Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Vegetarians Beware!!

Monday night the Endurance Travel group had a dinner at a churrascaria, or what we call a "brazilian steakhouse." The meat is cooked in a huge grill on these great big skewers.

All different kinds of meat are grilled, including beef, chicken, lamb, pork, turkey, and "corazon" -- which is heart. ooh gross. Then the waiter comes around to the tables and cuts off a big hunk of meat and slaps it on your plate! Dig in!!

There is a large round salad bar in the middle of the restaurant where everyone can get other food to accompany the MEAT. But the meat is the star of the show, definitely.

The waiter is so happy with his big knife -- he loves his job!

Race Report --kinda long

On Sunday morning, shuttle busses took us to the race start. In this race of 1200+ participants, women make up only about 10%. The reason I mention this is because the morning before the race, the athletes always have to make those port-o-potty (chemical toilet) stops. Well, at Ironman Brazil they have separate men and women port-o-pottys, so there was never much of a wait for me. What a nice way to start the race!It’s the little things that count!

We lined up at the beach for the start. A man next to me said, in broken English, that I should be ready to go. There is no national anthem, no countdown 3..2..1.. Just a horn. And right about that time -- the horn!! We were off and running down the beach into the water to swim. Yeah! The washing machine just hit spin cycle. Everyone was thrashing around like crazy, and South Americans have no personal space. The Americans in our hotel have been joking about it all week. Their idea of waiting in line is just to push up to the front. So the first part of the swim was really uncomfortable. I just told myself “this, too, shall pass”.

And it did. Things smoothed out and I got in a rhythm. The swim was shaped like an M, and we started at the right of the M and worked our way to the left. The first part of the M was longer than the second. We had a small section of running on the beach and I checked my watch -- 33 minutes, that’s good. The second loop of the swim would be shorter so I was on target.
Ken Glah said that the currents usually run with the swim, but not today. The current was very strong and becoming quite a problem. It was like swimming in an Endless Pool. I just told myself it was like biking into a headwind, I didn’t want to expend too much energy fighting it so I just tried to keep the effort steady and keep chipping away. Finally I made it to shore, out in 1:11. That second loop took me 38 minutes, not 20 something like I thought! A PW for me by far! Oh well, before the race my coach told me to not worry about the swim time, it could be fast or slow so I didn’t worry. Just movin’ on. I just hoped I wouldn’t set any more PW splits today!

The bike was two loops and really fun. Lots of flat sections, down in aero position, just hammering away. This is what triathletes love. That is why we spend so much time and energy on fast tri bikes and aero positioning , disk wheels and aero helmets. Put the head down and go. It was a blast. There were 2 significant hills that we went over out and back on each loop, but the hills were a nice change to sit up, put it in the small ring, and spin a bit or stand up for a stretch. There were also 14 - 180 degree U-turns -- kinda crazy. I had my nutrition divided up in three bottles -- 2 bottles were on my bike that had all the calories I needed, and one bottle at Special Needs in case I dropped a bottle. Well, coming back from the first loop I hit a bump, and off the bottle went. No worries, I stopped at Special Needs and got my reserve bottle. First time in a race that has ever happened, but I’m glad I was prepared.

I was off the bike in 5:35, not a PB but definitely close to it so I was pleased. Now it was time to run. This is the part I had been a little worried about. I haven’t been running pain free for about 3-4 weeks. Up until 2 days ago I was still feeling twinges of pain and limping a bit when I ran. I just hoped I could run the marathon. The first loop of the run had some steep hills, but not too long. It was easier to walk up them with long strides than run them, and I was walking up faster than anyone who was attempting to run them. The downhills were no fun at all either, and I gingerly ran down because I didn’t want to kill my quads for the rest of the run. A girl from my age group passed me at the 10K mark. UGH! I couldn’t stay with her and I didn’t want to blow up so I stuck to my plan.

Two shorter loops of 10.5 K to go then to the finish. There were no mile markers and I was a little confused trying to figure out the kilometer/mile conversion. This is not the time for complicated mental math. At this point in the race I wasn’t thinking too much, just putting one foot in front of the other, ticking off the miles, or kilometers, or whatever. Coming down the last mile stretch to the finish “portal” the sun was setting, and it was a beautiful sky with a few clouds, bright pink, orange and gold colors. I told Michal before the race that I wanted to finish in the daylight, so there was my challenge. Get down that road to the finish before the sun set. It was a great way to finish and I did it -- barely. Marathon time 3:55, a PR for the marathon split. Total time 10:50:23. Not a PR but it sure would have been without that long swim time. 4th in my age group. No Kona slot rolled down to me, but that’s the way life goes. I had a great race, and a great experience. Brazil was a blast.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

little miss sunshine

Thursday morning I was lying in bed, and the thought of getting up and getting dressed in the same clothes I had on for the last two days was a little bit, well, depressing.

So I got up anyway, a little bit sad because the novelty of being "that girl that still doesn't have her luggage" had worn off. I was a bit tired of well-meaning people, in their clean underwear and socks, asking if my luggage had arrived yet.

Well, I went to the lobby and saw a most beautiful sight! My luggage had arrived and was being delivered to the hotel. I was so happy that my stuff was here! My "little miss sunshine" was reunited with me -- literally and figuratively.

Michal and I took a swim -- it was so nice. The water temperature was perfect, and the water was very calm and clear. I am really looking forward to the swim on Sunday!

Later Thursday evening, we went to the race expo and pasta dinner. Here is a picture of Michal with a big Ironman logo made out of scrap metal -- really cool. It was three sided with a swimmer on one side, this cyclist on this side, and a runner on the third side.

We sat with some really nice people from the Endurance Sports Travel group. Can you see the guy on the left end? Look really close -- he is a dead ringer for the evil doctor, Dr. Nichols, in the movie "The Fugitive". And he had a Hungarian accent. Well, I couldn't remember exactly, but I knew the doctor in the Fugitive movie had an accent, too. So finally after dinner we got up enough nerve to ask him --"are you the guy in the Fugitive movie?" HA! HA! He said, no, he wasn't, but he gets that all the time. The Dr. Nichols in the movie was actually a Dutch actor (I really can't tell the difference between a Dutch accent or a Hungarian one. Oh well) named Jeroem Krabbe. Here's a picture of him, too. Don't you think they look JUST ALIKE!?

The two days before an Ironman I don't do much except rest and eat. So I took a picture of my plate of food. The food in Brazil is delicious.

We took a walk down the street a few blocks to pick up some bottled water, here is a picture of the street. Cute cafes and shop line the street. It's very clean and safe here and it is fun to walk around. But we are not walking around much, I promise, Rob, we are resting a lot. Because tomorrow is the Big Day! We turn in our bikes and transition bags this aftenoon. I can't wait to stop just thinking about Ironman because I will be racing one.

I will think about my little pal Yoda, I will use the force and race my race. I will be patient and let the race come to me. I will hear Yoda's voice saying "Do or do not. There is no try." Hopefully he doesn't mean there is no tri -- that would totally suck. All this eating and resting and no tri? Anyway, I digress. I will do. To the best of my ability. And then some. AND I will have fun along the way becuause it IS about the journey.

Friday, May 23, 2008

First day here

We finally arrived in Floripa Wednesday night. We checked into the hotel then headed for dinner. We booked our travel with Endurance Sports Travel, and it is definitely the way to go. They take care of everything -- hotel, transportation, bike mechanics, two meals a day… all covered. Here is a picture from our hotel balcony. The beach is right there. Awesome.

Thursday we still didn’t have our luggage, but we did have our bike boxes so we put our bikes together, had the mechanics give them a check over, and went for a little spin. Ken Glah took a group of us on a van tour of the bike and run course.

We registered for the race and went to the English speaking race meeting.

The language differences are quite entertaining. Here are a few translations that make me smile.
1. Port-o-potty is a “chemical toilet” he he he

2. When you transition through swim to bike, or bike to run, they call it a “portal” -- makes me think of an outer space portal -- “beam me up, Scotty!”

3. At the end of the race after 140 miles the race director said he will be there “to receive you”. Doesn’t that sound nice? I can’t wait to be “received”.

66 hours without clothes to change into is getting a little gross. That is stating it mildly. We got a lot done today, but I’m sure that I am pretty stinky and I want to burn the clothes that I have been wearing. I’m beginning to get a little concerned that my luggage may never show up.

A Free Lunch?

Well, it’s noon on Wednesday, and I’m sitting here in the Sao Paulo airport, where I have been sitting since 6:30 this morning when we arrived from Miami. We were supposed to catch a 8:10 AM flight to Floripa, but that didn’t happen. We had to reclaim our checked luggage before we went through customs. Michal, my friend that I talked into going on this adventure with me, and I waited at the baggage claim. And waited, and waited some more. Finally, our bikes arrived --whew! But our other suitcases were nowhere in sight. So we had to fill out lost luggage paperwork, and by the time we did that, our flight was long gone. I took a picture of the loooong lines we spent our morning in.
This is the South American idea of a line. Chaos.

Usually when we travel, or anytime “negotiations” need to be made, Rob makes me do the “negotiations” because I’m pretty good at getting what I want. Well, there really is no way to negotiate when one person can only speak English and the other person speaks Portuguese. So we are now on the 3:45 PM flight to Floripa, ugh. But, for our nice long 9 hour layover, we did manage to get a “free lunch”. The airline gave us vouchers for a free meal. After walking around for at least 30 minutes, we finally found the restaurant where the voucher would work. It was actually right around the corner from where we started, but there goes that language thing again.

A nice Brazilian woman in the restaurant took us through the buffet line and told us all about the dishes that were being served. I took some pictures of the food, our first real Brazilian meal. We had some delicious beef called “picanha” which we were told to order “magra”, which meant lean, and “ao ponto” which means medium-well done, I guess. The Brazilian meal also had “farofa”, a cornmeal and flour mixture that looks like couscous. She said that these were accompanied by “arroz” (rice), “feijado” (black beans), and “couve” ( a dark green leafy stuff that was finely shredded - yummy). The desserts usually consisted of chocolate, coconut, sugar, and Brazil nuts, of course. I took a picture of the dessert table, too.

Although things aren’t going as planned, today hasn’t been too bad. Looking at the bright side of things, we are here in Brazil, our bikes are here, and we have met some nice people that are eager to help us experience Brazil and remind us that this is an adventure. I guess there is really no such thing as a free lunch, but the price of this one, just a little extra time waiting, wasn’t too bad.

Here I am just chilling in the Brazilian sun at the airport after my free lunch. Life is good.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Racing Updates

This weekend I spent in the OR taking care of the “very sick and the extremely large”. I won’t go there. That’s another story. However, as I worked several of my coached athletes traveled to Memphis, TN and Kansas City, KS to do some racing.

Matt Carnal, Sean Stevens, and Doug Leib competed in the Memphis in May Triathlon in Millington, TN, a small town on the outskirts of Memphis with it’s claim to fame as the boyhood home of Justin Timberlake. Memphis may have Elvis but Millington’s got Sexyback. Anyway, this race is a high profile event that used to draw very fast people from all over the nation because of its Kona slots. Despite the current lack of Kona slots, it still draws some very fast competition. It’s a great race to match your fitness against some fast age groupers.

This race has a unique format. Everyone goes off one at a time in a time trial format. As you get older, you get pushed further to the back. I hate it because of the lack of open water in the swim; slower cyclists clog the bike course. You have to pay close attention to avoid collision but the run is good. I like to be able to pick targets and run for them. The other thing I hate is when you see someone in your age group you have to do some math in your head to figure out where they really are. Dana tells me “if you can do this kind of math in your head then you aren’t running hard enough. You need to be in Gooberville.”

Sean Stevens is a member of the Oklahoma based Tri-Mettle racing team. With the departure of Greg Rouault and Chuck Sloan taking a break from tris to pursue training for the Olympic trials, Tri-Mettle is looking for a new bad ass. Sean raced the amateur challenge. This includes a mountain bike Xterra Triathlon on Saturday and the Olympic distance race on Sunday. The best-combined time wins, and prize money is given to the top racers.

Sean was seventh overall and 2nd in his age group in the Xterra and placed 3rd in his age group with a 2:04 in the Olympic race. He was fifth overall in the amateur challenge. Sean is quickly on his way to achieving rock star status on his team.

Matt Carnal raced his first Olympic distance triathlon at Memphis. This former baseball player went 2:01 and placed 7th in the 25-29 age group. Not too bad for a first timer. Matt is focusing on longer events this year and Ironman Kentucky is in his sights .

Doug Leib’s goal this year was to qualify and race in age group nationals in Portland, OR. To do this he needed to place in the top 10% in an Olympic distance race. There were seventy-three competitors in his age group which meant Doug had to finish 7th. This was Doug’s first Olympic distance triathlon so he was a little on edge. He didn’t get off to a very good start and missed his swim start send off which put him at a disadvantage. He had a good bike ride but flatted about a mile from the finish. He handled it like a seasoned veteran and rode the rim on his rented race wheel into T2. He had a good run then waited at the finish line for the results to come up. When the results were posted Doug’s name was in the seventh spot in 2:20. He had done it. He met the standard to enter the Nationals. However, when he looked at the times a bit closer he had done it by only ONE SECOND! Way to go Doug!

Jessica Myers is a new transplant to Tulsa from Colorado Springs. She is a new mother of twins and a pro triathlete. I swim intervals with her in the pool occasionally. She rides sometimes with Dana when they can get their schedules to line up. In this race, she had no idea how she was going to do. I had a good idea she would do pretty well. Jessica finished second in the female pro division in Memphis.

Eric Lundt traveled to Kansas City and competed in the Heritage Park Triathlon in Kansas City. Eric finished 12th in his age group. He bettered his previous time, prior to the challenges of fatherhood, by three minutes! Eric is focusing on Buffalo Springs 70.3 this year.

My wife Dana is heading off to Brazil tomorrow to compete in Ironman Brazil. She will be taking my laptop and will be posting on “Robsworld” this week. I look forward to reading her thoughts and seeing Brazil so stay tuned. I will be spending my vacation taking care of the kids and living in “Danasworld“.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Grass Roots Racing In Tribbey

Saturday, four of my coached athletes and I headed to the sleepy little town of Tribby, OK for a USCF sanctioned time trial. A few of my crew will be racing next weekend in Memphis, so I found it to be a good opportunity to let them “break the cobs out” on the bike before a short taper I had planned for this week. There is nothing like a race to boost the fitness. I find that you can’t get a better workout and recovery is fairly rapid from a bike race.

Tribby lies just to the east of Norman, OK and most of that region is dead flat. When I think time trial, I think flat. However, Doug Leib did a little research prior to the race and the course profile he found looked anything but flat. It was hilly. Matt Carnal’s Garmin measured over 2000 ft. of climbing. The distance was just less than 27 miles. There was a $1000.00 bonus for the rider with the fastest time under 1 hour. I think the organizers felt safe about not having to pay out this one. The Joe Martin stage race, a higher profile bicycle race, was concurrently being held in Arkansas this weekend so many of the top riders in the area were racing there instead.

The time trial started at what appeared to be an old café. It looked like it had been quite a long time since this café had served any patrons. There are health codes now, and it didn’t look like this place would pass any of them. I would have to be pretty hungry to stop here for a bite. The building was a makeshift shack with some very old gas pumps out front, the kind of pumps that would require an attendant to pump the gas for you. This place appeared to be the center of town at one time because in the front of the building was a bell with a wrought iron sign with the words “Tribby“around it.

Tribby looked like a town that had seen its better days in the 1950’s to 70’s. Today, from what I saw, it appeared in a state of decay. Some of these old towns in Oklahoma look like they have been lost in time. If it weren’t for the cyclists decked out in space age aero helmets and disc wheels, we could very well have imagined ourselves to be back in the 1960’s.

This race was in its eleventh year and there was a good turnout. Of the total population of 310, none of the townies appeared to be lining the road with their cowbells. However, a few dogs ran out to meet us on the course. I think the drum rolling sound of the disc wheels scared them off, because I didn’t get the usual mad chasing dog response. Maybe the dogs were just a little more laid back in Tribby.

The start and finish line was silver duct tape rolled across the road and an analog clock was taped to a stake sticking up just beside the line. This was grass roots cycling at its best. We were sent off at one-minute intervals. Despite our attempts to disguise ourselves, the roadies knew we were triathletes. The profile aero bottles must have given us away. There is a known disdain roadies have for triathletes wherever you go. I don’t know why. Triathlon has done a lot for cycling; Lemond’s aero bars, and of course, Lance Armstrong. We might get somewhat squirrelly in a finishing sprint, but the time trial is the triathlete’s element. Its how we train, it’s what we do. Some of the roadies were overheard mentioning, “I just want to smoke the triathletes”

The race went very well for all of us. The triathletes dominated the top three spots overall. Our times even eclipsed the Cat 1-2-3 group. Stephen Groden was first in 1:04, Matt Carnal second with a 1:06, and Sean Stevens was third with a 1:08. I caught and passed five people ahead of me and had a good ride despite feeling like crap when I woke up that morning. I didn’t feel like going but this whole thing was my idea and I was committed to it. It hurt but I still managed to place second in the 40 plus category with a 1:10. Doug Lieb was 4th on his new Cervelo P3C. Steve Scace competed too and also had a solid effort.

Following the race, Matt and Steve, the top two guys, took their shirts off and went for a run. They ran a couple of loops back and forth across the starting line and made sure that everyone noticed them. I got a chuckle out of it because they were running much faster than a usual transition run. It was an obvious taunting move. The roadies piped up “Hey, did you guys swim today too?” It was too funny.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A Triathlete's Worst Nightmare

Traveling to races out of town is always stressful. It always seems to be a whirlwind of preparation and packing for me the day before the trip. Last Thursday, I packed my bike for St. Anthony’s Triathlon in St. Petersburg, FL. I typically pack my wheels in a wheel safe case separate from my bike. This insures that my investment stays safe. My wheels are my babies. Heck, you have to treat them like babies, 3K for a set of race wheels is no joke.

For this trip, I was traveling with out my wife, Dana, and I would be charged for excess baggage plus my bike if I took my wheel case. Therefore, to limit the gouging, I tried to fit my wheels and my bike in my bike case. When I shut the lid the disk was compressed too tight in the bike box and I didn’t want to risk damaging it so I gave my traveling buddy, Steve Groden, a call. Steve had a large TriAll3 case and I called him to see if I could possibly stash it in his case to keep it well and safe from the TSA and baggage-handling gorillas. He had room and the plan had been set, my wheel would be safe.

I carefully wrapped my precious Zipp disc wheel in foam and made sure it was well protected. I went to my Ford Explorer and tried to open the rear hatch, but it was locked. My keys weren’t in my pocket so I laid the wheel down behind the tailgate and went inside to retrieve them. After a lot of searching, I found the keys and headed back to the car to get my wheel to Steve.

On my way out, I was distracted by Dana. She always seems to distract me in one way or another. This time I completely lost my train of thought, but all I knew was that I needed to get to the bike store to drop this wheel off to Steve. I got in the car started the engine and backed up……

(I suppose by now you know where this is going. I missed one vital step to make this scenario have a positive outcome. I forgot to put my prized possession, my Zipp disc wheel, in the back of my car)

….. I continued to back up until I heard the nauseating crunching sound at the rear of my vehicle. Immediately I stopped the car and pulled forward, my eyes were wide as saucers. I dashed out of the car like a frenzied parent who had just backed over his child. How could I have been so stupid?

There lying in the garage was my wheel carefully wrapped in foam bent and broken. What I had tried to prevent TSA from doing, I had done myself. I was sick. I belted out several four-letter expletives and sat down with my wheel looking at it. I just felt like crying.

This wheel and I had been in many races together. I felt emotionally attached to it. I used it in my first comeback race to win the masters title at Memphis in May in 2005; I qualified for Kona, and reached the podium in my first Ironman in Florida with it. Now it was ruined. Dana was supportive. I got a hug from her and the tone of her voice was somber. I know she could feel my pain. I’m sure she was happy that it wasn’t her wheel.

I quickly made a few calls to Steve, and then to Sean Stevens looking for a replacement which I could use for the weekend. I even called Zipp and within hours I had the wheel Fed-Ex’d to Zipp in Indiana to see if it could possibly be repaired. Sean called Rob James and he trusted me enough to let me borrow his Zipp disc wheel for the race. It wasn’t long before the entire Tulsa bike racing and Triathlon community heard of my misfortune. When I went to the bike store to pick up a box to ship my wheel out, the guys treated me as if I had just had a death in the family. Mechanics stopped their work and stared at me. Word gets out fast when something as tragic as this happens.

As far as the race is concerned, I had a solid one. I didn’t have a power meter or heart rate monitor functioning so I just used the force. The adjustments that I made to my position on the bike made a huge difference. I was passing folks the entire way. Every time I looked down at my speedometer, it read 25-26 mph. I was riding straight through packs of riders and I thought that I was just killing it. The multiple turns on this course, unfortunately, really slow you down. I missed my 1:00 target time for the bike and went 1:02. My run was 40 min but it felt like a 38. I need more work on my running. I had hoped for a total time close to 2hrs for the distance but ended up with a 2:07. There were two waves of my age group and when they put up the preliminary results, I was in first. However, once the awards rolled around, I had dropped to third. Two guys in the other wave posted a faster time. Oh well, It’s still only April. I still have a lot of work to do.

BTW, the folks at Zipp felt my pain too and gave me a 50% discount on a crash replacement. This eased the pain a little. In all seriousness, it’s only a wheel. It is just funny how these things, our possessions, wheels, bikes, cars, bass boats etc become so important in our lives. Nothing is as precious as a human life. I can’t imagine how someone feels when he or she really does run over his or her child backing out of the driveway. God doesn’t grant a crash replacement policy there.

Next up…Escape from Alcatraz. Now this is going to be fun.