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|A screenshot of the weather upon my arrival|
|Riding out the storm (photo credit to roommate and all-around good guy, Tommy Zaferes)|
|Sunghee and me|
|He's just not wearing an orange shirt|
I made the decision to travel from Las Vegas to Tempe during a conversation with Coach Paulo during the women's final of the Las Vegas Super Sprint. While Gwen Jorgensen ran away with the race, I turned and told Paulo, "I think I should just go back to San Diego and train this weekend. I can't race again on Sunday. It's going to be my third race in seven days."
Paulo thought for a moment, looked me in the eyes and said, "No, I don't think thats a good idea. Your fitness is still there, and you have a good opportunity to race Sunday in Tempe." Okay, you caught me. Maybe I didn't make the decision... :)
|Shortly after the swim start (I'm in second, directly under the orange buoy)|
Instead of putting my attention on the challenges ahead of me, I continued to stress about my bike shipment. No matter how hard I tried to remember I had no control of the situation, I could not stop myself from thinking about it. That bike bag contained all the things I need to make a living, and all of a sudden it was gone. My life would have been so much easier if only I had trusted my instincts. I knew it was a bad idea to trust the driver. I knew he didn't know what he was doing. I could have taken a train or taxi. None of these problems would have existed if only I had tusted myself instead of Nirvana Travel Company.
Like the Vegas race, that time was gone. I made a decision and I had to live with that. A few more talks with Paulo and a six-hour drive with Eric from Las Vegas to Tempe were exactly what I needed to calm these unprodutive thoughts. Slowly, I started to feel like myself again. Eric had me laughing with comments like, "Dude, look at all these Joshua Trees. They look like alien plants--like a tree and a cactus that had absolutely no business getting together got bored and were like, 'Eh, why not?'" Naturally, this spurred an intelligent conversation about the duck-billed platypus being "The Joshua Tree" of the animal kingdom. I was starting to "chill."
|A Joshua Tree--pretty weird looking, right?|
|The Duck-Billed Platypus|
While I was laughing and occasionally paying attention to the road, Paulo was working behind-the-scenes. My bike wheels were in my bike bag (which was who-knows-where), and I needed something to roll on for Sunday morning's race. I called every bike shop in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area on Friday morning, but they either wouldn't rent wheels or were all sold out for the weekend. Enter the generosity of Bryan Dunn.
|Bryan (far-left) finished 2nd in the Sprint Distance race in Tempe|
Remember how I told you Paulo was working behind the scenes? Well, he worked his magic and introduced me to Bryan Dunn--a Phoenix-based friend who was willing to help me out with race wheels. I spoke with Bryan on the phone Friday afternoon, and 18 hours later he was lending me $2,000 worth of bike equipment (These aren't your average bicycle wheels and Bryan Dunn isn't your average guy).
After all this coordination, getting to the race was actually a huge relief. For the first time since I left London, I relaxed and just let me be me. I gave the day everything I had, and in this case it was good for second place overall.
|Men's and Women's Podium|
A great deal of the credit for this result needs to go to all the people who helped make it happen. Paulo kept me focused on the task at hand. My training/travel partners Eric Lagerstorm and Jason Pedersen (Jason rode in a separate car from Vegas to Tempe and was not privy to our intellectual Joshua Tree conversation) motivated me with their focus and kept me relaxed. Bryan Dunn lent me his wheels, and Heather and Trevor Wurtele donated my shoes. Even fellow competitor Jarrod Shoemaker chipped-in and lent me an extra race belt. Who ever said triathlon wasn't a team sport?
|Fortunate to have this guy on Team Maloy|
|Paulo doing his thing during the on-course warm up|
Marc Lees, the Las Vegas Super Sprint Race Director, first told me about this race back in April. He said, "Hey, this is an opportunity to race on the strip in Las Vegas. We're building a pool in a parking lot and putting the race on television. You're not going to want to miss it." I was sold.
The timing wasn't perfect having raced the London Grand Final four days beforehand--but hey, how often does timing work out the way you want? There was no keeping me out of this race. I flew into San Diego on Monday night, swam and ran on Tuesday, and I drove to Las Vegas after my Wednesday morning workouts.
While it's all very exciting, the travel is not without headaches. The ironically named "Nirvana Travel Company" was responsible for transporting me from my London hotel to Heathrow Airport the morning after the race. The coach driver first insisted my bike bag was too large to transport (even though he had a full-sized bus). He and the Nirvana Travel representative on-board promised my bike, along with my teammate Greg Billington's, would be transported in a van following the bus. There was never a van, and I had to pass through customs with only a promise that my bike would be promptly shipped. Then, after promising to air-mail my bike bag to the USA in time for the Vegas Super Sprint, Nirvana Travel again disappointed. Long story short, I'm writing this post 14 days after leaving London, but my bike bag is still in the United Kingdom. Nirvana (noun)- "a transcendent state in which there is neither suffering nor desire..." Nirvana, indeed. More on this later...let's get back to the race.
While it seemed circumstances were stacked against me, these are normally the situations where I excel. Back when I was a youth swimmer, I recorded my first-ever "A-Standard" time in my younger brother's suit and goggles (I had forgotten my swim bag at our home 90 minutes away). On another occasion I had one of my best-ever meets during a snowy winter weekend when I had forgotten to pack any type of footwear. I recorded my first triathlon podium was after wearing a borrowed wetsuit during the swim portion (I didn't know an Antarctic current runs along the western-coast of South America).
An advantage to being absentminded is you learn to make adjustments when things don't go to plan. I had preformed well under less-than-ideal circumstances before, and I told myself this was another one of those situations. My coach, Paulo Sousa, lent me his bike (which was actually better than mine), and I wore a pair of cycling shoes that my Triathlon Squad training partners Heather and Trevor Wurtele had sent (with love).
The race had a morning semifinal and an evening final, but I failed to qualify for the final. In hindsight it would be easy to rationalize this poor performance, but that's not my style. I didn't show up to work, and I was beaten by better athletes on the day.
The race left a bitter taste in my mouth. I felt as though I had just typed a twenty page paper and forgotten to hit save. I had written it--so of course it was awesome--but I had no proof of anything I'd written. It was gone. I had blown an opportunity that would not come back.
All, however, was not lost. I took the rest of the day off and enjoyed watching my Triathlon Squad teammate Eric Lagerstorm crush the final and finish 2nd overall. I see him work his butt off every day in training, and it was fun to watch him put everything together for a good result. His performance even put a smile on Paulo's face!
Mark Lees and company did a great job putting this race together, and I think I speak for most of the field in saying I can't wait to participate in more of these races every chance I get.
Last weekend I competed in the World Triathlon Seres Grand Final in London, UK. When I set my schedule for the 2013 season, September 15th this was one of the circled dates. Being there was a great accomplishment, but I wasn't in the race to be a participant. I was in London to compete--ready to see how I stacked up against the world's best.
Now, "world's best" is a term that gets thrown around an awful lot...
In this case, "world's best" meant the 70 male triathletes who had best proven their talents in 2013, and I was one of them. Mentally and physically I was in a good place, and I thought with a great day I could crack the top-20. I had a good swim through the chilly Serpentine river in downtown London, but a poor first transition cost me a chance at making the lead pack on the bike. I've been practicing my transitions, but sometimes it doesn't go the way you planned. That's life--er, I mean, that's racing. I settled in with a group of 30 or so guys, and we maintained a :30 to :40 gap to the leaders on the bike. While it may not seem like much, in a race this competitive :40 is an eternity. For some perspective, the time gap between my 36th place finish and 20th place was 1:00. It was an additional :47 to 4th place.
Through the second transition and onto the early parts of the run, I focused on staying within myself. I was confident that some of the guys up the road would come back to me if I stayed patient. Not enough of them did, and I know where I need to improve to become more competitive in 2014. I finished a respectable 36th, but if you know me then you know 36th in the world is about 35 places behind where I want to finish.
|Look at the spectators--London Weather!|
The International Triathlon Union does a fantastic job organizing these races in big cities all over the world. They put on the world's best events, give the races the world's best coverage, and attract the world's best competition. This year I raced in San Diego, Hamburg, and London, and I hope to take part in the entire 7 or 8 race series next season.
It's a strange feeling to compete on one of these world-class courses. It's a little ironic that I was biking past and through historical landmarks including Buckingham Palace and the Wellington Arch, yet all my focus was on the other competitors. I remember at one point looking up and seeing Big Ben in the distance, yet the giant clock only reminded me of the time gap to the front guys. While other tourists will leave London with memories of historical tours and photos of the changing of the guard, my London experiences taught me the streets around Buckingham Palace are really slippery when they're wet. Hyde Park also runs slightly uphill from east to west. Appreciate history--but don't be afraid to make your own.
|Picture of the course in front of Buckingham Palace (photo from londontown.com)|
This experience was sweeter because I shared it with those I love. My family has supported me from the beginning, and to have them cheering me on meant a great deal. It was very much their race too.