Wednesday, September 23, 2015


Michigan mist filled the dark air above Grant Park in downtown Chicago as the early bird triathletes set up their bikes and running shoes in the soggy transition area. Transition wouldn't close for another three hours, but in their relentless pursuit to reduce as many variables as possible, some racers spare no expense, even if that means waking up at 4:00 for a 10:30 race.

The night before, an armada of swollen cumulus nimbus clouds unleashed inches of pelting rain and clapped thunder in flashing succession. Even on the lower floor of our Hampton Inn, I thought I could hear rain falling on the roof. I rose just after midnight, shaken from my five hour pre-race nap, to use the restroom before another attempt to resume my slumber. Surprisingly, I didn't have the usual oh-crap-I'm-late-for-the-race-and-forgot-to-bring-my-bike-and-running-shoes dreams, though I had plenty else going against me in the weeks leading up to the race. I had spent the last two weeks fighting a cold and a terrible and sudden knot that gripped my left shoulder. After lots of massaging and vitamin C, I made it to the Windy City in as best triathlon shape as I've ever been in.

The International Triathlon Union Grand Finals was a four day affair with races for just about every multi-sport athlete. While they had some races that were open to the public, our race was for qualified personnel only. Last year in Milwaukee, just a few hours up the road, I just barely made the cut-off for a top 25 spot in my age group. I had to make the decision with a $50 deposit then and there if I was going to race in 13 months. While I wasn't sure what kind of job I would have then, if I would even be able to get away for that race, I pulled the trigger on the off chance that I did. Since then, ITU Worlds has been my focus. On race day, I tried not to think about how upsetting it could potentially be if something went wrong.

By coincidence or divine appointment, my coach happens to live within relatively close driving distance to the last three major races I've had in the lower 48 and supported me in all three in some capacity. This time, I stayed the night at his house and got some personal swim, bike, and run lessons in the days leading up to race morning. Following his training plan, I've been able to hone in on race day, and I've gone nowhere but up under his tutelage. I owe a lot of who I am as an athlete today to him ever since we started just before last summer.

My engine primed, transition good to go, and just a few short minutes to the race start, I exchange hello's and good luck's to fellow Team USA racers. Two of my USMES teammates had made it down as well and we stuck together for a lot of the pre-race activities. My roommate from the Armed Forces Triathlon, Barrett, ended up leading our age group at the end of the day.

 For being the most competitive race I've ever done, I felt unusually calm. That wasn't necessarily a good thing. I may have just burned up a lot of nerves during my warm ups.

The clouds were still grey, the wind gusts made the water a little choppy, Monroe Harbor was cast in shadow when the "take your mark" command was given. Our wave contained only half the field of our age group. The race organizers thoughtfully limited the number of racers in each wave in an attempt to keep the course reasonably uncrowded. The water temperature was perfect. The horn sounded and we headed north, parallel to the shore. I could see spectators walking alongside. Seven hundred meters had past and I could already see red-capped swimmers I was passing, swimmers in the wave ahead of me. Ok, I'm not doing so bad.

The return journey South, towards the aquarium, proved a bit more difficult than the first half. Small waves, courtesy of the Michigan winds, buffed our sides and I had trouble at times swimming straight. I would start drafting off another swimmer only to find myself slapping his feet, then I would correct my line, sight, and realize the next bouy was over my right shoulder and I'd correct again. By the time I hit the shore, about 22 minutes from the start, I think I was finally properly warmed up. Time to shift into my favorite leg.

With yells of encouragement from my parents behind the barriers, I ran my way up to T1, wet suit sleeves dangling. I had heard a lot about this course, how it was technical and not like any other bike course I've ever ridden. Mounting, spinning up to speed, I put my head into the now sunny wind. About two miles later, I entered the subterranean part of the course. Between concrete and steal supports, rays of light bouncing off the city skyscrapers illuminated intermittent splotches of asphalt. I saw my first target ahead of me. I may have an average swim but I'll be darned if anyone passes me on the bike. I bore down on him and sliced an inside corner, dropping him quickly lest I get called for a drafting penalty. Like a strobe light, a mix of natural and artificial beams turned on and off to my right; I felt like I was zooming through the tunnels at the speed of sound. I made the first 180 degree turn and sped back towards the next intersection where I was met with several 90 degree corners in quick succession, descending down onto the Busway. My crit racing skills helped me brake at just the right time, kiss the apex, pedal to the floor, more competitors in my rear view. After two laps of mach one racing, I posted a bike split that landed me among the top 4% of all male racers that day.

My heart rate was getting close to redline as I racked my bike and got ready to finish this race. It was a long run from the dismount line to transition. With that fun out of the way, it was time to slap the running shoes on and suffer. I yelled something that probably translated into encouragement to a Team USA racer and we made for the exit. The run, unknown to me at the time, had a bonus 0.35 miles at the end of it. We made our way down Columbus Drive, hit the turn around, made for Buckingham Fountain and ran past the finisher's chute. One lap down. My Garmin was beeping my mile splits at me: 6:05, 6:04, 6:04, Ok, not bad. Keep your form but make it hurt. If anyone passes you, make them pay for it.

Abdominal cramps that typically wreck my body at this point in the race were pleasantly absent, though there was plenty of other pain to make up for it. Though my effort seemed to be slightly increasing, I could tell my pace was slackening a touch. I held on as well as I could, I convinced myself to welcome the pain back that I hadn't felt since the last race. From the sidelines I could hear my coach yelling insults and profanities at me; what a guy.

I made the last left turn from the asphalt to the cobblestones around the fountain; the end was near. A runner in my age group was ahead of me but wouldn't be for long. Cobbles gave way to blue carpet, my strides grew longer and I flew to the finish...only to find out the guy I sprinted past still hand another lap to go. I was sprinting against myself.

After most races during the season, I can only think about one thing: how can I be faster next time? With so much put into this race, all I felt this time was how satisfying it was to cash in. I certainly have room for improvement and I'm definitely looking forward to the upcoming off season, but considering how this is my first year competing in one of the most competitive age groups and placing 28th of 98 of the best amateur racers in the world, I'm very pleased with how things are going.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The First Leaf to Fall

The chain link fence surrounding the West Valley High School track was still locked up. Either someone had lost the key to the pad lock or didn't feel like getting out of bed when perhaps they should have. I suppose I can relate. I quickly hopped over to join the others who had done the same. The intervals these days seem to appear on the training plan much more regularly, my track shoes not used to kissing the brown-red Tartan more than maybe a time or two a month before now. Let's see, what was I here for today? 800's? 1000's? Or was today mile repeat day? How many more of these sessions do I even have before my next race, anyway? My Garmin buzzes to let me know it has connected to the big computers in the sky and I begin.

*  *  *
About a five hour drive away south of here, Montana Creek Campgrounds is situated alongside a popular fishing spot just off the Parks Highway. Kinsey and I parked the Jeep in the lot she reserved and we took a short evening stroll across the pedestrian bridge overlooking the tributary. Salmons of different shapes and sizes wound their way ever closer to their breeding grounds.
It was getting late but, of course, the sun was still burning bright. We pitched the Kelty and did our best to ignore the light and the noisy, probably intoxicated, campers the next lot over.
The Alaska State Triathlon start was another 50 something miles down the road. We both had training the next morning and we determined that I would drop her off along the highway (with her bike), and finish the drive to the race venue to do a warm up along the course. The water was perfect. Clear, smooth, warm. The weather was something to cherish. Everything was in place for a fun race the next day.
After we linked back up, devoured some monster sub sandwiches from a local joint, we stayed the night with our good friends down in Anchorage, Shawn and Julie.
Race morning came and, as predicted, the weather was gorgeous. There were something like 45 racers out there and I ended up racing pretty well. First out of the water, nearly fastest bike split, and the quickest run of the day landed me with the victory. While I was a little disappointed that a certain few strong individuals did not come out to race with me that day, I was happy that training was going well and that this race got put on at all this year.
Once Kinsey and I rolled back into our driveway, 8 hours and 350 miles removed from the end of the tri, I had a chance to chat with my coach about the effort and looked at some numbers and splits...Not bad, but is that really all I got? I was running alone after all, no one next to me testing my fortitude. We had another six weeks to prepare for the big one.
 *  *  *
Soldiers from 1-25 Stryker Brigade Combat Team marched in heavy uniforms along the River Road on the East side of Ft Wainwright, opposite the Chena. In this weather, PT must have been a breeze compared to what's around the corner. 
I could see a puff of breath for a brief second before it dissappeared, the white whisps coming more quickly now as the pace picked up. After passing a number of formations, I turned onto another jeep road and opened up the legs. The goal of these workouts is to randomly change up the pace every 1-2 minutes, forcing your body adapt to uncertain speed changes, or something like that. Fartleks pop up on my training calender in abundance. I try to keep it fresh by running with the Army 10-miler guys about once every other week.
 August came and went even faster than its preceeding summer months; the leaves in the Tanana valley quickly changed from green to yellow-orange just as quickly as they budded four short months ago. Kinsey and I have already had to scrape ice off the wind shields before work. It's not so much that I am dreading the winter than just missing the summer. A week from now, though, I'll get one more dose in 80 degree Chicago around the Buckingham Fountain surrounded by the World's fastest triathletes on their way to Rio.

Maybe my Illinois tan can last until the snow arrives.

Monday, June 8, 2015


The blades on the 20 meter tall wind turbine spun faster and faster, cutting into the air as the southern winds raced towards Lake Michigan just down the road. Volunteers at the race expo doubled their efforts to keep their sponsored tents pegged to the ground. Anxious age-group athletes huddled under the amphitheater's overhang watching the first drip drops from the dark clouds fall on their bikes already racked in the transition area. American flags lining the running paths in all directions flew straight and stiff as the first place finisher of the Armed Forces Championship sailed toward the finish line...

I first applied for the All Army Triathlon team at the beginning of last year. With little more than a decent cycling resume and outdated race results from my Auburn Triathlon days, my creds weren't up to the standard. After a year of getting coached, refocusing on tri, and several solid finishes within the state, they brought me on board for this year's Championship.

For the first time I think ever, our race was done in conjunction with a civilian race. Leon's Triathlon in Hammond, Indiana, just southeast of Chicago, has been running for something like 30 years and the man behind it is something of a local legend among the sport. As it so happened, my coach knows him as well and was able to feed me and the team a lot of information about the race.

It was my first draft legal multisport event, and a lot like my first (and second and third...) road race, I learned a lot about this style of racing very quickly. From the time my plane landed in Midway Airport to the morning of the race, I had all sorts of knots and anxious excitement in my stomach keeping me awake at night and twitchy during the day. All the athletes stayed in the same hotel so as I watched all these other competitors walking in with their fancy gear and matching jackets, I was starting to realize the quality of my competition.

There were five teams in total: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and this year, the Canadian military team came down and competed with us as well. I wasn't totally sure just how fast the field was, but I felt like a house cat in a field of lions at times. Never before a race did I have to employ proactive positive self-talk to calm myself down. I can only imagine what it's like for Olympians the days leading up to the games.

I had the privilege to swim, bike, and run with some of the people I identify most with on the days leading up to the race. My teammates were from all over the place in all sorts of specialties, as you would expect for an event like this; we had Apache pilots, med students, SF, National Guardsmen, and deep water divers to mention a few. There's only one event in the world that would bring us together like this and to compete at this field was really something special; this race will go down as a huge highlight of my career.

On Saturday, we took one last trip to the race venue to get in an open water swim along the course. The sun was shining, the breeze was pleasant, and the temperature agreeable. After working out some nerves splashing around in the open water, we headed back to the hotel and discussed race strategy. There are so many different ways a race like this could go down and your swim time is crucial so you can get in a bike pack you can draft with.

The night before the race, we had a dinner at the country club just across the road for the race venue. All the teams were there along with Leon himself and a few other race officials. My coach was nice enough to make the drive down and meet with me and the team. Without spending more time there than we needed, we got back to the hotel for one last bit of rest before dawn.

...The forecast was looking rough even five days out. I watched it like a hawk and was mentally preparing for contingencies. Would the swim get cancelled? Would we have to postpone? I did my best not to worry, not to think too much about it, but that proved difficult. After less than seven hours of sleep, race morning came early. We rolled out at 0540. The roads were dry, so far.

The transition area was about as close to the water exit as you could possibly get. This was going to be a fast race. Body makings, fresh air in the tires, helmet here, shoes there, rubber bands on the bike shoes, race belt, all the usual procedures. There's something calming, centering about going through the process to set up transition. After an hour, all the military athletes walked over to the stage for one of the most patriotic prerace ceremonies I've ever seen. The Canadian and American national anthems were sung, huge American flags were planted all around the venue, veterans of all sorts of America's wars were in attendance and every last Harley-Davidson flew the stars and strips and POW/MIA flags from their saddle bags. God Bless America.

Wetsuits on, we walked down to the pier. I got many reassurances from my coach and got in the water.

The gun went off then chaos ensued. Bubbles, murky water, splashing everywhere, feet on my face, face on my feet, the first buoy passed. So far, so good. I was feeling smooth. The nerves were gone and I felt calm. I've done this before, so many times before. I have nothing to worry about; the race is on. I relentlessly prepare for the race itself but spend no time preparing for the anticipation beforehand.

I zig-zagged a time or two but made it out of the water in time to join the second bike pack. My favorite bike was under my hands and feet and a group of five or six quickly formed up as we made our way through some roundabouts then out to the closed highway. After just a few kilometers, were formed a pack of eight as we caught a handful of loners. One fellow Army teammate joined me along with three Air Force, two Navy, and a Maple Leaf. The course was four loops of a 10k route, headwind one way, speedy tailwind the other. Whether unwilling, unable or a combination of both, the Navy team members refused to pull and when they were out front, killed our speed. We started out within a minute of the lead group. Nick Chase (AF), Nate Dressel (ARMY), myself and the Canadian took turns pulling hard. We had to make decisions: pull hard and catch up with those guys, maintain speed, saving a little energy, and try and catch them on the run, or force all eight members of our group to pull and risk losing time.  We could see that lead group on the turns and we gained on them at first but as we got tired and our wheel suckers proved to be dead weight,we just fought to maintain speed. I could tell they were struggling to keep up with some of our pulls and at the very least, I took pleasure in knowing that even in my draft they were suffering.

39k passed and we turned back into the access road. The sky grew dark and the wind whipped now this way and that. "It's gonna be a wet run, boys!"

Dismount, bike here, helmet off"STOP!" I was a bit dazed but kept going for my helmet strap. "STOP!" I froze. "You left your wetsuit outside the box." 15 second penalty. The thought went through my mind to place my wetsuit back inside our boxes but that thought never took action in the heat of the race. 15 seconds felt like 10 minutes. "OK." And I was outta there, my transition time still respectable even with the penalty. After looking at the results later, I would have had the fastest transition time of the day had I not been penalized.

It was like my very first footfall outside T2 matched the very first drip from the sky. As I exited, Graham was right there. "Time for the 10k of your life!" I passed a few guys quickly and my first mile was going well. 5:54. Then my quads reminded me what happens when you put out 400 watts at a time on the bike when you pull like that. I started to fade and the rain only got worse. It wasn't long before we were splashing through small puddles, then big puddles. Nick Chase past me around mile 1.5. I didn't feel too bad about it, though. He races in the pro field and it took him until just now to pass me. I could be doing worse.

I hit the mile two aid station and grabbed a cup of water to splash on my throat. Unnecessary, really, because now it was pouring. I could have just looked up with gaping maw. Then the suffering set in, that part of the race you try to forget about later. I wasn't gaining much time and at one point I just stopped looking at my splits on my Garmin. I knew I was running slow but I was hurting. I was pulling out every motivational mantra I could recite. What counts in battle is what you do when the pain sets in. Oh, yes, it had set it. Embrace the peaks, endure the troughs for both shall pass. I was certainly deep in a trough. Stop feeling sorry for yourself! Remember all those stories about Navy Seals and Green Berets! It hurts so much.

Within a mile of the finish, a Navy runner passed me. He wasn't that far ahead but my afterburners were all burnt out. He had me. Between waving flags, I could see the line at long last. I crossed in an hour, 58:58, enough to place 17th out of 58 servicemen and women finishers and third on my team.

After the line, I stood in the rain, reeling from the effort. Good ol' Graham was there, smile on his face shaking my hand.

If you want to be the best you have to beat the best and at this year's Championship, I was happy with my race but far from completely satisfied. I'm not sure how much faster I could have been if I hadn't hammered as much on the bike or maybe did a few more intervals in the pool or whatever, but, for now, I can rest knowing I had just competed among the very best of the military and came out in the top 50%.

I think it's going to be a good season. 

To Victoria!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

I might be fast

Glacial dust was all I could see. The ATV's ahead of me ran across a particularly dusty portion of riverbed and kicked up remains from what used to be rock long ago and since ground to powder by the centuries-old frozen monoliths. I eased my quad a little to the right to avoid it, no doubt causing the same problem for the guy behind me. Eventually, the dust settled and our way ahead widened, yielding views of the magnificent valley hewed from the earth ages ago by the Kink Glacier. On our left, we spotted a few mountain goats on the side of a rocky slope. To our right, the Kink River.

After some 25 miles of riding, our engines came to a halt and the only thing we could hear was the occasional crrrracking of a massive piece of ice somewhere in the distance. The Kink Glacier is a vast piece of nature, spanning your entire field of vision, almost other worldly looking.

At one point, a Black Hawk flew by fast and low, a red cross on its side, making its way back to the airfield some 50 miles away. We mounted up and headed back, stopping on occasion to snap some pictures of  a beaver dam and our mountain goat friends that had made their way down to our level to say hello. By day's end, my fellow Engineer officers and I had huge smiles across our dust-coated faces and our three day professional development had finished up.

The weekend prior, Kinsey and I drove down to Anchorage so she could meet up with her parents and race in Alaska's biggest triathlon. On Saturday before the race, I had arranged a group ride with a couple other members of USMES and we spun for an hour, getting to know new teammates and scheming about future races and rides.

The Gold Nugget Tri was on Sunday and Kinsey tore the race apart. Seeing how much she trains and the effort she puts into each training session, it wasn't too big a surprise, though I'm very biased. Spectating the race was kinda nice, but it sure got my own adrenaline going. I had to go ride some big hills later that day to, uh, relieve myself.

My race season this year is strikingly different from other seasons. During my training camp in Tucson last year, I made the decision that I was going to get fast, or, at least, faster than I currently was. Not just generally fast, but fast for one particular distance. I wanted to get as close to professional racing as my body could handle. I hired a coach, got a TT bike, and entered as many races as I could, leading up to age group nationals in Milwaukee last August. As it so happened, that was just the start of my advancement in tri. I qualified for ITU Worlds and decided I wanted to try and get on the All Army Sports team as well. I applied for that team last year but didn't quite have the creds. This year, I guess not as many people sent in their applications but I somehow made it.

The season opener was a local sprint distance. Though going through the motions was beneficial, I wasn't on top of my game that day. My numbers were low and splits inconsistent. The run wasn't bad but I knew I had more. I spent too much energy the day before on an "easy" ride, that's for sure. I've done a few other tune up races as well that went reasonably well including a 5k, a short Time Trial and a very hilly 10k trial race but I really haven't pitted myself against my real competition, all either in Anchorage or the lower 48. In training, my power numbers are steadily getting higher and I'm figuring out a few more things in the water that have really helped with a few of my test intervals. To be honest, I'm swimming faster than I think I ever have, but Fairbanks, being what it is, doesn't afford me many opportunities to go head to head with the best. There are some strong guys up here that I chase in bike races and runs, but the tri field is sparse. In just two weeks, though, the gates will fly open to kick off the season in earnest when I go against the military's best at the "World's Fastest Triathlon" a.k.a. Leon's Triathlon in Chicago. It will be my first ever draft legal tri. While I'm quite excited to use my criterium skills in a race, I'm a little anxious doing that alongside triathletes that, by and large, do not have that experience. I guess that means I'll just have to swim fast to get out ahead.

Next week, I'm throwing my name in the hat for the Army 10 miler team. This Friday I'll be racing the qualifier race on post locally. The top 12 or so runners are selected to be on the US Army Alaska (USARAK) team and get a four day Temporary Duty in D.C. to participate against every other Army team at one huge event. I'm very curious to see what kind of pace I can hold since I've never done that distance for time before but I think my odds are pretty good. Thank the Lord, I've been running healthy without injury ever since I recovered from that broken leg. I still can't believe that happened. Most days, I forgot it did. 

The week after Leon's, I'll be down in Victoria, BC doing my first ever Ironman brand event at the Victoria 70.3. This one might qualify as my first major racecation. Kinsey will head down there while I'm playing with the Military boys in Chicago and I'll join her later the next Friday. It's been 10 months since I got to explore a new city and I've never actually been to America's Hat before so between the beauty of the Pacific Northwest, a spectacular Ironman venue, and time with my parents and brother and sister-in-law, this might rank up there as one of the best racecations ever. Also, the day after Victoria, Kinsey and I have another fun event, I guess, but that's another blog post.

The schedule hardly slows down after we get back from Canada. We're planning on doing the biggest Fondo type race in the state, the Fireweed 400, the Sourdough 70.3 and others. There's always the chance that Kinsey and I could qualify for the half-iron world championships in Austria later in August but I'm not counting chickens.

Next stop, the Windy City!

Monday, April 6, 2015


It is said patience is a virtue but it is rarely said how difficult a virtue it is to attain and what one must go through in order to really understand and appreciate it.

The Army is undergoing a huge reorganization once again; my job has been in a weird limbo state for some time. With the love of my life 350 miles north, I've been trying to find a way to take advantage of this reorganization so I might get to be with her. It seemed like a long shot but after less than two months after we met, I did my best to get myself up there, somehow.

On 24 July, I started my inquiries about a job in Fairbanks. I figured my odds would be at least greater than zero; not many souls willfully move to one of North America's coldest cities. E-mails flew back and forth; the deliberation was ongoing for months after months. Anticipating a new answer every day, I waited and waited. It seemed like I found out a new piece of information each week but still wasn't making much process. I reached out to the District Deputy Commander of the Corps of Engineers and eventually got to interview with him in November. Turns out, they had a slot for me to fill. My then current chain of command was reluctant to let me go until later in February. Getting orders was about as easy as getting a grizzly to let go of his salmon. Things really did come down to the wire. To frustrate things even further, I was about to leave for the USMES training camp in Tucson and still didn't have orders by then.

* * *

I was homeless for five weeks this year. Planning on an imminent Permanent Change of Station from Ft Richardson to Ft Wainwright, I packed my things and gave my 30 day notice as soon as I felt comfortable. The Skinners, a family from my small group, was kind enough to host me for something like two and a half weeks while I waited on orders to come through. The extra time to sleep and train wasn't so bad but most days were more frustrating that not. When the time finally came, I cleared out of Anchorage in record time and headed north. My plane to USMES training camp would leave from Fairbanks two days after my departure from Anchorage.

For 2015, the hard working staff on our growing endurance sports team put together three different camps into one week of training and I elected to participate with the triathlon folk this time around. Every day brought a new challenge and my skin soaked up as much sun as it could take in. We ran along desert trails, rode all day and ate all afternoon, swam in a surprisingly cold desert lake not far from the Mexico boarder, and had to opportunity to attend several great lectures on training and racing. In the middle of the week, we had the chance to swim in the  University of Arizona pool. Lined with palm trees under the bright blue sky, swimming there felt downright magical. I hadn't swam in an outdoor pool since camp last year.

I learned a lot at camp and enjoyed taking time to get to know other team members I would have never had the chance to living in Alaska. I'm very optimistic about this season. While I only have a handful of races on the calendar, the level of competition is higher than I've ever competed at before. I recently found out that the All Army Sports Triathlon team found it reasonable to take me to the Armed Forces Triathlon Championship in Chicago this June to compete among the best in the US Military. It will be the first draft legal race I've ever done but I'm really looking forward to putting my road riding skills up against all the tri geeks there. If, somehow, I place well enough at that event, there's a small chance I could also get selected to go to the international military games in Korea this October. These games only happen once ever four years so it would be quite the opportunity, but I'm not holding my breath just yet.

My other big race the year is the ITU World championships that, as it turns out, is also in Chicago. Between those races, I'm going to do as many tris in Alaska that I can. There is a series of races in the summer here in Fairbanks that I was very competitive at last year and I plan on doing those again. Also on the calendar is my first ever IRONMAN brand event in Victoria. It's a week after the Armed Forces Championships so June is going to be a very full month of racing. There will be a bunch of Alaska friends meeting me and Kinsey down there so it could very well be the most fun I've had at a race.

Now that I'm somewhat settled in to the Golden Heart of Alaska, I'm excited to get in some good training here over our very short summer. The riding here, as far as I'm concerned, is a step above anything Anchorage had to offer. Less traffic and more roads are always a good combination in my book. Now if it could just stop snowing in the middle of April, that'd be great...

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


December came quickly this year. The paradox of slow days and fast months continued since last I wrote. Days in the office come and go, each week seeming to blend in to the next while I do basic tasks occasionally punctuated by a three or four day weekend. The Soldiers are generally on good behavior, I've had a decent amount of free time, and I'm never asked to accomplish a task too large to handle so I have a lot to be appreciative of on that front. Now that the Holidays have arrived, I can finally gather my thoughts while I prepare for yet another year of change and adaptation.

Sitting here the night before Christmas, I foresee several options for my road ahead. The only thing that I'm sure of is that something is about to change.

I've been a rear detachment commander ever since I got back from Age Group Nationals in August. I got a phone call while I sat in the San Fransisco Airport, en route to Anchorage, from my then Commander. "I have a new mission for you." See, just a week ago (early August), I was promoted to First Lieutenant in the United States Army and around the same time, I made it known that I wanted to move to Fairbanks, AK to be stationed at Ft. Wainwright. As it so happened, I had met the most stunning, attractive, kind [insert every other adjective someone in love would say about their loved one] person back in June at the Eagle River Triathlon. She lives up there now in her newly built home. Turns out, this option worked in my favor as my job opportunities weren't looking good in Anchorage. That is, the demand for Engineer Officers on JBER were becoming more and more limited. My new "mission" would basically put me in a position that set me up for a potential move toward the beginning of the year. Well, the beginning of the year is one week away...

By February, my job will end; if I had done nothing to pursue a job elsewhere, the Army would almost certainly curtail me to who-knows-where lower 48 and that would be a bummer. I had an interview with a Lieutenant Colonel about seven weeks ago about a job as a project manager with the United States Army Corps of Engineers in Fairbanks. The interview went as well as I could have hoped and ever since then, he's been patiently waiting to hear from the military Human Resource Command, the ultimate authority on moves, about a transfer. This has taken a long time.

By now, 24 December 2014 at 1910, I see three roads ahead, listed as most desirable to least:

1) After the first business day of the year, the civilians at HRC decide they want to get some work done on my behalf and approve a move for me and my orders are cut thereafter. I would report to Ft. Wainwright as soon as 15 January.

2) Deliberation continues but I eventually get approved and I PCS around mid February when my current job would expire anyway.

3)  Despite all my efforts and common sense, the Army disapproves a move and I get curtailed sometime around mid February to late March.

Whatever the case, I'm gonna have to start packing soon.


My racing portfolio today looks entirely different from this time last year. Before 1 June, it had been something like a year and a half since my last tri. I took great pleasure in bike racing and pursued that outlet wholeheartedly as my body quickly made powerful adaptations to the new sport. During my training camp, though, I had a few conversations that led me to change my focus. I've been pouring my heart and soul into triathlon since then and even went as far as hiring a coach to help me reach my lofty goals. I even got to meet him face to face after my solid performance in Milwaukee.

I competed in five USAT events and placed well enough to land a spot in the ITU (International Triathlon Union) World Championships in Chicago next fall. It sounds way cooler and elite than it is; I'm not racing at a professional level or getting sponsored to go or anything, but it is the highest level I could ever hope to compete at considering my situation. Until then, at the very least, I have an ultimate goal for each and every training session I endure.

As the new year quickly approaches, my future shroud in a veil of uncertainty, I can at least take the next few days to reflect, unwind, and go on some epic fat biking adventures. I just hope this time next year I can do these things with a special someone by my side.

See y'all in 2015.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Dark Horse

Wispy, white clouds fingered through the Chugach mountain range, making their last ditch, frozen deposits onto the hilltops before spring finally gave way to summer this 31st of May. Despite the previous three weeks of fantastic, clear blue skies, the precipitation was having its way this weekend.

It had been over a year and a half since last I competed in any sort of multi-sport event. For whatever reason, I decided to focus on cycling for a while and got terribly distracted from the type of racing I somehow seem to do very well in.

The Anchorage community makes the most of its summers and racing is certainly not least of those activities so many people dive into.

When I pulled up at 0605, I was expecting to be fighting for a good parking spot; surely every other racer has that mindset of arriving at the transition area asap and setting everything up just right. Turns out, all of 3 people think that way up here. When I noticed the transition area void of racks, I asked my fellow early riser if they hadn't put them up yet. "Well, this is a...BYOR event." I stared at him, incredulous. He nodded, "yup." To my great fortune, one of the volunteers had an extra one, bless her. Crisis averted, I got my brand new TT bike all set up and ready to go, going through motions long removed, but well remembered.

With a forecast of rain and sadness, the pool swim got underway around 0800. With only six lanes and a field of at least 350 racers, there was a lot of standing around waiting for a lane. Those seeded in the first wave, my competition for the day, had finished the race by the time I even got wet. I was later told those individuals watched the chip-timing screens eagerly watching my splits.

 3, 2, 1...the race I had spent the last five months or so preparing for was underway. I tried not to think of it like that but here I was, testing my mettle against some of the best Triathletes in the state. 500 yards later, I ripped off my goggles and swim cap and made for the doorway to the 45 degree drizzle to T1. I couldn't have chosen a better spot for my bike in the transition area. It allowed me quick access to both the bike start and finish so I would have minimal time pushing around my newly acquired steed. Two days removed from a fresh fitting and only about 90 minutes of training time on my new TT bike, I mounted and rode away whilst old, well worn memories of transitioning flashed back.

 With no fewer than 22 ninety-degree turns, the ride course today was very technical by any race standards, not to mention 850 feet of climbing and moist roads. Still, with my new speed machine and amazing Zipp 808's, I flew through the ride averaging over 23 mph. The run, ironically, was the one screw ball in the race. With a nagging pain in my left achilles, my run training has gone by the wayside a bit over the last several months. I determined I would fall back on my running background and focus on swimming and riding while it healed up.

The run was easily the hardest part of the race. In the past, I savored the run, couldn't wait to get back to my forte, passing, passing, crushing the competition with my running...shall we say, prowess; alas, I was beset with wretched abdominal cramps (no doubt due to all that core work I did last week during four days of army combatives) and was just barely able to hold on to a 6-minute pace for the most part. Hilly though it was, I managed to navigate the 5k course in a good enough time to knock off the previous third place finisher. But wait, a podium finish? My first race back in so long!? I was STOKED! In the last few months, I was getting worried that my training and racing regime was slowly loosing that spark that burned so fiercely in my college days. Today, though, there wasn't nearly enough rain to put it out.