Race Report: A Day of Firsts

Lake Meridian Tri, August 12, 2017.

First race in two years.

First race I was able to complete in three years (the JBLM race two years ago was canceled due to high winds).

First race with a 40 on my leg.


  First race as a father.

First race in which Alida surprised me with a fantabulous custom onesie for our son!

My training has been extremely spotty this year. If we’re having a good week, I’ll get a six hour block of sleep once or twice. Other than that it’s two or three hours, broken up by fetching Hal from his room for a quick cuddle and put down, or a longer feeding and rock to sleep. Plus working full time. Plus trying to fit a run in here and there during the week (some of which Hal joins me on, which is awesome). In summary, I’m exhausted pretty much all the time, and it’s hard to find time to train.

When we signed me up for this race, we had higher expectations for where Hal’s sleep would be by now. We also thought I’d still be a stay-at-home dad, able to train during naps. But, shortly after signing up, Alida was laid off and we were forced to swap roles.

All that is to say, I was perhaps a bit less than prepared for this race than would be have been ideal.

On the plus side, Hal granted me a solid six hours of sleep the night before, which is all I usually get before a race anyway. We fed/walked the animals, loaded up the car and a verrrry sleepy baby, and set off… about 20 minutes later than planned, but still with plenty of time, I thought. When we arrived, the main lot was full, so we unloaded all my gear, and Alida and Hal waited while I parked a quarter mile away and walked back. I then scrambled to get my race packet, apply numbers to helmet, bike, and run belt, and get my transition area all staged. I was rusty! Everything seemed to take longer than I remembered, and I still had to hit the restroom and squeeze into my wetsuit (which I haven’t worn in a couple years and thankfully still fit).

Finally ready to go, Alida took a great pic of me and a very confused-looking Hal. He’d never seen me in a wetsuit or swim cap before and did not know what to think. I ran down the beach, redirected at the last second by a very strategically placed volunteer, who made sure I “chipped in” by walking across the timing mat. If I hadn’t, my swim time wouldn’t have been tracked and I might have been disqualified altogether!

I reached the water just in time for the start, slapped my goggles over my face and off I went! I realized then that I hadn’t worn these goggles in a couple years, and really hoped they didn’t leak. Within 30 seconds I realized I’d also forgotten to spit in them to keep the fog away, so pretty soon I could hardly see at all… just enough to track and follow the other orange caps ahead of me. It would have to do.

Even though I hadn’t swum in months, holding an increasingly heavy baby was apparently enough to keep my arms/shoulders in good swimming shape! I wasn’t out to prove anything today or PR, I was just having fun with a 3 hour catered workout. I found my cruising pace and chugged along, sighting every now and then and correcting my direction, as I was veering left… a lot. About halfway through the swim, the fast ladies from the second wave started passing me, as usual, and expected. By then I was turned back towards shore and feeling confident that I would, if nothing else, at least finish the swim in one piece.

As I reached the shore and stood, the old habits came back. I popped my goggles up to my forehead so I could see, then reached back to unzip my wetsuit. I pulled my goggles and cap fully off and clutched them in one hand while peeling the upper portion of the suit off and over my arms, releasing the cap and goggles inside the suit sleeve so they couldn’t get lost. I did all this while jogging on shore and towards transition, and looking for Alida and Hal. There they were!! Yaaaay!

I had a pretty quick transition into my bike shoes and helmet, and away I went! Over the next 25 miles, I was surprised to find that I was able to stay comfortably in the aero position almost the entire time. This, despite only having a ridden my road bike into the office a few times the past month, and one 26mi ride on my race bike two weeks before the race. Maybe all those middle-of-the-night rocking sessions with Hal strengthened my core? No idea, but I enjoyed the heck out of it.

The LM Tri bike course is marvelous. I didn’t have to stop at all as all the intersections are either easy right turns or else guarded by volunteers and/or police. I had a great time calling out “great job!” and “nice work!” to the sprint distance athletes I was passing (as they’d started and finished their swim while I was working on mine). Towards the end, I started to fade, so I started singing Raffi’s Joshua Giraffe out loud, as for some reason I now have it memorized. I alternated this with Megadeth’s Into the Lungs of Hell to keep things balanced. When my watch chirped that I’d crossed 20 miles, I was shocked. I was way ahead of schedule, and rolled into transition 10 minutes earlier than predicted! I’d guessed I might be able to average 15mph, but I averaged nearly 17mph. Wow! What a great day. Best of all, Alida and Hal were right there waiting for me… except Hal was asleep… which was actually a good thing, for him. And hey, a kid who can snooze hanging around the finish line of a triathlon is going places.

I switched into my running shoes (Hoka One One Constants) and set out again. This was going to be the real test. My run training had been a little better than swim or bike, but I hadn’t done any bricks at all, and only had a smattering of 6mi runs in the past couple of months. I kept it slow, which wasn’t hard since my legs were pretty dang tired. A few miles in, though, they loosened up, and it felt like I could maybe, just maybe, try to push it a little. But no! I decided it was far more important to me to be able to run the whole way, rather than risk blowing my legs out and having to walk. I’m SO glad I made that choice, as around mile 5 on a long uphill my lower quads started to cramp up, all around my knees. This was new! Shit! I kept moving and just hoped that once I cleared the crest of the hill they’d loosen up again. Thankfully, they did, and that was the last major hill of the course.

As I approached the finish line, I spotted Alida and Hal about 50 feet before it. Alida was trying to signal to me to ask if I wanted to run across the finish line with Hal. Of course! That’s a great idea! I don’t think he’d actually spotted me before I scooped him up, but then we were running along, and he likes being bounced, so I was hopeful he’d have a big grin on his face as we crossed the finish line (his first!). Sure enough:

The LM Tri folks (RTB) put on a great post-race feast, and there’s a raffle for fabulous prizes, including a brand new bike! Unfortunately, we knew that Hal’s stamina for that much excitement could be limited, so we left right away, and headed to a delicious post-race meal at the Testy Chef. While we ate, Hal discovered the singular joy of spoon smashing:

I think that’s it for triathlons for this year. Although I had a great race, both Alida and I were exhausted the rest of the day, for which 8-month-olds have zero sympathy. That was followed by a rough night of almost zero sleep due to teething, so Sunday was pretty harsh as well. It’s going to be really fun seeing how much more Hal understands what’s going on at next year’s races, and hopefully, one day decides to race himself.

Results (overall):

swim: 39:58 / bike: 1:27:39 / run: 1:06:19

(distances: 1.5K / 40K / 10K)

total: 3:20:02

placed: 25/25 in my age group, 143/156 overall Olympic men

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This blog has laid dormant for quite a while, and with good reason: I went to college! Back in 2012, after completing my first Ironman, then the Bridger Ridge Run, and then the SuperTri, I followed up by jumping into the much longer, slower race of going back to school. I finally crossed the finish line at the UW this past June, graduating summa cum laude and with departmental honors in Environmental Science and Resource Management: Landscape Ecology and Conservation, with a minor in Urban Ecological Design. Phew! What a mouthful.

In any case, studying all-the-things-all-the-time meant I had steadily decreasing amounts of time for training, races, and race reports. Here’s a quick recap of what I believe I missed:

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One of the things I love about running long distances is the epiphanies I tend to get. I roll current worries and concerns, or past experiences around in my head and look at them from different perspectives, and sometimes a new truth is revealed. The other day I had two. The first is that “runpiphany” is a totally great word that should exist. The second was that enjoying being good at an activity, and enjoyment of the activity itself, can be two very different things.

I started playing trombone in 5th grade, and quickly found I had a knack for it. I kept it up all the way through high school, and branched out to the other low brass instruments of euphonium and tuba, played sousaphone in marching band, and bass trombone in jazz band. I hardly ever practiced, but was naturally good enough and could sight-read well enough that it usually didn’t matter. My parents even spent a couple years worth of tutoring money on private trombone lessons (I think in junior high?), because I was supposedly good enough to maybe have a shot at scholarship money or making a career of it. Once I was out of high school, I stopped playing.

It’s bugged me ever since that I spent seven years half-assedly working on a skill that I apparently didn’t have that much interest in after all. On my run the other day, I finally figured out how to reconcile it all. I enjoyed the social aspects of playing in a band, and the praise I received for being good at it, but I didn’t actually enjoy the activity itself. I liked it enough to reach that 80% of mastery threshold, but not enough for the last 20%. I was even first chair in the tuba for my last two years of high school, despite the other tuba player being WAY more dedicated and technically skilled. She practiced constantly. I’d always assumed that I kept first chair because I was just naturally better than she was, but now I’m wondering if the teacher was just sexist. That definitely would make more sense. Shit. Sorry MK.

I’ve found my plunge into triathlon and ultra running to be the total opposite experience. I do OK, but I’ve never won anything, or come anywhere even close, really. I’ve been pretty solidly mid-to-back-of-the-pack in every race I’ve ever done. I even came in dead last once. But I don’t care! I love the struggle, I love to push myself and see what I can do.

So now I’m enjoying the activity far more than my limited ability would warrant, and I feel like that’s the best combination. If I was naturally skilled, I wouldn’t struggle so much, and might get bored, which I think is why I stopped playing trombone after high school. Without the accolades and socialization, there wasn’t any point. I wish I could go back and tell that kid to find something he’s actually passionate about doing (hint hint: triathlon), but oh well. At least I can still read bass clef.

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Race Report – Ragnar NW Passage, ultra-style

Ragnar NW Passage, WA,  7/18 – 7/19, 2014

I’ve done Ragnar several years in a row now, and this year wanted to try it on an ultra team, fielding just 6 people instead of 12. This seemed like a great idea when I signed on in January, but the realities of full time school cut into my training so much that I didn’t have time to put the miles in. By the time Spring quarter was over, I only had 5 weeks left to put any serious training in, which is simply not enough time for the body to adapt. My longest run was 15 miles, on shoes that I realized too late were rather expired. I went into Ragnar with severely undertrained legs and a time-bomb hip, deluding myself into thinking I could run 34 miles in a 24hr window. Sometimes, I’m dumb.

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MyFitnessPal & Fitocracy

I’ve been playing with the MyFitnessPal (MFP) and Fitocracy apps for a little while now. MFP is a handy way to make me really conscious of where the calories in my diet are coming from. I especially like the barcode scanner, and the ability to make my own recipes. At the end of the day you can get an estimate for what the calorie-in/calorie-out math predicts you’d weigh in a few weeks if you kept it up, which is interesting, though I don’t yet know how accurate the prediction is. You can also link your app to your friends’ to see what they’re up to, activity and food-wise.

I’ve started using Fitocracy at the gym as an easy way to pre-load a set of exercises (many of which I’ve never tried before), and keep track of how much weight I use for each. Over time, this lets me track how I’m improving, which I’ve found to be a key motivator. Fitocracy has a ridiculous amount of exercises available, with text instructions for all and little videos of how to do many of them (form matters!). Right now they’re promoting the Rock’s new movie Hercules with some special routines the Rock supposedly used to get so ridiculously massive. I don’t have any desire to get that big, but I’ve tried the “Chest” and “Back” routines so far, and they are scorchers! It’s a fun way to mix it up at the gym, and variety is often heralded as the key to success. Keep the muscles from getting bored and they’ll keep right on improving!

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It’s all just practice

At first you might be practicing getting up a little early and going for a walk. You could practice drinking more water throughout the day, or only having 3 coffees instead of 5. You could practice going to bed a little earlier each night, so you get a full night’s sleep.

Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes habit. Once you’re in the habit of going for that morning walk, you could choose to bump up the difficulty and add in a block long jog here and there. Now you’re practicing running.

I find that just practicing isn’t enough motivation for me. I need a goal to shoot for. I can’t stand exercise, but training is awesome. Training means you have a training schedule, which you practice trying to stick to. Sometimes work interferes, or loved ones fall ill, and you have to shift your priorities, and thus, the schedule. That’s OK. Get back into the practice, keep the habit going, keep trying, keep improving.

The longer your practice a habit, the closer you get to achieving fluency, but you have to watch out for plateaus. Once the body adapts to a certain distance, or a certain pace, it will stop improving. Then it’s time to add in some hill sprints, or fartleks, or tempo runs, or strength training.

I used to be fluent in laziness, in telling myself that because could achieve all kinds of things, I didn’t need to bother trying to do so. The potential was all that mattered. This was obviously bullshit, but it was hard to tell while I was swimming in it.

Four years ago I started practicing 1-2 mile runs, and I built up from there. I feel that I’ve become fluent in setting slightly crazy but still achievable challenges for myself. I do more in a day now than I did in a week 10 years ago, and I’m happier and healthier than ever. I can’t wait to see where I’ll be in another decade. I bet that guy is pretty awesome.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Will Durant, summarizing Aristotle

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Training with Lance*

Lance: Speed up your turnover. Try to keep it around 90 rpm.

Me: And should I do that with or without drugs?

Lance: …

* based on a dream of Alida’s

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Race Report – Grand Columbian Super Tri

Grand Columbian Super Tri, Grand Coulee, WA – 09/15/2012

I’ve raced at this event twice before, first at the Olympic distance, then at the Half-Iron. At both of those races I felt things were fairly well organized, well run, and loved the scenery and the challenge of the course. Things went a little differently this time.

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Race Report: Bridger Ridge Run, part 2 – the pictures

This gallery contains 27 photos.

When I ran the Bridger last month, I wanted to take pictures, but feared dropping my phone down a crevasse. I took a little disposable/recyclable camera with me instead, and just hoped the pics would be at all usable. I … Continue reading

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Race Report: Mud & Chocolate Half Marathon

Mud & Chocolate Half Marathon, Sammamish, WA – August 19, 2012

I made a mistake back in July. I was excited by Alida’s running progress, and projected that her training plan would probably have her ready to for her first half marathon long before the planned “first race” (end of October). Plus, we were both having lots of fun running on trails while I got ready for Bridger. And hey, you know, CHOCOLATE.

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