Category Archives: triathlon

peak.com interview part one

This is part one of an interview I did with peak.com. If you like it and think others may be stoked please share it with the tool on the upper right.

Age?
Recently 30.

Occupation?
I’m trained as a Registered Dietitian, in other words a professional nutritionist. Currently I work under a Food-stamp grant doing nutrition education in low-income areas of Los Angeles. Am also an adjunct instructor with the LA district community colleges.

How long have you been doing ultras?
Since Fall of 2004. More or less.

What was your first one?
My first ultra was the Mt. Tam double century in 2004. I had no idea what I was getting into. I did it on 3 hours sleep, finished in 16 hours, then had to drive an hour back to a friend’s house. It was beautiful.

What got you into ultras?
Bike touring. I spent the majority of teenage years on a BMX bike riding the most difficult trails in the country. Many of my friends went on to be pro. I went to college. Not sure if I made the right decision. Filled the gap with mountain biking and then bought a $50 panasonic road bike my senior year. Rode it 150 miles through Pennsylvania to my mom’s house within a month. First lesson: cut-off shorts and no underwear is not the most comfortable choice for your crotch. The following Spring I rode cross-country from California to Pennsylvania alone (mostly). I was too cheap to pay for camping (hotels weren’t an option) so I found my own places behind trees or rocks or in public parks. Spent $5/day over two months. Would of been faster but I got hit by a car head-on outside of Flagstaff, Arizona in a surprise snow storm. Ten days off the bike mending a broken wrist and a broken bike. Insurance of the driver bought me my first ‘real’ bike: a Bianchi Axis. The next summer a friend and I rode from Los Angeles to Belize City, Belize. We went through Oaxaca, Chiapas, Guatemala, it was a phenomenal experience. With some shorter trips, including Alaska and the Great Divide, I’ve got about 10,000 bike touring miles logged.

Your hardest?
Solo Furnace Creek 508! No doubt. The desert does something to you mentally. If you don’t love it and show it respect, it will chew you up. I struggled the second day quite a bit and would not of finished if it was not for my great crew. After 37 hours I was glad to be done and did enjoy it, even with the misery. That’s partly why I am out there. I love the highs and lows.

Longest?
Paris-Brest-Paris in 2007 was definitely the longest. Does that count as an ultra? I wasn’t competing, I just thought it would be a fun way to experience France. It’s part Critical Mass, part bike tour, part cultural submersion. I went with the night start and rode with various groups over the next 26 hours. In Carhaix I found a cot in a gym to sleep on. ‘When do you want us to wake you up?’ In 8 hours, I replied to their confusion. I figured it would be more fun and easier if I slept a full night. Did the same the next night. Finished in 77 hours, if I remember correctly. Two weeks previous I had done my first iron-distance triathlon on a course in Norway they call the world’s hardest, the Norseman. I was nervous because it was especially cold. They had to move the swim away from the glacier run-off in the fjord. You actually had to get out of the water half-way through so they could check you for hypothermia. The bike was 126 miles and the marathon ends up a mountain. I finished near the back and the organizers were always tremendously supportive. They let us sleep in the gym (is there a theme here?) in the days leading up to the race and cook in the kitchen of a school to save money.

Recommendations for new athletes?
It is difficult for me to answer this because I struggle to call myself an athlete. I’d say keep it fun! Don’t take yourself too seriously. I like to do athletic events because they are an adventure and the process adds to my life experience. When I lose sight of this it becomes like a job and significantly less fun. To me swimming in a fjord in Norway, riding my bike through traffic in LA, mountain biking fantastic technical single track or running up a mountain near my house are all worthy experiences in their own right regardless of the end goal. Each give me that jolt of excitement that I don’t think enough of us get in our daily lives.

Food and hydration during events?
Even though my expertise is in nutrition, I still have to work very hard to get my food and hydration sorted out. The more I’ve trained and at times when I am most fit I am able to eat less while riding without compromising my performance. It has taken me years of paying close attention to my body to know how far I can push and when I need to eat and drink. I try to average about 200 calories an hour and focus, when possible, on eating fruits and whole foods. On doubles and really tough centuries I do use gels and the liquid foods with definite success.

What’s your training like?
Oh how my training varies. I am definitely on the low-end of hours and miles compared to others. Especially running. It is a struggle for me to run more than twice a week, which is something I need to change if I want to get my marathon time under four hours. I do a lot of core work, including pilates. I also live in Los Angeles without a car, so riding to the grocery store and carrying 20 pounds of groceries home on my fixed gear definitely helps.

Favorite event?
So hard to say! My first mountain bike race ever was this year, the Shenandoah 100. It was freakin awesome. A party the whole time, with a 100 miles of amazing terrain and great single-track in the middle. I raced rigid single-speed and came in just under 11 hours. A great way to spend the day. I also did Vineman, the ‘people’s iron-man’, this year in Sonoma Country. Very well supported, lots of veg food and an emphasis on minimal impact: they washed and reused water bottles and even composted fruit scraps.

Why ultras?
I like the commitment. I don’t want to spend more time traveling to an event than I do participating in it! That space in time after the initial adrenalin wears out is where you learn the most about yourself and the world. I’ve experienced clarity like no other on really long bike events. This is cliche, but it takes you away from mundane, normal life with the hassles of bills to be paid, reports to be filed, calls to answer, etc. In a way it is very primal and aligns us with what our ancestors were forced to do to make it through life. I think we all need to remember this. I do my best to promote ultra events so others can get out of the work-buy stuff-watch tv-sleep-repeat routine and experience what we are capable of experiencing, for good and for bad.

Long term goals in the sport?
Tough one. I take it year by year. I like this mountain biking thing so I want to do a 24-hour race next year. The courses seem so boring though. Maybe race the Great Divide? I am not sure. I hope no one who reads this holds me to that!

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Filed under 508, brevet, double, off-road, triathlon, vegan

Vineman photos

Finally back in LA and able to get some photos up. Thanks Jenny!

I just figured out how to read the ranked splits (your time for each: swim-2.4 miles, bike-112 miles, run-26.2 miles) on the results page. My bike was 28th out of 366, in the top 7.5%! I am totally amazed by that. And for anyone else that geeks out over numbers, here they are: swim, 173/379, 45% and run, 112/310, 36%. My overall was 56/310, 18%. Wtf?

I am posting this because I want others who are thinking about similar events to realize that the ‘I am in over my head’ feeling is totally normal. I was convinced that I was last in the swim. I was okay with that, but seriously thought I had been passed by everyone. Ends up I was in the middle somewhere.

Brian’s wife Jenny wanted a photo at the finish the day before.
That made me nervous.

Since it is an olympic year I thought I’d give props to
Tommie Smith and John Carlos
with a black power salute

This was the best feeling ever.


So whatever is in the back of your mind: do it. Sign up. Make training fun and not a job. Make a plan, but be flexible. Those around you will support you and even thank you for being positive and going beyond your comfort zone. Cause really this is what life is about. Riding a bike to work, being vegetarian, doing an iron-distance triathlon; all are about getting out of your comfort zone and doing what common-people will tell you is unreasonable or impossible. Do it.

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Vineman more

Triathlons are an odd thing. I’ve always held them at a distance because of the type of people who do them and my desire to not be associated with it. But I am getting over it. This was super fun. One of the funnest days I have ever had. I’m a bit rushed right now cause I am leaving on a camping trip down the coast back to LA, but here’s the story. Hope to get photos up soon. Enjoy.

Swim
Stupid wetsuit wouldn’t zipper. I am swimming up to the start as the gun goes off, about two minutes ahead of where I was at Auburn, but still late. D’oh.

I chill. Long strokes, easy pace, stay in a group. I am looking around, enjoying the beauty. Making note of points on the out-and-back so I know where I am when I return.

At the turn around I can’t believe how fast I am and how good I feel. ‘This is going way better than any other swim.’ I am approaching the swim exit and strangely I don’t see anyone exiting. Is it around a corner? Who are those people swimming up the other way again? Oh, it’s two laps. I’m not that fast. I’m only half-way. I should wear a watch. About 35 minutes later I am really getting out of the water.

T1
What do you think of when someone says ‘wetsuit stripper’? It’s not what you kind of wish it would be it’s having a team of people pull off your wetsuit. It is awesome. I was a bit overtaken by how quickly I went from being fully covered to wearing only some tiny, dripping, bike shorts.

Nine minutes later I was riding away.

Bike
So I put aerobars on. Rode about 30 miles with them the week leading up the race. They are sweet. You tuck down, slide up in your seat and then pedaling as hard as you can comes natural. This course has about 4000ft elevation gain in 112 miles and a lot of it is rolling hills. Which are tricky. When you are averaging 21 or 22 MPH you don’t want to slow down. When climbing a mountain you have no choice. When’s it only 100 feet or so you just stand up and mash in your big ring in order to not lose momentum. Or at least that is what I do. Passed a lot of people. Said ‘hello’ or ‘good morning’ each time. Less than one in four respond. I look at all the graperies that turn fruit into alcohol. Every 25 miles someone hands me a nice cold sports drink. It gets hot. Some friends from Organic Athlete wrote our names at the top of the biggest climb. And also wrote ‘Go Vegan’ which confused me in my apoxic state.

T2
Since I don’t run train very well or really do bricks besides riding to my runs (see my experience at Norseman) I was a wee bit nervous entering T2. But I switched shoes, ate a banana, put on my hat and attempted to keep up my mental momentum from the bike.

Run

Determination. How do I control that? I was so determined to keep my run strong and stay on pace (as much as you can with no watch and the only clock being at the finish) that I was shocked. I walked the aid stations and the big hills and then just kept on it. The course is 3 out-and-backs and which sounded like it would be tedious, but it was really good. I could mentally break it down. Every time you came through the finish area to start a new lap the crowd lining the route cheered you on. It was really great. I wish they could be there every day. ‘Yeah Matt, you are only 10 minutes late to work, good job!’, ‘Way to get that paper work filled out!’.

I did have a real emotional low on the start of the second lap. Don’t know where it came from, but I could barely talk. When I saw Brian (he DNF’d on the run with a knee injury) I was totally spaced. Asked him to talk to me ‘about anything’. I had some lows like this at Paris-Brest-Paris, but this was the worst one I’ve ever had.

I started the third lap at 10hr 30min race time. If I could hold on to 10-min miles I could do sub-12. Alas I could not! The hills got me. And I only ate an orange on the last lap to focus on my hydration as the weather cooled and some more shade covered the course.

Post
Legs feel strange. Have to keep walking. Then stretch. Then lay on my back and put my legs up: amazing feeling. Overwhelmingly joyous as normal blood flow returns to them. Hang out. Eat a veggie burger and a ridiculous amount of fruit.
From here we went to the Organic Athlete house in Sebastopol and ate a gigantic salad and some banana ice cream. I laid on the kitchen floor a bunch of the time and we all told stories about ridiculous things we like to do.

Splits: Swim 01:16:36.0 T1 00:09:31.6 Bike 05:41:57.7 T2 00:05:40.1 Run 05:08:09.3 Finish 12:21:54.6

Thanks: Brian, Jenny for being awesome support, Bradley and Justin from OA, my distant family up here that treats me like close family, vineman for having tons of vegan food, recycling and even composting, Michel Martinez for getting me stoked on doing this.

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Vineman

Yesterday was Vineman and it was a great time. I plan to write up a longer story, but here is the short:

12 hour 21 minute total time

2.4 mile swim-1hr 16min
transition 1- 9 min (hanging out is pretty cool)
112 mile bike- 5hr 41 min (I rode a 5hr century!)
transition 2- 4 min
26.2 mile run- 5hr 11min

It was a fun, beautiful course and really well supported. And I don’t know where I pulled that marathon out of! It was hilly and very hot, but still one of the best marathons I have run (not necessarily by time, but how I felt).
Am sore, but not miserable.

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Davis double century, Auburn half iron continued

At exactly 546am we rolled up to the start (ride to the ride!). No one in sight. Not one of the 700 people signed up for the ride that starts ‘between 515 and 545am’. So we pedal off! Within an hour it was warm. Ride fast before it’s too hot or conserve energy? Brian double flats on a pothole in a paceline. A first.

The Davis Double is super well supported with 10 checkpoints in 202 miles, most filled with plenty of fruits and other foods (no clif bars unfortunately). It is inevitable on a 200-mile ride that you will deplete your fluid and energy stores, but we put serious effort into minimizing that (read: we ate and drank a whole lot). There is only about 8,000 feet of elevation gain total, but most of it comes in four climbs. Four climbs in the middle of the day. Four climbs all when the temperature is over 100 degrees. We take our time.

The secret watermelon and vegan burrito stop on the LA to SF drive


When we finish it is still daylight, but unlike Los Angeles the temperature doesn’t drop significantly. We eat the free post-ride food, try to find a tool for Brian’s bottom bracket and start mentally preparing for Sunday. Back at Janie’s house we eat again, load the car and then set off for the 45 minute drive to a relative’s place near Auburn.

One of the many (okay, five or so) fixed gears at the double

It’s after 11pm when we say goodnight and agree to set our alarms for 445am. The heat changes the fatigue you feel. It’s more of a whole body emptiness that you just don’t experience from regular fatigue. And you just can’t drink enough to replace what you lose. It’s a losing battle. I lay down on top of the bed and am asleep before I even think about getting under the covers.

When I awake in the dark I don’t feel miserable. Similar to being hungover (it’s been awhile so I can’t say for sure) in that you are slightly confused and feel like you over it did the night before. Brian looks somewhat normal.

We arrive at ‘T2′, which is also the finish. We set up our running stuff, load our swim stuff into backpacks, set up our bikes and ride to ‘T1′. Six miles, mostly downhill. Ouch. Legs are unhappy. I’m still a little dazed, but the sun is up, people are about and excited. We check-in, set up our bikes in ‘T1′ and start to dress for the swim. Note to Jan Ulrich-types who like to gain weight in the off-season: If your wetsuit is tight at ‘race weight’, you are going to be unhappy at ten pounds over. Note to slackers: It’s embarrassing to be running down the boat launch as the race is starting.

I have no shame in admitting that I was thinking about quitting before I reached the first buoy. I was struggling to breathe, my body was aching and I was cramping. Why is this so bad? Just kept swimming. Was focusing on my fish-like swimming and was getting nauseous. Can fish vomit in their mouth?

Back at my bike taking off my wetsuit was so glorious I decided to sit down and revel in the wetsuit-free glory. Then I tried to ride my bike up some hills and my legs hated me possibly more than my stomach. It wasn’t that miserable feeling you get on super long or hot rides where you just want it to end. It was different. More of a disconnected feeling where your shortcomings seem somehow to be normal. The odd thing was that I didn’t care that much. Did I accept it on some level or was I too phased to care? I ate a banana. Drank some electrolyte stuff. And some water. And got passed and passed and passed. Aren’t I suppose to be the one doing the passing on this race? No top fifteen percent bike split this year! Hills are hard when you are tired.

I told myself I wasn’t even going to start the run. Why bother? But when I saw my shoes I thought, ‘I already paid and my shoes are already here…’ and went out. Wow. Stomach is super unhappy. What’s that weird feeling? Oh yeah, having to pee. Sort of. I think the thick liquid that came out was urine (only a slight exaggeration). At the first aid station I sit in the shade and stare off into space. My stomach is killing me. I add up my calorie consumption for the day: about 800 in five hours of activity. Uh oh. A very fit looking female volunteer probably 1.5x my age, or more, who could easily beat me in any race, says, ‘Looks like you didn’t do enough hot weather training’. I told her I did plenty the day before. ‘Look. See the salt stains on my spandex?’ The sun felt like it was melting my skin. Other people looked normal. Are they not human?

The run is two loops from the T2/Finish area. When I finished loop one Brian was there to cheer me on. He had finished already. I stepped off the course, laid down in the shade and didn’t get back up. No desire to run. The ground was spinning when I closed my eyes. Am I still edge? Brian brought me some cytomax and water and I put it down. And then some more. And then some more. It’s three days later and eating/drinking is only starting to be normal. Wow.

We didn’t drive back that night. Even after ten hours of sleep we were both blasted. Unbelievable what the heat can do to you. What an adventure. Looking forward to Vineman in August. Nothing crazy beforehand.

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Davis double, Auburn half-iron

The short:
Sat: Davis double century, 202 miles, in 14 hours and 20 min. Over 100 degrees most of day.
Sun: Auburn half-iron triathlon (swim 1.2 miles, bike 56, run 13.1), DNF after 6 miles of run d/t near heat exhaustion, nausea, dehydration.

The long:
I now fully understand what it is like to be dehydrated. Am also now familiar with heat exhaustion, nausea and intense cramping. This is good. Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go? My approach to whatever you call the things I do (adventure? fun? extreme? athletic?) has been simple. If it’s there and has a draw, do it. A little naivety is healthy. Curiosity is a sign of intelligence. You won’t know until you try. Et Cetera.
I did the Auburn ‘World’s Toughest Half Iron’ in 2006 (second triathlon ever) and in 2007 (third triathlon) . Both years I had a blast and actually placed in my age-group. This year the Davis Double Century happened to be the day before. Why not? Bike touring is all about waking up after a hard day of riding and then riding again. And on PBP I rode 325 miles in one day, slept 7 hours, then rode another 200 plus without much problem. And it’s not like I’d drive all the way up there just to do the double, so why not save gas and do both at once. I talked to Brian ‘Emperor Moth’ Davidson and he didn’t flinch (note to potential bad-asses: If you want to look badass for some crazy thing you are doing don’t invite the strongest athlete you know to come along).

What we did not calculate was the heat. Over 100 degrees both days. 109 at one point on the double on Saturday. That’s hot. About how hot it was on the drive up (and back) in the car with no AC. That probably did not help our preparation (but runs up quite a few punk points). But we did all we could and Davis is a great bicycle city to do it in. We park the car at our friend’s house. Ride half mile to bike shop. Closed. Ride around corner to other bike shop. Score. Ride half mile to ride check-in. Ride half mile to a Co-op. For real. Got to love that shit. We ate a nice meal (you can make fun of raw-foodists all you want till they make you the most kick-ass salad you’ve ever had). Asleep by 10-ish for the 5am wake-up call (from Nextel).

(to be continued manana)

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Skateboarding is cooler than triathlons

I think that is obvious.

But I am going to go further and say that it is also much, much more difficult to master the skills needed and there is far more pain involved. And watching it can get you way more stoked (on anything) than watching, well, anything else. Jamie Thomas’ part in Welcome to Hell (Toy Machine) has always been one of my favorite parts in a video, ever. Is this almost ten years ago? Also note that him doing the railslide barefooted was part of an ad campaign about making skate shoes that weren’t leather. Get stoked.

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