Monday, September 26, 2011

Motivation - Kona and beyond

Heading into any race it is important to know what you are racing for.  For Canada, I wasn't really racing for anything except to have fun, and it showed.  For Kona, its a bit of a different story and brings my life full circle to setting and achieving goals, while getting back to what makes me truly happy.

Lets go back over 15 years to my last year in Track and Field.  Having a very promising Junior year, my season was looking great and pushing for a trip to a regional or state qualifier.  In retrospect, I let some things distract me from that goal, be it drinking, or other things.  Typical for a High School kid, but a trend that started non the less. 

College basketball fell in line with this attitude.  Working hard, but not making the sacrifices to be great.  Lucky for me, I did well in school and didn't squander a great college experience in multiple ways.

Heading into the real world, athletics took a back seat.  There was always "tomorrow" to get back to my old self. Shedding the 5-10 pounds I thought was hanging off me.  All the sudden, the 5-10 pounds turned into 40!  What the hell did I do to myself?  Work and personal life can give you a great number of excuses to not take care of your body, but this was out of control.  My own intervention was in order.  Luckily I have the Dad I do to help right the ship.  Once I had even a slight interest of getting into shape he was on it and registering me for an Escape From Alcatraz clinic and race that coming year.  That was the major wake up call.  Even in my own head I thought I could shape up in a few months and breeze through the race, but real life doesn't let you do that.  After the longest three and a half hours of my life, hurting back and pride, it was time for change.

My journey back to fitness has been one of sacrifice over the past six years.  Quitting a few bad habits, some I'm still embarrassed to post publicly, and learning to live a healthy lifestyle were starts, but in the process of wanting to be great at something, extra effort was needed.   Some might see this as self aggrandizing, and I can't argue with them, but all too often people reeeeeeeeeeeeeally want to do something, but fall short and then turn around and blame someone or something else for a shortfall.  That was a pitfall of mine in a few instances.  Not now.  I hope to help people see what is necessary to accomplish what you set out for, be it work or personal gain.  Do I need to go to this "Happy Hour" on a Wednesday, is it necessary to close out a bar to have fun?  These are the questions I faced over recent years.  Many people didn't understand some of my choices, even some of my tri-friends, but how often do you get the chance to do something great in your life though.  For many, something as trivial as Ironman doesn't qualify as "Great".  That's fine, but there isn't anything about that opinion that should keep me from trying.

The driving force is now wanting to inspire others and give back to those who supported me.  I have family members, friends and co-workers I would love to see get out and get fit.  They all can see how I push myself for my training, and if that inspires them to get out for a run, then that makes me happy.  When people show interest in improving and ask for advice, that makes me happy and I'll try my best to help.  Watching others attempt the same transformation makes me lifts my heart too.  Its easy to say that triathlon makes me happy.

My life has come together to support this as well.  An incredible girlfriend who isn't a triathlete, but shares the value of fitness (she rescued me when my I broke a spoke this weekend in the middle of nowhere, now that's love).  My loving family and friends who understand me and have obsessions the same way I do.  A great job and employer that allows the flexibility to accomplish my work, and train as needed.  Coaches that take the time to understand me and know my motivations (M2 and runcoach).  It takes time and effort to find the people and place in the world that allows you to be your real self.  Finding a way to repay these relationships is a priority, but difficult for a time crunched young professional.

Kona for me is about finishing what I started 6 years ago.  It wasn't my goal then, but it became it as I realized the potential left from a reformed ability.  I was given a second chance at my athletic youth (some call it being a man-child) and it will not go wasted this time.  Paying back my work relationship is easy, I get to be Iron Kitty!  Giving some free advertising along the way.  My friends, family and girlfriend are a bit tricky.  Lost time can never come back, but making the sacrifices when you can, goes a long way to letting them know you care.  I'm in arrears on that front, but hopefully that is what the holidays are all about.

Stepping into the water at Dig-Me beach, I know what I'm racing for and what got me there.  Thankful isn't enough to say for the love and support given to me over the past few years, so lets just say I'm honored to be able to race on the greatest venue for everyone who has been there to help me out along the way.

Wish me luck and I'll be thinking of everyone over these last two weeks.  Can't wait for round 2 of the Miller family reunion in Kona!


Friday, September 9, 2011

Ironman Canada Race Report

Heading up to Canada was a trip of many uncertainties.  The last month of training was filled with some serious intensity, but no real "long" workouts that leave you crushed.  My race/personal schedule over July limited my uber-training days, but I felt the consistency and full year buildup had me where I needed to be to either go hard in this race, or just have "fun".

There were two sets of goals for this race.  #1 would be to get another podium.  If something goes wrong or if its just not the day #2 Not get hurt and have fun.

Heading up to Penticton, BC on Wednesday was a great idea.  A group of friends and I rented a house within a mile of the start and it was just a perfect setup.  Easy runs to the Peach to swim in Lake Okananagan.  Mellow rides south to Lake Skaha.  It just made for a great atmosphere around the entire race and very relaxed because we could come and go as we pleased to take care of all the race things like packet pickup, bike check, etc.

Of course there was an Underpants Run, unofficially sponsored by Sanrio and Hello Kitty again.

A highlight of the week came when an SF friend, Brianna, decided to have a "Tweetup" to gather all the people from online that use twitter to form a bit of a social training circle around Ironman Canada.  The amazing thing was that @ironmancanada himself, Ron Zalko, the founder of IM Canada, showed up.  He was a great guy and really appreciated Brianna, and every one's support of the race online.  Every time we'd run into Ron around town he took a few minutes to talk with us which was awesome!

My parents showed up Friday and we hung out most of Saturday, just making sure all the last second ends were tied up.  Turns out my Joule 2.0 is missing/stolen from my luggage on the way.  Luckily my Garmin 310XT was a suitable replacement, but had to go find the quick release setup for my bike.  Bike Barn to the rescue!  Their mini-expo was probably better than Ironman's.  Dinner with my parents and Scottsdale friends up for the race and then try to go to sleep.


Fellow Kona qualifier from Tri-Scottsdale, Erica
Up at 3:30 per my IM standard now.  Amusing to see M2 sleeping on the couch.  Our coach made a last minute decision to cheer us on where he's won two times.  Should have gotten a pic, damn.  Usual breakfast and off to the start by 5:30.  With just shy of 3,000 people showing up for this race, the crowds were spectacular.  Get into transition, check bike, load it up with last second nutrition and find my parents who are volunteering.  It was great to have them in there, behind the scenes.  Made for a calming and entertaining wait for the swim.

Wetsuit on, Steve King on the PA, and over to the swim start!

Lining up with Faith, well, a few rows back from Faith, she's WAY too fast, we take the inside line to the right of the buoys.  The countdown goes down and we're off!  Walking a few steps since its waist deep, and getting enough room to actually swim from the people in front of me.  Probably should have been a few more people deep because got hammered a few times.  Aside from some bunching and others stopping to freak out, wasn't too bad until I get hit in the goggles.  Took a minute to make sure everything was alright.  Breast stroked for about 30 seconds, then back at it.  About half way through the first straight and I make my way left to the buoy line and settle in with the crowd.  Not really pushing, but I keep losing feet in traffic.  Not good drafting on my part.  Someone kept smacking my feet though which was annoying, so a few times had to kick really big to get them to back off.  The one lap course was nice because only two turns and crowds, but got a bit boring.  Everyone behaved themselves at the turns too, then the long run back home.  Wasn't sighting very well, but had some feet to follow so I wasn't too worried.  Hopefully they were doing a good job, but my effort was much less as a result.  Coming into the finish you can see the bottom which was really fun because with all the bodies causing a current it looked like you were swimming fast as the lake floor went flying by.  Not a bad swim, but not a good one.  1:09 total, but some faster swimmers said it was slow overall which made me feel better after.

Swim: 1:09:43

On to the bike and the unveiling of Iron Kitty!  Was ready to go out and crush it on the bike after a lackluster swim.  Heading out of town was amazing with people lining the street for the first few miles.  A bit crowded as expected

Cruising through the first 40 miles was great.  Looking to find some partners to legally draft, but no luck as my slower swim left me chasing through traffic to make up time.  There were a lot of draft marshals out as well, so probably a good thing to stay completely clean riding.  Not pressing too hard and hitting a good 250 average watts, only spiking effort heading over the small speed bump hill at mile 10.  Getting to base of Richter and its a sight!  I didn't get a chance to recon this section, but everyone said its nothing to worry about, just keep your effort controlled and be ready for the 7 bitches (rollers) on the other side.  Watts were bouncing from 270 to 300 all the way up.  Getting passed by a few people, but then reeling them in when the hill flattened out.  So great having the power meter as it kept me honest and on a consistent effort even when the hill let up.

Cresting the climb and ready for some fun in a massive descent!  The race starts here is what everyone says and I'm ready for the rollers.  My approach (advice from M2) was to keep a steady effort, spinning up each roller, using all the gears I had to, and to resist mashing up and over.  This would keep enough energy to continue accelerating over the crest and keep my power consistent even during the short descents.  Worked out great!  I got passed by the same 4 people heading up each hill, then re-pass them either at the top, or through the next trough.  Finally when we got out of the rollers, all were left behind me as my legs were still intact, even while we finished the rollers in about the same amount of time.

Slight redesign necessary
On to the out and back and special needs.  Started passing the people I wanted to, and picking off Pro women at this point as well.  Getting to my Special Needs bag and they have it ready.  One problem though, my secret frozen weapon, was still frozen!  The towels around my frozen Perpetuum and Gatorade didn't thaw out in time, which left me slamming the bottles into the ground to break them apart.  Was a crazy sight!  Finally a volunteer came running up with their water that was nearly boiling from being out tin the sun and loosened up the towels so I could get the bottles out.  All in all, I lost 3 minutes.  Eh, not too big a deal since I wasn't racing for Kona, just personal goals, but that would come back to bite me.

Heading up Yellow Lake it was getting hot and the headwind was picking up too!  Much more sparse on the race course, and no more annoying draft marshals to worry about (was glad there were a lot out, but still puts you on edge that you inadvertently did something wrong).  The long slow climb was a great sight, lots of people made the trek out to watch and cheer you on.  Still controlling my effort, but losing time to my ideal bike split.  For the last push up the mountain I picked it up slightly, but not mashing.  I just wanted it to be over with.  Taking the top of the hill and looking down through the valley we would descend and you are in awe.  Such a beautiful sight.  Heading down the hill was not easy task though.  Headwind, downhill, and deep wheels makes high speeds interesting.  Over the next 12 miles there are some steeps and gradual descents.  The steeps get you up over 40 mph, and the rest, if you are brave, you can take in aero at around 35 mph.  Winds were playing tricks with my front wheel, so I played it a bit safe.  I got this far, no need for any heroics that could bring the rest of my season down for 30 seconds.  Coming down to Lake Skaha and the final 10 miles was a relief.  This wasn't the hardest thing I've ever done, but with over 5,000 feet of elevation, stiff headwinds, and rising temperatures, this course was a beast!  Letting up a bit once I got into town seemed like an eternity with a stiff headwind, but the crowd was alive cheering on the Pro's on their way out, and cyclist coming it.  Penticton rocks!

Bike: 5:13:11

Off the bike and legs are a bit jello-y.  Few steps and alright.  Mom is there in transition with my run bag, and Dad on the megaphone yelling at me!  For some reason I try to run to my bike rack like a normal triathlon and my Mom nearly tackles me and someone pushes me to the changing tent, lol.  Sitting down to change, I had memories of my legs seizing up come back from Texas, but nothing!  Sweet, run legs intact!

Out of the tent and onto the run course with my sweet singlet, er, halter top.  Michael McCormack, 2 time Canada Champion, gave me the honor of wearing his Espana/Bike Barn singlet from his 1995 race, and I loved it even while it really didn't cover much.

Heading around the mini-lap I look at my split and I've missed my personal cutoff of 6:20 swim/bike split to allow me to turn Canada into my "A" race by 3 minutes.  Crap!  Time to shut down the legs and not hurt myself.  Thinking this was just going to be a long 4 hours, I surprised myself at how fun run/spectating can be!

The crowds and aid stations gave off such great support like on the bike.  People cheering, encouraging and making everyone smile, or at least try to.  A lot of people were going to their pain cave as they passed me by.  Up front on the course people were fighting for the Kona spot available and I cheered on the AG guys I rode with as they went blowing by me!  I made sure they knew I had my spot while riding though;)  It was getting HOT along Lake Skaha and as everyone said, it was really tempting to just jump in.  To boot, there were people partying just 50 yards off the shore, blasting good music and having a few cold beverages that would be amazing at that point.  M2 rode past on my way out on the course.  He was following along with the leaders on his bike loving his own flashbacks from years ago.  It was great to see him, but he knew I was "mailing it in" at this point.  He tried to get under my skin a little to urge me on, yelling for me to "run with a purpose!", but the motivation to hurt myself was not there.  Just a fun jog through the countryside.

An amusing interaction came as I was running with one of the Pro Women, Maki Nishiuchi.  From my past blog post, I knew she was battling for a Kona spot, so I cheered for her any time I could to keep her going.  Trying to actually talk to her was another story as either she was ignoring me, or can't speak a lick of English.  I'm going with the later.  After the mid-way point she motioned for me to pick it up and go with her, but I couldn't/wouldn't and let her push on.

Cruising back I start getting people either slowing or actually running my speed and not passing me any more so I get to actually talk to some guys.  Great way to speed up time and we had some fun conversations about life and really kept off the subject of tri's except for mini histories.  Getting to see all my friends on the way back and cheer for them was a blast too.  Everyone looked so strong on the run and you can see how they improved throughout the year.  In the last few miles I was happy to see one training partner Peter get out on the run course.  He was so worried about the cut-offs and I was pumped he got off the bike.  Unfortunately he was one of the people caught out on the course when water ran out which seriously effected his run and he missed the finally cutoff by a few minutes.  In great form though, he finished, and Steve King stayed to cheer on the final few races out there.

The finish along the lake for me was fantastic.  Getting to soak it all in was a new thing for me and the finishing shoot was a lot of fun, giving high-fives and a big smile on my face.  Very happy to have finished and even more excited to have this new racing experience and really enjoying myself, cheering for everyone.  Penticton is a special place as everyone has said.  This is a must do race for all IM athletes with the beautiful location, and deep history. 

Run: 4:08:56
Total: 10:37:57

Now its time to prepare for Kona.  A lot of swimming in my future, along with a condensed block of training.  M2 and my run coach Tom from Focus-N-Fly are excited to help me recover and get real work in over the next month and I look to get my best effort in on the Big Island!