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