Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Long over due....

Lots of words in this one...
To say this post is long over due is a bit of an understatement. I have been wanting to get some thoughts down in writing for a long time...not that many people care to hear them I'm sure but I feel the need to document what I have been through physically and emotionally over the past few months. Truth be told, it has taken me this long to process everything and I think I still have much more to figure out.
It has been a bit of a roller-coaster the past few months. After Alabama I had a small knee injury that kept me from riding and running for a month. I started back, found some form to build on, and then got a stress fracture. Amazes me that I was able to get through the biggest block of training of my life in prep for IM St. George without even the slightest injury.  Guess this brings me to my next point.  At this point in the season I think I was still drained mentally from Ironman and all the other races that quickly followed. Looking back I have to admit that Ironman took its toll, not so much physically (although I think destroyed muscles from IM lead to greater risk of injury) but more mentally. I don't know how people can race Ironman year after year. Honestly, I can't help but think racing this distance for many years and too often really limits your potential as an athlete. Even if your focus is Ironman I think two a year is max (one is ideal) if you want to do well and there needs to be very few races between those two efforts to assure you maximize your abilities. I am just a big believer that over a lifetime we only have so many race efforts in our body and mind...some races take more out of us then others but racing is hard in all respects and I think a lot of people ignore this and fill the schedule with races b/c that's what you do in the summer. Enough about that but certainly something I think is worth mentioning.
So, I haven't run in over 6 weeks now (well aside form a couple short runs to see if the fracture is healed) and I won't until after I get back from Kona. With this said, I missed Xterra Nationals and I won't be racing in Kona or Maui. The season came to an abrupt halt with the stress fracture and I am pretty bummed about it. Some people said just go do the swim and bike. My argument here is why spend all this effort to get ready for races I can't even finish? I am not going to walk a marathon on a stress fracture...first of all that's just stupid and second of all finishing Kona is just not that important to me. Also, I never intended to go to Kona to just finish. Not even close. I do this sport for one reason and that to see how far I can push my body (when I am healthy and fit). I decided to not race b/c I think just swimming and riding will leave me more disappointed then not starting the race. Someday I will go back and race the race but for now I just need to step back and get some perspective.
Honestly, it was very hard for me to step away and accept what was happening. Emotionally I was broken down b/c I just don't feel I have it in me to battle back from another injury...I have done it a lot over the past few years and it is draining on all levels. On the other hand, I wondered if there was so way I could get past this injury, find some fitness, and still race well.
Thing is I'm not getting any younger and while I didn't achieve all of my ultimate goals I feel I can look back and say I gave it my best shot. Truthfully, I think I have a lot more potential in this sport but to reach that potential requires several more years of very hard work, which I don't think I have in me. I am not naturally talented by any means. Everything I achieved came from a lot of time and effort in all three sports. Plus, I am not living in a bubble....guys now are so crazy fast and while I feel I can still pop some decent results (mainly on the Xterra circuit) I am not going to be one of the best in the world. I just don't think I have the talent. This is a pretty hard pill to swallow but I think it took really giving it a shot and putting myself out there to see what was possible. Now I look back knowing I gave it my all, I achieved some of my goals, and I don't regret focusing on racing for one second.
So, I think in all of this (the past few months) I came away feeling like it's time to stop racing competitively. While I feel like I have a lot of room for growth I am not sure I have that "fire" anymore. If you don't have that "fire" and determination you won't ever make it. Part of me wonders if I was 100% healthy and fit right now would I feel that same sense of "mental fatigue?" Who knows but I can say that starting this year I had a good idea that 2011 would be my last year of serious racing. I just really hate for it to end this way.
This sounds like another sob story so I apologize. In reality, I will certainly continue to get out on the bike and run with buddies. Probably even jump into some fun bike races with the boys but the days of pouring my heart and soul into the sport of triathlon are over. I love this sport for so many reasons and my decision to back away really is bittersweet. On one hand, it crushes me that I can't finish out the season (and my career for that matter) the way I hoped and, on the other hand, I am ready for the next step and challenge in life. I have always been one to have something else in my life (work related) besides sport to balance things out and for me this has been Skinfit and coaching.
Skinfit is something I love working on. We have some really exciting things in the works and I can literally spend all day hammering out work and feel great about it. It's fulfilling. I am looking forward to more time with Jess, family and friends. For so many years it was about about training and racing. I loved it but it prevented me from doing a lot of things I wanted to do and love doing. I want to spontaneously take trips with friends for the adventure not necessarily to get in good training. I long to pursue my other passions and interests in life without feeling guilty for not logging the miles with specific races in mind.  I by no means want to come off bitter b/c I am far from it.  I guess in short, I just want to chase new adventures with the same passion that I chased the sport of triathlon. If I can do this I will die a happy man!
So, for now I have put racing aside and I am getting out on the bike b/c I love it. No training plan or goals in mind just rolling along to stay fit, healthy and happy. There is a sense of relief in this. I guess when you feel this it really is time to step back. Can't wait to start running again b/c when I am running trails it's probably the one time I truly feel myself and I'm at peace with everything.  On to the next chapter in life...I wondered when the day would come.  One could probably say it was hurried along by injury but I have always promised myself that when my desire to race is gone its time to walk away without any regret and pour your heart and soul into something else that inspires and motivates you. Lucky for me, I have no shortage of things in my life that do just that!

--It's been a great ride...cheers!!!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Down time...

Over the past 11 weeks I have raced 8 times and done an insane amount of travel. Hate to admit it but it crushed me. Certainly if one of those races wasn't an Ironman I would be stronger (at the moment). While I had a good race in Santa Cruz the week after Ironman it probably did more damage to an already beaten body. Then following that up with travel and racing in Alabama the next weekend sealed the deal leaving me broken mentally and physically.
I honestly loved all of it though...the process was incredible and I look back on the past few months with nothing but positive thoughts and lessons learned. I have had such a great build up this year and I started the season stronger and healthier then ever. Coaching from Adam Zucco (Trainingbible Coaching), functional strength work at Rehab United and Rolfing kept me on my game for the past 6 months and allowed me to post the best results of my career.
Now though, it is time for rest and recovery. This decision to heal up means I won't race Xterra East Champs (Richmond), which is a race I love. This will most certainly hurt my rank in the overall pro series but at this point I think traveling and racing when I am not ready does nothing for my mind and body. The season is a very long one and the big races of the year come in late September and October.
Plus, I bruised my kneecap while riding the course Thursday before the race in Alabama. I knocked it on the top tube pretty hard. Honestly though I didn't think too much of it but it hurt a good bit during the race and in the days after. I am working with Bryan at Rehab United and we are convinced it is a bone bruise, which can take a while to heal. I haven't run since Alabama and I have ridden a couple of times but nothing more then to test the knee. It still hurt Tuesday during my easy ride so will test it again on Monday. At this stage I just want it healed and I am in recovery mode so no sense in pushing it.
For me, recovery blocks when you at least have the ability to go out and get some exercise when you want to are welcome times but when you physically can't ride or run the recovery block is almost painful for the mind. It is a struggle to keep the thoughts of lingering injury at bay and while this is a time to regenerate mentally the constant thoughts of what you can't do can be overwhelming. I have obviously dealt with knee injuries before and it kept me away from racing for a LONG time so even though we think this is just a bruise the thought of something more serious is on the mind. Oh well, doing my best to occupy my time with Skinfit, coaching and good times with friends and family. There has been no shortage of parties, BBQ's, and beer drinking. Plus, swimming a good bit (at noon under the sun of course) and really enjoying the lack of structure and "floating" in the water.
So, the plan for the rest of the year is to first and foremost get my knee and body healed. This could take another week or 3...I have no idea. Then the races will be...
1. Xterra Mountain Champs - Colorado, July 16th
2. Xterra Nationals - Utah, Sept. 24th
3. Ironman World Champs - Kona, Oct 8th
4. Xterra World Champs - Maui, Oct 23rd

Finally, I will be doing a couple week stint in Colorado leading into the Mountain Champs. I have been wanting to get out there to train with Cody and the Boulder crew for a while so really looking forward to this. The plan is to also stay in Hawaii between Kona and Xterra Worlds so I will get a nice little vacation in the islands for a few weeks...cheaper, less stressful and more convenient to just stay there then fly back and forth.
That's it from here. Enjoy the day!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

4 weeks of travel and 3 big races....

My big 4 weeks of travel and racing has come to an end and I am honestly very happy to be home! I had an amazing time and I will never forget all of the adventures. With this said I am beaten and broken physically and mentally. The travel and racing took a major toll on the body and the effects were seen this past weekend in Alabama at the 4th stop on the Xterra Tour.

I love the Xterra Southeast course and I would love nothing more then to have a solid race out there but it was pretty obvious during my swim warm up that things were going to be rough. I tried as hard as I could out there but I had nothing...the tank was empty. The swim was a fight for me. This year my swimming has improved and I am normally quite comfortable but Sunday just hanging on to the back of the usual group felt so hard. Then on the bike I had no strength. I honestly felt like I was out there forever! It felt like I was doing another Ironman =)And the run, well, can't quite call that a run...a jog lets say. So, far short of a good result but we (me and coach) kind of knew this would happen. Bummed yes but a big surprise no.
--evening run at the lake

The second week post ironman has been the toughest. I have been exhausted. The fatigue is so deep in the body...can't quite explain it in words but simple walks with the dog can sometimes feel tiring. My mind is a bit cloudy still too...seems like life is in slow motion at the moment. All to be expected but I wouldn't mind feeling fresh again =)
I also knocked my knee cap on the top tube of my bike while preriding the course last week. Didn't really feel it at the time but I am pretty sure I have a bruised knee cap. Seeing Bryan at Rehab United today so he can give me his thoughts but after talking with him yesterday he thinks this is the issue. Bottom line is it hurts to ride and run. So hoping it is just a bruise and it will clear up shortly so I can get back to enjoying the sunny san diego weather. At least it forces me to get some extra rest which I need.
That's it from here...think I am going back to bed =)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Xterra Pacific Champs--Santa Cruz

The week after Ironman was filled with mega easy workouts and sitting on my butt. The first couple of days were pretty rough b/c the pounding my quads took on the St George run was beyond anything they have ever experienced. Walking was a chore for sure but my legs/body seemed to get better everyday. I followed all the usual recovery protocal...ez exercise, massage, ice, lots of antioxidents, vitamin C, iron, etc. and I think it worked well for me.
By Thursday when I prerode the Xterra Santa Cruz course my legs were feeling much better. Not snappy or fresh but the soreness had pretty much cleared up. I swam everyday and I was actually feeling pretty good in the water...amazing how much better I felt after some easy time in the pool. I ended up riding the course again friday and took it really easy again but, like I said, the legs were feeling better everyday and I felt like I could actually put some pressure on the pedals. My first run after IM didn't come until Saturday...just 15 min ez minutes after a 45 min ride. My legs felt a bit sluggish on the first run back but no soreness, which I was happy about.
--One of many coffees...this one especially good in Monterey!

Sunday came up pretty quickly but, honestly, we had such a good crew staying at my grandmothers house that prior to late Saturday night I didn't even really think about the race. Lesley, Jessica and Dan kept the mood light, we watched a lot of movies, cooked up some good grub, and just had an overall great time. So, when race morning came it was obviously time to shift gears a little bit to get the game face on but the pouring rain had me a bit bummed out. I was already questioning how my body would hold up and then when I saw the weather my first reaction was "am I really going to do this in this horrible weather...I just raced an ironman last weekend."
We rolled up to Santa Cruz and the weather actually cleared up a bit and the rain held off for the whole race. I got in an ez warmup spin and then jumped into the FREEZING cold ocean (52-53 degrees). I took maybe 50 strokes and realized the water was too cold to stay in for very long. So, I went back to shore and got in a warmup out of the water. Of course, once the gun went off the water temp wasn't an issue and I had a fairly good swim for me. Then once on the bike I tucked in behind Josiah for as long as the body would allow. Eventually he left me behind and I ended up catching Craig. Craig and I ended up riding the second half of the course together and I had a great time racing with him. Up until the run my body felt great. I really had no thoughts of Ironman and the fatigue I was carrying. However, the run was a different story...the Ironman effort creeped into the body after the first 10 steps. Honestly, it felt like a tempo run. I tried to run hard initially but I had no punch and the legs were a bit heavy. So, I settled in and just hoped the legs would come around. I was hurting but it wasn't from the speed I was running...for the first time I just felt spent. I was tired and I really couldn't wait for it to be over...the run felt like it went on forever!
I did manage to hold on for 6th, which is my best Xterra pro finish to date. This result moved me into 5th in the National Series. Not going to lie, this was a big surprise. Ironman is no joke and the St. George course is punishing (plus the 92 degree temps). So, I thought there would be no way that I could recover in time for Santa Cruz. I am certainly still recovering from the effort in Utah but the body has come around much sooner then I expected.
--Some celebrating (for a lot of reasons) was certainly done!

Right now I am in Alabama for the 4th stop on the Xterra Tour. I love this course out here...the trails are awesome!  Honestly, I still have some questions in my mind as to how I will perform. I have good days and bad days. I am still on the "easy train" doing only short accelerations throughout mellows sessions to try and get back some of the "snap" but there is still some heaviness in the legs. The last few weeks have been hyper focused on resting and racing so I am actually really excited to get back to actual structured training! One more hit out on Sunday and then I will go home for a couple weeks to try and build back up for the 5th stop on the Tour in Richmond.
--Perfect way to wrap up the travel day to bama...run on Oak Mtn trails at sunset
-Swim venue...guess what, the water isn't HOT for once!

Got in some good recon on  the course today, tomorrow is a mellow, relaxing day, Saturday is the usual race prep workouts, and the race is Sunday. Looking forward to another hard race with the Xterra crew on what is arguably the best set of trails we race on all year!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Ironman St. George Race Report

Well, the big day has come and gone and my first Ironman race is in the bag. Quite amazing really...time just flew by heading into this race.
I got into St. George Monday before the race and really had the chance to relax and settle in. I had a pretty hectic few weeks prior so it was nice to take some time to rest up.
Before I knew it it was Friday. It turned into quite a busy pre-race day. Ironman has so many logistics to work out especially when there are two transition areas. It was actually a little stressful, which I wasn't used to. It was a new experience for me so looking at 5 different race bags, having to drop my bike, bike bag and run bag the day before actually made me feel overwhelmed. Funny thing was I wasn't at all nervous about the actual race...in fact, I was excited and really relaxed about the task at hand but all the logistics just made my head hurt =) I finally got to sit down and chill out around 4 or so and had the usual dinner of chicken, sweet potatoes, vegis/salad. We watch a good movie and I hit the sack. Didn't get much sleep, which was to be expected and the 3:30 alarm rang in my ears way too soon!
Got up, put down some breakfast, and then Tom and I head down to drop our special needs bags and jump the bus to the start. We got to the reservoir with plenty of time to just relax. At 6:45 we all lined up and started to get into the water. Got in a bit of a warmup and the the gun went off.

I started at the far left buoy. The first 400 meters or so was pretty aggressive. It mellowed out after though and I settled into a group. After 10 min or so the group was a little slow so I bridged to the next group. I actually continued this trend the entire swim. Honestly, the swim was easy and I felt good. I could bridge to groups in front without much trouble and I felt relaxed. Actually had a smile on my face the whole time and really enjoyed it. Yeah should have been hurting more but I figured why...the course is tough and the race wasn't going be decided in the swim. I just used it as a warmup and swam 55 min.
I was blown away by the volunteers...ALL DAY they were amazing and it was apparent how amazing they were as I transitioned from the swim to bike. They did everything for us!

Once on the bike I got into my rhythm pretty quickly and it felt so sureal! I just kept thinking to myself...wow, I'm doing an Ironman. So much prep went into this day but to actually be racing just felt wild. I was happy and just rolling along, enjoying the whole experience. I found a good group and we rode well together. There was so much unknown out there for me so I just stay conservative and kind of followed the guys in my group b/c they all seemed to be experienced and riding steady. At the half way point Slater caught me and I rode with him for the next 40 miles until he decided to drop me! Thanks man ;) Ended up riding 5:16 and I felt good coming off the bike.

Again, the volunteers were amazing and sent me out on the run with everything I needed. The first couple miles didn't feel great (plus it's uphill) but the legs came around after the first steep climb. I was amazed how easy it felt on the first lap. I ran 1:32 for the first 13.1 miles and honestly thought I could hold the pace. I was so relaxed and kept cool with all the sponges, cold towels, water, etc (temps were in the 90's!).

Then I hit mile 20 and my quads really started to feel the pounding. I knew this would come but they were wrecked and getting more so as every mile went by. I knew once I got to mile 23 it was all down hill so I just kept pushing to that point but at mile 22 I had my only "breakdown." I just had to walk for a minute. I felt pretty dizzy and my quads were screaming at me. I didn't want to walk but I did so I could refuel through one of the last aid stations. It proved a good move b/c I got my blood sugar back up and fell back into my pace managing to close with 7 min miles. Ran 3:17.

Finish time was 9:34, I was 19th overall, 2nd in AG, Kona bound. On this course I am happy with that time. I had split times in mind when I started the day (but on such a tough course times were really hard to predict and it was my first ironman so who really knew how I would hold up)...I thought if I had a good day I could swim 55 min, ride 5:15, and run 3:15. I wasn't far off from my predictions. Just goes to show you how prepared I was b/c I knew I could do these times based on my training results. Overall, I really enjoyed this race. It actually left me excited to go fast at this distance. Not sure it is something I will pursue after Kona b/c it is so time consuming and demanding but who knows. I still think Xterra is more my speed =) I guess I just have to go sub 9 hrs in kona so I can end my Ironman stint on a good note ;)

I really have to thank Adam Zucco and Trainingbible Coaching for all the help. I couldn't have done any of this without the guidance of Adam. He is an AMAZING coach and a great friend. Thanks man...I owe you big time!!
Also, thanks to Jim Vance...your always there to give advice and support...It means a lot!
James Walsh, what else can I say but thank you for ALL of your help! Dude, I owe you more then you know. You are always there to keep me honest and you inspire me to work hard. I think you believe in my abilities even more then I do sometimes and it really means a lot to have you in my corner. Seriously, you make me a much better, stronger, smarter athlete and I can never repay you for this. Beers on me (for a long time hombre!)!!!
HUGE thanks to my ENTIRE family for all the support. Specifically, my parents...I couldn't do what I do without your support and attention...you guys are awesome and I love you very much.
Jess, your the best wife anyone can ask for. I could write all day about what you have given me over the years but the support you provided when I said I wanted to chase my dreams pursuing triathlon and Skinfit and quit the safety of corporate america is something I will never forget and always respect. You inspire me everyday to be a better person and I can't thank you enough for this. Having you there in St George was so special...I so wish you could be at all of the races! You always bring out the best in me!

So, that's the scoop from my first Ironman. I am excited for Kona but first I have some Xterra races to knock out. I am REALLY enjoying racing this year so I am fired up to get back into the dirt. The next stop on the Xterra Tour is this weekend in Santa Cruz...obviously, bad timing for me b/c my legs are crushed but I will be there to have some fun. SLight chance I won't race but as of now I will toe the line. Then on to Alabama the following weekend for the 4th stop on the tour. Giddy up!!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Going long...

Well, Ironman St. George is coming fast. The work is done and now its time to rest up and taper down with shorter race specific workouts. Kind of crazy this major race is in less then 2 weeks. I feel like I just signed up for it. I will be perfectly honest, the past few weeks were Xterra focused so I feel like I fell behind a bit with the travel and Xterra racing. This weekend though I put in some big miles and feel more on track.

Coming into this year I thought it was possible to excel in both Ironman and Xterra...well, I can tell you that its not possible (unless your a total freak like some of the select few that do well in Kona and Xterra Worlds). I think you can be decent in both but not great. 70.3 and Xterra go well together for sure but not Ironman and Xterra.

I needed all the base training to get back "normal" after two years of injury but when it comes to racing the two are near impossible to manage at a high level. Xterra is my focus and part of me is bummed I have this monster race that will no doubt leave me barely able to walk for the next two stops on the Xterra Tour but I am putting all those thoughts aside and focusing on St. George. I can't have any outs or seeds of doubt on the day. So, it's go time and I feel ready. I have done the work, I feel strong physically and mentally, and I am honestly excited for the challenge. There are certainly questions in my mind like how my body will respond, is my nutrition right, etc but when I look back on what I have done over the last 6 months I really think its just another day similar to the countless days I have already logged. While I haven't ever done an Ironman I think my years of experience are invaluable...I know myself and how to "problem solve," which for Ironman is key.

It is going to be a crazy 4 weeks. I am off to wildflower to man my Skinfit booth, then right after I am off to St. George for a week, then to Santa Cruz for the next Xterra Tour race, and then on to Alabama for the 4th stop on the Xterra Tour. Makes me tired typing it but it will no doubt be a fun adventure! I lived a privileged life! Gotta get back to packing!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

7th at Xterra South Central Championships, 6th in the Pro Series

The second stop on the Xterra Tour was this past weekend in Waco Texas.
Waco doesn't bring about thoughts of amazing trails or a place you really want to go visit but this race is easily the BEST race on the entire circuit in my opinion. The trails are incredible, the race is challenging, and the community/people are over the top nice! I LOVE this race and can't wait to go back.
My homestay is perfect and they really make you feel at home. I can't thank them enough for all they do for us! When I say us I mean all of us pros and racers...they bend over backwards to make this race a success and without their support I don't really think it would happen.

I was excited to race on Sunday. I felt ready but the course is challenging enough to make anyone suffer so I really didn't know how I would hold up. The swim was wetsuit legal but the water was way to warm so we all overheated in the water. I was so ready to get out of my wetsuit at the end of the swim...felt like I was in a furnace! I was sitting pretty good for about 2/3rds of the swim and then got gapped slightly...totally a stupid mistake but the water was really murky so you couldn't really see feet. Plus, there is a current so when swimming up stream in the river it's critical to stay on feet. When you can't see them though it makes it kind of tough. So, a little lack of attention on my part led to a gap and I lost about 20 sec. No doubt my swim has improved over last year and I think it will only get better. Still a long way back of the leaders but it's decent enough to put me in the "fight."

Then onto the bike and I would say it took me about half the ride to get my balance. I hit more trees in the first 30 minutes then I think I have hit in my entire life...my cut up shoulders are proof of this! Seriously, I was so annoyed. Just making stupid mistakes but my riding did seem to get better as the race went on. I am still riding too slow though. I think all the Ironman training has been great (and necessary) in terms of getting me strong and fit but when it comes to high intensity mountain biking I just haven't put in the time on the trails. The good news is Ironman is over in 2 1/2 weeks and I can get back to Xterra specific training and hopefully get my riding up to par!
On the run I had some work to do. Ran from 10th into 7th. The first half of the run I didn't see anyone so I didn't have a gauge of how I was running. Then I caught Adam Wirth and he said another athlete (Will Ross) was 30 sec up. I finally saw him and bridged up. He hung tough though and I couldn't drop him. We ran side by side for the last 1/4 of the run and we finally saw Patrick Valentine about 1/4 mile out from the finish. At that point I just put my head down and charged ahead. Caught him just before the finish and crossed in 7th. That's my best finish to date and I got my first paycheck ( a small one but it funded beer and BBQ in Austin!).
So, I would say it was a good race for me. It moved me into 6th in the series. It wasn't a perfect race for me but it was solid and much improved over years past so I am happy. Moving in the right direction for sure. Huge thanks to Adam Zucco and Trainingbible Coaching for keeping me healthy and strong!
Now the focus is on Ironman St George (2 1/2 weeks away). I already miss my Epic 29er but after this long distance nonsense I will be in Santa Cruz and Bama for the next two stops on the Xterra Tour. Probably not able to walk but I will be there for some fun =)

--My buddy Tom O'Brien KILLED it. First amateur and 14th overall!

Finally made it out to Hoover Dam before the race in Vegas.