Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Is this thing on?


Obviously, I haven't blogged in some time.  It's not that I haven't had anything to say (believe me, I have), I just haven't gotten to doing it.  Unfortunately, it's a common theme when it comes to training too.  It ain't happening.

The past few months have been challenging to say the least.  Physically, I took time off of running and biking for fear that it would digress from what I was doing in Physical Therapy.  I was told by multiple people that that was a "good idea".  So, replace training (read: something I enjoy) with the stress of not being able to do so, the stress of wondering WTH is wrong with me (I never completely bought into "the theory"), and an increase of work stress led to me being one not-so-happy-little-camper.  To go from the epicness of RAAM to nothing was borderline depressing honestly (btw, this recent post was written completely sarcastic, if you didn't 'get' it).  Assuming that most (ie. 2 of the 3) of you who read this blog treat these athletic excursions as big things in your life, you can probably understand the situation sucked.  I mean, really sucked.

But enough of the public blogospherical wound licking.

The time off was actually good (good call, Evan) from a "big picture" perspective.  There were some life lessons to be learned, most of which were painful.  I have looked back over my season, and realized what worked (Chuckie),  what didn't (my lack of defined goals and motivation/inspiration), and what needs to be worked on (stretching, strength conditioning) - but, thats a topic for a different post.

Physical therapy is officially done after 24 sessions, and I am walking away feeling like it was a step in the right direction, but not the end-all-be-all.  ART was good, but had diminishing returns with successive appointments.  I did recently start acupuncture with a local guy who used to be a professional cyclist (gotta love doctors who "get it") and who has worked on numerous professional athletes.  The acupuncture actually includes electric stimulation (yes, electricity running through needles that are 3 inches deep!) to help with muscle firing.  Basically, I am surrounding myself with a group of advisors (See rule #2) to get me back to where I need to be - which is on the bike!  The acupuncture seems to be helping in a subtle, but hard to describe way.  One thing is for certain, it's hard not to fall asleep on that table!

One thing is certain though.  I have been gettin' fired up about training again after some time off and getting on the right path.  After watching Ironman Arizona and Jordan Rapp come back from massive adversity and Sonja run down her competition to win her AG - it lit a nice little fire under me.  That, and the fact that I should be in Cozumel this weekend ready to throw down, but I'm not. 

I'm getting fired up again, and it's a nice feeling, let me tell you!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.  We all have a lot to be thankful for!

Some recent pics:

Sunset during some night in August (I can't remember the significance, but it had to with the moonrise.  Toby, help!):



Moonrise over north county




The casino on Catalina island (Michelle ran the eco-marathon - gnarly course w/ 6,000ft of elevation gain!  I just, uh, watched, from the comfort of the beach sipping one of many bloody mary's from the weekend)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Columbus Day Weekend Road Trip

While the triathlon world was racing and spectating a little race on the big island, I had a pretty gnar road trip planned.

Thursday, Michelle and I left work early and drove up to the great town of Fresno.  While some would get excited knowing that the big fresno fair was happening while we were in town, I can assure you that wasn't the reason why we were there!

Fresno was the rest stop for spending the day in Yosemite National Park on Friday.  After spending my first time in Yosemite (only one day unfortunately), I will definitely say that this place lives up to the hype.  If I had to sum up the park with one word, it would be VAST.  I will definitely be going back sometime, for sure. Secondly, no pictures do the justice, but I will at least make an attempt:

El Capitan at sunrise


Vernal Falls


Nevada Falls from below

The view from atop Nevada Falls


Large rocks and Nevada Falls


Half Dome (which is now on "the list")

Royal Arches


Yosemite Valley (B+W) near sunset 



Saturday, we headed over to San Francisco for my buddy Jeff's wedding, where it was good to catch up with some buddies from college, and I may have had a few too many adult beverages.  Fortunately for you - no pictures from that!

Sunday, we took the 1/PCH from San Francisco down to Paso Robles.  If you've never done this drive - definitely put in on your "list".  This was my 3rd time, and it never gets old...



"Typical" View


Cliffs overlooking (lots of) ocean


A rare freshwater waterfall into the pacific



Towards the end of the drive, we stopped in Cambria for some more photo ops:

Cool "texture"


Sunset reflecting on a rock



More sunset on rock



Rays through the rocks



Water making an "ampitheatre" of sorts

Tracks

Sunset


In Paso Robles, we stopped at a rather familiar place for a little wine tasting as well.  Not as scenic as the above pics, but you get the point.  Last name bias aside, it was hands down the best tasting wine I've ever had!


25+ hours of driving 1,200 miles - definitely a solid weekend!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Injury Update: I'm effed up in 3D!

This whole diagnosis and physical therapy has been quite the process so far, let me tell you (which, I guess, is what I'm doing).  The cliff's notes version goes a little something like this:

My Rx for PT was "right leg ITBS", ironically, the opposite leg from a few months back, which immediately made me skeptical of my treatment.  I put some faith in those who do this for a living, and went along with it, but still remained a little reserved since I know what I feel, not them.

One morning in the middle of September, I woke up with a stiff right lower lumbar (the same problem area that has been haunting me for years), and rather than discomfort, I had absolute pain.  Like the pain where when you get to work at 7am (and I'm not talking about the pain associated with being at work at 7am), you realize you can't even work, and make a call to your doc at 7:01am and say "Whatever you prescribed isn't working."  Fortunately, "stress is the fertilizer for creativity", and I walked over to my gym, and (I quote myself here) "rolled the hell out of my right glute" with the black/hard foam roller (not that I like large hard cylindrical things near my glutes, but desperate times call for desperate measures I guess).  Why the foam rollers?  Not sure, just seemed like the best thing to do for some reason.  After 15 minutes of rolling out, where my perspective was "the more it hurts, the more I roll" (primarily in the piriformis and Gluteus Medius), I stood up, and 90% of my stiffness went away.

hhmmm... I'm onto something here.  I think ART is in order if the Foam Roller worked that good.

Fast forward to Monday, I walk into PT at 7am, and tell the director and my PT about my Friday crisis, and the session turns into a re-assessment.

Here's the theory:

Because training for endurance sports demands so much from my body, any inefficiencies or discrepancies are exacerbated through big training.  Because my right leg is shorter than my left leg, my body has compensated by anteriorly rolling my right pelvis down in the front, effectively "lengthening" my right leg.  Because the right anterior pelvis rotated down, the rear part rotated up, which is what causes feelings of pressure and compression in my right lower lumbar.  The below picture shows whats happening with just my right side:


(I don't know abnout you, but at a quick glance, the arrow almost makes the photo anatomically correct, except well, mine's not red ;)

On the other side of my pelvis, as another means of compensating, my left pelvis has rotated forward, but in a different direction.  If you were looking at me from above, my left pelvis has rotated from 9 o'clock, towards 12 o'clock (fortunately, it hasn't gotten that bad yet, or else I'd look really funny).

In other words, I'm effed up in 3D.

So what does all mean?  A LOT more PT, a lot of stretching, and a lot of me making sure I don't revert back to poor mechanics.  Once I feel comfortable (mentally anyways) with re-introducing biking and running (which is on-hold at the moment), I will make core and strength work (as in, a lot of what my rehab is) mandatory.  For right now, the only thing I'm focused on is getting better.

Also, I already have had 2 ART sessions, and let me tell you - this stuff is the REAL DEAL.  I know of numerous people getting ART who rave about it, but I was skeptical - more in the sense that I didnt want to get my hopes up.  No way - I'm sold now!  Some funny things to note:
  • I was told that rather than having knots in my muscles, I have golf balls
  • The doc was working on a "golf ball", and the only thing he could say is "Dude...."
  • I need so much work, that he has hurt his thumb both times so far (bragging rights, I say, and we laugh about it)
  • When I told him that when the foam roller just doesn't cut it, the lacrosse ball works wonders.  His response "that tells me a lot about the type of person you are".
While the above bullet points are comedic, the results are amazing.  For the first time in about 6 years, I have no feelings of pressure in my back on a day-to-day basis.

Progress

ps- To all those racing and watching Kona next Saturday, have fun!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Month off

In my month off, I certainly had some time to reflect, time to have fun, and had a lot of time in general.  If I was training for Cozumel, I would have felt guilty for enjoying the following activities, but since I wasn't, I enjoyed them that much more...

Tahoe for Jeff's Bachelor party

First time playing paintball, at 8,200 ft no less.  You can be out of breath by simply pulling the trigger, nevermind running over rocks in a full dickies style suit with a full face helmet, ducking for cover, and fighting for your life against your friends:




Vegas

The lady and I:


 Nick tried challenging me to an absolutely absurd contest:


I liked this picture when I took it, but after looking at it a second time, I like it more because it looks like I am taking a leak in the pool:




Food PORN

Food porn is not a stranger in the sub-culture that is endurance sports blogging.

I cooked one bomb-ass meal for my lady's (I almost put "ladies", oops) birthday a few weeks ago: grass fed steak (me: medium rare rib eye, her: rare filet), green beans and carrots sauteed in butter, olive oil, garlic and shallots, yukon gold potato puree with butter, cream and parmesean cheese, a side summer salad with this dressing (recommended!), and a bottle of Avalon Cab to wash it down.  It was freakin good.


Non-Specificity

I'm not in the picture, but this is where I work, and what I have been doing every other day during "lunch hour":



Mt. Laguna

Partly inspired by the recent piece in the NY Times piece called "unplugged", I did a solo camping trip a top Mt. Laguna to disconnect with society and technology to reconnect with mother nature (the "me" time was nice too, I will admit).  Naturally, my first time on my bike in a month was spent trolling around at 6,000ft (take that Boulder! and I'm glad your fires are under control), and it was great.

The setup - simple, yet effective.


A must for camping

I have never seen so many holes in one tree.  Woodpeckers paradise?  Target practice for hicks?  Gnarly producer of maple syrup?.  Shawn, any ideas?  Upon closer inspection were a number of acorns embedded in them.  Nuts in holes?  uh, I couldn't resist...


I love this picture, and the contrast it presents.  Standing at 6,000ft atop a pine tree covered mountain, I overlooked the Anza Borrego desert, many thousands of feet below me: 


Stomping grounds of the man...


The road through my rear view mirror (well, almost)...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Checking into Rehab

*Deep Breath*

This isn't something I've shared with (m)any people, let alone post this on the internet for the world to see (ie. a world of both of you).  There is an element of ease while writing this, as I don't have to look at anyone in the eye, and admit I have a problem.  But, that still doesn't mean this is easy.  It takes a real man (as opposed to a fake one) to admit he has a problem, and needs to seek professional help.

Finally, after way too long, I've checked myself into Rehab.

Life was simply becoming too much without it anymore.  I was constantly waking up miserable, and people around me said that I seemed on edge all the time (and of course, my reaction was "F#%k off").  "They don't know the pain I'm going through right now" I'd tell myself, and shun them off.  I'd get concerned looks, but I could care less.  For those that really cared, would ask me to talk about my problems.  "Talk about my problems?"  I'd think, "What, is that for guys don't eat salads who don't wear spandex?".  The lack of summer here in (coastal) San Diego was really depressing me.  I simply couldn't take it.

I needed a therapist, so I checked into Rehab United to set myself straight.

Physical therapy people - I miss riding my damn bike! (and running too)


Ok, enough drama (most of the above is not actually true).  Seriously speaking, I started physical therapy at Rehab United last week, and things are going as well as they could be after a week.  Apparently, the extremely tight hips I have may be causing the misalignment. We'll see in due time.  I am excited to be working with these people, as I've heard nothing but great things about them and what they do.

Also, as head coach, I decided it was time to get back to running and biking (screw that swimming crap for now!), and took my roadie out on the roads on Laguna mountain this past Saturday (more on that in a bit)!  It was freaking great.  All knee issues are no longer, and the endorphins were flowing.  One thing I certainly "learned" - I love riding my bike.  I'm sure you're thinking "Uh duh dude, you've done RAAM twice".  But seriously, even though I have nothing on the calendar, I definitely missed turning the pedals.  Very rarely in the past five years have I ridden a bike without training for something.  Now I do it for (gasp) fun!  I realized the other day that if there was one workout I enjoy the most, it's those 4-5 hour bike rides - especially when I'm FIT.  Assuming PT goes well, I should hopefully be only a few months away from ripping up the roads.

The time off was actually good for me (as Evan pointed out) mentally.  I was totally bummed about not being to do Cozumel, but admittedly, the break from rushing from bed-to-workout-to-work-to-workout-back-to-work-then-maybe-to-a-3rd-workout was certainly welcomed.

I'm refreshed and STOKED!

ps- Chuckie V has finally been updating his blog.  I don't know about you, but there is a sense of calmness and "all that is right with the world" when he graces us with his words.

pps- Thanks for all the positives comments from my last blog post.

ppps- good little jam right here:

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Shutting it down

Warning!  Not a fun post.

I will be taking a little break from training & racing.

Back when I was dealing with my knee issues in May & June, CV mentioned that I should check into any Leg Length Discrepancies (LLD) to see if that is part of the cause for the ITBS.  It was a good idea, and the research I did mentioned that an LLD can cause ITBS, and low back discomfort - which I have had for about 7 years.  It made me think that I should look at fixing any issues on a macro level, rather than just one area (ie. knee, or hips).  This might have been the reason (or maybe the cause) as to why I have had this "pelvic twist" "issue" for years, which is what I went to PT for a few years back.  Ultimately, I became focused on finding out the root cause for this misalignment for the main reasons of reducing the risk of injury long term, along with not having to deal with back discomfort on a day to day basis.

Finally, after RAAM, I started the investigation into the LLD thing, and I had 2 x-ray Rx's from 2 different doctors (long story).  I figured an LLD x-ray Rx from one doctor would be the same as an LLD x-ray Rx from another doctor, right?  Wrong.

Well, after speaking with both doctor's, I have two doctors who think they can help, one doctor who thinks the other is incompetent, an LLD that is at least .25", but maybe more, an argument as to why .25" is both significant and insignificant, no answer to the root cause of my problem, a combination of things that may make up a solution that might work, a boatload more confusion, and a frustration level that is so high, I have almost grown numb to it.

I can't kick off the wall in the pool without feeling discomfort in my back.  I can't swim a stroke with my left arm without feeling discomfort in my left shoulder.  I can't bike because I developed chondromalacia during RAAM.  I can run, but I run scared because I am not sure if my ITBS / Bursitis is still "there".  It doesn't hurt fortunately, but I can also tell something isn't right.

I am in no shape to start training for an Ironman again.  "Wait, what?"  Yeah, well, after IMSG, I believed in myself and my abilities to qualify for the big dance, and CV agreed.  With me aging up next year to M3034, there is no way I want to compete with the likes of these guys for a slot, so I said that the goal should be to qualify this year, not to mention, I was fired up and motivated.  With all North America Ironman's being sold out (shocker), the only one left in the western hemisphere was Ironman Cozumel.  My good buddy Greg also signed up for IM Cozumel because he was so inspired by watching all of us at IMSG.  I was stoked - finally, someone to train with!  So, during the early parts of finding out I had ITBS, CV and I figured I had the standard run-of-the-mill nothing-special ITBS, that I would recover soon, and after a little post-RAAM recovery, I'd be ready to rock it in prep for Cozumel, so I dropped the six hundo on registration, only to have all of this backfire.

So, I am shutting the swim, bike, run stuff down for a while, and am devoting 100% of my energies towards finding out the root cause(s) of these issue(s) I have.  Honestly, I think once we figure out the root cause of the hip misalignment - I think everything else will fall into place - literally, and figuratively.  Unfortunately, this isn't going to be easy, fast, or probably cheap, I'm certain.  Ultimately, I just want someone to tell me the root cause of why I am misaligned (muscle imbalance? LLD? muscle tightness? skeletal something?) and put me on a path to fixing it long term.  Simple, not easy.

Suggestions, especially from those in San Diego, are certainly welcome.

ps- ART is a (strong) possibility, and I don't believe in chiropractic care being a long term solution.

Friday, July 09, 2010

60 minute FTP

The weekend after RAAM, I enlisted the help of one of my RAAM teammates, Andrew Danly, to join me for a fun, little 60 minute FTP test (read: 60 minute all out) around Fiesta (Feces) Island.  Andrew is about the only one crazy to join me for such a suffer one week after finishing RAAM, so it was only natural to ask him (and him only).  Andrew is also stronger than me on the bike (since he doesn't "waste" his time swimming or running), so sometimes it would help to know that one tenacious cyclist was sucking wheel, or that sometimes he would jump out in front to give me a carrot to chase.  Chuckie also mentioned "Just have him yell like a mother-f&%ker, doing whatever it takes to motivate you. If silence works best, that'll do too. Music is my motor. White Zombie is always worth 10 watts."  Noted.

The main driver for this nonsense was to get some post-RAAM data (Yes, I'm a nerd), share war stories from the week, and maybe to annihilate some unsuspecting bikers on the island.  I was in total cyclist henchman mode - not a triathlete for the morning (and annihilate bikers, we did).

I have never done a 60 minute all out effort like this before, so I setup a playlist to keep me amped the entire way.  Here's what it was, in order (I'm sure my boy Rob will appreciate half of these):
  • Justice - D.A.N.C.E.
  • Matisyahu w/ Crystal Method: Drown in the now
  • Justice - DVNO
  • DMX - Up in here
  • Eminem - Run Rabbit Run
  • Mgmt - Kids
  • Eminem - till I collapse
  • Justice - Genesis
  • Redman - Let's get dirty
  • The Darkness - Givin Up
  • TV on the radio - wolf like me
  • Outkast - Bombs over baghdad
  • White Zombie - More Human than Human
  • Rob Zombie - Dragula

I also figured since I was going to go as hard as I could go, I might as go as fast as I can go, and opted for the skinsuit, aero helmet, and left the 404 on the front.

I got in a warm up that, in hindsight, wasn't long enough, and then started the test.  About 10 minutes in, I realized that I was going too hard (~178HR), and my lungs were absolutely on fire.  Knowing I had 50 minutes left, I backed off a bit, and learned that there is such a huge difference between 171 and 174HR for me.  About 25 minutes in, I fell into a rhythm, and settled in around ~175HR, and steadily increased to about 181 towards the end of the test.  It's funny how 178 can be gut wrenching at one point, then 30-40 minutes later, 178 feels "good". With this being my first FTP, I think my pacing could certainly be better, and will be noted for next time.  The only other issue with the test is the motorhome who was in front of me taking up the entire road, which made me stop pedaling for a little bit, as you can see in the nerd pic below:



At any rate, the final data was:
  • 26.1 mph (Avg)
  • 87 rpm (Avg)
  • 177HR (Avg; my max is ~185HR, but I don't place much stock in a max HR)
  • 258W (Avg)
  • 259W (normalized)
At 150 lbs, the magical W/Kg ratio is 3.79.

So, what does this all mean?

Not sure really, since I don't have much to compare it to since I have never done a 60 min FTP on a flat course.  Does that put me in the stud category with Evan?  Could I power all the electronics in my living room to watch le tour in full surround sound?  Is there any correlation with 3.79 W/Kg and those AG'ers who qualify for Kona?  I do know that its a slightly higher than Marty Taylor, so I'll take it!

I did do a time trial up Palomar's East Grade the week before RAAM last year, and had the following numbers:
  • 11.1 miles (~5%)
  • 296W
  • 51m33s (to the fire station)
  • 177HR
I know that someone is generally going to put out more watts going uphill rather than on a flat, so it's hard to compare the McIntosh apples (my favorite) to Valencia Oranges.

Andrew brought along his flip video thing, as he normally does, and took some footage.  I asked him to send it to me, but he took it upon himself to make a video from prior footage as well.  Probably my favorite part is the beginning, where I am barreling around out of an SUV, stumbling around like I just finished racing my bike across the country (b/c I just did):


As an aside, check out Andrew's Blog for his write up on RAAM.  He has a very interesting perspective on the race with a unique writing style, and goes into much more detail than I.  His post might take me 5-10 minutes to read, but it's very good, and his last one had me laughing in tears, talking about the name of our truck in RAAM being DH1 - as in, Dildo Holster 1.  Ass.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Post Race Stuff

I just wrote thousands of words (about 8 grand) to describe the Race Across America from my perspective.  Sometimes those words come easy, and sometimes I know that whatever I type, it simply doesn't do the justice.  I wish that everyone could experience something like RAAM. It's just so frekkin cool!

Everyone has asked me how it compared to last year.  It's hard to say - last year was my first year, and everything was new.  This year, I tried to improve upon what I did last year, and I also rode a different shift, despite their being overlap between my shift this year, and my shift last year.  This year meant more in a way because of the challenges I had just getting to the start line, and the challenges we had during the race with Tobias.  But also too, I knew that I gave it my absolute all this year, mentally and physically, and had more fun in a way because I knew I wanted to enjoy & document it a little more.

Was it a success?

We were faster this year, by a whole .01mph / 44 minutes.  At first, this is a little disappointing since we were a much stronger team than last year.  But, it was a different course this year, arguably more challenging because we stayed in Colorado for some more climbing, as opposed to dropping down into New Mexico.  Although staying in CO is less miles to travel south to NM, RAAM also added a 50 mile stretch in AZ that wasn't there last year.

Also, even though TT1 beat us, they beat us by less this year, 4h15m, as opposed to 7h last year.

Then there is the minutia of comparing time station data from 2009 and 2010.

When Tobias was feeling good, all I know is that TT1 and us held each other to within a few minutes.  Sometimes we beat them, sometimes we beat them, but it was never by more than 5 minutes.

Team4Mil

Like I said before, it was great having Team4Mil so close for the first third of the race.  This brought a nice element of actual racing that was a lot of fun.  Their team captain was interviewed by the durango herald, and he said this:

"We were doing a fine job," he said. "We were right on the verge of catching the second-place team, and we were probably 45 minutes from catching the first-place team, which previously set a course record."

Yes, 4Mil was definitely doing a fine job, but there wasn't a chance in hell that they would have caught us, or TT1 (Even James Stout from TT1 thought the same).  When J&A handed off to us in AZ, we had a 3 minute lead, and when Tobias and I were done, we put 15 minutes into them.  Larry & Kevin, then Brad &John continued to do the same.  But that's OK, because I like it when people talk trash through the web, just as TT1 did a few times.

Communication

Communication during RAAM is comedic.  Andrew and I would text about shift changes sometimes.  At a shift exchange, sometimes we would converse, sometimes we wouldn't.  Then, Tobias and I would talk through Dave when on shift.  When we should do a shift exchange with Larry & Kevin, again, sometimes we would talk, sometimes we wouldn't.  Then with Brad & John, we conversed more via facebook than anything.  Hell, when we parted ways in O'side, we said "See ya in Annapolis" because that's really the next time we would!

Numbers

3005 miles
100,000+ ft of elevation gain
54 time stations
Apx. 700,000 pedal strokes
12 states
7GB worth of pics and videos
Lifetime of memories

Course Profile

Ever wondered what the course profile is for RAAM?


Recovery

The race is basically 5.5 days / 400 miles of threshold work for me (A "crash" block in Joe Friel speak).  My legs felt like they could have pedaled through a brick wall about 3 days after the race - bulletproof.  It's a great feeling let me tell you!  Recovery is actually very easy - just sleep as much as possible for as long as it takes.

Swimming?

Back when my knee was acting up, I wasn't cycling everyday, and I sure wasn't running.  So, to get some exercise, I was swimming quite a bit.  Chuckie (half jokingly) called me "the fastest swimmer ever to do RAAM", telling me that no one shows up to Le Tour bragging about 10K swim weeks!  We laughed at it then, I still laugh at it now.

The Team

We had a great team this year, all of whom have bios here.  They are:

Jeremy "Toro" Gustin
Andrew "Metal" Danly
Tobias "Turbo" Panek
Me
Larry "The Godfather" Bice
Kevin "Quasimoto" Hunter
John "Tynee" Tyner
Brad "Gorilla" Exmeyer

I can't thank these guys enough for being my teammates.  A big thanks goes to Kevin for giving me the final push to be "in" for this, and for having my back when my knee was troublesome.

The Crew

Without our incredible crew (funny bios) none of these would be remotely possible.  A big thanks to Dave our driver.

Finally

Talking about RAAM, especially with those who have done it this year and last, never gets old.

Would I do it again?  If we could ride to win, WITHOUT A DOUBT.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The finish line

Although the race ends at the dock, all racers must stop at a shell station to get an escort from an official.  I had about 4 hours to kill between our last shift and the escort, so I checked into the hotel, showered, continued not shaving for an entire week, got some food, and went over.

My tank was seriously emptied.  I half jokingly said that if the car goes over 15mph, I would get dropped!  It was all small chain ring soft pedaling for the 4.2 miles to the dock.

Officially at the finish line:


Cyclists making fun of a triathlete and an aerobar water bottle holder:



Like I said - "The only thing that is less spectacular than the start is the finish."  You be the judge:

Starting line crowd:


Finish line crowd - our crew:


There's no cheering fans, no stadium seating, none of that.  Again, its the anti-Ironman / triathlon, and I kinda like that.  There's a few race officials, your team's crew, and maybe a few random people walking around.



For us, it was a little different since Team4Mil, who dropped out of the race because one of their crew members fell asleep driving their RV and crew/riders sustained injuries, came to watch us finish.  I thought this was really cool because we were neck and neck for a about the first third of the race.  We all shook hands, and it was great to see them.

However, it wasn't all cool.  When teams finish, they stand up on stage, say a few things, get medals, and then leave the stage.  RAAM wanted Team4Mil to get up on stage with us, and their team captain had the mic, and said some things.  Some of the things he said were good, things like "spirit of competition" and such, and how they look forward to racing against us next year. 


But you know what, get off the stage.  Give us our 10 minutes of glory on our own stage, and maybe address us from below, or when we are off stage.  Don't steal our thunder.  But, more on this in the next post.

We were all a little like "huh?", but got over it pretty quickly, signed the RAAM banner, and went back to the hotel to take the stickers off the trucks!  Yeah, there is no glamour after finishing RAAM - back to work!  We all hung out drinking beers, cleaning up the trucks (some more than others), finally got some food and drank more beers, then I passed out for a while. I got up later, got more food and drank more beers, and finally passed out for good. Let me tell you - post-RAAM sleep is hands down the best sleep anyone could get!

This cheer took lots of energy, trust me:



The next post is the final one (finally)...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Shift #7: WV/MD Border to just past Gettysburg

After we handed it off to Larry and Kevin, we headed east through West Virginia, and stayed just over the border in Hancock, Maryland. We checked into our hotel at about 2pm to rest up for our final shift at 11pm EDT. This was essentially the calm before the storm.

I didn't sleep much, but I did rest a lot. In the 4 hours before the shift, I put down two plates of brown rice pasta dishes I brought to top off the tanks and be ready for battle. We met A&J promptly at 11, and Tobias took the first pull. It was now officially time to empty the tank.

Jeremy and Andrew, our fastest guys and best climbers, opted to help us out on this one hill we were on, each doing an additional pull after their 5 hour shift was finished. I felt like I wanted to pay it forward to Larry and Kevin, but didn't want to make that public in the event that I couldn't.

The shift was generally fun since it was at night, and I felt like I was climbing much better than I was doing on the flats. The flats just HURT, whereas I had no problem taking a 700ft climb in the middle of the shift. Michelle and Desi joined us for part of our shift, and as much as you are sick of seeing pictures of me riding, I am posting this one to remind Dave and Michelle that they almost got themselves killed taking it!


Most of this shift was flat, and I revisited something on this shift that I did "randomly" last year, and on Ohio.  As I was cranking along on the flats, everything just hurt, but I refused to let up the pace/effort.  I eventually "boiled over" and just screamed - out in the middle of nowhere, at no one. I ended up asking Wei about it after the race, if he ever just heard me yell.  He said Yeah, and the FV always wondered what was going on with me.  "Pain - get ready for it next year" I told him.

As time went on, we went through gettysburg, and sunlight started to show towards the end of our shift at 4am. Tobias did a long pull as his last one, and while I was waiting, Larry and Kevin drove by, saying they were going to meet us up the road.

I had been pacing myself accordingly throughout the shift to have the tank completely empty, and I knew I had one last pull to end my RAAM, possibly forever. I asked Larry to only go 2 miles up the road, but by that time, they were already 4 miles up. I know I had to dig, since this 4 mile pull was going to hurt like no other.

TIME TO EMPTY THE TANK. 

Tobias got to the intersection, gave some words of encouragement, and off I went. Oh, it hurt so bad, but felt so good. When you are hurting this bad, everything hurts, and after every pedal stroke, you are just praying that you will see their car around the next corner. Finally, I saw their blinking lights, and completely unleashed everything I had. I came roaring up to their car at about 32mph, and because night exchanges have to happen in the headlights of a car, immediately slammed on the brakes. It took me about 30 seconds of heavy breathing and not moving before I could even swing the leg over the bike and walk it back , and I knew there was no way I could help them out in their shift.

I had finally done something everyone talks about, and something I have never done - completely emptied the tank. I didn't have one more pedal stroke in me at that time. It was a great feeling to know that I gave it MY ALL, and that I have NOTHING left to give. I got in our truck, and we headed towards Annapolis for the finish line escort.  The work was done.

Shift #6: Ohio

The drive from MO to OH was kind of a blur, I don't remember anything significant happening during the ride.  All I knew was that I was really tired, and that we were driving to OH, so I tried to get a lot of shut eye in the back of the truck.  If I remember correctly, I think I did a good job in doing so (can ya tell fatigue was settling in?).  I was kind of excited because our next shift in OH was from 2am - 7am and I dig riding at night.  Honestly, I don't remember where we stayed in OH, or much about the hotel.  We were approaching the final stretch, and just like last year, things started getting blurry.

The first few hours were fairly uneventful (I think), with rolling hills, and dropping temperatures.

As the sun was starting to come up, it was revealing the layers of fog that we could only see with the FV headlights.  This was a pretty cool part of the shift because it was a flat to rolling "course", and you would go in and out of the fog banks.  Really neat stuff.  This pic doesn't do proper justice, but trust me, rolling through a fog bank with nothing but the FV headlights, and the slightest of glows from the sun is pretty cool!



The shift was kind of fun , and it was a shift I was looking forward to because of riding at sunrise.  Last year, I looked forward to the "sunrise shift" because while a lot of people were hitting their snooze bars and wondering how many cups of coffee they were gonna need to wake up, I was riding my bike in the Race Across America. Bad ass.  This is the stuff that keeps me ticking, but that is a whole other post by itself.

About 90 minutes later, Dave snapped this great picture of Tobias and I right after an exchange.


With the sun right over the horizon, I looked over just in time to catch it there and started thinking about how lucky I am in life to have the abilities and opportunities to do this.   Few people are blessed with the physical and mental abilities to do this, along with the external support from sponsors.  My good friend, and arguably one of the coolest dudes on the planet, Homa, told me before the race to enjoy this once in a lifetime experience.  He then corrected himself: twice in a lifetime.  It is seriously times like this where I feel life is being lived.  I am truly lucky.

I got in the truck, and Dave and I drove about half a mile, and HAD to stop over to take this pic:



One exchange hour later - still lovin:


A little bit, those deep, philosophical thoughts were wiped away with reality, and it might have been one of the funniest parts of the race.

There was a detour from the route book, and a lot of confusion.  Long story short, I just did a 5 mile pull, Tobias & the FV got lost, and 2 minutes later, I was put back on course so we didn't lose any time.  As I approached a small hill, off to the left I started hearing dogs bark.  I didn't think much of it because even if the dogs weren't on a leash, this person had a huge yard, and there was no way they were going to catch me. 

What I didn't realize is that a little hill was blocking my view because when I crested, there was a pitbull coming at me in an ALL OUT SPRINT barking ferociously.  Let me tell you I dropped the proverbial hammer like my life depended on it, because I think it did!  I would have loved to have a power meter on the bike to see how many times over my power multiplied. 

Right before he got to the road, the dog slammed on his brakes so hard that he actually kicked dirt into the road. It was surprising that he stopped so sudden (but maybe b/c he know he didn't have a chance catching me ;)  I looked back at the FV, and was all smiles and laughing at this situation.  I later learned that the FV actually swerved towards the dog (protect the rider at all costs) - thank god!!!  I crested the hill nearly in tears from laughing, and when Dave picked me up, he was like "Uh, why were you laughing so hard?!"

I told Dave to put Tobias out there for 6-7 miles since he was close to feeling 100%, and I was starting to get pretty cooked.  Well, when we went to pick him up at about mile 7, I looked at my bike to get on it, and SOB, I had my 4th flat (3rd on the rear).  F!  I realized this as Tobias was closing in at 200 yards at about 25mph, so I had to tell him to keep going.  Honestly, I didn't feel bad because I had shouldered the load for the past 3 shifts, and he had arguably the freshest legs in the damn race!

The rest of the shift was all about digging deep to hand off to Larry and Kevin so that they could continue our fast pace through Ohio (despite a few navigational miscues).