February 26, 2006

Even Fear Can't Keep Up With Them

Morning Workout
2 hours 47 minutes of hills, most of them going up
Heart Rate Zone: Aerobic (Zone 1)

Random Comments: I know there are still five months until Ironman USA, but I've got to admit that I'm a bit nervous about my race nutrition. They say nutrition is the fourth discipline in triathlon and, to be completely honest with
you, its the one I suck at the most. I'm good at eating in general. I mean, I can chew, swallow and do all the other basic tasks of ingesting substances. It's just that I haven't figured out how to be smart about it while I'm exercising. I've tried fine tuning my race nutrition on all of the half-ironmans and century rides I've done, but apparently I haven't found the right balance to keep me energized. So I'm trying new things now, hoping that I'll stumble on the right mix of fuel that will keep me alive and somewhat coherent during the Ironman. I delved into the pretzel sampling on the ride today. I love pretzels. Besides, they're all carbs and salt, two things that I know I need when I'm riding. How bad can they really be? As it turns out, they tasted pretty good. Only problem is, I got full pretty quickly. It felt like all that pretzel eating added a few extra pounds of jiggly as I tried climbing the hills. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure I gained weight on the ride. Oops. Maybe I'll just bring a pizza with me. I'm not eating the right things, so I might as well eat the things that make me happy.
Star Spotting Of The Day: George Hincapie, Dave Zabriskie, Floyd Landis, Bobby Julich and all of today's superheroes of bike racing
Location: Redondo Beach, California
What They Were Doing: Riding their bikes really really fast. Specifically, they were racing the final stage of the Tour of California bike race. I'd show you my pictures, but they're all blurry. That's how fast they were going.

I remember seeing part of a bike race when I was a youngster, but about 6 or 7 years old. It was back in Washington DC and I was standing with my mother on a street corner in the city watching the bikers come screaming around the bend. I could still picture that weekend afternoon, it was a cool day, clouds overhead and trees lining the park on both sides of the street. There were hay bales on the corner to stop any rider from sliding all the way into Virginia. We stood behind those bales, mom and me. I guess if a rider did lose his edge, and actually slid right through the hay, they'd have to take out my mother and me before they road rashed themselves to Virginia. Fortunately, I don't remember seeing anybody fall. What I do remember is the feeling in my chest as they went by. It was a cross between my heart pounding against my rib cage and the butterflies fluttering inside my stomach. It'd be poetic for me to tell you that this was the moment when I decided to be a competitive racer. I take that back, it wouldn't be poetic at all. Actually, it'd be kinda lame. In order for it to be poetic I would've had to actually become a world class racer or something. I didn't. I'm just a schmo from California.

Today I lined up on the streets of Redondo Beach with all the other schmo's from California to watch the world's best bike riders blast by us. It was the inagural race of the Tour of California, an eight-stage event that started in San Francisco and culminated in this 7-mile, 9-lap monstrosity on the coast of beautiful Southern Cali. It was amazing watching these guys come by. I've been following them in the Tour d'France for the past few years and have actually come to the point where I didn't believe they existed; they were always just part of a cycling drama that unfolded every July on OLN TV. But I have proof positive today that they do exist and they are, in fact, the superheroes I imagined them to be. They climb mountains with such ease its as if they are being hoisted by a helicopter, and they descend the hills so quickly even fear can't keep up with them. Cat and I stood on the side of the road, just an arms reach from these paladins of pedaling, these demigods of speed. There were no hay bales needed to stop the pounding on my rib cage and the fluttering in my stomach this time around.

After the race Cat and I went over to the Herbalife booth to visit a few friends of hers. Herbalife was a sponsor of the Tour so they had a pretty darn big booth, which has diddly-squat to do with the story I'm about to tell you, but I needed a transition sentence, so there you have it.

As it turns out, one of Cat's friends is Michael Johnson, the CEO of the company and, according to MarketWatch, the CEO Of The Year, which I guess you can say is fairly impressive if that's the type of thing that impresses you. Michael and Cat met each other out on the road while they were both biking. Michael, as it so happens, is an avid bike rider and triathlete. In fact, he's a pretty darn good bike rider, as I was to soon discover.

What Herbalife did in their booth to attract crowds was get two bicycles and set them up as virtual trainers. There was an animated screen depicting two bike racers that the bicycles were connected to, and two people would pedal their butts off on the training bikes and essentially race against each other on this quarter mile course, with one animated figure representing the effort of each biker. So when Cat walked up to say hello to Michael, he immediately dragged her across the way and decided to virtually race her on these bikes. Michael, being the CEO that he is as well as leading the company that is a main sponsor of the Tour of California, he tended to have a lot of cameras circling around him. Kind of like flies on a horse, without the tail swatting. There were press people snapping shots with expensive 35mm jobbies and TV/video cameras circling and circling in some sort of artistic production-like fashion. I just stepped back and watching the show.

You can probably imagine the smile on my face as Michael and Catherine hopped on their bikes, a TV camera right in Catherine's face and crowds of people crammed all around. I stood in the back of the crowd, seven or eight people deep, as the announcer bellowed over the microphone about Michael and Catherine's head-to-head battle.

Suddenly the gun went off and they were racing. As Cat took an early lead my heart rose. Let her win, I said silently. Let her win. The announcer let it be known that Catherine was in the lead and a click seem to have clacked in Michael's head. He rose from the seat and pedaled like he's probably never pedaled before. He pulled ahead of Catherine and in a few brief seconds beat her to the virtual finish line. He maxed out at 550 watts of power - which means absolutely nothing to you if you aren't a geeky biker. But believe me when I say that 550 watts is impressive for the average schmo, especially for a CEO of a public company, who you'd imagine has a fairly hectic life. Catherine logged in the third fastest time of the day for women. It made me smile. And laugh a little. But in a good way.

She'll get him next year. My money is definitely on her - my real superhero.


Iron Benny said...

I remember when I first started racing, before I had a coach, and my nutrition was abismal. I had no idea what a difference proper nutrition would make. Anyway, have you tried carb drinks? I like Cyto max and an extra scoop of Carbo Pro because I'm fairly big. Also, I drink Endurox post workout. Drink it within 30 minutes during your glycogen window and your recovery will be markedly faster and shorter. The stuff really works. It's no glass of fine wine but it will work in a pinch. Other than that, I guess you need to find what works for you. Which Ironman are you doing? I'm doing IMAZ and the days are counting down quickly. April 9th, ouch. Take care.

nancytoby said...

That sounds like a fun day! Wish I could have been there too!

Re: pretzels - don't count on them for too much sodium, if you read the labels they usually don't actually have that much salt. I go for Succeed caps to replenish sodium on long events, myself. (No commercial relationship - they just work well for me!)