Into The Winter Months I Train

With legs of mush and mind of dread
He chamois up and prays for no rain
An hour in and his thoughts turn to bed
His dreams of glory are slain

The alarm blares loud with the moon still bright
Masters is calling his name
But he struggles to rise, he partied too hard
100 meters. He’s done. What a shame

His ache is a knee
His side is a stitch
Running becometh a bitch

With the weeks counting down
And the weather a frown
He sits on the couch
Not a man but a slouch

But she slaps his face
Preaching a phrase full of grace
“You’re gonna have a shitty race”

Motivation pumps though his veins
As contrariness gains
And he rides for five hours with pace

In the pool he’s always flailed and flopped
He’s never had much grace
Yet the meters tick down
And he doesn’t drown
In Palm Springs he’d better not get dropped

He runs to the track
Over ice and snow
It’s no longer desire that’s lack
After all, it’s just one more show

She yells for more speed from the outer lane
He pants and wheezes with legs full of pain
His music is loud with bagpipes that bray
Irish punk on a cold gray day

The last bend of the track comes into sight
He screams a shout that turns to a hack
A November gale blasts him back
Just one more test to his ceaseless plight

Push till the end, it’s a phrase to live by
Because you might as well fight, until you die.

 

Shit Always Goes Wrong at Los Cabos

Los Cabos is my favorite race of the year. Not only has it been my traditional season-closer and therefore an important race to leave everything out there on the course, but it’s also the one true vacation that Adelaide and I take each year. If you can call a race-cation a true vacation. Which I can. Plus, I like Mexican food and the bike course. It was even better (hillier) this year than last.

But I’ve had bad races at Los Cabos almost every time I’ve done it. The first year I was just plain slow from my newly diagnosed and unmedicated Hashimoto’s. The second year I came into it with a hip injury and pulled out after one lap of the run. The third year, last year, I had an okay race given the circumstances—my stem came loose and my handlebars kept slipping sideways, requiring me to get off the bike twice, and baby the downhills. Then my lung cramping was incredibly bad on the bike and the run, a problem that I’ve mostly solved this season.

In keeping with the trend, this year sucked as well. It was the most disappointing race of the year, and possibly ever due to my extremely high expectations. Though, every bad race seems like the most disappointing race ever. I can’t tell anymore. I’m still not over this one, but wallowing in self pity has become trite. I’m not exactly sure what that word means but I think it works. Here are the series of events that lead to yet another shitty race that I didn’t finish:

  1. I got sick on Wednesday before the race with a cough, fever, body aches, and a headache. I spent all day in bed and most of the next day in bed or on the couch.
  2. Because of getting sick and then immediately having to travel, I took three full days off from training before the race, which closed my legs off quite a bit.
  3. Adelaide’s stem broke when we assembled her bike on Friday night. It was a late and stressful night buying a new one and assembling it, which was a huge pain in the ass and required taking the brake off and re- “threading” a finicky frayed brake cable because…triathlon bike. The next day we spent another hour adjusting her position because the stem angle and length was off, and adjusting her aero bars is a nightmare.
  4. The day before the race as we rode to drop our bikes off at T1, Adelaide flatted on a huge pothole in busy traffic. She walked back to the hotel while I rode, then I re-glued her tubular. We took a taxi to T1 with the bikes in the back. Our day of doing stupid pre-race shit and standing on our feet wasn’t over until 6:30PM.
  5. We woke up an hour late because neither of our alarms went off. Adelaide’s phone was on silent, and my phone is a fucking piece of shit, as everyone should know. We threw on our kits, grabbed our pre-packed bags, and ran out of the room. We grabbed a handful of pancakes and bananas on the way from breakfast, ran up the hill towards the main road, and flagged down the next passing bus. While we missed breakfast and our cortisol levels were spiked beyond a reasonable level at 5AM, we did get an extra hour of sleep, so there’s that at least.
  6. My bike Garmin wouldn’t turn on race-morning at T1. Not an ideal time for it to decide to be broken, although this wasn’t a huge deal.
  7. My swim was shit, because I, as a person, am shit. I was two minutes slower than last year despite being a stronger swimmer this year. I just couldn’t get any intensity going, and have since blamed it on not having done an actual swim workout since Tuesday.
  8. During the first 10 miles of the bike I passed a few guys and made ground on everyone except Sam Appleton, the eventual winner. But I was gaining ground more slowly than I thought I should be. I didn’t know what power I was doing, but I felt fatigued early on. I was doing a max effort to make contact with the main chase group and didn’t have enough breathe to get any food down. I began losing steam after half an hour, wondering if I’d be in the money at all, let alone on the podium as I had hoped. I suspect that if my pedal hadn’t fallen off, I would have eventually finished up in that main bike pack but it would have cost me on the run.
  9. My pedal fell off at around the half way point. I stopped and tried to twist it back in, but it had stripped out the crank arm. So I screamed and swore and threw it against a rock wall and relished my vengeance as it blew up into many pieces. After waiting for Adelaide to come by, I rode back to the hotel one-legged.

I haven’t had a pedal fall off ever, except on my old fixie about 12 years ago. And that was just due to all of the parts of that bike being cheap and 30 years old. Every time I re-assemble my bike for a race, I just hand-tighten my pedals and that’s worked out just fine. Except this time. Apparently, a semi-loose pedal can back itself out if you don’t use a tool. And it can strip the outer portion of the crank arm in the process. This is caused by coasting and rough roads, though I didn’t do very much coasting in those 20-odd miles. However, this is the only likely explanation that I can think of, and the only explanation that anyone has suggested.

I enjoyed the rest of that day watching Adelaide come in 9th, followed by drinks and body surfing, followed by more of the same. The next day and a half were great also. I can spend all day in the ocean getting slammed by waves without getting the slightest bit bored. Adelaide had a decent first race back, and the weather and food were great.

So the trip wasn’t a waste by any means. Especially since we met some cool people staying at our hotel who were new to racing and therefore super stoked just to be down there pushing their limits amongst the palm trees and enjoying the excitement of it. I seem to have lost this joy from racing. I think I lost it a long time ago, or maybe never had it to begin with. For better or worse, racing is more of a stress than enjoyment—until I cross the line, and assuming I’m happy with the result.

Racing is a financial stress because I’ve put more and more expectations into making money at each event because we’re going broke living this lifestyle and paying for these expensive trips. Racing is a guilt-driven “time stress” built upon the vast amount of energy and hours I put into the monotonous training that could be spent doing other things, like working or fostering a cocaine habit. Racing is an emotional stress caused by worrying that something unexpected will go wrong in my race or in Adelaide’s race. And most importantly, racing is an ego-driven stress since I place almost all of my self worth into my results and my training. The rest of my self-worth is derived from how much Maybellene, my dog, likes me. And currently, that department is lacking because she ran out of dog treats.

While it may be stressful, racing is what I live for. The build the, excitement, and the feeling of accomplishment makes it all worth while. It’s like living with painful genital herpes. The sex may be stressful and agonizing, but it’s still fun. I assume.

I don’t feel like making a good ending out of this. Just imagine I wrote something about staying positive, reflecting on the good fortunes of my life, and looking towards the next goal.

Challenge Baja in three weeks! La Quinta a week after that! Unlimited ice cream for a month after that!

 

 

 

Adelaide, followed by Spencer, one of our new friends, qualifying for 2019 Worlds while also enacting the most spectacular finish line celebration of the day.

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Left to right: Betsy, Adelaide, me, Spencer, Tracey. I was only wearing pants because we were on our way to the airport.

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Photos: Betsy Hartley

As always, thank you to my terrific sponsors A-Squared BikesVision TechCUORE of Swiss, and Hammer Nutrition.

Staring at the hub

I see a flashing bike light a few hundred meters off in the distance, approaching me as I speed down Neva, a few minutes late getting out the door, but so was my riding partner. As the bike with the flashing light comes into view more clearly, I see that it’s Chris, and I gesture questioningly to him which way we should go. He points straight ahead, and I turn around before I reach him, we both roll to a stop for what will be one of four pee breaks in the first two hours of the ride.

It is a dreary August day, overcast and cool. I’m wearing a base layer, leg warmers, and arm warmers, with a lightweight jacket stuffed under my jersey at the base of my neck like a hunchback. This weather is meant for November, October at the very earliest. I feel like it might be November not only for the weather, but for my legs. I haven’t been training much in the last month as I recover from an injury and regather myself for the last racing block of the season, which will take me into December. My legs come around though, and we ride north towards Fort Collins.

Our conversation is varied, littered with life advice for one another, as well as crude jokes, rants about society, and our favorite types of food. A typical bike ride talk, which would not last much longer.

At the two hour mark, a few miles below Horse Tooth Reservoir, Chris pushes a button on his computer to start the “progression” interval—two hours in zone “Oh. . . I don’t know. Harder than we’ve been going but I’m tired so I’m not sure.” We’ve averaged around 230 at that point, so I’m hoping that 10 to 15 watts harder will be enough. It will not be enough.

Climbing up towards the reservoir, six minutes into the interval, I look down and see that I’m averaging 349 watts. This is not sustainable for me, so I half wheel Chris for a few minutes and continue the conversation. This counterintuitive tactic proves unnecessary, as we stop for water at a pump a few minutes later.

We get going again. I’ve zeroed my power meter, and now the power looks more realistic, but still too high for me to hold for another hour and 45 minutes. Soon the climbing is over with as we descend into Fort Collins, and my suffering begins. We’ve been riding hard now for half an hour. Chris has not slowed down. In fact, I soon realize that I can’t hold even with his front wheel any longer. I look down as we descend a false flat and see I’m pushing 364 watts and not regaining my position. I ramp it up to 400 and am now side by side with him. I fall back again and this time decide to take a breather behind him. I don’t want to slow his interval down anyways, so this is the best place for me.

20 minutes later and I am still taking my breather. I have tried coming around him to ride side by side numerous times, but each is a failed attempt. We have a strong tailwind, which makes his draft less impactful, and I inch ever closer, always searching for the best spot. 10 inches back and slightly off to the right since the wind is coming from the back and left. I stare directly into his rear hub without looking away for long spells of time. I switch it up and stare at his rear brake calipers near the bottom bracket. Droplets of water hit me in the face. I wonder if it’s about to rain, but it’s just sweat flying from Chris’ head. I think of the times during bike races when I’ve felt the mist of a rider up ahead of me peeing off the bike, and then the sweat doesn’t seem so bad. But Chris is sweating up a storm, and I wonder again if it might be rain after all.

I look at my power meter and see 275 watts. This draft is bullshit. Maybe it’s just as much effort up front and the tailwind is so strong that I’m not getting any draft at all. I tentatively peek out from behind his front wheel to come around, and I’m suddenly doing 330 again. I pull up beside and ride for 30 seconds, then blow up. I curse my lack of fitness and retreat to the draft.

An hour later and the pace has slowed somewhat, but so have my legs. We’re now in Hygiene, but there’s still 20 minutes of interval to go. I have tried to come around a few more times, but I can’t sustain anything for more than a minute. I try to motivate Chris to continue on after he concedes that he’s getting pretty tired. He continues on.

By Diagonal and 75th, I’ve averaged 261 watts sitting behind his wheel in the TT position for the last hour and 25 minutes. We say our goodbyes and he turns right as I continue straight ahead. I instantly stop pedaling hard. Sometimes not doing something feels terrific. This is one of those times.

IM Canada Race Report From Adelaide’s POV

(Written by Adelaide)

Last weekend we traveled to Whistler for IM Canada. Our flight to Seattle left at 6 a.m. Wednesday morning, which sounded like a smart idea when we were looking at flight prices. When it came to set our alarms for three in the morning we felt pretty dumb. We got to the airport at 4 a.m., thinking that would give us plenty of time, but there were so many people in the line for security that we barely made it to our gate, just 20 seconds before missing out on our precious B spots in the Southwest line.

We flew to Seattle instead of Vancouver because it was twice as cheap, though it did mean a five hour drive. Kennett got the rental car and they tried to up-sell him on a larger car than the compact we had reserved, explaining to him that it would be difficult for a small car to do such a long drive. Do some people really fall for that faulty thinking and opt for a gargantuan SUV? Small drive=small car. Big drive=big car. Extremely logical.

In our compact car we set out on our way to Canada. We stopped 45 minutes before Whistler to get groceries in Squamish because the prices were cheaper than what we knew food would cost in a resort town. We did absolutely no budgeting in the store, and came away with a $159 (Canadian) receipt for our entire week’s allotment of food. I bought two huge chocolate bars (and broccoli). Kennett bought enough rice to feed a small family for a week (even if all they ate was rice the entire time).

When we finally got to the AirBnB condo, the front desk area asked for our license plate because it was going to be $15 a day for underground parking. UUUUHhh. “Is there free parking in town?” The guy helping us said no, but there was $5 parking in a nearby lot emphasizing that it wouldn’t be a gated parking spot and someone could break in. Unlike the condo building, the $5 parking also didn’t charge after 5 p.m., so we got away with our first night for free. Yes, we take pride in simple savings like that, even though we never think twice about taking trips in the first place.

I personally loved parking a half-mile from the condo. The Nissan stayed in the same spot from Wednesday night until when we left Monday morning. There were two benefits about this. One – not driving for four days was a vacation in and of itself. Most of the time we spent walking or biking along paths so we actually had very little interaction with drivers at all. Second – I had to pay the day’s parking by 8 a.m., so each morning I had a reason to get up and go for a walk. I wasn’t racing, so there was no reason for me not to wander and explore around town.

Each day I found something new. I started by exploring where the coffee shops would be. Then I found the skate park and dirt jump park, and so on. We spent our time swimming in Lost Lake (Kennett didn’t do much actual swimming there), riding the top portion of the bike course, getting coffee in Whistler Village, and watching people at the dirt jump course, hoping that someone would take on the large jumps (only one person did). I also took a downhill mountain bike course and have a renewed passion to start hitting the dirt jumps at Valmont bike park. 

Now on to Kennett’s race. Starting on Tuesday he developed a cramp that stabbed his right chest when he breathed hard or swam. I’m sure traveling with multiple bags to carry didn’t help it. The first morning in Whistler, Thursday, he visited a medical clinic to get a diagnosis (torn intercostal) and some medicine, which didn’t help much. I’m incredibly proud of him, not for his race, but for how he handled himself in the days beforehand. Walking out of the clinic he told me there was a two percent chance he’d be able to race on Sunday. I told him I wanted to build the bikes and he said he’d just build his on Friday and that he had no intention of riding. But he ended up building his bike that morning anyways. 20 minutes later I told him I was going to ride and he said he was going to stay in the condo to play chess. Then, upon second thought, he gathered himself back from his negative mood and rode with me. Actually, he was well in front of me, because I couldn’t hang on with my road bike.

His attitude improved considerably throughout the few days before the race, even when his intercostal tear didn’t. He prepped his gear as though he would finish the race. Though, the night before he told me he wasn’t going charge the electronic shifting on his bike. I almost did it on his behalf but by the time I thought of doing it we were in bed, trying to get as much sleep as we could before the 4 a.m. wakeup call. On race morning we headed down to the building’s bike storage and I saw Kennett’s bike hooked up to the charge. Once again, he had done the little things, the crucial details that can make or break a race.

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Kennett before the start, already shivering cold and hoping for the best. It was a non wetsuit swim in 72 degree water with 50 degree air temperature at best.

As you can probably predict, Kennett did not finish. His chest cramped too badly on the first loop of the swim course so he just came straight in instead of starting the second loop. I saw him actually stop in the water a few hundred meters out to take a break, and hoped it was someone else. When he exited the water he was shivering uncontrollably. In the medical tent they gave him three space blankets and coffee, which he couldn’t hold on to without shaking it all over his lap. He put on a pair of my pink socks and my Victoria Secret sweatpants with bedazzled sides. He looked absolutely ridiculous biking back to town with three space blankets tucked under his sweatshirt, as if he had an odd combination of a beer belly and a hunchback, while still wearing women’s sweats.

I’m just as proud of how Kennett handled the rest of race day. After we both took baths to warm up, I asked if he wanted to go for a hike. We picked one close enough to walk to the trailhead and packed two Snickers bars and three Paydays that Kennett had procured for race food. Why not make life a little better with candy bars?

We picked a 26km hike that went up and looped around to the top Gondola of Whistler Peak. It was by far my favorite day of the entire trip. Almost the entire hike was uphill and we got to see beautiful scenery above tree-line. We pointed out glaciers on nearby mountains and I joked about what we should do if we encountered a black bear. “They eat nuts and berries. Does that mean you should throw trail mix near them and then bolt when they start munching? If I worked the gondolas I would fill one with food at night and leave the door open. I’d wait for a bear to get on the gondola and then have him ride it. Each night I would slowly train him until he was ready to get his own ski pass for going up and down the mountain.” 

When we did see movement in the trees I needed to quickly verify that it wasn’t a bear, because I think my ideas were slightly flawed. But the animal we saw wasn’t a bear, it was a fast-moving marmot, who darted between scree-rocks up the mountainside to our right.

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The absolute best part of the trip was when we found a small snow-patch that was melting and had left a freezing cold pond to walk in. Later we dove into a slightly less cold lake for one last refreshing alpine dip. Reaching the Gondola, we entered back into the world where people want to up-sell you for souvenirs, food, and transportation. Back in society unfortunately, but it was a nice break.

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[Note by Kennett: nuts are not a natural food for bears, and the “berries” in the trail mix that Adelaide is referring to are actually raisins]

Ironman 70.3 Coeur d’Alene – 2018

A cannon boom started off the day at 6AM. If there was any grogginess leftover from a night of four hours with restless sleep, it was blasted out of me with that cannon, as well as a good portion of my eardrums.

I dove in and focused on keeping parallel to the guy on my right (Mario) so I didn’t have to waste energy sighting. I’d decided to line up on the outside to see if that would reduce any of the chaos that I usually experience during the first 300 meters, and that method either worked or no one was in a mood for a bloody fight for position today. I got on Mario’s feet eventually and saw that there were only four or five guys ahead of me, this being a few minutes into the swim—usually a time that I’d already have been gapped off from the front group. Aside from the first few hundred meters, it hadn’t felt too hard yet, and it never really got any worse. I made the first turn and was still in the lead pack, got through a blinding 100 meter segment that was straight into the rising sun and was still in the lead pack, and made it through the second turn and was still miraculously in the lead pack.

Looking back on the swim, I think I was helped along by a few factors: 1) As far as I know the only really strong swimmer was Andrew Starykowicz, and 2) there was a moderately strong head current from the wind, which may have kept the bunch together for the first 10 minutes. Anyways, I was on Stephen Killshaw’s feet and he got gapped with a few hundred meters to go, meaning that I had 20 odd seconds to make up in transition to get back up to the top four guys.

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Stephen and I with some catching up to do.

Once on the bike I finally realized that I’d made the front group, and myself, Starykowicz, and Matt Hanson quickly left the others behind as we headed out of town. A few miles in I lost Starykowicz’s wheel on a slight downhill when a pickup truck pulled in front of him and provided a bit of a draft for a few seconds. It was all he needed to get away from us, since Matt probably weighs 140 pounds and my legs felt sluggish and unprepared for any hard efforts at that point. Matt came around me and closed the gap on a riser, but Starykowicz pulled away from us again on the next minor descent. I figured he’d get away from us eventually, and wasn’t too worried about it happening here during the first 18 miles of flatter roads. Once I saw that we could gain on him on the climbs I thought it was in our best interest to let him go and catch back up on the climbs, as opposed to flogging ourselves too much in the first half hour.

Hanson did all the pulling until the base of the first big climb, at which point I came around and set a pretty solid tempo. My plan was to just go hard and see what happened. If I dropped Hanson, good. I figured that I needed at least five minutes on him to have a chance at holding him off on the run. If he stayed with me, good. I needed help to hold Staryk’s wheel and/or to even make it all the way up to him. By the base of that climb he had around two minutes, and by the top he still had a minute on me.

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I assume this is the big climb.

I ended up dropping Hanson and riding myself into no man’s land, which ended up not being ideal. I could tell my legs were not going to ever come around today looking at my power, and I had no desire to tire myself out with such a waste of energy. There wasn’t a chance I’d be able to bridge up to Starykowicz at this point, even though the next 30 miles were rolling hills, and I didn’t think I’d be able to put a bunch of time into Hanson either since he was riding strong earlier. I looked back a few times and noticed that Hanson was coming back to me, so I sat up and let him catch me.

Except it wasn’t Hanson. It was Andrew Talansky. He came around and I got on his wheel (legally obviously) and could barely contain my joy. I celebrated with a caffeinated gel that got all over my hands when I attempted to put the wrapper back in my bento box. Has a more triathlete-esque phrase ever been uttered?

This was exactly the scenario that had played out in my head the weeks leading up to the race. Stay within 90 seconds of Starykowicz on the swim: check. Conserver energy for the first half hour of flat roads: check. Attack and drop Hanson (assuming I was with him) on the big climb: check. Have Talansky with me the rest of the race to pull me into T2: check. It all seemed too good to be true. I assumed I’d probably flat or something because so far the race was working out too perfectly, aside from having flat legs.

By the turn around Starykowicz still only had 80 or so seconds on Talansky and I, and I started getting a bit nervous about ruining my opportunity to place well today by getting dropped. I suffered to stay within 10 lengths of Talansky off and on throughout the next 20 miles of rolling terrain and off and on crosswind. I forced down calories when I could, but only managed to eat 60% of my food and drink one and a half bottles. Lucky for me I’d stuffed myself with rice, chicken, and salt the day before, as well as that morning.

I kept counting down the miles, hoping that Talansky would let up on the pace eventually. There were three or four times that I almost said fuck it, this is unsustainable for me, but each time I dug a little longer and the pace would ease up momentarily. The motorcycle official was with us the entire time, which I was aware of, and I even thought of riding into his draft zone just so I could get a drafting penalty and be awarded a five minute rest. Looking down, the power wasn’t crazy high or anything, my legs just weren’t turning over well and the effort didn’t align with the output. There’s a chance that my power meter was off since I’d forgotten to calibrate it that morning-—something I’d convinced myself to believe at the start of the bike leg—but now it was about the same temperature as when I’d ridden (and calibrated) the day before, so I wasn’t buying that excuse any longer.

One more climb and we were finally on the big descent. I knew I could catch some ZZs here since I outweighed Talansky by a good 20+ pounds. But the little demon pulled away from me! We were both sitting on our top tubes, getting up to pedal furiously for a few seconds and then sitting back down on them, and he was putting bike length after bike length into me on a 55 mph descent. WTF mate.

I powered back on when it flattened out and managed to continue holding on over the few lumps that remained. With a mile to go I nearly slid out going around a 90 degree corner and realized that I had a rear flat. I assumed that was the cause of my slow descent, and breathed a sigh of relief that I hadn’t flatted sooner. I could just ride this in and worry about any potential damage to my disc at a later date.

Talansky and I came off the bike a little over a minute behind Starykowicz, with a three and a half minute gap back to Hanson who had ridden solo. The next group back was eight minutes or so, and wouldn’t be a factor in the race. The only other guy in the race that I had been worried about was Alex Libin, my recent nemesis who has beaten me by one spot in the last two races, and I found out later that he had been given a (most likely unfair) drafting violation on an uphill section. So it was just myself, Hanson, and Starky to fight out for the top three unless Talansky had found his running legs. If he does, he’ll be a top contender in most races, but for now he seems to still be struggling on the run.

The first mile of the run is my least favorite. It’s when I feel the absolute worst, and feeling that bad while knowing that there’s still over an hour of hard running to do is defeating. I focused on short strides, belly breathing, standing upright, and small pumps of the arms, all of which are completely unnatural to my preferred long-strided lope, shallow wheezing chest breaths, and 90-year-old’s posture. A bunch of people have encouraged me to change my run form over the past few years, from my previous coach Michael to my PT Christine the day I left for Idaho. But mainly Adelaide, who is always harping on me about it since it’s such a waste of energy to run with bad form.

My newfound run form did me well over the next four miles and I caught up to Starykowicz without having to kill myself. However, I deteriorated after that, as did my form. I couldn’t pull out more than 10 seconds on him, and I knew that Hanson was coming up on the both of us fast since the gap back to him was down to two minutes by the first turn around at mile 3.5. My stride lengthened and my speed dropped.

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The only thing more painful for me than running is seeing pictures of me running.

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Why do I always have brown liquid dribbling from my chin?

So as not to put too much pressure on myself and crack, I had an internal chat and confirmed that I was only going for 2nd place at this point, and that once Hanson did come around, which would have been inevitable even if someone had shot me from the side of the road with an amphetamine-laced blow dart, I was not to feel defeated and slow down. I needed to keep the pace up to increase my gap on Starykowicz, not worry about what Hanson was doing.

At mile seven I relinquished the lead and Hanson passed with ease. I kept the pace up for the next few miles and could still see him up ahead until I got to mile nine, at which point I started dying. At the final turn around I saw that I only had 26 seconds on Starykowicz, which seemed to take even more wind out of my rotting sails. This was going to be Raleigh all over again, where I get run down in the final miles and don’t have the strength or will power to push through.

At each corner I stole a glance over my shoulder, seeing that Starykowicz was continuing to gain back on me. My watch confirmed that I was slow. The fact that I couldn’t seem to pass one of the female pros on her first lap up ahead confirmed that I was slow. The fact that people were yelling at me to speed up confirmed that I was slow. My mind confirmed that I was slow, and worse than that: weak-willed and afraid of true pain. As the meters ticked by, I got slower and slower until I finally reached a point of anger. The mad button, located somewhere between the hypothalamus and the amygdala oblongata, had been pushed.

I let out a curse and a growl (more like a hurt moan) and took off with a little over a mile to go. Once I got back up to speed I actually felt better, and was able to push even harder. I looked back and saw that Starykowicz was nowhere to be seen. I kept pushing just in case, also knowing that if I slowed down I wouldn’t be able to get going again, and ended up putting close to a minute on him in the last mile. He later confirmed that his hamstring cramped up when he’d been just eight seconds behind me, but I’m fairly confident that my kick would have held him off regardless.

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I’d post some pictures of other people if I had them. But this is triathlon, and one only care’s and talks about oneself in this sport anyways.
Matt had 2:40 on me by the end, and didn’t seem too tired at the finish line, at least compared to how I felt and most likely appeared, sprawled on the ground. Starykowicz crossed and collapsed on the carpet with me. Matt gave a short speech on the mic as Starky panted in pain, and I, on hands and knees, vomited on a spectator’s feet. He ran 1:11 something, and I had run 1:17 something. I’d like to be able to run that fast, but mainly just so I could spend six fewer minutes running.

One of the best things about racing is being pushed to a level that you would never reach on your own, and in so doing pushing others to the same. Similar to how happiness is only real when shared, according to Chris McCandles (the guy that Into The Wild was written about), I think that full effort is only achieved when shared. There’s few sensations better than going to your absolute maximum, whether you win, get second, or come in dead last.

I feel like I can realistically win a race now that I’ve been 2nd and 3rd. Whether that happens this year depends on who shows up to the races I do, and if everything goes perfectly like it did for me at this one. For now, I’ll savor this result as long as I can, because you never know when your luck will turn.

Ironman Raleigh 70.3 – 2018

I’ll jump right into things by describing in detail how much long grain white rice I had in the 20 hours leading up to the race: One small bowl with chicken for pre-lunch (lunch was a smoothie). One small bowl with a bit of left over steak immediately after eating lunch. One small bowl with chicken and some left over grilled vegetables before going to the pre-race meeting and dropping off my bike. One large plate with chicken and some grilled veggies upon getting home for dinner. One more medium bowl with avocado immediately after that. One small bowl right before going to bed. NEXT MORNING: one gigantic Tupperware with three eggs and avocado while being driven to the race course. In total, I had 20 ounces worth of dried rice, which equals 2,000 calories.

*Note: this list does not include other food that I ate.
**Note: I prefer short grain rice but the store didn’t have any.
***Note: This is probably on par with how interesting the rest of my race report will be.

It’s Still All About the Swim

My swim sucked. I was 20 odd seconds slower than last year, despite the effort being quite a bit harder than last year’s mellow swim, and came out of the water in 11th. I’m going to agree with anonymous Slow Twitch forum users that the course was 100 meters long. But more to the point was the fact that I came out far behind who I wanted to ride with on the bike: Jackson Laundry and Tyler Butterfield. I thought there was a slight chance that I could come out of the water with them (or close behind), work with them to bridge up to Matt Charbot whom I knew would be out of the water first, and then drop as many members of the group as I could on the hillier second half of the bike course.

While cycling is my strength, I don’t have the ability to drop everyone in the field at will like Starykowicz or bridge huge gaps when others are working together. I need people to work with and save those 10-30 watts in order to have a chance. Coming out of the water so far behind the leaders was a big blow, and I let that sink in too much as I started riding instead of altering my plan immediately and charging ahead with reality.

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In the first few miles I let my mind go to a bad place, and struggled to see a positive outcome for my race. At the one and only turn around on the bike course at mile four, I saw that the eight or nine guys in front of me at that point had between three minutes and 90 seconds. I unwisely let myself believe that there was no way I could catch the leaders once the strongest guys came together in the next five or 10 miles, and that I would be left fighting for a top five at the very best, and likely only a top eight.

In My Element

My power was good after that turn around though. I kept looking down and seeing mid to upper 300s during the first 15 miles, so I put my head down and went for it, pushing aside negative thoughts as best as I could. My power for the first hour was 330 and I wasn’t feeling tired yet.

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By mile 30 I had ridden into 4th, though for some reason I thought I was still in 6th or 7th, and my power was still holding at 328. A few more miles later and the hills started, which aren’t really hills but low-grade lumps or risers. Enough to warrant me coming to this race but not enough to call it a hilly course. Anyways, at this point I heard from Brian, our host who was watching with Adelaide and her parents on the side of the road, that I was in 4th with two minutes up to 3rd. I kept plugging away but quickly losing steam as I went, and finally caught 3rd (Tyler, who won last year) by mile 45.

I put in a surge as I came around on a gentle riser but wasn’t able to shake him. I continued riding hard, out of the saddle on the hills, and pushing 90% to drop him. At this point my legs and glutes were pretty dead, so after a few miles of putting the gas on I slowed in defeat and waved impatiently for him to come around, hoping that he hadn’t realized I was trying to drop him, and instead thought I had just been pulling for our two-man team. He eventually pulled through and let me know he was hurting and probably wouldn’t be able to help much, but just riding near someone else does boost the motivation quite a bit when you’re suffering.

Playing Tactics For No Reason

In the last five or six miles, after I had nearly crashed going over a huge pothole when my head was down, we both slowed to a relative crawl, effort-wise. Both of us were refusing to tow the other into T2 and burn our own match for the other’s benefit. Finally, with a quarter mile to go I saw him start punching his glute to get a cramp out. Shit. I’d been worried about him easily running away from me after T2, and had been soft pedaling thinking that I was being smart and conserving energy. Now I began wondering if he was just falling apart, as opposed to employing the same tactics as I was.

Sure enough, I came out of T2 and Tyler must have had an injury or been feeling really bad, because he didn’t start the run. I had lost 30 seconds or more playing that little game–30 seconds that may have been useful later on, though I doubt it had a true affect on my placing.

The Race of Pain and Agony

Looking at the run course map in the week leading up to the race, I assumed it would be a nightmare. A total of nine tight turn arounds and a third of the the race on a tight, potentially slippery bike path seemed like a horrible idea. I’m sure it was horrible for later racers once the course got congested with 2,000 people, but for me it was fine, and it allowed for a lot of feed zones. Starting out, I felt pretty good. I didn’t have any hopes of running down Jackson or Matt, who were three and two minutes ahead of me off the bike (respectively), but I thought I’d be able to hold onto third at least.

In Trouble

At the first turn around I saw that I had four minutes to Alex Libin, who I knew was a great runner from his performance at Oceanside and subsequent run at Monterey. My lungs were good and my chest was completely cramp-free, yet I was still struggling with self doubts for some reason, and kept thinking that I wasn’t pushing hard enough. My biggest worry during a race is that I’m not giving 100%, which I believe is much harder to accomplish than most people think. I’d rather get 8th and feel like I gave it absolutely everything than place 3rd and miss out on 2nd because I wimped out from the pain. This is one of the main battles I have going on in my head during the running portion of a race: am I going hard enough? If the answer is no, and I can’t seem to pick the pace up after agreeing that the answer is “no,” I enter a dark place of self disgust and my pace seems like it actually drops.

By mile six the gap I had on Alex was cut down to 2.5 minutes and I knew I was in trouble, but thought I could still hold him off. But with each turn around, as I counted the time gap, I lost more and more confidence.

During the last three or four miles I put in surges, slapped myself in the face at one point, let out a scream, and did everything I could to stay positive, pissed, and believe in my ability to hold him off. But it wasn’t enough, and my legs began failing me more and more with each step. It was a slow, hard, hot, humid course and even though my breathing was mostly controlled and steady, my legs just couldn’t sustain a faster pace than what I was doing for more than 20 seconds at a time. Each surge was short lived and futile, and by now I knew it.

With two miles to go I saw that I would be caught in a matter of minutes, so I put in another surge and quickened my stride momentarily. Then I died again and lost all hope. Christen Brown gave me some encouraging words as I came around her on her first lap and I surged hard again, getting mad and suddenly ready to keep fighting. A few hundred meters later and Alex was just behind me though, and since I knew there was nothing to lose I surged as hard as I could again to make him hurt for the pass. Maybe I could crack him mentally and somehow hold him off until the final straightaway, and then we could sprint it out.

But he blew by me like nothing, and the gap immediately grew to 30 seconds in just half a mile as I lost all hope once more.

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The Jog of Shame

Defeated, I nearly came to a walk on the hill with a mile left to the finish. Adelaide was running beside me on the sidewalk at a few points, cheering and encouraging me as she cut across streets and parking lots while I made a big box towards the finish line in downtown. I had Alex in my sights at the straightaways, even though the gap was approaching a minute, and I put all my hope into him getting a cramp or taking a wrong turn out of sheer fatigue. I sped up again briefly as I contemplated these factors, but of course they didn’t happen.

I was angry, mad at myself for having such a weak mindset off and on throughout the race, and just overall let down that I missed the podium. This was a race I thought I had a chance at winning, and I ended up fourth again after fast-trotting the last quarter mile in depression, anger, and pain.

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Fortunately I have a relatively short memory for these types of defeats and judging by how incredibly sore and tired I was the day after the race, I think I put in a good physical effort for what my somewhat tepid mindset allowed for that day. I got to enjoy the rest of the hot afternoon sunshine by relaxing and spending time with Adelaide and her parents, who had driven eight hours the day before to come watch me race.

Unfortunately, this is the last year that Ironman Raleigh will happen (a local organizer is putting on a grass roots race though), which is a huge letdown because it’s such a good, hard event in a place that I’ve grown to enjoy, even if a few of the local drivers are mean spirited shits towards cyclists.

Thank you to Brian and Michelle for hosting Adelaide, myself, and Maybellene, and of course a big thank you to my awesome sponsors A-Squared BikesVision TechCUORE of Swiss, and Hammer Nutrition. Next up is Coeur d’Alene 70.3 in two and a half weeks.

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Does Supplement Contamination Really Cause Failed Drug Tests?

My biggest fears include being paralyzed, serving a long prison sentence, having a loved one get killed or seriously hurt in a bike or other sporting accident, getting old, and testing positive for a banned substance that I took accidentally. And not necessarily in that order.

Just a few days ago, I learned that a former teammate of mine failed a drug test and has accepted a one-year ban in bike racing. I first learned about it on Cyclingnews, and was so shocked that I thought it might be about someone else with the same name, so I went to his Facebook page to confirm that it was him. I was shocked not just because this was a former teammate of mine, but because he really didn’t seem like the type of guy that would cheat. I spent a fair bit of time with him, and actually lived with him for a month a few years ago, and I would have bet a considerable amount of money that he was clean. He was just too honest, and nervous, of a person to dope, in my opinion. Myself and another teammate that I was living with at the time would sneak across the street to eat a continental breakfast at a hotel every morning and this guy wouldn’t join us because he didn’t like to break the rules. He did have a marked improvement since I was teammates with him, but that doesn’t mean that he cheated to get to that point. In my experience, consistency, dedication, and hard work can create a pretty big boost from one year to the next, even after multiple years of stagnation. I have an extremely hard time seeing him as a doper.

I don’t need to name him, but for anyone who follows domestic cycling it would be easy to figure out who this is. Anyways, his story goes as follows. He was tested at a race that he did fairly well at last spring and was informed a few months later that he had failed the test for Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), a steroid that is sold over the counter and is widely known to be a fairly worthless banned supplement to take on its own. It can, however, be used to get the body to start making its own testosterone after a regiment of artificial testosterone has been used. The body stops making its own T after you dope with enough artificial testosterone so the idea is that when you come off testosterone doping, you use DHEA to get your body back on track so that you can eventually test clean at a race. DHEA might also be used as a masking agent. Anyways, he was given a one-year ban–a reduced sentence for providing evidence that his whey protein was contaminated with DHEA.

Tom Zirbel was busted for DHEA back in 2009, and a fair number cyclists in the domestic pro peloton believed his story that he was clean and had been screwed over by a tainted supplement. At first I didn’t buy this story a bit. I have gone back and forth over the years though. On the one hand, he did get 4th at the world time trial championships that year. Is that even possible without drugs? I don’t know. On the other hand, how would he have been so clueless to have been caught with DHEA in an in-competition test? (The test he was busted at was done at the USA national time trial championships).

I don’t known Zirbel that well, but have chatted with him a handful of times and he’s certainly a nice guy, which everyone says about athletes who get popped whom they want to believe are clean. Being a nice guy means nothing, of course, and is not evidence of innocence. Anyways like I said, I’ve gone back and forth on believing Zirbel’s claim, and don’t really have a definite opinion at this point, especially after my ex-teammate just got busted for the same thing.

Is my ex-teammate telling the truth? I believe so. Obviously I don’t know, but this story has certainly raised my concern about accidental contamination.

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 Pee for drug testing, or champagne. One of the two.

Over 25 Percent of Supplements Contain Banned Substances?

There’s certainly evidence of supplement contamination in studies. One source that I have trust in that supports this claim is Precision Nutrition, which cites a few different studies, one of which found that over 25 percent of supplements tested were tainted with banned substances, back in 2001.

You could easily say, “Just don’t take any supplements. It’s not worth the risk.” But that would pretty much be impossible. That means that you are not only avoiding vitamins and recovery drinks, which would be the easy part, but that you are also supplying and preparing all of your own nutrition for races. So no gels, no sports drinks or bars, no chews, and no taking anything in aid stations. You can’t even get a damn smoothie at a damn smoothie place because of the damn whey protein in it. I guess you could ask for it without the protein, but then of course you aren’t going to get yoked at all, so what’s the point? IT’S ALL ABOUT BEING YOKED!!!!

My second reaction to hearing about my ex-teammate’s failed drug test, after shock, was fear. Fear that something I take might be contaminated. I actually had a nightmare about it the other night. You might think that you don’t take that many supplements (this includes race and training nutrition) but you’re probably wrong about that. At least, I was. I compiled all of the “sups” that I take, either on a frequent or infrequent basis, and it’s pretty staggering, as outlined later on below.

Third Party Testing

There are a number of independent, third-party testing companies that help hold supplement and nutrition companies accountable, including NSF Certified for Sport, Informed Sport, Informed Choice, Human Sports Performance (HSP), and others. However, even if a product is routinely tested by one of these companies, it doesn’t guarantee that it’s clean. Apparently 10 percent (@3:25) of the products sent in to be tested by Informed Sports are found to be contaminated with banned substances. That seems like a lot, especially for companies who are knowingly sending in their product when they are not required to do so by law. After all, if a company voluntarily sends a product in to be tested, that probably means they are fairly confident that it’s clean.

And what about consistency? If a company doesn’t use Good Manufacturing Practices, which ensure that each batch is consistent with the last, one batch could pass a third party test while another might not. According to USADA, “It is the law to manufacture supplements in compliance with Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to find non-compliant companies,” meaning that a company’s batch of product might be clean in August but a later batch in December could potentially be contaminated (at least this is what I took it to mean).

Most supplement and nutrition companies source products from all over the globe, from a dozen or more different manufacturers, and switch their suppliers around throughout the years to use the cheapest ingredients they can find. There’s a lot of opportunity for one of the many ingredients in your protein powder to be made in a factory that also produces DHEA or steroids. Generally, the more ingredients your supplement has, the higher the chances are that one of those ingredients is laced with something dirty.

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If you’re dumb enough to take something that’s packaged like this, maybe you deserve to serve a ban? This has around 40 ingredients.

Using my Journalism Skills

I did some interneting and phone calling to figure out what third party testing procedures and other safeguards there were for the supplements that I take. I’m not including Good Manufacturing Practices, organic, GMO free, or USDA certifications as a safeguard, since these don’t necessarily mean anything.

There are a few ways that a company’s product can, for the most part, be trusted:

1) Third party testing from a non biased company like Informed Sport or NSF Certified for Sport that specifically tests for banned substances. However, some companies are misleading, such as My Protein. A website might say that they use Informed Sport when only a handful of their products are actually tested.

2) Only use supplements made by companies that get all of their ingredients from labs that never produce or handle any banned substance. This would be hard for you to confirm, however, and you’d likely have to take the company’s word for it.

3) Only use supplements that get all of their ingredients from NSF certified labs. The following is what it takes to be an NSF certified lab:

  1. Product evaluation
  2. Product testing in lab
  3. Manufacturing facility inspection, production confirmation, and product sampling
  4. Test results review and acceptance
  5. Contract signed and products listed
  6. Annual plant inspection and retesting

However, there is a difference between an NSF certified lab and NSF Certified for Sport product. The later is tested specifically for the 272 substances that currently make up WADA’s banned list, while the former (an NSF certified lab) is not specifically tested for banned substances. NSF certified labs do have accurate labeling, third party testing done by NSF, annual audits, unannounced visits by inspectors, and they generally seem like they’d be a large step up from the average supplement facility.

What Supplements and Nutrition I Use

Here’s my personal list of nutrition and supplements and the corresponding degree of safety: Green for good safeguards, Orange for some safeguards, Red for no real safeguards that I could find, Pink for I don’t know. I was surprised that most of the companies actually got back to me, as did NSF. I was also surprised at how many of these companies had some sort of safeguard be it a third party testing company, that they never use ingredients from distributors who handle banned substances, or that their products are at least made in NSF certified labs.

Daily (Nightly)

  • Pharmaca Sleep Formula Fast Acting Chewable Tablets (NSF certified lab)
    -Contains L-theanine, melatonin, and 5-HTP 

Every Few Days

  • Hammer Nutrition whey isolate in smoothies, as well as other Hammer Nutrition products including their bars, drink mixes, Fizz tablets, and gels *(Third party tested but I’m not sure which company, all ingredients come from NSF certified labs and none of the labs handle any banned substances)
  • Clif bars, gels, and Bloks (Played phone tag for a while and gave up. Never found anything out)
  • Barlean’s fish oil (Third party testing with Exact Science–couldn’t find out anything online about this testing company–but I doubt they test for banned substances)
  • Other liquid-form fish oils that are on sale at the grocery store (Who knows?)

Adelaide and I make our own recovery mixture, which contains the following:

  • Hammer whey isolate (See above)
  • Dextrose from Nuts.com (The only company I never heard back from and that didn’t have information on their website)
  • Maltodextrin from Honeyville (NSF certified lab)
  • Sodium citrate from Modernist Pantry (No third party testing, but at least the manufacturer where they get their sodium citrate supposedly only makes food additives. Possibly a risky supplement considering the large number of products the manufacturer produces)
  • BCAA’s from My Protein (No third party testing. I originally thought that they was tested through Informed Sport, but that is only true for ONE of their many BCAA supplements, and not the one that I’ve been using. Threw it in the trash just now)

Infrequent Use

  • Vitamin D from Puritan’s Pride (No third party testing)
  • Magnesium from Puritan’s Pride (No third party testing)
  • Vitamin B-12 from Puritan’s Pride (No third party testing)

At Races, So Every Month or Two During Race Season

  • Whatever gel gets handed out in aid stations (Potentialy no third party testing)
  • Maurten dink mix (Informed Sport certified)
  • Gatorade at aid stations (No third party testing) 

Sometimes I also get free omega 3’s or vitamins as samples at the grocery store, and I generally use the free protein powder or other goodies found in race swag bags. So there’s even more supplements that I take over the course of a year that could be tainted. This list also doesn’t include cold medicine, cough drops, anti-inflammatories, etc.

I’d say it’s almost impossible to completely safeguard yourself from accidentally testing positive if up to 25 percent of supplements would actually cause a failed drug test, and/or if it’s true that eating South American beef can trigger a failed test for clenbuterol (I have a hard time believing this one and certainly don’t believe Contador). What does this mean? Pretty much that if you’re an athlete who gets tested, you should live in constant fear–and narrow your use of products as much as possible to those that have some sort of third party testing, use NSF certified labs, or are not made in a facility that handles banned substances. No more free gummy vitamins from Sprouts or vitamin D from Puritan’s Pride.

In General, Don’t Trust Someone Who Failed a Drug Test

If I ever fail a drug test I will not expect anyone outside my immediate family or very close friends to believe that it was from a contaminated supplement or food. I think there should be an extreme level of skepticism for the stories told by athletes who fail tests. I am of the belief that the vast majority of world tour pro cyclists, whose names you recognize, are dopers. I don’t think it’s possible to get an olympic medal in any speed or strength sport without doping (running, swimming, gymnastics, lifting, throwing, etc). I think that many of the top guys in triathlon are dopers as well. I don’t believe the stories of the triathletes who got busted for ostarine last year, who claimed it was from a contaminated salt product.

If you read an article about an athlete failing a drug test, you should believe that they doped on purpose unless you know them personally and have a very strong reason to believe that they are clean. For me, it was seeing the annoying level of adherence that my ex teammate had for the rules. . . at least when it came to stealing breakfast from a hotel. Plus, he was able to prove that his protein powder was contaminated, which USADA recognized.

It’s hard to know what to think when the person who fails a drug test is a teammate, training partner, or friend. Does your emotional bias get in the way? Certainly. Does that bias help you see the truth, or does it blind you? I don’t know. I’d lean towards blinding you. You really only know for certain that one person is clean: yourself.

And your spouse. I think it would be virtually impossible for your spouse to dope without your knowledge.

 

**Disclaimer, I’m sponsored by Hammer Nutrition. However, I was prepared to write the truth even if it meant putting Hammer in a bad light. Over a phone call with Hammer I also learned that if a supplement that you take is made in a place that produces or mixes DHEA, there is a high chance that that supplement is tainted. DHEA is so fine that even if it’s being used in a closed off room on isolated equipment, it can still get into the ventilation system and contaminate a product all the way across the factory.

Edit: USADA has a “High Risk” supplement page if you click here (you have to create an account). There are hundreds of supplements listed, with classic names such as Anabal 10 (Injectable), Crackhead, Double Tap, God of Rage XXX, Phenbuterol, Total WarRed White and Boom, and just simply Growth Hormone.

Oceanside 2018

Sometimes traithloning is ugly when you get up close. In fact, usually it’s downright disgusting. There’s running shoes soggy with fresh urine, race suits encrusted in salt and snot, and slick legs and arms slathered in a mixture of sunscreen, body oils, Body Glide™, sweat, dirt, Coke, and probably more urine. Somehow, I’ve managed to bring the disgusting to a new visual level with a half dozen mocha gels that temporarily gave the impression that I was a heavy tobacco enthusiast. Behold the ugly:

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Version 4

“Eating all that poop was a bad choice!”

Now that that’s out of the way, I’ll get back to selecting photos that make me look as Blue Steel as possible in my continued pursuit of crafting a glamorous, envy-invoking lifestyle, since that’s what Buddha created social media for.

The Swim

I spent the entire swim worried that I was going to ruin Chris Leiferman’s race. I’ve got a tendency to get in bad swim fights because I have a strong veer to the left that’s hard to control, and because the only thing propelling me through the water is sheer anger that I’m having to swim instead of ride a bike. So whenever anyone tries to take the feet I’m on, or swims right on my shoulder, it usually turns out bad for everyone involved, as the majority of my energy goes into throwing bows. This is why I never like to start out next to anyone that I know. But since I could see Chris throughout the entire swim off to my left or right, I tried to keep out of his way and keep my veering to a minimum.

The swim felt crowded the whole time because, as I found out later, I was in a group of 13–probably the biggest group I’ve swam in. Usually I’m dropped in a group of three or six. I came out in a little over 25 minutes, which I would have been happy with last year, but somehow that’s still three minutes slower than the lead group (of two). There’s a lot more work to do in masters.

The Bike

I managed to come out of T1 a handful of seconds behind Chris and Jesse Thomas, both of whom I knew were strong cyclists. I thought there was a real chance of getting to the front of the race, or close to it, on the bike if the three of us worked together. Unfortunately, Chris flatted at mile two so it was just Jesse and I throughout the next 54 miles.

The Oceanside bike course starts out flat for around 25 miles, then gets nice and hilly for 20 miles, and returns to flat for the final 10. Since Jesse and I were chasing a larger group, at least in the beginning, I think we needed the hills to be at the start of the race. We caught and dropped a few guys during the first half hour but didn’t make any inroads on the second group on the road, which initially contained third through sixth (Matt Franklin, Rudy Von Berg, Tim Reed, and Eric Lagerstrom) before it broke up later in the race. Jan Frodeno and Lionel Sanders were way up the road, each in a race of their own at that point, so catching up to this group or at least a few of these guys was our best bet.

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I hit it fairly hard on the climbs, but made sure Jesse stayed with me throughout that early and middle section of the race. I knew that I needed his help if we were going to catch anyone, and I also didn’t want to do the last 10 miles of flat road alone. A few different options played out in my head before I made this decision though:

1) I go hard and drop Jesse to try and get a gap on him for the run since he’s a faster runner that I am. This option would likely not allow me to catch up to anyone else on the bike, and would tire me out even more for the run.

2) I ride easy and make Jesse pull more so that I’m fresher than him when we get off the bike, giving me a chance at staying with him for the run. This option would maybe mean that some fast runner/slow cyclist would catch me on the run though, and would eliminate the chance of placing better than 7th or 8th.

3) I ride hard but make sure Jesse is with me, then force him to pull all of the flat section back to town, sort of a combination of the two above options. This was the option that I took, and in the end it ensured that I didn’t catch any riders ahead and that Jesse easily dropped me on the run. Oh well.

The Run

As was to be predicted, Jesse passed me easily in the first mile of the run. I attempted to stay with him for a few seconds, but my legs weren’t capable. It was a similar feeling as Bariloche last month, where my legs were dead and I couldn’t force them to go any faster without completely falling apart. I kept looking at my watch, wondering how in the hell I’d managed to become a slower runner than I was last year as the current pace ticked between 6:00 and 6:15 per mile.

By three or four miles, I had been passed by Alex Libin and was running in 9th, one spot out of the money. I tried hard to stay on his feet but there was nothing I could do. A half mile later I decided to force myself to run as hard as I could for at least a mile, but my chest quickly cramped up and I put that idea to rest. My motivation continued to fade and I went into a dark mode of self loathing and hatred for running. A mile later I passed Adelaide and AJ (owner of A2 bikes) when I was at my lowest point, wondering if I should just drop out and walk into the ocean. If I had to guess, I was running close to 6:30 pace at that point, and Oceanside is a super fast run course. Last year I ran 1:16:25, which was around 40 seconds per mile faster than I was currently going.

Then, all of a sudden I noticed that I could push a bit harder. Then a bit harder. I gave a five-year-old, who had his hand stretched out way above his head (like three feet off the ground) a high five as I passed him. Maybe going real slow for a few miles was sort of a re-start. The motivation returned as my legs were finally able to push. I saw Matt Franklin ahead of me as he came my way after a turn around. The gap was only at 40 seconds. I ramped up the pace and felt the anger return. I was finally running below 6:00 pace again, for the time being, and knew that I could catch him in the next few miles.

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The pass happened sooner than that and I was back in 8th, a somewhat salvageable placing if I held onto it. I pushed hard for the next five miles and had a decent negative split for the second half of the race by the time I crossed the finish line. I was still almost three minutes slower than last year here, and only one place better, but with an even more competitive field (and possibly fatigued legs from the big run volume I’d done the week before the race), I guess I can’t be too down on myself. It used to be that when I ran poorly it would be over 90 minutes. Now a bad run is 1:19.

As with bike racing, there’s always someone faster. A lot of people faster. It’s easy to stay humble when you get beaten by over 15 minutes, and when others run by you like you’re on a dog jog. But finding motivation from others, like that five-year-old on the side of the road, is a good option when you’re feeling sub-par. Speaking of inspiration, in his first race in one year of being sick and injured, Chris Leiferman ended up riding that flat tubular for as long as he could, then sat on the side of the road for 80 minutes waiting for a new wheel. He ended up riding hard for the rest of the bike leg, negotiating turns and descents among age groupers that were going half the speed, and finishing the run in a watch time of high 1:15. Next time I think about dropping out, I’ll remember this.

Next up is Wildflower, where Jesse and I can hopefully have another nice bike ride together.

As always, thank you to my amazing sponsors: A-Squared BikesVision TechCUORE of Swiss, and Hammer Nutrition. Hopefully my efforts are worth your support. Also, thank you to everyone cheering, including Adelaide, Abby, AJ, Allen, and everyone else with a first name that starts in A, and other people too.

Bariloche 70.3 Race Report

Getting There

Getting to Bariloche was not easy. In order to make the flight as cheap as possible, it took us 47 hours of travel to get to there (including a night spent in a motel in Miami, so not all of it was traveling). We left our house a little before 7AM on Monday and arrived in Bariloche at 10AM (6AM our time) Wednesday. Adelaide and I spent the first few days walking around town, going on a few death training rides, and doing some easy swims. Since we ended up staying in a hotel with most of the other pros, we got to spend time hanging out with them, which was fun and different than all of my race experiences in the U.S.

Bariloche is nestled at the foothills of the southern Andes in Patagonia. The area is dominated by 205-square-foot lake Nahuel Huapi, with dozens of other large lakes and 7,000-foot snow capped peaks painting a beautiful Bob Ross landscape. The weather was a bit more harsh while we were there, with 20-30 mph gusts, rain, and cool temperatures. 

The town itself is a major tourist destination, specifically for skiing in the winter, but during the other months it’s still packed with people roaming the streets buying chocolate and window shopping. It’s roughly the size of Boulder, at a little over 100,000 people, and like Boulder, it has grown rapidly in the past few years. According to one of our cab drivers, the population has doubled in the last decade, which explains the horrendous traffic situation the town has–hence the “death rides” mentioned earlier.

The Swim

The lake was walled in by forests on either side, with a large cliff encroaching down all the way to the water’s edge out in front of us as we entered the water. At 10AM, the air was still cold, and a slight mist could be seen from our breath. The water was equally chilly, with good visibility and taste, not that I drank it on purpose. It was, by far, the most scenic swim venue I’ve ever seen.

After the start gun went off, as usual I found myself getting dropped from the leaders in the first 200 meters. I thought, so much for improving my swim over the winter, and hoped that my legs would show up for the bike despite it being so early in the season. Eventually I found someone’s feet who I could hang onto, and I sat there for the rest of the swim. At the half way point I felt like it was too easy and contemplated going around him, but thought better of it. I’d most likely go the same speed, but at a higher effort.

I didn’t know it at the time, but the two of us finished in 25:11, almost a minute faster than my best swim last year, and 1:45 down on the leaders.

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This is after what I felt like was an easy swim. What the hell is wrong with me?

The Bike

Most of the lead swimmers put on gloves and arm warmers. The roads were wet and the temperature was only in the mid to upper 40s, and in the process of putting on clothing, they lost 30-40 seconds, to my benefit. Once I was out of T1 and on the bike, I made quick work of the undulating terrain throughout the first part of the bike course. As mentioned before, the roads were wet, and combined with constant climbs and descents around blind corners in a dense forest, I was right at home. I may not have been the most daredevil cyclist, but compared to most triathletes I turn a bike around a corner pretty well.

By seven or eight miles, I had caught everyone except the leader, Torenzo Bozzone, who still had 20 seconds on me. At this point, Igor Amorelli was a few seconds back from me and after I took a long pull, he came around and closed the gap to Torenzo within a mile or two. We quickly formed a cohesive trio, taking fairly even pulls, despite my attempts to take the easier pulls and save my legs since I knew they were both superior runners.

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On my way to the fastest bike split of the day on the Speed Phreak.

After those first 10 miles of fun roller coaster roads, the course straightened and flattened out quite a bit, though it was still somewhat interesting with a few minor rollers here and there. For additional motivation, not that I needed any, there were more spectators out on the roads than any other triathlon that I’ve done.

Half way through the bike course and our lead continued to grow on the first chaser, TJ Tollakson. I felt the first signs of fatigue, but kept taking my turns on the front since no one likes to be thought of as lazy. By now we had doubled back on the course and were passing through age groupers, which slowed us down in the corners and made things a bit dicey at times. I lost contact with Igor and Torenzo with 12 miles to go around a round-a-bout when I got stuck behind a group of other riders, and as I struggled making my way back up to them I realized how tired my legs were getting. So, with 10 miles to go I stopped pulling and “sat on,” if sitting seven bike lengths back can be called sitting on. My normalized power for the day ended up being 326, so nothing crazy but still pretty decent for March.

The Jog

As we came out of T2, Torenzo dropped both of us immediately. Neither of us even tried staying with him for a second. A few minutes later, Igor came around me as my feet and legs refused to wake up. During those first few painful miles I thought of three things: 1) I need to start doing runs off the bike, 2) I need to start running more, and 3) there is no way I’m ever going to do a full distance race.

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Thank you for the picture @pix4uhq!

The wind was bad every day we were in Bariloche, but right beside the lake it was atrocious. Going one direction I had a nice tail wind, but the other it was a consistent 20-mile-an-hour breeze, with gusts close to 30. Up until about mile six I’d been able to limit my gap to Igor to 20-30 seconds. Second place was within striking distance if I held it together. Then all of a sudden my legs fell to pieces. My legs turned from rubber into melted rubber and my pace began to drop. My breathing was no longer labored now that I was slowing, and my heart rate didn’t even feel that high. I’d fueled well during the bike with around 1,200 calories, and had been sipping 30-40 calories from my flask every mile during the run, but I was quickly losing energy, and TJ was closing the gap.

With four miles to go, I had two minutes on TJ, down from 3:50 at the start of the run, and 4:10 a few miles in after initially putting time into him. My legs grew worse and worse, and I battled the 2.5 mile head wind section now believing that I’d get caught. There was no way I could hold him off running close to seven minute miles, and I couldn’t get my legs going any faster. By the final turn around, with 1.5 miles to go, I only had one minute on him. I rallied and pushed the bad thoughts out of my head, forcing myself to believe that I was safe from being caught and that as long as I nailed the next mile I wouldn’t even have to run hard for the last half mile–a little reward for myself later if I ran as hard as I could now.

That thought process, combined with the tail wind, helped get me through that next mile. I turned a corner to run uphill towards the center of town, looked back, and saw TJ just 20 seconds behind. Fuck. This was going to hurt. I’d used up almost everything in that previous mile, but had had another 800 meters of headwind through the city center to get through.

I powered on, each step growing more angry at the thought of being passed, and more self-assured that there was no possible way that I could be caught. I fell across the line with a 17 second lead on TJ, and immediately collapsed on the ground, equally mentally exhausted as physically, since I’d been cracked for the last six miles straight. I’d believe I would be caught, get content with 4th, then a moment later become resolutely devout in the belief that I’d hold TJ off, then second guess myself again 300 meters later. Back and forth all the way to the line. Not the best mental strategy, I know.

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114_m-100807939-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-2149_080303-15138733147_m-100807939-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-2149_080336-15138766Igor on the left, myself on the right, and Torenzo in the center. A week later Torenzo made it an incredible three in a row after winning Ironman New Zealand, Bariloche, and Campeche in a 15-day period.

After recovering and finally getting to be part of the podium ceremony, I headed down to watch Adelaide race. She finished 5th, which was her first time making money in triathlon. It was enough to pay for her plane ticket, or our taxes, or her new race wheels and E-tap, or all of the above depending on our level of excitement.

Before the race as we prepared in T1, Adelaide told me that I was going to come in top three and she was going to make money. If either one of those things had happened, it would have been a huge success, so the fact that both did meant it was double plus good. We spent the next few days in Bariloche doing tourist stuff and soaking in our accomplishments. Neither of us could have realistically hoped for a better start to the year. Thank you to my sponsors A-Squared BikesVision TechCUORE of Swiss, and Hammer Nutrition. Also, thank you to my coach Chris Winn, as well as Matt and Nora, and Joss and Galen for watching Maybellene while we were gone.

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The nightly chocolate ration grew by 25% each day.

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The view from the cafe at the top of Cerro Campanario

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You take a chairlift up and down to the cafe. Our legs didn’t complain.

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There are plenty of old stray dogs to pet in Bariloche, and very few went un-petted.

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Hiking on our last day. We were advised not to go on the trail because of strong winds that could cause trees to fall over.

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We took this sign to say, “Don’t get an erection because it will cause you to lose your balance and fall off a cliff.”

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Chow.

Training Leading up to Los Cabos

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog about training. My performance at Los Cabos was nothing spectacular due in part to my breathing issues, but since it’s now the off season and I have more time to write, the training leading up to the race might be interesting to some. So here goes. First, a bit on the summer leading up to this final training block:

After injuring my sacrum at Raleigh 70.3 in early June, I had a fairly poor June and July of training. I wasn’t able to run for nearly two months and I had to cut back on swimming and riding for a number of weeks as well due to the injury. Finally, when I was able to race again I was too eager to race, and made the mistake of doing Boulder 70.3 and Steelhead 70.3 back to back. I had shitty performances at both. With all the tapering, traveling, and recovering, plus a week visiting my parents in Oregon, my form was shot once again by the end of August. Needless to say, Santa Cruz in early September did not go well, especially since I got sick a week before it. Having a DNF there after a summer of injury and bad races nearly ate up the rest of my motivation for the season. Then to add insult to injury I got sick again the night after Santa Cruz. I decided to take a week very easy after I recovered from the latest bout of illness to refresh my mental and emotional selves, then get back to work for the remainder of the season. That left my coach Chris Winn seven weeks to work with until Los Cabos.

At this late point in the season I wasn’t eager to rack up large hours, and for a professional triathlete I tend to train on the lower end of the volume spectrum to begin with. For one, I get sick when I train too many hours. It may sound like I was sick all summer long, but starting from the beginning of this season 52 weeks ago, I was only sick for a total of 3.5 weeks the whole year, meaning that I definitely didn’t overtrain this year. Secondly, I lose motivation when I do too many hours, quality drops, and I fall behind at work. I enjoy harder efforts anyways, and for now the shorter hours seem to be working.

I averaged 20 hours per week for six weeks leading up to Los Cabos, with the seventh week (race week) at just 12 hours since I like a nice taper. In fact, I began tapering the week before that, so it was really a 5.5 week hard block with the largest week at 23 hours and the shortest at 14 (by accident since I missed two long workouts that week due to life). I followed a similar pattern each week, which usually went something as follows:

Monday: Rest day, so usually some commuting on the bike to the pool/grocery store and a 4,000 to 4,5000 meter masters workout.

Tuesday: Morning Boulder Track Club group run. This would usually entail about four miles of intensity at 5:00 to 5:50 mile pace, and around 9 to 11 miles total for an 80 minute workout. I’d generally follow this up with a 2K easy swim later in the day.

Wednesday: 2-2.5 hours on the bike with intervals. A typical set of intervals would be 3-4×20 minutes at sweet spot, or possibly 2×20 minutes at threshold. Later into the training block I did more VO2 and zone 6. Usually these rides were scheduled for three hours, but in order to make noon masters on time I almost always cut them to 2-2.5 hours since I rarely make it out the door for a ride before 9. Next would be masters, which is usually a hard workout and a total of 4,000 to 4,800 meters.

Thursday: 3-4 hour ride, typically with at least some sort of intervals. Sometimes it would be 90 minutes of tempo, other days it might be up to 90 minutes of sweet spot, which is a hard workout.

Friday: Another Boulder Track Club morning group run with around 3-4 miles of intensity and 9 to 11 total, followed by noon masters, again 4 to 4.8K in length.

Saturday: Morning masters, 4-5K in length with more of an endurance focus, then a 3-5 hour endurance ride. Sometimes this ride would have intervals as well depending on what Wednesday and Thursday were like.

Sunday: Long endurance run (13 to 17 miles) followed by an easy 2-3K in the pool.

(I commuted on the bike a few hours each week as well, though I only include about a third of those hours in my totals since they’re easy and short efforts).

No two weeks were identical by any means, but I do like to get into a steady routine. I seemed to adapt well to this type of training and structure. However, my cardiovascular fitness seems to have surpassed by body. Like last year, I suffered from back injuries, hip injuries, and most plaguing of all, my damaged intercostal issue. They all stem from bad technique, stiffness, and imbalances. Hopefully, strength and mobility training will take care of most of those injuries. Looking at my training above, I neglected to include strength and mobility entirely (I did it through the winter and spring, then stopped in early summer).

Areas to Focus on Next Year

My biggest issue right now is my chest. Improper chest-dominant breathing, which I’ve done for a decade at this point, may be responsible for straining my intercostal muscles. I have abnormally large lungs (7.3 liters but who’s counting), which have helped me get away with this poor breathing technique all these years. Loosening up my chest and back, stretching and training my body to ‘breath correctly,’ and then strengthening my core may help solve that problem. Next, weak glutes are failing me on the run and late into the bike, so I need to fix that issue as well. Finally, I drag the lower half of my body like an anchor. I need to invest more time and energy fixing my stroke.

Throw in two or three hours in the gym and another 90 minutes in the pool and I guess I’ll be hitting 24-26 hours per week like everyone else. Maybe doing more with less isn’t possible in this sport after all, because if you slack on training within any of the three sports, you get dropped; if you slack on mobility/strength, you get injured; if you slack on sleep or recovery you get sick or burned out; and if you slack on your wife and dog you sleep on the couch (metaphorically that is. I would never be able to actually fall asleep on our couch. I’m way too fragile for that). I work from home and only part time and there still aren’t enough hours in the day. This sport is bullshit!