Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Best Of The US

This was an eventful trip in many ways but as far as a race goes, it was a bit of a disappointment. The race will come further down on this post.

Upon arrival to Phoenix, I got a text from Bruce Gennari (TIMEX athlete) letting me know that he was there and about to get something to eat. I knew I would not be able to connect with him, but it was nice to know he was there and ready to make a weekend of it.

I collected my bike and headed out to get on the Best Western shuttle, which I did. But ended getting on the wrong one…the one that went to the airport Best Western. Fortunately I did not leave the terminal and waited a bit longer. I stood there next to the curb in about 85 degree heat in the shade. Just like the weather I left in Spokane.

I got checked in to my hotel and waited for Chris Thomas (TIMEX rider) to get there. I got my bike all put together and put on the new front wheel that I got from Fitness Fanatics. Thanks Robin. It all went together fine and looked tough. I watched some educational shows, like I always do when I travel, and waited for Chris to get there. I was getting hungry and fortunately Chris was on his way and he wanted food too.

I met him in the lobby where we both introduced ourselves to another triathlete, Chris Fetter form Nevada. Chris and I both raced at the Rage in the Sage in Nevada in April. That is where he qualified. He was interested in getting some food too and he had a car. So he hauled Chris and I to eat at some fancy pub. It was cool to get to know Chris and hear about him and what he does and the connection he has to the PNW. He was supposed to be staying with Bruce…kind of funny…but ended up staying at our hotel instead. We all planned on getting up and going for a ride in the morning after our continental breakfast.

The morning came and off we went to get some grub. And guess who showed up for breakfast? Bruce. He spent a lot of time at our hotel. Much more than at his own. I think the people actually thought he was a guest since he was there each morning for breakfast and using the shuttle service. We also ran into Cindi Bannick (TIMEX rider) and her roommate Crystal who is originally form Belgium and racing for Georgia. As you can tell we were turning into quite a pack. We decided that morning to go for a ride and check out the run course. We left at about 9:00am and the sun was already out and making a statement. The high on Saturday was to be 92 degrees. We definitely did not want to hang out in that too long. So we rode around town, attempted to ride what we thought was the run course, and then headed back to the hotel to shower and get ready to drive the bike course and get something to eat.

We took 2 cars to drive this bike course that had 5 ‘out and backs’ (e.g. 180 degree turnarounds) as well as twenty 90 degree turns. We would do 2 laps of this supposedly totaling 27 miles. We would later find out that the race distance would be about 31-32 miles. This course was pretty complicated, but would probably make more sense once it was marked with cones and volunteers. But for the time being, it was very difficult to navigate. We finally finished the drive and decided to check in and then get some food.

After we walked all over a 1 block area looking for the ‘right’ place with 6 different ideas, we ended up back at the place we went last night. It was good, but I have to say I was getting tired of the place already.

We all decided it was about nap time and we needed to get the gear set up for the mandatory bike check in at 4:00pm. Having forgot my shoes at my last race, I decided that it would be pretty important to take a good inventory of what I was bringing this time. Some of the items that we got at this race were pretty cool. For numbers, they were actually temporary tattoos that we placed on ourselves. Knowing how complicated these ‘can’ be, I knew this was a good idea that was going to go bad. But what do I know, this was my first year. The race numbers and the numbers on the bike were pretty cool. They had the state flag on them with the state name. And the number that we each got corresponded with the order in which our state became a ‘state,’ or part of the union. Good thinking.
Chris and I got our bikes ready pretty quickly and were ready to go to the pre race meeting with everyone. This was a meeting for only the Best of the US athletes at a local Mexican restaurant. The race staff really tries to make this event very personal and makes each athlete feel ‘special.’ Jerry, the race promoter, knows every athlete by name and their results. His excitement for this race, and enthusiasm is honest and sincere which instills a lot of confidence that he has things well thought out. As we walked into the restaurant, Jerry welcomed us and put a pin on our shirt that was a BOUS pin. Then we sat and waited for the meeting to begin. We were told all about the course, when we would race, some complication, and some other neat aspects to this race. We then left there and headed out for an all athlete photo where we were given our state flag. This is where I found out that Tracy Orcutt, the woman representative form Washington, did not show up. That was kind of a bummer. This would mean that we (Washington) would not be eligible for a state award. Oh well. Not that I was there racing for Washington…but I was from Washington. We got the photo taken and now we were off to an Italian restaurant. I must state that the ASU was playing Oregon this weekend, so getting into any place was tough. So a group of 15 of us waited about 50 minutes to get in. A little long for me really, but we were there and it was a great group of people. As a matter of fact, the people that were in our group occupied 4 of the top 10 places in the men’s race. It was nice to get to know some people I have raced against quite a few times this year but have not had the time to actually have a conversation with.

After dinner, people were pretty excited to leave and get to bed. Chris and I were able to turn off the lights at about 8:45pm. That was a good feeling since we had a 6:30am race start, which would mean we would need to get up at about 4:00am. Morning would come fast.

I ended up waking up a bunch of times, but I felt like I got some good sleep as well. We hit the continental breakfast with some of the other athletes and were off to the race course. We were pretty close to the race venue so we arrived promptly at 5:15...plenty of time to get the wheels pumped up and transition area set up. And maybe even a warm up. New concept for me. At this time in the morning, it’s still very dark which made getting things in the right place and seeing exactly what pressure your tires were really at. Though it was dark, I loved the idea that we would be on the course before the sun came up. The only downside of all this is that I only brought tinted goggles which made it difficult to see the buoys. But who really sights off those anyway? I would not lead since Bruce was there as well as some other legit swimmers. I just needed to follow the splashing.

I went for a quick run with Chris and Chris and made one last stop at the port potty. I got on my B70 Helix and headed to the swim start in a very murky reservoir. I actually did a little warm up swim too… all these new things :). The national anthem was sung, and all of a sudden we had 2 minutes to go. The nerves started flying and people were getting really excited and pushing close to the front. I felt like I was getting squished, so I made my way to the front and possibly a little across the line. The countdown began and more eeking forward occurred. Then it was go time. I was worried about the start of this race because it was the most competitive field I have ever raced in. All the people there had won a race in their own state that was a qualifier for this race. So just about everyone thought they had a legitimate chance of winning this thing…and it all starts with the swim. I took off fast with fast turnover and moving at a good clip. I got clear of most the chaos and found myself with about 5 in front and a couple around. With 86 people in this race, I knew I was near the front and now I would just need to make sure I did not get sucked up and blown out. The first turn came pretty quickly. But I could see someone moving off the front. I knew that was Bruce and he would lead the swim. The second buoy came pretty quickly too which also meant we were on our way back. There was a bit of bumping and kicking, but all unintentional I would think. I could not see any of the turn buoys because of all the splashing and my tinted goggles. But I knew I was on track. Most the guys I was with seemed to swim straight. Then we made the final turn and I was on my way to the exit steps which were pretty easy to see. I started to think about the bike and what I needed to do. That seems to relax me a bit for some reason. I don’t think I slow down too much, but it helps me to set up for that. I got to the stairs and got up them quickly. This is the same swim reservoir and steps that they use for IM Arizona. I got out and eventually found out I swam a 11:04 for 1000 meters…ya right. In other words, the course was short…real short. Now many people would think that this is not necessarily a bad thing. This is a bad thing. Not because good swimmers don’t get an advantage, but it ends up making the bike really congested and creates ‘packs, ‘ a little foreshadowing? I think I was 10th out of the swim, but was 5th onto the bike.
My transition was quick and I wanted to get on my bike fast. I passed 3 guys in the first 500 meters and there was one guy out front. After about 2 miles I could tell it was my fellow TIMEX teammate, Bruce Gennari. I looked behind me to see what was going on and it seemed like some guys were trying to close on me or ride the same pace. This was a VERY technical course, as I said before. I wanted to put some time on these guys by riding this course aggressively, but smart. You can take some risks in these corners, but you could not be stupid. I attacked out of every corner trying to put a little time on these guys through each one. After about 3 miles I was 10 seconds behind Bruce. At about mile 5 I took the lead. I was watching my power to make sure I was not pushing too hard. After the first turn around I could tell I was putting time into the field, but also saw that there was a pretty big group behind an initial 4 that were chasing me ‘legally.’ After about 15 miles, the group was one big pack. Not a strung out group, but a pack. Like 3 abreast, 1 foot off one another’s wheels…a pack. This resembled something from the Tour de France. No kidding. The first few times I saw this, it really took the wind out of my sails. I thought about giving up and sitting in like the rest of them. But what good would that do me? I know I would regret it, and many of these guys are flat out better runners than me. So though I could be in the group with them, they would still run away from me. So I kept at it and was trying to take some splits on them. At times it seemed like they were closing, but not fast. Then all of a sudden I had a 50 second lead. I knew it would take a solid effort by the group to close that and I did not think anyone would really want to risk it. So I plodded away and figured I was getting some good exposure for TIMEX and Trek. Not to mention I enjoy leading the bike. I was hoping that Bruce and Chris were benefiting form the others chasing me and that they would have some rested legs for the run too.

I came into T2 fast dodging a few pedestrians along the way. I dismounted and quickly got on my Zoot shoes. I was off and running and knew I had a bit of a gap but did not know how much. Later I found out I was about 1 minute ahead. I was running okay but that 1st mile is always tough. I knew I put a little more out there on the bike than I normally would…but I was good with that. I ran through the first aid station and got poor service, as expected. When you are the first person, you never know what you might get…or not get. As I blew through the first one and missed a couple cups, I actually heard one of the volunteers say, “I guess they are not going to stop.” I don’t blame them. I know they are doing their best, but it’s just another hurdle you get to deal with. I made it to mile 1 still leading. I think I made it about 1.5 miles before I was passed by 4 guys that are amazing runners. Fortunately, one of them was Chris, my fellow TIMEX teammate. So that felt good. He is a phenomenal runner, so I knew he would do well. After they passed me, they seemed to slow down a bit. But not to my speed. Chris later told me that they were running so friggin’ fast, that he knew someone, maybe even him, was going to blow up. I would suspect they were at about a 5:15 mile for the first mile. But once the carrot was caught (me) it seemed like they settled in. I was not feeling great and got passed by a few more. I just kept plodding along and getting to the aid stations. There was one turnaround and I was able to see how far up the front was and how close the people behind were. At about that time Bruce passed me and gave me a little push…literally. He looked like he had a good pace going, but he was in sight the rest of the way after about the 4.5 mile point. I had no clue what place I was in. Definitely not the top 10, but somewhere in the teens. But there were people close behind and people close in front. I wasn’t sure if I was running from people, or trying to catch people. Regardless, we were crossing the final bridge and I was running with a guy from Delaware who said we had about a mile to go. I wasn’t too sure how accurate he was, but it sounded good to me. We eventually were back running along the water and headed to the finish. We crossed the 6 mile mark so I figured we had a half mile to go. A solid 3 minute effort was all I needed to do. So I picked it up and caught up to Delaware and encouraged him on to one final effort. But I did not seem to get a response. I could see I was closing on Bruce, but did not think I would be able to close that gap with 300 meters to go. But it looked like he was in a tough spot and I closed it to be running next to him. This race has a big slip ‘n slide at the end that I told him we could slide down together and he thought that would be cool. We rounded the corner together and crossed the line together but missed the slip ‘n slide. But the best part of it all…we were done. It was a frustrating day for both of us. He is an amazing swimmer that was unable to get the gap he needed, or normally is capable of, because the swim was so short. I worked hard on the bike and had a good gap, but was run down fairly quickly by guys that were drafting. But the highlight, Bruce was first out of the swim and I was first off the bike. Everything would have been perfect if Chris would have been first across the line. So it’s all his fault :). Na, just kidding. He ran so well, but the guy who won ran just a little better. He had a great day, on the run.
I ended up finding out from the official that they were aware of the pack and had actually written up a bunch of violations, but then did not submit them because there were so many people involved and she felt the course made it difficult for the packs to separate. What? Are you kidding me? It’s a non-draft legal race, but all of a sudden it turns out to be okay? Just wish I would have known. They could have told me that since I was off the front bustin’ my ass for 27 miles. Whoops, that wasn’t right, it was actually 31-32 miles. Slightly off. So I was hanging out there for 31 miles. Oh well. I had a great ride and my power average was higher in this race than it’s been in any race I have done. And there were a lot of coasting into corners. So I know I rode well. I can go home and know that.

Obviously a lot of frustration from this race, much like ITU Worlds in Vancouver. But it all boils down to this. If the USAT cannot get courses that can facilitate a ‘fair’ race, people are simply going to stop coming to them. Clearwater is a perfect example. I thought the USAT National course in Portland was great. It was challenging enough to break things up and I did not see any drafting there and I did not hear any complaints either. I think most athletes would agree, but for some reason race directors don’t think about this. A lot of people have stopped going to ITU or USAT championship events because they simply are not fair, and the race officials do not enforce their own rules. It’s sad and I hope more attention is paid to this in the future. These races cost too much, and people train too hard, not to be treated to an honest race. Enough said.

After we all licked our wounds, and people shared their view of the pack on the bike course, we decided to head back and get some lunch. We went to another sports bar and ate outside and shared more stories and talked about what’s up for the rest of the year. Chris Fetter (from Nevada) decided to head out. He had to drive 5 hours home. I hope we all cross paths with him in the future. After eating some strawberry shortcake (that is what I ordered) we headed back to the hotel to pack the bikes and get ready for our departure. But before we did, Bruce and I still needed to hit the In and Out burger joint. I had never been there and he said it’s a must do. So we went and got our orders to go. I ordered the ‘Double Double’ with sautéed onions with fries, soda and a chocolate milkshake. Bruce ordered a couple burgers fries and a soda. We took them back to the hotel and ate it all there while watching “Goodwill Hunting” and “Patch Adams.” Nice way to end the trip really. We both jumped on the Best Western shuttle to the airport. Again, Bruce was not even a guest here but took advantage of all of its offerings.

And now I am on the plane.

On a HUGE side note, that I thought I would put at the end, while I was down at this race Jessi ended up getting in a bad bike accident on a ride with the club out north on Sunday. I have not even seen her yet, but apparently a deer (a buck with antlers) ran out in front of her and she ended up going over the bars and hitting her head pretty hard. She was taken by ambulance on a backboard and in a c-collar to the hospital. She suffered a pretty solid concussion ruining her helmet. She also got some road rash on her lower back. She is doing okay now, but I have to say a huge thank you to all the friends and family that were there for her while I could not be. When I heard about this I was pretty freaked out, but I started to hear all the people who were there and all the people that were helping out with everything. So a big thank you to Greg, Ken, Steve, Tiffany, Natalie, Tim Swanson, Nate, Tricia, Steve W., Eric, Linda, Mom, Dad, Tim Seppa, and probably a host of others. Though I wish I could have been there, I knew she was in amazing hands with all of you. What great friends and family we have. I really appreciate all of your support.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


“Ten minutes and the transition area needs to be cleared out,” the announcer says. As I get the final touches on my transition area, that I showed up a tad late to, I reach into my bag to find out that I do not have my cycling shoes. Folks, this IS a nightmare. Nationals, and I don’t have my cycling shoes. The thought of asking others if they had an extra pair crossed my mind, but was pointless. I was hoping they were in the car in another bag…hoping. If they were not, that meant that they were about 45 minutes away and I would be screwed. Here’s the corker in it all…the car is a 4 mile shuttle ride form the race venue. Yes, 4 miles. And yes a friggin’ shuttle ride. I really tried to stay calm here. But I am at a race where my wave starts in 45 minutes and I do not have my shoes and they are a total of 8 miles (there and back) away via a school bus shuttle. Things re not looking good, but I thought if this was going to happen, it would not happen with me thinking about it. So I ran up to the road where the shuttle ‘was’ regularly dropping people off. I sat there and waited what seemed like 20 minutes, but I would suspect it was more like 10. Oh, it gets better. Since the race waves had started, the busses could no longer go the 4 mile way, they now had to go all the way around the lake which was 8 miles. Crap! I told the driver my dilemma and he said, ‘get in and I will do my best.’ I have to say that I have never been on a school bust that has been driven like this one. This driver was phenomenal. My guess is this was a life long dream for him. To have some guy jump in this giant but he has driven hundreds of thousands of miles and say ‘follow that car.’ Well, kind of like that I guess. He closed the bi-fold doors and we were off. That bus was doing things that I never thought possible. We were carving corners like bobsled. I was holding on to the seats as to not fall off. I did not want to comment on how fast he was driving because I did not want him to think that I did not approve. So I sat there and watched this guy do his thing. I was doing the math in my mind thinking that if he just averaged 30mph, it would be 16 minutes. Then 1 minute to get to my shoes, and another 10 minutes back (4 miles back). Then, of course, I still needed to get ready for the race. So I had 45 minutes, and about 37 was accounted for. That meant I would need to get my wetsuit on while on the bus. So I did. I got some odd looks, but it was necessary. The B70 Helix is so easy to put on, you can really do it anywhere. I just hope that TIMEX does not get any complaints. I could really go on and on about the details of this ‘bus trip’ but I need to get to the race part.

Needless to say, I made it. Jessi coordinated with a volunteer in T1 to get my cycling shoes to my transition area and all was ready. I was able to actually say hello to some TIMEX friends. They laughed, and I guess I could as well…now. A big thank you to Ken who was about to give me his shoes and did everything he could to help me. Also, thanks to Jessi for sending text while I was on the bus telling me to ‘stay calm,’ ‘take it easy, and ‘focus on the race.’ All which helped.
Walking down to the start

I ended up lining up right in the middle, which I thought was odd since no one else was there. I thought that maybe I was missing something. Was thins a ‘bad’ spot? Oh well, I would not be there long. As I sat there at the dock, I could hear Emma yelling ‘Go Daddy!’ about 7 times in a row. No one but me know who she was yelling at, and some guys smiled thinking it was cute…probably Dads too wishing their kiddos were there yelling for them. I waved and we had 1 minute to go.

The countdown came and the horn sounded. I think it was horn, might have been a gun too. But I was off. I put my head down and started an aggressive start to try and get away from all the bodies and get a little open water. It seemed like everyone was right there but I was far enough away as to not get all tangled up. After about 300 meters, it seemed like I was by myself. There were people around, but not all that close. I really like to have my own water and focus on my own speed. So that was nice. I was swimming well and pretty straight form what I could tell. I made the two turns of the far end and was heading back. The swim was just too easy…no people…no problems. I eventually found myself swimming with another guy at the same speed. So I tucked in behind and could ease up a bit. I then started to go around him and found myself just swimming next to him so I backed off and stayed behind to rest a bit before T1. I cam out right behind him and swam a 19:37 which I was happy with.
Waving at Emma and Jessi form swim start

Running to T1

The run to T1 was pretty tough up a steep boat ramp. But you just do it and get up there. I had a ‘fairly’ smooth T1 since I really never saw where my shoes were placed because it was a volunteer that Jessi asked to put there since it was closed when I arrived. But sure enough, they were there. So instead of having the shoes on my bike, with rubber bands, I had to put on my shoes and then helmet and off I went. I mounted quickly, clicked in, and was now off on the bike. I passed a few people in the first 75 yards and then we were immediately into a ‘no pass zone.’ These can be good or bad. If you are alone, or leading, they are good. If you are behind a 60 year old woman trying to put on her arm warmers while she rides up the hill, it’s bad. I was patient and as soon as I got out of the no pass zone, I passed everyone that was there. I was anxious and was ready to get this bike leg going. It was 2 laps of a 20k course that was rolling. Nothing too steep, so it kept your effort honest the entire way. I was feeling good and was staying on top of my hydration and watching my power as I was flying by other age groups. My Trek TTX felt right at home on this course…smooth, powerful, and efficient. I saw a few people out on the course that I cheered on. Some being TIMEX people like Cindi :) I was watching my time as I came around on both laps. I remembered that sub hours were not all that common last year and I thought I would be right around a mid 58 minute which was good. I rolled in to T2 and was off the bike in on to the run pretty easily. Zoot shoes make transitions way to easy. Unfortunately, I see a lot more people wearing them. My advantage is disappearing.
Riding out of T1

Coming in off the bike to T2

I headed out on the run and was feeling pretty good. It’s a very challenging run and you seem to be going up or down all the time. It’s important to take advantage of the downs as much as the ups, so I did my best to do that. I knew Chris Thomas was behind me (another phenomenal TIMEX athlete) and could easily run me down if he was close. I saw him coming in on the bike when I had only been running 1:15. So I figured I had about 2:30 on him… not enough. But I would still need to run hard regardless. I felt like my cardio was there and my legs were doing well. I always know I am in trouble when my breathing is in control and my legs are tired. This was not the case. I eventually got to the 3 mile point and saw Jason Schott coming back. Crap… he was ¼ mile ahead and I was sure I was not making ground on him. I eventually made it to the turnaround and looked t my watch. I ran for about 45 seconds and then saw Chris and Craig Greenslit. Craig runs even faster than Chris. So I knew I was in double trouble now. I thought I might be in 2nd, and if they both pass me, it would be 4th. Nothing really magical about that for me, but I still needed to run hard. I finally hit mile 5 and I seemed to be still running hard. At about the 5.5 mile point, Craig passed me. He went by fast, but then faded quite a bit. But was then able to pick it up again on the downhill sections. I knew that Christ had to be close. I thought I would need to run hard for 4 minutes, that’s it. I hit the final uphill section that was not as ‘uphill’ as I thought it was. It was pretty flat really. So I kept up the tempo and made the final turns down to the finish area. I was still worried and glanced back another time just to see. People on the side said that there was no one behind. That’s funny, because I can see Chris right back there and that guy can close a gap like adolescent braces can. I came around the final turn and was on the red carpet of the finishing stretch. I was so excited. I had no clue hat place I was in, but I really felt like I race this race an honest effort. Swam well, rode well, and ran my best. I definitely did not out run Chris, he’s was faster than me, but I was simply able to hold him off. I hope because I my effort, he was able to elevate his effort as well and give something of himself he was proud of too.
Starting the run

Crossing the finish line

"Legendary" Chris Thomas and me

Bruce Gennari and me (National Champion when it was held in Cda)

Ken, me, and Greg

Afterwards we all talked and were happy it was done. Ken Collins and Greg Gallagher both came in too with solid efforts. We were the only 3 men from Spokane and I think we did well.
Awards ceremony

Thanks to Jessi, Emma, and Natalie who were the sherpas and cheer squad for the day. Couldn’t have done it without you guys. Also a huge shout out to Ironheads Triathlon Club who set us up with a stellar home stay. Grant Folske gave up his bachelor pad condo for all of us to stay at and he stayed at his girlfriends. What an amazing guy. And get this, he raced too!
Greg, Natalie, and Ken


Grant and Ginny

Congrats to all the TIMEX athletes who showed up and raced. I am honored to don the orange of TIMEX. Watching all of you race makes me race harder. Nice work Ian, Bruce, Chris, Julie and Cindi. You guys are awesome.
The TIMEX crew (L-R)
Roger, Chris, Ian, Cindi, and Bruce
not pictured: Julie

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Some of you have asked if I was ever going to post the pics from the Cda Tri... yes, I 'plan' to. I have been just a bit pre disposed the last few days... and that's not necessarily a good thing. I was reminded just how good a bathroom tile floor feels against the face.

I don't know what it was, or how it happened, but Jessi left for Seattle on Tuesday and I got up Wednesday morning at 4:45am to swim. My stomach felt bloated and tight, and somewhat sour. But I was not going to use some 'sissy' excuse not to get in a swim. So I got down there and put in a solid effort. I felt pretty good really. But my stomach just felt sour.

I eventually got home and went straight to bed. I left on all my clothes and pulled the covers up over my head because I was cold. Not good. I was shivering and was not hungry and could not fathom the thought of drinking anything. I fell asleep for a bit, woke up, fell asleep... the typical cycle. Then it was time. The thing that I thought I would avoid, I could not. I was summoned to the bathroom by the rapid watering of my mouth. I made a quick exit of the bed straight to the bathroom. I will avoid the details because we have all been there. But my body heaved for what seemed like eternity ridding itself of some demon that had found its way into my body. It felt like a Volkswagen bus, but it resembled everything I had eaten from the day prior. After my body performed this amazing physical feat the yielded something that maggots would turn their nose up to, I collapsed on the bathroom floor. My face was covered in sweat and I felt like I just crossed the finish line at IM Cda (not Hawaii, you really have to experience that). I was finding comfort in that floor. I loved that floor. That floor has been so good to me today... always there when I needed it, an open ear for me to rationlize why I thought I was dieing. Or justifying why I should call 911. I also started to remember how bathroom floors felt in the ol' college days. However, they were not nearly as clean. But you snuggled up to them just the same. I ended up losing another 5 pounds during this affair. Granted, mostly water.

I ended up in bed for the next few days with fluids exiting me from multiple directions. It was so frustrating. Here I felt like I needed to get back at it, and I was thrown back into bed. I have contemplated on hanging up the season because of the sub par training I have had since Worlds in June. It seems like it might be a good choice rather than continuing to try and 'get back' with so many obstacles. I was convinced that once mid July hit I would be back at it... but I haven't. My training has been hit and miss because of many things I have let get in the way, and things that I simply could not avoid. All choices I suspect. As I tell so many people I work with, you cannot expect a 100% performance when you only put in a 60% effort in preparation. It's really simple math. I don't know the exact formula, but you get the idea. The final races I have this year are Nationals and Best of the US. Two races that require you to be at your best. Right now I am searching for mediocre. These are struggles that we all face. Some call it motivation, some call it desire. Call it what you want, but it requires you to dig deep and figure out 'why' you do something. What calls you to do what you do? It's at these times that we often find out the truth.

I have been wondering if I was fighting off this bug at the Cda tri as well. I really don't know. I would suspect not since Cda tri was on Saturday, and this hit me on Tuesday night (3 days). Regardless, I was reminded how important adequate fluid intake is. During this hot season, it's so crucial to stay on top of your hydration daily... not just the 2 days leading up to a race.

Yesterday (Saturday) I was finally able to get back out and start training again. I went for a little run late in the evening. It was nice to get out, but I am sore today. I think my body is still dehydrated and running on a dehydrated body sure is tough on it. You feel like you raced a 1/2 marathon the day prior not mater how hard you went.

So, that's what's up. I love my family, love my life, and love the life that triathlon, and sport, brings into so many people's lives. As I tell my students every year many times, 'The choices you make today, mold you into who you are tomorrow... choose wisely.'

I would be a bit self absorbed if I did not mention the people that helped me get through my illness. Big thanks to my mom, Madison, Rick Phillips, Natalie, Greg, Phaedra, and Kris who all offered their support with their food and taking Emma so I could rest. And obviously a huge thank you to Jessi who had to put up with this blob of a person and always gets me healthy every time. She always seems to know that I don't take care of my body even if I say I am. No foolin' her, sh knows me all to well. I am a wimp really. I just have a lot of people holding me up and making me look good. But most of you know that.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Cda Oly Race

Photos to come...

Sometimes things go your way, and some times they don’t… we learned that in Kindergarten more commonly stated as, “That’s just the way the ball bounces.” It did not really make sense then, and when you are the one the statement applies to, I can’t say it makes sense now either.

Sparing the finer details, I can say that I was looking forward to this race. It was a stacked field composed of many professionals and some very fast northwest riders. I was mentally prepared and I feel physically as well. The swim went pretty well and I swam in the front group of people who were the ‘contenders.’ Kalen Drling swam off the front of us and ended up 3 minutes up the way. As the group of 8 swimmers rounded the buoys, we wandered around quite a bit. Can’t say as a group we were very organized. We were swimming 4 at the front, deep into the course, on the outside…I don’t really know what was going on. But we were all together. We exited in the low 20s and I quickly ran into T1 and had a fast change. I was pretty much the 1st one in the group out on the bike with the fastest T1 time of the day. I yielded to Matt Seeley respecting what he has done in the past and would probably do again today. That being ‘win.’

Matt and I both got our feet in our shoes and were off. The roads were wet from the quick dump of rain that happened during the swim. This would create a little challenge on the high speed corners. You could tell that Matt was a little cautious going through the corners and so was I. Jeff Smith was close in the mix too and passed me within the first mile but did not go far. I thought he was going to try and chase down Seeley, but he just hung off the front of me by about 6 bike lengths. I eventually made the pass and we seemed to do this throughout the day. Within the first 5 miles I was descending down a hill and hit a sink hole pretty hard and my waterbottle ejected and slid across the road at 40 mph. CRAP! I need that and there was not any support on the course. I kept going and hoped I would be able to see it on the way back in a few miles. At the first turn I could see that the lead rider was still riding well and about 3 minutes up. I closed 3 ½ minutes on the same guy a few weeks about in only 12 miles, but he was definitely riding stronger today. Seeley was pulling further ahead and I was riding solidly in 3rd. On the way back from the turn, and up the hill, I was able to locate my aerobottle on the road and stopped and picked it up. While doing this, Jeff passed me and I got back going. I saw Jessi and she said that I was 2:55 down. Wow, I was not pulling in the time like I have before. I kept going and was pulling Jeff back in as he attacked the hills. Towards the top of one of them I saw Seeley on the side of the road standing by his bike. He flatted. I did not have anything to give him since I did not have a spare as well. Fortunately for him, Adam Jensen, who was coming up the road, gave him some CO2 and sealant that did the trick and he was back in the hunt. I saw Jessi again at the top of another hill at about the 10 mile point and said we were 3 minutes down. What’s going on? I was starting to think that Kalen was a pretty good climber. Regardless, if I was to reel anything in, I would need to pick up the pace a bit. I started to ride the flats harder and elevate my watts on the climbs. After I got through the hills and was on the flats, I had reeled in over 1:30 on him and he now had a 1:25 lead. I was wondering if he was falling apart, or if he just struggles on descending and the flats. Regardless, I was in 3rd after being passed by Adam Jensen, a phenomenal cyclist and triathlete. During the last 5 miles of the bike I was feeling good and was moving along well. I came into T2 about 25 seconds behind Adam, and 1:25 down on Kalen. I ran over a minute faster than Kalen in the last race, so I was hoping for a great run today and a less than great one from him.

I moved through T2 quickly and was running. It always takes a little time to get things going on the run where it starts to feel comfortable. But as I hit the 1 mile mark, things just were not feeling right. But I was working hard and that’s just part of it. I continued on to mile 2 and I was struggling. I was no longer thinking about the people ahead, but now focusing on those coming from behind. When I reached the 3 mile mark I looked at my watch and saw that I was at an 18:30. Not good. And I knew I was slowing down more and more. I was passed by Matt Seeley at the 4 mile mark. What the hell? I just got passed by a guy who flatted… things are not going well. I was mustering all I had to keep good form and keep my legs moving forward. I felt like I was at mile 20 in an Ironman marathon. I should no be feeling like that. I did not get it. I did not ride horribly hard, as a matter of fact, I rode a little easier than I normally do. What was going on? Was my fitness bad? Does my run really suck this bad? I was now in 4th and moving like I was in 44th. With about 1 mile to go, I was passed again by Michael Bresson who ran a 33 minute 10k. He went by me like I was walking a dog and he was running from a gunman…and outrunning the bullet. This was not good. I was now in 5th and the only reason I was running was because I was in the front end of the race and I wanted to be respectful of being there. You cannot give up, but it was all I could do to maintain a ‘jog.’ Everyone who saw me said that I did not look good. With about ¼ mile to go Ben Greenfield passed me… 6th place now. I meandered in and was happy to get across the finish line with a run split shy of a 41 minute 10k. Are you kidding? 41 minute? I could not believe it, but I knew how I felt and there was nothing I could do to run faster. My stomach felt like it was full of lactic acid and I was a bit dizzy. I could hardly stand for very long and then settled to sitting on the grass. I sat there in disbelief of my performance.

I had so many friends and family members there cheering me on and there supporting me. I felt like I let their cheers down. I just wish I could have somehow absorbed their energy, but I just couldn’t.

Whenever you have a race that just does not go as well as you feel it should, or you normally have done, you start looking at what was going on. What did you do wrong? What went wrong? As I weathered the “so did you win?” and “What happened?” comments, I was asking myself the same questions. Mainly, ‘what happened.’ I don’t want to take anything away from those that beat me, but more looking at what did not go well. I could go on and on about what I was feeling, but the bottom line was it was a disappointment. Anytime you feel ready, physically and mentally, and then you do not even come close to doing what you have done on any given race, you start questioning everything.

I believe that I have discovered the primary reason that my performance was hindered. Now, where it all started, I don’t know. Was it on the bike, or just the run? Don’t know. But what I know is this. I weighed myself in the morning before I went to the race. Then I weighed myself when I got home from the race. I weighed 4 pounds less when I got home. And that’s after drinking a few waterbottles and eating some food. So my belief is that I was dehydrated and the symptoms I was experiencing would support that as well. I checked my aero bottle that was still on my bike, and saw that it was only ½ empty. I normally consume all of it. It would explain what was going on in my stomach as well. So was this the difference between 1st and 6th? I don’t know. But I figure I gave up 3-4 minutes on the run that I normally do not. I have been running well in training, and I felt like it was the first time I have run this year. So rather than hanging my hat on the thought that “I suck,’ I would like to think that I did not suck in enough. But 4 pounds? Wow, that is something pretty big.

I have had some great races this year, and I have to look at those rather than thinking that this is what I am capable of.

I have to tip my hat off to Matt Seeley. This guy has done it all. He’s a legend and has never lost here at the Oly race in Cda. He would have undoubtedly won today if he had not flatted. I am 100% positive about that. But here he is, reeling in the leader, and he flats. Totally takes him out of the race and he gets right back in and puts forth an honest effort. He knew when he got off the bike that he would not be able to get to the leader, but he still made a hard effort. That’s what champions do. They race like they are going to win no matter where they are in the race. He ended up 3rd overall.

In a similar situation, Jeff Smith crashed behind me with 1 mile to go on the bike. He still got up, collected himself, and finished in the top 10 as well. Again, a champion.

Both Matt and Jeff could have hung it up and called it a day. They could have stomped their feet and kicked the dirt, but they didn’t. They got back on their bikes and continued to race.

Rule 76: No Excuses, Play Like a Champion

Monday, July 21, 2008

Emma's Big Run

There are those times in parents’ lives where their children do some firsts that you never forget. The first time they smile, laugh, crawl, walk, say your name, go potty on the toilet, ride their bike, etc. We all remember the classic ‘firsts.’ Then there are those times that they do more unconventional firsts. Like the first time they buckle themselves into their car seat, or the first word they sounded out themselves. Then there are the unbelievable ‘firsts.’ With Emma we have had quite a few of these. She constantly blows our minds (Emma’s statement). Granted, she is our child so everything she does we think is pretty cool. But we also keep in check that all parents have kids that are the smartest, best looking, coolest, strongest, most talented, etc. We are teachers… we hear this all the time from parents. It’s good that parents are proud of their children. It helps to balance out the teen years.

But the event that unfolded not that long ago was, simply put, phenomenal. It happened right after the Tri Fusion Kids Club meeting where the children learned about nutrition, transitions, and did a little transition practice and did a race simulation that consisted of a T1, 400 meter bike, T2, and a 150 meter run. It was an opportunity for the kids to have some fun and get some exposure to what a race would look like. Emma loved it and did well. But it wasn’t about what happened at the Kids Club meeting, it’s what happened immediately following.

Many of us decided to go to Twigs for dinner. It was a beautiful night and they have amazing food. I think we have spent quite a few eights there in last few weeks. If you have eaten there, you understand why. As we were loading up Emma’s bike and getting into our cars, Emma says, “I want to run to Twigs.” I think Jessi and I both thought, sure you do, let’s do that some other time :). But she was pretty insistent on doing this. We did not want to squelch her enthusiasm to run, so Jessi got Emma’s shoes all tied up and off she went. We both figured she would make it around the park and decide to get in the car. Jessi and both drove separately (since gas is so cheap) so we followed her around the park in our cars.
Emma eventually got to the end of the park and knew she was not supposed to be running in the street, so she looked perplexed as to what to do. Emma is a ‘severe’ rule follower. Jessi asked her if she wanted to get in the car now and Emma was adamant about continuing to run. Crap, what do we do now? So we directed her to run on the same side that we were driving on and to run along the yards… that did not work because some of the yards you could not run in. So we decided that since she wanted to keep running she could just run next to the curb and we drove right behind here and often next to her.
Jessi continued to give her options to get in the car, run just a little further and stop, you already had a great workout… you name it. It wasn’t that we were trying to sabotage her efforts, but this was a pretty long run and not necessarily on the best roads for a kid that isn’t as tall as a mailbox. It was about 8:00pm too. But Emma would not have any part of it. She kept telling us that, ‘She can do this.’
She just kept running and running on the side of the road with 3 cars following her. There was Jessi in her car, me in mine, and now Tiffany behind me. We really had her covered in case anything happened and there was no way that another car would even get close to her. But cars did eventually start to come behind us. I have no idea what they must have been thinking. Maybe a deer in the road, a lost dog, and injured squirrel? But every car that passed us had to do a double take. Some smiled and some might have been irritated. Think about it… it’s 8:00pm, and there are 3 cars following a little 5 year old girl running down the road. It is a little odd. I wondered what they were thinking. I wondered if they thought this was their cruel and psychotic parents’ idea. Or maybe this was how she earned her dinners. There was no look that I could give back that said, “This was her idea.” Kind of like that sticker we all want that says, “My Child Dressed Themselves.”
As Emma was good into her run, she started to complain about some soreness on her ankle. But she said that she was not going to stop and could ‘push through’ this. Emma would keep saying these things when we asked if she had run far enough. I kept thinking where in the world is she getting this? Part of me wanted her to accomplish her goal, but another wanted her to get in the friggin’ car. But all these things she kept saying… ‘I can do this,’ ‘I don’t want to give up,’ ‘I can push though this,’ all come from watching all the people she knows doing Ironmans, and other triathlons. Parents talk about not letting their kids watch certain TV shows, I never thought about the impact an Ironman has on a child. Let’s get some research on that CPS. Of course this coming from a girl who will no longer drink fruit juice because her dentist said that there is a lot of sugar in it… totally different story. So we could tell that this soreness was bothering here a bit but she would not stop. So we told her she could keep going but we wanted to see it and maybe put a band aid on it. Sure enough she was getting a blister because she was not wearing socks (from the transition lesson at her meeting). So we grabbed some band aids out of the cars and got her off and going again.
It was a little tricky getting her across the busy streets, but there were really only 2, and we handled it pretty well. I honestly felt like we were in a race… a race to keep her going and keep her safe.
There was one time when she asked if we had any water or fluids, and we grabbed her little Gatorade bottle that she had not really drank too much from that she got at her meeting. So she stopped and took a few sips and was off and running.

As we were getting closer, I could see it in her eyes that she was going to make it. You have to remember that she just turned 5 and really has no clue how far anything really is. We were at Brentwood and were going to Twigs. That could have been 10 miles or 1 block to her conception of distance. So I was starting to get really excited for her. Excited that she set a goal, stuck with it, and was going to accomplish it. She never asked how much further it was or complained. She just kept running… and running… and running.
She made the final turn where you could see Twigs 3 blocks away. Her eyes lit up, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s right there Daddy!’ She could not believe that she was almost there. I think she would have run another 2 miles if she had to. But she was so excited that she did it. As she ran to the front doors she had a smile that you could see from the moon. Jessi called the people we were meeting to let them know what was going on so they were all really excited to see Emma too and congratulate her. Jeff Blackwell, owner of Twigs, came down to congratulate Emma too. Jeff is a part of the same triathlon club and is the primary sponsor of it too. So she knows Jeff. Not to mention that we eat at Twigs all the time too. Emma was pretty excited and proud of herself that she did it. But I know that it means so much to her when people tell her what a great job she did. Then again, don’t we all.
The evening ended when we got a dessert that they made for Emma that they wrote ‘Ironman’ in chocolate around the dish. Emma normally does not eat dessert (again, her choice), but after I started eating some of it, she thought she could jump in too.
Being the data guy I am, I was bummed that I did not start my watch when Emma took off. But I figured I could at least drive the course she ran to get an idea as to how far it was. As I was getting closer to the end of the route, my phone rings and it’s Jessi telling me that it was 1.3 miles. She had to drive it too. So though it was 1.3 miles, it was a marathon to Emma.

I know we have a special child. But she is special because of all the great people she has in her life that care about her and are involved in her life. It does take a village… and we have an amazing one.

Thanks to everyone that has been a light in our daughter’s life. She does so much that emulates what she sees all of you do. I am just a little nervous to see what’s next.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Best Of The US... Washington Qualifier

I don’t think I had really planned on doing this race, but it came to be after I decided I needed to get a race in after not doing the Lifetime race in Minneapolis last week because we sold our house and have been putting all kinds of time getting the new house ready and moving stuff. So long story short, just could not justify the $450 plane ticket to do a race that my mind was really not in… nor was my fitness.

So I decided I would do the Best of the US Washington qualifier in Chelan, Washington. I have heard that this race is a great one and the venue was nice. Normally I would have raced a ¼ Ironman (yes, that’s the exact distances) in Colville, WA. It’s a fun race, but logistically it’s a bit of a challenge but many friends go up and do it which makes it fun. The BOUS race was a USAT race too, which often makes it a little more ‘sound.’

We stayed in Wenatchee (35 minutes away from Chelan) the night before and made the early 5:00am drive race morning. We had not problem finding the place with the sue of ‘Claudia,’ my GPS Nav voice. Though we are not supposed to park near the transition area, somehow we found ourselves there. It worked out, and was convenient.

I quickly registered and got my bike in transition. We were supposed to get our bikes in there the night before, but it just did not work out that way. I was able to find a decent spot, but pretty sub par from what I would normally do. But I would not be spending much time there anyway.
After getting things set up and chatting with a few familiar faces, it was time to get things ready for the start of the swim. I got on my second skin (B70 Helix) and my goggles and waited at the start. Manny, a guy from Spokane, told me there was an athlete here that is a great ITU race. That is, fast swim, solid bike, and great run. It really did not mean anything to me except that there would be some guy swimming off the front. He had said that he was from Spokane, but it was odd that I did not know who he was… hmmm. So at the start I looked for someone who ‘looked’ fast. Most fit people in wetsuits and goggles look fit and fast to me. But once the gun goes off, you normally don’t see too many of them. I could not locate anyone that looked like ‘the guy.’
The countdown began and the race started. I took off fast and settled in. I was behind one guy at about 200 meters and then did a quick look to see where the lead was. There was no one in front. So someone could be next to us, but no one was up in front. After a about 30 more seconds, I too another exaggerated look, and again, no one. So I figured this was the lead. Me and this guy in front of me. We continued to swim along. Felt comfortable and not working too hard. We were moving pretty well, but it wasn’t anything crazy. It was nice to have a rope that connected all the buoys right below us. It made it easy to sight…actually, you did not have to at all. It was like having a lane line in the lake, which came in handy when we had to swim back straight into the sun. We made the turn at the far point and I took the lead. I swam steady and the guy stayed behind me for quite some time. He eventually decided that he needed to lead, or I was going too slow, so he started to come up next to me. We were swimming side by side so I yielded and got behind him. Seemed pointless for the 2 guys in the lead to swim next to one another. As we approached the finish, it got a little crazier. We were running into a lot of the swimmers from the ½ IM that started 30 minutes prior.

We eventually exited and I let him get out first since he had pulled so much to the finish. As I got out and removed my goggles, I heard Jessi yell, ‘He is 3:30 ahead.’ HE? HE who? I thought. We were the leaders. Well, no matter how much I wanted to convince myself that that was the case, the reality was I was 3:30 down on the lead…. CRAP! I managed to close 10 seconds on him through T1, but this was frustrating to me. Not that there was someone that was by far a superior swimmer, but because I had not idea. I thought I knew that there was not anyone ahead, but I was wrong. I am solid on the bike, but to close 3:30 on the bike to a guy that can run well, is a tall order if you want to win. But you will never know if you race for 2nd. I was on the bike and riding well. Jessi and Emma cheered me on and encouraged me like only family members can do.

My watts were a tad high, but I would have to run in the red zone a bit if I was going to close this. As I have learned, my run does not improve when I ride easy. So I was going to go hard and try and close what I could. I was passing a lot of people that were in the ½ IM, but the lead riding in the Olympic race was no where in sight. I knew that I would not close 3:30 in the first few miles. It was about a steady effort and maintaining a constant power on the ups and the downs. I had the ride this smart… utilize all aspects of this rolling twisty course to my advantage. Even use the people on it too. Stay focused. And stay on top of my hydration and nutrition in the process.

As I approached the turnaround (12.2 mile mark), I saw that ‘HE’ was just getting there too. We literally entered the turn at the exact same time. He did not know that I was coming in behind him and took the turn conservatively. I took the inside and cut it sharp and accelerated out of it. He said something, I think more of a surprised statement, but I really did not pay attention. I needed to put more time into him and now he knew exactly where I was. I knew I would not put another 3:00 into him on the way back, but I needed to put something. I figured he would elevate his effort to keep me in sight, and I was hoping he would do so and push harder than he should. That way it would hopefully take something out of his run. Tried to maintain a steady effort, but when you are chasing you ride with more intensity. When you arte being chased, you tend to ride a tad more cautiously as not to lay too much out there and not be able to respond… old cycling mentality. I ended up averaging a slightly lower power output on the way back…maybe 4 watts, but I knew my body was working harder. It did not matter, this is where I would gain the time. With a mile to go on the bike, I could pretty much see T2. I was already mentally preparing for my transition.

I rolled quickly into T2 clearing people out of my way that have been just ‘hanging out’ for the past hour and a half. The race was arriving and the volunteers would now need to start working. Things went quick in T2 and I took off my Rudy Project helmet and exchanged it for a pair of swift Zoot shoes, and then I was off.
I could hear Emma shouting my name and yelling, ‘Go Daddy.’ As I was heading out on the run, Jessi told me that I had 2:30 on 2nd. Hmmm, that’s pretty good. But I would need to run well in order to maintain that. It’s amazing how fast your mind can do math in a race. It’s kind of gives you the ‘key’ to the role you must play in order to make it happen. I figured I was running 6 min miles (optimistically) and he would need to run about 5:35s in order to catch me. Good runners can do that, and have done that to me. So I was going to need to run a little better to really be safe. On a side note, it’s kind of funny that I was only thinking about HIM, no one else. Because there was a guy in the race that has run a 33 minute 10ks… but I was not worried about him. Just the guy who was immediately behind me. I eventually made it to the turnaround. I hit my lap button on my TIMEX watch to get an idea as to how far back 2nd was. I just wanted the time to tic by. I glanced at my watch and it was at 1 minute. That’s good. Then I saw him. Oh boy. What would the watch say. I glanced down and saw that I was about 1:40 up on him from the turn, so double that and I was 3:20 ish ahead. A bit of relief really. We both stuck our hands out and gave a ‘high 5’ of sorts and I said ‘hang in there.’ He looked like he was fading quite a bit. His strides were short and not a lot of leg lift. I figured he was not all of a sudden going to be able to run sub 5 minute miles and catch me. Whew! I kept running and focusing on what I was doing. I saw some more athletes coming that looked like they were running really well, but they would have to run 4 minute miles… highly unlikely. I kept pushing it and was hoping to have a solid 10k run. I knew I was not in jeopardy unless I screwed something up. As I approached the finish I could hear Emma cheering me on. I can always seem to hear her voice in a crowd. I could hear Jessi too and she let me know that there was no one in sight, which makes the finish a little less hectic.
Notice Emma Running right behind me
I crossed the line the overall winner and the Washington State representative for the Best Of The US race in Tempe, AZ on October 26th. This is where the fastest male and the fastest female from each state will converge to see which state is the fastest in the nation.
A little disclaimer, it does not necessarily mean that I ‘am’ the fastest in the state, but the fastest at the race that is designated as the selection race for the fastest in the state. I would have to be pretty pompous to actually think I was, or even say I was. But on this day, at this race, I was. I was told that Kalen, the guy I was racing, did have some trouble with his cycling shoe which cost him some time. I think he rode the entire bike with one shoe on and the other foot without. Don’t really understand that, but I am sure that played a huge role in his race. I know that he is an amazing athlete with a big future. I am sure he will get his revenge sometime soon.

It was a good day all in all. I have to say that I did not expect this at all. We have been so busy getting our new house ready to move in to and our old house to move out of, training has been a little suspect. There have been many early mornings (5:30am) and many late nights (3:30am… yes am) trying to get things done. In the process the main thing that has been neglected has been training. Apparently I have been able to get in a few ‘core’ workouts to maintain some fitness. I know that you cannot hang your hat on this kind of training, so it will resume in full force again. Hopefully this week. However, it has come at a good time since this is definitely the more ‘quite’ time for me when it comes to racing. In about 3 more weeks, things will pick up again and will continue until early November. So it’s been a good break.
A huge thank you to my number 1 and 1a supporters, Jessi and Emma, who decided to come down to cheer me on. There has been a lot going on and it would have been much easier to stay home and keep working or simply rest. But instead, they choose to come and watch Daddy race and support him in what was expected to be a humblefest…and motivation for training. No matter where I am in placing, or how I feel, when I see and hear them they help me to keep it all in perspective and enjoy the moment.
I learned a lot form this race. Learnings that I will apply to future races. But for now, I will enjoy the fact that I was able to put together a solid race regardless of what place I got.