Thursday, November 26, 2009

Summing it all up 2009

Summing up a year is at best, a generalization of what is at the forefront of the mind. Let me rewind and speak specifically about family growth, with the little rascal growing I don’t know how many inches taller—but it sure seems like he went from a toddler to a post-toddler size overnight. It is amazing the memory capacity of the little ones, and how sponge-like they are in their observations of the world around them, as well as how helpful they really can be when they’re not being helpful (read as: making more messes than they clean up). The best thing about it is that it never really gets old and these really are some of the best of times to capture in my memory for the upcoming later years. Of course, my better half has been actively involved in teaching the majority learned things by the “mini-me”…while taking a backseat in competition to do so in 2009 with all the different projects I've been in this year. Then again, she actually raced more than I did this year! Looking back, I have reduced my racing this year (again), to limit it to a 5K running race in January, then a winter duathlon a couple weeks later, all for “funzzies” to test out the injury and assess what I would need to do in order to get ready for my real “A” race which was Ironman CDA in June. I had a lot of sharing/support from the better half this year to get back into things and chose to train rather than race a lot. After qualifying for the Hawaii Ironman (with what I consider a rather good race for me in CDA, given the physical issues the last several years), the rest of the season was set to be as much family time and preparation as I could for Hawaii.

There was the last-minute 5K I hopped in while visiting my parents on the 4th of July. This was a surprise to me as 12 days before I had finished a very difficult course at Ironman CDA. My dad told me about a 5K to be held on the 4th of July. Race morning I still wasn’t sure I’d do it, feeling a slight calf strain leftover from IM CDA. Finally, about 1.5 hrs from race start, I hopped out of bed, had a cup of coffee & jogged down to the start and entered. I would be lying if I didn’t say I was a tad nervous showing up to the start in my hometown with some of the top local runners there, including a guy from downstate who was an NCAA All-American runner in college & head coach of a track team. The long and short of it was the nerves were mainly from knowing I did a full Ironman only 12 days prior, now toeing the line in a race I never have even trained for since high school, against some decent competition (but far from decent compared to Boulder). I ended up starting in the second row behind some girls after a nice long warm up, then after about 100 yards I took the lead. I figured I may as well have some fun with it and “go-for-it” to see how many would fall off pace. It wasn’t until about a half mile before it was myself and some high school runner were alone—with him tailing me trying to draft off of me. I knew the imaginary rubber-band effect can be broken with mind games, especially at an inexperienced age of a high school runner. They are usually (not always) more prone to tactical games than someone my age. I decided to cut quickly to the left on the path then accelerate. When I heard him starting to follow my left direction, I moved quickly to the right. Then a few more times…before long, the zigzagging may have tired him out and busted that imaginary rubber band. From there I just tried to keep up with the lead biker, when he picked it up, I picked it up to try to catch him. At that point I didn’t really care who was behind me as I only tried to go as fast as I could. About 2 miles into the race, I started to tire and slowed the next ¾ mile. When I knew the finish was near, I picked it up. My Garmin 305 GPS told me I was 16:04 for 3.1 miles, a new PR at age 40. Not too shabby—to top it off, it was a course record. Had I known I was that close to breaking 16 minutes, I most certainly would & could have picked it up to chop 5 seconds off in that 2 mile-2.75 mile portion where I slowed down to try to recover. There were 223 racers which is a pretty good turnout for this small city.

I think my legs were sorer the day after the 5K than they were after IM CDA.

One highlight of the season was a pre-Kona long ride with one of my athletes I coach, Max. He’s been barreling through the ranks from an 11+ Ironman athlete to now a 9:12 finish at Ironman Arizona last week. I’ve worked with him for the past 4-5 years, and he has done everything I’ve told him to a tee—and fills out his log in such detail that it is like being right there training with him—watching (which I only did a couple times). I get regular power meter downloads, HRM downloads and tons of comments/feelings & feedback. I told him it would take 4-5 years if he did everything I said to get to Hawaii. This was the fourth year. We road 125 miles on a long ride up in the mountains, where I usually could pounce and drop him at will. Actually, that would be true for the flats as well. However, this was more for me to size up how his training had been going (a in person spot check I guess you could say). I needed to see how strong he was to finalize his training before IM AZ. After red-lining the entire day, for the first time ever he was able to drop me at will, and then…I knew he was ready to claim his spot for Hawaii. I lost count how many times he turned around or stopped to wait for me after disappearing up the highway at 9,000 feet altitude. All he needed to do was race and put it together—he was ready for sure. He is a swimmer by nature, and the run has become his strength. He raced just like I race…get a good placing on the swim, be competitive on the bike, and try to blow away the remaining folks on the run. Typical KK race style. In doing so, he surpassed my PR of 9:14 with his 9:12. While the swim course seems to be a little faster than the ocean (AZ is in a canal), the run seems to be a little hillier than IM FL where I set my PR, and so his time was even more impressive. I digress…the fact is, Max was ready and lean & mean. The power he had on the bike made me realize I was either aging & losing it, or I was really just being dusted by a now superior cyclist. After seeing his time at IM AZ, the latter was the apparent truth. Max finished 3rd in the 30-34 and 27th overall, stamping his first ever ticket to Kona. All the work I had him do on the bike this year took his weakness to his strength. Even more than his run (how could this be if his placing on the run was 2 spots better than his bike?) Simple, he had the 4th fastest bike in his AG but was still able to run with the 2nd fastest run. That shows his fitness on the bike was so strong it was only for that reason that he could possibly run so fast like the bike didn’t even happen.

Before Kona, I competed in my third Sombrero Ranch Trail Race. This is the hardest 3-something miles you’ll ever do. It gains 1,000 feet in about 1.25 miles. It was only 3 weeks out from Kona, so with rocks, tree roots, and the chance for twisting an ankle, it was a big risk. However, I love the race and wasn’t feeling too confident for Hawaii anyhow as training was not going that well on the bike anyhow (injury was acting up). If something happened I figured it would be minor anyhow, as my background initially is in cross country running. I ended up running more of the race in 5-7th place but with about ¾ mile left overtook Master’s running legend Andy Ames and started to slowly build a gap. I would have moved into second a little sooner but got caught behind some quickly tiring runners on some very rocky sections where I just could not pass for what seems like a half mile. Essentially, I was being held up by a few runners who weren’t really adept at downhill rocky trails. At the top of the last hill, I turned off course about 20 yards and Andy yelled over to me, “This way!” I turned around for a quick look and was back on course. At this point I felt he slowed up so I could get back into the same position I was in, since he wasn’t quite to the crest of the hill. Once heading downhill, I let my legs fly as fast as they could give the rocks and ruts on the trail. Andy was not able to overtake me downhill so I ended up second overall. It was good sportsmanship for Andy to call me back on course and not attack when he saw I went off course, but I’m pretty sure had I stayed on course I would have placed ahead of him by a slightly larger margin than what I did. Either way, he is a legend in the Boulder area and this was my first win over him.

The season pretty much ended like this:

Quaker 5K: 1st AG/18th overall

Chilly Cheeks Duathlon #2: 3rd overall

Ironman CDA: 3rd AG (Kona Qualified-fastest AG run split)

Firecracker 5K: 1st overall (course record at 16:04 & P.R.)

Sombrero Ranch Trail Run: 2nd overall

Hawaii Ironman: 66th AG/448th overall (UGH!)

From a coaching standpoint, I’ve had success across the board. Obviously the first to mention is Max, enough can’t be said about what he’s done in the past 4 years to become an elite amateur in any distance race. Next, Bob…was on pace to break his P.R. at Ironman Florida by over an hour until he had knee issues and stomach virus (next year Bob!) There was Bill, who went out to become Idaho state champ this summer in his Age Group, then there was Laurie who after much coaxing to do Ironman Florida, overcame her doubts and ended up missing her Kona slot by just a small margin, finishing in P.R. time and 8th in her Age Group—a testament to the talent she has. Those were just a few success stories from a few athletes. It was certainly a success year all around. There were a few athletes who fought some injuries through accident or because of the way they are naturally built resulting in biomechanical issues. There were those who stopped far too short of giving their aspirations an honest “go” from the start, but still ended up doing okay. Once those issues are tended to, then they should get back in the saddle and pick up where they left off, for working only a few months is hardly a fully-dedicated effort to succeed in Ironman racing. Athletes need to be honest with their initial goals and how realistic they are related to their motivation and dedication levels. Some did not keep good training logs; some made excuses and did not follow the program, then after a few months seemed to lose faith in them, and finally, others just didn’t even get off the ground after a couple weeks for some reason or another. I certainly hope they overcome this outlook, as that is what truly holds them back from their dreams. So many people go 99% of the way to their goals and stop when they are literally one step away…1% away. Ever wonder what the top 1% most successful people in any field have in common? They push through and give the 1% effort that the other 99% did not. If you want it bad enough and are willing to work for it, anything can happen. Anything.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Launching 2010

There are so many things for 2010 that will be going on it is not easy to figure out where to start. First, an announcement from Gemini Multisport about (here's the teaser)...2010 B.A.C.  It will take place here in Boulder--an event that is truly world class in every aspect. Triathletes from all over the country will be wanting to hear when the 2011 B.A.C. will take place. Nuff said, stay tuned to for announcements by the end of the year.

The winter has stricken Boulder with almost 8 inches of snow the last 48 hours, with cold temps. The serpantine belt came off one of the vehicles so that put a damper on a planned cold run through the city. This weather makes you want to just rewind back to the summer time or at least forward to next summer. The good news about the sun going down so soon this time of year is in knowing that Dec. 21st isn't that far away--then the daylight slowly extends. Minute by minute every few days, but it is a sign that the warmth of spring is on its way. Now is a great time to spend getting those "rainy day" items completed around the house, as they will surely be replaced with another long list of to do things.