This past weekend I hopped into Phil Gaimon’s “Cookie Fondo.” For those of you who aren’t up to date on Phil Gaimon, he’s a recently retired professional cyclist that loves cookies. He’s made a bigger name for himself in the cycling world in the past year since retirement than he ever did racing by becoming a Strava KOM-hero.
Hero? That’s taking it a bit far, isn’t it?
Well, he started this little escapade by sniping the many KOM’s in the LA area held by that one doper??(who plead guilty to dealing EPO). After toppling nearly every KOM in the Santa Monica Mountains, not to mention the great LA area, the Robin Hood of cycling has become a celebrity thanks to his Strava antics (check out his Worst Retirement Ever series on Youtube).
Anyway, so??that Phil has started a Fondo, and like I said, I decided to do it on Sunday. There were several different routes (all with cookie themed names like “Sugar Cookie,” “Chocolate Chip,” “Double Fudge,” etc.), but of course I have to do the longest and hardest one — the Double Fudge. The route is 111 miles with about 11,000 feet of climbing. (If you know the area, from Camarillo it goes up Potrero, Decker, Stunt, Encinal and Yerba Buena.) A very hard route, one of the hardest routes I have ever ridden no doubt, but one I knew I could handle. Unfortunately, I found out that all of the professional cyclists, Phil, and many of the better riders do the Chocolate Chip route — which does many of the same climbs but is ~25 miles shorter. Since there was a little “KOM” aspect to the fondo (best cumulative time up four of the climbs), and me being a weekend warrior that wants to smash whenever I have the opportunity, I was bummed not to be “racing” against the best guys. That would actually be one of my only criticisms of the ride — I think Phil should drop the very long route if that’s not the route that he and all the other “celebrities” are riding. I probably would have been content with the 85 mile route if that was the longest that was offered, but knowing there were guys doing a longer route than me would make me feel less accomplished. I have an issue, I know…
The ride started off with warm and very windy conditions thanks to the infamous Santa Ana winds. I thought we would battle the headwinds all the way east on Mulholland, but they were nearly nonexistent in the Santa Monica Mountains. It was a very warm day, however. The first timed climb came up Potrero heading into Newbury Park, less than 10 miles in. I pushed it pretty hard (400 W for over 5 minutes on the Pioneer) and made it to the top of that one first. With over 100 miles still to come, I thought that effort might come back to haunt me. I threw caution to the wind as they say going up Decker around mile 20, putting up a top-15 all-time KOM on one of the segments. My second and final criticism of the ride is that there was an aid station at the bottom of Decker, not at the top. Who wants to grab food and fill up bottles at the bottom?! (U = mgh, amirite?) The ride was pretty chill for the next 40 miles. Mo and Lilly surprised me as we went up Stunt, which truly made my day!
Finally we made it up Encinal. A younger guy had hopped into the group on PCH and pulled away at the bottom of the climb, but I eventually towed the group back to his wheel before the top. I could tell I was on the verge of cramping at that point, so I came up with a plan before the final climb up Yerba Buena. I refueled the best I could at the next stop and chugged a Hot Shot just before hitting the climb. It definitely wasn’t pretty — I was that weirdo flying by everyone moaning — but I was able to pick up over a minute on everyone up Yerba Buena. Looking at the Strava results, it appears I unofficially won the KOM contest, but I’m still awaiting my congratulatory email.
The post race food was delicious and I probably had at least half a dozen cookies on the day (plus a few more in the past week that I took to-go)! If you’re in the SoCal area next Fall, I recommend coming out!
Next up for me is most likely the Nosco Ride. It will be my first time, but I’ve heard nothing but great things!
Sadly, this is my first post here of 2016. For those of you that know me personally or follow my athletic pursuits via other means (Strava, Twitter @jasonpedersen, Instagram @jpbjorn, Facebook) will know that while I still like to compete and exercise really hard,??there’s a bit more going on in my life these days. Since my last post, I started working full-time as an engineer. Since making that??big change, the free hours and minutes in my??days for things like blogging seem to have all ??but vanished. Of course we all know??if something is important to you, you make time for it. And while I love having this blog as an archive of my athletic life over the past handful of years, in reality it slots in fairly low on my list of priorities. Regardless, I wanted to put??something??up just so my “archive” doesn’t have a huge hole in it for 2016. So here’s a quick recap of my last year of racing.
I competed in the inaugural Major League Triathlon race that was held in Temple, TX in April. My team won! Which was exciting, but unfortunately I was not able to join them in the rest of the races for the season due to a knee injury.
Shortly after the relay, I did my first Wildflower. I always wanted to do that race and I am so glad I finally made it happen this year as 2016 may be the last year ever. I had a great swim and found myself leading the race with two guys I look up to in triathlon: Jesse Thomas and Terenzo Bozzone. They dropped me in the final miles of the bike and my full-time-job-hobby-pro fitness left me going backwards on the run, fading back to 7th place.
After Wildflower, I developed some tendonosis in my right knee that sidelined me for several months. I finally pulled myself together, and got fit enough to do one more race of the season. In October I finished 8th at the Austin Ironman 70.3. ??While I placed better in my two previous half Ironman distance events, I felt this one was actually a better result and I am hopeful I can have a handful of successful,??fun races in 2017.
Now that I am living and training in Beverly Hills, I have been exploring lots of new places to ride and run. One of the first spots I checked out was Franklin Canyon Park. Franklin Canyon is just north of Sunset Blvd, where Coldwater Canyon and Beverly Dr split and head into the Santa Monica Mountains. (Fun fact: At the bottom of Franklin Canyon is Coldwater Canyon Park, where I proposed to Mo in February!) It??is one of my favorite routes to get up to Mulholland, which is the main artery through the Santa Monica Mountains, as it is too narrow and slow for commuters compared to Coldwater Canyon, Laurel Canyon, etc., making it nice and quiet.
On one of my adventures up to Mulholland, I noticed a sign at the intersection of Franklin Canyon, Mulholland and Coldwater Canyon, for “Tree People.” This was back in the summer, and I probably had a couple hours of riding on my mind, so I just gave it a glance and didn’t think much of it. Just last week, however, I gave it a second look and decided to look it up:
TreePeople is a nonprofit organization that is growing a ??green and climate-resilient Los Angeles, one with enough tree canopy, healthy soil, and clean local water in even our most urban neighborhoods.
Interesting. I began reading the website, discovering??they are really into things like capturing rain water, reducing watershed into the ocean, and reforesting brushfire burn areas. How cool! I took a look at their calendar of events, and saw they have a variety of events every week. I was inspired by Paul Mitchell’s #GivingIsMyStyle campaign, and a few minutes later I was registering for an event on Sunday and asking some of my friends if they were interested in joining me.
Angeles Forest Restoration
My friend Spencer Marcus and I carpooled from LA up into the Angeles Crest National Forest to the Chilao Campground off Highway 2. There was a group of maybe about 30 Tree People workers and other volunteers. We had a short orientation before we set off to plant our own trees. We were told this area, along with 160,000 acres, was burned in the??2009 Station Fire. Wildfires in the area are natural and a part of the life cycle of the ecosystem, but the Station Fire was caused by arson and burned so hot that basically all the undergrowth as well as big, tall trees were completely wiped out.??Tree People is helping to get the area back to healthy growth with events like this one.
Our task was to plant Coulter pine trees. We were instructed to find a pre-marked location, dig a hole, create a berm, plant a seedling, water it, and finally lay down some mulch for protection. They stressed “quality over quantity.”??Spencer and I managed to plant five of the best pine tree seedlings you have ever seen!
We were out there for just a few hours, but Spencer and I agreed that the little work we did??felt good!??Not all of the trees we planted will make it, and the ones that do won’t really be grown for many years. Before we left, however, the Tree People organizers told us the impact our work will have, especially to the generations ahead.
If you are interested in doing some volunteer work, or just being outside and enjoying Los Angeles’s natural playground!, I encourage you to look at Tree People’s calendar of events. And if you do volunteer at Tree People, or anywhere else, tell your friends on social media using #GivingIsMyStyle. Paul Mitchell will donate $1 for every Tweet and Instagram with that hash tag toward a variety of charities, and hopefully you will inspire someone else to volunteer or give back, as well!
Here’s some exciting news: on Saturday I got married!
Maureen Pedersen and I were married at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks. It was a perfect day thanks to all the preparation she did for us and our families and friends.
We take off on our honeymoon to Costa Rica on Sunday. We are really looking forward to our first adventures as husband and wife. We have zip lining, rafting, ATV, and lots of hiking already planned, and we’re hoping to get in some coffee tours and surfing, as well. We’ll be staying near the Arenal Volcano the first few nights, and then at a resort in Tamarindo on the Pacific Coast. If you have any recommendations, send them my way!
I met Mo through running at Northern Arizona. I am reminded again and again how fortunate I am to have taken up this sport, as it has shaped my life since I was a little boy in so many way. Marrying Mo is my latest reminder.
For those of you??just interested in my usual race report, and not the 700 words on how I got there, scroll down to here.
If you have been following my triathlon career, you know that I have been focused on ITU racing because I had a dream of becoming an Olympian. I joined The Triathlon Squad in 2012, moved to Poway, and put everything I had into achieving that dream. I had some great results along the way, but always struggled with consistency due to my swimming, and that often resulted in “character building” races where I raced the bike/run with a never-give-up attitude for a middle-of-the-pack result. After many of these types of races, friends, family and peers would often tell me, “You would crush it in non-draft racing.” To which I would reply (or think to myself, at least…), “What’s the end game with that?” One of the great things about an Olympic pursuit is it is black & white. I achieve, or I don’t. I felt that if I went down the path of non-draft racing, it would be difficult??for me to say whether I was succeeding, whether this pursuit was??worth it, or whether I was just putting off real life because I liked to train and see the world. So I continued the ITU points chase, continued working with The Triathlon Squad, and continued dreaming.
This past winter??I hit a bit of a road block and was diagnosed with a tear in my labrum in my left hip. I wrote about it a bit in my Bridgetown race report. I chose not to get surgery and was able to slowly build into some really good run training. However, the timing of the injury derailed my early season racing plans??and left me lower in the ITU rankings than I had hoped to be (especially relative to the other Americans that I am fighting with for race starts). I felt that with the limited racing I would be able to do, I really needed to nail each one to put myself into a position where I could make the start list at the most important events and be capable of competing well. April, May and into June I had a couple of good races and felt like my training was going very well and was ready for a career day at the Huatulco World Cup. On the first lap of the bike, just after settling into the middle of the lead pack on the bike, I blew out my front tire. The??field slipped away, and looking back now, I think that is a defining moment where I think??the dream slipped away, as well.
For a variety of reasons, I felt like I could no longer make it to the Rio Olympics. Of course, I could see the qualification process down to the bitter end, which probably won’t be until May of next year, but knew that I would only regret not making a change sooner. I am getting married in November, and I felt the opportunity cost to me and my fiancee in continuing down this path was too high. So after two more races in July, I decided to leave The Triathlon Squad, move back to LA, and begin looking for a career in mechanical engineering.
That sounds like an end to my triathlon career, and it is the end of my triathlon career as I knew it. When I made that decision, I was still in great shape and didn’t want all that fitness to go to waste while I start the process of looking for a job, so I scrolled through the late summer/fall triathlon calendar to see what was available. I found a couple local events, the Santa Barbara Triathlon and Nautica Malibu Triathlon, and decided those would make good stepping stones into my first half Ironman race, Silverman. In between??submitting job applications and spending a lot more time with my family, I still managed??doing quite a bit of training and have enjoyed transitioning into this different lifestyle.
I took off for Las Vegas late on Friday morning.??It is so nice to not have to pack up a bike and get on an airplane, and as I made the ~5 hour drive,??the novelty of driving to a fairly big event was not lost. I arrived in the afternoon and promptly checked in at the race expo, where I bumped into Taylor Reid. Taylor is a fairly new member of The Triathlon Squad, so we have done some training together and even shared a common roof over our heads in the past few months. We went for a shakeout run on some of the run course. I had looked at the elevation profile of the course before arriving, so I knew there would be some hills, but I noted that the incline felt steeper than I had imagined.
Silverman has split transitions (the bike course is point-to-point with separate T1 and T2) so this race had a bit more logistics. Running shoes were to be dropped off at T2 and bike checked in at T1 on Saturday afternoon, the day before the race. This was all new to me,??and made my pre-race day more hectic than I am used to. After the race briefing, I headed out to Lake Mead to get a quick bike ride in on some of the course, check my bike in at T1, and a short swim. The tradeoff to all this madness was that on race morning, pretty much all I had to worry about was getting to the start, filling up my bottles on the bike, and pumping up my tires. Mo and my parents flew in that afternoon and met me back at the hotel when I was all finished. We enjoyed a relaxed evening with an early dinner and early bed time.
Start time was 7 am, so I got up at 4 and began eating. I had a bowl of oatmeal, banana, two hardboiled eggs, two small cups of coffee, and some SaltStick. My parents drove me out to the race start so I didn’t have to take a shuttle from T2. We arrived with plenty of time for me to make sure everything was good to go in T1 and get a short warm up in the water. I believe the announcer said the water temperature was 77F making it well above the wetsuit cutoff for professionals. The air was a little cool and there was already some wind picking up, making it pretty chilly standing at the start line in waste deep water. I noticed a number of the other pro men shivering as we waited the cannon blast start.
Swim 11th in 27:40, 2:27 behind the fastest
Many of the best swimmers were lining up on the right side of the starting line. The wind was blowing from the SSE, making it right-to-left as we looked out towards the first turn buoy.??I chose to go just to their inside, thinking they would come over and I could slot into the pack. I started out fine and noticed I got in front of some of the slower guys.??By 100m, the swim became really choppy and I struggled to keep a high tempo. I have been swimming openwater with Tower 26 in Santa Monica, but the conditions have been beautiful out there every morning and I think spoiled me a bit.??I was really battling the waves out there and the front group of guys got away from me as we were making the turn a half mile in. The chop was a little kinder on the way back in, and I just thought about limiting my losses and remembering that it was a long day.
Before the race I thought coming out less than 2 minutes behind the leader would put me in a decent position and was an attainable goal, but I missed that mark a bit. There was a group of three guys that came out ~1:30 behind Cam — Drew Scott, Matt Lieto and Guy Crawford — and I think just behind them is??about where I should have been.
As I ran through transition, Mo told me I was in 12th and told me my time deficit. My first thought was this was a rough start, but I again reminded myself this is a longer race and to just get out on the bike, stick to my plan, and see what happens.
Bike 3rd in 2:15:26, 2:27 behind the fastest
I was really looking forward to this bike ride. I have been very curious to see how hard some of these top guys go for 56 miles, and I liked my chances on a hilly course like Silverman’s. I had a target of about 300 W, which I thought would give me a competitive split and give me a chance to run well off the bike. Since I came out with the deficit on the swim, I wasn’t able to get straight into a group, so I headed out with my power number in my head, and knowing that I would be pushing a bit harder on some of the climbs, but it might average out on the descents.
With the SE wind we were flying north up Lakeshore Rd.??By the time we hit Northshore Rd, I had moved up to 10th position. As we rolled down and up the hills, I could see guys ahead, and one by one, I started to pull them in. I was happy when I rolled by Drew Scott, last year’s winner, and I started to feel like I was really in the race now. Eventually I saw Cam Dye, followed closely by Michael Raelert, coming back the other direction. I took a peak at my clock and hoped the u-turn wasn’t too far ahead. As I made the turn, I was just behind Paul Matthews and Kevin Collington. I checked my clock again and noted that I was just a little over 3 minutes behind Cam. I got pretty excited here as I was riding very close to Cam’s pace.
It was around here that I think I started racing a bit too emotionally. As I said, I was excited and wanted to keep pushing and try to close the gap to the leaders. I was feeling strong, but we were not even halfway done with the race! I tried riding a legal distance behind Kevin and Paul (Kevin had made a pass) for a few minutes. The effort felt too easy, and I began to worry that the front of the race was getting too far ahead. I decided to make the pass and keep pressing on at my own pace. Instead of waiting for a climb, I made the pass on a slight descent. About two seconds into making the pass around BOTH guys, I realized I was going way too hard. But since I had already entered the draft zone, I was committed to the move, and just pressed on. I think I may have burnt a match or two there. (Looking at my power file shows that I went 464 W for 30 s down a 3% grade to make that move.)
As we made our way back to Lakeshore Rd/Lake Mead Parkway, I put some space between me and the guys behind. Around 35 or 40 miles I saw my parents and Mo, and could hear the excitement in their voices. I was riding in 3rd, just a few minutes behind the leaders, in my first 70.3! There was an aid station here, and I grabbed a bottle of water, but only took a few drinks before tossing it. Another mistake, I think. While it wasn’t a hot day, it was very very dry. I had 48 oz of liquid on board (which had a total of about 600 calories in Carbo Pro + Gatorade + SaltStick mix) and on a course like this, in such dry conditions, I probably should have drank an entire bottle of water from that aid station.
I actually planned to get some more water at the final aid station at around 50 miles, but it was on a section where we were going over 30 mph. I could have slowed down, but Cody Beals had just passed me and I didn’t want to give him too much time in the final miles. The long climb up Gibson was into a headwind and was pretty brutal. I tried to stay tucked in a tight aero position here, but I was starting to get tired and just general discomfort from the relatively long TT, for me.
I ended up with an average power of 293 W and 303 W. Before the race, I thought I could run pretty well off that. As I took my feet out of my shoes, however, I got some cramps in both hamstrings. Generally that isn’t a good sign for the run ahead! I didn’t need to run sub 5:00 mile pace here, however, so I thought maybe my legs would handle a??slower pace. Of course, the pace is slower because I’m not running a 10k, but a half marathon!
Run 7th in 1:22:16, 6:05 behind the fastest
My plan for the run was to take it out relaxed and let it come to me. The first mile or so was downhill, followed by about 2.5 miles of uphill. As I rolled down, I was happy that my lower legs felt great, but my quads were already quite sore. Cody Beals had exited T2 with less than 30 seconds gap on me, and I came up to his shoulder as we hit the first climb. My legs were not responding as I had hoped and Cody opened a gap back up. Again, I thought, “It’s a long race,” and let him go a bit. The run course was three laps, and I hoped I could really get things moving as I made my way back down the long downhill before the next long climb.
I wasn’t feeling??tired or??bonked, but my legs were hurting and I felt like my gait was closer to a jog than it was to fast running. The Gatorade and Gu provided at the aid station didn’t sound too appealing at this point, so I stuck with water. It still wasn’t too hot, but all the wind made it feel so dry and I felt like I just needed some liquid in my throat.
When I finally made my way back up the hill on the second lap, things started to get pretty grim. I was chipping a few seconds away on Cam (Who was actually in 1st place, not 2nd, since Michael Raelert was disqualified for not serving a drafting penalty. But I don’t think anyone racing was really aware of that.), but Cody had dropped me and I could see Taylor running great not too far behind me. As I passed Mo, she could see I wasn’t moving too quickly, and encouraged me to get my head in it and really start racing. I was still very well positioned in the race, but the trend was definitely going backwards.
It was around mile 6 or 7, as I ran uphill into a stiff headwind, that racing 13.1 miles turned into running 13.1 miles. My quads, hamstrings and glutes were all locking up pretty badly and I had some serious doubts that I could keep my legs moving all the way to the finish line. Taylor came by me and I had no answer. On my last lap, the women’s leader, Lauren Goss, whom was one lap behind me, came by me and said, “Welcome to 70.3’s.” Lauren raced Silverman last year and warned me before race day that many racers would go too hard on the bike and pay for it on the run. I was proving her rule.
Finally, with about a mile to go, I was able to push things a bit. I had to, as Chris Baird was coming in hot and about to roll me up (he ended up the day with the 2nd fastest run). I made the final turn with a 30 second gap on Chris. I knew if I could run a decent pace back down the hill, Chris would have to run sub-5:00 pace, and I was pretty sure that wasn’t going to happen. It hurt, but with a half mile to go, I was pretty sure I had it. Then my legs seized up and I almost tripped.??Oh shit. I took the pressure off just a bit, and finally made it into the finishing chute. Chris came in just 13 seconds behind me.
Overall 4th in 4:07:58, 3:23 behind 1st
After the race I hurt. I could hardly walk for about an hour after the race. I was told that I had actually finished 4th, not 5th because of Raelert’s DQ, and that made me feel a little bit better. Overall, I was happy to reach the finish line dead tired, and proud of my effort on the day and the preparation I put in over the past couple months.
Racing over four hours is long. And hard. I received lots of encouraging words from friends, most of them to the effect of, “Great job! I knew this was a great distance for you.” My 2015 season is over, and it is hard to say at this point what 2016 is going to look like, but I am really happy that I came out to Silverman and??gave it a go. I am told experience at the longer distance racing is worth a lot, so I hope I can build on this one in the future.
Special thanks to my dad for all the great photographs. It was really nice to have my parents out to this race as I sort of put a cap on my journey of the last few years. I never would have been able to make the sort of commitment to triathlon and The Triathlon Squad that I did without their support, both financially and emotionally. They have always encouraged me to pursue my dreams, and that didn’t stop when I told them I wanted to move to Poway.
I planned to drive back Sunday evening after the race.??After the early wakeup call and racing 70.3 miles, driving five hours seemed like a rough end to the weekend. But my beautiful fiancee would be making the drive back with me, and that made the time special. Throughout our relationship, we have yearned for a “normal” that would have both of us spending time together. Returning home??with her after a solid race felt like a new normal that I am very excited about.
I wanted to share a podcast I was featured on this week called “The Triathlon Preview Show,” hosted by Zach Miller and Emily Cocks. I was featured in the second half of the show as an “ITU athlete” giving some insight into this weekend’s WTS Stockholm race. It was fun talking triathlon and hopefully I can do more of this in the future. Thanks for having me on!