Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Solid Race in Portland; Now Its Time to Rest and Get Healthy. London's Calling

Pro Nationals were last weekend in Portland, Ore and I am grateful to have turned in a solid 9th place finish. I was little more than 30 seconds outside a top 5 finish and with better run fitness, could have made it a lot closer to the podium. I had a good swim and made the lead pack on the bike. A break away of two (Matty Reed and Matt Chrabot) got away on the first lap and our group, despite having decent fire power, was unable to reel them in. In fact, we lost a bit of time to them over the course of the 8-lap 40K bike. My cassette came loose during the race and caused ghost shifting problems and prevented me from getting into my biggest three gears. I was supposed to make something happen on the bike, but this severely limited my ability to reach top-end speed, so I settled into the dysfunctional pack, did a decent amount of work, and set my sites on a solid first run in over a month. In a repeat of FISU World University Games, Kevin ran past me from one bike pack back in the final lap to beat me by one spot. Quite distinct from FISU, Ethan had one heck of a race to turn in a podium finish. All in all, it was a solid day for "Les Stupide Americane."

I went dark after the Olympics as I dealt with a number of health issues that caused quite a bit of frustration and threatened to keep me out of Pro Nationals. In fact, I was undecided whether I would race and if I would run during the race up and until the day before the race. First, before I left the Springs, I had blood drawn for a routine blood test. Once I got back to Davis, I got a call from the director of the USOC Physiology lab who apparently had been looking for me quite frantically in the Springs. It turns out I had stage-three iron-deficiency anemia which causes fatigue, weakness and inhibits recovery. As the condition worsens, the length of time to recovery grows longer. It was important I address the matter immediately by taking iron supplements (She recommended Feosol because each batch is tested and certified to be free of WADA-banned substances) and eating more red meat. When I told her I was having trouble sleeping, too, she recommended I eat ice cream with chocolate syrup just before bed. So I went on a diet of burgers and ice cream--on the advice of the USOC! I started to feel better after about 2-3 weeks of supplementation.

But just as I was gaining energy and strength back, I started to get a pain in my hip flexor when I ran. After running through the pain for about a week (It was starting to hurt to walk even), I took three days off running. Then I tried running again and it still hurt. I subsequently stopped running until Portland on the advice of Dr. Sam Dixit at the UC Berkeley Tang Center (he's great). His guess, which couldn't be confirmed without an MRI, was that I had a stress reaction--a precursor to a stress fracture though it is every bit as serious, treatment is the same, and recovery can take just as long as a stress fracture. Given these set backs, I thought about ending the season all together, but I wanted to see how I could do against the best triathletes in the U.S. I'm glad I decided to race Portland.

Now I get to enjoy a few weeks of training break, then it will be back to base training--with lots of focus on running--to prepare for next year. A new quadrennium begins next year, which means I have 4 years to make my dream of an Olympic berth come true.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Zero Hour Approaches

As the Olympic triathlons approach just a day away, athletes seem to have been graced with mild temperatures and relatively low levels of pollution, which will make fitness on the challenging Beijing course the deciding factor in the upcoming races. Athletes have said they do not think the heat and air will be determining factors as has been feared leading up to the games.

Matt Reed seems to have nabbed the best start position of American men, positioned to the far left of the pontoon near Javier Gomez, the world number one, who selected first and chose to start as far to the left as he could. Jarrod Shoemaker is farther to the right, but positioned near Ivan Rana and Jan Fordeno. Hunter Kemper finds himself in the middle of the field and should look for the feet of Collin Jenkins (of Canada) who starts not too far away.

Interestingly, the women seemed to prefer the right side of the pontoon, with World Number One Vanessa Fernandez choosing the seventh position on the pontoon. Laura Bennett should feel confident in her positioning just to the left of Fernandez. Sarah Haskins finds herself not too far away on the fourth right-most position on the pontoon. Jule Ertel starts from the middle of the pontoon.

From personal experience, start position can be critical in a race. But USA Triathlon's sport performance director would argue otherwise. More often than not, I guess he is right, but it can make a difference on occasion.

The US contingent arrived in Beijing from Chechu South Korea yesterday after a successful camp that included an informal sprint triathlon. But this wasn't your typical small town sprint tri. It drew a field of 30 olympians, with athletes from many other federations who were training in the area ahead of the games. Word on the street is Shoemaker finished third among this field, and still had something left in the tank. Could his singular focus on the Olympics since his last race in Beijing be paying off?

The ITU has a race preview posted here just one day before the women's race gets underway.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Triathletes Wear Masks in Beijing; Avoid Controversy That Met Cyclists

As the Associated Press reports, American triathletes have said they will wear carbon filter masks whenever they are outside in Beijing. Matt Reed even vowed to wear the mask during the opening ceremony, though not during the march into the Bird's Nest:

"I definitely am conscious (of perceptions) and I don't want to offend anyone," Matt Reed said, "but I'm out for my own health, really. I'm sure they know the air quality is not good, so I don't see it's that bad wearing a mask."

Reed and Hunter Kemper wore masks during a training run around Olympic Village friday and reported having trouble breathing. According to Jarrod Shoemaker, who earned some scorn for wearing a mask in Beijing at the Olympic Qualifying World Cup in October, at which he earned his spot on the Olympic Team:

Triathlete Jarrod Shoemaker, who wore a mask before qualifying for the U.S. team during the Beijing World Cup in September, noted the skies had changed from "more yellow and dark" last year to a whitish color. Shoemaker said the sky "doesn't look as bad, but you can still kind of taste it."

"We take the precautions we need to," triathlon team leader Scott Schnitzspahn said. "We're still far enough out from our competition that a little exposure isn't going to really affect them too much. But we still don't want them running around sucking on a tailpipe."

The triathlon team departed Beijing early Saturday to train in South Korea before returning just a few days ahead of the Olympic competitions on August 17 and 18.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

To Our Olympic Heroes: Remember, Be Humble, and Smile

As our Olympians prepare to represent the United States on the most grand of sporting stages, they could use some perspective and a dose of humility, lest they give new meaning to the term “ugly American.”

Worries about air quality have swirled around the Beijing games like the dark plumes of smoke from Chinese factories captured in endless pre-Olympic news photography. Fearing adverse health effects from polluted air, some of our athletes have vowed to wear the top secret carbon-filter masks they’ve received from the USOC at all times outside competition, including during the Opening Ceremony.

Can’t you just see it? As delegations from Argentina to Austria enter the Olympic stadium with the widest of grins telegraphing their exhilaration, the American team will look alien and cold, their emotions concealed behind these masks. They will be seen not to parade in peace, but to march in defiance of a country they’ve deemed unworthy. Triathlete Matt Reed may have best captured the sentiment when he called it “just disgusting what they’ve done to that part of the world.”

Before they stand in judgment, our athletes should be reminded that just a century and a half ago, our cities too were smothered in smoke. Charles Dickens described the cityscape of America in his Hard Times: It was a town of machines and tall chimneys, out of which interminable serpents of smoke trailed themselves forever and ever and never got uncoiled.”

But the factories that clogged our cities in soot produced a period of economic advance exceeded only by the recent economic gains in China. Our industrial revolution set America on a path of growth that affords Americans today the opportunity to be more worried about clean air and climate change than hunger and disease.

It is asking quite a lot of China’s parents to subordinate the nourishment of their children to the environmental sensibilities of a country that hasn’t known significant poverty in more than 50 years. Forty million Chinese children are estimated to be malnourished. Per capita income in the US is eight times greater than that of China. We had our industrial revolution and, now, with median household incomes of $45,000, can afford the luxury of heightened environmentalism. China, too, deserves a chance to lift its people from poverty.

And lifting it is. In the past 30 years, 400 million people have been lifted from poverty in China—more than the entire population of the United States. Even amid all the pollution, life expectancy in China has increased over the past decade. Healthy life expectancy has seen similar gains. Per capita income more than doubled from 2000 to 2007 and poverty has fallen to less than 10 percent from more than 60 percent in 1970.

China is quickly becoming an economic power with sufficient might to address environmental degradation and clean up its mess. And certainly on other political scores, the Chinese regime can be criticized. But before our American heroes march into Beijing with righteous indignation, they should remember that America’s great cities were once cloaked in smoke from factories that built for us a better future. Let them remember, be humble, and bear their proud smiles to the watching world.

Monday, July 28, 2008

COS Training

After three weeks of racing in Europe, it is great to be back in the states. I am training at the OTC in Colorado Springs. I actually spent 5 days here, then flew home to Davis to take care of school responsibilities, and then returned a few days ago. I'll be here for another three weeks. Its good to be getting in some solid training after what seemed like an interminable taper. Next races won't be until September, so this is a key training phase for me.

Its great to be here at the COS: great training and testing facilities, friends and training partners, and amazing food. It will be pretty cool to watch the Beijing games from here, though its not clear if I will be here for the triathlon races.

Monday, July 21, 2008

To Wear the Mask or Not; The "Uncool Factor"

The Wall Street Joural reports on the decision Olympic athletes may have to make about wearing carbon-filter masks in the opening of the Olys in Beijing:

Chinese officials insist the notorious Beijing air will be cleaner by August, making such contraptions unnecessary. Concerned about the pollution, the U.S. Olympic Committee is distributing a high-tech mask, developed in secrecy, to its more than 600 Olympians. If athletes deploy it, they risk insulting the hosts. Then there's the geek factor.

"I probably will want to wear it," says the 26-year-old Mr. Shoemaker, who plans to have his mask on nearly all the time he's in Beijing when not competing. "Whether I will be allowed to is a different issue."

USOC officials in charge of creating the top-secret masks given to US athletes say the biggest threat from pollution isn't poor Beijing performance but lingering effects that could be to the detriment of performance years down the road.

As an aside, it is a life goal of mine to have the WSJ do one of these profile sketches of me. So jealous...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Ladies of

Offical swimsuit calendar coming soon...