Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Some things are important, other things are more important: Marriage, Triathlon, Injuries, & Life

The past three weeks have been the most monumental weeks of my life, to date…by far. A heel injury from the Miami race on March 20 left me limping, frustrated and very discouraged, but looking back I think it came at the right time, just in time to teach me an important lesson and focus on what matters most.

On April 2nd I married the most incredible woman that exists. I was obviously overwhelmed with excitement leading up to the big day, had a very hard time sleeping and thinking about anything else the week of, yet at the same time during the few weeks prior, my mind was still consumed with triathlon. Although I knew Amy wanted to, we weren’t going to take a honeymoon, mostly because of money but also because I didn’t want my training to suffer. We were going to go up to the mountains for a day or two instead to enjoy a weekend away, but nothing extravagant. It was a pretty selfish standpoint on my part, knowing the Amy wanted to go somewhere memorable but knew she would support what I wanted to do. After training my butt off the past five months I did not want to lose what I had gained, nor could afford to spend big bucks on a wild vacation. Truth of the matter is that a lot of it had to do with pressure to perform well this year, and time off or a cutback in training may not help that. Quitting my accounting job and pursuing my nearly unpaid life of a rookie pro triathlete while trying to grow a coaching business, naturally put pressure on me heading into marriage. This is the year I need to do well, very very well, I thought to myself. It’s the year I’ve hired a coach, and the year I’m training more than ever…which really means more than the past two years since I’ve still relatively new to the sport. I put the pressure on myself, and everyone has been supportive of the pursuit, especially Amy, so I cannot blame anyone for that.

I trained long and hard the past five months, raced in Miami in late March and came home with mixed feelings and not quite the result I had hoped for. At the same time, my run had improved a lot and my coach Melissa Mantak’s training plan was working. She continues to remind me the top pros did not rise to the top overnight. It’s simply not possible in this sport, and takes time. I took two days off running post-Miami, and attempted to run on the third day. I made it 20 minutes and was forced to hobble, stop, and walk back a few miles to the car. My heel was killing me. I thought it was a simple heel bone bruise from racing in road flats on concrete, so took a few more days off running and was certain it would heel. Fast forward two weeks - I was limping around just walking and the area around my achilles tendon was very swollen. I then realized this was more serious than I thought, and realized I needed to take some time to focus on healing it.

Wedding week was upon me, and honestly my mind was not on training. I skipped workouts, had a ton to do, friends came into town, and my training was sliding a bit for the first time in a half a year. With the injury and wedding events, it was easy to justify. A few weeks prior, I committed to not let the wedding events alter my training much, yet reality hit with wedding planning, running around town, relatives and friends arriving…and oh yeah, I’m injured. Honestly though, the biggest thing that affected it was actually my discouragement and lack of motivation. It’s amazing how motivation can change with an injury, and thinking about triathlon while being injured is no fun. So, that led me to not want to think about it at all, skip more swim and bike workouts than I should have, and pour my energy into the excitement of getting married. As excited as I was, this was very easy to do, and looking back, I’m very glad; this was a good thing. This was a necessary thing! Marriage only comes once in a lifetime, for me at least, and unfortunately not for all. It is more important than anything else, such as training, and Amy deserves my full attention. Getting hyped up all week on getting married was incredibly fun.

Thanks to my sister and the generosity of the folks at Denver Physical Therapy, I was able to get in two days before the wedding to have my injury assessed. At that point I was thinking it was Achilles tendonitis, since it was a lingering injury that was worsening as time went on. The doc was a bit perplexed, as the pain was not coming from my Achilles nor the typical spot of the heel for the most common bone bruise. Rather, it was stemming from deep in the calcaneus bone area, and on both sides of the foot. So, it was likely either a bruise in a rare spot, or a fracture of some sort. Stress fractures usually come on gradually, and this injury happened from the race, which was a good sign as an acute injury means take time to get it healed and get back to work, rather than having to adjust a training load and plan in the case of an overuse injury. The doctor performed dry needling on my right calf. He admitted it would likely help more in the case of Achilles tendonitis, but it was worth a shot. Ouch!!… sticking 15 needles in and out of the calf, going as deep as the bone, doesn’t exactly feel nice. However, the treatment can work and that’s all that matters. I was shocked to be so sore from it, and hobbled around for two days thinking, this will be fun to walk down the aisle like this :)

The wedding was incredible. We had over 250 people join us for the day, and great friends came from all over, including the Westmont crew from California, Multisport Ministries guys from various states, 20 relatives from Michigan, and the locals including my best friends from high school and people like my coach Melissa and her husband Rob, who I’m just getting to know well but value our relationships so much already. Somehow I was still able to dance a bit with a swollen foot, which I didn’t even think about the whole evening…other than when coach Melissa whispered “how’s your foot feeling” during dinner :).

I’m on my way back from a week in Hawaii after an amazing honeymoon. Long story short, close family friends offered to let us stay in their condo on a beach in Kihei, Maui, and plane tickets were gifted to us in the wedding. Now, how can you turn that down? You can’t! I’m so thankful and grateful for generous people in my life. I ran 35 minutes today, in my first run in three weeks. I felt slow, a bit out of shape, but looking back maybe the injury had a purpose - to tell me to relax, focus on my wife since she more than deserves it, and maintain a healthy balance in life. I had imagined my honeymoon a time where I could log 55 miles a week at sea level in beautiful weather, but that was not to be. Funny how the injury finally healed enough the last day of the trip to run. Was God trying to tell me something? Maybe. I got in a few pool swims and 3 bike rides on a rented bike, but no structured training and an incredible time with my wife was what the week was about. Life is about more than triathlon, more than one’s job, hobby, career, etc. and sometimes it’s easy to forget about that.

I’m ready to get back to the swing of things, back to the training routine, and find out what married life is all about. I’ll have to see how fitness comes along the next month and decide if I am ready to race in New Orleans and Memphis in mid May. I met Amy just over 1 year ago, and now I’ve got a ring on my finger - pretty amazing how God can bless us just like that, completely unexpected. Some friends were surprised to hear I was getting married so soon after meeting Amy, and shared their thoughts on marriage with me. I love my friends to death, and love even more how we can share thoughts even when they differ. Some people think you should live together, travel the world together, and share finances together before you even think of getting married. I can see their reasoning, but don’t think it necessary. Others are shocked to hear Amy and I both committed long ago to remain abstinent until marriage. Although we chose this, which was definitely not easy, it’s cool to see most people respect it and acknowledge it’s cool to see two people follow through with it after 26 or 27 long years. These differences don’t get in the way of our friendships, they may even strengthen then. What really matters is how I feel about Amy, and not what anyone else says or thinks, or if they agree with my decisions and opinions or not; that we are right for each other and committed for life, and that we have friendships with people we can talk openly about this stuff with. Life is about living with people, similar AND different to yourself, respecting others opinions but yet ultimately following your own convictions - this is what matters.

I wanted to share a few pictures and highlights from the past few weeks, as well as my bike trek from the beach at sea level to the top of the Haleakala Crater at over 10,000ft elevation, an epic and memorable climb! The ride took about 3:20 minutes, and I was pretty taxed by the top after going out a bit too hard the first hour, not fully aware of the difference between a regular 3 hour ride vs. a 3 hour ride of constant climbing on a rented bike. *(I'll be writing a separate blog entry/post for the Multisport Ministries monthly newsletter on the trek up Haleakala, with pictures of the whole progression from beach to the top).

Thanks for tuning in!


The Kihei Aquatic Center, 25yd x 50m pool, & FREE to the public!

Swim workouts with the sea turtles!

I've worn my Powerbar socks at every formal occasion since 7th grade, why stop now? Years later they're a sponsor...irony or karma?

Some more wedding photos (by McCory James of Elevate Photography)

I was proud of my shrimp tacos I whipped up one night for dinner.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cycling the Haleakala Crater: From beach to 10,000 ft

By Ryan Borger, USAT Level 1 certified coach and owner of Borger Endurance LLC.

This past week I made my first trek to Hawaii, to the island of Maui for a week of solitude, honeymooning with my beautiful new bride Amy, and a bit of adventure. We stationed ourselves on the 6th floor of a condo building off the Kamaole 2 beach in South Kihei, thanks to the generosity of some close family friends who let us stay at their condo for the week. I planned on mostly enjoying the week relaxing at the beach, taking a bit of a break from normal training, while still keeping my run volume up and doing some open water swimming, as the thought of running in Maui seemed pretty pleasant, especially coming off a relatively cold Colorado winter and I don’t get much open water practice. I had thought about trying to bring my bike along, but quickly realized that wasn’t a viable option thanks to United Airlines hefty $175 bike fee, each way. Unable to run as planned due to a heel injury, I decided to rent a bike for the week once I arrived. Prior to the week, I didn’t know much about the island, nor it’s cycling routes, though I had heard rumors of Canadian pro cyclist Ryder Hesjedal splitting a 2:30 ride to the top of some massive volcano there, so I decided to look into it a bit.

The idea of riding from sea level to 10,000ft drew my interest pretty quickly. I ride up to 10,000ft occasionally in Colorado, but I start at 5300ft, not sea level. There's a big difference. With the approval of the wife and soon to be driver to pick me up at the top and drive me back down, we decided I give it a go, and to make the trek by bike up this epic volcano. I rented the cheapest road bike I could find for the week, from South Maui bikes, took a look at a map, and set out for it. I will add that I came back very appreciative of my light-weight Specialized Tarmac SL3… after riding a heavy aluminum bike I realized I’ve been carbon fiber brainwashed, and need to not take my lightweight carbon rig for granted.

If you ever get a chance to ride on the island of Maui, I encourage you to make the epic climb from the beach to the top of Haleakala. Hundreds of people get shuttled to the top daily, and ride bikes down as a popular tourist even, but only a handful do it the other way around. It’s a cool accomplishment, and a rare opportunity to ascend over 10,000 ft.

What will you need for the ride?

- 2 large water bottles, bars/food, gets, $5 for fee into the National Park ($10 for cars), money for drinks/refueling at the market, a cycling jacket, and a pocket map may be a good idea, although it's a pretty straight forward route

I was warned that temperatures can vary 30-45 degrees from the beach to the top of the crater, and to bring a jacket, full finger gloves, and the whole nine yards. I scrapped that idea since I only brought a short sleeve jersey and shorts, and decided to take a bit of a risk. I got lucky as temperatures only dropped about 10-15 degrees at the top; I was shocked to be at 10,000 ft. by the end of the morning, while still sweating in 50+ degree weather. I was fortunate for my luck.

I rummaged the condo kitchen, packed a few baggies of Fig Newton bars, a Powerbar gel (unfortunately I only brought one on the trip), $10, a small map, and filled my two large water bottles. Unfortunately again I left my Powerbar Endurance drink mix at home, but not to worry, we still had some strawberry margarita mix left over in the fridge. I glanced at the ingredients on back, and realized it's pretty darn similar to Gatorade, and filled a bottle with half mix and half water. It tasted a lot like Kool-Aid, not bad at all and saved me a few bucks and a trip to the store.

The start at Baldwin Park: Elevation 2 feet

I topped of my tires at Maui Cyclery right in front of Baldwin Park in the small town of Paia, my starting point. The ride starts off the beach at Baldwin Avenue for approximately 7 miles, which is relatively flat compared to the rest of the ride, with a slight incline until hitting the second small town, Makawao. It was snowing ashes on me the first 45 minutes or so, as a nearby sugar cane field was on fire. I later learned this was a way of either harvesting, prepping, or processing the sugar. Possibly conducive to the sugar farmers, but not to cyclists' lungs.

At Makawao/ Makawao Avenue, you have the option of turning right onto the busier highway, but I opted to continue straight through the stop sign 1 mile on Olinda Rd. until reaching the rodeo, where I was instructed to turn right at Hanamu Road. This route has almost zero auto traffic. The roads wind a bit, have a few steeper climbs, and pretty areas of Eucalyptus groves. I was sweating a ton as I was pushing the pace fairly hard, and it was very humid. You will run into the Haleakala Highway/State Hwy 377 at the Haleakala Ranch, which takes you to the entrance of Haleakala National Park/Crater Road and up above the clouds.

Baldwin Avenue, from Paia to Makawao (7 mi)

There is a market at just over 3000 ft elevation which you can stop at before the steep climbing starts, so bring a few bucks for a mid-ride snack.

I stopped at the market to refill the bottles, enjoy a quick chocolate milk and Powerade, which was well needed later on. Several miles past the market you will reach your final turn, a left at the entrance sign to the Haleakala National Park, which also reads 22 miles to the top.

The rest of the ride consists primarily of switchbacks, and the grind goes on, and on, and on... passing the elevation signs every thousand feet. It's important to stay mentally focused, though it was relatively easy to do since you're excited to get to the top!

The final 45 minutes was more challenging than expected, as I was running a bit low on calories, and my rear was feeling the ache of a few hours on a new bike saddle, though I plugged away at it. As I passed the "Summit: 2 miles" sign, I also passed two other cyclists on the side of the road. One was standing up next to his bike, while the other was collapsed over in a ditch. The guy was taking a much needed rest, and I think he was either a bit under-trained for this ride or went out a bit hard. I don't have evidence that he made it to the actual summit, he did make it about 500 feet from it to the visitor's center parking lot, where on our drive back down I found him like this, as the picture shows:

By the top, my wife Amy had been waiting for me for about 45 minutes. The ride from start to finish took me about 3 hours, 15 minutes, pushing at a relatively moderate, though not hard, pace for the majority of it, though my legs were shot by the end of it. I can say that Ryder Hesjedal's record of 2:30 is quite remarkable!

Here are a few final shots of the last miles, as well as the view from the top. If you're ever in Maui next, give it a shot!

The road above the clouds, and 2 miles to the summit

A view from the summit

Mission: Accomplished