Monday, May 10, 2010

I am Specialized.

I got my very first road bike in 2001, a Specialized Allez Elite. I still have the green machine in my garage, converted to a fixed gear for commuting and winter training. The bike was a gift from my parents, specifically my dad, who helped locate the bike and get me started on it. Initially, I got it for doing some weeklong bicycle tours in the high country of Colorado, and would ride it for fun in the summers. After moving to Missoula for college, I joined the triathlon club team and got some clip-on aerobars. Fast forward to last week, when I got to come full-circle and visit Specialized headquarters in Morgan Hill, California.

I was invited to join the other sponsored triathletes, Melanie McQuaid, Conrad "Caveman" Stoltz, Chris "Macca" McCormack, Phillip "The Shiv" Graves, Desiree Ficker, Rasmus Henning, Jordan "Rappstar" Rapp, Kristen Peterson, and Jimmy Archer, as part of an effort to better educate us on the product line, meet the masterminds in all areas of the company, train a little bit, and socialize. Coming straight off Ironman, I was in rough shape when I showed up, but the first day was mostly about sitting and listening. We were led through a comprehensive rundown of product by Chris Riekert, called SBCU, or Specialized Bicycle Components University. I have to say that I was pretty impressed. I know Specialized makes the best stuff, but to see how and why is pretty amazing.

After our back to school day, the crew went to dinner. Many of the athletes had just raced Alcatraz or Wildflower, so we all chowed down. In fact, Macca and I hit the In and Out burger right next door for our first dinner before going out for round two. There was much talk of racing, and plenty of Bryan Rhodes stories. The second day was more product talk, but with more hands on, and input from the athletes about what we want for the future. Keep an eye out... there are going to be some great triathlon specific developments coming soon. I didn't participate in the lunch ride, but I heard it was quite the gun show, and the ageless Ned Overend put most of the riders to shame, yet again.

To meet with everyone and gain a new perspective on just how committed Specialized is to developing a culture of winning was amazing. I feel blessed to be part of this community and energy moving forward, to participate and grow within the framework of such a devoted company. I. Am. Specialized.

2nd Place Ironman St. George

This post is a little late in coming, as it's been over a week since I raced Ironman St. George, but I needed time to absorb my accomplishment and then decide what I wanted to say about it. Outside the bikes, wheels, and other equipment I use to race, it's not rocket science: I worked extremely hard in training, and had a very clear plan of how I wanted to race in order to be competitive on the one day it mattered. I did that. It wasn't a major surprise to me, or really even some kind of breakthrough race. I outlined a very clear plan of wanting to podium at an Ironman this year, and then went to work to accomplish just that. It meant that I spent a around 5 weeks training in Tucson over the winter, raced at the right times to get the top end, listened to my body, ate well, slept a lot, and then tapered properly beforehand. I read a great quote in Running Times a few weeks ago where bronze medalist Deena Kastor talked about her commitment to training. Instead of viewing everything as some kind of sacrifice, like giving up her other interests, she said that it's just what you do to accomplish your goal. This is what I do to make this happen. I will say that having done it in my first go, and so early in the year, has been interesting. Perhaps I feel a little letdown having achieved the initial goal quickly. The upside is that my next goal is much clearer now, and I better understand what I need to do.

I don't want to spend a lot of time rehashing every detail, but each Ironman race deserves a little discussion. Every time you decide to do a race like this, it's a risk. Major time commitments on the front end which can limit the ability to race at the level you'd like, and then serious recovery after. It's a bit of the "all your eggs in one basket" mentality, but no risk, no reward, right?

I had a very solid swim, coming out in 6th, a little less than 2 minutes back of Luke Bell, who was clear on his own. This was right where I should have been, and I knew I was capable of this swim after doing more work over the winter than ever before. This put me in an excellent position right away, chasing hard with McDonald, Kotsegarov, Amey, Lieto, and Coenens. We eventually caught Luke at around mile 32, and then he latched on as McDonald, Lieto, Coenens, and myself set pace up front. I tried on a few occasions to get away, but stayed calm when it wasn't happening. Still, our pace was solid, shedding an ailing Lieto and Amey. I rode conservatively in anticipation of the hilly marathon, and broke away just slightly at the end of the ride.
The marathon was mostly about survival. The hills were just brutal, both up and down, and I tried to stay on top of nutrition and maintain a solid lead over my chasers. Weiss was gone, so I concentrated on myself, used my great crowd support, and dug deep. My running has come to another level as well, so I was confident that I could up it a bit more if the time came. I crossed the line in second, with raised arms and let out a couple yells. After a quick interview with Greg Welch, I was escorted to doping control, and then was free to go enjoy my evening with family, friends, and other athletes.

I was blessed to have a wonderful homestay with my friends, the Cobbs, and to have incredible backing throughout the day. This would not have been possible without so much help, and I am deeply indebted to my supporters. One more step up next time around...