Friday, May 22, 2015

THE Land Down Under. Australia Part I

The sport of triathlon has brought countless amazing Aussie's into my life. They truly are some of the most warm and inviting soles of whom I'm fortunate enough to have as close friends...I mean mates.  I feel incredibly blessed that 2015 was the year I got to spend 3+ weeks touring the land down under.

Ironman Taiwan didn't go as planned, but I didn't blink twice...I had another great opportunity standing in front of me. I left Taiwan and headed straight to Noosa, a quaint beach community 1 hour north of Brisbane. Noosa is the home to many of triathlons legends, both past and present.
During the 10+ days I spent in Noosa I spent as much time resting as possible. Eat, train, sleep- that's the dream, right?!?!? Oh no wait, it's the life of most other pro triathletes - aka: my competition. Time to embrace the opportunity!
While I was riding high and completely content in the moment, the emotional and physical tole of recent life events started to get the best of me.  I found myself dragging through training sessions, and unable to hit training metrics that should have been easy.  Looking back I think I only had one good ride and one good run while I was there. Coach Tim was back home scratching his head and asking "why?" Meanwhile I just kept sleeping and trying to get everything aligned for the race ahead. 

I absolutely loved my time in Noosa. Every ride was a new adventure to spot Koalas and kangaroos.  After the first few rides I started to focus more on the power versus simply searching for Koalas and Kangaroos. My surroundings were breathtaking indeed.

Many sunsets spent doing TRX at the beach
Love Australia - where long course is the norm!

 The weather was spectacular the entire time I was there. The birds sang every morning to wake me up to get my training day started. I enjoyed the time spent with Mel and Jared and am so appreciative of their amazing hospitality! Thanks mate!
Afternoon coffee with Mel and Jared
1mi open water swim race on the beach
where 70.3 worlds will be in 2016

Training was pretty off, but I tried not to let it get to me. Instead I rested when my body craved rest and pushed when I was able to. On my last day there we drove down to Mooloolaba for a 1 mile ocean race. I knew the Aussies were amazing ocean swimmers and enjoyed seeing their ocean skills first hand. The kids race was beyond adorable! Their love for the ocean is contagious. I had a strong race and felt things might just be ticking in perfect time for the real race the following weekend. Time to head to Port Macquarie. Ironman #18 awaits...and this time I was surely going to find that finish line!

Up next: Port Macquarie and Ironman Australia race report. All part of my journey! Thanks for reading.  Cheers to you.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Relish In The Moment...Despite The Odds

The past month has truly been a dream come true.  While it didn't start out that way I did my best to turn it into everything it could be. Here's the story...and the deep-down-honest back story.

When I first conceived the idea of racing Ironman Taiwan and Ironman Australia three weeks apart I am not sure I really thought it would happen.  It was more a figment of my imagination.  Time, money, logistics, work, training for back to back early season ironmans - it all needed to be accounted for and factored into the equation. After returning from our QT2 pro training camp in Florida I wasn't sure the fitness piece of the equation was accounted for. I needed a few solid signs to make me believe I was (2x) race ready.  During my final training block things really started to click. With the flick of a switch my heart began to sing and I knew it was time to commit to my first attempt at back to back Ironmans.

The original plan was to fly over to Taiwan, back to San Francisco, and then over to Australia 2 weeks later. However after considering the tole this would take on my body (time changes), and discussing things with my coworkers we decided I would head straight from Taiwan to Australia and work out of our offices there. The puzzle was coming together and with it my mental state turned from self doubt to complete confidence and excitement. Up until now the idea of training and racing over in Australia was only a dream. I was so excited that the packing and planning started two weeks out from my travel day.  My spare bedroom turned into piles of cloths, tri gear, and (an insane amount of) food.

After completing my final training block I just needed to get through the work week, by day, and find a way to fit all of those piles into my suitcase and bike bag, by night. The thing is, life has a way of always keeping us on our toes, keeping us guessing, and testing our character.  I walked into the office Monday morning knowing I had a mountain of work awaiting me. My body was exhausted, but I couldn't let that get in the way of what my mind had to accomplish before jet setting.
I hadn't settled into my work day too long before a strange buzz began around the office. One by one employees were given the "thank you for your service, let me show you the door" speech. You could hear a pin drop in the office. Those remaining stared blankly at each other. We were suppose to be celebrating the acquisition of two new companies. "What the H.E.L.L is going on?"  I wasn't first, so when the text message came through asking me to head up to the executive suites I knew what was coming...I was next.  I've never been part of a large lay off before. Accela was very different than the law firms I've worked for in the past.  Together we built this product and company from the ground up. My co-workers were true friends of mine. This is simply part of the process and casualties that come with acquisitions. It's all part of the game when working in hyper growth software industry. However this didn't make me feel any better. I was quite simply devastated.

I called my parents, but couldn't even get the words out of my mouth. My high and excitement for the races and travel ahead came crashing down. In the matter of five minutes I went from cloud nine to red lined. I didn't care one ounce about triathlon. I cared about my friends who were out of work. I cared about my career and my next steps. Yes, this career is the one that is first and foremost in my life. It only takes a second to remind me what is truly important in life. Sorry, triathlon I love you with all my hear, all my sole, and every single tiny muscle fiber....but you aren't the be-all-end-all for me. You aren't my whole life. As "Lunch Money Louis" sings "I've got [law school debt] bills, I've gotta pay"..."I got [triathlete hangry] mouths I gotta feed."

Pack, fly to Taipai,  2  days in Taipai
before heading south to the race site in Kenting
So those who follow my training and race journey know I obviously did make it to Taiwan, and from there Australia.  It wouldn't have happened without my adoring family and closest friends.  The days between the lay off and departing CA were anything but easy. I prayed every second of every day that God would tell me if I was intended to travel to Taiwan and/or Australia. I have to thank some very special training partners who sat and prayed with me after finishing our weekly 10x400m swim set.  This act of kindness and unselfishness truly made my heart start believing I could get on that plane in two days time.  To my friends who came over to pack my bags for me and drive me to the airport, you rock! I spent the next 3+ weeks thanking each of you for the experiences.  It made sure to embrace these experiences with a "clear eyes, full heart, can't lose" mentality.

Pack up. Ship out. One job... Ironman racing was it.  Once in Taiwan I was greeted by the a member of the Cobb Cycling family, Winston Tam and fam.  I am absolutely positive there couldn't of been a better welcoming after the week I just went through. I hadn't slept much and on the way to the airport threw my back out trying to load my (way) over weight bag into the car.  After a few days settling into the time and climate change in Taipai I packed up again and jumped on the train to Kenting (far south end of Taiwan).

The race organization pulled out all the stops to welcome the professional athletes. I greatly enjoyed some much needed days of relaxation at the Howard Beach Hotel (pictured on left). By race day I was ready to rumble. Let the past sit in the past. Time to live in the present.  The race itself was quite the experience. I have now learned you have to expect the unexpected when it comes to racing first year races especially when they're in a second/third world country.  I'd survived IM Fortaleza for heaven's sake. I would be just fine with whatever came my way here in Taiwan. The course was no joke! Wow, it is the craziest ironman bike course I've ever raced. Narrow roads, plenty of climbs followed by winding descents, and more three legged stray dogs than you an count. Hold on TIGHT! Let's do this...
The swim was a very sub par performance for me. I lost the feet of the front two, and found myself pulling four of the male pros for the rest of the swim.

Once on the bike I fought through the very hilly first half of the course. While the course spiked I did anything but. By all measures (heart race, power, perceived effort) I was flat.  Furthermore my aching back wasn't really enjoying all of the climbing.  Once into the final 60 miles my legs decided to join the party and I finally was hitting AND holding my target power numbers. The last 60 miles was a three loop section close to transition. I built each loop and entered T2 feeling confident for the run.

Sadly the run went backwards. It just never came around. I assessed things and realized that even if I threw down a great closing 10k I wouldn't of been happy with my finish. With that I decided to call it quits. 6 miles away from the finish my heart was already in Australia. I don't walk off an Ironman course - that isn't who I am! But I also didn't come to Taiwan to finish 5th or 6th. It was time to cut my looses and regroup for the next opportunity in 3 weeks time.

I don't always air my "dirty laundry" via blog posts. However this is what makes me real. This is why I can relate to the challenges so many of you face on your way to your Ironman starting line.  We all have obstacles in our lives and carry so much on our shoulders. Once the gun went off I know I gave it my all.  While it wasn't the race I was searching for, Taiwan truly allowed me to relish in THIS moment. THIS challenge. THIS opportunity!  The memories leave me without regret. I have a deep appreciation that God's love drove me to fly across the world with my eyes wide open.    I mean where else would you see signs like this:

Really? Good to know!
A huge thank you to Winston Tam, Margaret Wang and their adorable son Wesley! Your hospitality truly made my time in Taiwan so special. Thank you Judy and Greg for all the memories of our beyond crazy course preview via Taiwanese taxi.  That 3 hour car ride will keep me laughing for years to come. Thank you Shiang Tsao and your unbelievable Ironman staff for easing the stress of traveling solo half way across the world to a non-English speaking race destination. You were amazing! To my sponsors who acted more like family that ever, you own a piece of my heart.

It's all about the journey!  This was far from the end of this journey. Stay tuned for chapter 2: Ironman Australia.