Sunday, April 27, 2008

Desert Smack Down: AZ Xtreme

Arizona Xtreme Race Report (4/26)
Thursday (4/24) I took two midterms, the last of which I finished at 4:30 PM. I went home to clean my race bike and fix the shifting, which has been acting funny since Xterra REAL. I swear, every time I ride in muddy conditions my bike is never the same.

Turns out one of the bearings in my rear shifter is toast and causing the problem. I was able to put it together and it works, but hangs up in the mi-range gearing. I may not have the time to fix it for Xterra West Championships and I seriously hope it holds together. Considering the mechanical I had last year on that course, racing with a questionable shifter makes me very uneasy; like waiting for a bomb to go off.

Friday morning I'm loading the truck and telling my roomie I'll be out of town and my cat should be fine, here's a blank check for the vet in case something happens and he says he's leaving for the weekend too. Crap. Quick call to the g/f and she'll come down to make sure he doesn't hurt himself...which he will do if left alone. Cat's fall off things and my Monster is no exception....and my g/f is the coolest woman on the face of the planet for doing that. She's so friggin' awesome it never ceases to amaze me. Anyway.

So cat taken care of and I'm on the way; 5 hours and 400n miles later I'm in Mesa, AZ and looking for a parking pass for the Tonto National Forest. I manage to find one at a super-sketchy grocery store. Luckily the drunk, homeless guy buying his "40" next to me was a happy drunk and not the mean, belligerent type.

Race morning: Up at 4:30, drove 45 minutes to the middle of nowhere and found the race site, sort of. Separate T1, T2, parking and swim start locations meant I drove to each one about twice before I got all my stuff squared away. New events are so much FUN (insert sarcasm)!

Deep water start. Sweet! Announcer: 3...2...1...GO!!! Great start but missed the front pack, AGAIN! Did my best to stay strong and find "good feet" to draft off. No such luck drafting, but I hit a funky sand bar near the shore, was able to "Dolphin" for a bit and made up some ground on people. Though the rocks chewed my feet up a little. Ouch.

Onto the bike and STRAIGHT UP a few short, rocky, hike a bike sections: heart rate thoroughly pegged. Working the climbs, reeling people in left and right; hit the top part that traverses the "mesa" and it's miles of 4 foot whoop de doos with 6' of sand in the low spots. A deep, deep sandy section where I bogged down and had to walk until I found firm ground to ride on; I was not alone in doing so. A bit of a downhill section, hard right onto the pavement and a masochistic pavement climb to T2. Harsh.

Off the bike, into the running shoes and it's just hot. Out of T2 and straight up super-steep switchbacks; and by that I mean BRUTAL, stair-stepping, quad-burning switchbacks littered with horse sh!t. Good times. I'm trying to get a rhythm going and find a good stride, but it's just too busy. Up, down, left, right, dodging rocks and cactus and all the time the heat is just searing and oppressive. I'd drink a few gulps at the aid stations and dump the rest on my head to cool down: the temperature difference between the air and the ice-water being served was enough to stimulate my diving reflex: so cold it took my breath away...not kidding.

FINALLY someone says "Almost there!"

I reply "Someone said that a mile ago!"

He says "It's only like, 400 yards."

Awesome. I turn on what little power I have left to make sure I don't get "punked" at the line by someone in my baffles and make a wrong turn...CRAP! Back on course and only lost one position. Luckily he's not in my AG so no big loss. Total time: 2:25:40

Overall, a solid performance considering my track record of sucking in the heat.

Good stuff:

Didn't wear a watch or HRM and paced well just going off of "feel": went hard and backed off only when I had to. Nailed my nutrition and transitions and threw down everything I had. Starting to really trust my fitness and this race was a good momentum builder going into Xterra West Championships in 3 weeks (YIKES!).

Bad Stuff:

Tactically poor swim, still struggling to "run fast" off the bike, still working on pre-race prep: dehydrated and nauseated the night before from driving 5 hours the day before the race...scared the crap out of me.

Results: 6th in my AG and 33rd overall. Big thanks to James Walsh, Trevor Glavin, Damian Gonzales and Brain Grasky for staying home :D

Edit: Pro Men and Women were removed from the overall results and Men and Women overalls are being shown as separate results. This makes me the 29th male amateur, though I technically was the 33rd person to cross the finish line. Seems silly to split hairs like that. Additionally, the top 3 racers in each gender category were removed from AG results to spread the trophies around. Though I'm listed in 6th, I will be given points for 7th place since Tom O'Brian wound up top 3 overall. Yeah, my age group is FAST.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Gettin' It Done

HUGE week both training and school wise. No pics, but I figured I'd provide a glimpse into what it's like being me and why the 'blog is entitled what it is: I'm always moving.

Really tired from the long training weekend. Class at 11 and 1 followed by weights from 2-3. Studied the rest of the day.
8-9:30 Class
10:30-11:30 in the pool for 2200 yards
1:40 -2:40 1 hour VO2 Max workout. I have this every week and it's always an ass kicker
Class from 3:30-5:30
8:20 Long run (1:45)
Class from 1-2, 3-4 and 5-6
Recovery ride from 6:55-7:30. Thank you, daylight savings...
8-9:30 Class
10:00-11:15 in the pool for 2600 yards
1:15-2:45 Bike Hill repeats.
3:30-5:00 more class
No class today! My professor was at a conference. I watched a mandatory film instead: "The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez". Mildly interesting; it did have a VERY young Edward James Olmos in it.
I spent the rest of the morning running a bunch of errands I had been putting off for a while. Took me almost the entire day, but I got in a 1 hour run working on foot speed. I spent the rest of the day prepping my bike for Saturday's ride since it still had mud on it from Xterra Real. I broke my seat rail and the race bike sat waiting for my parts to come in. Thankfully, they did.
Bike test set on San Juan Trail. This kicked ass: 0.25 miles further and an additional 100 vertical feet over 20 minutes. This would have been more impressive if I hadn't gotten stuck behind a 6 person freight train the last two minutes. I still chopped 5 minutes off my total time for this route and ran into some racer friends I hadn't seen since November. Cool.
1:30 run with a 1:00 zone 2 interval in the middle. My coach began prescribing more zone 2 work (high aerobic) since he's been incorporating that into his own training with some success. I'm definitely seeing improvements in the areas of increased economy and in my comfort zone: paces that previously challenged me seem less so.
In between all that, I manage to squeeze in transit time to and from school, meals, hygiene and studying. It's not easy and I frequently find myself rushing from one task to the next. It's easy to get burned out on everything. My focus shifts from training to school depending on when my next race is: closer to a race I'm less likely to focus on studying. I have midterms Thursday and AZ Xtreme on Saturday. Let's hope everything turns out like I want it to.
Last thing: I bought a bicycle trailer for shopping trips and for commuting to work. I already ride to school and this is just one more way for me to stick it to the gas companies. Four bucks a gallon my ass...


Monday, April 14, 2008

It Never Rains, But it Pours

You go through periods in life where very little happens and then, suddenly, everything happens all at once. Often, I find myself wishing for just a little breathing room and get none *sigh*.

Last week was a busy training week. I started off feeling strong Tuesday and Wednesday, but found myself struggling to complete workouts by the time Thursday came along. Moreover, my finicky right frontal sinus decided to swell up, retain pool water and then get mildly infected. This is a painful situation and it gets so bad, at times, it makes me nauseated; forget flip turns or lifting heavy weights. The only remedy is time and 800 mg doses of anti inflammatories. Today, it's finally starting to clear out and I'm blowing rainbow-colored mucus out my nose...lovely.

Friday, I discovered one of my local trails was getting "graded" to make way for homes. I don't like losing trails to developers to begin with and losing one I ride at least once or twice a week rubbed me the wrong way. Alas, several environmental action groups filed multiple lawsuits and succeeded in posponing the inevitable and getting a few provisions for some shrimp that live in Vernal Pools (?), while the City Ranger finagled temporary access for the general public until the "recreation trail" circumventing the development is completed. Big whoop. So the MTB crowd loses another trail ("Intestines" on Del Mar Mesa) and developers get to pocket more coin. Thank you, Pardee Homes. My only hope is that the housing market sucks when they start selling and they lose their ass on the deal. Jerks.

As soon as I heard, I threw my bike in the Jeep and headed out for on last ride. Two hours later, on my way back, I ran into Adventure Racer Robyn Benincasa. We were chatting about the trail siutation for a few minutes before my brain realized who I was talking to. She's friggin' cool as heck by the way. One of the perks of living in San Diego is running into quasi-famous athletes. I dig it; never gets old.

Saturday I headed out to Vail Lake for some MTB fun. It turned out to be a pretty decent day considering the high winds and I was able to help quite a few folks out with finding the Xterra/ 24 Hours course out there. I felt like a tour guide by the time I was done, but I guess I did my good deed(s) for the day.

Went for a run yesterday and struggled a little in the heat. Still got some solid work in, but I was feeling it.

Racing in Arizona next week (Arizona Xtreme Off Road Triathlon). My first time out there and I'll be racing against some HEAVY hitters: Trevor Glavin and James Walsh to name a few. Wish me luck.


R.I.P. Intestines

Monday, April 7, 2008


I forgot to mention something that happened on Saturday in my previous post; it bears reporting...
(warning, this might get a little weird)

Saturday's workout called for 3 hours ride time with some climbing intervals done while standing. I did them on my single speed mountain bike and, if you've never ridden single speed, it's difficult to ride one for a long time simply due to the effort they require when climbing. On top of that, I fast before workouts like this, a trick I learned from Xterra World Champion Conrad Stoltz, so by the time I was done riding, I was significantly fatigued. But that's not the epiphany...

After the ride, I had a 30 minute transition run scheduled with negative splits: faster coming back than heading out. I was tired, but never considered not doing it; I told myself I'd get it done no matter how slow it might end up being.

Off and running; the legs are ticking over like clockwork and I can feel my feet lightly striking the ground as I jog down the fire road. My breathing is slightly labored and maintaining even an easy pace feels like my lungs and cardio are working over time to keep up with the demands of my legs. Considering I'd have to increase the pace on the way back, I was sure the return trip would be very, very painful. At the 16-minute mark, I turn around and head back, increasing my pace...

...and it hurts. My lungs burn, my legs burn, it's hard to breathe, my face is screwed up in pain and sticking to this pace is the last thing I want to do. Coming up on the 25 minute mark in the run and for no reason at all, something occurs to me suddenly: Why am I making such a big deal out of this?...and I can't think of an answer...yeah it hurts, but why make a stupid face?....why breathe so loud?...again, no answers to either of these questions...

...and I did something so simple and obvious that I'm shocked I'd never thought of it before; I quit making a big deal out of being uncomfortable, out of working hard and out of going fast.

And my face and upper body relaxed, my breathing eased and I suddenly felt I could run at that uncomfortable pace for as long as I chose to do so. My legs still burned like fire, but I no longer cared. It was both strange and wonderful all at once.

My biggest limiter is the one I place on myself. I have the capacity to perform better (read: go faster) than I choose to do. Why do I do that? I'm not sure. Frequently in my life I put up artificial barriers to my success, almost as if I'm afraid to succeed or like I don't feel I deserve to be as fast as my fitness allows. Perhaps exploring it here can help me to move beyond it. I hope so. Whatever the reason may be, I partially broke down that barrier that day.

I'm looking forward to finding that mental place again.
Thanks for reading.


A lot has happened in a week.

First, I'd been toying with the idea of picking up a new rig with 29" tires on it just to see what the hoopla is about. since I didn't want to spend a ton of money and didn't know anyone willing to lend me their bike, I picked up a very inexpensive Raleigh XXIX from my local bike shop. With my track bike as a trade in, I practically stole it.

Yeah, rigid, single speed, 29" tire mountain bike. So far my impression is that 29" tires roll over small obstacles better than 26" tires, but they're heavier and less nimble. A 29'er might be better for a larger rider, but my 5'5", 145 pound body has to work hard to get this bike to climb or corner like I want it to. This bike is a nice diversion and I'll be riding it to school and on group rides, but the 26" "Soft Tail" will remain my race bike.

Saturday I went out to Vail Lake to thoroughly thrash myself on the single speed. The Spring conitions surpised me, lots of greenery and blooming wildflowers. Spring-time growth narrowed double-track to single and single-track and single-track to tiny ribbons of trail; awesome conditions.

The "Dam(n) Climb" The yellow color is all blooming Wild Mustard

Some of the single-track I enjoyed. Had the whole place practically to myself: saw 5 people all day

The race director for the local race series has been hard at work cutting trails that are super-fun. Here's looking back at some challenging switch-backs. The ladder bridges he put in aren't visible but huge thanks to Rob Herbert for all the work he's been doing. I should patronize more of his races as payback.

This was stuck in the ground next to one of the fire roads near the race start'finish. It made me laugh. The spinning of the rainbow tires from the wind creates a psychadelic efffect. Trippy...

As for the redemption part, last month I attempted to re qualify for my job as a State Park Ocaen Lifeguard; a 1000 yard ocean swim in 20 minutes or less. I mimsjudged the conditions and my fitness and got swept past the bouy by the current and surf. Yesterday, I drove up to Crystal Cove in Orange County to have another go at it; success! A little slower than last year, but a minute faster that my race time last week for the same distance. I finished in the middle of the pack; I was shocked by how many people went out too hard and wound up doing backstroke or breaststroke trying to catch their breath. At least it's over with. Failing that test weighed heavily on my mind for the past month; my lousy swim at Xterra REAL amplified my worries.

Overall, a good week.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Xterra REAL: Race Report

After taking 2 weeks off to study for finals, I knew my performance at this race wasn't going to be stellar. Still, I knew my endurance and power were good, so I'd decided I was going to throw down what I had and see what happened.


Cold, cold, cold. Race organizers said 54. Brrr... I managed to pick Trevor Glavin out of the crowd on the beach and figured I'd draft off him for as long as I could since he's faster than me (he'd go on to win the overall). The gun goes off and my high step/dolphin keeps me right next to him; he started swimming pretty early and I managed to keep up with him in the shallows. I started swimming and got on his feet, only to get dropped after a dozed strokes. Rats. After that I did my best to find someone to draft off, and made sure I didn't swim too crooked. Pretty lackluster for 1000 yards; out of the water in 17:40. Lousy.


The bach run took forever thanks to the lake being exceptionally low. Took 3 minutes just to get to T1 from the water. Once on the bike, I did my best to try and make up as many places as I could, but overshiftd in a technical section and spent 1-2 minutes yanking my chain out of my spokes. That plus the chain suck on both laps thanks to the 4-5 super-deep mud holes and my bike leg could have been better. Still, no nutrition problems and I had plenty of power and endurance. I just seem to be lacking some top-end speed right now.


Smoked T2; at least that's something. I started the run feeling strong and feeling lasted the whole run leg. I ran every steep hill and managed to reel a few people in. The race director added about 1/2 mile to the run course and I still averaged 7 minute miles the whole way. Not bad for this point in the season, but I'd love to see what I can do here when I don't have to skip any training for exams. We may never know...

Wound up 9th in my AG and 45th overall. I think that's worse than last year. Bummer.

I'm not going into what was good or bad about the race since my training is the obvious reason for my poor performance. Really, I just have to put this behind me and focus on Arizona Xtreme on April 26th and then Xterra West on May 18th. I'm back in school after spring break, so I'm juggling classes and workouts again. Woo.
Pictures couresty of my brother, Steve. Thanks, man.