Rage for Change

Over the years I’ve come to believe that anger is one of the most crucial emotions to harness for energy. It has helped drive my will to train in the snow, rain, and shitty conditions that would have turned me back if everything in life had been just fine and dandy back at home on the dry, warm couch. Getting comfortable is dangerous. While you sit on the couch, others are out there murdering themselves in the cold to get that extra few percentages on their FTP. Come spring, they’re going to fuck you over.

During the Bush administration, eight years of varying levels of personal furry, I read massive quantities of news. I vowed to never own a car (climate change and the Iraq war). Even after college I lived an incredibly utilitarian life in order to do more than my fair share in conservation. I did these things, in part, out of anger and frustration with the US and the way our country raped the world and its people of resources. When that era came to an end, I got too comfortable. I certainly didn’t agree with everything the Obama administration did, but it contrast to the previous president, it was pretty damn nice.

I stopped following the news as vigorously, got a vehicle two years ago (only because Adelaide got hit by one), and own way more possessions than can fit in two large duffle bags. Part of that is growing up and settling down I guess. But if I really think about it, I feel like I’ve settled in other ways as well. I let the fire go out. Sure, my temper is worse than ever when it comes to confrontations with drivers, but I just realized a few days ago that I haven’t felt truly ashamed to be an American in years. One should always feel some shame in their country, otherwise there’s no need for growth. And there is always need for growth.

Sometimes it takes a certain amount of rage to light that fire again. I don’t know what I’m going to do to help make this country and world a less shitty place, but I guess I should start by improving on what I’m already doing. I want to continue getting more involved with Boulder school district’s BLAST program, for starters. BLAST goes into elementary and middle schools in the district to teach kids bike safety and riding skills. I started volunteering with them a month ago and need to continue, for my own riding sanity in particular. Every time I get buzzed by some fuck hole in a pickup it calms me (a tiny bit at least) to think that maybe in the future there will be one or two less people like that because I encouraged them to ride a bike as a kid. Adelaide and I, though mainly Adelaide, are pursuing bike advocacy in other ways as well.

We do a lot of the small stuff like recycle, compost, stay away from plastic bags, do 80% of our errands and commutes by bike, and live in an energy-efficient 700 square foot apartment. There is room for improvement though. There’s always room for improvement. I make an effort environmentally but I don’t know if I’m doing enough, or anything, to create the social change I want to see take place. Sometimes I try to trick myself into believing that as an elite athlete I have a positive impact on other people by helping them live a more healthy, and therefore happier, lifestyle. I don’t think I have a big enough following for that to be as true as I hope. Sometimes I like to think that my ranting blogs will help create change as well. Most likely not.

Like I said earlier, I’m not sure what my next steps will be politically or socially, but I need to find some productive outlet for the immense amount of anger and frustration that I’m bound to have during this republican senate, republican house, and psycho presidency. For starters, I need to really follow the news again, because somewhere deep down I feel responsible for letting this catastrophe take place. Maybe I could have done my tiny part to help it from happening. I just wasn’t self-informed enough to see it coming. Did any of us realize just how racist and hateful our country is? I didn’t, and that was a fatal mistake.

I’ll leave you with the wise words if Katy Perry, “After a hurricane comes a rainbow. Maybe a reason why all the doors are closed. So you could open one that leads you to the perfect road.”

Whoa…….Blows my mind every fuckin’ time.

2016 Season Review

I came into the year with expectations that, deep down, I knew I could not meet. I think I wrote down that my goals for the season were to 1) to not get injured, 2) to win a race, and 3) to get on the podium. I did not accomplish any of those goals. Not by a long shot. However, if I’d written “have a good learning experience!” like every glass-half-full newby pro, I’d have had to slap myself in the face. I’ve yet to meet a major goal in sports, so the day it comes, it will be all the sweeter. If it doesn’t come, well then I guess I’ll be bitter.

Training started much later than ever this season. At the end of 2015 I took a full month off after Los Cabos (and a month before actually). After that I took an additional two months training very, very easily. After being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s early that fall, I wanted to make sure that my thyroid medication had time to take hold before I dug deep. That huge quarter year of rest took me to the end of January, when I was lucky enough to be partake in a trip down to the Tucson Cycling House for a five day block of big rides in the sun. I got back and immediately began training with Michael Lovato and his group of triathletes, including Adelaide. We both benefited greatly from having someone to wake up with at 5:30 for morning masters workouts, wolfing down second breakfast, kitting up for rides afterwards, and getting to bed early so we could do it all over again the next day. Somewhere in there was work. For the time being, we’re both lucky to be able to work part time, otherwise this training load lifestyle would not be at all sustainable.

It took a while to get used to those early mornings and the all too common three-a-day workouts, but I could tell it was paying off a few months in. Unfortunately I got sick forever in March/April and missed my first planned race in Texas. Then I injured my back from swimming and missed another race in Utah. Despite seeing some decent swim and run gains, I was not off to the stellar start I was hoping for by May.

I won a few local sprint races and a bike race in mid May and early June, before completely flopping at my first half-distance pro race of the year, Boulder 70.3. Last year I was 9th without nearly as much training, so I was confident that I’d be able to pull off a top five this year. Ha. The field was super stacked, and on top of that I wasn’t able to run faster than a jog due to the first of the year’s crippling lung cramps, a feeling I’ll describe as hyperventilation, constriction by a 30-foot boa, and being repeatedly stabbed in the chest with a jagged spoon shank in the prison cafeteria.

That takes us to late June, where I came in 6th at Coeur d’Alene and earned my first paycheck in triathlon (still haven’t received it though). Any profit I came away with was spent on physical therapy for the hip injury that resulted from that race. The hip was my second injury of the year and took over two months to heal, causing me to miss two more races. I rode and swam throughout the summer, and even did some easy running in the later weeks, but the lack of competition got to me by late August and I had a few moments of lost passion.

Thankfully Santa Cruz was just around the bend and my hip made the last of its recovery in the week leading up to the race. I came in 10th in another stacked field, out of the money but the best I could realistically hope for. I had a solid swim and an even better run, and the race left me with confidence leading into Cozumel, which was three weeks later.

 

I sucked at Cozumel. I had a bad swim, my glutes cramped on the bike, and I had to jog the first seven miles of the run. My last hope of the year was Los Cabos, four weeks after.

Going into detail about Los Cabos isn’t necessary since I just wrote about it. I had a good swim, great bike, and horrible run due to the dreaded lung cramp.

Training with Michael has been better than I could have expected. I thoroughly enjoyed his humor and the energy that he brings to every workout. It rubs off on the rest of us, and at 6am it’s a necessity. Another thing that I didn’t expect was the intensity of the workouts and the lack of recovery days/weeks. It was game on from day one to day 287. During that time period (just over nine months), and including all those sick and injured weeks, I averaged 19.2 hours a week (788 hours). The entire year will be 900 counting all the easy months last winter before I officially started training. This apparently isn’t very much for a triathlete because 1) I only spent nine and a half months training instead of 11, and 2) I skipped or shortened multiple workouts pretty much every single week this year due to physical or mental fatigue. It will take time to build the stamina needed to do 25+ hour weeks, week after week with only race weeks in between as “rest” to break them up. I wouldn’t have thought that this quantity and intensity of training would be beneficial, but the proof is there if you look at the huge progress I made and the quality of Michael’s other athletes.

Triathlon is all about having the patience and mental fortitude to put in the time, and to make that time high quality by achieving pain…without overdoing it and cooking yourself for the next training session. I struggled with that balance, as well as adapting to the new strains caused by running and swimming. One hour on the bike does not equal one hour in the pool or one hour slamming the pavement with your feet, especially if your body is not accustomed to anything but hunching over a set of handlebars. I was not very consistent this year, in racing or in training, and I was constantly plagued with injuries, which killed my morale at times. I’ve finally come to realize that next year I need to focus on stretching, a lot of gym work, and regular massage or at least foam rolling.

I guess this year was about learning. Damn it.

Something I like about triathlon is its simplicity. It’s a sport for dumb missiles. Compared to bike racing there is almost no strategy, there’s no teamwork, there is no conniving within a peloton, and there is no peloton to hide within. If you do well or if you do poorly, there’s only yourself to blame or congratulate. The same cannot quite be said for the training involved, and for that I have my coach Michael, Adelaide, Chris, and all my other training partners to thank. Thank you for helping me permanently deform my toenails.

Version 2

Los Cabos 70.3 Race Report

The oversize luggage corner of the airport is a place of sweaty-palmed dread. It’s the last crucial piece of the travel-day puzzle…like an outside border piece. Without it, the whole thing is wobbly and you spend your whole time trying to find that last border piece while everything else gets ignored (we do a lot of puzzles). Once you get to your flight destination, even if it’s not the city you race in, and you have all your luggage and your bike in hand, things can go wrong without panic setting in. Forgetting the name of your car rental company, getting lost on an unknown interstate at midnight and driving the wrong direction for an hour, and other shit like that is aggravating, but you still have control of the situation. When your bike doesn’t show up in the oversize luggage area, you have no control. And for the second race in the last four weeks, my bike didn’t show up.

During the stress of the missing bikes (Adelaide’s didn’t show up either) my worries about all the other nagging aches and pains I had magically developed in the previous six days were forgotten, such as my injured hip, sore shins, aching ankle, fucked up back, and bloody stool. All quickly forgotten in lieu of the bikes.

Luckily they showed up the night before the race, my back and ankle ended up being fine, and a little bloody shit never hurt anyone. It was the hip that got me in the end.

Swim (15th out of the water at 28:54)

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This was the first time I haven’t been dropped in the swim. The front few groups may have gotten away from me, but it was them going faster, not me going slower.Or so I like to tell myself. Mid way into the swim I’d even let myself half believe that I was in the lead group since during my three total sightings (I don’t like looking up) I couldn’t see anyone up ahead of our group. I swam a fine 28:54 (six minutes faster than last year) and came out of the water in 15th place, just 3:30 down on the lead group.

Bike (race best 2:09:23)

I thought I had been super crafty by not pre-clipping in my shoes before the race started due to the steep hill the course started out on. My plan went perfectly as I cruised by others in the first hundred meters as they struggled to get their feet in their shoes. But then something didn’t feel right. “Man, I’m fat,” I thought to myself. “This number belt sure got tight.” I tried loosening it only to find that it was already pretty lose. I thought maybe my shorts were just snugger than I remembered, then I realized that I’d forgotten to take my swim skin off. I’d gotten it down to my waist during the transition run but hadn’t followed through due to my excitement about my secret aforementioned plan to save six seconds. I pulled to the side of the road, stripped the swim skin off, and threw it to some volunteer kids and yelled my race number, “Dieciséis! Dieciséis Gracias!!! with little hope that I’d ever see the swim skin, which I’d borrowed from Kenney, ever again.

I rode the first hour of the bike solo, averaging 332 watts down to Cabo San Lucas, up the hill, and back down the hill, before catching the first cohesive group of riders that I’d come across, which included fifth through ninth place. I sat in for a few minutes, telling myself that there was no reason to take even one single measly pull, that I’d made a huge effort to get up to them by myself, that I’d already used plenty of matches, and that half of them were much better runners than I and all I really cared about was getting at least 8th place and in the money and it was their responsibility to pull since they were the established guys with something on the line. I took a pull about five minutes later. I was content to sit in after that, because I finally realized my legs were fried.

First to go from that group was Gonzalez, then Hadley, and then finally Paul Ambrose a long while later, who had been doing a lot of the work with Cody Beals. Those two quietly did all the work, with no complaining, shouting, or threats like in a bike race. Strange. And I felt lazy. Even stranger.

We went through town, did a U turn, went up another highway grade climb for a few miles, then flipped it back into town. By then it was just myself, Beals, and Cunningham. There were just four guys up the road since the lead swim group’s fifth man, Andy Potts, had broken a chain 15 miles earlier. Drew Scott, Matt Charbot, Maricio Mendez-Cruz, and Allan Carillo had just a 1:40 lead on us thanks to all the hard work done by Beals and Ambrose. I ended up with the fastest bike split of they day by almost a minute, which was a tiny consolation for not finishing the run.

Run (first to quit!)

I took the lead out of T2 for some ridiculous reason at 5:45 pace in the 90 degree heat. My legs felt good and for a fleeting moment my lungs felt okay too. Then all of a sudden they didn’t and the feared chest cramp came swooping in to fuck everything up. I’m really looking forward to the day when I get this issue fixed, because 90% of my runs off the bike begin with a debilitating lung cramp that lasts anywhere from two to 13.1 miles, and it doesn’t matter how slow or fast I start out. Beals came around me a few minutes into the run, then Richie Cunningham came around by mile one. I put my hands up on top of my head and slowed things way down for the next five or six minutes, willing the lung tightness away with mind power alone…and fingers fiercely digging up into my chest cavity. By mile two the cramp was just about gone and I began picking the pace back up. I had about five minutes of okay running before the next, and unsolvable, problem came about: my hip. For those who don’t remember, I raced Coeur d’Alene with an injured TFL. Before the race it was just a nagging pain. After the race it was so bad that I was on crutches for the rest of the day and the next morning, couldn’t run for six weeks, and it didn’t fully stop hurting for two and a half months.

That was my right hip. Strangely, the issue I’d developed in the past week was now in my left hip. Both times the injuries came on in the same fashion: about a week before the race and just barely noticeable at first. Both were so minor that I wasn’t able to upgrade it from “tightness” to “pain” until four or five days out from the race.

I had it dry needled the day before we left for Cabo, but it was too little too late. By mile four I knew that my race was over. I was not going to inflict serious, long-lasting damage to myself again, especially for 15th or whatever place. Even though I was still currently in 7th, and a few miles earlier I had held onto delusional aspirations of catching up to Cunningham and contending for fifth or sixth place, I knew that the hip would slow me down to a jog by the end of 13 miles. I was already limping on it with 10 miles to go. I slowed down to a jog prematurely and let four or five guys pass me before I walked it in towards the finish without starting the second lap. It was a quick fall from actually being in the race (not just being filler) to wandering past the crowd of people near the finish line, avoiding eye contact because I was mad enough to slap the next person in the face who tried to encourage me by saying “Come on, don’t give up you can do it!”

End of Season 

This weekend left me with something to look forward to during training this winter. My swim has improved a lot and I was even able to eek out of good performance in a non-wetsuit race, something that I had previously thought would elude me for years to come. My riding strength (in the time trial position anyways) has gone up a bit this season as well, and it won’t be too long before it can actually be put to use bridging to the lead group instead of the chase group. The run here was a complete flop of course. It really sucked. I mean I really sucked. It’s my least consistent of the three sports. I can either run fairly decently or not at all. The first problem is that I’m constantly plagued by serious chest cramps when I run off the bike. They got less severe and lasted for shorter durations as the season went on, so there’s that at least. Secondly, to actually get faster and to have more constant performances, I need to run more, but I don’t want the hips to become a constant injury, or develop other long-lasting injuries. To build the muscular endurance for the run I need to be doing more than 25 miles a week, which is the max I’ve been able to consistently do this year without injuries popping up. Well, they pop up anyways. I think I just need more time and the larger volume will become easier to maintain. That, and more stretching, massage, and gym work. Or, I’ll just start tracking run distance in kilometers and/or get a pair of those kids’ shoes with the built-in wheels.

PS the swim skin magically appeared in my gear bag when I went to retrieve it. Thank you volunteers!

PPS Adelaide won her age group and placed 4th in the amateur field.

PPPS Don’t worry, Mom. I’ll be going to the doctor about the bloody bowel movements.

Cozumel 70.3

Four minutes before the race started, and two minutes before we walked off the pier into the water, I was asked “What type of suit is that?”At first I thought the question from a fellow racer was one of admiration for using a cool/retro swim skin.

“That’s an illegal suit.”Are you racing for money?”
I replied, “Yeah, of course.”
My friend responded, “If you don’t take that off I’m reporting you to the officials after the race.”

Unlike many at this race, I don’t cheat the rules by blatantly violating the 12 meter draft zone. Hell, I don’t even take advantage, for financial reasons, of new gear to gain an extra watt or two. I mean, just look at my worn-out, UCI-legal bike. I’d gotten the swim skin for free. It had been sitting in the back closet of the swim shop for four years and Adelaide’s boss gave it to her to give to me. The issue with the suit was that it had a layer of neoprene and Ironman had banned that material a few years ago, which is probably why mine hadn’t ever sold. The way this guy came at me and immediately threatened to tattle, all in the span of about 18 seconds, was what pissed me off. Later he openly taunted me on the run with mock cheering every time we passed one another going the opposite direction. I’m not making that up. After the race we got in an argument, during which he said, “You just wait till I post this all over Slow Twitch. I’ll make sure no sponsor ever touches you!” I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to laugh at that or not, since this is the guy who once notoriously sprinted ahead in a feed zone to knock bottles down so that the guy behind couldn’t get any. My issue was the way he went about the entire process. Why not just say, “Hey just so you know, that swim skin isn’t legal because it has a neoprene coating.” I would have come to the same decision as the one that I did, to take the suit off, and the nastiness, aside from the taunts during the run, could have been avoided. It’s one thing, and an admirable thing at that, to stand up to someone who’s cheating by drafting, taking drugs, or breaking the rules by some other purposeful means. It’s another to threaten a fellow competitor, who obviously didn’t know what they were doing, with the sole intent of cutting them down to feel powerful. However, it was my fault for not knowing the rules, in the end it had no effect on my race, and I’ll leave it at that.

Anyways, after I asked around to make sure that this guy was correct, I frantically pulled the suit and my jersey off to swim bare chested. I’d used the suit once before to earn the second slowest swim time at Boulder 70.3 in June. Today I swam without it to get the second slowest swim time as well. Science, therefore, proves that this illegal swim skin, that was later stolen after I left it on the pier, is actually no faster than using no suit at all.

On to the race report once and for all. The swim was amazing. The water at Cozumel is immaculate. It’s crystal clear, warm, and coral-bottomed. The whole island is coral. There were even black and yellow fish swimming about at one point during the one minute warm up. The gun went off. I was dropped from the front of the group a little later than I normally am, at about 150 meters, though I was slowly passed by just about everyone a short while later. I managed to almost get on the feet of one guy, then got dropped from him as we rounded the first turn buoy. Trying to get back on his feet, I went full bore into the now head-on, yet very small, waves. The next turn buoy came into view and as I blindly followed the guy in front of me, still just a body length off his feet, a wave pushed the buoy by a meter, or maybe I just swam into it, and I ended up fully underneath the damn thing. My left ankle got snagged by the line and for a second I imagined all those movie scenes were the victim gets held under by a lose sweater thread and drowns.

I kicked free, or just sort of got free without any real effort, and continued on. A huge gulp of salt water washed down my gullet, invoking a gag reflex only stymied by what must have been a previous life spent as a deep throating man of the night. Just trying to get through grad school. Finally, I got back onto the guy’s feet and stayed there for the last six minutes of the swim.

Due to the favorable current on the way back, everyone’s time was ridiculously fast, including my own time of 23:18. I grabbed my jersey on the pier, its pockets stuffed full of food, and ran hard to my bike, knowing that I needed to have a fast 100 meter dash through transition in order to make up for the time it would take to get my jersey on. It took a solid minute since I put my head through an arm hole first, retried, then spilled my food all over the ground, the whole time cursing like a mad man.

The bike was hot, wet, flat, windless, and boring. And flat. And hot. And flat. I made it a goal to pass 10 guys on the bike, and was off to a decent start over the first 20 minutes. My power was okay. Nothing spectacular but I wasn’t having to destroy myself to keep it high so that made me happy. An hour in and it had dropped to 310. I saw Chris’ bike abandoned on the ground, water dripping from a bottle. I assumed he’d crashed out but he’d just had an unfixable flat, DNFing all the same. That made me sad.

I began digging a bit too much. I unwisely forced the power to stay high, though it did drop down to 307 by the turn around with 11 miles to go. All of a sudden, as I stood up out of the turn around, both glutes and my right quad seized up. I wouldn’t call it a cramp because there was no stabbing sensation, but more like a sudden and painful locking up of the muscles. The power dropped by a huge margin on the half hour ride back into town and T2. I stood, pedaled, coasted, sat down, pedaled medium hard for a few seconds in the bull horns, got back in the aero bars and pedaled easy, got out, stood, coasted, repeated…going slower and slower. I’d timed when the front group came by and estimated that I’d been 5 or so minutes back at the turn around. I came in nine minutes down on the leaders by the time I got off the bike.

Coming into T2 I was in 12th position, but was immediately passed for 13th as I drug my feet getting my shoes on. I ran-walked/limped out of the transition area and stopped at a porta-pottie a little less than a mile into the run to take a quick shit. My legs were completely destroyed. To the point that I was struggling to run 8:00 pace. I took full advantage of every aid station, getting multiple bags of water, ice in my hat, ice in my jersey, and more water. I continued getting passed by people throughout the full first lap, then suddenly something snapped back into place. My glutes released and my right quad quit is groaning, or something. I did the next 6.5 miles running a minute faster per mile, breathing like a demon and passing back a few of the guys who’d gone by on lap one. It was still way too slow and way too late to do anything about placing (I was 14th), but it felt good to be able to finish hard and not simply stagger in at a painful jog.

My error for the race was not getting out of the aerobars enough. My body still isn’t used to being on the TT bike and assuming the position uninterrupted for so long, and since this course was so flat, with barely any turns, I’d been tightly tucked throughout. In order to do well in a race like this I have to A) come out of the swim in some sort of decent group and B) get a lot better at being comfortable in the aero bars. Also C), just be faster at everything and suck 78% less than I do.

The lead up to the race was stressful due to some personal life issues and then my bike not making it to the Cancun airport with me (I got it the night before the race). And the race was pretty shitty too of course. However, in the grand scheme of things it was Mexico and it was awesome. We rode scooters, the weather was hot and perfect, the water was orgasmic to swim in, and we stayed at the nicest resort, the only resort actually, that I’ve every been in. It was all inclusive with food and drinks and after the race, Chris, Christen, Palmera, and I lived it up like there was no tomorrow. Our appetites for ceviche and gluten were limitless and the tequila flowed like an Oregon gutter in March. We took an evening swim and drifted half a mile south along the coast, diving down to look at fish, eels, and sea urchins. It was a grand old time.

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Santa Cruz 70.3

The night before I was supposed to leave for Santa Cruz, my right shoulder seized up while packing, of all stupid things. What started out as a minor twitch turned into painful spasm that stabbed deep into my shoulder when I moved my arm the slightest. I went to sleep that night with a heat pad and multiple, extra strength Tylenols, followed by more throughout that restless sleep. When I awoke it was even worse. It only made sense that I’d get injured right before another race, which has happened three times this year.

After much indecision and stress that morning, I ended up traveling to the race, which was the right call because the pain went away over the next two days and by race morning it was hardly sore at all.

The 27-strong field lined up on the beach to the start of a gun. It boomed, taking a month off my eardrums’ lives, and I was suddenly grabbed from behind and shoved to the left, colliding with Justin Rossi, another former cyclist turned triathlete. My astonishment turned into rage. I cursed at the guy who dun it and followed him into the water, scathing, and then taking a swing and a miss with my fist after I dove in. Next, my goggles filled with water, which I knew was bound to happen because on every practice dive the day prior, they’d filed to some extent. These goggles also get super fogged up in 12 seconds and are tinted, making it very difficult to see in the low morning, overcast light. The zero visibility water didn’t even matter at that point. I was swimming blind, zig-zagging and flailing every which way. I stopped to empty my goggles but they filled up again immediately, this time just on the right eye, so I swam with one eye the whole race, the other soaking up a gram of salt water by the minute. Eyes crave electrolytes.

It took me a few minutes to get into my stride, or stroke I guess, and I began catching up to a large group. Since my vision was so poor, it took a long time to actually catch them and get onto someone’s feet. It was about halfway through the race but I finally found a pair of white feet in the dim water and the effort was cut in half. I banged into a lot of people for the next 12 or 14 minutes as we rounded the pier, me peeping out of the equivalent of heavily advanced cataracts, the other racers most likely assuming I was in a drunken rage. We made our way back onto the beach in 27:11, four minutes down on the lead group and two minutes back from the second, which was a surprise new best for me.

The third-of-a-mile transition run on bare feet over pavement hurt like a mother. I’d put on flip flops but kicked them off quickly since they were too slippery on the wet pavement. I lost about 30 seconds during that whole fiasco to Sam Long, who I’d come out of the water with and I knew he was a guy who’d be a useful ally during the bike.

Michi Weiss flew by all of us and eventually caught the lead group, passed them with Justin Rossi, and set a best time on the run (and bike) to win.

I, having much more human—less laboratory—physiology, averaged a mere 341 watts for the first 30 minutes to catch Sam, Steven Killshaw, and one other. Steven, Sam, and I worked fairly well together for the rest of the race, which was beautiful. During a triathlon, unlike a time trial, you have enough oxygen in your brain during the bike to soak in a bit of the scenery. The course had started out on a small, winding, cliff-top road that overlooked the ocean to the left. The sky was gray and wet, as was the road. Green pines and mossy oaks thickened as we rode out of town on Highway 1. As I caught Sam and the others, we took a right hander onto a small, potholed country road that wound its way up into the foggy, forested hills. We climbed a shallow grade, pushing sea level watts with ease, took a tricky descent, and popped out back onto Highway 1, where the legal drafting really came into effect. Sam was taking super hard pulls, then falling too far back afterwards, which upset the flow despite his strength. Instead of six bike lengths, which is the legal limit, he was 20 bikes back. I think we could have cut a minute off our time if the three of us had been more fluid, but we still only ended up cracking 2:13 on the hilly course, compared to 2:10 of the lead pack and a fucking insane 2:04 of Weiss (Justin, who is one of the best domestic time trialists in the country, did 2:06 by bridging to the lead group after the swim and then following Weiss after his attack at the turn around, eyes bleeding just to stay on the wheel apparently).

I’m seeing steady progress on the swim, which is encouraging because I know that I won’t be competitive until I come out with the first or second swim groups. I seriously doubt that I’ll ever have the power to average 350 for two plus hours and be able to run fast afterwards.

Steven, Sam, and I came off the bike together and charged up a steep, fog-slicked hill out of transition, following the same cliffside road that we’d begun and ended the bike on. Sam was dropped before the first mile was through, then I was dropped shortly after. I developed a nagging lung cramp but kept it under control until it dissipated at mile three. By then the gap out to Steven was 45 seconds. I kept it there for the next five miles, many of which were run on narrow dirt paths with uneven footing, making the run more enjoyable than a monotonous straight paved road.

My average pace, bolstered by one last full strength caffeine gel, went from 5:56 down to 5:53 and continued to drop with three miles to go as I passed Justin and shortly afterwards, Steven. I kept the pressure on till the end and even choked down one last gel with a mile left, just for my coach Michael’s peace of mind in thought. I finished 10th, out of the money, in 4:01 something with a run split of 1:16:39 on a fairly rugged course, which was another PR thanks to good legs, mostly uninhibited lungs, sea level air, and mild temps.

I celebrated not being on crutches after the race by consuming a mountain of gluten-rich pizza with a few others, then later with a long afternoon of surfing at Steamers. I grew up surfing in Oregon, where fighting for waves was usually just fighting with four people, not 40. I was on a rented soft top, I’m not a good surfer by any stretch of the word “good,” and I narrowly avoided getting in a fight with a few locals who were pissed that I was in their way (and for colliding with one of them). I’m sure I was partially in the wrong since I was just plowing straight down the waves full speed ahead without turning. However, I made certain that when I did drop in, I dropped in first so I’m not entirely confident that I was solely at fault. I did get a couple overheads, which put a huge smile on my face for the rest of the night, regardless of coming up somewhat short in the race. When I finally had to call it a day I paddled in the long way back around the point to the beach, my right shoulder (now sore again) clicking with each stroke, face burnt a nice crisp pink, the sun low but my spirits as high as could be. I devoured a bag of fish-shaped candy in the car and called my brother Galen to brag about surfing, then drove back to my relatives Jack and Laurie’s house in the hills of Aptos to help them empty a bottle of wine.

Adelaide didn’t come out this weekend because she was doing bigger and better things, racing the inaugural edition of 106 West, a triathlon so high it makes your lungs bleed, your eyes roll, and your bowels do both. You can read her race report here (she got third overall), and about the race here on Slowtwitch. Up next for her is Harvest Moon half next weekend, and for me Cozumel 70.3 in three weeks.

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This is not during the race, by the way. I just needed a picture so you’d click on the link.

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Sometimes you forget your post race recoverite.

The Late Season Blues

It’s this time of year that I find it hard to get excited about five hour endurance rides, 6AM swim practices, and three-a-day workouts in general. The mental and emotional energy that it requires to continue the day-in day-out slog grows exponentially the closer you get to fall. Some days, no amount of coffee will summon the strength needed to just get through a workout, let alone make it a quality one.

It’s late August and the bike racing season is rapidly coming to an end. The same is not true for triathlon. I have another nine weeks to push through, and that’s after cutting off four weeks in November that I’d originally planned on doing, leading up to race Cozumel full.

I think a big part of my recently lost passion for training comes down to a few things:

1) I haven’t raced very much this year due to injuries. Injuries are part of the game, especially early on in a tri “career” because of the newfound demands on the body. I think I’ll  be much more structurally sound next season, which will hopefully result in missing fewer races than I sign up for (I’ve signed up for 10 halfs this year and have only raced two). Going for long spells without a race is hard for some, good for others. For me, I need the motivation of a race to get the most out of my body and mind during training. I know that others (freaks) are content racing only race a few times a year.

2) Progress is harder to see in triathlon than in cycling because the gains in each sport are smaller over a given period of time. In addition to that, the overall fatigue level is higher in triathlon due to not having to taper as often for races. As a cyclists, you get to test yourself every week or every other week in races, which keeps the motivation high and the need for having somewhat sharp legs necessary on a regular basis. As a triathlete you’re only racing once every five or eight weeks (or much less in my case). Because of the infrequency of needing to taper, you don’t see your true fitness reveal itself very often.

3) When expectations fall far short of reality, depression often ensues. I’m not downright depressed by any means, but I’m definitely in a bit of a slump due to the lack of racing, battling frequent injuries, and most of all not having the results I thought I was capable of at the beginning of the year. My only result of the season to speak of is 6th at Coeur d’Alene, and I didn’t even feel like that was a true showing of my fitness due to the injured hip. And a 6th surely won’t attract any sponsors. It’a all about getting free stuff, mind you.

Michael and I have decided for me to take an early taper for Santa Cruz, relocate some motivation while I rest, and start up again strong leading into the race, which is just 12 days away. My hip still hurts a tiny bit but doesn’t seem to slow me down or grow worse after runs, so I’m cautiously optimistic (on the outside) for a good result. On the inside I’m irrationally optimistic. Getting my hopes and dreams crushed in Santa Cruz will be just what the doctor ordered to get my motivation back for the last two months of racing. Nothing like a good ass kicking to want to train. Seriously. It’s strange that falling short of expectations can have two opposite affects depending on the time-frame. Season-long shitty performance is bad for the mind, yet having a shitty race is good for the mind in the weeks immediately following it. Science.

One of the important things to remember is that sometimes pushing through periods of lackluster motivation can take their toll later on. Often it’s wise to just take a few days, or weeks, to rest and let the motivation come back on its own. It’s amazing what a few days of being a normal human being will do to you. It makes you antsy.

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God my life sucks.

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Just kidding!

Riding Your Bike is 78 Times More Dangerous Than Driving Your Car

Sometimes (all the time) riding on the road feels incredibly sketchy, to put it lightly. I’d say that during a ride I feel threatened nine out of 10 times I get on my bike. I’ve often wondered if it’s more, equal, or less dangerous than other outdoor sports like whitewater kayaking, mountaineering, rock climbing, or surfing. Of course, it depends on the level or extremeness of the sport in which you’re partaking. Obviously class V kayaking is more dangerous than going out for an hour spin, while heading out in waist-high surf is probably quite a bit safer than riding your bike to the grocery store and back. So maybe this comparison of bike riding and other sports isn’t the best option. Also, the danger that comes with going out in big surf or that of attempting to summit a 25K foot mountain is self- or nature-inflicted. One in the same, really. The main danger that comes with riding is not. It is inflicted by other humans, which is incomprehensibly more offensive and maddening.

Since the majority of people in the U.S. (and the world) use bikes as transportation, not for sport, a better “danger comparison” is to driving. U.S. roads are continuing to get more dangerous, what with the country having bounced back from its 2007 recession. More people with jobs, plus cheaper gas, means more injuries and fatalities. Yay, economy! Also, cell phones.  Put it down and leave it down when you’re in the car god damn it. I don’t care if you “only” use it when stopped at red lights.

Now, onto the statistics:

According to the U.K.’s Department of Labor, a person riding a bike is 17 times more likely to die, per mile, than someone driving. It may not sound like it, but this is HUGE. To my knowledge the U.S. has never put together any data like this, so I will. I came up with a very similar number for us here in the U.S.

There are a lot of conflicting data from various sources in terms of number of injuries, fatalities, and miles travelled (for cars and for cyclists), so my numbers probably aren’t terrific. But, incorrect data is better than no data at all. Am I right or am I right, modelers?

Passenger vehicle miles driven, excluding motorcycles=2.857 trillion (2014) I used 2014 because there is currently a lot more data for that year than for 2015

Miles ridden by bike= 8.956 billion (This is for 2012–I couldn’t find 2014 data, and other sources suggested closer to 7 or 8 billion miles, but I’ll be optimistic here)

Passenger vehicle fatalities= 21,102 (not including commercial truck drivers or motorcyclist fatalities)

Fatalities for cyclists=720 (2014)

Maths:

Driving: (21,102 passenger vehicle fatalities / 2.857 trillion miles driven) x 200 million miles driven (so that we don’t end up with a tiny decimal)= 1.48 deaths per 200 million miles driven by car

Riding: (720 cyclists fatalities / 8.956 billion miles ridden) x 200 million miles ridden=16.08 deaths per 200 million miles ridden by bike

So that was 1.48 deaths per 200 million miles driven by passenger car versus 16.08 deaths per 200 million miles ridden by bike. Pretty close to the same ratio of 1 to 17 that the U.K. Department of Labor came up with.

There are discrepancies in the data for U.S. bicyclist fatalities. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that there were over 900 bike fatalities in 2013 when other sources, such as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, reported that there were just 747 in 2013. This may be due to inaccurate police reports and/or the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s (NHTSA’s) inability to report on traffic collisions that occur on private property (like driveways and parking lots).

This poor record keeping goes even further with “serious injuries” sustained by bicyclists. I’ve seen the numbers vary widely, with just 50,000 cyclist injuries, reported by the NHTSA, to half a million injuries (according to the CDC), which is probably a more accurate number given that it is based on what is reported in hospitals, not what is written down in police reports. Again, 531,000 is reported by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, based on numbers of hospital visits, which is why I’ll be using a half million as my number, despite the much lower 50,000 of the NHTSA being quoted a lot more frequently.

Anyways, 2.34 million injuries in 2014 is a standard number, according to the NHTSA, for all traffic injuries combined (this does not take into account those 500,000 bike injuries). From this 2.34 million, 2.046 million are injuries sustained in passenger vehicles.

By the way, a “serious injury” means going to the hospital. Obviously some of these bike injuries are kids going off jumps, people sliding out on gravel or hitting a pothole wrong, and from other events. My point is that not all half a million of these hospitalized bike crashes even have a car involved. Though, the majority do.

More third-grade-level math that the NHTSA hasn’t tried to perform:

Driving: (2.046 million / 2.857 trillion) x 200 million = 143 injuries per 200 million miles driven by car

Riding: (500 thousand / 8.956 billion) x 200 million = 11,166 injuries per 200 million miles ridden by bike

Accordingly, you are 78 times more likely to be seriously injured by riding a bike than driving a car, with every mile you travel.

It would be great if we had better data to get more accurate numbers. But then again, as cyclists we all realize just how dangerous the roads are without that data. Maybe we don’t really want to see those numbers. As always, the only solution to this terrifying problem is to get more people out of their cars and on bikes. To do that we need to get kids riding to school at a young age, lower speed limits, reduce vehicles size, enforce rules that are already in place and create more strict rules to drastically reduce distracted, careless, reckless, and drunk driving. We need fewer parking places, fewer four-lane surface streets, and driving needs to be made less convenient overall. Oil needs to be heavily taxed, and 10,000 times more money needs to be spent on bike infrastructure than what is currently being spent. Our entire culture needs to transform from our current isolated, impatient, violent, self-centered, physically lazy, and consumeristic society, created in part by cars, to something entirely different. Sometimes when I’m really feeling optimistic I like to imagine a country, or at least a city, built for people, not motor-vehicles. A society in which community, human health, and the environment take priority over everything else. Unfortunately, imagining isn’t always easy if you try, because when you experience daily life-threatening encounters, you realize there is no brotherhood of man.

*Footnote: the chances of dying in an automobile crash are 1 in 113 or 0.88% in the US. The National Safety Council argues that you have a 1 in 4,337 chance of dying in a bike crash. But that’s for the average person, who rides 30 miles a year or less. If you rode as many miles as the average person drove in their lifetime, your chances of dying in a bike crash would be 15%, or 1 in 7. Few people would reach that many miles though, since the average person drives 13,746 miles per year.