Sunday, December 30, 2012

Year in Review!

Another year has passed in what felt like the blink of an eye, and what a year it was! And despite having zipped by so quickly, it was certainly a long road, filled with (the most) incredible ups and frustrating downs.

The year began as it usually does - with a training plan. Only this year, unlike most years, I began the year with an injury - and spent much of the season working around it. When I look back to January, February and March, I can hardly recall more than a haze of early sunsets, indoor interval sessions and rehab appointments. When April rolled around, I began to incorporate more outdoor riding - and some running.

With uncharacteristic spontaneity, I sighed up for the final Ironman St. George - arguably the most difficult of all Ironman races - three days before the event. +Kristine Marigomen+Alexander Curtis and I road-tripped to Utah and I slogged through one of the most challenging events on record. From that point on, the year seemed to speed by in fast-forward.


Before I knew it, it was July. Kristine, +Bo Boghosian+Morten Lundsby Jensen and I were in Zurich, and I was tackling my season target: Ironman Switzerland. A much-needed vacation followed, and then a business trip to Dublin. And when I returned to the states, well, it was wedding season!

As sublime as crossing an Ironman's finish-line might be, it's barely a blip on the radar compared to marrying Kristine before close friends and family in late August!


I thought things would slow down after the wedding, but work picked up significantly through the end of the year. My free time was spent riding for enjoyment's sake alone, or bike-shopping with Bo, who, as you'll remember from my previous post, had signed himself up for an Ironman. I was able to visit Alex and do some riding in Southern California before the three of us (Bo, Alex and I) tackled some of the roads around Lake Tahoe over a relaxing and wonderful Thanksgiving.

Kristine and I wrapped up the year with a much-needed holiday vacation with my awesome family in Ohio, where we spent the days lounging around in pajamas, baking cakes and cookies, and poking fun at one-another. It was as perfect a Christmas as I've ever had. I love my family, and I love my wife!

Next year should be a good one, with new challenges and big things to look forward to. But before we move on to bigger and better, I'm going to enjoy these last few hours before the ball drops. Farewell, 2012. You've been good to me!


Favorites of 2012

  • Album: Blunderbuss by Jack White. Unoriginal. Sadly, I did not really listen to a whole lot of music this year. For the first time in years, I find myself unfamiliar with a lot of the albums on the top of many journalists' top-ten lists. I guess I have some catching up to do! (Honorable mention: the self-titled debut by Django Django.)
  • Song: 
    1. Breaking the Yearlings by Shearwater.
    2. Semi-Charmed Call.
    3. 93 Million Miles by Jason Mraz (for sentimental reasons).
  • Movie: Life of Pi. Such a gorgeous film. (Honorable mention: Cloud Atlas.)
  • TV show: Kristine and I are a bit behind the times. We discovered Homeland this year and were hooked almost immediately. The first season was probably the best single season of any show ever. (Honorable mention: we were only just introduced to Walking Dead a week ago, and it's already become an obsession.)
  • Meal: Ristorante Bottegone in Lugano, Switzerland. (Honorable mention: just about every breakfast or lunch Kristine and I shared on various park benches in Europe.)
  • Moment: Exchanging vows with Kristine at our wedding, and then dancing ("Stayin' Alive!") with her at the reception. (Honorable mention: sunset atop Monte San Salvatore in Lugano.)
  • Ride(s):
    1. Alex, Bo, +Vitaly Gashpar and I ride in Tahoe on Thanksgiving Day.
    2. Vitaly, +Gerardo Ferrando and I pace each other through the Sequoia Century in June.
    3. +Aylwin Villanueva, his headlight and I climb Mt. Tam for sunrise on a Friday morning in November.
    4. +Oleksiy Mishchenko shows me some of the gorgeous Swiss roads around Zurich and Zugg in July.
    5. I get my ass kicked by the NCNCA master's time-trial champion across the flat, 103-mile Livestrong Challenge course. We finished in under 4 hours and 30 minutes.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Holiday Gift "Guidelines" for Cyclists/Triathletes


On the surface, that special cyclist or triathlete in your life might seem close to impossible to shop for. There are a variety of reasons for this.
  1. Cycling and triathlon tend to be all-consuming hobbies that are constantly front-of-mind. These athletes spend most of their free time thinking about training schedules, routes, weather patterns, aerodynamics, optimizing power, sore quads or pulled muscles. In short, cyclists and triathletes are pretty boring.
  2. All of that time spent mulling over the past workout ("What went well? What didn't?") or planning the next one leads to a lot of optimization. And most of these optimizations tend to result in fairly immediate needs. Example: "I felt really slow on that last ride. I think the rolling resistance of my tires is TOO HIGH. I need new tires!!!"
  3. The realization that something out there can be improved upon translates to a blitzkrieg of online research and decision-making. Cyclists will devour countless online reviews, weighing the pros and cons of the various product offerings out there before making a completely independent and incredibly thoughtful decision. Example: "Hmm, lots of people are raving about Conti 4000S tires, making them the obvious choice... but Michelin ProRace 4's come in purple!!!"
  4. Once the decision has been made, it's only a matter of hours before the actual purchase is completed. Thus, most cyclists and triathletes tend to have already bought themselves whatever it is that they think they really want/need -- making them incredibly difficult to buy gifts for.
But do not dispair! Just because cyclists might have (more than) what they already know they need doesn't mean there aren't a few things out there that they'd really appreciate! The trick isn't in getting your favorite athlete something new, or getting them something they don't already have. Trying to understand the athlete's research/buying/decision-making process just isn't worth your time.

The Principles

No, gift-giver, your task can be made easier by understanding three very simple things:
  1. Cycling/triathlon gear doesn't live forever.
  2. Once a cyclist/triathlete has invested in a piece of gear, they hate investing in it again.
  3. No cyclist ever wants to buy/wear/use anything that's at the bottom of a product line. 

An Example

Pete Pedaler went back-and-forth between a few different sets of bib shorts a few months ago. Set A was too small, set B was too big, but he eventually found Set C was just right. And so he bought himself a pair. After six months and 4,000 miles, those shorts are still going strong. But after eight months and another 2,000 they'll start to wear, and Pete will continue to ride in them, and ride in them, and ride in them, until they're two years old and completely threadbare.

See, Pete already has a pair of swanky, lazer-cut, double-seamed, super carbon-threaded ultra bib shorts. Sure, they're "a little worn," but damn, they were expensive! How could he justify buying another pair?!

That, gift-giver, is where you come in! Pete'll never buy those shorts (and they can - and probably should - be the exact same shorts) for himself a second time. But if you gift them to him, that'll just make his day.

The same holds true for just about any other bit of gear, though you'll have to do some research to understand the shelf-life of each item. All of the gear a triathlete burns through eventually needs to be replaced - and by helping stockpile replacement gear, you're helping the athlete do what he/she loves to do.

Gear and clothing

Shorts are probably the most personal (and potentially pricey) gift-able component, but there difference between an old pair of shorts and a new one can be pretty extreme! Gloves are nice, too - gloves are always getting lost, or crashed, or ratty. Nice running or cycling socks make great stocking stuffers. For triathletes, consider giving a fresh pair of goggles as a gift! (Just be sure to get the same make/model as the set they're currently using!)

Bike parts and maintenance

There's nothing wrong with a small cache of ten-speed bike chains (every 3-4 months), extra cassettes (every 8-12 months), or even tubes and tires (depends on terrain). These are all things a cyclist needs on a regular (and sometimes very immediate) basis. These gifts are a bit on the boring side, but can't hurt as supplementary items.

Another cool idea: a head to your local bike shop and pre-purchase a full-on bike tune-up as a gift for Mr./Ms. Cyclist.

Nutrition, etc.

Cyclists eat a lot of food. Clif bars, energy chews, small pouches of refined sugar, hydration products and protein shakes. And that stuff goes fast. Find out what your athlete's nutrition of choice is and set him/her up with an extra month's supply. It'll be much appreciated! Other, pseudo-related things include: chamois butter, sunscreen, etc.

Experiences

There are a variety of other, awesome gifts that can be given to your special athlete that are more "experience" than "material." The most obvious example of this: a massage or two! Alternatively, you could find out what races he or she is targeting next year and cover an entry fee or two. Or, if you're feeling inspired, you could make arrangements (dinner, hotel, etc.) for the night(s) before/after - to take some of the stress out of what will certainly be an intense weekend.

Things to Consider

It isn't often easy to meld sentimentality and practicality, and most of the suggestions described here lean very heavily toward the latter. Fortunately, most cyclists tend to be rather practical* people and buying them a practical gift carries it's own inherent sentimental weight: you're showing your athlete that you understand him/her, support their obsession and want them to be happy/comfortable while they're doing it.

You might not be able to tell the difference between a $40 pair of shorts and a $150 pair, but your athlete can. Never buy from the bottom of a product line. Always go for things that sound awesome**. Look for words like: carbon, lazer-cut, ergonomic, etc. As most of this gear tends to be rather pricey, feel free to collaborate on gifts with mutual friends; a cyclist would rather have one kick-ass item than five mediocre disposables!

Cyclists and triathletes tend to be very particular about the size and fit of their kit. Pay attention to size. Ask flattering questions like, "Do you feel like that jersey is to loose on you?" to determine if the athlete's happy with the size of their current gear and use that information to shop around.

Finally, don't get too attached to the gift you give, especially where gear (clothing, etc.) is concerned. If they decide to exchange your gift (for another size, brand, etc.), don't take it personally!

Final thought

This blog post might make cyclists and triathletes sound rather materialistic, but in all honesty, all they really want is to know they have the support of their friends and family. Whether that comes in the form of a nice piece of kit, or surprising them with donuts in the middle of a long training ride, or even just cheering them on before, during the process of training for or competing in a race -- that's all we really want.

As for all of the above: I'm a lucky man to be married to Kristine! She's all the Christmas present I'll ever need. The rest of you'll have to find your own! (I love you, sweetheart!)

Happy Holidays

I'd just like to take two quick seconds to wish all of you who might be reading this a happy holidays and a happy and healthy new year. The next few weeks are going to be a bit busy, so I might not have time to update again. Spend some time with your family - and a little bit of time on your bike! - and I'll get to work on 2013 planning!

* - Term used loosely. Bib shorts are a practical gift. Assos bib shorts are an extravagant gift that only a cyclist would call practical. (Side note: incredibly nice versions of what are typically considered practical gifts are almost always appreciated, even if they make the athlete a feel a bit spoiled/guilty wearing them.)

** - Be careful on CompetitiveCyclist.com. They make even the crappiest stuff sound like the world's greatest.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Extreme team!


As usual, my off-season updates have been few and far-between. Kristine and I have been happily adjusting to married life, doing some house-hunting and home improvement work, and settling back into a rhythm since the wedding. We've had some fantastic weather that I've been trying to take advantage of, which means I've been out on my bike quite a bit.

A while ago, I hinted at some exciting news regarding the upcoming triathlon season, and now I'm back for the big reveal. Next year is going to be a big year and I am really, really looking forward to it.

Schedule

I'm going to kick things off in early May with Wildflower Short Course, my first Olympic-distance triathlon since before I started actually "doing triathlons." Despite modest expectations, I'm really excited to see how I fare in a 51.5-mile event.

Then in July, I'll tackle Vineman 70.3 up in Sonoma County. I have very fond memories of the course (and even fonder ones of the finish line) and I'm really looking forward to making my return.

The season will be capped off with the inaugural Ironman Lake Tahoe in late September. The altitude (6,000+ feet) means this race could prove to be one of the most difficult Ironman events ever. Could it be harder than St. George was this past year? We'll have to wait and see.

Company

As you can see, I'm signed up for what will surely be three great races. Wildflower and Vineman are already iconic staples of the California triathlon scene, and I'm sure Ironman Lake Tahoe will join their ranks quickly. But I'll be honest: I'm less excited about what races I'm doing next year, and a whole lot more excited about who I'll be doing them with.

Two of my best friends are also embarking on the same Ironman quest! The three of us will be training and racing together throughout the year... and it's going to be awesome.


You may already know that Alex signed up for IMLT when registration opened up back in June. Bo registered in late August - partly on a dare - and thus, our little team was born. #ironw00t!

The three of us set out on our first few rides together over the Thanksgiving weekend, tackling some Tahoe-area climbs, pre-riding some of the Ironman race course and just generally enjoying each other's company. We spent time eating turkey, chatting about training schedules, planning trips and designing custom team gear. I'm feeling really inspired, and we have quite an adventure ahead of us.

I can't wait!


Friday, September 28, 2012

weddingw00t!

On Saturday, August 25, 2012, at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito, California, and surrounded by family, friends and loved ones, Kristine and I were married. It was the greatest day of my life.

Imagine all of your favorite people in the entire world gathered together in one room. Every person you see, meet, or talk to is someone you love. Imagine the woman of your dreams standing by your side, joining you in a lifelong adventure. Sprinkle in a touch of rustic ambiance, uncork several bottles of fantastic wine, and top the evening off with hours of dancing.

Multiply that awesomeness by ten and you might understand just how much fun and love and laughter I experienced that night!





Lugano, Como and Lucerne

After completing Ironman Zurich Switzerland, Kristine and I made a bee-line for warmer climes. Though Zurich had treated us well, race day's cold rain really left a mark in our minds. All we wanted after that long, hard day was some sunshine and a solid plate of spaghetti carbonara. We scoured weather reports for the various regions of the Swiss countryside and opted for the most promising option: Lugano, at the heart of Ticino, along Switzerland's southern border.

Lugano was idyllic. The city managed to combine the best of the Swiss with the best of the Italians. The city itself was beautiful, clean, and well-run. The food was fantastic. The landscapes were breathtaking.

By the time we left Lugano, both Kristine and I were trying to puzzle out a way to actually just up and move there. I don't think I've ever enjoyed a town quite so much. I'll never forget the first meal we had there - an absolutely brilliant Italian dinner at a tiny restaurant with a market-fresh menu of only four items - or the sunset views from the top of Monte San Salvatore.








After several incredibly relaxing days in Lugano, we decided to visit Lake Como. After a white-knuckle journey by bus along Lake Lugano, we arrived in Menaggio and then hopped aboard a ferry to Bellagio. We had arrived in the true Italian paradise.

Lake Como is a much more tourist-centric locale, filled with this hustle and bustle of many visitors seeing sights, and for that reason, we liked it slightly less than Lugano. Our time in Lake Como was no less enjoyable, however. We spent our days wandering around the town, watching ducks and ducklings, exploring gardens, learning to make pasta, and eating fantastic Italian food.







Unfortunately, no vacation can truly last forever. After an absolutely amazing week together, it came time to make our way back to Zurich and ultimately back to the real world.

We did manage to delay the inevitable by one night, however, and decided to spend it in Lucerne. We were again treated to perfect weather, and were surprised to discover a vibrant and entertaining music festival just a few blocks from our hotel!






Switzerland is a gorgeous place, and I will forever look back on this vacation as one of the most amazing trips I've ever taken. And best of all, I got to share it with the love of my life. Now... how soon can we go back?!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Updates! Lots of them!


Eight weeks ago, Kristine, Bo, Morten and I were mere hours from our early morning Ironman wake-up call in Zurich, Switzerland. And when I think back to just how much has happened time since race day, I can hardly believe it's only been two months.

Well, things might start to settle down just a little bit now that much of the craziness has ended, which means I may actually have some time to start posting on this blog again! As it stands, here are the events that I'd like to provide updates on:
  • Alex's first triathlon. (He was supposed to write this report, but is a slacker.)
  • My post-Ironman trip to Lugano and Lake Como with Kristine.
  • Our wedding at the end of August!
  • Plans for the off-season.
  • Exciting (and surprising) new developments regarding Ironman Lake Tahoe!
Look for posts on these topics (and more) in the coming weeks.

Finally, I'd like to take a few minutes to congratulate Brent Ledvina on the completion of his first ever HIM-distance (70.3-mile) triathlon. Brent picked up the sport early in the year and has come so far in just a few short months. His excitement and determination are both infectious. I can't wait to train and race with you more in 2013, Brent!

I'd also like to congratulate Mike Vulanich for a killer performance at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Las Vegas this past weekend. Mike is a natural talent - a good swimmer, a powerful cyclist and a blazing-fast runner. He put it all on the line last weekend and placed 15th in his age group (123rd overall). Unbelievable and ridiculously awesome job, Mike!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Olympic Fever!

Like millions of others across the world, I've been mostly glued to my television these past few nights. The Olympic games are well underway in London, and they haven't disappointed.


The men's and women's road races were both lots of fun to watch. In the men's race, Great Britain screwed the pooch. They put all of their eggs in one very obvious basket and were not able to control the race enough to execute. (Maybe they should've let someone like Froome sneak into the break?) But Vinokourov winning the gold to cap off an exciting and tumultuous career was certainly exhilarating. The women's race was a much tighter battle - the sprint at the end (which Marianne Vos held on to win) was tight and hotly contested. So cool.


My favorite Olympic sport is fairly obvious. As a long-time swimmer, I definitely enjoy the sport's week in the limelight. To come home after a long day of work, turn on the TV and see swimming dominating the prime-time slot is such a bizarre and pleasant experience.

Watching these athletes race has definitely been inspiring, more so for this year than in 2008. Triathlon got me back into the pool in 2010 (or was it the other way around?), which means I'm a little bit closer to the sport than I was when Phelps was dominating Beijing.


I love watching these people swim. They are so powerful. Their strokes are so perfect! Watch the underwater shots from the women's 200-free final tonight and you'll see what I mean. The way their hands enter the water and catch! (it's like I can hear the water snapping to attention with every stroke) is just mesmerizing. Such command. So much talent.

Watching the swimmers' underwater kicks and turns has been great, too. Phelps' underwater kicks off of the turn during the 4x100 relay... that was just jaw-dropping. It's just amazing how much water these folks can move.

Anyway, I'll stop gushing. I've been inspired. I can't wait to get back to San Francisco and start hitting the pool again. Thanks to these Olympics, I'm excited to maybe do a bit more swimming this off-season than I'd originally planned! For now, though, I've got a few more days of prime-time to enjoy. w00t!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Alexw00t!

This blog - nay, this entire triathlon obsession - began two and a half years ago. And back then, I wasn't getting into this mess on my own. In fact, long-term readers might remember the email exchange that sparked it all. Even sharper-eyed readers might have spotted the one post on this blog that wasn't written by yours truly. The recipient of that first email and the author of that one-off post was none other than my college roommate, best friend and Best Man, Alexander Curtis.

Who the hell is this guy?!

Though we originally set out to tackle the triathlon challenge (and Ironman Western Australia) together, loads of setbacks and responsibilities cropped up and got in the way of things. Despite being conceived as a two-man show, I've been manning the ironw00t ship on my own for over two years.

That's all about to change: Alex is set to tackle his first race, the Goleta Beach Triathlon, this Sunday, July 29! This Olympic-distance race takes place just north of sunny Santa Barbara and includes a 1500-meter swim, a 40-kilometer time trial and a 10-kilometer run. I can't think of a better introduction to the multisport world. I only wish I was out there to take the start with him.

Join me in wishing Alex luck tomorrow, and welcoming him back to the ironw00t team!
Kill it out there, dude! Relax, race within yourself and let the miles melt away away. Don't over-think things. Take mental notes, learn as much as you can, and above all, have a blast! I can't wait to hear all about it!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

IRONMAN Switzerland 2012 (Race Report)


Kristine and I arrived in Zurich three weeks ago, after a roller-coaster season plagued by injuries. We were there ahead of my season target: Ironman Zurich Switzerland. And we brought friends, too! Morten and Bo came across the pond with us to cheer and provide extra support.

For an shorter, more visual and easier-to-digest race recap, just take a few minutes to flip through my online Ironman Switzerland photo album.

The week before the race was a jet-lagged, couch-surfing scramble. We had too many balls in the air: we needed rest, but we also wanted to get out and explore the city of Zurich! The week before a vacation is always a busy one, so we also needed to get work done. And to top that all off, Kristine and Bo came down with nasty colds - one that came so close to knocking me off my feet as well.

I checked in for the race on Friday after a swim in Lake Zurich and then began closely monitoring the weather forecast for race day. The outlook wasn't great for either weekend day - meteorologists were anticipating heavy rain on Saturday and more scattered showers on Sunday. Much to our surprise, we woke up Saturday to gorgeous, clear skies and bright, shining sun. The weathermen are so wrong, we thought, Sunday'll probably be just as nice as today! 


Though the ground was wet, the traces of blue that we could spot through the smattering of clouds on race morning seemed to confirm our theory. The outlook was good. Time to rock-and-roll.

The swim start was a sight to behold as hundreds of yellow-capped, wetsuit-clad athletes clambered over each other and into Lake Zurich. I was fortunate enough to be at the front when the starting gun went off and managed to connect with a fast-moving pack of talented swimmers. A few of us kept the pace high by taking turns at the front; before long, we had whittled the group down to a very select bunch.


I was well-positioned at the end of both laps to lead the dwindling pack past the roaring crowds and cheering supporters. It was exhilarating. And toward the end of the second lap, I poured a few extra ounces of effort into my stroke, separating myself from the one or two pack-mates that remained to come out of the water first nearly 1,800 yellow-capped age-groupers.

My first transition was rocky, but I was on my bike and pedaling before I knew it.


Unfortunately, I felt flat on the bike from the very start. At first, I thought it was just temporary exhaustion from my effort during the swim. It took me too long to realize that I was actually being affected by two things: not enough rest during the week leading up to the race, and not enough food before and during.

Only one of those two problems can really be addressed mid-race, so I ate what food I had brought with me and began collecting gel packets from the aid stations along the course. Unfortunately, only one aid station was handing out solid, energy-rich food - and passing that aid station once on each lap turned out to be far too infrequent for me.


The low-light of the bike was a storm that struck just before a major descent at the end of the first lap. Those of us out there were pelted by cold rain and tiny hailstones. I was soaked to the bone and shivering within minutes - just in time for the newly-slicked roads to turn down-hill. My heart was in my throat as I struggled to keep my speed at a manageable level. By the time I reached the bottom, the cold, wet descent had allowed a deep chill to settle in. It took me miles and miles to warm back up.

The bike course did include some very memorable highlights:
  • The middle section of each lap brought us through a series of small Swiss hill towns. The road through each town was lined with cheering locals and in each one, a small horn band had assembled, dressed in old-fashioned Swiss garb and tooting out traditional-sounding tunes.
  • The ringing of cowbells is a common thing at races like this. On one lonely, green, rolling hill in the Swiss countryside, I heard that familiar ringing... but saw no spectators along the road. I looked around and spotted the source: a large cow (carrying a massive cowbell) was leaning against a tree and trying to scratch it's neck. I was being cheered on by a real, live cowbell ring!
  • Finally, the capstone of each lap of the bike is Heartbreak Hill. It's a short, steep climb that's so thickly lined with cheering supporters that it feels more like a Tour de France stage than a triathlon. Riding through those throngs of people was encouraging and inspiring and just plain awesome!

I found some solid food at an aid station toward the end of the ride, so I actually felt okay at the start of the run. I was tired, sure, but I wasn't bonking... yet. The good sensations continued for the first lap and into the second before I began to ride the bonk-coaster in earnest.

I was flat from the beginning of the bike course, sure, but I really blame the downward spiral on that hailstorm and the cold descent. My body was already depleted, and trying to warm back up after a chill like that only burned more matches.

At this point, I began to ping-pong between feeling dizzy or lightheaded and dealing with an upset stomach. I had to keep eating to stave off a full-on bonk, but every time I ate, it upset my stomach further. It was a vicious cycle that forced me to alternate between running, walking, and pit-stopping at various restrooms along the course.


These bouts of discomfort between segments of running were definite low-points on a miserable run course that also featured scattered showers and shoe-soaking thunderstorms.

On the flip side, my leg injury was not a significant source of discomfort during this run! I could feel it during and definitely after, but managed to push through that nagging pain.


Highlights on the run course were provided by my incredible support crew. Bo, Morten and Kristine braved the winds and rain to cheer for me throughout the day. Because the run course was flat and compact, they were easily able to cheer me on as I passed them going on way and then move one block over to cheer me on again going the other. I don't think I would've been able to make it through had those three not been out there willing me on.

The entire day seemed to come to a climax at the turn-around point of the final lap. A portable restroom stop at the furthest point seemed to finally settle my stomach. As I started running again, thunder pealed and rain began to fall. I knew two things: I didn't want to be caught out in another bone-chilling storm, and I didn't want my friends to be caught out in one either. So at that point, I set my jaw and started running.

I had 5K to go. Rain started to fall faster and faster. By the time I was turning in toward the final kilometer, it was coming down hard. I skipped every aid station at the end of that last lap. I just wanted to be done.


Thankfully, I finally reached the finisher's chute. It was lined with soggy supporters, cheering spectators and more. I dimly remember running through a tunnel made out of some cheerleaders' pompoms. To be honest, that last 100 meters is a blur except for the familiar faces of my friends as they cheered me across the line. I finished Ironman Switzerland in 10 hours and 52 minutes.



In the world of long-distance triathlon, certain physiological stars need to align to propel you to a personal-best performance. My stars did not align that day, and the rough patches far outnumbered the smooth ones. I am pleased with my finish, but I also know that I can learn a lot from those rough patches. I know that I can do so much better.

Mulling over my experiences this season and during Ironman Switzerland has yielded many learnings and take-aways. There are a lot of changes I can, should, and will make to my race preparation, pre-race rituals and mid-race nutrition. There are improvements that I can make to my training, too. It's time to shake things up. I think next year's routine will look radically different.

I'll get into the changes I want to make in another post. I've completed four Ironman-distance triathlons in eighteen months. It's time for a break! I have more than a year before Ironman Lake Tahoe in 2013. That means I have plenty of time ahead of me to relax, get healthy... and most importantly of all, marry the girl of my dreams!


I love Kristine. She has been the common thread that runs through all of my events and races, my faithful supporter from Western Australia to Vineman to St. George, Zurich and beyond. And much to my excitement, that beyond begins with our wedding in less than a month's time!

So thanks for reading, friends and followers. It's been a rocky season with highs and lows, but now that season is over. I look forward to seeing you all on the road again soon!







Addendum: This is actually my fourth attempt at writing a race report for Ironman Switzerland. Some were too wordy, some were disjointed. I wrote one the other day that I was juuuust about to post... but decided not to because it just sounds too darn complain-y. But I want to keep track of what I wrote there, so I'm going to link to it from here.

If you want to read more about my experience during this race, and really get into the nitty-gritty details, check it out. But be warned: I do a whole lot of whining! 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Photos are online!

I'm still in the process of putting my actual race report together (It's taking forever because I have to squeeze it in between swims in Lake Como and enormous pasta dinners), but I do have some good news for those of you who followed along. I finally managed to sort, compile and whittle-down the photos of the event and post them online:

Link: https://plus.google.com/photos/117317745741594246772/albums/5767714075431563553

FinisherPix, the official photographers of the event, also managed to take a few good ones. I'm honestly surprised that it looks like I'm running in most of the photos... because I was definitely dying out there. Take a look at them by searching for bib #1581 via the link below:

Link: http://www.finisherpix.com/recent_events.html?&pcevent=0202

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Quick Update!

"Andrew Valko, du bist ein Ironman!"
Whoops, I forgot to update this blog after Ironman Switzerland! I suppose it goes without saying, but the race itself was exhausting for all involved. The weather definitely did not cooperate for us on race day: competitors and spectators were plagued by cold, scattered showers, thunder, lightening, wind and hail. It was, all-in-all, a crazy day.

My own race started out very well: I was the first age-grouper out of the water! Unfortunately, things went steadily downhill from there. I knew something was a bit off as soon as I got out onto the bike course. I lost the nutrition game during this race and could feel it almost all day. The run was especially difficult - my legs felt okay, but I kept falling into periods where my head was spinning and my hands were tingling. Bonking at the beginning of a marathon? Not that much fun!

In the end, however, I finished the race, and I managed to do so in under 11 hours. All things considered, I think that's a solid performance. (I was half-expecting to have to walk the entire marathon!) I learned a lot from this race, and I'm thinking some major changes are needed for next year's season. But that's another blog post, isn't it?

Kristine and I are enjoying some much needed time off now. I'll be sure to throw together a race report some day soon.

Thanks for following along!