Finding a starting point for this report was difficult as I have yet to find the ending point.There isn’t an ending point, even after crossing the finish line.My slowest time overall on the course, as well as a worst bike/run combination.The background leading up to this result amounts to nothing more than a steady decline in power and overall fitness the last two years.Even after using a power meter, you would think there would be an increase in biking power output even at my ripe age of 39.Power meters are useless and will never work—period, in my situation.Two weeks before Ironman Arizona back in April, I had an MRI and XRAY done in hopes of finding out what was causing my gluteus and hamstring to be in pain over the last 1.5 years.It turns out I have spondylolysis, and it was discovered I was born with a 6th (L6) lower vertebrae which is fused to my SI.In white males, L6 occurs in approximately 8% of the population, so I’m a genetic freak in the wrong way I suppose.Anyhow, this seems to be cause of all the woes, and I thought it was just age and being tired from having a 2 year old.Power meter or not, I’m not able to generate the power to bike fast, and it is to the point where the best days of racing have passed me by (sounds pretty dang dismal, eh?)I can keep further damage/decline to a minimum through extensive physical therapy, chiropractor work, massage, and reduction of time on the road.Heck, I’ve been to physiotherapists, acupuncturist, had chiropractor work, prescription pain & anti-inflammatory meds, Pilates work, massage, had to learn to retrain my core usage through ultrasound, large amounts of time off, in addition to reduced training by approximately 50-75% throughout this season compared to when I was racing well in past years.A cortisone shot is one thing I am weary of trying that hasn’t been done yet, especially since the lady that owned KC Fine Furniture just died having the same procedure done on her.Now that you know some of the background on why I seem to be racing so poorly, it sort of makes sense. The docs pretty much said the situation can improve somewhat but it will never go away (good news for my competition), and decline will continue to happen…so the results will likely decline more rapidly without continued care and attention.I’ve had a good run in tris throughout the years, so no regrets.Had my turn at the top, and am proud of those races and series I’ve won—including winning the Boulder Peak 35-39 two years ago (even though the real fast guys never showed up).
I’m swimming about 5-8k a week (sometimes less), biking easy a few times a week, and my long runs have been limited to a entire 8 or 9 miles at only a 7:30 to 7:40 pace with weeks between those long runs.Speedwork isn’t an option at this point as the speed increased the force at which I land, and thus, hurts my hip/back/leg to a point where it isn’t worth doing the speedwork.If I can feel better this winter I will try to work in some track or fartlek work on the runs. Short runs, slow runs, same for the bike—short & slow for the most part since April.That will change this fall as I will be working more closely with my athletes on their key rides and runs health providing of course.The speedwork is something that will have to be passed up though right now. This isn’t a long lead in of excuses for what would normally be considered an “off” race for me, but rather a tally list of the situation so one day I can look back and see what the problems were without having to recall from memory.
Race morning I woke up at 4:30 AM despite living only 3 miles from the start.After showering, a cup of coffee, Clif Bar, filling the tires with air, I headed out the door.Yes, I always shower race morning to help warm the muscles from the outside, and wake myself up a little.The 11 minute ride to the Rez was warm, so I knew it would be a hot day to race. Upon arriving at the Rez, the line to get numbered was about 2 blocks long.No way was I going to stand in line for that long.For some reason, people don’t know you can enter transition, set up your stuff (get a good spot), and then get numbered.Somehow there was an end rack, right at the Wave 6 post, making for easy spotting upon getting to T1 after the swim. After setting up, and making 5 stops at the porta-potties (why are things down there so over-active on race morning like that—what’s up with that?), I was ready as I could be.I felt good, relaxed, no pressure, and the usual suspects were there.No pressure because the “usual suspects” in the age group consisted of pro level athletes that would likely stack the top 10 at USAT AG Nationals, and all are from Colorado.I won’t go into names, but it was stacked—anybody who was a top 10 somebody in 35-39 was there at the start. That alone would add pressure to a recent age group champion of this race, if not for knowing that person was not operating on all cylinders, with only a small portion of power and fitness of the past.I finally got to wish a few of my athletes I coach a good luck in person, as they are usually amidst the chaos of the crowds and not easy to find.After a quick hello to a few of them, I suited up in my new Blue Seventy Helix (the first new wetsuit since 2003 I’ve owned). When Wave 6 toed the line, it was my choice to start far right as the angle allowed for me to see the first buoy better—avoiding the direct sunrise immediately in front of the start line (why can’t they start the swim to the north and avoid the sun all together?)The second part of my placement choice was to avoid being trounced by the piranhas in the center of the largest age group of the race.My new Helix was wicked fast to the first buoy as I was in 2nd place.For some reason and I’m not sure why—I finished the swim with the 3rd fastest swim time in the 35-39 age group.The swim as always my weakness, and even in hindsight, it isn’t clear to me why those who normally finish the swim with me were lagging a full minute behind me.What a great start.
Transition was pretty good, not great, but better than the 5430 sprint where the timing chip was wrapped up in my wetsuit at the ankle causing me to lose contact with my typical swim group.The wheels started to come off from the get-go when a few females passed me like there was a fire somewhere and they had to put it out.Then the usual suspects went by and there was no response from my legs. There were some that went by that if all systems were normal, I would have been able to stay with, but not this year.Some gal from the 35-39 age group passed me back on the bike just before Old Stage with her non-participating roadie friend riding in fully decked out SRAM hat, socks, shorts, jersey pacing her. He was actually getting in the way of the racers and really shouldn’t have been out there pacing her. Once we hit the uphill my steady pacing took over and I was able to easily drop her until she caught me on the flats back on the highway again.When in fighting shape, I would finish an Olympic distance race with possibly one or two of the top pro women in the world ahead of me.Now I was getting trounced by age group females, which isn’t a bad thing as it made for a good reality check.Chicks are tough, no matter what color of USAT card they hold (pro or amateur).The old ego did sting a bit but for some reason I was also rooting for the girls pushing me, it was impressive to see this level of competition.They are the stronger of the two sexes anyhow. It seems with a 66th overall bike rank my biking was the weak point this time around.There is a sneaking suspicion on my part that my bike position aggravates my injury, with my rear being too far “rearward” on the saddle.The geometry of the bike is such that to maintain control over the bike on descents that merely adding a forward seat post would not solve the problem.This becomes a great but real excuse for getting a new bike with much different geometry.Back to the bike portion, the heart rate never really got up very high as the higher the intensity, the more pain in my hip.Racing is supposed to hurt, but not like this sort of discomforting pain.I cruised in with a 1:10 and change for a course that just two years ago I went 1:07 on with very little additional effort.Coming into T2, all was good with a fairly smooth (again not great) change.
Ah, the run.My favorite part of a triathlon is the run, which historically has been my strength.How wrong could one be?Today this was the most painful portion of the entire race, after the first 5k that is—just after the turn around.As flat as the run was, it was very hilly from left to right with each step (a sure sign of heat exhaustion), coupled with increasing episodes of dizziness.I’m not good in the heat, never have been.This could be the reason that after 7 times in Hawaii my Hawaii PR was only 9:48 and change while my Ironman PR is actually 9:14 in conditions that were around a cool 72 F.If it is hot, I’m done before I start (it must be a genetic thing from growing up in Michigan).I have those Nordic genes which feed off of cooler temperatures…since I am half Swedish, that actually makes sense to me.The old legs had no snap in them, or speed we’ll call it.It seemed as if the motivation to push wasn’t there at all, nor the desire.Looking back, I hurt enough to not really want to be out there at all where in the past, the more I hurt the more it drove me to push through it.Not this time.It was different from hurt, and different from being completely unmotivated.This just seemed painful in a bad way and not fun, something not experienced before. Racing shouldn’t be like that, and truly it was worse than survival, it was more like, “No way I’ll be able to handle the 5430 Half in a few weeks, why the heck did I sign up for that anyhow?”This sounds anti-productive from a racing standpoint, but this wasn’t a normal race situation.This injury situation needs improvement and it really has kept me from being even remotely competitive with the guys I normally race with (the ones who beat me on this day).There was nearly a 9 minute difference between 3rd and 5th (me), which is just absurd that there would be such a big gap in this competitive of a 35-39 age group.It seemed I didn’t quite get the time gap difference, as it was just last year with the top dawgs in races around the USA WITH the injury.Is it possible to have fallen off the pumpkin wagon so quickly?Maybe, what else could it be…we raced a different course?I have to chalk it up to just being out of shape and everyone in front of me just that much more in shape.Add up 5 or 6 minutes on the bike, another 3 to 4 minute loss on the run, a few seconds from comparably slower transition, subtract a minute I gained in the swim on positions first through third, and that comes out to right around 9 minutes or more (the higher up you go on the results list).Translated, I got my butt whooped again for the third race in a row this year, something I’m not accustomed to.However, I sure don’t feel as beat up the next day as my body hasn’t been pushed as hard as it had been in previous years.
After the first 5k, I caught a gal that started in a previous wave, wearing one of the unknown brands of female athlete skirts (I hope it was Skirt Sports brand—a sponsor of ours at Gemini Multisport!) Needless to say it was all I could do to run to the finish right behind her, without being able to muster enough kick to out-sprint her.We clocked the last 5km exactly the same time.Alas, the run has been sapped from my legs and it hasn’t returned in a very, very long time.Where I lost the run legs is not clear, I’d guess it was about sometime after I ran a half marathon last fall.Haven’t seen them since, but I’m still looking for them.At this point in the season, with only a couple weeks before 5430 Half, it has come down to damage control, and look towards next season.Re-tool the equipment, heal the body, get a new game plan together that is practical for the medical condition I’ve been dealing with, and attempt to get back into some kind fighting shape for next year—at least better than where it’s currently at.Although the best years have passed per the specialists I’ve been seeing, I can hope.There is ALWAYS hope, there is always another race, another year or even another way to look at things.Maybe this is the kind of season needed after so many successful ones over my career.No doubt a hurdle to get over, and experience what the others will also someday have to deal with.Age, or injury, or life changes (family, kids, etc.) will come into play at some point, and they’ll have to learn what I already have.To my knowledge, two racers in 35-39 ahead of me aren’t married, and two while married, don’t have kids.This had no bearing on the results in case you were thinking that.What had bearing on the results was this:Regardless of what issues I have dealing with medically this past year to 2 years, I got beaten fair and square by guys who are just faster, and in better shape than I was.No excuses, it is true, and it is often referred to as getting “pummeled” in some arenas of sport.To those finishing behind me, hey, there is ALWAYS hope, another race, another year, or another way to look at things for your finish.Not everyone can finish first all the time.This time around, my body, mind and soul decided that 5th in the 35-39 was about where it wanted to be at the 2008 Boulder Peak Triathlon.