride, as expected, was windy and hard, but I felt fantastic - I shoved down a GU Roctane every 20 minutes and a couple Athlytes every 30 minutes. Usually, I eat a lot during the Half-IM bike so I don't have to eat much on the run.

Still, it took me nearly 40 miles to catch the final swimmer who had made it out of the water ahead of me, and in the meantime, another cyclist rode by me so fast that I thought he was on a team or relay division. So I rode into transition 90 seconds behind this guy, who it turns out was NOT on a team but was an individual competitor. Third place rode in just about a minute behind me.

Here I am coming off the bike:

Mentally, I've had a hard time this season both "catching" other runners ahead of me and running a strong half-marathon, so I knew I was at a bit of a disadvantage chasing and being chased. I put my head down and starting charging, knowing that 90+ seconds is a good chunk of time to make up, but is do-able.

Unfortunately, halfway through the run, at the 10K mark, I split 1st place and he was 2:15 ahead of me. To make matters worse, 3rd place was just 15 seconds behind me. So I was stuck in a very unsettling sandwich.

At that point, I really though I'd let my Tri-Fecta slip away. A third place finish seemed inevitable.

This is the point during a race where I go drill sergeant on myself...

"How BAD do you want this?"

"C'mon how much are you willing to hurt?"

"Go big or go home, Ben."

"Yo momma is an ugly cow."

HAHA. Sorry about that last one, Mom. I know you read these race reports.

Well, my "positive" self-talk worked. I grit my teeth, set my chin, and went to my pain-cave. DEEP into my pain cave. At 15K, I had opened up the gap on 3rd place to sixty seconds and was 10 seconds behind the leader.

I flew by him, and started counting. I've been passed my fair share of times, and I know that when you get passed, your instinct is to go with the guy that passed you. So I dug in and counted to 200, hoping to demoralize him.

It worked, and when I looked back, he was a non-issue.

About 5 minutes later, my body started shutting down. By this time, I was just past the 11 mile mark, and the engine was over-heating. I knew I had to cool down my core, so I walked for 30 seconds, took a few deep breaths, and then made the final attack.

The final 4K were a bit of a blur, not because I was running that fast, but because my vision was blurry and the blood was pounding in my ears. It was really hurting, but I wanted the finish line worse than it hurt. At this point, I knew nobody was going to catch me, but now I just wanted to see how fast I could finish.

The final sprint to the finish line (the other finishers were in the simultaneous Olympic distance race).

(notice the hot photographer in the background, my wife...)

(fist pump)

(and victory.)

Turns out I was 8 minutes faster than last year (that's HUGE for a Half-Ironman), as I crossed the finish line in 4:26 and got my Tri-Fecta.

Three wins in seven days - a huge confidence booster going into Kona, and a veritable crapload of USA Triathlon points, which help towards the national ranking.

Half-Ironman nutrition: 45 minutes prior: 45 minutes prior: 2 delta-E's and 6 Enerprime, Millennium Sports Cordygen VO2 and Carnage. During race: 9 GU Roctanes and 8 Millennium Sports Athlytes on the bike, half a banana and 6 Athlytes on the run. I've also started adding Peter Gillham's NutraRev pre-race, taking with the delta-E.


So what's next? I'm flying down to ***Las Vegas*** on Wednesday to bring you Interbike reporting straight from (Interbike is the world's biggest cycling/triathlon expo).

Saturday and Sunday, I'll be in ***Sacramento*** teaching a fat loss and human performance seminar for

On Monday, I'll be at a top secret meeting in ***San Francisco*** to plan the release of an AWESOME new business that I can't tell you anything about yet.

Then I'll come back for a few days, and it will be off to ***Kona, Hawaii*** with Mom, Dad, my wife Jessa, my sister Rosie and my twin boys for Ironman World Championships - where I'll be doing Ford and Timex sponsored media coverage for and of course, racing in the Super Bowl of triathlon.

So stay posted for lots of fresh content and videos over the next few weeks.


OK, here's the sponsor digs I promised you:

Key Nutrition Used In These Races (leave comments below if you have "usage" questions):

Pre-Race: Ancient Minerals Topical Magnesium Oil, Scape Sunblock, Enerprime, delta-E, Millennium Sports Carnage, Millennium Sports Cordygen VO2, Sweet Potatoes, nuun hydration, Peter Gillham's NutraRev

During Race: GU Electrolyte Brew, GU Roctane and Millennium Sports Athlytes

Post-Race: Wicked Fast Recoverease, Ancient Minerals Topical Magnesium Oil, Mt. Capra Solar Synergy, Mt. Capra Double Bonded Protein, Bioletics Amino Acids, nuun hydration

Key Gear Used In This Race (leave comment below if you have questions)

Wetsuit: Blue Seventy Helix
Goggles: Blue Seventy Nero
Sunglasses: Zeal Optics "Slingshots"
Bike: Gray Storm TT
Wheels: Gray 9.0 Clinchers
Helmet: Gray Aerodome Helmet
Cycling Shoes: Specialized TriVent
Running Shoes: Avia Avi-Bolts
Recovery Compression Socks: "TheRecoverySock".

Thanks for reading!


Anonymous said...

Congratulations on a great race Ben! It was really interesting reading your reports. What were your times in the Sprint and OLY? Man a 4:26 in the HI! I'm hoping just to break 6hrs next season in my first HI!

Ben Greenfield said...

2:03 on the Olympic, 48 minutes on the Sprint.

Spokane Al said...

It is always a pleasure reading your stuff Ben. Congratulations on a productive seven days. It sounds like you are quickly moving into Kona race condition.

Keep rocking buddy!

Adam Beston said...

I feel your cold pain. Once had to not even start a half iron and it was an awesome decision bc I did the bike and knew if I tried the swim I would have needed rescued.
I like how in the report the sprint was the physically toughest and the half mentally tough. Its great to see you hit so many distances to round out yourself as a triathlete. Keep it up and stay strong for an awesome Kona finish.

Rene said...

Congratulations!! That is IMPRESSIVE!! I would be ecstatic just to win my age group!! LOL

Jeffrey said...

Love reading your blog, buddy. Seems like you had two pretty good back-to-back weekends. I'll be watching for you on Oct. 9 hoping that you're in the hunt for the age-group title.
Jeff Cohn

Big Daddy Diesel said...

Wow!! Congrats and impressive!!!

Chuck said...

Nice work Ben! Way to represent for us Triathlon Dominators. I'm looking forward to hearing about how you tear it up at Kona!