Thursday, December 11, 2014

The North Face Endurance Challenge - Half Marathon

A few months ago when I just started this whole running thing, I didn't really have any particular races in mind.  I was just running because it felt right and because I wanted to be a better runner.  But of course the competitor in me eventually said it was time to race.  I didn't want the pressure of PR'ing anything, so the best candidate was a trail race.  Naturally I wouldn't pick anything easy, so I went with The North Face Endurance Challenge half marathon distance.  13.5 miles and 2600 feet of elevation.  Sounds challenging?  Perfect!

The morning of the race started pretty damn early.  5:30am to be exactly.  The race didn't start until 8am, but the only way to get to the start is via the shuttles which left at 6:30.  Typically I don't sleep before races, and this was no different.  I was wide awake as soon as the alarm went off.

The rest of the journey to the start was fairly uneventful.  Breakfast, zero traffic, tons of parking, shuttles.  I think we got to the starting area just after 7am.  PLENTY of time to relax.

The gun went off at 8am.  My goal for the race was to try and stay with the lead pack as long as I could.  That went out the window almost immediately.  It was just over a mile to the first climb, but things were already broken up.  I felt decent, but I didn't really have any desire to chase the leaders.  The race is about an hour and a half, and I didn't want to blow it in the first five minutes.  Patience was the key.

The first climb up Miwok was my first low of the day.  On the first climb!?!  Yep, I felt flat going up.  At least ten people must have passed me on that climb.  Maybe it was patience again, but I don't think I could have hung with those dudes if I wanted.

I started to feel OK again once we hit the descent into Tennessee Valley.  I had a lot of ground to make up, but it was still early in the race.  I chose NOT to break any ankles today and just maintained the distance to the guy ahead of me.  I eventually passed him in the valley on the way to the next climb.  It wasn't a decisive pass...kind of a half-asses pass, but I never saw him again.

The second climb was up the coastal trail and fire road.  Let me tell you - this one is a bitch.  It is by far the steepest climb.  I felt a little better on this one and passed a mountain biker and one other guy, but it still felt like I was crawling.  I guess steep trails just do that to you?

Coming over the top, I passed one more dude.  I couldn't quite gauge his descending skills, so after a few steps to transition my legs from uphill to downhill mode, I took off.  I did NOT want to get repassed on a descent, so I threw caution to the wind and descended like I hated my joints.  I'm pretty sure I aged my knees at least ten years coming down the Fox trail.  It was steeper than the coastal fire road, and I let gravity do all of the work.

After a quick tour de Tennessee Valley again, I was once again heading up, this time on the Marincello trail.  The difference here was that I saw no one.  Not in front of me (ok maybe there was a shadowy figure off in the fog,) but definitely not behind me.  This probably contributed to my lack of drive up that last climb, but I just focused on being "in the moment" rather than focusing on how much more climbing I actually had to do.

Coming off the last summit, I knew it was party time.  My overly ambitious pre-race plan had me making my move right here at the top of the Rodeo Valley descent.  I was going to "spread my wings and fly" since this one is pretty mellow grade-wise.  Although I wasn't in a battle for the lead, I did follow the plan and beastmoded the descent.  My joint-crushing efforts netted me one place higher, and I could see one more guy about 50m up.  I didn't know it at the time, but that guy was 3rd in my age group.

I tried hard, but I couldn't catch that dude towards the end.  It was an uphill finish, and I had no more fight left in these old stumps.  Finishing four seconds back from a bunch of free North Face stuff kind of sucks a little, but I hit my goal time of sub-1:35 (finish time was 1:34:43.)  I can't control the competition, but I can control my own race.  9th overall and 4th in my age group is definitely something I can be proud of.

The best thing about this race?  I can finally shave this awful beard off my face!  For those of you who had the (dis)pleasure of seeing me during Movember, I grew the worst excuse for a beard in tribute to trail runners everywhere (much greater men than I.)  I'm happy to say that on Dec. 7th, I am once again cleanly shaved.


Pro race pics (there are some cool ones here)


Monday, December 1, 2014

Silicon Valley Turkey Trot - My return to racing

After the Tahoe situation this year, I was kind of a mess.  The weeks following the race were tough in all sorts of ways - physically, personally, emotionally, etc.  I mentally disconnected from racing and decided to get back to my roots: Running.  After riding my bike for nearly 6000 miles in nine months (~340 hours) and swimming more than I can remember, the last thing I wanted to do was look at my bike or a black line.  Running felt good, so I was going to just roll with it as long as I could.  I didn't have any races in mind, but running 50-60 miles a week was what my body wanted to do.  I wasn't about to argue!

Around the same time, I started working with a coach.  At first I was very reluctant to being coached, but David seemed insistent that I could be a much better runner than what my numbers were showing.  Having not being coached for over ten years, it took a bit of convincing before I let anyone control my time.  But as it turns out, David is a pretty cool dude who is even more excited about my running than I am!  THAT is the type of person I want coaching me!  Link to his website:

So after working together for four weeks, it was time to benchmark our progress.  I had a huge confidence-boosting 10 mile run in 59:50, but racing is different than training.  We decided a casual turkey trot would be a good place to start, so I decided on the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot in San Jose.

Normally I wouldn't write a blog post about a 5k, but this one is special.  After everything that's happened, I was finally EXCITED to race again!

Race morning was pretty relaxed.  Sam and I headed to the race around 6:50am.  My race didn't start until 8:30, but hers went off at 7:50.  We found parking at the SAP Center (where the Sharks play) very easily.  From there it was just a few blocks to the start down Market Street.  With so many people at this race, I was absolutely amazed at how chill everything was.  Bathroom lines were short.  Crowds were small.  So awesome.

After Sam went off, I had a few minutes to myself.  This was very important.  David and I talked about a proper warmup, and I executed that.  As soon as I took my warm clothes off and changed into my race shoes, I felt like I was floating on air.  This brought a huge smile to my face, and I knew it was going to be a good day!  I pushed to the front and started the race with my toes on the starting line - a rare occurrence with ~12000 people racing the 5k.
Striking an epic pose at the starting line.

The gun went off, and there was a mad dash for position.  I got caught up in that for a brief moment, but I remembered that David said to let the high school kids blow out the first mile.  I backed off slightly to avoid the same fate.  And as expected, as soon as we hit the first mile marker, I immediately passed three to four people.

David cautioned that mile two would be the toughest of the race, but it was only the beginning.  Soon after the 1mi mark, we hit the last wave of the 10k: The Walkers.  It was like weaving through a mine field.  There was a small  group of us weaving together, and thankfully I wasn't at the front.  I just had to follow along.  Occasionally we would split up, but we'd always converge back to the best line or the widest openings in the crowd.
Doing a good job of hiding the pain.

For me, mile three was the most brutal.  The deep hurt didn't settle in until mile 2.5.  I was honestly surprised it took that long, but struggling to breath AND weaving around people pushing baby walkers was hard.  Towards the last quarter mile, the 5k'ers and 10k'ers split.  We'd make a left towards the finish, and they'd make a right towards the second half of their race.  This was a godsend.  The weaving ended, but the hurt was still there.  Thankfully 5k's are pretty darn short.  I didn't have much of a kick, but I was able to hold off two of the dudes I was with for most of the race.

For my official time, I managed a 16:45 (5:24/mi.)  2nd in M25-29 and 12th overall out of ~12k.  Those are results I'm happy with.  This was such a massive PR.  In high school, I never even broke 18min for three miles, so to come this far is huge for me.  David deserves quite a bit of credit here.  He's the one who molded this lump of clay into something that could run a reasonable 5k.

Sam kicked some major ass too.  She PR'd both her 5k (19:46) AND 10k (42:04) times.  Mega kudos for that!
Barely broke a sweat!

Next up is the North Face Endurance half marathon on Dec 7th.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Epic Camp Canada 2014: Epilogue

Today is the first day post-Epic Camp Canada 2014, so it's time to reflect on the past twelve days.  It's hard to believe it's all over.  I'm sure you won't find it hard to believe, but it was  kind of nice to wake up this morning and not have to swim 3k, run 10k, and bike 200k.  I thought I might join a few others for a light jog this morning, but my legs are still in a state of extreme shock.  It hurts to squat down, and I don't think that feeling will go away for at least a few more days.

As I fly home, I have a mixture of emotions right now, but most of all, I'm feeling relief.  Going into this camp, I had a ton of anxiety.  I think that's pretty normal though.  I haven't done a lot of international travel.  I was going to spend two weeks with people I've never met before.  I didn't even know if my body was going to be able to handle the extreme amount of punishment it was going to endure.  There was also the added stress to perform in the jersey competitions.  For all of these reasons, I don't think I had a single "good" night's sleep the entire trip.  I joked near the end of the camp that I'm going to go to sleep tonight (Sunday) and wake up for work on Tuesday (Monday is a holiday,) but given my current sleep debt, I don't know if that's a joke...

I still need to add up the numbers, but I did somewhere close to 80 hours of workouts in 12 days.  This included swimming over 3km per day, running over 6.2 miles per day, and biking over 1000 miles through the mountains (ie tons of climbing.)  At my peak, that amount of training took me over a month.  Squeezing that down to two weeks with the added intensity of races and other competitions meant that my body went through the beating of a lifetime. (To be updated with exact numbers.)

Coming into the camp, John Newsom said I would be one of the slower guys as well as one of the younger campers (Leah was the youngest at 28.)  For these reasons, I took things pretty slow at first.  I relied quite a bit on the group and on the veteran campers to help guide me in my approach.  Initially I was a bit trigger happy on the pulls and on the climbs.  I trained and tapered well, so the first few days I felt much better than expected.  I also knew my strengths (climbing and running,) so I strategically used those to my advantage.

The first week was great.  I was doing the camp minimums, and my perception was that I was handling things as well or better than most.  I was pretty lucky to only get one flat on the road, so for the most part, I was always keeping up with the lead pack.  The pace never felt unmanageable either.  My swimming was a solid 7th, but this was a pretty minor part of the camp.

Around the beginning of the second week, the fatigue started to set in.  I think it coincided with my first two hour run.  Due to my foot injury coming into camp, my run wasn't where it should have been, so the longer runs definitely had a major impact on performance.  There was also the incident with my bike towards the middle of the camp.  This killed me both mentally and physically.  Wildflower (my bike) and I were like one.  That bike was basically an extension of my body, so to lose something like that was difficult.  At the time, I was in a mild state of shock because I didn't know if I would be able to complete the camp, and I knew it was a multi-thousand dollar incident.  A tough pill to swallow for sure.  The new bike is nice though.  Dandelion (thanks Sam!) and I got to know each other pretty well, and by the end of the camp, we are on pretty solid terms.

The last half of the second week was very dark for me.  Right around day 9 is when things took a turn for the worst.  I was still able to move, but getting out of bed in the morning was difficult.  Biking became tougher and tougher, and I kept missing the main pack.  Occasionally there would be someone I could ride with, but pulling (riding in front) was out of the question.  My most sincere apologies to everyone for doing almost no work towards the end.  Physically, I just couldn't.  I hope you understand and don't hold too much of a grudge.

The KOM competition was something I was looking forward to, but Zach crushed that hard.  He went five for five on the KOMs which was untouchable.  Before the fatigue set in, I was close, but once I lost my bike and my legs, there was no coming back.  Well done Zach.  I hope I at least made you work for it.

The yellow jersey competition was something I had in the back of my mind for a while.  Realistically I never thought I had a chance especially with my foot and lack of running coming into camp.  After the KOM was lost, I noticed I was doing well in GC (yellow jersey) points purely based on performance in the races.  With just a little more effort to pick up a few "easy" points, I could be a contender.  So that's what I did.  By the last two days, I had a severe case of yellow fever.  I didn't quite realize what I was up against with Adam B, but I tried hard.  It took a bit of ingenuity to grab some points (convincing Scott to let me violate the 12-hour rule, downhill 7x1k, etc.) but for two days, I went for it.  The best I did was tie Adam B for one day, but after reading Molina's blog about the integrity of the yellow jersey and considering the shape that my legs were in, I decided to call it quits.  Adam B tacked on way more than I did, and he got up at 4:30am on the last day to put in some monster training.  Kudos dude.  You are a badass and earned the yellow.  But all things considered, I'm happy to have been a contender and to have had the opportunity to go for it.  I made you work for it, and likewise, you made me do work as well.

To John and the support crew, thanks for an amazing experience.  Logistically, everything was incredible.  Michelle made the most amazing food and gave a killer massage, Dave went out of his way for me so many times (almond milk smoothies) and had an incredible personality, and Mark saved me so many times with bike stuff.  You guys were like wizards with logistics.

Here are a few things that I learned that might make for a better experience next time:
- Bring a laptop.  Managing pictures and garmin issues would have been a lot better with a real computer.  There was a ton of extra room, so size wouldn't have been an issue.
- Bring warmer clothes.  Again, size and space weren't really issues, so there was room for bigger bags with more of the uncommon but greatly appreciated things like cold/wet weather gloves and full cycling booties.  Those two things alone would have been a game-changer during that one miserable day from Sunwapta to Lake Louise.
- Better run fitness would have helped a ton.  Going into camp, I was lacking some long run training.  You're never forced to run long, but that extra durability in my legs would have helped a lot.
- Pick your battles.  Halfway through the camp I flipped from going for the KOM to the yellow jersey.  In the future, if the yellow jersey is a realistic goal, go for it on day one.  Likewise, if you're going for the KOM, take it easy on the rest of the stuff.  Zach wasn't going for camp completion, so trying to split my effort in both competitions was difficult.
- Do the fast stuff EARLY, at sea level, and on FLAT ground.  Trying to do hard run sets when you're super tired, at 5000 feet, and in the mountains is a nightmare.
- Declare your tack-ons.  Being secret about your bonus points is not a good way to make friends.  It all gets revealed at the end anyway.
- Be a tourist every once in a while.  I missed out on a few opportunities to have some fun like the river adventure and the Lake Louise gondola because I was too busy training.  At the end of the day, the experience is a lot more valuable than a little more training.

I had a great time here at Epic Camp Canada.  I feel like I accomplished something huge and am a better person for it.  I also met some great people along the way and shared many epic moments with them.  I will almost certainly be back for the next one!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Epic Camp Day 12: Lake Louise to Calgary - The Final Day

I conceded the yellow jersey this morning.  Actually, I conceded it sometime last night.  My legs hurt so much that I couldn't bend them to curl up into a ball, so I decided that enough was enough.  It wasn't worth risking my chances of doing well in Tahoe in three weeks.  I feel bad because Adam B got up at 4:30am to do the 7x1k run reps, another 10k run, and a 60k bike to pull ahead all before the official 200k bike.  That's HUGE.  I seriously can't touch that.  Adam B: You are a hardcore badass well-deserving of the yellow jersey.  Congrats.
So instead I got up at 6:15 to make the 6:45 van ride up to Lake Louise.  We stopped at the lake to take pictures just as we headed out on our tea house run.  It's hard to describe how beautiful it was.  I've been waiting FOREVER to take a picture standing in front of the lake.  You see pictures of it all over the internet, but today was my day.  I was happy that it was pretty calm and clear too, and it was definitely worth it.
After some solid photography, we headed up the trail towards the tea house.  The trail was much like the one yesterday with nice dirt and straight uphill.  And of course ridiculously beautiful.  Just like yesterday, it twas a mixture of running and walking (mostly walking) that is, unless your name is Lou.  I don't know how, but Lou somehow managed to run the entire way up.  It might not have been blazingly fast, but he did it.  The view from the tea house was worth it too.  Definitely one I will not forget for a while.  On the way down, I had some solid man-to-man-to-man time with Lou and Scott.  They gave me a ton of life and racing advice that I won't soon forget.  The rest of the descent was spent chasing after Zach and Petro.  We took the scenic route and ended up getting back way later than expected.
Breakfast was a bit rushed, but we go out on the bikes by 9:30.  My legs were thoroughly crushed into oblivion, so almost immediately the pace seemed difficult.  Newsom said the pace was going to be on from the start, and he wasn't kidding.  We took a side road which paralleled the main highway.  It was nice, but it wasn't as scenic as I was hoping.  The views I saw yesterday from the main highway were definitely better.  The first aid station was just outside Banff, and it was a welcome break.  But as soon as that was over, John promised that the pace would be even higher for the 30k out on the highway.  He wasn't kidding either.  As soon as we got out there, the front pack took off.  I tried to hang with them, but I didn't last long.  As soon as the main group got up to me, they flew past too!  Crap, I missed both groups!  Thankfully Molina was smart enough not to hammer, and he fell off too.  I got on his wheel and hung there until the turn.
I also hung onto his wheel until the aid station at 100k too.  We took another side road, and the shoulder was a death trap for tires.  Another day with plenty of punctures!  After the aid station, we were noticeably exiting the mountains.  The terrain was changing more and more to gently rolling hills, and the weather was getting sunnier and warmer.  Molina and I just kept on motoring along (he obviously leading) all the way to lunch at 150k.  I swear, Molina must be sick of towing me around the past two weeks.  He might as well of had a rope attached from his bike to mine pulling me along.  I spent more time with him than anyone else this entire camp.
Lunch was our typical road lunch, and naturally I tried to eat everything in sight.  The plan was to wait up for everyone and roll into Calgary together.  This worked well for a while, but we got split on the climb just before town.  Eventually we regrouped and made our way to the hotel.  I think we stopped at a thousand stoplights on the way, but we made it.  Once we got to the hotel, things were a little crazy.  People were packing bikes, showering, etc. all the way until dinner.
The Epic Camp closing dinner was great.  The food was good, and many good laughs were shared.  Epic support crew Dave Dwan had an excellent speech, and John Newsom handed out some fancy Epic Camp swag.  Slowly people started trickling out, but it was hard to leave all of the good stories from Molina.  I think the story of Gary's snickers bars will be told for many Epic Camps to come.
My flight is at 11:20 tomorrow, but I'll head down to the lobby much earlier to hang out with people.  Tomorrow I will type up my epilogue too, so stay tuned!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Epic Camp Day 11: In Lake Louise

Once again, I'll cut right to the chase: The race for yellow is on.  Adam Bardsley has the lead over me by a single point.  As it stands, I have not done my second 200k ride, so if/when I make it to Calgary tomorrow (assuming by bike,) I will get those two points.  So in virtual standings, I'm ahead by one point.  I know this; Adam knows this; everyone knows this.  I told Adam B exactly what my plan is for tomorrow, so if he can somehow beat that, then he deserves yellow.
And now the recap of the day.  We rolled out this morning at 9am.  The plan was to ride 15k uphill to Lake Moraine, run up Sentinel Pass, and bike down.  The ride up was super mellow.  It wasn't a race of any kind, and we knew the run was going to be a doozy.  Once we got to the top, we tossed our bikes in the truck and headed to the trail.
The run was 5.8k long and 2400 feet up to Sentinel Pass.  The way up was brutal.  We tried to run at first, but eventually we resorted to power walking.  When the trail leveled out a bit, we'd try to run, but it always pitched up too steep to climb.  At first we were running through a cloud, so the views were crappy.  But once we got above the cloud, the vistas were spectacular.  In fact, they were better than anything I've ever seen before.  Once the internet is good again, I'll post pictures, but for now, you'll have to take my word for it.  The run back down was nice.  Zach and I were running quickly, but I was trying to be cautious to avoid the ankle traps everywhere.  Once we got down to Lake Moraine, we took a quick dip to ice our legs.  Damn that felt good.
After we biked down, lunch was served.  I have to hand it to Michelle, she can make anything taste good with whatever materials she has.  Today we had a Mexican rice dish and pasta with sausage.  Both were amazing.  Sadly, I went light on lunch because I had other plans...
After lunch, I went for a 20k run.  The plan was to run out 10k as a warmup and then do the 7x1k under 3:50 with one minute rest on the way back.  This was a really difficult run, but if I made it under 3:50, it would be worth mega points.  I got it done, so that 20k run alone was worth five points - huge.
Next up was a 90k ride.  I originally planned on riding 120k, but it was getting a little late.  I didn't get out there until 4pm.  My plan was to go out super easy since my legs were a little sore from the 20k run.  I had a nice tailwind, and it was downhill.  I was mentally preparing myself for a grind on the way back.  After the 45k mark, I had some good luck.  The winds had somehow magically changed, and I had a tailwind going back too!  Booyah (or so I thought.)  Around the 65k mark, my luck went to shit.  I saw the clouds off in the distance, and at 65k I finally reached them.  The rain started to come down pretty heavy, and it was back to a stiff headwind.  It wasn't too cold, so I was actually pretty happy about the rain.  If you know me at all, the biggest thing I miss about Chicago is the thunderstorms.  If it's not cold, rain is such a joy for me.  Today though, the rain was ok for about 20 minutes, but the temperature dropped just past my comfort level for the last 20.  When I got back, I was shaking quite a bit, but I did indeed make it back.  This 90k ride netted me another three points.
I met up with the group just a bit late for dinner, but I still had my delicious pulled pork sandwich, all of my fries, the communal salad, and most of Mark's fries as well.  I think I'm starting to get a reputation around here.  I don't know how these guys don't eat more!
When it was all said and done, I was one point behind Adam B.  My eight points didn't quite close the gap.  His early morning 10k run and 150k on the bike was big (I only anticipated him doing 120k.)  But as I said, he knows what I'm going to do tomorrow, so the ball is in his court.  Good luck.

Epic Camp Day 10: Sunwapta to Lake Louise

I won't sugar coat it: Today was absolutely miserable.  I knew the weather here in Canada was too good to be true, and today made up for it.  It was cold and rainy from the time we woke up to about five minutes before the end of our ride.
The day started with a short 4k run to Honeymoon Lake.  Given that we were at 4500 feet, Newsom was going to make the call as to how long we'd have to swim due to cold water.  His conclusion: Swim as long as you can, but if you're getting hypothermic, get out.  Yep, that about sums it up.  The water was f'ing frigid!  As usual, I got in the water and started following my favorite swim buddy Shannon.  About five minutes in, my hands and feet were numb.  I checked my watch thinking we'd been in the water for 20+ minutes.  Nope.  5.  This was torture, but since it was our last official swim, I wanted to beast mode the full 3k.  I got it done, but I definitely paid for it.  After getting out, I could barely get dressed because I saw shaking so much.  It definitely reminded me of my 19min T1 at Tahoe last year.  The 4k jog back to the cabin helped warm me up a bit, but it wasn't nearly enough.
Before the big ride of the day, I could tell it was going to be a shitty day.  The rain was coming down, and the temperature was dropping.  I put just about every piece of warm clothing I had in my day bag on top of what I was already wearing.  The details for the ride were: 178k with two KOMs at 54k and 134k.  Translation: LONG with two HUGE climbs in the worst possible weather.  I think I was completely soaked less than 10k into the ride.  It wasn't raining too hard, but the spray from wheels including my own was wrecking my gloves and shoes.  Around 25k, the front group took off.  I hung back with the more logical crew.  The theme from yesterday continued: No energy.  I just didn't have it.
The first KOM was a grinder.  There's a steep part in the beginning followed by a downhill and finishing up with a long slog at a steady grade.  The steep part was tough.  I caught up to Gary and just chilled on his wheel for a while.  He didn't know that the steep part wasn't the KOM, so he dropped back a bit.  For the steady part, Gareth and I just slogged up that.  Brutal, brutal grind.  Eventually we saw the top, and he busted out a solid sprint to take it...for like 10th place (the front group was long gone.)  At the top, they had the greatest soup of my life.  In reality, it probably wasn't that great, but given the situation, it was everything I could have hoped for at the top of a climb.  At the aid station at the top, I also made the decision to put on my long sleeve thermal shirt (layer number 4) and put garbage bags on my completely drenched feet.
From there, we had a long descent down to the next aid station at 100k.  Normally I love descents, but given the weather, this was the last thing I wanted.  Freezing.  Cold.  The other guys here are also much faster at descents due to gearing, so I missed the group which meant 45k solo.  Actually, Douglas came by, so he want I cruising along together for a while.
After what seemed like forever, Douglas and I got to the aid station.  Actually, we missed it, but thanks to a really awesome car, they let us know and we doubled back a bit.  Initially the garbage bags that I put on my feet were a good idea, but somehow water got in and never drained.  The pools in my shoes were quite annoying, so I ditched them at 100k.  Feet were still freezing though.  I downed two Snickers bars, and since the main group was rolling out, I decided to head out too.
The next KOM was at 134k.  Almost immediately I was dropped by the pack.  Molina didn't have much either, so it was me and him grinding away up this mountain.  Near the top, I hit my low.  According to Molina, I didn't hit rock bottom because I was still pedaling, but I will tell you now that I was as close to getting off my bike as I have ever been.  I was questioning how I ever got into this mess, why I even decided to buy a bike, and probably even the meaning of life.  I was dropping F-bombs left and right and yelling, "Where the hell is the top!?!?!"  It was bad.  Cold, wet, and absolutely miserable.
After a quick lunch at the top, we had a decent descent down to Lake Louise.  It wasn't pleasant, but at least I knew the end was near.  A Red Bull gave me some wings for the final stretch, and after almost seven long, treacherous, uncomfortable, grueling, and stressful hours, that bitch of a ride was done.  Molina and I celebrated with a quick dip in the hot tub which was amazing after a day full of numb hands and feet.  The circulation returned.
I didn't take many pictures today partly because I couldn't get my camera out, and if I did, I couldn't squeeze my fingers hard enough to turn it on.  It's also a day I would rather forget.  I'm sure in some weird way it made me tougher, but it was also the worst training day of my life.  Today was supposed to be one of the most beautiful stretches of road in the world, and it was ruined by cold, wet fog.  What a disappointment.  If there's one thing that I want to take away from today, it's a quote from Molina which he told me while I was hating life up the second KOM: "Even if you have the perfect race, it always fucking hurts."

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Epic Camp Day 9: Jasper to Sunwapta Falls

The day started off a little later than usual (thankfully - sleeping in is always nice!)  The pre-ride plan was to bike up to Pyramid Lake and get our daily minimum of 3k in.  It wasn't a particularly eventful morning.  We headed up to the lake around 7:30.  It was a 7k ride, but it was not an easy 7k.  It was straight up into the hills north of Jasper.  The swim wasn't too eventful either.  Other than being absolutely frigid, Shannon and I did easy loops and hopped out.  Biking back to the hotel was pretty sweet though since it was entirely downhill.
We headed out towards Sunwapta Falls just after 10:30.  It's a short ride there, so we did a climb up to Marmot Basin for the KOM competition.  Technically we had two KOMs scheduled for the day, but the other one was closed due to a mud slide (some people did it anyway, and with it being closed to cars, I hear it was pretty amazing.)  Marmot Basin was a 13k climb which we reached just a few miles out from Jasper.  An eight mile climb is no joke, and let me tell you, it felt like it went on forever.  I'm still getting used to the new bike, and so far it isn't great.  Losing my R5 (named Wildflower) was soul crushing.  I felt like that bike was an extension of my body, and this new bike just feels...foreign.  Anyway, I made it up the climb in 5th place.  Zach was first as usual, and Adam Bardsley (current yellow jersey holder) was second.
The rest of the ride was a grind to Sunwapta Falls.  I felt completely drained - no energy whatsoever.  I tried to do a pull at the front, but that lasted about 15 seconds.  From there on out, I mostly just hung on to the back and drafted whoever or whatever I could.  I was in a dark place.  This is the first time during the camp where I've felt a significant lack of energy.  It's almost certainly physical, but with everything going on, there's definitely a mental component as well.
Eventually I made it to the destination.  We had to do a 10k run, and most people went out on the trail out by the falls.  My plan was different: Fast 10k for points.  Since I was low on energy, I ate and drank as much sugar as I could and let everything digest for a bit.  My stretch goal was sub-38min which would net me three huge points.  My primary goal was sub-40 which only nets two.  After a short warmup, I headed out.  Initially the pace was good, but as soon as I headed out on Ice Fields Parkway, my pace dropped to around 6:40.  Crap.  This is no where the 6:07/mile pace needed for 38min and way off the 6:27/mile pace I needed for sub-40.  Sub-40 was supposed to be EASY!  I grinded it out for almost 5k.  As soon as I turned around, I started flying at way under 6min/mile pace.  AH HA!  Turns out I had been climbing the entire way out and didn't even realize it (severe case of poo-brain.)  Almost the entire way back was downhill, and I was crushing it.  By the end, I just barely missed the 38min mark.  I was maybe 20 seconds off.  The initial climb, 4500 foot elevation, and the fact that I did a swim and ride beforehand put me in the hole.
So given the points situation from yesterday, I knew I was close to yellow.  How close was tough to say.  Regardless, I waited a while and decided to head out for 10k run #2.  This was worth one bonus point, and all I had to do was grind it out.  Pace was irrelevant.  And that's what I did.  It was slow and painful, but I got it done.
After adding in all tack-ons for the day, I'm tied for yellow.  Mission accomplished.  Secretly all I wanted to do was wear the jersey for one day, and I'm happy to say that I'll get to do that.  Given the bike situation, I'm going to drop down a lot in the KOM competition, and once that rolls into the overall points, I won't stand a chance.
Tomorrow is going to  be a tough day.  There are two KOMs, and the weather is going to be bad.  There's a lot of rain in the forecast, and it'll be cold since we're going up high (~6500 feet.)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Epic Camp Day 8: In Jasper

I'll skip ahead to the good news: I got a bike today!  After our swim, I went down to the bike shop and had them build up a Specialized Roubaix SL4 for me.  I was pretty lucky that they had one in my size, and fortunately they had a pretty nice sale going on too which means I got a sweet deal.  It took a bit longer than expected to get it ready which meant I missed the group for the 60k daily minimum, but I got it done.
Anyway, back to the start of the day.  We got to use the pool here in Jasper which we specially booked ahead of time.  We had to get things done early which meant getting there at 6am.  With the time change coming into Alberta, this was a particularly brutal early morning wake up.  The pool was only a quarter mile away, so the walk was short.  We all did an easy warmup, and then got on with the special events that were planned: The races.  First up was the 400m IM race.  We split into waves based on projected finish time.  I was in the faster wave, and it was fun to watch some of the earlier waves race.  When my wave was up, Petro and Molina were trash talking like they were going to win, and rightfully so since they are both very good swimmers.  But little do they know that I'm a strong pool swimmer and that IM is my jam. :)  I ended up going out strong and took the lead immediately during the butterfly.  I don't have a lot of endurance with fly, but I can swim a solid 100 if needed.  I was pretty bushed after the fly, but backstroke is my strongest stroke so I increased my lead a bit.  From there on out, I just hung on to my lead and ended up winning.  No points were on the line, only prestige.
The next event was the 200m kick.  Zach was the closest competitor here, but I won this too.  The last race was the 50m free.  Gary was officiating this, and he said I left early.  I argue that everyone else just left late!  It's not my fault they didn't anticipate the start! :)  I ended up winning by more than a second though, so it was a moot point anyway.
After the races, we just had a little more to do, so I followed Newsom's lead doing a 20x100m on 1:35 pace.  I got a bonus point for that set, and I got a bonus point for the 200m butterfly afterward that nearly killed me.  Some people stayed and did more, but I had to go to the bike shop to search for a bike (more on that later.)
Breakfast was awesome as usual.  We had a bread, bacon, ham, and cheese casserole as well as leftover pancakes.  It was amazing.  Thanks Michelle!
Next up was our "2 hour" trail run.  We decided to go to the Valley of the Five Lakes.  It was recommended by many people (including my friend Dave,) and it was worth it.  The trail was definitely some of the best trail running I have ever done, but the colors in the lakes were amazing.  I've never seen so many shades of green!  The run ended up being quite a bit longer than we planned, but the views of Jasper were incredible.  My expert navigation skills ended up taking us to all of the right places, and we didn't get lost once!  My quads were pretty crushed after this, but as usual, it was worth it.
Our bike minimum for the day was 60k.  I wanted to head out with the group, but my bike wasn't ready until after everyone was gone.  I kept it pretty simple.  I headed east on the main highway.  I stopped quickly at the Japser Lodge just to check it out.  The first half of the riding going out was great.  It was downhill is a nice tailwind, but I didn't realize this until the way back.  The headwind was soul-crushing.  Thankfully I only had to put up with it for about 12 miles.
And now things get interesting.  It was a little past 6pm which is usually our cutoff for workouts.  We have a "12 hour rule" to prevent people from training into the evening (mostly for safety reasons.)  Since I had to get out of the pool early this morning to buy a bike, I asked for special permission to go back to the pool to do the 3k IM set (12x (100 IM, 150 freestyle.))  Molina was the final ruler on this, and he said it was OK.  And with that, I hustled down to the pool for a quick hour to get that done.  It was an easy set, but the people in my lane were quite frustrating at times.
Afterward I hurried down to the main strip to meet everyone for dinner at the Jasper Pizzeria.  I'm a bit of a pizza snob, but it was acceptably OK.  And afterward, we had some delicious ice cream at Scoops and Loops.  We never did figure out what the loops were...

Monday, August 25, 2014

Epic Camp Day 7: Blue River to Jasper and the death of my bike

Today was scheduled to be one of our biggest days on the bike, so we had a pretty early start.  We headed down to the lake and were in the water right at 6am.  The daily minimums were shortened today because of the long bike ride: 2k swim + 7k run.  The swim took place at the little lake by the chalets.  It was super laid back, and all I did was follow Shannon's pink cap.  It wasn't a race, so I had no trouble keeping up with her.  Shannon and I were the first two done with the swim, so we headed out on the run together as well.  We cruised the run at an easy 8min/mi pace, and we were done in no time.
Breakfast was something special today.  Michelle (one of the support crew members) cooked AMAZING pancakes.  And as usual, I doused that thing in delicious, Canadian maple syrup.  God was it good!  Thanks Michelle!
After that, we were out on the road by 8:30 for our 200k ride to Jasper.  The big thing for today was another KOM competition.  The plan was to stop and gather at the first aid station at 55k, and then it was a free-for-all until the top of the KOM at 132k where we would have lunch on the road.  Things were super mellow headed out at first.  Everyone knew what was coming, so everyone was ok with doing minimal work.  Somewhere around 30k, I hit something and got my first flat.  I have been super lucky up to this point, but it finally happened on day 7.  Thankfully the entire group stopped, and Mark (support crew mechanic) pulled up seconds after I flatted and helped me out.
After the first aid station, things got noticeably more aggressive.  We were still pulling as a big group, but the pace was just a touch higher.  It wasn't until about 100k that things got crazy.  There was a short climb before the bigger mountain, and people were getting jumpy.  Either Phil or Newsom made the first attack, but as soon as it happened, a few people started to respond.  Zach held back either because he knew the people attacking were non-threats, or because he knew we still had a long way to go.  My plan was to stick on Zach's wheel at all costs, and I was right where I wanted to be.  Zach eventually bit, and I went with him.  We were the first to the top of the shorter climb, but it was sadly neutralized when a train of five or six came flying by on the descent on their triathlon bikes.
At 110k, we passed up the second aid station.  Since the KOM started after the first, no one wanted to lose time by stopping.  I was bummed about that since I had to pee starting around 80k.  But the train just kept on rolling.  There was about 15k of flats between that passed aid station and the bottom of the bigger climb, and as soon as the road pitched up, I went for it.  We only had 7k to go which is easily in my "toolbox."  From what I could see, Zach, Petro, and Shannon hopped on.  Zach put in a little bit of an effort and got about 50m on me.  For the first few kilometers, I was pushing about 380 watts.  About halfway up, Petro fell off a bit, but Shannon and I caught up with Zach.  Zach and I were trading off the lead while Shannon was chilling out in back.  My power dropped a bit trading of pulls with Zach, but with just over 1k to go, I was in front and going as hard as I could.  After a bend in the road, we saw the vans.  We both got out of our saddles for the sprint, but Zach had just a little bit more.  He took the KOM, and I'd have to settle for second, again.  I'm two points back now, so it'll be almost impossible to come back from that.  Shannon had the most impressive performance of the day coming in third only a few seconds behind me.  I was pretty messed up after that, so lunch was quite refreshing.
About 6k after we started rolling again, things took a turn for the worst.  I'm not exactly sure what happened, but somehow my rear derailleur ended up getting stuck in my wheel.  And not only that, but it ripped off a piece of the frame as well.  The frame is beyond repair.  Luckily Michelle was close, so I didn't have to wait long.  I would like to thank Moline, Petro, and Rob for waiting with me though.  I was in some weird state of shock, so it was nice to have company.
I rode with Michelle all the way to Jasper.  Initially I thought my day was over, but Andrew Charles let me borrow his bike to get the remainder of my ride in.  I needed 62k to hit that magical 200k mark, and I'm happy to say that I was able to get that in.  Thanks Andrew.  It was a little challenging to ride 62k by myself after already doing 138k earlier, but I got it done.  The road into Jasper is so ridiculously beautiful that time passed pretty quickly.
As far as options for a bike, I have some thinking to do.  Luckily we're staying in Jasper for two nights, so tomorrow I can figure that out.  My current thinking is that I might buy a cheap road bike with the intention of selling it when I get back home.  Renting a bike and shipping it back would be a logistical nightmare, so I don't know if I want to do that.  I guess you'll have to find out what I do tomorrow!
I took some awesome pictures, but it's too late to go through them now.  We lost an hour crossing time zones into Alberta, and our swim tomorrow starts at 6am.  Good night!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Epic Camp Day 6: Clearwater to Blue River

Today was a self-imposed huge day.  The lake that we were staying at was so beautiful that I had to do another big swim.  6k.  12k (7.2 miles) in 14 hours.  If you know nothing about swimming, that's huge.  My elbows and shoulders were a little sore after that.  We're allowed to do two 6k swims for mega points, so I'm glad to get those out of the way.  It was so convenient to have the lake steps from my door, so getting up early and getting out there was pretty easy.
Breakfast was pretty mellow, and we were out on the road on our bikes reasonably quickly.  The ride today was 68 miles, and I'll be honest, I was pretty smashed for this.  Some deep hurt is settling into my legs for sure as these miles add up.  And even worse, my under-carriage (ass) is taking a beating.  These roads are getting less and less smooth, and it's taking its toll.  I'm starting to look forward to the aid stations more for the chamois cream than for the water, cookies, gummy things, and sun screen combined.
A few people were doing ironman bike simulations, so our group today was pretty small.  It consisted of me, Molina, Douglas, and Glen.  Thank god for Glen.  The dude is a raging locomotive, and I'm quite thankful for his ten mile pulls.  I've been doing ten minute pulls at about 220-240 watts.  Molina is the most sensible, and Douglas is a crazy person (in a good way.)  We motored along at a pretty decent clip today, so we got ride done in about three and a half hours.  I think that's about all my butt could handle.
Once we got to Blue River, we were scheduled to do a 10k run off the bike, but since I want to make sure I'm in a good position for the yellow, I opted to do a two hour run.  It was crazy hot out, so the run was pretty tough.  Since I was going for time, I ran pretty slowly.  I did manage to get 15 miles in, but my legs were pretty shot after that.  Luckily Michelle had some openings for massages, so I went in for that ASAP.  I told her to go as hard as possible, and let me tell you, it was quite painful.
Other than that, the rest of the afternoon was pretty chill.  I moved into third for overall points, but Adam B is still six points ahead.  There are still two solid running sets that I can do to close the gap: 38min 10k (6:07/mi pace,) and 7x1k at 3:50.  With any bit of freshness, I should be able to pull those off pretty easily.  The 38min 10k might be challenging, so I'll need to do that one early.
There's also a KOM on the way to Jasper.  The full ride is 125 miles, but the KOM tops out at mile 82.5.  The KOM race starts after the first aid station around mile 31, so it'll be 50 miles of hard riding.  My strategy is going to be simple: Hang on to Zach's wheel at all costs.  Realistically I'm not sure if I can beat him since he's not going for camp completion which means his legs are infinitely fresher than mine, but I need to be second since points go towards the yellow at the end.
No pictures today since my gopro was messed up.  I have some on my phone, but those won't upload for some reason.

Epic Camp Day 5: Clinton to Clearwater

Today was a big day which meant we had to start pretty early.  We were out the door at 6:15am for a social run to get our daily minimum 10k run in.  Newsom found a route that was a gorgeous dirt road, but unfortunately it had a ton of climbing.  It was also extremely cold that early in the morning, so most of us were bundled up quite a bit.  We did see four horses out on their morning run as well.  They looked like they wanted to come party with us, but a fence kept getting in their way.  I forgot my camera; otherwise, I would I taken a pretty cool picture.  Bummer.  Other than that, the run was pretty uneventful.
Breakfast was simple, and we were out on our bikes by 8:30.  Today's route was 190k, so the pace was super mellow.  There was a short climb to get out of town, but even that was reasonably tame.  The group stuck together pretty well too.  The first 60k until the first aid station flew by.  The scenery wasn't too amazing (by comparison - still amazing of course.)  As soon as we turned off the main highway, the road quality went way up!  It was pretty wonderful to ride on some of those back-roads.
One of the best parts of the ride was going past Green Lake.  It was a really huge lake, and it was like glass.  The pictures I took don't do it justice.  After the 100k aid station, the group continued to roll along.  Around 150k we had this really wicked descent down into the valley.  It was about 10k long, and I probably averaged 50mph down the entire thing.  The road was smooth with no potholes, and I was only limited by my lack of body weight and compact crank.  Lunch was just around the corner after killing it down that hill.  Just after having lunch, we rode at a "gentlemen's pace" (requested by Molina) the remaining 30k into town.  I put in a good pull of about six miles at a steady 220-240 watts.  Nothing fancy, but I'm trying to keep the pace mellow since people complain when someone hammers hard at the front.
After getting our rooms, I was pleasantly surprised with the beautiful lake not more than 20 feet from my bedroom door.  A 3k swim was on the schedule, but after being down only a small bit yesterday in the yellow jersey race, I decided that I would do a 6k swim.  It ended up taking me 1:35 to do the swim which I think is reasonably fast.  My Bia watch said I averaged 1:29/100yds.  It seemed like I was out there for a long time.  My shoulders weren't too tired, but I was starting to get pretty thirsty.  While this might not be *the most* beautiful lake that we've swam in this week, it is definitely the best lake for open water swimming.  The water temperature was just perfect: Not too warm, not too cold.  Quite a few people actually went swimming without wetsuits, but of course it's easier and faster to swim with one.  One of our support crew, Dave, was kind enough to make me some delicious almond milk smoothies after the huge bike and huge swim.
We had dinner at Painted Turtle.  I had ordered salmon ahead of time which was great because that's exactly what I had a taste for.  And lucky for us, the restaurant was right on the lake.  The view during dinner could not have been better.
The yellow jersey also changed hands once again today.  Adam B had a pretty huge day with a two hour run, 220k bike, and 6k swim.  I'm not sure how far ahead he is, but that'll be hard to match.
I'm still feeling pretty great though.  The bike ride tomorrow is reasonably short at "only" 110k, so tack-on options will be available.

Epic Camp Day 4: Hanging out around Clinton

Day 4 was set to be a short but intense day.  We didn't have much planned, so the morning was pretty relaxed.  Somehow I was able to get some sleep after surviving Newsom's legendary snoring, but I didn't feel 100% after getting a solid 8 hours.  Breakfast was at 7:45 which meant I had plenty of time to take care of some necessary bike maintenance.  Wildflower (my bike) picked up quite a bit of dirt and gravel after the short sprinkle yesterday, so a cleaning, a lube, and putting the aerobars all got done before I ate.
The big event for the day was an epic "Olympic distance" triathlon.  The distances were set to be: 2k swim, 33mi bike, 10k run (only slightly longer than a standard Olympic distance race.)  It was 11 miles to the lake which would be our warmup and act as the bike course for the event.  We had already set up shoes by the hotel just before leaving, so we'd do three laps after the swim.  I was initially pretty worried about the ride because my racing shorts are pretty thin, and my butt is starting to get a little beat up, but it turned out to not be so bad.
After a short warmup swim, the race was on.  Shannon (one of the two girls at the camp) is slightly faster at swimming and has this wonder pink cap, so I elected to follow her.  The swim was a little choppy going out, but otherwise it was a really tame, very easy swim.  I hit the turn-around and was probably 10 seconds back from the pack.  Over the course of the 2nd half, that group would get about 30 seconds ahead.  In hindsight, it would have been advantageous to try to bridge, but at the time I was happy and comfortable.  I was either 6th or 7th out of the water which has been the theme of the camp for me.  I don't see that changing anytime soon.
I didn't know what the gap was to the leader, and it would be 11 miles before I would get any splits.  I put in a pretty big effort right off the bat.  The first 11 mile lap was mostly downhill, but my 270 watt average paid off.  By the first turn-around I caught Shannon, Newsom, Zach, and Molina (my memory has me in 6th out of transition, so I might have got out on the bike slightly faster than Bary.)  I saw Petro at the turn, but after heading back up the hill, he was no where in sight.  I figured he couldn't have been more than a minute ahead, so I continued to dig deep.  The second lap was the same 270 watt average but uphill this time.  Again, I saw Petro just a bit ahead after starting the third and final lap.  My power dropped a little down to 250, but this was one part being tired and one part prepping for a more painful run than I wanted.  I was hoping to get off the bike in the lead, but second place meant that I would have to do some work.  One interesting note about the bike was that the rough rode shook my bottle cage loose.  It was driving me bazonkers, so at the start of the second lap, I got my multi-tool out of my saddle bag and tightened it up while still continuing to ride.  I didn't think much of it at the time, but this impressed a few people at dinner.
Much to my surprise, Petro had put some serious time into me on that last lap.  My rough estimate put him at 90 seconds starting the run, and he was looking strong too!  I came out of "transition" (using that term loosely) and felt the usual heavy legs.  I knew the first 1.5 miles was uphill, so I just kept my effort in check.  If it's even possible, crushing downhills is my thing, so I was being patient for the turn-around at 2.5k.  And when it finally came, I let it rip.  In 2.5k I probably made up about 40 seconds and caught Petro at the 5k mark back at transition.  Being a classy dude, he gave me some encouraging words: "Don't let up just because you're in front.  This is Epic Camp!"  And with a smile and a pat on the back, I was off.  The second 5k was just me in a comfortable amount of hurt doing what I do best.  My foot felt good, so I was happy to run fast.  It was nice to cheer people on and give high fives on the way back, and in true Epic Camp fashion, I crossed the "finish line" (it was the 'G' spray painted on the ground) with an "oh, are you the first finisher," from Mark.  10k off the bike: 38:40, 6:20/mi.
And with that, the work was done for the day.  We all sat together and ate lunch which consisted of these delicious turkey and cranberry paninis.  Some people went to tack on while others (myself included) went to go celebrate with ice cream (I couldn't resist the Maple Nut flavor.)  Afterward it was all about prepping for our 120mi bike ride tomorrow.  And lastly, the yellow jersey changed hands today.  Phil took over as overall points leader from Newsom.
Not many pictures today since we were racing.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Epic Camp Day 3: Lillooet to Clinton

After the briefing last night, day 3 was looking like it would be a little lighter, and after looking around the room, it seemed like it was needed.  The schedule for today would be a 3k or 6k swim (first 6k swim option of the camp,) 10k run for the daily minimum, and a 105k bike.  The first van full of campers rolled out at 6:45am.  My goal was to do the 3k swim and run back to the hotel to get it out of the way before the ride.
We did the swim at probably the most beautiful lake I've ever seen.  The only way to really describe it would be heaven for swimming open water.  Initially it looked like the water was going to be frigid, but it was comfortable seconds after getting in.  For the first half of the swim, I was swimming mostly alone.  Apparently I missed the memo that everyone was keeping close to the left shore because I was way out in the middle of the lake.  After what seemed like quite a while, I caught up to someone a bit farther up.  We stopped for a moment to check our watches.  Mine wasn't showing the distance at first, but Phil asked, "Do you have 2k?"  Oh crap, I did!  Apparently I ended up swimming out 500m longer than intended which meant today would be a 4k swim instead of the planned 3k.  I started swimming back pretty hard because I wanted to make sure I had enough time to run, and thankfully I came out with David and Douglas which meant I would have some running buddies for the way back.  We casually jogged back at ~8min/mi pace while having a good chat as well.
Since we had a pretty short ride, breakfast and packing was all pretty mellow.  You could tell that people were starting to get tired, and this was reflected in the initial roll out of town.  My legs even took a little bit longer than usual to warm up.  The group mostly stuck together until the road started pitching up.  There were even a few dirt sections that we had to navigate (this made me happy since dirt is pretty exciting for a road bike.)
Due to a recent mudslide, there was a chance we were going to have to divert the route for the day, but we ended up getting lucky.  The road had just opened up.  About five miles before the slide, Petro (Mark) started yelling at me (ok perhaps it would just fatherly advice.)  Apparently he didn't like that I would surge ahead and then soft pedal to let the group catch back up.  He also didn't like that I wasn't tired enough.  I have been "sitting in" too much, and instead I should be burying myself every single day.  I knew he was just trying to get into my head, but I bit anyway.  I put in a pretty huge effort and gapped the group significantly on the next climb.  Sadly, the effort was wasted since Glen came blazing past about five miles later and just before the mud slide and rest stop.
The rest of the ride was mostly uneventful.  We had a really good paceline going into a stiff headwind.  Glen was like a semi truck and took pulls way longer than he should have (although very much appreciated!!)  Unfortunately it was not his day since his rear derailleur ended up suiciding with him being forced to ride a single gear into town.  The remainder of the group started to split once we turned off 99 towards Clinton.  By the end, it was me, Petro, and Zach.  Zach took off, and instead of going with, I pitied Petro and pulled the old man into town.
We got to Clinton pretty early, so the rest of the afternoon was nice and chill.  After dinner, Scott Molina presented the jerseys at our nightly briefing.  Newsom in yellow, Petro in red, and Zach in polka dot.  As you might have read, I'm bummed that I'm not wearing polka dots, but I intend on fighting until the bitter end.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Epic Camp Day 2 - Whistler to Lillooet

I just noticed this never was posted (saved as a draft,) so I'm publishing it now...

We got to sleep in today!  Day 2 started off at a more reasonable 6:30am with a light snack before heading out to the Ironman Whistler course for a morning aquathlon.  The plan was to swim around the two sailboats (about a half mile) and do a three loop 6k run.  Just like yesterday, I came out of the water in 7th after just over 12 minutes.  I started off the run at a pretty chill pace.  My plan was to take it easy with my foot, but as soon as I got to the first turn-around and saw John about 40 seconds up, that plan immediately went out the window.  I took the pace up to around 5:50/mi which felt slightly uncomfortable but manageable.  I started picking people off, but by the end, I just couldn't get Newsom.  I debated putting in a monster effort to try and catch up, but as soon as I saw John glancing back, I knew it would be a lost cause.  Still, I was pleased with second despite possibly burning a match for the KOM later.
After a short ride back to the hotel, a shower, and breakfast, we were out on the road headed to our next destination.  My mantra was the same as yesterday: "Save it for the climb."  The first 35 miles was mostly downhill and pretty chill.  I stuck with the group and avoided pulling at all costs.  About five miles in, I had to go to the bathroom, but I couldn't risk losing the group.  However, Molina had the right idea.  I always thought it was a myth, but today I actually witnessed someone piss off the side of their bike while riding.  Sadly, I do not have the bike skills to give that a try after almost crashing while taking off my vest.
The big event of the day was the Joffre Lakes climb.  The KOM competition has been on my mind for weeks.  If there was ever a time that I was going to bury myself at camp, this was going to be it.  I knew Zach was going to give me some trouble, but everything was still very much unknown.  I decided that the best plan was to ride MY race.  I knew what I could do for this climb, and I knew what would make me hurt.  The plan: 300 watts as steady as possible.  On a fresh day, I could push that higher, but after some solid riding and running at camp already, it needed to be adjusted.
I took the lead immediately after the start.  Zach was on my wheel which made me a little anxious.  After about a half mile, Zach put in a big effort to get ahead.  He made the right move in putting in enough distance to "break the spring" and got about 25 meters ahead.  I resisted the urge to go and maintained my steady pacing.  I could see Zach slowly pulling away, but I was banking on him blowing up at some point and catching him later in the climb.  The minutes and miles ticked on, and it wasn't until about 35 minutes into the climb that I got comfortable.  I had just over three miles left.  This was familiar to me.  My favorite local climb is three miles, so it was time to push hard to the finish.  Something weird happened though.  I cramped in a weird spot in my left thigh, and I realized I made a mistake.  I hadn't drank a single thing since the start of the climb.  Dang.  After immediately burning through an entire bottle, the cramp went away.  I could see Zach off in the distance still, but there just wasn't enough runway to get him.  Again, I'd have to settle for 2nd and lost the KOM by 60 seconds.
When I realized it was lost, I debated shutting it down and saving the effort for another day.  However, this is Epic Camp.  I would most likely have only one shot at this climb, so I decided to go for my secondary goal of front page on Strava.  This would take a sub-60min climb, and I was on track for that.  I was pretty happy to finish the climb in 55:41.
After the big KOM, the rest of the ride was pretty chill.  It was almost entirely downhill, so I just stuck with the pack, drafted when I could, and pulled occasionally.  The ride down to Lillooet included some of the sickest views I've ever seen.  These mountains are like nothing I could have ever imagined.  I stuck with Petro and Zach on the way down, and thankfully they wanted to stop at some good photo opportunities.  Hopefully they turned out already!
So how am I doing?  This is a question that quite a few people are asking me.  In short, I'm doing well.  I'm managing my fatigue well, the company is terrific, the views are spectacular, and I'm reasonably competitive in the races (well, except swimming.)  My plan is working out well.  So far I'm focusing on camp minimums, keeping my effort in check, and being decisive in my pushes.  I'm super lucky to be a climber on the bike.  The rollers seem to be eating into peoples' legs and affecting me relatively minimally.  I can feel some building fatigue, but it's not as bad as I thought it would be.
The internet here in Lillooet is questionable at best, so I'll add pictures later.

Day 3

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Epic Camp Day 1 - Vancouver to Whistler

The day started pretty early.  5:30am to be exact.  Despite what my roommate Gary might tell you, I did not sleep well.  Just like a big race (or any race,) I was wide awake well before the alarm went off.  The plan was to do an easy 5.5 mile run to the pool, swim the daily minimum (3k,) run 1.5 miles back, and then depart for our 75 mile bike ride to Whistler.  It sounds like a big day, but compared to what's coming, this is nothing.
The run to the pool was pretty uneventful.  John lead us out in order to keep the pace reasonable.  We mostly followed the path around the lake and had some pretty nice views of the city.  It's probably an understatement to say that Vancouver is gorgeous.  Water and green stuff EVERYWHERE!  The temperature at 6:15 was even tolerable!  My legs were a little stiff and my ankles were tight, but things loosened up midway through.  I could tell that they wanted to GO, but I resisted as best I could.
The pool we swam at was 137 meters long.  For a comparison, a long-course pool is 50 meters, so this thing was massive.  Except for the advanced calculus that we had to do in our heads to figure out how long 3k is, the long lengths made counting fewer laps much easier.  Once we got ready, John laid out the plan: 10 lengths (1370 meter) race.  Alright, game on.  I went out hard and got on John's feet in second place.  The pace was strong but manageable, and I held on for four lengths.  But then the pace picked up and five people passed me.  No, I didn't blow up, Mark!  Finishing in 7th wasn't amazing, but I didn't dig myself into a hole either.  After the fun "race," we did a 1000m "bands-only."  What is bands-only?  It's torture for swimmers.  Take an old bike tube and tie your feet together and try to swim.  I wouldn't call what I did swimming; it was more like a fish dying.  I thought I was cheating by doing a butterfly kick, but from what I hear, that was par for the course.  Afterward it was just a short jog back to the hotel.
We had a quick breakfast and were out on our bikes by 10am.  John lead the way out of Vancouver and kept the pace low to keep the group together.  We snaked through Stanely Park (gorgeous!) and took a bunch of side streets that you'd only now if you were a local.  Once we got out on the main highway, John dropped the hammer.  For the most part, everyone was able to hang on.  His pull lasted quite a bit longer than I expected, and after the first aid station, I didn't see him again until Whistler.  After a few lead changes with people hammering at the front, the group was starting to spread out.  I'm not sure if it was the pace or the endless flat tires, but 50 miles in, the lead group was down to four.  And then another flat brought us to a halt as well only to be passed by another group.  I decided to hang since the dudes I was with were pretty cool.
At that point, I realized there was very little point to pushing hard to the finish.  I was still really fresh from sitting in all day, but the first day was not the day to be a hero.  I tried to stick with a few guys, but the hills were starting to eat into their legs.  I wasn't crushing it, but I was still gapping them.  "Save it for tomorrow" became my mantra as I was enjoying the scenery and taking pictures.
Speaking of which, the scenery was breathtaking.  I've seen gorgeous mountains, but I was blown away.  It's hard to adequately describe how nice they were, so hopefully my pictures turned out alright.
Lunch was waiting for us when we got to Whistler.  Recovery smoothies and turkey wraps with avacado were on tap, and our rooms were ready for check-in immediately.  It's incredible how awesome the support crew is here.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Epic Camp Prologue

Before I get into the daily blog, I wanted to do a quick intro:
What is Epic Camp?  Epic Camp is an ironman triathlon training camp.  This particular camp in Canada is 12 days long, and over the course of the adventure, we will travel from Vancouver, BC to Calgary, AB.  The scheduled distance is over 850 miles of biking with additional "daily minimums" of five miles of running and 3000 meters of swimming.  There are also races for points and jerseys - similar to the Tour de France.
I heard about this in the early days of my triathlon career, and ever since I followed the Epic Camp France journey, I was hooked.  I HAD to do it.  When the Canada camp was announced, I signed up immediately.  The timing was perfect, and the venue was going to be amazing.  It also lines up perfectly with my training for Ironman Lake Tahoe on September 21.
And with that, let the games begin...

Day 1

Monday, August 11, 2014

ONE WEEK until Epic Camp Canada

In less than seven days, I will be on a plane headed for Vancouver.  Yep, Epic Camp is less than a week away.  At the moment I have a mix of emotions: Scared (terrified,) nervous, anxious... just to name a few.  I think I'm ready, but in the wise words of Mark (fellow camper): "I am pretty sure you can never be ready for EPIC camp."  As someone who's going into their fifth camp, that worries me.  I have the gps files of the route, so I know what's coming.  A rough estimate puts us close to 850 miles in 12 days (10 days of riding it seems.)  At a high level, that doesn't seem bad, but intensity makes all of the difference.  850 miles of casual riding is MUCH different than 850 miles of hammering (plus swimming and running.)

My goals have changed for the camp.
1.) Camp completion.  I think I can handle this.  I've put in enough time over the past 8-10 weeks to know that my body can at least cover the distance.
2.) Polka dot jersey.  The climbers jersey.  I'm not an ultra light guy, but I'm lighter than most.  I don't want to be a one-trick pony, but the majority of my time training has been spent climbing on the bike.  The body has adapted, so I'm curious to see how I stack up.  My foot started bothering me a month ago, so today was my first run back after that.  The foot felt good, but the severe lack of run training means that I'm unlikely to be a contender for the yellow jersey.
3.) Avoid the deep, dark depression of day 5.  I want to wake up every day with a smile on my face ready to tackle the challenges of the day.  Whenever I travel, I have a strict no-complaining policy.  As lame as it sounds, staying positive is going to make or break this trip.
4.) Blog daily with pictures and video.  This is going to be the experience of a lifetime, and I want to remember it as vividly as possible.  I've put a lot of time into making sure I can document the journey as best I can: tablet + keyboard, gopro for pictures and video, instagram for strava pictures, bike computer for GPS, etc.

In light of that, I've done some testing with the gopro.  Her's a quick video of me swimming over the weekend:

We'll be doing a lot of swimming in lakes, so I still need to buy a few things such as a lanyard to avoid losing it.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Test post

This is a test post.  I just wanted to test out my new keyboar for my tablet to make sure everything is functional before I leave for Epic Camp in just over a week.  My goal is to do a daily blog with GPS and pictures.  I borrow my friend's gopro, so I might have video too.  Cheers!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


It's been a long time since Lake Tahoe last year, and I've been pretty quiet lately.  There are a few interesting things going on, so let me publicize the major events:

1.) Epic Camp Canada - Flying out on August 18 and returning on August 31.
2.) Ironman Lake Tahoe - This is my main focus for the year.

There have been many reasons for my absence from the internet.  Early in the year, school was soul-crushing.  With work, training, AND school, there just wasn't enough time or energy to go around.  After graduating in June, I had a huge void in my week which I promptly filled with additional training.

My build started the week after graduation (June 16.)  My parents and I went to Tahoe for the week, and they were incredibly enthusiastic and supportive of my training.  Not only did my dad keep me on track when I almost bailed on riding around the lake, but they also rented a kayak when I wanted to swim in the lake.  I can't wait to give them the gift of an awesome Kona vacation in October next year (fingers crossed!!)

Since that week, my training has been incredibly consistent except for a small hiccup with running.  I've had five 20+ hour training weeks.  The breakdowns of each week:

Swim: 59min
Bike: 18hr 48min
Run: 2hr 50min
Total: 22hr 38min

Jun 23-29:
Swim: 0min (!!)
Bike: 16h 41min
Run: 4hr 14min
Total: 20hr 56min

Jun 30-Jul 6:
Swim: 35min (!!)
Bike: 21hr 38min
Run: 1hr 19min
Total: 23hr 32min

Jul 7-13:
Swim: 1hr 19min
Bike: 17hr 17min
Run: 1hr 55min
Total: 20hr 31min

July 14-20:
Swim: 2hr 0min
Bike: 20hr 59min
Run: 3hr 15min
Total: 26hr 15min

I've had a few really good workouts that I consider breakthrough workouts:
- Sub-60min Mt. Diablo south gate
- 18:34 Old La Honda
- 16 mile run at 6:16/mi (probably contributed to injuring my foot)
- 148 mile ride from Palo Alto to Santa Cruz and back

Speaking of which, a few weeks ago my foot started hurting.  It's mostly better now, but whenever the pace starts creeping into the low 6's, I get super worried.  Now, I have to wonder how beneficial fast running is for ironman training.  A lot of people on the internet have been criticizing my runs saying they're way too fast.  Given that my goal is to run a 3:10 on race day, it's really hard to say.  Hard tempo running is something that I *REALLY* enjoy.  Since I've been babying my foot post-injury, I've really been missing it.  Hopefully I can get back to those soon.  I feel like there's a benefit, if only to keep me loving running as much as I do.

Epic Camp is four weeks away.  This means I have probably have 2.5 weeks of hard training before I need to start tapering.  John Newsom sent out the points sheet a few days ago.  The breakdown looks pretty good, and it seems to favor runners and swimmers.  There will be a few King of the Mountain competitions for biking, and I believe those will be huge in deciding who wins overall.  I'll see what I can do, but my ultimate goal is camp completion.  That might be hard enough as-is.

I'm headed to Kirkwood this weekend for some good training.  I have a pretty epic ride planned for Saturday, and I haven't finalized my plans for Sunday.