Thursday, May 26, 2011

New Kits Finally!!

I know it’s been awhile, but the wait to look great is no longer! Bicycling magazine just stated in its last issue that the colors I’ve been using for years (navy, light blue, yellow) are the power colors since four pro tour teams are using them this season. Below is a sample of the new kits – there are a few other logos added as well, including Bethel Cycle and Nineteen wetsuits. Pactimo is the company I went with because:
A) there clothing is great! Super quality w/ great chamois, flat stitching, no elastic leg bands,… Many pro teams are using them and they ride all day meaning it’s gotta be comfortable!
B)There delivery time is five weeks max guaranteed versus 8 weeks plus for most.
C) They allow me to set up an online store where you can log in and purchase!! See below for all the details on how to order. Please note that there is a $10 dues fee – this is shipping. If you are ordering something and need it shipped (all the kits come to me), then you need to include this $10 fee and send me your address, but only include it once.

We have mens cycling kits, womens cycling kits, vests, sleevless cycling jerseys, one piece tri suits, mens tri kits, womens tri kits, …

Please contact me with any questions. Place your order within the next week so we can have the clothing by LP Camp!!


Dear EH TRAINING Member,

Pactimo is very pleased that EH TRAINING has chosen us to be their clothing provider. Pactimo has developed an online team ordering store exclusively for our Elite customers of which EH TRAINING is one. The store will accept your individual orders and then will consolidate those orders into one team order, which will be delivered to one address. We hope that utilizing this system will make life easier for each of you and especially for your team’s clothing manager.

Important Pactimo Policies for Online Team Stores
Your use of Pactimo’s Online Team Store is in accordance with the following policies. Your use of Pactimo’s Online Team Store is an agreement to be bound by the below policies.

1. All sales entered and paid for on Pactimo’s Online Team Store are final. Customers should double check their quantities and sizes before proceeding to payment. Sizes and quantities cannot be changed once an order is paid for.
2. Clothing only is paid for in full at the time the order is placed. Shipping, design charges and any other fees paid for by the team may be passed on to its members at the team’s discretion.
3. All orders are consolidated and will be delivered only to your clothing manager.
4. All questions or problems related to the clothing must be communicated through the designated team clothing manager. Pactimo will be every effort to satisfy its customers, but will only be able to communicate to a designated clothing manager.
5. Team Passwords must be obtained through your team’s clothing manager and not directly from Pactimo.
6. All other Pactimo policies available though our online ordering system also apply.


SEE BELOW FOR INSTRUCTIONS TO ACCESS YOUR TEAM STORE

In order to access your team store follow the below directions.

1. Go to the website: www.pactimo.com and click on Custom Team Login and click on Looking for a team store

2. Enter your Team Store Password. Team Store Password for your store is: Hodska
3. If you already have an account set up in this store, Login by entering your user name and password. If you do not have an account click on Register as team member

4. Fill in the required information to create an account. (You are creating your own personal account within the store, so enter a personal password as well) Please note that passwords must be at least 6 characters long and are case sensitive

5. Begin shopping Carefully selecting the items and appropriate sizes. Please note that –

All sales entered and paid for on Pactimo’s Online Team Store are final, and sizes and quantities CANNOT be changed once you have paid for your order.

6. Enter your credit card information to complete your purchase.

Note: If you have difficulties logging into the site using Explorer, please try switching to Mozilla or an alternate browser. Thank you.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

EH Racing and Pounding The Pavement

Lots of EH racing going on; Greg Pelican and Scott Beauregard raced American Zofingen in lousy conditions. Greg had two flats but managed to overcome these and still win his age group. Scott had more technical issues on the bike that derailed his race - what sucks is that he was in a great position until this happened. Mike Kane completed yet another IM at IM Texas. Get this, he dislocated his shoulder during the swim which made riding in the aerobars a no go, and the jostling of running very challenging, but Mike doesnt stop until he crosses that line! Gus Ellison and his new bride Jen Ellison both ran a 5k in rowayton, Gus winning it outright. Dena Kramer and Lisa Lou Joaquim both ran in the Ragner relay, logging over 20 miles each. Lou was asked in the last minutes to fill in on a team! Jeff "Manny" Molson represented well at the Shamrock Du. Mike Biehl rode his bike the 25 miles with a 25 lb pack over bear mountain to the Harriman OD race, raced and won his age group, then rode home. And Travis Funk raced the Harriman 1/2 IM and finished 2nd overall!! Congrats everyone, keep it going!

I was away recently, and did what I always do - took my running gear, checked out a map, and went for a run. I love maps. I love exploring and seeing where I went and where I'm going. While I was out, I was thinking about all the places over the last 20 years that I have ran or ridden in. I thought of back roads, side roads, trails, mountain roads, and dangerous roads that I have traveled by my own power. I thought about how I know roads and directions that most don't. I know just about every road west of i91 in Connecticut. I know the roads of my inlaws town in Pennsylvania better than they do. I thrive on taking the roads less traveled. Yet at the same time, I thought about the amount of hours I have put in, leaving my house, some house, a hotel, moving constantly for long periods of time, only to end up right at the same place where I started. As much as I pride myself on my knowledge of the Atlas, I remind myself of the simpleness of the task, and somewhat emptiness of it all. I joked with my wife that if I had spent this time studying, I'd have a few phd's by now. Think about it - what is it that sends us out the door, in hi-tech clothes, on expensive technology, sweating, making our hearts and muscles strain, for hours, only to end right back up at the same place where we began? One time, I was running by an old guy sitting on a bench, and as I passed, he calmly lectured "Be careful, you only have a certain amount of heart beats in you." Of course my mind raced after that comment thinking "what if he's right? What if our ticker is like an odometer on a car, clicking off heart beats like miles, the more ticked off, the closer to becoming expired?" Then I snapped out of the dopeyness and reminded myself that yes, my heart rate may be at 150 beats for 2 hrs, but the remaining 22 hrs in the day, it will be 20 to 30 beats lower than the norm. But the reality is that I'm a different and better me when I get a chance to get out and explore and elevate my heart rate and fatigue my muscles. Besides the fact that my mind seems to be the clearest when I am out there training. So what one may call wasted time, I call invaluable. I'm sure those who may be reading this get it.

Cheers,

EH

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Happy Birthday Big Rocks!

My father turned 69 today! he sent me part II recently of his mind set post which is below:

Eric,

Two incidents got me thinking that the Devil might be playing with me. Yesterday morning at 5:30 AM since it was raining I decided to ride my bike in the basement. As I was inflating the rear tire I heard a hissing noise and bent over to check out the tire. My pump went BAM! and the gauge exploded. The plastic cap, ring and some metal hit the ceiling and grazed my cheek removing some skin. If I was not bending down it might have taken out my eye. Now, my mind started saying "this stinks, but you can buy a pump later today and ride then", but I thought no way, I came down here to ride so I put an old bike on the trainer and did my workout. This morning I went out for an early run. In about 5 minutes the sky opened and it started to pour cold rain. As I stood under a tree I thought that I should go back home where its warm and dry, but I said screw it and had an excellent run. Both these incidents got me thinking that every day we face obstacles in our lives. They could be physical, spiritual, mental or relational but they will always be there. What is important is how we choose to respond to these obstacles because while we cannot control what is thrown at us everyday, we can control our response. I chose to go on with my workouts and it made a significant postive difference in both my days.

Dad

My second rule at camp is "check your ego at the door". I've been thinking about ego quite a bit lately. It's evident daily to see how much trouble an oversized ego can get us in. Just ask California's Governor. One thing I have learned is that true champions may a bit arrogant, but they're ego is in check for the most part. they arent afraid to take chances, expose who they are, and even lose. They kknow that in the long run - the big picture, they need to do this to reach unknown levels.

Cheers,

EH

Monday, May 16, 2011

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Some after thoughts, and Yes, my race report is finished now.

This saga just won’t end! Probably the most important experience of the race for me occurred afterwards though, and since I use this blog as my own journal, I want to make sure I record these thoughts.

After my race, we cheered in Gus, who did amazingly well. This race happened to be Gus’s first ride outside for the season. He likes to ride inside so that he and Jen can hold hands while they ride. In all seriousness, he worked his ass off on the computrainer with some of the crazy sessions I had him doing and it showed. Gus pulled down a solid seventh place in his age group. Next, we cheered in Jeff Molson. Jeff loves a challenging course and is already signing up for next year. I always have fun hanging out with Jeff and this trip was no different, with the exception that Lisa also got to hang out with us and laugh a bunch.
I then rode back to the Buccaneer, showered up and went down to the beach grill for a burger and a beer. What I love about ½ IM’s is that after racing hard at a challenging distance, there is still half the day left to relax, relish in your accomplishment, and have some unhealthy food and drink.

The awards were at night on the other side of the island at a resort. This is where they hand out slots for Hawaii and Las Vegas. Originally, there were supposed to be three slots for the Hawaii Ironman. They allocate the slots based on the number of finishers in each age group. Typically, the biggest age groups in triathlon range from 35 to 49. So they call up the top three in each age group, and when they bring my group up, they announce that there are only two Hawaii slots?! I later realized that 1/3rd of my age group DNF’d and therefore they allocated the third slot to another age group. Lisa looked sad for me. She said “Go race Buffalo Springs and get your slot – you always do great there.” That night I hardly slept. I woke Lisa up early and told her I had sort of an epiphany, which was “Lis, I don’t think I want to do Hawaii this year.” “What?! Are you sure??” she replied.

Here’s the thing; twice before since 96’, I went to qualifying races and didn’t qualify, narrowly missing the slot. When this happened, it really pissed me off, and I couldn’t wait to sign up for the next ½ IM qualifier (I still call them ½ IM’s. For the newer tri generation, this means 70.3.) - I have only qualified at ½’s (besides 2000 where I qualified at IMLP but turned the slot down) because I know that I am only good for one IM a year, and I love the ½ IM distance. But I really wasn’t that pissed at the awards last night and I didn’t have much desire to go chasing the next ½ with Hawaii slots. And then it hit me that this year, I just want to get back to racing, but it doesn’t have to be Hawaii. I love that race and respect it like no other. But I’ve raced there eight times and I’ve done it quite well while keeping balance in my real life. This one race doesn’t need to define me. Maybe I still felt as though I had something to prove there? By saying that I wanted to take my kids there to see this incredible race, was that just an excuse for me to not feel selfish about going back? Am I trying to recapture something by going back often? Do I need to prove anything to anyone else by racing there again? I love Hawaii. I love the race, I love the island and I’ve had some amazing experiences there. And I’ll go back again to participate in that great race. But I realized that it doesn’t need to be this year and that I don’t even want to race a full IM this year. Lisa was smart. She asked “Maybe you need to wait a bit. Maybe the harshness of the heat and humidity from yesterday’s race is still too fresh?” But I almost felt a bit relieved and my mind felt clear. If I wanted to go back that bad this year, I would have been angry at the awards and I would have been on the computer as soon as we got back to the hotel. I was helping Molson pack up his bike just after breakfast and he said to me “You know, I like how I feel now after racing a ½. Maybe I will focus on ½ IM’s for a while.” I agree.

Listen, I realize how fortunate I am to have had the opportunity to race there once, let alone eight times. And I realize that triathlon is just a passion. I’m excited to race a few more ½’s this year, including Las Vegas, the new ½ IM world championships. I also want to do some more Olympic Distance and sprint races.

Lisa and I did a catamaran trip that day out to Buck Island where I snorkeled along the underwater trail in the national park and came face to face with a big old barracuda. On the ride back from Buck Island, the captain hoisted the sails, put on some Bob Marley, and passed out some rum punch. And I thought “You know what? Life is pretty good!”

Cheers,
EH

Friday, May 06, 2011

And we're running...

Mitch was once again quick out of transition, with Mike and I following about 100 meters behind. I dropped my salt tabs and stopped to grab them and Mike took off to catch Mitch. My legs felt solid and by the ½ mile point I had bridged the gap up to them. The sun was on us though – it felt like a direct ray was hitting me. I was an ant being burned through a magnifying glass. And even though my legs felt good, I could feel my internal temperature rising. I hate this feeling. I know it all too well from Hawaii. It sounds as though I’m terrible in the heat, but for a bigger guy, I’m really not that bad once I’m acclimated. I’ve used the word acclimate quite a bit in these race reports which should indicate the importance of this.

The three of us ran together towards the Buccaneer Resort where the run goes off-road and you hit the main hills, before heading back into town, turning around, then doing this out and back lollipop again. We had been racing neck and neck and neck all day, and the three of us knew that we were bringing out the best in one another. Mitch said “Best of luck guys, let’s hope there are three slots” as we headed into the Buccaneer. The pace was slow. I felt my legs were easily capable of a 1:25, however, I also knew too well the effects of the heat. And as expected, even though the pace was slow, I was showing signs of not being able to handle the temperature. I still had a good sweat going, but my skin felt on fire and the pressure in my head was beginning to build, as if my brain was being squeezed by a vice. I was looking at the ocean on this beautiful course and I was so tempted to run down and dive in. I could feel my gate shortening and my foot lift decreasing with each stride as my body went on a mission, diverting blood flow from my working muscles and sending it to my organs/skin for cooling. The stride no longer feels fluid – in fact, it’s anything but fluid. The simple task of placing one foot in front of the other becomes extremely painful. Through the aid stations, I dump water on myself, chew ice, sip coke, pound saltstick capsules, and dump more water on myself.

Then, I see Lisa. When I’m having a great race and feeling strong, I love seeing Lisa on the course. Just the opposite though when I’m in a bad way. I don’t like to see the worried look on her face – I hate seeing her in any angst. In 2009 in Hawaii, I was experiencing a very similar situation during the run and she looked panicked. Well, not this time. She and Jen were cheering away as the three of us ran by around mile three. But the sun kept beating down, and just before mile four, I had to let them go. This crushed me mentally, but I was so overcooked. I stopped to pee quickly behind a palm tree, and then walked up the steep hill on the golf course in the buccaneer. Lisa appeared again and I turned to her and said “Sorry Lis, I laid it all out there. I’m frying.” Instead of her reacting very sympathetic and consoling me during my small moment of self-pity, she said “You can still do this! You get to the top of that hill and you start running again – YOU HEAR ME!!” I responded with “I need some shade!” and just then, and I know this sounds like bs but it’s the honest truth, some clouds moved in. I crested the hill and Lisa yelled again “START RUNNING!” And I did. I kept running back towards the turnaround in town, and I was awaiting the contention of athletes to come pouring by me now, but they weren’t. In fact, I was moving quite slow, but I was still picking off some runners. Now I’m not going to lie and say I felt good. In fact, it was just the opposite. Every step hurt, and I had a splitting headache. I remember thinking to myself “who the fuck do I think I am that I can come down here to this climate off our winter and race? A dumb mother fucker, that’s who.” Sorry for my English, but just relaying the truth here.

As I approached the turnaround, I saw Mitch and Mike together still, coming back out for loop two, and they weren’t that far ahead. But they were still running solidly, and I was at my red line. I now just tried to stay at this pace and hoped that one of them, if not both, would falter. But they didn’t. Listen, I know this sounds dramatic but when you are in this world of hurt, it’s easy to think to yourself “I still have seven miles left to run!” and unless you have been there, you can’t comprehend how bad it does hurt. I remember reading an article about Mark Allen where he mentions he can pin point two distinct times where he went a bit too deep into his well and could almost sense somehow that he did some eternal, molecular or metabolic damage. I try to stay present and I count my foot strikes and think of music. Anything to numb the mind.

Running through the Buccaneer on the second loop, if I had had a room key on me, I would have ran inside and taken a cold shower probably. I have to hand it to the volunteers – they were amazing. Around Mile 10, I was asking for coke and the volunteer missed the hand off and dropped the cup. He yelled “keep going, I got you!” and turned back towards the aid station. About ¼ mile later, he comes sprinting through the fairway on the golf course towards me with a full can of coke and a cup of ice!

Now at this point, I was just trying to hold onto third. I was exiting the Buccaneer on the second lap, and with two miles left to go, no one seemed to be coming. After racing side by side by side through most of the day, I was hoping to just cruise in. I had now accepted my third place. But with around one mile to go, I hear foot steps right on me. I could see peripherally a guy dressed in white clinging to my left shoulder. He wouldn’t come up next to me, and he wouldn’t pass. As we went through the last aid station, I slowed to almost a stop to check out his calf, where our age is written, and sure enough, he’s in my age group. And I’m back to racing! He slows as well and stays tucked right behind me. As you enter town, you come within 100 meters of the finish, before this cruel course that constantly seems as though it’s playing a joke on you takes you away from it on a ½ mile loop through town, finishing on a straightaway lined with spectators. My buddy here just sat content on my back as I set the pace through town. Now I’m talking to myself again in the third person which means you know I’m wasted; “Be patient Eric! Don’t get anxious. Let him make the first move. Hold until that cross walk (maybe 70 meters out from the finish line). Don’t go yet, hold, hold, hold…”. Then, I can feel him start to move quickly around me and I leap forward and start my mad sprint as though I hadn’t been racing at all for 4 hours 45 minutes. He and I are going all out, heads back, chests out, arms pumping, and the spectators are loving it! I manage to gap him and end up crossing the line two seconds in front of him.

The two of us bent over and exhausted at the finish line, I said to him “Man, great finish!” and he responded “Que? Mi Englis nots o goot.” This guy was from South America and a previous amateur world champion, so this was a small consolation after losing the first two spots.

Cheers,

EH

Thursday, May 05, 2011

St. Croix Swim and Bike

The regular triathlon pre-race process (body marking, transition set-up, …) could not have been easier. I can’t stress enough the coolness of this race in regards to the laid back feel/attitude. There was no waiting in line, even for the porta-potties. The only issue I had was that my bike wouldn’t shift into my 25 on the back. On this course, this is a big issue. It’s my own fault since I switched my cassette onto my race wheel just before I left and put my bike together the evening before the race. I joined right in with the laid back island lifestyle, and I have no regrets. In fact, we were lying on the beach Saturday afternoon when Lisa said, “don’t you think you should go get your bike unpacked?”. Well, Sam from Cannondale, and Mandy’s boyfriend, who was also here racing, saved me. He took time out of his race morning prep and adjusted my derailleur so I was set for the challenge ahead. On top of things, I had a slow leak in my front wheel and with no time to change it, was hoping for the best.

As I laid out my transition area, listening to “Dog Days Are Over” by Lungs on my ipod, I ran into Mitch Gold and Mike Montgomery, two very fast guys who I knew were some of my main competition, along with a couple of foreigners for this race. I also ran into Chris Peeters. Chris is a doctor from Colorado, and an incredible triathlete. He and I have raced hard against each other in the past, the last time being in 2004 at the Disney 70.3 were I had a lead on him off the bike and he ran by me like I was a street sign, posting a run split around 1:18 and only 2 min behind pro winner Simon Lessing. It was great seeing Chris – I have been fortunate to make some solid friends through competition in this sport across the country like Mitch, Chris, Bruce Gennari – all guys in my age group who share a common thread which is a passion for this sport and for enjoying the competitiveness between us. Chris, began telling me how he was diagnosed with MS in 2007 and hasn’t raced since then. I was blown away. I could tell he was anxious about racing again, finding out where he stood – similar to I who hadn’t raced since 2009, yet my time off was self-appointed and minor – a bit of perspective. Chris just turned 45, and for his debut race back into the sport, finished 3rd in his age group and qualified for both Hawaii and Vegas. How’s that for a return to the sport, and with MS to boot!

I jumped into the warm, salty water and swam easily over to the small island 200 yards off shore where the race begins. I chatted with a few strangers while we awaited our wave start. It was all very low key. Keep in mind that although I have mentioned often how low key this race is, this represents the feel. But the competition here is second to none regarding 70.3 races. The challenge of this course, the early season qualifier, brings out major competition. Most here are here for a purpose. Gus went off in the wave directly ahead of mine, a two minute head start and a nice carrot. Gus was primed and ready to have a great race and his fiancé Jen seems to decompress some of the pressure and stress that I’ve seen overwhelm Gus in the past. I could tell he was ready for a special day. After his wave left, they called my wave down to the start and it was on. I’m typically nervous up to this point and then sure enough, the nerves dissipate, and I make my way to the front and center of the group and prepare for just the immediate start of this race, or the run and dolphin into the water and first 100 meters around the buoys and assuming position.

I got a nice jump and was actually in the lead for the first 100 meters, but I know my lack of swimming doesn’t allow me to maintain this position and let a few guys move in front, hoping to get on some fast feet. Those feet happened to be Mitch’s. The swim was choppy, and felt long. In fact, I wage the swim was maybe 300 meters long, based on the swim times by many, including the pros, and by the fact that I wanted out 2/3rds of the way through. Maybe that was more due from swimming only seven swim sessions in preparation? Regardless, I exited the swim in fourth place in my age group, right behind Mike, Mitch, and a bit further behind a Spanish guy. I fumbled with my cycling shoes. I often stress to my athletes the importance of practicing transitions so why don’t I? Note to self, Mavic cycling shoes are not quick for a tri transition. While re-threading my Velcro straps through there loops, I watched Mitch and Mike disappear up the road. I remained calm though and finally mounted my Cannondale and headed off onto this bitch of a course. I began passing younger guys from earlier waves immediately, and by mile 5, I had reigned in Mitch and Mike. My bike plan was to ride at 80% effort. I know this seems low, but I knew my bike fitness was there and as I mentioned in my previous blog post, since I couldn’t acclimate, I wanted to be fit enough to ride at 80% effort and still be in the hunt so that I could get off and maybe run in the heat. I stuck to this plan and it seemed to be working given that I kept reeling in younger athletes from earlier waves. I caught the Spanish guy just before the beast and was now leading the age group. I tried to ride up the Beast as easily as possible, but I forgot just how hard this climb is. If someone tells you in the future that it’s not so bad, they are full of shit. Some spectator perched on the side of the beast yelled to me “Relax, there’s a lot of racing left!” I wanted to respond “I’m going as easy as I fucking can!” but I was too busy just trying to breathe. Mitch is a great technical rider and would come around occasionally on the technical sections, but I’d soon move back ahead, setting the pace. It remained like this for the rest of the ride. A few other guys jumped on board along the way, but I pulled 90% of the time up front. The thing is, the pace felt a bit too controlled! Even comfortable. There are many times in a man’s life where you must throw caution to the wind, release the reigns, and go for it. This wasn’t one of them. I was nervous about the heat taking its toll and remained relaxed and patient. The course certainly lives up to the hype. The hills and beat up roads keep coming, and the wind wasn’t being that nice either. During an Ironman, I will let my mind drift in and out of the race, thinking about random things that divert from the monotony of racing an Ironman, only to occasionally bring myself present and self-analyze and address the race. During this race though, I was very present as we were in a tight race. One thing that pissed me off just a bit was that after pulling the majority of the ride, with less than a mile remaining before dismounting, Mike came around. The bottom line though, the three of us had been racing neck and neck since the very start of the race, and we still had a little run ahead of us! Most importantly, in my two previous races here (and I use the word “race” very loosely since a better description would be ‘event”), I was mainly surviving. I was finally racing here. And it felt great, especially considering I hadn’t raced since Hawaii 09’ which, after this amount of time off, makes you wonder if you still have it.

More soon.

Cheers,
EH

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

First race of the year - part 1

After taking 2010 off from racing, I am motivated and anxious to get back to toeing the line, and chose my first race to be a course that I have raced twice, and both times, this course beat me down. My first time racing here was not so much racing but, as dramatic as it sounds, more about surviving. It was in 2001 and after over-heating early on in the race and becoming severely dehydrated; i was pulled off the course by the medical team, still with 6.5 miles to go. The second time racing on this course in 2002, I finished but it was ugly - and i certainly wasn't racing, but instead just trying to finish. Lisa planted the thought in my mind that I could leave this race alone now - I had crossed the finish line regardless of my time. I never bought this though and in my mind, I had always planned on going back at least once more. It’s like a young kid who stands up to a bully and gets his ass kicked, then attempts to take on this bully once more and even though he may land a few weak punches the second time around, he still gets his ass kicked. Well I'm that kid, and St. Croix is the bully. The first time fighting this bully, I didn't respect him. Maybe in my mind, because i had fought the world champion of bullies well, I became a bit arrogant and let my guard down thinking I would breeze through this fight which was "only" half the distance? - Hence came ass whooping number one. Then, the second time around, I clearly remember thinking that I just had a bad day last time. I didn't make many adjustments training wise, and experienced my second beat down. I went back nine years later for round three, and this time, I prepared as well as I could while still being involved with my family and running my business - I mention this because the biggest unknown factor was how would I handle the heat. I have lived in Connecticut my whole life and we were coming off our most severe winter yet. Without being able to escape to a warm and humid environment to train, I knew that acclimating to the severe temperature and humidity would be the biggest challenge. I have greatly studied the science of trying to acclimate in a cold climate for a hot weather race, and I have come to the conclusion over research and years of trial and error, that the best way to be ready for the weather is to be as fit as you can possibly be. Yeah, sounds obvious, but what I mean is that overdressing for training, saunas, bikram yoga, sodium loading - these methods work minimally. The only real way to get acclimated is to spend a couple of weeks in the environment you are trying to acclimate to. Since this wasn't possible for me, my approach was to be fit to the point where I could pace a bit easier so that my heart rate was more controlled, my physiology could function easier, and yet I'd still be competitive and "racing".

I can tell already this is going to be a lengthy write-up, and so I'll keep the details on my training preparation for this race minimal. St. Croix is unlike any other 1/2 Ironman I have competed in. This swim is typically choppy, the bike course has constant hills; rollers along with steep ones like the infamous Beast at mile 20 were the gradient reaches 21%. The last 20 miles are always undulating and typically extremely windy as well. The course is also very technical - if you aren't solid at handling your bike, you can crash easily or lose a lot of time. Oh, and the road conditions are terrible. There are potholes everywhere and the road make up is chip and seal. The run is two loops consisting of road and trails and also constantly rolls. Throw in the heat and humidity and you have a 1/2 Ironman that is typically 30 minutes slower than most, and feels more like racing a 3/4 Ironman. Since my Tucson training camp, I had two key cycling sessions each week; a harder 75 to 90 minute computrainer session done in ergo mode with the majority of this being at a wattage greater than what I planned to race at. The other ride was a three hour session done outdoors where I dragged my training partner Kenny O. up every hill within a 40 mile radius of my house at an effort again that was slightly higher than my goal race effort. To accommodate the bad weather and roads in Connecticut coming off our winter, I did most of these three hour rides on my 29'er mountain bike, converted with a road saddle and road pedals. My other few rides each week were on the ct, done in ergo mode or on a created course with some quality, but mainly just aerobic conditioning. Every session had specific cadence work. I did two brick runs per week, along with a tempo or interval run and a 90 minute to two hour run with some tempo or progression in it as well. I strength trained, and managed to get in seven swim sessions.

Lisa and I booked our trip to arrive in St. Croix on Friday, with the race being Sunday. I have found that if you cannot get out to a hot and humid race venue at least a week beforehand to acclimate, you are better off going out right beforehand. Going out three or four days prior is the worst case. Same goes for racing at altitude. Besides seasonal allergies that I was expecting, my taper was going well and as planned and I felt solid. However, the Thursday before the race, I missed all my training due to a busy work schedule, last minute packing, and spending time with the kids. Then, due to a mechanical issue with the plane, we were stuck in Miami an extra three hours and I missed all my training on Friday as well. No worries though as race week taper is just about staying loose and conserving energy, not expending it. Save it for race day.
While waiting in Miami for the connecting flight to St. Croix, more and more triathletes
became present. It can be quite hard spotting triathletes. Look for the emaciated, hairless people wearing compression socks, a finishers t-shirt from a big race or some sort of sponsor gear to let you know they are sponsored while you are waiting at the airport, and completed w/ a pair of racing sunglasses perched atop their noggins, even though it may be raining out or 10pm.

My bike arrived with our flight, which is a major concern for this race. The next morning, I met Jeff Molson outside of our rooms at the Buccaneer and we ran two easy loops of the run part of the course that takes place on the resort premises. I forgot how beautiful this course actually is. The green golf course contrasts with the white-ish, soft sand of the beach coves and turquoise waters of the Caribbean. Palm trees are interspersed throughout and even though it is hot and humid along the resort route, you get an ocean salty breeze that just makes you want to lay in a hammock with a rum punch. Lisa and I then hung out at the resort beach with the soon to be newlyweds Gus and Jen, and I took a nice swim in the ocean. I was relaxed, which was odd considering it typically takes me a few days to unwind. Perhaps I’m getting a bit more complacent? Not according to Lisa.

I put my bike together in the afternoon, and went through registration which was a piece of cake. This race is so low key, compared to all the other WTC races. It definitely embodies the Caribbean relaxed attitude. I loved it – it had the grass roots feel of races of old. We had a light dinner and I crashed around 9:30pm.
At 1am though, I was up! And pre-race nerves hit me with a one two for the first time. I reminded myself that this was good – that this meant that the race meant something to me. I also reiterated the fact that I couldn’t dwell on my two experiences here, for if I did, I’d race in fear and more than likely blow up. “You can do this; it’s just another ½ IM and you are prepared well for it!” I drifted off again at some point, only shortly before my 4:15am alarm sounded. Lisa slept right through it. In fact, I had to wake her up to tell her I was leaving. Jeff and I rode our bikes the 2.5 miles to the race start. It was pitch black out and hard to see, which made the ride kind of fun.

OK, I’ll get into the race tomorrow.

Cheers,

EH