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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.