I believe the last time I took some time to reflect publicly was July 2016. Talk about slacking….right? Here are the major bullet points since then.
Current Events – This is really where you’d want to read if you want to catch up on the happenings of 2017.
I just raced the first event, Austin Marathon.
For those of you who’ve been following some of my posts and videos, you may know some of this, however I feel the need to re-quantify the pure gravity of this 6-week euro-trip. My goal today isn’t only to provide a race report while acknowledging sponsors but to somehow capture the raw emotion that I’ve been feeling over here, as it's been pretty deep. Having listened to Anthony Bourdain narrate enough TV shows, I’m hoping I can take you on a little journey.
IRONMAN, a race I’ve basically revered and or feared since I’ve known about it. 6 years ago, I popped my head in for duty at MacDill AFB. Shortly after my arrival I ignorantly accepted an invitation to ride my old 2001 Cannondale slice with a group of seasoned IRONMAN athletes. This started my future career in triathlon, however young and dumb I was at the time. Fast forward or review my facebook photos for the past 6 years and you’ll see an evolution. I’ve been astonished in how my mind and body have evolved due to such a focused lifestyle. The way I sleep and eat is all designed to cultivate a lifestyle consistent with what I deem valid in order to forge a Champion. If you check the gallery below...you can see just how much I've changed over the years....starting from my first race experience.
Triathlon is to me as food is to a chef; it’s on mind, in my hands, heart and body (pure passion). Being and endurance coach means there is a lot of additional added pressure to take care of those who’ve trusted me with their triathlon experience. It’s a fact I hold above my own success. If I’m honest, traveling so much makes me feel like a neglectful parent. Not to mention being a neglectful Fiancé…let’s not forget I’m marrying the woman of my dreams in a few months! It goes without mention that she’s the granite (much more elegant than just a “rock”), the foundation and the light at the end of every dark tunnel I put myself in. So you get the picture…I LOVE this process, the knowledge, the people and most importantly the journey, which leads me to where I am now; Europe.
People; they are what make this sport and any sport like this, exceptional. Traveling for long periods, training camps and racing often would cost me 5 times the amount without people. I’ve stayed in around 20 home-stays thus far, met fascinating people and for a short period became their pseudo son. The only thing that makes me feel guilty about this is, we don’t have enough room in our condo to pay back to others…however, one day I plan to host as many as Karen will allow. It’s because of amazing, generous people, that this trip to Europe has been undeniably the most exciting and memorable trips of my life.
It started in Austria, 1 week before IRONMAN Austria, staying with Sonja and Gerhard in a small town right outside of Ferlach. They live with a beautiful view, which you’ve probably seen by now and training here is truly amazing. The only thing it’s missing is altitude, however, you can still get it by driving 2 hours. Nestled right next to Italia and Slovenia, the mountain ranges and roads are a cyclists paradise, a new view and solemn moment of gratitude around every corner. The Austrian people who took care of me, cheered for me and supported me will always be best friends. The Pewag team is like a TRIBAL family all there own, only they have a huge financial sponsor and throw a GREAT party! Rene and Ella were my gateway to Austria and without them; I’d have never known this experience. Again, people are amazing. Lisa and Melanie, two sisters and Andy also took me around to historical places, their parents garden for home made food, traditional Austrian farms and some of the best sights I’ve ever seen…This trip to Austria was the absolute most memorable experience as a tourist I’ve ever had to date. I WILL be back!! I’ll not hit you with the IRONMAN Austria race report again but get ready, IRONAMN Zurich is next!
I knew I was coming to Zurich about 2 weeks before the race. I’d do some light training; get to know the area etc. However I didn’t actually plan on traveling to St. Mortiz (an altitude training mecca) with my coach and a few friends because of the cost. I knew how much the rented the house for and honestly, it was well above my budget. To my huge and most grateful relief, they invited me to come free of charge with the pretense that there will not an “official” bedroom but they will make something work. Uhm…that’s a huge, humble YES!!
The second part of my unforgettable journey started in St. Mortiz and ends today, the day before I head back to the U.S. What did we do up there? How was the weather and was it basically postcard living? YES! St. Moritz is like the Boulder, CO of Switzerland, along with maybe 1 other location. There were around 5 or 6 Olympians (to include the brownlee’s) you could find at the track of running around the lake on any given day and every pro-tour cycling team could be found riding when I went through Livigno Italy. Even though we got some snow and froze our nuts off for a few days, just living at 6000 feet was value added. We actually stayed right outside of St. Mortiz in the town of Pontresina, nestled right next to a beautiful pass and glacier. The riding here again; an experience previously unknown to me. The first 3 days were spent huffing and puffing as Lesley did her best to destroy me with some all out ¼ mile track repeats and threshold bike workouts, optimizing every moment forcing the body to adapt to altitude. Being the cycling nerd I am, I saw that we were only a few hours away from Stelvio Pass, the iconic climb they use during the Giro de Italia. I couldn’t be so close…and not make this pilgrimage. Thankfully the rest of the campers agreed and we made a whole day of it! It was around 13,000 feet in total elevation gain over 85 miles. We drove to the town of Zernez and took a beautiful mountain pass (Ofen pass) on our way to Stelvio. I still can’t believe where my bike has taken me…I love my bike!! After Stelvio, it was another long-hard run day and it was about 7 days until IM Zurich. Honestly, I needed to rest, as the week before the race was much bigger and harder than anyone would normally train before an IM. Monday through Friday, I was pretty wrecked, especially since on my 30th birthday we did a traditional birthday workout of (age) X 100 meters on 95 seconds. I was pretty pooped but Lesley, Jacqui and I made it through. I can’t say I wasn’t nervous after that week of hard training leading into an IM…the TSS alone for Stelvio’s ride was over 320 TSS, which is quite huge for 1 bike ride. I think my ride from IM Zurich was only like 260 or so. It might have been too much, but honestly it’s hard to back off when you’re in your element. Also, knew the altitude training would pay off heavily if I could just endure the harder efforts! Staying in Pontresina was amazing. We cooked amazing dinners every night, had an outdoor mountain BBQ and I really relaxed like a pro! Then it was time to take the train back to Zurich 4 days out from the race!
Finally....The Race Report
I am staying in the home of Mark and Nadja, the same couple who organized the trip to Pontresina. I had a perfect, quiet scenario before the race…I just had to figure out the Zurich public transportation aspect since we are 8k from the race site. I have been using a mountain bike to get around for the most part but needed to take the train on race morning and I was a bit nervous because it wasn’t very easy to navigate at first….but damit, I worked it out like a local! I checked out the longer climb on Friday by bike, left the run course as a “surprise” and got my gear ready for race morning. After the Pro meeting on Friday, it was time for my eyes to catch up on the Tour De France replay and eat some chicken and rice! Saturday I ONLY rode my bike to the race site, ate a huge breakfast and then had some dessert around 6pm, then….early to bed for a 3 am wake-up. Okay so here’s where the play-by-play will start.
3AM: Hit snooze once, wake up at 3:15. I left some oatmeal to soak overnight since this makes it easier to digest. However, for IRONMAN I think I’ve been eating too much oatmeal race morning; I will try a new approach next time. So it was Oatmeal, lot’s of cinnamon, salt, banana and 1 egg over easy, done by 3:40 am. This was 3 hours before race “Start”. I then chilled out until 5am when I walked 15min to the train station, ready for the 5:30am train to the race site.
5:45 AM: Race Site Arrival. Since this was the earliest train it was the only time I could arrive. Normally, I’d like to arrive around 5:15…but really, there isn’t much to set up and it meant less time waiting to race. I set-up the bike, hung up my bags and headed to the Strandbad (public beach).
6:40 AM & SWIM: After a quick 5’ warm up in the water, some dry land drills and light hip openers, I was on the line. There were 80 men signed up for the race but I think maybe 40 showed up. I felt GREAT on the swim, so powerful and despite increasing my effort, I was never winded…THANK YOU altitude. I actually did made some decisions during the swim that I normally can’t. I moved up 2 groups!! I was thinking…”These feet are too slow” so I hit the next group…. then though, “shit, still slow”. The next bridge took about 5’ but was very worth it. I can tell that the feet I’m on are a good choice when I try to make a pass and realize it’s taking a lot more effort. At that point, it’s better to sit in and tickle some toes and follow the bubbles. When I checked my watch it said 55:30 when I came out…perfect!! NO mega calf cramp either!
BIKE TIME: Okay, to be 100% transparent, having a ceramic speed chain, bottom bracket and pulley wheels PLUS being adapted to altitude, really boosted my bike performance. After IM Austria, I realized my bottom bracket was installed with the wrong washer on the non-drive side and during the race, it was basically seized up. Now, when the disc is free spinning, the resistance is so low…the crank turns on it’s own!! Anyway, my mission for the first 20k on the bike was to catch Miss Ryf, who is incredible by the way. After I was riding @ 70.3 effort for the first 30k or so, a group caught me and I was clear of Daniella. As I hit the first climb, 4 guys came up…and I jumped on the pain train. Eventually it ended up just being 3 of us and man, those 2 guys were hammering. Especially on the climbs. There are 2 long climbs on the first leg, the first taking about 12 minutes above 320 watts, then it’s rolling…then another longer steeper climb followed by another around the same power. There are some technical descents where I was really able to make up time on the 2 ahead of me, as I’m more of a risk taker on descents. Max speed of 60 mph baby! Then it’s flat for 20k or so until Heartbreak hill and then it’s 3’ @ 340 watts!! Climbing through a crowd of people makes the pain fade away…it was awesome! I didn’t really start to feel the pain until the last 15k or so but was luckily able to hand onto those to strong cyclists ahead of me. I think they both went onto run into top 5 so it was nice to know I can hang with them. I ALSO have to point out the the referees were on POINT during this race. They had a great rotation. Every 20’ a new bike would come up and the other would leave, I think this helps eliminate and bias…Great work there IM Switzerland! It was a super clean race from what I saw….except for the normal AG peleton’s here and there.
Marathon time: Okay, I was kinda dreading the run because I think it became a reality with 5k left on the bike, I was a bit of a mess. My low back was super tight and energy levels were a bit off. I set a mental goal to just run the first 2 laps (of 4) around 7 min to 7:15 pace. The 1st 12 miles were there, exactly what I wanted…but then my stomach really went to shit. It’s the first time I’ve had this happen. It really crippled me and it might have been due to the harder bike ride. I found that I was getting a 5’ energy boost from each gel, but eventually couldn’t stomach a gel. Starting the 3rd loop, felt like I had another mental marathon to run…I was in bad shape. Thankfully the support and encouragement from 2 strangers got me at least moving again. The last lap I was a mess and an IRONMAN aid station marshal forced me to slam some chicken broth…and a lot of it. It settled my stomach a bit and I was running 9 min miles again. I just kept repeating “finish, finish, finish”, drive energy from all of you, my friends and supporters. After the race, it actually got me quite emotional as I’ve never wanted to quite so badly but wanted to ALSO finish more than I wanted to quit. The hardest mental day of my career…for sure. Anyway, I finished with a the biggest smile and surge of emotion…it was everything I hoped it would be. The IRONMAN finish line is on a level all its own. I’m truly grateful to have gotten through this race, learned so much and I’m excited to race again. Today…I see that I was 1 position away from getting a paycheck, finishing 11th…sigh. However, to me, the ultimate victory was to give that huge fist pump at the finish as I had no clue of my position during the whole race. Ignorance is bliss!
I’m still on cloud nine having spent the past 6 weeks in a foreign land, learning and growing. I know this is the launch point of my really goal of being a champion. I’ll need to get to the mountains as much as I can, be very smart on my run training and maybe…just maybe…REALLY rest well before my next event.
Finally, for everyone who made this financially possible for me, you’ve opened huge doorways for me, into realms I’ve never imagined existed for me. I’ve got the mind and body to make this happen, I promise. Thank you for allowing me the means to travel, train and experience life in a way I’d never planned for. You know who you are…..and you don’t need a # to feel the gratitude I’m sending yourway.
The lifestyle I’ve chosen and subsequently subjected Karen to (Love you Babe!) is quite different than what I could have ever imagined. Yes, I travel to scenic and far off lands to train and compete…I don’t just wake up, work and come home like I used to while in the Air Force. When you're working for yourself, there are very few days off and the pressure is always on. This journey has now led me to the completion of my first IRONMAN, finishing 9 hours, 13 minutes. I broke the yoke or popped my cherry so to speak. I chose to do it in Austria of all places, not entirely sure why…but it had to be somewhere, right? I suppose if I rationalize, it’s because for years I’ve known Rene Vallant, a former Austrian Professional Triathlete who would visit St. Pete w/ family and friends during Austria’s colder months. Through a large network of athletes, I’ve become good friends with him, traveling to races and training together often. I believe for me, the “unknown” is a thrill and I love the idea of being in Europe. It’s intriguing and ultimately a huge challenge I wanted to take head on. I think deep down it’s why the adventur-er in me took over. While in Austria, I’ve been hosted by the Pewag team staying with Gerhard and Sonja and another American guest David Frazier (also a St. Pete local).
Here in Austria you will not find any large Walmart sized super centers, Starbucks or ANY other common establishments/chains. I’ve been shopping at a local butcher, local baker and have had a total of 2 restaurant meals. Everything else has been home cooked! It’s awesome! I’ve eaten roast deer, some of the best-dried meats, a Noodle from a local market, a bunch of sauerkraut and more bread than I care the mention. Thankfully I've enforced some self control
, as Austria is known for sweets and cakes! I’ve managed to choose them wisely and in small portion…after 5 hour training days. The food is good, the company is perfect and the views are unforgettable. I'm ONLY missing my KAREN!
IRONMAN Austria Race Report
Preparation: The week before the race was probably a tad higher in volume leaving me quite tired until around Thursday race week. Not ideal, however with another IM coming up soon, I wanted to put together some longer sessions for mental confidence. The swim and bike I knew would be decent, especially if I was able to make a bike group (which did not happen) and I knew the run would be a ultimately survival or slowing down as little as posisble. My pre race goals were quite vague, knowing I’d love to swim under an hour, bike near 4:40 and run under 3:30. I think since I put together a open Marathon early this year @ 3:10, this should be doable. Just set the freaking cruise control on the run and deal with the pain! All in all, race week was great! The Pewag lounge and social gatherings are more than what I’m used to but really, I enjoyed meeting so many people. The owner of Pewag, Castelli, Stork bikes and other heavy hitters made appearances! Pewag, for those who don’t know, make industrial strength chains for tires and other heavy machinery. They sponsor a lot of athletes on a race team but specifically have Marino, the winner of IRONMAN Austria 8 times (as of yesterday). This lounge and the support on course were among the BEST I’ve ever seen. At one point I felt like I was in the Tour De France!
What did I do race week? Not much to be honest, mostly shorter efforts at race pace, plenty of sleep and maybe a bit more nervous eating that I’m proud to remember. I think this week was near 8 hours in total with little time spent running. By Friday, I was antsy…ready to get on the course and see what the day will bring! We knew the weather was going to be a toss up, with predictions of rain and storms but we didn’t get much wind or rain until the back half of the course. It was a sprinkle here and there, enough to wet the roads. On the run, it rained a bit more but it was for 15 minutes. Normally It’s much much warmer, so I was very happy for mild temperature.The race director made the most common sense decisions I've ever seen. Stefan Leitner was a huge supported of pro athletes and made some decisions that made this event flow! Huge recommendation for this venue!
Will I be back for this race next year? YES! My plan is to maybe spend some more time in Europe, in this mountainous terrain. Maybe I will plan to race a 70.3 and a 140.6 instead of 2X 140.6. The village it took to get me here is truly something I reach for on days like yesterday. I think of those who will still be on the course hours after me, those tracking me, those who love me (a short list I’m sure, lol) and those who are screaming at me to GO GO GO even though I couldn’t go any faster even for 1 billion dollars!! Finally, the financial burden of this trip has been heavily cut down at it’s knees by staying with Gerhard and Sonja, cooking my own meals and doing little else. Without my financial sponsors, Brett and Karen, I’d be on a college kids diet of ramen and bullion cubes.
Now…I must plan for IRONMAN Switzerland and it’s 4 loop run course, yikes!
After a solid day of eating, I took a nice stroll on the IRONMAN Florida course since it was only 10 miles away. Let’s just say after all that jet fuel, I felt awesome! However, don’t get too excited, we have a 10 hour car ride to Raleigh, NC. I actually did something smart though. I was like, hey…we should break this drive up over 2 days! So on Wednesday, we headed to Jacksonville where I booked a pet friendly hotel. Why was it pet friendly? Because the bed could be hosed down with a power washer after we left. Basically….a bed, television and bathroom on damp tile floors….ooops. No big deal, it’s only 1 night! Thursday morning was another 6 hour stent to Raleigh, where we stopped at Savanah and Florence for some Panera and other dog related activities. Finally…Thursday at 3pm, we arrive at the Air BnB I booked in Raleigh! 10 minutes from the convention center and T2!
This time….my decision was solid! Our host does research on all public bike path usage in the state of NC. A total bike enthusiast, who recycles, composts, has her own jam, bike decorations and chickens in the backyard. Totally awesome! Anyway, it was a great place to get settled in with the pups and Karen loved it!
From here onward…it’s standard race stuff, but I promise to make it fun!
I may not have finished in the top 10. I may not have even finished top 20…I finished 21st male pro. So why am I so excited?
I’ve spent 3 years turning myself into a training, eating, coaching machine. After dealing with many learning experiences; aka…races gone bad, it’s like finding a unicorn when I feel how I want to feel on race day. I’m learning how important a training environment is for my development as an athlete AND as a coach. It’s why I dedicate so much time traveling to tough terrain, where I can get out of my comfort zone on a daily basis. I’ll throw myself at any mountain climb, masters swim sessions and technical trail running in efforts to diversify my fitness and get super pitted in the name of research. Typically, most of my races involved a lot of hills or mountains so it only makes sense to get stronger on the long climbs. During the sessions, countless hours of training and multiple ups and downs, I am forced to find out who I really am, resisting the urge to “tap out” often. Why am I doing this to myself? I mean there isn’t any large monetary pay out at the moment and I am working harder then I ever have before but It’s all so I can have a race like I did at 70.3 St. George. It’s a big leap of confidence since I did not finish last year, the ultimate type of redemption!
The build up for this race was a bit of a last minute decision. My initial plan was to train in Salt Lake City for a week and a half, then drive over to Wildflower a week earlier. After a lot of thought, it made more sense to spend another week at altitude and only drive 4.5 hours to St. George vs 8+ hours to Wildflower. Also, my coach and a few other great athletes were there to train with me so I couldn’t pass it up. Training partners truly make for the best sessions that will ultimately make race day fitness boosts possible. Lesley and I will throw down the gauntlet and can dig to another level of pain when working together! You MUST have people who drive you further than you thought possible. Salt Lake City/Park City was the best place I could have gone in order to get ready for this race. Even if the weather was supposed to be HOT in St. George.
Again, why am I soo happy with this race? Well last year at Austin 70.3 I ran what I knew I could off the bike and after 2 sub par races this year, I wasn’t sure if St. George would produce. It’s a brutal course when it’s NOT freezing, wet, hailing and windy, with temperatures normally above 90 deg! I not only biked within the goals I set, I ran with the highest intensity the whole time. At Puerto Rico and Oceanside I felt lethargic on the back half of the run, giving up a lot of time and position. I raced the entire run!, Full on at St.George! All in all, it is the race I needed to nail the next…5 or 6 races!!
This past month was an experience that will define me as an athlete. I met and trained with friendly, grounded people who were more giving than I could imagine. I always say at one point in my life, I hope I can give back as much if not more than others have given to me. I’m so grateful to know athletes who will open their homes and lives to my hectic triathlon lifestyle. Honestly, it got me a little emotional the day after the race on my easy spin up snow canyon as I was SO greatful. I was able to get to know so many people on this trip I would have otherwise missed out on. Also, since I switched races, Karen was able to be there with me. After 3 weeks apart I was SOO looking forward to being around her, especially on race day. What else is new? I’m trying to do my best to market myself a bit more, relaying my experiences to those who would love to be with me! Also, representing sponsors is also a key point of my life, so thank you for supporting those who support me and TRIBAL Multi-Sport.
I’ll spare you the traditional race analysis but just know that there were noticeable benefits from adding a Cermamic Speed Chain and derailleur pulleys to my bike, about 12 watts to be accurate. So a huge thanks to the guys at the expo who changed out my gear and cleaned up my bike. It was a breathe of fresh air since my rig was trashed from all the bad weather in SLC. Also, EPIX gear has sent me a number of kits to try out this year, always finding the best way to add value to my experience. The Aero TRI kit was very well received. I got TONS of complements on the look of that thing! I also visited Scott headquarters while I was in SLC where they rolled out their in depth company history, current market standings and how hard it is to be a bike company these days. My ultimate goal is to proudly represent them as I DO stand behind their passion for bikes. Also, they make a damn good product.
So here I am, still trying to remember every second of that race, absorbing the great energy and gearing up to do it again in Raleigh! There are tons of athletes out there and I can’t you thank you enough for taking the time to follow me, support me and for always having my back! Now what did I eat out there? Here are some pics of what really matters!
Before we hit the MEAT of this blog, I really want to take a minute to shed some light on what YOU can get involved in when you visit these amazing race locations. We usually don't appreciate what we have until it's gone or until there has been some sort of tragedy (sadly) so in order to fix that, I definitely try and give back a bit more than I used to. Why? It helps keep everything in perspective. I mean seriously, sometimes my biggest stress is that the headset on my bike is loose As much as I see success all around, there are examples of the struggle and turmoil everywhere. Karen and I took a few hours as More Than Sport Ambassadors, partnering with Race2Rebuild and we cleaned/painted a church dedicated to youth services. Some of the kids came out to see us but the 15 volunteers we met WORKED their butts off! I mean it's like 85 degrees and SO humid and we're scraping walls and floors, planting gardens and getting sweaty...15 hours before the race. It was a huge honor to work behind such dedicated athletes! Trust me, they broke their backs to make this church shine! Alway, please check out the links and consider donating some time! You can organize a school-supply drive, food donation...the sky is the limit!
I was sooooo excited to race 70.3 San Juan! I was thrilled to be back in Puerto Rico, one of my first, unforgettable half iron events! I had some great sessions building to this race, high energy and my good luck charm (Karen) on site! BUT>……
It’s hard to know that you were ready, yet came up short…said every triathlete. No matter how many “CONGRATS” or love you get post-race, there’s always that deep nagging voice that says, “you could have done better”. I suppose it’s why we continually show up on race day. If we KNEW we would kick serious ass and WIN, it wouldn’t be a test. It’s why I have hope, despite wanting to be one of the very best in the world RIGHT FREAKING NOW. I know it’s this journey that defines who I am and it’s why my story matters. The lifestyle, the hours spent alone on the bike, the copious amounts of delicious,healthy food…it’s all worth it. Honestly, looking back at this past race, I still came away with some knowledge and some tools for the next race….only 14 days away @ 70.3 Oceanside. I just saw the start list and it's awesome to line up with the best!
So how does a guy like me, with zero background in endurance sports get to travel around, race all year and be his own boss? Discipline! I wake up at 4 am, handle some admin work, respond to e-mails, book tickets, eat breakfast and brew some coffee. Whoa whoa whoa, why do I wake up so early? Because it’s when my body wants to wake up. If I don’t set an alarm I still wake up within 15 min of that time. Plus I feel great, look forward to the routine and prepare for the days training load. After the food digests I either head to a to the gym, swim, bike or…YOU guessed it, run! I like to get all major sessions in before 1pm but the longer days don’t usually end until 3-4 pm. Sometimes, driving to and from training locations adds some extra time but the bulk is spent grinding it out. I usually plan all my food in advance and know where I’ll stop or have some food on hand. Either way, I PLAN. Someone once told me “I sometimes forget to eat”. Really? Do you forget to start your car with keys?
Oh man that sounds so awesome doesn’t it? When I used to do all of this and work full time, I’d have said it was going to be super easy but human beings find any excuse to stress or complain. So how could I not tell you that it’s still the hardest work I’ve ever done. My biggest weeks are almost that of a full time job if you don’t include recovery. Either way just know, I usually smell afwul, have a bag of wet clothes, drive around in a stinky car, go to bed super early and have tantrums if I don’t eat when I need to eat. Karen would say I turn into a Diva. I have to constantly apologize for the things I did when hangry, hiritated, or huncomfrtable.
Despite the seemingly illogical complaints and brief moments of diva-ness, I generally keep the discipline on high alert. I want to be a contender at the highest level of this sport and I want it now. Patience is my weakest area as it is for most control freaks…so I’ve evolved a bit, learning to take it as it comes, only focusing on what I can control. It’s why 70.3 San Juan doesn’t get me too down. It was an opportunity to dominate or meet my goals and yes, the sun still rose even when I ran like poo. So here is the recap of the event in a brief, efficient rundown.
All in all I’m happy with the nutrition plan I set out and looking further into the training load, I might not have been as fit as I was last 70.3…which should have been pretty obvious. But who really thinks logically when they want to do great things? I will continually set the sights high and know that when it clicks, big things are going to happen! I still have a LOT of racing to do this season and I think Oceanside will be a chance for redemption. The Pro field will still beat the crap out of me but I can’t stop….wont stop!
Having just wrapped up my first 4 weeks of solo-suffer fest utopia out west, I have to say I'm very excited to see where I am come 20 March. It'll be the first 70.3 of the season down in Puerto Rico. I've been there before a few years ago and remember the tough run. At the time, it really put me in my place and I remember my legs throbbed so bad and I was so hot, I collapsed right into an ice bath! It was also the first time I crashed and got some road rash. I know you're concerned...but please know it was during a 180 degree turn around on wet pavement. The front wheel lost traction on a slick painted yellow line, like I was on ice. So the big story for today is....I'm pumped to go back! Here's a look back @ some 2013 pics!
Where I Was and What I Did...
I spent around 30 days out west, hoping for as much time in challenging terrain as I could get. It started with a Camp in San Diego, where it was basically 7 days of pure intensity. Setting a huge 4min PR up Palomar Mountain, hitting some sub 5:20 mile repeats on the run, mentally overcoming some long hill climbs @ 45rpm and swimming very fast made this trip GREAT. San Diego really has it all, especially when it comes to quality swim groups. Encinitas Masters and Mission Valley YMCA are my prime swim locations, followed by the UCSD Masters program. Beyond that, the riding is crazy good...almost impossible to get bored with a route! The final crux to my existence since living in Florida has been hill running! I've known it's a weakness since I started, however I face it head on whenever I can.
- And then I froze my ass off and grazed a guard rail -
After this fun week, the plan was to travel to Tucson with my 4 favorite training partners. Well I should say now that I understand life happens but I still can't help but talk some smack. Basically, everyone bailed on me, despite planning this for 5 months! I guess being totally alone for all these rides added some value to my internal dialogue...but really, I'm so thankful for Audiobooks and Pandora-One!!!
Tucson, AZ is a place I've been for 2 years straight with the USMES camp, however this year it's an elite cycling camp only and later in the year. There are about 5 or 6 different rides you can jump on, however they all very in pain induction. I decided to spend the first few days getting in some of the more popular climbs, hitting Madera Canyon and Kitt Peak. What I didn't intend to do...is almost lose my toes!! I knew it was going to be cold, so I invested in some very nice Rapha clothing. The problem is, once you've worked really hard up hill w/ a tail wind, you sweat. Then, once you take a quick breather at the top and come down, you're hit with sub 30 deg winds!! Madera canyon wasn't so bad since it's not at 7000ft...I wasn't happy but I survived and endured! Day 2 led me to Kitt Peak. This mountain is quite far from civilization and I could probably ride to Mexico in under an hour after the climb. My point is, it's remote (this is an issue later). Like any responsible cyclist, I plan the route...know my food stops and understand I'll be solo, bring extra clothing etc. I even went to a shop and got some additional toe warmers and such. The climb up is probably one of the best views around. As you're not on a mountain range, you get the full panoramic view and nothing comes close to being as high in elevation near-by. The road started to get icy around 6000 feet and I started to feel quite shitty with the cold/sweat thing going on again. The head wind and temps up there were much worse on the way down and my cold, wet clothing quickly screwed my reality. I made it about 3 miles down on the decent, literally riding brakes as much as I could to limit wind infiltration. I stopped about 5 times to try and compose myself but my hands/arms were locked, couldn't' open them up (which was okay since they helped squeeze the brakes). Now I'd like to point out that when you're this cold, you become very disoriented. I decided since the oncoming traffic lane had sunlight on it, I'd try to ride there for some hope of sun-warmth. Wind + downhill + mentally disoriented + lock-tite legs and arms + nonexistent motor control = guard rail. After that incident I about lost it..."how the F*** am I getting off this climb"? There are cars every 20-30 min...no help! About 5 min after my last stop and I knew I needed a ride to the bottom, a big truck comes up and I wave him down. WOO HOO he blasted the heat and brought me to the bottom...where it was 40 degrees! I still had about 30 miles back to the car and would finally regain feeling in my toes later that night...I was worried about those guys. Ever been so cold you are scared to remove your socks and see blackness??? AHHH....whew, they are still a weird skin tone after all! I'll never forget that day and how I was out on my ass but still made it home!
After that debacle I decided I've push off climbing Mt. Lemmon until I was better rested and the temperatures increased. After a few days warming up on some great rides, swims and trail runs...it was time for Mt. Lemmon. I decided to ride from where I was staying...so a 100 mile round trip. With the head winds and hills, it took 90 min for the first 22 miles or so and I was pretty broken up when I finally got to the base and knew I still had 24 miles of climbing. I had some low points due to the head wind while climbing and being blown into another guard rail after a car grazed me...but I soldiered onward. Mt. Lemmon is unique and my favorite because you start at a desert climate but summit into a ski town surrounded by evergreens! All that bitching and moaning aside, I made it up there...slammed some pizza and root beer and knew I had a long way back. 6.5 hours later and I was at whole foods, eating a huge box of food!
After all the mayhem on the bike, after all the hard solo work. Here are the stats pre- LA Marathon.
- Total Time: 90 Hours
- Swim Yards - 52,000
- Bike Miles - 960 miles
- Run Miles - 140 miles (not bad for a bike focus)
- Bike/Run Elevation Gain - 103,380 ft
I went though 3 Bags of INFINIT!!! Bike and Run Blend GET SOME HERE
Finally, it was time for Karen and I to take part in the LA Marathon! Finally, I truly experienced real California traffic in all its glory. LA is by far much worse then both San Diego and San Francisco! I also cannot wrap my head around just how BIG LA is...and so wide-spread! Either way, thanks to Karen's awesome friend Thom, we stayed in a beautiful home located in Pasadena (away from the smog)! After all of the hard work on the bike over the previous weeks I can't say I was very confident in my ability to run a 3 hour marathon, however I was going to give it my best shot! Here is how it went down:
- It's a point to point race, from Dodgers Stadium to Santa Monica...travel logistics were tough. We had to Uber our way back to the stadium...$95!!! Despite the expense, it was the best way we could have done it post race. My legs hurt as bad as they did for my first marathon over 9 years ago! I'll keep it simple and call it the THROB!! Race morning was seamless, despite having to sneak into a seeded coral. Oh wait...I didn't get to pee before the race, so I held it until mile 18 (sigh). Stopping is the worst when you're hurting but seriously, had to go! I started right in front of the 3:05 pace group and was doing well until mile 17 when they passed me up. By that point, the THROB was in full effect...hip flexors and IT bands like old crusty rubber bands left out in the freezing weather. Why did I run this race? I wanted to get one under my belt despite being quite beat...I Wanted to see if I could fight my way out of the corner and I wanted to know that I can persevere despite tremendous TRHOB! After all was said and done a 3:11 Marathon was the best I could give on the day and I'm super happy for that! Plus, I'll be racing 2 IM's this year and it's time to pony up and start to earn!
Here are some races I'll be nailing this season :)
Thanks Jay Weber for letting me crash at your case anytime I need to! You're seriously the most generous friend!
On a personal level, it was definitely one of the most impactful and memorable years. Why? 2015 marked my first year as a dedicated endurance coach, pro triathlete and veteran. After 10 years of active duty in the U.S Air Force, I finally realized, I truly need to be in charge of my own future. No longer would I depend on the steady and reasonable military paycheck and benefits…it was time to toss it all aside, start from scratch and do my own thing. Sure, it sounds crazy! I essentially left a career only 10 years from “retirement”. I decided to walk away from the stable, predictable lifestyle about 8 months before it was over. Having found a tremendous passion within the sport of triathlon I quickly realized my new direction in life; Pro Triathlete, Future Champion and Endurance Coach. A direction I really wish I could have found much earlier, since now I’m playing a bit of catch-up. Despite the obvious perils and adjustments required when striking out on your own, I find it fits my personality. So not only was 2015 huge for my career, it was even bigger for my love life. Karen, my fiancé, never once questioned or doubted my direction during the course of these changes. Without her generous support and race-sherpa-ing over the past 2 years of moving, traveling and changing, I’d be petrified in a permanent fetal position. Needless to say it’s why I asked her to be my wife and the icing on the cake concerning 2015’s epic-ness.
2015 was my first break-out year training full-time with a new coach and mentor. If I’m going to do this thing, I’m going to do it right. My coach Lesley Patterson and my business partner Jon Noland have been instrumental concerning my professional development. Despite these past dedicated years, in too many ways, I’m still a kid when it comes to this sport. In the course of 5 epic years of triathloning, I’ve been groomed, educated, certified, mentored and pushed beyond all limits…with much more to learn. I had zero background in competitive sports until 5 years ago. I was never a track star and worked (making pizza) during high school. I was (am) just an incredibly hard worker. I even took my Pizza skills to the next level, winning the pie-in-the sky dough-spinning award in 2010 (kidding). We all thrive in an environment we’re engaged in, hence my sporadic stellar grades in certain college classes I was interested in. For that reason, triathlon became my essence. My success is totally dependent on ME! 100% of every single moment dedicated training, suffering and overcoming means a direct positive change for my future performance. I started small, taking out a few local nemeses. Odd are, if you live in Tampa Bay area from 2012 to present and have some top results in the local races, I made a mental note to try and humbly destroy you. I surrounded myself with the best training group; bought the best gear I could afford and trained when everyone else slept. Mind you, until now I did this while working a full day. Luckily, my leadership in the Air Force totally supported me since I also worked just as hard for them. It also helped that I was part of the Air Force Triathlon team. 2015…the start of the rest of my life.
Sure there were also plenty of races in 2015. When I look back at the traveling, lessons learned and races around the country, I can really only say one thing…”Meh”! Like any of the athletes I work with, I get a bit ahead of myself often setting outlandish goals, searching for that perfect race. There’s never a perfect race, duh. Even if there was, a triathletes mind doesn’t allow for it. How many times have you seen your friend win their age group, win a race or set a huge PR yet STILL complain about the damn water temperature, wind direction or aid stations not handing them water properly? I mean, it’s total blasphemy! As a coach, I’ve had to remind athletes they’ve literally PR’d EVERY distance of running from 5k to marathon since joining our squad and I still get a response of “yea, I guess that’s good”. (Rant Over)
Here are all of the fun Photos I browsed through recently. I think they give a solid depiction of how truly amazing this journey has been, with all the people places and races....life couldn't be better.
Back to my races in 2015! If you want see how I placed, check my results page. If you want to see how the races went, find the blog for that specific race as I wont bore you with mindless talks of splits, how I “felt” and whatever else happened to prevent me from winning besides the overall rookie year….I’ve got a few more years hoping for top 10’s before I can even think about a top 5! This sport is super hard and the top-fastest guys don’t look to be slowing down. So until I put in my time, allow for gradual adaptations of speed and mental toughness…I can only expect to be on a rolling hill course of ups and downs. Luckily I know it’s going to happen since I’ll turn myself inside out during training, learn from the best and will always be inspired by the athletes I’m coaching with the same mindset.
The 2016 season is set for the most part and I’ll be competing in Ironman Austria this June, moving up in race distance from 70.3’s. There will still be a butt load of 70.3 races but I want to see how I hold up for the 140.6! I’ve had 2 botched attempts thus far but have since put in huge volumes of training towards mental prep. All that matters is, its on…it’s on like Donkey Kong. I’ll be running my first competitive marathon next weekend, straight into a 3-week training block in San Diego and Tucson, finally wrapping up with the LA marathon on Valentines Day (with Karen). Then it’s onto the race where I had my first crash, 70.3 Puerto Rico. Shortly after, it’s time for the annual progress check against the always-stacked field at 70.3 Oceanside. I expect these first few months to fly by in a blur of adventure. Sometimes the only way to remember all of the fun times is to look back at your iPhone’s photo stream (hence the photos above)!
Finally, all of this costs money, hook-ups and freebies within the industry. I’ll be working my butt off for a few companies that I’ve really benefited from and built a positive, growing relationship. It’s hard to find companies willing to help build a future athlete so my hat’s off to these guys:
A few weeks ago I came across this video during one of the heaviest training blocks of my life. Since then I've adopted #pitted to how I felt over those 2 weeks training 1 on 1 with my coach. Getting pitted has seriously become a dual term for how I live each day. At times getting pitted means I'm totally turning myself inside out; descending at 50mph, about to puke/die/pass-out on some hill repeats. Other times it's a way of life, living with the exact California goober mindset this dude has...just seriously getting amped by what I love. How the heck did I make so many deep mental connections with this ridiculous video and it's hilarious antics? I suppose when you're mentally stretched to new areas...any little mantra will get you going and prevent you from tossing your bike off the side of Palomar Mountain. So there it is folks....get #pitted in your own way and never forget this badass surfer who is probably high, totally stoked and loves barrels WAPAHHH.
A Butt Load Info You NEED to Read
First off...let's recap the past 2 months of no blogging....
AUGUST - Seawheeze Half Marathon in Vancouver and Challenge Epenticton -
Let me start off first by saying how annoyed I am that spell check on my computer and iPhone doesn't recognize Penticton as a word. This means EVERY TIME I tried to type it out I would get corrected 3 or 4 times, until the device realized "oh snap, they probably are misspelling this shit on purpose". I have had to re-correct "auto correct" about a google times from Epenticton (how is that a word) to actual "Penticton". You can also imagine that while writing all this out, I've had to deal with rising frustration as AGAIN my computer auto corrects my spelling. Go ahead and try it....type out Penticton 3 times and see how long it takes to not have it changed....I dare you!
Oh so anyway, back to the real deal. Karen and I LOVE Vancouver and used SeaWheeze 1/2 marathon as an excuse to get there. Because let's be honest, why else would we travel anywhere? We need to be incentivized by a freaking race! We also were hosted by the best Canadian Ambassador we've ever met! Thank you Jordan....I'm coming to crash your home in the future for some awesome Vancouver Training.
As far as the 1/2 marathon goes, it was spectacular! If you aren't familiar, it's hosted by lulu lemon...so it's like Estrogen-fest. I can't lie though, I have done my best to replace 90% of my wardrobe with lulu lemon...it's so damn comfortable! This was a no pressure race for me, just wanted to see how I could perform on a hilly 1/2. Unfortunately I started in the wrong corral, missing the 1st because the dividers weren't anywhere to be found. Either way, I still ran a 1:22, perfectly balanced and finished 5th overall. I could have used some "Rabbits" though as I was alone when I bridge from 1st to second corral group...either way it was a beautiful weather and location! After the race, I rode my bike from Vancouver to Whistler...a beautiful 80 mile ride! Karen was kind enough to drive up there and meet me so I didn't have to ride back. (Reason 1099 why we are now engaged).
-Challenge Epenticton 70.3-
So this race is the same day as 70.3 Worlds....the field shouldn't be too stacked right? It's also super far from any convenient airport and in another country too. I mean we flew into Spokane and drove 4.5 hours because it was so expensive to fly direct! All of these thoughts were gone when I saw the start list....70.3 champions galore! I suppose the previous IM Canada course brings in a lot of able bodied Pro's looking for some $$. This didn't really change anything from normal races though. When you're stuck to a lot of U.S based races, the fields are often pretty packed and they are getting deeper each year. All of that aside, this place would be awesome for a training block too. Each morning I woke up and swam in the pristine lake that had a 900 meter white buoy line all the way down the coast. The water temp was PERFECT...hovering right below 70 degrees. Personally, I like it colder! It feels like anti-freeze cooling me off as I give max effort!
So anyway...again, I was pleased to have my Vancouver host (Jordan) here announcing for the race. We were able to meet up for some training shenanigans too, where he tried to kill me on my pre-race run....how nice! The town is perfectly designed for a huge event but this year, #'s were super low! I swear there were no more than 1000 athletes racing. Hopefully in a few years it becomes another huge race! The course was very tough too, with a ferocious 20mph head wind, bumpy roads and some steep climbs! The run course wasn't too challenging but for me...it was mentally tough since I was rapidly deteriorating. The good news was I swam a PR and feel I can even swim faster in the future! The only down side for this race was the smoke caused by surrounding wild fires. In the days before the race it was really heavy, however on race day the gail force winds blew it all away....perfect if you ask me!
Latest and Greatest!
Karen and I are getting married! After months and months of steady, low dose drugs....I was able to keep her at a such a low buzz...she said YES to my proposal! My plan worked!!! But seriously, we are getting married and it's probably the most exiting time of our lives. We've always hated the wedding cliches but it's very easy to get caught up in! I think the main goal for both of is to celebrate with loves ones! Besides the holidays, it's rare we would ever be able to get so many of our best friends and family together for an occasion! Bring on the months of planning, invitations, more planning and then PARTY!
With this week being monumental on many levels, I had planned 70.3 as a victory lap. The previous world championship course is every athletes biggest challenge. This course contains every challenge you could think of. The water was VERY choppy due to high winds...slowing us all down and making it near impossible to swim straight. Being a few minutes off the first pack is huge, considering I'm still only 5 years into any sort of swimming! After kicking a few large rock running out of the water, I couldn't wait to get on my bike. Having ridden some of the course over the past few days, I was really looking forward to the challenge...but didn't expect the winds to be so high. In retrospect, I may have ridden a 404 front and rear instead of a disc rear/404 front. I found I was really able to make up time on the fast descents but going UP was a bit more challenging with a very strong head/cross wind. When you're fighting to go downhill, it's pretty freaking windy. Right before the turn around point, energy levels started to trend downward and my body was feeling very tight. There is a list of reasons I'm looking into for this, but I know I'm a stronger rider and can handle this intensity....something was not right. This puzzle always seems to be complete but is then totally destroyed!! Either way around 40 miles I was over it....despite reminding myself of how awesome the week had been. I new I felt good enough to run and rode conservative, only averaging 273 NP and riding the exact 2:26 I had planned using Best Bike Split. The first was like my run at Penticton...no energy, super high HR. No matter how many times I said "Fudge it" and tried to GO, it was the same answer every time! At that point I had really been counting my cards. Knowing I was going to be passed by pretty much everyone if I "Finished"....leaving me with another race complete...but still feeling frustrated at the same time, it made sense to just sit it out. I gave the best 5 miles and after I packed it in, it was apparent I needed to. I found some uncontrollable coughing each time I took a deep breath and felt totally lethargic...I still think the bike nutrition needs work. Each race is an experiment for me, especially being so young in the sport. I have to accept these races will unfold like this from time to time, no matter how frustrating....I can't think of anything else I want to succeed so badly with....I will grind my way to the top, that's a promise.
Now it's back to the drawing board...more testing and training hours ahead!
"Although I didn't feel 'bad' , rarely was there a time where I felt 'comfortable'. The frigid cold, unrelenting 10+% grade climbs, cramps, mild GI issues, frustrations with being mediocre at my strongest event and battling the emotional ripples this realization caused. Resiliency, determination, self realization, trust, and acceptance sum up aspects of this race and it was the toughest singular athletic quest I've ever done." Patrick Ellison
For the die hard triathletes, Norseman Xtreme Triathlon represents the #1 race on the bucket list. This is probably because, if you haven't heard, it's the most bad ass triathlon in the world. Before Patrick was selected to be one of the 9, U.S competitors, I'd only guessed at the true value of earning a black T-Shirt. That's right! The BLACK T-SHIRT, given to the first 160 athletes to reach the cut off point. The cut off point sits atop a monstrous system of switchbacks called Zombie hill. You can probably guess why, considering the grade is above 8%...starting from 25K, it's a freaking HIKE. The tough and driven athletes who make the Black T-Shirt list have already survived 2.4 miles (only 1900m this year due to <50 degree water temps) in the Fjord, suffered for almost 6.5 to 7 hours on the bike, climbing over 10,000ft and FINALLY ran their hearts out for 32K to secure a position to be among the best.
This journey started quite awhile back when Patrick notified me he would apply for the Norseman lottery, where they only allocate a small number of positions to U.S athletes. Before I forget, I'd like to note that 47 countries were represented by 249 athletes, with only 36 being women. Don't judge them for being sexist either, they often don't fill all of the female slots. So anyway, Patrick calls me and notifies me "it's on, I'm racing Norseman".
A very unique aspect of this race, is that each athlete must have a support crew or crew member through the duration of the event. This means Patrick was also soliciting me to be a Uber-Sherpa for one of the most challenging races I've ever heard of. It's takes place in a brutal, unforgiving and frigid environment he will have a hard time recreating while training in San Antonio, TX. My thought after our phone conversation was "holy shit he actually made it in". I also, remembered Patrick Finished St. George IM (on its last year) and savage man 70.3, which are/were some of the toughest events in the U.S.
Most people fly into Oslo or Bergen. Oslo is about a 5 hour drive to Eidfjord and Bergen is about 2.5 hours. Why drive from Oslo? Because you get to drive a LOT of the bike course and the views are absolutely stunning!! You'll also need to rent a larg-ish vehicle. I recommend a wagon, small SUV or small van *** the roads are very narrow so be mindful!. Also, if you have the means to do so, a two person support crew is ideal. Luckily Patrick's good friend Chad was able to join us, providing some welcomed companionship during our travels. We spent about 13 hours in a car, constantly shifting supplies, food and keeping each other awake. We crammed 3 years of bonding into one very long car ride....epic.
Depending on where you're staying, plan to wake up around between 1:30 and 2:30 am. We were about 30 minutes north with a STUNNING view. We stayed at hotel Ullensvang since everything in Eidfjord was booked. TOTALLY worth the price and drive. We couldn't have been in a fancier place! We also had access to some grocery stores too, so it's not 100% vital to stock up before you get there. So the overall idea is...you and your athlete will have a VERY long day. Even after ONLY providing support all day, I was smashed when I was allowed to join Patrick for the last 18k or so. I was astonished he climbed up a freaking mountain!!! Check the elevation chart below....the very end is the mountain top finish.
Finally, you'll need to make hotel accommodations in Eidfjord for the start of the race and then stay in Rjuken for the finish. Most people stayed at the top of Zombie hill, which was coordinated by the race directors and where the awards ceremony was held. It was also full so we had to stay 15 min away....in Rjuken.
Race Morning etc...
1:50 am, only 4 hours after I managed to fall asleep...time to get the car packed for the day! Having 3 people, a bike box and all of our luggage meant a 100% packed car. Luckily we had some friends to help shuttle us down to the race site. Armed with 20lbs of food (mainly junk food) and all of our gear we set out on a road narrow enough for 1.5 cars...
- T1 and SWIM - 1 Crew member is allowed to help their athlete during T1 set-up. Make sure you have your yellow reflective vest, GPS unit and head/taillights. They will NOT let you enter until you can provide all of those items and YES they are very strict about this. T1 was open from about 2:30 to 3:45....but It was early and I'm sure my times are a bit fudged. The crew member allowed in T1 should be very involved in the set-up because they will likely be dressing the freezing and incoherent athlete after the frigid swim. Plan for accidental nudity, bring some towels and accept that your athlete will shiver A LOT as their cold blood returns back to their core (it's normal). The Ferry leaves around 4 am and these Norwegian's are very prompt! Patrick was all set with his XTERRA Wetsuit, booties and neoprene head cover...we could only hope he'd find some comfort within the last 60 minutes, because it was about to be ON! The ferry pumped Fjord water into it's cargo bay so athletes could splash it in their face, preventing certain shock! From the shore we could see the ferry, hear the cannon and knew they were off! Now....there aren't any buoys to follow...just a wall of kayaks and a viking like fire on the shore...pretty awesome.
Plan for 6-8 Hours of Saddle Time
Patrick said the shivering and cold lasted until the first 18k on the bike so make sure you dress warm. The good thing (i suppose) is you'll be climbing at a slow rate for about the first 90 min to 120 min, allowing the primary muscles to generate some heat. The athlete cannot receive any support for the first 20k. Also, If you're not too strong in the cold, you'd better put on every warm article possible, you can shed them later to your support crew. Patrick had a solid set-up with a few pairs of gloves, a pair for each variation of cold and wind. Also, I don't care how strong of a cyclist you are....come to this race with a compact crank and a 11-28 cassette. The climb up Imingfjell is very steep and if you'll notice...it's the 5th and 2nd longest climb. With 250 athletes on the course, you've also got to be very aware of your surroundings...since that means 250+ support vehicles blazing around. Also, keep in mind there will be some Italians driving...and they are aggressive! Any illegal activity the support crew gets caught up in will be a time penalty for their athlete, so be careful out there.
After seeing Patrick handle the emotional battle of the bike course, we had no idea how we would feel or fair on the run. Needless to say, after the steep, grinding effort up that last climb...he was emotionally challenged to a entirely different level then he had ever experienced. The last 20k is a non-support zone since it's a very technical descent, so we headed to T2 to set-up for his arrival. He actually made up 3 or 4 minutes on the descent, putting him in 153rd position heading onto the run course...only 3 positions behind is good friend Simon, another American who Patrick works with.
This is how the run breaks down. It's a 25K run to Zombie hill, where you'll be pretty much power hiking. The goal here is knock out that 25k as fast as possible, holding your position until the hill. At 25K one of your crew members can join you for the last, long ascent up the mountain...to the tallest point in Norway.
Within the first 2 or 3 miles, after working out some cramps and a well needed bathroom break, Patrick looked GREAT. I was worried some GI issues would take him out but I think as a team we planned and executed very well. After, passing a few people and also being passed by a couple of dudes, Patrick hit 25K around 153 position...holding strong. At that point, him and I spend the next 4 hours working our way to the top of a mountain. This power hike took HUGE mental focus by Patrick as each big step threatened to lock up any part of his deteriorating body. We used some mantra's, some good old fashioned mind tricks and a high tempo strut until we hit 37K....the black shirt cut off. Believe it or not, we had a bunch of power stepping vultures behind us who also wanted their Black T. Everyone after the 160 person cut-off had to finish with a white shirt and was not allowed to summit Gaustatoppen (they took a different route)...a barren rock wasteland in the clouds.
It was emotional to say the least but as any triathlete knows, the journey is long and full of unforeseen events. The absolute drive within each of us needs to be measured from time to time, requiring great sacrifice and let's face it.....this is an expensive trip. This sport isn't cheap on any level but nothing worth having comes at a small price. I can honestly say that I've never experienced such a challenging event! My hats off to anyone who can push through such extreme circumstances and finish, let alone earn the black t-shirt. It was a privilege to coach Patrick to and through Noresman. I had to ask a lot from him and he'll be the first to say he sacrificed a lot along the way. Many women had their hearts broken when he had 5+ hour rides to accomplish...rather then spending quality time doing what normal people do. Norway is an amazing place to visit and the Norseman crew truly put their heart and soul into this race...it was truly World Class on every single level. Oh and if you're going as support crew, remember you have to walk back down the 90-120 min ascent up the mountain....It wasn't as bad though. Plus, the number of older folks and younger children doing this kinda brings it to another level....this is their weekend "family time". Norwegians are freaking tough!
"This effort and success are not mine alone. They are the direct result of a coach that designed a 9 month program of diabolical training evolutions. A guy who was there at a moments notice and even stood by my side to the very end. Always pushing me to journey on in the bitter cold, wind, rain, and sleet in spite a body and mind that wanted to quit. Onward to the highest point in Norway, a mother of a climb to finish atop Gaustatoppen. Thanks Nick you're one in a million." Patrick Ellison