After the challenges in La Porte in May, I wanted a ‘do over’ in Texas in 2021. So I registered for Cypress and headed back into the land of humidity.
The day before the race, all of the Paras gathered (by chance) as Paul helped to make sure things were set for everyone. We also had a chance to get used to the tandem that Catapult had secured for us. Things went really well, and I was feeling great for the following day.
On race morning, the ‘Para Guide Sherpas’ showed up and helped to ensure that we had everything and that proper documentation (photos/videos) occurred. As the Para wave, we were in the water first. However, none of us heard the initial start (see Para Guide’s Instagram page for the video).
Even though there were some struggles on the swim, with my right arm hitting the tether, it seemed to go OK. What went even better was the bike — with us averaging 20.7 and spiking at 24 or 25. I saw just how solid a pilot Paul is when someone decided to try to pass us on the right going into a curve at 19-20 mph. He was able to properly and safely get us through it and then accelerate out of it as needed.
While the swim was OK and the bike was great, the run was not. At less than 1/4 mile in, I felt something go in my lower back. When it did, I started doing the normal things that I’ve done in the past (run/walk, stretching). However, before even 1/2 mile, it was so painful that all I could do was walk. And there were times when it even hurt to walk. Even still, I did find a way to run the last 1/10th of a mile into the chute.
It defintely wasn’t the Texas redo that I was looking for. However, I’m extremely grateful to Linda for all her help throughout the weekend and to Paul for flying in from Charlotte to guide for me.
The simple truth is that not every sandwich is going to be great. Some will be burned, some will be missing ingredients, and some will simply be shit sandwiches. But if you’re picky and only enjoy the perfect ones, you’ll miss out on so much of life. When you learn to enjoy every sandwich, you get so much more out of life — especially when things don’t go right.
After landing in Houston and spending time with Uriah, we eventually met up with the rest of the camp group for food. After dinner, we boarded a very nice bus (part of Woodlands Transit’s fleet) and made our way to Camp Olympia in Trinity.
I think that the best way to describe the camp is to start by thinking of whatever summer camp you went to growing up. Then add a lot of facilities and ammentities to ensure campers get the most out of the outdoors WITHOUT making it a hotel/resort. The bottom line is that it’s an amazing facility. If you’re in the Houston area, I strongly recommend looking into it as a camp option for your group!
Remember how I said sometimes you get a shit sandwich? That happened Friday morning… As we went to take the bike out of the case, it was discovered that the lower rear triangle had been crushed during transit. It was frustrating, but after taking the time to start the claim with the airline, I focused on moving forward. Justin was able to find a tandem that fit Eric and me, so we were covered for the weekend. I am still working with that airline and hope to be able to send the frame to CoMotion shortly for repairs.
Before realizing the bike issue, I also found out about one other packing issue. The running game before every event is ‘guess what James forgot to pack’. Usually it’s something simple, and I realize it in enough time to pick it up at a Walmart/Target. However, this time I didn’t realize that I had left my towel on the bed at home until I was grabbing my swim stuff. Thankfully New Wave Swim Buoy’s generosity had me covered! I also received an inflatable swim buoy, goggles and swim caps from them.
Our morning consisted of a strength session and then open water skills (OWS) in the pool. Since there weren’t lane lines, those swim buoys were used as our sighting points. As we finished the swim session, I noticed the deep water and people jumping from a platform. When I asked how tall it was, I was told 12 feet. So my thinking was 12 feet high into 14 feet of water, no sweat (I later learned it was 25 feet). While the first jump was a bit nerve wracking, it was OK since I could see the water down below. I got a second ‘tandem’ jump in with a friend before we had to get ready for lunch and the afternoon sessions.
One thing that I quickly learned during the first afternoon is that it can go from 75 to 90 in a heartbeat. And doing running drills in 90 degree heat is no fun. Especially when I was doing laps at probably a 9:30 pace. That was just how the drill was laid out (slow/moderate/slow/fast/slow/faster/slow/fastest).
While the run wasn’t a lot of fun, getting out on the bike was. After a couple of minor hiccups, things went well with starts/stops. As we became more comfortable, both with the borrowed equipment and with our communication, we were able to pick up speed and have fun on the loops. We finished the day with the ‘oh-so’fun’ Yoga. And yes, I like Yoga as much as I like Poi and Wheatgrass…. 😛
Friday evening was a pool party event. Knowing that I couldn’t reasonably jump in the dark, I snuck a couple more platform jumps in before eating dinner. After dinner, people started going off the platform and slide in the dark. While I wanted to go back up and jump again, I didn’t think it would work. It was one thing to jump in the daylight when I could see the water, but completely blind platform jumping? As I stood near the diving board, I was coaxed into doing it. I don’t remember who talked me into the initial jump, but I’m glad they did.
That first blind platform jump was one of the scariest things that I’ve done in a long time. Especially when at about 5 seconds in flight my mind started asking ‘WTF is the water?’ But it was also one of the most rewarding things I’ve done — and I’m glad I did it. After that initial jump, I spent about another hour jumping off and going down the slide. A big thank you to a specific Doctor that was my eyes during this crazy fun. 🙂
Day 2 consisted of a XC type session for our run drills, U-turns and other bike drills and OWS in the lake.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so spent during a run session as I was during Saturday’s. Apparently, Burpess aren’t in violation of the Geneva Convention… I guess I was misinformed on that. LOL. Communication was key as we did the different U-turns and other turn drills, and we finished up the bike with several fast loops. I really appreciate them moving the afternoon OWS from the pool to the lake, where we had a chance to do a swim course preview multiple times.
As we were leaving the lake, someone pointed out the zipline into the lake. But since the ladder wasn’t there, it couldn’t be used. Maybe in 2020?
On Sunday, we did a min-triathlon. You had the option for distances (between 400 and 550 for swim, 5mi and 9mi for bike and 1.1mi or 2.5mi for run). We did 400/9/2.25 for our race (more on the difference below).
As with a few other lake swims this season, it seemed like we still had distance to go when Eric signaled me we were done. While I still need to increase my speed, all of that is a good sign. I’d rather be thinking I’ve got distance to go and being done than the reverse. After a solid T1, we headed out for a bike ride full of hills. Being one of the first ones on the bike, it didn’t seem they were ready for us and we missed the inital turn. But after fixing that hiccup, it was a fast, solid bike. After a decent T2, we headed out on the run.
The 2.5 mile run was the bike loop we’d done on Friday/Saturday followed by an out-and-back. The first 1.5 was OK, but hills and lack of hydration made the last mile a bear. To the point that my right thigh was cramping on the way back. When we got to the 2.25mi mark, I was in enough discomfort that I decided to bring it in rather than risking injuring something.
For me, one of the coolest parts of the race was the human finish chute we created for the final participant. Definitely a memory that will stick with me, and I’m sure it will stick with them.
All in all, it was an amazing and memorable weekend. I am extremely grateful to Catapult for a weekend of learning and opportunities to push my own boundaries. Thank you to Eric for guiding for me, and to all the sponsors (including New Wave Swim Buoy and Hammer Nutrition) for their generous support of Camp Catapult! I hope to be back again in 2020!
I am extremely grateful to Catapult. Not just because of the 2019 grant that they approved, but also for the opportunities that have / will continue to push me outside of my comfort zone. Ultimately, these help me grow as an athlete — even though there may be some crazy / ‘oh shit’ moments along the way.
As I’ve mentioned throughout the blogs this year, the swim has been my weakest discipline. While I’ve been able to improve on the bike and run, the swim has drug me down. The grant they approved will enable me to work with a swim-specific coach. I am confident that their assistance will pay dividends both short and long-term!
I had an amazing time with them at TIR in March, and will start my 2020 season with them in Houston. I had given up doing Half Marathons after the challenges I had. But after how well TIR went, I decided to try another comfortably uncomfortable experience with them. It will be a 5K Saturday and a Half Sunday.
THANK YOU CATAPULT for everything! I look forward to the successes from your support in 2019 and to starting the 2020 season in Houston!
For those who know me, or even just quasi-stalk me, you know that I end up doing a lot of ‘crazy’ things. Okay, maybe not as crazy as skydiving or going around a NASCAR track on a ride-along (both on my bucket list), but crazy in the sense that someone would look at me and say ‘you can’t do that’. I’ve ignored that thought, and 95% of the time, things have worked out really well. And my condo walls are covered with memories from those attempts.
So when I saw Catapult ask for people to fill their Texas Indepence Relay (TIR) teams, my immediate thought was ‘okay, let’s go do something else crazy.’ But since it was a team event, I neded to make sure that things would work before I said yes. Several back-and-forth e-mails later, everything was set.
On Friday, we met up as a full group and received gear / packed everything in. And after a stop at Buc-ee’s, we made it to Gonzales. Now if I had known how amazing Buc-ee’s would be, I would have skipped breakfast and waited. Oh well, lesson learned for 2020. 🙂
In Gonzales, we did packet pickup and then the team dinner. Giant Jenga/bags + good people = great fun! And after an appearance at the PJ party/lobby gathering, we called it a reasonably early night.
With teams of 12, the layout for TIR was that we’d all run the Prologue (1.15 mi), 3 legs and the Conclusion (.05 mi). The Prologue and Conclusion were run as a team, and the 3 legs were run individually (or with a guide for VIs). Claudio was my guide throughout all 5 of the legs that I ran.
The story throughout TIR was the weather. Going in, I knew that there was a chance of TStorms throughout both days. As one of my legs was on a dirt road, my biggest concern was getting through that leg before it rained and turned it into mud. In retrospect, I should have been more concerned about 25mph+ headwinds… But more on that later.
After gathering for full team photos in the park, we were off on the Prologue leg. Even in the dark, it was humid enough that I was drenched in sweat after just 1.15 miles. We had about an hour rest before our first individual leg.
As a bit of background, during each of the day legs (1-6 and 12-18) that our van had, the runner would say where they wanted to first ‘aid station’ at. The van would go to that point and wait, provide hydration and then move to the next ‘aid station’. When the runner said they were good to go to the end, we’d go to the exchange point and cheer them in as a team. Once it got dark, we did similar things — just no getting out of the van in full.
So for my first leg, we had (a) an unpacked dirt/stone road, (b) humidity and (c) hills over (a) for a big chunk of 4.68mi. The worst part was the first 1.5mi as sweat kept dropping into my eyes. So it was great to see the van at the first aid station. And while it wasn’t exactly ‘fun’, it was a lot more fun than sitting behind a desk! After about 50 minutes out in the Texas sun, we made the exchange — giving us about 6 hours before the next leg.
Once everyone had run, we took a lunch break and stumbled about the TIR movie location. Even though we didn’t have the greatest team idea, I’ll be interested to see the finished product with all the teams that did stop We also accidentally muffed the exchange point. For 2020, the reference point needs to be meeting at the fainting goats (that wouldn’t faint for us).
Going into the second leg, I knew it would be hills, hills and more hills. Somewhere between 2 and 2 1/2 miles, I started having problems swallowing. Getting hydration helped — but only for a little bit. Thankfully, I was able to make it through and back to the van without a major incident. And after getting a couple of Gatorades in, I was OK.
Remember those TStorms I mentioned earlier? As we were waiting to do our 4th swap, it started pouring. This made it a miserable 5+ mile leg 23 for that runner, and no fun for the rest of the night legs For me, this meant 2.7 miles in the dark with 25mph+ headwinds. Claudio helped immensely with this leg, as all I could see until we hit the exchange was the while line / oncoming headlights.
Once we hit leg 30, we drove back to Houston and waited for the other half of the team to finish their portion. Once they got close, we all went to the park and finished as a team.
I am extremely grateful to Catapult. Not just for everything the did for me the whole time I was in Houston, but also for this opportunity. Doing the TIR pushed me way outside of my comfort zone on several different levels.
As just one CIP, if I had been doing a run on my own, leg 27 would never have happened. The mindset would have been ‘it’s crappy out and I can’t see a thing; I’ll run tomorrow’. But as part of a team, you have others relying on you. It’s not always easy; but it always works out. And with Claudio as my guide, I knew I was in good hands. So leg 27 happened.
Also a huge thank you to all of the sponsors and supporters of Team Catapult whom made this weekend possible. I appreciate everything you did to make this weekend happen, and look forward to being back in 2020!