Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Almost to Mexico...

This way to sun.

The last week was spent under sunny skies in Tucson, Arizona, familiarizing my body with real training again. Not exactly "fat camp," but my first legitimate bike riding for quite a while. It was exactly what I needed to jumpstart my season after committing to race Abu Dhabi in March. With the 120 mile bike segment, I am going to need the big early season miles...

Desert skies the day after a rain.

This is the third year that I have decided to spend a good portion of winter training in Tucson, and each time I make the drive down a smile forms as I crest the final climb out of Mammoth and head down through Oracle and see the valley city open before me. The promise of outdoor swimming pools, sunny weather, good company with my homestay and friend Brian, and countless miles of open road in beautiful desert scenery lifts my spirit and prepares me for long weeks of hard workouts. I stopped on the way down to run a few miles at the Salt River canyon, and then joined Brian for an interesting evening out on the town. We had a great sushi dinner at new place downtown, and then met up with friends at one of the strangest bars. Ever. If you get a chance, have "God" give you the tour at Meet Rack... Enough said.

Meet Rack. Weird.

Day one was a nice mountain bike ride in Starr Pass with the Honeybee. Saguaro, barrel cacti, ocotillo, saguaro, palo verde, prickly pear, and host of other hearty desert flora dot the landscape. If Brian wasn't trying to turn the screws and prove that he's better at something than me, I might have had a chance to look around a little... Oh well, maybe in January.

Cacti and stuff.

Share the road.

The next few days were a nice blend of solid training, drinking beer/watching football and basketball, doing a stretch session at Yoga Oasis and catching dinner at Wilko, watching Woody Guthrie's American Song at the beautiful Temple of Music and Art venue, and waking early for some swimming at U of A's Hillenbrand Aquatic Center.



I had some wonderful rides, including an interesting day on the Shootout loop (Mission road) where I saw three illegal immigrants running by the road (I know because I stopped and asked). Managed a couple great rides with Chris McDonald and his training posse (Hillary Biscay, Maik Twelsiek, Sam McGlone, Marilyn McDonald), and several solo rides with just the wind and my thoughts as companions.

San Xavier Mission.

Impersonating a saguaro.

Pit stop on Ajo highway.

Historic Tucson home.

Soon, names Kitt Peak, Sonoita, Madera, Mt. Lemmon, will become regular vocabulary, utterances in dreams, weekly journeys. I head back to Tucson in January to continue the build towards a successful 2011 season. In the meantime, I will enjoy the holidays and build some reserves for the next round of flogging.

Monday, November 8, 2010


It's curious and amusing how much my perspective on running can shift when my experience becomes unstructured and without any specific ambition, save enjoying the touch of cool wind on my face, the pounding pulse of blood in my veins, and the sense of stones beneath my feet on the open trail. In these times, the mystery and intrinsic value of a bounding human body returns, and my mind is clear of time, distance, pace... I am free to just exist on the path, my mind committed to the rhythm of footfall, focused on the next spot my shoe will meet terra firma. To me, running is essential. Primal and real. It is the purest of the sports I pursue, having limited gear, no pretense, no referees.

On this day, a few hundred paces onto the dusty thoroughfare I am conscious of nothing but the sensations, the landscape unfolding before me, the slight burn in my hamstrings and quads as the body slowly warms to the experience. There is a short time when it feigns aversion, but as the lungs expand, memory and mantra take control: you have never felt worse after completing a run than you did before starting. Onward then, I pass the scrub oak, pinon pine, juniper, and occasional ponderosa, their slender arms reaching towards me and occasionally stroking my arms and legs. When one protrudes farther than the rest and scratches my skin deep enough to draw blood, I am momentarily shaken from my meditative state and curse it out loud as if it were a person with a conscious determination to assault me. I quickly forget as the trail pitches up and my stride is forced to shorten, my breathing and heartbeat lagging behind the effort but sure to hasten. I concentrate harder, determined to avoid those irritating spindly twigs, giving extra effort to keep my footing as the trail climbs up on a slick bed of fallen leaves. Fall changes the feel on the footpath. Not only do you don more clothing fending off the brisk air, but the congregation of tree litter masks the hazards, and the beauty of the warm autumn colors can distract from the immediate moment. I exaggerate my high-step to avoid some of the perceived threats and continue on the snaking trail, recovering steady breath in downhills and flats. Even though I have run this route countless times, there are always sections I forget, and I am happy to relearn them today. My upper body swaying in the turns, I press my chest forward and lean into another downhill section, vaulting over a couple larger rocks as a grin forms on my lips. I do not lose concentration, but on an open section where trail crews have built slash piles for winter burning, I allow my thoughts to drift for a short time. I reflect on an interaction with a friend from earlier in the week, an article I read recently, think of what I want for dinner...

Not for long though. On the next set of rollers, I notice that my get-out-of-jail-free card has already been redeemed, and the burn returns to my muscles. It's offseason, and although I feel pretty good, fitness is not where it was even three weeks ago. It's time to seek home before the joyful hurdling becomes a painfully slow slog. I sharpen my concentration knowing this is when I most likely to make a stupid mistake and roll an ankle, and even once mutter "focus" aloud. To add an element of risk, daylight is rapidly disappearing, and I periodically fail to spot a rock in the dying sunlight. Why did I wait for evening before initiating this run? Because I wanted the test I'm now taking, the uncommon experience of an absolutely clear mind watching day turn to night while scampering amidst the forest. One step, sight, the next step, backing off the speed a little to be sure of placement. Soon, I am approaching the trailhead, spotting more signs of human traffic and watching the path widen underfoot. Back home I go, until the next time...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Seasons of change.

With considerable reluctance, the time to bid my summer and autumn love goodbye has come. Fall and winter are knocking heavy handed at the door, and it leaves me in wonder that another year is already concluding. For as long as I can remember Summer (and it's fair siblings, Spring and Fall) have pulled hardest at my core, so it is with mild anguish that I accept the shortened days, the colder weather, the earthy scent of decay, and heavy frosts that will soon be snow drifts. I certainly don't think of myself as enslaved to the halcyon days of June, July, and August, and have deep love for distinct seasons, but human nature is to resist change, and this year I feel particularly aware of the transformation. Winding my way through the Colorado high country on my mountain bike today, browning aspen leaves and ponderosa pine needles covering the trail, I knew it would be the last time in probably in five months I would glimpse the path free of winter's white cloak...

With a reduction in training after Kona (and initially a complete cessation), I have had plenty of time to reflect on the year, to look forward to the upcoming season, and to just be quiet minded in the present moment. After all, the where-have-I-been, where-am-I-headed yo-yoing is often a distraction from authentic progress and rumination...

So onto reflection then. What has the year brought? Probably my biggest period of growth as an individual, athlete, brother, craftsman, son, friend, lover, creature of planet Earth. With each passing year I become more aware of what I most cherish and want from my life, what I desire to give and share, how I want to grow. I am more and more cognizant of who I am: a motivated individual with diligent and focused work ethic, highly enthusiastic and passionate about human relationships, and capable of seeing lengthy projects to completion (see: Ironman Hawai'i). I am anxious to learn and willing to contribute ideas. I am an impromptu problem-solver, mechanically gifted and proficient with a wide variety of tools (including bikes, running shoes, a pottery wheel). Adept at public speaking, detail-oriented, an artist and athlete. I want to broaden my knowledge of and experience in personal relations, continually seek challenging situations which require my complete attention, hone my athletic talents, ponder my allegiances, problem solve, create, be open to change, relax, read, and just be a good person...

So, as the year comes closing in, the weather inspires a move indoors, take time to reflect, to be inspired, to really think about your life, and be grateful for all it is and can be...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Island time... Pt. 3/Back home

My final days on the island were spent primarily in Kona, as the town is much more enjoyable after the mobile circus of Ironman departs. Save a few trips to the wonderfully opulent Mauna Lani for a wine tasting dinner and triathlete dinner at the Canoe House, I was content to ride out my days on the beaches around Kona town, afternoons at the misty cocoon of Dave's house near the coffee road.
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.

So off the island then, a chance encounter with a wonderful Canadian woman who had just cycled around the island passed the time until I had to face down the lurking demon which was my redeye flight to LAX. As fate would have it, my seatmate shifted uncomfortably throughout the flight, disallowing any sleep for me. As the time passed, of course my anxiousness did too, and eventually all things conspired against my desire to rest: crying babies, my own racing heart, a lingering cough from the tropics, flight attendants bumping me with elbows and carts...

My jetlagged haze was considerable as I stepped into my native state again, but quickly replaced with excitement. Not quite "home" yet, but back in the clutches of wonderful Colorado. To celebrate my return, I enjoyed the company of a good friend for dinner, wine, and then The National concert at the Fillmore. Fortunately we came equipped with her iPhone and some bravado, courtesy of our wine stop, and were able to push our way in waving barcodes from our tickets which the box office lady refused to issue...Hilarious.
Morning was coffee in one of triathlon's meccas, Boulder, and a walk amid perfect fall conditions while I reacquainted myself with it's charming downtown. Perhaps I will return for some training next season...

The story unfolds for a couple more days in the city, and then it's back to Durango, where cooler fall conditions are my sure companion. Exciting adventures ahead as I revisit some of my hobbies and interests which have been dormant during the training and racing season...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Island Time... Pt. 2

In my previous visit to the Big Island, I had failed to make it over to the Hilo side, so this year I made time for the trip. Hilo is well known for the tsunamis which struck the city back in 1946 and 1960, and for being the wettest city in the United States, with some areas near the town receiving over 200 inches of rain annually. I honestly hadn't heard many great things about the place, but I went over to find out for myself, and I'm glad I did...

Taking the famous Saddle road outside Waimea, I climbed up and over the lava flows below Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, watching the landscape unfold into a most amazing juxtaposition: From the ashen, motionless sea of lava at the summit, an almost immediate change to a verdant, blooming oasis as I dropped towards Hilo. First order of business was getting some lunch, so I dropped into a secret Thai spot and had a wonderfully authentic curry. Next on the agenda was Akaka falls, just north of the city. There is a small hiking path that leads visitors around an incredible tropical jungle, eventually popping out with a stunning view of the plunging horsetail falls...

Urgency was a word left behind with the end of my race season, so I stopped at the Aloha farms coconut and fruit stand just down the road from Akaka falls. This is a small family run effort, and completely organic, so it was easy to hand over a few dollars in exchange for a fresh coconut. Would love to have my mountains and canyons, and the ability to grow tropical fruits all in one place. Oh, mango, pineapple, rambutan, guava.... I love thee.

In my first real athletic effort since the Ironman, I roused my roommate for the week, Dave Old, and headed for the aquamarine waters of the coast for a little surfing. Sadly, Dave was not to be joining this most pure day on the water, as he was still suffering from a toe infection initiated by the marathon run, so he enjoyed the views from the beach while I paddled around. I wish to report incredible successes on the water, but alas, I really only caught a couple waves at Pine Trees. My surfing needs some fine-tuning, which means I will have to find an agreeable beach in the near future...

I offered to take it off with a chisel and hammer, cauterizing with a blowtorch after, but Dave went with antibiotics instead. To each his own...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Island Time... Pt. 1

The aftermath of an unsatisfactory competition can lead to total disillusionment if not circumvented properly, so I am happy to report the successful restraining of my disenchantment through various post-race activities on the island this year. It's certainly not a pattern I'm interested in forming, as summiting Mauna Kea in the celebration of a successful Ironman Hawai'i would be much preferred, but compared to last year's fallout I've made considerable gains... So much to see out here.

So yes, I have stood on the top of Mauna Kea recently to gaze over impossible windswept volcanic moonscapes of the upper reaches in the evening light, and basaltic flows charged deep red with iron on the lower flanks. Tradewinds from the Hilo side corral massive cloudbanks on the saddle between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa every afternoon, offering a feeling of sitting in an airplane when looking down from the top, free of earthbound constraints. It is the most sacred of mountains on the island, but ironically the summit is dotted with various high-power telescopes for unobstructed viewing of the night skies. Perhaps this is just a small concession for the native Hawaiians, as they too know the importance of observing the celestial reaches clearly...

But I'm getting ahead of myself, both in cultural speculation and linear progression of post-race events. Back just a little we'll go, to some very fun parties!

K-Swiss has gained a reputation rather quickly for producing a memorable (if not forgotten in the damaging haze of over consumption) event, so I willingly jumped in with the Specialized lads for a (hopefully) unforgettable night/morning out at Huggo's on the Rocks in downtown Kailua-Kona. The awkward parading of bronzed and hopelessly sore post-race Ironpeople was in itself a spectacle to behold. Add in end of season excitement to drink copious amounts of booze, and you can see how this night easily ranks as the "must attend" social gathering after Ironman. I spent the night drifting from friend to new acquaintance, and eventually found myself standing in the middle of Ali'i drive conversing with Crowie while cars gently maneuvered around us. Helps to be standing next to a multiple world champion in these situations, I suppose...

This was not to be the end of the night, however, as ace Specialized mechanic Benno and I decided jumping into the condo pool from the fourth floor balcony was essential before sleeping. I have no concrete evidence as he skipped off to Maui the next day, but have heard from reliable sources that he paid with some bruising for those efforts... A memory not soon to be forgotten.

A recovery day with some beach time, and then I was donning my linen shorts for the most anticipated activity outside the race: The marriage of Luke McKenzie and Amanda Balding (Jimmy and Memphis). Friends since the hilarious Baja 70.3 adventure of 2007, I have enjoyed their support and watched their growth in the sport since that time. To see them wed, happy in their shared purpose and direction, left me speechless. We dedicated the rest of the night to impressive wine bouts and dancing merrily by the seaside... Great food, drink, friends, and music closed out a memorable day of celebration.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Kona Race Report.

It is with less than usual motivation that I compose this blog entry. Perhaps it is still too close to the race to give an accurate description of all that I feel about my day, but for the sake of candidly recollecting details and giving a timely update, I will carry on...

Pre-race found me surprisingly calm, bordering on the lethargic while I awaited the event. Complacency it was not, but the under radar methodology felt right this time, and spending too much time at the expo or out in the hot sun on the feet can end a race before it begins. One quick morning run with Rasmus Henning, Dan Hugo, Michael Kruger, and Martin Jensen, a couple short rides and swims, and plenty of time at the Specialized condos left me feeling ready.

The Caveman: Always serene.

The usual churning, forward creeping anxious triathlete thrashing signaled that the cannon was about to sound, and then head in the water to silence (save my steady breathing). I was out very clear with Macca to my left and Martin Jensen to my right. I let them go just a little to fall in behind, and found myself able to match pace on the draft. Could it be? I was swimming so smoothly, and knew my ocean bottom markers... Sunken tire, 1k across from the Coast Guard can, deeper water means we must be nearing the first turn buoy, etc. At a touch over 3k I tried to move away from Tyler Butterfield and he let a little gap open, but we never lost sight of the leaders, coming in about 40 seconds back. When I saw 52:17 on the clock, and then many of the faster swimmers just mounting their bikes to leave, I was elated. This was exactly what I had been dreaming of all year! A life-changing swim...

I attacked hard to catch on in the early miles, and bridged by 4-5 miles on the Kuakini. There were many athletes who made the lead pack, and it was quite ridiculous to see the dynamic firsthand. On the way out to the airport, I barely felt like I was riding, yet we were rolling along at speeds approaching 30 miles per hour...

Nervous to be at the back of the group where the yo-yo effect would be the strongest, I made a move to get up where I could observe some of the major players on the bike. At about 29 or 30 miles, Dirk Bockel was in front of me on the left, and I could not get closer than 10m, but our progress forward was deemed too slow, and I was shown a redcard for "failure to pass in 20 seconds." The next penalty tent was at mile 38, so I did my best to gain a little time before pulling over, but that only amounted to about 20 seconds, and I watched the group ride off to Kawaihae...

I attempted to compose myself, eating and drinking while the stopwatch held me captive, but admittedly I was cracked. From such an emotional high to absolute devastation within moments, and I was caught in my small tragedy. As someone said afterwards, every mistake at Ironman Hawaii is magnified, and seems much worse than any other race. I pride myself on being mentally tough, but Saturday I let the anger and frustration derail my focus. The rest of the ride home was autopilot, head down and alone in the winds...

Out on the run, I was determined to at least run well past my explosion point of last year, and I managed about 12 good miles of running before stomach issues slowed my progress. I walked, jogged, and ran my way slowly through the energy lab, back to the top of Palani, and then onto Ali'i drive one more time to finish the World Championships. Despite all the disappointment, I was able to muster a smile amidst the finishline energy. This is a very special race indeed.
Another good learning experience to cap off my best season to date. It looks like I will be done racing for 2010, but back with new determination and focus in 2011. Failure to achieve goals is often part of the learning process, and I am happy to say my understanding grows with each passing day. The promise of better Kona races lightens my heart, and the vast beauty and mystery of the big island keeps my human desires in check. Cheers to the journey... the growth and evolution of dreams.

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

1st Place Black Canyon Sprint Triathlon

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

The Gathering.

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...

We had some fantastic food catered by the always entertaining Rob Kabeary of Bread, beverages provided by Durango Coca-Cola, and some tasty dessert treats compliments of Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Good thing I did some training before I went down there, because I had to sample most everything, and I left feeling quite sated.

I feel truly blessed to be in such an amazing town with such incredible support and programs for its athlete development. From Durango DEVO to FLC Cycling and a soon to be Elite development squad, the city really embraces its local talent and provides the perfect platform to raise world-class performers while keeping things fun. I'm excited to watch these young kids reach their potential, and simultaneously chase my own. Happy training!

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 won't be going out so early this year, as I am going to experiment with carrying the altitude advantage from my training in Durango. Because I think Kona is such a difficult event, it's really just about having a good day when the race rolls around. You can be the fittest person in the race, but if you don't execute your perfect race, the mistakes are magnified exponentially. My biggest mistake last year was improper fueling on the bike, and I paid dearly for it on the marathon. This year, I have much more experience at the distance, and the confidence of doing well all season long.

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

1st Place Ironman Branson 70.3

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: