September 01, 2010

moving...

A final post as a quick note to let you all know that I moved my blog to a website that Sarah built for me over here --> slaterfletcher.com. She actually had it just about finished almost 6 months ago but I have been holding things up(here is her note on some of the process).

The reason I started this blog was to knock out some of my lessons learned and capture some experiences about those magical moments in the wild with my friends. Trail Time! While I have learned a lot over the last few years the questions and challenges just keep getting more interesting...and harder. I like that. I had a lot of different kind of questions in setting up my website and most of them have not been answered. Thank goodness the Great8 train did all the work of making it look good and easy for me. I hope that the new site will offer something beyond a learning lesson for myself and be a useful resource for you. Much more on that to come...on the new site.

August 20, 2010

The Gold Rush Adventure Race

This last weekend, I got to join team Dart-NUUN-SportMulti for the Gold Rush Adventure Race in Long Barn, California. Gold country! We would be racing through the Stanislaus National Forest just North of Yosemite, South of Tahoe and West of Sonora. Gold! The race was set for a 24 hour format with about 30 checkpoints along the way and while most 24 hour races see the leading teams finish well under 24 hours that would not be the case for the Gold Rush. We would paddle for hours, ride just under a century on mountain bikes on anything but flat grades, knock out just under a marathon distance over rugged terrain and finish in about 26.5 hours. We were in for a true adventure!



I have been having fun with my GoPro camera and learning how to making some quick edits of the video’s so I took it along for the trip. They say “a picture is worth a thousand words” so the videos should be worth the bandwidth and capture what my words cannot express. However, even the video cannot do the scenery and experience justice. Adrian and Mark (along with the countless volunteers) offered only the best support and created an amazing course that was challenging but exciting the entire time. Every part of the course took a lot of strength but we were not subjected to a death march just to add distance. A delicate balance that kept the entire race fun!

I was reminded that with adventure racing the actual race starts long before you get to the starting line. Packing all sorts of gear and plotting checkpoints and routes usually gets you to the starting line already behind on sleep. It is all part of the race. We knew we would need Cyril’s brain for the navigating so we let him stay up until about 3am plotting the course the night before. He is one tough dude.


When we did get to the starting line we were greeted with a table full of grapes, cookies, bagels, COFFEE and more. Awesome! We would be starting off with the paddle and we opted for a triple and me in my surf ski to try and get the most speed and efficiency for the long day ahead. Here we go.



We lost time at the first checkpoint and then again a few times in throughout the paddle. Not all teams had the same checkpoints and not all in the same order. This was designed to keep everyone navigating on their own route before we got spread out along the course but there were some mix ups that would cost us time and distance. We ended up with 3.5 hours of paddling. Unfortunately, we got out of the water about 90 minutes behind the leaders but we also spent most of the paddle with Team Yoga Slackers who we knew would be one of the team going for the win but we had our work cut out for us to make up time.

Off on the bikes for a 4.5 hour ride where we would cover everything from roads, rocky single track and anything but flat. The entire race was spent either going up or going down! When Adrian said that we would be racing between 4,000 and 8,400 feet he was right...all day and night long between the two!



Everyone was starting to feel the stress from the heat and altitude but we had made up a lot of time and moved into third place by the time we collected all of the bike checkpoints and made it to the next TA(transition area). You can see in the video above that we were at the TA with the Yoga Slackers and there was one team still ahead of both of us. At this point we needed to load up our packs with our climbing gear, food and water until we reached the next TA where we would have access to our gear bags again. For us, the next TA would be just after midnight and about 16 hours into the race. We did stop for water from the streams along the way but other than that we were loaded and moving!



By the time we reached the ropes section we had moved into second place and were right behind the Yoga Slackers again. We had been carrying our climbing gear and we knew that we would have a repel and a climb somewhere during the race but the setup we encountered was a ropes sections that was super fun with a scramble between. The highlight of the race for me. At this point we were about 9 hours into the race but still had about 17 hours to go… I kept thinking about how AR demands real strength. Scrambling over rocks, logs and up (and down!) steep pitches is the “normal” route of transportation not to mention all of this while carrying a heavy pack. It is a full body commitment and I was amazed at how long your body can be strong and continue to keep your speed up…but that is where the most specific required strength comes in…the strength of your mind.



That was FUN!!! After we completed the ropes we continued on with our gear (no additional food/water and we still had to carry our climbing gear) and we pushed on into the night. We would basically climb to a peak to capture a checkpoint and then we would drop down into a valley floor before climbing again, and again and again.

Getting to race with Jen, Cyril and Sean was truly epic for me. My hero's and something I have “dreamed” about for a long time. We were “going fast and taking chances”. I though a lot about Paul and Karen and all of the stories of their races in crazy countries and I have been collecting a lifetime of inspiration through what these people accomplish. To see them in action was awesome. I have trained a lot with Sean and knew he was as strong as an ox but he was offering a great example of a true teammate right before my eyes. If he was not towing on the bike or caring someone’s pack he was keeping us laughing with his “say something stupid” jokes. A true talent is to always keep the laughter in the pack.

After climbing up one ski run we reached a checkpoint at the top just as the sun was setting and found a pile of sodas that the Gold Rush crew left for racers at the top. Gold! We took our fill of sugar water and headed down the back of the ski resort into the woods again. We would scramble up and down into the woods and run as many sections as we could trying to make the most of our fading daylight until at last that was gone also and we ran into the night.



It was a long night but it felt like it went by pretty fast. I had been eating at record levels. I didn’t want to get behind because I have a few more racing coming up so I banked on eating too much. I like that! It was also a huge help. I made some rules with myself like always eating two bars at a time and always finishing everything in my bag by the time we got to the next TA. I didn’t mind the weight and needed the energy.

All of the while we had no manned checkpoints or any other team around us so we were not sure how much of a time gap we had between other team and we were also without supported aid. We stopped once to fill our water but we also realized we were running low on iodine tablets and we would not be provided water at the next TA.

We reached that TA at the bottom of another ski resort sometime in the middle of the night and it was time to ride again. We were able to get to our gear bag again (should have left some more water in it!) so we loaded up our packs again with food, some warmer clothes and discovered we were about 50min behind the Yoga Slackers in the lead. Looked to be about another 60 miles on the mountain bikes and we would ride through the night trying to drop the hammer….or stay awake. I really focused on staying awake between 3-4am and actually felt fine. It was not until the sun came up that I had to wrestle with the sleep monsters and it was a unique experience. We were riding through “the gnar” and doing everything we could to close the gap and catch the Yoga Slackers who were making no mistakes out in front.



There was one out and back checkpoint that we saw the Yoga Slackers heading back from and it was the first time we had seen another team for hours. We were both racing in opposite directions and the hello exchanged as we passed lit a spark in both teams. Over 25 hours of racing and we are picking up the pace again! We were just about out of water in the later stages of the trek and nursing what little we had left for about four hours in the later part of the 2nd bike section. How many iodine tabs could we spare…how much time could we spare to stop? Should we push on and not get water for the last few hours? Would we meltdown if we tried to push it? Will that help us close the gap on their lead? It was their race to loose but in the end we would come up about 30 minutes short of catching the Yoga Slackers who took the overall win. It was a great experience and I just had to ask myself in the last few kilometers to the finish. . . just how much further could I still ride/run/paddle and explore if we kept going. I would like to find out.

I greatly appreciate the opportunity to get to explore such a rad course that the Gold Rush team put on and the support from moving our stuff around and the words of encouragement. Adventure racing is hard..but that is the point... This was about 10 hours longer than I have ever raced before and it really showed me where true strength resides when you are out there for "a long time". Staying out there is one thing but trying to lift your effort/speed and racing for that long is...well pretty dang cool! Its not about price money or pace splits as much as it is about “the love”. Strength from the people around you, strength from your passions that feeds the strength to your mind. I love it! In a race this long(for me) it is so much more of a mental challenge and it definitely took my “mental training” to some new places. I always learn something new about myself with new experiences and this was a big one. I appreciate that… Hope to see you out there next time!

August 11, 2010

eating between adventures

Last weekend we had planned to go up and hike Mt. Whitney with some really good friends. Monique and I were keen on a run back to the cars but all bets were off... I never get to cash in on my "wins"anyhow. We even had some killer routes to ride after near Bishop into the Sierras. Some of the climbs there are the real deal! However, we decided to put pull out because we are just starting to catch up from our last trips and I had some work stuff that I just could not move. We will be back and I know Whitney is not going anywhere but I just hope to make the trip with the same good folks and maybe a few more...


So, we stayed home again. Not bad! I had some great quality swim, bike and run stuff with less than 10 minutes of driving. I also got to test some new speed suits(the legal type) with some of the new beta beta stuff.


It was actually pretty scientific with the help of Genadijus and his "power meter" for swimming device. This machine captures "instantaneous velocity (V, m/s) and force (F, kg) at specific points in the stroke". The recorded velocity, along with a synchronized camera will effectively measure your power(or lack there of) along with drag to match your stroke patterns. The purpose for us was to test relative drag with the suits but we also get a DVD with some stroke review and power analysis. I need all the help I can get. You can contact Global Sport to setup a session or learn more about it over here. Get him out to your masters team and get everyone moving more like the sharks!

We wrapped up a solid eight hour day on Saturday and then rode over to the US Open to watch Weezer play with just a few other people gathered on the beach. Nothing like some live music and a few friends to make you feel like a kid again.


video

We all know how much Ryan loves the beach people so when we got back we had guests over for some of Monique's eat your face off delicious BBQ pizza. Of course, Ryan and Sarah were in the kitchen cooking too and we would not want it any other way. Round two is next month when we have a real cook off.. Iron Chef BBQ Pizza style!


After our main dish(es) the Weegers cooked up some BBQ Pizza Desert(before the grill). Just how creative can you get? Well, it was good!

Sarah busy cooking... I am not sure what Ryan is doing



This weekend is going to be BIG, NASTY and WILD!!!! I am joining team Dart Nuun for the Gold Rush Adventure Race. My GoPro camera has worked out pretty good so far so I hope to bring it along and capture some of the views. We will be racing up in some amazing terrain and Sean has been busy gathering as much recon data as possible. Am I ready to race for 24 hours? Well, I know my mind is and that is what counts. By next week it should log some good simulation training for Kona too! For the mind that is...

I have been busy today packing up gear (you would not believe how much crap you need to bring for one of these races!) and making some calorie bombs. We may have access to our gear boxes a few times throughout the race so I made some Vitargo and fruit pancakes to load up on. between transitions. Basically, I mixed up an entire package of wheat free/gluten free pancake mix, 5 eggs, 8 scoops of unflavored Vitargo, olive oil, honey and some blueberries and chopped strawberries. Tastes great and just under 6,500 calories per bowl they are loaded with energy. I made two bowls. yum!

Here is a big view of where the race starts. We enter at Stanislaus National Park from Yosemite. Looks like it is sitting right between Mammoth to the South, Tahoe to the North and in the middle of COME SEE ME wilderness. So cool! I switched it to the "terrain" view and my quads started to cry so I had to move on. Lots of downhill!


Until then its time to eat up and ejoy the ride. See ya out there

August 03, 2010

busy...busy....

What have you done for me lately? That is what I keep asking myself. However, I am not asking what I have done for myself but rather for the one asking the question. Its easy to get "busy" and not be productive. I can trick myself into being efficient without being effective. Racing offers a unique look into our preparations and is just one of the reasons I love the process of training and racing. I have been taking notes...

I can be efficient all day long on the bike or a few hours swimming(I found out this weekend) but not be FAST. I don't consider myself a "fast" athlete but I have found a way to be efficient. It keeps me busy for sure. Becoming FAST takes on a complete new process. My next chapter in life will need to be focused on effective output for getting "it" done. Maybe it is speed or maybe it is more specific focus towards a single goal but sport has been a good school master for me so far.

I have really enjoyed the last two weeks at home getting back to some sort of schedule and playing around on our local trails. I am moving towards that productive zone to "do something" and it is just around the corner now.

Last week, Monique and I headed out to the Back Bay multiple times. It never gets old. Monique is getting so much better at running and at just about 100lbs she can afford to run often and being a small girl run at a higher intensity. Thats my thoughts anyways...The girls in Nova tend to prove that to me a few times a week in the pool too!

the MOre of the team

We were also out there for a Ellsworth photo shoot before dusk. Got some good shots and I am stoked to be working with Ellsworth and most of all I will be riding for them in triathlons road and DIRT! I saw the Enlightenment 29er at Interbike last year and have been dreaming about it more than I wanted to admit. . . Line that up with the slickest tri bike I have ever had the pleasure to ride and it gets me all excited to knock out some all_day_long rides!

and the beat goes on. . . I have never felt so fast on a cross bike before. My last CX bike was more of a touring bike loaded for pulling Monique up the mountains and packing a bit of everything along for lunch. My new Roots cross bike is SNAPPY and makes me want to race! Even if it is short and holds promise of puke it makes me want to give it a go...

cross training?

This weekend, we headed for the local trail with the DreamCrush crew as Weeger would say. Weeger always has a way with words. We did the first part of the Vision Quest course (blackstar/Motorway) but we tacked on a climb out to Sierra and another down to Corona. with some KOM efforts! Ryan Meyer enlightened us to a bunch of new trails too. It is amazing how little I know about the trails here...I guess I just follow the wheels in front of me. Anywho, I have not been back on the Corona side since my last ride with Meyer about two years ago. It was JHars first time up there and he was gettin down!

Jason getting cowboy wild out there in the heat

DC crew regroup in the heat of battle

I was signed up for the Tour Of Buoys swim on Sunday but after multiple "things" came to the attention of Monique and me we decided to sleep in and go for a swim just four miles down the street. I did a lot of paddle over in the Huntington Harbor last year and with another summer day we just turned it into a beach day. I got a long swim in and we had plenty of time to be busy without spending time in the car. Quality time! This was my longest swim yet but I managed to feel comfy the entire time and a short ride after helped set the perception. Praying I get to go big at the end of the year with something like this... Here is a clip I posted for the coaches on EC to review. Got any suggestions? I have a lot of work to do but its the kind i REALLY like ;-)

Next up for me is a race with some my endurance hero's Jen, Cyril and Sean. We are racing the Gold Rush Adventure Race on August 14th. I am honored to race on the team and hope I can keep up! We will be rummaging through the forest, paddling over the waters, climbing rocks and mountains and riding in the black of night. I am so excited!!


Got back to Huntington Harbor today for my first paddle in a long time. I should be ready to unwind in the water at the Gold Rush. . . Just needed a few reminders. The water can be as honest as a power meter and the wind as challenging as a climb. Of course, if your fast, you just get it done with time to stop at SBucks and type out a blog post before you would have finished your first loop if you were going about at a slow pace. I guess that is pretty efficient too. Now I'm off to finish the day of work and knock out a strength brick before dark.

July 26, 2010

Checking In

After a few weeks of "camping"(blog post still in edit mode!) Monique and I got to spend our first weekend in six weeks at home. It was a welcomed change and I found that I had some of my best quality training sessions right out of our front door this week. Another lesson learned from the training camps!


I finished up the last week of my cowboy style base training and this week I start the official Gordo plan to Kona. I have kept it pretty simple with all the training camps and travel recently and have been focusing on what (in my head) is the two most important items for my triathlon training.

#1 - Consistency between all THREE sports - its easy to play favorites
#2 - Life Balance - This is the real secret sauce to race success not to mention epic training

This week, I kept the bike miles pretty mellow and continued to work on bringing up my long long run with my favorite "mountain run" style sessions. I LOVE these mountain runs! No pace concerns, direction or anything but enjoying my time on two feet. I make up the route as I run along... My legs are finally starting to catch up and are no longer the limiter to stopping my runs just as I am getting warmed up. I'm still slow but I am enjoying these long runs and running in general more than I have ever before. I had a good start on my mountain runs while we were in Boulder, extended it around Snow Summit in Big Bear and had a solid effort around Mammoth Mountain the week before last. This week I was back at sea level and hit our local trails. I needed the extra oxygen...we have the steep stuff around here! I ran a variation of a 3 park loop (El Moro, Laguna, Aliso Woods) we use to ride on our mountain bikes. Good way to scout out new trails.


I was not able to run the time/distance I wanted to up to IMSG at what I thought was a safe increase. It has taken me a long time but slow growth is lasting growth I guess. This week was the first time since I ran the 30/30 that I took my running volume to a new level but I still have a looong ways to go. That is the fun part. I am still looking forward to running a double marathon someday... ;-)

Oh, and we got a new GoPro camera too. SICK! Can't wait to start editing some of the shots I got this weekend on our mountain bike rides and under water swim shots. Here is a quick edit from my ride with JHar on Saturday on our way back down through Whiting Ranch. Dont worry J . . . I took out BOTH of your crashes!

In the water, I joined NOVA Aquatics this weekend for my first masters swim meet. Quite the experience! Even with the 1500 meter event in the mix I learned that the top swimmers spend much of their time in the anaerobic zone absolutely smashing themselves only to repeat it again and again for each event over a three day period. Nutz! I got to try out the blueseventy nero and I have got to say it really does work! I maybe squeezing a pair of tri shorts under them for Kona or if tri shorts dont fit a speedo to rock on the run ;-)


swimmers take your markget set
AAARRRGGGGGG!!!!
I heard that all weekend long!

The relay races were my favorite part of the meet. Complete chaos and intensity swimming at a higher level knowing that we were working for a team and it was down to the last few relays to decide the team results. Most of us had four relays back to back across different events and they were ALL OUT EFFORTS. FUN! Nova ended up taking the overall team win by just a few points and it took everyone on the team to make it happen. Very cool!

the relay craze in the heat of battle

It served as a good speed baseline benchmark for me and I was happy that there were a few longer swims. I wish now that I would have signed up for all of the races and strokes. Next weekend will be a good distance swim baseline for me at the tour of buoys 5 mile open water swim. No wetsuits so I am just a bit worried about getting to cold but thanks to some advice from Charisa I should have some hot coco and coffee on deck with Monique.

Until then it is back to the grind(working in LA now) but hoping to check in early at home tonight and get some much needed sleep. I have a big week on tap!

July 22, 2010

Camping

What i learned and the bugs I ate.

June 29, 2010

XTERRA East Championship Race Report

“Understanding motivation is important because it is an essential part of any negotiation. Many jobs require negotiation with others - athletics requires negotiation with one's self!” -Gordo Byrn



I really had to examine why I was trying to get back into an Xterra, trying to get to Worlds again to qualify to do "the double" and why I was dreaming of attempting "the triple". I could negotiate some pretty interesting deals with work and figure a way around the travel and money to get there but could I find the mojo to keep it rolling? In the "zone" of race time there is only one person to negotiate with and you save yourself a huge load by being brutally honest about your motivations. If you can walk away with a win-win reason behind your efforts you have all the fuel you need to get you to the next station.

We have had a pretty busy travel schedule the last few weeks. Our plans to get out to the EC camp in Boulder were just about finished before I managed to sneak in a layover in Richmond Virgina so Monique and I could race the East Coast Championship race. It was just about the only Xterra we would be able to race all year and I have been missing the high heart pounding fun in the dirt. We had about 3 days back from Hawaii to ship our road bikes to Boulder, unpack and pack up our mountain bikes for some off-road racing. Xterra Time!

Last year going to the Xterra CUP races was just about the limit of my ability to "race" and I thought it was at the edge of my endurance. After a few months of training and knocking out an Ironman I was not really worried about my endurance but the pain of a short race. With temperatures in the triple digits the event organizers decided to cut a few miles out of the bike course to make it even shorter. One thing that I have learned over the last year in racing and training is that, as Chris McDonald said "racing short course is HARD!! I will take 8 hours of dull pain over 1 of shear hell any day." Going back to a 2 hour race was a good reminder but the condensed experience of the race was just as much fun...just intensely more fun than what I have gotten use to...I would prefer to spread it out over a day. . . or three.


All of that hard swimming I have been doing with Nova and the recent open water races must be working. As we started the swim and headed up the James river I pulled out a group on the right side. I could see the lead pack and made my way up to them and got in the 3rd or 4th position. MUCH easier than trying to stay on the feet of Michael Collins during our team time trial race. I pulled up to the lead swimmer and just hung out in the draft swimming and switching leads at what felt like an easy pace. Good start to a quick race!

We made it to Browns Island and were off on our feet to sprint over some dirt roads around the island and back into the water. That got my heart back pumping in my throat! I think there were 3 or 4 of us who regrouped after the island to the next buoy and then I just decided I may have a chance to be the first out of the water and really felt like I was not doing any work yet so I turned up the pace. Its a short race anyways right?

I'm glad I took my blueseventy PZ3 suit! Not only did it help me swim faster but gave me some protection against the shallow rocks. Monique and I both had our hands and knees pretty scraped up from swimming over rocks at times... Adventure in the water! After the next buoy, I turned up the pace and just held a comfortable hard pace until we finished. I got ahead of the group and was able to get out of the water first right before my buddy Fred Smith. Cool! Now back to the heart in my throat running to T1.

The bike course was pretty sick! At one point we were carrying our bikes up about 5 flights of 6 stairs each. There were areas where we were in a deep forest that drowned out sounds from all around. I rode most of the course with Fred and Damian (just like the start of Worlds last year) and Fred got off course then I followed Damian and it sounded like a lot of folks were getting a bit off here and there. I was definitely sore from all of the technical bump and grind. I have not been on my MTB as much recently and it showed.

Getting into T2 I knew Fred was just ahead of me and we had been riding with some of the pro field that had a bit of a head start so I knew we were somewhere near the front. As much as I thought the race would go by fast my body was not use to holding that much lactate and the bike felt like it was so long! The run was a bit of the same where I felt like I could dial it back 10-20sec per mile pace and run forever but that fast pace was just a foreign feel. In true Xterra style we found ourselves crossing streams, jumping rocks, over bridges, running up stairs and ridges that required pushing both hands on your knees to get enough power to keep you moving. Between some of those sections were all out flat sections were it felt like a track session...only I have not been to the track! The adventure of the scramble was a huge motivator.

At mile 5 I was told I have about an 8 minute lead on the next amateur and I knew Fred was up front and out of site. The last section over the bridge and back to the finish line I could get a good view behind me and decided to hold back the pace a bit. Running in the heat with the next week of Boulder camp at elevation began to come to the front of my mind and my negotiations of sprinting the finish started. Perhaps one of the first races I didn't go "all out" until the end but I believe it was fitting. I finished 15 minutes ahead of the next guy in my age group so looking back I am glad I made the call to dial it down a bit. Boulder would prove I needed all the mojo I could muster!

The venue was VERY cool and as much as each Xterra I have been to incorporates some of the best views of the area, beautiful single track and challenging climbs the Richmond course was quite unique. We were buried in the heart of a city where we would run and ride up and down stairs and bridges but we would also ride and run some technical single track that made me feel like we were a million miles from civilization. Swimming in a river with a side current, climbing over rocks in the shallows along the way to a run through Browns island before finishing the swim was just the fit for such a diverse course. One of the many reasons why I love Xterra.


I could learn a lot from Trevor! He had another solid race and he is one of those guys I wish I could hang out with more often. He has the negotiations in check inside and outside of racing...balancing life, business and charging full speed ahead! Getting back to a shorter race reminded me that every second counts and in a race this quick you don't have time to dilly dally...Commit and stick to the plan! Monique had one of her best races and strongest Xterra efforts. She is mentally tough and it is scary to think what she could do if she trained for some speed. I wrapped it up in 2nd place age group (2nd amateur) and that got me a slot to race in the Xterra Worlds. Now with the opportunity of racing Kona (Ironman World Chamionsips) and Maui (Xterra World Championships) I can combine my finish times of each for "the double". I think it would just be fun to be at both races and maybe finish out the year with another big race but I am still waiting to hear about that one. I also qualified to race the first ever ITU Cross World Championships next year in Spain. Monique has her eye on a trip there anyways...