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Thursday, January 9, 2014

2014 and Beyond

It seems every time I am on my bike I can think very clearly, and I thought about exactly how I wanted to lay this blog out, as soon as I got off the bike those thoughts disappeared from my mind. I hope that I can still give some clarity in this post about 2014. 

2014 is set to be a big year of change for me. I went to San Diego last March to visit a few friends, but in reality I spent the week scouting the city as a future home for me. I came back and was sold, without question San Diego is where I want to live (Denver being a close second) and really the city is perfect for the direction I want to take my life/career, but the thought of moving away from family has kept me thinking Madison might just be the perfect place since my visit last March. 

The past couple of weeks I have been very busy actively looking for places to apply, rebuilding my resume and getting in contact with just about everyone I know out west. Obviously my family has caught on and I feel that my mother and sister are about to put up one hell of a fight to keep me here in Wisco, if you want me to stick around I suggest you team up with my mother and sister. Madison is and always will be home for me, I know the city inside and out, and I have carved my own niche in Madison all without formally living in the city since I was 18. Madison has a sense of comfort for me, and sometimes that comfort can be my enemy. I have come to the conclusion if I don't have something lined up for June in San Diego, then I will move to Madison and enjoy one final summer in Madison. Once summer is over I will load up my car with everything I own and head out to San Diego, job or no job and see what happens. I have little doubt that I will be without a job for long, the question is more of when and where will I be working. 

I have tried a couple times and sat down and searched every possible option but the truth is that I just cannot commit to any specific races as of right now. I do not like to be in this position, because with triathlon I want to know where I am going, what I am doing, and what is coming up. This year that simply is not possible. I do not know where I will be living in June and without knowing where I will be living I cannot commit to races. 

Within the sport I feel that I have two options to take my 2014 season. First option is to plan 2-3 peaks throughout the year and find races within those peaks. The big challenge with this is to pick a specific distance, and train without really knowing the specifics of the course and train more for the distance then the course. If I took this route I would most likely aim for an early season race (April), peak in July, and end my season sometime in late September/early October and use that race is my big A race. I am leaning towards this option, and hopefully I will know more about my location of residence sooner then later and might just actually be able to formulate a real schedule with some races that I have been looking at (think french quarter, and hot flat cornfields). The other option is to throw any planned schedule out the window and train all year and race when the chance is presented to me. No specific goals, just do this for fun, and return to work in 2015 when my life paints a bit more of a clear picture. 

So that is is everything in a nutshell. A cross country move, new job, with some triathlon mixed in for 2014. Whatever happens this year I am resting easy knowing that this time next year I won't be suffering through my 4th day of below zero temps. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Kona Day 4 - Spectating Bike Check-In

As I am writing this we are about 10 hours from the start of the 2013 Ironman World Championships. This race is a dream come true for many, years of hard work will soon be rewarded with a race of a lifetime.

This morning was another typical 5am wake up call in the house, its really hard to sleep in when you are in Hawaii. We made an early morning swim down at the pier. Today we were able to get in early enough for a stop at the "Coffess of Hawaii" coffee boat. Thank god for coffee, I probably swam my fastest 500 meter OWS ever today. The coffee fueled JB and myself enough to get in a solid 2k swim in the ocean. This was my first real ocean swim and I felt all the terrors that go with it. At one point I stopped us, looked at John, and admitted my fear of a shark coming out of the ocean floor and eating my leg. Thankfully JB being himself assured me a swift punch to the shark's face would stun him enough for me to get away. In all seriousness swimming in the ocean gave me a feeling of complete vulnerability. It's an eerie feeling that is hard to describe, but it's there and its real. We finished our ocean swim and cleaned up on the pier. Crazy to see all the legends of the sport right in front of you. Today's spotting was Siri Lindley who was right next to use (might actually coach the top 5 women tomorrow).

We headed off for a quick trip to the expo. If you are ever in Hawaii hit the expo on the last day, you will get everything and anything tossed at you for the modest price of $0.00. My only expenditure was to World Bicycle Relief with my donation that took them over $95,000 for their Kona campaign (donation goal: $100k!). The expo really is a go all out experience. Most retailers are finding any way that they can to have all the athletes wear their gear for the big dance. For example, Zipp was offering all athletes to wear their visor, the reward? One athletes photo with the visor on race day would be selected and they would receive a free Zipp 404 combo. Many other retailers had similar offers, and some would take your old gear (hoping to take out competitors) in exchange for their gear with a massive discount, see B70's speed suit option. While at the Zoot tent this happened....
Simply Awesome!

After a quick lunch at the house and to make sure Ben and Carrie were in good hands for their final preparations, Lindsey and I took ourselves down to the bike check-in for some bike nerd fun. This also gave us a chance to test out our sweet rides for tomorrow and of course our Palani Hill Huffy MTB TT. In the span of 10 minutes my handlebars dropped, brakes failed, shifters broke, and chain popped off. This made the trip to the Argon tent quite the adventure. Within 5 minutes my bike was working almost good enough to race tomorrow, thanks much to the Argon 18 crew! We took ourselves to a small little bar that sits right by bike check-in, grabbed second floor seats with a perfect view for all 1800 athletes to check in their bikes.
What we didn't expect was....the friendly gathering spot we created. We met a couple that came from Cairns, Australia to watch some club friends race. When your with Aussies, buckle up for a good conversation with great accents! Our deck view gave us the chance to see everyone check their bike in, this was now a spectator sport for us with drinks in hand (the perks of not racing!). We had multiple pro sightings: Potts, Faris, Fettell, Carfrae, Steffen, Cave, Tollakson, Crowie, TO, and multiple others. We also had a birds eye view for our friends to check in. Soon we had company with Marky V, his girlfriend, and WattieInk extraordinaire Karin Langer. Drinks were pilling up as fast as bikes were checking into transition. Soon enough hometown friends joined in as well. Awesome views, good friends, drinks, and drooling over bikes meant life was good.

After bike check-in we walked across the alley for dinner at the steakhouse next door, though I do not believe any of us ate steak we all had a great dinner. We were treated to another great Hawaiian sunset, though it was mostly blocked by the tree and finish line setup. We also had a projection of previous Ironman Hawaii highlights shown across the street against the wall of the King Kam hotel.

The island is quite tonight, the energy is in a momentarily dull, and everything in Kona is going to come alive in about 8 hours. Looking forward to watching my friends compete in a race they have been dreaming about forever, and to watch the sports elites perform on the highest platform, Goodnight!

Kona Day 3 - A Little Bit of Everything

Alright kids, I'm going to be upfront with this and let you know I am writing this while my BAC is above  0.8, because of this you will need to check my Facebook as I don't not have the motor skills to upload pictures onto this blog right now, and some pictures of above the PG rating. Day 3....

This morning started with the traditional running of the "Underpants Run". For those that do not know the story behind this tradition it is very simple. Many years ago as triathletes started to flock to the island the American athletes noticed the Euros were wearing their speedos everywhere. The joking started and 3 Americans decided to give a tribute, or something of the sort and do an underpants run to make light of the europeans that wore their speedos everywhere. Funny how the Euro's embrace this traditional run these days. The run has grown from 3 to well over 1,000+ today. Even better it is now a charity run that many people get behind. Everyone runs in their underpants which has evolved into clever use of underpants and the triathletes version of "halloween". You can see pictures from this years addition here to get an idea of what it is all about.

Soon after the run we needed to cool off and JB and myself headed out to the pier for a swim. Holy freakin' awesome marine life! Despite the crazy high salt content of the ocean the marine life was absolutely fantastic. I have no clue as to how everyone swims this race so competitively when you have fish and turtles below you just straight chillin' in the water. We made it about 1k out before we decided to turn around. Unfortunately we swam too late for the espresso boat which means another swim in the bay tomorrow morning bright and early, rough I know!

Our morning turned into an afternoon with a well timed breakfast/lunch followed up with an impromptu podcast session with a fellow podcaster and well seasoned veteran who showed Lindsey and I how to appropriately podcast. Maybe someday "In the BIG Ring" will reach the levels of a true podcast. I'll post the link when we get it.

We ended up spending about 2 hours in the expo after a planned quick stop. Of course we picked up some good swag, along with tickets to the Zoot VIP post-race party, and various other various awesome stuff. We had a visit from an friend while at the Zoot tent (see Facebook) that was a great moment to have. We also had our first Thomas Gerlach sighting of the week and he is looking quite excited for Saturday. Quickly all of our energy levels dropped and it was time to get out of the sun.

For the most part of the rest of the day it was kept low key. With out long travel day, furious day of activity Wednesday, and with 2 athletes in the house racing Saturday, rest was on the agenda. Most of us spent some times getting our bikes ready for Saturday. Yes, I had to tame my beast and set that bad boy up to get ready to rip up the Queen K for the marathon, i.e. I made some aerodynamic changes with some "engineered speed". Ben got his Shiv dialed in and Carrie's Cervelo was given some final artistic touches. It's really great to be around some athlete's who are laying real low and relaxed before the big day.

Dinner for the most part we split off. Ben, JB, Tyler, and myself did an evening swim at the KAC and then took home pizza from the Kona Brewery (if you ever come to Kona, they have great pizza). And of course our conversation was shifted to all things Saturday, WTC, and Kona. Alex came back from dinner with the ladies drinking out of a grapefruit and I knew exactly where the night was going.

Evening was concluded with a trip to the WattieInk party down on Ali'i Drive. Quick summary as I am about to pass out here. Another successful "dance party" for our friends back home (Porn, Brady) with Wattie himself and Heather Jackson, Jesse Thomas is all around awesome, smart, funny guy. I still have no idea how to dance, zero Kona athlete sightings, and a round of prairie fire shots were taken with none other then Bryan Rhodes and Macca. I heard all the stories of Rhosey's legendary post Ironman parties, and he seems to be in fine form for Kona, while Macca as he put it bluntly "....the benefits of not racing this year, cheers!" as he gave me a shot and told me to drink up. Then Macca schooled Alex on how to do a tequila shot and that was our signal to go home.

Night all.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Kona Day 2 - A History Lesson

Lava Rock!

Today was one of those days I thought would never end, nor did I really want it to end. 

We started with a bright an early 5am wake up for an early morning sunrise swim. Ben wanted to stay away from the ocean so we elected to swim at the Kona Aquatic Center (Ocean Pier swim tomorrow). A nice easy 1.5K of swimming with an awesome backdrop. Highlight of the swim was having a couple Euro's jump in the lane next to use in full skin suits with pull buoys between their legs....freakin' triathletes sometimes...
Original Finisher Trophy!

Then we took a quick drive down the famous Ali'i Drive (final 1/4 mile of the race) with a stop at Lava Java. For those not in on the triathlete world, Lava Java is the coffee shop of Seinfeld. We stuck around for our morning espresso's and breakfast. As soon as we were about to get up Tom Knoll got in line and we quickly pulled him into our group. What we got was a 30 minute history lesson on the original Ironman race, his story, and so much more  (Tom is quite the military serviceman). Did you know the original trophy's came from scrap medal on the Navy ship scrapyard? Tom shared all sorts of great stories with us. Unfortunately all the triathletes around and in line were too self involved talking about their 400 watt rides on the Queen K 4 days before the race to see what an Ironman legend was in front of them. Then TriBike Transport showed up and fronted the coffee bill for the next 2 hours which meant we stayed for another round of espresso and snag some great swag with a fun trivia session Talk about impeccable timing!

Original scoresheet and splits from 1978 inaugural race
We rallied back home to start our tribute to everyone back home, stay tuned... Soon after Lindsey and I made our most important purchase of the week, our Huffy MTB's for our TT up Palani on Sunday, forget that little world championship race Saturday, this is THE race to watch this week! We spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon getting the essentials for the and booze. 

I can't imagine the pain and torture of the Energy Lab in the race
Ben wanted to get a run in the energy lab in so Alex and myself went out and ran the 4 mile out and back with him around 1:30 (about the time he will be running through on Saturday). For those of you that are unfamiliar about the "Energy Lab" it is nothing that the name implies. It's a 4 mile out and back that comes at about mile 16 of the course. It's hot, completely exposed to the lava fields, zero spectators, and it has a terrible slow rise back onto the Queen K highway for the final 10k home. It's where many Ironman dreams have died, lead changes, and many leaders of the race have blown up in the energy lab. Our run was hot but not terrible. Then again we only ran 4 miles with a brief and easy 1.5K swim in the morning. No 112 mile bike ride, or 16 mile run on exposed blacktop. Again as we drove out to the energy lab and back it was amazing to see how many athletes were saturating their energy BEFORE the race while riding all out on the Queen K. 

Muscle Milk house was pretty awesome!

Our big event for the evening was the Slowtwitch gathering. Basically what you do with this is take 400+ type A athletes and throw them into an oceanfront house, toss in a bunch of great raffle prizes, with a stunning sunset (see below picture) and set them loose! This is a great chance to meet triathletes from all around the world, mostly mainland USA athletes, share some good stories, and hear about all the races that you need to do. So Ironman Whistler is the new "must-do" race as it sounds from all reports that I heard. The big celebrity showing was Chrissie Wellington (Ironman female badass!) coming in for a nice surprise before the raffle drawings.

Our evening was capped off meeting some teammates (Sasha and Julia) who have also made the trek over the Pacific at a nice little oceanfront bar called Huggo's. Some great live music and drinks were a great way to end the evening. 

Tomorrow is another day closer to Saturday and is the biggest day of festivities before the race Saturday. The traditional "Underpants Run" will lead the day off followed by an ocean swim out to the Lava Java espresso bar, yes baristas will be pouring fresh Kona coffee to us in the bay! Most likely with another stop at Lava Java for a late breakfast. Athlete dinner is tomorrow night along with the WattieInk party. Porn and Brady I would love to attend on both of your behalf's. 

More to come from the Big Island of Kona tomorrow!
Unreal sunset view from the Slowtwitch Party!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Kona Day 1 - Travel

From 12:00am to 12:00am it was a 30 hour day factoring in the 6 hour time change. After a late night Monday arrival into Chicago (1:00am) with an early morning departure to O'Hare (4:00am) it was indeed a long day. I knew of about 20 of us all traveling to Kona today, and I believe that we all as a collective unit traveled through each main airport west of the Mississippi. How many possible flight routes can you take to Kona? Quite a few.

You can call me a nerd but I have always enjoyed new airports and new airport codes, or whatever they are called. Today's itinerary was: ORD-->DFW-->HNL-->KOA. Usually I hope to sit next to some beautiful woman, strike up conversation, or meet someone with great stories to pass the time, but today was a bit different. On my flight from Dallas to Honolulu I was in a row with 2 soldiers just coming home from Afghanistan after a year absence from home. Really puts things in perspective when a 200 pound man is sitting next you crying as he is watching video of his kid's first steps, words, and just about everything else he missed in his child's life that he was about to rejoin after a "short" 8 hour flight over the Pacific. While I thought I was excited to get to Kona, both these men had me beat. Last flight was Honolulu to Kona with about 50% of the flight being triathletes. Sighting of the day was at DFW with a guy dressed in IM gear head to toe with his Compex muscle stimulator going on waiting at the gate. I think the kids a row over though he was some sort of fictional movie character.

After 16 hours of travel while reading two books simultaneously I finally made it to Kona only to be whisked away right into town for some fish tacos at Killer Tacos. We all got together shared travel stories (Lindey's story wins with jet fuel on the runway) and headed to the house that sits onto of the Queen K and looks over the town and ocean. Ben, Tyler, Lindsey and I sat outside in perfect weather and enjoyed the end to a long day of travel, this house and view is BALLIN'! We also made post race plans: Top of Muna Kea, cliff jumping, surfing, possible is good!

Tomorrow is Wednesday and the first full day here on the Big Island. Early morning swim at the Kona Aquatic Center with the sunrise followed up with breakfast at the famous Lava Java, and check out the expo as well. I am going to try and head out for a run in the energy lab with some friends and then end the night at the Slowtwitch Gathering. We will also have our GoPros out as well for some good video.

Sorry far too tired to post pictures tonight and my head really isn't thinking straight anymore

Monday, October 7, 2013

Kona - Prologue

I remember a conversation I had my my grandmother a couple years ago. Part of our conversation was about places she had visited in this world and places she had yet to visit and hoped to travel to someday. Hawaii was the one place my grandmother had always wanted to visit but was never given the opportunity. I knew as soon as she told me that because of her current health the opportunity would never arrive and she would live a life without a visit to the islands. But sometimes that is the beauty in life right? Always having something to plan for, look forward to, or dream about. You cannot do everything in life, otherwise once you did everything life would be pretty boring after.

My grandmothers passing a few weeks ago was met with an invitation to go to the "Big Island" of Kona, Hawaii within days. It's funny how things line up and work out sometimes. I immediately knew this was a trip that I had to go on, after all my grandmother would have told me to go. So some calls were made, emails sent, and planning was of quick order, to ensure I could take off for a week to the "Big Island". A few days later my flight was booked and I was ready. Of course some guilt did ensue as I promised myself I would not visit Kona until I earned my spot (through qualification) but if anyone knows me well, my sense of adventure sometimes outweighs the "rationale" choice in life.

But that is not the only reason for my travels to Hawaii. It lines up with race week of the Ironman World Championships, the "Super Bowl" of triathlon. Being fortunate enough to have some friends athletic enough to qualify for a handful of those very hard to earn qualification spots makes this trip and race even more incredible to watch. This week is a chance to celebrate the sport I have such an incredible passion for, meet some great athletes, and to be entertained, motivated, and inspired by 17 hours of awe inspiring athleticism on Saturday the 12th.

So here we go, 7 days on the "Big Island" of Kona, Hawaii. A chance to live out an adventure for my grandmother, an opportunity to see 1700 of the world best Ironman competitors compete, and a place to celebrate island life with some great company. Aloha!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Ironman Wisconsin Spectator Report: Exercising all day while watching others exercise all day

Best spectating crew on course!

I thought it would be best to write this up while still deep in my Ironman hangover. If you are wondering what an Ironman hangover is it is the same thing as a hangover caused by alcohol just 10x more awesome. It is the result of long durations of exercise the previous day, screaming your lungs out, or in the case if you are racing its caused by driving your body into the ground until you can't walk. Ironman Wisconsin is one of my favorite races, whether I am racing, spectating, or volunteering it is a day on the calendar that I am always looking forward to.

Best spot to watch the swim/T1
The day started with a 4:00 wake up call with our spectating group meeting at Lindseys house (home base) just a few miles off the run course. We made it to the Monona Terrace and parked in my super secret spot (if anyone that was in my car mentions this spot you will be treated to many flat tires for the rest of your life while racing) that gave us a short walk to snag our spots to watch the swim with an easy exit for the bike course. We staked out a spot on top of the helix, perfect to watch all the nervous athletes walk down to the start and see them come back after the swim. Also it was a great place for last  chance nutrition and "Cookie Handouts" for those wanting to top off their calories for the day. Check out the awesome cookie Jen Anderson brought to the race after starting the "Cookie Project" this past May. 

Lots of anxious athletes calmed their nerves with cookies

Future Ironman athletes!

Last Chance "Nutrition"

The cannon fired and the race was on!
Those that ate Jen's cookies can be spotted towards the front of the race
We watched the first few minutes of the awesome sight that is a mass start to an Ironman triathlon while being thankful we had the chance to be on the other side of the race and watch today. Less then an hour later and we had our first pros coming out of the water. Gerlach led the Madison contigent out of the water with Blake and Paul not too far behind. We caught Jackie in good position of the female race and watched some of the age-groupers come in before we snuck off to get a good spot on the bike course.

We took off and tried to beat the race to our spot for the day to cheer on the bike course on the corner of Witte Road and Highway J. This is a GREAT spot to watch, it's a hard hill with a tricky turn at the top to navigate and we hoped to distract all IM competitors from the pain they felt climbing that hill. We arrived just in time before the first male pro (Maik Twelsiak) made his way through. As the pro male/females came through I did my best to give the most accurate splits that I could to each individually. Of course with the case with Gerlach I also had to answer questions of who was riding with who, how far in front certain people were, how people looked, I was almost surprised Gerlach didn't ask about the dew point at that point ;) 
Giving out splits to 2nd place Daniel Bretscher
As the pros looped by the masses of the age-groupers came through, slowly but surely the course was filled with dream filled and determined athletes. I did my best to pass on positive energy with "free high-fives" to all those passing by, judging by all the smiles of the competitors that passed us I think we all did a job well done. We ran with competitors up the hills, shouted words of encouragement, and did whatever we could to keep the smiles going. Great work team!
Handing out Free High-Fives
Laurie hard at work with a HUGE smile on her face!
As we returned to Madison to watch the run we made a quick stop the Qdoba for a quick hunger fill. This was the most quiet our group was all day as we filled our bellies full of burritos. 5 minutes after that stop I was already hungry again, but we had a marathon to watch. We drove down University Ave just in time to see Blake starting the early miles of the run. Then we staked out a spot at the stadium for awhile.We were slowly realizing that Jackie was slowly pulling in the female leader. We made it our mission to find her as much as we could on that course and give her the best support and encouragement we could. Of course having a "biker gang" rolling 8 deep helps, so we were able to catch her multiple times as she closed in on her first Ironman win. I also snuck around course trying to find Blake as he ran the fastest marathon of the day and a new run PR for himself, unfortunately he was too fast and I was only able to catch him a couple times. I don't think I have ever seen Blake so strong on the run before, great work!
Jackie running down the first place females
Blake cruising to the fastest run of the day
As the evening started it was time to watch the age-groupers shine, they are the true heart and soul of the race. Everyone gets to the starting line in a different way, different motivations, stories, complications but all share one common goal....finish. 
Fireman Rob!
I was able to find some friends on course who all looked great and putting in some solid performances. Later in the evening I was on my bike solo and was able to meet up with a few fellow BBMC'ers around miles 23-25 and talk to them while they got ready to run down the finish chute. Great work Wynn and Jackie (who ran the whole marathon!), also great to see Candice finish her Ironman race with a solid last few miles.

At the 15 race hour mark I met up with Summer and we headed to the finish line but not without a quick caffeine stop to fuel us for the last few hours. We hung around the finish and then had the idea to get back on our bikes and back the course backwards and see what the course was like in the final hour of  an Ironman. As we rode the course it became apparent that many were still on course. We rode further back into the marathon course and soon we realized some of the athletes would be really close to that midnight cutoff. It was surreal to be on course that over 2500 athletes had just covered, that was the path to so many dreams being chased down all day and was now dark, quiet, and peaceful with the most determined athletes about to bring it home. 

We turned back home at the picnic point turnaround and did our best to rally in the final athletes while cruising in on our bikes. I found one volunteer who left his station to run the final 5k with a solo triathlete also named Ben. I hung with them for a bit, gave my words of encouragement but knew it was bleak for him. As we got off the bike trail I found a group just ahead pushing two runners to keep moving forward, I had no idea of their story at the time all I knew was again mathematically it was looking bleak for the father-son duo. As we approached the last aid station at mile 25 I could her the boom boxes playing the "shots" song, only to look at Summer and laugh at the horribly timed choice of music. Then out of nowhere, the previous athlete Ben, who was being helped with a volunteer passed the father-son duo and was hell bent on getting to the finish in time, it was like he had rocket boosters attached to his feet, again looking at the math of the distance left, time left and his pace I thought it was bleak at best for him to reach the finish in time. 

She could hear the 1,000 cheering or her at this point
We slowly cruised up the course we found an older female named Susan McNamee who was on the brink but so close. Less then 10 minutes left in the race and she was giving it her all, we turned onto the capitol loop and you could hear the crowd on the other side of the capitol ready to call her name. Once we knew she would make it, Summer and myself staked out spots at the finish line and watched Susan bring it home just in time! We both had a chance to catch the final finisher almost 17 hours after the race started and we high-fived each other. Then....out of nowhere that father-son duo came running down the chute, they somehow found the strength and made it. What!? How? As I stood and couldn't believe it, we heard Mike Riley ready to call in one last finisher! Ben surprised all of us and came running down with whatever he had left and made it just in time, literally he had seconds to spare. 
In the end it was an awesome day from the moment we stepped foot on the terrace and felt the nervous eager excitement to the final seconds of a memorable finish. 

But it was those final finishers that stick out the most for me in this 2013 edition of Ironman Wisconsin. Having the chance to see where they were on the course with how little time they had and having the odds stacked against them it was truly inspirational to see them finish what they started. 

Lastly, I just wanted to mention how in those final miles I wondered what these athletes "stories" were that were on the course so late. When I woke up to read about the father-son story, not only did they have a great battle, but an awesome father-son relationship that tested its limits in this race.

Congrats to all!