2020 Desert Triathlon

2020 BannerDesert Tri is known in SoCal as the season kickoff for Triathlon.  Notably I haven’t been training like I used to but having competed in this race for the last 5 years it felt wrong not to make the 2.5 hour drive Saturday (5+ hours if I had left Friday) and “participate” in the Aquabike.  Now it’s very easy to set expectations when you have been in the groove, doing what you know, and performing well.  In prior years I would have been through 10 weeks of solid training including 5 bikes a week (interval, muscular endurance, long, recovery and brick), 4 runs and 3 swims with 2 days in the gym.  This year I replaced most workouts with 6 sessions (10 hours) in the gym, and alternating swim/bikes each morning (3 sessions each) a week.  My goals were to go have fun, get some good race pics and grab a podium spot, even with the modest preparation.  Here’s some of my take aways –

Pre-Race gab at the Aquabike rack

For anyone who’s had the unfortunate circumstance of needing to Aquabike (because why wouldn’t you do the full race unless you were injured, right??) you’ve probably experienced the verbal competition of who is the most deserving not to have to run –

“Ohh, I’m just coming back from a hamstring injury”

“2 replaced hips and a bad back”

“With this knee doctor says I’ll never run again”

People generally seemed dumbfounded to see a relatively young healthy guy only doing the Aquabike?!?  But, this just reinforces my justification to leave running.  I never want to be the person so disabled by their sport that they’re merely holding onto the pieces at the cost of my mobility and well-being.  I’m starting to see the big picture where I either MAINTAIN, compete at a high level for 10 more years before my body inevitably gives in or out, ADJUST skipping the high impact detriment of running while maintaining an hour and a half of 180+bpm ass kicking on race day, or better yet EVOLVE trying new things and finding other ways to push myself athletically and mentally to maintain options for high level competition throughout my life.

Desert Tri Wind and Swim

Craziest swim of my life but have to admit I left the water with a massive smile on my face.  All the training we do and races having participated in I can’t think of much that would intimidate me out there but for newbies it must have been a nightmare.  The race consists of 3 buoys, a quick turn right at the start, a turnaround about 600 yards away and a final turn left before the swim exit.

The race started beautifully but the wind picked up fast and by the time it was my turn to swim the first buoy had drifted and the remaining 2 blown away, resting on the stairs at the far end of the lake.  I race the swim all by land markers, aim for the farthest right palm tree then the second peak from the right before heading in, so finding where the second buoy should have been was not a problem.  The fun part each athlete had to decide for themselves is where do I swim from there?!?  Back to the shore, around the perimeter of the lake, to where the final buoy should be, or straight to the race exit?

swim

My Garmin measured me at 2000 yards which was a popular distance (intending to swim 1500 for an Olympic), though I’ve heard stories of athletes doing double that.

The Bike (Madone vs P3)

I like my Madone, it’s sexy and fun with newly integrated TT bars, but it’s not a TT bike.  I wanted to race it to see what it could do, and also because it is different from my Cervelo and without power to take the pressure off performing as well as previous seasons.  That was my mentality going into race morning but the second I exited T1 all I wanted to do was go faster than before (25.2mph last year), despite the strong wind.  This is the disadvantage of doing something so familiar and competitive, once you set the bar high it’s hard to relax and be satisfied with less.

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There was one wetsuit on the rack which meant I was 2nd in my heat out of the water.  In my mind everyone was number 23, with a black Cervelo P5.  I kept chasing, getting passed by only one guy, and ultimately found who I was looking for at the finish line 5 seconds ahead of me.

Take Away

I figured I would win the Aquabike just because.  That was a mistake.  You never know who is racing and setting your hopes on an outcome which isn’t in your control is a recipe for disaster.

Perhaps chasing #1 down was an advantage, it gave me a carrot to go after when my HR kept screaming back down.  Funny though how getting passed by one person hit me so hard.  That person ended up being the fastest biker by 1mph.

I can’t lie, I left Palm Desert a little discouraged, not knowing how to evaluate my performance.  Later I checked out results and discovered I had the fastest bike split (speed) of all elites and AG’s, of all races (AB, Olympic and Sprint) other than the monster that had passed me.

I’m still making sense of everything to see if these races give me more pleasure then resentment.  Being fit is most important and triathlon is a great motivator, I only hope to maintain a well enough perspective to ensure I keep a level head and don’t disappear too far back down the rabbit hole.

 

 

 

Running Happy: My Love Hate Relationship with Running

For the first time that I can remember I was solicited by a friend at Ironman 70.3 Indian Wells this past weekend to put out another blog that wasn’t about dating (a true shocker right?!).  There’s been a lot spinning in my mind these last 6 months as I’ve been reflecting over time away from formal triathlon training.  One thing that stands out is the purpose and place of running in my life.  Some of my fondest memories and friendships have been tied to the sport, but it hasn’t been without sacrifice.

Running 1

Time away has allowed me to question, is there a better way??  If you can take the time to read below my thoughts on pro’s, con’s and personal reflection I’d love to hear your response on this topic I feel so many of us can relate to..

There are plenty of obvious benefits when it comes to running –

Great bang for the buck – It’s a great cardiovascular intensive workout which allows for copious amounts of calories burned in a short period of time.  Where as a long bike may routinely constitute 4-5 hours, most rarely run longer than 90 minutes and you can do a lot in as little as 30 minutes.

On-the-Go Option – When it comes to triathlon and entry barriers it’s clear where the obvious winner is.  The financial hit of cycling can be insurmountable to those without the means (not to mention the growing risk of sharing the roads) and swimming, though relatively inexpensive in equipment can be tricky finding pools, much harder with open water logistics (access and safety).  Running can be done literally anywhere, any time of day and any time of year (based on level of dedication).

Competition – Races provide multiple options, generally from 5k to marathon, at a reasonable price, year-round and across the country.  The after-party justifies the effort and the community is generally warm, welcoming and fun loving.    You don’t need an exclusive stage to compete at the highest level, the opportunity to PR or qualify is indifferent to the venue’s prestige, be it local 5k or Boston Marathon, etc.  There are even fun offshoots to dabble with such as Spartan Races or the Beer Mile (an annual favorite of mine).

Now let’s get into the not so obvious disadvantages –

Injury – The act of running is incredibly corrosive.  When it comes to triathlon I’m convinced 85%+ of issues stem from running related problems, particularly overuse injuries.  When one does find themselves hurt swimming and cycling are familiar fallbacks (it’s rare that an injured person is limited to just running).  It’s hard to think of anyone that’s been competitive into their 30’s that hasn’t had to overcome or continue to endure some form of injury, especially as you go up in level or distance of competition.

Body Image – We’ve been seeing Lauren Fleshman’s New York Times article all over social media recently however issues with body image tied to running have been a familiar theme to women for perhaps as long as running has been around.  Less spoken about but still present is the effect it has on guys as well.  I believe running caters to a specific body type and in order to be the best you need to conform or pick a different sport.  The effects on a woman’s body are more physically obvious but the mental impact on guys to be super lean is still there.

Longevity –  I’m not very clear if running is an indefinite gift or one with a timeline attached.  Perhaps we haven’t yet given it enough study to see how the sport is meant to be practiced on the human body over long stretches of time.  The one thing that’s clear is that like most sports there is an inherent understanding of diminishing returns.  There is no way to get faster forever and whether it ends up being in your 20’s, 30’s or perhaps 40’s, there is going to be a natural point of slowing down.

My personal reflection –

Body: I have always enjoyed lifting weights and building strength with the growing understanding that it doesn’t make sense to endurance sports.  Worse the miles have kept my legs lean while my upper body grows creating an off balance ‘bird legged’ state that is often joked about but surreptitiously gets to me.    Taking the time off from running has allowed my body to grow incredibly with exponential strength gains, upper and lower.  To add to that my back pain has gone away, my calve injury has become a thing of the past and I find myself feeling generally better (less achy) all around.  I like how I look, I like how I feel and I enjoy the compliments.  6’1” 160lbs is not normal, in fact it’s considered the lower 10th percentile.  Today, 6 months removed from running I am creeping up towards 180, and that makes me happy.

Consider the body type of endurance athletes, the more weight you must carry the greater the benefit of keeping lean –

 

BMI 2

Note Distance Runners – Female  4’11” 82lbs, 5’4″, 105lbs / Male: 6’0″ 146lbs, 5’4″ 114lbs

 

I have had some friends tell me they run better heavier, but we are not on the same page talking 5lbs compared to the stark difference between long distance and sprint runners for example (straight from the internet so please take with a grain of salt)–

Sprint vs marathon

Do you feel that the sacrifice to body for elite competition is justified?  Does body image in this state get to you?

Mind: Is competition still worthy without running?  As it pertains to triathlon , in my experience the aqua bike is generally something people do while injured, on their way back to running.  The aqua bike is less than triathlon and so is the accomplishment.  When I consider switching to aqua bike I see the potential of the same degree of fitness with virtually the same level of competition and at the same time much less injury (see above) and the ability to compete at a healthier and more favorable BMI, and for perhaps a longer duration of time.  All that said, and with a rational argument in favor, I still have a deep emotional response to watching a triathlon, having spectated at Ironman Indian Wells this past weekend, thinking I’d be forfeiting something special, lowering myself for handing in my chip at T2.

I’m not sure if my fastest days for running are in front or behind me however I know there are not many easy cycles left in this body when it comes to adapting to different activities (agility in soccer, efficiency in endurance and mass in strength).  The human body is amazingly versatile however our ability to sculpt it goes down shockingly when entering into our 30’s and beyond.  As crazy as it was to pass off soccer, my first athletic endeavor on great love, I am at piece with it.  I wonder if the same opportunity is not there with running.  There is the option to continue to race the run but in a heavier, slower state, but every ounce of my being tells me I would not enjoy running if not at my best.

How do you weight the value of accomplishment when it comes to aqua bike in triathlon?  Is it less than triathlon?

In Summary…

I hope that if any of this resonates you will consider reaching out to me as I continue to ponder at a cross roads in my athletic career.  I value the input of everyone in this voyage, be it at the highest level or just trying to make time to stay fit.  I know that it is more about the journey than destination, and find it is best to ask questions along the way.

beach exit

 

 

A Guide to Stepping Back from Training

A lot of people have been coming up to me at workouts recently expressing something along the lines of “I thought you were retired??”.  First of all I’m not retired from triathlon, however I am taking a self-imposed break.  That does not mean I will be ceasing any exercise, quite the contrary in fact.  This little experiment has taught me just how binary people are when it comes to training, particularly triathlon and the type-A personalities the sport accommodates.  Therefor I felt it an opportune moment to help illuminate my friends and the world in general the difference between committed training and taking a break in the context of the sport of triathlon.

Here we go..

#1: Taking off your watch

Garmin Tan

The easiest to do physically, yet perhaps the hardest mentally is simply removing your Garmin.  Believe it or not YOU CAN participate in exercise without documenting it!!  More so that reduced pressure will allow you to focus on strange new things such as scenic backdrop, the feel of the water or even pleasant conversation.

#2: Activities vs Workouts

Coffee Ride

I’ve been having a great time on the bike and in the pool lately by switching up one critical element.  No scripted workout, no training peaks, no power or pace, just going with the flow.  It’s easy to get addicted to a number, staring at that Garmin for your prescribed intervals, however that tendency is conducive to tunnel vision, and a profound lack of fun.  If it feels good I do it, if not I don’t, this includes waking up early.  Turns out exercise can feel good AND be fun as the pressure comes off.

#3: Not adhering to a plan

Histogram

The #1 ingredient to success can at times become the #1 detriment to living a fulfilling life, and that’s making a plan.   How many times have I mapped out my race schedule 9 months or more ahead of an A-race??  Years of planning have gone by with calendars and weekends filled to the brim.  How many times have I heard or said myself “I can’t, I have to train”??  Passed on friends, passed on family, on opportunities and life in general.  There’s a nobility in having a goal, making a plan and sticking to it.  Equally so there’s an elegance in actively creating free time.  Currently I have been aiming for at least 1 day a week off script.

#4: Trying new things

 

New Things

This is a big one!!  Our bodies were never meant to do the same thing day after day, year after year, but particularly our minds as well.  There’s so much out there, ways to stay fit, have fun, connect with different people and express ourselves.  I’ve been saying yes to as many opportunities as fast as they can present themselves and have found a ton of enjoyment in some of the least expected places.  Strength training, boot camps, dance lessons, surfing, hiking and soccer to name a few.  Just go out there and sweat!

#5: Catching up on sleep

alarm

Enough said.  Feels like as long as I can remember I’ve been getting up at 5am 5 days a week.  I still get up at 5am every now and then, but it’s more like once a week and because I really want to catch a sunrise ocean swim.  8, 9, 10 even hours a night?!?!  Crazy as it sounds the body will appreciate it.

#6:  Time with family and friends

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For a decade I have poured my vacation time and excess cash into racing.  I struggle to remember an instance where I flew somewhere not to race (with the exception of Christmas).  So far this year I have created two trips with the sole purpose of seeing friends and family.  Additionally, you don’t have to fly to do this.  It’s as easy as freeing up time on the weekend, which can be a difficult task in itself when sandwiching between long and strenuous workouts.  If you don’t invest in friends, even the most robust bonds will wither and break.

In Summary…

I have a strong resolution to always be fit, always good to my body.  I’ve come to appreciate the importance of stepping away to build back up, both physically and mentally.  To appreciate things and never feel beholden out of a sense of obligation rather than enjoyment.  I’d prefer to be known for my passion rather than what I pour it into.  I hope this post helps explain my position and dare I say provide the necessary encouragement to step away before giving out.  If it does please let me know!

Time for a Break

It was just about on this date 11 years ago I did my first triathlon, the Quakerman Tri in Orchard Park NY.  Participating with my girlfriend at the time and barely knowing how to swim I managed a measly 3:47/100m in Green Lake, 16.95 mph (running the last mile in bike shoes not knowing what to do after a flat), and 6:46/mile on the run for 14 out of 18 in my AG.

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In the years following I made some changes, hunkered down and began to see my successes in the sport grow from finisher medal to All American and top 50 National Age Grouper.  This was and continues to be my legacy, and a very typical one at that, void of any tremendous success but significant acknowledgment of gradual improvement year after year, to rise through the ranks of not very good to really pretty good.

Better

And not only in the sport of triathlon, or even sport in general.  This theme dates back before High School where I won “most improved” among my entire graduating class.  When I thanked my coach at the time he said “you know what Welby, when I first met you, you were pretty terrible…”  and that was it, profound but true!  My path continued through college almost making it in soccer before switching over to Track and Cross Country.  Again, never great but from back of the pack to scoring every meet my senior year at the D1A level.  I’ve built tremendous strength in the gym, to the point where my dad had to sit me down and ask if I was taking performance enhancing drugs (No dad, just 90 minutes a day of concentrated lifting, 7 days a week for many years), and I progressed significantly in Snowboarding over time as well from bunny slopes to 100ft table tops, including 5 years of instructing.

Untitled

I’ve come to acknowledge my greatest strength is my ability to focus on an objective and not shy away or back down until I’ve accomplished something I am proud of.  This from an understanding that almost anything is possible with consistency over large stretches of time.  Conversely, I’ve come to appreciate that this talent comes with its disadvantages.  Once I settle on something it becomes remarkably easy not to back down but at the same token that focus creates a lack of holistic vision to the greater picture, like a racehorse with blinders on, sprinting to a finish line around a confined oval oblivious to the world outside the race track.

Last year following Ironman Lake Placid in July I decided to take a break from dedicated training to explore other facets of life.  I made a loose commitment to an hour of exercise a day, focusing on time in the gym, put on 15lbs, traveled more, had a lot of fun, looked good, felt good and you know what happened when I returned to train and race in 2019??  I had perhaps my best season yet!  I didn’t just race faster, I was hungrier, and my commitment was unabashed and unwavering, I was more present and appreciative.

All of that said I am ready for another break.  This one may be 6 months, it may be significantly longer.  Ever since I moved to LA I can’t remember a weekend not filled up with swimming, biking and running.  I LOVE these activities but thought maybe I’d try surfing, hiking, exploring different areas of this diverse county and perhaps do a lot of exercise, just decided upon on the day and not months in advance.  Also, very significant I want to focus more energy into the gym again, put on weight, and the best way of accomplishing this means another significant change which is a cold turkey break from running.  I’ve been a competitive runner for decades now, these bird legs need a vacation.  The days of 6’1” 150lbs Welby running 5 min miles are past.  Still I have no doubt that 170lbs Welby will be back to run sub 6’s eventually.

My eye is on St George 70.3 Worlds 2021 so I won’t call this a retirement, but for now, as publicly declared in this post, life just got a lot simpler –

FEEL GOOD, LOOK GOOD, HAVE FUN!

Cheers

2019 Oceanside Race Report #5

Oceanside Banner

As I sit down to write my 5th Oceanside race report having competed in the 70.3 distance each of the last 5 years I am compelled to mix it up a little.  Consistency is perhaps one of my greatest strengths to the extent of monotony as evident by my performances at this venue over the last half decade with no more than a 2% spread in outcomes –

Results History

Not to diminish the significance of a few minutes over a 4.5 hour race as they often make the difference between a podium, qualifying spot or going home empty handed, however I no longer feel obligated to get into the nuance of how I again swam 30 minutes, biked 2.5 hours and finished with a sub 1:30 run.  Instead I would like to focus on a couple of themes leading into race day that contributed to whatever success I achieved and have greater reach than the simple scope of triathlon.

 

#1 Trust Yourself – Ever notice the more people you ask for input the more diverse and often disparaging remarks you’ll receive??  No example is more glaring than the comments thread of a triathlon forum, but even highly regarded coaches and programs have opposing views on prototypical themes when it comes to the sport of triathlon.  I’ve paid enough money to coaches in the past to know the biggest ROI is not around things going well but knowing what to do when things go wrong, life goes off the rails or injuries surface.  I pour my heart into my passions and as such equal to the glory of achievement is the weight of burden when things don’t go according to plan.

Earlier this month, heading into my final build towards Oceanside, I was asked to go to Hong Kong for work on a 10-day excursion that made exercising very difficult, perhaps counterproductive.  No surprise with a 24-hour trip home and compromised immune system that my return to training was met with a cold.  I had to make the difficult decision of either training through at the risk burying myself into a hole or backing off to go into race day well under-prepared.  In years past I would have reached out to a couple coaches and friends, possibly posted something of Facebook and stressed about my decision leading to even more trauma.

Education is incredibly important but the teacher’s job is never truly done if the pupal must always rely on them.  I’ve come to learn the right decision doesn’t necessarily mean the best outcome, but that once you make a choice you’ve got to see it through and not look back.  I’m building my confidence around this decision-making paradigm and have noticed that with that confidence comes support as well as results.

#2 Take Care of Yourself: (body and mind) – With age I’ve grown to appreciate and respect my body more.  You really have to if you want to get longevity out of it, as echoed in particular by a significant number of friends sidelined due to injury leading into this 2019 season.  I’ve also refined my perspective from a mental capacity to push competitively as you never want a hobby to feel like a job.  Both of those stated I now follow a few logical yet perhaps understated guidelines that have kept me healthy in both mind and body –

Recovery – Prioritize sleep, eat well, everything in moderation when it comes to junk food and drinking.  Also, forget all that and have fun, cut loose, make bad decisions when the opportunity presents itself.  You’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the things you did.  Own your decisions.

No big changes – year after year, week after week.  Whether it’s season planning or going lighter in the gym but still showing up on race week.

Backing off – when it stops being fun it’s ok to skip or drop out, even pass on a race you’re not feeling.  Small breaks only fuel the fire.  It’s all about the long game.

Seasonal Focus – Though I love the sport of triathlon I realize it’s effect on my body, from running in particular.  This year moving forward I am adhering to the difficult decision to limit my competitive running to no more than 6 months out of the year.  This will no doubt slow me down a bit in the short term but I am confident it will keep me going healthier in the long run.  Additionally, I look to supplement with a heavier swim and bike specific load, as well as strength and flexibility focus particularly in the 4th quarter.

#3 Work Easier Not Harder – There is a mantra I repeated in my head on my last set of mile repeats at the track as well as the front half of the Oceanside run.  “Go easier not harder”.  I feel like the more you get to know your body the less likely it becomes you can will it to do more work, however you can often get more performance out of the same effort if you can step up efficiency.  On the track, if I can focus on mechanics I notice a consistent 10 seconds per mile improvement with no increase in effort.  One of my favorite Tower26 stories I’ve heard multiple times in the past is of Gerry’s hour swim record attempt where he talks of constantly counting strokes per length as an indicator of efficiency drop.

You don’t have to get anal with this premise, yet it is worth exploring in a controlled environment, on the track, in the pool or on the trainer, “can I get more for my buck in performance from the same effort??”.  The mind has just as much on the line as the body when it comes to surviving the pain cave, or to add another favorite quote, “it never gets easier, you just go faster”.

Race Report

Swim

In the morning they said they were measuring the waves in inches, not feet.  They lied!!  Not that it matters for all the race specific training we do but there were some gnarly faces to contend with.

Swim 1

Took it easy through the surf, drafted off some buddies in the harbor, finished with a underwhelming but respectable 31:05.

Bike

Took it really easy out (first 5 minutes below 250 watts), next hour at <165bpm, second hour at 165-170bpm, last 30 minutes at best effort.

Bike 7.jpg

Lot of drafting going on out there.  Had a lot of friends receive penalties.  My road rage on the streets of LA carries over to the bike, keep your power target, stay away from me and don’t F’ing draft!!

Run

Just like all previous years I never take lap 1 hard, settle in to manage expectations, run the inclines and declines super easy and let it rip on the last 4 flatish miles after the final descent down to the bike path.

Run 4

In my mind I’m going deeper, but the splits keep even as my HR soars.  Like I said “run easier, not harder”.  My strategy worked as I chased down a podium spot (18 seconds!!) with the help of updates from friends.

FB2B

FB2

After Party –

Sunset

Not a bad view.  Daniela Ryf said it best “now go enjoy the party”

 

 

 

2019 Desert Triathlon Race Report

Banner 2

There are so many positive things to think about when considering this past weekend’s race it’s hard to determine what to put down in writing.  1) The benefits of continues effort year after year and satisfaction with incremental progress, 2) the fear of stepping away from regiment for it’s ill effects on that progress yet having a tremendous breakthrough despite it (probably from it), or 3) the thrill of going after something that legitimately scares you in a sport where it can be easy to get complacent in the numbers.  All worth while discussion points I’ve been playing over in my head after my 4th consecutive Desert Triathlon yesterday that add up to a first place amateur finish and Olympic PR of 1:59:46.

Let’s start with the bike.  I had a growing desire to shoot for a nice round number I thought would be outside my capabilities, likely sabotaging the rest of my race if I were to go for it, for no particular reason and without much support.  I had a majority of friends tell me either how little numbers meant or not to compromise my overall performance for a superfluous segment.  This honestly fired me up even more and by race morning I was totally committed to shooting for a 300watt average over the 40k course (slightly shorter).

Fast forward 5 minutes into the bike I look down at my Garmin and my lap power is reading 330, which is basically above my FTP, leading me to the ridiculous decision to throw all targets out the window and race the bike like it was a 20k, without any expectation or saving anything for the run.  I never thought my legs would last but as the minutes ticked away and my average kept I became even further excited and energized.  When I finished in 58 minutes I was physically devastated, but so satisfied with my race regardless of where it went from there.  I don’t know if my Garmin is fried or what but my undeniable progression in the sport of cycling keeps me happy and confident that I am doing the appropriate things to keep moving in the right direction.

Next up stepping away.  After Lake Placid last July I made the conscious decision to step away from triathlon training for 5 months, trading my evenings on the computrainer for hours in the gym with plenty of yoga.  Deprived of continuous aerobic activity to burn off muscle my strength skyrocketed and I was hitting numbers I never thought I would (benching 225, doing sets of 20 pullups, leg pressing 400lbs), things triathletes don’t do.  I figured the weight would come off quickly once I got back into routine training, but it didn’t and I entered race day close to 10lbs heavier than I was the year prior.  This coupled with my triathlon sabbatical should not add up to a PR, at least I had no reason for thinking it would, but it seems all that power despite the mass to lug around still equals more power to weight.  I can’t run quite as fast yet but my bike feels great.  I’m much happier where I’m at and hope it may serve as an example that you don’t necessarily need to be super lean OR have to train year round to go fast (the body appreciates a break).

Finally a note on progression as people tend to complain when I leave out graphs.  The numbers speak for themselves –

Splits

The moment I stop producing I welcome greater feedback on what I may be doing wrong.  I remember approaching one of my best coaches when I was uncertain in my training to solicit advice, when he told me – Welby, trust yourself in what you’re doing.  Imagine a coach encouraging an athlete to believe in themselves?!?  This advice still motivates me years later to be confident in my abilities not just in competition but laying out a season on paper.

Swim

Not to diminish my claim to sub2 but did anyone else think that was short??  Lesson learned this morning was keep to clear as my tinted goggles fogged up as always making it impossible to sight into the sun.  On the way back I lined up with the same peak I always have making it easy to swim straight despite the impaired vision.  Happy with 1:21/100 even if I was swimming sloppy out there.

2019 swim

Bike

Not much more to say about this.  I rode my heart out leaving everything on the course.  Feel so comfortable in my position with head tucked into the bars despite not being able to see much.  Can’t wait to apply my effort over to the next 70.3.

2019 bike

Run

Since I didn’t mention it above I dragged myself out onto the bike course with dead legs, only hoping to move forward.  I wasn’t surprised with a 6:38 first mile but then my legs started to come back and by the end I was running consistent 6:10’s.  For an amateur in this sport it doesn’t take much more than that.

2019 run

Finishing the race I was pretty happy with a 2:03, considering it a 2 minute PR from last year, however something felt off adding up my splits in my head.  It wasn’t until I got home that I investigated times and found out that they were off at the finish, adjusted online.  My corrected overall time was 1:59:46.  Breaking 2 is something I’ve always wanted to do but never saw coming, so you can imagine my excitement.  It would have been a nice thing to celebrate on the podium among friends but unfortunately times were confused, trophies ran out and everyone went home before I got my chance.

Finally I wanted to mention a reminder to myself that racing fast is significant but that the greatest part about this sport is friendship and community.  I regret trading diligent pre-race preparation for time spent with friends.  I owe it to them to be better and look forward to the next opportunity to make up for it.  Additionally I am happy to collecting on the wager I made this race on beers for the overall winner with a lanemate and continue the smack talking and betting throughout the season.

podium

1st Amateur, 1st AG, 3rd Overall

Friends

Hot Wheels Handout

Perhaps the most exciting and rewarding part of the day, handing out Hot Wheels to all the spectators, kids and kids at heart

 

2019 Lessons Learned and Looking Ahead

It’s been almost 6 months since I took a step back from the rigors of triathlon training to explore and engage in alternate facets of life.  In that time I gained responsibility at work becoming a manager, received a window into parenting as an uncle to my newborn nephew, reestablished my love of the gym putting on nearly 15lbs, reengaged in the tumultuous world of dating, hung out with old friends and met some new ones, climbed a mountain, etc.  Simultaneously I did a lot of watching from the sidelines, observing with the hopes of gaining some desired perspective as to what a single guy in his 30’s should be investing time into.  The outcome, far less resolution than I would have hoped for!  I’m still at a loss for discovering what direction I should be headed with an overwhelming burdening that time is limited and as such opportunities, whether it be athletic accomplishments, growing one’s career, starting a family, etc.  Additionally, I’m undecided on what aspects we truly have any control over and which we are at the mercy to some greater power.

With all that said, and before I sink too far down the rabbit hole, I was moved by a quote I read recently –

“The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things”

– Henry Ward Beecher

There’s comfort in believing what particular path we choose (or which is chosen for us) is less consequential than our ability to be in the moment and appreciative.

old woman

Take note of the older woman in front

All that said I feel ready and encouraged more than ever to get back to the things that make me ‘me’, which includes competitive training with a few new caveats for 2019.

General Guidelines –

Go strong when permissible but be ok with stepping back for greater priorities

I am not very good at moderation.  My version of it has been going hard in every direction at times and taking the average.  In prior years I would brag about never missing a practice but understand that now, especially with growing responsibilities, it’s necessary to be able to be alright with skipping a workout for a conference call.  The opportunities that I am forced to miss will only make me more appreciative for the ones I can make and should only increase my drive to go strong at every opportunity.

Better balance time, money and health wise

I was recently conflicted about whether to do Ironman CT 70.3 or stay local for the resurgence of the LA Triathlon.  Driving my FOMO was the fact that the race is 30 minutes from family, that I would have a handful of close friends doing it, and it would be a good qualifier for Worlds in France.  But then, reconsidering the expense (registration and travel for flying cross country and potentially around the world adding up to many thousands), impact of travel on my body realizing that I almost always under-perform at races I fly to, and remembering that doing Lake Placid was influenced by the idea of seeing friends that I never got to spend time with because we were all too focused on racing, I decided against it.  I’ve got to stay beholden to where my own values lie and not be so easily influenced by flashy things, which leads me to the next aspect of 2019.

Less distractions

In 2019 I race for the fun of racing!  The brilliance of racing is that you don’t have to travel around the world like an Olympic hopeful or spend insane amounts of money to participate.  It used to be all you needed was a pair of sneakers and $20 to join in a 5k, with a t-shirt and beer included.  The days of hoping in a rental car to do an Ironman 18 hours away only to get up and drive back the morning after, having barely interacted with another human, or spending all my savings on wheels or coaching are over.    It was a great time in my life but no longer right for me.

Recently I had a conversation with a friend about the negative impact of Social Media on racing where we both admitted to getting our fix out of likes from pics on the podium.  Not only that but so much of our value is unintentionally yet negatively influenced by what we see others doing on Instagram, etc, which is almost always an inflated sense of reality to begin with.  I’m not saying I won’t post a podium pic or go on social media in 2019, but I would like to be more conscientious about what is or is not in my overall best interest with respect to sharing.

Health Specific Balance

I mentioned I took great pleasure from investing in my body at the gym and will continue to do so.  I won’t trade athletic extremes with seasonal yo-yo weight gain/loss but instead plan to participate in triathlon with a slightly heavier frame without reservations about the effect on my strength to weight.  This will be a hard one as a single pound can have an impact across 70 miles therefore 5-10lbs will undoubtedly do so, but it’s what I want today, trading 162.5 for 170ish without regret.  I’d also like to continue enjoying yoga to keep my flexibility up (or at least not abhorrent) and aim to get in a few alternative athletic classes in the mix for fun.

Athletic Goals –

Last year I made some significant gains in Olympic power –

desert power

escape power

If I could keep on a similar trend, especially with the added strength I’ve been doing, I wonder if I could crack 300 watts.  This would be a gratifying accomplishment for me considering how long it has taken to grow in the cycling discipline.  I have zero Ironamns and much more Olympics on the calendar in 2019 so the feeling of 58ish minutes of pain should become more familiar with opportunities to try plentiful.

Oceanside 70.3 has always been a significant race for me.  I know it gets discounted being so early in the season but I believe that is a huge competitive advantage living in SoCal.  Last year wasn’t quite what I was hoping for with the year before being a strong performance despite my first 5 minute penalty.

oceanside

I won’t set any specific targets or time goals here however I will be working extra diligently over the next 14 weeks to put out the greatest performance I can muster and hopefully PR the course or even the distance.

2019 Race Calendar –

Desert Triathlon – March 3

Superseal – March 17

Oceanside – April 6

Wildflower – May 4

LA Triathlon – June 2

Santa Rosa – July 27

**Option for USAT Nationals or 70.3 Worlds

 

Here’s to another great year chasing podiums and racing with friends!

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2018 Race Season Reflections

It’s only July and for the earliest time in my 8 year career with this sport my triathlon season is over!  Though this may seem like an emotional decision brought on by the ramifications of my recent Full at Lake Placid it is something I have been considering for months.  I have really enjoyed this season and have put out some of my best performances but noticing both mental and physical diminished returns I figure it’s in my best interest to take a clean break to rejuvenate and hopefully reestablish my love for triathlon rather than press on and start to resent something that is intended to be a fun hobby rather than a job.

Athlete

All driven individuals will admit a level of love-hate with their passions, it’s an unavoidable byproduct of pouring yourself into something.  You welcome a sense of identity but grow to depend on it.  I have always considered myself an athlete, even when I struggled, from high school snowboarder and soccer player to college runner and post collegiate triathlete.  With years the things that have always made sense have started to blur as I’ve found increasingly more individuals questioning my dedication to sport as opposed to exploring other avenues of life such as career, family, etc.

“Could you imagine if you put as much energy into your job as you do triathlon?!”

“I could never do what you do and still support my family”

I acknowledge that fitness and a fulfilling life should not be mutually exclusive, but the sport of triathlon, specifically Ironman, really puts that to the test with 20+ hour workout weeks and full weekends spent swim, bike, running.  I do not intend to give up these disciplines, but I do aim to scale back the endurance activities and grow the strength and flexibility pieces in a reasonable fashion to allow for more exploration and availability to family, friends and career.  I will be tuning down the running significantly since after decades of fast paces and long miles my body is starting to fight back with nagging pains and the risk of injuries (calves especially).

Most of all I look forward to ‘getting after it’ more, turning off my Garmin and focusing on going head to head against others in my workouts.  The vast majority of Ironman training is moderate solo effort.  I miss 60 minute redline sessions, the type of workout where my coach would try to get me to slow down rather than risk blowing up.  I miss blowing up!  I’d like to join in on some tough rides, maybe on a road bike.  Finally, I look forward to the opportunity of investing way more time in the gym, perhaps gaining 15lbs before shedding it again in the summer, we’ll see.  July through December, then we’ll reevaluate.

Sounds like fun to me doesn’t it??

2018 Reflections

Athletic Pic

Like I mentioned I consider this year’s short season to be a success.  I got on the podium often, PR’d in the Olympic distance (breaking an hour finally in the 40k, twice!), and scored higher than in all my previous years, even under coaching.  I enjoyed my races, especially the shorter ones, racing against friends locally.  I learned an important lesson about Ironman, which is not only do I under-perform at the distance, I really don’t enjoy it either.  It takes so much time and energy, costs way too much and just doesn’t feel right to me.  This became particularly obvious last weekend watching men and women 20 years older walking home with gear bags at Placid when I was still out on my final run lap, getting passed by dozens of athletes that day compared to none in my previous 70.3 and Olympic races.

Podium Pic

2018 Milestones

Olympic – 1:18/100y, 290 watts, 6:07/mile

HIM – 1:20/100y, 263 watts, 6:17/mile

Ironman – 1:23/100y, 185 watts, 10:00/mile

The math doesn’t seem to add up does it?!

And what would my report be without some supporting graphs, illustrating my Ironman struggle yet continued progress in the other distances –

Olympics

HIM

Ironmans

USAT Score

FOMO may hit an all-time high this fall but I know this is the right move.  Most sports are participated in a few months out of the year, not 10 months at a time, 8 years in a row.  That’s too much for me!  I really feel like I will come out of this healthier on the other side and look forward to crushing it again in 2019!