Wednesday, August 05, 2009

I've Moved!

All new and old blog posts are now on my new website:
Please go there for all future updates!

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Rev3 Triathlon

Revolution 3 Triathlon
Heading out to Connecticut last week for the inaugural Rev3 Tri, I was truly looking forward to the event. I had heard so much about the challenging terrain; I was anticipating a great battle with a world-class field; I was interested in seeing the cutting edge technology of the TRAKKERS devices; and, of course, I was anxious to reunite with Amanda!

My first few races this year have been solid, and my results have been good. However, each of them has had some sort of strange circumstance that somehow defines it as a less-than-ideal race situation. Just prior to California, I got a nasty stomach bug; three days before St. Croix, I had to build up a brand new bike; and I drove 1200 miles from Austin to Boulder in the days prior to Columbia. I don’t feel like the circumstances affected me too much for the worse, but I admit I was looking forward to a drama-free event.

But then again, does a drama-free event really exist?

My brilliant plan to connect with the wife in Charlotte, en route to Hartford, was foiled by a late departure out of Denver. Nonetheless, I found Amanda waiting for me in CT, eager to make the journey to our hotel; better late than never.

Day one in Connecticut was a bit dreary. The temps were low, the skies overcast. It seemed like the perfect day to rest up, while driving the bike and run courses. After covering two miles of the bike course, it became evident that Rev3 was going to be an honest test of strength and perseverance. There was not one single flat stretch of road on either discipline’s route.

By Saturday morning, the sun came out and the perfect June weather was in full effect. Amanda and I headed down to Quassy Amusement Park, the venue for Rev3. We took a dip in the Quassapaug Lake, and were pleasantly surprised to find the water clear and cool. Shortly after the practice swim, we handed out a few medals to some deserving participants of the Kids’ Race. Each youngster swam and ran a mini version of our race.

After a short jog and a spin on the bike, we headed down to the expo for the Press Conference and Pro Panel. A stellar panel was assembled for the talk, and we were lead through the paces of an entertaining yet informative chat. Looking at four past world champs on the ladies’ side, I figured Rev3 accomplished its goal of drawing one of triathlon’s most competitive fields. A few of our fellow hombres bailed out of the challenge ahead of time, and I can only suspect it was for fear of the wicked New England hills we were to face.

Race morning was clear and pleasant, a welcome contrast from Columbia, where we set up transition in the rain and cold. The wife and I were running a tad behind, so my planned swim warm up (of about 15 to 20 minutes) did not happen. As soon as I entered the water, I heard the call for swimmers to return to the beach. I got a couple strokes in, and turned to head back for the pre-race introductions and the Star Spangled Banner. I was a bit worried by having so little warm up, as there tends to be a pretty direct correlation between my swim performance in a race and the length of my warm up preceding it.

Once the gun went off, we sprinted out through the shallow water. Beach starts can be hectic, but this one was a bit mellower. We all plunged into the lake, and I positioned myself behind Richie Cunningham. I knew he would put himself in the right spot to have a good swim, and my plan was to stick with him. About four hundred meters into the swim, I found myself displaced from the main pack. I had a good group around me—Paul Amey, Leon Griffin, and the Rappstar—but I was no longer with the main contenders. I felt pretty comfortable with the pace, which was further confirmation I was losing ground to the leaders.

Exiting the water, I felt completely winded and whipped. I’m not sure how that came about, but perhaps it was due to overheating a tad in the water. Thankfully my swim cap flew off with a few hundred meters to go, and I did cool off a bit toward the finish. One of these days, I’m going to pull off a strong swim!

Out onto the bike course, I knew I had my work cut out for me. From the outset, I began applying a bit of pressure. I passed a handful of riders early in the game, one of whom was Luke Bell, who had evidently snapped a piece of his derailleur off his bike. Not good.

Nearing the 25-mile mark, and just about to make a move to catch the fifth place rider, I ran into a bit of a problem. I had just swept down a long, fast hill, turning left into a town. Within the small town, there were a few cars going about their Sunday business. The driver of one of those cars decided that the best time to make the hard right into the convenience store parking lot, presumably to pick up a pack of smokes, was just at the moment I was passing in front of the convenience store parking lot. Not good.

Being the defensive rider that I am, I had already come out of the aerobars, and was sitting up on the handlebars, brake levers in hand. And suddenly, with no signal, she turned. I hit the brakes and attempted to make the turn with her. Slam-o, wham-o, I hit the side of her car as hard as I could (actually, I probably could have hit it harder). Due to my partial turn, I managed to make contact with the side of her car, with the side of my bike/ body, instead of the far more painful alternative of slamming head first into her passenger side door.
I fell to the ground, managed to unclip the remaining clipped shoe, and bounced back up from the awkward “dead cockroach” position I had landed in. Amidst the driver’s screams of apology and shouts of innocence, I checked for damage to my bike and to my legs. (Yes, in that order.) Finding no broken parts, I jumped back on the Airfoil, and pedaled like hell to catch back up.

The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful, with the exception of the following activities: I rode up a long hill; I rode down a hill; I rode very hard up a hill; I rode down a hill; I rode very hard up another hill; I rode very hard down a big hill; I turned; I rode past two riders; I rode up more hills; I rode down more hills; and I rode hard again.

Arriving in T2, I was in fifth place. The Rappstar was close behind for much of the ride, but in the closing miles he had suffered a slow leak of the tire, and lost some ground. Despite my impression that I had finally dropped Richie, somehow—like a ghost—he magically appeared in transition in front of me. In front of me! How is that even possible? I figure he put at least 40 seconds on me, and by the time I hit the first 200 meters of the run, he must have put another 40 seconds on me. I was moving like hell to keep up, but the legs were telling me they had a different plan for me. Their plan, evidently, was to cruise along more comfortably until I got loosened up from the bike… and the bike crash.

Somewhere near the first turnaround, and after climbing what has to be one of the steepest run hills in all of triathlon, I found my stride. It’s not to say I was not running as hard as I could, or that my labored breathing couldn’t prove that, it’s just to say that I found a bit more of a natural run rhythm once I reached that five-mile mark. From then on, I continued to run hard up, up, up, and then harder down, down, down each and every hill I faced. I was feeling pretty strong, but the left side of my body was a bit tighter than it would have been, had I not tried to steamroll a Buick.

Finishing the torturous final loop of the run, which took us away from the finish line, I realized I was deadlocked in sixth place. I was happy to have pushed through the day, and even happier to have done so with zero broken bones, and very moderate bloodshed.

My goal of competing against some fast athletes on a challenging course was, of course, realized. In fact, the Rev3 tri was one of the most challenging half iron triathlons I have ever done. (And had it not been for the near perfect weather, it would have easily topped the all-time hard list.) My goal of experiencing TRAKKERS’ debut of their devices was thwarted by what can only be described as user error: I could not manage to switch the power on pre-race. And my dreams of a drama-free event will have to wait until next time!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Columbia Triathlon

Holding with my pattern of writing a race report for the last event, just before the next event, I thought I had better post a little something about Columbia.

While I have a lot to say about how much great support we get from Vigo and George (the race directors); about how great it was to return to Columbia after twelve years; about how fun it was to race hard, in an attempt to get back some speeeeed; and about how much fun we had with all our Baltimore peeps, sadly, those details will have to wait.

For now, I must only post the photograph, to show the truly important piece of hardware we brought home. Witness our success:

Thursday, May 14, 2009

St. Croix 70.3

How did I manage to wait this long to write the report?!? Not sure, but it must have had something to do with the long travel home from STX, the packing of the Austin apartment, the driving to Boulder, and the stops in Lubbock and Albuquerque along the way! Or I'm just slow.

On to the Islands!

Amanda and I have been going to St. Croix since 2000, and we have been staying with the same family since that first trip. We love the race, and we love spending time with our adopted family, the Isherwoods. It's hard to believe we've known them for this long!

The funny thing about STX and its triathlon is that we have a love/ hate relationship with one another. That does not, however, mean that I hate it; but rather that it hates me, despite the love I give it! My breakthrough day will happen some day, but in the meantime, I'll keep having fun with the event, while battling all my Vato Bad Luck in the Caribbean.

Where to begin? OK, let's just say that my pre-race plan did not involve swapping ALL the parts off my stunning orange Airfoil to my studly blue Airfoil only three days before the race. But plans are not always set in stone, and this one needed modification. Let's just say that I ended up with a broken frame, and my friend Steven at Kestrel kindly shipped a brand new one to my home stay, where I promptly unbuilt and built the bikes. Don't do anything new before the race, right? Don't make changes, right? Screw that.

I rode the bike twice to see that it worked as well as it should. Technically, I rode it three times, as the morning of the event, we pedaled five miles to the race venue. So I knew there would be no mechanicals this year. I just knew it.

Skipping back to the race report side of this blog, I'll say that my swim went very well for the first time in St. Croix. I got out fast, found a good spot, then lost the good spot. My decision not to jump the person in front of me, to make up for the fact that he (we) just got dropped from the main players, proved to be a bad call. I'll not do that again. My swimming is at a very high level right now, and it's time I put all that hard work to use on race day. That being said, this was definitely my best time relative to the others.

Exiting the water, I spotted TJ in T1, and figured he was going to be a good riding partner to bridge back up to the leaders. One place you don't want to be in this race is trailing off the pack. Drafting legally or drafting illegally, this race allows it all. If you are not in the pack, you are not in the hunt. And I wanted to be in the hunt. After coaxing TJ to ride with me, I chased as hard as I could. I would love to share the watts with you, heck, I would love to share the MPH with you, but I had nary a computing device on my bike. I figured I did not need it for this race, as the only feedback I needed was to catch, to drop, or to be dropped.

TJ did not have the legs that day, so I left him alone. Then we were both alone: not a good place to be. Nearing the most famous climb in all of triathlon, I was starting to realize I would not be catching the leaders. I had covered 20 miles, and it was time to back it off for a mile or two. This decision came just after the pothole I connected with caused my handlebars to plummet downward. In spite of carefully checking every bolt on Thursday, it turned out there was one or two that had rattled loose. It could have been the rough roads; it could have been my wrenching.

I rocked the bars back to their proper place, and I hoped they were still tight enough to hold. Next thing to happen was that I summited the Beast feeling strong, while putting the handlebar issue out of my head, for piece of mind. I recovered on the descent, before heading back to the chase. Chase, chase, chase.

With the hardest part of the bike ride being over the final 35 miles, I was in my element. It was windy, it was hilly, and I was riding strong. Again, no idea how fast, but trust me: it was fast. And strong.

Didn't I say I was going to have NO bad luck this year? Well, that went out the window with the handlebars, and it flew further away from the window at mile 43 (just passed the mile 42 aid station, for those who wonder how I knew where I was with no computer). It turns out that even after two test rides, and 43 miles of racing, a newly installed chain can settle. To settle is an odd thing... it could mean it gets loose, it could mean it gets tight. In my case, the pin must have settled in too tightly, causing the link to stiffen up BAD. After jumping off the bike to see if I could find the tight link--and after screaming a few obscenities--I determined that I was losing too much time, and jumped back on without fixing the soon-to-be annoying chain.

For 13 miles, the chain skipped severely every time it passed through the derailleur. As the Rastaman "Marshall" who rode his moto near me can attest: I expressed my anger and annoyance by yelling. Then I got over it.

Starting the run, I felt great. My run training in Austin was top-notch, in part due to the hard sessions I did in the heat (and humidity) with my training partners Derick and James. I was ready to roll, and my work was cut out for me.

Unfortunately for me and my goal of running my way to the top five, my tank was just a bit empty on that run course. I was moving very well on the down hills and flats, but just did not have my strength on the ups. My assessment was that I was bonking, as I find it's easier to push through a bonk on the downs, where the ups will show your weakness. Further clues that I was deficient were the fact that I had dropped my EFS Liquid Shot flask early in the bike ride, and I failed to consume enough "back-up" fuel, despite my better efforts.

Well, my engine burns hot, and calories burn out of me like that little piece of hamburger that falls between the cracks of your grill and sizzles and fries to a small, crispy, charred nugget. The 500 calories I took in on the bike were about 250-300 too few. And the too-little-too-late Liquid Shot I sucked down on the half marathon did not do its job until it was too late.

Nonetheless, I finished that race swearing that I'd return to someday redeem myself with a top finish. My poor home stay family is losing serious bragging rights, as "their" triathlete doesn't ever beat the other families' triathletes! I did manged to move up to eighth place, certainly not bad with the level of competition.

On the overwhelmingly positive side of things, I was ecstatic to see Amanda battling it out with a stellar women's field. She rode and ran to her potential, which is something she has not done in many, many races. I was very fired up to see her on the course, racing on Lisa B's shoulder. I could not be more proud of her, and can't wait to see her uncork on in Coeur d'Alene next month!

Friday, April 17, 2009

California 70.3

It's almost so late that it's irrelevant, but not quite. I figure I had better post a report prior to the next race, or it will be too late. Although I'm a big believer in the saying mas vale tarde que nunca!

California 70.3 has been the unofficial season opener for Team Lovato for several years now. I raced the Ironman back in '01, and we have ventured out for the half five or six times. The race has become a favorite of mine, in part due to its challenging bike course, and in part due to its competitive field.

My goals for the race were to blast out the cobwebs, as my last race was in October. The fitness had been coming up very nicely in March, and a few sessions on the bike and run indicated that I might be able to vie for a money spot out in Oceanside. About two weeks before the race, I was starting to believe I'd be ready to PR the course, and the first test of the year would be a fun one.

In addition to testing out the early-season fitness, I was eager to try out all my new equipment for the 2009 season. This was to be the maiden voyage for my Kestrel Airfoil SE, my HED3 wheels, Vision bars, Giro helmet, and Oakelys. It had been a long time since I swapped any sponsors, but the moves I have made this spring are all part of a plan to take it up a notch (with superior equipment), as I make an assault on this year's Ironman.

Back to Oceanside we went. Due to some unfortunately timed viruses, Amanda and I lost a few valuable days of training to major weight loss/ liquid diets/ couch time. We had recovered, done our best to regain the weight, and were feeling rested and ready to rumble.

Amanda's showing at a local 10K had me believing I'd be tip-top come April 4th... and that was not far off the truth.

The race got underway with a swift swim start. My swimming was going extremely well in training, and I was anxious to test myself amongst the short-coursers, and 70.3 swim studs. I got out fast, held to Bjorn's feet for a while, then settled into a nice, slightly painful rhythm. Not long into the race, our pack strung out. It was near the 800-meter mark that I found myself getting separated from the wolf pack. I'm no stranger to finding the "wrong" feet, and this is exactly what I ended up doing... again! Damn it. My apologies to the Rappstar, as it turns out he was the one whose feet I rode to the boat ramp. We weren't far back, but the time gap was enough to lose the main group's momentum.

Hitting T1 I proved that I have lost all transitional mojo from my short course days. There was a time I could light up that parking-lot-sprint like nobody's business. I might need to work on that for St. Croix. I hit the bike, grabbed the warmers for my arms, and executed a flying mount. (I have not lost all my short-course tricks.)

The first few miles were a good indicator that I was free of the bug's sluggishness, and I was in for a decent ride. Could I bridge to the leaders was the only question. The only answer was NO.

I did ride through many of the front-running swimmers, and mixed it up with some of them through the first (flatter) parts of the ride. Going through the 40k mark, I began to reel in some of the guys who were getting spit out of the main pack. I had no clue how fast I was riding, as I somehow forgot to bring a computer magnet with me to California, so I was racing without a speedometer of any kind.

In the end, I rode well, and finished feeling strong and content to chase the group up ahead. My bike split reflected the calm conditions, and I notched my fastest bike time on the course. I attribute it all to the bike, wheels, helmet and glasses.

Hitting the run I was about 20 seconds behind Rutger Beke. I enjoy racing him, and I consider him to be one of the top bike-run athletes in the sport. He has done top-three finishes here in Oceanside in the past, but this is a new era, one where 70.3s seem to be dominated by the short-course athlete.

My 70.3 run PR is on this course, as twice I've run in 1:14.xx and once 1:15.low. I believe I even out split Potts on one occasion to take home fastest run honors. However, I knew I was not in that type of run shape just yet. My goal was to hit 1:16 or thereabouts, knowing it would take a strong first 10k to do so. Sadly there was no strong first 10k in my legs. The firepower seemed to be lacking, and I opted to hold steady for the first lap.

Once onto the second lap, I began to apply a bit of pressure to see if I could find that final money spot. Bjorn was occupying it at the time, and I was closing on him. Just as I prepared to pass the Swede, a young Brit came up on my shoulder. Damn those 23-year-old ITU guys, and their damn early-season foot speed. I countered the move for about 200 meters, during which I tried to get inside his young, inexperienced head by convincing him we had three laps to run. He seemed crestfallen, and I hoped that meant he would slow the pace.

My tactic blew up in my face, as he pulled away, and I immediately realized I could not sustain that rate of locomotion. I made my way back into ninth (passing Bjorn), and assessed the gap to my pursuers.

With about 3 miles to go, I painfully scanned the horizon for a porto-potty. I was realizing that there was NO chance I'd be able to finish the run without an emergency pit stop. How did I make this error?! It seems I was a bit too hopped up on caffeine, and my body was ready to make an evacuation.

Sparing all other details, I'll just make a public apology for (gently) throwing the spectator out of the way, as she blocked the entrance to the little blue box of wonder.

Back to the race course, I was able to more swiftly cover the final 2.5 miles of the run. I was light (once again), and I was happy (once again). It turns out my 1:16 goal was pretty well off; I ran a 1:18, just barely, but crossed the line in my best overall time for this course. Sadly, my time got better, but my placing got worse.

It's good to know that I can still knock off a solid race, even when I show up to a gun fight armed with a six shooter, while the others have AK-47s.

Until my next tardy report, thanks for reading.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Mounting the Comeback

I figured it would be appropriate to write a short blog update, as I'm trying to hold with the theme that short reports are better than no reports. Plus, as a reader pointed out, the tweets don't do it for everyone!

After returning from Solvang, where I was the guest coach for, I got into a nice rhythm of training. I had turned the corner, and was feeling very strong in my workouts. A few key sessions told me that I was going to be ready to mix it up at my first race of the year: California 70.3.

I was lucky enough to log a couple of fun workouts with some good training partners. Pushing myself to keep up with James Bonney in the water was a great way to ramp up the swimming; running fast with guys like Richie Cunningham, Derrick Williamson and Bernard (cousin of Gilbert Tuhabonye and whose last name I don't know) was a nice boost to the fitness and the confidence. And riding with the group here in town, as well as individual sessions with Todd "the Buffalo" Gerlach seemed to take the cycling up a notch as well. Suffice it to say I was rolling on a high.

Then I got hit with the BUG. Marking only the second time I've gotten sick in probably ten years, I had to log some serious couch time. Fortunately for me, Amanda was a few days ahead of me with the virus, and I was able to see what was coming down the pipelines at me. Also fortunate for me was that my sister, the Physician Assistant Extraordinaire, was able to prescribe the path to wellness. And finally, I was fortunate enough to only be on the couch-based liquid diet for two days. My body fought back, and I was able to get back out and about.

Returning to training, or to exercising, I should say, was pathetic. I had lost seven pounds overnight, and was struggling to keep moving. My hydration was excellent, and I was attempting to top off my electrolytes by downing Ultragen and EFS by the gallon. To add to the overall weakness, I went off the coffee. My poor, sensitive intestines were not capable of handling the good stuff, so I was buzz free for over five days!

Amanda bounced back from her bout with the bug, and the ensuing weakness of limb, just in time for the Capitol 10,000 yesterday. It was really cool for me to see her put up a good result. Her training has been incredible, and it's been far too long since she last raced anywhere near her potential. She's on track for a solid race in Oceanside this weekend.

And seeing Amanda back in the game gave me confidence that I will be able to toe the line this weekend with a full tank. I just returned from swim practice, and I was very encouraged to make it through the entire session. Now I'm fueling up for a little jaunt on the Kestrel.

Just a word to the wise: should you find yourself battling the "big D," head straight for liquid diet of Sprite, EFS or Gatorade, Jello, and Ginger Ale. Wait it out, and don't eat ANYTHING solid until you are symptom free!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

It's Been a Long Time, I Shouldn't Have Left You...

Without a dope beat to step to.

There are some things I just can't change. I can't seem to stop referencing songs in my posts, tweets, or conversations. I love music, and sometimes I just have to quote a lyric or two. Another thing I can't seem to do: blog regularly. Admittedly, the whole Twitting project has been fun, will continue to be fun, and has taken a bit of my blog time. But I ain't gone yet!

Lately in Austin we've been signing a bit of Zeppelin or Stevie Ray Vaughn. Take your pick: "If it keeps on raining, the levee's going to break," OR, "It's floodin' down in Texas..." Either way you chose it, we've gotten a bit wet and cold. I'm not complaining though; it's been the only bad weather we've had all winter. No complaints.

However, one thing that always guarantees rainfall is a new bike. And I got one. New bike= wet and dirty roads, guaranteed. (There are no guarantees, I know.)

Why a new bike? Good question, astute reader. Javelin has been my steed of choice for four years. The company has been super supportive of my goals, my racing, my training, and everything. The bike is a great piece of equipment, and I rode it well. However, recent times have seen a bit of "disappearance" by Javelin from the Tri Scene. For good or for bad, the changes they are making have left me feeling like I wanted to be on board with a triathlon bike company that is going places.

Enter Kestrel.

Kestrel is, and always has been, an innovator in the triathlon world. They have been making cool, unique, and fast bikes for many years. And they have plans to return to the forefront of triathlon, and I plan to help them do so.

Below are some photos of my new ride, before its first trip outdoors. Zane at Jack and Adam's has been fitting me on bikes since, oh, about 1999. He knows me, and he has helped me evolve my fit over time. He's good, and he has me all set up! Thanks, bro, and thanks to Jack for everything, and to James for building up this bad boy.

Since I've gotten all thanky-thanky on this post, I'd like to send out a big, fat Gracias to Steven Harad for bringing me on the Kestrel team. We're going to have a great year!
No, my saddle is not too high, my leg is locked out on purpose.
just wait til start moving

close up!
Now I'm moving angry-style