Tuesday, November 5, 2013

2013 Season Summary Part III

Last post finished off with a couple downer races in a row. Lackluster finishes at Xterra West Championships and 70.3 St. George left me questioning my fitness and preparation. I took a bit of a mid-season break and re-focused, determined to finish out the season strong.

In July, I headed up to Running Springs, CA for Xterra Snow Valley. This is a race I tend to do well at and I already had enough points to secure an invite to Xterra National Championships. With the pressure of qualifying off my shoulders, I was free to push the envelope a bit.

Longer course this year, but I was up for it. The run course there is burly and I knew doing a full 10k on the side of a mountain would hurt...it did.

The swim pace to the first buoy was INSANE with super-swimmer Tom Monica leading it out. I felt like I struggled a bit in the water, specifically with sighting. Not a great swim, but a manageable gap to "the front". On to the bike and time to do work.

Legs loaded up a bit on the bike  from a big training week going in. Lots of people gassed in the latter stages from the longer course. I inherited the lead for my AG when the leader flatted, but I had no idea.

Hit the run just trying to run steady the whole way and be smart, not go too hard too early and crack.

I suffered a lot on the run here. My hamstrings kept trying to cramp on me and the legs just felt dead. Saw a couple perennial "fast" guys come around me as well as Chris Clarke, who caught me even after fixing his flat. Dammit. A win would have been great, but 2nd place was pretty sweet after a couple crummy races. 

 After Snow Valley, I headed up to Xterra Lake Tahoe. This is the old Championships Course that I LOVE: amazingly scenic venue and a steep, technical bike course. Brother Steve lives nearby and decided to race with me. Bonus.

I didn't write anything down on my training log, so it's hard to remember exactly how things went. I remember having a decent swim, but not great. I felt like I rode the bike course VERY well. I made lots of passes up the initial climb while still keeping my effort in check. I topped out the climb and hit the Flume Trail (techy single track) feeling pretty good. Somewhere on the Flume trail, I rode clear of the main group and into the gap between the front of the race. I rode the last of the climbs fairly well, but struggled a bit on the very last climb up to the top of the Rim Trail.

I ate up the techy downhill in typical brap-tastic fashion and hit the run a bit fatigued. I'm picking up on a theme here...

The run in Tahoe isn't steep, but it's constantly up, down and twisty such that getting into a rhythm is difficult. The legs were hating me at this point, but I sucked it up and finished it out.

I didn't feel like I had a great race, so imagine my surprise when I checked the results and saw that I picked up the win in my AG. Woop!

 Even a blind squirrel gets a nut once in a while! Fortunately, none of the top guys in my region showed up to the race and I snuck into 2nd in the points rankings. Woo hoo! After two solid races, I had momentum building into National Championships. I couldn't help but get excited at my prospects in Ogden.

September finally arrived and Holly and I headed up to Ogden, UT for Xterra National Championships. I felt rested, but the 13-hour drive definitely took something out of me. Still, we got into town on Thursday with the race on Saturday, so I thought there would be plenty of time for me to recover and put in a solid race.

Friday morning, we went out to the reservoir so I could check out the start and the water.

Almost perfect water temps and you can see how glassy the water is. Win.

I grabbed a snack and we drove the 20 mins up the hill to Snowbasin for a quick course recon. Utah in the fall? Yes, please! This photo does not do the area any justice, incredibly scenic venue. Holly went out for a run and convinced me I should look at the first climb on the run. I'm glad I did: it's STEEP! We packed up and headed back to the hotel so I could rest up for tomorrow.

Race morning came and I woke up not ready to go, but a bit tired. Race logistics are challenging due to the point-to-point format (not my favorite) and set-up took a lot of time and energy. Still, I got set up, marked and ready to go. 

The canon goes off and it's mass start chaos. The water is super choppy from all the swimmers and from the camera helicopter. It felt like I wasted a lot of energy trying to get clear water or trying to get a breath. The swim seemed to go on forever and the crowd never seemed to thin out like it does at most races. I hit the boat ramp, glanced at my watch and saw that it read 38 mins...for a 1.5k. Wha??? I spotted the same people I usually come out of the water with and figured the course was miss-marked. I learned after the race that a buoy broke loose and floated away; some racers with GPS had the swim at 1.5 MILES. Oops.

 Nothing to do, but roll with it. Onto the bike and my heart rate is JACKED. Going up the first climb and it feels like I'm moving in slow motion; almost going backward. I tried to hang on wheels, but the power just wasn't there.

I recovered, a bit, on the short downhill (bike course has a net UPhill) and hoped the legs would come around on the climb to Sardine Peak....nope. Seriously gassed way before the top and my stomach is cramping horribly. Finally at the top and I'm starting to get an altitude or dehydration headache. Great.What's worse is I can't descend like I to want because my stomach hurts too much. To add insult to injury, my chain over-shifted into my spokes about 1 mile from T2 forcing me to stop and work it out; easily costing me a few minutes.

I seriously thought about pulling the plug at T2. I was trashed and my stomach hurt as bad as it did in St George. The only thing that got me out was that I had spent too much time and money to give up here and walking 10k would "only" take 2 hours or so. Might as well slog it out.

Lots of walking, a little jogging here and there, but mostly just managing my stomach pain. It's a shame, because the run course looked fun! I really wanted to run more of it, but my stupid stomach wouldn't let me. I was feeling pretty down on myself until I caught Anthony Snoble, who's always near the front of the race. Seems like everyone has a bad race from time-to-time and he said something to his friend that helped me feel a bit better: "I'm not going to beat myself up over one bad race." I felt a little better after that.

Family photo! Brother Steve nabbed a Nationals invite thanks to a solid race at Tahoe. Racing with friends and family makes it way more fun!

As much as I whine and moan when races go sideways, I'm still incredibly lucky to do what I do and I love every horrible minute of it. Looking back, I can call 2013 a breakthrough season; I managed 2nd in my AG points for Xterra, got on the podium at 4/7 races and even pulled down an AG win. I think I've got a bead on the stomach thing and I've made some diet changes that seem to be helping a lot. It may or may not be related, but I came down with a massive cold the Monday after Nationals. It's hard to say if I was sick before and fighting it or if I caught it in the day after the race.

The good news is that I'm in a great position going into 2014. Better news is that 2013 isn't done yet. Not quite...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

2013 Season Summary (Part II)

Last post, I left off after a disappointing finish at Xterra West, but with time to fix some weaknesses before heading into 70.3 St George.

I've only done one other 70.3, Oceanside, back in 2005. I was sure that the years of training since then would add up to a strong race.

Holly and I headed out early, did the pre-race registration thing and then dropped off the bike in transition. I rode the first part of the courde to get a feel for the climb out of the reservior. I forget just how huge WTC races are; 2000 people need lots of space...and lots of bathrooms.


 After hearing the horror stories of how steep the bike course was, Holly and I decided to drive the course. I was glad we did, it's steep!

Thankfully, it's also breathtakingly beautiful. So much that we stopped a few times to snap pictures. I can think of worse places to hold a 70.3.

Sadly, I don't have any photos of me during the race other than proofs on the web. The swim is remote from T2 and Holly just wasn't able to get any photos of me. Basically, it went down like this:

Up at 3:30; too nervous to eat anything solid. Had an Ensure as soon as I got up,1/2 cup of nasty hotel coffee, took care of morning business and hit the road for the Start/Finish. Dropped off run gear and got on the bus.

I started way outside to avoid the bumping and sprinting typical of a tri start. Swam solid, a little fatigue, but stuck to my stroke and felt like I kept focus well. No thoughts of "I'm tired" or "is this over, yet?" just head down and doing work. Late start meant lots of knuckle heads to swim around and not much in the way of drafting opportunities.

33 mins by my watch, 34 mins official time. O-Side was 35 mins.

Smoked so many people in T1, it was comical. HR REALLY high coming out of the water, people hammering the climb out of the reservoir like a 40K. I stuck to my race plan and kept it mellow. Weather conditions were as good as one could hope for SW Utah in May. Started getting a side stitch close to the 40-mile mark. Took a plain water bottle from aid station 3, which jumped out on the speed bumps into Snow Canyon. Knew I'd need it so I stopped, rode back and picked it up. Easily a 3 minute eff up. Climb up Snow Canyon was gnarly and I had the WRONG cassette for sure. Wound up running 60-80 RPM's the whole way up and out of the saddle more than I would have liked. Hot and sweating buckets; definitely suffered through that section. The way back into town was a 30+ MPH smile fest. Awesome! Rocketed into T2 ready to do some damage, but side stitch had gotten worse and I was worried about running with it. Pounding usually makes it worse.
Pee break out of T2, grabbed my nutrition flask and hit it. Feeling the bike leg a bit, but stoked to throw down and see what I had. Only the side stitch got exponentially worse and worked it's way over to the left side too. I walked and jogged though the first 20 mins and then was down to just walking. Jamming my hand into my abdomen trying to work it out, sipping water. Nothing worked. Made it to aid station 3 and sat down in hopes it would work itself out, but no dice. Tried some coke, no help. Looked at my watch and saw I had been there for 45 minutes. The writing was on the wall at that point. The aid station captain had been checking on me every couple minutes and I finally worked up the courage to call it a day. Turning in that timing chip was really tough emotionally....

Fortunately, I had a break planned after the race. Sice it was only May, I had plenty of time to lick my wounds, re-focus and nail what remained of the Xterra season.

To be contuniued...

Friday, October 4, 2013

2013 Season Summary (Part 1)

I've been severely lacking in the 'blogging department. Chalking it up to being "busy" sounds lame, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it. A lot went on this past triathlon season, I had some really good races and some really bad ones. There was no central theme and I couldn't pinpoint what caused the wild performance swings. If anything, I performed best at low-key races where I just out to have a good time and trash myself. Point of fact, I crashed and burned at every priority race this year. Not good. 

The early season was BUSY on all fronts. I wound up going away for a few weeks to San Luis Obispo for work training and then crammed back-to-back-to-back races into the end of March/ beginning of April. NOT ideal, but Xterra is a cruel mistress sometimes.

The madness started with Xterra REAL in Granite Bay, CA on 3/30. Typical March conditions at Lake Folsom, COLD water (50 deg) and cool temps. Conditions that suit me just fine. That's me on the left side of the pic with the yellow cap showing under the orange one. Super-secret cold water tip: double cap! Keeps your head warm since latex doesn't transmit heat very well. 

My swim was lackluster, as always, I moved up on the bike and lost a few spots on the run. I've come to accept that this is just how I race; I'm still working on the swim and run, but the bike has always been (and probably will always be) my strong leg. 

On the bike, I found myself "in the gap" between the really fast guys and the kind of fast guys. Someday, I hope to bridge that gap; it didn't happen this year....

I got stomach cramps during the swim and they plagued me all race. Fact is, stomach cramps plagued me all season. Basically, I get a side stitch that doesn't go away and gets worse as the race progresses. Sometimes I can slow down and manage it and sometimes it's so bad I'm forced to walk ....or worse. 

This time, things were on the manageable side and I wound up on the podium! First place was pro Damien Gonzales, so I got points for third. SCORE. 

The very next weekend, I hit up a local race: Xterra Renegade at Lake Puddingstone. I really like this venue, but I don't consider it a technically challenging race course. Still, I planned on having fun, crushing it and making it home in time for a few beers. I ran into local pro MTB racer Chuck Jenkins in transition and knew the rest of my age group would be racing for second. Though Chuck races bikes, he's a rescue swimmer for the military and isn't afraid of a little lake swim. My only shot at a win was to drop the hammer in the swim, manage my losses on the bike and see if I could reel him in on the run. NOPE.

I beat Chuck out of the water by a solid margin, but he blew by me on the bike. Dude even had time to put his headphones on....insult to injury.

I didn't know it, but I had second place coming off the bike in front of Chris Clarke. Chris and I wound up battling all season, nice guy so no animosity at all. Chris got by me on the run and I wound up in third. Solid day for me; two races, two podiums and pint glass awards. Score. I'm in the top pic, the rest are Chuck. 

The very next weekend, Holly and I rolled out to Vegas for Xterra West Championships. I was feeling good after my early season results and though I might have an outside chance at a World's Spot (top 3 age group), certainly an age group to 10. 

It was definitely hot, but not nearly as bad as Vegas is capable of. I took it smarter this year and didn't pre-ride 1/2 the course. I sat my happy ass in the hotel room in the air conditioning. Same crummy result, though.

The swim felt long; wind picked up at the turn around and we swam straight into chop for most of the swim. Never felt comfortable with my stroke or breathing and took a pretty good beating the whole way. Tried to get to clean water, but knew I wasted too much energy here. Stomach cramps came on strong in the water; not good.

The bike was all about getting nutrition in and managing the stomach cramps. They changed the course since I raced there last; more ride-able, but MUCH more steep climbing. Since I'd been focused on training for the St George 70.3, I wasn't prepared for that much elevation gain. My legs were pretty smashed by lap two and my stomach cramps were very painful by that point.

I don't usually carry water bottles for 11k, but it was HOT and I was hurting.

Pros were finishing up by the time I even started the run; Lesley Patterson came flying by on her way to the finish as I was heading out.I'd given up hope of placing well by the time I started running and had transitioned to survival mode. Any kind of running hurt a LOT and I wound up walking most of the run course. 

Still, I sucked it up and trudged my way in. The salt stains and my facial expression tell the story.

After a solid first two races, this melt-down had me scratching my head. Luckily, I felt I had enough time before the St George 70.3 to shore up my weaknesses and come in strong. 

To be continued......

Monday, November 26, 2012

Triathlon Off-Season Tips and Tricks

If you're like most athletes, you finished your last race a month or two ago and you're working on the butt-groove on your couch or adding a spare tire to your waistline. Pretty soon, however, you'll start getting that itch. You search the web, looking for a 10k run an open water swim or ANYTHING to scratch that racing itch. I've heard this time of the year called "the Dreamin' Season" because you're dreaming about next year and how great it could be. Here are a few things I've learned over the years that can help you turn that dream into a reality. Single sport athletes: do not despair for all of what follows apply you too.

1) What's the plan, Stan?

Before you suit up and head out the door for your first workout of the season, you need to know what you're doing and why you're doing it. Every workout needs an articulable purpose and should move you toward peak fitness on race day. The key to being in your best shape when you need it is to have a plan.
Consider starting your season planning by identifying races where you want to perform your best at. My best advice here is choose races that excite you and even make you a little nervous. The more excited about I race I am, the harder I tend to train and race for it.

Once you identify your race priorities, you should identify and write down a few performance goals you need to hit in training in order to perform at your best in races. Some examples are specific power goals on the bike, and specific paces during a swim or run test set. Make sure these have a measurable quantity and a date assigned to them so you stick to them. Example: aerobic 20k run in 90 mins by 12th week of training. Also, make sure you include Short -Term Objectives that help you work towards your larger goals. Smaller objectives like: stretch every day, go to yoga 2x per week, do strength training 2x per week, and complete 90% of workouts can keep you on track when you begin losing focus.

Some final tips on planning: write down not only what you plan on doing, but what you've completed. Reviewing your log/journal at regular intervals provides a sense of accomplishment and helps with motivation. Writing your training down also provides you with a blueprint for success for future seasons, if things go well or can show you what not to do if things didn't go as planned.

2) Get your swoll on

From a purely empirical perspective, strength training helps with my athletic performance. Off-season is the time to address any weaknesses that held you back last season. If you lack things like speed on the flats on the bike leg, power in the water, or hill climbing on the run, adding strength training can help address those issues.If hitting the gym isn't for you, there are plenty of alternative strength routines that can help improve performance. Personally, I prefer a suspension trainer to the gym for its affordability, ease of use and effectiveness in a short workout. Others have seen results with plyometrics, pilates, yoga, etc. Experiment and see which works best for you.

3) You are what you eat

Off-season coincides with big eating holidays in the northern hemisphere. One of the biggest mistakes I see is athletes who stop training altogether in September, gain a lot of weight over the holidays and then start training after January 1st. You've lost too much fitness over the off-season, gained too much weight and your performance is the same year after year. Take a break, yes, but maintain some level of fitness and a healthy weight so you're not starting over every year. Definitely indulge a little in the all the goodness that the holidays have to offer, but have in your head that moderation is the key to a better season next year.

4) Slow is PRO

One of the things elite athletes do better than "the rest of us" is they go slow when it's time to go slow. You've just emerged from your winter hibernation and your'e fired up to start training. So you log a bunch of hours, you're smoking your buddies in group rides by February, your early season data looks good and you're deliriously happy. Then you start losing interest, you skip workouts and by May or June you've all but quit. What happened? The next year you start your training even earlier only this time you get to April and you're burned out. This is a nasty cycle that I've been guilty of getting caught up in too. Pump the brakes, remember that it's VERY early right now. Remind yourself that you want to be fast at your next goal race and not killing it in February. I believe there is a finite amount of training and racing "energy" every athlete possess during a training year and you want to burn it slowly so there is enough to get you through the whole season. A mid-season break helps replenish this energy, but burn it all in the winter/early spring and you're on track for burn out. Take it easy early on. Save that energy for late in the season when your competition is burned out and take it to 'em.

6) If it fits, it ships

Off-Season is the time to address equipment issues.If you've never had a professional bike fit, it might be time to get one. Bike fit becomes more critical the more time you spend in the saddle for your race and for time trialing. For triathlon, the goal is maximizing power output and aerodynamics simultaneously without leaving you too trashed to run. Getting a proper fit now allows your body time to get used to the position well before race day; ignoring a poor-fit can cause lead to a DNF. Don't let this happen to you.

It's also time to correct any technique flaws in your swimming stroke or run mechanics. I thought my run mechanics were pretty solid, but had them looked at after I sought treatment for a cuboid sprain. My physical therapist watched me run, confirmed that my mechanics were solid, but suggested a few tweaks that dropped time off my mile splits without adding effort. Free speed!

 Bottom line, get your bike fit to you, have your run and swim mechanics looked at. Find a pro coach that has video so you can see the before and after because what it feels like you're doing and what you're actually doing may be vastly different.


Despite all your physical training and preparation, something on race day won't come out as planned and how you deal with that adversity dramatically affects your race. Fortunately, there are things you can do prior to race day to help you when things go sideways. During intervals, visualize yourself in the middle of a race, see yourself performing well or maybe chasing down your fiercest rival. Greek philosopher, Aristotle (?) said that to truly know something, you must believe it to be true. I feel the same way with fitness, in order to truly reach your potential you must BELIEVE that you have the capacity to perform at that level. Whatever goals you choose this season, you have to truly believe that you are capable of achieving them. I love analogies, and my favorite is this: "going for it" in a race is akin to throwing yourself off a cliff and hoping the mattress (your fitness) at the bottom is in the right spot and soft enough to catch you. You really have to trust your fitness to race at a high level and any self-doubt can hold you back from racing at your physical capabilities. You have to TRUST yourself and your fitness.

I hope some of the tips above will help you in the coming season. I'm always happy to help out.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Xterra Snow Valley Race Report

Apologies for not posting as much as I used to. Between work, a wedding, training and more, I have very little time for much else. 

Oh yeah; I got married! 

Holly and I tied the knot in June at Crystal Cove. Perfect weather, all our friends, delicious food and plenty of libations. Stoked to be married to such a wonderful woman.

Skipping ahead...

Money's always tight for us. I'm new at work, student loans are kicking my butt and there isn't any extra money for racing right now. I posted Friday on FB that I wasn't racing Snow Valley. I went to my brother-in-law's rehearsal dinner (another wedding!) and started in on a Chili Verde plate and a Kona Fire Rock. I ordered a second beer and got a call from a number I didn't recognize. It was Gary, the R.D. for snow Valley. He saw my FB post, took pity on me and offered to comp my race entry. His generosity completely humbled me and I struggled for words. I went back top the table, told Holly what had happened and she didn't hesitate: "You need to do it."

Less-than stellar race prep given I hadn't cleaned the bike in too long and the huge meal I'd just finished. Whatever; roll with it.

I got up Saturday morning feeling like warmed-over death and headed straight for the coffee. Yeah EARLY. At least there's plenty of coffee in the world.

I hit the road for the two-hour trek to Running Springs and rolled in around 6:30. I checked in and made back to my car just in time to see Trevor's truck roll into the parking lot.

Always stoked to see race friends at events; races are so much more fun when people you like show up.

Even though I work at the beach, I feel more "at home" in the mountains. Days like Saturday sure help.

I warmed up, chatted with Trevor a bit, set up T2 and headed up the mountain to the lake. It was getting warm fast and I broke a bit of a sweat, even riding easy. I had plenty of time so never had to rush. A big change from the days when I was 15 minutes late to everything.

Wetsuit on, I swam around a bit and then waited for the start. Standing in the water, I felt a slight "tap, tap" on my right foot. Fish nibbling on my feet! Such a creepy feeling, but kind of neat that life is surviving in such a small lake.

They announced the start was not far off, so I swam into the lake a bit (deep water start) and got a decent position; 3...2...1...GO!!

Pretty mellow for a tri swim; only got smacked or half-drowned 4 or five times. I was really feeling the altitude and wound up backstroking twice to catch my breath. Couldn't get on feet for the life of me and zig-zagged like crazy. Not racing much has left my open-water skills severely lacking. I looked back at one point and didn't see too many people behind me. Crap. I managed the best I could but lost a lot of time. Good news is there's lots of room or improvement.

I hit T1, jumped on the bike and started moving pretty well. I just focused on picking a smooth line, managing my effort at altitude and having FUN. I figured the longer course this year would eat people up later in the race and I was right. Second lap and guys are slowing down big time. I felt good, so I picked it up a bit. I made a pass coming over a small rise and hit a loose, downhill section off-line. The front tire washed out and I hit the ground. The rider next to me ran over a couple fingers before I yanked my hand back. Back on the bike in a flash, and passing more people.


Pretty weak dirt rash...and now all of you know where my tattoo is.

Off the bike, on to the run and still feeling pretty solid. Still passing lots of people, but no idea what place I was in because the points tri, sport tri and duathlon were all mixed together. Same strategy as the bike: head down, racing and having FUN. Tough Mudder left hay on some of the hills, which made things slick even when dry. Interesting.

I kept waiting for the fatigue and it never came. Sure I was feeling it, but I didn't slow down nearly as much as other racers were. The base fitness is there just not the top-end speed. Yet.

I finished up and saw my time was 2:31. No big deal! I came into the race with no expectations and just had a good time. Mission accomplished. I cleaned up, packed up and went to check results and eat my free burger. I figured I'd be mid-pack somewhere. Imagine my surprise when I looked at the results...

My first win! I had hopes of maybe 5th in my age group, but a win never even crossed my mind! Blown away.

I waited around for awards; no way would I miss stepping onto the top of the podium for my first time. Gary handed me my award: "On your ass and in first!"

Winning doesn't suck! I was way off the overall (15 mins), but the points for the win added to the points I have from earlier in the season should mean a nationals invitation. WOW! I haven't qualified since 2008 and an invite would be huge after 3 seasons of injuries, poverty and the new job.

Still seems surreal. Wow. Just wow.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Pendulum Swing

Lots went on this past month. There's enough stuff for me to have posted every week, but I never seem to take the time to sit down and put it all down. Such is life. 

It's late Spring moving on into Summer, which means the ocean is starting to warm up a bit. Warmer water means ocean swimming season is right around the corner. This past week, we put a buoy up in front of Lifeguard Headquarters. 

If you race triathlon, you SHOULD be doing open water workouts when building up to a race. I realize not everyone has "warm" ocean temps like we do in So Cal, but you should take advantage if you do. Almost time for me to start doing some ocean stuff, the buoy looks tiny, but it's only 250 yards out; give or take.

In other news, my best friend whom I've known since I was 11 took a job in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina flying helicopters for the Summer. Flying has always been his dream, but it's tough to say goodbye, even if just for a few months.

 I had lunch with him before he left and this random bird kept begging for a french fry. It had some cool, iridescent feathers that didn't come out on camera. Any ideas what kind of bird it is?

Friend and client Scott Holland stopped by my place for a quick ride while on his way to Santa Ynez for a race. He had some tire issues and I couldn't resist taking a photo.

At least he's smiling about it!

Speaking of racing, I toed the line at my second race of the season the Idyllwild Spring Challenge. I love this course and the vibe is always super chill, but I didn't feel up for it the morning of the race. I slept like crap and my training through April was total shizzle thanks to me logging a bunch of OT trying to pay for our wedding. In the end I went because: the course was awesome, the vibe is amazing and I really needed to reconnect with all my crazy racer friends I haven't seen in a long time thanks to work. 

No huge race report here. I showed up with barely enough time to check in, kit up, mix bottles and make it to the start line. I was still filling bottles with 2 mins to start.  

 I forgot how FAST Cat 1 MTB starts are. Metallic taste in the mouth, legs felt like blocks of wood and I was, practically, blown by the top of the first climb. I'd reel guys in on the descents and they'd go right back by me on the next climb. The skills are there, but the fitness just isn't...yet.

Southridge climb. Sweating buckets. I look "soft" and it's clear I need to get lean and mean. No time like the present.

 Finishing up. The "dirt goatee" is a testament to how dusty it is out there. I love racing there, though. LOVE IT.

Friend and client Ed Price raced open category and beat me by a few minutes. Stoked to see him come by me. Strong work, man. 

Fast forward to this past weekend where Holly went for her first 50-Mile Ultra Marathon. We bailed out of home Friday afternoon and drove down to the race start for the PCT 50. I got hooked on this route when I read Chuckie V's through-hiking 'blog from a couple years back. Seeing the trail markers gets me going for sure. 
 Right this way..

We chatted with the other racers at the start and headed up to the Laguna Lodge. Deluxe accommodations, it ain't. "Rustic" is a good description. The decor is hideous and the TV is tiny, but you pay for the "ambiance" of staying in a mountain retreat.

Wood paneling and cheesy paintings of bears and deer screwed directly to the wall. Note the wall heater. Classy.

I'm a small guy and I make the TV look small. At least we wouldn't be spending too much time in the room. It had the basics and that was good enough for us.

I hit "relax mode" by Pinot Glass #3. Ha! I tried and failed at lighting a fire because I bought hard wood instead of pine. Rookie move.

Race morning came WAY too early. The "official" start is at 6, but they offer a 5 AM option for people who might struggle to make the cut-off times. Holly would start at 5.

Lots of activity at the start.

Early morning in the mountains means COLD. The car said 37 degrees; note the rosy cheeks.It was cold.

All smiles! I gave Holly some last-minute advice and watched the line of headlamps bounce away into the darkness. I knew she'd be OK through the 1/2 way mark at Penny Pines and I wanted to be mostly  conscious for the drive home. I headed back to the hotel and went back to sleep. I got back up at 8:30, ate breakfast, showered, locked the keys in the car (yeah, I did), waited for the local Fire Dept to unlock it and made it to the Penny Pines aid station with plenty of time for Holly to come in.

She wasn't doing so great and said she wanted to be done already. I took her pack off and she sat down in the dirt and promptly started crying. She finally collected herself, I got her pack re-filled, she munched a few things from the aid station table and headed back out. The next 4.4 miles were out and back to the same aid station, so I went with her to make sure she was at least, physically, still OK.

This course is so beautiful! The dirty secret is that Ultra Running involves a lot more walking than you'd think.

Amazing views! I paced Holly back to Penny Pines and my mental math said she'd be close to the cut-off at mile 32.5. I wanted to stay with her, but wasn't sure I'd be able to find a ride back to our car if I did. Crews weren't allowed at the next aid station, but Holly was in a bad way and I wanted to make sure she'd be OK. I drove to the next aid station, parked the car on the highway and jogged in to the aid station.

The cut-off was at 2:30. At 2:20 I headed up the course to look for her. About 2 miles in, I ran into her. She knew she wouldn't make the time cut-off at that point and I could see it in her face. I hugged her, she said "I'm sorry" and broke down crying in my arms. I couldn't help tearing up; seeing her so disappointed tore me up. We composed ourselves, I took her pack and we walked the 2-ish miles back to the aid station. She missed the time check by 30 minutes, BUT would have made the Noble Canyon 50k time cut-off with 30 minutes to spare. Harsh.

Ultra Marathon = Epic blisters.

We packed up, got our stuff Holly dropped off at the first aid station and hit the road. I was worked from chasing her around at altitude in the heat (mid 80's!) and was glad for the extra sleep that morning. We spent the rest of the day feeding our collective "hunger monsters" and then plopped Holly into an ice bath.

SLUMMING. I wanted beer, but didn't want to get hammered like I do when drinking the "good stuff".

A busy weekend, a busy month and June looks even worse with our wedding coming up. The good news is that I'm off probation on Sunday, which comes with a nice raise. Good stuff on the horizon and I'm excited for the next evolution. Cheers.


Monday, April 23, 2012

"All In"...(?)

 I was leaving work today and my co-worker noticed my shirt had a triathlon clothing logo on it. He asked "you're kinda all in triathlon, aren't you?" I answered pretty quickly, "yeah, I am". Lately, however, I've been pretty busy planning a wedding and my work schedule is all over the clock. Life stuff has topped the priority list for the last month and I'm starting to get a bit grumpy about it. I can feel the pendulum starting to swing back toward the fitness side of things, which is just how I like it.

If you follow me on social media, you know I got the triathlon season started at Xterra Renegade in San Dimas back at the end of March. There's not much to tell about it: I went hard, but didn't have the right fitness to post the results I wanted. I scored points for the series and blew the cobwebs off the race skills, but I came up way short compared to the guys out front. Huge chunks of time to make up and it's a bit daunting. Results here.

For those of you who enjoy the outdoors, like I do here's a reminder to watch where you're stepping...

Good looking Pacific Rattlesnake. The weather is warming up and they're out looking for tasty squirrels to munch on. Leave 'em alone and they'll slither away. This one high-tailed it shortly after this photo. 

On to current events! This past weekend, Holly and I headed out to Vegas for the Challenge Cup Relay (Baker to Vegas as it is more commonly known). It's a running relay that covers 120 miles. Nearly 300 20-person teams vie for bragging rights that last until next year's race. I found out about it roughly 11 years ago, but didn't have a chance to race it until this year. When I heard State Parks wanted to field a team, I jumped at the chance and threw my hat in the ring. This was in the works for roughly a year and I was excited to be on a team. FINALLY.

Holly and I woke up fairly early Saturday morning, finished packing her roller skate (Matrix) and hit the road. The drive out to Vegas is rarely any fun. There's always traffic and this weekend arrived with record temps. The car thermometer showed 91-105 degrees throughout the drive. Great...

I.E. anyone?


For all my drum corps friends... 

Our buses used to break down at Whiskey Pete's almost on cue. I still get anxious near state line and breathe a sigh of relief when I pass by and the car keeps running. Hilarious!

More desert. Woo...

We rolled in around 3. Traffic in Vegas ALWAYS sucks. Ick.

We checked in to our "deluxe accommodations" and cranked the A/C. Holly was in vacation mode. "If there's a pool, I'm laying by it." Nice water fall and "grotto", but the screaming kids kinda ruined it for us. I was getting hot and remembered I still had my running leg to go, so I bailed on the pool and headed back to the room for a nap.

Bathing Beauty. Hopefully, I won't get in too much trouble for posting the swim suit picture. Tough luck, guys; she's all mine.

Sexy and I know it (sorry, had to).

I failed at the nap part and slept for all of 20 minutes. Staying in the A/C was definitely the right move, though. 

We ordered dinner from some Italian take-out place. I ordered the Calzone and it showed up in a pizza box, it was so huge.

Unfortunately, the food was terrible and we both barely ate. Usually I go to a restaurant chain I trust or  get a room with a kitchenette and pack my own food. I paid for not following my own rules with a dicey stomach for the next 12 hours or so. 

We eventually met up with the other guys in my "crew" and headed out to the course. Our team started at 5PM and we were broken up into 4 groups to make logistics a bit smoother. Fact is, getting 20 guys to their stages over a 13-24 hour race is a huge undertaking and takes a lot of communication. Add spotty cell reception to that (it IS the desert, afterall) and you can imagine how much planning this thing takes.

We dropped Brian off for his leg and drove over to stage me for leg 13. It doesn't look that bad on paper; 7 miles and a net 300' gain. I warmed up, but kept it short because it was still 75 degrees. After a lot of waiting, they called that our team was a mile out. Butterflies...HR jacked... LED vest on...then our team number over the megaphone (TWO SIXTY EIGHT!!!). Brian bursts into the harsh circle of light at the check station. He waves the baton over the timing mat and I hear the "beep". Brian thrusts the baton at me, I grab it and sprint into the darkness (7 miles, man. Settle down).

Warm, dry headwind in my face and I start to get cotton mouth from the dry air and the adrenaline. I'm working hard climbing the hill into the wind, but I can feel I'm not going too fast. Occasional glances at my GPS watch tell me the what I already know: heart rate is sky-high and my pace isn't so stellar (cadence, firm core, RELAX!). The support vehicle pulls next to me:

"want your splits?"  
Nah, I got it (pointing to my watch), thanks.

They offer me water a few times. I shrug it off at first, but eventually sip a little just to wet my mouth. A little past the half-way point, I hear Co-Captain Darby's disembodied voice from inside the van:

"You're doing great, man. You look solid."
Thanks, man.
"We're in second right now" (mind reeling: wha..?!)
"That guy in front of is in first"


Gimme two to go...

The adrenaline surges again and I feel the road flatten out a bit. My pace quickens and I can see I'm gaining on the lead. I'm trying hard to reign in my enthusiasm to save some energy. Soon after, I hear   a voice from the van:

"Two to go, Eric."
Game. ON.

I ride the adrenaline surge and let the legs go like they want. I steal glances at my GPS watch and see my pace dropping rapidly. I'm taking huge time out of the lead. I can see the small light at the one mile radio check and the larger one at the check point. (go, man. GO)

Last mile. It burns. My legs are getting tired, but I'm almost to the exchange and almost to the leader. Last 200 yards....back into the searing light of the exchange. I pass the baton over the timing mat *BEEP*, thrust the baton at James and it's over as fast as it began.

Unintelligible cheers from the van as it drives past to follow James. Holly tells me I was about 60 secs from catching the leader. So close.

We hopscotch to the end of stage 15 and meet the stages 16-20 crew. Daniel hands off to Jack and we head back into town. Back to the hotel by 5:30, all of 2 hours of sleep and then off to meet the team for a quick group photo.

...and then a 6-hour drive home in Sunday traffic. Balls.

Turns out we wound up second in our category and 13th overall. Not bad for a 4-year hiatus and 14 race rookies! The internet noise is that quite a few of the guys are fired up for next year. Bring it.