Friday, October 19, 2012

The Way She Goes

Ironman Canada – August 26

Canada was supposed to be my “A” race for the season.  Hah!  It’s funny how things work out when you don’t expect them (St. George) and don’t work out when you plan for them to (Canada).  My nutrition definitely did not work out for the first time this season.  My blood sugar felt like it was all over the map.  A couple days after the race, I was sick.  Maybe that had something to do with it.  Or maybe I just went out too hard on the bike.  I caught Matt Russell early on during the bike, which might signal that I was pressing the early flat section to Osoyoos too hard.  Following that, I battled weird blood sugar from mile 56 to 112, and even into the marathon, and watched the race gradually slip away.  I was unsure if I would even be able to finish the marathon as a foot injury showed up just days before the event.  Passing by the house I was staying at (mile 5) during the marathon was the hardest part.  I felt so weak and would have loved to just stop and eat a burger right then and there!  My foot hurt with every step.  Fortunately, Nathan Killam caught me soon after and we ran together from mile 2 to 18 which substantially killed the pain.  As we were approaching the turnaround, we heard that several athletes were walking, and also saw some of our competition was in distress as they headed the other direction.  That kept us encouraged and I think I ran the fastest last 10k of an Ironman that I have ever.  I was totally surprised to run into a good placing after bumbling through most of the 2nd half of the race.  I guess this experience further underscores the most important Ironman principle: just keep going!

There are many positives to note here, even though it was a “B” quality race on my part.  I still came in with a 6th place, had an Ironman PR of 9:09, took home a little cash, and enjoyed an amazing time in Penticton.  I think this course deserves a little more respect, which I will certainly show it if I return next year for Challenge Canada, as the race will continue but under the race organization Family Challenge instead of Ironman.
More concerned with finding a relevant bathroom than posing!

Race support...wait, what does that say?!

I was about to cry the first time up this hill

The second time I was out for blood!


Frisky in Leadman – Sep 22nd

Leadman is an odd distance – 5km swim, 137 mile bike, finishing with a half-marathon.  I really liked the low-key nature of this event, even while it had some quality competition.  The location is amazingly beautiful, probably the best triathlon scenery I have experienced so far; the alpine lake is super clear, the bike has very low traffic, good roads, and mountain views.  

Woodinville Bicycle helped me get some last minute equipment taken care of (they have bailed me out more times than I can count!), and I was on my way to Bend, conveniently camping at the race venue, Cultus Lake.

This could have been my best race of the season.  I went 1:02 for the supposed 5km swim (obviously short), 6:05 for the 137 mile bike, which included 2 times up Mount Bachelor, and 1:25 for the very difficult Half-Marathon (did I mention it was after a 137 mile ride?).  I hit the fastest run split of the day, outpacing Rappstar by 1:15 and the rest of the pro field by 5-6 minutes.  Trying to chase down Karl Bordine in 5th gave me some extra motivation! I think I blasted a 5 minute mile at the end to catch Oli Piggin at the 12.9 mile mark, but was still 2 minutes off of the last "money spot" in the end.  Overall a very consistent day for 6th overall!  I was really encouraged to see my bike split up with some really good cyclists; consistency was the key as I paced myself very evenly.

Having a good ride - on my 2nd time up Mount Bachelor

with Matt Russell

Thomas Gerlach coming home in 3rd

Much faster overall time than I expected!
The Rappstar himself

Pain in the Poconos – September 29

Following Leadman, I knew I had one more good race in the tank of the season.  At the same time, I really didn’t want to extend my season until November like last year!  A door opened up for me to do 70.3 Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania and I took it.  Besides, at the end of the season it is a good time to take a couple risks and see how your body reacts.

Once in PA, I thought maybe I had been a little overoptimistic.  Friday morning my heart rate was around 60, up from the usual 42.  Obviously, I had not recovered from Leadman!  Ooops!

Still, I managed a PR (4:08:40) and a top-ten placing.  The swim went really well, 26:00 for 1.2 miles, which was theoretically a 2.5 minute swim PR, but probably was short.  I was passing people the entire time, jumping up from one group to the next.  The bike was net downhill which contributed to the fast average speeds.  I rode consistently but lacked the fire and tenacity that I have when riding fresh, which showed on the bumpy and hilly sections approaching Stroudsburg.  The run really showed the lack of recovery; the course was a lot harder than I expected and I couldn't push myself very hard.  I think I felt good for about 10 minutes during the bike and 5 minutes during the run; kind of like how you feel the day after a long bike-run combo.  Still, I was happy to close out the season with a PR, especially with only 1 week recovery following Leadman (which was an 8.5 hour race).  Perhaps more importantly, this race had me thinking differently about 2013 as I was in striking distance of the lead group on the bike.  Is it possible that if I work on my swim over the winter that I will be in the lead pack in 2013?  

The best part of this race was getting to hang with my friends from the Great White North, namely the Ottawa crew (Ryan Cain, Ryan Grant, and Jamie Stephenson) and Tennille Hoogland.  Hoogland had a decisive victory in the women’s race –  I am so proud of her improvement this year!

As an added bonus, I scored some much needed KPR points for next year.  But, did I get 10th or 9th?  I will let you decide that.  I was passed by a guy during the latter portion of the run who didn’t serve a time penalty, but I did not see that he got Dq’d for that.

What a Cluster

We did it!  A phrase Andrew Fast and I coined has finally become the name of a nation-wide flavor of ice cream.  I knew it was only a matter of time with the vast quantities of ice cream I consume!  “What a Cluster” is not only delicious, but accurately describes my racing exploits and those of my friend and training partner Andrew “the water buffalo” Fast.

So, who in their right mind would cluster 3 Half-Ironmans within 1 month of each other?  Well, crazy people like Matt Russell or ThomasGerlach certainly would, but for a conservative racer like myself, it was a big jump from the normal race spacing (usually 1x/month).

WA State 40k Champs  

And a "cluster" it was.  The preview was the WA State 40k TT champs in Tenino, WA on June 2, which was going to be my warm-up for the Boise 70.3.  I was on pace for an excellent ride, probably 56-57 minutes.  Unfortunately, I flatted out about at the halfway point - another "phantom" flat caused by a leaky valve core.  Not wanting to be denied, I went back out on the course bandit style (after getting the flat repaired) and clocked a 59 minute 40k on tired legs and with my training wheel on the rear.  Not too shabby.

Boise 70.3 – June 9

High hopes for the Boise 70.3; unfortunately, the weather didn't cooperate.  With sub 50 degree air temperature, rain, and wind, coupled with 57 degree water temperature, many athletes were left standing (rather, shivering) with hypothermia...or they merely dropped out before that point.  The bike course was shortened from 56 miles to 12 miles, with the concern of hypothermia looming over the organizers heads with the low temperatures and strong winds.  Several pros were smart and simply raced the shortened bike into town with their wetsuits on!  That was the right move.  I was frigid coming out of the water, and was getting even worse coming down from Lucky Peak.  Once the legs thawed out (about 2 miles into the run), I was able to throw down a high 1:12 Half-Marathon, which was encouraging.  Too bad it was for 19th place!

If I've learned one thing from pro-marathoner Mike Sayenko (aside from how to do a proper Borat impression), it's that when you're hot, you race.   I knew I was in good shape, but had failed in the last two attempts to show it.  Fortunately, I had already created a back up plan. 

Tremblant 70.3 – June 24

Ironman was hosting an inaugural Half-Ironman in Mount-Tremblant, Quebec, which I thought might suit my capabilities.  I had scheduled a flight to the race, knowing that if something didn’t go right at Boise, I would have another option to show my fitness.  This is where Southwest is really the greatest and the worst option in the world for the indecisive.  You can cancel a flight at any time before the flight, and have your airfare fully applied to the next flight of your choosing.  I was fretting over whether to go to Tremblant, but finally decided not to let the opportunity slip by.

In Quebec I had the opportunity to stay with Romaine Guillard out in Tremblant, was we were both hosted by skiing and outdoor fanatic Bob Gilmour who generously invited three people to stay with him.  Romaine is quite the character and “astetitician,” as I call him.  That is, he really knows how to have his equipment working well but also looking good.  Secret tip:  “Hide your Vittoria Pitstop under your front bottle cage.  It looks better in pictures that way,” says Romaine.

I think my fitness increased in the swim and the bike off of the fitness from Boise, I swam a PR of 28:30 for the 1.2 miles, and rode a 2:19 (24.0 mph avg) for the 56 mile course, which had some nasty, spikey climbs thrown in.  I thought for sure I could run myself into 3rd place on the run given my position on the bike, but folded big-time at during the last half, clearly not recovered from the effort at Boise.  I think I clocked 1:20 or 1:21, which was still good for 5th.

July 8 – Rev 3 Portland

Rev 3 was the biggest confidence builder of the 3 races.  I spent a few days before the race in John Day, Oregon, getting in some altitude training with my younger brother Patrick.  Eastern Oregon is super sweet for training, I don’t even know where to start.  I guess I’ll have to table that conversation for another time.

Things went off the rails a bit on our way from John Day to Portland.  We drove down to Portland, and, according to my custom, I previewed the bike course 2 days out, getting in about 45 miles.  Afterwards, and I still don’t know exactly why (dehydration?), I got incredibly sick and puked my guts out several times.  The whole ordeal lasted until about midnight, and I wondered if I would even be okay to race on Sunday.

Race Day.  I was hoping for a wetsuit legal swim, but it was not to be.  I came out and the clock read 36 minutes and I thought, “this is gonna be one LONG day.”  But, I unleased a super solid bike-run combo, averaged 23.7 on a ridiculously hilly bike course, and unleased a 1:16 half in hot (90 degrees-ish) conditions, and managed to pull myself up to 12th.

If you take the bike-run splits only, I was 6th.  That built my confidence based on who I was up against – Cunningham,  Thomas,  Rapp, etc.  I think I lost some of the feel for the water with my lack of swimming while in John Day, but aerobically I was obviously super fit.  Still, following Rev 3 I really needed a mental break and then planned to rebuild for Ironman Canada

Now I can’t adequately tell the story of these several clusters without mentioning Andrew’s exploits, as he was busy with a cluster of his own.  Andrew was ready to pop a good one, but flatted out of the Victoria Half-Iron with a nasty sidewall gash on the rear tire.  He also had a flat the day before on the front, but frantically found a replacement before race day.  Bad luck with tires lately!  I did hear tale that Andrew was able to stay with Andy Pott’s parents out in Victoria, which was quite the experience.

Andrew really had a tough time getting back up mentally, but managed to pull himself together for the Vancouver Half 2 weeks later.  Delivering an incredibly even race, he threw down a 4:22 for 7th (or 8th, I’m too lazy to check) overall.  The 4:22 was about a ½ hour personal record, I believe.  2 weeks following, Andrew “rode angry” on the bike course at the ChelanMan Olympic, and won with an impressive 2:03 overall time.

It was a one big cluster, that’s for sure; filled with mishaps, mechanicals, and misadventure.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Kind of a Big Deal

Everywhere I travel, there seems to be an odd fascination with one man.  His picture is all over the wall or the fridge; this is how I am tipped off that people are thinking and talking about this guy a lot.  It's not Crowie or Macca, the Raelerts, Andy Potts, or the Brownlee brothers.  He's been around a lot longer.  It's Jesus

In St. George, it's the Mormons.  In Birmingham, there are Protestants, and in Boise they are non-denominational.  Why, even out East I still find the Mennonites in Lake Placid (or maybe those are orthodox Jews...anyways).  One homestay host is a V.P., another a Ph. D in Biology, another a Ph. D in chemistry, yet another is a police officer, another is a college student.  But the fascination still remains- it seems to traverse age, education level, socio-economic status, and occupation.

Jesus is kind of a big deal.  Even in a sport that can consume our time, thoughts, and (especially) our cash, there is still a big interest in Jesus in the triathlon community- Pro, Age-grouper, volunteer, fan, and homestay host alike.  We pray at Ironman banquets, and at Rev3 you hear worship music.  Wildflower has Campus Crusade for Christ all over the place, and numerous Christian organizations are very active in triathlon- Fellowship of Christian athletes (FCA), Multisport Ministries, and Tri 4 Him to name a few.  Consideration of who this man is or was cannot be easily dismissed.

Some say he was a good teacher.  To that, Jesus replies, "Why do you call me good?  No one is good but God alone."  Some say he is useful for some people if they feel it helps them, but is not useful for others.  To that, Jesus says, "I am THE WAY, THE TRUTH, and THE LIFE" (emphasis mine).  The repetition of "the" carries the same meaning we would ascribe it like when we call someone “the man” – terms like "supreme," "preeminent," the only thing that really counts," or "kind of a big deal" could carry the same meaning.  Following this, Jesus statement, concludes, "No one comes to the Father except through me."  If that isn't a chilling statement, why did I just have to put my arm warmers on?

Still others think that Jesus is on his throne in heaven, angry at them, issuing commands and expectations, while offering no real help.  To this Jesus says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." So just what is going on here, is Jesus demanding something or offering something?  Because many are confused on this point.

Yet others assume that if their good deeds outweigh their bad deeds, then Jesus will love them, accept them, and grant them admittance into His heaven.  According to Jesus, this is the grossest distortion of them all.  The gospel of Luke records:

He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:

"Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  "The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.'I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.'  "But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!'"I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18:9-14)

My point today is not to give a philosophical proof for the existence of God, or provide evidence that Jesus rose from the dead, or even to provide a clear explanation of the gospel.  All these things I can and will do, but that is not my aim here.  My simple question is, "do you really know Jesus?", and my appeal to you is, "get to know the real Jesus."  Don't rely on hearsay, rumor, or conjecture.  Don't even rely on what your parents, priests, or pastors told you when you as a kid.  Go to the primary source documents.  If you don't know where to start, start with the Gospel of John.

"For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him."  - John 3:17

Thursday, May 31, 2012

St. George and the Strangest Race

I call this race the strangest race because I always considered myself down, out, and nearly dead for the majority of the race.  Only in maybe the last half of the marathon did I think anything good would come of this endeavor. It was just so funky, windy, treacherous, hot, scary, and crazy, that it was easy to get negative.  I don’t think anyone that raced really felt good or in control for the vast majority of the race.

Apparently M-Dot has decided to change this race to a Half-Ironman next year.  Given that it is considered too difficult and too early in the season (for a full distance race), that the attendance has suffered over the last couple years.  Well, I think the 2012 edition really put the nail in the coffin on that one!  One nice part is that since the marathon course was changed from the previous year, and will never be run again in the future, I am the proud owner of a run course record that can never be broken!

Pat “Nope not enough” Sheeks, my coach and soigneur, roadtripped down with me to St. George.  We felt good about our journey, my preparation was very solid coming into it, I had my race strategy mapped out, and we thought it might even cool down a bit on race morning.  We also had an amazing homestay family to show us the ropes in St. George and treated us like royalty. 

But little did we know what awaited us on race morning…

This news article from the Salt Lake Tribune gives a pretty good description of the days events:

My Own Stats:

Swim - 1:04 (10th elite)
  • Even with the nasty chop, this was still my fastest IM swim by about 10 mins.  Apparently I have a nasty chop stroke!  I tossed my race strategy about 20 minutes into the race and went into “just don’t die” mode.  Even though I am not afraid to die, I figured I would save it for another day if possible.
Bike - 5:48 (9th Elite)
  • It was super duper windy, with 20 mile stretches at 8-12 miles/hour.  This was the windiest ride I have ever been on, much less raced in.  My IT band got sore just from trying to stabilize the bike!  My time was so slow, I assumed incorrectly that there was no way I could eek out a good placing.
Run - 2:55  (1st elite, results incorrectly have me at 5th).
  • Thinking I was down and out, I asked my brother how far back I was while leaving transition, wondering if I should even start the run.  Oh, only 50 minutes; No Big Deal!  I only realized how much ground I made up by about the 15 mile mark, and proceeded to take some names.  Coming into the finish chute with a lead bike by my side, high-fiving spectators was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life.  Apparently I accidentally denied my brother a high-five though!

I’ve had some amazing support leading up to this race, mostly from local sponsors such as Sports Reaction Center, Elite Sports and Spine, Run 26 and Woodinville Bicycle.  I am super blessed to have these guys 100% behind me.  As an example, I stepped on a rock while on a training run in Klamath Falls, which inflamed my foot pretty badly.  A last minute dual-threat treatment from Sports Reaction and Elite Sports and Spine totally extinguished the pain and got me through the marathon.  Thanks guys!!!


 Pre-race, looking sleepy but really I am jacked to get started!

Fastest run split of the day

Never been happier to have a race be over!

 In the money

 Eventual winner and outstanding guy Ben Hoffman 

The Dynamic Duo - Matt with Patrick "nope not enough" Sheeks, the ultimate manager.  

Matt:  "Hey Pat, I put in 5 hours of training today.  Is that enough?  I was kind of thinking I still have enough energy for a shake-out jog."

Pat:  "Nope not enough."

Div. Rank
Overall Rank

Klamath Falls Training Camp

Following my trip to Pear Blossom, I immediately headed up to Klamath Falls, about a 1.5 hour drive east.  I was really interested to check out this area of the country, seeing that is at medium altitude (4200 feet) without having to be in Colorado.  This would be ideal preparation for St. George, which sits at 3000 feet, I reckoned.

My first reaction to the place was how amazingly friendly the people are in Klamath.  Maybe they should get thrown into a competition with the Scots and the Birminghaminians!  I drove up with my little brother Patrick (also my unofficial coach and “soigneur”).  Our first stop was the bike shop, Hutch's Bicyclesto inquire about trails and good road riding and so forth.  One of the staff there, Andrew, not only gave me some great riding advice, but also invited me to stay at his place!  Andrew is a major cycling enthusiast and cyclocross racer, and also very active in the community.  It always pays to know an insider when you are in a new town.  He and his wife Christine made my life very easy while I was checking out the town and training my butt off.  Hopefully Andrew gets that engineering job at Specialized once he graduates! 

I was looking forward to some long rides, but honestly the first couple days my legs felt like death from the 10-miler; I was super sore and couldn’t even run for the next 3 days!  I managed to get in about 3-4 hours per day, with some auxillary running and swimming.  Ella Redkey Pool is an excellent facility there, which is a geothermally heated pool right in town.

The cap off to the trip was the 102 mile Dead Indian loop.  You really need to do this ride if you are ever near Ashland of K-Falls.  Starting in the town of Keno, just west of Klamath, you head north on Clover Creek road.  This runs you into Dead Indian Memorial Road, which is a swoopy backroad, mostly big rollers, which leads all the way into Ashland at sea level.  The last 10 miles or so is an epic twisty descent.  Enjoy the crazy hilltops and varied scenery as you enter Peter Britt country.  From Ashland, you climb back up the 4000 feet you just descended on Route 66 east.  This is a fierce , twisty climb and it was about 80 degrees when I did it; 39 x 23 almost the whole way.  Once you peak out, you assume it will be mostly flat or rolly back to K-Falls.  You assumed wrong, as there are several 500 + foot climbs that you will encounter on Highway 66 as you labor and putter through the last 30 miles or so of riding.  Agonizing but beautiful training.

View from Moore Park in Klamath Falls.

Monday, May 7, 2012

See you at the Pig, Meet you at the Pear

7th at Duathlon Nationals, 2nd place at Pear Blossom

The Pig

The race season is just underway, and with it my resentment and hatred towards Seattle weather has all but melted away, and in its place is a sense of gratitude and awe on account of the hospitality of people I have met and beauty of our country that I have experienced recently.

My first stop was Birmingham Alabama, for the USA Elite Duathlon National Championships.  Birmingham continues to hold a special place in my heart, with its genuine Southern hospitality, courteous drivers, and a beautiful, hilly landscape.  If anyone can come close to the friendliness of the Scots (where I visited in Fall 2010), it has to be a Birmingham native.  I stayed with Keith Giles of Homewood.  Keith, a biochemist at University of Alabama, was only the 2nd biggest tri-geek in his home for about a week, as we waxed philosophical about which aero wheels to own, swimming form, saddle tilt, seat tube angle, and various other nauseating topics.

I had a couple good runs during the race, but had zero legs on the bike, and ended up 7th for the day.  Not to fear though; the race merely opened up the legs, and I had some amazing rides down south.  In other words, the form came on just a bit too late.  D’oh!  Within a week of training in the sun I dropped to racing weight at an alarming rate, and was no longer the doughy, pasty man that ran at Nationals.

After some serious skirt-chasing in Birmingham, as well as my first time to a Piggly-Wiggly grocery store (their slogan is “see you at the pig”- a slogan I don’t think would fly at snooty organic grocery stores in Seattle, just sayin.), the next stop was Deland, Florida, for some warm weather training.  Why Deland, you ask?  Well, my college teammate and longtime training partner, Brendan, had somehow convinced his family that I was a nice guy, and would be someone that could use their vacation home in Florida.  I was floored when his dad called me a few months back to ask me if I would ever like to use it!  Who ever asks you if you would like to use their house, anyway?! Who are these people of high generosity that I keep encountering, you ask?  I can’t answer that question, but I am banking on the statement of theologian William Newell: “to believe, and consent to be loved while unworthy, is the great secret…to expect to be blessed, though realizing more and more lack of worth…to testify of God’s goodness at all times…”

After several, now standard 3.5 hour hammer sessions on the bike, not to mention swimming in Delion Springs, AKA “the fountain of youth” supposedly discovered by Juan Ponce Delion, I was far too quickly back in Seattle, but not for far too long.

The Pear (10 mile running race)

Perhaps the juiciest race of the year would be the long-standing and now infamous Pear Blossom race, where “everyone’s a winner.” And in fact it was just what I needed; a low-stress race to test my fitness and enjoy some competition.  I knew pro runner Max King would likely be there, but assumed I wouldn’t have a fighting chance against him.  Perhaps I was a little pessimistic about my odds against him, and ended up finishing in 51:38 for a 10 mile road race, a near 15 seconds behind Max.  Holding 5:10 pace is not bad for an ‘ol washed up triathlete! 

Doing a running race makes me miss the simpler days – all you have to show up with is your shorts, jersey, flats, and maybe a water bottle on race day, and you are ready to go.  Too bad I will be doing an Ironman soon and will have to pack 75 items with me on race day! 

The local newspaper in Medford did a good write-up, so you can get the rest of the dirt here if you like.

1. Max King  51:23
2. Matt Sheeks 51:38
3. Glenn Tucker 53:02
4. Tyler Davis 53:16
5. Chris McIsaac 55:04