RR – Kevin Wright’s 2:25 at the Houston Marathon 2022

Training and Pre-Race

My friend Tristan and I both had less than satisfying results at Ironman Wisconsin in September 2021, and I was still on the road trip home to VA when he identified the Houston marathon as a possible target for the next A race attempt. With a special October edition of a twice-postponed Boston marathon directly in front of me, I thought it would be a sound approach to treat Boston as an interim race to re-baseline my open marathon fitness, with the balance of 3 months or so to build from there to Houston.

Boston presented me with a low pressure, not much to lose kind of opportunity as there were only a few weeks to recover after IMWI. Coach Shelly and I decided to go against my usual negative split race plan and instead experiment with a controlled fade, aggressive race strategy. Despite coming off an Ironman the month prior, I felt fairly confident I could better my marathon PR of 2:38 from Chicago 2018. With three years of intervening training and racing, I just had no idea really by how much.

I blasted out of Hopkinton on race day and cruised to a 1:13:25 split for my first half, recording a 2+ minute PR for that distance in the process. I knew it would be a challenge to hold together through the Newton hill series, but having so much time in the bank I figured I could just go into damage control mode when necessary and still run a sizable PR. I didn’t fully hit the wall, but certainly started to give some time back and ran a few miles that were above 6:00 pace as I soldiered on to the finish. Not a pretty way to run a 2:32 marathon, but it was nearly a 7 minute PR in the end! It felt amazing to push my absolute limits and survive without completely bonking.

The success in Boston, coupled with the encouragement of fall weather and an abundance of training partners created a deep well of motivation for me to train harder than ever before. Never in my almost 20 years of structured run training have I averaged anywhere close to the 74 miles per week I put in for this 11 week block. In retrospect I think the attention to higher volume while retaining a healthy dose of threshold/marathon pace training paid me large dividends. Coach Shelly dialed up some of the tried and true workouts including a race simulator 3 weeks out in which I held goal marathon pace of 5:37 for 13 miles. Completing that effort solo, without tapering, on the uneven surface of the C&O canal towpath in regular training shoes gave me a nice psychological boost.

This increased volume and intensity correlates to higher risk of injury and burnout of course, so not only was I training more than ever- I was more diligent than ever about recovery protocols. Sleep is number 1, full stop. But doing a lot of little things in the margins: prehab exercises, massage gun/foam rolling, yoga, core work, strength training, etc; can add up to a big impact as well. It is hard to quantify but I do firmly believe the weekly attention to these items contributed to my performance also.

Race Day

My visualization for this race did not include the frenetic start that comes with a combined half and full marathon start in a big race. On the plus side, I found myself in a massive pack to tuck into for the first 8 miles after things settled down.

The very top end of the range in my race plan said 2:25 (5:35 mile pace), and that assumed about as perfect as I could envision the day going. Unlike Boston, I wanted to make sure I gave good effort in the early sections but under control and ideally drafting into a group. I clicked off some splits in the 5:20s within the first 10k that scared me a little, so I forced myself to actively slow at times.

At mile 8 where the courses divide, I thought to myself “now we see who is for real” and all but 2 guys way in front of me went left with the half marathon course! LOL. Luckily this shock and loneliness was short lived, as not more than half a mile later I heard a smattering of footsteps behind me. This turned out to be the most pivotal point in the day. A previous version of myself may have let this pack of guys go, thinking I should race within myself. But with my experience and fitness now, I was ready to sit in with them and at least test out the pace to see if I could hang. The pack turned out to be a godsend, as the group of 10 or so of us held 5:30ish for the next 10 miles and worked hard together. It was amazing to run with so many quality runners, all of us really going for it. It seemed as we had unspoken agreements to help each other and rotate time at the front, etc without many actual words being said.

We came through the half in 1:12:57 on my watch, netting a new PR for me and my first time under 1:13. In my race plan, this was right on or slightly faster than I had hoped to be. Despite holding my own within the pack of runners, some doubting thoughts did cross my mind. Did I take it out too fast with them? This feels way too early for lactic to build up, right? Shut up legs, ignore that hamstring twinge! At times I would drop towards the back of the group, but never off the back. Each time, I was able to recenter myself mentally and get back into it. Conversely, there were times I would naturally end up at the front, leading for a mile here or there feeling like it was going to be my day. From this marathon and previous successful races- this mental pendulum means you are pushing the limit. We must flirt with that limit in order to get the most out of ourselves.

Houston has a well-devised and fast course; however, it is not without many right angle turns and even a U-turn near mile 13! Between these turns and coming through aid stations, the pace group would break up a little and reform tightly not long after. After one such turn near mile 18, it appeared there were some that could not make it back into formation. Quite suddenly I found myself in a much smaller cohort of 4. Two of these runners in particular I had pegged as noticeably stronger earlier on- based on their form, breathing, and smoother movements within the pack. As we got into the last 10k I felt the pace quicken to the low 5:20s and strung us out into a single file line. Unfortunately, I did not feel I had the extra gears to go with these three. I never stopped working, but dropped back slightly to resume a pace that was in the 5:30s. In doing the math I knew I was in for a big PR if I just. kept. moving.

The final 5k was tough, as always. I went through all the mental cues I could think of, at one stretch heeding the advice of a spectator yelling at me to “just breathe man!” Mile 25 saw my slowest split on the day, feeling like I had cinder block shoes on. Didn’t matter, I could smell the end from there! When I hit the mile 26 mark, I realized my finish would be very close to sub 2:26 but would require whatever kick I could muster. It seems an arbitrary time milestone but, in those moments, we need any form of motivation we can latch on to. I was ecstatic to see 2:25:58 and realize almost a dead even split as I was 1:12:57 for the first half and 1:13:01 in the second.


There are some races where you feel like you left some on the table, or decisions made that you would go back and change. This was not the case at Houston. For the fitness level I achieved in training and brought to the start line, I could not have asked for much more from this result. It has given me a huge amount of confidence that with even more (smart!) training blocks, faster times are still to come.

I learned and reaffirmed a lot about running, myself, and life over these past few months. The sport of distance running is an incredible teacher. Here are a few of the lessons I can relate:

  • Running for performance is inherently challenging. This is also why it is awesome.
  • Marathon success absolutely demands mental fortitude. Mental toughness is a discipline in and of itself, and must be practiced regularly to rely on come race day
  • Distance running also demands patience. This is a valuable and applicable trait to cultivate not just for the sport’s sake, but in an increasingly “gotta have it now” society as well
  • In the same vein- no great achievements come easy or happen overnight. But this also makes goal attainment that much more gratifying
  • In undertaking any activity or long-term project- proceed with passion. And remain vigilant on how your relationship to that thing changes over time
  • Associate yourself with people that are motivated and share a similar positive outlook; our support systems are everything in good times and bad
  • Teaching others and helping them reach their goals is as rewarding as hitting your own, if not more so

I feel tremendously lucky and grateful to be able to train and race the way I do. I could not be more excited to continue to push the envelope and create all the memories along the way.

70.3 Worlds RR – Coach Shelly

Back in the pre-Bode days I tried quite a few times to qualify for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships. I got “kind of” close but never met my goal. After Bode, when he was 6 months old, I qualified in my first race back for the 2016 Ironman 70.3 Worlds in Australia. I was shocked when a slot made it to me and we took it not yet realizing the race was on Bode’s first birthday. Australia was really a fabulous experience and I hoped to qualify again one day. We decided after I had done three 70.3s and Ironman Lake Placid in 2016 that 2017 would be a year of Sprints. That was until I got a Women for Tri slot for my All World Athlete ranking back in February. Hell yes I will take a slot!

I had been doing no biking or swimming and very little running (since Australia!!!) back in February and quickly got back on board with Coach Liz (Multisport Mastery). We started again April 1st with a season laid out as 70.3 Worlds as my “A” race of the year, with a few sprints and the Bay Swim in the spring race season.

Training in some HOT Virginia weather.

The sprints and the bay swim went well. I was really enjoying my training for the fast stuff, averaging between 6 hours (hello sick baby or coaching training camps) to 11 hours. Very reasonable, I won my Age group in the 3 sprints I completed and was happy with my bay swim time.

In July it was time to get serious about my training, both Bode and I got pretty sick on top of that we had a family vacation. That month was a bust.

Driving around Deep Creek on the Ladybug

August 1st I was ready to GO! I had a great month and some of my most solid training post baby! 10-14 hours and my training was really focused. The highlight of that month was the training we did at Deep Creek at Nathan’s late summer training camp. I never felt so prepared for hills that I would face in Chattanooga between Deep Creek and the couple of rides we did on Skyline. My run was also going quite well for me – hitting a 100 mile month for August.

Enjoying some big ice cream post lots of working out

Race week came and we traveled half way down to the race on Wednesday night and the rest the next morning with a few of my athletes that were racing. When we arrived on Thursday we went straight to packet pickup, ate a bunch of pizza at Mellow Mushroom and then headed over to our house on Lookout Mountain. The house was great – we had hang gliders flying right over the house – the views were spectacular!

Hang gliders so close you could almost talk to the person


Mellow Mushroom!

It was a little challenging race week as I was racing with two of my athletes on Saturday (Cindy and Denise) and 7 others were racing on Sunday (Chuck, Nathan, Trey, Jason, Kevin, Michael and Rob). I also had a few doing Ironmans all over the world as well as the big event at home, the Reston World Championships! I was a little scattered but tried to stay focused on the race.

Saturday morning I woke up pretty positive and excited to race. For maybe the first time I was excited the swim was wetsuit legal as I really have found a groove with my new Roka wetsuit. I went to the swim start, made a few friends pre-race and was happy to be in the first AG wave as we had a front line view of the Pro start! I had decided as part of my race plan to take the first half of the race like a training day. Not to overdo it in the swim or the first half.

SWIM 33:24 – 34th AG

I seeded myself right in the middle of the rolling wave start. This format was great – very little contact and the current did not seem that bad. The water temp/air temp were just perfect. One of the most enjoyable swims I can remember. Kept it easy and relaxed and came out with my heart rate not too high.

T1 – 4:56

Transitions at both of the 70.3 Worlds I have done are quite long. Lots of athletes and you do bike and run gear bags like an Ironman. There were wetsuit strippers and everything went calmly until I tried to put my bike shoes back into the bag instead of carrying them to my bike (long run, chose to run barefoot until my bike).

BIKE 3:03:31 – 94th AG

I took the first 5 miles VERY easy. I honestly didn’t feel that good. I think you want to feel perfect the whole race but it just doesn’t happen. Kept telling myself, just take it easy and it will improve. Good news is it did. I loved the climb at this race. It was not easy, but never felt hard. I had told myself that I was going to get passed a lot on the climb and it definitely happened. Combination of a speedier than average swim and a climb (not my strength from a height/weight perspective) – this was going to happen. And it did! I only got passed for the first 15 or so miles! And that’s ok – I told myself I would see some later – and I did. I wanted to keep my watts as low as possible. I was at ~75% FTP for the first 5 miles. At the top of the climb I was at 91% FTP – oops I went as easy as possible and it was still quite high. The top of the mountain was rollers. The highlight of the ride for sure was when my guys came out to the course, took off their shirts and shook them like a lasso over their heads. I could hear ladies behind me hooting and hollering. Fun!

I was really excited for the downhill – as I had driven it and the guys had given me a report when they had ridden it the day before. I knew I could go down it brake-less and that most athletes were going to be focused on the uphill and not how to optimize speed in this section. Oh and this is a place my height/weight combination is a big help! I passed a ton of Ladies here. This is when the passing started – and passing many that passed me on the uphill. Was very fun!

The rest of the ride I honestly felt better than I have ever in a 70.3 I was fueled, excited and just having fun. Oh and I was still passing as many as passed me which is a much more positive race experience! I ended up drinking 4 bottles (2 osmo, 2 GE) and eating 3/4 of a powerbar, 6 salt stick tabs and 50mg of a caffeine pill at mile 40.  I was singing “Drop it Like it’s Hot” in my head. And I did – ended up at 86% FTP for the ride – way above goal.

T2 – 1:55

This one was fast. Bike catchers, got my shoes on and left. In retrospect I was quite speedy and made up a tiny bit of time here.

RUN 2:02:25 – 173 AG

Some of the Fiv3 cheering squad

My goal for this one was sub-2. Which I knew with the heat/hills was going to be a huge challenge. My 70.3 PR is 1:53 on a very flat course and this was pre-baby (aka when I used to train A TON MORE). At Australia last year I ran a 2:06 on a cooler day, much easier course. I was REALLY happy with this run. Especially with the watts I rode on the bike! From the start my legs felt fantastic.

I kept the first out and back controlled, but was hard as there was a ton of crowd there. The first big hill loomed and definitely ran it a bit too hard (my max heart rate for the entire race!). At the 4 mile mark I was still sub 9 and I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to keep that kind of pace on the relentless hills but I did my best to keep pushing. It was great to see Scott and Kevin so many times on the course! And I got another “show” from the guys when I went over the veterans bridge – SO FUN!

I sometimes find my mind wandering on the race course – especially when the run gets hard but this time I tried to focus on finding tips and things I could tell my athletes that were racing the next day. The format of the ladies getting to race first certainly helped me to focus on what I could tell the guys for the next day.

Not much to say here but the run hurt like it should and I don’t feel like I could have gotten much more time out of this race than I did. My midpack finish was actually another one of my goals for this race. I know that my racing is not 100% my priority anymore between my family and my athletes but I am glad I can still do these things and really enjoy them. I really focus on making smart execution plans/decisions and following them through. Do the little things right that are easier to implement than another 5 hours of training a week. Many thanks to Coach Liz who helps me focus the time I do have. As always thanks to Scott for not only enabling this crazy life we have but also being my number one supporter!

Coach-Spectating on Sunday:

The celebrations after the race were quite epic as well!

That view from our house was noteworthy

Ironman Santa Rosa race report

Race report by  Jason Davidson

Since October 2015 my number one goal in triathlon has been to get back to the Ironman World Championships. When I registered for Ironman Santa Rosa (then Ironman Vineman) I thought I was selecting a course well suited to my strengths with a hilly bike course and the likelihood of hot conditions. When the organizers changed the bike to a much flatter course I decided to roll with it. After all, rolling with twists and turns is part of Ironman racing.

Coach Shelly and I organized the 2017 season around IMSR. I had a marathon PR at the Boston Marathon and a good result at Raleigh 70.3 but otherwise was focused on Ironman training and recovery.

I got a solid block of long riding in during the Blue Ridge Bike Camp and lots of long rides with my Team FeXY teammates. One nice addition to this year’s training was having my daughter Elisa follow me on her bike for a few of my long runs. I also had a great simulation day with Kevin, Trey, and Chuck two weeks out.

I went into the taper with really solid run speed and feeling confident in my swim and bike. Coach Shelly told me I was in the best shape of my life and I believed her. That said, I’ve been around the block enough to know that lots of things can go wrong on race day and sometimes a stacked field shows up and there’s nothing you can do about it (if you doubt me on this look up my 2016 70.3 Timberman result).

Swim 1:06:39

IMSR features a brand new swim venue, which is roughly forty miles from T2. We stayed near the swim start the night before but I would recommend staying in Santa Rosa and taking the shuttle. All but the most hard core spectators will want to skip the swim because you are stranded at the lake from 5am until 9am when the shuttle buses and roads open up.

In the days prior to the race the water temperature had been hovering around wetsuit legal and on raceday it was .1 degree under the cutoff, so this race very well could be a non-wetsuit swim next year.

I went to bed at 8 on Friday evening and got up at 3:30 on race morning (having worked to stay on East Coast time since arriving in California it really didn’t feel too bad). I had my pre-race Henry Hudson Granola and triple espresso and was ready to hit the road. Alessia dropped me off at the swim start and the pre-race prep activities all went like clockwork.

I lined up near the end of the 1 hour sign group (just ahead of the 1:10 group). I ease into my Ironman swims so I don’t want faster swimmers behind me. I started very relaxed and built to a nice effort. The first of the two loop swim was pretty uneventful until about 2/3rds through when the sun came up over a ridge facing us and blasted us in the eyes. I was very lucky I had chosen mirrored goggles and that I had practiced swimming in the venue and knew I could sight off the bridge overhead if I couldn’t see the buoys. By the start of the second loop there were lots of very slow swimmers and that really slowed me down. I don’t like to blast through/over struggling swimmers but it means I end up swimming around them, which I know is slower. I felt good during the swim and was a bit bummed with my time (a few minutes slower than my PR) but I knew it was a long day and to focus on what I could do from that point on.

T1 7:05

I bet you just read that time and thought “Damn, JD needs to work on his transitions!” While that may be true, T1 at IMSR starts with a .25 mile run up a super steep boat ramp. I slow ran to keep the heart rate from jacking. I downed a Glukos energy shot while running to my bike and was off.

Bike 5:07:57 (21.8 mph)

The IMSR bike course is flatter than Vineman but it is definitely not all flat. It starts with a really fun descent and a nice climb and the rest of the race has some rollers and fun corners mixed with flat sections. The bike course also includes some stunning wine country scenery. That said, the course is not as beautiful as IMLP or even IMCDA because it also has some pretty ugly stretches too. The worst thing about the bike course by far are the stretches of absolutely terrible pavement. None of the sections are super long but they are definitely dangerous. Some of the roads had large cracks and potholes several inches deep. I had pre-ridden/drove the course so I knew what to expect but I slowed down on those sections and paid careful attention to the pavement as well my fellow competitors.

In the past I’ve used homemade rice cakes for the first two hours of IM bike segments but this time I decided I’d switch to Picky Bars for that part of the race. They are still “real food” but more digestible and don’t require the effort to make them one/two days before. I alternated Picky Bars with sweeter Glukos Energy Bars for the first 3:15 of the bike. I started with a Torpedo bottle full of Propel and a bottle full of Gatorade (having left my Glukos drink at home!). I took in a Salt Stick tab an hour as well.

The first half of the bike I was right on target with Normalized Power of 77% FTP (for me 186w). The second half of the bike the watts fell off just a bit with the flatter/slight downhill and rough pavement sections of the course rearing their heads. I didn’t worry about the watts though as I knew my speed was good and I was feeling great. Coach Shelly and I had said I’d ride the bike mostly on feel and I did. The course was fast (and maybe a bit short) but it yielded an almost twenty minute IM bike PR for me.

T2 5:34

OK, now you really can give me a hard time for a slow transition, although most of those 5’ were spent in a port-a-potty….

Run 3:15:54 (7:29 pace)

What an awesome sight to come out of T2 and see Alessia and the girls there cheering me on! After a post-simulation talk with Kevin (aka Demigod of the IM run) and follow-up with Shelly I decided to run the marathon on feel. The run has turned into my strongest leg so the plan was to set a comfortable pace and then just try to hang on.

The first loop of the three-loop run course was pretty desolate. There are lots of aid stations but very few spectators away from T2/the finish line. I focused on the effort and on staying cool (I had a Ziploc baggy and filled it with ice at every station, using it to keep my hands cool and to pour the cold water over my head between stops).

By the end of the first loop Alessia and the girls told me I was in 7th (I had moved up from 11th off the bike). I was still feeling really good and was already seeing people break down. The high was in the low 80s but there were stretches with no wind in the sun that felt hotter than that. I ran the first 9 miles at a 6:57 pace but didn’t look at my pace (or heart rate) after the first 5 miles. After that I just used my watch to judge when it was time to take in another gel.

I maintained my effort and still felt really good on the second loop as the course filled up with more athletes. I had taken a Base salt sleeve at the start of the run and used that (two/three licks every two miles) during the entire run. I find that the salt stick tabs are hard to keep dry and to swallow while running. I also like tasting salt in my mouth as a counter to the sweet of the gels and Gatorade.

As I finished the second loop and started the third, Alessia and the girls said I was in fifth (apparently I had already moved into fourth). Through 18 miles I had averaged 7:05 pace, which I’m quite happy with.

On the third loop I knew I was slowing down (again not looking at my watch but looking back I was running roughly 8 minute miles) but I was pretty confident others were slowing down more. By now there were so many competitors on the course it was really difficult to keep track of who I was passing but I felt confident fifth was the worst I would do. This is the part of the race when I think about everyone who supports me—friends, family, teammates and draw strength from that. I also saw FeXY teammate Pete Thomas on the course a few times. It was great to see someone so positive in his first Ironman.

With about two miles to go I saw Scott Baldwin who told me that I was in 3rd place and that I had a good cushion. I knew that if 2nd place was within reach he would have told me so at that point I just focused on maintaining the effort and on my form. I had done lots of course recon but had somehow not realized that you end the third loop near the finish line but then have a little .75 mile or so section before you actually cross it! Fortunately, that section passed briefly and I crossed the finish line with a twenty-plus minute Ironman PR. I also ran the fastest run split in my age group and a roughly 15 minute run PR.

Total: 9:43:07 (3rd  Men 40-44, 27th overall)

This was my fourth Ironman and it was by far the smoothest of all the races I’ve done. Some of that comes down to training, experience, and preparation but some of it is always out of the athlete’s control. I feel very fortunate that I didn’t have any bad luck roll my way (e.g., the nasty stomach virus I got the day after the race!) and that the competition was not as stacked as it can be these days. More than anything I feel incredibly excited and proud to be able to make that trip back to Hawaii in October.