Monday, December 7, 2015

The Beer Mile World Championships

For many, the Beer Mile World Championship sounds like a contradiction or something made up.  The not new, but newly popular beer mile is growing in popularity every day.  Drink a beer, run a lap, and then repeat.  This event, typically ran by college seniors after the conclusion of their college career, is now a professional sport with serious cash, endorsements, and talk show appearances on the line.  Why I believe this event is gaining such rampant publicity is because it combines drinking with a small dose of running that most Americans can relate to.  It's great to hear about this event on big radio shows, such as Bobby Bones in the morning, or top talk shows, such as Ellen.  Even better is watching top athletes try thinking it's easy only to completely fail or not finish.  Even Lunchbox, a sidekick to Bobby Bones, had a sub par attempt, just like Lance Armstrong.  I hear crazy stories of people who ran fast times only to later learn they drank low alcohol content beers or threw up, and both are against the rules.

On Tuesday, I raced in my second beer mile World Championship hosted by FloTrack in Austin.  This event is truly a first class event in every way.  The staff are spot on with great organization, management, and publicity.  I cannot adequately put into words how much fun I have had racing.  I know the question most ask is, "Why the beer mile?" or "What kind of image am I portraying to younger runners?"  My response to that is that this event isn't an event that coincides with the training cycle of a college athlete.  As a coach, I believe it would be a very bad idea for a college athlete to try and prepare for or race right as indoor season is beginning.  This is an event for post collegiate athletes who are over 21 yrs of age.  I do not drink and drive; I haven't nor would I ever drink with one of my collegiate athletes.  This is a fun event for those of age without a serious race to focus on in the near future.  The majority of the elites are training for this event as their focus and not hoping to race other big races during this time.  So, once again, I believe the beer mile should be a post college event ran for fun if one chooses to.  As for my particular race I was disappointed with my 6:30 finish time.  The provided beer was a very good tasting beer but the problem was the temperature.  I struggled drinking quickly as the ice cold beer felt like a freezing knife sliding down my throat.  The only time when one would want look warm beer would be to chug.  It cost me a good 30 seconds or I would have hit my goal of breaking 6flat.  I look forward to next year and hopefully breaking that 6min barrior!     

I want to thank all the amazing athletes I ran with and hung out with, the people of Flotrack, and my family for putting up with my never ending adventure that they cheer me through.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Lovelend L2L

Was the vial half full or half empty?  Well, in my case it was more than half, it was full to the top, full of my blood that the doctors took last Wednesday in hopes of figuring out why I was struggling in all my running workouts.  Despite a great start to the summer, my legs had stalled, and I was not progressing.  My interval times were slower than in years past, recovery runs felt like tempos, and a long run was more like a crawl.  With this said, my swimming was going well, and my biking was about average.  So, I looked to the doctors in hopes of discovering some imbalance or something that they could give me to magically bring back a spark in my running.  Sadly, the doctor informed me that I was the picture of perfect health and perhaps I just needed more rest.

So, whether the vial is half empty or half full is a question of views based on one being optimistic or pessimistic.  I like to think of myself as an optimist who keeps reality close by.  Realistically, I knew I could finish the Loveland Lake 2 Lake Triathlon, optimistically I thought I could be top 3 of the elites and pessimistically, I thought I might drown or wreck my bike coming down Horsetooth.

As I exited the water after what had felt like a smooth swim, I knew I was behind.  Throughout the swim I felt sluggish and figured I should stay smooth and relaxed, knowing there would be a lot of time to play catch up on this difficult bike course.  I did not count on giving the top competition a 10 minute head start.  Somehow I managed my worst Olympic distance swim since my first ever race.  Once I realized this fact, I was immediately shocked as swimming had been the one ray of light in my training.  Choosing to not abandon my optimistic views, I knew I had to stay composed and simply bike my legs into a new pain threshold and then hope to run the fastest split of the day, and I might be back in contention.

Throughout the bike segment, I felt uncomfortable but yet strong.  I simply kept pushing a bigger ring and stayed aggressive on the down hills while dancing on my pedals on every uphill.  This was risky knowing that this could cost me my run as it did in Mexico, but I had little choice if I wanted a chance for redemption.  When I finally made it back to transition, I had clocked my fastest bike split on this course by over 2 and a half minutes.  That dug into my deficit a little, but there was still ground that needed making up.         

It was time to run and to run fast.  I took the extra 15 seconds to put socks on which I normally forgo, but with the heat and sweat I knew if I was really going to roll, I would not want the pain and blood of blisters plaguing me later.  The run course was an out and back which gave me the opportunity to see my competition face to face.  With three miles to go I knew I was too far out of it for a top 3 but continued to push and fought my way back to the 6th place of Elite.  In doing so, I had clocked the fastest 10K of the day by anyone and had run my personal best there, as well as also biking my personal best.

After the race I kept wondering how did I bike and run so well when the workouts hadn't reflected me being anywhere near ready to lay down such a fast time?  I came to the same conclusion I tell my athletes all the time.  "If the effort is there in workouts, and you believe you can run fast on race day, anything is possible."

I was extremely blessed to have my mom there to cheer me on.  A little encouragement goes a long ways.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

My USA Duathlon National Championship

As I drove home to Simla, CO, from my training home in Colorado Springs, my nerves began to grow with each mile.  Was my bike packed safely?  Was the workout on Tuesday too intense for my lack of elevation acclimation?  The questions kept growing, as did the black clouds overhead.  As I started to look around more, the storm chasers were driving crazy and were all over the place.  They made me feel more uneasy about the storm that was brewing.  It wasn't long and my parents were ready to drive me to DIA, but as the time came, so did the hail, the wind, and the funnel clouds.  My nerves quickly shifted from my race to wondering if my parents' home would be standing when we returned.  Luckily, the storm went past with just small hail damage, and we were able to make it to the airport with funnel clouds to the southwest but not on our ranch.

Exiting the plane and having English as the language of choice, I knew I could get a taxi and things were going to be less complicated here than in Mexico.  The following day I checked out some of the course on my bike and felt very relaxed and prepared.

On race morning, my wake-up call rang, and the fear of being late rang through my mind, but after hanging up the phone, I saw I was just fine.  I'm not sure what it is about hotel phones, but they have the most obnoxious ring.  Anyway, as I went to shower, my mind read through the quote I had picked for this race.  "What would you attempt today if you knew you could not fail?"  I knew that this was not my typical triathlon, but instead the USA Duathlon Championships.  I was confident that I could go with the leaders from the beginning, unlike with a swim start in a triathlon.  I would not fail regardless of the pace; I would go with them.

The race began with a blistering sub 5 minute pace for the leaders with me coming across at 5 flat.  After 2.5 miles, the top 5 settled down, and I cruised into transition at 15:52 for the 5k.  With hills, wind, and several 180 degree turns, I felt great.  We all quickly grabbed our bikes and were out to attack this 3 loop course that started with a brutal hill at the beginning of each loop.  I knew that the Duathlon distances favored the cyclist, and it wouldn't be too long before I would be getting passed.  However, after 2 loops there hadn't been but a few pass me.  I got to the last lap and decided that no matter what, no one would pass me.  I held true to that promise and clocked my best bike split at 57:47.  It was now time to run, but sadly I had no one around me and went out too slow, running 6 flat for my first mile.  When I saw this, I freaked and took off to run under 5:20 the next two miles and finished feeling very good with a time of 1:32:05.

Looking back, I am very pleased with my 11th place finish, knowing there was only one man in my age group who could beat me at this distance.  I had a great mindset coming in and felt confident I had prepared well. There was, however, a question a friend asked me after the race which was how much motivation came from my father and his recent cancer surgery.  The mindset one carries into any race can make more of a difference than any amount of training.  While I have used happiness, anger, and even fear to drive me in different races, if I could choose I would rather be relaxed and confident than overwhelmed with any emotion.  I knew just the word cancer sparks fear into my mind.  While my dad has successfully undergone surgery and is doing great, the thought of losing him would be an emotion that I may not be able to control.  This I knew, and this is why I did my very best to focus on my training, my faith, and the confidence that comes from being prepared.  After the race, I said my prayers, thanking God for His blessings on my race and my father's recent surgery.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

My Monterrey 70.3

I have always lived a life of organization.  Everything needs to be organized, categorized, alphabetized and so on.  So when it comes to training, I like to do the same.  I set out the best training plan that I can fit into my life that my body can handle and start rolling.  Monterrey 70.3 was the earliest I had ever competed in a triathlon; so, this was a bit of an experiment.  After coming back from injury, I felt extremely fit, and I believe it showed in many areas of my race.  When I arrived in Mexico, I had a stressful first evening trying to get a taxi and get to the hotel as I speak zero Spanish.  After finally making it to the hotel quite late, I realized that not only had my bag been open when it came out on the carousel but that my cell phone charger and Ipad charger were both gone. 

After a night of sleep, I headed to the swim start area to take a swim and get used to the water and canal that I would be swimming in.  I was able to get in a smooth but very cold dip in the water.  Then, I picked up my packet and headed on a journey to find a cell phone charger.  Luckily at a local outdoor mall I was able to find what I needed and with pointing and hand gestures I had a new cell phone charger.  My bad luck was now behind me and I was ready to go to the hotel and relax all afternoon. 

When I arrived back in my hotel room, the maid had cleaned my room and nicely put my swim cap, timing chip, and free bag on the bed.  However, something was missing.  IT WAS MY BIB NUMBERS for the bike, helmet, and run number.  She must have thrown the white envelope away.  I ripped the room apart looking and hoping to find it, but with no luck.  Instead of relaxing for the afternoon, I traveled the mile walk through town to the bike area to try and get new numbers or come up with a plan.  Sadly all I got from the race was that I could not race without a number, but I could check back at 5 p.m. with the director for other options.  By the time I got back to the hotel it was time for final prep of the bike and to head back to the check in with my bike.  The race director said I could make my own numbers or not race.  This is not what I had wanted, as I am the OCD organized type, and this unorganized screw up was really stressing me out.  So, with my dad's suggestion I found an Office Max and bought shipping labels.  I turned my dinner and evening into an art project as I fashioned new bike, helmet, and bib numbers with a black Sharpie and a pocket knife. 

Finally, the race was here, I had prepared as best as I could, and it was time to go.  Or was it?  The past few years I have been blessed to be able to compete as an elite/pro triathlete.  This is highly beneficial because the elites go off and leave me in the water giving me plenty of space and clear line to swim.  This time, however, I was racing as an age group athlete, and my wave took off over an hour after the professionals.   So, when I finally did start, the canal was full of athletes that I would spend the next 1.2 miles trying to swim over and around.  When I finally exited the water, the rain began to fall.  The elites had nearly finished a bike lap by then with their earlier start, but unfortunately I would be biking the full 56.2 miles in a downpour of rain. 
Despite the rain, I managed my fastest bike split on a 70.3 even with a rough back cramp the last 16 miles.  What gives me even more confidence for future races is the fact that I had to walk my bike up a hill on both laps due to the pouring rain on slick cobble stones that prevented people from biking up.  As I took off on the run, I knew to go out conservative, but cool weather mixed with moisture was like a dream come true.  I flew through the first few miles picking off hundreds of age groupers who I had been catching all day.  There was only one problem.  I was starving.  I had been hungry since 35 miles into the bike.  Looking back, I should have taken on more fuel, but with the cooler temperature I felt good, so I hadn’t eaten my last two gels on the bike.  By mile 8, I felt dizzy and sick.  I knew I had to walk and start eating at every aid station or this trip wouldn’t even produce a finishing time.  So, for four miles I jogged very slowly and walked every aid station eating oranges, gels and drinking Gatorade.  Finally, midway through mile 11, I felt a little better and put a last decent surge in to finish at 4 hours and 55 min.  This was a solid 25 min slower than I had hoped for, but when I consider the 20-25 min slower than projected run, a crowded swim course, and walking on the bike portion, I have to be happy with my effort. 

This was not my fastest race, but it was a successful one due to the fact that I finished. What I can take from this race is a greater sense of responsibility for organization.  While I thought I had it all figured out, life threw me a curve ball, and now I will be more prepared in the future.  Nearly five hours of competing with no one to talk to, and not even a single fan to say "Good Job" in English; perhaps they were cheering in Spanish, but needless to say it was a lonely day if I wouldn’t have had my faith.  The constant conversation in prayer with Jesus pushes me, reassures me when I want to quit, and helps me to overcome obstacles I never thought possible.  I owe a special thank you to my mom who spent tons of time on the phone and researching this race trying to use her Spanish and travel background to help me in every way possible.  With all the stresses of this trip she did a fantastic job of keeping me calm and helping me through.  My dad I also need to thank as it was his idea to use office labels to make my creative numbers, and without that I would have wasted a trip.  I am blessed to have such a strong relationship with my Savior and with my amazing parents that he gave me.  

Friday, March 13, 2015

Leading into Monterrey 70.3

In just a couple days I will be at another starting line anticipating the gun.  After racing so many times for many years, I rarely feel the nervous, exciting feeling where you might just vomit, and in all
honesty I kind of miss experiencing that.  I have not raced since the Chile Pepper XC festival in September where my feet gave out.  Now, with rest and three months of training, I am hoping that I stacked the deck in my favor.

When it comes to racing, you can stack the deck in your favor.  This doesn't promise a perfect race, but I'd rather be as prepared as possible and fail knowing I left it all out there than half ass it and get destroyed by the competition.

Sleep.. a plan I stick to is when I figure out what time I'm waking up on race day and count back 8-9 hours, and that is my bedtime for a week leading into the race.  This allows my body to develop a sleep rhythm.  Lack of consistent sleep is an overlooked ingredient to success.

The A race, coming from the man who loves to race, race, race.  I know that I do much better when I pick out important races aka "A" race.  By training for one specific race, I hope that I haven't peaked early or over exerted myself on a "B" or lower race.  Getting in a couple easy races that are spread out to test fitness wouldn't have been a bad idea for most, but with my nagging injuries I knew to steer clear of too many races.

I have never been as diligent in eating healthy as I should.  I did make one huge advance in racing nutrition by finiding the perfect gel for me which happens to be the Honey Stinger fruit punch gel.  Hopefully this will keep me firing with high energy throughout the race and avoiding the bonk.

One last ingredient to my success will and always has been my faith.  It's that trust in God that I am using the gifts He has blessed me with that allows a true sense of fulfillment.  It doesn't matter if I'm injured or healthy, racing well or poorly.  It's the attitude in which I conduct myself that matters.  Each day that God blesses me with, I will be joyful and make the most of it.

So I am rested, minus a little plantar problems, I would say I am healthy.  My all around fitness and anaerobic capacity is very high and my faith is at an all time high.  So, I chose the cards in my hand, now I just have to wait until Sunday to see what the dealer has in store.  Ironman Monterrey 70.3 here I come ready to finish fast in my new lime green Brooks T7's!