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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Myrtle Beach- The Chiseled Bull.

Ok, so this post is rather late, but it was a trying season, I needed a break and I was on vacation for a week. Mostly I just kept putting it off.

Last race of the season was the Myrtle Beach Triathlon. It was an ITU draft legal race. I flew into Charleston SC on Friday before the race and had to drive 2 hours up the road to Myrtle Beach. Charleston has a special place for me as my Dad was stationed there when he was in the Navy and it is the City of my Birth. But no time to site see. Straight up the coast.

I arrived without incident and checked into my place of logging. My parents have a time share and one of the places they can go to is Myrtle Beach. So they booked a room for me and drove the long drive from Atlanta to see me race. It was a 2 bed room Villa (sounds fancy, but think of a it was a small two bedroom condo). It had a king size bed, two twin beds, and a pull out couch. This worked well as I invited to other Pro's to stay with us. They were James Bales and Derek Oskutis. Both guys I had met before and we were all at the same home stay in Buffalo. They would arrive on Saturday. I put my bike together took a nap. It was an early morning as my flight was at 6 am. My parents soon arrived and we just relaxed, got dinner and watched a movie. Exciting times, I know.

The next day Derek arrived early. He actually stayed in Charleston the previous night as he had some friends from the Naval Academy who were stationed there. He brought with him his friend Peggy. Peggy is a really interesting girl. She is going to the Nuke school for the Navy in Charleston. After she is done she will be one of the first females in the Navy to serve on a submarine. She also happens to be a really strong cyclist. She actually beat Kristin Armstrong (no relation to Lance Armstrong) in a race. If you do not know who Kristen Armstrong is, she is a gold Medalist in cycling from the Olympics. So Peggy has some power in her legs.

We all headed to the race sight. Derek and I got in and swam. While swimming we said hi to some friends, then jumped on our bikes and got a short ride in. Peggy joined us and I can say first hand that the girls is a strong rider. We did a short ride. Then it was off to eat and relaxing before the pro meeting. Derek and I headed to the pro meeting and I send my parents to pick up James from the airport. He was getting in at 5 in Myrtle Beach. James had a nervous moment as they could not find his bike, but after a little bit of time they came out with it. We hit the pro meeting and then went to dinner. Several other pro's joined us and it was a great time. Lots of relaxing and laughing.

The next morning was race time. The women went off around 8, we would got off around 10. The morning was windy, 20+ winds that would surly have an effect on the race. I did my normal warm up and tried to relax. I was still feeling very fatigued, but hoped I would be feeling better for my last race as all I did leading up to the race was rest. Soon it was time to line up. We were lined up by rank and they called our names and we went to choose our spots. In ITU races you are not assigned a spot, you get to choose your spot and the highest ranked athlete chooses first. I figured the worst spot would be to the far left as the race went straight then had a left turn and it would be bunched up. So of course, being a low ranked athlete I was about 6 spots from the left. I was surprised to see Jarrod Shoemaker in the first spot to the left. Shoemaker was in the 2008 Olympics and the #1 ranked athlete in the field (he would win the race). Soon the gun went off and we dove into the dark water (it had to be the blackest water I ever swam in. You could not see anything). I got a good start and in a good position. But sure enough we came up to the first buoy and it was bodies on top of bodies with arm and legs kicking everyone. You were so close to other athletes that you usually would expect a dinner and a movie first, but oh well. This is the nature of the race. I soon found some room to swim and was in decent position, drafting at the back of the front group. I had a small mental laps and lost the feet of the swimmers in front of me. I worked hard to catch back up as they are nice guys, but they don't wait around for anyone. I knew I had to catch the feet for a better position. It was a two lap swim and as I came out of the water on the first lap I was abut 5 seconds down on 1 guy in front of me and 10 seconds down on the main pack. I dove back in and worked hard to catch back up, but I still lost time. The main group came out about 1 min up on me and the guy that was 5 sec up was about 30 sec up. Lesson learned, I need to be more aggressive on the swim. As I came out of the water I was in no man's land as the next group behind me was 20-30 seconds down. I actually felt good sprinting to transition. As I came out of the water the announcer called my name and said "Here comes Nickolaus Early. Wow, they guy is a chiseled bull!" Never heard that one before, but I will take it. Maybe I can make it stick? Or maybe I will come up with a wine and call it that, much like dancing bull? yes, no?

I had a good transition and was on the bike. I tried to ride smooth and fast and the group of about 12 in front of me were not waiting up. The pack behind me in the water was about 4 guys and they soon caught me and we worked together. Soon we caught one guy and we were now 6 strong and hammering it. I was in a good position, but I could not handle the accelerations in and out of the turns as I have been really fatigued and could not do the work necessary to handle the intensity of the race.  The 20+ mph winds were also reeking havoc on my legs. We went up a small hill, I lost the wheel and they were gone, I just did not have it in my legs to close the gap. I rode by myself smooth for sometime before a very large pack caught me and I rode with them, mostly sitting in. Soon we were on the run and I was shot. The season took its toll. I made a good show of it running out of transition, the rest of the run, well, not so much. I was pretty much shuffling my feet the entire way and running about 1 min slower per mile of what I am capable of running. As I came through on the last lap the announcer saw that I was hurting and got the crowd to cheer me through. I gave a smile, a little wave and a raise the roof. I knew it was a bad day, but I might as well try to stay in good spirits, which at this point it was hard to do as if it was not my last race of the season I would have stopped. Soon (well, not to soon) I crossed the finish line and completed my first pro season. I got a hug from my mom and started to pack up my bike as I had a 2 hour drive back to Charleston to catch my flight that night. I dropped James off at the Myrtle Beach airport and drove to Charleston for my flight home.

It was not the season I hoped for and definitively not the finish that I would have liked, but its in the books and I learned a lot. I will update my blogs about the season as a whole and keep posting during the off season about training. If I do take anything from the season I may have a new nickname.. the Chiseled Bull! Will it stick, I will let you know.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Dallas US Open- Default maybe the best word in the English language.

My second race of 3 in a row was the Dallas US open in Rockwell TX. I have done this race once before last year. It was actually my last race as an amateur. This year I was back against a stacked field. It was a small field of 14, but it had 5 or 6 Olympians and about 6 of the top non drafting triathletes in the world. Then there was me and one other first year pro. The highlight of the weekend had to be Javier Gomez showing up to the race. He was a 2008 Olympian for Spain, already earned his spot for 2012 and is a World Champion. Because he had not done a race this year in the Lifetime Fitness Series- Race to the Toyota Cup, he actually had a higher staring number then me, I was 17, he was 18. This maybe the only time this will ever happen in my career, so when I was introduced before him, I was kind of excited.

The Friday before the race (race is on a Sunday), they have a dinner for all the sponsors, pro's, and amateur elites who have been invited to the race (this last one was me last year). Dana came with me to this race so we had the opportunity to hang out with Scott Kaylin, the owner of Champion systems who sponsors me and makes my uniform. Because they also sponsor Greg and Laura Bennett, so we spent some time chatting with them as well. I am always impressed with how down to earth many of these top triathletes are. Champions Systems likes to create a family environment with their athletes and I have to say they have done that as you can tell from how friendly everyone is. I took some advice from my friend James Bales Triathlete. Since Buffalo was so bad he suggested I think of it as a vacation with my Fiance and there just happens to be a triathlon. So I took his advice and was just trying to relax. I even had a glass of wine with dinner. Something I have never done this close to a race.

After the dinner it was quick to get to bed as I needed rest. Most of the week I just rested, with lots of sleep. Saturday was a relaxing day. Just a quick swim, bike, and run. Met some friends and had a good time. Saturday night a friend, Patrick Parish, who I raced as an Amateur last year and was racing in the amateur elites (he would actually win) shared a room with Dana and I. It really helps to cut down on costs.

Race morning was cold. I think it was in the 50's. I thought we were in Texas. But oh well. At least it would not be to hot. I warmed up in the water and just froze as it took a really long time from when I got in the water and they finished announcing all of us for the start. I was really looking forward to getting in the water as I was cold and I really had to pee. I said this to the guys standing around me and they said just go, no one would blame me. I said I could not do that, but sure enough, I look over and Tim Don has a smile on his face as he just goes while standing there. We all had a good laugh and finally we could jump in. It was an in water start this year as the water levels were really low due to the drought. Soon the gun went off and we were off. To my left was Greg Bennett and to his left was Javier Gomez, so I quickly jumped on their feet and drafted for the first 200-300 meters. I thought this was fun, but again, in a split second they were gone. I continued to swim at a good pace and I knew a couple people were drafting off me. Two went by me about half way through the swim and I jumped in on their draft. Out of the swim there was a lead group of about 3, then 7, then my pack of 4. As we we started to run out of the water we learned how the drought affected the lake as we were running in knee deep mud for about 40-50 meters. It was almost comical. But I noticed I came out of the water with David Thompson. I have never been this close to him in the swim, so I was happy to be where I was.

Soon it was out and onto the bike. This race is hard as it is up hill out of transition. You then take a right, and go up another hill. Its a long tough climb. I focused on spinning at a high cadence and not over doing it. Out on the bike Thompson and Chris Foster took off and it was me and the other first year pro, a guy named Tigert. We rode close to each other for almost the entire bike, I would pass him, he would pass me back. Occasionally we would crack a joke as we passed each other about the mud in the swim or that first hill. I tried to ride smart and within myself as I was still tired and was using the race as more of a hard training day so I would have something for the next weekend. In the last couple miles I put about 20 second on Tigert. A quick transition and I was running, basically up that same hill we biked up. It was rough. Tigert passed me about 1 mile into the run. I was not feeling good, so I focused on one foot in front of the other. Stay relaxed and try to keep my cadence up.

Soon I was running back down the hill toward the finish line. I crossed the line in 13th (14 starters, but one dropped out). I did not feel bad considering the previous weeks results and how stacked the field was. It was a race far from my best, but it was okay, all things considered.

After the finish I had a lady come up to me and tell me I was randomly selected for drug testing. So not only did I finish 13th out of 13 finishers and out of the money, I was selected to give a "sample" for testing. I found it funny just took it in stride. In the drug testing room they had taken the top 3 finishers in the men and women's field and 2 randoms in each as well. So I did find it cool that I was in there with Javier Gomez, Greg Bennett, Cameron Dye, Tim Don, Lisa Norden, Sarah Haskins, and Jodie Stimpson. It was really funny as many of the guys were so proud of themselves after they peed in the cup. Greg Bennett was helpful in giving me tip on how to pee quicker. For reference, turn the room temp down (this was not a popular move as it was already cold and everyone had blankets), rub ice on your wrists and then rub your cold hands on your back over your kidneys. Sure enough, right away I had to go. The testing was USADA testing, so you have to pee in the cup and separate it into an A and B sample because if your A sample test positive, they test the B sample to make sure it was not a false positive. Well, the cups we had to pee into were not that great and when I was separating my "sample" in front of the person who looks over us and go over the procedures, some of it (or actually a lot of it) kind of dribbled all over the table. It's kind of funny now, but not as much at the time. The lady told me not to worry, it happens to a lot of guys. I will spare you all the other boring info about being drug tested.

After I was done giving my sample I found out that I actually had finished 9th in the Series. The rules for the series is you had to do a minimum of 3 races, one of which had to be Dallas. Because only 9 of the racers at Dallas (me included) had done 2 previous races in the series, we all qualified for the series prize purse, which paid out to 10. So even though I had no points in the series, I was still 9th. So I kind of won it by default. As Homer Simpson said "Default, the best word in the English language." I am not going to complain as I earned my first professional paycheck.

I would have to say my biggest disappointment from the weekend is from the awards ceremony. I was called up for finishing 9th, but I did not get a big check. I really want to get one of those big checks. I guess I will just have to keep working at it.

I will update my last race of the season in a couple off days.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Nationals- A bad day at the office.

I am a little slow updating my blog on my races, but when you have 3 races all around the US on back to back to back weekends and you work a full time job, sometimes there is just not enough time for everything.

The Nickel City triathlon was a couple weeks ago in Buffalo, NY. The first of 3 races back to back to back (as I am sure you figured out from reading the first paragraph). This race served as the US Elite Nationals and would be my first nationals at the Elite Level. Leading up to the race I felt alright in my training. Nothing out of the ordinary. I was looking forward to the race.

I arrived on Thursday night and I was staying with the Herskind family. They have a beautiful 100 year old house and staying at the same house were James Bales and Derek Oskutis. What made this interesting is that by chance we all had military connections. James is an Orthopidic Surgeon for the Air Force, Derek is an office in the Navy with EOD, Mark (the father of the Herskind family) is a former Green Beret, and myself, I work with the Navy as a Civilian Contractor. It was a good fit as we had plenty of stories to tell.

On Friday, the day before the race, I went through the usual warm ups and I did them with Derek and James, but I was feeling tire, not quite right. I figured maybe it was just the travel and with a good night rest, I would feel better. The race was not till 2 the next day so there is plenty of time to sleep in. We hit up the athletes meeting and then had a delicious dinner with the Herkinds.

They day of the race I was still feeling tired. Not sure what it was. I figured maybe it was just nerves. We started the swim and I did not feel better. I was lucky I was with a group of swimmers otherwise I might have been in a lot of trouble. I tucked in and drafted off of them, hoping I would feel better on the bike. It did not happen. I was feeling exhausted and spent. It wasn't a feeling of not being able to hold the pace, it was a feeling of pure exhaustion. I got in the pack, did some pulls on the bike (where I am in the front and everyone drafts off me. In draft legal races you work together on the bike), got some fluids in, took a gel, all hoping to feel better, but it never happened. I was simply spent. After two laps of 8, I just pulled out from the bike and stopped, my day was done. My heart was racing and it took several minutes for it to get down. Usually after 1 minute my HR drops, but this was taking 3-5. Something was wrong and I did not know what it was and still don't. I was disappointed and this was not a way I wanted to start off 3 consecutive races. Talking to James after the race he told me "A bad race is better then any day at the office" and I have to agree. I am doing what I like and there will be bad days out there. I just need to learn from them, adjust, work hard and smart for my next opportunity. I will update the other two races in a couple of days.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Chicago Triathlon- My Back Yard

First off, thank you everyone who has been reading my blog. I keep running into people who say they have been reading my blog and I have realized that more people have been reading up on my adventures then I though. If you have been reading, become a follower. It actually helps me with getting sponsorship for when potential sponsors look at the blog, they see how many followers I have had.

But enough of that, on to the race. The Chicago Triathlon, as part of the Race to the Toyota cup, was this past weekend and of course I have to do the race as I get to sleep in my own bed and bike down to the race start. It is a little different from a lot of the non-drafting races as they sent us off last after about a 90 minutes break from the last age-grouper. Start time, 11:27 am.

Race morning I woke up without an alarm and took my time eating my breakfast and preparing for the race. I even had time to unload and reload the dish washer. That is a first for me before a race. I thought to myself, if I race really well I will have to try this every morning, I have to keep doing what works. After I was ready I took a nice and easy bike down to transition and set up my transition for the race. Before I excited Greg Bennett walked into transition and I wished him luck, which I really like to do as he is a great guy, very friendly, and it's fun to hear him talk in his Australian accent, "Oh, Thank Mate, good luck to you to." I want to ask him to say "Throw a shrimp on the barby," but I have decided that is probably not a good idea.

After my transition was set up I ran over to finish and got there just in time to watch Dana finish. I told her congrats, got a quick kiss and headed over to the swim start. The day would have been perfect if it was not for the wind. It was blowing in hard from the North East and it was making the water really choppy and on the bike we would have to fight it twice on the two loop bike course. Nothing I can do about the wind, we all have to race in it, so I just focused on the task at hand. I did some light running and then put my racing suit on and into the water for a quick swim. WOW! It was really wavy and choppy. A couple of us joked about it and shrugged our shoulders, what could you do. Soon, time to start. It was an in water start and I was lined up just to the right of some of the top swimmers. The gun went off and I latched right on their feet. This was great as they just pulled me along, breaking up all the chop. I was thinking I would come out of the water right behind the likes of Cameron Dye, Hunter Kemper, and Greg Bennett and I was really excited, this would be my best position yet. But it was not meant to be as I swam off to the side just a bit about 400 meters into the swim and I lost their feet and they were gone. And when I say gone, imagine what it is like to stand still as a car passes you by at 60 mph. Ops! I need to make a mental note and never make that mistake again. I soon found myself fighting the waves by myself and it was no where near as much fun as I was having 30 seconds prior. After about another 400 meters the chase group caught me and I just tucked in. This was much easier, but some of the damage was done. That solo swim took a lot out of me.

Soon we were out of the water and it was onto the quarter mile run to transition. A quick transition and then I was onto my bike. Going north the wind was brutal and I worked on keeping a high cadence and staying as aero as possible. Since it was two lap,s on the first lap heading south with the wind at our back I made sure not to over ride it as I had to fight the wind north one more time and that is where I wanted to ride hard. I stuck to the plan and rode hard into the wind on the second lap. In Chicago the cars are on the outside two lanes and we ride on the inside two lane. Some people recognized me as I heard my first name called out in a car or two passing by. I thought that was pretty cool.

Soon I was heading into the 2nd transition and right before transition there were a couple of friends cheering me on. A quick change into my shoes, drop the helmet, grab the race belt and I was off. The swim and the wind on the bike took a lot out of me as I was feeling tired. I just focused on having a quick cadence and one mile at a time. About a 1/2 mile into the run and more friends were shouting my name. What a great feeling. On the run one athlete went by me and I did not have it in my legs to stay with him, but I noticed up in the distance I say another runner and I was sure I was catching him. Was that an age-grouper still on the course or another pro. I was not sure, but I focused on them and started to chase them down. Slowly I started to real him in and with abut 400 meters left I pulled up right behind him. This was right when the crowd starts to get thicker as they are watching the finish. The crowd started to get louder in anticipation of a sprint finish. As I pulled up on his shoulder he made a quick surge and I was afraid I could not respond, but I took a breath in, hoped my legs would respond and anticipated the pain that was going come. I knew this going to hurt, a lot! Then I kicked and as I surged past him I could see his shoulders drop and I knew he would not be able to respond. I heard the response from the crowd, cheering their approval and despite how tired I felt, that small little victory and the crowds response felt great!

I finished 18th out of about 28 athletes at the start line. It was not the time or place I had hoped for, but considering the conditions and how the MN Triathlon went I was happy with the race. It has given me some motivation for the training needed to finish out the season with 3 races on back, to back, to back weekends starting on Sept 24th with USAT Elite Nationals in Buffalo NY. My first nationals at the highest level. I am really excited for it.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Peaks and Valley's

Lesson learned form my last race at Lifetime Fitness in Minneapolis on July 9th is that life has peaks and valley's and sometime no matter how much you plan, things don't got as planned.

On the Tuesday before the race I asked Dana to Marry me and she said yes, which of course is now one of the best days of my life. That went as planned. The rest of the week was supposed to be one of the best weeks of my racing career. I am from Minnesota and I was bringing my Fiance back home with me to race in front of my friends and family. This part did not go as planned.

I did not do anything out of the ordinary before the race. I have a routine and I stuck with it. The race was a little different as Lifetime Fitness brought back the equalizer. They send the women off so far in front of the men and who ever crosses the finish line first wins a bonus. I knew that was not going to be me, but I knew I had a chance for my first top 10 finish and my first pay day. After waiting for 10 min and 43 seconds after the women went off they sent us off (this was determined by previous years and the time gaps between the men and women). I was lined up all the way to the right. If I swam straight I would be right along the sighting buoy's.  The top swimmers like Andy Potts and Cameron Dye were off to the left. After the gun went off all the swimmers went way to the left to try and get the draft off the top swimmers. I was swimming straight along the sighting buoy's and the entire field was about 15 meters to my left . I wondered why they were so far over and should I move over for the benefit of the draft, but I remembered what happened in the swim at the Capital of Texas triathlon and just swam straight on course. Unfortunately they did not all go off in a strange direction and left me to swim the course correct for an advantage.  I could have used it. I came out of the water in 10th, I was currently in the money. But as soon as I was on my bike I felt exhausted. Throughout the bike I tried different things to try and get my legs feeling better. Lower cadence, higher cadence, drink fluids, but nothing worked. By the time I was off the bike I had moved down to 12th and I went from exhausted to really exhausted. I knew if I did the run I would have walked it. Since there was no money on the line, I dropped out, there was no point to push my body further and have it even more broken down. It was the first time I dropped from a race. I was embarrassed. I felt like I let a lot of people down. My new fiance, my family, friends, and Scott, the owner of Champion Systems (they make my uniform for me and are an amazing company with great people). I really felt bad as they have all invested their time and efforts into me. How I felt racing was bad, how I felt after dropping out was even worse.

But I did perk up later. My family and friends got together for a BBQ and my God son Jack who is 5 came up to me and said I raced fast because everyone cheers me on, it made me smile and made me feel better. He does not care how I finished (or if I finish at all), my family is still my family and they love me regardless of how I do and Dana is still going to marry me. The next thing to do is just get ready for the Chicago Triathlon in about 6 weeks. Keep training and keeping plugging away. Maybe I can get into the money there. I really hope so. Dana and I have been looking at wedding stuff and they are not cheap.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Tri Monroe

I was talking with some friends about the racing this year and so far, in every race, something has happened, being sick, uniform showing up at the last minute, the swim shortened, thunderstorms, a messed up swim. Well, to keep the theme alive, the week leading up to the TriMonroe race was no different.
Saturday before the race I was up riding the Racine course with Dana and my friend Erin. Two guys came by hammering it on the bike. I thought it would be great to jump in on the draft and get some practice so I just jumped in. The guy in front position kept looking back for some reason, and not just looking back, but swerving the bike a bit as well. This should have been a good indication for me to just drop off. These guys were trouble. When you are hammering on the bike, you stay smooth. If you have to look back, you do it quickly and briefly. You are going way to fast and one false move and you have problems. Well, that was what happened, one false move. The man in the second position over lapped his front wheel with the man in first position back wheel. He went down and started to slide on the road in front of me. Now it is kind of funny how much goes through your mind in a short period of time. I thought to myself, can I go left or right, no. Slam on the brakes, not enough time, I am going to crash. And then stories of other people's crashes ran through my head. Why I am not sure, but I guess it was better then my life as I did not think I was in that much danger, just a word of hurt!. Dana was behind me and said it was really quick, down he went and I went right over, so I know I did not have any time to react. I hit him and for a split second I thought maybe I will ride right over him, nope. I went over my bars and the bike flipped over me. I hit the back side of my head and then onto my right shoulder and back on my feet I went and actually had to take some quick steps to try and slow down. I was very cat like, but the damage was still done. I had some road rash on my elbow and my back. In addition, I hit my back hard and it is still sore. Being a bit compulsive my first thought was to try to stop my watch so it would not record time I was not actually riding. I know, stupid, but it was my first reaction. I was lucky. The other guy, not so much. He was not in critical condition or anything but he had some really bad road rash and probably a tire print from my wheel across his back. After we knew everyone was ok, I got back on my bike (it was perfectly fine) and road another painful two hours.

The next week was pretty good training wise, but my back was still sore. I think I have some deep bruising from the crash. I was a little worried for the race.

I flew out to Seattle on Thursday night and meet my parents at the Airport. On the way out I forgot I had a knife, spoon, and fork in my bag for my lunch at work. They took it out and I was a bit worried they were going to do a search in a way I was not going to be to happy about. But they just took the knife (it was a butter knife, not real sharp) and they rescanned my bag and I was on my way. In Seattle I was staying with my Aunt Janelle and my uncle Howard. This was great as I have not seen them in sometime. I have to admire them. Back in 1999 they were living in Atwater California in  what they felt were dead end jobs. They wanted a change and they packed up their stuff and moved up to Seattle. They are now living much happier lives and I have to admire them for taking a chance like that. Most people would have not moved and stayed in the dead end job. They were not scared and went after a new life.

Friday I went to the race venue and did my pre-race routine. Afterwards I went to the pro meeting. The man giving the brief was kind of funny. Think of Edna from the animated move "The Incredible" (the lady who worked on the super suits), but a guy.

Race day was sleeping in as the race was not till 2:45 pm. It was kind of strange and I was not sure what to do as most races I start around 7 am. So it was breakfast, relaxing, then lunch and off to the race site. I saw the most of the pro women's race before I started my warm up. During the warm up I meet and talked to another Pro name James Bales. He told me at St. Anthony's his wife saw me and told him there was a bigger pro then he was with massive quads. Most pro's are about 150 pounds or some where around that. He is about 170 pounds and I am 182, so we think we may get T-Shirts that say Pro-Triathlete: Clydesdale Division.

It was now time to line up and race. In ITU races you line up according to your ranking. As this was only my second race I was number 41 out of 44 listed on the start line. You want to be on the outside as much as possible as it is less chaotic, but with my number I was right in the middle. I got a good jump on the start and found myself slightly up on the swimmers around me, but I mad the mistake of trying to settle into my pace to early and suddenly a swarm of arms and legs came flying over me. I was also having a hard time breathing. I think it was because of the wet suit (I had not race in one yet this year) and all the bodies. I found myself struggling to breath and behind some lead packs. I came out on the first loop of the swim, ran up and around the marker on the beach and found myself about 10 sec down on a group in front of me. I jumped back in and I felt the sting in my muscles from running on the beach. I had never done that before and probably need to practice it. I worked hard over the next lap to catch the group in front on me and right before I exited the water I thought I did, but I had caught the guy in front of me and when I ran out of the water I noticed he had been gaped. I knew I needed a good transition and so I sprinted hard for my bike.

I ran into the first transition and I did not think I was super quick, but I did not loose any time either (looking later I had the same transition time as the top athletes). It was onto the bike and hard riding ahead. Soon I was with two other riders and we started to work together and soon caught some more riders. In my group there were five riders and a rider from Egypt and I tried to get everyone to work together to catch a group of two who were trying to catch a group of 3. I knew if they caught them we would have a hard time closing the gap. We were unable to. I put some heavy efforts in the front, but it did not work. There was a group of about 7 chasing us and they caught us about half way through the bike. I knew if we worked together we could catch a couple groups in front of us, we had time. But we were to disorganized. It seemed as if some guys did not know how to work in a group. I made several efforts up front, would find myself in the 2nd or third position and doing another strong effort in the front. If I was in the lead on a 180 degree turn I would come around the turn and find myself 5-10 sec up. If I was in the back we were coming to almost complete stops. We just did not enough guys that had the handling skills and knowledge to bridge the gap. The time never got smaller. I did a lot of work up front and with about 2 laps left I moved off to the side and let everyone come through. It was time for someone else to work and I was going to make this a race amongst us and got some recovery time. I knew many riders were weak on the corners so on the last 180 degree turn I moved up to second position and took off. Sure enough I opened up about a 5-10 sec gap and rode into transition by myself. There I had some problems. It turns out my necklace (its basically a string with a bead on it that has a swimmer, biker, and runner) got caught in part of my helmet some how, so when I tried to take off my helmet it did not come off. I ripped my helmet off hard and everything came off, helmet, necklace, and sunglasses and I was off running.

I had a good run. I was passed by a couple of guys, but I also caught some guys from some groups in front of us. With about 1 mile to go I had one more guy to catch and ran hard. I did catch him and ended up 20th over all.

Much better experience then my first Draft legal race. I had a lot of fun and look forward to the next one. I need to work on getting with a higher pack in the swim, but with some work I think I can do that.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Capital of Texas Triathlon: What the F is Going On!

The Capital of Texas Triathlon was a mess, there is no other way to say it, but I will get there in a minute, I want to talk about the lead up to the race and my home stay.

After getting back from Memphis I had a week to get ready for the Capital of Texas Triathlon. I had Monday off of working out, but by Tuesday I was still feeling tired. The 18 hours of driving over the weekend, plus racing, and only getting 5 hours of sleep before work on Monday was taking its toll. I spent the week trying to get some good workouts in as its still a long season and I thought I was starting to do better as the week was going on, but in every training session, I was just a bit off, I was feeling tired.

I flew out for Austin on Saturday morning (the race was on Memorial Day) and arrived without a problem. My home stay picked up  me. I was staying with Juan Salazar, his wife, son (almost 6), and two daugthers (almost 5 and 2). He told me his kids are usually shy with company, but they seemed to warm up to me right away. They would bring me a book to read, or to chat and hang out. They were a joy to be around and made things nice and relaxing. All of Saturday was relaxing and Juan had some friend over for a cook out that night. Some were doing the Triathlon on Monday, one was another pro who was his swim coach. We all chatted and shared stories. It is always nice to meet the local triathlon community.

Saturday was the usual steps. Get up, get a short workout in, try to relax and hit up the pro meeting. I was feeling tired and felt slow in my workout, so I took a quick nap before the pro meeting. At the pro meeting everything started to feel a bit off. It was just a feeling, but it also may have been because the race organizers were talking about the course, but did not bring in any maps, or the USAT official talking about the rules but giving us the age-group rules (they are a little different) and all the athletes correcting the official, or the fact we had to sit around and wait for our packets as they were not there when we showed up, or that they were asking us how we wanted to start the race, deep water or dive in and there was a debate going on. Andy Potts put a end to that pointing out this is not a debate, the race was established before hand and that is how we would do it. It was a good thing he spoke up. Not sure how long that would have gone on.

Race morning I woke up feeling tired, but I was up at 3:45 am (I am always up at least 3 hours before the race- you body responds better), but I always feel tired that early at every race and have had good races, so I just told myself that and started to get ready. Off to the transition (I was the first one there, no surprise) and then started warming up. Everyone was trying to figure out how to enter and exit transition as it was not clearly marked, we thought we knew it, but it would turn out we did not.

After warming up I started to feel more awake. Then it was off to the race start to get a quick swim in then it was time to start... or so we thought. We just waited and waited. No word on what was going on, we just waited. Then finally, we were lined up to start, about 10-15 minutes late. The gun went off and it was a large pack to the first buoy, we rounded it and headed to the 2nd buoy. I was somewhere in the middle of the pack and I felt huge waves. I was wondering who the idiot was how revved up the engine in the boat. It turned out to be a jet sky who got in front of the lead swimmers and told us we were going the wrong way. The lead swimmer (I found out later all but Andy Potts, who smartly ignored them and actually said later he thought he was going to be disqualified) started to swim further out. I stopped and treaded, looked where everyone was going, was not sure what was going on and started to swim out. Then I looked up again and everyone seemed to be swimming every where. The people on the boats out there were telling us to swim around the buoy, pointing farther down the river, but there was no buoy. I had no idea what was going on. I began to think they would possibly restart us since there was so much confusion. I started to swim toward the paddle boat that was supposed to lead us, but then everyone was circling around in a different direction. At this point I popped my head up and so did the guy next to me and we started to tread water. Both of us, almost at the same time just yelled out to anyone who may tell us something "what the F*** is going on." By the time we got going again in the right direction, after we stopped listening to those in the boats I was at the back of the field and had to start working my way up past some swimmers. Then I noticed the female pro's were with us. They started 4 minutes behind us and here they were. I figured, we were all off and just to race. Some of the faster pro women ended up beating us out on the bike. What a mess!!! A swimmer who I am not sure has ever beat me out of the water was righ tin front of me. I hit the first transition and we entered in a different area then what we thought and I actually started off in the wrong direction, away form my bike, I quickly switched directions and got to my bike.

I hit the bike and had no idea where I was in placing. I just started to ride. The bike was a technical 4 loop course. Some small hills that shocked the legs and 3 x 180 degree turns per lap (12 total). I was not used to the accelerating, hard turns, then quick hills and it just trashed my legs. Put in some winds that almost blew me off my bike a couple times (I was counting my blessing multiple times) and I did not have a good bike. By the time the run came around, my legs were gone. I was running just to survive out there and ended up running 2-3 minutes slower then I have so far this year. Very disappointing race. I ended up 18th. Not sure on the finishers, but I know 29 were scheduled to start.

After the race many of the Pro's were very unhappy of course. There is a lot of money on the line, not just this race, but for the series as well (points gathered for the entire series go towards the final prize purse). The only thing they said was "we are sorry, but the rules state it is up to you to know the course!" Of course everyone's response was, "there was a jet sky blocking our way and telling us to go off in a different direction." Long story short, swimmers and jet sky's don't mix, what would you do?

Andy Potts ended up winning of course. I think after that huge lead of 2 min 30 seconds out of the water he was able to cruise the run. From now on I will just ignore the volunteers, who ever is on the boat and go what I believe (or actually know) is the right course.

After the race it was a quick pack up of the bike and it was BBQ from a local restaurant. I believe the name was Rusty's. Not sure, I was to busy enjoying the wonderful food. Then it was off the the airport. If you visit Austin, either in the city or at the Airport, enjoy Anna's ice cream (think of cold stone, but way better). I had a small bowl while I waited for my plane home.

Not a great race. I am disappointed with the entire weekend, from the race organizers, to the officials, to how I felt. Not much I can do about it. I am going to chalk it up to experience and move on to the next race which will be Tri Monroe in Tacoma Washington on June 25th. This is a ITU draft legal race of an 8 lap bike with 3 x 180 degree turns per lap (24 total) so I guess Austin got me somewhat ready for it.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Memphis in May Triathlon

The Memphis in May Triathlon was last weekend. I have done the race for the past two years, but this year it was at a new venue in Tunica, Mississippi and it was part of the new 5150 series. I planned this race in my schedule due to the fact I could drive to the race and it was known as a lower end pro race. If I was a pro last year, I would have been 6th with my time and just outside of the money. This year was a bit different. The prize purse was bumped from $10,000 to $25,000 and as it was part of the 5150 series, many pro were there to earn points for the Hy-Vee race in September which carries a 1 million dollar purse prize. This had to be the deepest field the Memphis in May race has ever seen.

Race weekend started on Friday at 5 am. I was up and out the door by 6 am for the 8.5 - 9 hour drive. This year I was doing the drive by myself. I guess the one good thing about long hours of training by yourself you are used to staying focused without needing anyone else there to keep you on track. Another advantage of the drive was that I was all by myself so I could work on my singing voice with the radio and no one was there to tell me to shut up.

I arrived at the race venue with no problems. I beat my home stay to the hotel so I had a chance to walk around and check out the swim and transition area. Shortly after my home stay arrived. I was staying with the Barczak family. I meet them all, David, Alison, Mary, Tim, Matthew and Andrew. A really nice family and they were gracious hosts. David rented two rooms for Friday night as they were racing the next morning and one room on Saturday night as he was also racing on Sunday morning. They let me stay with them which was great as the venue was right out of the hotels front door.

The Barczak's are very active in the local triathlon community. This was great as I was able to meet a lot of the local triathletes. I heard some really inspiring stories. The one that stood out came from Jessica. She has stage 4 breast cancer and it has spread to her lungs. She had good news. As of her last visit the cancer had shrunk. She just had chemo two weeks prior to the race and she would be racing the sprint as part of a relay the next morning doing the bike leg. She also has started a non-profit organization with this a guy by the name of James. It is there to help support those who have found out they have cancer. It has grown so quickly that they have not had a chance to finish their web site, but when they have it up, I will post it. Many racers in the field were wearing jersey's supporting Jessica's foundation.

The next morning it was my local routine of getting ready for the race, but I also took in the sprint. Tim (swim), David (bike), and Andrew (run) were doing the relay. They had great results as they finished first over all with Andrew having a PR for his 5K. He is only 11 and finished in around 20 min. That is just flying! Probably why they call him rocket boy! Matthew did the race himself. I believe he finished 2nd in his age-group. I saw Jessica ride of on the bike for her relay. I am sorry to say I did not get their results.

The rest of the day was just relaxing, hitting up the pro meeting and then eating dinner at a friend of the Barzack's home. Our host name was Kim and let me tell you, there is such a thing as southern hospitality. Everyone there made me feel at home. I was really enjoying myself, but it was soon time to go off to bed. We said our good byes and headed back to the hotel.

The Memphis in May triathlon is a time trail start, meaning they send you off one at a time and the Pro's start last. Last year it was really hot. This year it was storming. I was not sure if they would even start the race for us. There was lighting in the sky and I decided if they sent us off and I saw lighting I would just not start. I did not think it would be worth it to jump in the water with that kind of weather.  There as some upset athletes as there was talking of canceling the race and they were there to get points. If there was to be no swim, they would make it into a bike run, sending us off in a time trial format on the bike. There was a 45 min delay, but they did send us off as a full triathlon. The hard part of a time trial start is you really don't know where you are in terms of placing, you just go out and race hard. I had my own little cheering section as all the people I had met the day before were cheering for me. This was great because I think I had the largest backing of any of the pro's. I can't thank them all enough.

I had a decent swim, but not my best. On the bike I was passed by two of the fastest bikers in the sport, Andy Starykowicz and David Thompson. They both can just fly. It was a flat course and the roads were wet with a lot of standing water. I lost some time on turns aa I took them with some caution and it can be a bit nerve racking coming into a corner with wet breaks at 25+ MPH. You just really don't slow down. I will add a little time if it means not getting road rash. It was not my best bike. Legs did not feel right, but I biked hard. I hit the second transition and since it had already rained earlier and the age-groupers had already finished racing, the transition, which was all grass, was just a large mud pit. I had placed my shoes in a bag to keep them dry and when I put them on, they were, but two steps in and they were covered in Mud. I had a good run. I worked my plan and hit the turn around and tried to pick it up. I caught one runner who had started the race in front of me so that gave me some energy. At mile five I started to really feel the fatigue but kept pushing it. In the end I had a good time. I was a 1:56.05. Best time ever. The bike was a little short, but the run was also long, so it balanced out and it was a good race and a good time. I ended up 19th out of 26 pro finishers. It was a good thing I did not let up as 20th place finished just 1 second behind me. It was a shame it was a time trial start as that would have given the people who were watching a good sprint finish to watch.

After the race I went to take my bike out of transition and it looked like I had just done a cyclo-cross race. It was covered in mud. A quick wipe down of my bike, helped a friend pack up their bike and then I was in my car and off driving home. The drive home was a little harder as I had just raced, but I made it home shortly after 11 pm. A quick unpack and then to bed to be up at 5 am the next day for work and to start to get ready for the Capital of Texas Triathlon in one week.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Return

The St. Anthony's Triathlon was one week ago. Sorry for not updating this earlier, but it has been a busy week to say the least. For those who know what I do for work, you can understand why it has been busy. Also, Monday, we got our new company with the new contract so it was filled with doing all the paper work that needed to be done. If you remember from an early blog post about some of the hardships and uncertainty that was going on with my job. But now we have a new company with a small raise, so good news there.

Last Sunday I returned to the St. Anthony's triathlon, the first race that I earned the right to go Professional in triathlon, so this race has a special meaning for me. The week leading up to the race, starting on Monday I was not feeling well. It was a busy Easter weekend and I had not gotten enough rest and I was starting to feel sick. This worried me as my first race I was sick, but I was not going to let this happen. So it was adjusting my workouts and getting rest, as much rest as possible. Even if it meant getting to bed by 8 pm. Dana was great during the week. She helped take some stress off of me so I could get the rest I needed. By the time I was leaving on Friday, I was feeling better, except of course some anxiety that I my health would suddenly turn for the worst, but it never happened.

Dana was coming to the race with me and our flight was leaving at 10:30. No problems with the flight and we arrived in Tampa Bay without any problems. I went to the baggage claim to pick up my bike and once again, as every time I travel with my bike, the TSA checked it and did a terrible job of putting the case back together. In fact, they some how completely turned the top cover around. How, I really don't know. To do that, it takes a lot of work, as it taking all the straps off, and flipped the whole thing around, but I guess they wanted to out do themselves from the last time they checked my bike. However, I had no problems, the bike was not broken and everything was good.

One of the great things about competing in the Pro field is you get home stays at many races. The race organizers will get volunteers to pick you up and drop you off at the airport and someone will put you up for the weekend. They did this for Dana and me. This gentleman named Steve picked us up. Great guy. I unfortunately did not get his last name. He was doing this all day and I can't thank him enough. My home stay was William Muhlstadt. He is the owner of "The Center 4 Muscle Recovery." He does massages for muscle recovery and has come up with many of his own techniques and worked with 5 of the top 10 women before their races at Kona (the Ironman world championships). He has been hosting for the past 13 years and has hosted Tim O'Donnell in the past, so I figure he is good luck. Great guy. We had a lot to talk about with Triathlons and we shared our stories about how we ended up working in this crazy sport. I know he will be working up here in Chicago in the near future and will be up at Racine, so if anyone wants some great work done, let me know and I will get you in touch with him.

The rest of Friday was just relaxing and putting my bike together. I was having a hard time getting my wheel on and the brakes were rubbing on the wheels. I could not figure out what was going on. Well, to prove I am the smartest person on the planet, when I ship my bike I put rubber bands over the brakes and the handles bars and I had not taken them off yet. So after spending 5 min stressing out and trying to figure out what was wrong, I realized nothing was wrong with the bike, just me. After that, no problem. As part of the weekend we were invited on Friday to a dinner with the Mad Dogs Triathlon Club. There I ran into my old Friend Brian Lamar who I first met when we were competing in Australia in 2009 in the Age Group world Championships. What you will find with the world of Triathlons, it really is a small world and over the course of the weekend I caught up with a lot of athletes, some who were still racing in the age-group divisions or who made the leap to the professional level. It is a great community and everyone is always welcoming.

At the dinner all the athletes competing in the the pro race were asked to come up front and introduce ourselves and say something unique. Sure enough it was like a bunch of first graders walking up there. Everyone was a little self conscious and no one wanted to go first. When ever they handed the micro phone to someone and it was not you, there was a sight of relief.

Saturday was just a relaxing day. A quick workout and then the a required meeting to go over the race rules and the course. Then it was out to dinner and to bed early. I was in bed by 8, I can never fall asleep, but off my feet and relaxing.

Then it was Sunday morning. Race start, 6:50 am. I have a rule, up 3 hours before the race, so we were up at 3:45 am, or 2:45 am my time. I felt awake. No problems. I ate my normal  breakfast. Two packages of Quaker oatmeal- cinnamon brown sugar, two bananas, and a  bagel with peanut butter. Off to the race and pre race warm up. They had to move and shorten the swim due to the winds blowing in from the east an making the swim unsafe. Before I knew it, it was race time. We toed the line and I looked off to my left, there is Andy Potts, 2004 Olympian, then off to my right, right next to me is Cameron Dye, last years champion and Matty Reed, 2008 Olympian and 2008 national champion. Also in the field was an Olympic silver medalist and the 2010 70.3 World Champion and lifetime fitness series champion. Crazy deep field.

The gun went off and it was just arm, legs and every time I sighted for the buoy it was just white water. So I just followed the swimmers in front of me, hoping they were not leading me off into the middle of the bay. Due to the change in swim, it was a 2 min run to the transition on side walk. With my feet wet and the long run, I could feel some of my toes getting ripped up, but no time to worry about it, on to the bike. I had a plan and I stuck to it and it worked out for me. I was 24.7 mph on the bike last year, this year I was 25.4. As I jumped off the bike and started to run in to the second transition, my toes were screaming at me. I took a quick look and sure enough I just saw skin hanging off. I figured, nothing I can due about it. I got my shoes on and ran off. I don't know if it was adrenaline or my shoes (Saucony Fast Twitch 5's), but I did not feel my toes at all. I could just focus on my effort. After the race was a different story as I hobbled as I walked. But it was a great run, I stuck to my race strategy and had my best 10K run off the bike ever. 1 min fast then the year before. At the end I was 34th out of 39 finishers (42 started the race). Not a high finish, but like I said earlier, it was a stacked field. Last year there were only 23 pro's on the start list and this year it was 44. This may have actually been one of the best pro fields ever in a non-draft legal Olympic distance race. I was happy with my finish. I was faster on the bike and the run then I was on the same course as last year, so I can't ask for anything more then that.

After the race, one of my sponsors (champion systems- who made my race uniform), wanted a photo of all the racers down there so we all got together for a photo. For me this was the biggest thrill as I met Matty Reed (2008 Olympian), Greg Bennett (2004 Olympian for Australia) Laura Bennett (2008 Olympian), and many other up and coming triathletes. All of them, not only great athletes, but very friendly.

After the race it was a quick pack up of the bike, and after party with the Mad Dog Triathlon Club, were I met some great people and talked to some who I met on Friday. We shared our stories of the race and past races as well. A lot of wonderful people. Very welcoming and I can't thank them enough for their hospitality. But time went to fast and it was time to fly home. I said my good byes and then it was off to the airport.

All in all, a great weekend. I had a great race. Meet some amazing athletes, and when I say that, it was not just Olympian, but athletes who have been doing the sport for 20-25 years. Triathlon has a great community with a lot of amazing people.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Focus on the end Goal

Last week was terrible in so many ways. I did no training at all. I became sick again and all the other stressors of life came down, at what seemed like one time. The perfect storm!

A week and a half ago I traveled to Cincinnati for my Aunt's funeral. Her passing was not unexpected, she had some health problems leading up to it, but are we ever really ready to say goodbye? It was great to see my family, unfortunate under these circumstances, but I was happy to see them none the less. I did not train over the weekend as a result of the traveling.

When I got back to work on Monday, I found out that someone dropped the ball on our work contract and there was a really good chance there would be a pause for up to 2 months without work. This is not good news as that would mean there is no income coming in and I am already stretched to the limit to pay for my race expenses. Then to top it off, I was kind of under the weather and this just dropped me. I felt defeated, all my motivation was gone. I was not sure what I was going to do. To be honest, I really did not want to get out of bed, much less go to work or train. I contemplated if what I was doing was a smart choice, if pursuing a professional career as a triathlete is an option, should I give it up. You don't make money at it, or even break even unless you are the best or close to the top, and I am certainly not there. I am at the bottom of the totem pole, so I spend a lot of money and don't make any. What am I do to? I had to stop and take one step at a time. I had to focus all my energy on what I needed to do at that moment and start to explore options if I did not have a job in a month.

I was not sure where to begin. But Dana was great. We sat down and chatted about our options. As she pointed out, maybe it is a blessing. Instead of being complacent, it forced me to look closer at my options and really start to think about what I would be doing after this job, what steps do I need to take. I guess I took it like any of my training. What is the goal of today? What is it that I need to accomplish right now to reach my ultimate goal. Fist thing first, I can't be sick and train. It does no good; it only breaks me down more. So take the time to get healthy, take the week of from training and see how I feel after the week is done. Second, explore options for income. So phone calls were made, what other jobs can I do or what can I do part time to bridge the gap. Third, relook at my budget and see where I can cut back if I need to and are all of my planned races needed. And I just went at it step by step, just like this. I can't say it was a complete turnaround in one single day or moment. I felt terrible all through the week and into Sunday with little to no motivation, but it had to be done, so I just plugged away at it. By Monday I decided to see how I felt in training and I got in and swam and I felt good. Off a bit, but still good. Then I had a bike. My coach and I got my on the computrainer and decided to cover up the wattage, MPH, and HR and just had me ride so that I would not obsess over the numbers. Warm up then 30 min strong effort. When we pulled it off I saw my average on my wattage, 349. Not bad for 30 min and not trying to do a 30 min all out effort (my best by killing myself is 356). Ok, now I am starting to feel some confidence come back. I am now starting to refocus. I think this is good for me as I will focus on the goals of the day in my training and not try to always do something crazy. There is a bigger picture, a larger goal that I always need to keep in mind.

A final note, looks like there will be a bridge contact and we will have a job in a month. It's not 100% and if we do there maybe a couple things that may change (and not for the better), but at least there is the financial means to continue what I am doing.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

First Race and Week Leading up

There is a saying in boxing, "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face." Well, this week, I guess you can say I took several punches to the face.

I had the week planned out, everything would be set for my first race. Travel is set, car rental, hotel, training. This had been planned for several months. Well, everything started to go off schedule a week out from the race.

When I was about 8 I had my four bottom front teeth knocked out by the crossing card on my way home. My brother Jake (who is 2 years older), was teasing the crossing guard (the girl and my brother were in the same class), probably because that is what boys do at that age with girls they like. Well, she did not like it swung the crossing poll at her, he ducked and I took it in the face. Big mess. Well, I have crowns on my bottom teeth that recently need to be replaced. I have temps on that popped off on Saturday, so I had to move my schedule and training around so that I can get them bonded back on. If that was it, I would be fine.

Then came Wednesday. I woke up at 4:30 for work (I had morning PT with the students and it was my turn to be at work early so we had coverage) and I was not feeling the best. On my way to work, on a road that is just nothing but farm land, I was going 53 in a 40. Now this stretch of road for some reason goes from 35 outside the town, to 40, to 50 then back down to 40. Well, I speed up to early and lights started to flash. I was pulled over and received a speeding ticket. Not a problem, my fault, but in Illinois, they take your drivers license as bond and your ticket is to act as your drivers license. Not a big deal if I am flying as I have a government issued ID card for work and a passport, I need to rent a car. Some car rental places will take that, some don't. So Wednesday was spent trying to find out if the car rental would take the ticket as license or if they would freak out that I just got a speeding ticket, never mind its my first ticket in 8 years. After about 40 min of being on the phone with no one being able to help me and being transferred about 20 times, I still had no answer. So I was able to get ahold of the station and they said I could pay my bond at the station and to stop by after 2:30. So I stopped back at 4:00 and no one had the key for the bond box. They told me to stop by the next day between 6:30-10:30 and see the captain. I went home, packed for the race and I was there at 6:25 am Thursday morning and payed my bond and got my licence.

Thing would have been ok from there, but now I am coughing and coughing some stuff up. Not a good sign. But I was on my flight and off to Orlando. No problems getting there, my rental or the hotel, or so I would thought. I had called on Wednesday to tell the hotel a package would be coming. It was my racing suit and ITU rules are very specific on sponsor, where your name goes, country designation, etc. So if I don't have this suit I don't race. The hotel said they would be waiting for the package.

On Friday I wake up and I am not feeling better. I go to the race site and do my warm up and check out the course. OK, not bad, really shallow water for a long way. Shallow as in this may be more of a run then a swim. I leave the race site and I get an email from my girlfriend who looked up the tracking number of my package and she tells me the package was refused by the hotel. They said I had already left! WHAT?!?! This is not good. The rest of the day is spent on the phone talking with Fed Ex and emailing Champion systems (they are a sponsor and who made me my suit). I told Fed Ex the importance of the suit and Ashley at Champion Systems was working from there end. With out the work of Fed Ex and Ashley at Champion Systems, I don't know what I would have done. With the work of Champion Systems and Fed Ex the suit would be delivered race morning between 9- 10 am. My race is at 1:30. After having some choice words with the hotel, I laid in bed the rest of the day and tried to get rest. I was not feeling well and this was not helping. Again, no uniform, no race.

I wake up Saturday and I sound more like Barry White then myself. I take my time getting up, get in a hot shower to try and get ride of some of the congestion. It helps at first, but not much. I am thinking that maybe I should pull myself from the race, but I can't bring myself to do it. I have worked to hard to get here. Even if I can't finish, I will start it. I start packing my stuff and prepping to leave for the race. at 9:30 the suit arrives. I try it on, it fits great. No problems, so I feel a bit better. Then at 10:00 it was out the door for the race site.

I arrive at the site and go through the check in process. They inspect my bike, its legal, they check my suit, it meets all the regulations (they also takea  photo of it so you can't change into a different suit during the race). Then its time to check in my bike in transition, set up and start warming up. I quick ez run to loosen up the legs, some drills, etc. I feel loose, ok, but I don't want to do to much, I still don't feel great. Then off to the lake to do a swim warm up. I feel ok in the water, loose, not to bad. Then its time to line up for the start and before you know it the gun goes off.

The swim was a 750 meter swim and I bet we ran or dolphin dived half of it, it was that shallow. It was crasy. 70 guys running, dolphin diving, fighting for position. I took a kick to the chin (I was worded my teeth would be knocked loose), we hit the fist bouy and it became so crowded I was swimming up other swimmers backs, I was started to think swimmers might try to go over me and drown me. Arms and legs are everywhere. Then it was swimming back in and dolphin diving and running again, and I did not feel good. I felt drained. Not a good sign, but I just told myself to keep going.

I made so many mistakes in that swim. I did not fight for position and as I result, I was toward the back. To many rookie mistakes. I hit transition and I was soon on the bike. But this is draft legal and I was in no man's land. There was a group in front and riders behind me. I tried to charge to catch the riders in front, but they are a pack working together and I was feeling exhausted, I had nothing in my legs. Being sick just zapped my energy. After trying to catch them, I realized it was not going to happen. I saw that a group had formed up behind me and eased up a bit to let them catch me. It was five riders and when they came by, I jumped on. We started to work together and shortly we had caught one single rider and the pack of 3 that I was trying to catch earlier by myself. Catching the main field was not going to happen. There was a pack of about 25, 15 and 10 in front of us. Not enough time. But we pushed it anyway.

We came into transition and I was off the bike and into my running shoes and the first thing I wanted to do was walk. Needless to say, this is not how I pictured my first race going. I am lucky this was a sprint and not an Olympic distance. It was only a 5K run, so I just focused on putting one foot in front of the other. Some runners from my group felt better and took off, others were not as strong and feel off the back. I just ran, not fast, but I just ran. Not to help matters, my timing chip shifted down on my ankle and I could feel it digging in to my skin. I knew it was rubbing it raw, but I was not stopping, I was not walking. Not my first pro race. I am gutting this out. I am here and I worked hard to get here. No stopping. I finally get to the finish and feel beat. I look down at my left ankle and my shoe is just caked with blood from the timing chip. Well, just chalk that up to another mistake. I usually put body glide on there and I didn't. This is the result.

After seeing medical and getting some fluids in, I packed my bike off and headed to the airport. On the drive, I started to get the chills and really started to feel bad. But I made it, checked in, got some food and more fluids and just rested. Then my flight was delayed! Oh well. What can I do about it. Just like everything, take it all in stride.

Not what I had I thought it would be and I made a lot of mistakes. But I learned a lot about draft legal races. I have to fight more on the swim and be there to get those large packs on the bike. And of course, being healthly would help. But as my brother told me, it was my welcome to the big show moment and it can only go up from here. Next race is St. Anthony's on May 1st. This one is a non-drafting race. I have some time to train up and get healthy. I am looking forward to it and I am even more motivated then before.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

First Race and Training

It is official. I have made it into my first race on March 5th in Clermont FL. I had not made the start list originally, but on Tuesday February 8th it was updated and I am now on it. I did not make the start list the first time as there are 75 total slots for racers in ITU draft legal races. In continental cup races, there are 20 slots reserved for the top 20 athletes for the host country. Since I have not yet raced yet, I do not have points and I was not chosen. When you have a start list that has Olympians Hunter Kemper and Jarrod Shoemaker on it, along with about 6 others who have a good chance to be on the 2012 Olympic team, athletes like myself tend to get pushed to the back. The original start list only had 41 athletes and as the field was not filled up with athletes from other countries, athletes like myself have been added to the start list. There will now be 66 athlete towing the line.

I wanted to give an insight on what I am doing to prepare for the race, how I train. I typically train 13 days on, one day off. My day off being Sunday. Monday's are a swim and bike with a short run off the bike, Tuesday's are a swim and run. Wednesday is Strength and a bike, with again, a short run off the bike. Thursday back to a swim and Run. Friday I have strength and a swim. Saturday is a longer bike with a longer run off the bike, and Sunday is usually a little longer run. Every morning I have to get up for work at 5:00 am. I swim or do strength on lunch and then do my second workout after work. It makes for long days and since I also coach outside of work, it tends to make for even longer days. A good example would be some Wednesdays. I have an even early morning due to work, so it would be a 4:30 morning. Then I would do strength on lunch, get home, jump on my bike and ride from anywhere from an hour to 90 min and then have a run of 15-20 min after that. Then it was cram some food in my face and off to the pool to teach a private swim lesson at 8. Done at 9, then home and hopefully, if I am lucky, in bed by 10. If you do the math that is 17.5 hour day, pretty much non stop. To say the least, it is exhausting. Then I only get 7 hours of sleep. I could normally do 7 hours of sleep and be fine, but not with the amount of time I am training. I was getting to broken down. So I have made the decision to cut back on some of my outside coaching. This is a bit of a double edge sword as I use that money to pay for flights, races, travel, etc. I may be out of that money, but I need to rest as well, and being broken down, does not help me. I will fill you in some more on training as the season goes, but I have to go. I am taking up the table and Valentines day dinner is almost ready. Yes, we are doing this on Sunday the 13th (is that bad luck, I really hope not, this one is a keeper), but with Monday's and training, the 14th is not really an option. It is part of the overall sacrifice and I have a very understanding Girlfriend.

Friday, January 28, 2011

First Post- Race Schedule

My very first blog. This should be a bit interesting. Probably very similar to the first time someone has sex. You don’t know what you are doing, you are really nervous, and in the end, despite your best efforts, it’s really not very good and something you would rather forget, or more likely, you hope someone else forgets and gives you a second chance. My first three followers are my Girlfriend and both my parents. Since I have mentioned sex I am sure my mom is reading this and turning bright red, so…um,… sorry mom.

I have figured out my race schedule. I have planned for 10 races and I hope I can do them all. The reason I say I hope I can do them all is because there are two different types of races, Draft Legal and non-draft legal races. Non-draft legal races are the triathlons most people will do. You cannot draft on the bike. Get to close and you get a penalty. Draft legal races, of course is the opposite, you can draft on the bike. This is the type of racing they do in the Olympics and considering you can save around 30% of your energy drafting on the bike in the 2nd or 3rd position (the 2nd or 3rd rider behind the guy leading the pack), it is a completely different style of racing. In the draft legal races, you have to earn points to do the more prestigious races. A triathlete starts at the bottom at races called the Continental Cup series and earns points to moves up to the World Cup races by earning points, depending on how they finish. Because these races are draft legal, there are only 75 starting positions for every race. To get in, you declare your intentions to race and 30 days out they let you know if you have made the starting line. Needless to say, it makes it hard to prepare for races, flights, travel, etc. My first race is March 5th in Clermont FL, it is part of the USAT Elite racing series (All four of my draft legal races are part of Elite series and part of the continental cup). I find out if I made the starting line on Feb 5th, so I will keep you posted. My race schedule is below.

1. Clermont FL – March 5th Saturday- Draft Legal
2. St. Anthony’s – May 1 Sunday
3. Memphis- May 22 Sunday
4. Capital of Texas (Austin)- May 30th Monday Memorial Day
5. Monroe, WA – June 25 Saturday- Draft Legal
6. Lifetime (Minneapolis)- July 9th Saturday
7. Chicago- Aug 28th Sunday
8. Buffalo NY- Sept 24th Saturday- Draft Legal
9. Dallas- Oct 2nd Sunday
10. Myrtle Beach – October 8th Saturday- Draft Legal