Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The past few weeks...

Almost immediately following the Lake Placid race, I headed down to New York City for my first taste of the Big Apple. As we approached NYC, Jesse piloted our rental car through the tunnel, almost into another driver, and directly into an underground bus garage. Ah, my first taste of the city! Fortunately things improved considerably from there, as we watched tourists mill around like ants in Times Square, had some drinks on a nice rooftop bar, sped around Greenwich Village in an assortment of taxis, and danced late into the night at one of the many clubs in that area. I glanced at my phone around 3 in the morning and realized that it might be a good idea to turn in if we were going to survive the next day. Honestly, the city was such energy that I was tempted to steal off for a nap under the canopy of trees in Central Park, but I allowed the intensity and vitality of the place to carry me up and down the streets, amidst the thousands of people, buildings towering overhead. We probably all seemed a bit outlandish to the real New Yorkers with our old clothes and tourist stares, but I was simply happy to be a part of the hustle bustle madness. For a moment you can believe you are one in the city, finding yourself with a new ritual; to live, and adventure in the great pulse of New York City...

Awoke the next morning early under reddening skies to fly back to my beloved Durango, which, upon arriving I had approximately two days to unpack and repack for the next existence. A mountain bike tour of the San Juan mountains with my coach was in store, so I dashed all about to see friends at barbecues, get myself sorted, and then head out... all the while my house serving as a kind of hostel. So on then, to the mountains with a light and honest heart, joyously ignoring the warning signs of bad weather. The first days were challenging while the rain fell hard and made the riding muddy and at times quite cold, but I was still happy to up high with my bike and good friend. We covered the miles contentedly, climbing high over many passes, and descending some of the best single track I have ridden. To be back in the heart of these great mountains, who sit day in and day out motionless, brought me an immense quiet and gratitude.
Returning to town I quickly thrust myself into the training for Kona, but also finding time for many nights with friends. I had the fantastic experience of helping with a the Durango Kids Triathlon, watching with complete admiration as the youngest gave their all in the sport I love. With luck and some grant funding, I will be helping develop a program here for getting kids into the sport, as the talent and passion in the youth are evident.

Also of note was a brief return to one of my passions, as I boarded a glider with my friend Kimberly and took to the skies above Durango. I had always wanted to see the landscape from cloud level, and it was truly marvelous. We soared about for over an hour, riding thermals, dipping wings, silently passing time in awe before returning to the solid footing of the valley floor.
More hard training ahead, with Branson 70.3 being the only race I will do between now and Kona. I look forward with absolute enthusiasm, my mind calm with the knowledge of my successes and support. For now, I continue the pursuit, working, adjusting, revising...

Monday, August 2, 2010

1st Place Ironman Lake Placid

I finally feel like I have decompressed enough after racing Ironman Lake Placid to talk a little about it here. At moments it still doesn't seem completely real to say that I am an Ironman Champion, as I believed I could win, but didn't spend much time preparing for it when it happened. In some ways I thought it would change things more than it really has... I'm still the same person as before, but now I have an Ironman victory.

The trip started as most do, with a fairly long day of travel, navigating somewhere close to 2200 miles in the comfort (sarcasm) of an airplane seat and airport terminals. Thanks to Jesse's skymiles ticket which took him out west, and then southeast, and finally northeast, we didn't leave Albany until 12:30 a.m., arriving in Placid at 3:30 on Thursday. Fortunately we were able to sleep in, get settled, and then preview the course over the next few days. The work was done, so it was all about feeling comfortable, rested, and getting the mindset right. With the support crew of family, we ate well and had everything taken care of. Big thanks to Jesse's mom and my parents.

Race day saw warm lake temps, so it would be a non-wetsuit swim for the pros. I did a nice warm-up and then settled in with the creeping pack to await the cannon. I felt smooth and controlled through the first 300m, but couldn't get on Rhodes' feet and ended up swimming with Amy Marsh through the first loop. We caught Maik Twelsiek near the end of the first loop, and after he veered off course a little, he jumped on my feet for the remainder of the second lap. I really felt like I was swimming well, but my time was not indicative of my perceived effort. 55 minutes and change, and we had a good amount of time to pull back on Rhodesy.

Onto the bike I was just happy to be in sight of Maik so early on. He was only a couple minutes off Chris Lieto's bike split in Kona last year, and managed to ride his way into second off the bike in Kona, and as defending champ he was the one to watch. My plan was fairly simple: Keep as close as possible to Maik on the bike, letting him go if I was riding too far outside my abilities, and then put together a strong marathon where I might catch him in the latter stages. After 40 miles we caught Rhodes, and after 90 I was still only 30m or so behind. At this point, Maik pushed a little harder and put in a minute gap or so, but by the end of the last major climbs, I was right back in contact.
Through transition I was out first, and our pace was much too hot to sustain. I was checking the Garmin and our first 3 miles were around a 6:05 average. Granted, we had some downhill in there, but I backed off knowing I couldn't hold that. I think Maik wised up too, and we shared pacemaking through the next 2 miles at a 6:35 average. Between miles 6 and 7, we hit a small incline on River Road, and I opened a small gap. Still feeling fairly good, I consciously motored the next 4 miles and found myself creating serious distance from my pursuers. By the halfway point I had somewhere around 5-6 minutes, and also started to develop some GI distress and fatigue. My half split was a bit fast, as I clocked a 1:25, so I knew the back half was going to be a bit of a sufferfest.
Ironman is never easy, and I felt my training was as good as any I've had for any race, but there comes a time when it's tough not to doubt yourself. For me, the 10 miles from 15-25 were some of the hardest I have ever run, and each step began to feel like it could be the one where my legs might buckle or cramp. Still, I pressed on, knowing I could make my dream of winning an Ironman this year a reality if I just kept moving. With one mile to go, I really began to believe I could make it, and entering the oval beneath the site of America's dramatic Miracle on Ice in 1980 I revealed my first real smile of the day. I was going to win an Ironman after my fourth attempt!
Crossing the line, I raised the banner above my head, conducted a very brief interview with Mike Reilly, hugged my parents, and then returned to the finishing chute to give high fives to the crowd who came out to support all the athletes. My time was the 9th fastest in a long history of racing there, at 8:39:34, and easily my proudest moment to date in triathlon.

I didn't quite nail my awards speech, but I did express thanks to all the people have been with me during this journey. Amazing family support, sponsors, friends and training partners, coach, and incredible backing from the Lake Placid community. If all goes well, I'll be back to defend in 2011. I'll be posting again soon about my mountain bike tour and the trip to New York City post-race. Now for the Kona build...