Ironman Texas 70.3

Two Ironman 70.3’s in a week. Ironman California 70.3 and Ironman Texas 70.3

Movement inspires me. I’ll be challenging my body and mind to move for as long as I breathe; my most basic need for fulfillment lies somewhere in this realm. At the moment I’m fixated on the art of moving my body from point A to B as fast as I can while incorporating 3 of the most basic forms of movement we humans have, swimming, biking, and running. We’ve been swimming and running from the very beginning and biking is man’s greatest invention to date.

There is no better way to get more competent at any skill than by struggling. It’s why we train. There’s a million ways to train, some good, some not so much. There in lies part of the fascinating challenge.

My goal in triathlon is really about optimizing my health and reaching a potential for lifelong activity that spans over a 100 years. To be good at triathlons and do it for a long time one must be extremely healthy in every aspect of their lives.

Doing two 4 hour+ races in a week puts the state of your health under a microscope. It forces one to focus and listen carefully to the bodies needs. Any flaws in the balanced healthy life equation get magnified and no matter what, there are always refinements.

12:20am 30,000 feet over Texas on April 9. My first warning sign happened while engrossed in the Kindle, reading White Russian, and trying to ignore the pilot’s comments, but I couldn’t help but notice how he summed up the weather in Houston, “Muggy”.

My next warning signs came quickly; first the slightly warm night air temperature and then getting on the car rental shuttle and being blasted with air conditioning; it made me put my sweatshirt back on.

Later that same day after a deep slumber I procrastinated assembling my bike and when it came time to give it a go around the neighborhood, I decide against it. The sun’s beaming energy had me contemplating being on Mercury as my energy evaporated just standing there. I head back into the air conditioning and put my feet up.

April 10, 5:14am. Driving to the race I take notice of the early morning conditions and see that the flags look like they are made out of tinfoil. Completely erect from the wind coming in fast off the Gulf. Mental note to self; the day is going to be tough.

Side note:

One big downer is finding out the rule change for the legal temperature to allow wetsuits is now 76 degrees for the pros in Ironmans. One word; ridiculous. ITU’s cutoff for wetsuit swims is a much more ideal 68 degrees. What should have been a delightful swim turned into an ‘uncomfortably warm’ swim.

I wish I had been smart enough to bring my sleeveless wetsuit, surprised that the 72 degree water was now legal for the pros to wear them, I never suspected. The 50 plus pro men began the race heading towards the sunrise. I did not feel like a spring chicken.

Often in good races time slows down because ones awareness is so alert and in tune that you react faster. At the start of the swim I notice immediately that my senses are not finely sharpened. The dull knife that was to be my weapon for the day made racing agonizing at times. It took encouragement from that inner voice to go faster. My reactions to the ever changing conditions of the race took a second too long. But this was expected after racing my guts out only 8 days earlier. The memories of that race a little too near; the body was not eager to go there again so soon.

Swimming without a sense of urgency after about 15 minutes a gap developed in front of me putting me in the position of leading the chase group. I scolded myself for letting it happen and tried to minimize the damage without red lining. A swimmer on my right was fortunate to have a sleeveless, Chris Lieto. This was not a good sign for me. In the last several races I obtained a good enough lead on Chris to hold off his charge on the bike past the half way point in anything from an Olympic to an Ironman distance. With only a few minutes left in the swim it looked like we’d be starting the bike together.

I came out of the water in 22nd position! Ouch! Jumping on my bike I collide with the athlete in front of me that came to a complete stop when mounting his bike. I assumed he would be doing a more graceful carry your momentum as you jump on the bike kind of mount; no…he stopped. We looked like dumb and dumber but somehow we both stayed off the pavement.

Every athlete started the bike and their first thought gravitated to the wind, the ferocious unrelenting wind. 56 more miles of this!? If you are already biking hard and white knuckling the handle bars the task seems sinister. Five miles in, I’m super thirsty and still have not gotten up the nerve to quickly grab my water bottle and drink. If I do, I’m certain the wind will blow me off the road.

I hang with Lieto (meaning I can still see him up the road) for a few miles before having one of many subtle implosions through out the race. By mile 15 Lieto catches the leaders, shortly after, his menacing pace is too much for them and he’s off to the fastest bike split on the day by a few minutes; a very impressive 2:02 with crosswinds impeding progress for most of the race.

I struggle frequently during the ride and find myself fantasizing about being out of the wind and the heat and back in some comfy air conditioning. I notice several of the pros calling it a day and I empathize with them but continue my struggle.

With 10 miles to go I reach a point of utter exhaustion. I talk myself into at least finishing the bike, thinking the run is going to be way too much for me. Yes, I’m looking for an easy way out because I know the heat is going to bake me on the run, it just seems so impossible.

I come off the bike with Axel Zeebroek and against my better judgment start running. My legs and my energy feel ok but the heat is suffocating. It works as a nice governor to my speed and I focus on nutrition. The run is 4 laps each with 4 aid stations and I hit everyone like I’m on a shopping spree. Give me everything! The ladies handing out ice were my favorite; stopping to grab two full cups and putting it down my suit. I need all of the goodies to get to the line.

Chris Lieto had a stellar race and polished off his day with a strong run to win comfortably. I love seeing a guy at 39 years old getting younger, fitter, and faster!

Thanks to the amazing support of friends, family and sponsors for this character builder of a race, the struggle will make me better and stronger and I’m grateful for your support.

2011 Hermann Memorial Ironman Texas 70.3 RESULTS

Celebration in Movement

We all have our gifts in movement. Are you cultivating yours?

The human form and its quest in the evolution on movement, scintillating and awe inspiring.

The human form in movement, when highly evolved, is anything in the universe more exceptional?

Fingers furiously dazzling the keys creating sweet harmony.

The marathon hunt plays out over days in a balance for survival.

Diving deep into the blue corralled waters on one large breath with speed and strength.

Strokes of the painters brush whisking colors of inspiration.

Dancers striking sequences of motion that flood the spirit with emotions.

A soldier defending his homeland, sparring with the enemy and landing a fateful blow.

Running vast terrain in such a short time that onlookers swear mysticism.

A swing of the arms using an instrument to hit a ball to its precise location.

Flying through the air, twisting, flipping and turning in beautiful rhythm.

Seizing the wave’s energy and transferring it into graceful, pleasurable momentum.

The fisherman surveying the river and flicking the wrist just so to land the fly over the hole.

Using gravity and slopes to skillfully descend mountains in minutes.

Seeing a newborn take their first frightful leap into a lifetime of movement.

Ironman California Dichotomy 70.3

Ironman California 70.3 Oceanside

 

Many of best athletes from around the world tread water in Oceanside Harbor waiting for the cannon when a seal swims right up to us.  The sixty pro men look much like that seal, donning their wetsuits.  Maybe he thinks we are his cousins, “hey guys, what you doing?”  For a moment the race is forgotten and I watch the seal move elegantly in the water blending into the dawn ambiance’s low light.  I mention to the guys that it would be nice to draft off him.  Time lingers.  The cannon bellows out it’s boom.  The seal maneuvers easily out of the way as we humans do our best to swim as fast as he does.  The heart rates of every swimmer shoot up about 60 beats per minute.  The next 4 hours are to be sharp contrasts of highs and lows; dichotomy cycles of calm and excitement.  The peaks and valleys that you try to smooth into some sort of equilibrium when covering 70.3 miles as fast as you can.

 

The race ebbs and flows like tides during the full moon forcing a flood of emotions to overwhelm the psyche.  When pushing your body and mind to its absolute limits this extra energy can take away from performance.  A quiet and calm mind is key for finding your true limits.  The proverbial ‘zone’ is a focus so sharp, yet so subtle that you almost feel relaxed.

Swimming out to sea from the Harbor I’m in this zone in the top five with a group of four  (Henning, Leto, Dahlz) just off the leader, Andy Potts.  Taking a quick look back after turning the farthest buoy, nearing the half way point, the gap behind us is substantial.  I’m in an absolutely brilliant position.  The chop in the ocean throws my balance but I remain undeterred.  We turn the second buoy and follow the lifeguard on the surfboard back towards the finish.  After what feels like close to fifty meters that same lifeguard is yelling and pointing to go back because we turned after the middle buoy, there was a third.  @#$#@$@!!  There is no use protesting and the four of us double back.  It takes forever, and when we get there we are now off the back end of what was the third group.

Large amounts of energy have been wasted so I settle in and pretend to be happy, still near the front of the race.  I tell myself it is fine even though the pace feels a little soft and prepare for a quick transition to the bike.  Getting out of the water I see Potts pulling out of transition and hear the speaker say he’s got a 3 minute lead on us!  Wow, we were only just off his pace until we followed the guard off course.  It takes close to three minutes to reach the bike rack and I misjudge my row and enter on the wrong side.  Rather than go around I duck under the pole squeezing through the tightly packed bikes.  It takes too long.  Those few seconds leave me off the back of many very strong bikers.  There are alarms going off in my head…I’m agitated.  The frustration does not make me go faster.

Pedaling angry burns precious fuel for the long haul ahead.  Riding in no-mans-land I can feel my mind’s focus and too much of it is on the injustice of being behind for silly mistakes when I could be closer to the front.  Forget about it, let it go, focus on the now and try to calm down.  Hard to do when pedaling your bike at breakneck speeds trying to catch athletes that do this for a living.

 

I hit a bump and my water bottle skids, rolls, and scratches on the pavement.  Again the alarms go off in my head.  This is bad.  Not only could I get a penalty but perhaps more importantly the race is only getting under way and vital nutrition is not going to reach its intended source; my belly.  The exhausting early pace and these mistakes have me frazzled.  My thoughts are negative and the race is slipping away.

It takes several miles but I calm down and narrow my focus on the simple act of riding my bike.

Finally, after 10 miles of giving chase I make contact with the lead group minus Mr. Potts.  We enter Camp Pendalton and the beautiful expanse that was California before man intervened takes shape with lush green mountain sides and little else.  I smile, perhaps I’ve gotten away with my mistakes.  I think better of it as my legs tell me they are more than a little spent.  I shelled them catching back up.

We (Reed, Leto, Dahlz, Ambrose, Henning) have been riding together for days.  The cars, parking lots, busy roads, and mass of people that is southern california recedes to a simpler time.  I can’t shake the feeling that we are on some remote island.  We are on an adventure exploring this enchanting landscape with expansive vistas; it is a scene out of Jurassic Park.  I love it.  I smile and feel like kissing my hand to the sky but keep my emotions to myself and ride with a subtle smile.  I think of my family back home.

The terrain is up and down while I’m careful to be conservative, wary of the early pacing.      We move along the mountains sides with swift speed with the lone leader now just up the road.  Going past mile marker 45 we’ve almost overtaken Potts and the race situation is promising if the seven of us reach T2 with a gap.  No sooner does the idea start tasting good than does the second group appear on the horizon behind us.

Weiss is leading a group of the sports best cyclists at a maddeningly fast pace.  With ten miles to go I throw caution to the wind and ride at speeds that set new limits for my endurance.  There is no half marathon to run after the bike, there is only staying at the front of the race, right now.

I’m riding way too hard and having flashbacks to the early part of the bike.  This time I’m OK with it because it is just racing and not because of my mistakes.  A group of 10 or 11 of us come in to T2 more or less together, I’m technically the 11th just a few seconds off the back again; a poor place to be.

The five leaders are pulling away at ridiculous speeds.  They take off running like the race just started.  It takes me a bit to find the leg speed and when I do it’s Leito, Rapp, Ambrose and myself running for 6th place.  Three miles in, Leito has fallen off the pace and I’m having a blast with a large inner smile because it feels soo good.

Seven miles in and it’s still the three of us marching along in well secured positions of 6, 7, and 8.  The leaders are two minutes ahead and there’s a good gap behind us.  I feel so good I’m planning when to make my move when we see Reed suffering.  It now looks like we are running for 5th place.

Then, my energy wanes.  It tears me apart and the image is branded into my mind as I slowly fade and Rapp and Ambrose start to gap me.  Oh no, I’m running on empty.  It came out of no where and I do my best to fight it off.  I’ve been knocked down too many times today to stay down now.  I get up and fight but the blows are landing square on my jaw.  Upper cuts and jabs and haymakers, I’m an easy target.

With only 3 miles to go, surely I can hold onto 8th place…but I get passed for 9th.  Staggering now with just under a mile to go a succession of one-two punches all but finishes me off as 3 guys pass me.  I do my best to look alive crossing the line, but I’m well done; put a fork in me.

The race was almost great, in a way it was but I’m left with a bit of a bitter taste.  I’m super happy with my fitness and the fact that I battled back.  I definitely come away from this race stronger and will call it a most valuable experience and character builder.

Thank you to the amazing support of friends, family, and sponsors that made this race possible.  Without you, I wouldn’t have been on the start line and I would have missed out on this outstanding opportunity.  You keep me strong.

RESULTS