Thursday, June 7, 2012

I AM (half)IRON MAN!

Holy hell it’s been a long time since I posted, and for god sake – I am a half ironman. That alone should be incentive to post quickly... but life has sort of been in the way lately.  The race report is long LONG overdue, and to you, my four loyal readers (and hopefully a few TNT visitors), I apologize. But I’ve had one hell of a May, and June is shaping up to be just as busy.

Sit back and relax… this is gonna be a long one.

Let me give you a recap though of May, and of course, the race.

May 1: Closed escrow on the new house.
May 4/5: Wildflower
May 6-9: Laid up with a staph infection that probably could have cost me my leg.
May 9: Moved and spent our first night in our new home.
May 12-13: Moved some more.
May 14-17: Moved some more.
May 18: Went to Hawaii for 12 days.
May 31 – STILL GOING: Unpacked and got settled.

Don’t get me wrong… I’m not complaining about any of it… well, maybe the staph infection. You don’t know pain until you’ve had an oozing boil on your leg that prevents you from walking. How I drove the 4-hours home from Wildflower without passing out remains a mystery to me. 20 years ago? Death. 10 years ago? Amputation. Today? “Here are some antibiotics. You’ll be fine in a week.” Hooray Science!

Okay… so here’s what everyone wants to know about… Wildflower Long Course Triathlon. HALF IRONMAN DISTANCE. Ryan has done this race, so every bit of it he can relate to.

I knew when I signed up for this that it was going to be a challenge; but the day before race day when you’re listening to the PROFESSIONALS say that this is the most difficult course in America, reality and a little bit of fear start to sink in.

At the end of the day, I think the most intimidating thing is that the guy who won the event finished in UNDER 4 HOURS. I’ll repeat that. THE GUY WHO WON THE EVENT FINISHED IN UNDER 4 HOURS. My bike split was just shy of 4.5 hours!!!

My overall time was just under 9 hours… a little longer than I wanted; but at the end of the day, the thing that matters is the fact that I have that FINISHER medal.

Friday was the day before race day. Time to head from my folks’ house in Atascadero to Lake San Antonio, and set up camp. Yes… Camping… Fortunately, I learned from our training weekend about the advantages to an SUV… I had a nice comfy, level, warm bed. I met up with my team and coaches, and we walked down to the lake to check in. At check in, I heard someone ask about water temperatures… 65-69 degrees. Wow. Compared to the mid 50’s we had been swimming in for training this season, that was like bath water!!! We perused the expo a bit, and headed back up to camp to hang out, relax, get in “the zone,” and hydrate hydrate hydrate. After dinner, Coach Dave stood in front of the fire pit, and pulled out a book of matches. This was how I knew the time was here. He gave us a motivational speech about not burning all of your matches early on (demonstrating, by burning the entire matchbook). He produced another matchbook, and would light one match here, another there, two or three there. The point he was driving home – don’t burn all your matches; because you’ve got to have a few to burn in that last hundred yards as you dash to the finish!!!

5am came early on Saturday. I ate a good breakfast, downed a Rockstar, half a bottle of Gatorade, and next thing I knew it was 7:15! Time to head down to transition and get set up. My wave was going off at 8:30, and we wanted to be set up in transition by about 7:30. I went down with a few of my fellow crazies, and found my spot. Before I knew it, it was 8:00, and the elites and professionals were taking off! Time to get that wetsuit on and get over to the ramp! My dad was coming to watch the race; and so I ran in to him on the ramp (until someone said “sir, this is for racers only.”) Good to see him there though… it just sort of calmed me down a little bit.

Now… a 1.2 mile swim is a long way… any way you look at it. And when you’re in murky water, in a full-on slug fest with several hundred testosterone fueled men between the ages of 20-60, you’ll probably catch an elbow or two. That was to be expected, and I never panicked. The water was much calmer than it was when we came down a month and a half ago for the training weekend. Nonetheless, it was difficult to see all of the big buoys from land – making it hard to count how many I was actually going to have to swim around in the water. There were points that I would look up to get my bearings and make sure I wasn’t veering too far off course – and it just felt like the buoys were floating away! But I kept cool, and next thing I knew I was on the final stretch and heading up the ramp. I glanced at my watch… 46 minutes – right around where I thought it was going to be. A relatively uneventful transition, and I was out on my bike.

Plagiarizing my friend Ryan who ran this course a few years ago:

“When you sign up for the Wildflower Long Course, everyone tells you about Nasty Grade. Seriously, everyone. Your doctor, your dog, your dental hygienist, everyone. Nasty Grade is at Mile 40. Nobody tells you about Beach Hill at mile 2, or wherever it is. Bastards. I thought it would never end.”

I, on the other hand remembered Ryan saying this, and had ridden the bike course six weeks before, so I knew what to expect with both Bitch Hill and Nasty Grade. That didn’t make either one any easier. Bitch Hill is a steep climb about 2 miles in to the ride – just as you’re starting to get a good groove. As I downshifted to my low gear, I really wished I still rode a triple crankset… or that my road bike had mountain bike gearing. Did you know that it IS possible to keep a bicycle upright at 3 miles per hour? I digress… I thought about Coach Dave and “don’t burn all your matches.” I knew the climb was no fun; but I knew I had to grit my teeth and get through. Lo and behold – right at the top cheering me (and every other poor soul) on was Coach Mark. Seeing him there got me going. I jumped out of the saddle and began sprinting (even high-fiving him as I passed) to get a good start for the nice downhill out of the park. The bike course was windy – not as many headwinds as a few weeks ago – but still enough to make it irritating. Hydrate and Eat. Hydrate and Eat… Basically, you are using your time on the bike to eat and drink for the run.

At about Mile 40-41, I began my ascent up the infamous Nasty Grade. This hill climb isn’t fun to begin with, but it’s particularly nasty at mile 41 of 56. Oh yeah – and it basically goes (with a long descent and another climb) to mile 46. What I will say is that the descent of Nasty Grade makes that climb all worth it. There was one squirrelly section on the far right of the road that I knew to avoid so I didn’t eat it… but there were a few folks that didn’t care about that and shouted profanities at me as they flew past on my left. For the record, I was going about 40 mph when I hit that section, and gave them PLENTY of room to safely pass. Fortunately, headwinds weren’t too bad for miles 46-55. Before I knew it, I had completed mile 55, and was ready to make the 1-mile descent back to transition. Our team was there screaming and cheering us on. Admittedly, after my wreck four years ago, I’m still very cautious on descents, particularly in crowds. WAAAYYY too many people riding their brakes and not crossing 20mph made that descent a little nerveracking. In to T2. I was proud of my bike split – just shy of 4.5 hours and about 30 minutes faster than it was a few weeks ago. That was huge for me.

And then I had a problem.

I had been wrestling with my bike shoes a few times during the ride… my right foot had been getting hot spots; which was somewhat odd for me. But when I got out of my bike shoes, I fell over. I put my left running shoe on; but I could barely get the right one on. My foot was swollen, and I could barely tie my laces. I couldn’t put any weight on it. But I dug deep and limped off. I limped the first five miles of that run. At about mile 5.5, I caught up with one of my teammates (incidentally, with whom I had paced myself for a good deal of the training season). We ran/walked together – he nursing cramps, I the bum foot. I think the strongest part of my run was really the one that everyone said had to be strong… I think it was like mile 7 or 8, where we ran through our campsite, to the cheers of all of our teammates, and a fresh splash of cold water to cool off and get my head back on straight. At about mile 11, there was a naked guy cheering everyone on. Disturbing, but funny. Yeah, I gave him a high five. I declined his offer of a free hug. I felt like I was going to hit the wall and collapse. Not even the promise of a cold beer was doing it for me in terms of motivation. But I thought about Scott, and him yelling in my ear “GO! YOU CAN MAKE THIS!!! GODDAMN IT IF I CAN SURVIVE CANCER, YOU CAN FINISH THIS RACE!!! KEEP MOVING!” That, and the prospects of one of my sister’s chocolate chip cookies was all the motivation I needed. Mile 12 mercifully came to an end, and I was running the big descent back to the chute. And then I saw the blue Astroturf of the chute. And I burned those last matches with a sprint to the finish. My mind was shot. I couldn’t think of anything except “I MADE IT.” Totally speechless, I finished arms in the air, head high, in to the arms and pats on the back of my coaches and team. My dad was there too with a congratulatory high five and Gatorade (never thought I would say this but thankfully not a beer).

After a team picture, it was back to transition to get our bikes and gear, and on to the shuttle back to camp. Beer, food, beer, cookie, beer, another cookie, beer, sleep.

I woke up the next morning at about 6:00 barely able to walk with what turned out to be a nasty staph infection on my leg. But I’ll save the fun of that ordeal for another post.

Now, having not done anything since race day, I'm committed to a century with my buddy Scott on June 24 (Livestrong Challenge... 4th year in a row).  Undertrained, yes, but I'll finish... it is flat.  And to celebrate his 10-years cancer free?  It's worth the pain.

On to the next adventure!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Four days to go....

So, as I committed to losing my sanity and doing the Wildflower Long Course, I promised that I was going to be better about posting updates.


Life gets in the way.

Two fronts to update.  First and foremost, Wildflower.

This is going to be my first 70.3, and who knows if it will be the last.  I think it will be a good test to see if the full ironman for the big 40 is a realistic option.  Personally?  Mind over matter.  But I think my wife would probably leave me if I basically took a whole year to train for an event.  She has been more than accommodating with the time commitment that I've put in to Wildflower, and so I thank her for that.  Anyway, how do I feel... Good.  I can do this.  It ain't going to be pretty, but I think I will meet my goal - finish on my own two feet.  

The season has gone very well... in some ways too fast; I'm going to miss hanging out with the EB Tri Team.  I've met a lot of really cool people (as I always do with TNT)... Just hope that we're all able to stay in touch.  I haven't had any real injuries this season - which is good... although I've had the sporadic foot problems. Plantar fascitis (sp?).  I can tell it isn't gout - because it isn't swollen.  But a day after a run, if it isn't stretched out, man it's hard to walk.  And thank god it's in my right foot and not my left.  Because I don't know how I would be able to operate a clutch.  But I feel good.  I'm looking forward to the experience of a big 70.3; and I'm looking forward to that beer at the finish line.  The only sad part is that I can't see my teammates race on Sunday.  That's the other big update.

We're moving.  Yep.  Leaving OakTown and heading back to the 925.  We found our little piece of suburbia.  Got the keys today, and move next week.  So that's it.  We found our 30 year plan.  Couldn't be more happy.  Ready to start the next chapter of our lives.  OAK had its moments.  Some good, some bad. And I will miss our house... We have a lot of sweat equity, and we had some good times there.  And contrary to popular belief, I will miss having my in-laws around the corner.  That element has been the high-point of our 6.5 years here.  One of these days I'll give you the long narrative of my 9-years in the east bay; but not right now.  Time to go to bed.

Anyway, next time you hear from me, I will be HALF IRON.  

Till next time...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

40 days to Wildflower....

So... we're at right around 40 days to Wildflower. What have I learned thus far?

Doing this with Team in Training is the only way that I would ever be able to get myself to the point that I can finish. Well, outside of paying a private coach... but that's not exactly in the budget. It's kind of fun though - having done several triathlons in the past, a lot of the folks on the team look at you like "Whoa! That's cool!" Actually, it's pretty cool - I was in their position four years ago - and by no means am I an expert here, but it's nice to be able to say "Yeah. Here's what's going to happen, you don't need to worry about this, you'll be fine if you do that, etc."

So what have I learned...

Well, the most important thing is that I think I can do it. My first 70.3, and of course I sign up for the one that a lot of people say is the most difficult in the nation. It ain't gonna be pretty, but that's not the point. The point is to cross the finish line, preferably in one piece and standing up.

I also learned that being awakened by your coach at quarter to six with Flight of the Valkyrie followed by the Imperial March, and capped off with Red Solo Cup is a bit of a surreal experience.

I learned that swimming 1.2 miles and then transitioning to your bike for a 56 mile ride isn't that bad.

I learned that you really can never put enough body glide on your neck. When in doubt, just put another streak on and your wetsuit won't chafe the living hell out of you.

I learned... no not learned... confirmed that riding 10 consecutive miles in a headwind, followed by six fast miles, followed by another six miles of headwinds, followed by 3.5 miles of gargantuan climbs (not to mention some bitchin' descents), followed by another 10 miles of headwinds really sucks. But at least it wasn't raining.

I learned that when you're going 40+ on a lightweight road bike and you get hit by a heavy crosswind that you may come close to shitting your pants. Even if you're expecting it.

I learned that running (okay... run-walking) 13 miles isn't that bad. It's the 0.1 mile that you still have left when the other 13 is done that is the toughest.

I learned that diaper rash cream may not just be for babies.

I reconfirmed that after one hell of a workout, that ice cold beer really does taste amazing.

Bring it on, Wildflower.

Friday, January 6, 2012


The short answer, I guess, is yes.

2012 is officially upon us, and part of me feels obligated to do my usual “year in review” post. But you know what, I’m just too lazy. 2011 was a good year overall, I’m not going to complain, so let’s just leave well enough alone. My goal is to make 2012 even better than 2011.

I’ve made a few resolutions – personally, professionally, financially, most of which none of you (the three or four of you who actually read this) are going to care about. One of those resolutions however is something I’ve been threatening to do for a while, and I have decided (probably after a few beers) that 2012 is my year.

As I find myself about to turn 35, I find myself feeling almost as bad as I did when I turned 30. Stressed, overweight, not exercising (as much as I want), and just generally kind of “bleh.” (Yes, that is the clinical term for it). I think about how a couple of years ago riding my bike for 50 or 60 miles was “a good start to a Saturday,” to now how a 30-mile ride is “a hell of a workout.” I think about how drastically undertrained (yes, somewhat due to the fact that it rained pretty much clear through June) I was for last year’s century ride with one of my oldest friends, Scott.

And then I think about Scott.

10 years ago, there was a pretty good chance that today there would be no Scott, and I would be thinking about Scott in the past tense. But 10 years later, I am fortunate enough to be able to just pick up the phone and call him.

But I digress… Why have I lost my mind?

I am making good on my threat to complete the Wildflower long course triathlon. This is a half-ironman distance… 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run.

Now, Ryan and Dana have both done races of this distance (Ryan has even completed the long course at Wildflower). But people have called the Wildflower course more difficult than full ironman courses. This will be the first (and maybe last) half-iron course that I do; but I’ve got to do it. And I’ll have help. I’ve joined Team in Training again, and am raising funds for cancer research.

(yes, that is a solicitation for donations)

Why am I doing this? Simple. Because I can pick up the phone and call Scott. Let me back up for a second.

Scott and I have been friends since we were freshmen in high school. I was just shy of 14; he was barely 14. Our lockers were right by each other, and we got to know each other through daily ball busting. Fast forward to when we were 23, and he told me in the same breath that he and his then girlfriend, now wife Kate got engaged, and that he had been diagnosed with Hodgkins disease. Always one to keep it cool, he told me not to worry, and that in six months he’d be fine. Sure enough, that was the case.

Scott and Kate got married in 2001 (I know this because Alli and I had only been together a few months at their wedding), but not long after, he was diagnosed with an unrelated case of non-hodgkins lymphoma. At 25, my friend of 10+ years was telling me that he may not make it to 26, and even if he did, that he had a 40% chance of making it 10 years.

Fuck you, cancer.

Let’s not dwell on that.

5 years ago, we all turned 30. Scott celebrated with 5 years cancer free. About 3 years ago, he started mountain biking. And then he got on a road bike. 3 years ago, he dusted me up Metcalf Road in the Livestrong Challenge. 2 years ago, he pushed me through my first century ride. Last year, he started RACING bicycles. And he put up with my undertrained ass through my second century ride.

Scott turns 35 in May, and will be 10-years cancer free in July.

Suck it, cancer.

That’s why I’m doing this. In honor of Scott. One more survivor, and one of my heroes.

Here's to a great start to 2012 (with the exception of the pending root canal), and i promise to keep you updated through my pending challenge.