Memorial Day is a day to remember those members of the Armed Forces who have died while serving our country. This tradition in the USA dates back to the 1860′s in the post Civil War era. War has changed dramatically in tactics and scope over the past 150 years. From the trenches of World War One, nuclear bombs of the Second World War, jungle guerrilla tactics in Vietnam, and the most recent war on terror that has brought our own innocent civilians to the front lines.
Each and every veteran who has paid the ultimate price to keep our county safe deserves to be remembered and honored today. However this post is dedicated to the three people who lost their lives and the 260 others who were injured at the Boston Marathon this year as the war on terror found its way to our doorstep once again. This tragedy strikes especially close to home for me, being a member of the endurance sport family myself.
When I toe the start line each race there is a competitive nature that fuels me to do whatever I can to win. Even though on the field of play other competitors become my adversaries, before and after I cross the finish line there is a common bond of respect for the pursuit of excellence we all strive for. This bond for me extends beyond the professional athletes I race against, this camaraderie extends to all the men and women who have the courage to pin on a race number and challenge themselves to cross the finish line. This common experience that we all understand, brings together this extraordinary community.
Today, I urge you to keep remembering our fallen brothers and sisters in Boston. In our modern society we have a short attention span, and the next media cycle brings us new news at such a rapid pace it’s hard to keep remembering. It has been six weeks since the tragic day in Boston. Many of those that were injured from the blast suffered severe burns, an injury I am unfortunately familiar with. It took me a long year of rehab to get fully back on my feet after my burn accident. The nature of burn injuries can keep you in the hospital for days, weeks, or months. The effect extends beyond the injured party. To see me through my recovery my Mom came and lived in the hospital with me until I was released. I was tremendously lucky she was able to make this sacrifice, without her I would have been lost. I imagine many of the victims of Boston have relatives who have relocated themselves to Boston to support their recovery. I know this support comes at a huge emotional and financial cost. Now that the initial media frenzy has died down, and the shock and adrenaline has worn off, this is the time when the healing can be the hardest.
Endurance event finish lines are sacred places for all of us, and the Boston Marathon itself is the Mecca of Marathon running. To have that finish line desecrated by bombing and violence is unspeakable. Today let’s keep remembering our fallen comrades, and help to ensure that each and every one of the still injured victims crosses the finish line of recovery and stands strong at the start line of the next challenge.
If you are able and willing to help out the victims and their families please go here to donate:
It was a hot and humid race in the Dominican Republic this weekend. Not only was this a ITU Pan-American Cup race, but it was designated Caribbean and Central American Championships. As a result, the race drew a solid field from the region including Cuban born USA Olympian Manny Huerta, as well as Carlos Javier Quinchara Forero 2012 Olympian from Columbia.
I felt good about my training going in to the race and my race day preparation. The race began as normal with the usual melee in the water. I found myself in solid position finishing the first 750 meter lap. I was in touch with the main group. Unfortunately I tightened up on the second swim lap and exited the water 20 seconds down from a large group.
I rode hard the first two laps on the bike to try and bridge up to the large chase group in front of me. But my power alone on the bike was no match for the larger group working together up the road. I was frustrated to say the least, but determined to put in my best effort considering the circumstance. I decided to sit up and let a group of athletes who were about a minute behind me catch up to me and see if working together we could catch the group in front. We worked hard and held time, but could not manage to catch back up. I was pulling the biggest turns in this group, and a couple guys got dropped. Heading in to T2 we were a group of 4, and the lead to the front had grown to a few minutes. That’s ITU racing for you; a 20 second gap on the swim becomes several minutes on the bike.
Still determined to keep my head in the game I set out on the run course. It was a crazy hot day at 90 degrees and humid. There was no shade or wind to protect us, and even the local athletes seemed to be melting in the conditions. I managed to keep it together on the run, and ran my way from 24th getting off the bike to a 14th place finish. Certainly I know I can do better and need to not let those gaps open on the swim, but looking at the positive, I was happy to not give up even when I found myself in a tough situation. Shout out to Bob Lopez and Sport3 Magazine for photographing some great shots out on the race course!
My goal all year has been to build slower into the season and stay consistent in my training throughout the year. I certainly feel like I am accomplishing those goals so far, and as the year goes on I think my results will continue to progress.
Next up a “local” race. The ITU circuit comes to Dallas, TX. It will be a welcome change to drive to a race, rather than fly halfway around the world.
I leave tomorrow to go race in the Dominican Republic. I realized I never sat down to post about my amazing experience racing in Chengdu, China last month. Rather than my typical blog I decided to share a photo blog of my time in China. Although my race result was not my absolute best, the race experience itself was the most memorable to date. The Chinese custom built a venue for this race, dredging a manmade lake and building roads with banked turns just for the bike course. On race day they packed the course with over 50,000 fans. The atmosphere was electric. Enjoy the pics:
Well the first ITU race of the season is officially in the books. It was an up and down week of travel and prep, and the final result was 9th place. I was not thrilled with my performance. I felt, based on my training recently, I had a better race in me. However considering the tumultuous race day (more on this below) kicking off the year with a top ten finish is a solid place to build from.
I am always impressed with how well organized the Asian Cups are. These countries take a huge amount of pride in hosting international competitions. Indonesia was no different. We were greeted at the airport by an entourage welcoming committee, and taken to the Jakabaring Sports City, where we would call home for the week.
The Jakabaring Sports City was an unbelievable place. It was built for the 2011 Asian Sea Games, and is home to some of the best athletic facilities I have seen anywhere, including a swimming stadium the size of the London Olympic Swim venue, two mondo tracks with stadiums, a tennis stadium, an 80,000-person football stadium, and on and on. Basically this place could practically host the Olympics, and it was all just sitting completely empty.
The athlete’s village has capacity to hold 3000 athletes. This is where we stayed. While I appreciate being hosted for accommodation, and food, this setup is where the week got a little bit derailed for me. The Indonesian people have a different concept of noise, and even though the complex was filled with athletes preparing for competition there was no peace and quiet. Music, TVs blaring day and night, and none of the local athletes seems to think anything of it. The food was simple Asian cuisine, rice and curry. The downside of being at the Sports City was that we could not easily access the rest of the city of Palembang to make our own food choices. Two days before the race I got terribly sick from the food and spent the afternoon and evening throwing up. I’m always happy to have Jenna with me at the races, but having her there to look after me this time was truly lifesaving. Without her I may have not made it to the start line. Having withdraw from a race in the Philippines from food poisoning two years ago, I was not about to let that happen again, so I fought hard to stay physically and mentally tough.
Race morning dawned. Palembang is incredibly hot and humid with daily temps well into the 90’s. The race start was at 630AM, much earlier than most races, but still at this time I was sweating from the moment I left my room. The swim was on a man made lake, water temperature in the mid eighties, clearly a non-wetsuit swim. The start was off of a 6-foot high pontoon, which made for some excitement since the normal start is about a 1-foot dive. Many athletes were worried about this, but I saw it as humorous rather than a problem.
The field was pretty solid comprising athletes from 10 different countries (Australia, Austria, Japan, Singapore, USA, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Russia, Malaysia). With a pair of Olympians headlining the field.
The swim began as normal, kicking and pushing each other to gain position. I settled in the front group for the first half of the swim. Near the halfway point I felt a bit fatigued, the water temperature was getting to me. I tried to settle down but I just didn’t have that extra gear I normally have. I tried to put the negative thoughts of being sick out of my mind and continue on.
I excited the swim just ahead of two of the Russian athletes. Usually these guys are the fastest swimmers anywhere in the world, but these two had swum slightly off course. I got on my bike ahead of them, and figured the three of us would work together on the bike (normal protocol for this situation) to catch up to the leaders who at this point were less than a minute up the road. Boy was I wrong.
Immediately as we formed our group of three I realized these guys were acting strange. One of them was unwilling to come to the front and take a turn pulling, as the other guy seemed to be protecting him with some sort of team tactic. While taking a turn on the front Nickolay Yaroshenko pulled beside me, started yelling at me in Russian and then out of nowhere punched me in the side of the head twice. Keep in mind we were riding at 25+ mph. I was lucky to stay upright. Disoriented and mad, my initial reacting was to retaliate. I am glad I kept my composure and didn’t fight back. They sprinted off in the meantime and left me riding alone. Getting thumped like that whilst riding my bike certainly gave a poignant new meaning to the phrase “rolling with the punches.”
The rest of the bike and run were somewhat uneventful. Certainly taking two blows to the head did not help my physical state, but more then anything I think I was probably quite dehydrated from being sick, and the hot and humid conditions were really taking it out of me. The rest of the day was more survival mode. I fought my way to 9th place, and got rewarded with a bit of prize money for the effort.
Crossing the finish line the two Russian athletes were standing waiting for me to see if I was going to do anything. Of course I erupted yelling at them for cheating. The officials separated us, and after taking a deep breath, I took the proper steps to file a protest. Thankfully one of the Australian athletes witnessed the event, and testified on my behalf. The Russian athlete was disqualified from the race and faces a further sanction from the sport. Hopefully he will be banned for the rest of the season. The same athlete was already stripped of a race result last year after testing positive for a banned substance (read more here). Hopefully this second strike against him will keep him out of the sport for a while.
We are all competitive people, racing for our livelihoods, but a punch to the head while riding the bike is taking that competitiveness to a dangerous level that cannot be tolerated. Hopefully the ITU will see this, and protect other athletes from a similar fate.
I am still in Indonesia, based in Bali for 10 days, while I prepare for the second race of this trip in Chengdu, China on April 13th. I am feeling fit and recovered from any lingering sickness, and I am looking forward to a better race in China next week.
While it’s been a fantastic three month winter training block for me here in Austin, TX I am excited to get back on the racecourse. In years past I have raced as early as late February or early March. This year I made a conscious decision to give myself a bit longer in the base phase to build early season strength and endurance, and not begin racing back on the ITU circuit until a little bit later.
I’ve done a few low-key races in the past couple of months as early season tests of fitness. I won two local road-running races in January and February (a 10k and a 5k).
A few weeks ago I flew to Florida to race the season opener of the 2575 Sprint Triathlon Series. This was a fun event. It was the first time since 2010 that I raced the non-drafting format. I came away with 5th place. My inexperience on my TT bike was shown when some of the top Ironman non-drafting pros took control of the race on the bike. But it was a great early season race. My hat is off to the race organizer, as this was one of the most well organized races that I have ever attended. Both the Pros and Age Groupers we treated to a top level race, set at the beautiful Club Med in Sandpiper Bay. The only downside is I might have gained a pound or two from all of the excellent food served to us at Club Med over the weekend.
My last ITU circuit race was the Cancun World Cup last October. Needless to say I am excited to get back out on the ITU racecourse. For my 2013 debut I will be headed over to Asia for a double header of ITU Premium Asian Cups. First up will be the Premium Asian Cup in South Sumatra, Indonesia on March 31st (Easter Sunday). Two weeks later I’ll be racing at the Chengdu, China ITU Premium Asian cup. In between races I will stay in Indonesia at a training camp in Bali.
I have raced in Asia a few times in the past (Subic Bay, Philippines, Osaka, Japan, Yilan, Taiwan). But neither in my personal travels nor my triathlon travels have I ever been to China or Indonesia. I am excited to visit both places and represent the USA. I am particularly excited to be returning to Southeast Asia for the first time since my burn accident in Thailand five years ago. Last time I left Southeast Asia in a wheelchair, now I am returning stronger and more fit than ever before. Here’s to a great start to 2013!