Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pre-St. Croix and the Parable of the Mustang

So I’m headed out tomorrow to St. Croix to race the half-ironman there, and see what this beast business is all about. I’ve been kinda messin’ around with doing the St. Croix race report to a Dr. Seuss theme, but it’s all still touch and go right now. I don’t know if I’ve got the chops to pull it off. He was a grumpy old genius who hated kids and still the people bought his children’s books. I’m a 7-5 paper pusher who occasionally highlights. I know my role, but I might give it a shot anyway.
While in St. Croix, I thought I might be no dice on the twitter, as my phone has decided to give up on me. Well, not completely, maybe the phone is on strike. So the 2, 5, and 8 keys don’t work. Try texting anything without the letters on the 2, 5, and 8 keys. Most of my stuff is Word!, Yes!, No, good. Real smooth vocab, for sure. However, they’ve got free Wi-Fi at the hotel, and Da Bear has an extra Cingular phone “just in case” that he’s loaning to me until I can FINALLY upgrade to the new iPhone in June. Who knew his “just in case” would actually happen (him, I’m sure.) Anyway, that’s a long-winded way to say stay tuned for updates, and general silliness from the US Virgin Islands.
I’ll end this quick blurb with my favorite parable. A buddy of mine called and we were talking smack. He told me something someone said he heard 8th hand from a guy next to a bus stop talking to a lady who used to babysit for my friends’ parents. Anyway, you get the picture. He told me the story, which was basically slamming me. So I felt inclined to share my “Parable of the Mustang”. It goes like this: When I was in high school, I had a 1968 Mustang. This beast was BAD. 390 cubic inch engine, slicks in the back. Just the sort of car you want a 15 year old full of testosterone to have. Anyway, this car attracted all kinds of attention; good and bad. But without fail, every time I drove the car anywhere, some dumbass would make a comment that went like this: “Well I’ve got this friend who’s got a (fill in the blank), and it’s got a (###) engine, and it would smoke your car!” After hearing this enough, I finally put together my clever reply. “Well go get your car. You should call your friend and get it and then we can race. I have nothing important going on, so call him and we can race right now.” This little reply was usually met with stuttering, mumbling, or embarrassment when they said, “I told you it wasn’t MY car, but a friend of mine’s. He’s pry not home anyway, volunteering at the nursing home, etc. etc.” While my bad ass car is long gone, the moral of that story still rings true today. Don’t run your mouth about a friend of a friend of a guy who used to live in your neighborhood, and how he would crush all our wills’ to live. Or how if your buddy could just sober up long enough to train, he’d be like miles ahead of us. You just end up living vicariously through other people, but more importantly you just look silly. A wise Portuguese fellow once told me, “You’re only as good as your last race.” But more importantly, in drag race talk, You gotta run what you brung. You don’t get to run what your buddy used to be able to do, or the race you woulda had if only x, y, and z didn’t happen. Talk less, train more.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The First Hit is Always Free

In short, I got tempted the same way I’m sure that any addict gets lured in. As I was walking off the pool deck after swim practice, Claire said “John, we have an entry for the Louisiana Triathlon this Saturday if you’re interested.” Now, I had fully resigned to the fact that I was gonna race New Orleans and then St. Croix with nothing but training between. Well, it was that offer that set the wheels into motion.
When the alarm went off at 4am, it was pouring. I mean, typical south Louisiana swamp deluge. So I made the deal that since I was already up, I earned my bowl of pre-race Cinnamon Toast Crunch. After that, I would look outside and make the call. As luck would have it, the rain broke just long enough for me to pack the Banana Trek and all my gear into Subie and get on the road. I wasn’t even down my driveway, and I got a text from Jeremy. We were both waiting for the other to say they weren’t going, but neither of us did. The whole way to New Roads was pouring rain with bouts of driving rain. Thank goodness for Subie’s all-wheel drive, and nimble footing. And to the drunkard going the wrong way down the boulevard in Krotz Springs, thanks for staying to my left. I got to New Road’s, and parked Subie in a spot that I felt was way too close for the time I arrived. This is never a good sign.
Despite my negative Nancy thoughts, registration was wide open, and from what every volunteer and race official said, it was “Game on.” False river looked especially inviting with its white caps rolling into the boat launch. The usual pre-race was in order with the small adjustment to prepping the Banana for racin’ in the rain. 100psi in the tires, K-Swiss stickers on the disc, and roll dat action!
The water was kinda chilly, so they let us wear wetsuits. Right before the gun went off, a blast from the past (Terry B!) hollered at me to get on the other side of the dock. I guess he saw the bouys drift and could see the current from way up there. Turned out to be a good call. Thanks T! The gun goes off and it’s pandemonium. I mean, I swim HARD for the first 200, and there are 5 guys in front of me, and like 6 on the side of me. I know I can swim this hard to the turnaround, but don’t particularly want to. However, natural selection and lactic acid got rid of most of the guys next to me. At the turnaround, I was with two dudes, and I could live with sitting back there. I came out of the water right behind Lawson and some other dude that was wicked tall and had exquisite taste in wetsuits (2XU). I hit the boat dock and just decided to go. T1 was as fast as I’ve ever done, and with my new “Stay Fly” Bontrager kicks , I could actually put my shoes on while riding the bike. After my sweet knee gash trying to ride up the boat ramp last year, I decided to run up the hill. But don’t worry, my injury streak is still going as I somehow managed to find something sharp enough to gash my foot. You need a souvenir from every race, and nothing says souvenir like a scar!
Now, before I wig out, I gotta gather myself and get my shoes on. F that, Holy Shi-ite Muslim, Batman! I’m leading this race! I mean, not my age group, but the flippin’ cop car is out there in front for me! The internal dialogue went something like this:
“This is crazy.”
Ok, focus.”
“Quit geeking out.”
“Obey the yellow box(PowerTap).”
“Man, this is SO COOL!”
I knew that coming out of the water with Lawson meant I maybe had 45 seconds or so lead on the guys behind me. So I just tried to ride around 270-310W on the yellow box of pain. I was frightened to look back, and with my choice of the ridiculously deep yet uber-cool Zipp 1080 on the front couldn’t because I was getting blown around from the gusts of wind. I hit the turnaround and figured this was where I could figure my time gap. I was 1min up on Lawson and about 2:30-3min up on JJ, Johnny D, and Norman. If I could keep the gap, and keep the pressure up, I might actually have a chance to be the Triathlon King of New Roads (it has a nice, trashy ring to it, eh.). I came into transition convinced that I held the gap the same, or maybe put a little more time into the guys behind (I was WRONG). Tammy D was too sweet with her comments when I was trading the banana for some runners and a visor. She bragged about my fast transition, so I kinda felt obligated even though I wanted to just chill for a minute and take my time. In retrospect, it was good she told me to get movin. As I came out onto the run course, Terry B shouted “You got plenty of time! No need to gut yourself. Just run.” (Note to self: ALWAYS gut yourself, but never in the first mile.) I still knew those guys were behind, but figured that I had plenty of time (2nd note to self: Never think during the run of a sprint. VAMOS, VAMOS, VAMOS!) I looked back a few times, until finally the biker leading me asked what I was doing. I said, “Looking who’s coming.” He said, “Who, dude? There is NO ONE even on the road.” The realization that I might actually do this sunk in. However, when we made the turn, the biker kept looking back. I asked what he was looking at, and he said, “That guy that just passed the car wash.” I didn’t need to see, I knew who it was. JJ was running me down. I knew pre-race that this would be a Battle Royale, and he wasn’t just gonna let me win. I kept digging but I felt slower and slower. The cruelest thing about New Roads is that you pass exactly 4 feet from the finish line with 1 mile to go around a concrete track; and everything is open, so you see it all. So I saw JJ as he ran into the park and flew past the caboose while I was just starting on the concrete track. I couldn’t believe I was gonna lead this race outta T1 only to lose it on the concrete jungle track. I made the decision to muster up my “sprint” on the backside of the loop, as I figured he’d gutted himself to bridge up to me. Maybe this surge would break him. Well, it worked, but barely. I just had enough time to zip up the UL-Lafayette jersey and come across the line. Mignon made me laugh when she said, “Well, you made that look easy.” So I took off my shoes and showed her my souvenirs. I think I may have frightened her.
Post-race was crazy, as I got to visit with TTrahan and Mignon, CBoggs, Hunter, Mr. Gary, and re-live being hunted like a gazelle with Jeremy. However, I think the coolest part of the whole day was the lead police guy coming up and introducing himself, and telling me congratulations. This dude made my whole week, and kept me safe; although he wouldn’t let me get close enough to the car to motorpace. Another cool part of the day was running back (well, me limping) with the legend, Johnny D.
Sorry to be so long winded, but this was special as it was my first big triathlon win. When I started this game, it was New Roads that kicked off the season. I always wanted to put my name on the top of the results list, and it was a special feeling to finally do it. It’s a shame that there might not be a 2010 edition of the race, as Mr. Dunnaway is retiring after 16 years. Even if it is, thank you Mr. Dunnaway for all the years of motivation to get out in the cold because I knew the Louisiana Triathlon was coming up, and I didn’t want to embarrass myself. I’d also like to thank Mr. Gary and Mrs. Cecile for the entry, and my awesome sponsors: Giles Subaru for Subie, Capital Cyclery for my pimp daddy Banana TTX, Zipp for my go-fast wheels, K-Swiss for those awesome K-ona shoes, and my parents for, well, everything. You guys are the best. Oh, and thanks Claire, for offering an addict a Saturday hit of adrenaline….

Coming in off the bike, trying to figure out how not to crash into Transition

Maybe I should zip the jersey AND fix the hat next time, so I don't look drunk

"You stalker, mother trucker!"
"Another half mile, and I woulda caught you."

Right before I show Mignon the New Roads souvenir on my foot. She'll never be the same.

Me and JJ, talking with the Legendary Johnny D.

Oh, you better believe you're giving me a hug! I even put on a dry shirt!

Just a preview of what's to come. Johnson/Fell, Rematch 275. This time, it's for the Title....

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

New Orleans Bake sale

Pretty quick and down to it race report straight out of the Big Easy. Being the first race of the year, I always get a kick out of all the simple small things I seem to forget or ignore. You know, like if you wanna go fast take in a lot of calories on the bike. And get to the race venue plenty early so you're not stressed and dodging around at the last minute trying to get it all together. A really cool part of this race was being able to take Subie, the Subaru Outback, for the weekend. Those cars are super cool, and it's a close 2nd behind the 1960's VW minibus in pimp wheels. So I got Subie all loaded up with race gear, including my dad (Tha Bear) who made a game time decision to come check out the race.  We hit I-10 and got to New Orleans just in time for some random bum to charge me $20 to not steal the bikes off the roof, I mean charge me $20 to park in a parking spot owned by the city. Ah, New Orleans, where greed and corruption filter all the way down to the street people. It's like I never left! Anyway, after some weaving and moving, I got my race packet with a shirt and water bottle. At least they didn't cheese up the packets with beads. That would have been too much. 
Race day and the trek to BFE for the swim start came WAY too early. However, the good thing about a race in New Orleans is that half the city is still up at 5am. 2% of those are sober enough to walk, but their up nonetheless. In transition to get all the gear prepped, and here was my one true gripe of the race. Sure, the race had some studs out there. But to not know Natascha Badmann's ENTIRE palmares when you know other minor pro's notable results is unforgivable. This Swiss Miss has more Ironman victories than half of the girls' podium finishes that the announcer did talk about, combined. Of course, she did go and annihilate the course, so she got the last laugh. Anyway, after a bus ride to the swim start, it was another half mile hike to the actual swim start. A quick wetsuit zip for my friend Chris Lieto (I'm like a big Internet star here, I can't act like I'm star struck cause Chris Lieto asked me to zip his wetsuit. Ok, seriously, good thing the wetsuit doesn't have pockets. Autographs and pics for sure along with automatic facebook update via iPhone that I'm kickin it with Chris). Enough chatting with Chris, I got a race to do.
We get in the water, and as much as the transfer and walk sucked, the swim was awesome. Point to point, swimming as far or close to the sea wall as you wanted. I had ZERO contact, and missed the lead group of 3 swimmers because I was following the only drunk guy who made the swim start. The rest was uneventful, and I'm happy to report that I didn't bump into any creatures or dead body's that the mob disposed of during the swim. I've still got my fingers crossed for no crazy infections post-swim. It was exciting to come out of the water at the pointy end of the race, and the banana hammock steed of a bike was ready to roll. The bike was all Louisiana had to offer. You had terrible roads, some wicked misplaced asphalt, swamp grass, mountainous overpass climbs, drunk guys in white shrimpin boots at 8am, and burnt stripped down stolen cars pushed in the bayou. It was truly a tour of Louisiana for all those that got on the bike course. The wind and some planning kept the drafting down, so that was cool to see. The headwind on the way back was wicked. At the last aid station, they were kind enough to give me a gatorade with the plastic under the cap still attached. Watching me open that with one hand would have made a good YouTube. T2 was lookin sweet as I was the 3rd amateur to come in off the bike. T2 took close to an hour.
On the run, I brought my Moroccan shakers with me. Or that's what my salt pills and jelly beans sounded like. I'll save the details, but the run was on point till about mile 4 or 5. Then things got really dizzy, I got really hot, and I really needed some ice. I would have traded you a 10 pound bag of ice for my bike, straight up, on Sunday. I was that desperate. Then there was "rumor" that I asked a random spectator if he had an extra coke. All he had was his half drank one, and offered it. I took it and guzzled, even as his girlfriend screamed, "Wait, that has bourbon in it." Ah yes, New Orleans. But like a true southern gentleman he said, "I didn't mix it yet. I'd never give away a bourbon and coke, love." You sir, would be my hero if that story were true. But like I said, it was just a rumor. Anyway, the detonation and blow up on the run was especially painful. The only thing that made it semi-acceptable was that Desiree Ficker insisted on running with me. Ok, she would really run passed me, stop, regroup, re-pass me, stop, regroup. This went on for 7 or 8 miles. It was a lovely first date, but I told her we are just leading different lives, and it's pry best if that's the only time we see each other. 
One bright spot in the race was the finish line. A bunch of my friends and family were down in the quarter. I wanna believe it was to watch the finish, but it's pretty easy to convince people to come down to the French Quarter. Chris and Stacey came with their daughter to check it all out. Stacey thought it was crazy, Chris thought it was cool. Audrey thought it was fun when post-race we were speaking the same language.
Seriously, the race I've been dreaming about was 2/3rds complete when the hatchet came down on the run. And it's hard to remember all the good when the last thing is the run. But it's a great way to start the '09 season, and it was a good reminder to keep training. It's only April, and we got a million miles to go....