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.