Sunday, June 13, 2010

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Monday, November 16, 2009

2009 Silverman Half-Distance Race Report

On November 8th I participated in the Silverman Half-Iron distance triathlon in Henderson, NV for the first time. I’d heard lots about it. Primarily that it’s the toughest triathlon course in the country. For me personally, there’s no question that it was the most climbing I’ve ever done in any triathlon in both the bike and run. On the other hand it’s the most descending I’ve ever done as well. I’ve never pedaled more miles under 15 mph in a race. I’ve also never ridden more miles over 40 mph in a race. So was it the toughest? Considering the absolutely perfect weather conditions the answer is no.

Ironman Wisconsin in 2006 was cold, windy and torrential downpours all day. It was the most miserable race of my life. The Ironman World Championship in Hawaii was the hottest, windiest and most humid conditions I’ve ever raced in. Compared to those two, Silverman was extremely pleasant. It was also (for me) only half the distance.

The day began at Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Although the half distance race didn’t begin until 8:30am I arrived at 5:30 to watch the full distance start and much of the finish of the swim. Sunrise at Lake Mead was beautiful. The water was mirror smooth and the view of the surrounding hills was constantly changing as the rising sun turned them from a deep purple to a bright orange.

As the full distance athletes were finishing their swim, the rest of us entered the water for our 1.2 mile swim. This was one of the most enjoyable swims I have ever had. Although it was a mass start, there was plenty of room to avoid the usual beating often received in these situations. The calm water made sighting the buoys easy and the different colored buoys at the turns was a nice touch. The result was my best swim ever at any distance. I think I’ve finally learned to swim in a straight line. Heading into T1 was great. It was fully carpeted from the shore to the changing tents. There were plenty of wetsuit strippers and it was nice not to waste time scraping sand, grass and rocks from my feet.

Once out of T1 and on to the bike I immediately felt as though I’d begun a set of walking lunges. The first 1+ mile is steep! Although remaining in the saddle is possible, many riders had to stand for the first few minutes. Once on the main road the legs were nice and warmed up and it was easy to settle into the aero position for several miles of fast rolling hills on perfect national park asphalt. As you can see by the attached bike profile the hills are many. However, no matter how hard I had to work going up, I knew there would be a fun, fast downhill soon. During this first twenty miles I noticed that I had passed two guys with ages 51 and 53 on their calves. One of the cool things about being a crappy swimmer and a strong cyclist is that you spend most of the ride passing people. Around this time I began to think that I may be close to my division lead. After about 35 miles we left the Lake Mead area, headed into Henderson and spent the next several miles on a narrow but very smooth concrete trail. It’s on this trail that I encountered “The Three Sisters”. I have no clue where this name comes from but “The Three Evil, Twisted Sisters” would be a more appropriate name. I personally have never ridden a bike up anything this steep. The narrow trail makes it impossible to zigzag your way up these hills. There are two options: suck it up or walk. Were I alone, and not in a race, the walk option would have been very appealing. However, even I, with my very limited ego could not disappoint the sadistic individuals at the top of each hill. A couple dozen people watch this part of the race while sipping beverages, in cozy loungers. As you begin to struggle they begin jumping up and down and screaming “you can do it”. In the back of my mind I’m thinking “Ummm, no I really don’t think I can”. The next thing I knew I was cresting the hill and smiling at the sadists while simultaneously suppressing projectile vomiting. After the “Satanic Triplets” the final fifteen or so miles were rather pleasant. As was the case at T1, the volunteers were great. They took my bike, handed me my run bag and slathered on more sunscreen.

Unlike the bike, the run begins with a fast couple of downhill miles. Although those first two miles felt great, I had no illusions that I’d get to the finish without a number of uphill miles. At two miles the hills reversed and the pace slowed……a lot. Like the swim the run was uneventful. The term uneventful makes a race report less entertaining but it generally means the race itself went well. Though not as scenic as the swim and bike, the run was a challenging tour of Henderson. The aid stations were staffed with great volunteers and I was extremely thankful that I had decided to do the half and avoid the torture of passing by the finish to complete a second lap.

I love the Ironman brand races. I’ve completed eleven of them and will shoot for number twelve this Sunday. The Silverman was a bit different. The distances were the same; either 140.6 or 70.3 miles. Ironman has a reputation of being the corporate empire of long course triathlon. That by no means detracts from the quality of their events. They are without question, first class from start to finish.

The Silverman strikes me as a “Labor of Love”. Love of the sport, the athletes and the community appear to be the driving force behind the Silverman. Frank and Meg Lowery are the race directors and this event is their creation. I arrived three days prior to the race. I spoke with the volunteers, repeat and first time athletes, and people on the street. Without exception everyone had nothing but nice things to say about the Lowery’s and the event. The race expo, the pre-race dinner, the awards dinner, the aid stations, course markings, volunteers, the works, were all what you’d expect at a world class event. Yes, I did the half distance race. However I expect that I’ll be back for the full 140.6 miles. Hearing the announcer at my first Ironman finish yell out “Joe Turcotte, you are an Ironman” was a pretty cool experience. Something tells me the word Silverman might be just a wee bit cooler.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

2009 Ironman World Championship

2009 Ironman World Championship Race Report
Note: There are tons of pix below. I couldn't figure out how to insert them in the text.

October 18, 2003 – April 15, 2009

Admit it, your thinking, “Why the heck is this clown beginning this race report six years ago” To fully describe my experience as a participant in this year’s Ironman World Championship in Hawaii, I need to start in 2003. As I write this, I’m now a veteran of eleven Ironman triathlons, three half Ironman races and about a dozen shorter events. However, in October of 2003, I had no clue how to swim. In fact any water deeper than my waist petrified me if I wasn’t wearing a life vest (is that what those things are called?). Furthermore, except for the old Schwinn Varsity in 1972, I’ve never owned a road bike. I had a mountain bike, but after a nasty head injury and multiple abrasions I decided that I had no business on two wheels (except for motorcycles, which is another story).

In the early summer of 2003, I received a job offer from a race management company in Denver that needed a photographer with a few computer skills to help launch a new race photography company. I thought “Ya baby, my ship has come in, my dream job has arrived!” I was then informed that it paid ten bucks an hour and I’d be working LOTS of hours. I thought “What the heck, it’s something new, it allows me to play with fancy new cameras and computers and I get to go to lots of cool events at which people are generally thrilled to be at”. I accepted the job and was informed that “By the way, this October, you are in charge of all athlete photography at the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii. Figure out the best way to shoot this event, put together a team and go do it.” Initially, I was ecstatic. I’m thinking yahoo, free trip to Hawaii! Reality quickly set in and I realized… I’m not really sure what the heck the Ironman is and I never photographed any sport before. Isn’t that that ridiculous event where people barf, drool and crawl across the finish line? What have I gotten myself into?

Fortunately, I was blessed to have two wonderful mentors (Taryn & Beanie). Although I had the ridiculous title of “Managing Director (or some such thing)”, I was clueless. Taryn & Beanie ran the show and I simply did everything they taught (and told) me while presenting the lame illusion that I was in charge. Rather than make this “brief” blog a full length book, I’ll cut to the chase. My week in Kona in 2003 was the most stressful, sleepless, exhausting week of my life. However, by midnight of the day of the race, it became the most enlightening, emotional and inspiring day of my life.

As mentioned above, I couldn’t swim, I didn’t own a bike and I was a middle of the pack and increasingly bored runner. Yet, as I watched these people run, walk and crawl across that finish line, I knew I had to do the same. I also knew that I would do it in that very spot. I’m pretty good at setting goals and following through. However, the Ironman World Championship isn’t something you just sign up for. You need to be talented and fast. I was neither as a runner and expected that once I learned to swim and ride, I would lack speed and talent in those disciplines as well. If you have speed and talent you then need to qualify by coming in the top 2-3% of your division at one of about twenty Ironman races held worldwide. Oh well, I heard there was a lottery. I’ll just win that and get back to Kona that way.

Upon my return from Hawaii, I joined a gym in Castle Rock, CO with a pool and bought a sweet, shiny Cervelo tri bike. In the interest of not boring you to tears much longer, I’ll fast forward to 2009 in this paragraph (or two). I couldn’t swim one length of the pool and crashed my bike several times (mainly from trying to work those silly shoes that lock into the pedals). I signed up for the local YMCA Triple Trekker Sprint Triathlon in 2004 and started “training”. I believe I walked through the pool swim and came in around 301 of about 302 people in the race (the last guy must’ve had a flat and no spare). I wasn’t dead last (but I thought I was dead). It was demoralizing, humiliating, painful, yet oddly exhilarating. Later that year the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC) announced the inaugural Ironman Arizona. I signed up. Prior to that event in April 2005, I finished an Olympic Distance Race and the Vineman Half-Ironman. The Russian River in the Vineman was cool because it’s about four feet deep and I was once again able to walk through most of the swim.

In April of 2005, I packed my Jeep and drove to Ironman Arizona in Tempe and immediately realized I was way out of my league. Although I had lots of people encouraging me (Ingrid), I was petrified. I spent the days prior to the race looking for every reason to pack up and drive home. Before I knew it, I was treading water and the gun went off. For the next fourteen hours, I swam, biked and ran through the Arizona desert and realized my life was about to change. I crossed that finish line and low and behold, there were friends, mom and sister waiting to greet me. Did I just hear Mike Reilly say “Joe Turcotte, you are an Ironman?” I was hooked. I signed up for Ironman Florida later that year and all five U.S. Ironman events in 2006. I created the IronPuppy project (raised $25,000 for Canine Companions for Independence) to bring meaning, inspiration and motivation to my otherwise lonely, obsessive, often selfish pursuit of the next Ironman finish. Shortly after Ironman Arizona in April of 2007 I had a nasty crash that took me out for the year. In 2008, I re-created the IronPuppy Project and did a couple more events (raised another $11,000 for CCI), this time dragging several friends along who figured that if I could do this so could they (this inspired the IronNutz…another story). By 2009, the IronPuppy Project had become an annual passion of mine. Although, another five Ironmans in one year is unlikely to happen for me again, I’ll continue to “compete” in several endurance events to maintain the IronPuppy motivation. On April 15th of this year, the Kona Lottery Gods smiled upon me and I was chosen to return to Hawaii, not as an overworked, stressed out photographer but as one of those lucky people who will swim, bike and run through triathlon’s sacred ground. My 11th Ironman would bring me back to where I first witnessed this amazing event.

Sunday, October 4, 2009:
Sitting in an airplane for eight hours hurts more than riding the bike for six! Just thought I’d get that out of the way. Upon arriving in Kona I immediately realized that as much as I tried to simulate the heat and humidity of Kona in Colorado, the reality of Kona would be different. Diane’s sister Dixie and her husband Will took me to their place and set me up in a sweet, private, warehouse “condo”, complete with tons of tools and a 56 Chevy pick-up right in my room. It was awesome! I had my bike together in 30 minutes. After a short 30 minute run to get the feel of the heat and humidity I sat down to a fabulous, home cooked, nutrient dense race week meal. I don’t recall what it was…..except for the brownies and ice cream.

Monday, October 5, 2009:
I was up by 3am (a good thing since that would be my race day wake-up time). I had a fantastic pre-swim breakfast of bananas, papaya, cereal and maybe another brownie. I passed on the ice cream, because I’m a disciplined Ironman triathlete. I headed to the swim course around 6:30am and was thrilled to see hundreds of other athletes and about half the swim course buoys laid out. I was also intimidated since I’d never swam in the ocean without a wetsuit. The fear was unfounded once I started swimming. The water was the same temp as the YMCA pool and it was actually much clearer. I swam about forty minutes and loved it. It was literally like swimming in someone’s tropical fish tank. Lots of colorful fish and coral. Although I knew the lack of a wetsuit would make me about ten minutes slower than my best Ironman time, my fear was alleviated and I was fired up for the race.

Tuesday - Thursday, October 6-8, 2009:
These three days were somewhat of a blur. My whole “IronPosse” arrived on Wednesday. I was incredibly fortunate to have nine friends at this event to support me. The level of comfort that results from so many friends at an event like this is huge. I was enjoying the company too much to be stressed and the whole week prior to the race was not much different than if we had all met to simply have some fun in Hawaii.

On one of these days, I and fellow IronNutz, Kevin & Keith stopped by our friends, the German Pro “Team Abu Dhabi”. We hung out with Swen Sundberg and Faris Al Sultan for about an hour and I was comforted to note that their condo was as cramped and unorganized as my typical Iron week hotel room. It was really a blast to hang out and B.S. with a guy who has actually won this event and with Swen who was an accomplished hopeful. It reaffirmed the concept that most of the pros in this sport are simply very nice laid back people with the same passion for triathlon as the rest of us. They just happen to be incredibly gifted and train at a level that would put me in an early grave.

Thursday night was the “Welcome Banquet”. In typical Ironman fashion it was a first class event. A full blown Hawaiian luau with an impressive variety of fantastic food. For the IronVirgins in my posse, it was an eye-opening look at just how important this race is in the world of triathlon. It also reminds the athletes of what a world class endeavor they are about to undertake. One of the coolest things about this particular dinner (my 11th), was that it didn’t create additional stress for me. In fact, while speaking with other athletes both pro and age groupers it confirmed to me that I did all I was supposed to. For thirty weeks, I ate, trained, recovered and rested as well as most anyone. I was ready and excited for race day.

Friday, October 9, 2009:
This was my do nothing day. The gang all went out and played at the beach and around town while I kicked back at the condo, packed my transition bags, did a final bike check, ate some brownies and ice cream and packed for the ride to bike check-in.

Bike check-in Kona is a bit different than at the other Ironman events. You have your helmet checked and walk through a gauntlet of statisticians that write down everything they notice about your bike (brand, tires, aerobars etc.). You are also allowed to leave your helmet and shoes on the bike. After the bike check, it was back to the condo for a massive pre-race dinner with all my friends and Team Abu Dhabi. The feast was fabulous and I was in the sack by around 8pm. Sleep was sporadic to non-existent but I didn’t care. In fact, it was the most stress free pre-race night in all eleven of my Ironman races.

Saturday, October 10, 2009, Race Day:
Up at 3am, coffee, juice, bagel and a bit of final reflection upon the past six years. The anticipatory excitement was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. In contrast to feeling “out of my league” as I was at that first race in Arizona, I felt like I belonged there. This was where I was supposed to be on this day. It was a pretty nice feeling. Diane got up shortly after me and ran through my usual checklist. As an IronSherpa extraordinaire, she rattles off everything I usually forget: Gu, Gatorade, body Glide etc. We arrived at the start around 4:45am. I double checked my transition bags, pumped my tires and went to body marking. IronNutz Kevin & Keith were already there. They had volunteered to work the race and it was nice to have these two stroll me through the pre-race process. On a brief side note, Kevin & Keith outdid my five Ironman season in 2006 by completing all six U.S. Ironman races this year. They are an incredibly studly couple’o’nutz. By 5:30 it was simply a matter waiting until the cannon fired at 7am. After hearing the National Anthem (I love that song) and watching some Navy SEALs parachute into the ocean, I smooched my honey, said goodbye to the Nutz and went to the beach.

The Swim: As I made way to the start along with over 1800 other athletes, I noticed a calm in the crowd that is often absent at other events. Eighteen-hundred athletes from almost sixty countries were all contemplating the day ahead and probably reflecting on the year(s) of training and racing that got them there. It was so inspiring to me to know that all around me were people who swam, biked and ran for months prior to this day. I did it all in Colorado. They did it in South Africa, Japan, Brazil, New Zealand etc. etc. etc. I was a part of something huge. The expected pre-swim nervousness bordering upon fear never materialized. I felt pure exhilaration and euphoria…….BAM!!! The damn cannon scared the crap outta me and we were off. The best thing about swimming with the best triathletes in the world was that within two minutes, most of them were so far ahead of me that I rarely if ever got kicked, punched or scratched as is often the case in a mass start. Another noticeable difference was that all the water I inhaled was not due to my usual hyperventilating but due to the humongous smile I had on my face. I was in THE IRONMAN!!! For the next hour and forty minutes, I plodded along at my typical leisurely pace until I looked up at a couple of Navy SEALS waiting anxiously to yank me out of the water. By the way, “leisurely” is a term good swimmers use to describe my pace. For me personally, it was everything I had. Prior to the race I had decided that when I crossed that finish line I would have nothing left in the tank. I would not blow up by overdoing it. However, the plan was to walk that fine line between performance and meltdown. I exited the swim feeling pretty good, made my way through transition and to my bike. To my surprise there were dozens maybe even a couple hundred bikes still there. At my first YMCA triathlon in 2004 there was only one bike in transition. That’s because it’s owner had finished the ride and was already running.

The Bike: The bike is my favorite. Unlike the swim or run, on the bike you can actually stop working, take a drink and a bite to eat while still maintaining forward motion. Unfortunately, as the famous Kona winds picked up I soon realized that not pedaling resulted in not moving. Looks like I’ll have to pedal the full 112 miles. That’s OK! Since I’m such a crappy swimmer and a relatively strong cyclist I was able to spend much of the next six hours passing people. I exited the swim in position 1698, by the end of the bike I had passed 372 people to advance to position 1326. I like to say that I love training and racing in the heat. I will never say that again. Try as I might, there’s no way to truly prepare for the heat and humidity of the lava fields short of actually being there. The wind also adds another dimension of difficulty that is hard to duplicate. Regardless, It was a blast! I was grinning the whole 112 miles and had some pretty cool memories of hanging out of a car driven by Natascha Badmann’s doctor as I photographed her flying down The Queen K in 2003. I also had time to reflect upon my primary reason for being there…Canine Companions for Independence (CCI). Though not quite guilt, there were certainly feelings of what a great life I have and that I’m truly blessed to simply be able to ride a bike, let alone in the Hawaii Ironman. Like everyone else I have the same days of stress, worry and maybe a bit of self-pity when things aren’t going too great. It’s those times that I think of the people who CCI serves and realize that I have everything any human being could ever want. Oooops, I digress. I had hoped for a sub-5:30 bike but the winds put an end to that goal. It was still my second fastest bike split ever and it was just plain fun. Coming into transition felt like the final mile in a Tour de France stage. The streets are packed, the people are screaming and the legs are craving a nice massage…..but not yet.

The Run: Getting off the bike and putting on the running shoes were a brief few minutes of ecstasy. As I leapt (sorta) to my feet for the final 26.2 miles, I realized that I still had a long way to go. As I ran out of transition, the voice of some dude I passed yelled “Yo Joe”. I turned around and Randy was working the transition area and in my zoned out state I ran right by him. Although I was quite consistent in transition training from bike to run, I had never pedaled a full six hours and gone straight to the run. I had completed a few 100 mile rides immediately followed by a run. However, none of those rides were as difficult as the one I had just finished. Those first couple miles were tough. I thought a sub-5 hour marathon was not possible. Soon a rhythm developed and the ten mile mark through town was motivating. It wasn’t until then that I actually realized that I would finish. I’ve seen enough of these events in person and on TV to realize that the body can do strange things in the final miles of such an event and avoided thinking about the finish. I no longer considered a sub 12 hour finish and even gave up on a sub 13. But I was realizing that a finish would happen. The turn-around point at the Energy Lab was absolutely gorgeous. At the first aid station was one of the Hawaiian fire dudes teaching what appeared to be his 6-7 year old son how to carry on the family tradition. My mom told me to never play with fire, this guy was encouraging his 1st grader to do just that. For about a mile I ran directly into the Hawaiian sunset. In any race there is always a point at which you realize you’re in the home stretch. After the return to the Queen K, you see the lights of Kona and the finish in the distance. At about mile 21, fellow Pikes Peak Tri Club member and friend Rob Ladewig caught up to me. We had been playing cat and mouse all day and I knew I’d see him before the finish. I was walking at the time and he said “Let’s run this thing in together”. I had all but given up on running, completing the marathon under five hours or finishing under thirteen. I wasn’t bummed about it, I just didn’t think it possible. Regardless, I decided to stay with Rob as best as I could. Two miles later, the lights were closer and I realized my 13 minute pace had dropped to around ten minutes. Adrenaline is an amazing thing. By mile 24 Rob said, “Hey Joe, if you have anything left in the tank you need to go for it”. I picked it up a bit and as I came within the final mile the crowd became nutz! Just prior to turning to the final quarter mile on Alii Dr. People began yelling, “Are you ready for this”? I wasn’t quite sure what they meant until that final turn.

The last two minutes were a blur. The spotlights were blinding the crowd was huge and they were LOUD!!! It’s the most amazing thing. Hundreds of people are screaming and high-fiving you. Just ahead is a massive JumboTron TV. Just below it is the finish arch and Mike Reilly announcing “Joe Turcotte, you are an Ironman”. I’d heard that phrase ten times previously but this one was different. I was back in Kona and instead of being the guy behind the camera at the finish; I was the guy in front of it.

Post-Race: Ten feet beyond the finish were IronNutz; Kevin & Keith, they got me though body-marking at 4:45 that morning and prevented me from keeling over fifteen hours later. Events this long play weird games with the mind. After ten previous Ironmans, by 18 miles into the run, I thought I knew enough to conclude that a sub-13 hour finish was impossible. Yet the simple act of Rob catching up to me and saying a few words pushed me to not only a sub-13 finish but a sub-5 hour run. Shortly beyond the finish were the people who made an already cool event the best experience of my life. Dixie, Willie, Kevin, Keith, Leslie, Randy, Pam, Greg and of course my soul mate Diane. I’m a wee bit obsessive and a tad compulsive. Diane accepts that and when I come up with these wacky “unachievable” goals, she may roll her eyes, but she’ll then provide nothing less than total support and I’m pretty sure she sorta likes me. Eleven Ironmans in less than five years can be accomplished by either surrounding yourself with wonderful, supportive, upbeat optimists or living a life of reclusive loneliness. I’m fortunate to have the former.

Final Note: Did anyone actually read all of this? Just wondering……………..

Monday, July 13, 2009

Triple Bypass

Triple Bypass Ride Report:

WOW…..In addition to being the longest ride with the top speed of my short cycling career, this was the most beautiful way to spend a sunny (rainy, windy, hailing) day in Colorado. To focus less on the 120 miles and 10,000+ feet of climbing ahead of me, I decided to split my ride into four 30 mile quarters.

I arrived at the start in Evergreen around 6am. By 6:20, I was riding. Step one was focusing on the fact that this was not a race. Not knowing anyone however, still made me inclined to push myself to each rest stop to meet Diane. However, I couldn’t help but back off a bit as I approached the summit of Squaw Pass at 11,140 ft. The snowcapped peaks in the distance were breathtaking. The descent into Idaho Springs at 7,526 ft. was a blast. I had never bombed down a mountain pass so fast and after a few miles of fear it became exhilarating and FUN. By the time I met Diane at mile 30 it was getting hot. Fifteen miles of climbing followed by 15 miles of coasting was a great start. The first quarter took about 2:15. At this rate, my goal of under 10 hours was on track.

The second quarter was the toughest. Thirty miles of climbing. From Idaho Springs to the summit of Loveland pass at just under 12,000 ft. provided little coasting time. The halfway point at Loveland ski area was a cycling Woodstock. Tons of food, drink, sweat, testosterone and a few delirious cyclists. The next 2000 ft. of climbing would occur within four miles. Once again it was breathtaking (literally). Fatigue was setting in. However, I knew that there was just one more big climb with lots of screaming descents. Coming down Loveland Pass was even more fun than the previous descent. I expect I travelled over six miles at around 38-45 mph without pedaling. I was no longer fatigued as adrenaline diluted lactic acid. The second quarter took about 2:30.

The third quarter was another mix of climbing and coasting. The ride on the trail through Frisco to Copper mountain was leisurely and relaxing. As I entered Copper, the sky opened up and the hail and rain came down. It didn’t appear to be a brief storm, so I put on the rain jacket and figured the next 40 miles would be miserable. In typical Colorado fashion, the sky cleared and the sun and rainbows appeared within five minutes. The remaining climb up Vail Pass was HOT, sunny and beautiful. The third quarter took around two hours. With 6:45 hours of riding under my belt, I realized that not only would I beat ten hours, I would probably go under nine.

The final 30 miles was all downhill. Rain began again but with the heat it was rather refreshing. Once again the ride down Vail Pass was rarely under 30mph with several miles well over forty. As with a race, as the finish nears, fatigue fades and adrenaline flows. The final quarter was completed in around 1:10.

My total time (minus munchies breaks) was 7:52 with an average pace of 15.3mph. If anyone is considering this ride, go for it. It wasn’t as hard as I’d expected and basic yet aggressive hill training will get you through the day relatively pain free. Practicing descents would be helpful as well. The main lesson I learned from preparing and completing this ride is that I’m not the “loner” I make myself out to be. In training I love riding and running by myself. I never know how I’ll ride and like to either hammer or slack without fear of being too fast (ya right) or too slow for the group I’m riding with. In races I tend to focus inward since I’m too deaf to notice people yelling at me and just want to finish. HOWEVER, a ride like this should be shared. I was focused on seeing Diane at various points along the course and was a bit envious of other groups encouraging, waiting for, and meeting fellow riders at the aid stations. I guess this qualifies as one of those “Epic Rides” I hear people talk about. Can’t wait for next year…..with friends. Time now to focus on Kona. The road bike goes in the back room and the tri bike will come off the trainer.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Mt. Evans Ascent / 5430 Sprint Triathlon Race Reports

Mt. Evans Ascent:
June 20 & 21 kicked off IronPuppy 2009 ( It included the 14.5 mile run to the summit of Mt. Evans Colorado at 14,264 ft., followed the next day by the 5430 Sprint Triathlon. Why, you may ask am I combining two race reports into one. It’s easy. The Ascent was perfect, the 5430 was a disaster and lasted less than ten minutes before I realized my race was over.

Saturday, June 20, 2009 at 10,000 ft., conditions were cool but nice. However, the race director informed us that 8 miles up the road, it was 20 degrees, zero visibility and 30 mph winds. I expect that no one at the start considered calling it a day. HOWEVER, the park service stated that the race would end at 9 miles, at 13,000 ft. if conditions didn’t allow at least 50 ft. visibility. We were informed that at 6 miles a sign would tell us if the race ended at 9 miles or 14.5 miles at the summit.

Six miles arrived and the sign said “Finish at the Summit”……COOL! I hadn’t done this race since 2002 and set my personal record (PR) one year earlier with a time of 2:58:32 at 41 years old. Now as an ancient 50 year old, I had no illusions of breaking that PR. But, in my heart I thought “hmmmm, I may just be able to get under 3 hours”. Low and behold, I finished in 2:55:35. Conditions were miserable but training trumped age and I expect I’ll go under 2:45 at age 60 (unless I’m dead).

I had minor psychological issues with turning 50. Why wasn’t I rich (Hmmm, could it have been the 70’s….damn decade of decadence)? Why don’t I own any real estate (Hmmm, maybe I hate roof repair)? Why don’t I own a swanky car (Hmmm, maybe I love my 1998 Jeep). The bottom line is that I felt that at 41 years old, a 2:58:32 run up Mt. Evans, was something I’d never experience again. Yet, at age 50 I was munching muffins at 2:58:35 after the gun went off. Go figure.

5430 Sprint Triathlon:
Sunday morning I was still pretty adrenalized after the previous day’s PR on Mt. Evans. I felt fantastic and actually believed that I would beat my previous years sprint time. The National Anthem was sung, the gun went off and I started swimming. One hundred yards from shore my hamstrings cramped so bad, I grabbed a buoy and tried to massage and beat it out of my leg. By 400 yds, I had inhaled several gallons of lake water, a bit of boat fuel and a small trout. At that time I was 15 minutes into the swim and had expected to finish the full 880 yds. by then. After much deliberation, and much more fear and panic, I called over a boat. The boat dude asked if I needed to hang on for a rest. I replied that I needed a ride to the beach. My race was over.

Lessons learned:
- Don’t be a dope! I want so badly to raise funds for Canine Companions for Independence

(CCI) that I attempted a stunt that I was unprepared for.
- A DNF (Did Not Finish) is not the end of the world.
- Actually watching a race (and taking pictures) is pretty fun.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Triple Bypass Tomorrow

Click image to view Route/Elevation

Monday, July 6, 2009

Why the Blog?


This is my first attempt at this blogging thing. I receive frequent requests for race reports and training updates. Rather than bore to death recipients of my periodic IronPuppy Updates with race details like damn near drowning at the 5430 Sprint, or the cold snowy Mt. Evans Ascent, I'll post race/training info here.

In the IP Updates I'll continue to focus more upon my IronPuppy Project for Canine Companions for Independence (CCI). Please visit: for cool info on CCI and my IP Project.