Apr 20, 2011

The Big not so Easy

The season has officially started…

I was lucky enough to fall asleep before taking off and actually wake up back on the ground. The last 48 hours have been a bit tiresome, and I am looking forward to some regularity. I’m landing in Tucson in a couple hours and I’ll have less than 10 hours before I need to be back at the airport. However, this time I’ll be dropping off Kulbis. It has been a long but amazing training winter in Tucson. I know he is sad to go back home, but a few weeks of steady training will bring his winter fitness to light, and he’ll be winning all the local races in no time. After a quick trip home to pack the rest of my belongings, I’ll make the 4 hour drive to Las Cruces. At this point, I can barely fill a car with what I own. Kulbis sold the rest of our knick-knacks over the weekend, so I’ll literally be leaving with my clothes, a couple bikes, or more pairs of shoes than I’d like to admit to owning. I’ll be settling in Las Cruces for a few weeks before I road trip to Houston where I’ll be reuniting with good friend, DJ Snyder. There, I’ll also be meeting up with Portuguese rockstar/triathlete, Pedro Gomes. It’ll be a great environment as long as Pedro doesn’t force me to eat Dairy Queen twice a day. I need to lean down a bit now that the racing has started, and I can’t be sandwiching a DQ run between Chipotle visits anymore. Once back in Cruces, I’ll have a chance to really pick apart my race in New Orleans. I definitely have mixed feelings about the race, and I can’t say that I am very satisfied.

As many people have heard, the swim leg was cancelled due to a little chop, and the race was turned into a bike-run. Even though swimming is not a great strength of mine, I’ve spent the last 4 months swimming 30km a week, and I believe I’ve pushed my 1.2 mile split (with a wetsuit) down to around 25min. Mildly annoyed that the swim was cancelled, I tried to re-center myself and think about the new race. Everyone had to deal with the same situation and it was up to me to adapt. Regardless, starting an hour later and the new time trial start made it difficult to truly warm up. Starting a bit “cold” had me working a bit too hard from the gun. I was overeager and too aggressive in the opening miles. I believe riding through the first 5 miles in 11 minutes illustrates this perfectly. Regardless, after the shock of the first few miles, I felt as if I settled in nicely. I rode hard the entire 56 miles, but I never felt as if I was out of my comfort zone. I just locked in and rode the miles. My biggest task was making sure that other age groupers didn’t get in my way and cause me to crash. Instead of getting mixed in with those people, I spent the whole bike leg riding near the center line. A nice tail wind on the way home put the exclamation point on a solid ride. However, it may have been a bit too “solid.” I rode 2:11:18, which is 25.6mph. My split was faster than some of the pros and about 90sec off the average pro bike split. I may have overexerted myself, but at the time, I felt like I was riding exactly where I needed to be. Onto the run course, I felt pretty strong as I came through the first mile in just under 6:00. Unfortunately, I quickly found myself settling for 6:15s. The first 6 miles were certainly the worst miles for me. I had a bad stomach ache, and it was starting to affect my ability to run anywhere faster than 6:30s. At the halfway point, I finally caved and took care of that issue. That mile was 7:45, so I figured that I lost about 60-75 sec in the bathroom. That is part of racing though. After my setback, I found myself back in a rhythm. After a 6:20 7th mile, I was back down to just over 6:00 pace. At mile 9, I was passed by the one and only person to do so all day. It only took a few seconds to realize that he was the person I needed to be running with. I dropped the pace and started to come back to him. We ran the 9th mile in 5:45 into a light, but noticeable headwind. In the moment, it felt like the right move, but it was too fast and had me absolutely popped. Looking back now, I probably should have continued building slowly and finish the last few miles around 6:00-6:15, but I took a chance. After a mini melt down, I ran a super slow 6:40 11th and 6:45 12th mile. I was never ever able to come back from that harder 9th mile. I ended up running 1:25 half marathon (6:30 pace). I consider this very slow and need to make some changes in order for this to not happen again. Overall, I finished 6th in the amateur race, and 29th overall (including 35-40 pros). I was about 80 seconds out of 3rd place and a little over 3 minutes out of 1st. I am definitely not happy about this result, because I came to win. However, I have a few areas where I need to improve and I am eager to get back to the drawing board. Although I kept this mostly to myself during the last few months, I had an injury that kept me from running for 3 weeks. It took another 3 weeks to get back to a normal stride. With this setback, I know I still have a lot of fitness to gain in the next couple of months. Training Camp with the Triathlon Squad has already started in Las Cruces, and I am looking forward to joining them. I need a few solid weeks with Coach Paulo Sousa and the crew. Training solo in Tucson was starting getting old and I am more than excited to see my squad mates. It will definitely be a busy few weeks in Cruces. On a side note, New Orleans never ceases to shock me. I saw things on Bourbon St. that will haunt me for long time. It is amazing what people can get away with down there.

Apr 10, 2011

A Consistent Winner

Winning... No, I'm not referring to Charlie Sheen or any of his nonsensical garbage. I'll let a quote from Bill Rodgers say it all.

To be a consistent winner means preparing not just one day, one month or even one year - but for a lifetime.

Most mornings around here are the same. Waiting for our coffee to brew, we sit and chat about the days work. Everyday has a set of challenges that have to be met. There aren’t any options here. There are no “maybe I’ll move that swim until tomorrow” moments. I have a job that doesn’t cater to sick days or vacations. Looking back through pages and pages of logs, I searched for an off day. Even though I’ve made it out of the snowy Midwest, this winter still brought its fair share of adversity. Page after page, I flipped… back until January 1st. But that empty space in my training log ceased to exist. I’ve trained through sickness, injury, and infection… through rain, wind, and freezing temps… through mental breakdowns and logistical nightmares. And after it all, I’ve only realized that this isn’t anything but what is expected. This is what it means to “get work done.” It has been four months… talk to me in four years. There are no “congratulations” or “pats on the back.” I haven’t done anything but my job. Yesterday, I was an hour into my last long ride before the New Orleans 70.3. Temperatures were around 45deg and it was pouring rain. After losing feeling in my hands, we decided to stop at the Supermarket to pick up some latex gloves. While standing outside, I ran into a girl that I used to tutor with up in the Foothills. We exchanged some small talk and she started to notice the effects that the cold had on me. At this point, standing around in wet cycling gear had given me a bit of the shakes. Pausing for a second, I realized that she was finally going to say something about how crazy we were for training in this kind of weather. While opening her umbrella and stepping out into the cold, she said “Man, you look cold. Sucks you have to train in this weather. But that’s your job, right? You don’t really have a choice.” Alas. She understood it perfectly. It wasn’t crazy or brave or heroic to be riding in the freezing rain. It was our job.

I am exactly one week away from racing my first half of the season in New Orleans. I have one specific goal in mind and it has nothing to do with a time. It isn’t even specific to a placing. My goal… No. My job is to swim hard, ride hard, and then run the life out of myself. I’ll put it all on the line, and I’ll work just as hard for 1st place or for 50th place. My body doesn’t know what place it is racing for. It just knows that it needs to work. Otherwise, when I do start racing for the win, my body won’t know how to handle it.

Check out Ironman.com next Sunday, April 17th to track my race.