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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.