Morgan Hill Sprint Triathlon 2013

This race is one of my favorites because the venu is so nice. The whole thing is centered around Uvas Reservoir in Morgan Hill, I get to race a couple of times a year and I love it. Not only is the water clean and warm, the roads are in great condition...but best of all is that it is close by so I get to sleep in my own bed the night before! I say sleep because that is what one should do the night before a race but I have not been sleeping all that well so I really didn't get much sleep at all. My body had been feeling good for a couple of days though so I just stuck to my routine and told myself I could catch up on sleep after.

All of the pre-race routine stuff went well and I started with warmup early knowing that, having worked hard this week and not gotten a lot of rest, my body would need a long time to get going. I jogged a few miles and did some drills/accelerations to make sure my legs were fully warm and loose. With twenty minutes to start I went down to the water and got in to swim out and recon the course and get my shoulders stretched out. I swam out to the far turn buoy and just checked out where the course was going to go and some sight lines and then swam back in to the start.

There were only two other elites racing, both about my speed and both very fit, Andrew Bauer and Brice Winkler. The three of us race together a bunch so we had a little chat before the start and caught up. With just three guys it was nice to get a clean start and I kicked hard from the start to make sure I got clean water to the first turn. I went around the far two turns alone and was swimming hard so I didn't check to see if I had a gap or anything but I knew I was at least in front which is always a mental boost. Something I struggle with is that I am always redlined in the swim and I can hold on to that effort but I really feel like my lungs get worked because of it and I always feel like I have an elephant standing on my back. I was glad to be leading out the swim though and it went by pretty quickly.

Out of the water I felt a little disoriented and I fumbled in transition trying to find my rack and getting my wetsuit off. Once I got situated though I realized I was leaving transition and neither Brice nor Andrew had entered yet. When racing, there is a big advantage to being out of sight; it is way easier to pull someone back if you can see them and work on the visual distance. With this in mind I pushed hard from the start. I should spend more time finding objective measures of my percentage of maximal effort because, as with the swim, I think that with my initial surge on the bike I put myself over the limit. The first 4 miles roll up some small hills and I definitely think I could have backed off a little and been faster and more consistent but there are some downhill sections that I knew I could catch my breath on. As planned, I pushed one gear harder than I usually would because I wanted to test some ratios I had been playing with this week. I stayed on top of a solid effort, pushing the flats and hills then recovering on the descents.

Coming into the second transition i definitely felt like I had given my body a good thrashing but my energy was still good and I had planned on just racing as hard as I could for as long as I could. Through the second transition smoothly I got up to speed as fast as I could and focused on keeping my tempo high and my foot-strikes short. I felt like I was running really really hurt but I was able to keep my speed and turnover up which was great as I have not felt like that in a long time. I still had not been caught by the guys behind me but I was on the limit as it was so I didn't bother looking back...if they caught me at this point then they would just be outrunning me and there was nothing I could do about that. I checked in with the lead cyclist around mile two to see if there was any chance that I was on pace to try for the record and I was a couple of minutes off so I gust kept my head down and held on. After the turn-around I saw Andrew coming the other way but I was so deep in the pain cave that I had forgotten to check how far back he was. I guessed a minute or two but knowing how strong he is I just kept trying to keep my effort as high as possible and chew up the last of the real estate.

With a mile to go I looked back and no one was within sight which is always a relief and keeping yourself going becomes a lot easier. The last mile felt smooth and I came in feeling very pleased with the effort and the day. After the race the three of us went for a cool down jog. It is nice, because I train alone all the time, to be able to hang out with guys doing the same thing I am and commiserating about the odd life of the recreationally elite triathlete. As always, it was a great event and I am already looking forward to doing it again next year.

200th POST! 5/13 - 5/19/2012

Early this week I finally felt like I had shaken the last of the wreckage from Wildflower out of my legs and lungs so I have been getting back to building some training up again. The next big event is Vineman 70.3 in July and I have several train-through and prep races between now and then. This weeks training was focused on incorporating race effort into the schedule. This Sunday I was back at Uvas Reservoir (:my favorite venue:) racing the USA Productions 'Morgan Hill Sprint Triathlon.' I restructured much of the weeks training so that I could get in some solid work and race hard too, as I am planning on training through this particular race. It was a good week and I was glad to be doing some solid efforts brain does not do well when I am resting too much.

Swim 18,750 yds
Bike   8 hrs
Run    35 mi

5/6 - 5/12/2013

This was a very difficult week for several reasons. First off, walking the thin line of doing enough to stimulate recovery while not doing too much is always less than enjoyable. Secondly, after a couple of days the disappointment of another big race come and gone with out a decent result set in.

This is a common slump for me the week after a race. When so much has gone into an event and nothing comes out of it that is tangible, but then I have to go back to reality where I am too wrecked to function properly. So it ends up being a week of questioning why I am sacrificing so much for something that is going no where, that takes all my time/money/energy and will never be regarded as my profession.

I think the toughest part is that in my heart of hearts I still don't believe what I am doing, as far as being a profession, is a respectable pursuit. Even at times when I am most proud of what I am doing, if I am talking to someone about it I feel like I have to qualify it as something that I am doing 'right now' or 'while I can.' The hard part durring weeks like this is that with each big race I hope I will have that one great result that is indicative of how much work I have put into this and what I am capable of doing. I feel like I need validation of that sort because up until now triathlon has just been a really expensive hobby. When it doesn't come I feel more and more so as if it never will. The more time goes by, the more I worry that I will find myself on the other side of this thing having to start from scratch with nothing to show for it.

My fear shows me this person that is almost forty, broke and still working part-time jobs, unable to afford health insurance or a car, whose spirit is completely broken by years of chasing a dream that was always one step out of reach. I see myself as too old to start fresh and there being nothing left im my future but desperate subsistance never having achieved that which I sought...forever unfulfilled.

So yeah it was a tough week, but life waits for no man and you can either do something or do nothing so I did what I could.

Swim 12,500 yds
Bike  9 hrs
Run  13 mi

The Beast that is WILDFLOWER & What Triathlon is All About

I had not been feeling all that great coming into Wildflower this year. I have not been sleeping well and life has been pretty busy, so the week of the race I was trying to get as much rest as possible, eat as healthy as I could and do everything I could to help my body get to a good place. Sometimes, however, there is nothing you can do and things are just not going to work out...this was just one of those times.

Perhaps I rested too much, or perhaps I just had too much on my mind but I did not sleep the night before the race. Everything went according to plan however on race morning, my speed-suit that I had forgotten back home even made it to transition before the race via a friend of a friend's wife who left late the day before. I was feeling good race morning and with the big field we had I was looking forward to getting in and racing amongst the group.

The start was chaos as always and I picked a wide line to avoid the fray. After the first turn buoy I was still on the outside and the group was moving by me which wasn't good and I had to wait to slide into a spot. I had not swum in the speed-suit before and I felt a little sluggish but the group I was with was moving along well so I just tried to hang in behind them and save energy. I lost track of them near the turn-around point and ended up swimming back on my own. That group actually had a lot of strong guys in it and they were out of the water less than a minute ahead of me. I was glad to have a big group up the road to chase though and I was still feeling good so things were off to a good start.

I had a quick transition and got onto the bike smoothly, happy that my legs felt good and excited that I had people up the road to chase. I got right into setting a smooth pace and after cresting each hill I felt like I was getting up to speed really well which was really exciting. There were guys all strung out up the road so I had plenty of little goals to chase and I set my mind to that...just slowly reeling in whoever was next up the road. I felt my mouth getting dry really quickly, which didn't surprise me for how dry and hot the air was out there but I just kept the fluids going in and the legs spinnig the best I could. Around mile 20 my legs started to get a little sluggish from the effort and looking back I definitely think that I went much too hard for the first 40 minutes or so in my excitement. It is hard to hold your effort back when you are feeling fresh and this is something I am going to have to work on. Miles 20 to 40 I was trading places with a lot of guys...I would pass one or two and then one or two would pass me.

Around 45 miles there is a long climb called 'Nasty Grade' where the air stands still, the sun feels like it is sitting in your back pocket and the grade is unrelenting. Parts of the grade are long and straight so the one saving grace is that you can see a lot of other people up the road and they are all suffering just as hard. Some of the guys looked downright ghastly. After 'Nasty Grade' there is an unending series of huge rolling hills back towards transition that solidify the exhaustion from the previous 45 miles and my efforts up until that point had definitely been to great. With every hill, my legs felt more sluggish and swollen than before. A feeling that I had not experienced in a long time started to creep in, the feeling that my body was not going to be able to make it through what was left to come. I tried to ease off some for the last five miles of the bike and shake my legs out on the descents, hoping that I could catch a second wind once I got into the run.

My second transition was smooth enough, I got started running and did not feel all that bad physically but every little rise in the road sent my respiration through the roof and my lungs were feeling totally burned out. There were still a good number of guys around me and having them to chase was keeping me motivated despite how wiped out my body felt and how hard it was to keep my body moving. The middle section of the run course from mile five to seven is the most difficult with some big steep hills and little to no breeze to keep you cool. As always I tried to keep up a trot going up the hills so as not to loose my momentum but my heart rate and respiration would just skyrocket so I resigned myself to walking the steep hills to save my self from utter implosion. Miles seven to nine are much flatter and pass through the main camping area so there are a lot of people around cheering you on, giving you encouragement and spraying you down to keep you cool. Through this section I actually felt ok and with most of the day done I was starting to resign myself to being happy that I was going to finish, regardless of my overall time.

At mile nine you leave the dirt and crowds of the campground and are back on the pavement for a hot and brutal out-and-back. The moment my feet hit the road surface my body shut off. I stopped running and there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn't get a full breath of air as my lungs just felt like they had been burned out and my body was now dictating that the best I was going to get was a slow walk. There was an aid station up ahead and all the volunteers were cheering on encouragement and came down to me to check with me and make sure I was ok. They walked with me and brought me water and food and told me I was doing great and to keep going. I got as much water as I could and continued on walking as steadily as possible and just focused on keeping myself moving. I knew that I could walk four miles if I just kept hydrated and kept moving and I was still hopeful that I might be able to get jogging again at some point. I walked all the way from mile nine to mile ten and in that time the women's leaders passed me and the age group leaders started to catch me as well.

I stopped at the aid station at mile ten and stood at the water table drinking and wetting myself down. I took in some food and Gatorade and again the volunteers checked in with me and made sure that I was ok and then walked with me as I got going again. All their encouragement totally kept me going and prevented me from getting too discouraged...I owe all the volunteers a huge thank you for keeping me upright and moving because by that point all I wanted to do was make it to the finish line. I walked the next mile too and some of my teammates passed me and checked in, making sure I was ok...I waved them on and told them they were doing great. I stopped for a while again at mile eleven, got more water and started to feel much better so I trotted for a while and walked when I needed to.

The last mile is all down hill and some of it is fairly steep so I trotted when I could but had to stop a lot and pick my way down some of it because I was too wrecked. The road flattens out with about a quarter mile to go and no one ever wants to walk across the finish line so when I heard the announcer and the crowd I started jogging. This has been a long and tough year for me in a lot of ways and the closer I got to the finish I began to get very emotional thinking about all of the support my family and friends have given me. The support and camaraderie of the racers and volunteers that had kept me going for the past hour was overwhelming and I think for me that moment solidified what triathlon is all about.

Many people come to big events like Wildflower hoping that all the work they have put in with their friends and teammates is going to get them to the finish line but until that moment it had never been about that for me. The vulnerability, and subsequent gratitude I felt for the people around me and my greater community was overwhelming because despite all the work I had put in, on that day it was on their shoulders that I was carried across the finish line. I collapsed in the finishing area, sobbing from how drained and overwhelmed I was. The volunteers surrounded me to make sure I was ok and having finished the day I most definitely was.

Once I had caught my breath, one of the race directors stood with me and walked me to a shade-tent to sit together and chat. We talked about how tough the past year had been for both of us...she had lost her brother, who had been a member of the Wildflower CEO's family, not that long ago. It was an immense moment for me, and it was the most I have ever understood and been in touch with what makes the triathlon community so special.

After getting cleaned up and getting some food, hearing about how tough everyone's day had been and checking in with many, many friends it was time to head back to reality. The road out of the park passes through several parts of the course and for me this was the most humbling part of the day. Even though I had never fallen appart so bad, or had such a tough race, nothing I had to pushed through even came close to what some of the people still out on the course were enduring. As we were hitting the road to head back home there were still several people coming in off the bike, still having that incredibly difficult run ahead of them. They were two thirds of the way into what for some of them would be a nine hour event and in my heart I knew that would require a determination that I most certainly do not possess.

Late in the day, the volunteers were cheering loudly and people were offering encouragement to keep the athletes determined and motivated to reach their goal. For many of them, as it was for me that day, the goal was just to get to the finish line and even though I often forget how big of a deal that is, on that meant the world.

Thank you to all of you...for everything :)

4/29 - 5/5/2013

This week I was just doing maintenance and trying to continue with active recovery in preparation for Wildflower on Saturday. The long course race there is one of the toughest and I wanted to make sure I was totally rested for it.

One of the hardest parts about race preparation for me is that when I rest or cut the workloads down significantly I really start to feel like crap. All this week I felt really lethargic and run down which totally tanks my my confidence and optimism. It was a big challenge to constantly be reminding myself that my fitness would be there on race morning. I tried to keep my head out of it as best I could and stick to my plan...but it was a tough week.

Swim 14,500yds
Bike   7.25hrs
Run    23mi