Sunday, September 30, 2007

On The Road Again

It has been over a year since I competed in a triathlon (off-road), but it has been 3+ years since I had raced a road triathlon. As my leg is starting to heal and I can run again, the itch to do any race is intensifying. With the triathlon season winding down I decided to compete in the Black Diamond Sprint Tri held September 23rd.

The plan was to have a solid swim and bike and try to hang on during the run and lessen the damage, both to my ego and legs. I was extremely nervous for the race. Lack of any speed work definitely increased my anxiety, as the thought of only racing for 60-70 minutes seemed frightening fast.

The water felt reasonably warm for being in September and Deep Lake is synonymous for being a bit on the chilly side. I had a great starting position and when the gun sounded I found a nice swimming lane to find my form. Unfortunately my form never came. In all honestly it was the least amount I had been hit, bumped or pummeled at the start of a race, but for one reason or another I could not find a rhythm. I was hoping for a sub 14:00 800m swim, but instead settled on a 14:58...ouch. My swim was good enough for 25th fastest among the men, but I knew I had some work to accomplish on the bike.

The aero position, once a common position, could not have felt more foreign. It took a few miles to warm up, but once comfortable I started picking off competitors. I had a great battle with a gentleman in a QR Lucero tri bike. He passed me and I tried to encourage him to keep hammering, but he looked at me as if I was speaking Japanese. I will never understand why fellow competitors do not reciprocate a compliment. This really pissed me off. C'mon, we are not in Kona racing for world championships and we are certainly not professionals racing for a paycheck. We are recreational triathletes racing in the backwoods of Washington state. Give me a break. Regardless I used this energy to smoke by him and his $8000 tri bike. That's right chump I was the one who passed you on the road bike riding on the hoods. PUNK! I then went on to pass 7 more competitors to finish with the 7th fastest bike split.

I felt amazing coming into the run transition, but I knew the pain had not begun. Both my transitions were a bit slow since I hadn't practiced them in some time, but my second transition was quite funny. My legs were a bit wobbly from the bike and my hip is not strong enough to balance on my left leg so trying to put on my right shoe caused me to fall over. It wasn't graceful either. I could only imagine it looked like a tree falling in the forest. One fluid motion, no hands to catch me...wham on the ground. I quickly sat myself and my dignity up put on both my shoes while sitting in the grass and started the run. My current run gait is somewhere between Egor and a kid with polio (not funny, but sets the visual). I somehow managed to maintain a 7:10 pace and only let one racer to catch me on the run.

My final time was just over 1:10:00, which was good enough for 2nd in age group and 11th overall. I am usually not satisfied with any results, but I must admit I was not expecting a finishing place this high.

As all competitors I sat back after the race results where posted and tried to determine where I coulda, woulda, shoulda placed if I was completely healthy. I could have posted :45 faster on the swim, 1:10 on the bike and 2:15 on the run. I also could have eliminated close to 1:00 on my transitions. With all being said this would have put me in the top 5 of finishing times. Looks like I still have some worked to do if I want to podium.

Again, great race and definitely a nice spring board into winter training. I doubt I will do any more road tri's next year, but this revs the motor Xterra in 2008.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Back to the (race) Track

I traded in my cycling helmet for my old motorsports helmet this past weekend for a kart race. It has been years since I have put on my old helmet and fire suit and even longer since I raced a kart. The last time I raced a dragster was back in 03 and the last time I raced a kart was back in 99.

Ready for qualifying

Rusty was one way to describe my first practice heats. The track was wet from on and off rain showers which didn't help conditions, but when I wasn't driving the kart into the corner too hard and pushing the front end, I was letting off too early and unloading the chassis before the corner...either way the end result was spinning the kart. ROOKIE!
On the grid ready to rip!

Qualifying wasn't too much better and track conditions were worse. I decided to run the rain tires in the hope to gain more grip. Instead the track wasn't wet enough and it made the kart squishy and sluggish around the corner. I qualified last! Not too big of a surprise, since most of the other racers were surprised I could even get the kart around the track within a few seconds of the top qualifying speeds (pole was 32 seconds and I was at 37 seconds).
Coming out of corner 7

The skies opened up for heat 1 and everyone opted for rain tires. The embarrassment started early for me as I spun the kart even before the race started. The field waited for me to catch up, as all the karts needed to be up to speed and in a bunch for the rolling start. Heat 1 went well and the difference between the winner's fast lap and my fast lap was only 4 seconds. OK, now we are getting some where.

At this time I was really starting to feel the kart, how it chassis was rolling in and out of the corners, and really getting a handle on braking and acceleration points. Heat 2 was my best race. My fast lap was within 3 seconds of the leaders and I actually passed a few competitors.

I'm not sure I am ready to jump back into karting, but it was sure fun to feel the acceleration and braking power of these little machines that reved to over 13,000 rpm on the back straight away. To put these karts into comparison here is a power to weight ratio of some of the fastest race cars that run on road courses (I've been blasted by some of my engineering friends for some past errors in my mathematics, so in this case Power-to-Weight ratio is a measurement of actual performance of any engine). The equation will simply be Power (P)/Weight (W)

125 Tag Kart (kart I was driving) - 40 hp (horsepower)/200 lbs = .2 (hp/lb)

IRL Indy Car - 600 hp/1600 lbs = .375 (hp/lb)

Porsche Daytona Prototype - 500hp/2125 lbs = .23

Formula One Car - 730hp/1340 lbs = .54 (wicked)

Mr. Potato Head and me back at it again!

My nephew Jake ready to tear up the Kid Carts!

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Five Developmental Stages of Finishing a Race

Over the course of my 33 years I have noticed that many of life events occur in stages. There are defined theories as in the 5 stage Kuber-Ross model of dealing with tragedy and grief or Knapp’s Relationship Stages Model which explains how various relationships form, progress and dissolve. There are scientific based findings including the stages of alcohol on the mental and physical human body. And then there are also less academic models such as the 5 Stages of Online Dating (This is hilarious…not that I would have any idea about online dating).

I thought I would provide my own personal observation on the five stages of dominating a race (or merely finishing one). The five stages are sequential, meaning the stages are followed in the order in which they are presented and each stages builds upon the other.

It’s On – Stage 1 represents the initial formation (registration) of the event and is usually proceeded by several micro stages of positive affirmation and increased self-confidence including, but not limited to mass emailing to friends and family, who may or may not care or better yet not understand, about your next adventure, water cooler boasting at the masters swim class, track workout and/or trailhead or the ever increasing incoherent and irrelevant blogs on your personal blogging site. The “It’s On” stage varies in length and can be as short as 24 hours, but has been known to last up to 10-12 months.

Toeing The Line – better known as “It’s Go Time” (IGT) is the second stage and allows the racer to move from formation to activation. IGT can be difficult for some participants as the emotions during this stage are usually the most intense and confusing. The racer is usually in a Jekyll and Hyde battle with their internal and external persona. Internally they are rationalizing their training program, setting realistic goals and trying to manage their anxiety. There external identity is usually taking shape in one of two forms. One, they are downplaying their ability by over-exaggerating minor injuries or ailments that would cause a slower race time. By using this disclaimer prior to the race you can avoid any embarrassment from the poor finish or more commonly it allows you to boast about your strong finish, as if was some miracle that you overcame the hangnail on your middle finger to finish top ten (Tiny Tim would be proud. Tiny Tim of A Christmas Carol not the musician). The second identity created by the external self is the one of over confidence. This is rarely seen, but is used in practice during smaller or less importance races. The confidence can sometime also include a disclaimer of “I feel great for this race, but this is only a B race so I will be taking it easy.” Again, using the disclaimer as a verbal recognition of the races non-importance and the racers lack of concern for his/her results. The IGT stage is relatively short and usually lasts less than 1 weeks and up through the first part of the actual race

Wanting It – This stage occurs in the first stumble by the racer or a competitor, normally around the middle of an event. When related to individual racer, the first moment of weakness is usually when the initial internal dialogue is had. Normally the dialogue is encouraging, but on occasion it can be quite hostel in nation. Luckily for the other participants, spectators and children (please remember the children) the hostilities and subsequent vulgarities are all done with the racers inner voice. When the stumble is had by a competitor this stage intensifies. The “Wanting It” can come from quick physical exertions to pass the competitor and try to deposit them directly into Stage 4 (see below) or it can allow the racer to analyze their competitor from behind, pressure them and ultimately try to crack them. In either case, the racer must verbally or internally say, “you got to want this”, to signify the beginning of this stage.

The Hurt Locker – The intensity and brutality of this stage is sometimes too hard to watch. The internal dialogue turns from friendly banter to crucial bargaining. Emotional instability and loss of critical judgment are common in this stage. The racer at this point is reaching a moment of darkness, often promising ice cream for one last effort up the hill or a training day off if you can just pass the person in front of you. This however is a very important stage in the development of the racer for several reasons. First, they need to enter into this stage in every race and try to grow more and more accustomed to the pain associated with digging deeper into the locker. Second, they need to understand the management of this stage and avoiding falling into stage five!

The Wheels Have Come Off – Also known as “running out of gas” or “bonking”, stage five is the point of no return. Visualize a motor vehicle driving with no tires/wheels and limited gas. Not pretty. You have exhausted all reserves and are merely hoping for survival. The internal bargaining no longer exists as your mind is not capable of rationalizing let alone developing any thoughts. You motor skills start to lessen, vision is blurred and verbal communication slurred. It is really a state of confusion, disorientation and staggering gait. Personally, I think it is a good recommendation to try reaching this stage once or twice in your athletic career, so you can understand that the Hurt Locker may be painful, but still manageable.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Grandma Nellie 1911-2007

My grandma was an strong, loving and happy woman who had the most infectious smile. I was very fortunate to be able to spend time and learn from this great person. She passed away peacefully in her sleep at the age of 96 years.

Grandma Nellie was born in Niewenhoorn, Holland, and along with my grandpa, moved their family (including my father) over to America in 1948. They initially moved to Kent, WA where they started farming for another family. In 1953 they purchased their own farm and moved to Enumclaw, where she would raise her family and live throughout the remainder of her life.

One of my grandma's greatest gifts was gardening. An absolute perfectionist, her garden was a statement of hard work, beauty and love. A life full of adventures, love and principles, grandma was loved by most everyone that came in contact with her. She was so caring and would strive to put your happiness before her own. I see so much of my dad in my grandma. I don't think it has completely sunken in that I will not see my grandma's smile again. This will especially be hard during the upcoming holidays because of so many fond memories. I will miss my grandma dearly.

Christmas 2006