Friday, December 11, 2009

Article on Xtri

State of Professionalism in Triathlon

There is an epidemic among the professional triathlete ranks, and I fear it is spreading. From blogs to race reports to twitter feeds, my compatriots are lamenting the difficulty of their life as if they have a tortuous job working on a chain gang. This constant hum of ‘woe is me’ self-pity is starting to worry me. I am not immune and have on occasion blamed others or circumstances for my own shortcomings. However, I have been lucky to have coaches who have taught me the importance of taking personal responsibility. When I started triathlon, I worked with Siri Lindley and more recently have been coached by Simon Lessing. Both have taught me an invaluable lesson for all athletes namely taking control of one’s own destiny and accepting responsibility.

In 2006, I started training for triathlon and was fortunate to learn some important lessons in self-reliance early in my career. First, in one of my early races, another competitor clobbered me in the swim and tore off my goggles. At the finish line, I was complaining that this happened and it ruined my race…..insert dramatic music here… but my coach just looked at me and said that is racing suck it up and deal with it. In another instance, also during my first year as a triathlete, I learned the athlete’s responsibility to know the race course. As a compulsive first year pro, I drove every bike course the day before the race. I am embarrassed to admit that as a rookie I also tried to memorize all the street names at every key intersection. As a result, except the leader who had a vehicle escort to follow, I was the one of the only athletes to take the correct turn on the course. Since I had driven the course the day before the race, I didn’t even glance at the traffic cops stationed along the course to direct traffic. Apparently, the cops were sending the athletes on the wrong way on the course. Although I am no longer as compulsive, I still believe it is the athlete’s responsibility to know the course. You can’t depend on volunteers or anyone else out there to tell you where to go. It is not their job to know the course it‘s our responsibility.

In the last two years, I have continued to benefit from my early lessons and received additional insights into the importance of taking responsibility. For example, more recently in 2008 a few weeks before the Olympic trials, I was in a bad bike crash in a world cup race New Zealand. During the drafting bike leg, one Austrian athlete, hit the front wheel of another Austrian competitor while we were in a high speed decent causing her to go down hard. I was in the wrong place in the pack and was taken out as she crashed directly into my front wheel. Needless to say, I was quite distraught, lamenting my terrible luck, and devastated to be unable to swim or bike leading into the Trials race. But my coach though somewhat sympathetic turned it all around for me by saying it was actually my fault since I wouldn’t have been in the second bike pack if I had swam to my potential. In her mind, I should have been safely up the road in the front pack and avoided the accident all together. At first, this seemed harsh; however, not only was it completely true but by shifting my focus back to my own actions, which I could control, it enabled me to pull out of a self-pitying funk. Then, I was able to move forward and focus on what I could do to prepare for my upcoming race. Sometimes, merely a shift in attitude can help an athlete focus on taking responsibility and being positive rather than sulking in self-pity.

In the last few years, another lament that rings from the chorus of pros is how unlucky…. I got a flat tire or my bike didn’t work or my brakes were rubbing. If you get a flat tire, it’s not about luck; it simply means that you rode over something in the road. In the past few years, I have had flats and bike mechanicals, and they have all been my fault. While it may be impossible to prevent mechanicals from never happening, by taking good care of equipment and being prepared all athletes can minimize the likelihood as well as the damage to race performance.

Finally, the most wide-spread virus within the pro ranks, is the drafting cries. So many athletes rant that they were riding a perfect race with no draft the whole time while all the other athletes were drafting cheats or when penalized for drafting then the officials must have had a personal vendetta. As an athlete, our only job is to ride legally and allow the officials to find and bust those not following the rules. If everyone who claims to be riding clean outside the draft zone would just focus on doing that and stop complaining, then maybe there would be no drafting. As athletes, we need to focus on how to fix the drafting issues instead of just whining about the current situation. In all aspects of our sport, we need to take responsibility and stop blaming external forces for our own mistakes.

I call on all professional triathletes to stop this epidemic now. While there are many triathletes who never complain and are completely self-reliant, too many of our cohorts don’t take responsibility and blame anything or anyone except themselves for their missteps. I hope that we can all start being accountable for our actions and treat this lifestyle as a career.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tough Days at the Office

It's been so long since I blogged that I have to update on two world championships and the LA triathlon. I sound like a broken record, but really my blogging regularity this year has been abysmal. Definitely, this is something I need to improve on....maybe I can kick start things now during the off-season.

World Championships #1- the ITU version (or were they both ITU races)
I made the trip down to the Gold Coast of Australia for the ITU world series championship race. The US team had a great group of athletes and an amazing support staff to keep us healthy. My foot injury was doing the best it has in weeks before the race, all thanks to our support. As a huge reach goal, I was shooting for a top ten finish, but my real goal was a top twenty. I failed on both of those and ended up 23rd. I lost my chance for that top twenty by having a poor swim to bike transition. Coming out at the tail end of that lead pack, my only chance to catch the leaders is to get on my bike fast and hammer like my life depended on it. It's amazing in the ITU races how intense that first few k's on the bike can be. As usual, I was slow getting on and then my hammering wasn't enough to get there. After failing and settling into the second pack for a few laps, I tried to launch a breakaway hoping that one or two of the other strong riders would bridge and come with me. After a lap of pushing hard, no one came and going alone would have been a suicide mission for the run so I pulled the plug and settled in for a leisurely stroll on the bike. On to the run, I could feel my breakaway in the legs but otherwise didn't feel too bad. I had a solid run: nothing great but not terrible either. The other US women did well particularly Sarah Haskins just getting nipped out of her podium finish and Jillian Peterson back from her broken collarbone to finish off the year with a great race.

LA Triathlon
I love this race for its open water swim, challenging run, and point to point bike. However, this year things didn't quite go my way. I started with a mediocre swim and continued the pattern. I was off my game out there and never seemed to get going. On the run, my foot injury from earlier in the summer flared up with a vengeance on the steep downhill. I felt like I was hobbling out there and only managed to finish in 8th. While I was disappointed, the race was stacked with great athletes, and in retrospect my 8th this year wasn't horrendous. In years past and even some non-drafting races earlier this year, the women's fields are pretty weak so it's easy to get a top five finish even with a flat tire or an "off" race. While not happy with my finish place, I am excited to see the quality of field up closer to where it should be.

With my foot flared up, I decided to skip the Dallas Triathlon and Austin 70.3 which were part of my original race plan. It was a hard choice, but I needed to focus on getting healthy so that I would be able to race in Clearwater six weeks down the road.

World Championships #2 - Clearwater 70.3
I had a good training block leading into Clearwater and knew I was fit despite all the hiccups with my injury. However, this year my confidence wasn't too high. I think I was having flashbacks to Oceanside, remembering how much I suffered there. I also had alot of pressure on myself to try and out-do or at least equal last year's performance. The pre-race nerves that morning weren't too high, and I was a bit worried that I wasn't excited enough. In the water for my swim warm up, I tried to get into the zone..fake it until you make it right.
We lined up and all started creeping then the cannon sounded. We were off; I made an early strategic error in the swim moving to the left towards the other gals when I should have just beelined for the Dibenator's feet. Because by the time I have moved up and looked up, Julie was gone up that right side leading everyone. At that point, I thought that's it she's going for it and definitely on a mission to win this race. I came out of the swim a bit back off that main group, less than a minute, but crucial time when you're behind a biker like Julie Dibens. I was on my bike in around 7th and hammered to the front. Jodie Swallow and I led the gals for the first twenty or so miles, but we had a long string of dingle-berries behind. At that point though, the chaos started as thirty or so of the men's racers started to stream by us. It was not a good situation for the women or men. I am sure we upset their race, and they definitely impacted the women's race. But as Amanda Stevens aptly pointed out to me, at least this year all the women were effected by the men's race and not just the front group. At first it was very frustrating, as the men would pass and slow down in an effort to keep the legal ten meter separation. Once they all passed our group, it was much better since they were obviously riding faster and left us behind pretty quickly. I tried to keep on the pedals pushing hard at the front hoping to limit the loses to the two ladies up the road. I didn't know where anyone else was riding except Jodie Swallow, who came to the front a few times. Pulling into transition, I found out that the Dibenator was hours ahead, but second place wasn't too far up the road. Like the rest of the day, the run was a struggle for me. Right away on the run, I felt like my shoe was on backwards or sideways or something. I stopped to adjust it at mile one to no avail. But by mile three, maybe my foot swelled, but it felt a bit less odd on my foot. The run didn't seem to start for me till mile three and then ended around mile 9. Those last few miles, I struggled home trying to hold off all the cramping in my calves and quads. I felt like I was running like a duck with my feet flexed just to keep things from going up in flames. I have never been so happy to see a finish line. I tried to slap some hands and enjoy the experience running down the chute. As soon as I finished, I went over to congratulate the Julie Dibens on her win. After getting the chance to train with her this year, I knew she had it in her to win and was so happy to see her nab that elusive and much deserved 70.3 world title. I hope that next year I can be in the same zip code as Julie and give her a bit of competition.

Friday, August 28, 2009

2009 Season: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

I am finally coming through with a much overdue update from the 2009 season. After a rough some might say ugly start to the season, I switched coaches and started working with Simon Lessing and Darren DeReuck. While one high profile athlete may have opted out of their program, it seems to be a good fit for me.

On the racing side of things, the highlights so far would be my wins at the Pan American Championships, Escape from Alcatraz, and Boulder Peak. The lowlights being a tough day at Oceanside and a flat disc wheel for the last 13 miles at the NYC triathlon. On the ITU circuit, I have had a good season finishing inside the top 15 in most of my world series and world cup races(one lonely 17th place). This sesason has flown by so far, but there are still some key races coming up on my schedule. Upcoming races include the ITU world championships on the Gold Coast of Australia, LA triathlon, Dallas US Open triathlon, and Clearwater 70.3 World Champs. I am hoping to fit in another half ironman somewhere to either whet my appetite or adequately scare me for Clearwater.

Outside of all the racing, I have been busy moving and trying to fit in all my housing projects around training. Despite my desparate pleas to the HOA board and jumping through all their little hoops, I am still not allowed to put in the laminate floors I ordered. I guess I'll be stuck with carpet if it ever comes in, but meanwhile I am warming up to the cement subfloor I have been living on the last month. Cement is the new hardwood right? On a side note, I moved just a mile away from my favorite training partners. So that I can keep an eye on them at all times- make sure they aren't squeezing in any secret training on the side.

I was planning to blog more often this year, but life got in the way. Starting now...(I am sure you've heard this before) I am going to do a better job of updating my blog.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Signs of the Apocalyse

1. The Snuggie is a hugh success and top seller in the US. According to an article USA Today on the 27th of January, over 4 million Snuggies have been sold and the product has even developed a bizarre cult following....seriously? I saw an infommerical for this a few months ago and couldn't stop can watch it here:

2. A Japanese fire station burns down. A blaze broke out after a firefighter left a cooking stove burning as crew members left the station to respond to emergency calls. They plan to order-in dinner from now on....

3. A man tried to reclaim breast implants from his ex. Prosecutors say a spurned lover ambushed his ex-girlfriend and tried to cut out the breast implants he paid for by stabbing her. Apparently, he wanted to reclaim what was rightfully his.;_ylt=AtzcTQFquCB.xyUFxChu9djtiBIF

4. Two New Zealand prisoners who were handcuffed together as they fled a courthouse foiled their own getaway when they ran to opposite sides of a light pole, slammed into each other and fell to the ground. Jailers nabbed them as they struggled to their feet.;_ylt=Ajss7G9OXZnmQevUs1pdLmntiBIF

5. Robber has a really bad day. He was on foot as his getaway car was wrecked, and his rookie attempt at robbing a bank was thwarted by a set of locked doors. Looking for a place to hide, police say, he found himself inside the home of a frightened old woman. He didn't want to hurt the woman but ended up scaring her to death.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fresh Start in 2009!

It's hard to believe that we're already a month into 2009. My new years resolution, to publish more frequent blogs, was broken swiftly and soundly in the first few weeks of this month. However, I am going to be optimistic and aim to improve from this sad start to the year. Nowhere to go but up.
For my first post, I'd like to draw inspiration from new beginnings.

The first and most notable new beginning is of course our new president, Barack Obama. For the first time in my own memory, it seemed that the whole country came to a stand still to watch the Inaugaration last Tuesday, and it was inspiring. My favorite parts of President Obama's speech were when he addressed the duties we all have: "What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task." as well as when he spoke of the hope and bravery of General Washington and his men facing the British. In another notable quip, President Obama told those in the Beltway area to toughen up; he was referring to their relative lack of skill in coping with cold weather . I hope that I can toughen up this year and also take the initiative to find a task and purpose greater than myself.

Another more personal new beginning is my change of training program. For the past few years, I have had the great opportunity to train with and follow Siri Lindley and her team of athletes around the world to training camps. While this was an amazing experience, it was time for more stability and a change. In the vein of nothing ventured nothing gained, it was time to try some new things. Last fall, I started working with Neal Henderson at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine. It has turned out to be a great partnership, and I am enjoying the journey and excited to be learning new things. Most importantly, I am eager to see the results from all our hard work in my races this year.

As an extension of the last new beginning, this year for the first time since 2006 I am spending the entire winter based in Boulder. Thus far, we have been lucky with the weather, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that our good fortune continues. Other new things this year are my new sponsors which I hope to have finalized soon. And my new training partner who is top secret and definitely going to take me to the next level this year if I don't die first.

To end this first post of the new year and fresh starts, I have a few inspirational words about new beginnings for everyone to ponder....

The beginning is the most important part of the work.

A hard beginning maketh a good ending.
John Heywood

I had as many doubts as anyone else. Standing on the starting line, we're all cowards.
Alberto Salazar

You will never win if you never begin.
Helen Rowland

What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.
T.S. Eliot