Monday, July 24, 2006


The "to race, or not to race" question was answered on Friday morning, when I finally realized I should get off the fence, and race the local event. I had been deliberating for a while, as I wasn't sure I'd be rested enough to race, or if I'd be smart racing back-to-back weekends (with Vineman coming up).

In the end, I figured it'd be a great way to have a hard workout, to have some fun, and hopefully to make a bit of cash.

Boulder Peak always draws a tough field, mostly because half of triathlon's worldwide elite lives here or in Colorado Springs. It's a tough race, with tough competition: lots of fun! Plus, it's really the only short race I do these days, so it's hard to miss.

After truly enjoying the opportunity to sleep in our own bed the night before a race, Amanda and I rode over to the reservoir early Sunday morning; we were caffeinated and ready to roll. We got there with plenty of time to set up, and still get a nice warm up.

It's funny to note that as early as we arrived, nearly the entire women's bike rack section was full. These women were prompt! On the other hand, the men's side was very empty! Why were the men the procrastinators? And how did I end up on the early side of the equation that morning? Oh yeah, Amanda was with me!

After a nice bike ride, a short run, and a good long swim, I truly felt as ready as I was going to be. I watched the women start (they had a 14:45 head start on us), and I got myself ready to really pound out a great swim. I was practicing the old school tactic of tucking my singlet into my shorts, so I could pull it on post-swim, and avoid wearing the unitard/ one-piece/ speedsuit thingy. Everyone else seemed to have one of those on; perhaps I had misjudged. Oh well, my bare chest felt good in the slightly warm reservoir waters.

At the gun I was in position. 2.3 seconds after the gun I was still in position. 2.4 seconds after the gun, I was in dead last. Ok that's an exaggeration, but I was not in the front. It was strange how quickly I was gapped. Normally my problem with the swim is NOT the first few hundred meters. Normally, I excel at that part. This time, however, I was getting dropped. I fell in line with someone, and hoped to hold onto his feet. Sure enough I held his feet; however, what I had not counted on was that he lost the feet in front of him. We were dropped for real.

I exited the water unsure of my deficit. The encouraging words sure did encourage me: I thought I really was "just a bit behind". People sure are optimistic, and I love that about them. Turns out I was 60-90 seconds behind all the contenders. Not good. Not good for a two-hour race anyway. Ah well, the dismal swim was behind me!

Onto the bike I began my assault. My primary performance goal was to break an hour on the tough 26-mile bike course. I felt like I could do it, and I set out to prove myself right.

About two-thirds of the way up Old Stage ( 14% grade hill of about a mile), I realized I would not be able to sustain the torrid attack I was dishing out. I had passed two or three guys on the first bit of the climb, but the strength it took to push the massive 42-tooth chain ring up that incline was too great for my muscles to sustain. I needed to sit down and rest a bit. I sat and rested a bit.

I regained the momentum near the top, and set myself back to the task of crushing the bike course. Could I still break the hour with this short break? If my equally massive 55-tooth chain ring had anything to do with it, yes. I pushed and pushed and passed and passed. Before I knew it, I was gaining on the front group.

After jumping off the bike, I headed out on the run with last year's 3rd place finisher (so the race announcer informed me). I was feeling great, and surprisingly was not feeling the effects of the hard bike ride. It goes to show that all this IM training does wonders for the strength!

Within about a mile, I moved into fifth place. I was running well, and I thought I'd be able to perhaps close on fourth. I rounded the first of five turns (triple out-and-back run course), and made it most of the way back before "running well" turned into "running? well, barely". Ok not barely running, but it felt bad. I realized that I was in serious oxygen debt. It sure felt like asthma, but I think it was just me suffering. I eased up, and let the breathing return to normal. After an easier mile, I tried to build back to my fast pace for the next three or four. This time the breathing problem converted itself into some sort of diabolical side stitch. It had been a while since I had one of those (at the last Boulder Peak I raced), and I forgot how to handle them. OUCH. I realized there would be no catching of fourth, and it didn't look like there'd be any catching from behind, so I dealt with the last few miles, and the cramp.

I crossed the line in fifth, one spot better than I had ever finished at Boulder Peak. I was pleased with my effort; happy that I got some speed work in, in prep for my upcoming half; and glad to have participated in such a great local race. The run course was lined with tons of my friends, all screaming and yelling for us. I loved that part, and I look forward to doing another hometown event!

As for the bike time, well, I almost did it: 1:00.23. Next year I won't take that break part way up the climb!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Bob Roll is talking about the Pain Bank Account. The Tour de France is on, and today's stage is one of the most famous: Alpe d'Huez. Bob Roll is a funny man with a funny vocabulary; a funny way of expressing himself. And right now he's talking about the Pain Bank Account. It started me thinking: is there such a thing?

He reasoned that the cyclists who are truly competitive in the Tour have several years' training, racing, and 'pain-building' in them; therefore, they are able to make withdrawals from their accounts when the going gets tough. They can only make those withdrawals when the account is full; after years of suffering. The younger amateur racers are not able to tap into the account, because it's not been topped off. In essence, they have not put in the work; not paid their dues. Is this why Lance has been so successful with the sport? His Pain Bank Account has had many deposits, from years of racing to battling cancer. Perhaps Bob is onto something.

It starts me thinking of my own Pain Bank Account. It starts me wondering how much of an impact my prior Ironman races have had on my success at my most recent race. Did the suffering and pain I endured in Lake Placid in 2000 help me hold on for the win in Tempe? And by that logic, did the pain I handled in Arizona serve as a hefty deposit to my Account; one that will be there for future races over the Ironman distance?

Only time will tell if my ability to endure the hardships; to accept the pain; to manage the discomfort will have reached a new level. From my current experience in training and training races, I feel I have already managed to up the ante with my personal pain tolerance. I feel that the effort I extended in April at Tempe Town Lake has enabled me to grow my net worth, in a Pain Bank Account sort of way.

Come October I'll be interested to see what's there when I begin to make some withdrawals. I look forward to seeing what is there when I go a-lookin'.

Friday, July 07, 2006

As you can tell from the photo, the Beach Bum triathlon is a triathlon that takes place right there on the beach. And I don't mean that only the swim and run take place there; the whole darn thing, bike included, is right there on the beach. Fortunately for us, the beach sand is very hard packed, which makes for more pleasant riding conditions. Some folks even braved it on their road bikes!

The race went off with a 500-meter swim in the ocean. I love swimming in the ocean at Hilton Head Island. It's not the clearest water I've been in, but the temp is just right. Ten or twelve years ago, I worked on the beach with Shore Beach Service and every morning before putting on the lifeguard hat, I'd take a nice swim in that very sea.

Back to the race. I started out hard, but found myself in fourth place by the first turn buoy, fifty meters out. Rounding the turn, I managed to take a better line for buoy number two, and I took the lead. Just as I was noticing two competitors off to my right, and after realizing my feet were no longer being tapped, I found myself taking a bit of a beating from the left. Or was I doing the beating? Perhaps a bit of both.

I took a breath on that side to see who was my company. Turns out that Christie, a former HHI High School swimmer (and soon to be Western Kentucky swim stud) was matching me stroke for stroke. We rounded the final turn together, after my numerous attempts to pull ahead of her. I waited to see which of us would hit the better waves coming in, but we ended up right about together. I hit solid ground and stood up, only to see Christie (and Radek Parnica, the local tri stud) bolt out of the sea without me. I was proud of Christie for putting the whupping on me, and for keeping me honest in the swim. She's one to look out for in the swimming world.

Next up was a six-mile beach ride. I had borrowed a mountain bike for this leg of the race, so I made my way to transition to find my ride. Once there I carefully dripped bottled water on my feet before putting on my trusty Type A's (greatest shoes out there!). I didn't want to get any sand-induced blisters. I know, that was pretty weak...

The bike ride was tough! Actually, it was much harder than I anticipated. We did a mile and a half with the wind, three miles into the wind, and finished with a mile and a half with the wind. Six miles never seemed so tough! The mountain bike did me proud, and I managed to ride flat-out for most of the way, to be certain I'd have a lead starting the run.

Note: riding a mountain bike flat-out on the beach might leave the back a bit tight. Fortunately, this tightness doesn't last long, probably a result of the short duration of riding. I hobbled a few steps, then found my stride. About midway to the turnaround, I realized it was stinking humid out there. Wow, I forgot what it's like to run mid-morning, on the beach, in South Carolina, in July. Streaking down the beach, amongst the morning beachgoers, wearing my flashy Splish briefs and a number belt was a unique experience. Were it not for the number belt, I might have gotten a few (dozen) more strange looks.

I crossed the line in first, and eagerly awaited the stream of happy (and hot and sandy and dirty and sweaty) beach bums to follow. What a great event! Our reward (in addition to an abundance of sandwich creme cookies) for finishing the beach bum tri was awaiting us: top ten in the 40+ and 39 and under categories was a highly coveted coconut monkey. Mine, upon further examination, turned out to be a pirate (not a monkey dressed as a pirate, as initially thought).

I hope I get a chance to race with all the Hilton Head and Go Tri Sports crew again. I really enjoyed being out there with some class-act locals, such as Jack and Nick Felix, John John Alvarez, Papa Alvarez, Christie, and many more.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Here is a photo from the Beach Bum Triathlon. This shot is post-race with a fellow named Jack Felix. He's only 12 now, but he's one heck of a triathlete. Be sure to remember his name, because you're sure to see him down the road, in whatever sport he chooses to pursue.

Thanks very much to Splish ( for setting me up with a the perfect swim suit for this event!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

I got the opportunity to come to Hilton Head Island, SC this weekend for a fun trip. The goal was to chat with the local triathletes, to do a fun race, and to visit with my sister, Steph, and her beau, Huggy Bear Hays. I had a lot of fun with the crew from Go Tri Sports, and I'll be writing all about it very soon. In the meantime, here is what the local reporter thought of my showing:

More on that later!

Those race initials always remind me of a sandwich. But what would the "S" be?

As promised, I'm getting to the Lubbock race report, and only a week late. Normally I'd be two weeks late, so this is progress. Depending on how long this takes, I might even offer up a second race report, which would be nearly same-day coverage!

As most of you know (probably from reading others' more timely race reports), race morning was strangely cool. The skies were overcast, and there seemed to be thunderstorms in and around Lubbock. Once again, those storms we had leaving Boulder were proving to be prophetic.

Amanda and I were very good about getting an early start this time. We had been so late for the rest of the week, that it came as quite a surprise that we arrived at the lake just a couple minutes past 5:00am. Not too shabby. After we put our bikes together, we headed down the steep hill to transition. It's always fun to be heading to race start in pitch black: feels more adventurous. Too bad we didn't think to bring a headlamp.

This was one of those mornings where set-up was pretty smooth and seamless. I had transition put together early enough to have a short warm-up jog and a brief chat with Stephanie and my mom. I didn't get to see Luna and Blue, who were hanging out with our friend Debbie, but it was probably for the best, as they'd have wanted to get in the lake with me.

I got in the lake with ten or fifteen minutes to spare, intent to have a long enough warm up. I always do a lot better with a long slow swim prior to the start. I got ten or twelve minutes in before it was time to go. I was very happy with the start of the swim, as I found a good snappy rhythm right away. Things got a bit rough, but I was able to find a couple of fast feet right from the outset. Those feet turned out to be Andrea's, which generally means I'm in a good spot. I looked the left, and saw Jamie's sleeveless suit, so I knew I was doing alright. After the first couple turns, I actually found myself pulling around Andrea to take the lead. It's not often that I feel strong enough to leave the draft of the fast swimmers, so I must have been feeling pretty good. The truth was that I felt pretty comfortable, and I wanted to be sure that we kept the pressure on, as I was doing battle for swim preme honors. (Todd Gerlach and I were racing double or nothing on our bet from Arizona, where he put my swim time to shame.) However, I only lasted about 400-500 meters at best. I was feeling good, but he efforts up front started to take their toll. I needed to get back in a draft, and conveniently, Jamie and Andrea were tired of following my crooked line around the buoys, so they regained control. The rest of the swim was smooth, and I very happily exited the mis-measured swim in just over 22 minutes: 22:09 to be precise.

For the inquiring minds, Todd's swim was 22:11, so I managed to win myself back to zero. We now have the face-off swim challenge championship on October 21st, out in Hawaii. Wish me luck: Macadamia Nut Pies are at stake here.

Out on the bike, I took the first four miles a bit conservatively. I had managed to jack my saddle up, by mis-landing a flying mount out of transition: too much pressure on the back end, and the nose was pointing right... up.... there...

After I figured out how to manage the off-kilter saddle, and after deciding not to stop to fix it, I made chase. I made the pass on Jamie and Viktor just before the ten mile marker. I knew that Jamie was familiar with the course (and normally quite strong on this type of bike course), so I put a nice hard surge to distance myself from them. I set my sights on James and Marcel, the next duo up the road.

I realized that I was not making any ground on these guys, unless I was on a flat section into the wind. For some reason, I wasn't riding the tailwind sections very well. Fortunately, there was a long, hard headwind section coming up, so I bided my time. Once we got there, I really put the pedal to the metal, and tried to reel them in. I managed to close about a 25-second gap within approximately two miles. I knew this was good, as it meant I should be able to pass them, and leave them behind.

Just as I caught them, we took a turn with the wind (and approached a down hill). I sat up to recover briefly from my effort, and to take some fuel, and I proceeded to watch James and Marcel drop me. My plan had not worked quite so well. Oops.

I am still not sure if I used too much gas in catching them, or if I was off in some other capacity, but the next fifteen miles were very challenging for me. I watched Marcel and James leave me behind. I saw Simon and Luke continue to increase their leads, and I watched my pursuers gain ground. I was particularly frustrated to ride very poorly on the two more challenging climbs. I was not strong, and I did not like it.

As we made the turn for home (and after I struggled up the final winding hill through the tree tunnel), I began to come around again. I managed to increase the effort, and the speed. Near the end of the ride, I finally caught back up to James, who was clearly not having his best BSLT bike ride!

As I passed him, he encouraged me to get under that 4-hour barrier, as we were just nearing the 2:40 mark. I encouraged him to come with me on the run, but noted that we should ease into the pace. Knowing that course as well as he and I do, I figured we'd have the advantage when all the "rookies" blew up out in the Texas Heat.

Well, turns out we were having some sort of West Texas Cold Front instead. While it was definitely warm, there were no egg-frying asphalt sections, like in years past. Too bad, as any chance I had of out-smarting and out-strengthing Luke and Simon went out the window. They were quite far down the road out-speeding me! Well done, fellas!

I ended up moving into third by the time we reached the Energy Lab II. I was intent to hold that spot, as a podium finish is always a nice way to wrap up a day of racing. However, and as usual, this is a big HOWEVER, I noticed my old buddy Viktor was stalking me quite closely.

I put the hammer down, and never looked back. I figured I could hold him off for a while, and if he caught me, I'd try to out-kick him to the finish. Well, this plan didn't exactly come to be realized, as Viktor made his way to my shoulder by mile seven. I led him down and up the hills at miles eight and nine, throwing surges at him left and right. When I realized I couldn't drop him on the down, I tried to drop him on the up. When I realized I could not drop him on the up, I tried to drop him on the flat. When I realized I could not drop him on the flat, I tried to drop him on the headwind section entering the park.

Viktor was smart and Viktor was strong, and in the end, Viktor was the victor: he finally came around me just before the dangerous mile-ten descent back down to the lake. He wisely let me do the work, sized me up, and responded to my every move. He barely came by me, and opened a small gap. It seemed that his plan was to throw down on that hill, hoping I'd not be able to match his down hill speed. He was right. He gapped me just enough, so that as we rounded the turn that begins the final 5k to home, I had cracked. I tried to up the ante, but my efforts to ditch him left me cooked.

In the back of my head, I hoped to stay strong enough to reel him back in, but up front I was hurting. At the run turnaround I had the chance to see that the others were far enough back that, barring a catastrophic meltdown, I would not get caught. This little bit of knowledge was all it took for me to justify a "cruise" back to the finish. After all, I fought my fight, and fourth place with a 4:02 was not going to be all that bad. In fact, it was my fastest time on the course, and a heck of a lot better than my 7:50 from 2002!

Thanks for reading... check in soon for news of the Beach Bum Triathlon on Hilton Head Island!