Life gets intense at St Anthony’s Triathlon

started-run-in-4th-position.jpgSt. Anthony’s Triathlon is one of my favorite races as it is well run, supported, and brings the best athletes from all over the globe.  It always proves a memorable way for me to kick off the summer racing season.  Months of hard work come to a culmination as I enjoy seeing how fit and fast my body is.  This year at 33, I was in the best shape of my life.  However, I crossed a thin line somewhere in my preparation and/or race and was dangerously close to making this my last race, not to mention my last breath.  The last thing I remember is passing mile 4…somehow I ran on auto-pilot to mile 5.8 and passed out. I guess I wanted an all access pass to the sponsors of this awesome triathlon….St. Anthony’s Hospital.   At the halfway point I was running comfortable with Stephen Hackett in 7th/8th place.  I was having a great race and feeling good too.  That makes the scenario scary to me; how fast I lost control and how depleted my body was.  I’m still processing the visceral and intense weekend.  It taught me a valuable lesson.  Thanks in large part to the strength and courage of my wife, Hortense, I pulled through OK.  I’m sorry for scaring my family and friends.  Mostly, I feel horrible for having Hortense witness me in this kind of state.  I’m going to learn from this mistake and work hard to ease any anxieties she might have in future races as I earn back her confidence.

swim-start.jpgSt. Anthony’s Triathlon 2008:
Having airport pickups and home stay options are part of what makes St. Anthony’s one of the best triathlons around as well as having an outstanding pro field.  This is in large part thanks to the Mad Dog Triathlon Club with 2500 members and a lot of fit happy people.  One thing I love about this sport is meeting all the inspirational people.  Hortense and I really enjoyed the Mad Dog dinner party on Friday night.  This club is a huge reason that St. Petersburg has such an outstanding community.  We enjoyed some low key days leading up to the race with some easy bikes and a lot of lounging.  However, one mistake I made (ahh the power of hindsight) was drinking almost exclusively water…and lots of it.

Race morning came early and I prepared T1 for the day’s event.  I filled my profile design aero drink (32 oz) with Gatorade and also loaded up the SCOTT Plasma with a 20 oz bottle of water.  Both of which I finished during the biking leg.  I also secured 2 electrolyte pills which I consumed at mile 15 of the bike as I polished off the last of my Gatorade and began drinking water.  I should have filled both bottles up with Gatorade as I needed the energy. 

beach-start.jpgI swam over to the start and continued warming up doing several pick ups until moments before we lined up for our beach start.  The gun went off as I propelled my body aggressively towards the bay.  Matt Reed had a great start (must be his tall frame and ability to run farther out than us short guys) but I was close behind nestled between Potts and Dye.  Perfect.  I was drafting Dye at what seemed to be a comfortable pace and one that I would maintain to the finish.  However, after 600 meters I lost contact and Reed, Potts, and Dye went on to gain a further minute on the chase group. 

a-great-beach-start.jpgI finished the swim relaxed and comfortable while envisioning a fast T1.  I passed several guys once on the bike pedaling over a mile before putting on my shoes.  While in 4th position and putting on my shoes, Bennett passed me.  He got away from me while I finished securing my shoes.  I kept him within striking distance for the next 10 to 12 miles.  That’s when I realized I had company as Alexander passed.  The two of us rode side by side and or traded leads pretty much the rest of the way. 

nestled-betwen-dye-and-potts.jpgI passed him as we entered T2 and was the 4th man on the run course behind Reed, Potts, and Bennett.  It didn’t take long for Craig to run past me as he surged during the opening mile of the run.  At the turn around point (not that I was going to catch him) he was still in my sights 200 – 300 meters up.  After Alexander passed I was running comfortably hard with Hackett.  I was confident that I would maintain this pace to the finish.

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That’s when my memory goes into a haze.  I remember passing mile 4 feeling OK but I had lost contact with Hackett.  That’s it.  Apparently, I ran almost another 2 miles that I have no recollection of.   

dazed.jpgAfter I passed out…I know this from Hortense, I laid on the ground in the heat with little to no water and no IV for 20 to 30 minutes while puking 6 or 7 times.  Apparently, I was conversing and knew my name and place.  The first thing I remember is opening my eyes to the brightness of the day, feeling hot and uncomfortable and promptly defecating in my suit.  Gross, I thought to myself in my confused state of mind.  I was fighting to stay alert with my sweaty body rolling in the dirt with vomit and feces on it.  I assumed I had passed out after finishing.  I wanted to get up and take a dip in the ocean to clean up.  I asked if I could while making a feeble attempt at rising up.  I was assured that I was not going to swim in the sea.  The severity of my situation began to sink in.  What happened to me?  I thought over and over again.  Surely, I had finished in the top 10. 
 
After about 40 minutes that seemed like 2 minutes to me, the ambulance arrived and they loaded me in.  I really did not want to go to the hospital.  This meant things were serious, that we would probably miss our plane back to Boise, that I would miss the post Tri festivities, that I was being a problem and that I would have no chance to swim in the ocean…
 
hard-lesson.jpgIn route to St. Anthony’s I literally stopped traffic with what the paramedics thought was a violent seizure but what I felt as a panic attack.  Part of the problem was my oxygen level was at 37% when it should be above 90%  I was confused, delirious, hallucinating, agitated, in pain, and very alert…alert for my life.  I certainly didn’t have my higher brain functions or reasoning ability.  With that being said, I thought they were going to cut my leg off.  I know, ridiculous…right!  I laugh now at my plight.  However, I had this vivid image that at any moment I would feel the teeth from the saw slice through my skin like butter before getting hung up on my femur bone.  I decided that I would beat everyone up and then escape to the ocean where I could clean up and cool down.  Yes, it’s safe to say I was a certified nut at that moment.  Another ambulance and police car arrived to assist in restraining me.  Like a bull snake, I put on a good show of force but had little, to no, venom.  I didn’t even manage to get out of the stretcher however; I did pull out the IV causing blood to squirt all over the white shirts of the paramedics.  It was an awful scene.  Hortense was able to get close enough and gain my attention; I finally met her eyes and instantly calmed down. 

I have to thank all those involved in helping me; I realize now, how much of a problem child I was.  I am very grateful that you guys put up with me; especially the St. Anthony paramedics; you guys are awesome.  Thank you.

I had to stay the night at the hospital and was given numerous tests to verify something more serious wasn’t going on.  So far all things check out OK. 

night-before-the-race.jpgOne problem they found was that my phosphate levels were very low.  That’s a quandary because without phosphate you don’t have the P in ATP for cell energy.  What I think happened is that I drank too much water in the days leading up to the race.  I drank a ton of water without having any sort of electrolyte drink.  I should have alternated.  This diluted my system whereby my electrolytes were not maxed out.  I am an extremely high volume sweater so it is crucial to have my electrolytes bursting before the race.  I started the race with a low tank, doomed to run out unless I consumed unusually high amounts of nutrients.  Like a drag car without enough fuel in the tank for the race, I burned through my energy and coasted towards the finish on empty.  Thankfully, I had enough energy to keep my vitals going once my glycogen ran out; shutting down my brain.

joyful.jpg 

My affirmation: Nutrition, Nutrition, NUTRITION!

I feel good today.  Life seems different, richer, more colorful and astounding.  Every breath brings sweet life giving nectar. 

Enjoy the moments… right now!

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St. Anthony’s Triathlon 2008 Results

Inside Trithlon article, Triathlete Magazine article, Pro video off YouTube, Swim finish off YouTube

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Olympic Odyssey: A New Standard

Javier Gomez dominating ITUOlympic Odyssey: A New Standard   (April 15, 2008 )
Former World Number one Chris Hill takes us to Beijing through the athletes’ eyes

Like the all the greatest athlete and coach combinations, Javier Gomez, along with Jose Rioseco, are redefining the sport of triathlon with efficiency, talent, and pure speed.

Spaniard Javier Gomez doesn’t spin his wheels like other less efficient triathletes. All his horsepower goes directly onto the pavement, pedals and water. This not only propels him forward in a race, but it also consigning the old standards of men’s triathlon to the past.

Like the leaders of the sport before him; Mark Allen, Brad Beven, and Simon Lessing, Gomez’s career is starting to acquire the momentum of a runaway success.

His racing resumé of nine BG World Cup wins and 15 consecutive podiums is quickly exceeding dominance, eagerly edging its way toward legendary (the men’s World Cup win record for an active athlete stands at 11, held by 2000 Olympic champion, Canadian Simon Whitfield).

But it is another champion athlete that Gomez, 25, is beginning to resemble most.

Both were born in Basel, Switzerland but the similarities don’t end there. Triathlete Gomez and tennis player Roger Federer seem close sporting cousins. Both share an ability to single-handedly reset their sport’s perimeters of possibility, all with what looks like a modicum of effort.

As Federer rips a stunning cross-court winner with more angle than a marine’s sideburns, Gomez crushes the hearts of his opposition with unparalleled swim and run poise.

Gomez’s swim is freakish. His best 1500-meter time is under 16 minutes, which puts him in a class alone with former swimmer Andy Potts of the United States. But the difference with Potts is that Gomez’s swim personal best was recorded this year when training for triathlon not in his competitive swimming days.

“I had my best 1500-meter time ever this year,” Gomez said after the New Plymouth BG Triathlon World Cup. “I’ve always kept on swimming. Even nowadays I do three good months of swimming in November, December and January. And I always have a race at the end. This year I did my PB in the 1500meter, which is 15:45.”

“Under 16 minutes is enough for triathlon, I think, but I am not a very good swimmer in open water. I like the swims that are totally flat, like a swimming pool. Last week I had a very bad swim, I was 24th out of the water. Running into the water is hard.”

Hard for Gomez one week, easy the next—he’s that type of athlete.

In Mooloolaba, after the beach start, Gomez tripped over the first carpet of water—it wasn’t even a wave—when the other athletes beside him, all Kiwis and Aussies with surf skills to burn, waded another 20 meters or so.

Another athlete in this situation might have dreaded the same predicament reoccurring in the beach start at New Plymouth the following weekend, but not Gomez.

He led on the beach run to the water, replacing his bellyflop of the previous week, with a few giant steps. The fact he subsequently added a couple of graceful duck dives proved he is a quick school and reaffirmed his Federer type genius.

Gomez’s race brilliance does not end there. His run is now second to none and because of his swim, it goes against triathlon’s natural order.

Triathlon’s natural order states that a pure swimmer CANNOT be a pure runner. Australia’s Craig Walton and Athens Olympic gold medalist Kate Allen exemplify this.

Gomez, however, does not run like a swimmer or swim like a runner—he swims like a fish and runs like a gazelle. And his physical appearance on the run should not deceive the spectator.

The ruby hue that flushes Gomez’s cheeks is only a red herring, fooling the viewer that he is hurting. It only acts to distract from the relative ease of his strides, the smoothness of his locomotion—again the triathlon equivalent of Federer.

Before the 2008 BG Triathlon World Cup season commenced, Gomez spent some time training in South Africa. One of his sessions included a running race.

“I did a 10-kilometer race on the road in South Africa,” Gomez said of his 2008 preparation. “I ran 29:47. I got third and Tim Don was fourth, 25 seconds behind. Two African guys ran really fast and won. I tried to run with them and managed only four kilometers. We ran the first three kilometers in 8:25. Then the last five kilometers was hilly so it was slower.”

Great Britain’s Tim Don is known as probably the number one triathlon track runner with a 3:46:60 PB for 1500 meters. But sometimes Don’s form does not carry over to running ten kilometers off the bike.

For Gomez, it always does.

On Mooloolaba’s hilly 10-kilometer run course, Gomez knocked out 30:29 and on the undulations in New Plymouth, 29:37. If you couple this, as Gomez did, with second out of the water the results are scary for the opposition.

They are also scary if you are the type of athlete that likes to slink into an Olympic year with solid races building to a crescendo. Gomez, obviously, is not this type of athlete. To him, great form now is a harbinger to great form in the future.

“Things are going well,” Gomez said about his two wins in two races and the frame of mind they put him in. “It is a positive pressure and a motivation. It is a sign things are going well. I won the first two World Cups so it is just perfect.”

“I did not expect to be in such good form. It was so much better than what I thought before I came to New Plymouth. Things are going well, I am training well and I must keep on working for the Olympics.”

His coach Jose Rioseco was also happy with his athlete’s early season form. As Gomez loomed large down the finish straight in New Plymouth, Rioseco stopped pacing and started punching the air. The victory obviously meant a lot and it was a team effort.

“He was very happy because I did a very good race,” Gomez said of Rioseco’s quiet fist pumping, “better than last weekend and that’s the important thing. My coach is a great support and he has coached me since I was 11 so he is more than a coach, he is more like a friend.”

After New Plymouth post-race press interviews, countless selfless t-shirt signings and drug testing, it was time for coach and athlete to make the 4-kilometer journey back to the Devon Hotel.

Wheeling his bike when the rest had ridden, Javier Gomez joined his coach for the tramp home as darkness descended. When victories convert to Olympic confidence, they crunched the numbers and plotted the next along the deserted Sunday night streets.

Their partnership becoming as successful as coach Tony Roche and Roger Federer when the pair worked together in his prime.
Former World Number one Chris Hill brings his unique elite athlete perspective in weekly Olympic columns to ITU’s website, triathlon.org. He competed on the ITU World Cup circuit, winning three titles and ten medals in total. He was crowned the overall World Cup series champion in 2001. That same year he was silver medalist at the ITU World Championships in Edmonton, Canada. Watch for Chris Hill’s column, “Olympic Odyssey” every week on triathlon.org.
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Chicken Dinner Road Race 2008

In my second year doing the Chicken Dinner Road Race, one thing is for certain…the wind.  Last year was the windiest conditions I have ever ridden in with 30 mph steady and gusts well above that.  The wind was less menacing this year albeit brutally strong.  At times it felt like I was submersed underwater barely able to turn the crank.  This was true for the first climb, right after the start and head on into the wind.

The course is a 14.2 mile loop nestled between the Snake River and Lake Lowell on roads rarely traveled.  With the hills and the dynamics of the wind, a loop feels more like 20 miles.  We start and finish each lap with a hill.  In between, we sail with the wind upwards of 50 mph on slight descents and gruel out 12 mph on flats into the wind.  As a cat 3 racer, we do 4 laps.


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After missing last week’s start and chasing all day, I showed up early on the front line.  My strategy: to race hard from the beginning.  I lead the group down a descent and over a roller then hit the nasty hill with wind driving you back to the bottom.  With zero warm up and the power required to climb I had to back off or risk blowing up early.  I stayed near the front 5 or 6 of a 50+ peloton.  Upon, cresting the hill we picked it up and I worked with 2 or 3 others to keep the pace honest.  Feeling like my hard work was being taken advantage of by the pack; I backed off for a second and created a gap wanting someone else to work.  That was all it took.  8 riders were getting away and I knew some of them were strong enough to stay away.  It took about 5 minutes of all out effort to bridge up to them.  The nine of us worked together to increase our lead for the remainder of the race. 

The nine of us stayed together until the last of 4 laps when Joe Savola attacked with a tailwind as we chased at speeds over 50mph.  I did not know anyone got away until I noticed him 200 to 300 yards ahead and counted him as the missing man.  We dropped a rider or two as we chased losing one for good and having another bridge back while Joe’s other 4 or 5 team mates played subtle tactics to slow the pace.  For the next few miles only 3 of us were doing any real work.  This small increase in my effort was enough.  With 2 miles to go in the race we rode over a bump, my legs said enough.  It happened so fast, I did not see the grand piano falling from the sky.  It landed square on my shoulders and I was condemned to carry it to the finish.  With the weight of the piano securely on my back the other 6 riders rode off. 

Now I was exposed to the full force of the wind with no where to hide.  I crawled along with no energy and just enough momentum to keep my bike upright.  I fantasized about food, eating lots of food.  It was such a complete and utter sense of being drained of all energy.  My body was franticly scavenging for any source of energy it could find.  I was honestly delirious about it.  If I hadn’t been so close to the finish I would have been done.  My car was at the finish and I knew the fastest way to get there and to the food inside it, was to stay on my bike.  I crawled to the line and went straight to my car.  I lost 5 minutes in 2 mostly flat miles…..ouch.  Joe ended up holding off the chase group to win by a minute. 

I only drank two Gatorades and 1 bottle of water, I knew better but hoped it would work out….next time I’ll have to eat something.  I got back to the car and devoured a zone bar and a banana with 32 oz of water.  It was one of the best fine dining experiences of my life.  I had over a 40 min drive home and was still ravenous with hunger.  I came across a gas station and ate the last hot dog before purchasing the following; 3 sweet n’ salty bars (peanut), snickers, and M&M’s (peanut).  Before I got home I stopped and ate a whopper with large fries and polished off my binge with a TCBY shiver including almonds, cookie dough, and peanut butter chips.  Ahhhh, my stomach finally had its fill allowing me to function as something other than a hungry animal.  I would be snacking again in 2 hours.     

Chicken Dinner Race Results

Chris Stuart’s race  Kai Applequist’s race

Chicken Dinner Road Race

Once upon a hill, in a headwind, I realized that I do not even own enough chamois butter for what we just did today.

The end..

Racing to stay in shape/ Spring Sprint Triathlon & Pirds of Prey Road Race

warming up on a cold morningIt was a busy weekend of racing and there’s nothing like it to keep one fast and sharp.  First up was the Spring Sprint which is half of a standard Olympic distance (750 yard swim, 12.5 mile bike, 3.1 mile run).  It was awesome to see so many participants this year.  There were around 250 up from about 180 last year.  I’m sure everyone had fun training and then seeing their hard work come to fruition in some friendly competition.  There were also about 25 to 30 kids doing the race, the future of triathlons is going to be strong.  Lots of healthy people!  Anthony Walker; Tough kid

My race went well, especially considering the 70.3 miles of racing last Saturday that still had my body out of whack.  I jumped in the pool, warmed up about 2000 yards and then swam a 7:40 for 750 yards from a push.  It hurt more than it should have and I died after only 200 yards, a sure sign of residual fatigue.  This left a big question mark for the bike and run.  However, to my surprise, I had my biking legs for the first time all year.

I finished the bike strong and turned my focus to having a solid run.  Running felt great and I was feeling faster as I progressed through the same running trails I train on.  Finally, after 5 years of running, all the hard work is beginning to pay off.

The next day was the Birds of Prey road race (54 miles) and my first cat 3 race.  I was excited to do this and use the effort to take my cycling legs to the next level.  It was a cold breezy morning and I carefully chose my clothing so that I would not over-heat once the race began.  I rolled up to the start line at 9:58 with no one there.  Was I early?  Then, troubled, I noticed a 50+ peloton about a minute up the road.  I looked for an official and asked if that is the cat 3 group.  He said yes.  I said crap!  My HR shot up 50 bpm and my adrenalin spiked. 

I took off as fast as I could go.  Knowing I didn’t have a second to spare.  5 minutes in the pack seemed tantalizingly close.  Reachable, I hoped.  But we were on a straight road, so seeing the group was deceptive.  15 minutes in, the group still wasn’t too far up, but it became clear that I wasn’t closing the needed ground and I had been going all out the whole time.  I knew that if I did catch the group, my legs would be toast for any aggressive riding.  25 minutes in and not much change, but now I was giving way to the thought of a 54 mile TT.  That’s what I got; a very hard, leg draining, energy zapping 54 mile TT.  I paid the price the last 10 miles for my early effort but I was ok, because these kinds of races translate into fast races later in the season.  2008 Spring Sprint Sponsors

Spring Sprint Triathlon Results

Birds of Prey Road Race Results.