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Archive for August, 2010

Leysin “Fairy” Festival

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

I’m not sure where they got the name.  I suspect it is an end of the summer festival more than anything because on Monday the 23rd of August school started again!!

Anyway, the whole town came out for it.  Amy and I as well as some other teammates cruised around, ate some Swiss food…sausage, salads, fruit tarts, chocolate pastries, etc!!  It was a pretty good time.

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In keeping with the theme of my Montreaux blog, I video’d some of the music, and thought that I would post a bit of it as well as a few bonus tracks as well!!

First up we have a “Guggenmusik” band…or at least I think that is what Caroline aka Swiss Miss called it.  Very entertaining all evening!!  Amy liked their “trousers” as Jodie called them, but I don’t think that wearing them would be very suitable for the scorching hot climate that we have in Texas!!!

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Next up is a traditional Swiss band…again according to Swiss Miss.  The guy that waved was very musically talented.  He played what appeared to be an Oboe, Clarinet, and Saxophone.  No word if he played the flute…

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Lastly, a cover band of sorts.  Interesting to hear their take on Country music.  At least they picked some real country…and rock with Elvis.  In this first video…do NOT take any dancing lessons from the couple on center stage…line dancing is NOT really something that real ‘Texans’ do!

First up…a little “Jambalaya on the Bayou”…

And, the original or at least one of the original versions by the one and only Hank Williams!

Next up…All Shook Up

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And, the original by the one and only Elvis Presley!  Really…this guy was awesome and ahead of his time…too bad he died on the toilet with his undershorts around his ankles!!!  The 33rd anniversary of his death was just a week or so ago!

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EMBRUNMAN…deserves all CAPS

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

Embrunman is not a normal race. It does not deserve a normal race report. My race report is a bit tardy, and I have refrained from reading any of the other so I don’t ‘steal’ any content!

Until I read some of the TeamTBB blogs that were from last season, I’d never heard of Embrunman. When I got to camp, I not only heard about Embrunman, but James and Scott were both gearing up pretty seriously for the race. James was 3rd last year, and he was looking to improve on that. Last year, Scott did not race Embrunman…said he wasn’t ready. So, when after my 5th at IMUK, coach said I earned my entry to Embrunman, I wasn’t sure what to think.  I think that TMac was in the same boat when it was made known to her that she’d be racing Embrunman as well!  Even Matty was getting into the action…though apparently his race would not last quite as long.

This year has been an interesting one. I left engineering (AGAIN!) in January. This time to focus on racing and training since Amy and I both had the opportunity to race with TeamTBB. In February, we landed in Thailand for our first ever training camp with the Team. Like James quoted to me about his training…Amy took to the training “Like a duck to water”. I, on the other hand, felt like it was a big adjustment to going from a full time enginerd to a full time athlete. Training in Thailand and then Austin was hard. My races had gone so-so by my standards. My finish at UK was the best this season, even though I didn’t have a great race for a fair bit of the swim and about 1/3 of the bike. So again, I still felt like I was adjusting when IMUK came around. Just a day or so removed from IMUK, and I was faced with one of the hardest races in the world staring at me in less than 2 weeks. Talk about adjusting!!

I was pleased that Sutto thought I was going well enough to back up with 2 races, or at least I was pleased that he thought I was going well enough to send me to Embrunman. It’s not a race that is on the North American calendar, nor are there any races on the North American calendar that are like Embrunman…other than their distances. The swim can be cold, really cold. The bike has 5,000 meters (16,400 feet) of climbing and is 188k instead of the normal 180k. The run has over 400 meters (1,300 feet) of climbing. Until you actually compare that to some of the ‘normal’ Ironman distance courses, you don’t realize just how much more difficult this race can be. The bike climbs to over 2,000 meters and up top it can be cold as well, in fact, it was close to snowing at the summit on Saturday evening before the race!!

So on Sunday morning, I lined up with probably over 1,000 others in the pre-dawn darkness for Embrunman. You can read a bit about our race from Doc’s point of view here. His comments about not having legs are too true…when they’re gone, they’re gone. Mine seemed to be gone, I’m sure that someone found them somewhere between Bolton, England and Embrun, France and wondered what poor soul would be looking for them!? I pushed on, not letting the fact that I felt much less than stellar try to toy with me. But, it does and the mind can wander, but I brought it back on task each time. I actually bet that some who saw me wondered if I were out ‘racing’ or just out ‘riding’.  At times, I have to say that it was a bit of both.  I concentrated on getting the calories in, and by the end of the ride, I’d probably eaten more than some families eat in a day!! I soldiered through the run with my pace slowly creeping up…or gradually slowing down depending on your terminology. I crossed the line a shade under 11 hours in 13th place. James asked if it was my PW…personal worst! It wasn’t, but it’s not far off.

So, as I write this almost a week later, it was a good experience. The magnitude of the bike course is difficult to describe. I’m sure it made me stronger!

The French have an attitude and love for triathlon that can’t really be put into words. I’m sure that a triathlon is a ‘check the box’ event for some, but I really think that triathlons for most are an event that they really love and enjoy. For a race that was, to me, more difficult than any other race that I’ve done to date, the equipment in the transition area was noticeably basic. There were very few disc wheels, and even carbon wheels were not the norm…probably due in part to the terrain. There were more ‘old’ road bikes than fancy tri bikes…the fancy tri bikes were likely ridden by the TeamTBB crew!! The crowds and spectators were great. It wasn’t uncommon to see a group of teenagers standing on the side of the road with the competitor list in hand looking for your number and calling out your name as you passed on the bike or run. This went on the entire run course and through almost every village on the one loop bike course.

Next up will be one of the ‘more difficult’ US races…Ironman Wisconsin. Amy and I did this race last year. I’ll be going back this year to improve on last year’s 9th place finish.

Embrunman…A Prelude

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

A little over 2 weeks ago now, I competed at Ironman UK.  Until then, my Ironman ‘career’ had spanned a grand total of 6 Ironman races…2 age group races with IM Florida in 2001 and IM Hawaii in 2002, and 4 professional races with IMAz ’08, IMMOO ’09, IMFl ’09, and IMChina ’10.  UK was my 7th Ironman to race, my best finish, and what I considered the ‘hardest’ Ironman in which I had raced.

After my 5th place finish, Doc let me know that I had ‘earned’ my entry into Embrunman.  I’d heard of Embrunman from James who raced last year and finished 3rd.  I’d never done 2 ironmans in the space of 2 weeks, much less 2 of the more (most) difficult in that same span.  Honestly, I was not sure if I should be happy in that triathlete sort of way or scared to death of the race.

So, on Friday the 13th (I only realize that as I type this blog!) myself, Scott, Matt, James, and Tereza hopped in a couple of rented V’dubs and left Leysin to go to Embrunman.  I’ll spare you the details of the trip…Matt has covered some of them here.  We stopped at a Carrefour grocery for lunch and then it was into Embrun where we checked in, received our race numbers, and found something else to eat at a proper restaurant this time!  I have a new found appreciation for the odd grocery store meal…sometimes made better with the addition of some McDonald’s “Potatoes” (not frites) as seen in Matt’s blog!  Then we took a drive up and up and up to one of the ski resorts there where we would be staying for the weekend.  All in all the trip getting to Embrun was a good one.  The town itself reminded me quite a bit of a Colorado or New Mexico town like Durango or Ruidoso.  Saturday was spent with the usual pre-race stuff…workouts, checking in bikes, filling water bottles, other time consuming things, etc.

I have to go back to whether or not I was happy or scared to death of the race.  As we headed to Embrun, we took the scenic route that included a drive over the Col du Galibier.  As we climbed, and kept climbing, I came to the realization that a little bit of fear…or at least respect…would probably serve me well as James kept saying how the Galibier was quite similar to the Col du Izoard.

They say pictures are worth a thousand words.  Unfortunately, my camera/video only had a smidge of battery left, so I was able to shoot a short 1 minute clip below.  But, you will have to check Matt’s blog for more pics as well as James’ blog for some pictures as well.  I’ll link James’ in a day or so when I post my race report…

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Montreaux…A Musical Tour

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

About a week ago, the assigned ride was “Ride to Montreaux, have a coffee or hot chocolate, and take a picture of Freddie Mercury.”  So, Amy and I headed down the hill to Montreaux.

A bit out of order, but I will get to the rest later.  We went down the “boardwalk” for some people watching, a short video (see Amy’s blog), and a visit to the Freddie Mercury statue. Apparently, Montreaux was his 2nd home, and they erected a statue in his honor. For those of you who are musically challenged, Freddie Mercury was the lead singer of the band Queen. I have to say that Queen was well ahead of their time, or at least very innovative in their music. They have two very famous songs in “We are the Champions” and “Bohemian Rhapsody”. “Bohemian Rhapsody” was made more famous by the move “Wayne’s World” starring Mike Meyers and Dana Carvey of “Saturday Night Live” fame.

But, neither of those rank as my favorite Queen song. My favorite is “Fat Bottomed Girls”…it’s a great get moving kind of song…it makes the rockin’ world go round.

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Amy’s favorite is “Under Pressure”…but not the Vanilla Ice Ice Baby crap knock off…the real “Under Pressure” song!

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And, since this is a triathlon related site, it is only fitting to link the Queen song “Bicycle Race”!  Make sure you are over 18 to view this one!!

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Montreaux’s musical history lies more with Jazz than Queen I suspect.  The Jazz festival in Montreaux kicked off shortly after we arrived in Switzerland. A few of our teammeates went to see Ben Harper, but we did not. Austin has it fair share of music festivals as well, and Texas is fairly well known for some of its musical talents…Austin in particular. More recently, the Austin City Limits Music Festival in September has become one of the largest.

Before we hit the Freddie Mercury statue, we headed to the Miles Davis Music Hall and snapped a few pictures of some legendary blues and jazz artists…BB King, Ray Charles, and Aretha Franklin. I thought I would post a little bit of a musical blog.

BB King…my favorite song of his is probably “Lucille” or “The Thrill is Gone”. But, I will post a video to tie in the Austin connection with Stevie Ray Vaughn…”The Sky is Crying”!

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Ray Charles…my favorite song has to be “Georgia on My Mind”, but that might be because Willie Nelson, from Texas, recorded it also!

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Aretha Franklin…R..E..S..P..E..C..T..has to be the most known song of her’s! Written by Otis Redding. I tried to tie it back to a Texas artist that I like, but could not find a good video. I believe that Janis Joplin did a cover of “RESPECT” and was influenced by Aretha…and Aretha’s older sister also sang a song that Janis made famous…””. Janis hails from Texas.

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So, there you go, a short musical tour of Montreaux, Switzerland…with a little Texas in there too!!

Swiss Cheese comes from Swiss Cows!!

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

I have a blog about our rare “coffee shop” ride to Montreaux in progress, but in the interim, here was the scene outside our window yesterday afternoon.  I had to post it.

And, since we have been here, we have noticed that Swiss Cheese with ‘holes’ in it seems to be more of a Western thing.  Some of the cheeses we’ve eaten are…normal Mozzarella, Tilsiter, Gruyere, and Emmental which is typical swiss looking cheese!  Anyway, enjoy the video of the Swiss cows, bells and all.  And, I’m pretty sure these cows eat grass for most of their lives like they are supposed to…not corn and the other crap we tend to feed them in the US.

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Ironman UK Race Report…Part II

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

Race morning I woke up early, really early. I was on the 4:15am shuttle from Reebok Stadium. Tom-Tom got me there with “no drama” as coach would say. Shuttle bus to T1, and the day was started. And, it wasn’t raining…yet!

Swim start was in the water and it was old school in that the pros had about a 10 meter cushion. The water wasn’t ‘that’ cold, and I had my B70 Helix to keep me warm and floaty. 6AM and we were off. I was in good position at the start right along with Fraser, Stephen, and Axel. Fraser was leading and threw in several surges, but we stayed together through the first loop. About 1/3 way through loop #2, I got a weird cramp in my right calf…something similar happened to one leg at Hulaman last year. No idea why, just happened. Complete speculation here, but I almost think that it has to do with wearing a wetsuit for a longish swim for the first time in months. So, now I was at the back of the bunch turning my arms over, kicking frantically with my left leg, and trying to mentally coax my right leg into relaxing while I drug it along with me. My right foot was flexed and felt like a canoe paddle just dragging through the water. I lost about a minute or so over the course of the last 1500 meters or so. An Ironman is a long day of decisions, so I just kept moving forward even though I honestly wasn’t sure how things would pan out. Out of the swim in 4th with a now sore right calf. Today, as I finish this it is Thursday and my calf is almost back to normal.

Ran right past my T1 bag, smoothly turned around and went back for it. Grabbed arm warmers just in case…Coach said it would be cold. I didn’t use them, but in hindsight they might have been a good idea. Me, the P4, 3T, Token, and LG were off for a journey through the English countryside…or so I thought. The course was about ½ countryside and ½ urban navigation. The roads were rough…Coach was right again. It did rain off and on. After about 20 minutes I reached back to grab a bottle of First Endurance EFS, it wasn’t there! Or at least it wasn’t where it should have been. Seems the rough roads had caused my bottle holder to slip so that my bottles were now parallel to the ground, probably more aero , but definitely harder to grab. Luckily, they stayed there for the duration of the ride, and there were no ejected bottles.

T1...Location #1

T1...Location #1

About 15 miles into the course at the start of the loop, I got a time check 7 minutes down. 7 minutes, really over 15 miles…are my tires flat and my brakes rubbing? Yeah, I did a super quick check of the brakes. Nope, they’re good. I didn’t feel great, but I didn’t feel that bad either! I thought back to Amy’s IMUSA race where she didn’t feel that good. I was totally, and I mean totally, alone. Just me and some sheep on part of the course…and they were actually ON the course! Amy was totally alone and didn’t start so well, so she just tried to ride harder and push through it. I did the same and figured if I blew I blew. Lap #2 was over, and I got a split of about 15 minutes down from the lead. But, where were 2nd and 3rd place? Lap #3 came and went, still 15 minutes. OK, good I at least salvaged the last loop. A post race check of the splits showed that I lost all of the time to Fraser in the first 2 loops, and all of my time to Stephen and Axel in the first loop. Fraser continued to pull away on the 2nd loop, but I didn’t lose any real time to Stephen and Axel.

Did I mention it was part urban navigation skills? Yep, on loops 2 and 3 we not only had other competitors and potholes to deal with, but cars, buses, trucks, a tractor, to name a few! At least the sheep on ‘Sheep House Lane’ were gone, and yes, that really was the name of the road. There were times that I was passing bikes and cars! I had to ask myself if I was safer passing the cars waiting to pass bikes on the left or the right, I chose one or the other depending on where I was on the course. At this point, I was tired of wet and crappy roads, and had no idea how I was going to run, much less a marathon since I “felt” like I was riding hard. I was counting down the miles to go, the miles to hit that magical 112 miles. 112 came and went, 113 came and went, and I was still not at T2! SWEET, they even added a couple of bonus wet and crappy road miles to the course!

Avia Bolts and fuel belt on, and I was out to tackle the first 3 miles of off road running through a muddy, boggy, wooded area! I think that it is safe to say that the first 3 miles were a bit short as I do not think that I was running 5:30s! But, I am pretty sure they made up for it somewhere as I had a few really long and slow early miles in there. Miles 1-10 went by pretty quickly. I was about 20 minutes down from Fraser at this point, and I hit a bad patch from about miles 12-18 or so. I lost another 5 or so minutes and was passed to be in 5th place. I kind of snapped myself out it it and pushed through. Again, I gambled that if I wasn’t feeling that good, I’d try to push through and try to make something happen. It worked…or maybe it was the coke at the aid stations. My pace dropped and I was “flying”! Relative of course since this is an Ironman. My “mental gymnastics” were not going so well as I was a bit worried about being 8%-ed. Turns out I was o.k., but still that was part of the motivation to keep it going! And, when all was said and done, I had gained a few pounds!

A Few More Pounds than This!

A Few More Pounds than This!

5th place, 9:07 something. Not quite the race I was hoping for, but like my pre-race video, I was a fighter. I took some licks. I could have thrown in the towel after the swim, or any number of times on the bike. I didn’t win, but I gave it a good effort…my legs are still reminding me of that! Special congrats to Fraser who didn’t try to hide the fact that he started IMUK in 2008, but didn’t finish. He was back in 2010 to finish. He finished in great style leading pretty much from start to finish. He didn’t call 2010 his rookie IM, but he did feel that he was more properly prepared for it. Congrats also to TeamMates Stephen and Bella Bayliss who both took 2nd, and to Donna Phelen who was 4th in the women’s pro field.

Award with TriathleteMag Europe TeamTBB 'Expose'

Award with TriathleteMag Europe TeamTBB 'Expose'

The award didn’t quite weigh 16 pounds like Amy’s from IM Wisconsin last year or IM Lake Placid this year, but it is a step in the right direction towards the so far elusive Top-3!  Oh yeah, thanks to TriCentral UK for throwing in the Triathlete Magazine after I purchased a new behind the seat bottle carrier.  TeamTBB was featured in the article.  After the race, it was time to get on with the best part of an Ironman…cleaning up the aftermath.  Kind of looked like an explosion occurred in my room at “The High Grove Inn”.

Not too bad here!

Not too bad here!

Bags, Shoes, Bottles, Etc...all in need of a bath!

Bags, Shoes, Bottles, Etc...all in need of a bath!

So, now it is back in Leysin.  Some training to go.  Rumor is that coach might have me head to Embrunman in France for a training day.  After Leysin, it is back to the states for some more training and racing!

Ironman UK Race Report Part I…aka A Texan’s Trip to England

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Trust me, there will be a race report to follow in Part II!

I think that the conversation went something like this…

Coach: I want you to think about doing Ironman UK.

Me: OK, sounds good (I had been “Jonesing” to race a European race).

Coach: The roads are crappy. It’s going to be cold and wet. The Europeans hate England. But, I think you should go do it.

Me: Wow, sounds like a great race, I can’t wait. How do I sign up!

So, Thursday I left the confines of Leysin, Switzerland with TeamMate Donna Phelan and headed to Geneva to go to Manchester, England. IMUK is in Bolton, which a couple of Brits assured me was not how all of England was. Gee I thought, this trip keeps getting better!

Got to Manchester quite delayed. Got the car, and yes the steering wheel was on the wrong side of the car for an American. I upgraded to an automatic, and got a GPS. Both of which I would be thankful for later! I have never used a GPS for traveling, and I soon found that postal codes mean a lot more in England than in the US. After passing “The Highgrove Inn” probably 5 times, I got to the hotel.

This'll be FUN!!

This'll be FUN!!

Immediately, I walked towards the Bolton Town Centre to find something to eat. No one seemed to have a “Jacket Potato”, so I settled for a Chicken Tikka Kebab on Naan bread with Chips (fries for you US folks). According to Stephen (Bayliss), curry or kebabs are kind of the unofficial national dish of England. I guess they are like Mexican food in Texas…there is a curry or kebab shop on every corner, sometimes 2. Unless you wanted a pub or some “Texas Chicken” instead. It’s called “Church’s Chicken” in Texas, but same logo and all! To top it all off, it was cool and rainy!

Not far from the Hotel

Not far from the Hotel

It's actually Church's Fried Chicken in TX

It's actually Church's Fried Chicken in TX

Pub on Every Corner

Pub on Every Corner

Friday morning I woke up and had a traditional “English Breakfast” of eggs, bacon (what we would call ham), sausage, and a grilled tomato…I declined the baked beans. After that and a short run, I made my way to packet pick up and T1. Then it was off for a half-failed attempt at driving the course. I say half-failed because I had the street by street and turn by turn (about 30 per loop, seriously) directions from the website, but no reliable map, and my trusty Tom-Tom GPS. Once I figured out what “stay right on the round-about” and “go through the round-about” meant, I was good to go…oh yeah, and making sure I looked right instead of left when approaching intersections. Tom-Tom and I sat off to check out the course. I made it from T1 to what I assumed was the start of the loop. I think that Tom-Tom and I made it about ½ way through the loop and then I got turned around…literally. I drove around with the turn by turn directions and Tom-Tom, but couldn’t seem to make the two match up, and my keen eyesight did no better. So, it was back towards the hotel…to top it all off, it was still raining! And yes, the roads were indeed crappy.

We Rode Out There Somewhere

We Rode Out There Somewhere

Luckily, on the way to the hotel, I passed a “leisure center”. The same one that I found online that had a pool. I did get in a bit of a swim, and that was a bonus. The day ended fine.

Saturday I was supposed to check in my bike and gear bag between 9 and 10am. Not cool. And, it was still cool and rainy. I got to T1 about 9am and did a little ride to make sure the bike worked. I put the bike in the transition area and then proceeded to head to T2…a different location all together to drop off my run bag. Done and done, back to the leisure center for a stress-relieving swim. The pre-race meeting was at different location #3, home of the Bolton Wanderers football team, Reebok Stadium. Oh yeah, the finish was at different location #4, Bolton town center.

T1...Location #1

T1...Location #1

Location #2...T2

Location #2...T2

Did I mention that I ate lunch and dinner (Friday and Saturday) at ASDA…the English ‘Wal-Mart’? I figured it was a safe bet, and cheap!

Englist Wal-Mart

Englist Wal-Mart

I also decided that the English are a bit confused! The speed limit and distances are in mph and miles, but you fill up your gas tank using litres. I had every intention of getting some pictures of some of the scenery along the course and countryside, but the weather put a damper on that.

Bolton Town Centre Church

Bolton Town Centre Church

Stay tuned for Part II, coming tomorrow.