Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Murphy Does Ironman + Vineman Spectator Report


1) My girlfriend kicks ass.

2) Spectating ironman is as long of a day as racing one and far more boring.

3) So much has changed in a month that writing about this day seems like it was forever ago.

So, in order, let's be a little more complete.

1) Daaaamn, Girl
Ethel did her first ironman last month; she did Vineman, a long-standing race in California's wine country.  I'm still not sure what possessed her to do such a thing, but it was an awesome goal for her to take on.  Her official goal was to finish by sunset, and her secret goal was to break 12 hours.  She did both; breaking the tape in 11:59:24 and with the sun still several fingers above the horizon.

She was cheerful and relaxed throughout the whole thing; a curious thing about racing is that there comes a point where one can do nothing additional to prepare.  Que sera, sera.  So accepting whatever level one has trained to and going through the motions of the day can be quite a relief and actually fun.

On the phone with her agent

She exceeded all expectations for swim, bike, and run, as follows:

Swim: she was nervous about swimming 2.4 miles, and rightly so.  She'd never swum a single stroke further than half that distance in training.  However, she just got in the water and kept moving those arms, springing forth in 1:17.

Well-prepared (photo d^2)

Bike: she rode one lap of the course a few weeks prior at a pace that dictated she should complete the race distance of 112 miles in 6:30 or 6:45.  I also staunchly warned her to ride easy on race day.  Between those two factors, we planned all our photo ops based on those calculations, and the cheeky monkey ruined them all.  She rode easy and whizzed by all our spots an increasing number of minutes before she should have.  I would have been worried, but she was so bloody cheerful every time we saw her that I figured she was fine.  And she was, finishing the bike in 6:05.

Zipping along

Run: it was a hot day, but not as hot as it could have been.  It was a shade-deprived run course, but not as bad as it could have been.  And she was tired, but not as tired as she could have been.  The classic ironman run performance is to do the second half of the run anywhere between 15 minutes and 2 hours slower than the first half.  Murphy, however, came out of the gate running 10-minute miles, and never slowed down.  Like a cute little Irish metronome, every time she came by our picnic spot on the course, she was bang on for 10-minute miles, and finished it out that way, running her marathon in 4:25.

Running past the walking wounded

Cheerful at the catered buffet that is an ironman run course

With a few minutes in each transition, that stacks up to sub-12, and also a 3rd in her age group finish, and also 13th woman overall.

There's no real reason to be happy at the end of an ironman; it's a brutal and awful thing to do to your body.  However, relief is wholly appropriate, as is pride, a grand sense of accomplishment, and hoping to avoid case-study worthy dehydration.  She did all of those in spades.

2) Sun-Stroked Spectators
We had a nice cheering section for Ethel.  In addition to the usual suspects, we had Heather and James, Jesse and Lisa, Gerard and Brian, and Lauren.  Waking up at the same time as an ironman racer, following her progress throughout the day, and laughing because she can't walk in a straight line after the race will really take it out of ya.

The obvious thing to do is to amuse myself in any way possible to help pass the hours; this includes taking lots of photos, eating lots of pastries, and making other racers' days better.  The best thing I could come up with for the last task was to go buy a pesticide sprayer from Home Depot, lug it along with a pissload of water out onto the run course, and spray people who wanted some misty relief from the crushing boredom of running a marathon over the same stretch of pavement 6 times.

Here are some of my favorite photos of people who aren't Ethel.

Johnson's Beach canoes

Like a gasping trout

Under the bridge


Flat vineyards turned round

Fast dood and vineyard


Happier than she should have been

Heartbreak Hill

Come to Jesus (photo d^2)

Gutting it out


No shade here

3) Miles Away
4 days after Ethel notched her triathlon bedpost, I got thwacked by a car on my bike (been through that already a couple posts ago).  6 days after that, we left for Europe even though I wasn't going to be able to race.  Now 3 weeks after that, we've completed our business in France (well, except for the race) and Italy and are headed to Amsterdam and Belgium (the latter for a Formula 1 race).

We hunkered down as much as we could in both the Alps and the Dolomites, great friends along with us, doing what we could to settle into local life and not be rabid tourists.  Between the flights, drives, and train rides, we've changed our surroundings drastically in the 3 days of actual travel we've had in the last 3 weeks (I'm writing this on a wi-fi equipped train from Paris to Amsterdam after traversing Italy and France in a massive car day).  Along with changing surroundings comes changing outlooks, priorities, and coffee consumption (all in the positive direction, thank you very much).

Computer time has been at a minimum on this trip, which is awesome, and being ensconced in cultures and languages that are unfamiliar has whisked me so far away from Vineman, my own aborted race plans, work, and home, that it seems odd to be writing about something that happened so damn long ago.  That's no excuse, however.  She still kicked some serious ass!


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Chateauroux Storm

Let's take a quick break from our normal programming to share a photo from the Alps.  Next up was going to be the story of Murphy's ironman, but we're on the road and internet access is spotty here in the 1990s.

This is a photo from our back porch in Chateauroux les Alpes, overlooking Saint Andre d'Embrun during a stormy evening.

We're holed up in the Dolomites now; life is good.  About the only benefit to being on light duty from an athletic standpoint is that I'm photoing a lot.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Reno Running Company

My great friends Aimee and Matt Balzer own Reno Running Company, an awesome running store in...you guessed it...Reno.  They're also both stunning athletes, so I'm always a little flattered when they invite me along to destroy me in a workout.  One one such occasion, Aimee waited until I was at my weakest, then asked me to make some photos for their website update.  Of course I'm kidding.  She waited until I was at my weakest and then told me I'd have to run home from south Reno if I didn't agree to doing the photos.  In all seriousness, I was quite stoked to help them in their noble venture, so we've done a couple sessions already and will do some more each season.

They have shop runs twice a week, and these runs typically highlight the spectacular running terrain we have in the Reno area.  I chased the group around on one of their runs, and along with the help of our willing models and my stunningly handsome assistant, Robby, came away with a few neat photos.

We'll probably be doing this again sometime.  I had a bum toe this day (realllly bum), so I could barely hobble, much less run.  There are so many trails with huge photo potential, so we'll see what we can do to do them justice.

Thanks guys!


In other news, we're in France, and life is pretty good.  We've settled in nicely to the pace of things in the Alps.  The race is tomorrow, so I'm doing my level best to not be bitter.  I can't swim or bike or run yet, so bagging the race was the right call.  We drove the bike course yesterday, and it's everything I hoped it would be and more.  Onwards...


Monday, August 6, 2012

Embrunman Race Report - DNS

Nothing that grieves us can be called little: by the eternal laws of proportion a child's loss of a doll and a king's loss of a crown are events of the same size.
-Mark Twain

In case you're wondering, DNS stands for "did not start."  This post's not one I wanted to write.

Let's get some glaring objections out of the way in order to set some perspective:
  • I live in a first-world country.
  • I've never had to worry about food, water, or shelter.
  • I'm fortunate to have had a first-rate formal education.
  • I've got an incredible support structure in the way of family and friends.
  • I've never feared for my life at the hands of another, or been subject to any sort of physical or emotional abuse.
  • I've never been the target of any discrimination based on the color of my skin, my gender, my sexual orientation, or anything else listed in any anti-discrimination clauses.
So, really, life is good.

Throughout my adult and adolescent life (and probably as a child), I've been driven by goals and the commitment it takes to attain them.  From any homework assignment, to getting my first job to pay off my first snowboard, to taking the SATs, to finishing a college degree, to getting real jobs, to sporting endeavors of myriad flavors, there's been one thing in common: each has been a goal that's required some series of steps to attain it.  Some long, some short, some hard, some easy, some clear, some nebulous, but all goal-oriented.

When I got into triathlon in 2003, it was because of a goal: to declare myself fit enough to get back on the snow after a bad day in 2002. As I progressed in the sport, the goals became loftier and loftier: longer races, better finishes, more challenging courses.  There were also secondary goals that sprouted from these: don't be a douche and talk about the sport all the time; be as encouraging as possible to others in their goals; see the sport as an avenue for inward growth instead of just time splits and podium "glory;" don't let the sport take over my life by damaging the balance between family, friends, work, and other hobbies.

I'm under no delusion of being a world-class athlete.  However, I've done well, and I've progressed to the point where I can view an ironman (or triathlon of any distance) as something to race instead of something to complete.  Being able to race an ironman is an interesting proposition.  Physical game?  Better be tip-top.  Mental game?  Better be even stronger.  Preparation?  Better be meticulous (although I do a damn good impression of being all Zen about it).  I've grown to crave the process of preparing to race ironman, at the same time being acutely aware of the toll it takes on body and mind.

Embrunman has been on my list of must-do races for a few years.  Arguably the hardest (or maybe second-hardest) iron-distance race in the world, it scurries through the French Alps on its way to utterly destroying most who toe the line.  After being too busy to train or race last year, I've been thoroughly enjoying doing both in healthy amounts this season.  Time off does a body well, and also rekindles the fire to compete.  After missing the lottery for Norseman (see above note about second-hardest race), I latched on to Embrunman as this season's headline race.  I found myself more terrified of this race than my first ironman, and man, what a great way to motivate oneself to train...long story short, if you had asked me last week, I'd have told you that I was ready to smash this race.

Yes, I was dumb enough to sign up for this.

The race is 9 days from the date of this writing.

5 days ago, I left the house on my bike at 6:15am for a couple hours of pre-workday intervals, just one of many workouts in the remaining few days of hard training before tapering, healing, resting, and sharpening up.  15 minutes into this ride, still warming up, I was riding southbound in the bike line on a flat and dry road when I was struck head-on by a car traveling northbound.

In doing so, I dodged a huge bullet.  Don't get me wrong; I'm injured and my bike (yes, the race bike) is broken.  However, I'm alive, and all my body parts are attached and pointed in the right direction.  I escaped any head and neck injuries.  The mechanics of the collision worked hugely in my favor; it could have been WAY worse.

However, the injuries I did sustain are just serious enough and this happened just close enough to the race that, unfortunately, I'm pulling the proverbial plug.  I've leaned heavily on the advice of medical professionals, friends, family, and colleagues, taking all arguments into consideration, and it's the wise thing to do.  Not to sound overly dramatic, but this race ain't yer local 5k, and the risk of turning a relatively benign and temporary injury into something serious and lasting far outweighs the benefits of going ahead with the race.  Beyond the chance of worse injury, the hit to my confidence in this crucial pre-race time would put me on the start line a hollow man, and I want to be there whole in mind, body and spirit.  Nothing less will do.

Thank you all for your input (you know who you are), and I've decided that discretion is the better part of valor.

I have this amazing mental image of my erector spinae detaching during the race and rolling up into my shoulder like a pinwheeled flank steak.  No thanks.

My body will heal.

My bike will get replaced (by the other gentleman's insurance, no matter how surprised they are to find out that my bike cost more than his car).

However, my heart and mind are devastated.  To have this goal plucked away so close to its culmination hurts.  Writing this is, I suppose, part of the healing process.  I have to let go of this one, and that kills me.  The planets had aligned so well for this race, and to say that they never will again would be to play the victim.  I get to make them align again; I simply have to.

And hey, we're still going to Europe for a month.  This is not a bad consolation prize.


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Tour de Nez 2012

The last few weeks have been a bit tumultuous, and this post covers the most tame part of what's been filling my time.  I'll spoil the surprise by saying that Murphy did her first ironman last weekend, and that she totally rocked it, but that's not what this post is about.

We slunk back to Reno on Sunday and made it just in time to visit the final races of the storied Tour de Nez.  I was far more embedded in this awesome festival last year, and Murphy was the MC.  While we were both bummed that we weren't able to be as involved this year, it was for all the right reasons.  My light duty involved stalking around with a camera and a totally inconspicuous lens for a couple of hours for the tail end of the Pro Women's race and for most of the Pro Men's race.

They're pretty much all action shots with a few lifestyle ones thrown in, but here are my favorites from my short time there.

A quiet moment of reflection

Locked and loaded

Legendary character and race creator, Tim Healion


Charles Hutcheson

Josh Rennie

Unknown rider (sorry dude)

Alex Candelario

Pack rounds a corner

Unknown rider

Unknown rider

Unknown rider

Candelario in the break

Unknown rider

Candelario leads the break

My apologies for not having names for everyone.  Anyone who a) has full results, or b) knows someone I've listed as unknown is more than welcome to enlighten me. :)

This year marked the 20th anniversary of the race and merriment.  Here's to hoping that it continues for many more!


Past Detritus