Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Emma's Pentathlon

Good times...Good times

It’s that time of year again where Emma starts to put into play, all of her practice. Over the last couple weekends, Emma has had a long swim meet and, of course like any 6 year old, a soccer game. Call me a nutso dad, but I love watching Emma compete. It’s not about her winning, or scoring a goal. It’s about watching her get out there and give her best, have fun, and be proud of what she did. She loves to “debrief” her events immediately after…which I enjoy as well. There are times that I really wonder what’s going on in her mind when she it out there. Because when I was 8, and was playing soccer, I have no clue what was going through my head…probably Leggos.

The record setting girls 8 and under 200 free relay team

Same record setting team...not looking quite as fast

Two weekends ago, Emma had a swim meet that was a pentahlon. Now, I had not clue what this really meant. I knew it must have something to do with the number 5. To me, it was a swim meet. And watching Emma swim is pure joy. Since we were traveling from Lewiston where Jessi was racing a triathlon, where she was the overall winner (insert big smile and super proud husband here), we would miss Emma's very first swim of the day, and that would also be her very first attempt at the 100 IM. This is a race that they do a 25 of each stroke, butterfly, back, breast, and freestyle. The hard part of this stroke for a little 6 year old is the technical aspect of it. Needing to touch with 2 hands on certain strokes, stay on your back until 1 stroke on the backstroke, kicks have to be correct for butterfly and breast…the list goes on. I would forget the order of the dang race, not to mention all the stroke technique. On our way back, Jessi called Rory (her amazing coach) and told him to look for Emma and talk to her. Because once Emma found out she was doing the IM, she was a bit nervous. But after her talk with Rory, and a Dairy Queen deal he made with her, she was all set. Emma gave her all and ended up getting the 4th best time of the day for the 8 and under. Uh, that’s awesome! Her first IM and she did not get DQ’d. I’d say that’s a winner. But to get 1st in the heat, and 4th overall is amazing! Jessi spoke to Emma and she was so excited. Not for the 4th place of course, but Rory had to buy her Dairy Queen. We continued to speed home in hopes to make her next event which was the butterfly.

We were able to get there about 10 minutes before she raced the butterfly. Watching Emma race the butterfly might be my favorite. This stroke is very hard physically, and when you watch kids do it right, it looks easy. There did not seem to be any nerves with this stroke. She has done it before and it was just one length. She ended up winning the heat and she had the 4th fastest time for the 8 and under group in this stroke as well. Amazing! This was when Jessi and I were informed as to what a “pentahlon” was. Basically, the top 6 would be presented with a medal in a somewhat “formal” awards presentation. For Emma to be 6, and on a podium with 8 and almost 9 year olds, would be so exciting for her. But we did not mention any of this to her since she still had a long way to go. She dropped time in the butterfly which she always wants to know.

Next stroke for her was the backstroke. This used to be her favorite and best, but I think she likes the butterfly more now…don’t know. I love watching her start this stroke because she pushes up and off the wall and then does a dolphin kick under water for a bit. It’s pretty impressive, and then she gets into her stroke. This was an excellent race for her. Her kick was good and her arms were fast. Most kids in all the 25s are about the same for about 10-15 yards, but then all of a sudden, things separate a bit. She again won her heat and dropped time in the backstroke as well.

Emma had a little time before the breast stroke, which isn’t her favorite, but her form looks solid now and looks like she moves through the water well. Since her coach is a phenomenal breast stroker, (fastest time in the nation for div III). I think he has helped her quite a bit and has created a bit of passion about the stroke. Her stroke looked great and she won her heat and dropped time. Things were looking good. I cannot remember what her place was overall for the breast, maybe 9th?

The last stroke was the freestyle. Emma is pretty solid at this, but so is just about everyone else. She is still trying to go under 20 seconds of the bulkhead. I think she can do this off the blocks, but the bulkhead is a lot lower. She took off and swam with all her heart. Her time was fast enough to win her heat, and I cannot remember where she was overall. I think top 10. She was excited to be done, and find out that she again dropped time.

Afterward, we hung out a bit and chatted with the many great people that are involved with swimming. Jessi took Emma to make sure she washed her hair correctly so it would not turn green. Emma has a habit of rushing through this process a bit. Jessi normally goes with her ALL the time now at practice. Emma gets a little sidetracked in the locker room with talking to people and hanging out in the shower.

They were about to begin the awards, so we went to the pool. They started with Emma’s group, and started with 6th place. Emma was not really paying attention to any of this since she has never been a part of the “awards” in swimming. She races against 8 and 10 year olds…chances that she will do well overall, is slim. They announced 6th, and it wasn’t Emma. Then they announced 5th, and it wasn’t Emma. At this point I thought she was out. Then they announced 4th, and that went to none other than, Emma Thompson. She did not know what to do. She walked over there and got onto the podium, which she is familiar with from triathlons. She stood there very proud and clapped as the others got their awards too. She was so excited and proud. Jessi and I were excited and proud too. Emma loves to get recognition (don’t we all), and I know she will remember this experience for a long time. It will also fuel her for future events because she will want to be on that podium again. But I know she will want to be looking down at more people next time.

Emma on the podium

Emma...very proud

Emma with all the other winners

Jessi and I are so proud of Emma and her desire to work hard on a daily basis. She sees these challenges and meets them. She gets nervous before the race, but once she is lining up, it’s ‘game on.’ We would be absolute idiots if we thought that Emma does this all on her own. It is the support of many fine people in her life that give her the positive feedback on a daily basis. From coaches, to friends, to family…Emma seems to inspire us all, and she is also inspired by us as well. We all want our kids to enjoy something…and activity, sport, instrument, …anything. And when they do, it’s magical.

Thanks to all of you that have given parts of yourself to make Emma feel validated and appreciated. She smiles, sings, and laughs on a daily basis because she is one happy kid.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Frozen Flatlands...Holy He##!

Photo by Sue Hutter

This weekend would be my first return to a multi staged cycling event. It was the Frozen Flatlands in Cheney, WA put on by the Baddlands Bicycle Club. I feel it necessary to mention Baddlands because any group that puts on bike races I truly admire and respect. It’s no easy task, but they make it look so simple. The race saw over 500 people registered to race this multi staged, multi day event. It consisted of a time trial, and 2 road races… one being 47 miles (right after the TT), and then a shorter 25 mile road race the following day.

Pat, Cris, Roger, Mark

This event is the one that recently reassembled the Arrivee Cycling Club (Mark, Pat, Cris and myself) about 3 weeks ago…on a whim. For more on that, visit arrivee.blogspot.com. So as the 4 of us got to the venue, it would only be me racing the TT that day. This is one advantage to the Omnium format. You do not need to race all the events. You can, or you can pick and choose which ones you want to do. Since they did not have the miles, or recovery in their legs, they all decided to forgo the 20k TT. Made sense really, it was windy, cold, and…well… it was a TT. Nothing says miserable like an individual TT. But to their credit, they came to the event to support regardless. My time to take off was at 10:39:30. They sent us off at 30 second intervals. Our road race would go off in the afternoon at 2:15pm. I only say this because all 3 of these guys came out to cheer me on, when they could have stayed in bed for a few more hours.

Now, let me simply explain what an individual time trial is. The official says “go”…you ride as hard as you can for 20k… then you cross the finish line and you are done. It is known as “The Race of Truth,” because there is no drafting, teammates, support, nowhere to hide…nothing. It’s just you against the clock. Now, as bad as this sounds, these are my most favorite races. Eliminate the variables, and the strongest on the day, on that course, will win. This is probably why I like triathlon so much. It’s one big time trial but you have to swim and run too. Sure, there is strategy, but it’s “your” strategy.

I am always impressed, or surprised really, how much cyclists warm up for races. When I raced (you will hear this a lot), we got on our bikes, rode a mile to make sure all 7 gears worked and the brakes did not rub, and then waited for our start. Now I see people warming up for 30 minutes to an hour on trainers. Oh well, maybe something I can learn from. After sitting in the car for as long as possible, I started to get ready. The weather did not really lend itself to “hanging out.” It was 34 degrees and the wind was gusting up to ~35 mph. As horrible as that sounds, I LOVE racing in conditions like this. Throw in a little rain/snow…ideal. Not my favorite training conditions, but love to race in them. I rode my traditional mile warm up…give or take…and headed to the start. I had about 3 minutes which I passed by asking one of the officials, Marla Emde (www.emdesports.com, another group here in Spokane that puts on races as well) what the rule is when overtaking another cyclist. Obviously I know what it is in triathlon, but in cycling it is much different. The draft zone is more than 20 meters long and 2 meters wide and you cannot enter the draft zone. Holy crap! That is one big zone. But unlike triathlon, TTs are a bit more spaced out and overtaking other riders does not happen too frequently. Glad I asked Marla, because I did not know this.

This is a great video that Dave Erickson (www.daveerickson360.com) created.

Soon my time to start came, and I was ready roll. I took off like I would normally in a tri or TT. I soon found myself battling headwinds and crosswinds. I knew they were out there, but my upper body was working very hard to maintain a straight line. It was tough, but I watched my power, and kept it honest…maybe a little high, but I would soon see that come down. I caught a few people ahead of me, so I knew I was moving right along. I eventually hit the turnaround and was headed back. I looked at my time and saw that I was right about 15 minutes. I thought that was pretty good since I “should” have a little tailwind coming back…hopefully. For the first bit, it still seemed windy. But there were a few sweet spots that allowed for a tail from time to time. Once I got to about 5k to go, it seemed to turn into mostly a tail/cross wind. This was very welcomed. I took as much advantage of it as I could, and pressed on home. My legs were feeling like tree stumps and the thought of a 47 mile road race later that day, lingered. But I needed top focus on what I was doing now. Nothing worse than losing a TT by a second or two. I kept winding it up as much as I could and came across the line with the day’s fastest time at 27:29. I was very happy with the time considering the conditions. It was nice to have Pat, Cris, Mark, Jessi, and Dave out there cheering me on and getting some great pics too. Now, on to the 47 mile road race.

The road race was only 3 hours away and I needed to get some food in me. I went to subway and fueled up a little. Cycling is a little different from triathlon in that it’s not all at threshold. There is a lot of recovery going on, so I was not as particular as to what and when I was eating...it was that I was eating. I was excited to dust off my new Orbea Orca recently outfitted with the new Shimano di2. Okay, there really wasn’t much dust because I have only had it 1 week.

Photo by Sue Hutter

Photo by Sue Hutter

I was a tad nervous to be in a pack of 75 riders, but I had been there before. The winds were still kickin’ and it snowed from time to time. The pack was not too interested in doing much work so it all ended up being decided on a hill with 10 miles to go. The pack broke up and there was a group of 15, or so, of us moving towards the finish. Things got a little crazy with 300 meters to go as we overtook 3 people from the race ahead, but I was still able to muster out an 8th place finish. Not too sure my legs knew what was going on when I asked them to “sprint,” but they did what they could. I was very happy with my efforts at the front of this group and a bit disappointed with the unwillingness by the majority to get their nose in the wind. But that may be whole separate post.

It was a long, and cold, day that was full of highs and lows. But all in all, I was happy to be back on the road again and sharing this with 3 other teammates that I had done this with before. Afterwards, it was great to hear about everyone’s race and what happened and where. I know we will only get stronger and fitter.

The next day, Easter, our pack would start at 10:40. Kind of nice since I could use the sleep. Again, I showed up 2 hours early, only to sit around and talk with some good people. As I rushed to get my gear on, and number pinned, I was once again able to muster up a 1 mile warm up ride with the guys. Old school I guess since the gals next to us had been on their trainers for an hour by now. Ironically, none of them won their field sprint either…go figure?

This race was substantially shorter, and for a lack of a better explanation, easier. It was relatively flat and the pack stayed together. But, unfortunately, it was the same people doing the work at the front. Surviving several near crashes by people not paying attention, I made it to the finish leading out what was to be a very difficult and chaotic sprint. I finished towards the end of the pack and cruised back to the car. Pat was also in the pack and launched a few attacks as well. Nice to see him up there. Cris reeled in some breakaways and defended the front a bit and then ended up finishing on the pack’s heels. Mark, on his new bike, took off of the front early on and mixed things up as well. It was so great seeing all these guys out there and having fun. The only thing we lack is fitness. And that all comes in time.

On a side note, Jessi raced her first TT as well and won her division, and placed 5th overall female. Pretty cool for someone who still expected to run a 10k afterward. She looked very comfortable out there and I may have even overheard her say that she wants a road bike.

Thanks to everyone that helped with the race, raced, and suffered out in the elements regardless. It was a fun weekend.