Thursday, December 18, 2008

Winter Update

Just wanted to take a minute and give everyone a little update from the middle of my offseason. I've been taking time off from any structured workouts, and it's been good to get out for some hikes that were neglected during my season. The Colorado winter is finally settling into the Durango area, with considerable snowfall in the last week. Last year we were already buried in snow at this time, and it turned into one of the more epic winters in recent history with over 100 inches in town. It's a beautiful monochrome time of year, and I plan to spend some quality time outdoors, skiing, hiking, and shoveling. There are a few things worth noting since my Ironman debut almost a month ago, so I'll list them below:

-It's sponsorship season, and as a relatively new pro, I'm working on developing some lasting relationships with companies I believe in. Right now I have committed to joining the Sport Beans/NTTC squad for 2009, so I will wearing their kits and using affiliated sponsors equipment at my races. Check out the team site at I'll keep everyone up to speed on any new developments.

-My website photo gallery has also been updated with some pictures that were taken earlier this summer, so make sure to check them out.

-I expect that my Slowtwitch interview should be up sometime next week, so watch for it at

-My dog Ollie was hit by a car almost a week ago, so I thought it would be appropriate to pay tribute to a great companion with a photo. He really had an amazing temperament, and will be missed.
I'll keep you updated with any news from the offseason, including training plans for 2009, new sponsors, and hopefully some big powder ski days.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

6th Place Ironman Arizona

The final days leading to Ironman were essentially a blur when I look back. I had prepared mentally and physically for nearly 4 months after deciding to try the distance after Lake Stevens 70.3, but as the day drew near and I was surrounded by my family and friends, the days bled together until I was being corralled by race officials across the timing mats and into the water at 6:35 in the morning on Sunday. I had managed to stay healthy all the way through my taper, and I knew I was ready physically after logging countless hours on the bike, in the pool, and on mountain trails in Durango. Mentally, I had convinced myself that if I nailed my nutrition, the weather cooperated, and raced my race, it would be possible to go 8:30. This was my Ironman debut, so there were definitely some huge unknowns, and when I tore a ten inch gash in the left shoulder of my wetsuit putting it on right before the start, it took all my mental faculties to relax and remember that the swim would only be a short part of the day. I warmed up a little with the torn wetsuit, and it immediately filled my upper body with water. It felt like I was swimming in a XL t-shirt, and every stroke was like lifting weights as the sleeves were also full of water. On a positive note, I didn't come close to overheating during the swim, which has been an issue for me at times, but probably wouldn't have mattered since the water was a brisk 63 degrees on race morning. Because Tempe town lake has some curve to it, pros were spread out at the line, some choosing to track the buoy line, and others opting to swim the tangent and try to cut the distance a little. I just did my best to settle in with a group that felt comfortably hard, knowing that my suit was causing drag, but that I had to just get through it and then go to work on the bike. Looking back, the swim was probably a touch short, and I covered the distance in 52:53. Coming out of the water well behind people I normally swim with/outswim was difficult, and I had a slow transition as I struggled with the wetsuit, but I got on my bike and felt good (always nice to come from 6500 ft. above sea level down to 1140). My plan from the beginning was to ride strong until I made contact with the leaders, and after my swim, I was chasing hard through the first loop of the bike. I passed several guys, focusing hard on staying LOW and out of the wind as we headed out on the Beeline highway into a headwind. At the turnaround, Jozsef Major and I were already making up good time on a larger group up front, and by the turnaround on lap one, I moved into the lead of a group that would stay largely intact for the remainder of the day. My biggest fear entering Ironman was that I would have trouble eating enough calories during the bike leg, so I set a ten minute timer on my watch and ate and drank religiously, only missing two of the eventual 27 feed reminders. On the second and third lap, I traded places near the front of the larger group with Frederik Van Lierde, Major, Brandon Marsh, and Chris McDonald. Race officials were following our pack to ensure proper spacing, but I took no risks and stayed near the front. Finally on our last trip out of town we caught some of the other guys who swam and biked strong, including Mark Van Akkeren, who led the group back into town until I passed him before transition. I had heard from a number of Ironman athletes that the race really begins at mile 90 on the bike, and despite feeling fatigued near that point, I had stuck to my plan and my legs felt good as we headed for the change tents. My bike split was 4:30:30, and was good enough for 4th fastest on the day behind Chris Lieto, Jordan Rapp, and Kieran Doe.
My transition was pretty solid given that I took the extra time to put on my compression socks, and I ran out on the course feeling confident that I could put together a solid marathon. I immediately got away from some of the other guys who came in with me on the bike, and since the GPS watch I planned to use for help in pacing had died during the bike leg, I relied on my other watch for mile splits. My goal for the marathon from the outset of training had been a generic "break three hours," and as race day drew closer, I had honed that down to an ideal day 2:54 high, averaging approximately 6:40's. I went through the first mile feeling great, but I clocked a 6:10 and knew I had to slow down and be patient. So, I backed off the gas a little and waited for mile 2 to come. Unfortunately, as I neared the marker, I looked at my watch and realized that I hadn't slowed at all, posting 12:20 for 2 miles. Fortunately for my pacing plan, eventual winner Andreas Raelert passed me about 2 1/2 miles in looking like he was running a 10k. This helped sober me a little and I settled into something much closer to my goal, and my first 3 1/2 miles were covered in 6:26 pace. I stayed steady for the next 8 miles, averaging 6:35s, but I was battling the onset of gas and serious discomfort, stopping at port-o-lets near miles 12 and 14. My Dad was hanging out on the lonelier side of Tempe town lake, and he relayed a message via phone from my coach, saying "the guys who win these know how to eat." I kept on trying to get food down for the next 6 miles, but the two stops and pain from gas slowed my pace dramatically, as I covered those miles in an average of 7:11. It was during this stretch that I was repassed by Major, who had apparently dealt with his demons and was now cruising again towards the leaders. A few minutes later, near mile 20, I was passed by Ironman Florida champ Jan Raphael, and I was struggling to keep a positive outlook. This was my crux moment, the deepest valley I had encountered all day, but when a spectator giving splits warned me of Paul Amey's oncoming, I found new strength and told myself I would not be denied my 6th place. I ran as efficiently as I could, still trying to get calories and fluids down, but losing most of them as my stomach decided it was done for the day. I focused as hard as I could on making my legs imitate the motion I hammered into them at the track so many times, and fed ravenously on the energy from my support crew and the growing crowd. As I headed back towards transition and the finish line, I poured everything I had into my legs, closing the last 6 miles in 6:20 pace and holding off Amey by 3 minutes. Instead of elation at the line, I talked for a few seconds with Chris Lieto, and then I was wheeled to the med tent for 3 bags of saline. Total marathon time was 2:56:12, and I think that could have easily been a minute faster without the stomach problems and two stops. Total time was even better than my best projection, at 8:24:13.

Just as I suspected, Ironman is a brand new animal, and despite feeling good about my result and securing a spot for Ironman Hawaii next fall, there are countless things which I feel I could improve. Still, this is the time for rest and relaxation. I will now take significant time off structured training, and enjoy some wonderful holiday time with family and friends. Thanks to everyone who made this possible, including my wonderful parents, sister, family, girlfriend, supporting friends from Durango, Santa Fe, and Flagstaff, coach Elliot Bassett, the masters swim team, all my sponsors, my website guru Dave, and anyone who sent me a card and watched the live updates. I am deeply thankful for all you have done and recognize how important this support network is for accomplishing my goals. I'll be posting again when the spirit moves me. Until then, enjoy your winter plans, and look for me to make another trip to Pucon in January for a little summer in the middle of the Colorado cold for the Cristal Ironman Pucon 70.3.

Friday, November 7, 2008


It's funny how you can spend so much time doing one thing, and then one day you realize something much larger that lends itself to a deeper understanding of your chosen task. Most people call these realizations epiphanies, but I'll just call mine a breakthrough because I prefer the imagery behind that wording.

I've been racing triathlon for almost 4 full seasons now. I started as a member of the University of Montana triathlon club team in 2004, and I took one year off to pursue goals of learning spanish and traveling in South America in 2005. Otherwise, I've had consistent training in the three disciplines since the fall of 2005, taking the necessary breaks each year to restore psyche and let my body recover from the physical stress of each racing season. I've seen steady progress in the sport from the very beginning, and I can only think of a couple times when I felt like I didn't improve with each race. Usually those were due to some kind of small injury or mistake made through lack of experience (which in itself is learning, and hence, improving). In fact, it's been one of the hallmarks of my career thus far that I've finished all but one race I've entered, and never truly had a disastrous result. However, it was while I stood on the track last Thursday during a particularly nice fall day that I realized how far I had come, and just how much I have matured in the second half of this year. It's hard not to plateau in most any pursuit, and my case was no different with the first part of the racing calendar in 2008. I felt like my debut year as a pro in 2007 was (in the words of a University of Montana triathlon team alum) strong to quite strong. I was in the mix in most races despite my less than perfect swim, and I was knocking on the door for the majority of the prize purses, taking home enough money to convince me that pursuing this sport as a career was a legitimate goal. And whether it was the increasing depth and skill of the professional fields at major races, or just the fact that my improvement wasn't keeping up with everyone else's, I found myself in a similar situation throughout the early part of this year; several close calls, finishing in the top ten, but not always in the money. So fast forward to this fall when I'm standing on the high school track and the thin mountain air is just the right temperature for a brutal 10x 1mile at 5:40 on the 7 minute only days after my hardest effort and best time for a half ironman in Tempe, Arizona. I'm 4 miles into this workout, doing my best to ignore the obnoxious taunts of some clever sophomore in the stands, and it hits me during my 1 minute and 20 seconds of rest: This is what I am MADE to do. I'm an athlete through and through, and I'm so far into this Ironman training that it actually feels BETTER to be running fast miles than jogging and waiting for the next one. My body has learned what it's designed to do, and it's given up the fight to be lazy and resist my efforts to transform it. These are the moments that define my transmutation in triathlon, from level to level, from mindset to mindset, from average to best.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Suffering for Love

This is an article on Velonews from elite cyclocrosser Barry Wicks about one of his motorpacing sessions. It helps shed some light on the mindset of an athlete dedicated to the pursuit of excellence, and it reminds me of a conversation I once had early in my triathlon career that inspired a very critical element of my training . It was the summer of 2006 and we were spending a few days at professional triathlete Matt Seeley's cabin in Washington. This was right in the middle of a summer-long campaign which saw friend and coach Elliot Bassett and I attack the triathlon scene in Canada and the Pacific Northwest, racing on almost every weekend for 2 months as we lived and traveled in a suburban with our camping and racing gear. For those people not familiar with Montana Triathlon lore, Matt Seeley was one of the original members of the infamous Team Stampede, which included the likes of olympic gold medalist backstroker David Berkoff, the ever eccentric Todd Struckman, John Hartpence, Ted Zderic, Chuck Dumke, and others. He's also known for some great Ironman races, particularly at Coeur d'Alene. Almost every year the group shoots for a reunion race and a few days of hanging out. Probably because I was a fairly green triathlete at the time, I was paying close attention to all the triathlon banter, and I will probably always remember John Hartpence's conclusion about his racing season, saying, "I need to remind myself to suffer more. I definitely avoided suffering too much this season. I've never been able to race fast if I don't 'teach' myself to suffer in workouts." Of course I don't really think I understood what he meant at the time, and for people not trying to make a living by training their body to undergo intense physical distress for hours at a time I'm sure this seems at least mildly counterintuitive, but it's really the path to success. Even Lance Armstrong said, "what makes a great endurance athlete is the ability to absorb potenial embarrassment, and to suffer without complaint. I was discovering that if it was a matter of gritting my teeth, not caring how it looked, and outlasting everybody else, I won. It didn't seem to matter what sport it was--in a straight-ahead, long-distance race, I could beat anybody. If it was a suffer-fest, I was good at it." So, the text in its entirety below:

Barry Wicks: Learning to Suffer

The wheel in front of me twitches and pulses with enormous energy as it tries desperately to pull away from my gasping breaths. My legs ache, the pain beginning deep, unbelievably deep, slowly creeping up through the layers of my consciousness, finally reaching the threshold where my struggle to ignore it is overcome and it comes gushing out in great spasms. I steel myself and try to absorb the agony, become one with the sensation, find the zen in it. The road begins to flatten out, the pace eases ever so imperceptibly, and the screaming in my muscles goes down half an octave, I inhale violently, grabbing an extra ounce of air, exhale the burned up gases from my lungs and relish in my victory. This is a suffering I bring on myself. The motivations lie somewhere in my ego and desires to prove myself. The time to question my motives is not now. The road begins its inevitable trip back towards the Cruz and I have to go deep inside once again to slay the dragon. The workout finishes and I sputter out a cool down, muscles throbbing and ticking like a hot jet engine after a long flight. Straining to gain back a feeling and function of familiarity as the waves of lactic acid and whatever else I unleashed on them begins to drain away. My brain begins the process of rationalizing what it just did to my muscles and after short complaints, the euphoria pours in, and my legs quickly forgive and forget. How easily they are fooled into complacency as the wash of endorphins flood down from my brain into my body. How quick to think that this cruel head will never again subject them to such a beating. Such blind faith is rewarded with another bout and another, over and over again, beating the memory into them, as they begin to accept what it is they must do. The pilot of my pain is a 110 pound woman astride a suped up motor scooter. Who knew such a beautiful creature could cause so much agony and find such glee in causing this suffering? Her carefree smile and the angelic note of her voice is betrayed by a devilish gleam in her eyes as I race up next to her and begin another effort. She has no sympathy for my plight, no thought of reducing my suffering, even though it is by her delicate throttle hand that I live or perish, suffer or recover, succeed or fail.
But, then again, I have brought this upon myself in my quest for greatness. This quest she understands and is just as committed to as I, executing my torture I have asked of her. Would it not be greater and nobler if not self-directed and orchestrated, reaching for a higher ground or purpose through suffering. I could have just as easily stayed in bed, warm and comfortable under the sheets as the blazing orange sun rose above the fog, happy and content to doze off in bliss while the day began. Instead, something drove me out of that cocoon of comfort, into my slippery cold bike clothes and out onto that road and into that pain. That driving force, the thing that gives me so much pain, so much pleasure, and for which all things are ultimately done, is none other than love. Love of my bike, love of my being, love of my life, it is all about the love.

And now I'm headed out for a ride.


Thanks to good friend Alice Jones for the forwarded copy of this excerpt. Enjoy.

From: Down the River, "Footrace in the Desert" Edward Abbey"

Labor Day, 1980: the Hopi town of New Oraibi, Arizona. Seventh Annual Louis Tewanima Footrace. The course extends for seven long looping miles in the desert heat, over dirt roads, across the highway, and up a winding and sandy trail to the top of Third Mesa and the three-hundred-year-old village of Old Oraibi..."

"...We watch the lead runner approach, a bare-chested young man with a red bandana tied around his long hair. He has a bony, almost gaunt face, a small, lean, muscular, perfect body, and serious eyes. He runs steadily, uphill, breathing audibly but not, it seems to me, with any trouble. He is at least a quarter-mile ahead of everybody else. Watching him go, on and on at that apparently easy, unflagging pace, I feel an emotion which I have not felt in a long time: a certain awe in the presence of ability and determination far beyond any ambition of my own, a surge of admiration for the physical beauty of a good athlete in action.

'Who's that,' I ask.' Hoffman Shorty,' says one of the men near me.' Hoffman Shorty? You mean Shorty Hoffman?'' No, Hoffman Shorty. He won the race last year too.'

[...] A mile away and five hundred feet below I see one small lone dark figure streaking among the corn patches, the bean patches, the garbage dumps, and burnt-out abandoned Chevrolets that lie between Old and New Oraibi. Hoffman Shorty is far ahead of me. And of everybody."

Monday, October 27, 2008

2nd Place Soma Half Ironman

Forgive me if this entry is a little disjointed... I'm back in Durango after racing Soma yesterday morning, and then driving until midnight to get back home. It wasn't the ideal post-race scenario, but I needed to get back for work today, and I've still got another loaded week of training for Ironman preparation. The Soma triathlon has a rich history as one of the last competitive half ironman races for the season, and this year certainly added to that reputation. It's becoming near impossible to really discern who might be racing in the pro ranks just by looking at a start list posted on an event website, and any time decent prize money is offered pros emerge from their respective hideouts to compete for the cash. This race was no exception, as the men's field grew considerably in the final days, proving that it would not be any easy task to take one of the top 3 spots. Some of the notables were multiple Ironman champion Chris McDonald, IM Arizona champ Joszef Major, Bjorn Anderrson, and Olympian Paul Tichelaar. Chris McDonald and I were fortunate to share a great homestay with local Tempe resident and triathlete Karl Tunberg, and he made sure we had everything we needed to be prepared for race day. Most importantly, he taught us the nutritional value of coconut milk, let us swim in his endless pool, and drove us to the pro meeting in a Rock Racingesque black Cadillac Escalade with rims. With the race starting at 6:40, it was an early wake-up and breakfast before a short drive to the race start. Because Tempe Town Lake runs east to west, it's nearly impossible to avoid swimming right into the sunrise at some point on the course, and we had a stretch of about 500m where it was extremely difficult to navigate (for evidence, see swim times for ITU athlete Paul Tichelaar and consistent front pack swimmer Bjorn Anderrson). I was swimming strong at the start, holding onto Chris's feet until I lost contact trying to sight for the turnaround buoy. I still came out in good position (discounting the manfish Marky V) and immediately began chasing for the front pack. It didn't take me nearly as long as the last race in Austin before I was riding with Paul, Bjorn, Mark, and Chris, and I was feeling strong. I gave a good dig at the front of the race to gauge the strength of everyone, and when everyone followed, I decided to ride more conservatively than my last outing. I let Chris and Bjorn take some turns at the front, and when Bjorn finally jumped with less than 6 miles to go, I just stayed put and waited for the run. Unfortunately, I didn't have a stellar transition, and coming out of T2 I was trailing Chris by about 25 meters. We caught Bjorn within the first mile, and when I noticed that we were running through the first few miles around 5:45, I backed off a little and aimed for my goal pace of 5:55-6 minute pace. Chris stayed about the same distance in front of me for most of the rest of the run, finally putting a little more time into me near the end of the race, but I felt like I had given my best effort for the day and clocked a PR for the half-marathon with a 1:18:14 split, about 50 seconds down from Chris. Paul Tichelaar was chasing me through the first half of the run, but slowed a bit coming down the home stretch and finished third about 6 minutes back. Considering that I had some good, hard training right up until Thursday, I was excited with my performance, finishing in my best time for a half: 3:49:48. I'll be taking a couple of moderate days to recover from the concrete on the run and the subsequent 8 1/2 hour drive home before picking it back up for the last hard push of Ironman training. Congrats to all the race finishers and a big thanks to the whole Red Rock crew and volunteers for putting on another good race down in Tempe.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

8th Place Longhorn Ironman 70.3 Austin

Fresh back from a weekend trip to Austin, Texas, for the Longhorn Ironman 70.3. I had a pretty solid week of training leading up to the race, so I wasn't sure how my legs would feel on race day. Thursday saw a hard ride with 1:45 at Ironman pace, but I planned to take Friday and Saturday relatively easy in preparation. The good news was that during my pacing effort, I caught and passed former Tour de France rider turned T.V. commentator Bob Roll. I'm not saying Bob's in top form anymore, but he was still putting out good power, and any time I get to ride with someone who has been at that level at any time in their life is fun for me. Things didn't go as smoothly as I would have liked on my trip to Austin, starting with my first taste of United's new pricing policy for oversize baggage. I'll avoid going too far into this topic because I could spend considerable time deriding the airline and it's efforts to stay profitable, but I will say that spending $125 to check my bike box is a travesty. Considering that I have to check another bag to keep my bike box light enough to avoid a $225 fee, I end up paying $280 for baggage by the time I fly to my destination and back. It's bad enough that I'm paying for additional weight when I'm a skinny triathlete, but they won't insure against any potential damage even with the fee. Add to it the fact that they decided to send my bag to Oklahoma City under another passenger's name, and I was pretty unhappy with the service. Fortunately I had arranged to stay with fellow pro triathletes Amy and Brandon Marsh who live in Austin, so I was able to rally enough gear to train with their Masters swim team on Saturday morning, and go for a nice spin right afterwards. My legs felt a bit heavy from the training and the travel, and I flatted a tubular on the training ride, but by the time the race started on Sunday I had my own gear and I was ready to race. The venue was east of town at Decker lake, and warm temperatures all summer in Austin had left the water a balmy 78 degrees on race morning and eliminated any possibility of a wetsuit swim. I felt okay in the swim, eventually settling into a good group that came out about 1:30 down from the bigger lead group. My goal was to get up to the leaders as quickly as possible, so I hit full gas from the beginning of the bike until I caught on at about mile 28. I could see that there were at least 2 more guys up the road by about 30 seconds, so I decided to pick up the pace again and see if I could put some time into the big group before the run. I jumped past the group and caught Joe Gambles and Paul Ambrose shortly after, but we were only able to put about 2 minutes into the chasers by the end of the bike. I felt okay through 3 miles, trying to stay conservative and hit 6 minute pace, but I started to fade a little after that. I don't think I had a truly bad run given the course and conditions, but I didn't quite have the legs I was hoping for, and it was probably because I laid it on the line for the bike and paid the price. I could have played it more conservatively and sat with the big group, but with a strong field like that I decided to give it a go. The good news is that my cycling form is better than it's ever been, and I know I will be ready for Ironman this fall with some more hard training in the next 5 weeks. To finish off the weekend, Brandon, Amy, and another pro triathlete, Mark Van Akkeren, and I all went to eat at the funky Chuy's TexMex joint for dinner. It may be the fact that this run was on trails and asphalt as opposed to the sufferfest concrete run at Harvest Moon, but my legs are already feeling much more recovered than the last race. Time to get into the hardest training of my life in prep for Arizona. Next up is the Soma Half Ironman in Tempe on the 26th for a little course recon and another shot at a decent prize purse thanks to Redrock owner Tim Deboom.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

1st Place Animas Mountain Mug Run

This past Sunday was one of my favorite local Durango races. I don't get an opportunity to do all the regional events with my traveling schedule, but I always try to fit the Animas Mountain Mug Run in for a good, hard effort. The trail leaves from the northern end of town and heads up a series of switchbacks before climbing the outer edge of the sandstone-capped plateau. This has become a favorite training run of mine, so I am familar with the terrain; predominantly singletrack trail winding through the gambel oak, pinon, juniper, and ponderosa pine at the upper limits of the loop. The run is a good challenge because it's essentially straight up, and then straight down, starting in town at 6500 ft. and climbing to 8100 ft. in a little over 3 miles. I've seen a number of cyclists jump in the race after ending their season, and they can usually be competitive on the uphill sections, but the biggest hurdle really comes on the downhill. The trail widens about half way down and is riddled with loose rock and some significantly steeper pitches, so being alert and keeping at least partially in control are critical. Almost every year there are at least 2 or 3 people who take a digger on the descent, so it's been my plan to go clear on the strenuously aerobic uphill, and then do my best to hold it together and avoid taking too many risks on the downhill. This year that mindset is particularly important with Ironman as my ultimate goal, so I went for the lead from the gun. I held a smaller advantage than I hoped for through the first mile, but then I gradually began to pull away from my rivals and held a 3 minute lead over the top of the climb. I was hoping to improve my course record from the previous year, so I stayed on the gas, crossing the line in 43:51 for the 6.6 miles, which shaved 29 seconds off my time from 2007. I didn't have long to enjoy my win because another loop of the course and 2 1/2 hours of riding were in store for the rest of the day. Fortunately, I'm doing a good job of recovering from the demanding training agenda, and I'm looking forward to a big test at the Longhorn Ironman 70.3 in Austin, Texas, on the 5th. This weekend looks to be a training trip to the Utah desert around Moab for a change of scenery and to help crew for the local adventure racing team as they conclude their season with the 3 day competition.

Monday, September 15, 2008

1st Place Harvest Moon Half Ironman

This past weekend I made the trip to Denver for the Harvest Moon Half Ironman, traveling with a crew of local Durango triathletes. We left early on Saturday to ensure plenty of time to do some training on the course before we called it an early night. I entered the weekend unsure of my form after a hard mountain bike crash last Saturday, but when we warmed up on the course I could tell that my legs were ready. In the words of Carlos Sastre, I had "good sensations." I haven't raced a half since I did Lake Stevens in July, so I was ready to test my fitness and remind my body what it was like to go hard for that distance. The air and water temperatures were cold (although nowhere near as cold as this year at the Battle at Midway triathlon), but I was feeling good after a short warm-up. The race didn't have a stacked field, but I knew it was going to be hard to beat Team Timex amateur Tim Hola out of the water. My plan was to swim my race, and then go to work on the bike and run. I found some good feet after about 500 meters (thanks to James Bales), and sat on for the remainder. As we exited the water, I heard a spectator yell that we were only 45 seconds down, so I focused on having a quality transition and keeping Tim in sight. The Harvest Moon course was a mixture of some good rolling hills and relatively flat sections, and by the midpoint of the second decent roller around mile 3, I had caught Tim and began to distance myself from the field. I honestly didn't start feeling like my legs were working hard until about mile 15, as the evaporative process left me pretty cold. The open plains outside Denver are notoriously windy, and even though they were nowhere near as bad as they could have been, there were some headwind sections where I had to hunker down and really focus on my position to gain more time. I used this race for a chance to experiment with my nutrition a little bit, but the temperatures made it difficult to want to eat and drink as much as I would in a normal race. Still, I was able to put down a bottle of Hammer's Perpetuem throughout the ride, and supplement it with my normal gel intake, and I felt ready for the run when I rolled into T2. I didn't really know where I stood in terms of a lead, but any lead is a good one. I hit the first part of course and regained sensation in my feet around mile 3, so I picked up the pace to ensure that I would stay away. The run course was probably about 8o% concrete, with slight rollers and lots of curves around small inlets at the resevoir. By the turnaround on a long straight section, I couldn't see anyone behind me, so I felt confident that I would be able to hang on for the victory. In the closing miles, my legs were feeling the effects of running hard on the concrete, but I pushed it for the practice and was rewarded with a PR for the half ironman distance and a new course record, crossing in 3:57:55. Given that the race was still at considerable altitude, the bike course was challenging, and the temperatures were less than optimum, I'm confident that my form is good heading into the hardest training I will have before Ironman Arizona. Next race is the Longhorn Ironman 70.3 in Austin, Texas, on the 5th of October, so I will be looking to battle with the likes of Simon Lessing, Joe Gambles, Leon Griffin, Bjorn Andersson, and Brandon Marsh for the top spots.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

1st Place AXS Adventure Race Vail

Just back from another weekend race near Vail, Colorado. This was only my second adventure race ever behind the AXS Moab race earlier this spring, but I was confident that our team would be able to come away with the win. The Zia Four Corners Adventure Racing Team consisted of soon-to-be 7 time Ironman Hawaii triathlete Brett Sublett, Xterra professional Shonny Vanlandingham, local triathlete and adventure race extraordinaire Tom Ober, and myself. The team to beat was Boulder Performance, so we set the tone early on the first mountain bike leg by putting about two minutes into them before the trail run/orienteering section. The interesting thing about adventure racing is that in the team format you are allowed to put slower team members on tow for the bike and run. This means that if one person is struggling to keep up and another is feeling stellar, they can link up and work together. We knew we had more athletic firepower than their squad when they put one of their team members on tow from the very beginning and kept her there for each of the bike and run legs where we saw them. We made a few minor mistakes on the navigation section, taking longer than Boulder to find some of the checkpoints, but after the second bike leg we held a considerable advantage, and we ended up winning by about 15 minutes when we finished after the second kayak leg. Of course it wasn't just that we had a more fit squad, because we also made a gamble on the second mountain bike leg, hoping that our decision to backtrack for a checkpoint would pay off. After discussing the decision with teams who completed the loop in order to get the second checkpoint, it confirmed that we had made the right choice. Apparently the section we skipped involved slightly more technical, and thus slower, downhill. Unfortunately the race wasn't all just peachy, because I took a decent tumble on the moutain bike near the end of the race, bruising and scraping my right side (see above). Of course it hurt and I'm pretty stiff today, but I'll recover well and race hard this coming weekend in Denver for the Harvest Moon Half Ironman. More to come...

Friday, August 29, 2008


The racing schedule for the back half of my season has been finalized, and it will be posted on my site soon. Until it is uploaded here is the breakdown:

September 6th AXS Adventure Race Vail
September 14th Harvest Moon Half Ironman
September 21st Animas Mountain Mug Run 6.6 Mile Trail Run
October 5th Longhorn Ironman 70.3
October 26th Soma Half Ironman
November 23rd Ironman Arizona

I may add a local running race or two just to keep things sharp, and I will be participating in some of the Durango Wheel Club Championship events, but this should be just the right amount of race intensity stimulus I need to be ready for my Ironman in November. My training is right on target at the moment, and I'm feeling more fit and focused than ever before. The most important thing from here on out will be to really nail my key workouts each week and avoid injury. It's going to take a little creative training when the daylight really starts to fade this fall, but I'm confident that my legs will be ready for the test. I'll report on the Adventure race in Vail this weekend upon completion.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Website Update

Make sure to check the latest version of my website at
The newest updates include a gallery (more pics coming soon), and a completely redesigned layout with all-new sections. The most recent results, photos, and race schedule will be added shortly. Input is welcome.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Single-Minded Warrior

"Out on the accidental frontiers of human possibility, the best athletes are produced by a perfect storm of circumstance: rare natural talents; state-of-the-art training; and a deep wash in the murk of psychology, where, perhaps most mysterious of all, ferocious ambition, discipline and capacity for self-sacrifice reside."

From the New York Times article "Out There" by Mark Levine August 3rd, 2008

Becoming an elite endurance athlete is a bit like reverting to caveman status, being a believer, and hence, a warrior. To me this is what life is all about: to strip away the trivialities of day-to-day living and get right down to the essentials. Being successful is being competitive, and being competitive means that I put my training before most everything else. It's taken me some time to become comfortable with that idea, as I attempted to strike the socially defined "balance" in my life, seeking activities that stimulated my artistic creativity, mechanical aptitude, and other pursuits designed to make me a well-rounded, culturally aware, renaissance man. It's not to say that I have abandoned those pursuits entirely, but instead that I have decided that the real knowledge of one's self is in the deepest and rawest commitment to one thing. And that I believe the rewards of pushing myself and pursuing this goal to know what I am truly capable of far outweigh the fantasy of other possibilities if I were to abandon this quest. A friend, David Roy and I have spent countless hours on the running trails of Durango discussing the benefits of what he has coined being a "single-minded warrior." The common myth is that being so involved with only one thing leads to stagnation and inhibits growth, but I believe that intense specialization and devotion promotes the greatest advancements and evolution within the self. To let distracting elements fall away is the key to flourishing. One of the more inspiring quotes I have read from an athlete who demonstrated some of the fiercest commitment to these ideals comes from Greco-Roman wrestler Alexander Karelin, a.k.a. "The Experiment." He offered this insight when he was explaining why people don't understand how he could be so much more skilled at his sport than his rivals without being some kind of scientific experiment, juiced to the gills: "I train every day of my life as they have never trained a day in theirs." So, next time you are wondering whether somebody else is logging the training miles and getting up early enough to swim before work, do yourself a favor and assume they are.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Sunday 20

This past weekend was a serious motivator for the back half of the racing season. Even though I have just begun to ramp the training back to an acceptable level after my injury, I was feeling good on my long run and decided to make the workout a real test of my fitness and the strength of my knee. A group of runners have been organizing for long runs at high altitude recently, so I joined the Sunday morning effort and drove up Hermosa Park above the Purgatory ski resort for the run. The run begins at 9,900 ft. and immediately climbs to almost 10,500 ft., where it contours at the base of several big peaks in the San Juan range. I wasn't feeling 100% after racing a sprint triathlon in town Saturday (1st, 53:56) and following it up with almost 3 hrs. of solid riding with some friends, but after about 25 minutes I settled into a more comfortable rhythm and began to enjoy the scenery up high. I was expecting to suffer even more than usual at that altitude, but at mile 8 when the group decided to flip it and head back to the cars, training partner Jesse Vondracek and I opted for a bit more. Initially we planned on going out to 9 miles and turning back, but we talked each other into the full 10. Because the last 3 miles coming back were almost entirely downhill, we also decided that we would up the tempo at the end and try to lock in some speed at the critical time when the legs were the most fatigued. I started to suffer a little bit at mile 14, but stayed focused on my form and efficiency until we crested the rise before the long downhill. I was able to click off 6:15's for the last 3 miles and held an overall average of 7:41's for the 20 miles. Most importantly, my knee held up just fine and is ready for the rest of the requisite Ironman training. I'll be heading to Gateway, Colorado this weekend for some more racing with the Chocolate Factory cycling team, with a 40k time trial on Friday, 162k road race on Saturday, and a 142k road race on Sunday. Happy training.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Tuesday Night Worlds

Last night was easily the hardest ride I've done outside of racing this summer. Every tuesday night, spring through fall in Durango, several group rides leave for what essentially evolves into a road race scenario. Last night saw a solid turnout of local cycling pros, including Jittery Joe's Ben Kneller and Matt Shriver, BMC's Brent Bookwalter, HealthNet's Corey Collier, the ageless Ned Overend, and several other top amateurs from the local area. The funny thing is that we were still short a few names, including Kelly Benefits rider Dan Bowman, Toyota United's Chris Wherry, GT's Todd Wells, and a number of other cyclists that make this mountain town one of the west's cycling meccas. I knew it was going to be a challenging ride with all the heavy-hitters present, but also because the route involved a considerable amount of climbing, and my legs were already a bit tired from the transition back to training and racing this past weekend in Salida. The ride began on a 10 mile climb up to Hesperus, where I was shelled off the back about halfway up after riding tempo for a while on the front. I rejoined the group at the top for the flatter section, when after continuously ramping up the speed with Corey on the front, he stepped it up another notch, Ben Kneller attacked on a roller, and I was off again. I usually don't have too much trouble staying with the group on rides like this, but these guys were absolutely on mission to make the entire ride a sufferfest, and we were holding 55+k/h for most of the flat and rolling sections. After joining the group for a second time, we hit another climb on a quality dirt road and made our second loop over the rollers near Breen. This time I was able to hold on and set good pace at the front, as we whittled the group down to 4 for the last descent into town. I didn't make much of an effort for the town sign sprint, but I was happy to survive the ride and lock some excellent mileage and effort into my legs. Hopefully next go around I'll be able to hang a little longer on the climbs before the elite climbers take command.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Lake Stevens 70.3

It's an appropriate time to begin this update section as I am coming off a knee injury that necessitated almost two weeks of rest. After a bike crash 3 weeks ago, I bruised my patella and it led to some tracking issues. Thinking I would just shut down the training before my race in Lake Stevens and be fine, I headed to Seattle to visit friends and hoped for the best. My race day performance was less than stellar. A non-wetsuit swim which was a touch long left me nearly 3 minutes in arrears, and the knee was hurting throughout the bike, so I never found my usual rythym. I came off the bike in 5th place and knew that if I could hold my spot it was worth $1250, so I just settled into a decent tempo run. When I reached mile 4, the pain had subsided as my knee went numb, and I was able to pick it up for the remaining miles. Heading out to the last turnaround, I knew I wouldn't be catching 4th place Tim Marr, and he gave me a boost saying "don't get caught." I stayed steady through the final miles and held off 6th place by about 2 minutes. I didn't have a great race, and it was frustrating to feel restricted on the bike when I normally rely on it as my strength, but I was happy to win some money and see some good friends in Seattle. Additionally, my coach Elliot Bassett ( and I had agreed on a good rest block after Lake Stevens, so I took some good down time here in Colorado. Now I'm back to training at full-tilt in Durango, with plenty of swims, rides, and runs to get my fitness back to a high level. I was originally planning on a trip to Boulder for the 5430 Long Course triathlon on August 10th, but I won't have the proper running fitness to really attack the course like I want to, so I'm opting for a good training block which includes a cycling race in Gateway, Colorado, with my team (see the website at I'm actually looking forward to some quality training again with fewer races, as the first half of the year was pretty hectic between triathlons and bike racing. I do have a few races planned for the second half of the season, including the Longhorn 70.3 in Austin, TX, and the Harvest Moon Half, but I'm leaving it open enough to provide ample time for Ironman training. There is a small local sprint triathlon this weekend in Durango, so I'll be using that for some top-end speed and a chance to race against some of my training friends here in town. Until then, more quality training awaits...