Alex Gaura at the end of a 50K Ultra marathon

Jump Start on 2018

Athletically, 2017 ended on a high note. My son attempted AND completed his first Ultra Marathon, as the last race of the year.  I have so much gratitude as I review last year.

  • I didn’t get injured! Thank you, Pilates!
  • I attempted two difficult Ultra Marathons: Bad Water and Annapurna, and I was successful at both! I completed 5 Ultras in 2017-three years ago, I couldn’t run down the driveway without pain.
  • I PR’d a standard distance duathlon that just so happened to be a World Championships (WCH), after age 50! Yahoo!
  • I qualified for and signed up for a double World Championship in Denmark next year with my son. Two WCH in 2 days is exciting and requires a whole new sort of racing fitness that I have not ever tried to develop.
Alex Gaura at the end of a 50K Ultra marathon
Father and Son at the finish line of a 50K race

Success in 2018 will require a plan that addresses shortcomings and a plan to get better.

No one progresses in life without a deep dive into what could be improved upon and executing on a plan to get better.  This year, I want to inject some of those philosophies into my daily plan.

To run faster, I need to incorporate not just more running, but more speedwork into my running.  Too often, I train as if the next race is a marathon, and I head out for long, slow runs.  Those long runs benefit a lot of body systems, but they aren’t enough, if the plan is to get faster.  Starting in 2018, my 10-day training cycle includes 2 speed days, up from just 1.   As I get closer to competition, I will increase that to 3 speed days.

To bike faster, I decided I needed a disk rear wheel, hopefully to grant me about 2 mph.  I am already training hard and often on the bike, and the incremental increase with additional training would require more time than I invest today.   That 2 mph may not seem like much, but it is a nearly 10% increase, and all it cost me was a pair of shoes.  Long Story-I sold a pair of shoes in 2015 for some bitcoin.  I sold the bitcoin in December 2017 and bought a Reynolds Rear disk with the proceeds.  Yes, non-criminals are making money on bitcoin, too.

My weaknesses are flexibility and late-night eating.  I am certainly doing nightly stretching, but I am also taking time during the day to do some basic stretching, as well.  As a minor change, there is a part of Pilates class when I conveniently get up to go to the bathroom, as I hate rollovers.  I have decided that I can’t become more flexible if I keep avoiding that which I do not like.  I have since committed to staying in the class during rollovers.  Sounds silly but doing what you don’t like is part of growing up.  Isn’t that what we ask of others when we expect them to change their behavior?  Can’t lead if you don’t practice what you are preaching, right?

TRX Training at a Pilates Studio

As I have repeatedly blogged, we all need “why” behind what we are doing that isn’t about us, if it is to have an impact on others.  My wife and I are down to one kid at home, our son Alex.    Next year, the “A” event is the World Championships, followed by 3 days of serious trail running with my son in the mountains of Jotenheimen in central Norway.  That will give me a period of 7 days when I engage in 2 WCH, then run 20 miles a day for 3 consecutive days.  I am calling this my “A Week.” With this being my son’s last summer at the house before heading to college, this trip to Norway represents his high school graduation gift.  I can’t express how grateful I am that he has embraced and even helped plan the events associated with our choice to go to Norway and see the home of Thor, Odin and the like.

I put off until last that which I am the least capable of doing something about, namely, late night eating.  We eat an early dinner, then, something “happens” between dinner and bed and I get a serious case of the munchies.  Sometimes, it includes wine, and that makes this worse!  I have a couple of ideas:

  • Pre-portion out the late-night snacks, so as to prevent spontaneous binge eating.
  • Just say, “no.”
  • Give myself a couple of “free” days each week, say, on Saturday and Wednesday, when I can feel less constrained and restrain myself on the other days.

I am going with the first one…

What is you plan for 2018?  What does it look like?  Have you vetted it with someone you either trust or has shown evidence that they have overcome what you haven’t been able to?

More importantly, why are you doing it?

Good reasons, good plans, good feelings, good citizenship-they go together.  Plan 2018 before Jan1, when the rest of the world attempts this task.





2016 Year in Review

Running in Zofingen

Accountability is at the core of reaching a goal, and accountability requires measurement.  If you can measure something, you can improve it.  I achieved a lot of goals in 2016, and here is some background on implementing a measurement strategy and use it to make your goals happen.

Let’s do a hard accountability measurement example first that many of us all share-we want to spend more time with family. If you say you love your family and want to spend more time with them, you have set a goal.  How do you make the claim that you are doing something about it and not just blowing hot air and making another fruitcake New Year’s resolution?  Start with the measurement!

Get out your calendar and look at how often you saw them in 2016.  Perhaps you saw them a total of 6 times, and all but one of those instances coincided with a holiday.  That means your measurement showed that you had 5 holiday visits and 1 non-holiday visit.  Remember, we aren’t measuring quality here-just quantity.  To reach your spoken goal of spending more time with family, you need to visit them more than those 6 times.  That means that future measurements include numbers that are larger than 5 and 1.  Perhaps you could set a goal of 6 holidays and 3 non-holiday gatherings. From your measurement, you see a need to pick some holidays that you missed and add in a couple of non-holidays.  The unspoken assumption here is that you will continue to repeat your previous behavior.

At the start of last year, I studied the outcomes from running and riding my bike.  I knew I could do better but the causes for the low performances were a mystery.  So, I got serious with my measuring.  Here is what I committed to measuring:

  • Body Fat-I was between 10 and 12%, and I knew that I needed to get to 8%, if not less.
  • Power on the bike. Going “as hard as I can” didn’t give me a metric to say how hard was hard.  Measurements shows that my sustainable power was 200 watts and change.  I needed it to be in the 255 Watt window to get the sustained speeds that I wanted.
  • My running cadence was 165 to 168 strides per minute. I needed to get to 180 to be more efficient.
  • The difference between the speeds that I did my long runs at was not that much different. My easy days weren’t easy enough, and my hard days weren’t hard enough.  I needed to learn how to go easier, as well as go harder.

Getting there….

To address body fat, I felt that most of my eating habits were healthy, but there was room for improvement. I committed to a monthly body fat measurement regimen with one of my Pilates instructors, Laura Pittman.  I knew I was eating too many carbohydrates late I the day and needed to measure what happens when I eat less.  I started eating more sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes, and I added more veggies.  During my monthly body fat analysis, I watched my weight remain relatively constant, but my body fat went all the way down to 7% at the end of the racing year.  It remains there.  Success!

To address my low power, I incorporated more “hard” sessions that included repeated efforts above my best race efforts.  These anaerobic efforts worked wonders to increase my power.  My cycling speed is up 10%+, and I haven’t worked out any more than I did in 2015.

My running still has room to grow.  My long runs are nearly all on trails, so I run slower.  I have started doing intervals but that aren’t frequent enough or fast enough to result in much of a difference.  To address this, my first 4 events of 2017 are all running events, forcing me to prioritize running ahead of cycling until the end of March.  This makes me put more runs on the schedule.

My family, at Christmas time


Every Sunday, I review outputs from these tools and adjusted workouts.

I implemented a plan to address these-details of this would be an overwhelmingly long blog.  Suffice it to say that without the help of my family and business, this plan would have failed.  Here are the 2016 results:

  • I had two first place overall wins last year: one duathlon and one Ultra-Marathon. That causes me to shake my head in disbelief, and, in one instance, cry.  Beating everyone else in an endurance competition when I am 51 years old breaks nearly all molds people have of what the aging process is.
  • I did better than ever both at Duathlon Nationals in Bend (9th place in my age category) and at Duathlon Worlds in Switzerland (10th in my age and 91 out of 241 overall). Despite aging, I am getting faster in both disciplines.
  • I finished the competition season at 7% body fat
  • I didn’t get injured. I could have put this first, as it is a precursor to success with everything else.  What this means is that I didn’t get any overuse injuries or range of motion injuries associated with not being aware of your body’s limits. Had I been in a car accident or the like, I would still be making this claim.
  • Giving-it-away points were higher than expected. Giving-it-away points are earned each time my wife and I share our knowledge of fitness and nutrition.  I helped a couple of athletes out as well as taught two of our classes.

The items up there that I controlled are the 3rd and 4th ones.  The first two I didn’t control-I have no input as to who else shows up on race day.  However, I know that 1 and 2 would not have happened without 3 and 4 happening.

Accountability requires that I do this process again, starting now. There were things that didn’t go right in 2016 that I need to address in 2017.  My goals remain the same:  run faster, ride faster and longer, avoid preventable injury and eat better.  The obstacles I hit were associated with inconsistent efforts to get there.  My strategies all revolve around avoiding inconsistency.

In those moments when you get honest and observe that your results don’t meet your goals, don’t take the “let’s try harder” strategy.  That doesn’t work.  Start with measuring your efforts and keep doing it.  You need the feedback provided by measurement to see if your efforts are working.



No longer waiting for weights!

Throughout my whopping three of years of endurance training and competition, the areas where I have knowledge deficiencies continue to show up.  The moments are humbling.  Here is my “latest” discovery that I put in the category of dumb moves.

My “solid” logic has been to skip weight training.  My reasons were “thoughtful.”

  • I need long twitch muscles to be an excellent endurance athlete, and that is where I put my focus. Weight training builds up fast twitch, and I don’t use many of those during a race.
  • I continue to improve my outcomes by training more in running, biking and nutrition.
  • I only have so much time during the day (I have a full-time job, a ministry, a family, a scout troop, etc.), and it was easy to cut out the weight room.

I had the equivalent of a flat earth argument perfected.  However, my thinking was missing one element, namely, it lacked evidence that this was the best way to go.

As I took a look at my performances, I saw that I wasn’t getting exceptional results most of the time.  No podium finishes at Worlds.  Sure, there was King of the Mountain at Nationals, but no first place overall finishes in any of the events around here… just first in my age group from time to time.

As always, my learning began with a moment when I start wondering if my strategy may be wrong.  Oh, how my wife loves it when I start with that word “wrong” and refer to myself…Despite never having an “in your face” moment that pointed out what was missing, there was a moment. I came in several minutes behind a guy at Long Course Nationals who weighed 25 pounds or so more than me.  He was the same age…so I started reading more, and I challenged by assumptions. Listening to stories and reading provokes some questions regarding my ideas regarding effective training.  The more I read from folks whom our community deem to be knowledgeable, the more I concluded that my formula left room for improvement.

In my mind, there existed a disconnect when it came to weight training/resistance training and long-distance endurance training. I believed that weight training was not necessary as an endurance athlete.  I most certainly didn’t want to become bulky and thereby slow down while going uphill.  Climbing mountains is an art that also doubles as a balancing act.  As one gains mass, there is more weight to pull uphill. All things equal, the lighter cyclist goes up the hill faster than the heavier cyclist.  Climbing is about maximizing my power to weight ratio…so my conclusion was that a bigger me is a slower me, especially on hills, right?

I have had weight training on my workout schedule in the past, but it used to get very low priority. High-volume endurance training without strength training can easily lead to the wasting of muscle and a much “softer” physique…and I certainly had that after Switzerland last fall.

So, now the evidence is coming back in that all physiques are not equal.  Recent learnings now teach me that If I want a lean and powerful physique, weight training is a must. Not only that, I need to treat my time in the weight room with the intensity that I treat my hard bike rides or tempo runs.  I got a blessing when I learned that weight training does not have to be a long duration activity; I can knock out a great session in 45 minutes.  Now, I attack the weight training with some of the same intensity that I see in my oldest son who loves hard workouts in the gym.

Michael 4
My oldest son knows something about weight lifting…

So far, I have seen my weight go up (7%), but I have also seen my running pace sped up, while my heart rate and perceived effort have not.  At a recent 10-mile race, my average heart rate was the same as it was a year ago, but my pace was 45 seconds faster per mile than a year ago.  That is a big jump!  Yesterday’s long bike ride averaged 22 mph for the first 20 miles.  I am sure that I was not at 100%, either.  The course was hilly (1300 feet of elevation during that first part).  Weight is up, but power is up more!

It required a bit of courage to put research to the test, especially research that may prove me wrong.  Now that I have put it to the test and am seeing results, I am glad that I was wrong.   Sure, the research overwhelmingly claims that vigorous weight training builds lean muscle and significantly increases metabolism, but I didn’t know what how this would manifest in duathlon.

Since starting this experiment, I have found that my pants and shirts are tighter, but my waist has only gained ½ of an inch.  I don’t want new clothes.  However, running faster makes the idea of getting a few pieces of clothing all worth it.

I encourage everyone to examine their fundamental beliefs.  Learning requires the rejection of previous hypotheses!


12 Tips and Tricks for a successful Duathlon

Truth be told, there are no “tricks” in duathlon.  Indeed, there is no substitute for practicing and mastering the three disciplines that make or break world-class duathletes:  running, cycling and nutrition.  Great habits in those three disciplines are more important than what is listed below.  That said, I have found that doing these 12 learning make a world of difference.

  • Check out your gear the night before. No marine goes into battle without going over his gear, piece by piece, and confirming that it is working, at specifications, before using it in a combat situation. Steal from the Marine’s discipline and go over all parts of your gear and plan.  Confirm all your bike screws and tight and that your shoes, socks and racing kit are laid out, ready to go in the morning.  Have spares.  Don’t wake up wondering where your stuff is or if it is ready for the big event.
  • Vet your nutrition plan with someone else. I ask Susan Kitchen to review my nutrition plan for all long course events to make sure I have the right formula of energy, hydration, and salt to sustain the distance about to be raced.  More often than not, my plan is wrong on at least one of those three items…if not all of them!
  • Tape nutrition to the frame. I race with gels or pineapple chunks.  71n2ftEither way, I want the food where I want it, and most certainly, I don’t want to deal with packaging.  I saw a woman tape a cliff bar, no packaging, directly to her frame.  Grab, pull and eat.  No ripping or tearing of a package required.  If I could get it injected into my arms on the aero bars via an IV, I would.
  • Race with a different pair of running shoes on each run. When I get off the bike in transition 2, my first pair of shoes may be ready to put right back on, or they might not.  I have found my shoes knocked  into other people’s bike rack space.  I have even found a bike on top of my shoes.  The value of having a 2nd pair of shoes, right where you left them at the start of the race, laces how and where you want them, assures that my time in transition is as short as possible.   I do the first run in Hoka One One’s and I do the second run, based on conditions (trail shoes or racing flats).
  • Put your spare tube and tools in a tennis ball case. Tennis ball caseThe case fits perfectly in your spare water bottle slot on your frame. The little pouches that sit under the seat don’t really lend themselves to easy in and out use.  A tennis ball case is large and in an easy to get to place.  It is aerodynamic enough to justify the placement location.  There is no zipper to deal with, and stuffing the old tube back in after your procedure is faster than the little behind-the-seat pouch.
  • Eat a normal breakfast in the am. Race morning is the wrong time to be trying that new beet juice your heard about that might increase endurance.  Your training plan is testing on race day, not intercepted and altered.
  • Run in and out transition efficiently. No one is effective at running in bike shoes.  They aren’t meant for that.  Yet, at every race, someone is clopping along slower than an opossum crossing the road.  We can, though, run in socks, if the ground conditions allow for it.  I use rubber bands to hold my cycling shoes in position so they don’t scrape on the ground as I push my bike through transition.  When I leave transition, I hop on my bike, put my foot in my shoe and pedal half a turn, until I can comfortably put on my other shoe.  Keep in mind, this is not a natural effort.  To be good at this function requires practice.  For those who comment that this is not for them, I wonder how much they have practiced, if any.
  • Practice transition. Take some time at either the start or the end of one of your outdoor training events to practice going quickly and smoothly from bike to run to bike.  Note what muscles you are engaging, and spend some time working them out.  I quickly discovered that it was my core that made the difference between a 30-seconds and a 1-minute transition.  My practice of Pilates helps me feel confident switching between disciplines.
  • Use the mechanic, if it is provided. He really does want you to do the best you can.  I do lots of my own maintenance and upgrade work, with no help.  That said, I overlook things.  Having the mechanic do a once over can help expose loose spokes, loose screws, and make sure that the tire pressure is correct, for conditions.  TeamUSA provides mechanics, and I use them!  It hurts no one to give them a tip for their time, too.
  • Dress and race as if it was 10 degrees warmer than perceived temps. During long course nationals a few years ago, I put on a base layer, as I was cold before race start.  Before the end of run 1, I had taken off my uniform and base layer and put back on my uniform.  I ran the last 2 miles carrying my base layer in my hands.  Not efficient nor smart.  Now, I wear arm warmers that I can slide down, as I warm up.  In addition, as the day rolls by, the outdoor temperatures increase while you heat up.  Stand around at the start a little bit cold…it will be OK once the race starts.
  • Interact with others before the race to assist. Isolating before a race is selfish on a couple of fronts.  There may be a chance for you to encourage someone else who is really nervous.  You miss that chance by separating from everyone else, claiming it is part of your race prep.  God calls us sheep and not goats for a reason-we need others to be healthy.   We marry and pair up to do everything of importance.  Extend our genetically social tendency to race day.  Talking with or listening to others can help you and others.  I spend time in prayer, and I pray for others.
  • Celebrate everyone’s success. Clap for everyone at awards ceremony, even if they are from another country.  Verbally approach those who beat you and tell them, “good effort,” even if they don’t speak English.   I have sadly watched more than one great athlete fail to enjoy an event that they prepared for and did well at because they hadn’t practiced or learned how to celebrate.  Happiness is in what you give, not what you get.  Tell first timers to keep coming back.  At worlds, I stop to let kids take pictures.  At local events, I talk to volunteers and thank them for their sacrifice.  Life is a beautiful thing.  Race day is a unique celebration to be shared.

Quarterback coaching and cheesecake…

At the midpoint of a recent football game, I saw the quarterback sitting on the sidelines, looking at a tablet PC, reviewing a play in which he was intercepted.  He was talking with his coach, reviewing player position and his response to what the defense presented.  I left the room and wandered off to do something else, not really thinking about that scene.  When I returned, thirty minutes later, I saw that same quarterback looking at the tablet, reviewing the previous play.

What was different between this sideline stint than the first one I observed?  First off, the score had changed.  The team now had seven more points than they previously had.  Looking at his and his coach’s body language, there was no way to tell without looking at the scoreboard that events were leaning in their favor.  Who knows how many times they studied the recent plays.  What was of interest to me was thinking about the process that they went through.  In each circumstance, they observed strengths and weaknesses and made some recommendations to change things to be more successful.  That made me think…

The endurance racing season ended last month for those of us north of the equator, and it’s time for all of us to review the tapes and game footage to do just what that quarterback and his coach did.  Let’s break it down into three thoughtful questions.

What went really well this season?  Specifically, what results did you have that you are proud of and can use to build upon?  Take the time to write them out and go over them with someone who can help you objectively analyze them…like a coach.

In my world, I am proud that I was able to do well at Long Course World Championships and have since re-qualified to participate again next year.  I have already paid my initial deposit and have put the date on my calendar.  I am faster on the bike than I have ever been, and it showed in my last race of the year, down in Texas.  I also stayed injury free by switching to 20 minutes of Yoga nightly, instead of going twice a week for an hour at a time.  The quality of my food is now better than any other time in my life, and I was able to consistently cook enough food on Sunday to have good work lunches during the time of the week when I was doing my day job.  Above all, I feel great!

What didn’t go as well as hoped?  What results didn’t meet your expectations, and answer “why” with tough love.  Get help doing this from someone who is willing to be honest with you.

Once I returned to the USA, I put on weight as I celebrated and chilled out a little too much.  I added back 8 lbs, and it came back within 6 weeks. Next year, I want to be racing at 158 or so. Next, my power to weight ration while cycling the Pyrenees was too low, and climbs that I was strong enough to be the first one to the top ended with me in the middle of the pack.  Lastly, I didn’t have enough sponsorship money to cover everything this year, and had to pay for a good bit of my expenses out of pocket.  My muscular endurance was great, but my strength and power weren’t, as I abandoned any kind of weight training very early in the year.

What are you going to do differently next time?  Answer only relation to your goals for the new year, once you set them.

Next year, my goals are contracted, as my oldest son is getting married and competition will be a bit curtailed.  I want to beat my time at Zofingen, and I want to qualify to race the Standard Distance at the 2017 with my son.  That means that both of us have to do well at the National Championship next year in Bend, OR.

  1. This year, I will spend more time doing strength training, and I have enlisted help to create a program that includes both neuro-muscular strength and well as max strength training, once the year starts.
  2. I have discovered that doing brick runs after a hard or a long cycling event provides a training that I was neglecting last year.  As such, I am doing a brick run at least once every other week, no less than 20 minutes and eventually will build that number up, so that when I begin the 2nd run in Zofingen, I am not feeling dead.
  3. To better get the work/family/life balance adjusted, I’m intending to use my periodization time to take the family on trips and get projects done around the house.  When I would finish a long run or a Saturday am bike ride, my wife would be “hosed” as her husband would shower, eat, sit on the couch and be a non-participant until his glycogen got restocked.  This year, I will plan so that this is reduced.  Long runs will not happen on weekends but will happen in the middle of the week, when there is no impact on others in my home.
  4. I have helped my son get an annual plan together, and he is liking the structure associated with getting stronger while continuing to get faster.  He is doing weight training, cycling and running, but all on a different schedule, in lighter amounts, to keep it fun and interesting.  We created a graphical chart that sits on the counter in the kitchen, and he looks at several times a week.  Soon, he will start running track, and this will only help him.  He is enjoying becoming an athlete, and for that, I am grateful.

What does your celebration look like?  For me, it was cheesecake.  I have my fix for the year, though.  Next time will be after a big race, not after a hard workout.  Otherwise, my 158 lb goals becomes a pipe-dream.


A vacation or a workout?

Family travel is meant to be a time of connecting, resetting and just getting back to the person you were made to be.  We have been planning this trip to Hawaii for more than a year, and those recipes were and are a part of our formula for a vacation.

However, those items are not the end all for this family. We are all exercising with earnest.

I am running a lot, and who wouldn’t, with these views?

Views of the Big Island
Views of the Big Island

I am up before the rest of the condo is moving and have set expectations about distance, course, pace and even nutrition before and during the event.  We are at the halfway point of the trip, and I already have three runs in.  I even competed in and won a race the first full day we got here.

In addition, both of the boys have found gyms and have gone to work out.  They are dressed the part, as they look like gym rats, and will have stories to tell of the gym on the real other side of the country.

My wife has found yoga and Pilates classes that she is doing, and she is doing a lot of walking as we visit remote places.

This fitness mentality changes what your eyes see as you view the island.  Most families see volcanos, sea turtles, whales and sunsets.  Those are all beautiful, but incomplete in their ability to make good extended memories for this bunch.  I see a community addicted to cycling and a community where long distance running is as common as Key Lime Pie is in the Keys.

“Ahhh, I could live here!” my wife says.  Our condo has no AC unit, and it doesn’t really need one, either.  She loves pineapples, fresh fish and the laid back life.

I see the pineapple, but I see the bike lanes everywhere.  I see all the long climbs and crazy descents available to me in the middle of the island.  I see the ability to run with a group of people, my age, with similar drives.

Before deep sea fishing, yesterday AM, I did a run on Alii drive, home of the final run of the famous Ironman race.  I am not a swimmer, and my desire to get into swimming is near zero, but lots of folks who ARE preparing for the Ironman are visible up and down that road.

The kids see snorkeling and ice cream on one side of the road.  I see beautiful trail runs on the other to go along with their sightings.

For souvenirs for the kids, I buy Alex a running singlet that says, “Run.  Big.”  It references this location’s fame as the Big Island.  We are all taking pictures and throwing them up on Facebook, like the social family we are.  We are all on the phone with friends, talking about the trip and enjoying our time here.

Just look at what I see, as I type this!

View of a meal, out of our Lanai, on the Big Island
View of a meal, out of our Lanai, on the Big Island

Beautiful, even if you don’t include the scenery!

Jeff Gaura

Pyrenees, here we come!

Back when I weighed 200 lbs. and found entertainment from watching what others did, I was a Sports-on-TV guy.  Seeing athletes compete created nice to watch moments and sometimes awe, but not inspirational moments. Yet, there was one group of athletes that created a sense of wow more than any other group – Tour de France riders.

Jeff Gaura
Riding downhill in the Pyrenees

The images of these groups of cyclists, travelling green French country sides and passing through fields of grain were mesmerizing.  They would climb and descend some of the most famous and often intense mountain courses in the world, sometimes in torrential downpours and other times, in really hot conditions.

I never asked out loud, “can I do that with you one day?” but I did think it.  That sort of dreamy thinking was like asking if I could become the president of the world…But I did (and do) want to do it.  I kept that thought to myself.

Fast forward to 2015.  After qualifying for the Powerman World Championship in Zofingen, Switzerland, those thoughts or riding the mountains of the Tour de France from my fat days magically showed up one morning while working out.  I openly asked, “Could I find a way to cycle on part of the Tour de France as part of my preparation for Zofingen?”

Jeff Gaura Pyrenees challenge
Climbing a mountain in the Pyrenees

The internet is great for dreaming….I typed in my search engine “cycling the Pyrenees,” as they are what comes to mind when I think of classic mountain rides.   The Pyrenees are a mountain range that separate Spain from France.  Their role in history as separating two countries and cultures is the stuff of World History.  They are not populous, as they are steep and have limited water.  As such, people have not settled here much.

One ride of interest got my attention.  “Pyrenees pro cycling challenge” was the name.  The copy on the site read, “It is no exaggeration to describe this as one of the World’s great bike rides. You’ll climb some of the most iconic mountains in France – nearly all of them Tour de France regulars and often the sites of great, race-deciding battles in years gone by.”  Their schedule offered all sorts of courses and starting times, but I needed something that would finish about a week before the World Championship, and I wanted it to cover some of the places that I have dreamed of.  I wanted the hard work and the fitness that it would instill in me, with ample time to recover and taper a bit before the big race.

I sent out an email to the contacts listed on the website, with a brief introduction of what I was trying to do, and in the reply, he told me that they have had other world championship duathletes attempt this ride.  The price was right, as well.

What the heck! Life is short, and this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  I committed to the Pyrenees Coast to Coast ride before the World Championship and bought my plane ticket, before I could change my mind.

My how things have changed.  2013 was one of the most unforgettable years of my life. I got to compete in the National Championship and began to get into really good shape.  2014 was a year of overcoming adversity and injury, but it ended with great memories, inspirational stories and personal records.  I got to compete in the ITU World Championships and an Ultra-marathon.

2015 is on track to trump both of those.  I can’t imagine doing 5 days on a Tour de France course with other great athletes followed by the Grand Daddy of all Duathlons.

Feeling blessed doesn’t cover it.  This is awesome.