Wednesday, May 12, 2010

RECENT ATHLETIC HIGHLIGHTS
2008:

A Return to Racing! Qualified for the 2008 Ironman Triathlon World Championships at Ironman Arizona having suffered a pre-race car-bike accident

* Named 2008 USAT “All-American”

* AG Top 10 - Wildflower & Ironman Arizona

* AG 3 - Buffalo Springs Lake Triathlon 70.3

* AG 2 - 70.3 Vineman

* AG 1 - Big Kahuna

* 10:25 - Ironman Triathlon World Championships

2007: Out for the 2007 Season To Recover From a Training Accident 





























2006:  
Ironman Triathlon World Championships Result:

* 9:50
* First American 45-49 Age Group
* "Top-10" in Age Group - Ironman World Championships
* 5:00 Bike Split (Second "5-Flat" in Kona!)
Named 2006 Top-10 “Age-Group All-American” by Inside Triathlon Magazine
2006 USAT “All-American”
Featured in "Walnut Creek," "Inside Triathlon" and "Competitor" Magazines "IronmanLive.com" and "RunTri.com"


2005: 
Ironman Triathlon World Championships Result:
* 9:44
* "Top-10" in Age Group - Ironman World Championships
* 5:00 Bike Split
* Ran a Boston Marathon-Qualifying Run Split (3:29:02)
Named 2005 Top-10 “Age-Group All-American” by Inside Triathlon Magazine
Named Top-10 Fastest Ironmen over "40" by Duathlon.com
2005 USAT “All-American”

Featured in "American Triathlete" "Inside Triathlon" Magazines

Featured on "IronmanLive.com," "RunTri.com" and "Duathlon.com"

A veteran of 16 Ironmans with a 9:35 PR achieved just 4-months after finishing the grueling Western States 100-mile Endurance Run 

Monday, November 3, 2008

Ironman World Chamionships - Kona 2008!

Noise. Commotion. Nerves. Crowds. Anticipation. Fear. Doubt.

Beneath it, the audible thud of tribal drums. Pele. Beneath the average persons view . . . order . . . beauty . . . purpose . . . life.

Flash of lights.

It all spins together like a pinwheel in the minds eye: Souls moving forward. Imua. Islands moving forward. Life forward. Forward motion. 140.6 miles ending where it started. Somewhere beyond the hype, the logos, the TV crews . . . the essence of life.

E ho'a'o no i pau kuhihewa.

Stop.

I find silence. To Pele, I whisper a simple pule. Waist deep in her waters, arms spread wide to the east, to catch the sun’s rays as they spill over the volcano and chase their way down the slopes to ignite Kailua Bay. I – am – alive. And in my mind, my words and spirit have wings. Aloha ‘aina.

A familiar scene: helicopters that rip diagonal lines across the sky. I open my eyes to the chaotic world of Kona on race day. My joy is centered on a simple fact: to be here in these waters is perfection.

I am at peace and I am happy.

The islands move forward, a chain is formed. Birth of islands - death of islands.

Kahu Billy Mitchell's voice booms, albeit as a memory from races past, to the beat of actual tribal drums. He shared ancient words of courage: “Imua” he had shouted. I float and watch the flags that will signal the race start.

“Imua.”

Forward.

This year the swim start was cramped, dangerous. A sense of panic swept through the “left starters” as racers who wanted to be at the front pushed against those that were in the front and wanted to stay behind the paddle-boarders that prowled the start line to hold everyone back. With no room to tread, some went under and panicked, shoving to get back up . . . for air . . . to find room to tread . . . to float.

This “panic” seemed to trigger aggressiveness, such that when the cannon did go off, there was a willingness to be hostile, overly assertive . . . behavior that lacked honor and left me disappointed.

Less than 1000 meters into the swim, a racer grabbed my ankle in an attempt to “pull over me,” and succeeded only in robbing me of my timing chip. I swam, buoy-to-buoy, stuck in an enormous, slow moving, pack with no path out or around. I parked concern over finding a replacement chip and the annoyance of “the pack” and enjoyed the most beautiful swim in sport.

My love for Ironman has been kept fresh by leaving the sport every few years to explore other challenges. I raced Kona in 1998, 2000 and 2001. In 2002 I shifted goals to ultra-distance running and qualifying for, and racing, the Western States 100 mile trail run.

What is important to share about Western States is that my “fabric” changed during my 27 hours to simply finish. And as an athlete, I am different from what I was before I entered. Even today my mind tries to gain a grip on that experience . . . the volume of broken thoughts that choked me during Western States, haunt me, and loose thoughts from that race still rattle in my head and at odd times one will lodge in my psyche like a burr.

Beyond new perspectives on the potential for pain in endurance racing, and the cementing of views on family, self, limits, broken limits, broken self ... I came to see myself, during a particularly “imaginative” section, in the dead night, as a life moving forward, part of the kaleidoscope of life. And in those many hours of suffering, I came to adopt as mine the words that Pat McCrary had shared, in his book, The Road to Kona Never Ends:

“No one is without weaknesses and limitations. We must come to be patient with the weakest parts of ourselves, before we can be tolerant of the weakest parts of others. Nobody is whole.”

Imua.

Physical recovery from Western took time and a 2003 return to Kona was out of reach, but qualifying in 2003, for Kona in 2004, was not. I abandoned my previous Ironman training methods and plied my broken body with gentle, positive, self-coaching and unquestioning trust to intuit training volumes and levels of intensity. And while the training was hard, the positive nature of the approach, an understanding of my “self,” my “body”, my “motion,” my “hard work,” brought me across the 2003 Ironman Florida finish-line in nine hours and thirty-five minutes, a PR, and slot back to Kona.

I raced Kona in 2004, 2005 and in 2006.

In February of 2007, I was hit by a car while biking and was sidelined for the year ... and during the months of recovery, between surgeries, I was oddly … at peace.

The Hawaiian Islands are moving forward. Life moves forward. I move forward.

In an Ironman, if one looks, you see “a life-time” compressed . . . and 140.6 miles from where it starts … it ends. I suspect that birth and death are similar. What happens between those two points is “choice”. . . “choice” of how to adapt to “adversity” and how you accept “opportunity.” Choice to “quit” or “continue.” “Choice” to race with “respect,” “appreciation” and “grace,” choice to commit to investing in “personal best” . . . or not.

Many “choices.”

We have, in those hours, the opportunity to “practice” . . . to practice the art of “sport”... imitate life. And because it is small, contrived . . . a game . . . it is “simple,” “easily evaluated,” “digestible.” It puts one in a position to “practice” in an attempt to drive towards . . . perfection . . . the “perfect race” ... the "perfect life."

Kulia i ka nu'u

The truth is that “perfect” is only found in the quality of execution and not in how quickly one finds its end point. And what is, fundamentally “beautiful” in endurance sport is “struggle” and “choice,” with the opportunity to apply your sports experience to the canvass of life - real life.

In practical speak; my philosophy for dealing with the accident and recovery was no different than for dealing with a flat: You acknowledge, address, and get back to the business of enjoying your ride.

And so I exited the swim course and sought a replacement for my timing chip. The volunteers were terrific - I signed in for a replacement, had a new chip around my ankle, in a matter of minutes, and was across the swim finish mat. Clock time - 1:09.

I was on the bike in quick fashion and elated to see friends from the mainland and Kona cheering. The only drama occurred just out of T1, I cinched my helmet tight and the plastic webbing came loose from the helmet. I pulled over, repaired it, and was underway - maybe a minute lost.

My goal for the race, after "top-10" age group finishes in 2005 and 2006, was to race for a “top-5” finish.

I felt great on the bike, road hard and 100% clean.

I have been asked: How many watts I pushed? What my heart rate was? I don’t know. I do not use a HRM, bike computer, watt-o-meter, GPS . . . I race. If I feel good I go hard and when I don’t, I back off a little bit . . . until I feel good and then I go hard again.

The winds were Kona-typical and the heat was up: 108 degrees measured in the Natural Energy Lab (NEL) – and I like heat.

My training indicated that I should be able to bike as fast, or faster, than I had in previous years and run 3:25. I define “as fast” in relation to “overall position.” Kona bike conditions are highly variable so a 5:00 bike one year may be a 5:25 the next. This year the “conditions variation,” over 2006, was 9 – 9.5 minutes. Meaning a 5:00 split in 2006 would equal a 5:09:00 – 5:09:30 in 2008.

I entered T2 having biked into the AG "top-10" and was within solid striking distance of a "top-5" finish. Bike Split - 5:08.

I have a fifty-fifty relationship with the run course in Kona. Half of the time I get off the bike, in T2, feel great, and run the “26.2” miles to the finish “swiftly” and “softly.” The other times, I get off the bike, in T2, feel awful, and run a marathon managed around either a bad stomach, asthma, or both.

My “run partners,” this year were, “stomach cramps”, “nausea” and “vomiting”. I much prefer “swiftly” and “softly.” I ran past my wife and friends, and forced myself to smile, to be positive, and thanked them for being out there for me. I worked 7:30 minute/mile run splits. 8-9 miles in, I had to go “off the side” to retch . . . a pattern that continued through the day.

I will share these things from the run course as they are what I will carry forward: The first was a solid “check” to my “racing ego” . . . perhaps needed . . . as I was humbled by an inability to run remotely close to “3:25.” I watched a "top-5" goal, erode to "top-10" . . . erode to “Joe Foster” . . . “Finisher.”

The second moment occurred in the NEL, I had been walking, and was again “off the side,” retching in the heat . . . a fellow racer, a stranger, left her race to come to me . . . she shared her salt-tabs and words to ease my suffering before returning to her event.

Leo Buscaglia said: “We can only give others what we have. If we have a joyless, deprecating, stingy attitude with ourselves, and are unwilling to extend ourselves for our own personal and spiritual growth, we will bring these attitudes into our relationships with others. We must examine and understand what love (and giving) really means. If we live a life of striving and competition and never understand how love works, we will have missed almost all of what life has to offer. But love is best understood in the daily arena of life, where striving, competition and love are blended.”

On the wings of kindness, from a nameless racer.

Imua, Joe Foster, Imua.

In those final miles it occurred to me that I might never be back . . . by design, by ability, by outside event . . . I needed to be very present to see the final kilometer, appreciate my journey, my fortune to be racing Kona again. I needed to see my friend’s faces, to see the volunteers and the families of those on the course, to see my wife, to let her know that I saw her, and how happy I was to be here and with her.

I needed to abandon “cool” and be in the moment – act upon it.

I needed to run those final steps with the presence of a man who is damned lucky to live this life . . . my life . . . moving forward . . . and with a simple step across the finish line . . . my day ended . . . where it began 140.6 miles earlier and as the sun’s rays retreated from Kailua Bay, I whispered a simple pule of thanks to the island for all it has given me these last 10 years.

Aloha ‘aina.




Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Big Kahuna Half Ironman

The Big Kahuna Half Ironman was late addition to my race schedule … the event has a great reputation and the race-date made it irresistible as a “final tune-up/training race” for the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii.

My plan was to come in “beat-up” and to use the race to push … further. To that, I enjoyed a heavy training week that included 12,500 meters of swimming, 230 miles of biking and 56 miles of run. I spent the weekend with one of my best friends, and his family, at their beach house above the very beach where he and I had spent time body surfing as teenagers – 33 years ago! Delightful – to enjoy the luxury of friendship, steeped in years, and to be joined by my 15 year-old daughter. One must understand that my kids have been raised around multi-sport … what it represents to them is: Boredom! So the sacrifice, to “hang with Dad” for a weekend, was duly noted and very much appreciated.

Pre-race preparation involved a non-wetsuit dip in the ocean and dinner at the Crow’s Nest, with a heavy dose of CytoSport Recovery, and old stories from our "teen-aged" past, for desert. I can not over emphasize how important this one drink (Recovery) has been to my return to competitive racing following my accident. It alone, has allowed me (at the age of 48) to train like I did when I was in my 30’s and recover.

Race morning was postcard perfect: Warm and clear, gentle surf and a sunrise that danced over unforgettable landscape bathing everything in a warm orange glow. The only surprise of the morning was how many racers were present: Over 1000 starters– their largest field ever.

Race start was uneventful: I lined up at the front of my wave and took the gun. As with all training races, each discipline (Swim/Bike/Run) tends to start off “cruddy” and “slow” until the body gives up its resistance to “effort” and finds “flow”. I was pulling bubbles and generally making a mess of it on the way out to the first turn, made some corrections to my stroke and my body "clicked" – and I was a strong swimmer for the back 1/2.

T-1 was a bit slow - as I forgot to bring the “lube” for my wetsuit ankles and had to work to get the suit off.

There was a headwind on the way up the coast and we passed through areas of fog and light, wind and surf - stunning. I had a minor mechanical that had me "stop/adjust and go" and, late in the race, a “flagger” was not “flagging” and I went straight through a tricky left turn and had to stop and flip around to rejoin the race ... with the two minor dramas I was pleased to note, in the race-day results, that I still managed a 2:21 bike split (7th fastest O/A). My ride was a mirror of my swim – cruddy and flat – at the beginning ... and then I found bike flow, after 40 minutes, but no “pop”, “climb" or "surge" strength.

T-2 was lightning fast - 33 seconds.

I felt very light on the run, found my “outbound” pace immediately, and settled in despite being pressured by fellow age-grouper, Dirk Aschmoneit, former German pro and a top-5 Kona Men's Professional "finisher".

We ran shoulder-to-shoulder for a couple of miles, racing for 1st place in age group and in the Top-10 O/A. I decided to run a tactical race, I'd chat with Dirk about the scenery, how well he ran, training for Kona ... then settle back, and allow him go up 10 meters ... and then surge to his shoulder or just past, to let him know I could.

I watched him carefully for signs of strength and weakness. Strength: He had an amazing capacity to suffer (and this worried me) and he ran flats very well. Weaknesses: He was running as the "hunted” and was not taking nutrition - I felt I could capitalize on this.

My weakness: My legs, while not "cruddy" at any point, had only 1 ½ “gears,” as a result of the week’s cumulative running, so I had no “sprint” strength … and that meant I had to make my move before we got to the final mile – because I would loose that race!

My strength: I was running very easy in gear “1”, near effortless, and I was faster than Dirk on the “ups" and "downs”. I was also “one up” in the nutrition department as I was carrying a bottle of CytoSport (actually "run cocktail" ... a mix of Cyto's "Fast Twitch" & "CytoCarb") and therefore well nourished.

My strategy was to stay back ... "hunt" ... until mile 8, where the “½ distance” becomes “very real”, and where there was a pronounced “down” and “up” section. I planned to pass him on the "down," surge the "up", and force a gap, then "red-line" for two miles … and only then assess where my body was, and only then look back and assess where he was, but not until after the attack - it had to look very easy ... effortless. The plan went off perfectly, by mile "10 I had a gap that was big enough to hold (AG) 1st. I took a significant risk to do this and hurt ... really hurt ... during the surge, suffered for it the remaining few miles, and was bankrupt at the finish.

Final results of the day: 1st in Age Group and 9th" overall in 4:29:45. My pal and his family, my daughter and I, enjoyed the rest of the day at the Boardwalk and then dinning outside in Capitola, a lovely beach-side village, soaking in the sun, before making the journey home.

A perfect weekend blessed by family, friendships, the beauty of nature and good competition.

I have to shout out to Louis Garneau and their tri-clothing - this is my second race in the new "kit" and the clothing is remarkable! No chaffing - pure comfort - well done LG!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Vineman Triathlon - 70.3


“Flew in from Miami Beach BOAC
Didn't get to bed last night
Oh, the way the paper bag was on my knee
Man, I had a dreadful flight
I'm back in the USSR
You don't know how lucky you are, boy …”

… John Lennon in my mind’s ear.

The week leading up to Vineman had been a blur: long flights, work on the east coast, taking on a dozen new direct reports, late night entertaining and a “red-eye” from Newark to San Francisco in time for a 3-hour nap and the drive up to Windsor for race registration … where I limped over (strained ligaments) to visit with “Adam” and “Marty” at the “Forward Motion /Avia” booth.

Luck was on my “strained ligaments” side: the ALCiS booth was right next door. ALCiS manufactures and sells a topical pain relief cream. Greg Quinn, who works with their team, was kind enough to upgrade me from “sample size” into a “full tube” and I put it to immediate use – hard to race when you can’t run ... and by race morning ... I was "fit".

With registration complete and pain relief applied, I made the long drive home … as I desperately wanted to sleep, and sleep in my own bed!

Vineman always has a bonus attached: my Wife and Father-in-law join me … while I race, they wine taste, and we meet up at the finish to enjoy a great lunch together.

Race morning was COLD and for the first time ever, I put arm and toe warmers into my T1 line-up. The swim was uneventful: up-stream, down-stream, and out in 29 minutes. T1 was a little slow because of pulling on my arm warmers and I wore my cycling shoes for the "run-out" as opposed to clipped on the bike because it is a LONG "run-out" and I always end-up “running off-the carpet” and into the gravel & rocks to get around slower folks making their way out of transition.

On the bike I was glad for the arm warmers and toe covers! 53 degrees, wet, at speed … BRRRR!

The bike at Vineman is lovely, even in the cold; I road my Cervelo P3C, Blackwell Disk and 100 front (yes, I love this set-up) and as always my CytoSport cocktails were on board (Lemonade flavor this time) to insure maximum “oomph”! The only drama from the bike course was “cramping calf muscles” … WEIRD (and kinda funny :) … every two minutes, on the up-stroke, my “up” calf would go into full cramp … not terribly painful, as the down stroke would pull the cramp out.

CRAZY … and I can not imagine what it looked like to those I passed – “ANGRY CALVES”! I ran through a mental library of race problem/solution “history files” and came up with: zero… nada, nothing, and “giggled” again as the truth was: “What can you do, but tell the voice that suggests "slowing-up" and "worries about your ability to run" to … “shut the #@%$ up!”

I made my way to the front of the age group and entered transition with fellow age group competitor Kyle Welch right behind me. This was a “good news”/”bad news” scenario: Good news I was once again in 1st place off the bike … bad news: Kyle runs faster than I do. So with feet numbed from the cold, I thought: “Well, I’m at least going to beat him out of transition, let him wind it up, and then watch him go” … I did - he did – I did.

I self-coached holding my “maximum pace”, was aware that there were many behind me who would be hunting (me), and kept my center … to run “my race” and no one else’s. And I did run well … 1:31, on this course, after posting the 26th O/A fastest bike split of the day is … well … great … and marks continued improvement towards coming back from my accident.

My calves did not cramp on the run, but the lactic that had been dumped into them during the bike, was a bit rich and I ran a little bit ugly until mile 7 where they “unscrewed” themselves … and all was good … very good.

I finished feeling rather happy with my effort ... in Age group 2nd position and 34th overall (1724 racers).

After thoughts and comments:

Nutrition was spot-on (My CytoSport cocktails rock!) and, once again, I was able to finish strong with no aid stops on the run. I enjoyed spending time with some companies with neat new products – ALCiS for who I mentioned in the body of the report and Avia, who introduced me to the AVI-LITE II, a shoe I liked so much that I will begin running them this week as a possible Kona “race-day” candidate.

I also tested the new Forward Motion/Louis Garneau Tri-kit during the race. The fit was perfect! The tri-short pad is the best I have ever raced - period. No chaffing – pure comfort. The new Louis Garneau Rocket helmet screamed “RED” and the new ratcheting system is a dream.

I would recommend anyone to take a look at these products.

Race organization was perfect in every way but one: The t-shirt pick-up lines are really too long. I waited 20 minutes, still had a long way to go, and finally said: “keep it” and left. That is my only complaint, and it is a small one, as Russ Pugh and the team are extraordinary and I hope to always tow the start at this event - It is something special.

Arm held up, but still very "iffy".

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Buffalo Springs Lake Triathlon - 70.3

A big sky lies upon the west Texas plain, it rests on grass. Wind buffets the grass and at one point the grass gives way to a deep canyon carved into the plain by an ancient spring. A lake formed at bottom, when the spring was dammed, and the water is now used for the amusement of men.

Every year a unique brand of Triathlete makes their way to the West Texas town of Lubbock to challenge themselves, and each other on this course, in this canyon.

Often hot, blazing hot, the big skies do open up and when they do, the course is transformed from a hilly blast furnace to one of humidity and “pleasant” warmth, but handicaps the racers by turning the chip-seal road surface from one of “grip” to that of an "ice rink".

The athletes that race at Buffalo Springs Lake Triathlon (BSLT) are much like the weather … they are at opposite ends … extremes. Locals participating for fun, once a year, proud of their namesake event, mix with “slot hungry” racers from around the country and reining age-group world champions and pro’s who choose to race BSLT because the course is hard, the conditions are hard, tests their mettle, and because the locals are as friendly as the skies are big. In Texas, the rules are enforced - the race is clean.

Race day weather was wet, windy (10-30 mph), it even hailed at one point in the day. Temps were great, low 70's on the run ... humidity was high 85-90%. Lightning danced around the course.

I had a good swim, but lost 30+ second, as I swam "hand slap" left, due to a clog of "strugglers", on a straight line/right buoy and had to retrace, by request of a “paddler”, to capture it on the right. (Note: Don't believe this was necessary, no gain, and my heart was right, but why argue when 30-some seconds can heal)

I noted in my Wildflower report that my transitions were slow - rusty. I remedied that between May and June and “T1” was very fast.

The bike was a blast. I rode without a heart rate monitor or watt meter. I do not have computers on my bikes anymore, but added one with 2-sided tape, race morning, to function as a max speed gauge due to the wet (slick!) windy descents and an unwanted leftover from my 2007 accident: fear of crashing which sadly affects me at speed. I really need to find a way to overcome this.

I rode my Cervelo P3C and a Blackwell Research Disk with a crazy deep (fast!) Blackwell Research front wheel, which is winning people over, when I loan it out, for reason of speed and stiffness - my teammate Jason Cruiser is the latest convert. While a little “dicey” in the 10-30 mph gusty crosswinds when speeding down into the canyons, it was a "kick ass" combo in the flat and rolling sections; you could really hang it out there in the wind and just sail along!


I took in 1 and 1/2 bottles of my Cytomaxrace mix” for nutrition thanks to Elite Team, BSLT - race pal & companion “Kim Bruce” who brought what I had forgotten (Duoh!). Luckily she was “over-prepared” as I would have been completely uncomfortable with anything other than my proven mix from my proven supplier! I should note that Kim was one of those “slot hungry” racers who took on some of the best age-groupers in the nation to punch her Kona ticket! Aloha, Kim, Ho'omaika'i Ana!

I was off the bike in 1st AG position – posting the 30th fastest O/A bike split of the day, including the Pro field. I felt I road the course well ... felt happy the entire ride, enjoyed the bonus of “epic” weather, the rain in my face, never went too deep or into debt and therefore came off thing feeling rather smart for the run. Nice to know, with Kona in my sights, that I could have held the same pace for the full distance with little concern.

T2 was also very fast – ran with no socks which is only possible because of Nike’s wonderful Zoom Elite shoes that Marty Breen at Forward Motion Sports had recommended. I pulled my visor down low and ran "out" for a focused effort.

I ran “swiftly/softly” (a mantra from my old mentor Tom Price) at max’ sustainable pace (for this day) the entire run. I took *zero* aid as my Cytomax bike “cocktails” had given me the calories and “oomph” I needed to find the finish. I simply ran from start to finish non-stop.

There is a lonely out and back section in Lubbock that reminds me of the "Queen K” in Kona … you even come to it on the wings of a tough little climb not unlike “Palani”. I ran it as I run the Queen “K”: Eyes closed, staying in a dreamy state, “fuzzing open” my right eye at odd intervals to glimpse the “white line” and make sure I was not getting too sideways while running blind.

My lungs & heart were slightly labored and throttled my pace ... as has been the case in the past BSLT races. The result made my run pace a reflection of my cardio-vascular system vs. my legs. I think this is due to the altitude in Lubbock 3000-3300' ... not a lot ... but noticeable (I live and train at 200') ... interesting that my “AG pals” who passed me (2) ... one at mile 2.5 and one at mile 12 were from Los Alamos (7000') and Boulder (5400’) respectively - they ran very well.

My thought is that I have a lot work to do on my run; and although I still have arm pain, my run has been the slowest discipline to reacquire “pre-wreck” speed/pace/endurance.

I will stay focused and keep on top of my commitment to get back to 100% by time I get to Hawaii in October.

I was happy with an AG 3 finish result as it represented the best I could give to the course, to my family who have given me the gift of "freedom" and "support" to pursue my passion for this sport, and to my sponsors who stayed with me when I was out and doing them little good.

I also want to thank Doc and the TBB crew who have allowed me to "listen in" and take from them a renewed love of racing.

Also gratifying to enjoy a podium finish connected to such a difficult course, contested by such worthy competitors, hosted by this wonderful community, under the wide open skies of West Texas.


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Race Report - Wildflower

Every year I pick a series of events that are marked as “for fun”. The key is “no stress”, “no expectations”, “F-U-N only”. Typically, I pick events where fun is not an option: “Muddy Buddy”, “B-2-B” … but when the opportunity to race Wildflower came my way, sandwiched between Ironman Arizona and Buffalo Springs Lake 70.3 (“Lubbock”), I decided to race the “Olympic” for “kicks and giggles” – fun only.

A race-day purchase of some wonderfully "vibrant", wildflower print, “Fuzzy Duds” shorts, helped keep the tone where it was supposed to be. It was also great to see “Cowboy”, the founder, working the booth. I have known him since his early days when we met on Diablo and I have enjoyed watching him find business success and achieve his dream.

I must confess that a little bit of the “competitive Joe” leaked out … I did review what the short course specialists, like Pete Kain, Jason Campbell and Kyle Welch have been doing these days … and on this course in particular. WOW! Very cool to see how the times have fallen! These “middle-aged” guys really rock the “Oly” distance. I decided that my “competitive” goal for the day was to get as close to the top 5 “short course guys”, as possible, and to do my best to contribute to Forward Motion Sports and FMRC in the club competition ... and have F-U-N.

Physically I’ve had a strained left shoulder since IMAZ (from hauling luggage - not from the event) and residual pain in my forearm caused by the plate and screws in my arm, so my swim training in the 3 weeks between events was "once". I did not have any issues with the distance, but I was pulling more bubbles than I should have been as a result of not swimming.

Swim 23:23

I am rusty on transitions and should have been faster.

T1 - 2:28

I pushed the bike hard, but was slow on the clock for several reasons:

- IMAZ 3 weeks ago.

- No taper. Lubbock (70.3) is 8 weeks out … so after 2 weeks of easy riding after IMAZ, I am back to high watts work. Read: 14,000 feet of climbing and a couple of high-watt “Computrainer” sessions in the week leading into Wildflower, including a “healthy ride” on the mountain with my friend and teammate Jason Cruser.

- I was also a complete “pussy” on the descents. I chose to ride a new Blackwell Research (Just out of the box – 1st ride) front wheel that I will use in Kona and I get a little nervous bombing around on new equipment. I also carry a little trepidation, I kind of "tense", as a result of my accident. Net: I lacked the confidence to push the high-speed descents, but wanted to use the race to get on the wheel..

- I kept F-U-N in mind and played to the volunteers and the folks who lined the course – I had a blast doing it and was rewarded with “cheers” and “smiles” along the way. Good stuff!

- I also dumped the TT helmet for this race and went “vented”. Maybe I’ll share more at a later date, when I have explored where I am headed with my training. If you are thinking: “you gave up free time by not going aero-helmet”, the answer is “yes”, but sometimes symbolism is needed ... important.

I drank one bottle of my CytoSport cocktail and felt wonderful and well caloried enough to work hard the entire ride and have enough calories for the run. I earned the time I posted. I am happy with it.

Bike - 1:13:55

Handled T2 better than T1

T2 - 1:48

My big goal, after my "suffer-fest" at IMAZ, was to have a solid run. I have been training daily, as a result of it (AZ), and took 2 days of run taper, prior to Wildflower, to insure that I would not … umm … fall apart … or ... ummm... “Yak” ... on the finish line … again. I had a heart rate monitor on, out of habit, turned it around at mile marker "1", so I could not see it. At mile 2, I fully committed and turned the damned thing “off” and ran the rolling course on feel, on fun, on the energy of the race, surfing my own energy’s “ups” and “downs”. I was thrilled with how good, and how happy, I felt and was overjoyed with my run split. I also went to lengths to acknowledge, and thank, the volunteers … something I did little of in Arizona ... and needed to make up for.

Run - 41:26 (6:41 m/m) in Nike Zoom Elite's

I finished 7th in AG, a solid result that gives me confidence that I am recovering from IMAZ and on track to execute well in Lubbock.


It was a fabulous “Tri-fest” hanging with teammates, friends, and my bride … a bonus: FMRC” scored a 4th place in the club competition!

Joe

Friday, April 25, 2008

Race Report - Ironman Arizona


Leading into Ironman Arizona, I had a vague sense something had gone missing ... a basic element of the lifestyle I had enjoyed for so many years as a “Cyclist”, “Triathlete” and “Runner” ... an aspect ... perhaps essence ... something special ... peculiar to ... us.

I never focused on it, but the sense did not go away.

And the sense of something missing was present in Arizona as I readied for my first race since Kona in 2006. Between 2006 and 2008, I had spent the better part of a year recovering from injuries sustained in a "bike-car" accident - I was "bike". Upon reflection, even when I caught a nasty pre-race sore throat & cold which would have sent the “old” Joe spinning … no nerves … no panic … nothing.

Something missing.

Race day … an eerie personal calm … if I had admitted it, then, I would have said “disconnected” … the line-up for the swim-start … “BOOM” and a relaxed 64 minute swim back to land being careful to work form and "manage" my right "paddle", which my doctor assures me is fine, structurally, but gets quite painful when I swim over 3K or train "back-to-back" days. My new QR "Superfull" wetsuit did the job of getting me home faster than my vintage 1996 QR “silver belly” ever did. It really is amazing what “good rubber” will do for a middle-aged “sinker” ... let alone one with a "Erector Set" lurking below an 7" incision in his arm.

The bike ride felt no different than any of my training rides, with one important difference: my heart was beating 15 beats per minute off max. And while some have ventured: “…perhaps you were riding outside your zone”, I have to say that after a “bazillion” bike miles, I really do know “my zone” and I was “in it” and having a rather good time. My bike legs were fine, light, loose… experience suggested that the problem was the “sore throat/cold” and since “it” was not going to go away, I decided it was best to ignore the anomaly, turn-off the sound function of my heart rate monitor and get on with the business of riding.

Off the bike in 5:05 … 26.2 miles to go with a milkshake and 2 pretty girls on the other end (my Wife and Daughter).

It is hard to tell where you are during a multiple loop event like IMAZ, but an empty transition tent is a good sign that your “bike day” has gone well. For me, only 35 people (including the pro's) biked faster which requires I lavish huge praise on CytoSport for helping me make changes in nutrition, while I was laid-up.

Few realize what a big part "nutrition" played in going from a top-10 AG finish in Kona 2005 and 2006 ... to suffering nearly a year off and complete loss of "fitness" ... to "recovery" from the accident and the follow-on surgeries ... to then qualify for "Kona 2008" ... on 5 short months of training.

With out a base to work from, each workout had to be balanced with recovery, that would let me get back on the bike, in the pool or for another run with a minimal amount of down time. I can not tell you how much the input from CytoSport and the effectiveness of their products helped ... I literally started at zero in November - a year off running, a year off swimming and 7 months off cycling.

Also contributing to a good ride was the advice of Dave Bunce and John Cobb at Blackwell Research who talked me into riding their 100mm front wheel … which scared the hell out of me (SO DEEP) … but they were right: it road beautifully, even when the winds bumped us.

I also have to acknowledge the gang at Cervelo, who have been friends for over 12 years now. Chris, Thorben, Dave, Fletch, Phil ... who helped me in Kona 2006 and made sure I had a lovely P3C to dream about when I was convalescing.

There were also some “break your legs off” training days on Mines Road in the muck and cold of winter where my only comfort was the warm winter cycling gear that I picked up at Forward Motion Sports.

I jumped on the run course in AG 2nd position – and in the first mile realized I was in real trouble. While I could pedal through my high heart rate, I could not run through it and the effort quickly turned into a shambles. To fall completely apart was a shock ... heart breaking. Then to have to push ... !!!PUSH!!! ... to a achieve “what” ... a "PW" … crushing.

I suffered each step ... and I did so knowing that each step was taking me further away from my dream of a "podium return" to racing and a “slot” to Kona ... until I recognized, with 14 miles to go, that it was all simply gone ... that I completely and utterly failed.

Tough moment ... but in the end an interesting one, because I stepped upon a humble path named "finish" … at a point where I thought "don’t push save yourself for Lubbock” … I committed to foreword progress as best/fast as I could muster, be it “run”, “walk” or “shuffle”. … mile-after-mile ... the best I could deliver how ever small and tragic.

I wrote my close friends the next day:

I am heading back to Kona. I share this with no "bravado", or podium. Sunday's race was so difficult …and today, I am still suffering the cramping and illness that followed my finish. The World Championship slot came despite a personal worst 4:08 marathon and I confess that there were tears .. as the run took everything I had … it took all my experience, and challenged my commitment to maintain forward motion ... however slow. Miles filled with suffering, a sense of loss, hopelessness in the face of my goals … and today, I think I am coming to see that the run mirrored my journey back from my accident of 14 months ago… from the first mile to the finish ... and I am humbled.

In the days that have followed I have given quite a lot of thought to it ...this race …“that run” ... the lack of connection to the event, the day. And while it may be self-absorbed to invest so much time dissecting “it” ... not the numbers ... but “it” the influences and the experiences ... I was puzzled.

I was puzzled by a half wake dream, the sort that is highly visual, but where you have some element of control over the content. The focus was "the race" and trying to rationalize it. The dream was very simple: it was of the fog that drifts on the mountain (Diablo) near the South Pay Gate in summer. The summer fog playing at odds with the blue sky and the sun as its mists peel up into the blue and dissipate in the coming heat.

Beautiful to watch, the play between blue and sun and fog, as one runs up the hill. Odd that this was the dream ... simply the fog and the interplay.

I found myself in my office last night around 6:00 wanting to go for an hour run before dinner. My toes had taken a beating on the Arizona run course and my morning swim had accelerated the separation of "toe nails" from "toes". To "box" my peeling nails into shoes without removing them was not an option, so like all good endurance racers, I got out "the kit" and played doctor. Because of the bleeding I rummaged through my sock drawer for ”black" running socks and the “shoe pile” for "dark" running shoes.

The run was lovely. Not for any other reason than I had "pace" ... felt "connected"...I was "happy" ... in "harmony" ... a “runner”. I sensed it and others did to as evidenced by waves, nods and smiles from nearly all I came into contact with along the 8-mile route.

It occurred to me in the middle of the run ... how comically absurd ... the desire to run, the bleeding toes, and the solution: black socks and dark shoes. The pure joys of an evening run eliminating any sense of discomfort.

I felt like a.... “Triathlete”. I had made "Triathlete" choices. For the first time since I road Mines road in February of last year and the accident that ended the ride ... I felt like I used to ... “connected”.

And this morning, as I woke, the meaning of the interplay between fog and sun and sky became clear. There is an "essence" that comes from what we do, an interplay between our geography, our bodies, our spirit. At its best, our sport, and we participants, explore this. It is a higher value of "endurance athletics", and in the dream the sun the sky are metaphors for natural beauty, self, and the fog that plays in the morning light is the "essence" of what we do.

The Swahili term "moyo" has been "mis" and "over" used as of late, but my vague sense of loss was my endurance "moyo" and to reconnect last night ... wonderful.