Monday, April 8, 2013

The 2013 CrossFit Open - My Battle with Bob

There are probably 100 or so people who plan on making it through the CrossFit Open and Regional competitions to end up competing in the CrossFit Games on ESPN2.  For the other thousands of us, the Open has become an annual five-week test of how we've progressed over the last twelve months.  You don't know what workouts are coming until the night they are announced, but they inevitably test a wide spectrum of fitness and leave you proud, pissed, frustrated, exhausted and satisfied.

Much like my triathlon career, each competition is a race against myself.  As a "middle of the packer" it's easy to feel great by looking at the masses behind you or miserable by observing the fire-breathers leaving you sharply in their dust.  Every competitor's scores are posted on the Open "Leader board" for everyone to see and compare.

And so, in order to make the 2013 Open more interesting, instead of aimlessly trying to chase my invisible "best," I decided to go head to head with someone within my own weight class: The Biggest Loser's Bob Harper.

Bob got into CrossFit a couple of years ago - not too long after it became my primary means of exercise.  Since then, he has helped to shine and even greater spotlight on the functional fitness movement - the guy even has a CrossFit clothing line devoted to him.  A worthy adversary - even if he is about a decade older than me...details, details.

So I talked a little pre-Open trash to @mytrainerbob via twitter and throughout the five week Open (which I'm sure Bob never even saw).  And week after week, I'd post my scores and immediately compare my performance to the fitness professional to see how I sized up.  Here's how it went:

Week 1: Austin: 123, Harper: 112...I own him.

Week 2: Austin: 240, Harper: 228...A pretty close match, but I'm holding strong.

Week 3: Austin: 154, Harper: 240...I just got DESTROMINATED.  (I did that workout in Park City Utah - at 8,000ft.  It was a humbling education in altitude training.)  Okay Bob, looks might this might come down to the wire.

Week 4: Austin: 65, Harper: 64...YES!!  I'm hangin' in there with face of fitness in America.  It looks like week five will be the deciding factor.  This marathon will be determined by a 100 yard sprint to the finish.  I wouldn't have it any other way.  

Week 5:  Austin: 66 reps while competing at CrossFit South Side.  A bit disappointing, but hopefully enough to edge out the Harper.  I posted my score and waited anxiously to see if it would suffice.  And...
...Bob didn't post a score.

C'mon Bob!  You gotta tell me - did you do 13.5?  What'd you get?

Or ya know what - don't tell me.

I'll see ya next year.

Scott Austin: The 23,519th fittest man in the world.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A quick look back...and the road ahead's been a while.

The 2011 season ended with a painful lesson about the nature of IM racing.  Turns out, you can devote the better part of a year to preparing every part of your body for race day, but if your stomach takes the day off...well, check out the Mad Lib Race Report of you really wanna know.

So I took 2012 off.  Totally.  Not a race.  (Full disclosure - I did the Sandestin Sprint Tri without training or registering, simply because it's on our Anniversary weekend - but that doesn't count.) The bike collected dust and I didn't smell the least bit like chlorine for twelve solid months.

Swim, Bike Run was replaced by Run, Burpee, Lift.  I spent the full year (I know this s where I'll lose a lot of you) just doing CrossFit.  I entered a couple of competitions and placed in the north part of the middle of the pack - faster than the strong guys and slower than the fast guys.  I have to say, it was a great year.  But, I did miss the days out in the sun that come with triathlon training - so here I am for 2013 - ready to get back into it.

What's the game plan?  Fun.  In a sport that's continuing to divide into a caste system of first-timers who just want to call themselves "triathletes" and douchey veterans who wear the title like a gang of fraternity officers scoffing at their pledges; I just wanna spend some days outside on the road and at the beach staying in shape.  I'll try some new training methods and see how fast I can get - besides, life's not as much fun if you're not going fast.

I'm stoked to be linked in with a team of fun-loving individuals at Wattie Ink, who were gracious enough to let a guy like me tag along for a year.  Be sure and look for them at a race near you this year.

What are ya'll up to?

Monday, December 10, 2012

2013: Time to Rock.

Don't call it a comeback - looks like 2013 is the time to rock.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Taking a break

So I'm taking an intentional break form the blogging gig for a bit.  I'll still be checking in on folks...just not writing much for a while.
Enjoy the ride.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ironman Florida Race Report: Swim Bike Runs Part 3 of 3

Check out the earlier posts (1 & 2) for instructions on the MAD LIB set-up...

1. Another word for poop.
2. A famous genious.
3. Another word for problems.
4.Something that comes back - and you don't want it to.
5. Another word for expert.
6. A huge accomplishment.
7. Adjective for the message in a Valentine's Day card.
8. Describe crazy sorority girls at college football game.
9. Describe either a drunk guy or a post-dentist toddler.
10. Something you yell at a rock show.
11. One last word for poop.

The Run and the Finish
I saw Heidi and her mom again as I made my way out of T2.  Sort of.  My vision was still blurry, despite my attempts to quickly rinse and wipe my eyes out.  But I felt great, except for you know - the [1]__.  My legs were remarkably fresh and the quick cadence I'd held for the final stretch of the bike had my turnover rockin'(...relatively).  I had heard from veterans that no matter how good you feel on the first miles of the marathon, it is imperative to throttle back or you run the risk of having no legs left by mile 14.  And so I settled into a steady pace.  My original plan was to try and stay between 9:30 and 10:00 miles - which (stomach permitting) was quite doable at this point.
The first two miles went by pretty smoothly.  It was close to the 3 mile board that I remembered seeing a medical tabel back in transition.  And then I thought, "Ya know.  I wonder if they had any kind of medicine that might have helped with these stomach issues?"  Great idea, [2]__.  Where was that idea seven hours ago?
And around that time...just when I was thinking that vertical posture and enough time had alleviated my [3]__, that same old feeling came back like [4]__.  My stride chopped back to a walk, but only for a few steps.  After a quick recovery, I was able to get back to running.  But it was clear that pit stops were going to be a major portion of the run as well.  13 hours?  Not gonna happen.
By the end of the day, I had become a bit of a pit stop [5]__.  These port o' lets were like my own explosive T3.  I could strip off a race belt, take care of business...oh, wait, check for toilet paper...then take care of business and be back on my way in no time.  A discipline I had not practiced prior to that day.
As I made my way passed the eight mile mark I looked forward to reading the digital message that my wife and mother in law had prepared for me.  (As you pass that point, a sensor reads the chip on your ankle and displays a pre-programmed message up on a digital board.)
I sped up as I passed by the sensor and looked anxiously at the board.  (You have to keep thinking of the next little thing to look forward to during a 140.6 mile day - and this little message was my next mini-[6]__).
I smiled to myself as I saw the blurry message over my name and race number: "You are my HERO."  What a wonderful thing to say - especially from a wife who already knew the toll of this race - after finishing her first IM on the same course just one year before.  I ran a little bit faster for the next few miles, stopping only to squat and never to walk.
(Side note: I thanked Heidi for the message the next day and told her that it meant so much to me when I was struggling out there on the run course.  She responded by telling me that she had not entered anything about being a hero, and that her message..presumably the one over my name...said, "Suck it up and move your ass."  [7]__ as well, I guess.)
Miles ten through 13 were chilly.  I was an hour later on the course than I planned on, and the sun was getting low.  My next goal was to get to the long sleeve shirt in my special needs bag.  I paced with a fellow from a local NOLA triathlon team for a bit of the way, keeping a good stride and helping him feed off the energy.  As we neared the turnoff for the home stretch, I could tell he though I was about to head towards the finisher's chute with him.  Nope.  I had one more lap to go.
A ran into Heidi and her mom right next to the special needs bags and said a quick hello as I threw on some warmer clothes.  They looked [8]__, cheering on everyone that passed by.
Then I headed out for 13 more miles.
Soon thereafter, Heidi zipped up beside me on a mountain bike to offer some words of encouragement.  I told her thanks and warned her that "These next 13 might be a little slower than the last ones..."  She told me that was okay, and that what was really cool - was that I had a neat glow bracelet! 
It wasn't until I saw some pictures my myself that I realized why she was talking to me as if I was a [9]__.
Yeah, I was a little loopy.
The sun was down and the lights on cars combined with my blurred vision to block out pretty much anything.  I kept my head down for a large portion of the second loop - picking out cones and potholes in the dark.  I was still making pit stops, but with slightly less frequency.  The second time around the course was better than the first.  I tapped each milage sign as I went by. 21...22...23...
With just a 5k left, I finally felt good.
I kicked in as much as I had for the last three miles, partially hoping to beat the 14 hour mark - though that would require an 7:00 pace.  I'd see how close I could get.  As I passed by folks during that stretch, I'd spare the breath to say, "We're actually going to do this."  Most would smile back and say, "I know!"
The crowds started about a quarter mile from the finish.  They were made up of spectators ringing cowbells and yelling [10]__, as well as earlier finishers covered in space blankets.  Even a dead man would feel ashamed to walk through here - you have to run. 
My pace maintained as I neared the finisher's chute.  Because of the lights and my eyes, I couldn't see a thing.  I barely made out the arch over the finish line and hopped up to give it a smack as I crossed.
14:05:20.  Not the time I'd planned on.  But it was my time.  
(Another quick side note - a look back at my Garmin data revealed that I spent 22:03 of the bike and 19:27 of the run "squatting": combined with un-timed stops in each transition of approximately 3:00 each - I added at least 45 minutes due to my early morning saltwater diet.  But the clock times from when you start to when you finish.  There are no time outs.  No exceptions.  I took spent 14 hours, five minutes and twenty seconds out there on that course.  14:05:20 is my time.  And I'll take it.)
As I knelt to "Tebow", a volunteer approached quickly - thinking I was about to "go down."  I assured her that I felt fine and then I took a quick, standing, momnet to thank Jesus Christ for the strength to endure and enjoy such a tremendous day.
From there it was back in the assembly line.

Family is what gets you to the starting line and what makes the finish line worth while.  In what seems like a strictly individualistic sport, it is the family that is perhaps the most important thing.  "Family" in a literal sense, yes.  But also the friends, mentors, and even people you met on the internet who have encouraged you the whole way.  Without them - even if the race is possbile, I don't know if it would be worth it.
And so...THANK YOU, HEIDI, Kim, Chloe, Christi, Dustin, Donna, Pati, Mack, Meg, Steve, Kurt, Hard Inc., Dan, Becki, Matt, KC, BDD, Emz, Suz, Jon, Bree, The Hand and Feet Project, Frayed Laces, Christina, Cynthia, Ben, Laura, Jeremy, Chad, Libby, John, as everyone else who made even an incredibly frustrating 138.2 miles one of the best days well as Newton Running & H2O Audio - for donating goods for the HAF fundraiser.    

Over the course of 140.6 miles, you have a lot of time to think.  You do a lot of math.  You reminice.  You plan ahead.  You pray.  You cuss.  You [11]__.  You cringe.  You smile.  And hopefully, like I enjoy every minute.
Thanks, "Coach." 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ironman Florida Race Report: Swim Bike Runs Part 2 of 3

A quick reminder - the way this race report works is like Mad Libs from grade school.  Before you read the story, write down answers to the numbered prompts.  Then when you get to the number in the story - insert your own word or phrase.  And it obviously makes more sense if you read Part 1.  Enjoy.

1. To move quickly.
2. Another word for rock star.
3. Something flat.
4. Something that blows hard.
5. Another word for ugly.
6. A great distance.
7. Another word for toilet.
8. Something people wait in long lines for.
9. Something very slow.
10. A really good NASCAR racer.
11. Another word for slow.
12. What fat people do for a hobby.
13. Something disastrous and messy.
14. Verb meaning "to pop something out."
The Bike and T2:
I was [1]__ towards my bike when I heard the volunteer say "Bathrooms are on the right before you get to the racks!"  Good idea, I thought - why start a 112 mile bike ride with a full stomach?  I'd take a couple of inconvenient seconds here and save some real time and discomfort out there on the course.  Racing smart - atta boy.
I made a quick pit stop and "emptied out" as much as possible, but still felt pretty "full."  Well, I could't stay in the port o' let all morning - and I could't put a good swim time to waste.  So I headed back out into the madness, got my bike from one of the [2]__ volunteers and headed out for the ride.
Everyone's concern going into the day was the wind.  In the days that preceded the race, there had been a steady 10-15mph breeze and some heavier occasional gusts that promised to make make the [3]__ flat bike course less than enjoyable.  As I made my way down the first stretch of coastline the crosswind was blowing through the high-rise buildings like [4]__.  I reminded myself not to fight the wind, but to simply take what I could get in a headwind and enjoy the tailwind on the way back.
After a couple of beachfront miles I made a right hand turn out onto the Florida panhandle roads.  As the crosswind switched to the first real headwind of the day, I tucked in and try to get as "aero" as possible.
Heidi, my wife, zipped up on the back of a Harley.  She had volunteered as a race marshal and was out putting the hammer down on bike course drafters.  She congratulated me on a good swim and asked how I was feeling.  "Pretty good!"  I told her, and she assured me that she would be back by transition by the time I got there.  She smiled as she sped off to enforce.
And then it started to get [5]__.
The fullness in my stomach was replaced by a sort of stinging ache that started high and moved its way down.  I sat up in the saddle to provide some relief.  Welp, guess that first pit stop wasn't enough.  Wierd, I thought, because I hadn't eaten anything weird - the same stuff I'd had before every morning swim, bike or run for months.  That's okay.  I planned on stopping at the first aid station, taking care of business and then getting on with a solid bike ride.
I could see the first aid station and the port o' lets around mile 12 from [6]__ away.  However, the reason it was so easy to find them was that there was a line outside of the the [7]__ a mile long.  Unwilling to stand there with my bike like I was waiting for [8]__, I decided that I could take the discomfort for ten more miles until the next  aid station.  Another slow motion moment.  Sigh.
No more than two miles later - it got worse.  Aero was definitely not an option, but neither was pushing the pedals with any semblance of pressure.  I backed off and gingerly made my way over the next eight miles as bikers sped around me like a [9]__ on a beach cruiser.  I didn't dare press on the pedals or release the immense pressure in my stomach for fear of "sharting."
The miles to the next aid station went by like and escalator ride when people are in front of you and you have to just stand there.  But the station eventually appeared like a stream in a desert, and I anxiously made my way in to find some relief.
I can only describe the experience by comparing it to a trip I once had to Mexico.  Or perhaps asking if you remember a particular scene from Dumb and Dumber.  Needless to say, it was bad.  It took a while.  But then - it was over.  I felt all better.  Game on.
I darted out and hopped on the bike - ready to make up some lost time.  I was down.  I was hammering.  Like [10]__, I was zipping by the folks that had passed me during my pit stop.  It was great.  And then, at mile 20, it was back.  I sat up and made my way to the next aid station, where I enjoyed such a wonderful pit stop that just prior to re-mounting my bike, I decided to go back in and make it a two-rounder.
This process repeated itself at least five more times throughout the course of the bike.  And I found myself sitting up in the headwinds, enjoying a [11]__ pace, so often that I simply laughed and sang the Wicked Witch of the West song as old women and pedestrians passed me by.  "Duh-dah-duh-da-da-da, duh-dah-duh-dah-da-da..."
Inconvenienced and a bit frustrated, I reminded myself of my original goals:
1. Finish.  I had made up my mind that I wasn't going to quit twelve months ago when I signed up, so that made that decision simple.  All I had to do was not lose focus or do something stupid and I could still meet goal number one.
2.  Enjoy every minute of the day.  You only get to do your first Ironman once.  And remember, this whole thing is a hobby.  It's what we do for fun.  Other people [12]__.  We test ourselves to see what we can accomplish.  On this day, I was going to see what I could accomplish while battling a case of dysentery.  And I was going to smile the whole frekin' time.
A long and bumpy stretch of highway just prior to the halfway mark tested my will to enjoy, as each random bump led me to say out loud to myself, "Do not crap yourself in front of all of these people."  I had seen pictures and video of people who had done it as they neared the finish line at near World Record pace.  To do so prior to the 66 mile marker on the bike seemed unnecessary.
The rest of the bike was relatively unremarkable.  A couple more pit stops at the aid stations became as much a part of my routine as sitting up and riding beach cruiser style.  Patience became as important as endurance.  I focused on taking in nutrition and water.  As much was going out of me, I knew I needed to keep the calories coming in.  I stayed on schedule nutrition-wise and passed some of the slower miles trying to figure out what might have caused my current distress.  (In hindsight, the best conclusion we can come up with is that I took in a substantial amount of saltwater during the swim, which science will tell you can lead to [13]__.)
As I made my way back into Transition, I kept my cadence high and realized that the silver lining to my intestinal meltdown was that I had barely taxed my legs at all for fear of pushing too hard and [14]__.  Seven hours and one minute after I had started the bike, I headed into T2 - ready to try and salvage a decent marathon, with a smile on my face.
I dropped off my bike and made my way through the maze of bags and volunteers to retrieve my run gear.  As I did, I removed my sunglasses and was surprised to find that my vision was cloudy.  What I had attributed to sweat smeared on my lenses was actually the result of sweat in my eyes.  The chaotic scene that was T1 was replaced by a much more controlled T2.  I found a small corner of my own and made a relatively quick change.  One more stop by the toilets on the way out (Why not?)
and I headed out on the run.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ironman Florida Race Report: Swim Bike Runs Part 1 of 3

Okay, so I know race reports can start to all sound alike, so in an attempt to make this one a little bit more fun to read, I thought I'd write it Mad Lib style.  For those who don't remember Mad Libs from elementary school book fairs, the way this works is pretty simple:
Before you read the story, write down whatever words or phrases that you first think of as designated by the numbered prompts that precede the story.  Then when you get to the point in the story with a number, look back and insert your phrase with the corresponding number.  Okay, here goes:
1. A food you see on the Biggest Loser.
2. Adjective describing an angel.
3. Something that spills out and just keeps coming.
4. Describe a mosh pit.
5. Name a body part someone shouldn't touch without buying you dinner first.
6. Describe a crappy traffic on your commute to work.
7. Name a body part.  Any body part.
8. People or animals who are lost.
9. Something that spreads apart.
10. A large body part.
11. A small space.
12. A time when people eat a lot.

A bit of a disclaimer: I've found that triathlon blogs can often offer a bit too much information for some people.  Things can get real out there.  And sometimes it's pretty gross.  I'm talkin' about bodily functions, ya'll.  So if you're easily grossed out - you might just wanna skip the race report.

The Swim and T1:
If you tell most folks what is involved in an Ironman, they very often reply with: "Oh, that sounds tough.  I could probably do all of that except the swim."  Then they go back to eating their [1]___.  Perhaps because of the mass start and hysteria, the swim seems to be the most foreboding event in the race.  I guess people figure they won't drown while biking or running.  I simply don't have much of a swimming background myself - and so the day would start for me with a 2.4 mile question mark.  Could I make the 2.4 mile loop under the cutoff?  Could I do it without being smoked for the rest of the race or demolished by the mass start?  Heidi told me she thought I could swim a 1:20 - anything around a 1:30 and I should be more than happy.
As I made my way to the water's edge for the start of my first 140.6 mile journey, I watched as the Gulf current set the professional racers a solid 50 yards inside of the marker buoys.  Current out of the west.  Noted.  I said one last "thanks" to my [2]__ wife, we said a quick prayer, and I made my way to the middle of the pack for the race start.
As the gun went off the mass of pink and green swim cap clad racers entered the water like [3]__.  The first minutes of the swim were [4]__, but with neoprene and salt water.  After a few elbows to the eye, kicks to the head hands groping over my [5]__ I remembered to simply remain calm, and look for a route to open up my stroke (even if it meant going around a few piles of flailing arms and legs - I just can't bring myself to swim right over folks the way some people do).  And if possible, find someone to draft off.
The mass of bodies continued like [6]__ through most of the first lap.  During that time there were more than a few instances where a random arm leg or [7]__ landed on my head mid breath and offered a large gulp of Gulf of Mexico saltwater.  (If this were a movie - I'd show this part in slow motion as a bit of foreshadowing.)  The frustrating/funniest part of the swim was seeing just how poorly some people sighted.  It was as if [8]__ drifted every which direction looking for a black pool line on the ocean floor to direct them - sometimes even swimming perpendicular to the masses around them.  With all of the chaos and the fact that I had spent more than a few seconds literally treading water at the turns, trying to find a way around the masses - I put any type of "goal time" out of my head.    
The second lap of the swim was much more enjoyable.  The masses spread like [9]__, and I was able to swim my own pace for most of the loop.  Though on the final stretch into the beach, the lack of a crowd worried me a bit.  Was I that far behind?  I didn't bother taking a second to sight backwards, for fear that I might not see many swim caps behind me.  After a much smoother and lonelier trip around the course and one very near miss with a jelly fish the size of my [10]___,  I exited the water to hear the announcer note a time of 1:13.  Wow.  How'd that happen?  A bit bewildered by my early success, and feeling great - I made my way into transition.
Nothing prepared me for the chaos that was T1.  Like a thousand mostly naked men crammed into a [11]__, the room was worse than than any episode of Tosh.0.  (No pictures - you're welcome.)  In hindsight, I can't help but recall the pre-race advice I got from some of the female racers who had done IMFL before - who described an empty room with volunteers who personally assisted each racers as they sat on foldout chairs and changed out for the bike...(a quick tip for the ladies - rumor has it that IMFL has historically had about 5-1 male/female participation.)  I elbowed and boxed my way into a 2ft x 2ft space where I could change out into my bike gear and dumped my T1 bag out on the floor.  I made a relatively quick change (allowing time to ask the dude who was dripping all over my gear to kindly get his naked butt off of my race belt so I could go) and I headed out the door.  As I clipped my belt around my waist and headed for the bike racks, I noticed that my stomach felt fuller than [12]__...  
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