Thursday, January 28, 2010

BASH Winter Tri, 2010

Because my posts have been pretty infrequent lately, and mainly to bury the first two images I used in my last post, I've decided to do the unthinkable and post twice in a single day. Last Saturday, I got all tri-geeked out for the Bash Winter Triathlon.

I raced this last year, and felt like I did pretty well for my first "tri." Last year, I showed up and immediately felt intimidated and overwhelmed. There were all these guys and gals that seemed to knew each other, had the awesome gear, and knew what they were doing. And here I was, having run a total of 3 times that year in preparation, trying compete with them. Well, it turns out that most of the participants last year were hacks like me, and most importantly, the majority of them appeared to have never ridden their bikes off-road (and the bike portion was on very soft groomed snow) and didn't know how to cross country ski.

This year, the competition and difficulty was raised up a notch. Or maybe 5-10 notches. It turns out that winter triathlons are somewhat of an official event, with a national championship and even a world championship. Last year, the national championship was held in Bend, Oregon. Apparently there were quite a few "real" triathletes there. Even Ned "the lung" Overend showed up and "only" managed a 6th place finish. I know he's getting up there in years and all, but he's still pretty dang fast.

It just so happened that this year, the winter triathlon national championship was being held right here in Soldier Hollow in conjunction with the Bash Winter Tri, and the top three finishers would be sent to the world championships in Norway. I figured that the level of competition would go up due to this, but I didn't expect it to go up by as much as it did. Oh, and Ned didn't show up. I think I scared him off.

To compound matters, the triathlon included a mass start of two completely separate races. First was a "full" triathlon, which was a 5k run, 10k bike and 8k ski. Second was a "sprint" triathlon, which was a 5k run, 5k bike and 4k ski. I found out during the race and afterwards
while looking at the results that the full triathlon was primarily made up of the fast guys, and the sprint was made up primarily with the hacks (like me). I (somewhat foolishly?) had signed up for the full triathlon. It went a little something like this:

The Run:
Have you ever had that dream where you are being chased, or maybe are chasing someone else, but you feel like you are running underwater? No matter how hard you try to run faster, you just seem to go slower? If so, then you pretty much know how the run went for me. I was a little bummed out because I'd actually been running for the past couple months and had started to feel like I could run sorta fast. Not really fast, mind you, but sorta fast. I had run a 5k in about
20 minutes (again, not really fast, but an improvement for me) and was hoping to be able to run in the softer snow in 21 or less. I ended up taking a few minutes longer, and could never snap out of whatever funk I was in. On the one minor hill on the course, it was all I could do to not start walking.

The Bike:
I was really hoping to ride this with an aero-bar and aero-helmet to fully embrace the inner tri-geek, but decided to go with the normal helmet and flat bar. I was really happy to stop running and get on the bike since I was finally in my element. The conditions were really soft by this time, because we were riding on the same snow that we had just run on. The soft conditions favored a mountain biker and I was able to pass people quite a few on the first lap. The second lap was tricky to know how you were doing because we were catching some lapper traffic (and some of the "sprint" racers), but I had a a good time trying to rail some of the snowy corners on the descent.

The Ski:
The greatest thing by far about winter triathlons is that there is no swim portion. Not only because it would suck to break through the ice in Deer Creek Reservoir in order to swim through it, but because swimming sucks in general. I'm sorry if I've offended you, but it does. The way you train is by floating (or in my case, sinking) in a literal pool of other people's filth and swimming back and forth, looking down at a painted line that warns you when you're about to bash your head against a wall. You don't actually go anywhere or see anything that's worth seeing, so it's becomes pretty mind-numbing. I've even heard that companies are selling waterproof mp3 players in order to reduce the suckiness of swimming.

Instead of swimming, you have a XC ski leg, and XC skiing is awesome, even if I'm not awesome at doing it. Since the ski was replacing the swim, the inner tri-geek in me wanted to ski in a speedo and goggles, but I figured nobody would want to see that. And in that 10 degree weather, there would probably not be much to see... but I digress. Last year, I was one of the faster skiers. But what I didn't realize at the time was that the real skiers didn't show up last year. This year, I think I'm a better skier, but got smoked by the a bunch of guys who were seriously fast.

I got onto the skis and realized that I was already cooked from the run and bike. My legs felt like jello as I tried to get around the 4k course two times. I was grateful for the few people on classic skis who made me feel fast on my skate skis. However, at the end of my first lap, I was going up "the wall" (you may remember it from the ICUP races at Soldier Hollow), and was barely going faster than the guys who were literally walking up it. Then a rocket came by. The overall winner was on a rampage. I honestly didn't think it was possible to go that fast up that steep of a hill on XC skis. It reminded me of my first mountain bike race at the "Desert Rampage" in 2006 when Bart Lapped me while heading up the wash in his big ring, me in my granny Laberta. Both inspiring and humiliating at the same time.

I found a little bit of juice on the second lap, but not much. It was clear that I had made the mistake of overtraining the week before to try and compensate for our Costa Rica trip.

You'll notice that I'm still wearing my helmet during the ski. I was apparently tired enough during the transition from bike to ski that I'd completely forgotten about it. Now instead of a tri-geek, I'm tri-dork

In the end, I didn't do quite as well as I had hoped, but the Winter Tri is a fun race that serves as great motivation for the months of December and January. I'd like to do it again, but the $70 price tag seems a bit steep for a 1.5 hour race. I guess I'm just accustomed to the $35 mountain bike races. But since I'm a sucker, I wouldn't be surprised to find myself at the Bash Winter Tri in 2011.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Costa Rica, Part II

Man, we've been back from Costa Rica for a week, and looking back on it seems like a lifetime ago. It's been a crazy week with work, etc., and I can't help but get jealous thinking about the dude I met sitting on his porch looking out over the ocean from my previous post.

After our stay at Osa Peninsula (Part I), we reluctantly flew up to Quepos, a small town on the central Pacific coast of Costa Rica. I say "reluctantly" because we loved Osa, but Quepos ended up being worth the trip.

One of the highlights of the Quepos area was... the hotel. I know, sounds lame right? Like we're one of those people who go to Hawaii and never leave the resort. But it's not like that. I got the recommendation from Watcher, and without it I would have never even looked twice at this hotel. My wife was still a bit hesitant being that it's not right on the beach, but I assured her that Watcher would not steer us wrong, and if she'd just look at one of his "awesome graphics", she'd understand.

We flew into the Quepos airport (which looks more like an open air market than a fruit stand (see previous post)) and started driving to the hotel. Almost immediately we were on a bumpy dirt road that was taking us through a huge palm tree plantation. Wesla was giving me that "are you sure you know what you've gotten us into?" look, but refrained from saying anything. The palms eventually turned to forest, and then the forest had a nice little haven that was the Blue Banyon Hotel.

Here are a few pics of the place:

The Banyon tree, from which the hotel gets its name:
From Costa Rica
Our cottage:

The view from the front porch:

The place was highlighted by the owners, Jim and Barb, who not only rescued a bunch of monkeys...

... but also made awesome banana pancakes for breakfast, and had a knack for telling us about their local secret stashes, which included this beach:

I know, awesome sunglasses right? Those are Costa Rican specials. The ones we brought with us are sitting at the bottom of the ocean somewhere.

This beach was way off the beaten path, and we could not see a single soul for miles in each direction.

We also spent a day in the local national park called "Manuel Antonio." I have to admit that after going to Corcovado in Osa, Manuel Antonio felt a bit like a zoo with all of the people. That said, we still saw loads of great animals, thanks again to our hired guide.

A sloth:

A monkey hanking from a vine:

The white-faced monkey that I watched take someone's lunch right off of the beach and run 20 feet high into the trees before the previous owner of the lunch knew what happened. And then the monkey accidentally dropped the lunch, jumped back onto the ground, grabbed the lunch, and went back up into the tree, still all before the previous lunch owner knew what hit him.

The views from the top of Manuel Antonio looked like this:

And of course, no trip to Costa Rica would be complete without at least one canopy tour, right?

We decided to schedule the zipline tour on our last day. We figured that if we were going to break our necks like Toby, we'd do it on our last day in Costa Rica instead of the first.

I've been coping with coming back to this cold, dark, dreary, smoggy, trafficy, foggy... (okay, it's not that bad) world that I call home by training for the winter triathlon that starts in about 2 hrs (I'm just about to leave for Soldier Hollow). We'll see how I respond to my "relax on the beach and eat Gallo Pinto for 8 days, train your but off for 5 straight days, and hope that the day before the race is enough recovery time" training plan. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Costa Rica, La Pura Vida

Last August, the misses and I hit the 10 year mark. We wanted to do something big, and ultimately decided that Costa Rica would fit the bill. However, in August, Costa Rica is in the midst of a non-stop downpore. We decided that rather than leave Utah during our nicest time of the year to head to Costa Rica during one of its rainiest months of the year, we'd postpone our anniversary trip to January in hopes that we'd miss a week of inversion in Utah in exchange for the nicest part of the year in Costa Rica. I'd say that things worked out swimmingly.

We flew into San Jose, CR just in time to bring in the New Year. During the flight, I have to admit to lamenting about missing Kenny's New-Year's ride. Wesla wanted to smack me, and I probably would have deserved it. Upon arriving in San Jose, we headed to a shindig in the city which was nice and all, but it turns out that most Costa Ricans bring in the New Year with the family, and then head out to party till morning. We had an early flight to catch the next morning, so we had our first taste of Gallo Pinto (rice, beans, and their secret sauce) and called it a night.

The next morning, we headed to a little slice of heaven called the Osa Peninsula.
La Peninsula de Osa is tucked away on the southwest corner of CR. Although it's only 100 miles away from San Jose (as the crow flies), it takes about 8 hours to drive to due to the multiple mountain passes and poor road conditions. Although I think the drive would be fun, we flew to Osa on a domestic airline instead, which took about 40 minutes.
From Costa Rica

We stayed on the Drake Bay side of the Peninsula, and according to some of the locals, the first cars did not arrive to Drake Bay until 8 years ago, and Drake Bay did not have a power plant until 4 years ago.

The area is very undeveloped, and reminded us of our visit to Mangrove Cay in the Bahamas last year. Very low key, great locals, amazing beaches, etc. What sets Drake Bay apart is its proximity to Corcovado National Park. We took a 1 hour boat ride to the heart of the park and took a guided tour through some amazing rain forest.

The guide was simply amazing. I'm guessing that if Wesla and I had ventured out by ourselves, we would have been lucky to have seen 4-5 different animals. The guide had a sixth sense for spotting all sorts of animals hiding in the canopy above us and on the earth below, and usually had some interesting science or history behind each siting.

The toucan:

Spider monkey:

Cool tree - Watcher, what's this called?

Baby howler monkey with mama:

These leaf-cutter ants were honestly one of the coolest things we saw.

Each of these little leaves on the trunk are being carried by an ant. They'd march to the top of this tree, cut out a leaf, and carry it back home to use as a bed to grow mushrooms, which were used for food. The ants had walked this tree and the ground below enough that they had worn in a nice little single-track path. Watching these ants go to work was simply amazing.

An American crocodile, which happens to be my new favorite Spanish word: cocodrilo. I could say that over and over again all day...

Nice little waterfall:

The next day, we headed out to Cano Island for some snorkeling. Unfortunately we don't have an underwater camera to capture all of the fish, coral and reef sharks out there. The water was 80 degrees and even a skinny guy like me could swim around all day without getting cold. My sunburned back is evidence of that. And by the way, don't trust Costa Rican sunblock. The SPF 60 that we bought locally didn't work half as well as the SPF 30 from home.

One of favorite things about travelling is seeing how the local people live. Here are a couple of pics to give you an idea of what life is like in La Peninsula de Osa. My favorite is the local airport:

No, that's not a fruit stand. That's the entire airport. The security screening consisted of... um... well nothing. I put my own bag into the airplane. Pura vida.

Another of my favorites is this is a little place that I came across while wondering around some of the trails near our hotel:

The only way to get to this house was to walk a half mile up the 1-track trail you can see in the pic. I spent 15 minutes talking to the guy sitting on the front porch. He guides tours through Corcovado by day and enjoys la pura vida by night by sitting on the porch and looking down at the ocean. I bet that prime real estate must run him $50 a month. Maybe less.

Next up is our visit to the Quepos area. At my current rate of updating my blog, I'll get to that sometime in March!