Monday, June 27, 2011

The end and the Begining

On Sunday at the Buffalo springs 70.3 race in Lubbock Tx, my vision quest came to an end. I worked very hard for nearly 6 months, but in the end it was not nearly enough to get the job done. I want to first thank everyone-- my friends, sponsors and especially my family for all the support along this journey.

When I made my goal/quest to come back to competitive triathlon racing after my second Heart surgery, I had convinced myself that if I worked hard enough I could be competitive again. I would then prove to myself and others that having your chest broke open a couple of times does not mean things have to be different. In retrospect I should of never came out with that goal. I knew that becoming ultra competitive again in triathlon would be very difficult. I just did not know how difficult. I should of realized that just coming back to healthy training and finishing triathlons would be enough of a challenge. But my perfectionism and hard headed-ness kicked in and I wanted more than that. I know that the first rule of setting goals is to make them achievable. However, I did not follow this rule. It became clear in Lubbock that my body did not allow me to reach these lofty goals. My competitive triathlon days are now officially over. And with this realization there comes a tremendous sense of relief. It is now time for a new beginning.

Race report:

Going into the race and for the past 6mo, I have worked as hard as I ever have, in my 20+ yrs of training for this sport. But now my engine is different, retooled with a transplant aortic valve and root, the way it feels to train and race is much different than ever before and not in a good way.

Before the race, Mike Pigg and I decided to take the pressure off of trying to compete at a high level and just stick to conservative Heart rate numbers throughout the race and have a clean day and finish. The last time a did Buffalo springs after my first Heart surgery I didn't finish the run and of course there was St.Croix. The plan was to swim very smooth and not stressed, stay at 130-135 on the bike and 135-140 on the run and finish feeling good.
I spent much of the past few weeks getting my head around this idea. I knew it was the right thing to do given the last few races and how inconsistent I felt in training/racing. With the weather on race day predicted to be over 100 degrees with wind, it made even more sense to be very conservative.

Before the race I was very calm and even though they grouped the 50+ group in with the 30-34 males I found a way to get away from the madness and have a relatively stress free swim, going 28 and change and never really pushing any HR effort. Coming out of the water I took my sweet time and got on the bike with the sole focus to stay at the 130-135 number and concentrate on hydration and nutrition.

All my career I have always hammered the bike and for most of the past 20+years this was my strength in the sport and how I became competitive in races, so it was hard to let tons of folks pass me on the bike. But I did-- even though it was very hard to keep the HR down to the 130 number with the heat and wind and I found myself riding more at 135 instead. this probably cost me a bit in the last 5-10 miles as we hit a pretty stiff headwind and what was a relatively easy ride to that point became tougher. My split was 2;42 and that pretty much sucks. On to the run and with the heat rising up into the triple digits, it was really hard to keep the HR down, so I used the walk through the aid station technique, ice in the hat, etc.... typical death march stuff and actually felt pretty good the last 4miles and ran most of it without walking. My split on the run was 2hrs not exactly stellar either but I finished. My time would end up being 5:16 placing 7th in my age group. I ranked 7th in every discipline. At the finish I felt physically pretty good, no gut bomb, no medical tent, no blisters( i did wear socks) a clean race( albeit slow as ass) But one thing was for sure, I was done with racing Triathlon. I had once placed 2nd overall in this race back in 1995 in a time of 4:18 almost an hour faster than I did on Sunday. Just another stark realization of my deterioration and inability to race competitively on a national level again.

I am proud of fighting myself back to this point. The work has been brutal. I think that in the end I realize that for me to get more competitive in this sport I would have to spend even more time, maybe even years of many hours of aerobic training in order to acclimate my system to become more efficient at lower HR numbers. And even if I did so, I may still not get to that level again. This is something I am not willing to put me or my family through any more.

when I started racing triathlon in the late 80s it was fun, I had no expectations and it felt good to get in shape after being fat and out of shape by having a desk job. The next few years from 87-93 I had fun with the sport. I enjoyed going to races, talking smack and planing the training with the guys. There was camaraderie, we had a good group of guys to train with, there was no coaches or numbers to adhere to, just chase each other around as hard as possible. those were the days. It was hard but it was fun to compete on a day to day basis

then in 1993 I started to win races and with that came the expectations and pressure to be good in every race. This made the sport less and less fun. My relationships turned stressed and it was only about living up to the expectations of doing better or at least as good as before. There was Ironman Hawaii, Nationals, ect... I didn't like what I had become as a person, I was focused completely around the sport and I was so very selfish. Competition was the focus in my life and it became my identity. There was so many sacrifices and mistakes I made through those years. I can honestly say that the only real positives that came out of that period was meeting my wife Sarah and a few good friends as well as developing my fitness business.

Starting in 2003 I became more removed from the sport of triathlon when Sarah and I moved to Montana. I exercised the 3 sports just for health and fitness and without a whole lot of structure. Again i started to enjoyed the sports. You see in Montana triathletes are not super prevalent and folks enjoy activity in many modes and don't take themselves so seriously about any of them. I put very little pressure on myself to be very good in these years.

Then the heart surgeries changed everything in my life both mentally and physically. I did not want heart surgery to limit me in any way. So I fought hard to come back. Fast forward to this latest comeback. By trying to be competitive like before I found myself again getting selfish, absorbed in the training/racing and basically a pain in the ass to live with. Going to the big races and seeing the competitive athletes made me want to be good again. It was like in the godfather-- "I try to get out but they pull me back in" But at these races I also realized that I was not into the triathlon scene anymore. I found it more and more nauseating.

I also know that my training had become a stress on my family and friends. My wife Sarah has been super understanding during this period but it has not been easy on her. I am very sorry to have put her through this struggle. I love her so very much. And my kids( Chloe and Cale) are the lights of my life and during this whole thing it has weighed heavily on me that I have spent so much time away from them while training and racing. Now that it is over I am very excited to spend time playing with my kids in the dirt again!

After the Race, I was in the car and driving back to Montana within 45min of my finish. I do believe that I won the open heart surgery division + driving 16 hrs straight after a 70.3 race, all I can say is thank god for 5 hr energy! On the drive I had a great conversation with Mike Pigg for about an hour. He has been great in the past couple of months counseling me in my training and in Life. We talked about how finishing was a good thing and that I had done it right by racing aerobic and feeling good at the finish without incident. He also remarked that he didn't understand how anyone with a family trained for Ironman. He told me that if he had a family when he raced that he could not have done it. I think he has got that right.

We also discussed how to approach my post racing period. here are some of the suggestions that Mike made when I asked him how he approached his transition from racing. The following is some of the advice that Mike gave.

1. No more structure, Have fun when you exercise and mix it up with what you feel like doing on that day.

2. take days off when you feel like it

3. its ok to gain 10 pounds but not 20 lbs. if that happens just cut back on the beer and ice cream and eat more protein and vegetables.

4. plan exercise with your kids and your wife, make movement a family outing. Mike recently went out for 3hrs with his 14 yr old son on a tandem. He said that it was great to spend that time taking, moving and seeing the countryside. killing 2 birds with one stone

5. go out and train with friends and/or clients. Go as slow as you want, make exercise more social.

6. Its ok to enter a 5k or bike race and go as hard as you want, just make sure you don't have any expectations

7. look down the road to things like coaching your kids in sport or activity

8. stay fit enough to keep up with your kids when you get to be 60,70,80 yrs old

9. play more golf

10. spend more time at the cabin, hiking, biking and playing in the woods with the family.

so today I will start a new phase in my life without triathlon racing. Is this failure in my quest hard to swallow? sure it is. but with every end there is a new beginning and this quest fortunately has no clock.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Ironheart classic/ willard bay tri/ cabin and lead up to lubbock

Since my last post, I have been trying hard to bounce back from the poor outcome at St. Croix. But I have to be honest, it has been much harder to be UP for workouts than before ST. Croix. Each bout of work has been more inconsistent than in the past and it has been very hard to predict how my body feels and reacts to training. It is unclear why exactly this is happening but it is clear that someone with a partial heart transplant trying to compete at a high level is an unknown entity. This could be just the way it is going to be with my new heart or I may be hitting the ceiling on just how I can compete given my circumstances. These thoughts weigh very heavy on my mind going into races these days. There was a time that working this hard gave me a lot of confidence going into races. Over the years I have had some bad days but for the most part I was very consistent when I toed the line. Now things are different and it is uncomfortable to deal with.

a few weeks ago I traveled to Seattle to visit with my friends Carol and Matt Des rosiers (dizzy)and run in the Ironheart classic 8miler. I had not been to Seattle in many years and it was great to spend some time with Diz and Carol since they moved out there. When I got in to Seattle Diz and I went down the Pike Market and saw the sights.

Dizzy at the original starbucks

flying fish at Pike market Seattle

We then headed up to Mt. Vernon where the Des Rosiers live and hit the links for some golf. A really nice golf course where Diz and Carol live. Golf was fun and then great seafood eats. Its really nice to get fresh seafood as a change of pace from what we get in Billings. Great day.

next up the Ironheart classic. I was really trying to see what I could hold for 8 miles running and also wanted to connect with other heart surgery patients that where also competing. As I lined up at the start, you look around and guess on who had a scar on there chest or not. My thought is " I hope I can beat the other heart patients". There were a few fast looking guys up in the front and at the start I went out like I was 30 and went through the first mile at 6:11! shit too fast. I settled back and got into a better pace and pretty much ran 6:30 miles from there on out until the finish, I finished in 51:57 and finished 5th overall and first in the heart patient category. I was somewhat pleased with this race and felt ok but not great through out this effort. I was pleased that I passed Diz and Carol with a 1/2 mile to go on their 4mile walk. something we had smack talked about the night before at dinner! Fun event and a fun day. Thanks to Dave Watkins for putting on the first annual Ironheart classic. We hope to make this a great annual event. Here are the results!

Jay at the Ironheart classic 8miler in Seattle

Dizzy comes down the trail at little mountain near his house In Mt Vernon Wa

Diz and I at the summit of Little mountain

This past weekend I traveled down to Ogden UT for the Willard bay Olympic Distance Triathlon. I chose this race because the timing was right and I could drive to the event. I also would be able to meet my client Jay Preston who lives is Salt Lake. I really needed to get a tri under my belt after St. Croix so as to build some confidence going into Lubbock. After arriving at Ogden I met Jay and we went for a prerace swim. The lake was supposed to be 63 degrees but it was really 51 degrees! buuuur. Jay and I then rode the course easy. The bike course was flat and fast although the roads were not great. Jay and I had a nice dinner and got to know each other.

The race the next day went almost good. In the swim I felt pretty strong and even though I was by myself I felt strong and got into a great rhythm. I would come out of the water in 6th overall in a time of 21:40. On the bike my strategy was to take a bit more time to get to pace and it seemed to work as I felt pretty strong from the go and built into a good pace ave around 278 watts for the first loop(12.5miles)I battled with a younger local guy on the second loop but stayed in control trying to make sure I would have a solid race throughout. My bike time would be 1:01 which would rank me the second fastest bike split of the day. I was very pleased on how I felt on the bike. I did have a bit of a mistake on the T2 as I followed the young guy into the transition and right to his rack instead of mine! damn! that was stupid. it took me a while to figure out that I was in the wrong rack. finally I got to my rack and got my run gear on. Then the run. the first couple of miles I felt descent running sub 7min pace. The run course was on a gravel levy( out and back) after a couple of miles my legs felt weak and my cardio system was also getting stressed. At the turnaround, I had to stop and get some rocks out of my shoes. then it just seemed that I was bogging down and at mile four I felt a bit wrong and had some dizziness which concerned me, so I walked through the aid station and gathered myself. I finished the last mile a bit better, but in the end my 45min run was a disappointment. I had hoped to run in the low 40s here. all in all it was much better than St. Croix and somewhat of a regaining of confidence. I do need to be much better on the run come June 26th. The finish results I would end up at 2:10 which would be good for 4th overall and first old guy. Thanks to Jay Preston for coming up early in the morning to support his coach!

we finally are getting some spring time temps here in Montana! must be the global cooling up here. So we got up to the cabin for the first time in 6 weeks! my favorite ride in the world is heading from the cabin to wilsal/clyde park and this weekend all the way around to livingston. Right now the snow pack is still huge and every thing else is green and finally the wildflowers are coming out.

heading to the back side of the battle ridge climb brutal with 18% grades

aaah the open roads of Montana-- from the cabin--sometimes over an hour without a passing car-- there is nothing like it---

On the Clone front-- congrats to Adam Weaver and Jay Preston for great races at the Boise 70.3 race. Jay was 3rd in his age group in a time of 4;21 posting the fastest amateur bike split of the day. And Adam placed 10th in the same 40-44 age group.

with just a week to go until I hoof it to Lubbock(106 degrees today, Yikes)I am sowing up my last key workouts before my taper/rest. I am feeling pretty good and especially with getting my head around just having a clean race at Lubbock, which is what Mike Pigg and I are calling my goal for this race. I am going to be very strict on my HR number and am going to concentrate on that first. what ever happens with my time and place happens after that. No matter what the result I know I have done everything I could do to prepare and am proud of working through how hard it has been given the way my body is and feels. It has been very hard to attempt this and apart from having the surgeries and pic line drip-- the most difficult thing I have ever tried to do. I am hopeful that I will get to finish line with that clean race!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Trials & Tribulations

(Post by Sarah:) Well! It has been quite an on-again off-again spring. The weather in MT has produced non-stop rains and cool weather...finally getting into full-on spring this week! Jay's races and training seem to have gone up and down with the weather. First we suffered a big disappointment at St. Croix. Then, with the go-ahead from Dr. Scott Sample, Jay came in 5th overall at the Ironheart 8-miler in Seattle. Now, this weekend, he's headed to an olympic distance at Willard Bay. I sure hope it goes well for him!

On the home front, we have also suffered some significant trials, including home damage due to the moisture, termites, and sliding shale behind our home. Chloe is out of school for the summer and starting camp next week. Cale is still going to "baby school" at MSU Billings. I am still teaching a bit and conducting research on the side.

With the end of my university semester, my training (for nothing in particular) has increased and I am beginning to look around for races. I am planning on doing a trail run in Red Lodge, a 10-mile trail run in Bozeman, the Falmouth Sprint Tri, a century ride in the Beartooths, and perhaps a 50 km in August.

I'll be on the East Coast for the month of July...and will be looking forward to catching up with some of the old crew. Jay will remain in Montana, training and racing.