Thursday, April 22, 2010

Spring campaign.

I'm finally sitting in front of my computer with a little time to update on my latest series of travels and racing. It's been a busy few weeks on the road, but I have come away with some great race experience and fitness early in the year.

After racing Oceanside, I spent a week in St. George, came home for about 3 days, and then hit the road for another stint in Montana. I make the trip every year now to defend my title at the first triathlon I ever did, the Grizzly Triathlon. It's the biggest race in Montana, and with a bunch of friends coming back each time who are professional, the field is actually quite deep. I rallied the 800+ miles in one day after logging a swim with my dad in Grand Junction, and spent the weekend at my coach's place in the Rattlesnake. Friday morning was a return to the Big Kids Swim Lounge with Linsey Corbin, Ryan Payne, and Megan Gaskill. Noticeably absent was Boom Boom Matty Shryock, but he was busy calming his nerves before the big day. I enjoyed a relatively relaxed day seeing old friends and reminiscing in my college town. Race day brought perfect weather, and after putting together my best swim to date, I biked decently, and ran well to defend for the 5th year in a row. The new course record was only 7 seconds off the all-time race record, but I was happy with my performance. I am now tied for the most all-time victories, and have the longest streak in the history of the event. The plan is to make it a decade of The Hoff...

The next day was a return to racing bikes, as I hit up the Rocky Mountain Roubaix for a good, hard effort. I was able to get into a solid break, and stay with the ever dwindling lead group right up to the finish, where I was quickly reminded that I don't have a sprint. I was just happy to make it through the rough, unpaved sections without a flat, as that's more than half the battle. I wrapped things up in Missoula after an early swim, and headed back to Colorado with another marathon driving session.

Two more days of hard training in Grand Junction, and then I flew out with my dad to tackle Ironman New Orleans 70.3. The plan was to keep volume fairly high through the race, keeping the eye on the prize of St. George, so I arrived at the start line a little more tired than normal. The swim start was a little hectic, as we had a beach start, and the water didn't get deep enough for swimming until a good 75 yards offshore. I spiked the heart rate, and couldn't keep with the main pack. Battling considerable chop for the remainder of the way, I also encountered some trouble with where to head on the return. Finally getting out, I was a bit demoralized, but hit the bike hard. The legs really didn't come around until probably 30 miles in, but I kept on the gas and made my way into transition in 7th. I've been feeling pretty good about the run lately, so I hit it hard out of the gate to distance myself from any pursuers. Things came a little unglued after ten miles, but I had made the catch on O'Grady for 6th, and cruised in with a payday and a better time than the previous year. Most impressive was that my dad managed to shave 50 minutes off his time from 2009 with a fast bike and good run.

We took a day off to go fishing in the Atchafalaya basin with our friend Jim, catching several large reds and catfish. It was the perfect way to end our time in the bayou, after getting in most of the crucial experiences of eating tons of crawfish and shrimp, tromping around in the marsh behind Jim's house and spotting a cottonmouth snake, and eating almost all of our meals on the porch.

Now I am back in Durango, getting one final dose of altitude before I head to St. George next week. The body is recovering well, and with some well-calculated final touches, I should be more than ready for the big day. Loving the spring weather as the trails are drying up, the river is rising, and flowers are in bloom. Get out and enjoy your longer days in the sun...

Monday, April 5, 2010

St. George

After my short trip to California, I spent a week in St. George, Utah, doing some course recon before the Ironman race in May. I was very fortunate to have family friends to stay with in the historic area of St. George, and our house was one of the very oldest in town, built in 1862 by a Swiss family. I had great training partners with my coach making the trip down from Montana, and good friend Jesse joining for a great session.

I swung through Vegas on my drive back from California, picking up Jesse at the local YMCA where he was getting in the day's training. After learning that he had won a few hundred dollars in his night out on the strip, I didn't feel bad about having him fill the gas tank. We finished the drive up to St. George, set up at the home base, and stocked up on food. During the shoulder seasons when temps haven't soared into the 115 degree range, St. George is an outdoor paradise. Tons of beautiful trail winding through red sandstone hoodoo spires, snowcapped peaks in the distance, Bryce and Zion in striking distance, and even the remnants of an ancient lava flow near town are some of the highlights. Our mission was to get a feel for what may be the hardest North American Ironman course, so we focused on knowing every inch of the bike and run courses, since the reservoir water temperature is currently 49 degrees.

The first day was just about getting my legs back after the weekend race, but then we went full-gas for the week, riding big miles, hitting the track, trail, and course for runs, and swimming every day at the Sand Hollow aquatic center. We lucked out with great weather, only facing a couple of days with high winds. Highlights were finding some great singletrack for our long run, and riding to Zion in high winds with a solid run off.

We happened upon a local sprint triathlon on Saturday, based out of the aquatic center, so we decided to jump in and see how the body responded after a big week. I haven't been doing much super fast stuff, so it was fun to max out for 50 minutes. Unfortunately, the weather was very cool in the morning when we raced (high 30's), so exiting the pool and going fast on the bike led to frozen limbs. I literally had to sit down in the second transition trying to get my shoe on my block of wood feet, eventually giving up on the racing flat to put on a normal lace up running shoe. It wasn't pretty, but I came away with the victory, and it was a fun event with a solid turnout.

The Ironman course is going to be a real test of the strongest man on race day. It really doesn't let up on the bike or run at any point, and if it's windy and hot, it will be a long day for everyone. With a little more Ironman training, a trip to Montana for a short race, and then New Orleans 70.3, I should be ready for the big day. Looking forward to an honest race in a month...

7th Place Oceanside 70.3

For the first time in my relatively short pro triathlon career, I made the early season trip to Oceanside, California, to race the first major half ironman of the season. As one of the most storied half distance races in the U.S., Oceanside tends to attract a stellar field of athletes looking to test their early season fitness and get the first race under their belt. Coming off my biggest winter/spring of training to date, I felt that it was a good opportunity to see what my body was capable of, and to get rid of the first race jitters before the more important events.

I had a fairly relaxed drive out to the coast, splitting it into two days, and arriving Friday around noon. I did stop in Flagstaff during my first leg to spin on the bike, and found myself battling 40 mph winds up by the ski resort. Not recommended. After getting checked in at the race site, I met with sponsors Zipp and Specialized in the expo area right by the pier. If you have never been to Oceanside, it's pretty much exactly how you would imagine an idyllic Cali coast setting: Palm trees, consistent wave sets pushing surfers in, minimally clad sunbathers on the beach, and plenty of people cruising up and down the bikepath. Needless to say, I was excited to be a part of this historic event.

I stayed the night with family friends in San Diego, and awoke earlier than I have in a long time to get up and have my transition area ready. Everything was going smoothly until I realized I didn't have my race belt, so I had to bolt back to my car and retrieve it. The first race of the year is always good for reminding me of all the little things that can slip away during the offseason.

With the gun for pro men sounding before 7, we were underway in the Oceanside harbor. I felt pretty smooth at the beginning, but a tear in the shoulder of my wetsuit was letting in water, and gave the feeling of lifting weights with each stroke. I stayed relaxed, but came out a little back of where I think I belong. Another wake up call to racing came in transition. Partly due to the torn suit, and partly from being out of practice, it took me significantly longer to transition than the swimmers around me. I charged hard on the early part of the bike to pull back time, and found myself riding with Tim DeBoom at about 20 miles in. We rode most of the way until Michael Lovato came back up to us near the end, and I jumped to close down the gap to him, leaving Tim with about 10 miles to go.

Early on the run, Lovato went ripping by and was enthusiastic about us running people down. If I could have matched his early pace of 5:35 or so, I would have, but I kept it closer to 5:45-5:50 miles and tried to conserve. We picked off Yoder and a few others early on, and I eventually passed a cramping Lovato around mile 6. Running alone in 8th, I had no clear idea of where 7th was mixed in amongst the age-groupers, but I kept pressing my pace. By mile 11 I could see somebody who I thought was a pro, and I dug a little deeper, catching up to Kyle Leto by mile 12. I tried to gap him on a small hill, but he held strong, and then we ran side by side for a half mile towards the finish. He held a small lead coming into the final S-turn, and took the shortest line to block me. I came around the outside, and poured everything I had left into a sprint, taking seventh by 1 second.

It was an exciting finish to the first race of the year, and a good result against an all-star field of world champions and top-notch pros. It bodes well for my early Ironman race in May, and gives me confidence that I will be ready for the challenges of St. George in a month. After the race, I was lucky enough to catch a Metric show at Indiefest in San Diego. A perfect cap to a great day in Cali.