Friday, November 21, 2008

'Oh my God! We shut the mountain down thirty minutes ago!"

Not since 1968 has Boone reported such terrible weather before Thanksgiving. Living in the high country definitely has its perks. The great views, wonderful running trails, biking routes and rock climbing just to name a few but all of these are well and good when you are able to get outside and enjoy them.

With that said, last Sunday marked my first day of training for my upcoming 100k ultra. Since I was unable to get my birthday 42mi run in on Nov. 3 thanks in large part to the fifteen hour drive to Clearwater, I prolonged it to the first Sunday available.

As usual I woke up and ate my normal oatmeal smorgasbord, topped off my water bottles, filled my backpack with varying food items and emerged from my apartment only to be greeted to gail force winds (alright a steady 25mph wind) and about three inches of snow on the ground. I had to put on my yacktracks (if you gotta ask you don't have to know) and slid down the hill to the main road. I then ran the three miles to the trail head which would take me out to the BlueRidge Parkway. Since the trail was covered in snow and ice, it took a little bit longer than normal to get out to the Parkway but none the less once I managed to slug my way out and over downed trees and frozen creek beds, I arrived at Julian Price Park at the base of Grandfather Mountain. At this point I was roughly 15 or 16mi into my journey and the weather was starting to turn. Never a good sign when I planned to ascend Grandfather Mtn which is a little over a mile high (~6000ft). I started out up the mountain having to run on the side of the road due to the amount of ice. About half-way up , the wind started to pick up stirring up the snow drifts and creating white out conditions. Wonderful! Not only was this great but since it was a balmy 19degreesF (with the windchill it was probably close to hum...Everest), my waterbottles were frozen solid. I am managed to suffer through the blizzard and mild-dehydration to reach the ranger station at the top of Grandfather. Normally, on my bike rides I fill my water bottles up at the fountain outside the station but today the fountain was frozen over...go figure...and I had to go inside. I entered through the door and was greeted by two wide-eyed rangers, who responded, "Oh my god, we didn't think anyone was on the mountain. We shut down the mountain thirty minutes ago." That was reassuring...I simply asked where the bathroom was and went in to dethaw my waterbottles so I could make it back to Linville. I descended off Grandfather and into Linville where I should have stopped and picked up some calories at the gas station. Instead, I shedded some clothing figuring I could make the eight miles to Banner Elk before I needed to refuel. How wrong was I! The great part about running from Linville to Banner Elk is that it is on the side of a major highway 105 and slightly uphill. About four miles into the trek, the weather started to turn again on me with the wind picking up, making the temperature plummet. At this point the calorie deficit started to take its toll on me and my pace slowed to what could best be described as a death march. About two miles from Banner Elk I realized I was not going to be able to make the fifteen plus miles back home in this kind of weather. I made the call for help and collapsed into the gas station at Banner Elk where I set in on all the chicken broth I could purchase with the three dollars I had on me. As I was standing in line, I was getting really weird looks from a group of teenage kids. They were jeering at me and I was delirious so I turned to them and said, "Do you guys have a problem." My wind burnt face and skinny shivering body must have been extremely intimidating to them bc they all looked startled and apologized. My roommate came to pick me up thirty minutes later. Three hot cinnamon buns followed.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

And I thought that racing the World Championships was hard...

I feel like I need to document the last week since it has been completely epic! Following Clearwater 70.3, I embarked upon my week long sleep deperveration/studying ultra-marathon. the day after the race I drove fifteen straight hours from Florida to Boone, NC with a thirty minute lay over in Chattavegis to switch cars. I made sure to get some sleep Sunday bc I knew the next few days were going to be difficult but to be honest I had no idea how difficult.

Starting 5am on Monday till 1pm Thursday, here is how my days went.

From 5am to 9 or 10am (depending on the day's classes), I worked in the library. Then went to class till about 12am. From there I spent the rest of the day in lab until 9or10 o'clock at night when the janitor staff would kick me out. Then I would head to the library to continue working upon school work/research until 2am when the library would close whereby I would stumble over to Kristen's apartment and fall asleep for three hours on her couch. Then at 5or6am I would shower and return to the library till class started. This break pace continued through till Thursday when I got in the car and drove the six+ hour drive to Nashville.

Friday I had my MRI early in the morning and then went to the SERMACS conference to support some of my collegues who were presenting their research findings. Finally, this morning at 8:20 I gave my 21min lecture on the 'Validated Application of New RP-HPLC for Determination of Select Polyphenols ((+)-Catechin, Quercetin, and Trans-Resveratrol) in Blood Serum, Plasma and Urine,' got in the car and drove the six+ hour drive back to Boone.

Needless to say at this point I am so tired I cannot sleep. Tomorrow to top it all off I am running my first long run of this training cycle in preparation for my 100k ultra-marathon in December. The run will be between six and seven hours adn more than likely will be in the snow.

I hate being bored.

What I have learned this week:

1. Not training 25hrs+ a week allows me to get a lot done
2. Not sleeping 7-8hrs a night allows me to get a lot done
3. Drinking five cups of coffee a day helps me get a lot done
4. I do not like getting a lot done

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Clearwater World Championships 70.3 - November 8th

I figured I would write a race report since I cannot seem to get to sleep thanks in large part to some tired, crampy legs and my race car metabolism.

Where do I even start? I guess I should start at the beginning, back in March when I did my first race of the season. This truly has been a long and at times difficult season. I raced back in March my first triathlon of 2008 down at the very chilly Florida Great Escape and really have not stopped since.

I targeted this the World Championships back in March beginning with my preparation for Florida 70.3 I came down to Florida and trained the course, knowing that the course conditions and terrain would be very similar to what I would experience in November. I qualified at Florida, mind you not without a little bit of drama and a few hours in the medical tent. Throughout the rest of the season I have targeted races specifically in preparation for Clearwater. Minus the month and half hiccup I had with a stress fracture in my back, the rest of the season's training was spot on. I came into this race with excellent fitness and the confidence that I could race against the best in the world.

I left school on Monday following a terrible nine days of little sleep, lots of studying and six exams culminating in a six hour long attempt at my first MCAT (medical school entrance exam). Arriving in Chattanooga late Monday (ie my 21st birthday for those counting), I was able to get in a solid track workout and swim before embarking upon the nine and half hour drive the following day to Clearwater Beach, Florida. My dad and I arrived at Clearwater mid-day Wednesday, roughly three days before the race. After finding a local swim club and begging the coach to allow me to swim 1500m, we were able to get settled into our room (which was only a half a mile from the race start) and start the carbo load. The next few days were filled with athlete meetings, bike preparation, eating, sleeping, eating more, watching the bike geeks do wind sprints up and down the road out side our hotel in their aero helmets and compression socks, and eating again. Finally Saturday rolled around and the alarm finally went off at five in the morning. Since I was in the last wave to start (8am M18-29), Marc and I leisurely waltzed over to body marking at six in the morning. I did the normal bike evacuation readiness routine and my dad, mom, Marc and I walked down to a coffee shop about a quarter of a mile from the start.

At a quarter till eight, I was warmed up, coffeed/oatmealed up, and standing in the starting corral waiting on my age group to be called up. The gun went off and the Braveheart charge was on. For the first 750m, I think I spent more time under water than I did actually swimming. I was crawling over, under and around athletes. Whom ever slapped me across the head about 400m into the swim if you are reading this I want to say that was uncalled for and rude. Anyways, the lead pack as usual got away and I quickly found myself in a foreign situation. I was actually swimming quickly! Leading the light brigade around the first turn buoy, I recognized that I was in front of the chase pack. Realizing that I was probably not hte man for hte job, I slotted over to some feet to the left and hung on until we made the turn for home. It was at that moment, I realized that not only were my goggles filled with salt water, but the guy I was drafting off of had decided it would be better to swim into gulf of mexico instead towards the shore. I spotted a group off to the right and bridged over to them, leaving Christopher Columbus to find his own way. Onto the beach, I checked my watch, PR by a minute and a half. Stop, drop and roll: I ran up the 100m sand run, through the fresh water showers and rolled onto the ground for the volunteer wetsuit strippers to rip off my suit.

Out of transition, I hammered the first ten minutes then found my rhythm just in time to match up with a nice group of about five guys on the bike. Draft fest 08 but what are you going to do? On two separate occasions, I launched attacks to try and get away from the group I was riding with and both times I found myself in no-man's land, breaking the wind, dangling 45seconds off the front. Figuring my energy would be better spent on the run, I simply set right off the back of the group for the rest of the ride, ate and laughed at the crazy German (Vinner, the techno twin) cursing the dumbass American for repeatedly cutting him off.

Into T2 and onto the run. Marc was at the first mile to tell me as usual that I was running way to fast (~5:40). The rest of the run was a blurr. I remember it being hot and people taking the cold sponges at the aid stations before I could get them (Frenchies). All said I am very happy with the outcome of the race. I PRed by 18min, PRed for the swim, bike and run and still managed to pull a top ten in my age group, top 100 placing IN THE WORLD. Not too bad when you consider three years ago this time I was getting ready for my first brain surgery and had never even thought about competing in triathlons. There are still many things I can improve on and learn and I look forward the challenges that the future has in store. In the mean time I think I might take up ultra-marathoning through the winter. See you out in the snow.

Thanks to everyone who made this dream a reality. I would not be the athlete I am today with the support of my family, friends and coach. You guys inspire me.