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Thursday, September 26, 2013
|Tiny frog Claire found while we explored.|
Big news, Claire and I are engaged! Since I haven't had any race news since Chicago I thought it'd be fun to put up a few pictures of our trip out to Colorado. We left last week and stopped for a night in Badlands National Park. Kevin has recently fallen in love with Custer State Park and tried to convince us to stop there, but we just used the stop to break up the 14 hour drive. We had a little time to climb around some of the formations. From the Badlands into Colorado we had to cross the South Platte River which has been flooding because of the heavy rains in the front range. After a quick stop in Denver we drove up to Leadville. We had planned on staying at my brother Eli's house for 3 nights, but he and his roommates have not prioritized cleanliness... the house was semi-uninhabitable and after making it through one night we decided to book a room in the Leadville hostel for the next two nights.
|Close-up Claire took of some wild raspberries.|
We had time in Leadville to spend a day relaxing and one day went on a dayhike most of the way up La Plata peak, one of Colorado's 14er's. It was gorgeous weather for the hike and a pretty exhausting trail. We made it up to about 13,500 and decided to call it a day.
|First night's campsite.|
During the night a storm rolled in and dumped rain on us all night long. We stayed dry in the tent which was great, considering how hard it was raining. It was still raining when we woke up in the morning and we snoozed in the tent for an hour or so hoping it would let up. It didn't. I decided to get up and see how the skies looked. Amazingly, two other backpackers were hiking by at that moment. I waved and jogged over.
Me: “How's it going?”
Random Hiker: “Pretty good, a bit wet, haha.”
Me: “Haha, yeah. Where you guys headed?”
RH: “Home!” (tone implying that this should have been very obvious)
Me: “Did you come over the pass?”
RH: “No, we were planning on hiking over this morning.”
Me: “Yeah... so do you think this weather is going to blow over?”
RH: (stares at me like I'm a complete idiot) “I think this is here to stay buddy.”
Me: (abashed) “Yeah... that's what I was thinking.”
|Dramatic re-creation of the proposal.|
Claire and I hashed it out for a few minutes and decided to call it a vacation. It was time to head home and have a couple days of staycation to recover. I had been planning to wait and pop the question on Claire as we reached a stunning lake set beneath a mountain or topped a pass with an all-encompassing beautiful view, but that wasn't going to happen. But I wasn't going to let the weather stop me, so I interrupted Claire and told her I had a surprise. I pulled out the ring I had smuggled into my pack and got down on one knee. I had mentally prepared a romantic speech about how I love Claire's confidence and integrity and everything about her, not just the sunshine and rainbows. But what I actually said was very short and confused... I don't really remember it all. Relevant Video
Despite all that, Claire said yes. We packed up camp and hiked back down to the car. We don't have any plans for a location or date yet, but it's going to be a blast of a wedding!
|We're so happy!|
|It's a shame we have to leave.|
Monday, August 19, 2013
Two weeks ago I raced the Chisago Half Iron for the third year in a row. It's a fun race about an hour outside of Minneapolis with a great course. Heading into the race I was hoping to improve on my time from last year and get a little closer to a sub 4 hour half, but the race had other plans for me. I swam well enough, and came out of the water in 2nd to Mr Thompson, took a little extra time to put on socks and hit the bike course. It was cool enough that I was thankful whenever the sun came out for a little warmth and somehow the laws of physics allowed a headwind for 50 miles! of the 56 mile bike course. My legs felt great through 30 miles on the bike, but then my lower back and glutes started to tighten up. My bike position isn't overly aggressive, but I hardly ever ride in the aero position for longer than 45 minutes and my body didn't agree with me on 2 hours 15 minutes. By the time I hit mile 50 all I could think about was getting off that damn bike. Of course as soon as I started running all I could think about was not running anymore. All in all it was a fair showing good enough for 2nd and $750. Results Here
|My hotel stay courtesy of Nordica and TK. Those are not real|
elephants guarding the entrance.
Last week I made the 3.5 hour drive to the Wisconsin Dells for my first Rev3 race. The Wisconsin Dells is America's indoor water park capital or something like that and is the biggest tourist trap in the country outside of Branson, MO. The people watching was spectacular. My friends Nordica and TK were staying at the Kalahari Resort and very very graciously let me crash in their room Saturday night. TK bravely tackled the half while I was thanking the heavens every step of the way that the pro race was Olympic distance.
Race morning was, no surprise, cold and raining. At first it was just chilly. But then as the half athletes started and I was setting up my bike it started to sprinkle. By the time I got out of the water and onto the bike it was really raining. Karma has decided to punish me for enjoying an entire winter of good weather with the worst season of weather possible. To date, every race I've done in the Midwest this year has been cold, windy and wet except for one. Results Here
At the end of the race I was 12th. Another fair showing, but certainly nothing to write home about. The theme of the year so far has been solid racing that puts me just outside the money. In all honesty it has been a bit disappointing. Although I'm racing consistently and at the start of the season I knew that with all of the time I would need to spend working this summer it was going to be much more of a foundation building year compared to the big gains I've made the last two years. But knowing that it's just going to take time and patience doesn't make missing the main pack in every race any less frustrating.
At times like this it's hard not to ask myself if I can actually make this work in the next few years, because for most people it doesn't. And at times it feels like there's just no way that I can go much faster. If I'm already working so hard, but still need to improve so much more how is that going to happen? Whenever I feel like this I'm glad that I have so many years of running to look back on for perspective. I remember in high school when it took a perfect race and everything I could muster to run 1:56 in the 800. It just about killed me. Then a few years later at the Drake Relays in the 4xMile I ran the first 800 in 1:56 trying to hang on to a guy's heels. Back in high school if you had asked me whether I could run an 800 in that time and then another after that for a 4:06 mile I would have said, impossible.
So when I'm struggling to drop time and it seems just impossible that I could ever swim faster, I remember that people are always doing things that are impossible.
Of course, that doesn't mean I'll actually be successful! Which is where the self doubt comes from. But it's all not nearly as troubling as I make it out to be. I very well may not make it, and I'm ok with that because there isn't anything else I'd rather be doing right now. Most people see an 'endeavor' like training to be a professional athlete as something that carries a huge opportunity cost. I was reminded recently of this idea by a great interview with David Epstein called “How Athletes Get Great” on Outside magazine's site. (Great article by the way) Epstein's book partakes in the nature vs. nurture debate concerning success, specifically in athletics. He talks about opportunity cost and the role it plays in producing world class runners in Kenya. Over in Kenya there is not a high cost to running, because there is a severely limited number of opportunities. If you don't succeed, you haven't missed out on any other opportunities. For athletes in developed countries there are many options, especially endurance athletes because we are so uncannily intelligent compared to other athletes. (Only kind of kidding, of the 20 odd people on my high school cross country team, 4 of them were national merit finalists meaning in the top 1-2ish percent of the entire country. In college, close to 1/2 of the cross team majored in engineering or pre-med. David Thompson has a graduate degree in nuclear engineering from MIT. TJ Tollakson is an engineer that creates and produces carbon aero products. Jordan Rapp is a technology guru that everyone listens to, etc. etc.)
Most people would look at my current situation and say that my opportunity cost to training as a triathlete is about $75k. If I weren't training, I could have dedicated myself to working hard at Target, gotten promotions, schmoozing with big wigs and be earning a salary of $90k. Instead, last year I made $12k.
And most people would see that as the only opportunity cost that matters, lost wages, because they think money is all that matters. But I was raised by a couple of hippies and know that there is an even higher opportunity cost attached to working a corporate job: it crushes your soul. My personal sanity attached to not sitting in a cubicle staring at a computer screen 8 hours a day playing office politics and enduring pointless meanings is more important than monetary loss unless I become homeless and starving for food in the near future.
That doesn't mean I'll still be training full time if I don't start earning some money racing soon. I've given some thought to what I would do if I wasn't racing and think I'd like to try something in the outdoors field, like a guide or park ranger. But I'm fully committed to the racing scene through the 2015 season. I'm at the head of the 'B' pro pack right now. If I can't make it up to 'A' pack after two more full years of training and racing, then I'll start thinking about what to do with an English degree.
Monday, July 15, 2013
This weekend was chock full of action. I know that some people aren't big into reading anything longer than bullet points. (I learned that while working corporate) So there is an executive summary for anyone who doesn't want to get into the details. Yes, a video recap would be more engaging, but the technology isn't quite there yet. Someday.
The Executive Summary:
There was a monsoon Saturday morning, parts of the bike route flooded.
Sara McLarty and I rode into each other but neither of us crashed.
I smashed up my left foot and balanced out my foot injuries for the season.
My dad was in town for the day and we had lunch after the race.
Claire and I drove to Milwaukee Saturday afternoon.
We got up at 4:20am Sunday for the Pewaukee Tri.
It was a very toasty race on a challenging course.
I finished 2nd to a 40 year old from Christchurch New Zealand who crushed the bike and is very funny.
Saturday, the Minneapolis Triathlon aka Don't Forget Your Galoshes
I woke up early on Saturday for the Minneapolis Tri and it was raining cats and dogs. Really really raining. I
|Saturday's monsoon was likely because I thoroughly cleaned my bike|
Friday night in the laundry/bike room.
Transition was closed when I got to the race site because of lightning and everyone was huddling under tents to try and stay out of the rain. Thankfully Gear West had a large tent for wrenching so I chatted with Kevin and waited for any news. First the race was delayed until 7:30. Then we found out the olympic bike course was impassable. All of the pros met to figure out what we wanted to do. We had some back and forth between the swimmers and runners and settled on doing just the sprint course, throwing out the equalizer because of the disproportional bike length and not altering the prize money. Then the race was delayed until 9.
Almost 5 hours after waking up I lined up with the rest of the pro men to get the race under way. I lined up to the left, hoping to get on the swim pack and use them as a break from the waves rolling across the lake, but after a few snafus found myself about 15 meters back for the entire first lap of the swim and then farther back after the 2nd lap.
On the bike I had my closest call ever with Sara McLarty. I was riding behind her, because of my stellar swim, through a fairly technical part of the course and moved to pass on the right (which is legal in a pro race). I didn't announce my upcoming pass loudly enough and just as I was moving past Sara she banked right through a sweeping turn. We made contact and suddenly we were physically leaning into each other, both of us on the aero bars, through the turn. Sara justly screamed, “Dan what the fuck!” and I lamely yelled “Sara on your right!” Visions of our base bars tangling and me ending Sara's career with a horrific crash flashed through my head and then amazingly we separated and neither of us went down. Close call.
|Balance has been restored to the universe.|
I got off the bike and needed to make a hard, hard right into transition to get to my rack but only completed a hard right and smashed up my left foot. I have now achieved foot injury balance and would be more than happy if I could manage not to run into anything while barefoot for the rest of the year.
On the run I knew I wasn't going to catch either of the guys in front of me without really burying myself and had to do a quick cost benefit analysis. With Pewuakee Tri offering $1000 for first the next day and 10th place paying out $100 at Minneapolis I decided not to completely empty the tank in hopes of making some good money the next day. I'll admit I'm not proud of not “giving it my all” on Saturday, but stepping outside of the abstract into the concrete world of 'how am I going to pay for food this month' sometimes I have to compromise.
My dad was in town for the weekend and we had lunch at the Townhouse Tap after the race with Claire. He was supposed to get into Minneapolis Friday evening, but weather delays down in the Carolinas pushed his arrival to midnight. After a quick lunch Claire and I jammed everything into the Mini and hit the road for the 5 hour drive to Milwaukee.
Sunday, the Pewaukee Tri aka Bring on the Heat!
My alarm went off at 4:20 am Sunday morning, even earlier than Saturday's 4:45 wake up call. Pewaukee is a charming little town about 40 minutes outside of Milwaukee with transition set up on Main Street. It feels a lot like the Heart of the Lakes race at Annandale. The olympic was scheduled to start after the sprint racers had started. During the last wave of sprint racers there was a medical emergency with one of the racers and we all tried to patiently wait 20 minutes or so for the rescue boats to get back into place.
|Absolutely gorgeous day in Wisconsin.|
The theme of the day was surprising heat and humidity. The day was clear and standing on the beach in a full sleeve black wetsuit left me a little light headed after 10 minutes. As soon as we hit the water I could feel Saturday's race in my arms, but wetsuits are an amazing thing to give you that little extra boost. Three guys went off the front and ONCE AGAIN I was just off their feet. I swam solo about 15 meters behind them for the first half and only gave up 40 seconds total to the first guy out of the water. It was a good thing I was able to stay within contact for sighting, the sun was shining directly into our faces on the return trip and was blinding. The only thing I could see was the standup paddle boarder that was leading the course, so I just followed him.
I've been using the rowing machine at the pool for 10 or 15 minutes every day before I swim for the past few weeks. I simply don't have the upper body power to get out fast enough right now to stay with the main swim pack. I'm always just out of reach after 200 meters and vainly struggle to stay within contact through about 800 meters before slowly falling farther and farther back. It's frustrating because I know that if I can be in that pack at 400 meters I'd have the ability to ride their draft into transition and I'm so close to doing it. Building top end speed is never easy, and I think swimming is one of the hardest sports to try and do it in. Sprinting in swimming is like trying to execute a perfect golf swing, but you have to execute that perfect swing over and over while standing on a wobble board after running a quarter mile as hard as you can while breathing through a straw. A lot of sprinting is muscle memory, which is why sprinters do drills over and over. In the moment of actual execution you aren't thinking about technique, because your brain is screaming at you to stop trying to kill yourself. Building muscle memory takes time, which is frustrating. And in swimming all of the rules of force and balance that I have ingrained from 12+ years of running are backwards, the plane of motion is horizontal with an emphasis on rotation and the surface you apply force to is only semi solid.
I don't mean to complain though. Since starting swimming I have gained an immense amount of respect for the people who are able to swim very well. It's an unnatural thing that requires years of focused practice, which is why good swimmers are all very tall and oddly proportioned people who appear to be drunk whenever they're trying to exercise on solid ground. Every time I make a breakthrough in the pool it gives me an immense feeling of accomplishment, I love it. It's so challenging that in some ways I've come to love swimming more than running. I know I'll make that pack, I'm so very close to doing it.
Meanwhile back at Pewaukee the bike course was a challenging and technical double loop of the sprint course. Claire had told me beforehand that the bike was rolling hills with a few turns, which was an outright lie. Lots of hills, with some screaming 40mph descents that were exciting and some very tight turns that I was able to use to make up time on the couple of people in front of me. My bottle shot off the front of my bike like a rocket going over some railroad tracks on the first loop, which has never happened to me. I was bummed because of the heat and missing out on fluids. I slowed at every aid station on the run to drink water, which I haven't felt the need to do in a race before.
|This is not Bryan Rhodes, this is my dad. However|
Bryan is only 5 years younger than my dad.
At the end of the day I was 2nd to Bryan Rhodes, a 40 year old! Plus he's an iron distance guy! I've always said old man strength is a powerful thing and he proved it by crushing me on the bike by 4 full minutes. We chatted after the race for a while which was fun because he's actually a hilarious guy. Like a lot of foreigners(he's from Christchurch New Zealand), Bryan spices up his conversations by liberally dropping the F bomb with a casualness that I envy. At first my midwestern sensibility was shocked and a little uncomfortable with his callousness, but then I remembered that I hate being politically correct and trying never to offend anyone with language and we had a couple great laughs.
Incidentally, Bryan seems to also appreciate the value of great facial hair, which you can see in the pictures on his website: http://www.rhodsey.com/index.htm and ESPECIALLY this one: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151142319263319&set=t.692096367&type=3&theater
Afterwards Claire and I packed up and drove the 5 hours back home. Killer Weekend.
Now I have two weeks of training before my annual dose of self destruction at the Chisago Half. This is a good chance for me to try and figure out how to better fuel for the 4 hour sufferfest without bonking in spectacular fashion as I am wont to do. Further upping the challenge, my coach, who is me-self, reminded me that I haven't ridden my bike farther than 30 miles this year and that a half iron bike is 56 miles. So I will do what most 'coaches' who actually don't know anything other than how to copy training plans out of a book would tell you not to do and squeeze in a ride of 75 miles this Wednesday and 55 miles this upcoming Sunday.
Wish me luck and train safe out there.
Friday, July 5, 2013
|Race Morning Setup|
If you looked at the results from the 5150 St. Louis Tri last weekend you might have said to yourself something like this, “slow run times, slow bike times and that Dan Hedgecock swam terribly slow...” And you would be right about the run and bike times. The course was incredibly hard. A very technical close to the bike followed by the hardest 10k course I've ever run left me crying uncle by the finish line. As for the swim and that Dan Hedgecock, not so! I did come out of the water dead last. But the problem was just that there weren't any other professional duathletes racing at this tri.
Where I needed to come out of the water to be in the race was about 19:40 and I swam 21:04, 1:25 behind. A minute and a half to a minute has been the gap for me this year and it's still a big chunk of time to make up. But last year I was looking at a 2 to 2 and a half minute gap to where I needed to be. I'd love to be right on the toes of the swim pack coming out of the water, but you can't wish yourself to be fast.
At my first race my sophomore year in high school I ran 4:27 in the mile. Two and a half years later I had only improved my mile to 4:20. At that time I knew I could run faster, but I just hadn't been able to make it happen in a race. Then, 6 months later I ran a 4:09 mile. Getting stuck in a plateau is never fun, but it's a part of racing. There's just no way to avoid plateaus. There's always articles in the sport magazines about “breaking through plateaus” and inspirational things like that. But it's a bunch of rubbish.
Right now I know that I can swim faster, and it will happen much sooner than two and a half years. But until that happens I just have to buckle down, put my nose to the grindstone and keep putting in quality work.
Next weekend is Lifetime Minneapolis Tri where there will be plenty of fast swimmers and hopefully a few duathletes as well.
Thursday, June 27, 2013
|David popping victory champagne at Trinona courtesy of Yndecam.|
If you've been racing in Minnesota this spring you probably have a little more hair on your chest now because the weather has been TOUGH. Lots of rain, clouds, cold and wind. Last weekend Claire and I drove down to La Crosse, WI and stayed with Claire's sister Sarah before racing at Trinona. We had a fun road trip even though we were both shivering cold by the time awards was over. Dave Schutz puts on the race and really delivers on the experience. Winona is his hometown so he's personally invested in the race and it shows. There are even podium girls to give out the awards. I was second to Thompson, which I was happy with and managed to barely win the King of the Mountain bluff climb again.
Yesterday at the Rochesterfest Tri put on by Final Stretch the race was delayed 30 minutes due to a threatening line of thunderstorms that slowly crept across Minnesota all morning. We were fortunate and had no lightning so the swim wasn't canceled. It's a two loop swim with a short beach run in between, which I think is a blast. All of the spectators line up and cheer. I swam behind Thad and came out of the water a minute and a half back.
After the swim the fun was over. Even though there was no lightning the wind was very strong and somewhat gusty, getting up to the 20-30mph range. The bike course is an out and bike on country roads that run in a grid and the wind happened to be blowing at either a direct head/tailwind or a 90 degree crosswind. So the ride out alternated between white knuckle riding leaning into the crosswind praying that I didn't get knocked over by a big gust and cruising at 35mph not even pedaling because of the strong tailwind. After the turnaround the crosswind was the same back into town but the portions of the bike riding into the wind was a slow grind straight into the headwind. I was riding my Gear West 808 Zipp front and Zipp disc. It was the most nerve-wrecking riding that I've ever done. The entire time I was counting down the miles until I was off the bike and safely on two feet for the run.
Kevin actually got off the bike a couple seconds ahead of me and when I caught up to him I asked if he wanted to run together. We had a very big gap back to second place and I haven't run a race with a teammate since college. He was all for it so we pushed through the 10k and tied for first at the finish. I thought about asking him if he wanted to hold hands crossing the line, but Kevin is too classy for that.
All in all it was a fun race. It was certainly a memorable race. I complain a lot about the weather up here in Minnesota, but that's mostly because I'm only tough in the heat and crumble in the cold. And even though I whine about it being cold, you just can't beat the races up here. In just 5 weeks I've raced at two duathlons and two triathlons that were really great races. And if I had wanted to I could have raced the Liberty Half the weekend I took off and made it a consecutive five. I've been racing for a long time and still, after getting the car packed up and driving home after each one I've said to myself, 'that was really fun'. There's not many other states where you can do that.
|Trying to get my running legs back at|
Trinona. Another great shot by Yndecam.
I'll be driving down to St. Louis on Friday to race at the 5150 Innsbrook on Saturday. There is a professional field and I'm looking forward to my second 'pro' race.
Monday, June 3, 2013
|Two B2s, 4 Zipp Wheels, 2 Race Bags and 2 Racers. Claire and I packed the Mini to the maximum for the drive down.|
I traveled down to Cedar Rapids IA this weekend for the Pig Sprint Tri with Claire, who is the best road trip partner there is. We both love this race because the elite men and women compete in an equalizer format for a $750 bonus to whoever crosses the line first. Last year the women's head start was 9 minutes over the men and Claire ran away with the race and set a new women's course record. This year, the elites all agreed to try and make the race a little closer by cutting down the head start to the difference between the men's and women's course records, 7:43.
Race morning was cold and windy. I forgot to pack a jacket and walked around all morning with a blanket from my car to keep warm until it was close enough to race start to put on my wetsuit and go jump in the water. Even though the water temp was only 64, it felt great after the cold wind and I had enough time to get in a good 10 min swim warm up.
|Kevin hooked me up with a new Blue Seventy Helix wetsuit this winter. |
I had to model it in the living room for Claire this spring because the lakes were still frozen.
Tami Ritchie led the women out of the water in 6:17 as the men lined up on the beach. By the time we started, most of them have already started the bike course. I made a solid step toward redeeming myself after my St. A's swim debacle with a respectable 6:23 for a 500m swim. David was out of the water 9 seconds ahead of me and although he had an uncharacteristically off day, I was excited to be able to actually see him since he's normally on the bike and gone by the time I finish the swim.
I very quickly made up that 9 second difference in transition when David realized he had left his helmet in the Gear West van. He had to run through the parking lot, grab his helmet and then run back to transition. Daniel Bretscher, Thompson and myself all started the bike together and put in some time leading. The wind was so strong that I was getting blown all over the road and was white knuckle gripping my bars on the long straight descent out of the park at 40mph without any tree coverage to break the wind. Because the three of us rode together there was a very advantageous draft even though we maintained 3 bike length separation. At that distance there is a slight draft even without a headwind like we had on some sections. The women were much more split up and also got pushed around more by the wind because they are lighter.
Riding into transition we were pretty much on top of the lead two girls, Claire and a fellow Mizzou track and field alum Sunny Gilbert. I once again got an advantage coming into transition when Bretscher and Thompson drifted into each other during dismounting and both went down. Neither was hurt, but I ran past the two of them and racked my bike next to Claire as she was putting on her shoes.
|Pig Sprint is hands down one of the best|
races in the Midwest, but it fills in January
so you have to register early to get in.
Claire gave me a slap on the butt and told me to go catch Sunny. I got my legs under me running through the uphill transition and started the first mile running as hard as I could. I know from personal experience that in a run as short as 5k, if someone has a decent lead at the turnaround it's mentally really hard not to just let them go. The run was slow because of the wind, but I felt good and was really happy to cross the line first.
After the race David and I didn't want to do a cool down run with Kevin, so we all went for a walk with Claire and I was right back to freezing cold. We spent the rest of the morning huddled in the van trying to warm back up except for Kevin, who apparently doesn't feel cold even though he was wearing shorts, he spent the entire morning catching up with Iowans he knows and helping people with mechanical problems.
Now it's time for another big work week with good consistent aerobic mileage. Claire and I are driving to Winona MN next weekend for Trinona, “The world's biggest little triathlon”.
Train safely and wish me luck.