August 19, 2017

D2R2—An Epic Ride in the Northeast

Earlier this month I joined my friend Houston Joost for the epic D2R2 180K randonee ride.  Although the event had been on my calendar for nearly two years, up until the end of April, I had not fully appreciated the challenge that the D2R2 could potentially present.  Houston’s Facebook comment: “How is your training for the D2R2?” got my attention.  Up until this time, I was like … “Hey, great, another cool century ride (ok, a century plus 10 additional miles) … I don’t need to train for that?” … or did I?  As I sought to answer that question I discovered that the D2R2 holds a well-deserved reputation as one of the most difficult rides on the eastern seaboard.  It was time to get training.  Based on a survey of ride reports (follow the links listed at the end of this post) I selected a new Giant TCX 0 cyclocross bike and started logging training miles.  Note: Altough the predominant number of bikes in the D2R2 are cyclocross bikes, along the way I saw a wide variety of rides: sleek carbon road bikes, classic randonee rides, mountain bikes, 29ers, and everything in between (as the NE is home to many custom bike shops, there were many bikes that are, at least in my mind, works of art … my friend Houston’s bike being no exception (see below).  Three months to get ready for 110 miles on dirt roads that presented 19,000 ft. of elevation gain …

I made my way to Boston on the Friday, the day before Saturday’s D2R2.  Houston met me at the airport and delivered us to the home of his in-laws who had generously agreed to host us for the D2R2 event (we could not have had better hosts … thank you “Uncle Tim,” Mary, and Grace).  A brief note about my pal Houston.  Houston was my friend in college (undergraduate school at Westminster College) and, before Friday evening at the Boston airport, I had not seen him in person for nearly 20 years—our reconnection had been what, at least for me, has been a series of orchestrated reunions that have come about as a welcomed byproducts of social media (i.e., Facebook).  Houston and I picked up where had left and reconnected as we made our way to Somersville, CT.  Note: The D2R2 begins in Deerfield, MA and then routes riders through both Massachusetts and Vermont).  Houston had recently moved to beautiful California (Marin County.) from Philadelphia, is a high-flying corporate entomologist with FMC, a husband to a skilled corporate lawyer, and father of a busy 18-month-old and expecting a little girl on the way in November … there would be no shortage of things to talk about during our 1 1/2 hour trip to CT.

Following a dinner of Mary’s legendary lasagna, Houston and I headed out to the garage to assemble our bikes and prepare for the upcoming ride.  Note that Houston and I had each elected to ship our bikes to Uncle Tim’s to ensure that would be there for the ride, unwilling to leave our fate to the airlines (Houston had also mailed some CO2 inflators and while I mailed an additional package of nutritional products in order to avoid TSA security issues while carrying on luggage). Houston elected FedEx, I chose UPS and each were waiting for us when we arrived.  As a perhaps interesting aside, although I had received a delivery confirmation from UPS earlier in the week, I received an e-mail on Friday morning alerting my (via Tim) that Houston’s bike had arrived but mine had not!  Uh, what … !!!???  This caused a bit of a stir in my home as I tried to get to the bottom of where in the world my bike was.  Hmmm … delivery confirmation, August 15th, “left at garage.”  Electing to not be denied my shot at the D2R2 I grabbed another set of pedals from my road bike and an extra set of shoes and stuffed them into my bag … surely I could find some type of bike to ride!?  After a couple of yet unanswered e-mails to Houston and Tim seeking clarification, I called Mary on my way to the airport.  After the initial and friendly introductions … “Great timing Brian, your bike arrived just 10-minutes ago …”, Mary informed me.  Whew … before leaving my truck I removed my extra pedals and shoes, confident that my gear was already waiting for me in Connecticut.  Only later that night did we learn that it was Houston’s bike, and NOT mine that was delayed and only delivered on the day before the D2R2 event!

By 11 o’clock, with a near steady rain continuing outside (the rain had cut both Houston’s and my check ride to all but a single lap around the driveway—it had started to rain shortly after nightfall) we headed to bed, more or less ready to go … departure time for the ride up to Deerfield was set for 4:45 a.m. By 11:30 I had exchanged my final text and with my wife asking her to pray that my bike would hold together and closed my eyes to catch some sleep; however, Houston had other plans (we were sharing a room) … you see, Houston snores (this fact proved to provide a bit of fuel for some lighthearted banter over the remainder of the weekend).

I greeted the morning, and the rain, at 3:50 a.m. and through on my GLXY kit, prepared a bowl of thick cut oatmeal supplemented with some rice protein and a banana (the fresh fruit had been set out after I had turned in by our hosts … again, tops!), and spent a few minutes organizing my nutritional products (i.e., mixing a couple of 2Xs-strength Perpetuem, dividing up my solid food and gels, etc.) before being joined by both Houston and Uncle Tim—Tim had braved the early morning hour to see us off (truly a great guy and it was very nice of him to wake early to share  the morning with us and see us off).

While Houston drove, I spent a few more minutes fiddling with my nutrition and organizing my hydration backpack.  A word about hydration … in years past the D2R2 has offered blistering heat and saturating humidity.  Although this year’s event provided perfect weather (light rain in the a.m., cool temperatures, and overcast skies that did not completely clear unit mid-afternoon), given my level of training/fitness, the prospects of coming up short on water did not appeal to me, so I “hedged” and carried a 3L hydration bag.  Although the prior three months’ of training had yielded a good strength to weight ratio, my choice (which, by the way proved completely unnecessary, added nearly 15 lbs. to my frame) and, in hindsight, was a poor one—the D2R2 offers amble support that a rider can complete the with only minimum reserves, e.g., two bottles, a bit of supplemental nutrition, and a couple of spare tubes/CO2 cartridges.

We arrived shortly before 6 a.m. and following a routine check-in we were rolling by 6:15-ish (my Garmin said 6:19 a.m.)—the D2R2 allows an open start, riders begin when they are ready.

The slideshow (above), includes images of me “solo” along Stage 3, the set of laminated cue sheets that I made for the event, me celebrating with a complimentary pint of craft beer at the end of the day, a map of the D2R2 courses, my bib #33 atop an article in the Greenfield, Mass “Recorder,” along with my friend Houston just before heading out on Stage 3.

Stage 1

Houston was already rolling when I entered the starting shoot and clicked on my Garmin Edge 500 and 910XT (I wanted to do a little additional testing and, given the length of the event, I elected to wear the 910XT to ensure that I would have odometer for the entire course—see my post on the 910 here).  I let Houston stay out in front and purposely held back, preferring to follow rather than lead in order to get a feel of what would be in store for the remainder of the day.  I also needed to “follow” as my first cue sheet had been attached backwards … Stage 1’s laminated sheet was facing down and was nearly inaccessible due to the manner in which it was attached to my handlebars—again, I jokingly wanted to blame Houston for that as there had been a bit of mix-up as Houston helped me attach my cue sheets to my bike during bike assembly.  Houston kindly played tour guide for miles 1 through 36 (I am certain out of a feeling of guilt … ha!), stopping to make sure that I made the many blind turns and changes in course.  I apologized for holding him up, only to be reassured that he appreciated the brief rests that these stops offered.  Stage 1 offered nearly 6,000 ft. of climbing on surfaces that ranged from unadulterated asphalt to washed out, rock-strewn, gravel and bare, wet dirt.   From behind, I cautiously met the repeated climbing challenges while watching Houston steadily power along out in front.

Stage 2

As we embarked on Stage 2 and, after receiving a “yes” answer to whether the remained of the event would offer more of the same types of challenges as Stage 1, I knew that I “had it”—barring an accident, severe illness, or a catastrophic mechanical failure (all things that remained possibilities) I would have the legs to complete the D2R2 180K.  I gradually started to meet the larger climbs with more confidence only to watch in disbelief as Houston started to fade.  A couple of stops-and-starts, followed by a couple of tries at my best encouragement, followed by addition prodding had done little to change Houston’s outlook.  He was complaining of fatigue, static elevated HR, headache, etc. … outwardly agitated, this veteran D2R2 riders (Houston had completed this same ride last year), in his own words, was “cooked.”

D2R2 “lunch.”

Stage 3

As we rolled out of second checkpoint, across yet another covered bridge (see the photo gallery above), and began the next climb Houston pulled the “rip cord” and informed me that he would not be continuing on.  Despite my multiple encouragements that things would surely turn around (athletes frequently experience alternating periods of highs and lows during long-course endurance events) Houston made up his mind that continuing would not be worth the “cost” and called it quits … he would return to the staging area via a more direct route, eat, take a nap, and patiently wait for me while I finished what I had set out to do—he would be waiting for a LONG time (my day “official”: 13 hrs., 32 minutes, and 43 seconds)!  As I shared with Houston later that evening, for the next 20-miles or so I kept expecting him to miraculously reappear on the course … this; however, was not to be.  I also thought of Houston again when I realized that I had left my iPod (along with a custom playlist for this event in my luggage) … I had discussed bringing it along with him the night before before we mutually decided that, given our many shared interests and long absence in real time communication, could more than fill 12 or so hours with conversation.  With Houston’s premature departure I was left with …  well, I was left with the sounds of the stunningly beautiful New England countryside, the banter of other cyclists moving along the route, and conversations shared with a new group of cycling friends that I joined toward the start of the final stage.  Throughout the day the landscape was stunning.  Pastoral farmers, historic homesteads, rock walls and battlements dating back to the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, rolling brooks, streams, and rivers were the order of the day.  At one portion of the third Stage, I flagged down another rider who graciously agreed to take my picture by an idyllic stream—remember the D2R2 is a ride NOT a race!  After navigating solo for much of the post-lunch stage, I joined a small group of cyclists as we headed for the final stage and ultimately, the finish.  We shared navigation duties and, after dropping what until this point had been my meticulous attention to the cue sheet, I paid a price for it … we missed a significant turn onto Call Road (before the iron bridge on Route 112) and continued on 112 for nearly 2 miles (this miscue, along with another earlier one missing Jurek Road (no sign) as well as some other minor missteps yielded a total mileage for my day of 120.4 miles).  The additional 4 miles before facing the legendary Patten Hill climb further rattled some of the already weary riders in our little group.

Stage 4

By the time we reached the final checkpoint I was ready to get home.  I knew that Houston was waiting for me and that our hosts were expecting us for dinner (a dinner which, once I got to it, was the perfect ending to an amazing day: caprese salad made with local tomatoes, sweet corn (again, fresh and local), a thick T-bone, a regional craft beer, followed by homemade peach cobbler—outrageously good and most appreciated).  Our group scattered a bit, only to come back together to accomplish the remaining navigation challenges with precision.  The air was dimmed with twilight along with statements like “never again” or “I can’t wait to eat spaghetti and meatballs,” “that beer is going to taste so good,” etc.—the type of stuff that is frequently thrown about at the end of an exhausting outing or expedition, as we completed the remaining series of climbs and began the short descent to the finish.  Earlier in the day, Houston had informed me that the saying at the D2R2 … “when in doubt, climb” … this proved true on multiple occasions throughout the day.

I crossed the finish line, followed by my friend Dave, only to be greeted by a round of applause from other riders enjoying the festivities and food offered at the finishing line.  I acknowledged them with a wide smile and a couple of nods before heading across the field to meet Houston.  Houston greeted me with a congratulations and had me pose for a photo.  It was over—an event two years in the making had come and gone.  As Houston packed up out bikes, I made my way over to pick up the commemorative pint glass filled with a well-deserved beer that I subsequently shared with my friend Houston before heading home.  Dave came over and thanked me for my encouragement (and I thanked him for his company), I exchanged additional congratulatory words with, and met the children of two other riders who I had shared the last miles of the ride with before heading to the car for the final time.

Takeway

The D2R2 is an “epic” event.  The event has a great vibe and offers something for nearly every class and calibre of rider.  My ride was made even more memorable by reuniting with an old college pal and through the introduction to our gracious host family.  As I was reminded by Houston’s uncle, a former Navy SEAL, “The only easy day is yesterday.”—Well said Tim … can’t wait to see what is next!

Many others have contributed to the body of knowledge about the D2R2 and several good “ride reports” can be found by surveying the following links:

(1), (2)(3) (one in four parts), and (4) 

For those wanting even more, I have posted a copy of the  ’12 map and cue sheets—Enjoy!

Garmin 910XT … New Training Tool

My new Garmin 910XT with optional Garmin Foot Pod.

This month I received my new Garmin 910XT along with the optional Garmin Forerunner Foot Pod.  I find significant value in training with heart rate (HR), as do many other trainers and coaches.  I recently started leaving my Polar products behind after a very positive 6+ year history with Polar’s 725X (no longer available), RS400sd, and CS200cad, having switched to the latest versions of the GPS-enabled Garmin products.  I made the change primarily to provide my coach for Ironman Cozumel, Michael Hagen, a more robust look into my training activities (the wealth of data that the Garmin products collect is exceptional, if not overwhelming at times).  Also, the switch to Garmin coincided with my move to the Mac platform (Polar’s ProTrainer5 is not currently supported on a Mac).   The Garmin units, utilizing the Garmin Connect interface offers sharing features as well as near seamless integration with Training Peaks.

Watch the YouTube Garmin video introducing the new 910XT here.

During my last endurance training cycle, I utilized both the Garmin 310XT (the predecessor to the new 910XT) as well as the Garmin Edge 500.  The Garmin 310XT was plagued by several nagging issues (primarily, although billed as multisport training tool, it lacked any true swim features).   There are others, e.g. relatively short battery life, large size, etc.  The dedicated swim feature is what sets the 910XT apart … Garmin touts the new 910’s swim metrics (e.g. stroke count, lap count, etc.) and for that, I could not be any more excited … I love to swim, but find stroke, length, lap counting tedious and monotonous (even on the high intensity days).

Note: I can’t say enough good things about the Edge 500.  It is a fabulous cycling computer that has become a constant training companion on my bikes.

My hope is to simply share my “out of the box experiences” with the 910XT.  (I will also plan to revisit this post and comment further as my experience with this unit grows over the upcoming training year.)

Out of the Box & Initial Set Up

The out of the box "essentials."

What you get in the box that are the “essentials”: (1) 910XT unit, (2) USB ANT stick, (3) HR strap and transmitter, (4) wall charger and USB cord, and (6) “Quick Start” manual (note that you receive the Quick Start manual in nearly every known language; however, you do not receive an “Owner’s Manual”—it can be downloaded here) along with some extraneous items (e.g., country-specific power adapters, extra watch band, etc.).  Right out of the box, I noticed the sleek new profile of the 910XT, sporting a significantly smaller footprint than the somewhat awkward 310XT.

After repackaging the unnecessary components and filing a copy of my receipt in the box (never hurts in case of the need to return or expedite customer service), I moved on to the “Quick Start Manual.”  STOP: Charge unit before first use (mine arrived with a 56% charge)!  On to the charger the unit went (the 910XT boats a 20-hour life, significantly greater than the 310).  So much for the quick swim, bike, and run that I had hoped to accomplish within minutes of unpacking the unit!?

Garmin's USB ANT stick (allows wireless data transfer)

Fully charged, 100%, and ready to tackle the “Quick Start” manual before heading off for a swim, bike, and run workout.  Before turning the unit on for the first time, I am directed to go outdoors to an open area … out I go.  Once powered on, the unit finds the satellites (or vice versa) in less than 15 seconds.  I take a moment to enter my “user information,” and read the remainder of the manual.  Total setup took approximately 7 minutes; however, note that due to the fact that I already train with other Garmin units I had previously installed the latest version of Garmin’s ANT Agent software (for Mac/for PC—this software allows wireless communication between the 910XT, Edge, etc. and your computer via the “USB ANT stick”—unfortunately, and somewhat surprisingly, the Edge 500 requires a “hardwired” USB connection and does not use the USB ANT stick.  Next, I set my pool length to 25M, and headed off to the pool to have the unit count stokes, distance, and calculate my SWOLF score.

Swim

A word about SWOLF … SWOLF is simply a measure of efficiency.  Although the name is new to me, the efficiency metric is not.  Your SWOLF score is the sum of the time for one length (1/2 a lap) and the number of strokes taken to complete the measured length.  The lower the score the better.

In my initial swim test, I swam 800M (I counted laps) and looked down at the end of my 800M set to see that my 910XT showed precisely 800M … so far, so good.  A SWOLF of 55 … yikes (whatever that means!? … see text block above).

Bike

I encountered a snag when it came to the bike setup.  It had nothing to do with the data capture and connection with the HR transmitter, all of the training features worked flawlessly; rather, it had everything to do with my Type IA personality (I label myself TypeIA, as a play on the slow-twitch muscle type and my innate endurance bent).  I was determined to set up each of the three bikes that I typically train on (i.e., road, MTB, and TT).  However, I was unable to get the unit to accept more than a single bike (although the unit shows 5 available bike presets) and, as the minutes passed, I became more and more determined to solve this inconvenient little problem.  Against my better judgment, I called customer service (USA: 1 (800) 800-1020) and was pleasantly surprised.  “Amanda” solved my problems in a matter of minutes.  Unlike my previous 310XT, bikes must be added and selected using the “MODE” button.  First, you select the number of bikes that you wish to set up.  Second, you select “MODE” and then select “BIKE” and you will be prompted to “change bike” (it as it this point you can enter the selected bike details through the settings feature)  The unit allows you to then toggle between each bike by selecting “MODE” and “BIKE” … simply pick the bike you wish to train on and away you go.

As an aside, I also alerted Amanda to an apparent error in the Owner’s Manual (once again note that this manual is NOT included with the unit and can be downloaded from the Garmin site here).   This error had to do with returning the unit to its factory setting.  How did I discover this error?  Was I seriously considering returning my unit to its factory settings after entering all of my user information and experience precise lap recording at my home pool?  Well, yes.  I wanted everythingto work as designed.  Anyway, the correct instructions for this “nuclear option” aka “Hard Reset” (and, one that I thankfully did not have to employ) follow:

With the unit powered OFF, press and hold both the POWER and MODE buttons = restore to factory settings.

(or so I have been told … ha).

 

Amanda spoke about future software updates that the Garmin team was already working on.  I added my suggestion to the mix and she provided me with assurances that it would be passed along.  Here is my suggestion:  The unit allows the athlete to select different units (i.e., statute or metric) for various training modes: swim, bike, and run.  I run and bike with statute pace and distance on my mind (with the exception of track workouts that keep me focused on meters); however, I swim in a 25M pool.  I suggested that it would be great if the unit would allow you to keep statute measurements as defaults for both the run and the bike, but switch to metric measurements automatically when in the swim mode if you select the distance of your pool in meters.  We shall see!?

Update: My proposed suggestion has turned out to be unnecessary.  When you change the “mode” (e.g., swim, bike, run, or other) to the swim setting, you are prompted to select either open water or a pool swim.  If you select pool swim and select a length of 25M, the unit functions in the metric units while leaving all of the other statute setting unchanged (i.e. for the bike, run, and other modes).

As expected, performance on the bike was flawless.  I slapped the unit on the TT bike currently stationed on my CompuTrainer and started a steady-state workout.  HR, cadence, distance each paired precisely with the units calculated by the CompuTrainer (for HR I utilized the CopmuTrainer earpiece).  Although my Edge 500 will remain my primary cycling computer, it is nice to know that the 910XT will function in multisport applications as it is billed.

Run

Off the bike and outdoors again!  (Note: That I turned the unit on and off to reset it from “indoor” mode).  As a true multisport device, this extra step would not be necessary depending on how you have the unit configured (e.g., “multisport”).  I ran a known course of 2.0 miles.  The 910XT again performed flawlessly, HR and distance were both accurate.

Supplemental Treadmill Test: Following my initial swim, bike, and run flash testing I put the unit to another “indoor” test on my treadmill.  I attached the optional Garmin Forerunner Foot Pod and started up my trusted Precor 93.1.  The unit detected my foot pod immediately and, even without calibration, distance fairly accurate with pace varying from ­+ 20 seconds at training pace, to almost 3 minutes at a walk.  I will revisit this issue after calibrating the foot bod by distance (the preferred method, see p. 25 of the “Owner’s Manual”).  A day later I performed a second test, again without calibration, and this time the distance measurement was accurate (no deviation) and the run pace discrepancy had narrowed to less than + 10 seconds.

Note that in each of the different modes (i.e., swim, bike, and run), the 910XT offers fully customizable data fields (e.g., HR, pace, lap time, time of day, etc., etc.—the available data fields are too numerous to name).

Data Transfer

After installing the latest version of Garmin ANT Agent, the data transfer was immediate and seamless (with new activities added directly to Garmin Connect).  No issues here.

Conclusion

After using the 910XT for approximately a week of training, I will admit that I am generally impressed.  The data collection is robust and the unit, while not exactly user-friendly, has met my expectations.  Really, it is new and improved over the 310XT and I can recommend the 910XT as a training tool for those who are inclined to collect data (if nothing more, this unit serves as a convenient device to keep track of training volume).  Spend some time with both the Quick Start and Owner’s Manual to familiarize yourself with the unit’s basic functions and you will be well on your way to collecting accurate training data.

While my review, by design, offers only a look at some of the “highlights,” several exhaustive reviews are available on the web, see one in Beyond Limits Magazine and, another, exceptional review by DC Rainmaker (a consistently reliable source for in-depth reviews of swim, bike, and run technology).

 

International Ironman – IM Cozumel

After nearly four months of Ironman-specific training, I headed off to Cozumel, Mexico for the 2011 Ford Ironman Cozumel.  Traveling with my wife and our two small children (3-years-old and 15-months, respectively … and their first time flying), we made the 3 1/2 hour flight from Denver on Thanksgiving Day (no turkey and gravy for us this year).  We were accompanied by two other athletes, Paul Hardcastle and Michelle Grubb as well as their families.  Additionally, both my father (who, by the way, has never seen me do anything athletic since I was a boy) and my sister from California also joined us for the event.  Note: As there were only a couple of flights out of Denver for Cozumel during the week leading up to the race event, we also shared our flight with our good friend Sonja Wieck and her family… same flight, very different race result … Sonja is a rockstar (see her excellent blog posts here).  The concept was fairly straightforward, pick a Ironman race in a tropical climate, bring the families, and combine a Ironman with a vacation.  All told the 16 of us made it to Cozumel and, after navigating the normal Mexican “logistics” (i.e. cab rides) settled in to Villa Yak Alil (the house we had collectively rented) for our “race vacation.”

A couple more notes about my  personal “logistics.”  I used TriBike Transport to move my bike to and from the race venue.  While the service was a bit pricey (approaching $375), the service was relatively flawless.  Although the pre-race pickup was not actually at the transition area (I ended up picking my bike up and transporting my bike in the car that Paul had rented … thanks Paul!), the post-race drop off was just a few feet beyond the finishing line.  I couldn’t have been happier to drop my bike off with the TriBike folks after the race and say “adios.”  My bike arrived ready to ride in Cozumel and once again when it arrived back in Denver.  I also packed all of my own race nutrition to the venue and, fortunately, I had absolutely no issues with transporting gluten-free oatmeal, gluten-free tortillas, almond butter, and an assortment of Hammer and Honey Stinger nutritional products in my checked luggage.

Pre-Race

As this was my second IM “rodeo” I knew precisely what was in store for me and spent the Friday and Saturday preparing accordingly.  I concentrated on hydration, appropriate calories, and supplemented with a bit of Heed and Endurolytes to top off my electrolyte stores.  I also tormented the chef who prepared our meals at the Villa to keep my food relatively bland and gluten-free (Edgar so graciously accommodated my “special needs” … thank you).

One thing I had learned from Ironman St. George was that I was unlikely to need much in the way of “special needs” out on the racecourse and I prepared accordingly.  I passed on the run “needs bag” and stashed only a frozen bottle of Perpetuem in the bike bag which I ultimately did not end up needing.  My only “special” preparation was the solid food that I prepared for the bike.  I have trained and raced repeatedly using a special meal that consists of a gluten-free brown rice tortilla, almond butter, brown rice, a small amount of honey, as well as a smattering of rice protein and salt (The following represents the recipe to make 4 individual servings: 2 “Food For Life” gluten free tortillas, 2 T organic smooth almond butter, 1/2 cup organic short grain brown rice, 2 T vanilla Nutribiotic rice protein, 1 T honey, and salt; the approximate total nutritional values: 790 calories, 115 grams of carbohydrates, 38 grams of protein, 23 grams of fat, and 12 grams of fiber.)  On Saturday afternoon I prepared several single-serve portions of this concoction and prepared my pre-made bottles of Perpetuem and Heed (I slowly froze a couple of my bottles so that they would be more palatable on the bike … as in training, this strategy worked well).  The solid food was to play an important part in my race day nutrition strategy; however, this was not to be … more on that in a moment.

Dropping my bike off at T!

On Saturday, I accompanied Michelle for a survey of the swim course as well as brief “practice” swim.  As I frequently tell my clients, “water is water, it is the same around the world” and this venue proved the truth of this statement; however, the water in Cozumel was especially clear, warm, and, well, beautiful.  After locating some geographical reference points (e.g. the buoy for the outbound leg was in line with a water tower on a beachfront hotel), Michelle and I jumped of the pier at the swim start and smoothly completed about 600 yards—just enough to get a feel for the water and gather some sighting “looks.”  Later in the day I returned to T1 (the swim start) and delivered my bike to transition (Paul and Michelle met me there after a 45-minute bike ride).

Race Day

As always, an early start … 4:30 a.m.  For me, the early morning came after a night where our 1-year-old son nearly had to be taken to a Mexican emergency room.  My wife and I awoke at 12:00 a.m. to our son experiencing a full-blown croup attack (we spent an anxious hour alternating in out of a hot steam shower, administering an oral steroid that we thankfully had the foresight to bring along, and planning our next moves should we need to seek emergency care).  And, if this weren’t enough, during this “excitement” I received a text message from our next door neighbor informing me that, although he wasn’t sure, he thought that our house had been broken in to?!  I am NOT making this up!  As our son’s condition improved, I tried to remember if I had set the house alarm prior to leaving … surely I had?!  Anyway, I made a quick international call to the Arapahoe County Sherrif’s office to learn that, while there had been activity in our area, our home was fortunately not involved! So much for a restful night.  Hey, but I did sleep well from 10 p.m. to midnight.

I slid into my race and pre-race clothes and headed out to join Michelle for my first breakfast: oatmeal, protein powder, a banana, some almond milk and almond butter … lots of water.  Paul joined us a bit later and decided to make a shake … we made him use the blender outside (it still likely woke everyone in the house up)!  I collected my bottles from the freezer, prepared my pre-race bottle, checked my nutrition … and, here is where I made a huge mistake, I decided to place my solid food in the freezer while I waited for everyone else to collect there things.  Well, as I realized immediately upon arriving the race start (Chankanaab Nat’l Park), my “real” food would be spending the day in the freezer where I left it!  No solid food (at least the solid food that I had planned on eating) for me.  After a few tense moments realizing that I would be short some calories, also perhaps short some electrolytes, I realized that I could adjust my nutrition as the day unfolded and still have the day I wanted.  Despite my experience and Type A personality, I had made a mistake … and, really, the mistake wasn’t leaving my supplemental nutrition in the freezer, it was not making a final checklist for the race morning.  This is something that I can’t stress enough, make a checklist for race morning a few days in advance … THEN USE IT (I always do this, I just didn’t this time)!

Paul, Michelle, and I took care of our pre-race preparations … Michelle generously recovered some unneeded Enduralytes from her T1 bag for me to use (thanks Michelle).  We played “pass the punp” and set our final tire pressures before heading to the body marking and the unbelievably long line to the Port-O-Johns.  I listened to other racers share their pre-race “jitters” and people watched before finally receiving my allotment of toilet paper and taking care of business … funny, the Port-O-John scene was a special sight, it was if our Mexican hosts had assembled the facilities from a mismatched collection of Port-O-John parts in the dead of night … they were really suspect and most definitely had been thrown together in the final minutes before the athletes had arrived.  As the start of the even drew closer athletes of all varieties were forced to abandon the “facilities” and headed off to take their chances in the surrounding jungle.  We made it through just before things really deteriorated (i.e., athletes heading out into the surrounding jungle) and headed off to the swim staging area.

The Swim

I love this shot ... I am somewhere in the midst of that!?

As we worked our way through the queue I continued sipping on a solution of diluted sports drink (Heed) and finally abandoned my Practical Coaching water bottle along with hundreds of others before heading out onto the pier and in to the starting field (free advertising … it was a new bottle).  There were options as to getting into the water: 1) jump of the pier, or 2) descend a series of stairs …, we selected the latter.  The three of us managed to stay together for a while, but soon each was lost in the mass of humanity that makes up an Ironman start.  Then we were off … for a the first few minutes I thought I was in for something a bit different to what I had experienced before … I was being kicked, pushed, and swamped in the vortex of the mass start a bit more than usual.  As the initial minutes passed, I started wondering if the pounding would ever let up or would this be a 2.4 mile wrestling match?  By the first turn buoy things did begin to improve and I managed to find my own space.  I kept myself in a type of bubble that allowed me to make clean strokes and I concentrated on covering the distance.  I was calm throughout and took time to enjoy the clarity of the water as well as the interesting features on the ocean floor.  The long southern leg of the swim allowed sighting on the coast and I swam straight; however, the current seemed to have worked to carry me farther from the turn buoy by the time I arrived there … I ended up swimming a couple of hundred yards more than I should have.  After the second short leg, I made the turn and sighted in on T1/Chankanaab.

T1

Moving up the stairs toward T1.

I clamored up the stairs suspended in the ocean and headed off the to the changing tent after noting my time and enjoying a cleansing, however brief, freshwater shower.  I elected to wear a “speed suit” during the ocean swim (thank goodness that I did, I can’t imagine how slow my swim would have been without it … ha) and stripped it in part while in the shower and had completely abandoned it by the time that I reached the T1 tent.  I focused on the essentials, a bit of hydration (H2O) and sunscreen—the sunscreen was copiously applied by race volunteers (see photo below).  I slid a pair of Craft “cycling” shorts over my minimalist tri shorts (note, this addition only takes a few seconds and adds a great deal of additional comfort to the bike leg), my fully stocked jersey, added my UV-resistant arm “warmers” and moved off to my bike.  Helmet buckled … check, sunglasses … check … 8 minutes, 19 seconds, while certainly not fast T1 IM Cozumel sure beat the 20+ minutes that I spent in a near-frozen stupor after emerging from the very cold water of IM St. George the year before!

The Bike

Early in the race, heading along the southerly section of the course along the ocean.

I ran the carpet and mounted my bike while spectators cheered … not for me personally, of course, but generally.  Paul and Michelle were already on the course as I started my first lap.  I immediately turned my focus to working out my “new” nutrition plan.  Aid stations were plentifully and well-stocked; however, I had difficulty getting what I really wanted: a couple of PowerBars (not, of course, my first choice … but I didn’t have any solid food)—it was not until the 60km mark that I scored two “Cookies and Creme” bars … ugh, but at least they would be fairly calorie-dense and something to chew (I also picked up a banana later in the day).  The west side of the island, especially toward the south, opened up to  some tremendous views of the ocean.  Although the course was relatively flat, the wind built throughout the day making each of the three passes through this exposed section increasingly challenging.  The cross winds that the athletes were warned about were definitely present along the south side of the island with relief only arriving once I headed north well beyond Punta Sur.  Once making the turn toward civilization (transecting the island westerly), the winds shifted.  On laps 1 and 2 there was a substantial tailwind that drove me on toward the Cozumel Centro; however, this same tailwind was noticeably absent on the final lap.  I focused on maintaining a steady cadence (avg. 87) and worked my preplanned nutrition strategy to the best of my ability (3 bottles of Perpetuem, with one mixed up on the course while riding … don’t try that at home!).  I made sure that I checked in on my self every 15-minutes and forced myself to do something at each 15-minute interval (e.g. drink, eat, pee, etc.).  Note that on every lap but the final one I was able to gain some additional momentum from the friendly cheers of family and friends that had gathered on the west side of the island near our vacation home—that was really special.  The bike was fairly uneventful with one major exception, as I pierced the outskirts of Cozumel Centro on the final lap the rain that had been threatening for the last hour or so finally arrived.  What started as a few drops here and there almost instantaneously turned into a full on monsoon.  The rain was blinding.  The rainwater formed large pools and streams as I moved closer and closer toward T2.  I recall commenting to a fellow competitor as we managed to navigate a couple of the turns along the route that “rain only matters in the turns” … ha!  I managed to negotiate the flooded and slick streets (other competitors were not so lucky … I saw some of the casualties as I completed the bike leg).  I had planned of a sub-6hr bike, but the day had conspired against me (specifically, uncertainty concerning my nutrition and the monsoon rain); however, I transitioned off my bike feeling fairly strong.

T2

No photo of T2 (trust me, you don’t want to see what was going on in the T2 changing tent).  The rain had turned what is normally a chaotic transition into a real mess.  The tent was filled with several inches of rain/sewer water and, to make matters worse, the Port-O-Johns that were situated inside the tent were on the high side and the changing area was on the low side … I am confident that my bare feet were exposed to some real nasty stuff.  I persevered and emerged from the tent ready to challenge the 3-loop, out-and-back run course.  As an aside, I am NOT a big fan of multiple lap courses … I prefer the see it once, see it again from a different angle experience that a singe out-and-back or, even better still, see it once experience of that a point to point course offers—I had however mentally prepared for this situation and set out to do my best.  T1: 5 minutes, 10 seconds … not bad under the circumstances.

The Run

Heading out on the run course, conducting a nutrition inventory (right before I dropped a gel packet into a murky pool or rain/sewer water).

I felt strong as I headed out onto the run course.  The rain was beginning to lift, really, it had diminished to intermittent large drops (this was an ON/OFF type of rain event) and the sun was peaking out from underneath the heavy cloud that had moved by the runners and continued to torment those still out on the bike course.  The spectators reappeared as the standing rainwater fought to disappear into the flooded sewers (the were HUGE pools of water scattered along the route—one notable intersection remained flooded with knee- to calf-deep water throughout the race … there was no avoiding it, you had to wade through it each lap both going out and returning), needless to say, my feet stayed wet the entire run. Funny story, as I was heading out on the run I dropped one of my gel packets … it disappeared into one of the murky pools of standing rain/sewer water!  As I had very meticulously planned my run nutrition, I felt as though I could not spare this loss and quickly removed it from the water and placed it back on my run belt; however, I did place it as the final gel to be consumed (I figured some nasty bug managed to get me from the fecal-contaminated gel packet, it wouldn’t have time to affect me if I took it near the end of the race).  Once that “drama” was over, I focused on running my race.  I passed my friend Sonja (go Sonja!) early on and glanced at my watch and took note that she was likely finishing and would be at or very near her Kona-qualifying pace (she qualified again, congrats Sonja).  I also passed Paul on his way back as I headed out … I encouraged him on and noted that this was likely his first lap and that I wasn’t far behind him … I knew that if I held my current pace that I would see him again sooner rather than later.  I had already turned my focus to my hydration and nutrition strategy.  Aid stations were coming at me every other Km and I alternated each with Gatorade and H2o (the water was provided in the plastic bags and at each station I took 2, reserving one to go in either my jersey or shorts to 1) consume along the route (small amounts) or 2) cool my carotid, heart, or my femoral artery—bags of ice, or “hielo,” when available, were similarly retained and placed.  Looking back, I consumed a gel and water at  miles 3, 6, 9, 14, 18, and 22 (I also supplemented with Endurolytes at the top of each hour).   I continued to see Paul, on my second lap I finally caught a glimpse of my friend Michelle … she looked strong and I encouraged her on.  At the end of laps 1 and 2 I got another boost by seeing my sister, Sherry, and my friend, Bill Grubb (Michelle’s husband) at the turn.  Day turned to night and I continued on, running my race.  My Garmin 310 vibrated with each mile and I drew closer to the end.  I passed Paul  just after making the turn to head back to the finish, just a few more miles to go!  I made my final return to the waterfront “walk” (a scenic area and oceanfront shopping district of Cozumel centro) and the route lined with masses of spectators and focused on the finish.  Over the last mile the emotions built and by the time I made the final turn and headed toward the finish I was completely consumed by the experience.  My emotions were magnified as I saw my friends and family at the final turn before the finish line … it was amazing to have them there. I crossed the line to the words of “You are an Ironman!” 12:25:05 (official).  Much later, after I had emerged from the finishers’ tent and navigated through the mass of spectators to rejoin my family and friends, I was greeted by my father by words of “I am proud of you”—although he may have said it before, this time I heard it!

Finish, 2011 IM Cozumel.

Summary

IM Cozumel offers a spectacular race venue.  Warm weather, crystal clear water, smooth pavement, and fantastic fans are each part of the Cozumel experience.  Both Paul and Michelle were successful (congratulations Paul, congratulations Michelle) and they each have their own stories to tell.  The IM Cozumel post-race experience is ideally suited to post-race rest and recovery, e.g. great food and beaches to chill out on; however, note that in November the weather conditions are somewhat variable (we were treated to a post-race cold front that dashed our thoughts of recovering on warm, tropical beaches).

Go West Young Men (via the Triple Bypass)!

Last month I completed the Triple Bypass.  The “Triple” is one of Colorado’s “epic” rides and one that had been on my personal “to do” list for a while.  The event is fairly straightforward: ride from Evergreen, Colorado to Avon, Colorado while climbing up and descending down three major mountain passes—Squaw/Juniper (11,140 ft.), Loveland (11,990 ft.), and Vail (10,560 ft).  The course covers 120 miles and offers nearly 11,000 ft. of climbing.

The 2011 Triple Bypass Route Map (courtesy of www.teamevergreen.org)

Although I had spent a considerable amount of time on my bike in early-2011, I didn’t train specifically for the Triple.  The Triple, while it certainly captures the attention of elite riders who wish to “race” the course, it is more an “everyman” event—this was especially true for me, as I simply wanted  to put some miles in and enjoy the ride.  More importantly, I was planning on supporting my friend Paul Hardcastle, who, against my recommendation against it, had managed to gain an entry to the inaugural “double”: a westbound Triple on Saturday, followed by the eastbound Triple on Sunday.  I had hoped to join my friend Roy Swanson and other members of “Team Glxy” for some miles.

For those thinking of tackling the Triple, I would recommend a periodized training plan to get you ready for a very long day in the saddle (depending on your existing level of fitness, 3 to 6 months of consistent training should provide ample training time).  Close-in training rides such as Deer Creek Canyon, High Grade, City View, as well as the climb up Squaw/Juniper pass (west out of Evergreen or east out Idaho Springs—my personal favorite) will go along way toward getting you ready for the climbs encountered on the Triple.  Don’t forget that in addition to the 50% mental, 50% physical equation, long sustained efforts generally depend on having a solid nutritional plan in place (one that has been repeatedly practiced during your training while working under demands that are similar to those likely to be faced on race day).

Paul arrived at my home shortly around 4 a.m. (Paul is my neighbor, so he walked over in the dark) and we loaded up and made our way to Evergreen.  Fortunately for me, we were able to forego the obligatory stop for Paul at Starbucks as the Evergreen location was not open at this early hour.  The morning was both crisp and cool (and dark) and, after hitting the Porta-Johns and packing up our nutrition and “layers” (an essential for any ride in the Colorado mountains), we headed to the “open” starting line.  I had hoped to get going closer to 5 a.m., but we ended up making it to the start closer to 6. We met Roy and briefly chatted before he disappeared up Squaw ahead of us.  Paul and I found our place among the mass of nearly 3,500 riders and moved up and over Pass #1.  After a blistering descent down Hwy. 103 we coursed through Idaho Springs and moved through the remainder of the course that took us through Georgetown, Silver Plume, and Bakerville.  Although there were a few stops along the way, we didn’t really hit the aid station “scene” until we made it to Loveland Ski Area.  After a short break for some lunch (I think Paul ate a pizza and perhaps had a beer … just kidding), we managed to meet up with Roy who elected to join us for the remainder of the ride.  As always, it was great to see Roy, an accomplished and capable cyclist, not to mention a quality guy.  We also learned that Roy was being “supported” by his family … Roy’s wife, their young daughter, and his parents were jumping from aid station to aid station so that they could share in the day.  As I looked out over I-70 I couldn’t help but think about my wife who was traveling (or at least would be shortly) along the interstate corridor to meet me in Avon.  My goal was to be waiting at the Westin to help her unload the children for our weekend mini-vacation in the mountains (as check-in was 4:00 p.m., we needed to make the ride in about 10 hrs.) … we needed to get going!  Next, it was up and over Loveland pass—a first for me on two wheels.  Another screaming descent followed, with a second reunion with Roy’s support team at another well stocked aid station at Summit County H.S, leaving us a final up and over … Vail Pass.

Paul Hardcastle, me, and Roy Swanson ascending Loveland Pass

We traded mountain roads for a more congested bike path and coursed up and up until we made it to the top of Vail Pass.  A final push was all that remained  AND it was supposed to be all downhill.  I checked my watch … I knew it would be close and elected to push a bit to get to Avon to meet my family.  We pushed a lot … in fact, at least to me, the final 20-plus miles in to town seemed to be the most challenging of the day.  After a bluebird day with the only threat of some precipitation contained in distant clouds that managed to stay away, the wind had picked up and turned into a formidable foe.  We systematically took our turns at the front and pulled each other (as well as considerable group of hanger-oner’s who were comfortable letting us do the work) into Avon.  Again, the elevation map clearly shows a gradual descent all the way into Avon; however, it felt more like a gradual climb to me!

The 2011 Triple Bypass Elevation Map, East to West (courtesy of www.teamevergreen.org)

We arrived at Avon’s Elementary School after nearly 9 1/2 hours in the saddle (with a total time of around 10-ish) … I didn’t really keep any telemetry for  the actual time; but I know that it was approaching 4 p.m. when we crossed the finish.  Roy’s “crew” was waiting to greet us and after exchanging our post-race congratulations, Paul and I headed across Nottingham Park toward our hotel.  I spent my final moments with Paul trying to gauge how he felt and encourage him to accomplish the “double” as he had planned—unfortunately, this was not meant to be (Paul rode home with his wife the next day …).  Just as planned, I found my wife in the circle drive and proceeded to help with check-in, the day was officially over!

Paul Hardcastle, me, and Roy Swanson atop Vail Pass - 2011 Triple Bypass

The Triple is a beautiful ride and, while both the distance and the elevation seem daunting, it is a ride that can be enjoyed by a great number of cyclists (just consider the actually numbers, with more than 5,000 riders participating in the solo west, solo east, and combined double offerings).  Mark your calendars as registration opens in early-January and the ride take place in early-July!  For more information visit Team Evergreen.

 

 

XTERRA Mountain Championship — Beaver Creek, Colorado

Images from this year’s XTERRA Mountain Championship race:

With the demise of XTERRA Buffalo Creek (my absolute favorite Colorado XTERRA—2009 marked it’s final year, pending new developments, see text box below), the Beaver Creek Mountain Championship has earned an annual place on my race calendar (I competed here in 2009 but unfortunately missed last year’s race).

Robert Martinich, the ever-capable and dedicated race director sent out the following e-mail of January, 2010:

As some of you know from news reports last October, the owners of Wellington Lake closed the lake to the public until further notice.  That means all scheduled activities at the lake were cancelled.  The owners/shareholders (city of Thornton, city of Brighton, and a group of farmers) wanted to re-evaluate the activities at the lake.  Please note:  All of this information is from my one source who is not on the Board of Directors; I am not getting much information directly from the Board of Directors of the lake.  My contact with the Board of Directors informed me in late October that the Board wanted to continue allowing the Boy Scouts and events like XTERRA Buffalo Creek to continue at the lake and that they would try to have a decision by December.  However, I still have not heard of the Board’s decision regarding use of the lake and property for XTERRA Buffalo Creek.  My source believes that a decision will likely come towards the end of January.  I realize that many of you rely on this race to compete for points in the XTERRA series and are now making plans as to which races to compete.  I have worked very hard over the past 6 years to make XTERRA Buffalo Creek a top notch race for you in the series, and will try to accommodate all requirements set by the Board of Directors of the lake.  I appreciate your kind emails and your patience.  I will let you know as soon as I know.

And, with that, that was the last I have heard about this TERRIFIC XTERRA: featuring lake-side camping at the venue, a COLD swim, a blazing fast bike course with a grueling ascent to mark the finish, culminating in a scenic and feature-filled trail run—I wish Robert the best and hope that this race returns in the future!

This year’s Beaver Creek Mountain Championship failed to disappoint.  The Beaver Creek venue is exceptional, both from an athletic challenge standpoint and venue—the Colorado mountains in the summertime just invite XTERRA.  The full course event challenges athletes with a 1 mile swim (2 laps), 15.5 mile bike, and a 5.75 run, while the sprint race (short course) includes a 1/2 mile swim (1 lap), 9 mile bike, and a 3 mile run.

As always, a very capable field assembled in T1 along Nottingham Lake in Avon, CO to start the COLD swim.  During race check-in the day before (held up on the mountain in Beaver Creek) my wife and I ran into our good friend Lee and Myra.  We learned that their grandson would be competing in his first XTERRA and we managed to spend some time with him and our friends prior to my wave start.  The canon fired and I plunged into the alpine “lake” and started the first of two busy laps (the swim venue is small and the swim course stays crowded throughout the nearly 1 mile swim—1500M to be precise).  Once out of the water I acknowledge the “chill” before setting off on the 15.5-mile bike (with + 3600 feet of elevation gain, with the majority of it coming early during the course of a nearly 4 mile climb).  I put some gas in the tank early as I rolled out of Avon and start the ascent (Hammer gel, of course).  Almost immediately I felt the effects of both the altitude—the race begins at approximately 8,000 feet (Avon is + 7431 feet).  I managed to ride the majority of the route with only a small “hike-a-bike” during the steepest section of the initial single track climb.

The Denver Post featured a beautiful photo gallery of the images from the ’11 event that can be viewed here.

I put the long climb behind me and focused on working my way to T2.  Although the route features additional climbing, competitors follow the scenic “Village to Village” trail before a fairly steep descent into the village.  The route at XTERRA Beaver Creek is not technical (the “Cinch” – “Corkscrew” – “Cinch” connection that funnels athletes into T2 is the only exception), but it does require concentration and solid conditioning.  After dumping my bike on the downhill section that leads into T2 the last time I raced here, I redoubled my focus to make a clean ride.

Once cleanly through T2 I headed out on the run that I knew would be a punishing, lung-busting 5+-miles.  This year’s course did not fail to meter out significant punishment (the elevation along the 10K route approximates 1,300 feet of elevation gain).  I tried to run the entire course; however, some of the steeps during the first third proved too much … I downshifted and transitioned back and forth between a run and uptempo hike.  I pounded down the downhill sections (there are fortunately a couple along the route) and saved just enough “gas” to sprint to the finish.

Once across the finish line I was created by my wife and children … it really doesn’t get any better than that.  I managed to once again meet up with Lee & Myra (Zack also had a successful race, finishing the “sport” course in just under XXX).

Beaver Creek: Two Races in One

Another benefit of the Beaver Creek XTERRA is that it features a half-marathon (along with a 10K option) trail run on the following day.  This works extremely well for my family.   Two events, one on each day of the weekend, allow me to race the XTERRA on Saturday while Hope watches our children and then Hope can run the trail run on Sunday while I takeover as PIC (here, instead of “Partner in Crime” … “Parent In Charge”).  The half-marathon run integrates much of the XTERRA off-road triathlon course while adding more time climbing (the race features nearly 2,400 feed to elevation gain) while the 10K race retraces the full XTERRA off-road triathlon course from the day before.

Hope’s account of her half -marathon experiences follows:

Waiting to start the half-marathon along with my fan club.

Sunday provided  another blue sky day in Beaver Creek.  My husband and two children escorted me to the starting line of the Beaver Creek XTERRA Half Marathon.  It is a rare occasion when both my husband and I get to race, so this weekend was special.  Brian had completed the XTERRA triathlon the day before, leaving me to fulfill my  commitment to the half marathon trail race.  I had been training all spring to shed the baby fat from “No. 2” and had built up my mileage so that 13.1 miles wouldn’t be a stretch for me.  The race gun went off and the winding gravel and dirt climb started straight away.   I quickly realized that 13.1 miles on pavement/trail and 13.1 miles on a trail at altitude are vastly different (really … I know that).  I had vowed to not walk for quite a while if I could help it, but when the walkers started passing me I figured a long stride walk might be the better choice (I tried, but failed, to not go anaerobic).  After the long initial climb the course opened up to beautiful rolling terrrain.   Although the morning had started on the cool side,  the heat started coming on, but much of the course remained shaded in by trees.  During the middle of the race, I was joined by a pack of other athletes (which for me usually consists of fit older men and younger women who aren’t that fit) formed together—as usual, we engaged in the “pass me, pass you, pass me” game.  I maintained a run whenever possible and walked as the altitude strapped me with fatigue.  At one point I recall thinking, “How can an entire race be up hill?”  “My” personal race came down to me and another “girl.”  We were neck and neck through the final third of the course and I found myself fading as I tried to best “my” competitor—I couldn’t go any faster.  She seemed to have gained a second wind.  There was one difference between us, I had a Polar watch with mileage data and she didn’t.  I sensed that she thought the end was near, almost finished, but I knew we actually had about 4 more miles.  That explained why she was pushing so hard!  You won’t believe this, but out of nowhere, her boyfriend/husband appeared, cheering her on.  As she passed him she called out, “Am I almost done?!”  “About 4 more miles!” he yelled back.  Immediately she faded.  I never saw her again on the trail and ran to the finish alone.  I crossed the finish line and rejoined my family to celebrate the experience and “my win.”

The Beaver Creek race venue provides something for everyone (complete information can be found here).

 

Mt. Evans Group Ride

Atop Mt. Evans (+/- 14,264 ft.)

Earlier this month (June 15th) I joined a group of friends/athletes for a ride from Bergen Park (elevation 7798 ft.) in Evergreen, CO to the top of Mt. Evans (elevation 14262 ft.) via Colorado 103.  The informal “Mt. Evans Day” is an annual event for the Practical Coaching crew and one that I routinely try to make.  This classic route courses over both Squaw and Juniper passes, dropping riders off at Echo Lake (elevation 10600 ft.) and the gateway to Mt. Evans (elevation 14264 ft.).  Our group was treated to incredible weather … not a cloud in the sky and perfect temperatures; however, the descent from the summit left everyone with a chill that, at least in my case, lingered until I nearly returned to Bergen Park.  The ride to Echo Lake included the usual banter and served as the warm up to the real work to be had on the 14er.  Although the ranger at the park entrance indicated that the road above Summit Lake was CLOSED we elected to press on (we were aware of this possibility and had planned an alternate ride; however, the weather seemed to be in our favor and the ranger indicated that the road to the top would potentially open in the early afternoon).  After exchanging our $3 for entry—I used my Federal Parks Pass (I consider it an additional tax and purchase it annually … it always pays for itself  … FYI it includes a “guest” entry as well)—for colored ID bands (to keep the rangers on the road at bay), we proceeded up, up, and then up some more.  We lingered in the shade of the next decision tree at Summit Lake and, once again, elected to push on even though the Mt. Evans summit road remained closed.  Although we had to stop a few times to “plow” through snow and yield to an actual plow driver once on the way up and again on the way down, the summit trip was worth it.

Snow covered road (after the plow went through) on the descent

After rejoining the main group at the top (the stronger riders were waiting for me), I elected to hang back and enjoy the long fast-paced descent on my own.  I once again “plowed” through snow and joined the main group at Summit Lake to begin the fast descent to Echo Lake—descending in a well-spaced line and enjoying the views “sans guardrails” was a great thrill.

I especially enjoyed the return trip to Bergen Park—until the road turns a little rough, the descent down Squaw is one of my favorites.   While most of the riders quickly wrapped things up, I prepared to head out on a 4-mile run with a PC athlete, Lori.  We headed out of Bergen Park and explored a bit of Elk Meadow Park (a part of the Jefferson County Open Space).  Our quick out-and-back along the rolling crushed gravel paths of Elk Meadow served as the perfect ending to a fabulous training day!  Join us next year!

Inaugural Ford St. George Ironman

First Ironman … Check

Almost a month ago to the day I travelled to St. George, Utah to compete in the first (and my first) Ford St. George Ironman.  What a fantastic venue, race, and personal experience.  In the days that followed the race I have often repeated the same answer to the frequently posed question of “How did it go?”  My simple answer: “I planned my race and raced my plan.”  That is the SIMPLE answer.  What follows is a bit more detail about my pre-race, race, and post-race experiences.

Although 10 days short of my 40th birthday, the IM body marking made it clear that the "big date" was inevitable!

Day 1: Expo & Venue

Unquestionably triathlon is a sport that attracts “fit” often egocentric individuals, but the Ironman expo provided an even more powerful display of the sport’s principal demographic!!!  From the moment that I arrived at the Dixie Center and walked through the Ford inflatable “gates” located at the facility’s front door, the scene was high energy and somewhat, well … “aggressive.”  It seemed to me that the race was “on” even before the gun went off at Sand Hollow reservoir.  After getting a quick taste of the scene, I left Hope to tend to Quinn and proceed into the “athletes only” section of the expo.  I signed the obligatory waivers, received the standard issues equipment: multiple race numbers, timing chip, and swim cap.  This time there was something new in addition to all the extra bags (i.e., morning clothes bag, T1/bike bag, bike special needs bag, T2/run bag, run special needs bag), pre-cut race number templates for body-marking.  1348, my race number, would not be left to be applied “freehand” by a volunteer (or, worse still, me) in the predawn hours, at Ironman, numbers would be airbrushed on using templates.  One small problem, the “1” was missing from my packet (as well missing from the packets of a few hundred other participants) and would be added (aka freehand) at the body-marking table.  First a line for chip activation, then another for body-marking of race numbers, another still for adding the year-end age!  Yes, at the end of this race season … actually, in less than two weeks I would be 40.  Start to finish the expo took about 1 1/2 hours.  Hope and I headed home to the Marriott to get things organized and rest.  I returned to the Dixie Center later that evening to attend the “mandatory” pre-race meeting that followed the optional welcome dinner.  I met up with my friends Paul Hardcastle and Jerry Gardner at the packed banquet room (1800+ competitors … really brought home the size of the event).  Jerry had attended the entire affair and was positioned deep in the mass of athletes.  Paul and I, on the other hand, stood in the back and strained to hear the race directors educate us about check-in procedures, race morning transportation, and altered bike cutoffs … altered bike cutoff?!?!  Neither Paul nor I caught any of the details!  I was relieved that they did not come into play on race day!

A bit about my two friends: Jerold “Jerry” Gardner traveled from Seattle/Kirkland, Washington to compete.  Jerry, a multiple Ironman finisher, battled a persistent knee injury and a Seattle winter to get ready for the event.  It was great to have someone with so much experience around.  Jerry handled his pre-race like the seasoned veteran that he is and consequently occupied his free time with more rewarding pursuits than obsessing over what was in which race bag (i.e. he headed off for a daytrip to Zion on Friday).  Paul Hardcastle, also a friend, was in a different place in his triathlon career.  Before St. George, Paul had never competed in a single triathlon … not even a sprint … nothing, a complete “newbie”!  Some 22 weeks prior to the even Paul asked me what I was up to in the spring.  I told him about St. George and the rest is history.  Paul bought a charity community spot, a road bike, a wetsuit (I think he swam in it once prior to the event … IN A POOL) and then proceeded to balance work, family life with a one-year-old, and other commitments to “train up” for the event.  Paul, 812, and Jerry, 2325, were each successful.  Congratulations!

Day 2: Bag-Check, Bike-Check, and Pre-Ride of Bike Course

I woke up a couple of hours before the girls got up in order to setup my various race day bags.  I planned for ALL possible scenarios and my special needs bags, well, let me just say they were “special.”  I formulated a race day/morning checklist so as not to forget my bottles and food as well as each of the essentials that I would have to carry with me, e.g., bike pump, wetsuit, swim cap, goggles, breakfast #2, etc.  Later in the morning I rehearsed my bag setup with Hope, allowing her to assist in making some of the calls that I was on the fence about, e.g., arm warmers or light top?  The morning was pleasantly interrupted by a call from Paul … we setup a time to review his preparation, drop off our T1/run bags and head out to the reservoir for the bike check-in and drive one loop of the bike course.

Race Day

My alarm went off and I woke to meet it (that means that I actually slept).  I proceeded down my checklist, consumed breakfast #1 (old fashioned rolled oats, a banana, rice protein, and almond butter), kissed Hope goodbye and then proceeded downstairs to join the other Marriott “residents” for the shuttle ride to the race venue.  The hotel had kindly provided a shuttle and it transported groups of 10-12 athletes every 30 minutes.  The short ride to the staging area included some chat about nerves and, of course, friendly banter about past Ironman events … more ego.  I had kept my mouth shut for the most part and slid of the shuttle into the dark to meet up with Paul.  We met at our assigned spot and proceeded to drop off our remaining bags before finding our place inthe quickly growing queue to board the yellow school buses that would take us to the swim start.  Once at the reservoir, Paul and I headed off into the mass of athletes swarming about their bikes in T1.  After setting up my area and loading my nutrition on my bike, I played “pass the pump” for a bit … you see, the word was that bicycle pumps would not be transported back to the finish area (the St. George venue is a point-to-point race … i.e., the START and FINISH are in different places).  Despite the warnings and the fact that I did not have anyone to drop my beloved Pista pump off with, I brought it with me.  As luck would have it, I managed to secure it to my gear bag and was later reunited with it at the end of the day.  The spent the remainder of the morning adding nutrition, “checking and double checking,” and making the obligatory, if not ritualistic, visit to the Porta-John.  Paul and I also managed to find Jerry … so the three of us shared the morning together.

Swim

56° swim venue (COLD)

Cold … and, we were late!  I had envisioned a mass dog paddling/floating start; however, as the starting gun went off, Paul, Jerry, and I—along with several hundred other participants—found ourselves scampering under the START banner and into the frigid waters of Sand Hallow reservoir.  That was the last that I would see of my friends until the two-loop run course.  I worked my way through the mass of swimmers and tried to shake the cold.  The morning light allowed me to sight on the horizon and I used the geographic reference points to swim to each of the major buoys.  In what seemed like a blink the shoreline was approaching.  As I prepared to exit I once again noticed the cold … I felt it.  I made my way to my feet, started stripping my wetsuit and headed toward T1 (volunteers quickly dispatched my wetsuit and the next thing I knew I was sitting on a metal chair staring at my bike gear).

T1

The cold lingered.  I spent an eternity in T1 (FOREVER, 21:14).  I was very cold and it affected my transition regimen.  Finally, I selected my initial bike gear (the morning was still overcast and a bit chilly … forcing some decisions) and headed to the Porta-John where, unbeknownst to me, an “incident” would take place that would serve as the basis for countless post-race stories: my left cycling glove fell into the Porta-John.  And, to make matters worse—I retrieved it.  Again, I just wasn’t thinking clearly … in hindsight, it was VERY disturbing.  Anyway, I got a hold of myself, used plenty of hand sanitizer and proceeded on out onto the bike course.  As a final note, my election to use gloves at all was a strange call … as a general rule they are not part of my race gear (but … I one-gloved it during my inaugural Ironman event).

Bike

I felt lousy during the first hour or so on the bike.  The wake from the cold swim lingered and made it extremely difficult for me to get comfortable or take in any nutrition during the opening miles. I kept at it and the mental clouds, as well as those that had occupied the sky over St. George, started to lift.  Things began to look up during the next few hours.  The race started to come together and, having shaken the initial blahs, I fell comfortably back onto my training.  I utilized a combination of multi-hour bottles of Perpetuem, “custom” brown rice tortillas and rice protein “bites,”  gels, electrolyte gel blocks, and Gatorade Endurance Formula (supplemented with water provided on the course) to fuel the bike portion and set me up for the run.  As with the swim, I tried to conserve energy on the bike in order to set myself up for a strong run.

T2

I regained my transition form in T2 (8:26).  Still long, but certainly much improved over T1!  Ironman is a different animal … and I used the transitions to do just that … transition!  T2 was orderly and I was anxious to get out on the run course.

Run

As I exited the T2 tent, I managed to see Hope and Paul’s wife, Terra.  I got a status update on Paul and new that he was ahead of me by a bit… I yelled something like “I feel great and added; tell Paul that I am coming to get him!”  I felt great on the run.  I alternated hydration and nutrition on every 1-mile interval (keeping up with the gel and “bites” ultimately switching to gels only for the final 8-10 miles).  On the second loop I once again managed to see Hope and Terra, and once again, set my sights on catching Paul.  I could sense that I was gaining; however, he had gone out much harder on the swim and bike (going up on me 15 minutes and 45 minutes, respectively) and only spent 7:58 in T1—it just didn’t happen … I didn’t catch Paul—he simply out swam, out transitioned, and out biked me (way to go Paul)!  I held my pace, felt great, and crossed the FINISH LINE with a huge smile on my face!  “Brian Beatte … YOU ARE AN IRONMAN” … then flash, flash, a couple of quick photographs as I exited the FINISH chute and it was over.  I finished at 14:29:44.  Paul finished some 15 minutes ahead of me at 14:04:32, while Jerry crossed the line a bit later with a total time of 15:50:50.

An emotional 1st Ironman finish

Post Race

Looking back, the final miles of the run were really special.  I can admit that I felt the pressure of tears in my eyes as I prepared to finish … the volunteers, the spectators, the training, the venue … well, it just all came together right there.  Paul and our families met up with me quickly after the finish and we exchanged the well-deserved congratulations.  We all, I think, shared in that special moment.  Again, congratulations Paul and Jerry.  Finally, thank you Hope for your love and support.

Racing/Endurance Notes

What a great experience!  I set myself up for a strong finish and, like I indicated in the introduction to this post, I planned my race and raced my plan. Race takeaway: Proper planning and execution is essential to a successful Ironman event. My inaugural Ironman was positioned on the front side of a family vacation, I purposely held back so as not to be a wreck for the days that followed the event.  This strategy worked and I felt great in the days immediately following the event.  I look am looking forward to the next Ironman challenge.  One last thing, the volunteers and spectators at St. George were incredible!

Jerry’s Post-Race Personal Comments

by Gerold “Jerry” Gardner

Swim:

Severe neck abrasion from wetsuit collar; used silicone ear plugs, no water in ear, no dizziness at finish; used neoprene cap and issued swim cap, head was not cold; tried to site buoys but not much success so just paced swimmers on each side and did not look up except at turns and finish; focused on steady pace, did not hurry, concentrated on fully extended strokes with full pull through, kicked only to maintain balance and push at the end.

T1:

Out of water feeling alert/good but could not feel hands, sat down (oops), difficult getting dressed for bike; did not push to get out of T1 due lack of feeling in hands; once on bike was able to build pace, felt good; feet stayed numb/cold for 40 miles at least.

Bike:

Needed to be mindful of time on course, made cutoff by 8+- minutes; needed more climbing practice especially steep hills; let her go downhill on 2nd half but was reserved on 1st half; realized cutoff time nearing, so last 20 miles hard push to the finish but trashed run legs/spirit.

T2:

Not winded, felt good but legs were only good for a fast walk to transition tent; sat in chair, did not push to get out of transition but looking back no reason to sit, just relaxed to much; wore running water bottle belt, wish I hadn’t as had plenty of water on route; also did not need jacket I carried.

Run:

Started the run out with shoes loose/untied (13.1 Miles); jogged till I came to first hill out of town, then walked, that set the stage mentally for walking most uphills there after, now feel like should have kept positive and ran more walked less; slow jog thereafter, per mile pace ranged for 9:30 to 14:30; second half walked with others when should have run more; ran best when was with someone who ran; did run the last few miles; felt good at the finish; food did not appeal to me; walk back to the hotel, went to bed.

Recovery: Next day temporary soreness/stiffness but hiked in Snow Canyon and Santa Clara to view pictographs (5 miles); short run Monday, resumed 4 day running routine, no intensity or speed work yet; will start some cycling and swimming week of 5-17.

Training:

Started marathon run training March 1, did several mountain runs, steep uphill (walk), run downhill, did most training on trails, 1-2 hours about 4 times a week; 25 mile road run 3 weeks before St. George; no taper until week of event, last run was hard 1 hour trail run on Wednesday; Started cycling March 1, mostly flat roads, 25-30 milers, 2-3 times a week, a few 50-60 milers with hills and 1, 2 weeks before event did a century ride, with a lot of stops at water stations; last ride was 30 miler on Monday; Swimming started April 1, just pool laps, 3-4 days a week, started with 30 minute sessions 1st week, 45 minute sessions 2nd week, 1 hour sessions 3rd week, then week before event did 1.5 hour sessions; all sessions focused on full extension and follow through, trying to focus on form not speed, just consistent pace (2-2:10 min 100); no open water or wetsuit practice, event was first time since last year.

Nutrition:

Ate usual foods days preceding event; event morning ate half of burrito, half of muffin, water, coffee; drank a usual amount of water on swim; on bike had bagel with peanut butter and honey and a bagel with cream cheese, ate 2 PowerBar halves and 3 Gu packs; last solid food was 30 miles before finish, then 1 Gu 5 miles before finish; took Gatorade at most water stops, always had water and Gatorade on bike; stop on bike 3 times, 1 fix dropped chain, 2 times to stretch and take Advil, caffeine tablet, electrolyte tablet, and salt tablet; on run carried water belt, Gu and Advil, caffeine, salt, and electrolyte, which I took about every 6.5 miles; stopped at most aide stations for a drink of water to start then switched to Gatorade; second half tried cola but did not like it, started taking the chicken broth but caused severe mouth dryness, switched to ice the last 5 stops; tried pizza at the finish but did not appeal to me; next day normal appetite.

General Comments:

Race location beautiful part of the country, would go back to visit; training is absolutely necessary if you intend to complete the course with a race pace time objective, anything less sets you up for disappointment, injury, slow recovery, and of course a long time on the course; that said my results reflect my time spent in training, the swim was better than I expected, bike about what I expected time wise, but was not prepared for the bike cut off realities, run suffered in part because of the difficulty of the bike course and the hard push at the last 20 miles; given my training, my cycling was my weakest and needed the most attention; race day focus was go for a swim, then for a ride, then run, done!  Great host city and great volunteers.

“Off Season” Recap November ’09 – April ’10

Me (mouth open the whole course at the Jeremy Wright American Snowshoe Championship). Photograph by Andrea Watkins.

After a summer spent racing XTERRA and road triathlons, I met the “off season” with particular excitement;  however, this year there would be no break in the action as I looked to supplement my Ironman training with some “fun” events to keep my mind and body fresh.  What follows is a recap of a few of my organized winter diversions.

23+ miles in Moab, Utah

November brought me to 23+ miles in Moab, Utah for the Ultimate XC Moab Edition (ufortunately, Moab XC will NOT be held in 2010).  I had signed up for this “race” based on great reviews from trusted friends (Beth Tennant and Steve Pye).  I enlisted an accomplice as well … my new friend Paul Hardcastle.  I set out with no other particular goal in mind other than making an introduction to the Moab terrain and ensuring that Paul had a great experience (up until this point, the longest he had ever run was 14 miles).  A couple of good things had already occurred on my way to Moab: 1) I spent some quality time visiting with my wife, Hope,  on the drive and enjoyed discovering the  “ghost town” of Cisco, and 2) “Bus,” our Italian greyhound, managed to enjoy a Burger King Jr. Whopper—our daughter, Quinn, on the other hand, received a public diaper change in an unoccupied BK booth … I know, “classy.”  Did I mention that I have an incredible wife … it was her birthday weekend and, only after an understandable reaction of pushback (surprised only that I was not whisking her off to more a more civilized local known for celebration), she entirely embraced the Moab adventure.  We spent our first night in Moab at the Red Cliffs “Adventure” Lodge.  We passed on the opportunity to “dine in” at the lodge restaurant or share a lively dinner with our friends at the race check-in spot (Eddie McStiff’s) and instead invited Paul out to our place for a relaxed, albeit a bit late, wheat spaghetti dinner (I had not yet taken up my charge to go gluten-free).

Race morning found us “up” for the challenge.  We left Red Cliffs and followed the Colorado River into the town of Moab and out to the race start.  We met Paul at the starting line and milled around a bit.  We checked in with some of the familiar faces of our racing friends—Beth Tennant, Tyler Walton, and Andrea Watkins, just to name a few.  We all shared smiles and the attendant pre-race jitters in the chilled desert air.  After the obligatory race briefing we gathered at the starting line.  “Go, go, go!” from the race director and we were off.  En masse we lumbered away from the starting line on a jeep trail leading up Pritchett Canyon and out into the unknown of the red Moab dessert.  As for what took place over the next 23 miles …well, for me, it was bliss.  I was a Moab virgin and enjoyed every step that I took … what amazing landscape!!!  I elected to run with my iPod (listening to a trail running mix that featured some cutting edge techno) and stopped only occasionally to shoot some what, after viewing it later surely evidenced, turned out to be “random” video with my new Flip video camera (I am now a huge fan of my MinoHD).  I spent the remainder of my time either waiting for Paul (he had an excellent race) or encouraging him by messing with him—the type of quirky encouragement that I am apparently know for.  One of the “highlights” listed in the race bill was a view of the “Jackson Hole” and the potash factory that is nestled in the valley floor.  Interestingly, potash refers to a variety of potassium compounds and “potassium-bearing” materials (basically, the term includes naturally occurring potassium salts).  Our route provided for a striking and intriguing view of the potash solar evaporation ponds in the valley floor far below.  Enjoy my brief potash “trailer”:

Up and down, around and through … Paul and I moved efficiently through the Moab desert and, after only a “short” wait for Paul at the finish line, we finished this remarkable race together.  Unofficial: me, 5:13:36; Paul, 5:13:37.  Can’t wait for the next one!

Me and Paul Hardcastle, post-race

Interesting race note: After the race, my wife and I enjoyed a “recovery” meal at Milt’s Stop and Eat (a historic diner that serves “burger joint” fare, that just happened to be a named sponsor of  UltimateXC racing).  While enjoying a burger and a malt, we learned that Milt’s had recently been purchased by, BC LaPrade and the elite ultra athlete and adventure racer Danelle Ballengee.  Danelle, as you may recall, fell in the Moab desert in December of 2006 and spent more than two days in an epic fight for her very survival—Danelle set the course for this year’s race.  Thanks Danelle … you are an inspiration!

Beaver Creek Snowshoe Adventure Series

With events scheduled for January, February, and March, the Beaver Creek Snowshoe Adventure Series offered a chance for me to enjoy some cold weather training.  I love to shoe!  Having raced individual events in years past, I opted to take on the entire series of 10K events; however, the weather had different plans and I managed only to make it to two of the three races (the first and the last).  I successfully recruited some new training clients and friends to join me and share in the fun; specifically, Michelle Grubb, Angie Malinosky, and, once again, Paul Hardcastle.  Event #1 was a flash.  My wife and I gathered up Michelle and headed up to Beaver Creek.  Michelle was running her first snowshoe race on a new pair of Crescent Moon Gold Series 12 shoes. I managed to land a vendor account with Crescent Moon (owned and operated by Jake Thamm)—a Boulder-based “green” company that offers some of the best racing shoes on the market.  Thanks Jake!  Leaving out of Creekside Park, the first race followed the familiar course that essentially shoots racers up the Beaver Creek ski slopes and back down again.  Conditions were ideal, the majority of the course placed runners on packed snow, and it made for a “fast” loop.  I managed to beat my previous year’s time and narrowly escaped finishing behind Paul—Paul careened down a step downhill and passed me in a flash only to relinquish his advantage to me on the final climb to the finish.  Michelle had a big finish and an even bigger smile afterwards.  Angie had a blast in the 5K!

The snow moved into metro Denver and kept me away from event #2 (Paul and Angie also didn’t make it).  Michelle spent the night in the mountains and was there to enjoy the second race in the series—way to go Michelle!

Event #3, the Jeremy Wright North American Snowshoe Championship, marked the end of the series and offered the greater challenge of the two races that I competed in this year.  Leaving out of McCoy Park Nordic Center (atop Beaver Creek at the endpoint of the Strawberry Par Express and Upper Beaver Creek Mountain Express lifts) the final course seemed to track uphill forever!  The final event featured more deep stuff than the first—at one point I managed to fall into a deep powder stash as a result of a misplaced step!  As I squirmed to get up and get going again, a well-meaning competitor (a male) persistently wanted to lend me a hand and help me up.  I don’t know if my self-reliance had kicked in, or I was enjoying the cool snow on my otherwise sweltering body, or I just wanted to be left alone, but I kindly refused … as I worked to extract myself from the deep snow I recall exclaiming: “Go on, it’s a race!”  Paul and Michelle each had successful 10Ks and Angie completed another 5K—again, smiles all around!

The Beaver Creek Series is great fun and offers a great winter training opportunity.  More importantly, it offers a great chance to connect during the “off season” with some of my athletic friends: Anthony (and Michelle) Beeson, Trista Francis, Beth Tennant, Andrea Watkins, and Sonja Wieck.

Pedal Power Winter Triathlons

Race flyer for the 2009-2010 "Adventure Series"

Snow, snow, snow … and cold.  A big storm moved in on Friday night and dumped a significant amount of the white stuff (this was the one variable that could make my race day near impossible … well it snowed a lot).  I rolled out of our rented Keystone condo, leaving Hope and Quinn still in bed, and made my way to Leadville through a partial closure of I-70.  I made good time down Hwy.  91 and arrived at the CMC campus with a determination to best my performance from the first event despite the more challenging conditions.  I was prepared this time!  I had shelled out nearly $125 for a set of “snow tires”—in my case, a set of Bontrager XDX TLR  2.4s along with a container of Super Juice Tubeless Sealant and pressures set at 1 Bar (14.5 PSI)—Bruce’s new recommendations.  However, I was running a dated and unfamiliar rented Nordic setup—actually, I rented Paul and I each a set of gear from the Keystone Nordic Center (FYI, Paul’s rental boots had pink and purple “highlights” … very nice).  At my level of expertise, I figured skis would be the least of my concern (I would most likely end up carrying them anyway) and it saved us a great amount of time.  I met up with Paul at the CMC campus and proceeded to get checked in.  As we trudged across the snowy lot we noticed three things 1) the snow, 2) the wind, and 3) the significantly smaller number of participants (now it was the “H”ardcore of the hardcore)!

These races are run with military precision.  Despite the challenge of the conditions, Bruce assembled the racers at the starting line precisely at 10:00 a.m. only to inform us that CMC did not groom its Nordic trails on the weekends—it would be especially tough out there on the Nordic trails!  With hardly a moment to process this new information we were off!  Another great snowshoe course full of winding roller coaster single track made even more challenging by the abundance of fresh, deep snow.  I hurried into the transition area was soon out on my bike.  This time only a short 1/2-mile hike-a-bike section (Paul caught up with me here and our faces showed our concern about the present bike conditions) separated us from Mineral Belt Trail … once there, conditions changed and my new tires managed to make good and I finally was finally making progress ON my bike—”See ya, Paul.”  After 9 1/2K of “riding” I climbed the winding road back to the CMC campus where my skis were “waiting” for me.  Once on my skis I careened down the fast downhill section … thing were looking up!  Then the climbing began.  This time around I vowed to keep my skis on—with the exception of one “yard sale” and a couple of breaks to run ahead of Paul who had caught up and was pushing me on a few of the never-ending grades, I managed to do just that!  The Nordic course included 2 loops.  Generally, I am not a fan of the multiple loop courses; however, the initial loop provide some beta to allow me to make some strategic skiing choices and to recognize the approach of the diversion trail that would lead to the finish line at the end of the second lap.  I hit the finishing shoot strong and, if only for a fleeting moment, I once again held a thought in my head of “I am getting the hang of this.”  Times for the day: me, 2:44:46; Paul, 2:48:24.

Paul and I lumbered around in the snowy transition area collecting our gear and encouraging the final finishers that trickled in behind us before heading over to the awards banquet.  Bruce wrapped up the race in style: good food and lots of freebies.  I managed to score a pair of technical long underwear while Paul claimed a pair of socks!?  The winners—check out these times: M: Josiah Middaugh – 1:24:52 and F: Lisa Isom – 1:41:55— collected the serious prizes (not the least of which included a customized winner’s plate).  Oh yes, and Bruce raffled away a couple of sweet Street Swell boards!

Takeaway from the Winter Triathlon scene:  As I indicated at the beginning of this account, I am hooked!  I have already spent considerable time researching Nordic skiing gear and technique and am making this series next winter’s “priority” races.  You will likely find me poking around the various Nordic “ski swap” events that take place up in the High Country in the late-fall or improving my technique at one of the many Nordic centers in the area as soon as the trails open!  I am already recruiting others to participate and have a commitment from Beth Tennant.  As for Paul, he is a “maybe”!?

In an effort to make this useful to other “would-be” winter tri competitors, here are some links to some of the more established Nordic centers in the immediate area: Breckenridge and Frisco Nordic Centers, Keystone Nordic Center, and Tennessee Pass Nordic Center.  For a more complete listing of Colorado Nordic resources, be sure to visit the Colorado Cross Country Ski Association.  If you want to meet a fine human being/athlete AND get a great Nordic lesson, be sure to look up Roxanne at TPNC!

RMSS Cycling Training Camp

RMSS cycling team in Moab, Utah

As a member of the “new” Rocky Mountain Spine & Sport Cycling Team, I joined a group of 20+ members in Moab, UT for a three-day training camp.  Held over a long weekend, March 25-27, the camp featured some amazing (albeit very cold) rides.  While placing an emphasis on group tactics and bike handling, Steve Pye of Practical Coaching led rides that took our group through Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and up “The Big Nasty” (a notorious climb up into the La Sal mountains).  I definitely got what I needed out of the trip!  Some great rides and some needed instruction and encouragement as a cyclist.  In addition to the riding, I enjoyed sharing the trip with some old and new friends.  I shared a condo with Anthony Beeson (thanks for the tire change), Tyler Walton, and Dan Harris.

Funny story about the weather.  On the Friday ride out to Canyonlands it rained, sleeted, and snowed—it was COLD and windy.  After some 35+ miles out of hard-paced riding, I turned around leaving the remaining pack to ride the last few miles out to “Dead Horse Point.”  The RMSS support vehicle had long since filled up and headed back to civilization and warmth.  I was very COLD and needed some solid food—Hammer Perpetuem could only carry me so far!   So there I was, alone and freezing in the middle of the Canyonlands National Park.  The goal was to get to the solid food in my jersey (wrapped tightly in aluminum foil I might add) and then head back to the condo at a “training” pace.  There was only one problem; I could not get my full-finger cycling gloves off!  Really … they would not come off … my fingers were frozen stiff (my right hand was no good to my left and vice versa)!  I did not know if the support vehicle would be coming back?!  The wind howled and I was off my bike prancing around trying to stay warm while getting my glove off.  First I tried biting on the “tips” of my glove … nothing doing.  Next I tried biting a bit harder, attempting to bite the fabric of the glove surrounding the middle finger while pulling against my teeth.  My next realization was that my middle finger was starting to ache, then hurt … I WAS BITTING MY OWN FROZEN FINGER!  I gave up on removing the gloves and managed to grasp an open “Raw Revolution” bar with my gloved hand.  I ate the remaining couple of bites of the already opened bar (I had opened it the day before and, in my ongoing attempt not to waste food, had brought it along for a second outing—it spent the night in the refrigerator) and made my break for Hwy. 191.  As I proceeded out of the park I was greeted by Tyler Walton and another RMSS rider who fed me “tour style” … digging into my jersey, removing and unwrapping the foil containing bananas, brown rice, wrapped in a gluten-free tortilla as I held onto the van’s mirror and continuing to make forward progress … thank you both!!!

Once I returned to the comfort and warmth of the Rim Village Condos (really, very nice accommodations), I reflected on the day’s bike experience for only a few moments before turning my attention to getting a run in before dinner.  I had no more changed into my running gear when the “lead pack” returned.  I passed around some invites to join me, but no takers; however, as it just so happened, I was standing in the driveway when a woman approached me and asked, “Do you know of any good running trails?”  Long story short, I joined her husband for a run in the Moab desert (we ran to the NW on the Hidden Valley Trail—beautiful).  As it turned out, both she and her husband were veteran ultra runners.  She had come to Moab to compete in the Moab 100 and he had joined her to provide the necessary support.  See Sonja’s account of her experience at the Moab 100 here—way to go Sonja!  I returned home from the out and back, showered, and headed off to join the RMSS team at a local restaurant.  By the way, my middle finger ached for days—I must have really bit down on it!!!