Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Crescent Moon Triathlon

As readers of Amanda's blog may have already found out, we raced a sprint triathlon down in Denver on Saturday. Some valuable advice from Yoda came down the pipeline a couple weeks back: find a sprint triathlon, and don't spend the weekend flogging yourself with one more big weekend of training. As Yoda says, I do.

As we were heading down to the race early that morning, Amanda was taking advantage of the quiet time by taking a nap. I'm not too sure I've ever seen anyone sleep on the way to a race, and then win it. I, on the other hand, was hopped up on some of my finest home-brewed coffee, so I could not sleep. Plus, I was driving, so I chose to spend my time pondering various things and such.

Some of the things that crossed my mind were very boring and, therefore, not worth reporting on the blog. Others were less boring, so I'm going to report them on the blog.

The first thing to pop into my head was that I had never raced so close to the Hawaii Ironman before. Normally I spend the whole month of September training and resting and training and eating. And sleeping. I don't like to travel during this time, which makes doing big national-caliber triathlons a bit challenging. Having this race on my schedule was very appealing. It was something completely new for me, after having done eight Hawaii Ironmans over the past nine years.

What did that mean? It meant that I was getting the opportunity to do two races, not one, while enjoying the absolute best fitness I would achieve all year long. It was a strange realization, for some reason. I thought more about that as we pulled up to Cherry Creek State Park.

Getting out of the car, the next thing that came to mind was that I was very tired. The coffee seemed to be doing wonders for my attitude (I can't say the same for Amanda's) but my legs were a bit heavy. This would also be the first time I would do a race so soon after a couple of very long days of training. Thank goodness it was only a sprint!

After checking in, setting up, and getting body marked, AG and I headed out for our run warm ups. Amanda had her business to tend to, and I had mine. After twelve minutes of running, I returned to transition, and promptly sucked down a Motivator caffeine pill. The fact that I was completely out of breath on my warm up JOG meant I was in need of some outside assistance. Motivator is such a great little mental boost. Getting the equivalent of a shot or two of espresso was just what the doctor ordered. I felt ready to rumble.

We hit the water for a very short warm up (the water was 65 degrees, and wetsuits were encouraged); fortunately, I felt much better than on the run warm up. I figured I could fake it pretty well for a sprint.

The gun sounded (Darrin yelled "go") , and I was off like a shot. There was a lead kayak, and for the first time that I can remember, I was the swimmer directly behind it! Whoa! I noticed a couple others of the Elite wave trying to find my feet. I put my head down and swam absolutely flat out for the next 700 or so meters. Coming out of the water in first was nice, and marks only about the third or fourth time I have ever had that honor. Fun stuff.

Transition was about three miles long. Once I got to the bike, and my heart rate had found its way in to the upper 180s (I was actually counting it based on how many times I heard it beat), I took a look to see where the competition was. Someone was in transition with me, but based on the incredible distance that represented, I could not tell how close he was.

I hit the bike about as hard as I could. My instructions (advice, warning, so forth.) was not to kill myself on the ride, but to ease into a manageable pace. I didn't figure my fatigued legs had the luxury of letting anyone catch up, so I disregarded that plan and went for it. After what seemed like forever, I looked down at the computer to see that I had only covered 3.2 miles. Ouch. I kept the pressure up; I kept the rhythm going. I actually began to feel a bit better, and then we hit a small hill (very small hill). The hill informed my legs that they felt like shit; my legs argued back; the hill was behind me. Phew.

After glancing down at the computer four more times, still hoping to see that the ride was almost done, I finally hit what looked to be the final stretch. How is it that I can train for a 112-mile bike ride, and 20km feels like forever?

Just prior to that finish straight, it dawned on me that I am in incredible shape. I was plugging along at 30mph, pushing the pedals hard, legs aching, and remember how tired I really was... and it felt great.

I performed one of my smoothest dismounts ever (about three hundred meters from the transition racks). Then I ran my ass off to the racks, convinced that someone was about to catch me.

My transition was fairly slick: shoes on; helmet off; this is not Ironman, so there is nothing else to do; leave!

A 5k can be so much fun, and a 5k can be super painful. Sometimes the two coincide: fun and painful. This seemed to be the case on Saturday. I am pretty sure I was out of breath the entire run, and it became more and more evident why we train at altitude and race at sea level. I was huffing and puffing worse than in the warm up, and I was loving it.

A funny thing about me is that I never really care about my overall time in a race, and I don't so much care about the swim or bike splits. However, pretty much regardless of the race distance, race priority, race location, race t-shirt, or race course, I like to have a fast run time. My only goal while out there was to have the first number in my split read 16. I did not wear a watch, and I did not see any mile markers. All I knew was that I am in good shape, I was out of breath, and I was moving my legs quickly, so I must be running well.

It turns out that I narrowly missed my run time goal, but finishing first is a fine consolation. I waited for Amanda to finish (fifth overall), and we celebrated Team Lovato's strong day. It had been since the 2000 Couples Triathlon that Amanda and I had taken home victories on the same day. Here's hoping we don't have to wait another eight years for our next double!

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Cause for Paws 3K (as told by Michael)

At no point in this report will there be quite as many entertaining details, videos, photos or descriptions as are found in the version told by Amanda; however, it is my version, and it must be told.

After watching Amanda and Luna take off on their 5K run, Blue and I found ourselves in a strange environment. We found ourselves somewhere we had never been, and we found ourselves somewhere we feel we should not have to be for quite some time now.

We found ourselves amidst the non-athletes of Boulder... and amongst their dogs. Don't get me wrong, I love that every single one of those participants was there to raise money for the same great cause (paws), and every single one of those dogs was there to shake out the legs, to lay a morning steamer, and to sniff other dogs bits and pieces. It was a lovely and inspiring event, to be sure.

However, the issue that Blue Dog and I had with the 3k Walk was that we felt so OLD and NON-ATHLETIC! How had it become that we were too tired/ old/ sore/ pathetic to even participate in the 5K race? We didn't have to race it; we could have just been there jogging. Are we not capable of jogging for fun?!

I began pondering my reasons for signing up for the walk. I had specifically told Amanda that Blue Dog and I would love to join them for the Cause, but that we would not be able to run. And why not? Blue dog is built to run, and although I'm not built quite as impressively as Blue Dog, I consider myself to be a runner at heart. I love to run. Blue loves to run. Five kilometers only add up to 3.1 miles, so it's well within our capabilities. What the heck was I thinking?!

Lamely, what I was thinking was that I was too tired/ sore/ angry to be running on Saturday. I had done a healthy bit of running on Friday, I noticed zero running on my schedule for Saturday, and I was pooped. I had chosen to be smart. To be smart was not fun.

I had also thought of Blue Dog. He is now a bit of a senior citizen (sort of), and I was worried that the scorching 65 degree heat was going to be too much for him to handle. Sure, there was water (lots of it) at every corner of the race, and there was that whole clause (not cause, not paws) that stated we could stop whenever we wanted to freshen up. But I was worried about my boy. I didn't want that heat to get to him.

Consequently, we were walking with the overweight dogs (I have nothing against them, but I prefer dogs who possess an aesthetically pleasing form--full of muscles and the like); with the tiny dogs (with clothing); the huge dogs (with clothing); and their people (on phones, drinking coffee, chatting). It was beginning to make me and Blue a bit depressed. What had become of us? We were athletes, for crying out loud. We enjoy a sniff and a poop and a coffee and a phone call as much as the next guy, but give me a break... not during an event!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Lovely Weather

Yes, I realize that there is a potentially deadly hurricane headed straight for the coast of Texas. I realize that as a result of Ike there will be many cities and towns in the Southeast, South and even Southwest who will be suffering high humidity, rain, and potent winds. I realize that all of this means that others elsewhere are suffering through worse weather than we are. But I still feel I must at list mention that we are having some really gross weather here in Boulder.

You see, folks are always telling me to get out of town this time of year. Get to Austin to suffer through some hot conditions; get to San Diego to do the Hawaii build in warmth, with about 100 of my closest (German) friends; or get to Hawaii early to acclimate. I typically respond by saying that September weather in Boulder is unbeatable. We have cool mornings, and perfect days. The sun is almost always out, and the winds are variable. Riding in the mountains this time of year is very close to heaven. Running the high trails is a quick way to finding that perfect run we all love to have. And the weather is mild enough that recovery is just about perfect. My theory that too much hot training will beat you up like nothing else. My nine years of training down in Austin told me that dehydration can be the normal way of life, if not managed very carefully.

Now, as I am supposed to be heading up to Magnolia Road to enjoy one of the aforementioned runs in the Soft Mountain Air, I am looking out the window to see an absolute downpour of rain. It's not snowing here, as the temperature is in the upper 40s. However, it may well be snowing up at 8500+ feet, where my run is supposed to take place. Oh crap. I guess I should not have talked so much smack about our good weather. We are now faced with two of those inevitable Fall days (and it's not even officially Fall yet!), where the conditions are better suited to watching movies.

It is now time to rifle through my winter clothes drawers, in search of a couple water proof, wind resistant pieces of clothing. I had better dig deep, as this is going to be one of those days. I hear they have days like this, even in Australia.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Ironman Wisconsin

Thanks very much to those of you who have been so supportive of Amanda in her quest to knock off a great Ironman up in Madison. Unfortunately, about halfway through the bike ride, she was faced with another terrible bout of indigestion/ lack of food absorption, and she slowed dramatically. Coming off the bike she had very few calories in her body, as she was unable to consume anything for over two hours. She set out to tackle the marathon with hopes that she'd turn things around, but frustratingly, it was just not her day. After a bunch of walking, a bit of running, and a ton of perseverance, she is currently about 5K away from finishing the race.

Another tough day at the Ironman office should not dilute what has been a great season so far for the Gillamster. I'm sure her version of a race report will hit the blogs soon enough, but I wanted to keep the Amanda Fans in the loop, as best I can.

Thanks for all the good vibes you sent her way!! She'll live to fight another day!