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.

Colorado Sprint

I did another race last weekend as a warm up for this Saturday’s Boulder 70.3, plus it was just some good plain fun. The best part was that Adelaide and I actually started in the same wave, which was a first for us.

If you want to read about Adelaide’s race, click here.

Right from the gun, or bullhorn siren noise, I made sure to find a good pair of feet to follow for the swim. I found my victim and quickly set about to clawing at his ankles as hard as I could, forcing his legs down a good two and a half feet below the surface. That slowed him enough for my breathing and heart rate to go down to a comfortable level.

I jumped over to a different pair of feet when that guy got tired, and after a few minutes on that second set of feet I finally decided that I should speed up and just go off on my own. Focusing solely on drafting, I’d let my form go to shit.

My first transition went smoothly and after a mile or two I was in the lead. The first quarter of the race was false flat uphill, so I hammered pretty hard until I got to the slight downhill heading east. I let my breathing come down so that I could eat a package of Clif bloks, which had had a hole in them during the swim and had soaked up quite a bit of lake water.

My power goal was not within reach at that point unless I killed myself on the false flat downhill section, which would have been dumb. Nevertheless, I was pretty content with how the bike was going and was happy to see an improvement from two weeks prior at the Summer Open/Superior Morgul.

As I entered transition two I got confused about which way to go, since course marshalls often aren’t pay attention when the first person comes by. I slammed on the brakes, cursed, skidded around a corner, sprinted out of it, then realized I had to get my shoes off in about four seconds. I only managed to get one foot out by the time I had to dismount. I jog-loped to where my bike rack and gear were, only to end up in the wrong row. It took me a good 15 seconds, running my bike from row to row, in order to find my stuff, using loud cursing as a form of echo location.

The run course went uphill for the first 500 meters, which meant that I promptly got a massively painful lung cramp, just like the last race. As the road evened out, the cramp dissipated and I got into a good rhythm. The rhythm didn’t last long since the run was only 5K and at the turn around I saw that I had a big lead. I cruised through the second half of the run with almost three minutes on the next guy, Steve Johnson. About 1K from the finish I saw Adelaide, who was the third female at that point. We gave each other a hoot of encouragement and I hammered on back down the other side of the hill.

I crossed the finish line and collapsed onto the slip and slide, making it 98% of the way to the end. There is absolutely no better way to end the suffering than that.

Adelaide came in a short while later, just 11 seconds behind the first woman. She’d run a solid 5K, averaging 6:47 per mile and had been gaining on 1st place all throughout the run. The up side to 2nd is that I often find that losing is the best way to regain my passion for pain and hard training.

I’ll have my chance at losing this Saturday. The start list is stacked. Realistically, I think that if I have a great day, 5th or 6th place is possible, and I should be super happy with that. But I’m not realistic.

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2nd Steve Johnson, 3rd Eric Kenney

Superior Morgul and Summer Open Sprint

I made up for a lot of missed opportunities in one day last Saturday. I won the Summer Open sprint (triathlon) in the morning up in Longmont and then I won the second stage of Superior Morgul (bike race) in the afternoon. Yet it was still a shitty day. I came home that evening to learn from Adelaide that an eight-year-old girl had been killed by a careless driver in Longmont the day before. The little girl had been riding her bike home from school with her dad on her last day of second grade. Someone in a pickup truck ran over her and she was killed instantly.

My bike trauma PTSD, though I’ve never been diagnosed with it, erupted. Even though we had guests arriving that very minute through the front door (Adelaide’s sister Lydia and her husband Jeff), tears streaked down my face. I retreated upstairs and fell to pieces, crying my eyes out, as they say. The day’s previous accomplishments and fun immediately evaporated. They didn’t matter in the slightest. The only thought in my head was how much I fucking hated this world and nearly everyone in it.

Adelaide took Lydia and Jeff, and their new baby Charlee, for a walk so I could have some time alone and calm down before dinner. I came down to the kitchen and began chopping and cooking ingredients for the massive pizza we were having. Onion, bell peppers, mushrooms, bacon, sausage. I fought back sobs as I thought about that little girl and her parents. Eventually I succumbed to chugging a half glass-worth of white wine out of the bottle in hopes of drowning my emotions like an under appreciated house wife. I would have had more but I was immediately drunk and didn’t want to fuck the pizza up, so I had a root beer instead. The root beer and its sweet bubbles of joy cleared out the last of the tears and I got on with my life somewhat. I mean, what’s one more dead child in the streets? People in cars have places to be and no country and its morally dead citizens understand that better than America.

Anyways. The rest of this won’t be sad.

I missed out on the first three 70.3 triathlons that I’d planned for the year for various reasons.

1) Monterrey. I was sick for three weeks in January and didn’t have the fitness to race by March since I was only  able to start training at the end of January.

2) Texas. I got sick before this too and ended up being sick for five weeks through April.

3) St. George. This  was my first big goal of the year and Adelaide and I had been looking forward to the trip out to Utah for approximately 12 months. This was my first triathlon and the one that won to get my pro license the year before. I really liked the course and the spectacular scenery of the high desert, and I thought I had a decent chance to make some good prize money. Instead, I injured my back a few days before we were going to leave and had to take a week off training and two and a half out of the pool (I only just got back in the pool). My weak cyclist’s upper body and incredibly sloth-like posture apparently aren’t adept at swimming 26 kilometers a week. Full disclosure for my coach Michael Lovato’s sake: I should have stopped at 22 km like he had in my plan. Instead, I did an additional 4K throughout the week.

As you can tell from the number of sick and injured days I’ve had this season already, I’ve been gently easing into triathlon training, trying not to let the sport notice my presence, like a closet soccer fan on a Friday night in small town Texas. The only two races I’d managed to do before last weekend were Air Force road race a few months ago, which I raced while incredibly sick, and the Rio Grande road race, where I somehow managed to pull off third place despite only training on the  TT bike 10-13 hours a week without any true intensity. By true intensity I mean nothing above 350 watts. Having decent legs at that race could have been a fluke, so I didn’t get too proud of myself afterwards. This weekend changed all of that. My depression from being so slow the past two years has now finally been replaced with my incredibly large pre-2014 ego, so I’m equally unpleasant to be around, just for a different reason.

Friday Evening. Superior Morgul TT. I was 7th and fairly happy with my result and power output. Things had seemed to be heading back to normal during training, thyroid-wise, though I hadn’t been sure without a real race to test myself.

Saturday Morning. The triathlon, which, like Superior Morgul, is also put on by Without Limits, started at 8:00. This meant that Adelaide and I had to wake up at 5:50, which meant that I was cranky, especially after a poor night’s sleep nightmaring about transition times. Adelaide, who came to help provide race support, and I drove up to Longmont’s Union Reservoir. We got all my stuff in the transition zone and I dipped into the cool water for a brief warm up, hoping that my back wouldn’t spasm and render me useless for an additional three weeks. It felt okay swimming a few hundred meters, during which I remembered how much different open water swimming is to the pool. About 30-40 of us in the first wave lined up and were off. As I flailed wildly in the froth, suddenly forgetting how to swim, I began thinking of all the reasons that I hate triathlon. The predominant reason is the lack of oxygen and lack of coasting. The only time you’re ever at somewhat ease is on the bike. The swim and run are just hypoxic torture chambers. I do like the fact that there are almost no tactics and the strongest person almost always wins.

The race was only a sprint, meaning the swim was a half mile, the bike was 12.9 miles, and the run was 3.1 miles. I exited the water in 7th (it was a small race with only four other local pros), and tried to stop hyperventilating as I ran through transition. All these triathlon race reports for the rest of the year will be the same. Gasp for air during the swim. Gasp for air during the transition. Take a two hour rest on the bike. Gasp for air during the run. Collapse at the finish with permanent bone and ligament damage.

The bike was uneventful. I passed a few guys and was in first within a few miles, hammering out a pace that I realized should be my 70.3 pace if I want to be competitive, not a sprint pace. I’ll have to work on that. One thing that I had worked on the previous day was doing running mounts and dismounts with the shoes staying attached to the pedals. I’ve been told that it saves roughly seven minutes per transition.

Next up was the run, which was on dirt. It started out slightly uphill and I went out too fast. By mile one I’d topped out at on the hill, gasping, and had a half mile false flat downhill to the turnaround, during which I developed a super sharp lung cramp. I contemplated jogging, but just slowed down to a more manageable 6-something pace for a few minutes. In that time I also decided that I no longer cared about winning, and that second place would be fine. There has to be a good amount of pain for my mind to enter this thought process.

Of course, as the second place guy came into view after the turnaround, and I saw that I only had 40 seconds on him, I panicked the pain away and started hammering again. I kept a healthy lead and won, but I had felt like shit in the swim, my bike power was way too low, and my run pace was also super low. God I suck. “Being unsatisfied with a win is a characteristic of someone who will never be happy,” I thought to myself. “Maybe two wins will remedy that.”

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Damn, I look gooooood.

Saturday AfternoonThe race started and I began attacking fairly often, every few minutes or so, feeling just a bit like shit from the run earlier that day. But solid shit. Shit that’s been baked into a super hard brick by the summer sun. Shit that, if it were thrown at a person’s head, could cause a minor concussion. When you have shit legs like that you might as well ride at 500 watts because it feels the same as 200.

I got away on lap two and took the second of four money primes. Another guy bridged up to me fairly shortly after but punctured after a few miles. Now I had a conundrum. I’d hopped that three of four guys (including someone like Burleigh or George) would bridge up to me a few miles after my initial attack and we could make it stick. Maybe I’d be able to get third in the sprint and move up a bit on GC. Now it appeared that I had to do it all by my lonesome, or more likely, I’d just piss everything away in the wind and get brought back with two to go and have nothing left.

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Photo: Dean Warren

By lap four I still had over a minute and took the next money prime. By lap five my gap was roughly the same and I was still feeling strong, taking the fourth and final money prime. “At least now most of my entry has been paid for,” I told myself. Lap six came around and I still felt just as strong. “Hmm, must be all those performance enhancing drugs I’ve been taking,” I realized. Kidding. But only sort of. My thyroid results were back to the level of a normal human the last time I went into the doctor a month earlier. My desiccated pig thyroid medication (yes, it’s dried up pig thyroid) seemed to have returned my health.

By lap seven I knew that I needed 40 seconds at least to hold it over the last half lap (the laps were short at 7.5 miles, but hilly and somewhat windy). I came into the final turn around with over a minute to a few chasers and almost two minutes to the pack. I knew I had it a few miles later when I looked back and couldn’t see anyone. I cruised to the finish line and crossed first in a bike race for the first time since 2013. It’s been way too long.

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Photo: Dean Warren

I was one point off the lead of John Freter going into the next day (before the officials fucked with the results), so despite feeling successful with two wins that day, I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied unless I won the next day and the overall too. “Always move the target. That way you’ll never have to be worried about being content.” I’m pretty sure that’s in a self help book somewhere.

Sunday. I should have pulled the plug on my bike racing career on Saturday and ended things on a high note. Instead, I attacked quite a bit, somehow missed the massive breakaway despite feeling just fine, pulled the pack around for 60 miles trying to bring back the 12 guys up the road, and then got disqualified for crossing the yellow line with a little over one lap to go. I retaliated by stripping my jersey off, throwing it to the side of the road, and, with some encouragement, starting to take my bibs off as well. All in good jest of course.

My rational for taking off the jersey was that if I didn’t have a number I could still ride right behind the field and just not participate in the chase. But that wasn’t allowed of course, so I drifted off the back and finished the lap alone, finally pulling off at the feed zone to say hi to Adelaide, who had volunteered to give neutral feeds for the day. I’d already been pissed off that I’d missed the breakaway and had spent the previous few hours yelling at guys in the pack to help pull, to little effect for the most part, though a few guys like Luis, Drew, and some others did lend a hand. So to be disqualified for crossing the yellow line on a section of the course that was closed to traffic, and an area that I remember having both lanes in years past, was an insult to injury.

I realized that I shouldn’t have been too disappointed since I’d won two races the day before and, more importantly, I’d finally proven to myself that I was healthy once again and that if I were to start bike training and racing, I’d likely be fast once again. Instead, I’m going to continue gasping for air at triathlon. I don’t plan on doing any more bike races this year. My next triathlon, and first professional race of the year, is just three weeks away, assuming I don’t get sick or injured. If anyone wants to come out an cheer, it’ll be at the Boulder Reservoir on June 11th. I’ll be the guy in the snot encrusted pink jersey sprinting all out for the first spot that doesn’t pay. 

Back to Normal

12923232_456795557839846_7986080387765353919_nMy life has finally returned to it’s normal ebb and flow. My biggest problem is once again getting sick with colds, as opposed to dealing with the aftermath of Adelaide’s crash that happened a year and a half ago, or my non functioning thyroid and depression. With the more serious problems behind, I can finally turn my focus to getting upper respiratory viruses and missing races and large chunks of training as my primary worries. It’s pretty nice to have a cold be your main problem in life. Despite the frustration of waking up day after day with the same raucous cough and eventually having to cancel my plane ticket to the race for which I’ve been training for over three months, I’m not that upset.

It’s been almost four weeks since I first came down with this cold, which is bordering on ridiculous, even for me. After taking an initial week off from training to mend, my cough seemed to reach stagnation. Rest wasn’t curing it so I decided to start training again. Maybe breathing hard would clear everything out? It’s never worked before but there’s always that chance. Over the next two weeks I began ramping things back up to normal, culminating with a 25 hour week last week that included 20 kilometers in the pool, an hour-and-a-half track session with 8.5 miles of intensity, a couple days of easier bike intervals, and a race on Sunday. I don’t have anything else to talk about so I’ll write about the race.

I travelled down to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs with Travis and his girlfriend Rachel, attempting to muffle my hackling, overly productive cough with an elbow in between conversation. The day before, Saturday, I’d gone on a group ride with seven other people that had showed up for the greatly reduced Gateway ride. I was half wheeled by a couple masters guys and non-racers, then turned back after getting dropped on the climb up to Carter, ego fully torn to shreds. To be fair, my legs had been destroyed from the track workout the day before, and my cough hadn’t helped matters either. I needed a good night’s sleep to recharge. I spent the night coughing into my pillow.

Onto the race.

During a slight incline during the first few minutes of the neutral section, I was dispatched to the very back of the pack. Things were not looking good. My legs ached, my lungs cackled, and I felt incredibly uneasy riding in the group because I was seriously out of practice. I was picturing crashes happening in front of me for most of that first lap, which never helps positioning.

This was a race that I’d decimated three years ago, and now I was all the way at the back, riding scared and worried about getting dropped on the first main climb, a 10-minute false flat stair step ordeal that never gets very steep. By the time the hill came around I’d at least made my way to the middle of the pack of 50. The pace went up gradually until everyone else was breathing has raggedly as I. Gaps opened up with a kilometer to go. I went around riders who I had assumed were stronger (that day) than me, never to see them again in the race. Near the top of the climb I dug as deep as I could to close a large gap that had formed and barely made it. There were only 12 guys left at that point. Was that the race?

Everyone took too long catching their breath over the next half lap and 20 more guys eventually caught back on. By then I had started attacking on the downhill and got away with Zack Allison (Elevate) before the base of the next climb. My hope was to get a bit of a head start in anticipation to the explosion that was sure to happen in the pack. My lungs couldn’t take another brutal beating like that again and survive 50 additional miles. On the climb, I eventually dropped Zack in my effort to stay out front. By the top the pack was only 20 seconds back. I pushed on. Then on the feed zone roller after the finish line the group came to within a few bike lengths before I attacked again and got away for another half lap by myself. At that point I started dreaming about doing well in the race, not just hanging in to eventually get dropped. I didn’t have any power in my legs at all, but almost everyone was racing timidly, scared from how hard the first lap had been.

When the pack caught me later on I started attacking again but was re-caught at the base of the climb. Pierre (Lucky Pie) slipped off the front on the climb, which was much easier than expected. 10 minutes later, with two laps to go, I got off the front again at the top of the course and was joined by a Primal Audi guy a few minutes later. He and I eventually made it to Pierre, and the three of us started the second to last climb together with a 50 second lead on the pack. I couldn’t believe the race had been this easy and slow. I didn’t have a power meter but I knew that the efforts I’d been putting in were pretty weak, and the fact that I had been off the front so long meant that everyone was riding incredibly cautious-like. Maybe I should have been riding like that too.

About 12 guys came sailing by near the top of the climb and I couldn’t hold on. I only needed to go about 15 watts harder for 90 seconds to survive over the top but I had nothing at all in my legs at that point, and I’d been having some massive breathing issues as well. I was eventually gathered up by a chase group a mile later and ended up just struggling up the final climb at a snail’s pace for 19th, which is probably one of the worst local race results I’ve had while not working for a teammate.

After I finished I chugged a root beer and ran for half an hour at a super slow pace, coughing so hard that I had to constantly stop and catch myself from throwing up. The drive home was pretty miserable as I was on the verge of puking for over an hour. Then the nauseousness vanished with the snap of the fingers and I was finally able to eat my post race snack of sharp cheddar cheese and spiral sliced ham, both oily and soft from sitting in the warm van for half a day.

I did an easier 3.5 hours of training the following day, Monday, and realized that my cough hadn’t gotten any better for about a week. I took Tuesday almost fully off and still had coughing fits all throughout the night, keeping Adelaide and myself up for the 10th day in a row. I finally pulled the plug on the race I’d been training for, Texas 70.3, this morning. It’s just not worth continuing on like this at 50% capacity. Time to rest up for a few days and start up again at 51%.