Friday, October 4, 2013

It is a thin line between quitting and going to Kona.

It has been months since I have taken a few minutes to sit down and write a post on all things Jonser, and the streams of consciousness that flow through this very limited grape of mine.  Typically, it takes big trips, big races or milestones of some sort that get me inspired to tap out a few words on whatever it is that has me pumped up at the time.

Today my mind is filled with thoughts on the next ten days or so.  As I sit here in the exit row on my airline blasting toward Seattle, I am thinking mostly about meeting my first grandchild, saying goodbye to my navy mentor as he moves on to his next chapter, and ultimately, my seventh trip to Kona to lay it down in the lava in 8 days.

I am not surprised to be a grandfather this early, as I got married when I was 20 to my first girlfriend who brought a beautiful blonde 5 year old into the relationship with her.  The surprising part is that it is my 26 year old son and his fiancĂ© who blessed us with the first grandchild.  My son started dating his fiancĂ© Jackie when they were sophomores in college and are more married than a lot of married couples I know.  Sometimes God’s timing is a little out of synch with the formal wedding plans.  I am more than good with it.  I am ecstatic about my son’s choice for a life mate in young Jackie.  She has quickly become another daughter to me and I love her with all my heart.  This young pumpkin she just delivered 5 weeks ago makes our relationship even more deep, as we are now inexorably linked for life.  It is an understatement to say that I am excited to get off this jet and see this baby Daphne in a few hours. 

A few of my friends that are my age (48) have asked what I think about being a grandfather.  Do I feel old?  Hell no.  I don’t feel old.  Why would I feel old?  I just kicked out 16 x 200’s on the 3:00 (in meters at altitude) on Monday holding 2:46-2:47 for the 200’s.  I can run repeats on a 5:40 pace when I decide to pull my ears back and go big.  I can ride my bike and hold 28 miles an hour when I choose to do so.  I still fly navy airplanes and get upside down and can pull G’s with the best of them.  So no, I don’t feel old.  I do feel older, and that is fine with me.  You want to get older, it beats the heck out of the alternative.  It is getting old that I am working hard to avoid.  My athlete Beatrice has been a wonderful example, showing me that I don’t have to get old.  She is 61 and climbs mountains in the thin air with us at our camps, swims 5k sesssions and is still dialed in with life.  Getting old is a choice, period.  My kids have been sensitive about not making me feel old, which I appreciate.  They recognize that Daphne calling me Grandpa is not really appropriate.  My kids Allison and Ben have always called me Pop, so Daphne will call me Pop Pop.  I dig it.

Tomorrow I drive back up to my old squadron to celebrate the retirement for Rear Admiral Doug Asbjornsen, my mentor and friend.  As I have written before, I enlisted in the navy at the end of what would have been my junior year in High School.  I have been blessed with a long line of mentors along my journey in the navy.  In 2000, I was seriously considering hanging up the navy at 20 years which would have been in 2002.  Doug was my Commanding Officer in 2000 and 2001.  Watching him literally change sailors lives while in command inspired me to start thinking about staying around and seeing if I could one day command a squadron.  He taught me exactly how to do it and was always just a phone call away when I needed advice.  Being there to participate in his retirement ceremony is hugely emotional for me.  Even after he was promoted to admiral and watching him command 8000 folks as the commander of all navy air reserves was so satisfying for me, as I feel like the navy really got it right with him.  They recognized this absolutely wonderful leader and human being, and they gave him the opportunity to impact all of us by being in such an important role.  I am blessed many times over for a lot of things.  Knowing and serving with Rear Admiral Doug Asbjornsen is one of the greater blessings in my life, for which I am hugely thankful.  I wish him fair winds and following seas.

So on Sunday I will get on an Alaska Airlines jet and blast off toward Kona for my fourteenth Ironman and seventh Kona.  If you have read previous posts, than you know about the challenges I have had this year in the form of broken ribs in April and a broken foot 3 weeks prior to Ironman Canada.  For a dude that didn’t even think there would be a race season in 2013, I am over the moon about racing Kona this year. 

Ironman Canada was such a satisfying race for me.  I emailed my coach, Joanna Zeiger, the morning after the race before the Kona roll down took place and shared with her how satisfied I was with my effort and how encouraged I was for next season.  After recovering from the ribs in late spring, I was able to really dial in some consistent and purposeful training.  In late July, I reached out to Joanna to help me with my riding, as I was starting to ride power and I wanted to tap into her expertise.  I have always been strong on the bike, but the way I ride my bike in a race needed her help, as I can be erratic and prone to overriding, especially on the climbs. 

Ironman Canada was proof to myself that I was still capable of racing solid.  I was quietly beginning to have my doubts.  I swam conservatively, but purposefully, and got out of the water in 57 minutes.  While on the first major climb, I downshifted to get in my climbing gear and lodged the chain between my cassettes and spoke.  Because I had so much torque on the pedal when I did it, the chain lodged in their big time.  I calmly got off my bike and tried to free it, but it wasn’t happening.  In races of old, it would be now where I would have a tantrum, but getting older has its benefits.  You just realize it isn’t life or death and there is no reason for histrionics.  I just methodically went to work to try and unseize that chain.  Out of the mist came two angels in a support vehicle.  The lead guy, Graham, who is with bicycletto out of Vancouver said “brother, give us your bike and just relax, we will fix this as fast as we possibly can.  Pee, eat, drink- whatever you need to do to be ready to race here in a few minutes and we will get you all set”.  God bless that dude.  I did all of those things and I was back on my bike with a huge push from him to get me back up to speed so I could just start pedaling and on my way.  I lost 11 minutes on the side of the road, but it could have been so much worse.  I told myself that I was one of the stronger guys in my age group and to just ride my ride and not try to do too much as payment would come due on the run if I did.

I rode a normalized power of 207 watts with my goal being 209 for the entire ride.  I was proud of myself for sticking to my game plan and not doing what I would have done a few years ago, which would have been to rage up that mountain at 400 watts to try to make up what I had lost. 

I got off the bike and my foot now became a real issue.  I couldn’t put all my weight on it and I immediately became quite concerned and doubted I would finish the race.  Anyone who saw me in the first couple of miles would have thought the same thing.  It was bad.  There is a saying that is in vogue right now, “keep calm and carry on”.  It has been my mantra for about 7 years and when things get bad in my life, I focus on this mantra and quietly repeat it back to myself over and over.  As I got out of T2 and started my run, I first ran into my buddy Paul.  He knew something had happened on the bike and I just told him the story.  I could tell he was very concerned about my foot.  I next ran into T who lied and told me I was much further up in my age group than I was.  It was a good lie, because thinking there would be 10 slots for Kona and thinking I was in eighth place or so, I thought alright, I know a lot of these guys had to of over biked and they should just come back to me over the next 26 miles- keep calm and carry on.

Knowing that my foot would be painful, I had put a salt container with some Motrin in my run bag with my gels, salt, etc.  Once I was out on the course and running, I thought I would start a steady dose of self-medicating.  I planned on 2 Motrin every hour or so.  When I went to put a couple in my mouth as I was approaching the mile 2 aid station, I inadvertently emptied the entire container into my mouth.  I said screw it and choked down all 9 Motrin’s.  What could happen…?

So I soldiered on and after a few miles my foot went numb and I just ran.  After the first lap, Teresa told me she had no idea where I was on the course but to keep going hard.  I did just that.  I was running with a navy buddy of mine, Mark Sortino- call sign Beavis.  Beavis and I worked together for 7 miles or so and as we approached mile 18, the pain was a 10 out of 10 in my foot.  I told him I thought I was going to have to pull the pin and let him go.  I started to walk through the aid station and hit everything they had- water, perform, coke, water, perform, coke, gel, ice.  As I got to the end of the aid station it dawned on me that we were in the middle of nowhere. I wasn’t going to get a ride back into town, I was going to have to walk.  Well, it hurt just as much to walk as it did to run.  So I told myself, “Jonser, don’t be a pussy.  Run back to town, the pain is going to be the same either way.  At least when you run, it will take less time”.  So away I went.  I noticed as I ran through the 20 mile marker that I was starting to run for real and I just let the pain be there and started to leg it for real to see how fast I could go.  I now noticed that guys in my AG were starting to come back to me in two’s and three’s.  When I hit 24 miles, they were all coming back to me quick and I was able to up the ante and run like I stole something.  At mile 25, Teresa and Paul ran next to me and told me that there was a guy 2 minutes in front of me.  This guy is a many time Kona guy and the bet is a good one that he was in the money for a slot.  I ran as hard as I possibly could with Paul next to me for a few hundred yards quietly and calmly imploring me to go harder.  He has done this a few times before and always with good results.  I love that dude.  He knows it.  I tell him all the time.

I was able to run down 5 or more guys in the last 6k of the run and caught the guy we were talking about with .7 miles to go in the race.  That guy turned out to be the Kona slot.  Thank goodness for deep roll downs and a little race karma.  As I said earlier, I was already good with my race.  I didn’t panic with a mechanical and rode within 2 watts of what Joanna had set as a target for me.  I didn’t give up and I gave everything I had on that day.  It is a very thin line between quitting and going to Kona. 

I will write more this week on why I love my sport.  For me in Whistler, I once again proved to myself when things get tough, I get tougher.  When I was a kid, I quit a bunch of stuff.  As an adult, I do not.  I finish what I start and I give everything I have in the effort to do so.  That is why I do this sport.  I get to challenge myself and push myself to a level that literally scares me sometimes, and then persevere.  I continue to secure a trust in myself that I am able to carry into other areas of my life and experience the same result- finish what I start, and do it with everything I have.  Like one of my assistant coaches, Rob Hilton, likes to say- “give it everything you got, because that is all you have!”


Monday, May 20, 2013

Eight days of bliss in Riccione, Italy

                                                  “Follow your bliss!”- Joseph Campbell

A few weeks back, as I stared at the ceiling of the ambulance, the first real thought that popped into my mind was, “damn, no Italy!”  I have been looking forward to riding in Riccione, Italy for almost three years. 
Back in 2010 or so, Mark Pietrofesa wrote me a note and told me he had found the place to train.  He shared with me that there was a hotel on the Adriatic coast of Italy where the riding was life-changing and that the person who runs the place, Marina, makes it the vacation of a lifetime.  From that email, I made a note to myself that riding in Italy in a situation like Mark described was now officially on my bucket list, a term for life “to do’s”. 
I wasn’t able to make it last year due to work and some other things.  I didn’t think it would happen this year either.  In my role in the navy, I was supposed to be locked down in San Diego for a navy exercise.  With sequestration came the cancellation of that exercise.  I told Teresa that if they really did cancel that thing that she and I better get to Riccione, as these opportunities are precious.  I am so glad we did.
Teresa and I spent 27 hours getting to Riccione, literally using almost every mode of transportation save pack mules to get there.  I knew that it was going to be a good trip when we walked out of the train station and there was one of the cycling guides, Marcus, waiting for us fresh off a ride.  We checked into the hotel and got our bikes dialed in within an hour of arriving.  Mark was already there, standing around in a cycling kit after riding all day.  It was obvious immediately to us that we had come to the Promised Land.
Teresa and I rode every day we were there.  I ended up riding just shy of 700 kilometers, saw a stage of the Giro d’italia, and even swam a little in the afternoons after riding.  We barbequed on mountaintops, dined midday in villages, sipped cappuccinos every 30k or so every single day and ate food that was world class three times a day.  Our days were spent primarily in the saddle riding up steep hills, descending through varied and magnificent open country full of vineyards, open fields, small villages, and so much more.  The joke became “how long until we stop and have espresso at the next castle?”
In the evenings, we ate as a family at the “Pietrofesa party” table there in the hotel.  The staff is so attentive, the food so good and the vibe so nice, there was no real reason to leave the hotel for anything.  We just ate, rode, relaxed and slept.  What an awesome vacation- the best I personally have ever had. 
                                                                  THE CREW 
Mark Pietrofesa.  I met Mark at the race that is now called Oceanside 70.3.  It was called the Ralph’s Half back then.  Mark really helped me in 2009 in Kona with some badly needed encouragement right when I needed it on the run back up the Queen K.  In 2010, we rode within 30 meters of each other the entire bike portion of the race.  Since then Mark and my friendship has grown.  The primary reason for that is Mark is just easy.  He is easy to be around, easy to ride with, easy to talk to- just easy.  His girlfriend, Karlyn Pipes was there with Mark.  I have known Karlyn since I was 21 or so.  She was the lifeguard at the Navy pool in Coronado back in the 80’s where I would train when I was a young enlisted dude.  She and I didn’t really know each other that well back then.  Just the hello you say to the lifeguard as you jump in and out of the pool.  We got to know each other on this trip, and the seed is planted for a long and wonderful friendship, as she is one of the most pleasant and positive people I have ever met.
Zach Poehlman is a friend that I met back in 2005 at Vineman 70.3.  He and I have had the opportunity to train a lot over the years.  He is a navy pilot in his early 30’s and has become a wonderful friend to both T and me.  That friendship continues to flourish.  Zach was accompanied by his wife Jen, an orthopedic surgeon in the navy, who I had met in years prior.  Jen is understated, humble and brilliant.  My favorite thing about her is when she laughs, she laughs with her entire body.  It is a joyful enterprise to share in a laugh with her.
Chris Crosby and I had not met prior to this camp.  He happens to live in Boulder and is a geologist who is a very strong and serious cyclist.  This young guy and I have lots of mountains to climb together in the future.  We got along with his girlfriend Kristie like peas and carrots.
Eric Prime is another navy pilot who I had not met prior to this trip.  He knows his way around a bike and we got to ride a fair amount together during our week in Italy.
Gordo and Monica Byrn have been friends of ours for a few years.  Gordo coached me in 2004 and we have built a friendship over the years that I very much enjoy.  He is wise beyond his years and likes to hash things out through dialogue.  Although quite different in many ways, he and I see a lot of the world through the same lens, so the contrast between us both is fun to discuss over a meal.  He is also a former pro triathlete who can really wind it up proper when motivated to do so.  Monica is also a former pro and is the best swim coach in Boulder.  She is fun to hang out with and I look forward to every opportunity to do just that.
Scott Molina is the most decorated triathlete in our sport.  He was one of the original four giants (they call them The Big Four) that actually put our sport on the map close to 30 years ago.  He dominated triathlon through the 80’s and is respected by everyone who ever raced against him or has trained with him.  On top of his athletic accomplishments, he is a sage who peels the onion as fast as anyone I have ever met.  I have never had a boring or superficial conversation with him.  He gets right to it.  He coached me in 2006 to the Military World Championships and to my personal best in Kona the same year.  I hold him in very high regard.
There were a few others from England, Norway and Long Island that were there to train with the crew and I very much enjoyed getting to know them as well. 
This year had been challenging for me almost all the way back to Kona last October.  I had a nasty hamstring pull that forced me to not run a good portion of the winter.  I was thinking that I was making solid strides in my fitness right up until my crash a few weeks ago.  In early April, I was out training by myself.  I was doing some harder efforts and was barreling down a country road north of Boulder where we all ride when I got loose in some sand.  As I tried to sit up on my triathlon bike and get my hands back on my handlebars to navigate through the sand, the back of my glove caught my brake hood and with my weight very forward of the bike I more or less lost my balance and then hit a guard rail doing 30mph or so.  I impacted right under my right arm taking the full blow in my rib cage.  I heard bones break and felt them crunching from the inside, so I knew before I even hit the pavement that I had broken my ribs or my back.  I was blessed with the first responders who showed up to take care of me within minutes of lying on the ground.  A couple of Hispanic farmers rushed over and helped disentangle me from my broken bike and helped me to wrestle my heart rate monitor from around my ribs as I was really struggling to breath and was immobile for the most part.  The ambulance and fire department showed up very soon after that and before I knew it I was on a backboard in the back of an ambulance on my way to the hospital.  I am not much for drama, so I will just say it has been a pretty rough cut 5 or so weeks since the injury with the persistent and enduring thought that my racing life might be over. 
I was so excited to be going to Riccione to train with Mark, Zach, Gordo and Molina.  I have trained with all of them before and love to be in a bike pack with those boys.  They are all crazy fit and tough, but they are also extremely kind and mature athletes.  There is no bullshit with those guys.  You just train.  Not much chatter, not much flash, just train.  Molina and Gordo are famous within the hard core side of our ironman community for a number of sayings, with one of the most famous being “JFT”, which stands for “Just Fucking Train.”  There is simplicity and beauty in that statement.  With these guys, they live it. 
After the crash, I shared with T that the most costly aspect of my being hurt was not that my racing season is most likely over; it was that I would not be able to train with these guys in Italy.  I got off the train in Riccione not expecting to be able to ride with the boys at all.  I had only ridden three or so times in the previous week just to prove that I could stay upright in the saddle and would be safe to ride outside and not on the trainer.  Mark (we call him Petro) told me the night I arrived that he didn’t care how slow I rode that we were going to ride together.  That, alone, was probably the most encouraging thing I had heard since I got hurt.  I was nervous, but quietly psyched! 
There is so much that I could write about regarding the content of each of the 100-140k rides we did last week.  I will just say that for me, I was in the back of the pack or slightly off the back most of the time-and so happy to be there riding with my friends.  I suffered pretty much the entire way due to the atrophy in my fitness and overall physical weakness, but I loved it.  The first couple of days were really rugged, as I rode literally as hard as I could ride just to stay with the boys.  Sure, I will admit, that I bled from the eyes and genuinely wondered everyday if I would be able to do the entire ride.  I am ok with those types of challenges.  It is fine to wonder if you have bitten off too much each day.  I was extremely fortunate that in a couple of times when I thought I had reached my absolute breaking point, a guardian angel would show up. 
The first time I thought I was going to crack wide open and have to stop was on the second ride.  We had started off right after clipping in to immediately starting the ride at 36kph.  It stayed that way for about the first 80 minutes.  Somebody in the pack mentioned that his power meter showed a normalized power of 280 watts for those 80 minutes.  When we went up hill, we went fast uphill.  After half a day of this, our guide Felice (a former Giro d’italia stage winner, who is a lovely man) led us up a very steep extended 8k climb.  I am not good at percentage of climbs, but guys were using words like 15-20%.  About half way up, I seriously thought my legs were going to seize and I would just stop. 
Due to my injury, I don’t have any intercostals strength yet in my upper body, so I could not stand to climb.  I had to just grind my way up while staying seated.  I am obviously exaggerating when I say “bleed from the eyes”, but not by much.  Anyone who has ever really suffered on the bike can relate when you get what I call the “puffy eye” effort.  Your eyes just feel like they are going to pop out and onto your cheeks because you are working so hard.  Right about then Gordo came cruising back down the descent and jumped in front of me and paced me up the mountain nice and easy, but purposeful.  It was exactly what I needed-just a back wheel to look at and to have as a target to stay focused in order to keep moving uphill.  Mark did that a couple of times last week and Molina got me through a ride I seriously thought I was going to have to quit later in the week.  It is the surges or the erratic standing climbs less experienced riders do in front of you that can wreck you when you are “creaking”, a term I use when an eyelash away from “cracking”.  Those steady and smooth pulls rescued me and would be just enough for me to get my shit together and ride solid again.  I found solace in that I got stronger every day and found some fitness by the end of the week.  After a long, hard slog up a mountain, Molina would turn around and yell “find some fitness yet, Jonser?!”  I would tell him that it takes a long time to get good and there is no easy way!  The joke there is that is a famous quote from Molina that Gordo published in his book “Going Long”. 
So that was the week of riding in Italy for me.  Hard, long climbs and surviving the occasional 40-50kph pain train back to town and steep exhilarating winding descents through the Italian countryside only to stop for the best espresso in the world and donuts purchased by Petro to get Jonser home!  If the boys would not have been there for me, I would have not been able to ride that terrain at those speeds.  I am in their debt.
When I was still pinned to the couch high on vicodin, I was having a heart to heart chat with my dear friend Brandon.  Brandon is a former track star at UCLA, a former pro triathlete and has been a close friend since we met when he was 30 at a triathlon camp back in 06.  Brandon has moments of clarity that I have come to trust.  I was sharing with him that day that I was worried that I might never fully recover and scared that I won’t race ironman anymore.  Brandon (known as Brando or BDC) said quickly off the cuff that my role as an athlete was probably the least I have to offer the world.  At first it stung, as what I heard was that I was not a good enough athlete for it to matter if I ever raced again.  After a few hundred miles to think about it, that is not what BDC was talking about.  What he was saying was actually a compliment.  He was simply stating that I have a lot to offer the world and most likely that my being an athlete is not that big of a contribution compared to other endeavors in which I am currently engaged.
I talked to Gordo about this a lot this week over coffee and nutella.  I shared with him the statement BDC made.  He saw it a different way.  He agrees that role as an athlete ain’t curing cancer, but it does set an example and that in itself has value.  So I chewed on that for a few k’s of climbing. 
I think what this all gets down to based on heart to hearts with Karlyn, Petro, G, Molina, Zach and of course, the best friend I have ever had in my life- T, is that it comes down to our perception of identity.  Specifically, how do we perceive our own identity?  I asked someone this week what was his goal in life.  What is his identity?  He didn’t even hesitate.  He matter of factly and confidently stated that his goal in life was to be the man his wife needs him to be.  I can tell he has really spent time thinking about it, as the answer was right there for him.
I have to admit that at 48, I am not that resolute.  I wish I were.  I wish I could just blurt out ice cold what I perceive my identity to be.  It is easy for me to answer questions like what do I stand for, but not as quick with what is my identity.  That is not to be confused with the statement that I don’t know who I am.  I, of course, know that one.  I am the son of Maxine, the brother of Chris and Eric, the father of Ben, the Pop of Allison, the grandfather of my unborn granddaughter Tigerlilly, and obviously the husband of Teresa.   They are my priorities, along with my faith.  That is the easy stuff.  I put them first and it is black and white.
Identity is different.  What is your identity?  Is it your rank?  Is it your reputation in your sport?  Your community?  Your church?  Your gym?  The letters after your name based on how long you went to school?  Your looks?  Who you are married to?  Your world ranking/records?  How much flight time you have?  How your friends perceive you?  Your mistakes?  Your achievements personal and professional?  Your income?  Your possessions?  Your lack of possessions?
It is a solid question.  I am still rolling this one around in my grape.  I think sometimes the hardest part to finding an answer is to discover and truly understand the question.  I wonder aloud if this is the reason I had the crash.  Obviously, the simple answer to why there was a crash is because Jonser needs to learn to ride his bike better, but along the way maybe this is the question I am supposed to be working on right here, right now.
I plan to keep working hard on this question as soon as I get home.  I think I will go for a ride and try to sort it out.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Kona Blog Post #4 Epilogue

My 12th Ironman and my 6th Kona are now in the books.  This race, as I wrote in my last post, means so much to me and I respect this course and the talent that races here like no other.  The athlete experience here is wonderful.  It all starts when you register.  There is no line, the volunteers are really wonderful and know exactly what they are doing.  When you put your bike in transition, it is like parading in front of the grandstand like a thoroughbred horse prior to the start at Pimlico.  All the industry guys are lined up on the side and are taking copious notes on what bike you are riding, what shoes you are wearing, what handle bars are on your bike, etc.  They really do their homework on their products here.  Once you get to your first volunteer, they inspect your helmet and bike and then you are assigned your own personal volunteer to escort you through the entire transition area.  The volunteers are wonderful.  I have always had great chats with them as they walk you over to park your bike, tell you any changes in the rules and then hang your transition bags in T1 and T2.  In the morning when you walk into body marking the volunteers are super attentive.   You wait for very little time.  My volunteers yesterday were from Brisbane, Australia.  They know our friends Robbie and Susie, so we had a great chat.  I asked if they knew my wife, Teresa.  They looked at me as if I had two heads and said you aren’t allowed to call yourself a triathlete in Australia if you don’t know the name Teresa Rider.  I smiled with pride. 
I got in the water and paddled out to the start.  I decided to go far to the right up against the pier.  It was crowded everywhere and I thought I would at least be on the buoy line.  I am a big believer in the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.
Mike Reilly, the race announcer, does a fantastic job in keeping the swimmers in place prior to the start.  It is more challenging than one would think with the swells moving us in and out, up and down.  Imagine 2000 bodies treading water in close proximity awaiting the cannon to go off.  Being on the inside line the whole way, I marveled at the terrific job the kayakers and surfers did to keep us from swimming out to sea, which would have happened, as we tried our best to avoid the contact from the frenzy of swimmers to our left.  The water was choppy and the swells large.  It was a big boy swim.  I enjoyed it. 
The first transition and the bike mount are always crazy.  Luckily, I spent seconds in the transition vs. minutes.  Not much to see in there.  The tent is filled with naked dudes doing all kinds of unmentionables with their get ups and electronic whatever’s as they get ready to go ride for half a day.  The ride up Kuakini was as dangerous as ever.  I had some clown drive me straight over an orange pylon as “on your left, excuse me, come right” meant nothing to him.  I hit the pylon at about 27 mph.  My front wheel popped up and I was thinking that this was not a good thing.  I threw all my weight aft like a mountain bike jump and just thought about staying upright.  Luckily, my front wheel only slid a few inches when I landed and I stayed on my bike.  There is a lesson here for my athletes- do not overinflate your tires.  Just because your tubular can be inflated to 150 psi, don’t do it.  If I had done that, I can guarantee you that I would have touched the floor when that overinflated wheel bounced off the asphalt.  So I pulled back up to this guy and let him know I was less than pleased, and for him to calm down and not be such a knucklehead.  Actually, that is a lie- I wire brushed him (navy term) rather harshly, drawing freely from the Jonser lexicon.  He told me to relax.  He didn’t care that he almost took me out.  Some triathletes are absolutely terrible bike handlers.  If you are going to be a terrible bike handler, stay right so you don’t endanger others.  To his credit, he apologized when I passed him on the Queen K and we had a pleasant exchange.   So the bike ride was brutal, windy, and everything Kona is supposed to be.  I survived.
This run course is by far my favorite.  The crowds in town are unbelievable.  It was great to see the smokin’ hot wife and my sister from another mother, Kaye Hert, in their lime green bikini tops and short zebra skirts.  I am motivated by chicks wearing next to nothing- its how I roll!  My buddy Paul was cheering at the top of his lungs, and always ran beside me for a few seconds when he would see me to offer words of encouragement- very much appreciated.  Bob Korock was all over the course and he had great things to say when I made the turn to Hawi and when I came back the other way.  He and Mark Pietrofesa were out on the Queen K when I went running by.  It helps a ton to have your buds out there, as the Queen K is a rugged stretch of running.  Bob was also there when I popped out of the Energy Lab.  Thanks Bob!  The run was long and hard, like it always is, and when I did finally get back into town, it was wonderful to see so many folks I know.  Simon Ward, Scott Greene, Sergio Borges, Denny Meeker, Linda Rahal, and a host of others were cheering their guts out for me.  A number of current and former military guys stepped out of the crowd, saluted me and cheered me on.  I saluted back and worked hard to keep from getting emotional when a young man saluted and said “well done shipmate!”   He was standing on two prosthetic legs.  It was this visual that reminded me that my challenge was for only a day…    
So there it is.  Another Kona is in the books.  We enjoyed a fantastic vacation here in paradise with two of our closest friends, Paul and Kaye.  I am rejuvenated from taking a mental break from work and seeing so many friends that I have gotten a chance to reunite with here on the island.  I go home renewed in a trust in myself that when things get really difficult that I won’t fold -that when tested there is absolutely no quit in me.  This stuff bleeds into your real life.  If you can muster the courage to persevere in the lava on the hard days, and you can endure the suffering that comes with that challenge, you can do the same in other aspects of your life, whether it is work, a challenge in your personal life, or any other aspect of your life that requires you to cowboy up and grind it out. 
As the vacation comes to a close, I now will get caught up on work and flying.  This afternoon I get the honor of presiding over and reading the oath of office, as we promote my navy teammate Cam to the rank of Lieutenant.  I love administering this oath to junior officers.  In my mind, I always recommit to that oath myself. 
 I plan on taking a few days off to reflect on what I can do better next year and then stand by- I am coming back stronger and fitter next year!
Train with joy or not at all!