Thursday, April 28, 2011

I want one

of these:

Picture from here

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Well the week after the XTerra I wasn't feeling too great but I guess it was good enough to overtrain. What I was thinking... I'm not too sure. Lot's of running, swimming, and hard biking. I got into a pretty good habit of getting up early to run and then getting my swimming and riding in after work. Doing all of this, however, was not conducive to getting rid of the sinus infection/cold, whatever the hell it was, or to getting enough rest. That being said, Friday I took an off day in preparation for a long ride on Saturday. The ride was good, I went and pushed myself a bit with the shop ride and then met up with Sonia, did some viaduct intervals and then hit up the parking garage for some 'hills'. Good times.

After 4.5 hours of riding I took the best nap ever then went and celebrated my friend Johanna's birthday. A bit of laser tag and watching some go-kart racing followed by good food and a couple beers make for a good Saturday.

Easter came around early. I made it to church, first time in Htown, and then hit up some breakfast with friends. Delicious!! The afternoon was finished off with some nice relaxing slacklining at Memorial Park. Very relaxing, great Easter.

The swimming is definitely getting better.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Dipping my toe into the XTerra waters

Last weekend was the XTerra triathlon in Waco. Five weeks prior to the race, at the Comfort mountain bike race, Alan, my old coach, talked me into committing to the XTerra race in Waco. Well, after four weeks of struggling to get a grasp of what swimming was, purchasing a wetsuit, and then trying out the wetsuit in my first ever, serious open-water swim two weekends ago, I decided to race the shorter distance in Waco. The race consisted of a 750 meter swim, a 16K mountain bike and a 3.5 mile run.

I'd never gotten ready for a tri before so I didn't really know how to go about it. It was also only the second time I had put on the wetsuit:

Then the announcer said 15 minutes until start, ugh: I had the goals for the race, finish Part 1, then finish Part 2, and then finish Part 3. The race: Part 1: Swim 750 meters is a long swim, at least for me it is. Two weekends ago I struggled my way through 1300 meters but in the race we were swimming in the river and there were other people there. I remember the first time I got kicked, not too bad, doesn't seem to bother me. Then, I remember sort of swimming over someone, also didn't seem to bother me. About three quarters the way through the swim I was getting pretty dang tired, the last 200 meters seem to creep by. Finally I got to the bank and got pulled out of the water and up the slippery bank by some great volunteers: Part 2: The Bike I knew I was behind and I needed to do some work, a lot of work. I knew most of the people in the race were out and gone in front of me as there were very few bikes on the rack in the Transition Area (TA) when I went through. Good thing the course was technical and fun, I did some work and passed lots of people. I wasn't satisfied until I passed three guys in my class that were all pretty close together. Then I passed some more people and then a couple more. I crushed it on the way back into the TA, had a good transition and it was time to do business again.

Part 3: The Run

About a quarter mile into the run we had the great pleasure of running up Jacob's Ladder, a steep staircase with steps ranging in height from 6 to 20+ inches. Did I mention it was steep? After walking/running up that there was only 3.25 miles left of up and down running through singletrack to the finish. I was feeling pretty good but I wasn't seeing anyone, wasn't quite sure how to feel about that but I figured I was somewhere around middle of my age group pack, not too bad I thought. Then, with about a mile to go I saw someone ahead, finally someone to race!! I picked it up a bit on the home stretch and passed four people on my way in. About a quarter mile from the finish we went back onto the pavement to the finish and someone on the sideline said, "Your in third place overall" I didn't think he was serious until I came into the finish line and they announced "Here comes third place overall in the sprint race!"

Whew, I finished! I honestly did not expect to do that well. I felt pretty dang good after the race. It was such a great race. Everyone was so helpful and encouraging throughout the day and the competitors were all so nice, similar to mountain bike racers.

Now, time to practice that swimming...

Monday, April 11, 2011


So I don't know why the blog thing wouldn't include separate paragraphs in the last post, I tried to fix it but oh well. Back to Ouachita: I went through the first checkpoint, ~ 16 miles in (on an extremely random side note: if your right hand is shifted one key to the left on the keyboard when you type miles you really get the word nukes, odd...), I was pacing with an older guy who had done the race before so I thought it couldn't hurt to pace with him through the hard hills. The first of the hills wasn't too bad, long and grinding but nothing too technical. The second hill was tough and super technical. Previously described to me as, "someone pulled up, dumped a load of baby-head sized angular rocks and then labelled it trail," I found this description to be pretty good. There were several sections deemed unrideable and there was a good chain of people pushing through the sections. Then the descent off the technical part was super-fun! Fast, flowy, borderline crazy. After the technical climb and the sweet downhill I had forgotten the third hill and once I got out on the road I thought I was headed to a checkpoint so I put the hammer down. After about a mile I rounded a corner and saw the sign pointing back into singletrack and I knew the third hill was coming. At least there wasn't much technical stuff but it was a looooonnnng, very grindy hill. One of those hills where you're already pedalling slow and you look up and only see hill continuing into the clouds. Maybe not quite into the clouds but I feel like there were clouds up there. Once I got up to the top there was one more technical section. I pulled up tried to unclip, no luck, tipped right over. My right leg, the one I could get out was under the bike and my head was downhill. Not a good situation, I definitely felt like a turtle struggling to get off it's back as the other turtles in the race all rode on past... Disappointing. Once I regained some composure, picked up dignity that I had dropped, I flew into another sweet downhill. I repassed some of those other turtles on the descent so I was feeling pretty decent. At the bottom of the descent the course jumps out onto the road that goes into the feed station. Thinking smart, I joined forces with a couple other racers and we pace lined into town. It was a great idea until the idiot roadie in front of me decided he would start slowing down forcing me to lock up the brakes, skid sideways to the right, skid sideways to the left, throw out my foot (Thank God the foot came out!!) and stomp it down to save the crash. Whew... A couple more road miles then it was in to the feed zone, two fresh bottles and a Payday and I was good to go. At this point the twinge of cramps were coming on pretty good. Took it easy for a bit, downed a lot of fluids and ate something hoping this would help. Pulled back through the feed zone, got some salt tablets and more water then continued on for the last 20 or so miles. "It's only 20 miles," I was thinking. Not long into the singletrack the cramps were starting to come on pretty good, "Uh oh," is what I was thinking. Drank a bunch, pedalled easy and prayed the cramps would go away. Luckily they did, for a little while anyway. Further into the singletrack I realized my food was not going to be coming out anytime soon, "Awesome," I thought. Having the foot not come out was good on the climbs but on the bench cut descents I was a little worried that I was going to crash downhill and just keep going crashing with the inseparable foot on the bike. "Oh well, don't ride like a sissy," kept running through my mind. On one of the long climbs I passed Keith, the only guy in our group that was in front of me, he wasn't having the best day on the side of the trail but I wasn't gonna stop half way up a long climb to see if he needed anything. This gave me a bit of motivation to keep going. I began to get quite frustrated on this section of trail because the foot thing was really starting to become an issue. There were loads of switchbacks in this section and since I was so tired I was struggling with them, not being able to put a foot down meant I just fell over every time this happened. I wouldn't normally have minded too much but this meant I had to get myself up and back going while fighting cramps from setting in. Definitely thinking, "Ugh, this isn't cool anymore!" Some distance of kick-ass singletrack later I pulled in to a feed station, filled up a bottle and kept truckin. I didn't want to stop long thinking the cramps might move in and my foot was still stuck in my pedal, no bueno... I pulled back out and quickly realized it was back into slow-grinding uphills. I got very comfortable riding in the granny gear fearing I was going to stall or cramp badly if I pushed too hard. Then there was some more sweet descents after I made it through the climbing but my thoughts were more along the lines of, "Where the hell is the road? This singletrack is brutal." Definitely something I never thought I'd say to myself. Finally, I got back out to the road, I was NOT done though. After several rolling hills I came down to the last checkpoint with a guy who was less-than-spectacular at being a corner marshall/checkpoint guy, I understand though, he could only see us coming from a half mile away... Then it was back into a short section of singletrack, OUCH. Figured out that my shoe was not going to clip in to my shoe anymore at this point, I'm not totally sure when it came out. Then back onto the road. Once I was back on the road I was thinking to myself, I could really use some plain water right now. I approached two guys (corner marshalls) and asked if they had any water to which they responded, "At the top of the hill." If only I had known what they meant I would have stopped and gotten some from them anyway. A mountain-style switchback climb up a marginally loose gravel road was all that stood between me an fresh water... That climb sucked, no prettying that up. Got to the top, got some water and I knew it was sorta the home stretch to get in. I have never really seriously thought, "I really don't want to be on the bike anymore, I don't know if I even care anymore..." This is not a good attitude to have, ever. At this point I thought back to all the riders who had done this route yesterday and how hard some of them pushed and this gave me a bit of inspiration to push myself those last several miles. I was rolling down and saw the steeple on the church which was right by the finish line. This also gave me a bit of inspiration, I didn't speed up but I moreso felt, "I'm gonna finish!" I rolled up, saw the finish line and pushed as hard as I could up the last hill to the finish line hoping my legs wouldn't cramp mid way. As soon as I finished the legs started cramping, not horribly but cramping is cramping. Then I changed clothes, ate some pizza and and orange and sat around waiting for the others to come in to cheer them on. Throw in an amazing nap and the day was great! I finished in 6:04:04, my goal was sub 6 which I think I could've done without the damn pedal issues. I also wanted top 50 but I ended up 55th, not too bad for the first time ever riding there. Dinner that night was amazing and the sleep, great! Monday morning came pretty early, a quick breakfast and then it was on the road back to Dallas and then back to Houston. We stopped in Dallas and I picked up some new mountain bike shoes and a tri suit for the upcoming XTerra and then home to Houston. Great weekend!!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Well, I dropped the ball

a bit so a short summary of a couple races followed by a lengthy partial update of an epic race will have to do. Warda - hard awesome race. Rode hard, paced pretty well, sprinted a guy at the end but I couldn't quite edge him out. Comfort - long drive, good hanging out with some good friends and and awesome trail. Not the typical omnium as in years past but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The race was tough, rode hard up the climbs, felt pretty good. Saw a guy in my race gaining a little ground on me about 4 miles out. Put the hammer down and beat the kid by a couple minutes...sweet! Post race run damn near killed me, that's a long hill oh there at Comfort. Oh yeah, free ice cream guy was there, awesome! Solavaca - another long drive but this time I had a great friend and future mountain bike racer with me. Sonia made the drive go by much quicker. Rolled out to Solavaca for a pre-ride on Saturday morning and about 3 miles into the ride I tore out my sidewall pretty good. Walked the bike in then took out a Specialized demo bike to pre-ride the course. Much fancier bike than I normally ride with it's full suspension and tiny little 26" tires. Even though it was pretty sweet the handlebars were so wide I thought I was riding a full grown longhorn. With such wide bars I felt the need to tell myself not to catch a tree riding through the tight, twisty section, two seconds later I caught a tree in the tight, twisty section and went down pretty hard. Nothing like crashing a fancy $9,000 bike you don't even own. Got up, straightened out the seat and finished the pre-ride. The race was tough, 3 laps on an 8 mile course with no decent recovery area was tough!! I finished closer to the winner than I thought I was going to and I was having a pretty shitty race so I was marginally happy with that. Ouachita Challenge - EPIC. I took the Friday before the race off so I could drive up to Dallas and stay with the cycling parents on Thursday night and then drive up to Oden, Arkansas on Friday. An early morning and quick packing and we were on the way. Pretty long drive and we were in AR. The further we got from the TX/AR border the more we could hear the faint strum of banjos in the background. We got to the packet pickup area quite early so we decided to tour the checkpoints. Some beautiful scenery and weather brought back fond memories of a Sed Strat class field trip down to this area. Finally the registration was ready so we picked up our packets and then headed back to Mena to stay at the Queen Wilhelmina Lodge. Absolutely spectacular views and some good food made for a great night! The tour was on Saturday and since Alan (cycling Dad) was the coach of the Team in Training group we had the opportunity to get up early and cheer on all of the tour riders. The morning was really nice, beautiful sunrise and just enough fog to eminate the pervasive pink of the sunrise. Lot's of cows scattered about the countryside brought back memories of Wisconsin. The ride started at 8 so we watched everyone take off then we went to the first checkpoint to await our riders to support them. As the tour riders made their way through the checkpoints we followed them around making sure they all good to go. We ended up back at the finish line before we knew it awaiting the arrival of the tour riders. One by one they trickled in, only one rider did not make a time cut, very impressive! We all headed back to the lodge for a much needed pre-ride and dinner. The pre-ride was sweet, out along the road atop the ridge the hotel was on with a couple good climbs and some great descents. The chatty conversation of the dinner the night before was now a relatively quiet dinner with the stern concentration of the racers and the tired mumblings of the tour riders. After a good dinner it was time to get some much needed rest for the epic race the following day. Sunday started out pretty nice, much warmer than the day before but there were few clouds and little wind to begin with. Another early morning put us back in Oden with a little over an hour to get ready to race. Some hasty preparations and changing and it was time to get ready ride. A short warm-up and then it was time to line up. I got pretty close to the front to start but was still 4 or 5 rows back. At 8 we rode out. A quick tip from an Austin acquaintance showed me a good shortcut that may have been more than just a slight shortcut but it was sweet and put me up near the front. There was about four miles of paved road before the gravel road to get to the singletrack. On the gravel road my hasty preparations came back to bite me as the spare tube I taped under my seat fell and got caught between the rear tire and the chainstay. Nothing like locking up the back wheel while hauling down a gravel road with a bunch of other racers who are also hauling. Stopped grabbed the tube out threw it in the jersey then took off again. Riders really started getting strung out along the road, I made up some good ground I lost with the spare tube ordeal. There was a good climb right before the singletrack and once we got onto the singletrack the climbing continued. At least the pace eased a bit on the singletrack so I could recover a bit. I passed through some kickass singletrack sections, some good technical sections and one small brush fire. It was on one of the short climbs when I realized I was going to have some pedal trouble but I had no idea what I was getting myself into...