Thursday, May 31, 2007

Navy SEALs - Lone Survivor

If you've been reading this blog, you've heard me refer to "my Navy Seal boys". Navy Seals are based in 3 parts of the US; San Diego, Norfolk, Virginia and Honolulu. These guys are amazing people, who strive for the utmost challenge, and do it as a means of serving their country. Their toughness is without question, and their loyalties, thicker than blood.

Back in late June of 2005, almost 2 years ago now, it was a sad time for many of my Navy Seal friends, as they experienced the deadliest day in their history, with the loss of 11 lives of their teammates along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, in a fight against Taliban forces.

My Seal friends here were devastated, as they were all friends, but one gentleman in particular was a close friend. Marcus Luttrell was MIA, and presumed dead. Marcus and Morgan Luttrell were identical twins, and two of the most popular guys on the team. From the first time I ever met them, it was clear they had a lot of personality! You couldn't help but like the guys. Their Texas roots were evident in their speech, as well as their character. They were tough, hilarious and at the same time, kind and caring. They stood about 6'5", and 220 lbs. Big boys with big hearts.

For days he was still MIA, and I recall having a conversation with my good friend JT, trying to prepare him for what seemed the inevitable truth, that Marcus was dead. Little did any of us really know of what was going on in those mountains.

In October of 2005, I headed out to Honolulu, Hawaii in an attempt to win the ITU Age-Group World Championships. I stayed with Morgan in Honolulu, and it was the first real chance I ever experienced spending a lot of time with either one. I finished 3rd overall, and won the Men's 25-29 World Championship, and my friendship with Marcus and Morgan has been very close ever since.

So what happened to Marcus? Marcus survived in one of the most amazing, incredulous stories you could ever imagine. Truth would certainly seem stranger than fiction.

Marcus has written a book to be released on June 12th. This week he is in San Diego to make his official exit from the Navy, as he must exit the Navy before it can be printed. He did this to tell the story of what happened to his teammates, as well as what it means to be a Navy Seal.

Here's a description of the book from

"On a clear night in late June 2005, four U.S. Navy SEALs left their base in northern Afghanistan for the mountainous Pakistani border. Their mission was to capture or kill a notorious al Qaeda leader known to be ensconced in a Taliban stronghold surrounded by a small but heavily armed force. Less then twenty-four hours later, only one of those Navy SEALs remained alive. This is the story of fire team leader Marcus Luttrell, the sole survivor of Operation Redwing, and the desperate battle in the mountains that led, ultimately, to the largest loss of life in Navy SEAL history. But it is also, more than anything, the story of his teammates, who fought ferociously beside him until he was the last one left-blasted unconscious by a rocket grenade, blown over a cliff, but still armed and still breathing. Over the next four days, badly injured and presumed dead, Luttrell fought off six al Qaeda assassins who were sent to finish him, then crawled for seven miles through the mountains before he was taken in by a Pashtun tribe, who risked everything to protect him from the encircling Taliban killers. A six-foot-five-inch Texan, Leading Petty Officer Luttrell takes us, blow-by-blow, through the brutal training of America's warrior elite and the relentless rites of passage required by the Navy SEALs. He transports us to a monstrous battle fought in the desolate peaks of Afghanistan, where the beleaguered American team plummeted headlong a thousand feet down a mountain as they fought back through flying shale and rocks. In this rich , moving chronicle of courage, honor, and patriotism, Marcus Luttrell delivers one of the most powerful narratives ever written about modern warfare-and a tribute to his teammates, who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country."

My wife and I had dinner the other night with JT, Morgan and Marcus. Marcus had just landed back in San Diego, and we went to a local pizza and beer joint. We caught up, and talked about Marcus' upcoming book tour, which currently is scheduled for Larry King Live, Oprah, The Today Show, and a number of other stops, possibly even The Tonight Show w/ Jay Leno.

I'm looking forward to Marcus' book, as I've already pre-ordered 4 copies from I think Marcus helps me see a bigger picture when I toe the line at Ironman. Not that the race isn't important, but that the opportunity to compete in it is. The opportunity to do well, even more special. I may never win an Ironman, but I certainly set some lofty goals in my life, and will have chased them to the best of my ability. Along the way, I've met some amazing people, and hopefully helped just as many. Isn't that what life is about?

As I enter the final, important days of my training for Ironman Coeur d'Alene, I feel inspired, confident and ready. I am truly in a special place in my life, and amazed at the individuals who surround me, and support me to do my best.

At dinner, Marcus told me, "I was just talking about you the other day to somebody!" I replied, "Really? Who was that?"
He stated, "The Governor of Texas, Rick Perry. He's training for a triathlon, and I told him about you. I told him you're a coach too, so he might be giving you a call."

Wouldn't that be something!

Vance - 2007 NFA

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Palomar...MUCH BETTER!

As I stated in the last post, I had blown up and had an awful ride up Palomar last Friday. Today I went back with Mac, and it was MUCH BETTER!

If you haven't heard of Mount Palomar, check out the photo above, and this website:

I don't want to give out any direct performance indicators, since my competitors may be reading this, but I will tell you that I was over 7 mins faster for the climb, (while in the aerobars even more), and averaged 31 watts more for the climb than Friday!

This also after a big day Tuesday, which included a 30 min run before my AM swim. Swim was just short of 4K, with over 1800 meters at race pace or faster. In the afternoon, it was a 90 min workout with 3 x 2 miles, descending, and 30 min high cadence spin on the trainer after that.
That's all for now...Tomorrow is a much needed rest day, and a chance to get a lot of things done. Looking forward to it.
Vance - 2007 NFA

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Lots to update...

Sorry for a lack of updates, but the last update was a pretty good one!

There is plenty to update everyone on...things are getting good, and I'm getting excited.
Here are some photos from the XTERRA race...
This is Craig Evans, my boy I hosted, leading us out of the water after the first lap. On the left of him is Seth Wealing, and Conrad is right behind Craig. If you look at the arm just to the left of Craig's head, that's me. When I see that arm motion, I cringe! Shouldn't have my recovery arm that high! Working on that in the pool right now.
This is a cool photo. From left to right, Dan Hugo of South Africa, myself, and my swim training partner, Marc Guilianotti.

This photo is obviously me on the run course. That run performance has my confidence quite high, as I haven't had a run like in a triathlon in a long time. It's a good sign for IMCDA.
Latest start list for IMCDA now includes:

Jasper Blake - IM Canada Champ
Tom Evans - 2 time IM Champ
Swen Sundberg - Faris' training partner
Lewis Elliott - 3rd at Oceanside 70.3
Victor Zyemtsev - IM USA Champ
Michael Lovato - IM AZ and CDA Champ
Bryan Rhodes - IM UK Champ

Rumor has it that Steve Larsen will be toeing the line as well. Should be an interesting race.

I'm back in a big training block, 2 weeks long, then shutting it down for CDA. Last week tried to do Palomar, and put in 6 hours in the saddle. That was a mistake! I was still feeling XTERRA, as I absolutely BLEW up on the climb, about 45 mins into it. Took 2 days off entirely, and have started back with a vengance! Had two awesome swims to start this week, and this afternoon have a good run workout planned. Tomorrow I have another date with Palomar, but am doing it with my boy Mac Brown, who is also doing CDA. I'm planning for it to go much better than last week!

I am now entering hermit mode. No more meeting up with friends. No more scheduling crap. My whole life for the month of June is IMCDA. This includes my birthday, the 15th. My main method of communication will be email and this blog.
Vance - NFA 2007

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

XTERRA West - 7th

Heartrate Monitors Can’t Rate Heart

Heartrate monitors can’t rate heart! I have that on some shirts I made, and when you race XTERRA, that’s the theme. If you wear a heartrate monitor, you’ll see numbers so high, you’ll wonder if it’s even possible to get your heartrate that high without cardiac arrest! But when you’re tired, you have to dig, no matter what the monitor says. Nothing will tell you what you’re capable of except you, when you reach the late stages of an XTERRA, or any tough race for that matter. That takes heart, and no monitor can tell you if you’ve got it left in your tank.

This past weekend I finished 7th at the XTERRA West Championships in Temecula, CA for my best finish ever at an XTERRA Championship event, and a great rebound from my disappointment at Wildflower.

I was hosting American stud-swimmer Craig Evans, who flew in from Tennessee to start his first full season on the pro circuit. Some people may wonder why or how I could host another pro, but Craig is such a great guy, he and I get along great and are always trying to help each to get better. Also, with my focus placed firmly on Ironman racing, and my disappointment from Wildflower still lingering, my attitude going into this race was all about fun!

XTERRA is where I first burst onto the triathlon scene, when I finished 9th overall as an age-grouper at the XTERRA West Championships in Big Bear in 2004, beating most of the pro field and some big names. So this was a return to my roots, and enjoying the off-road racing.

My new deal with Kuota was modified to a road triathlon deal, when they couldn’t get me a mountain bike in time, so B+L Bike and Sports hooked me up with an amazing machine, the Cannondale Rush. I couldn’t believe this bike! Honestly, I’ve never really been a full suspension fan, but I AM NOW A CONVERT! I don’t think I’ll ever ride a hardtail again, if I continue to ride full-suspensions as good as this one was! This thing was like soft butter down the descents, allowing me to never touch the brakes and just let the bike do its thing.

Race morning I arrived with my wife Orlanda, Craig and good friend JT. There was some cloud cover and even cool temps for the start of the Sport race, but I was pretty sure it wouldn’t last. Sure enough, it didn’t.

I was able to catch some friends and clients I coach racing the Sport race, and see them off. They did outstanding, with 3 of them finishing on the podium in their age groups, (three 2nds), and one finishing 5th. I was thrilled!

I set-up the transition spot for myself, next to Conrad Stoltz, and we chatted a bit, sharing a few pre-race laughs and I was definitely on the relaxed side. My wife kept telling me, “You’re going to do so well today,” and each time I just smiled, as it was exactly what I needed to hear.

I did a light jog and then headed for the water to finish my warm-up. Unlike past years here, it was a mass start and wetsuits were legal for the pros. This meant big crowds, and it would be time to “Get Amongst It!” as my Navy Seal boys say.

I stood on the shore next to Craig and Conrad, and felt the power of the starting cannon hit my body before my ears could even hear it. It was mayhem for awhile, as I went straight to Craig’s feet. A few meters later I suffered a strong elbow to the left eye. The blow was so hard, it knocked my left goggle up, pulling my eyelid closed. I couldn’t even see out of it! I was a little worried I might lose my contact lens. I also breathe on my left side, and keep my right goggle underwater. With the visibility of the water being so poor, this meant I couldn’t see anything!

I thought about stopping and trying to fix it quickly, but the risk of missing the front pack was just too great, and I figured with the short run out of the water between the two laps, I could fix it there. That just meant having to swim with one eye for about 700 more meters!

With each stroke, I am getting beat around but trying to find the right spot, and realizing quickly that I am in the lead pack! Craig and Conrad are right in front of me, as is Seth Wealing, with Andrew Noble at my side and even my local swim training partner and friend, Marc Giulianotti. Marc is a great swimmer, and kicks my butt in the pool, so I knew I was having a great swim.

We reach the shore to finish lap 1, and I’m in 4th, but Craig, Conrad and Seth have put in a couple seconds gap as I’m trying to fix my goggle during the little shore run. Luckily some of the guys from the pack step in to close the gap, and we dive into the water to start the second lap. I felt great when I stood up and got on shore, and when I dove in, but then it hit me! WOW, I’m a little tired here!

I knew what I had to do, just find some feet and hope the pack would stay together, as I tried to regain my composure and rhythm in the draft. It’s clear as we reach the far buoy that the pack has been established, and no one will try to break away individually. Now it’s just how much time will the pack put on the chasers?

We finish the swim and I look back, I can’t believe the gap we have! It’s HUGE! I can only see a few stragglers back to the far buoy, so there is no organized chase pack. That’s bad news for anyone trying to chase us!

I run into transition and the crowd is fired up to see local guys like Marc and I in the mix. I smack Craig in the butt as he’s bending over to take off his wetsuit, and I’m running by. Conrad gives me almost a look of shock to see me right next to him in T1.

I struggled a little with the wetsuit at my ankle, then was off, about 8th place out of transition. We started up a road climb this year, and I could see everyone lined up - Conrad, Noble, Craig, Kerry Klassen, Marc and Dan Hugo of South Africa, and no sign of Wealing, who had taken a wrong turn early of T1 and was now behind me. I was able to get Marc to work with me and take some pulls as we crested the climb and began the ride to the loop. I hit the fire road and was alone, as I tried my best to chase Craig’s group.

Once on the climb, I could see Conrad, and the string of us back to me, as I sat in 5th. On this initial climb I was caught by Mike Vine, Seth Wealing and Greg Krause. I would hold 8th until late in the first lap when Josiah Midduagh would catch me. I tried to go with him, but it was clear my Ironman training was making me suffer when I would go past my lactate threshold very far. This was a common theme, and I expected it, but the fact the race was so long, (nearly 3 hours), I knew it would play back to my advantage of strength.

My race would suffer its first potential disaster when I got to the bottom of the first descent and realized somewhere along it I lost one of my bottles with about 300 calories in it! Luckily for me, the aid station was just around the corner and I got everything I could from it to make up for the loss of the bottle. It would later prove to be a great adjustment!

Soldiering on, I would catch back Wealing, who was having bike issues, and Craig who had given Wealing his CO2’s, only to need them himself a few hundred yards later, when his front wheel burped on an off-camber section.

I slowed down and tossed my CO2 pack to Craig, and then worked to try and hold off a hard-charging Brian Smith. By this time, I’m noticing my back is getting very tight from having to dig the front wheel on the steep climbs, and I’m not alone with the back tension. Brian is trying to stretch out his back as well on the fire road, as we trade a few pulls.

Brian would begin to pull away from me on the climb, and I would also be caught by Tyler Johnson and Rom Akerson, (who beat me in Panama). I would chase the two of them trying to keep them in contact, and would see them leaving T2 as I came rolling in.

In T2, my wife Orlanda is screaming at me to get moving, and that I’m in 10th. I start telling her how the race is going as I’m putting on my shoes and things. Some people couldn’t believe how I was just talking, and it became clear to me, I’m not that tired! Suddenly, I’ve got a little bit more confidence!

As I leave T2, I see Brian Astell, and know he will give a strong chase.

I start the run up the big initial climb, to see Tyler and Rom have a good gap, as does Greg Krause. I just push the climb steady, and back into a rhythm at the top. I continue this pace-setting for the first few miles, and realize I’m gaining on all three of them! I catch Rom on the first lap, and I begin to ask myself how tired am I really? “Not that tired,” I say! All this time, I look back, and Astell is also holding ground against me! I better keep pushing!

I continue to push, knowing that my strength will show thru soon, especially on the 2nd lap. Sure enough, I catch Krause and Tyler and make a big move to see if there is anyone else I can get, and make sure I put a gap on Tyler!

I come into the finish area and I’ve got a big smile on my face. I would get 7th, my best finish ever at an XTERRA Championship event, and only 64 seconds from Brian in 5th. I also recorded one of the fastest run splits of the day, knowing that things are on good form for Ironman Coeur d’Alene.

Later I would watch my clients finish and enjoy in their successes as well:

Kevin Breedlove – 2nd, Men 25-29 Sport
Daniel Tuggle – 2nd, Men 35-39 Sport
Rob Wells – 5th, Men 35-39 Sport
Kristen Craine – 2nd, Women 30-35, Sport
James Walsh – 3rd, Men 25-29, 3rd amateur overall, with a crash!
Christiane Reetz – 1st, Women 40-44 – Qualified for World Championships!
Nicole Lippert – 1st, Mixed relay, Swim and run leg!
Tom Ryan – 23rd, Men 35-39, crash
Eric Palmer – 21st, Men 30-34, broken chain
Jon Tumilson – DNF, broken chain and crash

If you didn’t get the chance to race this event, but wondered what it was like, check out this video:

All in all, a great weekend for me, personally and professionally, and exactly what I needed as I head into my last big block of training for Ironman Coeur d’Alene.

See you at the start line, and don’t forget your heart!


PS - Special thanks to Osamu Chiba for the action photos. The bar photos are myself with Rob, a client, and Craig with my boy/client JT, all of us celebrating afterwards.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Wildflower - WHAT THE HELL???

What the hell just happened? That thought continues to go thru my mind. I’ve been dreading writing this race report, and breaking things down, because I’m so frustrated with the race and the result, that I don’t even want to think about it.

But as a coach and teacher, I understand the need to dissect the race and learn from the things which happened. So, here’s a race report, but short and concise.

Felt great leading in the race, body was ready. No injuries, no aches, no pains. Set to go. Tightened down all bolts because I know how rough the road is. Got dropped from the chase pack in the swim, but still managed to hold on for a decent split at 25 mins and change, about 90 secs off the leaders.

Bike starts off rough, I’m struggling up the hill and I don’t understand why. Later, I’m catching a bunch of guys, but it’s clear I’m falling further and further behind. Not taking in much water, seems too cool with the strong winds. Bad idea. Mile 30 of the bike and I get stung by a bee, just between the arm-pad and my forearm. Stings like hell, pull it out, hope it won't affect my race.

Still struggling on the bike, and the wind is kicking my butt. Tensing so hard to stabilize the bike in the winds, my triceps and lats are killing me! I get to Nasty Grade, and a guy tells me I’m 16th. What the hell just happened??? I feel like the tire is flat, but I keep looking down and it’s fine. I finally get into transition and the bike is all weird as I try to push it. After the race when I get my bike, I realize the brake pad was rubbing on the disc wheel so bad, the wheel couldn’t turn. Hmm, no wonder.

I go out for the run and get thru 2 miles in 13:30, NOT GOOD. I realize it’s not my day, but I’m going to finish and make sure I get a workout out of it. Thru 7 miles in just under 49 mins, AWFUL. Run a 5:40 mile from 7 to 8, finally starting to feel ok, mostly because I’ve taken in a bunch of water now, but the race is essentially over. Just kept it steady on in, and finished in 4:28. Disappointing to say the least. I finished 14th, but that’s no consolation.

Talking with Peter, I did a number of things wrong. First, didn’t have the bike ready to race. Thought it was ready, it wasn’t. I needed to make sure the bolts were tighter, and the brake better set. Second, I didn’t drink enough water. Third, I arrived on Friday morning, and probably rushed myself with the race. Next time I will leave earlier and get things situated. Fourth, I was overconfident. My training has been great, and I thought it would probably come easier than it would. Now I’m embarrassed to put my name next to that result.

Now it’s 3 days later, and my arm is still a little swollen, but definitely better. Here’s a photo of it from Sunday.

Now it’s a few days easy, and then back at it for Ironman Coeur d’Alene, with a race workout at Temecula for XTERRA West. There is now a sense of urgency in the Vance household. NFA…For real, NFA. Hopefully, this is just what I needed.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Oh yeah, the steed!

Sorry, forgot to add the photos of the steed, ready to race!

Vance - 2007 NFA

This is it..WILDFLOWER

Sorry for a lack of recent posts, but things have been busy as I prepare for this weekend's race. I'll be heading to central California for one of the biggest, and coolest triathlons in the world, Wildflower. About 9,000 athletes competing over the 3-day festival.

I'm racing the half-Ironman Saturday against a field which includes Olympians, World Champions, Ironman Champions, and perhaps the biggest assembly of talent outside a major championship race in the world this year. It will be a great chance to see where I stack up. The race is Saturday, so I'll probably post a race report on here come Monday.

I'll be going with 2 friends who are racing the half-ironman as well, who are Navy Seals. They are my boys!

My wife is also going, and we're meeting my mother-in-law there as well. It will be her first time seeing me race in person, (she watched Ironman Florida online), so she is excited. I'm especially excited to see her have the opportunity to understand better what I do. It will also be great for my wife to have someone there to share her nervous energy with!

If you want to check out the race, is the place!

I'll also have a number of clients of mine racing, which will be exciting. I'm anxious to see how they do.

Wish me luck...

Vance - 2007 NFA