Thursday, December 27, 2012

2012 Recap/IMAZ 2012

A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent upon arriving.老子 Lǎozǐ (Lao Tse)

Disclaimer: If you came here to read a race report, you’re in for a long ride. You may want to skip to the Race Day heading.

It’s 6AM on IMAZ +2 and the torrent of 2012 whirls furiously in my head, so I’d better get this written before all these wispy thoughts sink to the dimly-lit basement filing cabinet of my mind.

Well, that's when I started writing... I came back to it a little later.

This year (my 40th), though not quite over, has been the most noteworthy and eventful year of my time here. It’s the year I married the most beautiful and fascinating woman I have ever known; the year I lost a job I loathed and finally began a career that fills me with pride and satisfies my thirst for creativity and passion. It’s the year a willing (and willful) outsider found a group and a real sense of belonging. It’s the year I got out of my own way and began living life on my terms, rather than remaining sedated, numb, or just aloof.


When Rose and I first started triathlon (she went, and I followed curiously) neither of us were prepared for the magnitude of change we would experience. OCTri in May 2011 marked my first race, and I was immediately and forever a different person. I remember saying to Rose, “One day I’ll probably race a half, but I’ll never, ever sign up for a full ironman – that’s just stupid.” 4 months later I completed a 70.3 at the inaugural Orangeman, and 2 months after that I was volunteering at Ironman Arizona intent on racing in 2012. Quite a lot can change in a few months.

We entered 2012 enrolled in a handful of 70.3 races (Oceanside, St. Croix, Lake Stevens, Soma), and Pacific Coast Sprint for a little fun, with IMAZ for dessert. Oceanside was here before we knew it, and I knew I’d have to aquabike (and take my first DNF) or suffer further setbacks with my existing injury. Then came St. Croix 70.3 where Rose and I got married. When we got back to the real world, we decided to drop Lake Stevens 70.3 from the calendar rather than over-extend ourselves. In June, we had a fantastic (and life-changing) experience at the Team FC Mammoth Training Camp, where I was laid off from my job via phone call while on vacation – don’t get me started on that. We figured life was throwing us a fast-curve-ball and rolled with it, enjoying what remain the best rides we’ve had to date. We can’t wait to go back in 2013!

Back at home, I was intent on finding work that would maintain my interest, so I started looking for something in the triathlon/action sports industry armed with my existing marketing/design/IT skillset. Anyone who’s looked for work in the last few years knows the job market is a pretty bleak place unless you’re highly specialized; particularly for someone who has never had, shall we say, an overwhelming concern for authority figures. A couple weeks later, Rose and I discussed taking Bite Me Kitchen from pet project to full-time status, and we began doing the legwork required to effectively launch the business. In early September (as ironman training was really ramping up) it became a full-time job. Rose? She now had two jobs, and was training for ironman as well. Looking back with 20/20 hindsight at that initial leap of faith, it’s the best thing that could have happened to either of us, and we now have a small, but loyal (and growing) client base, and are finally on the path to being fully independent!


We progressed into peak ironman training right as Bite Me Kitchen was becoming seriously viable, and the volume of cook/deliver/swim/bike/run were all going up while time to rest/relax/sleep was going down. Social life was the first to go. In late October, being active on my feet almost every minute was getting to me, and I burned out pretty badly. I resented not having any waking free time, and would sacrifice sleep to have a little time in the evening to read, or play a mindless game on my iPad. I’m sure any ironman finisher will tell you that’s just the nature of the beast, but I wasn’t taking it very well. Before we knew it, it was time to head for Tempe for Soma Triathlon (errr, I don’t think I actually did a race report for that. Sorry Joby!). That race went well for me, and was my first successfully executed, catastrophe-free 70.3, but that’s another story. From there it was back home for one last week of real training, and then time to taper.


On October 30th, less than 3 weeks before IMAZ, I had a swim/run brick scheduled on a surprisingly chilly morning. We usually swim in an outdoor pool, and it was a fairly brisk morning swim. Halfway through the run I had some Achilles tightness and pain (from running on cold legs in cold weather) so I cooled it on the pace and cut my 5 mile run a mile short. That day was where the trouble started. From then til IMAZ I dropped all my runs but 2, and even those were truncated. Nothing was in terrible shape, I just wasn’t 100% and this was not the time for that.

It’s worth mentioning that I sustained a running injury late last year that lasted from November 2011 to June or July 2012. It seemed like forever at the time, and that experience made my decision to pull out of IMAZ halfway through the run a lot easier. (SPOILER ALERT - oops, too late) I discovered late in the game that it was a subtle footstrike issue causing the problem, and once I corrected that, I was running 20 miles with no issues. Sometimes the lightbulb goes on in its own good time.

The night before we headed for AZ, I was swapping cassettes on my race wheels and inexplicably split the (defective) flange on the freehub body. In a minor panic, I called my friend who runs the Surf City Cyclery here in Costa Mesa, where they saved my ass by having a replacement that would work in stock. The following morning, we left for Tempe.

Check-in and Expo

If you do this race, check in and do the expo stuff Thursday unless you’re the kind of person who likes to ride Space Mountain on the 4th of July. We arrived in Tempe late Thursday afternoon and breezed through like we were in line to ride the Mad Tea Party on a rainy day in March. (I can’t even remember the last time I went to Disneyland, what’s with the theme park metaphors?)


It’s not right in downtown Tempe, but I can’t say enough good things about the Phoenix MarriottTempe at the Buttes. The room was cozy (particularly for a big chain hotel), the food was excellent, and the service was truly first-class. This is a four-star resort that stays like a five-star. Oh, and we stayed there for $80 a night via Hotwire. Booya.


With bike check-in Saturday morning, the only requirement was to take our bikes for a test spin. I was about to pump our tires when I realized my crank wouldn’t turn, and my heart sank (again). I found a good LBS by word of mouth and headed to Landis Cyclery, where the mechanic found there was an incompatible press-in spacer in the new freehub that wouldn’t work with my wheel. He removed the spacer, charged me eight bucks for his time, and sent me on my way after I threw him a couple beers worth of tip. That afternoon, we ate at a fantastic vegan restaurant called Desert Roots Kitchen. The owner and employees there are passionate about when they do, and the food reflects that. If you’re in Tempe looking for a healthy meal, don’t miss it!


After bike check-in on Saturday we had a group lunch with all the people from Team FC that were either racing, volunteering, or just out there to support. I am still in awe at the people (you know who you are) who made special trips out to just root for their friends. I like to think that sort of thing doesn’t affect me on race day, but when it comes down to it, hearing people yell your name really is encouraging and put a smile on my face a whole bunch of times. Thanks to all of you. Saturday night we had a nice clean dinner at some local friends and turned in as early as we could.

Race Day

I’m usually jittery on race day with a million variations of “Do I have enough X? Did I set up Y and Z right?” whirling in my mind, but having turned everything in the day prior was a welcome relief from that. This day would be what it would be, and there was no changing it now. It was a great feeling to let all that go and be in the moment.

Swim 1:06:26

Nothing (and I mean NOTHING) prepared me for the war-zone that was the mass-start. I lined up fairly pole-position hoping to break away from the pack, but I didn’t do my math right. Here’s what I mean by that: I’m generally in the top 10% (or so) when it comes to the swim because of my rather absurdly long arms and paddle-like hands and feet.

Here’s where the math comes in:
2500 * 10% = 250

Ah, yes. There were 250 other people trying to hammer their way away from the crazy melee of the start. In my group (such as it was), there was a fair amount of grabbing, criss-crossing, kicking, etc.. I expected it to be a little rough, but was surprised at just how rough it was. A few minutes in, I took a solid heel square to the nose and was SURE I’d have a sweet-looking bloody nose for a swim out photo. I was thankfully wrong, but that’s almost a shame because I definitely would have bought that photo!

It wasn’t until the turnaround buoy that I managed to get a little breathing room (not counting the buoy itself, which was like the El Toro Y at 5:15 on a Friday). From then on it was much smoother, excepting a girl who was swimming my exactly my pace for a few hundred yards who kept trying to herd me to the left, when I was swimming a nice line to the next buoy. The things you remember… Swim out was thankfully uncrowded when I got there, and I headed into transition.

T1 5:26

Man, 5:26 seems like a LONG time, but transition is pretty huge and complex. Up the steps and past the wetsuit strippers I jogged, pulling off my goggles and head gasket, when I heard my name and saw my Aunt and Uncle! That was an unexpected surprise at that point in the race. Volunteers directed me to my stuff and I headed to the tent to throw on my shoes, helmet, glasses, and race belt, and stuff my pockets with nutrition. From there, I blew by the sunscreen people (that seems so odd to me…) and someone directed me to my bike then I was off to the mount line and the bike course. Ironman (M-dot) really does have the mechanics of big triathlons down.

Bike 5:32:35

I have no power meter (soon, baby, soon), so I was riding this on heart rate. The first lap was a really mellow pace, and I stuck to it, because I was here to run a marathon, and everything else was just a prelude to that. I tried my best to ignore the drafters and pack riders, but WOW is it a problem on this course. I was passed by a group of at LEAST 20 riders all riding in a peloton and just shook my head. Now here’s some comedy: There’s a mellow climb just before the turnaround that took my heart rate out of zone so I pulled back a little. In that time, (as I was going uphill into the wind) a girl passed me and I got a drafting penalty for not dropping back fast enough. I told the official I hoped he was ticketing the Sunday Coffee Rides I was seeing; he was nonplused, and we both went about our business. That first descent was a nice ride  downhill with the wind, and I began to wonder when Joby would make his appearance. He predicted he’d see me around the end of the first lap, and he was right on time. I picked it up a little to tell him my drafting story and we had a laugh – hey, I’m not racing for prize money or even a coveted Kona slot at this point – then resumed my pace and let him go. Riding through town I heard 2 or 3 different crowds yell my name, and that really put a smile on my face, then I headed back out to loop again. This ride is pretty uneventful so I just let my mind wander and kept my heart rate where it was supposed to be. At one point I let it wander too far and ran over a mostly empty water bottle from an aid station. That woke me up pretty fast! I began thinking about when I’d take my penalty, and would have taken it at the end of the third lap, but Mother Nature had other ideas. I took my 4 minute pit-stop at the end of lap 2, where I ran across the course to water a very thirsty looking shrub.

By the third lap my legs were getting a little fatigued and feeling heavy, and I actually was feeling SLEEPY on the bike. It’s a pretty solitary ride, despite all the people, and a man only has so many beers hanging on his wall to count, right? I was under-zone for my heart rate but my legs were feeling about where I thought they should be, so I didn’t push any harder. I really didn’t want to walk any of the marathon! Boy was I in for a surprise…

T2 2:38

I got on top of my shoes and rode to the dismount line and just gave some guy my bike. That was weird. Other than that, in and out pretty quick.


Ohhhhh, the run. I checked in with my legs off the bike and everything felt alright (as well as I could expect them to feel) at that point. I stuck to my pace until at about mile 3, when my left Achilles spoke up a little. “No big deal,” I thought, “it’s running! There are always little break-in pains here and there! It will pass.” I backed off the pace to see if it would hold or get worse, but by mile 6 I was favoring my left leg and run/walking, and knew the next 20 miles would be trying in a way that didn’t interest me. I had a lot of time to think my situation over, and at around mile 11 or 12 I stopped at the Tri la Vie tent where I saw my friend Bob, who gave me the go-ahead to hang it up. I really needed to hear that, because I could have done a lot of damage had I run/walked the next 14 miles. (It’s almost Christmas now that I’m getting back to writing this and I’m getting to the point where I can run again – so that’s good. There are plenty of races.) I turned in my timing chip and headed to where all the Team FC people were hanging out to sit and watch Rose go by in secret. I didn’t want my situation to impact her race in any way! I had the great pleasure of watching Rose finish her race with a solid time and mowing through a pizza with her (WITH CHEESE!).


I’m honestly not bothered by taking a DNF at my first ironman. I’m already signed up for a bunch of races in 2013, and most (if not all) of those races would have suffered at the hands of what could have been a serious injury. Having been through that in 2012, I wasn’t looking to repeat the experience.

Last, and most importantly of all, is this:

Triathlon training is my Zen practice. It is my Kung Fu; the thing that at last quiets and soothes my mind. Where I had previously (for most of my adult life) turned to self-medication through substance abuse, now I find real peace in striving for the easy fluidity of the perfect swim stroke, or that feeling you get at mile 10 of 20 that you could run forever. Cycling is a little too dangerous to get into that zone unless you’re in the middle of nowhere, but there’s definitely an aspect of sustained effort that counts. I owe a lot of who I am today to this sport, and that is why I’m wholly unconcerned with crossing that finish line. It’s not the destination that matters; it is the journey.

Oh, some serious hilarity ensued when Rose and I were selected for this interview!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

It's not you; it's me.

Dear TT Bike,

I honestly regret that I must do this in writing, but I have some important things to tell you, and I want to be clear and complete; for both our sakes.

It’s just…

I think we need a little break from each other. In the past several weeks, I feel like we’ve drifted apart, and maybe I resented some of the time we spent together rather than enjoying it. I knew that Ironman training would put a strain on our relationship, but nothing prepared me for the acrimony I would feel after seemingly endless hours in the saddle. I think maybe it’s best for both of us if we take a little break from each other. Maybe I’ll ride one of my other bikes for a while; maybe even without recording any data! Please don’t think of this as an ending. Rather, it’s a chance for a new beginning once I’ve gotten this out of my system. Remember, it’s not you. It’s me.

Please don’t think that I don’t love you, or that I don’t find you attractive anymore. It’s true, you’ve lost that new bike glow you had back in early summer, and maybe you’ve gotten a few scuffs over the hundreds and hundreds of miles we’ve logged together, but you still turn heads; and not just mine!

It’s not that you don’t excite me anymore. There’s honestly nothing I’d rather have between my legs as I devour the local roads and bike paths. Sure, there's been the occasional saddle sore, but that cream took care of that, so no hard feelings! I promise.

Don’t worry; I still have hope for us. I think this time apart (after our big weekend, of course!) will be an opportunity for me to realize just how much I really love you!

Yours truly,

Monday, May 7, 2012

IM St.Croix 70.3 Race Recap

Rose is sitting next to me doing hers so I might as well out pen to paper (so to speak). If not I won't get this done. See my OC Tri, Orangeman, Newport Beach, and Oceanside recaps. Haha, joke's on you, there aren't any.

The swim itself went well. It felt better than my time shows. Lessons learned:
SWIM SKIN. My top was billowing like a sail in the wind; I could feel it slowing me down. A lot. If I do a non-wetsuit race again, it wil be with a swim skin, or I'll put my top on in t1. So THAT'S what those are for!
CALF SLEEVES. Obviously with my injuries they were probably a good call for this race, but they weren't helping the swim either, and they were HOT on the run. As soon as I'm healed up, I won't use them for racing; long training runs only.
GOGGLES. I love my TYRs and I'm never trying any other goggles again, no matter what anyone says. I need a pair with clear lenses, though. Why make sighting on an overcast day harder?
NUTRITION. I usually take a gel before the swim, but my stomach hadn't digested the pb-honey-banana sandwich I ate at 4am, and I didn't want to feel like puking all day, so I skipped it. I need to start eating something dense and high protein before a race and stick to that, because this is always a problem for me.
GARMIN. I started it about 5 minutes into the swim. Maybe at the horn would've been better?
COMPETITIVE EDGES. I was swimming stroke-for-stroke with some guy in my group for the first half, and got jammed up in some traffic and dropped at the turnaround buoy. I should have chased him down, because I think my pace slacked a bit after that. I'm a chaser/pacer and I need to always use that to my advantage.

Didn't take my gel, because i didnt leave it out and handy for some reason? In and out quick enough. I'd like to get practiced at leaving my shoes on the bike, but my shoes are pretty easy to run in, so it might not actually save me any time, especially on a wet, sketchy course like St. Croix.

As I was heading out on the bike, I saw Lance Armstrong coming into town from the first short loop. I don't follow celebs, but that was pretty cool. As soon as I was settled on the bike, I took the gel I missed in T1. When I realized what had happened, I started thinking about a new nutrition strategy, hoping there would be gels on the bike (there weren't). My chest strap failed again, like in Oceanside, so I did the whole race on perceived effort. I have another strap and will test it next ocean swim. I rode what I felt was conservatively, and let a lot of people go that I could have easily paced, saving my juice for the hills and the run.
THE BEAST. Tough, but overrated. Closest approximation would be doing the backside of Modjeska twice. Of course, on the beast you don't get the break to descend... I passed a lot of people here (10 or so) but was intentionally not putting the pedal to the floor until he back half. Don't get me wrong, it was hard, but I didn't want to blow up anaerobically right then and there, so I played it cool. Ish.
ROAD CONDITIONS. The road itself was way better than we expected; apparently they just resurfaced a lot of it. I was startled by a very small rain-filled pothole right out of t1, which made for a good reminder without messing anything up. At some point I rode through a culvert that was at least 10" deep. My fork was almost underwater! I rode a line that I saw the guy before me take, to be safe. There was one unmarked descending corner that was a little sketchy, as I came out of it, it was clear that someone was supposed to be minding it, but was on their way back to it. Biggest hazard? Frog roadkill.
MILE 30.For a few miles I'd felt like I was working too hard for the speed I was getting, and at mile 30, I found out why. My rear wheel had a slow leak and was almost completely flat, and there was no way I could ride another 26 miles on it. I pulled over and made the swap, but in the downpour, I think I got some sand or gravel on the tube, because it pressurized for about 60 sec and then..... Pssshhhhhhhhh. It wasn't a pinch flat because my tires are really nicely broken in and went over the rim easy as pie. Laughing, I pulled out my back up tube and cylinder, and changed it again. I was chatting with a local lady and her small boy (who was kind enough to dispose of my trash); she told me I had a really positive attitude and that I had been very close to the front of the pack. I explained that I had gotten married 2 days prior and I wasn't going to let a couple pieces of rubber get between me and a good time. Note: 32mm valves don't work very well with my flat kit, it's tough to get the valve to seal, particularly in a race situation. I wasn't that disappointed, and resolved to finish the course in no big hurry since I had just added easily 10 minutes to my bike split. I'm here on my honeymoon after all, and racing the run would have set me back a lot with my injuries.
WEATHER. Rain, rain, and more rain. And some wind. And more rain. And frogs. But not, like, actually raining frogs or anything.
NUTRITION. Since I was behind on nutrition (that's my triathlete super power), and running out fast, I started taking IM Perform at all the aid stations after the first (maybe second, I forget). I honestly don't know how much it helped, if at all, but it was the only option as there was only water and IM Perform.
At mile 40, per race plan, I kicked it up some, but as I had no heart rate data, I don't really know how much. I didn't feel like I was pushing hard/time trialing, but I had no metrics, so I played it safe since I wasn't racing anymore. Near the end, I unstrapped my shoes and headed for the dismount line.
CROWD. The people on this island are fantastic, and they were cheering in almost every driveway.
SCENERY. It was the most beautiful ride of my life, and it seemed like every time I rounded a corner to a new spectacular view, or rode into a rain forest draped with moss and vines, or past a lush pasture where horses were wondering what all the humans were in such a rush about, my jaw hit the floor all over again.
GEAR. Anyone who brings a road bike to this course is a dumbass. (Me! Me! Me!)

Off the bike, as usual, I was running with very little effort. I think I ran about a half mile at 7:30 or so and then forced myself to slow it down. The sun was coming out a little and the temp was climbing fast, as was the humidity. The road felt like a hot wet radiator. The first few miles felt really easy and I had a full gel bottle, which I took 1/3 of right out of T2 where coincidentally, I saw Lance again 1/2 mile from the finish. After the first few miles, I set a mellow goal pace of 9:00-9:30, and walked up the steeper hills to save my tendons. The walking made my overall pace just under 10:00, but as I write this, my tendons don't hurt (or my calves are overshadowing the hurt), so I'm pleased with the call I made, regardless of how my time suffered. Once I had the pair of flats, racing was out the window anyway, so I was having a good time with it. I was smiling a lot and joking with the people on the roadside and the volunteers. I took water, ice, and sponges at almost every aid station to keep my core temp down. My heart rate still wasn't registering accurately or consistently, but it felt low, with a few spikes when the heat reared its head. I took in so much fluid on the bike from pounding IM Perform that I pulled over twice to pee in the bushes, once per loop; beats overheating, and after that bike split my shot at a good time was blown anyway. As I neared the end of the first loop, a PA in the back of a pickup truck blared Common Sense's "Never Give Up" and I yelled something like,"From Santa Barbara, California... The Common Sense Band!" That was the mood of my run, and I was ok with it. It reminded me of Orangeman, where I lost all my nutrition off the bike and couldn't push it on the run, even though my heart rate was low. One of these times I'll get it right... After the first loop, I looked at my approximate time (since my Garmin was off by I figured about 5 minutes from starting it at the first buoy), and figured I could come in just under 6:00 if I held about a 10:00 pace for the second loop. My legs (and my shoes) were getting heavier and I was out of gel, so I grabbed one at an aid station to get me to the end. Maybe I just need more fuel than I think? Halfway through the second loop, about 3 miles from the finish, I could feel myself heating up and slowing down, and was walking hills that I really could have ran. Attitude became a problem, and I started getting over my 6:00 idea, just for a mile or so. That slacking meant I had to run the last 1.5 or so miles at a decent clip (something like 8:00, maybe faster) to come in at 5:59:47. Considering my longest run since the Huntington Beach 10 Miler (6 months ago on 11/6/2011, pre-injury, 7:30 pace) was an 8 mile run 3 weeks ago ON A TREADMILL IN AN AIR-CONDITIONED HEALTH CLUB, I'm ok with my time. I expected to hurt myself on this race, so maybe the flats were a blessing, because my tendons are in good shape today.
SHOES. I wore my Brooks Ghost 4s for the cushy factor, but they are WAY too heavy and hold a LOT of water when they get wet. They were already wet from the rain and I was dumping ice in my shorts to keep cool, which, naturally, was running down my legs into my shoes. The weight of my sopping wet shoes and socks was very noticeable as the run went on.
ICE, SPONGES, WATER. Are amazing on a hot humid course.
CALF SLEEVES DURING A RACE. Are dead to me, once I'm healed. Jesus they were hot.
SALT TABLETS. I didn't notice a difference, but I bet that's why you take them.
KT TAPE (Pro/synthetic). Saved my life. Way better than the cotton stuff. Plus I tried a new taping (that I winged) based on one Caroline at SCAR applied not long ago, but geared more to the posterior tibialis and flexor digitorum longus. It worked startlingly well.
BLACK TOENAILS. Dammit, I was really hoping I'd never get them, but the wet shoes had my toes banging around a lot.

All in all, I finished in good spirits, and ripping off everything but my tri bottom and jumping in the cool, clear waters of the Caribbean was one of the to 10 best feelings of my life. It's a shame I tanked another race, but I'm here for more than just a 70.3 - I have a honeymoon to enjoy, and now I'll be able to go hiking. Maybe tomorrow.