Saturday, July 25, 2009


What do triathletes, farmlands and potatoes all have in common? They're all part of the Burley, Idaho Spudman Olympic Distance Triathlon that takes place every third weekend of July.

If you're heading down I-84 just three hours North of Salt Lake City don't blink or you'll miss this town's only exit ramp. Burley has a population just over nine thousand. But on this weekend, triathletes come en masse to take part in this quaint, low-key event put on by the local Lions Club.

Festivities start off with a casual bike drop off with volunteers aplenty to help you locate your favorite spot to drop your gear - no assigned spots, and plenty of end caps available. The National Guard watches over the bikes for the night, while you feast on the carbo-load dinner of spaghetti, rolls, green beans, and of course, the biggest spud you've ever seen.

The race begins at 7 a.m.with a swim, or even a float, down the Snake River. Most triathletes get their swim PR here due to the extremely strong current that can carry even a non-swimmer down to T1. Take heed not to pass the swim exit or you'll need those kayaks to retrieve you at the bridge another half mile downstream.

The bike course covers 24 miles of flat farmlands with neighbors who wave, cheer and jingle cowbells to all who pass. You won't see too many expensive bikes or sponsored riders. This race is one for the less seasoned triathetes or even the first-timers.

And just as casual is the run course, which starts off by an immediate left hand turn through a generous citizen's backyard. Eighteen hundred triathletes run not once, but twice, through his grassy lawn. Many farmhouses along the route have extended their hoses out to the street with their sprinkler heads ready to soak the wearied racers. And the circular course brings you back to T2 where friends and family await and cheer everyone who crosses the finish line.

In years past, the Spudman has sold out in a matter of minutes. In 2009 however, race organizers changed the registration to a lottery system. For $5 you can try your luck on getting into this race with that money going toward the total entry fee.

And if you do get in, pack your tents and sleeping bags. The best spot in town to sleep is under the stars on the grassy golf course right next to the start line. Kids and family can cool off in the river after you are done racing. With a little soap and shampoo, who needs a hotel shower to get the job done for a clean ride home back to reality?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Hairpin Turns of Life

I wish I was a better mountain biker.

Our place in Utah nestles up to the Mid Mountain Trail, a 26 mile single-track path that winds its way around the mountains of Park City and drops off somewhere by the Canyons Resort. It can be an exhausting workout that keeps your heart rate peaking and dipping for hours on end. I love to get on my old Specialized and just experience all the trail has to offer. From minute to minute the scenery changes --from aspens, to slate rock cliffs, to valleys of wildflowers and soft dirt paths, I'd consider it a "Best Of" in Utah.

However, with any sloping mountain bike trail, the rider will encounter the dreaded hairpin turn. You know what I'm talking about. "Switchbacks" is another word for it: those bends in the trail that turn it's victims upward or downward in the opposite direction they were just proceeding. Not quite so hairy for the Patagonia-clad hiker, but treacherous for the weekend mountain biker like myself. I struggle with just how to balance while going downhill, turning, and avoiding the hidden tree roots below.

I received great advice from my coach DeeAnn Smith on how to navigate these potential trail hazards. When descending, anticipate the turn, look ahead, break before the curve and then turn your body with the bike in a fluid motion.

What you don't know is DeeAnn is a killer mountain biker who loves to go fast. Really fast. Her advice has helped me become more comfortable on the bike. And as I rode last week, I realized how appropriate her advice was not just on the trail, but in life as well. Just like on your mountain bike, anticipate those hairpin turns in life. When things are going along smooth and easy and you've caught your breath, there will be twists and turns that throw your off your game. But keep your head up, look forward and you will get past it. And for a minute you can enjoy yourself, until the next hairpin comes along.

Tomorrow would've been my dad's 76th birthday. I miss him everyday. His death was a personal hairpin turn that caught us all off guard. But when I ride my bike in Utah, and soak in the beauty of all that is around me, I feel closer to him than I do at any other time in my daily life. So I will take that turn. Look forward. And go.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tour de France

If you've never watched much of the Tour de France, give it a try this year. I love the Tour for many reasons, one of which is that in 2004 I visited France for a week during the event. I was there when Lance Armstrong got his sixth consecutive Tour victory, a feat that no rider has ever accomplished in the event's 96 years history. (He went on to win his seventh in 2005).

Now Lance is back at it again. He has revitalized worldwide interest in a sport that has been plagued by cheaters and dopers. But more than the riders, there is complete beauty surrounding the three week race through Europe. Here are some of my favourites:

The artwork and beauty of the bicycles
The color in the kits that the riders wear
The small towns of France
The Alps and Pyrennes mountains
The bucolic farmlands and acres of sunflowers in the countryside
The breakaways
The crashes - just a little excitement
The spirit of the riders
The crazy fans
The commentator Phil Ligget
The awards on the podium
The final stage in Paris on the cobblestones of the Champs de Elysee

The Tour is confusing. There are awards give each day for the leader, the daily victor, the best mountain climber, the best sprinter, and the best young rider under 25 years of age - all are recognized by distinguished jerseys that the riders wear with pride the day following their victories. The teams also wear matching kit so they look like a team. Right now my favorite team kit is AG2R.

And Lance's bike is totally cool.

Watch it on Versus TV and you just might become a fan.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Get your OWN NEWTONS here!

I love my Newton running shoes. Really, I do. I bought my first pair at Ironman AZ back in November '08 and started training in them the very next week. Newtons are designed to mimic the foot strike of a barefoot runner -- a midfoot strike is a more efficient, natural way to run.

I did a lot of research on the shoes before I finally tried them out. I wanted to be sure that getting out of a stability/motion control shoe with an orthotic would be a wise move for me. But after running in them at London's Run in January, I said goodbye to my heavy Brooks Aeriels forever. Never again will I put such a heavy, thick, brick-of-a-shoe on my foot.

I have become a Newton groupie. I love that they stand out in a crowd with bright, day-glo colors. And I love how they have improved the mechanics of my run.

You should give them a try. Just order them here:

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Got A Light?

Ya ever wonder how those cyclists make it through three weeks of intense riding in the Tour de France? Well, Bicycling magazine explained it this way: "It may not be immediately noticeable on TV, but each racer carefully monitors the amount of effort he's putting out. It's as if the rider starts each day with a fresh book of matches. Each effort, be it an acceleration, a climb or time spent in the wind, uses a match. When the book is empty, there's no way to find more. It might help to divide your ride into thirds. The first third should feel easy. In the middle third, you can push, but be sure to leave a few matches to burn during the final third."

Monday, July 6, 2009

Pay Off

Whoever said 'patience is a virtue' had to be an unstressed, noncompetitive person. If you're like me, and Violet Bouregard, you want it and you want it NOW, Daddy! But it's the virtuous ones that get the payoff in the end. Not that I'm virtuous, but I did learn a lesson.

The tiny island of Coronado hosted their annual Independence Day 15K run last weekend, and I and several of the Gorilla Multisport coaches were there to represent. Since my disastrous run in Minnesota just two weeks earlier, I was in no mood to attempt any sort of record-breaking performance. But in the back of my mind I thought I'd love to beat my last year's time.

And beat it I did. I ran a faster pace than I had ever, even in my wildest dreams, thought was possible for me. I PR'd by eight minutes -- a minute plus per mile faster than I had ever run ...ever! I was ecstatic!

I realized, once again, that hard work pays off. But more than ever, you need to be patient. Success will come if you've put in the hard work. Don't give up. Keep trying. I promise in the end, it will all be worth it.
Que lindo es sonar despierto.
How lovely it is to dream while you are awake.

Dreams That Have Come True