Making ZERO Difference in a Year!

June 16, 2016 70.3Race Reports  No comments


Last year, on June 10th, while finishing a 94 mile ride through the Santa Cruz mountains during an unusually rainy day, my bike slid out from underneath me on what would be the final steep and sharp turn before heading home. The result was a fractured right hip that left me on crutches for the next three and a half months and subsequently caused me to cancel the remaining 4 races I had coming up. But racing wasn’t the only thing affected by my now sedentary ways. My Ironman race, scheduled for late September in Chattanooga, Tennessee was also a race I had planned to do for ZERO Cancer, an organization dedicated to raising awareness, providing education and research and ultimately seeing a generation of men with zero prostate cancer. It too, now was on hold.

Since my last post back in October on Gratitude, I’ve slowly been making progress toward the promise I made myself that first Saturday as I sat immovable on the couch. The way I saw it… this was not a STOP, only a PAUSE. That meant not only would racing be in my future but fundraising would also return.

My road back started slow but I was committed to getting one race in before the end of the year so as to get a third race on the books and be eligible for a USAT ranking. So, I set my sights on an Olympic distance race in early December, realizing I had less than 8 weeks to get ready.

Race Report – HITS Triathlon Series, Palm Springs (Olympic)

While I was healing up I was also coaching one of my colleagues at work. Together we put our sites on a race in La Quinta, California. For me it held several advantages, first it was flat and fast. Second, I lived in La Quinta for 13 years before moving to San Jose so I knew the course like the back of my hand and third, I would have a huge support base of friends there for logistical ease!

Once in the desert, we drove over to Lake Cahuilla to register and scope out the course. As we were leaving I overheard someone at the registration table telling someone the water will be cold and to consider extra head gear. It was about 75 degrees with perfectly sunny skies… I walked to the water, kicked off my flip flops and walked in ankle deep… seemed pretty warm to me, so I’m not sure what they were talking about.


Driving in as the sun was coming up over the eastern sky, the rocky mountains surrounding the lake were lit in purple majesty. So many mornings here, seeing this exact vista put my heart at ease… It’s gonna be a great day for a comeback!

After settling into transition and walking through all the steps of place/flow/sighting and putting on my wetsuit, I grabbed my goggles and we walked over to the lakeshore… There was just enough time for a typical 5 min warm up. I jump into the water. O H   M Y   G O S H ! ! ! It’s freezing! I put my face down in the water and I start to swim along the shoreline. My hands hurt, may face hurts, where did my feet go? I get out. I walk up to an official, before I can say anything he looks at me and just says, “52.” 52 degrees!! How? It had to be high 60’s just 16 hours ago. With no time to argue… I had to get back in the water. 3, 2, 1…

Swim: There were only three waves, splitting the men into two groups and the women in one. I was in the second wave. While the water was cold the surface was calm. There was no wind and going out you swum straight into the sun. The course was a large rectangle that looked like it could be a little short but in the end was actually long as my Garmin recorded an extra 200 meters. I felt I had a good swim but the time confirmed the extra distance. Time – 29:23

Bike: Going into transition everything was numb… I had such a hard time getting things off and on because my hands could barely grasp and hold things… finally getting out on the bike course I just decided to go hard, for no other reason than to warm up! Being from here and ridden these roads so often, I knew the lines to pick, the places where false flats are deceiving and where two german shepherds were notorious for jumping out of the bushes and chasing you down… At the turn around there were there were two others who held pace with me and we rode switching positions all the way into transition. Time – 1:04:26

Run: I changed shoes, grabbed my visor and started out with the same two just mentioned. However, they quickly gained distance as the much younger, and prepared legs did their natural thing. However, as I got out of the park, I did not notice any runners coming toward me for quite some time. This let me know the first person I see will be in the first position of this race and I’d be able to count down my place by the turn around… I was doing my best to run as fast as I could but with only about 2 months of running in me and limited running at that, I had no idea what to expect once I headed back toward the finish… at the turn around I had counted my place to be 11th and looking ahead there were only a few people in site coming toward me. First a guy who may have been in college, next a guy who may be in my age group. There was about a half a mile distance between us… He was moving pretty good… would he catch me? No. As I came into the park and ran along the grass path toward the finish, I was pretty confident I had not only completed my first race since my accident… I had won my age group. Who woulda thought? Time – 46:42 Total time – 2:25:45   AG 1 / Gender 11 / Overall 14 = USAT 2015 All American

Now 2016 and looking ahead, it was time to schedule the year and develop an annual training plan (ATP). However, because things had significantly affected due to the crash, I felt perhaps this year, I’d change up my training routine by engaging a new coach with a completely different approach to training/racing. So, I reached out to my buddy Spence who the previous year started working with Amanda Stevens, a top US female pro who also has a medical degree. Plus hearing from Spence she definitely had a different approach. So, after consulting with her we decided to give it a year. How different an approach? Well first… I started all my workouts from then on based on a heart rate formula that had me running at the brisk pace of 10:20 minute miles. Also, gone were such wonderful things as cookies, bread, pasta, potatoes, rice and sugar of any kind!!! Welcome bacon, butter, heavy cream and avocados! The purpose? Eat fat to train your body to use fat. Guess what? It works!

Race Report – Ironman New Orleans 70.3

Having just been in New Orleans for a Fellowship of Christian Athletes Endurance board of directors retreat, I determined that this would be my first attempt at a half iron-distance race. With fellow board member and teammate, Barry living right there on Lake Pontchartrain and with my wife never having been to New Orleans it was a trip we had to do. Thanks to Barry and Susie’s hospitality we had an exceptional time and got to eat some of the best food in our lives, including a foodie bucket list item of dining at the Commander’s Palace. But this is a race report.

One pleasant surprise about this race is Coach Amanda decided to race NOLA 70.3 as well so, I had the privilege of having my coach on hand. This allowed me to discuss more specifically nutrition and racing strategies and get realtime feedback on efforts.


All week the weather report was showing extremely windy conditions for race day. 24 hours prior the winds started to kick up and Barry began to instruct us on what to expect when on course. We were assured the swim would be not much of a problem because it would be in a protected harbor.

Swim: It was pretty choppy! The winds were blowing a steady 25miles an hour and for many of the athletes jumping off the dock simply getting to the first buoy was a chore. We were later told that nearly 100 people were either pulled out of the water or did not make the swim cut off. For me I felt as though going out to the first turn was the roughest. The course shaped like a capital N wasn’t hard to site once you knew what you were looking for. But this race too was marked too long perhaps in a counter to the previous years short swim. Time – 37:41

Bike: Other than the large overpass you ride at the start and end of the bike leg this course is pancake flat! But the winds were serious. At mile 5 the wind pushed over an A-Frame sign right in front of me, luckily I had just enough reaction to avoid what would have been pavement reunion. The steady work going out against the wind only made you look forward to the return which seemed just as fast as going out was slow. No alligators, no flats, no surprises just a 56 mile bike ride through the bayou! Time – 2:38:08

Run: Getting to the prime transition location I lucked out with provided me a quick change of shoe and straight shot to the run out. Placing visor and race-belt on my legs started to get a rhythm going as I pushed toward the first mile and again the only “hill” of this run; an overpass! Fist mile split as just at 7:45 and I wondered how, with all this low heart rate training, I would be able to hold this pace… also, the wind was at my back and I wondered if it was going to be a factor later on. At three miles I saw Amanda charging toward me. She was in 6th and about to run down the 5th place gal. I yelled, “Get her!” She did!! As I approached the turn around on this one loop course, the winds were pushing the lake up and over the sea wall and splashing onto the street… yes the winds were that strong! But I did not really know how strong until I made that turn. It was like someone slapped me… “Straighten up boy!” and as if to push me in the chest and back into a wall. I leaned forward, I scrunched my shoulders together trying my best to make myself as small an obstacle to catch the wind. “Don’t give in” I kept telling myself seeing the wind as my only foe on course now. With the time trial start I had no idea where I was in my age group but as I was approaching the overpass for the last 2 miles I began to realize… I had completely returned to this sport I love, at the distance I’m most familiar with and with very little loss in ability. When I crossed the finish line and as I started walking toward my wife… it hit me. I had done it. Last year there were those “experts” who were telling me not to get my hopes up and to consider what life would be like no longer having the ability to run or to compete for a podium finish. The emotion overtook me and I sobbed in gratitude. Time – 1:53:29  Total Time – 5:14:14  AG 5 / Gender 152 / Overall 180

Now that the play button had been pushed on my racing it was time to push it on my fundraising as well. This year the focus race for ZERO wasn’t an Ironman it was a 70.3 race in Boulder, Colorado. What made this race appealing to me was the fact it would be held exactly one year and one day after my crash! The thought of not making this my comeback race for ZERO never enter my mind… I was definitely going to do it!

Coach Amanda was still reminding me that the focus was still 2 months away and to not get too eager with my training because of Boulder. But I was pretty excited about doing this race and at one point started doing more than she scheduled… I got politely scolded.

Race Report – Ironman Boulder 70.3

On Wednesday I flew into Denver International Airport and grabbed my rental car and headed to friends Doug and Summer’s house who graciously hosted me and allowed me full run of their kitchen and let me come and go (at weird hours) as I pleased. Boulder was still a good distance along the front range from their house but proved to be a great location for all I needed to do. I had my bike shipped to their place so it was there waiting for me upon arrival.

On Thursday, I went to the race venue to register and scope out the course. There I got to hang out with Julie and Jen from ZERO who were amazing hosts for our team and did everything they could to make us feel comfortable and welcomed! The next day my buddy Spence came up from Colorado Springs to get in a little swim/bike/run and keep me company!

It was beginning to get pretty hot on Friday with Saturday forecasted for even hotter temps. Along with the warm up training, speaking at an IronPrayer event, catching up with a friend in downtown Boulder for an hour then out to a park for a team dinner and driving back to Littleton, I found myself, although pretty hydrated surprisingly, cramping up a little… not a good sign the night before a race. As, I got all my gear prepared and double checked everything for the 4:20 am morning departure, I grabbed another bottle of water, chugged it down and headed up to my room.


When I arrived at the reservoir, I had timed my departure perfectly in order to get a parking spot right in front of the expo. This would be a blessing later when it came time to leave. Team ZERO were given prime locations for transition allowing us to have a little more room in a pretty cramped space. In Boulder the sun comes up early and so by 6am it was very bright and the temperatures began to climb. By 7am it was noticeably warm. My wave was fairly early and I decided to get my wetsuit on and get my warmup swim in as soon as the male pro’s were sent off at 7:15. Now in the water swimming one lap around a fence off area, the water temp was just above 70 degrees. I get out get in cue and wait…

Swim: I chose to line up at the front, up against the buoy line (inside). Which is a different strategy for me. The wave is all men 55 and older. Surprisingly, not many choose to come to this side. When the horn went off what typically is a slug-fest for a few hundred meters was nothing more than a nice smooth swim. I’m guessing one of the least contact starts in my racing career! This is good because all the pushing and shoving forces heavier breathing which I was trying to avoid being up at 5200 feet. Not wanting to redline on the oxygen while horizontal, nice and easy was the plan for the swim and that’s what it seemed to be all the way in. Easy to sight, easy to finish! Time – 33:16

Bike: As I ran into transition, Julie and Jen were there for cheers and encouragement. David the director of the Ironman Foundation was also there letting me know I was the 4 teammate out of the water and encouraged me to chase em down. Once I ran my bike across the mount line I jumped on and pushed forward to come to a screeching halt! Somehow my chain was now lodged in my bottom bracket. What??? I checked it right before leaving transition for the swim… I always check my gears. It’s the last thing I do, religiously, before heading to the swim. So now a minute and a half later with my hand full of grease and blood from ripping into my thumb, I’m able to get back on and ride out.

There’s a nice breeze making for a noticeable headwind going out but a welcomed push coming back on the first out and back loop for the first 18 miles. Once we start the second section of the ride there is a long slow gradual climb toward the front range… the scenery is beautiful and I’m just grateful to be out there. I’m steadily watching my heart rate knowing it will push higher that usual at effort because of the altitude difference and I’m staying about 5-6 beats higher than usual for the power output. Again at the far section around mile 30 the steady climbing is deceptive before you start a wicked fast descent. Then for the last 15 miles it’s just aerobar time and ticking out a rhythm on the pedals. Time – 2:26:48

Run: As I run out of transition the grass is soggy from water along the first aid station. Now you can definitely feel the humidity rising off the wet ground. As I get going I focus on keeping a short stride to elevate the leg turnover needed for a quick run… but my legs are as soggy as the ground I just ran on. Coming out of the park you run first along a field then onto a gravel road. The first aid station is just after a mile and my heart rate is already at 148… first mile split 7:35. Well, that’s not bad. I walk the aid station to get my HR down and fill up with as much water as I can. I take a couple Endurolytes. I start running. The next two miles are slightly up, then down and up again. Pace has now dropped with aid station walking to mid 8’s. Then coming back toward transition I’m finding it really hard to breath. Pace drops to mid 9’s. Now onto my second lap, it’s hot and I just can’t seem to get the air I want. I’ve started taking BASE Salts every aid station although, I myself am not that crusty with salty sweat and indication you’re losing too much salt. But by mile 7 my legs are cramping, mile 9 I’m now running flat-footed to keep my calves from cramping. At mile 11 my arms and my legs are knotting up… barley holding 10 min pace because I’m now run/walking I’m a mile out from the finish… a guy in my age group starts to run around me. So, I put my head down and get moving again, I quickly get around him but my legs are in complete rebellion, they are forcing my to hobble. I stop. I pound my fists into my quads and calves, while my hands contort uncontrollably. I start running again but only as a jog and hold on to the finish. Now in the finish shoot I run by the ZERO Tent to cheers… I hear my name, I cross the finish line and not wanting to look like I’m struggling so much, I strike a pose with a big smile (coach’s orders) and my right leg seizes up… serves me right for showing off! Time – 2:07:54  Total Time – 5:13:33  AG 10 / Gender 248 / Overall 296

It’s not what I wanted but it was everything I hoped for.

My personal purpose for coming to Boulder was to see what a difference a year would make. However, my primary purpose was to raise money and bring awareness to ZERO. As in years past, I set out to be the top fundraiser and to set an example that with hard work and dedication you can achieve extraordinary heights.  As of race day I had accomplished both goals by pushing through extreme conditions and proudly finishing one year post surgery and having raised over $26,000 for ZERO.

For all of you who encouraged, prayed, supported, believed, raced alongside, fundraised alongside and contributed to these goals; from the bottom of my heart – Thank you! As a result from this race I’ll be representing ZERO at the Ironman World Championships in October and will continue to represent this important cause.  My supporters have done their part, I’ve done my part, now would you please consider doing your part by clicking HERE and making a contribution today and being part of this amazing effort?

Again… Thank you!

Next race – Vineman 70.3 – July 10, 2016


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