Wednesday, June 27, 2007

CdA Race Report

America is all about speed. Hot, nasty, bad ass speed.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

I thought I would start off my Coeur d’Alene race report with the opening quote from Talladega Nights. It has nothing to do with my report, but I just always associate that quote with my thoughts of going faster in triathlon. Just a quick blurb about the following story. If you are looking for analytical dirt, my specific preparation for this race, or blow by blow from the technical aspect of this race, shoot me an email and I’ll give that to you. Otherwise, I’ll assume that everyone is not having trouble sleeping at night, and does not want to read that. Chances are that it would put most everyone to sleep. What I’ll share is the human account of someone who continues to chase the Ironman dream even after the passion and allure of the first Ironman is gone. Anyway, on with the show.

“And coming down the chute, from Scott, Louisiana. Here he is, 63rd overall in a time of 10:15, John Fell!!!” Mike Reilly’s words just resonated in my head. It just all felt so surreal, so wonderful. I threw my hat into the crowd, and pumped my fist to celebrate my best race performance to date. It was just such a relief to cross that line and be able to lift off of the accelerator. I was holding back tears of pain and leg cramps for the last 4 miles, while trying to claw my way as high as I could, digging deeper mentally and physically than I ever had before. Months of flawless preparation, uninterrupted, and fighting off urges to sacrifice key training weekends just to “test my fitness” and race some shorter stuff. Just for a little confidence booster. Just to know that I was making improvements. The sacrifices for the past 5 months, for this one moment. It was all worth it, to sacrifice other races so I could see how fast I could go at Ironman Coeur d’Alene. “What a success today has been”, I told myself. Who would have ever known that 6 months earlier, I almost quit this sport altogether?

It’s still in my log book, and I remember it like it was yesterday. January 21st. It was my breaking point. I was still struggling with the disappointment of my 2006 season, and how poorly I raced Ironman Wisconsin. 2006 was my “Kona or Bust” year. 3 races on a national stage, and 3 chances to qualify for Ironman Hawaii. In the end, all 3 races were a bust. I had high hopes, but grossly underperformed at all 3 venues. But I stuffed those feelings of the disappointing season aside, and kept trudging on through training. I wondered through workouts, and bike rides with really no structure or desire. The only workout that I ever looked forward to was the Friday Gurzi swim, as that crazy Canuck always makes me laugh at 5:30am. Not too many people are funny at 5:30am. That was, until January 21st. It was my weekend long ride, and I begrudgingly put my bike in the back of my truck to make the trip to Red’s. When I got there, I got the bike ready, put on my shoes and kit, set up my SRM, and clipped in to go. I rode to the end of the parking lot and just turned around. I told myself, “That’s it. I’m done. I’ve had it. I need a break.” I’m not riding this bike until I have a wicked desire to, and I’m not structuring my workouts. I’ll run when I want, and swim with Gurzi’s crew. That’s it. Until I can give a genuine commitment to training, and putting in the work, I will not waste my time or anyone else’s time.

So it stood like that for quite a while. I questioned everything, my protocol, my bike position, and even my running shoe choice. Then I ran into a simple quote in an old article I had from Mark Allen which read, “Advise the athlete to look within, to really examine the aspects of ourselves that might be holding us back.” Whoa, you mean it’s me that’s holding me back from my greatest race performance? No way. It’s gotta be the shoes. It’s gotta be the bike. No way it could be me. Ok, it is me. I choose this. Ironman and triathlon in general is a lifestyle and a choice. We choose this, daily. For me to do my best, I need to choose this. To “back it up” daily with solid workouts, solid nutrition, and solid focus. Do I choose this? Do I really want this, or do I just say it because it sounds cool? Nope, I really want this. I will back up my workouts daily, and be genuinely committed to going as fast as I can.

After that, training was flawless. Between JQ and KSP (Jared Quoyeser and Ken St. Pe’), they beat me up thoroughly on my long bike rides. I fell in love with running again, and every Friday was still a Gurzi party. I was more pleasant to be around when I wasn’t training because I finally realized that the ability to train for Ironman was a gift, and if it was so terrible, I could quit anytime I wanted to. It was my goal to arrive at the beach of Lake Coeur d’ Alene healthy, fit, and ready to race.

So there we were on the beach start to Ironman, and Tim Thomas looks at me with a concerned look. “What’s it gonna be like out there?” I told him, “There’s about to be a fight, and a swim will break out.” Right after I said that, the cannon went off. I took off so hard that I’m pretty sure the first 200 meters of that swim would have got me a spot at the Olympic swim trials. To say I was swimming scared was an understatement. Switching to the new 2XU wetsuit was a great move, and made swimming like a frightened otter much easier. (Thanks Gayla! check ‘em out!) I guess everyone had the same idea as I did though, because the thrashing, bumping and pulling commenced as soon as I found any semblance of a swimming rhythm. Speaking of the swim, Ironman gave the option for people to not do the swim because the water was a bit white capped. Sorry, but this was the only disappointment of my entire experience. It’s Ironman. 2.4 mile swim, 112 bike, 26.2 run. It’s not easy. Swim is too rough? It’s your responsibility as a business (Hear that Graham Fraser?) to either screen athletes before they enter to insure their safety, or pick a venue with a body of water that won’t be rough. Or maybe don’t cram 2200 people in a venue that should really only hold 1500. Ok, I’m off my soapbox. In short, this is what I learned about the swim: the water is cold, people can’t swim too straight and swimming with the current is way more fun than swimming against it.

I tried to be fast in transition, but it just feels so good to sit down! So I got all my gear, ran to my favorite bike painted like a BBQ pit, and took off down the road. The first hour of the bike was just chaos! The one cool thing about the whole race was that I out swam a pro. Granted, he passed me on the bike like I had my brake on, but it was still cool nonetheless. Who’d thought I’d ever out swim people? Back to the race, everyone around me was riding like it was the bike leg of Cajunman. The first 20-25 miles of the bike leg is through the city, and flat. With the stiff wind at our backs, we were flying. To say the bike course was scenic is an understatement. Yes, it was harder than Wisconsin’s bike course (The super-geeky SRM download told me that), but the road surfaces were all perfect, and almost every road was surrounded by trees. The bike course really showcased the town’s love affair with this race. There were very few spots on the bike course that were desolate. Just amazing crowd support, especially through town. I hit a bad patch on the bike about mile 90, and my inability to sweat gave me a bit of difficulty. Let’s just say that I now know the precise effort that I can put out right before my legs will cramp up. As I was rolling into town, I wasn’t dreading the marathon like in year’s past, but I was wondering if I was going to be able to uncork the run I’ve been training all year.

Out of the tent and onto the run is always a weird feeling, no matter how many races you’ve done. I have read many places that you should arrive off the bike fresh for the marathon. I’m sorry, but there’s nothing fresh about doing an hour swim, then a 112 mile bike ride. How about changing it to “arrive at the marathon with the ability to aerobically run?” Or “Arrive at the run not wanting sit on the transition chair and skim through War and Peace?” That’s more like it. Anyway, the marathon was mostly a blur, as my focus was to stay positive mentally, and commit to a pace. That pace was 7:45’s, and it was going well for a while. The run course is much like the bike course, in that it is pristine pavement, beautiful scenery, and packed with spectators. I can’t emphasize enough how much this town really loves their race. As the miles clicked off, focus began to fade, and so did my pace. I went back to my commitment, and all the hard days that made this race possible. No way I was gonna bag or slow down after coming this far. I’ll save the drama of the pain, tears, digging deep, and the cramps. But as I came down that finishing chute, it was still as magical as the first time in ’04.

It’s more than Mike Reilly saying your name, or the people chocked full in the stands. It’s the commitment you made to seeing this race through, and pushing yourself further than you ever thought possible. It’s learning the difference between real commitment, and just running your mouth about commitment, then backing down whenever things get tough. It’s about the people who help you along your journey, and ask nothing in return. It’s learning about yourself, and who you are as a person. It’s about your unconditional support network, and them sharing in your success, as they’ve been as much a part of the day as you have. It’s these wonderful people, the knowledge you gain, and the experiences along the way that make this such a grand adventure.

My heartfelt thanks goes out to everyone who made this journey possible. Mom, Dad, and Kell. It’s us 4. Always has been. Thanks for letting a 27 year old kid still chase dreams. ENM, you are my rock. It would take me years to tell you thank you as much as you deserve. KSP, its your turn now. Your subtle humor, and laughing at my run mileage really made a huge difference. The suffering is always a tad easier when you’ve got someone on the side of you. JQ, thanks for the mentoring, and making the first hour of every ride like motor pacing. You are right, there are big things on the horizon. Dr. Joe, Kris, and Jason, thanks for keeping me put together and injury free. To my second family, thanks for letting me eat all your food, and not minding if I fell asleep on the kitchen table. And thanks to everyone who supported me, cheered for me, and kept me going in the right direction.

So what does all this babble mean? Well, its quite simple really. Success is in the eyes of the beholder. I still don’t have my ticket to Kona, but I’ve gone faster than I’ve ever went. And that’s a victory for me. Once I removed attaching satisfaction to results, and started attaching satisfaction to the process, I realized how much success I’ve really achieved. And commitment to the work and lifestyle for future events will be a little easier, and definitely more enjoyable. Speaking of the future, I’m already looking forward training again with my crew, swimming with my crazy dog, and watching the sunrise while running down Camellia Boulevard. What did I learn in all this? I’ll use the cheesy posters that you see at football and basketball games spelling out ESPN, or CBS to express what Ironman now means to me:


Relative to

ONe’s self, while collecting


Adventures, and

New experiences along the way.

Cheesy? Maybe. Memorable? Absolutely.

Thanks for reading….

Friday, June 22, 2007

Shackin' up in the CdA

So here I am, in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. What a beautiful place! Who knew that I shouldn't have formed my opinion of Idaho by watching Napoleon Dynamite? Anyhow, the ceremonial pre-race activities have commenced around here. People wearing their gang colors (Tri club gear) from head to toe, or every piece of Ironman finisher gear they own, even if they have to layer to get it all on. And of course, people training as if they get enough training hours in the week before, they get a secret code that unlocks the special, uberfast and easy Ironman CdA course. All in good fun, and all adding to the atmosphere that is Ironman. So how did I get here? Well, that's an interesting story.....

It all started in Broussard, LA. We loaded up Tim's RV, and headed out west. WAY out west. Somehow from point A to Couer d'Alene, we went places that had no cell phone reception. For hours on end. I never understood all those horror movies where someone's car breaks down in the middle of Arizona, and they die out there. Now I understand. Some of the places we saw, and trained in were Gallop, New Mexico (elev. 6000ft). It was here that I set the town record for most nose bleeds in an hour, (4 for those counting at home). Wanna know what elevation feels like? Take a freezer size ziploc bag, put it over your nose and mouth. Now go ride. Then we saw Route 66, Lake Powell, Arizona. And of course, no trip would be complete without Salt Lake City. I never understood why Utah got the winter olympics. I get it now. That city rocks. Oh, and we liked Montana so much, we drove through it twice. What do I mean, you ask? Remember "Dumb and Dumber", where Lloyd and Harry are driving to Aspen. When Lloyd falls asleep, Harry takes a wrong turn, and they end up in Nebraska? Yeah, it happened. Ask Tim, he'll fill you in. Too funny.

Fast forward to today, I'm just sitting and waiting for the inevitable. Sunday and the race to come. Just stay healthy and focused till then. I'm sure I'll have some more interesting stories before the race and road trip are done. Thanks for reading...


Not the city, the mythological rebirth of your favorite website, I figured since all I really do anyway is write articles that are basically blogs, then I should just switch over to the blog function/page. And, its free. Never a bad thing. So here come all the fun times and thoughts of my crazy mind. Livin' the dream in the world of triathlon.