Triathlon; A love story

Summer 2003 started with my first triathlon and ended with my first overall win at the Emmett Triathlon.  I did one triathlon and caught the bug, racing everything within driving distance of Boise that summer.  I was a 28 year kid searching for more meaning in life.  I found it in movement.  Finding myself that summer allowed something far more profound to happen.  True Love.  After all, we’re all just looking for love.

When I started I was an overweight, weekend warrior spending summers kayaking and playing water polo with winters chalk full of snowboarding and skiing.  Life was grand but too comfortable; missing the challenge that teaches you to be better.  I went from floating on the breeze of life to taking the bull by the horns and digging in.

My first triathlon in April that year I ended up 4th in the Y Spring Sprint.  I had a big lead after the swim but I’ll never forget when 50+ year old Gar Hackney road by after 10 miles like I was on a tricycle (and I had a brand new TT bike).  I was amazed at the youth and vigor a 50 year old could have.  It opened my eyes to breathing more.

I learned a lot from Gar that summer.  The two of us drove up to Coeur d’Alene, a 9 hour plus drive from Boise.  It was hot but we had the windows down the whole way.  I tried a couple times to implement the comfort of air conditioning but he wanted the 60mph warm summer breeze.  I picked his brain and he willingly shared his experience as a multiple World Champion.  As interested as I was in the details, it was the simple attitude and persona that rings true to me today.  He had a laid back, this is fun, take it with a grain of salt, yet I’m going to rip your heart out when the race starts kind of attitude.  He was going to show himself and anyone that was paying attention what was possible.  He enjoyed being outside, the people and the challenge, it was that simple.  Triathlon was an outlet for an existence that taught you to be humble, grateful and to be in constant search of your best self.

I did not finish the Olympic distance race because I tried something new on race day, after well over 100 races it is one of only 5 races, I have not finished.  Gar had already warned me about ‘nothing new on race day’.  I put some new inserts in my running shoes, thinking that wouldn’t matter, and had blisters in both of my arches that felt like I was running in a pool of blood.  I stopped at an aid station and asked a volunteer if I could borrow her socks.  I ran 300m and had to stop because it was way too late for socks.  It felt like if I kept going I would be running on stumps which would rule me out for the next Triathlon in Emmett.

My main training partner that summer was a two year old pup named Milo.  Back then there were fewer people and no leash laws in the Boise foothills and we roamed them with all the freedom of two boys at play.  He was more like a Black Panther with his athleticism and grace and it overflowed me with joy to feel his joy of running free.  He got me out the door on many occasions and taught me about the importance of the precious moments we had together.  He was ‘all in’ when we played.

I took my newfound wisdom and foundation for the sport of triathlon, thanks in large part to Milo and Gar’s counseling and applied my passion in a robust way.  Getting a large lead in the swim and holding on for dear life the rest of the way.

I’m grateful for winning the Emmett Triathlon but what I’m even more grateful for was winning the raffle after the race.  I won a super sweet full suspension mountain bike.  It was my lucky day.

Winning the mountain bike allowed me to enter the Big Blue Lake Tahoe Adventure race with my friend Hortense who had put together a team with her brother.  Our training consisted of climbing Mt Borah, riding single-track and camping in some great Idaho locations.  Milo took a quick liking to Hortense just like his dad and he was the best wingman a guy could ask for.  He knew exactly what to do and when to do it.

By the time we started the race in October, Hortense had damaged her elbow in a mtn bike crash; she still went on the trip but couldn’t race.  So we went from a coed team to an all male team and won that category, even though Hortense would have made us stronger.

We bonded in the training and on the trip; afterward Hortense and I were an official item. Milo played his role.  The rest of October and November were like a dream, I don’t know that my feet ever touched the ground.  On December 5th at a beach in Lincoln City, Oregon I proposed to Hortense.  True love took us by storm.

As Hortense and I approach our 9th anniversary on Sept 11th I reflect on the good fortunes that brought us together 10 years ago.  Thank goodness I discovered a passion that focused my life and made me a better man.  I found myself and my direction that summer, without this foundation I never would have wooed a beautiful French woman into an adventurous life with a good ole’ Idaho boy.

Gar and Milo are no longer ‘with us’ as they say, but their vibrant soul’s are alive within each person they touched while on their short journey here.  I feel them both alive and well; playing inside of us and reminding us to breath more.  With the power of hindsight, it’s clear to me that without the imprint of their soul at that time in my life…Hortense and I might not be.  A trajedy to be sure.  Funny how life has a way of working things out.  I am amazingly grateful for those experiences and the bond they helped create for Hortense and I.

Here’s to an adventurous life enriched with the sweet nectar of joy.

Love your HONEY

Y Not Race in a Wind Storm Triathlon 2013

Local coverage of the 2013 Y Not Triathlon; one to remember.

While biking the few short miles to the start of the Y Not Triathlon I hear the unmistakable noise of a tire blowing out air from a massive rupture.  Then, I feel my front wheel go flat.  I’m riding on my race wheel, and the tire is a tubular.  Because I’m on my way to race I have no replacement tire and also no phone.  When biking to a race in Boise, like I do a few times a year, I bring nothing but what I need for racing…

In a way it’s perfect timing.  I’d been racing on that particular tire for about 2 years and the sidewall was obviously damaged a while ago because I ran over nothing and it blew out.  So, now I’m stranded on the greenbelt right by the Julia Davis amphitheater.  I asked a guy if I could use his phone and he said no.  I sized up a more willing person and he happily handed over his phone no questions asked.  I called my dad and gave him the low down.  Only 30 minutes later my mom and brother, who was also racing, come to the rescue with one of my dad’s training wheels.  Little did I know having that wheel would actually be an advantage over the 808 I had on previously.

I turn down a ride from my mom and happily continue my pleasant ride down the greenbelt towards the race venue.  I’m eager to see the many kids and adults race that I have a chance to work with at the Y as a Triathlon Coach.  One of my favorite things to do is to spectate/coach at a race.  I’m all smiles and encouragement as I empathize with the heart of all the athletes.

After the kids get us all worked up and we adults see what this racing stuff is really all about, it’s our turn to have some fun.

The water is some of the cleanest you will find anywhere.  Tracing the water’s voyage from the Pacific to a cloud, to a snowflake in the mountains, to spring runoff from the Sawtooth Mountains.  The water in Parkcenter pond has barely seen a human structure when it makes its way into it.

We start with calm conditions and the sun shining.

A few minutes later; chaos.

A cloud burst with sustained 50mph winds turns little Parkcenter Pond into an imitation of a raging sea.

In the last minute of my swim I kept veering to the left, off course.  I would even over correct and then sight again only to be wide left again.  “What is my deal today?  I need to work on swimming straight?” Perplexed.  Then, I stood up next to the giant orange buoy at the finish and got tackled by it.  It was immediately obvious what was going on; the wind was HOWLING.  Trees were sideways, people were scrambling, debris was blowing, my eye were watering from particle dust and I ran to my bike like it was some sort of war zone and I had to get out of there!

I hoped on my steed and started following a police motorcycle escort which made me feel much safer.  We started dodging cones and debris, my senses on extreme alert.  We went over a bridge and a bomb went off.  Booom!  I felt the impact of it.  In bewilderment I looked over my body for damage and found everything to be in working order.  Can this race get any stranger?  The cop turned back to see what he had heard but then kept leading me.  I assumed this was just some kids with a homemade bomb that just happened to go off as we rode by?

With the wind I forced the cop to break the speed limit as we sailed.  This being a 6 mile bike with a 3 mile out and back I knew the fun wouldn’t last and braced for the turn around.  Getting there and turning into the wind forced me to eke out a 1000 watts to go 5mph on a flat road.  Thank goodness we only had to battle the wind for 3 miles.  I felt fortunate to have all my aero gear and to utilize a solid aero position with years of practice.  I empathized with those who had wind catching bikes and positions.  These guys are the heroes of the day.

I get into T2 thankful to be off the bike and go directly to where my shoes, hat, race number and sun glasses should be.  I scratch my head and look around.  Nothing.  A conversation comes back to me where a friend was joking with me that Mark Russell, my nemesis, moved my shoes.  I laughed and thought little of it until now.  “That sun-of-a-gun really moved my shoes!?”  Miffed, “he’s going to beat me?”  By now I had enlisted the help of a small army of volunteers to search for some bright colored SCOTT shoes.   We were getting nowhere fast and I started to think, “OK, the jokes on me.”  I was getting ready to run the 2 miles on the greenbelt barefoot and smear Mark Russell’s already tarnished name when I spotted the shoes several roes down wind.  Anything that light had literally blown away.  Ah-ha, finally I didn’t feel like I was standing there with my fly undone.  Back to the race.

The run was similar to the bike in that we ran with the wind for a mile and then headlong into it for a mile.  For a ‘short’ race I find this one to always be tough.  There’s a big difference between going comfortably fast in some of the longer races where as in this one it is uncomfortably fast the whole way.  It’s a marvelous challenge.

What I love most about this race is the family atmosphere.   You have ‘kids’ of all ages competing in their first triathlon and some challenging themselves to be better, everyone is celebrating something at the finish line.  I’m fortunate to be able to coach a wide variety of athletes and seeing them race is thrilling.  Becky, (pictured above in the Boise Y TriClub jersey) is one of the people I get to work with that lights up my day and the others she trains with.  We’ve been working on swimming and although I’m the coach…she’s taught me as much as I hope I’ve taught her.

My brother who is a great swimmer was set to start after my wave.  With the powerful winds the Y rightly canceled the swim so he didn’t get to do the ‘easy’ part for him.  He rarely bikes, so getting through the wind storm is an impressive feat and he crossed the finish line with a very red face.

Thank you to the racers for giving me someone to coach!  Being a service brings much fulfillment.  There are many quotes affiliated with this and this one sheds some light on part of the joys of coaching:

By learning you will teach;
by teaching you will understand.
Latin Proverb

I have learned so much by working with all of you and it brings a better understanding of what true happiness is for me.  I’m grateful for this.

Thanks Karoly for the photos!

Thank you to the Y for putting on this event and allowing us to do battle with a massive wind storm and live to tell about it.

Xterra Les Bois 2013

Single-track-bliss.  One of the most joyful ways to move in our environment is to hike, bike, or run on a single track trail. You will fall in love with your movement and the changing scene around you.  You can tap into an energy source that puts a smile on your face and pep in your legs.  You will find the answer to most of your problems and if you do it enough there will be few problems to deal with.  If only the whole world had single track trails in their ‘backyards’ to hike, bike, and run on…world peace?? Ha-ha.

Seriously, more single track trails would make so many people healthier and happier.  Could you imagine a world with scenic single track trails as a focus almost anywhere you went?  If we realized and valued the importance of simply moving around outside with a bit of adventure and exploration for all of us; we could change the world with a million miles of dirt trails.

Living one mile from downtown Boise and a half mile from access to over a hundred miles of single track has become an essential part of my health/happiness/well-being formula.  If I live anywhere else it will need this dynamic or I’ll be missing an important outlet for joy.  Unfortunately, Boise is rare indeed.

It’s been a longtime coming for the City of Singletrack to have an Xterra event to call its own.  Enter the Les Bois Triathlon (in its second year) and you’ll get a taste of what Boise can offer an outdoor enthusiast.  Lucky Peak is one of the cleaner more scenic reservoirs you can swim in anywhere.  It’s always a treat to swim in this water.  The bike is mostly rough jeep trails with a gnarly canyon descent over many rocks and boulders.  If the technical aspect of the ride is not pegged to the ceiling, your fitness is.  The run has the hardest steepest ascent you will see apart from rock climbing; any steeper and that’s what we would need to do.  Climbing the Groin, the face of Lucky Peaks Dam, will plunge the energy of the strongest runners on the planet.  It’s humbling and ohh soo rewarding to make it to the top and fly down some singletrack only to do it one more time! (Olympic course athletes do 2 laps).

As much as I love to mtn bike, not owning one keeps me at a grand total of about 7 rides in the last 2 years.  This makes me nervous with anticipation at the lack of racing experience.  Not knowing what to expect has one’s imagination running wild.  I repeatedly have to check it, stop projecting and become happy in the present moment.

The swim is close to perfect conditions with refreshing water and no chop.  Guy Crawford and I buzz out to the early lead both trying to pad some time for the bike and run against Xterra expert Chris Ganter.

My narrow swim lead evaporates as I put the first of many, many, ‘foot down’ maneuvers.  A short but very steep ascent is the culprit.  Guy took the lead and unlike last year I was able to stay with him.  This was probably the most fun I had in the entire race.  Just following his line let me relax and focus on simply going hard.  I was able to feel like a kid racing bikes until the steepest climb on the bike forced me into another foot down maneuver.  I ran up the rest of the hill keeping even with Guy until mounting the bike which took ages.  Probably due to the fact that little if any blood was getting to my brain after spiking the HR.  Then, on the next descent the first of 6 or 7 chain derailments happened.  Argh!  These really stole my mojo.  On this one like a couple others I got off to fix the chain only to get back on the bike while starting a climb in the big gear…yeah, another foot down maneuver to lift the back wheel and turn the cranks while getting in the right gear.  OK…back to racing.

I only had 3 or 4 near death experiences and only death gripped the handle bars for a few minutes this year on the rocky canyon descent.  By the time I got to the canyon for the second time I actually impersonated a somewhat skilled mtn biker and almost broke out a smile.  Getting through there the second time you are almost assured a safe finish.

I felt pretty good running until I got to the Groin.  It is awesome for spectators because the finish line is situated so that you can sit in the shade and sip on beverages chatting away with your neighbor while you watch cardiac death after cardiac death as athletes implode ‘running’ the Groin.  I felt weak and out of shape climbing it but really it’s just super difficult.  On my way up the second time I was able to watch from the nose bleeds as Chris stormed the finish line in first.

I finished way back from Chris who smoked the bike and run to pass Guy going up the Groin…ouch.  That’s a tough place to race.  And still way back from Guy.  Jeff Smith was also quite a bit in front of me by putting 10 minutes into me on the bike.  Great job gang, I’m hoping to gain some mtn bike skills by next year to keep you honest …

Hortense also raced.  This time last year Guillaume was just a couple weeks old.  This year Hortense is as strong as ever albeit, on limited training.  It’s very awesome what she was able to do to be in the mix with some very fit guys and gals in this race.  It was definitely a stretch of her fitness and a tough battle of will the last bit of the race.  She is a strong racer and an even stronger mother and wife.  I feel so fortunate to share life with her.

Thanks John Shilt!  You’ve done a great thing for Boise and you’re just getting warmed up…

Single-track-bliss = world peace; if not for the whole world then at least for you.