Rage for Change

Over the years I’ve come to believe that anger is one of the most crucial emotions to harness for energy. It has helped drive my will to train in the snow, rain, and shitty conditions that would have turned me back if everything in life had been just fine and dandy back at home on the dry, warm couch. Getting comfortable is dangerous. While you sit on the couch, others are out there murdering themselves in the cold to get that extra few percentages on their FTP. Come spring, they’re going to fuck you over.

During the Bush administration, eight years of varying levels of personal furry, I read massive quantities of news. I vowed to never own a car (climate change and the Iraq war). Even after college I lived an incredibly utilitarian life in order to do more than my fair share in conservation. I did these things, in part, out of anger and frustration with the US and the way our country raped the world and its people of resources. When that era came to an end, I got too comfortable. I certainly didn’t agree with everything the Obama administration did, but it contrast to the previous president, it was pretty damn nice.

I stopped following the news as vigorously, got a vehicle two years ago (only because Adelaide got hit by one), and own way more possessions than can fit in two large duffle bags. Part of that is growing up and settling down I guess. But if I really think about it, I feel like I’ve settled in other ways as well. I let the fire go out. Sure, my temper is worse than ever when it comes to confrontations with drivers, but I just realized a few days ago that I haven’t felt truly ashamed to be an American in years. One should always feel some shame in their country, otherwise there’s no need for growth. And there is always need for growth.

Sometimes it takes a certain amount of rage to light that fire again. I don’t know what I’m going to do to help make this country and world a less shitty place, but I guess I should start by improving on what I’m already doing. I want to continue getting more involved with Boulder school district’s BLAST program, for starters. BLAST goes into elementary and middle schools in the district to teach kids bike safety and riding skills. I started volunteering with them a month ago and need to continue, for my own riding sanity in particular. Every time I get buzzed by some fuck hole in a pickup it calms me (a tiny bit at least) to think that maybe in the future there will be one or two less people like that because I encouraged them to ride a bike as a kid. Adelaide and I, though mainly Adelaide, are pursuing bike advocacy in other ways as well.

We do a lot of the small stuff like recycle, compost, stay away from plastic bags, do 80% of our errands and commutes by bike, and live in an energy-efficient 700 square foot apartment. There is room for improvement though. There’s always room for improvement. I make an effort environmentally but I don’t know if I’m doing enough, or anything, to create the social change I want to see take place. Sometimes I try to trick myself into believing that as an elite athlete I have a positive impact on other people by helping them live a more healthy, and therefore happier, lifestyle. I don’t think I have a big enough following for that to be as true as I hope. Sometimes I like to think that my ranting blogs will help create change as well. Most likely not.

Like I said earlier, I’m not sure what my next steps will be politically or socially, but I need to find some productive outlet for the immense amount of anger and frustration that I’m bound to have during this republican senate, republican house, and psycho presidency. For starters, I need to really follow the news again, because somewhere deep down I feel responsible for letting this catastrophe take place. Maybe I could have done my tiny part to help it from happening. I just wasn’t self-informed enough to see it coming. Did any of us realize just how racist and hateful our country is? I didn’t, and that was a fatal mistake.

I’ll leave you with the wise words if Katy Perry, “After a hurricane comes a rainbow. Maybe a reason why all the doors are closed. So you could open one that leads you to the perfect road.”

Whoa…….Blows my mind every fuckin’ time.

2016 Season Review

I came into the year with expectations that, deep down, I knew I could not meet. I think I wrote down that my goals for the season were to 1) to not get injured, 2) to win a race, and 3) to get on the podium. I did not accomplish any of those goals. Not by a long shot. However, if I’d written “have a good learning experience!” like every glass-half-full newby pro, I’d have had to slap myself in the face. I’ve yet to meet a major goal in sports, so the day it comes, it will be all the sweeter. If it doesn’t come, well then I guess I’ll be bitter.

Training started much later than ever this season. At the end of 2015 I took a full month off after Los Cabos (and a month before actually). After that I took an additional two months training very, very easily. After being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s early that fall, I wanted to make sure that my thyroid medication had time to take hold before I dug deep. That huge quarter year of rest took me to the end of January, when I was lucky enough to be partake in a trip down to the Tucson Cycling House for a five day block of big rides in the sun. I got back and immediately began training with Michael Lovato and his group of triathletes, including Adelaide. We both benefited greatly from having someone to wake up with at 5:30 for morning masters workouts, wolfing down second breakfast, kitting up for rides afterwards, and getting to bed early so we could do it all over again the next day. Somewhere in there was work. For the time being, we’re both lucky to be able to work part time, otherwise this training load lifestyle would not be at all sustainable.

It took a while to get used to those early mornings and the all too common three-a-day workouts, but I could tell it was paying off a few months in. Unfortunately I got sick forever in March/April and missed my first planned race in Texas. Then I injured my back from swimming and missed another race in Utah. Despite seeing some decent swim and run gains, I was not off to the stellar start I was hoping for by May.

I won a few local sprint races and a bike race in mid May and early June, before completely flopping at my first half-distance pro race of the year, Boulder 70.3. Last year I was 9th without nearly as much training, so I was confident that I’d be able to pull off a top five this year. Ha. The field was super stacked, and on top of that I wasn’t able to run faster than a jog due to the first of the year’s crippling lung cramps, a feeling I’ll describe as hyperventilation, constriction by a 30-foot boa, and being repeatedly stabbed in the chest with a jagged spoon shank in the prison cafeteria.

That takes us to late June, where I came in 6th at Coeur d’Alene and earned my first paycheck in triathlon (still haven’t received it though). Any profit I came away with was spent on physical therapy for the hip injury that resulted from that race. The hip was my second injury of the year and took over two months to heal, causing me to miss two more races. I rode and swam throughout the summer, and even did some easy running in the later weeks, but the lack of competition got to me by late August and I had a few moments of lost passion.

Thankfully Santa Cruz was just around the bend and my hip made the last of its recovery in the week leading up to the race. I came in 10th in another stacked field, out of the money but the best I could realistically hope for. I had a solid swim and an even better run, and the race left me with confidence leading into Cozumel, which was three weeks later.

 

I sucked at Cozumel. I had a bad swim, my glutes cramped on the bike, and I had to jog the first seven miles of the run. My last hope of the year was Los Cabos, four weeks after.

Going into detail about Los Cabos isn’t necessary since I just wrote about it. I had a good swim, great bike, and horrible run due to the dreaded lung cramp.

Training with Michael has been better than I could have expected. I thoroughly enjoyed his humor and the energy that he brings to every workout. It rubs off on the rest of us, and at 6am it’s a necessity. Another thing that I didn’t expect was the intensity of the workouts and the lack of recovery days/weeks. It was game on from day one to day 287. During that time period (just over nine months), and including all those sick and injured weeks, I averaged 19.2 hours a week (788 hours). The entire year will be 900 counting all the easy months last winter before I officially started training. This apparently isn’t very much for a triathlete because 1) I only spent nine and a half months training instead of 11, and 2) I skipped or shortened multiple workouts pretty much every single week this year due to physical or mental fatigue. It will take time to build the stamina needed to do 25+ hour weeks, week after week with only race weeks in between as “rest” to break them up. I wouldn’t have thought that this quantity and intensity of training would be beneficial, but the proof is there if you look at the huge progress I made and the quality of Michael’s other athletes.

Triathlon is all about having the patience and mental fortitude to put in the time, and to make that time high quality by achieving pain…without overdoing it and cooking yourself for the next training session. I struggled with that balance, as well as adapting to the new strains caused by running and swimming. One hour on the bike does not equal one hour in the pool or one hour slamming the pavement with your feet, especially if your body is not accustomed to anything but hunching over a set of handlebars. I was not very consistent this year, in racing or in training, and I was constantly plagued with injuries, which killed my morale at times. I’ve finally come to realize that next year I need to focus on stretching, a lot of gym work, and regular massage or at least foam rolling.

I guess this year was about learning. Damn it.

Something I like about triathlon is its simplicity. It’s a sport for dumb missiles. Compared to bike racing there is almost no strategy, there’s no teamwork, there is no conniving within a peloton, and there is no peloton to hide within. If you do well or if you do poorly, there’s only yourself to blame or congratulate. The same cannot quite be said for the training involved, and for that I have my coach Michael, Adelaide, Chris, and all my other training partners to thank. Thank you for helping me permanently deform my toenails.

Version 2

Los Cabos 70.3 Race Report

The oversize luggage corner of the airport is a place of sweaty-palmed dread. It’s the last crucial piece of the travel-day puzzle…like an outside border piece. Without it, the whole thing is wobbly and you spend your whole time trying to find that last border piece while everything else gets ignored (we do a lot of puzzles). Once you get to your flight destination, even if it’s not the city you race in, and you have all your luggage and your bike in hand, things can go wrong without panic setting in. Forgetting the name of your car rental company, getting lost on an unknown interstate at midnight and driving the wrong direction for an hour, and other shit like that is aggravating, but you still have control of the situation. When your bike doesn’t show up in the oversize luggage area, you have no control. And for the second race in the last four weeks, my bike didn’t show up.

During the stress of the missing bikes (Adelaide’s didn’t show up either) my worries about all the other nagging aches and pains I had magically developed in the previous six days were forgotten, such as my injured hip, sore shins, aching ankle, fucked up back, and bloody stool. All quickly forgotten in lieu of the bikes.

Luckily they showed up the night before the race, my back and ankle ended up being fine, and a little bloody shit never hurt anyone. It was the hip that got me in the end.

Swim (15th out of the water at 28:54)

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This was the first time I haven’t been dropped in the swim. The front few groups may have gotten away from me, but it was them going faster, not me going slower.Or so I like to tell myself. Mid way into the swim I’d even let myself half believe that I was in the lead group since during my three total sightings (I don’t like looking up) I couldn’t see anyone up ahead of our group. I swam a fine 28:54 (six minutes faster than last year) and came out of the water in 15th place, just 3:30 down on the lead group.

Bike (race best 2:09:23)

I thought I had been super crafty by not pre-clipping in my shoes before the race started due to the steep hill the course started out on. My plan went perfectly as I cruised by others in the first hundred meters as they struggled to get their feet in their shoes. But then something didn’t feel right. “Man, I’m fat,” I thought to myself. “This number belt sure got tight.” I tried loosening it only to find that it was already pretty lose. I thought maybe my shorts were just snugger than I remembered, then I realized that I’d forgotten to take my swim skin off. I’d gotten it down to my waist during the transition run but hadn’t followed through due to my excitement about my secret aforementioned plan to save six seconds. I pulled to the side of the road, stripped the swim skin off, and threw it to some volunteer kids and yelled my race number, “Dieciséis! Dieciséis Gracias!!! with little hope that I’d ever see the swim skin, which I’d borrowed from Kenney, ever again.

I rode the first hour of the bike solo, averaging 332 watts down to Cabo San Lucas, up the hill, and back down the hill, before catching the first cohesive group of riders that I’d come across, which included fifth through ninth place. I sat in for a few minutes, telling myself that there was no reason to take even one single measly pull, that I’d made a huge effort to get up to them by myself, that I’d already used plenty of matches, and that half of them were much better runners than I and all I really cared about was getting at least 8th place and in the money and it was their responsibility to pull since they were the established guys with something on the line. I took a pull about five minutes later. I was content to sit in after that, because I finally realized my legs were fried.

First to go from that group was Gonzalez, then Hadley, and then finally Paul Ambrose a long while later, who had been doing a lot of the work with Cody Beals. Those two quietly did all the work, with no complaining, shouting, or threats like in a bike race. Strange. And I felt lazy. Even stranger.

We went through town, did a U turn, went up another highway grade climb for a few miles, then flipped it back into town. By then it was just myself, Beals, and Cunningham. There were just four guys up the road since the lead swim group’s fifth man, Andy Potts, had broken a chain 15 miles earlier. Drew Scott, Matt Charbot, Maricio Mendez-Cruz, and Allan Carillo had just a 1:40 lead on us thanks to all the hard work done by Beals and Ambrose. I ended up with the fastest bike split of they day by almost a minute, which was a tiny consolation for not finishing the run.

Run (first to quit!)

I took the lead out of T2 for some ridiculous reason at 5:45 pace in the 90 degree heat. My legs felt good and for a fleeting moment my lungs felt okay too. Then all of a sudden they didn’t and the feared chest cramp came swooping in to fuck everything up. I’m really looking forward to the day when I get this issue fixed, because 90% of my runs off the bike begin with a debilitating lung cramp that lasts anywhere from two to 13.1 miles, and it doesn’t matter how slow or fast I start out. Beals came around me a few minutes into the run, then Richie Cunningham came around by mile one. I put my hands up on top of my head and slowed things way down for the next five or six minutes, willing the lung tightness away with mind power alone…and fingers fiercely digging up into my chest cavity. By mile two the cramp was just about gone and I began picking the pace back up. I had about five minutes of okay running before the next, and unsolvable, problem came about: my hip. For those who don’t remember, I raced Coeur d’Alene with an injured TFL. Before the race it was just a nagging pain. After the race it was so bad that I was on crutches for the rest of the day and the next morning, couldn’t run for six weeks, and it didn’t fully stop hurting for two and a half months.

That was my right hip. Strangely, the issue I’d developed in the past week was now in my left hip. Both times the injuries came on in the same fashion: about a week before the race and just barely noticeable at first. Both were so minor that I wasn’t able to upgrade it from “tightness” to “pain” until four or five days out from the race.

I had it dry needled the day before we left for Cabo, but it was too little too late. By mile four I knew that my race was over. I was not going to inflict serious, long-lasting damage to myself again, especially for 15th or whatever place. Even though I was still currently in 7th, and a few miles earlier I had held onto delusional aspirations of catching up to Cunningham and contending for fifth or sixth place, I knew that the hip would slow me down to a jog by the end of 13 miles. I was already limping on it with 10 miles to go. I slowed down to a jog prematurely and let four or five guys pass me before I walked it in towards the finish without starting the second lap. It was a quick fall from actually being in the race (not just being filler) to wandering past the crowd of people near the finish line, avoiding eye contact because I was mad enough to slap the next person in the face who tried to encourage me by saying “Come on, don’t give up you can do it!”

End of Season 

This weekend left me with something to look forward to during training this winter. My swim has improved a lot and I was even able to eek out of good performance in a non-wetsuit race, something that I had previously thought would elude me for years to come. My riding strength (in the time trial position anyways) has gone up a bit this season as well, and it won’t be too long before it can actually be put to use bridging to the lead group instead of the chase group. The run here was a complete flop of course. It really sucked. I mean I really sucked. It’s my least consistent of the three sports. I can either run fairly decently or not at all. The first problem is that I’m constantly plagued by serious chest cramps when I run off the bike. They got less severe and lasted for shorter durations as the season went on, so there’s that at least. Secondly, to actually get faster and to have more constant performances, I need to run more, but I don’t want the hips to become a constant injury, or develop other long-lasting injuries. To build the muscular endurance for the run I need to be doing more than 25 miles a week, which is the max I’ve been able to consistently do this year without injuries popping up. Well, they pop up anyways. I think I just need more time and the larger volume will become easier to maintain. That, and more stretching, massage, and gym work. Or, I’ll just start tracking run distance in kilometers and/or get a pair of those kids’ shoes with the built-in wheels.

PS the swim skin magically appeared in my gear bag when I went to retrieve it. Thank you volunteers!

PPS Adelaide won her age group and placed 4th in the amateur field.

PPPS Don’t worry, Mom. I’ll be going to the doctor about the bloody bowel movements.