Monday, August 27, 2012

My Thoughts on Lance Armstrong...

Lance Armstrong is a name which used to be synonymous with hope and courage, the guy who beat cancer and went on to dominate the toughest (and formerly unknown) sporting event in the world, the Tour de France.  His name is now well on the way to becoming synonymous with cheat and it will be forever tied to one of the greatest sports cheating scheme in history.  Not surprisingly, when someone has become such a heroic figure in the eyes of many, there are those who refuse to accept that Lance could have perpetrated such a magnificent fraud. It has, in a sense become a cult of Lance where his followers have and will continue to drink his cool aid.

Lance Armstrong is the only professional cyclist in modern history to become an American icon, to break out of the obscurity of cycling and cross over into popular culture. If I were to mention the name Greg Lemond, some would say they recognize the name, but few could tell you he was the first American to win the Tour de France or that he too came back from a near death experience to win France’s prestigious race. Mention Lance Armstrong however, and suddenly the Tour de France becomes the realm of everyday Americans. It is probably no coincidence that passions become so involved because Lance’s victories coincided with a period of time that French fries became freedom fries.  An American secured victory in Paris and with those victories, he not only secured his place in sports, he secured his spot as an American hero, at least for the time. Combine the patriots with the hearts of millions of cancer survivors as his story inspired hope in them, if he could beat cancer and return strong enough to defeat the toughest race in the world, perhaps they too could beat cancer! It is all these new fans that Lance has hoodwinked with his tired mantra of “I am the most tested athlete ever and I have never failed a drug test”; they form the body of the cult of Armstrong.

This is the biggest fallacy of the cult and the favorite thing Lance likes to say is “I have never failed a drug test”. Fact of the matter is that Lance Armstrong has indeed failed at least one drug test and only after the fact produced a doctor’s prescription. Additionally, there remain the accusations of at least one failed test covered up by the UCI, as well as evidence uncovered that linked EPO tainted blood to Lance Armstrong.  Anyone who has followed the news and recent history of drug cheats would know that the lack of a positive drug test only means they weren’t smart enough to not get caught. Marion Jones, Barry Bonds, Jan Ulrich, many athletes never failed a drug test and yet were found guilty of doping.  However, all this is easily negated in the minds of the cult with two words, “French conspiracy”. 

Despite the hundreds of passed tests that Armstrong claims in his palmar├Ęs, the reported evidence that has been accumulated by the USADA is astounding.  At least ten eye witness accounts to doping or admissions of doping by Lance Armstrong. Now if you’re a member of the cult of Armstrong, you’ll first dismiss this by pointing out that the two most notorious of these witnesses, Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton are admitted dopers and lied about their doping for years. What they overlook is this; Floyd and Tyler began lying (as did Lance Armstrong) the moment they first began using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) to race. However, until the point they were under oath, there was no legal jeopardy to this deception. Sure they could be busted for doping and both were, but cheating in sports is nothing when compared to doing time in the slammer.   Then there are those reported ready to testify against Lance who haven’t been busted for doping. Riders like George Hincapie, one of the most respected members of the peloton and Lance Armstrong’s right hand man throughout his seven TDF wins. These witness accounts are the crux of USADA’s case against Lance Armstrong.

One of the biggest complaints I hear is “this all happened in the past, let’s move on” or “he wasn’t caught back then, how can they go after him now”.  But the fact of the matter is that USADA was given a pile of evidence and really had no option but to look into it. When presented with such damning evidence of one of the greatest doping frauds in American sports history, for them to ignore this would be a major failure in their duty.

I became a fan of cycling in 1988 and have followed the Tour de France and professional cycling since. I was fifteen when Greg Lemond stormed down the Champs Elysees to win the Tour by eight seconds. When Lance broke into the cycling world in the 90’s and began dominating; I quickly became a fan of his and was devastated when he was diagnosed with cancer.  He was a hero to me and soon a hero to millions worldwide.  This is probably why it bugs me so much to hear people and their defense of Lance. I knew who he was and was a fan, long before probably 99% of his current defenders are. I’ve followed his story since the early 90’s, have coffee table books on Lance, every TDF on DVD or video since 86’, and have TDF posters in my office and house. Yes, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but most people currently defending him are misguided and are basing their defense of Lance on his talking points, they’ve unfortunately drunk the cool aid…

If you disagree with me, but have made it this far, I challenge you to read the information at the following link with an objective mind. It is the most powerful and through article I’ve read on the subject.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

8 Seconds in July: My Max-O-Mania 2012 race report

To most people, the phrase "8 seconds in July" probably has no clear significance. To me however, it brings back memories of an epic battle in the 1989 Tour de France between Laurent Fignon and Greg Lemond. For three long weeks Lemond and Fignon battled it out for the right to wear the yellow jersey and on the final day Lemond overcame a 50 second deficit in a short 15.5 mile time trial to win the Tour by eight seconds! This past weekend I got to experience my own "8 Seconds in July" moment, only the stakes weren't quite as high...

Max-O-Mania is a series of three races in two days held at the resort of Innsbrook. For those who don't know, Innsbrook is a community of vacation homes with more than 100 lakes, 8,000 acres, and plenty of steep hills to run and bike up! It is a challenging but beautiful place to race. 

First up on the agenda, the "Prologue", an evening race on Friday consisting of a 1,000 meter swim across a lake followed by a 3 mile run back to the finish line. Following pre-race instructions from Mark Livesay with Ultramax Sports, all the solo athletes along with one team member (teams did it relay style) from each team lined up in the starting chute. While my goal is always to do as well as I can, sometimes there are specific people I want to do well against and in this case my friend Brian Rodenbeck was my target! Brian has been improving steadily and had recently beaten me at both the KC Triathlon and the Trizou triathlon; I was really hoping to reverse that trend... 

Shortly after the race started, I found some feet to draft which was awesome. Despite the draft, the swim still seemed to take forever, but finally after 18:04 I was done and into transition. I tried to settle into a fast pace as I could see Brian ahead of me. It wasn't too long before I passed him, but I ended up paying for the early fast pace and slowing to walk up some of the tough hills. Eventually I recovered sufficiently and ended up with the fourth fastest run which only partially made up for having been fourteenth on the swim! 

Aquathon Results
1. Louis Di Guiseppe 32:20 
2. Andrew Person     32:27 
3. Lou Jearls             35:37 
4. Dave Otto            36:37 
5. Peter Thurman      37:07 
6. Tony Rigdon        37:23 
7. Brian Rodenbeck 38:06 

Day 2 began with Quartermax. This was the "centerpiece" event of the weekend and brought in 4 or 5 hundred triathletes who were only competing in it (or Octomax) and not Max-O-Mania. It consists of a 1,000 yard swim, 24 mile bike, and a 6 mile run. So once again my race was starting with a 1,000 yard swim! Having given up a considerable amount of time to several in the swim the night before, I figured the morning race would bring more of the same. On the plus side, I hadn't been too far behind Brian on the previous swim so I was really hoping I could once again keep things close and then not give up too much time on the bike. Surprisingly, as I was finishing the swim, I noticed Brian off to my right and ended up finishing several seconds ahead. He quickly passed me on the hill to transition but I just barely managed to get out on my bike ahead of him. 

Once out on the bike, it wasn't long before he passed me again, this time for good. Not too long after, Eric Johnson and Jason Holland (racing as a team) passed me and were soon up to and ahead of Brian. For most of the hilly five mile stretch within Innsbrook I managed to keep the three in my sights, but they were gradually pulling away. Eventually, once out on the flat sections outside the resort, some of the faster general Quartermax competitors began to catch me. Each time a triathlete would pass me, I would use them as a carrot to pick up my pace and keep them in my sight for as long as possible, hoping to limit my losses to Brian and other Max-O-Mania competitors. Ironically, the cycling section used to be my strongest facet, not so anymore... 

Finally the cycling was done and after a quick transition, I was out on the run. My plan was to run controlled for the first loop of the course and then pick it up on the second and final loop. However, things don't always work according to plans and when I tried to pick up the pace my legs just didn't want to respond! Even after seeing Brian just prior to the turn around, I still could not convince my legs to go any faster. I was at least several minutes down and I was now thinking about damage control and not losing more time on the run. Sunny Gilbert, the eventual women's Quartermax Champion caught me shortly after the start of the second loop. In previous triathlons I've found myself in the same position and have been able to match her pace and run with her for at least several miles, but not this time! About the only time I managed to pick things up was when I saw Eric Johnson and Jason Holland ahead. Using them as motivation I recovered slightly and had a decent final mile or two. In the end I finished 25th and 6th in my age group in Quartermax, but more importantly, I had lost considerable amounts of time in the Max-O-Mania results and overall standings... 

Quartermax Results               Total time 
1 Louis Di G..         2:15:23      1 Louis Di G...        2:47:43 
2 Brian Rodenbeck 2:18:04      2 Dave Otto            2:54:41 
3 Dave Otto            2:18:04     3 Peter Thurman     2:56:00 
4 Peter Thurman     2:18:53      4 Brian Rodenbeck 2:56:10 
5 Tony Rigdon III    2:20:42     5 Tony Rigdon III   2:58:05 

Heading into the final race Saturday evening, I knew I had my work cut out for me if I had any hope of catching Brian as I was a minute and fifty-five seconds behind him and he had beaten me so handily that morning. Dave Otto had also been listed throughout the events as being in the male open or under 40 division, but the thought of catching him seemed out of the question so I really only focused on Brian and the idea of moving up to second in the male open division and 4th overall. I spent a large portion of the morning and afternoon refueling, relaxing, and sleeping. 

The final race was a 10 mile bike, 500 yard swim, and a 2 mile run. The race started with the solo competitors so we were lined up in ascending order starting with Louis Di Guiseppe, who had such a comfortable lead this race was a mere formality. The first ten competitors were started every minute so I was starting five minutes behind Louis but more importantly exactly one minute behind Brian. 

Five minutes later, it was my turn and I was off! The 10 mile course was an out and back over the hilly roads leading to the edge of the resort. These were the same roads we had raced out on in the morning, only this time I kept reminding myself to dig deep and push. I’m sure I reviewed in my mind just about every positioning and pedaling knowledge I've read as I mustered up all the speed I could. Still, despite the effort I was putting in, I was a little surprised when I started approaching the turnaround point and hadn't seen a returning cyclist! Finally, Louis came by but I wasn't quite sure if I had made time up or not, though I was pretty sure I wasn't losing time. It wasn't until the final climb to the turn around that Brian came back and I immediately began counting until I too had reached the spot, 45", I had gained 15" in the first half! They say success breeds success and in this case I believe it did as I found additional motivation to push hard. I kept hoping to pull someone to within sight, but the roads were too curvy. However, as I dismounted and ran into transition, I could see several people running down the hill to the swim, I was catching them! 

Quick, rack my bike, grab my goggles and swim cap. Everything in transition should be thought out ahead and executed smoothly. If you can, do everything while moving and as I sprinted down the hill my swim cap and goggles were going on. As I approached the beach, Mark Livesay the race director could tell I was making up time and with his announcing the spectators got behind me and I was hit with more motivation. A mad dash into the water and I was swimming. 

It felt nice to be back in the water and without a ton of swimmers surrounding me. Instead, every time I sighted, I could see three heads in front of me, slowly getting closer. This was a unique feeling, to actually feel like I was competing in the swim! I consciously told myself to keep a high turnover, it's only 500 yards, push it. It came as a shock to find myself finishing with three swimmers in my wake! I still sprinted up the hill though, out of sight is out of mind, if I could get out on the run well ahead I might maintain the time I had gained. 

Surprisingly, I found one more competitor in transition and was quickly out the door and on the run, pulling ahead of him and into second place in the race, only Louis was still in front. I still wasn't quite sure how much time I had on Brian so I continued to tell myself to fight, it's only two miles, mostly flat, and it will be over quick! Once again Louis came by going the other way and once again I didn't bother trying to figure how far back I was, by bigger concern was how far ahead I was of the other guys and more importantly, of Brian. At the turn around I saw my friends Jessica Gallant and Emmette Smith handing out water and got some more encouragement from them, friends are great! 

The return trip was pretty much a gradual downhill so I felt pretty good about not getting caught, but still felt like I should push it. You never know where you stand in a time trial start, I wanted to make up as much time as I could. Eventually, the finish line was in sight and I could hear Mark on the microphone bringing me in. From the way he was talking, it sounded like I had a quick time, which only helped to make me quicker! Also, Louis Di Guiseppe was in the finish chute cheering me on to a strong finish. 

The finish line and I'm done, all that remained was to see how much time passed before the others crossed. Mark wouldn't reveal the results until everyone had finished. All he would say was that I had the fastest time in the final race by over two minutes with a 50:08. I could tell though from his hints that I had moved up a few spots, but had no idea how far. Eventually it was awards time and I learned I had gone from 5th to 2nd overall! 

 Final Total time
 1 Louis Di Guiseppe     3:39:59 
2 Tony Rigdon III          3:48:15 
3 Dave Otto                  3:48:23 
4 Brian Rodenbeck        3:49:46 
5 Peter Thurman            3:49:56 

 I had edged out Dave Otto by 8 seconds! My 8 Seconds in July June... 

What a race! It is definitely easy to say that having ended it on such a high note. However, even had I not done so well in the final event, overall I had a great time even in the two previous races where I didn't do quite so well. It was a smaller more intimate event in the sense that we all knew each other by the end, even if we hadn't when we started. I'm definitely planning on returning next year! Only I will be swimming and biking a little faster...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Eureka Spring Xterra Triathlon Race Report 6/9/2012

I headed back to Eureka Springs for the third year in a row to do the Xterra Triathlon a little over a week ago. Not sure why more of my friends don’t do this race, for me it has become one of my favorite races of the year! Race site camping, low cost entry, beautiful scenery, and a challenging event, all combine to make a great experience.

My first year competing I was riding a mountain bike I had picked up used that really was too small. It was a hard tail with 26” wheels, riding it for an extended period of time would leave my back in spasms, I actually had to walk some of the down hills because of the pain! I would end up in 44th place with a 3:14:06. The following year (2011) I came back with a new full suspension Trek Hi-Fi Pro 29er from Walt’s and saw a huge improvement vaulting up to 5th overall with a 2:38:13. This year, while my fitness wasn’t quite what it has been in the past, I had recently cut my handle bars down and felt like I was riding off road much faster as a result. While I didn’t think it was likely my overall time or placing would improve, I felt I could improve a little on the bike course. Since I’ve only been swimming at most twice a week and usually more like once a week swimming 1,000 yards or less when I do, I decided I would hold off on the start and not try to mix it up with the fast guys. As you can see in the picture, I held way back at the swim start!

  I think the swim course was long last year and as I came out of the swim this year I knew I was about two or so minutes ahead of my time. However, I had a slow transition but still ended up leaving T1 at about the same time I had been exiting the swim course last year! Friday evening I took the time to pre-ride the course so I was pretty confident I could handle everything on the course. However, the course was really dry and many of the corners were super slick with loose gravel. Less than a mile in I slid out on one of the corners I had ridden just fine the night before and lost a spot as a result. In the ensuing long climb I ended up passing several cyclists and began to settle into a nice rhythm. Following the long first climb, the course levels out for a while and rides along a ridge before plunging back down and heading back by transition. On the long descent there are several corners and sections with loose gravel. I was taking a bit more of a cautious approach since I’m not really a mountain biker so I ended up getting passed by a group of about 4 guys flying down the mountain. I could only hope that I would pass them back on the run!

For the remainder of the bike I think I only got passed one more time and passed about 3 or 4 guys as well. Ended up heading back into T2 less than 1:40:00 into the race, knowing that a five mile trail run was easily under fifty minutes I felt like I had a good chance to go under 2:30:00 or an eight minute improvement from the previous year!

After a quick thirty second transition I was out on the run. I immediately regretted not taking the time to count the returned bikes as I had no idea what position I was running in! I could see two runners with a hundred yards or less ahead of me. My first temptation was to surge and pass them quickly, but instead I told myself to pace myself and pass them in time. The run is brutal and starts with a long and steep hill climb, I walked a lot of it as running wouldn’t have been much faster. Still though, even with the walking I ended up passing both the other runners, neither of them had noticed what position we were in so I just pressed on. Eventually I ran past an aid station where they told me I was in 6th place.
All told, I ended up passing 6 runners on the run and ended up finishing in 6th place overall, first in my age group. While I was one place lower overall than the previous year, the biggest thing for me was the 13 minute improvement on my overall time! Had I been fully trained and ready, a 13 minute improvement might have been expected. However, given that I’ve been training very lightly, I’m really excited to see what I can do when I finally pick things up!