Saturday, June 30, 2012

Tenosynovitis

It finally happened. I was sitting on the couch, softly complaining about how it hurts too much to run, when Super Awesome Wife turned to me and said, "Here. Here is your primary care doctor's number. Call it. Now. Tell them.""But, I..."
"It's hurt since the Honu." This was not a question.
"Well...yeah."
"You've been resting it and doing all the rehab things you know how to do." Also, not a question.
"...yeah."
"It still hurts."
"...yeah..."
"Here. Call."
I called and the guy on the phone said the next open appointment with my doc was July 16. Exsqeeze me? I turned to Super Awesome Wife. She said, "Stop downplaying it. You need to tell them how it feels or they are going to run you around." I should mention we are insured through Tri Care, the military medical, because Super Awesome Wife was once upon a time Super Awesome Specialist in Intelligence until the Army gave her the Anthrax vaccine, which gave her pneumonia and asthma, which gave her medical retirement and insurance hook-up for life. She knows how to deal with these people. And she was right, I may not have been properly expressing how much the tendons behind me knee hurt when I try to run, and when I ride for too long. I tried again. They told me to go in to the Urgent Care on base and they might be able to tell me something, and they would order a Physical Therapy consult.
For some reason the waiting room at Schofield Urgent Care is always on the Disney channel. We spent an hour trying not to watch Jesse. I'm old, because I spent the entire time wondering why all these children were hanging out in a giant penthouse with a slightly older child and a butler. Where are their parents? How did they get into this situation? Why are the Indian kid and the little black girl such HUUUGE stereotypes?
Seriously, mini-black girl stereotype
 Anyway, we finally got called back, the doctor did some voodoo, and decided that in her opinion I have a case of tenosynovitis. From the link:
The synovium is a lining of the protective sheath that covers tendons. Tenosynovitis is inflammation of this sheath. The cause of the inflammation may be unknown, or it may result from:
  • Infection
  • Injury
  • Overuse
  • Strain
 Since it started right after the 70.3, I think we can all guess which if the four caused it. The frustrating part is I've been resting. I spent two weeks not doing anything strenuous, and since then haven't worked out at full speed at all. I rested properly. I've been icing. I've been stretching. I want to get back out on the road, damnit!
Anyway, she suggested compression, so we went out and got a neoprene knee wrap which I'll be wearing most of the time. She also put in a consult for the Physical Therapy people, so I'm waiting for a call from them. This is very frustrating because I was in fine shape going into the race. I need to relax, keep doing rehab things, and hope it gets better. I'd like to do the Tinman tri at the end of July, but if I can't run 500m without pain, 6.2mi is probably asking a lot. At least it doesn't hurt in the water.
Sporting my new knee wrap
On the plus side, right now I get to watch the X-Games, the Tour de France, and the Olympic Trials! (And the Dodgers but they have started to suck really hard for some reason so I'm clinging to the other three for now). I love the Trials, but I think I'll save a uber-gushy post for when the Games actually start.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Swimtastic Weekend Part 2- Aloha State Games Swim Meet

The last time I participated in a swim meet was probably the year 2000. I swam freshman year at the University of the Pacific (Go Tigers!), traveled to one meet at UC Davis, had a terrible race, went to Hawaii (first time here) for a training trip, and then quit the team. I didn't quit because I was slow, I quit because I wasn't having any fun and because out of the entire team I was faster than exactly two girls. I'm not Rudy* and I had no delusions about coming in on a relay and saving the meet. I remember one morning after weights, the one thing I was better than most of my teammates at, coach sat me down and said, "Doug, you're working hard, but I want you to realize that I can only travel so many swimmers. You're not going to be in that number. So you can swim with us, but you won't be traveling to any meets." Yeah, I wasn't long for the team after that.
 Jump to some time last week. I knew the Aloha State Games were coming up, I knew there was a swim meet, I decided that if the price was right I'd roll the dice. Hell, I'm still a swimmer at heart. Before quitting in 2000 I'd been competitively swimming since the early '90s. That doesn't go away. I'm still fit. I'm fitter than I was in high school or college. I just finished a half Ironman. Bring on a swim meet. I checked out the events, signed up for the longest freestyle available, 200m, because if there is something I have been training for its distance racing, saw the 100m free and figured that would be fun, and then, before my brain could catch my fingers, registered for the 200m IM and 100m butterfly. Those were my races in high school. I was the jerk at practice asking to swim fly when we were given options. Butterfly is for the Tough.
Oh yeah, butterfly also huuuuurts when you are trained up. And the 200m IM is long enough to remind you that you're kind of stupid for asking for this. Still, those were mine, and real swimmers swim the IM. IM, by the way, stands for Individual Medley. So you swim, in this case, a 50m lap of fly, then back, then breast, then free finishes it off. Normally IMers are strong breaststrokers. We'll get to that.
The meet started at 10am, with check-in at 9. How freaking awesome if this to a triathlete used to getting up at 3:30am for a 6am race start? TOO FREAKING COOL! I got to eat breakfast and have some coffee before we left the house. You've no idea how badass that is.
Super Awesome Wife didn't really know what to expect and I wasn't clear. A swim meet is a lot of sitting around, then you watch who you came to see for a minute or two, then you sit around some more. Yay! At least she's used to waiting for me to come through transition.
I wrote my event number/heat number/lane number on my hand so I wouldn't forget and then got to warming up. I didn't have much time because I was in event 4, the 200m free. My biggest concern, aside from the fly and IM, was my goggles. I hadn't dove off blocks in forever and I was worried the were going to come off, blinding me and, if I was really lucky, covering my mouth. A couple of successful test starts later had me feeling better.
Event/Heat/Lane
The race directors tried to seed each event slow to fast, which meant that the slowest swimmers would be grouped in heat 1, then faster as the heats grew. I submitted no time (NT)  because I had no idea what to expect, which put me always in heat one. This came out good and bad. Interestingly, they also grouped the old people 18-49. So I was racing against 18 year olds and 49 year olds in my heats. They awarded medals by real age groups, 30-34 in my case, but those were too small to justify their own events. Full pool is better than one or two guys swimming alone.
I got myself psyched for my 200m free but had no nerves waiting behind the blocks. I rarely got nervey by the end of my racing career. It's not a long enough race to be worried about, and I had no performance anxiety because I had no baseline. I was going to crank, period. In fact, my biggest worry was miscounting my laps. I swim in a 25 yard pool, eight laps to a 200. The was an Olympic distance 50m pool, long course we call it. Four laps to 200. So what I kept repeating while I waited was, "Four laps. Four laps. Don't forget. Four. Laps."
Step up, take my mark...BEEP!
Stretch that leg out

Off faster than the guy next to me at least
I love starting off blocks. I'm almost positive my start is slower than it needs to be, but I really try and jump up and out, traveling through the air as far as I can before I hit the water. Further you dive, less you have to swim, right?
I immediately noticed I was pulling away from the swimmers in the other lanes. I didn't feel like I was going out too hard, part of the key to a good short distance race is to trust your training and really hammer out and know you won't fade down the stretch, so I kept the pedal down. Good turn, knew I had them, felt strong, but this is where you bring it back a point or two to conserve for the final 50. Also, there was a heat two, and winning my heat wouldn't matter if they were faster than I was. Cranked hard, hit the wall at the 150m and put my head down to go for it. Finished with a strong 2:33.07. If I'm reading the page right my 100m splits were 1:11 and 1:21, so that's a sad ten second fade, but who cares? It felt like a great swim and a solid time. I watched heat two go and the winner there finished fast but the field was all around 2:30-somethings. I think I could have found another second or two if I'd been racing. See, good and bad. Still, I came in second in my age group. Boo yeah! (There might have only been three guys in my age group. Yes, you and every single one of my friends has also made that joke.)
Lookit that lead!
I cooled off and then it was time to chill. You see, after event 4, my next time in the water was the 100 free, event 52. Which was a long way off. So Super Awesome Wife and I kicked back and tried to get comfortable on the bleachers until we realized there was better shade and comfort to be had on the grass on the other side of the pool. I worked on my sunburn too.


A little shade
Constant Umbrella Fail lead to moving to tree shade
There isn't much to do at a swim meet when you aren't swimming, but I love watching races so I filled Super Awesome Wife's ears with hoots and hollers at swimmers I've never met, cheering them on while they race. Especially the tiny people. I love tiny people swimmers, they are so freaking cute. They are also so small it isn't worth taking their caps off between events since putting it back on is such a huge pain in the ass, so they walk around all day with rubber heads. So uncomfortable! So adorable. I think there might be a swimmer in there.
My next event was the 100 free, before which I had a very serious conversation with my brain during warm-up.
"Brain," I said, "I need to to do me a favor for this race."
"What's up?" said my Brain, "Listen, I've got all kind of great ideas for swimming this!"
"No. I need you to leave me alone."
Brain was stunned. "What do you mean? You need me!"
"No, not for two laps of freestyle. We've done this a thousand times. There is no strategy, no plan. Remember?"
"Yeah, but...but....come on."
I shook my head, "Brain, you know this is right. I need you to stay out of this race. Trust me."
"Yeah, I guess you're right. But if you mess this up I'm taking over during the 100m fly!"
So I got out of my head and got to it. A 100m long course race is normally a good start, accelerate to the wall, good turn, and crank it to 11 on the way back. It's more involved that the 50 free, which is the dumbest event in all of creation. One lap? As Second Favorite Wife (the original- Best Friend's, not the Grey's) texted me, "Ohhh, tough guy can swim for 25 whole seconds. Wow!" A 100 is at least more difficult.
Again, I won my heat, and solidly. Came in third in my age group with a 1:06.92. There may have been a second in there, but I don't know. I swam hard.
The last two events were the 100 fly, event 64, and the 200 IM, event 70. So I went from a ton of rest to race race race. Had enough time between the 100 free and 100 fly to go back to Super Awesome Wife and chat, then back behind the blocks.
The fly was my jam, and I was excited about this. I knew somewhere around 75m everything would come apart because I hadn't swum this stroke nearly at all since 2000, but muscle memory is a beautiful thing and I let my body go.
My dive has not changed At All
It felt great. So strong, so solid, almost like old times. Fly, more than any other stroke, feels so wonderful when you're doing it right. The flow of your body through the water, the rhythm innate to the stroke is fantastic. I'm not saying that was how I felt at the meet, but I have felt that before. This felt close for about 30-35m, then it started to hurt, turn, and hold it together until the wall. Still, proud I did it. I will do the 100 fly at every meet I do from now until forever. It's my baby. Won my heat.
Came in second in my age group with a 1:13.39.

Getting some out in front!

Meh, should have more extension and hips
WHERE'S THE WALL!?!
 But this race butted right up against the 200 IM. How much? I got out of my lane, got into the cool down/warm up lane, did 100m easy free, got back out, and got behind the blocks for the IM. Whew, good thing these aren't to two hardest events of my day back-to-back. Oh wait.
I actually got talked to by the race announcer after we got on the blocks because I was stretching my arms, holding the sides of the blocks and bending down, and didn't notice everyone else step up. Whoops! He kidded me about giving me an extra two minutes of rest. Then, to check and be sure everyone was were they should be, he called out each of our names and our lane. Each guy raised his hand or waved or something as they were called. Only time during the meet he did that pre-race. So what else could I do? When he got to e I thrust my arms into the air and bellowed, "YEEEAAAAAHHH!!!!" This is supposed to be fun and I was trying to get adrenaline going.
We got down to start, I found my happy place, and BEEP, we were off. My usual IM went something like this- gain as much ground as possible in the fly, the field catches back up on the back, they pass me and put a few seconds in to me on the breast, I catch back up in the free. I'm not a backstroker or a breaststroker. I'm not a real IMer. But I love it and, as I think I've mentioned, real swimmers swim the IM. Proves you can put it all together. Hmmm, wonder if that has anything to do with my triathlon future?a
This race went strong fly, passed on the back, passed more on the breast, and there was no way I was making up ground on the free. I was blown out. It was the only heat of the day I didn't win. Still, win my age group with a 3:06.69. Ain't going to complain about a gold. 
As a special treat, Super Awesome Wife recorded the IM and I present it here, in all its low quality glory. I'm in one of the lanes closer to the top, you'll see me out in front on the fly.
video

One of the other older guys had spent the last half hour trying to pull together an impromptu relay team and of course I was in. How would I turn that down? More swimming, hell yeah! Of course, the relay was the event right after the IM, so I got out, we found two more guys, and we got ready. 200m Medley. I, of course, swam fly. I asked for it. We had fun, I had a decent start and an terrible finish, but I only had to swim one 50m lap so it was fine. We came in second, but it was an unofficial race so no medals. Not important, not why I did it.
I loved doing this meet and I want to do another one. I almost forgot how much fun swim meets were. It didn't hurt that I got to swim for two and a half minutes and then rest for a while. Love not having to get on the bike afterwards.
I went home with three of my four medals. For some reason they didn't grab enough golds, so I'm waiting for my 200 IM gold in the mail at some point.

Let's play Name That Wrestler!
*Rudy is a stupid sports movie. The guy struggles and sucks for his entire college career, wasting any talent he might have being terrible, but hard working, just to stand on the sidelines at Notre Dame? And then he finally gets to go in for two meaningless plays at the end of a game completely that is already completely out of hand? So he sacks the quarterback, the play doesn't matter. We are supposed to learn that if you work hard some day you might be able to get a pity play? It's a bad message and not a sports movie.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Swimtastic Weekend Part 1- NSSS Summer Sprint

 Open water racing is unlike any other type of swimming. Swimmers and race directors have very little control over anything, including the distance of the event. Sure, the race director tries to control the distance with buoys and lifeguards, but no one swims the exact same length race. It's impossible, the ocean is too big and the margin of error too wide. Even if I were to track right behind someone else, drafting and just missing their feet, eventually one of us would be swept to the side by a random current, a cresting wave. When I first started doing open water events, this was the hardest adjustment for me, coming from the uber-controlled swim meet environment. Now it is one of my favorite parts of racing. The Grey compares it to trail running vs road running. Yeah, you're faster on the road, but the trails are more fun. They also require a higher level of technical skill. 
And there's a chance you end up stuck on a rock.
I haven't been riding the bike nearly enough since the 70.3 so I decided that Super Awesome Wife would meet me down at the finish in the car and I would ride. That way I would be able to choose to ride home on the bike or in the car. It was fun to be able to ride to an event, the late-for-Hawaii start times of the North Shore Swim Series are great in that respect. Actually, in all respects. My back of knee pain was low level with occasional spikes for the ride, but nothing awful. And I wasn't worried about ruining my swim by burning energy with the ride because it's only about 15 miles from where we are staying to the swim, and a part of that is down Pineapple Hill. So if that wears me out then I've lost way more fitness that I thought. Especially because this was only a mile swim, which  shouldn't be hard. But it didn't because I'm Dirtbag Tough. Booyah and whatnot. It also poured for the last four miles. That sucks. 
I'd missed early registration so had to check in at the race, which made my comfortable time bubble pop, but I wasn't in any danger of missing the start. Even got to get in and warm-up. Warming up, by the way, just as the race director was calling everyone into the beach for the pre-race briefing. Whoops! Lemme guess, he said, "Swim thatta way. Obey the lifeguards. Turn at the buoy." Right? Right.
Gotta get the cap ready

Dirtbag Action Figure- Series 2
 For some reason, which I won't complain about, they started us in a men's wave and then five minutes later a women's wave. I don't know why, but I'm not going to ask because that makes the starting area so much more open. A more open starting area means a lower chance of getting kicked in the Dirtbag Handsomeness, which I'm all for. So all the men swam out to between two buoys and tread, waiting for the go. No countdown. One second you pop your head up to check position relative to the beach, buoys, and other swimmers and thenAIRHORN! "Oh, we're off then!"
We had a cheering section for the off
Like I said, this was a very wide open start. It might have been the first time I didn't worry at all about the washing machine. Instead I was trying to get a little more outside the break. The race went from two famous surf sports, Pipeline and Sunset Beach. Famous for their good break. Great for surfing, kind of not so much for the swimming. There was a lot of lateral movement, and plenty of up-the-wave-down-the-wave. Fun. Weeee!
I like going this direction, south down the coast, because the current works with you. I'm sure we were all getting really good pushes. I stayed fairly shallow the whole time, and the water here is so nice that you get a good view of the bottom while you're swimming. This means that when you catch a good current the sea floor goes wooosh by you. Please not that in a few swims, probably the Chun's to Waimea, I'll be complaining about looking at the exact same spot on the bottom for hours because we fight the current in that direction. 
I didn't rally pace this, nor did I waste much time looking around. There were four buoys. Two marking the start, two marking the finish turn. Nothing to look for. Breath to the left, keep the beach as far away as you feel comfortable, and go for it. Nothing else to it. And look for feet to draft off. 
Once, coming to the end, I got hit by a wave that broke a second before it got to me, which didn't tumble me but did surround me with white water for a few second. So I drift in streamline, enjoy the feeling, and wait to break the surface to I can get back at it. 
Waves were pounding at the finish, right on to the beach. I wanted to sprint past the guy right in front of me, but when I tried I also caught a wave and got dropped right onto his foot, so he inadvertently kicked me in the stomach. Well, let's be honest, in the rock hard Dirtbag abs. Grrrrr. Needless to say, I didn't get by him.
The next wave, which I tried to bodysurf in, crashed earlier and steeper than I wanted. Which meant instead of a smooth transfer from swimming to running up the beach I went up and then faceplant into the sand, getting dragged a few feet up the beach. Weeeee? I'm not saying it hurt, but it certainly wasn't a fast finish. 
I sprinted to the line, but fell just behind a group I couldn't catch. Damn.
RUN!!!
My official finishing time was 25:46.7, which put my in ninth for my age group. Not to complain, but I was only 25 seconds off fifth place. Which makes me happy. The dudes who won the whole thing did it in 17 minutes. Wow! Yes, dudes, because there was a sprint to the finish for first.
No, I didn't ride home. It was raining and Super Awesome Wife wanted to stop at Waialua Bakery for cookies. Who am I to argue?
Much thanks to Background Profiles, without whom I probably wouldn't have registered for this event so late. They rock. 
Stay tuned for Swimtastic Weekend Part 2- Aloha State Games

Monday, June 25, 2012

Friends Make Things Better

There has been some working out going on here, Dirtbag friends. But for reasons known only to me (hint- summer break makes me lazy) I haven't been updating my blog on a regular basis. I know this upsets my regular reader, so I'm trying to play catch up now. This weekend was also the Dirtbag Swimtacular Weekend of Swimmingness, which means there is a double race report in our near future.
Last week I ran to the gym for a swim and ran home. The total run distance is just over three miles. But I'm positive I messed up my right hamstring/calf area during the Honu 70.3 because running freaking hurts. And not in a good way. In a Ok, I Need To Stop And Walk way. I don't know what my problem is when it comes to running. I'll improve for a while, feel good, feel confident, and then something will get injured. And I think I'm being careful. You couldn't rest your leg more than I've been doing on a regular basis the last two weeks. So there has been lots of stretching and massaging and talking nicely to the muscles. It feels like a bad strain and contracting hurts. Hope it gets better soon. I bet that my foam roller would help, but it got packed in storage and that might as well be packed like this for as easy as it would be to find the roller.
Exaggeration for comedic effect...but only just
While running hurts almost too much to run, riding hurts, but not enough to not. At least, as long as I don't go far. So I met up with the Grey for an easy ride last week, just 30 miles down Pineapple and back. When you're away from riding for any amount of time getting back to it hurts. Climbing is never fun. We stopped once or twice so I could stretch it out and I stretched more when I got home. It wasn't as bad the next day as it was after the runs, where I was limping around the whole day, but it wasn't great. Feels better as I sit here, so maybe a little activity is what the muscles needed. Yeah, let's go with that.
I had a big fun swim last week too. A friend from 100 years ago, now called Smashlete by her local tri club and so here as well, that I swam with on my club team when I was just a little Dirtbag, and then swam against in high school when I was an Ego Dirtbag (more so than now), visited the island. It was awesome to see her. We've been keeping up on Facebook, yay interwebs, but hadn't actually seen each other for ten years at least. So it was great to get back together. Super Awesome Wife and I met with Smashlete and her husband a bunch of times while they were here. She recently got into the tri scene as well, doing local sprint tris in the Northern New York state area. She's also kept up on her swimming and every few weeks I'd get an email from her. "We can go for an open water swim while I'm there, right?" Yes, yes we can. Few weeks later, "You're still going to take me somewhere for a nice open water swim?" Yes. As bad luck would have it, she landed the day after the Flat Island swim and left two days before the start of the North Shore Swim Series and the Aloha Salads Summer Sprint. So instead we went to Waimea and I took her around the bay, swimmer-style. It isn't the prettiest swim on the island, I know. But it is one of the easier ones to get to, to keep track of, and to control. We could have swum down the coast somewhere, but we left Super Awesome Wife, her husband, and a friend on the beach. Still, you can't complain about swimming in Waimea. It was good fun, and not a bad workout. I hope I get to see her again before another ten years has gone by.
Dirtbag and Smashlete (I forgot to tell her we were being tough)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Registration Sensation- North Shore Swim Series Edition


Short registration update-
I was browsing the Facebook today when a message popped up from the North Shore Swim Series. We are friends, you see. Yes, I'm friends with a Series. I don't know how it types. The message talked about the race this weekend.
THIS WEEKEND!?! Holy crap! I just registered for the Aloha State Games Swim Meet this weekend! I registered for the wrong swim thing! (Yes, I'm so deep into triathlon I'd rather do an open water swim than a meet. It was kind of a surprise to me too.) But wait, what's that silver lining? The Summer Sprint is Saturday? The Aloha Games Meet is Sunday?
SWIMFEST WEEKEND EXTRAVAGANZA!!!!
The only bummer thing is I missed the registration date for this race, so I've got to register day of. Hopefully I sill get a t-shirt. I don't do it for the t-shirt, but swag is nice to have. Missing regular registration also means a higher fee. Which brings me to thanking my wonderful, fantastic sponsor, Background Profiles! They are truly funding this race and its panic registration. Much thanks to them!
I'll be back to regular workout posts soon.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Rx for EgoCheck- Swim Edition

 
I'm slowly getting back into training, but gently. Not too gently, since I did a race last weekend, but I think you know what I mean. My rides have been short, mostly flat, and low intensity. The first time I ran was today, and we'll get to that. And my swims were going easy.
But now I've registered for the Great Aloha Games Swim Meet. Their website is awful so here is the link to the home page. And here is the link to my specific event (which does not itself link to the active.com registration page). While registering for this I forgot two very important things. 1) Never let Ego dictate event choice. 2) The only thing that makes you better at swimming is swimming.
My alter swim-ego, The Tattooed Wake, signed up for the 100 free, 200 free, 100 butterfly, and 200 IM.  The Tattooed Wake is kind of a jackass.
100 years ago, when I was a pure swimmer, the fly and IM were my specialties. I did them all the time. For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, butterfly is that really hard one where both arms come out and around at the same time and you kick like a dolphin, and the IM stands for Individual Medley, so I swim all four strokes in one race- butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle, in that order. Real swimmers, I used to joke, swim the IM. Because you have to be able to handle everything. It's the triathlon of swimming. A quadathlon...
 Anyway, after filling out the forms and sending them my $25 I thought to myself, "Dirtbag, when was the last time you did 100 yards of butterfly?"
I don't know.
"Don't sweat it!" the Tattooed Wake called, "You have a huge engine right now. You just did a half ironman. You can handle 100 yards of anything!"
"Oh yeah," I said, "Thanks, man. That makes me feel better." And it did. Until this morning.
I got up and ran to the pool. We live a mile and a half from 24 Hour Fitness right now, so there is no reason to drive, and I haven't run since the race so I figured it was about time. Oof. I think I strained something out on that golf course. Every morning my right foot had felt a little sore, but it stops after a while, and right after the race my right hamstring, directly behind the knee, got super tight. But it's been what, two weeks? I should be fine. Meh, not really. Hamstring was in various stages of complaint the whole run, and my foot eventually felt better, but not enough that I want to go on any longer runs right now. It isn't the problem from right before the race, it feels like a arch muscle issue. I don't know. It's always something right now.
I hit the water, warmed up, and then tried to crank 100 yards of free. Oh yeah, I haven't been working fast twitch at all for months, have I? I don't have a higher gear right now, do I? Nope, not really. It was about then I started thinking about the mistake I may have made. Then I cranked 2 x 200 IM. It kind of sucked. It isn't fast, I feel like I'm sucking wind by the time I get to breaststroke. The real issue is that I'm not swimmer fit right now. I'm triathlon fit. It's way different. The only way to get good at swimming is to swim! Having an engine isn't enough. Those muscles, especially the fly ones, aren't really there.
Ohhhh, fly. How I used to love thee. I was the ass in practice who would ask for fly sets. I killed butterfly in my own little swim-world (Water World? Mr. Costner, you're needed on the set.). But I forgot how much work it too to get that. I did two 100s of fly. By the 75 I was hurting. The last 25 yards had to be ugly as hell. I'm dragging my hips, my triceps and failing so I'm not finishing the stroke, my lats don't want to give me a clean out-and-flat-and-long recovery/reach. It's...bad.
I know I should go into this with no expectations and just have fun with it, and I think I will. I'm not going to be stressing or sweating any of these events. I'm going to go do something I haven't done since freshman year of college (Christ....1999? 2000?*  13 years!!!) and I'm going to suck at it. And it will be good as long as I keep a positive attitude. There was no 500 free, or I would have signed up for that. I'm betting it will be a small meet, with how poor the advertisement seems to be, which might play in my favor as far as medals go, assuming I cared about medals, but will totally play against me if there aren't very many heats between each of my events. Assuming I swim as hard as I can each time out, and why wouldn't I, I'm going to need a breather. At least I didn't sign up for the 50 free. That event is for tossers.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Popoi'a Swim Race Report '12


Popoi'a Flat Island Race Report

I had no plans to swim this. Do a 1.4mi race the weekend after a Half Ironman? Why would I do that? Shouldn't I be tired and resting?
Well, I wasn't too tired, and I'd spent the whole last week sitting on my couch alternating Skyrim with Super Awesome Wife, we'd earned a long session on the couch, and swimming for me isn't all that tough. I wouldn't have entered a foot race and probably wouldn't have spent money on a bike event, but I like swimming. It's worth it. Plus, I placed third in my age group last year so I had to defend. And my ego may have been whispering that if I managed to place last year...and I should be in better distance swimming shape this year...maybe...Not that I would ever register for a race simply because I might place well. I'm not the Grey.
Super Awesome Wife had no interest in getting up that early, or maybe it was Dirtbag Fetus who didn't, but either way I did this one by my lonesome, which is fine. I showed up, registered there, grabbed my fancy white t-shirt, way better that last year's shaky blue one, and killed time in the truck waiting to warm-up and getting mentally prepared.
Love me a new cap
 If this race was going to be anything like last year, it was going to be tough. Last year I remember thinking that if I was prone to sea sickness while swimming, it would have happened. The water out on the Kailua side of the island, especially when swimming around the tiny flat island, it brutally rough. Last year was a very hard swim and I fully expected more of the same. Embrace the waves.
Warm-up went well, I felt surprisingly strong considering I hadn't been in the water for a week, since my short swim with Greg Bennett. I decided to place no expectations on myself. I was going to go out, go hard, and whatever will be will be. Recovery Race.
Well, it was rough out there. This is, and I've said this before, the hardest swim on the island. The current and winds make for very choppy going and there were plenty of times where I would go for a breath only to have to knocked back by a wave. I decided to try and be as hydrodynamic as possible, trying to keep a tight core through the washing machine that I might cut through the water better.
This race uses smaller red buoys than many of the other open water swims on the island, which use huge yellow pyramids. The little buoys, plus the high chop, make sighting very difficult. You pop your read up, try and get a bead on either the flat island, a buoy, or a bright orange cap and head that way. If it's a cap then you're also playing I Hope They Ain't Lost Too, a game familiar to everyone who's ever done an open water swim. I track fairly straight, so as long as I can see where I'm supposed to be heading I stay on course, but it is unnerving to look, sight, swim, sight, and nothing seems closer. There is also quite a bit of accidental contact even later in the swim because of the ocean's push pull. You're swimming on someone's hip, drafting or just finding a good line, and suddenly you're grabbing feet or getting kicking in the face or getting a little touchy-feely on their waist. Sorry, dude. It was the ocean, I swear. ...what are you doing later?
The way back is awesome because there is some body surfing going on to make up for all the rolling fighting earlier in the swim. I found a group and hung out, determined not to get left and trying to make a climb up into them. Open water swimming is strange because it is very hard to know where you are in relation to the other racers. You can't tell from brief glances at feet who is in your age group or even if that's a guy or girl sometimes. You really need to swim your own swim, overtake whomever you can, and hope the people in front of you are in some other age group.
Triathlon has given me an advantage over the pure swimmer in one aspect- the finish. The clock doesn't stop when you hit the beach, it stops 200 yards later, after the run up the beach and across the timing mat. One guy I was chasing for 500 yards or so finished swimming ahead of me, but cruised his way up the beach. No way I'm letting him get away with that, so I was up and running hard as soon as I could get my feet clear of the water, passing him in the last five feet. Suck it, you should do the whole race. Turns out he wasn't even in my age group, but I don't care. Maybe he learned something about going hard all the way.
Result? I won my age group! I won it by a big, strong margin. Admittedly, the turn-out for this even is a fraction of what the North Shore Series events will be, my AG only had 10 swimmers, but I don't care. I'm proud of my time and my effort.
Finish Time- 42.53
First in the Men's 30-35 AG. 38th overall.
Because this event is put on by the Kailua Masters Swim Club they get prizes donated, which leads to going home with strange thing. Last year I took home a few pairs of really good cycling socks. This year- two gift certificates to Kailua-side establishments (cool, but 45 minutes away from me at best), AND...you ready for this...you sure...A NAPA HAT!
YES! A blue Napa Auto Parts hat. That I, ummm, I'm so happy, uh, to have won a....hat. Woo!
There should also be official event pictures on here at some point, but they haven't posted them yet.
I don't know what the next Dirtbag Event will be yet. Things are very up in the air right now for the Dirtbag Family as far as where we will be when. If we are here I'll probably do as many of the North Shore Swim Series races as I can. I'm looking into the Aloha State Games to see what that is all about. And I know there are a few triathlon's coming up that I'll want to do. Right now I'm still in the Take It Easy phase of recovery. I swim, I bike, I run, but nothing hard or long.
Hey- completely unrelated Dirtbag Contest- You can win a FREE Napa hat if you see me anywhere and ask me if you can have a Napa hat and I happen to have a Napa hat with me. Good luck!
Thanks to my sponsor Background Profiles for continuing to help fund all this foolishness and good times.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Honu Race Report Part V: Dirtbag vs The Olympian




Greg Bennett into T1
 (*Note: This is the fifth and final Part of my Honu Race Report. Parts of this might come off as interviewy, but it was never an interview, just informal hanging out. I take full credit for misquotes or mistakes. And, because by now you should know how I write, there is some going on and on and on about certain things. There may also be fawning and name-dropping. You would too.*)

Let's say, as a for instance, that on Saturday you woke up at 3:30am and by that afternoon you had completed your first Half Ironman. What would you want to do the next day? Sleep in, right? Me too. Except a few nights before the race I got an email from Ironman Honu which read:

Swim and Breakfast with Olympic Triathlete Greg Bennett, June 3rd 7:30 a.m. Post Race recovery swim in Pauoa Bay fronting The Fairmont Orchid, Hawai`i Resort. Meet at the Beach Shack at 7:15 a.m. Swim is followed by an athlete-only buffet breakfast at the Orchid Court Restaurant for a discounted, all-inclusive price of $25 per person. Space is limited to the first 30 participants. Please see the sign-up sheet at Ironman 70.3 Hawai`i Registration.

Hmmm, I thought. That sounds neat. But that is going to fill up quick. I bet by the time we get there the 30 spaces will be gone.  And then I put it in the back of my mind and got back to packing and repacking and then unpacking to be sure everything I'd packed was still in my bag.
When we got to registration Thursday there was a big sign:
Again, I was sure it would already be full. How could it not be? A chance to meet and Olympian? Swim with him? Pick his brain over eggs and bacon?  Everyone will want in! Wouldn't you? But a Dirtbag tries to never pass up an opportunity so I wandered over to check-in and checked out the sign-up. Only 16 people on the list so far! Dirtbag scores! I quickly wrote my name down before 14 people realized what they were missing and knocked me out of the way.
Which brings us to Sunday morning, bright and early. I stand in a surprisingly small group of only a half dozen men sharing stories from yesterday's adventure. The main topic of conversation? "So, how about that wind, huh?" The second topic? "Did you see Lance ride? Holy crap." I know who were there for someone else, but the Lance Effect is huge and cannot be denied. I did joke to someone next to me, "Hey, Greg came in second yesterday. Don't say the L-word."
Triathlon is a small sport, and most people don't really know who the Big Names are, except for That Guy everyone knows from his adventures in France. Greg Bennett is a pretty big name in the triathlon world. Not Iron-distance, this was only his third half, but from the shorter international distances. He and his wife, Laura, are "two of the most talented and successful short-course triathletes in history, with 30 World Cup podiums between them." That quote is linked to and comes directly from the Inside Triathlon article which introduced me to the Bennetts, Being Bennett.
At just about 7:30 Mr. Bennett walked over to our group. No fanfare, no camera crew, no PR people, just a guy. The guy who took second place 24 hours ago. Triathlon is so cool. Imagine going to a football game and Tom Brady walking up to you and starting a conversation about how your game went yesterday. You can't, right? Another reason triathlon is better than football.
And what was the first direct question someone asked Greg? "So, what do you think about Lance?"
Dude! Dude! Dude. No. Not cool. Why would you do that? We can get to Lance, but do you think the guy really wants to stand here and talk to us about the guy who beat him yesterday?
Turns out, he didn't mind. In fact, Bennett (I'm going to go back and forth between calling him Greg and Bennett. We did eat breakfast together, but I'm not so sure we're on a first name basis. I have tweeted him though. God, I can't believe I just said "tweeted"...) was more than happy to talk quite a bit about Lance and the Lance Effect. He had nothing but good things to say. He mentioned how hard it would be for him to concentrate with camera crews following him around like they do Lance, and seemed happy about the attention Lance is bringing to the sport. For example, NBC is talking about showing the Kona Ironman World Championship live this year. That would be huge. It normally gets a taped two-hour showing in December, two months after the race has been run. Lance Effect! The closest he came to saying anything negative was sharing a conversation he'd had race morning with Chris Lieto, a fellow pro. "It's great that Lance is here," I paraphrase, "but he doesn't need the prize money if he wins. We do!"
After chatting on the beach for a few minutes Greg suggested we get in the water to swim. "So, do you fellas want to just do a short swim, do you want me to make up some kind of work out?" Bennett, by the way, is Australian, so please imagine all quotes in a fantastic Aussie accent.
"Just swim." It was fast and unanimous.
We swam for only maybe fifteen minutes, and I will admit to spying on Bennett's stroke, trying to steal anything I could. Not long after we started the wind kicked up, the water got a little choppy, and Greg decided it was time for all of us to head in. One or two guys had swum a little ways away from the group. "I'll get them," he said. And poof, gone. I love it when fast people suddenly drop into a gear I don't have. It is so neat to watch. I swam over a turtle on the way back. Open water swimming, people. And, because I'm not at all competitive against people who don't know that we are racing, lengthened my stroke. To stretch, you see, not to be sure I was ahead of most everyone. Though I did beat Greg back to the beach. I'm not claiming I finished a swim ahead of an Olympian, because we totally weren't racing as far as he knew, I'm only stating that I reached the beach before him. That's all.
Before we went to eat most of us changed out of our swim trunks. I deck changed, as you do if you grew up a swimmer. Wrap a towel around your waist, strip, pull on shorts. Easy. To my surprise, Bennett did it too, with seven guys standing around him asking questions. Because that's what you do when swimming is part of your job. You're comfortable like that. I can check watching an Olympian get dressed off my To Do list (was hoping for Amanda Beard).
Breakfast was the Fairmont Orchid buffet, though the hotel had set us up in a special side room. Seating for 30. Only, like I said, half a dozen of us. So we pushed to tables together. By the way, I'm not saying there were only six of us as a commentary on Greg Bennett. I keep saying it because I seriously cannot believe more people didn't sign up. You are an amateur athlete being given the chance to speak to and hang out with and swim with a highly decorated pro and you are going to pass it up? Why would you do that? He was the nicest guy in the world. Answered every single question, and asked great ones in return. 
I was very excited because I have a question I would ask every single pro triathlete if I could, and I finally got the chance to ask one! "What," I asked, "would be your perfect race? If you could create the Bennett Invitational and you could pick any distances and course topography, what would it be?" His answer was pure short-course expert. "1-2k swim, 30k hilly bike, and an 8k run." I want to be the first to register for that race.
I was in the middle of Chrissie Wellington's autobiography, A Life Without Limits, and recently finished Chris "Macca" McCormack's I'm Here To Win, (Macca's is better) so I also half-jokingly asked when we were going to get The Greg Bennett Story. He said he wasn't sure he would write a book about himself, but he might be interested in writing a nutrition book with his wife for athletes. I'd read that too. He said he liked reading books about an athlete struggling before making it to the top and one of the athletes who could write a great book like that would be Craig "Crowie" Alexander, five-time world champion. So Crowie, get on it.
We asked about training stuff too. He would know, right? Compression works, and he prefers it to ice baths, but you've gotta have the good stuff. A lot of compression gear is really "only tighter rugby socks" so it doesn't do much good. And yes, I sqee-ed on the inside to hear the Aussie mention rugby. Ice baths are ok but he doesn't like them too much because of how they make his joints feel. He also loves riding on a trainer. The controlled environment, putting together a good two or three hour interval workout, helps him get stronger. That will help me get on the trainer more readily next time, with better plans.
It was a kick to hear him tell stories about other pros, people I'd only read about or seen in magazines. Stuff like, "I love Macca, but some of the stuff he says some times, I mean come on, man." That's hilarious, especially if you've ever heard Macca talk about himself. And if you've heard Macca talk, you've heard him talk about himself. This sounds bad, but I'm a big fan of his. Bigger fan of Greg Bennett now though. Macca, I'm sure, is crushed.
What was really cool, though, was when he asked us about our races. Everyone around the table shared how they did, with the rest of us chiming in and making jokes. It was more like a bull session with friends than a collection of people who had never met before. Triathlon family. Bennett said he liked doing things like this because triathlon is such a small world on the outside, but feels so big on the inside. And with pros racing alongside age groupers like us, it means we can all share the same war stories. I can't tell you how nice it was to hear him say he was scared by the wind coming down Hawi too. If the pro was clutching his aerobars and hoping not to crash, that means we really are together in this. Tom Brady will never say to you, "Musta been tough, sitting in the stands cheering the whole game while it was snowing. I'm impressed you made it to the end." When our pro says, "It was a really hard day out there and I'm impressed all of you made it through the bike without crashing," that means something.
Greg Bennett was as nice as anyone could have asked and more. He asked us to go around the table and talk about our future race plans and when I told him about Super Awesome Wife being pregnant and how that might impact us as a family and my training he wished me luck. Three times, and on Twitter. Dude was actually paying attention, not just nodding and smiling through some boring meet-and-greet. He said the swim and breakfast was his idea and I believe him. Here's his tweet from that morning.
Recovery swim and breakfast at the . I'm looking forward to hearing all the war stories from yesterday.

 He wasn't selling anything and barely mentioned his sponsors, though I'd probably drop some money on a Bennett Endurance jersey. It really did feel like hearing war stories and hanging out was his only goal.
Meeting fans pre-race (from finisherpix) I'll take a jersey, please
I'm officially a fanboy now, and I'll be cheering for Greg at Kona this year, and his wife Laura at the London Games. He's got a Grand Plan to convince Lance, Crowie, Macca, Chris Lieto, and any of the other big names he can to do the 5150 (Ironman Olympic Distance Championship), Las Vegas (Ironman 70.3 Championship), and Kona (Ironman 140.6 World Championship) this year so they can really see who the best triathlete is. His money would be on Crowie, he said. How cool would that be, for all of the best to race all the distances together?
I can't thank Greg and the Fairmont Orchid enough for letting us do this. It was a pleasure and a privilege to meet him. A more amazingly nice, polite, humble professional athlete in any sport you'll be hard-pressed to find. And, if you're looking, you can find him @GregBennett1 on twitter. All the luck with your season, Greg. Go get 'em.
The group, Greg is in the shades

Dirtbag and the Olympian

Friday, June 8, 2012

Honu Race Report Part IV: The 70.3 Reflectionication

For the Pre Race and Swim click here
For the Bike and Run click here

70.3 miles. Seventy point three miles.
Seems like a long way. Hell, even in a car it's a good drive. Especially in Hawaii.
So how do I feel now that I covered that distance swimming, biking, and running? Did I hate it? Is it ever going to happen again? Did I get that foolishness out of my system?
In order- Good, no, probably, no.
I fully expected to be done with this distance after this race. There were times during training when I would think, "I'll do this, but I think I'll better off sticking to Olympic distances for now." I don't feel that way anymore.
There was not one point out on the course where I thought to myself, "This is stupid. Why have I decided to put myself through this?" I've had that thought during both of the other distances. I think I big reason I didn't this time was because of my attitude going in. All I wanted to do was finish. No PR to set, because as long as I crossed the line I would set one. No way I'm going to place in my age group, so why worry about it? I wasn't sure if my foot was going to act up (it didn't), or if my stomach would (it didn't either). This took an enormous amount of pressure off.
I was worried before the race if my final preparation  had been good enough. Instead of a real taper I spent the week before we flew to Big Island packing and moving out of our place. Not exactly great for recovery. I barely swam, barely rode, and hadn't run since the Honolulu Tri, and not for a week before that. I stressed about all those things before we flew out, when I had the time between stressing about moving and thinking about Dirtbag Fetus. But once we got there? What are you going to do? I had to have faith in my training.
That is really what it comes down to- Training. If you asked me what the hardest part of the race was, I would tell you it wasn't part of the race. It was the months leading up to the race, finding time in the predawn to swim, and then biking and running after teaching all day. Getting up early on weekends. Suffer in training so that the race hurts less.
You know one of the words I would use to describe the 70.3 miles that I never would have expected to use?
Fun.
Swimming is always fun. But mass start swimming can be awful. This, with the big school of us all surging towards the same spot in the water, the crystal viewing, this was fun. My stroke clicked and it was all good.
I don't know this guy, his picture was on the finisherpix page, and it perfectly shows how a lot of people feel about this race.
The bike was fun. I mean, it sucked, but it was fun. The wind was brutal and slowed me down and I was hating life for much of the last 14 miles of the ride. But it was still fun. It was fun to see all the othe triathletes, fun to zoom down the first section of Hawi, fun to joke with those around me, fun to grab a water bottle from a volunteer like a pro, and fun to see Lance in the flesh.
Just like the rest of us, one foot at a time. But really really quickly.

And it was even fun to run, for a bit at least. Fun to joke with the volunteers, fun to shout at the Grey, and...well, there wasn't a ton of fun to be had on the run.
Streeeeeetch
 And it was fun to see Super Awesome Wife at each transition and across the line.
The people we were with, Diesel and MamaSaid, the Grey and Second Favorite Wife (except you, Meg), are awesome and if you think having fun before a race doesn't play into how the race goes you're crazy and boring.
Why am I making that face? Diesel just smacked the crap outta my sunburned shoulder

See? Friends! Fun! Ouch!
 The whole experience was one I won't forget. I was only sore for a few days (funny story- after a Half Ironman your friends will all laugh at you if your room is upstairs. Think grabbing the handrails with both hands and taking a deep breath, psyching yourself up for the dozen step climb), and burned for a few more. Remember Diesel saying I should have bought a full hat instead of a visor? But Dirtbags have thick manes of black hair and I've never ever been burned on my scalp? Yeah, burned my scalp. Also burned my race numbers into my arms, leaving me with tan lines I secretly really dig. 
Burn (I'm not flexing!)

Tan

Other arm's tan. Cool, huh?
I can't wait to do another 70.3. There are a bunch on the mainland that, if super-secret plans go through, will be easier and cheaper to get to. Training time might be compromised, rightly, by Dirtbag Fetus' arrival, but I'd like to try and get in at least one a year while still doing shorter ones. By the way, this distance is by far the best bang for your buck distance triathlon. Most sprints on the island cost around $80 or $90. And Olympic is somewhere over $130. This? About $250. So a sprint (~1hr) for $90. An Olympic (~2.5 hours) for $130. Or a 70.3 (~7 hours) for $250. See how paying for short distance races might get harder?
And before we get ahead of ourselves, no I don't see a 140.6 in my near future. I'll probably do one at some point, but right now I don't have the time to train for one nor the inclination to hurt for 14 hours. Training for a full Ironman is a full time job and I don't want to commit to that.
Here is the most striking thing about finishing a 70.3 for me. I never once doubted I could finish. But that means I don't feel...different. Aren't you supposed to feel transformed after something like this? I knew that I could get to the finish line before time ran out. I knew I could put forth a good effort and give a good showing of myself. I knew that back in December. I believe the key to doing something like this is to not question once the choice has been made. Just Keep Moving Forward. Struggle and move forward. Fall and move forward. But do not question the choice once it's made. The Go is something I learned about myself back when I was a high school swimmer. I learned that I couldn't get faster mid-set. I would have to start fast and trust myself. Before I ever left the wall I would Commit To Go. And that was it. I applied the same idea to training for and completing this. I registered and the question was answered. I would Go. I would Go as hard as I could, as smart as I could. More people make a choice and commit to Go, there would be less unhappy people.
Thanks for sticking around for all of this. Who but me would spend thousands of words on one event?
Click on the link for the fifth and final part- Dirtbag vs The Olympian.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Honu Race Report Part III: The 70.3 Racening- Part II: The Bike and Run

Stay positive and keep moving forward.
-Dirtbag's Rule of Endurance
(For the Pre-Race and Swim portion click here)

I don't like opening on a negative, but the only complaint I had about the entire Honu experience that I think might have been controllable by the race director was how we got out of T1. There was a run from the bay to T1 which went up a decently steep hill. Then T1 happened in a parking lot. Then, to get from the parking lot to the road which leads to the Queen K highway, where we would be spending much of our time for the next few hours, we had to climb again. Like, immediately. And not kind of climb. It was a steep damn climb as soon as we hit the mount line. Not a long climb, but if you hadn't set your bike up in the right gearing you were kind of screwed. How bad was it? I got push started by a volunteer. And it wasn't a, "Oh, I see you're struggling, let me give you a hand." They were ready to help. Because clipping in while going from a dead stop to up isn't easy. So my complaint is that I bet there is a better way to start the bike. Small kine complaint, though.
As I hope I made clear in the last post, I felt solid after the swim. Paced it well, walked through transition, didn't feel any fatigue getting on to the bike. And once I got past that first little bump in the road I got to cranking. If I had to guess I would say that I probably spent the majority of the early part of the ride in too light a gear. I could have been pushing harder without losing cadence. In my defense, I didn't know what was coming, I didn't want to blow my legs out.
To my surprise, and his, I caught Diesel in the first five miles of riding. I was surprised because I never catch Diesel. He was surprised because I should have beaten him out of the water. Comparing splits later, he beat me by around twenty seconds. I accept that. *grumble* When I saw him I though he was having mechanical issues because he was pulled over and stopped. Then when he started he seemed distracted and slow. I pulled alongside to ask if he was ok and it turned out he was grabbing a small snack, which is why he was going slow, and his bike had felt funky, which is why he stopped. I actually was ahead of him for a good five, maybe ten seconds. That's right, I led Diesel during a 70.3!
Until he finished his snack and disappeared. Damnit.
The ride course went down towards the Fairmont Orchid, where we would eventually be getting off our bikes and running, and then made a U-turn all the way up Hawi, the climb I'd see every time I tackled Pineapple in training. The Queen K is not a flat road. It rolls with the landscape. To start, this was great for me. None of the rollers were long or steep enough to give me trouble and spirits were high.
Then HE blew by me. Remember the U-turn? That meant we got to see everyone ahead of us on the course for the first of two times. So I got to watch all the pros go flying by. And in the lead? Mr. Larmstrong himself. Of course. 
Mr. Larmstrong on course Honu 2012- from slowtwitch.com
I have been trying for days to think of a way to describe what it felt like to see him ride in the flesh. I've seen some powerful things in person. I've seen Albert Puljos hammer a home run. I've seen HHH pick up another man and throw him across the ring. I've seen jet fighters fly right by me at air shows. But I don't know if I've ever seen anything that gave me such an immediate feeling of, "Holy crap! Look at the power!" that I got from the two times he passed by me. The closest would be seeing a jet fly right over my head. It's there, then it's gone. His famous cadence, holding 100rpms at least, is a blur live. Seeing it on YouTube isn't the same. What is?
But I couldn't just let him go. As he flew by I turned to the lady currently passing me and shouted, "Hey! It was that one guy! What's his name?" She didn't laugh.
I ate once an hour on the bike, which meant three times over the course. And only tried to make myself throw up once. I had broken the Clif Bars up into easy pieces pre-race, but in my hurry to get one out and get back down on the hoods, I didn't want to get blown off the road, I crammed a whole bite into my mouth at once. Bjork! Lesson learned.
I continued to feel strong at the turn and back through most of the rollers, though here is where I ran into two minor mechanical problems one after another. My chain fell off the front rings. Twice! I was shifting from the big ring to the smaller one and, because my gearset isn't the fanciest on the block, it dropped right off. I think it's because I was in the wrong place on the cassette (the back group of rings). Easy, quick fixes. Stay positive, don't think about it. This is a race, but not really.
This was the first race where I discovered how we got water on the bike. Volunteers stand on the side of the road holding open water bottles. We zip by, reach out, grab one, I dump it into my quick fill aerobottle, pour the cool wonderfulness over my head, then toss the bottle as far to the roadside as I can. Check it out:

It was right before Hawi that I decided on anther Dirtbag Rule For 70.3 Racing- Dirtbag Don't Pedal Downhill. There were guys cranking down, and I simply tucked in, put my pedals parallel to the ground, and coasted, keeping up with some of them. "Hey guys, check out what I discovered! I'll call it 'Dirtbag's Theory of Downhill Pulling Force'. Or 'gravity' for short." Right before Hawi was also where I saw another person I knew. Obi Tri Kenobi, he who lent me his bike for my first tri two years ago, passed me after 12 miles. I like him, but dude needs to get his stroke together. No way I should swim that much ahead of him. When he does, he's going to be even more dangerous. And I can say that because he finished a day and a half ahead of me.

I must say, I was worried about Hawi. When Super Awesome Wife and I drove it in March it seemed really steep and long. Especially the opening miles. This helped motivate. And once I got on the road I was really confused. I felt so good on those opening climbs. I was bouncing up them, making passes, and feeling strong. Was this what I was worried about?
I can see that I've neglected to mention what would be the most important part of the ride. The Wind. So let me say this; Oh dear sweet science, it was freaking windy. Climbing Hawi you have wind whipping down at you, so you're climbing into a headwind, and wind whipping down the side of the mountain on your right, so you've got a cross wind. On the way up, the headwind was brutal.
Eventually the rolling steepness stopped. We would climb, then descend, then climb more, then descend. Yay for coasting downhill! But then it stopped and the grind began. This is where Hawi brought the pain. Steep climbs almost aren't that bad. You can see the top. But long shallow climbs are awful. Soon I just wanted it it end. I wasn't sure how far I had to go until the turn-around, but I would have killed a basket full of hobos just to have known. Stay Postive became Once We Make the Turn, It's Downhill. That thought got me the rest of the way up Hawi. Big U-turn and down we go!
Oh my. It was beautiful. If you had asked me in the next five miles what the greatest thing in the history of ever was I would have told you, "Downhill. Downhill is the greatest thing in the history of ever." And it was. Then the cut-outs started. The cross-winds were worst when the side of the mountain dipped away, leaving nothing to block the wind coming down it. Oh yeah, did I mention it was raining at the top of Hawi too? So wicked bad crosswinds on rain-slicked roads while you're trying to race downhill. Weeeeeee!
You could tell when a cross was going to hit you because the line of cyclists ahead would suddenly jerk to the left and then lean at what seemed like 45* angles the other way. A dude next to me got blasted so hard one of his feet came unclipped. I heard that some of the smaller girls, and therefore more susceptible to getting pushed around, we being treated like kites. It was kind of scary-to-really scary depending on who you ask. Including the pros. These quotes make me feel tougher:
“I had to stop to put water in my water bottle at the aid stations,” Ironman World Champion and Kona veteran Laura Sophiea said. ”I’ve done over 300 races and this was by far the toughest conditions I’ve ever experienced.”
“I’ve never raced in conditions like this … With this wind there were points where you were running on the spot,” said runner-up finisher, Australia’s Greg Bennett. “It was, without a doubt, the most brutal thing I’ve ever done.”
The second time I got to see the blur that was Lance was while I was going up and he was coming down, and Diesel too, who shouted, "DIRTBAG!" as he went by. That did help me get the next few miles done. And when the pro in second place, Greg Bennett I think, went by, I shouted, "Go get him!" Not sure he heard me. Things like this help the miles go. But my mile 40 I was done and just wanted to get off the bike. The winds had been so tough coming down that I was having to pedal downhill to maintain speed. Which made me mad at the wind. And there was a mile long climb coming out of the harbor that sucked as hard as any climb I've ever done. Diesel told me once that riding is fun but at the end you just want them to, "take this evil torture device away." That's where I was come mile 40. You know it hurts when you just want to be able to get off the bike so you can run a half marathon. But that was the thought that got me through the end of the ride. We went from Get Me To The Turn-to- Get Me To The Run. 
Palm trees mark the right turn into the Fairmont Orchard and the small group around me cheered when we saw them. At some point during this Matt, of Tri Cook, passed me and we had a nice short chat, and one of Kepa's friends did too. And that ride into T2 was as windy as any other part. Almost felt bad because the last mile was a no passing zone, and I'm sure the one or two guys behind me would have passed. Tough luck, boys. What did surprise me about the ride was the Grey never caught me. He climbs better than I do and I was sure he would have. That will change.
Bike Split- 3:19.46
T2 went smoothly. My spot was way in the back so I had a long run, but I'd taken my feet out of my shoes without unclipping, my one fancy tri-trick, so the barefoot jog/walk through transition wasn't bad. And having Super Awesome Wife waiting and cheering helped too. There was a bank of Port-a-Potties right before T2's exit and, because I'd been hydrating ok I took a quick pee. (Not all of us can go while riding, MamaSaid.) Kinda dark, so I knew I needed to be drinking more. And then I'm off on the run.

Always Dirtbag Tough

And we're off!
Here was my run plan: run when I could, walk every aid station and uphill, don't stop moving forward. That is all.
The run was almost comforting because I knew I could walk. I had no ego invested in the half marathon. I didn't know how my foot was going to hold up (there had been twinging coming out of the water, so I was nervous about it, but it was actually fine the whole time), I hadn't run regularly in three weeks, it was a big mystery.
Aid stations on the run were long and went Water, Perform (the IM-brand of sport drink), Food, Coke, Water, Sponge. And I loved them. There were 12 on course, one just about every mile, so each time I hit one I'd slow to a walk and grab, at least, water, water, ice, sponge. The sponges were soaked in the ice water and felt soooooo good to cram into my tri top. Ice got dumped on my head, in my top, and even into my shorts. Anything to stay cool.
We all thought the heat would be killer on the run because it normally is. There isn't much shade on a golf course. But it was still windy, so we traded hot and still for running into headwinds and, trust me, this is a good deal. It was on the run course that I got back to Stay Postive and Keep Moving Forward. There was never a time that I wanted to stop completely, and never a time when I questioned my sanity or hated life, but I certainly didn't enjoy the run. Who does? I tried lots of tricks for staying positive, including asking the people I was running near (read: who were passing me) if they knew how far back Lance was. "Hey, you know how far behind us Armstrong is? That guy was totally drafting off me." Most people laughed and played along. Was nice to see friends on the course. I also kept telling the aid station people, a lot of whom were very positive kids, "Oh, you are my favorite. I told the kid with ice a mile ago he was my favorite, but I totally lied. You are my favorite!" I said it really fast. It's not like I was cruising through.
Many people didn't like the grass sections. I loved them.

Stay positive. Stay positive. Look good for picture. Stay positive.

Yep. Totally walking here. They caught me. Still tough though.
 At some point early on during one of the many out-and-backs on the run course I finally spotted the Grey. He and Diesel had expected the Grey to be able to catch Diesel on the run, but he'd struggled more on the bike than expected. So when I saw him going out while I was coming back I started shouting at him, "Come get me, old man! Come get me!" (Dirtbag Racing Note: Shouting in the middle of a 70.3's half marathon will make your head hurt.) He did eventually, but it took longer than we expected. And he raped me when he caught me. Well, ok, here's the thing- earlier in the weekend I may have snuck up on him in an ice cream shop and given him a massive hug from behind when he wasn't expecting it. I may also have gently cupped his pectoral muscle when I did so. So I maaaaay have deserved to get jumped on from behind when he passed me on the run. Laughing helps the run go by. And after he went by I reached out an smacked him on the ass, "You are so sexy when you run by me!" A course volunteer on a bicycle near us nearly crashed laughing. 
I made a friend about mile seven who pulled up next to me and said, "I've been chasing you for seven miles." He was cool and I'm not making fun, but he was a big dude. Heavier. He said it was his first triathlon ever. Well, I walked with him for about half a mile, that middle section is the hardest mentally, and we chatted a little, but there was no way I was hanging out with him the rest of the run. I didn't have much ego or competitive fire, but I had some. Thanks for the motivation. 
There isn't much more to say about the run. There was an out-and-back called The Road To Nowhere right at the end that sucked worse than the rest of the run put together. Looking at the run course, it's easy to see what part I mean. It is so long that there is an aid station halfway down, but you don't know its halfway down if you've never been on it before. So you think, "Oh good, this isn't that far." That thought is followed quickly by, "Oh...damnit." 

Headwind going down means tailwind coming back though, and once you're done with the Death March (Diesel's name for it), you're practically done. One more aid station, past the 12 mile marker, where Obi Tri was standing and cheering us on, and the finish line is close enough to taste. "I am not walking any part of the last mile," I decided. I hadn't looked at my watch for elapsed time the entire race, it does no good midway through the bike to see, "Oh, three and a half hours. Only three hours to go." But now I was looking. I knew I should be able to come in under seven hours. I wanted 6:45, but walked too much for it. I did the math and decided to see how far under seven I could finish. I didn't sprint to the finish, that last mile was longer than just about any mile I've ever run. I barely had any kick to my stride. Once, my toes had gotten sore and I knew that if I cracked it, something you can do in funny toe shoes, it would stop hurting. So I stopped and bent over to crack it my my hamstrings went, "Woah! You don't want to be bending over right now! We will cramp and fail if you do." So there was no more of that. It was IronShuffle in. I could see the finish, hear the crowd getting louder, there were more people on course now, finishers already done standing by cheering, spectators, volunteers. I could hear the announcer calling out the names of those in front of me as they crossed the line. I just needed to get there.
Stride- IronShuffle
Down the chute


AND ACROSS THE LINE!

Run Split- 2:53.37

Finish Time- 6:56.24 
 
For Race Report Part IV- The Reflection click here