Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Clarity and a Peace offering

How do I know that I’m doing enough training for the upcoming Ironman? I’m just about right when I’m trying to figure out ways to sleep at work, without people realizing that I’m actually sleeping. You know, the same way we tried to pull this off in high school? So, I figured I would drop in for a little bit, and end on a bit of a rant.

Training is good. The only rough thing is that there is a lot of it lately. I remember the good ole’ days when once a day training was the norm, and a two a days were “pushing the envelope.” Now, two a days are commonplace, and three a days are getting me on the bleeding edge. It’s amazing how the body adjusts to workout stress. Instead of accepting the adjustment, we continue to push that fitness envelope in search of the tired feeling that coddles us and comforts us into thinking that we have a proper workload for the upcoming race.
While I was still trying to recover from Gulf Coast last week, I was definitely still in need of some coddling. The highlights last week were a ride I’m not allowed to talk about, but will hence to forth be known only as “The 135”, and a brutal ride the next day with Mucho work followed by a brick run whose pace will only be described as “not cool”. So all in all, a pretty basic week. On Thursday, I’m packing up the trunks, runners, and wheels to go all Peter Reid one last time before Ironman. A place where the men are men, the sheep are nervous, and roads to nowhere go on for miles surrounded only by cotton fields. That’s right, Lake Bruin baby! It’s a great place to train, sleep, rinse, repeat. All the while not being distracted by anything remotely resembling technology (i.e. cell phone reception, Wi-Fi, and other fun time wasters). I’m even kicking around the idea of bringing the iScoot up there for some Motor pacing mayhem. But the jury is still out on that one.
Speaking of the iScoot, I have been riding it plenty but haven’t chased it yet. Benny is still willing to humble his 180+ mph machine to dragging me up and down the Youngsville/Abbeville highway, so the iScoot has been relegated to street go-kart, and general fun runner. Every time I ride that thing, I feel kind of like I’m breaking the law. Commuting shouldn’t be this fun.
Onto yesterday’s motor pacing session, and a bit of a rant with a splash of clarity. At the end of another successful (by successful I mean that I’m not sure if I wanna cry or wet my pants, or both at the end of the ride) session, Benny and I pull up to the corner of our route that pretty much signifies the end of the ride. It’s a long flat road, with a dip and a small incline, and we always drag race to finish the session with a high top speed. Anyway, off to the left was a lady, her car, a truck, and two of Youngsville’s finest in their squad cars. I noticed some fresh paint on the road, and the officers’ looking at us funny. Later on, I find out that only 20-30 minutes earlier at that exact corner, Jonathan Falgout was struck by the woman I saw sobbing by her car. While Jon and I aren’t close, I consider him a friend, a great ambassador for the sport of cycling, and a hard working athlete. At first, a feeling of panic rolled through my body, as this could have very easily been me that got hit. Same route, same time, same typical post-work driver carelessly going home and saying “Damn it! These skinny queers are just taking up the road. What the hell are they doing? Don’t they know it’s my time to go home. They are so inconsiderate! They need to get a damn job!” Or even worse, and in the case of this woman, she just wasn’t paying attention and never saw Jonathan till it was too late. Then I thought about this woman. I hope that she was sobbing because she temporarily took a dedicated, focused and hard working athlete out of the sport that he has sacrificed so much time and effort toward, instead of sobbing that she might be ticketed or her insurance go up. Then I thought about what I’d like to say to her if I had known the instant that our eyes met on that corner, that she had just hit Jonathan.
“See ma’am, you see a biker in tight clothes lying bloodied and battered on the asphalt with a shiny red, mangled bike tossed on the side of him. What I wish you would see are the tens of thousands of miles in his legs. I wish that you would see the dreams that he carries deep inside of him for the season ahead. Or the group of buddies that depend on him for stories and jokes on those long weekend rides, while depending on him to pull them back into the race or chase down a break in the heat of battle. I wish you would see the people that constitute his fan base, and watch with baited breath every pedal stroke of every race, hoping that his form is good, and cheering for him as today might just be his day for victory. See ma’am, I hope you and all of the other drivers see these things; not because cyclists’ want praise, awe or fame. I want you to see all of this so you realize we aren’t so different from each other after all. Cycling is a blue collar sport. Just like the job you put in countless hours at, cycling demands countless hours and miles for even the smallest hint of achievement, success and satisfaction. Sure, it’s a hobby and an extracurricular activity, but it’s a hard life and hard work nonetheless. And we fit it in the hard miles whether it be early, late, rainy, cold, windy, hot, or we plum just don’t feel like riding. We aren't solely bike racers. We are people just like you, strapped with life's responsibilities. We are husbands, fathers, youth coaches, doctors, engineers, accountants, students, mechanics, technicians and a million other different backgrounds. We fit it the hard miles around work, kids’ sporting events, family gatherings, birthday parties, etc. So see, ma’am, we aren’t so different from each other. I am very thankful that, while this was a tragic accident, Jonathan will be riding again soon. I hope that you and other drivers take away a lot more than you hit a biker, and he’s lucky to be alive. I hope you take away a respect for us for our dedication and sacrifice to get the hard miles in, no matter what; as we respect you for your desire to get home quickly and safely after a hard day’s work. Two blue collar people, sharing the same space in the universe for a split second in time. And maybe with this twinge of respect, we’ll co-exist peacefully as we both go up the road.”

Get well soon, Jonathan. God’s speed on your recovery.

Jonathan leading the TTT smackdown at a local race.

Friday, May 16, 2008

That's HOT!!

So Gulf Coast Half Ironman has come and gone. Good times, and more importantly a good time for me to see how I’m progressing for Ironman Coeur d’Alene. No real excitement on the way up, except another example to solidify my theory that no one needs you at work until you’re gone. I put on the voicemail, Call me at XXX-XXXX if this is an EMERGENCY! Sure enough, I get a call. Is it an emergency? Hardly. The office world would be a better place if some people could wear footie pajamas to work. That way they could feel secure without calling just to hear you say that you’ll take care of things when you get back.
Anyway, back to the race. I get my crap at the expo, and am really excited to try and screw up my race. How? Well, I’m gonna run in the “Team issue” marble bag, aka Speedo, aka Man-kini. Never done before, not by this guy. So while I’m at it, I figure to go ahead and buy some new racing flats since mine are shot. Run them in the race? CERTAINLY! Anyway, the only semi-interesting things that happened pre-race are that I got Mean mugged (stared down for those not fluent in Ebonics) by Spencer Smith on his pink Planet X. Yeah, I know my bike is painted like a WWII plane, but yours is pink. And we are in the panhandle of Florida. When in Rome, Spencey boy. The second thing cool was I saw a Hoffbrauir House. The last time I was in one of those, I almost got jumped on the streets of Munich, got denied entry into some German clubs, and we climbed on a Smart Car. In short, it had sentimental appeal. I never did get to that place post-race, but I highly recommend it if you are in Panama City Beach, like beer, and getting plastered at a picnic table.
I didn’t sleep much the day before the race. No real reason, but I felt a bit off for the pre-race. Gulf Coast, while on basically the same general area as Ironman Florida, is WAY more low key than the money making, dream inducing juggernaut. Plus, they have wave starts. BIG PLUS! Anyway, we were the #6 wave, after pros and every woman in the race. I had Timmy Thomas in my wave, so I figured I’d let him know my swim strategy. “Timmy, I’m on you like a Prom date for the swim.” It worked out well, and despite the crazy swells (Some guy in a later wave drowned. Very sad, but proof that the sport is dangerous. So please be comfortable and confident in the water before tackling the distance you choose. That includes open water swimming!) I came out in 30min. Pretty slow, but most of the top guys in my age group were either right in front of me, or still swimming. Got on the bike, and just “Rolled dat Action!” Nothing real exciting. Tailwind out, brutal headwind back. I decided to spin on the way out, and use all the remaining bullets in my gun for the ride back. At the turnaround, I was in no-man’s land between the guys behind me and the pros. It was wicked tough staying focused and in rhythm. There was a group of 3 that included my buddy Will from Denmark and “THE” Jeff Cuddeback (holder of every Hawaii age group record), and they were maybe a minute down at the turnaround. I thought they would catch me, but for some reason they never did. Anyway, I was trying my best to book it down Beach Boulevard and into T2 because I knew I played my cards on the bike. Long story short, when I came through, the people were going crazy! The announcer said “Ladies and Gentlemen, our 1st Age Grouper is coming in off of the bike. We don’t even know who this kid is.” I wondered who he was too! He is pry more handsome than me, anyway. Then he said, “#637 from Scott, LA, John Fell.” Oh Shiite Muslim! That’s me. I’m in the front. This has never happened before. Cool. Well, the announcer decided this wasn’t enough, and wanted a during-race interview. I wished my mom happy mother’s day, and continued pimping out my costume for the run. Man-kini, check. Bret Michael’s bandana, check. Doper’s Suck wristband, check. 5 gallons of Body Glide just in case, check. Well, my meticulous preparation let my buddy Will out of transition before me. So into T2 1st, out of T2 2nd. NASCAR fans would be very disappointed in my pit stop. The chase was on, and I knew I had to close the gap to Will ASAP. See, I might have had too much information knowing that he had done Ironman Arizona in April. So I knew that the longer he held me off, the more confidence he would have in his abilities. So mile 1 was 6:08’ish, 2 was 6:20’ish, etc. until I closed the gap. Once I got there, I immediately attacked him. First was to get away in the neighborhoods, but more importantly I felt bad that he had too look at the horrible Man-kini Faris ensemble’ (Faris rocks his well, I don’t). Run was pretty good until the park. That was about the time that the cool morning breeze and clouds clocked out, and the brutal Florida sun checked in for work. From this point on, I couldn’t get enough water. This was to the delight of one aid station who I heard say, “OOOHHH. Here he come! Here he come! Get that boy some Wata!”; yet to the horror of another aid station where a mother had to tell her kid (who I’m pretty sure was scarred after seeing my outfit) “its ok honey, he’s not from America.” Anyway, I must have asked no less than 100 people from mile 9 on in, “How far is he back?” I got the same reply every time, “Who? There is no one back there.” I felt like a kid convinced the Boogie monster was under my bed. I held that last mile together with duct tape, a bandana, and a prayer. Came across in 4:34:16, and 1st in my age group. I was just happy that I got to race people, as sometimes triathlons involve no tactics, and are just an insanely long time trial.
Now it’s back to the grind of training, and trying to recover enough to get some long stuff in again, with 3 solid weeks of work before the taper begins. OH SWEET TAPER! How I long for thee! The only good thing about the Man-kini run outfit you ask, other than scaring people? Now I know I can pull off the “No speak Eng-leesh” if I need to…

Some pics from the Race (I know, it's like a train wreck. You don't wanna look, but you have to..)

Rollin' dat Action on the bike. And yes, I am proud of my white, Italian shoes....
No imagination necessary. Drink it in, ladies. Drink it in...

See VH1, I can look like a burnt out rock star too! Now, Gimme my own show!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Ghost of Training Past

I thought of this title, among other things, on a long ride I had. On the training side, I just started my second of two big blocks of super stupid, super crazy Ironamn training. The title reflects my and most people’s feelings that they aren’t doing enough training. Or more precisely, that the training I did last year was WAY harder, or WAY more volume than I am doing for this year’s rematch with Ironman Coeur d’Alene. That’s why I’m glad I keep a training log from years past, so I can see that I am not in fact behind in training. All those years of drinking well water out of the hose has somehow affected my ability to remember the past as it really was. I assume that most people do the same thing with their training, and look back and only remember the “Epic” workouts, or epic weeks within the training buildup. I do it, while simultaneously forgetting that most of those workouts landed me in Dr. Abshire or Dr. LaCaze’s office.
The second of these two build blocks is gonna be a little different this year from years past, in that I’m going to race Gulf Coast Half Ironman at the beginning of my first build week. Some say it’s stupid, I just think it’ll be a good way to get some race intensity in the mix as I felt I was a bit underdone on the intensity side when I raced Ironman CdA last year. I’ll then take a few days down time to absorb the race, and then hit it again. And of course, I’m looking forward already to going back to Lake Bruin to do my super – secret Peter Reid’esque, Epic camp at the lake. It’s kinda weird, but I’m actually enjoying the monster training, and will be a bit bummed when the Ironman build is over. I know that I don’t talk about training much in this blog, but I’ll carry on a bit for my sanity. Trying to be as objective as possible, I feel this is the first time since I’ve started triathlon (Ironman in particular) that I can finally do all of the stupid hard workouts that I read about, and not be cooked for 4 days afterwards. I had to chuckle Sunday, as I came in from a solo century training ride (oddly enough, my fastest ever century, and only stopped once for drinks), took a quick shower, and then headed to ENM’s house for Sunday dinner. 2 years ago, or even last year, that ride would have put me into a coma-like nap for hours. I guess the body really does just adapt to what it has to do. Why couldn’t I have taught it to throw a baseball 100+mph? Might have been a little more lucrativeJ
Benny S and my “Motorpace Chase” project has been a success. So much so, that I’ve bought a new bike. No, not the kind you pedal (Although some rumors that I do not like my Trek are going around, but that’s hogwash. I will, however, take bicycle shaped gifts….). Since it took me about 6 friggin’ months to find any half decent information on motorpacing, who really does it, and what kind of workouts to do, I’ll keep the detailed information to myself. Hell, it would be easier to find out a fraternity’s secret handshake than to get a pro to admit they motorpace, and what kind of workouts they do. Although I give mad props to Macca, as he answered all my questions about it, and steered me in the right direction on how to use the motorpace sessions. Yes, I got to talk to Macca on the phone, but no need to be impressed. I have no idea how I got in on the convo, but the information was priceless. So I’ll be bringing “The Pace Car” up to the lake for some “Motorpace Tag” on the desolate roads of Northeast Louisiana. I’m trying to talk my dad into wearing a Viking helmet while he’s on the scooter, but so far negotiations are going nowhere. As soon as I get my new steel, Italian steed I’ll post some pictures. Anytime I think of the new scooter, the chorus from Bon Jovi comes in my mind, “I’m a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride, cause I’m wanted, WANTED!, Dead or Alive!” That’s me, a cowboy on a scooter. Try not to laugh.
Racing wise, I’ll be heading off to Panama City Beach to race Gulf Coast this weekend. As if I don’t see that course often enough! If the condo I’m shacking up at has some Wi-Fi, I MIGHT post a pre-race blog. But for sure, I’ll be posting a post-race report, and maybe even some thoughts about if the change in training has helped or hurt the racing. Riveting stuff, I know. Maybe someone should alert the New York Times. This is Pulitzer Prize winning stuff! While the racing may or may not be great for me this weekend, I do plan on being victorious in the "Marble Bag Challenge" aka the Old School reunion. While it has been brought to my attention that I am too young to be old school, I'm going all out to trump the studs that were at Gulf Coast 10 years ago. My outfit, you ask? It's top secret like the Bat Cave. But I can give you a hint: