Monday, May 3, 2010

Wildflower Half Ironman 2010

What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time I had just finished my first Half Ironman at Wildflower and I was on cloud nine with my performance. I crushed it with a very respectable 6 hrs 52 minute finish time and I felt GREAT! This year, it was a bit rougher. My training all season has been mediocre at best due to long hours at work which has made completing all my midweek workouts a huge challenge. Last year my training was a "10" out of 10. This year at has been about a "6" or "7" at best. This little thing called LIFE has kind of gotten in the way of my training regiment. Here is a not so short summary how my afternoon went on May 1, 2010 at the "one and only Avia Wildflower Triathlon":

Pre-race: Woke up a 5:30am in my tent after driving in the night before at 11pm. While the rest of my team had been camping, resting and pre-race prepping for the prior 2 days, I was stuck in LA at work until Friday at 5pm. It was work, a 5+ hour drive to Paso Robles, straight to bed at 11:30pm and up at 5:30am to race. Although I woke up tired, I still had tons of adrenaline running through my body. I was just happy to be back together with my team. All felt right in the universe again. Two quick peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and the usual morning Coca-Cola and I was ready to bike down to the race start.

Swim: 1.2 miles.
Time = 49:31

Before the swim and in transition I was very calm. This whole experience was familiar to me now so I felt no need to worry. I knew I would be able to finish this race. I knew the course very well so my attitude was just to have fun and cheer on my teammates.

The swim itself was pretty uneventful. It is my weakest event and also the event I have neglected the most with this season's training...and it showed. My overall time was only 20 seconds faster than a year ago. Basically, in one year I have not improved a lick...LOL! I'm OK with that because I've gotten out of my swim exactly what I have put into it this year, and that is not very much training. With more focus and actual effort, I know I can improve my swim time dramatically.

Swimming out was pretty annoying because I was trying to sight off the big orange buoys but all I would see when I put my head up was a big orange glare called THE SUN. The glare was frustrating. I couldn't really see where I was going so I just did my best to follow the crowd of swimmers in front of me. The swim always feels like an eternity in my mind and I thought to myself that I was definitely swimming slower than I was last year. I ran out of the water and saw 49 minutes on my watch, exactly what I swam the year before. I kind of laughed and just told myself, "well, at least you are consistent".

Bike: 56 miles
Time = 3hrs 54 minutes

Last year my bike splits never got posted so I don't know exactly what I biked. Unofficially on my own watch I believe I biked close to a 3:30 so this year I went backwards.

Lots went wrong on my bike. I first knew I was in trouble when I left transition to get on the bike course and I realize I was totally tired and winded already. That is not how I felt last year. I knew at that moment my lack of rest the week before had caught up to me. Then going up Beach Hill at about mile 3 my bike started making this horrible noise every time I changed gears. Then, each time I'd switch from my big gear to my small gear, the chain would pop off my wheel. Overall, my chain fell off the bike a total of 8 times during the whole afternoon. For you not familiar with biking, that is NOT supposed to happen. I had other bikers pass me and politely ask me..."ummmm, is your bike ok" or "ummmm, I don't think your bike is supposed to be making that noise". Yes, I already knew this people. No need to remind me. The only thing that helped was to know I wasn't crazy and had validation from other riders that something was wrong with my bike. In a nutshell, every time I would switch gears, the chain would skip about two gears down. It kept skipping and honestly, I was waiting for the whole darn thing to fall apart at any minute. From early on in the bike course, I told myself it would be a success just to finish the ride still in one piece.

I rode cautiously the entire time and tried to focus on the positives and not the negatives. Who cares if my time would not be where I wanted it to be? Who cares if my time this year would be slower than last year? Who cares that I was frustrated to be tired so early in the afternoon? I focused on how lucky I was to be in the beautiful mountains that surrounded me. I focused on the encouraging cheers from bikers all around me. I focused on just trying to have fun and GET IT DONE. The biggest hill of the day was Nasty Grade and honestly, I thought it was pretty ok. Not as bad as I remember it to be so that gave me some confidence that I had done something right with my training. I hustled in for the last 14 miles after Nasty Grade and was excited to get going on my favorite event...THE run

Run: 13.1 Miles
Time = 2 hrs 31 min

Similar to the bike, I don't know what my run time last was because it never was posted but I estimate it was about 2 hrs or so. Last year I remember CRUSHING the run. This year, more issues. As soon as I got onto the run course, my lower back began to hurt. That darn lower back pain has been bothering me for a few years now. Some races I feel great and no pain from it. Other races it just has this shooting pain that makes it hard to run full speed. Another thing that bothered and that I have never experienced before was the super increased heart rate I noticed coming from my chest. I could feel my heart beating out of my chest during that first mile and it kind of scared me. It definitely felt NOT normal and I realized that I was also short of breath. I've never experienced either of these things in years and years of running. By now it was pretty hot so I decided to pull it back and just take it easy for this run. The combo of my aching back and crazy heart rate scared me so I knew early on I was going to coast on my run. I figured it was the lack of rest and crazy heat that had my body acting strange. I feel great now so hopefully I never feel that again on a run.

The run was frustrating and slow. Well, it was slow by my personal standards but know overall it turned out ok. I walked about half of it because of my back and was afraid to get my heart acting crazy again. I was kept company by my teammate Terry for most of it because he was also having back issues. He would pass me down the hills and on the flats. I would pass him on the uphills and on a few short running spirts. I also was motivated when I saw one of our honored teammates, Gordie, around mile 3 of the run. He looked a bit tired and I gave him a quick high five to hopefully encourage him a bit. I asked him how he felt and he told me he rolled his ankle early that morning and now it was bothering him. I walked with him for a few moments to make sure he was OK but he just told me to keep going. He was powering through it and NOTHING was going to stop him. It was super inspiring to see him push through all his discomfort. GO GORDIE! Here I was trying to encourage him but instead he left me with some much needed energy.

I finished the run pretty comfortable and coasted to the finish area, looking forward to seeing my teammates.

Final race time = 7 hrs 23 minutes

Final Thoughts:

Overall, this year was pretty rough. I had nothing go wrong last year and had tons go wrong this year. But that is what makes this sport so addicting and exciting. You always have to overcome new obstacles and no two races are ever the same. As much as it was painful, uncomfortable and frustrating, it was equally AWESOME! I don't know what it is about pain but I love! What is great about triathlons is you have to learn that the key is not to focus on what goes wrong with your day, but to instead learn to focus on how you are going to REACT to what goes wrong. Something will always go wrong in race so long so you just better be prepared to how you are going to deal with it. Do you sit and cry? Or do you push through? Do you complain and blame everything around you? Or do you find a solution and manage to complete the journey you started? It's just like life. Focus on the solution and not on the problem itself. I love it.

The finish line was AWESOME again for the second year in a row. No other team that I know does what Westside Ironteam does and waits for every single teammmate to cross the finish line. Until the very end, we waited for the very LAST competitor of the race to finish. We had a crazy long tunnel that we formed and cheered our brains off. Awesome I tell you. You kind of just had to be there to truly understand what I am describing.

My experience this year has been so rewarding in a different way as a returning member and staff member. Although my personal race didn't' go as planned, it was OK because so many of my teammates had GREAT races. Watching all my first year teammates cross the finish was amazing. It's like I could look at their faces, see the look in their eyes and know EXACTLY what they were feeling because it was what I felt the year before. It felt like I didn't cross the finish line once on Saturday, but instead I got to experience it dozens of times over and over again through their experiences. Like my teammate Kevin Smetts, I am not embarrassed to admit I got misty-eyed a few times watching my teammates finish.

At one point during my run I was feeling pretty crappy. My back issues. My tired legs. That hot sun SLAPPING me in the face. I had that low moment where I asked myself, "why am I doing this again? Why am I signing up for these things voluntarily to just endure pain?" As soon as I got to finish line I was brought back to reality on why I keep coming back. It is because of my incredible teammates and the incredible lessons they teach me. There is NO team out there like the Westside L.A. IRONTEAM and I am proud to say I'm a member of such a fantastic family.


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