The LaceUp running series came to Southern California this year, with four racing days in Ventura, Palos Verdes, Irvine, and Riverside, respectively. My friend, Michael John, was the lead ambassador to this series and asked me to join. This entailed a few free race entries, so I ran the Ventura half marathon (1:24 and change after a long bike the day before), paced (1:30) the Irvine race the weekend before, and opted to race the Riverside half marathon.
While this was my fourth half marathon in three months, it would be only my second seriously raced half marathon this year. Previously, I posted a 1:17 at the Sendai International Half Marathon in May. The Riverside half marathon was my last full-on effort of the year and it came after a few weeks of a challenging build period, so while I was somewhat tapered for the event I was still a bit sore. That said, it was only a half marathon so I wasn't sweating it too much.
The race started and ended in Fairmount Park and spent the bulk of the run on the Santa Ana River Trail (SART). I lined up at the start close to the front and a few skinny guys with short shorts stood next to me. This is usually a death sentence in long distance running. As we started about six or seven guys were in front of me (including a few in the 10K) but by about four minutes I was in the top five. We ran up a hill to begin, down the hill, along a short flat, then back up a hill, then hung a right on Mission Inn Avenue. This is a fairly long descent that would be fun running back up at mile 12. The guy with really short shorts who I suspected was going to win was way out in front by the time we hit the Santa Ana River Trail. My buddy, Michael John, stayed strong through the first two miles but had to drop back a bit after that so he wouldn't blow up.
By mile four or so we hung a left off of the trail and into a neighborhood. My average pace was around 5:45/mile, and around this time I passed the third placed guy who was fading fast. As I passed him I stayed wide and then surged for about 20 seconds to make sure I could drop him. I had been hoping to keep my heart rate around 169-170 beats per minute (as that is what I had averaged in Sendai). But by mile 4-5 my heart rate started to drop closer to 165-166 bpm. I just could not hold the higher pace, and the guy in front of me (second place) was starting to create some distance. My right achilles/calf was also still a bit tight and I was really struggling but by about mile six we came back onto the SART and I started to see runners making their way onto the neighborhood loop. This was very helpful as it helped my motivation.
Back on the SART, I got back into my rhythm -- although by this time my pace was averaging closer to 5:50 on my Garmin watch. As I passed the mile markers I started to realize that the distance did not quite meet my Garmin. That is, the mile markers said we were at eight miles but my watch said 7.9 miles. We wended along the trail that had some short inclines and declines and finally made the turnaround around 9 miles. This meant I just had to run four miles back along the way we came. The next two miles were made a bit easier by seeing runners coming the other way. I saw a few people I knew and we encouraged one another. The last two miles were basically just booking it along the flat trail then making the long, steep climb up Mission Inn Avenue. I started passing some of the slower 10K runners/walkers at this point as I really dug deep all the way to the finish. I came across in third place in 1:15:30 or thereabouts, just only about two minutes back from the winner.
Overall, it was a good, but challenging, race for me. The combination of the inclines (which was not crazy but still hard for a PR race), lack of crowds/fan support, and the fact that I was basically running alone for 3/4s of the race posed a unique challenge. But in the end, it was good fun, and afterwards I had a blast with some of my friends hanging out in the beer garden.
My last major big race of the year came in early November, when I traveled to Lake Havasu City, AZ, not for Spring Break but rather to participate in the HITS Triathlon Festival. Last December I competed in the HITS Palm Springs Full Ironman distance race, so I knew precisely what to expect from the Havasu race. HITS is a national triathlon brand with a local flavor. Relative to WTC (Ironman brand) races, HITS races are not so competitive as there are few if any professionals/elites; however, the prices and customer service are much more reasonable. That said, anyone who participates in triathlon seriously has heard of HITS and likely has raced an event if it is within a few hours drive of their home. All of this is a long-winded professorial way of saying I usually have a chance to win a HITS race outright. Undoubtedly, this is exciting: there is nothing better than charging towards the finish line knowing you are the best athlete on the day.
Leading up to the race I was probably in my best fitness all year as I had done two half-ironmans in the previous two months and had remained injury-free. In addition, I had trained consistently all year long with a few weeks off after Ironman CDA in July. I was eager to see what times I could post as this was the first half-ironman this year for me that did not involve over 2700 feet of elevation gain on the bike and heat and hills on the run.
However, I was not well tapered for the race, as my legs were still exhibiting signs of soreness from the previous weekend’s 90 mile 7K elevation bike and 1:24 half marathon effort, as well as a tough track workout on Tuesday. This is because while the race was important to me, I have already started to shift my focus towards Ironman Texas, which is my first marque race of 2015. Nevertheless, I hit the road after work on Friday and drove the four-ish hours out to Lake Havasu to do some damage. The drive is beautiful replete with a desert sunset. As I explained to Sarah, “everyone else is here for fun, I came to do business.” But given my late drive I did not get a chance to view the course beforehand.
Per usual, I selected a campground within a mile or two from the race start. This made getting to the race on race-morning very easy and continues my trend of camping during ironman weekends. The only downside was that the run leg went right by my tent, twice. I would have to fight the urge to take a quick nap. I showed up to the race a little before 5 am, and it turned out I was the first person there. This turned out to be a good thing because I got everything handled with plenty of time and had the chance to get in a good warm-up. I saw some nice bikes but also some not-so nice ones, a las, this was not the 70.3 World Championships where I got a healthy dose of bicycle inferiority. In transition, I saw Coach Tony and Sinta, who seem to be at all my races lately. They’re unflappable!
Eventually I strapped on my wetsuit and walked down with everyone else to the beach start. I took in a gel with some water and then waited for about 15-20 minutes for the race to start. I’m usually blah before race start as I don’t drink a caffeine stimulant like coffee when I get up. I made sure to take a gel with a little caffeine in it and this perked me up a bit. After the National Anthem I got in a quick swim warm-up and then lined up in front.
The metaphorical gun banged once again and off we went. I focused on separating myself from the other hooligans and drafting as much as possible until the first buoy. I then turned left and swam into the sun. Eventually the pace settled in and I worked on rotating my hips more than I had in the past. The lead group separated but they were not too far ahead of me. I swam next to a few other guys/gals until the next buoy where we hung another left and caught a few people. Around this time, or shortly before, I unfortunately clocked some guy in the head. I apologized, “sorry man,” and hoped that it was good for his character. Always apologize when you do this because the last thing you want is some guy to tackle you and spike your heart-rate. Coming around the last buoy I felt like I was moving sort of slowly, but I kept another swimmer in my sights and tried to match her pace. Eventually we came to the end, and I started kicking my legs hard for the last hundred meters or so to prepare for the transition to bipedalism. I came out of the water, looked at my watch, and it said 28 minutes and change. This surprised me as I had never swum under 30 minutes in a half ironman. Perhaps the distance was a little short, but I’ll take it (for the record, triathletes only complain when the distance is too long...).
The transition was very fast as our bikes were basically on water’s edge – it really is a perfect setting with palm trees everywhere, etc. The other nice thing about HITS races is they give you a stool. I raced to my stool, sat down and got my wetsuit off more quickly than usual. I then put on my glasses and helmet and was heading out of T-1. The whole arrangement took a little less than 1:40, and I think it was the fastest on the day.
I moved onto the bike, made a few powerful pedal strokes and then velcroed one foot into my bike shoe then the other. My most successful swim-to-bike transition to date. My heart-rate was in the low 160s, and my adrenaline was pumping, so I started firing on the bike right away. A minute or two into the ride I put down a gel and took in some Heed electrolyte drink. I started the bike in 16th place or so, but there were people in my sights right away. Given my faster-than-usual swim I did not have as much ground to make up as what I’m used to.
I was mowing people down on the bike and by about 4-5 miles in I passed a guy who appeared to be in first place. He trailed me for a bit as we made our way through some no-pass twists and turns but as the road opened up he was gone. By mile 9-10 I passed a volunteer and asked him what place I was in. He said second, and that I was a few minutes back. Usually when an athlete puts that much time on everyone else on the swim in a race like this they are either mostly a one-trick pony or just way better than everyone else. I banked on number 1 so I kept firing.
The bike course is out and back, which you do twice. However, the turn-around is not a traditional turn-around but rather a loop through some extremely steep hilly sections. So I did not get a look at the leader. On my way back into town I asked another volunteer around mile 20 how far back was I, and they said about 1:30. Well, at the turn-around at transition I finally saw the leader and he was just making his way out of the transition and back up the short incline. This truly would have been disappointing for him. I had made up about 7 minutes on this guy in the first lap, and was planning on putting some more into him on the second lap. I caught him about 2 miles or so later and the nice thing was he was following a motorcycle escort.
As I came up on him I stepped on the gas so-to-speak and bumped my heart-rate up about 4-5 bpms for the next 5 minutes. I wanted to create as much separation as possible. I turned around and he was nowhere to be seen. I then followed the motorcycle the rest of the way posting a 2:23 bike split, which was about 13 minutes faster than the second fastest bike split. Even though the bike elevation gain was just 1700 feet or so, the slower split resulted in uneven roads and the course layout which involved several turns and slow sections that altogether probably tagged on at least 5 minutes. It was a blast, however, following the motorcycle because people (mainly other athletes) cheer you on as you fly by. This gives you much energy and I stayed positive as I hammered it into T-2. And unlike previous half-ironmans I managed to conserve my energy such that by mile 40 and 50, I was still feeling pretty strong and did not have that, “oh shit, my power is gone” feeling at all. I figured this augured well for the run.
I wracked my bike and heard the announcer say my name and that I was the first participant back into transition. I was in and out very quickly and out onto the run. I felt alright, better than in the past, but it takes about 2 miles to tell how you’re going to fare. I kept my heartbeat in the low 150 bpm region, which gave me a 6:20-6:30 pace for the time-being. I hung a right down into my campground and hit the first aide station. True to volunteer form, they were completely unprepared for me and I actually had to stop for a second and pick up the water. Luckily I had one spare gel with me so I chomped that just before hitting the station. I continued my pace through the campground and up the hill back onto the main looped road. In the process I saw my tent, it looked so lonely, but I decided to save the metaphysics for later. Upon exiting the campground there is a straightaway with full sun exposure and another aide station in the distance. I kept my pace consistent along this route, occasionally turning around to see if I could spot anyone. No one was in sight except bicyclists making their rounds. Many were giving me major props as they knew I was the leader. It’s quite an amazing feeling and this spurred me on.
I continued this basically for the rest of the run, but my pace slowed a bit on the second loop as the heat began to crop up a bit. The heat was just manageable, any hotter and the pace would have slowed considerably I think. Even though I knew I was probably way ahead I wanted to post a fast time so I decided to up my effort a bit to maintain my overall pace. Honestly, this was the best I had felt during a half-ironman, where normally by mile 8 I am regretting my decision to race. I thus bumped up my heartbeat to the high 150s, occasionally dipping into the low 160s. I maintained this as I continued my passing of first-loopers. We congratulated one-another on our excellent efforts, which is always a nice bit of camaraderie. The last two miles were a slog as my pace but not my effort dipped a little bit. Nonetheless I rolled across the finish line in first with a time of 4:18:38, posting a 1:24:37 run, my fastest half-iron run to date. Looking at the final results, the win was never really in doubt. Overall, it was a quality performance. Winning first in any race is exciting, but winning with a good time is more important to me. To boot, I won an Xterra wetsuit, a wireless mp3 player, and a Crowie-style fuel-belt.
In sum, this was definitely a break-out performance for me, as not too many amateurs go under 4:20 in even the most favorable conditions. My hard and consistent work, and my focus on diet, sleep, and learning as much as I can about triathlon training and preparation have all taken time to make their effects felt. But the rewards – even if mostly symbolic and ceremonial (i.e., no cash payments) -- are certainly worth it. Triathlon has made me a sharper, more critical thinker, and helps me deal with the various rigors and stresses of life -- I feel very fortunate and recognize my privilege to be able to participate in and afford this sport when others cannot. Thanks to Coach-Tony, Sinta Trocolli, and other Triathlon Connection folks for their support during and after the race, as well as Mark Wilson, the HITS Race Director, who is one of the kindest people I have met in the sport and a great ambassador (not that Tony and Sinta are not also kind!).
The Silverman 70.3 was held October 5th just outside of Las Vegas, NV, the site of the former 70.3 World Championships. The course is renown for its difficulty due to several factors: elevation gain on the bike, wind, brutal heat, constant incline or decline on the run, and extreme sun exposure. Given these conditions, one may wonder why someone would be so stupid as to register for such a race. But endurance athletes always like a good challenge and more importantly like to go around bragging about how hard of a race they just completed. It's one of those things where you regret registering for a race two hours into the race, curse yourself for the next two hours, and then are elated once you are finished. Also, because I am at a point in my career where I'm entertaining the possibility of placing high in my age group at most of these events, that means I'm usually in contention for a podium finish and/or qualifying ticket to World's the following year. Furthermore, because bike climbing tends to play to my advantage, I probably have a stronger potential to do well at a Silverman compared to a flat bike course relative to the rest of the field. With rationale enumerated, off to the race.
I headed out to Vegas on Friday, October 3rd, and planned the drive well enough to avoid Friday gambling traffic. I headed straight to the expo at Henderson Pavilion in beautiful suburban Henderson, NV. There I had the great fortune to see some of my Triathlon Connection friends. This would be a group affair as there were about 10-12 people racing from the triathlon club with which I am affiliated. From Henderson, I drove directly to the Boulder Beach campground at Lake Mead and pitched a tent. It turns out I camped within a mile of the starting line. I ate a little food and before I knew it it was getting dark. I tried reading for a while but was exhausted from the travel, etc., and as soon as dark hit I fell asleep waking at 6am the next day. This gave me over 10 hours of sleep. Awesome!
I had about two hours of working out to do, so I went down to the swim start and got in a 30 minute swim. It's nice to be so close to the swim site, as I was one of the first athletes to get their swim in for the day. After the swim, I did an hour ride where I mixed in two to four four minute tempo pacing intervals in conjunction with several 10 second speed blasts. I do this just to get the legs race-ready and to gauge whether my power is in full throttle. Furthermore, I was riding the course, so I got a good flavor of the first nine miles. Indeed, this course would be punishing; but I find it to my benefit to ride as much of the course as I can prior to race day. I then hit a 30 minute easy run with a few strides towards the end, again to open up the muscles.
Upon completion of my workout, I met up with Coach Tony, Sinta, and Simon (fellow Triathlon Connection peoples) to drive the bike course and to also drop off our run gear at T-2. It was great to get this done earlier rather than later because in the past it's the last thing I do before it gets dark. Driving the course is like being on Mars. Brown, black, and red rock lining Lake Mead. It is beautiful, but the terrain simply is not hospitable to human survival, much less a triathlon. The only vegetation is shrub grass, and there is not one tree for at least 45 miles of the course. The terrain is up and down with only one short flat section probably around mile 40 or 45. Otherwise it's one long punishing climb followed by a long descent and then do it all over again. Then turn around and go back the way you came. I was thinking, well, instead of going that way I'll just skip that section and head to the finish. But a las I'd probably get DQ'd for that so figured I'd actually have to race the whole course. Anywho, we finished the drive and I think all of us in the car were thinking, yep, tomorrow is going to suck big time. I rarely feel that way after driving a course. We dropped our stuff off at T-2 and then headed back to the campsite/RV park for 4:00 potluck.
Race morning I was up by 4:45, powered down some food, packed all my gear into my car and then walked down to T-1, the race start. It is sweet to walk to the starting line. Upon entering the festivities someone announced that the race would be wetsuit legal. In other words, miraculously the water temperature had fallen over four degrees overnight and was below 76 degrees F. I'll take it. I did my thing in transition, all the while eyeing the folks around me wondering which ones were the ones who would beat me. I do this because it is pleasant for me to recognize someone on the course who I thought might give me a run for my money behind me. When one is battling up the hills on the bike or run, one must take all the victories one can get.
I was in Wave 8 or so, which meant I started about 25 minutes behind the professional men. There were about 180 registered athletes in my age group although I don't think that many finished (I read somewhere the DNF rate was around 12%, which is more than most ironmans) and there is always a handful of no-shows. I struck up a conversation with the gentleman standing next to me in the corral. It was his first half ironman (70.3), and he really did seem nervous. I gave him some advice, like, don't go too hard on the bike, you'll regret it, you should race with a heart-rate monitor, and things like that. I like making small talk before the race begins, as it helps me realize not to take it too seriously because in the end this is a choice and really doesn't mean that much. I lined up right in the front because it's fun for me to stay with the leaders for 50 meters.
The gun banged and once again I was swimming like mad. Quickly, I realized the Whole Foods version of Ensure was not sitting so well with my stomach but usually I can power through the swim and burp that out. The wetsuit was also tight and it was getting hot up in there. I drafted for as long as I could but given the relatively small field compared to World's I was quickly on my own. I drafted here and there but ended up swimming the majority of the leg on my own. This was, by far, the least battle intensive swim I've had in the past year of racing, which is too bad because I've started to enjoy that aspect of the sport a little bit. I had to swim over a few people and at one point some dude from a wave behind me plowed through me and another guy like we were standing still. I seriously did the duck and cover move for the first time in my career. But overall, the swim was about what I expected, 32 minutes and change. A similar time to my swim at Worlds where I had drafted nearly the entire time. I came out of the water in 18th place in my age group.
Coming into T-1 a few bozos were lollygaggig up the swim exit as if it was an ice-cream social. To be fair, the shift from parallel to vertical can be challenging but it always surprises me how so many people struggle with the transition. I think this is an often under-practiced aspect of peoples' training because I look at the average T-1/T-2 split times and often I'm two minutes faster than it -- and my transitions are nothing amazing. I ran around a few lollygaggers, down the row of bikes, a right at the first opening and a left at the fifth row to my slot labeled 630. Nice, not a lot of bikes gone yet. Putting on my sunglasses and helmet I hit start on my bike computer and ran my bike out to the mount line. There I jiggled around a bit to get on and finally began the bike portion.
The bike begins with a one mile-ish climb out of the Lake Mead Park onto Lakeshore Road/Parkway/Whatever. As soon as I started peddling I started passing fools. That's nice because usually there's some asshole(s) who gives you a run for your money before you have your bearings causing you to gas it too hard. As it was, my heart-rate was high (low to mid 160s) but my perceived exertion was about what it should be, an eight. I kept telling myself, don't gun this too hard, just peddle, get some nutrition in, and get settled into the ride. Out on the Parkway there's a brief descent before an uphill climb so I put a fair amount of power into this descent to gain as much "free" speed on the incline as I could. At the top of the incline I took in some more calories and drink. Taking in electrolytes at the right times is exceedingly important during hot races, and although it was not hot yet, it would be very hot in an hour.
At the same time at the crest of an incline you have to continue to power over the top and pick up speed as soon as possible. This is key for someone like me because I'm relatively light which means technically I should lose speed to bigger guys on the descent. However, if they bugger around for even five seconds at the crest of the climb (such as adjusting their seat or stretching) I will usually be able to beat them down the descent. I've gotten much better at riding hilly courses in the past year because I've learned to continue to push over the crest, put as much power into the descent the first 200 meters, continue peddling until about 36-38 mph, then get into the drops for the speed tuck. At the bottom if I'm coming up behind someone I get right behind them into their slip stream then catapult around them up the ascent to once again gain as much free incline as I can get. Obviously, it's easier said than done, and I'm still improving on this but it's amazing to me how even small revisions to one's riding can save quite a bit of time.
This style of riding continued basically for the first 30 miles of the bike with no major complications. I was throwing down some heavy numbers for me but was feeling good so continued to push the pace up and down the relentless hills. The heat was beginning to play a role, however, and one begins to think, hmmm, maybe there should be a few more aide stations because I'm starting to run a bit low on fluids. Nevertheless I continued my nutritional strategy with a salt pill every 30 minutes or so, a gel every 45 minutes or so, and consistent squirts of electrolyte drink as often as I could without losing too much speed due to reaching for the bottle. The turnaround on Northshore drive was at about 26 miles into the ride and I was happy to be done with that.
At the turnaround I was still feeling relatively strong, despite the fact I was having to pace mostly on perceived effort as opposed to heart rate because the wind was messing up my heart-rate readings (all I ever wanted for Christmas was a power meter). However, the physical deterioration of the body due to the high intensity exercise was beginning to reveal itself. I was, however, able to stave off the full-blown "there goes the power" moment until about mile 40. (After the race, this was seemingly the magic number for nearly everyone I spoke with). This feeling occurred about the same point during Mont Tremblant, so obviously I will have to work on my biking to push this point up to 50 miles or so. It is usually around this time that I get passed by a few people, and the psychological mind-fuck of an unraveling race begins. Luckily, only two guys passed me, but we were facing a headwind (not crazy but present) and then a final six miles of climbing. Instead of sticking with them I kept them in my sites but dropped the gearing for the final climbs of the day. I knew the run would be punishingly hot and also hilly, and it was not worth it to ride two minutes faster and run 15 minutes slower. This, I think, proved to be my best decision all day.
Back to the bike, despite getting passed, I was still picking off the occasional rider, meaning that I was still moving up in the field. But I was not feeling good and was having some mild stomach problems. Finally I got to T-2 in about 2:41. This is a very slow bike time for me, but considering the conditions, it was actually one of the faster on the day (the fastest bike split on the day was 2:25). I hopped off the bike, and the first thing I noticed was the inside of my thighs were exhibiting signs of cramping. That is always fantastic before the run even begins. The interesting thing is that has not even happened to me in an ironman. I cracked a salt pill immediately and took in some drink on my way out of transition to the three loop run course.
It was hot, with very little shade protection. And, frankly, after two minutes of running I realized I had to drop a dime. So that at least gave me a goal of something to think about for the first 5-6 minutes of the run. Unfortunately, the first bit of the run goes straight down a hill (which means more jiggling), hangs a right in a cul-de-sac, turns around, and then finally before the aide station there's some port-o-potties. Let's just say I didn't stick around to read the Sunday paper. I lost maybe 30 seconds, proving that men are in there hiding from their wives. Anyways, the run was about a mile in and it was not going well. I hit the aide station hard with everything they had, and popped some Tums to aide the stomach. This helped a lot as I began my ascent up the hill I had just run down. I caught the few people who had exited T-1 with me and kept plowing up the two mile climb to Horizon Avenue. I continued to monitor my stomach and kept my heart-rate in the mid-to-high 150s, which is what I've found I can handle in a half ironman. I would like to increase this number but was not going to risk this during a hot run.
There's an aide station about half way up the Green Valley Parkway stretch. It was glorious to reach that and I hit that hard once again. Finally, the turnaround at the top of Horizon and we now had about two miles of mostly downhill running. I picked up the pace here to the low 6:00s or so to make up lost time from the climb. Gradually, my stomach began to feel better. However, during this time, one of the guys who came out of transition with me passed me while I was pigging out at the aide-station. That pissed me off but I couldn't really do anything about it as I was still not feeling that great. With long course triathlon racing, at least for me, I've found that there are certain points during the race when I can go for it and other times when I cannot. Sometimes you just have to wait for it. Going back by the pavilion we made a left up a sidewalk trail around the pavilion wending our way down to T-2 merging in with others coming in off the bike. We then hit a 1/2 mile flat straight away. It quickly became apparent that this was the low point of the race as I started to really struggle.
I started to get dehydrated, and began feeling some minor spasming in my hamstrings. I started to feel sorry for myself. This doesn't even usually happen to me until mile 24 of an ironman. Damn it, I thought, this could be my race. I was getting thirsty, and all I could think about was making it to the turnaround at the bottom of the hill and hitting the aide station hard. I readied a salt pill and cracked a gel just before the aide station even though my stomach didn't feel like it. I went with the GU Roctane with 40 ml of caffeine for good measure. I consumed as much fluid as I could without stopping for a party and made my way up the two mile ascent. I shoved about three cups of ice down my race shirt and the familiar clank clank clank of ice could be heard to signify Loren was coming. You can see it in the picture above if you look closely enough (if you look really close you will see a dinosaur pop out at you). This is where the race was going to be made or broken and so I kept my pace steady. If I went too fast here my legs would seize up, if I went too slowly I would get passed. Finally, I reached the top of the climb and as I hit the turn-around I started to finally feel strong again. The calories and drink I had taken seemed to kick in and as I picked up the pace down the hill I started to feel joy in my heart again. I saw a few other Triathlon Connection athletes here and there and was often barely about to muster a reply, but it was awesome to hear a shout-out, "Go Loren," "Good stuff," and perhaps the occasional joke.
Coming down the hill I passed a few people and really began to pick up the pace on the flat straightaway that was nearly a death march the previous lap. I was back into the mid 6:00s or so. I was around mile 9 and this was the beginning of my final push. I caught the gentleman who had hosed me at the aide station the previous lap. He was surprised to see me, "you again?" When you catch someone who had passed you earlier in the race, you almost always gain their respect, even if they pass you again. We had a bit of a conversation and we kept pace with each other. Fortunately, for me, he had started in the All World Athlete wave 10 minutes before me, so when he ended up finishing a few seconds in front of me I was not too concerned about it. Nevertheless, we battled one another up and down the final three miles. It was great to have my fighting spirit back -- something that evaded me during the World's run -- and something that is often lost on hot days as it usually just becomes a matter of survival. I finished in 1:31, which was about 8-9 minutes shy of the top pro run split, so not bad. Evidently, everyone was struggling.
My final time was 4:49 (the clock below is based off the initial swim wave), again, a slow time for me compared to my normal half-ironman time but this was no ordinary race. Every single person I spoke with afterwards -- experienced or newbie -- said the same thing: this was the hardest half they had ever done. I concur. The nice thing was I podiumed -- albeit 5th in my age group -- but this was my first time podiuming at a M-Dot race, so that was exciting. I also punched my ticket once again for World's 2015, so I will make my way to Austria in August to once again get my ass handed to me. After the race I hung around a while to handle some administrative things then eventually made my way back to Riverside skipping once again the nasty Sunday Vegas to Los Angeles traffic.
I'm a little late on this delivery. Things have been getting busier as I get ready for the fall quarter and have only had a few minutes here and there to put my thoughts down on my first very competitive triathlon. In May I raced the St. George Half Ironman in Utah. I finished seventh in my age group in a time of 4:30, and received a roll-down slot to participate in the world championship in September. A bit on how this world championship came about. The Ironman brand (fondly known as M-Dot), is owned by World Triathlon Corporation. They are the company that owns Ironman Hawaii (Kona) -- the first ironman and the one everyone asks you if you've done not knowing that qualifying for that race requires you to be in the top 1 percent (unless you're 75 then it's just last man standing) -- and have a lock on the long-distance triathlon market. To qualify for Ironman Hawaii, competitors have to race in one of 50 or so ironmans around the world placing in the top few people in their age group. It's highly competitive in the men's 25-49 age ranges, but then dwindles somewhat after that. Kona has become so popular -- indeed an obsession -- that the brand has prospered and expanded it's course offerings around the -- but primarily rich -- world. The same logic has since been applied to the half ironman distance to great success; so I found myself heading to Canada in early September as I was unsure whether I would have such an opportunity again in my 30s to race at such a high-caliber event. It is sort of like doing Boston for the first time, except harder to get into.
In late August, I made my way from Seattle (where I had been staying during the summer) to Washington, D.C., for a political science conference. From there, I headed up to Rochester, NY, to stay with my buddy John Brach. I stayed in Rochester for a few days during my taper, then Brach and I drove up to Mont Tremblant, Canada, by way of Ottawa. I was quite impressed with Ottawa, as it is a capital city and situated at the confluence of two rivers. Brach and I stayed in a hostel that was the former jail of Ottawa.
Since Ironman Coeur d'Alene my training had been less structured than during the first part of the year. Part of this was due to the fact I was staying in Seattle and traveling much of the time so I did not have my usual bike trainer and gym, etc. Because my IMCDA bike split was not where I wanted it to be, I focused most strongly on that leading up to Worlds. In addition, my running legs really only had two weeks of semi-serious training before I had to begin my world's taper, so I knew I might not have a fantastic run. Thus, to make up lost-time in my traditionally strongest discipline, I had to make up time on the bike.
I arrived in Tremblant on Friday and immediately was struck by the seriousness of the event. In fact, it seemed almost Olympics-esque. Tons of triathlon people running around and riding their bikes all looking very serious in their triathlon outfits; almost comical really. Brach and I grabbed a campsite fairly close to Tremblant, then went up to the village to check-in for the race. My buddy Dylan met up with us there, as he had just arrived from Vermont. That night we bullshitted around the campfire and hit the sack early as the next day would be full of logistics. Saturday came and I got in my requisite workouts, and handled all the bike and bag drop-off stuff. I fired off a fast 30 minute bike workout and could tell my bike was strong. However, my short transition run was a bit slow and painful -- not a good sign. Finally, I swam a short part of the course. Coming out of the water I talked to a woman entering about water temps, etc. Then I watched her dive in and start swimming -- she had a great stroke and swam with ease. Turned out she was the winner the following day, Daniella Ryf. But such is the world of triathlon -- you see the top professionals in the world training and running around just like everyone else.
Race morning arrived and I awoke at 4:45 as the race started a little after 8am, an unusually late but welcome start. The pro men and women waves composed the first and second waves, followed by blocs of age-groupers. I got to see the men and women start -- it was quite a site as fighter jets flew over and a loud cannon roared. My age group was then first to go and I actually started right up near the front and in the middle as I was into the corral before many others. I thought perhaps this was the worst place to be for me, as I am by no means a fast swimmer for my age group. But I figured all the tussling might help my speed. Fuck it. The gun banged and once again all hell broke loose, bodies flying everywhere, over the top, etc., for the first 400 meters. Then things settled down, but hanging a right onto the first turn buoy I could tell I was towards the latter half of the group. Nonetheless I got some good drafting in and came out of the water at 32 minutes, which was my fastest time to date. However, this put me in 150th place in my age group -- definitely in the bottom third (but I expected this)...And a dose of humble pie!
The transition run to the tent was about 300-400 meters as we had to run down a sidewalk, cross a street, then up another long driveway into the tent. In the tent you have to find your transition bag with your helmet and glasses , put those on and put your wetsuit in the bag. From there we ran to our bikes and headed out onto the course. The ordeal took a little over four minutes, which was actually, from what I could tell, one of the faster transitions. I was definitely moving the whole time and passing lots of people throughout T-1 to make up for "lost" time.
The bike race is usually the best part of any triathlon shorter than an ironman. This is because you really can race. I took in some drink, cracked a gel, and then began the charge onto the course. My heart rate was jacked up into the 160s and it stayed there for the first few miles down Monte Ryan -- the five miles or so before hitting the main section of the course. Of the years of racing half ironmans, I've steadily become more aggressive on the bike portion -- and today was no exception. Exiting Monte Ryan, the race truly began on highway 117 North. Hitting speeds of 26-28 mph on the flat, the ride was awesome. I kept my heart beat into the high 150s most of the way and was beginning to pass people. As I was coming down from a hill and going up another I made the mistake of shifting both gears at the same time and suddenly my chain fell off. I pulled over and it took me about a minute to fix the problem. During that time a huge pack of about forty riders passed me. Fucking A! No bother, I got moving again and hit the turnaround.
While my heartbeat was still pretty jacked, I felt I could hold the pace and kept gassing it on the way back into town. I began to pick the guys off who had passed me during my dropped chain episode, but during this time some of the younger more studlier guys started passing me. Nevertheless I was making ground clocking speeds into the mid 20s the whole time except during a five minute sustained climb in the middle of the highway. Exiting the freeway we made our way through the little down with lots of fans to the turn-around there and then bam, the wind hit me like a brick. This slowed the pace dramatically but I maintained about the same intensity level. Luckily, the wind only lasted a few miles as we turned back onto Monte Ryan the wind was mostly a non-issue as we made our way back to the resort. About this time a few guys (probably from the 35-39 year old age group) passed me, but I continued to chop along. My legs started feeling fatigued as, honestly, I hadn't gunned it this hard this long ever. But 56 miles ain't shit, so I knew I could handle it. The final tough stretch was a ladder up and around the side of a mountain and during this time the race got very congested. I tried to keep the effort strong but I knew my legs did not have a whole lot left. However, I kept my attitude as positive as possible because all I really cared about was having a solid bike split.
Finally, we hit the hill turnaround and the last four miles or so was mostly all downhill and fast as hell. It was very congested and somewhat dangerous as bikes were zooming both directions. I rolled into transition in 2:21 (about 23.7 mph), my best bike split by five minutes. I was very pleased with myself but as soon as I started running the pleasure was wiped clean. The theme of the run was, damn, a lot of people are passing me! This is unusual for me as I am almost always one of the fastest runners. But I maintained my pace on the two loop course and was on par for a 1:28:00 or so after the first lap. That would be acceptable given how little I had run during the summer, but my pace slowed the second lap. I started to feel some hamstring tightening and a few spasms, which, as any runner knows, is never a good sign. So I started to pop salt pills every few aide stations to stave off the inevitable cramping. My muscular endurance just was not there, as I simply had not -- or really been able to -- put in the solid run training the previous two months. It was interesting to hear some runners going by me who were clearly struggling in their breath much more than me. I kept fighting to the end, but I knew it was simply not my best effort. The best part of the run, however, was getting passed by all the pros. I saw Sebastiaan Kienle, Ben Hoffman, Jan Frodeno, Tim Don, and Jesse Thomas, not that any of you know who they are! In the end, I managed a 1:31:00 or so, so not a total bomb, but definitely not up to my capability -- which is probably in the low 1:20s range (in theory!).
The highlight though -- and easily the best thing I've seen at a triathlon: I was running down a hill within three miles of the finish, people going both ways, etc. I look up and there's a man squatted (still standing quite high) over some grass on the side of the road with his pants pulled down. It was obvious he was trying to squeeze one out. Wow, the dude couldn't even wait for an aide station. So that kept my spirits up for the final last haul, up through the village and into the final chute. I ended with an almost identical time as St. George, 4:30. While it was not my best race, given my strong bike performance and knowledge that I was not peaked, I concluded that I had a solid performance, and finished 360th or so among 2600 or so. A good outing as I build up towards Silverman in early October.
Many thanks to my buddies Brach and Dylan for providing the much needed fan support throughout the day and weekend. As crazy as it sounds, supporting someone at these events is actually quite exhausting, and they did it without complaint. In fact, I'm pretty sure they enjoyed themselves. I'm sure one day I'll come back to Tremblant or upstate NY where at least Brach will have the privilege of supporting me through a full ironman. Now that would be exhausting!
Three weeks after Ironman Coeur d'Alene, I signed up for a half ironman at Lake Chelan (Chelanman) in mid July. This was a bold move because ironman recovery usually takes one to two months -- especially for me as I really plug it out on the run, instead of walking it like 2/3rds of the crowd. But I was curious how my body would respond, and since Chelanman is a relatively affordable race I was not too worried about "wasting" my money.
Incidentally, this was also Sarah's first triathlon, as she was participating in the olympic distance race. I had been working with her for a month and change, mainly on her bike and open-water swimming. Unfortunately, neither of us were at full strength. Three weeks after IMCDA I had only run two times, as my legs were still recovering and heavy. While my swimming was fully recovered, my bike was only now just getting back into levels previously seen before CDA. Thus, going into the race, I was probably at 100% on the swim, 85% on the bike, and 75% on the run. Sarah, on the other hand, had injured her ankle during a transition run with her Newtons. Even though she had made this same injury a few times before, it took her one final time to learn her lesson. She was limping going into the race and her run training was curtailed; there was little doubt her run split (potentially her strongest) would be quite slow.
We left Seattle on Friday and stayed at Chelan Lake State Park the night before the race, once again rising at 4am. We went to transition, and it was evident Sarah was quite nervous, as she had many questions about transition, etc. One's first triathlon is quite intimidating, so I did my best to be understanding and tender but the selfish little boy inside of me wanted to just focus on me. Nevertheless, we got all setup with plenty of time, and I lined up on the lakeshore for the start. The gun banged and off I went. The Chelanman course is a bit longer than a standard 70.3 distance, as all three splits -- especially the bike -- were a little longer than billed. We were off swimming and I was in the second or third chase pack following the underwater line. I decided to hang out behind a couple guys for the first half of the swim, then after we cleared the first turnaround buoys, I made a move through them and suddenly I was off on my own. I managed to put 20-30 seconds on them over the second part of the swim and caught another guy out ahead, coming out of the water in the low 34 minute range in 14th place (a fairly small field). While not that great, it was probably my best half swim yet because the course was a little longer than a standard distance.
The bike course is very hilly, more so than St. George, and the first 18 miles or so introduced a mild headwind on the bike. The first part is an out and back along the lake, with beautiful views. I cranked it hard but it took about 18 miles for my legs to warm up. The whole time I was thinking, damn, I am not feeling all that good. Two guys passed me during this section, and they were looking strong. On the turnaround I got a look at the leaders, who were not that far ahead of me. The wind was now a bit at the my back and we hit some hills. Here, I started passing a few guys, which is usually the case once we get to the hills. I was nailing it hard on the way back in 27mph or so on the flats and got to the first sustained climb at 36 miles (or so) probably in 8th place. I passed three guys going up the first climb of about 2 miles. One of them had passed me earlier so as I approached him I downshifted into a harder gear so he could hear it. Once again, I figured it was good for his character and as he looked over I said, "how's it going?" and then rode by him. The course then followed a long decline with a stiff headwind then up once again for another 7 miles or so also with lots of headwind. I imagine many people were suffering majorly at that point but since I was passing people I was feeling pretty good despite the fact that I was not in top shape.
Coming down the Navarre-Coulee mountain back onto the main road along the lake I continued to push the pace into T-2. About two miles out some guy went flying by me (the eventual winner), and then about 1/2 mile before T-2 I went up a short incline and my chain popped off. That was annoying and in the process one of the guys I had previously passed went by me. Coming out of T-2 I was in fourth place. Normally, at a race like this, that would mean I'd have a good chance to win the race. I passed one guy who was struggling big time but soon realized I could not hold a sub-7:00 pace, which would be required to pull off a victory. It was frustrating but at that point it was all about survival. My pace hovered around 7:15-7:30, similar to my ironman pace. I started to fade somewhat and by mile four or five stopped at an aide station to ask for ice (they didn't have any prepared). So I ended up waiting at two aide-stations for 30 seconds or so to get the necessary ice. I dumped the ice down my shirt for cooling purposes, which always helps a lot. Along the run I also had to drop a few times, as I had forgotten my Tums.
The mental battle was very tough, as I kept telling myself just get to the turn-around. So at the turn-around three guys were ahead of me and a few more were hot on my heels. I decided to go for broke and started to push the pace, which brought an increase in the heart-rate. I kept looking back and the guy following me was on the taller side and looked like he could lose 3-5 pounds so I figured I had a good chance to stave him off. My goal was to get just far enough away from him that he couldn't really see me around the bends, etc., and would back off. This appeared to work, and I focused on one mile at a time. The last two miles were painful but in the distance I saw the third place guy. I decided to jack up the effort the last mile and a half to see if I could catch him (for shits and giggles). Somehow I managed to drop into the low 6s as I gave it everything I had, but he bested me by seven seconds in the end. So two ice stops, two dimes, and a dropped chain. I probably would have had third easily.
I doubt I'll ever do another half ironman so close to a full ironman. But this race was an exploratory effort, in addition to introducing Sarah to her first triathlon. As she was doing the olympic race, I saw her several times throughout the day. Unfortunately, neither of us had a great day, as I struggled with recovery from IMCDA and she had a bad
As I have reported before, and as many of you know, an Ironman is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 26.2 marathon run all in one shot. It is the hardest "mainstream" endurance event that is actually a race and not just a matter of survival (although some would dispute both points!). Ironman Coeur d'Alene (CDA) is one of the longest running ironman-brand ironmans in the United States, with 2014 as its 12th continuous year, or something like that. It's held in a beautiful area in Northern Idaho. I had built my training schedule towards a peak for this ironman, having run a 50K, a marathon, a few half marathons, completed a half ironman, and several minor triathlons in the build-up. In mid-June I left Riverside for Seattle, which would be my home-base for part of the summer. Sarah and I left Seattle the Thursday night before the event, and checked into the race the next morning.
The weather was spotty the few days leading up to the race, and indeed this was the theme of the weekend. Occasional showers, quite chilly, then a bit of sun mixed in. On race morning, we woke up at about 3:30am at our campground (here's to hoping I was the only person hardcore enough to camp the night before), ate some breakfast, and then drove the 30 minutes into CDA. Everyone was jittery, but for the most part all the small details were handled the day before (bike racking, putting stuff in transition bags, etc.). I got my bike tires pumped up, made a few small tweaks to my setup, and then eventually put on my wetsuit.
The swim is a two loop course with a small run around in between. Thus, the male pros began at 6:00am and age-groupers at 6:40am -- which gave enough time for the male and female pros to swim around twice. I watched the pros begin and by the start of the second loop Andy Potts had a nice lead. I then moved into the swim corral and onto the beach. I hung around for a few minutes and around 6:25 went for a warm-up swim. The water was really choppy as the day was indeed very windy. I lined up in the 1 hour - 1 hour 15 minutes group and entered the water perhaps two minutes behind the first age-groupers. The anxiety was high, as it always is, and you can definitely feel the energy in the air. I made my way through the starting line and dove into the water and began swimming. With all the waves I knew it would be a rough swim and certainly not my fastest. I did the first loop in 34 minutes, which was about what I expected. Coming out of the water my watch said 1:10, although the official time was 1:11. As I was running up the sand to transition, this huge (not the prototypical triathlete) guy turned around and barreled into me. Miraculously I did not fall over but I had some choice words for him. My guess is that he had forgotten to do the second lap and was returning to the water, or he had thought the run loop was wider.
I made my way into the changing tent, with a volunteer in tow. Nothing too much to report, except that my T-1 time was in the three minute range. Good, but not fantastic. I hit the bike pretty hard from the get-go, and it was not until about 30 miles until my heart rate settled down into the 140 bpm zone. Riding on heart rate and not power can be problematic though as I likely gunned it too hard the first 40 miles what with all the wind and climbs. This would not have happened riding with power. The ride was definitely windy, and my target time of 5:15 was shot, but by half way I was on pace for a low 5:20s time, which was acceptable to me. Then, by about mile 60 my legs started to tire, and a few guys started to pass me. This is always depressing so I continued to remind myself to stay positive. The best part was that I did not really have stomach problems at all on the bike. A little burping here and there, but in general, my nutrition plan was solid. It seems that my training at least prepared me well for that aspect. The wind was taking it's toll on me, as it disadvantages smaller riders (me) relative to larger riders. What should have been an advantageous course for me (fair amount of climbing) turned into a disadvantageous course for me, and likely set me back 4-6 positions in my age group (here's to hoping). Mile 90 was the final turnaround on Highway 95 South, to which I made it in a struggle. But I told myself I needed to pick up the pace and use the wind to my advantage. Also, my trend in riding centuries is to struggle a bit in the middle but then I usually finish strong. So that's what I did and for the most part my heart rate did not drop below my target zone. I even passed a few guys on the way back, which improved my confidence.
About a half mile out of transition I took my shoes and rode the last few hundred meters into transition. I posted a 5:38 bike split; pretty disappointing but not too bad given the situation. I jumped off my bike easily, grabbed my bike-to-run bag, and ran into the changing tent. I swapped out my gel bottle for a new one, got some more salt pills and Tums, put on my socks and shoes, and off I went. My left hamstring (an old injury) was struggling from the ride so I monitored it for the first mile but eventually it shook out and was no problem. I had decided I would run with a small gel bottle as I felt this would speed up time at the aid stations. This proved to be an excellent plan. My initial pace, as is usual, was quite fast. I had a hard time keeping the pace above 7:10, so I just kept it there for the first two miles or so. Interestingly a few guys passed me in the first two miles, which surprised me. Eventually my pace settled into a 7:15 - 7:30/mile rhythm, as I monitored my heart rate. I wanted to keep the bpm between 140-144, which is what I was able to do most of the race. Around mile 5 or so, there is a sustained and steep incline, so obviously there I had to muscle up it but didn't go nuts and try to keep my same pace. I then picked up the pace on the decline to the turn-around. I got a good look at the leaders here, Andy Potts and Ben Hoffman were looking strong. Truly amazing to see these guys plowing along. By mile 8 I caught one of the guys who passed me, and then other guy I caught around mile 16 or so on the second loop. On my way back in on the second loop I saw one of the initial guys who had passed me keeled over throwing up. Unfortunately, this did bring me some joy, and I used this momentum to propel me the last 5 miles. Compared to previous ironmans, my run was the best. I did not once stop at an aide station, and my pace only slowed a bit between miles 14 - 22 (in the past I had always wanted to blow my head off around that time). My general strategy was to take a swig of gel and maybe prepare a salt pill just before the station then hit water in the mouth, next water down the back, hit a Perform, another water on the front, then maybe a cola and another Perform upon exiting. I realized that aide stations are poorly designed. Each station should have the different items more spread out so you don't have to skip certain beverages/food items because you are busy taking down the previous item. I kept waiting for cramps to come, but did not really feel anything so just kept plugging away.
Running by the library I passed a few guys and then saw Sarah, who was very excited to see me turning the corner onto the final stretch. I saw a few more guys ahead of me so pushed the pace into the low 6:00s as I came down the downhill straightaway. It hurt so good and believe me that .2 mile of 26.2 is always the worst. But it felt good to pass those guys knowing full well there was nothing they could do about it and that it was good for their character. I pulled a 3:18 marathon split -- a little slower than I hoped but within the realm of satisfaction -- and finished with a 10:14 overall, a 7 minute PR, 12th in my 30-34 year old age group, and 60th overall. I think the winner of my age group notched 9:15 and won the age group race, what a beast, but he is a silver medalist Olympian in Crew, so what are you going to do. The next day I woke up early and took Sarah to the airport. I then hit the road to Glacier National Park/Waterton National Park for a few days of easy sight seeing in Montana and Canada.
This post will be kept fairly brief, as this race was my last tuneup to Ironman Coeur D'alene at the end of June. I decided to do the famous LA Tri Series (Bonelli) race only a few days before the actual event because I wanted to ensure a high intensity workout during my second peak week. Going into the race, my training had been pretty intense for about two weeks with shorter high-intensity workouts, followed by recovery days and then also a long and intense workout thrown in the weekend before where I especially concentrated on race-pacing on the bike. All of this is to say that my legs were pretty shot going into the race, so I was not expecting to perform close to my peak.
I arrived at the event a little later than usual, so had to rush to get everything set up. During this process I sprayed some anti-fog liquid into my goggles. It just so happened that I forgot to fully dunk my goggles before putting them on. Thus, five minutes into the swim my eyes -- especially my right eye -- started burning. That sucks, I thought, but was doing well drafting other guys so just stuck with it. Eventually I came out of the water in high 25-26 minutes, which was surprising because I had been drafting nearly all of the race. Oh well, I guess I didn't have my full power either as I had done a rough one mile ocean race the day before.
I was relieved to pull off my goggles upon exiting the water only to realize that my right eye was blurry and gray. I rubbed it several times but still no dice. Fuck. I ran over and got onto the bike and started riding, essentially with one eye. I kept hoping my eye would normal out but it became apparent that that would not happen. The bike is a three loop course (about 24-25 miles total with some hills) so I took the first loop a little more carefully than normal. I passed a few people on the first loop -- mainly on the hills -- but quickly realized I didn't have my normal power. However, my goal was to at least keep my heart beat above 150 bpm, which I did do for most of the race. A few miles into the second loop some guy with a disc wheel passed me, which was good, because I decided to dual it out with him and pick up the pace. We went back and forth for about a loop with him passing me on the downhill and flats and me passing him on the uphill. This often happens to me. About five miles from the end I gunned it up an uphill and kept charging leaving him and another guy in the dust. But in the end, my bike split was only so-so, coming in at 1:08, 16th fastest on the day. Normally, I think I would have been in the top three or four.
Moving to the run I began dumping water on my eye at each aide station. Of course, it burned but what else was I supposed to do. I kept up a decent pace and must have passed eight guys or so, the last one with just a little less than a mile to go. I thought perhaps I was in first place at this time because I hadn't seen anyone else on the out and back. As I came running into the finish line I continued to think that perhaps I was ahead, but it turned out I only managed 10th place, haha. It turns out Bonelli is a pretty competitive local race, as some big boys from around the area graced us with their presence. I finished in 37:20 or so, the third fastest run split. The winner I think posted a 34 or 35 10K run, which is obviously very fast for a non-elite. In total, my time was about 2:15, my slowest olympic/international yet, but also perhaps the longest course.
In the end, I did win my age group, which is always nice, but the real story was that of the anti-fog spray and how it affected my right eye. My eye was swollen and red for the remainder of the day and into the next day. Two days later things were mostly back to normal, but I definitely took a few days off of swimming. Be sure not to make this mistake!
St. George 70.3 is a Half-Ironman located in the beautiful red-rock country of southern Utah. Ever since I found out about this race a few years back I had been wanting to do it not only because of the raw beauty of the venue but also because of the difficulty of the course, which I will discuss throughout.
Before delving into the specifics of the 2014 race, a few notes on the history of the race. From 2010 to 2012, St. George was a full ironman course. However, in 2012, heavy winds led to three to five foot swells during the swim leading to many DNFs. Moreover, the wind caused major problems on the bike course leading to further DNFs. Times were much longer than other ironman times, and this typically contributes to much complaining/bragging among age-group athletes. When it comes down to it, 90% (estimate) of triathletes want to brag about their times (myself included), so they'd prefer to do Ironman Florida or Arizona because these are fast and mostly flat courses. This is evidenced by the speed at which these events sell out. If you only do a few ironmans then you want the best time; hence, after 2012, World Triathlon Corporation (the company that owns the Ironman brand) shifted the race to a more manageable 70.3 (Half) distance. But, St. George became the U.S. Pro Championship, which brought a larger prize purse than other 70.3 races. This has resulted in stellar pro fields on both the men and women's sides, but particularly the former. 2014 featured amongst others, Joe Gambles, Andy Potts, Jan Frodeno (eventual winner), Tim Don, Jordan Rapp, Brent McMahon, Terrenzo Bozzone, and Sebastiaan Kienle (four of these gentlemen finish top 4 at the 2013 Worlds).
As I have mentioned in a previous blog post (I think), my training for the first half of the year has been a steady build-up to Ironman Coeur d'Alene (fondly known as IMCDA) in late June. It is usually a good idea to do a half ironman four to eight weeks prior to an ironman as a way to synchronize full ironman conditions such as pain tolerance, nutrition, focus, travel, and mental preparation. Thus, St. George being a mere five hours from Riverside was selected.
I convinced one of my buddies, Dylan, to roll out to Utah with me for some camping, triathlon spectating, and hiking in Zion National Park (albeit but brief). We rolled out of Riverside on Thursday night and made it all the way to Mesquite, NV, a retirement and golfing community on the Nevada-Arizona border. It was painful to drive by Vegas and not blow all my hard-earned professor cash on some slots, but life can be unfair. Waking up the next day, we ate some continental breakfast and listened to golfers discuss their sport. I have to say, few things are worse than cocky, fat golfers on a "business trip." It took but an hour or less to get to St. George. We immediately went to athlete check-in where I got my bib, listened to some nonsense, and chit-chatted with other people at the race. The weather was hot but nice, and the expo was top-notch. St. George is a nice little town where no one over 22 is single, you have to order fries with your beer, and kids are everywhere. In other words, it is a very homogeneous environment.
We next made our way to our campground, which incidentally was on the lake where the race started. We set up our tents in the red sand and then made our way over to the race start area where people where getting in a final workout. Everyone was very serious but also in a good mood. I took a quick swim in the lake, followed by a 20 minute ride up to the top of the first climb, and a 12 minute run. I felt good all around, as I had taken three of the previous five days off of training (although I was starting to feel fat). I then dropped my bike off at T-1, and Dylan and I drove into town to hit up the Pasta Factory for an early dinner (always wise). After dinner, I dropped my run bag off at T-2 (downtown, not at the lake); then we drove the rest of the bike course. Driving up through Snow Canyon was mesmerizing: the climb looked intense but it was somewhat gradual on approach. Compared to many of my rides it wasn't shit. That said, I knew I would have to sustain 153-160 bpm heart-rate for a good 20 minutes, which is never easy. Note: heart rate beats per minute is specific to each individual. Finishing off the bike course we rode back to our campground just as day was turning to night.
I set my alarm(s) for 4:00am, but actually woke up at 3:57am. Wow, I should join the military! I actually slept quite well considering I was sleeping on a pad on the ground (thank you red sand). I made my breakfast and at 5am or so Dylan and I drove the 2 miles over to the race start and T-1. I was on the earlier side of arriving athletes, which cuts against my nature but is becoming a more common trend. It is nice not to have to rush, that's for sure. I joked around with a few of the guys around me, mainly to assess whether any of them would beat me...didn't seem like it. I set everything up, did a 10-15 minute run warm-up, hit the john a few times, then strapped on my wetsuit.
Most 70.3s start in waves. The pro men began at 6:55, followed by the pro women a few minutes later. I was in the fifth wave (blue caps, represent!!). It kind of sucks to wait around getting all nervous and shit, but at least I didn't have to wait until 8:00am like the older racers. They get double-whammied because they have to wait around and also will be out on the course longer enduring the heat. Some of these folks take eight hours to finish, which means they're still racing at 3pm when it was 94F. On the flip, it's much much statistically easier for them to qualify for Worlds, so seems like a fair trade-off.
I got a good view of the start and then it was all business as my group made its way down the shoot into the water. The 24-29 year old men were in front of us, with three minutes separating each group. Their gun banged and then we had three minutes to swim out to the starting line. This was basically our warm-up. I positioned myself near the front and bang off we started once again. Unfortunately, I still felt a bit full from my breakfast and felt a little tight in my Xterra wetsuit. It wasn't until 20 minutes in that I let out a few good burps that I began to feel better. As the swim developed I tried my damndest to draft off of other guys. I did this quite well as I trailed two swimmers throughout. Despite the congestion there was not a whole lot of battling in the water, although unfortunately I managed to tag someone in the head with my elbow...sorry person. While my time was a somewhat disappointing but not unexpected 33 minutes, I was able to conserve a lot of energy by tailing these other swimmers. As such, I felt relatively fresh coming out of the water. This put me in the top 23 percent or so in my age-group of 200-250 athletes. Not bad, but obviously it would be nice to get under 30 minutes for once.
My transition was relatively fast as I ran up the boat ramp around the bikes and to my bike rack. I put my glasses on first, my helmet second, and then stuck my gel container and salt pills into my back pocket. I had my bike shoes already attached to my bike, so it was zip off I went to the mounting area. I took a few hard peddles and then got my feet into my shoes. The process was much more efficient than in the previous triathlon. Next, I started by bike computer and hit lap on my watch to begin the bike segment. All fields were reading including heart rate, hill grade, and cadence. Damn it, I love data (note: my work entails significant amounts of data analysis, wut wut); it's weird, but it makes me a more confident rider (and runner). I began passing people right away as there is a short climb out of the lake. The course goes around Sand Hollow Reservoir and about 4 miles in there is a steep climb. I hit this hard and got up to 160 bpm while passing several people. On the descent, however, a few guys passed me and it appeared the age group 30-34 race had begun. About four or five of us dueled it out over the next 10 miles. I backed off a bit as I didn't want my heart rate to really get much above 155. Indeed, I'm pretty sure I bested all of these riders as they faded one by one over the next 40 miles. After about 15 miles things settled down a bit and then we hit a two mile incline. During the climb I caught up with a group of guys who had ditched me at the aide station as I was refilling and putting down some calories. Evidently, the lonely time I had spent climbing up to Onyx Summit, Mt. Baldy, and the Unknown Coast paid dividends...delayed gratification if you will. That's why I like triathlon -- you truly get out of it what you put into it. There are no shortcuts.
We then hit another fairly long and curving descent where I was hitting speeds into the 40 mph range. Indeed, at one point I hit a bit of a hole in the road, looked down at my speedometer and was going 47 mph! Shit, I had never gone that fast, but the speed tuck/lean was in full effect. My strategy was to peddle like mad at the top of the descent to pick up speed then tuck over my handle bars and get into the drops to make myself as small as possible. It is a little precarious but is faster. The price you pay when you're a professor living the dream. Anyway, the course was comprised of several climbs followed by fairly long downhill/flat sections. I tried to keep my effort mostly consistent. I have to say, this bike course is amazing because it's either balls out up a climb or balls out fast as shit on a descent -- to use strictly technical terms. We made our way into St. George and around mile 40 began our entrance into Snow Canyon. I know for me, and I'm sure this was the case with the other riders, we were all thinking, Snow Canyon will make or break us. This is the point where differences in training methods really show. Are you the type of person who does what the crowd does, or do you go beyond that?
That feeling of excitement and anxiety begins to drum beat a bit louder second by second. I decided to take a salt pill. As I was approaching the climb up Snow Canyon I got my salt pill container out and as I cracked it open I dropped it. Damn it! It seems like I'm always dropping my salt pills. Luckily I had a relatively full bottle of Ironman Perform electrolyte drink so took a few swigs of that and off I went. The climb was awesome but grueling, and I must have passed at least 15 riders up the climb. While the climb was challenging I simply focused on one rider at a time picking them off and congratulating them for their effort (people love that haha). It is such a joy to gaze over at the rider next to you as you go by them up a 6-10% grade incline. That said, I looked at some of the pro splits up the climb and they were 2 mph faster than me, which is a ton at such a grade. St. George is definitely a good race for me. I've realized I tend to do well on hilly courses but not so well on windy courses (e.g., HITS Palm Springs).
After 20 minutes or so the climb was over and I immediately took a swig of my electrolyte drink then cracked it into high gear pushing hard on the initial descent. Now we were flying plugging at 30-45 mph for the next 8 miles. It is critical to maintain a high speed during descents to make up for speed lost during the incline. I passed a few riders down the hill and got into a dueling match with a few guys on the way down. I've discovered I love racing this way, it actually feels like racing as opposed to just "completing the race." Further, everyone benefits because the speed of the overall split tends to increase. I coasted into T-2 in 2:26 (22.9 mph) and change on the bike, the third fastest in my age group. To put this into perspective, German World Champion Sebastiaan Kienle notched a 2:07, which I think was the fastest on the day. I had exited the water in 49th place in my age group, but had moved up to 7th place after the bike split. Strava power put me at an average of nearly 290 Watts, although I think this is probably inflated due to a tail wind on part of the course. Nevertheless, the bike performance was my best of the three splits, and positions me quite well for IMCDA. My new Felt DA-3 bike is freaking awesome.
We had to stow all our T-2 running equipment in a bag. I wracked my bike and quickly put on my visor, socks, and my running shoes. I used to run without socks but that usually leads to nasty blisters -- forget that. I grabbed a gel, my race belt, and half a roll of Tums, as my stomach was starting to get angry. Note: stomach problems often crop up in long distance triathlon. This is a major concern for fast athletes and/or during ironman competition. Halfs are less of a nutrition battle but can still be problematic on the gastro-intestinal.
Upon exiting transition I felt like I was going 2 mph so I looked down at my watch and I was actually clocking a 6:00 min/mile pace. The course hangs a left and immediately begins a three mile climb. Sweet. My goal was to keep my heart-rate between 150-160 bpm, as this was about the maximum I was able to handle after hard bikes during training. As I began the climb my pace dropped into the 7:00s. I knew this would happen and ran according to heart-rate and did not go nuts. A guy passed me at this point and I thought, wow, that's good for my character. I'm not used to that. Then, three miles later, another guy, who later, I found out was named Francois, passed me. That one really hurt. When I began triathlon, I would get to the run and start passing fools left and right. This happened because my swim and bike were terrible. The faster I have become on the bike, the fewer competitors there are to pass, and the competitors that get off the bike around my time are often very good runners. I thought of this as I was running, and concluded, oh well, that is a first world problem of the highest order. I am choosing to put myself through this process.
The course leveled off and then we began a descent. Here it is essential to run fast down the hills. I had prepared well for St. George because there are lots of hills in my neighborhood. So I run up them, but also down them. Amazing. The temperature was steadily increasing now moving into the 90s. That really sucks but I had a good plan for that: at each station lots of water and ice down the front and back. This helps cool the core temperature and allows you to maintain your near maximum speed. I am proud of myself for how good I have gotten at taking in water, ice, Perform, coke, banana, gel, water, and ice down the hatch without walking. Indeed, I did not stop at one aide station -- which I had had to do at my last half ironman. I continued the march; after about 20 minutes into the run my legs finally started to feel strong again. Indeed, those first few miles after the bike always suck. During the run I probably took in 2-3 gels, but otherwise I took my calories in via coke and Perform. At the turnaround I saw a few guys that I recognized from the bike that were tailing me. This made me uncomfortable, plus, my halfway time was 45 minutes, which would put me at an unconvincing 1:30 overall time. So I dug deep and picked up the pace. My heart rate was now closer to 156. I told myself, just make it to mile 10 and the last three will be downhill. Now I passed a few people, including several women pros. Unfortunately one guy tracked me down, but as he approached I stepped on it and began the descent at a 5:50 pace. I just let gravity take over and tried to hold the guy off as long as possible. I created some space but he eventually got me with about a mile and a half to go. "Awesome pace, bro" is what he said. I couldn't hate though, he was evidently from California and a great athlete.
I decided not to trip him. But about that time, I heard a large bang. I looked to my right and a biker was laying on the ground not moving and people had run over to assess the damage. The dude had hit a cone during the final descent into T-2. That could kill somebody at 30 mph, so hopefully he is alright. Later, I searched around the internet but could not find anything. This is the second time I have seen a biker biff it during a triathlon. There was nothing I could do so I just gave it my all all the way through the finish line. There's something about the ironman chute that excites me, so I motivated the crowd as I came in. My final run time was 1:25 and change (a 6:30 pace which is exactly what I was targeting), resulting in an overall time of 4:30. Needless to say, I was elated. This was a nice improvement over my previous half ironman time and on one of the hardest courses in the country.
I notched seventh place in my division, so I decided to attend the roll-down ceremony. The top four athletes from my division were awarded a slot to the 70.3 World Championships to be held in early September in Quebec, Canada. Only two of those athletes took their slots, which meant the slots would roll down to the fifth and sixth place athletes. Neither of these gentlemen attended the roll-down ceremony, so the slot fell to me. I decided to take it, because as anyone who races Ironman brand events knows, age-group slots are extremely competitive. I did not know whether I would have this chance again. So I'm going to the Worlds in the early fall, which is awesome! With the event complete, Dylan and I rolled up to a local pub and had a 4% beer and some fries. Even at 4:00pm there were still plenty of people rolling in. It was a long day for me, but even longer for them. At 6:30pm we left downtown St. George and the clock read 94F. Wow. This was, definitively, my favorite race to date.
The Big Rock Triathlon took place Saturday, April 12th, at the Lake Perris state park only 15 miles from my home in Riverside. As my next big race is St. George 70.3 the first weekend in May, a tune-up olympic distance made sense. I had recently purchased a new bike and had done some monster bike workouts/rides around spring break whilst back home in Humboldt visiting my family. This included biking from Weaverville (7,000 + elevation gain, 100 miles) to Arcata, the HSU Cycling time trial, the Tour of the Unknown Coast century plus ride (10,000 + elevation gain, 120 miles), as well as a trip up Mt. Baldy and east fork (8,900 + elevation gain, 65 miles) just for kicks. These rides, coupled with a few other intense rides and my new bike (and bike computer) had me curious as to whether my bike splits would get faster.
I woke up Saturday morning at 4am and for once, I was actually one of the early arrivals at the race. I had everything well planned out by the time the race started, except I had forgotten my running visor and race belt. F&*k! It's always something. In the coastal cities where incomes are higher and there is greater external and societal pressure for beauty, triathletes are more numerous and consequently better (that's as far as I'll go with my sociological analysis in this forum). Not so in the Inland Empire, which is why I was pleasantly surprised by the crop of triathletes that showed up. There were at least 20 youngish fit guys like myself, so I figured the race would be competitive.
I strapped on my wetsuit and went down to the lake -- the lake at which I do my open-water swimming so I am very familiar with the terrain. Fortunately, the water was actually quite pleasant as I did a brief warm-up to get the muscles and arms moving. My arms were a bit sore from a longer swim set I had done on Thursday so I made sure to stretch them out. I lined up in the second row and went nuts when the gun blasted. I tried drafting some but after the first 200 meters the crowd thinned out quite completely and I thought I was up towards the front. But as I neared the first turn buoy I caught a glimpse of a small crowd ahead of me, so I realized I was losing "water" on the lead pack. The course was two loops, and I exited at 25 minutes +, after having to swim through the slow sprint triathletes on the second lap. This put me in the fastest 30 percent, not exactly brilliant. I guess I was hoping for a 24 minute swim, but essentially this time put me out of contention for the victory, as a few swimmers exited at 18-19 minutes a 6-7 minute advantage.
The transition was up a long beach, then across some grass to a parking lot. My total transition was just over 3 minutes (3rd overall) as I booked it hard up the hill. My heart rate was about to explode but fortunately one of my previous coaches had me do workouts where I'd run right after swimming, so I recalled that muscle memory.
For the first time I had my bike shoes already attached to my pedals so I jumped on my bike and took off. It took me a little while to get my shoes strapped in correctly, but hey, you gotta start somewhere. Running in bike shoes not only looks moronic but it's inefficient. By the time I actually got moving I looked down and my watch said 30 minutes. Right away, I knew I would not get within 4-5 minutes of 2 hours, which had been my goal. No bother I took off and attacked the initial climb out of the park. Going up the hill out of Lake Perris I passed several sprint triathletes and perhaps a few other olympic participants who were faster in the water. Reaching the top of the hill I pushed hard over the crest to gather speed for the descent. As I picked up pace I got a few quick drinks in then got back into aero position to take full advantage of the speed. I looked down at my speedometer and I was nearing 40 miles an hour. Normally that scares the shit out of me but my adrenaline and race mentality were in high alert and I was surprised by any lack of fear.
Upon exiting the park there is a long straightaway with a slight downward grade, as such I was able to keep the pace above 27 mph the whole way. Then, turning right onto Ramona Expressway a slight wind hits you but I was still able to keep the pace around 26-27 mph, just where I wanted it. During this time I passed several people who in comparison seemed as though they were barely moving. Turning right onto Perris Blvd the grade shifts to slightly uphill. Nevertheless I don't think the pace once dropped below 24mph during this section with the exception of the few moments around the turns. I just eyed my heart-rate and cadence (pedal rotations per minute) monitor, which I had just added as a new tool. My strategy was to keep the cadence above 90 and below 100, and make sure heart rate does not get higher than 160 beats per minute as that would indicate I had exceeded my lactate threshold. When the cadence approaches 98 or higher I downshifted into a harder gear; likewise when the cadence went below 92 I would shift into an easier gear. This approach worked quite well as my power remained fairly consistent throughout the bike split (around 280 watts). The other benefit of more data is that you stay distracted from the lung, leg, and back pain that emerges throughout the course of a race. I have to say, this new tool is a nice addition, and I'm starting to feel really great about my biking.
The hardest part of the bike was the climb into the north end of the park around mile 10.5. I hit the hill and immediately saw a crowd of people, which I bombed by. When possible, it is always exciting to show off one's climbing prowess, keeping in mind that sooner or later you will be humbled. It was a tough 0.5 mile hill, though, reaching 10-11% grade at spots (I think), and I was able to maintain about 9.5-10 mph up the hill. My heart-rate increased up the hill but I made sure not to gas it too hard until the last 75 meters when I got out of the saddle and passed 3-4 guys about my age. It seemed good for their characters as I went by and then kicked it into high gear on the descent for loop 2. My second loop was much the same although I encountered a bit more wind on the Ramona straightaway -- it seemed at least. So I ended up with maybe a 30 second fall-off in overall pace on the second loop. In the end I recorded a 1:01:56 or so, just shy of 1:02 -- the fastest bike split of the day and enough to move me into 5th place in transition.
T-2 was fast as I had already taken my shoes off whilst on the bike. Indeed, the transition was my fastest to date. I had seen a guy just ahead of me on the bike who I had been trying to catch. He exited transition just before me and I figured I'd catch him within the first half mile, as I'm almost always a better runner than people who come off the bike with me. This was not the case as he pulled away over the course of the first mile. What a stud I thought. To make matters worse, my right calf was tight, my feet were numb, and I couldn't get a heart-rate read on my watch. Somehow the water or something had messed up the reading for the watch (but not the bike computer). Weird, I thought, I better run the old fashioned way -- balls fucking out! This is the strategy anyhow with an olympic triathlon.
The run course was on a thin bike trail going around a portion of the lake (2 loops). It's a rolling course so is actually quite hard to get into a certain rhythm as there are constant ups and downs and twists and turns. Nevertheless, I tried to keep my pace -- when flat -- around 5:45 min/mile but naturally the pace decreased on the inclines. The end average pace was 5:57 or so. On the way out I got a look at the leaders -- they were all going pretty strong and my hopes of catching any of them appeared dim as I was not clearly out-gunning them. On the second loop, the fast guy ahead of me pulled off to the side and indicated he felt a pop in his calve so he cashed in. So I took over 4th place it seemed, so that was good. However, I later found out that the tall guy leading the race had blown a tire during the bike and had already been disqualified. Later, after I had finished and thought I had third sown up, a 37 year-old guy from the second wave of the swim came in and recorded a time 30 seconds faster than mine. In any event, I recorded a 2:08 overall with a 37 minute run -- the fastest on the day, although I have no doubt I was not the best runner at the event.
So here I am with the best bike and run splits but ended up in 4th. Looks like I need to figure out a way to improve my swim if I really want to obtain my ultimate goal of qualifying for the Ironman World Championships. To be sure, the olympic distance is most favorable to strong swimmers, but still, my swim disadvantage has never been so clearly articulated to me. But it's one step at a time, as I've worked hard on my bike over the past year (mainly increased intensity in long rides and shorter interval sessions on my relatively new bike trainer); once that's where I want it, I'll dedicate more time and effort to improving my swim.
Finally I'm getting around to writing this. Life has been hectic with the end of the quarter and some traveling to visit family over spring break. For the third year in a row, I placed an early season marathon as my first "A" race of the year. I'm still in the process of setting P.R.'s, as I've P.R'd the last four marathons I've run, so spending at least a month and a half focusing on running is still logical in my view. Last year I ran the Boston Marathon in April, but I usually prefer to mix things up and do different races as a way of "broadening" my life experience. That, and the Los Angeles Marathon is held each year in early March, and is the largest U.S. marathon west of Chicago. Indeed, in 2014 the marathon sold out all 25,000 slots, although just 21-22,000 competitors completed the event. I had taken most of December off of training after the HITS Palm Springs Ironman, instead spending a few weeks traveling around Colombia and then two weeks of unstructured training in late December/early January. With a relatively short time until early March, and with a more narrow focus on the bike in January, my build up to L.A. was challenging, but come race day I had done several threshold long runs where I felt pacing a 6:30/mile marathon was within the realm of possibility. In addition, three weeks prior I had run a grueling 6,000 feet vertical 50K in Simi Valley on no taper, just to make sure I got at least one trail run in in 2014.
Given such a large field, a layperson may wonder how all those people get through the starting gate. The marathon has several "seated corrals," so I started right up front in clear view of the elites (no body fat, how tiny!). After an extended warm-up in the parking lot, I had a mini-crisis ten minutes before start as it appeared the corrals were closed and I could not get into my spot as people were crammed in too tightly to move. I fretted for five minutes or so, but luckily I found an opening close to the front and got into my requisite spot. The advantage of the corral seating is obvious: no hassling and moving around 20,500 slower runners.
With my triathlete apparel donned (I had picked up a sponsor/coach in the off-season), I began the race upon the gun bang and off we accelerated up the hill at Dodger Stadium and out into the city of the Angels, pink sunrise and all. Naturally, the heart rate spiked uncontrollably, which is typical the first four miles of a marathon until all the nerves, etc., calm down. I tried to keep the pace within reason and not go too fast posting about a 6:30 first mile (due to the hills). The pace that developed was about 6:20-6:30 through the first several miles of the race. All signs were positive and after a bit my heart rate settled down to the high 150s beats per minute (bpm), which is where I wanted to keep it. I was surprised at the speed and kept thinking perhaps my pace was too fast to sustain but f* it might as well give it a shot if the heart rate numbers were within reason (i.e., not above 164 or so).
It turned out my pace was averaging right around 6:30/mile or just over because the L.A. Marathon is actually quite hilly. As such, one must keep the efforts consistent and not gun it up the hills but only increase bpm by five points max when inclining. Then, during the downhills the pace has to approach 6:00-6:15. This was my general approach and it worked quite well. That said, this was a fairly challenging marathon and it would have been smart of me to drive the course beforehand, but who wants to sit in all that L.A. traffic. I did enjoy the course, as the course travels through several scenic neighborhoods such as West Hollywood and Beverly Hills.
I kept my pace rolling and took in beverages (water and gatorade) every chance I got because the temperature was slowly increasing. Luckily, the sub-three hour crowd did not get bonked too much by the heat, whereas the heat was more of an issue for the slower runners. In addition, I took in about four gels and eight salt pills (more toward the latter part of the race) throughout. Around mile 20 I felt a tinge in my calf, which is never a good sign, but it thankfully went away as I shortened my stride. Also around this time some of the faster runners had bonked and were walking. I thought about giving them some mother's advice as I passed but sided against it. The final 10K was a bit of a haze but it was here where I began increasing my effort. My bpm crept past 160 and stayed there the rest of the way. The pace was about the same, but the effort had to increase in order to keep the pace consistent. During this time I passed many runners and it is always pleasant to let a silent by deadly on the way by as gastro-intestinal issues are common at this stage of the race (little motivations).
Nearing the end, the motivation turns to desperation; luckily the last two miles are downhill. I rounded the corner after a continuous stream of passing and saw the finish line on the beach off in the distance. I got into a footrace with another runner down the stretch and I held on all the way to the end but he got me the bastard. My calves were firing and my gait was completely shot so I really could not sprint. Nevertheless, I always give it what I have and it was a pleasure to congratulate him at the end. I would up 12th in my age group and 64th overall in a time of 2:51 and change. A 6:32/6:33 pace, so right about where I was aiming. Perhaps with an easier marathon, next time I'll be able to go sub 2:50 and walk around even more arrogantly. But the nice reminder is there's always someone better and faster than you so to attain true enlightenment one must move on to triathlon!
By day I am a political scientist studying campaigns, public opinion, and race and ethnic politics. By early morning and/or night I am an endurance athlete.