Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Breakthrough Race

This weekend Tulsa hosted a Team USA qualifier for the World Duathlon Championship: The Chris Brown Memorial Duathlon. Chris Brown was a triathlete from Tulsa who unfortunately succumbed to pancreatic cancer. Randy Pausch who wrote and gave “The Last Lecture” passed away last week from the same devastating disease. Randy’s national bestselling book and thoughts in his lecture give the basic message of to not give up on your dreams, grab life by the horns and make everyday count. A good read from the mind of a dying man.

Athletes converged from all over the country for our little race. Fleet Feet sports took over management of the race this year and moved the venue from the outskirts of Tulsa to the downtown river parks and Riverside Drive. It was a definite improvement. I was planning to do the race but I have been dealing with injuries recently, more about that later.

Doug Leib, an athlete I coach, asked me about doing the event last week, a few days before the race. I thought it suited his strengths, the bike and run. Doug had not done a duathlon before so I thought why not; it would be a good experience and quality training session. Doug was just moving into the intensity phase in prep for the Triathlon National Championship in Portland Oregon on September 20th

Doug is an amazing story. I love stories like his. He doesn’t have any previous athletic experience. He is a 50 year old whose kids have left the nest. Not to long ago he was sick, out of shape and pushing 300lbs. His health problems resulted in hospitalizations. Being the intelligent man that he is, he made a commitment to turn his life around and get in shape. He started running, lost weight, and started to feel good again. He entered some running races then caught the racing bug. Last year did his first triathlon. He tells me that he is now in the best shape of his life. This year he has stepped up his game and just finishing is no longer a goal. Doug has bigger dreams and goals and with his hard work, he is achieving them. It has been fun to watch the transformation.

I went down to the race venue on my bike on race day to take some photos and provide encouragement for the folks who I knew who that were racing. I kept a close eye on Doug and it was exciting to watch him move through the field on the bike. He was having a breakthrough race. On the final run segment, I shouted some last words of encouragement and told him “I think you have found your event”. On the final kilometer, a 19 year old cruised by Doug and I said “See how long you can hang with this 19 year old guy”. The 19 year old shouted back “I’m also an OU college runner”. Doug was hanging with him too. It was amazing!

Doug executed a flawless race. His first and second run splits were essentially the same time. This is difficult to accomplish in a duathlon. His heart rate profile demonstrated the best effort I have seen from him this year. Previously his efforts on the bike tailed off during last half of the race, so we did some strength work during this past month and he was able to maintain a consistent effort throughout the entire bike segment. He averaged 24.1 mph on the bike and his split was the 6th fastest overall! His time was faster than two of the 50+ former professional cyclists in the field. Doug won the 50-54 age group with a time of 1:30.25. He finished 12th overall , just missing winning the masters division by a mere 12 seconds or so.

In winning his age group, Doug earned a slot and an opportunity to compete for Team USA in the World Duathlon Championships in Italy this September. How cool is that!

I’m so proud of Doug not only for his recent athletic accomplishments but also for making the change his life and realizing the importance of health and fitness. He has a promising future in age group racing. Breakthrough races like this can take an athlete to a new level.

At the conclusion of Pausch’s book, he mentioned that his lecture wasn’t about how to achieve childhood dreams; it was about how to lead your life. It’s sad to see folks wasting their health and lives and not living life to its fullest. Don’t be afraid to go after your dreams and achieve goals that others may tell you are impossible. I believe in the quote on the header of this blog. People like Doug Leib are catching on to this too.
On a personal front, I have had some chronic problems with my right knee. For the past year and a half, I ran through pain and discomfort. The knee would ache in the morning but I was able to live with it. Currently, whenever I run the knee swells and I have pain all the time instead of just following a run. I realized it was time that I needed to do something about it before I damaged myself any further so I had one of my orthopedic surgeon pals take a look at it. Arthroscopic surgery is scheduled for August 7th. It sucks getting old.

I have been swimming more often to maintain my fitness and enjoying my time off from running. I recently set a state citizen’s record in the 1500 M free for my age group. Former 1980 Olympian, Ron Nugent holds the overall masters record of 18:59. My time was close so that’s something I can shoot for in future races.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Dana and Dara: Striking Similarities

This past week the DVR at the Chance household has been recording the Olympic Trials. Watching all these incredible athletes realize their dreams is wonderful. I have to say that am most impressed with Dara Torres. She is 41 and just blitzed the field in the 50 free and touched out Natalie Coughlin in the 100 free. Exercise Physiologists will tell you that as you age you lose speed and power. Dara has done the opposite and gotten faster. She was always fast and I think modern training methods and these new fast suits help a lot. She has been inspiring to me though.

I remember back in the mid to late 80’s Mark Spitz at 40 tried to make a comeback. He competed in a series of televised 50-meter swims against top competitors like Matt Biondi and Tom Jager for prize money. He was spanked.

I remember watching Dara swim at the LA Olympics in 1984. I can say I had a crush on her at the time. I have seen her in magazines and subsequent Olympics through the years but it wasn’t until now that I noticed some similarities between her and my wife Dana. When I saw her go the end of the lane and get ready for her swims, it was almost as if I was watching Dana. I have included some photos below.
Head shots. I'm sure if I looked hard enough I could find a photo of Dana with her hair cut like that and with a black and white dress on.

Some action shots.

All dressed up.

When I was a kid in the 70’s, the Donny and Marie show was popular. It wasn’t really my thing at the time or anytime for that matter. He was never a “little bit rock and roll” to me. Unfortunately, in my younger days I bared a likeness to Donny Osmond. I would always get embarrassed when people reminded me of this. I heard it all the time. I would have rather looked like a famous athlete rather than a lame pop idol. I was looking for photos of Dara and this one caught my attention, our look alikes, Dara and Donny how sweet.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Surviving Buffalo Springs 70.3

This past weekend Dana and I made the trek to Lubbock, TX for the Buffalo Springs 70.3. This would be my 4th year in a row of doing this race. I think that’s a record for me doing any race consecutively. It was my first ever half ironman four years ago and I remembered how painful it was. I thought how on earth can I do twice this distance? This would also be my first race with Dana since St. Croix 70.3 of last year so it made this trip a bit more fun.

Lubbock is a west Texas town in the desert. The geography consists of scrub brush and red rocky soil with very few trees. The major attraction in this town is a museum for the 50’s rock idol, Buddy Holly. The climate is usually arid and hot. It sits at 3000 ft altitude. It’s not a destination race by any means, unless of course you happen to be a Buddy Holly fanatic.
Buddy is dead now. I think I wore a pair of glasses like that in medical school. I think he died in a tragic plane crash. We missed the museum tour.

The Buffalo Springs Lake is spring fed and lies at the bottom of a canyon. There are several steep climbs into and out of the transition area which add to the race’s difficulty. Like Kona, the conditions, including the heat and the winds, usually take their toll on the athletes. I think this is what draws the “hard core” triathletes and having 28 Kona slots doesn’t hurt either. The level of competition is usually very high.

Dana and I arrived in Lubbock on Saturday, the day before the race. We drove down there in 7 hours. It was to be a quick in and out trip so I booked a room at the Quality Inn. How could I go wrong with a name like the Quality Inn? It had to be nice and $69.95 seemed like a bargain.

We went to the Holiday Inn where the race expo was located to get our packets. We met and talked with a few folks then headed to the race site for a quick prerace workout to check the equipment out. It was a great day, warm, sunny, and wind was at a minimum. If race day was like this, it would be perfect. Dinner was at a fine Italian establishment called Orlando’s. We saw some pro athletes there, so it had to be good. The pros are always on top of everything.

We returned to the Quality Inn, stuffed our backpacks, and got to bed early, 9:30ish. The problem with this is, most of the rest of the motel life is still very awake. The walls were paper-thin, but what do you expect for $69.95? To our left we heard the cars going by on the interstate. In front of us, a TV in the next room was blaring. And to our right, kids were screaming and running down the halls. Behind our headboard, the loudest racket was coming from the “sex couple”. That’s right, we heard the rhythmic banging and moaning. This woman was making a lot of noise. Dana and I laid there silent for a while and neither of us said a thing. Finally, I said dryly…“He must be pretty good” Then Dana replied, “Ugh, She’s such a faker! I wish she would just shut up. She’s so annoying. Nice place you picked, Rob!” I always get blamed in situations like this.

Hey, wait a second. Faking it? This poor guy thinks he’s God’s gift and she’s faking it! Images of the diner scene with Meg Ryan in “When Harry Met Sally” flashed into my mind. I think Elaine on “Seinfeld” mentioned the same thing to Jerry in an episode once. Anyway, we turned on our air-conditioner unit and drowned out most of the noise and finally drifted off to sleep. Dana, a light sleeper, said they were back at it a 1:30am. They definitely weren’t racing on Sunday.

Dana nudged me at 3:50 am. The alarm at the Quality Inn didn’t go off, big surprise. Luckily, Dana set her watch alarm, also. Morning. Ug, I hate race mornings, especially ones where you have to get calories in you as soon as you wake up. I suppose four years in a row were starting to wear on me. Motivation plays such a huge part in this sport. This race meant very little to me. Dana was a bit more into it. It has been five weeks since Ironman Brazil and she was feeling fit.

As we were driving to the race site the wind was picking up and we saw lightning in the distance. I didn’t check the weather, but some folks in the transition area said a storm was moving in. This would certainly be a challenge.

Last year I wrote about the sandbar at the start of the swim. Well, my secret was out. Everyone must have read my race report in my blog! So, this year, the pro wave ran along the sand bar almost to the first buoy and so did every subsequent wave. It was hilarious.

I was in the 5th wave, the 45-49 men were leaving with the 25-29 men. I ran along the sandbar but in the process stepped on a rock with my left foot and I felt a sharp pain into the ball of first metatarsal head. My foot was killing me as I started the swim. I soon forgot the pain and searched for some young feet to draft off . I accelerated to a 25 year old guy and just latched on for the entire swim. I remember looking at my watch and seeing 23:50 when I got out. Nice swim, but after that my race went quickly downhill. I was able to maintain my wattage target for an hour but after that I just couldn’t keep it going. I remember that last year I felt I was able to really race this race. Well, this year I was back to just surviving again. My lack of training time on the bike was apparent.

This year at Buffalo Springs, the weather was horrible with rain and winds gusting to 45 mph, which further exploited my weakness. In my training this year, I have been able to get in the runs and the swims, but the bike training time has been a bit tough to squeeze in, and the results showed. You can fake your way through an Olympic distance race with low miles but you can’t do it with a half ironman.

There was a lot of carnage on the course. Folks took the down hills too fast and the slick wet roads caused quite a few crashes. I took those descents very easy. When all was said and done I turned in a personal worst time on this course of 2:46.

I had a decent run though, a 1:35, with a negative split. The usual oppressive hot conditions were replaced with a cool rain this year, so there were fewer implosions on the run by guys that biked too hard, and I only managed to run myself back to 9th in my age group with a 4:49. This was over 10 minutes slower than last year’s time. I think that ties my slowest overall time here, which was the first year I did it. Anyway, I have to be pleased with the result considering the amount of training I have done. Long hard rides are necessary to do well at this distance.

I felt like quitting early in the run but I toughed it out. My left foot was killing me and I couldn’t figure out why. Later, when we were driving home the pain got worse and my big toe swelled like I had gout, then it dawned on me. “Oh yeah, I hurt it on the swim start running along that sand bar“. On Monday I had it x-rayed. Luckily there are no fractures but I still have to put weight on the outside of my foot due to the deep bruise and pain . I guess that’s the price you pay for cheating on the swim. Dana thinks that they should rope off that section next year so the athletes can’t run along the sandbar. “It’s a swim, for goodness sakes, not a water run. “ she said. The swim is under-represented in a half iron distance race anyway.

Dana had a solid race. She thought the bike conditions were tougher this year. It took her ten minutes longer than the last time she raced here, two years ago. She wanted to break 30 on the swim and went 27. Her run was a PR for her on the Buffalo Springs course, but not enough to net a PR for the race because of the slower bike. She was 7th in her age group with a 5:16.

I learned a few things from this race. One, if you don’t put in the time you don’t get the time, and in future races I will add ear plugs to my race equipment checklist.