Thursday, January 24, 2008

Epic Camp 2008 "Living the Dream"

Well I finally made it to New Zealand. The trip took 24 hours total. This is the longest I have ever traveled by plane so it was an epic way to start an “Epic Camp”. John Newsome was there to greet me. He was a familiar face and a definitely a familiar voice as I listen to the pod casts he and Bevan do, “Ironman Talk”, every week. I felt at home when I arrived.

So why am I here? My wife, Dana, asks me this often. “You aren’t even doing an Ironman this year” she says. I guess it’s not about the training, for me it is more about the adventure, the journey, the life experience. I want to explore my limits. Can I make it? What is my body capable of doing?

You see when I was eighteen my Dad died of a massive myocardial infarction. He was a workaholic. He never had any fun. On his days off we would work doing maintenance for all the rental properties he owned. My brother and I dreaded those his days off. He called them “work camp”. He had one goal that kept him going. Sailing was his thing. “Once I get you boys off the college I’m going to get a boat and sail the Caribbean“. He never made it. At 52, not much older than I am now, he passed away pulling up the main sail while on a sailing vacation with my brother at a local lake. Not quite the Caribbean. He took his dreams to his death. I thought about this when I parked my bike under the picture of the sailboats.

This event changed my life. One day I was drinking beers with my buddies all night and the next, I became a runner and endurance athlete who ate a low fat strict diet and stayed away from alcohol and hit the books instead.

In my line of work I see death all the time. Gunshot wounds, major trauma, cancer, you look into their eyes and you see the fear. Life is so fragile and it can be taken away from us in an instant. I am constantly reminded of this. The time we have here is precious and you have to take opportunities to live and take adventures like this when they come. “Live the Dream”.

I am still pretty fit right now coming off a few years of Ironman training, but who knows what kind of shape I will be in next year and beyond. I’m not getting any younger either. I feel really guilty for leaving my wife and kids for ten days. It’s pretty selfish actually. I still have my watch set at Tulsa time and I think “what are they doing now?”. But this is something that I have been compelled to try since I first came upon it while searching the internet. Ask me again in a week or so if it was all worth it ;)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Jurgen's Helmet

Ten years ago my wife and I attended a triathlon camp in San Diego. A week from now, I leave for my next organized camp, Epic camp, in New Zealand. Above is a photo of me doing quarters on the track with Jurgen Zack. I think we did 10 or 12 quarters in 70 seconds or better. It was a pretty good workout for February. Every year I watched Zack get run down in the Hawaii Ironman on TV. I was very surprised how fast the guy really was. After he was through with me, he smoked Kenny Souza with a sub 60 second quarter.

The camp we attended was in Solano Beach, a coastal community on the Pacific Coast Highway. Paul Huddle, Roch Frey, Paula Newby Fraser and John Howard ran the camp. Pro triathletes like Zack, Wendy Ingram, Heather Feur, Kenny Souza, and Mike Pigg were their elite ambassadors. Danny Abishire, who later invented of Newton Running shoes, provided running analysis.

I had good time training with Pigg, who at the time was one of the premier short course athletes. He showed me the correct way to warm up for a short course event. We time trialed our bikes up PCH. Mike and I would also compete with each other to see who could swim the length of the pool with the fewest strokes.

Dana and I found the triathlete community in San Diego to be much like our own back in Tulsa, where everyone knew everyone else, and knew what the other triathletes were up to. But of course, these athletes were much faster and famous in the triathlon world.

Perhaps the most fun we had was at the Competitor Magazine Endurance Sports Awards held at Sea World in San Diego. These awards are the Academy Awards of endurance sports. Athletes came dressed in tuxedos and arrived in limousines. Anybody who was famous in endurance sports was there. We had the distinction of sitting at the one of Triathlete Magazines VIP tables at the front of the action with John Duke, the editor of Triathlete magazine.

There was one guy in our group that was out of control. He was an Army Ranger and when I saw Huddle last summer at IM Canada and reminisced about the camp he still remembered his name. He said “some campers you never forget”. I will just call him “Steve” to tell the story.

Alcohol was served at the party along with dinner and Steve put away the booze like a Special Forces captain. Once dinner was finished the awards portion of the program began. Steve, I, and a few others were at the bar. Zack was awarded a competitor award and he made his way to the stage.

In the 1997 Hawaii Ironman, Zack came into T1 with a great swim, however, his chin strap buckle was broken and he frantically began yelling….Helmet, HELMET, HELMET. This was captured on the NBC coverage which made for exciting television. The race was leaving Zack behind. This was a moment I’m sure he wanted to forget.

Jurgen, dressed in a tux and looking quite dapper, started in on his acceptance speech. Then from out of the blue Steve started heckling him……Helmet, HELMET, HELMET. It was funny and everyone started to laugh, as the Ironman coverage was still fresh in everyone’s mind. However, Jurgen started to stutter and became quite uneasy as he went on with the speech. Steve on the other hand continued with the heckling and Jurgen continued to stutter. I and a few others nudged Steve and finally got him to quit. The show was televised on a local cable channel so who knows how it turned out.

By the end of the awards, a party started to roll and before you knew it Steve was up on top of a table dancing with some hottie wearing a slinky mini dress. I saw Bob Babbitt who was the emcee come over and ask John Duke” who is this guy?” The party was totally out of control and Steve single handedly started it. It reminds me of the movie “Wedding Crashers”. I thought this is probably the last time they take a group of tricampers to this thing again.

I doubt Epic Camp will be this wild, and I doubt anyone will have the energy that Steve had. There has been some banter back and forth on the message boards regarding the “Yellow Jersey”. I can tell some of the folks have some personality. I might try to blog some of it but if I do, it will be short and sweet.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Digging Deep

What constitutes the motivation to achieve? I pondered this recently as I was watching a program on the National Geographic Channel the other night about child prodigies. They described these children as having the “rage to achieve”. They find themselves talented in something then pour all their time and energy into becoming even better at that task and reach even a higher level. This kind of motivation is internal. You can’t teach it. You can’t reward it. It has to come from within the soul.

I thought about this as I watched my daughter Paige swim this weekend. She is a good age group swimmer with excellent stroke technique but she doesn’t seem to be able to push herself to hurt in a race. She gets out of the pool nonwinded and carefree. She goes through the motions but the motivation to achieve just isn’t there. However this weekend she was a bit miffed about getting kicked in the face by another girl in practice previously in the week. I guess she made up her mind she was going to beat that girl. As her sister and I watched from the stands we couldn’t believe what we were seeing. Paige was pushing her limits and came back from 3 body lengths down in the last 50 of two races only to get out touched at the wall by half a second by the faster girl she wanted to beat. On route she shattered her previous times in those events. It wasn’t exactly a rage to achieve but there was a component of rage in there.

Motivation from within is a powerful thing. I don’t push my kids. I want them to want to do well without having to try to please me. I want them to be self motivated. I noticed that the faster girl was getting paid cash money from her parents for her performance. I’m not a psychologist but I seem to think in the long run this method of motivation will backfire somewhere down the line.

My wife, Dana, is another example. There isn’t a more hardworking mother, triathlete out there. Last week she rode 70 miles in a toe and hand numbing 20 degrees. To me that is motivation. I can’t motivate myself to get out and do that. She has so many other irons in the fire too. Taking kids to activities and next weekend she is taking Payton to a gymnastics meet in Salt Lake City. We have had a swim meet or gymnastics meet every weekend. It’s just so difficult to stay motivated and keep focused with all of the other activites and things going on with the kids, the family, and the house. She has Ironman Brazil coming up in a few months.

I have started coaching athletes this year. Matt Carnal is one of my clients that I wrote about in a previous entry. I suppose I should update his progress regarding his debut marathon performance. Matt ran a gutsy race despite dealing with the emotional turmoil of breaking up with his girlfriend the week of the race, and he left his race nutrition in the car the morning of the race. It wasn’t exactly a way to start a key marathon.

I was in Oklahoma City at a kids swim meet and got a call telling me Matt was at mile 16 and looking good but was asking for gels on the course. I called Dana and she got some gel to him by mile 22 but by that time the damage was done. He bonked and finished in 3:08. The last 3 miles were pretty painful. It was a rookie mistake and one that he definitely learned from and won’t make again.

An unseasonably warm day last week allowed Matt and I to ride 130 miles. He hit a few bad patches but was able to climb out of them without giving up. He told me a story about setting a record doing wrist curls back in his baseball days. He was able to get into a zone where his wrists would go numb and he could just push through the pain and smashed the record that still stands. He told me his legs were starting to get numb now and then I thought to myself “I’m in trouble”. He proceeded to kick the pace up to 23-30 mph with 20 mph cross winds for an hour in the middle of the ride. All I could do was to hang onto his wheel. That effort hurt him later, but the motivation it took do that effort after he had dropped off the pace earlier in the ride is encouraging in his quest for Ironman. He didn’t give up.

The power of the mind and what it can do is often overlooked in sport. Having a powerful will and the ability to rebound form bad patches and keep moving forward despite adversity is important for success. An ordinary athlete can do extraordinary things with the right outlook and motivation.