Monday, September 27, 2010

Elite Nationals

I had a very different perspective leading up to nationals this year. Last year it was definitely my big race of the year. Because it was the US National Championships I still was very prepared for this race but my focus has been more towards non drafting races and Clearwater. I was much more relaxed for the race and I had a plan that I knew I wanted to try to execute. I wanted to be aggressive over the course of the entire race. This field was a very strong field with a lot of strong swimmers. Going into the race I figured there would be a large group out of the water and I wanted to be aggressive on the bike to try to set up my run. I would rather race for a very high position than race for a mediocre one and I knew that the combination of the athletes that were competing, my developing run, and the heat and humidity; that I would need to do something on the bike. This was the game plan that I had going into the race and although I did pretty much try this it didn't really work out at all.
Race Day: It was no secret that the weather in Tuscaloosa for nationals was going to be hot. I had heard rumors that the water temperature was reaching up to 88 degrees (lucky for us it was only 84 degrees...just about 6 degrees warmer than I would race in a pool). I haven't heard anything about the actual temperature on the day but it was just flat out awful. I had a terrible start to the swim. For some reason didn't get off the dock very well and had to swim through a group of people just to make it to the back of the front pack. At that point I was just getting mauled. It was probably the slowest I have swam in a race and also the hardest at the same time. Getting on the bike it was quickly apparent that there was going to be one big group of about 20-25. We cruised around for a lap or so and with the heat it was almost hard to breath. I just tried to drink as much as I could. I went on a couple of short attacks to no avail early and I was starting to think that being aggressive might not be a good idea. At the beginning of lap 5 I somehow managed a little separation without really making a move and with that I decided I would really accelerate and see what could happen. I was by myself till the top of the hill and then was joined by 3 other guys. (Charbot, Fretta, and I was not sure of the third) We didn't stay away for very long and by the 6th lap we were one group again. By this point I was starting to regret being aggressive early and was just boiling. By the final lap and I got dropped at the top of the hill...threw up...and then decided I might not even try to run. I did eventually make it to the run and with the help of my parents and friends cheering me on I knew I couldn't give up and gave what little I had left on the run which mainly consisted of putting one foot in front of the other. I am glad that I was able to finish the race and I am still glad that I took some chances on the bike. I want to continue to race aggressively and I am still learning so much about draft legal races. I do however look forward to the next two weeks where I will be racing in non-drafting Olympics at LA and Dallas.


So this was my first real vacation of the year. Of course I would take a vacation where I hike over 40 miles in 3 days but it was well worth it. Yosemite is probably my favorite place that I have ever been too. I have spent so many trips here camping with my family or going on backpacking trips with my dad and brother. I had been wanting to take some of my friends that had never been there to this amazing place. We had a trip planned that had 3 long day hikes over 3 days. Our first was probably the most epic of the 3. We decided that we could drive to Yosemite, pack up camp, and hike to the top of Cloud’s Rest all in the same day. Although we did accomplish this we did spend more time than I would have liked hiking in the dark. Seeing the sunset from Cloud’s Rest might have been worth it…I haven’t decided yet. The hike to Cloud’s Rest I thought was 10 miles round trip. It ended up being 15 and you hike up 2500 feet and down 2500 feet. An ambitious hike for starting at 3:00pm. We set a fast pace and our group quickly split into the group that was determined to make it to the top regardless of time and the group that was sane. We made it to the top and seeing the faces of my friends that had never been to something like that was priceless. I now know what it must have been like for my dad when my jaw dropped the first time I saw that view. From Cloud’s Rest you look down Half Dome and you can see the entirety of Yosemite Valley. On all the sides around you can see the vast wilderness and granite peaks. The sun went down on our hike back and I was pretty surprised how quickly it went from being sunset to dusk to complete darkness. At this point I was really happy that I had packed a few headlamps in my day back and it was actually not a bad hike in the dark. Eerily peaceful I would say. That was until Heidi and I decided that we were walking faster than the other 3 in our group and we decided to go up ahead and get the car and drive it closer for the other guys. About 5 minutes after Heidi said how safe she felt even though we were in complete darkness, I was trying to make sure we were going the right way at a trail junction she sees what we are very sure was a mountain lion. I had seen eyes in the darkness following us the whole time but was hoping that it was a deer or even a bear. Bears are much more afraid of humans than a mountain lion. At this point we pretty much just screamed at it and tried to make ourselves look big. That didn’t really bother the mountain lion who just stayed where it was which happened to be right on the trail that we were tying to go on. At this point we decided it would be a good idea to head back up the trail to rejoin our group because a group of 5 is much more intimidating than a group of 2. (especially when one member of the group is 6’9). At no point did the mountain lion seem like it was going to attack us or anything it was more watching us but that was a very terrifying moment. We successfully made it back to camp and were able to enjoy the next two days of our trip which included a hike to a lake with a gorgeous meadow where there was a wildfire pretty close to us (we might have ignored the signs), and a trip to the top of Yosemite Falls. For some photos check out my brother’s and Trent’s facebook page…!/album.php?aid=65681&id=1130580001&page=2!/album.php?aid=196115&id=715810215

World University Games

I had the honor of being chosen to represent the United States at the World University Games in Valencia, Spain. This would be my first trip to Europe and although I was only going for a few days I was extremely excited to go to Spain. My brother spent a semester abroad in Barcelona so after hearing stories from him about Spain I couldn’t wait to be there myself. The trip over was really long but pretty uneventful. I had the advice to not sleep when I arrived in Spain regardless of how tired I was which worked out well. When we arrived we had to go through the process of getting badges for the race. This turned out to be an ongoing problem for our team and our coach Steve Kelly took it all in stride. We didn’t get to see much of him during the trip mainly because he was dealing with making sure we were all credentialed (the ITU makes everything easy right?). The hotel that we stayed in was basically an apartment. We had a few rooms, a kitchen (which Dustin McClarty, Chris Stehula, and I used to make amazing breakfasts), and an amazing ocean view. Chris had arrived to Valencia a day before the rest of us and he had toured the city around on his bike. I had really wanted to see some sights while I was there and Chris took Dustin and I out on our bikes and we rode around the city of Valencia for a few hours. It was pretty surreal riding around on our bikes with race wheels through the streets of Valencia and this was probably the highlight of my trip. The architecture is amazing and there are two very different parts of the city. The very old part with cathedrals and old beautiful buildings and then a really modern part of the city where they have museums and such. We would visit this area again for the post race and to this day is definitely the coolest place I have every partied in. More on that to come. Our race was in the middle of the day and happened to be on the hottest day. The days leading up to the race were very mild and not humid. That quickly changed on the race day. I do not typically do well in heat so I was less than thrilled about our mid day start time. That and the fact that the water temperature was I believe 70 and they made it wetsuit legal (not sure how that fits in the rules). So the course had a really long run out into the water and we did that twice and then also had about a half mile run to the transition area. So with all the running in the swimming we all came out in one large pack. We had talked about race strategy as a team before this race. We had decided that we were in a unique opportunity to represent the USA as a team, something that is not typically done in triathlon. Our best runner, Greg Billington, had a good swim and was in the large bike pack that game out of transition. We thought that with our swimming background Dustin and I would be off the front out of the water and we would hammer the bike to try to go into the run with a lead but since this didn’t work out we were there to work for Greg. I wanted to make sure that the bike pack stayed together so that Greg would have the best chance to outrun everyone. I basically just sat at the front of the pack and chased down any breaks. It was pretty fun doing this and I was getting yelled at by other competitors who were trying to work as a team to make a break on the bike. All in good fun, except that while I was doing this I forgot to eat and drink on the bike. A mistake that would later destroy me on the run. The bike group came into T2 all in one piece and we were off on the run. I completely blew up on the run from my lack of hydration and the effort I was putting in on the bike but Greg was able to run his way to a 5th place finish. It was really fun to be part of a team in a race and was something that I had not been able to do before. After the race we immediately went to a beachfront restaurant for some Spanish beer to celebrate the race (and also Greg’s 21st birthday). The post race awards were a the really modern part of the city and it was really fun to celebrate the games with all the other competitors from all over the world. I was truly honored to be picked for this team and has definitely been one of the most memorable trips of my life.

Long time without posting

So I haven’t written a blog for awhile and I thought I would start up on this again. Sometimes work, training, and life seem to be pretty consuming and I just forget about certain things. A lot has happened since my last post and at the same time it is more of the same. Lots of training and work. (I try to throw in some fun when I can for example my trip to Yosemite) But first a recap of the last few races I didn’t write about. I raced at the Silicon Valley Triathlon and was able to come away with 1st overall. I then raced at the ITU race on Treasure Island in San Francisco. At this race I found out that if you are given a penalty and don’t take it they don’t add 15 seconds at the end of your race. They just disqualify you. I was a little frustrated with this because they did not have a clear penalty board with who had penalties or anything and they never told me I had one. I had seen the penalty board while in Spain and there it was very obvious if you had a penalty or not. In SF not so much. This was an unfortunate learning experience as I had finished 8th at this race and it would have been nice to get some ITU points since I am not doing many ITU races this season. Unfortunately it happens and I will from now on rack my bike before unstrapping my helmet…not doing it simultaneously. I followed this race with my first ever race in the Lifetime Fitness series. I do enjoy Olympic non-drafting races and I want to be competitive in this series but I was going to this race more for the experience than for a specific result. That made finishing 3rd at this race even more surprising. This is probably the best race result of my short career as a triathlete and I got to celebrate that with my first champagne podium finish. (The crowd seemed to enjoy it when the announcer told us that the champagne was real and not to drink it at the exact same time that I had the bottle vertical to my mouth! Oh well I was enjoying the moment!). I then raced my second ever 70.3 race in Calgary. I was able to go to this race with my mom who decided to take a little vacation. It was great to have her with me at the race and having someone cheer for me. I definitely made a rookie mistake at this race. I did not drink or eat nearly enough on the bike. I actually ended up only consuming the same amount that I do during an Olympic distance race. This combing with the GI issue I had at mile 3 of the run didn’t lead me to the outcome that I was expecting. (I had a use the porto potty…that was a first for me in a race and hopefully the last). I came off the bike and started feeling pretty good on the run. Even with the porto potty break I spent a lot of the run running in 3rd (which was my goal going into the race). At about 15km into the race I blew up in ways that I had never experienced before. I think the lack of nutrition really hurt me at this point. I spent the remainder of the run trying to put one leg in front of the other and was amazed at how weak my body felt. I ended up getting 6th at this race. I should be a smarter athlete than to make this mistake but I am glad that I made it there that way I can learn for it is I prepare for my first 70.3 World Championships in Clearwater.