Sunday, April 17, 2011

Alabama and Collegiate Nationals

Gotta knock this one out before the homework really gets piled on and this becomes irrelevant.

I have to say..... I had a blast staying with the UCLA Tri team and am truly thankful for time I got to spend with them. It just makes me wish we had a legitimate tri team at Loma. It makes these trips much more bearable when you have friends going through it with you. Not only was hanging out with the UCLA tri team sweet, but all of the schools from the West Coast Collegiate Triathlon Conference. I love all those guys. It honestly didn't feel like separate teams from the WCCTC competing with the rest of the Collegiate teams, but the WCCTC vs. the rest of the schools (or maybe just Boulder). It was pretty awesome. I don't think any other conferences have that sort of camaraderie. 

Alabama was ... Alabama. Hot, humid, and rednecks. Our first night, a couple of the UCLA guys and I went for a little exploratory run around the hotel area. I somehow forgot my running shorts so I decided my retro 80's speedo would have to suffice. After circling the Lowe's parking an upwards of 6 times and running to the highway and back I told the guys I was going to call it a night & head to the hotel. They decided to head in as well. Right as we exited the Lowe's parking lot, I noticed something hit me in the back, followed by a sticky substance creepin on my arm. Everyone was bewildered at what had just happened, but apparently some rednecks in a big ol truck, threw their leftover hooters at us while driving off. I'm guessing it was aimed at me because of my flamboyant speedo and retro headband. Luckily for myself, the others took the brunt of this drive-by fooding because they were on the outside while running.. It was awesome after we realized what had happened. "welcome to alabama". Josh Reyes and Nick Handel were smothered in thousand island dressing. It was hilarious. We decided to go to a nearby waffle house shortly after and were recognized as "those guys running around" by the WH employees. Apparently we threw a huge wrench in the Alabama system. I was just waiting for some big guy to come up to me and say something like "We don't take too kindly to yer kind around here, boy..." I immediately regretted the decision to bring only highly fluorescent V necks on this trip. 

Speaks for itself

The Race:

Brady, 30 seconds till the gun.. Me in the right corner ;-)
Alright.. I knew it was a bad decision to race 6 days after racing Oceanside 70.3. I knew deep down inside that: A. There's no way I could be competitive with these guys at this level, being as sore and tired as I was. B. There's no way I could be competitive with these guys at this level anyways. The guys in the Top 5 have been doing this for a long time and put in way more work than I do at shorter distance stuff. That being said, I'm neither happy with my result or upset by it. 

Having raced AG Nats only 8 months ago, I had some idea how this course would be going. So when I saw that dock, I wasn't going to fall victim to getting a crappy swim spot 5 seconds before the start again.  When we jumped in and everyone swam out to do another little warmup, I quickly grabbed a protruding chain on the dock to get a solid start spot. As the officials told everyone they had to be touching the dock and the gun would be going off in 30 seconds, I had the biggest smile on my face. I had my feet planted on the dock while holding the chain as almost everyone else was floating in water touching the dock. I'm pretty sure the CBS camera man had his camera right on me. The gun went off and I swear, no one.. no one touched me for the first 200 meters. It was the best start to a race I'd ever had. For the lack of swim training that I've been doing, I'd say I had a pretty dang good swim. I exited the water just in front of a few strong WCCTC swimmers including Henry Szeto and Tim Black. The fairly long run up to transition was really fun. 
I'm in the red goggles clutching the chain on the right still.. 

I don't want to throw down a massive rant about the bike section of this race just because I don't want to be "that guy", but I'm not happy about it. Essentially, with the course being two loops and the lanes were only 1 car lane wide, there was some nice drafting going on. Whatever.. this happens, I have to learn to deal with it. I was hammering out a pretty good pace by myself for 45 minutes before a pack of 15+ dudes came up to join me in the last 4-5 miles. Lame sauce. I know half of these guys were sitting up drinking coffee and eating doughnuts for the majority of this ride. It's not fair, but that's life. The bike course had no legitimacy whatsoever. There was a good sized pack a minute in front of me the whole time as well. I did see a lot of penalties being issued by the officials, which is good, but why did it even come to that? Come on USAT, get your shit together. It doesn't take a scientist to figure out what's going to happen with 700 fast 20something year olds all crammed together on a fast bike course. 

I may have not PR'ed in any sport on Saturday, but shoot.. I PR'ed both of those transitions. I have a notorious T1 time. I flew through both of those transitions like I had Tiger's Blood in my veins. The run was pretty funny to watch, not funny to partake in. The first 2 miles are mostly uphill and it was really funny to see guys take off at too hard of a pace, only to get gnarly side stitches a mile or so into it and pull off to the side. (I was pretty close to being on of those guys). I'm glad Henry and I left transition at the same time. It really helped to pace with him in the beginning when we each were going through ups and downs. Right around the second mile I noticed my run legs start to open up and I felt good so I took a chance and pushed out of this group of guys I had been running with. I hit the only downhill hard and put some time on everyone. When I hit the flats I really pushed hard and opened up a nice gap on the group. I was feeling really good and probably could've been running faster but held back a bit. I hit mile 4 in a low 22:10-something, so relatively fast. But then, out of no where, I hit the wall. My legs suddenly had no energy left and I couldn't go any harder. My pace slowed dramatically and I heard footsteps advancing in my direction rapidly. Within 30+ seconds Henry and Noah Beyeler caught me and ran past me with ease. I tried to hang on to Henry's feet but I had nothing inside me. Oceanside finally caught up to me, and to be honest I was surprised I made it that far, that fast. I'm really bummed because there was a pack of 10 guys, less than a minute in front of me, all running fairly slow. Noah held the same pace I had been holding earlier and caught all but one of them. So I jogged in to finish 21st overall at a 37:40something 10k, which isn't terribly bad.. but I know I'm capable of running much, much faster. 

Still proud of my effort at least, knowing I battled, took some chances and ran a clean race. Just bummed seeing the results and knowing the guys in the Top 10 weren't too much faster and the next 10 guys in front of me were only a minute faster. Pretty stoked for Henry and Brady O'ryan though.. they both had great races and Brady took 3rd overall. Also stoked for my buddy Bill Jones at UCSD (also a B+L athlete), who was second out of the water and held thru that run to finish in the top 15. 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Oceanside 70.3 Recap (2011)

I had to wait a day to write this. Writing a race report the day of the race is always bad news.. It's like that email you write when you're angry and you send it, then look back the next day and go "woops, that was a little harsh". Anyways, I had plenty of time to think about my race while sitting in traffic today on my drive up to USC to drop off my bike for Collegiate Nationals (next Saturday in Alabama).
Don't worry.. more pics to come G.buts with the photo cred.

Race Morning:
I'm not going to lie, I was pretty excited for this race. I woke up feeling fresh and easy; took a nice little shower at 4:10 to get my body awake. Pumped up my tires and I oiled my chain (I didn't actually oil my chain, that's just how the song goes) and rode from the pier to the transition area in the Harbor. I had everything pretty much ready to go so it was quick setting up and taking off for a little warm up jog. Now, I had already taken care of the bathroom business well before the crowds started forming, but as soon as I saw the pros take off I suddenly had to go again. I ran back to the bathrooms to find a Disneyland feature ride queue formed. Well, I had a good 30 minutes till my wave went off so this was fine.. until 23 minutes had gone by and I was still waiting in that line. With 5 minutes to go I bolted out of that portpotty and sprinted towards my group. I ran into Lindsey who was curious as to what I had been doing, and fought my way up the age group waves to my wave which was "on deck". As the group before us took off, they let us swim from the loading dock to the deep water start in the middle of the harbor. I always love this because you can tell from that 25-50 meter swim, who the better swimmers will be cause it's pretty much a warmup sprint for position for the start. Of course I get out there and who else is right next to me but Brian Duffy. Now we don't speak of his name in my house so I will refer to him as He-Who-Must-Not-Be Named. He-Who-Must-Not-Be Named is quite a good swimmer (& cyclist and runner for that matter), so I knew going into this race I'd pretty much be racing him unless someone else in my age group had a killer day (which you can never rule out!)

The Race:
Well, in typical Keith Butsko style, I bolted from the swim start when the gun went off and had a nice gap between me and everyone else. In fact, it was too nice of a gap; so I poked my head up and noticed I was swimming off course (yes, within the first 50 meters) into the boats along the side of the harbor. Quickly corrected myself and found the lead pack. There were 4 others swimming at the front with me and one dude (who I later found out was He-Who-Must-Not-Be Named) that broke off the front after the 3rd buoy and started blazing a trail of his own. This group of 3 and I swam for a while together until we started encountering the slower age groupers clogging up the course. I don't blame them, they can only swim as fast as possible.. However I'm pretty unhappy about how the WTC (or IRONMAN) seeds the waves. I never understood why they put the older age groups and the challenged athletes at the front. I probably ran over 7-10 people during my swim and got kicked in the face a good number of times because there were people just floating around in the water. It was pretty choppy and wavy towards the turning point on the swim course. A lot of people were struggling but I used my surfing knowledge to use the waves to my benefit and get a little push from them. The group I swam with had long been separated, so I really didn't have anyone to gauge my effort with. When I exited the swim I looked at my watch and it said 27:xx. I was not very happy to see that and angrily grabbed my bike and headed out.

note: looking at everyone's swim times, I now feel much better :-p

The Bike:
Fueled by anger, I pushed hard in the 1st 24.4 miles & went thru in 59:00. That's a bit faster than I'd have typically gone in an olympic distance race (not to mention how windy and hilly the course was). Partly pleased with myself/ partly scarred of wondering if I was going to have enough energy to make it thru the remainder of this course, I settled down a bit and found a good pace. As soon as we hit the back side of Camp Pendleton I hit the wall (or maybe it was just the false-flats into a headwind). I felt drained of energy and couldn't push myself thru the winds. That wind sucked. The more I tucked into an aero position, the more my lower back would cramp. Finally, I saw the bright green suit of Jim Walsh ride past me right when I felt the worst. He was going a bit faster than I but not too much. So I copied his speed and tied an imaginary 75 foot rope to him and hung on (& no I wasn't drafting). That got me thru the back side of that course. I only felt worse the longer I rode. My lower back cramps turned into nausea and that increased the more I exerted myself. When we turned west and headed back into Oceanside, it didn't get any easier. I looked at my watch and saw my bike split was 2:03 and only had 11 miles to go. How many times have I TT'ed 20k on Fiesta Island in heavy wind and clocked 30 minutes? Too many to list. So I gathered myself up and fought into the wind (again) and pushed on. I thought I had a grueling pace but it must've not been (as my bike split ended up being 2:35).
Thanks to Karen Hardy for the Pic!

The Run:
Angry again, I ran into T2 feeling pretty sick. I saw my dad while putting my shoes on and he yelled to me that I was only 3 minutes back. I knew he had to have been exaggerating because there's no way He-Who-Must-Not-Be Named had given up that much time to me on the bike. The 1st couple of miles weren't actually too bad. I still felt sick but I didn't have the back cramps paining me anymore. I saw a man dressed as a seagull running around and felt better. But.... towards the end of the 1st lap I started feeling worse. My legs actually felt fine and I had the "running feel", but my stomach just felt horrible. The harder I tried to push myself the worse I felt.

The Walk:
I hit the turnaround and honestly couldn't run another step without throwing up. I didn't care about my time at this point.. I was only concerned with my well being. I walked back up the hill towards my family who gave me encouragement but I only wobbled by. I continued my saunter on down the hill past my friends and felt so defeated. As I passed the TCSD aid station I tried drinking a bit of coke and eating a banana (you ask why I was eating when I felt nauseous? My stomach felt bloated with water and empty at the same time.. weird, I know). I continued walking till I passed Jim Vance trying to help me out. I started jogging sometime around the pier and tried to pull myself together. I jogged till Wisconsin Street and as soon as I hit that hill I bonked big time. I walked up the hill and sat on the curb next to a dumpster, took my shoes off, cracked my toes, and laid back into some dirt. A little girl came and gave me two cookies from a nearby aid station. I ate them and put my shoes back on. Started walking again. I thought to myself "I have to finish.. no matter what or I'll never forgive myself".

The 2nd Run:
I started jogging, which turned into a run sometime after I saw Matt Reed walking around drinking a coke (I guess he dropped out, it only gave me inspiration to keep going). I still felt horrible but I continued on knowing that I could be finished with this race.

Finally finishing felt fantastic (like that alliteration?). I ended up with a 1:35 run split (amazingly). I'm perplexed because I had to have walked 1-2 miles at a snails pace and who knows how long I was sitting with my shoes off eating cookies for. So I'm actually quite encouraged to have run that fast while feeling as bad as I did. --Just taking what I can from this race. As my friend Kosuke Amano told me after the race: "It's those hard challenging days that make you a better athlete (person). It defines who you are. The days when you feel amazing are boring." On a side note: I did love/appreciate Jim Vance's encouragement and pep talking during the run. Every time I went past him, he had something insightful to say to me. (not to say my family and friends didn't). And every time I ran past my girlfriend Lindsey, she gave me this look as to say "you better get your ass moving dude.. I put up with a lot of your crap for this" ..but in the most loving way.

I still feel disappointed in my performance (even though I finished 2nd in my age group.. don't know how that happened), I am proud of myself for finishing. I really want to thank all of my family and friends, especially those who came out to support me at the race. Seriously, spectating at these events can be brutal. I really appreciate it.

Yesterday only made me 10x more motivated for the Collegiate National Championship this weekend. Roll Sealions.. (or whatever the heck PLNU's theme is. Probably "PLNU: We're Straight Up Average" Actually I think it's "Forward"; somewhat fitting)