Monday, October 5, 2009

Midnight Mugging

So I've basically done all but fall off the face of the Earth. My last report had me facing the dilemma of whether I should race the Uberman. More on that later, but for now, I'm trying to get back on track. I'm still running every day and typically get it done without much trouble. Today was a bit of an exception.

After a long work week and my first day off, I didn't get to my run until after 2 AM. We've been in a wind storm for a couple days, but it died down. We had a remarkably clear night's sky with a full moon to light the way. The temperature was cool, but comfortable with the proper attire. Shortly after starting my run, the creepy factor went up as I noticed through the corner of my eye that a neighbor's front door was open without any lights on. As I ran past a car, I noticed someone standing there sweeping or something. It didn't startle me, but it just seemed creepy. I'm a creature of the night and don't normally get creeped out, but this did for some reason. I actually looked back a couple times to see if the person that seemed more like a he than she was in pursuit. Both times it was nothing but an empty moonlit road.

As I continued on, I thought about how I was starting to feel good about my running again. I haven't felt heavy or slow for a few days now; moreover, I've actually been running some fair times. As I rounded the top end of the lake, I was pleased to have the additonal moonlight adding to the well-spaced street lights. Deer often run about there and I want to be careful as to not make a buck angry and charge me when I don't see him.

The cool breeze and my nylon sweats made plenty of noise, but it was still peaceful. As I rounded North Park and began to head back, the wind was at my back just slightly faster than my pace. As I exited the park and the shade of the trees, the moon and street lights cast separate shadows while the wind made my running pants sort of echo my foot step. This happened all at about the same time. It was a lot like an extremely vivid dream I had while in grade school. I was riding a big wheel down the road at night and had the same feelings of creepiness sweep over me. As I went past a driveway in my dream, I felt the sense of danger. Just then as I went past a couple cars, I saw someone crouched down between two cars and looking right at me as if he were going to get me. The moment drug on before he ran out at me. I jumped up and started running, but my freakishly fast legs were anything but. I tried to call for help, but nothing came out. Just as I was caught, I was able to scream out ... for real, in my bedroom. I scared the bejeezus out of my parents and the whole house, but nobody was more freaked than I.

My run tonight coming out of the trees, along with the creepy feelings from when I ran past that guy earlier, made this run feel like that dream. What I'll refer to as the sweat pants echo made it sound as if someone was running up on me. I looked back but didn't see anything on the road or coming from the trees. As I looked forward again I went under a street light and my shadow began to stretch out before me. Just then a shadow of another person moved past my feet as someone was closing in on me too fast for me to get away. The sound of my sweat pants echo was drowned out by the fast approaching feet of someone on my six at about 2:45 AM between the wooded hills, the lake to my right and and the pond to my left.

It happened so fast that I barely had time to react. I threw in a powerful burst as I dodged to the right a little all while looking back as I jumped into the air and did my best impression of an impromptu airial back kick while running forward. It felt far from powerful or effective as I was doing it, but my hope would be to land enough force to disrupt my attacker. If I could do that, then I'd have a fair chance to escape. As it was, the person was too close and moving in too fast before I could react.

Long story short, as I completed my arial back kick I looked and nobody was there. I landed awkwardly and dropped the hammer just in case. I looked back again and nobody was there. I then realized that the moon and more than one street light were casting multiple shadows of me. It was my shadow. Ever been scared of your own shadow? That was not fun. As I settled my nerves a bit more, I realized that coming out of the trees caused the wind to shift and amplify the sound of the sweat-pants foot-step echo. There's really not many spectators at that hour, but I would have loved to see that from the eyes of another! Despite being the guy that roams around in the woods and streets at night, I decided the creepy factor was too high, so I turned in. At least I got out there and did it. Now I'm actually updating my blog, so perhaps I'm coming full circle.

What have I been up to since I disappeared from the world of racing? Well, I decided to skip the Uberman. I think I would have been 9th, but that would be too much of a trip for the time, cost and my ability to be competitive. I was peaked up for the race as best as I could be, so I decided to do the Clear Lake Triathlon. I got my wish of being the One-Armed Bandit. Despite falling way behind with my one-arm swim, I caught up to the leader on the bike and ran away for a victory.

I've done a few smaller races here and there, but things continued to unravel with my injuries. I got to the point where I was probably not going over 15 miles per week running without any biking or swimming. I raced a half marathon at Fairchild in around 1:17 or 1:18 (not much stats for this number guy as I don't even remember or care about my time). I raced a 10K on base in just over 37:15 too. I did the Labor Day Family Fun Run surprising myself by running sub 6 pace. I also did the Human Race 5K that was only 2.6 miles, the USATF IE 5K championships here in Medical Lake the day after the Human Race, so I fell apart after a mile. Finally, my fitness hit a new low as I was 13 pounds heavy and in terrible shape when I did the Finch 5K. I was rested up for it, but it was just too much. I hung tough, but was basically left in the dust by several runners.

Since then, I decided to get myself back into shape. My arm is still screwed up as the surgeon doesn't actually want to do surgery. I get to go back every few weeks and he tells me to come back in a few weeks if it isn't better. Nice plan. I'm sure we can keep cutting him a check as I come back with an injury that isn't healing but still have to pay. Anyway, I've lost 4 of the pounds and am feeling comfortable on the road despite having only put in about 25 miles this week. That's easily the most I've done in a long time, but well short of my 35 miles goal.

Aside from the running, I bought the house next door. This will eventually expand on the Bergquist Training Center (BTC) awesomeness. Being in debt is frustrating, but Amanda and I are easily able to handle it. Speaking of Amanda, our top news is that we're expecting a little baby Bergquist in May. Life is always changing, sometimes for the better or the worse. However, this is one very exciting change that I have always looked forward to. It should be quite an adventure. I'm into that.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Murphy and Uber Me

This year has been one of those days. A great plan is nothing without hard work and determination. I had all that, but you know what they say. Hard work and determination pays off with time, but laziness pays off now. It almost feels now like that would have been a better plan. Murphy’s Law, just like the Robert Burns poem “The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men” seems to have a grip on my year that I had great plans for.

I thought this would be a story about the Trailblazer Triathlon, my favorite race. Instead it’s a story about Murphy and me. There are actually several lists of Murphy’s Laws. Here are some of my favorites.

If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong.

If there is a worse time for something to go wrong, it will happen then.

If you perceive that there are several ways in which something can go awry, and circumvent these, then another way that you have not prepared for will promptly develop.

If things are going well, you are walking into an ambush.

You never run out of things that can go wrong. (This is the one that really worries me).

Smile … tomorrow will be worse.

I know there are far worse things that happen to people in a day and in a year, but for me, this year is certainly not a good one from the eyes of an athlete. Last year was, by a large margin, my best year of racing. As a point of contrast to this year, last year included nineteen wins and eleven course records. A couple bad days kept it from being more, but I’m not going to complain about that.

This year I was supposed to be better. I had a detailed plan that I started a couple months earlier than usual and was following religiously. Things were going really well. By mid December, I was in better shape than expected, then all hell broke loose. We had our worst winter ever. Training was difficult, but I didn’t care if hell froze over, I’d run there too. Problem was the pool roof isn’t as hard core as I am and decided to collapse. Given my difficult schedule, I didn’t have time to travel to a pool. No swimming for me until the roof was fixed. That would be 92 days. In the following months, I managed to get injured repeatedly. First was the calf, which left me unable to do more than a slow jog. This injury is about as limiting as an injury a triathlete can experience, which resulted in very limited biking and running. Just as I was healing up, I injured my hamstring. As I was recovering from the hamstring, I injured both knees. Later I’d injure my other hamstring. Somehow, I managed to pull it all together to have a great race at the Armed Forces Triathlon Championship, taking sixth overall. The day after I got home, I suffered a freak running accident where I broke three ribs, broke my right collar bone (again) and tore my rotator cuff.

Surgery will be needed to recover from this one and no amount of clever schemes can compensate for this problem. Needless to say, doing the Trailblazer Triathlon was a new experience. I had to swim with one arm. I struggled to make my way across the lake, inhaling water often and being left in the wake of nearly every competitor in the field. Once on the bike, I was able to suffer through the pains, imbalance of one-arm riding and weak power transfer to work my way to 3rd overall with a two-minute deficit on 2nd. Other than the difficulty training causing a bit of fitness loss, the run was the one place I didn’t have to give up a lot. I began to close in on Nate Duncan, a pretty strong runner. Although the gap was coming down quickly, I would have never caught up if he hadn’t lost a few precious seconds after turning off course. Once on course again, I was 16 seconds behind, but would get no closer than 15 seconds and eventually faded from my early efforts, finishing 3rd overall by 22 seconds on Nate and over 4 minutes to Roger Thompson. He absolutely destroyed the course with a time so fast that not even my seriously hampered performance can’t be used as an excuse. Not even close! Third overall would normally be hard to take, but this time it was encouraging.

The day after the Trailblazer I broke my left pinky toe. Since then, I’ve had some aches and pains, but haven’t injured anything else. Amanda injured her foot and says that I ran out of places to injure, so they’re spreading to her. I hope not.

Now I wait for the 31st of July to learn what the surgeon determines the path of healing is for me. I’m told it will likely require surgery and 6 to 9 months of recovery. For nearly everyone out there, my current dilemma is a no brainer. That dilemma is whether I should race the Uberman Triathlon in New Jersey on the 25th. I’ve done few races in my life over which I’d have trouble making this decision, but this is certainly one of them. This is an invite-only race pitting 10 elite men and 10 elite women against each other in an absolute all-out super sprint triathlon that will take about 17 minutes (200m swim, 4-mile bike and 1-mile run). If the year had gone according to plan, then I’d be strong enough that I’d feel good about my chances of placing well. There’s no hope for that now as I’m not only giving up way too much with my one-armed swim, but the trouble with power transfer/bike control and lost fitness will leave me far behind an invited-elite field. Right now I’m not the guy who earned a limited spot in this race. On the other hand, simply spectating an event like this would be great. I have the exclusive opportunity to spectate from within the race and be a part of the very first Uberman Triathlon. I said I’d be there, so I feel obligated to keep my word.

My question(s) to those of you who read this and are willing to answer: What would you do if you were in my shoes? Should I base my participation on my ability or should I show because I’m grateful to have the opportunity? We can never tell if things will get better or worse, making opportunities like this our last. I don’t want to make this a decision I’ll regret. I’m pretty sure I’ll recover and rise up again, but always have to ask myself “what if I don’t?” I was there in 1997 when I wasn’t supposed to ever be able to run again. I know I don’t have to do this, but I’m wondering if, on a grand scale, if I should or owe it to myself and others to simply show up and do my best.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Armed Forces Triathlon Championships

Every year for well over a decade now, the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard meet up at Pt. Mugu Naval Air Base. We also had the Canadian teams as well, so we had a full house. This isn’t about a joint service mission or training. It’s not about aircraft, combat vehicles or other weapons of war. We’re not even working together as one team (the US Military). We come to compete against each other in the sport of triathlon. Some are just home from the war, some are heading out soon, others are waiting until their time comes and for some this will be their last military duty. This is not only a great way for us to blow off some steam and live a week of a world class athlete, but gives us a chance to see how we stack up against the best athletes in the military. We have Navy Seals, Combat Rescue Officers, Rangers, and Commandos numbered among us, but special forces isn’t triathlon. That said, we compete in the only draft legal ITU race in America that has amateurs, elites and pros competing head-to-head.

This has been a goal race for me since 2003 when I first competed. It was a great secret until then, which took me a couple years of searching before I found out who to talk to and get myself on the team. The top six to nine qualify for the Military World Championships, which I’ve done four times. This is one of the greatest experiences I’ve had as an athlete, so I train hard every year for the honor. This year there would not be a world championships as the host country cancelled about a year ago and we were unable to find a replacement. I thought the lack of a world championship would make the race less competitive, but I was wrong. It seems that the rest of these ultra competitive athletes want the incredible test that our championship always brings. I also suspect that Tim O’Donnell’s separation from the Navy played a roll on the level of competition. He’s won the last six and Mike Hagen won the six before that, so it seemed that we’d finally have a slim chance of standing atop the podium.

My training plan was supposed to deliver me to this race fit enough to exit the swim in a good enough place to ride in just about any pack on the road. I was supposed to be strong enough that I could bridge the gap from my pack to one ahead of me, which I was certain there would be due to the speed of many of the pro racers in the field. I was supposed to be able to hold my own against nearly anyone racing when it came to the run, but things didn’t turn out that way at the end of my training. As an athlete that rarely suffered an injury that truly limited my training and racing, I found myself trying to overcome injuries for nearly all of the 11 weeks leading up to the race. I lost a lot of motivation and commitment when my computer was erased along with all my training data. The pool at FAFB was also closed 92 days due to snow loading, which cost me dearly in the swim. Despite the losses, I forced myself to do everything I could to peak up for the race. I lost weight, did some hard training and put everything together in what I thought would be just enough time to pull out of this tail spin.

Mike McCoy and I went down together on Wednesday for the race on Saturday. He’s been dropping me in the swim and bike lately, but my goal was to stay close enough in the swim to bridge the gap in T1 and try to break away on the bike. When it comes down to the run, only small gains can be made if you have the right person to draft into the usually moderate to strong winds. We got a bunch of free training and racing gear, a few meals, free rooms and other events to keep us from getting too bored when we weren’t doing whatever taper training we thought necessary prior to the race.

The women started the two-loop ocean swim ahead of the men by some unknown amount of time. I’m wearing my new Zoot Zenith and didn’t want to test my ability to take it off while wearing a watch. After the last female rounded the first buoy about 350m away, it was our turn to do our ITU beach start. I lined up in the back and decided to start out comfortably hard and work my way into the race rather than fight my way into a fearful panic. I had a bit of a lazy start, but I made it over the waves well and managed to tuck under the incoming waves as I got started swimming. I swam wide and found myself holding my own bit of space and feeling fairly relaxed. There was no need to worry now because I know I did everything I could for this year’s race, even though I’m in worse swim shape than December and worse run shape than in February. As I swam I focused on how pleased I was to have not given up on myself. I felt good about my chances, despite having almost half the men’s field pulling away quickly.

We rounded the first buoy and headed into the headwind and crashing waves. Ironically, I seemed to hit every breath at just the right time. When I thought I was going to inhale some salt water, I got lucky and took in just air. Later, I would discover that many had a terrible struggle here, so I felt even more fortunate considering I had my way with the ocean twice on that stretch. As the swim went on, I found myself holding a position in a rather large group. That bode well for the bike, but I still tried to pick it up on lap two. I spent a lot of time looking at swim cap numbers to later share stories with those I swam against. The best part about the swim was on the last stretch when I began to wonder just how far McCoy was ahead of me. I looked back and to my left and a half body length back is #37, Mike McCoy. Sometimes I get the feeling that things will be OK before I have any proof that they actually will. Seeing #37 was a great confirmation for me. I knew he was ready for this race, especially on the bike, so I settled down and cruised on in. My time was 25:06.98, good for 40th among 108. The fastest swim time was 21:52.70 by Nicholas Vandam (not sure on spelling, but that’s how it is in results. They didn’t spell my name correctly, so at least I was able copy correctly from what I had). I suspect that Nicholas and several others swim well under 20 for 1500m. I didn’t do my homework, but when this race normally has a half dozen sub 20:00 1500m swimmers, I seriously doubt that it’s accurate when a field with several top pros has only five go sub 22:30.

T1 went fairly well for me. I tried what is essentially a new wet suit for a big race. Normally that’s a terrible idea, but I was so grateful to Zoot that I did it anyway. I also had a few swims in it prior to the race. The Zenith didn’t exactly come right off, but I was going as hard as I could and managed to have a great split to make sure I exited T1 with the many others strung out in the swim with me.

My only real point of contention was that the transition area was not equidistant. We had racks on the left with a fence at the end of each rack. We’d have to run down the rack to our bike and then back to the run path. Although I did not have the worst spot in the transition area, I had a worse spot than all but a few of the men in the race. I was determined to be so fast that it didn’t matter, but no matter how fast I go, running extra distance costs time regardless of how I try to sugar coat it. Moreover, being at the end meant I had a lot of athletes to navigate around coming and going in T1 and possibly in T2. I don’t like to complain, but this is a national championship and should have a level playing field. This wasn’t and I figured it would cost me a minimum of 8 seconds.

It was a tangled mess getting to my bike and getting back out of T1, but I was very aggressive and found my way to the mount line before McCoy. I sat up and waited for him, but it turns out that waiting was not necessary. We had a plan for one of us to break away and have the other surge to catch up, but our communication was off and I got boxed in after my pull nearing the first 90-degree turn. There would be a total of 21 90-degree turns and four at 45-degrees. Exiting that first 90, McCoy took off and I could do nothing but sit there and see glimpses of his attack around the helmets of the riders in front of me. Eventually I got out the back side and finally had some open road to work with. I rode hard for a couple miles before realizing I wasn’t going to get him. In the mean time, I had a couple Army guys constantly nagging me to quit pushing so hard because that’s not how to pace line. I told them “This is nationals. I’m not here to practice riding in a pace line and I don’t care if the pack is comfortable with my pace. If you can’t draft me, then slow down.” The pack split, which is a good thing since I’d rather have fewer riders to contend with.

McCoy eventually eased up and we caught back up to him. I had a lot of trouble getting a good draft or finding the pace line that efficient. Half the time I thought I’d be run into the ditch or have a rider shoot off the front and clip my front wheel. I’ve never seen riders peel off the front so fast that it looked like they were swerving around a dangerous object at the last moment. Things got reckless, so I sat off the back with a gap for all but a few sections where the group was under control. McCoy drove the pace most of the time as we reeled in group after group and spit one after another out the back. I constantly had to bridge, but even wasting the energy was better to me than to risk crashing. I rode the 5th fastest time on the day with a 55:06.93. McCoy had the fastest time of the day with a 54:49.29. Drafting on a flat course can be dangerous, but it can be fun too.

T2 was my place to shine, but coming in with a group of about 10 with McCoy and two others having gotten away on the last lap and about 10 seconds up on us, the transition area was cluttered again. I did my best to get in and out, but my heel wouldn’t go in my shoe. It felt like it took forever, but I would guess that I only lost about four to six seconds. My legs were fairly tired, but I was ready to get to the run.

To my absolute amazement, I heard that the first female had just headed out and thought I heard them say something about number ten male heading onto the course as I was about to head out myself. This was good news. We had a four loop run course, which would really only allow me to see where I was on lap one. The course would be flooded with athletes coming and going, so I started my count. As we approached the first out-and-back, I realized the few people I had moved by put me in a pack of four holding spots nine through 12. If I could finish first among them, then I’d be really pleased. My goal was to go top 10 and it looked likely now.

McCoy jumped on my six and I drug us through the first section of headwind. It was tough, but there were athletes to catch and the run is where I make my move. Despite being exhausted and running hard enough to start dropping people, McCoy told me it was now or never and I had to go. We were though the first of four sections of headwind, so I took off. In this race, I always push too hard and somehow my body doesn’t shut me down. On lap 2, I had one of the four still on my six as I pulled him through the wind. I was loosing my senses, so it was just my racing instinct. I was going to beat him the tough guy way, which is to run so hard that he burnt out drafting me. Lap three he was still there. I lost track of my laps until I heard one lap to go for the leader. As we approached the final section of head wind, I surged and got a gap on my parasite. Knowing my pain put him in pain, I pushed even harder to make sure he couldn’t come back. At that point I realized I was catching a couple more in front of me that were running quickly. I didn’t know what lap they were on, but a carrot is a carrot. I was starting to make some unpleasant noises in my attempt to continue on with the pace. Eventually I made the final turn and had only closed slightly. We had very little left to go, so I started my surge for the finish early and kept pushing harder and harder. Despite my best efforts, I could not catch those two who happened to be right in front of me. My run time was 37:14.39, good for 9th on the day. We ran 6.4 miles, so adjusting for the extra would have put my 10K at 36:09. It’s not a great time, but it’s respectable and kept me from getting passed. The fastest time was 34:08.98, so I absolutely got hammered.

As it all turns out, I crossed the line in 7th. Completely spent more than previous years, I couldn’t even walk with help. I had to lock myself up there refusing to move. Luckily, the doctors know my number before the race starts and have it called into them as I’m approaching the finish. In seven years they’ve come to know how hard I push here and I was pleased that I was able to find it within myself to push to the limits again. I do it for my team, for my country and for myself, but it really sucks feeling like I could die. They worked on me until awards. I put my warm-ups on that a team mate brought to me and stumbled to awards. Unlike previous years, I did not get to stand up front to be named to Team USA. We wouldn’t have one this year, but it felt just about as good. I didn’t go top six, but I probably would have gotten the first roll down. It felt like this year was more competitive than ever and I was glad everything came together at the last moment like it did. My overall time was 1:59:00.56. The two guys in front of me finished 7.81 and 9.06 seconds in front of me. That’s right in the ball park of the minimum amount I thought I’d lose in T1 before the race started. It’s difficult to tell what it actually was, but drives home the point that equidistant transitions are really important in these big races. If I had passed just one of those guys, then the Air Force would have been one place up in the overall. The number of other athletes we had may have moved up a spot too, so that’s unfortunate.

The Air Force Women dominated and easily won the women's team competition.

A couple names will no longer be listed among us. A personal favorite of mine is Dan Frost who had a flat, but managed to salvage his race for something less than he would have had, but better than a DNF. You will be missed Frosty. Heidi Grimm will be going out in style tying the record of 6 wins, which two men have done. Also, Mike McCoy will be moving to Illinois for a couple years, so I’ll be on my own in training again, but I hope things work out next year like they were supposed to this year. If they do, then I’ll be on my way to Holland or Belgium, depending on who hosts worlds. Bottom line, I'm extremely grateful that I have the opportunity to be part of such an awesome group of individuals.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Point zero zero five!

My lack of posting this year has been indicative of the way my year has been going, which is to say it hasn't been going much at all. I had about two weeks to get ready for Wenatchee Marathon after my injury. Being creative and aggressive is necessary for the two-week training plan, but I got it done. Two weeks after that was the Lincoln Marathon. How do you recover from a marathon at the end of a two-week training plan and train for the next one in two weeks? There really isn't a good answer for that other than do the best I can, which is exactly what I did. Amanda and I do Wenatchee every year during our anniversary; moreover, I'm the only one to have done the marathon every year, so I choose not to skip it. This is the only race I've done every one of.

Lincoln is the National Guard Marathon Championships, which I have the honor of doing. I represent the Washington Guard. My body was angry with me for doing this double. It's normally not a problem, but I'm normally in a lot better shape. At this race, I went for a sub 2:45. I felt I owed it to Team Washington to give it my best and put my neck on the line. It was tough from the start, but I was holding strong, managing my fluids and nutrition and hoping a lot. Hope never ran out, but my energy did. Around mile 18 I started to fade. I backed off, but it wasn't enough. Around mile 22, it turned into a difficult struggle. My miles slowed to over 7 minutes, but I pressed all the way to the line. I lost a lot of time, but managed to cross the line in under 2:51. I think I was 2:50:38, but can't recall and am too lazy to look it up. I was around 17th overall and 7th or 8th in the National Guard. Not bad considering the circumstances. The entire run I kept thinking about how certain I was about my chances of going sub 2:37. My how things change so quickly.

Following Lincoln, I found my left knee and both hamstrings giving me a lot of grief. Injuries are pretty frustrating, but these were better than the calf injury. I could still run as long as I was careful and kept the pace under control. That meant between 7:30 and 8:00 pace. It's a lot better than the 9:30s when my calf was out. Injuries have been really rare for me, so I still consider myself fortunate during this time when I'm injured more than I'm not. It's been hard to stay motivated and patient. Those two things just don't seem compatible. I managed to keep my appetite and gain 9 pounds. My bike had only been ridden once (yes by me) since April, but I've been swimming a moderate amount. It might sound like I'm feeling sorry for myself, but I'm not. I'm enjoying the absence of constant fatigue and pain of training and all of the extra time that I have in my schedule due to the lack of training. I miss the training at the same time.

Last Sunday, 17 May, was one to remember. I still work nights, so I didn't quite realize how close I pushed my nap to the point I had to leave. I started packing my gear at 8 AM for a race that was at 9. I left at 8:18 and showed up at 8:56. This was actually fairly fun for me. I unloaded my car by the transition area. My team mate Mike McCoy took my bike while I got my gear. Amanda took my $25 and got me signed up. I finished at the car, passed my transition gear to her as I ran to registration to sign my life away and scooted off to the start line with about a minute to spare. Mike pointed out where my bike was and it was time to start.

I'd been predicting it since last year. Josh Hadway is going to be a monster to deal with as he settles into multi-sport. He's a fiery racer with tons of talent. That was on full display as soon as the race started. He bolted away from the field so fast that it was almost humiliating. On the other hand, getting whooped comes a lot easier when I know I'm not even close to my best. He put about 5 seconds on me in the first 30. Even as tough as my last 10 weeks have been, I knew that kind of ratio wouldn't hold out. It didn't matter though. Catching him on a bike I haven't been riding wasn't going to happen anyway. I was content to chase McCoy and others.

I survived the run without quitting or getting too far behind (just over a minute for 2.44 miles). Josh must have slowed down to only around :20/mile faster than me. Transition was a nightmare as I didn't have things set up, didn't have an extra pair of shoes and was not in a good spot. I'm not complaining. I have nobody to blame but myself if I cared to do that. These are just details that explain why I was in there long enough to bake a cake. Once out on the road, I found myself falling further behind McCoy who was slowly catching Sam, while Josh was pulling away from everyone. I held on until two riders passed me. One was Nate Duncan and the other was that other guy. I was able to hang with them, falling back and fighting my way up to them numerous times.

We hit T2 and this transition was only marginally better than T1. I figured the best I could do at that point was 4th, but even when I'm hurt and out of shape I lie to myself. For about a half mile I hung with Nate and that other one guy, then proceeded to make a move. I'm not sure why. I really didn't care, but it's just how my brain works. I'm the running version of Seabiscut (horse movie). At the end of lap one, I could see McCoy and Sam well in front of him. What the heck ... why not try to catch them. So I cranked it up and managed to close the gap steadily. Only a furious finish was able to close the gap to McCoy. The finish was my closest in any race ever. According to the chip time I was .005 behind him. According to the photo finish, I was about 6" in front of him with my lean. I really needed him there to make me work. If I had been by myself, then I would have given up long ago and cruised on in. My second run was better than my first and only 31 seconds slower (vs. over 1:00 for the first 2.44M run) than Josh and faster than the rest of the field.

Now the challenge is to peak up as well as I can for Armed Forces Triathlon Nationals. My body responds well to high intensity over a short period of time. I went into Spring Thaw tired after a hard week and a race a couple days before, so my condition wasn't as bad as Josh made it look. He would have whooped me either way, so there are no regrets. My swim and run are most important for this draft legal race. I'm also on leave this week, so I can do whatever I need to do to get ready. I've already lost 3 of those overeating pounds and have had a couple more really great workouts. My best races always come at the end of the summer. Despite my best plans to make this my best year ever, it looks like it will be the same old story with a much tougher beginning. Josh inspired me to get my fitness back an McCoy helped stoke that competitive fire. Things are looking a little brighter for me toward the end of May.

That said, I have no pics. In fact, I have very little of anything nowadays after my computer crashed and I lost everything until I get the computer back from a computer lab. There are no guarantees, but they'll try. I didn't realize I had anything I'd miss if the computer crashed. All my pictures and a couple years worth of training journals ... both irreplaceable.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fitting in?

I don’t know how many days I’ve run in my life. I started when I was 4 ½, but was pretty lazy for a lot of it. I do know that I’ve run every one of the last 1,938 days. The most recent one on Monday, 20 April, the folks around Medical Lake looked at me differently. It was a great day. The sun was out, the winds were calm and the temperature was high enough that I’d roll my window down if I were in my car. After the record snow and so many very cold days, a great many of the people of Medical Lake were out enjoying our first truly great day by fishing or hiking the trail around the lake.

Having run every day for years on end, along with my keen interest and education in psychology, it’s not hard to notice a change in the way people saw me today. As a competitive athlete, I’ve been racing my way around the lake at speeds the average stroller doesn’t quite understand. These are the people that think any form fitting material is spandex. To them, spandex is gross and the people who wear it are a little funny. Ironically, they’re often seen staring at magazines and admiring the fit individuals wearing the same kind of form fitting clothes. I’m far from narcissistic, but even as picky as I am, I know I look as fit as those individuals on the magazines.

On this great Monday, I wore a plain brown T-Shirt and a pair of oversized sweat pants that were too long for my short legs. I labored around the lake as I have so many days since injuring my calf in February. This day was a particularly tough one and the people who saw me knew it. They were new faces, but it was as if they understood the pain I was going through to simply keep up what I’d have to call running. It was strange to feel like they could identify with me. Although they saw me suffering to simply keep up a slow pace, the way I got there was the piece of information they will probably never know.

After my injury, I had to take it easy for a while. I ran no more than three miles at 8:30 to 9:45 pace for about six weeks. Few people saw me laboring away as my schedule often has me running at hours so late that it’s rare to see someone driving. It was torture to me since I normally push the limits and take plenty of risks. I had planned on doing the Snake River Sprint Triathlon, but had to work. Well, that was until Amanda was scheduled to come in on the first day of the triathlon. I didn’t think it would be appropriate to tell her that I couldn’t pick her up from the airport because I was at a race for the first 20 hours she was home after being gone since last year. She committed to serving the country and to not greet a troop returning home is an awful thing to do, even if it is for something great like a race :0). I also didn’t think it would be appropriate to work, so I stood my ground and said I was NOT going to work on the 10th.

In hindsight, even if I could have raced, I’m glad I didn’t. Roger Thompson laid down the law. He beat my time from last year by :22, despite biking a mile further than I did last year. I could have gone possibly as much as a minute faster then (on the run), but riding that extra mile would leave me in a distant second. Toward the end of last year I was racing significantly faster, but I doubt even those performances would be fast enough to hang with him this year. I hate to say it, but I’m actually a little afraid to race him now. There’s nothing wrong with getting beat. It happens to me all the time, but I’m as competitive as a person can be and I don’t like to get beat. If I can get over these unusual schedule difficulties and injuries, then I’m sure I can get back into shape. If I can do that, then I’m sure I can give the really fast guys like Roger a run for his money. If nothing else, I have to man up, get back into shape and quit being a coward.

After having seen those intimidating results and having Amanda home, I got myself out there and started training again. I’m not sure I was fully ready to hit it hard, but I really didn’t have a choice. Every year Amanda and I do our anniversary run in Wenatchee. I’ve done the marathon every year it’s been held. It’s the only race of any type that I’ve done every single one. Moreover, the only time I didn’t finish first was in the second year as I had to save my legs for an all out assault on the Lincoln National Guard Marathon Championships, which is always two weeks after this race. So with two weeks to train I had to figure out how to best use every day and still have some rest time before the race. I tried to push the pace on a few occasions, but didn’t have any speed. I managed to get a continuous run of over 10 miles once and a few days with a total of just over 10 miles.

Race day came and I honestly didn’t think I could run under 3 hours. I didn’t know if I could even run the whole way. That 10 miler really left me hurting, so in a lot of ways I didn’t know what to do. The race started and I settled into a brisk pace. I felt like I was pushing a little too hard, but I had a tall skinny guy with wide shoulders to draft. We were holding just under 6:40 pace, so after we turned around at mile 3, I decided to try to maintain that pace. I was really nervous about performing poorly. I was also a bit disheartened that we were racing a new course, which meant someone else would have the course record en route to breaking my streak at two. At mile 10 my legs were really feeling banged up. I’m not used to running that far, especially in racing flats (lately). I really concentrated hard on making every step a little bit softer. I’ve never focused on every step for 16 miles before. My hydration and nutrition went off exactly as planned. At mile 20, I really believed I’d have to walk by mile 23, but as usual, I lied to myself. I was fried, but told myself that if I could run just one more mile under 7, then I could walk. Next it was a half mile. I had 3 seconds in the bank, so I decided to spend it and see if I could make it to mile 25. Then one lie after another, one quarter after another, I found my way to mile 26 with every mile under 7:00. I cranked it up for the finish and to my absolute amazement, despite fading in the last three miles, I finished in 2:51:38! My goal for Lincoln was sub 6 pace and I believe I would have been able to do that if I didn’t get injured, but I never expected this at Wenatchee. I have no idea how I ran 6:32.75/mile when I had trouble running that for less than three miles. The marathon is a thinking man’s race. That’s one thing I always have going for me. That and a whole lot of lies. Perhaps I’ll be able to go 2:45 in Lincoln. It’s not 2:36:59, but sometimes goals have to be adjusted.

So two days after Wenatchee, I’m hobbling around the lake again and keeping the streak alive. The people who saw me appeared to understand what I was going through and identified with me. On the other hand, they had no idea that I ran a marathon two days ago. They didn’t know that the guy dressed like the typical jogger was actually a “spandex-wearing” race-a-holic. They also must not have seen that look in my eyes. I’m talking about that competitive fire that rages within. After such a rough start to the year, I just wasn’t feeling it. I’m glad to have it back.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Training Update

Three weeks down. That’s what it was to recover from my frustrating injury. Frankly, the time flew and I enjoyed having more time to relax and do other things. March 23rd was go time. First up was the swim. Fairchild’s pool was finally open. After absolutely no swimming for 92 days, I needed to get a baseline after my longest known layoff (excluding my shattered collar bone). For 500m, I managed 7:46.0. My goal was to go sub 8, so I was pleased that my form was able to carry me. I’m not going to lie. It was tough to go the distance. Had the pool not closed, my plan was to be a solid sub 6:30. Looks like I’m a little behind.

Next test was the bike. I went for a 12.21M TT. This is over triple the distance I’ll race for Uberman, but still an important test. Although biking is low impact, I’ve tried to take it easy to avoid aggravating my calf injury. Ironically, my pathetic biking schedule was the bulk of my training. With the Softride and training wheels, I rode in a wind storm. It was tough going to start. My pace was so slow I don’t want to list it here. On the other hand, if you are into math, you can figure it out knowing I averaged just under 27 MPH on the way back. The only thing I really liked about my pace was the cool numbers of 12.21M @ 21.12 MPH. I’m not sure how I’m going to ride 4 miles in 9:00.

Monday was an easy run of the Eastern State Hospital 3.42M loop that I ran at 5:32 pace on my birthday (November 20th). Tuesday I decided to test my fitness on the run like I did in the swim and bike the day before. Sure, a couple days rest would give a better number, but I won’t have that luxury in a triathlon. I ran the 3.42M hard. Although I was glad to be under 8:00 pace for the first time in weeks, I was only able to run 6:20 pace. I was winded and tired early in the run. That doesn’t bode well for the Lincoln Marathon on Bloomsday where I’ve planned on running sub 6.

So I’m clearly not where I’m supposed to be. I’m way off! Despite this mess I find myself in, I’m not going to throw in the towel. Measuring myself by the pace at which I compete is a poor measure. The effort I give is what really counts. It’s the only thing I can really control. It’s really all anyone can control. No matter how fast or how slow I am, I will never let anyone push harder than I do. From here on out, I’m going to try to be smart about it, but plan to put myself through hell in order to do some catching up. Clearly my service commitment limits my schedule, but I’ll do what I always do, which is to do the best I can. What I can’t make up for with fitness, equipment and plan, I’ll try to make up with guts. I’m not going to count myself out, but I’m not going to be placing bets either.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Stuff and Things

Well, it's been a while since I last posted. It's not as if I don't have anything going on, but I'm not exactly sporting the best sports story so far this year. Frankly, I'm having a really tough year. What is it they say about the best laid plans? Also, I normally put a lot of thought into my post so I'm not skipping randomly between one thing or another.
This is where Amanda lived for over 8 weeks. They never complained that the place was too messy or dirty.

My PR at Birch Bay could have been better if my legs didn't end up so sore that I got a little more pain than the marathon (which I skipped in favor of the 25K) would have provided. I hobbled around for a few days and headed to Texas to see Amanda graduate BMT (basic military training). She was the top graduate of all 803 airmen! It was really great to see her. Although I didn't need her to be gone for months to realize it, life goes so much more smoothly when complimented so well with another. For me, it's Amanda. All those things we do in life that take a little time or help are so much easier when done as a team. It's been a struggle for me to keep up with work, training, the house and a few other tasks I have chosen to push through.
The first flight marching through carries all the flags. It's pretty impressive looking. Next up is the band flight which is followed by all the other flights. There were 803 airmen in flights of around 50 to 60 airmen each. Amanda was #1 of all of them. It was fun to watch them march around the field. I wonder if that's how the battle formations looked back in some of our previous wars.

While in Texas, I ran a 5K that I found online before departing. It looked to be a really small race, but I signed up. It's difficult to get good training when traveling and away from home, so this would help out a little. It doesn't matter if there's no competition, there's something about strapping on a race number that gives me super powers. Well, it gives me something extra anyway. It's a lot easier to run a fast pace. This race didn't really turn out that way. I thought I'd just run away from the 20 or so other runners and win by a mile (figuratively speaking). Starting out, my legs felt heavy and slow. I wondered just how much a recovery week and traveling took out of me. At the first Garmin split of a half mile, I realized I wasn't doing all that bad. I was sitting around a 5:30 pace (not really sitting). I didn't care to look, but some dude was drafting me like a real champion. Although I would prefer to win, this was simply about getting a good run in, which I was doing. For 2.5 miles, I simply ran hard with this guy on my six (6:00 ... no I'm not a pilot in the Air Force). We were still holding 5:30s.
Amanda receiving her award from the commander and command chief. I was more than happy to be in the pic to celebrate the moment too. They also let me hand out the Fittest Airman award. Amanda was runner up for that, but it was still fun for her to have me be part of her ceremonies.

I didn't realize it until afterwards, but I thought I was at mile 2 when we were at mile 2.5 (I'm usually aware of exactly how far I have to go until the pain stops). The reason that's significant is because this guy surged past me. Cool! It was my turn to draft. I sat on his six (no he's not a pilot either) for about a half mile or just under. At that point, he put in a seriously hard surge. We started ascending this really steep, but short hill and I was still running 5:30 as I climbed this bugger, but he was pulling away. It was too rich for my blood with about a kilometer to go, so I let him go. After I crested the hill, I could see the finish line. He was seriously wanting this one and running like he stole it. There was too little time to light up the afterburners and run him down. I thought the course was about a half mile short until I looked at my watch afterwards. It was around 3.15 miles (can't remember right now). It was just a touch long! Had I known I was so close, I would have gone with him. In retrospect, I'm glad I didn't. At around the actual mile 2, my legs really started to get sore and the left calf muscle (aka bull) has been really angry with me since. My time was 17:17. I'm not sure what his was, but it was faster than that by a few seconds. It was a good run, but I'm paying the price for it now.
Amanda was in the band flight. She played the symbols. She's on the other side ... allegedly. I couldn't even spot my own wife. They all looked alike.

I'm two weeks into this injury and it's finally getting tolerable. This is the first time since shattering my collar bone and breaking some ribs that I've actually not been able to really train. I've been injured, but I was able to get through it being careful to not push too hard. Walking around with a limp is frustrating. I don't like to be injured and don't like a million people to see that I'm not invincible. In this two week period, I will have run about 30 miles at paces between 8 and 9:40. I don't recall when the last time I put in a couple of 15 mile weeks. On top of that, I have only been on the bike a couple times due to the injury and weather. If that weren't enough beating while I'm down, the pool at Fairchild is still closed. I haven't been swimming in 3 months! The winter is when I primarily focus on my swimming. Needless to say, being in the worst early bike shape in years, not being able to do more than fake my way through a run and not swimming isn't going to get me ready for this race season. To those of you out there who have wanted a piece of me, come and get it. There's nothing I can do to stop you. Unfortunately, I won't be able to do the St. Paddy's 5 in Spokane or 10K in Tri-Cities, so you'll have to wait for another day. Unless I can get in shape in a month, this won't exactly be my year of years that I've been hoping for. I've tried, but sometimes life happens in ways that I can't avoid, so I'll just go through it and see you on the other side.
Each year, the Air Force Athlete of the Year gets a gate named after him. It just happens to be at Lackland AFB, so we had to stop by and get our picture taken. Ironically, they named the gate after me before I was even in the military. They really have their stuff together ;0).

Monday, February 23, 2009

Birch Bay: The 24 Hour Race

Everyone’s life is speckled with some craziness. Good or bad, they are the stories we talk about and define who we are. My last 24 hours made for one of those stories … obviously. It was a full 24, but I’ll try to keep it concise, which is very unlikely.

Being on Active Duty, I sometimes have the pleasure/opportunity to provide extra service for my country. It comes in the form of someone telling me we’re doing an exercise and I get to work my days off. These exercises aren’t the kind that athletes do and working extra days does not mean extra pay. My shifts are 13 hours, add in travel, life and real exercise, my sleep number is pretty low (I’m not talking about a Sleep Number Bed by Select Comfort).

My plan for the weekend was to compete in the Birch Bay Marathon to test my early season fitness. It’s an important test for my first big goal of 2009 (run the Lincoln Marathon under 6:00 pace). With this military exercise, I couldn’t make Birch Bay since it’s a 370 mile one-way drive to the farthest NW corner of the state (Blane, WA). That was until I got a one-word call, “ENDEX!” That means end exercise! Hallelujah! I’m one tired hombre and needed some sleep.

This is where things get interesting. When opportunity comes knocking, I always answer. Birch Bay was an option and I had part of Saturday to prepare. I’m hardcore like that. I was in business mode. I got online, to check race information, travel distance and come up with a game plan. As far as running goes, I’m in my best run shape ever for this time of year … perhaps any time of year. So I set an aggressive plan to run this marathon in under 2:40:00. Even .01 seconds under was good enough. I program the Garmin, look over previous year’s journal information and I’m good to go.

Unlike my running, my biking is about as bad as it’s ever been. It took me 4 tries to ride over 20 MPH. Granted it’s cold and I used my road bike with cold weather gear, but for me it’s very bad. It would be like Roger not being able to ride 25 MPH. I’m exaggerating on that last one with the shout out to a local uber biker. Because my biking is so bad, I’m really trying to work hard on it. After 21 tries, I broke 21 MPH, so it’s progress, even if it is very little and frankly very depressing (not joking about that). After this marathon, I planned to ride the 25K course, which is held in conjunction with the marathon.

After everything was packed, I hit the sack (a king size adjustable Tempurpedic Deluxe in an altitude tent with filtered and purified air). I’d never spare any money on a bed, especially since I have a sleeping disorder (not referring to my job). A couple days ago I cranked the altitude to over 2 miles. My lungs and throat didn’t totally love it. Anyway, my sleep ended up being a brief 75 minute period. At least I took a 2.25 hour nap earlier after the ENDEX.
It's too small a map to see, but Blane is at the top of the map (in Washington), just slightly to the left of the "W" in Washington typed on the map. I was running about 1 mile from Canada and a few feet from the water. That's about as close as NW Washington as you can get without swimming.

I hit the road at 1:00 AM. That’s when I’m normally working or working out. Cruising at 75 MPH (yes I was speeding a little bit) and listening to some great country tunes, I was happy to be on my way. Three hours later, my car runs out of gas about 100 miles early. I’m not sure what happened there, but I’m only about 4 miles from North Bend. Now I’m really glad I brought the bike, which I ride down I-90 around 4 AM with no lights, but it’s better than walking. Ironically, every station is closed. I was hoping to borrow a gas can and take a gallon back to my car. Instead, I’m digging through the trash for a 32 oz. cup. It’s a lot less humiliating digging in trash when nobody is watching. I find a cup, use my card to buy gas and head back trying to ride with one hand and hold a cup with the other while avoiding rumble strips, which feel like they could rattle a race bike to pieces. I had to be creative, but I got the gas in the car, which gets 45 MPG unlike the cars these days that boast 37 MPH highway (what a bunch of crap that our auto industry is going backward).

After buying gas that goes directly into the tank, I’m on my way. At Issaquah the interstate is blocked, so I take a back road. It’s a good thing I was ahead of schedule, because driving 370 miles to miss a race would be annoying. As I headed north on I-5, my enthusiasm began to wane. It was getting to be around my bed time and my right hamstring hates long road trips and locks up to show me how much it cares about my hopes and dreams. With all the time to think, the 25K is starting to seem a lot more appealing. It’s 10.7 miles shorter, so I’ll be done sooner despite starting 30 minutes later, I won’t hurt as badly afterward, will allow me to work on my speed over distance more and did I mention it’s 10.7 miles shorter. I’ve trained hard this year, but as I drove, I had plenty of time to reflect on how I probably don’t have a good enough base, especially during this tough week and being sleep deprived after a long road trip

Marathon start with the sand and water in the background at Birch Bay State Park.

Long story short, I ran the 25K instead. After registering, I went back to my car to nap, waking only to snap a couple photos of the marathon start. My 25K goal was 5:48/mile. My PR is 1:34:06 on a very tough Newman Lake course. I started out running with a nice guy who’s mean coach told him to run 5:30 pace. There was no chance of me doing that, so I sent him on his way. After taking water at mile 2.5, I got a side ache (no more water for me). I was slightly ahead of pace until a big hill in the sixth mile. I knew I’d get it back on the downhill. Best of all, side aches are far less painful when climbing, so I cranked the effort. At the top, I caught the leader (way off his 5:30 goal), so we had a race on our hands. He pulled away again, but I was feeling great. On the other hand my quads felt like they were cramping. It ended up being muscle soreness. Other than the quads, I felt strong, so I ran harder to compensate for the power loss. The next five miles averaged 5:43.4, but my legs got so sore that it felt like mile 25 in a marathon. I fought all the way to the line, knowing I’d pay for it as I slowed to 6:10, 6:20 and 6:33 pace for the final 2.62 miles. My time was 1:32:20, but the course was 15.62 miles, not 15.535. My actual pace was 5:54, so I beat my time and pace PR by large margins. I’m really happy about, especially considering how things went awry. I was second to a 1:30:08, which is about where I’d be without the quad problem. I think I made the right choice in backing out of the marathon. It’s hard for me to be smarter than I am tough.

Following the run, I warmed up in my car, then headed out for a ride. I thought it would be good for recovery on my legs that felt like they did after my first marathon (I’ve done about 2 dozen now). It was tough, but I barely averaged over 15 MPH. Afterwards I chatted with the race director (Joel Pearson) and his dad (Jim Pearson). Birch Bay put my run run streak at 1,881 days; however, some have done far more. Joel and Jim are perfect examples. Joel, in his early 20s, has run every single day, over a mile each day, for over 15 years. This isn’t like the people who work out every single day, save a rare exception every couple weeks or so. I’m talking 15 years without a single exception. If you think that’s a lot, his dad’s a legend. He’s 3rd on the all-time list and about to reach 40 years of running every single day. That makes 5 years, 1 month and 23 days seem like a drop in the bucket. We fellow streakers took our picture together, representing around 60 years of streaking among three people.

Joel, Jim and me at the finish line after I was walking again.

Following the race, I drove to my aunt/uncle’s house in Bellingham. They wanted to feed me, but I was feeling too ill from the sleep deprivation and travel. The 25K PR/bike ride may have contributed as well. Instead I took a shower and an hour nap (in that order). Again I wasn’t interested in eating, so we visited for a while before I hit the road. My return trip included a trip to Foot Zone (a Wenatchee Marathon sponsor). I had a coupon for free shoes, which I was able to use just before closing. Chelsea (5:02 1600m runner) and Aiden (9:10 3200m runner) were absolutely awesome. Don’t try to steal shoes there, ‘cause that girl will run you down. The owner is very lucky. My coupon was expired, but that happens when a runner from eastern Washington drives to central Washington and wins a coupon for a store in Western Washington. I can’t just drop by and pick up my prize on my way to work. I got my free pair of shoes and was on my way, but not without a stop at McDonalds. I haven’t eaten out for a couple months and was finally getting my appetite back.

Aunt Geri (Red Cross Boss) and Uncle Don (Bellingham Fire Chief).

I was getting a bit tired on my way home, so I planned to stop for gas and take a nap. Unfortunately, the largest snow flakes I’ve ever seen were quickly turning the road into a mess. I got my fuel and tried to outrace the storm. It woke me up (competition does that). After getting to Vantage, the weather had cleared and I was sufficiently amped (no relation to the energy drink, which I do like). The rest of the drive home was then a race to beat the 24 hour mark from when I left. I made it with 36 minutes to spare. Rather than making it a full 24 hours, I left everything in the car and went to bed. The end.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Running from the law ... and the secret of ice water!

I’m going somewhere with this, so be patient. My job is normally pretty uneventful. As a part of the working end of the law, one would expect that I have some crazy stories of catching criminals. My recent situation was quite the opposite. A military installation doesn’t often encounter gang violence, drug houses, robbery, prostitution, etc. Not only is access to the base restricted, but gangs (for example) wouldn’t exactly be successful at battling the US Military (tanks, laser missiles, special forces, etc). So despite my attempts, finding crime leaves me coming up empty handed, which leads to more looking. I don’t get picky, but I do look.

Just one of a great many deterrents to crime on an Air Force base. I keep asking when I get to patrol the mean streets of Fairchild with an M1 Abrams. Still no answer. And yes, I know tanks aren't exactly an Air Force item.

As a triathlete that works a shift basically opposite the rest of the local world, I do things at a different time of day. It’s not uncommon for me to train in the middle of the night. My practical nature compels me to worry little about bright clothing, lights, etc. I’ll wear whatever I feel will keep me warm enough. My watch for safety is basically keeping my eyes and ears alert (no IPOD) to everything happening around me. Sure, a car may not see me, but I’m going to avoid running into the light until it’s my time to go to Heaven (I hope). Automobiles are pretty easy to avoid, especially at night. I also keep an eye on cars, bikes, muggers, etc., coming from behind, beside, etc. Long story short, I’ll run in the darkest of hours wearing all black if it's what I have on.
This is usually me, but not this time.

The other night, I had some black sweats, gloves and a black hooded sweat shirt on when I went for a tempo run at 2:03 AM. I often include the paces I train at. Some athletes are way faster and some are way slower, so it’s not a point of pride. It’s information to help paint your eyes when I tell the stories. On this particular run, I was shooting for 5:40 per mile. With the extra clothes and the cold, it’s probably too fast to get what I needed out of it, but I’m pretty sure my lack of precision training won’t cost me a spot at the 2012 Olympics. So here I am running through the night, watching for deer (which I often see and talk to), skunks (which I don’t talk to), porcupines (which I fear running into … literally), dogs, Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th), etc. Running through the silent night (not the Christmas song) at a little under 11 MPH is a cool experience for me. It turned out to be a new one. Jason could come out of nowhere, so I keep my eyes peeled. He lives at the lake too, but I'm betting I could outrun him ... or die trying (ha ha ha).

Apparently hooded guys dressed in all black running that fast with a mask covering his face in the middle of the night look suspicious to police. Medical Lake police are notorious for being overzealous, so when it looks like they’ve actually got something, they really get into it. At one moment I’m cruising down the road on the last stretch of my run, the next moment I see the familiar blue and red strobes lighting up the night. If I had a different job, I might have been pretty nervous. I might have made a break for it. Fast triathletes could easily escape a police cruiser limited to streets. Rather than trying to escape, I laughed at the thought that I’d be pulled over for speeding. Not breaking the speed limit, but running too fast for some guy who would “really” be out for a night run of 3.42 miles. My mask was a camoflage recon wrap, but I don't have any pics of criminals with a recon wrap. I'll do better next time.

A moment later, I find myself being challenged (face away, hands up, spread fingers, spread feet, lean forward, etc.). I’m pretty good at this since I train as both the good guy and bad guy at work. If it weren’t for the irony of it all, I’d be pretty annoyed that my GPS kept ticking and ruining my pace per mile. Of course, I wasn’t carrying any ID, but I didn’t have any weapons or lute either. It's a good thing I didn't stop for a random burglary on that run. I explained myself to an unbelieving individual. It was obvious that I was running far to quick for the distance I was claiming to run. I wish! I had to have been fleeing the scene of a crime at that speed. After some discussion, I was free to go. Of course, 5 to 10 degree weather, after I had been sweating from the effort, chilled me to the bone while just standing there. I didn’t feel like running hard anymore. I didn’t feel like running at all. Instead, I forced myself to jog home to loosen up and get out of the cold more quickly. Sometimes these things happen. I’m not sure if I blame them, but it sure was funny. The coolest watches ever made! They don't know it yet, but Garmin is going to sponsor me.

On a different note, I’ve been getting asked a lot about training. Out at Fairchild and here in the civilian world, people seem to be digging way too deep for what they really need. There are so many very complex aspects to training that volumes have been written. In terms of learning, I encourage people to dig in if they’re really interested. On the other hand, I find that far too much emphasis is placed on these great many details by people who would be better off without. If you’re a psycho athlete like me or a world class athlete who, unlike me, actually needs more than simple training, then be OCD. For the rest of the world, my advice is KEEP IT SIMPLE! Are you really to the point where you have to exhaust the resources to improve your training?

At a fitness training class at Fairchild, we were asked why cold water is better. Nobody answered, so they asked me. I got into fluid assimilation (not what they were looking for). Next I got into biochemistry/body temps/performance, which wasn’t right either. The answer: you’ll burn more calories. Really?! We’re talking about people who struggle to run 1.5 miles in a range of 12 to 20 minutes and they’re talking about burning more calories from cold water! How about skipping out on just one piece of junk food and come out way ahead of someone who drinks ice water. These extremes are about like spending thousands to shave three pounds from a bike. Over a flat 40K you’ll allegedly save 3 seconds. My bet is that rather than all those hours working to make that money to spend on shaving 3 pounds from a bike, training would be exponentially more effective. Oddly enough, aside from getting stronger and faster, you’d probably lose three pounds. Always consider the return on your investment, time or otherwise.
Yes, it really is that easy. Where's my "That was easy!" button.

If you don’t plan on being an Olympian, then keep the law of diminishing returns in mind. A regular and progressive training program is going to be far more effective than spending your time worrying about the intricate details. Swimming is, to some degree, an exception to that rule. Don’t sit around and talk about it, get out there and do it or go a little longer. Nutrition can be a lot more simple too. You could hire a dietician if you wanted, but most people really don’t need that. Cut out some junk and replace it with something better. People who learn how to eat like an Olympian don’t eat like an Olympian. It’s like fitness equipment or a gym membership that you don’t use. Simple changes are more permanent and therefore, more effective. People have asked to hire me for a coach, but I limit myself to one or two people. My help isn’t needed anyway. People need motivation, not a secret answer. Some need a person to tell them to get out there and what to do, but why pay for experts when your momma could do that? For most, a cookie-cutter routine would work just fine. We have so many strong athletes around here that any real training question could be easily answered with a phone call, face-to-face, an e-mail, etc. Some would argue, but the best thing for my training has been my running streak. I've run every day for 5 years and 29 days. Some days have been hell and others were actually detrimental. On the other hand, in the long run, for more than five years, I haven't excused myself one time. Far more good has come of it than harm. For most, this kind of consistency could take them much further than all the information in the world. Do you have a training program so complete that ice cold water is all that's left?

I won’t be the first to say it, but there aren’t any magic bullets out there. World class experts have varying opinions in making world class athletes, yet so often I hear age groupers debating about complex training methods. Ironically, you rarely see them anywhere near the front of a race, despite all their knowledge (not exactly proving that they’re the tip of the spear). It's amusing to hear these people lecturing much faster athletes about the error of their ways. Even poor training is better than talking about it. While thunder is busy talking, lightening does the work. If you asked me, and some of you have, you’d find my answers are almost always the same: train consistently(don’t excuse yourself from workouts), eat a little better, try to have fun, have someone to keep you accountable and ask for advice when you need it. If you do that, you’re going to be significantly more fit than the person who worries about calories from ice water (or whatever analogy you choose regarding people who fixate on details well beyond their practical need).

Saturday, January 17, 2009


That was the title of an e-mail on November 12th, 2008. If not for my friend Sonny, I might have thought the e-mail was inappropriate spam. I first heard the word when he was talking about the uber bikers from Germany: Thomas “Hell on Wheels” Hellriegel and Jurgen Zack. Hellriegel biked a 4:14:45 for 112. That’s miles, not kilometers! Zack broke the bike record two years later with a 4:14:16! We’re talking 26.429 MPH. That record still stands; moreover, I’d like to point out that it was done on a Softride. I can appreciate a good debate on the world’s fastest bike, but don’t ask me why I ride a slow bike or when I’m going to get a real bike. Anyway, I digress.
The fastest biker in Ironman history. Suspension, aerodynamics and comfort = speed!
I knew uber meant super and the e-mail was from CGI_racing, so I opened it and began to read. “The fastest triathlon tri in the world is coming…. Are you “Uber”?” I’m really into fast. The e-mail goes on “The word “Sprint Triathlon” has always been an oxymoron in the sport … until now. This triathlon will define what it means to “truly red line.” If the Kentucky Derby is the fastest two-minutes in sports … UBERMAN is certainly the fastest 15-minutes in triathlon.”
My Ubermanda and Uberbike after USAT Sprint Nationals. Second overall twice with a strong bike split.

Fifteen minutes! Hallelujah! Someone made a race for me! I’m trying to figure out how to sign up before I get to the end of the e-mail. I read on … “Witness 10 Elite Men and 10 Elite Women competing for the coveted UBER CUP, flying by you every two minutes at warp speed.” What? Just 10 elite men! My hopes of racing began to fade. At least they didn’t say pro.

Not quite sure what the 10 men part means, so I start reading as fast as I can, while getting my credit card ready, in case they take the first ten to enter. It goes on … “The 20 athletes will not only include a pro field but several of the top amateur Elite triathletes. Watch them compete against the pros, watch them battle each other for their chance to be the 2009 UBERMAN and UBERWOMAN!”
The race: a 200m swim, 4-mile bike and 1-mile run. They ask “Will we see swim splits of 1:00 per hundred? Bike splits over 30mph? 35mph? Even 40??? Can someone approach a 4-minute mile?” They say there will be generous cash prizes and that the race is free, but invitation only. Whenever there’s prize money, a virtual who’s who will show up. I didn’t care about the prize purse. I probably wouldn’t win that anyway. I just wanted to do this race. Some people are into the 70.3 and 140.6, but not me. I’m into 5.125. Several things make a race competitive: Prestige, titles, competition, field size, invitation only, venue, etc. However, nothing brings talent like money. Athletes would fly across the country to try to win enough money to break even. This race was offering a generous prize purse (not yet disclosed), is invitation only, has a very limited field size, will profile each athlete and the race in Triathlete magazine, and its held in conjunction with the most prestigious race in New Jersey, which attracts an international field.

I'll be doing my best to represent. Aim High, but fly low!

There are times in life where we throw caution to the wind and go after things way bigger than we are. I did that in applying for this race. An independent review board would evaluate the applications and select ten men and women. I knew they wouldn’t pick me, but I wasn’t going to make that decision for them. I can accept someone else telling me that better qualified athletes will fill the race. With nothing risked, nothing is gained, so I sent in my application because it’s something I really wanted to do. Knowing that was the last I’d hear about it, I was pleased that I gave myself the opportunity.
I continue training as the week-long freezing fog finally lifts from the west plains. Tree branches broke from the weight of the ice, taking out power lines. A couple nearly crushed me on a run through the woods! Wind sweeps over small branches, covering the other side with frost several times the width of the branch it covers!

On January 8th, I got another e-mail from CGI_Racing with the title “UBERMAN – You’re Invited!” My jaw dropped and I simply said “Wow.” There are moments in life when the last thing I expect happens, regardless of how much I hoped it would. This was one of those moments. My amazement was quickly replaced with ambivalence. I didn’t know whether I should be excited or afraid. I looked over all the information again and again. This was an awesome opportunity to be chosen out of hundreds of pre-qualified athletes, but I may have bitten off more than I can chew. I don’t know who I’ll race yet, but they’ll look over the entry list (when it comes out) and say “well, with this Bergquist guy racing, I don’t have to worry about being last.” I predict I’ll go top 10.

A closer look shows just how much ice nature can pile onto even the smallest twigs. I estimate the ice to be 6 times the width of the twig and an more than 6 times the weight.

With a TT format and 2:00 sendoffs, there won't be any drafting. There won’t be any battling for position in the swim. There won’t be a couple hundred meters to settle in and find my pace. The race is almost over just as soon as it starts. This is all out racing from the word go. Normally a little time is needed on the bike to adjust before I find the right effort, but not in this race. The effort is so hard that a dismount without collapsing will be a huge deal. There’s no easing up to get ready for the run either, despite needing it more than ever before. Training paces make the first mile respectable on cruise control, then I start racing. In this one, I’ll be hurting more than ever before. A hard mile would be easier, although ironic, after a longer swim and bike. There’s no such luxury in this one. It’s just one mile and it can’t just be fast. It has to be super fast. I’m talking uber here! Going sub five minutes probably won’t do much more than keeping me from getting embarrassed. Lucky for me, I do have an ace up my sleeve. I’m talking transitions. They’re the fourth leg of triathlon and more important in this race than any other. If I could be considered really good at anything, it would be transitions. In the races where it really matters, I’m definitely uber in transition. We’ll see if that’s the case when I’m pushing so hard that I might set a world record for hyperventilation.

Unleash the beast! My favorite super hero, immature or not. The Hulk towel is the official marker for my transition area. Are you incredible?

Although I know I’m not likely to be The Uberman, I am going to believe in myself enough to be at my best when I cross paths with the start line. That’s all I can ask of myself, so it has to be enough. I’m a sprint specialist and pain is my friend, but I’m expecting something far more awful than that. Perhaps I’ll bring it like the Incredible Hulk! On July 26, 2009 in New Jersey, it will take less than 20 minutes to answer the question asked in an e-mail on November 12th. ARE YOU UBER?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Moments ... Happy New Year 2009

Do you ever look back to see how far you’ve come? Do you keep that mental benchmark? You can do it as an athlete or any other thing. Looking back I have some crazy stories to tell. I’ve experienced pains only an athlete would know. My limits were tested. Sacrifices were made. There were moments of triumph. I’ve raced around the world. I’ve learned things I otherwise never would have. I bought a house and yard that were so awful that only an athlete could love it enough to make it a home. Being an athlete was my only path to Amanda too. This is who I am, not something I do. Looking back, I can see how far my work has taken me. The following includes some of my favorite moments.
Crater Lake 2000. I had one goal: finish the race without walking. Starts at 7100' and goes over 8000' and below 5700' elevation, so it's tough. In the lead at mile 24 near the top of a steep rocky trail, my big lead shrunk to 20 seconds. I gave it my all, but the hours of hiking the previous day took what I'd need to win the 25th anniversary run. I faded to finish 2nd by a couple minutes and just missing going under 3 hours with a 3:00:05. I didn't walk and don't regret enjoying such an amazing place. This is the clearest lake in the world and the 5th deepest.

When I was five, I ran my first race. It was just three kids, but I was hooked for life. Years later, I broke all six school physical fitness records. In fifth grade, despite being a sprinter, I raced the mile so I could leave a track meet early. My first mile was 5:50, but got to 5:09.45 by the year’s end. I also played soccer. I'm pretty sure I wasn't any good at it and don't know if my team ever won a game.
Remember Sesame Street? Which one doesn't belong? On the left is Darin Shearer, a two-time sub 4:00 miler, Olympic Trials steeple chase competitor, Harvard grad and pro triathlete who ran down Zymetsev for a win and outsplit Lessing. Next up is Tommy Brown, pro triathlete and Naval Academy grad with swim times most would dream of. In the middle is Tim O'Donnell, Pro Triathlete, Olympic Residence athlete, Olympic Trials triathlete just missing the alternate spot, Naval Academy grad, six-time Armed Forces Triathlon Championships winner and record holder. Next is Dr. James Bales. Despite working 120 hour weeks as an orthopedic surgeon for the Air Force, he still has time to eat on a treadmill, ride his bike to work and swim at his rare appearance at a race. His swimming background leading him to the Olympic Trials give his plenty of ability to draw from. Oh, and he was also a pro triathlete and trials competitor in 2004. Then there's me. I guess we ran out of talent. I've got zero times as a pro triathlete or trials competitor or legendary speed, but I look fit, so they let me in the pic. This is the Military World Games team (Military Olympics for 13 sports) for Mumbai, India in 2007. Darin was deployed to Iraq and couldn't make it. In what will probably be my biggest race ever, I flatted for the first time in a race and got an official DNF. I ran my bike in and did the run anyway. It was an honor to be there as one of five US athletes and I would be ashamed to give up.

In junior high, I wanted to play football. Standing 4’7” and tipping the scales at 75 lbs, the coach wouldn’t even let me practice. I learned that I didn’t like having others control my destiny. A knee injury made distance running too painful, so I tried basketball next. I couldn’t dribble or shoot, but I was awesome at stealing the ball and missing a fast break layup. It was always amusing to see video of some lightning fast kid with a 37 inch vertical shut down any player, but be a nightmare on offense. I eventually figured it out. I also got some well deserved revenge in football.
Sometimes work keeps me from training, races and travel. I really wanted to race the Coeur d'Alene Triathlon in 2008. All the talent was there and I was on a hot streak. Instead, I was standing guard around $1 billion in aircraft for the Air Show. Here I am guarding the $339 million raptor. That was pretty awesome, but on that morning I'd rather be standing on the beach in my wet suit preparing to do battle with Seeley, Darling, Thompson, Smith, Hadley, Jensen, Greenfield, Piccici, Byers and others. I made it in time to see the swim finish and the rest of the rain soaked race.

After a four year absence from track (7th through 10th grade), I started my comeback in 11th grade with a 59.1 for 400m. It dropped to 53.8 that year, 50.9 the next and 49.2 my first quarter at EWU. I learned the hard way that a person can push the body too hard. I don’t know what happened, but I came to five hours later face down in the infield. That fun time resulted in bronchitis, strep throat, the flu and an ear infection. Three weeks in bed, two weeks back, two weeks with the same symptoms again and I not only missed indoor season, but was unfit for outdoor season.
Sometimes I get out of the water after a really hard swim and struggle to slowly make my way to T1 without falling over. At Apple Capital, I came out of the water like an angry crocodile! I wasn't angry, but I felt that strong and fast. All the tough days make ones like this so much sweeter.

I found triathlon my freshman year at EWU since I was unfit for track. It was so great that I gave up on my goal of a 46 second 400m. I nearly drown in my first 500m TT swim. My first triathlon was at EWU in 1992. Still mixing track and sprint triathlon, I decided to try an ultra marathon in 1993. Not a smart move. I lead for three miles and thought I’d win. At thirteen, the parade started going by. I was in last by mile 28 and was last by over an hour at mile 38.3 in 9:04:14 (14:12.58 per mile!) My support crew didn’t show, I had a sun burn from hell (with blisters too), several places were rubbed raw and bled out, and it felt like every bone in my feet were shattered. Simply finishing is still is my all-time greatest athletic achievement.
Armed Forces Triathlon Championships is the only USAT sanctioned triathlon that's draft legal for pro and amateurs who compete head to head in one category: military. My participation on this team has made triathlon so much sweeter every year. In this pic, I'm dropping back after my pull and discuss a little strategy with Big Mike McCoy right as we're catching another Air Force athlete. Mike went on to win a gold medal in Estonia's Military World Championships while I managed to finish in the top three US (scoring) for the first time. In fact, it's the first time I wasn't the last American. Mike competed in the Master's division.

In 1997, I was told I’d never walk normally again. That was the end of my identity since I was no longer an athlete. I wasn’t 4’7” any more and certainly wasn’t going to let a doctor decide my future. It took a much greater commitment, but the doctors were wrong and ran my first marathon that year. I said I’d never run another one. EVER! Twenty-three marathons later, it’s clear I was a little bit wrong.
My fear of water and desire to help others crossed paths on June 3rd, 2006. Inbetween my legs at the Gap to Gap relay, I managed to jump into the freezing (low 50s actually) river and pull out a drowning kayaker. I got lucky and didn't drown, despite barely being able to get air as I was frequently pulled under. We both made it out and my team went on to win that day. I was selected as the military division winner of the Red Cross Hometown Hero. It was an honor, but I'd rather never have to do that again. On the other hand, I probably wouldn't pause for a moment if I were faced with that same situation. Life is too valuable to be affraid to help others.

In 1998 I won my first triathlon. In 1999 I survived Ironman with a nearly unbelievable tale of things gone wrong. In 2003, I discovered the Armed Forces Triathlon Championships (AFTC). I qualified for the Military World Championships (MCW) in Holland. It was so great that I tried to become a swimmer, which is how I met Amanda (lifeguard). Six AFTC races later and four MWCs has me feeling very lucky and blessed. In 2005, I found the National Guard Marathon Team to be a good fit for me, the guy who would never do another marathon. I finished second at USAT Sprint Nationals after losing the lead when sent off course. I came in second the following year too, but misfortune didn’t beat me this time. An athlete did.
Every year on my birthday, probably since I've known Amanda (I sure do miss her), I've tried to prove myself better than the year before. A new year's resolution, quite literally put to the test. This one was with four people, including Amanda. Evan won the run in 18:29.00 for 3.42M. David was second and I was last. On the other hand, I easily beat my PR and was thrilled to have accomplished my goal. So far I haven't failed. Wish me luck in 2009.

In 2006, I shattered my right collar bone and broke some ribs in a bloody solo crash. Months passed, the bone wasn’t healing, my arm wasn’t working and I thought it was over for me. The tune-up race for my final race as an amateur left me doubting myself. Five months later, I could lift five pounds above my head. It still hurts and goes numb from thoracic outlet syndrome, but I’m back to racing. 2008 was my best year ever.
Wonder's of Nature! We had a bit of a wind storm and Amanda told me to look at the lake. The wind was blowing snow, which balled up and rolled into big snow balls. It's one of the oddest things I've ever seen. Some snow balls got to be larger than basket balls, perhaps as big as the smaller beach ball, but the beach wasn't a hot destination today. This pic was taken just east of Medical Lake.

Over the years, some crazy things have happened. I’ve heard a cougar scream from just off the road on a midnight run miles from home and any help for that matter. I’ve been chased by dogs, a crazy psycho cat, an ostrich and a bull. I’ve nearly run into skunks and porcupines in the dark. I’ve gotten hopelessly lost running in the woods while camping (found a car on some back country road to take me the 15 miles back to camp). I’ve nearly frozen to death when a crazy winter storm struck in the fall (temps dropped from warm to freezing with snow and nearly tropical storm force winds) on a fall ride in fields west of Ritzville. Dozens of seagulls have swarmed me during a few swims. I’ve nearly overcome my terrible fear of water (sharks, currents, whales, giant jelly fish, etc.) after swimming a mile straight out into the ocean on a training swim with one other guy. I’ve been chased by people wanting to beat some random person. I’ve eluded a gang beating or possible murder with some luck and good foot speed. I’ve had runs where I felt unbreakable and some when I it hurt to be awake. I’ve run in temperatures from sub zero to 116 degrees. I swam in the clearest lake in the world. I’ve been to 43 states and eight countries. I’ve met some great people, won some awesome awards and learned a lot about myself from endurance sports. I’ve had monumental defeats, triumphs and battles (several by .3 seconds or less).
Ice cycles aren't good for much, but Amanda managed to use them for decorations. She broke them off and stuck them in the snow along our railing. It's the only time I ever recall wishing we had more or bigger ice hanging from the roof.

I treasure all the things I’ve experienced, good and bad. They’ve helped me realize not just who I am, but what I am too. 2009 will be one to remember too. I'm shooting for a sub 6:00 pace in the Lincoln Marathon, a top three finish at AFTC and what may turn out to be a stupid move in getting my pro card so I can be destroyed every time I race. Things may not go the way I plan them to, but there’s always something memorable to take with me from my experiences. This year, I’m off to an early start with training and motivation. Tons of snow has derailed my riding and especially my swimming. On the other hand, I discovered Yaktrax. They’re like four wheel drive with chains on. After my first experience in them at halftime during the Rose Bowl at my parent’s house, I ran inside to tell them how awesome they were (like an excited kid at Christmas). As I began my proclamation the moment I opened the back door, my first foot hit the linoleum floor and I came crashing to the ground and nearly broke my back hanging out the door. I guess they don’t work everywhere. I hope you have a Happy New Year that brings you some great new memories.

Before and After. Most of our yard work was complete by fall (more to be done in the spring). In the before pic we have Sub Alpine trees and a Japanese Maple lining our four tier water fall and stream to the pond at the bottom between the deck, dock and fire pit. Now we're burried under six feet of snow so far this year. It's warmed up to freezing a couple times and the snow has settled, but it's nearly burrying the maple and now has all the yard lights completely burried (in this pic the top of one is showing). The burried lights make the snow around it glow at night. It looks cool, but I'm looking forward to spring when I can swim with the fast lane and enjoy the view from the yard instead of the house. That's why we had it landscaped. With a little luck, the several inches of rain today won't force my roof to collapse. I'm allergic to that.