Monday, April 26, 2010


When I first started with Chuckie last year, I told him I am “a Type B with Type A tendencies”.  His response was “Denial just ain’t a river in Egypt” (Mark Twain), which to this day, is still one of my favorite quotes.

But really, I’m not a total Type A, OCD triathlete.

Most of the aforementioned personality types dislike taper.  They scream of feeling slow, being (more) irritable, feelings of uneasiness, texting me “I f%^&kin hate taper”, bouncing off the walls , and everything of the like.  They may blog, tweet (I still don’t “get” all of twitter), or whatever it is that they do.

Me?  Whatever. I completely embrace the downtime.  Ever once in a while, I enjoy not having to spend nearly an entire weekend day on a bike followed by a run and being shelled for the rest of the day, or a week day trying to cram in two 1-1.5 hour workouts with work, consulting and a side of insanity.  Despite the world belonging to the energetic, I relish the opportunity of not needing LOADS of energy to get through everyday – both in the form of mental capacity, and calories (I love eating, but eating all the time does get annoying).

Seriously speaking though, as much “fun” as this stuff is, it’s a lot of work, and sometimes the work, like any kind of work, can be a bit much. 

One of the reasons why I love taper is that it has a tendency of getting me charged up.  Generally, I am not as tired as I can be during training.  I try to sleep – A LOT.  I try to incorporate an element of vacation with a race, which can put me at ease.  I can, simply put, try to relax after a few days of decompression (while wearing compression gear, of course).  In a recent Triathlete Magazine article, Tim DeBoom says “Don’t walk when you can drive, don’t stand when you can sit, and don’t sit when you can lie down.”  Rest assured, with the emphasis on rest, I will take those words to heart, because my heart will need it come race day (especially for this Ironman).

Taper also lets me take the edge off a little bit.  As training builds, so does fatigue, anticipation, the itch to race, and stress (as training is a stress).  Lately, I have been just kind of angry, a sign that my buddy Matt Simpson says, is the sign of needing to race.  Yesterday while riding my bike, and minding my own business, I was nearly run over by a car (a guy driving a convertible Toyota Solara no less [bitch]).  Rather than just giving a stare down while riding away - I UNLOADED on this guy.  If you could capture it as a soundtrack, it would have the "parental advisory explicit lyrics" sticker on it - a few times over.  Let me tell you - it was GREAT to finally unleash some fury onto some @$$hole driver.

While people think anger is a bad thing ("oh Denner, you're so angry") - I don't.  It is an energy, and so long as it is controlled and channeled in the right direction (as in, getting me towards the finish line as soon as possible), then it must be embraced.  Normally, the lack of inactivity does make me a little uneasy as it does others - but less in the form of the aforementioned actions, and more in the form of getting excited because the next hard workout I do is to actually RACE.

The experience of racing is why I make the sacrifices in my life. I know I said I love the big weekend stuff, but I don’t train just to train - I like racing big "A" races.  Yeah, we all do it for a million reasons, but unless we have a race as a target, then we’re just “going for a bike ride” - not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Sometimes though, going on a bike ride just seems like too much work because if I was going to do something fun, I certainly wouldn’t put training for a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride followed by a 26.2 mile run at the top of my list.

The work is done – now it’s time to have some fun.  The time, as it always is, is now.

ps- Merriam Webster defines taper as “gradual diminution of thickness, diameter, or width in an elongated object”. 

Get your mind out of the gutter.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Mount Laguna Classic Race Report

** It's hard to call this thing a race, but so it is... **

When AdventureCORPs first started advertising for the Mt Laguna Classic last fall, I was told that this had my name all over it.  103 miles, 10,000 ft of elevation, climbing Mt Laguna 3 times, etc – the normal epic weekend stuff (James, sorry if I steal your word too much - it’s just so damn fitting!).  At the time, I didn’t know if Chuckie would guiding me through my 2010 season yet, so I took the conservative approach when responding: “No way, too close to IMSG, I should be tapering by then”, but secretly, I wanted a piece.  Chuckie and I discussed it a few times, and his stance was simply “Do it”.  Taper what?!  Nonsense…

I finally got around to reading all the pre-race emails on Friday, and was shocked that they wanted all cyclists there at 5am for check in for a 6am start.  Mt Laguna is over an hour from where I live, so my first thought was simply “F that”.  After the initial shock, I realized that it was time to nut up!  330am it is for the alarm to go off!  It was a rude awakening for sure.

I started in the third wave at 6:20am, but before I started, I insisted on getting my picture taken with Bill Walton (yes, the famous basketball player)!!  At 6’11”, he undoubtedly towers over my 5’7” compact frame, and it was nothing but comedic standing next to him! 

Aside from being a famous hoops player, he has undoubtedly one of the coolest job titles with his position at AdventureCORPS: “Chairman of Good Times, Social Affairs, Customer Relations and All Things Fun”.  

I took off for this adventure, fully bundled up with it being 37 degrees out (!!!), but it wasn’t long before the layers started coming off.

A quick word about my favorite piece of training clothing: the Canari Element 1719. I love this thing!  I was at the Canari warehouse sale back in December, and saw this jacket as I was standing in line to check out.  It looked cool because it’s a jacket that had sleeves you could zip off.  I tried it on, and it fit perfectly. I love this thing for the functionality of 2 zips and it’s a vest or a jacket, but also because its windproof and highly water resistant (I have ridden in the wind and rain with it, and it really is exactly what it says).  Despite the 37 degree temps and wind from descending – my upper body was not cold at all.  If there is one piece of winter training gear that I couldn’t live without – it would be this - hands down.

Shortly after passing the first check point, I was down in the aero position, hammering along, and I look up and sure enough, Toby just happened to driving in the opposite direction, and in a split second, we recognized each other!  And this was at 6:45 in the morning out in east county!  He pulled a u-ey (sp?), and caught up to me, where we chatted a little bit.

Very cool to see him out there early in the morning!

At any rate, the gist of the course is that it takes you up Mt Laguna (peak elevation of 6000 ft) 3 different ways – Sunrise Highway, Kitchen Creek, and the little known Pine Creek (Noble Canyon to the Mountain Bikers out there).  Another cool part about this little jaunt is that there are ZERO stop lights, and 1 stop sign. 

Going up sunrise highway and kitchen creek were fun, but not terribly challenging.  Honestly, the first 75 miles aren’t much to write about: start, see toby, climb, eat, enjoy the views, descend, climb again, eat again, descend again.  This event is all about the third ascent up Mt Laguna – Pine (Pain) Creek.  Riders were forewarned of some 18%-24% grades, and that 20-40% of riders may have to walk.  You can bet that I had another “F that” response to that concept.

There was a 5 mile or so flat to rolling section, with some “warm up” 10% little “bumps”.  The 10% bumps eventually jumped to 10-15% bumps (dropping the little), and it wasn’t long before the 10-15% bumps became 16%-20+% little hills.  I ascended over a little bump, and was really charged up, because I know there was pain to be had.  I saw 2 cyclists stopped over the side of the road, and as I yelled something incoherent to the English language, I realized they were stopped because of a bad ass little bugger of a 20% grade hill that was greeting us.  I charged it, and saw my power numbers creep quickly into the 300, 350, 400, 450, and even 500W range!  I turned the corner, look up and saw this... (it doesn't do the justice... trust me)...

looked down at my HR, which was at 180 (VERY close to my max), and decided to just chill for a bit.  There was no way I was going to attack this quarter mile, 20+% hill going into it at Max HR, leading to a walk.  No way.  So, I stopped, gathered myself for a few, and charged it hard!  I got to the top of it, and was never so happy to see 14% on the next hill.  There were plenty more 20%ish, and even greater grades, to be had.  Basically, when you download the data – it looks like a bad ass 50 minute interval session:


Long before the race started, we were told that were some motivational quotes along the way up this hill, strategically placed when you would need them most.  My favorite sign, and just about my favorite part of the climb, was a quote by Emerson: “The world belongs to the energetic”.  I’ll let you philosophize if you wish – it certainly got my brain going (and ever since!) while pounding the pedals at 170 beats per minute.

I finally got to the main road, trudged up to the top of the mountain, grabbed some h20, and did my final descent back to Pine Valley park, where I had some killer post race grub – the best empanadas I’ve ever had!  I chatted it up with a few others, and headed back home where I took a diesel nap.  Total time was 6:26 (6:04 moving time)

This was definitely a great, challenging course that will be part of my future training rides, and the support was great too!  Chris Kostman (the owner of AdventureCORPS) is definitely a cool dude.  Maybe the best thing that I got out of doing this race was thinking about maybe doing the Furnace Creek 508 one day as a 2 person team.  Hhmm…

I knocked out a 2 hour run on Sunday with an easy spin to follow, and taper has officially started!  This week, I will be swimming my arms off...

Damn, is St George really only a few days away now… ?

Monday, April 05, 2010

Quader Pounder

For the second Monday in a row, I am walking with a limp because my quads are so thrashed from the weekend.  What’s different this week, is that when I went into last weekend’s training – I still have residual soreness from the 14 hours of training I had the weekend previous!  The 8 day span was all about soreness, quad pounding, and elevation.  While anyone who is anyone (which I am not!) was racing, killing (and winning!) Oceanside 70.3, and Sonja winning the Moab 100 (mile run), here is what went down in my little world:

27MAR: 106 mile, 8,000ft of elevation gain assault on North County.  Shitty T-Run to follow.

28MAR: The big dog hike.  We left my car at 730am, and returned at 3pm.  The hike was only supposed to be 5 hours, but the auto-resume function on my garmin didn’t, well, auto-resume sometimes, constantly making me underestimate our travels.  I would estimate 20 miles, and 6,000 ft of elevation gain.

I honestly felt fine through the hike, and even when I got home later.  However, when I woke up the next morning, I barely cleared the landing getting out of the bed.  MASSIVE DOMS.  When going down stairs for the next few days, it required one arm on the rail, and the other on the wall to slow the pace.  It was brutal!  Michelle made claims of feeling “broken” even mid week.  Co-workers gasped when I told them of the hike.  There was even residual quad soreness going into this past weekend!  The hike capped my biggest week ever at 24.5 hours.

2 days later, I did 10 repeats up Torrey pines.  Go hard, or stay home.

3APR: I was stoked for the workout: a 4 hour hike/run.  Spend apx 2 hours hiking, and 2 hours running.  I headed over to mission trails to basically get lost, and explore new trails.  4,000ft of quad busting elevation gain.  I have been massively slacking on the picture front lately, so I borrowed a camera to take some snaps:

Where it all started:

A little canopy to run through:

Running through the fields:

Having a little staredown with a coyote (for real!):

This part was actually pretty cool.  We kinda stared at each other for a little bit.  I decided that I might be outnumbered, so I took a step back to turn away, and he did the same.  I walked a minute in the other direction, then headed back towards him.  Fortunately, that was the last I saw of him.

Mountains on a california morning - tough to beat:

I made my way past North Fortuna, and was hiking up this hill, and was greeted with this view:

This might have been my favorite part of the hike/run (although its hard to say).  To crest a hill and see this in front of you ... it may sound kinda cheesy - but I felt so free.  I felt like a little kid running through the woods (where I spent most of my childhood) - which really, is exactly what I was doing at that time.  I haven't done an ultra run, but I felt like "I got it" as to why some do them when I laid my eyes on this.

The hike up Kumeyaay peak - canopy, and steep! (picture does not justice)

View of the valley from atop North Fortuna

Towards the end of my run, I passed a woman who was walking her dog.  Well, when I passed her, "Max" apparently wanted to run with a stranger more than walk with its master, so I had a friend for part of the workout.

Then a 2 hour easy spin to loosen (kill) the legs even more.

4APR: More quad poundage – Palomar repeats.  I started at the casino, and went straight to the top of the mountain.  I descended and did the south grade 2 more times before descending 4,500 ft back to my car. A solid 9,800ft of elevation in the bank. Some pics:

View from the Valley:

Above the clouds:

The final break before the cloudless descent...

... where I had so much fun!

Chuckie requested the usual “weekly report” on sunday and my response was simply: MY QUADS ARE THRASHED!

The training for the past few weeks has been stellar.  The weekend training has been incredible. I love weekend training that requires gathering the mental energy early in the week to get through it all.  I love the EPIC workouts.  I started writing a blog a few months ago on why I train (I obviously haven’t finished it), and I was ultimately getting to the point of I train because I love racing – big races.  But really, as much as I don’t want to say I live for the big weekend training – I kinda do.  I love the mental and physical preparation that goes into and comes out of them.  I love the grind, the pain, the adventure – the shit that just sounds crazy to most – but the stuff that makes me say life truly is great.