Thursday, November 29, 2012

Running the Sahara - Two Thumbs UP

OK, so I am on a bit of a book/movie review kick these days.  Short and sweet but to the point.  Fortunately I have been able to read some good books and see some good movies...

On the plane to Sioux Falls, SD this week I downloaded a couple of movies to watch.  "Running the Sahara" is a endurance sports documentary that I really liked.  Matt Damon produced it and he is the narrarator.

It is the story about three good friends that decide to do something that has never been done - run coast to coast across the Sahara desert.  The cinematography was excellent and the story line was also very good.  You got to meet each of the friends and go through their physical and mental issues.  They had a support crew that also played heavily in the story line.

I recommend this one.  Two "Thumbs Up."


Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Life Without Limits

I just finished another book that I really liked.  "A Life Without Limits:  A World Champion's Journey" is an autobiography by Chrissie Wellington, arguably the greatest female triathlete ever and certainly the top female triathlete of this generation.  This is a woman who is now gauging her success by how many men she beats!  Her dominance in the support is incredible and I found her story to be equally interesting.  The book starts out a little slow but quickly gains pace and is really amazing.  Chrissie was not born in a line of incredible athletes - in fact, she was mediocre at best when she was young. She didn't excel at any particular sport.  She did, however, have an incredible attitude and a drive that is unparalleled.  This was something she really stumbled into over time as she grew up and began to discover herself.  She is also very open about her struggles with eating disorders and other challenges that could have been the end of her.  She is really a great inspiration and this is a very 'feel good' book to read.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Secret Race

Just fininshed a riveting book about the Tour de France, doping and indirectly, Lance Armstrong.  I have always been a big fan of Lance and what he has done for cycling, cancer research and other endeavors.  His valiant fight agains cancer, outlined in his book "It's Not About the Bike" is also an excellent read.

This book, however, shows a much different side of the sport and of Lance.  I admit, I couldn't put it down.  I haven't decided if my opinion of Lance has fundamentally changed but I do have a lot more to think about.  It now seems clear that he did dope and that pretty much all of cycling has been doping for years.  It also is pretty clear the the cycling federation has all but condoned it by doing a sloppy and haphazard testing program.  Bascially, they had too much to lose to crack down on doping.

What is even more interesting, though, about the book is that the fundamental premise of lying, choosing the right or going with the crowd, everybody's doing it, etc. is universal.  It isn't just a cycling issue.  Each of us is faced with decisions that are murky and grey.  Sometimes it seems everying is doing something, so why shouldn't we? This book shows that the 'Truth' is ultimately so powerful that it bursts out and blows everything up, regardless of our reasons or rationalizations behind our actions.  Again, this is a great life lesson for all of us.

Bottom line is I highly recommend this book.  It is informational, entertaining and thought provoking at many levels.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Ironman Arizona - I'm In!!!!

Well I did what was once thought to be unthinkable today.  I registered for my first full Ironman distance race.  Ironman Arizona 2013.  November 17, 2013.  This is a HUGE deal for me.  I have thought a lot about this and really been preparing for this for years.  I am absolutely pumped and excited!

Last year, as you  may recall, I was just about to sign up but my sweet wife asked me not to.  There was so much new going on in our lives - new move, new job, new schools for the girls, etc.  She just felt like it wouldn't be a good time.  I thought about going against her wishes but ultimately had to think about why I do this.  It has never been something that should take the place of my family or supercede their needs.  Triathlon conforms to me and my live, not the other way around.  In the end, I thought to myself, how can I go against my rules?  How happy will I be training for this great event and NOT having my wife happy or by my side?  Any success would be hollow without her.

Looking back, she was right and I shouldn't have signed up.  and I didn't.  What I did do was serve notice that this was on my "bucket list" and given IMAZ is in our backyard and is such a great race, it only makes sense to do it.  With her support and love, I am in for 2013.

All volunteers are given first dibs on signing up for the following years race.  We had over 2,000 volunteers this year, including myself.  Some actually flew in to volunteer so they could get in for next year - it is that popular.  In the end, 1,800 volunteers and current participants signed up this morning before general admission slots went open at noon EST.  The race sold out in 40 seconds online!!!!  Incredible.  3,000 slots gone like that.  $708.75 a pop!!!  Very expensive.  $650 for Ironman and $58 to (not happy about that).

Here is a good inspirational video of some participants in last years race.....

I snapped a picture of me in the shoot the day before the race this year.  I thought I would get a quick one thinking about next year.  What a blessing it is to do something like this and to have the health to do it.  Life is indeed good and despite trials and issues, I am very fortunate.  I will keep everyone posted on my progress during the year.  I am ready and I will do it!


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Ironman Arizona - 2012 Volunteering

November is an exciting time of the year in Tempe.  Ironman Arizona, one of the final big races of the season comes to town.  Tempe and Arizona are suc phenomenal places to hold this great race.  We are really blessed to have it in our own backyard.  I volunteered again this year.  Volunteers and participants are first in line to sign up for next years race, thus, getting a volunteer slot is pretty important...  Took some random pictures to share with anyone interested.

Tribike Transport was busy putting together all the bikes that had been flown in from all over the world. They really have a great system and business model.  I caught a nice view of some of the bikes - beautiful and expensive!  I believe they enroll 3000 participants for this race.  It is large and very well organized.

Above is a quick view of Papago park from part of the run course that circles Temple Town lake and goes through parts of downtown Tempe (home of Arizona State University - go Devils!).  It is a three loop spectator friendly course on the run.  You finish right in front of the US Airways Corporate Headquarters in downtown Tempe.

Bike transition getting setup on Friday.  This is going to get a lot fuller on Saturday when people all drop off their bikes and start to get their transitions ready.

Tempe Town Lake is a man made lake in the bed of the basically bone dry "Salt River" bed.  Above is a picture of the dam that holds all the water in...   A couple of years ago the dam actually broke and the lake went away.  They had to do expensive repairs to the dam and it is now back in business.  IMAZ is a big user of the water each year and it brings millions of $$ to the area for the race.

Here is another view of the lake that the participants will be in on race day... You swim under a couple of bridges...  Pretty cool.  One bridge is a rail bridge (still in use) and the other two are for cars and pedestrians.

Here's a shot of the practice swim on Saturday....

Here is a great video by Dave Erickson that was filmed the day I was there - I manned the information booth!

One of my favorite shots of part of the run course looking back on the dam and in the distance you can see downtown Phoenix...

Next year, I will NOT be volunteering but I will be racing!  I am already nervous and anxious...


Friday, November 2, 2012

Ironman 70.3 Austin 2012

I have been really looking forward to this race.  I had been to Austin once, on business, and it has a great reputation for being a fun place to visit.  In addition, my last race in Boulder this Summer didn’t turn out as well as I wanted so I was looking for some redemption.  I had increased the training and even lost some weight to deal with the anticipated heat this year.  I was ready for my ‘A’ race and I was determined to end the year with a bang.

The trip to Austin is nothing exciting.  El Paso is the highlight until you get to Texas Hill Country (which is beautiful).  14 hours of highway and I did it in one day.  As I was rolling in, a cold front was following me.  I arrived in Austin and it was 80 degrees.  Within six hours and overnight, it dropped 30 degrees!  Very windy and nothing like the previous race reports I had read.

I did a little training the next day.  Picked up my packet, etc.  Registration was very organized and there were a few good vendors.  The race director said that in the history of this race it had never been cold.  This was unprecedented.  Highs for race day were forecast for 68 degrees – well under the normal.  Some wind was also anticipated.   

I was able to meet Andy Potts (the eventual winner of the race) during the athlete briefing.  We also learned that day that Chris McCormick would be racing!  Exciting stuff.


The race is point to point with two transitions but only one mile from one another.  You start in Walter E. Long Lake with a counter clockwise trapezoid swim.  Exit to T1 and ride a single loop 56 miles around the Austin countryside.  Arrive at T2 near the Luedeke arena and start a three-loop run that ends indoors in the arena itself. 


I woke up at 4:30 to get all my stuff out to the car and get some breakfast in me.   Quinoa, flax cereal and almond milk, as usual.  It was 45 degrees – luckily I had brought some cold weather clothes for the morning – toque, sweatshirt and sweatpants and a Nike fleece running shirt.  It kept me pretty warm but I could have used some gloves.   It didn’t get light until 7:20 and the first wave started at 7:30 so we were in the dark most of the time.  T1 had decent lighting but I should have brought my headlamp.  Not enough pumps in the Transition area either – I had to get in line and wait a while.  Still had plenty of time to get it done.   A lot of stickers on the ground so you had to carry your bike around the transition area to avoid a flat later on.


My wave started at 7:45.  Swim was wetsuit legal with the water temp at about 71 degrees – amazingly the water was warmer than being on shore!  We got in right before and everyone was commenting on how great it felt.  The gun went off and the feeding frenzy began.  I got kicked in the goggles once pretty hard.  No damage, though.  One guy was on my tail for a while and I kicked him right in the head and thought I had cut my foot.  I kept a strong rhythm, though and got into a good groove.  Sighted every 5th stroke, which was good and kept me straight.  Left the water with a PB of 42:13 so I was very happy.  Wetsuit strippers rule!  Glad they had them.  T1 time was 7:28 – a little long but with all the extra gear it makes sense.  Better than ‘56 miles of miserable’ on the bike….


Fortunately I had brought along my winter riding jersey, just in case!  I chose not to wear anything under my wetsuit so I could be as dry as possible for the bike.  I threw on my tri-jersey and then put the bike jersey over top of it.  Thanks to Andy Potts suggestion, I had grabbed some Mechanics Gloves at Sears to keep my hands warm.  Wool socks also, which helped, but two covers would have been better.
The Bike route reminded me of Calgary.  Meandering hills – rollers throughout.  The only difference was the road conditions – they were bad!  Lots of cracks, indentations, etc. from the drought conditions.  It felt like Bush Highway most of the way.  I tried to fuel to my plan -  ½ a Bonk Breaker every half hour and top it off with Nuun flavored water.  It worked well during the bike – but I would really tell during the run.  Finished with a 3:07:10 on the bike. – not my best but it felt right.  After all, I was really worried about the run (see my previous report for IM 70.3 Boulder).   T2 time was 8:55 which was longer than I anticipated but that was because I had to wait for the port-a-jon.


I started the run feeling good.  Each loop was about 4.3 miles and there were lots of spectators and people with dogs, etc. that helped motivate me forward.  With three loops, it made for a lot of aid stations and a lot of people around you – a little crowded for one part as you had two lanes of runners flow against one another as well as part of the cycling route on the same road!  Again, the road conditions were uneven, rocky and there were a couple of parts with potholes, sand and even grass.  Almost needed trail shoes!  Lap one was good, lap two was OK and lap three was hard (no surprise).  At this point, the colder weather was GREAT!  A cool breeze kept us from overheating and that made a big difference for me.  At mile 12, though, my legs started to cramp.  First time that has ever happened.  I walked for a while and then muscled on to the finish.  2:14:34.  A PB for the ½ marathon in an Ironman 70.3 race.


Total race time 6:20:20, which is were I always seem to end up.  Very happy with the time and felt somewhat redeemed from the Boulder race.  I ended up 93 out of 194 in my age group and 1074 out of 2500 or so participants overall. 

After finishing, I was VERY light headed and my cramps up and down both legs began to get bad.  I got some salty BBQ beef in me and some chips to counteract them but I had to sit for a long time and go short distances due to being as light headed as I was.  Probably the worst I felt after a race ever….  Took me a few hours to recoup and I was good as new for Dinner at Whole Foods that night.


I give this race a solid ‘B’ Grade.  It was a well organized race in a neat city.  Probably my favorite swim of all – warm and nice.  Nothing scenic about any part of the race, though.  Boulder, Calgary and Boise are all prettier overall courses.  Volunteers were good but not great. This is just a good, solid race.  I had a great time and I am really glad I did it.