Saturday, April 26, 2008

New Toys

I got the call yesterday from Robin at Fitness Fanatics that it was in. She left the message on my phone at about 3:30pm, right after the students left my class. As she was saying, "I got a really cool wheel here with your name on it," I could hardly type the numbers in to call her back to let her know that I was on my way. It was like I heard my name announced on the radio to claim $100,000 and I only had 1 minute to respond. I was so excited. The long anticipated wheel was here!

Robin ordered this for me a little bit go and I knew it would take a little time to get in. These wheels are really hard to get and Zipp is just finally getting them out. I figured it would be a bit longer, but the surprise came at a good time... in time for Wildflower next weekend.

I want to say a huge thank you to Robin, and all the great staff at Fitness Fanatics (Haley, Katie, John, and Morgan) for always being there to help me out. They all do so much for the sport of triathlon. I always appreciate that they don't try to just sell you random equipment and get you on 'a bike.' They get you the right equipment and get you on the 'right bike.'

I also treated myself to some new running shoes that they have that are also pretty tough to get right now. They are the new Zoot shoes. They are specifically designed for multisport. I have been wanting to get these for quite some time. They have been designed so well. All the Zoot shoes (3 total) are less than 9 ounces, which is what most racing flats weigh. Another benefit is that the inside of the shoe does not have any seams... none! So you can run sockless whenever you want. Love that.

They slightly longer heel tab is easy to grab and also has a rubber piece that if you have sweaty hands, or you are just clumsy, they won't slip off.

No more buying speed laces (elastic laces of any kind) because they come standard in these shoes... standard! You just pull on the end cord and you're done. Gotta factor that in when you are buying a pair.

A carbon fiber inlaid sole keeps the weight down, but also give you the stability and support you need. It's so great to see companies looking outside the box in designing shoes. Get this, they have a self draining sole... are you kidding? Amazing. So when you are dumping water over your head, and on your body, your shoes no longer fill up and slosh. Brilliant! I think this just might be the ticket to finally get me to jump into Lake Cda during the IM run.

You don't have to be a multisport athlete to wear these, but they were developed with them in mind. Folks, there are not some gimmicky shoes with some fluorescent colors that say that they will make you run faster... these are a brilliantly designed shoe that offers everything that the multisport athlete wants. Light weight, comfort, ease top get in and plenty of support. Check them out at Fitness Fanatics.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Rage In The Sage Triathlon, Las Vegas

Most of you know that I climb in the aero position a majority of the time. Just lets you know how steep this really was.

Nothing says "Vegas" like a Dirty Ashtray.
I have to say that this 24 +/- hours was about as packed full as I could possibly do and incorporate a race. Most of you give me a hard time because of how I schedule races, and that I really don’t spend too much time in the city that I race in. I really don’t see the point. I want to sleep in my own bed, eat my own food, and have my own ‘stuff’ as long as possible… you know, keep things normal. So I normally fly the day before a race, and try and fly home the day of the race. It’s just easier for me and I am not away from my family as long either. However, I have to say that this trip was about the tightest that I have ever done.

On Friday I scheduled an early evening flight. I did not have to miss any work and I was able to get a direct flight to Vegas (less than 2 hrs versus 4+ hours). I like to minimize travel time as much as possible. If that means that I get 1 less hour of sleep, I think I am still ahead. Traveling, especially flying, can be very stressful and full of standing in lines or sitting on a plane full bacteria fill recycled air. None of which bode well for relaxed muscles.
*This is the lady that was dancing in front of me in the rental car line with her iPod in. She was dropping stuff all over the place and wearing winter wool line boots. Must be the 'in thing' in Vegas.

6:30pm I got into my rental car and headed for Sunset Station in Henderson where registration and packet pick up was. On the way, I was able to locate a bike shop to purchase a CO2 cartridge for the race tomorrow. More of a $4 insurance policy that I would make it back off the bike in case I flatted. I eventually found the Sunset Station.

7:30pm No casino in Vegas is ever small, so it was a treat to walk into a smoke filled room buzzing with fluorescent lights and the dinging of slot machines. Who the heck do you ask about triathlon registration in a place like this? Doesn’t seem like their game. Of course, registration was all the way on the other side of the hotel property in the parking lot. It was 80 degrees, so I walked. It really was not all that far, but for someone with a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other and fumbling with the key to their Corvette, it may have posed a problem. But it really was not too bad. Registration went fine. I was lucky 417. Not too sure of the symbolism of that number. The sum of the digits is 12, which is divisible by 3 and there are 3 people in my family? That’ll work.

8:00 Right as I was leaving the casino, I saw a Wendy’s. Ah, my traditional out of town pre race meal. Some of you think I’m crazy, but it’s what I do and it seems to work just fine. I went with the traditional grill chicken club with a baked potato and water. I held off on the frosty this time. Don’t know why really.

8:20 As I left Wendy’s I stopped at the local Gas n’ Sip (obviously not the actual name, just a name that I call convenience stores. I think I got that from the movie “Say Anything,” when the guys are out front of the store talking about why they are not on a date) to pick up some water, Gatorade, and some Fig Newtons. Jessi always bugs me about Fig Newtons because she says that I never eat them. Which is partially true. We have brought home MANY boxes of Fig Newtons from races that are all beat up from travel that were never opened. But again, more of an insurance policy in case I get hungry. Whenever you go into convenience stores in different cities, you really get an idea as to what the ‘culture’ is. Some are a bit more fancy with up beat help that speak in complete sentences, others you seem to find help that is obviously without a dental plan or a health club membership, and potentially suicidal. Might be the job. This Gas n’ Sip was the later. I got the correct change back so I was happy.

8:30 On the way to Boulder City where I was staying at the Hacienda Hotel, formerly the Gold Strike… not that that means anything, but that’s what everyone seemed to say after I asked where the Hacienda Hotel was. I had directions, but I never really trust my interpretations of other people’s directions… especially at night. But I made it. This was also a casino which meant, yes, smoke. I really did not know that this many people still smoked. I think all the smokers are moving to Nevada… seriously. I was disappointed to find that they did not have a continental breakfast. We sure were spoiled last weekend at the Quality Inn. The lady did let me know that they do have a ‘Snack Bar’ bar open 24 hours, and then offered me a cookie. Nothing says pre race meal like dining at the Snack Bar. I took my key and rolled my bike up to the room. I was in room number 257, which means second floor. It’s funny that when they ask for any special requests when you book something, like say a ground level floor, that they really don’t plan on listening to you. I was traveling light, so it wasn’t a big deal. I could tell that this place had some miles on it. It was well maintained, just not updated. I got to my room, which was at the end of the hall. I opened the door to find that it was a suite. Niiiice! Though the look resembled something of the ‘Elvis Era,’ it was clean. I’m sure that room could tell some stories. But had it ever had a bike built in it? I bet not.

9:00pm It is always a bit of a surprise to open the bike case. I never know what special gift that the TSA people have given me. Broken parts, missing items, repack things so that it scratches my bike… hmmm, what will it be this time? As I unwrapped my Trek TTX, it was all there in one piece. It looked fine and I started to assemble it. But I did find some gifts from Emma. She left me 3 different drawings that she had colored in my bike case. They were so cute and they make me realize that this is why I make these trips so short. Jessi also wrote me a very sweet letter and put it in my toolbox. My bike, however, went together pretty quickly and things on this bike seem to work well. No bizarre configurations that require a bit tweaking to get them to work right. You tighten bolts, and it’s done.

9:30 After I cleaned up my bike I got all my race gear a pre race clothes all out. I tried to go over what the morning would look like so I did not have to think about anything once the alarm went off at 4:00am. After checking and re-checking and getting my numbers on my bike and race belt, I was ready. I was still trying to figure out what I was going to do for breakfast. I might just go without and have a PowerBar and a Pria bar. But I’d wait until the morning to decide.

10:00pm I was in bed and ready to go to sleep. I had the television on just to ‘detox’ a bit. I think I finally turned out the lights at 10:30 after consuming most of my Fig Newtons and some water and Gatorade. I always seem to be hungry the night before a race. I feel like I need to eat a bunch of food for some reason.

I did not sleep very well. I woke up a bunch and looked at the clock. I even had a dream that it was 6:30am and the race started at 7:00am. But I opened my eyes and it was only 3:30am… whew.

4:00am The alarm on my trusted TIMEX watch did sound and it was go time. I showered, loaded my bike and case (since I would pack my bike after the race). I asked for a late checkout (12:00pm) in case I could make it back for a shower. But I did not know the reality of actually being able to do that. I drifted by the ‘Snack Bar’ to see exactly what they had. I could see and smell the fry oil ready for something to be thrown in it. On the menu board I saw that they had a breakfast burrito, which was eggs and cheese inside a tortilla. That does not sound all that bad? So I ordered one of those and a yogurt. It was okay. A tad oily, but tolerable. It was 4:30am, it should be deep into my intestine by the start of the race.

5:00am I went back to my room to grab my bag and any other items that might still be there. I was hoping that I would be back, but just in case. I turned on the television just to make sure that other people were up at this hour and all I seemed to get was highlights of the baseball season. Did not know that Isaah Thomas was getting fired from the Knicks, or that Philadelphia Expos (?) were the first to lose 1000 games. Interesting. I find myself in super slow-mo when it comes to race morning. I don’t hurry to do anything. As a matter of fact, I find ways to do nothing. Hence the reason that I was on my bed watching baseball highlights at 5:00am. I decided it was time to get going.

5:15am I headed down to the race site which was a mere 3 miles away. Always nice to be so close to the race site. As I approached the road to turn in to the Lake Mead reservoir, there were a ton of cars heading that way. Gulp. The first real sign that this was a known race. I headed down here because it was the Nevada qualifier for the Best in the US series and was also the Regional Championship for Nevada, Wyoming, Idaho and Arizona. So I knew that there should be some good competition drawn to it. But it never hits you until you see it… and I was seeing it.

5:40am I rolled my little PT Cruiser into its parking spot and sat there a bit looking around at all the people getting out of their cars and gearing. When I arrive at a race, I never really have a sense of urgency to get out. Because once I do, it’s go time. I grabbed my B70 backpack, my Trek, and meandered over to the transition area. There was a ½ IM going on too that started at 6:40am, so the people who were already there were closer to their start time than me.

The transition area was super long…probably 3-4 blocks and was all up hill. The hill was basically the boat launch but since the water has been receding so much, it was a long ways. I knew T1 would be long since it was also up a 6% incline as well. The surface was quite rough too, but I never notice that in a race.

6:00am I got most of my transition set up. I normally rearrange things a dozen times to make sure things are where they need to be and I have it all out there. I then decided to go for a ride to make sure that all the nuts and bolts (not too many of them on the TTX) were tight and ready for the demands of the course. I never drove the course so I had no clue what the terrain was alike. I was told that there were no ‘major’ climbs, maybe one to the turnaround they said. So rode for about 10 minutes and re racked my bike.

6:30am The start was nearing and it was time to clean things up, and get my new B70 Helix on. This would be the 2nd race (first one was only 250 meters) that I have used it in… or used it at all. But it went on easily and I applied some Bodyglide to my neck. Don’t know why really, because I never get rashes form the Helix… just routine I suppose. I did not put on my Helix all the way because I would take one more pit stop at the port a potties.

6:45am I entered the port a potty… do you really need more detail than that?

6:50am I was down in the herd of athletes on the waterfront. I would suspect there were about 200-300 people down there. All standing there talking about how they have not been training… that this was a training race… that their knee was bothering them last week… all the same conversations, just a different location. Ironically, these conversations were followed by these same people talking about the races they won last year too :).

I took my secret concoction of fluids (Delta E) and my secret gel formula (PowerBar Double Latte gel) and headed into the water. I wanted to get a feel for the temp and get a few strokes in before the race started. I swam about 200 meters and found my place on the start line. I did not know anyone, but I knew where I wanted to start.

7:05am The gun went off and so did all of the us. The start of any race is tough. You got people going way too hard for what they can maintain and they are all next to you bumping into you not wanting to give up their space. But this is a 3 minute short lived experience. If you can weather this, you will soon be in the clear. I am sure there is research done on this about how long someone can go anaerobic in a swim before they settle down… well, whatever that time is, is when things finally clear out. Eventually I was by myself. I could see someone to the left of me about 10 yards, but there was no way to get over to him to get in his draft. After about 800 meters, another guy came up next to me and I drafted him for a bit until I realized he was just swimming too fast for me. Personally, I like to swim in the front and not draft. The water feels smoother and my effort seems less stressed. But I also know the benefits from drafting. At about the 1000 meter mark this person that had been next to me finally surged ahead and I got on their feet. There was no one else around. I figured I was in 4th place at this point, but did not know if there was someone right behind me. Did not really care to tell you the truth. I stayed with this person until about 100 meters to go where they surged ahead. No problem really. When I draft someone on the swim, I let them exit first and normally tell them that they swam well. Just a courtesy really. But this person opened a gap and I swam in on my own.

7:30am After exiting the swim and making the long trek up to transition, I passed the person I was drafting for the last bit and it was a woman. I told her nice swim, but it looked like the run up the 6% grade was getting the better of her. I kept it steady and got to me best friend of the day… my Trek TTX. This time my Helix came off quickly. I put on my Rudy Project glasses and helmet and then my shoes. I normally have my shoes on my bike, but this bike exit was on a pretty good uphill that got even steeper. To give you an idea, I was in my 42x23 and turning a pretty low cadence and producing some pretty high wattage. So to have my feet on top of my shoes through this would not have been an advantage. I was also fortunate enough to have my bike racked near the ‘bike out’ which meant I did not have to run my bike very far.

7:35am I was out on the bike course now and my heart rate was high. I could already feel the heat on the roads and I knew this was going to get hot. The people doing the ½ IM were already out on the course so I went flying by them one at a time. I felt kind of bad because they are pacing themselves for a long tough day and here I go flying by at 25+mph. But I wasn’t about to become sympathetic, I needed to catch some people ahead of me. Every person I closed on I would look at their calf and see what race they were in. I eventually got to a turn around that said ‘short course.’ And then there was another sign that said long course keep going. Now, as most of you know, I have had a similar problem in the past about this. In this race I even slowed and said, ‘Do I turn here?’ and, once again, they said yes. And once again I said, ‘Are you sure?’ and they asked what race I was doing, and I said the Olympic. The problem here is the fact that they called the names of races what they are not really know by. For example, Short Course is really known as Olympic or more formally, International (1.5k, 40k, 10k). And since they wrote an ‘O’ on my calf, I figured that is what they would call it. Long course, in triathlon, is known more closely as ½ Ironman. So when someone says, ‘Long course,’ it’s really more appropriately called half Ironman. So there was some confusion. And once again, I turned at the short course and then turned back after a couple seconds because I knew something was not right. I clarified and realized that I needed to keep going… so I did. A tad frustrating, but you really need to know the course and listen to yourself, not the volunteers. I kept going figuring out I lost about 20 seconds. Quite a bit for an Olympic distance race (or Long Course as they refer to it).

I kept things steady looking for people up the road and looking at their calves for the letter ‘O,’ indicating Olympic. I really did not care about their age, I was about the race. I finally saw my first ‘O’. Finally! I did not need to strategize this pass because I was going pretty fast as it was. I flew by and just kept going. I figured there must be a couple more up the road. I saw another and was taking splits on them from random road marks like bushes, shadows, etc. I knew I was closing and I wanted it to be another fast pass… and it was. I ended passing another older guy going about 10 mph on the flats that had an O on his leg, but I think it was just miss marked. Because I knew he did not swim faster… you could just tell. Finally I passed my last O of the day before the turnaround. That felt good. I went past the place where the ½ IM and Olympic course split, and all I saw was open road. The USAT officials passed me a couple times at that point letting me know that I was the leader. Always nice to hear. At the turnaround (10 miles so not the ½ way point) I took a split to see how far I was ahead of the rest. I had a gap on the next 3, but it wasn’t huge. I had another 14 miles to put more time in my bank. But I was starting to feel a little tired in the legs. This course was tough, lots of ups and downs. The ups did not look all the steep, but they were. Lots of 7-8% grades. You enjoyed them on the downsides, but coming back, they were as steep as they felt when going down them. My legs were feeling tired and I was not producing the wattage that I normally have in the past. My heart rate was high enough, but the power was not there. Did not matter, I needed to get off this bike and start running. I eventually passed the turn to the transition area to head to another turnaround… never a good feeling. The turnaround point was at top of another hill… and a long steep one too. Crap. This is killing my legs. I tried to keep in the race. But this is not an Ironman where you can ease up and then get back into it. There is no time for that. You go all out, and hopefully the finish comes before you fall apart. I finally made it to the turnaround where they said that I was in 1st. Still feels good to hear that when you feel like crap. The way back to the transition area was all downhill. I wound out my 53x11 and was doing probably 40+mph. I did not want to over due it, but I needed the guys that were chasing to see someone that was riding strong and confident.

8:30am After a 1:04+ bike, I came into T2 alone and had to weave my way through some people that have had the luxury of a quiet transition area for the past 20 minutes. I know this sounds petty, but it is a little tough when you are in the lead to ‘trust’ volunteers. You are their first customer… and they normally screw things up the first couple times. So you often have to advocate for yourself. I racked my Trek quickly and was off running. I exited T2 in 37 seconds. Does not really matter really, but I had to run all the way down the ramp this time, which means, I will eventually have to run all the way back up, come to find out, this would be the easier of the climbs. I settled in quickly to a good pace. Quick turnover, legs felt pretty good, and I was on my way. After going down, I immediately had to go up again and this was not on road, it was on sand and gravel. I tried to stay off my toes so that I did not sink into the soft surface. Finally, I got to a somewhat flat road surface, though it was dirt road. It felt good and I was moving. It seemed like the 1st mile marker took forever, but it finally did come. I pressed on and hit an aid station at the 2 mile mark. I grabbed 2 waters and sucked them down. They tasted soooo good, and at this point, I knew that I was way behind on hydration and it was 85 degrees and getting hotter. This course is one of the toughest I have ever run on. Finally, I knew I was getting to the half way point. I started up this climb that was an old runoff trail. It was all sand, uneven, rocks of all sizes, and an 8+% pitch. I don’t mind hills really. They allow me to settle in to a shorter stride and maintain a steady effort. But this just kept going and going and… Finally I could see the top of this hill and figured we would just keep going and make a circle of it. NOPE. Right at the very top, there was cone that said turn. Crap again. Now I have to run down this? Nice, real nice. Right as I made the turn I could see 2nd place coming up to the turn. He passed me shortly after the turn and had a great pace going… solid runner. I kept my legs gong and stayed in the race. But I knew that my body was running dry. I needed more water. I then saw 3rd coming up the hill. He was not that far off either, and eventually passed me with 1.5-2 miles to go. It really did not matter to me because I was running what I could. I could have had a ‘burst’ of speed, but would have fallen apart shortly after. He was running faster than the first guy, but too far behind. I knew I was over 4 minutes ahead of 4th, so there would be no more passing happening… other than me passing out.

9:20am I finished in a time of 2:13:23. My run split was a 43:03. The fastest run of the day was run by the guy who got 2nd, who ran a 39:55, faster than the eventual race winner, Patrick Bless, a professional from Germany, who ran a 41:16. So I was about 3 minutes slower than the fastest run time…pretty typical for me. Though it was a 10k, it ran a lot slower. I quickly consumed about 40oz of water and could have drank more. But I knew it would not do any good. I was overheated and dehydrated.

So I ended up 3rd overall. I guess race number 417 did have some symbolism… 3rd overall. The top 3 were all within 2 minutes of one another. Fourth was 6 minutes back, so quite a difference. Although they screwed up the results a bit, (they have me running a 50:05 and are trying to figure all that out) I know where I am right now in terms of fitness. Gotta figure some stuff out on the bike, and be prepared for the heat in Wildflower. Kind of hope it rains. But easy things to fix.

9:40am I went and talked with Patrick Bless for a bit about his plans this year and how the race went. Nice guy… they normally all are when they win :). We talked about the course, thought it was a tad long and that the mile markers on the run were off a bit. To give you an idea, I ‘supposedly’ ran 23:30 to the halfway point and 19:35 back (different way back, but supposedly the same distance). There was some downhill, but not 4 minutes. That’s why it’s always hard to compare times from course to course when the measurements are off. I know what my watch says, but how that relates to their distance ‘interpretation’ is a whole different story.

10:00am I packed up my bike in the bike box. It was a bit windy, but mid 80s. I did this with my shirt off and it felt great. I talked with a few people, gave a guy my CO2 cartridge (since you cannot fly with them), tried to locate the results, and then went and thanked the race director for the race. I had to leave and if I was getting an award, I did not want to be disrespectful. At this point, the race director said that I won overall because the first 2 guys were pro/elites. That may have been the case, but I was still 3rd and that’s what I know. So I am sticking with that. However, they still need to fix my run split… hopefully they will do that.

10:30am I left the venue and headed back to the hotel to shower. I was pretty sweaty from the race and I am glad I was able to… and I’m sure the people that would be sitting next to me on the place appreciated it too.

11:30am I headed back to Vegas leaving Boulder City in my rearview mirror. The Las Vegas area sure has a different look to it. Lots of hills and rolling terrain. And the new developments here are amazing. I don’t think this area will ever really accept the whole ‘think green’ mentality, or recycle. This place is all about bigger, better, and consume. And the people who frequent these places probably have the same mentality. The casinos in the city area amazing. I cannot fathom how in the world they get built, but if you have the money, it will get done.

12:30pm I got my rental car returned and I was off to the airport. It was perfect timing because I was able to call Jessi and find out how Emma’s soccer game went that was at 1:00pm and get to hear her account of it. See Jessi’s blog for that full report. I always get Emma something when I am gone form the place I visited. She probably does not care that it came from ‘Vegas’ or wherever I was, she’s just happy to get something and that I am home. I should think about doing that for Jessi too huh? Nothing real eventful beyond this. Some random people watching that is always entertaining. My plane left the 85 degree weather of Nevada at 2:10pm (supposedly) and I was back in the 37 degree tropics of Spokane shortly after 5:00pm. So all in all a 24 hour trip. I think I made the best of it.

Thanks to all of you who have called in to wish me well, sent me texts, called to see how it went, etc. I really appreciate it all. It does get lonely when you are in a casino (vintage 1965) all alone watching Sportscenter eating Fig Newtons. Always nice to stay connected with everyone via texts and calls.

Good luck to all of you with your next race. I hope you are always able to walk away and learn something from it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Elma Triathlon... First one of the season

You know the triathlon season has started when there are races in Elma (Olympia). Jessi, Natalie, Emma, Madison and I headed over on Saturday at 2:00pm after Emma’s soccer game. We loaded up the Excursion and headed out.

We made some pretty good time arriving in Lacey at the Quality Inn in 5 and half hours. We unloaded the rig and headed out for dinner. We dined in style at the local Arby’s. I personally like to stick to franchised fast food joints. Typically Wendy’s and Arby’s. I do this because I know their menu and I know what I can order and it will be safe. They both have salads and some lighter meals. And no matter where you go, you normally can find on of those.

Afterwards we headed back and Madison and Emma did some swimming and then we called it a night. I have to tell you that I snuck a couple chocolate chip cookies from the front desk that they put out every night. Just too good to pass up.

I slept like crap. I think the room was too hot for me. Not to mention Natalie’s phone going off in the middle of the night. But morning did come and I was up at 6:00am, right when the continental breakfast was starting. I had a Belgian waffle with yogurt on it, a banana and a couple hard boiled eggs. With a race start of 12:00, I had quite a bit of time for the food to settle. But I did not want to eat anything too crazy.

Eventually everyone else got up and we headed out the door at about 10:15am. The drive is only 25 or so miles. We arrived with a bit more than an hour to get set up. Normally that is a bit too close for me. But in Elma, you still can get a good position in transition. Initially I thought that there might only be a dozen people there to race the triathlon since they also had a duathlon as well. With the gloomy weather and the muddy 58 degree water temp, it would not have surprised me if people chose not to swim… even if it was 250 meters. But the cars started rolling in with about 1 hour prior to the race and the transition area was overflowing. Can’t say that I helped out with that since I took a bit more space than I needed to, but no one seemed to want to be near me for some reason. I had an ideal spot with some extra room… but I am not going to solicit people. I had the second ideal spot. There was someone at the end that had the best spot sporting a custom tri bike with Zipp 606s. But they were clinchers so I knew he must not be all that serious :).

I got the transition all set up with little confusion, which is always nice. I went out for a ride on my new Trek TTX and calibrated my SRM powermeter since this would be a great opportunity to get some good power data. I was going to be using some new equipment at this race and I wanted to make sure that it was all dialed in. I wore my new Rudy Project Syton helmet with the clear shield. I literally just pulled off the tags in transition and put it on my head for the first time. I normally race in Rudy Project glasses too, but I went with the clear shield since it was a tad overcast. But I did run with the new Zyons. Awesome coverage and so light on the face. It would also be the first swim in my B70 Helix. I sure love that suit. No matter how long it has been, they always fit like a glove. I love the new TIMEX heart rate monitor because it’s such a small timepiece for a heart rate monitor and the chest strap is not even noticeable. The functions are so simple to use. I did not ever miss a split.

I headed down to the swim start with about 2 minutes prior to the start. I thought I might be able to sneak in a warm up, but when I asked the race director, Bob Green, how much time we had, he said 30 seconds. Answered that question. I waded in and lost sight of my feet as soon as I felt the water… it was as clear as pudding.

The cannon went off… well, I think he might have just said go. I took off like a rocket. A rocket with very little fuel because I think I hit the turn around and felt like I could not breathe. I must have been going way too hard and was not thinking about anything but going as fast as I could. I know my stroke must have looked like crap… somewhat resembling a ferryboat with a paddlewheel. Not very smooth. Distance per stroke was about 3 inches. I think I spotted every other stroke since I could not see anything. I knew I was close to getting out, but still was not comfortable with anything. I felt the ground and I was up out of the water and running to T1.

T1 was a bit on the slow side because this was the 1st time in my new B70 Helix. But I kept my cool, got it off, put on my Rudy Project helmet, and I was off. Once the suit was off, I am always amazed how quickly I am on my bike.

Ah, now the bike. This is where I feel most comfortable. No matter how many people pass me, it is a safe and comfortable place. Fortunately no one passed me. I went out fast and maintained a pretty high effort. I felt that there was a slight tailwind and a net loss in elevation. Nothing crazy, but more down than up. But I would consider this dead flat. The road surface was a bit rough… not pot holes, but rough surface. A constant vibration seemed to be happening, but the carbon frame made it tolerable. With somewhat windy conditions, I am glad I chose my Bontrager Aeolus 6.5 wheels… tubular of course. I ended up negative splitting the bike. Which was odd because I thought it would have been slower coming back with more climbing and a headwind, but when I looked at my power, I saw that my avg. power was higher coming back… which is really good. My HR was lower too which is even better to produce more power with a lower heart rate. I just hope that I can do this in an Olympic race too. I will find out next week. On the way back on the bike I saw Jessi who was in 4th place overall moving into 3rd on the bike. Pretty impressive. Check out her blog to get a report on her amazing race. She even talks about this ‘flea’ that would not leave her alone.

I came off the bike quickly with my feet out of the shoes and ready to hop off. I racked my bike and laboriously put on my running shoes. I could not feel my toes and they were curling up in the shoes. But they eventually got in and I threw on my TIMEX visor and Rudy Project glasses. I headed out on the 5k run trying to settle into a high cadence and get my heart rate under control. I saw second place coming in on the bike, but I knew I had a comfortable lead since I had been running for 2:30 before I saw him. As long as I could maintain my pace, and he did not run 4 minute miles, I should be okay. But I still wanted to get an idea of what my thresholds are. I felt like I was running well, but my mile times seemed slow. But you never know if the distances are accurate. The bike mileage was, based on athlete computers, but the run I did not know. I saw Jessi on the run when I was coming back. She looked strong and was holding off some charging guys. I tried to push it in the last kilometer and I felt good. After I got my splits, I found out that I negative split the run too. Right when I finished I was able to run the first kilometer with Natalie. She looked like she took off well and had a good pace. I ran with her until I saw Jessi who was in her final kilometer. It was great to run with her and see her truly push herself and close on a guy in front of her. He looked back a couple times and elevated his pace in fear that this ‘girl’ was going to pass him. Amazing what motivates people. I know Jessi was at full throttle and it always impresses me when people push themselves that hard when there is no one behind them… it’s all for them wanting to do their best. It’s about their race, not the race against other.

Jessi ended up winning the women’s race overall which was neat. Not that this was her ‘A’ race or anything, I think she was able to get an idea as to what her training has done and now what she needs to do. Granted, not much was learned from the swim, but the rest of the race was a great measuring tool.

The first race is now under my belt. Next weekend I race my first Olympic distance race which should be an eye opener. It’s quite a bit different than a sprint… not just ‘twice as long.’ So I’m looking forward to mixing it up in Vegas and see where I am and where I am not.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Team Timex Camp March 29-April 1st

The much anticipated Team Timex Camp is in the books. It has been long awaited and I have to say that it was an amazing experience.

Upon arrival into the San Diego airport, I was wondering who was going to pick me up, if anyone? I decided not to worry about that and just went and got my 2 bags… bike and suitcase. I wondered if there would be a person with a card that said ‘TIMEX’ or ‘Thompson,’ but I did not locate one. So, I got on the phone and called Tristan, the Team TIMEX manager. He was there, but picking up someone else and were on their way. Okay, I have a ride. I guess that’s good.

While waiting to be picked up, this tall guy approaches me and asks if I am part of Team TIMEX. I said yes, and he introduced himself as Bruce Gennari. I know ‘of’ Bruce, but have never met him. Just a little background, this guy swims a sub 17 minute 1500 meter, and in 1997 was the first out of the water at IM Hawaii as an amateur… that is he caught the pros and passed them. Eh, fast? Not to mention he backs it up with a solid bike and run. So we chatted and waited for Tristan to arrive.

Tristan pulled up in a new Ford F-150 pickup with a girl hanging out the window. At first glance I already knew who it was… Carole Shapless. She is a pro women with Team TIMEX and is an absolute riot. I met her last year in Hawaii at the PowerBar brunch and she was such a sweet gal. Unfortunately she got into an accident on her bike there and did some serious damage to her vertebrate and is still dealing with complications with that. But you would never know by her spirit and passion for this sport. The car ride from the airport to Carlsbad was about 40 minutes. The conversation during that time was ripe with humor and was non stop. All of us are extreme introverts and I was wondering if Tristan really knew what he was in for.

We arrived at the Grand Palisades Resort and went straight to our rooms. This place is pretty nice. A large outdoor pool with lane lines, plenty of deck space to hang out and relax, and multiple fire pits. Just trying to give you an idea as to the quality of this place. Not that I spent much time lounging around, but setting the stage. The rooms were nice… fluffy beads and comforters with lots of loft. I think I had 20 pillows on my bed too. Not to sure of the reason for all of them. But they did at some atmosphere.

I have to be honest and say that I was a bit anxious about this trip since I did not know anyone there… literally. I knew ‘of’ many of them and their accomplishments in the sport. From winning Ironmans, to being named Triathletes of the year, to World Champions… I knew of many of them, but I doubt any of them knew me. The 3rd person I met was Emily Herndon at the pool. Yes, at the pool. I happened to go down there to see Carole and Bruce already swimming. Watching Bruce swim is just like going to Sea World and watching the fish swim there. So incredibly smooth and makes it look effortless. Emily and I started chatting. I thought I recognized her a bit, and her name. She is actually from Missoula and was part of the Stampede team. So we had some similar connections. I was now up to 3 people that I knew, almost a clique.

The first formal meeting we had started at 4:30pm in the banquet room. Sounded kind of ‘big’ to me. So I meandered down there with Bruce and entered what would be my first Team TIMEX event. At this meeting the weekly schedule was shared, which we all had, but a little more elaboration on it was done. Also, dinner was served which was amazing. Tons of food, and good food at that. I was able to meet some more great people like Kyle Marcotte. A pro from Canada who is a great person. Quite funny really but in a more subtle way. After dinner, many of the sponsors were there to hand out the clothing and equipment we would use for the season. It was a lot of equipment… overwhelming really. But the thing that I think was most impressive, was that no one was reluctant to give you something. That is, no one said, ‘Only take on please.’ They wanted you to have as much as you needed. I truly felt guilty with all that was given. I tried to be last one at most of the vendors. I just did not feel like I should take anything. I spent the first 20 minutes talking with Mark from Trek. He is the guy that developed the TTX which we would be riding. He is also the guy who developed Lance’s bike. Folks, this is not some dealer, or rep., that talks about how great a bike is. This is the guy who made the friggin’ bike. I talked with him for quite some time about the bike, changes, and what I liked so far about it. Then another guy came and talked with me about what I would like to see on the next generation. They asked me a lot of questions about how I carried fuel, and possibly where I would like to see the changes made. Amazing really. This team is a truly supported team. And who they (I guess it’s actually we) are supported by are some amazing companies. Companies like TIMEX, Trek, B70, Rudy Project, PowerBar, Profile Design, Nuun, Giam, Nathan fuel carriers, Spenco, Wigwam…, I am sure I am missing a few. Just simply amazing support.

As I was heading to my room to drop off all of the items I had received, I ran into my roommate, Tim Hola. Tim is an amazing amateur athlete from Highlands Ranch Colorado. He is someone that I have followed his success since 2004. He is normally the fastest amateur at both Wildflower and Oceanside. He has one of the fastest times at IM Hawaii and IM Florida… remember how close those two races are in relation to one another. So what I am saying, this guy is amazing. And he does it all balancing a full time job, wife, and two new kiddos. He is a great person and someone I admire even more after getting to know him even better. He ended up getting 2nd overall that day at the race. Dang cool.

To end the evening, the entire Team TIMEX was invited to the Triathlete Magazine party held at the restaurant next to the hotel. Many of the pro athletes from the race that day (Oceanside 70.3) were in attendance as well. Triathlete Magazine covered the cost of drinks and food. Pretty fun. That night went pretty late.

The next morning I got up at about 5:00am to assemble my bike. Tim got up too because he had trouble sleeping and went down to get some ice for some sore muscles. We had a ride to do at 6:30ish which I needed to be at. This would be my first ride in all my TIMEX gear form head to toe. I got there to connect with Tim, Sergio Marques (runs a 2:40 IM marathon), Dave Harju (2x winner of IM Wisconsin), and another gal that I did not know…oops. It was a good ride out the coastline. It was not as warm as I thought it would be and overcast. I wore leg warmers and arm warmers, but no gloves and was fine. Kind of an odd arrangement really. It was a pretty easy ride, but felt good to be out in a climate that was a little more receptive of riding versus snow in Spokane.

After the ride I went back to the room to clean up and get ready for a long day of presentations. Upon arrival to the banquet room, I could smell breakfast… mmmm. After a long ride in the morning and a hot shower, I was ready. It was a pretty amazing layout. OJ, coffee, water, juices, bagels, jams, eggs, potatoes with sautéed veggies, yogurt, fruit, … the list went on. It was hard no to look like a pig, but I was hungry.

During the remainder of the breakfast, Mark from Trek came to give a presentation about the TTX… the steed I would be riding this year. Again, these are not some random ‘reps,’ these are the engineers, the creators, of this piece of art. So they knew everything. We went over all the wind tunnel tests, weight, strength, etc., of the frame and then of course made some comparisons to other bikes. It was quite a presentation. One that I could have listened to for hours. But do have to say that after the early morning, and having a load of food in me, I did get the head nods for a about 15 minutes. But after some of my funnier teammates saw me, they started harassing me about it, so that kept me awake. This is not to mention the numerous text messages that were being sent. Quite a group of people really.

After Trek, TIMEX had a presentation about their products this year. I think this was pretty important since they are our title sponsor and do so much for the team. Keith (responsible for marketing and the guy who was my initial contact with TIMEX) gave the presentation. He is such an amazing guy. Not at all stuffy and boring. He seems like a road racer and just wanted to let all of us know what changes, and prototypes, we should expect to see. I have quite a few TIMEX watches now, from HR monitors to titanium watches. All of which I love. Including the one that controls my iPod… gotta like that. Some other people from TIMEX (Margaret and Adraina) were both there too to answer questions a give any support we needed. An amazing group of people. And I have to say that it is in part due to Keith because he believes in the team and triathlon.

Before lunch, we were told it would be on our own. So no lunch provided. Not a big deal since there were so many places fairly close to the hotel. But, as we walked out from the room, Tom Schuler handed us cash for lunch. I would disclose the amount if I thought it was appropriate, but I am not. Because it was kind of like a gift…another one. It was enough to eat just about anywhere. Maybe a few meals really. Again, it was not necessarily the amount that was given, it was more about ‘how’ it was given. He just handed it to each one of us and said, ‘have a great lunch.’ Not, ‘don’t spend this all in one place,’ or, ‘this is quite a bit, don’t lose it.’ It was almost like he felt awkward giving it to us and just wanted us to take it and not really acknowledge it. If that makes sense.

I did not go far. Actually, only next door where the Triathlete Magazine party was. It was kind of like a Red Robin, but a bit nicer and more expensive too. It was nice to get out of the room and meet more of the athletes in a less ‘formal’ environment. It wasn’t hard to miss anyone from TIMEX because we all had the same clothing on most of the time. Part of the ensemble was the new TIMEX orange jackets… they were everywhere. Kind of like when Tri Fusion got their black ones, but these are orange.

For that evening, we went to dinner at a seafood restaurant… all 35 of us. Yikes. It was a ton of fun and I seem to sit with the same people I seem to all the time… the crazy extroverts. Some might say a little over the top, but everyone was always entertained. Carole was the one that always seem to instigate these groups. She would get all the ‘fun people’ (her words, not mine) to be at one table. I can’t really say that any of the people that might be considered ‘not fun people’ would want to sit with us. I think the initial ruckus was created when the waitress was taking drink orders and everyone was ordering cocktails and beers and I ordered a hot chocolate. Even Tim Hola, my very kind roommate, laughed and said, “what did you just order? Did you say a hot chocolate?” The table erupted. I thought it was pretty funny too, but my throat needed something hot. There is some irony to this coming up. Eventually through the night, everyone made their way to our table and sits down for a bit to engage in what was going on, or wanting to know what was being talked about that was so funny. Even TIMEX management pulled up a seat for a bit. It truly is one big family. Albeit a tad dysfunctional, but a lot of fun.

After dinner, most the team went back to the place that the Triathlete Magazine party was at next to the hotel. But, because of the chaos that happened the night before (by the way, it wasn’t just TIMEX people there. There were many other triathletes there that had raced Oceanside and were cutting lose a bit), they would not serve anyone alcohol after 10:30pm. Just goes to show you that when people really put themselves into one thing, like training, they really put themselves into other things as well. After hanging out and talking some more in an environment that was ‘alcohol free,’ we headed back to the hotel and went and sat at the outdoor fire pit next to the hotub and pool to chat. It was 11:10pm and the pool closed at 11:00pm. I will keep this part short because there are ‘rumors’ out there that make this story a little more entertaining than it really was, so I will leave those to you imagination. But the evening ended with MANY people in the pool including management throwing some fully clothed people in as well. It was quite entertaining. The security came out as well only to tell us that we could use the pool area, but just keep the volume down. The security thought all of the antics were quite funny. But, after all the clothes you are wearing are wet, you really don’t feel like hanging around outside. So the evening retired.

The next morning started off with a ride to Oceanside with Dave Harju and Time Hola. It was a pretty easy ride and I was able to hear some ‘old school’ stories about the race in Oceanside when it was an Ironman. Tim also showed me the house that was used on Top Gun as ‘Charlie’s’ house (the girl). It looks just a tad different all boarded and fenced off. Kind of loses the feel. I also have to say that the roads in this area are pretty decent compared to Spokane, but the amount of intersections and 4 ways stops make riding in this area really erratic. Way too much stop and go and too much running red lights and blowing stop signs. After the ride we went back to the hotel and had another amazing breakfast.

After breakfast, and all the jokes pertaining to last nights events, we got underway with another session of seminars. This would be a short day since we had already had so many up to this point and we were now down to the TIMEX Athlete Handbook and expectations. Good thing we waited until now to cover this stuff :) There are definitely expectations on behavior, what you wear, what you do, etc. So it is good to know this stuff so you don’t assume you know. It was also a time to get to know what races other people would be doing.

After this presentation, we needed to get the group photo as well as individual shots. That always takes longer than anticipated. You always have a few people that make things entertaining when it comes to taking pictures. Some might say I am one of those people… but there were others too.

That pretty much left the rest of the day to do whatever we wanted. Some people went sight seeing, but I wanted to go for a ride. Even though I had already ridden in the morning, it was 70 degrees. You ride when you have weather like this. So I went on another ride down the coast with 2 other TIMEX athletes… Cindy and Emily. They just needed to go on an easy ride so it was fun to ride and chat. So there was another 2 hours. Just enough to get some tan lines. Riding in shorts is so great. It really makes you feel like it’s summer.

When we got back, most the people were down at the pool. Kind of the coffee shop so to speak. By now, most people knew everyone and knew their personalities and information about them. Tom Schuler (Team Sports manager) and I spoke for quite a bit about cycling in the old days. You see, Tom was a US Pro Champion in the 80s. He was on the US Olympic Cycling team, raced for 7-11 and Motorola, and has a resume as long as a toilet paper roll… unrolled. He is a guy that was in all the cycling magazines when I was racing. He was someone that was an amazing rider and I admired. The point to all of this is that most triathletes have no clue about this. He could tell them, or I could, but it would not have the same emotional impact. He even raced in Spokane at the Washington Trust Cycling Classic which was a HUGE race here in Spokane. He remembered a lot about it and the people he stayed with, people I am friends with. So a bit of reminiscing you might say. But also a nice connection to have with him. For a guy that manages multiple pro cycling teams and triathlon teams, he sure is a very kind person.

After I tried to even up my cycling short tan lines from my ride with my 2 hours at the pool, it was time to get ready to head out again for dinner. The last dinner is always at an authentic Mexican place. People sat with everyone this time. No one was fearful of what table they were at and we all had a great time. I sat with some familiar faces and some new ones as well. But I knew a bit about everyone which made all time together so great. And when the drink order was being taken, guess what all the people at my table ordered? Hot chocolate. Yup. What was hilarious the night before, is status quo today. One little piece of trivia is that Alex McDonald (1st overall amateur at IM Hawaii this year) is a heck of a beat boxer. He created a little dance music for us to enjoy right there at the table.

Most of the group decided that it would be a nice night to just go back to the hotel and sit by the pool. Of course, a handful of people stopped by the local Gas n’ Sip to pick up some refreshments. But it wasn’t a crazy evening. Mostly just sitting around and chatting about politics, investments, and maybe a little triathlon. You might think I am joking, but it’s the truth. I headed into the lobby to take care of some work I needed to do on the computer that should have only taken me about 20 minutes. During this time, many TIMEX athletes came in to see what was going on. So my quick computer work turned into a 2.5 hour session. Basically ½ the group moved inside, while other stayed outside. Alex wanted me to look on Youtube for a funny video about some people. But of course they were all 10 minutes long, so there was about 20 minutes of it all. A good way to wind down and evening and the last night to camp.

The next morning breakfast was served again in the banquet room and people said their goodbyes. It was tough to see all these people depart because we would probably not be together again until next year.

One of the hardest parts of the trip was figuring out how in the world I was going to get all this stuff home? Wetsuits, helmets, clothes, glasses, backpacks, etc. They really take up a lot of room. But I thought, who cares, if I get charged an overweight fee, I will pay it with a smile considering what is in there.

I arrived at the airport alone and about 4 hours prior to my flight… I miscalculated just a tad. But as I sat there, Bruce and Emily came through the door and we sat and hung out for another 1.5 hours. So that was nice. And it hasn’t ended there. The texts and the emails keep flying every day. What an amazing group of people. I don’t think it’s just TIMEX athletes, I think it is about the triathlete community. An amazing group of people.