Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Inferno: Re-beginnings

After a seven year break from ultra-endurance racing, I made the decision this year to re-enter the sport -- and hopefully in grand style! Following the realization of a dream at the Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Hawaii in 2000, I was a bit burnt out from six years of training for Ironmans and lots of solo training miles. I turned my attention to mountain biking, Scuba, snowboarding and continued to ride my road bike, but not with the same training intensity and focus as during the racing years. For several reasons though, 2007 suddenly lit up as the right year to re-enter the sport. I'm not one for easing into pursuits, so I picked a race in Europe that included the description:

"The INFERNO Triathlon is with its 5'500 metres height difference one of the hardest in the world and is already considered one of the classics."

Yes, perfect. Even better, it's really a quadathlon -- following a swim in a mountain lake, we will road bike, then mountain bike, and then ... well, climb a mountain.

When describing what draws me to this race, I've told my work colleagues and friends "it's a quest for work-life balance." I think that the best counter-reply was "Jeff, some people find work life balance by leaving the office at 5 or grabbing a beer with friends." Well-said -- and I agree -- I want that and a crazy race to train for! Seriously though, it's an ultra distance event in a stunning, stunning mountain setting. Those who know me can see the instant attraction -- once I discovered the race and saw the alpine scenery and photos of competitors on a steep mountain trail, I just couldn't resist.

A major change I made in this pursuit though is to hire an top-notch coach, Lisa Smith-Batchen. Lisa is a champion endurance athlete with a stunning list of achievements that includes being the
first and only American female to win the Marathon des Sables in its 18 year history, two first place finishes at the Badwater Ultramarathon, and a finish at the Badwater Double Ultramarathon (nearly 300 miles of running!). She also has a great reputation as an online coach, so following an intro phone call to kick things off, I was quite happy that she took me on as a client. It has been an eye-opening experience working with Lisa and I'm now wondering what potential I left untapped in years of prior training and events! I started my coaching with Lisa just over a month ago and can't say enough about how helpful she has been in structuring my training, providing guided motivation, and ensuring that I'm getting the most out of my training approach.

My training for this race unofficially started when Becky and I spent a week cycling in the region near Girona, Spain right at the tail end of winter.
Girona was an awesome experience -- now we know why many professional cyclists spend much of their time with Girona as their training base. Following a week trying to regain our climbing legs and enjoy the stunning Mediterranean scenery, we returned to Holland. Next up was discovery of excellent cycling roads (with hills, yes hills!) in the southern part of the Netherlands and Belgium. Becky and I, along with our friend Scott Spaulding, had a great ride on the amateur's go at the Amstel Gold race course in April and followed it up with biweekly treks (via train) to Maastricht, where we continue to discover endless narrow and steep 1/2 mile climbs.

Our next big event is a ride called La Marmotte in France (early July). It's a classic, complete with climbs on several of the Tour de France's most famous mountains (Col du Glandon, Col du Galibier, and l'Alp d'huez). It'll be a long and tough ride, but when the French Alps are only an 80 minute flight away, I won't be complaining about a thing and can't pass up a chance to have a go at this hallowed cycling ground.

That's all for now! Oh yeah, there's another race on my calendar for next spring, but I think I'll make its unveiling a surprise, else you'll surely think I've lost my mind!


1 comment:

Lisa Smith-Batchen said...

Hi Jeff and Becky!

What a wonderful blog full of great information, inspiration, photos and determination!!! I need a nap just reading what I have told you to do for training:)
It is a great joy to coach you and it will be an ever greater joy to watch your progress!
Happy feet