January 23, 2018

Interview with Steve Sponagle and Liz – Episode #26

This time we visit with Steve Sponagle and his sister Liz. Both are amazing triathletes in their own right — Steve mostly focuses on the sprint distance and Liz on Ironman. They’ll give us some of their secrets on how to excel in the sport and what it’s like living in a hyper-competitive family.

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Camp Pendleton Sprint Triathlon

Living in southern California means not having a lot of places to ride your bike without a bunch of cars, stop signs and traffic lights. One of the few places around is the ride south of San Clemente through the park and on the base at Camp Pendleton.

Every time I ride through Camp Pendleton I think of my dad. He was a marine and was stationed here. He’s been gone for over 30 years now and I still think of him often.

Anyway, Camp Pendleton isn’t just a great place to ride/train but it’s also a great place to race. Several years ago I did the Olympic distance race there and really enjoyed it (they don’t have this race any longer). The great thing about the sprint triathlon is that it’s cheap but really well organized! With the cost of racing skyrocketing, this is one that fits anyone’s budget.

When you arrive at the Camp you’re directed to park your car on the tarmac for these huge hovercraft-like assault vehicles – in fact, you have to run up and over one after the finish line! Very cool!

The Marines staff the event and it seems like there are two marines for every racer. The check-in opened right on time and the obligatory packet pick-up went as smooth as I’ve ever seen.

Another good thing about this race is that it’s a late start. I think my wave went off at 8:30! That’s late, and a huge benefit for those that like to sleep in.

This would be a tough race for me for several reasons:

1. I have been training for IM Louisville and hadn’t taken any time off my training schedule to prepare for this race. I had a lot of miles in my legs come race day.
2. This “sprint” triathlon has an unusually long bike leg – 18 miles. This race really favors the strong cyclists (which I’m not).
3. Both Russ Jones and Rich Pfeiffer would be there. They’re both sprint-course specialists.
It was never more beneficial than this race to experience the swim of the earlier waves. The surf was very high race morning and they were coming in very close together. This would be a challenging swim!

The first wave of younger men went off. Since they didn’t have the benefit of seeing any of the other competitors swim they simply lined up on the beach at the designated start and headed for the first turn buoy. Unfortunately, there wasn’t just big surf but there was also a huge current.

As the guys in that first wave took off you could immediately see they were being pulled north of the buoy. Some of the guys quite literally had to swim due south just to get around the first buoy.

Well none of the waves after them made that same mistake! It seemed everyone else ran down the beach 500 yards so they wouldn’t have to swim upstream!

As I stood there on the beach with two of my tri-mates, Quinton Berry and Scott Callendar, we plotted our course. We’d run down the beach but not quite that far.

It was great having Q (Quinton) and Scooter (Scott) there. They both crashed months ago and this would be Scott’s first race after the crash (a broken collar bone and wrist surgery).

My wave was about to start (50+ men) and I had my eye on both Russ and Rich. I thought I’d beat Russ out of the water but Rich was a Navy Seal and a very good swimmer. I’ve beaten him on the swim at other races but he’d be the one to beat on the swim today.

The gun went off and I ran to the point I’d previously calculated would be my point-of-entry. I had to swim under some the large breaking waves but because they were coming so fast it was difficult to get your breath before the next one was on you!

I swam hard and finally made it through the surf and popped up about 15’ from the turn buoy. I couldn’t have planned that any better!

I got into a groove and swam to the next buoy and headed in. The challenge now was coming in from the same surf without getting pummeled!

The trick here is to constantly be looking over your shoulder so you can see it coming. If you don’t you’ll end up tossed and probably totally out of breath. My entry was good but I was tired.

I ran up the beach to the transition area to my bike and made a quick escape.

The bike portion of the race was probably the toughest for me because I really wanted to push it but just didn’t have the legs. I revved my heart rate up to 155 and kept it there. My legs were screaming!

Then, it finally happened . . . at about mile four Russ passed me. He yelled out some words of encouragement before blowing by and proceeded to chase down a pickup truck that passed me just seconds before! Damn, he’s good!

So now I figure I’m in 2nd place, unless someone beat me on the swim. If someone did it would probably be Rich.

I kept pushing on the bike and didn’t have anyone else in my age group pass me. I did see Scott out on the bike course and he was just yards ahead of one of his primary competitors, Sergio Burges. Way to go Scott!

My transition from bike to run was also smooth but my legs felt really wobbly. I settled into a pace right around 7:00 per mile. It felt about as fast as I would be able to push it.

At about mile two there’s Rich coming back the other way! NO WAY!!! Rich isn’t a fast runner but there was no way I was going to be able to close a gap of ½ mile!

Then, just a couple hundred yards behind Rich is Russ. I yelled out to Russ that Rich was just ahead of him. He was in another world at this point and later would tell me he never even heard me!

I finished strong and was quite happy with the race. Here were the times:

There is a problem with these times, however. I did finish the swim ahead of Russ so this swim time is actually higher than my actual time. No matter, both guys definitely beat me.

The real funny part about this day is what I did later that afternoon. In order to keep on my Ironman training plan I rode 60:00 on my CompuTrainer then followed that up with a 19 mile run. That’s right; the same day!

What we won’t do for our sport!

By the way, Scott took 1st in his age group and Quinton took 4th. A really great day all the way around!


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The Art of the Ice Bath

We’ve all heard about the ice bath but very few of us have tried it. Just the sound of it congers up images of Houdini practicing for his famous escape from underneath the frozen Detroit River.

Great movie by the way! Houdini spends hours in an ice bath to prepare himself for another of his great escapes. They cut a hole in the ice in the Detroit River and they handcuff him and seal him in a box and dump it in the river. The unfortunate thing is that Houdini didn’t figure on the current dragging him and the box downstream. He barely escapes by breathing little air pockets beneath the ice.

Cryotherapy (ice bath) can really help you recover from your long and hard bike and run efforts. So much so that you may be able to eliminate going for the jar of your favorite nsaids (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) in the middle of the night!

It is said that ice baths reduce swelling, decrease muscle breakdown and help flush out metabolic debris.

Anyway, your ice bath needn’t be quite so dramatic but there are a few “tricks” I can give you to make it tolerable.

1. Fill your tub with cold water (duh!).

2. Fill it enough so you can stretch out your legs and that you’ll be submerged to just above your thighs.

3. Use ice cubes if possible. It’s a pain to run down to the 7-11 every time but your typical ice trays won’t yield enough ice to make the water cold enough. Therefore, you can make and store enough ice or do what I do which is I freeze blocks of ice in some large Tupperware containers. Admittedly this is not the best because the blocks take longer to melt. I break them up so they melt quicker.

4. I like to wear my swimsuit – don’t know why, I just do (hide the shrinkage?). On top it’s not a bad idea to wear a sweatshirt or jacket. Personally, I don’t because I keep getting it all wet. Maybe you’ll have better success.

5. Get a stop watch so you can see how long you’ve been in the water.

6. Get something to read.

7. Get something hot to drink.

8. Take the plunge! I jump right in rather than “inch” in. As soon as I do I hit my stop watch. I usually stay in for 15 minutes but 20 may be better if you really beat yourself up.

9. It’ll take your breath away if you’ve made the water cold enough but the numbness comes on pretty quickly and it becomes tolerable.

10. The cold water will constrict your blood vessels and reduce the swelling.

11. Now take a hot shower to warm up as well as dilate the blood vessels.

Good luck with your ice bath. You’ll hate me for it now, but love me for it later!

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OC Tri Club Annual Auction Benefiting CAF

What: Auction benefiting Challenged Athletes Foundation
When: Wednesday, Aug 24, 2011, 6:30 PM until 9:30 PM
Where: First American Title Company
1 First American Way
Santa Ana, CA 92707

Join the OC Tri Club for for an exciting evening and help support a great cause. Every year OCTC holds a charity dinner and auction to support the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF). CAF provides opportunities and support to people with physical disabilities so they can pursue active lifestyles through physical fitness and competitive athletics. CAF believes that involvement in sports at any level increases self-esteem, encourages independence and enhances quality of life.

There are many reasons to attend OCTC auction and dinner. Check out these amazing auction items!!!

1. Personal training with pros Julie Swail Ertel, and Beth Hibbard
2. Triathlon entries to the Los Angeles Triathlon, Mountain Man International and Half ironman Triathlons, Orangeman Triathlon, Turkey Tri, Desert Spring sprint and international triathlons, Big Rock Triathlon, Catalina Triathlon, Wildflower Triathlon
3. Race entries to the Long Beach Marathon, Palm Springs Half marathon, Irvine Half Marathon,
4. Wet suits from club sponsor One Tri
5. Restaurant gift certificates to Plums, and TGIF Fridays
6. Bike Shoes from Shimano and running shoes from Road Runner Sports and Fleet Feet
7. Bike gear and fishing gear from Shimano including a $1200 pair of wheels.
8. Gift cards from Nordstroms ($500), Target ($250)
9. Travel packages to Hawaii, New York, New Orleans
10. This is the best reason of all… because you care about this important cause.

This year we are holding our 12th annual event at the beautiful headquarters of the First American Title Company. The mission of CAF is to provide training, inspiration and equipment to allow challenged athletes to become active. If you need inspiration check out this video:

CAF Transformational Moments

You can register for our event at our web site calendar by following this link:
Auction Registration

This event is the club highlight of the year. Last year OCTC raised over $30,000 for the Challenged Athletes Foundation and sent 7 teams to participate in the San Diego Triathlon Challenge. The event will be hosted by Larry Davidson outdoors at the fabulous facilities of First American Title Company. Please join us a for a great night and a wonderful cause. You can get more information at the CAF Home page tab on OCTC’s web site.


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