Saturday, April 5, 2014

Wattie Ink 2014

What it means to be a Wattie? Throwing on the cycling jersey, tri kit, or any team gear means you have an immediate target on your back. People will be coming for you.  That W is a bull’s-eye for everyone else out there. After 2 years of proven success, the Wattie Ink Elite team knows how to race. You see them on the podiums, you see them claiming slots to World Championships, no doubt that Sean Watkins has picked a solid group of age groupers to race on his team.

So what does this mean to me, it means I come to perform. I take pride in representing a brand, a team and a family. I’m not going to put on my tri kit to race a mediocre race. I am going to leave everything out there on the course. When other age groupers see a ‘W’ on my jersey, I want them to be scared, I want them to know that there is some competition out there and I’m not going down without a fight. 

Racing Ironman Racine 70.3 in 2013, an age grouper came up to me on the bike and said ‘You Watties ride like hell.”. It’s that recognition that someone I don’t even know, thinks of our team as fast, and knows we are fast. With that in mind, I need to stay fast, be fast, and race fast. There is no need to throw on some team gear and ‘rock the W’ and not show up to a race if you aren’t going to race. Simple as that. Our team, or our family, or whatever you may call it, Wattie Ink mean more to me than a tea.  It means you got to show up, give it your all, and compete with the best of them. 

Time to go race and rock the W in 2014.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Healdsburg Wine Country Half Marathon Race Report

The point of this point is to get you, to go run the Healdsburg Half Marathon through wine country.  Whether you are a seasoned runner, or trying to complete your first 13.1, this is the race for you.  This was one of the most fun, exciting, and scenic races I have ever done. If you think about it, the race starts at a winery and then finishes in this field that had copious amounts of free wine with unlimited tastings being served. Need I say more?

Walking to the race start through the vineyards
There were ten of us that based out of a rented house in Sonoma for weekend getaway. We left at 5:15am for hour drive to Clos du Bois where the race started. It gave us plenty of time to party, hit up the necessary porta potties, and take some pre race photos. The morning was brisk and cold, much colder than we originally thought but was perfect running weather for most. The Texas people thought it was a tad cold.  Just sayin'.


The race is usually around Halloween so many people decide to dress up and enjoy the run. We all lined up in the "corral" and started the run at 730am. We split up into a fast group that wanted to race and another group that wanted to 'enjoy' the run. I joined the second group and turned into the photographer on the course. The first few miles went by quickly as we took pictures as we ran, pointed out different wineries, and we're amazed at some of the costumes people were running in. 

Race start
Got stuck running behind this tall beast
Hey oh!~
Wine was promised on the course and maybe we were having too much fun, but we didn't see any wineries setting up shop to hand out mid race samples. As you can see, our goal was to have fun. Why not booze and run if you can. "When in Napa...". The race course is advertised as rolling hills without too many big hills. I didn't think it was extremely hilly and I come from an area with no hills to train on. And if you're going to not be 'racing' it, you'll be fine if you can run a half.  There were 7 aid stations in all handing out water and one or two with gels if necessary. 

The slower group recoveyned up with the speedsters as the finish line. Crossing the finish line each participant is greeted with a large finisher medal that doubles as a coaster and access to the wine festival. Each runner also receives a large Riedel wine glass to start their post race wine tasting experience, and if you don't run, spectators can buy a glass too and drink as much wine as they want. We had two spectators in the group, and since it was a point to point race, they took the free spectator shuttle from Clos Du Bois which seemed pretty easy. 

Ok now onto the fun part; drinking.  There were 19 wineries represented at the festival and one brewery, Lagunitas.  There was a band planting music, vendors selling good and more wine than you could drink. Free samples, this is how you are suppose to party post half marathon. 

My two cents, do this race, or any other race put on by Destination Races.  It was a great race, so much fun, and for only $110, it's worth every penny. I think I may have to return to this race soon!

Stop for a photo on the course

Look who we found.
The Cork Dorks
Wine and mini cheese packets.

Wine tasting and festival
We are very cool. Be our friends.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Showdown Half Marathon

Coming off a hard race 6 days earlier, I knew my body was not 100%. Pre Life Time Tri, I was battling a minor calf strain that worsened after racing. The hilly 10K course at Life Time only made my calf tighter and more sore. I took off some workouts/modified workouts not to push myself going into my last “race” of the year, or at least this is what I am thinking.  This weekend was going to be my last hard race where I would push the pace for 2013. The remaining couple months will be filled with half marathons and other ‘events’ that I will participate in. I do not plan on running hard, trying to place, or trying to ‘PR’ (hate the term PR), I am going to run the races for fun and with friends.

The Showdown half was an excellent race. It offered race day packet pick up, many porta poties and a nice big finisher medal, not to mention I parked 100 yards away from the start line! Whoop Whoop.  I got my standard race morning excitement. Looked around to see who other contenders would be, and to see who I would need to beat to hopefully place in my Age Group. I was able to grab a starting spot in the first 20 people. Looking around me, they were all runners, tall skinny bearded guys ready to go for a win.

The gun went off, and I started the garmin. The first mile went by fast and the pace group took an early lead. I didn’t want to push the first mile too hard because I know I usually negative split the following. I was running in about 10th person Overall during the first two miles. At mile 2 there was an out and back stretch and the guy leading the pack was about 2 minutes ahead of me. Not bad crushing 5:45 minute miles right off the bat on a hot and humid day. I kept my pace up, the calf was bothering me, but knew my quads wanted to run. Fight the mental pain and continue. It wasn’t until mile 3 that I started looking at my pace and my HR. My HR was in the 170s, the fastest I usually train at is the upper 160s. I knew I was going to be doomed if I kept this up for 13.1 miles. I don’t have experience at this distance, and I don’t know how to race it. It was just time to let the legs do the work.

Ran past a coworker's house. He caught me on film.
Miles 3, 4, 5, 6 went by fast and my pace continued with miles between 6:34-6:42. Right where I wanted to be in my goal time. I was feeling good, feeling strong. There were two guys ahead of me at this point in my view, but didn't want to catch up to them too quickly since I had half the race left. And just then, I hit the hills. So long to my sub 7:00 pace I thought, and so long to hitting my goal time. The sun was trying to peak through the clouds, the temperature was rising, humidity increasing, and of course the run through the country got hilly. Hill after hill, it was tough to keep a steady pace and heart rate. Screw it, no more looking at my watch, no more looking at my heart rate this was a run to run and see how I do.

The second half of the course was through the country and with a large gap in front of everyone behind me, the run started to get lonely. There were few people among the last couple miles cheering us on. Nothing entertain, and I was alone. It was me against me. At this point I figured I had a top placement in my Age Group and knew that I wouldn't be able to catch up to a top 3 overall. What do you do at this point? Do you coast back in, keep pushing? It comes down to how bad do you want it.

(Speaking of how bad do you want it, one of my favorite motivational YouTube clips below)

I wanted to finish strong. Yes, the hills were tough, I was hot and sweaty, and wish I had more water, but I had to keep moving. I wanted to finish strong to see where I have come in my training. To see how much faster I really have gotten in the past few months. This was my personal push to the finish. In the last mile one of the guys ahead of me quit and started to walk some, I wasn't going to be that guy. I finished at the same pace I started and came across the finish line with a tired smile on my face. It wasn't the sub 1:30 half that I wanted, but was still happy with that finish.

After speaking to the finisher (a local high school track coach) who finished in front of me, he said it was a tough course and a tough day. He was a seasoned runner, and stated that no PR’s would be broken today with the heat, humidity, and some hills on the back half of the course. I smiled to myself, because I was happy with my time, and thought about the “What ifs” that could have happened had I raced another flatter, cooler, faster 13.1.

The last 2 weeks the end to a solid season. Placing in my last two week’s races, I realized how far I've come this year, and how I hope to carry this progress into 2014. Hopefully you will see some big things from my 2014 races. Until then, I’m sure these posts will be filled with pictures of vacations, training sessions, drinking beers, and just enjoying life. 2013 racing is done. Time to have some fun. Beer me. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Life Time Tri Dallas - Race Recap

This race was a late edition to the calendar, and in the past two months I changed this race to my "A" race. What did this mean, well it meant it was time to get fast, work on short distance speed, and race a distance that I have not raced in 4 years. I spent the last two months running on the track, working on speed, and doing hour long work outs that I thought were never going to end. Well it was time to race and see if my short distance training paid off.

The venue for the race was at the Hilton Hotel and the transition was in the parking lot. Upon arrival, the first thing you notice is the massive hill coming out of transition. I've heard about it, but didn't know it was that bad. I racked my bike, put my chain ring in a small gear, set up transition, and headed inside the hotel. It was nice to be able to hang out in the hotel with cooler temps for 50 degrees, both for races and spectators.

I ventured out to the swim start, put on my wet suit and waited on the dock with the other 60 people in my wave. Everyone was cold while we waited on the cold concrete of the dock, while some people even put their feet in the water to warm up. Luckily Texas water stays warm and even with a 8 degree drop in water temp, it was 68 degrees, way warmer than the cold air.

After hoping into the water, and a quick pee to warm one self up, I swam over to the buoys and aligned myself in the front row of swimmers. If I am going to race hard, might as well start with the fast people and see where this takes me. The first 200 yards were rough as usual, but after that the pack opened up. At the turn around bouy there were far less red caps than I thought, meaning I was either leading or the leaders had a nice cushion on me. I assumed it was the later. Spotting became more prevalent as a current in the water made people spread out and swim off course. Parts of the course I felt like I was swimming alone because I drifted 'off course' just a tad. After reaching the dock, I looked at my watch and saw that I had some time to make out. Guess its time for the long sprint through transition to get my bike and get on the course.

Pretty long transition run. 2+ minutes

Coming out of T1 you are greeted with quite the hill, or should I say mountain for Dallas standards. I struggled to hope on my pedals and get started because I didn't put my bike into an easy enough gear. Being in Dallas you can ride the big chain ring for just about anything. I guess dropping it a few gears and staying in the small chain ring didn't work. Heart rate escalated, was pushing over 500 watts, it wasn't the best way to start the bike. Coming into mile 2 of the bike I was about to pass some collegeiate girls who started in the wave ahead of me. I 'politely' said "on your left" twice and it wasn't for about 15 seconds later this girl stopped riding in the left side of the lane and let me pass, but not without shouting a few profanities at me (I checked to see if she podium'd and she didn't, it made me happy that day). No need to get angry, just move over, and or move to the middle of the road.

Coming into T2 (Half the hill picture)

The bike was much 'hillier' and windier than I expected. Maybe I'm just a baby and want flat roads like Galveston, or maybe its my lack of time riding outside. Most of my training for the past 3 months was on the trainer inside. I'm going to have to go with too much trainer riding, but at the same time being a bigger guy I hate getting passed going on the uphills, while gaining back my lead on the flats. The goal was to ride the watts and not push it too hard so I could still have time for the run. Right before the midway point I saw one of the Loncar guys who I knew would be ahead of me and was about 2 minutes ahead of me I thought. Screw riding watts, I have 12 miles left, time to just push hard, but still understand that I don't want to kill the legs knowing I have a hilly 10K to still run. Ate some more powerbar gels, drank my water and came into T2 fast. Its nice when the last 1/2 mile is all downhill. Nothing too eventful on the bike, I just knew that if I wanted to podium I better start running.

Coming out of T2

Hill coming out of T2

Once again coming out of T2 I was greeted with a large hill.  Even though I knew this was the largest hill on the run, I knew it wasn't the last.  My first mile was slower than I wanted around a 7:00 minute pace, and thats when I realized I need to go fast. I have nothing to lose. This was my last Tri of the year, I might as well finish strong. The past few weeks I was nursing a calf strain and this run course wasn't going to help, but hey, a strong finish is a strong finish. The run wasn't fun. There were really no flat sections, it was uphill, or downhill, just a complete sufferfest.  Luckily it was much cooler than I've been training so I figured I could push it. Hey it was just going to be a 40 minute speed work out, right? That is right. Mile after mile ticked away and saw no one in my age group. It was a 2 loop course and I let nobody pass me so where were the leaders?

It wasn't until the last mile that the race got fun. I'll always ask myself during the race, why I do these, and its not usually until post race I know why I continue to race. This race was going to be different. I came upon a younger looking guy, 5'6 150lbs with about a mile left in the race with a bib number 25 numbers away from me. I stayed behind by about 15 feet until I felt like I was 1/2 mile out. This was the distance I felt that I still had in the tank to run and finish fast. I passed up, and on the next hill he passed me, we leap frogged each other 5 times until we got to the top of the hill at T2. Thats when I gave up, my legs were tired, he outran me, and I wasn't going to catch up to him. His pace stayed and mine faded, I thought the finish was 100 yards in front of me, but I was wrong! At the base of the hill, he had about a 20 foot lead and thats when the finisher's chute started. Luckily the finisher's chute was much longer than we both had expected. He slowed up, I caught up and stayed about 4 feet behind him. I'm sure he could hear me, but I made sure my shadow wasn't in his perrihphials. This race was going to come down to the finish, it was going to be an all out sprint. With about 25 yards to the finish I made my last move. He me and push it hard too. It was a Gomez v. Brownlee to the finish (Ok not so much, but you get the deal). I made my strides longer, took the pass, and thought I just edged out him at the finish. We both crossed, grabbed some water and stood hunched over. In my mind I knew I won, he knew he lost. I congratulated on the solid run and solid race.

I knew I didn't win. I assumed I didn't even place, but I was happy. I was happy for the race I race, and happy for my run on a hilly run course. I knew that my all my speed training paid off and whatever the outcome of the race, I ended my triathlon season on a high note.

Overall, I was happy with my performance, snagged a 3 spot in my Age Group.  I ran hard and had an avg of 6:30/mile while 1st and 2nd in my AG averaged about 15 seconds slower per mile than me. I guess I should have pushed the bike harder. Their time was made up on my slower swim and a slightly faster bike than me. This was a nice end to the 2013 racing season. Expect big things in 2014: Faster times, bigger results, more podiums.

2nd & 3rd Place

3rd Place AG

Couldn't do it without this girl