20 December 2009

A year in review (horribly original...I know)

Comprehensive title, don't you think? Don't worry, I won't bore you to death with a summary of this past year, or why I have disappeared from blogging (okay, maybe a little).

The meat and potatoes:

A couple months ago I was having some energy and GI issues that I won't disclose for the sake of your lunch, but it turns out I have crohn's/ulcerative colitis. I went in for a colonoscopy and the doctor removed a pre-cancerous 1.2 cm polyp from my cecum and found an (un)healthy amount of inflammation scattered through my colon. Where do I go from here? I have been eating a fairly strict diet and taking some necessary drugs to calm things down. Other than that, I have no complaints. A fellow triathlete and Canadian Olympic team member, Paul Tichelaar, also suffers from Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and he is quite a successful triathlete. He has helped me answer a ton of questions regarding training, racing, diet, and everything that he has to deal with regarding IBD.

Following the diagnosis I have been maintaining my fitness, and getting ready for a serious winter load of training. For the 2010 season, now that I have my elite license, I will focus primarily on ITU draft-legal racing in an effort to earn enough points to race some World Cup events. Over the past month or so, I have been averaging some pretty solid mileage run weeks, and watching some cult-classic Kung Fu movies while putting some time in on my trainer. Riding on the trainer can be mind numbing, but I am more than convinced that it leads to increased fitness and strength on the hog. Why do I call it a hog? Simple. It sounds more manly to call a bicycle a "hog," because I really don't do anything extremely "manly." When the majority of my week is spent wearing tight spandex, I'll take the man points where I can get them. What's the name of my hog? Iceman.

On all other fronts, things are good. My parents have three six month-old Golden Doodles running around the backyard, and it's so cute that it makes you want to vomit. It's cuddly.

Christmas is around the corner, and I'm more than excited to see my three and five year old nieces on Christmas day. I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas, and I promise to be mused more often to bring you bountiful bundles of blogging bliss.

"...'Tis the season to be Merry."

20 July 2009

Chattanooga Waterfront

Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon
12 July 2009
1.5k/ 42k/ 10k

Local boy. Local race. I won’t lie, I felt some heat.

I drive over the swim course every day. Most of the bike course was on a route I took daily since high school, and I frequently train on the run course. Race morning, a teammate of mine and I woke up and went through our respective routines before we left my apartment for an early 7:30am race start. This was my first time racing this event as a pro, so I felt the need to give the local crowd something to cheer about; so I exited the water first, with the overall fastest swim time. Good start.

My family was in attendance, and more friends and faces than I can possibly count and remember all cheered me on as I looked like a wet poodle running up the cement stairs away from the Tennessee River. I was honored, exited and fortunate. Thank you all so much. Onto the bike I set a pretty good pace for me, and I perhaps biked a little too hard. The route was 42k as opposed to the typical 40k, so I was happy with my bike split considering the terrain. Another athlete passed me on the course, and I rode into T2 about a minute down from him. I started the run in second place and was looking forward to a strong run.

I think I depleted too much of my bank account on the swim and bike, because the first 5k of the run wasn’t exactly “good.” Let’s just say continental drift has occurred at a quicker rate than my third mile. However, to my surprise I was able to rebound ever so slightly for the last two miles and finish in fourth place...winning my first professional paycheck! I was beaten by two good friends and stud triathletes Jason Schott (3rd) and Eric Bell (2nd).

Next stop was the Mayaguez ITU Pan American Cup. (I used "was" because I wrote this race report after I completed the Mayaguez race. Race report to come shortly)

25 June 2009

Rice-A-Roni and Tim Horton's

Escape from Alcatraz
1.5 mile swim/ 18 mile bike/ 8 mile run
San Francisco, CA
23rd pro

Coteau-du-Lac ITU Pan American Cup
1.5k swim/ 40k bike/ 10k run
Coteau-du-Lac, Quebec

Friday, June 12
th, my mother and I headed to San Francisco, CA for the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon. The race was on Sunday the 14th. To my surprise, I had a cheering section for me a couple thousand miles away that included my mother, two aunts, an uncle, a cousin and a family friend. I can't tell you how awesome of an experience it was, and you all made the race weekend more special than you can imagine. Thank you.

So, our boat is anchored just off the coast of Alcatraz island, and the head ref instructs the pros to "step over the railing" and hang on. We oblige. We are standing on a hard rubber railing about two inches wide in hopes of gracefully diving into the 55 degree water as best we could. The gun sounds and we all dive into the frigid San Francisco Bay. It wasn't that bad. Due to the current, the 1.5 mile swim took even the best swimmers in the sport a little over thirty minutes to complete. As opposed to a linear path from point A to point B, our route looked more like a NASA launch path; using a planet's gravitational pull to slingshot a shuttle to it's destination. I was about two and a half minutes back when i exited, so I had some time to make up. I didn't accomplish this task.

After the swim, we had about a 3/4 mile run to T1, so I opted for some shoes so I didn't hack up my tootsies too bad. I was in for a surprise on the bike. It consisted of 18 miles of climbing and descending. We were either going up or down. Ouch. I learned a lot about myself on this bike ride, as my legs "wove a tapestry of obscenities" as their non-vocal muscles screamed in agony.

I hopped off the bike and began the run. Hardest run in triathlon, hands down. It is an 8 mile run with only about 1.5 miles of it on actual pavement. The remainder is on either trail or loose beach sand. This was actually a great run because it kept you visually stimulated the whole time. If you didn't pay attention, you ate it. After about 4.5 miles, you've made your way down to the beach from a steady descent from street level, which was on a dirt trail. After a short hard run on loose beach sand, you hit the infamous sand ladder, which is a set of 400 "stairs" taking you from beach level back to street level. These are not stairs. Imagine a long, steep, loose-sanded hill with short logs tethered together to form a ladder/stair system. It's tough to articulate with written words. It really is. I was able to keep a solid pace on the run, but again, nothing to write home about.

I finished in 23rd place, I think. The results look a bit weird and I can't figure them out.

(I didn't really have any Rice-A-Roni, but I did have official sourdough bread.)

Race report number two:

The Friday following Alcatraz, I flew up to Burlington, VT to rendezvous with another American triathlete, Eric Limkemann, so we could share a rental car on our way to compete at the Coteau-du-Lac ITU Pan American Cup, which was on Saturday afternoon. This was my first draft-legal race, and my first time representing the USA on a professional level. My former college teammate JP Richard and his wife allowed Eric and I to crash at their place just west of Montreal, which was an easy 30 minute drive to the race site. After the race, Val and JP made an amazing dinner for us and then gave us a tour of Montreal. Thanks guys, you really made our trip that much more awesome.

So the race: Two 750 meter swim loops, with a run up onto the starting pontoon in between loops. The first 750 meters was a shocker to me, as all these dudes are fast. On the second loop I was able to make up about 15 seconds and catch the second swim pack. This is the most intense swimming in a triathlon I have ever experienced...hands down. Onto the bike, there were initially five or so packs. I was in the third. After the first two laps of a six lap course, the second group had caught the lead group, which now put me in the second group. David Silver, another American, and I were doing the majority of the workload, as our group was poorly organized. David and I were not too thrilled about the non-sharing of the workload amongst the group, and we both verbalized our opinions to the others in the group. Whoops.

Onto the run, I was feeling good through the first two laps of a four lap run course. I faded a little on the third lap, but was able to rebound and run hard for the fourth. I started the run in roughly 25th position and was able to run my way to a 19th place finish.

I'm really pleased with my first ITU event, and please check out the International Triathlon Union for more information about what I am trying to do with my life. Thank you to everyone who made my journey to this point possible.

(I did have some Tim Horton's doughnuts and coffee.)

P.S. - I will post pictures as soon as I can.

21 May 2009

Memphis in May Triathlon

1.5k swim/ 40k bike/ 10k run
Millington, TN
17 May, 2009
th Pro

300 miles into the drive from Chattanooga to Jackson, TN I realize I had not forgotten anything, yet somehow I was uneasy. Maybe being slightly absent-minded bodes well for racing fast? At any rate, I had everything I needed with me and was ready to race and eat BBQ in west Tennessee. My dad and I have a standing deal that he drives to the race and I drive home; my dad's career as a baseball player has done nothing but set this torch of
superstition a blaze. We stayed with my uncle and his family in Jackson, TN, and the commute to the race site was rather refreshing as we passed the mostly unchanged with time countryside.

Everything this weekend was a first for me: the mandatory Pro meeting the day before the race, the Pro start time of 10:30am (what was I going to do with a full night's sleep?), racing in the Pro wave as opposed to hours later, and a few other odds and ends. I got to see some old buddies, which was awesome, and meet a couple new ones in the same weekend. By nature, human beings are social creatures, and somehow a healthy social interaction lends itself nicely to this sport of individuality. I am race number 16. A good number. A certain Joe Montana wore this number. I don't have a laser-rocket arm with pinpoint accuracy. Sorry to disappoint.

Having a later start time meant we had many fans and fellow athletes alike watching us swim, bike, run and transition between the former. This race was in time trial format, meaning the athletes ran into the water one at a time with ten seconds of separation between us. I start the swim and drink an unhealthy amount of the pond/lake. I swam a decent time for me,
especially since I didn't have a wetsuit (they're worth about a minute and a half over a mile swim). Onto the bike, I am quickly surrounded by the ubiquity of nature. No cyclists, no motorcycles, no noise. Well, I must preface that statement with the information that I had caught Andrew Starycowicz in the water, who started about 30 seconds ahead of me, but as soon as we began the bike he took off. Within a couple miles he was out of sight and I was alone. I stuck to my nutrition plan and got back to T2 as best as I knew how. The progressively harder blowing wind took its toll on me on the bike, as I'm sure it did on most everyone. I started the run and felt pretty good. This isn't exactly an easy run course, and I was already a little broken down from the previous weeks of hard training. To quote an iconic movie, "Certainly it hurts...The trick...is not minding that it hurts." So I put my head down and ran. I ended up running my second 5k about 30 seconds faster than my first 5k, so I was happy. I ended up 7th Pro in my first race as a Professional.

I can't give enough thanks to my family, friends and coaches who help me more than words can describe. East Ridge Bicycles,
Zoot Sports, Powerbar, ISM Saddles, Kestrel Bikes, PEDRO'S, Fast Break Athletics, Smith Optics and many others: you all have helped me achieve my dream of becoming a professional triathlete. One race down, many years to come.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
T.E. Lawrence: Certainly it hurts. (After extinguishing a match between his thumb and forefinger)
Officer William Potter: What's the trick then?
T.E. Lawrence: The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts.

04 May 2009

St Anthony's Triathlon Race Report

1.5k swim (cancelled)/ 40k bike/ 10k run
St Petersburg, FL
26 April, 2009
3rd overall amateur

As my car door closes following a pit stop in Calhoun, GA, I realize I had left my wallet on my parents' coffee table in Chattanooga, TN. The race weekend started off with a slight detour of 84 miles. My dad says, "It's a good omen." I was furious at myself.

Friday afternoon I join a buddy, Lee Zohlman, for a little swim on the race course. The water was nothing shy of beautiful, and I had a great loosen up from the car ride down to Florida. I then proceeded to the race expo where I met David Bunce with
ISM Saddles. A few weeks prior to the race I started riding this prostate-saving seat, and I wanted to meet the man who helped me...and the soft tissue of my under carriage. I look forward to riding ISM saddles for a long time. I feel fairly strong heading into the race on Sunday, so now there was nothing to do but wait.

Following a restless Saturday evening, my dad and I soldier down to the race course and walk to the transition area. After a few minutes of emceeing, we hear the swim had been cancelled due to rough current and dangerous chop on Tampa Bay. Being a self-proclaimed amphibian, I was less than thrilled about the news. Have swimmers at a triathlon ever caught a break? I'm sure the biker/runners out there were a little happier than I was, but that is pure speculation. Time to play the hand of cards I was dealt.

The bike was a mess, and everyone in our elite amateur wave knows it. We were staggered with a time trial format (sending one athlete directly after another) every two to three seconds, which only added gasoline to the ensuing fire of pack cycling. I rode as hard as I could. I have put in some serious training sessions on the bike, and I knew I could ride. In the heat of the news about the cancelled swim, I somehow forgot to remove my running race number from my gear bag. When I arrived at T2, I had to rack my bike, remove my helmet, unzip my backpack, dig through the mess to find the number, neatly stow the pack to avoid a penalty for a messy transition area (this is a rule by the way), throw on my running shoes and head off for the run.

I've been working hard on all three disciplines, so I was excited to see what my running legs had in them. Before the race I decided to run in my
Zoot compression running shorts. I figured for a 40k bike and 10k run, I wouldn't need a chamois...and I lucked out. The compression felt awesome on my quads, glutes and hamstrings as I was running hard. I took the first 5k out somewhat conservatively, and then proceeded to run as hard as I could during the last three miles. I saw my coach with about two miles remaining, and he had some encouraging words to say. With one mile to go, he had more encouraging words, which helped me to run my second 5k in about 30 seconds faster than my first 5k.

My efforts on today were good enough for third overall amateur. USA Triathlon has a list of criteria for earning your elite (professional) triathlon license. One criteria outlines a list of special qualifying events, where if you achieve third overall amateur or better you will qualify for this elite status. I have now met the criteria and will begin racing as a professional as soon as my license arrives. My next race will be the Memphis in May triathlon on Sunday, May 17th. Hopefully I will have my elite license by then!

16 March 2009

Miami International Triathlon

1.5k swim/ 40k bike/ 10k run
Miami, FL
15 March, 2009
1st overall amateur

The best part of my weekend was no doubt the fact that my dad's cousin and her family hosted me at their home in Ft Lauderdale. They took me to and from the airport, fed me, gave me a great bed to sleep in, fed me, shuttled me to and from the race site, cheered for me, and fed me. Words cannot express my gratitude towards Tina, Brett, Tyler and Brittany. Thank you guys.

Saturday, the day before the race, I felt okay. I was finishing up a pretty heavy training block, so I was anxious to test out my racing abilities slightly tired. A good hour ride on Saturday loosened up my joints and got me ready to kick the tires and light the fires...yeehaw. Sunday, at approximately 5am, my adopted family shuttled me down I-95 towards Miami. On the way, we passed a "gentleman's club," which was still thriving with activity...at 5am. Bienvenidos a Miami, for sure.

We had to deposit our children, errr, bicycles, the day before the race, so the set up on race morning was fairly simple. I go for a quick jog warm up and throw on my awesome new Zoot wetsuit, the Zenith 2.0. I warm up for a few minutes in the water and get ready to lay the hammer down. The last instructions that were given to the Elite Amateur wave were to swim to the left of the big buoys, which I did. After about 200m, I had a nice gap on the rest of the field, and proceeded to hammer the rest of the 1500m. I swim to the left of the last buoy, as instructed, and exited the water with a nice 1:40 lead, give or take. As I am running up the beach, I hear my cousin, fans and race officials yelling at me to go back into the water, and swim the RIGHT of the last buoy, which was a good 30m away. Bummer. I came onto the beach the first time in about 17:30, so my little detour cost me about 1:15, which as fate would have it, still allowed me to be first out of the water. Onto T1.

The bike course was a two loop, out and back adventure on the Rickenbacker Causeway, towards Key Biscayne. Traveling west, towards mainland, we had a nice tailwind, almost direct. Traveling east, towards the Key, was a not-so-nice headwind. Oh well, everyone had to deal with it. My Kestrel Talon SL, thanks to Steve Harad, performed wonderfully. It was my first race on this machine, and she was nice. I bike the second loop in roughly 90 seconds faster than the first loop, which got me pumped for the run. Onto T2.

Matt Reed and Andy Potts were about to finish their first 5k loop when I started the run, as their wave left about six minutes before mine. It was fun pretending I was ahead of them for at least a little while, and when Matty caught me before I started my second loop, reality sunk in: I had another 5k to go, but at least I held them off for three miles (please include sarcasm). The run itself was beautiful, with some decent shade and views of the Bay. Last year, I was caught in the last half mile of the run by a Gazelle, and got second place. This year, I was looking over my shoulder, probably too often, nervous of a repeat of last year's efforts. I held my own this year and broke the tape to earn the W.

I'm already back to fairly intense training in preparation for my next race, which is the St Anthony's triathlon on April 26th. See you then,

10 March 2009

Christmas Come Early

"Meli Kalikimaka is the thing to say on a bright Hawaiian Christmas Day..."

The past two weeks for me have been nothing shy of awesome. East Ridge Bicycles here in Chattanooga, TN and Kestrel Bikes have teamed up to put me on two Talon SL bikes; one road and one tri bike. Last week was the maiden voyage on the tri bike, and she screams down the road just like the bird of prey after whom she's named (ahem...brand name, Kestrel, that is, not the model name, thanks to my overly intelligent friend, Jimmy. Kestrel(brand name)=bird of prey. Talon(model name)=deadly sharp toe). I've already done a few rides on it, and being a "not entirely svelte" athlete, I appreciated the responsiveness of the frame, as I have about 174 lbs to put some power into the bike. I hit a sprint at nearly 1400 watts, and the Talon SL took it like a champ. More to come on these bikes after I put more miles on them.

Smith Optics has been so awesome to me over the past year, and their sunglasses provide my eyeballs with the safety I need, in addition to making me feel a bit more stylish with their frame designs and fashionable apparel. I have been racing and training in a pair of street sunglasses, the Super Method, and even though they're not "performance cycling glasses," I find they have outstanding eye coverage. Their polarized lenses also add to their sun-conquering light reduction.

I can't say enough good things about Zoot Sports. For the past two years, I have exclusively raced and trained in their apparel. They are not just a triathlon apparel company. In a most recent care package (understatement), I received some cycling bib shorts that hands down are more comfortable than any boutique brand, European, overpriced, fancy-chamois bibs I have ever worn. Eli, Brian, and the gang out in Vista, CA have really made me feel like part of the family, and words cannot express my gratitude. More to come on some of their 2009 products...

Last, but certainly not least, I had the honor of being a groomsman at one of my best friend's wedding this past weekend. Kyle and I have been buds for quite some time now, and it was awesome to see him tie the knot. I actually have known the bride, Crystal, for even longer than I've known Kyle. Crystal was a diver at Alabama while I was swimming, and the fact that I got to see two friends get married only made the weekend that much more special. Everyone knew everyone at the wedding, and we all had a wonderful time thanks to a very special day between two of some of the best people I know.

Until next time, keep your tires rubber-side down, wear sunscreen, and eat your veggies.

23 February 2009

Lazlo Hollyfeld

One of the cinematic jewels of our time, 1985's "Real Genius" was on television last night, as I stretched on the floor to recover from the week of training I had just completed.

Why such an obscure title to a blog post, and what does this have to do with endurance sports? Contemplation and self-realization. "I drank what?" is a line presented by Val Kilmer's character, Chris Knight, during a moment in the film when he is more or less reviewing his collegiate experience following a conversation with a corrupt professor. I encourage everyone to see this film immediately.

Chris Knight's pensive looks atop his dorm's roof caused me to be pensive as I writhed on the floor atop my foam roller to help stretch out my IT bands. My coaches are in the process of getting me ready for this upcoming season, and yesterday's reflection brought me to an utterly happy place as to my current level of fitness at the end of February. Two weekends ago, I traveled to Orlando, FL to train for a few days with my coach Marc before racing in Florida's Great Escape, a 1.5k swim, 18mile bike, and a 5mile run. Starting in the second wave, I was too proud (read: too dumb) to wear a wetsuit, but I still managed to swim within 50 seconds of the wetsuit-clad ITU guys who took off in the wave prior to mine. I'll take it. Onto the bike, I gave it what I had. My time in the saddle recently hasn't been exactly epic, as I have been limited to drills on the trainer, and small chain ring riding, so I wasn't unhappy with my bike split. Onto the run, I was able to put one foot in front of the other quick enough to win the overall amateur title. It's time to toss my hat in the ring with the big boys and earn my Elite license.

I am more than excited to be racing for East Ridge Bicycles in Chattanooga, TN this year. I have known these guys for quite some time, and through them I will be racing on Kestrel Bicycles. I am ecstatic to continue my relationship with Zoot, Powerbar, PEDRO's and Smith Optics. These companies are much more than business entities; they are friends of mine. So, thank you, and let's get ready to rock and roll this year.