Sunday, May 16, 2010

My Escape From Wildflower Weekend

Every once in a while you get the opportunity to do something that appeals strictly for the purpose of that you might not ever get to do it again. This was one of those opportunities.  I had signed up for the Wildflower Long Course race months ago, thinking it would be a good second Half Ironman to do this year.  About a month and a half before the race, I was given the opportunity to participate in the original Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon, an expensive race that requires a lottery pick to get into.  Knowing that I had already committed to the Wildflower Half, but that Alcatraz is a once in a lifetime race, I opted for option C: I'll do both.

We left San Diego early Friday morning in hopes of making it through Los Angeles without hitting major traffic.  Unfortunately LA always has traffic, so we were bumper to bumper on the 405 Freeway for longer than planned.  When I say "we", I'm referring to myself and my mom. After hearing what I was doing this weekend, her response was a prompt "well, I'm coming with you because you are not driving from Wildflower up to Alcatraz".  In retrospect she made a very good point.

We got to Lake San Antonio in the early afternoon.  I was amazed at what Tri California was able to do out there.  They had practically built an entire city at the transition area, complete with tons of food vendors (I had a phenomenal crepe' that afternoon).  I got registered, walked around a little bit, then we headed up to our hotel in King City, about 30min. north of the race.

The morning of Wildflower was business as usual.  Get up, breakfast, pack the car, head to the race.  What made Wildflower stand out was the atmosphere that was provided by the people that were camping.  I parked my car and opened the door, only to hear from one early morning camper "Gooooooooood Mooooorning Wildflower!!!!" (Think Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam)

Set up transition, went through the routine, down to the water, waited for the gun and : GO.

The swim was nothing special.  I hit right around where I wanted to: 35min.  What worried me more were the warnings I had received about the Wildflower bike course and the run course, and believe me they were warranted.  I had planned to take it easy on both legs of the race, instead focusing on enjoying the venue and saving some energy for the next day.  Needless to say, even with trying to run a conservative race, the course is a brutal evil creature and will hurt you regardless.  I now run and bike hills on a weekly basis as a testament to how badly I got my ass whipped by that course.

Regardless, crossed the finish line upright, which is always the goal.  Enjoyed a couple minutes with some fellow racers before heading down to the transition area to gather my race gear and get up to the car.  The hardest part of the weekend hands down? Walking up the hill from the Lake to the campground.  If it was another mile or so I don't know if I would have raced on Sunday.

Got on the road, promptly stopped at a Starbucks and figured out how to spend $15 dollars (coffee, water, sandwich, banana walnut bread) and got on the road up to SF.  The mom drove the most of the way, with me fading in an out of consciousness.  When we got to the city though, I was asked to drive since apparently she hates dealing with traffic in "the City".

Arrived in the hotel, got cleaned up, then went and got some beers with a friend.  Not that I needed anything to help me get to sleep, but I wanted a bit of a celebration for the days successes....and I like Guinness.  Got back to the hotel around 12:15am for a 4:30am wake-up call.

I might as well have just lied down, blinked, and got up because that's what it felt like.  Most of my stuff was pseudo packed, but I grabbed my still damp wetsuit and tri top and hopped on my bike to get down to transition.

For such a chaotic event, the Escape from Alcatraz organizers did a fantastic job for people like me who had to pick up their race stuff the morning of.  I got all my new race numbers, peeled off the Wildflower ones, got my transition area situated and got on the bus to get over to the boat.

Escape from Alcatraz is a lot of waiting, which is to be expected since they are basically running a race through downtown San Francisco.  We waited on the boat for about an hour before everything was in place, the horn went off and the race began.

Alcatraz has a very unique start:  You jump off a river boat about 6ft. down into San Francisco Bay.  Needless to say, you spend the first 15 seconds getting your heart rate under control because the water is a tad chilly, but once you get going it isn't bad.  The trick I learned from a buddy of mine who I randomly ran into on the boat was to use the current with the swim.  You have to aim about a mile east of where you want to end up and let the current drag you to the beach you're supposed to land on.  This allowed me to swim this course 5min. faster than Wildflower, and caused some people to end up way west of the beach and had to get picked up by water patrol.

Once on the bike, I just focused on enjoying myself.  The legs were pretty shot, but I wasn't planning on doing well anyway and instead just focused on what is arguably the coolest course I've ever had the opportunity to ride.  Getting to ride under the Golden Gate Bridge, around the Exploratorium, and through the Presidio was a one of a kind experience.  You really don't get another opportunity like it.

After the bike, I got on the run and just let my legs go all to hell.  The first couple miles were fine.....they were flat.  I got to see the likes of Hunter Kemper, Andy Potts and Chris McCormack sprinting the last remaining mile of the race, which was awesome to see.  Once I hit the stairs, the dirt single track trails, baker beach and the absolutely rude sand ladder, I was reduced to a moderate walk.  Either way though, I made sure that the last mile was ran, and I did my best to make it look like I was comfortable and collected (which I was not).

Afterwards, it was a terrific feeling of accomplishment.  I had done something incredibly stupid that I couldn't have been happier with.  I enjoyed the rest of my Sunday with lunch at Fisherman's Wharf, dinner at a the greatest Thai Restaurant that I can't name, and an excellent view of the city from Coit Tower that evening.

In planning a race calendar, I doubt anyone would consider putting together back to back races like this.  It was however a great experience that I will always remember.  I would love to say if someone gave me this opportunity next year that I would be mature and intelligent enough to politely decline...............but then I wouldn't be able to improve on my times :)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Why Do You Run?

I saw a friend of mine post a video asking "Why Do You Run?" Needless to say, it was one of the more motivational videos I've ever seen. After a friend of mine wrote about why she runs, I decided I wanted to actually pen my thoughts on it.

I've never been what you would consider a "runner". I grew up playing the usual sports (Baseball, Soccer, etc...). Running was always considered a painful aspect of P.E. that you had to complete once a month in school. Recently though, running has become significantly more prevalent in my life as I have become fully engulfed with Triathlon. Through this sport I've finished every running distance from 5K to Marathon, and especially with the latter I get asked why you would want to put yourself through not only the grueling demands of race day but the training it takes to finish. Here's what I came up with:

I run now because it's an escape. That may seem a little bit of an inflated comment to some, but if you think about it it's not that far from the truth. It's a chance at a clear head for however long you want to go. You're only commitment to that time is putting one foot in front of the other. There is no email, no blackberries, no Iphones, no Outlook, no "action items". You can take all the other details that you deal with on a daily basis, and set them aside for the 30, 40, 60mins you decide to go.

I run because it provides so much information about who you are. You'd be surprised what you can get out of your body in the final 200m of a race. You can be incredibly humbled as someone twice your age blows by you as if you are standing still. You can be in awe as someone with a physical disability is out completing an event that most able bodied people won't even dare try. Lastly, you can be amazed at how clear you're able to see the success of your training and commitment.

So, to answer the question of "Why do you run?" mine would have to be this: I run because it is such a simple a basic activity capable of providing so much. It can be an escape, a goal, a test, a job for some, a way to a healthier life, or just simply something that makes you smile.

Why do you run?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Race Report: Carlsbad Half Marathon

With the amount of races I've signed up for this year, I figured I needed something early in the season just as a gauge of where I was at. What better than the Carlsbad Half Marathon. Aside from the fact that I could get a half marathon in before all my other races, I had heard it was a flat and fast course. Nothing boosts the confidence like a potential PR to start the season.

Woke up at 5:15am. Weird how it's easier to wake up at 5:15 for a race than 6:30am for work. Emphasis on "easier" and not by any means "easy". I was carpooling with my friend Kelly since we'd heard Carlsbad was notorious for being a madhouse exiting after the race, so we decided to get there early and park a good distance away. Ended up taking the exit just south of the race, which was pretty much at the top of a hill from the start. Easy walk down to the race, not so fun walking up it after.

Got down near the start around 6:45am. I have never seen that many port-o-potties. Good work Carlsbad in finally acknowledging the #1 activity people do before races. Took care of that business, and got myself up to my area for wave 1. I had told them I was hoping to go under 1:40, so I was corralled into the first group of runners. Got my stretch and warm-up on, listened to the National Anthem, then got ready to race.

The gun sounded and we were off. I ended up crossing the actual start line about 11 seconds after the clock started (this time will become important at the finish). I foolishly don't wear a garmin or any sort of GPS, so I pretty much have to pace myself off my trusty old stopwatch on my wristwatch and the mile markings on the course.

Got through Mile 1 at 6:59, which was faster than I had planned. I was hoping for right around 7:30/mi., so I backed off knowing that if I kept running that pace I'd have nothing left near the end. Worked to keep my pace between 7:30-7:45/mi and did a pretty good job until the turnaround. The combination of caffeinated gels, water and the yelling crowd made me not really think about the building lactic acid in my legs.

Once I hit the turnaround, I wouldn't say things started to get ugly but they definitely started taking a turn for the worse. the hips started to get sore, and my leg turnover was not what it was. Luckily, being the stubborn person I am, I was able to deal with the discomfort and get into a rhythm that should get me to the finish at a time I was happy with.

I don't know if it was improper training or missing on any nutrition, but from mile 10 and on was one of the most painful runs I've ever done. There wasn't a specific area that was in pain, it just felt like both legs were running on fumes. I took a gel to try and get some calories, took a salt tab to make sure I had enough sodium and drank some water to try and make sure my body got what it needed, but the legs still felt like someone was working on their baseball swing against my quads and hips.

I made my way back through the neighborhood between the mall where we started and the 101, hoping that the cheering people and the knowledge of where the finish line was would be enough to get me through. As I made one of the final turns, I looked at my watch and saw that I had about a minute and a half to get to the finish to go under 1:40. I had decided I was going to set my personal best regardless, so even if I didn't go under that time I would still be happy.

That didn't last long.

At the last turn, with about 125m. to go I had thirty seconds to get to the finish to go sub 1:40. As I stated earlier, I can be stubborn when I need to and decided that this was one of those times. I grit my teeth, buckled down and ran as hard as I could to the finish.

I looked up as I crossed the finish line and saw the clock hit 1:40:07. Dammit. Had I misjudged how much time I had left? Did I not read my watch correctly? What did I do wrong to achieve my goal? Then it hit me: that was the gun time, not my chip time. I had a buffer of about 11 seconds from the start. I'd have to wait and see if I was correct.

I went over to the expo, stretched my legs out as much as I could and enjoyed some of the free products they had to offer. I saw a couple friends who had finished and we recapped the race, what went well, any problems, what we could improve on. As we went over our races, someone walked by saying the preliminary times were up for people that finished. I told my friends I had to go and made my way over to the results tent.

I started scanning the pages of results, starting high and optimistically working my way down. I got down to right around 1:40:07 and couldn't find my name. Switching almost immediately to a pessimist, I wondered if I'd missed my name as I was making my way down the list. Then, in a brief glimpse, I saw my last name situated among the dozens of other people on that page.


It's going to be a good year for racing.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Learning to love the little things

I'm a stress case. There is no way around it. I want to say I can take the "everything happens for a reason" perspective, but what happens to me today I typically only think about how it will affect me tomorrow.

With that being said, I've learned to figure out how to not necessarily deal with this style of outlook, but a way to make sure I'm appreciating all the good things that we go through: I've learned to love the little things.

This epiphany for me occurred a couple weeks ago. I had just finished up a great swim at La Jolla Shores. Not great in the sense that I swam well or swam quicker than I normally do, but I was enthralled with everything associated with the swim. The water was a great temperature, I didn't even really need a wetsuit. The five to ten tons of seaweed that normally makes its residence in the cove wasn't there, and the water's visibility was amazing. It allowed us to see all the sea life that can be experienced when swimming down there.

It got me thinking about how so many things I do are made better by little odds and ends that often times go unnoticed, but looking back played an integral part in making that experience great. Hopefully I can keep this as a mindset, even though its very easy to fall back into my negative outlook.

So from now on, I want to remember all the small stuff that makes life great. A hot shower after a cold trip in the ocean. The middle bite of a chocolate chip cookie. Getting your runner's high on a long training run. Seeing dolphins when you're surfing. And of course: two hour brainstorming sessions about making t-shirts based on Jesus doing everyday activities.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

I've become a Tri-Junkie

For anyone that's known me over the last year or so, they know that I did my first Triathlon and became hooked. I've started doing every race I can and just recently took over as one of the Race Directors for the Triathlon Club of San Diego. It started as a hobby and has quickly progressed into a lifestyle.
To give you a little background on how I started: signed up for an olympic distance triathlon put on by the Navy base down in Coronado. Its a good sized race (1500m swim, 40k bike, 10k run) and is usually the first race of the season for most triathletes in San Diego.
I considered myself to be a pretty in shape guy, and learned very quickly that I had a lot of work to do. After a combination of freestyle, breaststroke, mild dog paddle through the swim, I was able to get on the bike and complete that portion of the course. From there, I was able to run/walk the last leg, being completely humbled at the number of senior citizens who were passing me in the final couple miles. I got my butt kicked, I was sore for weeks, and became quickly hooked.
Since then, I've done dozens of smaller triathlons, two Half Ironmans and will be doing my first full Ironman on August 1st, 2009. It is the ultimate feeling of overwhelming excitement and sheer terror, but I can't wait to cross the finish line of an event of that stature.
I encourage anyone who has considered doing one to just get out there and do it. All you really need is a bathing suit, a bike and some running shoes and you're good to go.

"Swim 2.4mi., bike 112mi., run 26.2mi, brag the rest of your life".

Welcome to my blog

Welcome to my first attempt at blogging. I decided to start writing down odds and ends that interested me, and figured a blog was the best way to organize and present it. I don't really plan on having a theme to these and figure I'll just update it when something I come across seems like a good topic. I doubt I'll present anything ground breaking, but if you're at work and want to kill a couple minutes, I'll do my best to give you a few minutes of relief from the daily grind. Hope you enjoy.