Monday, March 28, 2011

We are Rugged Maniacs

I just love testing my limits. I love doing races that are different and festive and fun.

I love these new races that are popping up everywhere.

I love being a Rugged Maniac.

After winning the Jacksonville race last month I now I needed to try this race again. When I saw that the Charleston race was on the weekend that there was no trail run I had no excuse. I’ve got to go back and do this race again. I signed up and was committed.

At the last minute Teresa decided that she could go so on Friday evening we drove to north to go be rugged maniac.

This would be Teresa’s first race like this and only my second so we were both a little nervous.

We got to the course early and had plenty of time to check out the obstacles. We were able to see most of the obstacles before her race so we had a great idea of what was out there. Of course we didn’t see everything…

At high noon Teresa’s race went off. She worked hard on the early running section and ended up pretty tired by the time she got the first set of walls. She made it through just fine but had a little trouble on the first high wall. It took her three tries but she made it over the 8 foot high wall like a trooper.

The way over I yelled, “This is the Rugged Maniac; not flower class.” You can hear that on the video.

She got over the walls and headed out to run more.

Out the woods Teresa came and she headed into the final barriers. She did great except for the “lily pads” where I told her to just run across and not stop. She stopped and fell into the water. I bet she won’t do that again. I tried to tell her…

At the end she got to do what she was most excited for. Yeah, the low crawl through the mud and then the run through the finish line.

She finished in about 36:39 minutes happy and muddy. Or was it muddy and happy. Either way she had a great time and enjoyed herself so much. I think that 26th our of 142 in her age group was awesome!

OK, now it was my turn.

It took about 5 steps for me realize that this was going to be a race against the clock. I distanced myself from the field almost immediately. Into the corn fields I went….

In Jax almost all the obstacles came in the first 5 minutes then it was a long winding sandy run to finish with the mud pit; that suit me just fine. I’m not fast but I can run strong through the sand. I was really able to hurt the field with my strengths. In Charleston it was different. The first long section was running on solid surface. I ran very hard and gave a little too much. I would pay and pay dearly.

The first obstacle was a bunch of criss-crossed bamboo sticks. I’m not sure my jumping over them with 2 legs strategy was a good. Looking back now I would say that made me a little tired.

I soldiered on. Then it was another good long run to the 4 walls. Two walls to go under and scrape my back and two to go over (about 4 feet) and tire out my already exhausted legs.

Then a run; blah.

Up and over the cargo net, through the swinging tires…then the high walls.

In Jax I popped right over these things because they were 2 minutes into the race. Here it was a might bit harder. Over the second set of 4 walls and then onto the haunted trail.

I assume that the haunted trail was some sort of Halloween thing that they do here. It was pretty fun. Actually it was a little scary how tired I was and how much I had slowed down. Clearly I had gone out WAY to fast and now I was paying the price.

When I reached the first set of walls there was a guy there telling me that I was 5 seconds faster than the fastest guy that had come through so far. Great. Actually not so much…

The haunted trail seemed to go on forever. Finally, mercifully I popped into the field that I know meant all the water and mud obstacles and the glorious finish line.

Getting on my hands and knees to crawl through a sandy tunnel under bamboo leaves looked like a lot of fun before the race; now not so much.

I jumped over the lily pads with a little more success than Teresa then it was to the top of the slip and slide.
In the Jax the slip and slide and the water obstacle were separate. Here they were connected.

Head first into the cold, muddy water I went.  Yummy.

Then I had to go under/over a bunch of “logs” in the water. Holding your breathe to go under was very hard and going over was tiring so it was a very difficult barrier to cross. You’ll see Teresa go through these in the video.

One more muddy mound of dirt to climb over, across a narrow bridge and the run the mud to the finish.

Man what a tough race! So much harder than Jax.

I haven’t seen many results yet. My time was 22:47 which didn’t put me in 6th. I. Not really a good performance for me. I really struggled in the last mile. At least I won my age group.

I really don’t care though. It was so fun and I was proud to be there for Teresa.

After we got cleaned up we sat on a hay bale and I drank a beer. We listened to the band and saw all the happy and muddy people walking around. It got me to thinking about how happy I was to be there at that race. I truly was in my happy place. The post race euphoria, a good beer, a fantastic girl who’s willing to get muddy…

Really? Could life be any better? For me it clearly could not. So when is the next one…

Monday, March 7, 2011

Found Me

I set out yesterday at 8am from the City of Minneola Trailhead to find myself. I hate clich├ęs but the truth is that is what I was doing.

I needed to find out what I was doing and why.

I really only had that one goal for the Huracan 300 endurance mountain bike race. It wasn’t to complete the 300 miles or to win or anything like that. I needed to define who I was and why. I needed to clarify what I wanted from life and how I was going to get it.

You see, sometimes life gets away from you a little bit. You do too much. You are too much. You give too much. Sometimes it becomes too much and you need a reset button.

That’s what I needed.

In the darkness, in the middle of a beautiful Florida meadow, all by myself I indeed found myself.

I signed up for this race months ago. That sounds like fun. I thought it was a MTB stage race. I can do that. 

Then in a moment of stupidly and delusions of grandeur I committed myself to the “ITT”.

The individual time trial: Self supported, go till you finish and good luck with that sucker.

That may not have been the smartest choice.

Anyway it was it was and I was “ready”.

Then I developed a cyst on my lower butt check. Then it got worst. Then, it made me sick to the point that Tuesday and Wednesday night I had night sweet and chills. Wednesday I “called in sick to work” (Yeah, when the hell do I do THAT?) went to the ER and had the thing lanced and got antibiotics. I wonder if anyone else in the race was on antibiotics.

Yes, you read right. 48 hours before a 300 mile mountain bike race I had a cyst lanced that was right where my butt meets the seat. I didn’t think I could ride.

I showed up Friday morning anyway.

I hadn’t even tried to sit on a bike seat. At 7am I did and it hurt a lot.

Smart choice: go home.

My choice: tough it out.

I did.

For the first couple of hours I was alright. I stood a little. I used my right butt cheek. I tried to find comfort but could not. It was just plain difficult, to say the least. Two hours into the race we came upon a long section of “dirt” road. More sand than dirt actually. Without being able to sit down I had a lot of trouble. I pushed on and after 4 hours of riding I started to feel better. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the large dose of Tylenol.

For hours I rode on. 6 hours then 7, 8 and 9. The route took me into the Croom Preserve where I had never been before. Here I found an hour of cool single track and lots of good climbs. I crashed twice but was feeling good.

Out of Croom and onto a bike trail that lasted for ever.

At hour 10 I was tiring but positive. The pain I had gotten used to. My legs felt fine and I was pushing through.

Darkness set it. I put my lights on and rode into the woods by myself.

For no reason what so ever I stopped and put my bike down.

I got out some food and started eating.

Then, right in that moment, in that beautiful spot, on that night, lying in the grass next to my bike:  I found myself.

Right there four things jumping from my heart to my head. They were four priorities. Not my whole life. Not a blue print. It was like the four legs of a chair; four pillars.  

Everything in my life would be perfect if I were to focus my energy on those four things.
It became apparent that if I were to continue through the night I would hurt all four of the pillars. I thought long and hard as I mounted my bike and trekked on.

About 30 minutes after my moment in the meadow. I hit came to the start of 25 miles of single track. At this point the wheels came off.

Riding out of the saddle all day had wrecked me. I couldn’t put my butt on the seat and standing was hurting my knee. I pressed on for an hour like that then, just like I had in the meadow, I laid my bike down and stopped. This time I called Autumn and asked her to come pick me up.

I pushed on as best I could to get to the Landbridge Trailhead. I walked. I rode. I suffered. It took me 3 hours to go 5 miles. Eventually I found the limestone road and went off course to get to the pickup spot. When I got there I curled up in a ball in the grass and, even though I was shivering, went into a peaceful sleep.
I rode for 14 hours without a break longer than 5 minutes. I travel 150 miles from Minneola to the Landbridge Trail head.

I have no regrets. I HAVE NO REGRETS.

I’m sad for all the people that were tracking me and rooting for me. The reality is that it wasn’t about the race. I didn’t want to finish. I wanted to figure out which direction I needed to go. I wanted to know what I was going to do tomorrow and why.

Life is so busy. There is always so much to do. This was my time. My alone time

What my four priorities are isn’t important to you. This is only important to me. You see we are all different and we all do things for different reasons. The important thing is to be who YOU are and to fight for your right to be that person.

Yeah, I needed 14 hours on a bike to find me.

Likely you do not.

The world is full of people doing the wrong things; people that are where they are because they somehow think its right. People that don’t want to change because they are scared or comfortable.

That’s crazy.

What do you need to do to find yourself? What do you want from life? What can you do to be truly happy?

I know what I need to do. Hang on tight…

My resolve is like it never has been….

Monday, January 31, 2011

Overdo it weekend - again

I really enjoy going to races. I love the trip there. I love camping. I love the people. I love the competition. I love everything about race.

I don’t like when I suck eggs in the race.

Whatever though. That doesn’t happen very much… and not this time!

This weekend I did two races again and I experienced joy and pleasure to levels that I don’t even think are allowed.

Is there a limit?

Saturday morning I woke up early to head over to the Tavares Nature Park for round 3 of the Winter Trail Running series. I really am enjoying running these races. I set time goals and I go out on the course with the intent of running hard for 20-ish minutes and seeing what the clock looks like in the end. No pressure just a workout with a few other people around to keep me honest.

18:24 for an off road 5k seems about right. Likely should be faster. This time is deceptive though. The course was a little short. Truth is I’m really struggling to get back my speed for these 5k’s. I should run well under 18 minutes. The time I bet would have been in the 19 minute race. Oh well. A good workout was had.

Then it was off to Santos for some mountain bike riding. I rode a lot harder then I wanted to but again, whatever. It was a workout. The flat tire at the end didn’t please me. I guess those things happen. A 10 minute ride in on the roads with a flat back tire and I was at my car.

No harm, no foul.

Now I could have driven home then headed to the morning’s race early. I really didn’t enjoy the prospects of the 4am wake up call. What the hell. I’ll drive to the race and camp.

The ideal, perfect work plan was to find a quite dirt road with a long dead end fire road or something. I’d park my car and lay out my sleeping bag for a night under the stars.

Crap. Couldn’t find anything like that. I did find a pull-out on a road with massive trucks driving 70 miles per hour and the sound of dogs in the distance. Sleeping in the car became a grand sounding idea.

I “slept” from 9pm till 7:15am. I did a bit of tossing and turning but truth be told I slept all right.
No, you are NEVER too old to sleep in your car the night before a race!

Now on to the race at Alafia State Park. Trail Half Marathon. Rock and roll, baby; my kind of party.
I pull up to the race course and get out of the car.

Holy crap my legs are tired…and I was sore from head to toe. Lol. Not the ideal feeling before a 13.1 miles race. Whatever.

Pay my fee, pin on my number…set and go.

Settled into a decent rhythm with a group of guys. We weren’t going super fast but that was the idea and the plan. Really steady so that I didn’t have to suffer and do the death march the last 5 miles.

After about 4 miles the fellas started to bore me.

I elbowed my way to the front and went hunting. I passed a few runners and found myself around top 10 last. 

I was running a good clip (about 7min per mile) and I felt good about my day. I wasn’t having a banner day but I was moving forward. THAT was goal number one.

The last 3 miles were stupid hard. 75% of it was on EXPERT mountain bike trails. Fantastic! I managed to reel a guy in late and slide into 9th place. 3 guys were right in front of me at the end.
Just didn’t have the stones to bring them back.

In the end I ran 1:32:06 for 9th place. Sounds like a results to me.

Even better is that I found 85 geocaches on the way home. NOW that is my kind of party!

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Race

I was a junior on the Indoor Track team at the University of Massachusetts. I was having a really good season as the team’s top miler. I won most of the meets and ran some great times. Training was great and I was excited for the championship races.

Round one was the Eastern Conference meet. This was a race that I should have one. I did everything right leading up to the race. It was my race to lose. I was confident and ready.

The gun went off for the eight laps of the one mile race and I settled into the position that I should have been. I did everything right and I ran my race. As the laps went on everything was going to plan. I was going to be the champion. I was excited and ready to do what I needed to do.

With two laps to go I made my move. I moved from third to second to…wait, the leader held me off.

With a lap and half to go I had plenty of time. I was still confident and OK with the way things were going. I wasn’t going to be denied my spot as champion of the race. It was meant to me. I knew I was going to be the champion.

With three turns to go I again made my move for the front. Again the leader held me off. This wasn’t supposed to happen; he was doing the wrong thing. This was my race. This was my race to be crowned champion.

Plenty of time. Plenty of time. Plenty of time.

There was just one lap, just 200 meters and just 2 turns left. I made a stronger move this time. I still didn’t get by. Before the last turn I gave everything that I had to get by.

Still nothing. Second place still. I had one more shot. One more shot to win the race. For the first time doubt 
crept in.

Was it possible to lose this race?

Had I not prepared?

I didn’t know who this person was. I should have found out who this person was. With 30 meters left I realized that my plan had been wrong. My race was the wrong race. I was going to lose the race that I should have won. I was going to lose this important race because I messed up.

I can’t give up. I can never give up. I needed a miracle. There was still the sprint for the line. 30 meters…
20 meters. 15 meters. 10 meters….there is the line….

With one last despite attempt I dove head first for the finish line……. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cross eyed cross

I’m starting to figure some things out about Cyclocross. This is a good thing. I didn’t figure it out for the first four races. This is a bad thing. Oh well. You live and learn.

The first thing I learned is that I can do very well if I have my heart in the race. Now to my credit my heart not being in the races has been based on my circumstances which I had no control over. Those circumstances no longer have an impact so I am able to move beyond that.

For the record the second race that I did was the day after my dad passed away. I was heavy hearted that day. This past weekend’s races took place knowing my girlfriend was going to break up with me. My heart was elsewhere for both these races. Whatever. You deal and move on, right?
The second lesson that I have now learned is much more under my control. I’ll explain later.

So I went to Dade City last weekend for two Cyclocross races. What a fun weekend my son and I had!

Saturday I raced the 1-2-3 race. I finished 6th; I sucked.

The leaders went out hammering on the first lap! I tried my best to stay with them and it only fried the crap out of me. By the middle of the 2nd lap four had pulled away, another had jumped across from behind me and I was detached. For almost an hour I soldiered on. No hope in front and no hope from behind. It was awful.

The last two laps I completely shut it down like I was on a training ride. 6th would have to do.

After the race they were doing a relay. The aura of the relay race was that you had a one in, however many did the race, shot at winning a $2000 Cyclocross bike. Cool, I’ll do that. The problem was the entry fee: $100 for a team of three. My potential relay partners all abandoned me while I was racing (thanks guys!) but I found one lady who was willing to give it a go.

“Anyone want to do a relay??”

We could find no one…. except…

Except my boy Colby who BEGGED me to let him race. Ugh!! I paid $60 and we were a team. Ouch.

I let Barbara (the lady we found) go first. She gave a good effort but came in a couple of minutes behind the last person. Oh well. We weren’t there to win but to have fun. Colby was next.

After Colby had been out for a while my friend Donnie told me that he had crashed but was alright. The good news? They got it on video! Ha!

Barbara did her second lap and I did Colby’s second lap with him. I didn’t get to do my second lap because the winning team had lapped us! By the time Colby and I got done they had given the bike away. Sigh. We didn’t win. At least Colby had fun! It was worth it!

Sunday was the State Championship. Colby raced the 10-14 age group. He did so well! Raced head to head on his heavy, two sizes too big for him mountain bike with a lady on a cross bike. So proud of my boy for putting a hurt on the lady in the last lap! Atta boy! He finished 5th. A great showing for him! So proud!

OK, my second lesson. I can’t go out fast. It just doesn’t work for me. I can’t go red line and try to recover. I just can’t; I need to go out slow. Slow indeed.

Halfway through the first lap I was last out of 13 guys. I passed a little group and jumped up to the back of an 8 person group following the lone leader. In the middle of lap two I saw a gap open up so I popped up to 5th. Then there was a crash two wheels up. I avoided the mess and focused on getting through the wind. I looked behind me and saw a huge gap open up. I was in a group of 3 guys chasing the leader at about a minute. Rock on.

The three of us rode together for a lot of laps. The riders behind were either unable or unwilling to work together to catch us. We didn’t have the same problem. We were catching the leader.

45 seconds. 36 seconds. 30 seconds. 24 seconds. Then one guy just couldn’t hang anymore. He dropped off and there were just two of us remaining. I was fried as well. Within a lap the other guy was off the front and my job became holding onto 3rd place. I didn’t pull away but I kept a good gap.

Then part one of my melt down occurred. With just over a lap to go my chain came off. It happened in such a bad place! I had to get off my bike to fix it. The other guy caught me. I was fried and it was very windy. I couldn’t get away in the last lap so we both sat up for the finish. Actually I tried like three times to escape. No dice.

It was going to be a sprint. I decided to wait till the last hill before the finish. I had him in front. I was ready. The hill came. My foot slipped out of my pedal and it was over. I missed the podium at the state championships because of a crappy couple of bad breaks. I guess I’ll take 4th place.

I wasn’t happy though. I am bitter about that loss. I will break some legs in Gainesville this weekend. Mark my words. Legs will be broken!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I heart Cyclocross.

How can you not love Cyclocross? What a fantastic workout. I just wish there were more races…

When I saw a few weeks ago that there was going to be a Cross race in Clermont I was literally beside myself with joy. So much fin, so close. Awesome.

Finally the day came. I paid my $84 (gulp) for two days with of racing/licenses, glued on my number and showed up to the line ready to rock and roll.

I was a little disappointed when only 4 people strapped one on to race the A’s. Whatever.

The starter yelled “Go!” and we were off to suffer, suffer and then suffer. Going around the course the first time I lost my chain on a slight up hill. By the time I got it back on I was in last and the leader was pulling away. Ugh!!!

By mid-way through the second lap I passed two of the guys in front of me and I was in second. The guy in the front had a gap that I never did close. I ended up lapping the other two guys.

2nd place was a good result. I earned back the cash I paid for the race. While I was there I previewed the course for Sunday. Oh man did that route look hard. Saturday was a warm up. Sunday was going to be a bear.

I went home Saturday excited to race again on Sunday.

Saturday night my dad passed away. It’s funny; I never once considered not going to the race. There was nothing that was going keep me from going back for round two.

I left strait from church on Sunday. This time I brought my son, my friend Jim and my girlfriend Debbie and her kids. I had a support team to bad I stunk up the joint.

Funny story. On the line I saw a dude that had a “USA Triathlon” shirt on. I said something dumb like, “So, are you a triathlete? …Yeah, me too.”

So why is that funny? Turns out it was Jarrod Shoemaker. He’s an Olympian in triathlon. Last time I saw him race was at the Duathlon (run-bike-run) worlds in 2009.

He won.

Not the age group.

He won the elite race.

Holy crap.

So the race starts and a couple of guys get gummed up in a corner and I toke the lead. My first lap was around 5:30 and I was leading. Second lap was closer to 6 min. By lap 3 I was settled into 6:30 per lap and 4th place. It was hard to really get into the race. I was tired physically and emotionally. I hadn’t slept much and my legs were a bit knackered from 45 minutes of racing Cross and a 5k run the day before.

I soldiered on and finished 4th.

That course was HARD. There was one spot where we had to run up a 30 yard sandy slope. Ouch! Then there was another 30 yards up hill on grass. That hurt something fierce! Another part of the course was a 20 yard uphill that I could ride; but BARELY.

Lots of sand; lots of twists and turns. Awesome!

Sundays harder course was awesome and so was the turnout. 11 in the race was much better than 4 from Saturday.

When I finished the race I actually apologized to Jim and Debbie for performing so poorly. Thinking back now I guess that was silly. The Olympian was second and some other strong dude was 3rd. I probably would have been 4th no matter what.

I did my best. My dad would have been proud.

Next race is next weekend in Dade City. Two more races! Bring it Mr. Olympian!!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Safe shmafe

We drove all day to get to the east end of Black Bear Road. By the time we set up camp it was well past end the end of sunshine. Andrew and I set up our tent in the cool Colorado darkness.

It was 1997 and it was time for our 2nd annual late summer mountain bike adventure. We hadn’t gotten killed the year before so this year we upped the ante. The course we laid out looked epic even on paper.

Oh to be 24 and reckless again.

When the sun came up in the morning we were greeted with the most awesome and spectacular view ever. We had camped at about 9000 feet on the side of a mountain. The view was simply breathtaking.

By 8am we had eaten, loaded up our packs and saddled our bikes. Adventure (and peril) awaited us in the unpredictable Colorado mountains.

10 miles to the west sat Telluride. Between us our goal was Black Bear Road; many miles of unforgiving switchbacks and uphill mayhem. Awesome.

We took our time setting out. We had lots of time and the road we had chosen didn’t look that far in the Colorado Atlas and Gazetteer. It looked so easy we didn’t even bring the map. It was just a big book anyway. I wasn’t going to carry that thing…

We explored some old mines, ghost town-ish buildings and even a couple of wrong turns. All we good. We were two young fit dudes on mountain bikes. What could possibly go wrong?

Then the flat tires came.

Between the two of us I think we got 8 flats on the way up the pass. After the first 4 or 5 we got a little annoyed. What the heck though. This was an adventure.

We finally reached the top of the pass. What time was it anyway? Doesn’t matter. We were young fit guys….

The descent down Black Bear Pass is legendary. Words cannot describe how cool that thing was. We flew down with only a couple of stops to take pictures and pick the grit out of our teeth.

We found Telluride and there was a big ol’ party going on. Fabulous! It was hot and so were the girls!! Wahoo! We hung out for a while and even took a little nap in the town center.

The temperature was 90 on the bank sign we saw as we entered the local bike shop.

The next leg of the journey was to ride up Imogene Pass. This trip was about 4000 vertical feet. How hard could that be? The guy at the shop said that it takes strong guys about 2.5 hours. “Hey! I’m a strong guy!”

It took about 45 minutes of riding before I had to walk my bike and we weren’t anywhere near half way to the top. The air sure is thin at 10,000 feet. It’s even thinner when you know you have to go to 13,000 feet and the route is questionable from there.

It looked simple on the map. A hiking trail from the top of Imogene Pass led over to Black Bear Road and back to our campsite. Not a problem. If we followed Imogene Pass Road to Ouray (the “safe” route, HA!) then we would have a 3000 vertical feet road climb back to the camp.

Safe shmafe.

Wow. Are those thunderclouds? Is that rain? Is that hail?

Sure would be nice if there was, oh, I don’t know, SHELTER at 11,000 feet. At 5pm we were still pushing our bikes up towards the pass.

What time does it get dark?

We found 13,000 feet and the top of the pass at about 7:30pm. Didn’t have a thermometer but it was freakin’ cold. At what temperature does an your body start to shiver? It was colder than that.

OK, safe way (with the massive climb, BTW) or sketchy way that looked good on the “atlas”?

You know we went the sketchy way.

Took about 3 minutes till we lost the trail. We soldiered on anyway because we were young and STUPID like that. We expected to see the road up ahead at any time. Nope.

Must be after this ridge. Nope.

Next one. Nope. Nope and nope. Finally we found a river. River leads to the valley. Hiking at 13,000 feet in mountain bike shoes pushing a mountain bike was just an utter travesty.

We decided that down was the best way to go. We abandoned our plans of finding the road. Besides it was getting….


Fortunately we had a light. One light was better than no light.

We didn’t need a light to find the waterfall.

Hike up to a ridge to get around the waterfall and find the river again. At least we were going down stream. On and on we hiked. The last remnants of daytime had long since evaporated. We had been at this biking thing for countless hours. We had climbed over 7000 vertical feet on our bikes; yet we had to go on.

Andrew suggested bivouacking. Are you out of your mind? No way. We kept going. Fortunately the directness of the river and steepness of the terrain brought us to a road. We saw a car drive by.

We were going to make it out; yeah, after trudging through a hip deep swamp.


It was close to 11pm when we got back to the tent. I ate a banana and fell fast asleep without even changing my cloths.

The next couple of days featured some driving but, ironically, no biking. The hikes we did were short and within view of the car.

I’ll never forget that epic adventure. Note to self: Don’t try to ride Black Bear and Imogene Pass on the same day and no there is no hiking trail that connects the two!