Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Season Is Flying By...Just Like Life!

Have you been amazed at how fast life goes by at times? Hoka running shoe's motto is, "Time To Fly" and I think everyone would agree with leaving the "to" out and just saying, "Time Flies!" This triathlon season is half over and I've been meaning to post a blog for about...four months now. Oh well. This "low-key" season has been a ton of fun so far. Did a couple of open 5Ks to work on a bit of speed this Spring. I was blessed to nab a 5th and 2nd overall at these races.

Then a couple of sprint tri(s) in May with one going great and other pretty badly.

I've had serious breaks in training from one to almost three weeks so far. Travel, work, sickness, minor surgery, etc., have all put me behind where I've been at this poit the last couple of seasons.

But, it's all OK 'cause I'm not doing any huge races like Nationals or Worlds this year. Did my first duathlon in about 12 years and quickly was reminded that runners rock duathlons. I was blessed to get 10th in that du in KC, had one of the fastest bike splits and won my age group, though some of the run times were ridiculous.

June brought another 5K (5th overall, 1st in age group), another duathlon (7th overall, 1st in age group and the Norfolk Tri which I was blessed to win overall. I then found myself dealing with a calf issue which wiped out a duathlon I wanted to du :) I'd not run for two weeks before the Omaha Sprint Tri so I was...well rested shall we say? I won that race by 25 seconds to a tough competitor and followed that up with the overall win at the Falls City (NE) Triathlon that the last Saturday in July, by 42 seconds.

My 87 yr. old father and I will be competing in the NE Senior Games in ten days. He'll be playing tennis in the 80+ division. He's such a stud! I'll be doing a cycling time trial and my first swim meet ever, doing the 50,100, 200, 400 free and 50 and 100 breast stroke. Then two more triathlons in August and that'll pretty much be the season. I do plan on racing road and trail races this Fall and even some this winter so I don't gain my usual 15 lbs. of winter weight. That's getting harder and harder to get off each Spring.  So, as I said, time flies, especially when you're having fun!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

New Year – New Dreams…

Adios 2013. It was a good year and it was a tough year. Probably every year that comes and goes could have that line applied to it. We’re moving through the first month of January and ’13 is in the rear view mirror and getting smaller by the day. What are your “take aways” from ’13? What did you learn? What would you have done differently? How will you let ’13 influence ’14 for good?  Don’t mindlessly move into and through the beginning of another new year without pausing to reflect, learn, evaluate and make some course adjustments.

How will you order your life this year? Will you be driven by the tyranny of the urgent…or live “ordered” according to your life’s values and that which is truly important?  The urgent vs. important is a constant battle isn’t it? An ordered life, lived according to the important things, means saying “no” to many good things. It means taking control of your time, turning off the TV, taking time for quietness, prayer and people that you love. 
We’re daily bombarded by hundreds and hundreds of ads and messages all trying to shape us and conform us into what THEY want us to be. In some grocery stores, TV show names are now being stamped on eggs! Imagine opening a carton of eggs and getting the CBS TV line up for that night! Insane. Bus stop billboards can now emit odors, enticing you to buy those chocolate chip cookies pictured in the ad. Double insanity. You can’t pump gas now without having a little TV screen there pushing the latest “whatever” on you.

It’s my goal to turn down the “noise” this year. Yes, I have athletic dreams and goals for this year. I love racing! But I want to spend more time with my adult kids, my wife, my parents and help my 88 yr. old mother-in-law as much as possible as her health fails. I want to read more and try to be an encouragement to as many people as possible in 2014.
Yes, go train, race, have a blast and enjoy your health. But remember the really high value objectives in life - God and people. I know as I lay on my death-bed someday (way down the road – I want to live to be 100), my loved-ones and close friends won’t care what my Ironman time was, 5K time or best Olympic distance tri time was. They’ll care…that I cared about them.  Press on, caring for people!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Triathlon – An Individual Sport??? Maybe not…

Triathlon is referred to as an “individual sport,” which is true until one takes a little wider view and deeper look. Yes, the athlete is out there swimming, biking and running by him/herself having to persevere to get to the finish line.  But, for most athletes there are people behind the scenes that have done things to make it all possible. A loving spouse, cheering children, friends who have been supportive, athletes that “push” during training, but are a super fun community to hang out with, shops and companies who have given the athlete a special deal of some type to help them have the solid gear to train and race with…all these, are part of the “team.”

I’m SO thankful for the team that surrounds me and encourages me in my training and racing. First, there is Jen my wife. Though not into endurance sports herself, she’s endured me and my craziness for 37 yrs. now – guess that should count. She’s followed me around the world, washed a
Just found out I had won Nationals 
ton and  half of sweaty clothes, lifted me up when I’ve been discouraged and cried tears of joy for me when I’ve done really well in big races. She’s my one-and-only, life time  Ironmate. My parents have also been incredibly interested and supportive, praying for me and attending races as they are able though both in their 80s. The rest of my immediate family, extended family and friends are part of the “team.”  My friend in Phoenix, Randy, is what I call my Emotional Coach. He’s one of my biggest supporters, but is never afraid to tell it like it is, calling me out when I have a wimpy attitude telling me to knock it off, but always answering my phone calls with, “Hey there National Champion.” He makes me smile and laugh and loves me enough to give me a good kick in the butt when I need it.

The wonderful companies that support me – see left column of this blog – are amazing. I use and believe in the services and gear these companies provide for me. They make some of the best products on the planet and there is no way I would have achieved what I have without them. As this race season quickly ends, I want to offer a huge shout-out and thank you to Hammer Nutrition, Barracuda Swim, Hoka One One, XTERRA Wetsuits, Louis Garneau, Dual Eyewear, Little Red Barn Beef, Active Release Technique Dr. Faye Jones, Valdora Cycles, Skin Strong, Zensah Compression, MACKS Earplugs, XTENEX Laces, Lion Gear and The Stick.

I also love racing with my FCA-Endurance yellow hat on!  FCA-Endurance helps answer the question, “Why do YOU race?”  I race because, to borrow a line, “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.”  Thank you Lord, for all of this!   Who’s on your team? Be sure to let them know how much they mean to you!

Triathlon an individual sport?  Nah…definitely a TEAM sport. Love my team!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

September 13, 2013 - ITU Sprint Triathlon World Championship Race

After having one of the most perfect triathlon seasons of my life last year, doing great in every race I entered and winning a National Championship in my age group, I had a super frustrating start to this season. In fact, I lost over half of this season to injury. Three lower leg injuries caused me to have to start my run training over from just about scratch each time. As the calendar began to shrink and the time I had to train for the World Championships in London was fading away, I became quite concerned. I had missed a massive amount of run training and several races. Though it was a sprint distance triathlon (1/2 mile swim, 12.4 mile bike, 3.1 mile run) the issue wasn't the distance, it was the speed needed to do that distance fast...very fast.

I'm an OK swimmer for my age group and a good cyclist, but for me to do well at a national or world-class level, I have to be able to get the run training miles in and sharpen those in race settings to be competitive. I felt that day by day, those were slowly slipping away. I had huge emotional ups and downs and many times wished I'd not registered for Worlds and made my arrangements for travel, room, etc. Several times, if I could have bailed I would have. I had no desire to go over there and get 80th place or something like that. My wife, Jen, was a real soldier through those ups and downs and always encouraged me to not give up.

For me it was a huge lesson in persevering. Not in a long hard race - been there, done that - but in not giving up in doing what I could and trusting the Lord to allow me TO get in the training I needed. As the summer was moving on, I had time for one last try at a strategic build / ramp up in my run training. As a regular practice, I only run every 3rd day, no more. The calendar told me that I had time to build up to six mile runs and then to get in just 10 of them. That was all. Would that be enough? It was highly questionable and the absolute minimal at best. Just eight weeks out from Worlds, I had time to get my run from one mile to six, then to hold that for 30 days = 10 runs of six miles. I didn't want to run more due to the risk of injury.

Some of those six milers were tri race days, where I'd warm up, race and cool down equaling the six I needed that day. My best 5K in those races was 21:06, a far cry from the 19:19 I'd run to win Nationals the year before. I knew I'd have to run sub 20 to be the least bit competitive and probably have my best swim/bike ever. Saturdays were the only days I could race and so I looked high and low for any Saturday races within striking distance of Omaha just to get some race conditions under my belt this season. Ended up in some pretty obscure places like Perry, Iowa and Falls City, NE where the locals did a great job putting on the races. There just weren't many that showed up. I smiled at times thinking about the "gap" between say, Perry, Iowa, where I raced 25 people total and Worlds in London, England where I'd take on almost 100 of the fastest guys in the world from 57 nations. Still, I jumped at those race opportunities just to get some speed work in.

By God's grace, I got in all 10 six milers. I sure rejoiced at the end of the 10th one, thanking the Lord for His help. Each one I felt stronger and stronger and felt some speed coming back. But, 10 days before Worlds, halfway through a swim workout, my shoulder started hurting...badly. No, I'm not a hypochondriac...I'm old :) Due to my leg problems, I had really ramped up my hard swim workouts - probably too much, too soon, too fast. I had to stop that workout half way through it, and man, the shoulder hurt badly the next few days. I basically only did two very gentle swims in the last 10 days before the race instead of nailing some great workouts and feeling primed heading to London. More doubt...

The bike course in London gave me heartburn. Not because it was hilly, but because it was a three lap course, shaped kind of like the letter "C" only with squared corners and with one mile being the longest stretch without a turn. We started at the bottom of the "C" and went out up and around it and back three times. That's great if you come from a road cycling background and are used to technical courses with lots of turns and accelerations, all of which I'm not. Read more below about this...

My goals were:
1 - Honor the Lord in everything and bring Him glory no matter what happens.
2 - Be an encouragement to my Team USA Teammates
3 - Shoot for a top 10 finish
4 - Shoot for a top 5 finish
5 - Get on the podium and bring home a medal

Well, I think I accomplished the top 3 goals by God's grace. It rained a lot the days before the race. Jen didn't get to go with me because her 88 yr. old mother is struggling with some health issues and Jen couldn't be out of the country. I went the econo route for a hotel in London and the room ended up being the size of our closet in our master bedroom - not even kidding. Bed, a 5'x6' floor space and a small shower that also happened to have a tiny sink and toilet in it. No chair, lamp, table, nothing. Not complaining at all. Worked great and was very inexpensive and fairly nice/new. But, with the rain, wind and gloomy clouds, my self-doubts about being ready, Jen, not being there and the logistic challenge of getting around that part of London and to the race site, well, it all kind of got me down at times. More opportunity to choose to be thankful and trust the Lord to help me do my best no matter how it turned out.

I had a chance on Wednesday to do a practice swim in a small part of the Serpentine, the inner-city lake/pond that the swim was held in. Water was dark and freezing. You couldn't see a half inch deep in it. Swan and ducks were swimming all around in it, doing their "jobs" in it I'm sure. Yuck. All that didn't help to lift my spirits, that's for sure.

I did have some wonderful friends there in London to be with. Paul and Frances Finch who live in Italy were in London and it was so good to get time with loving people who took such a beautiful interest in my race. They really blessed me and encouraged me. I checked my bike in with everyone else on Thursday in the rain and walked 30 minutes back to my room to wait out the afternoon/evening - that's the hardest part - waiting and wondering.

Race day I had to be in Hyde Park where the race was held between 6am and 7:30am to get my transition area next to my bike ready - helmet, shoes, nutrition, etc., and then wait 4 hours til my age group started the race. THAT was a long 4 hours.
I headed over to the swim start coral just in time. My group had already left the coral and was heading for the lake when I got there. The lady there had to unclip the rope for me and told me to get going. Whew. So there I was, waiting to head out to the dock where we started, across from the portable grandstands that were set up with the flags of the nations lining the top. I looked at 95 guys and wondered how good they really were. I prayed and asked God for His grace to do my best that day. I asked for His "grace to gRACE," (thanks for that Dave K.) I was now mentally ready to...grrrrrrRACE! In my mind was 2 Corinthians 9:8 and a song based on that, "God is able to make all gRACE abound to you!" I was ready to throw it down with these boys and see what they had and what I had.

It rained during the whole race. I had an OK swim but there were a lot of guys ahead of me out of the water.

I felt pretty good on the swim and felt like I was swimming as fast as I could. It was a long 400 yard run from the swim exit to the bikes.
There were many crashes on the bike course as athlete's bikes just slid out from under them. During the three "C" lap bike portion, we went over 36 speed bumps, did six 180 degree u-turns and did 24 sweeping turns or 90 degree turns. That, on wet, slippery pavement.
The bike was like riding on oil coated glass. That course totally killed the bike for me which is my best part of a triathlon, but everyone had to deal with it. Not making any excuses here, just explaining the horrible conditions and course for a triathlon. I'll take a straight out and back any day so I can get my speed up and just hold there flying along. THAT was not the case here at all.

At one point on the bike I was passing a few riders on their left and as I started around them the guy on the far left started fading towards me. There was a line of orange cones dividing the street with cyclist going opposite directions. The rider was squeezing me into the cones in the middle of the road. I could either hit the cone(s) or have him hit me. I tried to shout to him, but it was too late and I hit the base of a cone. I must have hit it square, just left of the right edge of the base, but just right of the actual vertical orange cone part. Bam, up and over it and I didn't go down. No idea how I didn't crash. Knowing it was a course with lots of turns and a good chance of rain I'd been thinking about Psalm 91:7, "A thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand but it will not happen to you." Nice. Thankful!

I had no idea what place I was in the whole race. By now it was really pouring rain. My Hoka running shoes were sopping wet when I pulled them on in T-2 and took off, unlike the pic here:
I started the run hard, but not too hard as I didn't want that leg issue to flare up. I tried to run down as many guys as I could. There were people out there from numerous age groups so you didn't really know who you were racing unless you actually KNEW them. No ages were written on back of the legs of athletes like they do in most races, so if you passed someone or they passed you, it was very tough to know if they were in your age group or not.

I think I was in about 10th-12th place in my age group as I started the run from looking at the results afterwards. There was a really fast fellow Team USA member and a Brit who were about 20 ft. ahead of me. I knew the USA guy was in my group and thought the Brit probably was too. They held that gap the first 3/4 of a mile and then I slowly started to close on them. They were running fast! As I closed, I told myself that if I just held this pace I'd go past them. "Be patient. Don't rush. When you get there go by strong." Positive self-talk helps. I tried to do all that and at first I heard their footsteps close behind. I wondered if the three of us would run together to the end and then have a crazy sprint finish.

Slowly but surely, the sound of their strides splashing in the rain faded some, then a bit more. At one 90 degree turn I looked and saw I'd opened up a gap. The run was two 1.55 mile loops and at the end of the first loop I was pooped. I really worried about having gone out too fast. Was I going to burn out? Would those guys come back on me? I told myself, "This is WORLDS. You've got to be willing to hurt more than you ever have. You've got to push really hard the next 5-6 minutes, then you'll be on the home stretch part where you know you'll give your all. Do NOT leave anything in the tank. Have nothing to regret at the end. GO!" And so I ran as hard as I could from the 1.5 mile mark on. Towards the end of the run course you make two right hand turns and then you have about 300 yds. to go. 200 towards where the finish line is, then a u-turn on the blue carpet for the last 100. I passed a Team USA guy (who was the first American in our age group at that point) with about 150 yds. to the finish, made the u-turn and put the pedal to the medal hard giving it my all.

I had a blessed run - faster than I've run a 5K ever in a sprint tri since starting this sport 20 yrs. ago. I went 18:56 after an insane bike. How could I run 6:05 miles? My fastest this season had been 21:07 as I mentioned. I took 2:11 off that. Kind of crazy. I guess that's what Worlds will do.
I finished 6th in our age group out of 95 starters and was the first American. Team USA athletes took 6th, 7th and 8th.

I was blessed to have out biked the gold and sliver medalist and to have out run the bronze medalist. I had the 5th fastest bike and 5th fastest run. Though I dreamed of bringing home a medal, I was 1:45 off the podium which is a lot in a sprint distance tri. Medals went to Latvia, Germany and Greece, then Germany and Australia were 4th and 5th, then me.

Thank you to all who thought of me and prayed for me. I thought of you all during the race and it inspired me. I wrote down on a card that I carried on my bike, Psalms 27, 91 and 1 Corinthians 9:8, "And God is able to make all gRACE abound to you, so that in everything, at all times, you may have an abundance for every good work (and race.)" I want to also say a huge "thank you" to the companies who helped and supported me this season. I love you all and your great products!