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: