Thursday, June 19, 2008


Volunteering for a race is something every triathlete should do. When you are out on the course focusing on your race, it is easy to forget about the work that goes on behind the scenes to make your race a success.

When Peter Reid volunteered for the Hawaii Ironman a few years back, he chose the go to the heart of the race, the energy lab. I guess he wanted to get a good feel for the race he loved and that usually followed him. I remembered a comment he made in an interview. He said that the 9:30-10:00 guys were the most intense and demanding and were the rudest to the volunteers. I thought, “Hey, I was in that group and I don’t remember any incidents“. There is no reason to be rude to people who come out and stand in the hot sun for hours on end to help you.

If Dana qualifies for Hawaii this year, I plan on volunteering. I think it would be a lot of fun.

I see folks on various online forums complaining about races and race directors. Obviously these people haven’t volunteered for a race and don’t appreciate the work that goes into putting one of these on.

This past weekend was the Tulsa triathlon. I was still feeling ill and tired so I chose to volunteer rather than race it. Dana was doing the bike on a relay team, so I had the kids. I was placed out on the bike course at mile 15 of the 25 mile course. My job was to keep the athletes on track and headed in the right direction. The race was the standard Olympic distance, however this year they changed the course from a hilly loop around Skiatook Lake to a point to point, Skiatook to Tulsa. The route took the athletes due south into a prevailing headwind for the entire ride. This made the course difficult and I think only one rider, Chuck Sloan, averaged over 20 miles/hour. On a positive note, it brought the race back to Tulsa, which brings more visibility to the sport here.

The kids and I got to our assigned position an hour in advance. I chose to make our station a Star Wars theme. Braden had a Darth Vader helmet and cape and we had plenty of plastic light sabers to assist in directing the cyclists like airplanes. While we were waiting, I had plenty of duels with Darth Vader and managed to win a few. We also used the light sabers as baseball bats to hit rocks over the fence at the cows. We examined the road kill at our station. Braden correctly identified the decayed corpse as a raccoon. Dana had a case of Diet Coke in the back of the van so the kids managed to open a few of those and pour them all over the cars interior. It never fails, if the kids have drinks or food in the car it always ends up on the floor. I should have had the carpet and the vans interior coated in plastic prior to bringing it home.

Once the cyclists started pouring by we had a lot more fun but the excitement soon grew old, especially for Darth as the cyclist flow slowed to a slow trickle. Everyone seemed to get a good laugh seeing me standing on the side of the road waving light sabers with little Darth at my side. I think it would have been funnier if he had a Yoda mask on. We spent a total of 4 hours out there. It’s been a few years since I have volunteered. There were quite a few folks that voiced their appreciation for our efforts and I liked that. I think that is something that I’m going to do more regularly when I’m out on the course racing.

Here's a shot of Darth and I bringing the cyclists home. Excitement is high.

Darth started to get a little tired and had a seat in the lawn chair.

Despite drinking this entire mug of
Kona Nightingale, Darth is out cold.

Roadkill...The give away is the striped tail.

After the race, I spent a short time at the finish line returning my gear and talking with a few folks, but I was pooped. I went home and crashed on the couch. It was tough work. I think I was more fatigued than those that raced the course. Jessica Myers won the women’s race in 2:17 and Chuck Sloan went 2:05 for the men. Eric Lundt, one of the athletes I coach, went 2:48 and 7th in his age group in prep for Buffalo Springs in two weeks.

Remember when you race give thanks to the volunteers. They will appreciate it.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Escape from Alcatraz.........and the Denver Airport

This past weekend I had the opportunity of competing in a race that has been “on my list” for a long time, The Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon. Participants of this world-class field are taken out by boat to the site of the famed prison and dumped off to swim 1.5 miles in the frigid swift currents of the waters of San Francisco bay to the Yacht club. From that point, there is a run, almost a mile, to the transition area, which is followed by a hilly technical 18-mile bike tour of the town. The 8-mile run is less than flat. Most of it is on single-track trails through steep hills, stairs and sand. This race is a mixture of an adventure race and a triathlon. This race is so popular because of the lure of adventure and the challenge of swimming across San Francisco Bay. Was an escape from this famed prison really possible?

A few days before the race I was on call. Unfortunately, I was up all night and my immune system took a big hit. The next day I came down with a sore throat and the fatigue that goes along with an upper respiratory tract infection. It couldn’t have been better timing. This plagued me even through race day. I felt like crap, but I kept a positive attitude and didn’t let it spoil my little adventure.

I managed to arrange a few extra days off work and left on Thursday. After a few delays, I made it to San Jose late that night and stayed with my Epic Camp pal, Mark Pietrofesa. He was a great host and his girlfriend Kammie made us an awesome breakfast the next morning. While staying with Mark, I was able to sample some of the great riding San Mateo County has to offer as well as swam at his health club. On my way out, I saw NFL star Jerry Rice. Mark mixes with the best.

Here are some photos of Mark and I and a bike trail to get to the nice roads in San Mateo county.

Albert Boyce, another epic pal, took us both out to dinner at Le Colonial near Union Square on Friday night. Albert won epic camp and was on the age group podium in Hawaii in 2005. Both he and Mark are a couple of the best 40-44 age groupers in the nation if not the world. Mark just won his age group at the Honu 70.3 and is now a member of the “Big Bowl Club”. Here's Mark's big bowl.
Albert is the man behind"Coffees of Hawaii" .He grew up in the Bay area, and is involved in a few other businesses as well. He is one of the hardest working guys out there. It was relaxing to take in some good food and good company and exchange stories.

Through triathlons, and traveling to races, I have met many fine folks. I suppose it is one of the things that I like about the sport and which keeps me in it. Both Dana and I are developing quite a network of like-minded friends from all over the country. Here's a photo of Albert in Yellow at Epic Camp.
Race day went smooth. The weather was perfect. I got on the boat with Albert and we shot the breeze until it was time to jump off. Being a former sailor of the bay, he showed me some of the nuances of the tides while we waited.

Once the starting gun fired, participants shuffled off the boat like penguins jumping off an iceberg. I had prepared myself for the worst, but I was pleasantly surprised when I hit the water. “Hey, this isn’t that cold”. Being a good swimmer, I ran into a lot of folks before I was able to get to clear water. I was kicked in the face a few times. There is a radio tower off in the distance that the swimmers have to sight. The tower is way left of the yacht club. If you swim to the tower, the ebb current to takes you to the target. I kept a steady course for it and landed smack dab in the center of the beach at the exit. Perfect!

The bike was very hilly and I felt like I just couldn’t get my effort level or heart rate up. I wasn’t able to get myself to the point of hyperventilating. It may have been due to some of the medications that I was taking along with the congestion I had. Tons of people were passing me. I experienced the same on the run. This wasn’t going to be my day, so I decided at that point to enjoy the race and take in the sights and the experience. I had a blast.

I ended up finishing seventh in my age group, and 70th overall, with a 2:32, which I felt was better than I thought I would have been. I thought I was middle of the pack. Albert rocked it and was sixth overall amateur. I just had escaped from Alcatraz, but little did I know that my entire escape experience was far from being complete.

I quickly collected my gear and headed up to my motel to pack my bike and make my way to the airport to catch my flight. Michael Yatsko, another good friend I met at St Croix last year, drove all the way up from the Monterey area to see the race and do a training run. He and I chatted a little while I packed the bike in the motel parking lot. It was good to see him. He is training for his first IM in Canada this year.

I had allowed myself several hours to make the flight. I felt confident that I had plenty of time, but after dropping off the rental car, getting on a number of buses and trains, and waiting in endless lines, with my bike box and all my luggage, I just made it to the gate just as my flight was boarding. Ahh, I let out a sigh of relief. I would make a connecting flight in Denver and be home in my own bed by midnight and back to work in the morning. It had been quite an adventure.

When I arrived in Denver, I found that my flight had been delayed 30 minutes due to weather. There were some folks at the gate who had been at the airport all day waiting for a flight to Tulsa. Each had their own stories, but the flights were overbooked so they were bumped sequentially from each flight as it left. This one was the last flight of the night and everyone was tired and anxious. Some old folks sitting across from me looked very tired. I had pity for them.

By 11 pm, we heard that our flight had been cancelled. I was very angered by the way we were notified. The gate agent disappeared, and then the “cancelled” notice turned up next to our flight on the departure screens. I overheard it from some other folks talking about it and since I had experienced the self-service customer service before, I quickly got in line to rearrange my schedule. I had to call the hospital to tell them that I couldn’t wouldn‘t be there. Others in my group would have to pick up the slack in my absence. I hate to do that to my partners.

Here I am at United Airlines "self service customer service"unshaven and unhappy.

Self-service customer service is a computer kiosk and a phone. Your personal information is entered on a touch-activated screen and if there is a problem, you pick up a phone and speak with some agent in a distant land. This is an ingenious way for the airlines to distance themselves from irate stranded passengers in their time of need. I overheard a lot of frustrated people having it out with the agent on the other end. The gate agents send you to the computer customer service and the phone agents send you to a gate agent whose attitude is “It’s not my job”. Everyone wants to pass the buck.

I managed to get a flight out the next day so instead of sleeping on the floor at the airport like a lot of the other folks, I got on a bus to the Hyatt and got a decent 5 hours of sleep. The exhausted old folks rented a van pooled together with some others and drove back to Tulsa. They were through with the airlines. I couldn’t blame them. They did the smart thing.

I got back to the airport early that morning to be greeted by yet another surprise at the security check in. My new boarding pass had been labeled with SSSS. I was a “high risk” security target. Were they on to me? Did they know I had just escaped from Alcatraz? I was shunted to the super secret security line where I went through everything but a strip search. However, I was placed into a chamber and “blown”. I made it through without the security team finding out about my escape.

I was on standby for the morning flight to Tulsa, but so were 30 other people. There wasn’t a lot of compassion from the gate agents. This flight was overbooked, too, as was the next one, and then the following one after that. It turns out escaping from Alcatraz was easy compared to attempting to escape from the Denver airport!

It’s a real shame how I and the other folks were treated. Here our flight had been canceled, and we were being treated so poorly. For all they cared we could just be stuck at the airport for days waiting for a seat to open up. After being gouged $200.00 for my bike and then all this, just leaves a bad taste in my mouth regarding airline travel. I don’t want to travel by air anywhere anytime soon. However, what did leave a good taste in my mouth was that I was able to try the entire espresso menu of both Seattle’s best Coffee and Starbucks while I hung out in the airport all day.

By 8:20 pm, 25 hours after I arrived in Denver, I finally boarded the plane to Tulsa. When I arrived at my seat in the very back of the plane. I found that I had the middle seat next to a woman with a crying baby. After I sat down a huge fat man sat down next to me in the isle seat. After we took off, I closed my eyes and was just about to drift off when my knees were crunched into my chest. The woman in front of me just reclined her seat all the way back. Oh boy, all these things combined had never happened to me before. What were the odds that I would experience the nightmare trifecta? A fat man taking up half of my space, a baby crying in my ear, and a full recline from the passenger in front. I was also in the rearmost seat, across from the toilet. The unofficial potty monitor -- where everyone thinks they need to ask you if the toilet is open, or make some other comment to the poor soul who got the “potty-monitor” seat. Luckily, the flight was only an hour in a half.

It’s good to be home, but since I have returned work has been rough. The week is almost over and I feel I have never been home. I had to pay all my partners for working for me due to my absence. I am currently on an other night call and all I want to do is just sleep and get over this illness. Exercise is the furthest thing on my category of needs.

Would I do it again? You bet, in a heartbeat! I loved this race. I definitely plan on going back and conquering this course again next year.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Mr. Mom

While Dana was jet setting in Brazil, I used my vacation time to be Mr. Mom and live in Danasworld. Remember that old movie “Mr. Mom “with Michael Keaton? That was me. We are also doing some home remodeling. Thankfully, I have hired the work out. I am smart enough to know my limitations and that every thing can‘t always be fixed with duct tape.

It was great to get my training in during the day while the kids were in school, and then be finished with it all by school pick up time.

Pick up time was my least favorite time of the day. My kids go to a private school so no buses transport them home. It is the parent’s responsibility to be there for pick up. Hundreds of kids are released at once, followed by an onslaught of vehicles converging on the school. You can give me a hemorrhaging gunshot wound, or a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm and I usually keep my cool and my stress level is minimal. However, it’s some thing about all these type “A” housewives in their luxury SUV’s pushing and shoving their way into the line that shoots my stress level through the roof. It makes me want to scream, and sometimes I do. There is a scene in the Mr. Mom movie where the guard tells him “you’re doing it wrong” That has happened to me. The guards have had some words with me. Every time I pick them up, I profess to myself, “there must be a better way”.

Braden, my youngest, just graduated from first grade. Earlier in the week, I took him to a birthday party at Skateland. It was nostalgic seeing all the kids skate. It brought back some memories of my own childhood. I got him into his skates quickly and made sure he was able to propel himself then I headed out to get some grocery shopping done. I had one hour, I thought this would be plenty of time. However, I failed to factor in the time in the checkout line, which took a bit longer than it should have and I was ten minutes late. Later, I heard one of the mothers of one of the other children (not the mother of the birthday boy) was frantically trying call me to pick Braden up. The party was over and I wasn’t there. A small miscalculation on my part and I was in deep dodo. When I arrived they were just loading the gifts in the car, at least they weren’t tapping their feet with cross looks on their faces. This is another reason I can’t come close to performing the responsibilities of motherhood the way Dana can. It takes precision timing and calculation, these are skills I have yet to hone.
Braden’s class had another party at one of his classmate’s homes, and since it was a pool party, parents were required to attend. I suppose that if your kid drowns, it’s going to be your fault. So twenty or so mothers were there sitting watching the kids have a great time. I was able to sit with the other mothers and talk about motherly things. I was fortunate enough to talk with a grandmother of one of the children who does ultra marathons. Now that’s a cool grandma. I had a nice conversation with her. I managed to turn her on to Hammer Nutrition. Brian Frank would be happy. I was able to get in some soft marketing for one of my sponsors at a kids pool party.

I suppose I was being too boring and the host of the party told me “if you have something else to do“……. Are you sure? Do you know the reputation I have regarding party pickups? I was there long enough to see my son in action. I was shocked when a little girl brought him a plate of snacks while he sat on his inflatable raft lounging in the pool then she got in and snuggled up beside him. I couldn’t help but get a vision of an older Braden with hotties hovering around him bringing him beer. “No, No.. Stop!!” Keep him just like he is, a happy “Star Wars” loving seven year old

When I arrived to pick him up (on time), one of the girls was getting him a cotton candy. I told him ‘Braden the party is over.” The little girl said ….” The party is just getting started” Oh boy, these are just first graders. I suppose they are second graders now.

The weather here is just right. The oppressive heat and humidity has yet to hit, so I thought it was a good opportunity to take the kids to the drive in movie. Yes, we still have one open here in Tulsa, the Admiral Twin. It was were they filmed the hit movie the “Outsiders”. This was a new retro experience that is likely to, someday, not be an option for them anymore. I hadn’t been to a drive in for years and once I experienced the sound and picture quality again, I realize why they have become outdated. However, in the past, I don’t think the movie was the main reason we went to the drive in for anyway. It was still fun to sit outside with the kids and take in this experience.

We tracked Dana on Ironman live on Sunday. She had a solid race and was 16th overall and top 10 amateur finish. If she had done any other Ironman race in the series, she most likely would have left with a Kona slot. However, it appeared that some of the fastest women in her age group showed up in Brazil that day. I am so proud of her, she can compete and train at that level and keep this family running smoothly. Believe me; it’s harder than it looks.