Monday, September 29, 2008

Fun Jasper Weekend

It was a great weekend in Jasper this past couple days. Amber joined me on Friday night and a friend of ours, Alan joined us from Calgary and we had a terrific time hanging out together. Friday we went out for an awesome sushi dinner and had an early night.

Saturday it was raining and cold and the crew did not want to go mountain biking with me. I was super excited to get out there and bike some of the trails, even if it was raining and cold. I'm glad I was able to convince Amber and Alan to get out there because it was so much fun! We were covered in mud and after we were moving we warmed up enough to keep going a while. We mapped out a new trail and it was a beautiful ride out to Maligne Canyon and back. The whole ride took about 3 hours and aside from stopping for pictures and a bit of sightseeing, we were biking most of the time. Amber and I definitely want to get mountain bikes when spring rolls around.

Sunday Alan was eager to get us into his "domain," we had a trail run planned. We took a drive out to Edith Cavell and it was a tough, tough climb. After about 30 minutes running straight up there was snow on the ground. It was cold but the sun was keeping us warm during the breaks and we were moving consistently enough to stay warm. We did some exploring in an incredible ice cave that had obviously been formed over hundreds of years of water erosion and it was amazing! All in all it was a great weekend with AD and Alan and I can't wait to go back.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Reconnecting With the Bike Trainer

Well the weather has turned a little cooler and gloomy, Saturday was beautiful and I did a little 50km ride outside. However Sunday and today have been cold and rainy and I've been on the trainer trying to put some power back in the old legs. Fortunately I received a bunch of Tour DVDs to keep things interesting, all of the Tours Lance did and a spinervals DVD to try and compensate for not being in bike class this winter.

Yesterday and today was Lance's first win in 1999 and I really enjoyed seeing him completely dominate the competion right after coming back from cancer. He is an incredible athlete and an inspiration to a lot of people out there. Any type of suffering I experience is not even one tenth of the pain and suffering he went through. I'm going to remember that this year and enjoy watching his tours in our basement and some of the epic battles with Jan Ulrich. His comeback this year is going to be incredible as well, good luck Lance you inspire me to push to become a better athlete year after year.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

It Feels Good To Get A Win In Our New Home!

Today was a great day I finally felt like this season has been an incredible success. After a somewhat disappointing Ironman a little 8km cross country race in little old Grande Prairie can renew your optimism and make you feel like all the work this year is worth it. Ironman is such an unforgiving race that you can work and work and work incredibly hard all year and then the day comes and you realize that it's just not your day or your race. It's very difficult to maintain your perspective and give yourself the credit you deserve. I've had a great season and I should be proud of myself but there is something about not feeling like you've performed your best in your focus race that is kind of a let down. However today I realized that I have made phenomenal progress this season and it came together with a win today.

Before the race I was very nervous, much more so than normal, there is an amazing triathlete up here named Trevor Kolkea who wins all the races and has had incredibly fast Ironman times. He was at the race and I knew that winning today was not going to be a foregone conclusion. He started the race so fast I was left in the dust in the first kilometer and I was really hurting just to maintain my "fast run" pace. Slowing but surely I inched my way closer to the two leaders, very, very slowly and by the 3km mark I was right behind them. They were going a little slower than my pace so I decided to stick to my own race and push past them. I didn't know if this was the right thing to do but if I was going to be beaten today I was going to give it everything I had!

It was a lot of suffering for the next 16 minutes and I was running scared but it was so nice to be in the lead and I was not going to give it up without a fight. It hurt like hell but I toughed it out and finshed with the win. Amber was going to take it easy but her competitive spirit came out and she won as well! Great job AD!

Run 7.5km; 26:49

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Thanks Kevin!

At the pre-race dinner in Louisville Amber and I were on our way out when a guy behind me asked "Hey do you have a website?" I replied no but I do have a blog I update every once in a while. Turns out he has been following my blog for some time to try and gain some strength while doing the long workouts required for Ironman preparation. His name is Kevin and he's from Seattle and I recently received this note from him about his race in Louisville;

Hi Darin - thought I would drop a note post Louisville. I was the guy from Seattle that has been reading your blog for last ten months in prep for IML. Got to say it was strange to run into you and Amber given the thousand plus number of people in the room that night. As mentioned, I had been following only two blogs in my prep for Louisville - yours and a guy from here in Seattle that had been training for IM Couer d'Alene. Found them to be good reads.

Sounds like your race was much like mine, but faster. I had visions of sub 11 and ended up at more than 12 1/2. My swim which felt good in the water was off my 1:15 target. Course I could not see my watch two feet in front of me. The bike which I wanted a 5:45 ended up almost 20 minutes more. Found it impossible to get in groove and really just found myself trying to conserve energy for run. The run was basically a death march. Cramped up badly as soon as I got off the bike in both quad's and hamstrings and ended up power walking almost a full marathon. The run is normally my stronger of the three sports and while I new it would be difficult, could never have predicted what happened. Most of the time I tried to kick my run into gear and got nothing but continued cramping. In all honesty, aside from cramping my body was really not that tired at end of race since the run turned into more of a stroll.

It is just impossible to train/prepare for the oppressive heat and humidity that is Louisville when you live in Seattle, but finishing the race was my primary goal so I have to be happy with that.

Best of luck in future endeavours. Kevin

It was definitely tough out there Kevin, good for you for finishing and best of luck to you as wellin your future races. If you have a blog please send me the link and say hi to Rachel as well, hope her race was better.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Yes it's True- Lance is Returning to Cycling!

The greatest athlete ever has decided to return to professional cycling, Lance announced today that he is going to race in 2009 including the Tour de France. In my humble opinion its a big, big mistake. Most of us know that taking time off from training can really impact your performance but taking three years away from professional cycling is like starting all over again! Why Lance why! We all remember you has a phenomenal athlete having an incredible personal story coming back from cancer but I don't know what more he feels he needs to do in pro bike racing.

I wish you luck Lance and of course I'll still be your greatest fan, no matter what the outcome. At least the tour will be really exciting to watch again!

Lance's comeback 2009

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Ironman Louisville 2008

It's hard to put into words one of the most difficult and trying times of your life but I'm going to do my best. My preparation for IM Louisville seemed to be absolutely perfect, I'd set PRs in every race leading up to it and was having the best racing year I'd ever had. I think my expectations going into the race were a little too optimistic, however I always want to go into a race feeling and thinking that I can handle anything that comes up.

As soon as Amber and I arrived in Kentucky and stepped off the plane we were hit with a huge wave of heat and humidity. We both looked at each other and went uh oh... how the hell are we going to handle this? We rested for most of the week, took in the expo, enjoyed some practice swims, rode a couple hours of the course and were very well prepared for whatever the day was going to bring.

I went to bed at 8:30pm and I slept very well until our 4:30am wake up. I showered, ate and made my way down to the transition. There were a lot of nervous athletes milling around, pumping up tires, loading the bikes with nutrition and limbering up for the swim. I pumped up Amber's tires and my tires, dropped the bike pump off at the hotel and made my way towards the swim start. The start of the race was about 3/4 of a mile from the transition at a dock beside towhead island. It was a time trial swim start which made life a lot better because you weren't being battered around by another 2000 swimmers around you. It took about 10 minutes to get to the start line and after crossing the timing mat all the nerves went away and it was time to get down to work. The feeling before an Ironman is hard to describe, imagine feeling like you are about to go through some of the worst physical pain you have ever experienced and you keep going back for more. I like to equate it to a fighter before he enters the ring, he knows what is waiting for him but he also knows the pain is temporary and the experience lasts a lifetime.

I dove into the water at 7:10am and started fairly steady and smooth and tried to get some distance from the few swimmers around me. The Ohio river was warm which was nice but it was so cloudy that I couldn't even see my own hands in front of me, let alone any other swimmers around me. About 15 minutes into it I ran into my first problem, my goggles started leaking. Arrghh! I had time to empty them and get back into it but they would fill up another four times throughout the swim which probably added another minute or two to my time. The swim out to the turn around was against the current and it felt like it took forever! I was swimming really, really hard and I was make progress on everyone around me but I couldn't believe how long I was in the water. I finally made the turn, didn't see my time because someone kicked my watch and changed the setting but I felt like I was on track for a 1hr swim. The swim back was supposed to be very fast because you are swimming with the current but again, it felt like it was taking quite a long time. I was getting very tired of being in the water by the time I passed the last bridge and I was thinking, "this swim has to be long!" When I exited I looked at my time and it was 1:10! How could I have been so slow? Turns out a lot of other people had really, really slow times so I think the distance was a little long.

I couldn't stop thinking about the poor swim time throughout the bike but I just kept telling myself that it's a long day and there is plenty of opportunity to make up time. I went through transition really smoothly, it was a long, long run from the swim exit to the change tent and the transition times reflect that but everyone had the same route to run. The start of the bike was great, it was flat and I was moving very fast. I felt great and was keeping my heart rate in zone 2, an effort I could hold for the entire 180kms. The first 60kms went by quickly and I was sticking to my nutrition plan, 4 salt tabs, two gels, one fruit bar, and two bottles of heed. I wanted to stay as hydrated as possible because I knew the heat of the day was coming and it was going to take the life right out of me very soon.

The entire bike ride was incredibly beautiful and if I wasn't racing I would really have enjoyed it. After the first 16kms the terrain was a lot harder than I anticipated. The climbs were not that steep or long but they were continuous, you just could not get into a rythmn at all. Just when you felt you were moving well, you would hit a hill and it would slow you right down. At 10:30 the heat and humidity started to take a toll it was 30 degrees by that time and I was getting more and more tired but I was still confident I was going to finish strong. The terrain, the heat, and the humidity were wearing on me and by the second loop of the bike at 112kms I could feel myself starting to bonk. I calmly assessed the situation and asked how I could hold off the impending 'blow-up' I was about to have. I knew I needed more calories so I started eating as much as I could when I was biking 35km/hr. Trying to eat when you are pushing yourself that hard is not easy you don't want to eat, you are choking on your food, and nothing tastes good. All you can do is put in as much as your body will let you. My legs were starting to cramp up, there was salt completely coating my body from constantly sweating and my stomach was doing flips from trying to digest everything I was shoving down my throat.

The last 60kms of the ride were absolute torture, I was doing my best to hold my pace but I could tell the temperature was starting to really wear me down. My training on the bike going into this race was great, I had several 180km+ rides and felt great on all of them. I didn't have a chance to train in 34 degree weather with 50% humidity and it started to show. My ability to push on the bike was drained out of my legs and I was in survival mode. I tried to give it everything I could but the wind picked up and I was now battling the heat, humidity, the terrain, the wind, and the dumb drivers out there that were trying to weave through the bike traffic. Unfortunately the road was not closed and there were a lot of cars and bike traffic during the second loop of the bike, it was a gong show. The last 30kms of the bike were slightly downhill or flat into transition and I wanted to get off my bike soooo much. My shoes were hurting my feet so badly that I was having trouble just turning the pedals over.

I finally made it into T2 in 5:33, 30 minutes slower than I had hoped but I threw my expectations into the wind at this point and I was just trying to survive. I spent a short time in transition, changed drank a little and ran out as fast as my legs would take me. At this point in the race my legs were screaming. I did not want to do a marathon, I didn't even know if I could survive another 42kms but I told myself to just take it one mile at a time and hopefully your legs will come around. After two miles I knew it was not going to be a good day, I had to walk through the aid stations and I was running very slowly when I did run. Everytime I tried to pick up the pace my stomach would cramp up and I was forced to walk again. I saw a lot of people out there doing the death march it was obvious the heat was not just affecting me but a lot of others out there too. I tried to cool myself with ice down my back and in my hat, sponges in my jersey, water on my head and face but nothing was going to bring me back from dehydration and calorie depletion. I was jogging and walking and finished the marathon in 4:08, about an hour longer than I was planning.

This race was incredible, well organized, great volunteers, an incredible city and a fantistic environment. I would definitely recommend it to anyone, but I would caution that prepping in a similar climate is absolutlely necessary if you want to do well. I'm so glad I had the opportunity to experience IM Louisville and I learned that I have the drive to get through so much termoil and torture and see it through to the end. I never once thought of dropping out but there were times when stopping and resting felt so good that I just wanted to stay there for a very long time. But just like life you have to get up, keep going and see things through to the end.