06/4/13

Raleigh 70.3 Race Report

I arrived in Raleigh on Thursday evening and stayed just about 20 minutes  from the race finish line and T2.  However, the start of the race was about  30 more minutes by car away from the finish line.  So that made race  morning a little tricky.

I woke up at 3:45.  I generally like to follow a rule that waking up before 4 in the morning to workout is just ridiculous and I won’t do it.  However, this was going to be more than workout… it was a race.  And I had to be able to adapt to the situation.  Everyone was in the same boat… we all had to wake up extra early to drop of our bike to run bags and then catch a  shuttle bus with 4000 of your closest friends out of the swim start.

I did my best to close my eyes on the shuttle and envision the race, feeling the water, listening to the sound of my race wheels cutting the wind, and finding the rhythm of a good run pace.  I did my best to keep my nerves at bay, but I knew that some nervous energy was a good thing, because it meant that I cared about what was about to happen.

I made it to Jordan Lake for the swim start and to get my bike ready to roll about 5:30… 1.5 hours until the start of my wave.  The sun was coming up over the lake at 5:30 and was bright enough to not even need a flashlight or headlamp.

I finished everything in transition, had breakfast, and did a little warm up job about 25 minutes before the start of my wave.  During that time, the race officials announced that the race would be wetsuit legal.  I couldn’t believe it. The day before they announced the water temperature at 79 degrees.  This morning it was 76.  Just 0.1 degree below the line of being wetsuit legal.  I left my wetsuit at my home stay since I was certain I wouldn’t need it.  So while all but one other pro was putting on their wetsuit, I was suiting up in my swim skin from TYR.  I knew they had a slight advantage over me now.  However, I knew that I normally beat some of the pro field out of the water by about 30 seconds, and figured if I let them lead with their wetsuits on we would be equal.  I found the group of guys I normally lead out of the water and when the gun went off, I stuck on their feet.

The first buoy came and we were all still in a pack.  But after the 90 degree turn, the pack thinned out a bit.  I noticed I was at the front of the group falling behind.  I knew I had to make a move right then and there to hang on.  I picked up the effort and closed the gap, made the final turn toward shore and settled back into their pace again.  With about 300 meters left to go, I picked up the effort to try to beat a few more guys out of the water.  I exited the water in 9th place, but about 3rd through 9th were all in a pack… I was just in the back of the pack letting the guys with the wetsuits do all the work.

The bike presented a few challenges.  Some expected, some unexpected.  The first came just a mile outside of transition.  The road was a bit bumpy and had a lot of road vibration.  The day before the race, I bought a gel flask holder to go on my bike so I wouldn’t have to try to get the flask back into my rear pocket on my TYR carbon race kit provided by Maverick Multisport.  The flask holder slipped to the side of the top tube and my knee hit on the way down of the pedal stroke.  I heard something hit the ground.  I looked back and saw my 300 calorie flask bouncing to the side of the road.  No time to stop and pick it up.  I did a quick game plan change for nutrition and realized I would just grab the gels from the aid stations.  If I could get one at each aid station that would be an additional 400 calories from what I had left on my bike (2 bottles of my custom mix of infinit, which totaled 560 calories).  In previous races this year, I had struggled with adequate water to sodium replacement, but this time I think i nailed it.  1 salt stick capsule every 10 miles.  My sodium intake was about 1000 mg/hr.

There was a group of about 5 guys in front of me by about a 1/4 mile.  I thought about chasing them, but decided not to. I wanted to race my own race.  I kept them in sight until about mile 15 and with all the turns and hills, I never saw them again.  I managed to drop a guy that was leap frogging with me by about mile 20.  I rolled through the second aid station and was able to grab water and to Gu energy gels.  I took one right away, stuck the other in my shorts, and drank some water.  I also used the water to squirt on my back in effort to keep my body cool.  It’s a good thing I managed to get two gels that aid station, because the third aid station wasn’t ready to hand out gels and I missed on there.  I took the one in my shorts instead to get the extra calories needed.  I rode alone for the majority of the ride.  Thankfully the night before the race, my host, Brooks, wrote me a letter about what to do keep negative thoughts out my head.  He suggested to use a phrase, a song, a Bible verse, whatever it is to say over and over again to keep me focused on my goals, and prevent negative thoughts.  I said this to myself out loud about every 5 miles.  And it seamed to work… especially towards the end.  The forth aid station I was out of my infinit mix and grabbed a water bottle, Ironman perform sports drink (which I hate, but I knew I needed something more than water), and two gels.  I took one gel right away and the second one about 8 miles later to get me ready for the run.

There was one last short steep hill before transition.  I didn’t realize that the dismount line was right at the top.  I struggled to maintain speed and get my feet out of my shoes.  In the end, the hill one.  my feet slipped off my shoes and I came to a stop at the crest of the hill.  I hopped off my bike with a good 10-15 meters before the dismount line and ran it in from there.  I entered T2 in 8th place… and no idea how far ahead anyone was.  I picked my bike up by the seat to rack it and the seat post came completely out.  The screw holding my seat post in place rattled itself loose.  I tried putting it back in, but quickly opted not to and drop the post/saddle on the ground and racked the bike by the handle bars instead.  I put on my new Columbia arm coolers, slipped on my newton MV2’s, grabbed a flask of Infinit’s NAPALM, and was out on the run hoping to catch some of the pro field.

The run was an out-and-back with a double loop at the end.  The up hill on the way was about 5 miles long.  it made it hard to find a smooth rhythm that I had envisioned in my head before the race.  I new I was still moving along really well judging by my form in the reflection of the windows as I ran by.  Again, I used the phrase I chose for the day to keep my motivated, ignoring the heat, and to push.  I came to the looped portion of the run and managed to see TJ Tollakson (he was on the second lap while I was on my first).  I passed him at the aid station we would pass twice.  He walked through it.  I ran through it grabbing what I needed.  I thought to myself, “you know… you can catch TJ.  He is really hurting… and you’re feeling great.  Catch TJ… catch TJ…”  I coined a phrase in my head while I was doing my best to catch him… I was going to “rookie” TJ.  it came from the idea of when a girl passes a guy in a race. which is called being “chic-ed” (sp?).  I completed the second loop of the run and managed to pass my first person of the pro field.  From that point on it was down hill.  Up until that point I averaged about 6:05-:10 miles.  I knew I was good down hill runner and could maybe catch a few more guys.  “Keep digging deep, and catch TJ.”

I got back off the walking trail and on to the road.  By that time I had passed another guy.  I could see two more in the distance.  The game of Cat-and-Mouse is one of my favorites.  I love reeling in runners that are ahead of me.  It takes my mind off the next mile marker (which is more than often out of sight) and keeps the constant reminder and motivator of closing in on the next position in the race.  As I was nearing the first one, someone (I’m assuming a friend, family member, or coach) was yelling at the athlete to pick up because the guy behind him (me), was rolling and looking good.  Before I knew, I had passed them him.  One more guy to go… and it looked like TJ.  By mile 11.5 I had passed them both.  I heard someone say to me, “Bring it home… you’re in 5th place.”  The feeling inside is hard to describe… but the best thing I can compare it to was the moment I realized I was running the last leg of Louisville IM in 2008 when I realized I was going to qualify for Kona and win my age group.  “I’m gonna be on the podium.”  A quick glance back and I knew they others were too far behind to catch me as long as something crazy didn’t happen.  I saw 4th place in front of me… but not enough real estate left to reel him in.

I settled in to the pace and just maintained what little energy I had left.  I crossed the finish line with a raised fist and giant grin on my face.  I resting on my knees and tried getting my breath.  I felt as it my lungs just couldn’t get enough air.  I looked up and my girlfriend was waiting at the finish line for me… which was a big motivator to get to the finish line!

Before I could get very far, USADA came up to me and said that I had been selected to take part in a drug screening to check for doping.  Honestly… this has been one of my goals for a long time.  I wanted to do so good in a race they would want to check me to see if I was clean!

Looking back on the race, I am obviously very happy with my result.  However, even in a “win” there are still lessons to be learned.  In fact, I think that if I would have attacked early in the bike ride and chased the group of guys in front of me and sit in with them far enough back to not get caught for drafting, but still get some help from the other athletes, it might have made the difference between a 5th and 2nd place finish.  If I only learn things when races go bad, I am setting myself for a slower learning curve and more frustrations.  Taking it to the next level will require me to know when to break out of my race plan for the day and when to push the envelope.  To learn where that limit is, I must push the envelope.

After getting home, the reality of not being able to do Muncie 70.3 dawned on me.  I was going to go from now until August 4th when I plan on racing Steelhead 70.3 without a big race.  I couldn’t get over that… and wanted to test my fitness again.  Which race should I do between now and then?

With a little research, I settled upon Syracuse 70.3.  It will be another long road trip, but I’m looking forward to it already.

Again, I would like to thank all my sponsors that have helped make this past weekend a huge success.  I couldn’t have done it with them.  But it’s not just some discounted/free product that made it successful.  The tremendous amount of encouragement from my family, girlfriend, family and friends can’t go unnoticed.  And ultimately, God… who gave me the ability to race and live my dream.  I pray that I can continue to honor him with the gift he has given.

04/9/13

Galveston 70.3 Race Report

Galveston 70.3 was my first race state side of 2013.  After a disappointing experience in Panama, I was determined to do much better.  I changed coaches to Brian Grasky after Panama.  Training picked up and I felt faster and stronger… significantly faster and stronger considering it was only 2 months of training under his  guidance.  I went through some good race simulation on the computrainer and did my best to time the workouts to get off the bike during the warmest part of the day, which typically was scorching 45 degrees!

I had a great place to stay in Galveston about 7 miles from the race venue thanks to a very loose connection (about 4 or 5 degrees of separation .. I guess Facebook is good for something!) with two girls about my age.  They hooked me up with a room to myself and full access to the kitchen.  I always like having a place to cook food to save money and eat what I’m comfortable with before the race.

Anyways, we will fast forward to race morning.  I woke up at 5 and grabbed the last few things and hopped into the car and headed to the race venue.  I got caught in race traffic and pulled over into a parking lot that was the furthest away because I knew I could find a place to park there and then ride my bike and carry my stuff in a transition backpack to the transition area.  Due to this, I arrived significantly later than I was planning on the night before.  I typically like to have about 75 minutes to get myself ready before a race once getting to transition.  However, this time I only had 50 minutes and had to walk a half mile to the swim start AND get my wetsuit on before jumping into the unusually cold bay.  It was a bit chaotic for me in the morning, but I managed to get myself to the swim start in time and have time to warm up before the gun went off.

Swim 1.2-miles

Just before the swim started the race director went through all the pros that were racing.  He got to my name and paused for a second, “oh… we have a birthday boy today…” and then continued on with the list of the remaining pro men field.  The final seconds before the race started, I reminded myself of my goals for the race, to race my race, and have fun… after all, it was my birthday.  I shot up a quick prayer thanking God for allowing me to do what I love and ask for safety as I raced.  Bang, the gun sounded and the once calm water turned into a washing machine.  I did my best to stay on Chris McDonald’s feet to get a draft on the swim since he is just a touch faster than me.  I managed to stay with him for the first 500 meters or so and then he pulled away.  My goal for the swim was a 26 minute swim.  Thanks to some hard training and my new Tyr Cat. 5 Hurricane wetsuit, I managed to hit that goal.  I exited the water mid pack, which is a big improvement.  I typically came out of the water very near the back of the pro field.  I ran to transition, after taking advantage of the wetsuit strippers and got myself prepared for a windy bike ride along the Texas coast line for 56 miles.

Bike 56 miles

The bike course was about as simple as they come.  A few turns getting out of the race venue, make a right hand turn on Seawall Road and turn around at the 28-mile marker.  Once I got to the seawall, I put down an effort that felt like the watts I wanted to push for the ride.  I took a glance down and realized I forgot to do something very important during the set up process for the race.  I didn’t calibrate the power meter.  The numbers were way off… so I was force to go by feel.   I decided not to let this bother me and just focused on what I could control: my effort, my hydration/nutrition, and my attitude.

On the way out, there was a 9 mph headwind/crosswind combination.  I kept a close on the time on my computrainer to make sure I was drinking enough fluid and calories to get me through the race.  When the one hour mark was nearing, I glanced down now and then to make sure I could estimate my average mph for the first hour.  My garmin clicked to an hour at about 25.5 miles into the ride.  I was extremely happy with that since just a year ago, I couldn’t go that fast for a 40-kilometer ride on a course with no wind.  But, it did concern me… I thought maybe I over extended myself a little too much having to force to go off of effort rather than hard numbers from the computrainer.

I hit the half way point (28 miles) in 1:06.  I figured with the little push from the wind on the way back in, I would easily make my goal of 1:12 on the bike.  However, there was no tail wind, just a cross wind.  No help this time!  On the last 5 miles, I could tell my legs were running out of steam.  However, I typically get a fresh wind on once I get to the run, so I wasn’t too concerned.  I did a quick count of my calories in my head and it came to 900-950 for the bike.  Right where it needs to be for my effort and body weight.  I rolled into T2 ready to tackle the run.

Run 13.1 miles

I got off the bike feeling good.  I found my legs rather quickly and was rolling 5:40 miles out for the first two miles.  Then something started feeling a bit off.  Quick… drink some Napalm to get a boost of energy and caffiene.  However, I think my electrolytes were off this time.  It wasn’t a lack of calories… I just didn’t take any electrolyte pills during the bike to balance all the water I was drinking supplementing the Infinit I was taking in.  The first lap went good, the second lap alright, and the third lap was survival mode.  I had two or three pro men pass me in the last mile.  I just didn’t have any fight left.  I crossed the line in 22nd out of 35 pros.

Post race

After the race, I hung around the finish area for a little while talking to some other racers.  One of them, Ryan Rau, who I must have raced against in the past, came up to me after finishing a just a little behind me and complimented me on my swim and bike.  He told me that he noticed a huge improvement in those two events from my previous performances.  That was so encouraging to hear.  I guess it’s not just a figment of my imagination that I’m getting faster and stronger… other people are noticing too.

Thanks to all my sponsor that helped make this birthday a success, as well as a learning experience.  Next up Derby Festival Marathon.

Cya at the starting line…

02/7/13

Panama and America

This trip toPanamataught me a lot of the different things.  I learned how to get by on $18 of cash for 5 days, how to navigate a city with only about 10% of the roads marked by road signs, combining English and Spanish and charades simultaneously to communicate with the same person, and many other things.  However, I also was reminded of one important thing while here… how good we have it inAmerica.  Below are just a few things that I think many of us take for granted… or at least I know that I do

 

  1. Grocery shopping – There were two different places I could shop for food while in Panama that were within a 5 or so minute walk from the hostel.  I did my best to only buy enough food for a week, but still have enough variety to get all the nutrients that I needed.  I ended up eating a lot of eggs, lentils, and split peas for protein, peanuts and peanut butter for fat (in addition to the egg yolks), and rice and corn tortillas for carbohydrates.  The trick was to buy a bunch of food that didn’t need refrigerating since there was only so much room to use in the small dorm fridge that was shared by everyone.  However, when it came to finding a large variety of fruits and vegetables to choose from, the stores were lacking.  One of the stores only had some lettuce, carrots, green beans, and peppers for fresh vegetables.  Anything else was frozen or canned (which wasn’t much to speak of)..  They also didn’t have a large variety of peanut butter to choose from.  I only found on natural peanut butter, the rest were laden with hydrogenated vegetable oil and sugar.  It’s crazy to think that I can walk into almost any grocery store inLouisvilleand find fruits and vegetables from all over the world any time of year, countless different kinds of peanut butter or another nut butter, and a large variety of different brands of corn tortillas in either white or yellow corn or flour.  The one thing the stores did have better than US stores was the over abundance of eggs that came from chickens that were fed correctly.  How could I tell?  The eggs were brown and the yolks were an orange-ish color instead of a bright yellow.

 

  1. Pool availability – I sometimes find myself grumbling that the pools don’t open up early enough on the weekends for me to get a swim in before work.  I also complain that Mary T. Meagher isn’t open on Sundays.  I also wish that I could get a swim in after work sometimes, but by the time I get off and drive to the pool, I’d only have a 30-45 minute swim.  Lastly, I think thatLouisvilledoesn’t have very many pools for the size of the city.  I feel as if I have no room to complain anymore.  InPanama City, I think there are only two pools that are open to the public, one on each end of the city.  The three times I went to the pool, I only successfully got one swim workout.  They have such strange hours that vary from day to day.  The pool closest to me is closed on Mondays, and open from 8-11:45 am and again from 1-2:45.  The first time I went, I arrived at 2:15.  No sense in changing to swim for 15 minutes.  I found their hours posted and decided to try again the next day when they opened up at 1.  I showed up at 12:45 and discovered the whole facility was empty.  Someone informed me there was a soccer game on campus and the pool wouldn’t open this afternoon.  I know that soccer is huge in every country other than theUSA, but I find it weird that it shuts down a whole campus.  When I life guarded at IWU in college, even if there was a big basketball game or soccer game on campus during normal pool hours, the pool would be open.
  2. Open roads – I nearly died a few times trying to ride my bike in town.  After one try, I realized it wasn’t safe or effective.  It took me a good hour or so of driving to get out of town far enough to find some roads that weren’t heavily traveled.  And of those roads, only a handful of roads are paved well enough for road cycling.  I know that several people in the States get riled up about not having a bike lane on roads, or complain about traffic.  Even though the roads in Louisville don’t have much of a shoulder to ride on and many don’t have bike lanes (and the ones that do only last for a few blocks and then stop, getting you to… well… nowhere), I’m just thankful to have the ability to ride on virtually any road and have it paved well enough to allow me to ride on them.
  3. Running – The whole time inPanama, I saw two people running for the sake of running.  I don’t blame the rest of the population within the city.  I tried running the morning before I left to shake out my legs a little bit.  They were still a bit heavy from Sunday’s race, but I also felt that high level of smog and exhaust within the city made it hard to run.  The sidewalks, if the roads had them, often had uncovered manholes to the sewer system below.  I nearly stepped in a couple of them the first time I went out for a jog at night.  The cars are parked on the sidewalks and they zip in and out of the businesses without even looking for people… or they just don’t care figuring the pedestrian will get out of their way.
  4. Housing – what’s that “reality” TV show that people go out and look for their dream home… or first home?  House hunters, or something like that, right?  The person/people often time have a hard time deciding if 3 or 5 bedrooms are enough and if the bathroom is big enough, or whether or not it should have a pool and/or hot tub.  I often thought that these people were a bit over-the-top, but it struck me again when I was out riding my bike back and forth a short patch of road in the country that was safe enough to ride on.  I passed by a few “villages” that had families living in a shack about 10 x 10 ft that was literally scrap metal, fabric, pieces of wood, or some other sort of old building material leaning against each other to form some sort of shelter.  You see these things on TV now and then, or maybe in a movie, but how sad it is to actually see it in person.  We complain if the room is too cold/hot, if the appliance breaks or malfunctions, or if we don’t like the color of the walls.  I wonder what things these families complain about.  Probably a lot less than we do and they don’t have heat/AC or running water in their houses.

These are just some of the things that I’ve noticed.  I think that it’s important, as an American, to remember that we have it really good back home.  We should bite our tongue and remember those less fortunate.

02/4/13

Panama 70.3 race report

From the start of this trip, there has been a common theme – “overcoming adversity.”  I won’t go into all the details of the events (they are blogged about in previous posts since January 23rd), but I’ll give you a bullet list:

  • Being rerouted on my original flight schedule to Tucson
  • Dropped off a the wrong place by the taxi that was about ¾ mile from where we needed be
  • Headset missing from bike when it arrived in Tucson
  • Wheels/tires not glued
  • Valve extenders not working – unable to inflate tires à bought new valve extenders which weren’t compatible with my tires à ripped off tires and bought the correct valve extenders and more glue for my tubular tires
  • My friend Larry broke his clavicle just as we started our bike ride up to Mt. Lemmon
  • Not able to find hostel the night I arrived in Panama
  • Crazy drivers (so far no accidents or even a scratch on the car!)
  • GPS not working at all – navigating downtown Panama by guessing is always fun
  • Foreign country with very little Spanish speaking ability – although it has gotten better since being here!

My… what an eventful last 10 days it has been!  The race was no different.  Just as I did through all the previous obstacles and frustration from this trip, I learned things about myself and how to take some punches along the way.

Race Prep – patience is a virtue

I parked in about the same place I did the day before and walked the rest of the way to Trump Hotel to avoid paying for parking slightly closer.  As with most athletes and spectators, I hopped on a bus to get to start of the race.  I got there with plenty of time to get myself all set up in transition and walk the 1.2 miles to the swim start.  I jumped in off a dock into the water expecting to plummet into nice warm water.  Unfortunately, it was anything but warm.  The water temperature dropped significantly from the days before.  No official temperature was taken, but I’m guessing it was in the upper 60’s to low 70’s.  I think the line for wetsuits for pros in swims less than 3000 meters is about 68 degrees, so it was borderline wetsuit legal.  But, none of packed our wetsuits, so we all were in the same boat.

The men’s wave was supposed to start at 6:50.  It didn’t start until about 7:40 due to difficulties getting the bike course clear and having enough volunteers at the aid stations.  So after we waited around for 50 minutes trying to stay warm, we finally got back in the water to start the race.

Swim – 1.2 miles

The swim was at the mouth of the panama canal… and the sun was right in our face to start the swim.  My goal was to stay right next to the buoys the entire time since I knew the current would be stronger the closer to the center of the canal we were.  With the sun in my face and waves from boats, I found myself much closer to shore than I intended, which ended up making me much slower than planned.

Bike – 56 miles

For anyone that has done Kona before, you know to respect the heat and the wind.  It’s no different in Panama.  The pavement in Panama may not go through lava fields, but the wind seems to hit from the front and the side the entire time.  I would almost go as far to say that if Hawai’i ever sinks or blows up, they should consider moving it to Panama.

Below is an elevation profile of the bike course:

The bike course in Panama not only has wind and heat, but a total of just over 1900 feet in climbing.  As a reference, IM Louisville has 2000 feet of climbing… but it’s spaced out over 112 miles instead of 56 miles.  My goal was to be between 300 and 305 average watts for the 56-mile ride.  I hit the turn around point, about 50 kilometers and averaged about 310 watts for the first 1:07.  (This is a huge improvement from last year when I would average 300 watts for the 40K of an Olympic distance race and average between 25-26 mph).  The way out we had a head wind and cross wind, and for some strange reason, we also had one on the way back in to town.  Just before getting to the turn around, I noticed the top 6 or so guys riding in a pack.  By my judgment, all of them should have received a drafting penalty.  They were clearly closer than 10 meters off the back wheel of the person in front of them.  Not saying I would have caught them, since they are better athletes than me, but it does bother me that drafting still occurs without penalty in the professional rankings.

With the wind and heat,  I quickly became dehydrated and was unable to replenish the lost fluids.  During the 56-mile ride, I went through about 3.5 bottles of fluid.  I probably should have done closer to 5 bottles (about 125 ounces instead of 90 ounces).  I knew I was in trouble when I got off the bike to start the run and didn’t even feel the need to pee yet.

Run – 13.1 miles

Just before getting off the bike I toyed with the idea of chalking up the race.  I reminded myself of how I was dedicating this race to my grandpa that passed away about 10 days ago.  I knew he was watching and would be disappointed if I didn’t complete the task set before me, as he always did.  My grandpa was a hard worker, my dad is a hard worker, and I don’t want to be the one to break that trend.  I passed Manuel Huerta just before getting off the bike and could tell that was going to DNF.  (About 25% of the male field DNF’d this race.)  I struggled finding my running legs.  It wasn’t a lack of calories (I consumed about 1100 calories on the bike ride), it was a fluid volume problem.  I grabbed every glass of water I could, popped salt tabs, stuck ice in my uniform, and took sips of NAPALM.  I could feel my body starting to function better, but with as dehydrated as I was, there was no way my muscles were going to behave the way I wanted.  I passed a few people getting loaded up on stretchers into ambulances that appeared to suffer from dehydration or heat exhaustion.  The run became about finishing in one piece.  I picked off a few more people, which some of them eventually DNF’d as well and crossed the finish line pointing to the sky thanking God for overcoming another obstacle in the trip and to my grandpa who I’m sure if running/flying faster than I was today!

As with all the other obstacles in this trip before race day, I learned a few things.

  1. Don’t sign up for big races hoping to walk away with money.  The reason why times are slow on these courses is because the course is extremely difficult (only one person broke 4 hours today).
  2. Pick races with less prize money and KPR (Kona Points Ranking)
  3. Change training to accommodate for where I was lacking
  4. Always drink more than you think you need
  5. Keep on improving by focusing on my weak areas (mainly the biking portion)
  6. Treat every quality training session with the tenacity of race day

 

All that being said, where’s the beach, the surf board and the snorkeling gear… it’s time to (keep) playing!

02/2/13

Panama 70.3 Prep Day

Well in just a few short hours, the 2013 season will start with a swim in the Panama Canal.  I must admit, the butterflies are starting to set up camp in my stomach.

I was able to sleep until about 8 o’clock this morning.  Waking up to breakfast already prepared or being prepared has been a nice treat.  I ate breakfast and decided to make my way down to the Trump Hotel early… not know how long it would take to get there with the traffic (even though it was a saturday morning) and not being able to count on the GPS for getting me there.  And let me tell ya… it was a good thing I left early.  My GPS, even with the coordinates plugged in from Google maps, couldn’t even get it right.  Thankfully, I knew the building I was shooting for by looking at pictures on-line the day before.  The GPS shot me way past it… about 3 miles or so.  I finally just turned it off and started just weaving my way around the city until I couldn’t get any closer to the hotel.  I parked the car and walked about 3/4 of a mile to the Hotel.

I did the athlete check-in as usual, nothing special here.  I made a lap around the race expo and didn’t see anything free to grab, so I went to the Ironman Store across the foyer.  I have a tradition that I started, sort of on accident, with my first IM race in 2007 in Wisconsin of buying a pint glass specific to the race.  Not every race has one.  But if they do, I make sure to grab one.  If you know me at all, you’ll know that I’m not a huge drinker or beer expert… so I’m not really sure why I feel the need to get one, other than adding clutter to my collection of race souvenirs, hats, and finisher medals.  I walked up to the cash register to pay for it, and noticed my credit card was MISSING!  I had a moment of panic and remembered that I had left them in my shorts pocket for when I went to the ATM the other day.  I did have some cash on me, and decided to just pay with that.

I walked back to my car to get the bike.  I made it all the way there and started digging around in my backpack for my keys.  NO KEYS!! This was a bit more than a moment of panic.  I tried retracing the steps in my mind about when I knew I had my keys and if/when I picked them up.  I remember having them in my had when I entered the Ironman Store.  I remember setting them down with looking for my credit card, but don’t remember them being in my had after leaving the store.  I walked back as quick as I could to the store with worst case scenerios running through my head of having Thrifty car rentals charging me an arm and leg to replace the key, not being able to race since my bike was locked in my car, and having no transportation for the rest of the trip.  I walked straight to the store once I got off the elevator and frantically asked if anyone had seen my keys.  Thankfully, the lady had them behind the counter waiting for me to come back.  I made another trek to the car, put my bike together and rode it back to the hotel and caught a shuttle bus to the pier where transition will be held.

The bus wasn’t exactly bike and passenger friendly.  We had to put the bikes on the bus on one side of the isle and sit on the other:

We set up transition and walked back to the bus… but not before getting a few pictures of course:

Who’s ready to play??

Paul Ambrose Bike at Panama 70.3

After the bus ride back, I had a couple hours to kill before the Pro meeting.  I listened to the age group meeting, and ran into a person from high school, Jessica Anderson, who is her doing the race for the second time.  I sat in and listened to the Pro Panel Q & A.  Lost of talent up there… Olympic Qualifiers, multiple 70.3 and IM distance winners.  I admittedly thought to myself, “what am I doing here??”  I pushed that negative thought out of my head and recomposed my thoughts.  “I am here living my dream, racing against the best.  I’m here to have fun, be it finishing first, middle, or last.  I’m here giving the sport back to God who first gave it to me to help me overcome depression and an eating disorder.  I’m here to escape winter and get a tan!”

The pro meeting went over some of the basics of the race, with in depth information about the course and what to expect on race day.  I was a little surprised to hear some of the questions the other pros were asking.  It made it sound like this was our first triathlon ever!  I was sitting next to Paul Ambrose and noticed he was a little frustrated with the questions as well.  One question did strike me as odd:  “Will you be drug testing the top 5 or so finishers?”  I was informed that last year when Lance Armstrong raced and finished 2nd, he was the only one out of the top 6 guys that didn’t get tested!  Crazy… it seems that even WTC was in on the Lance Armstrong scandal.  Is anyone out there playing fair these  days?!?

Anyways… the only thing left to do now is get some dinner, make breakfast for tomorrow and stay hydrated.  With these warm temperatures, that is easier said than done!

02/1/13

Things to Know before going to panama city panama

I’ve been in Panama City, Panama for a total of two days now.  I wish that I would have known some things about the country before getting here.  So, if you plan on visiting this country, please read the following carefully!

1.  Stay as close to where you want to be as possible – I’m staying at a hostel called Hostel Aleman.  It’s a nice place to stay.  Free breakfast cooked fresh with farm fresh eggs, freshly made juice, fresh cut pineapple and watermelon, and toast have all been on the menu every day.  It’s only about 4 or 5 miles from the host hotel (the Trump Towers), but it takes a good 30 minutes to go that far by car if traffic is bad… which is most of the time.  To avoid as many headaches as possible, avoid renting a car and get a taxi ride from the airport to your lodging location while here.  The roads are very confusing and they resemble a drawing that a 2 year old made.

2.  Rules of the road (or lack thereof) – Panamanians drive on the right side of the road… and that’s about the only thing you can count on.  The number of lanes in the road has nothing to do with the number of rows of cars on the road.  I was driving down the corridor today and people started passing me on the shoulder and then nosing their way back into the flow of traffic when the shoulder stopped at the bridge.  No… it wasn’t nosing their way back in… it was “get out of my way or you’ll be responsible for me going over the barrier to the street below” back into the flow of traffic.  Police officers put their flashers on just to get around you.  They aren’t chasing anyone… they would rather not get caught for drafting, I guess.  Stop signs are going out of style here.  They can only be found at a few street corners.  You may be on the main road in the intersection… but that doesn’t give you the right of way.  Always be cautious.  On the other hand, if you’re trying to get on the main road or cross the main road, eventually you’re going to have to just gun it and go for it.  Otherwise not only will you be stuck at the intersection for the unforeseeable future, but you’ll make all the cars behind you angry and a chorus of honking will start after about 5 seconds of being stationary.

Honking doesn’t exactly mean “move.”  If a taxi is empty of a passenger, they communicate with walkers to let them know they don’t have a customer by honking their horn and staring at the pedestrian.  Buses honk their horn almost non-stop to let you know that something much bigger than you is coming up behind.  Most of these buses are easily noticeable with their graffiti purposely painted on them and things that look like pom-poms on the wheels that stream along when the bus is moving.

If there is an empty spot, you must take it… no hesitation.  If you think about things like, “is there someone in blind spot,” or “put blinker on first then move,” you’ve waited to long and now that spot you needed to get to is gone.  Just move and be sure to be aggressive.  Only stop if the other person doesn’t and hope that they see you!

I don’t even want to confess about how many traffic violations I did just today.  I just hope that I can shake these bad habits when I return to Louisville.

3.  Always wear your clothes – It’s a bit warm in Panama… mid 90’s most days.  I went for a walk today and decided I’d work on my tan at the same time.  I didn’t make it but 5 minutes down the road and a cop stopped me and sent me back to put a shirt on.  I guess I’ll be coming home with a nice farmers tan that will probably last the entire summer.

4. GPS status – If you’re lucky enough to own a smart phone… or maybe not stuck in the stone age of phones, like me, don’t bother renting a GPS unit if you do decide to get a car.  I’ve resorted to finding the GPS coordinates of places on the internet and then searching for it that way.  My GPS couldn’t even find the Host Hotel (the Trump Towers), or the park where transition is staged at.  I usually don’t even take the roads it asks me to take and try to run parallel to the route on a side street because the main roads are so congested with traffic.  Lesson learned here… either get a smart phone (which isn’t going to happen) or take a taxi everywhere.  But, I’m stubborn and figured if I rented a car I better use it.  So I’m stuck being frustrated.

Once this race is done, I’m going to get as far from the city as possible and find a nice beach and/or mountain area to hang out in.  I’ll wake up early to get out of town and get back late at night hopefully after the traffic is manageable.  Playa La Angosta looks to be nice…