Sunday, December 18, 2011

Bouncing Around

In all the hustle, bustle and focus of the racing season, I often realize that I don't have the time to really appreciate the beauty of some of the places my job takes me. Yes I snap a few pictures here and there, but often times some amazing scenery flies by before I can really comprehend the incredible beauty in wherein I often find my "offiice." Immersed in my powermeter, engaged in the work, I miss much of nature's splendor.

A few days ago I had a lunch with an athlete I coach and found myself, down in Manhattan Beach, with free Christmas Parking and some time to kill. It was a beautiful day in my old stomping grounds, so I decided to take it all in for a while. The luxuries and the "offseason" and the silver lining of an injury.

Manhattan Beach, CA. Where I lived for 3.5yrs during my final year of law school and first years of practice, and where I took up triathlon. The hill in the background is Palos Verdes, CA the land of my childhood.

For a while I was content to sit, walk a bit, and snap some photos. But soon, the taunting and peer pressure heard in the footfalls of passing runners rose to an unbearable level. I hadn't technically been cleared to run, but I just NEEDED to. A part of me needed to feel it again, to take in this powerful scenery with a pounding heart. So I ran. And it was liberating. Exactly what I needed.

The next day I boarded a plane bound for the opposite coast. On tap was a visit with my nearly life long best friend who I have spent countless hours on the beaches above with in my life. He and his lovely new fiance moved out here in July, came and watched me race Lake Placid, and I haven't seen them since. A visit was needed.

Friday morning I woke with antsy feet and a run route in my inbox from a caring friend who knew I needed it. It was windy and cold, but I was excited to take in what the landscape had to offer. I was pleasantly surprised.
Heading out onto Tod's Pointe in Old Greenwich, CT.

From the Southern tip of the Pointe you can see the New York City skyline

The contrast between the white-capped waters of the south side and the slate like calm to the east was striking.

The final portion of the trail along a nice long sandy beach

For a few reasons, this proved to be one of the best runs of my life. One I am sure I will look back on in the years to come with great reverence. It is great to be running again. Taking it all in.

I hope you all are fortunate enough to find the time this holiday season to "stop and smell the roses."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas Gift

Yesterday I went to the doctor for a follow up appointment for my shoulder. After further inspection of the X-Rays and talking with his colleagues, the good Doctor told me his recommendation was not to operate and treat my separated shoulder with aggressive physical therapy instead. I was elated. I almost hugged him but refrained, thinking that might make for an awkward doctor/patient scenario.

To me, this was the best Christmas gift I could receive.

On an entirely different note, I have been asked a few times in the past few weeks what a good gift would be for a triathlete in the family.

Since most of us can't give someone a favorable medical diagnosis like I was fortunate enough to receive, or at least not one anyone should give any credence to, I figured I would try and spread a little triathlon goodwill and make a gift idea list for those of you who may be shopping for a triathlete this Holiday season. So without further ado, here are some products I use, think highly of and would recommend for any triathlete.

It is winter. It stays dark later and gets dark earlier. It is cold. But none of those are valid excuses not to get our runs in. And lets face it, running when uncomfortable... Sucks. So here are some ideas for some great winter run gear from Zoot. The Kalani is a groundbreaking (no pun intended) high mileage trainer perfect for logging the winter miles. This is the shoe I do almost all my longer training runs in. Along with shoes, the winter weather calls for some coverups and the XOTHERM run jacket and tight
will stand up to the cold.

After a year or two of logging countless miles on the road, especially after the summer heat has come and gone, helmets can begin to get a little funky. Not to mention that UV Rays are helmet foam's biggest enemy, next to violent road meetings that is. By far the lightest and most comfortable helmet I've ever worn, the Specialized Prevail will meet the standards of any cyclist or triathlete.
If you have a very special or deserving triathlete in mind, then he or she will be incredibly stoked on a set of these
The Reynolds 66 wheelset is a versatile high performance setup perfect for almost any race course.

Winter doesn't exactly mean no sun. Further, while riding eye protection is a top priority. SPY+ Optics has a great line of casual and performance shades. The Alpha is my favorite from the performance lineup. They combine great looks, fantastic lenses and are extremely lightweight which makes them great for riding and running. The commando kit comes with three lenses for all conditions. The perfect setup.

For those of you looking to fill some stocking gift vacancies, the following ideas are perfect.

Even though its cold, we still need to stay hydrated on the longer winter runs. FuelBelt released its Revenge Series this year and it is fantastic. The Revenge series of belts features plastic molded flask holders that allow for easy one-handed entry. I don't do a run over an hour without one.

Staying in the hydration department, putting in the base miles on the bike will require some serious fluid intake. While I used to think a water bottle was simply that, a water bottle, and all were the same, that changed when I used the Purist. The Purist Hydroflow is an ergonomically shaped, highly flexible, BPA free bottle that has an interior coating that protects from both color and taste stains. Possibly the coolest feature of the Purist is the spout that prevents all leaking or spilling. Just squeeze. 

Since there are gonna be some long rides in the saddle for most of us this winter, keeping the undercarriage happy is paramount. An ISM Saddle will do the job. I haven't found a more comfortable saddle.

No matter how comfortable a saddle is, hours on hours will take its toll unless proper care is taken. And lets face it, even the finest machines need lube. DZnuts, as the name hints, was developed by Dave Zarbriskie, the US Time Trial Champion, who has logged ALOT of time in the saddle. It is the best chamois lube I have found.
Finally, while the winter isn't an excuse to totally slack off. It is a time for a little more rest and relaxation than the in season months will permit. For those triathletes like myself who may not be blessed with the worlds most hyperactive of metabolisms, this means its a time to watch the intake. PowerBar provides a product that is perfect for these times. Keeping hunger at bay with its higher protein content, while keeping carbs and sugar low, PowerBar Protein Plus Bites are the perfect winter snack.
I hope the foregoing list helps some of you out.

If you buy at don't forget to use coupon code IMIKE-S to save yourself some dough.

Happy Holidays.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Cozumel: The Dust

As any of you who read my last post pre Ironman Cozumel could tell, I went into this race with high expectations of myself and looking to occupy one of the top steps on the podium when all was said and done. I was not expecting to record my first career DNF and certainly not in such grand fashion. Here is how it all shook out.

On Tuesday of race week I traveled to Cozumel with good friend and roommate for the past 7 weeks, Chris Mcdonald. All was going well including no bike fee on the way down and we settled into our accommodations, built bikes, shook out the legs and arms, and hit the grocery. The week was rather uneventful and probably the most restful week I have ever had leading into a race. If we were not training, or walking to the grocery, I was just sitting in bed surfing the temperamental internet. I was feeling fat, a bit sluggish in training, and a bit tired. So things appeared right on track ;-)

Race day came and we hit the warm waters with plenty of time for a descent warm up. I picked a spot dead in the middle of the lineup with a straight shot down the buoy line. My swimming had been going well, and I was determined not to get stuck behind a break or to get popped off the front group as I had in Hawaii. I hadn't worked as hard as I had in the pool to let that happen again. So I took my middle spot and hit it hard from the gun. A couple hundred yards into the swim two packs had formed side by side and separated by 20ft or so. Soon those packs came together and it got a bit rough for a minute. There were some strong swimmers in the field with Mathias Hecht, Brandon Marsh and some others. So I knew holding those guys was not going to happen. Eventually they broke away and I found myself on the feet of a solid swimmer, at the front of the first chase group. I made it around the first turn without issue and was feeling good heading into the second turn before the long back stretch. It was at this corner that I got what in hindsight would prove to be a little foreshadowing of how my day would unfold. A kayaker had chosen to park himself just on the other side of the 2nd buoy out of sight to approaching swimmers. I went around the buoy and was abruptly stopped dead in my tracks when my head met the bottom of the kayak. I was a little dazed but adrenaline and a seething desire to stay on those feet propelled me onward. Once back on, we put in a few surges and distanced ourselves from the remainder of the pack forming a three man chase pack. The remainder of the swim was uneventful, and the back stretch being so long, gave me the feeling that maybe we were not swimming all that well. Upon exit however, I was very happy to see a 47:25 on the clock and hear a split of only a little over a minute to the front group of 8 or so. Onto the bike and out of transition I saw a clock reading 49:XX and was fired up to be on the road in under 50mins. Yes, the Cozumel swim is fast!

Onto the road I was feeling good and immediately made a pass or two. Since Kona my coach, Paulo Sousa, had been drilling into my head the lessons that I learned in that race. In our pre race discussions he harped on those lessons and gave me strict instructions that I was to disobey at my peril. I rode steady, within the plan, and about 30mins in I was caught by a group of Chris Mcdonald and eventual winner on the day, Michael Lovato. I did my best to stay with the group and within my plan but doing both would soon prove impossible. The back side of the island is completely exposed and we had some fierce cross winds, the likes of which I've never encountered before. About halfway down the stretch, when Chris went to the front, I and a few others could no longer maintain contact. I rode the remainder of the 1st lap trying to close the gap to a few others up the road and started the second lap near Brandon Marsh and Zack Ruble.

Soon after hitting the windy section of the second lap I realized the wind had died a little bit and would allow me to focus in on my power meter and "ride numbers" all the way down the stretch. I did, and managed to get a break on the guys I had been trading passes with before. Shortly before the end of the long straight section back to town I bridged back up to Chris. We were heading back into town together and I was feeling great. We were just south of 3hrs and I felt a 3rd lap around 1:30 was well within reach. I knew that Michael couldn't have been that far up the road and that if we brought him back, and I could hold on for the third lap, that getting off the bike with the likes of Chris and Michael would put me in great position. In the first turn back in town however, that excitement and positive energy was instantly decimated and replaced by sorrow and disgust.  

Entering into the hard left turn there was a age grouper on our right so I took a tighter line into the corner. Entering the turn I hit a bump that Chris, who had a front row seat for the debacle, said just unweighted my front wheel enough that when the weight came back down, while in a turn, simply snapped the front wheel to the left and I went over the bars. I comleted a half somersault and landed ever so gracefully on my head and left shoulder. I remember sliding across the street, coming to rest near the exit of the turn, and immediately being concerned about getting hit by other riders. It is with great gratitude that the first face I saw was Chris, unbuckling my helmet and holding me still. The fact that he had stopped, in the middle of what was setting up to be a good race for him, shows exactly what type of competitor, friend, and person he is.

Once I cleared my head, I realized that in a matter of seconds the medical team was on site. I must send a HUGE thank you to the Cozumel med team who provided top notch care in such rapid fashion. I quickly took inventory and realized there was no blood, my legs were working, and my shorts were still intact. I stood up and walked over to my bike and saw it had escaped rather unscathed as well. For a brief moment I thought "I'm still in this thing!" Fortunately Chris saw exactly what I was thinking. He also saw my shoulder which I had neglected until that point. He put his hand on my bike, looked at me and said "Ian, you're done." while making a cut throat motion with his other hand. It was then I realized my left shoulder had a rather large protrusion coming out the top of it. At that moment it set in that the great race I was having, was done. To say I was upset is an understatement. I was also concerned about recovery and what it would mean for next season. 

Long story made slightly less long. I was whisked off to the hospital, an X-ray was taken and fortunately the broken collarbone I had resigned myself to, was not to be. Rather, it is a separation of the clavicle and I am not in nearly as bad of sorts as I would have been had it broken.

Only adding to the disappointment of the weekend, the bad luck was not visited upon only one resident of room 204. Only 15mins later, Chris struck a volunteer who had run out into the road to pick of a stray bottle and ended his day when his face had an abrupt meeting with the street at 26mph resulting in some nice battle woulds and a soundly concussed melon.

I am back in the States and within the confines of home sweet home California getting some excellent care for the shoulder which looks a little like this at the moment.

I returned from the hospital, to find Chris nursing his wounds and we had a little post race debrief. It was then that I finally discovered the nice battle mark on the top of my head courtesy of the kayak from the swim. Injury to insult. Clearly this was not the end to my 2011 season that I was hoping for. But with this line of work comes the inherent risk that such fates will be met. The positive is that it could not have happened at a better time.

I am still in the early stages of diagnosis and treatment but things are shaping up well and all signs point to a fairly speedy return to 100%. For that I am very thankful.

I owe an extreme debt of gratitude to Chris for stopping to help me out, for playing nurse, packing my bike and lugging my gear around from Mexico all the way home. All the while, dealing with injuries of his own.

I also owe a big Thank You to my sponsors:

Zoot: I'm pretty bummed I didn't get to bust out the TT 4.0s on the Cozumel course as I am positive the drainage and light weight would have given me a one up on the competition in the wet conditions.

Specialized: Thanks for building some amazing bikes for me to wreck ;-) On a serious note, I did a number on my TT helmet and it did its job. It is much worse for it, but my noggin is not!

Reyonlds Wheels: The wheels were working in awesome fashion as usual until I decided to try and ride them upside down. I promise to remember "Rubber Side DOWN" in the future ;-) Thanks for another year enjoying your awesome support and service.  Nobody stocks more or get it to you faster. Use coupon code IMIKE-S for a nice discount

Powerbar: As usual, race day nutrition was dialed and working to perfection. I had the power to push for the first 3:50, unfortunately not the ability after that point.

SPY+: Training and racing with your shades has been great. And even when busted up I still got comments on the casual shades. Awesome stuff. 

PVBC: Even from afar, it is great to know you have my back and racing with your support adds a great deal of confidence.