The Toughest Race in the Most Beautiful Place

My first Tri of 2010, usually by July I have got a good couple of races under my belt but this year is different.  Completing Ironman Arizona last year in late November followed by a training break thru the Holidays gave me a late start to training for the 2010 season.  Then earlier in the year I spent more time than normal Mountain Bike Racing, so hello transition area, hello wetsuit….it’s been a while.

I chose the June Lake triathlon for a change of pace.  For the last two years I have done the Vineman 70.3 up in Sonoma in mid July, so this year I fancied something different, and with June Lake I got it!  Billed as “the toughest race in the most beautiful place”.  Crystal clear lake water, surrounded by pine trees, with snow capped mountains and cascading waterfalls as a backdrop…this was going to be fun.

Race morning, got to the transition area with just over an hour to spare.  The vibe was very mellow and easy going, plenty of room for set up, not too crowded and everyone just hanging listening to music or chatting to each other.  None of the focused intensity and seriousness of the big Ironman races.

After a quick warm up in the water, (a lake fed by snow melt at elevation is a little cooler than the local lap pool!), the gun goes off and in one wave all the men for the Olympic distance go off together.  With about 200 participants there was plenty of room with none of the washing machine turbulence of bigger races, I quickly find clean water and settle in.  I had expected some breathing problems with the altitude so started a little slower, but with no apparent distress started slowly building my pace.  Loved the swim, it felt quick, the water was sparkling clear and fresh, and I was out, up the beach and quickly onto my bike.

The bike route was the June Lake loop, which was awesome, a little hilly and a little twisty but nothing too difficult.  The biggest challenge was staying focused on my effort and pushing hard.  I often caught myself looking around at the Lakes, the Mountains, the general scenery and getting distracted. Stop it.  Keep pushing, keep pedaling.  Well yea…but I did enjoy the views too.

The Run!  Hahahaha!  We had been warned.  I had been told about it.  It was duly noted on the course profile on the website.  A steep climb at about mile 2.5, with a steep descent at about mile 4, how bad can it be?  Get to the hill, head down and attack it for half a mile then flat and downhill all the way to the finish. Piece of cake.

So what the course profile doesn’t show.

Beach deep sand and major hands on knees rock steps going up, not to mention the elevation. Attack the hill!  No way.  Beg it for forgiveness.  Promise it you will never cheat on another hill repeat workout if you could just get to the top.  That’s more like it.

Anyway, I get to the top to be rewarded with 1.5 miles of awesome single track, slightly rolling hills trail running. Distant figures ahead of and behind me but feels like I have the whole place to myself.  Loving it.  Then I come to the sign.  A cartoon graphic of a person falling off a cliff and a kindly volunteer warning me of a steep descent.  Really?  Surely the sign is an exaggeration.  Something to keep the insurance company happy.  That is until I start the controlled fall that is the descent.  Jumping off rocks, scrambling through loose rock and generally right on the edge of my pace exceeding my leg turnover.  So so much fun!!!  Over too soon.  Onto the flat trails, couple of miles to the finish line and a really cool hand crafted finishers medal.

Overall, my fastest swim split for an Olympic distance Tri, second fastest bike split and a 10K so slow I think it was closer to my half marathon PR than my 10k PR.  Loved it.  Highly recommend it.  “Toughest race in the most beautiful place?”  Absolutely.

Plotting a return next year with some like minded crazies for maybe a couple of days of heavy duty training in Mammoth topped off by the race and another very slow 10k run split.  You in?

Happy Gym

It was time for a day of group bonding. And what better place to do this, than at the gym.  Yes you heard correctly, at the gym.  As it happens I like the gym.  I know it is odd to hear, but I like feeling better when I am done, it makes the food and wine enjoyed after a good workout that much more enjoyable (yeah, I know it is supposed to be skinless chicken breasts and protein shakes, but that is not going to happen).

When I say at the gym, I should clarify and say this was going to be at any ole gym – we were going to Equinox. I had never been to an “uber gym”, I was used to the “people’s” gym, with the masses.  You know the place I am sure, it is where the crazy, loud and smelly people gather to share far too much about themselves. Where you are as likely to see a pool of sweat on a machine as you are to hear some horrific song ringing at deafening volumes from the earphones of the person running next to you.  And we can’t forget about my favorite gym phenomenon, the guy that works the room, hitting on the girls while talking trash with the guys and generally driving everyone crazy (all while wearing something straight from 1986).

Well, in the world of Equinox these things do not exist.  It is a magical place.  More spa, meets gym, meets W hotel.  I was in heaven.  Towel service, polite gym goers, every product you could imagine in the locker room (and no off brand labels here – they carry Kielh’s instead of that toxic neon pink substance those others try to pass off as soap).

I took classes, sat in the steam, lifted a few heavy things and finished each session with a delectable bite from the café. If they offered rooms for rent, I would likely get one.  I never knew that going to the gym could make me this happy.

But now I am sad, the gym is too far from my house and I am back at that other place now. The one with the old men who refuse to wear towels in the locker room.  The place wear smells are not those of the eucalyptus infused towels that Equinox offers.  Yes, I am sad. All that I can do is continue to go and dream of the day I can return to Equinox.

Big or small, take care of it…

Nothing worse than crutches...

In the office, it doesn’t take you to long to pick up that many people who frequent this building every day are actually exercise and fitness enthusiasts. Whether that’s on a bike, in the ocean, stomping the pavement or adding to the masses in the health clubs.

But after chatting with people in the office and in everyday life, one thing that is very common is that being active, does lend your body to the odd strain, pull and sometimes worse. But whether it’s big or small it’s evident that it really affects the person beyond just their regular exercise regime.

I have been very fortunate and unfortunate where most of the physical activities I have been involved in, there has always been a Doctor/Surgeon/Physical Therapist on hand for anything that may happen. That is the fortunate part, but the unfortunate part is I have had to use up far more of their time than they or I would like to admit, with serious and not so serious injuries. But that really got me thinking, where do you go and what do you do when you’re out doing your thing and you tweak something?

Well first off let me say that I’m no doctor, But I have spent a good portion of my life playing professional sport and have taken a great interest in how our body works. Obviously if you think it’s a fairly bad injury go straight to your doctor, but if it’s just something that is nagging, there is a great resource, WebMD. com. WebMD – “Better information. Better health”. I think that really says it all, but it really is a great place, to look in to what may be causing you trouble while trying to stay on track.

On a personal note, the one thing that I could add to this is whatever you do, always err on the side of caution. There is never any rush to get back to full activity and if you rush it, it could add those extra weeks and an added symptom that could have been avoided.

I think what I’m trying to say in all of this, is you may hurt yourself, but not taking care of it is going to cause more damage and have a greater effect on your life than you want.

Race Report: Harding Hustle 30k Trail Run

After listening to an ultra marathon podcast on a flight to Dallas for focus groups, I decided to look online when I got to my hotel for some trail races to try out to see if doing a 50 miler or 100 miler some day might be something I could tolerate or even enjoy.

To my surprise, when I began looking for races on Trailrunnermag.com’s race calendar I found the inaugural Harding Hustle 30 kilometer (18.5 mile) trail race taking place just 20 minutes from my house in the Santa Ana Mountains of the Cleveland National Forest. The only problem with this race was that the day I was looking at the computer, it was Wednesday, July 7th and the race was taking place in just three days on Saturday, July 10th! Not much time to prepare… mentally or physically.

After having done a decent amount of trail running in the 7 to 10 mile range the week prior in Kauai, 18.5 miles didn’t seem like too big of a deal although if the distance didn’t kill me, the nearly 4,000 feet of climbing might. So I decided that when I returned home from Dallas, I would prepare myself to run the race on Saturday morning.

Saturday came and I woke up at 5 a.m. to drive out to the Oakley headquarters in Foothill Ranch, CA where a shuttle picked me and a bus load of ultra runners up to take us to the race start at the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary in Modjeska Canyon. The first thing I noticed was that these were no ordinary runners, they were trail runners, ultra marathoners, the true hippies of the endurance sports world and I loved the vibe I got from them. Most of them trained for longer distances so the Harding Hustle would be more of a training race for them, to test their fitness as they prepare for bigger events.

I registered, got my race number, and paid the $60 entry fee. Yes, I paid 60 bucks to suffer up and down a big ass mountain for 30 kilometers. After paying up I was lined up at the start line and then the race began. The race was an out-and-back (or up-and-down) course meaning that you run 9.25 miles up and then turn around and run 9.25 miles down, so in theory, the way down should be much faster than the way up.

When the course climbed over 500 feet in elevation within the very first mile it became clear that this was not going to be an easy day. On the way up I just tried to keep an easy pace and never stop running. There were two small descents on the way to the top but they were hardly noticeable at the time. I made the turn around at the top of Four Corners on Main Divide at 1 hour and 43 minutes. Happy with my time to the top, I began my descent but couldn’t go nearly as fast as I had planned. It turns out it is hard to descend at my desired 6:30/mile pace after I had just ran uphill for 9 miles.

Happy to be running downhill, I just tried to maintain good form, lean forward, and not strike with my heels. It was still exhausting and my knees, hips, and internal organs were nagging me to take it easier on the descent. Hands down, the toughest part of the day was climbing up two short climbs that came on the way down. I had hardly noticed them as a benefit on the way up but sure didn’t have any problems noticing them on the way down as they drastically slowed my pace and put the hurt on me when I had to climb them.

With two miles to go, I noticed there was a chance I could break the 3 hour mark so I decided to step on it a little harder. I didn’t quite make that new goal and crossed the finish line in 3 hours 1 minute and 39 seconds. The good news about this time was that it was much faster than I had anticipated going, the bad news was that since I was ahead of schedule, I finished before my wife ever got there to see me finish. Oh well, I was glad to be done.

The post race massage was provided by a local massage therapy school and was seriously the best one I have had, and the post race food and snacks were pretty good too. All in all, Dirty Feet Productions put on a great race.

My results were a final finishing time of 3:01:39 putting me in 4th place in my age group, the 27th male, 32nd overall, and I made a bunch of great new friends. It was a great day and I definitely plan to do more trail races and maybe even consider an ultra someday.

FIFA World Cup Conditioning

With the FIFA World Cup drawing near to its grand finale this Sunday, I thought it would be appropriate to share a few facts about soccer players and their conditioning. It’s not all about looking good with their shirts off. It has long been said that they are great at putting on a show with all the diving and rolling around on the floor that you see during each game. Despite that, they are incredibly well conditioned athletes, so much so that some people would go as far as to say that on the elite stage they are probably at the top of the list.

Few sports are played on as large a playing field, lasting as long and without regular rest periods. Players cover 5-7.5miles during a match, consisting of 24% walking, 36% jogging, 20% coursing, 11% sprinting, 7% moving backwards and 2% moving whilst in possession of the ball. The game is played at an average intensity close to the lactate threshold – approximately 80-90% of maximum heart rate. Soccer players posses excellent endurance with VO2 max(is the maximum capacity of an individual’s body to transport and utilize oxygen during incremental exercise, which reflects the physical fitness of the individual) reported to range between 55 and 70 ml/kg/min in elite performers. To help you better understand what that means, here is an example, for a male age 30-39, an excellent VO2 max is 35.7 – 40.0 ml/kg/min and for a male age 20-29 an excellent VO2 max is 37.0 – 41.0 ml/kg/min .  Lance Armstrong’s VO2 max has been measured at a whopping 84 ml/kg/min, more than twice that of an individual male in the above normal category. Based on that evidence it is not hard to see how you can come to that conclusion. This Sunday will showcase some of the best talent the world of soccer has to offer and I have no doubt that every player that takes the pitch will exceed his physical limitations to ensure their team goes home for the first time with the title World Champions.

I hope this gives you a little more insight in to exactly what these athletes are capable of and that the FIFA World Cup that has captivated the world over the last few weeks has showcased amazing athletes with extraordinary talents both in their conditioning and their control of the Jabulani soccer ball.