Thursday, December 30, 2010

BIG Changes for 2011

I will readily admit that it has been tough to put the figurative "pen to paper" on this blog post.  It is not because I am not excited about the coming year. Quite the opposite in fact.  However, 2011 will bring with it some significant changes in my life, a couple of which, give my heart strings some powerful tugs.

As most of you who read this blog know, I have been a practicing attorney for the entirety of my "triathlon career" such as it has been.  For the most part, working full time while training was a fairly manageable task.  However, with my move up to the professional ranks last year, came the realization that I just can't continue to try and do both if I want to attain the level of performance to which I aspire in triathlon. In my eyes, my options were to make a change or remain a mediocre pro. After some consultation with some close friends whose advice I truly valued and appreciated, I made the decision to leave the legal profession, at least temporarily, to train and race full time in 2011. While I am not quite "old," and certainly not in race years, there is a limited window in which I have to operate, so I must take the chance while I can.

Financial considerations aside, this was not an easy decision.  For the past 4 years I have been fortunate enough to work alongside my Dad.  Spending many hours a day with my Pops was a gift, and was the one thing that really gave me pause about this decision. I am sure to miss it.

To be honest I made the decision to go full time several weeks ago.  The decision re the other BIG change for 2011 however, was not made until shortly before Ironman Arizona.  That decision has me parting ways with someone who has been instrumental in getting me to where I am today in this sport.  He has been a great friend, a confidant, a brother/father figure and above all, an incredible coach.  Leaving the Dirkinator crew was definitely a tough decision.  I cannot possibly thank Dirk and his family enough for all they have done for me. I know we will remain in close contact, but not being under his tutelage and watchful eye, will be a big change for me.

I am 100% confident that Dirk could have gotten me to where I want to be in this sport.  The reason I chose to part ways is that I was presented with an opportunity to be part of something I believe will also lead to me reaching those goals, and will add some incredible experiences along the way.  I was lucky enough to be selected to join a group of professional triathletes that will be forming a North American based training squad under the guidance and coaching of Paulo Sousa.  I believe that the group training aspect of this squad will add that extra element to my training and joining the squad represents a full blown commitment to the sport.  As they say, "Go big or go home."  I will be leaving for my first training camp in Las Cruces, New Mexico in the beginning of January and will likely not return to LA until the middle of March after the second training camp in Tucson, AZ.  To say that I am excited would be a drastic understatement.  I'm chomping at the bit!

Aside from the benefits of giving me time to train, rest, recover and sleep properly, leaving the law biz will also allow me to engage in something I have found to enjoy greatly.  Just after CA 70.3 last season a friend of mine talked to me about his disappointment with his race.  After some thinking, we decided that I would help him with his training plan for the short run up to Wildflower, and see how things went.  He had a great race and we decided that I would coach him all the way to his first Ironman attempt at Arizona.  Throughout the months I found the process to be extremely enjoyable and rewarding.  Then it was race day, and I was going to share the course with my friend I had coached to that day.  I'm happy to report that he went 9:47, won his age group and got his Kona slot.  All in his first attempt at the Iron distance.  I was stoked.  Given my new found appreciation for coaching, and the time I will have to do it, I have decided to coach a limited number of serious athletes in 2011.  So if you are interested, or know anyone that would be, please have them contact me through my website at  

2010 was an incredible year. I am hoping that 2011, with these big changes, will be even better.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ultraman Finale

I have finally mustered up the stamina to wrap up the Ultraman

Day 3: Double Marathon, 52.4mi from Hawi to Kona

After hitting the sack at 7:30pm the night of day 2, the alarm at 4am wasn't as bad as I feared it would be.  Of course, our best intentions notwithstanding, we found ourselves a little late and in a rush to get to the start by 5:30.

Day 3 starts at 6am so it was still dark when we got to the hotel and to the start line.  So please pardon the pics below.

We could start pacing Hillary from mile 2 on.  So Big Dave got the call and would take it out from 2 until he was gassed.  At the start we pushed up the road to the 2mi mark and waited for HB.  We soon saw Amber and Shanna come by and they were NOT taking it easy.  7min pace would be a conservative estimate.  HB wisely chose not to get sucked into that.
Waiting for HB
The next few miles were pretty uneventful with all going according to plan.  I took over for a quick mile from ~9-10 as Dave had a bathroom respite.  I was actually shocked at how upbeat and happy Hillary was.  I think the beautiful morning and cool temps helped, but most of all, I think she was finally allowing herself to grasp that the end was near (relatively speaking).

HB & I during Dave's respite
Dave took back over and things continued going well through the half marathon mark and on.  Sometime after that though, we got our first indication that maybe HB was hurting a bit.  At one stop her request was, "A fruit smoothie or fresh squeezed orange juice!"  You read that right.  It was clear she was looking for something that wasn't in our arsenal to help her along.  After  a mad rush, some OJ was retrieved and HB gulped down a whole single sip.  So much for that.
The views were calming though
After about 18mi or so, things started to unravel a bit.  It was that point in the race where you have gone very far, but there is even farther remaining to go.  This had to be an incredible mental obstacle.  Especially when your GI tract isn't happy.  Which her's was not.  This marked the beginning of the bathroom stops and another mad dash off the Queen K to get some Immodium.

After about 26mi or so, Big Dave was tuckered out and hungry.  It was time for Maiki and I to go to work.  We adopted a 2mi per shift plan and followed it pretty closely.

Knowing Hillary, I was well aware that she would not be a happy camper post race if she felt she hadn't given it her all.  I also knew that she was tough and ready & willing to suffer.  Additionally, given the makeup of our crew and the plan we had, I was also aware that I could find myself assuming the role of "the pusher" or as Hillary would later term it, the "tough love guy."  Sure enough, from about my second running stint on, I was in that role.  I was wearing a Garmin and just tried to keep our pace below 9min/mi.  I know getting half wheeled 35mi into a run could piss one off, but I was willing to risk it.  So I just kept staying about a half stride ahead of Hillary while we ran.  funny enough, after a few miles, she kind of found another gear, and round about 40mi into the run, really started climbing out of the dark hole she had been in.  Her attitude rebounded big time, she was running faster, and her famous smile and even laughter was back.  Chris Lieto and his family made it out to watch and his son Kaiden wanted to run with Hillary.  Frankly I was surprised when she found the energy to smile, yell his name and ask him to run with her for about 100yds. Cool.

We started picking off fading runners a little after the airport.  This was even more motivating.  I tagged in Maiki and while he was running we saw our friend Mike again.  he had been out on his bike, cheering on all competitors and giving them splits.  He told us that Hillary had been overtaken in the overall standings by Shanna and needed to make up 3.5mins on her to get back into 2nd.  I basically took this as an order and knew my job: get her back those 3.5mins.  I knew Hillary had worked too hard to let it slip away.  The problem was we were 5.5mi from the finish.  Thats a pretty big margin to make up late in a race. Especially so  when you have run ~46mi.  But we had our orders.

When I tagged back in to run, I told Hillary the split. Told her we could do it.  That 2nd was hers if she could dig deep and go get it.  What followed was one of the more impressive athletic feats I have ever been privileged to witness.  Step back for a second and think, in the 2 days prior, Hillary had swam 6.2mi in the open ocean 26mins faster than any female had done it before.  She had ridden her bike 260 miles up and over  a volcano and the Kohala mtns., and she had now been running in the Kona sun for almost 7.5hrs, covering some 47 miles.  And I was asking her, actually yelling at her to pick up the pace!  She responded.  And I watched first hand as she dug herself into a deep cave of pain.  I could literally feel the effort she was putting out.  It was visceral.  There were some scary noises, some tears, some requests that I just "shut the hell up" but all the while her pace was dropping.  Cresting the last hill I looked down and we were running 7:35s.  I was blown away.  About half a mile from the finish I handed off to Maiki and he ran her in.
Through her incredible efforts Hillary made up the 3.5mins on Shanna plus another 3 and took 2nd by over 6mins.  In hindsight, I guess she didn't "need" to push so hard.

52.4mi - 7:55:10
The aftermath of this race was anything but pretty.  I have never seen Hillary in such rough shape.  Things were a little scary for a few hours, but soon enough she was back to calling out food orders from bed.  No such luck sweetheart.  That ended at the finish line ;-)

Truly an INCREDIBLE experience.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ultraman continued

Sorry but it took me a few days to recover from writing day 1's report.  Here is day 2.

Day 2:  171 mile ride from Volcano National Park to Hawi.

Day 2 was a cold start after a night at a B & B in the rainforest.  It was a really cool spot that would be fun to go back to for a really chill vacation.  Up around 4,200ft, at 6:30am, it was pretty chilly, just below 50 degrees and pretty wet.
Sweatshirt, snow jacket & typing the 1st tweet of the Day on HBs crackberry
The first 20mi or so were downhill and a no feed zone so we had to take off ahead of the pack.  We had discussed some strategy the night before at dinner, and Hillary was motivated, intent, and focused.  Unfortunately, about an hour and a half into the day it was clear her body still wasn't really on board.  There was a section not too far into the ride called the "Red Road" which was another "no feed" zone and we weren't even allowed to drive it.

So we took a little detour that allowed for a cool stop in Volcano Tree National Park.  This place was awesome. I felt like I was on the set of Lost.

After meeting back up with Hillary we basically continued the same thing as the day before, leap frogging her in about 30min gaps.  Of course we had more than a few fumbles, and instances where Hillary would inevitably call out for something we didn't have in hand, forcing a frantic rush back to the car and a quick re-do.
Coming thru Hilo with Shanna

On the road out of Hilo

Climbing out of one of the gorges
Some of the roads on the other side of the island get a little narrow so our stops were a little more frequent as we couldn't stay parked too long on the side of the road and we didn't want to get too far ahead in case Hillary had a problem.  And in a race this long, Murphy's Law is really a law.  But we were lucky, we had just pulled over and since Hillary had just begrudgingly taken on more fuel from us only minutes before, we weren't planning on doing anything at this stop other than cheering her on.  Just as she approached we heard the ever familiar "PSSHHHH" that all cyclists know.  The crew sprang into action, Maiki grabbed the bike and got to work on removing the rear wheel while Michael and I unstrapped the spare wheel bag from the roof and got the other rear ready.
Cat like reflexes
A quick swap, tighten it all, and HB was back on the road.  I was seriously proud of the crew and felt like a Nascar pit crew member.  Definitely got the blood pumping.

Shortly after the wheel change at about 120 miles in, HB started to come back around.  Much to our joy she started asking for food!  She even cracked a smile.  Coming into Waimea things were really beginning to look up.  Which was fitting since the last big climb of the day began about 150mi into the ride and forced the competitors to climb up and over the Kohala Mtn. range before descending down into Hawi.  It was a LONG day, but thank Sweet Baby Jeebsus that HB started coming around at this point.  She was climbing very well and even smiling and talking to us at roadside stops to cheer.  It was almost as beautiful a sight as the views from up there.

Hawaii is incredible
After a scary and nerve wracking descent down into Hawi, HB made it, finishing just 3rd on the day in a time of 8:28.  Unfortunately, this was about 6mins slower than Shanna and a whopping 30mins slower than Amber.  However, both Hillary and the crew were actually pretty happy to see these numbers as at times we feared that Amber was really far out there.  I guess it was due to our concern for her that we just didn't realize how fast Hillary was actually riding.  The day's ride and the efforts of the other girls had shuffled things around a bit.  HB was now in second, 25mins behind Amber and 10mins ahead of Shanna.  We knew she had her work cut out for her on day 3.

I don't think I have ever seen a person as ready and willing to never see her bike again as Hillary was after this stage. When she dismounted (pardon me for this HB) she was walking like a 90yr old woman with severely arthritic hips.  It wasn't pretty. But after a shower and a massage... well it still wasn't pretty but she was looking better.  I would be lying if at this point I wasn't genuinely concerned about Hillary's well being, and wondered to myself if she was going to be able to make it through the run. Actually, I should elaborate on that.  I was pretty much 99.9% sure that Hillary would keep pressing on through the run no matter the circumstance or consequence.  But that is exactly what I was concerned about.  I felt it was somewhat of my responsibility as a crew member to be concerned foremost with her safety in both the short and long term.  The absolute last thing I wanted to come of this event was some sort of injury/physical debilitation that would have negative impact on her racing career going forward.  I felt it was part of our responsibility as crew to do our best to ensure that didn't happen.  And knowing Hillary, I was well aware that we would have quite a fight on our hands if we had to step in and tell her it was time to quit.  Luckily we had the "Good Doctor" Michael on the crew.  I figured he could provide some sort of empirical (at least to Hillary) evidence in support of our decision should it come to that.  That night I lay in dread of that event coming to pass.  

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Ok, I know this is belated, but with an event of this magnitude, the writing of a race report is all the more daunting.  And I was only crewing.  Hillary raced the thing!  That she has 2 days of RRing done is yet another testament to her grit and determination.

Some of you may know that I spent some time in Kona this summer staying and training with Hillary Biscay and her husband to be Maik Twelsiek.  During their prolonged stay on the island, Hillary got the wild idea to end her season racing Ultraman.  For those unaware, Ultraman is a 3 day race circumnavigating the Big Island of Hawaii.   Just tackling the distance is a monumental feat.  But in my humble opinion, taking on this event and attempting to truly race it, requires one who may be described as JUST this side of insane. Or maybe just THAT side.

I left for Kona the day after Ironman AZ.  Planning on having 3-4 days of relaxation and recovery prior to Friday, race day.  This was NOT what I got.  Everything started fine.  We met up the first morning at the pier with a bunch of athletes for a casual swim followed by some coffee.  Then, it began.  We started shopping for race supplies.  Between race registration, crew meetings, and SHOPPING, we were literally "on the go" untill Thursday afternoon.  I said it then, the shopping alone was exhausting.  But by Thursday night, the crew consisting of Hillary's local cousin Amy, her incredible doctor Michael, Maiki and myself, had been assembled, briefed, and the vehicle somewhat packed.  We were ready for it. Or so we thought.

Day 1: 6.2mi swim from the famous Kona pier, to the Sheraton at Keauhou, followed immediately by a 90mi bike ride with 7,600ft of vertical gain to the Volcano National Park.

If you know anything about Hillary, its probably that she is known for racing. A. LOT.  And if you know one thing about her racing, its that the girl can SWIM.
The Lineup
Straight from the gun, she did not disappoint.  Starting at a solid pace she quickly distanced herself from all female competitors and everyone else in the race save 2x Champ and swim course record holder Jonas Colting.
Pink cap barely visable
Maiki and I were on land for this portion of the race with kayak duties falling on the capable shoulders of Michael and Amy.  Rest assured it wasn't "ice cream & coffee" time like Maiki and I had planned however. We had to race to drop off an extra car, gas up the truck, head back to the house to grab Hillary's bike and TONS of other stuff, get to T1 and set it all up, before Hillary got there.  Unfortunately for us, Hillary being Hillary, this left us with scant time to do so.  As we hoped, Hillary set off with an incredible swim breaking the standing course record by 26mins and covering the 6.2mi of open ocean in 2hrs and 20mins.
Rounding the last buoy

We rushed her through transition, getting her showered, changed and fed (at least apparently), as fast as we could before pushing her off onto the bike.

Note the half eaten banana
She took down about half a banana and 1 bite of a PB&J only to spit it out about 20ft into the ride.  But we felt we had a solid transition and she looked good heading up the Kam III.

For the 1st day, Maiki and I thought it would be no problem to just ride in the bed of the truck and thus have easy access to all supplies and the coolers and be ready to pounce on any unforeseen problems.  In theory it was a great idea, and for the first 2hrs, it was in practice as well.  But soon the cramped seating, less than forgiving surfaces and the fact that we were getting out and running every 30mins combined to cause some aches and pains.  Our approach was to wait 10mins or so after Hillary left, prepare food and bottles, leap-frog past her and set up our "aid station" a few minutes ahead of her. We figured this would mean a stop roughly every 30mins and would be no problem.  I mean, we were 3 professional triathletes accustomed to eating, drinking and restocking fuel on the bike. How hard could it be, right?  We were wrong.

Error #1: We assumed Hillary would be operating at a relatively low intensity and thus be able to consume "real food" in the form of veggie burgers, PB&Js, pretzels, cookies, PowerBars of various varieties, & banana bread.  Fairly soon into the ride it was readily apparent this was not going to be the case.  The day's fuel sources basically consisted of PowerBar Perform sports drink, a few bananas, some gel blasts and a few cookies.  Hillary was having a rough go of it as her stomach, not surprisingly after 2:20 in the ocean, was NOT happy.  Stop after stop she would ride by us taking nothing more than sports drink notwithstanding the virtual buffet we had in hand for her. At one point I got her to take a few swigs off a Red Bull and judging by my elation, you would have thought I'd just bargained my way into six figure contract for the 2011 season.  At times this was very frustrating and I was in no way prepared for what an emotional toll it took on us.  Watching a friend suffer through a rough day when you are just a spectator is one thing, watching it while you are part of their "team" and tasked with keeping them fueled and strong makes it that much more painful.

Error #2: Assuming we would have no problems with the hand offs.  Sadly, we had quite a few fumbles on the day and this necessitated quite a few full on SPRINT efforts trying to catch back up to her only to watch her slowly pull away.  We would then rush back to the truck, and take off up the raod to set up a sooner than expected aid station just shortly in front of her.  This quick stop also often necessitated another full sprint hand off as we would invariably find ourselves on a downhill or flat section where she was doing 20+mph.

Error #3:  Assuming that Maiki and I could really handle all the hand-off duties.  Even given the limited fuel sources Hillary was finding tolerable on the first day, on numerous occasions we found ourselves to be without the ONE thing she would actually ask for when she came through our lineup.  This again necessitated another rush back to the truck and another quick stop like those described above.

Almost there
Error # 4: Not believing the locals when they said it would get "cold" up towards volcano.  Maiki and I cast this off as Hawaiian's being spoiled by the heat they normally enjoy.  I mean, its hawaii, how "cold" could it be.  In the back of a truck, in the rain and fog, at 4,000ft, dressed in a Tech-T and running shorts, the answer is: "Pretty Dang Cold!"

You can see how this would be frustrating and consuming.   And while I paint a pretty dark picture of the day, it is only because of the emotions I experienced watching Hillary battle the course, conditions, and her stomach problems.  On the whole, the day was actually extremely enjoyable and some great moments were shared between the crew.  We got to cheer on other athletes and try to help them in any way we could, and I got to see some beautiful parts of the island I have never seen.  We even got in a coffee stop. But it was REALLY quick HB, I swear!

From the beginning of the ride, Amber and Shanna, Hillary's 2 biggest competitors began taking time out of her.  This continued for a while and we began to wonder if Hillary could hold her lead while suffering through stomach problems and the brutal headwind.  But then Hillary began gaining time back and our hope and enthusiasm returned.  In the end, what began as a 20min lead over the other girls, ended as just 4.5mins. But she was still in 1st, well under course record pace. And Alive.

Monday, December 6, 2010

More AZ Photos

Ironman Arizona was fortunate to have some great photographers show up and do their work in fine fashion. Below are a few shots that some caught of me and were gracious enough to share.  BIG thanks to them all.  I am still on the hunt for pics of me crashing into the motorcycle. I want those BAD!!  

The above photos were shot by Tim Carlson who does great work for Slowtwitch and other triathlon publications

Kerry Yndestad caught this one from a cool angle

Sue Hutter snapped these coming into the finish

One of the best in the business, Larry Rosa.

Kerry Yndestad

Quite possibly my favorite triathlon shot. Larry Rosa.