Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Nawlins: Half Iron, Full Party

I’m starting to revisit the wisdom of the last couple weeks. I have my first race of the year coming up this Sunday at Ironman 70.3 New Orleans, and in the last two weeks, I have probably 20,000 air miles logged, having gone last week to Thailand to visit Vittoria Tires production facility, Phuket for a couple days of decompression, back to San Diego. I’ve chased that with a weekend drive to Tucson for two birthday parties. My cats don’t recognize me anymore.

Regardless, I’m grateful to have the chance to be here for the debut of this race in Nawlins. I am about 99.9 percent sure this race will be a roaring success, for several reasons:

First, the race is being put on by rockstar race director Bill Burke and Premier Event Management. Throughout my career, I have been impressed by the level of energy that he puts into assembling races. He was the man behind the popular Dannon Duathlon Series a decade ago, which—while du ain’t as fly as tri—were some of the funnest races I’ve ever done. Plus it spawned some awesome talent, from Paul Thomas (former national champ and now national sales manager at Kuota Bicycles) to Kimberly Bruckner (now Baldwin, who kicked ass on the road with the T-Mobile team before retiring a couple years ago) to multi-time national champ Greg Watson. He treated the athletes like family, and does the same today with all athletes in his races. He is known for organizing great events—and doing every bit of the grunt work. I recall the LA Tri last year, watching him hustle to put on transition racks at Venice Beach the evening before the race. Bill is a high-energy hustler.

Second, New Orleans (well, Metaire specifically) is PEM’s home. Which means Burke and crew will roll out the red carpet, since this is in their backyard. No way they're not gonna put on a good show.

Third, I think our community (not just us in triathlon, but us as Americans on the whole) wants to see the New Orleans area recover from the effects of Hurricane Katrina, by injecting some tourism dollars into an already depressed economy. Burke promised to take me on a tour of some of the areas ravaged by the Hurricane, including the Lower 9th Ward, an area still struggling for survival.

Fourth? Even with 70.3 Oceanside, this is turning out to be a sick field; reigning 70.3 World Champ Joanna Zeiger, Des Ficker, Natascha Badmann, Kate Major, Heather Gollnick, Nina Kraft, Yvonne Van Vlerken… this sounds like a European championship. And the guys will have Macca, Brent McMahon, Tim O’Donnell, Chris Lieto, Brian Fleischmann, Chris McDonald, Brandon Marsh, Luc Van Lierde, Joe Umphenouer—this one is revenge of the American ITU short-coursers. Looks like everyone is keen to race.

I’ll be updating here a bit on my trip last week to Bangkok and visit to the factory where they make Vittoria Tires and Geax Tires (I even got to make my own Geax mountain bike tire), as well as my quick side trip to beautiful Phuket. I must say, while I may be jetlagged and knocked sideways from my trip, there’s nothing quite like run training for a potentially humid race in New Orleans on the run course for the Laguna Phuket Triathlon, in literally humid training conditions. Good practice.

Meantime, I turn my attention to gluing up tires and taking on a visual of this course, which looks on paper fairly flat (good for me), but will invariably draw those wheelsuckers with no morals (bad for me and the rest of those who hold a utopian view of a world without cheating drafters). I hope the officials do their job and sit those pack bitches on the side of the road. And if they don’t come, I hope they get stitches, cramps and GI distress that leaves them bawling.

Can you sense I loathe drafters? If I could have the guns and knives-spinning-from- wheels on my bike that my boss John Duke wishes he had on his car for shitty drivers in his way, I’d be a happy boy.

And I’m looking forward to scooping up a finish at famous Jackson Square, right down in the heart of the French Quarter. Maybe they’ll have a hurricane (the drink!) waiting for finishers! And I’m trying to envision the finishers medals… with beads?!?! Hopefully things don’t get as sideways in the finish gantry as they do during Mardi Gras….or hopefully they will!

Meantime, on to the little bet Brad Culp and I have; he’s racing Oceanside, I’m racing New Orleans. He gave me 45 minutes (45 minutes!!!) and winner gets a case of beer. This is easy money. We both just got our battle axes set up yesterday (see above).. should be fun.

No comments: