Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Titles are the Hardest Part

I wonder why it's so hard for me to come up with good titles for these entries. I always try to have them be witty and meaningful to the reader but I guess if you want meaning and wit, just read on (assuming today is a good day).

So now that I have my house and have been living in it for a while, I'm starting to get excited for next year again. I feel like I did when I first started growing giant pumpkins. So much potential but so much unknown. It's exciting! I discover new plants and cultivars almost daily, many have never been seen before by another person!

To give you an example, I was roaming around a container nursery the other day and I spotted a weird looking branch (a sport) coming off a plant that just looked different. As I looked closer I saw that the outside of the leaves were green and the inside center of the leafs were white (variegated). The mother plant had the opposite, green centers but white (variegation) around the edges. A discover like this could be huge if it turns out to be superior to the mother plant. The owner of the containers fortunately permitted me to take a cutting!

This is the kind of stuff that gets me excited. It may be sound weird to a non-horticulturist but to me, I love it. I suppose that's why I've lost interest in cycling. I seem to always want to lead a mono-dimensional life. I used to be so into triathlons and I loved it like I do plants. But at the time I didn't care for horticulture. Now for whatever reason my interests are sliding into another direction even though I was having some good success on the bike.

Oh well. Yes I feel guilty but I'm happy and that's all that matters. Maybe I'll start riding consistently again and maybe I wont. I don't know. I trained so hard for a lot of years and I feel like I've been there and done that. With horticulture there's always something new to find!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Oak Ridge Road Race and Time Trial

So I guess I'm a cyclist now.

The cat 5 race started out squirrely and punchy as always. Even in the neutral zone people were hitting their brakes hard and playing that accordion like a French street musician . Stop, go, stop, go, back and forth, back and forth. I was trying to leave a bike length buffer zone ahead of me but goofballs would always cut into the gap and then hit their brakes. Eventually I found myself at the back from trying to leave little buffer gaps. Being at the end of a squirrely peloton = bad as I would soon find out.

Finally some attacks came and that seemed to cut some of the nervous energy down a bit. I think most of them were dummy attacks but at least we were racing. Then as we hit the first little stinger of a hill the whole peloton nearly imploded! I finally said out loud, "Who's driving up there?" and a few people chuckled. Three people had just dropped their chain! Ahhh! I was trying to stay positive but I was getting frustrated. Then someones saddle bag came off and started flailing and flapping all over the place. The dude reached down and as he tried to fix it, he nearly took out the rest of the group that had just barely avoided the dropped chain gauntlet. It was actually funny how nuts we all were.

The first hill was approaching and I decided to go to the front and apply some pressure to separate some of the riders. Near the top I pulled off and there were only 4 or 5 still on my wheel. Cool! Except two of them were on the same team so I didn't really want to work that hard with them. Oh well. Eventually the group worked itself back to about 20 riders. Fortunately, things were much smoother.

I didn't have an odometer so I kept asking Drew how much farther. Surely the finish was right around the corner, but it wasn't. The race was moving slow again and we were spread out across the entire road. The motorcycle referee came up and yelled at us to not cross the center line again or we'd be disqualified. Since we were going so slow and the finish was approaching, I could feel everyone getting antsy again. I went to the front and did a little turn for a minute or so and then surprisingly, everyone started to pull through and work together. It was great!

We turned a sharp right corner and immediately, a dude attacked. I was like, "Okay, anyone else feel like chasing that?" Then I saw a big 500m on the road and I thought, "Oh sh!t! That's the winning move right there!" I shot out of the saddle and closed down the gap as quick as I could. I immediately went right by him and saw 200m on the road. "Go go go" I thought. "Everything you've got!" I crossed the line and then quickly entered that state of oxygen debt where you feel like throwing up, pooping your pants, and cursing at the same time. As we grouped back up we all introduced each other and chatted about the race before being allowed to ride back down the hill. It was a great race and I was glad I got up extra early for once.

The Time Trial

The time trail would be different. Instead of a few seconds of pain at the end of your race, it would be nearly 20 minutes of pain. That sounds short compared to my 40k and 56mi triathlon time trials but you have to push so much harder. I'll repeat, SO MUCH HARDER. As my start time drew nearer I actually started to get nervous. In a road race anyone can look good hiding behind wheels and blasting for the finish in a last minute dive. The other cyclist and even yourself can get a false impression of fitness. In a time trial its all you.


That count down is one of the scariest things you'll ever hear in this sport. You know it will hurt... a lot! But you don't know what will happen. There's just so much uncertainty.

I'm pretty sure I started off faster than I wanted to because of my nervous energy but before I knew it, I topped the first hill. Now I felt the efforts begging to set in. "Stay aero and smooth" I kept saying to myself, "only a few more miles left after this." Work on catching the next rider up front.

On the second little rise of a hill I was giving it everything. I know going up hills is where I'll do the most damage so I was really pushing. On the down hills I was spinning out but still trying to apply the pressure. Now where is that 1k mark?! I'm dying here.

I finished and luckily ended up wining luckily... but it was close! Chris Morelock finished only two seconds back, pushing me all the way. I was happy for wining but there are a lot of improvements I can make for next time.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A Brand New World

Okay. There are two reasons for my long interlude between posts. First, I've been boringly busy. Second, and probably the main reason, I have not had access to a reliable internet source at home. So here we go. I'm preparing to start a brand new chapter.

I just finished moving into my new house. It's a little slice of heaven for sure and I feel very fortunate and lucky to have landed such a nice place. It comes with a little creek in the back and 22 acres that are mostly cleared for pasture. There is a small garden around the home but its filled with boring hum-drum foundation landscape plants. We'll be fixing that in the years to come. The house was originally a log home but the outside was laid over with vinyl siding due to all the boring (as in burrowing) type insects and carpenter bees. The inside is log home-like and very cozy. Brianne thinks it looks like a big lincoln log fort. Whatever it looks like, I like it. I'll be posting some picture in the future.

Bike riding has taken a back seat again. That's okay. I like to take a mid season break to completely rest, both my body and mind. I get burned out if I go go go. When I was riding I was improving so quickly it was thrilling and a little frightening. It seemed as though nothing or nobody could stop me. Work is winding up and I seem to be finding my stride. I'll just need to find a way to become more efficient and refined so I can do some of the other things I love. I'll probably just pick up on something else or expand one of my other hobbies. That's okay. Either way, I'll still be doing something I love.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Being a Grown-up

February already. Now that I work 5 days a week like a normal person, the time really seems to fly by. I get up, shower, eat breakfast, make a lunch, go to work, try to get things done (if I can stay focused), come home, spin on the trainer for 0:45 to 1:15, throw the Frisbee for Spruce, make dinner, read, and go to bed. Pretty exciting huh? I wonder if that’s how it works once you grow up. But luckily we still have weekends!

Every Saturday I make a serious effort to ride with a bike group. It is really the only way I am going to meet people and get involved. I never thought of myself as a liberal, just someone in the middle. But man, here in Tennessee if I open my political opinions up I might get shot! People ask me where I keep my guns. Why is everyone so insecure about being gun-less? I’m all for owning guns, shooting them, and don't hold anything personal against them but they are such a big deal to so many people. I guess I just wasn't raised that way. Maybe someday I’ll buy a gun and play with it or just let it sit in my closet... Anyway, sorry for the rant. So it’s nice to ride bikes with some like minded people. It’s the highlight of my week usually.

So I've given up running and swimming.  The pool is too far away and I’m bored with running I think. I've run my whole life and my odds of improving a lot more are small. However, I've never seriously giving cycling a go. Cycling was originally my weakest discipline in triathlon but I think that’s because I swam and ran a lot. My potential to improve in cycling is much greater than swimming or running. Plus cycling is way more social than having your head underwater or long solo runs. So we’ll see what happens. I've joined the local cycling team in the area, Team Volkswagen, so that should make cycling a little more motivating and fun. It’s nice to be a part of something more than yourself too.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Hmmm, let's see...

I got a job (with plants... YES!), I left everything familiar back west, I moved to McMinnville, Tennessee, I stopped training for triathlons, and now I am building a life of my own.

Currently I'm back in Spokane, WA visiting my family for Christmas. My sister Bonnie flew in from Boston, my 94 year old grandma came down for Christmas dinner, and the old dogs, Gus and Pepper, were happy to see everyone too. Dad came over a few days ago and Bonnie and I went out to breakfast at the greasiest breakfast joint on Spokane, Mollies. It was nice to see everyone again.

So in a few days I'll be heading back to little old McMinnville, TN and work again. I hope I don't go another 5 or 6 months between posts, otherwise this blog wont be very interesting with all the gaps.

I have managed to run two days in a row and I even swam at the downtown YMCA this morning. It was only 1200yd. and the last 200 I could barely get my arms out of the water so I had to resort to the back stroke but it is a step in the right direction. I'm toying with the idea of putting my serious running and swimming on hold for a season and just concentrate on cycling. I've met a wonderful cycling club in Tullahoma, TN, the Highland Rim Cycling Club http://www.hrbike.org/, and they really think I should give bike racing a go.

So we'll call that good, I'll try to get back on a regular posting track but we'll see since I don't have internet access at my house. Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Boise 70.3 in Juneuary

Let's get one thing out before I begin.

I am happy with this race.

Lately, it seems as though nothing has been able to make me happy. Everyone has to deal with life's curve ball from time to time and although I was pitched several curve balls recently, I wasn't going to let them influence me from doing one of the things left that makes me happy, triathlon.

There was no need to set the alarm clock since the start of the race was scheduled for 12:00. When I did finally get up, the comforting sight of sunlight streaming through my window the morning before was gone. Looking out the window, a 40 deg. hurricane was in the process of steamrolling the poor little city of Boise!

Once we made it to the race start I still had two and a half hours until the start of my wave. There was no shelter anywhere and the conditions were more horrendous up on the hill than in the city. I saw others already in their wetsuits and figured I better do the same. Two hours until my wave starts. I guess we wait now.

As I looked around at everyone in their skimpy wetsuits huddled next to the trucks, under trees, and stairs for what little shelter there was, it was becoming apparent that conditions were getting dangerous. Most people (myself included) were beginning to show the early signs of hypothermia like, loss of coordination, uncontrollable shivering, and some of our lips were looking rather blue. Then the race organizer spoke up announcing that the bike course would be shortened from 56 miles to 15 miles. Conditions on the course were even worse than what they were on the hill and the danger of hypothermia and exposure was just too great. Everyone immediately started grumbling and whining hearing this but deep down, were probably sighing relief.

Finally, our wave was in the water and swimming after what seemed like waiting all day in the cold. Funny, but who knew that 55 degree water could feel warm! More than anything, I swam as hard as I could for the first 400m to work up some heat. I seemed to be making good progress, keeping the few lead swimmers in sight, and then we ran into the other waves. Over, around, through, and even under I swam. I'm not sure why the race organizers decide to send one of the strongest age group waves last but it is what it is and everyone had to work through it. Considering everything on the day, I had a good swim and exited the water right at 30 minutes.

Running out of the water (I think I was running) I couldn't feel my legs. On top of that I have never been so dizzy in my life. I staggering to my bike and drunkenly grabbed for my helmet and glasses. Once I got rolling down the road, I cranked those gears up and rode as hard as I could to get warm! Forget pacing man! This is a 15 mile BALLS ON FIRE time trail, and I need to warm up.

People were actually biking in their wetsuits! Yeah it was really that cold. "But come on guys!" I thought a little way into the bike course. "Let's pass on the left and ride on the right, some of us are actually racing here." Since the swim waves were condensed and the bike was shortened, everybody was mashed together and there was no way the 15 foot draft rule could be followed.

Hopping off the bike, if I thought my feet were cold before, they were really cold now! From the ankle down was completely white. I started running but struggled to find my stride (and feet). It was like I had to learn to run all over again. For the first 5 to 6 miles I was running strong but just couldn't get my cold feet to warm up. Then finally they started tingling which meant blood was starting to flow again. My legs were feeling better and just slightly, I started picking up the pace as best I could.

With a half mile or so to go I passed two guys with a 38 and 37 written on the back of their legs. Since they were in another (age group) race I didn't pay too much attention. But as soon as I passed, one of the guys just sat on my heels. "Okay man whatever." I was feeling pretty fried, as we all do towards the end of one of these things, but started kicking it home to the finish as quick as I could. Then 100m from the line, the 38 year dude on my heels and the other guy come sprinting by me so ridiculously fast it was unbelievable that they had that much left. At the finish I thanked the triathlon Gods that I was still standing and for getting me through that freezing weather in one piece. Now where did I put those dry clothes.

In the end I had a good race considering. Since the course was short and the conditions were awful, I can not compare it to other half iron distance races. But, luckily sticking with my early moderate run pace and slowly increasing the effort, I was able to run up the ranks into 5th place (AG) which qualified me for the Las Vegas 70.3. But interestingly, the two guys that out sprinted me were actually 28 and 27. Damn! those 3's sure look a lot like 2's when smudged and you're tired. Oh well, mission accomplished anyway.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

St. George Olympic Triathlon

I've been milling over this race for a week now. At first I was just going to spout off negative garbage about the whole event and the weeks leading up to it but... no. First of all, I don't want to get away from the main purpose of this post (the race), and second, nobody wants to read it. And I certainly don't want to write it. So, I have decided that every critique I give myself here, I will also highlight something that went right during the race.

The swim was a simple out and back course. When the horn sounded, the 30 of us in the open division wave swam like maniacs to secure a fast pair of feet. Being the new kid on the block, I had no idea who was a fast swimmer. I have my suspicions that the fast swimmers/triathletes all knew each other, teamed up, and started together. But that may just be an excuse. By the time I broke through the front-line of white water I saw that a pack of 5 swimmers on the far left were well ahead. I kept stroking hard but I couldn't close the gap. I was left to swim 1500m completely on my own.

It's hard to judge your efforts on a new course and with new athletes but I felt my swim was off from what it could/should be. I was out in 6th place (15th place OA) but my time of 24:45 was a good 3 minutes behind the leaders. I know I shouldn't base my performance at St. George on years past, but it's difficult not to. You can only base your performance on yourself and the conditions. However, I did swim in a straight line this time and put on a little entertaining show for the crowds as I tried to wrestle my wetsuit off. Overall, I executed my swim well and without any major flaws, I was just a bit further back than I expected.

Once on the bike I was relatively patient for the first mile or two but as I attempted to start pouring on the power, I could tell that this was not the day. I know what I have been able to do in the past on the bike and I was not doing it. The athletes were just too strong and I was unable to dig my calfs and hamstrings into the back half of the pedal stroke like I remember. The leaders out biked me by a good 5 minutes. Ouch! Seeing that time difference definitely ruffled my feathers. But for some good news, I was luckily able to hold my 6th place position throughout the bike course. So not to bad really.

Now onto the run. Coming into T2 the leaders were already at mile two so a push for the win was easily out of the question. But, I had been working extremely hard on my run so at the very least, I was ready to let loose a ripper 10k and see where it took me.

Again, like the bike, the run was not going to be the magic bullet for today. I had pushed very hard on the bike and my legs were feeling pretty fried. I managed to catch one guy at mile one so that lifted my spirits slightly. At mile 4 I caught another dude and moved into 4th. No one was catching me and on paper it appeared I was having a good run. In the end, I pulled off the second fastest run of the day with a 37:20 and moved up two places on the run!

So I should be happy right? I mustered a 4th place finish in a field of 900 or so. Yes I am happy. It was a great race and I got to see my mom and Spruce the dog learned to swim while he was waiting for me to finish. But at the same time, I know I can do a whole lot better. But that is what keeps us coming back. There is always room for improvement.

Until next time, train hard and stay sane.

 Oh that pesky wetsuit.

Out of the shoes and off the bike.

 My favorite, the run.

 So close I can smell the burritos!