Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Monday, November 8, 2010
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
One evening I was fortunate to attend a private concert played by Leche de Tigre at Ceviche Dave's. This was the same band which played all evening at the McKenzie wedding, and they have a solid following in Kona, for good reason. This particular show was to celebrate one band member's successful battle over cancer, so the music seemed deeper, more dynamic and lively with his drumming. I was lucky to have an opportunity to share the night with these new friends, to remember just how small my dilemmas and complications are in the bigger picture.
Flying to the island from the mainland around this time of year automatically initiates a sleep pattern of waking early, sleeping early, so with the aid of some fresh Kona coffee, I greeted the sun on my final day and set out to soak it in one more time. Lava Java served up my morning fuel (and another fishbowl of coffee), and then it was off to jump cliffs at Secrets. Dave and I happened upon two people at breakfast who were keen on joining our outing, so with Mark and Becky now in tow, we headed down south.
It had been a full year since I walked my way through the old Hawaiian battle grounds to reach the jumping spot, but little has changed in that time. The same sharp rocks and crashing waves, the deep blue sea offering its embrace. Each time I have visited the spot, I observe the same cautious hedging and pussyfooting of new jumpers, and then the moment when fear is conquered (or at least momentarily ignored), and they take that irreversible step... A beautiful process and metaphor for life. I had the pleasure of helping two new people make the leap, their faces bright with accomplishment and adrenaline in the shifting waves below.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
I finally made it out to the Big Island again, completing the circle of another year of training, racing, traveling, and living. I say finally because last year I came out so early, and so many pros now set up camp at least a month ahead of the race that it feels like I am showing up late. Not that I'm worried it will have a negative effect, but just something I'm aware of. In the short time I've been here, it's already justified my decision to wait a little longer this year. I feel amazing on my workouts with this extra oxygen carrying capacity, and the heat feels strong, but not unmanageable like I feared. I wouldn't say I made the mistake of destroying myself in workouts last year while I chased a couple world champions, but I also know how it can get when the top guys in the world show up before the biggest race of the year... It's a lot of hype and nerves, and it's easy to forget to rest properly or to psyche yourself out. Lastly, I think it's easy to feel like you are ready to race well before the day even arrives when you come out too early, so I am happy to have waited this time around.
It’s always an interesting experience to return to a place, as things and people change, but also stay the same. Confirming (or denying) memories, revisiting favorite spots, and meeting with friends and sponsors are all components of my trip so far. My intentions are certainly different this year, and I feel that I have grown since my last visit. I’m still me, but I like to think that I possess a different perspective this time, and I think it has manifested itself most obviously in my calm before the storm. Even though it's the World Championships, it's just another race...
That said, it's been something to behold walking amongst the countless vendors, athletes, supporters, cruise ship visitors, Ironman/Powerbar/KSwiss/etc. banners, and local Kona residents on Ali'i drive. The atmosphere is that of a carnival, and the buzz is palpable. For this I have the simple remedy of doing my training away from the standard locales, at earlier or later times, and spending plenty of time with the Specialized crew at the condos. The work is done now, and I will get no fitter between now and the race, so it's all about resting and getting the mental game as strong as possible before a long day of suffering.
More to come from the Big Island. My sunsoaked lanai is calling....
Sunday, October 3, 2010
Yesterday I returned to a race that I first did in 2007, this time as final prep for my race in Kona next weekend. The Black Canyon Sprint triathlon is held in Montrose, Colorado, which is roughly halfway between my hometown of Grand Junction, and my adopted home of Durango, with distances of a 500 yd. swim, 14.6 mile bike, and 5k run. Although Montrose has never really been a "destination" stop for me, it was nice to momentarily pause and take in some of the town again. Just like most anywhere in the American west, it's grown significantly over the past decade, but still has the feeling of a small community, and the race is one of the more low-key events I've done in while.
Instead of the usual pre-race ritual of arriving at least the day before my competition, I awoke very early in Durango and made the two hour drive under awakening skies. It was nice to have the road all to myself as I summited the three passes which dot the most direct route, and I arrived in time to watch the kid's triathlon and school cup races. Using the race as a reminder of the nuances of racing (fast transitions) and a last dose of ultra-fast effort, I focused on keeping things as simple as possible and executing without hesitation.
The swim allowed no real time for warm-up, but I got in a decent run to get the blood circulating, and my morning coffee was still carrying me through the 4:40 a.m. wake-up call. I entered the water next to a woman who was alternating between breaststroke and backstroke, so my swim became good openwater practice as I made sure to sight and avoid her on each lap. I kept things pretty steady, exiting just under 6 minutes (wearing a parachute of a jersey). Transition was very smooth, and I left on the bike, testing my Kona rig in an all-out effort.
The bike leg actually throws some decent challenges at the racers, with a couple significant hills, some false flats, and some rough chipseal that punishes riders. Not exactly Kona conditions, but there was some wind, and it wasn’t Florida flat… I came off feeling a little spent, but another good transition and I was off to tackle the run course.
After a leisurely start through a nice park, the run also shows its teeth with a steady climb, rising several hundred feet above town. I powered all the way up, stayed on the gas during the descent, and managed a respectable 18 minute split. Total time was 59:59, and I bested my time from 3 years ago by over 4 minutes. Hats off to the volunteers and local race crew for putting on a fun event and keeping things safe for everyone. Hopefully I can get back up next year to defend, but first it’s one more really long race in Kona…
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
It's not what you think... no magic cards here. Just a nice evening spent at my local bike shop, Mountain Bike Specialists, with many of the most prominent cycling figures in the Durango community. The gathering was to recognize the important role that Specialized and other local business has played in the development of both road and mountain biking in this town, and to showcase some of the work that is being done in continued promotion and development of athletes and local businesses through cycling in Durango. On hand were some true legends, including Ned Overend, Todd Wells, Bob Roll, and Specialized's own John Quinn. Add to it some lesser know superstars like my mechanics, Joey and Ryan, Fort Lewis College cycling coach Matt Shriver, and it was a great time. I am off the drink program right now, but I was pretty impressed with the way these guys put down the Bud Lights w/Lime...
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
The hardest work in preparation for Kona has been logged, and I am now entering my taper for the big event. I have one more small race I will do exactly one week out (a sprint triathlon in Montrose, Colorado), and then I will fly out to the island for a short week of light training, meeting with sponsors, and resting and getting my mind ready. I must say that I am getting more excited every day when I think about heading back to the Big Island. Last year I was lucky to get out early and log some quality training on the course, making friends with some locals, and just enjoying the tropical lifestyle. Having never been to Hawaii until last year, I was a little skeptical; I had always assumed that it was just a super touristy destination for Americans to visit during Christmas. However, after just a short time swimming in Kailua bay, riding the Queen K, making some great friends, and enjoying some quality coffee, I was hooked. The island life is much more than just lazing on the beach, but that part is pretty awesome...
I’ve been thinking hard about Kona this year, long before I decided to go back again in Lake Placid. It wasn’t a shoot-from-the-hip decision, or some fanciful notion because I was coming off my first win at the distance. I wanted to go back and test myself against the best in the world, and not be a spectator to the most important race in triathlon. It was heavy on my mind from the moment I passed on my spot at St. George, which I think reinforces its importance and my desire to race it again. Although I am not only Hawaii-minded, I am very interested in being my best on the Big Island, against most of the best long-distance triathletes in the world. It is truly hallowed ground, and just to be out there racing is a big accomplishment.
My overarching vision for my race in Kona is to reach my potential on the day. I have accumulated a lot of experience and certainly more fitness than ever before over the last year of racing, so I know that I have what it takes to execute a solid race. This is definitely vague in terms of a goal, but purposely so. I think that Ironman Hawaii is such a unique race that stating time or place goals is difficult, and can distract from the focus of achieving the best potential race on the day. I want to leave everything I have on the course, and be strong all day.
One goal inside the race which I will assign a time to is the run. In Kona, a 3 hour marathon is no easy feat. Had I run that last year, I would have found myself somewhere around 8:40, or 15th place. I think I have the strength and pacing control to achieve that goal, even if I am a little overextended from the bike. Although Ironman is never really “fun” during the race, I want to enjoy the experience as much as is realistic. I have worked extremely hard for a long time to be in this position, and it is an honor to be at the World Championships, so I will soak it up and give it proper respect too.
It will be a brutal test of guts, stamina, mental toughness, physical condition, and will, and I feel ready. Kona is calling...
Monday, September 20, 2010
Fresh back from a long weekend in Branson, Missouri, with my first ever win at an Ironman-branded 70.3! I’ve had a few close calls with a 2nd at Calgary last year, 2nd at Boise this year, and 3rd at Buffalo Springs, but I finally took the last step up. It’s especially good having backed up my win at Lake Placid, giving me a calm mind and plenty of confidence going into the biggest race of the year, the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.
My trip to Branson actually didn’t start like most of my race “vacations.” I flew out a little earlier than normal, arriving Thursday afternoon for a Sunday race. I bumped into Eric Wynn (photographer extraordinaire, triathlete) at the Denver airport, and he introduced me to eventual 2nd place finisher Tom Lowe. Pretty much from then on, the three of us hung out, soaking up the sights in Branson, doing some light training, and enjoying some pre-race banter and dinners with the Ironcrew of Tom Ziebart and Ryan Robinson. They definitely know how to put on a good race, and this was no exception. For a first year event, this race went beautifully, and I will hopefully be back to defend my title in 2011.
After cruising the Branson strip for a couple days, absorbing the somewhat zany nature of the music capital city, it was time to get down to business. The swim was in Table Rock lake, outside of Branson proper, and the water was fairly warm. With new rules allowing wetsuits, we were underway at 7 a.m. I had an okay start, and built my effort to catch onto Michael Lovato’s feet. He was following Brent Poulsen, so I sat in and tried my best to stay cool. Off the front were the likes of Brian Fleischmann, Stephen Hackett, TJ Tollakson, and James Cotter. They exited with about a minute on us, and on the run up to transition, I saw Lovato come to a stop, I suppose from overheating on the swim. I hit the bike hard to catch the leaders, and made sure to drink all my fluids before the first aid station to replace what I lost in the toasty swim.
I had a few people trying to follow in the early miles of the bike, but after about 25 miles I was closing in on Fleischmann, and was clear of the pursuers. Right when I caught Brian at mile 30 to move into second, Tom Lowe blew around me like a total manbeast, and relegated me back to third. I tried my best to match his speed, but he was on another level. Still, I managed to ride well over the remaining 25 miles, coming in around a minute behind Tom and Hackett.
Onto the run I was feeling pretty good right away. I stayed on my nutrition throughout the hilly bike, especially as it warmed up at the end, so I hit out hard and tried to keep the pace even on the relatively flat course. By the end of lap one, I had caught Hackett, but Tom was holding his advantage over me. I thought for a moment that 2nd might be my fate on the day, but after another 2 miles of running hard, I was closing in. 8 miles into the run, I had caught up to Tom, and made the pass. My legs were still feeling pretty good, but I could feel the heat creeping in. Water and ice at every aid station helped offset some of the warmth, but I knew I needed to get the race over with sooner than later. The faster you go, the sooner you are done, right?
The last two miles of the race I started to wrap my head around the possibility of winning. Entering the final straight away, the crowds were cheering loudly, and I grabbed the finish banner for the second consecutive time in victory. The Branson Landing fountain and fireballs went off, and signaled my first win at the distance on the circuit. I soaked the legs in the icy river water for a bit, and then chatted it up with the other top pro finishers. A great day.
After awards by the finish, it was a party at the piano bar, and my last night in Branson. I have heard some whispers of Branson placing a bid for being the World Championships venue for 2011, so I’m excited about returning to defend my title…
Back to Kona training. Three weeks to go until the big showdown!
A couple media links: