Archive for the ‘Wildflower’ Category

Wildflower Long Course Race Report

Ryan | May 12th, 2014 Leave a Comment

Beautiful day at Wildflower, thanks to my friend Caleb for the photos!

What better way to summarize Wildflower 2014 than with a haiku — especially this year.  Here’s mine:

Wild Race

The water was black

Sadly no naked people

Tri-duathlon

I first thought about haikus in relation to Wildflower because as I ponder how I essentially executed the exact race plan I wanted, it comes down to one word: simplify.

Or, as I described my in-race state-of-mind to fellow Wattie Ink teammate and second-place 30-34 finisher Sarah, it’s the “Forrest Gump Plan.”  When it was time to swim, I swam. When it was time to bike, I rode.  When it was time to run, I ran.  I didn’t think ahead, nor behind. I stayed present.

Monkeying around before the race. And inviting myself for endless PhotoShop caption contest shenanigans.

Now I admit it wasn’t quite that simple. I did have a watch alarm setting to remind me to drink about every nine minutes, and I ate 100 calories roughly every 30 minutes on the bike.  Beyond that though, it’s so easy to get bogged down with data, or with the elements, or what’s happening around you. But it’s also easy to let go. To feel the race happening. To trust your training. Trust your plan.  That’s what I did at the Wildflower long course last week, and I came within three minutes of the exact time I expected. What I didn’t expect was a top 10 finish in my age group, by far the best placement I’ve earned at a major triathlon such as Wildflower. (Thanks to all the fast people who chose to race at Ironman 70.3 St. George instead!) Previously, my biggest accomplishment was an age group win and fourth overall at the June Lake Triathlon last summer at well above 7,000 feet elevation.

Here’s how my Wildflower race developed.

SWIM

32:41, 1:40 pace

Water temp: 66 degrees

No current, slight chop

I have no business starting in the first two rows of swimmers in a triathlon. I get boat-raced every time. But for some reason, I like it. It calms me getting right into the fray. Except this swim was different.  We swam the first 200 yards in black, soot-stained water that could also have been squid ink.  Literally, the water was black and it was disconcerting.  Eventually the water cleared up and we had a new problem to deal with, direct sunlight straight in our faces.  I could barely see the first three buoys and had to trust swimmers around me to lead me to the right spot. That, of course, didn’t work. I swam right towards a stand-up paddle boarder instead and had to make a hard left to get back on track.

Once we made the right turn on the clockwise course to begin our return trip to shore, I began to settle into a nice rhythm.  But I’d screw it up thinking about mechanics, or breathing, or sighting, or placement. So finally I said “screw it!” to myself and just swam the damn course as fast as I could comfortably sustain.  That worked out well. I passed a ton of age-groupers from the previous waves and made up a lot of ground.  I could have made up more ground had I not sighted off the red arches welcoming swimmers back to the boat ramp instead of the actual swim exit 15 yards to the banner’s left.  I did make up some ground by swimming right until the last moment before my legs touched the ground, even though my fingertips were touching the ground for about 10 strokes prior.  I figured other people would be getting their bearings while I was moving through the water.

Overall, there’s nothing I’d change about this swim.  I had a hard time seeing, both from the water quality (or lack thereof) and the sun and just made the best of it.  What’s most important is that I came out of the water feeling great, excited for the rest of the day, and appreciative of how cool I was in that moment as the day was going to heat up real fast. And it did.

T1: Approximately 20 minutes (out of water to leaving T1B)

Before the race, my wife, Stephanie and I hung out at the bottom of the boat ramp and looked up at the monster grade leading out of the lake. It was ominous-looking! But coming out of the water, I was shocked at how easy it was to run up the ramp. I placed my first pair of running shoes – we were all encouraged to have our “real” running shoes at T1B 2.2 miles away – mid-way up the ramp in my assigned bib number area.  It took me longer to get out of my wetsuit once again, and I can’t wait for my BlueSeventy Helix to arrive any week now.

With soggy feet and renewed vigor, I conquered the rest of the boat ramp and motored on the rolling paved road back towards the Lynch boat ramp. That included a detour, running down into Lake San Antonio. Make that the DRY Lake San Antonio bed.  Who doesn’t want to run a mile in sand right after a swim, knowing you’re about to mount your bike to almost immediately ride up an average 9% grade with 20% pitches for three-quarters of a mile?!

I stayed in control on the longest transition run ever. I felt fast and fresh, eager to continue the day.  I’m learning it’s so much easier to race with a positive attitude, and that outlook builds off itself so that it’s harder to get down about silly things.  I ran-jogged out of the Lynch boat ramp, quickly found my bike and jogged with it all the way to the other side of the transition area to begin the ride.

I wouldn’t change anything about this run other than wondering if I could have run even harder.

Climbing Nasty Grade. Fun!

Bike: 2:54:06, 19.0 mph

Estimated wind: Mild to moderate, mostly crosswinds on Jolon Road

As good as I felt coming off the initial run, my legs lacked punch or energy the first few miles of the bike. I was riding at and above my FTP level going up Beach Drive on that long 9% average grade. During the slog, I saw my Wattie Ink teammate and fellow age-grouper Derek struggling with his rear wheel. I slowed and asked him the problem and was able to diagnose it so he could fix. It’s probably the only time in my life where I’ll be able to sound remotely mechanical!

Once out of the park, I focused heavily on lowering my power output and riding balanced for the next 35-plus miles. My goal was to keep my overall Intensity Factor closer to .85 and my Normalized Power in the 185 watts range. I was initially well over on both but knew I wasn’t over-exerted and just stayed calm.  Despite some head and crosswinds, I rode very consistently, ate roughly every 30 minutes, drank regularly and again, stayed calm. I passed a lot of age groupers from previous waves, but really didn’t see many 40-somethings. Derek zoomed past me after fixing his wheel and I tried to keep him in my sights while sticking to my own plan.

Finally, I hit Nasty Grade…and I felt great. My nutrition was spot-on. No cramps. No fatigue. Just ready for a long climb. I passed a ton of people and saw Derek’s orange jersey closer and closer on the horizon. Plus, my buddy Caleb was atop the pass with his camera and I knew he’d have some motivating words for me.

The second half of the ride – which for me is really Nasty Grade back to the finish – rocked. I felt terrific. I eventually caught up with Derek and we played cat-and-mouse, kidding around a bit as we passed each other. I wasn’t sure where I was in the pecking order but we both agreed there weren’t many 40-44 dudes to be found. Either we sucked or we were near the top.

As I zoomed towards the final downhill back to camp, I saw my wife’s best friend, Annie. Her shock of red hair was unmistakable and her screaming fueled me even  more to finish strong. It’s amazing how just seeing someone for a second can amp your ride!

There’s not much I’d change about the ride. Maybe I’d have ridden a bit more aggressively on Jolon Road, and maybe I would have switched out a nutrition bar bite at the end in favor of a caffeinated gel. Otherwise, I’m very pleased overall.

Feeling good coming out of T2.

Run: 10.7 miles, 1:28:37, 8:17/mi

My transition to the run was pretty quick, just around my goal time of two minutes. I had some trouble putting socks on, which wasted some seconds. But I felt good and cramp-free, even taking the staircase two at a tme onto the well-worn road back towards Harris Creek.

I train with data all the time and yet on race day with my run, for some reason I just don’t like to look at anything. I run by feel, which is both good and bad. On the upside, I don’t see if my heart rate spikes or dips and therefore I don’t panic. I just settle into a groove and go. However, there is a downside, as I think I learned at Wildflower. When you’re in a groove, you’re comfortable. When you’re comfortable, you’re not pushing as hard.

The first five miles of the run were tough but manageable. I was working hard for sure and I couldn’t have gone much harder – but maybe there was a tiny bit of room for another gear. Then again, I wasn’t seeing many 40-44 guys at all, in fact I think may have counted three or so during the entire run.  One thing that hurt me was forgetting there are two big climbs on the fire road before a short but steep descent that signals a smoothing out of the course for a few miles. I powered up the first climb and didn’t have much gas for the second, walking more than I wanted to.

Around mile 7 I felt a little sleepy, hot, dry and hungry. Thankfully, I was able to grab a PowerGel with 2x caffeine boost and that pepped me up.  So did the crowds at Redonda Vista campground. Once again though, I misjudged the course. The long run out of the Vista campground towards the pit took me by surprise. I remember it being shorter. Consequently, I paced conservatively thinking I’d hammer the last two miles to the finish. I was getting hotter and using more water to douse myself at every aid station. Back on the asphalt out of the dirt, I did have energy to increase my pace. I found two out of the three people in my age group here and passed them with ease.  The third I passed just before the finish, which ultimately became the difference between ninth place and 10th. The real race though was against the pending cramps in my calves and hamstrings. I could feel them twitching madly, and the only thing saving me was the brutal downhill plunge back towards Lake San Antonio. That meant I could focus on the pounding in my quads instead!

Regardless if I had more in the tank early in the race, I certainly had nothing left by the end. The final half-mile was a struggle to avoid seizing in the finish chute and keeping 10th place off my back. Ultimately, I beat him by 20 seconds by staying focused and only allowing the last 10 seconds of the chute to be for celebrating.

There are some things I’d change about the run if I return next year, which is likely. First, I’d make sure to down a caffeinated gel right before I start the run. Next, I’d bring a banana and Salt Stick tabs just in case. Most important, I’d study the run course even more than I did this time, obviously I wasn’t paying close enough attention.

***

Wifey at the finish line makes it all worthwhile.

I’m pleasantly surprised by my 9th place 40-44 age-group finish. It’s the highest finish I’ve had at any major triathlon.  I keep it in perspective though. First, if I hadn’t aged up this year I would have been 19th in 35-39.  Second, Ironman 70.3 St. George was held on the same day with a stacked field. Still, Wildflower will always go down as one of the toughest courses on the half-Ironman circuit, certainly every bit as tough as St. George.  I like where my progress is though. And I’m excited to improve upon these results as I look ahead to a bunch of local races in the coming months such as the OC Triathlon, Santa Barbara Triathlon, Malibu Triathlon and Los Angeles Triathlon.

I would love to thank my wife Stephanie for her constant support. She makes racing fun and keeps me focused in her own way. My aunt Diane got to experience her first half-Ironman and I think she deserved a finisher’s medal for all the walking she did to track me down at the race!  Annie, her boyfriend Jeff and of course Caleb and his wife Dessa all made the day special too. Caleb went out of his way to zoom through the course on his scooter and that meant so much. Finally, many thanks to Wattie Ink and all our great sponsors. I personally rocked Reynolds wheels, PowerBar nutrition, and an ISM saddle.  I’d also like to thank Fortius Coaching. It’s been a long road together, and we’ve enjoyed a heck of a run (literally and figuratively).

Up next: OC Tri, June 1. Already back at the training.

Down But Not Out

Ryan | May 2nd, 2011 1 Comment

The streak has officially ended.

After more than a year, really since the LA Marathon in 2010, I’ve gotten sick again.  It may just be a cold, allergies, or as bad as an upper respiratory infection. I can’t tell yet.  Eyes are heavy, body is hot then cold, throat is on fire and muscles and joints are still achey.

If it had to happen, I’d much rather it be now than immediately before Ironman Coeur d’Alene.

Nonetheless, I do NOT believe coming down with something just before race day affected my Wildflower performance.  Poor decisions were to blame far more than a scratchy throat.  The real question now is how do I recover?  Do I try to work in a few workouts lightly and keep some semblance of fitness?  I realize that any illness from the neck up is generally something you can train through.  But is that the case immediately after a half-Ironman event?  The toughest one in the country no less?  I honestly don’t know.  I was supposed to do yoga or strength training today and I’m basically stretching for 30 minutes and calling it a night.  We’ll see how tomorrow goes.

Really, that’s all you can do in triathlon.  Today is over.  Yesterday never happened.  Tomorrow is all that matters.

Otherwise I think it’s even harder to get out of bed to train, whether your body hurts or your psyche.

55 days and counting.

PS: THANK GOODNESS I DIDN’T SIGN UP FOR IRONMAN ST. GEORGE!!!! (Maybe that’s the wisest decision I’ve made all year?  Stick to the plan.)

Best Laid Plans…

Ryan | May 1st, 2011 7 Comments

Wildflower Long Course was listed as an A-level race on my training calendar.  While I desperately wanted to hit my coach’s estimated 5:45:00 goal, I also knew I wanted to try out a few things at Lake Nacimiento that perhaps could help me at Ironman Coeur d’Alene.

Still, that doesn’t take away the sting of what I consider to be a disappointing 6:18:46 finish. So much went right for me early during the race.  So much went wrong towards the end.  Before going into details, what I’ll take away most from my first (but possibly not my last) Wildflower Long Course experience is that I simply survived it on a windy, warm, choppy day.

Here’s a recap of my day, along with what I learned along the way:

Pre-Race

I didn’t sleep particularly well on Friday night.  That’s not abnormal though before a race, so I didn’t worry too much. But I was a little more nervous than usual, as evidenced by my churning stomach.  And it had little to do with racing.  As I was taking my ritual morning hot shower, I started coughing up brown phlegm, which hasn’t happened all season.  I told Steph a couple days ago that I felt a little “off” and was hoping I didn’t catch the sickness that spreads rapidly around my office during major production milestones.

I didn’t panic though because I know that if a cold or any other congestion stays above the neck it’s OK to race.  That seemed to be the case here so on with my day.

Welcome to the largest transition area in the world!

We arrived at the site a little after 7 and by the time my friends and I made it to the transition area we had around 45 minutes to spare.  I felt at home in the corral, everything strangely similar to Ironman Arizona.  Lots of tense athletes with forced smiles politely nudging each other for room on the bike racks.  I was back to being calm, cool and cheery — officially ready to race.

Or so I thought?

SWIM

At Wildflower, the only chance to check out the water pre-race is within 3-5 minutes before your wave starts.  It’s enough time to briefly acclimate yourself with the conditions and hopefully encourage your bladder to cooperate with one final pre-race pee before all hell breaks loose.  Fortunately, my body complied.

As the horn sounded to begin, nothing was in my mind other than hitting the start button on my watch.  I was blank on the inside.  Normally, I have mental images of rocket boosters igniting and an overwhelming feeling of nervous energy needing to be released. Not this time.  Total calm.  This backfired on me for the first few hundred yards until the first turn buoy.  I shot out with the lead group and realized my breathing pattern was much stronger than I anticipated — and I knew why.  I hadn’t taken into account at any point in my pre-race planning that maybe I had forgotten what a mass swim start feels like!  It’s hectic!  Bodies are everywhere. I had to swim with my head up for the first 75 yards just to make sure I wasn’t going to be kicked or elbowed in the head, and that’s tiring.

Once I reached the first buoy, I was breathing so hard that I remembered something Andy Potts told me in my Lava Magazine Online interview.  Even he goes out too hard sometimes or gets so anxious that he has to stop and catch his breath for a moment.  I figured if Andy can do that, so can I.  For the first time in more than a year in an actual race, I eased up my swim stroke altogether, treaded water in place, let my breath come down and continued.  That turned out to be a smart decision as shortly thereafter I began to find my swimming groove.  But it didn’t last long, perhaps roughly 5 minutes.  I just never quite felt like myself in the water and it started to affect me mentally, no matter how many times I remarked to myself how gorgeous the day looked from my one goggle lens peering skyward for each breath.

That’s the highlight of my swim.

Then, my competitors and I began to eat bark, twigs, and grass for what seemed like the remainder of the race due to choppy conditions heading back to shore.  I felt like I was in the garbage compactor in Star Wars, debris everywhere and totally unsure of what was around me.  This sensation was compounded by sighting issues that caused me to stop on several occasions to figure out of I was still on course.  Once again, I made the mistake of following a small pack of swimmers only to find out that we were all veering off course. What did work for me though was to sight every six strokes no matter what.  Once I got into a groove doing that, I was back on track for the most part.

Finally, we made the left turn at the last buoy and I kicked my stroke up a notch to head home.  The clock blinked 37:04 as I stepped up the ramp and removed my goggles…two seconds slower than my Vineman 70.3 swim time.

My goal swim time was 36 minutes so given this was my first competitive swim of the year and the boggy water conditions, I felt OK.  I knew I could still be easily on track for 5:45 if I didn’t have a tea party transition.  Which I didn’t.  That said, I was about to make a big tactical error…

BIKE

Helmet, check.  Gloves, check, after some internal debate that probably caused me 20 seconds.  Shoes, check.  Pump, check.

5 Hour Energy, check.

Doh!

5 Hour Energy is not to be taken lightly.  It’s 8,000 mg of B-12, so if we’re going with Star Wars analogies it’s the equivalent of shooting off into Hyperspace once that stuff kicks in.  I figured that if the stuff roughly lasts for five hours and I’m planning to finish in another five hours, hey, why not take it now?

Besides, I wanted to experiment with the stuff again in case I need it for IM CdA. This was an area where I wanted see if I could find the best time to break the proverbial emergency glass for an energy boost.

If only I had saved it for the run!  But I didn’t know that at the time, and boy did I shoot off like a rocket!  In fact, I can tell you pretty much exactly when it kicked in, as suddenly I had an urge to sing “Oh What A Beautiful Morning!” at the top of my lungs, fully immersed in my plan to enjoy the race and not worry about the mile splits.  In fact, I turned my watch setting to heart-rate only so I could just enjoy the moment.

And enjoy is exactly what I did.  The heavy wind gusts didn’t affect me.  Nothing did.  Hills?  What hills?  For the first 30 miles I passed pretty much everyone on my team, encouraging them to get on my wheel as this party had room to grow.  Wisely, my teammates held back and let me continue on in my own delirium.

When I wasn’t singing tunes from “Oklahoma!” I was thinking of the movie Babe, with the little pig who simply seemed to get everything he asked for by being polite and hard working.  So, I asked the wind if it would kindly subside and said hello to all the cattle and horses along the way too.

You can clearly see the negative affects of 5 Hour Energy…it makes you fucking crazy!

If that wasn’t enough, the worst channel a cyclist can have in his head clicked on in my brain, Epic Cycle Sundays on Versus.  There they were again, my two favorite announcers, Phil Ligget and Paul Sherwin, commenting how strong and effortless I looked on the bike and that this could be the day where perhaps the world would witness something truly special.  And oh how right they’d be, beginning at mile 52.

I knew I was in a little bit of trouble at Nasty Grade, which is a pretty long and steep climb but not too long nor too steep compared to many of the canyon roads in the Santa Monica mountains.  My new 11/28 climbing gear didn’t help propel me forward any easier, and worse yet, my ears began to pop as my throat became scratchier.

Not today, immune system.  Please, not today.

I continued on, focusing more on hydration and spinning my legs out to keep them fresh for the run.  But by mile 52, Ligget and Sherwin were talking about how it appeared something was radically wrong with me as my pace slowed considerably.  That was because the muscles in my inner thighs were tightening up, the beginning signs of cramping.  How?  Why?  I was properly hydrated and had consistently eaten throughout the morning.

My demise was in full effect.  As I glided into T2 and dismounted my bike, I walked to my transition space.  No running.  I didn’t have the energy.  5 Hour Energy had become three-hour energy.  I felt drained and not in any kind of mood to run a half-marathon.  Little did I know how difficult this particular half-marathon would be.

RUN

I allowed myself the privilege of checking my watch following the bike, just out of curiosity more than anything else.  I’m not sure what I expected to see but if I’m really being honest with myself I was hoping to clock sub-three hours.  I wanted to know if simply “enjoying the ride” could have more tangible benefits.  I was (temporarily) wrong. I clocked a 3:11, which seemed poor at first but now I realize it was pretty solid considering the wind.  Further, I could still finish beneath six hours, which was my second back-up goal if 5:45:00 went out the window.  I ruled it out at this point.

Then, I made arguably my biggest blunder ever in a race.  Ahead of doing the run portion of a sprint triathlon with my bike helmet still on.  That bad.

I chose to break in a new pair of shoes and new pair of Yankz laces at the Wildflower Long Course.

Let that sink in for a second.

Yep, I did that.  I have no idea what I was thinking, other than to say that I figured since it was my K-Swiss Konas and my trusty orthodic inserts so the benefits seemed to outweigh the risk.  I got my new shoes mail ordered from K-Swiss and they arrived late Thursday, which is why I was in the predicament to begin with.  And my old Konas were getting worn down to the point where the bottoms of my feet were hurting on trail runs.

Stop there for a moment.  Pause.  Perhaps that was a sign to run with trail running shoes, you say?

Yes, you’d be correct.  Total fail on my part.

I won’t describe the run in as much detail as the other two summaries.  Really there’s not much to share other than the utter humility of being passed by every one of my teammates at some point on the run, one by one by one.  All were encouraging and super friendly, either with a pat on the butt or a consoling back slap.  I’d momentarily try to keep up with their pace and experience the futility of doing so with sharp cramp pains in my adductors and eventually, my calves.

I walked perhaps half the course.  A lot can go through your mind when you’re walking so much at a long-distance event.  I tried to stay positive and think about the gorgeous meadows, cloudless sky and how lucky I am to have the free time to enjoy such a grueling sport.  That actually helped keep my dejectedness in check.

After 12 painful, embarrassing miles, the end finally presented itself with a steep downhill descent and what can only described as a “chute shuffle” — not quite running into the finisher’s chute, not quite walking either.  All I could think was “please don’t cramp up as they call your name!”  Every muscle fiber twitched and pulled awkwardly.  I could have been trying out to become a stilts walker at the circus.

At the finish line, the best I could manage for the cameras was a dry smile and a feeble attempt at joyfully raising both arms.  But I didn’t even have that in me.  Nowhere to be found was the elation from Ironman Arizona.  Simply relief.

It was over. I didn’t quit.  I finished what I started.

Chris, Mike and Tia celebrate their strong finishes at Wildflower. Chris overcame a flat tire, Mike threw down a strong bike leg and Tia surprised herself by overcoming the wind and had the best race of all of us.

LESSONS LEARNED

The best thing for my training is probably to walk away from this race for a few days or even a couple weeks and then come back to it for a more objective analysis.  But, here’s what I’ll take away immediately as I make mental and physical preparations for Coeur d’Alene.

– First and foremost, I need to figure out how to hold back on the bike.  Cycling is my favorite of the three sports and my zone three effort at Wildflower didn’t feel taxing — until suddenly it did late in the game. Perhaps I need to ride for longer in zone 2.

– Never again will I break new shoes in at a race.  C’mon Ryan!  DUMB.

– 5 Hour Energy is best consumed (if at all) at a moment when it is truly needed.  I got greedy at Wildflower.

– I need my own routine.  I had a great time with my friends, but I have my way of doing things before a race and when you join a caravan, it’s much more difficult to get race ready. This will be very important at Coeur d’ Alene, where most of my teammates will be racing alongside me.  I will need ample time to be on my own, away from the expo, off my feet, relaxing.

– I need to swim in the open water more often, with sighting drills.  COS swim and Zuma, here I come!

– Quieting of the mind, which I referenced in my pre-race post, works.  But it takes a lot of practice and diligence to stick with it at the darkest of hours.  I will continue to practice this aspect of my training as I believe there’s a lot of untapped potential when you can actually control which channels you flip to in your brain, so when Phil and Paul begin waxing poetic about my epic cycling I can go back to the feature film of choice that day.

That is my race report.  It’s long, kind of rambling and rough around the edges — like my race.  But I’ll learn and bounce back for Coeur d’Alene.  Wiser, and certainly a bit more humble.

56 days and counting.

Sizing it Up

Ryan | April 29th, 2011 2 Comments

Mike, Tia and Chris, pickin' up packets.

I’m  in Paso Robles at the La Quinta Inn with my friends Chris, Tia and Mike, winding down our preparations for tomorrow’s Wildflower Long Course triathlon.  It’s 8:30 p.m. and we’re going to bed for a 5:15 a.m. wakeup call.

It’s been an exhausting two days.  Yesterday, I took the day off from work to focus on race prep and getting my head straight.  Instead, I worked from home and completed two upcoming articles for Lava Magazine Online — one of them ironically dedicated to stress management.  I went to bed last night cranky, tired and felt bad because I took it out on Stephanie.  It’s the taper, I told myself.  But still, there’s really no excuse to be a brat.

My mood continued through this morning, when I rushed out the door in a blur after submitting both articles and arriving late for our scheduled 9 a.m. caravan time.  I was frazzled and couldn’t have been further from my desired mental place a day before racing.  I needed quiet time. Badly.

However, when you travel with a group anywhere, that’s not what you’re going to get.  So, taking a lesson from one of the professional triathletes I interviewed for the stress column, I controlled the situation as best I could and got quiet within my own mind.  I thought about what I could do to have a great race, the important steps to enjoying a great race.  For once, I tried not to think about hitting a specific timeframe, which is difficult for someone as competitive as I am.

While I’m not sure how this approach will play out tomorrow, I do know it helped me today once my group and I entered the Wildflower expo area. G-d and G-dess bodies abound at the lake.  Everyone is ripped, dressed in their pre-race compression gear and looking ready to absolutely crush the course.  My friends noticed several competitors and called them out to each other, questioning whether they could beat them.  I remained silent.  I can’t control their performance.  Or anyone else’s but mind.  It doesn’t matter who’s faster than me.  What matters is did I run the best race I could, and how can I ensure I achieve my potential.

I am nervous for tomorrow morning.  Who isn’t before a big race?  But I feel prepared.  I know I belong here, along with the athletes who might look the part better than I do and even talk the talk better.  I am aware, but I am not afraid.

So for once, instead of sizing up the competition, I’m simply sizing up myself.  And, despite a hectic two days preceding the race, I like what I see.

58 days and counting.

I’m Ready

Ryan | April 25th, 2011 2 Comments

Fortius Coaching held a Wildflower pre-race strategy meeting in Encino tonight. As I sat there with my teammates, serving as the dutiful note-taker, I realized something important.  Perhaps the most important thing I’ve realized all year so far:  I’m so ready for this race.  And for every race moving forward.

I do give much credit to my coach.  I know what to expect at these races.  I know how to remain calm.  I know that I need a routine, my own routine, to get ready on race day. I know that means going away from the group and getting in my zone, my place.  I know I need music to find that place as well.

What I don’t need are lots of facts and reminders about what exactly to do and when to do it.  I learned all that stuff last year.  I know when to eat before a race, what to eat, and how much to drink.  When I started thinking about all those details tonight during the meeting I started to stress out.  It’s a lot to remember!  I’d rather just trust myself at this point, show up to the race, run my ass off and celebrate afterwards.

That is going to be my plan.  Along with coming up with a cool quote to write on my water bottle for race day.  Any suggestions out there?  So far I’m thinking, “Don’t think. Just Race.”

62 days and counting.

What, Me Worry?

Ryan | April 17th, 2011 Leave a Comment

I got my tri-wings!

In the span of a week here in Southern California, we’ve gone from the hypothermia-inducing cold of last Saturday’s Mulholland Challenge to the sweltering heat yesterday from our five-hour brick session.  As a result of not being able to reach parts of my back to apply sunblock and being too stubborn to ask anyone, I earned my “tri-wings” — the unmistakable sign of a sleeveless jersey-wearing triathlete.

Man, it stings too!

What also stings is knowing that if it’s hot at the upcoming Wildflower long course triathlon, I may just melt.  Though my DeSoto arm coolers helped yesterday on the bike (I never felt too hot nor dehydrated), I cut my 60-minute run short because I felt myself overheating.  I shuffled/ran/walked while trying to keep my heart rate beneath 163 bpm and was largely successful. However, in just shy of 40 minutes I only managed 3.75 miles on hilly, dusty terrain.  The same terrain many of us will see at Wildflower.  I remember drenching myself in sponges last year that scantily clad college coeds gave me as my body temperature crept upward as morning turned into mid-day.

I wonder how it will be this year?

Moreover, this morning’s 1,500-yard time trial swim in Calabasas with my Fortius buddies indicated that I didn’t recover too well from yesterday’s bake-fest.  Even if I did miscount a couple laps in the water (forgive me please…it was 60 flip turns!), my T-pace sagged to 1:54-1:57.  I’m typically in the 1:41-1:48 range.

Should I be alarmed?  I don’t think so.  It’s hot, my body isn’t used to the weather right now, and I have time to acclimate. Further, we all know it’s possible to turn in a less-than-impressive workout from time to time.  The key is moving past it and looking forward to tomorrow’s training. Which is exactly what I’m going to do, along with an ART session.

Part of my problem is that my body is wound tightly with inelastic fascial tissue in my back, and my calves/Achilles feel spring-loaded to the point where they could shoot arrows across a field.  I think to move forward in the next couple weeks, I need to take better care of myself, get plenty of rest, eat right, and stretch more.

So that’s my plan as I head into the two-week window before my first real “race” of the season.

I find myself quite excited to get back out on a race course.  Though I may need to cram an open-water swim session in beforehand — especially considering I just wrote about that topic last month in Lava!

Gotta practice what I preach.

66 days and counting.

Quick Wildflower Video to Share

Ryan | May 27th, 2010 Leave a Comment

My buddy Dustin sent me a brief video compilation from Wildflower this year of me biking out of the T1 area up that massive first hill, and of me finishing the race with a flourish.

Wanted to share and store here for safe keeping.  This is not my blog post for the day.  More on that later.  Heck, I still have a full cycling workout to go (weather permitting)!

Here are a few photos he took from the event with Darrin as well

174 days to go.

These Are the Days

Ryan | May 7th, 2010 Leave a Comment

My heart is racing as I sit on the couch this morning.  My hands are shaking.

I just finished episode eight of The Pacific, the World War II miniseries on HBO.

I’m not going to write a review or anything like that.  But rather how I feel after watching it.

I’ll start by admitting that lately, I’m much more easily moved to tears.  Though I may be an emotional guy, I’ve never been accused of being a crier — unless Rudy is on the screen.  Now, inspirational, romantic or even sad news hits me harder…right in my chest and lungs.  And tears roll down my face.  They did at Wildflower.  They are this morning.

I know why.

It’s because I realize, at 35 years old, finally, I am embedded in the prime of my life.  Right now.  In THIS moment.  I’m in peak physical condition.  My mental outlook is strong.  I’m marrying a truly stunning lady in every way.  My family is healthy and happy.  I have good friends.  A good job.  And I’m able to pursue my own dreams without guilt or worry.

Some of my friends and even family members haven’t always been so lucky.  Some didn’t make it to 30.  Some made it to 30 but not 35.  A few never saw 25.

They never got to experience what it’s like to know that life doesn’t get much better than this.  And I’ve spent years and years taking that for granted. Like a lucky little dandelion seed floating cluelessly, miraculously, from one unexpected adventure to the next…that’s been my life.  A “Forrest Gump” existence, as my parents call it.

When you realize how precious that is, when you see how easily fate could have been crueler…a war, a draft, a battle, and a coffin for example…it hits.  Hard.  When you watch a man fall in love — whether it’s in real life or on the big screen — and then die at the top of his game, it hits hard.  When you know what that love is or good fortune or good health, and you know that it can all be blown to bits at any moment, it hits hard.

I am lucky. Very lucky.  And I think about that a lot lately.  I take nothing for granted.  Not in training.  Not with my relationship. Not with my family.  Not with my friends.

It could all go away tomorrow.  I could be cut down in my prime.  But I am also wide awake, a passenger riding shotgun and taking notes in my own head.

I am more aware than I’ve ever been in my entire life — living long and full and strong enough to know that these are indeed the best of days.

That’s why I cried a little this morning.

202 days and counting.

This is My Tri Bike

Ryan | May 4th, 2010 7 Comments

This is my tri-bike.  There are many like it.

But this one is mine.

After several months drooling, researching, speculating, debating, deliberating and procrastinating, I now own a triathlon bike.  As you can see, I went with the Cervelo P2 Ultegra setup, along with a sweet pair of Bontrager/Hed Aeolus 5.0 clinchers.  Helen’s Cycles in Santa Monica made me an offer too good to refuse on the wheelset.  I was planning to buy the Hed  Jet 6 and 9s, as I’ve recently written.  However, they weren’t in stock and Helen’s took advantage of my eagerness to sell me  on a “project one” pair of the Bontragers for $900 off the MSRP.  As I was doing my bike-fitting session, the cyclist next to me doing the same had ridden 10,000 miles on the same pair.  And was happy.  That was good enough for me.

Oh, Lance and the rest of Team Radio Shack ride on them too.

Yeah, that’ll do.

The only other major purchase I needed to add to the bike were the adjustable carbon Profile Design Viper aero bars.  During my fitting, it became clear I was reaching a bit too far out towards the elbow pads and my back and rib cage  were going to be stretched.  Unfortunately, the stock aero bars were not adjustable.  Yes, a proper pre-purchase bike fit might have indicated that other tri bikes could have been a better natural fit as a result.  Yet all my research kept pointing back to the Cervelo P2 offering the best bang for the buck.  Judging by the transition area at Wildflower, hundreds of other Cervelo owners agreed.  And each time I spoke with a P2 owner whether at Wildflower or the other races I’ve competed in this year, they all indicated how much they loved their purchase.  Not one showed an ounce of regret.

And let’s face it: I just wanted the damn bike.  There’s lots of great choices out there. Felt. Wilier. Argon. Kuota. And many others.  But the Cervelo had me from the get-go.  It wasn’t even a fair contest.  You can research all you want.  In the end, I bought what I wanted, but it happens to be a great value nonetheless.

Now, I must make sure my Monica (my Colnago) doesn’t get too jealous of Charlie, the Cervelo.  So far, they’re co-existing in the same room peacefully.

By the way, I name my bikes.  Maybe I talk to them too every once in a while.  It’s totally not weird.  It’s normal.  I keep telling myself that.

It’s normal, right?

Good night, Monica.  Good night, Charlie.  Good night, Shalom (my Scott Speedster).

These are my bikes.  There are many like them.  But these bikes are MINE.

Hooah!

Still 204 days and counting, but not by much.

Karmic Pizza

Ryan | May 4th, 2010 4 Comments

I have discovered the elusive missing link to achieving a great triathlon race result.

Pizza.

But not just any pizza.  This is a special kind.  And instead of eating it, you must give it away to someone in need before your race.  It doesn’t really matter when in the day that happens.  In return, if you’re lucky, the pizza recipient will wish you a good race and shower cosmic karma upon you.

I know this to be true, because that’s exactly what happened to me the day before posting a 2:54:00 Wildflower Olympic time this past Sunday, 10 minutes faster than my predicted best-case scenario, good for a top 50 finish in my age group (top 23%) and top 26% among all men.  I even saw all my swim training pay off with a 29:36 mile swim, breaking the 30-minute mark for the first time and beating my old personal best open-water swim by four minutes.

I need to find more pizza to give away!

Here’s what happened.  My buddy Dustin and I were waiting in the stands near the finish line for our friend Darrin to finish the long-course, which ran the day before the Olympic race.  Darrin had a long day but demonstrated what it meant to persevere over adversity.  He snapped his chain within the first mile of the bike portion, walked the bike a mile back to our RV camper, fixed the chain (pictured below), walked his bike back to the course and was on his way.  While we were waiting for Darrin, Dustin and I both felt mid-afternoon hunger pangs.  I went on a scouting mission for pizza and on my way back with two slices in hand, a girl who had just completed the long course walked up next to me and said, “I could attack you for a slice of that pizza right now!”

After a little banter back-and-forth, I realized she might not be joking.

I told the girl, whose name I never got, to follow me back to the stands.  Once I gave Dustin his slice, I tore half of my pizza and gave it to the girl. Even though she protested at first, she quickly relented.  After doing so, she looked up at me, smiled wide and said, “You are going to have the race of a lifetime tomorrow.  You just got a TON of race karma.  You are going to kick major ass.”

Instead of making a joke back or some self-deprecating comment, I did something I normally don’t do when someone says something nice to or about me…I simply said, “Thanks, I hope so.”

So it was wished, so it occurred.

And I have pizza to thank.  So there you go, fellow triathletes…you can train as hard as you want, but maybe simply doing something nice for a fellow racer will put you in the best position to achieve your goals.

In the end, while the race itself was a special moment for me, it was overshadowed by the “one and only” experience that is Wildflower.  There were a reported 30,000 people on hand to witness the weekend’s activities.  And many of them dotted the entire race course cheering on athletes of all abilities.  I can say that in least two spots on the bike and at least three on the run I received a much-needed adrenaline boost just from the encouragement.  (The bikini-clad college girls handing out water at the aid stations helped a little too.)  The crowd was at its finest in the stands near the finish line, where runners’ gritty and sometimes-grinning facial expressions told lengthy tales of dedication, sacrifice and determination.  I welled up with tears on Saturday at least five times watching fathers pick up their children to run to the end with them, or small children high-fiving strangers as they passed by.  Or couples holding hands while running to the finish together.

The magic of the sport is not solely possessed by the elite. Far from it.  It’s a form of karmic pizza all its own, where triumphant finishers give back energy to the crowd as much if not more than what they’re gaining by completing a massive personal challenge.

We think we’re taking, gaining, obtaining, and striving.  But really, we’re giving, sharing, encouraging and caring.

If you haven’t been to Wildflower, go.  Even if you don’t race, go.  There’s a reason it’s called the “one and only.”

And if you’ve been to Wildflower, let’s sign up again for next year.

I’ll even bring the pizza.

204 days and counting.