Thursday, October 3, 2013

SUPERFROG XXXV - 1st Overall Relay

How does the saying go? "If at first you don't succeed, try try again!" In this case, it was the 7th attempt at capturing a SUPERFROG Triathlon title and one of the most unique awards in the sport - a paddle!
We assembled a superb group of athletes including swimmer Kosuke Amano (2nd out of water), Okwaro Raura (1st overall runner) and me (1st off the bike) and we delivered the goods on Sunday.
Once Kosuke exited the 1.2-mile swim only seconds off the lead swimmers pace, I pushed as hard as possible over the flat and fast 56-mile bike and gave Okwaro a lead he really didn't need as he capped off the 13.1-mile run in a blistering 1:15! We even managed to impress Portos, Kosuke's new wonder dog, who approved of our course record 3:45 time.
Two high-fives on the day go out to men's overall winner Joszef Major. Joszef and I had a duel back in 2011 where I held the lead until Mile 11 of the run when the fleet-footed Hungarian sped away to the win. This year, he beat a class field and earned his second win on this tough course.
Second high-five to Kevin "DJ Oso Grande" McGuire who finished his first half-Ironman as part of his journey towards Ironman Arizona in November. DJ Oso crushed it on his Mavic CXR 60/80 wheel set and will be rocking the sound system at our upcoming October 25-26 Fearless Races!
Next up for me is a 112-mile time-trial of the Ironman Hawaii bike course with Mavic and Triathlete Tech Editor, Aaron Hersh. I'll have a tracking device on me during the ride so tune in to Triathlete's website to follow the ride along the Queen K Highway on Wednesday, October 9th.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

SUPERFROG XXXV - Not for the Faint of Heart!

“The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday” is the widely heard motto of the most elite commandos in the world, the US Navy SEALs. In recent years, these warriors have been in news headlines for their leading role in capturing and killing Osama bin Laden - or “UBL” as they tagged him - and for numerous tragic losses their community has faced in battle. With the growing spotlight on SEALs (best selling books, movies, video games, exclusive TV specials, etc), one thing remains unchanged to be sure, these are the bravest men our country has who operate under intense risk, are fiercely loyal to one another, their families and this country, and would most likely prefer to carry-on their duties in the shadows instead of in the national spotlight. Without knowing it, they challenge each of us to look at ourselves and make us more courageous as we tackle our own lives.
Seven years ago I was living in Boulder, CO at a publishing company in the endurance sports market, Inside Communications, which produced titles including VeloNews, Inside Triathlon, SkiRacing and VeloPress. I worked exclusively with Inside Triathlon and often researched events throughout the world that presented unique challenges. I stumbled across SUPERFROG, billed as the world’s oldest, and toughest, half-Ironman in Coronado, Calif on the US Navy SEALs training grounds. I was immediately intrigued. 
I convinced my wife, a top level age-grouper at the time, to train for and travel out to Coronado to compete. We have been involved as competitors or in the race directing capacity with SUPERFROG every year since! In those seven years, my wife earned three overall wins (with their unique paddle awards to prove it) and I came close-but-no-cigar on nearly occasion with three runner-ups behind top pros Chris McDonald, Jonas Colting and Jozef Major and two other near misses. Last year, I took a step back from racing and helped produce the event as we had a special guest racer which required extra planning. 
I am not training at the same level as a triathlete any longer but have put together a few consistent years as a cyclist. So, while I won’t be toeing the line on Sunday, September 29th in the 35th edition of the event with the individuals, I’ve compiled a strong relay team to challenge for that category title. On paper, our team oozes with talent and includes top local swimmer (and former pro triathlete) Kosuke Amano, San Diego’s finest runner, Okwaro Raura, and me on the bike. To give you an idea of the firepower amassed on this team here is a brief sentence on each racer: In his first marathon earlier this month, Kosuke won the Ventura Marathon in 2:37! Previously in the summer he attempted a Trans-Tahoe ultra swim. This guy has gills! Okwaro ran a 1:19 half-marathon over arguably the toughest run course SUPERFROG has ever seen last year! That is 6:05/mile pace over mostly soft sand! He was the only person to outrun Lance Armstrong (yeah yeah, we know.....Lance did all three sports). 
I’m the weakest link but I’ve got my sights set on the 2:03:58 bike split put up by pro cyclist Karl Bordine at last year’s race. I shouldn’t say this, but Karl only managed the 3rd fastest time last year behind Lance’s race best 2:02:48 and Leon Griffin’s 2:03:08. Even on a pancake flat course like SUPERFROG’s, averaging over 26.5 mph will be no small feat. 
Barring mechanicals, bonks, or any unforeseen issues, I think we’ll be tough to beat but we are taking nothing for granted. That’s why they hold the race and until the first team crosses the finish line, it is everyone’s race to win! I’m equally looking forward to seeing how the individual race unfolds as a few top pros including Ian Mikelson and Tim Marr amongst others will battle it out for the win and the prestigious paddle!
 (Left to Right: Tyler Butterfield 3rd, Lance 1st, Leon 2nd) Cheers, Lars

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Superfrog XXXIII

Sunday was the fifth year in a row I have raced at Superfrog. The race is the oldest half in the world and was started by now retired US Navy SEAL, Moki Martin. It takes place in Coronado and uses portions of the sacred training grounds used by the SEALs.

This year, in the 33rd edition, the current race director and retired SEAL, Mitch Hall, moved the course five miles south to the facility grounds, called the Elephant Cage, where SEALs perfect their hand to hand combat skills.

Every year I circle the Superfrog race date on my calendar. Where else do you have an opportunity to race with past, current, and soon-to-be SEALs on their own training ground? This year took on an extra special meaning as the race was held on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and a special tribute was provided for all the Naval Special Warfare personnel killed in combat.

As much as I wanted this win (yes, I actually did cut out ice cream for the past two months) and trained to squeeze the most out of myself, one constant that you can't train to control is the competition you will face.

In the previous two years, I was very well prepared but ran up against tough competition in multiple Ironman winners Chris McDonald, Luke Bell and Jonas Colting. This year, it turned out multiple Ironman winner Joszef Major decided to use Superfrog as his pre-Kona hit out. Oh well. You still need to race the race to find out the winner, right! I was committed to leaving everything I had on the course.

The venue changed for the sixth time in the race's history and the swim leg started in the Pacific Ocean near Imperial Beach. After charging in to the 60-degree water, we faced a series of sets four to six feet high that forced us to show off our duck diving skills. This is one skill I am proficient at in the water and I found myself swimming in third place throughout the first lap. The return back to shore was substantially faster as you could time the sets, catch a wave, hold your breath and move your arms as fast as possible and let the waves take you in to shore.

The two looped swim was separated by a 100 meter run so spectators were able to see us run by with our tongues hanging down to our toes and then watch as we completed the most difficult task in triathlon: running back in to the water with your heart pounding to repeat the second lap! With around 300-meters to go, a familiar swim stroke passed me like I was treading water. It was Emily! She even smiled at me before she continued past, leaving me unable to jump in behind for a draft. She even caught a great wave (a first for her) that gave her a perfect end to her swim. I came in to shore a few seconds later.

The run up to the transition area was over soft sand and this was the first taste of what we would experience later during the run leg. Emily and I opted to leave a spare set of shoes at the start of the transition area as our bikes were racked a few hundred meters at the opposite end. The transition was on a rough surface and we made up for the time spent putting on shoes by not having to tip toe across the pebbles and chipped road. Looking at the results, our T1 times were nearly one minute faster than most other racers, so we made the right decision in putting on shoes.

The bike course is fairly straight forward but the initial mile to get onto the Strand Hwy was new. We rode over the same rough roads from transition and, for me, I displayed some fred-like riding technique. As I reached down to put my foot into my cycling shoe, I hit a crack in the road that jolted me forward towards the bike’s cockpit. Instinctually, I grabbed for the front brake, which sent me into a Robbie McEwen-like front wheelie! Luckily, I was able to catch myself, clicked back into the pedals and rode off with a surge of adrenaline. That was not a good start!

The bike consists of four out and back segments on the Strand and is simple on paper. However, applying consistent force to the pedals while riding in the same position and holding a constant tempo eventually wears the body down. The past few years I rode with a power meter and sat on a specific wattage reading – a range between 320 and 330 watts. That was an OK strategy but this year I decided to train with power but race off of feel.

Out on the Strand, there were four riders up ahead in the opening miles. I caught up to Emily and another guy within the first two miles but two other riders were a few minutes up the road. I recognized Karl Bordine, a former pro cyclist and current pro triathlete, as one of the riders with another rider trying to hang on (at a legal distance) to his wheel. Good luck! Karl is known as Killer Karl for good reason and I was hoping he was merely the bike leg in a relay. Sure enough, two laps later he yelled to me he was a relay rider. His bike split of 2hrs 1 min was the second fastest in race history, only behind Bjorn Andersson’s 1hr 58 mins set two years ago.

I moved into the lead at the 35-mile mark and decided to put in a surge to extend my bike lead. I saw Joszef Major, a 10-time Ironman winner and top 20 Kona finisher, a few minutes back and knew I would need some padding heading on to the run if I was going to hold him off.

I never felt great on the bike on Sunday but managed to bear down and get through the miles. Mentally, I divided the course up in to different sections: with/against the wind, to/from the Strand Bridge, to/from the tented canopy that marked the bike entrance for the Strand, and to/from the turnaround points. Setting small goals throughout the bike leg made it doable.

On the bumpy roads back to transition, I saw my mother-in-law, June, and my daughter Kaia and yelled “hello” to them. In that moment, there was a sharp turn in the road and I almost wiped out right in front of them! I found out after the race, Emily made the same mistake and nearly crashed in that spot too!

I transitioned onto the run quickly and we hit the soft sand and beach right away to kick off the half marathon run leg. Running off the bike is always tough, but hitting sand right away is a quad crusher. Two out and back sections in the first three miles on the beach were the only points to see where your competition was, and I saw Joszef and Max running a few minutes back at the three mile mark. I got a split a few miles later that Joszef was 1:50 behind at mile 5.

My plan was to maintain a steady tempo and then hit the beach hard in attempt to demoralize him that he wasn’t gaining any time on me. Instead, at the first turnaround on the second lap at mile 7 it was obvious he had cut my lead in half to under a minute. It took him another 3.5 miles to make the catch and as we entered the section of the course running through the Elephant Cage at mile 10.5 he made his pass. I attempted to respond to his pace but I was already at max effort. As he pulled away, I jokingly told him he should “let an American win today” as Joszef is from Hungary. After the race we laughed about that comment.

Over the final few miles, I kept him in sight and he hovered a few hundred meters ahead but I had to concentrate on holding myself together till the finish. With less than 400 meters to the line, I passed by Kaia again who was sleeping in her stroller and I was able to give her a kiss. She was a trooper hanging with Grandma out in the sun all morning!

The final straight away to the finish took us through a chute lined with the photos of fallen SEALs and NSW heroes who had died fighting for America’s freedom! I mustered a final sprint to the line to honor them and to leave nothing left on the course. Upon hitting the line, I was absolutely spent. I had given what my body had on the day. I was beaten by a better triathlete. I have another whole year now to consider how to go about moving up one place to get that elusive paddle.

Here is a breakdown of my splits:
1.2-mile swim - 26:49
T1 - 1:31
56-mile bike - 2:07:38
T2 - 1:12
13.1-mile run - 1:23:09
Finish time - 4:00:19
Winning time - 3:58:48

As is a common occurrence in our household, Emily took top honors and won her third Superfrog. I am extremely proud of her as it was only her second triathlon since she gave birth to Kaia ten months ago and she had not biked for over 30 minutes but two times in the last six months. She gets up every morning to swim with the 5:30 AM Master’s swim group at the YMCA and otherwise has to get creative to fit in training while taking care of Kaia. She is a tough woman and is a pro in coping with pain!

I haven’t thought too far ahead about what I will race next but I am excited to do some unstructured cyclocross riding and race in a fall cross country running series in San Diego.

One final shout out of thanks to race directors Moki Martin and Mitch Hall! These retired SEALs are top class individuals. If you would like to support the Naval Special Warfare Foundation which funds the families of fallen SEALs, please go to their website: and donate today. They have indeed paid the ultimate sacrifice so we can have our freedom!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

stealth ninja training

Quick update as I've been dark, in full secret training mode, these past few months.

While I neglected to give up ice cream or my morning lattes these past few months, I have implemented a reverse swim taper, a steady diet of bike commuting to work, completing lunch runs with regularity and recovering like a full fledged pro (thanks NormaTec MVP).

Throw in a week of forced rest last week while attending the Eurobike trade show and I am ready to throw my hat in the ring at the Superfrog Triathlon this upcoming weekend. This is the longest running half iron man in the world and is operated by Naval Special Warfare.

Check back Sunday evening as win or lose I will give some insight into why this is the greatest race on the planet.


Monday, July 25, 2011

San Marcos Crit

Sunday’s San Marcos crit was one of the last opportunities on the So Cal racing schedule for the hard men of the area to showcase their strengths. The Swami’s Dev Team had a great showing, and with the exception of Matt Shackley and Chris Burnham who raced in Bend at Cascade Classic, we nearly had the entire squad on the start line (rumor was Anton was crushing triathletes’ souls at Solana Beach Tri).

The 1.7-mile course lay out rode more like a mini circuit than a crit and featured a punchy climb on each lap. Over the course of 75 minutes, this would surely wreak havoc and make it an attrition race.

In the opening laps, Alex Jarman chased down and jumped into early moves that formed up the road. It made for a few blistering laps out of the gate and the race announcer even commented how riders were getting dropped after the first lap.

The new-Swami-on-the-block, Jon Hornbeck, was carrying great form that he unfortunately never got to use at Cascade after a high speed (45 mph) downhill crash broke his bike and sent him home after stage one. He put that fitness to good use yesterday though as the two of us launched multiple two-pronged attacks to further tire the group out.

On one lap halfway through the race, Jon went so fiercely up the hill that he gapped everyone and he decided to wait up top on the false flats for us to catch up. As the group rejoined, Orion Berryman – supposedly riding on only one good lung – launched out of the group at the start/finish and two guys went with him. No one else reacted. With 30 minutes to go, we did not know the strength of Orion’s breakaway companions but we knew Big O would drive the group.

With Big O’s break up the road, the group was content with letting me and Pascal set a half-hearted tempo. Eventually riders started jumping but we covered each and every move. With three laps to go, Big O’s break looked like it would succeed as long as they had something left in their tank for the final trips up the hill. From the group, a Jamis-Sutter pro rider (one of the Borrajo brothers?) jumped and took two riders with him. Trevor wanted in on that action so he and Pascal took chase while Jon and I sat up on the front of the main group. They had their gap and were closing fast on the chase group just ahead.

The final time up the hill, the race for the podium was in the bag and Big O earned his well fought third place as the break succeeded. Pascal towed Trevor to the base of the climb and Trevor was able to bridge up to the group and passed one of the chase group riders to take sixth. Pascal and Jon finished with the group and I soft pedaled in a minute later. After putting in his work early, Alex made sure the Swami’s tent had cold Sambazon and Michelob Ultra ready for us. Trevor circled back to the tent a few minutes late as he had to collect himself while passed out in a bush on the side of the road from his late race efforts! Way to leave it out there on the course!

It was obvious this course style suited our team’s strengths and we controlled the race from the gun. While we are still chasing that elusive win, we took steps in the right direction on Sunday and showed we were the strongest and most cohesive team in the race.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Dominguez Hills Crit - 70 minutes of circles

Yesterday afternoon was the Dominguez Hills Kool 'N Fit crit with the 1/2 race going off at 2:15. Swami's was represented with five riders - one of the best represented teams in the 54-man field.

Former Toyota United Pro rider Stefano Barberi took a flyer from the gun and quickly built a 30-second lead in the opening laps. He stayed clear for the first 10-15 minutes and together with Cashcall, we brought the group back to Stefano. Miles did a great job working hard to close down this gap. New Swami, Jon Hornbeck, jumped with a counter attack with Cashcall's David Santos and Monster Media's Rudy Napolitino and they stayed off the front until the 50-minute mark. A few break attempts were made over the next ten minutes and it wasn't until the 60th minute (been watching soccer world cup highlights!) that a group of four got away. In the final lap, Alex and I fell off the pace, Jon sat in the middle of the group and Trevor was in the back of the field. However, Trevor worked his way up through the field down the back stretch, passed more and more riders up the hill through the final corner and sprinted the final 100 meters past another ten or so riders to finish 9th overall.

Looking back at today's race, the Swami's Development Team continues to show gains with every race. Trevor is riding on excellent form these last few weeks so if we can work to get him in better position for the final sprint, we'll tackle that elusive win.

Monday, June 6, 2011

CA State Road Race Championships

This past Sunday, June 5th, was the final road race of the So Cal cycling schedule so it was important for our Swami's team to have a good presence.

The 93-mile race in the oil fields outside Bakersfield was challenging as the course included long stretches of exposed road to the wind and sun, sections littered with potholes that resembled Belgian cobbles, a gradual four-mile climb and a twisting descent.

We had five teammates in the race which gave us firepower and allowed us each to take up a roll within the race. The night before we gathered for a team dinner and discussed our war plan.

Our youngest rider, Matt Shackley, covered each and every early breakaway move in an effort to keep our team represented in case one of the moves stuck. Pascal Bonaventure, who had raced, and won, the 40-plus race the previous day, was glued near the front of the pack and always provided me with a safe wheel to follow through the field. Trevor Haag came into the race a bit under trained and had some difficulty, and Chris Burnam came into his own during the third lap and towed me back into the lead group after I slipped out of the group the final time up the climb. Last, but not to be forgotten, were Miles and Daniel who selflessly handed us feeds after each lap. Without those two, five Swami's would have entered the scorching oil fields and not made it out alive.

Going into the race, I knew my fitness was getting better with each passing week, so I thought if the climb was not ultra selective I would have a chance to fight it out in the final miles. At the same time, I did not like my chances in a bunch sprint.

The first lap was ho-hum as one lone rider went off the front and built a one-and-a-half minute lead. This did not cause too much panic in the group though as that breakaway rider was a weak climber and was merely trying to make it over the climb to avoid getting dropped. Some minor attacks went but they always were neutralized.

The second time up the climb at the 50-mile mark into the race, the pace was elevated and cracks formed in the group. I managed to stay at the front and tried to keep the pressure on all the way over the top of the climb. However, once off the descent, the pace slowed again the dropped riders from the climb were eventually able to rejoin.

A rider I have a great deal of respect for, Eric Marcotte, did not have any teammate support in this race and kept urging others to keep the pace high. When riders wouldn't respond, he would ride off the front in an effort to instigate some breakaway companions. Each time he went, I rode off with him and we took pull after pull but every gap was eventually closed.

At the 70-mile mark, the third time we hit the section of road littered with potholes, the race official who had been following us, waved the entire peloton to a halt and we sat unable to pedal for five minutes while he chewed riders out for crossing over the yellow line at various points during the race. This forced pit stop allowed dropped riders to rejoin the group and we were a massive group of fifty-plus riders going into the final 20-miles of the race.

A few riders raced away as the official was finishing up his lecture - which was bush league - and it seemed to distract the peloton for a few minutes before we organized a hard tempo again. With two miles to the base of the climb, I jumped off the front and was again joined by Marcotte, a few CashCall riders and Pascal and I thought we had the right mix of riders to crack the race open. However, the group caught us at the base of the climb and attacks started from there.

The third time up the climb was brutal and I lost contact with the leaders after the first mile. I dangled off the back and held the wheel of another rider until I felt him start to slip. I jumped around him and grabbed the wheel of another guy. We started to pull back to the end of the group in the final mile but the elastic snapped before we caught on. A slight flat section allowed us to get our rhythm back and it was then Burnam rode up and set an even paced tempo. He saved our group and he didn't ask anyone else for help. He rode steady and got us to the top of the climb. Once we hit the last flat section before the downhill, I found my legs again and slotted in to help with pulls.

It took us four miles of steady chasing, but we locked on to the group at the base of the climb. I went right back to the front of the group as psychologically I find it easier to ride and react to attacks from that position. Every few miles attacks were launched, mostly from CashCall riders, who did a great job of instigating all afternoon. Once all the hills on the course were behind us, we had five miles in the crosswinds back to the start/finish area. Knowing I would be out of contention in a sprint, I attempted a move off the front and was joined by a few riders - including Burnam - and we swapped pulls for a mile. We were reeled back in and off went a counter attack. The pace stayed hot for the last two miles and within the last mile, I slid off the back of the group and found myself riding with Burnam and a RideClean rider. We hovered a few meters off the back of the group but were too far off to contend for the final sprint.

In the final kilometer - a false flat rise - a handful of riders tangled wheels as the sprint was winding up. We watched as the boys raced for the podium pecking order and when we crossed the line a few seconds later we heard Cashcall's David Santos took the win with two riders from the NOW-MS team finishing second and third. Pascal, and his 42 years of life experiences, grabbed ninth and beat dozens of racers half his age. He finished as the top Swami. I rolled across in 20th and Burnam was on my shoulder and was 22nd. Shackley, who was a beast throughout the day, finished a few minutes back but made the top 30. Jason Holden, who races for Wolf Pack, but was Friend of Swami (FOS) for the weekend finished 35th in his second Cat 1/2 race.

Despite not grabbing a podium spot, this was an improvement for the team as our guys showed maturity and raced aggressively and stayed near the front of the race. We helped one another out on the course and rode with guts.

Until next time, ride on.