Thursday, April 28, 2011

Yeah, But Are You Healthy?

Is triathlon growing?  Are races growing?  Who qualified for what?  Who has an Ironman tattoo and on what cheek?  Who beat whom on the third repeat of 400s at masters swimming?  Facebook and Twitter statuses proclaiming "epic" training sessions and "great sessions".  Wonderful all.

Are you healthy?

While the younger triathlon crowd enjoys their "iron fever" - the I'lldoanythingjusttofinishanIronmanandputatattooonmyassbecause'everyone'isdoingit crowd.  The athletes who have more than a few races (and some with a larger understanding) have figured out that racing, just like life, is a marathon - super, ultra marathon at that.  This is a lifestyle and not a "one and done" adventure.

Just because you can... doesn't mean you should.

I have a good friend who tries to get me to enter an Ironman every year.  He's nuts.  "You can finish it.  What are you worried about."  My standard response is, "I have finished an Ironman.  Five times.  I know I can finish.  That isn't the question.  When I go back and return to Ironman racing - I won't be going just to finish.  I'll be competitive in my age group."  This pisses him off to no end.

Honestly, there are larger issues in play.  The economy - while my work as a coach has flourished my other money making ventures have taken more time and yielded less money.  My family's (mental) health - while some people don't care about anniversaries - last year my wife and I traveled instead of going to races.  Last year was a "big" anniversary for us.  Racing will always be there.  My wife and I won't always be here.  Driving to every mud pit race in the midwest/mideast is not my idea of fun.  I like new races and new places in good locations where my family can enjoy time away from home too.  Life is too short.  My family's (physical) health - between lymphomas, breast cancers, skin cancer, car crashes and general aging - I'm going to take care of my family and I really don't care what your opinion is.

These last two and a half weeks I've been dealing with the virus that has put most people in the hospital for a few days.  Luckily, I've only needed one course of heavy antibiotics.  My last two tune up races - aborted.  Illinois training camp with friends?  Scrapped.  If the doc is right, I should be 100% by 5/3.  This gives me another 12 days before the race I'm doing to get my body right.  I'm not planning on "crushing it" at the race in terms of competition.  I know where I am.  My only goal centers around the clock.  Even that goal may be unrealistic depending on how I bounce back from this sickness.  Last year I raced with a 102 fever.  Smart?  No... the opposite.  Did I keep my "streak" alive?  Yes.  Was it worth it?  That's debatable.  I'm not the only one who gets sick...

Alexander out of IM Aussie due to illness.

2011 is more about getting healthy.  Back to zero.  I told a close friend - I'm training to get ready to train.  When those benchmark sets are back - I'll consider racing Ironman again.  First priorities: blood profile, blood pressure, cancer progress (not saying who's), heart health, weight, and family member health.

Once that is in line... let's get ready to race.  Health first.  Race second.

Monday, April 25, 2011

How to Keep the Rubber Side Down on Your Bike

Saturday morning it was nice.  Well, nice enough for a Chicago area "spring" day: 44 F and the sun trying to break through with light rain.  The main roads by me are 50-55 mph and the other ones are 40-45 mph because they have a higher risk of wild life on them.  I like to say, "My neighborhood speed bumps have hooves."  If you hit one of these guys they will probably wreck your car and give you a dirty look as they bound back into the forrest by the river.  We have several extremely large deer that already have antlers.

As I entered the turn lane off of IL-59 (50 mph) onto Miller Road in Lake Barrington - half a cycling team came FLYING through the intersection against the light.  The BMW 750 in front of me skidded sideways as he slammed on the brakes.  The other half of the team (thankfully) slammed on the brakes (and into each other) versus taking their chances agains a BMW 750 at 50+ mph.  I had visions of that crash in Mexico that had bodies strewn all over the road.


This graph is courtesy of http://thinkbicyclingblog.wordpress.com/category/uncategorized/

Here are a few other things to consider while on your bike - especially in the spring.

Generally - Stay alert.  Assume nobody sees you.  Assume everyone is drunk, high, updating Facebook and Twitter while they are driving, heavily armed with a huge inferiority complex.  My neighbor judge friend tells me that due to the 24 hour nature of work shifts in the USA and drugs and alcohol use/misuses, 3 of 10 drivers at ANY TIME OF THE DAY are so wasted that they cannot speak their own name.  That number goes up to 7 of 10 after 11 pm (to 4 am) during the week and 10 pm to 5 am on the weekends.  So that mid-summer bike ride that starts at 5:30 am... yeah - some of those drivers coming at you are baked.

Ride straight - relax your upper body and ride a straight line.  Look up the road for potential risks.  Your body will follow where you are looking.  A great way to practice is to try and ride next to (not ON) the road striping on the side of the road.

Look behind you safely - relax the opposite arm of the way you are looking.  Relax your right arm, look over the left.

Corner better - hold the handlebars in the drops for better control.  Move your rear to the back of your saddle and lower your upper body toward the top tube.  Stand on the outside pedal.  Raise your weight slightly off the saddle and shift your weight onto the pedal - this is, of course, AFTER you signaled the turn for vehicles behind you.

Look ahead into the corner - Is there sand, gravel in the road?  Is there a pot hole in the road? Is the corner banked or off-camber?  Are there stains (aka: Like an OIL stain) on the road? Is the road wet?  Are manhole covers in place? Sewer grates? Cattle guards?  Don't brake hard at the last minute to reduce  your speed if you've overcooked the corner.  Braking while the bike is leaned over causes the brake pads to grab and "chatter" thus decreasing your ability to control your bike.

Descend safely - we have a few hills around here that will allow you to hit 50+ mph.  Know your limits. Just because your buddies went down the hill with their hair on fire doesn't mean you have to.  Never go faster than your comfort factor allows.  In Lake Placid in 2003, I was feathering my brakes on the big downhill out of town because I felt 45 mph was "fast enough" in the pouring rain.  I could feel my bike hydroplaning down the mountain.  On the second loop, I would have crashed badly (I only lost control for a little while and skidded through a corner) if I hadn't pealed a bit of speed off.  Keep your crank arms horizontal in general. Scoot back on the saddle and stick your butt in the air so your weight is on your feet and hands.  Anticipate animals and children running out in front of you.  Hold a bit back in practice.  You can take more risk in some races - however, be advised that kids and dogs don't care that you are racing in their neighborhood and will run out in front of you at any time.

Pacelines - be predictable. watch the saddle or rear-end of the person in front of you - NOT their rear wheel or cranks.  Give yourself some space.  Communicate loudly to the other riders.  Know which way the wind is blowing.  Stay OUT of the aerobars.

Music - personally, if someone shows up with an iPod I try to drop them, fall far behind them or go a different direction.  Music on a long ride is asking for death.

Here is some information on bike crashes in Madison, WI.  As many people flock up there to "train on the course"... keep this in mind.

From Jeff Hiles, Wright State University http://www.wright.edu/~jeffrey.hiles/essays/listening/ch3.html


Madison, Wisconsin (Ross, 1992). Madison is a college town with a significant network of bike lanes and bike paths. As one might expect, the Class D overtaking accidents among this sample of 774 bicyclist-motorist crashes is the lowest of any of the five studies—just 4.1 percent of the entire class.

Two other classes were unusually high, though: Class C (motorist turn, merge, drive-through, or drive out) and especially Class F (motorist unexpected turn). An on-coming motorist turning lift into the path of a straight-through cyclist made up a whopping 23.3 percent of Madison’s crashes. In the Cross-Fisher study, this type of crash accounted for only 7.6 percent of the sample. In Madison, bicyclists traveling in a contra-flow bike lane on University Avenue made up 36 percent of the victims of this type of crash. A contra-flow lane runs against the direction of traffic. In this case, it runs down the left side of a high-volume, multi-lane, one-way arterial next to the University of Wisconsin. Motorists turning left off University Avenue cross the contra-flow lane. Motorists entering the avenue from side streets turn left across the contra-flow lane; their attention is focused on the motor traffic, which comes from their right, while the bicyclists come at them from the left.
One-eyed folks of either pro-bikeway or anti-bikeway persuasion may be tempted to draw unwarranted conclusions from Madison’s unusual distribution of crash types. Pro-bikeway advocates might point to the fact that classes A, D, and E are all quite low (see Figure 2 on page 22), and that all of these kinds of crashes might be reduced by bike lanes and bike paths. Type A (bicyclist ride-out from driveway, alley and other mid-block location) may be reduced because bicyclists would ride onto a bike path or bike lane instead of into a car lane. Type D, of course, would be reduced because bicyclists would be separated from overtaking motorists. Type E crashes (bicyclist unexpected turn, swerve) would be reduced because bikeways make cyclists ride more predictably, or give cyclists room in which to “swerve” free of threat from overtaking traffic. Pro-bikeway advocates might say that classes C and F appear to be large, but that this is because bike facilities have reduced other classes to relatively small portions of the total. Even if C and F did increase, proponents might add, these two classes are the two least destructive—the fatality percentages are much lower than the non-fatal (see Figure 1). An increase in less destructive crashes may be a fair price to pay for a decrease in the more deadly ones.
                 A     B       C      D     E     F        G
Madison3.88.329.84.15.133.423.3


Anti-bikeway advocates might point to Madison’s inordinately large Class C and Class F and charge that these are crashes they would expect to see increase because of the bike paths and lanes. These facilities give motorists and bicyclists a tendency to pay less attention to each other, it might be argued, and “hide” bicyclists from view. Worse yet, they complicate crossing and turning interactions between cyclists and motorists. These critics might argue that bike facilities have made these crashes so inordinately common that other types are dwarfed and therefore make up a smaller than normal percentage of the whole, even though they may not be significantly reduced in number. It is not possible to tell from the Madison study whether the city has an unusually low accident rate for classes A, D, and E, an unusually high accident rate for classes C and F, or some combination of the two.

The one seemingly solid specific problem, the University Avenue contra-flow bike lane, is not so cut and dried either. We might expect bicyclists riding against traffic to have a higher risk of tangling with motorists. Motorists tend to pay most attention to the primary flow of traffic: other motorists. Bicyclists whose movements don’t match the patterns of motorists on a roadway risk eluding motorists’ awareness. Wachtel and Lewiston (1994) found that bicyclists crossing intersections while riding on the wrong side of the street were twice as likely to collide with cars as right-way cyclists. They also found that wrong-way cyclists riding on sidewalk-like bike paths were about four times more likely to clash with cars while crossing intersections than were those riding with traffic.

A contra-flow lane would seem to be a mistake. University Avenue, though, is a major route to the university. Many bicyclists would have to expend extra time and energy if they took an alternative route. As a result, Madison would probably see a lot of wrong-way bicycling on that road, even without the contra-flow lane. Those bicyclists might be at an even higher risk without the bike lane. Moreover, University Avenue has a high volume of both motor and bicycle traffic, so there are more opportunities for car-bike collisions than on most streets, and we would expect higher numbers of crashes there than on less-traveled roads. Once again, we can't tell from Cross-Fisher-style studies whether bicyclists have higher or lower risks per mile in different locations.

The one thing we can say with confidence is that crash types in Madison appear to differ from the typical American city’s. Without more information, we cannot say for sure why there is a difference. It could be from bike facilities (for better or worse), from the city’s unusually large number of adult cyclists, from peculiarities in the street patterns of the city, or from any combination of these or other factors. We can’t even say if the difference we see is for better or for worse. If we saw Madison-like distributions in other towns with similar networks of bike lanes and paths, we might conclude that the facilities were a factor, but even this would not tell us if they were a good factor or bad, only that they had made a change in the relative distribution of crash types.

In another study the conclusion was this; "The two most frequent ways in which bicyclists contributed to causing crashes were “failure to yield” at 20.7 percent and “riding against traffic” at 14.9 percent."

From Chapter five of this document, some interesting data: Most frequent car-bike collisions by age
Adult-urban
  1. Motorist turning left
  2. Traffic light changed too quickly
  3. Motorist turning right
  4. Motorist restarting from stop sign
  5. Motorist exiting commercial driveway
Adult-rural
  1. Motorist overtaking unseen cyclist
  2. Motorist overtaking too closely
  3. Motorist turning left
  4. Motorist restarting from stop sign
  5. Cyclist swerving around obstruction

Source: Forester, 1993, p. 269.



Lastly...
Signal.  Smile.  Wave with ALL five fingers.  Ride single file.  Drive your bike like you would your car.  No wait.  Drive it better than your car.

Hope this is a sobering amount of data that will keep you alive during your training rides.  After all, studies have shown that if you're dead... you don't race very well at all.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Go Mental


A lot of hate flowing around here lately.  Snide remarks, slanderous comments, and backhanded compliments and I could care less right now.  One comment to my face was interesting, "Oh, you're Bob.  I've heard about you."  My response was, "Well, I hope you form your own opinions before forming a judgement about a person you don't know."  This was followed by a comment from a guy who said, "He's the guy who is stopping me from doing a 1/2 Ironman.  The rules say I cannot listen to music and he says that he enforces it." (So does every other triathlon ref in the USA.)  I cannot control what you think.  Nor do I want to.  Think for yourself.  Live your life.  I told the guy who said that, "Use the music.  The first time in a 1/2 IM is a 4:00 penalty.  The second is 8:00 and the third time is a DQ.  If you don't care if you get DQ'd or for your personal safety - do what you want.  Why does it matter if you are DQ'd if you want to do the race with music?  Do it with music.  Just understand the potential consequences of your actions - possible DQ or death if a car goes through a barricade and you cannot get out of the way in time because you cannot hear the vehicle.  If that doesn't bother you, do it.  I'm not stopping you from anything."  The looks on the faces of these two said it all.

I have enough to concern myself with my own life.  I have clients to manage.  Races to prepare to marshal.  Training clinics to run.  2012 training camps to plan.  Athlete data to sift through, and - just like everyone else - training that I want to do.  Everyone has their own issues and lives to deal with.  I don't care what anyone thinks (to a point - that point is when it starts to hurt my reputation and business.  Then I might get up in your grill and maybe even litigious.)  Most of those types are as fragile mentally as the Vancouver Canucks.

An extremely important lesson I learned over 25 years ago...  do YOUR best.  Don't sweat your competition, they'll be there in the end if they take care of their own business.  I try to impress this upon my athletes.  (*MLB could learn from this too.)  Take care of the home fires first.  You have enough to deal with.  This is where things like Facebook suck the life out of people already distracted by television and other "entertainment" medium.  Anyway...

  • Don't fixate on one person or group of persons
  • Don't fixate on a pace/mph/power number
  • Be an athlete
  • The only race that matters is the clock versus you
The pursuit of the perfect race is the dream.  That's the race that you win by a lot and set a new personal record while setting a new world record.  Or is that the "perfect" race?  What if I told you the perfect race is one you learn from? (Lots of grey area in there isn't it?)  Ah, now I'm bending your noodle a bit, eh?

What if you focused on one person / group and they have a bad day, meanwhile, in another part of the race - someone completely different "brings their 'A' game" and you lose?  You beat the person you focused on - but you lost the race.  Allow me to explain: 

1) You beat your person or group of persons
2) You don't do your best
3) You lose

Talk about major disappointment.

Now... what if: 

a) You race / prepare / train as hard as you possibly can
b) On race day (test day) you do an amazing time
c) You fail to win / meet a certain (unrealistic) goal time / qualify for whatever

Did you win?  I would say 'yes'.

For a real life example, I give you Bill Cregar, University of Georgia swimmer.  Bill had issues with some of his earlier races at NCAAs in prior years.  He kept his head this year.  He knew what he needed to do in order to swim his best and he executed on those items; if you haven't seen his winning 400 IM from the 2011 NCAA Division I swimming and diving champs this year - you need to see it - a thing of beauty.   Seated at a "disappointing" 3:44.97, Mr. Cregar came back and swam a "slow" 3:40.97 400 IM and won the NCAA Championship.  Funny thing is that the three guys in the middle of the pool were so concerned with each other's moves that they didn't swim their best race and thus LOST the event to the guy who just let it fly and went for his best.  At the finish two of the guys just looked at each other incredulously that they lost the race.

As we open the 2011 racing season I ask one thing from you, my readers; do your best.  Whatever the heck that is.  "To do any less is to waste the gift." - Steve Prefontaine  If I have an athlete who has a "best possible" of x and they meet or exceed that time; that is a win.  I don't care where they finish in the standings.  Don't worry that you may be lugging extra pounds around - address it.  Don't worry that you aren't "in shape"; not everyone can be in the shape of their life at every moment of their life.  That's OK.  It's allowed.  Work hard.  Go to work / play / life each day and bust your ass. 

"This is your life not some dress rehearsal." - Jon Blais - ALS may have beaten his body but it didn't "win the war".

What if there weren't any races?  What would you do?  I bring this up because a few years ago in Kona, the day before the Ironman World Championship - on Friday.  I met a guy who was "racing".  I met him and his entourage on Friday morning as he prepared to take on the race course completely ALONE un-noticed by the throngs of people preparing for Saturday.  He did the course and just before 13 hours (as I walked off to dinner) he finished into the arms of his family and friends in an incredibly emotional scene.  He said that "He'd never qualify or win the lottery.  Now, was the time in my life to try to cover the distance."  He "did" Kona.  No t-shirt.  No finisher's medal.  Plenty of heart.  Dream accomplished.

There will always be detractors if you try anything.  Choose to ignore them and proceed toward your goals and dreams.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Should you Train if you're Sick?


What do you do when this happens?  Train anyway or not?  This is where I am.  I'm four weeks out of a big race and I have last week's training volume of an off season rookie.  Headache, fever, stuffy nose, tired, chest congestion - it sucks.  On the positive side... most people who have had this ended up in the hospital with pneumonia.  So far, so good - I'm at home.  I haven't been sick for a long time.  Now I feel like this dog below.
Generally, here's what I do and advise.  If the illness is in the head and not chest - keep the workout under one hour and keep it pretty easy to aerobic pace (max).

If the illness is in the chest - go home and rest.  You know the drill from here.  Fluids. Chicken soup.  Hot bath.  Woolie pjs.  A shot of liquor or perhaps some Nyquil.  Whatever you do to shake illnesses or whatever your doctor says.

When do you go back to a "normal" schedule?  (Normal for triathletes...) I watch my am resting heart rate.  When it is within 10 bpm (beats per minute) - I get back on schedule.  I'll admit to sandbagging those first one or two workout sessions though.  Just get moving again.

(Hope to) See you in the pool or on the road soon.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Secret to Fast Triathlon Swimming


This weekend, in my flu induced haze of Vick's Vapo Rub I watched a lot of swimming.  In the haze of vaporizer mist and between checking my diastolic I realized I have the secret of great swimming.

Shhhh... the kick.

The femoral artery is one of the largest in your body.  When you kick, a lot of blood is flowing to the legs to keep up with the work load.  The bad news is that good kicking hurts - a lot.  The good news is that like everything else - it can be trained.

Triathletes are usually getting in the water with completely fried legs.  Go to any masters workout from California to New York and you see all the pool toys; Zoomers, pull buoys - you name it, its been used as a crutch.  The "trick" to swimming (and triathlon racing) better is to have stronger legs.  So, though your legs may be burning like a hot blast furnace (used to make iron- no shortage of irony there) you need to work through it.

I've always worked hard at kicking and have seen my results vary based on my swimming kicking work.  The more kicking I've done - the better the season.  Interesting.  Should be an interesting year given how much kicking I've done this winter.  Measured in miles.  Do you suppose it is a coincidence that my swimming times have dropped significantly since last fall as my kicking fitness has increased?  Me either.

This weekend I watched the Men's NCAA Division I swimming championships.  Race after race I saw the same pattern.  They guy with the strongest, sustained kick won.  Go ahead.  Watch it.  You'll come to the same conclusion.  What was interesting is that this carried over to the Michigan Grand Prix.  EVERY race - male and female - where the kick was strongest - boom shaka-laka = win.  When Michael Phelps lost to someone else - his massive, underwater kick off the walls was missing = loss.

When my kick was strongest I had my best Ironman swim.  Coincidence?  I think not.  My Ironman PR (on a full course) was Lake Placid.  **I did a 46:09 at Great Floridian, but there was low water level that year and we probably ran 400 yards in 18" of water on each loop. ** At Lake Placid, I had the ability to hold a four beat kick the entire way and be completely aerobic.  On the first loop, I had three people on my back; that is how strong my kick was.  Here is a video clip of Grant Hackett of Austrailia in the 1500m free.  Watch his kick...

Arms and form do make a difference too.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm just saying that the tipping point of good to great swims was the strength of the kick.

Watch any triathlon or elite swimming competition.  You'll see the same thing over and over.  Here are Ian Thorpe of Austrailia and Michael Phelps.




Now that you know the secret - what are you going to do about it?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Training Camp & Las Vegas

Wow... that was fun.  Sorry for not blogging out west, but with the "magic of the internet" I prefer fewer folks know if I'm gone.


 World's greatest taco shop

This is what my garden looks like in March too!  (liar)

 Loaded backpack - ready to climb after a swim and a run.  I swear it felt like 40 lbs.
 Almost to the top.  That's our car on the far right of the frame.
 We made it!  Fingers courtesy of another hiker.

In years that I've been fortunate enough to participate in some kind of camp, I've normally been completely wrecked when I come home.  This year I have a deep fatigue, but I'm not wrecked.  I was concerned about that until I added up the numbers.

I balanced out the training very well.  While some of my friends and coaching colleagues think that CompuTrainer classes are "too hard" for the winter - well, I think I proved that if you ride the power sessions intelligently that you come out of the winter incredibly strong.  I'm living proof.  This winter I swam masters (in earnest) starting in January.  I was too inconsistent to say I was swimming masters in November and December.  I swam with some bad ass athletes in California and managed to hold my own. Especially on longer distance sets, short sprints as well as anything breaststroke or IM related.  The "swim of the week" was a 400 IM I did on Thursday (a hard ride day) that had me in at 5:00.85 (coach confirmed - 400 yards).  That swim wrecked me for the rest of the day/night.  When you look at the splits - nothing too impressive; until you string them together.  Kinda like my triathlon racing.  Swim is OK.  Bike is alright.  Run is "normal".  Together - fairly competitive.  Let's hope the trend back to fitness continues.

Left in California - most notably 4.5% body fat (9 days) along with several pounds.
Picked up in California - confidence and self discipline.

The big day on the bike was the climb of Mt. Palomar.


'Cyclists in excellent shape, with bikes in top-flight working order, and a willingness to share a steep, switch-backed roadway with auto traffic can try a very strenuous 27-mile, 3000-foot elevation gain loop.'







 The loop around Lake Henshaw will have to wait for another time.
My time was limited the day I did Palomar, so I intended to climb it and get back so Lorrie and I could go hiking (life balance after all).  I parked the car where I thought I'd get a decent warm up (and not get towed).  South Grade Road seemed to be where the climbing really began.  In about 7 miles the road went UP about half a mile.  According to GPS, nearly a constant grade of 7%.  Did I mention it was warm?  Yeah... in my planning my attempt on Palomar I wanted warmer weather.  I got it.  90 F-ish in the valley.  Wow!  Sweat was pouring off me on the hottest day I had experienced since last October. 


I made it!  My watch had a "brain fart" somewhere on the climb (or when I was taking pictures - user error?) Near as I can tell - I rode up in about 1:30 (including picture time) at aerobic pace (roughly mid-zone 2 for me) and my power was nice and steady.  


This ride was one of the highlights of the trip.  Mainly because I did it completely alone (apologies to my friend Dean S. who's email I missed and who would have rode with me)  I think I saw him headed up when I was zooming down the mountain.  Sorry dude!  Next time!  It would be a lot more fun.  In trying to get back to Lorrie, I did a few longer intervals once off the mountain.  I made it back about 20 minutes early.  


I'm most proud of the running I did in California and Nevada.  Not because it was "epic" by any stretch (I did run the longest and the most I ever have at any camp - ever), but because I was totally alone with the exception of the run I did with my friend Dan in Anaheim.  Dan made me work.  GPS says we were running (m:ss- not going to put that in!) - I felt it too.  Most cool was that I felt great running off the bike.  Even with the extended rides and climbing.  Don't get too excited... I'm not booking Kona or Vegas tickets just yet.  In 2011 I can say this... I won't suck as in the past three years.  


Saturday, I was a guide/marshal on the Oceanside 70.3 run course for the pro men.  Wow are they fast!  They ran so quietly.  No "flop, flop, flop" of feet hitting pavement.  Just the occasional clearing of a throat and calls for aid at aid stations.


From here, it was off to visit Marit and Nate.  It was good to see them and talk in person (we solved all of the world's problems in about 30 minutes)!  The "house monster" even came over to me and allowed me to pet her and did NOT attack me.  Must be my way with animals.


LOVE the mountains leaving California - Lorrie on the pictures.


 NOT a soul on the road, going downhill... slow down Gordon!



World's largest (broken) thermometer in Death Valley.


LOOK!  A CAR!  Listening music out of The Hangover 


That ther' is Nevada.


You know you are out in the middle of nowhere when you can see both ends of a ~2 mile long train from a long way away.


Welcome to Nevada!


Viva Las Vegas!  Is this road ALWAYS under construction?


Vegas was great.  The training was still there, but less brutal.  Running was only 3-5 miles a day and swimming was up.  Did alright in the casino.  Nothing to write home about.  I did appreciate one dealer (who I was tipping well because I was winning) who kept calling the pit boss over to watch me play cards and was saying, "This guy is cool.  Can you get him a villa?"  Pit Boss: "No."  Dealer: "How about a suite then?"  Pit Boss: "No."  Hey... that's the first time someone asked for me.  Kinda cool.  That same night were the Country Music Awards.  Saw some interesting people and a few singers.  Played blackjack with a guy who performed... I forget his name.  Nice guy though.

Once at the airport, back to reality.  Our flight was grounded due to mechanical issues.  The second flight left four hours later, so much for returning earlier to avoid a red eye flight.



My cousin Vinny (Vince) and Lorrie about to head into the Bellagio casino.  Time to recover and five weeks to the next race.