Friday, September 26, 2008


Along with the post, I’ll add pics of my yard in progress.

Last year I was open water swimming nearly every day. I've done most of my summer swims in open water as well. As a result, I have more time inside the Orca Apex than it could handle. As I prepared to head outside for my last lake swim of the year, Amanda noticed that it was torn. The outer skin tore open, so it was still fine for a swim. You can see right inside the flap here. Now I know what makes it look like a golf ball. Oddly enough, of the many times I've swam to Turtle Island and back, I haven't been able to break 10:00. My best time was 10:12.9, but in my torn wet suit, I managed to go 10:10.3. I've been chasing that time all year.

This is the before picture. Well, that is if you don't count the 30 truck loads of various things we hauled out of the yard. It was like the Jeff Foxworthy joke. "If you cut your grass and find a car ... you might be a red neck." We literally found things after chopping down the weeds that we couldn't even tell were there. We also hauled several truck loads of yard waste to the recycling center. So although this is the before picture, it looks spectacular compared to how it used to look. Until I get my video transferred, this will have to be the "before" picture.

Although my maintenance badge indicates that I work in communications electronics (satellite, wideband and telemetry systems), I’ve been working full time as security police. Although there are some pretty cool perks to the job, spending hours a day either all standing or all sitting, tends to make exercise about as appealing as eating honey right out of an active bee hive (unless you’re a honey badger). So I was one of few to be nominated for athlete of the year. Normally I don’t compile my results, but had to provide race results for the nomination package. As it turns out, I raced 29 times. Actually I raced 31 times, but DNFed two: got sent out onto the marathon course in Las Vegas (doing the half) and pulled up at Birch Bay Marathon (planned on running a marathon this time) after a dog came at me and left me with a minor injury. The year started off slowly, with tough training and tougher competition leaving me in the dust. I finished with results well beyond my expectation. According to the fiscal year numbers, I set 10 course records and finished first 18 times. Without Amanda's help, I would have been much worse off in racing and everything in life for that matter. If I had been keeping track, I probably wouldn’t have been so hard on myself for the few races that went awry. Fitness Fanatics saved me from a couple disasters as well. I finished outside of the top three in just six of 29 races. Two were national championships and one was a world championship where I was beaten so badly that I was almost embarrassed to have been there.
This is what my yard looks like from the same angle. It looks like the yard was just buried in rocks, but it's far from that. We have stone steps up a boulder corridor, which takes you up along a four-tier water fall. It starts by a big heated pond with a big water fall and a fast lane for when the lake gets too cold or isn't warm enough. It will also allow for great video in and out of the water. There's actually a lot more open space than this pic reveals.

I wanted to end the year earlier than usual and take a good three week break. Although I raced once/week, I exercised very little. The early season end will get me started on next year a couple months early. The shorter break (3 weeks instead of 6) with end-of-week races left me fitter than usual. This will also help me out with my birthday challenge. Every year I try to set an all-time best at something significant. This year I hope to break my PR around Medical Lake (15:57.0). Last year I failed at my initial PR attempt, which was also a Medical Lake PR try, but set a new goal and did pull ups all day to set a one-day pull up PR. It gives me something to aim for and makes a birthday more than another year on my age.

The lake was calm on a beautiful morning. More pics to come on that. This angle from the deck shows the stone bridge just after the second fall and before the last two and the pond. It's a cool mix of green, red, grey, blue, etc. To the bottom left is where a propane powered fire pit is being built. It will have stone benches and steps and a paver floor. On the far right, there will be a Trex deck with clear view rails. I can hardly wait to lounge out there. Our yard has been a dirty, rocky, steep and unusable place since we moved in. I don't like enjoying nature from inside the house. I don't want to just look at it. I want to be out in it.

My goals for next year include making a trip to USAT Sprint Nationals, the National Guard Marathon Championships, going top three at Armed Forces Triathlon Championships to earn a spot to Military Worlds where I hope to be destroyed by less than usual, and pick a couple other big races that I’m usually not able to make. If I qualify, then I’ll probably apply for my pro card for a different experience. That will probably require me to do longer races that are not draft legal, but it will be fun to try something new, even if it means being annihilated. Work has made this year extremely difficult, but I’ve managed to save up a lot of leave and am working on a deal to work less and train more. I’m a fanatic, so Amanda and I are in the process of turning our basement and yard into a big-time training center. We have or have access to everything this side of illegal performance enhancers. Nearly everything should be in place by the end of the month. With everything we need right here or starting from here, along with starting the training season in the best shape of my life, it feels like the stars are lining up just right for a really good year to come. Of course, such a major jump in training could make me lose my motivation all together. I might quit the sport completely and get fat since I have no self-control when it comes to eating. My usual training volume is about 50% to 60% of what most athletes of my caliber put in. More isn’t necessarily better, but I’m sure more time would allow me to get much better training. Showing up to a race after sleeping is also very helpful

This was a picture perfect day. Nature is inviting you in. What are you waiting for? On the left, you can see the start area for the Trailblazer Triathlon. It's 355m away, but I stop about 5m from shore for a 700m round-trip swim. Motor boats aren't allowed on the lake, so you can get in, put your head down and swim worry free. Well, that's if you don't worry about the sharks, whirl pools, seagull attacks, etc. I had this ramp custom made to allow us to walk right into the water 40' from shore. It gets us past the rocks and weeds. It also allows you to swim right into the chute and run right out of the water. Soon, you'll be able to take an evenly graded smooth path right up to the new patio where you can grab your bike and head out for a ride, a run or do all three. We have room for several bikes, so we'll be hosting some training races and plenty of training.

The house project should be complete by the 3rd of October. Amanda and I plan on having a yard party with smores and cooking on the giant flame. This is the first public invitation to everyone who’d be interested in celebrating massive debt … I mean a major project completion. If you’re reading this Steve (Anderson), I’m going to need your smore-making expertise on this one. We’d appreciate any other experts in smores, barbecue or other. Bring your racing gear and we can have a fall freezer triathlon too.To the right of center is Turtle Island, a granite quarry just off shore. This is adjacent to the Trailblazer swim start. To the far left, you can see the start of Troika and Kiwanis triathlons at Waterfront Park. Amanda and I are truly lucky to be able to see views like this from our house and yard. The sunsets are as great as the morning skies. Now that we have a camera (thanks Amanda ... I know it's yours), we'll be able to capture more days like this one.We don't just have trees on the other side. To one side we have plenty of smaller trees and natural growth. To the other side, we have the park and a camp-site like yard on the edge of the lake. To the right is Waterfront, which is 1200m from the edge of our property. I love it here and it's starting to feel more and more like home.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Major Project and Grand Columbian

When Amanda and I bought the house, it was essentially a junk yard and house. Thirty truck loads of things from chemicals to engines to carpet and all sorts of grossness later and this is how our yard looked. It was infested with weeds that we couldn't kill. Digging them up was a major task with the giant boulders in the soil. Given my work and training schedule, the best solution to have a nice yard before the year 2015 was to hire a landscape company (Alderwood). It's a six-figure project that will feature a four-tier water fall, a couple decks, a giant propane fire pit, all sorts of natural rock and vegetation landscaping and an even grade path on one side and stone step pathway on the other. Yes, I'm a triathlete to the core, so we'll have a transition area under the deck (hence the nice pathway). Bike in one way and run out the other. We have a poly dock with a custom made swim-in ramp to get onto the shore without having to navigate rocks, dirt, weeds, etc. Just run right out of the water ... from 30' out.

After a couple days with a couple machines and supplies brought in with just a phone call, this is what the yard looks like. They've had dirt shot in like a snow blower from a fancy gloss-painted dump truck, crews of up to nine people and others behind the scene.

After five days, they've got most of the water feature roughed in and a couple sets of stone steps. They have one more set of steps, then some moving things around and they can set the water feature and pour concrete. The bottom of the water feature will have a 3 to 4' water fall into a 14' x 18' pond that's about 4 to 5' deep. It will have a fast lane installed on the side with stone steps on the side. Yes, it will be heated too, so it will be possible to train right there in the yard when the lake is too cold to swim in. Late May to late September is tolerable. Anything before or after that is really tough to swim in. This should give me about 3 more months of swimming at home each year and be fun for guests (those who don't think swimming across lakes is fun).

Grand Columbian

I'm absolutely fried from such a busy race year. Unlike previous years, I decided to not push the envelope until I felt like I may never want to race again. The Titanium Man was a bad way to finish the year. I don't mind getting beat, but when it happens because of something going awry (mechanical, pointed off course, unusual physical problems, etc.), I find myself pretty disappointed. Amanda was racing the Grand Columbian Iron Distance, so I figured it would be more appropriate to go there instead of Black Diamond for a break-the-laziness activity. The Olympic would start and finish all while the Iron competitors were biking.

Jeff Smith showed up last minute, so it took the pressure off. He's an amazing racer with plenty of swim/bike strength. With his strength in climbing and a really tough bike course, I figured I didn't have to worry about a strategy. I could just get a good workout in. The race started at 10:30. I like late races. We had a good clean start and I was off toward the front. I tried to get on some guys feet, but he made more turbulence than I've ever experienced behind a swimmer. What's faster: drafting in white water or swimming in calm water? I chose the later since there was no real need to suffer. I did fall back, but not too badly. Jeff lead me out of the water by 1:51 and was riding :20 before I got out of the water. I was 4th out, but had the fastest T1, taking :22 out of Jeff's lead.

On the bike, I quickly moved into second place, riding alone with nobody in sight in front or behind. It wasn't until nearing the top that I saw Jeff up the road and around a couple corners. About halfway through the bike, I saw him on a long stretch climbing a hill and was actually able to get a split as he got to a double yellow line. I was actually closing in on him a little bit! I had good speed and cadence and felt pretty strong all the way to T2. He was leaving as I was coming in. The alleged 40K was 1:11:17, which meant I out split him by :27. On a flat course I'd be less surprised, but this was completely unexpected. T2 was quick too, but I was only able to get :04 more out of him.

Starting the run, I was 1:00 down and surprised to actually have a chance of catching him. My slightly conservative approach left me suffering a bit less than usual on a very hot day. We had a run on a gravel road, which sapped speed and energy. Drink stations were 1.5 miles apart and with only an ounce or two in little Dixie cups, hydration would be a major issue. I kept myself under control for the first half to let him sweat it out up front and pushing the pace. At the turn, I caught him and drafted for about a half mile before pushing the pace and finishing 1:07 ahead of him. I guess I got a good workout.

With the team competition requiring at least 3 people and only Amanda and I signed up for Tri-Fusion, I switched to racing for Team Blaze. We ended up getting second in one of the two divisions, so it paid off. Apparently it's not OK with some people that we made the switch to racing for another team. These people stood on the side lines watching Amanda and I race hard and criticize me instead of racing with us, which would have meant we had enough people that we didn't have to switch. Frankly, I'm tired of the silly social games people play. I race for fitness, fun, country and competition. Being part of a club is supposed to be about camaraderie. I'd never ostracise a person because he/she participated in a different club or team. We're all people and there are a lot more important things to get upset about. The stock market is down, people are losing their homes, gas companies are robbing the world of money, soldiers are dying over seas, people are fighting cancer, etc. I race for the Air Force and National Guard. They actually sponsor me, but have never questioned why I don't list them in some races, yet I get called out for listing the wrong team! I'd rather someone say congratulations on a great race. Oddly enough, only one of five people on the team "represented," yet my wife and I are singled out. Some athletes need to find out what's important in life and quite picking stupid fights they can't win. Either that or cowboy up and settle it on the race course. If some actually took the time, they'd realize that I always find to help people in any way I can. Despite my best efforts, some simply don't care for me or won't take the time to get to know me. It's frustrating enough to deal with this myself, but my wife, a much better person than I, should be left out of these things. Helping people, rather than criticizing them, is a much more suitable way to spend your time.