insane. unbelievable. beautiful adventure. cold water. crazy swim. tough bike, tougher run. headwinds. euphoric. friends. mountains. long day. sore feet. amazing. epic journey. hardest day ever. 18 hour finish at 3000 feet, white t-shirt (I`ll explain this later). pain. stoked. just woke up and have to drop my international crew at the train station. more later. thanks everyone who sent kind words.
Category Archives: triathlon
Norseman full-iron starts in 7 hours.
My favorite part about traveling and about doing events (or adventures!) is putting myself in some unique situation and taking in all the ups and downs of the experiences the new situation produces. This race has been on my mind for over a year; those who know me know that is much longer than I am usually capable of thinking about something. Spending 3 days at race headquarters has given us the opportunity to feel the excitement build. It is very real now. It`s not the first time I`ve said, `this is going to be the hardest thing I`ve ever done.´ But that is not why I am here.
A friend of a friend asked me before I left, `Why something so extreme?´ And I never thought of it that way (seriously- despite the word `xtreme´in the name of the race). How did I answer? That as you approach the difficulty of something like this it`s feasibility becomes real. Suddenly it is a reason to go to Norway and a time to put myself in a very unique situation indeed. The `hard` part of it is harder than anything I`ve done, but not by leaps and bounds. During the lows I have an adequate bank of experiences to draw upon for motivation and during the highs I can experience something like never before. All this in one of the most beautiful environments I`ve ever been in. And with friends who traveled hundreds or thousands of miles to help make it happen.
We`ve already met lots of people, Norwegians are very excited that we came all the way from California to be here. They ask how long I have been a triathlete and how many times I`ve been here to do the race. I tell them that I never considered myself a triathlete and that I slept on couches for two months to save money to come here to do this race. They appreciate that we sleep in the gym and cook all of our meals.
Pre-race concerns are the obvious ones: Did I swim enough? Cycling is my strength, but did I ignore it too much to swim and run? Have my two weeks of traveling before hand make me soft? Will the stiffness in my left knee get better as the day goes on?
Goal 1: Finish the swim. Period. Goal 2: Make it to the mountain checkpoint before the cut-off (if the weather is bad, you cannot finish on top of the mountain and you finish out the run on flat). Last year all but a handful made the cut-off, the year before only the leader finished on the mountain top! It depends on the weather.
Am returning to this post now at 930pm, before I go to sleep. At the pre-race meeting this afternoon they announced that they had to move the swim deeper into the fjord due to some international triathlon governing-body rule about water temperature minimums. Now the bike is 12 miles longer! I don`t mind so much, but man, it`s already going to be a long day. The race starts at 5am local time, 8pm Friday night in California. Think of me before you go to sleep and again when you wake up!
Today I arrived in Oslo, Norway to begin my five weeks in Europe. But I feel kind of like I’ve been traveling for five weeks already. After a week on the East Coast I’ve gotten quite a few questions about the Norseman triathlon I am doing on August 4th. So what’s up with this race?
It’s an iron-distance triathlon, but this is far more adventure than race. First a boat takes all participants 2.4 miles into a fjord. Everyone jumps off and swims back to the small town of Eidfjord to complete the first segment (equivalent to about 180 pool lengths). Then onto the bike for 112 miles through the mountains of rural Norway. There is no official support so I need a crew to hand me food and water. Max from Swarm!/Team Bonobo is coming out as is Aidan, Morgan’s close friend from England who was not able to continue on the PCT due to an injury. Chris Kostman also hooked us up with his cousin, who lives near Hammer, Norway. Amazingly she is coming out and helping as well. After the bike, the marathon run begins. The first 15 or so miles are mostly flat, but the last ten miles take you up Gaustatoppen to a peak nearly 6,000 feet high. More info on the course here. My crew must accompany me for the last leg to the top and I have to wear a pack with warm clothes, cell phone, emergency bag, etc. Amazing. I hope to finish in 15 hours.
I read this on the plane ride here: ‘If you are assured completion then the challenge is too easy.’ Maybe that sums up my interest in a race like this. It is also a damn good reason to come to Norway (or to travel in general). I am convinced that (almost) anyone could complete this sort of race, if they were set on doing it. I’ve merely put myself in a position where I have to prove that to myself. The anticipation alone is worth the entry fee. Can’t wait to get out there. Hope to update frequently and maybe even post pictures.
And so is how the 1.2 mile swim started for me at the ‘World’s Toughest Half-Iron Triathlon’ in Auburn, California. They say that you should always focus on the task at hand and not your finish time, average speed, etc. My focus was on not sinking. For whatever reason the swim started out poorly for me and I could not catch my breath. All the technique that I had worked so hard on went out the window. Possibly related to me not doing any open-water swimming or wearing my wetsuit since this race last year.
The last 500 meters were probably the best I felt. Out of the water at 7:47am; I thought the swim took 47 minutes, which seemed accurate, considering how poor I was feeling. Ends up it started late and my swim was 39 minutes, only 4 minutes off of last year. In this picture I look like it took 3 years.
On the bike and stoked. What else can I say?
My plan: go as hard as I could and not think about the run. This is my third triathlon and I think I can diagnose what I get on the bike as ‘Poor Swimmer’s Syndrome’. I am more amped, aggressive, and competitive on the bike part of tri’s than in bike races. I’d pass someone with Aerobars and Zipp wheels, they’d step on it and try to over take me again. I’d hear them breathing heavy so I’d push down a little harder. Slowly their breathing would become inaudible and it would feed my aggression. Odd, right?
Wanted to sub-3 hour the 56 miles (600o ft elevation gain), but ended up around 3.14. This includes both transitions, which I am slow at (note that I am sitting in the picture!). Only 5 people did sub-3 and my ‘bike split’ was ranked 31st out of 200 (Overall results). The course was more up and down then any long or steep climbs. So beautiful. Little traffic.
Run! The route is almost 100% off-road with technical sections of roots, rocks, streams, etc. Also two STEEP, long climbs. The first part of the figure-8 was tighter. Some rocky downhills. No coasting when running! A couple of people passed me, but I eventually got into a groove and picked it up. You run past the finish before heading out for the last 10k (6.2 miles). I noticed the clock for the first time: 5 hrs 02min. I’d have to run a 58 minute 10k to sub-6 overall. This motivated me and I managed to not struggle nearly as much as last year on the last long downhill. It’s brutal. My arms hurt from the swim and the impact was exasperating it, but overall, really, I was stoked and having a great time. Ran the whole way back up as fast as I could.
Finished in 5 hr 58 min. Despite the longer swim beat last year’s time by 7 minutes. Also got 5th in my age group this time, but got better awards (olive oil and cytomax!) than 3rd. This race is so fun and run super well. Apparently it is ‘much different’ from other triathlons, which reinforces the stereotype of others. This one is super DIY and ‘grassroots’.
The real endurance test was driving back to LA after the race and then getting up at 630am for work the next day.
So the question is: Will I be ready for the World’s Hardest Full-Iron in Norway? I’ve got two months of training.
Thanks to my father for the x-mas gift (covering the registration) and to Uncle Bob for putting us up. Also my great (unofficial) support crew and photographer.
1. Saturday Death Valley double century in 13.13, Jack and I were in the top 10 fastest times (wtf?).
2. Saturday night drove back to Los Angeles, arriving at 4am.
3. Slept 1.5 hours.
4. Ran a 4.57 marathon (2.20/2.37 split).
5. Ate two burritos.
6. Slept 16 hours.
Why: To try train for upcoming long races. And they just happened to fall on the same weekend.
We rolled into Death Valley Friday afternoon, which is a first. Usually we don’t get there till 1 or 2am, which Morgan, Jack, Stacy and Megan did, keeping Swarm! tradition alive. Chris Kostman joked about all 20 of us staying in the one free room that the volunteers got. It probably seemed that way, with about 15 of us cooking dinner outside the room. Lee Mitchell, ultra-cycling legend, was perplexed by our presence. You all here for the ride? Yep, almost all of us. The double or the single? Most are doing the double. Wow, great!
Some of us camped, some actually had paid for hotel rooms and only six of us slept in the free room.
Saturday morning we tried to get a group photo, but some of Swarm! had to be at the Badwater checkpoint, some wanted to get in the early start for the double and the century riders were getting ready for their later start. As feared, Jack set a vicious pace to the first checkpoint, 17 miles away. I was blowing up. Him and I managed to stay together till Jubilee Pass, where he easily dropped me. I still passed a couple people going up, but was also passed on the long down hill to Shoshone that was plagued with head winds. Saw Jack as he was leaving the turn-around point and Jesse had caught me as I was leaving. The out-and-back gave us an opportunity to see how our other rides were doing.
After climbing back over Salsberry and Jubilee, the head and cross winds really kicked in. That’s the desert. Jesse, a Bullshifter rider and myself managed to bridge up to a couple of other groups just after Ashford Mills and got a paceline going. At one point there were 8 of us, all taking turns in the front battling the wind. Then the group split in half, then suddenly it was just me and one other guy. My stomach and legs were feeling better and we rode past a couple more groups before finally arriving at distant Badwater. Budge, Luz, Jen Diamond, Morgan, Max & Sasha (who DNF’ed the century on the tandem cause of Sasha’s f’ed up knee) were all there. And Jack! He had just flatted. It was the lunch stop, but we barely hung out before him and I left together.
This route is tricky in that the 150-mile checkpoint is at the start/finish (picture on left is Kiecker and Paul before the last 50 with Signey who had finished the century). It’s real easy to stop and not do the last out-and-back to Stovepipe Wells. Five of our riders did not make the cut-off time here and were not allowed to continue on (but two tried! Props to the ‘old guys’ for the punkest move of the weekend). I think they all would of made the overall cut-off and were only delayed to here because of the crazy head winds. When the sun went down and the full moon came up it was so bright we could see our shadows! The last twenty-five were tough, due to the aches and pains that arise from the first long ride of the year. I’ll spare the details of Jack’s ass pains. Some clif shots with caffeine (after two months of almost zero caffeine consumption) made my stomach unhappy. When I finished I just laid in the grass. It was the most out of it I possibly have ever been after a ride.
Our team chefs (the century riders) had made some gnochi that I pushed down before showering and coming back to wait for our other double riders to finish. We hung out with the guy who rode the fastest time of the day on a fixed gear. Not the fastest time on a fixed gear, THE FASTEST TIME. On a 48-16 yet. Yeah. He ruled. Was real nice too. Congrats to everyone who rode their longest ride, whether it was 100, 150 or 200. Thanks to everyone who helped cook, drove, etc. It was a team effort and I am stoked to of been a part of it. Also see Luz’s pictures and Kiecker’s write-up.
The drive back luckily, was uneventful. Tried to sleep, but with 3 of us crammed in the back it didn’t work out so well. I’m also one of those people who is so concerned about the driver falling asleep that I feel the need to stay awake.
When we got into the house, on the kitchen table was the map of the marathon. I looked at it and sighed. It was 4am. Morgan said, ‘Look Matt, if you didn’t do it, no one would think less of you.’ Not doing it never seemed like an option, which I think made it easier. After putting on all my running gear, I took a nap sitting up on my couch. Disorientation barely describes what I felt when that alarm when off. Holy shit. I’m going to do what?
I’m off the train and on time. Glad to see some anti-war group handing out stickers which many people have put on their shirts or bibs. In the ‘corral’ I ended up next to two bearded, bare-foot guys. One, I learn, is Barefoot Bob from runningbarefoot.org. I asked if it was a requirement to have a beard to run barefoot. Others asked him the typical, annoying questions that he answered with a quick wit that kept me amused till the race started.
The start is anti-climactic after standing around for 45 minutes. I’m tired as we start to climb the back of Cahuenga Pass. Unlike cycling, there is no free ride and the downhill into Hollywood is brutal, but my legs feel better then they did on my last training run. My brain not so good. Around mile 8 I pass 6th/Hobart and I toss my long sleeve shirt in a bush to pick up later. Looking for Morgan or someone from the house, but can’t blame them for not getting up after 4 hours sleep to see me run by. The halfway point eventually shows itself and I have retained enough analytical ability to do some math on my time/pace.
Not that my entire mental state is healthy. For no reason I would take serious emotional dives, almost into tears. Unexplainable. Not in a ‘running is horrible I need to stop’ way, but in more of a nihilistic, depressing, ‘the love of my life just dumped me’ way. As if physical or mental exhaustion was exposing the emotional ends of my cognitive functions. I knew what I was getting into and, the best I could, welcomed the ups and downs.
Last year I walked the water stations and still ran a 4.04 in my first marathon. Now I was finding myself walking well past them with little motivation to run. My calves, quads and ankles are all aching so I stopped to stretch occasionally. I saw a guy throwing up on the bridge back over the LA river from Boyle Heights and I gave him some props for letting it all go (I don’t what that guy ate, but it looked like an entire Indian buffet), but he was less stoked than I. The math I am doing in my head at every mile is making less and less sense as I get closer to the end. But I care even less. When we reach downtown I find it incredibly odd that all the spectators are blocked off from the route by these giant 10-foot tall fences. It seemed so out of place, like we were in a ring or some sort of cage. I unceremoniously cross the finish line: 4.57.
Again I don’t take the medal (something else to throw out next time I move) and again the post-race refreshments are crap. Some round bread, bananas and shots of OJ. I don’t know how anyone who paid $100 for this race thinks that is okay. Hobble to the train back to our neighborhood where Morgan meets me with a bike. We coast down to get some burritos with Budge, Luz and Megan. Everything is surreal and I feel super hot. Did I drink enough water? I know I didn’t eat enough burritos so I eat two. At 4pm I go to sleep, only waking up once to have some toast before sleeping till 8am. Good weekend. Thank you to everyone who made it happen.
Doing these events back-to-back will hopefully prepare me for Norseman, which will be my first attempt at an iron-distance triathlon. And this is my first public commitment to it.
Second triathlon. Good fun. Got a wetsuit for this one (which is a story in itself, please ask in person so I can tell it with proper visuals). The Auburn Triathlon is billed as the world’s hardest half iron. To me that means that the bike and run are a lot more interesting. And they were!
At the start I was super nervous. All these people who look like aliens, wearing wetsuits and goggles. Then I look down and see that I look just like them. The swim was in this beautiful lake, you swam out, made a left then did a long out and back and then sort of arc’d back to the start for the 1.2 mile distance. I stayed towards the back in the start and then just found a comfortable pace with a small group. I had done a ton of ‘technique work’ and had not swam a lot of distance. This was my gamble after my horrible swim performance in my first tri. It was aparent that it paid off: I was taking almost half of the swim strokes as those around (that means much less energy spent). When I saw the dock was close I stepped it up a bit and swam away from the group I was with. When I got out I noticed that the guy in front of me had a half sleeve as I was taking off the top of my wetsuit. The announcer said, ‘Here come the first participants in the heavily tattooed division.’ Funny. Swim time: 34 minutes
The bike route was through wonderful, hilly back country. I saw a kid with a USC jersey and asked him if he knew my friend Michel and he did! She had mentioned me to and gave me some props for jumping into this one. I told him how Michel is the only person I know who has done a triathlon. When I rode away he said, ‘See you on the run”. What is that suppose to mean? I was so stoked on the bike. They stopped traffic for you! I passed a ton of people and when I saw an ‘LA Tri Club’ jersey I’d yell ‘Yeah LA represent!’, but no one responded.
Bike time: 3 hrs 15 min
The run was a figure-8 almost all trail. I got tripped up twice! Actually hit the ground. It was so hot that they would sponge you with cold water when you passed the check points. The route was SO hilly that lots of people were walking. Only a very few passed me. Had some stomach issues, but I knew I’d struggle a bit on the run from going so hard on the bike. Not too bad though.
Run time: 2 hrs 10 min
Overall: 6 hrs 5 min
This was really really fun. The organizers did an awesome job and the feel of it is actually ‘grass roots’ as they claim. Thanks to my Uncle Bob who gave me a place to crash in Folsom and took us out for great food pre and post race. And to my father for the x-mas present registration fee.
Olympic Distance= 1.5K (0.93 miles) Swim, 40K (24.8 M) Bike, 10K (6.2 M) Run
Doing a triathlon has been on my mind for many years. The stigma associated with ‘athletic’ events and my general disinterest in competition has always kept me away. Also, working out training (a pool to swim in regularly) and having a decent bike for the ride has only recently been possible.
Holy shit this was hard! After a short side trip to Maryland and DC we were checking in at the start near Warsaw, Virginia on Saturday afternoon for the Naylor’s Beach Triathlon. A nice kid from DC introduces himself to me cause he said I look like a (punk) rocker. Ha! After the bike and helmet check I did a short swim in the river before we headed off to find a hotel (thanks to a last minute donation/sponsorship we could afford to!) and eat Chinese food.
Up at 5am and nervous. So much to think about between all 3 events and the transitions, etc. We get there and I put my bike and running stuff in the transition area and get my swim cap and goggles ready for the swim. The crowd has a lot of the type-A dudes with shaved eye-brows whom I am generally averse to, but overall it is not that big of a deal. I’m swimming in bike shorts, which seems to be the norm. At the pre-race meeting, held at the entrance to the river, they point out the swim course. My stomach turns at the realization of just how far a mile in open water is. Seriously, staying afloat that long may be problematic. Bam! And we are off. I stay in the back so that I don’t get in any of the real competitors’ way. Immediately I have trouble with the navigation. Whenever I try to get into a groove of swimming I vear slightly off course. This happened numerous times. I look up and no one is around and I’ve swum partly out of the way. You can’t see shit in the middle of the river! Well, I can see all the different colored swim caps from the other waves (I was in the first wave) as they pass me! At one point I am starting to get achy and the exit beach seems ungodly far away.
Out of the water in 53 minutes and I can’t even run to the transition area where my bike is. Have to sit down to put my bike shoes on. Slightly delirious after swimming for almost twice my previous longest swim (time wise; I did this distance in a pool in 30 min). Heart rate is 178 (highest I’ve recorded is 194?!) when I start on the bike! Can’t even stand to pedal up hill cause upper body is so weak.
Eventually I recover from the swim and start to pass people. As I start to feel strong on the bike the realization of the upcoming run hits me and I chill out a bit. The course is beautiful with lots of trees and low traffic so 25 miles go by extremely fast. Ave speed: 19.9 MPH with no drafting.
Off of the bike and I am feeling more confident. Upper body still aches, but legs feel okay. Take the first 2 miles of the run slow (maybe 10 min miles? I don’t have a watch). I ran my first 10k in May and have only run a handful of times since then. Get some much needed fluids at the aid stations. On the bike part I had two water bottles, both with Sustained Energy (liquid food stuff that supplies about 500 calories), but I might not of drank enough. Pick up the pace a little and am being passed less often. Around mile 4 I catch up with a woman who had talked to me briefly when she passed me earlier. We run together for a while and she is super friendly. She had completed an iron-distance tri (2.4 mile swim, 110 mile bike, 26.2 mile run) earlier this year and was super supportive when I told her this was my first tri. I pick up the pace, mainly cause I just want to get done. Probably running 8-min miles and am passing some people. Main limitation at this point is mental. Legs are hanging on and breathing is heavy. Feels like I have a gallon of river water in my lungs. Around mile 5.2 I pass the transition area before the final out and back.
I am not super delirious at this point or even super ecstatic, mostly I am thinking, ‘That swim was so damn hard!’ Cross the finish line to the announcer letting everyone know I came all the way from LA. I finish the 10k with a time of 56 minutes and an elapsed time of 3 hours and 10 min. Despite the swim, I am only 5 minutes over my goal time. Overall, this was a great experience and lots of fun. Maybe it was because I was in the back of the field, but so many people were very supportive. Even cheering me on when I passed them on the bike! The combination of events is very appealing to me and I am considering doing another Olympic distance tri next month. The main limitations are the costs (registration is usually around $80, plus getting there, sleeping, etc) and having regular access to a pool before the event. So that’s my story. Thanks to all of you who gave support leading up to this, gave me tips on what to expect, and convinced me that I wouldn’t drown. For any of you obsessed with numbers you can see my time splits and rank here. Or click here for a picture of me you can put on a coffee mug.