Challenge Daytona

Challenge Daytona Race Report
December 6, 2020
Daytona International Speedway
Daytona Beach, Fla
0.5mi Swim, 12.4mi Bike, 3.1mi Run

And the rockets red glare,
The bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night,
That our flag was still there
Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free
And the home of the brave

Fireworks began exploding overhead and all around us as the national anthem was sung. Who would’ve thunk that my first time to the epicenter of Nascar would be for a triathlon. I only grew up an hour and a half away, our family business advertised with stock cars, and tons of my friends had been to the Daytona 500 multiple times in their lives. Me though, I’d never appreciated Nascar. Now that I race in a sport that not everyone understands and appreciates though I understand Nascar better. It’s all about positioning, drafting, calculating when to make your move etc. But here I was, standing on the edge of a manmade lake in the middle of Daytona International Speedway getting ready to swim, bike and run my way in one of the most iconic sporting venues in the world. This was Challenge Daytona!

The Swim
The Paratriathlon/Physically Challenged wave was set to go off at 7:00 AM with the age groupers to follow at 7:02. A 2min head start wasn’t a lot, but it would have to do. We had some of the top Paratriathlon swimmers in the world in our little group. Reo Bronze Medalist, Melissa Stockwell, Silver Medalist Hailey Danz, and Gold Medalist Grace Norman. Throw in Jamie Brown and Eric McElvenny and we had a pretty strong crew. A 2min head start through still meant that the fastest age group swimmers would catch and run over us. We were given the go ahead and Zack and I let our teammates slide down the bank, into the water and go. Then it was our turn. We hit the water and I immediately started swimming hard.

I focused on staying out front with my stroke and trying to pull and push the water straight back behind me. Swim straight, swim smooth, swim strong. The water was a balmy 65 degrees, so perfectly comfortable in a wetsuit. I didn’t feel my strongest but I kept pressing and pushing the effort. I felt a foot just at the edge of my reach and wondered if I could possibly be on Hailey’s foot. In the pool I can out swim Hailey in almost anything under 200 meters. Anything over that she kicks my ass. I tried to just stay as close to her as possible. I knew though that by March I’d need to be out swimming Hailey in a 750 meter open water swim if I wanted to have a chance at beating Aaron at the Continental championship.

When I’m swimming in open water time seems to stand still. I tried singing a song in my head to find my race cadence but no matter how many times I heard the refrain in my head I didn’t feel time passing. Then all of a sudden I felt someone’s hands on my feet and someone almost coming up in between Zack and me. Then they were gone and I felt someone grabbing at my feet. I kicked out hard to let them know that was not ok with me. Then someone came by on my right and I accidentally grabbed a handful of heel. Welcome back to age group racing where the swim is more or less an all out brawl. Damn we’re spoiled racing at the World Triathlon level where 99% of the time it’s a civil swim and there aren’t that many of us.

Finally, I felt the sandy bottom under my fingers. I popped up and Zack swung around to my right. We were out of practice and it took me a minute to get my bearings, get hold of Zack and start running. We ran up out of the water and into transition. Having not had a ton of time before the race start I wasn’t sure about the run into transition so I struggled moving fast and peeling my wetsuit down at the same time. We got to the bike and I fumbled with my wetsuit before Zack was able to grab it and help me strip it off. I grabbed my shoes, helmet and glasses, got them on, got to my feet, unpacked the bike and we started running. We ran for what seemed like forever until we got to the mount line. I heard us running up on someone and them clip clopping in there bike shoes. We stopped, threw our legs over the bike, clipped in and took off.

Swim Time: 13min 5sec
Transition 1: 3min 19sec

The Bike
Left turn, right turn, through a little tunnel, then out onto the track.
Once we were out on the speedway I relaxed a little bit. Zack and I know how to time trial on the bike. We know how to just put our heads down and go hard. We’d been stalking the Strava profiles of mean of the pros that would be at the professional race later today and we felt we could challenge a top 10 overall time on the Daytona International Speedway Strava segment. So once we were out on the track we started to push the pace. We held back just enough because we wanted to really be able to run well off the bike. The track was buttery smooth and the turns were so gentle I didn’t even notice us coming around them. For our first lap we passed a few people but had the majority of the track to ourselves. Then the second lap got more crowded and we started yelling “on your left,” or “on your right.” Typically on a course like this we’d ride on the left and pass on the right. However, there were bikes strewn across the track. Zack steered us up onto the banking to try and get around some people. Having never ridden together on a velodrome though we didn’t quite have enough lean to avoid almost pedal striking against the 31 degree banking. So our time up on the wall was brief. We’d go up on the banking quickly just to get around someone lower down. We were still moving fast though.
By the third lap the track was very crowded. Zack and I were constantly easing off the pedals, hitting the breaks and slaloming through age groupers. A couple of the faster cyclists had hooked onto our wheel and were following us and trying to help us out a bit in yelling out that we were coming. Nevertheless we’re pretty sure we freaked out more than a few age groupers as the Chinook came flying past them.
After our third lap on the track we did a little curvy loop out by the Daytona Airport. However, this section of the course was horribly marked. There were no course marshalls, only one traffic cone and a bunch of people on bikes going every which way. We followed someone that looked like they knew what they were doing, did some kind of crazy little loop, and later found out that we rode a little extra. Eric had latched onto our wheel by then as well and followed us. After our crazy little extra loop, Eric pulled up alongside and just behind of us and we all exchanged some puzzled remarks as we soft pedaled through a little technical section before getting back on what we were confident was the right course.

We came around a corner and dove into a pedestrian tunnel. I couldn’t help but tense up and clench the bars a little tighter as I heard walls rushing by me. All I could think was, “Don’t crash!” We came out of the tunnel and back onto the track. We hammered for a short stretch then made the turn to head into T2. Zack was looking down the road for a good place to slip our feet out of our shoes. Then a woman started pointing at the ground indicating to us that the dismount line was just ahead. We’d gotten our right feet out but didn’t have time to get our left feet out. So we dismounted still wearing our left cycling shoes. Then someone came screaming by us on a bike and Zack saw the actual dismount line about 50 meters ahead. We were ticked.
I clod hopped my way running with one cycling shoe and one barefoot. We again were very out of practice and messed up turning our bike to rack it. Finally, I got around and removed my helmet and left shoe. I got my running shoes on, grabbed the run tether, stepped into it and we were off. Transition 2 seemed to take forever though. I held back just a bit on the run through T2 using that time to let my legs lose the jelly feeling so that I could really open it up on the run.

Bike Time: 29min 25sec
Transition 2: 2min 31sec

The Run
“Narrow path. Hard left, hard right. We’re a little more open. Plenty of space. 6:35 pace, bring it up a bit.”
I ran with a tight upper body for the first few hundred meters as we navigated through a tight space to get out to the smooth wide open track. Once we were out on the track though I forced my shoulders to relax, my arms to swing, and my feet to kick up behind me. “High hands, relax the shoulders, show the bottom of your shoe, lean,” I kept telling myself. I felt myself beginning to flow. There were a couple times when I had to step toward Zack and I’d tighten up, but for the most part I felt in control. I found a gear that I thought I could hold but I couldn’t go past it. I tried upping the effort a few times but couldn’t find that little extra kick. My breathing was hard but not out of control.
Zack passed me a water bottle at two aid stations and I was able to wet my mouth and splash a little on my head. I continued running hard. Zack giving me constant pace updates. 6:20, 6:10, 6:05, 5:55, 6:00. I tried to stay consistent.
“I can still see Eric, let’s try to reign him in,” Zack said. I tried upping the pace. Then Grace came up to my left shoulder and passed me. I tried matching her pace, I couldn’t let Grace beat me! Grace was running out of her mind though and dropped me fast. I refocused and tried to chip away at the gap Grace had opened up on me little by little. But the gap kept growing and I wasn’t getting any faster.
I tried imagining Thibaud, or Antoine, or Brad, or Aaron running up behind me. I tried every mental trick I knew but the extra gear just wasn’t there. Zack kept reminding me to lean. I leaned and my pace would improve, but then I’d lose concentration and struggle.
We entered the finishing shoot and I sprinted with everything I had. We hit the finish line with no fan fair, and very few people in front or behind us. I almost wondered if we’d actually crossed the finish line because it was so empty. Guess that’s how a finish line during a pandemic is… Quiet.

Run Time: 19min 14sec

The Aftermath
We collected our finisher medals, grabbed a bottle of water and headed toward transition. My watch had dinged 3 miles right around the start of the finishing shoot and Zack had started his run watch in transition. So we weren’t really sure what my exact run time was until we went back and looked at the results online later. Checking out Strava it looked like Eric’s run was just short of an official 3.1mi/5km run, and mine was as well. But on the other hand the race organization told us it was 5km. At the end of the day we can only run the distance we’re provided and if the race is listed as a 5k then that’s what we run and that’s our time. So I ran a 5k personal best of 19:14. For not having done any speed work since February, I was pretty darn happy with that. I was disappointed in my swim as I felt I should’ve been faster. The bike was fun although crowding prevented us from really seeing what we could do Finally, regardless of the run distance I paced it very well. Looking back at our run data on our watches and Strava later, I had only a 4sec spread from mile 1 to mile 3. Meaning my slowest mile was only 4sec slower than my fastest mile. Maybe there’s something to this pacing thing.

We collected our gear and headed back to the car to load up. Then we wandered around for a few minutes to find a place to take a couple good photos. Along the way we ran into several of my old Central Florida Triathlon teammates. Zack was quite surprised at how many people kept calling out to me by name. It was good to see a few familiar faces and to witness the excitement of a race. We unfortunately couldn’t stick around for very long though. We had to drive up to Charlotte for another week of bike fit and wind tunnel testing. So after grabbing a quick pic next to a race car we headed back to the van, got in, found some breakfast along the way and started our drive to North Carolina.

Thank you to Challenge Daytona for putting on a fun and safe race. It was great to close out this crazy 2020 with something that felt close to normal.

Thank you to USA Triathlon’s Amanda Duke and our coaches Derick, Chris and greg for helping us have a fun and safe training camp and race experience. Thanks to our dietician Sally for coming along and cheering hard, making sure we all ate right, and for helping look after Skye a few times when he needed to get out a little extra energy. And thanks to all my teammates—Zack, Howie, Hailey, Melissa, Grace, Eric and Jamie—for a great training camp week and race day. It was great to be around you all again and share so many miles, laughs and smiles again. Here’s to much more successful racing in 2021.


Kyle Coon

Clermont Training Camp Day 5

Clermont Training Camp Day 5
The Road to Tokyo Journal

“600 for time… as a relay,” Derick told us as he, Greg and Chris stood on deck.
We were 2800yd into a swim that involved 4 rounds of 6×50 at threshold. The first two 50s we’d do on a 45sec base, 2nd and 3rd on a 50sec base and 5th and 6th on a 55sec base. Some confusion was among the team however, which spread to the coaches, so sometimes we were on a 45sec base, sometimes on a 50sec, there were one or two rounds where I swore we did 7×50. Add on top of that I didn’t feel like I had the swim power I’d been having the last four days. I was a little cranky.
We were split into two teams of three. Zack, Hailey and me racing against Melissa, Jamie and Eric. We could divide our 600yd relay up as we saw fit as long as each swimmer did 200yd. So Zack started off with 100yd, then I took off for 100. Then Hailey went for 100, Zack for 50, me for 100, Zack for 50 and Hailey for 100. Our team got smoked. Sorry, guys I just didn’t have my best 100 speed today. Then the coaches switched up the teams. They split us into three teams. Zack and Hailey, Melissa and me, Jamie and Eric. We now had to race a 200 relay. Melissa and I decided to split it up by 50s. I started, then Melissa would go, then me, and Melissa would close. Since we were in a 25yd pool we figured Melissa would gain a little bit of time since she can flip turn.
I apparently threw down a pretty fast first 50, then Melissa took off. Then one thing Melissa and I failed to do was communicate how she’d let me know to go. I think Melissa assumed one of the coaches would let me know, my plan was to listen for Melissa to come into the wall. Problem was, Melissa is a very quiet swimmer. So there was a little delay and I heard Melissa gasping for breath and I knew I had to take off. Unfortunately everyone gave Melissa grief for not letting me know to go. It’s all good Melissa 🙂
I swam as hard as I could but put Melissa in a tough spot to try and make up ground on the other two teams. Zack of course closed with a sub 30sec 50 to bring home the win for him and Hailey. It made for some good laughs and fun at the near end of a tough training week.

The Classic Camp Triple Brick
We met at the same bike path we’d done our tempo and threshold work on Tuesday. The path was flat and straight as an arrow. Today was a triple BRick—Bike/run, bike/run, bike/run.
After a 35min warmup or so we did a 2mi ride at goal race effort/power/pace. We then handed off our bikes to the coaches at a mock transition area, pulled on our running shoes and ran a straight 400 meters at goal race pace. Then we’d return to the start and do it again.
On Zack’s and my first effort we rode strong but failed to realize that we were in the small chainring. We still held better than 25mph and it felt strong, but we knew we could do better. We also mistimed how long it would take to slide our feet out of our shoes for transition, so we cleaned that up for rounds 2 and 3. Then I went out way too hard on the 400 meter run starting out at around a 5:15 pace and yo-yoing back to a 6:10.
On our easy spin back to the beginning of the bike start we switched to the big ring and that brought our speed up considerably while we were able to maintain the same high cadence. We also timed the removal of our shoes better and executed our first flying dismount since March. We pulled on our shoes, the run tether and I tightened up the discipline on the run. Zack tightened up his communication in giving me run pace checks and we kept the run pace at a consistent 6:00-6:05 for the 400.
Finally, on our 3rd round we put it all together and held our best mph on the bike, executed a nice dismount, and held a strong 6:00 pace on the run. Then we spun easy and debriefed with the team.
Everyone had successful workouts and everyone was just so happy to back in a modified team training environment. Derick complimented everyone on the team for not making the same mistake twice. At some point each of us had a hiccup but we corrected it and learned from that mistake or tried something different that worked better.
Zack and I were a bit hungry, so we ordered some Sonny’s BBQ for take out. Healthiest option, heck no! But sometimes you gotta have some baby back ribs, Mac and cheese, greenbeans/bacon, and bread. Yum, yum, yum!!!

I finished out the day by heading to the gym and making use of a foam roller. It was nice to get some shoulder mobility done as well. Then it was back to the room, shower, shave, fuel up and hydrate. Tomorrow we’re just swimming, then Zack and I might spin easy for 30min or so and pack the car for an early morning Sunday.


Clermont Training Camp Day 4

Clermont Training Camp Day 4
The Road to Tokyo Journal

PRs For Breakfast
Today started out with a 7:30 AM track session. The workout?, 1 mile all out followed by 6×200 at 1 mile pace. I’d never done an all out 1 mile time trial on the track before, Zack and I were pretty sure my best mile time came in a duathlon we’d done at some point in the last couple of years. According to my watch I’d set my best mile time ever on Monday during the 3K, so who really knows. I knew that whatever happened this morning it would probably be a new personal record for me unless I really spectacularly blew up.

I had a yogurt, muffin, coffee and ham and cheese sandwich for breakfast and filled my bottle with lemon lime gatorade to bring down to the track. I put on my warm up jacket and pants for the walk down to the track. When we got to the track though it was decently warm so I shed the layers immediately. We did an easy 14-15min warm up before opening up with a few strides. I like to run a hard 100 meters on two curves, then run a hard two 100s on the straight aways just to get my footing and feel out how the legs are turning over on curves and straights. There was some moisture on the track so that was slightly concerning and maybe affected my confidence a bit. There is also a metal rail along the inside of lane one so I had to trust that Zack would keep me away from tripping on that. He’d done a great job on Monday so now we just had to do it again a little faster.

Yesterday I chatted with Derick about a strategy for the mile. He encouraged me to go for a 5:30. Open with a 1:24 400 and try to descend from there. That was certainly my intention.

Derick gave us the countdown from five. Then we were off. I heard Eric running ahead of me and I tried to stay focused on my form, using my arms to drive my leg turn over. I tried to keep my stride long. I took a little bit of gas in the turns so that I wouldn’t waste too much energy pin balling off of Zack and trying to reaccelerate on the straight aways. I knew my toughest 400 was going to be the 3rd 400. I heard Derick yell out my first 400 split at 1:19. I was definitely going at a sub 5:30 pace, but this was probably a bit too hot of a start. Typical Kyle MO.
I blew through the 800 in 2:42 and that’s when I really started hurting. My left shin which had been bothering me before heading home for a week started to tighten up a bit. I tried pushing it from my mind. I tried trusting my form and footing. My feet hadn’t slid out from under me yet. Don’t give into the pain, stay on it. Keep driving. Keep pushing.
I came through the 1200 in 4:11, a massive slowdown. I’d have to close with a blistering last 400. I pushed myself as hard as I dared. Zack kept encouraging me. “200 meters, 100 meters, open it up!”
I hit the line in 5:37. Definitely a mile PR by a long way. My lungs were burning and my legs screamed in protest. While I was happy with the overall time, I was disappointed in my pacing. On the other hand though I took a risk which is what Derick also wanted me to do.

I’m pretty sure all of us on the track this morning set mile PRs… well except for Zack. His best is a 4:38. He briefly thought about doing his own mile TT, but decided against it.

After a 10min easy recovery jog, we lined up for 6x200m at the pace we’d just run our mile in. I had to run 200s in 42sec. We’d then jog easy for 200 and repeat. My first was a little hot at 40.7, but then we settled in for the next 4 between 41.5 and 41.9. We closed with a 40.4 before doing an easy cool down jog. Then it was back to the hotel for coffee and a second small breakfast. I grabbed a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit and a small container of coco crisps with milk, as well as a cup of coffee. Then it was time to gear up for the swim.

Coach Chris Palmquist led the swim today. It was 10min choice warm up mixing in freestyle and paddles/pulling. Or as Hailey called it “IOa,” meaning “Illusion of Autonomy.” I did 200 swim, 200 with paddles, 100 swim. After which coach Chris had us do what she calls the locomotive 500. This means every 25yd you take one more harder stroke building up to race effort. So on the first 25 you take 1 hard stroke then cruise the remainder of the 25, then you take 2 hard strokes on the second 25 and easy cruise the rest of the 25, then 3 hard strokes, and so on and so forth until you get to 20 hard strokes on the 20th 25. When I hit the wall I felt good and warm and like I’d built into the 500 very nicely. Hailey, in the lane next to me, echoed my thoughts and Derick made a note to add that into our warm up routines for certain swims when we’re back at the training center.
We then did 5×100 as 50 drill, 50 build to race pace. Then it was time for the main set.

The main set was 3×300 working on starting fast and settling into race pace. The goal was to go out hard for 25-50yd activating our various energy systems. Between each 300 we’d cruise for 100 and get plenty of rest so we could replicate our effort for each 300. I went out strong on the first 25 and then tried settling down into race pace. I hit the wall in 4:20 for the first 300. Then tried pressing for 50 on the second 300 but fell off a little bit coming in at 4:24. On the third and final 300 I pressed for 25, then pressed a little more but not for the whole 50. Then I settled into race pace, but tried to not drop my race effort too much. Additionally, I tried closing a little faster which resulted in me swimming 4:17. I then did 200 easy and 200 with paddles to round out for a nice 300yd swim. I felt good, and returned to the hotel for a lunch of a chicken sandwich with cheese, ham and spinach. I also snacked on some pita chips and hummus, and some watermelon. Then it was time to gear up for the afternoon ride.

Munching On Sugarloaf
When ever Mike and I would come to Clermont to do a long ride during my first couple years figuring out how to be a triathlete, Sugarloaf Mountain was my nemesis. This short punchy little climb only gains about 190 ft in elevation and kicks up to about 8.5% grade. The last time I’d ridden Sugarloaf was my birthday 2015. I didn’t even have a GPS watch yet, but fortunately Mike had recorded our ride that day and I was able to track down our time up Sugarloaf thanks to Strava. I knew I was a significantly stronger athlete now and was curious to see how challenging Sugarloaf would be for me now.

We casually pedaled from the hotel as a team and cruised out to the backside of Sugarloaf. We rode to the top, congregated and then Derick led us down to our starting point down the steep side. Our goal today was just to do two repeats of Sugarloaf as openers for our hard bike ride tomorrow. So Zack and I set off ready to rip up Sugarloaf, but barely part way up we had a bad shift and the chain seemed to come off the rocky wheels. So we pulled over to doublecheck it. Then we cruised up the remainder of the climb. First rep fail, but even with the stop we climbed the hill in 3:59, only 31sec short of my PR.
We cruised back down the steep side hitting better than 54mph without pedaling. Then it was right back up. We chose better gearing this time and cruised up catching and passing several of our teammates who’d started ahead of us. After we returned to the hotel from the ride and I had the chance to upload the ride to Strava I got the good news that I’d obliterated my PR by over 1min. According to my Strava I climbed Sugarloaf in 2:19. According to Zack’s we climbed it in 2:17. All around, pretty solid. It certainly was nostalgic to ride up a hill that had given me so many fits as a beginner triathlete so long ago.

We finished off the evening having a socially distanced team dinner on the patio. Hailey found an Asian/Sushi restaurant that looked delicious so many of us ordered from it. It was nice to enjoy a meal with teammates, cracking jokes, trading insults, and laughing like old times.

Finally it was back to the room and off to bed for one more big training day tomorrow.


Clermont Training Camp Day 3

December 2, 2020
The Road to Tokyo Journal

Clermont Training Camp Day 3
We got today kicked off with a short but hard swim. The National Training Center—where we’re training out of for this week—pushed all scheduled swim times back a bit due to expected cold weather. Understandable since it’s an outdoor pool. So instead of our swim being at 7:30 AM we got in the pool at 9:00 AM. And when Derick says bring a wetsuit all of his athletes know what’s coming. That means a 750 meter swim for time followed by a VIE (vomit inducing effort). We had 10min to get in what ever warm up we wanted so I cranked out a quick 400 sprinkling in a couple of hard 25s to open up the lats and shoulders. Since we were in a 25yd pool we were tasked with doing an 825 which roughly equates to 750 meters.
I fixed my Platysens Marlin which counts my laps and gives me splits every lap to my goggles, less for the time and pace reading and more for the lap counter. We Launched and I went out hard. I was breathing so hard and the water was washing past my ears so fast though that I couldn’t always catch what the Marlin was chirping in my ear. I do know that I turned so fast a couple of times that the Marlin couldn’t catch up, so it fell a lap or two behind. Oh well.
I felt strong through the first couple of hundred yards but then felt it catching up with me. When at the Olympic and Paralympic Training Center (OPTC) in Colorado Springs, I have a sprinkler system spray me when I’m about three meters out from the wall so I know when to turn. The lanes at the OPTC are also significantly wider so I don’t pinball back and forth as much. Unfortunately when I’m in a 25yd pool, with no sprinkler system, and when I’m trying to swim fast, I pinball back and forth between lane line a lot. As a result, I kept raking my right shoulder against the lane line. Then when I tried to make a correction I’d end up over correcting and hook my left hand in the other lane line. As a result I probably swam an extra 3-4yd per 25. I hit the wall in 11:21 which is still my fastest pool wetsuit 750. So while that was pleasing, I was still disappointed that I couldn’t implement what Derick and Andy have stressed so much to me over the last couple of months about staying patient out front and focusing on swimming straight and smooth. Smooth and straight is fast and I did too much muscling today.
That was evident when I swam the VIE 100yd. I came in at 1:09, but got hooked on the lane line in the first 25yd costing me precious seconds. I’d been trying to go sub 1:07 but I muscled too much and didn’t trust my form which caused me to pinball and swim slower and waste energy.

After a little break, we kitted up for an easy social spin. We pedaled casually through some quieter Clermont roads. We pedaled up the backside of Sugarloaf, which was my nemesis when I started in triathlon several years ago. Derick wouldn’t let me go for my personal best up the front side of Sugarloaf, so I’ll have to just come back some time next year to crush my time. It was nice just to spin easy with the group and chat with teammates that live across the country.
Post ride we did a quick change and went out for an easy 25min run off the bike just to remind our legs how it feels to run after riding. I love running after a bike ride so much better than just straight up running. My legs felt decently strong, although sore from the last couple days of training.

I made myself up a ham, turkey, cheese and spinach sandwich for lunch and also snacked on some trail mix. Then it was off to the gym where I did three rounds of what my strength coach, Sam, calls the Enterprise Series. It’s a physic ball core routine consisting of:
Crunches, roll outs, plank leg lifts, kneeling roll outs, plank knee drives, Pikes, hip thrusts, Jack knives, push-ups, and V-Up Pass.
Then it was into the shower and fuel and hydrate up for an early morning track session tomorrow.