Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wandering the Windy City & the Syracuse 70.3

Pre-race swim w/ Jennyonthethumbsup
Don’t travel with me. Just don’t… I’m undoubtedly cursed. If there’s one thing I can count on when flying anywhere, it’s that I can’t count on anything. I’m pretty sure untrained carrier pigeons would've reached Syracuse faster than I did last week. Covered wagons on the Oregon Trail would’ve been a more efficient & reliable transportation method for my cargo than checking it onto a plane.

My wayward enterprise to the East Coast began last Wednesday morning at the San Diego airport- & to no surprise, with a 2 hour delay. On my (almost) arrival into O’Hare airport in Chicago, the captain informed the flight that we can’t land “due to a bit of choppy weather”. We circled above Illinois for another hour before landing at, what would become, my new favorite least favorite place on earth. If anyone has any questions or would like advice on where to go in terminal 2 at O’Hare, just shoot me a message, because I was there, delayed, for 8 HOURS. I can list you the name of every shop & restaurant, in order, in concourse C like the 1st 20 Presidents of the United States (so with about 80% accuracy, some spelling errors, and a few that don’t actually exist). I know where all the prime spots to charge your phone are, where all the flight crew members gather and gripe before/after flights, & where to sit and enjoy a beer while observing people frantically running to & fro gates. I own the record for the pub crawl in concourse C, having 1 beer at every bar that evening. This endless delay finally ended at 1:30am with the outright cancellation of the flight.
Millennium Park
Left to fend for myself until the next flight to Syracuse (which was Friday AM, 30 hours later), I set out into the windy city to find a bed. After unsuccessfully infiltrating a Holiday inn and Best Western, learned that every hotel in/surrounding the city was booked (or overbooked). I was forced to split a cab with 5 others, 17 miles into the middle of BF-nowhere to a Super 8. The next morning, awoke with excitement (seriously) and jumped on a train into the city. I had never been to Chicago and have always wanted to, so I got out my exhausted phone and texted a number of friends from Chicago and asked where I should go & explore in the city. I took a tally of the most popular suggestions and took action. It was actually an awesome day roaming the city and wandering around this urbane & metropolitan wonderland. With the expectation of a few close calls with some ruffians on an evening run to Soldier Field thru the South Side, it was a great day.

Of course, my flight was delayed for 2 hours on Friday morning to Syracuse because the Pilots were in a different city. Nonetheless, I finally made it to the Cuse that afternoon….. with a missing bike. I (almost) didn’t care; just happy to see my friends & home stay, Dan & Alesha, as well as victoriously reach my destination. With a crash course in How to successfully argue with the airlines by being pestering and aggressive by Alesha, my bike was found and delivered to the airport on Saturday afternoon, 20 minutes before the Pro meeting.
Soldier Field

Let’s Talk Racing-
With the knowledge learned from being there late last year, Dan & I armed our alarm clocks early and navigation system for the road less traveled (the back road entrance) & arrived at the race with plenty of time to spare. I was uniquely amped and excited before the start (later attributing this internal explosion (on every level) to the pint of straight espresso that I drank with breakfast).

I was slightly surprised I had a decent swim, thinking for sure I’d have a bad swim with my regimen of 25-minute, twice weekly, swims at my parent’s pool over the last 2 months. Nonetheless, felt strong and took turns rotating around with a group of 3 others, exiting in 26:30.

 I borrowed my brother’s bike (my old Shiv) for this race (any bike companies out there….. I’d love a bike. Anything above a 1998 ti frame will do). Just like hooking up with an ex, everything felt familiar and there were no awkward moments in position re-acquaintance, which made for smooth sailing on the bike course. A big change in cycling training was mainly credited to much conversing with Brett Clare. For those of you that don’t know Brett, aside from being one of the most humble and class dudes around, I couldn’t even begin to list his endless accomplishments in cycling. Brett helped form the groundwork to get me on the right track, and with just 6-7 weeks of change, I had, unquestionably, the strongest bike split in a 70.3 I’ve ever had. Praise also to Luke McKenzie for helping me with boundless technical aspects to cycling. There’s so much to learn about this sport, you can’t do it without the help of others who’ve experienced it, themselves.

I rode without power or any sort of bike computer and relied totally on effort. The downer was I forgot to attach a 2nd bottle cage to my back seat, so I only had 1 bottle and had to grab a few water hand-offs at course aid stations. I believe I passed 7 people on the bike and rode  alone the whole day. I felt strong and even held back a bit on the climb. I really love that course, it’s got a long grinding grade/climb for the first 15-20 miles then rolling, ending with a few downhill sections; great road conditions and epic scenery. 2:17 bike split. It would’ve been nice to have a few others around to keep the pressure up when I’d start to get comfortable, but I think I did a decent job with the presented circumstances.

Run snaps by Dan
I entered T2 in 8th place and was excited to start the run in the top 10. Unfortunately, I could tell immediately that I was going to be fighting.a losing battle with dehydration. After rolling thru mile 2 around goal pace (11:40), I walked a few aid stations and drank as much water as I could get down. The next 6 miles were ROUGH and the challenging course/hills didn’t help anything. It wasn’t until miles 8-9 that my energy came around and I could pick up my legs again. The last 5k I felt great but the damage had already been done and had been passed by too many guys. Ended the day in 12 th (24 Pro men started) in 4:12

I wasn't particularly satisfied with my result but happy I’m finally figuring out the 70.3 distance and seeing progress. I’m confident I can piece it all together someday.

Following the race, Jen and Mark convinced me to come with them to get some of the local favorite Ice Cream (I’m so hard to convince when it comes to sweets);  &  a well earned dinner at Dinosaur BBQ capped off the night. (Joint celebration for Dr. Mark Barber, successfully defending at SU, days prior.)
Should hv just taken that balloon back home..
As you can probably imagine, the trip back home was nearly as ridden with shite luck as the way out. I’m not lying when I tell you this (as if I were lying about anything else in this post) that this devil woman at the front counter of United was deadest on charging me $450 to check my bike back to SD. Clearly, by her superiorly accurate eyeballing size/scaling talent, she could tell that my bike case was just over the size requirements for oversized baggage. After 45 minutes of arguing and eventually proving her wrong with a tape measure, the price was reduced to a mere $225 (the monkey covering his eyes emoji, here). After a 3 hour in delay in Newark because, get this, they loaded another plane’s baggage onto the plane I was on and only God knows where our baggage was. I made it back to San Diego only to find the jetway (connector from the plane to the terminal) had been frozen and had to be reset by the mechanics, which took 35 more minutes before we could un-board. Thinking only of how I’d be devouring California Burritos and an IPA with my brother as soon as I got off that ridiculous ramjet, those felt like the longest 35 minutes of my life. I almost kissed the ground when I got back to Encinitas, but instead kissed my Stone IPA after a toast to a great & unforgettable trip.

Dino BBQ w/ Mark, Jen, Dan & Alesha

Thanks to my outrageously rad sponsors- Spy, Harmony Bars, Stone Brewing Co, Xterra wetsuits, and Snapchat (…just kidding, or am?). Special thanks to Dan, Alesha & little Finn. Thank you guys for opening up your home to me and making me feel like family.. Lookin forward to returning the love in SD soon! (Also to the Anderson family for giving me an Ecuadorian Spear. You can bet I’m gonna nab some fish in the lagoon with that that sucker). Lastly, Gregg, Barb, Reid & Lexi… you guys make me this happy: Click Here #andreaGail
The Flight Home #snapchat

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Lumberyard Eating Challenge

Pic by Courtney
Switching things up a bit, I’m going to write a recap of my last endeavor, an eating challenge. I figured this is probably something the standard “Cats in Pajamas” audience member rarely partakes in. Hopefully I can provide a little insight on the challenges of an eating competition. Let me preface this by saying that I went into this entirely too cocky. As I found out (just like I found out during my 1st beer mile), because you like something (food, beer, or even working out) and you enjoy doing it a lot, doesn't make you competitive at it. There’s a separation between enjoying a particular activity (in this case, eating cheeseburgers & fries) and relishing in the struggle of a trial or competition involving that.

This particular eating challenge was discovered (note: “discovered” is being used as a personal reference, not a public revelation) as Mark Barber and I were enjoying a double cheeseburger at The Lumberyard in Encinitas a year ago. On the menu, a 4x4 burger eating challenge is offered, though few have taken part in it, let alone finished. In short, you have 30 minutes to finish four 1/2lb patties, topped with four slices of cheese, four pieces of bacon, lettuce, a fried egg, onions and a Thousand Island spread on both sides of the pretzel bun. Oh, failed to mention the 1lb of french fries surrounding this mountain of burger, like a moat protecting a castle. This idea was thrilling, to say the least. As we ate our double cheeseburgers, the challenge seemed very accomplish-able.

It wasn't until my roommate, Jake, suggested the idea a few weeks ago that we finally found a date to put our high talk into action. Now, those who know me are most likely aware that I can put away a pretty hefty portion of food. Unfortunately, I also eat at a speed similar to the speed that Garmin’s customer service department works at- SLOW as a dying turtle. I’ll ALWAYS be the last person eating at the table & have become comfortable with people angrily watching me eat as they’re waiting leave. I can make a bowl of oatmeal last for hours. If there was a Lifetime Achievement award for savoring food, I’d have two of them.
That being said, I figured, in the spirit of competition, I could flip the switch and eat fast for 30 minutes (that’s probably how Kobayachi or Joey Chestnut train for competitive eating competitions, right?). Same strategy for endurance sports.. Just do a bunch of reeeeaallly long slow runs for years & I’m sure you’ll knock out a 4-minute mile when game day finally rolls around. (no?)

Game Day:
With a support crew of friends, we rolled into The Lumberyard on Wednesday at 6:30pm. Having done some substantial training (cycling, not food prep) in the morning/ afternoon, I came hungry. When we informed our server that out of the 10+ people at our table, 3 would be doing the 4x4 challenge, a quiet sense of excitement spread throughout the restaurant (or maybe just our table and 3 other servers). A man, who I can only assume was the manager, came out before the challenge started and listed the official rules. When our mammoth mountains of meat were presented to us, I was excited right down to the moment it was set down before me. I’m sure I heard the table let out a small quiver as the beast burger was dropped in front of me and tested the bulwark of this eating pulpit. After the essential documentation (snapchat, naturally) of these outlandish towers of carne had commenced, a timer was set down before us.
The same shaky feeling you get, minutes before a race, overtook me as I looked into the eyes of the burger. The timer was started and we were off. I had no real strategy for this (which was stupid), opened the burger up and started mowing patty by patty down. I glanced over at Mark to see the “Pie slice” method being employed, with a perfectly chiseled out 1/5th of the tower now missing. Jake had chosen to take the classic burger eating method (to his credit & scoring the most style points). He, straight up, manhandled the entire thing and was ferociously attacking it like a corn on the cob. 
Game Faces. Snapchat by Charisa
My first reality check came after the 1st 5 minutes, when I’d already taken down 2 patties and some bacon and realized my stomach didn't have the ability to posses this much food in a mere 30 minutes. Hunger wasn't the issue, I was perpetually hungry the whole time, I just couldn't fit it into my stomach like a boa constructor. 15 minutes in, I had 1 patty remaining and started working on the fries. After taking down all the sweet potato fries I took stock of the remaining room in my body, picked up the last patty and couldn't take a bite. These patties weren't your flimsy burger king/in-n-out patties, these were heavy. They said the burger was 2lbs of meat, but we decided that it was an estimate and was likely more. Mark was the 1st to throw out the white flag, followed by Jake and I, surrendering with 10 minutes to go. Mitch Hall rationalized it the best when he asked “If you were absolutely famished right now, could you eat the remainder of that in 10 minutes?” No. So why even attempt it after having stuffed your face silly for 20 minutes.
A scale was brought out and we weighed what Jake and I had remaining… Jake had 10oz of food left and I had 11. Jake was the winner of the losers. As I said yesterday, I may have lost the battle but I won the war with that burger. I felt fantastic the next day and had enough calories to provide some great workouts.

Take-away from this experience: Because I love food doesn't make me a competitive eater. Expecting to just show up and finish that in 30 minutes would be like your casual exerciser (20 minutes of cardio 3x a week, arms & back on Tues/Thurs, etc..) expecting to jump into an Ironman and finish in under 10 hours. There’s a reason only 19 people of the 150+ have been successful in the 4x4 challenge; it wouldn't be a challenge if it was easy. The willingness to train & suffer is what separates the competitors from the participants.

On an unrelated note, I'm jazzed to be going to Syracuse again for the 70.3 in 2 weeks!