Monday, July 18, 2011

Chattanooga Waterfront Tri 2011

July 10th marked the long awaited race on home turf. My last race before leaving for SEAL training. I was very anxious to see how much progress I had made in a years time. Competing with my buddies Dan and Cardon held the excitement high also. My goal for the race was to cross the finish line with the tank totally empty, and smash my time from last year. From my experience a lot of the intimidation of triathlon stems from the unknown of the course. Having never run a certain course or climbed a certain hill on your bike leaves a lot of questions about how the legs will feel afterward. Just how hard should I push it on the bike in order to have a good run? What mile should I hit the gas on the run and give it all you have? Having done this race before, running this course on a weekly basis and doing the swim 15+ times I had most of those questions answered.Overall this was my favorite race this season. I learned how much better I could be on the bike leg, its pretty humbling when people twice your age blow by you on the bike, and your only hope is that you're going to catch him on the run.  My only regret from this race was not putting socks on. My feet were completely blistered and I ended up changing the way my feet planted on the run in order to reduce friction. I placed 7th in the 19-25 age group which qualifies for the age group national championship and beat my time from last year by more than 20 minutes!
Dan Waddell bringing it home.

Tsali Xterra 2011

Dan Waddell and I competed in the Tsali Xterra June 4th, 2011. Ive always enjoyed spending time around the Nantahala. Although the race was a blast and the weather was great, this was not my best race. My nutrition was a long way from optimal. The run was very challenging and my stomach was knotted the entire time. Getting a podium spot was awesome but a little bitter sweet, I think Dan and I could have 1-2 finished the race on a better day. We left in high spirits, I guess you cant feel your best every race!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Scenic City Trail Marathon and Half Marathon

Photo by Jeff Bartlett, Rights reserved Rock/Creek
Saturday I raced in Rock/Creek's scenic city trail half marathon at Racoon mountain. Overall I had a great time and was once again humbled by the amount of agility and endurance required for a trail race. I was really happy about my decision to do the 13.1 mile distance since the 26.2 was just another lap around the course. It was great fun racing with Mike and David, my trainers at GetBuilt Chattanooga Crossfit, and ended up with a time of 1:34 on my watch which was 13th of 288.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Rev3 Knoxville.

The Rev3 Knoxville marked the first olympic distance race of the year. In the weeks leading up to the race I really looked forward to racing the shorter course but as the race neared and training increased I remembered the intensity of a 2+ hour effort at near red line effort. The 1500m/26.2/6.2 mile course creates the every minute matters feel, and no time for mechanical errors, long water/food breaks, or pacing that you might want in a half or full ironman race. On the other hand a shorter course means less fatigue and a shorter recovery. The Rev series race was a great experience and was probably the toughest competition field yet. We found it hard to find anyone without a european accent at the expo and the pro field was stacked with 2008 olympian Matty Reed, and 70.3 world champ Julie Dibbens.

Race day brought overcast skies and about 10 degrees cooler than average which was great other than catching a mild chill the first few minutes out of the water. The swim was upstream for 500m and down stream 1000m. I felt strong but tried not to push it over the top, its hard to remember the swim is never won or lost in the swim. Coming into T1 I focused on keeping my heart in my chest and figured I was in decent position as about 2/3 of the bikes were still in the rack. The hilly bike course meant time out of the saddle and a lot of time trying to keep some power in the legs and not ruin myself on the greater Knoxville hills.  This is where I need the most improvement, it was humbling seeing how high of a pace some guys can hold for the entire 26.2 miles. I knew going into the race that the run was where I could best put a gap on the competition. I saw my buddy Dan Waddell coming out of T2, looked at my watch, put my head down and went. Dan and I had had some good training runs in the past few weeks and I was happy to have him keep the pressure on. The plan was to keep a steady pace on the way out to the turn around(5k) and then empty the tank on the way back, sub 40min was the goal. I suffered a bit through miles 1-2 and really found comfort in the short course. Between 4-5 I spotted a guy in my age group who had passed me on the bike and started kicking. I think overall I was able to reel in 3-4 age groupers on the run(40:54). Overall time of 2:24

Heres the race recap video.

Monday, May 2, 2011

2011 Country Music Marathon

Raced in the Country Music Marathon in Nashville on Saturday. Overall very humbling. I posted my best time thus far and finished 29th out of 195 (18-24 year olds). Marathon is definitely not my favorite distance to race but overall I had a great time and will say it was my best 26.2 yet. I learned a great deal about pacing, preservation, eating, and warming up. I ran through 13.1 with less the 7 minute miles and then really struggled after the 20 mile mark. It only takes a couple bad miles to ruin a whole day of fast splits. Looking forward to training for Rev3 Knoxville, Scenic City Trail Half Marathon, Waterfront Tri, and Tsali Xterra.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ironman New Orleans 70.3

April 17th I competed in the New Orleans Ironman 70.3, however 70.3 miles were never covered. Ironman 69.1 would be a more appropriate title given the canceled swim leg. The 56 bike,13.1 mile race was heavily dictated by weather. I knew wind would be a major player after seeing the out and back bike course, primarily east to west meaning there would be a brutal headwind going one way and equally helpful tailwind going the opposite. Additionally I had heard waves get pretty large on the swim with any wind at all. I had no idea the swim was cancelled until I was putting on my wetsuit.

The morning of the race I woke up about 430 feeling really good and really rested. Andrea Newhouse sewed a VT onto the back of my shirt for the race in honor of the students who passed on April 16, 2007. Elimination of the swim meant a big change in strategy. Usually after a 1.2 mile swim, having been horizontal for over 30 minutes, the back is tight and it's hard to find that initial power for the first 3-5 miles of the bike. Plus the addition of a roller and being able to warm up on the bike increases bike splits rather than coming straight out of the lake. I realized this would be a great time to in case my calories and i didn't have a roller so I went for a run to warm up my legs. The time trial start gave me a chance go watch some of the top pros in the sport, like Julie Dibbens(former 70.3 world champion).

The race started by age groups, going off 2 by 2 with a 5 second gap between pairs. For some reason I started with the 40-45 age group, but it's all by computer chip so it doesn't matter that much. The bike leg was extremely difficult for the first 27 miles. I've never felt wind coming at me like that before. Mentally it's draining because you feel like you're not getting a good distance for the amount of effort you're putting into the ride. I found myself visualizing the turn around as the end of the race, because I knew that at that point the wind would work in my favor. I came in on the bike at 2:44 minutes at 43rd out of 121 in pretty high spirits, I was still in good enough position to where i thought i could reel in a lot of the 24 and unders that i couldn't match pace with on the bike.

After falling right on my ass with one foot still clipped to my pedal, i had a great transition. I already had socks on since there was no swim. I tied my shoes, and grabbed a muffin, Snickers marathon, and a powerade zero and hobbled out on the half marathon course for what is always the worst 20 minutes in triathlon. Carrying all that food made my arms tired so I just threw it on the ground and relied on aid stations for the rest of the the race. Those first two miles are indescribable. In all the sports of tired brick legs is the most uncomfortable feeling I've experienced. Fortunately They went away after about 20 minutes and was able to lay down the 13.1 in 1:39 averaging about 7:47 per mile and pulling up to 23rd of 121. Crossing the finish line was a lot of fun, the final turn was right in the heart of the French quarter and gave you the boost to run the last 1.5 miles hard. Overall this race was awesome and I plan to do it again. Next up Country Music Marathon.

Finish Line
Julie Dibbens
VT Patch

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

New Directions:

Hard to believe it's been a whole year since my last post. I actually came across this blog on accident when I clicked the wrong button on my bookmarks bar. I suppose its all symbolic of the lack of epic kayaking trips i've taken in the last year. Since blogging is no longer something that's asked of me and the fact that I think its pretty silly, I had half a mind to get rid of Good Lines. But, Ive already written this much I might as well keep it going. As many of you who will read this know, Ive decided to pursue my dream of becoming a Navy SEAL after college. The more and more I read and train about SEALs and the accompanying lifestyle the deeper parallels I find between the two. Preparing for SEAL training on top of being in my last year of college has led to a lot less kayaking. There's 1000 things i miss about it, but mostly the friends that I dont see as often and missing out on the spontaneous get up and go lifestyle.

Last spring I decided to register for a couple of triathlons(Chattanooga Waterfront, Country Music). I had done a few in high school including one at the half iron distance and figured it would be a good way to ramp up my cardio endurance, a major tool in SEAL training. Those two races alone were enough to hook me in, I couldnt wait till the 2011 season to race again, faster and longer. Ive started training alot with GetBuiltChattanooga Crossfit and working out at the pool with an Naval Air Rescue Swimmer. The direct relationship between the work you put in and the results you see in triathlon is what keeps me so interested. I was also very humbled by the size of the sport and the high quality of athlete it requires to even be an average triathlete.

Anticipating the start of my Naval training in early summer, I began training hard shortly after the Christmas break. I was inspired by the crossfit community to try the paleo diet for one month which meant strict eating habits and NO BEER.  Although I will say it was pretty terrible and socially awkward when Friday night came around, I dont regret it at all. I felt fit to train seven days a week and my recovery period after a hard workout was cut in half. The month ended by competeing in the UTC rowing championship, where we took first place. Another source of inspiration came from the deployment of a close friend John Bailey who deployed to Afghanistan in mid January. Hes working with a embeded training team getting the Afghan National Army ready to maintain security with less and less US pressence. Hes be a huge inspiration in what can become the mundayne routine of early morning swims and a more disciplined lifestyle. Not to mention he's the one who introduced me to the type of things Navy SEALs do back when I was paddling constantly.

So far my racing schedule consist of the Ironman 70.3 New Orleans, Rev3 Knoxville, and Chattanooga Waterfront Olympic Distance. Based on when I leave for training, ill be looking to add more races in the summer months. Additionally ive had alot of fun training for the Country Music Marathon, and the Racoon Mountain Trail Marathon, with my girlfriend.

Kayaking will always be a part of who I am and where I come from. Ive learned so much about life through experiences on the river and the people that I met. Theres no doubt in my mind that rivers will be part of my lifestyle in the future. However, for me this transition is the best preperation for the years to come. Im excited to serve my country. All the best.

John with Mark Cornachio

 UTC Rowing Championship
Daytona 500
Heading towards T1 at Chattanooga Waterfront 2010

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Group Picture at the Confluence of South Kings and Middle Kings
Just after the Bottom 9 Day 6

Around the morning of July 27th I was eating breakfast with Rok Sribar at his home in Auburn. We were discussing the summer so far and our plans for the next couple weeks. He didnt know this but it would only be a couple of days before I would head back to TN. I was low on money and my ride was leaving on the 4th of July with or without me. My goal for the summer was to run middle kings, but I had already gotten Upper Cherry, West Cherry, Fantasy, Kaweah, South Silver, and a few more so I wasn't disappointed. Rok starts coming up with these ideas of how I can stay for another couple weeks, run middle kings, and then fly home. So its thanks to Rok that I was even able to be part of this trip.  I can clearly remember walking straight from the breakfast table to the computer and buying a one way ticket from San Fransisco to Atlanta, walking back to the table and saying "looks like were running the kings."
A few weeks later and after checking gauges every 12 hours for 10 days in a row, I met Shannon Carroll, Toro Rogenmoser, Rok Sribar, Dave Levitt, and Jay Moffat in Auburn to load up the cars for our week long mission down the middle fork of the Kings river. I had heard so much about Middle Kings and there was no where in the world id of rather been then attempting to knock of this high sierra expedition. This would be with out a doubt the biggest week of my life up to this point.
It would take six days, one day to hike over the 13,000 foot bishop pass and back down the other side, 5 days of wilderness class 5 including the bottom 9 on the last day, which some call the hardest day of kayaking in California, and then one day on the Garlic Falls section of the Kings river. We had a strong group which included two people that had been down before. Being 10 years the youngest on the trip made for lots of jokes and lost votes on my part. Here is a short break down day by day.

Shannon Styling the Money Drop Day 2

Day 1. Woke up around 630 and went to meet the mules where we found out that they would not be able to take our gear all the way over the pass but only 3-4 miles to the last lake. So we carried empty boats to that point and then loaded all the gear off the mules and into the boats to make the final push to the top of the pass(13,000) and back down the other side 5,000 foot decent down to the river. I felt pretty strong on the hike, don't get me wrong I was incredibly beat down at they end, but pretty good given hiking with 13 miles with a loaded kayak on my back. I remember laying down trying not to fall asleep when I see a little white dot making switchbacks down the mountain before realizing that it was Jay who had decided to take a nap, over slept, and had to finish in the dark.

Myself Entering the Money Drop Day 2

Day 2. Got a late start, after packing up all the stuff and saying by to Karin and Kat. We had a long talk with Ranger Rick who signed our permit. I was pretty nervous, we were about to float down a river and we wouldn't be to the end of it for 5 days, I knew that was a lot of time to get hurt and then possibly take on a multi-day hike through the manzanitas, granite, rattle snakes, and bears out of this incredible drainage. The first day was pretty much pool drop, with some good slides, and a beautiful meadow. I think we were all pretty sore from the hike. Shannon told me as we all laid there looking at the most stars ive ever seen in my life that this day would be by far the easiest of them all.

Some Delicious Trout That Toro and Jay Caught Night 2

Day 3. This day brought lots of action and quality rapids. It started out with whats called the money drop a 10 foot waterfall leading instantly into a 30 foot sliding waterfall. Good lines were had by all other then bashing my nose into my implosion bar. I remember running countless big class 5 slide drops with big holes and big boofs. This was the heart of the middle kings and bad injures here would be a 2-3 day walk out in either direction. Near the end of the day was my favorite section of the whole trip, "Mini Gorge." A half mile gorge with 10 monster holes ending in a 25 foot waterfall. Swims here would be epic. Dave and I ran down and met Shannon and Toro while Jay and Rok set good safety and took pictures. These were some of the bigger holes we had run in all of California, but the reward was  completely clean 25 footer. This was the site of our first big action when Rok broke his paddle rolled up and started one blading down the gorge, he made it a couple more holes before he got re-surfed and had to swim. Luckily due to Jay's good decision making he was able to get Rok out on river right and we would spend the next 3 hours getting him and his stuff back to river left.

Shannon, Myself, Dave, and Grizzly Tin Getting Our Rest On Night 2.

Day 4. I remember this being the longest day. We knew we would have to get to Tohipite dome if we wanted to get out in 6 days, and we were way behind schedule. Plus, we got stuck in a canyon that we entered and decided we needed to retreat and try to find a way out. I remember 1-2 hour bombing sections dodging holes and eddy hoping trying to make it to tohipite. We probably covered 6-8 miles this day. We ran in to team Jib at camp and hung out with them just above Tohipite. Tomorrow would be the bottom nine and I remember Brian Knight saying "Ben I hope you ate your wheaties." 

Shannon Running the Shit Day 2.

Day 5. The Bottom Nine. By far one of the most intense days of my life. Ive never seen a river hold up such consistent class 5+ for so many miles. This section does not let up, its boulder garden high water for 12-13 hrs. Tuff scouts, tuff portages, tuff rapids, this day really test what  you have and it really test the strength of the team. We ended up running out of daylight with about 3 miles left. 

Keepin' er Flat Day 2.

Day 6. Finishing the Bottom 9 by around 2 o'clock it was pretty intimidating to still have to do 14 miles of the Garlic Falls. We took about a 20 minute break at the confluence and celebrated finishing the Middle Kings. I was totally out of food, and cliff bars, and the idea of a restaurant and a real bed sounded really good. I broke my paddle on this day and started to get really worn down mentally. Although your no longer on the Middle Kings its still very strenuous class 5 kayaking. Finally after 6 days and dropping almost 8,000 feet in elevation I saw a big UT blanket hanging from the tree, which meant they end. Kat Levitt was there with bud light, fried chicken, watermelon, and most importantly the truck.

Rok Sribar, Toro Rogenmoser Day 6.

All together this was an incredible experience. Rok had told me that on the Middle Kings you find out exactly what your made of and how much you can really take, and he was absolutely right. I left that river with a week full awesome paddling memories, 5 new close friends, a broken paddle, a broken kayak, and huge smile on my face. Id like to say thanks again to Rok Sribar for making this trip possible for me.

Lunch Break Just Before Summiting Day 1.

Coming to the Summit Beatdown and Hurting

Dave Levitt Grinding Out the 13 Miler

My Food For The Six Days

Monday, July 20, 2009

Upper Cherry Creek.

I can remember like it was yesterday, November 4th 2006 I found myself standing at a table stacked full of Daniel Delavergne t-shirts and a bucket full of donations for the Katie Hillike cancer fund. I was in awe of the magnitude of the rapid that was on the back of the T shirt. As I showed the shirt to my friends, the king of the green race Tommy Hillike explained the shot to me. It was Daniel running Cherry Bomb Gorge on day 2 of Upper Cherry Creek, and as the sun went down on the green race party that year I was sure of two things, that one day I would make it to Upper Cherry and run the cherry bomb gorge, and that I ate way to much BBQ.
Two years later on August 29th 2008, I separated my shoulder training for the green race for the second time that year. I knew this ment surgery and missing the green race and they entire winter creeking season, which ment one thing, I would do what it takes to be in California for the 2009 summer. 
Eleven months later on July 3rd I was in Groveland, Ca just outside the Cherry Creek wilderness loading up my kayak for 3 days on the Granite. Bryan Kirk, Dave Levitt, Rok Sribar, and I loaded up the the WaveSport van and Roks Car and headed to the trail head in the dark. Running Upper Cherry includes almost a full day of hiking with the kayak, I don't know exactly how far it is because ive heard everything from 8-13 miles. However we decided to start at 11 pm and hike an hour or two in the dark in order to avoid the heat and mosquito's during the switch backs which are in first 2 miles. We slept about 6 hours at about mile 2.5 and then got up and hiked the rest of the way to the creek. Being my first wilderness run with a 10+ mile hike I was really struggling with my back pack only to run into Ben Stooksberry and Darin Mcqoid who inspired me to shoulder it the whole way. I remember Darin explaining to me..... "Put that Ipod in and switch shoulders every song, that backpack is not helping you." 
At around 3 pm I believe after 8 hours of shouldering a loaded boat Bryan and I finally saw the Upper Cherry Creek. It was a dream come true, I was 36 hours drive and a 10 hour walk from home and there was no where id rather be. I tried to block out Cherry Bomb, mostly because I was nervous, in a way we were so close but still so far. There were some major rapids between me and and accomplishing that 3 year goal from that talk with Tommy at at the green race table. Would my shoulder hold up? Was the water low enough? I knew I had to take it one rapid at a time, and at the time the issue was that Dave and Rok had not made it to the put in yet. 
After 2 hours of resting and drinking water at the put in Dave and Rok come paddling down stream in all there gear and there hands raised. They had gone past the put in and put in a half a mile higher then the put in. So at 5 pm and having hiked all day we decided to put in a couple of hours and then call it a day. 
I was amazed at the audacity of the scenery of this place. Granite as far as the eye could see, crystal clear water, and beautiful granite slides made for some of the most enjoyable rapids I've ever paddled. Im not completely sure the name of the place we camped but it wasn't to far above Gorilla West. 
We woke up early the next morning and packed up only to paddle up on a naked couple swimming in the creek. They were pretty impressed by watching us run a 4 foot slot and I remember thinking man if they only knew what was down stream. I had lent that same DD t-shirt from the green race party to Bryan for the Hike and realized I better get it back for good luck, after all I was going to be at Cherry Bomb that before lunch.  After a few hours of excellent whitewater we found ourselves stratling an enormous boulder that over looks cherry bomb. This was it, I was finally here, and I was actually going to do this. At first glimpse the gorge looked incredibly committing but definitely doable although the water didn't look as low as I thought it was going to be. I tried to block out the horror of the consequences of not getting far enough left and taking a long recirculating ride in the pothole, only to most likely swim they entire gorge. I knew that it happened to a few people before but it wasn't going to be me. If there was one line I was going to clean in California this was going to be it. 
I was a bit surprised at Rok when after 2-3 minutes of scouting Rok looks at us shrugs his shoulders and says "ill go" like it was just another rapid. After all to him it probably was, I dont think he spent time watching it on LVM and youtube videos. The best way to do this would be in pairs so Rok and Dave would go first and Bryan and I would film and then Bryan and I would go. 
Rok peeled out first and looked perfect, boofing off the rock with left to right angle, landing on the slide and didn't over do the angle when he flew 15 feet through the air toward the wall on the other side. His bow completely splatted the far wall just before he brought it down and started his 10 hole fist fight with the ledge holes that awaited him. Dave followed just behind him with another perfect line, perhaps getting even farther left. I felt great about there lines, and it was time for me to follow suit.
I walked all the way back to my boat and started emptying out the water when I realized I needed one more look. I remember wanting to go before Bryan because I didn't like the the thought of the rest of the group being down in the gorge and being up there alone. After all Bryan had run it 2-3 times before and seemed extremely confident in the fact that he was going to get through this canyon no problem. 
I knew weather I was on line or off it would be better to paddle hard then to try to drift it. So I peeled out of the eddy like a bad out of hell charging for the right side of the boulder, and took a huge right stroke. The second I landed on the slide I realized I was far enough left, which was an immediate relief. I don't remember much after that but telling myself not to over lean, because I had seen so many pictures of people flying off sideways and upside down. Next thing i knew the water cleared my face, i was right side up pointed down stream. Perfect, the hard part is over I though, now ill I have to do is punch these holes and im good. That's much easier said than done. I got to the lip of the wier hole and wasn't lined up to well for a stroke and got side surfed all the way to the left of the hole. This could of been terminal, a swim here would mean swimming the next 15 holes(see picture) and God knows what would happen to the boat. I remember surfing and looking back up the gorge at Bryan who was taking pictures of me, and it wasn't until I  saw the worry in his face that I really started to worry. Right about that time I realized how much this rapid meant to me and how hard I had worked to get there and I wasn't going to swim for God sake. I started right stroke clawing like my life depended on it(in a way it did) and fought my way out of there. I really underestimated the holes that are below the bomb. I would say its equally as challenging as running the bomb. 
Making it through the canyon and down to the camp was one of the most enjoyable 15 minutes I've ever spent on a river. To alot of guys that day it was just another California canyon but to me it meant so much more.  Dave and Rok even decided to do multiple laps on the teacups being that they are almost picture perfect waterfalls. 
That day we would make it down to below Dead Bear and camp. Bryan ran an incredibly clean line at Kiwi In The Pocket, where the rest of us decided the water was a bit high and the pocket was a bit to gnarly. I would definitely rate that day as one of the best of my life, the group had become pretty close that day, and we had ran countless 4-40 foot waterfalls not to mention the world famous Cherry Bomb Gorge.
I don't think anyone would argue, Upper Cherry Creek is an amazing paddling destination. Its a must for anyone who enjoys clean steep drops, long slides, and world class scenery.

I had alot of trouble uploading more photos since there all in RAW you can see them all at.