Feb 28, 2010

8 Weeks in Arizona

It’s been some time now since I have been gone. The last eight weeks feel more like eight months. New friends have come and gone. Training has been good and bad. But all in all, Arizona has treated me well so far. I am starting to feel like it is a second home. Now that I am finally “settled,” I am really looking forward to the next few months here.

When arriving here on January 2nd, I didn’t know a single person in this entire city. Everything was difficult at first. I needed time to get to known this new city. Training was good, but it was hard not to overdo it (I ended up riding over 500 miles in the first two weeks). I was lucky enough to make a few friends here pretty fast. I did a good deal of swim and bike training with Doug Fahlbush in the first 3 weeks. He was an ex collegiate swimmer and pro downhill rider. It was nice to have someone pushing me in the pool every afternoon. Shortly after meeting Doug, I ended up meeting Ethan Brown and Doug Maclean. Hanging out with these guys has been way too much fun. If it wasn’t for them, I probably would have gone crazy during the 3 weeks I was injured from a mountain biking crash. Doug Maclean is a sick long course triathlete getting ready to race Kona this year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him finishing towards the top of the amateur field. Ethan Brown is on the USAT 2012 National Team. Look out for this kid making the next Olympic Triathlon team. On a side note, be careful if you ever beat Ethan at something (like at a pool game). He’ll make sure to beat you the next ten times while reminding you that he is a 2-time National Champion. It has been fun kicking it with these kids, it is a shame that they are leaving town this Monday.

After getting injured in my 4th week here, training took a different turn. I was unable to bike and run for about 3 weeks. In that time, I went back to my normal winter swimming. I spent my time swimming once or twice a day. That little bit of training, along with a few late nights with Doug and Ethan, kept me pretty sane. Those few weeks dragged by but lately I have been feeling near 100% again.

Recently, I just finished my first real week of training since the crash. My mileage has been fairly low, but it is nice to be training again. This week I did about 16,000yds swimming, 200 miles riding, and 21 miles running. I am about to start a two week training block that should get me back towards some type of fitness. Besides training, I finally started working out here. I work about 25 hours a week at Hillenbrand Aquatic Center and a few hours a week of tutoring. I have definitively stumbled upon the two best jobs I have ever had. Working at the pool is incredibly laid back and relaxing. We do some manual labor, but it is more like hanging out with some friends for a few hours under the sun. I am not making an incredible amount of money right now, but I have an income and life is simple as shit right now. Here is an example of my day.

Wake Up. Drink Coffee. Eat. Do a long ride on bike. Eat. Go to “work.” Stand around and hose deck. Watch pro triathletes and Olympic swimmers do their workouts. Eat. Swim Masters. Eat. Watch TV. Sleep.

It is pretty nice having zero responsibilities. It makes sleeping at night much easier.

**When I read this in ten years, I am going to hate 23 year old AJ**


Feb 20, 2010

Getting Through Another Rough Patch

Since my triathlon debut in the summer 2007, I have come to terms with the fact that injury happens in our sport. In the beginning, my biggest worries were tight IT bands. Thinking back, getting over that first IT "injury" was incredibly difficult. I didn't know my body well enough and I had no clue how to bounce back. During those first two seasons, my body didn't understand what I was putting it through. I had a few minor setbacks, but triathlon was just a hobby back then and any injury could be cured with a week on the couch. Now, a week on the coach seems like an eternity, and it is hard to have the patience to get over the little bumps in the road.

During my third season, I had to get through a string of incredibly annoying injuries. I had just begun training under the guidance of Jim LaMastra. Because I was young and strong, he gave me workouts that were depending without a great deal of recovery. Any other accomplished athlete in his or her early twenties may have handled the training better. But even in my third season, I was incredibly new to the sport. The amount of training in my body could have been compared to that of a high school runner, not an elite athlete. In early 2009, I developed two overuse injuries in my legs. They were back to back, and they had me barely training for about 3 weeks. One week back from those injuries, I got hit by a car and missed another week or two. It was a rough start to a pretty rough season. 

The start of this 2010 season has been similar. I built my base with a great deal of swimming in Cleveland. My body was ready for the long miles to come. I logged about 700 miles in the first few weeks in Arizona. My body was handling the distance well and I was starting to come into decent form. A day later, I was crashing on a mountain bike. It has been almost 4 weeks since I crashed.

I’m finally getting over this knee injury. I am hoping to be back to normal training by March. I am sure that I lost a little strength in my legs, but my aerobic capacity is very strong from the 80 kilometers I swam since the crash. I feel as if my swim fitness is the best it has ever been. Here is an example of a few distance workouts I have done in the last couple weeks.

Workout: 10 x 200 on 2:40 (held 2:25 for all)

Workout: 400, 200, 100, 100, 200, 400 (on 1:20 per 100), 3 x 200 on 2:40, 12 x 100 pull on 1:20

Workout: 10 x 100 on 1:20 (descend 1-5, 5-10), 5 x 200 on 2:40

Like always, my cycling and running fitness will come together and I will be race ready. Without set backs, there would be no such thing as a come back.


Feb 8, 2010

Thoughts on Life and Setbacks

This sport is cruel every once in awhile. Of course life happens, and there are countless numbers of circumstances that can keep an athlete from progressing, mentally and physically. When any circumstance keeps an athlete from doing his (or her) trade, there is commonly a feeling of anxiety. Occasionally, I feel like I am lost in my own nightmare. It is the reoccurring dream where everyone is moving forward, but for some reason, I am unable to move. With every amount of energy, I try to escape. But, in this dream, I’m never able to go anywhere. When my life feels as if I’m restrained by chains, it is hard to break free. Running, like cycling and swimming, often provides me with the means to break free. So going through a period without training is like never waking up from that reoccurring nightmare. An athlete, like any other person, wants to feel as if they are always progressing. But in life, can we always be moving forward? Is it true what some say, “if you’re not moving forward, you’re going backward?"

Experiencing life through sport, the good and the bad, requires us to develop. Experience is everything. Training is teaching our bodies to learn from experience. Pain is our bodies informing us that we haven’t experienced this feeling enough. I once had a friend who thought she could teach herself to transcend pain. By accepting the inevitability of pain, she thought her embrace would help her ignore the pain settling into her body during stressful training. I doubt she completely succeeded, but mentally, maybe she was able to learn to experience just a little bit more.

To me, every bump in the road, every experience, helps me move forward. Maybe an inability to train normally seems like it is pulling you backward. But in reality, it is the one thing helping you move forward. Every athlete goes through rough patches, some more than others. I believe it is the ability to turn a bad situation into a good one that makes a good athlete a great athlete. This type of recognition did not happen naturally. It has taken countless setbacks before this reality became mine. Setbacks are a part of life. It is how a person deals with these setbacks that will define them as humans.

Like that reoccurring nightmare, injury makes me feel an inability to break free. It makes me feel like I am moving backwards, not forwards. But accepting that this experience will make me more resilient… That is the key to progression, and with progression comes transcendence. This life requires patience, and sometimes there is nothing we can do but wait.

Feb 1, 2010

2010 Race Schedule

I finally decided on a 2010 race schedule. This year will be exciting because it will be my first season racing Iron distance triathlons. I really think that this schedule will work well for me, and I am hoping that racing less will allow me to perform at a higher level.

If any one is planning on doing any of these races, let me know. It is always nice to have company when knocking back that post race beer.

February 28th – Desert Duathlon in Phoenix, Arizona
March 28thArizona Distance Classic (Half Marathon) in Tucson, Arizona
April 17th – Rage Triathlon (Half Ironman) in Las Vegas, Nevada
May 9th – Rev 3 Knoxville (Olympic) in Knoxville, Tennessee
June 6th – Rev 3 Quassy (Half Ironman) in Middlebury, Connecticut
August 1st – ITU Long Course Worlds (4k, 120k, 30k) in Immenstadt, Germany
September 12th – Rev 3 Cedar Point (Ironman) in Sandusky, Ohio

I may consider doing one or two more late season races depending on how well I do during the summer. I can’t wait to race this season! I hope everyone is ready for 2010.

See you at the races. Cheers!