Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Photo credit needs to be given to Jeff Cloutier Not only for his expert skills but ability to remain cool and calm in the face of a distressed subject.
Twas the night before US Nationals in 2006, my first ITU race and only my 5th triathlon ever and 2nd as a pro. In other words, I was scared shitless and very high stress. I was getting my race shoes ready to go and those quick laces all set...my first pair. I trimmed the laces down to get them perfect only to realize that they were a bit too short and my racing flats were too tight to pull on. 8pm at night in Long Beach California there were no quick laces or even shoelaces to be found. To overcome my stupidity, I ended up taking the laces out of my trainers to use in my racing flats, and they worked out fine. But in the meantime, I wanted to still use my trainers to walk around before/after the race...hence my new fashion statement with the tape. I patented this new shoe system and am waiting for it to really take off in the fashion world then my ship will come in....But in the interim I guess I will have to scrap by as a toiling athlete.
Monday, December 3, 2007
Israel takes its security to a different level imagine having all your bags unpacked in front of you. I am not exaggerating my carry-on, checked bag, and bike were unpacked completely. Every item was removed as they x-rays and swabbed each and every item. My items were splayed and dumped everywhere....my bike and wheels riped from the case to be x-rayed separately….. But on top of this psychical examination, you are also grilled verbally about your trip details the whys wheres and asked the same question in 3 different ways to try to catch you in a slip. It is this intense interrogation and invasion that makes the US airport security a breeze in comparison. We went through security within Israel 3 times, and it was intense every time. It is normal to spend an hour or more being cleared through security before you can even get in line for your boarding pass.
On Sunday after the race, Jillian and I miscalculated and were short on time; we only arrived to check in 1 hour and 45 minutes before our International departure. As our bags were unpacked and prodded and analyzed by 8 security agents, we were stressed about making our flight. The delta manager came over to say we were tight on time, and it wouldn't be their fault if we missed the flight. After an hour and 5 minutes, we were repacked and cleared to finish checking in. As we arrived at the counter with 45 minutes to spare, we were treated to the Delta manager telling us that we could board the plane only if we both had $100 in cash to pay for our bikes. Most airlines don't assess this fee on international flights especially since our bikes were well under the weight restrictions, at 36 lbs for mine. We scrambled for cash but could only come up with just over $30 each. Jillian and I offered her travelers checks or credit cards or to sprint to the atm. I am not ashamed to say that we begged her to please have some pity on us, and please let us on the flight. Coldly, the Delta manager ignored us and walked away...not even offering to help us get re-booked on the next day's flight or any advice on how we should get home from Tel Aviv. It was 10:50pm, and we still had 40 minutes until our flight was due to take off. The Delta desk was unmanned and would not have any agent there until the next night at 8pm.
We tracked down the Delta number in the states, and with the help of moms working on the problem from US phones were able to get re-booked on a flight 12 hours later at 10:40 am the next morning.
I understand that we were at fault but the Delta manager’s complete lack of compassion for our situation and unwillingness to assist in any way was downright evil. . Yes we should have arrived sooner, but the lack of empathy to assist us when we had time to still make the plane was appalling.
After spending 20 hours in the Tel Aviv airport, we were so slap happy and silly that everything was amusing. Since the Thursday night before the race until Sunday night, I had a total of 12 hours sleep. Not enough considering that I normally get 8 to 10 hours a night. Finally, we got on the flight headed home. Sadly for me, we arrived at JFK late. After clearing passport control, waiting for my bike and bag to arrive, and clearing customs, it was already past the take-off time for my scheduled flight. I was re-booked for the next morning to arrive home at 11am the next day and given a hotel room for the night - yay finally a chance to shower! Sadly, the luck didn't last; I was called later that night by Delta to let me know that the flight I was rescheduled on the next morning was cancelled. Now, I would leave in the morning and fly to Atlanta then fly to Denver arriving at 4pm. Wow, this is turning into the never-ending trip: I left Eilat at 12pm on Sunday or 3am Sunday morning MST. When I get home tomorrow afternoon, I will have been traveling for 62 or more hours.....
Kona is an amazing town and a great place for an iron man. We spent time riding and running on parts of the iron man course, and it gave me renewed respect for those athletes. I hope that I have a chance to train in Hawaii again and especially enjoyed training with teammates who were able to push me on the bike and run.
The race didn't go badly but wasn't great either. The swim was not my best; I had chance to go for it and try to bridge the gap or be comfortable in my pack. I choose to be comfortable instead of really giving it that extra effort to chase the leader. It was a costly mistake in retrospect since I really needed to get every second that I could on the swim to get ahead for the run. The bike was a good effort not spectacular but not bad. I passed several people and came into transition in 3rd with the 4th place right at my heels. The run was typical of this season steady but not fast. I slide from 4th exiting transition to 7th. After this race, I felt very drained and part of me really wants to end my season right now. But after the bad luck in the last three world cups I'd like to end on a good note. In retrospect, I should have planned a week or several days completely off in September or this week after Dallas to recharge physically and mentally. But instead here I am surging on with the training and flying out to camp in Kona for the next 3 weeks.
On race day, I had a good swim and exited the water with the leaders. But once on the bike, in the first 800 meters I heard an audible pop from my bike tire. I looked down to see a flat. I rode on it to the neutral wheel stop and asked for a 10 speed shimano cassette for my new back wheel. I was given a nine speed and got on my bike as fast as possible but the lead pack was gone and I was now in no man’s land. I rode steady with the second pack for several laps until the cassette locked up between gears on the hill. I just barely avoided crashing and had to ride backwards down the hill to the wheel stop. This time I was given a 10 speed cassette but the 2nd pack didn’t wait for me. I was now riding in the third pack and frustrated with the bad luck and my chances of a top finish as I would be starting the run well out of contention after losing about 7 minutes with my wheel stops. I pulled out of the race on the run; it was the first time that I have voluntarily pulled out of a race and I hope to never do it again. I think in retrospect it would have been better to finish but at the time I was too defeated and mentally out of the game after my unlucky day.
I was able to break up my season with 2 non-drafting races. The first was Chicago and the next LA; I was excited for races where I could use my bike to my advantage. Chicago is always a favorite place to visit after spending my college years there I have many fond memories as well as family that live in the area. In addition, Jeff was traveling to the race as well as my parents so I was excited to have so many people there to support me. Sadly, the race didn’t go as planned. The day before the race I went for an ill-advised bike on the race course, lake shore drive. I should have know better not only was I scared out of my wits by the traffic but got two flat tires and had to walk my bike to the nearest cross street and hail a cab back to the hotel. The race didn’t go much better; I was shook up on the swim when another competitor was very unsportsmanlike stopped during the early portion of the swim and purposely clawed off my goggles. There is always contact during the start of our swims but this was totally out of line. I was upset and in shock. I stopped to fix my goggles and swam to the other side of the pack to get away from that competitor; I would not have know who she was except for the special color cap she received as an honor. For the next week I had the claw marks where blood was draw on my forehead. The bike and run didn‘t go very well; I don‘t think that it was my day. I gave my best effort and it wasn‘t good enough the final insult was when I was out-sprinted for 10th place with 100 meters to go. I just had nothing left in the tank at that point and was lucky to finish on my feet.
Two weeks later, LA went better. I had another great homestay which makes it easier to afford traveling to all these races. Unfortuneatly, a training partner had a bad experience with her homestay, but on the plus side she was able to race superb despite that outside stress. I really enjoy ocean swims and was looking forward to competing after last year’s debacle where most of the field was DQ’d. The swim went well; I came out with the front pack and had a good transition. The bike was faster than last year; I definitely have room to improve if I want to hang with the top racers but I didn’t lose ground to anyone except the top two finishers. I came off the bike in 3rd place and ran solid. It felt much better than Chicago but the effort wasn’t good enough to hold off the charges from two fast runners behind me. I finished in 5th and was happy with the result overall but know that I have a better run split in my legs.
The race day was hot, typical Colorado front range in august 100+ degrees dry heat but with a penetrating sun. We started after 1pm and with a very exposed run course the heat would definitely be a factor during the run. The swim went badly…very badly. I ended up no mans land between the front pack leaders strung out ahead and the large second pack. I swam as hard as I could but mentally found it hard to keep my thoughts positive. Exiting the swim I felt spent and ran to my bike dreading the pain to come. I headed out hard on the bike and caught 3 or the 5 girls ahead of my in the first lap. I pushed past them hard to ensure that no one would be riding with me unless they were able to jump on the train. I ended up passing the girls cleanly and rode the entire 40K bike on my own time trialing. I lost time to the 2 girls in front strong cyclist working together but was able to put time in on the rest of the field. Starting the run in 3rd place, I wanted to stay steady and finish the hot run without falling apart. As expected the run was very hot and the lack of ice and water on the course made it even worse. I tried to keep steady and felt better as the run progressed. I managed to hold off the other races and finished spent in 3rd place. At the finish we were glad to see ice filled baby pools to fall into, and I was sent off to the medical tent for some assistance.
I was happy with how the race ended but hope that I can avoid racing draft legal races all on my own in the future.
First race as a 30 year old
I had a great experience racing in NY for the Geneva Continental Cup. My parents were able to make the trek up to watch another race this year. I spent my 30th birthday on the plane traveling to the race and looked forward to racing after a long break. The race course is great with a no wetsuit swim, a challenging bike course, and flat run. I was looking forward to the bike since each loop includes some tight crit-like turns and a decent climb and decent. This was the first triathlon I have done that starts after noon; the race starts at 3pm. I am not sure how to plan my nutrition for racing at that time since I normally only eat breakfast before my races. The race started okay but the swim didn’t go quite as planned; I lost contact with the lead gals and was chasing them for the last 500 meters. Exiting the swim I was 20 seconds down and had to work hard on the bike to bridge to the front pack. The bike went well our group worked well and put time in the other packs. Exiting the bike, we had a sizable gap on the other racers. The run started off poorly but improved steadily until the last two laps when I started to feel normal. I was able to finish in 3rd moving out of 4th place in the last lap. Overall I was disappointed with my run but happy overall with the effort and excited for my world cup races in the next two weekends.
Sickpuppy in Austria
I traveled to Kitzbuhel Austria for a world cup race and caught a bug that turned into bronchitis. By the time I arrived at the race, I was sick as a dog. Luckily, my mom accompanied me to the race and was able to help me cope. The bronchitis had me wheezing and hacking up with any minor aerobic effort. On race morning, my mom did some respiratory therapy on my back to loosen up my lungs. But even as I was riding to the start I was hacking and coughing in a tiring effort. By the start, I just wanted to finish the race and go back to bed. I finished the race and actually held together pretty well until the run when my exhaustion from battling the illness caught up with me. I finished the race and wanted to immediately collapse into any bed. As soon as I finished, I started a course of antibiotics in the hope that I could kick the illness before next weekend’s world cup race in Salford.
What a difference a week makes
By the race weekend in Salford, I was feeling much better; still not 100% but night and day from where I was only a week earlier in Kitzbuhel. By the race day, I felt confident that at least my body was doing double duty battling an illness along with having to race. The swim went well and I exited in the front of a large pack. One the bike, I did a lot of work pulling to try to keep the pace honest so that we weren’t caught by the other packs strung out along the course. Sadly, I think I wasted some energy that I really didn’t have to expend and suffered more on the run as a result of biking so hard. On the run, I felt steady but not fast. When I finished the race I was frustrated by my performance but not upset considering the events of the last three weeks.