Sunday, June 19, 2011

Greeley Race Report


This year has been a great departure from the past few years. The pattern I have become accustomed to is to race bikes nearly every weekend starting in March, and switch over to tris starting in May. However, this year found me racing for the first time on June 12th. Much of my reluctance to get out there and race resulted from a lack of confidence due to a lack of quality training. It has been a challenging year (if you have not read this, please do so) and training has not gone optimally. I decided I would look for a smaller race outside of Boulder to test my fitness in a lower pressure situation. I decided the Greeley Sprint Tri would fit the bill.

Going in, I knew this would hurt badly. The swim and bike were shorter than the standard sprint distance, and I figured I would be finishing in a little over 50 minutes. This meant I would be redlining the entire time. I was unsure how this would go, because my training has not really taken me to the higher levels of oxygen debt, and I did not know how good my lactate tolerance would be.


I got to the race venue without a hitch, and got to work setting everything up. Having been racing tris for five years now, everything on race day is second nature to me. I felt like garbage on my warm-up jog, which meant I was in store for a good race (typically the worse I feel warming up, the smoother I feel when the gun goes off). After some delays in the start, and after waiting for the junior and U23 races to go off, we lined up for our TT start (lake was too small to accommodate a mass start). The swim was honestly over before I realized I was swimming. 500 meters is wicked short for a swim. I was somewhat apprehensive about my ability to perform well in the swim, due to the fact that I have only been swimming 2-3 time per week on a good week since the winter time, without too much focused work. However, the swim is the discipline in which I have some "talent" or natural ability, stemming from the f
act that I swam competitively as a kid for a few years. My belief is that if you learn something as child, you never lose it, but if you try to pick it up as an adult, you will never feel natural. Who knows what might have happened if I had stuck with swimming, but I can say with fair confidence I would have gotten to compete at the Division 1 level, if I had chosen to do so. I also would probably have huge swimmer shoulders, which might be cool. It is a truly moot point now. In any case, I had a good swim.

The bike was also uber-short (10 miles). I was no
t a big fan of the course, either. It seemed like the race organizers said "okay, we have 5 miles worth of road, let's make a 10 mile course out of it. There were three of four traffic circle roundabouts, and too many corners and turn-arounds to count. Nothing scrubs speed like having to slow down to nearly a standstill to go around a tight corner with all sorts of sketchy riders around you (why did they send the men off by age, with the oldest guys going first?). In any case, I got through unscathed and managed a decent split despite the technical nature of the course. I benefitted greatly from using a HIGH CADENCE for the first time ever. My buddy Drew would have been so proud of me and my spinning. It was a very un-dino-ish ride.

Then it was time for the run. If you know anything about my history, it is pretty common for me to get into T2 with the lead, only to lose it on the run. For this reason, my sole focus this year has been on improving my run. I have gotten a lot of advice from Chuck, and have been gobbling up any and all books about run training. I have taken a focus
ed yet patient approach to running, and I was unsure just how the first race would go. Well, I came close to setting PR for the 5k, and had the fastest run split on the day. It was a pretty big confidence booster for me, and it indicated that I am on the right track. All I can say is watch out next year, because all my training is planned as part of a long-term approach.
I took the overall win by two minutes or so, which is a big chunk of time for a 50 minute race. Unfortunately, because it was a TT start, I had no idea of my placing when I got to the finish, although I knew I had done well, and suspected I had won. This is the second straight TT-style race that I have won. It is great to have won, but in this format of race, I have not been able to unleash the victory salute. Oh well.

It was certainly a good start to the season. I will not be doing too much racing this year, as I am still in dire straights financially, and would like to continue to focus on the process of training. Next race will be Boulder Peak in three weeks. The A-race this year will be Ironman 70.3 Lake Stevens on August 14th. I will be able to stay with my sister in Seattle, and spend some quality time with her. It will be great and I am looking forward to it.

Thank you for your continued support.


P.S.- Congratulations to my college buddy Erin Fortin on completing her first triathlon. She had a blast, and I was thankful to have someone to hang out with after the race.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Winning


I am a sports fan, through and through. I grew up watching, appreciating, and participating in the classic American mainstream sports, i.e. football, basketball, baseball. Although my current athletic exploits are in much more fringe sports, I still love to watch the ESPN sports. I once had a conversation with someone who told me she watches games only for the games themselves, and despite regularly watching professional basketball, she really pays no attention to the personalities of the players. I have always viewed athletes in a larger context of who they are as people. I always took this into account when identifying athletes as heroes and role models. As far as I am concerned, there is more to being "great" than being skilled and talented.

This year was the first year I have watched the NBA finals seriously for many years (probably at least ten). For me, the NBA has lacked intrigue even since the end of the Jordan era (every single boy of my generation wanted to be Michael Jordan. Period.). To generalize, most NBA games in this day-and-age are a severely boring escapade in w
hich semi-motivated athletes play a slow-tempo, half-court isolation offense in which the highest paid star can take his defender one on one to the basket, score his 30 points, and make his several hundred thousand dollars for the night of work. Most players do not even act like they care at all until the last 5 minutes of the game. However, during the finals this year, I felt compelled by the competition, largely due to the extreme disparity in the nature and style of the two teams. The super-hyped, super-talented, super-cocky Heat against the super-refined, super-experienced, super-hungry Mavs. I pulled for the Mavs, the whole series, finding great satisfaction in their victory. Why would I pull for a team I have never had the remotest bit of interest in before? The polarizing figure of LeBron James completely turned me off, whereas I could not help but root for Dirk Nowitzki.

I would criticize LeBron James even if he and his team had w
on the NBA championship this year. Why? Because there is more to being great than simply winning. It is the way in which you win that makes you great. I have no problem with Lebron leaving Cleveland to sign with another team (after all, Cleveland is a city with nothing going for it... I have been there; it sucks). However, the whole Heat charade that went on with "The Decision," the ridiculous welcome party and the proclamation and guarantee of seven or more championships was the most ridiculous and classless display I have ever seen. Lesson learned: do not celebrate like you have won before you have even played a game. You may be asking at this point "hey, didn't Mav's player Jason Terry get an image of the NBA trophy tattooed on him BEFORE the season." Yes, but guess what? He won.
He and his team won by carrying themselves with class, playing as a team, and playing harder than their opponents in crunch time. Class shines through at the end of the game, and James was nowhere to be seen it such circumstances in this series, buried under the clutch play of Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, and Dirk Nowitzki.

Winning is important. Winning the right way is more important. A true champion carries himself with dignity and class. LeBron James does not know how to be a role model. He cannot talk to the media, does not know how to carry himself off the court. His ambiguous press-talk statements, his mocking of Dirk Nowitzki on camera, an
d his general air of "I do not care what anyone thinks" prevent him from being a likable character. It is one thing to have a carefree attitude, many have before (Shaq, Barkley, etc). However, in the case of LeBron, it is a facade. He is deeply sensitive and takes everything personally. He puts up a front of confidence, but I would suggest that it is his lack of confidence that got him mired in this mess in the first place. The more he denies it, the greater beating he will take from the media and his doubters.

The way you carry yourself, in and out of competition, is something that it entirely in your control. I would argue that it plays just as large a role in greatness as talent. Dirk Novitzki is great. Michael Jordan is great. Tom Brady, Derek Jeter, Chrissie Wellington, Chris McCormack, and Haile Gebrselassie are great. They are great champions. LeBron James is talented, but it not great (yet). He is not a great champion; he is not even a champion. Maybe he will be some day, if he puts his head down, humbles himself, and stops acting like everyone is his enemy. For his sake, I hope he wins someday. But I certainly hope he wins the right way. Good luck, LeBron.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Fear

Something really struck a chord with me today when I read Gordo's blog last week. Gordo (father of a brand new baby boy!) is a great role model of mine, and someone who I hope to get to know better (he lives right down the road, but I have not really seen much of him since I arrived in Boulder. I frequently read his articles, and I would say he sometimes uses his writing as a form of self-examination, and a tool to make sense of and reflect on certain feelings, thoughts, and experiences. I like to use writing to achieve the same objective, but I rarely take the time to organize it in a coherent manner, and I share it even more infrequently. So then, why today? I have not blogged since January. Plus, it takes me a long time to write anything, due to my ADD (I wrote some beastly papers in college, and they took FOREVER. I was never a bang-out-a-paper-in-one-night type of guy). Well, apparently Gordo's self-examination, inspired by another's self-examination (upon reading Macca's new book), further inspired yet another self-examination, namely my own. It was Gordo's discussion of fear that set off the light bulb in my head. There is a lot that I am fearful of right now. Perhaps writing about my fears will illuminate them and maybe even help put me on the path toward squashing them.

Fear of being alone. I sit here, 12.5 months post University graduation, 1600 miles away, 5000 ft higher, a year older, and still feeling the more-common-than-you-might-think emptiness that follows college for a lot of kids. I definitely did not make this so easy on myself but taking off and moving to a place where I essentially knew nobody, had no job lined up, etc. I threw myself in the deep end and had no idea when I would reach the shore. I'm still floating here, but it's been wavy.
Why did I do this? It took a lot of courage to leave in the first place, considering the utter failure I experienced during the only other attempt at an extended departure from Rochester. My friends and family brought me back from the doldrums and made the last two years of college unforgettable and amazing. So obviously, packing up and leaving was going to be hard. I am and have always been fully aware of just how lucky I am to have such strong bonds with my loved ones, and I realize that this is not something everybody has. The attempt to build a support system here in Colorado is likely to take a while, and the fact that I am a very shy person does not help. There are certain situations that can bring out a very outgoing side of my personality, but the more time I spend alone, the more my shyness exhibits itself.
I moved to Colorado to pursue athletic dreams. Boulder has some of the best training opportunities in the USA. I could have chosen a number of other places, and to be honest the specific place was not the imperative deciding factor in leaving home. As far as I see it, in order to achieve or surpass my potential as an athlete, I need to be in an atmosphere where I can truly give 100% effort to chasing the dream. Part of that is avoiding temptations. Although I did a ton of racing and a lot of training in college, I did allow myself to have a "normal" college experience, complete with partying, etc. I wanted to leave that behind, and go somewhere that I could be free of such things. Even though I largely have freed myself of negative influences, I have also lost one of the most important contributing factors of my past successes: close proximity to a fully developed support system. Essentially, I've found very difficult to have my best friend, or my Dad be just the voice on the other side of the phone line. Sometimes you just need a hug. As I continue to drive forward, we will really get to see if I can do this without them. My flirtations with "depression" this year have not been due to some sort of mental illness or neuro-chemical imbalance. They've been because I miss the people I love.
Some of my closest friends are eyeing Boulder as a possible home for the next few years, and I really hope that they decide to come out. Chuckie and Ang will be back for the summer. A couple of buddies will be here to visit over the next couple of months. I do continue to meet people and make friends, but I have to realize it will take more than 9 months to develop what it took 10-20 years to build in NY. I think that things will continue to get better.

Fear of failure. Getting to the elite level is not an easy thing to do. Unless you're a mega-talent, it takes a lot of work to do. Everybody feels that they are not doing enough. I've focused on my run over the past few months, allowing my swimming to drop way off focus. Now the alarm bells are going off. It's difficult to maintain perspective. I am a working man (at a low paying job), and work is a stress. Too much stress and the body cannot grow. I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Jack Daniels speak twice when I went to OTC camp back in high school, and both times he talked about happiness and a lack of stress being an essential part of training progression (he talks a little bit about it here, albeit indirectly). For now, the best thing I can do is focus on doing things to put myself in a position to achieve more quality training farther down the road (consistent running is the most important thing I can do). Really, patience is key. But as a twenty-something year old, patience is one of the most difficult virtues to exude. Things go wrong, and, as Chuck says, we have to be able to adapt and make the best out of the situation. I am trying to do that. One of my favorite university professors says of myself and my co-eds, "we are doomed to success." However, there is always fear of coming up short.

Fear of the unknown
I can use the sea-faring voyage for this one. I've set off on a ship, and I have an idea of where I want to go. I do not know what sort of storms I will encounter along the way, or if/when I reach my destination, it will be the one I had in mind. I guess we will see. Some career moves are in the works which I am excited about, but there is of course the fear that it will not be the right move, or that I may not achieve my desired amount of success. All I can do is keep moving forward, and working hard.

In an uncontrollable world, the only thing you can control is yourself. You choose how you present yourself to the world and respond to adversity and challenge. You cannot grab things by the scruff of the neck and make them work in your favor. However, if you make sure you do everything in your power to put yourself in a position where good things can happen for you. That is what I am trying to do.

For those of you who have helped me through thus far, thank you so much. I love you. Tomorrow is my birthday, and I am going to have a hard time being without you.