So… this past weekend, I flew out to LA, to run the Sean O’Brien 100k. It’s known as one of the most brutal 100k courses out there, with over 13,000 ft of climbing, and probably not the best choice for your first ultra, but… I really wanted to run an ultra this year, and I didn’t want to do it during the summer (because that would be like throwing a bomb in the middle of tri racing season). The timing of Sean O’Brien seemed pretty good, so… Sean O’Brien was the choice! The course profile is below…. (note: my watch battery died at mile 53, which is why the file isn’t 62 miles)
This past weekend, I raced Ironman Louisville. I haven’t posted files from a race recently, so I thought it might be a good idea to go through this one. First, the final stats:
–9:10:xx. 21st male professional, out of 37.
Weather – it was a pretty unique weather day, as the air temp was around 70 deg F at race start, got up to about 80 deg while we were biking, and then cooled down to about 65 deg while we were running. These unique conditions were the result of a cold front blowing in during the race… which also meant that we were racing in pretty strong winds all day. Wind on the bike was generally around 15 mph, with gusts up to 35 mph. Wind on the run was strong, but swirling, and tough to get a read on the direction.
The most “WHAT DO I DO???” time of year is generally the winter. The previous race season is ancient history, but the next “big” race may still be 6-7 months away.
During the winter, some folks never take a break, some folks take several months off, and some folks kind of do it “in between”. Based on my years of racing professionally, and coaching for QT2 Systems, I’ve learned a set of principles that I think are the best, and sharing them will hopefully simplify some of your “winter decisions”, when it comes to training.
Last weekend, I raced Ironman Arizona, to wrap up my 2016 season. The details of my race are not particularly important. I mean, they’re important to me, but I’m sure they’re super boring to everyone else. So, I’ll just give the bare minimum details necessary, and use them as a jumping-off-point to get to something possibly useful to you…
This past weekend, I was lucky to race at one of my favorite events, the Musselman Half-Iron, on lovely Seneca Lake. It’s the unofficial 70.3-mile championship of upstate NY, and it did not disappoint. It was my 4th time at the race, and in my previous 3 attempts, I’ve finished 5th (2009), 1st (2013), and 6th (2015).
Going in, I knew we had a strong field lined up, as the last 3 men’s champions were there (myself, Matt Curbeau, and Matt Migonis), and it’d likely take a course record to win the day.
Here we are, summer of 2016… Racing season is in full “go”, and we’re all starting to reap the benefits of all of the hours put in on the trainer over the winter.
I’ve been racing since April, but the results haven’t quite matched up with the expectations. All of my training has been fantastic, as I’m putting up the best swim/bike workouts of my life, and my running is doing just fine. That’s the funny thing about racing, though – it’s a “one off” event. Sometimes, it’s an accurate reflection of the training you’ve been doing, and sometimes, it just goes sideways! Haha! But that’s part of what makes it so exciting, and it’s why we keep coming back for more.
I did my first triathlon in August, 2006, and first Ironman in June, 2007. I earned my professional license by winning the amateur title at Ironman Coeur d’Alene in 2011, and I’ve been racing as a professional ever since. Over my last 4+ years in the pro field, I’ve gone from “clueless rookie” to “less clueless veteran”, and have witnessed a rapid evolution in professional long-course triathlon.
For many triathletes, the “dream goal” is getting to Kona. That’s not the goal for all triathletes, of course. But that dream is prevalent enough so that you can assume just about everyone toeing the line at an Ironman has at least thought “Boy… I’d sure like to race at Kona one day”. And then, if an athlete is serious enough about the sport to hire a personal coach, you can bet your butt that a Kona qualification is something floating around in the back of their mind. As such, I view getting athletes to Kona as my “mission”… my “meal ticket”. And honestly, that’s probably 90% of the reason I’ve been successful – I have a clear goal for where I want to get my athletes, and my ability to pay the rent depends on meeting that goal. Point being: as with most things in life, a genuine desire to succeed, and the willingness to work for it, are the most important factors for finding success.
A lot of sports have their “dirty little secrets”. In football, it’s concussions/brain trauma. In cycling, it’s random heart attacks from drug-affected blood. In bowling it’s… carpal tunnel syndrome?
Well, triathlon’s “dirty little secret” is skin cancer (there are 3 basic types of skin cancer – melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma… of those 3, melanoma is by far the most likely to spread, and eventually kill). Our sport mostly consists of a bunch of white people spending a crap ton of time out in the sun. So yeah, we’re a “high-risk population.” I know a LOT of people in the sport who have had skin cancer, and unfortunately, I’m just the latest victim (but now survivor… hell yeah!). The last 4-5 weeks of my life have been horrid, after I received a diagnosis of melanoma, on November 10, 2014. The whole process culminated with surgery on Dec 9, 2014. The surgeon dug out all of the skin around the original melanoma spot, and then also removed 3 nearby lymph nodes, to check if the cancer spread. Fortunately, as I just found out today, the cancer did not spread. So, it appears that I’ve dodged this bullet.
Here’s the part where things get interesting…
(worth noting… I have no idea how long it was there. I only noticed it because I buzzed my hair for a race in August)
The dermatologist said it was “fine”, and sent me on my way. But, the spot was still bugging me, and so my girlfriend (the lovely & talented Lisa Holt) encouraged me to get another appointment, to get it checked out again. So, I went back on November 5, and made the dermatologist remove the spot and biopsy it. Five days later, it came back as positive for melanoma. I was floored, and cried for the first time in a looong time.
Luckily, it’s depth was relatively shallow, indicating that we caught it early. And the biopsy results I got back today confirmed that the cancer did not spread (although as anyone who’s had cancer can tell you, waiting for surgery, and biopsy results, is goddamned awful… )
Here’s the point: I’ve dodged this bullet, but only because I was so friggin’ insistent that something was wrong with that spot. I urge you to learn the “ABCD“s of melanoma, they could literally save your life. And the other thing to look for is the “which one of these is not like the other?” concept – i.e., if there’s a mole on your body that looks different than all of your other moles, GET IT CHECKED OUT!!! If you catch it early, melanoma is relatively easy to treat, and cure. But if you don’t catch it early, things can get ugly…
Luckily, I was doggedly insistent that they remove the spot. Otherwise, the doctors would have left it there, and it would slowly still be boring into my head, a ticking time bomb waiting to kill me.
I’ll leave you with a couple more nuggets of advice:
1) Sunscreen is good, but clothing is better.
2) I didn’t just get this because I’m a ginger. Out of everyone I know who has had melanoma, I’m the only ginger. Sure, fair-skinned folks are more susceptible to it, but ANYONE can get it. I had a friend who died in 2011 from melanoma, and he was not a ginger… Do not make the mistake of thinking you’re “immune” to skin cancer! (ex. Bob Marley died of melanoma. He was definitely… not a ginger)
3) The skin “never forgets”. I’ve been super-vigilant about sun protection for the last 4 years. Unfortunately, I wasn’t vigilant about sun protection from ages 16-29. My melanoma wasn’t caused by sun exposure from 2011 – 2014. It was caused by sun exposure from 1996 – 2010.
And… just for fun, here are my surgery scars, which will serve as a reminder of this whole mess, for the rest of my life…
Anyways… that’s that…
Keep training hard, and resting harder,