Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Island Time

This past weekend I made my first voyage ever to the Caribbean, specifically the islands of Trinidad and Tobago. While it is hard to imagine that one would need an "excuse" to go visit this area of the world, it just so happens that I had one in the form of the Rainbow Cup International Triathlon. Charisa had actually come in contact with the race crew and I was lucky enough to get an invite to tag along. No convincing needed!

On Thursday we left San Diego at the crack of dawn and put our feet on Tobago soil just after 11pm. After a short taxi ride we arrived at our digs for the weekend, having seen very little of the island. I always find it strange to arrive somewhere at night, and then wake up the next day having really no idea what may lay outside your door.

Fortunately we had been roomed with an awesome British couple, Claire and Piers Vallance who were the defending champs, and thus knew a bit about the island. They gave us a few tips, and pointed us in the right direction, but suffice it to say, the first sights and sounds of the island did not disappoint. I mean, with views like this...

From my balcony
Of course there was a race looming so Friday was spent trying to take in as much of the island as possible while seeing the course and not getting myself totally exhausted.

As for the race, it was quick, so I will keep it short.

I hadn't raced at the olympic distance since March of 2010. So I felt a little awkward lining up for the start but my goal was (given my recent luck with island racing) to keep the bike upright, and make it hurt!

Swim: It was a two loop swim with a run up a soft sand beach in between the loops. Not that I was looking past any of my competitors, but it was a SMALL race and thus I figured I would likely find myself at or near the front of the swim. My plan was to try and establish a gap on the first lap and then hold that gap into the bike. For the first hundred meters or so that plan was in jeopardy. A fast swimming local had gone off the front and established a good gap. I just kept swimming hard and he rather suddenly came right back to me. Soon thereafter I had a gap and was able to hold it the remainder of the swim.

Bike: Given that it was an eight loop course with three turn-arounds per lap, I knew I would have plenty of opportunities to get splits on my competition. My goal was to go hard and do everything  could to keep my gap, but remain cognizant of the fact that it is hot and HUMID in Tobago!! I knew if I totally blew myself up on the bike, I would be in trouble on the hot, HUMID and exposed run course. Seriously, nowhere I have ever raced has anything on Tobago as far as humidity is concerned. Fortunately I was able to keep my gap.

Run: I would be lying if I said I didn't have a goal in mind with regard to my run split, but once I felt the heat and humidity, and realized the course may also have been a bit long, I quickly let go of that goal. I got off the bike knowing I had a gap, and that I just needed to try and stay as cool and controlled as possible. Again, with a four loop run, I knew I would have time to react if I saw the gap closing. I was dealt a lucky hand, and I could see from the beginning that my gap was holding. With this in mind I just focused on my turnover and tried to run as evenly paced as I could.

In the end I crossed the line first and got to hold the winners tape above my head for the first time in my career. Pretty cool feeling.

The race was marred however by one unfortunate event however, that of Charisa's failed attempt at a forward handspring off her bike. She's got proof, that such a move is NOT a good idea.

This did put a bit of a damper on the remaining weekend festivities, but I got to see some more sights before we departed back to Trinidad and the states (more to come on that front).

It was a great adventure heading down to the Caribbean to race. The island spirit and that of its people made for a great time and awesome "vibe" to the event (there has never been better music played at a race!). Plus, its not too often I get to participate in a Champagne Ceremony!
The race director and the whole crew put on a great race, where the "fun factor" was definitely competing with the "fast factor" for top billing. Which is how it should be! I can't say enough "Thank Yous" to the whole Rainbow Cup crew, and to Jennice & Jason in particular for their incredible hospitality and energy. It was truly a great experience!

While a win was great, it remains blatantly clear that my fitness and form remain far from "Elite" level. There is still MASSIVE amounts of work to be done to right this ship. Up next is Kansas 70.3 in ten short days! 

As always, the trip, the win, the journey would not have happened without the incredible support I receive from my sponsors.
Zoot - the kit and kicks were light and fast.

BH - The GC Aero was up to the task as always and handled the twits and turns of the looped course with precision and power.

Reynolds - My Assaults proved yet again, they are beyond just a great training wheel. When race day comes, they answer.

SPY+ - The Caribbean sun was no match for the Screw!

PowerBar - Nothing like having familiar and reliable fuel even in far way lands. A few less calories but the same result, I had the power to push all day.  

TRIBE - Having a knowledgeable shop on your side when preparing for a journey abroad is priceless. Know what you NEED and bring it along!

Mikelson & Mikelson, LLP - Flying off to faraway lands to chase experiences like this just plain and simple would not happen without your support.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Wildflower: The Long, Medium and Short of it

Last Saturday I raced the legendary Wildflower long course triathlon in Paso Robles, CA. In its 30th year, this is one of the longest running and most storied races in the sport. It was the site of my first exposure to triathlon as a volunteer in my college years at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and that of my first half Ironman distance race in 2008. The weekend, the location and the course never fail to live up to their reputation, and this year was no different.

I need to send a special thank you to the entire TriCalifornia Events team as they put on a top shelf race and take care of all athletes, including the pros, as if they were family members. This is truly a top notch organization that should serve as the model for any aspiring race directors.

Onto the race. I will keep it brief as my race deserves little attention. So to take the title of this post in reverse, I will start with the "Short":

I slotted myself off to the left, got caught up in a bit of scrapping but made it fairly unscathed, but quite winded, to the first turn buoy. I had to try and relax for a few hundred meters and stayed just off the feet of the a group ahead. Later I found a rhythm and was able to bridge up and swim my way up to the near the front of the group. Fettel and McClarty were way off the front with a few others between us, and then our group of 6 or so. Though I felt the swim was not a good one for me, I came out securely within the top 10 and with some of the big contenders.

Onto the "Long" of it:

I did indeed come out of the water with some of the big engines and ahead of a few others. Unfortunately, as has been par for the course since last year, I watched them all ride away throughout the day on the bike. There is not much to be said about my ride other than it was quite pathetic. I had great equipment, finely tuned, and ready to roll. Again however, it was the engine that failed. Since leaving the squad I have been focusing my attention on my riding and it indeed has paid off as this ride was much better than Leadman. But competitiveness on the bike at this level does not come overnight. The hole that my early season training (or lack thereof) has left me in is quite deep with respect to the bike. Climbing out will not be a quick leap, and will require some effort and time. I am game for the challenge however and things are now on the right track.

And finally the "Medium":
I came into T2 with no idea where I was in the race, but certain it was FAR out of money contention. So I set my sights on just trying to run a solid steady 13.1. I got my feet under me, and just tried to concentrate on a solid cadence and relaxing my back and shoulders. I ran with my new Timex GPS run trainer and it was great. It felt much lighter than my Garmin did as I didn't get any of the arm fatigue/burn that I do sometimes with the Garmin. My goal was to run under 1:20 and at the halfway mark I thought it might be in the cards. However going through the camp grounds I didn't feel the normal "pop" I do in that section and my energy began to fade. I took a PowerGel at each of the next two aid stations before the long climb back up to the mile 10 marker. On the downhill I got to see a large group of runners ahead of me, but it was too late. I ran the last miles before the downhill hard, but they never came back into view. I ended up with a 1:22 which is a PR for me on that course, but not where I wanted it to be. Again, medium.
Thanks to TriLounge's Kevin Koresky for the photos and the support!
I finished 20th, in 4:22, and WAY off the pace of the race. 

I want to send out a HUGE congrats to fellow Zooter and friend Heather Jackson for her incredible race and course record on way to winning her first major race. You are in fine company Heather. Can't wait to see you name on those stairs.

As always I need to send a big thanks to my incredible sponsors for supporting me and sticking with me through as I attempt to right the ship.

ZOOT - From the water to the run, you've got me covered and go above and beyond. It is an incredible opportunity to work with a company on the leading edge of our sport and I value it greatly. I wore the Prophet wetsuit which is by far the most flexible suit I've ever worn, and raced in the TT5.0s which were light and comfy but held up well to the rocky and slippery trails of Wildflower.

BH Bikes - The GC will go much faster soon.. I promise! I've spent some quality time bonding with it for the past month and there is only more in the future. Thanks for believing in me.

REYNOLDS - I opted for the RZR 92s out at Wildflower due to the rather punishing road conditions and the hills. I was happy with my choice. A few more modifications to the engine, and these bad boys will be delivered the horsepower they deserve!

SPY+ - I can't recall exactly how many compliments I have been given on my Spy shades in the past few months. In a casual setting, on the bike, or on the run, they look great and perform. I wore the matte white "Screw" on Saturday and was happy I did.

TRIBE MULTISPORT - The camp last month was great fun and also an opportunity to get some new accoutrements for my GC. They are helping and the bike is running flawlessly. Having a fully stocked shop with knowledgeable staff is awesome.

POWERBAR - Aside from a few swigs of on course drink, I fueled my entire day on PowerBar products. Cookies n Cream bar and 1 pack gel blasts for breakfast, a Double Latte gel before the swim,  Strawberry Banana gels on the bike, 4 Powergels on the run. Not a stomach issue all day.

MIKELSON & MIKELSON, LLP - Having a "Firm" that firmly backs my pursuits is truly invaluable. It sounds cliche, but it is simply fact, I would not be here, chasing my dreams, without your support. Great lawyers & Great people.