This season has been complete with its fair share of setbacks. Although there have been moments where I have felt better than ever in training it seems that I have struggled to get myself to the start line ready to show my best performance. This spring I faced my biggest setback of my career with a serious bout of overtraining syndrome and sickness that found me starting from what felt like scratch to begin the summer.
Thanks to my family, friends and sponsors who rallied around me to weather the rough patch and keep my eye on my goals, I was able to resurrect my season. After a solid block of training in Vittoria and Mallorca, Spain this summer with top US athletes and coaches, I felt ready to really have another crack at the racecourse.
On September 15th I competed in the Elite US National Championships in Buffalo, NY, and a week later I found myself on the opposite side of the globe competing it the Yilan ITU Asian Cup in Taiwan. In Buffalo I came 25th overall (13th American), which although far from my perfect race it was a significant improvement from where I placed at the National Championships last year (23rd American). It proved to be a good idea to fly all the way back to Asia when I scored my best result of the season with a 7thplace finish at the Asian Cup in Taiwan.
My sights are always set on improving and of course I cant wait to notch my first professional win one of these days, but I feel like the past couple of weeks have been a solid two steps in the right direction, after many months that felt like I was sliding backward.
This week I have a chance to compete alongside the very best in the sport at the Cancun World Cup. This will be the second World Cup start of my young career. I’m excited and ready to end this season on a high note racing on the World Cup stage.
Thank you to all that continue to believe in me through all of the ups and downs.
I was incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to attend the Olympics in London last week. As I work diligently everyday to one day compete in the Olympics myself, I figured it was appropriate to go experience the atmosphere and emotion of the games first hand. I attended the 1996 Games as a wide-eyed eleven year old. That childhood experience certainly laid the foundation for my lifelong desire to represent my country as an Olympian. At the age of 27, my London experience looked slightly different than that of my childhood, however the experience lived up to all expectations and left me more inspired than ever to continue down this path.
As most people have heard by now the ticket situation for non-European residents was a disaster. The supply fell far short of demand and even though many secondary venues saw empty seats, the tickets were not being reallocated. British police effectively shut down the black market ticket trade. Not only did you need tickets to attend events, but tickets were also needed just to walk around the Olympic Park outside the venues. I knew this before arriving in London and although slightly disappointed, I was resigned to watching the triathlon races in Hyde Park and glad just to be in London during the games.
Fortunately, luck was on my side. The first night we were in London, Jenna and I were catching up with a couple of my Yale Swimming teammates and watching the swimming from a bar when I received a text message from my friend, Misty Hyman, asking me if I wanted swimming tickets for the next day. Misty earned Gold at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, swimming the women’s 200 Butterfly, and had some extra tickets for the swimming. I was overjoyed! I would have been happy to get tickets to any event like table tennis or judo, but getting tickets to swimming (my all time favorite Olympic sport), I was like a kid on Christmas.
The following day Jenna and I adventured out to the swimming venue. It was amazing to be inside the pool, which held 17,000 spectators. I’ve been to many swim meets in my life, but never have I witnessed such an incredible crowd. The predominantly British fans were on their feet cheering for the GB athletes, even when it wasn’t for first place. In fact there was a swim off to break a tie for 16th place in the women’s 50 meter freestyle. The aquatic center sounded like the final minutes of the NBA finals; an absolutely incredible atmosphere.
It was only midday by the time the swim session ended so we decided
to take advantage of being inside of the Olympic Park and spent most of the day wandering around the venues and people-watching. They built some spectacular venues; the veladrome and Olympic Stadium were especially neat. The fans from all over the world were out in patriotic colors and draped in flags supporting their countries. Despite the obvious competitive nature of the games, everyone we encountered was friendly and talkative. It’s rare in adult life where you find yourself in a major city and everyone is keen to chat with you. I quite enjoyed that.
Invigorated by our experience watching the swimming, we wanted to see if we could get more tickets. While wandering the park we help up a sign that read “Super Fans, Will Buy Tickets.” Few people were ready to part with their precious tickets, but we did manage to get one more set, two tickets to one of the Olympics most iconic events, the women’s Marathon. The marathon turned out to be incredibly exciting as it was on a multi-lap course in central London, and we were able to watch the sprint finish across the line in front of Buckingham palace. Not only was the event itself exciting, but perhaps most memorable was having a front row seat while Tiki Gelena of Ethiopia was honored on top of the Olympic podium with a Gold Medal.
The triathlon events did not disappoint. In fact many people are calling the women’s race the most exciting triathlon of all time. After two hours of racing the Gold and Silver medal were decided in a sprint finish that had to be reviewed in a photo finish to determine the winner. I was standing 300 meters from the finish where the competitors passed 7 times on the bike and 4 times on the run. I had a front row view of the incredible sprint finish. Unfortunately the US did not medal as Sarah Groff ran an incredibly gutsy race but finished just out of the medals in 4th. Nicola Spirig of Switzerland (who I met at a BBQ this year during my training camp in Noosa) out sprinted Lisa Norden of Sweden for Gold. Erin Densham of Australia, who I trained with in the final weeks heading in to the Games, came away with the Bronze. It was incredible to see such a top quality race especially when the medals went to athletes who I have gotten to know off the racecourse and see train firsthand.
The men’s race did not disappoint either. Since the Brownlee brothers from Great Britain were heavily favored to place 1st and 2nd, the British fans came out in full force to watch the race. Jenna and I arrived 4 hours before the race start to secure a good place to watch, and by the race start the crowd was 50 deep around the whole course. The result was close to as predicted with the Brownlees coming first and third and Javier Gomez of Spain winning the Silver. Despite the predictable result, the race was incredible to watch, with Alistair Brownlee dominating the event by running the fastest 10k ever recorded in an ITU triathlon. The day following the race I was able to run the same course on a training run. I pictured the roaring crowd cheering me on. It will certainly be a memory that I will use to motivate me in the future.
Of course, I reveled in many other Olympic moments from these games outside of the triathlon venue. Particularly special moments in my mind included: Mo Farah and Galen Rupp beating out the dominating East Africans to go 1, 2 in the men’s 10k (both Galen and Mo train in Portland, and I often see them training at the Nike campus when I am home), Phelps cementing his legacy as the greatest Olympian of all time with a record breaking 22 medals (18 Gold!!!), the USA Women’s 4×100 meter relay smashing a 27 year old World Record on the track, and celebrating with Grenada fans as Kirani James won Grenada’s first ever Gold Medal by dominating the 400 meters on the track (see video below).
Having trained and gotten to see the struggle of reaching the Olympic start line first hand over the past few years I feel the pain of athletes defeated in competition more than ever. Two of my Yale swimming teammates missed the Olympics in 2008 by the smallest margin possible (one one-hundredth of a second).
With my new perspective on the games I realize for every success that we watch and laud on tv and in the media, there are thousands of broken hearts who just missed out. This year before heading to London I watched the opening ceremonies on tv with an athlete who after leading the national ranking fell just short of making the Olympic team. After a lifetime of work a mere few seconds separated him from marching proudly inside the Olympic Stadium representing his country to him sitting with me on a couch watching on tv. Simon Whitfield (2000 Olympic Champion and 2008 Silver medalist for Triathlon) hit a speed bump while competing in London and not only crashed himself out of the race but he took out Leo Chacon as well.
Chacon was able to finish the race, but after the crash was well out of contention. After a lifetime of dedication, dreams can be shattered in an instant. In a perfect example of the spirit of the Olympics, Chacon who had every right to be furious reached out to Whitfield on Facebook with humble and kind words of admiration for the Olympic Champion (Read Article Here) There are many medalist and heroes that 100% percent deserve the praise they get from winning on the Worlds biggest stage, but I have found from this Olympics a renewed respect for the entire spirit of the Games and I praise every athlete who dares to dream this big.
For the first time in my life, I experienced the emotions of the games differently than I have in the past. As a kid the heroes of the Games seemed like untouchable super-humans. In fact my admiration of these athletes led to me to aspire to be like them “one day.” I am still a fair ways
from becoming an Olympian myself, however my experience racing as a professional against many of these athletes and having a lifestyle that brings me in contact with so many Olympians, these games and the athletes felt so much less untouchable this time around. Watching the triathlon was exciting, but rather than the event having this air of supremacy, I enjoyed cheering on my friends and seeing them win medals knowing full well what they are like off the race course. They are normal people with the same ups and downs as everyone else. The Olympics still remain just as special in my mind. I have the highest
respect for those who have reached that pinnacle, but this experience watching in London through a new lens has made me even more confident in my ability to succeed. Just like me, every athlete has struggled tremendously to get where they are. Being an Olympian takes dedication, talent, hard work, and a little luck…but it doesn’t require being super human. Funny as it sounds this is a refreshing realization, and I am more inspired than ever to reach my goal.
I continue my journey with a hard training block in Spain this month as I prepare to compete at the US National Championship in Buffalo, NY on September 15th.
PS a couple of fun videos from the games
Grenada goes crazy as they win their first Olympic Medal ever!!!
The past three weeks I have been training at the USA Triathlon High Performance base in Vitora, Spain (Capital of the Basque Country). It’s been a crucial and highly exciting time to be in Europe as the Olympic athletes are in their final weeks of preparation for the London Olympics. Not only have I been training with top US talent here in Vitoria, but Olympians and triathlon medal favorites from other countries as well including, Erin Densham (Australia), Richard Murray (South Africa), Mario Mola and Ainhoa Murua (Spain), Vendula Frintova (Czech Republic).
Needless to say it’s been a fantastic opportunity for me to get in a great block of training, and get an intimate view of the top triathletes just days out from the pinnacle race of the sport at the London Olympics. This experience will certainly help me in my development toward my own Olympic goal in 2016.
I went over to Geneva, Switzerland last weekend for the ITU European Cup. Although I’ve been more focused on the pre-Olympic training block and getting back to peak form after my health problems earlier in the year, I still felt ready to race coming off a decent race in Osaka a couple weeks prior. On race morning the wind kicked up so much that the swim course had to be altered due to extremely choppy conditions. Many of the top females athletes, who started before the elite men, failed to complete the swim course due to the harsh conditions. Despite the waves I felt ready to swim well.
The first turn buoy is usually set at 350 meters, but because of the waves, the first buoy was moved in to 200m, making the first turn with 70 athletes even more of a wrestling match than usual. I came out of the turn with a bloody lip, and my wetsuit unzipped. An unzipped wetsuit is the swimming equivalent of a flat tire. With all of the water streaming down the opening it’s like having a parachute on your back. Despite my best effort I lost a great deal of time in the water, and had to withdraw from the race after 5 laps on the bike futilely trying to catch up.
I seem to have had a bit of bad luck this year, but I’m inclined to focus on the positive. My health and strength seem to be coming back after reaching a low point this spring. I have had some of my best training sessions of the year since I have been in Spain, inspired by the great athletes I have surrounded myself with. I am confident that all of my hard work will pay off, and I will be able to finish the season with some great results.
Tomorrow I head to London for a week to take in the Olympic atmosphere in person. I attended Atlanta in 1996 with my family, and to this day it goes down as one of my favorite childhood memories. That glimpse of the Olympics as a child no doubt inspired my path today. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to witness the men’s and women’s Olympic triathlon races live from Hyde Park. Over the past year I’ve had the opportunity to race against over half of the men on the Olympic start list. Of course I will be pulling for the USA to win, but it will be great to witness all of the top competitors from around the world put their hearts and souls on the line on the biggest stage. The level of hard work and sacrifice that goes into an Olympic start is almost unfathomable. Careers will be made and hearts will certainly be broken on those fateful days next week. No doubt witnessing that first hand will strengthen my already burning passion for success. I’ll be sure to post live updates from London.
Here are a couple fun shots and a video of Jenna and I taking in the local culture and customs here in Spain. We’re caught on tape Running with the Bulls in Pamplona (probably the biggest adrenaline rush of my life), and last week we attended a local bullfight (gory to say the least!). Enjoy.
Last week I got back on the racecourse after a three month hiatus from racing due to health problems. It was great to be back racing, and feeling healthy again.
After a wonderful wedding celebration for my sister Caitlin at my Dad’s farm on Kauai, I traveled to Osaka, Japan for the Osaka ITU Asian Cup. Normally a trip to Japan would be a pretty long travel day, but with the serendipitous timing of the wedding the travel direct from Honolulu was pretty easy.
The race director and Japanese triathlon staff were tremendously helpful, and put on an excellent race. Funny enough the race site was right beside “Universal Studios Japan,” so just outside my hotel room was an American style theme park complete with McDonalds, Hard Rock Café, Bubba Gump Shrimp etc. I myself preferred to experience a bit more of the Japanese food and culture and kept myself occupied in the days leading up to the race exploring Osaka and enjoying wonderful sushi and ramen.
Very few people in Japan speak English. There were several funny episodes trying to find my way around on trains, or figure out where I needed to go for the race briefing. One such funny cross-cultural experience was swimming at the local pool for training leading up to the race. The patrons of the pool were primarily elderly Japanese who seemed to use the pool to walk and wade. When I can in to swim a proper session the spotlight was on me, lots of pointing and laughing. At one point an old man seemed to want to flex his ego and jumped in beside me splashing with all his might to keep up with me for one 25 meter length, but to no avail. Although I could not communicate with the Japanese very well, I thoroughly enjoyed the country, culture and people.
Race day came with the usual pre-race nerves, especially since it’s been a few months since I have raced. I was so grateful to have Jenna (my number one fan and support) along with me for this race. It was a full international field of 78 athletes (the maximum allowed at an ITU race). My goal for the race was to get a solid result, but also be realistic about where my
body was after my break. I know it will take another couple of months to be back in top form, and I’m really aiming to peak this year in the Fall.
The swim started in its usual mess of arms and legs flying. A few smaller packs formed with a group of about 5 off the front. I exited the water in 25th place, and to my chagrin just 15 seconds behind what would be the main group on the bike. Staying present on the bike I pushed hard and found myself in a group of 6 athletes with a main group of 15 up the road.
The bike course was one of the most difficult I have ever ridden with 7 laps over and back a large bride with a very steep incline. Since we had to go both ways over the bride it meant 14 hard climbs over the 40k bike course. Not only were the climbs tough but each lap had four 180 degree turns and four 90 degree turns, making for a ton of hard accelerations. To give a sense of the difficulty at least 20 athle
tes withdrew from the race during the bike course. I rode well, but the group with more numbers up the road was able to ride faster so our group lost a bit of time on the bike.
I made it into transition behind the two main groups in about 25th place. It had been a while since I have run 10k in a race (crashed in Mooloolaba WC and didn’t get out on the run). It took my legs a little while to find the rhythm. Of the three laps on the run my third lap was definitely the fastest. I gained one position from where I got off the bike and finished in 24th place.
There is certainly a ton of room for improvement in this race. 15 seconds faster of a swim would have put me comfortably in the main group on the bike not only riding faster but saving more energy for the run. I am certain I have a much better run in my legs right now, but my race sharpness was not quite there. However all and all I am fairly happy with the result. I accomplished the goal of getting back out on the racecourse and getting the first race back under my belt.
Now I am over training in Vitoria, Spain with the US High Performance camp. Its great training here, and I have another shot at racing coming up this weekend at the Geneva ITU European Cup. Stay tuned…and look for my blog in the next couple of days about “Running with the Bulls” in Pamplona…
It’s been a little while since I have posted an update on the life triathlon. Coming off a three month training block in Australia and my first World Cup start I unfortunately had a downturn in my health. As a result I was forced to take several weeks off training in April/May. There is never a “good” time to have health problems or injury in the middle of the season. But if it had to happen there was a small silver lining for me, which was this break coincided with the crescendo of my mother’s Mayoral campaign. I was able to keep myself occupied during this down time by diving into helping my mother and family on the campaign trail in Portland.
After this break to let my health recover, I have been back to full time training for the past 5 weeks. I was worried that I would lose a lot of the fitness and hard work that I put in during the Australia training camp. Only two weeks after returning to training I won a local 5k in Portland. That win, coupled with some solid training sessions have been encouraging me that not all has been lost for the season. It might take me a little while to work my way back into peak form, but once again I am feeling healthy and fit, and the time is now to return to the international race circuit.
This week I set back out on the road. My first stop will be to my sister Caitlin’s wedding on my Dad’s farm on the beautiful island Kauai, Hawaii. Serendipitously there is an ITU Asian Cup race in Osaka, Japan. From Hawaii it will be a relatively easy trip over to Osaka to make my return to racing. Directly from Osaka, I will be headed over to base myself out of Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain (Capital of the Basque Country).
In Vitoria I will be training with US Olympic team athletes and coaches in their final preparations for the London, Olympics the first week of August. Jono Hall the US high performance director has used Vitoria as a training base for several years. I am certain this will be a world-class training environment, and a perfect place to get my season and fitness back on track. Since I will be in Europe I will have the opportunity to go over to London to watch the Olympics for a week. Spectating the Olympic triathlon race will no doubt be very inspiring and keep the fire burning inside of me to reach my goal of racing at that level in four years time in Rio.
Not only will Spain be a great place to be for training and proximity to the Olympics, but it will also be great for racing. Most of the ITU circuit races this time of year will be in that part of the world. I will take advantage of that by racing in either Geneva or Kazakhstan in late July, then Russia or Czech Republic in August, before returning to the US at the end of August to get ready for the US National Championships in Buffalo, NY in mid-September.
Thanks for following along. I will be sure to update more frequently during this exciting time in the run up to the Olympics as I get my season back on track.