Week #2: Training is Getting Real Again

Monday: If I remember correctly, the weather was quite gloomy, so I did a super short and easy indoor ride, a masters workout, and a 3.5 mile run in the afternoon with Adelaide. It was a slow start to the week, mainly because I was in a bad mood.

Tuesday: The mood reversed! During our group run, we did 2×800, 4×400, and 6×200 on the track—a short and sweet workout but I got over 10 miles in so I was happy with it. At mid-day I did two hours on the bike with 2×20 minute threshold intervals and actually managed to hit threshold watts. I was very pleased, especially considering it was after a fairly hard run. 

Wednesday: I had an absolutely horrible morning as a witness to a horrific car vs bike crash that brought back some serious PTSD. I won’t get into it again since you can read about it yourself if you’d like to, but I managed to get on the bike with Adelaide’s encouragement and had a solid 4 hour ride. In fact, the first half of the ride felt great to get some rage out, then I began fading later on and had to stop for soda. Oh darn. I followed it up with a fast 30 minute run off the bike with one mile moderate, one mile hard, one mile real hard, and two miles moderate.

Thursday: I cut my planned long ride down to 3 hours, then did another 30 minute run off the bike with Maybellene, easier than Wednesday’s run. I shortened the ride mainly because I was tired and was pushing out pitiful watts, but also because I was stressed about being behind on work. And, I picked a horrible route that I used to enjoy (straight east on highway 52 past Hudson out towards Hoyt) but found that I absolutely hated it on this day.

Friday: Group run again, this time with a 20 minute hard effort on the Boulder creek path, the first 15 minutes of which were with rocks (holding small rocks in our hands) and the last 5 were without. Followed by 5×75 seconds hard. I added on some easy miles at the end to get to 13. In the afternoon I did a 4K endurance swim by myself and managed to keep from quitting out of boredom. Success. 

Saturday: The day started out with a 2 hour mountain ride on road bikes with Adelaide. We went up Wagon Wheel to Lindon, then up Sunshine to just shy of Rowena. Just dirt and climbing like the good old days. I switched bikes when I got home and did another 3.5 hours up Rattlesnake and had good watts all day long. My shifter battery died about an hour in, though, and I was stuck in the small front chainring. Then an hour and a half later it fully died and I was limited to just the 12 tooth in the back. However, 42×12 is a pretty decent gear so I managed just fine. Back at home, I got out the door with Adelaide on another 30 minute run, starting out moderate and ending up faster. 

Sunday: 18 mile BTC run, the majority of which was done with John, a faster runner than myself, and Maybellene, a much faster runner than myself, though it was warm out so the odds were evened between Maybellene and me. We did the middle 90 minutes of the run at 6:25 pace and I was very happy with how I felt. Maybellene was happy with the route, which included five or six quick dunks in various creeks and ponds. From home, Adelaide and I coasted our way down to the rec center for a 3K endurance swim, then got lucky with a tailwind that pushed us back home. 

Worst Nightmare

While walking Maybellene the other morning, I heard a loud crunch as she and I approached Broadway. I recognized the sound as a car impacting something—another car possibly. However, as I trotted up a grassy slope with Maybellene, I expected the worst. A mini van was stopped mid-way into a parking lot and a cyclist was lying on her side in the bike lane, not moving. I ran across the street with Maybellene as traffic backed up on both sides. The driver of the mini van was already out of her car on the phone, dialing 911.

Two or three other people began to gather around, no-one attending to the cyclist at this point, who was shaking uncontrollably on the ground. Her eyes, rolled up into the back of her head and twitching, were mostly closed. Just slits of white showed. Bright red blood was pooling rapidly on the pavement from her nose and mouth. She looked like Adelaide.

But she wasn’t. She looked to be in her 20s and had bright bleached blond hair like Adelaide, and with similar facial features, from what I could tell. But her bike didn’t match up. I looked at her face, then at her bike, then at her face, then back at her bike. “It can’t be Adelaide because that’s not her bike,” I told myself. She also had a commuting bag that Adelaide didn’t own. I crouched down to her, asked for someone to take Maybellene’s leash, and touched the girl’s arm and told her I was there, knowing I couldn’t do anything to help.

Another person crouched down and tried to keep her calm, though from the way she was shaking violently, with eyes rolled back, I doubted if she was able to hear or understand anything. She looked like an animal whose brain had just been crushed and was in the last moments of life. Laying on her side, she still straddled the bike. It was the worst, most sickening thing I’ve seen in person.

The driver, standing right beside me and the victim, was talking to a 911 dispatcher with unbelievable apathy. I heard her nonchalantly say, “I hit a cyclist with my car. She just came out of nowhere.” It was as if she was reading from a script that all drivers are taught to repeat whenever they hit a pedestrian or a cyclist. I stood up and yelled into the woman’s face and into the phone so the dispatcher could hear, “Oh shut the fuck up she didn’t come out of nowhere she was in the bike lane!” The driver had turned left in front of the cyclist without looking, or possibly saw her and though she could “beat her” through the turn. Both of these scenarios happen all the time to me. I usually don’t chase down cars anymore when this happens, but when I used to I always got one of the same two responses: a super aggressive “Fuck off” or an “I didn’t see you,” which is obviously not a valid excuse when driving a deadly vehicle that could take someone’s life in a second when operated carelessly.

The blond girl on the pavement who looked like Adelaide had begun uttering an otherworldly moan at this point and was trying to raise her mittened-hand up to her face, though she was only moving it a few inches. I steadied her arm to keep it in place. A guy behind me yelled at me and a woman who was crouched down attending to the cyclist, “Don’t move her. Leave her exactly where she is. She could have a spine injury,” and he continued telling us not to move her, though neither of us had attempted to do so. At this point, maybe 90 seconds had passed since I first came across the scene.

The driver was still on the phone distancing herself from reality, telling the dispatcher, without any semblance of urgency, “I need an ambulance. She’s hurt.” She said this as almost a complaint. I stood up again and yelled into the phone “She’s dying, get here quick!” to let the dispatcher know that this was a real emergency, not just a broken collar bone, and that the ambulance needed to be here now. Fucking now. I immediately realized that if the victim was able to hear anything, I wished I hadn’t said that so loudly. I crouched down and continued stroking her arm and said an ambulance was coming and that she’d be OK. I asked another person standing by to call 911 too just to hammer home that this was serious and that she needed an ambulance immediately. I crouched down to touch the victim’s arm again and told her she was going to be alright, wishing that I could do something to actually help.

A minute or two later I attempted to get the driver away from the cyclist, whom the driver was currently blaming, along with another driver who supposedly waved for her to go ahead and make the turn. “You need to move back. Get the fuck back,” I yelled in her face again. “Shut up,” she said. “I’m staying right here. My kids are in the car,” as if that had any relevance to what I was demanding. Either she didn’t understand that I simply wanted her to move 15 feet away while she blamed the victim, whom she was practically standing over, or she was just being defiant in order to mask the guilt she probably was feeling.

After that last outburst of mine, another woman who had been crouched down with the victim said I wasn’t helping the situation, which I could see for myself at that point. The girl who looked like Adelaide was moving a bit more now, still moaning and trying to raise her arm to her head while feebly attempting to get her leg untangled from her bike. But she was still unconscious and unresponsive. Her body and legs were still shaking rapidly and uncontrollably, and the whites of her eyes continued fluttering. An amazing amount of blood was seeping from her face onto the ground.

An ambulance’s siren approached, and there was nothing any of us could do except keep the victim calm, which I wasn’t helping to accomplish with my attempts to relocate the driver, so I walked away.

I crossed the underpass tunnel under Broadway towards home, then walked up the slight rise back up to street level on the other side of the road to watch the paramedics get out of the ambulance that had just pulled up. The people who had been gathered around the victim now hugged the driver, which disgusted me. A minute later, I looked back towards our house, roughly 100 meters away, and saw Adelaide, who had been on a run with our friend Zana, walking towards me.

I turned away from the scene and met her down on the bike path. “Is that what I think it is?” she asked. I said yes and I began to cry as she hugged me. I told her I had somehow thought it was her, even though I knew that was completely illogical. “I’m right here,” she replied.

An hour and a half later I got on the bike for a four hour ride, not one minute of which was spent thinking or obsessing about something other than what I had just witnessed.

Week #1—Anemia and Rectal Bleeding

My training is off to a fairly good start for Boulder Ironman, despite the title of this blog post. Last week I decided to do a recap of my training each week leading into Boulder—eight weeks away now—which will be my first full distance triathlon. In the past, blogging has helped keep me interested in workouts for some reason, so as part of my revamped effort to stay focused this season, here goes the first of what will hopefully be nine boring blog posts about riding, swimming, and running [very] moderately fast. Emphasis on the moderate.

On Monday I did a four hour ride in the mountains and enjoyed just about every minute of it, aside from the first hour, during which I attempted some intervals and went absolutely nowhere. After the ride I did an easy three mile run off the bike.

Tuesday was my group run day, which Adelaide has been joining in on the last few months as well. We did 9x1K starting at half marathon pace, getting down to 10K pace by the end. Rests were 90 seconds. I felt good for the whole workout, and my last 1K was 3:02. I did a long warmup and cool down, and ran a little over 12 miles total, which was my goal. That afternoon I did a 4K solo endurance swim.

I fell apart on Wednesday. I went out for intervals on the bike and knew I wouldn’t be able to do them right away. I made a feeble attempt and turned back after 90 seconds. I didn’t do any other training the rest of the day.

For almost a year now I’ve wanted to get my ferritin tested, as I’ve felt sluggish and unmotivated off and on in training. I’ve had low iron in the past, and have recognized some of those feelings with those that I’ve had in the last nine or six months. I finally got the test done on Wednesday and found out that I’m anemic, which explains a few things. While anemia takes a while to reverse, even with iron shots, I’m happy to figure out what’s been holding me back.

Thursday—I had a good 4-hour ride with Chris on road bikes in the mountains. We spent a solid amount of time on dirt and ran into a few friends along the way, including Justin-Justin Daerr, making for a perfect spring day. I did another three mile run off the bike.

Friday—Back at the run group, since I wasn’t confident I’d be able to push any watts on the bike for my originally planned intervals, we did a series of diagonals on the soccer field (sprints), followed by jumps, a six-minute effort at 5:16 pace, a plyo circuit, another six minute run effort a tiny bit faster, and more diagonals. The distance was low but I felt good on both six minute efforts. And, for the first time, I didn’t injure myself running the diagonals. In the afternoon I rode two hours in the mountains on the TT bike, again enjoying the sun and relatively warm weather.

Adelaide had a local half marathon on Saturday, so I paced her for that. In total, I got 17 miles of running in, then did an easy 30 minute swim afterwards.

I had my third bright red bloody poop in a row on Saturday morning. I’ve had a tiny bit of blood on the toilet paper many times before, but nothing like this. This has been full on slit-your-throat-into-a-toilet-bowl amount of blood, mixed right into the poop. No, it’s not always beets, Sir. I guess I’ll head into the doctor’s next week. I’ve done some horrifying reading online, and it seems like hemorrhoids are my best option. I briefly thought that maybe this was the cause of my anemia, but the rectal bleeding would need to have been going on for a long time for that to be the case.

Sunday—Cut my 4 hour ride nearly in half because I got drenched up high, then didn’t have the motivation to finish the rest of it on the flats. I did another 3 mile run off the bike with Adelaide and Maybellene.

This week was definitely lacking in the swimming department, as well as intensity on the bike, and overall volume. I skipped a few swims, a run, and of course all of my intervals on the bike. However, I think this is a good starting point to build from. I hope that I’m able to handle more intensity once my anemia is taken care of. And my rectal bleeding.

 

Oceanside 70.3, Third Time’s Not a Charm

Friday, the day before the race, I had been enjoying a relaxing afternoon sitting on a pile of pillows on the living room floor of my Airbnb, watching Mrs. Doubtfire and sipping on juice. Earlier that morning, I’d completed an hour ride with 3×5 min progression intervals, followed by a 15 min run off the bike with five or six strides. That, and along with eating and watching my movie, was about all I’d done by 2:15—my scheduled departure time to head down to the pier, do some body surfing, get my race packet, and attend the-all-important mandatory pro briefing, during which pros who have competed in 50 or more races ask questions about penalties and the number of swim buoys that will be present.

On my way to Oceanside, which was only 17 minutes away (not counting parking time), I decided to stop at Starbucks and buy a large coffee, which I’d store in the fridge, for the early morning wake up call the next day. I also remembered that I wanted to buy a cheap alarm clock since I no longer trusted my phone’s alarm, so I made a stop at Target, where I also bought more juice for carb loading.

With my errands completed by 2:35, I headed towards the race venue still on schedule to get in my swim and packet pickup with plenty of time to find a seat for the pro meeting.

45 minutes later, my patience and easy going nature of the earlier afternoon erased from memory, I slammed my fist into the steering wheel in a useless attempt to shut up the incessant beeping that was coming from the dashboard. The car was inching forward at 1 mile per hour as I scanned the only parking lot I knew about in the area for an open spot. At first I thought the beeping had started because I was just about to run out of gas, which I was, then I realized that I’d been driving around with the parking brake on for the last five minutes.

I yelled fuck, which I had loudly muttered numerous times in the last half hour—the entirety of which I’d been circling around a parking lot trying to find a parking place. The problem was that all of the metered parking spaces on the street required coins, of which I had none. The only place to legally park, therefore, was this sole parking lot that accepted credit cards. I had spent 10 minutes circling around it earlier, each lap grinding my teeth as I saw a newcomer slip into a recently vacated spot that SHOULD have belonged to me. This happened half a dozen times, then I decided to just risk it and park in a metered spot without putting any coins in. I was just about out of gas, after all.

A few minutes later I stepped out of the car, now parked on the street in a metered zone. I had second thoughts and got back in. Adelaide would be furious if I got another parking ticket. I headed back to the parking lot and began circling.

I continued to lose out to other newcomer drivers who magically found themselves behind car that was just pulling out, and slid in before I could get there. I asked some people walking to their car if I could have their spot, thinking that I could convince them to save it for me, but they pointed to a truck and a car already competing for the single spot. I tried stopping in the middle of the parking lot and waiting for a car to pull out from a spot next to me, but that method was only working for others. I eventually pulled into the diagonal dash-lined box next to a handicap spot, then thought better of it.

Finally, about an hour after I’d arrived, I pulled back into a metered parking spot and said, “Fuck it. I’ll just get a damn ticket.” Sweating profusely out of rage and needing desperately to pee from the two liters of juice I’d consumed while circling the lot, I quickly pulled my wetsuit on and jogged down to the beach.

At the last second, before I went into the ocean, I ran into the room where the pro meeting was going to take place in roughly 20 minutes, and asked if anyone had a few quarters. The guy (didn’t get his name) who was in charge of the bike course briefing gave me 85 cents, and I sprinted back up to my parking spot a quarter mile away. I inserted the coins, disappointed to see that 85 cents only bought me 36 minutes. I jogged back down to the beach, now sweating not just from stress but from running around in a wetsuit for 15 minutes, and found relief as I waded into the cool water, finally able to relieve my bladder as well.

I spent the next 12 minutes swimming and body surfing, then ran back up to the car to change into my street clothes. As I started the jog back down to the meeting room, I saw that I only had 8 minutes left.

No one ask a damn question in this meeting.

The small room was packed with around 100 people in it and I took the last seat, someone’s mom guilty getting up to give it to me, though I would have been fine standing—better excuse to just leave. As the meeting began, I felt that old familiar parking ticket stress coming back, and I scanned the room for someone who might have some spare change.

Paula Newby-Frasier, the pro liaison, was fortunately standing close by. I whispered to her if she had any quarters for parking, and she turned her wallet inside out, finding 40 cents. She told me not to worry, and began making her way through the room asking other Ironman staff to hand over their change. The briefing carried on as Paula, eight-time Kona winner and the most successful triathlete ever, went from staff member to staff member asking for spare change. The absurdity of this situation did not escape me. Out of a dozen people, not one had a single penny, which lead me to believe that everyone must have been parked illegally like me.

Paula came back and said sorry, so I took her 40 cents and ran back up to feed the stupid meter, which was at zero minutes when I got there. 40 cents got me another 16 minutes. I jogged back to the meeting room, where I sat for approximately 3 minutes before deciding the hell with it. I exited the room, signed my name on the sign in board, and went about getting my race numbers and timing chip.

I was about to head out when I saw Paula talking to Talbot in the corner of the gymnasium that was being used as the check in area. I thanked her for the coins and for trying to help me with additional parking funds, and Talbot handed me a $20 bill (he also didn’t have any coins), and instructed me to just go buy something from one of the vendors outside and get change. I ran out there and got in line. When it was my turn to order a can of soda, I read that their policy was “No change.” I pleaded with the person behind the glass sliding window, who apologized and said there were no exceptions. Next, I got in line at an ice cream vendor, but the person in front of me was taking forever sampling, and I figured this place probably didn’t give out change either.

After returning the $20 bill, I ran back up to the parking space (2 minutes to spare) and headed home, hoping that I wouldn’t run out of gas before I found the next station.

 

The End.

 

 

 

 

 

The Next Day:

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The swim started with an on-beach sprint and through some small white water rollers, which was a fun change from years past starting in the harbor. I lost contact with the front groups of course, and over the next 1K I slowly joined up with a few others. Exiting the water in 24:56, a personal best but probably only because the course was short, I noticed that Sam Long was right with me. “Let’s work,” I told him.

For the next hour, he and I traded pulls, getting help with the occasional pull from Taylor Reid. We, particularly I, didn’t have the power to break away from the seven or eight guys behind us, which was a first for me in this race. In the past, I’ve averaged 320-330 for the first hour, which is plenty to get away alone or with one other. However, on this day my legs were completely blocked. I almost didn’t believe how low my average power was by the first half hour, sitting at 274 without budging more than a few watts every once in a while.

As we started the main climb, which is about 3 minutes long and over 10 percent, I put in a big, near all-out effort that finally snapped the elastic, as they say. I pushed on solo for a few miles, noting that Sam was thankfully coming back to me alone. He came around as we passed Eric Lagerstrom, which put Sam and I in 6th and 7th respectively, though I thought we were in 9th and 10th. I still wasn’t feeling good and couldn’t push, but at least we’d dropped the others, aside from Reid, who came back to us a mile or so later.

Then I got dropped. Or, I sort of let myself get dropped. I made the decision that if I held on any longer, I’d have nothing to run with, which would probably have been true. I sat up and four or five others came upon me, and I spent the next 20 miles just sitting in, which was surprisingly easy—a good thing because my legs were still complete shit.

By the end of the bike, I averaged 254, a full 60 watts lower than last year. My time was only three odd minutes slower, though I’m pretty sure the wind conditions were quite a bit faster this year than in the past few years.

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Once off the bike, I was passed by Lagerstrom and Justin Metzler within the first half mile. I miscalculated what place I was in, and decided to say the hell with it. I’d run at least a lap, but I wasn’t going to run hard, so I put the brakes as a few others passed. I ended up running a few miles with Timmy Winslow for company before I realized that I wasn’t in 15th or 16th place like I had thought, but 12th place and within range of a top 8 if I had a good run. Maybe I could at least pay for part of the trip.

It was most likely too late at this point, with 3.5 miles already run at tempo, but I put in a partial effort anyways and picked myself through the field to 9th. I lost my sense of urgency and my motivation after I stopped passing people, and finished without moving up on anyone else.

Analyzing the race, I gave up way too early. I threw in the towel when I couldn’t hit the power numbers I’m accustomed to, and let myself get depressed and pissy before the run even started. Had I just focused on my own race, I’m sure I would have done better and enjoyed myself more, even though it still wouldn’t have been the stellar result I was looking for. For any age groupers reading this, realize that pros (at least me) also have quite a few self doubts and low moments during races, even half distance races. I won’t offer any advice on how to overcome or deal with these moments, because I suck at it. So good luck with that.

I have decided to take the next few months off from racing and refocus on training. With the late race last year at Indian Wells, I got a delayed start to this winter’s training. And, plagued with a few long illnesses, my form isn’t where I want it to be, though I do realize that one fluke bad bike day shouldn’t be used as a litmus. Anyways, I’m going all in for Boulder Ironman now that Raleigh 70.3 isn’t coming back—which has always taken place the week before Boulder and has kept me from trying to complete it.

Moral of the story: bring quarters for parking.

 

Check out A-Squared Bikes and Vision Tech USA if you haven’t done so already.

Spring Break Training Camp

Spring Break Oh-Eight! Adelaide and I went on a SICK vacation to Cancun for spring break and got totally wasted and partied so hard, brah. It was epic, and not even like the dried meat type of Epic but like totally sick epic show us your titties epic, brah!

And by Cancun I mean we stayed in Boulder and trained.

Monday:

I ran a slow 17 miles on the open space trails north of us. My lungs weren’t cooperating, and I spent the first 30 minutes hacking up phlegm. I’d been looking forward to running fast but settled for just being able to run period. I’m not sure what’s going on with my lungs, but they’ve been getting worse over the last few months, and years. Adelaide ran long the day before, so she did an hour easy run.

Next up was a 6K swim, Justin–Justin Daer–style, with 3×800, 3×400, 3×400, 3×200, and 3×100 as the main set.

We finished the day off with an hour easy trainer ride watching stand up comedy. It was SICK.

Tuesday:

The day began with a 3K endurance swim. I can’t remember the set. Next was the main beef of the day’s training—3×15 min threshold/V02 intervals. All three were supposed to be done as 30 seconds V02, 30 seconds at tempo for 15 minutes, but I only managed that for the first one. The next two I modified, doing V02/recovery, then just straight 15 minutes threshold. My legs felt better than I expected them to, given the long run the day before. I then did a 20 minute run off the bike. EPIC.

Wednesday:

5 hour ride in the mountains to get things rolling, then a six mile run off, slower than I’d wanted since my chest cramped up. Adelaide rode 4:40 with a 20 minute run later in the day. EPIC PAIN CAVE. Other overused WORD or PHRASE! BOOM.

Thursday:

Thursday was our rest day since the final three days of the week were going to be big. I did a 3K sprint masters set, then another endurance 3K with Adelaide later in the day, who did a straight 6K for time I believe. Throw in about 45 minutes of bike commuting and BOOM. Rest day complete. Single SYLLABLE WORDS.

Friday:

Friday sucked. It started out good with a 75 minute run with Kathy Buttler’s training group. Maybellene and I, along with Kevin, did 3×90 seconds, 4×60 seconds, 12×30 seconds on equal rest. Adelaide did 2×10 minutes and 1×5 minutes.

We had a quick stop over at home before riding to masters.  I started feeling bad on the ride over, noticing that Adelaide was half wheeling me somehow. It was a cold, gray day out so we were both looking forward to the hot tub temps of the Elk’s outdoor pool, yet found that I was still cold after the warm up. Everyone else was already complaining about how hot it was, so I knew something bad was cooking within me.

My right glute, just below where the back starts, also began developing a stabbing pain, and I feared that I’d fucked myself for Oceanside from the fast running earlier in the day. I got out of the pool after half an hour and got myself home and under the covers as soon as possible. I stayed there for three hours, did some work after Adelaide yelled at me for watching kayaking videos, then spent the next 14 hours in bed nursing a cold that I was sure would ruin everything.

This meant that we both skipped the two hour ride we had planned for the afternoon.

Saturday:

We both took the day fully off. My sickness had pretty much gone away, though now Adelaide seemed to have it, and I didn’t want to push my luck with doing a 5 hour ride and 30 minute run off as originally planned, which would have started off in the snow since Colorado decided to be winter again the previous night.

Sunday:

We salvaged the weekend with a BTC group run (Maybellene and I only did 9.5 miles because of my upcoming race) and Adelaide did 11 or 12 miles I think. I felt pretty shitty and coughed quite a bit, possibly from asthma, possibly from the sickness. We did a short swim afterwards.

While it wasn’t the full EPIC SICK SPRING BREAK week we had planned on, since we both got a 24 hour bug, it was still a decent week, or at least the first 4.5 days were. I seem to be gaining motivation slowly this season, and feel like once the good weather is here to stay, I’ll finally be getting into the full swing of things, with Adelaide’s help. While I might not be 100 percent for the spring racing season, I think the slower start this year will leave me fresh and motivated for the summer and hopefully the fall as well.

Oh, and Sunday was Maybellene’s 5th birthday:

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Homemade crust
Steak
Bacon
Sweet potato
Onion
Mushrooms
Tom Dog Gorgonzola Dragon’s Breath cheese
Peas
Carrots
Spices

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Rest day please.

 

Off Season, Tucson, and Bariloche 70.3

Much has happened since my last post way back in December. Not necessarily with me, but throughout the world in general, I assume. I’ll be ignoring all of that and focusing in on the important stuff: food I ate, virus strains I spread, training I did or did not do, and races I botched. I will attempt to do as little writing as possible because I have some sick pics to do the writing for me.

It all started with the Oregon trip, during which Adelaide, Maybellene, and I took two weeks to visit family and friends in mid December.

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A beautiful winter day on the Oregon coast with my parents and Jacques, hoping for 25-foot swells.

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Maybellene with her new pink harness, compliments of Jacques, her dog uncle.

The dogs miraculously didn’t cause any crashes.

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Hiking with my mom in the land of ferns, trees, and moss.

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Jacques found a watering hole just in time. Dehydration had been setting in for quite a while.

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This place is called “Multiple Falls” I think.

 

Back at home, Adelaide and I began the long process of learning how to skate ski, because I want my next sport to have blood doping in it too!

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By mid January, I’d had four weeks of off-season and had been sick for 100 percent of it. First because I’d picked something nasty up two days after Indian Wells, and then because I’d swapped colds with our friend Spencer in Bend. The cough was gone when it mattered though, and I began dabbling with training again. My motivation was low though, in part because Adelaide’s hip labral tear was too bad for her to start training, and also because I was just depressed for some reason.

I’d string together a few good, hard sessions but then have no desire to do anything of quality for the next few days. This depression and period of low energy went on until the beginning of February, when I finally got my mind straightened out and was ready to start quality suffering once again. Then I got sick. Super sick. Adelaide got it a day after me, and we both spent three days in bed, panicking, in between fever, as we missed out on our Tucson training camp. We eventually found the energy to pack the car, get the house ready to Airbnb, and drive to Arizona to meet Chris, Justin, and Blake for our annual winter training camp. 

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The dinner ritual of Mexican Pile and Jeopardy.

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Photo evidence that I do wash my bike.

I had a hacking, and sometimes throwing up, cough throughout the entire Tucson trip, which meant that I had to keep the intensity low for most workouts. I was happy to be in the sun, to get into a routine, and log some long hours nonetheless. Adelaide’s hip held strong, which was even more important. We drove home on a Monday, I packed on Tuesday, then flew to Patagonia on Wednesday. Probably not the most ideal race prep.

Bariloche 70.3

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Bariloche did not go as planned. My cough finally cleared up (for the most part) in the easy days leading up to the race but I was heavily fatigued from all the compounded travel and the 36 hours of training packed into 9 days—all while coughing my lungs up.

I lost contact immediately in the swim, though limited my losses to 1:41 from the leader out of the water, Justin Metzler.

I didn’t feel horrible early on the bike, but I also didn’t have much pop. I moved into 2nd place by 16 or 17 kilometers, though hadn’t made up any ground on the race favorite, Santiago Ascenco. Throughout the next 15 miles (yes I’ma switch between metric and imperial whenever I feels like it), I slowly lost ground on him. My power continued to drop as my legs caught up to reality, and I eventually lost an additional 90 seconds on him in the last 19,000 meters, 789 and 2/3rds feet, and 41,020 millimeters, putting me almost 4 minutes back by T2.

Confident that I could hold onto 2nd, since I had around 2.5 minutes on Tim Rea and over 5 on Justin, I spent the first half mile throwing up on myself, because nothing exudes confidence more than barfing. Try it for your next promotion; your boss will surely give you that raise once she sees how far you can projectile vomit during a coughing fit. It feels good and looks cool too!

With lead legs, I plodded on towards mile 1, feeling as shitty as I looked and most likely smelled. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get going. I was completely zapped from the bike. By kilometer 3, my bowels decided to join the fun, urging me to just try it. To “just see what happens if you keep running without using the porta pottie, bitch.” I gave in a few kilometers later, and stopped to make brown boom boom. Tim passed me shortly after and I was now nearing total mental defeat.

My stomach started bubbling and groaning, adding one more obstacle to my worsening situation. Justin passed me a mile later, which put me in 4th, having lost over five minutes in less than five miles.

I spent the rest of the next lap getting slower and slower, until I heard 5th place (Andre Lopes) rapidly approaching from behind. I decided to try surging to hold onto 4th for as long as possible, in an attempt to at least pay for my plane ticket down there, and found that my legs were starting to come back to life. All I needed was a 10 mile warm up. My fastest three miles were my last three miles. As I put a handful of minutes into Andre in those last kilometers, I angrily thought that if I’d just had that energy from the beginning, I could have kept 2nd—a stupid and pointless thought since there is no place for ‘ifs’ during a race. I spent the next few hours wallowing in self pity, then headed out for a long, late-night dinner, where I struck up a conversation about how horrible socialized healthcare is with a Canadian nurse who was sitting at the table next to me.

Given the late start to the season, and training hard while sick, my Bariloche performance is probably what I should have expected. I wouldn’t change things though, since a long offseason is necessary to make real gains, and the Tucson trip is one of my favorite times all season. I’m refocusing on the run this year, which I believe is the most important leg for me to improve if I want to stand on that top step this year. Next up is Oceanside, where a top six would be amazing given the field there. Thank you once again to my sponsors, A-Squared Bikes and Vision Tech USA, for setting me up with the fastest bike gear possible.

If you enjoyed this blog, or if you did not enjoy it, please consider donating to the Marine Mammal Center to help save the sea lions, who are suffering from human-caused over-fishing, pollution, and climate change. If you provide proof of donation, I will send you a card with a hand-written sea lion poem or triathlon poem of your choice.

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Indian Wells La Quinta Race Recap

For those who read my last post, you know that I was dealing with some motivation problems after a mechanical forced me to DNF at Los Cabos. I was able to keep those motivation problems at bay (barely) in the last few weeks leading up to Indian Wells—mostly because I had Adelaide riding my ass. However, I still felt overly tired every other day and my power was super low on most rides. I even blamed my fatigue on an anti-toe-nail-fungal medication that I had been prescribed. So I stopped taking it (I’d only been on it for two days). My toenails are still disfigured, yellow, mutant-like claws. A small price to pay for a clear head.

My mind wasn’t the only thing worn down by December. Little pains and injuries popped up in my upper back, mid back, sacrum, and glutes. I gritted my teeth through bizarre side aches that came on during easy jogs, and chest cramps on my harder runs—all evidence that my body was ready to call it a season nearly a month ago. And yet, somehow I arrived at the start line ready to throw down.

And by throw down, I mean give up the soonest moment I could feel the race slipping through my weak, feeble hands. Some races I can battle against the odds and fight back when the plan goes to shit. This, most likely, would not have been one of those races. Luckily, things went right and the only adversity I had to overcome was exercising hard for a little under four hours.

I came out of the swim in a pack of a half dozen or so, a few minutes behind the lead swimmers and just a minute or so behind Joe Gambles. The swim times were slow for some reason, possibly due to the cold water or a slightly long course, or maybe because everyone just swam slow. I’m not sure. All I focus on during the swim is getting in fights and maintaining a consistent level of anger. Check and check.

I got out of T1 with Lionel Sanders and one other guy, and set off on a fairly hard pace. A few minutes in and my quads started to cramp up, forcing me to slow. I’ve had this happen before (and in training a few days earlier) where my legs turn to acid and I basically can’t pedal hard until I go easy for three or four minutes, but luckily by the time Sanders came around, my legs had recovered enough to hold on to the train.

We made our way through a few small groups and by the halfway point it was down to Sanders, myself, Gambles, Timmy Winslow, and Matt Franklin. I never felt great on the bike and I was in fear of losing Sanders’ wheel for the first 30 miles, but my power was okay, which reassured me that I was feeling good. Sometimes the body’s senses are just wrong. Gambles took some pulls on the front, and I came through a few times, letting him (though it was mainly just Sanders) take responsibility for putting in the work. After all, the burden of winning, and therefore pulling my fair share, still does not lie with me.

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Photo credit: Talbot Cox

Four of us came into T2 together (Gambles, Sanders, Timmy, and myself), and my left hamstring immediately cramped as I crouched to put my shoes on. It had been twinging the last five miles of the bike. Although since I never have hammy problems I shrugged it off as no big deal. Once upright again, the hammy stopped its screaming and the cramp somehow moved up into my chest, as usual.

Out on the run course, which is where the race actually starts, my aspirations of getting second quickly dissolved. Yes, my aspirations were set on second, not first, because I do have some small ability to see myself rationally. I may be fool of myself, but I’m not a fool. Get it? Neither do I.

Gambles and Sanders took off and immediately put 40 seconds into me while I struggled with chest cramping on both sides. Winslow came by me at mile one, though quickly ducked off course to take a piss. Right about then, my chest cramping began to ease and I picked the pace up gradually, making sure I didn’t step on the gas too soon and cause the cramp to come back.

While the bike course was entirely flat and comprised of perfectly straight roads interrupted by 90 degree turns every two miles (it easily could have been drawn by an Etch a Sketch), the run course wound all over the place. Most of it was located on a golf course, where it looped back on itself four or five times, up and down small hills, around tight bends, and through sand traps. It was actually one of the most fun run courses I’ve done (not that ‘fun’ really belongs in a sentence about the run portion of triathlon).

By the half way point I had built up a solid lead on Timmy, who I assume only had to stop to pee the once? I personally like the squish of urine in my shoes and the rooster tail spray that’s kicked up onto my backside, but not everyone has the ability to piss their pants. It’s a learned skill.

I was already two or three minutes back on Sanders and Gambles by mile seven, so I allowed myself to become content with third, and focused on getting gels and water, hoping to just stave off any chest or leg cramps and make it to the finish line on the podium. I almost always feel better in the second half of the run, but I figured anything could happen to my body given that it was December.

With no golf carts to hitch a ride on, I was forced to continue running even though, as I’ve said before, this was December and I should have been sitting on a damn couch getting fat.

One last stretch over a 100 meter grass section and I entered the finish area and, as always, looked back over my shoulder with unnecessary paranoia. I came in a little over four and a half minutes behind Sanders and two and a half behind Gambles, forcing me to acknowledge that, despite making some run gains, I’m still nowhere near where I need to be if winning a race is in my future. But no one ever remembers who won the race. They only remember second and third place. I heard that somewhere not.

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It took me about 45 seconds to open that bottle.

I was asked by someone who enjoys the more bizarre aspects of my blog if anything funny or gross happened during the race. Other than the normal peeing myself on the bike and run, (and standing on the beach before the swim start) the answer is no. However, I did throw up from coughing hard in the shower post-race, which tasted and somehow smelled like clam chowder, despite the throw up consisting of tacos and an egg sandwich muffin. As I smashed chunky white vomit, the chunks feeling like potatoes between my toes, down into the drain, I actually developed an appetite for clam chowder. In fact, I had some just the other night, and it was just as tasty as that puke, and I’m not even being sarcastic. Both were actually quite pleasant. So there you have it, my race report with some unrelated bathroom humor to reward you for slogging your way through a thousand words.

Thank you to our hosts Ben, Jen and their kids Benjamin and Layala, and thank you to  Georgia for letting us crash in your casita the night before the race for proximity to the race start. Also, thank you to all my supporters: A-Squared BikesVision TechCUORE of Swiss, and Hammer Nutrition. And to my coach Chris Winn for making me strong like bull. And now it’s time for rest. And to get sick, which I promptly did two days after the race.

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Adelaide in the coolest backyard pool in all of Yucca Valley and beyond.

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.