2008 Chicago Triathlon

Chicago is home to the world’s largest triathlon, with over 8,700 competitors.  Starting on the final day of the Beijing Olympics, Chicago uses this event to showcase its wonderful city while vying for the Chicago 2016 Olympics.  Organizing an event like this takes dedication and hard work from first-rate people.  Thank You to those involved in allowing close to 9,000 athletes to showcase their fitness in an all out urban assault on the Windy City.
I had so much fun at the race last year that talking my wife into competing this year was a cinch.  I also grew up across the lake in St. Joseph so it was a good chance for me to show Hortense one of the crown jewels of the mid-west.  We had an outstanding time staying in Old Town Chicago with our host.  Biking along the lakeshore, walking the sidewalks, swimming in Lake Michigan, and eating out were some of our highlights.  We thoroughly enjoyed eating at Le Bouchon so much that Hortense had to order a second round of mousse de chocolat (I helped).  The meal and the ambiance were quite pleasurable.
Of course we also enjoyed some leisure time leading up to the race with some scintillating Olympic viewing enjoying the Mountain biking, some outstanding water polo, along with the men’s marathon (it is beyond belief how these guys run so fast in such extreme heat and humidity).

Race morning came early for Hortense while I didn’t start until 11 am.  So, while I woke up, Hortense was plunging through the lake with hundreds of her competitors.  My thoughts were with her while I prepared for my race with a quick breakfast.  Biking over to the start from Old Town Chicago along the Lakeshore was a pleasant warm up.  The turquoise water of the vast lake was inviting me to come cool off as the sun beamed down, taking over the large blue sky.

It took me only a few moments to prepare for my race at T1 so I snuck into the age-group area, found a shade tree, and enjoyed the spectacle of athletes running in and out of T1/T2.  While my main goal was to catch a glimpse of Hortense finishing her bike leg, I waited long enough that I realized she had already come and gone.

With an hour to go the official water temperature was 71 degrees for the pros, meaning it would be a wetsuit swim.  I was shocked and skeptical of that reading as the water was warm the day before and the air temperature outside was at least mid to upper 80’s.  Wanting plenty of time to swim and hopefully cool off in the water, I grabbed my F2R wetsuit and started walking the ¾ of a mile to the swim start.  Beads of sweat lined my forehead and it was uncomfortably hot walking in my swimsuit while draping a wetsuit over me.  With still a half mile to walk I found a shade tree to put on my wetsuit and then gladly plunged into the refreshing water.  It was easier and more fun to swim the distance than to walk, plus it was a good warm up.
The pro men lined up 2 or 3 deep getting ready for a 400 meter sprint to the turnaround.  I lined up in front and took off well but was hindered by frantic swimmers.  I caught an arm and chipped a tooth, guys to my left and right were running into me, then someone from behind grabbed my shoulder, and pulled me back while pushing me under and swimming over me.  Ah well, I expected some of this so I relaxed and stayed focused.  After the turnaround the pace quickened and I had space to move.  Getting into a good rhythm while near the front; I started to get angry.  Angry, because I was burning up, with no place for the heat to go; except out my ears.  I was feeling weak as sweat was building up in my suit and I started thinking about pulling out of the race.  Luckily, I think many of my competitors were feeling similar as the pace suddenly slowed considerably.  The pace slowed enough to be almost easy but I did not dare attack being concerned about overheating again.  So I sat in and relaxed to the finish, staying with the lead group.

Being fearful of overheating while running a ½ mile in my wetsuit to T1, I focused my attention on getting that sucker down around my waist as quickly as possible.  Then, I almost sprinted to pass as many people as possible.  I knew if I got in front of Matt Reed I would be in good shape so I surged to get in front of him, then he passed me, I surged again to pass, then he beat me out of T1.  After about 2 miles of pedaling and finally getting my shoes on I was in about 5th position with Reed and Potts just up the road.  We were heading north into a gusty headwind so I optimized my aero position and started reeling in both Matt and Andy.  At the turnaround I had just passed both of them when we started heading south with the wind.  Matt passed me again, this time for good, as he sailed with the wind.

I was satisfied and feeling good to be biking at the front of such a big race with a stacked field of pros.  With only Stuart Hayes and Matt Reed in front of me I biked solo for the next 17 miles or so pulling away from a group just off my pace.  I was feeling effortless and powerful but I think I relaxed too much assuming I was going fast enough.  With about 2 miles to go Yoder, Bennett, and Starykowicz bridged up to me.  This was all the motivation I needed, as I quickly passed them apart from Starykowicz.  Yoder fell off the pace while Greg, Andy and I came into T2 together in 3rd, 4th, and 5th.
Greg was off in a flash chasing down Reed and Hayes.  Andy and I stayed close for the first couple miles both struggling to find our running form.  I noticed the heat right away and was fearful.  Yes, I am literally scared of heat when it is accompanied with humidity and I am running hard.  To ease this fear and also deal with the uncomfortable heat, I had to ease up.  The conditions were such that pushing myself too hard, which I love to do, would cause serious problems for me.  So I marched along, determined to finish.  Upon finishing I was almost instantly relieved with a magnificent towel that had been soaked in ice water.  If only I could have ran with several of these along the way.  Potts had a watch on that showed the temperature to be 93 degrees at the finish…too much for me to thermal regulate.

Muggy running weather aside, I had a brilliant day with an epiphany…that I can swim and bike with the worlds greatest athletes and I have a coach that has and will teach me to run as well as anyone can.  The fast run will come and that is very exciting.

Chicago Tribune, Inside Tri Magazine


Emmett’s Most Excellent Triathlon 2008

Starting a day after the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games, a sense of human spirit & performance allowed us Idahoans an outlet…the Emmett Triathlon.  I love the Olympics and my understanding and appreciation for them has changed over the years.  As a kid it was all about swimming and the Americans.  Now, I just like to see the human spirit at its best, no matter the country or sport.  I love to see the world come together and celebrate its achievements. 
This may explain some of the high level of motivation and focus for this year’s Emmett Triathlon.  This event brings in some outstanding competition from around the Northwest.  Scott Young (Pro Triathlete), Ryan Lindsay (World Duathlon Champion), Peter Ney (former pro), Tom Libby, and Antonio Gonzalez to name a few of the fast guys challenging for the overall victory.  On the womens side Jenny Tobin (Pro) looked to win the overall.  There were also many noble Age Groupers, like Charlie French (82 years young, world champion, and 3:10 finish time at Emmett!) and Harold Frobisher (former Ironman pro).  People who are lucky enough to experience the Emmett Triathlon come back year after year, expecting the same outstanding course, volunteers, awards ($2000 prize purse!) raffle (bikes!) and fun loving environment to celebrate our community’s vigor.
This race was also a family affair with Hortense and my dad competing while my mom was there for support (being a spectator at a Triathlon can be as tiring as doing the race).  It was shaping up to be a glorious day spent with family and friends. 
The swim starts at Black Canyon Reservoir, fed by the mighty Payette River.  The different forks of the Payette River are home to some of the Worlds best whitewater.  Whitewater kayaking is my favorite thing to do, so swimming in this water is always special for me.  It’s forever a joy to jump in refreshing water, not really needing a wetsuit, but wearing my F2R because it is allowed and super fast.  The cannon went off, signaling the start of our race.  Peter and I quickly gapped the field and after about 200 meters I was drafting off of him until after the turnaround.  At that point, Peter had broken enough trail; he let me know it was my turn to lead by doing some backstroke.  I took charge and worked on negative splitting the swim.  Peter and I were neck and neck all the way to the last buoy about 100 meters from the finish.  Being on the inside for the right hand turn helped me break away with a strong surge to win the $75 swim prime. 
After a good transition I was off on the 40 kilometer (25 mile) bike course.  The course is pretty flat apart from 2 hills with roads that are in good condition.  However, the roads are chip-sealed so there is a lot of feedback (vibration).  Having a carbon frame like the SCOTT Plasma is a big plus on these types of conditions; as the carbon is stiff yet forgiving to the bumps.  The ride was contemplative for me while I did my best to blast along the roads.  Again, I tried to negative split my bike so I picked up the pace after the turn around and felt like I had limitless power.  Sometimes hard efforts have the effect of causing serious leg burn and that…”whoa, better be careful’ feeling.  I wasn’t experiencing any of that.  I was going hard and feeling like the pace was something that would be maintainable to the end of the bike.  It was fun to feel effortless while flying so fast.  My 55:20 bike split was a breakthrough and has me excited for my next race in Chicago which is a faster bike course. 
Now, onto the run, I felt quick the first couple miles.  I worked on my form and I did my best to keep the pace honest.  But I started running at a comfortable pace and by the last mile I backed off and enjoyed the experience by slowing down.  Four yeas ago I had my first encounter with serious dehydration at Emmett’s Triathlon.  Holding onto a slim lead on a 100+ degree day, I skipped the aid stations.  I finished looking very pale and feeling very weak.  I needed two IV’s to recover.  So this time, my mindset was to finish feeling strong…allowing me to build off of this race…and be faster in two weeks for Chicago’s Triathlon.
It was awesome to come down the finishing chute with so many boisterous spectators.  My finishing time of 1:52:37 is a new PR for a non-drafting race.  As good as I felt on the day and as fast as I recovered (thanks to the outstanding post race nourishment) after the race I was through the moon with my performance.  And thrilled to share the day with so many training partners/ friends and family.
Thank you Ken Runyan for such an awesome day!  Thank you Boise Aeros for all of your support with the race.  Thank you volunteers for your cheerful assistance.  And thank you Emmett for another awesome event.         


2008 Y-Not Tri

Y-Not Triathlon

The Y-Not Triathlon was my very first full triathlon.  I was 12 or 13 years old and in good swimming shape from being on the Boise Y swim team and in some running shape from playing soccer.  The short sprint of a triathlon hurt my body like nothing I had ever done.  I was in a respectable measure of pain after the race, a discomfort I didn’t know was possible from racing.  It was a wake up call to me  Being a dedicated swimmer and soccer player it never crossed my mind to race or train for the sport again…at least for another 16 years when I did my next triathlon. 

Speed ahead 21 years to yesterdays Y-Not Tri and, oh my, what a difference!  In the late 80’s the Y-Not had a handful of adults and a few kids, usually on the swim team.  2008’s Y-Not had ‘crazyawesome’ numbers, around 420 triathletes if not more.  Add to it all the spectators and volunteers and we had a wonderful mass of people enjoying a hot summer evening in Boise.  A great way for our community to come together and celebrate our health!

Still having 7 triathlons left this season, the Y-Not was a race to help improve and sharpen my power and speed.  It did just that with only the intensity of a sprint 400m swim, 6 mile bike, and 2 mile run can offer.  There is no room to let up…just go hard and try to hold it.  For that reason, these sprints, at least for me…are as painful as the longer ones if not more. 

Thanks to the help of Antonio (4th place overall & IMT mechanic), my bike was riding well and had a new toy.  A fast toy.  A new Zipp disc wheel!  I took my first pedal strokes on the ride over to the race and felt super fast.  If nothing else it looks and sounds fast.  I hope so, because it wasn’t cheap.

The race started in the ParkCenter Pond.  The swim was fun and quick, taking me just over 4 minutes, I created a little gap with Kyle (3rd place overall) and then David (2nd place overall & professional triathlete).  I was able to get out of T1 (out of sight out of mind) just as those two were entering.  On the bike I did my best to go all out the whole way.  Powering through 6 miles is a great way to improve speed for upcoming races.  I was lucky to have a police motorcycle escorting me as I almost missed the right turn around mile 5.  He suddenly turned right and I zipped on by the turn, braking hard, skidding, almost wrecking on the sidewalk, putting a foot down, turning around, back on course, looking back to see if 2nd place was going to pass, speeding up to race pace.  Phew!  I then tried to hammer the last bit of the bike to make up for my gaffe. 

Getting into T2, I turned my focus to my main goal for this race, having a solid run.  Harold (coached 5 of the top 10 finishers and several others) has improved my run fitness and form dramatically.  I did feel fast and fleet footed on this hot and humid night in Boise.  It hurt more than I hoped it would, but running fast is hard to do easy! Haha. 

I finished in just under 31 minutes and enjoyed the rest of the evening with friends and family while replenishing the body with fruit and Dominoes pizza.  It was awesome to see all the participants and spectators.  I hope all the athletes were able to benefit from the race and further motivate them to stay active and healthy.  It is a lifestyle with growing momentum that’s superb for our community.

Thank You YMCA!  Thank You volunteers!  And Thank You race sponsors!



McCall Mountain Triathlon 2008

An event like the McCall Mountain Triathlon exudes merriment and the location is a dream.  The Upper Payette Lake situated just north of McCall has vibrancy and unparallel beauty.  Breathing in this crisp cool mountain air while soaking up the natural splendor benefits ones spirit.  I love every minute that I’m up in this lush area as it puts me in touch with my basics, life slows down and a tranquil sea of thoughts swims in the mind.  I have been participating in the race for years, starting out doing the swim portion for teams in the late 90’s.  It is always nice to have a good excuse to enjoy a whole weekend at McCall and this was the reason for my eagerness to be a swimmer on a team back then.  It’s also a big reason I eventually took up the sport of triathlon.  I couldn’t help but notice the fun people had with the challenge. 

The McCall Mountain Triathlon deserves nomination for having the most breathtaking course in the U.S.  A truly majestic spot adjacent to the Frank Church Wilderness (the largest section of land without roads in the lower 48).  This is also a tough triathlon; as hard as any I have done.  The course has a hilly bike and run and being as high as 6400 feet has your lungs expanding to their max seeking more O2.  Anytime the pain starts to take a toll, all one needs to do is dissociate from the internal and focus on the grandeur surrounding you.  It’s always enough motivation to put a smile on my face.

The race started around 9am at a fairly large campground on the south end of the lake.  The water is pristine and refreshing.  It was a wetsuit swim, however, a wetsuit wasn’t needed.  Several people did not wear one and I would have joined them but I did not think I would keep up with Peter Ney without one.  For the first half of the race we swam side by side, neither one of us willing to settle behind the other.  On the way back, we settled into a good pace and both took different lines back to the finish.  I hugged the shore while he stayed close to the buoys.  I managed to get a few seconds on Peter at the swim finish and then turned my attention to the bike as we immediately started climbing out of T1. 

This is my favorite road to bike on in Idaho, a pleasurable treat.  There is almost no traffic and the road is nice and wide enough to feel safe when the occasional vehicle passes. It is easy to feel alone and intimate with the great expanse of wilderness surrounding you.  I think that only 2 cars passed me on the entire 25 mile out and back course, and one of those was a spectator.  At the bike turnaround, Peter and Kyle were in a battle while my lead seemed safe.  I focused on keeping an honest pace and enjoying the experience on the way back to T2. 

Getting back to Upper Payette Lake and hearing the spectator’s encouragement was awesome.  For being at such a remote location, it is great to see so many people supporting their friends and family.  The run was a dirt road and then trail that went ¾’ s of the way around the lake.  The scenes from the east side of the lake near the dead end turnaround are stunning.  There are several park benches set up to take in the view and it was almost tempting enough to stop just for a sec and take it all in.  Alas, I rationalized that I might come back later, and take some photos.  It will have to be some other weekend, as this trip didn’t have it in the cards. 

Heading towards the finish it was good to see Hortense leading the women’s race at the start of the run.  However, she had company not too far behind.  She ended up getting 4th by one second, just getting nicked at the line by young 16-19 year old Erika Sweigert.  Good job ladies! 

Hortense and I thoroughly enjoyed the race and the spirits and food after the event were excellent as well. 

Thank you race volunteers for putting on such an awesome event and thank you Gravity Sports McCall for the race jersey’s awarded to the 1st place male and female.


Lucid Dreams

I had one of those restless, excited, in-and-out of a dream state, while tossing and turning sleeps the other night.  Earlier in the day I had made a supremely satisfying purchase on E-Bay; one that causes Tri-Geeks to reminisce about the sleepless nights before Christmas when they were kids.  I felt like a kid.  Albeit, when I was 5, I would not catch a moment of shut-eye in anticipation of the next days plunder.  At least this time, I was getting some much needed sleep.  I know, because of the lucid dreams dancing in my mind.  In these dreams, I moved effortlessly; with power, poise and pace.  It was a basic vision, the ultimate in moving your body.  I had the healthy fitness capable of propelling your body over land and sea with efficient speed.  A daily ritual I tirelessly attempt to improve on.  Although improving all the time, perfection only gets farther and farther away.  In this dream, I was relaxed and feeling euphoric, yet I was racing at max effort.  Being in that fleeting state of mind where the task at hand flows with the body and focuses on seemingly nothing and everything to do with your movements; where your body and mind merge into that elevated state while your movements become beautiful and tranquil.  My mind was clear and calm and in a state of being contemplative.  Time slows down, allowing me to further enjoy the moment, as I race along with a slight grin; a small window for those watching to see and experience my internal pleasure.
Although I did not get the best night of sleep I was still cheerful from all the good visions of the previous night.  I had to wonder if the single act of purchasing a disc wheel triggered my lucid dreams.  “Maybe”, I thought, as I began to daydream about taking my first ever pedal stroke and having the huuumm, huuumm, huuumm sound of a disc wheel. 

Surely much of the lucid dreaming comes from the simple fact of enjoying my fitness.  I have been breathing a lot of air; healthy and consistent in my training while steadily improving.   Having a breakthrough workout is rewarding enough to have me in the clouds for several days.  Like last weeks BRIC workout at the Boise High Track.  It was 4x (10 minutes on the bike trainer then a mile run.)  I was not feeling up for this workout, tired and hungry after work and being just 3 days removed from the NYC Triathlon.  The east coast trip was disruptive on my sleep patterns.  I lightheartedly showed up at the track and began warming up.  Feeling lethargic and heavy I wasn’t sure that I would be able to hit my goal time of 5:15 per mile.  To my surprise I clocked a 5:07 first mile; then went 5:01, 5:07, 5:08.  That’s good stuff for me. 

Then, yesterday in the pool I felt strong and fast while swimming high in the water.    Swimming at the Downtown YMCA is awesome.  I started learning the intricacies of water in this very pool over 30 years ago!  However, it is not a fast pool; being a shallow 6 lane pool while having 4 guys in my lane with 3 guys in the wall lane and 5 or 6 on the other side causes a raucous.  But we like to think its good simulation for rough open water swimming.  The main set was 12 x 100’s on 1:40 going 75fr/25Fly descending in 3 sets of 4.  My times:
1:02, 1:01, 1:00, :58
1:03, 1:01, 1:00, :57
1:03, 1:01,  :59, :57

Solid, feel good swims, especially considering the wavy pool and negotiating butterfly with so many arms flying.  I had more than a few awkward recovery strokes in the butterfly to avoid smacking arms.  But the feeling strong and being high in the water is sheer joy for me.

Up next, the beautiful McCall Mountain Triathlon..