After a few start and stop efforts trying to get this blog up, I scrapped all the other words I had written in favor of brevity. A picture is worth a thousand words, they say, and I think this pretty well sums it up:
The biggest feeling after winning one of my favorite races on the circuit is gratitude... I know I could not do this without the wonderful people who surround me in this sport, so this one is for you. From the incredible support I enjoy from my sponsors, Zoot (wetsuit kept me warm, shoes carried me to victory), Specialized (Shiv rocketship), Clif (fuel for the day), Zipp (ridiculously fast wheels), SRAM (smooth shifting), FuelBelt (Revenge R20 on the run), Wattie Ink (carrying my bike up the
hill and getting me interviews on the radio and television), and TriBike Transport (hassle free bike travel), to my family and friends, Tom Robertson for the great photo, Sue and Jay (perfect latte, man!), Dave and Jen for their warm hospitality (and plentiful beer), and the entire community of Boise who came out and gave their energy to the event... I say a big THANK YOU for making it one of the most special race weekends of my career.
The other part? I swam pretty well for me, biked like a man possessed, and kept 'er in second gear for the run as I soaked in the scenery and finally chased down the elusive victory on the Boise Greenbelt.... I feel happy.
4th Place Ironman St. George
May 24, 2011
It has been a little over two weeks since I put myself through the most grueling Ironman
on the circuit for the second time in two years. I had hopes of getting
this blog up immediately after the race, but I've been enjoying some
slow and low days of recovery, clearing my mind of the triathlon world a
little before beginning my next build.
holds a special place in my heart. I first spent time there as a member
of the University of Montana triathlon team in 2004, doing a spring
training camp before our National Championship race in Lake Havasu
that spring. We came back again in 2006, and then I returned last year
to train on the course and race in early May. It's a fantastic venue
with amazing community support, and I am guessing that it may be the
most honest Ironman
on the circuit, with incredibly challenging bike and run courses. There
is nowhere to hide in this race... the strongest athlete wins.
goal for the race was to win, and I believed it was possible after a
hard-earned second place in 2010. My spring training was not perfect,
but it was very good, and I toed the line with confidence that I could
execute a race capable of taking the top spot.
swim started out like any other, with the top swimmers pushing hard in
the opening meters. I gave everything to find some good feet early, but
instead found myself popped and leading a small chase pack with Maik Twelsiek and another athlete in tow. Around the midway point, I surrendered lead duties to Maik and prepared for a very hard bike...
I got out of transition ahead of Maiky
pushing hard to close the 2+min. gap to the leaders, and we switch hit
the pacing duties until he pulled away around mile 30 or 35. We were
steadily gaining time on Ambrose and Hecht, and Maik
eventually made it up and through them, but I could not match his power
on the hills of the first lap. With everyone fearing the eventual
appearance of Weiss, we all continued to hammer the pace. At mile 37 or
so, I passed TJ Tollakson,
and rode alone the rest of the day. It was a great test of solo riding,
and I am happy to report that I was able to maintain good power for the
After passing Ambrose only a couple
miles from T2, I transitioned fast and hit the marathon course with a
vengeance. My Dad was on course yelling splits, and I dug deep feeling
that I could close the 3 minute gap to the lead with a great run. I felt
smooth climbing the hills, and I could see Hecht
after a few miles, closing the gap from 3 min. to 2:40, 2:20, and
eventually down to 1:20 near the halfway point. He was running the
downhills exceptionally well, and I was pulling time back on the
uphills, but as I headed out between miles 13 and 14, my 1:26 half split
caught up to me quickly, and I had to slow for aid. The next 10 miles
were my darkest racing moments in recent memory, going way inside my
mind to battle the demons and keep moving forward. TJ
was closing hard and made his pass for 3rd around mile 22, but I was
too empty at that point, and he was running well. With only a couple
miles to go, 5th
was closing hard, and I made the decision that I would not give up the
place I had worked so hard for all day... I put the head down, and
clicked out two downhill miles at 5:50, letting the legs fly wildly on
the verge of buckling. Crossing the line brought the usual surge of
emotion, mostly happiness for having finished, and to have shaved nearly
11 minutes off my time from the year before on a day that saw much
harder conditions. I'm still blown away by Hecht's gutsy performance for his first Ironman victory, and the class he showed afterwards.
with the dust settled, I look back on another memorable experience in
St. George with an eagerness to return in 2012 and take the win. I could
not have put together the race I did without the fantastic support I
enjoy, and I must thank my family, Lynne and Bill Cobb who graciously
hosted us for the long weekend, Brian Mueller for providing the perfect
spring training arrangement in Tucson, and my incredible sponsors: Zoot, Specialized, Clif, Zipp/SRAM, FuelBelt, TriBike Transport, and Wattie Ink.
Next up for me will be Boise 70.3, where I will look to improve on last year's 2nd place at one of my favorite races. Thanks for reading, and enjoy the summer!
April 14, 2011
is one of the classic early season races, and usually boasts a stellar
field. This year was no different. With a projected start list of 68
male pros, of which probably 8-10 were capable of winning, it was a
deeply talented group. I came into the race looking for a solid training
day with eyes on Ironman St. George in a few weeks, and I certainly got
swim was a bit chaotic with so many male pros, and I never quite found
my rhythm. I got out clean and tried to stay focused on finding good
feet, but I just felt like I was going backwards from the beginning.
Still, I came out around some other strong cyclists and went to work on
my newly dialed Shiv rocketship. Thanks to Joe, Myron, and Jeff at the
Specialized truck, the steed was ready to let out of its cage...
I couldn't match the bike's enthusiasm, and the legs just weren't
snappy enough to be competitive with the strong group of athletes on the
back half of the ride. Instead of things getting strung out in the
first half of the race, the pack only seemed to grow larger, and
although most athletes maintained just the legal distance, the riding
was very hard. Between miles 30-35 the group faced a stiff headwind and
a series of rollers, and right as the catch was made on the leaders, I
fell off the pace. I simply felt flat and did not have the power to
match the other athletes in that moment. Coming off the bike several
minutes down was a little demoralizing, but I kept perspective and
settled into a good pace on the run. By the second lap I was feeling
much better, and continued to pick off athletes... I never stopped
racing, and the memory of last year's sprint finish kept me on the gas
until the line, where I finished in 4:07:33 in 13th. Certainly not my
best effort, but a good one for early season. For reference, I had a
very similar time last year and finished 7th.
not going to spend a lot of time hashing out what went wrong or why I
didn't achieve a result that I was more satisfied with. The fact is that
I didn't race particularly well, and there were a lot of other people
who did. My congratulations to everyone who took on the course, for the
age-groupers who earned Kona slots, the volunteers for making the race
possible, and of course to Potts and Carfrae for classy wins.
Only a few more weeks of hard work here in Tucson, and it will be back to St. George for the first Ironman of the year...
4th Place Desert Classic Duathlon/ 2011 Kickoff
March 24, 2011
With heavy legs and a sunburned nose I jumped into the car for a quick trip north… the racing season is back, and just like last year, my first test would be the Desert Classic Duathlon in McDowell Mountain outside Phoenix. Although the miles between Tucson and Scottsdale don’t amount to much, howling winds that were pushing a major storm into the area brought traffic to a slow crawl. I had elected to put my bike in the back seat for aerodynamic/fuel-saving reasons, and it was a rather fortuitous decision since the outside of my car got a nice sandblasting…
I had planned to enjoy an evening of camping in the park, saving the need for an extra early wake-up, and taking advantage of the scenery, and relatively low-key nature of the Duathlon. Certainly not low-key in terms of talent, with the likes of Jordan Rapp, Pedro Gomes, Lewis Elliot, and Maik Twelsiek, but more mellow than Kona.
Rains poured down during packet pick-up at the host hotel and I tucked tail and bailed into a hotel room for the night. I figured with prize money on the line, I now had an incentive to pay back the credit card charge. Went through the gear on my extra bed, got some good rest, and rolled over to the new race venue in the morning to get set.
After a quick set-up in transition, I did a warm-up jog with Montana friend and fellow pro Brendan, and tried to keep the heartrate elevated for the impending sprint. We all huddled shoulder to shoulder on the start line, and took off at an unsustainable pace for the first 800m, but I found a good position near the front before the singletrack section. After a mile or so of racing, it settled down a little, and we had a group that included Rapp, White, Elliot, and myself. The course was changed this year, and it was definitely more challenging on the run portions.
Out on the bike White had put in a little gap right before and through transition, and I took off after him in 2nd. After a few miles I was joined by Rapp and Elliot and we slowly made our way up to the lead. I was having a hard time finding a rhythm, and I kept yo-yoing off the back. Rapp took over the lead near the end of the bike, and I rolled in about 45 seconds back in 2nd with Elliot and White in tow.
Right from the start I knew it would be damage control on the second run. The up and down of the rollers beat up my legs, and I didn’t have much speed left. I was quickly passed and fell to 4th, keeping contact with Elliot, but not closing down the gap. We had pulled out significant time on the pursuing group over the bike leg, so I was comfortably clear in 4th. Not exactly the spot I was hoping for, but I was happy to get paid and show that I was fit enough to temporarily do battle with some other class athletes.
Race season has commenced! Next up will be Abu Dhabi…
12th Place Abu Dhabi International Triathlon
March 24, 2011
I’m back in the States after a whirlwind trip to the United Arab Emirates, specifically Abu Dhabi, for the first real race of my season. Having never been to the UAE, I had only the stories of others as a guide, but maintained a relatively open mind about the experience. I knew that the bike leg would be long. I knew that the field was deep. I knew that it was a wealthy region undergoing tremendous growth. I knew the landscape was mostly a barren desert. The rest was left to imagination as I crossed the Atlantic on a jetstream...
Somewhat jetlagged and disoriented, I checked in the very nice race hotel, compliments of the very generous race organizers, and attempted to sleep. The pattern which would prevail for the next 3 nights emerged: Fitful, restless attempts at sleep. One hour here, 30 minutes there, and not more than about 3 or 4 hours total, and then it was light out and time to take care of pre-race duties. I did a little ocean swim in the back of the hotel, ran a quick 4 miles, and briefly spun out the legs before checking in my bike and gear bags. This was some of the fastest turnaround I had done for a race of this caliber, but I decided it was best to avoid interrupting my training too much for a race that wasn't a season goal.
Race morning came swiftly, and I enjoyed the company of a former teammate, Jessica Jacobs as we walked through the opulent grounds of the Emirates Palace to the transition and swim start area. Professionals enjoyed top-notch treatment at the event, and the bike racks were all customized with our names and nationalities. Very cool.
The swim was a two loop affair, and after a couple short delays, we were sprinting from the beach to the questionably non-wetsuit waters of the ocean. I got out okay on the inside buoy line and found a good pack early. Halfway through the first lap we were gapped from the leaders, but I stayed comfortable in the chase pack. It wasn't a great swim, but it wasn't terrible either. When I saw Llanos, McCormack, Gambles, and a few other strong riders within the first kilometers, my spirit was lifted some and I settled in for a long day in the saddle...
And when I say long day, I mean 124 miles of wind, sand, and heat. Abu Dhabi is not known for it's stunning vistas (save some dunes I discovered later), so it was a lot of miles in a moonscape setting, passing little more than highway guardrails and one stand of mangrove trees. Still, I embraced the austerity of the place as a true mental toughness test, and knuckled down. After one loop of very fast riding, our group was completely shattered. Some had dropped, others fallen off, and even a couple had made a heroic bid to get across to the leaders. I remained in a small group as we passed through the Formula 1 racing circuit and then back and forth through the desolate stretches of Emirate desert. By the last time we reached town and headed out for the final half-lap, I dropped the other riders and made a break, riding solo for about the last 30 miles. I felt surprisingly in control, and had managed to stay on top of my nutrition, but I was losing time to the lead group ahead...
Into T2 I just kept in mind that it was a very hot day and people would be slowing down. It was a bit of a mental boost knowing that I would not have to tackle a full marathon too, and I took off with the best of intentions. The first lap was a very solid effort, and then I realized that my chances of picking off in anyone in front were very unlikely, as well as being overtaken. Not proud to admit that my mind drifted a bit to complacency, and I settled into a more comfortable "maintenance" pace and tried to recoup fluid in the last miles. Coming through the finishing stretch, I was very happy to have executed a solid race from start to finish, coming 12th against a Kona-esque field. I was two spots out of the money, and pretty far back, but it was an excellent training day, and gave me a very real confidence boost that I could be competitive against such a deep field in savage conditions.
After chatting it up with the boys from Specialized afterwards, I passed out at the hotel, and then got ready for some Abu fun. My one day after the race consisted of seeing the amazing mosque, gold market, and then participating in a crazy dune bashing/camel riding/sandboarding/dinner expedition in the middle of the sandy desert with good friends.
Abu Dhabi is like no place I have ever seen, and despite harsh conditions, it was a perfect race for mental toughness, and undoubtedly provided a major fitness boost early in the year... very good feeling to have the cobwebs blown out before I undertake the more important races. I have no regrets about traveling over, and I will be back to race again next year.
Achievement, I have heard, is largely a product of steadily raising one's level of aspiration and expectation. Without a doubt this race marks one more step in the right direction.
Almost to Mexico...
December 28, 2010
This way to sun.
last week was spent under sunny skies in Tucson, Arizona, familiarizing
my body with real training again. Not exactly "fat camp," but my first
legitimate bike riding for quite a while. It was exactly what I needed
to jumpstart my season after committing to race Abu Dhabi in March. With
the 120 mile bike segment, I am going to need the big early season
Desert skies the day after a rain.
is the third year that I have decided to spend a good portion of winter
training in Tucson, and each time I make the drive down a smile forms
as I crest the final climb out of Mammoth and head down through Oracle
and see the valley city open before me. The promise of outdoor swimming
pools, sunny weather, good company with my homestay and friend Brian,
and countless miles of open road in beautiful desert scenery lifts my
spirit and prepares me for long weeks of hard workouts. I stopped on the
way down to run a few miles at the Salt River canyon, and then joined
Brian for an interesting evening out on the town. We had a great sushi
dinner at new place downtown, and then met up with friends at one of the
strangest bars. Ever. If you get a chance, have "God" give you the tour
at Meet Rack... Enough said.
Meet Rack. Weird.
one was a nice mountain bike ride in Starr Pass with the Honeybee.
Saguaro, barrel cacti, ocotillo, saguaro, palo verde, prickly pear, and
host of other hearty desert flora dot the landscape. If Brian wasn't
trying to turn the screws and prove that he's better at something than
me, I might have had a chance to look around a little... Oh well, maybe
Cacti and stuff.
next few days were a nice blend of solid training, drinking
beer/watching football and basketball, doing a stretch session at Yoga
Oasis and catching dinner at Wilko, watching Woody Guthrie's American
Song at the beautiful Temple of Music and Art venue, and waking early
for some swimming at U of A's Hillenbrand Aquatic Center.
had some wonderful rides, including an interesting day on the Shootout
loop (Mission road) where I saw three illegal immigrants running by the
road (I know because I stopped and asked). Managed a couple great rides
with Chris McDonald and his training posse (Hillary Biscay, Maik
Twelsiek, Sam McGlone, Marilyn McDonald), and several solo rides with
just the wind and my thoughts as companions.
San Xavier Mission.
Impersonating a saguaro.
Pit stop on Ajo highway.
Historic Tucson home.
names Kitt Peak, Sonoita, Madera, Mt. Lemmon, will become regular
vocabulary, utterances in dreams, weekly journeys. I head back to Tucson
in January to continue the build towards a successful 2011 season. In
the meantime, I will enjoy the holidays and build some reserves for the
next round of flogging.
November 10, 2010
It's curious and amusing how much my perspective on running can shift when my experience becomes unstructured and without any specific ambition, save enjoying the touch of cool wind on my face, the pounding pulse of blood in my veins, and the sense of stones beneath my feet on the open trail. In these times, the mystery and intrinsic value of a bounding human body returns, and my mind is clear of time, distance, pace... I am free to just exist on the path, my mind committed to the rhythm of footfall, focused on the next spot my shoe will meet terra firma. To me, running is essential. Primal and real. It is the purest of the sports I pursue, having limited gear, no pretense, no referees.
On this day, a few hundred paces onto the dusty thoroughfare I am conscious of nothing but the sensations, the landscape unfolding before me, the slight burn in my hamstrings and quads as the body slowly warms to the experience. There is a short time when it feigns aversion, but as the lungs expand, memory and mantra take control: you have never felt worse after completing a run than you did before starting. Onward then, I pass the scrub oak, pinon pine, juniper, and occasional ponderosa, their slender arms reaching towards me and occasionally stroking my arms and legs. When one protrudes farther than the rest and scratches my skin deep enough to draw blood, I am momentarily shaken from my meditative state and curse it out loud as if it were a person with a conscious determination to assault me. I quickly forget as the trail pitches up and my stride is forced to shorten, my breathing and heartbeat lagging behind the effort but sure to hasten. I concentrate harder, determined to avoid those irritating spindly twigs, giving extra effort to keep my footing as the trail climbs up on a slick bed of fallen leaves. Fall changes the feel on the footpath. Not only do you don more clothing fending off the brisk air, but the congregation of tree litter masks the hazards, and the beauty of the warm autumn colors can distract from the immediate moment. I exaggerate my high-step to avoid some of the perceived threats and continue on the snaking trail, recovering steady breath in downhills and flats. Even though I have run this route countless times, there are always sections I forget, and I am happy to relearn them today. My upper body swaying in the turns, I press my chest forward and lean into another downhill section, vaulting over a couple larger rocks as a grin forms on my lips. I do not lose concentration, but on an open section where trail crews have built slash piles for winter burning, I allow my thoughts to drift for a short time. I reflect on an interaction with a friend from earlier in the week, an article I read recently, think of what I want for dinner...
Not for long though. On the next set of rollers, I notice that my get-out-of-jail-free card has already been redeemed, and the burn returns to my muscles. It's offseason, and although I feel pretty good, fitness is not where it was even three weeks ago. It's time to seek home before the joyful hurdling becomes a painfully slow slog. I sharpen my concentration knowing this is when I most likely to make a stupid mistake and roll an ankle, and even once mutter "focus" aloud. To add an element of risk, daylight is rapidly disappearing, and I periodically fail to spot a rock in the dying sunlight. Why did I wait for evening before initiating this run? Because I wanted the test I'm now taking, the uncommon experience of an absolutely clear mind watching day turn to night while scampering amidst the forest. One step, sight, the next step, backing off the speed a little to be sure of placement. Soon, I am approaching the trailhead, spotting more signs of human traffic and watching the path widen underfoot. Back home I go, until the next time
Seasons of change
November 8, 2010
With considerable reluctance, the time to bid my summer and autumn love goodbye has come. Fall and winter are knocking heavy handed at the door, and it leaves me in wonder that another year is already concluding. For as long as I can remember Summer (and it's fair siblings, Spring and Fall) have pulled hardest at my core, so it is with mild anguish that I accept the shortened days, the colder weather, the earthy scent of decay, and heavy frosts that will soon be snow drifts. I certainly don't think of myself as enslaved to the halcyon days of June, July, and August, and have deep love for distinct seasons, but human nature is to resist change, and this year I feel particularly aware of the transformation. Winding my way through the Colorado high country on my mountain bike today, browning aspen leaves and ponderosa pine needles covering the trail, I knew it would be the last time in probably in five months I would glimpse the path free of winter's white cloak...
With a reduction in training after Kona (and initially a complete cessation), I have had plenty of time to reflect on the year, to look forward to the upcoming season, and to just be quiet minded in the present moment. After all, the where-have-I-been, where-am-I-headed yo-yoing is often a distraction from authentic progress and rumination...
So onto reflection then. What has the year brought? Probably my biggest period of growth as an individual, athlete, brother, craftsman, son, friend, lover, creature of planet Earth. With each passing year I become more aware of what I most cherish and want from my life, what I desire to give and share, how I want to grow. I am more and more cognizant of who I am: a motivated individual with diligent and focused work ethic, highly enthusiastic and passionate about human relationships, and capable of seeing lengthy projects to completion (see: Ironman Hawai'i). I am anxious to learn and willing to contribute ideas. I am an impromptu problem-solver, mechanically gifted and proficient with a wide variety of tools (including bikes, running shoes, a pottery wheel). Adept at public speaking, detail-oriented, an artist and athlete. I want to broaden my knowledge of and experience in personal relations, continually seek challenging situations which require my complete attention, hone my athletic talents, ponder my allegiances, problem solve, create, be open to change, relax, read, and just be a good person...
So, as the year comes closing in, the weather inspires a move indoors, take time to reflect, to be inspired, to really think about your life, and be grateful for all it is and can be...
Island time... Pt. 3/Back home
October 25, 2010
My final days on the island were spent primarily in Kona, as the town is much more enjoyable after the mobile circus of Ironman departs. Save a few trips to the wonderfully opulent Mauna Lani for a wine tasting dinner and triathlete dinner at the Canoe House, I was content to ride out my days on the beaches around Kona town, afternoons at the misty cocoon of Dave's house near the coffee road.
One evening I was fortunate to attend a private concert played by Leche de Tigre at Ceviche Dave's. This was the same band which played all evening at the McKenzie wedding, and they have a solid following in Kona, for good reason. This particular show was to celebrate one band member's successful battle over cancer, so the music seemed deeper, more dynamic and lively with his drumming. I was lucky to have an opportunity to share the night with these new friends, to remember just how small my dilemmas and complications are in the bigger picture.
Flying to the island from the mainland around this time of year automatically initiates a sleep pattern of waking early, sleeping early, so with the aid of some fresh Kona coffee, I greeted the sun on my final day and set out to soak it in one more time. Lava Java served up my morning fuel (and another fishbowl of coffee), and then it was off to jump cliffs at Secrets. Dave and I happened upon two people at breakfast who were keen on joining our outing, so with Mark and Becky now in tow, we headed down south.
It had been a full year since I walked my way through the old Hawaiian battle grounds to reach the jumping spot, but little has changed in that time. The same sharp rocks and crashing waves, the deep blue sea offering its embrace. Each time I have visited the spot, I observe the same cautious hedging and pussyfooting of new jumpers, and then the moment when fear is conquered (or at least momentarily ignored), and they take that irreversible step... A beautiful process and metaphor for life. I had the pleasure of helping two new people make the leap, their faces bright with accomplishment and adrenaline in the shifting waves below.
So off the island then, a chance encounter with a wonderful Canadian woman who had just cycled around the island passed the time until I had to face down the lurking demon which was my redeye flight to LAX. As fate would have it, my seatmate shifted uncomfortably throughout the flight, disallowing any sleep for me. As the time passed, of course my anxiousness did too, and eventually all things conspired against my desire to rest: crying babies, my own racing heart, a lingering cough from the tropics, flight attendants bumping me with elbows and carts...
My jetlagged haze was considerable as I stepped into my native state again, but quickly replaced with excitement. Not quite "home" yet, but back in the clutches of wonderful Colorado. To celebrate my return, I enjoyed the company of a good friend for dinner, wine, and then The National concert at the Fillmore. Fortunately we came equipped with her iPhone and some bravado, courtesy of our wine stop, and were able to push our way in waving barcodes from our tickets which the box office lady refused to issue...Hilarious.
Morning was coffee in one of triathlon's meccas, Boulder, and a walk amid perfect fall conditions while I reacquainted myself with it's charming downtown. Perhaps I will return for some training next season...
The story unfolds for a couple more days in the city, and then it's back to Durango, where cooler fall conditions are my sure companion. Exciting adventures ahead as I revisit some of my hobbies and interests which have been dormant during the training and racing season...
Island Time... Pt. 2
October 20, 2010
In my previous visit to the Big Island, I had failed to make it over to the Hilo side, so this year I made time for the trip. Hilo is well known for the tsunamis which struck the city back in 1946 and 1960, and for being the wettest city in the United States, with some areas near the town receiving over 200 inches of rain annually. I honestly hadn't heard many great things about the place, but I went over to find out for myself, and I'm glad I did...
Taking the famous Saddle road outside Waimea, I climbed up and over the lava flows below Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, watching the landscape unfold into a most amazing juxtaposition: From the ashen, motionless sea of lava at the summit, an almost immediate change to a verdant, blooming oasis as I dropped towards Hilo. First order of business was getting some lunch, so I dropped into a secret Thai spot and had a wonderfully authentic curry. Next on the agenda was Akaka falls, just north of the city. There is a small hiking path that leads visitors around an incredible tropical jungle, eventually popping out with a stunning view of the plunging horsetail falls...
Urgency was a word left behind with the end of my race season, so I stopped at the Aloha farms coconut and fruit stand just down the road from Akaka falls. This is a small family run effort, and completely organic, so it was easy to hand over a few dollars in exchange for a fresh coconut. Would love to have my mountains and canyons, and the ability to grow tropical fruits all in one place. Oh, mango, pineapple, rambutan, guava.... I love thee.
In my first real athletic effort since the Ironman, I roused my roommate for the week, Dave Old, and headed for the aquamarine waters of the coast for a little surfing. Sadly, Dave was not to be joining this most pure day on the water, as he was still suffering from a toe infection initiated by the marathon run, so he enjoyed the views from the beach while I paddled around. I wish to report incredible successes on the water, but alas, I really only caught a couple waves at Pine Trees. My surfing needs some fine-tuning, which means I will have to find an agreeable beach in the near future...
I offered to take it off with a chisel and hammer, cauterizing with a blowtorch after, but Dave went with antibiotics instead. To each his own...
Island Time... Pt. 1
October 19, 2010
The aftermath of an unsatisfactory competition can lead to total disillusionment if not circumvented properly, so I am happy to report the successful restraining of my disenchantment through various post-race activities on the island this year. It's certainly not a pattern I'm interested in forming, as summiting Mauna Kea in the celebration of a successful Ironman Hawai'i would be much preferred, but compared to last year's fallout I've made considerable gains... So much to see out here.
So yes, I have stood on the top of Mauna Kea recently to gaze over impossible windswept volcanic moonscapes of the upper reaches in the evening light, and basaltic flows charged deep red with iron on the lower flanks. Tradewinds from the Hilo side corral massive cloudbanks on the saddle between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa every afternoon, offering a feeling of sitting in an airplane when looking down from the top, free of earthbound constraints. It is the most sacred of mountains on the island, but ironically the summit is dotted with various high-power telescopes for unobstructed viewing of the night skies. Perhaps this is just a small concession for the native Hawaiians, as they too know the importance of observing the celestial reaches clearly...
But I'm getting ahead of myself, both in cultural speculation and linear progression of post-race events. Back just a little we'll go, to some very fun parties!
K-Swiss has gained a reputation rather quickly for producing a memorable (if not forgotten in the damaging haze of over consumption) event, so I willingly jumped in with the Specialized lads for a (hopefully) unforgettable night/morning out at Huggo's on the Rocks in downtown Kailua-Kona. The awkward parading of bronzed and hopelessly sore post-race Ironpeople was in itself a spectacle to behold. Add in end of season excitement to drink copious amounts of booze, and you can see how this night easily ranks as the "must attend" social gathering after Ironman. I spent the night drifting from friend to new acquaintance, and eventually found myself standing in the middle of Ali'i drive conversing with Crowie while cars gently maneuvered around us. Helps to be standing next to a multiple world champion in these situations, I suppose...
This was not to be the end of the night, however, as ace Specialized mechanic Benno and I decided jumping into the condo pool from the fourth floor balcony was essential before sleeping. I have no concrete evidence as he skipped off to Maui the next day, but have heard from reliable sources that he paid with some bruising for those efforts... A memory not soon to be forgotten.
A recovery day with some beach time, and then I was donning my linen shorts for the most anticipated activity outside the race: The marriage of Luke McKenzie and Amanda Balding (Jimmy and Memphis). Friends since the hilarious Baja 70.3 adventure of 2007, I have enjoyed their support and watched their growth in the sport since that time. To see them wed, happy in their shared purpose and direction, left me speechless. We dedicated the rest of the night to impressive wine bouts and dancing merrily by the seaside... Great food, drink, friends, and music closed out a memorable day of celebration.
Kona Race Report.
October 19, 2010
It is with less than usual motivation that I compose this blog entry. Perhaps it is still too close to the race to give an accurate description of all that I feel about my day, but for the sake of candidly recollecting details and giving a timely update, I will carry on...
Pre-race found me surprisingly calm, bordering on the lethargic while I awaited the event. Complacency it was not, but the under radar methodology felt right this time, and spending too much time at the expo or out in the hot sun on the feet can end a race before it begins. One quick morning run with Rasmus Henning, Dan Hugo, Michael Kruger, and Martin Jensen, a couple short rides and swims, and plenty of time at the Specialized condos left me feeling ready.
The Caveman: Always serene.
The usual churning, forward creeping anxious triathlete thrashing signaled that the cannon was about to sound, and then head in the water to silence (save my steady breathing). I was out very clear with Macca to my left and Martin Jensen to my right. I let them go just a little to fall in behind, and found myself able to match pace on the draft. Could it be? I was swimming so smoothly, and knew my ocean bottom markers... Sunken tire, 1k across from the Coast Guard can, deeper water means we must be nearing the first turn buoy, etc. At a touch over 3k I tried to move away from Tyler Butterfield and he let a little gap open, but we never lost sight of the leaders, coming in about 40 seconds back. When I saw 52:17 on the clock, and then many of the faster swimmers just mounting their bikes to leave, I was elated. This was exactly what I had been dreaming of all year! A life-changing swim...
I attacked hard to catch on in the early miles, and bridged by 4-5 miles on the Kuakini. There were many athletes who made the lead pack, and it was quite ridiculous to see the dynamic firsthand. On the way out to the airport, I barely felt like I was riding, yet we were rolling along at speeds approaching 30 miles per hour...
Nervous to be at the back of the group where the yo-yo effect would be the strongest, I made a move to get up where I could observe some of the major players on the bike. At about 29 or 30 miles, Dirk Bockel was in front of me on the left, and I could not get closer than 10m, but our progress forward was deemed too slow, and I was shown a redcard for "failure to pass in 20 seconds." The next penalty tent was at mile 38, so I did my best to gain a little time before pulling over, but that only amounted to about 20 seconds, and I watched the group ride off to Kawaihae...
I attempted to compose myself, eating and drinking while the stopwatch held me captive, but admittedly I was cracked. From such an emotional high to absolute devastation within moments, and I was caught in my small tragedy. As someone said afterwards, every mistake at Ironman Hawaii is magnified, and seems much worse than any other race. I pride myself on being mentally tough, but Saturday I let the anger and frustration derail my focus. The rest of the ride home was autopilot, head down and alone in the winds...
Out on the run, I was determined to at least run well past my explosion point of last year, and I managed about 12 good miles of running before stomach issues slowed my progress. I walked, jogged, and ran my way slowly through the energy lab, back to the top of Palani, and then onto Ali'i drive one more time to finish the World Championships. Despite all the disappointment, I was able to muster a smile amidst the finishline energy. This is a very special race indeed.
Another good learning experience to cap off my best season to date. It looks like I will be done racing for 2010, but back with new determination and focus in 2011. Failure to achieve goals is often part of the learning process, and I am happy to say my understanding grows with each passing day. The promise of better Kona races lightens my heart, and the vast beauty and mystery of the big island keeps my human desires in check. Cheers to the journey... the growth and evolution of dreams.
October 13, 2010
I finally made it out to the Big Island again, completing the circle of another year of training, racing, traveling, and living. I say finally because last year I came out so early, and so many pros now set up camp at least a month ahead of the race that it feels like I am showing up late. Not that I'm worried it will have a negative effect, but just something I'm aware of. In the short time I've been here, it's already justified my decision to wait a little longer this year. I feel amazing on my workouts with this extra oxygen carrying capacity, and the heat feels strong, but not unmanageable like I feared. I wouldn't say I made the mistake of destroying myself in workouts last year while I chased a couple world champions, but I also know how it can get when the top guys in the world show up before the biggest race of the year... It's a lot of hype and nerves, and it's easy to forget to rest properly or to psyche yourself out. Lastly, I think it's easy to feel like you are ready to race well before the day even arrives when you come out too early, so I am happy to have waited this time around.
It’s always an interesting experience to return to a place, as things and people change, but also stay the same. Confirming (or denying) memories, revisiting favorite spots, and meeting with friends and sponsors are all components of my trip so far. My intentions are certainly different this year, and I feel that I have grown since my last visit. I’m still me, but I like to think that I possess a different perspective this time, and I think it has manifested itself most obviously in my calm before the storm. Even though it's the World Championships, it's just another race...
That said, it's been something to behold walking amongst the countless vendors, athletes, supporters, cruise ship visitors, Ironman/Powerbar/KSwiss/etc. banners, and local Kona residents on Ali'i drive. The atmosphere is that of a carnival, and the buzz is palpable. For this I have the simple remedy of doing my training away from the standard locales, at earlier or later times, and spending plenty of time with the Specialized crew at the condos. The work is done now, and I will get no fitter between now and the race, so it's all about resting and getting the mental game as strong as possible before a long day of suffering.
More to come from the Big Island. My sunsoaked lanai is calling....
1st Place Black Canyon Sprint Triathlon
October 3, 2010
Yesterday I returned to a race that I first did in 2007, this time as final prep for my race in Kona next weekend. The Black Canyon Sprint triathlon is held in Montrose, Colorado, which is roughly halfway between my hometown of Grand Junction, and my adopted home of Durango, with distances of a 500 yd. swim, 14.6 mile bike, and 5k run. Although Montrose has never really been a "destination" stop for me, it was nice to momentarily pause and take in some of the town again. Just like most anywhere in the American west, it's grown significantly over the past decade, but still has the feeling of a small community, and the race is one of the more low-key events I've done in while.
Instead of the usual pre-race ritual of arriving at least the day before my competition, I awoke very early in Durango and made the two hour drive under awakening skies. It was nice to have the road all to myself as I summited the three passes which dot the most direct route, and I arrived in time to watch the kid's triathlon and school cup races. Using the race as a reminder of the nuances of racing (fast transitions) and a last dose of ultra-fast effort, I focused on keeping things as simple as possible and executing without hesitation.
The swim allowed no real time for warm-up, but I got in a decent run to get the blood circulating, and my morning coffee was still carrying me through the 4:40 a.m. wake-up call. I entered the water next to a woman who was alternating between breaststroke and backstroke, so my swim became good openwater practice as I made sure to sight and avoid her on each lap. I kept things pretty steady, exiting just under 6 minutes (wearing a parachute of a jersey). Transition was very smooth, and I left on the bike, testing my Kona rig in an all-out effort.
The bike leg actually throws some decent challenges at the racers, with a couple significant hills, some false flats, and some rough chipseal that punishes riders. Not exactly Kona conditions, but there was some wind, and it wasn’t Florida flat… I came off feeling a little spent, but another good transition and I was off to tackle the run course.
After a leisurely start through a nice park, the run also shows its teeth with a steady climb, rising several hundred feet above town. I powered all the way up, stayed on the gas during the descent, and managed a respectable 18 minute split. Total time was 59:59, and I bested my time from 3 years ago by over 4 minutes. Hats off to the volunteers and local race crew for putting on a fun event and keeping things safe for everyone. Hopefully I can get back up next year to defend, but first it’s one more really long race in Kona…
September 29, 2010
It's not what you think... no magic cards here. Just a nice evening spent at my local bike shop, Mountain Bike Specialists, with many of the most prominent cycling figures in the Durango community. The gathering was to recognize the important role that Specialized and other local business has played in the development of both road and mountain biking in this town, and to showcase some of the work that is being done in continued promotion and development of athletes and local businesses through cycling in Durango. On hand were some true legends, including Ned Overend, Todd Wells, Bob Roll, and Specialized's own John Quinn. Add to it some lesser know superstars like my mechanics, Joey and Ryan, Fort Lewis College cycling coach Matt Shriver, and it was a great time. I am off the drink program right now, but I was pretty impressed with the way these guys put down the Bud Lights w/Lime...
We had some fantastic food catered by the always entertaining Rob Kabeary of Bread, beverages provided by Durango Coca-Cola, and some tasty dessert treats compliments of Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Good thing I did some training before I went down there, because I had to sample most everything, and I left feeling quite sated.
I feel truly blessed to be in such an amazing town with such incredible support and programs for its athlete development. From Durango DEVO to FLC Cycling and a soon to be Elite development squad, the city really embraces its local talent and provides the perfect platform to raise world-class performers while keeping things fun. I'm excited to watch these young kids reach their potential, and simultaneously chase my own. Happy training!
September 29, 2010
The hardest work in preparation for Kona has been logged, and I am now entering my taper for the big event. I have one more small race I will do exactly one week out (a sprint triathlon in Montrose, Colorado), and then I will fly out to the island for a short week of light training, meeting with sponsors, and resting and getting my mind ready. I must say that I am getting more excited every day when I think about heading back to the Big Island. Last year I was lucky to get out early and log some quality training on the course, making friends with some locals, and just enjoying the tropical lifestyle. Having never been to Hawaii until last year, I was a little skeptical; I had always assumed that it was just a super touristy destination for Americans to visit during Christmas. However, after just a short time swimming in Kailua bay, riding the Queen K, making some great friends, and enjoying some quality coffee, I was hooked. The island life is much more than just lazing on the beach, but that part is pretty awesome...
I won't be going out so early this year, as I am going to experiment with carrying the altitude advantage from my training in Durango. Because I think Kona is such a difficult event, it's really just about having a good day when the race rolls around. You can be the fittest person in the race, but if you don't execute your perfect race, the mistakes are magnified exponentially. My biggest mistake last year was improper fueling on the bike, and I paid dearly for it on the marathon. This year, I have much more experience at the distance, and the confidence of doing well all season long.
I’ve been thinking hard about Kona this year, long before I decided to go back again in Lake Placid. It wasn’t a shoot-from-the-hip decision, or some fanciful notion because I was coming off my first win at the distance. I wanted to go back and test myself against the best in the world, and not be a spectator to the most important race in triathlon. It was heavy on my mind from the moment I passed on my spot at St. George, which I think reinforces its importance and my desire to race it again. Although I am not only Hawaii-minded, I am very interested in being my best on the Big Island, against most of the best long-distance triathletes in the world. It is truly hallowed ground, and just to be out there racing is a big accomplishment.
My overarching vision for my race in Kona is to reach my potential on the day. I have accumulated a lot of experience and certainly more fitness than ever before over the last year of racing, so I know that I have what it takes to execute a solid race. This is definitely vague in terms of a goal, but purposely so. I think that Ironman Hawaii is such a unique race that stating time or place goals is difficult, and can distract from the focus of achieving the best potential race on the day. I want to leave everything I have on the course, and be strong all day.
One goal inside the race which I will assign a time to is the run. In Kona, a 3 hour marathon is no easy feat. Had I run that last year, I would have found myself somewhere around 8:40, or 15th place. I think I have the strength and pacing control to achieve that goal, even if I am a little overextended from the bike. Although Ironman is never really “fun” during the race, I want to enjoy the experience as much as is realistic. I have worked extremely hard for a long time to be in this position, and it is an honor to be at the World Championships, so I will soak it up and give it proper respect too.
It will be a brutal test of guts, stamina, mental toughness, physical condition, and will, and I feel ready. Kona is calling...
1st Place Ironman Branson 70.3
September 21, 2010
Fresh back from a long weekend in Branson, Missouri, with my first ever win at an Ironman-branded 70.3! I’ve had a few close calls with a 2nd at Calgary last year, 2nd at Boise this year, and 3rd at Buffalo Springs, but I finally took the last step up. It’s especially good having backed up my win at Lake Placid, giving me a calm mind and plenty of confidence going into the biggest race of the year, the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.
My trip to Branson actually didn’t start like most of my race “vacations.” I flew out a little earlier than normal, arriving Thursday afternoon for a Sunday race. I bumped into Eric Wynn (photographer extraordinaire, triathlete) at the Denver airport, and he introduced me to eventual 2nd place finisher Tom Lowe. Pretty much from then on, the three of us hung out, soaking up the sights in Branson, doing some light training, and enjoying some pre-race banter and dinners with the Ironcrew of Tom Ziebart and Ryan Robinson. They definitely know how to put on a good race, and this was no exception. For a first year event, this race went beautifully, and I will hopefully be back to defend my title in 2011.
After cruising the Branson strip for a couple days, absorbing the somewhat zany nature of the music capital city, it was time to get down to business. The swim was in Table Rock lake, outside of Branson proper, and the water was fairly warm. With new rules allowing wetsuits, we were underway at 7 a.m. I had an okay start, and built my effort to catch onto Michael Lovato’s feet. He was following Brent Poulsen, so I sat in and tried my best to stay cool. Off the front were the likes of Brian Fleischmann, Stephen Hackett, TJ Tollakson, and James Cotter. They exited with about a minute on us, and on the run up to transition, I saw Lovato come to a stop, I suppose from overheating on the swim. I hit the bike hard to catch the leaders, and made sure to drink all my fluids before the first aid station to replace what I lost in the toasty swim.
I had a few people trying to follow in the early miles of the bike, but after about 25 miles I was closing in on Fleischmann, and was clear of the pursuers. Right when I caught Brian at mile 30 to move into second, Tom Lowe blew around me like a total manbeast, and relegated me back to third. I tried my best to match his speed, but he was on another level. Still, I managed to ride well over the remaining 25 miles, coming in around a minute behind Tom and Hackett.
Onto the run I was feeling pretty good right away. I stayed on my nutrition throughout the hilly bike, especially as it warmed up at the end, so I hit out hard and tried to keep the pace even on the relatively flat course. By the end of lap one, I had caught Hackett, but Tom was holding his advantage over me. I thought for a moment that 2nd might be my fate on the day, but after another 2 miles of running hard, I was closing in. 8 miles into the run, I had caught up to Tom, and made the pass. My legs were still feeling pretty good, but I could feel the heat creeping in. Water and ice at every aid station helped offset some of the warmth, but I knew I needed to get the race over with sooner than later. The faster you go, the sooner you are done, right?
The last two miles of the race I started to wrap my head around the possibility of winning. Entering the final straight away, the crowds were cheering loudly, and I grabbed the finish banner for the second consecutive time in victory. The Branson Landing fountain and fireballs went off, and signaled my first win at the distance on the circuit. I soaked the legs in the icy river water for a bit, and then chatted it up with the other top pro finishers. A great day.
After awards by the finish, it was a party at the piano bar, and my last night in Branson. I have heard some whispers of Branson placing a bid for being the World Championships venue for 2011, so I’m excited about returning to defend my title…
Back to Kona training. Three weeks to go until the big showdown!
A couple media links:
The past few weeks...
August 23, 2010
Almost immediately following the Lake Placid race, I headed down to New York City for my first taste of the Big Apple. As we approached NYC, Jesse piloted our rental car through the tunnel, almost into another driver, and directly into an underground bus garage. Ah, my first taste of the city! Fortunately things improved considerably from there, as we watched tourists mill around like ants in Times Square, had some drinks on a nice rooftop bar, sped around Greenwich Village in an assortment of taxis, and danced late into the night at one of the many clubs in that area. I glanced at my phone around 3 in the morning and realized that it might be a good idea to turn in if we were going to survive the next day. Honestly, the city was such energy that I was tempted to steal off for a nap under the canopy of trees in Central Park, but I allowed the intensity and vitality of the place to carry me up and down the streets, amidst the thousands of people, buildings towering overhead. We probably all seemed a bit outlandish to the real New Yorkers with our old clothes and tourist stares, but I was simply happy to be a part of the hustle bustle madness. For a moment you can believe you are one in the city, finding yourself with a new ritual; to live, and adventure in the great pulse of New York City...
Awoke the next morning early under reddening skies to fly back to my beloved Durango, which, upon arriving I had approximately two days to unpack and repack for the next existence. A mountain bike tour of the San Juan mountains with my coach was in store, so I dashed all about to see friends at barbecues, get myself sorted, and then head out... all the while my house serving as a kind of hostel. So on then, to the mountains with a light and honest heart, joyously ignoring the warning signs of bad weather. The first days were challenging while the rain fell hard and made the riding muddy and at times quite cold, but I was still happy to up high with my bike and good friend. We covered the miles contentedly, climbing high over many passes, and descending some of the best single track I have ridden. To be back in the heart of these great mountains, who sit day in and day out motionless, brought me an immense quiet and gratitude.
Returning to town I quickly thrust myself into the training for Kona, but also finding time for many nights with friends. I had the fantastic experience of helping with a the Durango Kids Triathlon, watching with complete admiration as the youngest gave their all in the sport I love. With luck and some grant funding, I will be helping develop a program here for getting kids into the sport, as the talent and passion in the youth are evident.
Also of note was a brief return to one of my passions, as I boarded a glider with my friend Kimberly and took to the skies above Durango. I had always wanted to see the landscape from cloud level, and it was truly marvelous. We soared about for over an hour, riding thermals, dipping wings, silently passing time in awe before returning to the solid footing of the valley floor.
More hard training ahead, with Branson 70.3 being the only race I will do between now and Kona. I look forward with absolute enthusiasm, my mind calm with the knowledge of my successes and support. For now, I continue the pursuit, working, adjusting, revising...
1st Place Ironman Lake Placid
August 16, 2010
I finally feel like I have decompressed enough after racing Ironman Lake Placid to talk a little about it here. At moments it still doesn't seem completely real to say that I am an Ironman Champion, as I believed I could win, but didn't spend much time preparing for it when it happened. In some ways I thought it would change things more than it really has... I'm still the same person as before, but now I have an Ironman victory.
The trip started as most do, with a fairly long day of travel, navigating somewhere close to 2200 miles in the comfort (sarcasm) of an airplane seat and airport terminals. Thanks to Jesse's skymiles ticket which took him out west, and then southeast, and finally northeast, we didn't leave Albany until 12:30 a.m., arriving in Placid at 3:30 on Thursday. Fortunately we were able to sleep in, get settled, and then preview the course over the next few days. The work was done, so it was all about feeling comfortable, rested, and getting the mindset right. With the support crew of family, we ate well and had everything taken care of. Big thanks to Jesse's mom and my parents.
Race day saw warm lake temps, so it would be a non-wetsuit swim for the pros. I did a nice warm-up and then settled in with the creeping pack to await the cannon. I felt smooth and controlled through the first 300m, but couldn't get on Rhodes' feet and ended up swimming with Amy Marsh through the first loop. We caught Maik Twelsiek near the end of the first loop, and after he veered off course a little, he jumped on my feet for the remainder of the second lap. I really felt like I was swimming well, but my time was not indicative of my perceived effort. 55 minutes and change, and we had a good amount of time to pull back on Rhodesy.
Onto the bike I was just happy to be in sight of Maik so early on. He was only a couple minutes off Chris Lieto's bike split in Kona last year, and managed to ride his way into second off the bike in Kona, and as defending champ he was the one to watch. My plan was fairly simple: Keep as close as possible to Maik on the bike, letting him go if I was riding too far outside my abilities, and then put together a strong marathon where I might catch him in the latter stages. After 40 miles we caught Rhodes, and after 90 I was still only 30m or so behind. At this point, Maik pushed a little harder and put in a minute gap or so, but by the end of the last major climbs, I was right back in contact.
Through transition I was out first, and our pace was much too hot to sustain. I was checking the Garmin and our first 3 miles were around a 6:05 average. Granted, we had some downhill in there, but I backed off knowing I couldn't hold that. I think Maik wised up too, and we shared pacemaking through the next 2 miles at a 6:35 average. Between miles 6 and 7, we hit a small incline on River Road, and I opened a small gap. Still feeling fairly good, I consciously motored the next 4 miles and found myself creating serious distance from my pursuers. By the halfway point I had somewhere around 5-6 minutes, and also started to develop some GI distress and fatigue. My half split was a bit fast, as I clocked a 1:25, so I knew the back half was going to be a bit of a sufferfest.
Ironman is never easy, and I felt my training was as good as any I've had for any race, but there comes a time when it's tough not to doubt yourself. For me, the 10 miles from 15-25 were some of the hardest I have ever run, and each step began to feel like it could be the one where my legs might buckle or cramp. Still, I pressed on, knowing I could make my dream of winning an Ironman this year a reality if I just kept moving. With one mile to go, I really began to believe I could make it, and entering the oval beneath the site of America's dramatic Miracle on Ice in 1980 I revealed my first real smile of the day. I was going to win an Ironman after my fourth attempt!
Crossing the line, I raised the banner above my head, conducted a very brief interview with Mike Reilly, hugged my parents, and then returned to the finishing chute to give high fives to the crowd who came out to support all the athletes. My time was the 9th fastest in a long history of racing there, at 8:39:34, and easily my proudest moment to date in triathlon.
I didn't quite nail my awards speech, but I did express thanks to all the people have been with me during this journey. Amazing family support, sponsors, friends and training partners, coach, and incredible backing from the Lake Placid community. If all goes well, I'll be back to defend in 2011. I'll be posting again soon about my mountain bike tour and the trip to New York City post-race. Now for the Kona build...
July 7, 2010
Some days I wake up and all I want to do is spend 6 hours riding outside in the sun, and other days it's a struggle to do an easy 3,000 yards at the pool. I think this is the case for most serious athletes, and despite having what I consider a dream job at the moment, it's not always a cakewalk. With the recent block of training for Ironman Lake Placid, I've entered that state where even simple recovery runs can seem a bit daunting. I certainly don't believe that I'm overtrained, but instead properly tired from a very solid amount of training. That said, it's a fine line, and definitely requires constant monitoring.
On these occasions, when getting the hay in the barn while the sun is shining is essential, I think of my old science friend, activation energy. How many times have you woken up feeling a bit sore from that long run, or just plain tired from a big week? You know that it's just a couple more weeks until you really get to rest, but you still have to keep the ball rolling during that time... Enter: activation energy. It's a simple concept really, and when it comes to training, I think of it as the minimum amount of energy needed to initiate a workout. You could even say that the "chemical reaction" is the endorphin rush that will inevitably occur if you just get out the door. And honestly, taking a nasty tumble or getting hit by a car aside, when have you ever regretted a run, bike, or swim? I always end up feeling better, so it's all about overcoming that initial hump and making it happen. Activation energy can come in many forms, including music, watching the Tour de France, thinking of the physically challenged athletes, or just focusing on the goals you might have for race day. Use that spark to get you out the door and on your way...
As I wind down these next 20 days or so, I know that the hard work will be done, and I will arrive at the start line ready to race my best. All it takes is a little activation energy. What is your inspiration?
3rd Place Buffalo Springs Lake 70.3
June 30, 2010
It was another tough day on the the 70.3 circuit, this time in Lubbock, Texas. I have raced at Buffalo Springs twice now, and in the words of race director Mike Greer, "this is old-school triathlon." With a challenging course, plenty of "varmint roadkill," and the potential for a lot of heat and wind, it's certainly not easy.
I don't know what this is, but I think I saw one or two of them on the bike leg...
I opted to drive down from Durango with a couple triathlete friends, leaving Friday and arriving in the evening with plenty of time to register and get settled before dinner. The only downside to the drive was that our AC broke right as we rolled into the heat of southeastern New Mexico and then Texas. The last 2 hours were quite the sufferfest. Of course if I had known what we were in for that night at the hotel, I wouldn't have complained much about feeling a little dehydrated in the car...
We booked the room a little late, and being a major destination for age-groupers with its Kona slots, Lubbock didn't have many rooms left. We ended up at the Red Roof Inn, which was quite entertaining. Our first sign of impending doom was how difficult it was to reach, despite being right next to two major highways. The next bit of fun came in the form of a small "hallway party" taking place outside our room on Friday night/Saturday morning, replete with cigarette smoke wafting under our door. The only real blessing of the place was that it had AC, so we spent a fair amount of time avoiding the oppressive weather in our room. Saturday night we had a low rider car convention/wedding that took over the hotel, and another small party where the theme seemed to be leaving as much trash as possible in the hallway. This time I put a towel by the crack in the door to keep out the cigs.
Despite not getting the greatest rest or tapering much, I felt okay going into the race. Not chomping at the bit like I would prefer, but decent. Water temps were high, around 81 degrees, so definitely a non-wetsuit event for the pros. Miraculously, the water temp dropped 4 full degrees overnight, so amateurs were permitted wetsuits if they felt like wrapping themselves in a plastic bag and jumping in steaming water was a good idea before riding their bikes and running. After nearly breaking my leg in a gopher hole in the dirt parking lot, I walked down, set up the transition, and got in a little warm-up swim.
Once the gun sounded, I got out well with most of the leaders. Consciously trying not to go too deep early, I monitored the heartrate and tried to stay comfortable and relaxed. As much as I know a wetsuit helps me, it felt good to be swimming without one. After about 500m, a strong swimmer came around me and pushed hard toward the leaders. I jumped right on his feet and stayed there the rest of the swim, coming out a little over a minute behind. Quite a good swim for me.
I could see TJ in transition, so I tried to get out as smooth as possible, knowing that he is riding well right now. I caught up to and passed him on the second hill about 2 miles in, and pushed towards the leading group of Terenzo, Lieto, Hackett and Cotter. It didn't take too long to catch Hackett and Cotter who had popped from Lieto and Terenzo, but I barely caught onto the leaders before I came off again. I used a lot up getting near them, and I had to settle back into my own pace. I ended up riding about thirty seconds to a minute behind Terenzo for the remainder of the ride, coming off the bike in 4th. 3rd fastest split.
It was another race where I could tell that the run would be a test of guts after a hard bike, so I just made sure to get my legs rolling without going to fast out of the gate. By 3 miles I had TJ in my sights, and I made the catch for 3rd place around 5 miles. I pushed into the headwind until the turnaround, and then gave one hard push to distance myself from the pursuers until about mile 9. The last few miles were just hanging on, but I got some nice encouragement from Crowie with a mile left, and I kept it together to the finish. 3rd place in 3:58:32, about 3 minutes back of Lieto, and 1:30 or so down on Terenzo.
Afterwards, I had a nice stay in the doping control tent trying to build up a pee, and then Jesse and Molly and I hit the awards ceremony, where by virtue of the top 2 being gone, I made a small speech. We capped the night off with a couple Red Roofy's (yes, I'm serious.... sweet tea vodka and cranberry juice), and enjoyed the only night of relative quiet at our hotel. By 5 we were up and out of Texas, on our way home to beautiful Durango.
Now it's a little more dedicated Ironman training for Lake Placid, some tubing on the Animas river, and resting up for the big event. Check back for some more updates soon...
2nd Place Ironman Boise 70.3
June 18, 2010
I entered the race in Boise this year hoping the old adage, "third time is a charm" would ring true. The past two years I had come within ten seconds of the place in front of me, finishing 6th and 4th. My prep for the race was pretty spot on, but a little different than normal. I rested well after Ironman, and then got to work, racing my bike during the Iron Horse, and an doing an Xterra the week before Boise. I kept the volume high with an eye on Lake Placid in July, and didn't do much of a taper for the race. Sometimes I think that it takes some pressure off to know you are a bit tired going into a race. Not an excuse, but also not a full-on goal race taper that can add serious stress.
I must say that I really love Boise. I've only ever been for the race, but every time I go, it's a reminder of how much I like the atmosphere there. A beautiful, clean city of agreeable size, with all the essentials: college, river, mountains, high desert landscape. If I wasn't so happy with Colorado, Boise would make the list for potential places to move. The race is also fast becoming one of my favorites. With the afternoon start, you can sleep in a bit and approach the race with a more relaxed attitude, and the course is super scenic and challenging. This year we had quite a crew from Durango making the trip up, and my parents drove over as my dad was racing his second 70.3 of the year, so I felt well-supported. Add to it that many of my Montana friends were joining the fray, and it was a real reunion in Idaho.
The swim start was the usual bit of chaos, as I got pummeled a little more than normal and even got a nice shiner on my right eye. After a few hundred yards, it settled out and I was swimming comfortably on some feet. At about halfway, I could tell we really weren't swimming terribly fast as a group, and I moved forward to try and push the pace some. I knew we were losing time to the top swimmers like O'Grady, Fleischman, and Rhodsey, and I didn't want to see it turn into a race where the lead "pack" pulls time out of the chasers. I exited in 9th, a few minutes down on the leaders. An average swim.
Coach Elliot told me that I should race with reckless abandon, so I had a smooth T1 and immediately took off on the bike. I didn't want anyone to latch on early, so I rode over tempo to get some distance. As it turns out, my efforts were enough to reel in Chris Lieto around 5 or 6 miles, and needless to say, I was quite thrilled to be riding in his company. I stayed about 20-30m back of Chris for a good number of miles, but he ramped things up a bit in the heavy winds, and I simply couldn't match his power. I had a nice time catching other athletes, picking off some of the lead swimmers around 35 miles. The winds were pretty wild, and with the Zipp disc and 1080 front on the S-Works transition, I knew I was as fast as I could be, but it was dicey as we weaved through the coned sections in a head/crosswind. The last 10 miles were some of the hardest in recent memory, straight into a headwind and the legs were starting to feel heavy.
Into T2 I had closed the gap to the leaders (Crowie and Lieto) to less than a minute, so I started out very conservatively. I knew the run was going to be tough for everyone after a very challenging bike, so I hammered out a couple miles and tried to settle into a rhythm. After 3 miles or so, Lieto had stopped running with abductor cramps, so I kept things rolling in case he came good again. At the halfway point of the run, I was around 2 minutes down, but had a good gap to third, and the legs started to come around. Apparently Craig had started to suffer a little from a stellar bike split (and racing the previous weekend), so I began to pull back quite a bit of time. With around 4 miles left, I had cut the lead in half, and by 10.5 miles, I was close enough to believe I had a real chance. I laid it all on the line, pulling within 8-10 seconds, and had Crowie glancing over his shoulder. He finally put in one more acceleration with a little over a mile to go, and I was totally empty. Still, I pressed it as hard as I could, finishing a mere 10 seconds behind the reigning world champ.
It goes without saying that I was excited with my race. Coming so close to catching the gold standard in our sport was beyond my highest expectations for the day. Still, I was in a similar spot to the previous two years, coming so close to the next position, but falling just short. I'm not sure I could have raced much better than I did, and hats off to Craig who demonstrated yet again how good he is in the clutch. A big thanks to all my great sponsors, family, friends, race organizers, and Sue Hutter for some great photos from the event. Buffalo Springs in a little over a week...
1st Place Xterra Four Corners.
June 7, 2010
This past weekend marked my return to off-road triathlon racing. By return, I mean that it was my second time racing an Xterra event, and it had been over two years since the last one. I would honestly like to make more time for racing these events, as I really like the atmosphere and the change of pace, but it rarely works out with my on-road schedule. This past weekend was an exception, and after pre-riding the course on Friday, I got up super early Saturday to drive down with fellow Durango triathlete, Dave Rakita.
We got our transitions set up quickly, but it was hard for me to wrap my head around the reversal of events. This Xterra was a swim, run, bike, and had separate transition areas, so it was definitely something new. The permitting for the race only allows 150 people to compete on the legendary Road Apple trail systems, so it was a relatively small event with quite a few first timers. This made the swim start pretty manageable, so I got out clear with a few other swimmers, and settled into a comfortable pace. The plan was to put as much time into my pursuers as possible during the swim and run, and then be able to take the bike conservatively and avoid crashes.
I came out in 4th position, with the swim leader about a minute up on our group. I wouldn't say that I felt great, but after some big training in the week leading up, and no taper, I was happy with the effort. By the one mile mark I was running in first position, and I kept on the gas for the full distance to put it out of reach. The first lap of the bike I took out pretty fast, and then put it on cruise control and made sure not to go down for the last 7-8 miles.
It was nice to switch things up a little and race on the trails, and if I can fit it in, I'd like to do a cup race later in the year, perhaps the US Champs in Ogden. Before that though, it's a taper week, Boise 70.3, some hard training with Buffalo Springs 70.3 thrown in, and then Ironman Lake Placid in late July. Weather has turned perfect in Durango, so I'm looking forward to this big block of work. Full gas!
Link to the Farmington newspaper article:
Iron Horse Weekend
June 7, 2010
It was a big weekend of racing in my hometown over Memorial Day, and I'm happy to say I came out the other side with some great race fitness and a new course record in the Narrow Horse Triathlon.
Things kicked off with my parents coming down for Grand Junction. They visit every year now to ride in the tour portion of the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, and it was great to have them. We played a little golf between my training sessions, shuttled a car to Silverton for post-race, and then took it easy in anticipation of the 50 mile road race on Saturday. I'm always impressed when they rattle off another 50 miles of riding at high altitude.
I was up early to get in some "warm-up" riding, in case there was an early break that I could be part of. It was chilly, but I still got in some miles before our 7:20 start. Just as I thought, there were attacks immediately after the neutral section through town. I must have gone with 4 moves and initiated 2 of my own before I finally got free with 5 or 6 other guys. It was my plan to hit the first climbs with a little lead over the peloton so I could ride my own tempo. I held steady on the first climbs, latched on with the chase group led by Ned Overend, and then got shelled on the later climbs. Still, I rode 5 minutes faster than last year, and I felt like I gave it everything.
Sunday was the local ten mile running race, and I jumped in with heavy legs. The run has one big climb, and being at altitude, it's never easy to go under an hour. Last year I was close, so it was my goal to improve on my time and hopefully break an hour. I took it out a bit too fast, but eventually got the heart rate under control. I pushed hard on the climb, and then started to feel good again around mile 7. The last mile was straight downhill, and I came in at 58:42, so I was content with the effort.
Monday was the pool swim 1500m time trial, where I cruised to a 19:58 clocking. I dropped my course record in the Narrow Horse stage race triathlon by around 7 minutes, and topped everything off by racing the 14 mile time trial right after. I came 6th in the pro men, happy to be done with the stabbing pain of the open tt.
A big weekend of racing, and now I feel like I am finally back from the post-Ironman funk. The body is tuned up and ready for the sharp effort of Xterra Four Corners on June 5th, and then Boise 70.3 a week later. Check back for reports from both races...
I am Specialized.
May 11, 2010
I got my very first road bike in 2001, a Specialized Allez Elite. I still have the green machine in my garage, converted to a fixed gear for commuting and winter training. The bike was a gift from my parents, specifically my dad, who helped locate the bike and get me started on it. Initially, I got it for doing some weeklong bicycle tours in the high country of Colorado, and would ride it for fun in the summers. After moving to Missoula for college, I joined the triathlon club team and got some clip-on aerobars. Fast forward to last week, when I got to come full-circle and visit Specialized headquarters in Morgan Hill, California.
I was invited to join the other sponsored triathletes, Melanie McQuaid, Conrad "Caveman" Stoltz, Chris "Macca" McCormack, Phillip "The Shiv" Graves, Desiree Ficker, Rasmus Henning, Jordan "Rappstar" Rapp, Kristen Peterson, and Jimmy Archer, as part of an effort to better educate us on the product line, meet the masterminds in all areas of the company, train a little bit, and socialize. Coming straight off Ironman, I was in rough shape when I showed up, but the first day was mostly about sitting and listening. We were led through a comprehensive rundown of product by Chris Riekert, called SBCU, or Specialized Bicycle Components University. I have to say that I was pretty impressed. I know Specialized makes the best stuff, but to see how and why is pretty amazing.
After our back to school day, the crew went to dinner. Many of the athletes had just raced Alcatraz or Wildflower, so we all chowed down. In fact, Macca and I hit the In and Out burger right next door for our first dinner before going out for round two. There was much talk of racing, and plenty of Bryan Rhodes stories. The second day was more product talk, but with more hands on, and input from the athletes about what we want for the future. Keep an eye out... there are going to be some great triathlon specific developments coming soon. I didn't participate in the lunch ride, but I heard it was quite the gun show, and the ageless Ned Overend put most of the riders to shame, yet again.
To meet with everyone and gain a new perspective on just how committed Specialized is to developing a culture of winning was amazing. I feel blessed to be part of this community and energy moving forward, to participate and grow within the framework of such a devoted company. I. Am. Specialized.
2nd Place Ironman St. George
May 10, 2010
This post is a little late in coming, as it's been over a week since I raced Ironman St. George, but I needed time to absorb my accomplishment and then decide what I wanted to say about it. Outside the bikes, wheels, and other equipment I use to race, it's not rocket science: I worked extremely hard in training, and had a very clear plan of how I wanted to race in order to be competitive on the one day it mattered. I did that. It wasn't a major surprise to me, or really even some kind of breakthrough race. I outlined a very clear plan of wanting to podium at an Ironman this year, and then went to work to accomplish just that. It meant that I spent a around 5 weeks training in Tucson over the winter, raced at the right times to get the top end, listened to my body, ate well, slept a lot, and then tapered properly beforehand. I read a great quote in Running Times a few weeks ago where bronze medalist Deena Kastor talked about her commitment to training. Instead of viewing everything as some kind of sacrifice, like giving up her other interests, she said that it's just what you do to accomplish your goal. This is what I do to make this happen. I will say that having done it in my first go, and so early in the year, has been interesting. Perhaps I feel a little letdown having achieved the initial goal quickly. The upside is that my next goal is much clearer now, and I better understand what I need to do.
I don't want to spend a lot of time rehashing every detail, but each Ironman race deserves a little discussion. Every time you decide to do a race like this, it's a risk. Major time commitments on the front end which can limit the ability to race at the level you'd like, and then serious recovery after. It's a bit of the "all your eggs in one basket" mentality, but no risk, no reward, right?
I had a very solid swim, coming out in 6th, a little less than 2 minutes back of Luke Bell, who was clear on his own. This was right where I should have been, and I knew I was capable of this swim after doing more work over the winter than ever before. This put me in an excellent position right away, chasing hard with McDonald, Kotsegarov, Amey, Lieto, and Coenens. We eventually caught Luke at around mile 32, and then he latched on as McDonald, Lieto, Coenens, and myself set pace up front. I tried on a few occasions to get away, but stayed calm when it wasn't happening. Still, our pace was solid, shedding an ailing Lieto and Amey. I rode conservatively in anticipation of the hilly marathon, and broke away just slightly at the end of the ride.
The marathon was mostly about survival. The hills were just brutal, both up and down, and I tried to stay on top of nutrition and maintain a solid lead over my chasers. Weiss was gone, so I concentrated on myself, used my great crowd support, and dug deep. My running has come to another level as well, so I was confident that I could up it a bit more if the time came. I crossed the line in second, with raised arms and let out a couple yells. After a quick interview with Greg Welch, I was escorted to doping control, and then was free to go enjoy my evening with family, friends, and other athletes.
I was blessed to have a wonderful homestay with my friends, the Cobbs, and to have incredible backing throughout the day. This would not have been possible without so much help, and I am deeply indebted to my supporters. One more step up next time around...
April 22, 2010
I'm finally sitting in front of my computer with a little time to update on my latest series of travels and racing. It's been a busy few weeks on the road, but I have come away with some great race experience and fitness early in the year.
After racing Oceanside, I spent a week in St. George, came home for about 3 days, and then hit the road for another stint in Montana. I make the trip every year now to defend my title at the first triathlon I ever did, the Grizzly Triathlon. It's the biggest race in Montana, and with a bunch of friends coming back each time who are professional, the field is actually quite deep. I rallied the 800+ miles in one day after logging a swim with my dad in Grand Junction, and spent the weekend at my coach's place in the Rattlesnake. Friday morning was a return to the Big Kids Swim Lounge with Linsey Corbin, Ryan Payne, and Megan Gaskill. Noticeably absent was Boom Boom Matty Shryock, but he was busy calming his nerves before the big day. I enjoyed a relatively relaxed day seeing old friends and reminiscing in my college town. Race day brought perfect weather, and after putting together my best swim to date, I biked decently, and ran well to defend for the 5th year in a row. The new course record was only 7 seconds off the all-time race record, but I was happy with my performance. I am now tied for the most all-time victories, and have the longest streak in the history of the event. The plan is to make it a decade of The Hoff...
The next day was a return to racing bikes, as I hit up the Rocky Mountain Roubaix for a good, hard effort. I was able to get into a solid break, and stay with the ever dwindling lead group right up to the finish, where I was quickly reminded that I don't have a sprint. I was just happy to make it through the rough, unpaved sections without a flat, as that's more than half the battle. My Tarmac and Pave Classiques were up to the challenge, and kept me out of danger when the rocks were flying. I wrapped things up in Missoula after an early swim, and headed back to Colorado with another marathon driving session.
Two more days of hard training in Grand Junction, and then I flew out with my dad to tackle Ironman New Orleans 70.3. The plan was to keep volume fairly high through the race, keeping the eye on the prize of St. George, so I arrived at the start line a little more tired than normal. The swim start was a little hectic, as we had a beach start, and the water didn't get deep enough for swimming until a good 75 yards offshore. I spiked the heart rate, and couldn't keep with the main pack. Battling considerable chop for the remainder of the way, I also encountered some trouble with where to head on the return. Finally getting out, I was a bit demoralized, but hit the bike hard. The legs really didn't come around until probably 30 miles in, but I kept on the gas and made my way into transition in 7th. I've been feeling pretty good about the run lately, so I hit it hard out of the gate to distance myself from any pursuers. Things came a little unglued after ten miles, but I had made the catch on O'Grady for 6th, and cruised in with a payday and a better time than the previous year. Most impressive was that my dad managed to shave 50 minutes off his time from 2009 with a fast bike and good run.
We took a day off to go fishing in the Atchafalaya basin with our friend Jim, catching several large reds and catfish. It was the perfect way to end our time in the bayou, after getting in most of the crucial experiences of eating tons of crawfish and shrimp, tromping around in the marsh behind Jim's house and spotting a cottonmouth snake, and eating almost all of our meals on the porch.
Now I am back in Durango, getting one final dose of altitude before I head to St. George next week. The body is recovering well, and with some well-calculated final touches, I should be more than ready for the big day. Loving the spring weather as the trails are drying up, the river is rising, and flowers are in bloom. Get out and enjoy your longer days in the sun...
April 6, 2010
After my short trip to California, I spent a week in St. George, Utah, doing some course recon before the Ironman race in May. I was very fortunate to have family friends to stay with in the historic area of St. George, and our house was one of the very oldest in town, built in 1862 by a Swiss family. I had great training partners with my coach making the trip down from Montana, and good friend Jesse joining for a great session.
I swung through Vegas on my drive back from California, picking up Jesse at the local YMCA where he was getting in the day's training. After learning that he had won a few hundred dollars in his night out on the strip, I didn't feel bad about having him fill the gas tank. We finished the drive up to St. George, set up at the home base, and stocked up on food. During the shoulder seasons when temps haven't soared into the 115 degree range, St. George is an outdoor paradise. Tons of beautiful trail winding through red sandstone hoodoo spires, snowcappedpeaks in the distance, Bryce and Zion in striking distance, and even the remnants of an ancient lava flow near town are some of the highlights. Our mission was to get a feel for what may be the hardest North American Ironman course, so we focused on knowing every inch of the bike and run courses, since the reservoir water temperature is currently 49 degrees.
The first day was just about getting my legs back after the weekend race, but then we went full-gas for the week, riding big miles, hitting the track, trail, and course for runs, and swimming every day at the Sand Hollow aquatic center. We lucked out with great weather, only facing a couple of days with high winds. Highlights were finding some great singletrack for our long run, and riding to Zion in high winds with a solid run off.
We happened upon a local sprint triathlon on Saturday, based out of the aquatic center, so we decided to jump in and see how the body responded after a big week. I haven't been doing much super fast stuff, so it was fun to max out for 50 minutes. Unfortunately, the weather was very cool in the morning when we raced (high 30's), so exiting the pool and going fast on the bike led to frozen limbs. I literally had to sit down in the second transition trying to get my shoe on my block of wood feet, eventually giving up on the racing flat to put on a normal lace up running shoe. It wasn't pretty, but I came away with the victory, and it was a fun event with a solid turnout.
The Ironman course is going to be a real test of the strongest man on race day. It really doesn't let up on the bike or run at any point, and if it's windy and hot, it will be a long day for everyone. With a little more Ironman training, a trip to Montana for a short race, and then New Orleans 70.3, I should be ready for the big day. Looking forward to an honest race in a month...
7th Place Oceanside 70.3
April 5, 2010
For the first time in my relatively short pro triathlon career, I made the early season trip to Oceanside, California, to race the first major half ironman of the season. As one of the most storied half distance races in the U.S., Oceanside tends to attract a stellar field of athletes looking to test their early season fitness and get the first race under their belt. Coming off my biggest winter/spring of training to date, I felt that it was a good opportunity to see what my body was capable of, and to get rid of the first race jitters before the more important events.
I had a fairly relaxed drive out to the coast, splitting it into two days, and arriving Friday around noon. I did stop in Flagstaff during my first leg to spin on the bike, and found myself battling 40 mph winds up by the ski resort. Not recommended. After getting checked in at the race site, I met with sponsors Zipp and Specialized in the expo area right by the pier. If you have never been to Oceanside, it's pretty much exactly how you would imagine an idyllic Cali coast setting: Palm trees, consistent wave sets pushing surfers in, minimally clad sunbathers on the beach, and plenty of people cruising up and down the bikepath. Needless to say, I was excited to be a part of this historic event.
I stayed the night with family friends in San Diego, and awoke earlier than I have in a long time to get up and have my transition area ready. Everything was going smoothly until I realized I didn't have my race belt, so I had to bolt back to my car and retrieve it. The first race of the year is always good for reminding me of all the little things that can slip away during the offseason.
With the gun for pro men sounding before 7, we were underway in the Oceanside harbor. I felt pretty smooth at the beginning, but a tear in the shoulder of my wetsuit was letting in water, and gave the feeling of lifting weights with each stroke. I stayed relaxed, but came out a little back of where I think I belong. Another wake up call to racing came in transition. Partly due to the torn suit, and partly from being out of practice, it took me significantly longer to transition than the swimmers around me. I charged hard on the early part of the bike to pull back time, and found myself riding with Tim DeBoom at about 20 miles in. We rode most of the way until Michael Lovato came back up to us near the end, and I jumped to close down the gap to him, leaving Tim with about 10 miles to go.
Early on the run, Lovato went ripping by and was enthusiastic about us running people down. If I could have matched his early pace of 5:35 or so, I would have, but I kept it closer to 5:45-5:50 miles and tried to conserve. We picked off Yoder and a few others early on, and I eventually passed a cramping Lovato around mile 6. Running alone in 8th, I had no clear idea of where 7th was mixed in amongst the age-groupers, but I kept pressing my pace. By mile 11 I could see somebody who I thought was a pro, and I dug a little deeper, catching up to Kyle Leto by mile 12. I tried to gap him on a small hill, but he held strong, and then we ran side by side for a half mile towards the finish. He held a small lead coming into the final S-turn, and took the shortest line to block me. I came around the outside, and poured everything I had left into a sprint, taking seventh by 1 second.
It was an exciting finish to the first race of the year, and a good result against an all-star field of world champions and top-notch pros. It bodes well for my early Ironman race in May, and gives me confidence that I will be ready for the challenges of St. George in a month. After the race, I was lucky enough to catch a Metric show at Indiefest in San Diego. A perfect cap to a great day in Cali.
Happiness as Survival
March 10, 2010
Every once in a while, an experience jolts you from your quotidian existence, prompting a period of reflection and analysis. In the midst of planning my season of racing, I was drawn to the most recent posts on Slowtwitch regarding the plight of pro triathletes. Seth Wealing sparked an interesting debate on what pros can do to better their standing, and to better the sport of triathlon. Unfortunately, the discussion devolved some to focus mostly on how pros can get more money, and how the sport can be more like American football or baseball. By far the most comprehensive and insightful reply came from Slowtwitch founder, Dan Empfield, as he made some suggestions for helping all pros improve their lot, mostly by developing their brand off the course.
The issue that arose for me in this discussion was the constant reference to the "problems" in the sport of triathlon. It seemed that the discussion moved further from the ideas which might fuel true improvement in the sport, and instead focused on bagging the sport. I have always been a believer in putting emphasis on solutions rather than problems, and although problems must exist and be addressed to prompt resolution, meditating on them doesn't accomplish much. True survivors develop solutions.
The root issue for a lot of us as "pro triathletes" is to find a way to live and support ourselves financially while continuing to train and race in the sport we love. For some of the top elites, it's a reality, but for a good number it's an ongoing struggle. Seth's post initiated a huge number of replies, ranging from the extremely critical to the indifferent, but not many really acknowledged what a blessed existence we lead. While reading the new book, "Born to Run," what really struck me was the discussion of how just being an athlete can help shape happier, better people. It's not just about developing the physical, but also the mental, and when I think about what I get to do day in and day out, it's not hard to be grateful and content.
It's important to remember that nobody is making us race triathlon. Although the sport is still very young and developing, some of the realities surrounding sponsorship are well-established. I only bring this up because it seemed that the majority of the posts were emphasizing how triathlon can be more marketable, bigger, with more money and spectators. As I said before, it's a struggle for a good number of us to make a living, to travel to races, pay rent, and eat absurd volumes of food, but there are much bigger struggles in the world, initiated by forces outside of people's control. My outlook has always been the same when it comes to triathlon: I love competing, being part of a community of dedicated athletes who do interesting things, enjoy themselves, push the boundaries of what is physically and emotionally possible. I have told myself time and time again that I will know it is my time to stop when the sport no longer fuels my spirit, or inspires me to be a better person. In a word, when I no longer enjoy what I am doing.
Let's take a step back, remember our roots, and forget about the money for a minute. Don't you love riding your bike? Running some trails? Getting an early swim in while the rest of the world sleeps? We don't NEED more money, fame, spectators, or airtime. We need a deeper passion for our sport.
2nd Place Desert Classic Duathlon
March 2, 2010
I just wrapped up the first hard race effort of the year at the Desert Classic Duathlon just north of Scottsdale, Arizona. The event has been gaining attention for many years as the premier early season short course duathlon, so it tends to attract a solid field of athletes. As with many of the other elites competing this year, I was doing some training in the desert, so it was an easy drive up to Fountain Hills outside Scottsdale. Coincidentally, my dad was down for a long weekend of golf and bike riding, so he was able to provide race support and try to keep my clothing dry amidst the downpour while I raced.
It's not often that I roll into a race without a taper, but with Ironman as the first goal of the year, I needed to keep the volume up beforehand. That meant showing up with tired, heavy legs, but it also provided perspective on the race and allowed me to relax more than I normally would. I did a course preview on Saturday to remind myself of the bike layout, and realized that I actually felt okay. With a good dinner and an early night's rest, I was ready to go on race day.
Overnight rains that continued into the morning had shaved the field from 500+ to just 350 competitors, but we pulled in amongst the other diehards, set up transition in the rain, and tried to get in a "warm-up" before the start. I was lucky to have fellow Montana triathletesLinsey Corbin, Jen Luebke, and Brendan Halpin around to keep things light, but I know we were all hoping for at least a little sun.
The first section of run is about a half mile on pavement, allowing people to get sorted before the singletrack dirt trail. From the gun, I went out hard with the leaders, but it was clear that some of the short course specialists had a little more leg speed than I did. Still, I went through the first mile in 5:02, and then settled in to a more conservative 5:20ish pace. Brendan and I came in from the first 3.5 mile loop about 1:30 down to the leader and last year's winner, Chris Foster, in 5th and 6th place respectively. My plan was to attack the bike no matter how terrible I felt, so I went to work right away, pushing hard up the hill out of transition. Within 2 miles, I passed someone who had flatted, and could see two more ahead. Ignoring the legs as they pleaded to back off, I redlined it until I passed 3rd and 4th place, moving clear into 2nd. I couldn't see Chris, as he was biking strong, but I continued to pull time out on everyone else, dodging the partially flooded arroyo crossings. Into the second run I had built a comfortable cushion on my chasers, but still couldn't see Chris. I felt surprisingly good starting the second loop, so I pushed as hard as I could on the muddy trail, weaving past cholla, prickly pear, and saguaro cacti. By the time I hit the one hard climb near the end, I was starting to come unraveled, but I held onto the second place position by about 10 seconds.
Given the training I had going in, and that I shaved almost 3 minutes off my time from last year in terrible conditions, I am happy with the result. With the fastest bike split, and some surprising leg speed on the runs, I think everything is in order for the upcoming year. Like all good things though, my time in the desert is over. I'm actually back in Durango now, adjusting to the winter once again, but happy that the roads seem clear enough to ride (at the moment). Only a few short weeks before team camp in California, then Oceanside 70.3, and a good block of training right afterwards in St. George.
When in doubt, go full gas!
Triathlon Bootcamp/San Diego
February 22, 2010
The past two weeks have absolutely flown by. I'm currently back down in Tucson, training in the desert sun again while Colorado gets buried even deeper in snow. I went back to Durango for a couple weeks of winter training, which served as inspiration for another quick getaway.
I really felt that the first time down here was more of a "blow out the cobwebs" trip. Between the rainy weather, and some of the first true Ironman training days, my fitness and mental energy were not as high as I would have liked. This time has been the complete reverse. My bike strength is back, the weather has been almost perfect. My psyche has been building with each new day of training, so the pieces are coming together for Ironman St. George. Of course I have some other early season goals, but that will be the first big hit out.
The highlight of the past weeks of training was having my roommate join me for a long weekend of training. We dubbed the session "Triathlon Bootcamp," and we flogged each other for four straight days. Big rides, big runs, and some swimming were the order of each day. It was quite telling when Jesse's Garmin 405 would have to be charged each night during the block. Battery life was 7-8 hours.
This past weekend I snuck away to San Diego for a short trip. I was out for a photo shoot with Jelly Belly for Sport Beans, enjoying some beautiful scenery and good company. Between athletes, make-up, photographer and assistants, the advertising agency, and Jelly Belly representative, we had 1o of us on the trails and roads north of San Diego. It's a surprisingly tiring day trying to get just the right look for an advertisement, but it was a lot of fun too. After they finished up with the triathlon shots, they moved on to mountain bike shots with Jeremy Powers, and I went out for a good trail run. I was lucky to stay at the Pearl hotel near Point Loma, complete with beach balls in the pool, a big screen for movies outside, and a fishbowl (with real live fish) in each room. If you can deal with some loud music, it is a funky place with great staff and food.
Now the order of the days here is to build my bike even more, and start honing some speed into the run. I will be heading up north to Phoenix in one week for the Desert Classic Duathlon, so it should be a good test. I raced it last year on tired legs, but still had a good time weaving through the sandy trails lined with cacti. Enjoy your training. Spring is just around the corner...
February 1, 2010
Old Spanish Trail, Oracle, Gates Pass, Kitt Peak, Madera Canyon, Mt. Lemmon, Colossal Cave, Saguaro National Park, Rancho Vistoso, Catalina Highway, Sonoita Pass, Picture Rocks...
It's been another great training trip to the southwestern desert city of Tucson. I was connected with a friend of friend who lives right downtown in the Armory Park neighborhood, so I was in striking distance of the U of A pool and the start of all group rides. I used to pass through Tucson on my way south to Mexico during spring break, well before I even considered the cycling possibilities. Starting last year, I was able to break away from work long enough to explore some of the roads and get a much needed respite from the snowy Colorado winter. This year I went back with a little more knowledge of the rides and runs, and was able to log some good training despite some rough weather.
I spent a couple days in Scottsdale, riding on parts of the Ironman course and enjoying a run in McDowell Mountain Park before heading down to Tucson. My first days were challenging, trying to time rides properly to dodge the rainy weather, but swimming at the outdoor pool at the university was a nice change of scenery. I have always been able to deal decently well with adverse weather on bike rides, but starting rides in the rain is demoralizing. Fortunately, the meteorologists were about a half day behind on their predictions, so even as parts of Arizona experienced their worst winter storm in 17 years, most of the rain in Tucson fell at night, and I found windows each day. Runs along the usually dry riverbed through town became more interesting, as chocolate milk churned past with each big rainfall, and several city streets were closed due to flooding. The highlight of the trip was battling a windy day as I rode out to Kitt Peak and back, climbing high above the Saguaro and Ocotillo flats to an altitude that felt more like home.
Although it wasn't the best trip in terms of weather, I was able to put in more mileage and build good strength in the time I had. Given that Durango had 35 inches of snow fall in town while I was gone, there is no question that it was a prudent choice to for optimizing training in this Ironman build. With an always enjoyable spotting of the infamous Silver Fox, plenty of wildlife, and some spectacular sunsets, it goes down as another valuable block. With a little luck and planning, I should be back down in mid-February for some more miles in the pool, on the bike, and on foot. Until then, it might be time to get out the skis...
January 21, 2010
Following a pleasant respite from structured training, I am into my first real block of consistent workouts. I'm always mixed when it comes to offseason rest, as I truly love the lifestyle of training day in and day out, but know that I need time to really rest and recover. This year I maintained some fitness through running and swimming, but took plenty of time away from the bike.
With heavy snows blanketing most of Southwestern Colorado, I decided to get out of town for a little while, seeking warmer temperatures in Newport/Laguna Beach over the holidays. I was fortunate to have a place to stay right near Crystal Cove, so I logged a solid week of riding in warm temperatures and running on the beach. Add to it some good deck of cards workouts, and I was starting to get a little form back. We celebrated New Year's at a nice restaurant in Laguna, right after logging 100 miles in the hills above Irvine to close out 2009.
Returning to Colorado, I was able to stick with the swimming and running, but icy/sandy roads were making outdoor riding treacherous. I'm good for around a maximum of 2 hours on the trainer before I lose it, so another trip was essential for my sanity. I knew that I wanted to make another training trip down to Tucson at some point during the winter/spring, so I put out the word and made plans to head south. I kicked things off with a couple days in Phoenix, watching friends race the Rock and Roll half-marathon, and reviewing the Ironman run and bike courses in Tempe. With weather turning a little rainy, I finished driving south to Tucson. I found a place to stay right downtown with a friend of a friend, so I'm close to the U of A pool and the start of group rides. So far, the weather has mostly skirted the area, and I have had two perfect days for riding and running. Considering that snow is falling heavily once again back home in Durango, I think I can deal with a little rain if and when it falls.
I'm also happy to announce that I will be back racing for team Sport Beans/NTTC in 2010, and riding with Specialized and Zipp as well. Look for me training on my SL3, and racing on the new Specialized Shiv time trial bike. Under Armour has stepped up as my running gear sponsor again, and they are developing some new products that should aid in some speedy run splits. Looking forward to a couple of hard weeks of training in the desert, and a welcome back to racing at Cali 70.3 in late March. More posts from Tucson to follow...
November 30, 2009
Fresh back from a weekend in Arizona, riding bikes, soaking up sun, playing golf with my dad, visiting Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West, and watching and supporting athletes during Ironman Arizona. It was a good time to get out of the first real cold temperatures in Durango and enjoy some ideal weather further south.
The trip started out with a stopover in Flagstaff, and it might be the first time I slept without hearing the roar of wind or trains outside. My friend Kris provided the accommodations, and we treated her to breakfast at Martanne's (very good New Mexican fare with generous green chile on every dish). We dropped down the basalt cliffs into Oak Creek on our way to Sedona, watching the landscape evolve from thick Ponderosa forests to sandstone spires and buttes dotted with pinon pine and juniper. We parked the car and went for a short ride in perfect weather, exploring the northwest area of Sedona before heading south to Phoenix.
We were fortunate to have a good friend with a nice condo in Scottsdale, so we set up shop about 15 minutes from the Ironmanrace site, and played a round of golf at the ASU Karsten course on Friday afternoon. It's been ages since I golfed seriously, but I had some good holes and really enjoyed the perfect weather. Saturday morning we went for another short ride east of town, and then went down to Tempe Beach Park for our volunteer duties. My dad and I were assigned to afternoon bike check-in, so we helped people rack bikes and drop off their gear bags. It was nice to be on the other side of the event, helping others feel ready to take on Ironman, and with my dad volunteering, his entry was assured for the 2010 event.
Race morning was chilly, and I was happy to not be facing the 63 degree waters. Instead, I watched the swim start from the bridge and then rode along the pathway to follow the lead groups. I knew several people racing, so it was an exciting day despite not being part of the battle for top spots and requalification for Kona. The conditions were more agreeable than last year's, and that was reflected in some killer bike splits in the pro field. Another graduate of the Montana school of triathlon, friend Linsey Corbin battled her way into second place with a ridiculous 3:04 marathon, and all other friends finished the event with very respectable times. Congratulations to all competitors and finishers.
Now I'm back in Grand Junction for the Thanksgiving holiday, getting ready to enter a food coma and watch football. The extra calories I pack on should be a good buffer as I get back into training starting tomorrow. Happy Thanksgiving!
November 16, 2009
For the majority of northern hemisphere multisport athletes, colder temperatures and shorter daylight hours have signaled the beginning of winter. With the changes in weather, offseason has arrived, bringing myriad options for new and different training for improvement during the next race season. I always recommend a period of true rest following the last event on your calendar, taking a few weeks to let the mind and body fully recover from the rigors of training and racing. Once that window of respite has elapsed, it's time to evaluate training protocol and make new goals.
One of my favorite cold weather activities aside from skiing is winter running. It doesn't require the same burdensome layering or prep time as cycling, and it provides some of the most comprehensive fitness in less total workout time. Add to those the meditative qualities of a solo run in the crisp air, and it's hard to beat. I have two runs that are key elements to my winter rebuilding phase, both of which are incorporated weekly for optimum gains and easy tracking of progress.
The first workout is actually a double run. It's no secret that volume is important for increasing endurance and speed in running, so getting two run workouts in during one day is a great way to bump up the weekly mileage and still give yourself a recovery day. I like to head out first thing in the morning, logging somewhere close to two thirds of the total distance/time for my day in the initial outing (usually split as 8 miles/4 miles, or 60 min/30 min). The second run can come any time after a decent rest period, allowing for some refueling and recovery before finishing off the last miles. Although it seems counterintuitive, I often feel much better during my second run, as the muscles are still primed from the first round. I try to avoid other workouts on these days, but you may find that an easy swim or spin between the runs will keep you loose and limber.
My second weekly workout consists of a moderately long run, anywhere from 80 to 100 minutes, with some short tempo efforts. Although old training wisdom would steer you clear of high intensity during your base period, new research suggests that much can be gained from some short, sharp efforts interspersed in your base pace workouts. I would encourage a significant warm-up, and then aim for 3x5 min with 5 min recovery between. This will allow you to remain in touch with speed, but not dig too deep or go too long in the red. The recovery is long enough to reset your heartrate and flush the muscles before the next spike. I try to drop these tempo efforts by a few seconds per mile each week, ensuring that I am improving as my fitness increases. This workout can be modified to accommodate any level of athlete, tuning the duration, intensity, and rest intervals to meet your ability.
The combination of these two workouts with a handful of shorter maintenance runs will help build considerable strength during the offseason and rebuilding phase of your training. Spacing the runs out evenly (2-3 days apart) will aid in avoiding injury, as both runs will total significant mileage. This program will replace the once a week long run with two more appropriately long efforts, and will keep muscle groups sharp with regard to speed. This in turn will allow you to enter your more specific, longer intervals with less suffering, and lay good base on which to hone your running as the season progresses.
November 10, 2009
After a long year of racing hard, I've finally arrived at the brief window of time known as the offseason. It's been a whirlwind year with a lot of racing, traveling, and meeting new friends. I decided to pull the plug on my plans to race Ironman Arizona, as it seemed a little hasty to try and rebuild and really focus on the race after traveling to Australia for ITU Long Course Worlds in Perth. My energy was high after a disappointing race in Hawaii, but after coming back to the states, flying to Australia via Asia, racing poorly in Australia, and then coming back on another epic series of flights, I was cooked.
The race in Australia was supposed to be in celebration of a good year-end effort in Kona, so it was somewhat anticlimactic. Still, I had the majority of my flight paid for by USA Triathlon, so I decided to throw my hat in the ring and see what the legs had left two weeks post-Ironman. After arriving about 3 days before the race, I settled into some nice spring weather in Western Australia and tried to reset the sleep pattern. Perth is a nice, clean, modern city, close to the ocean and right on the Swan river. It was my first time to the world's biggest island, so everything had the appeal of a novelty. I did some short workouts, and went into race day feeling pretty relaxed.
The swim start came without much warning, and I immediately missed the group. Big swells kicked up by high winds in the river channel made navigation difficult, and I struggled through the swim alone. Onto the bike, I pushed as hard as the legs would allow, but they were still heavy with Kona and travel, and I felt sluggish. Finally, I arrived at the run, and already well out of contention, I pushed as hard as I could to maintain my position, and ended up picking off a couple runners when my laps got faster near the end. It wasn't anything special, but I came 22nd, and was glad I had completed another race against some of the fastest distance guys in the sport.
Afterwards, I spent a little time with some new friends in the Margaret River area, tasting some wines, spotting Kangaroos, and enjoying a sunset on the spectacular coastline near Yallingup. All said, the Australian trip was a great experience, and I look forward to my next visit...
I'm back in Durango now, getting settled in the new place and enjoying some incredible fall temps in the southwest. I have opted out of IMAZ, but plan to attend the race to support friends and volunteer for the athletes who will undertake the considerable challenge of Ironman. After that, it will be time to settle in for old man winter, and get my skis tuned for some backcountry in the San Juans. More to come from my offseason soon.
October 23, 2009
I've waited a few days since racing Kona to post, letting the race absorb and quiet in my mind before rehashing it here. Just like the ebb and flow of people on the streets of Kailua pre and post-race, the opposing thoughts of total disappointment and satisfaction with completing the most difficult race I have done take turns inside my head. Never have I dedicated as much time and energy to one event in my career, but that is the risk with Ironman. Months of preparation for one day, and then long recovery on the flip side. I have no regrets or questions about my lead-up or decision to come early to acclimate, but I do feel an emptiness since I didn't reach my potential during the event. Fortunately I have a plan for that...
In 5 weeks of time in Kona we didn't have a single day that reached the heat on race day. Madame Pele was up early with the hundreds of triathletes, and looking east to the mountains on race morning while setting up my transition, it was clear and cloudless; a sure sign that a warm day was brewing. I got to the pier with plenty of time to get my body marked, set up nutrition, pump tires, check everything over, and practice the swim exit and subsequent run to my bike in my mind. Transition was a zoo, and with very little space on the racks, I tried to get in and out quickly. I was the lucky chap who got number 100 (right next to Chrissie Wellington and her paparazzi).
I got the new Blue Seventy PZ3 on around 6:15, jumped in the water for a warm-up, and let my thoughts settle. It's always nice to warm up in the water, beneath all the loud music, announcing, and crowd noise. It allows me to visualize my race start, and calm the nerves before the gun goes off. I think it was David Millar who said something like, "I used to get nervous. But then I realized that doesn't change anything." Physiologically, placing extra stress on the body before the race even starts isn't much help. Better to let it heighten your awareness, but not pull you over the edge.
Lining up with the pro field, everyone was executing the usual drift forward, ignore the announcer's pleas to back up ritual. Before I knew it, the cannon had fired, and we all fought for position. It's no secret that swimming fast is a big help in Hawaii, so nobody plays nice for the first 500m or so. I swam with Marino Vanhoenacker for the first sections, and managed to settle in with some good feet through the first half of the swim. At the second turn buoy just over halfway, I lost contact with the group I had been swimming with. I was definitely disappointed, and after swimming on my own for a long way on the return, I was pretty sure that it wouldn't be a good time when I exited. Turns out I managed a decent swim, in 54:27, so I stuck to the plan and rode hard through the first miles with a small group.
The first miles of the bike went by pretty effortlessly, and by the airport I had settled in with a group that had Matt Lieto, Michael Lovato, and about 3 others. We kept the pace solid, but at Kawaihae I rode my watts up the first hills and noticed that I had dropped my group. Not feeling like I was riding out of my comfort zone, I kept on riding solo to Hawi and back down to Kawaihae before finding another group of guys to latch on with. In retrospect, it may have been too long to ride alone, but it felt within reason at the time. Ultimately my undoing was that I didn't get the nutrition I needed during the ride, missing calories and especially salt during the 112 miles.
Rolling back into a significant headwind, I had some rough patches but came good near the end of the ride, and felt ready for the run. I headed out Alii maintaining something close to my goal pace, but the heat was simply too much for a fast marathon. Had I realized that it was that kind of day out there, I may have gone out more conservatively, but I didn't. By the time I climbed Palani around mile 10, my pace slowed considerably and I was feeling completely overheated. Arriving at the aid station at mile 11, I stopped, sat, and proceeded to spend over 20 minutes trying to cool myself with ice, sponges, and water. I really wanted to be done with the suffering at that point, but out of respect for the race, my family, friends, and volunteers, I got up and began the 15 mile trek to complete the race. There isn't much to tell after that, as it was simply survival mode, walking, jogging, running, and spending plenty of time at aid stations to cool down and refuel.
Looking back now, I'm glad I was able to finish the event, and raced like I wanted to for a good portion. Of course it doesn't matter unless you do it all the way through like you plan, but I learned a great deal in my second Ironman outing, and I am ready for the next one in 2010. First up though is ITU Long Course Worlds here in Perth, Australia, and then Ironman Arizona on November 22nd. Thanks to all my followers and support, it wouldn't be possible without your help. Check back for more posts soon from my adventures down under and race reports from my last two events.
Kona Week 3
September 28, 2009
Freshly finished with the last long, hard work in my Ironman build, and preparing now to get the taper underway. I'll still have some shorter and faster workouts to hone my speed before Oct. 10th, but it feels good to know that the hardest stuff is now in the bank and I can really let the body rest and recuperate now. Kona is turning into the zoo everyone told me it would, with hundreds of athletes and spectators rolling in for some acclimation and course review. The energy is building along with the anticipation, but I already miss the peaceful days from earlier this month!
I had some easier days during the middle of the week, still logging miles but not going too big or fast. It allowed me some time to explore new rides, including a good, hilly ride with the group from Bike Works down to Captain Cook. It was necessary rest after the biggest week of training all year, and I made some trips to local beaches (Kua bay was the highlight), put my feet up, did some body boarding, and even watched some junk T.V. Of course the active recovery was all in preparation for another big weekend, and it was a good thing I got it.
Saturday morning was my final long run, and I was able to round up Chris McCormack and Terenzo Bozzone to help with the sufferfest. We hit out early, but not early enough to avoid some warm conditions on the Queen K and Energy Lab. No surprise here, as it's been 88 degrees nearly every day I've been here. Some days are more cloudy with the vog, but not for our run. We threw in some very solid tempo efforts, and ended our session at Jamba Juice for some instant respite from the heat, and much needed calories. I topped the day off with a moderate, hilly ride on the upper highway (coffee road) and then a solid swim with Linsey at Kona Aquatic.
Sunday was another early morning, and with Chris, Terenzo, Marky V, and Mark, we rolled steady hard for 100 miles of the course, only turning back a few miles before Hawi due to rain. The ride back down was some of the most intense wind I have experienced out here, so it was perfect practice for that possibility on race day. We also managed a double headwind for a good portion, so another day of becoming one with the gales is locked away. After finishing the ride, it was a quick transition and 5 miles of tempo off the bike. I nailed it, so I feel like all the pieces are in place. Less than two weeks until the big showdown, and I'm getting more excited each day.
For a bit of recovery, I am planning to do a tour of the island tomorrow with a friend, making the full loop in a car and seeing some new sights. I have to scope out some new areas in anticipation of the family coming out in a little over a week. Time for a nap!
Past the Illusion
September 24, 2009
Living in Kona for the past three weeks has given me more than just tired legs and a slight tan. It has provided plenty of time to reflect on the life I live, and how blessed I feel to lead it.
Professional triathletes vary as much as any group of people, but we share a common goal of racing triathlons as fast as possible, so we also share the process of working towards that goal through countless hours on the bike, in the pool, and pounding the pavement or trails.
It's not always the dream existence that others might imagine, but given this extra time for evaluation I have renewed appreciation for this lifestyle. To have this freedom to explore my capabilities in beautiful places in the world, and amongst other incredible athletes, is failed by words.
The people I most revere are those with a genuine, spontaneous engagement with life. An appreciation for the fleeting nature of our being coupled with fearlessness, not entrenched in self-importance or arrogance. It's not easy to escape this hubris when training day in
and day out for a top spot on the podium, money for traveling to the next event, and something resembling reverence from age-group triathletes, but for me it always needs to be something deeper. My pursuit of this lifestyle is instinctual, done to the most complete
extent of my ability, and done because I feel a mysterious pull at the core. Too often people sacrifice their true desires to be in compliance with societal norms, and this wary hedging is in direct opposition to the chance presence of our human lives. That's not to say I am unaware of the more base elements of my life in triathlon, but they are not the reason for my participation.
Triathlon is a journey that I never expected to take, and now can't imagine being without. It has opened many doors, and allowed me to let go of some of those preconceived concepts of safety and success so I can be present, whole-heartedly giving myself to the training and
racing like a bee gives its life in a sting. What is your passion?
Kona Week 2
September 22, 2009
It's hard to believe, but I'm already over 2 weeks into my Kona training. I've finally gotten well acclimated to the heat and humidity here, most noticeable through the amount of fluid I need to do sections of the course on the bike. When I started out, the floodgates would open within minutes of exercise, and I would be drinking two bottles in an hour. Now I'm half that and the sweat rate is much more balanced with my intake. It's hard to believe, but I've gotten used to that blanket of humidity, and now it seems completely normal.
The past week has been the biggest week of training during my whole year, even including base training in Tucson back in February. Throw in the fact that I had a lot of intensity, and it's obvious that my legs are a bit heavy right now. Even so, I'm happy to say that I survived and passed the test with flying colors. Of course it hasn't been easy, but with nothing to do but train, eat, sleep, and occasionally hang with some new friends, it makes everything a little more manageable. I love the training out here, and getting a feel for different sections of the swim, bike, and run courses has been invaluable. Even when the going gets tough, you can't beat a swim with the dolphins and a bike ride up to Waimea where the grass is green and the air is considerably cooler. I will say that I prefer the surface of my track in Durango to the high school crushed cinder at Kealakehe, but otherwise the environment has been ideal for building my best fitness to date.
In other news, I have made some good local friends who have been kind enough to have me over to dinner on numerous occasions, and as part of my win at Lavaman I was invited on a sunset cruise with the race staff. We had a perfect evening of dinner, dolphins swimming on our bow, and first mate Jason even caught a marlin, which is an extremely rare occurrence. To top everything off, I found out earlier in the week that I qualified as the top American and was selected to represent the USA at the ITU Long Course World Championships in Perth, Australia, so I will be headed down under two weeks after Kona to cap off the year. It won't be a long trip, as I will be away from Colorado for around two months when I finally get done traveling, but I'm looking forward to my first visit to Australia.
Next up is the beginning of the taper, where I focus on staying sharp and healthy. I've put in a ton of hard work, and I'm feeling confident and ready for the biggest race of the year. Keep an eye out for my interview on TriCenter next week, and I'll be back with more photos and an update soon. Off to the beach!
1st Place Lavaman Keaohou Triathlon
September 15, 2009
Yesterday was the inaugural Lavaman Keaohou olympic distance triathlon just south of Kailua-Kona. I wasn't originally planning on this race when I came to the big island, but after discussing it with my coach, it seemed like a good plan to get a hard effort in the heat and some more speed training to get ready for Ironman. It's only a month now until the biggest race of my life, so it was nice to coordinate one more event to keep me sharp.
The race took place just south on Alii drive at the Keaohou Outrigger resort, with a nice ocean swim, a bike that covers a section of the Ironman course, and a run that drops into the "Pit," where the old Ironman run used to go. My mental prep was good for this one because I had zero expectations outside of going my hardest for a good workout. I always race hard, and I always try to win, but I had tired legs coming in with significant volume since arriving on Sept. 4th. It was nice to do a local race without major pressure, and just focus on staying strong in the heat.
I had been doing some swim sets with the Masters group at Kona Aquatics, so I knew I would be good to hang near Bree Wee on the swim. We took it out chasing the swim leader, coming in with a little gap on some of the other contenders. I felt comfortable and in control most of the way, with the exception being a slight miscalculation we made after rounding the boat halfway through. My trusty steed laid in waiting for me as I exited the water, and I got right to work powering up the steep 1.5 mile hill out of T1 on the S-Works Transition. On the fast descent I did my best to hold watts, and near the turnaround at the Energy Lab I was in the lead and building a good gap to the other racers. I stayed at my goal power the rest of the way in on Alii, had a bit of a junkshow in T2, and then fired out to the run with a comfortable cushion to second, riding 57 minutes for the 40k.
Out on the run, volunteers were scrambling to get to their positions, and I blew through the first turn area going the wrong way out on the golf course. After a couple minutes of running, I was turned around and set straight, thinking "this can't be happening again after Lake Stevens!" Fortunately I had built a strong enough lead on the bike leg to remain in first place, and after motoring for a few miles, I coasted in the last bit for a course record and a good win on the island.
Thanks to all the race staff, volunteers, and other athletes. Post race food was excellent, with rocking music and great awards, and the crowd support was truly amazing. It's nice to be an out of towner and still get the royal treatment at a race like this. It was a classy event that I will be sure to race again next time I am in Kona.
Next up are the hardest weeks of training so far to top off the Ironman build, and then it's mostly resting until the big day. Legs feel good and the mind is in a good space. Time to make it all happen.... after a little bit of surfing today. Aloha!
September 14, 2009
It's the end of my first full week in Kona, so I thought I would give an update on the training and the conditions out here on the Big Island.
I arrived on Friday, stepping off the plane to a nice warm blanket of humid pacific sea air being wrapped around my body. First stop? The restroom to remove my compression socks and jeans, donning the shorts and flip flops that are requisite for island life. Next up was a stop at the Costco with Linsey Corbin and her mother, Betty. This was no ordinary stop, as we needed to get our shelves stocked for Ironman training. I won't give specifics on cost, but it was the most I have ever spent in one stop at a grocery.
After getting settled in my condo on Alii drive, I splashed around for a bit to stretch the body out, and crashed hard for a good night's rest. Next day was a full taste of Kona, with some open water swimming on the course from the pier. We were lucky to have a group of dolphins swim past, a sea turtle show itself briefly, and schools of tropical fish with every color under the sun drifting in the currents. This place is truly magical, an island paradise with phenomenal scenery. Did a moderate ride of about 53 miles to Waikoloa and back, and a short run on the early stages of the run course near town.
The rest of the week was more hard training, with highlights of riding a 124 mile loop in the Kohala hills and running out in the energy lab with Specialized teammates Terenzo Bozzone and Chris McCormack. These guys are going well right now, so it's perfect training for me. The body is acclimating well, and with the occasional sushi dinner for fuel, I'm getting stronger and better each day. I'll be posting more pictures and updates from the island as the training continues.... Mahalo!
Lake Stevens 78.3
August 22, 2009
I apologize for the delay in my post, but life has been a little more hectic than usual with the end of my part-time job, and the prep for moving out of my place here in Durango before Hawaii. Additionally, it's taken me a little longer to absorb and process the tremendous disappointment of the race in Washington.
I got back from the trip to Seattle/Lake Stevens on Monday, spending the weekend staying at the home of ace blind triathlete Aaron Scheidies. If you haven't already seen this guy at the races or know his story, check out his site: http://www.cdifferentwithaaron.com/AaronScheidies/Home.html
Aaron was busy taking names in London, so I had nice accommodations just north of the city. I didn't feel great coming into the race after Calgary's result, but I figured I would be able to race fast on residual fitness and intelligence. At least half of that ended up being true...
Lake Stevens is a challenging race, with seemingly continuous rolling hills on the 58 mile bike course, and a couple good climbs on the run too. Race morning was standard, with a 6:30 start. I gave myself the usual hour to get set up and warm up in the water before the gun went off. Everything was on target as I started to the right hand side and settled into a solid group of swimmers immediately. I don't know if it was being at sea level or something else entirely, but I felt smooth and not strained in the least as I found good feet and traced the underwater buoy line. Our group consisted of Gambles, Tremonte, Symonds, Whyte, and Park leading a good chunk of the way. I stayed comfortable and came out with one of my better swims ever at the half-iron distance.
Transition wasn't stellar, but I got out okay and immediately began blasting the bike to stay with Gambles, who was setting a furious pace to chase down swim leaders Linkemann and Flanagan. I did my best to stay with him, managing to stay about 50 meters back and match his pace through 15 or 16 miles, at which point I decided that I couldn't sustain the effort and backed off to my normal wattage. The good thing was that we had already pulled out significant time on our chasers, and nobody could see us with the rolling and turning terrain. Onto the second loop I still felt surprisingly strong on the bike, and was pulling out more time on the following group, but losing a little more time to Gambles. I knew with a run like his, this race was going to be for 2nd, so I stayed focused on riding my ride and getting ready for the run.
Even though I had raced the same course the year before, and pre-rode some of the course the day before, when it came time to make the left hand turn on the beginning and finishing out and back section, I turned about a half mile early on a road that looked very similar. I didn't realize my mistake until I had ridden almost 3 1/2 miles up the road to another intersection where an officer directed me back to the course. Not sure how much time I had lost, I still raced the bike back in, but when I was on the run and got a feel for my position, I cashed it in and jogged the remainder with Kirk Nelson, who was suffering from foot pain.
I have gone off course one other time, but this was far more painful. Being 4 minutes clear of 3rd place, 2 minutes down from 1st, and ready to podium at my second consecutive 70.3 made this a tough pill to swallow. That said, I'm the only one to blame for the error, and it will add fuel to my fire as I train for the most important race of the year in Kona. Additionally, it's clear that my fitness is good, and the extra swim focus is paying dividends. With another hard block on the big island in September, I'll be ready to make my mark again at the Ironman distance against the best in the world.
2nd Place Ironman Calgary 70.3, Montana/Canada Roadtrip
August 3, 2009
After a long break from posts, I'm back with some good news. I just completed the inaugural Ironman Calgary 70.3 in 2nd place. Of course there's a back story here, so I am going to take my time and build to the finish from the beginning. Hope you are sitting somewhere comfortable...
After a couple weeks easy and back to back trips to the mountains for some space to clear my head, I got back into structured training. I still maintained some fitness, running and riding when I felt like it, and covering portions of the Iomgene pass run on a weekend trip to visit my family, but I dropped a little bit of the top end. Fortunately, it started coming back quickly, so I just put my head down and got through 3 fairly hard weeks before racing up north. It has been pleno verano in Durango, so getting out on the bike and running on the trails has been as natural as breathing.
Starting a week and a half ago, I hit the road for a trip to see friends in Montana for two separate weddings in one week, and the race immediately following the last wedding. It was an ambitious plan with an approach to race day that I had not executed in several years, but with my focus on the long-term with Hawai'i, I couldn't allow myself to be stressed.
Wedding round one was my good friend Jeff (my first swim coach) up in Ryegate, Montana. If you haven't heard of this place, it's because nobody has. In the middle of nowhere rolling wheatfields, with the Musselshell river flowing through town and a sandstone cliff band to break the monotony of the terrain. To be honest, I was quite charmed by the place, and after watching Jeff get hitched, dancing into the wee hours, and doing a naked slip and slide when the rains poured down that evening, I have nothing but good memories.
I did log a hard long run the day of the wedding, got very little sleep (awoken 30 min earlier than I wanted by a crowing rooster), and drove 2 hours at 6 am to Bozeman for a 70 mile road race with about 4,000 ft. of climbing. Despite back to back nights of less than 5 hours of sleep, I helped pull back the main break and stayed with the leaders until the final climb, finishing 4th. On the drive back to Missoula for a week of training with friends before the second wedding, I was reduced to pulling over and sleeping from exhaustion. Also of note, a SNOWstorm blew through 30 miles outside of Missoula, coating the ground and hillsides with a half-inch of the white stuff in late July. Love this place.
So, 4 more days of hard work in Missoula, including some good long sets at the 50m outdoor pool (Splash Montana), where change rooms are indicated by pictures of bucks and does. Catching up with friends, eating Taco del Sol burritos, and training hard were the order of business for my stay, and I came into the second wedding and Calgary feeling ready to race fast.
I had another early morning departure from Bozeman after attending friend Tyler's wedding ceremony on Friday night, and drove the 8 hours to Calgary to drop my bike off before 5 and see a little bit of the course. As I said, this was a unique approach to race day, but I felt relaxed in the chaos, and indicator workouts were spot on for a good performance.
Race Day: Early to rise for a 45 minute drive from town to the race site, set-up transition, get in an okay warm-up, and then full gas from the start in the waters of Ghost Lake. I felt pretty smooth and in control, knowing that Hackett and O'Donnell would probably go well clear. I stayed in the main chase pack and prepped for the bike in my mind.
I had a poor first transition, but immediately went to work on the bike and started passing the swimmers from my group. I bridged to a group that had Whyte, Hadley, and Cotter, and we rolled along for about 20 miles before I went up ahead with Whyte. We pushed the pace and almost caught up to Hackett, but still entered T2 almost 2 minutes down. I went out hard on the run, pulling back time right away, but didn't make the catch until almost halfway. After that, I put in one hard surge at 14k and dropped the closest pursuers for good. The last hill and loop of the run were pretty ugly, but I had time to enjoy my best finish yet at a 70.3, and even got to spray the champagne in celebration afterwards. Tim was far and away the strongest that day, but I raced my race and stayed focused. It was an excellent result for my first race in a month, and if the bike wasn't 59 miles, I would have split one of my faster times ever on a course with plenty of hills.
Now it's a little downtime in Calgary with plans to go tubing and sushi for dinner tonight. After that, about 1600 miles of driving back home to Durango, and then off to Lake Stevens on the 14th. Until then, try harder.
6th Place Buffalo Springs Lake 70.3
July 5, 2009
I'm back in Durango after an epic day of riding in the car on Monday. For some reason the return trip always feels longer, but that was a true sufferfest. Having what I consider a mediocre race and a few shots of Patron post-race probably didn't help either. The only solace came from a stop at the Blue Hole in Santa Rosa, New Mexico to break up the drive and get a refreshing swim.
Although I have been hearing about the Buffalo Springs event since I began racing triathlon, this was my first trip to race in Lubbock, Texas. The race has a rich history, and it's conditions often mimic Kona's, so I thought it would be appropriate to give it a go. Lubbock is essentially flat as a pancake, but it does have a couple canyonesque features on the bike and run courses, so it ends up being a pretty challenging circuit.
Race morning was extremely windy, with a good amount of chop on the lake surface. This year the swim was more regulated (no beach running), and even though I got a good start to the extreme right side with Leon Griffin, I lost contact before the first turn buoy and had a poor swim. I never swim as well in the non-wetsuit events, but I shouldn't have lost as much time as I did. Still, I chased hard on the bike, and although I never felt like I found a good rythym, I was able to pass several pros and move into sixth off the bike. The winds and rain on the bike made the turns and downhills particularly challenging, and I dropped my gel flask about halfway through, but I kept the bike upright and focused on having a good run. Coming into T2, everything was soaked from the rain, and after making a quick attempt to put on a wet sock, I opted to run without them. This made for a painful run after about 6 miles, but I gutted through the blisters and bleeding sores that had formed, and ran solidly on a challenging course, holding off Cam Brown who had flatted about 3o miles into the bike. It's always tough to miss the selection out of the water and on the bike, as the group tends to gain an advantage even if they are riding "legal," so I would rate this race as less-than-stellar. The positive was that I kept my head in the race better than Florida 70.3, and still finished in the money. Mike and Marti Greer put on an excellent race, and I plan to return to Buffalo Springs in the future, hopefully with a little better swim.
Now it's time for a little break, and some refreshing in the San Juan mountains. I'm leaving for a 3 day backpacking trip in the Chicago Basin area, and I'll be trying to get in at least one fourteener. Enjoy your fourth of July weekend, whatever form it takes.
4th Place Ironman Boise 70.3
June 15, 2009
Back in Durango after a few nice days in Boise. This weekend was one of the busier for the triathlon world, with 70.3's in Boise, Kansas, Maryland, the UK, and Escape from Alcatraz in California. I had been planning on making Boise one of my major early season goals since March when I put together my race schedule. With cool waters necessitating a wetsuit swim, a good, challenging bike with rolling hills and wind, and a shaded flat and fast run, it is a course that suits me well. To add a little more emphasis, coach Elliot reminded me that having a poor race like I did in Orlando can mean only one thing: it was time for a break-out race.
I flew in with no delays on Thursday afternoon, met my friends from Durango who had knuckled down and driven the 12 hours, and got settled in. We did a little swimming to test the water temps (much better than last year), and spun around for a little over an hour on sections of the bike course.
A little digression: Boise is a great city. It's got a clean, modern downtown, plenty of young people with BSU, lots of recreation opportunities, and some great parks right along the river in town. It's a got a decent population while still remaining manageable, and as everyone knows, famous potatoes. Check it out if you've never been...
Friday was race registration, pro meeting, a nice 4 mile run with strides and a short ride with some effort on the bike. Weather had been brewing all day, and it looked like the weekend would hold more of the same. I don't mind racing in adverse conditions, as long as it's safe for the athletes, so I just hoped that it wouldn't turn into a modified duathlon. My Durango friends and I got together with Linsey Corbin and her support crew for some dinner, and we went to bed after some final adjustments to bikes and gear.
This year Boise had moved the start back to 2 pm, so we were all afforded a little extra sleep and time to get ready beforehand. We rolled out the reservoir at about 12:30, hiked up the dam, set up our transitions, and then jumped in for a little warm-up swim. When the gun went off, I was feeling pretty smooth, staying with the lead group through 400m before I lost contact with Joe Gambles and couldn't quite bridge as the leaders steadily rolled up ahead. I could see Jordan Rapp stuck in no man's land between our group of 3 and the leaders, about 30 seconds up, but I couldn't close it down. I came out a couple minutes down in what was unquestionably a long swim, had a decent transition, and got to work on the bike. I had logged good mileage last week, did plenty of intervals, and then rested well leading up, so I knew that I had a good bike leg in me. I went after Jordan right away, but wasn't able to catch him until about mile 20 after the Birds of Prey climb. He didn't go with me when I went around, but I knew I was within my power range, so I kept chasing alone.
By mile 35 I had caught Craig Alexander and Brian Lavelle (giving Lavelle the one-handed "Hey Macarena" dance salute). I dropped them shortly after, and began reeling in Joe Gambles, who I caught and passed near mile 52. It was a great feeling to put together the kind of ride I know I am capable of, and to come of the bike 2nd behind Chris Lieto. Add in that we were riding through serious downpours and wind for a good amount of the bike, and I'm satisfied with the effort.
Out onto the run, I felt good after digging pretty deep on the bike. I kept the pace even, just under 6 minutes per mile, but it didn't take long before Gambles came around, and then Crowie. They both gapped me significantly, but I saw Joe fall off Crowie's pace, and I started reeling him in. We were dead even at the halfway point, running side by side for a couple miles before he surged and got a gap again. I dug in, pulled him back, and then gapped him. He came back one more time, hit the gas a little after 10 miles, and I was empty. He got about 50m on me and it stayed that way until the finish, where we both collapsed (see picture above).
It's always tough to have a close finish and not be on top, and it's the second year in Boise where I have been 10 seconds or less out of the next best spot, but I put together one of best races to date, and improved my overall position by two places. I crushed the bike, put together a solid run afterward, had another sub 4hour effort, and found myself at the pointy end of the race against some of the very fastest guys around. Another solid week of training, a little rest, and then Buffalo Springs Lake Triathlon on the 28th. Thanks to all my sponsors, supporters, and followers.
Know your limits... and then change them.
May 26, 2009
I didn't post after my race in Florida, mostly because I didn't have a lot to say after my lackluster performance. I evaluated the day again and again, but didn't come to any satisfactory conclusions. I was a little tired going in, but felt great race morning. I pushed hard on the bike to catch the chase group, but was unable to bridge and probably overextended myself. The run became a jog to finish, and the trip was an expensive training day and lesson. I did get to spend the weekend with fellow pros Amy and Brandon Marsh, driving through the Disney city of Orlando, so it was good to catch up and watch them have good races. Looking back now, I probably should have saved my energy for something else, but it was good to learn that even I can have a bad race. One bad race.
Fast forward to this past weekend in Durango. An easier week of training left me feeling pretty fresh and ready for a big weekend of intensity. The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic is one of the oldest and most respected road races around, and I was riding for my local team, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. The ride is a brutal test of climbing prowess, so I knew from the beginning it would be a game of limiting my losses. I worked early on to help chase a breakaway, got dropped on the first climb, regained contact before the first major pass of almost 11,000 ft., and then got dropped again. In the end, I was happy to best my goal time and finish with a strong group. We were lucky to have dry roads and good racing conditions, and it's always fun to be part of such a legendary event. My parents also rode in the tour, and finished in very respectable times.
The second event of the weekend was the Narrow Gauge ten miler, which is another challenging event with significant hills and plenty of altitude. I took out an early lead and ended up just short of my sub 1 hour goal, coming in first in 1:00:19. Since the last 1.5 miles are straight downhill to the finish on concrete, I was suffering the next morning when I woke up to finish off the Narrow Horse triathlon with the 1500 meter pool swim.
My plan was to just wrap up the overall with a cruisy swim before the afternoon time trial, but I ended up going decently fast. It felt smooth, and my 19:04 was good enough to set a new course record for the stage race triathlon. I ate a little food, put the race wheels on the TT bike, and headed out to do battle with the pro men in the 13.7 mile time trial on east animas. I could still feel the effects of the running race, but I gritted my teeth through the whole ride, trying to hold my watts and save a little for the punchy climb at the end of the ride. I caught my 1:30 man on the last climb and knew I had a good ride. I was a fair bit back from overall winner Ben Kneller, but my time slotted me into third overall, ahead of several pros. I really feel like my position is better after a little tweaking, and it showed during the all-out effort. There is no secret that time trialing is a fine balance between power and position.
The past two weeks have been a good reminder to listen to my body, and to know when to draw the line and get some rest. Sometimes it's more mental than physical, and I think the trip to Florida was an indicator that I needed a small break to clear my head. It's only late May, but I've already racked up over 11 events when I include my running races and cycling events. That said, recognizing that I needed some rest helped me to come into the weekend of races at home with a fresh outlook, allowing me to push my limits even further before the next big race in Boise. Life is good, and getting better.
Another solid week of training
May 12, 2009
I'm through with another solid week of training in preparation for Ironman Florida 70.3. The weather has turned to absolute perfection here in Durango recently, so I've been nailing the bike and getting out on the trails every day. It's the perfect time of year when temperatures aren't too hot, everything is green, the river is running high, and the scents of freshly mown grass and cookouts dominate the evening air.
Ironman Florida 70.3 wasn't originally on my schedule, as I had planned to return to Memphis in May and battle it out for the top spots at a shorter distance event (and eat some quality barbecue), but I changed the arrangements a couple weeks ago. My coach and I have been discussing the need to expose myself to demanding conditions that mimic Hawaii as much as possible, so the season campaign consists of several races that historically have hot and humid weather. So far I have done New Orleans, then I'll go down to Florida this weekend, race in Lubbock in late June, and possibly hit Cancun in September if I don't end up going out to Hawaii a little early. I'll be experimenting with nutrition, race strategy, and taking special notice of how my body reacts to the extra stressors. Based on my career results, I race better in heat than cold, but I'll need to make sure I get the nutrition right after my debut Ironman stomach issues.
I'm finally back to firing on all cylinders, fully recovered from the virus that knocked me out for a couple weeks, so I'm chomping at the bit to get out and race to my potential. Look for me to get in the mix at Ironman Florida. This week won't see a major reduction in either volume or intensity until Friday, but I'm feeling fit and ready to go. Keep your eye on www.ironman.com for the live race coverage and look for my race report following the event. Until then, get out and ride your bike!
9th Place Wildflower
May 6, 2009
Just arrived back in Durango last night after another epic driving mission through the Mojave desert to Wildflower and back. It was a short vacation, but I try to make the trip each year to do battle with the top pros on a challenging course. It's tough to beat the atmosphere that surrounds the race, with thousands of people camping, racing, spectating, selling triathlon equipment, and just generally creating a woodstock-esque environment. I heard that projections for the total number of people in the park for the weekend would reach 35,000, so it ranks as one of the largest events out there, and the venue is easily one of the most scenic.
I got in Thursday evening, did a short jog to stretch out the legs, and then went to bed early. Friday started out with perfect weather, and we rode a little over an hour, bricked a short run, and then went down to the expo to check out vendors, meet with sponsors, and do a short swim. By the time we wrapped up the swim, rain was falling steadily, and it didn't let up until some time early Saturday morning. At the pro meeting, race director Terry Davis noted that we would have to dismount our bikes around mile 42 to run across a metal bridge if the rain kept falling, so we all hoped for a change in the weather patterns.
Race morning showed perfect weather for a fast day, and I felt surprising good even though my build for the race was interrupted by a nasty virus. The field was absolutely STACKED, with something close to 60 pro men toeing the line for the 8 a.m. start. I started second row so I could "surf" everyone's wake for the first part of the swim, and by the time I hit the first turn buoy at 200 meters, I hadn't worked too hard and stayed near a lead group. Of course Andy Potts was going full gas off the front, but I could tell I was in a good spot and just kept fighting for good feet through the first half of the swim. I've been working hard on my closing 500m strength in these swims, so I knuckled down when things got strung out a little and stayed on the nearest feet. Arriving in T1, I saw the likes of Chris Lieto and some other good swimmers that I rarely see that early in a race, so I kept my transition smooth and rolled out in contact with some of the big hitters. At the top of the first big climb I was with Matt Lieto, Chris Lieto, Jordan Rapp, James Cotter, and several others. I knew it was going to be a bit of a gun show on the bike, so I just rode steady and watched to make sure my stagger was legal. By mile 25, things began to string out a bit more, and I decided that I didn't have the legs to follow Rapp and Lieto as they pulled ahead. Looking back now, I probably should have gone anyway, because they made contact with the leaders around mile 35, which included Terrenzo, Eneko, and Potts. I still felt like I was riding solid though, with Matt Lieto, Romaine Guillaume, and another athlete all rolling along for the last miles.
Into T2 we were down considerably on Bjorn Andersson, but I took off at a steady pace to reel in some of the men out front. By the first real climbs I had caught one, and been passed by Romain, who hung in front by about 100m. Around mile 6 or 7 we both caught and passed a fading Fraser Cartmell, and then I began to chase Romain down, finally catching him at the turnaround at mile 10. I hit the gas on the uphill, forming a small gap, and stayed on it through the top of the hill, gaining about a minute in those 2 miles. I let the legs go on the descent of Lynch hill, and crossed the line well clear in 9th, with a total time of 4:12:14.
Reflecting on my performance now, it's a little bittersweet. I came out to race against one of the most competitive fields I have seen in my short pro career, finishing 9th behind names like Potts, Llanos, Colucci, Bell, Bozzone, Gambles, Lieto, and bested a huge number of others. I swam faster than I have, maybe ever, and ran solidly on a very tough course. The one part that irks me is that I am easily fitter than any other year, and didn't have the bike legs to match my split last year (2:18:52) in good conditions. I lost close to 4:30 on the bike this year, and I can't say where it went, although I know my form could have been a little better without being sick for two weeks beforehand. I really wanted to go sub 4:10, and my final time was well above last year's effort of 4:10:52. In the end, I was in the money against a very competitive field, I learned a ton, and had a good time at one of my favorite races. Next up, Ironman Florida 70.3 in Orlando in two weeks. Look for me to remedy the bike and get in the mix once more against some top pros.