After the Wednesday Kit Peak Climb, I think we were all ready for a more relaxed day. Personally, I was ready for a “real food” fueled day. The OSMO and Honey Stinger products certainly kept me in gear for hard days, but my body needed a small break. On that note, Nicholas Sterghos and I decided we would break in our new bikes, spend a little time away from the cycling group and take a break from hard riding (sort of). The “triathlon” program at the US Military Endurance Sports Team is still developing so time trial bikes weren’t really allowed unless you were on the elite team, plus I needed it for Sundays race. That meant we had to venture out on our own, no big deal. I definitely see a large future within this program, especially since our Triathlon Elite Team director Kathy Rakel has already started plans motion to tailor a camp for triathletes.
My new whip, the Scott Plasma Premium, rode very smooth and despite riding it only once before camp, I was definitely comfortable. Joel at Flying Fish Bikes has taken care of me for about 3 solid years now and the bike fit is always legit! It’s one of the better-looking bikes out there too, so it’s nice to ride an “eye catcher”. It’s like having a supermodel around…everyone is interested in it…and I get to say “yea, that’s mine”. We headed to a nice park with an 8 mile loop, pretty technical with fast corners. It’s definitely a rush to bank a corner at 28 mph, feeling the wheels grip, the wind blasting through the carbon. All of the road cycling has totally boosted my bike handling skills on the Tri-Bike. I TOTALLY recommend you get on a road machine and get comfortable with it. Nicholas Sterghos was also able to break in his new Scott Foil 10. Finally a bike that fits him!
Friday was the big one…a 26+ mile climb up Mt. Lemmon, a 100+ mile journey overall. This was another reason we decided to chill out on Thursday. With all the (earned) breaks, it ended up being an 8 hour day with about 5+ hours of riding. The breaks were spent eating a cookie the size of my face and two pieces of normally “illegal” pizza. The climb to the top was astonishing. It was freaking snowing up there….SOO glad I brought my warm hat, gloves and leg warmers for the descent….which lasted about an hour. So anyway, the climb definitely put a hurting on me, especially since I tried to hang with some of the Pro Cyclists. After about 12 miles, I backed it off a bit. I was later caught by a group of 3 studs so I hung in with them until about 4 miles from the top when I was able to break away. I climbed for a total of 2 hours and 25 minutes. There was an additional area on the mountain that was opened which took us to the absolute top. Totally, regrettable decision since the grade drastically increased and the temperature dropped even more. Either way, the cookie, pizza, awesome descent, stellar company and delicious lunch at LE BUZZ and the bottom totally made the day unforgettable.
Saturday was a travel day, 6+ hours to Coronado, California….a stones throw away from Mexico. The drive there was mainly dessert until we climbed over the last mountain range. Then I finally saw some green trees and the beautiful Pacific Ocean! The weather was back to being humid, breezy and …PERFECT. After the long car ride and lack of activity, I felt pretty flat, so the race “prep” was a nice wake up. I felt like 10 pounds of poo in a 5 pound bag, like a piece of burnt toast, like Frodo felt after walking up Mt Doom. I’d already completed 24.8 hours of swim, bike and run training…most note-ably I’d ridden 465+ miles. I totally expected to feel this way, so no stress. This race was the icing on the cake. If I could get through with decent result and attitude, it would be a victory. The weather was perfect, water temp a solid 64 and a light breeze filled your ears. Again, perfect. Naturally, the top end swim speed was all but gone after the first 4 strokes, so I held on for dear life…getting beat by most of my wave. The last half of the bike left me reaching for my “goal” power numbers and then the run was pretty much a “tempo” effort. A low energy level wasn’t really an issue since I fueled pretty well. Honestly, I couldn’t be happier with how things went. My Team Director WON the Pro Female category so it was remarkable to be part of that event. I ended up 10th so I was glad too. I may have ALMOST been the last pro, but I didn’t get chicked or beat by an age group athlete. This race actually brought out a serious Pro field, no doubt they humbly kicked my butt!
Bonus! It was awesome to connect with the XTERRA CEO since they are our wetsuit sponsors! He informed us they have some seriously awesome wetsuits coming in the near future. Can’t wait to get my hands on it!
What do I do every time I come to California? Eat In and Out! I do have to say, I got a double double, animal style….IN A LETTUCE WRAP…BOOM. No idea why I still try to “church” up the fast food…but oh well, it was seriously tasty! I still held back a little for my next trip, opting out of the chocolate shake.
Quick Recap: This has been a huge block of training and racing, three races thus far and a training camp! It was also amazing to meet up with Samantha Morrison and Brad Williams, my hero's. It’s scary to think I have another race at the end of this month. Oceanside 70.3 is right around the corner and I completely made a rookie mistake. I didn’t really take into account that “beginner” Pro’s should stick to low key Pro races…oops! Taking a look at the start list quickly brings on the pucker factor. I suppose I could re-arrange it but the flight and home-stay are already set up. At the end of the day, it’ll be nice to be in California again and toe the line with some serious talent.
The United States Military Endurance Sports program is a must! If you are a Veteran, Active Duty, Guard or Reserve member, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice by not becoming a member. Seriously, anywhere I travel I have a free place to stay, the deals are amazing and the community is tremendously uplifting and supportive. Please, please…take a look at the website, come out to a camp or see if someone in the program lives near you.
Surrounded by the hard work of our team staff members, we all made our way into the briefing room for our first meeting! As you can see, "wholy crap thats a lot of swag"! The amount of support we've received from our sponsors for this camp is unmatched by anything I've ever seen.
With SO much to cover over the last few days, I wanted to take a few minutes to "brain dump". Also, the hours and miles are piling up and I'm sure in a few more day I'll be at a 3rd grade reading level and may need a feeding tube with a constant flow of OSMO Acute Recovery. None the less the amount of positive energy here is just tremendous, even those who are over-worked manage to sneak in a smile from time to time (maybe it's the doubletree cookies)...
For starters, I cannot believe I've witnessed hand carts making their way up categorized climbs. Team4Mil is out here, demonstrating what it truly means to be an athlete. Also, each athlete has their own volunteer to aid with anything they might need along the way. I mean come on, climbing for a few hours with 1 leg or with only your arms, I simply cannot emphasize how impressive these guys are. It's truly remarkable to share the road with them.
I'm going to let the pictures do the talking but here is the skinny:
- This is my first time to Tucson, AZ and it's definitely different than what I'm used to. The terrain is dessert, with cactus farms, dust fields and intense sunshine. It's pretty much just like Breaking Bad. As far as the weather is concerned, we couldn't ask for a more ideal situation. It's a little brisk in the AM, definitely sweating around noon but we need warm clothes for the long descents. The roads are probably the only complaint, which is minimal to say the least. HOWEVER, yesterday I felt like we were riding on cobbles for about 30 minutes straight ....at the end of our 100 mile ride. Talk about some grumpy cyclists! Good thing we had some solid leadership out there to keep us in line.
I've been digging in with the A group, where there is a ton of talent! Everyone brings something strong to the table but this camp favors the light bodied climbers. I've always been a better climber when I'm at my own pace, so I let the studs go zip up the hill and I make it a few minutes after. As far as fatigue, the legs remarkable rebound every day. We've been getting lots of veggies in for meals. I've probably eaten about 10 salads thus far. A plant based diet has always helped me stay strong during long weeks. If you understand training lingo, you'll appreciate that after only 3 days, my TSS is about 640. I suspect it will be one of the biggest weeks I've had....EVER. So anyway, enjoy the pictures, there will be more to come. The overall goal is to learn and break through barriers. I know I have a race on Sunday but I'm definitely not holding back this week. For nutrition during the rides we've been seriously killing all the Honey Stinger products and OSMO that they have to offer. Finally, thank you Boeing for the huge amount of support, it's an honor to represent this company!
First off, to anyone who has taken the time to read my rant's, left comments or sent me some positive energy, I'd like to send out a sincere THANK YOU.
Yesterday, 8 March 2014 at the Sarasota Pan American Cup I towed the line for the second time in two weeks! Next week, I'll be attending the US Military Endurance Sports Training Camp in Tucson, AZ and topping that delightful week with the Super Seal Triathlon. With three races in three weekends plus a camp, racing is in FULL effect. I finally feel like I'm doing what I'm supposed to do in this life.....which is easy to say now. When it's race day, certain negative voices pop in my mind which is totally annoying!
First off, notice the smiles (these are post race)! Like I've always said, no matter the result, you're a fool to not cherish FINISHING a race. I don't care if you're beating Manuel Huerta like my team mate Nicholas Sterghos or coming ahead of the 6 athletes at the tail end like me, there are multiple victories to celebrate. I feel normal enough when I say "The Voices" were surely nagging at me. #1 I know my swimming isn't going to increase to super speed within a week. I knew I was sorta out of my league. Thankfully, my Coach Tim Crowley tells me I'm not too far off...but being a coach, I would tell me the same thing! #2 Once the swim is gone, you're on your own...racing for pride. #3 It's still hard to go from doing fairly well in the AG ranks and winning, to bottom of the barrel. I completely expected this, but seriously...nothing compares you for the speed they carry.
BOOM! Check out that amazing picture above. But don't even pay attention to me! Notice the guy behind me? I actually was "racing" this time. I fought through the "suck" and re-connected with the race. Granted I did have to TT by myself until 3/4 of the last lap but I still managed 24.5 mph on a road bike with zero aero gear!! I'm pretty pumped about overcoming a rough swim leg. So anyway...here is a small race recap:
- Race morning - Since the race was at 2:30pm....totally hard to plan meals. I thought I did well but I'll explain more when we get to the run. I ate some bananas, sweet potato, plant based bars and slammed beet juice. I also Did some light biking and running with drills to feel "fresh", relaxed and enjoyed a lazy morning.
- Race Site - Arrived with plenty of time to warm up and get a new race number...Notice the home made number on my seat post? I made the rookie mistake of driving 45 minutes at 60+mph with my number on my stem...whoops. Being able to get into the Elite tent is pretty nice. They have hot meals, massages, a sauna, pedicures...etc. The big thing I notice is, no one really talks, except for some nervous banter. We act relaxed but once we line up, it's easy to see who is carrying the race day "tension" (might have been me). I'd say I was definitely nervous...knowing the type of effort I was about to try and attempt got me going. Especially since it was hard for me to put out a hard effort and stay on Nicholas's feet the day prior.
- Swim - The dive was great, the first 200 meters were also great. Before I knew it, the splashes started to slip away. How disappointing, I was brining up the rear...again. The good news is, I wasn't the last one out. I think it's a matter of developing that top end speed, coupling it with some more endurance. I know I'm a faster swimmer but when I have to go 150% it really throws me off, a technique I've yet to master. At the end of the day, it's just another way to get better but it will take a little more time. I've only been swimming for 4 years so I'm definitely happy where I am. Full disclosure, I was battling the "quit" voices...knowing I would be racing on my own. BUT then I thought DAMNIT, at least I'm gonna get a solid workout". It's hard to admit that....but I feel like I'm only human.
- Bike - The new Scott Foil, light as can be, felt great. I'm not 100% comfortable on it yet. I think I need to extend my "reach" a bit but all around love the new rig. After this week my American Classic aero wheel set will be in so I'll have some more advantages. I rode the Argent, tuble-less wheels for my first 2 races which are amazing in the corners. Sadly, all of that would have been of more benefit if I would have been in a bike pack. Anyway, I worked like hell to catch 3 guys ahead of me, welcoming the brief 2 to 5 seconds of recovery between pulls. I managed to make my way to the back of the race, so I was happy....and decided to yet again, NOT QUIT!
- Run - Remember I mentioned the 2:30 pm race start and it being difficult to plan the right sequence of food. Well, last weekend I nailed it. This weekend I felt super bloated, like a brick was moving around in my gut. I'd say it held me up a bit, but not terribly. I would have like to run down a few guys I bridged up to but I didn't feel confident aerobically and would have most certainly projectile vomited. Like I said, that top end speed is still developing and I'm realizing more and more, it just take time and patience. To be racing at this level is an honor and I'd be a fool to expect top level results with such a rookie background. I'm incredibly humbled and driven to succeed and EACH race lights a new fire.
I managed to defeat my own demons of negativity, for that I find ultimate internal victory. Despite taking a slash to the ego, my resilience is strong. I have always been a fast learner so with some great coaching and strong determination...let's see how far I can get.
Find Your "why"
Eventually we all have to hit some "reality". It's that critical point that may only happen a few times in life. For me, I ask myself the same question pretty often; "Will this path lead me to he best version of myself"? Seriously, a life free of the "normal" stress that most Americans deal with. I want to re-invent myself on a regular basis, surround myself with influential, positive people and focus on what really matters. The guts of our lives are as complicated as the inner workings of a cellular system. This world breeds stress, overcompensation, destruction...but only if you let it. How do I battle the every day issues with a smile on my face? It's because I've defined my "why". To make myself happy FIRST and find a challenge in everything. Happiness is a decision. Sometimes I decide to have a sub-par day but my favorite saying is, we have to have some clouds every now and then to remind us how bright it is. I have many hats to wear. As an active duty military member, endurance coach, professional triathlete and student the billet is usually full. If I didn't take a small step back sometimes to analyze if I'm doing things properly, I'd be lost. Luckily, the strong network of people behind me keep me in line. Karen Anthony (my girlfriend) is always on the front line...dealing with my continual dedication to being awesome and our lack of quality time (sorry babe). So when you find your "why", ensure you really take some time to find it's true meaning, analyze it and WANT IT and SHARE IT. If you put enough energy into a thought, I promise it will happen. The only downside is, it may take you around 10,000 hours to be a master. Anyway, for now just know that I challenge you to eliminate the waste in your life, find your "why" and give back to those who so proudly support you. It's through our relationships with our fellow man (and women) we truly find our happiness. No one succeeds alone and if you need me, I've always got your back!
Among the mixed emotions and the "coulda" "shoulda" or "woulda", I couldn't be more hopeful about my future as an elite. If nothing else, I challenge you to commit your life to something, give everything you have to it and either achieve it or die trying. My sub par result at the Clermont Challenge doesn't represent my journey, which has been full of wonderful people and stories, to which I will always use as energy. Why do I put myself through countless hours of training with 2 other jobs and college classes? Because it's what brings me to the best version of myself and JUST might inspire someone else. My race recap will be brief, but please know I'm truly driven to continue this path and I've certainly learned more with a failure like this, then the achievements last year put together.
Clermont Draft Legal Challenge
This path leads to the lake where I was most certainly humbled. You see, I knew it was going to be the hardest I'd ever had to push but I overlooked the microscopic margin for error. The swim started with a cannon, instantly dumping gallons of fuel into my furnace...I shot off like a rocket. I gave it my all, executed at the right intensity and was in the mix. Heck, my pool times show I could at least hang with these guys but open water is a different battle. My mistake was in the details. Was my path a straight line or a ridiculous bendy straw? Things were smooth until right before the first buoy. I noticed I'd swung a little right and everyone was moving left. I'd attempted to correct but at full throttle, I misjudged. Before I knew it, I'd gone just slightly off course, just enough to cause a disconnect. I again screwed up my perceived direction 2 more times, losing valuable time. By the time I'd hit the shore, there were only a few feet left to chase...my race was pretty much over.
That being said, I had a race to finish. My amazing support group with that damn cowbell stood strong, cheering my bike laps as if I was really doing something meaningful. I managed to hunt down 4 guys who DNF'd, so at least I did some solid work on the bike. I was so jealous every time I saw the lead packs go by the opposite direction...I wanted to make them hurt. So that leaves the run, where I ran extra...totally missing the turn around. Didn't even really notice 3 little cones were the "mark"...guess the volunteer had to pee. Either way, I freaking finished. You'd better believe I'm focusing on the positives and trucking onward! Right now I don't live by victories and I'm not defined by a "placing"...but one day I will be. One day it'll all pay off and I'll be the man!
I meant what I said, this failure is going to drive me even further...it's almost going to be a blessing. I've spent a lot of time excelling in this sport, every race getting a little faster. What did I expect when I jumped in with the best in the world? I expected this; A lesson I try and teach any athletes I coach...don't be afraid to fail. Having the courage to try something difficult where the odds are stacked against you is tough. Often, it's why people sit on the couch and complain about their sub par lifestyle, rather than taking charge and making it better. So next weekend at the Sarasota ITU race, I'm going to swim in a damn straight line and give everything I have to hold onto some feet. If I fail again, then I'll have plenty more lessons in my toolbox...and oh well, I'll have to explain it to everyone again. This won't be easy and it will take time!
The most interesting observation I've made is how other people handle your failures. Friends describe how they would feel and loved ones tell you how awesome you are anyway. Some people don't even mention it to you, they are only there to congratulate a good race rather than listen to what you may have learned from a bad one. Some will just never get it. On race day, I want to win...and eventually with the right mind and training plan, I'm going to get there...I look at Javier Gomez, it's been a long road with many ups and downs. He's the type of athlete I look up to, hoping that I can achieve greatness as he has done and will continue to do! I'm still going to do my best to represent everyone who has supported me over the years. Check my sponsors page, they are the people who empower me to do what I do. The US Military Endurance Sports program and our sponsors have opened the door for tons of racing and self improvement, I couldn't be more driven to represent their cause! My new bikes from Scott are still being dialed in but I really enjoyed the upgrade...the Foil 10 is super light and even more stiff than my Felt F1. Finally, if you need a bike shop...Flying Fish Bikes have ALWAYS taken care of me when it comes to fitting, tune ups and last minute orders....Totally go to their shop and support the locals!