25 June 2008

The Evolution of an Age Grouper


Here is a picture of a dozen relatively new ducklings which I took this weekend here in a neighborhood close to mine. These guys tie into my posting as I am writing about an evolving triahtlete and these guys are rapidly growing. Fyi- These little dudes swim a lot faster than I do!

Today is the June 1 and I've been back in Seattle for 9 months now. Yesterday I did the Issaquah Sprint Triathlon, my first race of the season and it was awesome!

I woke up at 5:20 after hitting the snooze button twice and did some visualization (I use that term loosely) and ate some cereal before loading up my rig. After stopping at SBUX in Madison Park for my morning coffee I rolled across the 520 Bridge en route to Lake Sammamish where the race was being held. The air was clear and bright (if air can be bright I'm not sure, but at least the sky was) with the temperature in the upper 40's and the water temperature in the upper 50's.

I arrived at the transition area with about an hour to spare and got my body markings before going in and setting up my station. After laying out my wetsuit, bike gear and checking out all of the cute girls in the vicinity (races can be considered the bar scene for athletes and just like I was too shy to approach them at bars I don't do it here either) I pulled on my running shoes and ran around the parking lot for 10 minutes to get warmed up.

Unlike in previous year's races (all one and a half of them) I showed up with the expectation that I was going to perform at a relatively respectable level and I was confident that I would do well.

Of course no matter how well prepared we are or how confident we think we might be there is that little voice inside of us we have to contend with. You know which one I'm talking about, the one that tells us we aren't good enough and we are going to get our asses kicked. Somehow this guy in my dome trys to convince me that some dude that has been sitting on his couch all winter watching reality tv and pounding micro brews to escape the bleak reality of a Seattle winter is going to roll out on this sunny day and blow me and all of my hard work away. It is in silencing this inner critic and telling it that we did the training, we are in shape and we are here today to kick that voice's ass that enable us to secure our first victory of the day. Of course, the voice has logged many hours of steady training as well and he is not one to be beaten easily.

Being a part of me he is no quitter and he came right back at me, taunting me as I pulled on my wetsuit and walked down to the lake for my warm up swim. He got pretty loud and cocky as I waded into the water and realized it was a little bit colder than the night before and hesitated. Finally after remininding myself the importance of not being a whimp (not exactly what I said but you never know who will be reading this) and how beneficial a warm up is I threw my face in the frigid water and started to swim. Finally after 5-10 minutes of warming up I hauled myself over to the starting line to kick off the 2008 season.

For the first time ever in a race I didn't get in the back of the pack for the swim start and settled in closer to the front- half running half swimming to get going. My swim was OK and it was certainly better than last year by leaps and bounds I did stop a few times when I started swimming into people, but this was an entirely new experience for me... actually passing people so I think my system was in shock. This time I was in freestyle the entire time which apparently is a pretty effective way to race. No dog paddling, no back stroke, no side stroke, no visions of some hunch back dude on a flat boat with an eye patch dredging the bottom of the lake for my bloated dead body. Pretty solid all the way around.

I finished the swim strong coming up on the beach in 8 minutes and ran to the transition in a much better mood than past races. I knew I was in pretty good shape when I actually had to dodge people in the transition area as in the past this area has been some pretty lonely real estate for me. Aside from taking a full two minutes to pull my jersey over my heart rate monitor I had a fairly smooth transition and was off.

Once on the bike I passed quite a few people in my age group and remained fairly strong throughout the bike leg. Unlike the standard long course training that I do with my heart rate around 140ish I was pinning it the whole time and had my heart rate around 160 and 175-180 on the hills. I could feel the lactate sludge building up and burning in my legs but that feeling was trumped by the endorphin high that I was experiencing at the time. There are few highs in life that I can think of that compares to the feeling of racing. Even when in deep pain it has a way of locking me into the present moment and no matter how intense I am into the race I notice the beauty in everything. The scenery, the athletes-both the elites and average guys and girls out there giving it their best- it is very moving for me. It is times like these that I am truly appreciative of the gift that is my life.

But no matter how locked in I get it doesn't mean my mind doesn't wander and here are a few random thoughts from the ride...

-Maybe I shouldn't have had that shake from BurgerMaster last night

-Why do I think a stormtrooper is coming when I hear disc wheels

-I wonder what Issaquah tastes like? Is it better baked or sauteed? What would it be infused with if it were on the menu at most Seattle restaurants?

-who chooses the music they play at races? Why do we always have to hear good time oldies? why don't they play Metallica?

-I wonder if the lady in the 40-45 age group riding the mountain bike and listening to her Ipod thought it was cool that my legs are shaved? (I am not making this stuff up- I won't put into print what I come up with on long training rides)

So... enough of the race course philososphy. I pulled into the last transition and nearly encountered catastrophe. Due to a problem with team JFT2 uniforms not arriving in time I was racing in my old gear. Normally not a big thing, but... I had used my shorts for training in the pool and they had nearly disintegrated. They were certainly not the form fitting spandex they once were and my cut off jean shorts from my pseudo hippie days would probably have offered more support. As I was trying to dismount coming into the transition my shorts got stuck on my seat and I nearly bit it. Fortunately I have ample practice of averting near disaster while moving at high speed from my time on the slopes and as the crowd applauded my high wire act I was able to pull out of my nose dive and eject from the bike. It was only hours later when my friend Phil made his kids go inside when I came over to their house did I discover that I had torn a nice hole in my shorts exposing my pasty white backside.

The final transition was not too bad and I hit the running trail in high gear. I kept up what I felt was a "blistering" pace for the entire run and according to my calculations I did the run in just under 20 minutes and this was later confirmed by the official timer. I felt like my chest was going to explode the entire run, but at least I kept my heart rate steady (160-1755) Ha! I felt strong the entire run and had enough of a kick left to pass several more people at the end and finish with a time of 1:16:22. Random thoughts for the run...

-Oh my God, how much time do I have to prepare for Vineman?

-I wonder how long I could run all out at altitude before my hands start to shake?

-I'm glad I had that shake at BurgerMaster last night

Overall I was very happy with my performance and I am optimistic about the 2008 season. Next up is the Cascade's Edge Oly on June 21st, hopefully it won't be snowing that day.

As I grow older I am a big fan of connecting the dots and seeing how various singular events throughout life tie into others to make up the big picture. The past six months (hell the past 3 years) has been an interesting time in my life. I have seen my business and training/fitness take off and I have been through a somewhat difficult break up (or a relationship restructuring to place it in a positive sense) I have made it a practice to to ask questions of whatt good will come out of a seemingly bad situation. I now know that if I hadn't gone through the break up, I wouldn't have shaken up my routine and gone to the Endurance Corner Tucson camp this past March. This event has continued to have a positive impact on my life in many ways (Props to you Court!)

For me this was taking a big risk. In uncertain financial times it was a bit of a sacrifice for me to put out the money it took to travel down and attend, but I knew that it would be money well spent in supporting my goals. This is why I work to make money in the first place.

The second fear that I had to overcome was the fear of embarrassing my self. There were around 20 talented, hard working athletes at the camp and it took a leap of faith for me to leave my ego back in Seattle and just go down and give it my best. Sometimes that is all that we can do.

Just being around the Endurance Corner guys and all of the athletes was a big inspiration to me and I made it through the week relatively unscathed. Fortunately Gordo and JD had it set up that it was all I could do to roll out of bed and get my work in. I had no energy left to feel embarrassed and I certainly had no pride. This gave me a huge confidence boost and a new realization of just what it takes to become great at this sport.

You see, for me I love the training and the racing involved in triathlon, but I get much more out of it than that. I always look for ways that I can cross pollinate other areas of my life with the lessons and examples from sports. How can I use this experience to make me a better friend, boyfriend, eventually husband and dad. How can I use this transformation I've undergone as an example to others. How can I be more productive in business. This is what I think of when I'm not thinking about the milkshakes and dopers legs falling off when I'm out on my long rides.

For what it's worth I placed in the top third in my age group and wasn't too far from being where I want to be which is in the top 10. I'm feeling much better about the racing aspect of myself than I was when I was at the back of the back (Gordo, there is a difference) However I wasn't extremely attached to the outcome in either case. I might even be less attached now that I know it's more about my process and if I continually prepare the outcome will take care of itself- in both racing and life.

"Ain't no man can avoid being born average, but there ain't no man got to be common." Satchel Paige

Get after it!

Hough