Santa Cruz Triathlon 2014

It is hard to know what to feel about this years Santa Cruz Triathlon...I have been trying to win this one for so long and have come so close so many times it has sometimes felt comical. This year before the race I was telling a couple of people that I almost felt like it would be more appropriate for me to get second and if that happened it would probably feel more fitting than if I won. Some may know this but some may not so I will interject here that I have finished second at this event the past five years in a row. So yeah. 

I had been feeling pretty crappy leading up to the race and the last few races I have done were just too close together and I was not doing a good job of getting enough recovery after them so for most of the week I was unsure if I would even race this weekend. I kept up hope and felt a little better the day before and told myself I would try and if my body was a wreck I would listen and pull out but I love this race and I was certainly well enough to do the swim and at least get on my bike so there was no excuse to stay in bed. The ride down to transition from my house is barely over five minutes and I was greeted by all of the friendly volunteers from UCSC Swimming who were running transition and Kim Mush, their coach and my college coach. I worked transition when I swam at UCSC and working at the Sentinel, as it was called back then, was my introduction to the sport. I chatted with friends and coworkers, sponsors and other athletes about the day and the course and helped people figure out logistics, got someone's flat fixed and helped someone else get a was a perfect event morning and although my body felt sluggish I was happy and at ease. 

I went for a short jog on West Cliff to stretch my legs and get my system going. My stride actually felt ok and I was glad because I knew at the very least I felt good enough to finish the day even if it didn't go well. I stopped to stretch and watched a woman playing with her dog at It's beach. She was throwing a toy for him and he was bounding after it with such joy and excitement, even when the waves would pummel him he would bound free from the white water without a care in the world, it made me smile. I did a few accelerations on my way back to transition to open up my lungs and get my heart rate up...that did not feel good. Once my respiration would rise it felt like I was having pounds of concrete heaped on my shoulders but I told myself 'You have felt like this before other races and done well, it is ok.'

Back in transition I did a last minute check of my gear and pulled on a new Roka wetsuit that a friend had brought me to try out from Sports Basement's rental fleet and it fit perfectly. We walked down to the water together and chatted about the relative merits of different gear, training, pets and movies and commiserated about the fact that we were both not feeling our best and that it was going to be a tough day. We jumped in the water a ways down from the swim start and swam along shore to the starting area, stopping a couple of times to wave to a curious seal nearby and chat about the wetsuit fit. I felt a little sluggish but smooth in the water and just kept myself thinking positive.

At the lineup for the start it was a clear shot to the end of the wharf and the water was calm...with a little overcast it was a perfect day for a race and I took some deep breaths of cool sea air which felt really good. As the countdown to start commenced, people cheered and I heard a few friends yell my name from the fence 5...4...3...2...1 GO!

I got a good jump and bounded into the water taking a few huge dolphin dives to get away from everyone else and then settled into a long smooth rhythm. The starting line is wide and it takes a while for a clear leader to establish a line for everyone else to follow. A couple of guys came up from my left and were moving well so I figured they were good to follow and after a minute or two Yuta Sano, who is a good friend and a decorated open-water swimmer and duathlete, came past and began to set a gap on the rest of us. One guy was casing him and the rest of us were in a bunch chasing. I didn't want the gap to grow too much because I did not know the guy chasing Yuta and it is always better to have people in sight. At the end of the wharf Yuta had about twenty seconds on me and the guy chasing him was at about ten...there were a few guys close behind me but I felt ok leading and was happy to set my own pace. On the way back in I started to feel burnt so I lengthened my stroke out and settled my breathing down to take some of the strain off my aerobic system. I knew if I was going to race the whole day I was going to have to conserve where I could. 

At the swim exit I could see Yuta of in the distance crossing the parking lot and the guy chasing him at the top of the beach. Jack Calhoun, who won this race two years ago (my third second place), came out of the water with me and one other guy who was quick! He passed both of us on the run back to transition and we all caught Yuta and the guy in second. The transition shuffled everything and the quick guy that came out of the water with us exited first with me ten seconds behind and Jack just behind me. My legs didn't feel strong right from the start and I tried to keep my cadence up and my heart-rate under control heading out of town but the guy we were chasing was gaining ground and I didn't know who he was or anything about him so I was worried that meant that I was moving really slow. We got out of town and by the time we reached wilder ranch I was forty seconds back and totally unsure what to think. My legs were warming up though and I was able to produce some good speed on the flats so I hoped that maybe he would fade later on or we could catch him on the run. 

When we crested the first hill on the coast I saw him slowing down and pulling over and I couldn't believe it...he had a front flat and all of a sudden I was leading the race. I didn't feel like I was putting out my best numbers but I kept the cadence low and spun the hills to keep my keel as even as possible. I took a few glances back and Jack was never more than thirty seconds behind which really help keep me motivated. I felt like I was riding fast but not really well but no one else looked close behind Jack and at the turn around in Davenport it looked like a couple of minutes to the next chaser. The rolling hills on the way back were a lot harder and I think the wind was in our face a bit. I definitely had some moments where I would accidentally go a bit too hard and it would take a while to get back on pace as I started to feel pretty worn. Jack never relented and was within thirty seconds as we hit the city-limit sign but I put my head down and hit the chicanes coming back through town full speed getting a bit of a gap. I think I pulled out twenty or thirty seconds coming back across town and I entered T2 in the lead and alone with a chance to take some deep breaths and refocus.

I got through T2 smoothly with friends and volunteers cheering loudly and I hoped that I had enough left to hold of Jack and anyone else that might have made up time on us in the second half of the ride. My legs were turning over quickly as I got started on the run but I felt heavy and my lungs were not feeling good at my limit so I backed it off a bit and figured I would wait to let my body loosen up a little. Out onto West Cliff I opened up my stride a little and still didn't feel stellar but I could tell that I was moving at a decent clip. I didn't know what kind of run fitness Jack had or how far behind anyone else was so I told my self to just keep going, that I was not out to set a 10k PR and I could deal with the gaps as they came. I didn't look back for a long time because I always get scared when I know someone is close so I just kept my tempo up and kept moving. There were a lot of people out on the run course cheering and I got a little boost of energy and a little smile when they shouted their encouragement. The third mile was tough...I felt pretty run down and my heartbeat was pounding in my head. My thoughts were wavering between 'If you just keep going you might win.' and 'You can stop. You can just sit on that bench right there and's fine.' I reminded myself that in twenty minutes I wouldn't have to do anything exercise related for a month and tried some other tricks to just keep moving. At a few of the curves in the road I glanced back and saw that Jack was at around thirty seconds which is a good gap but not insurmountable if I began to fade.

I hit the turn around where several of my swimmers were shouting encouragement and grabbed some water to wake me up a bit and cool myself off. The gap was still about thirty seconds, Jack and I gave a high five and traded encouragement as we passed. The last there miles were a slow trudge towards the edge of consciousness and a constant desperate attempt to catch my breath on the slightest decline and not allow my legs to slow their cadence. I checked back every half mile or so and the gap was still holding. There is no way to tell how the person behind you is feeling and all I could do was push as hard as my lungs and legs could handle and not ease up all the way to the finish.

I was so wrecked. It was a hard race on a tough day when I was not at my best against someone with whom I am very evenly matched...I am so glad it did not come down to a sprint finish because I am sure I would not have survived. 

I hung around the finishing area for a while chatting with friends and other athletes about the day and kept an eye out to see if anyone in a later wave had posted a strong time. Twice in years past I have finished first only to find out that someone set a faster time from a later group so I wanted to know for sure before letting myself get excited about the overall win. It was a hard fought day and even though on another day Jack or someone else could have bested me it feels good to be able to say that I won it at least once.

It is hard to know how to feel after finally winning this one. It has been a goal of mine for such a long time and I have come so close so many times. In some ways I think the years that I spent coming close have more meaning to me than having finally won it. This is the race that got me into the sport...this sport through which I have learned so much about myself and developed an incredible community of friends and supporters who have helped me become a happier and fuller person.

My first time racing The 'Sentinel' was in 2005 with my college teammates. I was fascinated by the sport and all of us were inspired by people that fearlessly challenged themselves to do such demanding events and put their all into somethings so daunting. I have learned so many lessons and grown so much, some of it through the sport but also some of it alongside the sport, and it has always been a constant for me. At first as a seemingly unattainable dream and then a crazy endeavor, for a while it was a stubborn self-righteous obsession and then a meticulous puzzle of patience and attention to detail. The lessons I have learned through triathlon have helped me figure things out in my life and the lessons that I have learned in life have made me better at triathlon. The significance has always come from the people I have shared it all with though...friends who have supported me, coworkers and bosses who have been understanding, teammates who I have shared goals and dreams with over pizza or burritos, family who have loved me no matter what place I finish or the odd stranger who tells me something I did or have done is inspiring. I love all of you.

I draw inspiration from so many people and it is the parts of all of you that have been imbedded in me that give me strength and hope, and give meaning to my life.

No Fears - No Limits - No Regrets

Pacific Grove 2014

As always this years Tri-California Pacific Grove was a blast and it fell on such a beautiful times I had to remind myself I was racing and needed to refocus on what I was there for. This is another annual favorite for me because it is fun format, draft-legal, and it is close to home. Not to mention it starts at noon! I had been feeling pretty run down for a while leading up to the event and a week before I was not sure if I would race at all but as the rest took hold I felt better and better up until race day and I am glad that I decided to toe the line.

There are always some regulars that race this event that I know well and love racing with including John Dahlz and Tommy Zefares who are both NorCal natives and we have been racing together for years. This year saw the late addition of several ITU athletes that regularly race in Europe and are on a totally different level than most of us locally so it promised to be a fast day.

Right from the start Tommy and the other ITU guys hit the gas and a group of six had a gap on us at the first buoy! I was swimming with two other guys though and I figured that group would fragment and we might catch one of them and get someone coming up from behind so chasing might be a workable option. At this point I got distracted because the water conditions were so amazing! The kelp had receded some from years past, possibly because the water has been so warm, and we didn't have to crawl over any! On top of that the water was really clear and we were swimming over a rocky kelp forest with all kinds of fish and other sea life floating around. This was one of those moments I had to catch myself because I found myself sightseeing with things on the ocean floor and loosing track of the guy in front of me. The swim was very smooth and I was taking it a little easy partially because I knew I couldn't catch the guys ahead of us on my own and partially because I still wasn't sure of how good I was going to feel later on.

I exited the water with two other guys and I was glad not to be riding alone but also hopeful that we would catch any stragglers up the road and put time into anyone chasing. T1 was smooth, except for the fact that I lost my goggles on the way to my bike and this time they weren't there when I went back later :( I loved those goggles. The three of us exited transition together and immediately started working well together and got some rotation going. At the turn around Tommy had a gap on two guys chasing together and there was one guy chasing them...John was another thirty or so seconds back and it was about a minute and thirty seconds back to us. That made the three of us 6th 7th and 8th on the road. After we made the first turn around we had a solid gap on anyone else but there were some solid bike/runners getting together to form a chase and we would need time on them before the run. On the way back to transition I really felt better than I thought I would and I knew I was riding stronger than the other two I was with so when I saw that the gaps had not changed with the exception of us making some time up on John I was excited that we might be able to pick him up and then start making some real progress.

After the turn to start the second lap I really caught a good deep breath and something told me I could bridge to John alone and leave the two I was with reducing the number of people I would have to run against later. At the first rise in the road I attacked to get the gap and then put my head down and started going about the task of catching the guys up the road to get into the podium chase.

To my surprise John had eased up a bit, I think expecting us to catch him, and once we got together the gap to the two I had left grew quickly. John and I worked really well together, knowing each other well and having ridden together a fair amount in the past. It is nice to have someone that has similar strength and work ethic to you to really get some good work done.

Amazingly with how strong I felt like we were riding, we still weren't making up time on the four up front but by the end of the bike we had put a sizable gap on the rest of the field and it felt good to know that we had a couple of minutes to work with on the run. We exchanged encouragement coming into T2 and talked about the people in the field and how they might run and what to look out for before a frantic change of shoes and a dash out onto the run course.

John is a stronger runner than I am and has been for years so when he started out at a pace I figured I could probably not handle I just pulled my visor down and listened to my body, waiting for it to tell me where my limit was. I felt surprisingly good and I knew I was running well which gave me the confidence to push a little harder once I got a mile or so in. On the second lap of the run it looked like John was fading a little and I could see that I was catching up to him. I think he was fading and I was accelerating because I caught and passed him at about mile four and started the last lap with a bit of a gap. I never looked back and was feeling so good that I am sure I ran the fifth mile a little too fast because at the last turn around my body really started to shut down. As I faded John came past me again with a fury and I couldn't go with him. I gave him a pat on the back and did what I could to keep my pace up but I was toast. John got twenty or so seconds by the line but I was totally happy with where I finished.

Given how I was feeling I am very happy with how the race went! It was great to have family and friends cheering me on as well as tough competitors to keep me motivated. A special thanks to Nancy Robertson Zaferes for capturing so many great photos of the event!

Tri Santa Cruz 2014

Finish Line Productions' Tri Santa Cruz is one of my favorite events of the year and it comes at such a good time too. Mid-season is always hard and a fun local event is the perfect way to rejuvenate motivation for the second half of the year. With lots of friends and family around and the race happening in my own back yard it is always a great time.

I want to send a special thanks to the guys at Spokesman Bicycles for getting my bike fixed just in time for the event and setting it up perfectly so that I didn't even have to ride it before the race!

The race went almost exactly how I expected it to go and almost exactly how it went last year with John Dahlz and I battling the whole way and finishing whit him less than ten seconds ahead of me. Tommy Zafares was racing this year and has been racing on the ITU circuit so he is on a different level than John or I right now. Tommy got a solid gap in the swim just like we expected and we never saw him again but John and I stayed close trading positions throughout the race but always staying within 30 seconds of each other. Just like last year John had a gap I could not close in the last few miles of the run and I finished just behind him.

I was happy with my time after not having done too much quality work in the past few months and I am excited to dial in some speed-work to try and nail down some good results in the shorter events I have planned the rest of the year.

Vineman 2014

I wasn't going to do a race report about this years Vineman because I had to pull out and I really didn't know what to say about it. A lot of people have asked about it though so I just wanted to leave a couple of notes about the day.

Everything went perfectly. I had a great swim that felt effortless. Nutrition and hydration on the bike went exactly according to plan...I had to jump off twice because I derailed my chain in the same spot on both loops. I finished the bike feeling spectacular. I know I was ready to run a solid marathon and I was even 10 minutes ahead of my race plan up to that point. What did happen was that riding without socks shifted the insoles in my cycling shoes just the slightest bit and they were putting pressure on a soft part of my feet. I didn't think much about it but late in the bike it really started hurting. When I got off I couldn't even put weight on my feet and basically what had happened was the insoles bruised the bottom of my feet so I couldn't run.

I learned a ton of stuff from preparing for and racing the ironman this year and I am about 50% sure I will try again but the most important thing I learned was that ironman can take your smallest weakness and when it gets compounded over such a distance and so much time, bring you to your knees with it.

Thanks everyone for supporting me along the way and checking in! I am not too disappointed because I know that I was ready to do it and just because I didn't finish doesn't mean I didn't accomplish what I set out to. The preparation was the biggest challenge and the part I get the most from on a personal level.

7/14 - 7/20/2014

The last two weeks I have been working on active recovery from all of the big training I put in. Next Saturday is Vineman, my first iron-distance race. It is always weird to be resting because you are so used to working hard that you feel like crap and things get sore for no reason and your mind starts playing tricks on you. I have been doing my best to keep my mind in a good place, relax and rest when I feel tired and take good care of my body so it is ready for res day. I have a few goals for this race but mostly I am looking at it as an adventure...I signed up because I wanted to experience the distance and I am trying to keep that in mind when looking forward to next weekend. I have been making more time to do things I enjoy and allowing myself the leeway to enjoy them. My next update will be a race report about the biggest day of athletic activity I have ever had in my life. 

Swim 13,250 yds
Bike 9 hrs
Run 14 mi

6/29 - 7/5/2014

This was my last hard week of training before I start my taper for Vineman! I am so glad that the rest period has finally come...I have been feeling really run down and summoning the energy to get out of bed had become difficult.

This week included two large days, one on Sunday 6/29 racing with some volume before and after and the second on the following Saturday 7/5 which was a 7 hour day. Almost everything I had planned out and all of the targets that I hoped to hit in this training block went right on schedule so I am feeling good about my fitness and looking forward to seeing what my body will be able to do with some solid rest.

I am also hoping that some recovery will get my mind back on track. I have been having a lot of trouble being positive and feeling good about things this past week so it would be nice if a little rest will let my mood return to normal too.

Swim 18,150 yds
Bike 11 hrs
Run 34.75 mi

California International Triathlon

This was my second year racing at USA Productions Cal International Triathlon. Last year I finished as a disappointed runner up after spending more than three minutes by the side of the road with a mechanical. You can never foresee those things but I was feeling particularly good that day and I was bummed that I couldn't put that result in my quiver. This year I was not feeling all that great but I knew my fitness was good. I am in the middle of the last few big efforts in preparation for the full Vineman at the end of this month and I had marked this race as a big prep day for that event. I was feeling pretty tied and sluggish going into the race but I did my best to get enough rest and kept reminding myself that sometimes one more good nights sleep is all it takes for everything to get refreshed.

One of my favorite parts about Cal International is that it is really close to my hometown so I get to work a visit with my family in on the weekend of the race. My mom got up with me at 4:30 am, she is such a trooper and told me 'I don't mind being up early as long as you take me for coffee after the race! :)' DEAL!!! We got to the race early and setup went smoothly...being a smallish event the logistics are simplified some which is nice and makes race morning a lot easier than some races. I got started early with warm up...when you are really run down it can take forever for things to loosen up so I wanted to do as much as I could to get things up and running before the start. I went for a nice run on some of the fire roads around the quarry, did some stretching and accelerations and my legs actually felt pretty good. I wanted to get in the water early and get a lot of swimming in too because I had not been able to swim the day before or much at all the week before. I always forget how long it takes to put your wetsuit on and I think I only got about ten minutes of swimming in before we had to line up for the start and my arms felt a bit heavy.

We started in big waves and I had not even looked around to see who was there so I didn't know what to expect but all that mattered was that the day was hard and I was ready for that. Right from the start I felt like my arms just could not get up to I was stuck at 80% and there was nothing I could do about it. There were a couple of people in my wave that were clearly really good swimmers and I tried to follow them but my body was not having it. I know with heavy training this is a normal feeling so I just kept telling myself that it is a long day and there is plenty of time to make up the difference later on. At the first turn the leader was already close to a minute ahead and there was someone else that had about thirty seconds. It is hard not to think in situations like this that you are having a terrible day and swimming sooooo slow but I had a good idea about who these two powerhouses were and if I was right I knew there was no shame in loosing time to them in the water. One more guy passed me at the second turn and got fifteen seconds on me by the swim exit.

At the swim exit I saw Dean Harper, the coach of UC Berkeley Triahtlon, by the barriers and he yelled out 'Great Job! Shelly is a minute up!' My suspicions were confirmed...the two speed demons out front were his two kids Shelly and Greg. This was kind of a relief because I have been getting my butt kicked by them for more than a decade starting back when I was in college, training at Aquabears in the summers and getting shown up by eleven and twelve year olds. Those are people I should be loosing time to. The question was 'How much time did Greg get?'

I had a very smooth transition and got out onto the road. The first section of the course is a looooooong straight away and I could see Shelly about a half mile up but then looking ahead I couldn't even see the lights on the lead motorcycle! I did some estimates in my head and I figured that meant the gap to Greg was at least two minutes! The bike course suits me because I like consistent rhythm and there are a lot of long straight sections where you can just put your head down and focus on putting out as much as your body can handle. There were also two long out and back sections so I was glad that I would get a couple of opportunities to see what the gaps were. I passed Shelly after a couple of miles and we traded encouragement :) Everyone keep an eye out for that one! She is going to win a lot of races and will smile more than anyone else around while doing it. The first long out and back section is on Collier Canyon and as Greg went by he had a very calm look on his face which kind of worried me but the gap was down to about a minute and fifteen seconds which is a lot more manageable than that huge two minute plus juggernaut. The course opens up a little in the middle section and if I strained I could see the lights from the lead moto which helps a ton...if you can see it you can gauge your progress and I focused on keeping my legs hot and reeling in the gap.

I finally caught Greg at about the eighteen mile marker and I tried to go by with enough momentum to start building a lead on him but after a couple of miles I looked back and he was right there. I hoped that trying to keep up would have him on the limit and I had no idea who might be chasing us so I kept the hammer down for the last couple of miles. I couldn't remember any of Greg's running splits from previous races but one thing about someone as young and talented as him is that no one knows what they can do on any given day so I made transition a short affair and hit the run course with quick and fast. It took about a half mile for him to make up the ten or so seconds that I had on him and he came up on my shoulder running stride for stride with me. I could not hear him breathing so it was hard to gauge where his limit was but my legs felt good so on the first long flat section I let them open up and took the pace up to my limit. Around the first mile marker I could hear a small gap had opened up and that gave me solid motivation to keep pushing. By mile two the gap was more than thirty seconds with more than a minute to the next person and I was glad that it was not going to turn out in a foot race. The run course is nice but there are a bunch of little hills along the way and each one was hitting me like a ton of bricks. I tried to keep the early pace up but from mile three to five I was hurting a lot...the last mile I started to feel a little better and ran solidly to the end.

It is always fun to get the win even at these smaller local events and to be able to have someone to actually race and push you along the way is always an awesome experience! As per my training plan I had about an hour and a half worth of extra stuff to do after the race and it was heating up so I was glad to get some heat adaptation in for the day as well. It was so nice to end the day with fresh ice cream and peaches as well as a nap on my parents back porch which has to be one of my all time favorite places.

Left: Pear Pure & Champagne Sorbet - Right: Toasted Almond and Bing Cherry Ice Cream

6/9 - 6/15/2014

This weeks focus was my first big Vineman prep and experimentation day on thursday. The race will be far beyond anything I have ever done before and I planned a few days into the calendar this month to put in huge efforts and simulate some of the demands I know I will experience on the day. Nutrition, pacing and some of the mental and physical challenges late in the day were some of the things I just felt like I needed to play around with before actually having to do it in a race.

I started the day early with breakfast at 5am and then riding to swim practice. I put in 5,000 yds in the pool and it was a solid group swimming well so I actually put up some fast times in the water that surprised me, but that might have just been the double VERVE espresso I had with breakfast :) Jumping out of the pool I noticed that there was a big group of women warming up on the deck that I did not recognize and as I passed by I started noticing a lot of 'Cal Swimming' gear and all of a sudden I realized what that might mean. Sure enough Missy Franklin was right there just rolling her shoulders like she wasn't one of the most decorated swimmers in the world! What a way to start the day!

I rode back to my house and got my things together quickly to get on the bike. I had hoped that getting on the coast early might allow me to avoid some of the winds that regularly sweep down the coast and can make riding north downright miserable. The weather was not following its usual pattern though and within the first thirty minutes I was having to push a big gear to keep the pace up. I took what inland detours I could but the Hwy 1 is pretty isolated and eventually just had to resign myself to looking at the clock and counting off the minutes until I got to turn around. When I got too frustrated I would stop for a second to take pictures.

The marine layer kept the temperature down which I was grateful for as I battled the wind heading north. The 2.5 hour mark got me to La Honda where I turned around. Even with a huge amount of work ahead of you being at the half way mark is always reassuring, my fueling strategy had been holding up well and I was putting up good numbers. If you have never ridden south on the central coast in the summer time it is something I highly recommend. The scenery is enough of a reason on it's own but the prevailing winds are going south and having them at your back make speeds possible that it makes you feel superhuman. There are not too many feelings like spinning your legs comfortably and cruising along at 35 mph under your own power. The fog finally broke around the 3 hr mark and I stopped in at Pigeon Point Lighthouse to get some water.

The last hour and a half were fast but hard. The effort thus far was settling into my legs and they were hurting. I knew it was going to be a hard day and my main focus was just keeping fuel and liquid going in and not letting my mind acquiesce and telling myself I was just going to do what I had committed to. It didn't matter if it was good or pretty but I needed to do it.

It felt good coming back into town and got a little caffeine in the last fifteen minutes to make the transition smooth. I tried not to take too long getting my stuff together and got out with all my gear within a reasonable amount of time. It was my first time running with a belt, which was one of the things I wanted to test out and once I got the flasks positioned right it was more comfortable than I had expected. I kept looking at my watch and was running faster than I expected but felt comfortable and just listened to my respiration, trying to keep my effort consistent and controlled. I picked a slightly hilly route for my run because my plan was to run for 2 hours and less distance didn't matter that much to me. The first 45 minutes were great! I was running really well and my legs didn't feel too tight or tired at all. My stomach started to grumble a little near the hour mark and I diverted my route a little to make a pit stop at a friends house. I think I may have stopped a little too long as it was hard to get going again after that. I felt more sluggish and from there I was headed mostly uphill so it just got worse. The highest elevation in the route came at about an hour and fifteen minutes and I stopped again to fill up on water and catch my breath. By that point I really felt wrecked and I had to wait a while for my body to be ready to get moving again. A few miles of downhill felt good but then once I was running on flat terrain again I started to struggle. I headed towards home and told myself that if I felt good I could add on a loop but by the last mile I was just holding on so I cut it a little short at an hour and forty five minutes but with an average pace that exceeded my expectations.

I stumbled into my apartment, got some cold water and went out onto the deck to sit in the shade and let the breeze cool my skin. I have never been that wrecked and the feeling is hard to describe...but now I know. My body did not feel normal again for hours but after some food and keeping cool for the afternoon the soreness and exhaustion were not as bad as I had anticipated they would be.

I learned a lot from the day and my physical performance across all three disciplines were very encouraging. It was a really good experience and my confidence about being able to handle the distance has been boosted significantly. I may do another big day later in the month with a slightly different format but this was the hardest day of training I have ever done in my life thus far.

Swim 16,500 yds
Bike 13 hrs
Run 36 mi

ESCAPE Race Report 2014

What a day...ESCAPE from Alcatraz is a brutally tough but amazing event in so many unique ways and it never fails to take me on a roller-coaster of all existing human emotions while punishing me physically on every possible level. My team is based in San Francisco and I have many friends and family there too so being able to connect with so many people I don't get to see very often makes for such a special day.

I was not feeling all that well the week leading up to ESCAPE...sleep had been illusive and poor choices of food and beverage consumption had me feeling run down and achy. The worst part about not having a good pre-race week is that my mind starts to grind on me, I expect the race not to go well and I start to question my motivations and my abilities. As per usual I did not get much sleep the night before the race so I was feeling pretty groggy in the morning. After a long week I honestly considered just going back to bed but for whatever reason I didn't. In past years at this event I have run out of time in the morning so this year I did absolutely everything possible the night before so after getting down to the race and setting up I actually had time to go back to the car and warm up for a bit before catching a shuttle to the ferry.

I was on the boat earlier than usual so I found a quiet corner and curled up to keep warm. Somehow even my coffee had failed to wake me up which for me is not a good sign but I nibbled on some sweet chews and focused on people-watching to keep me distracted. Of all the things that are great about ESCAPE, no one ever mentions people-people watching on the boat ride out to the island. There is everything from the ultra-masculine tower of muscles using stretch cords aggressively in the middle of the crowd to warm up his huge lats, to the travel weathered adventurer from the midwest who got in through the lottery staring out the window with a look that is half awe and half 'why in the world did I decide to do this?' In the same room there are olympic medalists and Ironman world champions as well as people who are shaking because they have never swum in the ocean and land looks impossibly far away.

With a couple of minutes to go we filed out onto the ledge of the ferry and climbed the rail to await the start. Hanging off the edge of the ferry with a cold breeze in your face, staring out across the choppy bay towards a finish which you can not see is a daunting way to start a race, but I had good friends on either side of me and I just told myself that all my worrying didn't matter any more because there is no turning back at that point.

The horn went off and I got a good clean entry. I had solid early sight lines so I got started positioning myself and waited for the powerhouse swimmers to come by. The lead group came up on my left and I got in behind them hoping to stick around long enough to get close enough to shore to only have to sight the finish. Unfortunately the water was pretty choppy and for some reason I was zigzagging all over the place and I quickly found myself alone. Another small group came by and they were swimming more my speed so I tried tucking in with them but again swells would roll through and I would find myself way off to one side or another. It is always very disorienting getting tossed around in the cold water and not being able to see where you are going and eventually I gave in to the frustration and just tried to churn it out on my own for a while. There is always a moment during the swim in from Alcatraz where I question why in the world I am out there getting my ass kicked by the competition and the elements, this was it. Eventually my goggles got too fogged up and I could not see anyone around so I stopped momentarily and swished them out. It was a good thing I did because I had been swimming in the wrong direction and I was way off course, with a long line of people swimming away from me towards the exit. I got back on track and reeled in a couple of people on the way to the beach.

The swim exit went well and I got off towards T1. My legs felt tight and I could not get going as fast as I wanted but looking ahead the gaps to some of the stronger guys were smaller than in years past and that was very encouraging. I got to my bike and out of transition quickly with several collegiate athletes and some of my teammates nearby. Having people of a similar speed nearby to push you helps a lot so after a smooth jump onto the bike I set my sights down the road. With riders at good intervals I had a lot of people to chase and I set about pulling people back...I caught and passed two people before the first climb and I could see two more collegiate guys up the road less than a minute ahead. I pushed a big gear on the flats and spun up the hills catching two more people on the climb to the Legion of Honor. It was really windy up on the hill and the descent down onto the great highway was a little scary. The ocean air was blowing straight in from the side right and it was challenging just to stay upright let alone in the correct lane but I could tell it was worrying the other guys more than me and I passed two more people on the way into the park. On the way back I had the lead woman up the road to chase and I caught her at the base of the returning climb. The hills in this race are always really painful and some of them are fairly the last roller I was feeling like my quads were going to explode. I didn't know whether I had overdone it or not but the clock doesn't care so I put my head down and pushed a big gear back to transition to give my lungs a quick break.

Photo by Ken Rakestraw

Cold and tired I hit T2 and got changed as quickly as possible. Grabbing all my stuff I turned around and headed back out the way I had come in and after running out the 'bike-in' volunteers started yelling "WRONG WAY!!" My brain snapped back on and I quickly turned around laughed saying "Oh yeah! I knew that sorry guys!" My little detour lost me two positions but not by much and it was good motivation to have some people just up the road to chase. I got settled into a good pace on the flat two mile section that opens up the run. I wasn't gaining on the people ahead of me but I knew I was running fast and just tried to stay motivated. Some friends were out on the course and were shouting that we were in the top ten which was great news and that boosted my spirits significantly. I hit the base of the steps feeling good and got into a rhythm taking one then two at a time. I tried not to look up the stairs too far and just focused on what was right in front of me. One guy passed me on the stairs but he was a teammate and I gave him some encouragement, telling him that there were guys not far ahead that he cold catch. Cresting the stairs I pushed my legs to get back up to speed and got a good response, though I was exhausted, and I ran solidly through the trails on the upper bluffs. I let my legs loosen up down the descent to the beach, getting a little respite for my lungs and letting gravity do the work. I hit the beach and was relieved to find that the sand was packed much better than in years past and it was possible to actually run instead of slogging through the sand for the out and back. I passed one person on the beach and saw that I was within a minute of some really strong guys with a decent gap on the next parson chasing me. I hit the sand ladder, where in previous years trying to run a little had completely crushed what was left of my aerobic engine, so just let myself walk it. Back up on the bluffs I passed my friends screaming encouragement again and I finally felt like the finish was within reach. 

A quick and safe descent of the stairs brought me within two miles of the finish but cheers from the aid station were for two people. I knew Andrew Bauer had been about a minute back at the turn-around but had he really made up that much time? He had put up an incredible performance earlier this year at the Oakland Half-Marathon so I knew it was possible and with just over a mile to go I gave a glance back to se he was within fifteen seconds. When the finish line is close and your body is screaming for any amount of respite, the hardest thing to muster is more effort but I knew we were on the cusp of a top ten. I gritted my teeth and dug for that extra gear, pouring all the fuel on the fire that I could handle. Another glance back with half a mile to go brought relief as Andrew had faded and I would not have to endure the indescribable pain of a sprint finish. 

I eased up in the final chute and slapped a few familiar hands reaching over the barriers crossing the line completely wrecked but in an excellent time for me and a top-ten finish overall! Within striking distance of some guys that are renowned in the sport, this was a great result for me and the fact that it comes at the end of a bad week, a tough month and an awful last year makes it all the more sweet. Hanging with my friends and family after the race in such a beautiful place capped the whole experience off and after a tough day of ups and downs I was so glad that I did not quit, that I got out of bed in the morning and despite battling the course and my frustrations I pushed on. 

4/28 - 5/4/2014

This was a very good week of training...I was on the limit a lot of times throughout but was able to hit the recovery sessions well and then go hard again. I had a good number of hard sessions this week, more than I feel like I have worked in to one week in a while, and the numbers look promising :) I was bummed to have missed Wildflower this weekend but being able to spend time with my family and be there for my aunts wedding will always be more important to me. Being back in my home town also allowed me to hit my favorite running route of all time, including all the old trails of my childhood and visit my absolute favorite spot on the planet nestled high on the side of Mt. Diablo. I hope everyone had a good week and enjoyed the epicness of Wildflower and the Providian Relay!

Swim 19,250 yds
Bike 6.5 hrs
Run 35.25 mi

SVIT (Half Moon Bay) Race Report

The Silicon Valley International Triathlon is always one of the first events on the calendar and was Team Every Man Jack's first team race of 2014. With the drought draining many of the lakes in California, I am sure this won't be the first event that will have a change of venue/logistics this year but it turned out that the new locale was great! We would be racing in Half Moon Bay which is a beautiful coastal town and I really loved the course. One other change was that there were two separate transition areas which makes things trickier as well. In the off-season I always forget how many logistics and little details go into preparing for and executing on race day. We had a good plan for making sure we had enough time to do both setups and still warm up before race start and although it was a lot of details to deal with in the early morning everything got done.

I always spend some time checking the sight lines before the swim start and getting reference points to minimize the amount of sight I will have to do during the race and I am glad that I did. The swim was in a yacht harbor and as we were about to start the fog really started to push in making the far turn buoy invisible. I did my best to reverence off the boats that were anchored to both sides of where I thought the buoy was and when the gun went off you could tell that a lot of people had different ideas about where we were headed because the group spread out a lot. After a couple hundred yards the Buoy came into sight and I was stoked to see that I had been on line from the start. I think this actually gave me a bit of a gap because most people had to do some correcting and I reached the turn alone and in the front. The far end of the course was a surreal couldn't see the shore and swimming past faint silhouettes of boats hiding in the fog was like something out of a pirate movie! The corridor back to shore was the same way and it was really reassuring when the shore came back into sight.

I exited the water first and alone to several good friends waiting to start their wave cheering and I yelled to the crowd "It's really warm out there!" It was not but everyone got a kick out of that. Up the hill and into T1 I kept a light trot to keep from beating up my feet too much because I have been having problems with them. Transition was smooth and I was out onto my bike in good time. My regular triathlon bike was in the shop so I was riding a road bike but it was a good setup and there were some hills out on the course so I hoped to make some time up there.

One awesome part of leading out of the swim is that you get a CHP escort on the bike! Apart from that though there isn't the pressure to hit the gas right away because you don't have anyone to chase. I settled into a good solid rhythm and waited for what I imagined would be the inevitable catch of the guys on TT bikes making up time on me. The fog was heavy and my hands were really cold, even at a hard pace I was still covered in goose bumps and I was steadily loosing feeling in my toes. Fortunately those are things that no one can escape so it isn't a disadvantage and the competition becomes about who embraces the suffering most fully. To my surprise I was not caught before the long climb to the top of Higgins Canyon Road I felt confident I would gain time here on my lighter, more nimble road bike so I sat up and set my climbing tempo to work steadily working up the snaking narrow climb. As you come to the top of the climb you are atop the beautiful foothills that roll back from the ocean outside of Half Moon Bay and it was beautiful up there! You are also above the fog line and having been climbing for a while breaking into the sun really warmed me up :)

The plunge back to the coast was pretty chilly but there is a long straight section back to town where some hard tempo moderated some of the chills. I took some calories in there and also spent some time dragon-breathing into my hands to warm them up a bit and relieve the ache in my throat from heaving cold air. It is always really hard to get your shoes on when your hands are cold so I hoped that warming them up a bit might help. Smoothly into T2 I took a deep breath and focused my attention on getting my feet, which were almost scarily white at that point, into my shoes. Somehow with the challenge of the task I found myself slowly crouching and because I was kind of out of it I accidentally sat down. Instantly my brain fired up "Stand up! Don't Sit!" I jumped up and forced my feet into my shoes. Grabbing my hat I got out on the run as quick as I could.

The first segment of the run is a very slight downhill and I got my leg speed up quickly and felt like I was really moving. I may have taken in just a little too much sugar on the bike as I had a bit of a side stitch but I was running well and I knew that would ease up with time. I felt like I ran a really quick first two miles and once I was nearing the turn around I knew I had the legs to keep it up so I was eager to see the gaps of people headed out. Many of my teammates were running well in the first twenty positions and we all gave encouragement to each other as we passed. The gaps looked manageable to me which was a relief because with two miles to go I was feeling really run down, pardon the pun, and I thought survival mode would get me to the end. I ran well to the finish where there was a giant chocolate bunny waiting :)  My favorite finish line gift I have ever gotten!

Leading wire to wire is always a fun experience and I had a great day considering my apprehension about the injuries that have been nagging and how difficult the winter was. Though I finished first I was third overall on time but in great company, being outdone by two of my fellow teammates! It was great to be back amongst the community after a long winter off, to catch up with old friends and see new excited faces out at the events testing themselves. It was a good day for me and a great start to the season!

4/7 - 4/13/2014

This was a hard week. I had set some hefty training goals and my body is really tired...staying on top of the aches and tightness was a constant effort. I put in a lot of great work though.

It was also a very hard week on a personal level. I have been precessing a lot of stuff lately and although it is good to do so and that is how you make progress, it has been weighting heavily on my mind and keeping me up nights. I also saw two friends get tangled up in a really scary bike crash today and it is always very unsettling to be brutally reminded of how close danger is and how bad it can get in the blink of an eye.

I am so thankful and feel so lucky for the people and experiences in my life right now and I hope you are all safe, doing well and taking care of yourselves.

Swim 19,750 yds
Bike 10 hrs
Run 37 mi

3/31 - 4/6/2014

This was a GOOD week. I put in some really hard workouts this week while staying on top of my recovery work as well as continuing to work out the problems with my leg/foot which seem to really be resolving :)

I had three really solid afternoon sessions weds/thurs/fri that, if they are a true indication of where I am at, were very promising. With some good signs I finally feel good about my fitness and confident about some of the goals I have set for myself this year.

If you haven't already be sure to check out the tab above about WAWC and if you can hit the donation button over there ----------> Just let me know so we can tally it up :)

Swim 19,300 yds
Bike 10.75 hrs
Run 31 mi

3/17 - 3/23/2014

This was another relatively mellow week with a few short solid efforts sprinkled in. After a couple of weeks rest I got back to running a little and my foot is feeling much better which is a huge relief! We did some work with my TT fit this week and I am hoping to have another TT Bike and Aerodynamics post coming soon with lots of info and thoughts about the process.

Aside from training I went surfing this weekend for the first time in years and once I got over the anxiety of feeling like a complete noob and getting in everyones way, it was awesome to be able to just bob up and down with the waves for an hour or two. The view from the ocean is always so amazing, with the napping otters nearby and front row seats to watch people who really know what they are doing surf at a place like Steamers Lane, it was an awesome day.

I am feeling really good about things to come this year and about myself right now...I have such incredible people in my life and I feel so lucky. I can't believe it but Vineman is 18 weeks away! The big exciting stuff, in terms of training, is coming around soon :)

Swim 10,700 yds
Bike 7.5 hrs
Run 22 mi

3/3 - 3/9/2014

This was a bit of an odd week because I was feeling rested and energetic but I was not able to run. I have had a bit of a nagging pain in my left foot and even though I want so badly to be getting after it, I know I have to give it the time it needs to recover. With great weather all week I used the excess time and energy to ride as much as I could and put in the biggest bike week I have had since 2006! I have been feeling great and I cant wait to get back into a regular regimen next week.

Swim 15,500 yds
Bike 18 hrs
Run 0 mi

2/17 - 2/23/2014

This week was hit and miss as I was working on a couple of projects and I had to work a little more than usual. I got in some really solid sessions though and had a couple of moments where I really felt like my fitness was coming back. It was also an incredible beautiful week here in Santa Cruz and there were times when I really felt huge amounts of gratitude to be able to live in such an amazing place.

Swim 13,250 yds
Bike 8.5 hrs
Run  30.25

Hit Me With Your Best Shot 2/10 - 2/16/2014

Alright some of you know I finally gave in and signed up for an full ironman distance event. For those of you that don't already know the event I picked is The Vineman on July 26th. I love the venue and the people that put the event on do an amazing job. I earned my Professional license there a few years back so it holds a special place in my heart.

Watching all of my friends and teammates produce such amazing performances at the ironman distance last year was what gave me the inspiration to finally commit to doing one. So...what I would like from you guys is for you to send me your favorite ironman prep workouts or sessions. It doesn't have to be the gnarliest thing you did, maybe just something you enjoyed or one of those workouts that really stuck with you. If you can't think of anything, make something up! I am always game to try something new. I will take some of them and plug them into the training schedule somewhere along the line and report back on how it went.

I have so much appreciation for the people in my life and it is you guys that keep me motivated and inspired so I wanted to give this a try!

Fire Away!!!

Swim 16750 yds
Bike 10.75 hrs
Run  30 mi

2/3 - 2/9/2014

With the rain and projects related to the new place I sis not get that many hours in this week but I definitely got in a few good sessions and a fair amount of swimming which I am happy about. I wish I could have been in Palm Spring for the Every Man Jack training camp with my teammates as it looks like they are having a great time and putting in some serious work!

One bit of exciting news though is that I finally got word that Specialized Bicycles will be on board again this year providing me with gear an support for the season!

Swim 16,750 yds
Bike 4.25 hrs
Run  30.25

1/27 - 2/2/2014 Yay Rain!!!

I spend so much time outdoors that I usually hope for warm and dry weather but with how dismal our rainfall has been the last couple of years I have been hoping that we get some rain for quite a while now. I ran this morning in the rain for the first time since I can remember and even though it was painful, the rain felt so good on my skin.

I am trying to work around the move to my new apartment right now so I am not doing anything major just yet but I am happy with what I got in this week. I am excited for life to get back to normal so I can set some goals and get back to work :)

Swim 10,250 yds
Bike 5.5 hrs
Run  20.75 yds

1/13 - 1/19/2014

Things were kind of crazy for me over the holiday season, I was sick and a lot of things got shaken up. This week I finally got to do a little training and it felt good to stretch things out and get my body going again. I set my main goal for the year and that will be The Vineman in late July. It will be my first ironman distance event, on a course I know and love and I am really looking forward to it. I have not figured everything else out for the year yet but other than Vineman I will probably just be focusing on easy and fun local events as I am taking on a few projects and more work this year.


Swim 13,200 yds
Bike  9 hrs
Run   22 mi

2013 Yearly Totals

This was a year of trying to be more efficient by dropping some of the volume and focusing on intensity and quality. I raced well this year on that plan and it was a good experience to be able to let go of my long held dependance on volume alone to assure me of my fitness and potential for performance.

Swim 599,550 yds
Bike   354.25 hrs
Run    1,320.5 mi