Wednesday, February 1, 2012

15 NEW Facts of my Life

29th birthday drinks at an Elmhurst wine bar...with a fantastic beer list.  Who knew?

  1. I took a proper off season for the first time in 2 years - precipitated by life changing opportunity
  2. Stacey and I now live in Elmhurst, IL just outside of Chicago.  Good bye Franklin, TN 
  3. Elmhurst is an eclectic, small college town with a great vibe, character and a deep tradition and heritage in running - it is a running town through and through
  4. We are the new owners/operators of Fleet Feet Sports Elmhurst - Dreams really do come true
  5. We work A LOT, and when we are not working, we are running, or eating, or sleeping
  6. I am 2 months back into a real training schedule - and feeling good
  7. I wrote an ambitious race schedule for 2012 - taking advantage of many great regional races
  8. I will support BAFF, but not race with them in 2012 - going solo, but  will always be a proud cofounder of the team
  9. There are some great training grounds in Elmhurst, but it doesn't have this -  and I miss it
  10. I have big plans for big races in 2012 - Always ambitious 
  11. Stacey and I couldn't be happier with our new life - but totally miss our dear friends down south
  12. We miss our real family in Cleveland, Ohio even more - the most
  13. We have already met some really great people here in Elmhurst -  it feels like home
  14. We live in the old Ovaltine Chocolate Company Factory, turned urban studio lofts 2008
  15. Even from "the burbs" the big city lights are faster and brighter than we are used to, but so far so good.  It's certainly making the daze that much more unclear...and I like it
  16. Coming soon...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

No, Not that Vegas...

September 10, 2011 Nashvegas Olympic Triathlon Race Report

I felt more relaxed before this race than any other all season.  Coming off of Nationals just a few weeks earlier, my nerves were not phased in the slightest by this local yet competitive event.  Just a few minutes before the gun, I took a warm-up swim out to the first buoy, I swam super hard for a warm-up.  It felt good.  At that point I decided to take a friend’s advice and go out hard right at the gun.  A complete sprint to the first buoy and settle in from there, hell what did I have to lose.  So I stood in waste deep water in the very front of the pack ready to make a jail break for the buoy with complete disregard for the rest of the swim and race.  And when the gun went off, I did just that.  I swam as hard as I possibly could right toward the first turn, about three hundred yards out.  To my complete surprise, when I got there I was alone, “holy shit it worked”!  Well, almost, there was one kid about one hundred yards ahead of me, “damn swimmers, oh well, bet he can’t run”.

Photo Credit: Donna Manely
With total confidence in my decision and lead on the pack I kept on the pace and settled into a good stroke.  Turning upstream on the last buoy was like turning into a fire hose, the river current was really strong.  One final hard effort similar to the one at the start of the race got me to the exit ramp with a solid five minute lead on the rest of the race and only forty five seconds down from the lead swimmer.  Feeling good, in and out of T1, smooth.

Getting on the bike I knew two things.  One, I wanted to catch the swimmer or at least get him in eyesight.  Two, I wanted to hold off my uber-biker buddy who was in the chase pack somewhere behind me.  With those two things in mind I pedaled forward as hard as I could, again without much regard for pacing or the run, “I’ll worry about that when I get there”.

All alone out on the main part of the out and back course I tried to stay steady and consistent while going up and down the endless medium and small rollers.  Only a few demanded out of saddle effort.  After fifteen minutes I still couldn’t see anyone, in front or behind which was bad and good.  It was harder than I thought to keep a consistent, stiff pace when I was completely alone on the road, the situation demanded my complete focus and provoked a small amount of paranoia. 

Photo Credit: Donna Manely
Finally about a minute before the turn, I saw the swimmer coming at me on his way back, “damn, he is holding position, but I still bet he can’t run”.  I made the turn and almost immediately saw my buddy coming for me, he had made up all five minutes on the bike (no surprise) and made the pass right after the turn “don’t worry Frank, I can’t run like you” he yelled as he smoked past.  It made me laugh, but I knew I had to keep him close.  He underestimates his running ability.  New goal, ride hard and keep him close.  With the rolling hills hitting us on the way back, my goal faded quickly as he continued to simply out power me up and down the roller coaster roads back to transition.  I had to stay within my limits, although I wasn’t concerned with pacing earlier, now I knew I had to save my running legs to take this race back.  Without a fight, I let him go up the road as I focused on the rest of my ride with confidence in my running legs.  The last few miles I was able to see far up the road and could tell he had also passed the swimmer who was finally fading.  I kept on the gas and on the final road into transition I caught the swimmer but just followed him in; a pass on the small park access road would not have been safe and really didn’t really matter.  Right before we dismounted I saw the lead runner coming out of transition “stay away, Frank” he yelled with a smile.  I smiled too.  The swimmer and I entered T2 together. 

Photo Credit: Donna Manely
A smooth and speedy in and out got me through transition and running way before the swimmer.  I never saw him again.  Once again, I was being told I was about one minute or so down from the leader, which was the good thing.  The bad thing was that I could tell my legs were not one hundred percent, maybe seventy-five.  Either way I had to keep running. Immediately my HR was way too high and I had to make the decision to settle into a slightly slower pace, allow my HR to calm down, and take my Chocolate Hammer Gel.  It went down like a slug but I needed it (and it worked), a quick look behind showed that I was alone again, no one in sight either direction.  The first few miles were relatively smooth but my legs and hips were too tight, I could feel it.  I was getting anxious too, “where is he?”  My pace wasn’t exactly that of a late race rundown but I was hopeful, I just kept running as hard as I could and ignored everything else, like my 185 HR.  The one thing hard to ignore was the temptation to look behind.  Even though I knew I had a sizable lead off the bike and hadn't seen anyone (including the swimmer) behind on the run to this point, I was constantly tempted to look back to see if I was being stalked by some super fast runner coming out of now where.  I only looked a few times, but was tempted many more.

Photo Credit: Donna Manely
Right before the turnaround I saw him coming at me, we smiled and high-fived, fewer words were exchanged, I just let him know “you got me today, I don’t have it” A little dose of head games?  Maybe?  A little honest slip of conceding truth?  Probably.  The crazy thing was, at this point he was closer than ever, I was just sixty seconds (if that) down but I was doing all I could.  As we went back out on the main road toward the finish, another racer coming at me yelled, “keep going, your close and he’s suffering!”  I know he meant to be encouraging but all I could think was “thanks pal, but I’m suffering too!”  Either way, I put my head down and gave it one more hard push.  It didn’t last long.  Quickly my HR eclipsed 190 and my vision blurred into a small dark tunnel, I could taste my heartbeat.   I knew if I wanted to finish conscious and upright I had to slow down, accept second place, and cruise to the finish line proud.  With more than a few nervously dazed looks back to make sure I wasn’t about to be surprised at the line, I did just that, coasted in for a happy second place, only missing first by about seventy seconds.

It was a unique race for me.  I am happy with many things and I certainly learned a lot too.  I was happy with my decision to go out super aggressive and trust my ability to settle in.  I am also happy I raced within my limits even in the middle of the fight.  I am happy I put faith in my run and stuck to my plan, even when the legs were not at their best.  Finally, I am happy I displayed some level of patience while ignoring everything other than the immediate task.  I am happy I trusted myself, my fitness and kept mentally strong and positive the entire race.

I learned to push myself (physically and mentally) super hard on the bike even when I am alone on the course.  I learned it’s easy to lose focus and let up even just for a few seconds when alone.  I learned that those few seconds are very valuable.  I learned to always trust my abilities and bank on my strengths (running).  But I also learned sometimes those strengths don’t come through or aren’t enough.  I learned that when racing for first, maintaining second should not be overlooked.  I learned there is something about second place that really sucks!  Finally, and this one took me a while, I learned to be happy with second place, at that it's actually pretty awesome.  There was a whole lot of woulda-coulda-shoulda’s after the race for me, but I’ve learned to accept the day as it was and to be happy.  The reality is I did my best for that day and earned a proud second place to a great cyclist and overall athlete.  I even learned to be happy for him…well, I’m working on that one. :)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Post National Advice...Write Again

I’ve got about five unfinished blog posts sitting on my desktop. They’ve been there for sometime. Each started with grand intentions without regard for it’s incomplete neighbor. Have you ever begun a new book without finishing the last? Same thing. Maybe it’s their subjects that slowly deplete my interest and motivation to finish, like a slow bleed. Forgotten attempts at unsatisfactory race reports reporting unsatisfactory race performances. It’s been a hard year to continually re-live and put down on paper all of the things that have continued to not go as planned, not feel good, and could have gone better. “Learning experience” races have gotten old.

To be fair only the majority of my incomplete blogs concern racing. A few talk about my life on the fit stool at Fleet Feet Sports; the customers I listen to, the feet I see, and the inspiration they bring literally walking through the doors everyday. Those posts are fun, insightful, thought provoking, and criminally less frequent…but they are unfinished too. Like innocent bystanders caught in a bottleneck of mediocre race reporting writers block.

I guess writing in general has been a bit unappealing this summer for that reason. Perhaps the endless pursuit of living up to high personal expectations have made chronicling the consistent shortcomings (as well as any other subjects) completely unattractive and subsequently caused me to “leave the pen cap on”.

USAT Age Group Nationals was just the kick in the literary pants I needed. No, not the just average race performance itself, or my disapproved self-criticized account of it; It’s been the conversations, emails, and texts I’ve shared in the last forty-eight hours with numerous friends and family members. All of who have encouraged me to continue to write and reflect, albeit in a more positive light, about my experiences during my races. The truth is I needed to hear it. I needed to hear from friends and athletes who I respect that I should keep using my writing as an outlet, as closure, and as a way to learn from my race experiences.

So I’m writing again. And I’m starting with my experience at USAT Age Group Nationals this past weekend in Burlington, Vermont. Yes, I’ll still be critical of myself throughout the details of the race, because that is how I learn. But this time Ill do my best to find the positives in the day. I’m not going to allow my accounts of the race blind me from finding the pure enjoyment of the weekend. Sure things can get better on the racecourse, they always can. But even though it was not my best day, it certainly was not my worst, and I truly did have a lot of fun. Indeed, I enjoy every event I take part in, I just often let my over analysis of the details and dazed tunnel vision of the race itself overshadow the simple enjoyment of participation at my fullest ability with good people all around me. Pen cap, off…

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Buckhead Border Triathlon Race Report

Was not as tired as I thought I would be considering getting into town late after a long day of work and drive. Felt calm and relaxed. Got signed in easily, went for a twenty minute ride on the course to warm up and fire up the legs. Ate some food, set up transition, did a quick jog, checked out the swim exit, then got on the bus to go to the swim start. Had an Espresso Hammer Gel on the way over. Overall, I felt good, relaxed and confident. The race atmosphere was low key. Wasn’t wearing a watch, except for pace on the run when I’ll throw on my Timex Global Trainer. My objective was to race the race, not the clock.

Seventy-nine degree water in The Ohio meant no wetsuit. Had a good warm up and sighted a good buoy line. It was an in-water start, I was in the first group to go. From the gun I was with the small front group and nobody was really swimming super fast. The current was pushing right to left pretty good and soon enough I was far left of the first buoy I was aiming for and not behind but just not with the group anymore. Swimming solo I pushed on feeling strong. I didn’t have the best line but the river wasn’t helping. Finally across I had to make a small backtrack to get around the turn buoy and head left downriver. From there I couldn’t tell what position I was in, just swam strong and steady to the finish. Getting out I knew it wasn’t my best swim, but I also new there were not too many people in front of me. The climb out of the river up to T1 was insane, literally the steepest zig-zag grass hill ever, I walked/crawled hand over foot to the top. The mat for T1 was at the top of the hill so the swim split includes the riverbank summit.

Pretty out of breath into T1 I jogged in control to my bike making sure to calm my HR. With a quick switch into helmet, shades, and another Espresso Hammer Gel in my pocket I was out and pedaling. Smooth.

Riding the course in the morning really helped me determine how to settle into the ride. Out of T1 there were a few sharp turns and bad road sections, so I waited to maneuver that before eating the gel and getting down to business. No one around me, I rode as hard as I could, staying around twenty-two mph. It had to get faster but my legs were a bit heavy still, I knew they would loosen. There was no wind, it wasn’t too hot, and the road was straight and rolling and only a few train track crossings to be careful of, overall pretty good conditions. It was a two-loop out and back course. The grade on the way out was just slightly uphill, but enough to notice, so I pressed on hard and wasn’t getting too worried about the less than ideal speed. As I rode out I counted the riders coming back at me to get an idea of my position. I was in about fifth or sixth for most of the ride.

Almost at the first turn I was passed out of nowhere. I wasn’t too happy about it so after dropping back, I got on it and kept him legally close. I got mad at myself because I was quickly up to twenty four twenty five mph at the same PE as before I was passed. To be clear, I was not in his slipstream, nor was I even close. I could have and should have been riding this pace from the start. In a way I was happy he passed me and got me on track. He stayed ahead until the second turn around near transition. I went past him as he took the turn way too slow, I didn’t see him again. Still feeling pretty strong I just wanted to get back to the far turn around so that I could open it up on the way home on the slight downhill. I knew my time was off by this point, but I also knew I had maintained my position in the race and was eager to run. On the way back one of the riders up in front had flatted on the train tracks and was out of the race, it sucked for him but my position just got that much better. Confidence boost.

The only mishap of the day was at the very end of the bike where there was no one telling riders where to turn onto the last road into transition. At the intersection I literally had to slow completely down, do a circle in the road and yell to spectators where to go. Finally a police officer pointed. Just as he did, the other rider zoomed past. Damn it. Again, I got on it and followed him (in a legal position, so relax) back into T2. I was upset because I worked pretty hard get that position, but there was nothing I could about it at that point. I just wanted to run.

I drank my entire bottle of Hammer Melon HEED on the bike and never took my Espresso Gel. But felt fine.

Bike racked quickly, visor on, Timex Global Trainer watch and race belt in hand as I ran out looking up the road to the guy a head. Again, pretty concise and seamless transition.

Right out of T2 a volunteer yelled, “top ten” which made me happy, although I figured I was more like top five or six. I got my watch on and race belt clipped and was running well with the guy about fifty yards ahead. We made a big loop around transition before running up to the bride over the river. Approaching the first aid station on the bridge I sucked down my last Hammer Espresso Gel and got some water in my mouth and on my head. Best decision of the day to take that gel. At this point the runner had pulled pretty far ahead and I thought, well, it’s no big deal that he passed me on the bike because he would have gotten me on the run anyway, he was clearly keeping a stiffer pace at the moment. My watch was acting up so I couldn’t get a solid read on my true pace so I just kept tempo running, focusing on good form and breathing.

As we made our way down off the bridge and back under it towards the river walk, I stalked and passed another runner while now making up good time on my target runner. I really was feeling strong and focused, my HR was where I knew it would be (172ish) so I just held it there and pushed on through. As we approached the turn around, I was now right on his heals. This was a combination of him slowing and me speeding up. We both grabbed water before the turn, and then as we made the turn next to the aid station he suddenly stopped right in front of me and started to walk. A little shocked, I ran around him and got on the gas a bit to put some daylight between us. That was weird. Front this point on, I had no idea how far ahead anyone else was but my main goal and focus was to hold him off from trying to pass me back once he began running again. I ran all the way back to the bridge without looking back. I knew he was running again now because I could hear people cheer and I passed, then again as he passed, it’s how I gauged the gap. He wasn’t too close, but he wasn’t far enough either.

At the bottom on the bridge I knew the incline would be tough for both of us, but I also knew I run hills well, I was still feeling solid, and if I could accelerate up it, it would really tighten the screws on him with only a mile to the finish off the bridge. (This is the same bridge I ran across at mile 1-2 at IMKY a few years ago; when I was not feeling so great...redemption crossed my mind) I ran up the bridge with controlled aggression and focus certainly putting myself in the pain cave for the first time of the day. As I came over the crest of the bridge, I snagged some water and opened up my legs all the way down the backside towards the last eight hundred meters of road. Again, I had heard the volunteer yelling at me for water as I approached that last bridge aid station, and as I ran past I listen for him to yell again, but never heard anything. A sharp left turn off the bridge showed that he was nowhere in sight and that I had did what I tried to do. If he had any thoughts of attempting a pass before the bridge my acceleration up and over put them to bed.

Running down the final stretch into the finish, my HR spiked a little crazy again, partially because I was pumped and partially because I was running as fast as I had been all day. I knew I ran well and had earned a solid finish, but didn’t know exactly where. As I crossed the line I only saw three guys standing at line, two of which still had their hands on their knees, I was fourth. As the runner behind me came across the line a few seconds later, I gave him a high five and thanked him for pushing me all day. He smiled and just said “I couldn’t hang with you on the run, nice job.” Right on!

Coaches Notes:

  • Happy to have learned to race the race, not the clock or the two-hour mark
  • Everyone has to race the same course, not all courses are two-hour courses
  • That being said, I still need to swim faster and sight better
  • Loved having no watch, but need to figure out my GPS so it’s ready for me in T2
  • I can run strong/fast with good form off the bike even when I am all-out on the bike.
  • At this distance, I need to swim, bike, and run at tempo HR the whole time. It’s not no pacing, its constant controlled fast pacing
  • I am fit enough to do that
  • “Controlled Aggression” Raced hard, burned matches, but all at the right time and with purpose and strategy
  • Spin one easier gear out of T1 to loosen legs up faster
  • Execution of race nutrition and pre-race warm up were major factors for success
  • Six day block starts today before Music City Triathlon in ten days.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Tennessee Asks, Ohio Answers

I almost convinced myself the opening lyrics to this Black Keys jam were stolen directly from my dazed head as I rolled through the random and endless miles this past spring. Middle Tennessee country roads seem to leave that impression, random and endless. Stuck in my own fog at the tail end of another long, boiling ride a few months back, this particular song jumped into my earbuds and everything began to clear up, kind of. I was worked over, dazed for sure, most likely dehydrated, and certainly over aware. At least now I was. The words in my head, they made sense, they talked to me. And for no other reason, as The Keys yelled at my brain and I pedaled back down my street, I began to wonder…

It’s almost as if my move to Nashville a year ago makes more sense now that they too have done the same. After all, we stem from the same Ohio roots and share the same reasons to move. Opportunity. Just then I remembered reading the latest Scene Magazine in which they chronicled The Keys' Nashville move and asked Nashvillians, what it said about both parties. I felt like asking the same question about myself.

Is it possible? Can the lives of an unsung industrious endurance athlete and an American rust belt blues rock duo possibly parallel? Is it possible miles on the tour bus and miles in the saddle eventually get you to the same tired place? Maybe, but I'm not complaining, it was my decision, as it was theirs. The truth is, like those guys, I came here to do a job, to work. Because, where we come from, tireless hard work is a pre-requisite for daily life; it is as elemental as rubber on the road.

At home now, on my front step, sitting in the sun, I can't figure out where I put my key three and a half hours ago. My mind is still locked on these questions. Is there something about the “Rubber City” raised, hard working, that sets us apart? Is there something about that place that lured both them and I to the eerily Ohio-like southern town? But for what? Challenge? Opportunity? Probably.

I couldn't ask or answer anymore questions at this point, I was too tired and wanted to go inside. My swelled fingers fumbled around in the saddle bag until my key eventually appeared and dropped to the ground. My legs exploded with acid and were not willing to bend with out a protest, I looked down at it, "damn it." I must have just stood there and stared at it for a minute at least, before finally committing to the daunting task of bending over and picking it up. "You got what it takes?" I asked myself just before reaching down. "Ugh, that was a pain in the ass" I answered as I stood up.

Not sure what all it's going to take in the end, but I've got one thing; a work ethic as hardcore as any deep Auerbach riff or sub-thirty-six minute 10k off the bike. The Scene Magazine laid on the chair in the corner as I walked in, folded open to a certain page. A few lines were underlined in red pen.

“Nevertheless, the indefatigable Auerbach says that he and Carney are here to work, and they’ve already started. Work, after all, is something guys from Ohio know how to do.”

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Jim Camp

It's no secret that athletes in search of focused, uninterrupted, intense training use camps. Training camps are usually a several week block of hard work to prepare athletes for the coming season. Often times months away from meaningful competition, they demand a certain level of focus. Nonetheless they have been proven effective across many sports. Most days at camp are efficient and deliberate, every minute, workout, meal, sleep and stretch have a purpose and goal. Every measurable bit of life is put under a microscope and evaluated. Ultimately, training camps are intense, and require a certain level of seclusion, detail, and the constant drive for improvement.

Team training camps are a typical approach for a lot of sports. Think about spring training for MLB or late summer two-a-day's for high school football players. Unbreakable links of camaraderie are built among teammates during these camps. The mentality of "we are all in this together" builds a team from within as they endure the daily grind. Coaches are the camp directors, constantly pushing individuals to their limits while always holding the accountability to the team to the highest regard. Team camp's build a single, strong, cohesive unit out of a group of individual athletes.

But what if you fly solo? What if your idea of a training camp is more individual; more Rocky IV frozen Russian mountain side, and less mild spring Florida breeze? What if your goal is to build camaraderie more with the tools of your trade than teammates? What if you are your own coach and the athlete, the evaluator and student? What if you thrive on self discipline, personal accountability and solitude. What if your idea of camp is packing up your former team's car with only a few training essentials and driving many hours south to an unfamiliar place with simple intentions? To train, a lot, alone, for weeks.

Before Christmas I received a phone call from a local athlete I loosely knew and was a client of back home. We spoke in the past on occasion but it was always to a specific point and cycling based. We talked facts, numbers and evaluation and nothing more. Outside of the technical bike world, I did not know him well at all, but I knew of him enough to know the essentials. He was smart, quiet, unassuming, and a very elite athlete. His accolades, from what I understood, were on the national level and his craft was second to none when it came to the relationship between anatomical fit and mechanical function. Naturally, without really knowing him as a person or friend, but knowing what I did, I looked up to him, admired him, and was maybe even a little intimidated by his quiet allure. So an out of the blue phone call was definitely intriguing.

The initial call went something like this: "Hey, I am looking for a place to stay for a few weeks this winter to get out of the snow so I can train on my bike...and from the little time we have spent around each other, I think we seem to get along okay...I know you live in Nashville now, so I was wondering..."He went on, in an awkwardly confident sort of way, "Just to let you know, I am very clean, I am quiet and I love to cook, in fact, if I do say so myself, I am pretty good at it."

After a few more mutually nervous phone calls over the next few weeks we had covered all the details of his trip and settled on a day for his arrival. If nothing else he wanted to be well prepared, never caught off guard and fully comfortable with the whole situation. The first few phone calls were thorough; we covered all the bases. His inquiries were broad; the safety of my town, the elevation gain/loss of a typical local ride, would I mind if he decided to stay longer than a few weeks, the availability/quality of local coffee roasters and grocery stores, local group ride paces, extra bedding, and how long I let my French press steep. Detailed and say the least. But to be honest it was appreciated and by the time he rolled into town in early January, even though it was all still a bit unknown, I felt like we knew his style and he knew ours.

Having obviously done the house guest thing before, he was a pro. Within the first twenty-four hours he made his presence comfortably felt, especially in the kitchen. He stocked the cupboards and fridge full with all of his carefully selected stock of everything natural, homemade, organic, grass-fed, caffeinated, and sometimes mysterious. His room and bathroom were set up simply; air mattress, pillow, bag of cloths, small tube of fruit extract body wash and a laptop. On top of his dresser sat a collection of electronic self monitoring tools like bike GPS, HRM and an iPod. Another bag sat in the corner filled with energy gels, powders and self massage tools and oils. The closet hung nothing but coordinated team cycling jerseys and a bath towel. His bike stashed in the corner next to ours. It, unlike himself and all his belongings, was not unassuming. It was simply bad ass. Speced with just about everything a cyclist could dream of, it was classic, sexy and clean. But when you asked him, it was something else. Something much simpler. It was his tool.

Over the next few weeks our guest settled into a very solid training and life routine. He worked just as hard as we did during business hours then would relax at home with us in the evenings. It was comfortable. We cooked, drank and ate while discussing the intricacies of each. Most conversations having to do with food, beer, music, and cooking took place at a pretty high level. Sometimes above my head. His knowledge of food and what it does to/in the body, and how it reacts to certain training loads was deep and surpassed the basics. To compliment that, his techniques in the kitchen were as exceptional as his ingredient range. Every night we hung out in the kitchen while cooking, aimlessly discussing life; things like the importance of phytonutrients for athletes, The Black Keyes newest album, the historical and fermentation process differences between a Doppelbock and a Belgium Strong Ale, iron and what it means to female athletes during their cycle, and the assertiveness and uniqueness of umami; I was often tempted to take notes.
Sharing the daily breakfast and dinner duties, we almost rivaled each other in the kitchen. Pulling out all the stops to offer up the best meals possible. The end results were fantastic meals and a kitchen tapping for mercy. Most dishes ended up getting rated on a "how much would I pay for this at a restaurant" scale. After a taste of anything he would calmly and specifically profile each flavor note from initial reaction to lasting impression on the tongue; with the same look on his face as a professor would have while analyzing a thesis. How could you disagree? His complex pallet and culinary expertise were rivaled only by his ability to pedal up hill (he hates cycling analogies).

Naturally, because of my intrigue, many discussions would turn toward cycling. Whether it was actually about cycling, or the bike, or maintenance, gear, or fit, it was easy to get on the topic. But he wasn't as eager to talk then. He would often times, in a clear effort, dispel the thought and move on to something else. It didn't take long for me to realize he didn't like talking about his job.

Eventually I came to appreciate and more fully understand his quiet perspective on cycling. His entire professional life had been surrounded by the sport. But he was a person way beyond just that, unfortunately, and for some reason, it was difficult for people in his life to see past his handlebars. The tools he used to do his job were not particularly interesting to him, but others could obsess about them for hours. His workouts were not riveting conversation pieces, but people pick his brain about training constantly. And cycling on a whole, although he loved it, was not something he cared to chronicle on a daily basis, but others wanted to hear him do so. It was clear to me that he had been striving for some time now, to be known as someone other than what he was best known for. He wanted respect for being more than a wrench and a bike racer and hated being classified as either.

It made perfect sense, over the last couple of days I had learned so much about him as a person. He was a great cook and was incredibly insightful. He had passions for other things like coffee and cars and pro football. So, to live with the label of "bike racer" had to be really annoying. Although it was a large part of this life, he didn't allow it to consume his life, so why should everybody else? Is that what national championship burdens you with for the rest of your life? His strong feelings about this situation made me realize it was something he struggled with for a while. I respected this about him, and in a way, I sympathized for him. From then on, rarely did I bring up, or did we discuss cycling. I was fine with it, because there was so much more.

But I guess there were the exceptions. A certain few times something he would read, or someone he would talk to would spark his inner velo-enthusiasm and he would have something to say about it. Most times though, I just sat and listened. I just tried to soak it in as a learning opportunity and just let him talk. Because he didn't say much, when he did, it was strong, meaningful and usually complicated. A few conversations that stand out dealt with things like; evaluating work loads as they compare to elevation changes on his coaching software, a particular saddle adjustability or lack there of, the morning he fit Stacey on her road bike, his and other bike fit philosophies in general, and the true differences between professional and amateur bike racers. I tried to hold on to his conversations the same way I did his wheel when we rode. Sometimes I fell off (he really hates cycling analogies).

All the while, our guest maintained his main focus. His training routine was specific and tough. Everything he did, whether it was foam roll, self massage, lift weights or ride his bike, was serious work. I rode with him several times. It was demanding for sure, but more than that, it was with intent and consistent. He rode purposefully with little emotion. Faced straight forward with little upper body movement, he sat for hours and pedaled, hard. The routes he mapped were killer, scaling some of the area's most notorious climbs several times within one ride. He found his favorite route on the web, it was aptly named "Hillz Killz" a twenty or so mile loop with over a thousand feet of climbing. He determined a particular ride's quality by how many "Killz" loops it incorporated.

Riding with him was never easy, but is wasn't flat out either. Typically it was only up the longest or steepest climbs that he would lose me, then it was my job to "put some pressure on the pedals" and get back on. That was his only advice; "stick to my wheel, and stay there, if you fall off, put some pressure on the pedals and get back on". If I could, great, if not, "sorry, see you at home". Unfortunately for me, his ability to climb and descend made my job pretty damn hard. Sometimes I recovered, sometimes I didn't. His unwillingness to slow down or wait was stern, but I didn't mind at all. After all, he wasn't here to ride with me, or anyone for that matter. I wanted him to do his thing; I was merely a shadow. I really liked riding with him, and did as much as I could. The demand was always there; I could feel it; my legs we taking a thrashing.

Rest days were fun days too. These days always started with big, hearty breakfasts, lots of great coffee and usually a spontaneous lesson about something he just read from the latest Cook Illustrated magazine. He was not afraid to lounge hard these days either. He would do nothing if that is what his body needed. The most he would ever do on a rest day was maybe a self massage or foam roller/yoga session on the living room floor while explaining the relationships between adjacent muscle groups. Then a walk and back to the coffee shop. Rest day nights were about prep for the next big load. He spent considerable time reviewing possible routes online and analyzing his previous workloads on his coaching software. He also did laundry, stretched, hydrated a ton and of course prepped his food stock. Only once did I see him tune and wash his bike. He rarely even looked at it when it was in the house.

By the end of his trip we were sad to see him leave. That morning, he packed up his tools within minutes, had a final press of coffee and was on his way. He thanked us for the hospitality. I thanked him back. Out the door, he headed further south for the next stage of his solo camp that I came to respect and admire so much.

After he left, as I reflected on the entire experience, I hoped that it was a successful time for him and that he got in the work he wanted. My legs reminded me of the work I did while he was here and I am thankful for it. At the end of the day, our guest came to our home as an acquaintance and an athlete in search of secluded quality training. He left us as a teacher, a friend, and more importantly a person unattached to a bike. No longer is he an illusive name tossed around the local cycling scene or an intimidating presence of fit, but a friend, a well rounded, funny, insightful, opinionated, educated, confident and unique friend. He taught us perspective and what it means to be driven, and he taught us about training far beyond the pedal strokes. But mostly, he taught us about himself, the non-cyclist. After two plus weeks of hosting one of the most unique people I have ever met, I thought about what his camp meant to me. The truth was, I had just gotten back from my own camp. Jim Camp.

Camp Mess Hall Highlights:
  • Crusted venison tender loin with roasted parsnip puree and lemon garlic green beans
  • Olive oil toasted steal cut oats with homemade yogurt, raisins, and cold milled flax seeds (a daily occurrence)
  • Pan seared salmon and brown rice bowl with collards, spinach and leaks
  • Caramelized halved brussel sprouts with bacon and leeks
  • many varieties of homemade hummus (several batches) spinach, garlic, and red pepper

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Top 10 of 2010. The Images. The Daze.

Like any good year 2010 was chalk full of the essentials; good memories, solid results and great pictures to capture it all. These are a few of my favorite shots from the year that was.

December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve at the Kurilko's (friend and teammate). Christian is
registering for The Mountaineer Half after a few beers. His concentration and liquid courage sure helped him click the submit button. A great night and perfect way to break in the
2010 campaign.

January 17, 2010

A few weeks later we set the season off in style with The Buckeye Trail 50k. Coach Scot and Corey let me take their lead as we approached the finish to a very demanding day. One of my favorite shots of the year is fitting for one of the toughest events of the year.

March 7, 2010

I took a short break from multisport training in March to revisit my original love; skiing! This shot was taken at a local skier cross competition at my home hill Brandywine. We were coming off the first big right-hand bank, I was in the lead in the green jersey! I placed in the first few heats and made it through the semi-finals but miFont sizessed the podium on the day. Skiing will always be my first love and where I learned to compete, succeed, and face opposition.

April 18, 2010

In an effort to expand my horizons and build some early season bike strength I hopped on my road bike and started pounding the miles. As a result my cycling improved big time and I began to feel more comfortable on my road bike. This shot is from a very small, local, spring training, bike race series I participated in. The shot is really nothing special, but more importantly it made the list as proof. Not only did I race my bike in a non-multisport event but I stayed upright, won a preem, and actually liked it...a lot. Probably more to come in '11.

June 20, 2010

Maumee Bay Olympic Triathlon. This shot was taken less than a minute before the gun went off. How do I know that? You can spot me (bottom left) kneeling down saying a few words to the Man upstairs. I do this every race just seconds before the start. Along with a few deep breaths, it helps to calm my HR and puts me at ease. I love how this picture captured that moment.

July 31, 2010

We sat around for two hours before my wave went off at Steelhead 70.3 this year. For me it wasn't all that bad. I was just a bit anxious. Hat's off to Pops for not only sticking out the wait with me, but watching me race all day. This shot was taken after we had already been hanging around a while, sufficiently drenched, cold and pretty tired. Dad is my ultimate super fan!

September 12, 2010

Relax! That's exactly what we did after Rev 3 Half back at the Kaiser Motorhome at Cedar Point. It was perfect. We raced hard all day then came back to these awesome accommodations complete with food, beer, and great hospitality. You can tell in this shot that Jody, Corey and Aaron were taking life easy after jobs well done.

October 2, 2010

By October, the race season was wrapping up, but Ironman was looming. Having Lived in Nashville for a few months at this point my training was focused and unhindered by the Cleveland fall weather. However, I was super excited to take a short weekend break from training and fly back north to be in one of my best friend's wedding. This is Stacey and I at Jeremy and Sarah's wedding. It's also my favorite picture of her and I in 2010.

November 6, 2010

Needless to say tons of pictures were taken the week of Ironman and most of them were awesome and probably deserving of this list. From action shots to post-race celebration, the lenses captured most of the week's events. But none compare to this gem. Just after we had walked down to the beach the five of us took our last group shot before the gun. We were cold, scared and nervous. But then again, I probably don't need to explain that we were scared or nervous...just look at our faces. Five best training friends, right before the big day, totally prepared and nervous as hell. The perfect racing daze.

December 11, 2010

I topped off 2010 with the Huntsville Marathon with one of my best Nashville friends Drew. Read more about my time at Huntsville here. This is my favorite shot of the day. Drew and I all smiles at the finish line ready for some hard core R&R! It was the perfect way to top off the race season and year! I couldn't be happier with the day or this picture! Lovin the Fleet Feet Mylar too!

2010 was a total success in my book and I can not wait to see what the new year will bring. What ever it is, one thing is for sure. The racing daze will be out there and I am sure to find it. Happy 2011 peeps!