Saturday, August 29, 2009

Roving and Rambling: Race Reports and Urban Running

Oh my god I have to hurry up and get to the end of this year or at least then end of September. I have taken on so much at work that I my season has pretty well been toasted not to mention my blogging. Well, actually my season has just turned out to be something that I hadn't intended, a season full of sprints and nothing longer than a half-iron.

The up side, however, is that I am right on track to capture the Southwest Challenge Series title of Champion Masters Clydesdale for the third time in the past four years. Last year I focused on burning myself to a, racing everything at the ultra distance.

So, it has been two weeks since my last post and I have done two more races, the Los Alamos triathlon, which is THE OLDEST continuously running triathlon IN THE WORLD. Go ahead, find another race that has been running uninterrupted for over 35 years and I will recant.

The Los Alamos triathlon STARTS at just over 7000 feet elevation and then goes UP. The other cool thing about it is it is, well, I guess it is an inside out triathlon. It starts with a mass bike start, very cool, has a swim in the middle and then finishes up with a run. The mass bike start is such a blast. Everyone crowds the starting line and when the gun (someone yells GO!) goes off the front riders fight for position all screaming downhill. The bike is a tough one with a lot of big, long climbs. The swim is a great cool down but I swear that my legs were so baked from the run that I just about scraped the skin off the tops of my feet because my legs were dragging so badly. I hoped out of the swim and decided to run barefoot because I didn't want to have to pull my socks on over wet feet. It seemed like a great idea at the time but some later asked me when I explained my rationale, “Do you do regular triathlons without socks?” to which I answered, “no way”. I then got the quizzical look and “Well, then don't you put your socks on over wet feet? Swim, Bike, Run” To which I replied with great eloquence, “Um, well, Hmmm, I um, yes, I suppose I do put socks on my wet feet normally. I guess I hadn't really thought about that.”

I was really shooting for first place Clydesdale because that comes with a cool $100 and it is probably the only race in the world where a Clydesdale can walk away with some cash. On the run as I went sailing past the Clydesdale that won the race last year and I think the year before I was all “Yeah baby!” and then some big guy went sailing past me. I chased but then I knew I wouldn't be able top hold his pace AND pass him at the end. I then figured that he must be running as part of a team because he was wearing big, dry basketball shorts and he didn't look like someone who had just come from the pool. I was wrong. I ended up SECOND place Clydesdale and got no cash. To add insult to injury the guy wasn't even a Masters Clyde but Los Alamos doesn't break them out it's just Clydesdale ages 1 – 99. Oh well, justice was done. The guy I was chasing down is 12 years my senior, that dude is hardcore.

The next race was the F-1 at Bottomless Lakes. The F-1 is an 800 meter swim, 14 K bike, 4K run, 14K bike, 4K run and it is draft legal. I was totally ready to get in some good drafting but no luck. During the first quarter of the bike I was just passing people and when I found one guy I could draft my freakin seat FELL OFF! I don't know how but I caught it between my thighs and was able to grab it and carry it the rest of the way in. Of course this meant that I had something in the ball park of 26K to ride without a seat. I was pretty disappointed because like I said I was really looking forward to a draft legal race and I knew my runs just wouldn't be all that good having to stand throughout both rides. In the end my runs weren't too bad and I had a pretty good overall time. I was pretty happy to end up second Clydesdale because when I had seen the registrant list there were about six Clydesdales registered. It turns out though that I was only one of two that showed so the second place finish is not so impressive but I did do fairly well overall anyway and I can now say that I did a race sans saddle.

Finally, just this past week I made a brief trip to San Francisco for work. I love going to San Francisco mostly because I like the cool, foggy weather in the mornings and evening. The other thing I like about San Francisco is for some of the interesting running that is available. I doubt I would enjoy it on a regular basis
but it provides a nice diversion every once in a while. This trip I did a 16 mile loop starting off near Union Square then heading west through Japan Town until I eventually caught Presideo Park and ran that to Golden Gate park, did a lap around that then ran to the Pacific ocean then back to the hotel. The cool thing about the run is that probably six to eight miles of it were either on single track trail or dirt walking paths. Of course the down side is that at least eight miles was on concrete, which really beat the crap out of my legs but the run was worth it.

Next up I'll be reffing the inaugural Wild on Windsor triathlon in Windsor, CO. The race is put on by 5430 sports and they do an incredible job though interestingly they are selling to the WTC so now Ironman will own a series of sprint and Olympic distance races in Colorado. I wonder if they are going to start developing a short course world championship series? Next race I am scheduled for is the New Mexico Marathon. It is just a pick-up race not something that I will run hard but it is the day before my birthday and it will be a nice long run in my own neighborhood so I'm looking forward to it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What Goes Up Must Come Down: Race Reports and Life Reports

So much has been going on in my life lately that I just haven't felt much like posting. Since my last post I have had three races and had a good time every time. I did the Socorro Chili Harvest Triathlon, which is the New Mexico Club State Championship and while I personally didn't have the greatest race my fabulous team, the indefatigable New Mexico Outlaws, once again took home the state Championship trophy.

Semper Outlaws!

The GEEKGRL and I also took a trip to Chicago to see our youngest son graduate from Navy boot camp. I have never talked much about my role as a father but it is something that I take very seriously. It was always my role, a role I chose for myself, to be the hard ass. While I am typically fairly liberal and progressive there are some beliefs that I hold to that are insufferably old fashioned and paternalistic. One of those quaint beliefs is that while a woman can and should be able to live life as they see fit the man absolutely must take the worst hardships life has to offer without complaint in order to provide his family with the freedom and safety they need to pursue their goals in peace and comfort. In my estimation any man who is unwilling to shoulder that role is no man at all. Sorry, but there it is. Anyway, my role was to raise a young man so it was always an ordeal for me to walk the like between being protective and supportive of my sons and being enough of a hard ass to make sure they didn't fold under the pressure of their role as husbands and fathers. Hopefully I was able to do that and do it in such a way that my sons don't just think of me as “that asshole.” Honestly, I think I succeeeded. Seeing Jon graduate and seeing him in his Navy uniform was the proudest day of my life. He has clearly grown to be a strong young man.

So, back to Chi-town. When the GEEKGRL and I arrived we drove over to the lake front and ran the Elvis is Alive 5k in full Elvis regalia. Holly cow was it hot! Well, at least if you were wearing an Elvis suit. I ran as hard as I thought I could but really struggled with overheating. I turned in a time of 22:53, which is off my 5K PR but it is my Elvis 5K PR so in the end it's all good.

The day after the kiddo's graduation the GEEKGRL and I traveled to Sheboygan Wisconsin to run the Full Moon Half Marathon. To kick the day off we had coffee with Iron Snoopy and then once in Sheboygan had a good long sit-down with the Wimmers, who also raced right along side us that evening. We had a blast getting to meet everyone and as always discovered that the world of endurance sports is just packed with quality people.

I was going for a half-marathon PR at this race and I really ran hard. The final miles were painful ones but I never gave up the fight. In the end I fell 43 seconds short of a new half-marathon PR but I can console myself with at least three facts. When I set my ½ mary PR 1) I was about 15 pounds lighter 2) it was about 30 degrees cooler and 3) it was not as humid. (Ok, so the rest of the story is that my ½ PR was set during the first half of one of my fastest full marathon times and I was in much better distance running condition. Oh well)

So all this sounds great, right? Well, it is, all that I have reported so far. However, during this same time period my life has also had its down turns. First off I was called into the hospital Chief of Staff's office and told that they were going to re-post the Chief of Psychology position in order to get a wider pool of applicants. I have held that position for eight months now and overcome 12 other candidates from a national pool and now this?! Well, while I am technically not excluded from still getting the job the whole situation gives me quite a lot of pause. If offered the job in the end is this the way I want to get it...the acceptable candidate who defaulted into the position after several exhaustive searches? Maybe I'm an idiot or overly proud but in a position of this importance I would like to know that the people I work with and for WANTED me in the position. My old job is still there for me and I have a chance to take the program in a completely different direction. I am excited about where it can go and people are excited about what I can do with it. Lot's to think about.

Next up on the bad news parade was that the GEEKGRL was told she had lumps on her thyroid and the doc wanted to get a biopsy. Everyone said it was probably nothing and if it was cancer it was the GOOD kind of cancer. WTF! If someone puts a gun to my head and tells me to feel reassured because the gun has 100 chambers and only one bullet instead of six chambers and one bullet I'm more likely to slap the crap out of them than I am to thank them. Sure, it's a reality of life but really, nobody needs this. Finally, in that same two week period the GEEKGRL gets laid off with, um, 0 days notice, cutting our family income by about a third. Not cool, not in the least.

So, while things may not be all sunshine for me I can at least take solace in the accomplishments of my friends. I'm not saying that I have it all that bad, my life continues to be awesome but I have seen better times. What I am saying is that it is the low times that having this weird group of “creepy internet friends” endurance freaks all, makes things so much the better.

By way of example my good friend Johnny Tri, Ironman and now Ultrarunner, just completed his first 50-mile untramarathon and he also crewed at Badwater this July. I am so happy for him and take pleasure in his accomplishments. In part because he is a great guy and deserves to be happy and successful but also in part because it helps me reflect on my own accomplishments.

I wrote JT the following “Your posts have brought back why I had become obsessed with ultrarunning. I have felt a little lost lately knowing that I had a drive to complete more ultras but having forgotten exactly why I wanted to complete more ultras. I guess I forgot because there are no words to describe it, no rational reason to explain it, it just is what it is, a feeling, an atmosphere, pride and humility, ecstasy and”

It may be cliché but I think it's true, you can only really appreciate life's high points if you are willing to endure its low points and, in my humble opinion, endure them with dignity.

Fortitudine Vincimus my friends, through endurance we conquer!