Friday, April 29, 2011

Duathlon Nat'ls: Hot and Windy in Oro Valley!

Hey Everyone,

The Mrs. and I arrived in Oro Valley, AZ (just North of Tucson) for the 2011 Duathlon National Championships. Hot, dry, and windy, but what else can you expect from an event in the desert!

The race course is as follows: 5K run, 35K bike, 5K run. Specifically, the course isn’t flat by ANY means. The run has a very tough hill towards the end of the leg and the bike is two out-and-back laps that consist of rolling hills throughout.

The Elite field isn’t incredibly large, but still high in quality, as the defending champ is scheduled to toe-the-line, in addition to a few other veteran duathletes. Tomorrow’s weather: sunny, mid-80s, 15mph winds. Tomorrow's goal: Top 5, Podium would be awesome!

In the past, I have always let the conditions get the best of me. Tomorrow will be different, as tomorrow I will go out and own my results. Tomorrow I will leave everything out on the course and won’t cross that finish line satisfied unless I’ve felt I’ve given it my all. Duathlons are new to me so it will be interesting to see how I feel coming off that bike. Nonetheless, I’m very excited and tomorrow will be an awesomely challenging day!

Good luck to everyone toughing it out at Avia Wildflower and St. A’s this weekend. Looking forward to reading some race recaps! Let’s get into it!

Check back Sunday for a full report. Talk soon!


Thursday, April 14, 2011

First Tri? No Prob! What You Need to Know

To TRI or not to TRI, that is the question…

Like with trying anything new, nerves and ill-preparedness can get the best of you. Particularly with triathlons, half the battle is being a well-oiled machine. Without a distinct amount of organization, things can go horribly wrong, and out-the-window goes that new PR, beating that arch-nemesis, and/or most importantly, forgetting the initial reason any of us are out here – for fun!

There are numerous facets involved in this “well-oiled machine”. First - Equipment. A racer doesn’t need the latest and greatest to get the job done. Unless you have the means or are vying for a world championship, a functioning pair of goggles, a bike with gears and two wheels (pumped up of course!) and a pair of shoes without holes will suffice! One tri-tip is quick-laces. Being able to slide your shoes on without having to tie them will save you 15-20 seconds easy. That could be the difference between you and the podium!

Second – Nutrition. This plays a major role in one’s success on race day. It’s important to dial down what works best before and during the race. By testing out various meals/drinks/gels/shot blox during training, one can avoid nutritional catastrophes on race day. NO ONE likes to BONK! I tend to find muffins and bagels work well before the race, although some people prefer oatmeal. Another secret trick is a tablespoon or two of peanut butter. That type of fat is the immediate energy and fuel one needs to be able to strive a little further. Also, extra hydrating with water or (Zico Coconut water if you want REAL results) the few days leading up to the race will go a long way in making sure your body is sufficient in hydration.

Third – Knick-knacks. While these may also fall under equipment, these embody the grease that keeps your machine from squeaking! BODY GLIDE. Arguably the most important piece in my tri bag. Don’t be shy with this stuff either! Cake it on as you see fit and then a little more just to be safe. Chaffing is a triathlete’s worst enemy!

CHALK. Often times, transition areas are located in a parking lot. When your #1183 and positioned in the middle of 100 rows of racks, it can be impossible to find your stuff. Use the chalk to make an “X” in front of your area and then a large arrow at the end of your row, pointing at your “X”. That way, when you come running down the aisle, spotting that arrow and then that “X” will be a lot easier than trying to spot your bike or shoes! BRIGHT-COLORED TOWEL. In the same way that chalk helps identify your transition area on the pavement, a bright-colored towel can do that in a transition area that’s found in a grassy field for example. Personally, I dawn a bright pink and white striped beach towel that I lay out underneath my shoes and bike. Hard to miss that pink!

Fourth – Visualization. I find that rehearsing race day in its entirety the night before puts my mind at ease. It’s almost like I’ve already completed the race. A certain familiarity, even if it’s in your head, goes a long way. Plans can go awry, but if you’ve rehearsed the key components – i.e. T1 T2, specific turn-around’s in the course, places for a reprieve – then nothing will come as an incredible surprise on race day.

Lastly, the most important thing to remember as you toe that start line is the reason you’re doing this in the first place. For fun! Maybe you’ve trained hard and are gunning for that PR or the person that always beats you, but in the end it’s an invaluable life experience and you need not take it for granted. It’s a real privilege to be able to do the things we do and it doesn’t hurt to step back every once in a while and reflect on this opportunity. With that, I leave you with a few TRIcks of the trade and hope your first tri experience is as fun and rewarding as it was for me. CAUTION: May be habit forming! Let’s get into it!

Hasta Luego!


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Good, the Bad and the What If's

Hello Hello!

Now that I’ve had a few days to let my latest result in Mazatlan sink in, I figured I’d share my reflections with all of you.

6th place was a real breakthrough for me. I had been working hard on my swim as of late, racking up long course workouts one after the other, and it paid off! Granted, this year’s field was not as strong as 2010, though with my swim from this year, I still would have placed in the top 12, which is still leagues ahead of where I sat last year at 23rd.

Athletes always talk about having breakthroughs and reaching a new level in their training. While I have, they are always few and far between, and I especially have never experienced something of that nature in an actual race. A breakthrough can be construed physically and mentally and I truly feel Mazatlan was all mental for me. Knowing that I can get into the mix and vie for a position atop that podium is such a psychological boost, I can’t even explain. This result alone has tremendously motivated me to get to the next level, and then the next, and then the next! That in turn raises my own bar of expectation, which can both be good and bad. Good, because it keeps me hungry for more, striving to erase every inch of that gap between me and the guy in front of me. Bad, because it allows for a lot of “what if’s” to come into the picture when something doesn’t necessarily go as planned. “Well if this hadn’t have happened, then I probably could have done this.”… “If only I was a little more aggressive here, then I might have been able to catch that guy.” While it’s great to analyze your performance so as to learn from your mistakes, it can be quite self-defeating when you go in too deep.

With that, I take this result in stride, learn from it, soak it in – the good and the bad – and get ready for the next one! I love the multi-sport lifestyle simply because of the first part of that phrase: multi. There are so many facets involved with making this lifestyle meaningful and there is no one way to go about it. Everyone has their recipe; it’s how you implement it to find that success! Let’s get into it!

Happy tri-ing everyone! Talk soon.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Expect the Unexpected Down Here in Mazatlan..!

When I arrived in Mazatlan, the online hotel package that I had purchased came with a complimentary shuttle from the airport to the hotel. That was nowhere to be found! When I got to the hotel, they didn’t have me checking in until the following day. They also said there were no rooms available. After going back and forth for about 45 minutes, which included showing them my email correspondence with their reservation office/person, a room magically appeared! While crisis was eventually averted, initially these events weren’t the best precursors someone would want to see before an important, season opening ITU race!! Nonetheless, I weathered the storm, killed myself during the race and finished 6th and the top American!!! Not only was this my best ITU result, but it was my best pro result period!

I have worked hard on the swim as of late and it has paid off. As opposed to last year where my swim deficit from the leaders was 3:18, this year I was only down 2:06! There was a group of three Mexicans that came out of the water about 10 seconds ahead of me and I knew I had to haul-ass up the beach and thru T1 in order to get into their bike group. That I did and let me tell you, it was worth it! By the 2nd lap, fellow American Chris Foster and one other guy joined our group and from there the work started.
Before anything, I have to give major props to Chris for doing at least 70% of the work in our pack. I helped as much as I could, but I’m simply not a strong enough cyclist YET to be able to put forth more than that 30%. Chris’ relentless pulling got me to my 6th place today and there’s no if’s, and’s or but’s about it!

Sure enough, our pack grew to about 12 and after the first chase pack caught the lead group, WE were now the first chase pack and closing fast! Our 2-min deficit out of the water narrowed to about 40 seconds at T2. I was so pumped to be starting my run around 20th that I shot out of transition like a bullet! Within the first kilometer, I had passed 6 people. By the end of the first lap, I was in 12th. As my casualty toll (passed runners) began to increase, so did my fatigue from the bike work (and probably my lack of tempo runs)! By the time I hit the last lap, it became a real fight for survival. I got my last casualty on that lap and I hung on for dear life thereafter. I crossed the tape in 1:57:13, 6th Mother F-ing Place!!!

While I may have run into a few bumps in the early stages of my Mazatlan journey, the remainder of the trip was smooth sailing from there! It just goes to show that one should expect the unexpected down here, south of the border! One should also expect to ride in pick-up truck taxis to dinner and witness the new and improved family mini-van!

Later this month, I will be competing in Tucson, AZ at the Duathlon National Championships. A fellow triathlete told me today that while I’m out there I need to do some cycling on The Shutes? She said the roads are pretty perfect for cycling. Thoughts anyone?

Seeing as how this was a mondo race weekend in the tri world, I hope everyone killed it!

Thanks for checking in, talk soon!


Friday, April 8, 2011

No Oceanside...but South of the Border?

I´m sure some of you are wondering why I didn´t race in Oceanside, even though I said I would. In a perfect world, I wanted to race hard at Oceanside, my first 70.3, and then come back the following weekend and race hard at my ITU season opener in Mazatlan, Mexico. Frankly, that was wishful thinking! While ITU races are somewhat few and far between, 70.3s are not and so I felt it would be easier to reschedule my 70.3 debut than it was an ITU race. Not to mention, it took me a good four or five days to recover from my half marathon in February...I could only imagine what my recovery time would have been after a half Ironman!

The whole intention of racing Oceanside 70.3 in the beginning of the season was that I would need to build a larger-than-normal base during the offseason. That in turn would be enough of a foundation to carry me nicely through the rest of the season. Even though I didn´t race at Oceanside, and paticularly because I called a late audible, the plus was that I still benefitted from building that larger-than-normal base.

That brings us up to present day. After having survived the chaos that is LAX, I´m currently heading south of the border (for more chaos) to participate in my first Continental Cup race of the season. I raced here last year, finished 23rd, and was quite pleased with my performance despite ending up just outside the top 20 (what you would need to finish to score points).

This year´s field is slightly smaller, but still quality nonetheless. The course is a two-lap ocean swim, followed by a basic out-and-back bike along the coast (6 laps), and then 4 - 2.5km out-and-back laps on the run, also along the coast. The bike and the run are all pretty flat and fast. One of the major tests in ITU races south of the border is getting these guys to work efficiently on the bike. As a result, I hav brushed up on my Espanol and I fully intend to dictate when needed!!

The gun goes off around noon tomorrow so be sure to check back post-race for a full report.

Talk soon!