Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The more I wait, the less I write

It's an axiom that holds true, as I realize that the details of a race are less important. With the stuff I've got going on, though (which I address here), it's easy to just think “well, I’ve got ____ coming up, so I’ll just include that, too.” At this point, I've moved (locally), started grad school, raced a whole bunch including my first two triathlons of 2016 on different continents, and probably other stuff.
I wrote the last post en route to Tahiti, which was a disappointing race. I had high hopes going into my first international race and fell way flat. I had an atrocious swim, followed by a slow leak in my front tire that led to me pulling out late in the bike. I spent some time recharging in Tahiti and Moorea afterward, which was much-needed with some other stuff not at all related to triathlons going on at the time that made the race performance seem a lot less significant.
When I first saw this photo, I was a bit upset it was even taken. Reflecting back, though, it captures very much the "remember that feeling so that you know how never to feel it again" that I'm still trying to channel from my race in Tahiti.
However upset I was about Tahiti and all the other stuff going on, this happened. I was never too much of a fan of stand-up paddleboarding because it was a weird mix of active and passive, but now I know there's no sense in even trying to compare Moorea to Chic's Beach.
The first order of business upon returning from French Polynesia was to go to Cleveland to visit some friends. Naturally, I did a beer mile for the first time. I'd like to think it was because I'd spent the previous two weeks doing nothing post-race in French Polynesia, but I just generally was miserable. But then I became a crowd favorite by attempting a second heat in the same day.
Because I didn't go to a traditional college, this was my first time drinking Natty Ice. The official rules state that the beer has to be 5% ABV, but it's in your best interest to make it easy and drinkable, so not the super-manly attempt to drink warm IPA that Mike did and regretted.
Despite selling my cyclocross bike because it was collecting dust, I did manage to play around a bit over two race weekends, and I did well enough that I’ll be racing as a cat 3 in cross in 2016. I’m so overjoyed to be able to race for an hour at the very end of the day against 5 other guys, although there’s not much freedom with my late into the season tri schedule and its alignment with the VACX series in 2016.
Surefire way to get heckled: race cat 4 cyclocross, on a mountain bike, with a pro triathlon license, and get beat by a 14 year old.

Speaking of cyclocross, I got to use the Chromecast I got from Santa to stream on my excessively large for somebody who lacks basic cable TV and see fellow NECTC Alum Amanda Nauman CRUSH it at Cyclocross Nationals. I used to try to get Amanda to race XTERRA, but I'm thinking she's made the right decision as a cyclocross/MTB/gravel racer. Socks seen there are the super-awesome Panda Power socks, which you can and should buy to support her racing.
I “ran with my brother” in a Turkey Trot, which was a throwback to my VERY FIRST 5k back in ~1998 or so when we ran the Columbus Stampede. I beat him this time, though.
Neither of the two guys who beat me in the Mud in Your Eye Cross Country series in 2015 returned in 2016, but I managed to get a very distant second behind local fast guy Ryan Carroll. Despite slower conditions across all three races, I was faster at all three races, and I really enjoyed it. It beats the heck out of killing myself in solo speed work in January.

From a visit back to Mom and Dad's in Columbus, NJ. I try never to repeat a riding route when I'm home, and I usually succeed. This photo also serves as proof that you can take a road bike, even an aero road bike like my Venge, to far more places than people realize.
A foggy run on the crushed gravel trail near my parents' house that I'd been hearing was in progress for the better part of a decade. It's finally mostly sort of done.
From the Mud in Your Eye 6k at Mount Trashmore. This is a fun series, and I wish there were more traditional cross country style races for "adults" because it gets back to when so many of us fell in love with running in the days of middle school or high school cross country.
I played a bit more on my mountain bike this winter, particularly owing to my race schedule that's heavy on off-road races with a focus on the XTERRA Pan American Tour. That culminated in racing at Monster Cross in February, a 50-mile race that's really a toss-up between being a gravel/cyclocross race and a mountain bike race. It's mostly fire roads, but I can't imagine getting beat up without a suspension like that for 3 hours.

Jesse Peters is an amazing photographer, capturing the winding of the trail behind me. What's not awesome is the fact that I'm upright like I'm on a beach cruiser, not a dedicated cross country race bike. I'll work on that.

In less triathlon-related items, I recently started an MBA. I haven’t given up entirely the idea of law school that I’ve hinted at here in the past, but I wouldn’t say that it’s the only avenue I see going forward, and the earliest parts of my MBA coursework have been showing that there is potential for this to be of value to me as a Coast Guard officer, an athlete, or as a regular person in the private sector. I still have not correctly used “synergy” in a sentence, though. That doesn’t come until at least the next semester.
I also picked up the hobby of home-roasting coffee. It’s no secret that triathlon/cycling is steeped and intertwined with coffee culture. After all, as athletes, it’s really our only vice we can have. Home roasting was just something that I had always considered, because I always like the idea of homebrewed beer, minus the delayed gratification and the fact that I’m really not much of a beer person.
It's not even close to even because I made it in a popcorn popper, but it's damn good. If I have your address, you might some day end up with it in your mailbox.
On my first two triathlons of 2016, they’ve certainly been eye-opening experiences, just as most of last year was. Despite starting the ITU race in Tahiti, Clermont was really my first true attempt at an ITU race with a full field, and it was every bit as fast and furious as I expected. I was overwhelmed by just how insanely fast the start was, quickly finding myself near the very back of the swim, ultimately riding in pretty much the last group on the road. I did find that I was among the stronger riders in my group, but that just led to some frustration more than anything, and being a strong rider at the back of the field means little, especially without a killer run to back it up.
That said, it was a great experience, as my first real foray into the “performance” side of triathlon was racing the age group draft legal race in Clermont in 2012, where I got equally demolished. My older brother had come with me that trip for some fun in the sun in Florida in March. I begged and pleaded to stick around after my race to watch the elite race, despite that the weather forecast showed that the rest of our time would be less ideal beach weather. Ultimately, I won the fight because only my name was on the rental car and he couldn’t just desert me, but I remember watching the race and telling him that I’d be in it. At the time, I thought I would be satisfied with simply getting onto the start line, but I think we all know that’s not how this sport works at all.
Coming out for the first lap, already hurting pretty bad. It was cool to have so many people out there watching (I swear! They're all on the same side as where the photo was taken from). Photo here is from Justin Metzler.
Argentina was another adventure in and of itself. After some insane travel logistics, including the South American equivalent of transferring between JFK and LaGuardia or Reagan and Dulles, I made it to San Juan, way out in the desert at the edge of the Andes. After a few days of course familiarization on the dry, sandy course reminiscent of the old XTERRA Las Vegas course, it was race day. The swim was infinitely more humane than Clermont, and I ended up out of the water in second place. Within only a few minutes of the bike, I lost some momentum and a simple bobble turned into an outright crash, and suddenly I was screwed. I spent the rest of the bike leg crashing my way through, literally coming off my bike 20-30 times, including a couple over-the-bars crashes on some of the trickier descents, with the thoughts running through my head of South American hospitals. The run was relatively uneventful, save that it was painfully slow in a soft desert wash most of the way that seemed to punish going faster by slowing you down. After some results adjustment because of several athletes going off course, I ended up 8th place in the pro field, just out of the money, but in a respectable position in terms of points for the series, so the trip wasn’t a total waste. I also got to spend some good time with Jonas, including seeing him run the trail run 21k the day after my race, then some downtime in Buenos Aires on our way back.
Still super-upright! Need to fix that!
When Jonas said he was going to come, I responded along the lines of "yea, ok." Then he booked a ticket, and I'm glad he did. This restaurant/bar has been in a number of movies, notably including The Motorcycle Diaries, and the very last thing we did was have some more Malbec and jamon y queso tostadas for the 300th time of the trip before heading to the airport.
At this point, my next race of any consequence is going to be a Continental Cup in Richmond on May 1. I’m really excited that Endorphin Fitness was able to add an ITU race to the calendar. I raced on the course back in 2013 when they held a U25 Elite Development Race, and it’s a blast of a course to race on. It’s no XTERRA course, but it’s certainly more fun and technical than riding 1.5 miles to a cone and back, and I’m really fortunate to have an ITU race so close to home. Admittedly, I'm pretty awful at writing on here now because it feels too "involved" most of the time. However, Facebook (I'll probably accept a friend request as long as you don't try to sell me sunglasses), Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Strava all remain viable ways of staying in touch or following along more frequently than semiannually. I can guarantee that all of those platforms except for Strava will involve things other than triathlon.

One downside of living on the east coast is the general lack of available sunset viewing, what with the whole continent generally obscuring it. This picture isn't super-awesome; I just snapped it between intervals, but it's from the boat ramp at First Landing State Park, a common riding and running location only a few miles from my apartment, and one of very few unobstructed west-facing views.

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