Team EMJ: The Great Escape


June 10, 2012

Team Every Man Jack made a big commitment to the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon.   We had eight guys racing – and the remainder of the team volunteered on race day.   It is a race that attracts triathletes from all over the world – the course is challenging yet beautiful.  And a trip to San Francisco is a huge bonus!  I have personally spoken so highly of this race to friends, fellow triathletes, and even strangers.  But this year was extra special for many reasons –


Our escape started on Thursday night when five of our racers, David Swift, Bruno Fritsch, Pierre Billa, Jeremy Devich and myself, all volunteered at the Sports Basement filling the awesome race bags – anyone get that tiny Subaru lip balm or mini-pack of O Organics Raisins???   Yep I personally put 2,000 of these babies into the race bags!   Triathlons are a major production and as athletes I feel we need to do our part to help out when we can, especially if we like to complain about some of the events we race at!   It was a great start to the weekend – we met several volunteers some who traveled to SF for the weekend from out of town just to volunteer for 3 straight days so that WE could race!!!   Very humbling.   We met the race director and his staff – one lady was so great – she looked for us on race day and found us at the finish and used her handheld device to give us our splits – great to meet her



Most people know about Oliver Ralph’s terrible crash the weekend before at Morgan Hill race – so it has to mentioned that I wasn’t feeling it – was worried about Ollie and just not 100% race ready.   Friday was Ollie big appointment with the Pelvic Othro Surgeon at CPMC – I was with him on Thursday night at Lawton Healthcare center and just anxious to hear about the appointment.   Dorothy called about 11am on Friday with great news from the Surgeon – no SURGERY!!  Pat Lenaghan, Team EMJ resident ER doc, attended the appointment with Ollie and Dorothy – which was really cool.   The prognosis for Ollie was great and good news all around – just need to make sure Ollie is PATIENT (you reading this, O?) with progress and he will return to 100%.   I hung up the phone and just thought to myself, “It’s on bitches!  Time to Escape!!!”.  Later that morning, I picked up one of my best friends from college, David Lawson, who I told to enter the lottery after last years race (see comments above about me raving about EFA!).   He got in and flew out from Philly to race with me and the rest of Team EMJ.   We competed together at Cal all four years and hadn’t raced together since 1994.   This was gonna be fun!


The team met at packet pick up at 12noon – the volunteering turned out to be huge as we scored some sweet parking passes for Sunday – and the EMJ booth also got us a couple exhibitor passes – so we definitely felt the VIP treatment was starting!   That ended quickly though when we saw the crazy line for packet pick up – it was crazy.   Although strategically wrapped right in front of the Every Man Jack booth…hmmmm…maybe not so bad after all.  😉

RACE DAY:  Sundays’ 4:20 alarm came quickly – Dave and I were up and eating and ready to roll.  We carpooled with my good friend and neighbor, Matt Hart, who races for the O Club.   We rolled into Exhibitor parking like we owned the place…it was awesome.   We make our way to transition and then magic continues…there is volunteer David Condon.   David, “Ritch, Maureen is waiting for you guys on Scott.  Virginie and Maureen will drive you guys over to the boat.”   Well that is awesome!   We all racked our bikes – very closely I might add.   I decided that at 40 we are now so many rows from the bike out that it was time for the rubber band trick on the shoes – so set up the bike thinking “it might have been good to practice this first!”.

We saw a bunch of other EMJ volunteers – Yoni Doron-Peters, Adam Carlson, Niall Murray – the crew was out and ready to support.   Ran into Pierre Billa and David Swift – and then we all headed to the VIP Chevy Tahoe for a ride to Pier whatever.    Lawson, Swift, Billa and I went for a warm up run along the embarcadero while the women waited for us.  We then gave them all our stuff (awesome!) and headed over to the boat.   The weather was just amazing – sun was out – so many familiar faces at the Pier getting ready.   Ran into Bruno Fritsch, Jeremy Devich, John Dahlz and Eric Byrnes (former major leaguer and Velo SF friend).  We all made our way to the boat – they try to tell us old guys that we need to go on the top deck – but I was having none of that!

Once on the boat, it was so crowded – the big key is bring a cold liter of water, preferably 2 since your teammates don’t come prepared!  J   We find a spot near a guy that has some space around him and crowd in.   He is in a Freak of Nature TYR wetsuit – and it looks SWEET!   We make some chit chat, small talk  – and then he gives Jeremy some advice.  “Dude, just a quick tip…you might want to remove the protective stickers from the googles before you jump off this boat!”.    We all had a good laugh – Jeremy played it cool as if he knew they were there.   The guy gets up and wishes us luck on the race – and then David Swift, who is new to triathlon, asks “Who was that?”…..I reply, “The guy with the #1 on his arm…that is Andy Potts!”.    We all figured this was good luck to hang with 4 time champ (now 5 time champ) pre-race.

The countdown begins…20 minutes, 15 minutes, 10 minutes…soon the Pros are lining up out on the deck – and the place is going nuts.   The sun is shining down and we are about to Escape from Alcatraz.   Team EMJ lines up in the front row outside the doors.   A young kid is next to me…I ask, “Can you swim fast” – and he says “Yes I can swim”.   He is 17 and from Mexico…I think, “We will see about that!”.   More about this 17 year old badass below.

The Pros are off.  And while I believe we are meant to wait a bit before we jump (or DIVE in Pierre’s case!) – with 2000 pushing from behind – we jump just seconds after the PRO’s go.   And so it is on.  We are swimming for the beach and the waves are crazy.   Quickly I find myself with the pink caps (female Pro’s) – and I see the 17 year old in light blue and he is already up ahead…he wasn’t joking…he can swim!   I didn’t see a lot of other people and felt I was swimming alone but just keep sighting and trying to catch the white caps in front of me (male Pro’s).   The swim feels amazing – I borrowed David Condon’s medium sized TYR Hurricane – and the size is perfect – a great fit.   So I just keep swimming as hard as I can – the waves seem to be doing a lot of the work – so just trying to keep a good line.  I didn’t realize how powerful the waves and current was until I saw a HUGE metal ball/buoy up ahead – it was about 10 feet to my right – no problem, right?   Well two strokes later, BAM!  I hit my right hand hard against the bouy metal ball thingy.   WTF.  How did I just move 10 feet to the right in 2 strokes!!!  Holy jesus – just get to the BEACH!   As we get closer to the beach, I realize that I am sighting off of EMJ Pro Eric Clarkson – don’t ask me how I spotted him but I knew it was him.

And we finally get to the beach (5 minutes slower than prior years swim – tough swim) – and I see Eric just ahead ripping of the wetsuit.    I pass him as he stops by the Pro VIP shoe area – but about 10 seconds later he passes me back with no wetsuit and just gliding in his shoes – while I run with my wetsuit on and bare feet!   But getting out of the water with Eric told me the swim was solid and the line must have been pretty good.

As I run to transition I hear many Team EMJ volunteers yelling my name, I hear friends and family cheering, I hear Karen Jeffrey yelling “LANE 1!!!”.   It feels awesome – just soaking it in.  I get to T1 and grab my bike – more EMJ guys in transition  cheering.  As I go to exit and mount the bike, I see Bruno, Pierre and Lawson entering the grass part of T1.   So I figure I am about 1.5 minutes up on those guys and don’t see a lot of other amateurs so figure this is a good sign.  And I confidently mount my bike…and then quickly come to a screeching halt and almost hit two police motorcycles…the rubber band trick wasn’t such a trick after all.   I stopped for maybe 20 seconds (note my loss to Pierre by 18 seconds – so rounding up here to 20! J) – a few pros, including Becky Lavelle, go by as I put on a little clinic on how NOT to utilize the rubber bands.   Finally on the bike – disaster somewhat diverted.  As I bike down Mason Street, I hear tons of cheers – many by first name, many “Go EMJ”, and then I see my family – that always feels great!

I set out on the bike – and just focused on powering up the hills, recovering on the downhills and pushing the flats.  I pass a few other guys in the first few miles that are strong swimmers – so as I enter Legion on Honor I know I am in second because I haven’t seen the 17 year old yet.  I see Maureen at Legion of Honor – and that gets me fired up.   A few male Pro’s are passing me – but that feels good to know that I am up with them.   As I exit Golden Gate Park, I see Jeremy Devich heading in – he looks good!  Only a few more climbs – I end up riding most of the bike with Andrew Bauer, Personal Care buyer at Sports Basement and Pro Triathlete….I considered dropping a line on one of the climbs like, “So Andrew you gonna carry Every Man Jack products or what?!?!?”….But refrained.  J     As I started the final uphill on Lincoln Blvd, I passed the 17 year old phenom (humblebrag, I know!) – he looked like he crashed he was bleeding so bad around the neck – but later learned the poor kid didn’t put on body glide – none!!!  Rookie.  J

I make the final climb up Lincoln – and that is when I saw them.  I felt a rush of emotion – energy, excitement, maybe a little choked up…maybe!   There were Ollie and Dorothy – in his Team EMJ hat and sweatshirt with matching Pajama bottoms – Dorothy was jumping up and down like a crazy person – and Ollie is yelling what place I was in and told me “how awesome I was doing”….

I raced to T2 and see my family in the usually spot – gave some big waves and kisses there way – and was thrilled that for the first time ever racing EFA – no amateur passed me on the bike.  I could see my pace was much faster than previous years so in and out and off on the run.   As I exited T2 – I see Pierre entering – we literally must have biked the same time I thought (actually 51:05 Pierre, 51:08 Ritch – but see rubber band fiasco noted above! J).

Off on the run – I am not seeing a lot more amateurs biking in yet, so this allows me to relax and just focus on form and getting my legs.  But I know Pierre is coming!   I hear and see so many friends and teammates  cheering – it just feels so awesome to be out there.   I make way to the path to get to Chrissy Field and see Pat and Amanda Lenaghan – and then Emily, Abby and Zach – high fives and I keep going.   As I approach the Warming Hut – the Pac West support at the aid station was just unreal – so many of them cheering, so many familiar faces – I see Ricardo, Chrissy, Angela, Jay – the water cups were cold and plentiful!   As I start the climb, I am feeling it in my legs and just keep repeating to myself, “Run to Ollie.  Just get to Ollie”.  He was planted, in a wheelchair, so pun intended, at the perfect spot on the bike and run for us athletes.   So I got to them and got another burst of energy – and made my way down to the beach.

When I hit the beach I saw Leanda Cave running on the packed sand…so hell, I followed her lead.   They made us come up to the soft sand close to the turn around because that is where the cones were – I turned around and started to head to the Sand Ladder – and that is when I spotted that damn flying Frenchman!  He was probably about 30 seconds back.  I get to the sand ladder and walk the entire thing – as I get about half way up I look back – Pierre is f’ing running the Sand Ladder – are you kidding me????   He passes me at the top – but I figure he must be hurting a little after that effort – he isn’t a superhero – so I get behind him.  And then pass him back on the uphill – we see Dave Lawson making his way to the beach (I think, I wonder if he is mad at me for telling him to Escape!), we get one last high five from Ollie and Dorothy – and now it is all downhill and flat – and so the fun begins!   Pierre and I run one, two all the way down – it is best done in a pair as you are more visible and folks were getting out of our way.


We hit the bottom – 2 miles to go – the PacWest aid station again on FIRE – tons of water – so much so that I had an extra and throw it right back at Baby Towle (or at least at Chrissy Towle’s growing baby bump)!   Pierre and I shake hands and he goes…I try to just to stay within striking distance…he pulls ahead quickly but then I hold his pace pretty well and figure I am about 10 seconds back.   That seems pretty OK to me at this point in the race!  As we make our way back to Mason/Beach – there is David Condon and Niall Murray, Adam Carlson, Erik Wilde – all the boys taking pictures and high fiving us.   I follow Pierre to the finish – I see more teammates, Nick Handel and Yoni  – and then right at the start to the finish chute I see Emily/Abby/Zach – feels great now!

Crossed the finish 18 seconds after Pierre.   Feels amazing to be competing with such a great athlete, teammate, person.  We hugged and hold each other up at the finish as we catch our breath.

Then we congratulate Leanda Cave – (beat me again!).  And see Virginie, Pierre’s wife.   Peter Mendes finishes shortly thereafter.  Then the other EMJ guys cross…David Swift, Bruno, David Lawson, Jeremy.   Then the party begins…we all soak up the sun, atmosphere, meet up with our families and all our other teammates that volunteered.   We head off to the Every Man Jack tent and feast on some awesome Patxi’s Pizza (thanks Michelle Larson).   We share stories of the race, the course, all rave about Ollie and Dorothy, open some beers, hang with our CAF neighbors.   Pierre and I got some hardware.  That 17 year old was the top amateur and ran a 46 minute run!  Remember this name:  Mauricio Mendez!!!


And 24 hours later as I look back at the experience – I have realized that it isn’t the course that I have raved about (the course is brutal!) – it is the views, the atmosphere, the magic that unfolds on race day, it is that HOME FIELD advantage….not for knowing the course…but the volunteers, families, teammates, spectators knowing us!   The energy that you gain every time you hear someone cheer your name…a teammate, a friend, a coach, a wife, a teammates’ wife, my kids (!!!)… keeps you pushing, to give the course everything you have.  And that is why it is the GREAT ESCAPE.   I will be back next year and will be at least 18 seconds faster!  🙂

Special thanks to Emily and my kids for the support and being the best fans, to TEAM EMJ for the amazing year we are having as a group, to the incredible sponsors of TEAM EMJ (TYR, Rudy Project, Mike’s Bikes, Specialized, Paxti’s, Clean Bottle, Purplepatch Fitness, Saucony and Zensah).   I am feeling very grateful to be part of this team.  And grateful to live and train where we do – one of the most beautiful in the world!


Team EMJ: Race for the Mattress Topper

Morgan Hill Sprint

Morgan Hill, California – May 20, 2012

Guest Writer: Ritch Viola


The crew downing some Michelob Ultras – Oh yeah!

Most of the team spent Saturday cursing at the site for its’ poor “live” updates.   Seriously how much do those races cost?  Fix the system!!!   Anywho (as Devich would say), after tracking Bruno Fritsch and Dan Ross all day at IM Texas and seeing what they had to endure on a tough day – the Morgan Hill Sprint seemed like a piece of cake.  .75 swim, 16 bike loop, 5 mile run.

Met David Swift and Pierre Billa at the crack of dawn to make it down to Morgan Hill for the 7am start time.   I literally woke up and left the house 2 minutes later, brushed my teeth in the car – meanwhile Swifty has been up for a while making homemade waffles for himself (apparently a pre-race ritual).   We made the quick trip to Morgan Hill – lots of non-triathlon banter – Pierre understanding about 50% of what we said and David and I understanding about 50% of what he said.

When we arrived in Morgan Hill – were happy to see that USA Productions had given us some rack space so we could all be together – just 6 of us racing today.   So we meet up with Andreas Wolf and Yoni Doron-Peters (Dahlz was racked with the PROs – literally on top of the bike exit….hmmmmm).   I got some VIP treatment picking up my registration packet, while Swifty and Billa waited in line.   Was great to see so many great friends racing this fun, short sprint – Campbell, Mendes, Tran, Blanco were all there supporting their teams.   Peter Mendes, of course, hadn’t registered and then was told it was sold out – as I headed to the water for my wave start – I see Peter still trying to negotiate to get a timing chip – this as is wave (30-39) is literally going off.   Gotta love Peter’s planning skills!  I think he just wanted to practice swimming with us 40+ guys!

The race was fun and fast.   As I came into transition after the swim, all EMJ bikes were gone except Swifty.   Then he came running up as I was leaving – he gave some words of encouragement, although I know he was thinking, “God damit, Viola!”.  J   The bike course was well marked – and went by quickly compared to 56 miles of Wildflower.   I showed off some seriously horrendous bike skills as I am entering T2 – I just passed Andreas Wolf – and wanted to show off how seamless I can get out of my shoes while cycling.   Andreas is a very nice guy – but I know what he was thinking, “This guy is an idiot – he passes me and then almost crashes trying to get his feet out of the shoes – at now he’s at a snail pace!”.   So he passes me back and then puts on a little clinic in front of me on removing feet from shoes while cycling – seamless, effortless!!   I spent most of T2 apologizing to him for my ridiculous moves into T2.

Out on the run course – I tucked in behind Andreas, a few seconds back – which was really great to allow me to settle into a rhythm – he is a very smooth runner so was just trying to mimic his form and stride.   Then right after we hit the Mile 1 aid station – we see 2 ladies on the side of the road, legs in the air, bikes thrown about – we picked up the pace to get to them – and yelled to the aid station “We have a CRASH, a CRASH”.    Once we got to them, both ladies were now sitting up – no broken bones, just some road rash.  One lady said, “Someone crashed into me!” – she was a bit shaken up.   But they assured us they were OK and to keep running.   The volunteers at the aid station were on it – so off we went.

The next 4 miles are the best part of racing because in a loop bike course you don’t see many people – now you start to see friends, teammates, competitors.   John Dahlz went flying by closing the gap on the lead Pro, which he did and finished first.  Then Yoni, then Pierre, then we passed a 14 year old kid named Jake Rollo – (remember this name, what a badass he was).

The turnaround point on this course feels great because it is a slight decline the whole way back.   That is when the highlight of the day occurred – I could see him coming from a mile away – huge smile – rocking a tiny, tiny speedo and pink SRAM (?) trucker hat…Kiet Tran!  Definitely, hands down outfit of the day.   He rocked that look – and was getting hoots and hollers from all over the course.   David Swift was moving fast and ended up with the fastest run split of the day – and while his neon orange shoes were showy – couldn’t match Kiet in that department.   Saw Blanco, Mendes, a bunch of PW’ers and O-Cluber’s.  After racing WF course, everyone seems so happy.  Especially John Branderhorst – after his WF fiasco! He was all smiles.

After the race, went on a great easy 4 mile cool down run with teammates, Kiet (still rocking the look of the day), and Blancos around the reservoir.   Then headed over to grab some burritos and Michelob Ultras from the expo!  Nothing like racing for 2 hours and then downing some Michelobs.   Everyone mounted the podium.  Swift won 30-34 in only his 2nd triathlon ever!   Nick Tuttle, USA announcer, gave us lots of EMJ love and sported a sweet EMJ trucker hat.   Yoni even won a Mattress Pillow Topper for overall age group winner – so we all know he slept great that night.  😉  And I shared the podium with two friends and training partners – Kiet and Blanco.   Kiet dropped the speedo look for the podium – but was still rocking the pink trucker!  Awesome!

Yoni and Pierre dualed – but Yoni ended up with the Mattress Topper

David Swift 1st place in only his 2nd Triathlon – watch out for this guy

Blanco, Viola, Tran…still need to get a picture of Kiet’s outfit of the day!

A fun day of racing – and looking forward to almost the exact same course in 2 weeks for Threshold’s Reservoir Triathlon.  We should have more guys down for this one – so it will be a great day with the team.

Team EMJ: The Dirt of Wildflower 2012

Lake San Antonio, CA — Wildflower Triathlons, May 5-6, 2012

by Steve Kukta

The story of Niall and David:

During the Wildflower Weekend I learned that, on Team Every Man Jack, no two guys are tighter than David Condon and Niall Murray.

While Maureen, David’s lovely wife pitched the tent, hammering the stakes in with a rock because neither David nor Niall remembered to bring a hammer, David and Niall stood around bickering good-naturedly with each other.

Maureen apologized to me for their behavior:  “They’ve been married too long” she said.

Maureen does have one edge over Niall for David’s affection, however.  The aerobars on her tri-bike are nearly low as David’s impossibly agressive position.

“Did David set up your tri-bike for you?  I notice your aero bars are pretty low,” I asked Maureen.

“They could be lower,” she replied matter of factly.

David’s head whipped around like he had spotted a Sports Illustrated Swim Suit model riding by on a P5.  He beamed at his wife and looked lovingly into her eyes.

“That’s my girl!!” he shouted with pride.

And to cement her place in David’s heart, Maureen offered David, Niall and me a chocolate cake intended for Ritch’s birthday.

“It’s made from sauerkraut,”  Maureen said with a sweet smile.  I mentally gagged and passed, saying, quite truthfully, that I get migraines from chocolate.  I figured that chocolate over sauerkraut might make my head explode.

The next day, Niall and David raced like demons, powered by Ritch’s sauerkraut chocolate birthday cake and the affection of a wonderful woman.  As usual, David bored us all by winning his age group.  Niall, on the other hand, had a thrilling race finishing 6th, just 8 seconds off the podium.

Just to prove that she’s awesome in every way, Maureen finished the Wildflower long course too, looking impossibly fresh as a daisy at the finish.

The highlight of the day, though, for David and Niall was when, hanging out on the lawn at the awards ceremony, Niall used some kind of Irish Jedi mind-trick to convince a young lady carrying a large pizza to place the pizza on the ground and leave.  Shortly thereafter, a pile of french fries appeared with the pizza on the pizza box.

Two more happy people, you’ve never seen.  The whole team was happy, but David and Niall were like sharks in a pool of baby seals.


At one point, David was on his hands and knees in the grass scooping french fries into his mouth with one hand while feeding himself pizza with the other.  While the rest of the team stared in open-mouthed awe at David in full feeding-frenzy mode, Niall looked on calmly like he’d seen it all before, helping himself to another piece of pizza.

Maureen just smiled and shook her head.  Boys will be boys.


Ritch and Jeremy

After checking in, I headed back to King City, I met Ritch Viola and Jeremy Devich for a pre-race dinner at the King City diner, the only non-fast-food eating establishment in King City.

When I arrived, Ritch and Jeremy had ordered mountains of spaghetti with meat sauce, covered in cheese.

It was a bad day to be on a diet.

“We’re having our anniversary” said Ritch. “We were here last year and this is exactly what we had to eat.”

“Yep.” Jeremy agreed. “And last year I got really sick during the race and finished in six hours.”

“So you’re having the exact same meal again?” I asked, bewildered.

“Yep,” said Jeremy.

The waitress approached me and asked what I was going to be eating. I stared for a second at Jeremy’s and Ritch’s spaghetti piles and, still a little queasy from watching David and Niall eat the sauerkraut chocolate cake, said “I’m not having that.”

I opted for a turkey sandwich, which, on reading the menu seemed ordinary enough, but which turned out to be enormous and came slathered in gravy and seemed to be made with luke-warm, processed cold-cuts straight out of the package.  The “sandwich” was so big, I didn’t even notice the canned cranberry sauce bleeding into the gravy until I nearly choked on a scoop of cranberry sauce/gravy mixture.

Ritch just stared at my plate and then looked me in the eyes.  “You know, you don’t have to eat that,” he said sincerely.

5:03 seems pretty amazing knowing that meal was in your system.


“No, it’s fine,” I lied.
The next day, Jeremy cut 30 minutes off his previous year’s time and Ritch won his age group, proving the superiority of the spaghetti mountain over the gravy/turkey/cranbery pile.

What made Ritch’s result so remarkable is that he did it racing a phantom all day.  Before the race, the announcers said that the four-time Wildflower Long Course champion, Cameron Widoff, was racing in the 40-44 age group.  Figuring that Widoff was in his wave start, Ritch raced like he was being chased by Freddie Krueger all day long — except that Widoff had started in a wave about 30 minutes before Ritch and was done about 34 minutes before Ritch ever got to the finish line.

I think you were only supposed to take ONE towel!


But when you finish within 4 minutes of a legendary pro, they give you the top spot on the podium anyway.  Ritch won the age group after the race organizers explained that, oh, by the way, Cam Widoff wasn’t really racing in the 40-44 age group, but rather in the “Champions” division.


Jeremy, on the other hand, was just racing 2011 Jeremy.  And 2012 Jeremy was physically ready.  While being a taller, stronger-built athlete can have it’s disadvantages on a hot, hilly course, Jeremy had a great race, beating his time from last year by half an hour.  He cut a few minutes off his swim, cut 10 minutes off his bike time and then hit the run course with a vengeance.

I asked him how he felt on the run.  I had heard that he ran over a minute per mile faster than last year and so I figured he’d say that he felt amazing.

“I felt pretty good,” he said.  “The only tough part was that people who passed me kept saying, ‘keep it up, big feller!  “I was starting to get a complex.  Am I fat?”


“hey, big feller!”

The relay guys… and Tyler:


Some guys like to go short on the Long Course.  No Thanks.  I breathe hard enough going long on the Long Course.  Who needs to bleed from their eyeballs in the name of glory?

Well Adam Carlson, Bruno Fritsch and Ollie Ralph to name three.

Bruno swam so hard, the wake from his head tore his goggles off during the swim, forcing him to stop and tie the strap back together.  He still swam 1.2 miles in 24 minutes, giving Team Every Man Jack a 3 minute lead over the mighty Team Boobz Relay squad out of the water.

Tyler said, “I can top that” and swam a little over 23 minutes, competing in the men’s 25-29 division.

Adam was responsible for the bike leg of the relay.  That morning we had discussed race strategy and I had told Adam to take it easy through the first 20 miles, mentioning that it was important to leave something in the tank for Nasty Grade at mile 42.

After the race, I asked Adam, “how did my pacing advice work out for you?”

“Not bad.  I crushed the first 20 miles.  I pushed so hard that I almost puked.  The whole rest of the ride I couldn’t wait to tell Ollie I almost puked.  Ollie said ‘go so hard that you puke’.  And I almost did it.  I was really proud of that.”

“I don’t think you get the pacing concept I was suggesting to you,”  I said.

“Dude, I almost puked!”

Adam finished the bike in 2:32, adding to Team EMJ’s narrow lead over Team Boobz.

Meanwhile Tyler was busy completing the bike in 2:39, before calling it a day due to an injury.  Without anyone to hand the baton to and finish the run for him, he was forced to take a DNF.  That said, had he been able to run at all, he would have posted an amazing time, so we’re all looking forward to watching a healthy Tyler race.

Meanwhile, Adam handed the relay baton to Ollie (who had been dressed and ready to run since 4:45am!!  Compression socks and all…).  I can’t say how Ollie raced the initial leg of the run, but when he tore past me at mile 11, he was definitely trying to make himself puke, running 7:00’s uphill out of the pit.

As he ran by, I said, “hey, I’m going to run with you on the way in.”

“OK,” Ollie replied, looking at me skeptically.

“Just kidding,”  I said 10 seconds later as blackness started closing in on me.

Ollie quickly opened up a gap on me and finished the run in a fantastic 1:26, seemingly securing the top spot in the relay Division

And in the finishing area, there was much joy among Team EMJ’s 1/3rd Half-Ironman racers — until they checked the results and learned that Team Boobz had nipped them by a few minutes.

Then there was sadness.

But just when it appeared that Boobz had bounced our guys from the podium, the guys found out that Boobz were competing in the mixed Male/Female division.

And there was great joy again.

My Race:

What’s to tell?

I didn’t flat, didn’t hit a pothole and break my handlebars, didn’t puke, didn’t break my goggles, didn’t swim in the wrong direction.  In fact, I swam a PR, ran a PR and wasn’t passed on the bike all day.  Not bad, considering my stomach was still trying to figure out what to do with all that gravy from the night before.

And I did all this without a watch — without knowing my time at any point on the course.  Throughout the race, the curiosity about what sort of time I was going to post was killing me.  Generally, when I’m finishing a half-ironman distance race, I can’t wait to get to the finish line to collapse.  Today, I couldn’t wait because I really wanted to see my finishing time.

Would the clock read under 5:00?  I rounded the last turn and read the clock, and it said something completely unintelligible

“5:58” it said.

“What!?” I thought.  “How is that even possible?  If I’m going 5:58, how slow must the thousand people I passed out there going??

Fortunately, I quickly realized that the race clock was showing the pro’s time.  I had started 55 minutes after the pros.  So I began doing math in my head as I ran.  I may have even slowed down so that I could continue to see the clock time, allowing me to visualize the equation:  5:58 minus :55.

Or is it plus :55?

Hopeless.  I can’t do math under the best of circumstances.  The pressure of trying to solve this problem in front of cheering fans, while looking over my shoulder to make sure I wasn’t going to get caught at the line, just wasn’t going to happen.

Seconds later, volunteers handed me my medal, Niall, David, Jeremy and Adam slapped me on the back and someone gave me a glorious cold, wet towel.

Still doing math

“How did it go?”  Niall asked.

“5:58 minus :55 is, err, umm” I said, continuing to slap high fives and bump knuckles.

I gave up.  “I don’t know.  I feel like I had a pretty good race, but I’ll be darned if I can figure out my time.”

It turned out that I had gone 5:03, a small PR, a few minutes shy of my goal and 3 minutes off the podium.  Not what I’d hoped for.

In fact, I felt a little sad about my time, thinking what might have been, until I learned that Niall had missed the podium by 8 seconds.  This made me feel better.

And then Ironman World Champion Chris McCormack asked to join the team for a picture — or maybe we hounded him into taking a picture with us — I forget the details — and all was right with the world again, capping another perfect race day for Team EMJ.

Team EMJ: Metro Duathlon 2012

Metro Duahlon, April 22, 2012

by Stephen Kukta

On a sunny San Jose morning, the Metro Triathlon began with much camaraderie among the well-dressed men of Team Every Man Jack.  Our reserved bike rack was the male equivalent of a Juicy Couture store — matching blue and white hats, warmup outfits and lycra, the sweet scent of Every Man Jack shampoo and lotion wafting in the morning breeze.  We were the poster boys for the Metro Triathlon.

Certainly, no team is more Metro than us.

(This is only half of us – photo missing Eric Clarkson, Josh Youngblood, Patrick Lenaghan, Jake Martini and Jeremy Devich still primping for the main event!)

Unfortunately this triathlon had been converted to a duathlon.  Lake Almaden, which, even on a good day isn’t exactly Lake Tahoe, was slightly more awash in diarrhea-causing vermin than usual.  So with our health in mind, race organizers made the difficult decision to spare us from a bacteria bath and replaced the swim with a one-mile run.

Being a positive-outlook kind of team, the guys took the news in stride.  Heck, most of us were downright giddy about the idea that we would be spared the pain of having to chase down the good swimmers on the bike.  David Condon and I were giggling like school girls, joking that we should run the first leg wearing our bike helmets to take full advantage of the duathlon format.

I didn’t see Niall Murray, Pat Lenaghan, Adam Carlson or Keith Jamtaas looking particularly sad either.  Keith was also thrilled to be celebrating his 33rd birthday with all of us!  (Happy Birthday Keith!)

On the other end of the spectrum, Ritch Viola was dealing with the harsh reality that the duathlon format favored nearly everyone more than him.  Ritch typically hops on his bike with a sizeable lead.  Not today.  If Ritch was going to do well, this would be a painful race for him.

(Young guys’ wave)

After the young guys’ waves took off, Ritch and I joined the slow walk to the start of the elderly gentlemen’s wave.  He looked forlornly at the contaminated pond, and wondered aloud whether there was any aerodynamic advantage to running the first leg wearing his swim cap.

Being old, we agreed that we should run the one mile at a reasonable pace.

At the gun, I took a few relaxed strides, looked at Ritch intending to say something encouraging, and watched him bolt for T1 like a man escaping a burning building.  Realizing that I was the only one running easily, I panicked and picked up the pace, trying unsuccessfully to bridge the gap to Ritch.

A panting 5:50 later, I mounted the bike about 20 seconds behind Ritch and set out to catch him.  It was obvious that his faster run had been the right strategy.  A mile into the ride, I rolled up on a large knot of racers and had to slow down.

This pack was the unfortunate consequence of the cancelled swim.  Without the separation that the swim creates, there were too many people on the road at the same time, many of them riding fairly slowly.  On the bright side, it was clear that all the top racers in the 45-49 age group were also in this group.  With a little patience, I figured things would thin out and I could go around the group to the outside.


I waited for a minute, thought I spotted a gap and surged to pass as a referee rode up on a scooter.  I looked at the referee, shrugged my shoulders at the group, and dropped low on the aerobars, pedaling hard to get around the whole pack.  I was nearly there, but for a couple guys riding side-by-side at the front, when I found myself plummeting into an unmarked pothole roughly the size of the crater from the meteorite that eradicated the dinosaurs.

The irony that the city managed to find a bacterium the size of an atom in a 10 acre lake, but didn’t see that half the street on the bike course had caved in did nothing to lessen my terror as my bike and I fell into nothingness.

For a second, I thought I had found the unmarked passage to the center of the earth.  I knew an impact was coming, but it seemed like a long, long time before my front wheel touched down, violently crashing into opposite crater wall of the pothole.

Hearing a distinct “crack,” a loud “creak” and two “blams!,” I braced myself for a summersault over the handlebars and a belly-flop onto the asphalt as my bike bucked violently.

But today was my lucky day.  Defying the laws of physics, the pothole spit me back out into daylight.

“I’m alive!”  I thought euphorically.

But joy quickly turned into panic. At 25 mph, I was holding onto a dangerously wobbly set of handlebars hanging just above my front wheel, my rear tire was going flat, and after a minute or so of pedaling like a bear on a unicycle, I could hear the distinct sound of a chain in the last death-rattles before it slips off the outside ring

To make matters worse, despite my frantic pedaling to keep up with the traffic that I was now no longer passing, bikes were overtaking me at an ever-increasing rate on both the right and the left.  I was guilty of failing to overtake, drafting, blocking and probably driving while texting and failing to yield to a school bus, but I had a lazer-like focus on remaining upright.  (I later learned that I was not only penalized, but that I received penalties totaling six minutes.  Apparently, my frantic effort to get to the curb looked more like canny drafting than a man trying to keep the rubber on the road — a fact confirmed when the motorcycle roared away in search of other criminals instead of asking whether I needed help.)

With my handlbars slanted at a 45 degree angle to the ground, I couldn’t reach the brakes, so I just worried about maintaining forward momentum long enough to reach the safety of the curb.  What seemed like an eternity (but was probably a minute) later, I made it.

I knew immediately that my race was over, but I still planned to get the full day’s exercise.  So after fixing my tire and chain, I set about trying to bend my handlebars back to level.  No go.  And I didn’t have a tool to fix the problem.

I waited for a few more minutes until the bike traffic thinned out, then pedaled carefully with my handlebars jiggling loosely over ever bump to the next intersection.

Ten minutes later, the SAG guy showed up — without tools.


On the bright side, being out of the race allowed me to give my full attention to watching an amazing Team EMJ performance.

As I leaned against my bike waiting for the SAG wagon, I had a front row seat for the turn at mile 10 of the bike course.  I watched proudly as the team kit tore repeatedly through a left hand turn on the backs of one fast athlete after the other.  Eric, Josh, David, Dan, Pat, Ritch, Adam, Ollie, Niall, Keith, Jake and Jeremy were on a mission.

Though to what extent though, none of us could have imagined.

After borrowing an allen wrench from a kind competitor and cruising through the last 15 miles of the bike ride on a tire that was going flat yet again, I arrived at T2 just as Eric Clarkson (below literally jumping off his bike) was sprinting through the finish line, scoring a podium position in the pro division.

I started the run, spotted Adam standing on the side of the road and asked whether I should even bother doing the 10k — after all, I was now so far behind that I was worried I would miss seeing our guys on the podium.  Adam convinced me that I needed to run hard to score points for the team competition, (while he, himself stood on the side of the run course with a bottle of water in the cool of a shade tree, nursing a tender knee).

I’m glad I did the run.  Not only did I need to burn calories, I witnessed a complete domination by Team EMJ in its inaugural team race.

First, David Condon (above) absolutely crushed the competition in the men’s 35-39 age group.  In fact, he finished 3rd overall including the pros.  Then, by the time I had run about a mile and a half, Pat Lenaghan, Dan Ross and Ollie Ralph flew by in the opposite direction like cars on a Team EMJ freight train.  They were headed to a 1-2-3 finish in the 30-34 age group.

The next person I saw came as a surprise.  Without the benefit of the swim leg, Ritch was leading his age group, running for his life, just a couple minutes behind the young guys.  He was clearly in control of the men’s 40-44 age group and, not satisfied, was working to catch the trio of young guys up ahead.

The rest of the team came in rapid succession.  Niall, who finished 4th in the 30-34 age group, only 30 seconds behind Ollie, Josh, Keith Jamtaas, Jake Martini and Jeremy Devich — each easily breaking the two-hour barrier, looking like an all-star in their own right, gave me the motivation to catch one 60 plus racer after another.

The 60 year old guys were really impressed by my amazing running speed, incidentally.  I think I’d like to race with them more often.

After the last of my teammates passed by on the out-and-back, I still had at least three miles of running left.  I momentarily lost the will to run hard.  But then I remembered that the Team EMJ guys would probably eat all the pizza if I didn’t hustle to the finish line.  I managed to bring it home at sub-7 minute miles, arriving just in time to score the last couple pieces of ham and black olive pizza.

After all the results were in, Team EMJ not only dominated the podium, it dominated the overall results.  You have to read quite a way down the overall results page to realize that you’re not just reading the Team EMJ roster.

(“What did he say?”  “He said, you looking ridiculous!” “Ah, he’s talking about you!” “No, he’s talking about you”)

And if you read the results from the bottom up, there’s my name.  Just making sure that the team doesn’t come across as elitist.  I’m all about the team.

Post Script:

After Niall did a semi-nude, lather and rinse photo-shoot in the outdoor shower — to the great joy of the female participants, posing with a bottle of Every Man Jack shampoo — to the great joy of Ritch Viola — half the team mounted the podium.  And while some team dress etiquette was stretched, the gang universally looked good in their post-race Team Every Man Jack shirts and hats.  So good that one female age-group winner wanted to borrow my shirt for her trip to the podium.  I directed her to Ritch, who supplied her with a shirt.

And for those who aren’t aware, due to some late registrations, the race organizers were short a few medals.  Some of the slower finishers, folks for whom the medal means more than perhaps it does for us, did not receive one.  As Ritch and I were walking back to our cars, he spotted a sad young lady without a medal who was pushing her bike back to her car.  He stopped, dug through his bag, found his medal, caught up to her and gave her his medal.

Her eyes lit up and she smiled at Ritch.  “You just made my day,”  she said.

A perfect end to a perfect day.

Team EMJ: Training Weekend Day 3

Day 3:  (by Stephen Kukta)

Another spectacular winter day greeted Team EMJ at the Indian Valley pool.  We were also greeted by coach Chris Hauth, the Olympic swimmer who would be providing “guidance” for our workout today.  As he carried his enormous white-board with many big, black numbers to the edge of the pool, it became apparent that this would not be a light workout.  


I tried to add up the yards, but there was just too much math for the board to make sense to a lawyer.

I asked where the slow lane was.  Chris said, “there is no slow lane.  There’s only a high potential lane and a low potential lane.”  Mitch, Jake, Adam and I figured out that we were “high potential,” meaning, “not yet the swimmers that we could be.”

Knowing the challenge that awaited us, we stalled for time by shopping for the perfect lane in the “high-potential” zone.  Chris walked by and shoved me in.

While I was still in the air, I heard Hauth say “Ok, let’s get started!”

The thought occurred to me that I must have been airborne for an unusually long period of time to hear Chris say that sentence before I hit the water.  And then, after splash-down and sinkage, I noticed that the pool seemed to have no bottom.  Thinking about those two pieces of information together, I started to panic — really high pool deck combined with bottomless pit of  water.

I was a bee in a glass of water.

All my fears about drowning came back to life.

How many miles are we swimming?  I wanted a pull-buoy really badly.

But with Hauth marching back and forth on the elevated pool deck like a prison guard looking down from the sniper tower into the prison courtyard, I realized how wimpy it would look for me to squirm out of the pool to grab a floatation device.   And so to avoid further embarrassment, I decided to suck it up and swim — at least until Hauth moved away from our lane.

For the next, what seemed like two hours, the four of us slogged through the same workout as the low potential lane, just slower.


In other words, we swam a lot longer.

When the set was finally over, we were faced the reality that the pool deck wasn’t just substantially above the water level, but that, because our arms were now useless, the deck had effectively been raised higher while were swimming.  Fortunately, the fear of being left to drown provided the necessary incentive for one last Herculean effort.

From the pool deck it looked like this:  Elbow.  Top of head.  Another elbow.  Arm pit.  Squirm.  Roll.

I may have kissed the ground.  Certainly, my lips were close enough for a smooch.

More team showering followed.  Every Man Jack grooming products were shared.

No triathlon team starts a bike ride smelling as good as we do.  (just ask Pia)

A 40 mile bike ride followed, and this time, for the most part, Team EMJ rode at a conversational pace.  Team-wide exhaustion certainly played a role, as did the fact that we were joined on our ride by the lovely Pia Scaroni, who rode at the front on every climb — with a cluster of the single team members tightly bunched inches from her rear — wheel.

The only real breakaway of the day was as predictable as the rising of the sun in the east.  About 30 miles into the ride, I overheard The Trauginator talking to a couple younger guys, including Ollie and perhaps Ritch, about how he was enjoying the reasonable pace of the ride.

My Spidey senses began to tingle.

“I’m old and tired,” he said, trying to sound old and tired.

Yeah, right.

Two minutes later, he dropped into the aerobars and was gone like a missile from a nuclear submarine.  I’m pretty sure he burned rubber on takeoff.  A couple guys tried to follow him, but he was gone.

Tom didn’t get his “inator” status from Dret for riding easy.

Eventually, Tom got tired of riding alone, so he slowed up and rode back to Indian Valley with the group.

Back at our cars, there was some procrastination and negotiation about how far we would all run.  Some wanted to run as little as 30 minutes and some, like me, wanted to run closer to a couple hours.

The running group consisted of runners of all ability levels and ages.  The speedy, effortless runners like Dan, Andreas, Ollie, the Dretinator and Eric; the high horsepower guys like Ritch, Tom and Bruno; and me, the slow, steady guy just trying to get in a long run.

Ignoring abilities, planned running distances and abandoning all good sense, group-think dictated that we all run as fast as the fastest runner for as long as possible.  Initially, the guy setting the tempo was Andreas, who raced out at a sub-7 minute mile pace.

He turned around after 15 minutes and waved good-by to the group, leaving us to follow Ollie, who glided along effortlessly at the same breakneck pace.

Occasionally, Dret would surge to the front to shoot pictures of the team, which would cause Ollie to speed up, thinking perhaps that Dret was trying a running version of his cycling breakaways.  This made Dret run faster to get in camera position, which just caused Ollie to run faster.

And soon, I was breathing rather hard.

I was on a 13 mile run, running close to my stand alone half-marathon pace — after 180 miles of biking and 8,000 yards of swimming in 3 days.

This was insane, I thought.

Mercifully, at mile 4, Dret and Tom stopped and turned around.  I took advantage and stopped to say good bye — and to suck in a few lung fulls of air.

When I looked up, Ollie, Dan, Eric and Ritch were 300 yards ahead.

Freed from the shackles of peer pressure, I set off after them at a more leisurely pace, caught them when they turned around 5 mile into the run, and was joined by Eric Clarkson for the remainder of my 13 mile run — a great chance to get to know yet another new friend.

And so, for the next 8 miles, Eric and I talked, (ok, because I was gasping for air I mostly asked open ended questions and Eric talked) about life, triathlon and what a great experience this camp was.  And I learned that, in addition to being a swim coach and a budding professional triathlete, Eric works in an animal shelter.

One assumes that’s where he learned to use a lint roller as a massage device.

Arriving back at our cars at Indian Valley, I checked my watch and saw that I had run 7:43’s for 13 miles — 17 seconds faster than I thought I could run — proving the immense power of training with a team.


Maybe this killing yourself isn’t so bad once in a while.


With the rest of the team having finished their runs and having headed home, Eric and I put the final punctuation mark on the Team Every Man Jack camp as I thanked him for running with me and said good-bye.

Team EMJ: Training Weekend Day 2

Day 2:    (by Stephen Kukta)

The second day of camp brought us a morning swim session at Mt. Tam High and chilly weather.  It also brought us Dan Ross, John Dahlz, Eric Clarkson, Adam Carlson, Ollie Ralph, Bruno Fritsch, Tyler and Jeremy Devich.  There may have been others, but I didn’t want appear to be taking an excessive interest in the Team EMJ swim briefs.

I chased Adam, who was chasing Jake and Keith, around the slow lane for about an hour and I assume that all the fast people in the lanes way far away swam hard too.

After swim practice, we took our first team shower together in a pitch-dark locker room, the spa-like scent of Every Man Jack shampoo and face lotion wafting through the steamy haze, creating a unique, not entirely masculine, but nice nevertheless, showering experience.

Just and idea — next month:  Every Man Jack Spa Camp.  All this chlorinated water is doing a number on my delicate complexion.
Next, we saddled up and prepared for what promised to be an arduous 80 mile ride over the Marshall Wall, into Pt. Reyes, south to Stinson Beach and over Mt. Tam.  Gritting our teeth, Dan Ross and I rolled out ahead of the pack, rode a quarter mile, and pulled into Starbucks for a pastry and coffee.

I felt badly about ordering coffee while everyone was still in the cold pulling on their biking gear.  As Dan correctly pointed out, drinking coffee was inappropriate.  I should have been drinking a cappuccino or an americano — we are, after all a team sponsored by a grooming product company.

At the first major climb after Fairfax, Ritch, Jake, Dahlz and a couple others escaped up the hill, forcing Dret and me to chase.  We finally caught the group near the base of the next climb before Nicasio.  I thought I could hang on until Dahlz raced to the front and caused the whole group to pick up the pace.

Good-bye group.  Stuck in no man’s land, I spent the next 10 miles watching everyone draft off Dahlz a few hundred yards up ahead, while I did the lonely-guy death-pedal.

Marshall Wall brought its own special set of joys. Due to the call of nature and a need for muffins, Tom, Dret and a few others were separated from the group and I found myself riding with Keith and Jason Campbell at the bottom of The Wall.  I downshifted in fear at the sight of the climb and promptly lost my chain and my riding partners as Mitch and Jason opted to not lose any momentum waiting for me to fix my chain.

Doing the lonely-guy out-of-the-saddle dance, I slowly ascended the long, windy climb.

Near the top of the Wall, the wind was blowing at 40 mph, shoving my disk wheel in multiple directions at once as I struggled to keep the tires touching pavement.  I wrestled my steed over the top and hung on to the aerobars for dear life on the way down, keeping the bike on the road only thanks to the skills I learned by commuting across the blustery Golden Gate bridge for two years.

When I regrouped with the lead pack at the bottom of the hill, there was some noticeable surprise that I had managed to navigate over Marshall Wall with the disc.  I said it was no big deal, not mentioning that I had almost peed myself a couple times on the descent.

The disk had its moment, however, as the next 20 miles were insanely fast with a substantial tail-wind.  It was almost impossible to ride at less than 30 mph.  And with John Dahz still pulling the group, chasing the Dretinator, we tore around corners at break-neck speed until I overcooked a turn and was slingshotted into the oncoming lane.

Sheer dumb luck had the oncoming lane free of traffic.  Momentarily panicked by my brush with death, I lost touch with the Dahlz-train and tried to draft off Andreas, who had also been dropped.

After a minute or two, Andreas pulled over and looked at me in confusion, wondering why on earth I was drafting off someone going as slowly as he was.  The truth is, I was a little shaken and I hadn’t noticed that Andreas was riding at 15 mph with a tail-wind.  All I noticed was how much safer it was following his wheel than Dahlz’s.

Fortunately for us all, up ahead, Dret, had strategically flatted in full view of the trailing riders, which the group took as a sign that a cease-fire was in order.  This allowed everyone to reconnect, and under the guise of helping Dret with his flat, I enjoyed a nice long rest.

Muffin stop number 2 or 3, depending on which rider we’re talking about, came at Pt. Reyes Station.

From Pt. Reyes to Stinson Beach, I somehow found myself chasing Ollie who had gapped the rest of the team.  Ollie tore along at 30+ mph for an eternity, with me sucking his draft.  Then, just a few miles from Stinson, the Ollie train ran out of gas.  I pulled ahead of Ollie and took on the work, feeling good about giving Ollie a pull after all he had done for me.

Except I had failed to make sure he was on my wheel when I hit the accelerator.

I feel badly about that.

I pulled into Stinson Beach alone, a couple minutes ahead of Ollie and John Dahlz, who had caught Ollie shortly after Ollie ran out of petrol.

Shortly, Ritch, Tom, Dret and Bruno showed up.  And I seem to remember Tyler rolling by in search of a restroom, though where he went after that is a mystery.

And oddly, it seemed the rest of the team had fallen off the face of the earth too.

We were concerned, of course.  But we decided to abandon them to their fate.  ‘Cause that’s how we roll when we’re exhausted and desperate to get home.

We later learned that Adam had hit a pothole so hard that he double-flatted.  He also aerated his bike shorts and changed both the color and texture of his left butt-cheek.

This was not Adam’s day.  Just that morning, someone had decided to paint the trunk of his blue Subaru with a taupe colored latex interior house paint.  I wouldn’t have chosen taupe, myself.  I thought it clashed with the blue.  But that’s just me.

The final climb out of Stinson Beach was torture.  Dret, Dahlz, Ollie, Ritch, Tom, Bruno and I plowed up the mountain together for a while and then, as fatigue clamped its grip around our necks, it went from Team Every Man Jack” to “Team Every Man For Themselves.”

Three-quarters of the way up the mountain, I thought I heard Dret say something about avoiding the free-range Turkeys, but that just didn’t make sense to my oxygen starved brain, so I ignored it.

The downhill to Mill Valley was a gift that I will remember fondly.  Not pedaling rules.

A number of people enjoyed a brief run after the ride.  Ok, “enjoyed” may be overstating it.  Perhaps I’m thinking of “endured.”

Then we headed to base camp for Paxti’s Pizza, the biggest, fattest pizza on the planet.  One slice is at least 1,000 calories.  I needed at least 4 pieces after today’s ride.  But fatigue set in and I couldn’t lift piece number 3.  I think we need a team feeder.

Team EMJ: Training Weekend Day 1

Team Every Man Jack Happenings.

Team Every Man Jack Bay Area Training Camp, February 23 – 25 —
Tiburon, California

All you need to know about the 3-day Team Every Man Jack training camp that concluded this Sunday, is that by Saturday night, two days into the camp, Eric Clarkson, (a man formed from molten metal, with tendons made of wrought-iron) sat so immobile from exhaustion in a living room chair, that Sydney, the Viola family’s cat, used him as furniture.

And when team founder, team cook, and team director, Ritch Viola, brought Eric a lint roller to remove what remained of Sydney from Eric’s clothes, Eric used the paint-roller-shaped-device, not to remove cat hair, but as a personal massage tool for his quads.

And so it went, day after day, making new friends, coming together as teammates — everyone joyfully attempting to rip off each other’s limbs — in the nicest possible way.  And no one left unscathed or untouched by this memorable camp experience.

Day 1:

The first day of camp began with an email from Bruno Fritsch, who would miss day one with a sprained wrist.

He got off easy.

The rest of us were supposed to do a leisurely 3 hour bike ride through Marin County — a warmup, they said.  That lasted until Tom “The Trauginator” Trauger, made a right turn out of Ritch’s neighborhood and dropped half the team in the first 200 yards.

(Since I mentioned Tom’s nickname, we should take a brief diversion from the story for the purpose of clarifying team nicknaming convention.  Team nicknames will frequently be assigned by our Team Photographer, the 6 foot 5 German, known as “The Dretinator” aka Eric Wilde, aka Dret.  While Dret is particularly valuable for his ability to shoot pictures from spectacular heights by merely holding the camera above his head, and for his ability to ride down a hill at 35 mph while shooting a picture behind his back, his role as chief nicknamer is just as important.  If Dret is impressed by a person’s athletic prowess, that person automatically becomes “The _____inator.”  This complete lack of originality is actually very practical in that, if, later in this story I mention “The Condoninator” we will all know who that refers to — so long as I’ve mentioned someone by the name of Condon at that point in the story.  Simple, right?)

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming:

After Keith Jamtaas, Jake Martini, Patrick Lenaghan and I caught  Tom — ok, so technically, a red light caught Tom — we explained that those of us who can’t crack walnuts with our glutes typically warm up less vigorously.

Tom apologized and settled into a leisurely 300 watt pace that had us glued to his wheel and panting until we neared the first climb up Camino Alto.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, Ritch and a few others, exercising local knowledge of a shortcut, shot out of a side street ahead of us, tore around the corner that marks the start of the Camino Alto climb and hammered up and over the climb, dropping most of the Team.

And so it went for the next 45 miles — into San Rafael, through Nicasio, then to San Geronimo.  We chatted and soft-pedaled through the towns, all the while looking for a chance to make a move and worrying that someone else was going to make a move.

We tore at each other for 45 miles and 3 hours.  At which point a truce was declared when we found ourselves exhausted and still 20 miles from base camp.

By an unofficial vote — a vote conducted by none of us being able to pass Dave Condon — “The Condoninator” was selected to pull the rest of the team back to base camp.

I was persuaded by the promise of a warm shower not to do a brick run.  And that night, Chef Ritch served steak, amazing slow-cooker potatoes, salad, and a delicious, softer version of broccoli.

Ok, fine.  Ritch asked me to cook the the broccoli and I turned it into mush.  It’s not like it stopped Dave from scraping the last of it into his mouth.