Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Some Update Pics

First is my 17.8 lb UFC cage fighter. AKA Operation Mud, Cowbells, Gin & Trombones. Man, I love Belgium!

Second is me meeting the Grip. If you're involved in triathlon, and don't know who this is, return your USAT card right now. And FYI, he didn't wear one piece of M Dot attire any time I saw him.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


You would think that after an Ironman, you’d give yourself some time to relax and just absorb the events of the year, and try and recharge from all the energy spent pulling off the first two Ironman year I’ve done. No, I’m not that smart. The weekend after Florida found me in Austin. Now even if I was just in Austin to hang out, it would have been cool. The whole town has a cool hippie/fitness vibe. And they have the world’s largest Whole Foods. So I cruised around with the baddest bike racer I know, Shontelley-hoo, and we cruised the town. Anyway, I went to Austin to hear the Grip speak in a weekend long workshop. The Grip, as in Mark Allen. I won’t bore you with the details, as it was the best money I’ve spent on triathlon outside of race fees. Such a cool experience, and definitely not “I’m great, grandiose, and you can only hope to be a fraction as good as I was”speaking engagement that you would come to expect from a 6-time world champion. Quite the opposite, actually. Mark is very unassuming, and so approachable. Anyway, great times, and I’m still buzzing from the experience.

So what the hell do I do with “all this spare time” and get away from triathlon? Well, I took 2 weeks COMPLETELY off. I mean, I haven’t run outside of the “Run with Mark Allen” run at the workshop. As for biking, I’ve just been having fun on the singlespeed, and noodling around to and from work. But I really needed something to spark off the pre-season, without the boredom of all those familiar training routes that are mind numbingly burned into my brain. So I fell way off the wagon and found a new winter obsession. The picture is below. What the hell is that, you ask? Where are the aerobars? Well, it’s a cyclocross bike. As in a road bike that you ride on hardpack trails and gravel roads. No computer, no intervals, just mud, riding, and fun. I did my first ride on it Thanksgiving day. I can’t remember when I had more fun on a bike. I had mud in my teeth because I was smiling and laughing the ENTIRE ride. Super simple, and super cool. Anyway, its pretty fun getting muddy on a ride, and saying, “sweet” when the pavement ends on your ride, instead of saying “Oh shit!” like you do on that pretty carbon tri bike.

So why cyclocross? Is it necessary? Well, not really. But the bike is orange, it’s named “Gin and Trombones”, and most importantly, it’s a new sensation while still getting in some good cycling miles. And Dr. Joe said training is all about keeping that central nervous system on it’s toesJ

So like any good obsessive, compulsive, Type A dude, I had to research this cyclocross phenomenom. So, I’ve watched a million YouTube cyclcocross videos, planned my first race in Houston in January, and am even gonna build a cyclocross track in my front/back yards. It’s good cause it takes the ole’ mind off of triathlon, racing, eating like a Buddhist monk, and obsessing about training for next year. Instead, I’m laughing at the characters of this new, cool cycling bastard child. Guys like Barry Wicks, Ryan Treborn, and Jeremy Powers. And I can definitely get excited about any sport that encourages drinking for spectators, and for heckling the racers. Sounds fun to me. So cyclocross is my new obsession. That is, of course, until it warms up…

Friday, November 9, 2007

Ironman Florida, The Soundtrack

Forgive me for the odd title of this race report. On the weekend before Ironman Florida, ENM and I escaped to my parents’ camp to chill out, get my mind right, and do a little training before the race. While we were sitting on the dock, Elyse said “You know how every movie or TV show you watch, the music always fits the situation perfectly? Wouldn’t it be cool if we got to choose the music for our life? Kinda like a soundtrack.” So, indulge me if you would. While I write this, I’ve put the song I’ve chosen as my Ironman Florida soundtrack on repeat. Five For Fighting’s “Superman (It’s not Easy).” Before you call me a grandiose prick because I think I’m Superman, go ahead and buy it from iTunes, and let it repeat while you read this.

Everything that could have went wrong race week did go wrong. All sorts of extra-curricular stuff with coaching soccer, obligations, and basically everyone “needed me for just one second.” Needless to say, I was stoked when Wednesday morning rolled around. I packed up the car and went down to Panama City. I figured that I would stop off at the Whole Foods in Baton Rouge and my addiction, the Nike store in Gulfport. Well, that put me in Panama right as registration closed, which was the only reason I went down on Wednesday. Silly me and my addictions. Anyway, my friend Julie and her husband were cool enough to let me sleep in a spare bedroom since my room wasn’t ready till Thursday. Florida was her first race, and she was surprisingly calm. But I did talk her out of carrying 16 gallons of water/Gatorade/gu for race day. From the time I got there, the weather was unreal. Just perfect. The water, well it looked like that pretty blue that you get when you use the Brand name “2,000 Flushes”, not the cheap Wal-Mart knockoff. Thursday was silly, as we waited in line for like an hour to register. Friday was a blur as well, and I entertained myself with bouts of eating dark chocolate Peanut M&M’s, watching “Talladega Nights” and going down to the race expo to see how many Timex hats I could get for free. Although, I had this nagging doubt in my head that I wasn’t ready like I was for Coeur d’Alene. Amazing how hindsight on a race that has passed makes you feel like you were so confident, when I was probably feeling as nervous and unprepared as I did in Florida. One thing I was worried about was my core alignment, as I quit going to Dr. Joe after Coeur d’Alene. Not because his program didn’t work (because his program IS THE JAM!!!), but I just was running out of time every week in training, and that was (stupidly on my part) the first thing to go. Well, Dr. Joe was coming to see his first Ironman in person, and I got to see him Friday night. He stretched me, checked my alignment, and deemed me fit to fly. On a deep level, it made me a lot more relaxed.

Race morning came, and I was so nervous that I couldn’t get food down. 2 Ensures and a bagel with Nutella and some juice. And that almost came up. I got to transition at 5:30, and like the Type A people most triathletes are, 80% of the racers were already there. So that meant a line to the porta-potties like a mile long. When this happens, I always turn into inspector gadget, looking for a hidden gem of a porta-stop. Well, I found one, even the nice one with handicap access and enough room to dance around. After that, my dad and I did the ritual we started in September of 2003. He holds the tube of KY jelly, while I put it everywhere and get my wetsuit on. And naturally he laughs at the awkwardness of this father/son bonding moment. After I got my wetsuit on, we hug, he tells me to go fast, and I go to the beach. I felt kinda like a NASCAR crew chief, as I had to make a tactical decision to go with regular tint goggles that would be good for the sun just coming up on the first loop, or the mirrored daddies for the glare of the second loop sun. I chose the latter (good move). The swim was eventless, and felt effortless. Except I poked a hole in my new wetsuit. Pissed? Yep. Got out in 1:01:xx and was stoked. I swam super easy, kicked the dude’s ass with the snorkel that I saw, and was right where I needed to be. Of course, after I got my wetsuit stripped, I cramped like an idiot. I blame the wetsuit stripper, as I think he’s got a vendetta against me because I’m better looking!

Pointy hat, shoes, and my pimp daddy new Neon Limited edition Oakley’s (Thanks Capital Cyclery. Even the Euro-dudes were jealous of my glasses). Now onto the steed. What is there to say about the bike ride? I was patient the first 30 minutes, and came up on Jeremy. We both said the same thing at the same time, “Jeremy, how’d you get out of the water before me?” I told him I was kickin’ it old school with Scuba Steve. He understood. Back to the bike, I had always heard tales of “The Kona Train.” It was basically a pack of riders that used the 7 meter draft rule to string out, and form a train. How’s that help? Turn off your brain for 5 hours and just look at the dude in front of you and ride. Then get back to me. Well, the train went by me like I was standing still. I looked at the SRM and decided against it. Then, the voice of Yoda, aka Ken “back when I did Kona in ‘07” St. Pe’ came into my head. “John, that SRM is nice. But sometimes, you just gotta nut up and ride.” Just as I thought about this, a train of 3 guys came by. Now or never, just hang on. The rest of the ride was a blur. If I may steal lyrics from the soundtrack, “Men weren’t meant to ride with clouds between their knees.” That’s what I felt like, just flying. It was almost surreal. And yes, the rumors are true. There was some blatant cheating going on out there. I’ll call out Billy Dean Johnson (#488). You, sir, are the most memorable cheater I saw. Blatantly sucking wheel should be punished, and that 5 hour marathon isn’t punishment enough. Just know I saw you, and so did Santa. Just as I started to get frustrated with the cheating, Jeremy came by and said some pearls of wisdom, “Don’t worry bro. They can’t hide on the marathon.” And coming into transition off the bike, all I could think about was shredding this run.

Keith was a saint in transition, and put sunscreen on my bald-ass head, since I had to wear my new Infinit visor (Thanks Michael!). I took off and forgot my concentrated Infinit for the run. In a game day move, I left it. I would survive on salt pills, coke, Gatorade, and balls out running. I wish I could tell you what I thought about during the run. There was really no thought, just rhythm. I saw Jeremy about a minute up on me at the turnaround in the state park. Once again, I was confused as I came in the bike before him. Maybe he’s related to Harry Potter? Could be the spike perfect hair. In any event, I was not seeing too many people that didn’t have a P on their leg. I kinda started to wonder if I went too hard on the first part of the run. I pulled out my paper, and saw I was on pace for a 3:12 marathon. I trained my ass off for a 3:05, so I knew I wasn’t too far off. The run back into town was pure. I’ve never felt as perfect, effective, and methodical as I did on that second 6.5 miles. Hit the turnaround in 1:36:xx, and just knew it was on. I saw my support crew, and knew it was now or never. They didn’t come to see me finish, they came to see me fly. For this one moment, I was their hero. Even heroes have a right to dream. This was it, I knew for sure I put together the race of my life. My dream of going to Kona, my day was upon me. My buddy Jantzi found me in the state park, and did the customary lying, telling me that I looked great. When I saw him again, he asked if I wanted to know where I was in the race. Of course, that’s why I’m here. He said 11th, and at that instant I felt my chest explode. My dream just bled out hearing those words. The closest guy was 3 minutes up the road, and the top 4 were long gone. I started to cramp on the top and bottoms of my hamstrings. The adrenaline and focus I was running on was starting to fade. It was time gut it out, and find the better part of me. That part you find on mile 22 of the marathon, where all the confidence, planning, and intelligence is gone. You are left with who you really are, and find out what you really have, which is courage, hope and love. And even though I write this, I still can’t fathom being at that point. I guess it’s really “Not easy being me.” So I finally come to grips with the fact that my best race isn’t getting me to Kona. I told myself, “Fu$k Hawaii.” I’m going down fighting today. Jantzi came back and told me that I might have a chance to go under 9:30, and that he was in awe of what he was seeing. I thought, “In awe of who? I’m running like a 65 year old dude with a hunched back.” When he said those words, I remembered my crew. The people who had as much invested in this as I did. The selfless dedication to helping with training, feeding me, kicking it with my dog. Anything to make my life easier, and so I could fly a little higher. I needed 2 miles in 17 minutes. It’s on, I told myself. It’s time to give back to them.

It doesn’t matter how many Ironman races I do, the last mile is still so emotional. I’m such a soft little girl, but I just started crying. I came down the finishing chute, and saw that 9:29:xx. It was mine to be had. All the runs that started at 4am, all the crazy ass bike rides, swimming underwater down and backs. All worth it. I just fell into ENM’s shoulder, snotted all over her shirt, and cried. Mark Allen said somewhere, “To go faster than you’ve ever gone, you have to go to where you’ve never been.” It’s so true, and so simple. I went so hard, I left a piece of me out there Saturday. And I did for my people, my support crew, my loved ones. Because as I’m listening to the soundtrack, I realize that I’m the man in the phony red sheet. They are my supermen.

Thanks for reading...