Playing in Idaho

Keeping workouts simple.

I’m actually not really all that in to working out and/or exercise.  Yes, I am a professional triathlete that does a lot of training; however, for me it is really about empowered play.  I play well and I play a lot.  This makes me happy and healthy.

This week I have discovered a wonderful new play session.  Somewhat out of necessity, I got creative.  I’m racing in the chilly waters of San Francisco Bay (52 to 56 degrees) in the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon this weekend.  In order to get ready for the severe brain freeze I wanted to get in some of Idaho’s cold water.  Usually, that means a mountain lake or heading up to Lucky Peak.  But I didn’t have time for that this week.  Voila Boise River swimming in May.

I’ve swam in and down the Boise River many times but usually not until late June early July.  Right now the water temperature is around 52 degrees…perfect for acclimating to Alcatraz.

The session:

  • Don wetsuit at home grab cap and goggles and throw on some shoes I don’t mind getting soaked. 
  • Ride my bike a little under 10 minutes over to Quinn’s Lake.
  • Jump in and swim in the mid to high 60 degree water temperature at Quinn’s and swim 5 minutes over to the shore right next to the Boise River.
  • Climb out of the water and walk the few feet over to the Boise River, (right above the standing 36th street wave) and swim upstream.  The first time I did this on Tuesday I had some pretty severe brain freeze and had trouble keeping my head in the water.  The second time on Thursday I still had pretty significant brain freeze but it was not as bad.  The third time today, (Friday) I still had some brain freeze but it was so much better and easy to deal with that it really wasn’t a problem.  Hopefully, on Sunday in the SF Bay, I’m not dealing with any Ice Cream headaches while working incredibly hard to stay with some of the best swimmers in triathlon. 
  • I swim about 10 minutes against the current and inch my way ever so slightly up stream.  Then, I turn around and swim back to the starting point in about 1 minute.
  • Then, I jump back in Quinn’s Lake and it feels like bath water.  It is a great way to quickly warm up again from chilling the body, saving myself some energy.
  • After a bit more swimming, I’ll hop back on the bike in my wetsuit and pedal home for a nice shower.
  • Simple and fun way to play outside.


St Anthony’s Triathlon; racing endurance beasts and having fun

2014 St. Anthony’s Triathlon

In 2006 this was my second race as a professional.  It is stunning to reflect on the past nine year journey.  It goes much deeper than being more effective and efficient at the three basic movements of man.  The challenge to have a stronger mind and body for training and racing flows into every aspect of life.  It keeps me present, with every breath comes much joy.

Racing forces us to become deeply aware of the present moment…well, it you are racing well.  This lesson brings much joy when you apply it to everyday life; it is simple yet something you will never truly master.  Being a father and a husband and a coach are amazing things to be present for.  Digging deep into these moments is the essence of a life fulfilled.

Lolas first week biking


For over the last decade the St. Anthony triathlon has laid claim as a Spring Classic for our sport and brings out an international field of some of the best talent the world has to offer. 

The local community and the Mad Dogs Triathlon Club, in particular, really get behind the event and play wonderful hosts.  Thank you for the hospitality and the enriching experience.

It is thrilling to race with athletes from around the world that are the best at what they do.  You know the level and focus of the race will be high and you can feel the body and mind having more energy.  Channeling this energy into appropriate paths is empowering.

Nine years ago when I did this race there would be a handful of good swimmers, today there is a small army.  The challenge to stay in contact will be awesome.

When the horn sounds the marine life gets a jolt from the collective heart beats of some of the strongest people on the planet as they begin pumping blood forcefully to every muscle cell in the body.  Graceful yet fierce movement ensues.  Years of refined stroke work looks like helicopter arms flying this way and that kicking up the Tampa surf.  The effort is incredible.

It takes hours upon hours and days upon days added to years upon years to keep calm and let go while the body produces such energies.  Occasionally, it feels like being a spectator; marveling at what the body is sustaining with moments of supreme ease.  I am surrounded by whitewater on all sides from other swimmers all aggressively trying to get from point A to point B faster than all the rest.  Haven’t we been playing this game for eons?

The chop in the bay proves to be the challenge I’m seeking to make progress on the ‘hack a chop’ stroke needed to excel in such conditions.  My adjustments over the last several weeks are helpful as I move towards the front of the pack during the roughest sections, mostly by increasing my cadence.

Importantly, the whole experience is mostly fun…difficult, but thriving under tough circumstances is the joy we often seek.  I’m aware of being in the flow.  The same zone the adrenaline junkies are seeking when they find an act that forces them to be formless and completely in the moment.  For them they die with a blink of an eye mistake, for us, we just lose ground.

It is often that the ability is there, capable of much more than mind believes possible.  Much of what we do in training is not the physical act of being stronger but more about believing and knowing deep down in the heart.  Once the belief mirrors up with the ability, you’ve set the stage for powerful experiences.

One of the harder parts of racing triathlons is T1.  Standing up and running with guys that routinely throw down sub 5 min miles is challenging.  Two swimmers were off the front but I jumped on the bike near the front of the group and quickly pushed the pace.  Cam Dye took off at another level and rode away from everyone.

The rest of us either did not have the strength or the courage to pull away from the group.  I made a few attempts but my accelerations are not dramatic enough and are easy to chase down.  The bike is flat and fast and we flew over those 25 miles holding close to 30mph for the duration.  It’s fun to be on speed bikes and sustaining these efforts.

relaxed power


The next hardest part of the race is usually getting off the bike and going straight into a crazy fast mile.  I went to the front for the end of the bike and a quick transition had me starting the run in 4th position…with 10+ running stud seconds behind me.  Several of the competitors were heading out in the 4:30 mile pace range, making my low 5min pace feel inadequate.  I keep a cool and positive head about it and focus on what my abilities allow for at the moment.

I am not used to the heat of Florida coming from an Idaho spring so this effect is ever present in my mind keeping some gentle flex on my reigns.  I feel solid throughout the run and close about as strong as I started with a 13th place finish.  The racing experience was awesome.  I started the run in front of the eventual top 5 finishers and it’s very insightful to see firsthand how they race.

The 5 minutes after a race paint a descriptive picture of the state of your health based on the conditions, effort, nutrition, and fitness of your body.  I masked the heat and pain better than I realized until finishing because although I didn’t quite warrant an IV, I needed fluids and sugars to come around.  I drank 4 or 5 6oz smoothies that were provided at the finish to assist the body and feel recovered.

Family walks, setting the stage for play.

The race was empowering.  The races are a challenge that will take most to the limit of what they are capable of.  You find out a lot about who you are if you are paying attention.  Then, you find an aspect that needs further training and you dig in.  Always, a lesson.

These days I spend a lot of time training to play better.  I have the perfect mentors, we all do…our children are very good at play.  Set the stage, just like racing for it to happen.  You can’t force it but by setting the stage for play to happen you are half way there.

Here’s to empowering yourself and the ones you love to play…

St Anthony Triathlon Results 



For months you move your body in an effort to enjoy and improve efficiency.  As I run headlong into the punchy Atlantic surf you are keen to let go of the reins and feel the horse go.  It has been almost six months since my last race and the second I was out of that race due to a crash I couldn’t wait for my next opportunity.  Here in lies a valuable lesson.  Stop yourself, don’t project the future.  Align yourself with the present moment and dig in.  I got better at this as the winter months rolled along, simply enjoying the training for the movement.  Alas, I was eager for another attempt to gauge my fitness with the heart assassins we call triathletes.

The sea was gently irritated with an irregular yet consistent chop.  I hated it.  What!? I found myself reflecting?  I truly love swimming in most of its forms.  Why is this very pleasant water temperature in the beautiful ocean with subtle chop taking my mojo?   I couldn’t find a rhythm and found myself thinking, “what’s the rush guys?”  The assassins began pulling away leaving me alone in a giant ocean to fight some tiny chop on my own; they were breaking my heart far earlier than I was used to.

I stayed with the leaders for the first few moments but always fighting, everything and nothing.  Where is the flow?  When they pulled away I was almost too casual in my mind but aggressive with my body in my effort to catch back up.  The sea was relentless in tossing me into this constant state of vertigo to find the fast water.

When I put forth a stronger effort it only seemed to hinder my progress even more and I had to familiarize myself with the ‘hack a chop’ swim I had not perfected swimming in a 25 yard pool all winter.  This was humbling because my swim fitness and from was as good as ever…in a 25 yard pool.  It seemed not to be carrying over to well to the Atlantic Ocean.

This duality would prove to be a valuable learning experience.  Coming out of the water 2 minutes down to the leaders, athletes I have come out with and ahead of, forced some urgency.  Jumping on my bike I rode with all the effort my legs and heart could gather.  I had to make up ground and do it now.  Basically, I flew a couple thousand miles over to South Beach so that I could ride the highways all by myself.  There was no one, just quite roads and a guy from Idaho in his swimsuit riding his bike.  Twilight zone.  Where is everybody and what happened to racing?

You convince yourself that you are still in a race and that you will catch people.  I race my shadow.

At the turn-a-rounds my fate seems all but sealed with the leaders being what looks like miles ahead.  Gut check and character builder time.  You come in yearning for some racing and end up with a time trial.

The run proves to be much like the bike in terms of seeing any racers, but I did pass 2 and get passed by Oscar who had the fastest run split on the day.  Finishing 9th, given the swim, is awesome!

The swim ended up being one of the worst of my career coming on the heels of what I thought was some of my best form ever.  The bike and run were solid.  The first race of the year proves to be a litmus test and the results were not what I expected.

“Smooth seas make poor sailors” nautical proverb. 

I’ve learned this lesson countless times but haven’t really gotten to the root cause until now.  In the past I’ve assumed poor choppy-open-water swims were due to lack of fitness, or adaptation to longer distance without a wall.  I’ve adjusted by swimming more or harder and/or getting into LCM and out into the Idaho Lakes.  This helps to a degree but I’ve been missing the real lesson all along.

I am a distance per stroke swimmer.  11 or 12 strokes per length is average and I can hold 9 when I maximize it.  But I need to learn the ‘hack a chop’ swim style that rules the day in choppy seas.  So I’ve had to increase my tempo and/or turn over.  Unlearning something you’ve spent decades mastering is the hard part.  At first it feels like taking 3 steps back and maybe it is.

I have worked on having another card to play on race day based on the conditions.  I am getting more comfortable taking 16 strokes per length now.  I’m contrasting my shoulder and hip drive with different tempos.  It is amazing the challenges one finds in their passion after over 3 decades of work in it.

Enjoying the little lessons.