Friday, October 27, 2006

For those of you who are checking in for the Hawaii Ironman report, scroll down a bit further, and you'll find it. I just wanted to send out a big, fat THANK YOU to all of you who sent me good luck notes, and well-wishing before the race. I've been away from the computer a bit more than usual the past two weeks, so I've not had a ton of time to reply to emails. Rest assured, I'll get back with you all very soon. I appreciate everyone's support and interest. Keep checking back in, as it's now off-season, and lack of time can no longer be my tardy-blog excuse!
I'm finally back home in Boulder, and I've finally found my way to the computer, so I thought I'd send out the initial race report... who am I kidding? As long as I'm reporting, I might as well give the blow-by-blow version. Sit back and grab some popcorn, 'cause here I go:

They said the swim was rough; they said it was slow. I can look at the times and realize that the fastest folks were about four minutes off what they normally swim. I can look at my deficit to those top swimmers and say that this was my best ever Hawaii swim. With the goal of coming out with the main group, I positioned myself right behind Cam Brown, a guy I have swum with in the past, but never in Hawaii. He is always in a desirable spot, so I joined him. Well, for a little while anyway. I got edged off his feet as we were joined by a larger group of little fishies. I settled for another set (and ultimately another couple sets) of feet, and rode the wave to the turnaround. I am pretty sure that those up front faced a pretty mean current coming home, so this would explain why, on the hardest swim day in recent years, I felt very relaxed.

I zipped through T1, intent to catch or maintain contact with whomever had beaten me out. I did a good job, as I ended up passing some pretty fast swimmers very early on the bike. Things were looking good, and my legs were feeling great.

I made my way to the front of the chasing group, by the time we left town and hit the Queen K. By the airport, my charge found my at the very front, as I anticipated reacahing the leaders. Early on two things became evident: there was no wind to slow us down, and I was not catching any leaders!

As I made my way out, under an uncharacteristically overcast sky, I began to wonder if I had gone out too hard. My plan was to ride pretty darn fast for the first ten to fifteen miles, but then to settle into a steady pace, perhaps with a group. What I had not anticipated was how angry and agitated I would become with other riders packed so closely around me. I made several attempts to bridge up to the lead group, while dropping those around me. Each time I would find myself alone for several minutes, but ultimately being caught back up by the groups behind me.

After fifty miles of this cat-and-mouse (cat-and-mice) riding, I began to feel the effects of my surges: my quads were really starting to ache. I made my way up the rollers toward Hawi, at which point I was swallowed up by the front end of a very, very large group: probably 30+ guys. I patiently waited for the final uphill push toward Hawi: seven miles into a typically stiff headwind. On the day there was no headwind, but I still managed to break away one final time. I charged ahead, with only one other rider in tow. Entering Hawi and approaching the turn, I was confident that I could finally make the break stick.

On the return trip back down to Kawaihae, I really hit a solid brick wall. I felt nowhere near as good as I had anticipated feeling, and was forced to let a small group of six ride away from me. I figured that with a slight break, I could catch them back up with a strong push over the final thirty miles. However, the quads were very achey, and they never seemed to come around, as they tend to do around mile 80. I was in for it!

For the next thirty minutes or so, I continued to question myself: why did I let other athletes and what they were doing draw me out of my race plan; why did I get so angry at their riding tactics and strategies; why did I not stay within and race my race; why did I not just sit in, as the other athletes had no problem doing? These questions kept plaguing me; in fact, the fact that I was dwelling on these questions was plaguing me. For the first time in recent memory, my mental strength of staying within the moment, and racing positively in my own race had let me down.

With about fifteen miles to go, I found a second wind (or should I say my quads found a second wind), and I finished well: I even picked up a few folks who had blown as well.

Starting the run, I was a few spaces out of the top twenty: a place I had begun the marathon before. I was confident that I could overturn my mental and physical let-down from the bike, and run my way into the top ten: a revised goal for me.

Knowing very well that many folks never make it out of the Alii Drive out-and-back, I bided my time for the first ten miles. I found a groove, and held several comfortable 6:20's, waiting until the Queen K to increase the pressure. I knew, just knew, that once the sun came out, I would be right there to pick up the pieces of those before me who had gone out hard.

I waited for the sun to come out. I waited for that perfect moment to begin my push. I waited for the carnage that typifies the Kona Coast marathon. I waited and waited. I needed that brutal heat.

I have to say that I am still a bit shocked that the suffering never happened: the heat never hit us, and the flies never dropped. The top fifteen to twenty guys seemed to hold steady, in the same order throughout. I did move up a handful of spots, and lost one spot along the way; however, the normal attrition rate on the Queen K was strangely absent. Just as the bike ride was strangely windless, the marathon gave us little to no sunshine, and very mild conditions.

To top things off, the damage I had done myself on the bike was preventing me from running fast. I pushed and pushed; built and built, but I gained very little ground, as I anticipated doing. I was stuck in a no-man's land. I had ridden myself out of contention.

In 2005 I truly learned what it was like to have a bad race. Being forced to a walk, and finishing 395th was a humbling experience. And now to finish back in the top twenty, and to do so with my second-fastest time on the course, I can only be pleased with the result. Even still, I must say that I am a bit disappointed to fall so far short of my goals; however, the race taught me a very valuable lesson, one that will surely aid me in next year's quest for a top finish.

After two years with mild conditions out on the Big Island, I can only assume that next year will be a brutal one. In a strange way, I look forward to this, as I have no doubt that with the normal wind and heat, this year's outcome would have been very different for a lot of people.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Earthquakes and dolphins are on my mind. I'm here in Kona, and have finally found my way to a wireless hotspot for an update. Thanks for being patient and for checking in again.

Yesterday's tremors work me up from a sound sleep. At first I thought it was a violent thunderstorm, as we've been having A LOT of rain this week. When I realized it was an earthquake, my instincts made me roll over and cover Amanda, in case the ceiling fan ripped out and crushed us. That would have been quite dramatic. That did not happen, but I felt quite heroic nonetheless. Fortunately for us, our condo is fairly new and well built, so Amanda and I did not have to evacuate, as some of our counterparts have reported doing. Aside from slowing down the start of our day, our plans were not disturbed too terribly much.

Last week Amanda and I went for a really nice swim. We set out to conquer the entire swim loop, but at an easy pace with plenty of stops to chat and see the sights. Turns out there were plenty of sights to see: about 12-15 dolphins! On the return trip, I popped up to wait for Amanda, and while floating in the pristine salt water, I spotted a handful of dorsal fins poking just above the surface of the water. After a slit-second of 'are these sharks?!' panic, I realized they were our friends: some playful dolphins.

We enjoyed watching them splish-splash about, jumping and flipping, gliding and flopping. It was amazing. We went on our way, and they on theirs, but moments later we caught up with them again, further down the way. This time they swam below us upside down, and seemed to head back out to sea. What a fun-loving animal! And what a great experience for us both!

Aside from those two noteworthy events, most of our week has been the Kona Norm. We've done some nice rides and runs; we took a great drive to Hawi for some exercise and delicious sushi; we've lounged about; and we had a great birthday dinner (mine was the 14th) with our friends Graham and Sue.

It's now Monday, and the official start of Race Week. It has begun to get a bit more crowded around town, and the reality of the pending competition is becoming more clear. I love it.

I have some a couple photos of myself and Amanda in our comfy Kona condo. I plan to use that surf board after the race, by the way!

More later, as the good stuff is only just beginning!


Saturday, October 07, 2006

Ironman North America TV schedule:

>Ironman North America events to air on OLN/Versus
>Boulder, CO Ð Ironman North America will partner with the Versus network
>(formerly OLN) to air the five full Ironman events held in the continental
>United States. These national broadcasts on the Versus network (US) are
>scheduled for October and November at the times show on the schedule below
>(all time ET).
>October 8, 2006 3:00 pm Ford Ironman Arizona
>October 9, 2006 4:00 pm Ford Ironman Arizona
>October 10, 2006 1:00 am Ford Ironman Arizona
>October 11, 2006 5:00 pm Ford Ironman Arizona
>October 15, 2006 3:00 pm Ford Ironman Coeur dÕAlene
>October 15, 2006 6:00 pm Ford Ironman Coeur dÕAlene
>October 16, 2006 4:00 pm Ford Ironman Coeur dÕAlene
>October 17, 2006 12:30 am Ford Ironman Coeur dÕAlene
>October 18, 2006 5:00 pm Ford Ironman Coeur dÕAlene
>October 22, 2006 3:00 pm Ford Ironman USA Lake Placid
>October 23, 2006 4:00 pm Ford Ironman USA Lake Placid
>October 24, 2006 1:30 am Ford Ironman USA Lake Placid
>October 25, 2006 5:00 pm Ford Ironman USA Lake Placid
>October 29, 2006 3:00 pm Ford Ironman Wisconsin
>October 30, 2006 4:00 pm Ford Ironman Wisconsin
>November 5, 2006 3:00 pm Ironman 70.3 St. Croix
>November 6, 2006 4:00 pm Ironman 70.3 St. Croix
>November 26, 2006 3:00 pm Ford Ironman Florida
>November 27, 2006 4:00 pm Ford Ironman Florida

As long as I'm posting photos, I thought that I'd show you all a couple of fun pieces of equipment I'll be using in Hawaii. First, the kind folks at Saucony have created a custom pair of shoes for me. These are a standard pair of their triathlon-specific shoe, the Type A, but with a couple new grahpics. Thanks to Saucony for making me feel very special out there... it's gotta be the shoes!

And next up is my Rudy Project aero helmet. It's a standard Syton Open helmet, but jazzed up a bit courtesy of Fitz Graphix, a local auto body detail shop. It's scary, so beware!

That's it for now. I've got to get to sleep, as tomorrow is the final short brick workout here in Boulder before we head off to the Big Island.

Thanks for checking in on me.

Oh, and for those who are interested in seeing a bit of triathlon on TV, I'm attaching the OLN schedule for Ironman North America events. Tomorrow just happen to be IM Arizona, so I definitely recommend tuning in!

The past several days have been fun for me. As the taper progresses, I have found myself entering the phase where I am really enjoying a boost in energy. And with a boost in energy comes a boost in blog posts!

First off, I wanted to post a picture I took today while riding with my friend John Alvarez. John is here visiting from Hilton Head Island, and he's going to be taking care of our house, our dogs, and our cat while Amanda and I are in Hawaii. We headed out for an easy spin this afternoon, and this photo proves that. It also proves that I occasionally live dangerously, not unlike Austin Powers, as I snapped this one at about 20mph. I slowed a bit so things wouldn't be too blurry.

Monday, October 02, 2006

For those of you who don't believe that I'm really back, I'm here now to prove you wrong... or to prove myself right. I keep telling myself that I'm back, so that I'll really be back.

The past few days have been really nice. Saturday and Sunday both gave us a rare Septempber venture into the eighties! On both days I rode my bike up South St Vrain canyon: once on Saturday with Amanda, and once on Sunday alone. The most beautiful thing about the ride was the abundance of aspen trees with gorgeous yellow leaves. I would, in fact, be posting a picture of the stunning town of Raymond for all to see... had I only remembered my camera on these rides. Unfortunately, the camera was still sitting on the table by the door, when I reached into my jersey pocket to grab it. Bummer.

Thanks for checking in, and yes, I really am back. More later.