Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Quick Update

Last week became a rest week after I couldn't manage anything in addition to work, unpacking, or working on the new house.  So I let it go, didn't worry about it, and was rewarded at the end of the week with the news that I qualified for the XTERRA US Nationals in Tahoe.  I was hoping to get out for a ride or a run this past weekend, but more long hours at the house with horrible nutrition (we have no kitchen) left me spent.  I woke up early Monday to head out for a run before work, but then realized we didn't have a functioning shower (ahh DIY remodeling).  So here is my training update since I've gotten back on track and fixed the shower.  My goal is just to have a solid race in Tahoe, nothing special, just be fit enough to enjoy the experience and learn from all the studs who will be there racing for keeps.  This week I'm trying to get back into the swing of training.  The next two weeks will be BIG training weeks with lots of mileage and then I will rest up before the big race.

Tuesday - 200m warm up, 400m pull w/paddles, 400m pull, 400m race pace, 400m cool down = 1800m.  I added three sets of pool plyos to the end of the workout because Ultimate league is starting here in Arizona in a few weeks and nothing makes me feel like I'm stronger than plyos.

Wednesday - 3 mile AM run

Thursday - 200m warm up, 10 x 100 on 1:45, 200 cool down = 1400m total.  Three sets of pool plyos again - feeling the leg fatigue today.

Friday, August 22, 2008

It's Official!

This email just made my weekend.  Enjoy yours!

Dear XTERRA Competitor:

Congratulations!  It's my pleasure to invite you to compete in the 8th annual XTERRA USA National Championship race in Lake Tahoe on October 5, 2008.

As a leading regional points scorer, you have earned a slot at this prestigious event, where the title of National Champion in your age group will be up for grabs.  The field is limited to those racers, like yourself, who have qualified in the eight XTERRA regions throughout the country.

Not only will every multisport and tri magazine be there to cover the event, but a full one hour television show will be taped as well.

Combine a real chance for a National Championship with an epic course on the Tahoe Rim and Flume trails plus television coverage and a couple of wonderful parties and dinners, and you have a weekend you can't miss.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What day is it? Where am I?

A brief recap of the past several days that have left me more exhausted than any race or training day ever could.


Thursday: Leave PHX for Nashville after work on a delayed flight.  Arrive at 1:30 AM on Friday.


Friday: Picked up by my trooper of a sister at 1:30 AM and spend time with the folks until 3:30 AM at the house.  Up at 8:00 AM to start packing the moving truck.  Still packing…more packing…eat dinner with my parents, uncle, and sister.  After dinner I work on my parents' AV system until 10:00 PM


Saturday: Up at 5:00 AM.  Hit the road in a 16ft Penske loaded to the gills.  Just because it can fit doesn't mean it should.  20 minutes and the truck is bouncing all over the road…in the rain…driving…stops raining….more driving. 18 hours on the road today – my back, shoulders, and forearms are f'd.


Sunday: 1:30AM, check into a motel outside of Dallas.  6:00AM check out of motel outside Dallas….driving…more rain…more driving.  11:00 PM we arrive in PHX.  18 hours on the road today.  36 hours of driving a moving truck with horrible suspension across the country at a top speed of 65, because above that was certain death….We crash…hard.


Monday: Up at 7:00 AM, leisurely breakfast, introduce our dog, Elsie, to A's parents' dogs Chuck and Eddie.  Fighting ensues.  10:00 unload the truck at OUR house…still unloading.  First, of many massive trips to home depot.  Finally pack it in at 10:00 pm.


Tuesday: Up at 5:30 AM for swim workout.  200m warmup, 1600m at race pace, 200m cool down.  8 hours at the office (the week before classes start = CRAZY).  After work, 4 hours of painting at OUR house.  Mark wiring for electrician.  Crash. 


Wednesday: Up at 5:30 for AM run.  Just can't do it.  Try really hard, but can't get my eyes to open…even after a shower.  8 hours at the office.  More painting after work.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Michael Phelps is killing me

Personal experience with a sport makes you a bigger fan.  I'm sure a competitive basketball player has more respect for the skills of Lebron or Kobe than they average Joe, because he or she can appreciate the details not just the result.  I am definitely not a competitive triathlete yet, because I'm not following the Olympic triathlon and if I was I wouldn't really know what to look for, but swimming I know.


Watching Phelps swim makes me want to swim.  And while I'm sure it makes lots of people excited and think about swimming, watching Phelps has been the biggest boost to my swim training all year.  When I watch him I can't help but think, "Oh you think your so fast huh?" and then the next morning when I'm trying to keep my lungs from exploding and can't believe the interval is here all ready, "Don't you want to be like him?  He wouldn't be whining about how much this hurts right now."


My swim training for triathlon has been pretty vanilla as far as workouts go.  Some warm up, some drills, paddles, pull and sets of 200s, 400s or some longer distance swims for time. Every once in a while I mix it up with some 100 intervals, but rarely.  This is particularly hard for me because I was a sprinter.  I like to go fast, I like excruciating pain for short periods of time, and I like to go fast!  Distance swimming = blah. 


Ever since watching Phelps on TV my workouts have been "old school".  That means back to the days of tears in the goggles and pushing harder than I thought I could.  The two workouts from Tuesday and Thursday of this week are below, and I owe Michael Phelps a big thank you for the vomit in the gutter, trembling arms, and the smile on my face.



400 warm up / 10 x 100 on 1:45 / 200 pull w/paddles / 200 pull / 400 - butterfly down, free coming back / 200 cool down.  Total = 2,800m


Wednesday: Every intention of a long ride….but work and just preparing for the BIG move from Tennessee to Arizona this weekend is exhausting.



500 warm up / 10 x 100 IM w/30s rest /10 x 50 on :45 / 200 pull w/paddles / 200 pull / 200 cool down. Total = 2,600m

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Olympics

I don’t think you can be an athlete and not be in awe of the Olympics. As a kid I worked the swimming Olympic trials before the 1996 summer Olympics in Atlanta and had a chance to meet many of the superstars of that era. At that point I was just starting to leave swimming for Ultimate Frisbee, but I was still swimming between 15-20 hours a week. The energy of the Centennial Sportsplex was amazing, and I has been training the past 4 years for my own shot at the Olympic trials, but found a greater love in Ultimate Frisbee.

Two years later in 1998 I found myself playing for the United States Junior National Ultimate Frisbee team in the World Flying Disc Federation World Championships. I was one of 20 other junior athletes selected from across the US to represent the US at the World Championships in Minneapolis, MN. Two years before it was in Sweden and two years later it would be in Germany.

My attitude toward the Olympics is totally different as a result of this experience. Wearing red, white, and blue jerseys and representing “Team USA” was different from any other sporting event I had ever entered. It was bigger than your HS, State, or even nationals - this was WORLD competition and the energy was totally different. The effort of every athlete was bigger and better than anything I had ever experienced. We went undefeated over a week and a half of play and earned gold medals for our efforts. Receiving a gold medal for the USA in the medal ceremony was something I will never forget.

Watching Michael Phelps the past two nights on TV has been a powerful experience. It brings back memories of endless mornings and afternoons in the pool with the Olympic trials and Olympics as the carrot. I also think about what it meant to represent the USA on a national stage and compete against athletes from around the world. As much as Phelps’s genetic and physical gifts contribute to his success it is clear that his attitude and work ethic are just as much if not a bigger part of his achievements. I woke up earlier than usual this morning for my AM swim workout. It was awful to wake up early after very little rest the night before, but how can you not be inspired by the Olympics?

Training Update

Friday – 4 mile run with Amanda / core work

Saturday – canceled AM hike and went to work on the house. Using a crowbar to tear down kitchen cabinets = functional strength

Sunday – back at the house for marathon of yard work. Trimming bushes = shoulders, pulling weeds = squats = legs, lifting, carrying, and hauling limbs = total body

Monday – Another impromptu trip to the house meant a canceled PM run, but Amanda stopped for ice-cream on the way back home and I ran back to the house from the store. 2 miles + arms /core while watching men's gymnastics and feeling like a girly man.

Training pictures from the weekend

Friday, August 8, 2008

Looking Forward

This has been an amazing week and the weekend is looking even better.  Ever since moving to Phoenix in June, I have been living out of a suitcase, trying to find my bearings at a new job, missing my wife, looking for a house, and trying to find places and time to train.  This week many of the pieces fell into place.
  1. Tuesday we closed on our first house (now the DIY home improvements begin, and my days of living from a suitcase are numbered)
  2. Amanda is here for good, and having her around reminds me of how much more fun life is when she's part of it.
  3. I finished my last XTERRA points race of the year, Snow Valley, and am currently ranked 5th in my AG.  Top 9 make nationals.
  4. I thought I was moving out here for my dream job...and I was right.
So, this weekend we will spend tons of time at the new house fixing, tinkering, and making decisions about what work we'll do and what work we'll have contractors do.  I get to train with Amanda, which is awesome, and I have a better feel for the area and how to train in the heat.  The pressure of training to be competitive in XTERRA is totally gone (well...reduced) as now my goal is just to go into nationals fit and have a great time on an awesome course being thankful for the opportunity (again...assuming I make top 9).  Work will be there on Monday, but I enjoy it and am passionate about it, and you can't ask for anything more.

Overall I have to say things have gone from being pretty overwhelming and me wondering how I could ever manage all these things at once to slowly but surely falling into place.  I'm looking forward to some down time this weekend to watch the Olympics and catch up on the blog scene.  My equipment review really is coming.... 

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Post-Race XTERRA Snow Valley

I recovered quickly from the race by just standing and breathing. A lot of what made the course difficult was the elevation. There is definitely a trick to keeping your effort within a given range at altitude. I checked out the results:

12th AG – points, but not what I had been hoping for
69th OA - big change from Dawg Days - bad change
5th AG out of the water
20th OA out of the water

Much stiffer competition in these SW races. I talked briefly with James about the race, and then Amanda and I decided to skip the awards and hit the road back home. I felt pretty nasty about an hour into the ride home and it was a long ride back home.

A big thank you to Amanda for shuttling me and all my gear all weekend. It would have been near impossible to cart my gear up to the top and had enough left to race. It was also great to have her there cheering me on and seeing me race for the first time this year. So that was XTERRA Snow Valley. Now I sit back and watch the points to see if I make Nationals!

Race Report XTERRA Snow Valley

A little more pre-race:

I secured an excellent transition location and had plenty of time to get ready for the start of the swim at 6,300 ft. My XTERRA Wetsuit fits perfectly and is slippery fast in the water. I was pumped.

The Swim:

It was a dry start so we all ran into the water. I’ve only ever done in-water starts so this was a little more hectic in some ways, but I made it into the water with an early pack. Things quickly went awry as I couldn’t find any clear swimming and everyone in front of me was stopping or swerving into me. Not my best start. I finally found a rhythm and some open water. I was breathing every stroke instead of every three at about the 200m mark, while at first very awkward it really helped off-set the altitude.

finally finding some room

It was a 1 ½ loop swim (1000m total) and at the 400m mark I was all alone, in the zone, and cruising. I could have pushed a little harder, but I was making good progress and keeping my heart rate in control. I stumbled a little exiting the water – not as acclimated to the altitude as I thought and ran into transition.


Not a fast transition and I knew it wouldn’t be. I decided to take a breath and get my gear and nutrition in order before heading out on the bike. Besides, since I was going to be riding platforms and running in the same shoes as the bike I figured I’d make up some of it in T2.


I left T1 feeling strong and not as out of breath as I had feared. I hit the first climb and passed two people by just keeping it steady. I held my position on the entire climb and then had a super fast and clean descent. One deep area of sand threw a lot of riders, but the big 29ers just tore through it. At the bottom of the first 1/3 of the bike I started to get passed by the stronger riders (including Steve). The next 1/3 was all climbing and I gave up more ground, but stayed on the bike. Amanda gave me some encouragement and I pushed too hard when I saw her leading to my only blow up of the whole thing. I walked for maybe 25ft of one section after that, but otherwise I kept it in the little ring and road the way John is always telling me to ride hills. My second loop on the descent wasn’t as clean, but still better than my pre-ride. The lines and trail was in much better shape Sunday.

PS – at the bottom of the bike I turned off my shock to make the uphill climb easier. Must have been the altitude and not having Chandler there to remind me, but I never turned it back on – riding rigid on the second descent. I wonder if that’s why my back is all jacked up.


I dismounted, ran the bike in, threw it on the first open space, and took off…to the aide station. There was an awkward moment where Amanda was yelling for me to go… go… go…and I promptly stood my butt and drank a nice cup of Gatorade. Oh well, I was thirsty and there was just more climbing ahead.


All I can say about the run is that it was all pain. Climb after climb and then the downhill was open ski slope with chutes you had to run through on your way down. Loose, rocky, and uneven ground made for screaming quads going down and screaming calves going up. At mile marker 1 (of 4) I was questioning my ability hit the run as hard as I planned. Pretty soon there were climbs where no one was running, jogging, or even moving quickly. It was hands and feet death march to the top. At mile 3 I was really struggling to keep my heart rate under control and breathe regularly. I stopped for a brief rest to try and get some air and then made a final push for the last mile. One guy found me after the race and told me I made an awesome recovery for the pace in the last mile – I just wanted it over. It was downhill to the line and I coasted across with no one in front and no one in back feeling glad to have survived Snow Valley.

Pre-Race XTERRA Snow Valley

Friday – It hit 115 in Phoenix so I decided to forgo my after work run - running in that kind of heat before a tough race would be a mistake. I started packing for the weekend (triathlon requires a ton of stuff) and started thinking about my weekend strategy. I usually try and go out hard in the swim to gain as much as an advantage as I can, try to stick with a reasonable pace on the bike, and then just hammer the run. This weekend it would be different.

Saturday – Up early to get a head start on driving in the heat. We leave Phoenix for LA on I-10 and enjoy the flat and fast drive to the West coast.

The drive was uneventful with the exception of some poor hydration strategy and highway signage that almost got ugly, but all my core work paid off.

We arrived at the course just west of Big Bear, California around 2:00 pm, where I checked in next to Conrad Stoltz and got my first look at just how steep the slopes were. We parked the car next to what turned out to be a former HS classmate of Amanda’s and we chatted with her and her husband about the course as they had just finished their pre-ride. The description was climbing, more climbing, and then sketchy descents on rutted, loose, and rocky slopes. Hmmm….

I suited up and hit the trail while Amanda found a spot in the sun to kick back and read. It was a long series of climbs from the parking lot until I hit T-1 and the lake at ¾ of the way to the top. I rode the rest of the course with a MTB racer, Steve, from San Francisco. We had a good time keeping each other company on the brutal climbs and the almost worse downhill. There was so much sand on the course it made climbing and descending pretty hairy. Conrad Stoltz came flying down one track in a blaze of dust and bunny hopped a ditch I had stopped short of to scope out. What a beast!

I arrived back at the car, made a quick tire change (I had been planning for jeep road, not sandbox), went for another quick spin and then packed up and headed for the motel.

The Deep Creek Motel wasn’t as scary as the name, but it wasn’t ideal pre-race resting.

We had some OK Mexican food at the place across the street, but their salsa was out of this world – we bought some to bring home in the cooler.

Sunday – Up early for a breakfast of champions, plenty of protein and carbs early enough to be fully digested. A little red bull in transition brings the whole world into focus.

Strategy – after sucking some serious wind on the bike in my pre-ride and being sketched out by the downhill I was changing my strategy by the minute. I didn’t want to blow up in the swim at 6,300 ft, but I knew I was going to lose some serious ground on the bike. I hadn’t run the course at all, but I knew it would be nasty. I’ve been doing lots of climbing on my training runs and felt good about my chances at the end – if I had anything left.

The announcement that it was a wetsuit swim made the process easier. I didn’t worry about blowing up in the swim with a wetsuit (breathing is easier), so I planned to go ¾ speed on the swim, survive the bike, and push the run. Or something like that…

Monday, August 4, 2008

This is not a race report

It is Monday night and I'm still exhausted from a big weekend of driving and racing in California. Pre-race, race, and post race reports are all coming with plenty of pictures, but I have to find the time somewhere. We close on our house today!
The weekend was a blast. A totally different kind of XTERRA in a totally different environment from races down south. I got to meet and race against the current world champion Conrad Stoltz and I got to meet James Walsh, who inspired me to blog about racing XTERRA in the first place.
I finished 11th in my AG, good enough for some points, and didn't get hurt. Not too bad for some lack luster training over the past month and a half. Now it is just waiting to see if I earned enough points to qualify for the US Championships in Tahoe.

glad to be done

ahh the run courseheaded home


running to the finish

more of the course

at least it was pretty

swim start



the bike course

Friday, August 1, 2008

Getting Ready

Amanda and I leave in the morning for Snow Valley!!!  I'm so psyched to have her there with me as a support crew and so she can see me race this year!  She's only been to one XTERRA race and that was my very first one over a year ago.  She finally gets to see what all the early mornings and long weekend rides are about.  I know that having her there will make me calmer and make the weekend less stressful - which means I can race my best.  I'm feeling pretty lucky to have her since she spent last weekend in the car driving solo from Tennessee to Arizona.  Thanks Babe!
The best part of the race this weekend (in addition to seeing guys like James Walsh and Conrad Stoltz throw down) is going to be thinking about nothing but racing for as long as I'm on the course.  This week has been particularly stressful with a close family member in the hospital for surgery, Amanda arriving in Phoenix, closing on our first house, and preparing for the wild-ride that accompanies a new fall semester at the university.  The thought of all of that drifting to the background while I curse my way up some gnarly slopes at 7,300ft sounds sweet. 

Today I wrap things up at the office, start packing for the weekend, and start to carefully watch my hydration and nutrition to go into the weekend in top shape.  I've been taking care of myself this week while still getting in some solid training.  I can't wait to test my fitness this weekend and see a part of the country that is totally new to me.  We sure don't have any ski resorts in Nashville.  To everyone who will be there this weekend I can't wait to say hello.  For everyone following back home I'll put some race results up as soon as I can.

Race Week Training:
Tuesday: 2,200m AM Swim / 3 mile run with Amanda then 1/2 mile hill repeats on my own - legs are feeling worn down so I wore tights to bed
Wednesday: AM slept in / PM put on a 25# weight vest and hit the canal for a hard 10 mile bike followed by 1/2 mile hill repeats - may have been too much weight this close to the race as I came away feeling pretty beat up with a very tender R calf and knee.
Thursday: AM Swim - 200m warm-up, 1000m at race pace, and then some goofing off enjoying having an outdoor pool to myself / PM relaxing with Amanda in the pool at home working out house closing and remodeling details
Friday: Maybe a light afternoon run (although it hits 115 here today).  I'm feeling stronger and less sore from the week so I should be in great shape for Sunday!