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.