Wild Duck 5k 2017 - Race Report

Hello All!!! I'M BACK!!! But not really...

When I finished up racing, almost two years ago, I promised myself some serious time off to give my body a rest and clear my mind of the competitive fervor that had saturated it for so long. I planned on giving my self at least two years off and next month will have been just that. The time off has been great, but with how consumed my life has been with school last year my complete lack of fitness passed the range of healthy rest and moved on into sedentary discomfort. I definitely noticed that my energy, concentration, and well-being were suffering from lack of exercise. This summer has been a welcome change, and we have been able to get in tons of hiking and running all over the place.

Having built up some decent fitness, and done some speed work with the speedster girls of Prado Racing Team, I decided to give my legs and lungs a little test to see where I was at, and if I could enjoy a fun little local race. San Diego has a great informal cross country series called the Dirt Dog which are all close by, short, and cheap to boot! The Wild Duck 5k is the first one of the season, and my wife's team races the whole series, so I decided to tag along.

I jogged the course in reverse to warm up while cheering for the masters race, and did some strides to get my lungs and heart heated up. I had no idea how my system or my legs would respond to a full-gas effort after so much time off. The line up was amazing with almost 100 high school and junior high school athletes in the back and about 50 open age groupers up front. I set some heart rate restrictions for my self based on my old numbers less 5% to make sure I didn't blow my doors off at the start.

The mass start was great, and lots of young kids went out super fast. The first mile was slightly up hill so I cruised along behind the first few groups just watching my HR and staying under control. The second mile was a slight downhill so once we crested the top I let my legs open up and ran on feeling. I got together with a young high school kid and a super fast PRT girl that were setting a great pace. At 2.5 miles they both dropped me by a number of yards on the last small hill, but that left me with great incentive to push hard the last half mile downhill. I finished in about 17:55 which is about 5:45/mile and my HR average was 182-bpm which is not far off what my old numbers would have dictated.

I am very happy that the race went so well and to be able to go hard without it totally destroying me. Beforehand I was really worried that it was going to feel awful, I wouldn't enjoy it, and I would still have a really long way to go before being able to do fun fast stuff again. There was an awesome chocolate fountain at the expo, and tons of fun give-away items. These races have a great atmosphere, are filled with fun people, and are so accessible. I hope to try to maintain enough activity this next year to hit a few more in the series so that I have a goal to stay motivated to work out during school.

It is great to be back enjoying exercise and hard efforts again. By the time school was out, I was getting out of breath walking up stairs and cramps in my stomach from lack of muscle tone. Sitting in chairs all day, leaning over thousand-paged books, and surviving off of coffee and cookies does not lend itself to thriving physically...or mentally. I am so glad to have had such a wonderful summer and to be feeling healthy again.

1/2 Mile to Go Charging Grimace        PC- Maureen Friend

We will see if I can keep it up when school really gets going again but for now it is a good goal and hopefully will make this year better than the last.

Seasons End & New Beginnings

With the feeling of fall finally creeping into the air this week, it is hard to believe another year is coming to an end. This season is wrapping up for me in a somewhat disappointing but not altogether surprising way. This years trend seems to have been a struggle between remaining hopeful that I would get training back on track, and pull from other areas of my life shifting me away from racing. I had some decent races this year but never felt really motivated or driven; I seldom felt the hunger of competitive spirit spurring me on in training or races. With a lot of other things changing in my life, triathlon often took a back seat. Though I have loved and gotten so much out of the sport for so long, something has changed and whether I like it or not I am moving on.

I was talking with a good friend at the pool the other day as I floated back and forth listlessly. Being young and enthusiastic, he kept saying how I just needed some time off and that it was too much a part of who I am for me to just walk away. I will always enjoy athletic events and some level of competition but the commitment of time, energy and money it takes to competitive is just not what I want to do with my life any more. One of the things that I am certain of is that racing is no longer 'enough' for me. There are so many other aspects to life and who I am as a person that even if I had been much more successful, as I once hoped I would be, I know that it still would not have been entirely fulfilling. In some ways I am disappointed with the results I produced this year but that seems to be short lived and it doesn't leave me wanting to train harder or recommit. My body does not have the snap it once did and my spirit just doesn't hold the stubborn, self-flagellating attachment to the pursuit of my absolute physiological potential or that ultimate experience of a perfect race. 

My interests have drifted on to new things and back to other things that I had set aside to have this time in my life to pursue my goals in this crazy sport. The people I have met and the strength I have drawn from them, the things I have learned and all the growth I have experienced in my life these past several years of racing will always be a part of who I am and for all of it I will be eternally grateful. I am so happy that I took the time to do it and I don't have any regrets.

The number of things that I want to do with my life is still so vast and I am really looking forward to delving into that list! I can not thank you all enough for being a part of this journey with me and making all of it possible! I got to see and do some incredible things and even though I fell short of some of my goals along the way, I feel fulfilled in the end result. All I ever wanted was to be able to take my shot at racing professionally and I got to do that...an experience I know a lot of people don't get the opportunity to have. It is and always will be very special to me and I am so glad that I had all of you along for the ride!

Zoot Sports

Vineman Full 2015

This year has been all about transition for me...no not working on getting out of my wetsuit or into my shoes faster...but adjusting to lots of changes in my life, thinking about where I am going and looking at where I have been. A big part of that for me has been examining my relationship to triahtlon. How I feel about racing and what I am motivated to do with it has shifted a lot over the past several years of racing semi-pro and with my interests and career goals changing, my relationship to racing has come into grater focus. My focus for the year this year was to take one more shot at the longer distances, see how I felt and what I was getting out of it and I am so grateful to Vineman for being a big part of that. The full Vineman this year would be my second attempt at doing a full distance event and my goal this year was to do well and have the experience of completing it, but also to see if racing at my highest level was still my passion and what I wanted to put my time and energy into.

After several visits to the Russian River valley this year and a decent result at the Vineman 70.3 two weeks prior I was feeling pretty good about the full Vineman and very excited to take a crack at it. I knew that my volume this year had not been what it was in years past butI had been consistent and I hoped that efficiency could get me most of the way and experience could hold me up to the finish. Everything went well in the days leading up to the race and the day before I went down to the river to do an easy jog and a swim. The water was nice and warm and it felt great to get in after running a bit. I swam the course we would be doing for the race and stopped several times to float on my back and kick. It really is a majestic place, with the redwood forests overhanging the banks on either side and the river disappearing off into the hills in both directions, there were even a pair of huge blue heron that were gliding along the water surface and passed just over me as floated there. I felt very lucky to be able to do the the things I do and have these experiences.

The weather for race weekend was expected to be very nice with the high for the day at 85 and fog in the morning it would be perfect conditions for racing. The morning was actually a little chilly with thick fog that gave way to drizzle at times. All the race morning preparations went smoothly and there was even time to stop by the snack shack and get a warm beverage for my girlfriend who flew up to support me and got up at an ungodly hour to stand by the rivers edge to see me off on my adventure. I had several long time friends in the race and we swam a bit to loosen up and chatted about the day and how we felt. I was actually feeling pretty good and I was excited to see if I could pull off a good day. At the swim start we all lined up and with some strong guys in the group I knew it would be a fast and fun day.

As they counted down to the swim start I was thinking about how few nerves I had been experiencing leading up to the race and how calm I felt...I was grateful just to be towing the line and I hadn't been putting any pressure on myself for how I had to perform. Then we were off. John Dahlz, Yuta Sano and one other guy gapped the rest of us right from the start but I knew with how strong they were in the water, that was an inevitability so I took it easy for the first couple hundred yards, tried to stay out of the fray and waited to settle into a comfortable rhythm. The water was nice and warm and I was gad to have my sleeveless wetsuit on as I definitely would have been too warm in a full suit. I ended up alone after not too long and swam the entire way by myself  with just the three guys up ahead. It was nice to be able to just enjoy the swim and even on the second loop I didn't start catching people until the turn around so I didn't have to navigate through any big groups of people at all. I felt good in the swim but the last half mile or so my shoulders and neck were definitely starting to fatigue.

I came out of the water alone and feeling good. I had posted a decent swim time for me and Dave Latourette, the announcer and all around awesome guy gave me some encouragement and let me know that the leaders were only a couple of minutes ahead. I got some sugar and some socks on and headed out of transition breathing slowly to make sure I didn't let my heart rate spike. I jumped on my bike and got into my shoes and just let my momentum slowly pick itself up as I rolled out River Road, the beautiful undulating boulevard that skirts the river for the length of the valley. Just before the turn onto Westside Road, I saw Yuta up ahead and when I cam up I patted him on the back and gave him some encouragement. Yuta is a really strong swimmer and great athlete but relatively new to the long distance triathlon experience and I let him know he was doing great and to just stick to his own pace and keep it up! About a mile later he re-passed me with a big smile on his face and said "I just wanted to be able to say I passed you :D" We had a laugh and I put my head down to get the routine going.

The fog was still thick and there was a cold light rain in some sections of the valley. I actually felt cold for about the first hour and had to blow on my hands for a bit but in a long day where you don't want to overheat or dehydrate being comfortably cool throughout the morning is welcome. I was keeping up a good pace and staying pretty dialed on my fueling schedule...my body felt good and I was really enjoying just doing my thing and taking in some scenery. The first thirty miles went by pretty quick and my energy was staying steady, hydration was going good as well. The sun came out after about an hour and a half and it actually felt good to dry out a bit and warm up. I went through the first lap on good time and the race crew let me know that it was about ten minutes to the leaders and six to ten to the next couple of guys. I got passed by the first person around mile 60 and that is when the fatigue was starting to creep in pretty good. The second lap was a lot harder than the first with a little wind picking up and the distance starting to accumulate I had to back the speed off a little to make sure I didn't go outside myself. I got passed by three more guys on the second lap but was definitely riding well for me and where I am at this year so finishing the bike feeling decent in just over five hours I was happy to still be within fifteen minutes of the leader.

I hit the second transition with one other young guy and my legs felt pretty stiff for the run to the bike racks but after getting my shoes on and picking up some gels for the hard road ahead they loosened up. I got out on the road and got focused on my watch to make sure I was keeping the early miles in my target zone. The young kid I went through transition with came up and was running really well...we ran together for about a half mile and chatted about who was up the road, what we both wanted to run and season goals and stuff. He was running about ten seconds per mile faster than I wanted to though so I told him great job and good luck and eased off to my planned tempo for the run.

I felt really good and was clipping the miles off at a good pace, keeping the fluid and sugar going in right on schedule and actually felt like I might end up with a great day. I high-fived and thanked the awesome volunteers at the aid stations who were doing an great job of getting us what we needed and keeping us motivated. I had a couple of minutes buffer to the guy in front of me and behind me and was feeling good all the way through the first lap. The first half of the second lap was a little tougher and I had to duck into a bathroom for a quick break but was still running really well and right on pace for what I had hoped. The second turn around was when I started to feel the fatigue really setting in. I knew that my running volume was a little short of what I needed to really run strong for the whole distance and I was grateful to be headed back downhill from there. At about mile fifteen my feet and hips really started to give out and I started walking an uphill section. My energy felt fine and I knew I had the calories and hydration going well but my body was not ready for the distance. I jogged on the downhill but just could not get my legs to get moving again. I got a lot of encouragement and gave a lot out too for everyone that I could but I knew my day was probably done. I thought that if I walked a few miles that I might be able to jog a few sections but I really did not want to walk for two hours to the finish.

I felt ok with it at that point. I really got the experience I wanted, racing well and hard at that distance and feeling what it was like deep into the marathon in the afternoon. Finishing well or finishing strong was something I hoped for but I am really glad to have been able to do just what I did. All in all I think that I did really well for what I trained to do and I just didn't do what was necessary to go the full distance. Eight and a half hours was what I was prepared for and I needed nine and a half. I walked in through the turn around on the second lap and got lots of encouragement and support but I knew my day was done. I found some shade and sat down to catch my breath and drink some cool water. I was glad to be done for the day and that I enjoyed the experience but more glad that I was in a place personally where I wasn't beating myself up about not finishing or not doing more to prepare. I think that my time racing triathlon competitively is probably nearing it's end and I am really glad to have come to a place where my relation to the sport, to competition and to myself are all healthy, that I am appreciative for what I have and what I get to experience. I am glad to have found my way to where feelings of anxiety, pressure, frustration, fighting and disappointment no longer have a place in sport for me and enjoyment is the main goal.

It has always been the case for me that I am way more impressed by the athlete that toughs out a really long day at big endurance events than the person who wins. The last hour at Kona has always been more inspiring than the hour where the winners and podium finishers come in. There were a lot of people out on the course at Vineman that were working away at this huge accomplishment...some walking or moving slowly along the bike course but the dedication and challenge is the same if not greater for some of them than for the faster athletes I imagine. I wasn't able to finish, partially by choice and partially because of lack of preparation and for me that kind of gets to the core of triathlon and why I originally got into it. If you want to accomplish something commitment, resolve, dedication, tenacity, sacrifice and inspiration area all involved in making that goal come true. The best part of being at a triathlon to me is that all of those strengths of the human spirit are getting a chance to be tested and played out in the name of adventure, enjoyment and mutual encouragement. To be a part of that has been, and I hope always will be, such a wonderful experience of self-exploration and affirmation that has brought so many amazing people into my life and given me the chance to have experiences I will always cherish.

Vineman 70.3 - Race Report

This is my second of what I hope to be three successful trips to wine country this year and I was hoping for another great day where I really enjoyed myself as I did at Monte Rio back in May. I was not feeling very well in the week leading up to the race as I had been fighting something off but I stuck to the routine for race prep and actually felt ok race morning. Having taken it easy in the week prior to the race and with two weeks until the Full Vineman my plan was to race strong but controlled and try to keep my energy normalized throughout.

Race morning went smoothly and I ran into a bunch of old friends, some I had not seen in years who had come out to race or support others that were racing and with my mom out to support me too it was a very special morning. I went for a short jog to warm my body up and as always the cool morning air amongst the redwood forests was so refreshing and energizing.  The sun was just coming up inland and treated the river valley to sun-kissed cloud cover welcoming the days adventure.

P.C. Tracey Matthews

The field was stacked this year and large too which is always great because you know that you won't be alone and having other people around makes the day much more enjoyable. The water was warm but comfortable and it felt good to get in and loosen up with long time friends and shake out any last pre-race jitters. We all lined up and I realized that Craig Alexander was on one side of me and Matty Reed was on the other and I though to myself 'This is really cool that I get to do this!' With the highly competitive field a lot of guys hit the throttle right from the start. Sticking with my plan of staying within myself I took my time accelerating up to a comfortable pace and watched a sizable group get away. I knew there were strong swimmers in the field so I wasn't worried but I did end up leading the chase group which takes a bit more energy but it is also nice to pick your own line and not get kicked in the fingers constantly. The swim went well, and I knew that I had been on the right pace because about two thirds of the way in I was ready to be done swimming. There were a couple of people that had tailed off the lead group not too far ahead and a few people just behind me so I felt good about having people to race with.

P.C. Jeff Kapic - www.jeffkapic.com/
I came out of the water with Chris McDonald just ahead of me and we swarmed though T1 quickly to get out on the bike course. 

P.C. Jeff Kapic - www.jeffkapic.com/

I let myself keep a solid pace right from the start of the bike and told myself that I would let off if my body needed it. Chris got out of sight after about 5 miles but then a couple of guys started coming back and I passed two or three by mile ten and felt really good about that. Around that point a group came up from behind me that included Yu Hsiao, Matty Reed, Dylan Bridges and several others that I knew would put in solid bike splits. I slotted into the back of this group as it came up and we went through the first aid station together. Miles 20-30 the pace went way up and I could not hold on to the group. I got split off with one other rider and we traded off making pace for about the next ten miles until we hit the Chalk Hill area and he left me behind. I honestly don't know if I could have stayed with group, or with him afterwards, what price I would have paid for that later or why I often feel like I am riding with the breaks on when I time trial but I kept my eye on the clock and was making good time for me on that course so I let it go. I missed one turn on the way back to town but made a quick course correction and cam into T2 under 2:20 which I was very happy with given that I have ridden slower on that course when I was in better shape!

T2 was longer this year than in the past but there was a nice strip of grass along the sidewalk to run on and it was nice to get a little jog before the transition itself to loosen up my legs before starting the run. I had made the decision to put on socks in T2 to prevent any blistering or discomfort in my feet with the short turnaround before the Full Vineman in mind. If you have trouble with those kinds of issues I definitely recommend talcing up some socks and spending the extra 5-10 seconds in transition to get that extra comfort. I left transition with one guy just ahead of me. He was running a solid pace but faster than I wanted to go. It was nice to have him up the road for a while though to keep focused on and I stayed mindful of my watch and respiration to keep within my own limits and controlled as we began to hit some of the rolling hills on the course. A few other people passed me on the way out to La Crema Winery where the turn around is as well but I felt good and was keeping a pace I was happy with while maintaining my energy and recovery levels. The loop out through the vineyard was the toughest part of the day and I felt really beat for that section but came out and realized that I still had not been passed by anyone in the women's field! This was actually one of my goals for the day was to not get blown out of the water by the women's race. I was on a good day and by the time I made the half way point I was already satisfied with how I was performing at this time of year. 

There is a short out-and-back section after exiting the winery and on the way back I got a look at where the women's race was. Meredith Kessler was within two minutes of me with Magali Tisseyre only a couple of minutes behind her and Mirinda Carfrae a few more behind her. With 6 miles to go I figured a couple of them would catch my but I was doing better than I had expected so I was totally ok with that. Meredith caught me just before mile 9 and was really working hard...I could tell that she was at her limit and the gap she had wouldn't hold if she faded as Magali looked like she was running strong. When she came up along side me I gave her some encouragement and picked up my pace to match hers and run with her for a while. When you are suffering that hard it is a lot better to have company and I knew Meredith from the Bay Area triathlon community so to be able to offer support of any kind, even if it was only mental or emotional, was an honor for me. We were keeping up a good clip and I think the energy of the moment had renewed my strength as I felt like I was breezing along at a pace that I had not been able to run all day. Meredith thanked me and I gave her encouragement when I could...I looked back to make sure the gap was good and let her know that she we doing great and holding Magali off, that the pace was solid and she was running strong. I went up ahead to the aid station  at mile 11 so I would be out of her way and got some water then dropped back and settled in for to hold on as long as I could. We continued along at a strong pace until about mile 12 and one last roller did me in...I began to unravel and I told her to keep it up, that she was still good on the gap and doing great.

I backed off to a comfortable jog knowing there was only a mile to go and I had accomplished everything I wanted to for the day. I watched Meredith forge ahead and turn up to Windsor high school alone and got passed by Magali with about a half mile to go. When I turned into the finishing shoot I saw my mom and took a moment to stop and give her a hug and thank her for being there...Dave Latourette gave me some encouragement as I came in and a wink acknowledging in two weeks time I was going to have to do it all again just twice and then I was done. I was pretty exhausted at the finish line and stood with my head down for a minute just to regain some equilibrium. Meredith came over and gave me a big hug and a thank you and I told her that it had been such an honor for me and it really was.

I sat in the shade and got several cups of water to drink and pour over my head to cool off and chatted with the other athletes about their day and their goals for the season. All in all it was a good day and given how I felt the week before and my amount of preparation and fitness this year I am very happy with the result! I may never be competitive amongst the best in the world, I think that I just don't have that gift, but as that expectation has fallen away I have gained a much greater appreciation for the awesome experiences and incredible moments I have been gotten to go though in the races I have done and this race was no exception! With the 70.3 under my belt I am looking forward to the Full Vineman on July 25th and I can't wait to see what that adventure has to offer!

Vineman Monte Rio 2015

The Russian River has played a big part in my journey as an athlete and holds a special place in my heart so I was excited to add Monte Rio to my calendar this year. I earned my professional license at Vineman 70.3 originally and the Vineman family has been so supportive of me over the years.

This year, in keeping with my push to try to focus on enjoying events more rather than putting stress and pressure on myself, I didn't plan a place to stay for Monte Rio and just researched campgrounds nearby to explore when I got there. One great thing is that they let you set up everything the night before so you aren't as hurried in the morning! I dropped off my stuff, caught up with some friends, met some new fun people and even helped a couple of people with mechanical and technical issues with their gear. It was really fun to hang around and chat with people and provide advice and encouragement in transition the day before. Once I was all set I headed down the river to the coast and headed south to find a campground. Bodega Doons state park still had spaces available so I parked my car and set up my tent then went for a walk around the doons and the beach, took some pictures and just spent some time decompressing.

Without having made many plans I didn't have much to do so when I got hungry around seven I ate my diner and just crawled into my tent. I listened to music and dozed for a while. I woke up at 9:45 or so and listened to people laugh and tell stories around their campfires for a while then fell back asleep. I woke up again around 3:45 to the sound of light rain on my tent and then fell back asleep. Even though I didn't sleep straight through the night I felt rested from the accumulative relaxation and I think that this ended up being a good strategy for pre-race rest. In the morning I stuffed everything in my car and had some breakfast and coffee before heading out.

With everything set up already I didn't have to be there too early, when I got there I went for a quick warm up jog and was surprised my legs feeling pretty good! The light fog actually kept the temperature from dropping too much so it was cool but not too cold which was great. I got my wetsuit on and went down to the river to loosen up and check out the sight-lines. The water was very comfortable and the river valley is so beautiful you feel like you are swimming in a forested paradise! There were a couple of guys I knew starting the race and we chatted before the start about how training has been going and goals for the season. I lined up right next to Ted Simpkins who I know is a strong swimmer and we shook hands before the start.

When the horn went off we got a really clear start and I was glad not to get caught up with other people in the beginning.  Ted and I went stroke for stroke pretty much the whole way to the turn around which was nice and I think definitely helps keep you swimming straight and on a good pace. There were a couple of spots where you could dolphin dive and I would usually get a little advantage there then we would come back together. At the turn around I went through first and got the line going on the way back before Ted came by. He was swimming strong so I slotted in behind him and took the opportunity to glance back and see if anyone was chasing. It looked like a big gap to the next person. I was happy about this because I had not done much intensity this year and wasn't sure how I would fair throughout the day. Ted was pushing hard on the way back and I had trouble staying with hi at some points and had to dolphin dive hard on a couple of shallower sections to get back up to him. He had a body length lead on me coming out of the water and we had over a minute on the chasing group.

I passed Ted in transition and I got on my bike and moving as quickly as possible to try and preserve the gap that we had developed. I didn't feel like I was flying on the bike but I didn't feel as flat as I had been the last couple of weeks so I was happy for that. Ted re-passed me around mile 4 on the bike and I resolved to stay with him no matter how bad it hurt. The river road section is perfect pavement that rolls just slightly and heads down towards the coast which is perfect for time-trialing. Through the Austin Creek section Ted had the throttle on full blast and I was really digging deep to make sure he wasn't pulling away. Once we were back onto river road the speed picked up and around mile 10 I started gaining on Ted and passed him with a nod and told him we were strong and to keep it up. I went to the front and brought the speed up setting the best tempo I could. When we hit Hwy 1 I had started to pull away from Ted a little and I figured that might be a sign that I was on a good day so I dropped in and went for it. At the turnaround in Jenner, an absolutely beautiful little coastal town I had around 30 seconds on Ted and then I saw Yu Hsiao at around a minute back. I knew Yu was on good form from how fast he blew by me at Wildflower and I figured I would have to maintain that gap to the start of the run if I was going to have a chance to hold him off. I kept the pace hot on the way back to transition and only let up a little at the end to catch my breath and get out of my shoes.

I entered T2 first and to my surprise Yu had caught and passed Ted and they were both within 30 secconds of me. I rushed through transition and got out on the run as quickly as possible...my hope was that the chase on the bike had left Yu tired and that if I could hold the gap he might not be able to chase me down on the run. The Monte Rio run course is on a small two lane road that skirts the south side of the river and is almost entirely enclosed in a beautiful Redwood canopy and I kept thinking to myself 'This has to be the most beautiful course I have ever done!' Then of course the pain in my lungs would bring me back to reality. I went hard the first two miles and around then I heard Yu coming up on me...as he went by I gave him a pat on the back and some encouragement. At first he was gaining slowly on me and by the turn around it was maybe a thirty second gap. I tried my best to keep my effort up in hopes that he would fade and I could make a late push to catch up but he never did and around mile five my cache of top end effort was all used up. I let my stride shorten and kept the turnover going for the last mile and came in just under two hours which I realized I told someone before the race that if I did that I would be stoked...and I was!

It was great to have a fun, positive, strong group to race with and I am glad to see that I haven't lost my ability to go hard at the shorter distances. I don't know what my favorite part of the race was, the incredibly beautiful and fun course or the awesome pancake breakfast they served for all the participants afterward but Monte Rio has made it on my list of favorite all time events and I hope that I can come back in future years to enjoy the breathtaking scenery and race with friends and some of the really awesome new people I met this year!

Thank you to my sponsors and everyone for supporting me over the years and continuing to believe in me!