Pacific Crest 2013
Hortense and I have been racing at the Pacific Crest triathlon on and off now for 10 years. It’s a wonderful place to be and fun for the whole family. We love coming to Oregon; it is a sweet state and has bountiful exploration opportunities; we get a taste of it each time we drive over from Boise. This year, with Guillaume and Lola turning 1 & 3 in July, we traveled for the first time without them. I think it ends up being great for the kids and grandparents while Hortense and I get to miss the kids and be a couple with ‘free time’. While Hortense will be the first to say she didn’t get any reading done, we did have time to talk about our kids (of course), and plan for the summer (mostly beach and mountain excursions) and dream together about how we’d like our lives to unfold. There is so much to do and experience and see and learn; never a dull moment.
Three weeks ago at the Boise 70.3 I got sick the night before the race and brazenly started anyway having to stop during the bike. It was gratifying to start the event and in some ways easier to deal with because I at least got a taste of racing. However, that massive effort allowed the virus to sink its teeth deeper into my system and although I’m pretty good now, it’s still lingering a bit today. Ahh, the power of hindsight. One of the more difficult issues with that was camping with the family the next weekend and being too sick to go on any solid endurance excursions. It’s not always wise to sacrifice one moment for another.
Fast forward to Pacific Crest race week and déjà vu, this time Hortense catches the same symptoms. Sympathizing is too easy with my cut barely healed. We have to recognize the value, forcing further reflection on the lessons to be learned. At least we understand each other pretty well, both of us ‘looking in the mirror’. Her fitness is back to strong as or even stronger than 4 years ago when she got pregnant with Lola. It was going to be fun to see what she could do with her newfound mom fitness. Later in the summer she will be back to full strength and celebrating her fitness and appreciating it that much more.
That is exactly what I did; appreciate the simple fact that I was healthy enough to race. Simple pleasures bring the most joy.
8:45am July 29th
Setting up in transition I notice my sparring partner for the day on the other side of the fence dressed like a normal guy, i.e. not wearing his superman cape. Matt Lieto then lets me know that he is not racing due to some stomach issues. I sympathize well with the choice of not doing the hometown race and admire his wisdom. My first instinct when he told me this was disappointment in not having the competition. I’d rather get second place in a battle with a good performance, learning something about myself in the process than win easily. Then, the race started.
I assumed the lack of spunk in the early part of the swim was because I didn’t get in a warm up for the first race in a long time. It helped to reinforce the importance of a solid swim warm up if I want to feel ‘it’ in the beginning of the race. I started the process of shutting down the mind and finding the flow. First, I felt the awesomeness of the refreshingly clean water and the wonderful scenic mountain views. Then, I enjoyed the balance and effort of my body. Sometime after that I became a swimmer in the truest sense. I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude.
Recognizing moments of flow in your daily life is like connecting with the source of life. It’s what I’m seeking out in my races that teach me so much about being. I’ve discovered that this is an ancient concept called Satori. Learning to apply satori to all aspects of life is a key to understanding who we are. Satori is a state of being, a Zen concept, it occurs the moment the mind is free of thought, pure awareness; the body is active, sensitive, relaxed, and the emotions are open and free. When meditating an action, you’ve released all thought, even the thought ‘I’. There’s no ‘you’ left to do it. In forgetting yourself, you become what you do; your action is free, spontaneous, without ambition, inhibition, or fear.
Become the swimmer, biker, runner, dancer, musician, gardener, walker, surfer, kayaker, SUP’er, painter, skier, skater, sailor, archer, climber, gamer, footballer, rower, bowler, diver, skater, adventurer, or whatever it is ‘you’ do.
I love challenging movement coupled with exploration. The movement and exploration can take many forms and be on many different levels. These moments bring me closer to the source of pure joy. I know on a certain level we are all here to play, I like to play hard.
I often feel like a much younger version of my 38 year old self when racing and more importantly ‘playing’. When I can lose myself in the game or the challenge, time flies because the mind takes a back seat to being and yet the moment can last for eternity.
Starting the Pacific Crest Bike course one should be giddy with excitement. The ride up and around Mt. Bachelor is breath-taking. No, it truly takes your breath away as we climb up close to 7,000ft. But you can be awed by the splendor around you and magically find more power for your cranks.
72.3 miles of racing is a long time to find your flow especially when doing it solo. It helped to have the duathletes out on the bike course before us and give me both some people to catch and share the suffering with. I enjoy giving everyone I passed some words of encouragement, usually a ‘good effort, keep it up’. Much better than yelling, ‘on your left’. I get pumped when I see guys and gals with a decade or two on me out there tearing up the course but everyone is inspiring in their own way.
Around mile 30 the climbing and the temperature start heating up. I felt like I had been nailing my nutrition. I ate two of my mom’s homemade goodness, Jete Bars, and drank Osmo. It was also my first time racing without any salt tablets! I know crazy, right!? I may be one of the world’s heaviest and saltiest sweaters. If I’m not thee guy…I’m one of the guys. So I did this with some trepidation but also confident that I had done my homework and prepared well. At mile 30, I knew that I was on it.
Every racer has to grit their teeth and enjoy the views of high mountain lakes with Mt Bachelor in the background for the next 8 miles. Getting to the top is satisfying and super fun. Like magic the road turns to glassy asphalt and 8 to 15% descents. You could ride the next 14 miles without a pedal stroke or blast down the mountain at 50+ miles per hour spinning out in your biggest gear.
The mile markers start to click off in a blur, seconds apart 40, 41, 42, 43… The dichotomy of slow strong pedaling to fast spinning tires the legs before finishing out a flat last few miles requiring effort to go fast.
Starting the run, we all truly feel the heat of the day without the built in air conditioning on our bikes. It’s not awful but its high altitude mid 80’s heat and has to be respected. I spent my first few miles hydrating with some Osmo preload easing myself into the effort of closing out a half marathon in an event with 72.3 miles of racing. I’ve learned the hard way a few times, that blinking on your fueling on a day like today for even 10 minutes can have extreme consequences.
Around mile 3 at an aid station I tossed my bottle and felt like I began running in earnest. At the aid stations I generally had to stop to ensure getting some ice to pour down my suit, some water for pouring on my head and another for drinking. I wanted to maintain strong form throughout the run and that meant staying hydrated and cool.
I was able to enjoy the run. A big win considering running mile after mile on a hot day used to mean instant suffering. I was able to smile and enjoy the volunteers while soaking in the scenery and the effort my body sustained. It’s really satisfying to move your body so far and thrive. I think it fills a deeper urge in all of us to explore our boundaries whatever they may be.
I’ve never felt so good finishing a Long Course Triathlon and much of that had to do with applying a sound nutrition plan on a hot day in the high central Oregon Mountains. I felt the gratitude. Thankful to be healthy and celebrating my fitness with friends and family. I’ve definitely learned to appreciate the top end health when it is there, each of us will lose it here and there. Be grateful when you have got it.
Be thankful, do it now.
Special thanks to Scott Running for supporting this awesome event, it’s a privilege to be running with the best endurance equipment available. Ditto Scott Sports for the biking equipment. Thanks to Aqua Sphere for allowing me the joy of swimming in amazing bodies of water all over the world. Thanks to CEP for not only the compression but also the sun protection and cooling. Thanks to the Y TriClub for enriching my life everyday with coaching and training opportunities abound.