Tuesday, December 14, 2010

MsM, Powerbar!, and the TT rig.

I'm excited to announce a few 2011 season sponsors, the first being Multisport Ministries. The founding men of MsM have backed me since day one of this journey, believed in me, and have helped make this pursuit possible. They have helped me become the athlete I have become, but more importantly have walked alongside me on the journey of life, challenging me to be the best man I can - living for a greater purpose than myself alone.

I am also very grateful to be connected with Powerbar for the 2011 season, maker of the best nutrition and energy foods on the market. Many people just think they make energy bars, but they've come out with a ton of new stuff over the years: Endurance sports drink, Recovery drink, Powerbar gels, Powerbar gel blast chews, trail mix type bars, Energy Bites, Ironman Perform sports drink and Protein powder most recently, which is packed with protein and tastes like a milkshake compared to to the Cytomax brand powder I used prior.

I am seeking additional financial & product/service sponsors for the 2011 season.

I have also begun working with coach Melissa Mantak, who recently earned the highly prestigious USA Triathlon Coach of the Year Award for 2010. After my first month with Melissa, I will tell you that she is more than deserving of such an award.

After selling my Blue Triad SL, parting out a few bikes, scrapping some other parts, getting out the metal saw, and getting my Specialized Transition Pro frameset thanks to the folks at Bike Source, my new TT rig is built up. Can wait to throw the race wheels on it and let her fly.

  • 2011 Specialized Transition Pro, size XL
  • SRAM Red 11-23 cassette & derailleurs
  • Quarq Cinco Saturn power meter w/SRAM carbon cranks, 53-39 rings
  • Speedplay zero stainless steel pedals
  • Shimano Pro Missile aerobars with custom cut (& warranty-voided) Zipp chicane s-bend extensions & swapped Profile Design armrests
  • SRAM 900 TT carbon shifters
  • Profile Design ABS carbon brake levers
  • ISM Adamo Breakaway saddle
  • Garmin Edge 500
  • I'll be riding on a set of 2010 Zipp 808 tubulars, to go with my Zipp Sub-9 disc wheel

The new Specialized TT2 aero helmet, the fastest TT helmet you can find.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Swim Labs

Last week could be called a maintenance week, figuring out what is not ideal in my form/technique, and what needs to be fixed. This can be a frustrating time, but it's necessary to improve. One can choose to take it as discouragement, or use it to motivate. This included a bike fit at Retul in Boulder, where I learned I was riding the TT almost like a road bike, and need to be much further forward on the saddle. This new position will definitely get some taking used to. It also included an hour and a half session with my coach Melissa at Swim Labs. My swim has been my weakness this past year, and I'm often playing a bit of catch-up on race day on the bike and run. Swim Labs has 2 locations here in Denver, each with several Endless Pools when you can swim against various speeds of current and film your swim technique from many angles: above, front, side, etc. It's a must do for any serious triathlete or swimmer with less-than-perfect form in order to know where to start keeping tabs on your technique. The difficult thing is putting what you know needs change in your stroke and implementing it in swim drills and training, especially after swimming a certain way for 2 years. It will take some serious work. My main issue lies with keeping my elbows higher and bent throughout my stroke after entering the water. I have the tendency of letting my elbow drop too quickly, which creates a bit of extra drag. I also need to pull all the way through my stroke to the waist, and maintain a bit steadier kick. Lots of work to do.

Swimming is a sport where technique is critical to success, more so than biking or running in my opinion. If you form is far from perfect, work on it early, ASAP. The best way to know what is wrong is to get filmed, and have expert critique. If you're in the Denver area, I'd highly recommend going to Swim Labs for a session with one of their expert coaches. You can record a CD with video footage, and also compare it to other top swimmers side by side for critique. Swim Labs gives you the disc to take home and study for as long as you need to. Thanks to Giff and Mike for letting us work there. I've got my work cut out for me, but have no option other than using this as motivation to improve. Right when you are getting to the next level in the sport, you realize there is always much higher to go, and so many little things needing to be done to get there. The further along you are, the more important the tiny details become, and there are many of them in triathlon, since it's really 3 separate sports you can analyze. If possible, I'll try to see if I can upload some of the footage here on the blog in the next few days. Go check out Swim Labs!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Looking Forward to 2011

My 2010 season is in the books, and the training build toward 2011 has begun. I'll summarize my 2010 experience as follows:
  • I learned more than I ever thought possible in my first season as a pro
  • I earned my pro license in May, which was the main season goal
  • I learned valuable lessons about choosing race formats that play to my strengths, and races that make sense financially
  • I came out of 2010 more motivated than ever
  • I earned my first prize money as a professional (not much, but it's a start)
My 2011 season will look a bit different than my 2010 season. 2010 had some highs and some lows, as far as training and racing. However, I learned more the past 12 months about the sport than I thought possible. I am learning what it takes to be a top US triathlete, establishing a plan to get there, and learning how race selection is very important. For 2011, I only plan to race events where I have a shot at prize money, those that offer free home-stays for pros, and those that are relatively inexpensive to travel to.
The past few months I've had to make some tough decisions about 2011, decisions that make sense practically and financially. I will not be a member of the Riptide Multisports Elite Team for 2011. The Riptide team has become like family to me, and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the team for 2010, and for coach Sean Wendt and teammate Josh Merrick for helping me with a training program. I love the team, and enjoyed being part of something greater than just myself. Racing alongside and representing others as well as yourself takes meaning to the next level. I look forward to keeping relationships strong with the team, and hopefully will still be able to meet up for a workout here and there with the group. After struggling with the decision for a few months, I had to detach the emotional & relational side of the decision from the practical. I chose not to be a member for 2011 for a few main reasons: I could not commit to the swim practices anymore, as I would drive an average of 80 minutes per day round trip to join the team swims in Arvada. Due to the gas money spent, the need for 2-3 workouts a day, and opportunities for side jobs in Denver & Littleton, the inefficiency simply didn't make sense nor work out with my daily schedule and need to make money. I need the valuable time for training and working. Secondly, I have had groups & individuals offer to sponsor races. This sport is very expensive and difficult to make money in as a new pro, and sponsorship opportunities allow athletes to continue to race. It is important to be able to solicit and accept valuable sponsorships. To make it as a pro triathlete, part of it is being business-minded and finding sponsors to help make it possible. In the past 2 months, I have written over 60 letters and emails, and made numerous phone calls, in attempt to secure sponsorships of all kinds: financial (for race entry fees & travel), bike company, shoe company, gear companies, etc. I also sold my Toyota Tacoma, which was necessary to fund the season. The cubicle world will always be there, but I won't always be able to compete as a pro athlete. I am currently seeking sponsors for the 2011 season, and will gladly display company logos on my race uniform, website, and fulfill any other request one may have.

In 2011, I am looking to grow my coaching services and add athletes. I have taken on a few individual athletes recently, and have started using TrainingPeaks.com training software for my athletes. I will also be one of several coaches for a local women's triathlon club called CWW. I have learned a ton about the coaching side of the sport, and look forward to helping athletes succeed. In January of 2011, I will become a USAT level 1 certified coach as well.

This past year my life was filled with a lot of distractions. I moved from California to Colorado, and to 3 different houses here in Denver. I was busy working home remodel jobs and other work, adjusting to life here in Denver, and struggled with a true plan of action with triathlon. I lacked a bit of direction. I have decided to dedicate one year to nearly full-time training. The phrase 'Go Big or Go Home' is a good one, and that's what I am doing. This pursuit is multi-dimensional, and will be focused on all aspects of the sport: coaching, training, racing, nutrition, sleep, recovery, strength training, etc.

I will be working with coach Melissa Mantak for the 2011 season, who is the best triathlon coach in the sport, in my opinion. I am very excited to work with her. Melissa is a renown coach, a USAT level 3 triathlon coach, and a USA Cycling level 1 coach, and is local. She just earned the 2011 USA Triathlon Coach of the Year award, which for those who don't know, is a huge accomplishment. Melissa is also the head coach for a women's club team and head coach for Tri For The Cure. She coaches top pros Matt Charbot, currently ranked #1 in the US on the ITU ponts list and 12th in the world, I believe, and Jillian Petersen, who I believe is ranked 4th in the US for women. I got connected to Melissa and will be coaching alongside her with the CWW women's club team, and hopefully helping out with a few races and other local events. The partnership made perfect sense and was a great fit. After talking with her, I knew our goals aligned, and I knew she was the one who could help me progress, simply because she wants to see me succeed nearly as much as I do. She is local, a coach I am a firm believer in, and has helped me find opportunities for part-time coaching work. In my week with Melissa, I've had a one on one swim technique analysis session, which was the first time in my life I'd had a true swim instruction/technique session from a coach. I am starting a strength program this week with her as well. I will be swimming 6 days a week, and running and cycling 5-6 days as well, a necessary increase from my marginal 3-4 run sessions and 3 bike sessions per week this past year. I've told Melissa, I have one shot here. Let's give it a chance. I am a person who responds best to structure and accountability, and she is exactly the person I need for this. I have 2 years of experience now, and my body has adapted well and is ready to handle the volume. When I say that I can promise big things for 2011, I do not mean to boast, but say it in all seriousness, because I'm confident the results will come. The plan will consist of at least 2 and usually 3 workouts per day, a strength program, proper nutrition, and learning to get my body ready to race. I am 100% confident in the plan.

I have decided not to race ITU draft-legal triathlons in 2011, other than possibly US Elite Nationals and maybe one other US race. Most ITU races cost 2 to 3 times the price to travel to, and unless you're a front pack swimmer, it is nearly impossible to earn prize money. My swim is not to the ITU front-pack level yet, so it doesn't make sense. My cycling has advanced a lot this year, and I'm suited best for non-drafting races where I can use my bike strength to my advantage. Why do so many athletes race ITU? 1 word: Olympics. It's the one and only route to the Olympics. It's a long shot for many, but it's still a shot. The other reason is that USA Triathlon funds about 24 athletes for ITU racing, since it is really an Olympic development program. In 2011, my focus will be non-drafting Olympic distance race. WTC, who owns Ironman, recently announced the 5150 race series, which I'm very excited about. Visit www.5150.com for more info. This will help athletes like me have more opportunities to succeed in non-draft short course racing. I also plan on debuting in 1 or 2 Ironman 70.3 races this next season, and test my body in long course racing. I can't tell you how excited about this next season I am. I am focused, motivated, and having fun. Thanks for the support.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

USAT National Championships

My teammate Dan Mackenzie and I traveled to Tuscaloosa, AL this weekend for the USAT Pro/Elite National Championship, along with 42 other pro men. This race was also an ITU Pan Am cup race, so was draft-legal on road bikes as opposed to time trial non-drafting format, and included some guys from Australia, Canada, Ireland, and Barbados. I’d never raced in a such a strong field before, as there were over 15 guys who race at the World Cup level, including a group of Olympians and all the US National team guys, whose ITU races & travel expenses are covered by USAT. Some also live at the Olympic training centers for free. I was looking around the room at the pro meeting 2 days prior to the race, and it was a bit overwhelming. It’s important to be confident, but at the same time you know where you stand as a swimmer, starting swim training at age 25 instead of having years in the sport. I knew who almost everyone in the room was, from watching them on TV or reading about them online. It was stacked to say the least. A few big names were winner Brenden Sexton of Austraila, Olympians Jarrod Shoemaker, Matt Reed, and Greg Bennett, US National Champ Matt Charbot. It basically included all the top US ITU athletes, minus Olympian Hunter Kemper who was injured. Many of these guys have been racing triathlon for 10-15 years.

Going into the race I thought it would be all about the swim for me, like all ITU races are... but by the end of the day I realized for the first time, it wasn’t really about the swim do to the circumstances. It turned out, if I would have swam 20 seconds faster, or slower for that matter, it really wouldn’t have mattered. I knew a huge main pack would form, and then the rest of us. We all knew the heat and humidity would affect the day, as it was in the mid 90s by our 2:15pm start time, and river water temps were about 85. As expected, a huge swim pack of about 20 of the 44 guys stayed together and grouped up on the bike. A chase pack formed a bit back, and then a string of a bunch of guys all coming out the water somewhat alone. That included me. Looking around, there was no group within reach in front of me to attempt to go solo on the bike and bridge up to, but also no one right behind me to work with. So, I caught up to one guy, rode with him for a lap before he was dropped, and then waited until Sean (recently 8th in the World Duathlon Championships) and Darin Shearer bridged up to me. The 3 of us worked together for the rest of the 8 lap bike portion, wishing we had a group of 20 to pull us along as opposed to only 3. But, this is part of draft-legal racing with the swim being our weakness, and the tough part about racing ITU for us, since coming out of the water 30 or 45 seconds back of a large pack. We kept moving up on athletes who got dropped from the packs ahead. Some joined us, and some were dropped and eventually lapped out of the race (ITU rule). I felt strong on the bike, and went through both large water bottles early, as it was very hot. I started cramping late into the bike, and took 3 salt tablets immediately, which I think helped. The cramps stayed until about 10 min into the run, and then disappeared. I debated trying to break away after I had gapped my group on the top of the hill, but realized riding 2 laps solo would be very tough if I tried, and I’d likely get pulled back in by the group

The run turned into another sufferfest, just like Chicago. With temps around 95 and sun beating down, people were dropping, including myself and Jefferson, who is a 29 min 10k runner who ran for Nike/Oregon Track Club. It was a struggle to keep shuffling, and ice cup after ice cup being poured down the jersey, I made it to the line in 28th place. It was ugly, and embarrassing, but I knew it was the right thing, to keep on gutting it out. By the end of the day, 16 out of the 44 athletes didn’t finish, they either were lapped out on the bike, or succumbed to the heat.

Hot, dizzy, and discouraged, I took a while just sit down in the athlete’s lounge and do nothing. Just sit. It was cool to be a part of the race, but anytime you run 11 min. slower than usual, no matter the reason, discouragement is there. Running well in heat is always possible, but much more difficult when you’ve been red-lining it in the swim and on the bike for 80 minutes leading into it.

The week before the race, I almost decided not to go after my teammate Jordan switched to race the non-drafting format Westchester Tri in New York, which had prize money too but a legitimate shot at it, with most of the top US guys at Nationals and for us being better at non-drafting events.

My 2010 season is likely over, unless I race in November. All in all, it was not a great season as far as my results went. However, I earned my pro license in May, learned a ton about racing, and have thoroughly enjoyed getting a chance to pursue my goals. I’ve learned the importance of needing to stay consistent in training, to choose races carefully that play to your strengths and make sense financially. ITU racing is fun, especially with the big names there and TV helicopters overhead like yesterday, but it’s also expensive, difficult to make money, but doesn’t make much sense if swimming is your weakest discipline. I will still keep working the hardest at improving my swim, and may race 1 or 2 draft-legal races next year, but the focus will be on non-drafting and Ironman 70.3’s, which I think will suit me well. At the beginning of the year my goal was to turn pro, and that was it, nothing further. I thought I’d likely stop if I achieved that goal. I’m taking what I learned this year and making necessary changes, which will be big this next year (more to come on that soon). As long as I can cover my costs, have support, am racing for the right reasons, and taking care of my responsibilities, I’d love to keep going. Just like last year, I’ll say it again. One more year. Thanks for your support.

P.S. I am getting my USAT coaching certification in January, and am seeking additional athletes of all levels to coach. Spread the word!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Brad Rides

My roommate Brad is cycling across the country, beginning next week, to raise money for a great cause. Check out his blog!


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Malibu Triathlon race report: A Costly Puncture

The last 3 races have all been disappointing, but for different reasons -not because I'm out of shape, struggling with confidence, or some other issue...just things you can't control too much (like staff infections, heat exhaustion (although now I realize it was partially my fault in Chicago..nutrition was bad, calorie intake way too little for the afternoon race on no lunch), and now a flat tire.) You live, learn, and try to avoid bad luck.

I flew into Santa Barbara for a day and a half (AKA paradise, I could write another separate entry on why SB is the perfect place for any pro triathlete to train...minus the cost of living) and headed to Malibu with great friends from Multisport Ministries and Riptide teammates Jordan Jones and Josh Merrick.

The swim: The ocean swim wasn't too bad. Waves were smaller than most years, so it was relatively calm. My arms were heavy from the start, but that was fine, as I never blew up and the heaviness never got any worse throughout the race. It was a chilly 58 degrees, but I didn't notice it at all when the gun went off. For once, my goggles didn't fog which was great. I've finally learned the secrets to no-fogging!! Finally! It has to do with simply buying new goggles..frequently, and not racing in the same pair you use at the pool since the anti-fog stuff wears off after a few uses. A little spit can help sometimes, but never rub it around with your fingers, which removes the original anti-fog stuff. I also found some good Barracuda anti-fog drops (which also never worked before in old goggles), but adding these to newer goggles helps too...so basically, get new goggles and only plan on using them for a few races. Then replace them. For the pool, use separate goggles and wash them out with shampoo (baby shampoo and use fog drops right after that). That's the only thing that's worked.

I came out of the swim as the 6th pro I believe, right with my teammate Jordan and about 1:30 back of Olympian Matt Reed, which was a fine position for us both. Josh was about 4 min. back, but as always his bike and run moves him up in a hurry. On the bike, I road side by side with Jordan out of transition, didn't see a huge speed bump, tried to hop it but slammed my disc wheel right on it as I didn't bunny hop far enough! Jordan laughed with me about it post-race, it was loud, and sounded like my bike could have cracked. I felt great on the bike, and both Jordan and I were biking great and moving up in the field, passing all the super-swimmer women like Hayley Piersol & Olympian Julie Ertel within the first mile or two. We caught my friend Chris Berg a bit before the turnaround and were both feeling great. I was having probably my best race to date, sitting in 5th behind an Olympian, the 8th place Ironman Kona finisher Mathias Hecht from Switzerland, Fraser Cartnell of the UK and of team Trek/KSwiss. He was also the Ironman UK Champion and is a multiple time Ironman 70.3 Champ. Jordan was in 4th.

Boom! On my way back along the coast, on the beautiful PCH, AKA the Pacific Coast Hwy for all you non-SoCal lingo speakers, I heard a loud pop, looked down, and saw air spraying out of my disc wheel. My day was done, my tubular was flat, and I found myself sitting on the side of the road with my hands on my head and my thumb up eventually trying to find a ride back. I killed some time by hurling some rocks into the ocean and found that a great way to take out anger, along with screaming very loudly. Athlete after athlete rode by me...I was crushed, and sat on the side of the road for about 25 minutes until the Triathlon Lab van rescued me. From emotional high to devastation, I had thrown my bike down screaming (a few, or perhaps a few too many, words I shouldn't repeat on this blog...words that rarely come from my mouth). I was crushed emotionally, as this would likely have been my best pay day as a pro so far, as top 5 get paid.

I made it back just in time to catch the finish and to see Jordan finish an incredible 2nd place (with a blazing sub 32 min run) to Olympian Matty Reed, and collect his $2500 check. Reed came home with $5000. Josh rounded out the podium with a 5th place finish and also a paycheck after a crazy fast run as well, where he passed a few to grab the final spot. Congrats to my Riptide men for huge results!! I was so pumped to see them do so well.

Things like this happen, and there's not much you can do about it. Just move onto the next race. It's part of racing, and you just have to accept it.

Here's a podium shot I took... wishing I was up there too. Just serves as more motivation, that's all. I'm getting hungry to be up there :)

Thanks to the Multisport Ministries men who helped sponsor the trip, Bethany Nickless for letting me borrow her car for the weekend, and my boys in Santa Barbara who let me stay at their place.

Here's a few pictures of some great things from the weekend.Los Banos Pool: 50m. In the Santa Barbara harbor lot. Awesome. I used to swim there daily at lunch with a group of guys. I miss the pool, and miss those guys. I got a short pre-race Friday workout in with them, it was great to be back.

SB City College Track: Up there with the new Westmont track, the most scenic track in the world, across from the harbor. I miss doing my 400s there.

Westmont College Track: the new track I wish we had when I ran there.

Malibu Beach Inn: View from our Malibu hotel. Thanks so much to Steve Silverstein and Erik Burkholz for sponsoring the stay and race! I was looking for a floor to crash on, and ended up with a pullout couch and a view like this!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Chicago Tri Race Report

After two recent races that didn't go as well as I had hoped, it's been a bit hard to focus and stay on track this week. The thing about triathlon is, you can't judge an athlete by a single race. Some days things just happen, and the only thing you can do is stay positive and keep after it. Some tell me I am hard on myself, and I do hold myself to high expectations, but I think that's necessary to continue to climb to the top. After coming home from Canada, I had two days in Denver, then packed up the time trial bike and flew to Chicago to race the largest race in the world, with over 10,000 athletes, and visit my cousin Brandyn. The pro race was absolutely stacked, with a few former Olympians, world cup ITU athletes, 6 members of US National teams, the winner of St. Anthony's, and some Ironman 70.3 winners. My goal coming into the race was top 15, after seeing the list. By the end of the bike leg I was in 14th or 15th, and finished 18th on the day, but it turned from a race into an episode of Survivor.
The swim in Lake Michigan was nice. I wore a swimskin for the first time, since it wasn't wetsuit legal, which helped a ton. I learned my lesson at Boulder Peak, being 1 of only 3 pro's not wearing one, and as a weaker swimming compared to these guys, I need the help! They aid you about 30 seconds in a 1500m swim (as tested in the pool a few months ago). I swam well the first 1000m, and was in a great position for me. The last 500m I fought through it, but drifted a bit mentally, as well as literally too far left against the seawall, which made me lose contact and the ability to draft of off my teammate Jordan, and into choppier water as waves were bouncing off the wall. The run out of the lake to transition was almost a half mile I bet, on cement, by far the longest run-out I've done. I passed 4 or 5 people on the bike leg, and entered the run in 15th and feeling strong.
It was about 95 degrees out by 1:30pm when we entered the run, and extremely humid. That's when people started dropping like flies, myself included. My first few steps off the bike didn't feel good already, and unfortunately that never changed. Long story short, if you could get through without heat exhaustion, you'd have a great race. There were about 5 or 7 of us that it hit hard. Cameron Dye went from 1st onto the run, to finish 12th I believe. Olympian Matt Reed ended up 7th. Stephen Hackett ran a 44 minute 10k (or shuffled/walked), and Ethan Brown dropped out in front of me on the run, as I saw him sitting under a tree along the course. People were suffering out there. I was struggling at mile 2 already, just from pushing it hard for the previous hour in the water and on the bike. Running in that heat & humidity isn't usually a problem for me, but I don't test myself much after an all-out swim and bike. I was forced to walk some at about mile 3, my body was shutting down early. I wasn't cramping which was great, so my nutrition has been working, but my head was pounding, and I felt like I was in a furnace, and I was very very weak. At each aid station, I forced myself to drink 4 Gatorades the last 2 miles, or I knew I wouldn't make it across the line. I poured cups of water on my head every mile, but after 10 seconds later my body was screaming for more. I nearly dropped out many times, and debated what was the right thing to do. I ran/walked a 44 minute 10k, 9-10 minutes slower than usual : finish slowly and trash the body, or drop out and come back stronger in training this week. I flew to Chicago, which is a long ways, so knew I needed to finish the race. I stumbled across the line, onto the ground, was hauled to the medical tent on a stretcher chair where they took my vitals. My heart rate and blood pressure was very high, so they made me take an IV in my right arm. I told them I don't need it, since I'm not a huge fan of needles, but they ignored me and said, "yes, you do!" 10 minutes later I was told I should probably go to the hospital, and was asked if I wanted to. I refused of course, knowing I don't have the health insurance for that, and once I got an IV in me I'd be fine. The hospital was not necessary and would be going way too far. I had heat exhaustion, and knew it. Lying there with ice on top of me and the IV in my arm, I didn't really know what to think. I wasn't really mad, but just simply sad. I was having a strong race, and if I could have run my usual 34-35 min 10k run split, that would have put me in 9th or 10th, and 1oth place took home $600. 10th in a race this competitive would have been a great result. Usually I'd be very frustrated, this time I simply was very bummed, probably because I don't really know what I could have done differently to avoid this. I felt hydrated coming into the race. Sometimes there are answers and things you can learn from, other times you simply don't know why it happened and how to prevent it for next time.
I have two more races left for 2010 for sure: Malibu and Pro Nationals in Alabama, and will finish the season strong and with confidence. I have a plan for next season already, a different plan from this year, which I know if I stick to it, I'll reap the rewards. It will take more discipline, training, and planning than ever, but now know what it takes to compete at the top.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Kelowna ITU / Canadian Nationals Race Report & Thoughts on Future Racing

I travelled to Kelowna, British Columbia last weekend for an ITU Pan American Cup race, which also happened to be the Canadian National Championships. This type of race always draws great competition, and some big names like Simon Whitfield, Olympic gold and silver medalist, and Kyle Jones. I finished 39th out of 66 competitors, which was a very disappointing finish for me. Race day was cold and rainy, but the swim remained a non-wetsuit swim. Most of the other competitors brought their wetsuits to the start to warm up in. I, however, didn’t. I decided I should still get in a quick warmup, then stood shivering for about 15 minutes before the gun went off. The swim in beautiful Lake Okanogan was a 2 lap swim, 750m each lap. I started hard, as is necessary in ITU racing, but slowly saw the group string out. I had one of my poorest swims in recent history, unfortunately, which put me back in the pack. On the 6 loop bike course, I was able to group up with about 5 guys, and we slowly caught people to form a chase pack of about 15. The loop had a killer steep hill up the hillside, which sent everyone’s heart rates through the roof. The view up there was awesome, overlooking the city and Lake Okanogan. This type of draft-legal racing is so different from non-drafting, with the surging and pack riding as opposed to the steady burn in non-drafting, which suits me better as a better time trialist. On the last bike lap it started pouring on us again, which made it fun, but a bit more dangerous. Going around the penultimate turn of the course, I rode over a steel manhole, which sent my rear wheel sliding. I thought for sure I was going down and my day was done, but somehow I steered out of it, stayed upright, and fought my way back up to the pack. I picked off a few more athletes on the run, and ran steady the whole way through.

Heading into the race I was confident, yet had some unfortunate events leading up to the race. About 10 days prior, I noticed a sore lump on the back of my right knee. I didn’t think much of it, but by about 6 days later, I knew I needed to see a doctor, as it had grown, swelled, and was making it hard to bend my leg without a ton of pain.I'd woke up for about 5 days unable to walk until it loosened up a bit, so I knew it was getting into my muscular system. I could see the redness spidering it’s way and spreading.. I was forced to take some time off that week from workouts, and especially swimming with the open wound once I had it opened. Any time I’d sit or lie down, it would stiffen up and be painful to walk. Before the trip, I knew I needed to get the growth cut open, and hope it would heal enough by race day. My coach Sean, at a team crit loop bike ride, told me I need to open it up ASAP. He told me to soak it, but some baking soda on it to draw it to the surface, and find the biggest needle I could and go at it. Rather having someone else do it, I looked around the house for a razor blade, called my sister, and asked her if she had any iodine, and planned on heading to her house. Although health insurance wouldn’t cover these needs, since I have the cheapest, most catastrophic plan around with terrible benefits, she convinced me to go to her clinic and let a doc do it, since she was off work that day and couldn’t do it herself at the clinic, and he’d cut me a deal. He fit me in between his patients, took care of it fast. With scissors, scalpels, and lots of squeezing, he sent me sweating and gritting my team while he went at it. It didn’t feel good, but helped me a lot. I had a cyst on my leg, which was confirmed to be a staff infection after testing. I had to keep a gauze packed in the hole for a day, which made if fun walking around the airport and sitting next to people on the plane, wondering why there was a white gauze coming out of my leg. The antibiotics are working well, and all the muscle aches and spreading has stopped. Mmmm appetizing. Hopefully I can blame my poor swim on my lack of swimming that week prior.

I had a fun trip with my girlfriend Amy, and teammate Dan and his wife. We drove to Penticton beach where Ironman Canada is, went to a winery, and relaxed. Those were the highlights. I tried my best to stay positive after the race, but was overwhelmed with frustration from the poor race performance and thus justifying the trip, unexpected rental car fees and feeling very deceived, airline bike fees, etc. I had a lot of time to think about the trip, and ITU racing in general. Right now, ITU racing may not make sense for me. My heart is in it, and everyone wants to race Olympic-style racing. The Olympics are everyone’s dream, but right now I simply cannot swim at the level needed to finish at the top in draft-legal racing, despite my improved swim. Swimming 25,000m a week is a lot, but not enough for me. If I commit to ITU racing, I will be swimming 40-50,000m a week this winter. I also cannot fully take advantage of my bike fitness without a time trial format, as ITU races are draft-legal. It’s also very expensive to race ITU races, since most are in Canada and Central and South America. It’s hard to win prize money as well, since they pay top 10 usually and without coming out with the lead swim pack, it’s almost impossible. Next season, I’ll likely focus on domestic Olympic non-draft racing, and possible a few Ironman 70.3 races. Racing the biggest races in the world like Chicago, still allow me to race the best in the world and continue chasing my goal of being competitive with those at the top, yet make it more doable as pros can usually get free home-stays at these races, where no rental car or hotel is needed. That being said… I am currently seeking sponsors for 2011. I have a ‘sponsorship guide’ I’ve created with all the info; contact if you, your company, or anyone you know may be interested. Spread the word! With two days back at home, I’m now off to Chicago for the biggest race in the world. Pro’s go off at noon. I hear it’s a cool environment, with 11,000 people cheering along the streets. Should be fun. Thanks for all your support!


Racing Weight....shhhhh

I ordered the book Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald recently. Weight is an issue that many athletes refuse to discuss. They’re afraid of leading someone down the dark path of obsession, which is a valid concern, which could ultimately lead to an eating disorder, which we never want to see. However, (hopefully) most of us athletes are smart enough to take a common sense approach to it, understand the importance of maintaining nutrition, the right mental mindset, and know what a healthy weight is.
I asked two-time defending Ironman world champion Craig Alexander what his thoughts on racing weight were. “Do you pay attention to it? How does being thinner help your running? Does it hurt your swimming? If I know it helps my running, can I know if it will hurt my swimming?” This is the struggle with the balance of triathlon. Everyone has different thoughts on it, partially because I believe everyone’s bodies are very different. Some need the extra weight and strength, while to others it feels like they’re racing with ankle weights on. Alexander was answering my questions in front of a large audience, and as I thought he would, he kind of avoided the issue with a few other comments, and then said our bodies tend to adjust to a good weight naturally. He may think that, but I think that’s not the case with everyone. I know it’s not. I think that’s the generic answer that many top athletes have, rightfully so. Heck, if the world champion says skinny is better, I guarantee it would cause many to panic and start checking the scales every morning. The last thing he wants is to cause people to become insecure and obsess to the point where it’s unhealthy. Peter Reid of Canada, also a former Ironman world champion, was more open about his thoughts on weight, however. He quoted that he used to go to bed so hungry it would almost make him sick. He was scared to take an extra bite. He obsessed with his weight, since he knew he needed to stay thin to compete at the top. Reid, however, may have taken it a little too far, but maybe not. After all, he was the best in the world.
My teammates often discuss this issue with me. Most of them don’t agree with me on the “skinny is better” theory. I understand this. For one, they’ve raced very well at their current weight. Some feel the need to gain a few pounds, to stay strong enough for the swim especially. We’ve compared the Body Mass Index (BMI) of other top pros, and often many have a higher BMI than myself. As I said, I believe everyone is unique. There is clearly a point where too thin will hurt you, and make you weak. Personally, I’m still trying to figure out my triathlon race weight. I know what my ideal running weight is: 150 lbs. I’m 6’3”, and I know that is very thin. But, all I have to go by is experience. I tried very hard as a college runner. I worked hard! However, I tried to race 8k cross country at 165 lbs for 2 years. I was a marginal 28 minute 8k runner. Nothing special at all. After working in Missouri for a summer, sweating all day every day in 100+ degree heat, unknowingly I lost about 13 lbs. I returned to Colorado, and felt incredible running. I couldn’t figure out why. I hopped on the scale for the first time in forever, and realized how much my weight had changed. That next season, I committed to staying at 152 lbs or so. I cut out all cheeses and salad dressings from my diet, replaced this with fruit on salads, and drank more water and less juice/Gatorade for about 8 months. I also cut my calorie intake a fair amount, and cut out late-night binge snacking. My problem with Craig Alexander’s theory, is that WE put the food in our mounts. If our bodies adjust naturally to the correct weight, what does that say about how much we eat? If I eat well versus terribly, a lot versus a little, clearly that will affect my weight. By body will adjust based on what I put in it. It’s a simple equation. Calories taken in = calories expended = no weight gain nor loss.
On the same exact training, I ran over 2 minutes faster in the 8k my senior year. The ONLY thing I have to account for it is weight loss. Because of my experience, I can’t help but subscribe to the ‘lighter is better’ theory, for runners. Fitzgerald, in Racing Weight, acknowledges that in running, athletes will benefit more from staying thin than in other sports, but that it also is beneficial in rowing, swimming, and cycling. I don’t necessarily agree with him, especially in swimming.
When I get very thin, I feel weak. Part of what I left out, was that my senior year of college, my 400m and 800m track times suffered from, I believe, from being too thin for middle distance running. It helps in long distance, but losing strength hurts speed. This brings me back to triathlon. Which is better? A lighter, a faster runner? Or a bigger, stronger swimmer? Maybe it’s possible to become faster in the water while thinner as well? And what about cycling? It’s a power-to-weight ratio here too. Being thin helps you climb, but being bigger helps you sprint. What about the time trial? Andy Schlek in the Tour de France took 2nd overall. He looks disgustingly thin. He can climb, but he can’t sprint. Isn’t he too thin? I sure wouldn’t recommend anyone getting to the point he’s at…but maybe I’m wrong.
There are always outliers and those who throw a wrench in any theory. The Chris Solinsky argument is definitely one that throws a wrench in mine. Chris recently set the American 10k record, and became the first sub 27-minute runner in US history. Solinsky is clearly the heaviest man in his races. He races on strength, at I believe 165 lbs, and he’s well shorter than I. How he can run that fast in his body, I don’t know. I guess this shows how unique we all our. There may not be any right answer for everyone, and this discussion should be approached on a case by case basis.

I wish I had all the answers for triathletes, but I don’t. I do have an answer for me if I was only a runner, but I'm not. I may try to drop weight, and I may try to gain it. I don’t know yet. I may factor in more weight training and try to maintain where I’m at now, around 160 lbs. Experimenting can be risky, but seems to be the only way of finding out, for me at least. The one thing I know, is that I am stable enough to discuss this, and even experiment with this to a small degree. Some are not. They will obsess too much, and they will take it too far and compromise health and nutrition, which is the dumbest thing they could do as athletes. Staying healthy is the most important aspect of endurance sports success, but there are still a few places to go without those boundaries. The discussion continues…

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Product Review time! Introducing TRISLIDE & TRISWIM

I was asked to do a product review of SBR Sports, Inc. products TRISLIDE and TRISWIM from Tim Aukshunas. Tim was a friend of mine from Santa Barbara who ran for UCSB while I ran for the neighboring college Westmont across town. He now continues to run (marathons) and works for SBR Sports, Inc.
I had seen TRISLIDE at running stores and at tons of races, as triathletes use the anti-chafing spray on race day to avoid rubbing and blisters, as well as to simply make their skin slippery so the wetsuit slides right off. I usually don't mind a bit of chafing, since I'm out on the course for under 2 hours usually, but if you're doing an Ironman I can see how you'd definitely want to avoid chafing altogether. However, I do often race back to back weeks, and my first few races of 2010 left me with a cut on the right side of my neck from chafing caused by my wetsuit, since I always breath to the right in open water races. It's not a big deal to me, and heals quickly, but does get annoying if it's not healed by the next race. I sprayed TRISLIDE all over my neck the next race, and literally had zero chafing! Sweet.
I first heard about TRISLIDE a year ago from one of the athletes I coach, Sean Harwin. He loves the stuff, and uses it under his wetsuit as well as on his heels to prevent chaffing from his shoes. Triathletes usually don't (and should never!!!) wear socks in races, and it's a waste of valuable time in transition 1, and without socks can come chafing on the feet from both cycling and running shoes. TRISLIDE is great for that as well on the feet. I first tried out TRISLIDE at the Boulder Reservoir Stroke & Stride race a month ago, at a Thursday night swim & run event we do just for training, often as our 2nd or 3rd workout for the day which is always fun and painful. Previously, I'd used Sport Shield and Body Glide. Body Glide may be the most popular product right now, and it comes in a deodorant type stick. For me, it's just not slippery enough, plain and simple, and that's my #1 concern, although most triathletes probably care more about the chafing issue. It may do the job with chafing, but it's just not slick enough to help the wetsuit slide right off your skin in transition. So..why not just use 1 product that does both! This is my first season racing as a professional triathlete, and I've definitely learned the importance of fast transitions. When wetsuits stick to your body and you just can't get it all the way off your heel or foot quickly, that's no good at all. I've found Sport Shield to be the slipperiest of the 3 products I've used and is great for this also. It comes in a roll-on stick. TRISLIDE is very close to Sport Shield in the 'slippery-factor', but not quite as slick. It's way more slippery than Body Glide, and I haven't become a big fan of Body Glide, and always wonder why people use it over other products. The spray can TRISLIDE comes in is super convenient and easier to apply than the other two. I often find the Sport Shield leaking in my bag, and somehow it always gets on my goggles leaving a filmy residue. TRISLIDE also can't melt, like Body Glide can, and does. There's no goey mess to deal with.. I learned this at the CapTex Tri in Austin, TX. My cell phone melted in my race bag it was so hot, and the TRISLIDE was nice in the spray can. Body Glide would have been a nice mess all over the place.
Another nice use of TRISLIDE, I've found, is it helps get your skin slick for pre-race self massage. I always grease up my legs prior to putting on the wetsuit, and do a quick 3 minute self massage of my legs to get the blood flowing. You can't really do this with Body Glide, and Sport Stick is nice, although actually is a bit too slippery in this case to dig out the muscles just a bit. Again, the ability to spray on TRISLIDE is nice here. It also makes it very easy to get the wetsuit to slide ALL THE WAY ON. Getting the arms and shoulders of the wetsuit in the right spot is crucial, because if you don't you'll feel extra drag and tension from it while racing, and who wants more resistance in the swim from improper wetsuit fitting..

TRISWIM shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and lotion are other products I tested. My elite triathlon team swims at the YMCA daily throughout the week, with free shampoo/conditioner in the showers, which is almost always my #1 priority: cost. As a guy who probably should spend more time doing my hair (now that I have a girlfriend), I really don't care too much about what shampoo I use to be completely honest. Although I will say (and my girlfriend will too, as she points it out), my skin gets very chalky and white when I use the stuff at the YMCA. Good thing they have free lotion there too :). However, honestly the TRISWIM lotion keeps it moisturized a lot longer than the cheap free stuff at the Y. The TRISWIM shampoo and body wash definitely gets the chlorine out of hair better, leaving it not near as stringy feeling, as well as moisturizes the skin more. I really like the stuff, and you can definitely tell the difference from the cheap stuff at the YMCA. Go check it out at local running and triathlon shops all over, as well as www.sbrsportsinc.com. It's a great company that supports the triathlon community, and supports the Challenged Athletes Foundation as well!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Capital of Texas Triathlon: race recap

I have an hour to kill at the Austin airport before my flight, so I figure I’ll write a race recap to kill some time. A few months ago I decided to sign up for the CapTexTri in Austin, TX and booked a flight as I had a free ticket on Frontier through reward miles. The race crept up on me fast. I finished 4th overall and was the 1st amateur to cross the line, so I hopefully should be able to earn my pro license as it was one of the few qualifier races around the nation where the top 3 in the amateur field can qualify.

The goals of the day were to earn my pro license and to avoid muscle cramping on the run. A year ago I thought this would never be possible, but I’ve worked very hard for over a year and a half for this and slowly I’ve realized it’s well within reach if I keep chasing it.

The day before the race, when I checked in I realized I had been put in the wrong wave, with the 25-29 year olds starting at 8:30 instead of the open invitational division at 7am. I went back to the race expo and luckily I got it changed with ease. While I checked in, the race director asked me if I’d like to be interviewed on Slowtwitch.com by Tim Carlson. Slowtwitch is the #1 triathlon website in the country. It’s huge. ESPN.com is to all sports as Slowtwitch is to triathlon. It was pretty random and of course unexpected, but I said yes and thought being on Slowtwitch would be pretty neat. While in my cubicle last year during work I would listen to triathlon podcasts, CompetiorRadio.com shows, and visit Slowtwich daily...while working hard of course. There’s only a few new stories on the site each week, but I’d always read the articles.

I thought to myself, ‘now I've gotta to win this thing, don’t I? I don’t want to look like a fool, haha.’ Plus, they probably won’t write the article unless I win. I found myself daydreaming a bit and envisioned a victory and a front page headline on Slowtwitch with a big finish line photo, in addition to the pro license, and a ton of joy. How cool would that be…Well, the victory didn’t happen but that’s ok. Hopefully some day, right?. I’m not sure if the article will come out or not. From a reporter’s view, there’s not much of a reason to write the article if I didn’t win the race, really. 4th place is 4th, not 1st! I was told the article wouldn’t be with the main results, but would come out later in the week in a special feature section. We shall see. Back to the race..

I didn’t really know who was in the race, and found out 3 pros (James Bales, Nathan White, and Nicholas Sterghos- Bales & Sterghos recently raced my teammate Jordan at the Ixtapa, Mexico ITU race last week, & White was supposed to as well but missed a flight) had signed up, along with a few good locals. I thought winning was a good possibility but of course would be a challenge. I was going to give it a shot.

The swim was very long, which I knew, and the race director today announced the swim course was 350m long due to a release of water into the lake and movement of the buoys. No wonder I swam 24 minutes! The leader out of the water was a young gun at age 20 with the name Yoho on his back. I had never heard of him, but saw in a hurry he was a stellar swimmer! He usually swims an 18:30, and came out in the mid 22’s. I believe he swims in college, and sure was impressive! He told me he too came to try to earn his pro license. Yoho ended up 5th with a great finish.

I swam with the lead pack and tried to stay relaxed. Unfortunately I never really felt well at all nor found my rhythm. The race was in Lake Austin (which is really the Colorado River), which was mostly smooth and obstacle free other than a few bridge posts, but I ran my arm and leg into a huge sharp rock about halfway through the swim, which I didn’t see until the last second when the damage was already done. It through off my focus a bit, but things like that are part of racing. My friend Beaux from Austin actually told me about rocks out there the day before. I’m sure I got unlucky as I was swimming a bit left, and didn’t hear about anyone else hitting it, though I’m sure with 3000 people in the two races, several others did as well. I was feeling it in my arm a bit, but tried to stay focused on just getting to shore and ignoring the distraction.

I was out of the water in about 10th, in pretty poor position and way further back than I expected to be.

The bike course consisted of 4 loops through downtown, with some up hills and downs, 6.2 miles each loop. I’ve rarely felt as poorly physically as I did in those first 2 loops for some reason. My legs were screaming, I couldn’t hammer at all, I was sweating like crazy; just plain struggling physically and thinking to myself, I have come a long ways and this is going to be a very long day. Finally by the 3rd loop my legs started to come alive and I tried to change my mindset and regain focus and positive thinking. I don’t believe anyone passed me on the bike, but I didn’t think I had passed anyone either. By the 3rd loop the age group athletes were out on the course, and I had no idea which lap anyone I passed was on or what place I was in. It was constant weaving around people, though passing people got me motivated to push harder…even if they were elderly folks J. I tried to use it as motivation and not frustration. I took 4 salt tablets, a PowerGel, downed a bunch of my salty drink mix in hopes that may help some. On the laps, I checked my clock splits and knew I had outsplit my first 2 laps by about a minute and a half on my 2nd two laps, so I definitely was feeling better by the end of the bike. In transition, I somehow slammed my bike into the ground (twice) while running it to the rack. I was cringing thinking about my race wheels hitting the ground like that! Not good at all. The run into transition was on a long, hard and rocky dirt field. I guess I need to practice running with my bike more J.

The run course was 6.8 miles, not 10k, according to someone I talked to who raced with their GPS, also long like the swim (and thus the winning time was 2:03 where it would have been about 1:56 or so). I ran steady, started out conservative with the heat, picked off a few people the first loop, and then caught up to the stud swimmer Yoho and decided to sit on his shoulder for the last 2 miles, exactly like I had done with Chris Berg at Malibu last year. I passed him a few times, thought about taking off to try to catch Sterghos who was about 25 seconds ahead, but was fearful of muscle cramps since it was very hot (about 95 degrees) by then and no shade on the run. So, I decided to tuck back on his shoulder and just sit there. Honestly, I simply didn’t care enough and felt too terrible on the day to really go for it, though truthfully my legs had it in me. I knew there were a few pros in the race and realized I actually was still up near the front, and probably the top amateur still. I got complacent and told myself I felt too terrible early on in the race, and just wanted to outkick this young gun, which I knew I would easily do if I didn’t cramp up. Though kinda embarrassing and not wanting to be the guy sprinting the last 50 meters that everyone sees and says “wow he had way too much left in the tank”, I waited til 75m til the finish, then went on by to get him by 6 seconds. I was very, very glad to be done with that race!

That’s one thing about triathlon, your training often takes you through it, even if you’re not feeling the best. I was hoping to have a bit of a better race truthfully, but am pleased I have the opportunity to step up and race at the professional level in the future.

A special thank you needs to go to Erik Pace Birkholz who I met in California and has supported me and believed in me since day one, and for financially sponsoring me and this race trip. Also thanks to Clair & Alfred Mayo for letting me hang out and crash at their house overnight. Finishing as the top amateur on a day like that is encouraging to me and shows the level I can compete at when things go well, and I am pleased I made the trip. I plan on applying for my pro license soon, and focusing now on getting my run strength back for Pro Nationals in September and hopefully a few other draft-legal and non-drafting races, so I’ll likely switch my schedule around some the rest of the season assuming all goes according to plan.

A few highlights of the weekend were being able to meet up with one of my best friends from Santa Barbara, Bethany Nickless. She coaches track now at UCSB and I was able to watch part of the NCAA Regional track meet on Friday at UT with her. Also, I got to know Beaux Benson well, a friend from Multisport Ministries who I’d only talked to on the internet prior. Beaux was in a horrible cycling accident and comatose for weeks last year. He had a 10% chance of coming out of the coma. We prayed for him daily, God spared his life, and today he has recovered fully and has an amazing story of how God is far from being done with him yet. Things like this are the most important things of life. They put things in perspective, and confirm that these types of relationships are what life is truly about and what is most important, not personal glory, race results, or selfish pursuits.

Thanks for reading & for all your support.


Click Here for a local newspaper recap of the race. Here's a few photos from a news website before the race:

Capital of Texas Triathlon
May 31, 2010


Ryan Borger of Denver pauses for the National Anthem.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Littlefoot Triathlon race recap

Two weeks ago our team, or should I say mostly race director Amy Dannwolf, our female pro on the team, put on the Littlefoot Triathlon at Bear Creek park. She did an awesome job and it people had a ton of fun at the race. It was a sprint distance race with a small pro prize purse, so it brought about 15 Colorado pros. It’s crazy that a small 200 person race will bring quality athletes like this. Only near Boulder I suppose, would this happen. Our elite race took place after the age group race, which was nice as it was a bit chilly out still and the water temp was 52 degrees! It had snowed earlier in the week, and double swim caps were necessary for sure. One age group athlete raced in just board shorts, and on my warm-up bike spin I found him standing and shaking in the grass along side the course, staring at the ground… hypothermia. That’s one gutsy dude. It reminded me of my first triathlon. In 2000, my brother and I signed up for a sprint race in Cheyenne Mountain and raced in our swim team speedos in 50 degree water. That’s the only race I’ve beaten my brother in, only because he literally froze and didn’t finish…and my sister’s stellar Performance mountain bike that I rode came through for me.

My father helped us out as the motorcycle driver carrying the USAT referee on the back, so it was cool to give my dad some thumbs up’s while racing and riding next to him, although he said he didn’t see me at all during the race. He was probably too focused on the road or didn’t recognize me in the aero helmet and racing topless without a tri jersey. Our team ITU uniforms come in a few weeks, so I had to sport my trademark old school style one last time. Mostly though, I have a very hard time breathing on the run in tight tri tops, and find it much more comfortable.

I finished 5th out of about 12 or 15 pros, and a total of 20 in our elite wave, and was pleased with the result. On the swim, Branden Rakita, a very good Xterra pro and ex-Riptide team member led out of the water by about 15 seconds, while a group of 5 of us came out all together close behind, including teammates Matt Balzer, Jordan Jones, and Dan Mackenzie. Forgoing my swim warm-up after swimming about 10 seconds out into the lake, I assumed it best to stay warm until the gun goes off. The bike was steady and I stayed in about 4th or 5th place the whole ride, trading places often with Matt Balzer and James Hadley, a pro from Great Britain who trains in Boulder, until Matt pulled away from us a bit on the second loop.

With my recent calf injury, my run is where I was worried most. I’ve never been more confident in my swim than my run, ever. I am a stronger swimmer than in the past, and my run volume has been pretty low lately unfortunately. I got through it with no cramps and little pain, passed James Hadley, and got passed by my coach for the past 2 seasons & now teammate Josh Merrick, who came from behind out of the water to claim 3rd place with his blazing run. Jordan continued his great season and took 1st, Rakita 2nd, Josh 3rd, Joe McDaniel 4th, myself 5th, and Dan & James Hadley just behind in 5th and 6th.

It was a decent day at the race. One surprise for me was to see some very stellar Ironman athletes further back. Brad Seng of team Sport Beans and Justin Daerr, who was 3rd at Challenge Wanaka Iron distance race, and who’s PR is about 8:45, were behind our front group. I had assumed with a base volume like those guys do in training, they’d be able to crush a sprint race. However, it shows how different these types of racing really are.

It was fun having my parents, my girlfriend Amy, and my sister and my lovely little niece and nephew there cheering me on, as they don’t get to see me race much.

Last weekend at the Columbia Triathlon in Maryland, my teammate Dan Mackenzie had a great race to take 3rd place behind young gun uber-cyclist Andrew Yoder and Tim O’Donnell, the reigning ITU long course world champion. Dan brought home $2500 and James Hadley also won $500 that day, so I know in the future I can be in the money range as I finished just ahead of the two at Littlefoot, though I must acknowledge Dan had a better race at Columbia than Littlefoot for sure and is just starting to break through this year. Congrats to Dan for a huge race and the paycheck!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Maintaining Balance & Positive Thinking

In any pursuit toward an end goal, I think it'd be a heck of a lot easier to focus and motivate oneself if there was a certain and direct positive relationship between time spent/effort and end goal success. If 20 hours of training equaled an average Olympic distance race time of 2:05, and 30 hours equaled a 1:58, etc.. it would favor those most disciplined, which would be pretty nice in a way. If I was told training 60 hours a week would get me to the top, of course I'd put in the 60 hours. Not even a question. If this was the case, however, it also could make life more stressful and frustrating when things got in the way of those efforts or hours put forward toward the effort, like injuries, work, family, etc. since you'd know exactly what you're missing out on.
Triathlon is a sport where a lot is still unknown. I've talked to several people about this last week, including my teammates. When I trained with '05 Ironman champ Faris Al Sultan from Germany before his race in Kona last October, I remember cooling down after a track workout talking about this. Faris, one of the best in the world and one who has been in the sport since his youth, believes we still don't really know the best way to train. Everyone tries things, puts in the hours, but we often don't know if we'd race better with more training or less. We simply train, go along with our best guesses, and race. I think that is something just to accept, to experiment with on an individual basis, use a ton of common sense (& some research) and see if we can narrow anything down and find out how our bodies respond to different types of training.

I have made it a goal to stay positive, and think about these things at times like the past few months when things have gotten in the way of my training, especially how training less may actually help us perform better. Last summer I was pretty overtrained and didn't feel strong on a single training run the last 3 months of the season. I would push through up to 18 miles on Sundays in the hills of Santa Barbara, struggling much of the way. So, with my run volume forced to be down the past 3-4 months due to injuries and sickness, I'm trying to stay confident that some rest is good. I have only been able to run 3 times since Mazatlan due to a calf injury that simply won't go away yet. In the back of my mind, I know my run volume has been pretty poor, and that I do need much more volume in training, but if only negatives creep into our minds, there is nothing positive that can come from it. It hasn't always been easy to stay positive, but it's a goal I have. It's important to turn the negative around and seek out the positive. For example, my swim has gotten stronger due to the running injury. We often dwell on the negative and see past anything positive, which will eventually break our confidence down more and more. Obviously we'd all wish to stay healthy, since many of us have sacrificed a lot to be able to train, and when we aren't able to train as we wish, it becomes stressful since we know how much we've sacrificed. We don't want to perform poorly and hear from the critics. Injuries and sickness are part of life. If we're smart about preventing them, then we've done a good job, and when they come, it's important to simply deal with them, stay positive, and keep on keepin' on in the other things we're still able to do.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mazatlan Pan Am ITU continental cup : Race Report

Most importantly it was a good day for my Riptide teammates. Jordan finished 11th overall to earn ITU points, the first time a Riptide athlete has done that in a while. He had a great run. Dan and Matt followed Jordan a little bit further down the pack, also decent performances, yet we all know they have more in them as well. The 3 of them were able to get in the same bike pack, which I just missed by about 20 seconds if I could have swam with more fury. Amy also finished her first ITU race. Cyrus barely missed a bike pack and had to ride solo for a while and unfortunately was lapped out. He'll be back for the next race and will be able to get in a pack.

My first ITU race was a lot of fun, even considering my horrid & painful run leg, which consisted of bad quad cramps forcing me to stop often, trying to shuffle to the finish. I struggled to run a 38:12 10k, so a good 4+ minutes slow. I had to take 3 days off of running after the race, as my legs were still a painful mess, but am now ready to get back at it. That being said, I was able to enjoy an hour long swim to an island and back to our beachfront hotel with Dan, and enjoy the hot tubs.
I learned a lot from the experience, and it was awesome to be part of a big international race. At the day's end, I finished a disappointing 40th place out of 52. It was a stacked field with various Olmpians (Shoemaker, Serrano, Plata), and countries represented included the USA, Mexico, Brazil, Egypt, & Israel.

I knew coming into the race that my fitness was not where I had hoped it to be, due to up and down training due to 2 bouts of sickness, a slight hamstring strain, but mostly other life happenings and distractions, which are all part of life and must be dealt with. I put my doubts aside and focused on giving 110% effort and nothing less, and I knew my swim fitness was still better than it's ever been so had confidence in the swim. For ITU racing, the swim is everything..well kinda. If you can't swim fast, you have no chance in ITU racing since the bike leg is draft legal, and a slow swim will leave you alone and likely to get lapped out of the race on the bike.

Race recap: We lined up on the beach for the 2 lap swim start. It was an awesome environment. A TV helicopter over the water covering the swim. The announcers introduced us one by one as we took our starting spots. There were quite a few locals watching as they held a local race prior to ours, which started at 11:30am. My first 500m of the swim hurt me, as I was not near aggressive enough, and I struggled to get around a few slower swimmers I was trapped behind. I had planned for a crazy start, but I still didn't get out quick enough. I had a ton of trouble trying to get around people, and got my head fully palmed and dunked under by someone, right before getting my leg pulled on, which got me a bit frustrated. It's like slapping people in a washing machine and getting pulled for the first 400m or so. This is racing, and it's important to stay calm and focused. I tried to push the 2nd 750m swim loop harder than the first, struggled with a crazy chest cramp, but made sure I had my eyes on the guys right with me so I had a group to work with on the bike. I exited the water feeling too fresh. Part of it was coming to sea level from altitude, which felt great, and part of it was my swim fitness. I was encouraged to feel fairly fresh out of the water. Yet at the same time, this meant I hadn't left enough in the water.

I sprinted to transition, grabbed my bike, and tried to TT my way up to the large pack, which I just missed by 18-20 seconds. Problem is often in ITU racing, and in this case, this 20 seconds meant a finishing time of 2-3 minutes slower, since that huge bike group biked a 1:01 and our smaller group clocked a 1:03. Again, lessons learned. The swim is what it's all about. I waited for a few miles until I slipped my feet in my shoes, as I knew I needed all the speed I could maintain and to give it my all to try to catch the group. After spending myself quite a bit, I realized the group was gone, and I wouldn't make up the time as I was riding into a crazy headwind as well. The bike course was 6 out and back loops, and we averaged about 7-8 mph slower on the way out compared to the way back to transition, to give you an idea of the wind. I ended up joining up with my friend Henry Hagenbuch (USA, All-American steeplechaser for UCLA) who was just behind me, and we worked together to catch Americans Jimmy Archer, Sean Jefferson (ex-pro miler for the Oregon Track Club), Victor Plata (2004 Olympian), 2 Mexican athletes, and another rider. Our group worked together for the entire bike. Henry and I did a lot of work for our group. Draft-legal racing is a ton of fun as you still have to hammer, but get breaks here and there when on someone's wheel. Still hard, but not the same effort as TT'ing for 100% of the time. I got to use my Spanish a lot and often yelled at the Mexicans to do their share of the work, who were found slouching in the back here and there.
I came off the bike with super-runners Henry and Jefferson, cramped badly about a half mile into the 3 lap 10k, and was forced to hobble a bit. My legs simply wouldn't let me run, so I had no option but to try to rub it out, stop and stretch, and try again. This was the trend on the run. Jimmy Archer and I shared similar experiences, as we passed each other often, and then cramped often. The run course was crazy hot, and I had only taken 2 salt tablets on the bike. They had about 6 aid stations per lap, with bags of water you bite into to break open. Before that race I thought that seemed crazy, but the last lap I took water at every station to pour on myself as I was really overheating.
Although it was not the perfect race, I am happy to finish my first ITU race and excited to take the lessons learned into the next race. I will continue to attempt to figure out my cramping issues, and plan on experimenting more with salt, nutrition and diet, and am planning on getting a Vo2 max test, sweat rate test, and other tests done to see if I can narrow things down a bit more. I've talked to a few people about it and have gotten some great recommendations. I think a big part of my muscle cramping is the need for more runs off the bike, and the need for that muscle memory. I am adding more brick workouts to my training, and am confident that is a great place to start.
Thanks for reading, and thanks for your support.

Here are a few pictures from the weekend. Dan's wife Beth took some great race shots, thanks Beth!