Monday, August 25, 2014

Escape from Alcatraz 2014

This is one of my all-time favorite races (go figure - it also happens to be one of the most expensive).
Katie and I drove up on Thursday night and stayed with my folks in San Jose. Friday we knocked some chores off the lists (couples dentist appointment, cute huh?) and had dinner with Coach Muddy and Barbara. Saturday was pretty jam-packed: 
  • Muddy fit me on my bike in the morning but I'd bought the wrong valve extensions so had to make a few trips to the bike store. 
  • We drove up to SF where the packet pick-up line was horrendous (90 min long) which forced us to cancel lunch plans with Tu (tri friend I met in 2013 at oceanside). 
  • We then booked it to Berkeley to get Katie a massage with my boy Johnny (used to be my masseuse when I lived in the bay - now I self heal but I wanted Katie to experience the magic).
  • I went on a 1hr spin.
  • And then we raced again to San Rafael to catch-up with Katie's grandma, Nelcy, over dinner.
Thankfully, we'd decided to priceline a hotel (got the SF Marriot for $100 post-tax) so didn't have to drive all the way back to San Jose... but by this time my pre-race gear still wasn't together and I hadn't shaved my legs. You're supposed to stay off your feet the day before a race and this definitely didn't happen. I didn't get to bed before 11.
I was super pumped that my good friend James was racing Alcatraz this year and, conveniently, staying at a hotel across the street from ours. We met up in my lobby at ~5a and biked to transition together. We took the buses to the dock and chatted up Leanda Cave.
We found the best seats on the ferry (underneath the bar for those of you who do this race in the future) and relaxed for the 45 minutes until gun.

swim: James and I made the mistake of lining up on the right-hand side doors, and the volunteers here were much slower that those who handled the pros. It seemed like 50 people went out of the other door before they let us through.
This was another really rough swim for me. This was the first time my chest felt really constricted when I hit the water. I had to physically pull my wetsuit away from my chest to get some air. Your hear about experienced swimmers drowning all the time (in fact one died at this race just last year) and always wonder how it could be possible... I got a really mild sense of that during this swim. 
I also never managed to find my rhythm and could hardly sight. The year prior when I jumped out after the pros, I had the luxury of a sighting buoy. This year with the new exit ramp I never managed to find it.
The one nice part of the swim is James and I somehow managed to find each other 3/4 of the way through and swam in together.

bike: nothing terribly eventful here, felt almost identical to the year prior and wound up clocking in the same split as 2013 (to the second!)
run: was fun to have my family out on the course, they were really yelling at me to pick up the pace at the beginning (there was a certain pro female they wanted me to catch) but I kept it in check. Crossed the line definitely feeling like I could have put in a little more effort.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

"Drought"flower race report

I'm about 5 months late to the party, but still going to do my best to pull this one from the memory banks and give you a quick debrief on Wildflower.
This (2014) was actually my first year doing the race. I was meant to compete in 2012 as a tune-up to Lanzarote, but got injured a few days prior and didn't want to blow my chances at Lanza. I was especially excited to race this year because my girlfriend, Katie, is from Paso - not even 40 min from Lake San Antonio.
Unlike most people (and to the chagrin of my sis) we did not camp and opted for a home cooked meal and roof over our heads by staying with Katie's mom. It ended up being extremely convenient (2 hr drive to Paso day prior, 40 min drive to Lake San Antonio morning of). I had to get up really early on race day to pick-up my packet, so Katie and I drove separately to the race which introduced a ton of headaches for her (they closed the park entrance ~630a, so Katie had to walk 3+ miles on her injured foot).
With the big CA drought going on, they actually changed the swim location this year to the south end of the park. I call it the mud bath because when I tried to get a warm up in, I actually sank into quad-high mud. The most shocking thing about this entire race was seeing the effects of the drought first-hand. Lake San Antonio had no water.

That green should be water.

Race DL:
Had a pretty terrible swim, it was my second time in the water since Oceanside and everything felt tight and constricted. I'm actually embarrassed to admit I almost pulled out of the race after 500 yards.
time - 26.59 (it was definitely short)
T1 was a nightmare because of the swim location --> they had us run over a mile to the bike racks, which was all through soft-pack in the lake where the swim is usually held.
This was my second ride on my new Trek Speed Concept 9.9 and it became pretty clear over the course of the ride that there were some kinks needing to be worked out. Still put in a decent effort, but otherwise uneventful.

time - 2:41:53
Run was also so-so. Quads were affected by the fit so really couldn't put much into the uphills - got passed by a ton of guys but still somehow managed to enjoy myself. When you have a beautiful girl waiting for you at the finish line, how can you ever have a bad day?
time - 1:42:50

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Ironman Oceanside 70.3 (2014) Race Report: attack of the banana hammock

They say third time's the charm, and on this #3 visit to Oceanside I can confirm the saying certainly did not disappoint.

A little context for those of you who navigated here from the interwebz. ~1 year ago I was in lifetime best fitness coming off a reaffirming AG win at Escape from Alcatraz. I had a new training regimen, zero distractions, lots of time to workout, and I was eyeing a top OA AG placing at IMTX and a 18-24 AG win at the Ironman World Championships in Kona. The demise came in May when I chased time, ignored nutrition, and wound up in a med tent 20 miles into the marathon at TX thinking I'd narrowly escaped death... It took months to recover, the season quickly became a wash, but in a stroke of luck (or perhaps some smart racing given my poor fitness) I picked up a 2014 Kona slot at my hometown race, the inaugural IM Lake Tahoe. 

FFWD 6 months, I've moved down the coast (living on my own for the first time), decided to switch jobs and put 70+ hrs/wk in at a start-up, met an awesome girl... I was legitimately stoked on life but had just about written off being the best at triathlon. Oceanside is one of those races where you have to register 8 months in advance... the cost was sunk... the race is local... why not?

My attitude going in to Oceanside was just about as chill as you can imagine. I'd been riding my road bike in Santa Barbara so I dusted the cobwebs off my TT and took it for a 50 mile spin the weekend prior. My running shoes were worn to the sole so I ordered a couple new pairs (they ended up showing the day we left so I couldn't use them). I forgot to send my sponsors a note to borrow race wheels so I just washed up my training ones...  if you've read my prior posts you know how psycho I can get about scoping out the competition... for this race I didn't even know my wave time or bib number.

Katie and I left work a little early and headed to Oceanside ~7pm on the Thursday before the race. I'd scored a great deal on the Sheraton Carlsbad (73$/night on Hotwire) so it was worth arriving a few nights early. For the first-timers to this race I definitely recommend using priceline or hotwire to score a deal on a ****/***** hotel. This race is off-peak and the resorts have yet to be smart enough to up the prices so many months early. If you wait to the last minute, you'll end up at the Motel 6 paying $90/night like I did my first year /facepalm. My go-to will be the Sheraton for as long as I do this race, it's <10 min drive from Oceanside and is removed from all the pre-race race hubbub + has a great restaurant, pool and hot-tub. The only downside is that it's adjacent to Legoland so there are quite a few wealthy families staying with their kids.

The day before the race was spent in bed working (start-up hours, remember?) and pumping my legs with my new RevitaPump. I managed to escape for lunch @ Swami's (healthy tasty food in Carlsbad) with my teammate/training partner/sis Sonja Wieck and coach Muddy Waters. It's over lunch we decided that since I had zero expectations for this race I was just going to have a real good time - and what better way to do that than racing in a speedo & blu blockers? I registered later than evening, had dinner with my college buddy and now good friend James Hotson, and wound up in my room ~8:30pm still needing to shave my legs, grease my chain, change my tires, and put together my race bags. This is the most last minute I've ever prepared for a race... maybe it should be a tradition.

Race morning I woke up a little after 5a, ate a bagel and a couple spoonfuls of yogurt + granola and we were out the door ~5:40a. Katie dropped me off near the swim start, I racked my bike, took a trip to the john and went to the corral a good 20 min before my wave. Editor's note: every year I've lined up last minute and almost missed my wave start, there's something to be said about experience!

The swim was worse than usual - I was in wave 9 so I had to power through several of the waves that had gone off ahead of us. I made the decision to swim the entire course wide so I wouldn't have to deal with slower swimmers but it still ended up being quite the maze out there. The swim was finally the correct distance so I got out quite a bit slower than years past but still squeezed in under 30 min. Not surprised: I haven't really been swimming!

The bike was officially my first time riding in a speedo. I have a padded speedo at home (which I'd forgot to bring) so I ended up using one of my normal swimming ones. I was smart enough to spray trislide all over my inner thigh, so besides a little irritation at the seams it was rather comfortable! I didn't use a computer for the bike so rode the entire thing by feel. The first 20 miles or so were spent passing all the slower waves, and then I got into my rhythm just treating it as a hard training ride and being very meticulous about taking in food & water. I forgot to pack my typical PowerBar race day nutrition regimen so wound up with an eclectic mix in my bento: Santa Barbara Bar, Peanut Butter Power Bar, and some gels. In what's a first for me, I just about ate it all. I spent most of the bike doing my own thing - at one point some old teammates (Justin Green & John Nickerson) came alongside and I used them to pace for a while. By the halfway point I still had tons of energy so I picked it up and dropped them off.

I felt amazing coming off the bike and was quite pleased to see 6:30s on my Timex run trainer. I've been running ~25miles a week and 6:30s are quite rare for me ... and definitely not sustainable over 13 miles so I slowed it way down. I kept it all smiles through lap one, grabbing fluids and the occasional gel and was legitimately surprised to get through the halfway point on pace for a sub 1h30m run. On lap two I felt my quads start to cramp and focused all my mental energy on not letting them seize up. I knew the cramping was a direct side effect of not training enough. In the end, I managed to sustain sub 7 min miles for the entire half marathon and I don't think my HR rose above 160... I've never been so under-trained or felt so good on a triathlon run.

I wound up getting through in 4h39m10s which (despite a significantly longer swim that all prior years I've done this race) is a race best for me. I also managed to podium and nab a slot to the 70.3 World Championships in Mont Tremblant (although I declined it) in what is my first race in the 25-29 age group. I am incredibly thankful to my girlfriend Katie for being such a good sherpa, as well as the speedo cheering squad out on course, my teammate Susanne Davis who kept me smiling, Ryan from Shimano who was out supporting as well, and of course Timex, BlueSeventy and all my believers who make getting to race day so much easier. Lucky to have you all in my life!
Recovery strawberry picking after the race.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Off Season

I've been MIA for a while so thought I'd give a quick update in this rare moment where I surface for air.

I moved to Santa Barbara at the beginning of October to join a start-up company called FindTheBest. A lot of people have been asking what we do so I thought I'd clear the air: we're a website that tells you all the things you didn't (but probably should) know about important topics so you can reach better conclusions. Here are three reasons you should use FTB:

1) We have the information you've been missing
2) We give new meaning to information you already have
3) Our tools lead you to the best conclusions

FindTheBest has a unique approach. We're really broad --> we cover 1200 topics using much of the same underlying data as specialty sites like Edmunds, Zillow, Kayak etc. The key difference is that we structure and connect all these topics (1200 so far) which allows us to:

a) show you related info you've never considered when evaluating an interest (e.g. Duke has great summer weather compared to other colleges in the US)
b) present every number in the context of related ones so you truly understand what they mean (e.g. Marissa Mayer makes $36.6M/yr which is in the top .1% of all CEOs)
c) let you filter and compare things in a more meaningful way (e.g. LA v Santa Barbara)

I'm sure you've all had the experience of making a big purchase or researching something significant and later learning that you missed something. FindTheBest exists so you can avoid that.

In other news, almost immediately after moving here I met a girl. Her name is Katie and we've been dating for a little over 4 months now. At risk of writing an essay about her (let's be honest, it's much more likely to be a song) I'll just say that it was worth waiting for her to come along. Here we are after a recent volunteer day in SB:

Now training... well that's been a little slower going. I'm typically at the office from 8a - 8p plus a handful of hours on the weekend. I usually squirm out for a run during the lunch hour but I'm finding morning workouts harder and harder to come by. I'm doing enough to keep my fitness steady but I'm cutting corners, skipping abs, eating average, finding excuses to skip a ride and hang out with my lady. I know coach probably hates to hear it but I'm ramping things back up and we're taking it all the way this year baby!

I head to Florida next week for TIMEX camp - so expect another post soon.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Ironman Lake Tahoe: Race Report

This report is long overdue - but I’ll chalk it up to lots of life changes: new job and new home for starters.

Some background before I dive into the nitty gritty: Ironman Lake Tahoe was an impulse registration last year. I already had Ironman Texas on my calendar and thought this would be a good opportunity to qualify for 2014 while still in the “easy” AG (even though this race would be a few weeks before Kona)… I went into 2013 with a single-minded purposeful focus to podium at Kona but how can you say no to a hometown race? Worst case if coach really decided to outlaw this, I could always drop my registration and get a measly $150 back.

It turns out my 2013 season didn’t exactly go according to plan. I almost cancelled my Tahoe registration a few times, but after my DNF in TX and the very long recovery (3 months) that followed, it became increasingly clear that there would not be another 2013 qualifier on my calendar. I’ll be honest that this was super hard to stomach. I was fit enough for a ridiculous performance at TX and I knew I could do a lot of damage in Kona -- what gives? 

The months that followed IMTX were a drudge. One foot in front of the other, doing the work but with no clear motivation. No Kona what’s the point? Coach turned me around and we rekindled the love of the sport for the sake of the sport. I started having fun -- I went into Tahoe knowing I wasn’t especially fit but would do my best to enjoy the day.

Pre-race: This was the most relaxing of the 5 Ironman’s I’ve attempted. I only had to take 2 days off and didn’t even pack until the morning we drove to the Sierra’s. No stress, low expectations - this was starting to feel like a vacation!

My mom is always excited about my competitions, but she went above and beyond on this one booking us a room at the host hotel a year out and failing to cancel despite my every intention NOT to race in Lake Tahoe (I was bitter about kona). Unfortunately the whole family couldn’t join to watch (Jerry can’t miss swim practice @ Cal, MP was on a recruiting trip, and Larry is studying abroad in AUS). So it was myself, ma, pops and the two dogs.

I’d been having shin issues leading into the race so my Mom drove the 280 miles to Tahoe (she was worried I’d aggravate it with the gas pedal -- yes i’m a speed demon). On arrival we were happy to be upgraded to a 3 bedroom suite overlooking the expo (sweet! my QR would get a room to itself!). Full size kitchen, fireplace, balconies scaling the walls… I’ve never had quite this level of paradise at a race before! I don’t know how I will possibly go back to motel 6 after this…

If I had anything going for me at this race it was my laissez-faire attitude. I didn’t get caught up in any of the pre-race hysteria (swim cancellation rumors, snow storm) because it honestly didn’t matter to me. I couldn’t run for the 2-weeks leading into the race (my shin) and that never phased me either. Nothing was going to keep me from having fun on this course. Winning was nothing more than a pipe dream. That said, I DID nearly go overboard with my mellowness by planning on racing in a speedo and singlet all the way to race eve. Thank the tri gods coach muddy mentioned the forecast and made me promise to wear arm warmers and a jacket. I cut up some old socks and was lucky to have stuffed my sleevless champsys Timex thermal in my gear bag. While everyone else was freaking out about conditions I wasn’t even worried about not having sleeves.

Rare morning: woke up at 2:30am with the mother of bloody noses. I had niagra falls flowing from my face… took me a good hour head down in the bathroom (and a waste basket of bloody tissues) to get the thing under control. Slipped back into bed and got another 30 min of shut eye. not even phased.

Woke up to my alarm at 4am and made myself a bowl of oatmeal and had a banana. Got my pre-race jams going, cut up my cliff bars, and mixed my EFS bottle. Gun was going off at 6:40 and I figured we could leave at 5:30 with plenty of time to spare (worst case scenario 30 min drive would leave me with 40min in transition).

We got out the door a little late at 5:40. The drive from squaw to kings beach should take ~20 minutes but we got stuck behind a bus and the traffic just started piling. Time was ticking and my nerves started kicking in. I need to get to the start line to have the chance to have a fun race!!

I got to Kings Beach (well .25 miles away at least since the roads were closed off) with 20 min to spare. I ran to my bike, dumped my nutrition, stuffed my jacket into my day bag, hopped several fences and got to the front of the corral with 2 min to spare. Tires weren’t pumped, no pre-race #2, and certainly no warmup. It’s all good! (side note: my only worry was the mom would see the blood in the waste basket and get worried, I didn’t tell anyone about the bloody nose because I didn’t want any anxiety going into the race).

Swim: Gun goes off and I get in my rhythm - just having a good time. I peak at my watch after lap 1 and I’m on pace for a sub 57 min. Lap 2 I get totally thrown off by the fog and swim the course real long. No big deal. I’m still out in close to an hour.

T1: Run to the changing tent, sit down (YEAH, I actually sat down!) and take my sweet time in transition. The tent is pretty empty and I’ve got two guys assisting me. I have them help me put on my gloves, sunscreen, etc. I decide to run to my bike barefoot and put my cleats on at the mount line. All is going well until I try to put my shoes on. My feet are frozen solid and my toes are getting stuck at painful angles (fwiw bike seat had a layer of ice on it too). I sit on the floor trying to warm up my feet and nothing gives. Finally decide to just stick them in my mouth and try to warm them. The volunteers had a riot watching that. After a couple minutes my feet come around and I’m able to get my shoes on. My poor mom figures she totally missed my exit when I’ve actually had my longest T1 in history -- over 10 minutes!

Bike: I can’t feel my body so I just start cranking my pedals. I’m passing a ton of people, lots of female pros. I try to ease up on the hills but I’m still chipping away at the field. I figure I’m pretty far back in my age group at this point… what with my mediocre swim and long transition. But I’m not too worried. This is a fun course and I just want to have a good day. Northstar and Brockway feel great the first time around (with the exception of a bottle ejecting on the way to truckee which saw me without fluid for ~30 minutes). Second lap is another story. The cold cut off all perspective for how hard I was actually pushing and I lost a lot of position. Looking back at my bike file, I added over 22 min on the second go around!!

T2: I knew I’d put out a little too much on the bike and was probably a couple k calories short on nutrition (just wasn’t feeling the cliff bars and since I wasn't in it to win it I decided not to force anything). I had another first here which should give perspective on my mood: I actually stopped in a porta-potty to do my business!

Run: I start off at an easy 8 min clip and am shocked to learn I’ve got 20 min on #2 in my age group. Wow, IT’S ON! I jog by coach and he says to take it real easy: “Lets lock it up without risking a TX repeat.” I slow it down even more and jog just fast enough to keep my competitors at bay. About 20 miles in I hear the gap has closed to 4 min. I’ve got tons of gas left and pick up the pace. Cross into town pretty pumped on life and for the first time ever have some fun hi-fiving and fist pumping at the finish line.

Some take-aways from this race: (1) if you’re not in peak fitness for ironman a good attitude makes all the difference. That said, I am a fierce competitor and I don’t anticipate having this same mindset for a very long time to come. I love being meticulous, confident, and aggressive going into A races and I’ll be bringing my inner demons back out for Kona 14.

(2) the pain comes from the marathon! the day after Tahoe I was feeling a little sore (HIM level) and the day after that (which is usually peak soreness) I felt like I hadn’t even raced. Those extra 30 minutes in the marathon made all the difference.

In parting, despite this being my slowest Ironman (it IS a tough course, and certainly much harder than Lanza) I enjoyed every bit of this experience. It was fun in different ways than when I’m gunning to be the biggest fish in the sea - but it was the right attitude for the occasion. This race is probably the most beautiful of the 5 I’ve attempted, it was great to have so much support on course (big shout out to Tristan who is at nearly EVERY race I do), and nothing beats the ease of a hometown race. I’m sure I will be back to do this one justice one day!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

IMTX - the inferno I DNF'd

Where to start... yesterday was a tough day on so many levels. I've been in the Woodlands since Wednesday staying with the most incredible host family (and good friends of my mom). Everything was lining up so well for the big day.  Feeling strong in the water, strong on the bike, strong on the run - confident with my preparation and eyes set on a top-10 OA amateur placing. The heat was a wild card (forecast of 90 degrees with high humidity) but I had a plan for keeping myself cooled down. I even sat down with Ironman reporter Dave Erickson to provide a glimpse into my race day plan:

The swim started off a little too well. I hopped onto the feet of the eventual OA amateur swim-winner and held on for a little too long. They say drafting can give you a 20% advantage, I guess I still need to work on getting that full 20% because 48 min swim sure would have been nice! My shoulder started bugging me so I dropped off and found another pair of toes. They had a lot of kick so I was pretty stoked with my choice until I realized brother here couldn't hold a straight line. Tried to make several passes but he just kept swimming into me so I decided straight or not these were my feet.

My shoulders really started to bug me after the first turn around and I felt my technique go to town. Overall, I'd say I was in similar spirits to my awful swim at IMCdA and resisted the urge to check my watch and become discouraged. I just kept telling myself to keep on those toes... if you'd been plugged into my brain my subconscious sounded a bit like this: "keep on the feet, nice feet, where the heck is he going? find the feet find the feet! phew. wow that's a huge house. sh*t where are my feet? what is he doing over there? good feet..." I did eventually lose the feet about halfway between the turn and canal and was on my own the rest of the way home. It was a decision/rookie mistake that probably cost me a min or two. All said, coming out of the water in 59 min wasn't quite as bad as where I thought I'd be or would have been if I had stayed on my toes.

The bike started off strong. I stuck to plan and road at an effort that I felt was quite conservative, averaging a little under 24 mph through mile 40. I caught two female pros right off the start (which I knew was a good sign), guzzled my bottles and started chipping into my 1200 cal bottle of EFS. I grabbed two water bottles at every aid station and had them downed by the time the next one came around. A couple strong engines did pass me over this period (an amateur and two male pros) but I knew this was going to happen and kept my eyes on the prize. Then around mile 50 I hit a big bump and my Timex cycle trainer ejected. I remember feeling very thankful that I gave up power and could just keep doing my thing without worrying about the numbers. But I soon felt myself slowing to the point where I thought I might have a slow leak. It looked ok and I really didn't want to stop. The SAG motorcycle actually road next to me for a while (2-3 minutes) and I wondered if he was trying to give me a sign. He waited for my thumbs up before gunning down the road.

From mile 50-90 I lost any advantage I'd gained in the first place. The female pros caught me again, as did a pack 7-8 cyclists - it was discouraging to see so much drafting but I kept my honor and let them do their thing. And then Frederik Anderson passed me like I was standing still. I knew I'd have him on the run but I wondered if he'd build a big enough gap to hold me at bay... I was starting to wallow in self pity and my nutrition plan was taking a dive. 3h30 min in I had yet to crack into my solids and my salt tab protocol had stopped a good hour before. I thought of my coach and how I really wouldn't want him to see me in this state. It was way too early to give up. I opened my bento and tried to grab a chunk of clif bar but the whole thing had melted together. This is how hot it already was! I found a second wind at the mile 90 marker and passed back the drafters and female pros. I pushed myself and was feeling strong, I knew I had lost a lot of time in those middle 40 miles but tried to stay positive. It's a long day, anything can happen.

side note: I felt my tires before dropping my bike off at tribike transport yesterday and sure enough my rear tire seemed to have lost some PSI. I'd guess it at 90 psi or so (I race at 140). I don't know whether this happened in the race or played a factor.

I felt terrible out the gates of the run. What should have been extremely conservative 7:40 miles became 8's then 8:30s. My heartrate was super low and I knew I was overheating. I stopped at the first aid station and filled my baggie with ice and held it to my carotid artery. I stumbled upon a wonderful carrot at mile 3 -- a walking Frederik Anderson. I was in bad shape but with this pass I knew I had the AG win in the bag. My goals coming into this race were out the door... all I wanted to do was seal the deal so I wouldn't have to do this again to KQ!! I repeated my ice process at every mile and managed to hobble 8:30s... but as we all know it's a long day, and things started to fall apart. Mile 9 I started walking, the 1000+ calorie deficit from the bike had kicked in (as had the lack of salt for a couple hours). Good friend and training partner Sonja Wieck slapped some sense into me and I spent a couple minutes at the next aid station loading up on calories, water and salt. I started jogging. I felt good. I started running. I felt great. All of a sudden I'm running low 7 min miles like it's nobodies business. I kept this up for 13 miles. In a sea of walkers I was the big star, people giving me high fives and cheering me on. It was carnage out there and I'd found a way out of the slaughter house. Despite the great pace I kept stopping at every aid station and spent a good min loading up on calories, salt and water. I needed to keep this formula going.

I was making moves and soon learned I had a 15+ min gap on #2 in my AG. I passed mile marker 20, the pace slowed but only 10k to go - I can do 10k in my sleep. Mile marker 21 I start walking... what the heck is going on? I've been keeping to the formula!! Some lady in a green polo comes up to me and tells me to sit down. I tell her to buzz off - If I sit down my race is over. I grab some water and down the rest of my salt tabs. I'm weaving now and this lady is still following me. I'm not going to sit down, not going to sit down, not going to... now I'm sitting. It's over. I borrow the ladies phone and call my mom: I'm at mile marker 22 - it's over, I'm out. She doesn't understand, tells me I have a 17 min gap but I'm done. I tell the lady to give me a big bag of IV, that I'm overheating. I need some ice. But these people are not listening to me. I finally tell them to call the medics - I'm not joking things are taking a turn for the worse. I start having a tough time breathing - I am begging for them to dump me in a bucket of nice but nobody cares what I want (or perhaps they just know better). They load me in a stretcher and stick a tube of oxygen up my nose. I'm instructed to breathe in through my nose, hold it for 5 seconds and then breathe out through my mouth. I smell gas, am I supposed to be smelling gas? I'm having trouble doing this breathing thing... I know I need oxygen to keep my brain working and I'm getting worried it's not getting enough. I start doing simple math problems in my head to make sure I'm not becoming mentally handicapped. Things like 2x4=? I try to keep my body as relaxed as possible to not waste oxygen. I keep my eyes closed but I'm afraid I might be going blind so I open them. I can still see. Ok good, closing them again. I do these little checks every couple minutes... wiggle my toes to make sure I won't be in a wheelchair, math to make sure I won't be mentally handicapped, open eyes to make sure I won't be blind. My breathing isn't getting better and I'm really fighting to stay strong. For being so close to the finish line you'd think this transport would go a little quicker :) Woops - better not think, don't want to waste oxygen!

Hopefully this race report supports the fact that I am still normal (albeit a little shaken!). It's not the dream day and I am of course disappointed to come so close and not make it, but I'm also walking away incredibly grateful for being here (in my mind shock induced mind this whole thing felt near death). IMTX is a fantastic course but we all just got caught on a brutal day. That last lap of the run was a supposed 96 degrees at 100% humidity. Despite my DNF here, I highly recommend this course. The swim and final stretch through the canal is magical, the single loop bike (despite some nasty chip seal) is quite fantastic, and the run is just something else with the spectator support and the beautiful lake Woodlands homes.

I plan on being back on the race circuit very soon. I'm not ready for a double-whammy like last year (IMLanza followed by IMCdA) so will probably try my hand at a kona-qualifying + vegas-qualifying 70.3 in a few weeks. I am confident in my fitness and am not going to let it go to waste!


edit: the medical diagnosis was dehydration (likely instigated by the heat and over-zealousness on the salt tabs) and the ordeal I experienced on the stretcher was pure shock. I did not overheat, or have an asthma attack and I wasn't code 0 or even come close. My kidneys took a beating which isn't good so will need to be diligent in the future to keep from repeating this ordeal.

Friday, April 5, 2013

How to Viva Las Vegas (the athlete way)

The travel saga continues. This week I was in Las Vegas for an internal work conference. Of all locations in the world, Vegas would probably strike most as the least conducive for training. But coming off my less than mediocre performance at Oceanside and with IMTX quickly approaching (6 weeks!) my priorities were pretty obvious: I'd pass over sin in favor of some good old-fashioned santé.


I arrived in Vegas Tuesday afternoon so took advantage of having the better part of my day at home to knock off the scheduled Yasso 800's. Travel, and work functions set me back to 8pm when Rob Gray and I planned to get in an hour spin in at the hotel gym.

Since I learned a lot about health & fitness as it relates to Vegas, I'm hoping this entry will serve as a nice how-to guide for athletes visiting sin city. With that in mind, here is tip #1:

1) The Venetian & Palazzo gyms are open from 8:00 - 20:00, so plan accordingly. 

Rob and I were pretty shocked to hear that there were no 24-hr athletic facilities in our vicinity, bye bye bike ride.  We had just enough time to scope out the gym for learning #2:

2) The Venetian & Palazzo have a spin room, but you can only use it during spin classes (silly, we know). There are however 3 first-come first-serve stationary bikes (rocking type), two on the Palazzo side and one on the Venetian side.

We tracked down some tools (in the bottom drawer of the gym attendant station), figured out that we'd be able to swap in our pedals, and seeing as the gym was closed went outside for a light evening run.

3) Vegas is not a running town. There are tourists everywhere, the road doesn't have much of a shoulder, and there's a stop light every quarter mile or so.

We quickly figured out that running on the strip at 8pm wasn't such a good idea so went out east, up north, and finally crossed back to the strip where we anticipated there might be lighter traffic. Our round about route took us from the Venetian to the Stratosphere and back. Solid 30 minutes.

Tue. run – did the job but wouldn't recommend our route.

Now, for a confession. When it comes to Vegas I'm a bit of a pre-Madonna – I always stay at the Venetian, so when I was assigned to the Mirage I was reluctant but optimistic about how it would stand up. It didn't. I walked in and right out of my room and crossed the street to the Venetian. I was lucky enough to have a friend (Rob) staying at the Palazzo with a pretty bomb suite, and he was nice enough to share his room (not that there wasn't enough space)... I had my own room + bathroom. Corporate travel has its perks. :)

Tuesday was a late night (and all nights for that matter) due to work functions. The lights didn't go off until 12:30 with our alarms set for 5:30. But when mixing corporate travel and training that's pretty much a given: sleep is the first thing to go by the wayside.


Wednesday AM I woke up to what – for the remainder of trip – I coined "the athletes white russian:" a whey protein vanilla shake served on the rocks in whiskey glasses.

The plan was to go for a swim while no one would be swimming (6:00), but of course Vegas pools aren't open 24 hours either. Both Rob and I had to get a spin in anyhow, so knowing that there were two bikes at the Palazzo gym we made our way there for intervals. Set was 10m WU + 20M steady + 10*3m threshold + CD.

4) The Venetian & Palazzo pools open at 11:00, BUT only a handful of the 9 pools are open M-F.

We had planned to round the 1:15 spin off with a brick but it turns out Googlers are a pretty active bunch. All treadmills in both gyms were taken. 15 minutes of wandering around for a treadmill finally delivered a result and we were both able to get in 15 minutes.

5) The Palazzo gym (smaller gym) has 10 treadmills with 2 perpetually out of order. Here's the thing, they aren't actually broken, the electric wiring just can't handle the power necessities of 10 treadmills rolling at the same time *face palm vegas*.

The day was filled with business presentations, but we had a nice 90 minute gap at the lunch hour and decided to use that time for our planned swim session. We were staying at the North end of the Palazzo and found a pool that would do the trick just fine (see map below).

6) The Venetian and Palazzo have a total of 9 pools, but there's really only one that can double as a lap pool without driving you nuts (e.g. rounded edges, screaming babies, no track lines...). It's the one with the big square around it (pool #8) in the map below.

Rob and I were pretty stoked to see pool #8 was dead empty. I stripped down to my speedo and churned out a 400 before being greeted by 3 super agro security guards. Despite having no "pool closed" signs, we were promptly kicked out. Time to switch over to the child infested pool #6.

7) If you're keen to get in a swim, pool #8 is your ticket but it's only open weekends.

I managed 6 laps in pool #6 but just couldn't handle it. Babies, pregnant men, weaving and wading... I really was hoping my speedo would scare the crowds away!


Thursday we didn't get up until 6. Having learned our lesson attempting to run on the strip we opted for an hour session on the treadmill. I followed that up with ab work + foam rolling (yes, there are 2 foam rollers in the Palazzo gym, how gracious!)

8)  Need to roll? The Venetian and Palazzo gyms have 2 foam rollers!

Another long day of business meetings which we wrapped up with a terrific dinner at Tao (I recommend the chicken satay and coconut shrimp). I also managed to find enough time to rent a car at the on-site facility (Avis) and drive out to Henderson to rent a bike.



The conference concluded on Thursday evening, but as a result of some flight hiccups I was forced to stay overnight with a departure of 12:45 on Friday. So, to make good out of bad I made a mental plan to ride the Ironman 70.3 World Championship course Friday morning. In an unusual moment of foresight, I realized I would need to rent a bike Thursday evening in order to get rolling by 7:00am and catch my flight on time. 

I studied the course map and rented a bike from a place in Henderson not too far from the bike finish (furthest point South). I also stocked up on hydration and nutrition at the Walgreens under the Venetian. 

I ended up waking up on time and riding the course plus a little extra (see below). The ride was really breathtaking, taking me through Lake Mead National Park and the beautifully paved and refreshingly calm roads of the Mojave Desert. From 7-10AM on a Friday, there was virtually no motorized traffic and I only crossed paths with 2 cyclists as I was wrapping up my ride.

A cool shot from Lake Mead national park.
Near the swim start for 70.3 worlds.
Smooth roads!

9)  Outdoor riding: Lake Mead is great and an Ironman classic, seeing as it hosts the 70.3 World Championship. If you have the opportunity to do the ride, make sure to bring cash or a credit card, entry into the national park is $5.

The Ironman 70.3 World Championship bike course (more or less).

I got a little carried away in the national park and by the time I got back to the bike shop (11AM) I was an hour behind schedule. I flew back to the strip to drop off the car, had a cab hailed by 11:50 (still wearing my bike kit) and wound up at my gate with enough time to spare to buy a Berry Upbeet smoothie at Jamba Juice. My flight departed at 12:45.

Total TSS for the trip: 463.9

What a ride!