Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Back in the Game...

So it seems I've managed to get myself involved in the cycling team game once again. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, but I guess we tend to fall back into old habits easily.

Back in the late 90's and through about 2005, I  ran the Cane Creek Elite Team. This amounted to, securing sponsorship, recruiting riders, baby sitting said riders and generally making our tiny little budget look 10 times bigger than it ever was.

I look back on that time proudly. We accomplished many great things and won a lot of races. Some of the riders have gone on to bigger and better things. But most of all, we had more fun than any bunch of guys should be allowed to have.

Fast forward to 2011, and after a season as a guest rider/mentor/guy who knows something for a new little team called Asheville Grass Roots/Industry Nine, finds me back in the hot seat as part time director, sponsorship coordinator and all around old guy who knows something.

Luckily I'm not doing this all alone this time. Chris Larsen, Drew Hager and Matt Dinsmore are all taking on roles. It is nice to have these guys to bounce ideas off of and who are truly looking out for the benefit of the team and not their own personal interest. They created Asheville Grassroots, and I am happy they have asked me to join the ride.

I didn't think I would be back here again. In fact I had pretty much told myself that I would never do this again. It is funny how the pain of something seems to always dissipate over time.  It is just like when we turn ourselves inside out, cramping wheezing and stumbling across the finish line and promise, never again, only to find ourselves analyzing the data and doing more painful intervals so that we can once again experience the joy of winning. With this team I'm finding the prospect of a winning scenario to hard to ignore.

I'm personally sponsoring the team through my business, HD Coaching, and have the privilege of coaching some truly up and coming talents.   We are going to be announcing the rest of our sponsors in the coming weeks. Some of them you know, some of them you don't. We hope the faith they have put in us will be a 10 fold return on their investment.

If you don't already follow the team on Facebook go here: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001680326288

Monday, November 14, 2011

ITU World's..It doesn't always stay in Vegas.

When is a "race report" not  race report? When it the race turns into a survival slog, a lesson in humility and most of of all a valuable learning experience.

As most of you know, I competed in the ITU World Triathlon Championships recently. A season of preparation came down to one day and one race in Las Vegas/Henderson NV. There is a certain anxiety that comes with putting all of one's eggs in a single basket. I was hyper focused and clearly not my normal chipper self in the days leading up the race. I'd like to make a formal apology for that. Since the race, I think normalcy has begun to return and I've certainly had time to think analyze my race and take away some very important lessons. Hopefully you can learn something from them as well!

Two Thirds of my cheering section
Before I get too far into this, I want to thank my wonderful wife for putting up with my "unchipperness" and cheering me on. I also want to thank our good friends Ralf and Dara for making the trip from San Francisco to yell at me for a few hours. It is always nice to hear your name, even more so when you are suffering like a dog 2500 miles away from home.

The race was supposed to be a 4k Swim, a 120k (75 mile) bike and 30k (18.6 mile) run. Mother Nature conspired against us in the form of heavy rain, high winds and huge cold front blowing in the night before. We were staying on site and as I made my way down to go finish setting up all of my gear Jenn and I were met in the lobby by a fellow athlete who informed us that the swim was cancelled.

I'm not a super swimmer, but I've been working hard in the pool, so needless to say I was bummed. I didn't understand why at first, but in hindsight it was the right call. The water temp had dropped to 55 degrees and it was 37 degrees outside. The rules said, in black white, too cold, cancel the swim. *(see lesson one below).
Chilly Start..

The race was turned into a bike/run event. All the athlete's started in the cold one by one every 5 seconds. The bike course was very hilly with roughly 5100 ft of vertical gain. The wind was not howling, but it wasn't exactly calm either. Simply put, even for a ex-cyclist it was a hard course.
Going too hard..

The staggered start created a bike racing mentality and unfortunately after 12 years of racing bikes I have a hard time turning it off *(See lesson two). Simply put, I smashed myself racing the eventual winner and realized on the way into town what I had done. Unfortunately by that time it was far too late to do anything about it.

When I got to the run transition I was in a bit of a panic mode and a bit delirious as well. Looking at my transition time, I could have had a picnic lunch in the changing tent. In hindsight I think maybe that would have been a good idea.

I started the run hoping and praying that my legs would come around. It is pretty depressing when you see the mile 1 marker, you feel cracked, and you realize you have 17.6 miles to go. Still I was hoping for a miracle. *(see lesson three)

The course was four laps of a pretty hard out and back loop. Essentially you ran one way on the road then ran back from where you came from on the sidewalk. Half the course was downhill, unfortunately that meant you ran back up hill for the other half. The run had about 1200 vertical gain, which under normal conditions would not have been to bad. Unfortunately, these were not normal conditions.

I'll save you from the drama, but I ran pretty much the whole way and walked the aid stations. With all that walking and a 2 minute stop in the Port-O-John I averaged 8:40 miles. I felt like a mall walker. But I was not going to fly across the country and quit, so with a healthy bit of encouragement from my tiny entourage I finished the race. *(see lesson four)

I was certainly not the only person who had problems. This was taken from Michael Raelert's Facebook page. Michael is a 2 time World Champion and one of the best triathlon runners in the world. When he passed me he looked pedestrian. I had to do a double take to make sure who I was seeing. Granted his pedestrian run is streets faster than mine. (English is not his first language so excuse the grammar)

actually i cannot remember the race. i know there was no swim, b/c of the cold weather, and a big explosion after 100km (on one of the toughest bike courses i'Ve ever rode on) - maybe you've heard this big bang even back in germany. my legs just went off and didnt wanna keep going. i lost more than 4:30min on the last 20km - in watts from 297 down to 186 - this is a lot. but it was really surprising how i started the run with these legs. i've got back in the game and kept up the speed(5:15/mile). i got really excited b/c i got significant closer to the front and got my mind back still for the win. unfortunately, after 2 1/2laps(of 4) there was another big big explosion. you might heard this one as well and than the interesting part begun. i cannot remember anything until then. the last thing i know, i've got overtaken by some girls and then i "woke up" in the resting area. first question: "where am i and did i finish?" - i did and i am really happy with this fact. for myself, it was the best performance ever - for sure not from the "sporty" perspective - just in general. but i think it cost me another 5% of my regular lifetime.

*(see lesson five)

  • Lesson 1: Expect the unexpected. Figure out an alternative plan and try to execute that plan. Don't just "wing it". I had a set plan going into this race. Without the swim my plan got thrown out. In the future I'll make sure I come up with a new plan and stick to it.
  • Lesson 2: Ride the bike on target, not like a crazy person. The first 56 miles I rode super fast. The last 20 I came unglued. I had ridden too hard. My output for the last 45 minutes was only 60 percent of what I had done for the previous 2:45. Had I ridden a steady pace, my OWN pace, I would have finished with roughly the same time and still been able to run.
  • Lesson 3: There are no miracles. Once you have overcooked yourself, it is nearly impossible to get your legs to come back around. On a hilly course like this, just plain impossible.
  • Lesson 4: Never give up. Sometimes your best performances are not your wins, but the ones that push you beyond what you thought was possible. It was not the performance I wanted or was capable of, but I am proud that I finished with my head held high (well except at the finish when I bent over and tried not to throw up). I learned that I can go to some pretty dark places and still come out relatively unscathed. These experiences will only help in the future.
  • Lesson 5: Have Fun. This is the most important one of all. I suffered like a dog, but I had fun. It was great to have people shouting "Go USA!, Go Dotson!" all the way around the course. It was cool to know where all of your competitors were from. It was great to be competing in that very big pond and realize I'm not a super small fish. We saw the Hoover dam, Lake Mead National Park the day before the race and partied in Vegas on Sunday night. Were these things best for my prep or recovery? No. But they sure were fun! 

So all in all, I learned some very important lessons in Vegas and those lessons I am making sure don't stay there.

Thanks to Jenn, Earthfare, First Endurance nutrition, HD Coaching. Cyclesport Concepts. If you haven't had a chance to check out my website please do.. www.HDCoaching.net. Thanks for Reading!
The Start...

Where the wheels came off!
Post Race at the Venetian

Friday, October 14, 2011

REV3 Anderson.. A half rev breakthrough.

I generally don't post race reports. Well for that matter I generally don't post much at all. I am working on rectifying this for several reasons, first I have a new business I'm trying to get started (www.hdcoaching.net), secondly I believe I have some useful information and experience to share and lastly I have a few new sponsors that I need to keep happy.

And now the report...

Some things do go as planned...A half rev breakthrough.

I had pegged the Rev3 Half Rev in Anderson, SC from the beginning of the year for many reasons. It was close by, it was exactly 4 weeks out from the ITU Long Course World Championships, it was said to be a challenging course and everything thing I'd heard about REV3 (www.REV3tri.com) was nothing but effusive positivity. It would be a excellent opportunity to get a "gut check" race in as well as a final test of my nutrition schedule for worlds.

Going into the race I purposely did not do much of a taper. According to all the metrics I follow in Training Peaks my rested state should fall right on race day but be in the negative for most of the week before. Also I wanted to go straight back to training once it was all said and done to put the finishing touches on my form for worlds.

Saturday: Pre Race

My biggest fan, Jenn and I loaded up the car and prepared for the hour and half drive down to Anderson, SC. It was definitely nice to not have to travel far to get to the race site. We arrived and were greeted with a massive race site that was hauled in on two tractor trailers. They are definitely family friendly with a huge kid zone with a bounce house and slide, in short these guys are pros at what they do.

Check in was painless. Actually it was better than painless when the girl checking me in (she was the same age as me) thought I was one of the collegiate competitors. Heck, at that point no matter how the race went it was already a good weekend!

We then jumped back in car and went to the first transition area at Lake Hartwell. I dropped off the bike, checked out the swim course, then got back in the car to drive part of the bike course. The bike course was hilly and technical with lots of turns. It was clear it was not going to be a fast bike. We then went back to the venue for a little 2 mile shake out run and we were done.

I almost forgot, there was a "celebrity" siting there as well. Ryan Sutter of bachelorette fame was there with camera crews and a team of scientist from gatorade. I made it my mission to beat him at all costs. 

Behold the Fro!
4:45 AM... Beep BEeeep, BEEEP, BEEEEEPP

I am not a morning person and no matter how many times I've been up at this hour to go swim it still sucks. As I was eating my Koala Krisps and sucking down as much liquid calories as possible, Jenn popped out to go get coffee. She definitely deserves a medal of honor for finding an open Quickie Mart with decent coffee.

We got out the door, set up run transition, and then headed back over to bike transition. It was dark and we took a wrong turn. Luckily, other than me internally freaking out while trying to remain outwardly calm, it was a non issue.

I saw one of my old bike racing buddies, Chris "G-man" Giordinelli, before the start. He is one of the best AG triathletes in the Southeast. I told him to say hi as he went by on the run..

The Swim: 33 minutes

Me and a hundred of my other rubber clad compadres piled into the water as if our life depended on it. A couple of dolphin dives and then we were swimming. The first turn buoy came quickly as we all took turns clubbing each other in the head and swimming over or under those who forgot the race doesn't end at the first turn.

I settled into my own rhythm and lost the pack doing so. The water was a bit choppy from the all the wind and I never found any feet to draft off of. Coming into the last turn buoy I kicked hard going around and then  BAM, cramps in both calves. The last 200 meters or so were about just getting into shore. I'm sure I lost a ton of time there.

Getting out was another challenge as there were sharp rocks and mud and sand. These things would come back to haunt me a bit later.

 I saw Jenn sitting at the exit and cheering me on. That always helps the motivation.

I stripped out of my wetsuit quickly and then struggled to put it in the bag they provided. The only complaint I have on the whole weekend, organizers, a wetsuit that fits someone my size does not go into a tiny plastic bag very well!

The Bike 56 miles: 2:24 (3rd fastest Amateur)

Time to DO WORK son!
It was time to go to work. It was hilly and windy, with 12-15mph winds. The hilly part wasn't so bad the windy part was a different story.  There were a lot of turns which I railed full speed and I'm sure made up a ton of time. Overall it was a fun and fair course.

Jenn and my friend Ryan were following along electronically at the venue. Apparently I went into the lead pretty early on on the bike course. I had no way of knowing this so I just kept the hammer down.

Remember that mud and sand I mentioned in the swim? I could feel it sandpapering the tops of my toes for 56 miles. I knew I wasn't going to have pretty feet going onto the run.

The Run Half Marathon: 1:34 (15th fastest Amateur)

I slid my bike to a halt and did a full on cyclocross step through dismount. I think one of the volunteers needed to change their pants afterwards. The rest standing there were just impressed (well that's how it played out in my head).

I had made special note of my transition spot and wasted no time finding it. I racked my bike and went about putting my shoes on. Bloody toes... awesome. Transition went like this, Socks on, shoes on, hat, no, gel, no, number belt, garmin now get the heck out. I heard Jenn yelling but for the life of me I couldn't find her.

On the run course I was clicking off 6:30-40 miles for the first almost two miles. I was trying to force myself to slow down. I was optimistically hoping to run a 1:35. A time I've never ever run before.

I settled into a rhythm and just focused on the job at hand. The course was rolling but not what I would call hilly (700ft elevation gain). It was pretty and we wound our way around a couple of parks and then through downtown and then back.

The aid stations we numerous and very well stocked. One was especially well stocked. A local college's women's volleyball team had come out and dressed in Halloween "costumes".  Most of the costumes consisted of as little fabric as possible to convey the actual character, ie. traffic cop, genie, mermaid.. We passed through that one three times. I'm sure that was planned. I told you REV3 were pros!

I alternated between coke/water and gatorade. I have never felt that strong on a run. On the way back in from town G-man was still heading out. The shout "When did you learn to run?" was truly one of the highlights of my day.

Trotting down the finish...No T-Rex
With about 4 miles I could start to feel the effort. But at that point you are more or less home. I just ran as hard as my legs would take me. G-man passed me with about a mile to go. He apparently went deep to catch me and was rewarded for his effort. The person to closest guess their time won a bike rack system from Yakima. He finished within one second of his guessed time.

As I was coming down the finish shoot I was catching a woman who had done the shorter race. I eased up so I wouldn't mess up her finish photo. I went straight through the finish and was thrilled with my performance. I found Jenn, finally, and she informed me that I had won! I couldn't believe it. I was hoping for an age group top 5, and as it turned out I was 7th Overall. I think I'm ready for Worlds.

For all my efforts I received a nice glass trophy, a free pair of shoes, a magazine subscription, a $20 gift certificate and a fuel belt. REV3 really takes care of their participants. Next stop Sin City and the ITU Long Course World Championships.


  • Did I tell you how great my Wife is? She got coffee, took pictures, shuttled my bike pump and gear, and still got in a 10 mile run. 
  • I owned Ryan Sutter Mr. Bachelorette. Over a 20 minute beating. Nice.
  • Awesome, awesome organization and venue. You owe it to yourselves to do a REV3 next year
  • I took 1 bottle on the bike and replaced it with a gatorade at every feed station. In total I consumed about 800-900 calories. The plan worked to perfection. The top 3 bike splits were inside of a minute of each other, everyone else was minutes back.
  • I had a power goal of approximate 280 watts. When I downloaded my computer, 280 watts. Perfect.
  • I ran to the plan. I tried to hold mostly 7 minute miles knowing I would slow down on the uphill and speed up on the down hills. My last couple of miles were slower, but it was because I had no one in sight behind me.
  • Thanks to Jenn, Industry Nine, First Endurance Nutrition, Earthfare, HD Coaching. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A year gone by.

This was written in January.. 

It has been nearly a year since I started the experiment with Triathlon. I guess technically I did a couple of sprints  in 2009, but I don't really count those since I didn't really even train for them. But I, will forever call 2010 my first "season".

In 2009, 9 miles running was a good "week". In my first triathlon I rode a borrowed bike and it was my 13th ride in 6 years. I swam twice, with no previous swimming background, before my first triathlon. I was 6th overall bike split and 6th in my age group. During the run, which was a third of my weekly volume, I think I saw Jesus not once but twice. It would have been more helpful had he shown up on the swim since he walks on water and all. It was also my first ride in the rain since I stopped riding my bike in 2003.

In 2010, I ran over 8 miles at one time, on purpose. I rode my bicycle in the rain, again, on purpose. I bought a time trial made out of carbon fiber. I woke up at 4:45 to go swim. Until that point I don't think I ever purposely gotten up that early. I certainly didn't do it 3 times a week. And definitely not to drive across town in the snow to jump in a pool.

In 2010, I also did my first ever half marathon, training or otherwise, in my first event, which was a Half Ironman distance race. It was 95 degrees, and 8 months later I still have a farmers tan from it. I saw dead people on this run. Jesus decided not to show up as it was far to hot.

The rest of the season was up and down. I was training myself and despite a lot of knowledge on the bike side, I really had no clue how to juggle three sports. After getting absolutely obliterated and humbled by a friend (thanks Chris), I decided I would get a coach. I also set a goal,  I decided that I would attempt to qualify for the ITU Long Distance World Championships to be held in the US, in 2011, for the first time in many years. 

Katie Malone from Malone Coaching is who I chose. I initially met Katie through our dog. Well more specifically we got our dog from Katie. She rescues Weimaraners, and there is a special place in the afterlife for her, since she is seldom, if ever, without five of them. One Weim is handful, I can't even imagine two, much less five.

Our dog is also the reason I started running, well more like jogging. I found it pretty fun to go running, what I then thought was fast, in the woods. That lead to thinking about a triathlon, and with a nudge or three from our friends Chris and Sarah, brings me back full circle.

Katie was critical to my success at the end of the season. She routinely pushed me to the breaking point, and when I would ask for mercy, she would give me a an off week which would include a 15 mile trail run, you know, just for fun. It was just enough to hold the fine line of form and fatigue. She did a great job with me, especially considering she didn't have any previous history with me. She later admitted that she wouldn't give this plan to just anyone. It was a high burnout plan of all quality hard workouts. Mentally and physically it was pretty brutal. In her defense, I gave her only nine weeks to get me in shape. So I definitely deserved the punishment.

With Katie I got results, pretty much straight away. Two PR's in 5k's, and an Age Group first and second in two races leading up to the Qualifier. I got these results without any rest going into them. They were in effect, training races. Hmm, I think this coaching thing definitely has its merits. 

The Qualifier was a half iron man distance event in Myrtle Beach and was a huge success for me. The event itself, being in its first year, was an unmitigated disaster. Heavy rains in the days before the race cancelled the swim due to e coli levels being to high in the water. Basically a case of to much poop in the soup. The bike course was pretty straight forward, flat and windy, and apparently, despite the rule book, draft legal. Having three different length events on the course at the same time did not help.

During the run I felt like a rat in a maze trying to find the cheese. We looped, and doubled back on ourselves several times. And to steal a quote from my friend Chris Giordanelli, if Columbus was required to successfully navigate this course without a map to find the America's, we would all still be living in Europe right now.

Despite all this, I met my goal. I finished ninth in my age group I qualified as one of twenty people to represent Team USA in 2011. I had a PR Half Marathon and the 3rd fastest overall bike split. In short, the end of the season, with help from Katie, was a huge success. 

I want to give special mention to Norm and Norm's maggots from Jus' Running here in Asheville. This speed work at the UNCA track was a critical building block to my season's end. One of my proudest moments is when Norm referred to me as a maggot. That is some pretty good company to keep!

The off season was a huge success too. A 10 year anniversary trip to Mexico with Jenn, my wife and biggest supporter was a great kick off to the "not training so much season".

I was really proud of one race in the off season. It wasn't my race, but I paced Jenn to a 5k PR and she took nearly minute off of her best time.  She worked especially hard, running 6 days a week when everyone else had pretty much had it with training. I was and am still over the moon that I could be a part of that.

Otherwise, birthday parties, music festivals, reunions and just down time with friends rank as highlights that outshine most all of my athletic accomplishments. My liver is probably happy that season is over for now.

Results for 2010

All 35-39 Age Group
Halfmax Long Course Nationals- 9th 3rd overall bike split (2:12:30 for 56 miles)
Lake Lure Sprint Tri- 1st
Cane Creek Sprint Tri- 2nd
Enka Lake Sprint Tri-3rd
Camp Thunderbird Sprint Tri-6th
White Lake II Half Ironman-7th
Lake Logan International Tri-9th
Hot August nights 5k- 2nd 10th Overall PR
Charlotte Hog Jog 5k- 2nd PR
Kingsport Turkey Trot -2nd Paced Jenn to a PR!