Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Last Lap of the Koppenbergcross

Every Spring, the skinny tire guys climb the Koppenberg, one of the fearful Helingen of the Tour of Flanders. Every fall, the slightly fatter tire guys also climb the Koppenberg, and then turn right at the top of the hill and ride their 'cross bikes back down through the fields. It's a grueling, classic event, and you can watch the last lap of it here.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

World Cup #1—Aigle, SUI

Here's a beautiful film about World Cup #1. Calls to mind A Sunday In Hell with the quiet mechanic shots.

Aigle 2010 - 1ère manche de CDM cyclo-cross from Web Petitesreines on Vimeo.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cross Crusade #3

Because I wasn't feeling rather well this past weekend, I ended up not making the trip to Austin for that city's excellent fall 70.3. Friday and Saturday were spent largely inactive in bed, but by Sunday I felt well enough to head out to Cross Crusade #3 at Sherwood Equestrian Center. I backed out of my usual race, the A Men, because I didn't want to make myself sick again by running my engine wide open for an hour. It's a good thing, too—Can you identify the shapely legs at right, winning the A Division?

I raced Bs, and started well to the rear of the field. I made up a bunch of spots and managed 11th place in the end, which for a pukey stomach and sore body is a pretty good result. Then I hung around to watch the fireworks of the big boys racing.

After troublesome starts, Ryan Trebon and Chris Sheppard made some space for themselves at the front of the field. They traded shots for the better part of an hour, with Trebon finally sneaking away in the last lap. The crowd was its usual Cross Crusade froth, replete with a "dollar prieme" crowd that gathered on the slopes of the course's long climb. They placed dollar bills in an overturned cup, and racers had to bend double to grab the cash and keep climbing.

One rider in particular managed to snack himself a twenty-spot. Insult to injury (to the rest of us, that is)?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The About-Face

Interbike is returning to Vegas, after announcing it will leave it's traditional location for Anaheim. This turnaround strikes me as odd...isn't moving a gigantic, week-long event hard to do less than a year out? Wouldn't moving it back cause even more hassles? Interbike is a division of Nielsen Expositions (kinda the way that seemingly innocuous beverage companies, like Snapple, are owned by Pepsi Co or Coca-Cola or Disney), and they're saying that they got a "very real response that surveys and discussions alone couldn't accomplish." What is going on here?

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Sweat

My last two races of 2010 will be Austin 70.3 and Ironman Cozumel. I'm a big guy (trying to get down to 172 lbs before Cozumel), and we usually don't do so well in the heat. Here's a great post from The Science of Sport about what happens to people when they exercise in warm temperatures. Once you're there you can follow another link that discusses why size does matter in the heat. Here's a clip:

"When size does matter...

The first thing (and this is a dramatically summarized version) is that the winner has to be small in size. All things being equal (which we concede they never are!), the smaller athlete will win a race in the heat. Many studies have shown this, and the equations that we use to model performances in the heat suggest the same. Basically, it boils down to a balance between height production and heat loss. Heat production is dependent on body size and running speed, while heat loss is a function of body surface area, and the environment. Obviously, the environment is the same for everyone, but body size is not. The smaller the athlete, the less heat they produce, but their heat loss is not reduced by as much and the end result is that the smaller athlete will store less heat running at a certain speed than the bigger athlete. Ultimately, this means that a smaller athlete can afford to run slightly faster before their body temperature rises. Big advantage! This is of course a oversimplification, but it does illustrate the point that when the mercury starts climbing, the advantage lies with a smaller runner."

So when I show up to race in Cozumel, I'll be facing a few obstacles, since the temperatures here in Portlandia have dropped into the 50s and 60s during the day. The answer? Train indoors, in the heat. This weekend, which saw the return of Portland's winter weather (steady rain, 50s), found me training indoors at the excellent Athletes Lounge Training Facility. I did both my long workouts (2 hour run on Saturday and 6.5 hour brick on Sunday) indoors. I didn't use a fan for the run, and I turned the heat up to around 80 for the bike/brick (I did use a light fan for the bike portion of the brick). I'm trying to figure out my sweat rate, and here's the data:

Saturday, 2 hour long run with tempo intervals (3x25' @ 6:30-6:45/mile)
Weight Before: 179.4
Weight Afterward: 174.2 (2.9 % drop in body weight, a moderate performance liability)
Fluid Consumed: 63 oz
Weight lost plus fluid consumed=9 lbs.
Fluid lost per hour (total weight lost/# of hours exercised)=72 oz per hour.

That seems a very high amount of fluid lost per hour, and somewhat alarming, too. If I'm already disadvantaged in the heat because of my size, I'm worried I'll be disadvantaged further by my ridiculous sweat rate. I performed another sweat rate test yesterday on the bike and came up with this information:

Sunday, 6 hour ride with tempo intervals followed by 30 minute run with pace intervals
Weight before: 181.4 (how did I gain 2 lbs in one day?)
Weight after: 173 (4.5 % drop in body weight, a significant performance liability)
Fluid consumed: 200 oz (12.5 lbs)
Weight lost plus fluid consumed: 21 lbs.
Fluid lost per hour: 52 oz per hour.

It's informative to see that I lose less fluid while cycling than while running. This seems to make sense, given the relative differences in effort between cycling and running. Various sources articulate that one should aim to replace between 1/3 and 1/2 of your fluid loss per hour. So for running I should aim for at least 23.76 and 36 oz of fluid. The maximum absorbtion per hour is 33 oz (rough/average size of stomachs out there), so I'm going to aim for that number, especially in the heat. That means that, on the run, I'll still be losing 2.5 lbs per hour (1.4% of my body weight), so if I want to be successful in Cozumel, I'll have to be significantly hydrated before I start the run, since I'll be 3-4.5% dehydrated in the last hour of the marathon, which is a performance problem.

So on the bike, if I lost 52 oz/hour and put in 33 oz/hour, I'll lose 20 oz per hour (1.25 lbs). If the bike takes 4.5 hours that means 90 oz low (5.625 lbs, or 3.1%). 3.1% dehydrated is too dehydrated to start a hot marathon, so I'm gonna have to figure something out, like getting more used to training in the heat.

The amount of sweat lost this weekend was pretty gross, I gotta say. A white foamy slick formed on the belt of the treadmill on Saturday.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Comin' Back

Well, this is almost a month overdue, Cyclocross season has begun, and I've only got two triathlons left in 2010. How did the year disappear? Anyway, here is the finish picture from Canada Ironman 2010, where I finished in 8th place, probably my best result of my career. Here's the report as I gave it to Cliff:

Swim: I was determined to beat my worries about the swim, so I started right in the middle of the pack. I saw Matt L lining up on the outside, to my right, and then another group of guys lining up on my left. When the gun went off I actually got a pretty good start, getting out fast and in front of most people. Matt L moved over from the right and soon we were swimming side-by-side and I was in the middle of a good-sized group, I think. I saw a small group heading off the front, and I think that was Kieran and Tom Evans (and someone else). I tried to stick with the Matt L group, but I kept losing feet and getting passed. I seem to really struggle with holding feet when their pace is a little faster than I'm able to go. I eventually got dropped from that group and swam alone behind them until the first houseboat. I got caught by a group behind and worked my way into that group and stayed with them for the rest of the time. Christian Brader and Petr Vebrousek were in that group. It was pretty comfortable, but slower than I wanted to swim (54:37). I really wanted to be in that 51 and change crowd.

T1: Good transition. I seemed to have quick ones all day.

Bike: Rode out of town and resolved to stay with Petr V when he came up to me. So did a bunch of others because soon I was in a group with Olly Piggin, Trevor Wurtele, Stephen Kilshaw, Anthony Toth, Chris Brands, and a few others. We stayed even on the gas down to Osoyoos, not expending too much energy. I took it easy on the climb up to Richter but got dropped a little. On the descent I caught back on and seven of us rolled along into Keremeos. We were in a group but not organized very well. Coming out of the out-and-back I noticed that we were in a group but every one in front of us was riding singly. I tried to get the others in the group to see that we could roll up a whole bunch of guys if we organized (but still worked legally). No one really wanted to come along. Eventually Petr and Anthony Toth and I got free and started putting time into the others. The climb up to Yellow Lake seemed so much easier and shorter than last year. The descent was scary at times (wet roads), but we also picked up Scott Neyeldi along the way, so we were a group of four rolling into town: 4:46:52.

T2: Really good second transition. Entered tent fourth out of group, exited first.

Run: My legs opened up just a few meters outside of transition. Petr V passed me, but I knew that was coming. We went into the out-and-back and Anthony Toth and Scott Neyeldi passed me. Toth's pace seemed doable, so I went with him. Was running quite comfortably, actually. I kept telling myself to take it easy. Toth and I chatted a bit, and the 6:30s-6:40s were rolling pretty easily. Around mile 7 he started to move away, but I thought he sounded labored, so I let him go.

Passed Kieran at mile 9 as he was handing his chip in to officials. 11th place.

Passed Matt L at mile 11. He was walking.

Took it easy going into the hills at the southern end of the course. Hit the turnaround 2 minutes behind Neyeldi and 1 minute behind Toth. Trevor Wurtele and Ernst Moser were 6:20 behind me. I calculated it would be difficult for those two to catch me if just kept running 7 minute miles. I was taking in fluid every mile (fluid is a mixture of Biotest and Nuun, about 280 calories per bottle), a gel every 30 minutes, and water at each aid station. I stayed fluid and easy throughout the marathon, although things started to get hard around mile 16.

I came back to Toth and Scott Curry at Mile 24, and realized that it would be like Pac Crest if was going to get rid of them. Right where the road starts to tilt back down into town I surged and dropped Toth pretty quickly. Curry seemed more tenacious. I was really hurting at this point, but when I turned onto Lakeshore drive Amy told me no one was close. At the turnaround Curry was 32 seconds back and he finished about 45 seconds in arrears.

Then I went to the medical tent for two bags of IV fluid. 8:48:11.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Crested Butte

As of today, Amy and I have, in the past seven days:

Swam about 10 kilometers.
Ran about 100 kilometers (Amy ran about 80 of them).
Biked about 200 kilometers.
Climbed around 20,000 feet.
Drank a lot of coffee.
Ate a bunch of potato chips.
Made sandwiches on the hood of Amy's jeep.
Cooked quesadillas on stones in our free campsite.
Seen more wildflowers than either of us have seen all year.
Gotten up early.
Stayed up late (we were scared about bears last night).
Stayed in three separate campsites.
Eaten a lot of peanut butter and cereal and chocolate milk.
Iced our legs in mountain streams and lakes.
Washed ourselves seldom, but then did so in public places.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Thoughts from the runner: "Other than being touched that Chris includes me in his blog, a forum for his professional athletic exploits, the most remarkable part of this outrageous event occurred at around mile 46. Chris came riding up the trail like a knight--his middle name, indeed. I was so frustrated about running off course, losing places among the women along with the prospect of a sub-10-hour race, that I was petulantly kicking stones. Chris wouldn't let me sag. He sang cute little songs and augmented my spirits from crabby to elated."

Now we're off to Crested Butte. Amy is going to sit in cold water and take naps. I'm going to fall off my bicycle.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Leadville Silver Rush 50 Mile 34.5

Forgot to take a picture again. Amy is still running at 35 miles, having been running now for seven hours. She's just faster than the 5 mph we talked about as a goal, and she's doing great. She's hanging in 6th place, although placing really doesn't matter here. She's at the point where she's just doing what she can do, and it's impressive to watch. She ate three cookies at the last aid station and promised me she'd eat a gel between that station and the one at 40 miles. When she hits that one, she'll only have seven miles left.

Final results to come...

Leadville Silver Rush Turnaround Aid Station

I forgot to take a picture of Amy at 25 miles, but she's still smiling, waving her arms in the air, and making friends. She's put down a good amount of water, but might be a bit food low. The hardest part is behind her, though, and she's doing absolutely brilliantly for her first ultra. She got to 25 miles in 4:40, so she's still going a little faster than planned. She said "I feel like I should be done," but I think she'll get another wind a little down the road.

Stay tuned!

Leadville Silver Rush 50 Aid Station #1

Here's Amy at 13.5 miles of the Leadville 50. She was looking and feeling good, and came into the aid station in 4th place. She left in 6th, but took 5th back right away and was about to take 4th back. I would say she's not taking in enough calories, but she wanted to take an entire bag of potato chips with her, so that's a good sign that she'll start putting some food down. Crewing a 50 mile race is interesting—there's a lot of waiting but a ton of satisfaction, and hanging out at the aid stations is fun. Everyone wants to talk, and this kind of event is so laid-back and cool, so it's easy to make friends.

In other news, Chris Boudreaux and Phillipe Kozub are in 8th and 9th places, respectively, coming out of the water at Vineman 70.3.

Stay Tuned!

Leadville Silver Rush 50

Yesterday I raced in the Beaver Creek Xterra Mountain Cup and finished about 10 minutes faster than last year—better at riding that mountain bike, but not quite at the level of the other guys. I came in 12th although I suspect I've been hit with a 2:00 penalty that will drop me to DFL in the pro group. It's fine—let's think strength workout for Canada.

More importantly, Amy is presently out for a 50 mile fun run here at 10,152' in sunny Leadville, Colorado. Always the best attitude of the bunch, she was all smiles this morning right from when we woke up at 4:30. See her in all her long run glory at left.

I'm at a coffee shop in Leadville, watching the tour and waiting to head up to the first aid station! More to come.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


I was going to start this post about the pancakes I made this morning, which weren't anything special except for the fact that I topped them with a fried egg. I've often thought about re-naming this blog "Better With An Egg," because then I'd have an unending source of material about which to write. What isn't better with an egg on top of it? Amy often challenges others to come up with things that wouldn't go well with Peanut Butter, and I feel the same way about eggs. Sitting here this morning, feeling the cooler air of today coming in through the window, listening to the classical singer doing scales a few doors down, I cannot imagine any food that wouldn't be improved by the presence of a fried egg.

Now I'm trying to figure out ways of wresting that statement about the versatility of eggs into a statement about racing form, which strikes me as, perhaps, a metaphor too far. The only thing I can come up with comes from this post at Red Kite Prayer, which states that a rider in form can ride just about any bicycle—whether it fits or not, whether or not it is the bike of his chosen discipline, no matter what the weather is doing. It strikes me as funny that the words we choose to talk about our ability to race (or even go out for an hour's run) all derive from structural words: fit, shape, form. The goal of anyone who makes daily exercise a lovely ritual (or a dangerous obsession, or an impressive burning drive) is the same goal as the sculptor's: to bring out a desired vision from something formless. Don't get me wrong, even though I'm using sight words such as "vision" to talk about this; I'm not talking about physical appearance, although the physical usually does change as people come into fitness, shape, form. Form is a feeling that you can do anything: cover an attack, run quickly up a hill, catch those two guys who beat you off the line to the first buoy. It's the sense that distances are closer, that the rim really isn't ten feet above, that you could, in Napolean Dynamite's Uncle's words, "Throw this football over those mountains."

I've never felt this feeling before, until this week, when, despite the increased volume of my Canada preparation, I had the sense that I could drop anyone who ran with me, that the swim speed was never desperate. Watching the Tour every morning helps (anyone else getting weird hiccups on their Versus feeds?), because the Tour is one giant dream dreamt by the 180 men who begin the race every year. Their combined imaginations fuel the whole colorful, glitzy affair, because all of them, even the ones who are their just to work, see themselves every day chasing that 1 km banner alone, the entire field minutes behind, dreaming the beautiful dream of form.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Bronze War

Here's a short story about how Picture A (at left) led to pictures B and C (below).

Damian and I headed out to hot and sunny Sunriver, OR, this past weekend for the Pacific Crest Long Course Triathlon (read: 1/2 iron). We'd tangled the weekend before at Xterra Solstice, and Damian was hungry to take it to me on the road. He's extremely talented and driven and has a bright future in the sport, and I'm sure he wanted to get his first big win of 2010.

Here we are at breakfast on race morning, drinking coffee and eating Puffins. We were staying in a ski/golf condo (Sunriver is a vacation community—a little like Disneyworld in its intentional directional confusion) and the race didn't start until 9 am, which felt like a blessing (later, when the temperatures rose into the 80s, it would feel more like bad planning). Amy helped us get ready, and soon we were at T1, getting ready and warmed up. I went for my usual 10 minute warmup jog and then got into the water. Everyone kept saying the water was cold, but after St. George (53 degrees), Boise (57 degrees) and Xterra Solstice (55 degrees) the water felt nice, actually. After the best start of my career last weekend I had probably the worst start, since my only clue that we were starting was the fact that every one around me started swimming. It was a small field, so no real worries, and I found myself with a good pair of feet that I held all the way around the swim. It was either slow or a little long, since we all came out of the water around 27:30. I could tell Damian was swimming on my feet the whole time—I just had this feeling. He came around me at the end when I started to get a bit tired and beat me out of the water by 9 seconds.

Out on the bike D and I put our heads down and hammered for the first twenty miles or so, just the way Cliff told me to. Amy was giving us splits out on the road and cheering us on, and it became obvious that the race was turning into a two-horse affair: we had 3 minutes at 10 miles, 6 minutes at 20, and 7 minutes as the course turned skyward to climb Mt. Batchelor. A brief note about the bike course: this is easily the most scenic and beautiful course on which I have ever competed. The road surface is amazing and you ride through glorious alpine forests, snow still hugging the trunks of trees. At around mile 27 the rolling hills turn up and you climb to the entrance of Mt. Batchelor (the entrance is at 6500 feet, the actual peak is about 3000 feet higher). The climb is about 11 miles long and was a great bit of preparation for IM Canada, where you tackle two 10-12 mile climbs over the bike course. Damian took the lead for a while, I took it back, and then he led us up the climb. I was happy to let him do that, since I knew he would be putting out more effort than I would be—you always, always want to be following up long climbs, especially if you feel you're the stronger cyclist. I knew that Damian was a stronger runner than I, and I needed to get him tired before the run. I also knew that if I tried to break away he would just sit on me and let me get tired out. With the rest of the field comfortably behind, I was happy to let him direct the pace.

At 38 miles you crest the bike course, most of Central Oregon spread out below like a crumpled ocean. I looked at my computer at this point and thought 1:40 to 38 miles? This is going to be a long bike split. Well, the course is all downhill from there, and we covered the last 20 miles of the course (it's 58 mile point-to-point) in 35 minutes, posting bike splits of 2:15:27 (me) and 2:15:35 (Damian). If you do the math, you'll see that I made up 8 seconds of the 9 second differential from the swim: we headed out onto the run 1 second apart. We'd been separated by nothing more than 10 seconds for almost two and three-quarter hours at this point. You can look at my powerfile for the bike course here.

For the first 4 miles of the run, we ran pretty much even, holding six-minute pace or just above it. I ate my first gel (of the run—I ate six on the bike) at 10 minutes and was able to ignore the aid stations by using my hand-held water bottle (I love that thing even though it's dorky. Whatever. Bryan Rhodes uses two of them). At around 4 miles Damian started to pull away and I started thinking about second place. After that, though, recrimination would set in, and I actually said to myself at one point He's 27! That means he was freshman when you were a senior! C'mon! I don't know why odd things like that come up when you're racing, but they just do.

At around mile nine or ten I started coming back to Damian a bit, and soon we were running shoulder to shoulder. I threw a few surges at him to see how he was feeling, and he covered them easily. I settled back and just ran on his shoulder. I was hurting, but I knew that he was a short course guy, this was only his fourth or fifth half-iron (I think I'm on 15 or 16), and that he was hurting, too. We ran together until mile 12. This is it, I thought. I was comforted by the fact that he hadn't attacked me at all, which is good. If you're the agressor on the run, you can probably make your opponent think you're stronger than he is. I put in a strong, hard surge and immediately felt a huge wave of nausea. I didn't hear his footsteps coming with me, though, and turning to look would have been suicide (you look scared). I just kept running hard. One minute into the mile I looked at my watch and thought only five more minutes of this. I was convinced he was only ten meters back, out of earshot but within striking distance. I kept counting minutes like lap cards in Cyclocross: four minutes left, three minutes, two...When my watch said four minutes into the mile I took a brief look back.

I couldn't see Damian. He was gone.

I didn't dare let up, though. If he had taken a few minutes to gather himself and come back I would certainly see him again. This is a guy who can run sub five-minute miles in training. I've never gotten close to a five-minute mile. But when I hit the 13 mile mark, I knew I'd won. I ended up putting about 70 seconds into Damian in the last mile, which surprised me. I think he was pretty much at the end of his rope, and I still, amazingly, had something left. Here's a video, courtesy of Amy, of my approach to the finish (it's a little loud—maybe turn down your browser).

The finish felt...well, odd. I was happy I won, but I was more happy the whole thing was over. As Andy Potts says: "It's never fun. Afterwards it's a little fun, but it's"

Soon after the finish Damian and I were both in the medical tent. I just needed to cool down a bit, but he was headed into the early stages of heat exhaustion, I think. You might be able to see the worried expression on his face.

Picture B

Picture C

Nice to get my first win of 2010 under my belt, and my first 1/2 iron win of my career.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Xterra Solstice

Xterra Solstice rolled through (more like "above") LaGrande, Oregon this past Saturday. I had a very strong day, although I really do need to learn how to descend on a mountain bike. Damian Hill, PC Athlete Darren Smith (this guy has Character in spades—he does Xterra, Ironman, and track cycling with a left leg he cannot feel or really move) headed out there for a glorious 36 hours of companionship, camping, and—oh yeah—competition; it's easy to forget you're competing when you do Xterra.

The Venue: The race takes place in Morgan Lake, a small cold lake at 4100.' The water temperature was 55 degrees, making me 3—3 for races below 60 degrees water. I actually like it, since you don't overheat. Anyway, the venue. Most people camp right along the lake, sleeping a few hundred meters from transition. Darren, Damian, and I got out there and went out for a short ride (shortened by a snafu with my cleats—when will I learn to properly maintain my equipment?). I promptly crashed my brand new Scott Spark 20, but nothing was dinged except my dignity. "It was a pretty good one," Damian said. "You got all the way over the handlebars." We went to bed with the sun, and soon I was up at 5 am, ready to race, except things didn't start until 9 am. Down to town for coffee, and then back up the hill to wait around. When you camp 200 meters from transition, it's pretty easy to get your stuff together.

The Swim: I got my best start of the year, probably only because I was watching the guy with the airhorn when it made a feeble warbling noise and some white stuff came out of it. I nabbed about 5 meters as the other athletes said "Was that the gun—oh shit!" I swam well, for me, keeping the lead until the first buoy, when I got caught by super-strong swimmer Greg from Masters. I probably went out a bit hard, since I felt myself weakening about 500 meters through the swim. I tried to keep pushing, though, and came out of the water 3rd in 12:39. Damian was about 25 seconds back, but he beat me out of transition as I struggled to put on socks. That proved somewhat costly as I got caught behind two slow guys on the way out onto the trail. From there the ride was a lot of white-knuckling, as I'm not up to the level of my ride. I quickly became very thankful for the remote lockout system (the Spark lets you choose three levels of travel: 0, 80, 0r 110 mm), since I didn't have to reach below to change the travel. I had to walk one incredibly steep downhill with Captain Dondo's words ringing in my ears (Me: "What kind of bike do I buy to become a better bike handler?" Him: "How about going up a testicle size?"). Still, I managed to get back to transition in 1:27:00 for the 25 k, which was respectable. I came off the bike in 4th place.

The Run: For the second week in a row, the run turned out to be a weapon for me. I quickly caught the incredibly friendly Eric Deroche (friend of Damian's from Bellingham, which sounds more and more like Nirvana) and used the first long downhill to cut into the second place guy's lead (he was about 3 minutes up on me starting the run). Xterra Solstice uses farm/dirt roads for about 1.5—2 miles, I'd say, and then cuts into a treacherous, muddy cow pasture. I reeled in Dave Cloninger (he's from Bend and has an awesome beard) at the bottom of the cow pasture and then tried to drop him on the climb back up towards the finish line. I would heartily recommend this race, but the 4th and 5th miles are cruel. You switchback out of the pasture and then climb the very steep hill you flew down 30 minutes earlier. At the top of the hill I felt like puking. I knew Damian was behind me, and he is the best runner of our little group. But I also thought that if I got into the last little stand of trees out of sight (...out of mind...) he wouldn't catch me. My right hamstring seized up again about 200 meters from the finish, but it turns out I'd put about 40 seconds into Damian on the run, which surprised both of us. I took second by about 75 seconds. He was, admittedly, muscling a rigid singlespeed 29er around the bike course, so his legs were pretty heavy. I somehow felt great all day, my legs responding nicely to the switch from cycling to running. The guy who won, Jason Jablonski, beat me by about 12 minutes, putting all of that into me on the bike (I was out of the water 2 minutes ahead, and he ran 40 seconds faster). Time to learn how this mountain biking thing works.

Next weekend—Pacific Crest 1/2 Iron. Damian and I go for our third showdown.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Race Report—Boise 70.3

I'm still recovering from Boise 70.3. It was a difficult, hot day, but also one of those days that reaffirms an athlete's belief in his sport. No, I didn't win, despite my upraised arms in the photo, but I did hold on to finish 10th in the professional field. I was left feeling proud about my effort and my result for the first time since Canada IM 2009. Here's how the race went:

Swim: I learned a lesson in this swim, although it's not really the lesson I'd liked to have learned. It was a lesson about integrity, following rules, and how to interpret the rules to your advantage. Seconds after Tom Ziebert admonished us to "Keep the buoys on your right," the gun went off and the pack swerved to the inside of the buoys, keeping them on our left. After swimming in what I felt was an illegal position for a few hundred meters I left the pack and went to the left of the buoys. I lost the pack and Ben Hoffman's feet—I went on to lose 2 minutes to the pack. Afterward, talking to my coach and my teammates, they all averred that I should have stayed with the pack no matter what. I'm not happy about it, and I'm not happy about saying "That's sport," but turning happenstance to your advantage is part of sport, and Michael Jordan made himself better by sometimes going right to the edge of what was "legal." The responsibility is on me, not my competitors, to work within the gray areas of the rules. To their credit, they did go around all the turn buoys. I came out of the water 2 minutes to the big pack, where I really needed to be.

The Bike: Ooh this was hard. The bike course changed at Boise this year, removing a climb, but the course was still rolling (1500 feet of climbing) and a brutal headwind made things difficult. I worked fairly well, posting the 13th best ride, but with 10 miles to go I was caught by Karl Bodine. He's a former professional cyclist, I thought, I'll let him lead me home. The problem was is that Karl seemed to shut things down as soon as he caught me. After rolling along at 20 MPH for 5 miles or so, I decided to leave him. I think I lost another 2 minutes there.

The Run: This is the first time I've ever been able to say that I didn't do anything wrong on the run. I posted the 8th fastest run split (rare air for me) and only gave up 3 1/2 minutes to Craig Alexander. It was a hard day for everyone, with only a couple of runners going under 1:20. I came off the bike feeling good, and my turnover was quick and my strides strong. I ran the first mile in 6:10, the rest of my splits going as follows:

Mile 2: 6:17
Mile 3: 6:35 (this mile hurt—stomach issues and a side cramp)
Mile 4: 6:37 (strangely, I thought I was picking things up here)
Mile 5: 6:34
Mile 6: 6:12 (I had to catch and pass Chris McDonald here, and I knew I had to pass him convincingly, or he'd come back on me—he hung very, very tough, though; more on that later)
Mile 7: 6:20
Mile 8: 6:20
Mile 9: 6:17
Mile 10: 6:35 (I started to hurt again after a very good stretch of four miles)
Mile 11: 7:01? Hard to tell, my watch was a bit messed up.
Mile 12: 6:15
Mile 13: ~7:00.

I think I negative split the run, which is a great accomplishment for me. The run was very hard, and I knew a lot of people would fold up their tents, but all I had to do was to stay strong, keep my turnover high, and suffer. That was put to the test when I tried to put Chris McDonald away; he's a champion, and hung strong at St. George to finish 3rd. When I passed him I thought Good, he'll be gone. When I hit the turnaround he was only 34 seconds behind and still running hard. The next guy was two minutes behind, and I wasn't worried. But Chris McDonald is a competitor, even for 10th place. He made me work for it.

It was a really hard day, but it reminded me of how good hard work can feel, especially if that hard work turns into a good result, and it re-energized me about triathlon and my place in it.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Fantasy Tri Minute, 6/11

The World Cup is on and Boise 70.3 is only a day away. I'm sitting in my hotel room in Boise doing my FantasyTri picks, and here's what I'm doing:


Tim Berkel:
Tim's an old friend, economical at $5500, and he's got a lot of good results. He'll get you points.
Conrad Stolz: I'm guessing he'll win his "favorite race on the Xterra circuit."
Simon Whitfield: Simon is still pretty cheap given the fact that he's a triathlon superstar and legend (he does have two Olympic medals). He's a cruel competitor, and he wants to repeat in Des Moines in the worst way.
Terrenzo Bozzone: Strongest athlete of the year thus far, hands down.
Kyle Pawlaczyk: I needed some pack fill. But he should get points.


Mirinda Carfrae:
Hard to pick against her, really.
Leanda Cave: Had trouble in the TriGranPrix UK in terms of tires—Should come back stronger than before.
Renata Bucher: She's been winning points for me in the Xterra races for a few weeks now, and she's relatively inexpensive.
Sam McGlone: She's fast, and she's a teammate and friend. She's going to eat the Eagleman field alive.
Flo Chretien: More pack fill, but the field at Eagleman is very weak and she'll get me some points (if she finishes).

OK, off to the pro meeting!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Mt. Hood Classic, Stage One—Mt. Tabor Criterium

The Mt. Tabor Criterium features 700 feet of climbing per lap, the parcours snaking through dark, wet, Oregonian forest. The lead pack finished 30 laps of the 1.3 mile course in 90 minutes. Take a second to do the math, there.

Yes, that's 21000 feet of climbing in an hour-and-a-half, if the 700 feet per lap figure is to be believed.

Cyclocross stalwart Barry Wicks was to be seen puffing lightly in the peloton, his giant frame floating above the other figures. The win went to United Healthcare's Morgan Schmitt, whose teammates also occupy three of the remaining spots in the top six—this team has come to dominate the race, it appears. Paul Mach, winner of the Prologue, looked isolated, having to chase the attacks of his UHC opponents. The race split apart several times, with chase groups getting up to 18 seconds on the pack, before UHC brought everything back together and then delivered their man to the line.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Champion!

Here's the story about Amy's victory in the Rochester, Minnesota Post-Bulletin:

She was 20th overall, finishing well up with the men. And her time would have stood up well against last year's finishers, too, where she would have finished 3rd. A brilliant effort all 'round, and a captivating post-race interview.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


No, not my victory, and I'm happily surprised by how much more excited about someone else's victory than my own. Amy won the Rochester Med-City Marathon today with a time of 3:32 on a brutally hot day. The temperature topped out around 90 on the day, and she stayed strong while the others withered. She couldn't have run a more perfect race, letting an early leader go out too fast and choosing instead to run with the woman in 2nd place. The early rabbit folded at 13 miles, and Amy took over the lead with half the race left to run. She and her racing partner worked together for five miles or more, putting more distance between themselves and the chasers. At mile 19 Amy looked beat, walking an aid station. She set off from the station with only about 15 seconds on the second place woman. She then put more than ten minutes into her chief competitor over the last seven miles. That's an astonishing achievement. No, she didn't negative split the race, but she effectively double-split the race by staying strong while everybody else went home. Racing in the heat is hard—it requires patience and a steely attention to detail, which Amy has in spades. Bravo!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Fantasy Tri Minute, 5/29

While the firestorm from my last post dies down (331 visitors on one day? going pro has never had that kind of traffic or controversy) I'll get back to my usual dorky/niche-y posting about FantasyTri. There are four races this week, and you only get $50,000 in your budget, so I'm going to pick 8 athletes (one man and woman per race), which means an average of $6250 per pick. The start lists are a little hard to come by, but here's what I've found.

Xterra Italy (European Championships) picks in BOLD




Sibylle Matter


Myriam Guillot


Marion Lorblanchet


Maud Golsteyn

Claudia Hossmann


Monica Gabbanelli


Sara Tavecchio


Melanie McQuaid


Claudia Walser


Jacqui Slack

United Kingdom

Ilaria Zavanone


Carina Wasle


Emma Ruth Smith

United Kingdom

Darrelle Parker

United Kingdom

Giuliana Lamastra


Franky Batelier

Jim Thijs


Yeray Luxem


Felix Schumann


Lars Van Der Eerden


Olivier Marceau

Luca Molteni


Tom Curtis

United Kingdom

Graham Wadsworth

United Kingdom

Homes Llewellyn

United Kingdom

Jean Marc Cattori


Fabio Guidelli


Carl Pasio

South Africa

Fabrizio Baralla


Alessio Picco


Ronny Dietz


Ole Vinnergaard


Ricard Calmet Calveras


Jens Buder


Karel Zadak

Czech Republic

Gianpietro De Faveri


Nico Pfitzenmaier


Julian Langer


Sam Gardner

United Kingdom

Lieuwe Boonstra

South Africa

Nicolas Lebrun


Borja Conde


Ironman Brazil

No start list yet for IM Brazil (c'mon WTC!), but I'm picking two-time defending champ Eduardo Sturla ($6700) over longtime vet Oscar Galindez. As for the women, I'm going with two-time IM Champion (last year!) Tereza Macel (a remarkable affordable $5900).

Austria 70.3

Men: Michael Weiss (he's fast from his MTB background and he's got a taste for victory after being the first Austrian to win an IM; he's competing on home soil and costs less then $6000)
Women: Erika Csomor (haven't heard a lot from her in the past few years, but she's fast and knows how to win—expensive at $7500)

TriGrandPrix UK

This is a new race, kicking off a two race series of half-iron distance races that will grow to five next year. The other race is in the Basque country of Spain (hills, anyone?). They've attracted quite a field, and I'm going with Paul Ambrose, who got me some points in Florida a few weeks ago. On the girls' side I'm taking...Leanda Cave. Hard to pick against her in this relatively shallow field. She'll be battling Yvonne Van Vlerken for the win, I think.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Don't go Low! Says Molly Cameron

One of my students is working at Upper Echelon Fitness, which shares space with Portland Bike Studio, an excellent cycling boutique on Portland's East Side. UE Fitness, run by Russell Cree, is a coaching company paired with a fit studio, and my student is mostly assisting with bike fitting. The cool thing about going there today is that Molly Cameron, badass cyclocrossista and vegan, was running her side of the business, the Bike Studio bit. Molly manages to dominate the Northwestern Cyclocross scene while running two bike shops, the aforementioned PBC and the excellent Veloshop on the other side of town. She rides a Ridley and stocks Ridleys in the store, and I saw a chance to ask her something that's been niggling at me for a while.

"What do you think about the lower bottom brackets showing up on 'Cross bikes everywhere these days?" I said.

"Hate 'em," she replied.

"Can I quote you on that?"

"Please do!" she answered.

Here's the deal. 'Cross bikes have been appearing with lower bottom bracket drops. "Bottom bracket drop" is the distance from a horizontal line drawn through your front and rear axles (you're looking at the bike from the side, OK?) to the line, parallel to the ground, that passes through your bottom bracket. Big name builders such as Sacha White and Richard Sachs like bikes with bigger drops (White's Speedvagen lists a BB drop of 70 mm, and Sachs only builds bikes with 80 mm drops—that's lower than most road bikes, mind you). Bottom bracket drop is important in many directions. Here are the rules of thumb: lower the bottom bracket, and you lower the center of gravity, which makes the bike more stable while turning. Raise the bottom bracket, and you get more clearance underneath the bike, which can be a downright safety concern off-road, in criteriums, or on the track (Captain Dondo used to run a high bottom bracket and 165 mm cranks so he could pedal through the corners at crits back in the 70s—he won a lot of races that way). So you've got that consideration. Here's another one, though. Raise the bottom bracket, and the chainstays shorten a little bit, so the bike climbs better. Lower it and the wheelbase stretches a bit, giving you (again) a more stable/smooth ride.

The 'Cross community seems to headed in a low direction (the Focus Mares sports a BB drop of 70 mm; the Habanero Cyclocross goes 8 farther, with a drop of 78 mm!). But the best bikes in the cyclocross world, Ridley Bikes, still boast a very small BB drop—57-61mm throughout the whole range of bikes. Another great (European) bike maker, Stevens, sports drops of 62-70mm throughout its range, which is just low of center for 'cross bikes (a good median is 65 mm, I believe). I'd been thinking that, perhaps, Ridley had fallen behind the times.

"I used to ride low bottom brackets," Molly continued, back at the studio, "and I was always hitting pedals and crashing. I crashed right in front of Sacha at Providence in '06 and was like, 'See!' But he wouldn't change the bottom bracket drop. I thought I just couldn't handle the bike, but then I rode one of these things (she pointed up at one of several Ridleys on the wall) and thought 'Whoa, I can sprint out of any corner on this bike.'"

Molly detailed a whole bunch of good reasons to keep a high bottom bracket, mostly having to do with the type of cornering one does in 'Cross racing. Bikes with low bottom brackets sweep through long turns, like long shallow descents out of the mountains. But you almost never make that kind of turn while racing a 'Cross bike. Most of the turns are hairpin, requiring the rider to almost stop, navigate the turn, and then sprint out of it—that's why your heart rate stays so high in 'Cross. Since you're moving slowly you can't lean the bike over dramatically, which is where your low bottom bracket would come in handy. But with a high bottom bracket you can turn and keep pedaling, which will help you stay upright (you know how motocross riders correct the back end of their bikes? They give the bike some gas, which is the same thing as pedaling). Then, with the turn almost completed, you can sprint out of the corner. With a low bottom bracket you'll probably spend a lot of time whacking your pedals on the ground. That won't kill you, but it'll cost you, and a few half-second a lap, over 6-12 laps, can mean around 30 seconds. 30 seconds is an eternity in 'Cross racing.

Keep those bottom brackets up! I'll be visiting Molly to price a Ridley in the coming months.

Friday, May 21, 2010

FantasyTri Minute 5/21

FantasyTri is up and running, and IM Lanzarote and Xterra Texas are on! My technique of trying to pick 5 athletes just doesn't seem to be working, so I'm going to use this week as a dry run—only three athletes per gender, which should let me pick some real belters. Here's the pro list for IM Lanzarote:

Bert Jammaer Male Belgium Pro
Eneko Llanos Male Spain Pro
Gerrit Schellens Male Belgium Pro
Gregorio Cáceres Morales Male Spain Pro
Stephen Bayliss Male England Pro
HERVE FAURE Male France Pro
Ain-Alar Juhanson Male Estonia Pro
Maik Twelsiek Male Germany Pro
Joseph Spindler Male Germany Pro
Chris Brands Male Netherlands Pro
Patrick Jaberg Male Switzerland Pro
Tuukka Miettinen Male Finland Pro
Nicholas Ward Muñoz Male England Pro
Philip Graves Male England Pro
alvaro velazquez Male Spain Pro
Iñigo Augusto Perez-Nievas Male Spain Pro
Eanna McGrath Male Ireland Pro
Cesar Valera Male Venezuela Pro
Rafael Wyss Male Switzerland Pro
Matja~ Kova? Male Slovenia Pro
Benjamin Rossmann Male Germany Pro
Rob Steegink Male Netherlands Pro
Eneko Elosegui Armendariz Male Spain Pro
Cedric LARGAJOLLI Male France Pro
Jorge Rakos Male Argentina Pro
Kit Stokes Male England Pro
Juha Laitinen Male Finland Pro
Georg Swoboda Male Austria Pro
Peter Schoissengeier Male Austria Pro
Alessandro Valli Male Italy Pro
Werner Ueberbacher Male Italy Pro
Jozef Vrabel Male Slovakia Pro 32
Bella Bayliss Female England Pro
Kathrin Paetzold Female Germany Pro
Hillary Biscay Female United States Pro
Tara Norton Female Canada Pro
Rebecca Preston Female Australia Pro
Irene Kinnegim Female Netherlands Pro
Nicole Woysch Female Germany Pro
Catriona Morrison Female Scotland Pro
Beatrix Blattmann Female Switzerland Pro
Joanna Carritt Female England Pro
Kate Bevilaqua Female Australia Pro
Wenke Kujala Female Germany Pro
Yvette Grice Female England Pro
Heike Priess Female Germany Pro
Kathrin Volz Female Germany Pro
Sarah Schuetz Female Switzerland

I'd take Bert Jammaer (he's won the damn thing twice in a row, he's a new dad, and he only costs $5937)
Eneko Llanos ($6964)
Catriona Morrison ($7450)
Hilary Biscay ($7117)

Total Team for IM Lanzarote: 27468

Start List for Xterra Waco, Men:

- Matt Boobar, Ryan DeCook, Craig Evans, Scott Gall, Trevor Glavin, Brandon Jessop, Will Kelsay, Josiah Middaugh, Branden Rakita, Cody Waite, Seth Wealing
- Nico Lebrun
- Grayson Keppler, Conrad Stoltz

Start list for Xterra Waco, Women:

USA - Emma Garrard, Shae Rainer, Brandyn Roark Gray, Sara Tarkington, Tracy Thelen, Shonny Vanlandingham
AUSTRALIA - Christie Sym
CANADA - Christine Jeffrey, Melanie McQuaid
NEW ZEALAND - Jenny Smith
SCOTLAND - Lesley Paterson
SWITZERLAND - Renata Bucher

I'm taking Seth Wealing ($4926) as my stud and Matt Boobar ($1986, VT Represent!) and Grayson Keppler ($250) as my pack fill. On the Womens' side, I'm taking Lesley Patterson ($4585, a second scottish woman!) as my...Studette? That sounds awful. Um, what's a good word for strong woman that doesn't sound terrible, like "Amazon" or "Athena?" Anyway. Then I've got Christie Sym ($250) and Shae Rainer ($250) as my pack fill. There are so few athletes that you should really just fill up on Xterra people, since you know you're going to score.

Get out there and play! The race just opened up but you've got to get your picks in before racing starts in Lanzarote!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


I've been thinking about integrity a lot, recently: my integrity, the integrity of my students, the integrity of my athletic ambitions, the integrity of my artistic ambitions, the integrity of my professional and life ambitions, the integrity of the people around me.

Integrity has to do with the alignment of all the parts of your being. Here's an example. Some students at my school made some bad decisions recently. No big deal, really—they're high school students and no one ended up hurt (no blood, no foul, right?). When the story started to leak out, though, they conspired among themselves to protect each other. Their desire to tell the truth was out of integrity with the urge to protect their friends. This is a perfectly understandable situation, especially if you are, say, seventeen and thinking about what a suspension might look like on your college applications. The big issue, however, is that their conscience wanted to do one thing while their ego wanted them to do something else—two different directions=impossible to act with integrity. Integrity loathes multitasking.

I am out of integrity with some aspects of my life. This being a somewhat light athletic blog, I will spare you the nitty-gritty of my personal existence, if it can be separated at all from my athletic existence. We'll start with some basic ones.
  • My core strength is out of integrity with my athletic ambitions. Despite knowing how important core strength is I continue to neglect it, thinking "It's only a half-hour of important could it be? I'm training 25 hours a week, what will 2 sessions of strength work do for me? My core strength and my athletic ambitions are out of integrity.
  • My weight is out of integrity with my athletic ambitions. I told Cliff, yesterday, that I'll get down to 175 by Boise 70.3. That's six pounds in three-and-a-half weeks. I've said I'll lose that weight for years, now. What part of me wants me not to be successful? I've been too light before, and I don't want to go back there, but a sensible leanness will only make me faster.
  • My misgivings about the sport are out of integrity with my athletic ambitions. I hesitate to identify as a triathlete, or as a professional athlete. These things seem to be frivolous or narcissistic to people I've met before, and I've taken those things on. So when I'm training one part of my brain thinks "This is amazing—I don't ever want to do anything else. I am the luckiest man on the planet." The other part of my brain is saying: "You'll never be good enough. You're just doing this to keep the demons at bay. You're doing this because you're horribly self-centered."
Having a lack of integrity can be exhausting, even if your lack of integrity is only hurting yourself. As the best boss I've ever had once said: "When you are dishonest you get warts on your soul and those warts do not go away." I see being out of integrity with one's self as dishonesty, even if it's something like being dishonest about your commitment to get one's strength workouts done.

Whew. Heavy! Sorry, folks. We'll return with light entertainment on Friday, for the FantasyTri update!

Monday, May 17, 2010


No, I couldn't re-tilt the photo at left, so excuse the oddity. TJ Tollakson came in 7th yesterday, making him my best placed male FantasyTri athlete (I swerved at the last minute and benched eventual 4th place finisher Richie Cunningham for no-show Leon Griffin—didn't I say his website didn't say anything about Florida 70.3? Shucks). For a while during the race I thought I'd made a canny decision, picking the only $4100 Tollakson for my team, since he came off the bike almost 7 minutes in front, after a bike split that distanced the pack by almost 10 minutes. He got around in under 2 hours, which is rare air for 56 miles on your own. TJ's effort would place him in the ballpark of professional cyclists competing in long time trials. Toss in the fact that the Florida 70.3 bike course is by no means a straightforward affair: it isn't pancake flat and swoops and curves out in the orchards beyond Orlando.

TJ put in the effort to win his way on Sunday, for which I admire him. After a disappointing race in Galveston where he bided his time, it seems he decided to go back to his trump card, the bike. As playing that card often does, he paid for his gamble by blowing up in the Disneyworld heat. Still, he played it. As an athlete whose strong suit is also the bike (can I really say that any more? I feel more and more middle of the pack these days on the bike) I admire the gamble Tollakson made. On a few days in triathlon the cyclists have their days: Normann's had two, TJ's had one at Eagleman, Jordan's had a bunch until he showed us that, actually, he's a pretty damn solid runner, too. Triathlon is drifting towards a conservative style of racing: sit in the pack on the swim, sit in the line on the bike, save it for the run, so it's nice to see someone still making triathlon about his individual strength.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fantasy Tri Minute 5/13—Men.

Only one race this coming weekend, but the field listed for Florida 70.3 is an interesting one. Here are the two start lists (separated by gender—why can't WTC do at least that for its website users?).


Rich Allen—Racing, on the comeback trail, 14th at Knoxville and St. Anthony's. Longshot to get you points. Bargain at $2133, though.
Paul Ambrose—Racing, another relative bargain at just over $5000. He's a steady performer at 70.3 distance. He's probably a good choice.
Dirk Bockel—Racing, but expensive at $7100.
Daniel Bretscher—Not sure if he's racing; website didn't say, but he's cheap at $3900 or so. Probably a good pick.
Mike Caiazzo (NOT RACING)
Andres Castillo Latorre—He's got similar results to me, but only costs $250. If you're looking for a longshot but with some value, he might not be bad (I beat him by a couple of places in Austin last year).
Richie Cunningham—Racing. Richie's expensive, but he'll usually get inside the top five. He's a good stallion to pick for your stable. I'm going to play him this weekend.
Scott Duffy—Couldn't figure out who this person is. Nor does he have a FantasyTri listing.
Stephen Dyke—Canadian bloke, it seems. A few north-of-the-border results. Cheap.
Paul Fritzsche—Paul is just a great guy and a super-strong cyclist. His blog says he's competing, but I think this field might just be too strong for him to get into the top ten. He's good value, though, at just under $3000.
Ryan Giuliano—Part of the US Pro Tri team. Looks like a young pro. No FT listing.
Leon Griffin—Leon is a stud, but his website doesn't mention Florida...
Andrew Hodges—Website mentions nothing about Florida...I got burned by playing Andrew a few weeks ago, so I'm gonna steer clear.
David Kahn—Second year pro. No listing on FT or on his blog.
Stephen Kilshaw—Won Shawnigan Lake 1/2 IM last year, and he's only $25o. Could be a good sleeper.
Greg Kopecky—Also only $250. Young, though.
Reinaldo Oliveira—A few results. Probably pack-fill.
Kyle Pawlaczyk—13th at New Orleans 70.3. Might get you some points if you can spell his name. Only $250.
Bryan Rhodes—His website doesn't mention Florida. Coming back from injury. A little expensive, especially since we're not sure he's competing.
Daniel Schmoll—Who?
TJ Tollakson—Buy! Buy! Pretty cheap. Hungry. Fit. Only $4100.
Nicholas Vandam—Young ITU pro. Florida 70.3 is probably a little too hilly on the bike for him right now.
Matt White—His blog doesn't say anything. Sounds like he's going back to Boulder to get ready for CdA.
Maxim Kriat—Long course guy, had some success. Cheap. You might think about it. Only $2400.
Alun Woodward—I don't know who this is, but he's expensive ($5500). ITU guy?
Viktor ZyemtsevStill classy after all these years. Won Louisville last year and just came in 10th at St. Anthony's. Not too expensive ($4700) and likely to get you some points.

Here's my team:

Cunningham, Tollakson, Ambrose, Pawlaczyk, Kilshaw.

Here's the women's start list. I'll do them tomorrow.


Leanda Cave
Florence Chretien
Jacqui Gordon
Lisa Huetthaler
Heather Jackson
Tamara Kozulina
Nina Kraft
Heather Leiggi
Emma-Kate Lidbury
Kim Loeffler
Sara McLarty
Kate Pallardy
Ayesha Rollinson
Daniela Saemmler
David Sharratt
Amanda Stevens
Danielle Sullivan
Pip Taylor
Magali Tisseyre
Kelly Williamson

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


I'm not as despondent as I was about racing last week. 8 days of recovery and then a good first day back will alleviate the darkest doubts, although I've now come full circle and deeply regret dropping out of Ironman St. George. It was such a hard race, and I could have finished it—there is beauty in finishing any Ironman. I was just feeling a bit overconfident and poncy about the whole thing. You have to race the whole time—nothing gets handed to you, especially in long-distance racing.

OK, enough philosophizing for now. One of the things I need to address is my core and stability work. If I only suspected they needed work last week, my worst fears have been confirmed by one strength session with zen guru physiotherapist/triathlete/coach/counselor Chris Ramsey (whose name I have finally spelled correctly). Chris is a veteran of many Ironman races, pulling off a 9:10 in his career, which is nothing at all at which to sniff. Chris agreed to help me with my strength issues, and we met in the beautiful (beautiful to an athlete) gym at Portland Center for Athletic Excellence (which has the somewhat head-tilting acronym PACE to go with its name)—if you haven't been to PACE, you should go sometime. They gym floor is old-school astroturf, and there is a skull with crossed battleaxes on the wall, grinning at you through the unmistakable circle of chainring. Think Rocky crossed with Breaking Away and you're pretty much there. Don't laugh, though; there are several Stars-and-Bars jerseys on the wall and—be still, breath—a medium blue jersey enlivened by rainbow stripes. There are Olympic weight racks and buckets of foam rollers. Kettleballs and stability balls. It smells of chamois cream and chalk. That is, to anyone who loves sport, it is the most beautiful place in the world.

OK, enough overblown prose. Here's what Chris did to me:

Pushups on a stability ball ("the point isn't doing pushups," Chris said. "The point is holding your core in the right place while you do pushups. You've got strong arms. You can muscle out some pushups. But do you see that your hips are sagging? That means you're not working what you're trying to work. Do them from your knees.") Doing pushups from one's knees is a humbling thing. We all knew what we thought of the guys on our soccer teams long ago who did pushups from their knees. Sigh. I was able to do two sets of six before throwing in the towel.

Pullups from Olympic Rings: as cool as this sounds, this is actually a modified row exercise. You grab the rings and take about six steps backwards, so the rings' strap to the ceiling forms the hypoteneuse of a right triangle. You lean back so your arms are straight, and then you pull yourself forward, "keeping your elbows straight!" If you do this, you'll feel quite a burn between your shoulder-blades. As with the pushups, you've got to keep yourself plank straight.

Side Planks: pretty obvious, right? Still painful.

Standing Hip Abduction: Let me just say directly that I hate these. Here are Chris's directions:

1) Lift one foot off the floor (slight bend in the leg you’re standing on)
2) Lift the “up” leg out to the side
3) Slowly lower back to the start but keep the foot up in the air

Done correctly, this really, really hurts both sides of your hips. If you have "The hips of a fifteen year-old-girl, as I appear to do, this exercise really hurts.

Squats: I managed 2x12 reps at, oh, 65 pounds. I used to squat hundreds of pounds when I used to play soccer. Sigh.

Standing/Squatting Jump-Thingies: Here's how you do these.

1) Stand with knees bent, as if you're about to sit down on the toilet
2) Raise your arms in front of you, pointing straight out (unlike sitting down on the toilet)
3) Hop quickly for thirty seconds, landing "lightly" ("try not to make any sound when you land) so your quads soak up the contact. Don't aim for height. Aim for quality and speed.

Mountain Climbers: I basically couldn't do these, but Chris says the most important thing (for when I can actually do them) is not to touch one's toes to the ground at the top of the motion. Keep them in the air. It's harder.

Plyometrics: I did so many of these back in my goalkeeping days that it seems totally unfair to be doing plyos again. We did use those cool rope-ladder thingies that you see NFL players using on Nike ads on TV, the ones where each bead of sweat has been placed and lovingly photographed.

Combination Pushup-Walking with Superman: Say what? It's almost impossible.

OK, that's all for my running update for this week. Stay tuned for the Fantasy Tri minute on Friday.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Once [Never] A Runner?

I come back to John Parker Jr's running classic about once a year, mostly to remind myself that athletic success often comes with a steep price tag. You only have to read the scene in which Bruce Denton puts Quenton Cassidy through the following workout to discover if you even want to try to pay the price (actually paying the price, well, that takes even more guts).

3x(20x400 m @ race pace (55 sec/quarter) w/100 m jog between quarters and 400 m jog after every five quarters).

That's a simple equation, but for a runner of Cassidy's caliber (that's Jim Ryun or Steve Prefontaine or Adam Goucher) you're talking 15 miles at sub 4:00/mile pace with only the barest of recoveries. The whole workout works out to 19.25 miles, a brutal amount of work to be done on the track.

The thing is, you must be willing to go that deep if you actually care about winning in your sport. As I came off the bike on Saturday I felt a lot of things, rust being the predominant sensation. But more unsettling than forgetting that, in a race, you have to be prepared to work hard (how did I lose sight of that one?) was the sense that I just didn't know how to run.

I've run a lot over the past ten years. I remember the run that may have kicked off Chris Bagg's modern era of running. I had on a pair of yellow New Balance 1026s, which felt like beautiful slippers. I was a senior in college, living in a bizarre house off campus above an actress and a poli sci major named Vindhyia. I cruised out for a run on Vassar's Farm and came back feeling cracked open, as if breathing for the first time (I'd run before, but not with the same sense of timeliness and freedom). The awful year in D.C. followed, and my first marathon, and then countless half-marathons, triathlons, cycling races, open water swims, etc, etc...

But I don't think I know how to run.

You've seen people who know how to run. They run the way the Flintstones characters ran: an upper body held motionless, while legs turn in a blur below. No matter the terrain they flow up and over it, their shoes making no more than light scuff, scuff, scuff, scuff on the ground. Looking at the pictures from St. George, I see someone deeply afflicted by gravity, earthbound and irrevocably attached to the pavement. My face has none of a true runner's serenity.

I neglect a lot of the things that might make me a better runner: drills, cadence, core strength. I'm embarking, though, on a quest to become a true runner. That means losing some weight and building some strength. Look to these pages in the coming weeks to see how it's going. I'll try to keep you updated on my process.