Bucket Lists & An Added Year

Last Tuesday, October 9th, I turned 33. The occasion was not celebrated much as I was in the midst of a long business trip throughout the Southeast. My family and friends were all super-kind though and reached out in various and meaningful ways, which I appreciate greatly.

As I get older, I’ve found that certain years (unexpectedly) have more of an impact on me than others. For example, 25 was no sweat, but 28 bummed me out. 30 was not hard in the least, however, 33 has been slightly challenging. This birthday has been hard because years and years ago I saw a drawing of Jesus and the caption said “I am 33”. At the time I was in a bit of a spiritual turmoil and had really let go of any developed beliefs. When I saw the drawing, I was captured by it’s features and the simple caption made me think for a while. 33 seemed far off, yet so young to have created an impact that his life did.

Whether you, or  I, or anyone thinks Jesus Christ was a factual or fictional character matters not to my point, which is that the story of Jesus has changed the world more than just about any other story ever has. And his story ends at the age of 33.

I turned 31 while I was living in Nashville. My life was up in the air in numerous ways, and there was no true direction or purpose to my lifestyle. Something was missing, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. While visiting the mountains of North Georgia, I decided to make a bucket list of 10 obtainable goals to accomplish by the time I was 35. The goals were split in to two categories, athletic and personal. Athletics have always been important to me, so those goals were selfish missions I’d hope to complete. The personal, however, were goals that I felt would not only benefit me but also others.

As I reviewed those goals on my 33rd birthday, I felt a sense of happiness that six of those goals have been completed. While I’d prefer to keep the personal goals, well personal, I’ll share the athletic goals.

Athletic Goals:
1. Break 11 Hours in an Ironman (Beach to Battleship 2011 – 9:56, IM Wisconsin 2012 – 10:50)
2. Run and Ultra Marathon (Stump Jump 50k 2012)
3. Through Hike/Run/Bike a trail of 200 miles or longer
4. Compete in a 100 mile mountain bike race (Bailey HUNDO 2010)
5. Visit Everest Base Camp

These goals are challenging, but not so lofty that they are unattainable. I understood this when I made the list and they were simply set up to be beacons in a life that we truly can’t control anyways. I’ve found the use of bucket list items and the power of writing goals out have been helpful to the mental aspect of growth. The personal goals I’ve created have served the same purpose as the athletic goals, but in a different realm and I am thankful that I have both components in place.

While my life is certainly not “solved”, I feel more confident that I am not only moving in a direction that could be called “forward” but that I am also trying to listen to those components that shape and change who were are. I appreciate all those who have been supportive of me as I know I am not easy to love at times.

Thanks for reading, the happy birthday wishes, and everything else.


Stump Jump 50k

On a whim, Whit and I decided to sign up for the Stump Jump 50k trial run late this summer. My Father and Step-Mother were doing this race and we had committed to going down for it, but it wasn’t until after the race had filled up that we decided we truly did want to race it. I called up an old teammate, Tim Hayse, located in Chattanooga (where the race was held) and he called in a favor from a friend who got us in. Thanks a ton guys!

So it was one month and only three short runs after Ironman Wisconsin that I found myself en-route to Chattanooga to have a go at my first ultra marathon. We got to Chattanooga on Friday afternoon where we had a great dinner with friends Jeff and Lori Davis as well as Sam and Jessica Miller. We were staying with Sam and Jess who have become great friends so it was nice for all of us to catch up together before the big day.

We awoke race morning to over-cast skies and then rain as we climbed our way up to Signal Mountain and the start of the race. It rained the entire morning as we sat in our cars waiting for the start. The wet conditions on a course that is described as technical with a “good dose of Tennessee stone” made for a last minute shoe change to my bulkier Salomon XA Pros. (good call).

The gun went off and Whit and I positioned ourselves in the middle of the 600 or so people running the 50k. It soon became apparent, that we’d need to move ourselves up if we didn’t want to get stuck behind runners when the trail went to singlestrack. Whit and I got separated by mile 4, but I made a surge and caught her again and we ran together until about mile 7, at which point I encouraged her to go ahead.

As Whit took off, I increased my pace and ended up catching two guys from Nashville who are friends of friends that I have in Buolder. The three of us ran toegther from miles 8-19 where I stopped to change socks and they pushed on. It was great to have company for that period of time and they were nice guys.

The race was great and novel to me as I am used to the hassle of swim-bike-run. Trail running is simple, run. I didn’t really feel the fatigue of the race until mile 24 or so, and that was when my feet became pretty sensitive and my stride shortened. I slowed but plugged along, taking breaks to walk the STEEP uphills when unnecessary.

I rounded a bend in the trail and could hear the announcers, but it was a false call as the finish was still nearly 4 miles away. The last few miles were the hardest though the terrain wasn’t bad. I’d been carefully looking at my watch because I wanted to break six hours. And with a half a mile to go I has 5 minutes… enough to make it but I couldn’t relax.


Hit the finish line at 5:58 completely happy with the race and the entire experience. Whit was there and I found out that she’d run down all but one of the women to finish second, awesome performance. We stuck around and chatted with friends until Dad and Mary Ann finished, and they both looked great!

Could be talked in to this again some day, and probably will.

Ironman Moo

We just got back from a solid weekend in one of my favorite towns, (Madison, Wisconsin) where we raced the 2012 Ironman Wisconsin. I attended this race last year supporting Whit, and when she announced she would return this year I couldn’t help but jump in myself.

A few things about this race. Ironman Wisconsin is NOT an easy race. Of all the Ironman’s I’ve raced, the IMMoo (as it is affectionately called due to the cows in the area) bike course is the toughest. Runtri.com has ranked Wisconsin as the toughest Ironman brand race actively running. (Click here for comparison). It is also the only race my father has ever dropped out of. He raced IMMoo in 2005, a year that goes down in history due to a brutal heat wave. The 2005 IMWI has the third highest drop out rate of any ironman event. So I wanted to get some McCain family revenge.

Whit and I arrived in Madison late on Thursday night and were met by Bret Newcomb, the father of the family who we were paired with for host housing. He had his son, Gus, with him as well. Gus is an up and comer on in triathlon and a very talented athlete himself. We gathered our luggage and headed to their house, which was beautiful and located just outside of town in Middleton.

Friday was full of race rituals, swimming, packet pick up, and Bret even drove the course with us to get a solid reminder of what was to come. Friday evening we went to dinner with a great group including Tim (an old friend and teammate from King) and David Buntin who’ve we’ve met from triathlon. They both live in Chattanooga, and we’ll see them again in a few weeks at the StumpJump Ultra. We were also joined by Billy Edwards (Boulder training partner) and Jackie Arendt (Female pro from Madison) as well as a few others. We hit a trendy TexMex place downtown and had an excellent dinner.

Saturday we woke up, worked on our bikes, then headed out with Gus & Bret for our usual pre-race ritual. We then simply prepared for the race and relaxed. Saturday night was exactly what we need. We set down with the Newcombs and played Cranium for a long while. It was made even more special by the fact that is was Rachel’s (mother of the family) birthday. She was such a great sport to share her birthday with us.

Race Day:
Bret and Gus drove us down to the race. They were Volunteers for the swim course and needed to get there at about the same time we did. We checked our bags, bikes, and were ready to roll. As I went to the swim start, I realized that my timing chip was missing. FREAK OUT TIME! I finally found the timing tent and got a new chip, phew. A few minutes later, I asked a spectator to help me zip up my wetsuit… and I heard her say “Why on earth do you have your timing chip inside the neck of your wetsuit?” Oh no, now I have two timing chips! I ran back to the tent and got it sorted out again… for a second time.

I took an interesting line, on the inside of the buoys. I figured it would be less crowded, and it was. I had a pretty clear shot to the turn which was the first place I really faced much traffic. I swam fairly easy with a few hard efforts to get out of jams. I felt good, which is not typical in the swim. The swim was a huge one loop, and as I made the final turn to head back to shore, all felt good. When I was about 50 yards from the finish I saw Gus standing on a dock, monitoring the race to ensure no swimmers got off course and hit the dock. I thought it would be fun to yell at him so I shouted “GUSSSS” as I came up for a breath. Sure enough her heard me and started cheering. It was great, and a fun way to end the swim.. which I did in a close to standard time of 1:12

The transition at IMMoo is a lot of fun as you run through a crowd then up three flights of a helix parking structure full of screaming fans. It’s exciting, and a rush. The changing tents are inside the convention center, then you run out to your bike and head back down the helix.

As I noted earlier, the bike course is TOUGH but fun. The route is a double lollipop that goes through several small towns. I rolled out well and passed quite a few people in the first 12 miles of the bike. As the race thinned out, I settled in to my effort, which I watched closely on the climbs. At about mile 22, we reached a short but stout climb that is located by the Newcomb’s parents house. We knew the Granpa Bob and Chris (grandmother) would be on the hill cheering. Sure enough, when I rode by they were up there with HUGE signs and smiles. I cruised over to them and gave them both high fives! It was great to see them.

The hills on this course are not killer individually, but they are relentless. The hardest climb is Sauk Pass, which is where many fans lined the streets partying and cheering. They are so much fun that you almost forget about the climb. Near the top of the climb, I saw the Newcomb clan on the side cheering. I shouted to them and got some support before dropping down the back side of the climb.

I kept rolling the bike course and stuck the plan for an easier effort and natural nutrition. The second loop was fairly uneventful, except for when I came down one of the fastest descents I saw Bret and Gus on the side of the road on their bikes. I gave them the “hang loose” sign as I blazed by at 45mph.

I arrived at T2 with a bike split of 5:29 (20.4 mph), right on target. T2 was nothing spectacular. As I left though, my back felt locked up, and I knew it would take a bit to unlock it.

The marathon course at Wisconsin is basically a two loop out and back that weaves through downtown and the University of Wisconsin. The fans on the run are AWESOME. They are best downtown near the capital, on State St (bar area) and on the back end of the loop out where you can see runners come by three times in a matter of minutes.

At mile 3 or so, you enter in to the U of W football stadium and do a loop around the field. This is a strange feeling. Being in such a huge stadium that is deathly quiet is surreal, but also fun. At mile 6 I saw Whit heading the other way. She didn’t look great, but gave me a look that said she loved me. It made my heart happy to see she was ok.

I cruised along until about mile 16 where I once again hit the wall, and had to start walking aid stations. I’ve got to figure this part out as it gets me every time. Regardless of the slowing pace and walking, I kept plugging along and couldn’t have been more relieved than when I saw that 25 mile marker. I kicked it in and saw the entire Newcomb clan on the sides as I neared the finish line. I gave them high-fives, crossed the line, and was greeted by Whit. Now this was the way to finish an Ironman!

Though I’m not particularly happy with my time, 10:51, I enjoyed this race to the utmost. I love Madison, the people are outstanding. The Newcomb family, well, they will be life-long friends. They were nothing short of “family” to us and we owe them more than we’ll be able to repay in the near future.

Now that triathlon season is over for Whit and I, we will plan for a 3 day bicycle tour of eastern Colorado in a couple of weeks, followed by a 50k in a month! No rest for the weary, but all these events will be low-key, high-enjoyment.

Vineman: A Good Picture

So Vineman was not my best effort. I was pretty bummed about how all the hard work mattered little in the end. That being said, as I came in to the finishing chute I was pretty out of it. I remember several people passing me in the last 20 feet. I also remember looking over and seeing Whit. Since my race had gone to the pits I decided I should thank her for being out there. I went over and gave her a kiss. The photo crew caught this picture.

This is what it is all about. After a long hard spell of training, and a long hard day of racing… it is nice to still have what really matters to you when the wheels come off everything else.

Steamboat: A Weekend Away

Whit and I needed a break from Boulder and the weekly routine of long rides and runs. So Friday afternoon we headed west on I-70 towards Yampa, CO where we had reserved a rustic cabin for the weekend.

Friday night, after checking in, we went to the Antlers Bar Cafe & Bar and hung out with the locals for a bit before heading to bed. It was a cool night and we awoke to a slight rain. We started the bike ride in the drizzle and within minutes it was raining harder. We debated but decided to head forward. It was a great decision because withing half an hour the rain had cleared and we had a beautiful day of riding ahead of us.

We cruised around and then in to Steamboat Springs where we stopped for baked goods. We then headed southeast, around Stagecoach Lake and back to Yampa. What a great change of pace, and a much needed ride.

Saturday night we went in to town for dinner, beer, and to catch The Campaign. Being in a new place is so much fun, and it was good for us both to shake it up a bit.

Sunday morning we awoke, packed up and headed to Fish Creek Falls that is located about 5 miles outside of Steamboat. We were unfamiliar with the trail and thought it would be rolling. WRONG. The trail was awesome but it was straight up and then straight down. We ended up running for about two hours but only managed 11 miles. Afterwards we sat in the creek icing down the burn.

Due to traffic concerns we took the long way home. It was a good call because we were treated to an incredible drive through the High Rockies and Rocky Mountain National Park.

I created a little video with some random shots of Whit training. Check it out.

Vineman: Lessons Learned

Last week was my first “A” race of the year, Vineman Iron Distance race in California. I had been looking forward to this race since Beach 2 Battleship last year and was anxious to see what last year’s heavy training did to bolster my fitness.

Whit and I flew in to Sacramento on Thursday morning and made our way to Santa Rosa by 1pm, at which point we met both our parents for lunch. It’s comfortaing to have loved ones at races and/or calling to check in on your mindset leading in to a big race. I am lucky enough to not only have parents who care, but step parents who care, a brother and his family who care, and even a Grandmother who cares! This selfish sport would be a lot less fun without all of them.

After lunch, putting our bikes together, and general race planning, we headed out to our B&B that was located in Guernville, CA, about 3 miles from the swim start and a couple hundred yards from Korbel’s vineyard.

Friday warmed up a little but the high was still in the 70’s! We spent the morning doing our pre-race work outs then headed in to Windsor for packet pick-up and a race briefing. The crew with Vineman is incredibly organized and the whole registration process was seamless. When finished with preparing, we headed back to our place and I relaxed and prepared my mind for the next day.

Race morning was glorious. It was cool and a mist was rising above the river, where we would swim two out and back loops for our 2.4 mile swim. the gun went off with out much glamour and we headed up river. There were places in the river where I could stand up and walk and the water came up to my knees. It was a strange sensation, but I took advantage of the situation and gave my arms a bit of rest. I checked my times at each turn around and realized that I was on track for my normal 1:15 swim, but I had hoped to be quicker. After the race I found out the swim was maybe 150 meters long, so I wasn’t too disappointed with my 1:14.

I started the bike in about 30th position in my age group but quickly made it up to the front of the race. There were several groups I played “tag” with and finished the first 56 miles in 2:31. Perfect. It started warming up however and I realized the run was going to be blazing.

The bike course at Vineman is beautiful. I loved it. There are rolling hills, flat sections, twists and turns, shade and sun. I was pretty happy with my first loop and decided to scale it back just a hair for the second lap and preserve my legs for the run. All was going well until mile 100 when I saw a guy about 100 yards up the road lock up his brakes. As I rounded the corner I saw several emergency vehicles blocking the road. When I arrived (second one to arrive) I was told that someone had crashed and fallen off the bridge, and that they were going to have to be life-flighted out.

We waited for a few minutes before the helicopter arrived. The emergency crew were great, and very professional. All in all, I was stopped for a little over 15 minutes. By the time we were allowed to go again, there were nearly 50 people who had caught me. Once we were allowed to go, we cruised up and over the big climb of the day and then down in to T2 to start the marathon

The run course is a 3 loop affair that is pretty hilly and provides little shade. The first two loops were going great. I was averaging just under 8 minute pace, and felt fairly good. (Video of me at mile 16) The start of the third loop, however, I started feeling rough. The temp was now in to the 90’s and the sun was relentless. My head felt dazed and I started throwing up fluids.

I made it to about mile 18 and I knew I was in trouble. The ice and fluids were not doing me any good. I had cotton mouth but my stomach just wasn’t accepting fluids. At one point, I remember sitting on a guard rail wondering which direction I should go. Though my race was essentially over, I decided not to quit. Might as well finish what I started, even if it wasn’t ideal.

The walk to the finish line was slow and a little scary. I felt dazed and confused. I crossed the line with a clock time of 11:33, but my race time excluding the stop was more around 11:18. I was immediately taken to the medic tent where I realized I’d lost 10.5 pounds and had a blood pressure of 70/50. I stayed there for maybe an hour while they cooled me off and, when my stomach settled, I rank a few gallons of chicken noodle soup.

All in all, I am grateful to have had Whitney, my Father, Mary Ann, and Whit’s family there to take care of me. they were of incredible help, and I felt I owed it to them to at least laugh about the bad race and have some fun with them.

But I am ready for revenge. Next up, Ironman WI!

Denver Triathlon Race Report

I had initially signed up to race the Olympic distance for the Denver Triathlon, but that was before I found out that I would be riding Ride The Rockies for three straight days after the race. So at packet pick up on Saturday, I sheepishly went to the timer’s table and switched to the sprint race.

Sprint distance is not my strength, and I’ve only raced one in the last three years. Nevertheless, I was a little excited about seeing what kind of speed I could muster in the midst of Ironman training.

Our wave took off at Sloan’s Lake in Denver at 7:40am under near perfect weather conditions. As usual, I started too fast and my arms were throbbing after about 300 meters. Oh well, if you are going to go too hard, might as well be in a sprint. I hit the turn around, headed home, and exited the water around 10:30.

After a slow transition, I got on the bike and decided to put it in cruise control to gather myself.  But just about a minute in to the bike I was passed by my friend James Sharpe, owner of TriBella multi-sport shop. He said hello and got me going. James is a strong rider, but I’m typically about as strong so I knew I couldn’t let him go.

I trailed behind James for a quarter of a mile then passed him and decided to give it a little juice. Though I was tired from the previous day’s training and little sleep the night before, I was pleased with the way my legs responded. There were no land speed records set, but I was able to keep a good pace for the rest of the ride which was a two loop affair that weaved in and out of neighborhoods and the Denver Broncos stadium. I came off the bike and hit T2 with a 23.2 mph average according to my Garmin Edge 500.

In less than a mile of the run I caught three guys and one of them went with me. He was in the age group below me, so I told him if he helped set the pace I wouldn’t contest him at the end. I’ve found that working with someone on the run is very helpful for me and my racing mindset.  We kept a steady but a good pace out to the turn around and started back in.

With a half mile to go my partner looked back and said we were clear to the finish. We backed it down a notch, shook hands and cruised on in. I crossed the line with an 18:40 something 5K and a 1:13 and some change finish time for the race. It was good enough for 6th overall and first in my AG.

After the race, I was greeted by Whit and we hung around the race for a while. It was a great environment and plenty of folks were happily cheering on their loved ones. We then headed to the house where I showered then hopped in the rental car for Grand Junction and Ride The Rockies.

Freedom At Last: Carbondale to Leadville via Independence Pass

Ride The Rockies day three is over now, and with that came the first of two 12,000 ft climbs. When I stepped out of my tent at 5:00am this morning, there was a buzz in the air already.  Most people were excited and anxious about knocking out Independence Pass, which topped out at mile 50 of today’s 84 mile route. As I loaded my gear in to the transport bus, I noticed there were already many people  who had apparently loaded and left themselves before my departure at 6:30am.

The route started by rolling through downtown Carbondale and then on to the Rio Grande Trail. We followed the trail for as it weaved through a valley which was just receiving its first rays from the sun. I was fortunate enough connect with a group that included cycling legend, and founder of Wheat Ridge Cyclery, Ron Keifel. Besides being a world class cyclist in his day, Ron knows how to ride like few others ever have. It was a pleasure to share a pace line with him.

Parts of the Rio Grande Trail we covered today are comprised of crushed gravel. Personally, I loved this section as the trail was covered in a canopy of green trees with the occasional sweeping vista of the climb that was to come buried off in the distance.

After a quick break in Aspen, the climb to Independence Pass started in earnest. I’d heard a lot about this climb which both racers and recreational cyclists respect immensely. As we climbed, I was struck mild the grade was. Sometimes when you hear about things for a long time, you tend to make them bigger and badder than they really are. While the climb to Independence is no doubt tough, it was also equally beautiful, which was a needed distraction from the 20 plus miles of uphill.

The top of Independence Pass was like a small celebration. You don’t always see people in spandex eating bratwurst and Dr. Pepper while high fiving each other on the success of reaching the top of a mountain. Today, however, the pass was full of such happy souls who were also snapping photos to send to their loved ones. In the excitement, I jumped in a few photos with strangers with whom I know nothing about except that today we shared the same great bicycle ride.

The descent was fast, I again topped out at just over 51mph. It also provided stunning views of Mt. Elbert and then towards Twin Lakes. The last hour was a mixture of terrain including one dirt road and a brutal final 5 miles in to Leadville with a head wind. Such is Leadville, I suppose. The camping has the best views yet, front row seats to Mt. Massive and Mt. Elbert.

Today’s Stats:

Miles – 84.5
Time – 5:45:55
Top Speed – 51.2 mph
Calories Burned (est) – 8,598

Ride The Rockies – Hotchkiss to Carbondale

Ride The Rockies Day 2: Hotchkiss – Carbondale

Day two of Ride The Rockies took us 68 miles from Hotchkiss over McLure Pass and down to Carbondale. Day two was actually day one for me because I arrived in Hotchkiss late last night. I had a commitment to race the Denver Triathlon on Sunday morning, and then rented a one-way car to Grand Junction, followed by a shuttle ride by “Mike” of American Spirit Shuttles. Mike was full of great information, adding tidbits of regional historical facts all along the way.

I arrived at the in Hothckiss around 6pm, quickly erected my tent then headed down to the live music. After some great food, conversation, and frothy beverages it was time for rest. Around 4:15am I awoke and decided to use the facilities. I was treated to a bit of shock when I walked in and saw a gentleman in his full cycling kit trimming his already groomed and mature mustache. Standing there in my underwear and half closed eyes, I suddenly felt a little unproductive. However, I had very little struggle falling back asleep when I arrived back in my tent.

I was up for good and out on the bike by 7:15am. Though the course profile looked intimidating, the ride was pleasant. It could best be described as rolling with head winds for the first hour or so. I used this section to ride from group to group. Everyone rides at their own pace on a tour like this, so it’s easy to hop on to a group for a bit, have some conversation, then roll on. The entire time we were flanked by steep rocky walls and the occasional mountain lake.

Mile 38 saw the start of the day’s toughest climb; McClure’s pass which is located on the western side of the Elk Mountains. The climb was steady, but not exceedingly difficult. The grade of the road was steady, and the average for the climb (that heads up CO State Hwy 133) was nearly 8%.

The top of McClure’s Pass signified two things. First, we only had about 25 miles left. Secondly, and most importantly, the rest of the ride was all downhill! The descent was fast, my clock reached 51.5 mph. Feeling the urge for a burger, I decided to just put my head down and give it some effort to reach Carbondale. We were greeted to town by smiling faces of kids and adults, which was really nice to see after a day in the saddle. Time for rest, tomorrow is Independence Pass and our first foray over 12,000 feet.

For a full gps report on the ride, please click here.

Stats For Day 2 of Ride The Rockies:

Distance -68.1 miles
Average Speed – 15.8 mph
Climbing – 4,814 ft
Time – 4:18:52
Calories Burned (est.) – 3,420
Burgers – Two (both with side items)