Marble Falls Tri- Race Recap

It’s been 3 weeks since the race, but I haven’t been able to devote the time to sit down and finish writing my recap until now. Early this spring I signed up for the Marble Falls Tri as a challenge and break from the usual Austin area Triathlon venues. My best friend Matt & I were going to race, and decided to make it a long weekend of relaxation for the wives in Marble Falls. The distances were unusual and it was touted as a challenging race because it’s ‘the one with the hills.’ Having come off of finishing the Ride the Rockies, I was excited for a challenge on the bike. What I wasn’t ready for was the tough Texas heat and not logging enough swim/run hours due to my Colorado cycling experience. I also wasn’t really prepared for losing my job a month before the race, but it’s life and we play the hand we’re dealt.

We arrived in Marble Falls mid day Saturday, with enough time to get our packets, drive the bike course, relax and take in some poolside relaxation. All of which were awesome. When deciding on dinner, we stayed at the resort and opted for their dinner buffet which happened to be a fajita/Mexican buffet. So awesome. So much food. Slightly incorrect choice for pre-race meal. We got back to the hotel room to go through the normal evening before race rituals as my wife calls it. When inspecting my bike, I wasn’t comfortable with the state of my front tire. I had brought a spare, so I grabbed a tube, the new tire and proceeded to change it in the hotel room. Something wasn’t sitting just right, and I was a little nervous about it. I aired it up and left it in the room. Sleep was so-so, as is usual before a race. Then about 2am we here a POP!! As I had feared, the new tube blew in my tire. Now I would have to change the tube when I got up. Great, that’s just what I wanted to do on race morning.

Aside from changing the tube, it was a pretty usual morning. Got my nutrition in, water bottles filled with NUUN and car loaded to head to the start. It was a small field in the race, so that’s always nice not having to worry too much about rack space in transition etc. While getting everything set, the wives headed off to patron the local Starbucks, which much to their dismay didn’t open until 6:30 on Sundays. What gives? Matt was having some stomach issues, and didn’t really have an appetite. Since we were so close to the start, I told him to forget the bagel and just have a Gu.

We proceeded to the swim start, found the wives for kisses and approached the water. My group went off first, and I started towards the first buoy. It was a simple triangle swim of 1,000 meters, but the first buoy was against the current of Lake Marble Falls and seemed to be forever before I got there. I kept plugging along, and didn’t really have many issues with other swimmers until about half way through when I was caught by the group behind me. There was a fair amount of jockeying going on in the water and at one point a strong grab on my left arm. This is where I wear my Road ID bracelet, which I felt get ripped off. How does that happen? I  was really upset, but kept plugging along. Thankfully I had recently ordered the new slim version of Road ID. Finishing the swim with sighting was a little difficult due to the rising sun. I finally exit the water and run up the hill to transition to the cheers of my wife.

I get set and off I go on the bike. Out & back, 23 miles with some nice rolling hills. Interestingly enough, within the first mile we started a Category 5 climb. My legs felt money, and passed quite a few folks going up the first climb. I settled in at a solid but steady pace. I kept expecting to see the lead pack soon, but they didn’t pass me till a few miles from the turn around. Most athletes did well with following passing and drafting rules, but one chump tried to pass me on a hill and I called him out. I don’t want to be mean about it, but if you can’t make the pass, don’t try! I don’t want to get penalized either. About a mile before the turn, I saw Matt coming the other direction and yelled at him to keep it up! I hit the turn right at 40 minutes. I wanted a negative split and knew there was some nice downhill at the end, so just needed to keep the pace I had set. When I made the final turn a few miles out I knew I was in good position to make my goal. I kept pressing and finished the bike with a solid effort.

As I approached T2, I almost rear ended another rider who had stopped right before the dismount. I smiled at my wife cheering and was on to grab my running shoes. HEAVY LEGS. I immediately knew the 4.4 mile run was going to be a challenge. It was hot, and I could tell that the lack of time training was about to pay off. I set off, my new goal just to finish solid, regardless of run time. I decided that I would take 10-15 second walk breaks at the aid stations to help keep my HR down. By the time I hit mile one, my stomach was not my friend. I took my final Gu of the day, and just about sent it heaving out on the road. I saw Matt heading in for the finish and signaled to him that I was out. I continued on the not-so-fun-run and when I hit mile 2-3 finally felt like I should be out there. That feeling went away, and I was ready to finish the run. The run course was actually really nice as it stretched through some neighborhoods and offered quite a bit of shade. I made it through the park, and up the approach to the finish line. I could see my wife, Matt & his wife in my peripheral vision and hit what was left in the gas to make the finish. Exhausted and relieved the race was done, and I came in under my ‘realistic goal’ time. We regrouped and headed back to the hotel so that we could enjoy the rest of the day relaxing by the pool. As with every race these days, there were good points, not so good points and lots of lessons learned.

By the numbers-

1,000 meter swim- 26:16 (crazy slow!)
Transition 1- 2:04
23 mile bike- 1:15:48
Transition 2- 0:53
4.4 mile run- 42:12
Total Time- 2:27:15
Overall Place- 135/210

Is it 70.3 or Half?

It’s been on the horizon for quite some time. Probably since the first time I got in the water to compete in a triathlon… The desire to race in the ‘long distance’ courses. There are two distances 140.6 and 70.3. The longer is the traditional full ironman length distance. The latter has been called a half ironman, but is becoming more affectionately known as just 70.3 ironman. For perspective, it’s a 1.2 mile swim followed by a 56 mile bike ride and simply a 13.1 mile run at the end of that. Not much, just a swim bike & run. 🙂

Anyway, my best friend Matt & I have kicked around ideas of what 70.3 races we wanted to do first. I had thoughts of maybe doing 70.3 San Juan in March, but logistically would be really challenging. Living in the Austin metro area we’re blessed with an abundance of triathlons and just a generally active community. We have several friends who had signed up for the 70.3 Austin race in October. The more we looked at the calendar (and our wives) the more it began seeding itself in our minds as a great opportunity to race. So we’re both taking the plunge, literally. I was a little apprehensive about finally registering for a long distance course, especially remembering the pain of the two half (there’s that word again) or 13.1 marathons this spring. But after lots of support from my wife and knowing that pain is temporary and finishing times are posted online forever, I’m in.

A funny thing is actually reading the waiver you have to sign when registering. Lots of you have called me crazy, and this pretty much solidifies it, take a read-

“I understand and acknowledge the physical and mental rigors associated with triathlon, duathlon, or other multi-sport events, and realize that running, bicycling, swimming and other portions of such Events are inherently dangerous and represent an extreme test of a person’s physical and mental limits. I understand that participation involves risks and dangers which include, without limitation, the potential for serious bodily injury, permanent disability, paralysis and death; loss or damage to property; exposure to extreme conditions and circumstances; accidents, illness, contact or collision with other participants, spectators, vehicles or other natural or manmade objects; dangers arising from adverse weather conditions; imperfect course conditions; water, road and surface hazards; equipment failure; inadequate safety measures; participants of varying skill levels; situations beyond the immediate control of the Event Organizers; and other undefined harm or damage which may not be readily foreseeable, and other presently unknown risks and dangers (“Risks”). I understand that these Risks may be caused in whole or in part by my own actions or inactions, the actions or inactions of others participating in the Event, or the acts, inaction or negligence of the Released Parties defined below, and I hereby expressly assume all such Risks and responsibility for any damages, liabilities, losses or expenses which I incur as a result of my participation in the Event.”

Anyhow, here’s to ramping up my training during this unusually cold Texas summer… it was 105 yesterday.

 

What Rabbit Ears? – Day 5

As each day progresses it’s a bit harder to get out of bed & climb on the bike knowing what lays ahead. I was a little anxious last night knowing the climb over Rabbit Ears pass awaited plus a full day in the saddle.
We were pleasantly greeted with temperatures in the mid 40’s. Unlike yesterday where very few rolled out early, I would say most folks left way early today. It was a fairly neutral 5 miles before heading into the pass. I know I’m fatigued because I can no longer read a map properly. I was under the assumption that the first rest stop was at mile 8 atop the first pass. Well it turns out the 2,500+ climb went until mile 14! Although it dragged on, I felt pretty solid upon reaching the top, but I was soaked with sweat. I was hopeful to beat my wife & kids to the top, but they had already passed on their way home.
So I headed out for the second part of Rabbit Ears Pass. And this is where it gets funny. I know the local Colorado readers will laugh heartily. See I assumed the two passes were the “rabbit ears.” So I texted my mother in law when I made the first ear. She responded what ear? Little did I know there was a rock formation at the top which were indeed the ears. When approaching it, I thought it looked like a great photo opp. Another rider asked if I wanted him to take my picture with the ears. I said “what do you mean? I thought the two passes were the ears?” It was the source of good chuckles from nearby riders.
All week we have enjoyed the climbs because of the amazing views and unreal descents. However today things were different. We started into a headwind on the descent off rabbit ears which didn’t end till mile 52 rest stop. I was in a serious pain cave during those 30 miles like most riders. About mile 45 someone had spray painted on the road “Live STRONG.” Wow. I had neglected to think about those who I was riding for. This was enough to lush me to the next rest stop.
We had logged over 300 miles and my body was really pissed at me. I began to really question my motives & driving force to be out here with the wind we were facing. I grabbed a snack & more water while overhearing other riders mention we were about to turn & get some relief from the wind. Ok I thought, if the wind isn’t in our face I can do this.
Not only was it not in out face, but we were blessed with a strong tailwind for a while. Not wanting to miss an opportunity, I pushed it. I was holding 25mph for quite a while & quasi enjoying life again.
We finished out the last stretches into Granby through a beautiful canyon & some rolling hills. But not before one last nasty little climb heading up to the school.
It was a relief to get in, and be done with the final long day. Now to mentally prepare for the final day of the tour with one last mountain climb. So here’s me & my angry body checking out, going to get some recovery food. Seeya in Georgetown tomorrow afternoon.

Bring the Pain: Day 3

From the stories I’ve heard of years past, we’ve been extremely fortunate with the weather this year for the ride. The early morning riders today were surprised with a light rain shower leaving Edwards. I decided to wait till the small cloud past and rolled out just after 7 a.m.
We had looked at the weather the night before, and once we rolled out our fears were confirmed. We would have a headwind for most of the 80 mile day. Moods were a little grime as we began our first climb of the day. But getting to do a fun descent is always a just reward for climbing. Things only got tougher as we headed into the second & longer climb. Having a headwind while climbing can just be demoralizing. We finally finished with another awesome descent, but not before a few more short climbs into the next rest stop.
Lots of riders were pleased with the food offerings at the halfway rest stop (especially the homemade pie), but I decided to press on to the next stop. I had to spend some extra time so the bike mechanic angels could adjust my deraillur & fix my left cleat which wasn’t clipping in. Mile 52 was a pinnacle point in the ride for me today. I was tired, my body fatigued by multiple days of tough riding, and my spirit was just generally low and knew there were almost 30 miles left. Fortunately I was in cell range and texted my wife my status. She responded with “dig deep, finish strong, finish for us.” My bike was ready so I ate a banana & headed out.
It was challenging for the first few miles finding the strength to press through the wind. I caught a pace-line for a few miles which eased the pressure. Then the drive hit me. Thinking about my wife’s text & the fact my family was waiting in Steamboat Springs my inner competitor & triathlete nature came out. I got in my drops, hit the big ring and started laying out bodies on the route. I have no idea how many riders I passed the last 20 miles but it was a lot.
Looking at the route profile, you would have expected the last part of the day to be a nice gradual downhill ride into town. Not so much. It was filled with more than plenty rolling hills to push everyone to the brink. About 10 miles left and still mashing the gears I angrily slammed one final Gu. Normally I take my time rolling the package to make sure I get all the gel out, not this time, one big squeeze & the package was back in the bento box. I could feel the presence of a rider on my back wheel but didn’t know who it was. At the top of one roller he pulled aside and said “man your pulling really strong, I’m just a 52 year old hanging on for dear life!” I replied that I was tired and anxious to see my family.
We finally made the approach into Steamboat & over to the high school. I rounded the corner & saw my wife & daughter waving. At last. Well, almost. Once you arrived at the school, you still had to climb the hill & ride to the back lot where the bike corral was. After leaving my bike & grabbing my bag, I found my girls. There was a cute sign at Meadow Gardens & I told my daughter to sit in front so I could take her picture. Wanting to seize the opportunity I went beside her so my wife could take the picture. Before I walked up, my 5 year old daughter said “well just don’t touch me in the picture, you’re all dirty daddy.” Classic. She’s so much like her mother. 🙂
So here’s to a powerful and demanding third day. Excuse me while I go replace my calories at Beau Jo’s Mountain Bistro.

Reality Check: Day 2

As I suspected, sleeping in the gym was a little better last night. But still not great. Let’s just say I’m really looking forward to arriving in Steamboat for two reasons tomorrow. One, I get to see the wife & kids for a couple of days, an two I get to sleep in a hotel.
Today was a big reality check. Lots of adrenalin & endorphins carried most folks through a killer day one. So what did we get to do? Wake up & do it again. I awoke with a severe crick in my neck, so bad in fact I thought about not riding. But then I thought about my friend Jon Binsted who has battled cancer and decided to get on my bike. The weather was a better start at 41 degrees today, but a headwind for the 34 mile sustained climb to Leadville was not. Finding a good pace-line was definitely the name of the game this morning. I noticed a significant amount of bikes on the SAG vehicles today.
Of all the route destinations I was most excited about passing through Leadville. The endurance sport geek in me really played to that. Leadville is home to not only an epic endurance run, but also the fabled mountain bike race. Once I finally arrive I didn’t spend a whole lot of time in Leadville, really just enough time to fill my water & buy a shot glass. Then we were off to Tennessee Pass. Honestly it came & went without much fanfare. The decent however was pretty spectacular. Day two really belong to Battle Mountain. This climb was fairly easy to overlook on the map, but not in person. I kept thinking I was climbing something out of the Tour de France. Steep grade with absolutely amazing views. Fortunately for all, it was shorter in comparison to our other climbs. We were treated with our third high speed descent of the day.
The day stretched long as we passed through Minturn & Avon as we approached Edwards. It’s amazing what a headwind all day long can do to your spirits. Well I’m off to sleep on my little piece of the gym floor at Battle Mountain High School. Till tomorrow…

Bump, Set, Spike: A Recap of Day 1

Well, that was interesting. There is a lot of hype & lore surrounding the Ride the Rockies, and day one lived up to all of it. It was a challenge the night before to get some solid sleep in the inside gym, I was truly amazed at how many riders were up at 4 a.m. to get an early start. Especially considering we were greeted (albeit unwelcome) with sub-freezing temperatures. I waited around a bit until the sub came out & began my ride at 7 a.m. It was a very chilly downhill ride for the first 45 minutes or so until we reached the first rest stop. Much ado had been made about the breakfast that greeted riders each morning at the first rest stop. There were delicious breakfast tacos & coffee from a guy & his son all the way from Texas! Then the industrial pancake line. They were turning more flapjacks than IHOP.
We began a gradual ascent after the stop for about 20 miles. Not too painful & some beautiful scenery along the Taylor river & reservoir. One we hit the rest stop at mile 40, I knew it was game on. And by game on, I mean a legit Cat 1 climb up 14 miles of dirt road to the top of Cottonwood Pass (12,126 feet). I felt great for the first 10 miles. Some of my friends like to give me crap about my triple chain-ring on my bike. But it was made for days like today. I rocked that little ring happily all the way up. Which brings me to my only gripes of the day. There was a LOT of vehicular traffic on the dirt road. Apparently there are a lot of riders who thought themselves too important for their “personal sag wagons” to take an alternate route like instructed. The scariest part of the day was on a steep climb, and I came up to a group that was riding 4 abreast. I called out on the left, but not before the final rider almost forced me off the cliff. I gently scolded their riding 4 in the interest of safety, but they could care less. Another rider behind me saw it all & was amazed.
The final 6 miles up the mountain were a grueling ascent. There were a few times when I stopped to regroup my heart rate & questioned my sanity. The dirt on the last couple of miles was loose & the winds had started to pick up. I finally made it! I was ecstatic & relieved. I completed the hardest, longest & highest climb of my life. We were greeted with much fanfare, music & awesome food at the top. Being a Texan I gladly partook of a fajita taco. I took a few obligatory pictures at the conte rental divide sign & headed out for the 20 mile descent. Wow. Let’s just say I’ve never done anything quite like that either. What a rush coming down the mountain to locals cheering us on as we made our way downtown Buena Vista. So far I have been very impressed with the local & state support for the ride. Kudos Colorado, a job well done. I’ll see you in Edwards tomorrow.

The Final Countdown

In about 48 hours I will be close to beginning my climb of Cottonwood Pass at 12,126 feet above sea level.

I love the week, the days, the hours before a race or event. Laying out all of my gear to make sure everything is in order; the final check of my bike and other equipment to make sure it’s in top shape; calculating the hours to make sure I have enough nutrition and fluids. nutrition checkAnd yes, the waiting game, taper madness begins to take over. It’s more of a love/hate relationship that I have with this time period really. I get antsy thinking about the challenges ahead. It’s an excited nervous energy. My wife usually thinks I’ve lost my mind when I begin laying out all of my nutrition and clothing, but hey to do endurance events aren’t we all a little crazy to begin with? As I prepare for Ride the Rockies my mind won’t rest. This will be the first time that I’ve ever completed an event like this, heck I haven’t done anything close to this in the past! For me this is a rare opportunity. My father-in-law from Wyoming  affectionately calls me a ‘land lover from Texas’ due to our extremely low elevation. Am I ready for this? I think so, at least as much as I’m going to be at this point. I’m in for the whole gamut of what this incredible bike tour has to offer. I look forward to making more blog posts along the way as we traverse over 400 miles of scenic Colorado. So for now as I head off to pre-pack all of my gear again I sign off with these final thoughts- you never know what you’re capable of until you try. And as my good cycling friends like to say may the wind be at our backs and the sun on our faces… and keeping two wheels down.

I’ve been selected to be a guest blogger for the Denver Post (title sponsor of Ride the Rockies) along the way. I’ll be posting over at http://blogs.denverpost.com/ridetherockies so be sure to stop by each day and see what we’re up to.