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.

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.

A long one

A few weeks ago I missed a crucial turn on my bike as I flew down highway 88 in Northern California into the late afternoon sun. Not realizing my mistake for a mile or so, I continued hammering down the shallow grade, doing, most likely, completely incorrect ETA calculations in my head to figure out if I’d be back by dinner. When your ride time is over seven hours, a one or two mile detour doesn’t mean anything. I still cursed at myself pretty loudly as I realized my error and turned around, thinking of the extra 400 feet of climbing I’d have to do because of the screw up. I take it back. When your ride time is over seven hours, every second and every foot of elevation matters quite a bit.

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Earlier that morning I’d set out on a monster of a ride from my family’s cabin, which is about a dozen or so miles from Lake Tahoe in the Sierras. Adelaide and I had spent the previous five days doing big hikes with my mom and cousin, swimming in lakes, and lounging on hot rocks by the river to soak up the heat after dipping in the frigid, clear water. I wouldn’t say that I was out of shape necessarily, but I hadn’t really been riding for over a week and my legs were tired from a 14 mile hike we’d done the day before. With that in mind, I decided that six hours would be the limit. Nothing more, and hopefully nothing less.

Pack Saddle Pass went by quickly. It’s a medium length, medium steep climb about a mile and a half from the cabin and tops out at a little over 7,000 feet (the average elevation of the ride was well over 7,000 feet). I descended, climbed, descended, and climbed some more for a long time on a single-lane, chip seal road with no traffic. The only worry in the back of my head being mountain lions, since my dad had a stand-off with a 200 pound cat in the middle of that exact road 10 years before and the story has always stuck with me.

I popped out on highway 88, which had cars and semis, so the peaceful part of my ride was over. The shoulder was good though, and the traffic wasn’t heavy. I passed lakes, campsites, ski areas, a few mountain passes, stopped for water once, and before I knew it I was three hours into the ride (my cue to turn around). But since my current elevation was quite a bit higher than the starting elevation at 5,600 feet, I knew that if I turned around at three hours I’d be home in less than three. I’d just summited the largest pass of the day and was descending pretty fast, so if I could hold off turning around for 10 minutes that would be a lot of climbing I’d force myself to do on the way back. I’m a fan of out and backs sometimes for that very reason.

My two main worries for the first half of the ride were that I’d turn around too soon and wouldn’t get in six hours, and that Maybellene would run off from the cabin and wander onto the busy road next to it since neither I nor Adelaide were there to watch her.

My first worry disappeared a few minutes into the descent. My goal of getting six hours now turned into getting over 12,000 feet of climbing. I continued the 15 mile descent, realizing that my third goal should be to get at least 120 miles also. I continued worrying about Maybellene running into the road, but there was nothing I could do at this point so I continued riding.

I finally turned around somewhere after Woodfords (near Markleeville if that means anything to you), two or three miles from the Nevada border. I looped around and stopped in at a country store and bought two Snickers ice cream bars and a large gatorade. Then I filled my bottles in the bathroom and took my feast out to the front porch to eat in the 90 degree afternoon sun.

Back on the bike, heading up the 15 mile climb to Kit Carson Pass, the heat picked up to 97 or 98, perfect Kennett temperature. Unfortunately, my damn mind was obsessed with thoughts of Maybellene running into the road back at the cabin and getting hit. I cursed myself for not brining a phone to check in with my mom and ask if she was still hanging around the cabin or not. Also, by that point I was four and a half hours into the ride, which would normally be nearing the end of most rides I do. I had another fifty miles and six thousand or more feet to climb.

I topped out at just under 8,500 feet on Kit Carson Pass and it was all downhill from there, for the most part. Just 4,000 feet more climbing to go! I took a detour up to a ski resort and spent the rest of my money on more food, this time opting for a rice crispy treat and a regular Snickers since they didn’t have ice cream. I continued worrying about Maybellene.

One of the worst things you can have going on during a long ride is a negative thought about something that you have no control over. It seems like most people treat training as a stress reliever or therapy of sorts, while for me it brings out all the bad emotions and thoughts I have going on and amplifies them until I get home. Typically, I have to be in a fairly good mood to get any training accomplished without just turning around early.

Turning around early wasn’t an option at this point in the ride. By now we’ve passed the point in the story where we began when I missed that turn. I climbed back up the highway, made the turn, and cruised downhill on Silver Fork–the chip seal, single-lane road near the beginning of the ride, and thought about food. Something other than sweet food, as my stomach was getting a bit turned off from sugar at that point.

The heat seemed to pick up again on the final climb of the day, heading back up the other side of Pack Saddle, which is longer and steeper than the front side and takes about 40 minutes. The bottom section hits the double digits in gradient, though my legs were still holding up decently well and handled it easily. I wasn’t so much as tired but just ready to be off the bike. I topped Pack Saddle Pass and descended, avoiding wheel-eating potholes throughout. I saw my dad’s car heading towards me at the bottom and smiled. I thought of all the long rides that I would do back home in Oregon where he’d worry that it was taking me too long and come looking for me. Even though I was only a mile and a half from the cabin, I was happy to throw the bike on the back and take the ride. I chugged two bottles of sour pink lemonade he’d made–finally something not sweet.

I got home and Maybellene was fine. I took a short shower, ate, and laid in my sleeping bag outside, feeling ill for an hour or so before eating more. It’s a good sign to feel somewhat sick after a big ride. It means you went hard enough. 125 miles and 13,600 feet of climbing in under seven and a half hours meant that I went long enough at least. The ride was just a prelude to the next few weeks of training back at home, which would each be over 30 hours.

While my running shape has gone to shit and I’ve had to cancel another race (Timberman) because of my hip injury, my swimming and riding are coming right along. And thankfully the season is still somewhat young in terms of triathlon. I hope to be racing through November if everything goes to plan, which is:

Santa Cruz 70.3
Cozumel 70.3
Los Cabos 70.3
Cozumel full (big question mark)

Nothing ever goes to plan though. I’m fine with that. As long as I get to go out on big training days, not get harassed by drivers too much, and eat a lot of food, I have no serious complaints.

 

Decisions

Guest post by Adelaide Perr

At 11:30 today I realized that I had a critical decision to make. I had stopped somewhere on Taft Road between Ft. Collins and Boulder to fill our trusty van with King Sooper’s gas. I thought to myself, Do I buy Pringles at the outdoor section of the gas station, go inside to grab tortilla chips, or do I continue to drive home and regret that decision when I’m at home with crossed eyes trying to make lunch.

I was in decision overload at the gas pump because I’d just finished racing The Fort Collins Human Race. In addition to pushing myself to run fast for 13.1 miles, racing is mentally exhausting to me because even when I’m very focused, I’m always making split-second judgement calls. Most fall into the category of how fast should I go out? or who should I follow? This was a smaller race so I didn’t get caught up in the hullabaloo that sometimes occurs just beyond the start mat. Instead, after the gun, I fell behind several men in their twenties who looked like they worked at the local run shop because they miss their college cross-country/track team. Among the lean guys in sleeveless singlets there was another woman. She was obviously friends with them and because Kennett had already pointed her out as probably being fast, I made sure to stay behind her and not pace off of her. However, there was a second woman. Do I stay on her heels or go around her? I went around her which put me in second. That lasted for less than 2 miles. Another older woman came around me. Do I try to stay on her heels? She was a veteran runner and my pace was already slightly faster than I felt I needed to hold so I let her go. 3rd place would still be an overall placing and I needed to focus on conserving for the first part of the race. A few miles later it was a woman around my age who came up around me in a bright pink sleeveless top and navy spandex shorts. I hooked onto her and just settled in, waiting for my chance to prove I was stronger. When I finally got around her I felt I needed to hold a pace that would cause her to drop off. While it worked, it meant I went faster than I intended to and paid the price later in the race. There were five main people around me throughout the majority of the run. Anytime the positioning changed I had to rethink my game. Ideally I’d race my own race, but having others push you is part of the fun of paying $65 to run hard for 13.1 miles.

I grabbed water at each aid station but continued to run as I drank it, so it was more to wet my mouth and throat than to quench my thirst. I emailed my coach, Michael, after the race to tell him that my legs wouldn’t push off the ground the last few miles. He told me that is a classic sign of dehydration. It made complete sense to me in an email after the fact but during the race I didn’t want to pause and give the other girl in pink a chance to gain on me.

To keep the story short – I lost speed the last 5-miles which was the complete opposite of my plan to negative split. I peed my pants twice.I bent over after the finish line and looked up a moment later to see Kennett with my recovery drink in hand. He stayed through to the awards before heading home on his bike. I came in 3rd female overall and won a gift card to the running store. When I go to shop I’m sure I’ll see some of the lean cross-country guys that led the race out this morning.

But I know you are really curious about whether or not I got those pringles at the gas stop. The answer is no. I parked the van and went inside the grocery store despite wearing the same shorts I had peed in hours prior. I tried not to get to near to other shoppers because my sweat was indeed off-putting. And, because I was tired of making important decisions I walked out with chocolate chips, granola, bananas, a dish scrubber, and what I originally went in for – tortilla chips.

Coeur d’Alene 70.3

It’s taken weeks to get the spelling right on that. My google search history has everything from C0ure dlane to Courue d’Alaine. And the sad part is I used to speak Spanish.

Aside from the incredibly taxing effort to spell the town name correctly, this race was a walk in the park. The swim was easy, the bike was pretty much just a downhill coast, and the run was a saunter, at most. Except…all the exact opposite of that. I’m on crutches right now.

During the week leading up to the race I knew I was in for a painful treat because my right hip had been bothering me, especially after runs. It was the same hip pain that Adelaide has been dealing with for over a month now, which lead me to believe that it was somehow communicable.

I was hoping that taking some extra time off from running would help, (I usually take extra time off from running because it just hurts in general) but the day before the race came around and my hip was still feeling fragile, which is not how you want to feel going into what you know will be one of the top 1% of painful days in your life.

The swim, transition zone, and finish line are all located in a green park about a block from where we were staying at the Melbourne’s house. The location has made for some incredibly convenient race prep, and just a grand ‘ole time in general. And, the short commute meant that we all (myself, Adelaide, Christen, Nicole, and Cucho) got to sleep in to the late hour of 4:00 am the morning of the race.

I actually had a good start to the swim and was on the back of the front group for a few minutes before opting to drop off before blowing up and waiting for the next group to catch me so I could draft. In hindsight I wish I’d held on a few more minutes for that front pack to break apart into varying-speed groups, since I know I could have held onto the 26:30 guys. Instead, I drafted behind the lead guy in the group behind for the whole thing, feeling like we were going too slow the entire time (him probably wishing one of us lazy bastards would come around to take a turn). I came by with 300 meters to go and put a tiny gap into the guys behind, coming out at 28:04, which is a PR swim for me. Definitely not earth shattering by most standards, but enough to keep the gap down to five minutes from the leaders. Aside from my coach Michael Lovato I should give a shout out to Swim Labs and Eney Jones for helping me address some of the many issues I have with my stroke. It’s getting there, slowly but surely.

Once on the bike I worked on slowing my cadence to get my heart rate down, and taking huge, slow, deep breathes with full exhales. I really wanted to avoid the lung cramp that I’ve been getting off the bike lately. I passed two or three guys and the sea levels watts came rolling in at an average of 323 for the opening few dozen Ks. I hammered up the first few hills at miles 15-25ish after coming back through town and passed another three guys in the process. By the second turn around at mile 35 I began to fade a bit and the power dropped significantly from there. If it had been a time trial I could have kept the good times going all the way to the end, but since I had just caught Ben Hoffman I decided to work with him since I was beginning to worry about my legs for the run. Ben did more work than me on the way back, and I felt like he probably had more to lose than me so I let him take the longer pulls. However, I’m pretty sure that he and Luke Bell, who was sitting behind us, both knew that we were racing for 4th place at that point. First through third were long gone at that point and had been working together for the entire bike to build a big gap.

The three of us came off the bike together, with Jonathan Shearon a handful of seconds back. The race paid out six deep, which meant that I needed to not get last out of our group of four. I came out of T2 just a few paces behind Ben, but by a half mile he’d begun to vanish out of sight on the bends of the winding path we were on. His lead was out to 15 seconds by the time Luke passed me at mile 1.5. Luke gapped me but I caught back on and passed him a half mile later. I figured he’d drop off but he ended up sticking right on my heals for the next eight miles. My breathing was still very labored then, at mile two, but it was under control and the threat of developing a debilitating lung cramp had passed. The two of us hammered out a gap from Jonathan and tried to limit our loss to Ben, who instead continued to pull away.

By mile five or six I’d slowed down a bit, no longer being limited cardiovascularly, but muscularly. My hamstrings had tightened up considerably and my hip was beginning to ache like the backed-up colon of a hot dog eating contestant. The pain continued to grow with every pounding step on the asphalt. Adelaide was there on the sidewalk and yelled some encouragement, which lifted me temporarily until we were passed by a guy that flew around us at mile seven. Luke went around me and got onto his feet for a minute and I knew that I’d just been defeated and wasn’t going to place. Thankfully it turned out that the guy was an age grouper on his first lap (this was our second). Luke dropped off him because his pace was too fast and surging, and we let the loudmouth (he kept yaking at us) go on his own.

Luke got on him again after the last turn around and dropped me. This time Christen was there for the encouragement. She was on her first lap and I’d just passed her. She saw the gap and yelled (angrily I might add) to close it. I did, out of fear, and held on as long as my legs could. Luke took off with two miles to go and I couldn’t do much about it, even though he only upped the pace by a tiny margin. My legs were fucked through and through. Everything hurt from the pounding and my muscles couldn’t do more than what I was currently asking of them.

Adelaide sprinted through the throngs of people on the sidewalk ahead of me, tauntingly, for the last two hundred meters to get to the finish line before me. I crossed in 6th, content. I went to my hands and knees immediately after the line. My entire chest clamped up instantly and my legs had become boneless bags of acid-tenderized meat. I hobbled back to the house and spent the rest of the day getting around on crutches. My hip was so painful that every step on it felt like a knife stab. It still does actually. It’s going to be a chore getting home with all my gear, especially since I have to leave the crutches here in Cure d’Alien.

Huge Let Down at Boulder 68.3

I got way too excited about this race and the race gods took their wrath because of it. The first thing that went wrong was the water temperature. The pros aren’t allowed to wear wetsuits if the water temperature is above 72ish degrees. “Ish” because there’s definitely wiggle room depending on the race director. Apparently it was on the wrong side of 72ish yesterday morning. I’d like to take a moment to point out how stupid this rule is–that the leanest people are forced to go without wetsuits when the water temperature may be on the verge of cold. I, for one, had numb fingers by the end of the swim, though that’s not the reason I had such a shitty race. The real reason is because I actually suck quite a bit… and don’t blow enough.

I’ll start from the beginning:

I blew up hard after about four minutes into the swim, got dropped from the chaotic froth of the group I was in, and had to go easy for a little while to catch my breath. A few guys came up on me a minute later and I swam behind them for the rest of it, finishing in 31 minutes. We were the last group out of the water, though 31 minutes without a wetsuit isn’t that bad for me. There were 35 starters and I figured I needed to be about 12th, at worst, off the bike to run down enough people to finish 8th, which was the last money spot. I needed to pass quite a few people on the bike.

My power was low and my legs burned pretty good for the first few miles. Although the burning went away, I wasn’t able to bring the power up to where I thought it should be. Despite that, I was still passing a lot of guys so my mood was pretty good. Not having realized that I was the third to last guy out of the water (or seeing that all but a few bikes were gone from the pro racks), I thought that I was sitting in 19th about eight miles into the ride. I passed more guys going up Jay road, four going up Nelson, and three more on 36. By that point, with some good maths, I calculated that I was in 8th or 9th place. I was passed by a guy I’d passed earlier, Sam Long, but a few miles later took over again. In hindsight I wish we’d worked together throughout the whole bike since we’d exited the water together and finished the bike leg in essentially the same time. In non-drafting triathlon you can legally sit six bike lengths back, which saves around 10-15 watts depending on the terrain and conditions.

Entering T2 I had calculated that I was in 6th or 7th place, and was pretty pumped about that, knowing that I have a decent run, especially off the bike (not always). I racked my bike, got my shoes one, decided to go without socks because that would save around 12 precious seconds, and set off.

Before I even exited transition I had developed a huge side stitch high up in my chest. It worsened over the next few hundred meters, during which five guys passed me instantly. I’d already lost almost a minute that I’d worked really hard to earn on the bike. I slowed even more as the cramp worsened and I became incapable of taking in full breathes. I contemplated stopping for a half minute to get it under control because the pain was that severe. After wheezing out,”what place?” to a spectator, I heard that I was currently in 17th after getting passed by those five others, meaning that I had not gotten off the bike in 6th or 7th, which completely destroyed my motivation. I took the pace down even more over the next mile until the lung cramp finally went away by mile two. I contemplated picking the pace back up but my ego and spirits were smashed to bits. I had no motivation to even run the second lap, now loping at around 8 minute pace in 25th place. Might as well just quit.

Nearing the finish, my coach, Michael, yelled at me to keep going for the training aspect and for my spirits after I told him I was done, making a slit throat gesture with my finger. If it weren’t for him and Adelaide I would have just pulled out at the start/finish. Instead, I decided to just finish out the damn run at a slow, grinding, demoralizing pace.

Four miles later I finally decided I was tired of running slow and getting passed by age groupers, so I upped the pace to just under six minutes/mile for two miles, hopping to prove to myself that I would have been capable of running a quick pace if the lung cramp hadn’t happened. Nope. Two miles of running hard and the cramp came back with full vengeance. I jogged the last few miles at 9:30 pace, incredibly pissed and wondering what the fuck was wrong with me. I ate four slices of gluten-rich pizza in the food tent, another half a pizza when we got home (a gluten free one this time), and later had five pieces of cake after a steak and chicken dinner at our friends’ wedding party.

A day later I decided that the swim wasn’t really that bad of a performance for me. I think it would have easily been under 28 minutes had I been in a wetsuit since I really benefit from the flotation, and that’s a time Id’ve been content with. The bike sucked a bit but it was still a decent enough time for doing the whole thing solo. I averaged 298 by the time I crossed the dismount line at 1:57:42 (it was two miles short of the standard 56 miles). That power was around 20 watts lower than I’d anticipated doing, so pretty significant and another bit of a blow to my ego. But, the run was obviously the biggest catastrophe and really the only thing that wrecked my day. I was confident that I was capable of running at least 1:19, and had planned on doing 1:17 or lower. Despite this year’s course seeming a bit slower than in 2015, I did 1:19 last year with almost no run training, and I figured that with the training and big improvements I’ve made this year already, I’d be able to be in the high teens no matter what. It was incredibly frustrating not being able to breathe properly and to not even have the chance to see what I could do. I did some interneting later and have decided that all my recent lung cramps are being caused by too shallow of breathes, which is exactly what Michael has been yelling at me for months.

Exercise-related transient abdominal pain (ETAP) is most likely caused by the cramping of the thoracic diaphragm, which is a sheet-like muscle that expands and collapses the lungs. The only time the thoracic diaphragm is relaxed is when you fully exhale, which I don’t do enough. I tend to take a lot of short, shallow, wheezing breathes on the bike and on the run. By not fully exhaling and letting it relax, the thoracic muscle will apparently cramp when put under duress. There are other hypothesis as to why lung cramps, or stitches, occur. One is from the ligaments that are attached to the thoracic being tugged on by the up and down movement of the guts. I’m not convinced that my cramping is related to gut jostling because my lungs had also cramped up earlier when during the last few hundred meters of the swim, and there is no jostling during swimming, except for position. The only time I never get a chest cramp like this is on the bike. So, during the next two weeks before Coeur d’Alene I’ll be working on longer, fully exhaled breathes, more belly breathing, some intercostal core work (pilates are apparently good for that), and a lot of finger crossing. If that fails, simply not breathing in should solve it.

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It was a super nice day: perfect warm weather and tons of cheerful spectators, each of whom I despised if they told me I was doing a good job. I hate compliments, especially when they’re meant to encourage me. They make me want to do even worse, out of spite. (Don’t try to understand me. You’ll just get confused and angry).

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Chris on his way to 2nd overall. Another one of my training partners, Christen, also had a great race for 6th.

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A sad sight. Last group out of the water. I did not get passed by the lead women this time, so there’s that at least.

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Adelaide, by sheer coincidence of me needing it, got that swim skin for me the night before. For free. That, combined with a free race T-shirt and two handfuls of pepperoni pizza made it an okay weekend.