Triathlon U.S. National Championships, Portland 2008

A slight breeze on an overcast day caused my body to shiver.  Still drying from warming up in Hagg Lake a few minutes prior had me uncomfortably cool.  Yet, the chilly temperatures were an exciting prospect to race in, on this remote and beautiful course.  Once the challenge began I would warm up almost immediately.  Having a high starting number I ended up being the last athlete to find an open spot to dive from.  I ran up and down the dock looking for an open space while every other athlete was prepared to dive in at a moments notice.  I finally found one closer to the shore and readied myself.  Something signified the start and I dove in, doing several streamlined dolphin kicks and coming up well ahead of the athletes on either side of me.  The 40 plus men stayed in there lines for about 100 meters and then started converging on the leaders and I was nicely placed right behind them.  Focusing on the feet in front of me became my number one priority.  Too many times I had gotten comfortable with a pace and let a gap become insurmountable.  Not today. 

Feeling awesome throughout the swim I kept a close eye on the leaders just a few seconds ahead, hoping to stay near the front.  At the same time I conserved my energy and relaxed my thoughts and my stroke knowing I was close enough to secure my place in the lead pack once we began biking.  I was having fun.  Coming into the finish of the swim it felt like the pace slowed or I was drafting well, so I used this to prepare for a steep run up and out of the reservoir and into T1. 

Being just a few seconds off the leaders out of the swim did not secure me in that first group unless I nailed my transition.  I had a sense of urgency running up the incline and passed a few guys on the way to my bike.  I tossed my cap and goggles in the basket and strapped on my helmet.  Then, grabbed my bike and ran to the mount line in good company.  We began our first climb up to the main road which we would have to conquer 12 times on the bike and run. 

Cresting the hill I was a few good pedal strokes from being in the lead group, but not worried.  Pedaling hard to make up ground while passing a couple cyclists I just lingered off the back of the group.  Exhausting myself from the sprinting that began the moment we excited the water, grabbing the wheel of one of the cyclists I had just passed helped.  Still, we had some all out efforts to bridge those last few seconds.  Finally, reaching the first turnaround, I was in the group and had a short reprieve from maxing out my heart rate. 

While in the first chase pack;  my attention turned to getting my shoes on.  My crank idled for a second while my right foot slipped into place.  This created a bike length between me and the group.  I slipped in my left foot and lost a further bike length or two from the group.  Still needing to tighten the Velcro, I coasted briefly to tighten the right foot and then the same for the left.  The group was now a mere 5 to 10 seconds ahead of me.  “No problem”, I thought.  Charging after them it felt like at any instant the gap would be bridged.  This ‘teasing’ kept my effort maxed out.  After 2 miles, the pack was still a few seconds ahead and the solo effort was taking a toll.  Just before descending the hill entering the transition area, Mark Fretta tumbled into the ditch.  I thought this would be my chance, either he could help me bridge up or the group would slow down a bit from the commotion.  Unfortunately neither happened, Mark stood up and his chain was dangling.  I flew by knowing he was already too far off the pace to help me.  (Later, I found out that rolling his tubular off the rim, caused his crash and essentially ended his race).

Going into lap two, it became imperative to close the gap quickly and then hope to recover while drafting off the pack.  Attacking the climb a second time I made up some ground and was tantalizingly close.  After cresting the hill the group charged, I needed a second to recover from the hill but had no wheel.  It was now getting evident that the effort was going to whip me for the rest of the race even if I did catch up.  I had to stop sprinting and grabbed my first sip from my bottle, losing some precious time to the leaders.  Then, braced for another attempt at bridging up.  Chasing to the next turnaround while still less than 20 seconds behind and holding onto a glimmer of hope, I had all my cards on the table.  However, the solo attacking was fatiguing me beyond a state where one could recover and I was spent.  The group steadily pulled away.  Disappointed and wondering what could have been I looked back for the next group and no one was there.

Mentally and physically I was defeated.  How in the world did I lose touch with that group?  Tormenting over my misfortune for the remainder of the race did little to help.  Later that night I couldn’t sleep because of it.  It is both frustrating and exciting.  Frustrating because it blew up my race, exciting because it was so close to being much faster.

I started coasting in hopes of recovering while waiting for the next group to swallow me up.  Into the third lap they caught up and I sat in the back still working on my recovery.  This group stayed even with the first chase group for the remainder of the race.  I began feeling better on the last lap but starting the run I was toast.  The early efforts on the bike were too much.  I worked into a decent pace on the last of 4 laps but the race had long since gotten away from me.

Finishing in 23rd place was bitter sweet but I was happy to come up for air.  Just having finished my 3rd race in 3 weekends of traveling and now feeling the gratifying slowness of a pause in the action.  A chance to reflect.

The last three weeks had been rich with experience.  A glorious challenge and a chance to learn more about enhancing the meditation in movement. 

Keep moving, keep challenging

RESULTS

Triathlete magazine – Ametuers, Elites shine at USAT Nationals in Oregon

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Lover’s Point offering at Pacific Grove Triathlon

Life is converging on me this September.  Work at PersonalShopper.com is at a fever pitch while I try to balance this with three weekends in a row of traveling and racing.  The glorious weather in Boise during September now reminds me of a time of bliss and harmony that marks our anniversary.  Hortense and I have enjoyed four years of marriage, we planned to celebrate while in Pacific Grove.  On our anniversary I had some important obligations and worked from 8am to midnight, at least it was all from home.  Hortense has also been swamped with activities and we could not leave for California until she was done teaching at 2:30 on Friday.  So we arrived at San Jose in the evening and then started our 1.5 hour drive down to the Monterey Peninsula.  We got lost and arrived around 8:30 hungry and tired and missing the packet pick-up. 

After having a quick dinner we came back to our host’s lovely cottage right off Ocean View Boulevard.  We put our bikes together, getting Hortense’s up and running first as she was racing early the next morning.  While she brushed her teeth and got ready for bed, it was time to put my speedster together.  I was stunned to see my chain slithering off the crank like a snake, having been snapped.  I’m too tired to be upset. 

As luck would have it, Walt (our host), had a spare chain and the knowledge and skill to assemble it (which I may have, but having never assembled one, it would have taken me a long time).  A true life saver, this surely helped me sleep more soundly as well as saving me tons of time the next day looking for a ‘fix’.  Our hosts were awesome, thanks Walt and Robin. 

Finally, the hectic schedule faded away, as Hortense and I slumbered in the chill of the night dozing off to the sounds of sea birds on the Pacific.

Awaking early the next day Hortense and I walked the quarter mile over to the race venue to obtain our race packets.  It was cozy cool, overcast, and inhaling large amounts of ocean air made for an invigorating morning.  The sea breezes floated past ones olfactory nerves delighting the senses.  We were gleeful with a bounce in our step as we approached Lover’s Point, the hub of the Pacific Grove Triathlon.  The Point is justly named for its romantic mix of sea and land.  Jutting out into the Pacific with wondrous rock formations and ancient trees; a large green field of grass leading up to it lures you in. Lover’s Point seems to be saying, “come, and lose yourself, merge with nature as an endless thought.”

We met back at our host’s cottage and made final preparations for the race.  Then, Hortense was off to start hers while I took a short nap.  I woke up in time to walk across the street to Ocean View Blvd to watch her go by 8 times on the 4 loop course.  She looked great and was riding in 3rd and then 2nd place.  This got me fired up.  I wasn’t sure how’d we race after the frantic week and getting in so late the night before…but this helped quell any doubts.  It was poignant to see my wife cruising along so well.  It gave me several quiet moments of emotional charges. 

About 25 pro men lined up on the beach, crammed between the start banners.  I was calm and patient the first lap and probably a little too reserved.  I got behind where I should have been and tried to move up a few times by going around.  This was more times than not, a mistake.  With all the kelp, your best bet was to follow the feet in front, staying out of the seaweed.  After a few fruitless attempts at swimming through thick kelp in order to move up, I decided it was better to settle in the pack.  Then, I was bewildered to be feeling my wedding ring slipping off my finger.  In hindsight, I’m amazed that I noticed a tiny few grams lingering off my finger, whilst my body’s hard effort amongst the froth of swimmers and seaweed would seem to be enough sensory input.  I stopped swimming briefly and used my right hand to secure the ring back in place. 

Coming up to the beach and running around a rock to start our second lap I was just holding on to the 1st group of swimmers.  I dove clumsily back into the water and quickly moved up but was getting irritated with a strand of kelp that I had now been carrying for several hundred meters.  I had hoped it would dislodge from the chip when I ran on the beach, but it remained.  Doing a quick mental check on my left hand, I felt naked.  My stomach sunk for a moment with the realization that my ring was at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.  I was upset but quickly got motivated and determined…if I was offering my wedding band to the sea, I’m going to have an impressive race.

Feeling better in the later half of the swim I came out of the sea in close contact with what should make the 1st pack.  Then, I had a lousy T1.  First mistake was using my hands to take the legs off my wetsuit instead of using the step with your feet method.  We were given two chips one for each ankle and I got my fingers under these in both attempts at taking off my wetsuit.  My second mistake happened while mounting my bike; it took what seemed like eternity to get my feet on top of my swaying shoes.  I was coasting at 1 mile an hour with my head down and veering off the road, almost wrecking on the curb.

At last I got my crank rolling but I had some distance to make up to the next group of guys.  I pedaled hard, fearful of riding solo.  I caught them after a mile or two but there was another pack just up the road and very reachable.  Riding with Dahlz, Piland, Collington, Stephenson, and Sexton we were chasing Dye, Fleischmann, Plata, Umpenhour, Millward, and Lavelle.  The first couple of laps we worked pretty well together, but then Sexton started taking superman pulls.  This discouraged the rest of us from pulling through him, so we would tuck in behind him and enjoy the ride.  I was thinking he was crazy to put forth so much effort and wondered how his run was going to be?  I’m not sure that this benefited the groups speed all that much.  It would have been faster if we all smoothly took a pull but Sexton seemed to want to do the work.  As Sexton did not even start the run, I would later find out that he was merely working for Dahlz and Collington.  This will be something to watch for next time as it never dawned on me while we were riding.  Unfortunately, the lead group gained about a minute on us coming into T2.

I felt fleet footed starting the run and stayed close to Dahlz and Collington who took the early lead from our group.  After about a mile these two gapped us while Piland, Stephenson and I ran together.  Jeff and I stayed close throughout the run, pushing each other to keep an honest pace.  Jamie had fallen off the pace a little while Jeff and I went back and forth.  We had passed one runner from the lead pack and were now reeling Dahlz back in.  Knowing Jeff is more of a sprinter than I am, I took off with about 400 meters to go.  It was not decisive enough as he hung around and passed me in the finishing chute.  I had one final charge but he nipped me by a second.  It was great to do battle with Jeff and we were both happy with our 8th and 9th place finish.

Just 2 days removed from our 4th anniversary I had to break the news to Hortense that my ring was at the bottom of the sea at Lover’s Point.  We determined that this was a pretty darn good place to ‘keep’ our ring.  Matter of fact, we decided that our offering to the mighty Pacific Ocean at Lover’s Point called for a wish… and wish we did.

Here’s to breathing more air…

RACE RESULTS

Monterey Herald articles: Plata Repeats & Labor of Love

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Los Angeles Triathlon

Over 3,000 athletes took part in the 1.5k Venice beach swim, 40k bike to downtown LA, and 10k run from the Staples Center.  All of us were up in the dark early morning hours while most of LA slept in.  Usually the nights before big races, I find little to no sleep.  I enjoy this wakefulness and see it as a good sign that my body is fully rested.  Lying awake in a calm, peaceful, sense while the hours, minutes, and seconds string into eternity; you lose yourself in a sea of thoughts.  Mindful of this moment, and your youthful vigor (at any age while competing in triathlons), one has a humble appreciation for being alive.
 
As triathletes we seek a spiritual state of constantly thriving to improve our meditation in movement.  Finding the balance of mind and body playing harmonious music with effortless power is the challenge so many endurance athletes love.  It takes years of focus and pleasurable passage to discover, utilize, and finally master this energy.  To fully recognize the abilities of your body in motion is a true gift, one that most, (in our current society) never gives a second thought.  I dream of the day when meditation in movement is a major theme in our world.  When people from all walks of life and cultures cherish their body’s endurance, their ability to breathe more air, and live healthier more enriched lives.

The 3,000 thriathletes doing the Los Angeles Triathlon all have been improving their body and mind in preparation for the day’s event.  An important note, that no matter the age or circumstance, one can always be improving.  This is a challenge that brings fulfillment and has far reaching effects.  A continual search for better nourishment and training ensues.  Being a hale and hearty human is this study to improve on oneself, for the whole of your existence.  Let this simple truth slip, and feel the void. 

The water temperature was too warm for wetsuits but the USAT rule of 72 degrees for Pro’s to wear one was met.  I believe, as many of my peers do, that this should be lowered to at least 68 degrees for the Pros.  At 6:45 the Pro men lined up about 50 meters offshore ready to make a mad dash for the small breakers.  We attacked the small surf with reckless abandon and began ducking and diving to reach the deeper water.  Around the first bouy after about 300 meters I was feeling outstanding while swimming just off the two leaders.  Here, I got ahead of myself, the speed was easy for me to match and I assumed the swim would be too.  I remained in good position going around the farthest bouy and making the turn to come back to the finish.  Still in an excellent situation and feeling good I had about 8 guys bunched in front of me and was drafting well.  Surely, I would remain here for the next few 100 meters of the race and be ready for a good bike.  Then, a small gap developed for which I have still been disciplining myself.  Past experience has taught me how hard it can be to bridge these gaps, so I went after it in a hurry.  I tried to go faster while staying controlled and relaxed but the gap was growing.  I was upset, feeling my race slipping away, thinking I would make it up on the bike. 

I had my first sign of fatigue coming straight into shore and had some doubts enter my mind about the day’s exploits.  Strange how up and down I was mentally on the swim, something I know attest to not staying focused in the moment.  Running barefoot in the sand was painfully slow and exhausting on the legs.  I came into T1 with Greg Bennett and Todd Leckie.  Luckily, we could still see the first group about 30 seconds up on us.  I didn’t think it would be too hard to bridge up to most of those guys until I started pedaling in directly. 

It was a struggle on the bike.  The power coming out of my legs seemed almost useless like I was out on some recovery ride.  This was a huge blow to my mental psyche to be fatigued and feeling slow the first few miles of the bike.  My mind had difficulty convincing my legs that this was a race and that we needed more power.  I gradually accepted the state of my body and settled into a good aero position while calming my mind.  This, after about 10 minutes of forcing it, worked wonders.

Your eyes are constantly on the look out for nice pavement to ride on while avoiding some nasty jibs that litter the course.  Swerving this way and that along the barren streets of LA is a grand experience.  The scene is surreal and protracted without the hum of car traffic on 4 lane roads.  It is a gross overcompensation to have skinny bikes with skinny people hogging four and five lanes of road; a splendid once a year treat for LA triathletes.

Onto the run I enjoyed the mild temperature and fell into a comfortably strong pace.  Again, it was fun to take charge of downtown streets, running a long an out and back stretch on Grand Ave with the only traffic being other runners.  Finishing is always a relief and a reward while feeling good with a quick recovery is a bonus with 2 more races the following 2 weekends.  The day suddenly turned into a leisurely one with time to converse with the other pros and enjoy the California sun.  I had a 16 mile bike ride back to Venice that helped the legs recover quickly and then spent the rest on my backside.          

One of my goals in life is to make each year better than the previous over time.  As you continue to grow and learn about yourself and the world around you it makes sense that one ought to continually seek out those activities that make you happiest.  I know for me that a major source of happiness is breathing.  Ha-ha.  What I mean is vigorous breathing, sucking down copious amounts of air.  Breathing lots of air means to me… laughing and being physically active.  A life full of being playful is Nourishment for my soul.

Until next time,
Breathe more Air…    

Triathlete Magazine, LA Times, Inside Tri Magazine

RESULTS.